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Host Bonjour

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About Host Bonjour

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    Cruise Critic Host

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    NYC region
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    Travel, film, mixed media painting, photography
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    Love mew places, some old favorites & going home.

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  1. Posting this topic in here so the OP might get a chance to read some info about Rome–Civi train info and other options. Perhaps we can offer some insight 😉
  2. You can certainly arrange for a private transfer from your hotel to port if that feels more secure and comfortable as it sounds like you'll have a lot of luggage to manage. Are they wheelie bags whereby the carry–on can be stacked on top of the large one and wheeled along (strapped to the handle?) as you manage your personal item? If so, I think you can manage to get through Termini and board the train to Civitavecchia and then get the shuttle to your ship. I've not ever had a problem on the Italian rail with luggage going amiss when set in the racks on a journey although it can happen on occasion, most of the people on the Civi bound train are heading to port as you are. Once the bags get stacked up in the luggage rack, they are not going anywhere. Yes, Termini is busy but so are most airports these days and if you have your bags near you until you board your train, everything should be quite alright. If one of you need to use the toilet while waiting, again, should be no worries as all the bags would be with one person and the station is loaded with people headed to all points in Italy and beyond, Civi, etc. and it feels safe. Really I think it comes down to if you feel comfortable managing the bags on your own. You can get luggage locks if that helps. Also, I suppose it depends on what time you are heading to Civi but again, it's likely most people are also heading to port when you are. You can buy tickets in advance online and ask more questions, see the pinned topic on top of the Italy message board for more information. Have a great voyage 🙂
  3. As I was reading this thread I almost wondered if folks wouldn't be hesitant to mention their favorite local place for fear it would become suddenly popular with folks that aren't local, if you know what I mean. Although everyone here is always more than generous with their advice and ideas for the best experiences in Italy, I can sort of understand a slight hesitance to name a beloved dining spot. Usually what I do is, as slidergirl mentioned, go a bit beyond the boundaries (or just off of the main roads, piazzas, etc) and seek out smaller, lesser known places that might have smaller signs (or none!) and another thing, listen I mean, stop, lean in so you can hear the languages being spoken, to ascertain if a restaurant's clientele seems to be comprised more of locals or a mix or perhaps too many english speakers. It's also always possible to ask someone you may encounter during the day that seems exceedingly kind and helpful whether or not they might have a recommendation for wonderful local cuisine. The more you mix with locals, the more inclined you'll be to dine alongside them. Start with a buon giorno, come sta Lei? Maybe that night you'll be eating one of nonna's recipes.... 😉
  4. Had more or less the same experience in 2013 at an Aloft Hotel which was quite nice but come the weekend, well it wasn't exactly quiet as I happened to be there during the London ComicCon and so when folks started popping into the elevator dressed as various space creatures, super heroes, and other sort of characters I could only wonder at (but admired the dedication!) I knew something interesting was underway at ExCeL. The invasion of new guests in the area managed to absolutely clear out the shelves of the local Tesco Express and the few pubs etc around we jammed. Prior to the start of the ComicCon it was way too quiet for me but perhaps others might find it welcoming. I wasn't keen on being so far away from the center of London - odd as I had always had a commute from Queens or Brooklyn into Manhattan my entire life, shorter than the ride via DLR into town - but the trek was often long and tiresome when it came to planning out the day. I suppose because Londoners are commuting, that I get, just wanting to get into the office or school or home etc. and so being caught up in the rush doesn't feel so holiday-ish, memories of one's own commute. How I ended up at Aloft sounds similar to what might be happening here: I took a chance on I think it was Hotwire? Not sure–you don't get to know where you're staying until after you pay. Won't do it again!!! Anyway, I wanted a nice hotel and was willing to take a chance, I selected East End and four star....and there I was. Had to prepay so there really was no way out of it once I checked in. It wasn't terrible, I had already seen London a few times. Had this been my first time to London, I don't think I would have been too pleased being this far away from things but, it did include breakfast (continental) and was new and so comfortable, had a lovely lounge and facilities, definitely convenient to DLR stop, so if it's a return visit, one is confident using the tube, it could be fine over in the area. Ditto for avoiding Harrods but I think