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monas queen

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About monas queen

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    Cool Cruiser

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    Isle of Man
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    Too many to choose
  1. monas queen

    Gratuities going up..

    These are not "gratuities", or "tips", which in my dictionary are "presents of money for service given". They are charges imposed by the company for service. They make up a large part of the service staffs' wages, which I consider to be an abomination, particularly as we live in a society that has laws about minimum wages. The cruise companies should pay their staff at least a living wage, and if that means that they have to charge a more realistic up front fare, then so be it. At least we would all know better where we stand that way. We used to cruise with companies that expected passengers to pay set amounts direct to cabin stewards and waiters. One of those companies decided to impose a charge onto the on-board account instead, and immediately afterwards, we noticed a very marked deterioration in their standards of service. Having seen people making similar comments, this does not appear to be co-incidence. We no longer go with that company, or any other that expects you to pay additional service charges. We look for "gratuities included", and know that we will not then be hassled by the company or the service staff. There is always the option of making a gift to a staff member who has given exceptional service, but even better than that is to praise them in person to their line manager, and/or to name them in the end of cruise questionnaire. One waiter, who we had praised direct to his Maitre D, thought that we were responsible for him getting an extension to his contract, that he had really wanted - worth far more to him than a tip. He has been our best friend ever since! We have also seen people that we have praised get promotions. It's lovely to see them progress. I think we are all (staff and passengers) much more relaxed than in the "tips are extra" regime. Time for the companies to "see the light", and stop ripping off both their staff and their passengers.
  2. I find that packing varies according to whether I have to fly to get to a cruise or not. If not, no problem, everything goes in subject to the luggage being manageable without assistance (just in case!). If flying, weight is the limiting factor, and washable separates come into their own. One thing we started to do years ago is pack into big plastic bags (swing bin liners are cheap, and can be re-used in the bin afterwards!). Dirties go into separate bags for going home, to keep them away from any unworn items. We were really glad that we had adopted this idea when we arrived in our cabin once to find that our newly delivered suitcase smelt of fortified wine (like Madeira). Someone had put a bottle in their case and it had clearly broken. The sticky sweet liquid had got into our case (and I don't know how many others) and was all over our plastic bags, but IT HAD NOT GOT INSIDE THEM. I still have nightmares when I think of the washing/laundry we would have needed.
  3. monas queen

    The peasants are revolting

    I'm with the OP on this one. Any loyalty we had for Fred was lost years ago, when their penny pinching really started to bite. We have been on all of their ships, and used to enjoy being on them, but they steadily became less enjoyable - wine stewards were done away with, and waiters more to do with less time to do it. Cabin stewards were given more cabins to service, and when "tips" were automatically added to the onboard account we detected a completely different attitude towards the servicing of our cabin, and a substantial drop in standards. Looking at the list of what you do not get if you book the (w)anchor fare, it's downright criminal. It's not just the petty £2 per night for being able to choose when you want to dine. There are the cruises themselves, with fewer calls, and more places stayed at overnight. Oh, there's so much.... I'm cruising elsewhere now. It's costing more up front (though by the time you've added up all of Fred's hidden and non hidden extras there's probably not too much difference) but I'm finding it much more of a pleasure. Happy cruising, whatever you choose.
  4. monas queen

    Hurtigruten Fram Cruise to Antarctica Jan 13-22

    I forgot to mention.... in Buenos Aries, we found that our hotel was almost opposite a railway museum that is not in the guide books. We hadn't wanted to wander far because of the lashing rain, and as we are railway enthusiasts, we headed for that. It was next to the working railway, there was a steam engine parked outside, and entry was free. The museum was not so much railway vehicles, but infrastructure - electrical equipment, Victorian toilets (!), name and numberplates. Lots of evidence of the British origins of a lot of the equipment. They've saved a huge amount of stuff that most places would have chucked in the waste. We found it absolutely fascinating.
  5. monas queen

