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John Bull

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  1. Just our experience ........... Laid-back, un-rushed and very un-crowded. Table service, and order your own breakfast preferences. No traditional dining (ie no set time or table or waiters), for all guests breakfast service is similar to "anytime" dinner service. (But do check breakfast hours) Much slower than serve-yourself buffets - avoid if you want to go ashore with the herd, but for us an excellent way to start a day at sea (consequently busier on sea-days, but still not crowded) We've found it's much the same on all cruise ships,lines that we've sailed. JB 🙂
  2. Yep, very disparaging about snowflakes & virtue-signallers. But it's got nothing to do with sovereignty. I've got my views & you've got yours, Harry. But I'm not gonna get drawn into a political debate on these pages. Happy sailings JB 🙂
  3. That's a news story that passed me by. The threat has been a minor news item, so the media clearly aren't taking it seriously at the moment. But it's national, not specifically Southampton, and the current driver-shortage grief is at Felixtowe - which would be the main target. TBH, we've got enough problems with driver shortages, protesters blocking motorways, Covid, vaccine conspiracy theorists, panic buyers, and snowflakes & virtue-signallers, and what we don't need is unions taking advantage.😡 There are currently no freight or container ships lying at anchorages off Southampton, nor is there any logjam at Southampton's container port. The container port has a separate port entrance so road transport unions will not be interested in cruise terminals or ships - and a large proportion of containers off-loaded at Southampton go straight onto trains in the port. US cruise ships - including the Queens - are replenished in the States, so they're not dependent on UK trucks. Can't totally reassure you about your cruise, but I doubt that road transport unions will affect it. 🙂 JB 🙂
  4. Definitely not within the Walled City, it's dead in the evenings. The Jewish city centre is known for its nightlife. JB 🙂
  5. It's not about Christmas, and it's not about UK ports. French fishermen (surpise, surprise 🙄) are threatening a blockade of FRENCH Channel ports like Boulogne, Calais, Dunkirk, mebbe Le Havre & Dieppe, and the French end of the Channel tunnel to disrupt Xmas supplies to the UK. And that might happen as early as the end of this week. It'll not affect cruise ships (but may mean re-jigging any cruises with planned port-of-call at Le Havre) nor supplies arriving by freighter. So enjoy your Cunard cruise - and spare a thought to the rest of us left behind & possibly turkey-less at Christmas 😏 JB 🙂
  6. Excellent self-drive road tour suggestion by Marazul. 🙂 I've mapped it out with the help of Mr Google - perhaps Marazul can check that I got it right. https://goo.gl/maps/bWhBVPNc7VQLc1Fh8 BTW, since Villefranche is a tender port, it's likely to take 90 minutes+ to disembark, and passengers will need to be back at the tender quay one hour before scheduled sailing. So a 9-hour stop will give you only 6 hours - and up to an hour less for wiggle-time if you stray out of Villefranche. But that route takes less than two hours, so plenty of time for stops & photo-opportunities, and a wander round unexciting but very attractive & laid-back Villefranche at the end. JB 🙂
  7. Depends which day-of-the-week - for travel from Southampton (note spelling) to LHR, saturdays & sundays are a dream year-round. On weekdays traffic is congested on the M3 - especially on a monday when weekly commuters return to London. By private transfer 90 minutes is plenty at the weekend, 2 hours would be the bare minimum that I'd allow on a weekday. Fixed rate for a pre-booked private transfer is £80 to £100 for a sedan (pre-pandemic). Ignore cruise lines' quoted "arrival times" of around 5 - 5.30am, they won't be able to disembark passengers before about 7am. For most ships, unassisted disembarkation starts around 7am and standard disembarkation in tranches from 7.30am to around 9 - 9.30am. If you are allocated a disembarkation time later than ideal you can ask at guest relations for an earlier disembarkation slot, citing your onward travel arrngements.