I already mentioned that. I went to John Lewis, I hadn't planned to but it was just there. I think Harvey Nichols was right nearby and I couldn't decide...John Lewis beckoned to me. Spectacular crystal light fixtures in there, I even photographed them. I know....weird. As for the assessment of feeling safe or dodgy, I think it's all relevant to one's experience but it's always valid, how one feels, and ought not be discounted although taking a chance might be worth it. Different Kings Cross but, I used these boards (wayyyyyy back when we were just starting out, on our sister site Independent Traveler) to search for places to stay in Sydney. Everyone said Kings Cross was the red light district, to be avoided, just not great and yet, it looked nice, there were some interesting places. I decided to call up a B&B and see how the owners sounded, they were lovely so I booked it on Bayswater Road. I thought, if it's not great I can always find another place, I didn't prepay anything. I arrived, loved it and am still wondering all these years and years later what was so dodgy about it. Yes, it got active at night but I didn't see anything nefarious or creepy and it has one of the coolest fountains (El Alamein) I ever saw (modern) which juxtapose the gorgeous victorian style homes scattered here and there. I walked alone day and night into or from the Quay if I wasn't too tired. You just never know. Yes, different city I know but the point being, everyone has different comfort levels and sometimes taking a chance can pay off. Worst case, and I did this in Berlin when I got to a pension in Alexanderplatz with friends that I just wasn't into, I called around and booked a different place; they stayed there...moving somewhere else is always an option in a big city. Hop in a taxi and off you go. My only concern is booking somewhere for a discount, which I understand wanting to save in London, but not knowing where you'll be especially if it's your first trip, might be taking more of a chance with losing valuable time than with any safety issues. Go for the convenience if possible...have you looked near Paddington area? I have stayed in a B&B in Sussex Gardens which was quite convenient and reasonable, I forget the name every time...it starts with an A and it's not Admiral; it's a short walk to Paddington tube and rail station, lots of restaurants nearby. Anyway, lots of little places to stay with full English breakfast, wifi, 2-3-4 star accommodations. Can walk to Little Venice (I never would have known this existed had I not stayed near here, locals told me about it) and some truly beautiful, posh neighborhoods that were a sight to behold. As with anywhere, common sense and your best instincts are the ultimate guides. Let us know how you fare 🙂
  5. If it was so easy, I'd never have found these message boards years ago when I was seeking information and planning my trip to New Zealand, Australia and somewhere in the South Pacific....I hadn't figured out where yet. I had books and magazines, websites but I was going to a part of the world that would be farther than I'd ever traveled although I'd just recently traveled to Asia. I needed some feedback and it helped hearing from others. Being overwhelmed was the tipoff in the opening post in this topic, especially as many of these trips are bucket list voyages and the member mentioned she'd only previously sailed to the Caribbean. Managing land and sea can get to be a lot! Also, the cruise lines probably hope (or count on) folks being overwhelmed or maybe not wanting to do the extra work seeking out shore excursions on their own, and so the higher price tags....bit of a convenience surcharge for not having to do the extra work. Fair enough I suppose but once I'd get my planning and research underway, with some help from folks on the message boards, it would always feel like my trip was well underway and the fun had started. Dunedin was wonderful by the way, the train station is such a spectacular, historic building. Enjoy the journey. 🙂
  6. Surely, anecdotal information has not lost all relevance, nor the interest in sharing or attempting to be kind among fellow travelers. Experiences traveling in high season through busy airports, or following suggested guidelines simply don't always go as planned, and sometimes they do. Seemed like maybe it might be helpful, more than a few of us here thought, to different accounts of the best laid plans....going right and going wrong, i.e., there's no exact science to this get to the airport thing. Of course, maybe it's not helpful to share stories but it didn't seem to be a question with an exact answer–get to the airport in 3 hours 35 minutes. Unless maybe arriving by helicopter or something, I don't know, but even that would be weather-dependent. Sometimes a bit of extra information helps when sorting things out in the planning stages, especially if international travel is new, the airport or destination is new etc. Does this help–I doubt it? Arriving at Gatwick for an eight A.M. flight only to discover there is no plane available and won't be until....oh, later. It turned out to be about six or seven hours later. No, it wasn't easy jet or ryanair or Monarch (since defunct). Things just happen. We got meal vouchers for food. The bottom line is, everyone has different comfort levels and ultimately, very little control over a vast system that for the most part, operates fairly well. One can only do their best and do so with good intentions.
