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About ew101

  • Rank
    Cool Cruiser

About Me

  • Location
    USA Midwest
  • Interests
    Cruising in Europe, cruise history
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Any line that still has ballroom/latin/two step dancing. 15+ cruises.
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call

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  1. As a disclaimer we don't go to production shows much- we are ballroom/Latin dancers. We cling like a life ring to those ships that still have the four piece Oceans combos. I'm trying to mind read HAL leadership here- so this seems like an innovation/creative/groundbreaking idea. I also see cost cuts. I'm not sure it's working. What I would do is keep a core small production company aboard (say 6) and do smallish more modest shows. You don't need nineteen cast members. And supplement that with guest entertainers. As to what 22-35 year old guests like on cruises- I have no idea.
  2. I think you are right. The paperwork looks daunting and the fees are high. I get the whole "protect the homeland" idea but a cruise ship is a poor conveyance for potential terrorists.
  3. Thank You. Yes I hunted for and did not find any worn carpet in any public areas based on previous reviews. Someone asked for a coffee lid every two minutes- there were none. This could reduce coffee spills which can ruin carpet. Piped in music to me is like second hand smoke - and it was quiet in a few places- ahhh.
  4. The reviews of HAL out here lately have been snarky. We had a lovely time some years back in Canada on the Veendam. For some reason we strayed – but we can’t remember why. I had one open week in March and searched on price and a few of my criteria. The Rotterdam was the cheapest for ocean view- and for Mariner members we got $100 off on HAL.COM. One thing to watch for on OV on some Holland ships- they are nice and big and have a couch- (and even a bathtub). But a top grade (HH) can be obstructed view literally on Lower Promenade. DH did not trust the one way glass tinting- as people could possibly see in as they walked by. We booked a specific porthole (1815) down on deck one “Dolphin” - and were amused to get three “urgent” upgrade offers back up to HH- starting at $69 pp and the last was $19 pp. We had one 110V outlet, one German (250V/50hz) outlet and 2x USB charging ports. Tampa is usually a low cost air destination for us. I saved a little and booked a connecting flight- why I asked myself after a four hour delay. Ubers are cheap and abundant. The cab from the airport asked for $26 not on the meter, six over Uber XL and DH rolled her eyes and tipped him poorly. The chain hotels were pricey the start of spring break. We tried the Tahitian. The reviews were mixed. The pool and grounds were good. It has a smallish main building with a 1970s motel out back. There is no one from chain headquarters to remind the owner he needs to write a check and fix stuff like beds, bubbling plaster and clock radios or lose his franchise. The little breakfast/lunch café inside was excellent- the Tampa Police eat there. There is a cute residential neighborhood out back. Embarkation at 11 AM was less than optimal. We were too early, yes, but Terminal Six has not enough chairs. So get there at 11:30 and you proceed to the gangway and not have to stand in line after your speedy check in. Actual boarding started at 11:40. The ship is lovely and being very aggressively maintained – new carpet, paint, piping etc. The crew was cheerful and the art is really top notch. Rooms were ready at 11:45 AM- who ever heard of that. We ate embarkation lunch in the MDR. The selections were just right. The Cajun items had un-spiced sausage but they did a good job on vegetables and soups. Dinners were also good- we had aft facing sharing tables for eight and the conversation was really great – four couples our age with 15+ cruises each. Note the average passenger age was up there. The wine prices were high to us- $9 is apparently the norm -but they had three IPAs. One was out of stock but they had a Florida one that was not bad. A few tap beers are available here and there. We were so excited to see the Oceans Quartet (sometimes or formerly called Neptunes) with four sets starting at 7PM or even 5PM. The dance floor is smallish (14 feet by 14 feet or so) but the band was very good- the guys are from Mexico and will be on the ship until May. Several couples were dancing. One of the dancers said they were playing all jazz the previous week but I went up and begged for some Latin – and it was amazing. A piano player was there in between sets. If you know the Foxtrot Box Step- it is handy on a small floor. Up the way there was a piano bar player- he was well regarded- Barry from Boston. The casino was packed and a bit smoky. There was no actual production show- this caused some grumbling– replaced by a movie. Others seemed OK with the movie. There was comedy a few nights. Both were good and one of the comedy shows had music (we won’t give it away). There was a musical show- Postmodern Jukebox that was only OK but way over hyped. If I was HAL I would bring back a smallish production show. The reports on the Test Kitchen were positive. As I write this is it 5:45 AM in the lounge/coffee shop/library aka Explorations Cafe. There is no library on the deck plans but there are actual books, puzzles, board games and no piped in music. The coffee shop opens at 6:30. For a transatlantic or world cruise this is an excellent and large space- and very under-rated. We had our Cruise Critic unofficial meet and greet around a giant puzzle. They need a few electric outlets, and there is a wooden book sculpture that takes up a whole writing desk and needs to be recycled. I found a laser printer 🙂 The ship has an aft pool. These are nice and a good way to enjoy the sea views. Key West is a good port. On our third trip there we hunted for the free bus, which for us was like a unicorn and hard to find. Two important clues- it is called the Duval Loop