- I've never heard of any request being refused. Disembarkation is usually pretty smooth at Southampton, normally a max of 30 minutes from gangway to terminal exit, and less for those disembarking early. So a pre-booked private transfer for 7.15am (unassisted disembarkation) or 7.45am for standard disembarkation. Every minute before 8am is usually worth two after 8am. So the earliest you can be at LHR is 9.30am on weekends, 10.15am weekdays. Don't pay too much attention to airport's recommendation to arrive 3 hrs 🙄 before flight time - they're allowing for folk misjudging travel time or getting lost en-route, and providing more business for shopping outlets that pay high airport rents . Two hours before flight time provides an excellent cushion, 90 minutes should be enough, 60 minutes is a very risky minimum. So a flight as early as 11.30 by private transfer if all your ducks are in line and the gods are on your side. For their transfer buses, cruise lines recommend flights from 12.30 or 1pm. The first buses leave the cruise terminal at about 8am. Each bus (except the last one) is allocated to a single airport terminal. There's no sensible rail option for So'ton to LHR - it involves train to central London & train or taxi or tube or bus back out from there, or train to an intermediate station (Woking or Reading) and a RailAir bus from there. Train + RailAir takes a minmimum of 2 hours, via central London takes forever. And whereas train is usually good value, it's not for that journey at that time of day. (But the train is an excellent option for flights out of LGW) On National Express' current coach (bus) timetable the earliest suitable bus would be 10.30am, gets to LHR at 12.15 and costs £15 pp. Pre-booking strongly advised). Southampton coach station is a 5 - 10 minute (£6 to £10) taxi ride from any cruise terminal & there's a taxi rank at the terminals. Sometimes there's a line for taxis but it moves quickly and won't foul up plans to catch the 10.30 bus. These timings allow a sensible margin for delays. They don't allow for extraordinary events (late ship arrival, motorway totally blocked by a big accident etc) - if you want to allow for all eventualities an extra couple of hours or even a couple of days might not be long enough 🙄 But if you have a choice of same-day flight times it's always best to book the latest one. JB 🙂
  8. Yep, I frequently suffer from the same dicotemy. And I usually say the hell with the grief. 🙃 Bournemouth airport to station is about 6 miles, 20 minutes. Much the same as Southampton airport to central station and the sort of distance where the savings from pre-booking vs taxi from the rank is quite marginal. I'll hazard a guess at £18 vs £22. Plus £3 airport charge for pick-up. Nat Express from station to So'ton coach station takes a very acceptable 50 minutes. It costs £6.50 pp, so for two the total cost would be in the order of £33. But frequency is approx every 3 hours. So I'd say the hell with the grief. Yes, little provincial airports like BOH and SOU are a dream compared to the zoos. We've flown from both - very laid-back, no long queues for everything, and treated like human-beings.. But arrivals at LHR and LGW aren't too bad. I reckon BOH and pre-booked taxi all the way Or LHR/LGW and public transport. But not my problem 😜 😏 JB 🙂
  9. Port Royal's £75 is on the high side, but "without any traffic congestion" suggests that's for a taxi from the rank. Better value pre-booked, but still around the £55+ mark. But £50 to £75 is good enough for a ball-park figure. Bus from airport to B'mouth rail station plus rail fare to So'ton is about £17 per person. And the 45 minutes for just the convoluted bus route from airport to station takes longer than an entire taxi ride from airport to Southampton 🙄 Yes, Southampton to LHR is about 2 hrs by Nat Express, or to LGW it's 2 hrs by train (no direct train service on Sundays, when Nat Express is a better option). Flight time from Faro is about 3 hours - travel to airport plus airport formalities can take just as long, so I don't see the extra hour-and-a-bit to fly from Gatwick as worth worrying about - and as you know there's far better frequency, and probably lower airfares. One add-on. A couple of weeks back we considered a short-notice break in the Algarve. There were direct flights (BA ?) from Southampton airport to Fare but the latest flights were in late Sept / early Oct. At a guess this is probably a seasonal route - it might be worth asking BA. JB 🙂
  10. First, do check your ship's hours in port - Cherbourg is only a half-day on many cruise itineraries. Bus services in Normandy are limited & infrequent, and of no use for visting the D-Day sights. Ditto trains. So you have four basic options: - Pre-book a ship's tour. I'd recommend this if your visit is only half-day - Pre-book an independent tour, either private or group tour (Overlord have been mentioned a number of times, they have an excellent reputation but there are other specialists). Guides are experts, and smaller groups than ships' tours mean you get more personal attention, including answers to specific questions. Also no waiting around while a full-size coach loads & unloads, and large groups move at the speed of the slowest. Be aware that independent tours