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About mj_holiday

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  1. Whenever I look at the costs of a Regent itinerary I compare it to a mass market cruise, item by item including the cabin size, excursions, etc and see the Regents cruise is slightly more expensive. Having recently taken a cruise on another smaller cruiseline that extra pampering on Regents is well worth the costs for us. But for some people, it may not be. It seems you have found another cruiseline you seem to enjoy, so shouldn't worry about sailing Regent.
  2. Amyr-I would be interested in a report on what is “flexible “ this year. Like can you go to the dining room for dinner anytime during certain times. Also what the menu is like in the bistro. Have a great cruise
  3. We do land travels through out the world and I make our own arrangements. But when planning a cruise with all the costs and arrangements in various countries I always use a travel agent. We get a better price on insurance, someone who will get back with me almost immediately. (I avoid contacting her on the weekends unless urgent). She works our air with great flights. She belongs to a consortium that has perks on some of the cruises. She will find great accommodations if we are unfamiliar with the location. And I know I have someone who will help us if there is a problem while traveling.
  4. We were in a G cabin and it is smaller. But that did not impact us. What was an impact was the table in the sitting area. It is the height of a coffee table which makes morning coffee cumbersome and dining in very difficult. Also the fact that the table has a “grate” around the bottom, makes the area more crowded
  5. Thanks for the great review. We are trying to decide on a river cruise. I have a question about dinner. We have been on one river cruise before and for dinner every one came in at the same time, all orders taken then everyone got salad, after everyone in the dining room was finished the salad plates were picked up. Then everyone was serverd main course and so on... So my question about your cruise is from your description one evening it looks like you can go to the dining room any time while it is open, is that true and do you remember the hours it was open.
  6. Visited Rio and Igazu Falls on our own in 2014 on our way to Antarctica. We stayed on Copacobano Beach and had a guide to see all the sights. In the evening we walked along the beach and took a cab to Ipamema Beach. Ate in local places along the beach. We would not hesitate to go back. It is a large city so do need to pay attention. Apparently the visas are easier to get and cheaper but don’t last as long. (Ours were both expensive and difficult to get). I would ask TA about this.
  7. What didn't I like about Azamara: There was very little that I did not like. The beverage inclusions and upgrade packages. We did not get an upgrade package but if DH wanted a certain drink not included to go ahead and order it because daily costs would still be less than upgrade package. I am still confused about when DH would go to the bar to get a nightcap to bring to the cabin, he did order something we would be charged for. They made a ticket for him to sign. I realized a couple of nights into the cruise that there was a tip line on the ticket and my husband was being generous. I was under the impression that tips were included with the drinks you bought. The tip he gave will not make us go broke, but it is a matter of principle. Brochure stated that all gratuities were included except the spa and then for spa 18% would be added to ticket. I also didn't like the chaos associated with disembarkation which is described below. Arriving in Miami and disembarkation was pretty chaotic. Getting the ship approved by the port and the luggage out was delayed. When we were finally cleared to disembark it seemed that everyone on the ship decided to leave at once. After we finally got off and were going into the building for our luggage I asked an Azamara staff person if there was Global Entry and was told no there wasn't. We found our luggage and got in line for customs. We had all our suitcases with us and two lines formed. I saw the crew helping those with mobility issues go through what looked like a third line. After we turned a corner (it was a very long line) I saw a sign near the door where those with mobility issues were entering immigration that clearly said Global Entry. I again asked a staff member about Global Entry and was told no but I also saw many people who seem to have no mobility issues in this line. As I said we had all our luggage and were in the line next to the wall. There really was no way for me to get past the other line to check the door out without causing a commotion. I am very disappointed in that it sure did look like Global Entry – the head of this third line got to go to one of the two customs officials ahead of the passengers in the other line. There really isn't much about Azamara not to like, but like any cruise line, there is a learning curve to take advantage of all that Azamara has to offer. Their reputation for being destination intense is indeed well earned. It was a very great way to see Cuba. Let me know if you have any questions about the cruise.
