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budbo

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About budbo

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    Buffalo Grove, IL
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    Travel

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  1. Hi, We are new to HAL and I'm having some difficulty navigating their website. We prefer to pay for as much of our trip as possible before leaving home and on other lines we've always pre-paid our gratuities. I can't find a way to do this on HAL......is there a link on the website that allows me to pay gratuities? Or do I need to phone their customer service? Thank you
  2. We are new to HAL and considering getting the Quench package for our May cruise on the Nieuw Statendam. This thread has answered many of my questions, but I do have a couple tea questions. I'm assuming that the Quench package would cover specialty teas in Explorations Cafe....is that right? I was surprised to learn that we won't be able to use the package in the Grand Dutch Cafe....what a shame! We are not coffee drinkers but drink a lot of iced tea. On Celebrity ships we really enjoy the fresh brewed individual pitchers of iced tea that are offered in Cafe Al Bacio......do the HAL ships offer anything like that? Is the iced tea in the Lido fresh brewed? Or does it come from concentrate out of a dispenser? Thanks for your help.
  3. We were just in Marseille on the Celebrity Eclipse. We decided not to do a tour and instead took the shuttle from the cruise terminal to the Old Port area. There is a free shuttle offered by the city but I wouldn't recommend it.....there were several ships in port on the same day we were there and the free shuttle line was really long. We paid $20 per person to Celebrity and the shuttle picked us up right at the ship and dropped us off across the street from the Cathedrale de la Major. From there we walked about 10 minutes and arrived at the starting point/ticket office for Le Petit Train. There were 2 different routes available (8 euro each per adult) and we chose the one that took us up to Notre Dame de la Garde. Including the 20-30 minute stop at the cathedral, I'm guessing it took a little over an hour. The "train" is on wheels so it uses city streets. Some of the cars had windows on one side of the car, others were completely open air. We thought it was a fun way to get a quick tour of town. The cathedral was beautiful and is situated way above the port so you get an awesome view of Marseille. There are many restaurants all around the old port and probably shops too, although we were there on a Sunday so none of the shops were open.
  4. For our pre-cruise stay we really liked the Meridien Hotel which is right on Las Ramblas, so it's walking distance to many restaurants, shops, HOHO bus & Metra station. Sometimes it's pricey but keep watching rates because we found a good deal. Due to timing of flights, we needed to stay in Barcelona for one night after our cruise. For that stay, we booked at the Renaissance Fira, which is only 15 minutes from the airport. This hotel is very modern & new looking, considerably less expensive and convenient to the airport but there isn't much of anything within walking distance.
  5. Thank you, that's just the sort of information I was looking for!
  6. Hi, we've been looking at this tour but the website doesn't give too many details. How strenuous is this tour? Ok for seniors with iffy knees?
  7. We were in Hanoi on the Millenium in March and booked an overnight there on our own. (Hanoi Tranfer Service, Oriental Central Hotel) We were very happy with our arrangements and our decision to stay overnight. We spoke to several other passengers who had done the one day trip thru Celebrity, and the only big complaint that they seemed to have was that it was just too long of a day.....like waaaay too long a day. If Celebrity listened to reviews of their excursion, I'm guessing that once the new highway is open they might keep the tour the same and just adjust the start & ending times to allow for the shorter drive time?
  8. Hi Bruin Steve, We were on the Millenium in March and also had an overnight in Halong Bay. If you're considering a private day trip to Hanoi on that 1st day, keep in mind that Halong Bay is a tender port. The tenders don't run all night so you need to be back in time to catch that last one or you'll be stuck ashore until morning. We spent the night in Hanoi so I didn't pay too much attention to the night tender schedule..... but I do remember being a bit surprised that it didn't run later. Maybe someone else has that daily to check it for you? We used Hanoi Transfer Service to get us back and forth to Hanoi and overall we were happy with them. If I used them again, I would specify at the time of booking that we didn't want to make any of the tourist shopping stops along the way . (Pearl Market, Silk Market, etc)
