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Everything posted by xitappers2bx

  1. This is perfect, thank you so much for all this really great information. I think the only reason we'd really be leaving Tokyo would be for a day trip to Disney (we're big Disney people) and then maybe do a tour with the bullet train to Mt. Fuji, but the tours I am looking at seem to include hotel pick up as standard instead of having to actually meet at the bullet train station (if that's even the right phrase). And yes, the Navigo cards are PITA... we use the monthly ones, and I hold onto them when we are home; I try to not go through that extra hassle if not needed.
  2. How easy is the public transport system? We only use that, and have seen some of the most amazing things because of it. Our favorite is probably the Paris Metro, when we lived there it just became super easy.
  3. Thank you all! The Gracery Shinjuku looks like a great place with a fun story. We are used to the small flats and hotels of Europe, so I'm worried less about space and more about just making sure this kid has the trip of a lifetime. Usually I let her have her input, but she doesn't get a say. ' I really appreciate you all for taking the time to respond and share photos!
  4. Hey ya'll! I am booking the trip of a lifetime for my kiddo, she's turning 16 next summer and she thinks we're going to the Baltics. Sorry kid, I'm making your Japan dreams come true. But, I really need some help. She's been obsessed with Japan since she was knee high, and was heartbroken when I told her, quite seriously, that we can't go to Japan next year because of the Olympics. So you can understand there's a bit of pressure to make it right. I know very little about Tokyo and Hong Kong (cruise departs from there and goes to Japan), but would like to pick a hotel that is teenager friendly (think... close to subway/train stations, modern amenities. I love her, she would die without wifi) and will give her that middle of it all feel. She's HUGELY into art, loves manga and anime, and has had a near-lifelong fascination with all that is Japanese culture. Same goes for Hong Kong. I have always wanted to stay at the Peninsula, but not sure that's the best option? Are there any unique/fun/funky hotels out there I should be exploring (at either place)? I think ultimately, we'll be spending a full week pre-cruise (so maybe an even split 3+3).
  5. My agent merely follows the rules, she does more than most agents do for us; you can't call Royal and change your reservation to a TA you have to fill out the form, perhaps your agent filled out the form for you. I'm totally capable of filling out a form that took all of 15 seconds and didn't require her to search up our addresses and information.
  6. This doesn't work anymore. I booked a b2b for next summer last weekend while my TA was down the shore for the holiday, and when she called after I gave her the reservation numbers they said you now must fill out that form and they do not do ANY transfers over the phone anymore. With that said, the form took longer to find than to actually fill out twice, and while it says it takes 5-7 business days, it took less than an hour. You do have to wait five days from booking to filling out the form and you only have 60 days from booking to transfer. Today (two days after transferring) I received three invoices, one for the first part of the cruise, one for the second, and a third for the b2b as a whole.
  7. Annnnnd with that. I am back. Turns out, starting with my birthday through to this morning I didn't really feel all that inspired to write, so I didn't. I'm typically attached to my laptop, and it was really freeing not to be. Now that we're home, I'll start from the top with the photos and the freestyle dailies so that those who are curious for that can see what they are interested in. Now, fair warning, my life is pretty nonstop at home, so while on vacation, I pretty much grind to a standstill, so you're not going to hear tales of wild (or late) nights, but also not of bright (and early) mornings. Sorry to disappoint; but remember, we're the people who cruised the Med, and got off in one port, so if you set the bar really low, you'll love what is to come next.