  7. These lists are fun to read, thank you everyone. The pinned thread is growing little by little. 😉 Indeed, many visitors to Rome will want to see the most well known attractions and understandably so as the history and fame of so many of these landmarks and structures in this ancient city, as well as its importance in the church, will keep enough travelers busy while in port. Many travelers though do arrive in Italy planning to spend an extra few pre/post cruise days in Rome and so some might be seeking something different to add into the mix along with the usual sites recommended in most guides or websites. Perhaps it's history, gastronomy, music, archaeology, or something else entirely different not previously thought of. Or maybe as with Hank's post, the fascination of people watching which I have done in more than a few foreign cities, intentionally or sometimes just got lost in the moment, possibly getting caught on conversation with someone at a neighboring table or reading a local magazine or paper–this I've done in Paris. I probably wouldn't do it if I only had one day but who knows....never say never. Are you a repeat visitor to a port city or country? Italy, Rome is a place to keep going back to if ever a place was. Maybe you're not like me and need to actually see the Eiffel Tower every single time I am in Paris (and sadly, it's been awhile but I know it's still there twinkling 😉 ) and you feel like you're good not returning to the Colosseum. Need options? (Yes, I am otherwise often blasé about Paris and not running to see all the rest of the places I've seen! ) Getting to see and do new, different, unexpected things can bring experiences that feel like no other, like things that aren't described in guides or websites and therefore make it feel like something so unique or customized....like maybe no other visitors have had–because they haven't. No one can, they're not you, don't have your perspective in that moment doing something completely different in this incredible city. And the best part? This is how I've found myself most completely and utterly surprised with fabulous experiences, big and small that I'd never have had if I didn't do something different. No way to have predicted I'd go to Modena and end up attending a rehearsal of Pavarotti's UNHCR concert. Zero, none. The origin of that is from dinner in an OK bistro in the 6th of Paris just chatting with two people, work colleagues, at the table next to mine. I had trouble deciding where to eat that night. Let's just say I chose well. And I had fun in Rome, Florence, Venice..... This thread is looking great, thank you everyone. Now, I just need to get myself back to Italy, Rome....the places on this list are captivating. And I have gotten obsessed with Ostia from a crime drama. I'm weird. I did the chilling out in the Piazza Navona already (1st visit) because the piazza stopped me cold and I couldn't just leave, so as is often the case, take Hank's words to heart. And all the other suggestions. And...Paris, toujours, Paris.
  8. Three hours should be enough time to check in for most flights, international or domestic and has been for me too, in a lot of years of flying. Two times three hours was not adequate: ~last year en route to La Guardia....yes, of course I tried avoiding La Guardia, I live here. ~ many years ago leaving Paris. The La Guardia thing was on account of train delays so while I factored in problems to my three hour window, didn’t factor in enough of a problem! I made it to the airport and stressed the security lines but made the flight. Now I have Pre-check. Can’t fly from this area without it. The Paris thing was almost from a movie plot; torrential rain, Roissybus partial strike (enough to foil things grandly!) obviously no taxis, too much luggage to manage the métro/RER on my own. Got inside the airport as the door of the plane was closing. Had to come back into the city to get reticketed.....but from 😜 came good, a fun friendship developed via someone helping me out (actually many people did!) that stressful, rainy extra night in Paris. It could always be worse. Do what gives you peace of mind but the worst case, you rebook the flight. American would go to Miami from London (then do your Miami Orlando) too, so it’s another option though flight times surely change, it’s never that easy I know. My friend flies the 777s...their scheduling won’t ever make any sense to me. It only makes sense to the bottom line. This is time coming back from HOU I allotted more than three hours and it was two much of course for domestic but weather had not been great in Texas lately. I had soooo much time but had my laptop so 😉 I just can’t each barbecue in the morning. Everything works out. Have a great journey.
  9. Also traveled solo by train in Italy, visiting Rome (wasn’t alone in Florence) and other cities at different times, and I felt safe too, nighttime too which by the way I keep telling everyone, Castel Sant’ Angelo....so beautiful illuminated. All of Rome is spectacular but this visual lingers on my brain 🙂 So glad you’ll get to visit Florence too and I concur with previous posts, you’ll go back. I think I could be in Florence indefinitely....it was enchanting. Walk as much as you can! Have a great time.
  10. Wear what you’re most comfortable in as it’s how you’ll enjoy yourselves the most and feel less self conscious because you’re in clothes that feel familiar to you. Everyone is conference aboit safety and security, myself included as I am often alone when I travel, however an ideal target is one that seems uncomfortable, out of their element, distracted etc. All of us are somewhat distracted and out of our element when visiting other countries, cities and but one thing we have control over is our own self comfort. Makes sense to be sure and keep things as close to normal as possible. There arent many many places I’ve been to where I felt obliged to dress different. If I did so it was because I wanted to or I got new things specifically for a journey. Things in the world aren’t that different, especially in Western Europe. Italian style is can be bold (sometimes) but not even all Italians gravitate towards the bold, or even towards being so concerned about style. Only churches are still rather rigid but I’ll leave that alone for now. Some places have requirements....it’ll be fairly obvious. Otherwise...really, Regarding sports apparel, I’m not so sure I’d worry about it. Although my home teams might not be great examples as they’ve become part of today’s standard street attire—I’ve seen NY Yankees hats/ gear in places I never expected—I also notice the opposite happening here; European, South American football team jerseys (Lionel Messi anyone?) on kids and adults in America. How do I know if that person is a tourist or citizen or whatever? It’s America, we have lots of different visitors, languages, fandom, and likewise overseas. They just played baseball in London! 😱 People also wear their Red Sox 😝 gear everywhere, Cubs (finally!) Dodgers, etc. Moreover, I’ve been asked by friends to bring the stuff over....maybe not so much the teams as the Nike and Adidas. Not everything American is out of place in the greater world. 😉 Best thing to put on? A few phrases in the local language looks incredible!!!!! So, you do you. Be comfortable, represent what matters to you...it can be a great conversation starter with someone local or on your ship.