book-out very very early. To be honest, Overlord's itinerary would be too basic for me - just Omaha / American cemetery and Ste Mere-Eglise. Certainly in-depth, but my own preference for a 9.5-hour tour would include more stops. - Pre-book a rented car. This iwill be significantly cheaper than the other options - especially if you're a foursome or you can get together with others, for instance via your cruise RollCall. Driving is easy, a mix of the main A13 divided highway and country lanes, no town driving. You can set and vary your own timetable (make Ste Mere-Eglise your last stop, by the N13 it's only about 35 minutes from Cherbourg, so you can trim or expand your time there, depending on your time available). Uncrowded roads, though a little slow along the coastal lanes. Plenty of free parking at the sights. Downside is that you don't have a guide, but a little advance research makes a big difference, and there's plenty of written information and English-speaking staff at the sights. - Pre- book a car & driver. Same advantages as a rented car, more expensive of course but without the responsibilities. No guide, but drivers usually know a few tidbits. Just stress that you need a driver with good English. If using a rented car or car+driver, here's a suggested itinerary. Total drive-time 3 hours American Cemetery, ovelooking Omaha Beach. Worth 2.5 hrs Omaha Beach. Worth a slow drive + photostops, 20 minutes Pointe du Hoc. Worth 30 minutes German war cemetery, La Cambe. Not included in tours, but it's en-route & well worth a 10 minute stop - the comparison with the American Cemetery is stark !! Utah museum and beach. Worth at least an hour. Ste Mere-Eglise. Excellent airborne museum worth an hour, and a dummy of a paratrooper hanging from the church roof (he survived). Make Ste Mere-Eglise your last stop, it's the closest sight to Cherbourg (about 35 minutes via the N13), so you can trim or expand your time there, depending on your time available Thjat's a total of 8.5 hours, so you'll want to decide in advance whether to trim that itinerary or to trim your time here or there to suit, or to miss a sight or two if you fall badly behind the clock. https://goo.gl/maps/EQq5SZCQLCzBxUCq8 JB 🙂
  11. Something we considered a few years back from London to Denver with IcelandAir. Our research showed Iceland to be surprisingly expensive - not a big deal for about 3 days, but then we came to the conclusion that Denver wasn't the best start point for an extensive road-trip - no rental soft-tops 🙄, so we flew to Vegas. Still gave us a lot of road-time in Colorado (Rocky Mountain Road, etc) and the UK isn't a million miles from Iceland JB 🙂
  12. Yes, it's more scenic from a boat - equally-important it's much more relaxing on a boat, and the harbours are the hearts of the villages. It'll be slower - and much much slower by ferry due to the queuing & waiting time, so those planning to independently use ferries should expect only one, mebbe two, ferry trips. If your boat tour is from one of the 5 villages and includes only the boat portion you'll need to get there from La Spezia. Most folk use the Cinque Terre train. A day-ticket is reasonably inexpensive (about €16 IIRC) and the trains are frequent. But they're packed, consequently the train travel isn't enjoyable - and since most of the travel between villages is in tunnels it's not scenic. But it's only a few minutes between villages. We've not driven the villages - and I recommend others not to either. I understand that the roads between villages are traffic-free and they're probably scenic, but most roads in the villages are restricted to badge-holders (mainly locals). Google "ZTL Driving Zones". Parking is also very very limited except for very early arrivals. All of that of course applies to self-drive rentals - not the same problem with local tour operators, but either you'll simply be dropped at each village or you'll have both a guide and a driver. The villages are over-crowded, difficult or lucky to get a seat in a cafe or restaurant. That also applies early or late in the season, week-days as well as week-ends. And it doesn't depend on the number of cruise ships in port - cruisers are only a tiny proportion of the visitors. TBH the over-crowding (mid-week, October) spoilt it for us. That was by using the Cinque Terre train from La Spezia (or Genoa) and the welcome relief of one ferry trip between villages. I think you're very wise to pre-book a private or small-group excursion with a local operator - I recommend by boat, but even by road is way better than DIY for this trip. JB 🙂
