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John Bull

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About John Bull

  • Rank
    10,000+ Club

About Me

  • Location
    Lee-on-the-Solent, England
  • Interests
    vintage & classic vehicles
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Voyages of Discovery
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call

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  1. John Bull

    How Are Ports of Call Managed?

    I've found that the time that you can get off the ship is a little confusing because some quote the arrival time & some quote the time from which you can disembark. The difference is normally no more than about the 30 minutes mentioned by others. At tendered ports (where the ship moors off-shore & you're taken ashore by boat) those on ship-sponsored tours and sometimes those passengers who have privileges are normally given priority. Tendering takes some time since the tender boats shuttle back & forth but it's difficult to figure how much that delays others since that depends on the numbers taking ship-sponsored tours, number of tenders, distance to the pier, the sea state, whether you're on the first available tender, etc. If you have a tendered port (your itinerary should have "ashore by tender" or similar against that port) you can ask on Cruise Critic's cruise line forum or ports-of-call forum. There's normally no priority at ports where the ship berths (St Petersburg is the only exception I know of), and all passenger can be off in 20 to 30 minutes. Immigration formalities will only rarely involve a delay - if you aren't required to take your passport ashore it's pretty certain there'll be no delay. In Havana for us the immigration delay was hardly noticeable and getting our convertible Cuban pesos at the cruise terminal's bank was a lot quicker than we'd expected The time you have to be back at the ship is posted in the daily newspaper, on a prominent board at the gangway, & often in other ways such as in elevators. Note SP's advice. When the ship crosses a time-zone , sometimes (usually if in that new time zone for more than one port) ship's time is changed to local time. But sometimes (usually when it's only in that new time zone for just one port day) ship's time remains constant, so it will be an hour different to local time - so don't rely on clocks in port and be wary of tablets which automatically change the time that they show "Back-on-board time" is normally 30 minutes before scheduled sailing time Except at tendered ports, where "last tender time" is usually 60 minutes before scheduled sailing time. Last tender time is when you have to be back at the tender boat pier, not when you have to be back on the ship, so no need to worry about how long the tender trip takes. And, as Heidi has posted, no worry if there's a long line waiting for the tender - if there's a line the tenders will continue until they've mopped-up the line. Whether berthed or by tender, there are no priorities when returning to the ship. You can disembark and re-board whenever and as often as you like up to "back-on-board time", though if your ship overnites in port do check whether that applies through the night. And at tendered ports the tenders run back and forth all day, although not as frequently in the middle of the day. I think that all cruise ships berth (ie no tenders) in Havana - if I'm wrong, no doubt someone will correct me. (Havana is great, very different from other Caribbean ports. I think of the place as decayed Spanish decadence with vestiges of communism, plus of course 1950's American gas-guzzlers. Locals are happy and friendly, the bars are great. And you're wise to see it now - before there's a MaccyD or Starbuck or KFC on every street-corner.) JB
  2. John Bull

    Falmouth Jamaica

    I've only driven in Falmouth, not from a cruise ship. I too am surprised that it's considered dangerous. But certainly it seemed that it had nothing to offer, so.definitely get yourselves out of town. Mebbe rafting on the Martha Brae as another poster has suggested. Totally the opposite of a white-knuckle ride, just a lazy drift down the river on a comfy sofa. Or fix a ride to climb Dunn's River Falls near Ocho Rios. It's an hour away but on an attractive coastal road and we've done it on a port-of-call visit from further away at Mo' Bay - in fact we fitted in river-tubing on the White River in the same trip. JB
  3. John Bull

    P&O or Royal Carribean??

    Just a though, if you're halfway to considering RCI. Because IMHO Princess is halfway between P&O and RCI. Princess was a subsidiary of P&O - and still is even though they both have new American overlords, the Carnival Corp. But Princess has a "trans-Atlantic" feel to it....... Much more pleasing decor than the comparatively "magnolia" of P&O, but not as brash as RCI. Ditto the staff - more refined than RCI, less reserved than P&O. Princess ships fly the Red Duster, and senior crew tend to be Brit, Canadian and European. But on-board currency is the USD, and service charges and drinks prices are at US levels. Most (all?) of their ships have a pub - serving Brit beers and pub-grub. In fact, the best fish & chips I've ever tasted was on a Princess ship, even though the chef puree'd the mushy peas instead of smashing them - perhaps the lumpiness of mushy peas offended his culinary instincts I tend to think of Princess as more up-scale, but prices are in the same ball-park. Lots of Princess sailings from Southampton JB
  4. John Bull

    P&O or Royal Carribean??