  11. Aren’t they? 😉 It’s the amazing members, as you’ve noticed....and you’ve received assistance from some of the best and brightest on the Italy board, experienced and knowledgeable visitors to this divine city. (....and I also recommend Guide books for planning, always fun grabbing from the shelf and hunkering down in the bookstore. Reading always helps get me feeling like my journey started already. I brought a small Lonely Planet Rome Guide with me but then I was there for more than one day. Helped a lot, much to take in as you might have observed! Also, ditto on Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Forum....basically everything cruisemom and eurocruiser suggested, always and especially Termini: it’s big, busy. Don’t think it overwhelmed me as much as Milano Centrale but then I had about five minutes to change trains from one end of the stazione to the other [made it!] but Termini didn’t feel that way at all.) Not sure where else you’re cruise calls or when your next cruise will be but do keep coming back to the message boards to discover more about where you’re headed, info on your ship or find news on a variety of other topics. You can also connect with other passengers on your cruise via our ship RollCall boards if you’re so inclined. Glad and you’ve got colosseum tickets, enjoy your visit and the incredible city of Rome. I do miss it 🙂
  12. You can always try but don't hide it or argue. If they take it, they take it. It's their rules and they decide how they wish to apply them. I can't forget the shouting I heard when I was on line to enter China after arriving by boat years ago. I don't know what it was about or to whom, and we were people from China, Hong Kong and who knows where else but it got loud. It was a not-so-subtle but helpful reminder (along with the military uniforms) that we were in a different country. I had a great and fascinating time, learned a lot that I didn't know and needed to, but that was probably and important wake-up. So with even with little liquor bottles, I'd be very forthwith and if it goes well, then yay. If not, hopefully you'll still have an amazing journey as it's truly an amazing place. 🙂
  13. I would echo what dabear stated. I've watched a few documentaries on mining and always had a fascination with diamonds, gems, minerals etc. as well as how it all works behind the scenes, what we don't see when we look at the mesmerizing jewels or mysterious talismans. Some of the work is done fairly well and honest, some of it is dirty and exploitive. Research is your answer. There's a lot to know in what goes into valuing a stone, much like anything else one would purchase. And as with purchasing something that can be expensive like a car, education, living place, etc., before spending a significant amount you want to know what is available for the money. You can get an emerald for US$500 but what size, quality, etc will it be? What do you expect? What do you want? The answer will vary greatly depending upon all of these variables coming into your full view and lining up within the parameters you have chosen. You can find what you wish in Sri Lanka and have a wonderful item to always remind you of the journey. Please be sure to make a sound choice and do the research in advance, even if you DO get a recommendation from someone here, do the proper vetting to be sure that they are a reliable seller in Colombo or whichever place in Sri Lanka you may purchase your stone in. Good luck and have a wonderful journey! 🙂
  14. That's the only time they are any good, and I've a very close friend that is a pilot for an American flag carrier 😉 although jetBlue actually does alright and is starting some service to London, Paris and a few other European gateways. Perhaps it will force the other US domestic carriers from their lapse in concern for the quality of the flying experience. I get that not all of their guests behave well, but as one who has had to also serve a not always well behaved public, that didn't mean I was permitted to stop trying to provide quality service or the company could cease providing reliable banking. JetBlue also allows pax to purchase, for a reasonable price, a better seat. No other domestic carrier permits this as all seats are blocked off and unavailable to only the select. Yes, loyalty should be rewarded but give others an option, especially on the long trips. Their crew however, hit or miss. Tough job. I disagree with Sammy in that I would NEVER willingly take an A380 and Airbus has stopped building them. Desolé, je sais que vous êtes Français et Airbus aussi, mais voila... Yes, the 787 is a wonder plane, composed significantly with carbon fiber in the fuselage, it is a much lighter plane enabling it to travel longer distances more economically than the 777. Also handles lightening strikes better although most modern planes flying today handle them very, very well. I should summarize because I've done the flight too, flying to Hong Kong from JFK was my easiest trip, or so it seemed. Went on Japan Air Lines, stopped for about 2 hours in Tokyo and continued on to HK, landing in the evening so that by the time I was settled in Causeway Bay at my friend's flat, it was time to go to bed and I was ready! Flying back home to JFK was slightly different as the flight had a scheduled over night in Tokyo at a Narita Sheraton and then onward to JFK. Landed sometime in the afternoon, tired but it wasn't terrible as it's generally quicker flying east anyway...just a long time to be in an airplane but Japan Air Lines made it quite comfortable with refreshing warm cloths with lemons to periodically freshen up with, good food etc. I think this was why our Sammy made a point of emphasizing flying international carriers when flying abroad. I've flown overseas twice with US carriers and it was ok (not counting going to the Caribbean-international, also twice on US carriers but shorter trips) but I too prefer the way the international carriers manage it, if for no other reason than it's simply got more flair and gets me into another mindset before I've even arrived where I'm going, even if it's not the nation of the carrier I am flying. Jet lag is jet lag. Either one has time to get sorted before/after, because it is what it is. But certain things help I suppose like sleeping, drinking water, moving around when possible, eating well. Otherwise....it is what it is.