  8. So I don’t know why, but the spacing is messed up. I’m trying to conserve my Internet as much aspossible, with two sisters at home with a menagerie of kids (and tripletbabies) Internet is for keeping tabs on them. In Bermuda I’ll try and fix the spacing, but really, I know I’m anoutstanding writer (it’s my birthday today, so you can’t argue against that) but if you can’t bear the spacing issue, youcan read this later and it really will not hurt my feelings. Alright, back to vacation… It would appear that this will not be a cruise where I willbe sleeping in. Which is fine, althoughI hope to catch something comedy-related while here. Monday, breakfast. Ihave to say, I’m really not a breakfast person and really enjoyedbreakfast. They have all the typicalbreakfast foods, of which I don’t eat most, and some out of the world hashbrowns, some perfectly ripe fruit, and they offer both crispy and not crispybacon. I am so not a bacon person(really, don’t eat much pork), and it was delicious. My parents joined me for breakfast, and theyseemed to love it as well, and then I brought cereal and milk back to mystateroom for sleeping beauty. We wandered around a bit after getting ready for the day,checking out the Deal or No Deal game, checking out the line for bingo, andthen going to get lunch before the CruiseCritic Meet and Greet. Lunch was exciting because I found the Indian food. I didn’t eat Indian food until right beforemy 30th birthday; I had this whole list of 30 things to do before Iturned 30, and expanding my food horizons was one of them. Thanks to that foray into Indian food fouryears ago I have become a bit of a food snob in a very general sense, and theBug has been able to expand the foods she likes while criticizing those shedoesn’t. On the Epic last year, theIndian food was by far the thing I loved the most, I would start with that forlunch, and then end with something new just to try and did not see that therewas an Indian station here. Turns outthe Indian food is with the Asian food. I should have known that, and now I do. Lunch was delicious. There was the burger bar, with great looking hot dogs (no clue ifthey’re beef or not, but I will be finding out today), some pizza, the mostridiculously good chicken fingers, and fruit with some desserts. The Bug started with breakfast “appetizer”and then moved to lunch food. She’s alittle goofy in that, she has to eatbreakfast before moving to lunch. After lunch we met at the District Brewhouse for the CruiseCritic Meet and Greet. I don’t reallyhave anything to compare it to, but my mom said she had never seen a M&Glike that, and the people who attended seemed extremely happy. They had all of the exec-level officers whichwas really awesome, and they were giving out beer (and soda) and snacks toeveryone. The Cruise Director spoke a bit, and it was a really awesomehour/hour and a half. A lot of peopleshowed up as well. After the Meet and Greet we had about an hour to kill andthen a slot pull. This was my first timeever doing a slot pull, and I’m not really one who loves slot machines, but itwas fun to mingle with others. On our way to Bingo from the slot pull we walked past theAtrium and saw they were playing Deal or No Deal. My dad, who really wanted to play (and thereis a game today that we are going to do) sat down and we all ended up watchingthe second half of the game. I didn’tcatch this on the Epic last year, but it was such a blast, and even though weweren’t playing, it was awesome. So weare definitely doing this today. I cando whatever I want today, not only am I on vacation, I’m officially“mid-thirties.” Bingo. So this wascrazy; this was the game where they name the Queen and King… and as someone whodoesn’t win very many things, I 100% was not expecting to be named the BingoQueen. And then they called my name andI thought I was going to pass out. Thelast thing I want to do is get up on stage in front of however many people werethere, but it wasn’t that bad, and I didn’t die. And now I get to play bingo for free allweek, which the Bug thinks means shegets to play bingo for free all week. It’s a good thing she’s so cute. Bingo was a lot of fun; at home we play once or twice a month and itdoesn’t feel as much fun as it did on the ship. The prices were a little high, but it’s fun and that’s all thatmatters. I’m not a big gambler, bingo iswhere my “casino” dollars go. After Bingo we had some time to kill before dinner, but Iwanted to get showered etc. So I took asuper hot bath, and then a shower before getting dressed for dinner atModerno. Monday night was the dressy up night, and I thought welooked great. I’m feeling pretty beat upfrom a crossfit comp I did Saturday, so it felt nice to feel pretty while my quadsare dying and my shoulders scream at me. We go to dinner, and it was really surprising to see how many peopleshowed up in t-shirts, flip flops, and shorts. On the Med last summer in the specialty restaurants it seemed as thoughpeople dressed up. It would appear tonot be the case here. It’s