  13. After a period of minimal timetables due to lockdowns etc, the normal timetable has returned, including mostly-hourly services from London Victoria, Heathrow & Gatwick to Southampton. Yes, most one-way fares between Southampton and London Victoria are still £5 (they compete with the railways), from Heathrow it's £15 (no direct train service, hence no real competition) https://book.nationalexpress.com/ JB 🙂
  14. Yes, that's one of the unknowns. Another is whether passports are scanned - at airports they're scanned in front of you, on cruise ships they may be collected by the crew for immigration to go thro them at leisure. Will they be scanned at that time? That's another of the unknowns. Hence, stick to the rules. JB 🙂
  15. Then from the day you arrive in the first Schengen port to the day you depart the last Schengen port. My passport frequently not stamped - but I've not travelled to Europe since Brexit JB 🙂
  16. You got me all excited there 🙃 Then I saw the date - 2023 😐 Sadly, too far out for us. Besides, if you have to pay in full with booking think of all the interest you'll lose - almost £3 by my reckoning 😉 JB 🙂
  17. No, IMHO Marella isn't as good as P&O or Princess - and I think most folk would agree. Ergo their brochure fares look like poor value - certainly compared to P&O's "Saver" fares (Jeez, I hate the complications with P&0 fares, but that's for another thread 😉) But whilst fares for most cruise lines have a degree of fluidity, Marella has taken this to extremes. Their launch prices are usually...... errrr, let's say ..... "optimistic". As sailing dates get closer, demand & supply takes over - I've seen their prices rise & fall and rise & fall more-or-less weekly and by as little as about £20. But it's from about 8 weeks out that we see big reductions for Marella cruises that aren't selling well. Their high initial prices mean that they usually under-sell, resulting in great value for late, late bookings. Because we're lucky enough to be retired and none-too-fussy about when we take a cruise we've snaffled some great value late-booked Thomson/Marella cruises. A few years back there was one itinerary which included Havana, Panama and a couple of ports we'd not visited before and which really appealed to us (an advantage of Marella is the unusual itineraries). We didn't want to be so tightwad that it booked-out and we missed it. But that cruise sailed on about four dates so we held off & kept an eye on prices until two of the four dates were showing as booked-out. By now prices were significantly lower than brochure price, but still not a "bargain". The price did come down further after we booked, but we were happy with our price. So, on reflection, I should perhaps have made that point in my initial post. My excuse is that it was already a long post and my typing finger was worn out 😉 All that is pre-pandemic - because of the risks of late cancellations, travel restrictions etc we've stuck to road trips in the UK and not cruised or travelled to foreign shore since it broke. Now that things have eased & the future - though still uncertain - looks brighter our interest has been re-ignited. And yes' at the moment prices are all-over-the-place. But the bargains are for 2021 dates - your Sky Princess cruise in October is currently offered at £1415 for balcony with Princess Plus - suites no longer offered on the website I'm viewing, so you got yourselves a very good deal. But the self-same cruise (same ship, same itinerary) in July '22 is showing £1535 for an inside cabin (with no Princess-plus) and your £1600 suite at £2879 (again no Princess-plus). Happy sailings JB 🙂
  18. Don't want to upset you, Steve, but on a certain igloo site that Princess cruise (7th Oct ?) is being offered at £299 for balcony cabins, only the suites are more expensive at £499. Free wifi, gratuities, & drinks in that price ? - we wish 🤣 Altho we usually grab great bargains, there's always someone who'll claim to have paid less. What others paid is irrelevant, as long as when I booked I was happy with the price that I paid, and I'll hazard a guess that you have the same attitude. JB 🙂
  19. Yes, I know from other posts that you've sailed CMV. We sailed with them just the once - and that wasn't by choice. We'd booked a Black Sea cruise with Voyages of Discovery, but in the meantime they sold their ship, MS Discovery, to CMV. MS Discovery was our out-and-out favourite for her itineraries (she roamed the seas like a tramp, never repeating a port for many months and you booked two-week segments - we usually cruised 4 weeks but we met folk who'd been on the ship since our previous cruise), her brilliant crew (all from one village in the Philippines), the great on-board camaraderie, and the prices which mirrored those of CMV. MS Discovery was a very tired old ship, but that didn't matter. Other than the OK but not outstanding crew, our CMV experience on her was almost as good. If Ambassador comes up with any offerings which appeal, we'll give them a try. But we'll pay by credit card for the obvious reason.😉 JB 🙂
