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About MercedMike

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  1. MercedMike

    Dog-Sledding? Yes or No?

    Well, if it is on YOUR bucket list, why ask us? JUST DO IT!! You wouldn't catch me dead on a glacier. But my DW loved it! She was booked three times. The first time the dog sledding cancelled but they offered her a regular glacier landing (they are at different places with different conditions.) Check out our trip report and pictures at http://www.bully4.us/volendam.html. She really enjoyed that. The second time the dog sledding cancelled again and she was disappointed. On the third cruise she booked it she finally got to go and came back exhilarated! Check out our trip report and pictures at http://www.bully4.us/ct.html Now for me, the dog cart rides on dirt paths are a lot better choice! No parka, no snow boots, no helicopter, just a bus ride and a nice short trot through the woods. You can see that at http://www.bully4.us/alaskaZ.html Have a GREAT cruise! But YOU should do what YOU want to do.
  2. MercedMike

    Should I stick w/ cruise or add land tour?

    We love to cruise. In our eight cruises to Alaska, we have only done the land tour once. Frankly to us the cruise is the big attraction. The big thing to think here is the vast distances on land in Alaska. The most popular cruise tours are on the order of: Day 1 disembark, Train to Denali Day 2 Denali tour (TWT or NHT) Day 3 Denali to Fairbanks Day 4 fly home from Fairbanks. The order and arrangement changes. But the key point is the LOOOOONG travel times. The train from Anchorage to Denali is several hours long, and while there is occasional spectacular scenery, most of the time is going through spruce and willow forest with little to see but green. There is usually a chance to eat on the train. But what is your 5 y o going to do during this hours long train trip? At Denali, the principal attraction is the tour into the park. This is on Park Service buses which are slightly more comfortable than school buses. The most recommended tour is the Tundra Wilderness tour which is 6 to 8 hours on the bus. The bus stops every hour and a half or so at outdoor toilets. There are occasional wildlife sightings. Frequently these are far distant "dot on the mountain" sort of things. A real close up encounter depends on good luck. Again, are your kids going to be up to those long hours on the bus to see an occasional grizzly on the hillside? The Natural History Tour is shorter and more varied, with stops at cabins and historical presentations. It does not have the wildlife viewing, however. Honestly I am not sure how kids would react to it. Then back to Anchorage, or on to Fairbanks, by train or bus, is another looooong ride. There is lots of very interesting stuff on a cruise/tour. But the price is many many hours on the bus or train. Frankly for kids, I don't think I could recommend it. You can check out our long inland tour at http://www.bully4.us/ct.html, or for the Denali/Fairbanks portion go to http://www.bully4.us/ct3.html Have a GREAT cruise!
  3. MercedMike

    Sapphire Princess Alaska Inside Passage Port or Starboard?

    I don't know where people get this idea. Technically this IS the Inside Passage since all the Alaska ports can only be reached through the Inside Passage. Most Alaskans consider the Inside Passage to begin at Prince Rupert and go inside all the small islands along the coast. The route "inside" Vancouver Island goes through several straits ending up with Queen Charlotte Strait. Perhaps some Canadians would like to extend the Inside Passage down to include this part of the route but that is not common usage. So pretty much ALL cruises to Alaska are Inside Passage cruises. Whether or not they are Queen Charlotte Strait cruises depends on whether they leave from Vancouver or Seattle. Somehow this seems to be important to some people. I don't quite know why. We have done that particular Sapphire Princess itinerary and it is a very nice one. Check out our trip report and pictures at http://users.elite.net/thehalls/sapphire.html. I will say, however, that we picked it only after having completed several other Alaska cruises. It does miss some of the best parts of Alaska, and of course the biggest thing it misses is good glacier viewing. Tracy Arm, IMAO, is "scenic cruising" but not really "glacier viewing." Check out our trip report and pictures at http://www.bully4.us/alaskaglaciers.html for details. I have not heard of an "obstructed view" balcony. Are you sure that is what you have booked?
  4. MercedMike

