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About badtwin

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    spokane wa.
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    home repair, reading crafts

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  1. We had been planning our second HAL cruise for several months after absolutely loving our first experience. Then we got an offer for a river cruise (an amazing offer admittedly) and started really comparing the pricing - drinks, tours, transfers etc. Then I found this discussion when I asked about how the food compared. I can't say that the thought of the extra charge for another entree was the deciding factor, but it said something about the HAL experience I didn't like. We cruise for the ports, not all the on-board glitz. We like to come back to the ship after a day in port, shower and dress up, and enjoy dinner in the MDR. I pay enough for my wine - I shouldn't have to pay extra for food in the basic venues. So HAL, if you are reading this, you lost two cruisers who are fast approaching the age where two cruises a year will be likely. I will be watching this topic to see if we try HAL again or return to Celebrity.
  2. Will my DH feel out of place with blazer on Viking? He was going to take one in case the dining room was chilly. Not a sweater guy and sweatshirt or fleece pullover seems too casual.
  3. DH and I booked our first river cruise yesterday. Viking Grand European, Amsterdam to Budapest September 29. I was looking at the roll calls and was confused - seemed like all the same cruise were on a single thread, regardless of departure. This does not seem efficient. Am I missing something?
  4. I have read a lot of this topic but admit I skipped a few pages in the middle so I hope this is not redundant. My concern about this policy is less about being charged for an extra entree (which I will admit to ordering on occasion) and more about whether this is just a test run at up-charging for other things in the MDR. If they find they can get away with charging extra for the second serving, then maybe they start charging for the first serving of the better entrees, or even have one side of the menu available at an extra charge. It is one thing to offer specialty restaurants or even special parts of the ship to those willing to pay more. It is quite another to charge in the MDR. I would also mention if anyone at HAL is "listening" (since my two efforts to email you on your miserable webpage went down in flames) that my DH and I, recent HAL converts and close to retirement travelers, had been planning a HAL cruise this fall and have pretty much decided to go with another line. Not because of this food issue per se, but more because of what it reflects in terms of customer service.
  5. Thanks to everyone. Our main focus picking cruises is usually itinerary and timing and have had some "interesting" food experiences. (MSC and Costa come to mind ) We don't necessarily mind a different dining experience (except for NCL - never again) as long as we have factored it into the decision. This all helps a lot.
  6. DH and I have been watching the price on a couple of HAL Mediterranean cruises, having really enjoyed our first HAL cruise a year ago. We just got a brochure for Viking River cruises with some fairly competitive pricing and are adding one of those to our "watching list." I searched these boards and I can't find much discussion of Viking River food. I don't think we are food snobs and really enjoy the MDR on both HAL and Celebrity. We both like large slabs of red cow - prime rib and steaks - which seem plentiful on both big lines. Can anyone tell me about how the food on Viking River cruises would compare? I suspect it will be good but worry their effort to incorporate regional specialties may be at the expense of american style beef.
  7. Our first cruise was on Costa Magica in 2009, so things could have changed a bit. We enjoyed it and would cruise Costa again for the right price and itinerary. What has been said is true - some language issues, food is more Italian based, the ship decor is flamboyant, and lots of cigarette smoke. And there is a definite "cultural difference" that seems rude by American standards. For the on-board cruise experience, we much prefer Celebrity or HAL. As someone once described it to us, they are "noticeably nicer." The food is more upscale, the staff was better, and there was much less smoking. (And no or fewer speedos.) It really comes down to what is more important to you - the ports or particular aspects of the on-board experience. If you love all those nice touches you get with HAL, Costa may be disappointing. If you want a decent floating hotel, Costa would probably be okay.
  8. We have been on a few cruises to Europe now and I always view topics like these as reminders to be aware and not be stupid, but not as a suggestion we must travel in fear. This one is for Barcelona but it could be Rome or Athens or any number of other cities. Many Americans live in towns that do not have the type of crowds that encourage pickpockets and other street crime (probably smaller towns all over the word can claim the same) and we need a reminder to protect ourselves and our belongings by taking reasonable precautions. As tourists, we are attractive targets because we probably are carrying too much cash and too many credit cards and we are distracted by the sights and sounds we are enjoying. No need to be fearful but there is a need to be aware and act accordingly.
  9. We walked the Mediterranean steps and just to be clear, they were more like the Mediterranean Goat Path in a lot of places. There was also quite a bit of brush along the way. An actual run would be difficult in some parts and downright dangerous in a few but if you do a lot of rugged trail running, in might be an option for parts. The views were wonderful and you got away from a lot of the crowds.
  10. My recollection is that Lisbon has a lot of different travel cards and options and it really depends on what other things you might want to do and see. There are lots of websites out there that can explain the difference in detail. Some passes include tourist attractions or a percentage discount on admission The public transportation system has its own cards. One thing to know is that all public transport is cheaper if you pay with some kind of card, as opposed to cash when boarding. We were there for one day and settled for a day pass which allowed unlimited travel on subway, buses and trolleys. It was around 6 euro and was worth it just so we didn't have to think about it. They also have a card you load for per trip travel (called zapping I think) but we didn't want to do the math and limit ourselves if we changed our minds. You purchase the cards at a vending machine which was easy to use once we found one at a subway station. Short answer - I would get some sort of pass, but can't tell you which one would best fit all your plans.
  11. This is a very easy town to see alone if you are reasonably mobile. In addition to venues mentioned by campolady, I would also suggest the Civil War museum if that sort of thing interests you. The entrance is at the base of the big outside elevator and the museum is located in the tunnels in which the the city residents took refuge during bombings. Not a big museum - no more than an hour as I recall. We also saved a few euros buying a pass for several venues at once. I think this is mentioned in Tom's port guide.
  12. Not sure if it was Barcelona or another Spanish port, but on our cruise in May, we met a very well-traveled couple who take all the precautions. Nevertheless, she reported that while on a bus, she looked down just in time to see a woman with her hand in her husband's ZIPPERED front pocket. Our friend grabbed the pick-pocket's arm and scared her away. Moral - even zipper pockets are not safe in a crowd. Use a safety pin or keep your own hand on your own wallet at all times in those situations. As an added precaution, when my husband and I are sight-seeing, we try to keep him on my left - that way I block access to his right front pocket and he is on the side I carry my cross-body bag if I am using it that day.
  13. I believe the schedule was posted somewhere. For each stop, the driver made it clear when the bus would be heading out again. I don't recall exactly, but we had plenty of time to go look at the rocks and other items at the first stop so it was maybe an hour (?) and then time to walk to the standing stones and take some pictures. I noticed someone mentioned the lines. We got an early tender and high tailed it to the bus station so we were maybe third or fourth in line, but the line got long quickly and I don't know if they add buses to serve everyone or if the later people were just out of luck.
  14. The tourist office has maps for self guided walking tours. The routes are color coded and (more or less) painted on the street so you can follow them easily. The beach on the far side of town looked very nice and there were lots of lovely little parks. Not a lot of "big" things but a very enjoyable port.
  15. Since I whined, I thought I would report we just got our room assignment for our May 1st cruise on the Koningsdam. We booked a VF and were assigned a VQ - 10027. Not sure what a spa verandah adds to the experience but the location looks pretty good for us.
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