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  1. Continuing review/info on the ports. Mykonos We were well behind schedule arriving to the port if Mykonos. The itinerary said 8, but we were in the first wave to leave the ship at 9:30. We had tickets for a 10:00 ferry with tour of Delos, so we took the express shuttle offered by the cruise line to reach Old Port quickly. We could not find the public bus station, and we did not see the shuttle (non-exoress version) for 2 euro instead of the ship's 6.99. The ticket we bought online for Delos was only a voucher for the ferry ticket, so we had to wait again in line once we reached Old Port of Mykonos. The tour was informative but disorganized and the group of -25 borderline too large to be served by a single guide, especially for the price of 50pp. We were not handed our tickets when we broke into our groups after leaving the ferry, so had to wait behind at the gate while someone hailed the tour guide, as if we had done something wrong, when it was simply because we were among the last to get off the crowded ferry. We learned on our tour that the ancient Greeks recognized Delos as the birthplace of Apollo god of light after discovering the island received the most direct sunlight in all of the land known to the Greek civilization. We learned firsthand this must be true, because the Delos sun god Aollo burned our lily white skin right thru our 30spf waterpriifweatproof sunscreen, same as what we had worn before in Olympia and the next day in Athens with no burns. There was a nice museum with air conditioning and artifacts on the island, with 2 locations with bathrooms and fresh water to fill water bottles we brought ourselves. When we returned to Mykonos island we had enough time to wander the city, but despite begging, pleading, even bribing my 7 year old son to come, he was simply too worn out and it would have been cruel and selfish to drag him thru the streets, and frankly miserable for all of us. In hindsight, with Mykonos sandwiched between Olympia and Athens, only a true enthusiast of ancient Greece will appreciate 3 or more consecutive days of Greek ruins. I suggest enjoying Mykonos or perhaps a snorkeling tour. Snorkeling was something I really regretted missing on this particular trip, something that is usually the highlight of my Caribbean cruises from home port of Galveston.
  2. Dubrovnik was probably my favourite port of the trip, and the only location where I truly felt I could spend a few nights visiting by land sometime in the future. Don't get me wrong- I would never have skipped Athens or Olympia, and Mykonos, Sarandë, and Brindisi were also pleasant to visit, but after one visit, there simply was no draw (for me) to go back. There were multiple ATMs right there at the port where you get off. We were out of euros so we needed cash of any currency, though it was possible to pay for everything we did either in euros or with a credit card ( make sure you have one with no foreign transaction fees). We paid 150 kuna, or 20 euro for taxi to the cable car, but it would have been only 14 euro and a better option to be dropped off at Old Town unless you are unable to climb steps. It is not a very long walk, but the steps are long. We decided the wall looked hotter and more exposed than the top of Mount Serge, so we bought our cable car ticket from the shorter line at the large archway into Old Town, and continued inside the walls. There was a large map showing your location and various points of interest. The city was very well prepared to accommodate tourists, without losing its old town charm as a tourist trap though in honesty it kind of is anyway. To reach the ticketing and entrance to the walls from the area of the cable car once inside the walls, you go straight ahead down the long stairs, and right when you reach the wide pedestrian thoroughfare. When you reach the church in the right just before the convent and the ticket counter, step inside. The marvelous interior is hidden by a rather plain outdoor façade. Maybe save this for a cool off stop later in the day, though. To walk the wall was 170 kuna pp, not payable in euros but equivalent to around 30 and possible to pay with credit card, which was 10 times what I had read in reviews of Dubrovnik. Either I or the reviewers had it wrong, or pricing/exchange rate have changed drastically! In my opinion 30 is really an awful lot to pay per person just to get on the wall, but we knew we would not likely come again, so we coughed up the cash. The wall offers the best views of the city and coast, in my opinion even better than those from the cable car or atop mount Serge. There are water, bathrooms, and even restaurants on the top of the wall. Foot traffic is one way, counter-clockwise around the wall. It is very hot, and there are lots of steps. Wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat, and bring water. I did Not see what they were charging for water on the wall but everything in Dubrovnik seemed expensive imo. We were able to exit the wall after going around a little over halfway. The entrance was basically at the north, and we exited at the South. It looked like it might have been possible to get tickets and enter here also, but the north location is near the taxi stand just outside the walls, and clearly the main location. We easily found our way through the town back to the main central street, and then back up the stairs to reach the cable car. The cost for the cable car was 150 kuna or 25 