    Just beginning to check out Alaska for 2011

    Holland America or Princess would probably suit you very well. All of these are great cruises ... a good Travel Agent who is a CLIA Accredited Cruise Counselor can give you many pros and cons for each itinerary. Flight costs are a consideration. Sightseeing from the ship is good on any itinerary, but honestly after a bit it seems to be the same beautiful mountains, streams, waterfalls and forest mile after mile. It is possible to see whales from the ship. If you want to dedicate hours to sitting at the bow with your binoculars, you might get lucky. We don't do that, but in eight cruises to Alaska we have had brief sightings of whales four times. If you really want to see whales, do an excursion in Juneau. Three in a cabin is VERY cozy. A mini suite is a bit better. If you can afford a full suite on the HAL ships it is a wonderful experience. Check out our trip report and pictures at http://www.bully4.us/alaskaZ.html for a great HAL cruise in a suite. Also check http://users.elite.net/thehalls/zsuite.html for more about the full suites. But they are very expensive. Absolutely the best advice I can give someone asking the basic questions you are is to find a good local Travel Agent who is a CLIA Accredited Cruise Counselor (look for the agent's diploma on the wall, not just an agency sticker). Ask your friends and co-workers for a recommendation. The service is entirely free to you. ACC's are trained to find the very best cruise for you, after learning your personal situation and preferences, and work hard to get you the very best rate. Have a GREAT cruise!
  5. MercedMike

    Cairo-Bring Dollar Bills

    "Baksheesh" is a way of life in Egypt. Mark Twain describes it 150 years ago in the Innocents Abroad, with his usual sardonic humor twist. These people are immensely poor. Even those with jobs make very little. The tourist police, in white uniforms, are at every tourist site. Some of them sit behind concrete shield bunkers with machine guns. Others wander around posing for pictures and asking for "baksheesh." At Dashur there was only one riding on a camel and he was happy to pose also. Check out our trip report and pictures at http://www.bully4.us/holyland2.html#egypt. Every tourist policeman that is in a picture got $1 for it. Just relax and go with it. In our two day tour, I probably spent about $30 off my stack of ones. When you consider the cruise cost over $10,000 all considered, why worry about $30? Have a GREAT cruise!
  6. MercedMike

    Cruise ship to airport

    HMMM ... taxi generally easier than cruise line transfer? I don't know about that one. Cruise line transfer: Get bags at customs, bus waiting nearby, drop bags, get in bus, take nice tour, get to airport with bags. Taxi: Get bags at customs. Get outside terminal, find out where taxi line is, rustle bags over there, fight line or if no controlled line fight crowds, get in taxi, check rates or meter (may or may not be in English), hold on tight as driver zooms along, get to airport, figure out which terminal (driver might or might not know), get bags out of taxi, dig around for cash, sometimes has to be local currency, calculate tip in head, and breathe sigh of relief that you didn't (hopefully) get ripped off. Now some ports are better than others, some cruise terminals are better than others, and some arrival days are less congested than others. But if we do not have a limo and a driver booked ahead, we find the cruise line transfers to be a whole lot easier on the nerves than a taxi! That's how it works for us. YMMV.
  7. MercedMike

    Recommended private Ephesus tour companies?

    We have used both Kagan and Ekol and they are both very good, and very willing to arrange things as you want. We also toured once with Hulya hulya462002@yahoo.com and she is excellent too. Have you been to a carpet factory? They are really very interesting and well worth the trip, even if you are not buying. Check out our trip report and pictures at http://www.bully4.us/holyland.html and http://www.bully4.us/blacksea2.html Have a GREAT cruise!
  8. MercedMike

    Best independant tour for Acropolis & museum?

    We did a tour with a licensed guide in Athens and it was very good. We booked through Greece Ala Carte info@greecealacarte.gr. Of course a licensed guide and a driver are more expensive than just a driver. Check out our trip report and pictures at http://www.bully4.us/med.html I have to say that in this case, as often with a guide, I sort of felt like the little girl who had to do a book report on a book about penguins. Her report was, "This book taught me more about penguins than I really wanted to know." We also toured with a driver, Nick from Greek Taxi. This was excellent also. I am something of a student of ancient Greece and by the end of the tour Nick was laughing at the fact that I was so familiar with it, so we really didn't need a lot of information from a guide. Check out our trip report and pictures at http://www.bully4.us/blacksea3.html And we also have done the Antiquities Promenade on our own with a guidebook. Check out our trip report and pictures at http://www.bully4.us/athens.html They all work well. If your particular situation is such that you want your guide with you all the time, then the licensed guide is the proper solution. Have a GREAT cruise!
  9. MercedMike

    Tour #11 Questions???