not somethingI would let ruin my vacation (now that would be stupid), but it was something Inoticed, and was sort of surprised about. I know there are a ton of people out there who this would ruin theirvacation, so be forewarned. Dinner itself was stupid good. We got there right when they opened, and theappetizers were good, and fortunately our server, Rakesh, reminded us that weshould not fill up on that, because there is a lot of meat coming our way. I think because we arrived early they werestill finishing up the cooking, so while we had lots of the many steakvariations, and my parents enjoyed the lamb, it wasn’t until towards the end ofthe meal that the chicken came out and by then I was stuffed. The best part of the meal was when thegentleman with the pineapple came out. The pineapple is by far my absolute favorite thing. First, he brought me a fresh one, then wasmore than happy to give me extra slices, and then when I wanted anotherserving, he loaded up my plate with amazingness. If you’ve never had the pineapple, itsbasically the meat of the fruit, covered in brown sugar (I think) and baked sothere’s this stupid good glaze on the outside. They cut it just like they cut the meats, and you 100% have to tryit. I could have just eaten thepineapple for dinner. Dessert was alsogreat; I had the chocolate coconut tres leches cake that the Bug was absolutelynot going to try, but she did, andshe absolutely loved it, so being the kind and generous mom I am, I shared itwith her. My mom ordered tea, and sharedmy dad’s banana meringue (pretty sure I spelled that wrong). We explored some more after, took somephotos, and my mom went to play craps. For many people, this is where the night started… for me, we’regetting towards the end. We did end upwandering around a bit more because our steward wasn’t done in our rooms, butwhen we got back to the room and he was still there we just hang out on thebalcony, and enjoyed the cool evening, the sound of the waves, and the fact thattomorrow (today) was going to be all about me and whatever the heck I wanted todo. I have been taking photos too, sosometimes tomorrow (Wednesday) in Bermuda I’ll figure out how to upload themall. Today (1 May) is my birthday, so if you're glum waiting for your cruise, in my honor, do something nice for someone, and make their day better. It'll help turn yours around too! :) And if you do something nice for someone, I really would love to hear about it! And oh yeah, I’ve finished my first book of the trip.
  9. I grew up in South Jersey (Voorhees!) but now living on the PA side. Lots of Phillies and Eagles fans! Hoping the Sixers game will be on too.
  10. I'll post photos of them when we get to Bermuda. I have international data, so once there lots of Internet access at no charge :)
  11. Unlike on the other ships, when you board you don’t enterinto the massive multi-story atriums that are decked out in gaudy mirrors andglass elevators. I do wish there wasanother bank of elevators in the center of the ship, but this seems to be thewhole breakaway design (and the Epic) where it’s just the elevators forward andaft. We made our way up to the buffet for some lunch, and we metan absolutely fabulous woman traveling by herself, she joined us for lunch andI do hope we run into her again. Thefood was outstanding, I did not take pictures of the first meal, but the beefshort ribs were absolutely to die for, and my food snob of a teenager thoughtthey were delicious, and the mashed potatoes were even better than rememberedon the Epic. There were multiple announcements that the rooms were notquite yet ready, but would be at 1:30; that didn’t stop people from trying toget to their rooms though. Alright… so the room. We originally booked connecting balcony rooms, but at 90 days out theprice dropped, so we moved to the mini suite, and I glad that we did. The price was negligible, but the additionalspace and storage make what could be an otherwise cramped room feelbigger. I think the fact we have a doorthat opens helps to increase the roominess feel. I was really on the fence about bidding for aHaven suite, but the fact that we would be separate from my parents, and thefact that a bid would be the equivalent of another cruise, helped to make thatdecision for us. Maybe one day, but thiswasn’t that day. I will post photos later, either when we are in Bermuda orwhen we get home, to go along with all of this. I’m a writer, not a photographer, but I did take some cool photos andvideo while pulling out of NYC. Back to the room. At1:35 the announcement was made that the rooms were open, so it was time tocheck them out. We (the Bug and I) arein an M2, and my parents are connected to us in an M3. The only difference that I can tell is thatmy bed is by the balcony, and theirs is by the bathroom. We each had a bottle of champagne waiting forus, thanks to our amazing travel agent, to celebrate my birthday and my dadsbirthday (later in May), so that was a great surprise. Comparing the stateroom to others, it