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About helenb

  • Rank
    Cool Cruiser

About Me

  • Location
    California, USA
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Princess, Celebrity, Disney

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  1. This article (and the pictures) is really interesting. So sad... https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/33338/satellite-images-show-armadas-of-vacant-cruise-ships-huddling-together-out-at-sea
  2. Thank you everyone for your input! If there are any women who have done this, I would appreciate hearing your experiences as well.
  3. Has anyone tried the Japanese baths on a shore excursion? I am looking at the one in Sakaiminato, the Kaike-Onsen. I know that you have to be completely naked to use them (which freaks me out a little... my old body is not really meant for public viewing). I'm just wondering if someone could tell me what their experience was, going there on a cruise ship excursion? Was it gender-separated? Were there patrons other than the cruise ship passengers? I have heard that in general, foreigners are subject to much 'scrutiny' in the baths, and I certainly don't want that! I'm going to be uncomfortable enough being naked. Yet I also feel like this is a cultural thing that I want to experience. A little information would definitely help me prepare for this. Please share!
  4. Yes, after much research this weekend, we've come to the conclusion that we will have to go through the pain of getting the Visa. But on the good news side, we will get to visit the Great Wall. Regarding the employment information... not only did we find it on that visa agency site, we visited a local travel agency in person that exclusively arranges Chinese travel. They confirmed the need for the employment letter.
  5. There are special considerations for people who live in the San Francisco Bay Area or Washington DC. They need the employer letter. See part 7 on this site. https://www.mychinavisa.com/visas/tourist The travel agency we visited today (local to us, which serves the large Chinese population in our community) gave us more details on what the letter has to include, and that included salary.
  6. My husband and I did an Asian cruise (Osaka to Bangkok) in 2004 and we ended up staying on the ship rather than getting off at the Shanghai port stop, because of the expense and hassle of getting the visa. I wish that they had had the in-transit visa-free exemptions then! We are finally going back to Asia next year. We just booked a Shanghai to Anchorage cruise for June 2021. We will fly from the US, stay less than 144 hours, and board the ship. Qualifies for the exemption, right? But now we have a wrinkle. We don't know if/when we will ever be back in the area. So my husband wants to spend part of our 144 hours touring in the Beijing area: Great Wall, Forbidden City, etc. But I gather that this is not allowed, because Beijing and Shanghai are not in the same 'zones'? So USA - Shanghai - South Korea (first cruise port) is okay, but USA - Beijing - Shanghai - South Korea is not. BUT... China Highlights offers a 6 day tour arriving in Beijing and then taking the bullet train to Shanghai. How is this possible? Can we do this on the 144 hour exemption or do we need the full visa? I'm trying to avoid the visa because it is a hassle. We live in the San Francisco Bay Area so in addition to everything else, we need to produce letters from our employers stating the nature of our jobs, our salary, etc. Ugh... painful... But if we have to do it, we have to do it. I'm just trying to see if there is a way that we can avoid it and explore all options before applying for the full visa. So, anyone here have any advice?
  7. While I do not consume alcohol, I am very disappointed regarding the snacks. Not only do my kids eat the Pringles, we would save a couple of cans and bring them with us when we went ashore. Since we do not buy food on shore, it was nice to have the Pringles to tide us over if we were gone all day, through lunch. Now we won't have that little extra. Were we abusing the system, and the cause of this downgrade? Who knows...?
  8. This is not entirely true. Princess has free unlimited laundry for suites, and also the wonderful suite breakfast in Sabbatini's (which is comparable to the YC restaurant). However having all meals in the YC restaurant, the private pool deck, unlimited drinks, etc. on MSC definitely makes the YC a superior experience for a lot less money. Ooh, both lines also have priority tendering for suites/YC.
  9. You need a YC card to get access to the cabin area, so you will be able to access the pool area (just walk up the stairs) which includes food. There is also a bar up there, and they will give you whatever drinks you want. They also do not 'card' in the Top Sail Lounge, so I would imagine that you would be able to get free food and drinks there. It is possible that the restaurant won't seat you because you won't be on their 'list'.
  10. We booked a June 2020 cruise in YC on Seaside last January. At the time, our 3rd passenger was 16% of the cost of the first or second passenger. When we booked a similar cabin for June 2018, the 3rd and 4th passengers were $100 each. The 3rd passenger was still very cheap compared to the first 2. I guess MSC is trying to make more $$$ without raising the advertised fares?
  11. It's definitely a cost savings. Hotels are doing this too. I have a lot of status in Bonvoy, and I am horrified to see their hotels slowly moving over to these communal bottles. It's so cheap and un-classy, but they're doing it to save money. I expect this kind of cheapness in a Motel 6, but not in a nice hotel or on a nice cruise ship. And when people complain, they say that they're just being 'environmentally friendly'. If they really wanted to be environmentally friendly, they could only provide the small bottles on request. They could also recycle the plastic of which the bottles are made. Or even use metal bottles like they do for the water. They're not searching out a better solution because they don't want to; this increases the bottom line and they can claim to be environmentally friendly. Yuck.
  12. In case anyone is interested, during our cruise I discovered that the concierge staterooms on Edge have those awful 'communal' big bottles. No individual shampoo or conditioner. 😞
  13. So when I boarded Edge on June 29, I went straight to Guest Services to change my beverage package from Classic Alcoholic to Premium Non-Alcoholic. The woman helping me said that she could do that and went about changing it... then she seemed to encounter a problem. So she called someone. I was getting nervous. Finally, she told me what was going on. It seems that we already had the Premium Alcohol package and therefore she couldn't downgrade me to Premium Non-Alcoholic. I have no idea how we got the premium package, since the offer we purchased and our documents from the TA clearly said Classic. But we didn't complain; we just took the Premium package and ran! But, for those who are interested, the woman at Guest Services was certainly willing to change a Classic Alcohol package to Premium Non-Alcoholic.
  14. Will do! It's always good to hear of real experiences.
  15. CELEBRITY MOVE UP TRACKER Ship: Edge Length of Cruise: 7 days Cruise Sail Date: June 29, 2019 Date email offer received: approx 45 days out Captain’s Club Tier: Elite Booked through Celebrity Direct OR via TA: TA Current Cabin: E1 Bid? Yes/No: Yes If YES - Bidding Details: Cabin Category: C2 Bid Offer: $100 pp Notification Date: 2 weeks in advance of cruise Accepted / Rejected Accepted General Comments (offer details, etc.) I made the lowest offer possible and was told that it was 'weak' but to my surprise it was accepted anyway. I appreciated the early notice, so that I had a chance to print out new boarding passes and luggage tags. The concierge upgrade would have been about $500 pp had we booked it initially.
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