    Although it is a Princess page, this is very good information about the tours available at Denali. http://www.princess.com/learn/destinations/alaska/highlights/national_parks/denali/Denali_National_Park_Tours/DenaliNationalParkTours.html The shuttle buses are something different, not really an organized tour. Have a GREAT cruise!
  10. MercedMike

    Glacier Bay vs Sawyer Glacier

    First of all I don't recall seeing the terminology "Sawyer Bay" on any itineraries. The itinerary says "Tracy Arm" normally. Some years ago we did indeed have a good view of the "Twin Sawyer Glaciers" at the end of Tracy Arm. More recently we cruised as far into the Arm as a large ship can get and made a full circle but were only able to see the South glacier. It has retreated considerably from where it was when we first saw it. Tracy Arm is really NOT a prime glacier experience, although it is a beautiful and scenic cruise. I have made a page of comparisons of glacier experiences. On it you can see some pics of our views of the glaciers in Tracy Arm. Check out our trip report and pictures at http://www.bully4.us/alaskaglaciers.html We did the HAL Zuiderdam trip which includes both Tracy Arm and Glacier Bay and it is a very good one. Check out our trip report and pictures at http://www.bully4.us/alaskaZ.html Have a GREAT cruise!
  11. MercedMike

    Glacier Bay vs Sawyer Glacier

    LOL -- what is a "lecturer" and what is a "naturalist"? Who certifies them? A lecturer is somebody who talks. I have been on ships with "lecturers" who couldn't talk to a cabbage without stumbling. On others we have had outstanding lecturers on many subjects. A naturalist is somebody who talks about and points to natural things. Some of them do no more than show slides taken from goodness knows what source. On other cruises we have had college students who were studying biology or zoology and knew quite a lot from their books. Other times we have had experienced fishermen, outdoorsmen and tour guides who had a lot of first hand experience. Once we had an actual PhD researcher doing a study of whales in Alaskan waters. Now THERE was a naturalist! But what is in a title? A Naturalist is somebody that calls themselves a Naturalist. When Yukon sails for the cruise lines, what is his title? "lecturer", "naturalist", "sourdough"??
  12. MercedMike

    Cruise ship to airport

    I agree that taxis are very expensive in Copenhagen. Whichever cruise line you are on will most likely offer transfers to the airport at an exorbitant but still more reasonable price. If you have a later flight it is often possible to combine the transfer with a short tour of some interesting place. Have a GREAT cruise!
  13. MercedMike

    Traveling with non sightseers

    You are right. BUT -- like many threads, this one takes on a life of its own. The OP does not own a post and comments are not totally restricted to replies to the OP. There are many lurkers on every post who may well be in totally different situations from the OP. I usually make my comments with them in mind and may give ideas, opinions and information that is not strictly pertinent to the OP. To the OP: your 20 year old kids will likely have no problem climbing the 185 steps up to the Acropolis, if they have any interest in seeing it. To other posters and lurkers: It is a long climb up the Acropolis. Each of you will need to consider your own condition of fitness and your own desire to see this monument. How's that? I hope it is good information for everybody.
  14. MercedMike

    Visit of Athens in April 2011

    The Antiquities Promenade is a wonderful walk in Athens. check out our trip report and pictures at http://www.bully4.us/athens.html Have a GREAT cruise!
  15. MercedMike

    Traveling with non sightseers

    There is indeed an elevator which can accomodate wheelchairs. Once on top of the Acropolis, it would be possible to maneuver around part of the area, although it is very rough and irregular in many places. I am not in a wheelchair, I am a guy with artificial knees that walks with a cane. For me, going up the Propaylia's 185 (or so) steps and entering the Acropolis the way the ancients did is not really a "climb" it is a C L I M B!!! Check the picture of me preparing for it at http://www.bully4.us/med.html !Fit active people will likely have no trouble. The less fit, more mature, or mobility limited are going to find it a challenge. For me it was a challenge that I accepted as the price of visiting one of the Western World's most important sites. There are places that I have declined making even easier climbs because the sites were not as high on my priority list.