    RCI (Royal Caribbean) also sail out of Southampton, as do a number of other cruise lines like Princess, Celebrity and NCL. There are pros & cons with each. RCI is has more fun & more glitz - and is much more "in your face", which you may / may not like. RCI is generally more popular with older kids, P&O with younger kids. P&O is more reserved, & the décor could be described as "more refined" or "bland" - depending on your own stance. P&O is geared to Brit tastes - you'll have seen that pub-type items on its menus are interspersed with international dishes. P&O has 95+% British clientele, RCI is more mixed though that does depend on the itineraries. On-board costs are significantly higher on RCI - particularly daily service charges, drinks, & drinks service charges. There's no self-service laundries. Simply take those differences into account when comparing cruise ticket prices. On RCI there normally aren't tea/coffee facilities in cabins but they are provided on sailings from the UK - though that's tea only, so bring a jar of your favourite instant coffee. BTW - RCI's on-board currency is $. Always settle your on-board account in ship's currency - don't agree to them changing it to sterling "for your convenience", because they'll do so at a poor exchange rate. You credit card supplier will always give a better exchange rate than any merchant. Same with all cruise lines, and with using your card in foreign ports - always but always leave the bill in their currency. And for non-sterling ships and foreign travel mebbe get yourself a card which doesn't charge a forex fee. Halifax Clarity, Capita One, Nationwide FlexPlus, or credit card from the Post Office. Because so much about cruising is new & different, I always advise a Brit cruise line for a Brit's first cruise - a gentler & simpler introduction. But it's not your first cruise. Time to spread your wings a little????? JB
  5. John Bull

    hydrofoil to Petergof

    It's not across an open bay like the Bay of Naples - the protective causeway across the Gulf of Finland effectively turns it into a 20-mile long lake. Wendy's guide told her that the hydrofoil is weather-dependent, and is cancelled in poor weather. That's pretty typical of hydrofoils, hovercraft & the like - so by my reckoning if it's running it'll be fine. We had a smooth crossing, tho that's no guarantee. But if it's a one-way hydrofoil you'll have the luxury of deciding on the spot whether to take the hydrofoil & meet the car/van at Peterhof, or drive out & back. Different transport in each direction gives you two perspectives. Just MHO as always JB
  6. John Bull

    How many cruises have you been on?

    Ha ha. When I can't get to sleep, instead of counting sheep I count how many cruises, or how many ports or how many countries or how many airports I've visited, or how many cars I've had, or how many girlfriends. Partway through I forget whether I've already included one, so I have to start again. I'm asleep before I finish counting. JB ps. OK, I lied about girlfriends. Five isn't a difficult number to remember
  7. John Bull

    What to do in Southampton, England?

    Whatever date it was, NBT, it was a long time ago - and nowadays my memory's not as good as it was back in those days But yes, it was long before Kirk Douglas invaded JB
  8. John Bull

    Western or Eastern Caribbean?

    A third vote for eastern. Or southern. More varied topography, peoples, histories. JB
  9. John Bull

    Bruges to Brussels

    Not just the Flanders Fields but many other sights, museums, cemeteries (sadly so very very many cemeteries), trenches, memorials etc in and around Ypres. But I don't rate travel by public transport from a port-of-call visit to Zeebrugge as difficult - I rate it damned-near impossible in the timescale. A scheduled tour by local operators doesn't fit a cruiser's timescale either, it needs a rental car (and good research) or a private tour or a ship's tour (offered by some cruise lines) I'd recommend cruisers who live in or frequently travel to Europe to put Ypres on the back-burner for a very interesting future 3 - 4 day trip. Altho a port-of-call day-trip will be pretty inadequate, Brits &Canadians & Aussies will get something out of it. But there was no US involvement at this end of the Western Front. JB
  10. Sorry, but its a pointless survey. Strict no-smoking has been tried and failed because bookings went down by a sufficiently significant proportion. Somewhere around 15 - 20% of people still smoke and almost all of them would decline to book on a ship which didn't allow them to get their fix for one, two, three, four days in one stretch. Especially since there would be an at-least-interim choice of ships without a total non-smoking policy. Add their non-smoking travelling companions and its fairly obvious that a total ban is currently impractical for ships with a capacity of more than a couple of hundred. With a few exceptions like RCI designating the casino as smoking-permitted on some cruises, the current policy of few designated outdoor areas and few-to-nil designated indoor areas it's perfectly easy for anti-smokers to keep well clear of designated areas. Which makes me wonder why you have started this poll (actually I don't wonder - but I'd like you to tell us) Don't expect significant changes to current policies until surveys show a near-100% positive response to no-smoking ships. So try not to be dictatorial - live and let die. JB
  11. John Bull