  8. Other facts about Cuba we heard from one tour guide or another. 130 people are assigned to each doctor USA got Guantanamo as part of the settlement from the Cuba, American and Spanish war. The rent for Guantanamo Bay is around $4000 per year. Since the revolution the checks still come to Cuba, but Cuba doesn't cash them. This was a very fast cruise with all the ports and just 2 sea days. I know I didn't have a chance to experience everything the ship had to offer since there were only 2 sea days, but I will list things I did learn about the ship that might help another person new to Azamara. Other info about a cruise with Azamara I had read on CruiseCritic about the shower curtains being clingy and recommended some clips with magnets. I had two of these and they did help keep the curtain at bay. The door knob placcard to order breakfast had many selections for breakfast. The balcony had a great size table that would work really well for a lunch or dinner from room service, but we were too busy with too many nice things in Discoveries. I had heard, but can't remember where, that a bottle of wine brought with room service was not complimentary. In Discoveries there were many tables for two and the tables were bigger between DH and I but were very close to the other tables. Waste basket in the bathroom were not the style I detest with the lids that are suppose to open with a step on a lever. These did not have a top which were so much easier to use. The Sunset Bar past Windows at the rear of the ship was a very nice place to just have a drink or to have a meal. Check to see if Discoveries is open for breakfast, those days there is both a menu order and a buffet. This buffet is not near as chaotic as the one in Windows, but it looks like everything is there that you find in Windows. For dinner each evening servers would offer the wines for the evening and they had two reds and two whites. If you wanted something else that could always be accommodated. Dinner in Windows (we did not go to any) had different themes each night – Mexican, German, Asian etc. There was a complimentary laundry room with soap provided and on sea day there was a line 10 minutes before the door was unlocked. Making matters worse was the fact that at least one and sometimes 2 machines were not working. I was impressed by the assistance the crew gave to people with mobility issues. Some people would always be taken to their tour in wheel chairs which were brought back to the ship. And these people would be met when the tour came back. I am not sure how this was arranged, but it is good to know that it can,. We had all ages on our tours and never any issue with people slowing us up. Getting ready to go home I wanted to check in for our flight and print boarding passes. Glancing at the literature in our room I had seen a couple things that talked about internet packages with pricing per hour or per day. We didn't sign up for anything but on the day before we would go home I wanted to get our boarding passes. I started going through the literature to see how to sign up for an hour or if they had something special for airport check in. I found a brochure and started to read it and saw that we had free internet for the cruise. I do not know where this came from. So I was easily able to get our boarding passes and spent some time checking email etc. The Moral of this is to look at all brochures that show up in your cabin.
  9. Our next port was Santiago. We took a tour of revolution sights. Our tour started with San Juan Hill and the monuments there. We then went to the Barracks where on July 26 1953 Fidel and other revolutionaries attacked and were repealed. The revolutionaries had on the correct uniforms to infiltrate the barracks but they had on street shoes that gave them away. There are some of the original bullets holes on the railing and some recreation of other bullet holes. There is a nice museum in half of the barracks now and a school in the other part. We had a short tour through the museum. We had been told we needed to pay to take pictures. Several of us started to pay and then were told we didn't need to pay. After the museum, we did some more driving around Santiago on the way to lunch. We saw many 1940s and 1950s era 2 ½ ton US trucks which had been converted to metro buses by putting seats in the back. The people who work to keep the trucks going are not mechanics but are miracle workers. We had a very nice lunch at a private restaurant in a rancharo. The food was served family style and there was a lot of it. A fish creme soup, a salad, a plate of Yucca and a plate of another vegetable (I don't have a spelling that I can check to make sure of the name). We then were served a plate of fried fish, a plate of shrimp, a plate of chicken legs and a plate of port. Rolls and then dessert. There was a lot of food and it was very delicious. The cook came out of the kitchen for us to thank her for the delicious meal. Our last stop for the day was a cemetery with the graves of James Marti, Fidel Castro, and tombs of those who died in the revolution and a conflict in Angola. They change the guards every 30 minutes and that was very impressive to watch. We headed back to the ship.
  10. Feb 25 This day we docked in Cienfuegos. Based on what I had read in Cruise critic we did the excursion to Trinidad de Cuba. We started with about an hour drive through the country side and our guide gave us information about Cuba and Trinidad. Trinidad was founded in 1515 and is a UN World Heritage site. In Cuba cows are owned by the government, horses and goats can be privately owned. Horses are inspected every six months to make sure they are well taken care of properly. The cobblestone in Trinidad came over on ships as ballast with the slaves.. We did a rest stop at a beach resort which was very nice looking. There is a summer camp for children 12-15 years old for 15 days and here the children learn both life skills and have fun. Our first stop in Trinidad was a pottery factory. We got to watch a demonstration by a very old gentleman making various vases. This factory has been family run since 1898. As we were getting ready to leave the factory I could see a couple young girls outside waiting. Our guide called us together and told us there is no reason for anyone in Cuba to beg, everyone gets social