  9. We had a great time in Saigon, despite the brutal heat....it was mid-90's with 95% humidity when we were there in March. Hopefully Nov will be cooler. Right after we were dropped at Bitexco Tower, we headed off on foot to Ben Thanh Market. Since it was hot we decided to take a ride in one of the many Tri-shaws that were all over the city. That was a mistake because the drivers tried to scam us, which apparently is very common. They took us about 1/2 mile in the wrong direction, told us the market was just down the street and tried to get us to pay 100x the amount we had agreed on. That wasn't the best intro to Saigon but the day went great after that. We stopped and had some pho for a snack, spent some time in the market then headed towards the City Hall area which was really nice and had a park with water fountains. Right there is also the Rex Hotel where the war correspondents all hung out back in the day. There are many high end places to shop but we spent much of our time wandering down the old style street markets. Had a great seafood lunch buffet at the Sheraton Hotel (?) which was actually just as much about cooling off and hydrating as it was about having lunch. We got back to Bitexco Tower early and enjoyed all the street vendors that were there......apparently that's a popular place for buses to pick up because there were big crowds of tourists hanging out waiting for their rides. Does your cruise overnight in Halong Bay? A large number of cruisers on our sailing chose to do the Halong Bay overnight cruises and raved about them. We really wanted to see Hanoi so we booked a car (Hanoi Transfer Service) for roundtrip transportation. We stayed at a little boutique hotel in the old part of Hanoi and really enjoyed the atmosphere in that part of the city, although crossing streets is really scary because motorbike traffic is crazy! We were happy with the choice we made for that port. Others that we spoke to had taken day tours to Hanoi (mostly ship tours) and they said it was just a brutally long day and they regretted it. In Chan May we took Celebrity's "Hoi An on your own" and were happy with that too. Hoi An is an old fishing village with small shops, restaurants and a few temples. Very scenic, quaint and laid back compared to the other Vietnam cities that we visited. Hope you have a great time, we'd like to go back!
  10. We did "Saigon on your own" from the Millennium in March. I don't know how much the excursion varies, but we were dropped off/picked up at the Bitexco Financial Tower. We actually traveled around town on our own so the Bitexco Tower was a great meeting point because it was so easy to spot.....it towers above most buildings in the city. As long as you're planning to book a private tour anyway, I'm wondering if it might be more cost effective and less complicated if you book a tour that will just pick you up right at the ship?
  11. We were on the Summit about 18 months ago and I did find a USB port on the back of the tv to use for charging my phone. The tv wasn't working properly (can't remember exactly what was wrong) so I called for someone to fix it.....turns out charging my phone was messing something up. Once I unplugged the phone, the tv was fine......so yes, there is a USB on the tv but I wouldn't recommend using it for charging.
  12. We've found that it's hit or miss whether or not the ship will have foreign currency to sell us. Depending on what our excursion plans are, we either purchase currency before leaving home or use ATMs in port for local currency. If you're planning to use ATMs, be sure to check with your bank to be sure your card will work and what will be the best ATM to use for lowest fees.
  13. In the past, we've really enjoyed the many enrichment seminars and nature talks on Celebrity ships, on a wide variety of topics. We learned about whales & glaciers & how the recycling and waste is handled on ships. Some talks were done by ship staff, some done by "experts" who were on board just to share their knowledge. These presentations were always a highlight of our sea days. On our most recent cruise on the Millenium, there was absolutely nothing like that offered. Every single talk or presentation involved a sales pitch of some sort....really disappointing. We were sailing in Asia and would have loved to hear some information on culture, foods, geography....anything really. We went to a couple of the port talks, knowing that we'd hear sales pitches, but wanting to learn more about the ports. We were amazed that the shore excursion manager who was speaking actually seemed to know less about the ports than we did.
  14. You need to look on the Roll Call, there is already a thread started for your sailing. :)
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