  20. Just a thought, and not the sort of cruises discussed on Cruise Critic ................... Consider flying or ferry from Athens to take a Gulet cruise (for two weeks, probably two Gulet cruises) from one of those Greek islands. Never done a Greek one, but a fabulous 7-day cruise in Croatia. Small (about 10 to 30 guests) traditional sailing boats (mostly modern but traditional design). Sailing boats, but most use motor rather than the sails which are often just "ornamental". They sail during the morning, then the afternoon and overnight in port - small ports, often small islands, off the main tourist trails. Usually inclusive of breakfast & lunch, you find yourselves a restaurant or taverna for dinner. So a Gulet cruise is for the relaxation and a Greek way-of-life rather than for iconic sights - you'll get your fill of iconic sights in Athens. Just Google "Greek Gulet cruises" JB 🙂
  21. Steve has quoted a Princess cruise that he's booked. It's showing on the web at £300 pp for a balcony cabin on a 5-night cruise from Southampton. Only two ports - Rotterdam & Bruges but still ridiculously good value. They're also offering a number of 7-night cruises from Southampton for under £700 pp in a balcony cabin. 7-nighters are more typical of cruises & regular cruisers. Short cruises from the UK are often treated as "booze cruises" by stag & hen parties etc, though that's much less likely with Princess cruises than Marella or P&O or Royal Caribbean. But these are almost all sailings this October. Despite the likely poorer weather they're all good value if you're free to travel at short notice. And late bookings can give you bargains if you don't have work or family commitments. Now being retired we often book at short notice because, much like theatre seats, unsold cabins are a liability for cruise lines and late in the day they'll sell for pretty-well as much as they can get. Cruise prices in the UK are fluid - a few prices will rise close to sailing date but most will drop. In the unlikely event that are no suitable bargains for next month, there probably will be for the following month There are downsides, including - you need to be able to cruise whenever you want, and at tolerably short notice - about 4 to 6 weeks out. - if the cruise doesn't start in the UK or involve flights chartered by the cruise line, the premium for late-booked flights is likely to outweigh the cruise-fare savings - you won't find all cabin categories available, and the cruise line allocates cabin location so it's pot-luck - yours may be poorly-located. - you usually won't be able to choose between "traditional" dining (same table, same table-mates every night) or "freedom" dining (just roll up at the dining room whenever you choose). There are pros & cons for both types. - bargains come & go, if the cruise or price you seek isn't available now as a short-notice bargain, you sit back & wait for the right opportunity. - if you're keen on a particular cruise itinerary or date I suggest you book soonest rather than find it sells-out. 1025 and Mum Says have both suggested that you talk to an agent. I concur - but make it a cruise specialist agent, because the average UK High Street travel agent is unlikely to know much about cruising. But you won't find a local High Street cruise specialist. So Google something like "best cruise agents UK" and study their offerings. When you see something suitable, use the phone. And speak to a few agents, ask them things you want to know - you'll soon find out which are the most knowledgeable & helpful, and a knowledgeable & helpful agent is a Godsend for a virgin cruiser. Other than the price-range this thread my be useful to you https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/2801002-help-to-choose-a-first-cruise/ Flatbush Flyer - you've attributed to me a post by SteveH. That said, I agree with Steve. He and I are on the same VFM wavelength 😉 JB 🙂
  22. "Value for money" DOESN'T divorce price from quality. Here are a few definitions from the web Value for money (VFM) is not about achieving the lowest price. It is about achieving the optimum combination of whole life costs and quality used in reference to something that is well worth the money spent on it. Best value for money is defined as the most advantageous combination of cost, quality and sustainability to meet customer requirements. A measure of quality that assesses the monetary cost of the product or service against the quality and/or benefits Value for money assesses the cost of a product or service against the quality of provision. Hopefully you've now got the drift that you're really getting on my wick, Flyer 🙄 Value for money is a balance of cost vs quality. End of. I won't get further involved in this pointless nonsense JB 🙄