security. She told the girls to leave us alone. We then walked to a hotel for lunch. This was a beautiful hotel. There was an interesting podium at the entrance with a list of people who were going to check into the hotel that day. The dining room was very pretty. The buffet had a lot of food but it was difficult to know what the items were. Someone with the hotel seemed upset that we were not moving very fast through the line since we were all asking questions and kept trying to push us along. I had seen someone with some fried crab claws. When I asked him if a dish were the crab claws he said yes (but back at our table saw it was a tater tot that was shaped the same). Anytime I asked about what something was he wanted to give me some and was upset I was still looking around. DH said after I got further down the line, our bus driver decided he could help move the line faster. DH said he was extremely rude trying to get the people behind me to move. The food I got was not that good and not hot. I had a grilled chicken breast which was too tough to eat. This and the behavior of the buffet employee and the bus driver were the only negative thing I ended up putting on our survey at the end of the cruise. We then went to a city museum. It was built in 1829 and originally was a palace of a plantation owner. It was now a museum. A museum employee was required to explain the museum to us. She was late and some people in our group were upset we were waiting for her, since our guide knew everything. But I have seen this before in Latin America and this is just the way things are done. Also in the museum in 4 different rooms were women doing hand embroidery. After we had our explanation from the museum employee I had decided I wanted to buy a piece of embroidery and asked out tour guide to help me. I got a very nice table runner that will look very nice in our dining room. From the museum we walked up to the square and we had some free time. We walked into a couple of shops but our beer low level light came on and we stopped at a cafe for a couple beers. The town is just beautiful. We met the tour group at the appointed time and headed to La Canchanachara Bar. Upon returning home further research showed that Canchanchara is a drink unique to Trinidad. It contains honey, lemon, rum, ice and water and is served in small clay containers that look like they came from the pottery factory we visited. I did not know all this at the time we were there. We entered and sat down and there was some delightful entertainment with singing, dancing, bongos and rhythm sticks and we were all handed a clay cup with liquid with a small stick (twig). DH figured out you needed to stir the drink with the stick to get the honey mixed in. It was a nice refreshing drink. Cigars were also sold here. We didn't get much of a chance to see the rest of the bar, but it was a nice rest stop. Back at the ship, it was White Night. We changed to white clothes and went up to the pool deck. We found a table and shortly went to check out the food. The food I got was very good, but it was chaotic and I didn't understand (here is my learning curve) that the several different lines had different offerings. When ready to see about getting seconds, it was way too crowded to get in a line. We just don't do crowded buffets. But I also didn't think to check (learning curve again) to see if Discoveries was open. Also, usually don't wear white for barbecue.
  11. Feb 23 I had arranged for a private walking tour with Cubaoutings that I had found on line. This was to be a walking tour of old Havana and then a classic car ride. Our guide was Irena – and we met with her right across the street from the port. She started out by wanting to know what we had seen the previous day so she would not duplicate anything. We walked all through Havana looking at courtyards of upper level and lower level homes. She explained how the homes were confiscated (the previous day's guide had called them abandoned) and made into apartments. (the previous guide said that some homes were also turned into schools) Many cats and dogs in town, belong to no one but are taken care of. We saw three dogs with collars and were told these had been rescued and then given to the museum where they will be taken care of. It was explained that St. Francis church (right at the port) was now a performance venue. We stopped at a small cafe and had a beer “Crystal” and then went to meet our car and driver for a classic ride. We drove all around Havana in a 1956 Mercury convertible going along the Malecon and through some neighborhoods . We also went to a nice quiet park with a small stream going through it. It was cluttered with trash and our guide pointed out the chicken bones and feathers. She then explained that people come here to perform Santeria rituals. Off in the distance we saw three people performing one – pouring some rum on the ground and then the chicken they carried one minute was dead the next . . . I didn't take any pictures. We also went to Hotel National (which was also the place to be in the 40s and 50s Havana. We had a mojito and walked around the public areas and went back to the ship in our classic car. After our tour we went back to the ship to eat a lite lunch and then went back out into Havana on our own. We found a nice small street and went “barhopping” the first place we stopped at we each had a beer and of course the guy who served us had an opportunity for us. The two beer cost us 8CUCs. We walked further down and way in the back of a restaurant I saw a small bar. There was another couple in the bar and a trio of musicians who would come by for a tip after they finished. We ordered a beer each and DH ordered a shot of Rum. The server asked us a question we didn't understand and the couple next to us said “he wants to know if you want 7 year old rum and you do” So DH had a shot of rum with his beer. The 7 year Havana Rum was just great. At this bar our 3 beers and 2 shots cost 9CUCs total. The buildings are just great and the streets were friendly. We did not ever feel unsafe. On our way back to the ship we were cornered by a couple of (friendly) musicians who asked where we were from and then immediately sang a song about our home state. We needed to tip them to get away. We sailed out of Havana at 1am and the next day was a sea day.