and is a smallish city bus. There is a commercial trolley-bus and a wheeled train. The Duval Loop has red circular signs marking the stops. It was very full when we rode it and the commentary was safety vs tourist focused. The Southernmost Beach Café was again excellent and we found Turkish trivets and key lime jelly beans on Duval. The funny and interesting port talks downplayed Porto Tomas in Guatemala. The message was, over and over, buy a shore excursion or else you will be bored and disappointed. Some of us took the or else- many staying on the ship. There was hint you could walk out the gate of the container port by the craft market, go straight a block then right around the miniature naval station to some waterfront restaurants. At least one showed up on the online rating sites and can be seen from the ship. We dropped into Donde Pilo which seated us over the water on a thatched roof dock. They were sweet and friendly and recommending the large lobster seafood soup for $20. Some friends who arrived by power wheelchair had a huge fish. Divide all local currency prices by 7. We looked for and saw several crew. If they are trying to promote the port in the bigger picture I would humbly suggest to HAL and the Tourist Board to rent a few golf carts and shuttle guests over there. It is a similar look, feel and walk to Senior Frogs in Nassau. Pro tip- the local beer was $2. The craft market at the pier had pretty local crafts – I got two nice hand made belts for $20 each. Taxis to the actual town, a few miles away, were like $10pp round trip. Service in the MDR was cheerful but slow. Breakfast food was lovely – lots of choices- full English, waffles and even Asian. But they would take 45 minutes and ask for juice two or three times etc. We diagnosed the issue as “stay in your section” by the Head Waiters, vs “go and help the guests or supervise” – which is easy to fix and we dropped in a note to the Hotel Director. Dinner was slow but everybody was pitching in. MDR Lunch was efficient. They were not serving in the MDR on most port days, so we tried “Dive In” by the covered pool – which has a taco bar also and a good chicken sandwich. There were rumors of a shortage of limes aboard. I cornered a senior beverage person, who stated they have to use certified (food safety?) suppliers, such as those back in Tampa, so just racing off to buy a case of limes was just not possible. I complimented him on the wise decision to carry several IPAs. He hinted they would have more but there were issues with shelf stability. He did acknowledge the cost of them was also a factor, and that guests were “crazy for light beers.” The founder of our local (large) microbrewery at home, Summit, makes of big point of his decision to hire a chemist and build a lab to work on shelf stability as he tries to expand nationally. This may be a helpful clue as to why there not more craft beers on cruise ships. We were baffled by the real world dress code aboard. Yes the published one was easy to follow. Dress to Impress aka Formal Night was the big question. So, based on a sample size of say 100 people I noticed (this is valid sample size I think), the average for men was sport coat and tie. We saw a tux or two and quite a few business casual. Mahogany Bay is a dedicated cruise ship port. The Captain mentioned the entrance was narrow and challenging to back the ship into in high winds, but everything was just so. The grounds were manicured, the shops air conditioned and the beaches sandy. There were life guards and lots of security. We had a dip in the ocean. The online drawings and photos show the place as barren but the jungle has filled in and it quite pretty. There were lots of lounge chairs and shade available. We enjoyed the signs on some of the exotic (to us at least) trees and flowers. Costa Maya seemed the same and massively crowded. We stayed on the ship. The gentle rocking at the open sea pier made it like a sea day. We read books and went for several walks. MDR breakfast service settled in. I did some asking around – this is a happy ship- with high guest satisfaction ratings. I have noticed a correlation between happy ships and good ratings on places like Cruise Critic. You can tell if the crew is enjoying their (hard) work. We were impressed by the towel animals – Riston (covering the whole forward-odd side of Deck One up to about 1857) designed an amazing elephant, sleeping dog and monkey- the best we have even seen. They did not seem to use cleaning carts which can block the hallways. Getting off the ship could not have been easier. CBP had a lot officers on duty in Tampa, which helped. There were no lines at all at 8:40. Just before leaving we had a walk on the all-around promenade deck, then ordered Eggs Benedict and Belgian Waffles in the MDR. This was a good reminder of how well organized things are on the Co-Flagship of the line
  5. I was studying the recent "Special Value Selection" flyer that came in the mail. Pages 12 and 13 had the "Full World Voyages." I was struck at how few places the ships actually stop. So for Africa, you get South Africa and Namibia. That's it. I understand you could encounter crime, poverty, malaria and even Ebola, but Morocco is on my bucket list. Taking a shore excursion to Marrakech involves meeting rich people mostly I think. The Financial Times had a recent section talking about resort and golf course development there. I have students in my class this semester from seven different African countries and they do not seem menacing. I see the ship does not stop in India. Remember POSH? Nor Turkey. I get the whole passenger safety thing. And the problem of people being disappointed and demanding refunds on Twitter if you have to cancel a port. In contrast, the South America voyages, like V003B, seem to stop absolutely everywhere. I see some smaller, upstart lines in this same market segment being more edgy on ports. Even a tiny bit. This all reminds me of those bus tours where you drive by all the major sights- but in this case at high speed and with the shades pulled down.