    Hurtigruten Fram Cruise to Antarctica Jan 13-22

    Enjoy Antarctica on Fram. We were on in 2011, and regard this trip as one of those lifetime specials, that we will always remember with affection, even the hurricane that we went through on the way back to Buenos Aires! (we went on the final cruise of the season, so that we could visit South Georgia and the Falklands). My "other half" doesn't normally "do" wildlife, but he was as snap happy as me, and we came back with about 1,900 photos! The wealth of human friendly wildlife is something that you simply cannot envisage unless you have experienced it. A couple of hints - Make sure that you carry at least one spare camera battery, as battery life is lower in the cold. If you have some weather proofing for your camera, take it. If it rains, then it rains hard, and the rain gets into cameras (though using the hair dryer on them back on board might work - it did for some on our trip!) By the way, the blue jackets proved to be very wind and waterproof! Make sure you have waterproof over-trousers. As already suggested, take layers. One or two thin layers under a good fleece (with the blue jacket over the top) should be adequate - this is the Antarctic summer, after all, and temperatures should not fall too far into minus figures, if at all. (Buenos Aries should be quite a bit warmer, but can be very wet, as we found!). Have a fleece with you when you are in the lounges, and throw it on when that announcement comes - your cabin is always a long way away when you are in a hurry! A good hat with ear protector flaps is recommended. Keep it dry under the blue jacket's hood. Take thick socks to wear inside the wellies. (You can take boots a size bigger than you normally wear if you need the extra room). We thought that Fram was very well organised for getting everyone ashore with a decent amount of time, and their experts were good, too. Above all, enjoy. I'm envious, and would love to go again, but really, really hate long haul flights.
  6. monas queen

    Titanic Versus Today

    [quote name='BlueRiband']The arguments are being repeated with nothing new. I maintain a liner is such by form and construction while you maintain that a liner is such by function.[/quote] Coming into this late, as I've been away cruising. :D Sorry, but can I throw another pebble into the troubled waters? ;) QM2 has been accepted as a liner, but she does not work a regular liner service. As for form and construction, she may have been built for regular deep sea work, but she has a lot of top hamper. Her public rooms are relatively low down on the ship for comfort, but a lot of cabins are high up, where they will suffer from "the motion of the ocean". How many balcony cabins does a traditional liner have? Probably not many, because no-one could use them in an Atlantic storm. :) There is still another "proper" liner still in service, apart from the Marco Polo. This is the MV Azores (previously Athena, formerly Stockholm). If she comes back to/near UK waters, I'll certainly go back on her - she was lovely as Athena. I'd need a lot more persuading to go back on Marco Polo(a nice ship, but CMV's way of running things does not suit me). I've just looked through the list of "ocean liners" on Wikipedia, and from an initial count I've sailed on 12 of them, and no, my list doesn't include QM2!
  7. monas queen

    Cruise Critic Lofoten Review

    Theodore Scull says in his Lofoten review that "some rolling may occur .......rounding the North Cape". It is very rare for the Hurtigruten ships to divert to go round the North Cape. Normally they take the more sheltered route to the south on their way to Honningsvag. I have been on a few winter trips, always on the older ships, and never yet been round the Cape. Am I just "unlucky"? I have seen the North Cape from the sea a few times, by the way, but always when on a cruise, so I haven't missed out! Already looking forward to my trip on Lofoten in 2014, which will be her 50th anniversary year. She is a real treasure.
  8. monas queen

    L'Austral vs. MS Fram

    Agreed with digitl. We went on Fram, and never felt that we were being rushed. The organisation of people into groups for the landings was good, and their guides/lecturers were very good. We had a hurricane when we were heading north from the Falklands to Buenos Aries (we were on the last trip of the season, with calls in South Georgia and the Falklands - very worthwhile) and the ship took it extremely well. It was certainly an experience not to be missed, and has given us a wealth of memories.
  9. monas queen

    Odds of continental landing

    Do not go on a large ship - you will not be allowed off anywhere due to the limits that are applied (quite understandably) to the numbers of people that can be on land at any one time. The big ships will just pass by the land, and show you penguins on ice floes. Fram (which we went on) is probably about as big as you can get landings from, and they were very well organised at getting everyone on shore, with time to view the wildlife. If there was a problem with one potential landing spot due to weather, there was always a plan B or plan C, and their landing craft are ideally suited for the conditions. Expedition ships will be well organised too. There's quite a good selection, with a wide range of prices (none cheap). Unless you have won the lottery, this is something you will probably only do once. Make your choice carefully, and ENJOY!
  10. monas queen