doesn’t have the sameopen feel as the Epic’s mini suite, but I like the feeling of more privacy andthe elimination of the curtain splitting the “bathroom” from the roompart. I really did love the Epic though,and thought the bathtub was a lot wider. Our doors are right next to each other, unlike the Epic, you don’t walkin the center of the room, so it feels a little narrow is the closed offbathroom, but now 18 hours later, I do like the room a lot. Storage. I wasinitially really concerned. On the Epicwe had more storage than we knew what to do with! By the time we boarded that ship we hadalready spent a month living in Paris and we each had a huge suitcase, plus shehad a normal carry on size bag, and I had my favorite travel purchase of alltime, a King Kong bag. Turns out, onceour luggage came, there was more than enough storage, and it looks like for myparents, there was also more than enough storage. (The Bug’s clothes are small enough they aremostly fitting in the shelves under the TV. I will be sure to add photos later). The only bummer of this whole thing is that the balconydivider doesn’t open. But we have a doorinside the stateroom that does, so if we all want to sit out on the balconytogether, we can bring our own chairs easily enough. On a side note… I had reassured someone once that ourluggage never came late. While myluggage was waiting for me after the muster drill, it took until dinnertime formy parents to receive theirs. So sorrymom and dad! Alright… so the muster drill you’d think with the recentevents on that Southwest flight (living near Philly this was a huge deal andplayed heavily on our “news”) people would take it more seriously. I was surprised at how many times they had totell people it was time to get to their stations. I like how they had it broken down andorganized, different than on the Epic, when we boarded halfway into the cruise(Barcelona was where the vast majority had boarded) and we were all just in thetheater, although I liked getting to meet all the exec-level folks on the Epicand we didn’t get that there. After muster we went up to the rear of the ship, and enjoyeda kid-filled adults-only area. Weordered the obligatory sail away drinks, a virgin pina collada for my mom, abbb for my dad (and it was DELISH), and I ordered the mojito (also delicious, but, I did have a little drink envy forthe bbb). Unlike far too many other people, we do not have the drinkpackage. We aren’t huge drinkers, andnone of us could drink enough to actually make it worth it, and we don’t reallydrink enough to offset the cost of the additional gratuities, so we will pay aswe go for drinks. For anyone on the Escape… as the sober person, I doapologize for the fellow Eagles fans who got a little too happy last night andwere screaming the fight song. See, wewon this really huge football game about three months ago, and it still feelsunreal… so on their behalf, I do apologize. Their kids also apologized a few times. It felt like the ship was getting out of NYC pretty quickly;having cruised a fairly good deal out of NYC it felt like we were movingquickly down the river. I’ve been tryingto enjoy the sail under the Verrazano Bridge for years, and we are usually atdinner when it happens, so I miss it. Yesterday, I am happy to report, I did not miss it. I have video that at some point I’ll try andpost. The weather up here in the northeast has been anything butspring like until very recently, and yesterday it was chilly, a bit too breezy,and I’m still wearing my down vest, which sucks. Today the weather is a lot nicer. Sunny and warm. Dinner… we unpacked while my parents rested a bit beforedinnertime. Then around 6:30 we headedto Taste, which is right across from Savor. Taste only had two tops available, so they called Savor, and they hadlarger tables available, and we headed over there. I loved the design of this dining room, itwas smaller and more intimate, and I enjoyed it a lot more than the largerdining room like on the Epic and every other cruise ship on the planet. Dinner itself was very good. I don’t have any photos of theappetizers, but my daughter and the French onion soup, my parents split thecrab wontons and the Caesar salad, and I had the French onion soup and thecream of cauliflower soup, and everything was outstanding. For dinner, also not photographs, but mydaughter ordered the New York Strip, which came out perfectly medium rare, andit was great with the peppercorn on top; my dad and I each had the steakmedallions, which I thought the sauce on top was stellar, and my mom orderedthe ribs, and she said they were great. There are photographs of dessert to look forward to; my daughter had thewarm melting cake, my dad the strawberry shortcake, and I had the honey crèmebrûlée, which I could not have eaten any faster. Dinner was great, and while the service wasslow, I really enjoy not being rushed through meals like I feel doing timeddining on the other lines. After dinner we wandered around a bit, and then headed tobed. And that was day one.