  12. Feb 22 We used the door knob placcard to order coffee in the morning while getting ready. We got a call that morning right before our coffee showed up. We didn't know that was the phone at first but it did wake us up just before we got a knock on the door. This was done almost every morning and helped us to expect the coffee since the knock is slight and hard to hear. Getting off of the ship the first time in Cuba was very easy. There were 2 ship's officers out watching the lines through immigration making sure (I hope) that we had no problems. Immigration stamped our Visa and Passport. Then there was currency exchange, but you really didn't need to exchange anything if you had small US dollars. And it was also recommended that we exchange any currency coming back to the ship to keep from holding up the tour you are on. Our first excursion in Havana was a panoramic tour on a bus around the city and included stops at Revolution square, the El Moro fort guarding the harbor and Cristo., We rode in a new tourist bus from China. We went to an artist colony called Fusterlandia. One artist started the area (Mr Fuster) and used tiles to decorate his house and property and other homes in the neighborhood with all kinds of tile work. We had some shopping time and after we got back on the bus was told that we had just satisfied our “People to People” requirement. It was explained that Cuba has a love triangle “Coffee, Tobacco and Rum” These items are controlled by the government and the prices will be the same wherever we go. At El Moro there was a store that had the love triangle and a cigar roller who held records for some very long cigars. We decided not to buy any of the triangle here since this was the beginning of our trip and we would get everything at our last port. (we should have bought whatever we wanted here) We also made a stop at the Cristo statue which we had seen coming into port that morning. Also in the area was the home of Che Guevara– I was later told it was his work home. There were 3 young men up at Cristo playing with rhythm sticks. Back at the port we changed some money – mainly to experience that and see what the money looked like. When we got to our cabin we had a nice surprise. It was DH birthday and someone (our steward) had decorated our cabin. That evening at least 600 of us were transported to the Tropicana for a dance performance with the Lizt Alfonso dance company, combining flamingo,and ballet and bongos, and a band. This was our included AzAmazing Evening. It was a great performance. It was entirely too dark to get any pictures. We got back to port that evening and wine was handed out as we were boarding with a band playing. It made the 600 of us getting on the ship (long line) more agreeable.
  13. Our first dinner was very good. Discoveries had a very nice selection on the menu. I ordered Snapper and did get a fish knife and the server left the regular knife (a first for me) and I was able to use the knife to cut vegetables etc. Key West – Our first port of call and the ship docked practically in the center of town. We found our way to the Hop on Hop off bus. (we did not buy tickets through Azamara which were $10 more) We got a really nice drive around the town and island with great commentary. After we went around once we wanted to ride it to the stop by the White house but we all had to get off the bus and would need to get on another one to get under way, so we just walked. The Little White was a very interesting place to visit. The tour was extremely informative but no pictures were allowed inside the building. We then walked to Margaritaville Bar and Grill(the original one) and had a lite lunch and made our way back to the ship. We went to the Sunset bar which is in the back of the ship, you need to walk through Windows Cafe to get there. At the time it was the quietest place I have found on the ship. It is a nice place for a drink. We then went to the Living Room which had longer hours. There is a small buffet of tapas every evening. The offering is very nice and different than what you would expect for appetizers.
  14. We flew to Miami a day before embarkation to just start our trip and make sure we had plenty of time for flight delays etc. We left our Hotel at checkout time arriving at the port about 11:20. We checked our bags with a porter and tipped him and then found our way to the reception area showing our boarding pass that I had printed off by checking in on line. . We got checked in, picture taken and given visa applications and told to check the People to People Box as the purpose for our visit to Cuba. We only got one key card holder. When asked for an extra one, an employee did look for extra one and was told there were none and we would need to wait until we got on board. We were directed to a waiting area until we were called to board. The suite guests had a different waiting area with separate refreshments. Suite guests were called first to board but we were called soon after. (We knew we would have to wait since we arrived so early.) As we got on board we were given a glass of sparkley wine and a sheet with places on the ship for food and drink that afternoon. We went to the pool bar and got a table and had our first experience with what beverages are included vs other drink packages. We did not purchase a drink package. So Becks is a good beer. In addition to the Bud and Bud light and Becks they had New Castle on tap and we did not see many people drinking draft beer. The bar menu is about 10 pages and included drinks are on the last page. We went to the buffet for a lite lunch. The crew was serving the food and we were told this will happen for a couple of days to help keep the ship healthy. For about the first 5 days of the cruise, a crew member was at each entrance to a food area making sure people used hand sanitazer. Our luggage arrived between 3:00pm and 4:00pm and was left outside our cabin. Our steward stopped by and gave us a thorough explanation of everything about our cabin and how to get a hold of him, dress code for dinner and how to let him know we have left the cabin so he can make up the cabin. We really appreciated the time he took with us. This is our first cruise on Azamara and we experienced a small learning curve since it is different than our usual cruise line. Different but still good. Muster was held in the theater. We got the basic information about how to muster and who to follow. Then the Captain explained the need to use hand sanitizer and stationed crew at entrances if passengers forgot. Also no handshakes but do fist bumps instead. We went to the forward bar – the “Living Room” but it didn't open that day until 6pm. So we had to find another place for a before dinner drink. We were able to get a map of the ship, but the print is extremely small and it was difficult to use.
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