    Greenland from Liverpool

    [quote name='simonpjd']We are going on the Bremen (Hapag Lloyd). Lots of landings in Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica itself. A once in a lifetime trip.[/quote] Looks great (though expensive, but when it's a one off.....). The Falklands calls are well recommended, if you go to the private islands - they really know how to welcome people. South Georgia is amazing (though - only in Grytviken - we had rain worse than you can imagine, and people were trying to dry out their cameras with hairdryers on return to the ship!). It is surreal to see king penguins and reindeer together (the Norwegian whalers introduced the reindeer as a food source for themselves). Watch out for the fur seals - the youngsters haven't been told that they have to keep a minimum distance from humans, and they'll try to show you who's boss! Do have a wonderful time (I'm sure you will). It gave us so many memories that we'll treasure.
  11. monas queen

    Greenland from Liverpool

    I haven't seen a detailed itinerary, but if you are lucky enough to go through Prins Christian Sund, in the south of Greenland, you will see plenty of high mountains and icebergs. There are glaciers that come down almost to meet you. We found Father Christmas there on our trip a few years back, and he helped to bring back on board some "fresh" thousand year old ice from one of the glacier's icebergs, which we enjoyed in drinks on the back deck. It's a fairly long passage, though, and even with an ice pilot on board, they may now be a bit wary about going through in a ship that does not have an ice strengthened hull. As for weather, you can get anything - at one port, it was so warm that we needed nothing more than tee shirts. (This was August). You are out at sea on the way there and back, and this is the North Atlantic, but it can be smooth. Have also been to Antarctica, and was blown away by the wildlife, both onshore and at sea around the ship. One tip there is to go on a small ship which will guarantee you landings ashore. We went on the Fram, which was excellent, and well organised. (I can still smell the penguins!)
  12. monas queen

    Boudicca mini cruise from Liverpool - June

    We were once on a cruise that was starting to sail just as the last coach appeared around the corner of the dock! This was a long time ago, pre mobile phones and radio contact. Fortunately, they were spotted, and ropes were put back out. (Don't know who had been counting the passengers back on!). Most cruise companies seem to want to make a good profit on their tours, and it is often the case that a taxi can be cheaper for a group of people. The companies rely on their passengers wanting the comfort factor of being with people that they know, and knowing that the ship will wait for them if there is a problem. It is sometimes well worth taking the tour if you are in a dubious area of the world, but normally you can do a lot better by shopping around.
  13. monas queen

    Boudicca mini cruise from Liverpool - June

    If the guide price for the tour you want is £70 - £80, which the website suggests, they are having a laugh. There are numerous alternative options, including the company you have found that does coach tours aimed at cruise passengers. Also worth looking at are the taxi tours, which will pick you up by the ship and give you an excellent trip at a fraction of Fred's charges - see http://belfastblackcabtours.co.uk/beyondbelfast.php and the trip advisor comments at http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g186470-d2460144-Reviews-Giants_Causeway_Tour_by_Belfast_Famous_Black_Cabs-Belfast_Northern_Ireland.html I wouldn't be surprised if they were cheaper (and better) for just one person than Fred's coach!
  14. monas queen

    Are Barbados to London Flights Punctual

    If it helps calm your mind a little, we came back from Barbados about 10 days ago, on a scheduled flight. Our group was split between BA and Virgin (both overnight) and both were pretty well to time leaving. I think our plane (Virgin jumbo jet) was in first, shortly after Gatwick opened at 05.30, as ours was the only luggage on the conveyor, but I don't think that the BA flight could have been far behind (because they left Barbados ahead of us!). If your flight is as straightforward, and your connection is from Gatwick, you should have plenty of time.
  15. monas queen

    The world's most beautiful voyage in pictures

    A lovely ship. We sailed on her from Kirkenes to Bergen in March, before her last round trip. We did the full round trip on her over Christmas 2009. The twilight hours are really lovely, though it's nice when you get to see the sun again! We will be back on Nordstjernen in just over a weeks time, to travel around Svalbard and then cruise down the coast to Bergen. Really looking forward to it, though it will be very sad, as this may be her last trip. Fortunately, we love Lofoten too, and she is still sailing, at least for a while...