  12. John Bull

    Portugal (Funchal, Maderia)

    Great fun From your ship to the bottom cablecar station by retro bus (like in Yellowstone or Glacier NPs) or tuk-tuk or taxi or a pretty long waterside walk of 20 to 30 minutes depending how far along the quay your captain has parked. Buy a one-way cablecar ticket to just the intermediate cablecar station (unless you also want to visit the gardens at the top of the second cablecar). Turn left out of the intermediate cablecar station & keep the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens to your left. The toboggans are a five minute walk along this road. I forget the price, only that it was non-negotiable but not excessive. The toboggans only take you part-way down - from the bottom of the toboggan run it's still an uninteresting 30 minute walk down to the town. There'll be taxis near the bottom of the toboggan - plenty of folk to share with but you need to bargain hard with the drivers, including walking away, because they'll screw whatever they can get. A couple of years ago negotiations from there to the old part of the city near the harbour started at €25 & ended at €15. JB
  13. John Bull

    Budget Car rental in Barcelona Airport

    Checking out review sites for car rental is enough to put a person off renting for the rest of their life They all - including the big names like Avis & Hertz - seem to get a one or two-star rating on TrustPilot, TripAdvisor etc. So don't check out Budget in isolation. You're probably aware that Budget is the "budget" arm of Avis. We've used a host of operators in Europe, including both Budget & Avis. Mainly OK despite universally poor reviews. Our own preference is for Europcar - never had a bad experience with them, and their rates are midway between the likes of Hertz & Avis and the local or budget operators. We've also used Goldcar in Spain without grief. They're at the cheaper end but they've had their financial problems in the past & like all the others they get ....errr....."mixed" reviews. Sorry, no experience of renting from Barcelona. But can I suggest you return the car when you get back to Barcelona - in the city a car is a millstone. edit - re-reading your post I think you're already on the same wave-length If you want it for an excursion from Barcelona be sure to book a hotel with guaranteed parking and try to make that excursion for the first full day in Barcelona so you can return it soonest. JB
  14. John Bull

    Taxi from Naples to sorrento

    For two people it's a no-brainer. Choose between train & ferry. Ferry is simpler & easier & far more pleasant, Seven of you in a (pre-booked) van needs a bit more research on cost, though I think you'll find it more expensive than the ferry & very definitely more expensive than the train. Journey time is about an hour by any of those means, but add travel to the station for the train (20 mins?), or the strictures of the timetable for the ferry. If you can hack the cost, a van gives you much more flexibility. And if you research Sorrento you'll find it's very pleasant but not special. So that flexibility would allow you to add the Amalfi coast (that's the truly spectacular coast road on the south side of the peninsula plus Positano and Amalfi and Ravello, whereas the road on the north side from Naples to Sorrento is merely attractive in parts). Or split your time between Sorrento and either Pompeii or Herculaneum. Sorry to sound a bit negative about Sorrento, but I don't believe it to be worthy of anything like a full day. No first-hand knowledge of van operators, but Joe Bananas & Rome-in-limo (don't be put off by the Rome in the name) are both frequently recommended on Cruise Critic. BTW, don't even think of self-drive for the Amalfi coast. Unless you are evil and can con a naïve member of your party into volunteering to drive. And to find parking. JB
  15. John Bull

    Vaccination requirements

    If you can find, or get a copy of, his old YF cert it'll do the job - even if it has passed any quoted expiry date. If not, I have little doubt he'll be granted exemption by his doctor - but it does need that certificate of exemption JB