  23. "Value for money" is a turn of phrase which has bedevilled me all my life.😄 I say what I mean, I don't equivocate. When I say "value-for-money" I mean value-for-money. But people seem to think I mean "cheap".🙄 I'll pay top dollar for top quality, but I won't pay ott for crap. Yes, Marella is cheap. But it's also value-for-money. I cut my teeth on Marella back when it was called Thomson, so I know what I'm talking about. And Marella still figure in our cruises, for their unusual itineraries (eg Cuba) or simply for some cheap relaxing winter sun. JB 🙂
  24. Value-for-money your best bet is Marella, a cruise line which is part of the TUI/Thomson group. https://www.tui.co.uk/cruise/?im_id=PPC&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI7rTowuOQ8wIVVO3tCh2NPQ2xEAAYASAAEgK5PvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds A good introduction to cruising, hand-me-down ships (but not rusty old tubs) which makes them good value. Geared for Brits, charter flights from regional airports & transfers included in the cruise fare. Like all cruise ships it's full board with your choice of waiter-service main dining room or buffet (you can switch between as you fancy) plus snacks. Drinks packages included on some cruises, available on me others - but bar prices are about the same as your local boozer, so unless you drink like a fish you can buy drinks as you go. Note the Flyer's mention of "nickel-and-diming"on some cruise ships - none of that nonsense with Marella, and no "tips" added to your bill for cabin & dining service or for drinks. Entertainment in the main theatre every evening, plus live music in bars, usually a disco venue, plus quizzes, classes, & such. The only major cost not included is excursions ashore. Marella excursion prices tend to be a bit lower than other cruise lines even though they're the same excursions operated by the same local tour operators. But in most ports you'll get better value by doing your own thing. You'll get a seven-day Mediterranean or Canary Islands or Norwegian fjords cruise from about £700 per person (two of you sharing a cabin). That's for an inside cabin, but you can get an ocean-view cabin - mebbe a balcony cabin - for £1,000 pp. JB 🙂
  25. I don't know the situation with Princess medallions (?) or phones, so can't help with that. But we've sailed the Baltic with P&O. On Arcadia's sister Aurora. Excellent cruise throughout. Arcadia is adults-only, but the Baltic doesn't appeal to kids anyway - the only ones we saw on Aurora were toddlers tied to their mothers' apron-strings. No negatives at all - but I rate Princess more up-market & sparkly. Cunard just isn't my scene - the odd formal night (as on P&O) is OK & my other half enjoys dressing in her finery, but jacket & tie every night just isn't me & I don't rate buffet dining in the evenings.. And shades of First Class & Second Class, with some segregated areas, takes me back to the fifties & sixties. But that's just a personal view. What about itineraries? We sailed (from Southampton) to Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tallinn (1/2 day), St Petersburg (2 days), Helsinki, Zeebrugge. Good itinerary. Make sure that "Stockholm" isn't actually Nynashamn - that's a port on the coast, & used by ships which are too large or unwieldly to sail the archipelago to Stockholm. The archipelago is a four to five-hour sail-in through islands so close you feel you can reach out & touch the trees - one of the world's very best sail-ins. Stadsgarden berth is hard by the city centre, Frihamnen is a little less convenient requiring a very short bus or taxi ride, but Nynashamn is an hour overland by train or bus And make sure you have at least one overnite in St Petersburg - it's well worth two full days plus an evening. Browse the contributions on https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/2696545-master-thread-of-st-petersburg-advice-and-recommendations-from-cruisers-whove-been/ But there's one P&O-specific for St P.. Ships' tours are in big buses, with all the negatives which that involves. But P&O also offer more-intimate tours in 16-seat minibuses. These will be the self-same tours as offered by local operators, indeed these ship's tours will be conducted by local operators. Presumably those tours are more expensive bought thro the ship, but some folk are more comfortable sticking with ships' tours. Other than that P&O minibus prospect, I agree with the vast vast majority of cruisers who advise to book with local tour operators. Our tour by Alla was excellent, but ALL the local operators in St P are well-recommended. Hope this helps more than it confuses 😉 JB 🙂
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