  6. Jack is right here- for this game you need to be patient - and decide when your price has been reached and pounce. Use Cunard.com- one clue is if lots of categories are open Cunard could decide the risk of sailing with empty cabins is too great. Cruise ships are like hotels- most costs are fixed and paid in advance. Weeks near holidays and with the risk of bad weather can be good options. Some dancers we know book when the price drops below $100/night.
  7. Thank you. They seem to have a full agenda and are ahead of some well known lines in terms of live music etc.
  8. Any ideas which outside cabin categories on the Horizon might have a couch or sofa in them? It is very hard to tell from the photos and seems to vary a bit. There seem to be normal outside cabins, then some "superior" ones. An old review in Cruise Travel (5/92) said all 677 cabins except two large and 18 smaller suites were the same size.
  9. My review was rejected back- check junk email- it failed to "take" the bottom 2/3 of the body of the review text -cut and paste from word. Then when I tried to revise it- I got to the "ports" section and I could not save the "no excursion" comments on each ports. Each port gave a pop up saying the review could not be revised. As this was the second try I changed each port to say "took an excursion" - other- and it took. Fingers crossed.
  10. On QV in 2017 there was an internationally ranked dance couple who gave occasional demonstration dances and I believe could offer paid lessons. They were around a lot during dance events and fun to talk to. On QM2 in August and November 2018 there was no dance couple- the assigned one was missing and lead dancers from the show filled in. This arrangement was apparently resolved in December 2018. In all cases for us the dance hosts were from the UK. They seemed to know many dances, were quite good and would be very involved in sequence dances. They were on short contracts. They were not very busy- surprisingly. During orchestra dance events the floor was crowded (good), but one could not get formal in technique - the ship was moving and there was no space. The serious dancers met during recorded music events when the floor was not as full.
  11. Boarding the Vision last week they were grabbing everything electrical- 2 prong cords, power strips, the works. In our cabin at the desk we found 2x 110V USA outlets and 2x Euro (240V/50hz) outlets. Most modern (lightweight switching) cell phone/tablet/laptop chargers are happy on the Euro power (read the label) so the tiny cheap Euro two round male pin to US female type adapters (bring a handful) gave us two more usable outlets. Certain items are unhappy on the Euro power so be careful. Many kudos to Chengkp75 for framing up the surge suppressor and fire hazard issue on board ships. It is counter intuitive.
  12. Thanks for the great review. The prices for outside cabins can be favorable = more days aboard 🙂
  13. They are finishing construction of condos next door. They were adding decking to the marina docks but it was not too bad. The waters are always nice in Nassau. I went in.
  14. I have friends who write for a football website and they get actual press credentials just like newspaper or radio reporters for attending training camp, doing interviews of players, etc. So we are in some ways travel journalists or bloggers. It is common in many organizations to only allow certain corporate officers or PR folks to make statements to the media. So if a senior shipboard person (say a Hotel Director) tells one of us in a meeting "such and such a ship is getting a new steak restaurant in 2020" that could be considered a press release and someone who books a cruise expecting that restaurant could potentially sue under the Lanham Act if it is not delivered.
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