  12. Hello world! I wasn’tgoing to do a live review, but it’s 7am on the first day, and everyone is stillsleeping, so why not. When we werewaiting for this cruise, it seemed like there were a good number of peoplewanting a live review of the Escape. So here we are. Who are we? There arefour of us on this little Escape of ours (I’m a writer, but I promise, no morepuns…). In one room is myself, a soon tobe mid-30 something and my 13 year old daughter. We have a lot of cruises under our belt, butthis is only our second on NCL. Lastsummer we cruised the Epic out of Rome, (and there’s a half-finished review outthere to prove it) and became totally hooked on NCL. My parents are early 60-somethings with evenmore cruises under their collective belts, and this is their first NCL. My sister had triplets earlier this year, sothis is a nice getaway for my parents who have been helping them out. More about them later, I’m sure. Oh. It’s also goingto be my birthday tomorrow (Tuesday, May 1). So there’s that. How did we get here? By bus, I’m not even kidding. Seriously. We werecoming from Philly, and there was a bit of a stress about how/when we’d get toNew York. Usually my daughter (who, fromnow on I will refer to as the Bug) and I will take the train to cruise out ofNew York, but my parents aren’t into that. Coming from Philly it’s pretty easy, but I’m totally not a morningperson, so we found a great group of folks staying at the Doubletree in FortLee, who also happened to charter a bus. Parking was $50, the room was $159, and being on the “executive floor”got all four of us free breakfast. ForNYC that was nothing but a steal. Getting to the terminal wasn’t all that bad, I get waycarsick, and the bus rise was fine. Oncehere, I was blown away by how much better everything was than the last time wewere here. I don’t know if it’s becauseit’s NCL and not CCL, but everything felt much smoother, and that was withoutVIP boarding that we get with CCL (on that line, we cruise in suites and that’sone of the very few perks). We didn’tget there until a bit after 11, but we weren’t in any rush to rush into a lineto rush into another line to rush into waiting (and complaining with everyoneelse about waiting). The lines werelong, but never stopped moving, and even though my parents and I were indifferent staterooms we were able to stick together so that was great. The whole security + check in process + boarding (we wereable to get right on) took less than an hour. And then just like that, we were on board.
  13. While most dates do have the free at sea offers, not all of them do. They may not be offering that promotion on that week any longer.
  14. Love this! The Epic was my first NCL last summer, and I am 100% sold on NCL (and leaving next week on another). Until now I was super loyal to Carnival, but the Epic does a hard sell away from what Carnival has to offer. (I also think it's a better product than RCCL and Princess).
  15. To think... if everyone had listened to NCL's call and texts not to arrive until after 12 there wouldn't have been anyone waiting in line for two hours at 12:30pm.
  16. I think this is one of those things where supply and demand come into play; more people than ever are going to Alaska, as demand increases so does price. I don't think that's anything more than basic economics in play...
  17. I was on deck 8 last summer, right around the forward elevator banks and never heard anything at all!
  18. You're going to find a lot of biased, uninformed people having an opinion. The reality of the world today is you could be harmed walking to your car, going to dinner in a city, or on a cruise in Europe. Don't make yourself a target, don't wear flashy jewelry (I purchased inexpensive stuff to wear when we travel), don't carry huge wads of cash. Keep a copy of your passport on you, but leave your passport on the ship. Fill out the safe traveler form through the State Department, that will send you alerts. Book excursions through the cruise line, if they get cancelled you'll get a refund, and they have a vested interest in keeping you safe. And, in the very rare instance that something were to happen, keep an eye on what is happening around you and keep in mind a way out if need be.