  15. I am sorry to hear that a member of your tour group lost her bag, I understand how inconvenient it is trying to replace all of the documents and place fraud alerts on everything, to say nothing of losing the actual bag and the loss of time on holiday. Totally awful. But....there is almost no large city in any country, including the US, where it is a good idea to leave a bag unattended while taking photos and it is especially busy because locals and visitors can all be in the area at once on any given day, as was likely the case at Sagrada Familia. It could have easily happened on Fifth Avenue at Christmas time near Rockefeller Center or at a beach on an island or In New Orleans, Los Angeles, Rome, Paris, Bangkok....lots of places that are crowded and busy and it is so very easy to get distracted. When taking photos, it is easy to get distracted because we want to make sure the photo turns out well, we want the memory to be a good one! Leaving anything of value unattended for even a few seconds, this is just city life. Someone who might not even be planning on taking something, is feeling desperate and sees an opportunity which they take. I watched someone last week that I never, ever would have guessed would take something, walk into a Starbucks, head over to the case where the cold beverages were, grab a bottle of water and walk on out! The person was wearing to me what looked like very expensive clothes, boots and it was in a really trendy, kind of expensive neighborhood - I was just attending a meeting there 😉 so, all the talk of "this type of person or that" are the sort to look out for, just isn't true. Impossible to know. Therefore, the best and most reliable way to ensure that one gets back on the ship with everything they had in the morning is to keep it close at hand, close on the body. Get a bag that feels comfortable wrapped around you so that if there are plans to take photographs, it will be easy to move around while still having the bag on one's person and being able to get the photos. Alternatively, it is alright to put the bag down on the ground IF you place it directly between your legs and it has straps that you can loop at least one leg through so that the bag is anchored to one's body in such a way that a person could not grab the bag and run away with it because it is secured by being wrapped around a leg! Leaving a bag on any bench, table, chair, whatever it is and standing nearby provides a window of opportunity for who knows. In all probability the people who grabbed my bag after work were dressed in business attire like we were and blended right in with the crowd. Or not. Point is, there was enough of a space between me and the bag to give enough opportunity to grab it. Not anymore. It's always where I can feel it. Always. I understand that coming from towns or cities with smaller populations where maybe it's ok to not lock doors, leave engines running, it's a whole different world. In big cities, it hasn't ever been that way and will not ever be that way and I suppose that is as difficult an adjustment to make as it is for me to NOT lock a door anywhere I go. People look at me weird if I do it in a place where it's super quiet but I just don't care. I must do it because I have always lived in a gigantic, crowded city and I always will. And in case a scary monster, or (big creepy bug/bat/critter etc) comes out of the woods when I'm out somewhere in the woods, well, that monster won't get in where I'm at because the door will be locked. 🤣 (The car too!) Think of it as just some of the adjustments one must make when visiting a new place, such as using new money, hearing a different language and using different words, we implement different practices in the day to day way we do things, whether we are going from a big to small place or small to big place, life is different and it requires a new way of thinking. That's all. Everyone isn't out to take your things, most people are there enjoying the same thing you are and taking the same precautions from being robbed. I worked in a bank for 4 1/2 years, it was something we had to look out for every day and there was no way to know exactly who that might be, we just hoped it never happened but knew how to prevent it, keep loss to a minimum, and stay safe. It's always the best any of us can do. Keep traveling, plan ahead and enjoy!
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