  19. Just because your source of news doesn't cover the violence doesn't mean it's not happening: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43667367 https://www.politico.eu/article/sweden-bombings-grenade-attacks-violent-reality-undoing-peaceful-self-image-law-and-order/ https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/03/world/europe/sweden-crime-immigration-hand-grenades.html?mtrref=www.google.com&gwh=40152675CFCE21C438826272D77484A8&gwt=pay That's just three examples... there has been a lot of violence in Europe due to the migrants and the fact they are bringing violence and different standards of treating people than they do in Europe. Having lived in Paris last summer I can tell you there is a huge amount of violence against Europeans occurring thanks to the migrants. Just because your news doesn't cover it (you know, it sort of kills the 'migrants are fantastic' narrative) does not mean it's not true. The OP has a legitimate concern. Minimizing it doesn't change the fact reality is harsh.
  20. As upsetting at it may seem, and perhaps this is callus, but if you don't read the fine print, you can't blame the company or the cruise line for having such a policy, even if it appears to be unfair. It seems to be there are many insurance companies that will cover deployment as a reason to recover trip fare. Knowing many people in the military, the vast majority do not get quickly deployed and know deployment is always a possibility. There is also no reason the rest of the family cannot still go away and enjoy a vacation and spread the cost of the member of the military. Really though, you can't blame anyone but the person who chose that insurance company for not reading the fine print. There is nothing unsettling about a company following their own policy. There is something unsettling about people thinking they deserve special treatment.
  21. You can used the stairs anytime! I found on the Epic with just the two elevator banks the stairs was often the quickest way to get somewhere. Which is great, because who doesn't need a little workout when enjoying all that food?
  22. On our upcoming cruise when the price dropped we were able to move up from a balcony to a mini-suite, but they did not offer any OBC if we had decided to stay in the balcony room for the difference in price.
  23. Is your three year old using towels? Sheets? Eating food? Using the kids area under supervision? I used to take my tips off. Then I befriended (and became very close to, so much as to be invited to his wedding) with an employee on another cruise line. When he opened my eyes to the actual importance of tipping I learned a lot. First, you can take your tips off. But you aren't hurting NCL. You are hurting the people who work on the ship to support your trip, who you do not interact with. The people who do the laundry, clean the dishes, etc etc etc. You doing this to make a statement also isn't going to change the fact that tips are an important part of the salary of the workers. You're paying for a three year old to go on a cruise, so paying for the three year old's tips shouldn't even be an issue.
  24. This is what I found (and a quick google search would have found you the same thing): It looks like the visa is not required. With that said, the airline or cruiseline can choose to prevent you from boarding, so that's probably a gamble that is more expensive than the $75 per person visa fee. http://visaservicescanada.ca/countries/cuba.php CUBA The Republic of Cuba Do I Need a Visa to Visit Cuba? Canadian citizens travelling on a Canadian passport do not need a visa to enter Cuba for tourism purposes for a period not exceeding thirty (30) days. Canadian citizens travelling on a Canadian passport need a visa to enter Cuba for business purposes. Holders of Canadian Permanent Residency status (e.g. Canadian Landed Immigrants) with a current and valid PR card and a current and valid passport do not require a visa to visit Cuba as tourists for less than 30 days. You must produce a valid passport and valid Permanent Residence Card as proof of permanent residency. PERMANENT RESIDENTS who are in doubt about the Cuban policy of visa-free travel should CONTACT THEIR AIRLINE for further details. CLICK HERE for BUSINESS VISA APPLICATION for CUBA NOTE TO U.S.A. CITIZENS: Persons travelling on a US passport do not require a visa to enter Cuba for tourism purposes for a period not exceeding thirty (30) days. Cuba welcomes US tourists. Cuban immigration officials do not stamp passports, so there is no record of entry to or exit from Cuba recorded in the passport. US law forbids US citizens to freely travel to Cuba and to spend any money. NOTE TO PERSONS BORN IN CUBA: Cubans who are now nationals of another country, but left Cuba after 1970, must enter Cuba using their Cuban passport. For more information about travel conditions in the Caribbean, please visit the Foreign Affairs Web site.
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