euro. This was simply too much, especially after having paid 170 each for the wall, but we had bought tickets at the shorter line when we arrived, so we got in line to ride. We boarded the first car both on the way up and down, but probably would have had to wait for the second car if we had tried to buy the ticket right there at the cable car. Due to high cost and the less impressive long distance view of the city compared to views from the vantage point and experience of the wall itself, I only recommend the cable car for people who can't climb up and down the stairs of the wall. The only redeeming experience of having paid 50 euro for the 2 of us to reach the top of Mount serge was the small but well done museum of the Serbian-Croation War for the Homeland. Placards and photos tell the story of the senseless siege of Dubrovnik by Serbian aggressors. The English was cumbersome and it took awhile to finally understand the whole story after pressing on. In one room they play a British documentary from 1991 when the siege took place. It was a worthwhile visit for 30 kuna if you already paid for the cable car. Our taxi driver from the morning who dropped us near the cable car had offered to meet us outside Old Town at the Hilton for our return trip for 10 euro/75 kuna compared to 14 from the taxi stand so we took him up on his offer. We contacted him via WhatsApp and he was very responsive. We did not have any trouble finding the Hilton about 200m beyond the taxi stand. In Dubrovnik, we let the kids decide whether they wanted to join us. At 10 and 7, my husband and I agreed they would not have appreciated the views and been miserable with the heat and steps. They had a fun day on the ship instead. I had debated for awhile whether to visit the town or book a snorkel/kayak tour. I could see the clear water and kayakers from atop the wall, and it looked amazing. If I had time to do the wall around old town plus the kayak/snorkel, that's what I would recommend, and skip the cable car.
  3. Sarandë I really wanted to love Sarandë, and Albania, being my first visit to the country. We booked a taxi for most of the day with @Saranda Taxi of Albanian Tours, and they had good communication and were waiting for us exactly where they said with my name in a sign, making me feel very important, haha. Our driver's English was sufficient to go from place to place, but not to answer questions about any of the sites. His pride for the tours was evident. We pre-agreed to a price of 120 for 2 adults and 2 children to visit Lekursi Castle, Blue Eye, Butrint National Park, and Ksamil Beach. It was slightly rushed getting to all 4 destinations, but we had an extra hour and a half at the end of the day, which I would have gladly spent at Butrint but had had my fill of the last stop at the crowded beach of Ksamil. Lekursi castle was not so impressive, basically entirely modernized as a restaurant and the WC was closed. I suggest skipping this one. 15 minutes was plenty if you simply have to go. Blue Eye was beautiful and a neat phenomenon to witness, but the site is simply too small to support the volume of visitors to this location. If you do go, get in line immediately to take a photo from the platform. If a bus group arrives, you will wait and wait just to snap a photo from directly above the deep underground spring. The pool itself is a fresh 8C. Some people were swimming anyway. You aren't supposed to jump, but the platform was presumably originally constructed for this purpose before the location became so overwhelmed with visitors, because it does not have a rail on the side overlooking the deep part of the pool. It is truly a pity that the area surrounding the Blue Eye seems to be a spot for locals to dump trash at the side of the road. Otherwise the lake would have made an ideal spot to expand the Blue Eye visit to an entire nature park with kayaking or paddleboats, or hiking around the shore. Maybe someday... Our next stop was Butrint National Park. We paid an entrance fee and our taxi driver gave us I think 1 hour or maybe an hour and a half at this stop, which was not enough. I really liked this site a lot, as it had a nice breeze and offered much more shade than any of the other ruins. You also had a sense of exploring the undiscovered because the ruins are so expansive and hidden throughout a forest. The theater was just amazing. Unfortunately the centerpiece you will see in all the Butrint photos, the mosaic of the baptistry, is only exposed every 3 years in order to protect it from the seasonal waters. Ksamil Beach was nothing special in particular. There was a restaurant, but none of the offerings stood out to eat there rather than wait for a meal aboard the ship. The kids splashed around the clear blue water, which was a refreshing and pleasant temperature. There were no fish to see, so don't mess with carrying a snorkel mask. Both the beach and the water were very crowded, and no one was serving drinks or food on the beach, it seemed, a very different experience from what I am used to in the Caribbean. The ride back to the port took longer thane expected, and we had to make a detour to find an ATM. We awkwardly paid our driver part in euros and part in leke. The leke to euro conversion was 120 at the time we visited, but the euro payment conversion by the various entries was inconsistent. 300 leke pp x 3 at Butrint was 9 euro (bad), but 1000 leke for our tiny scrap of beach at Ksamil was 8 euro (good). Our taxi driver accepted our payment at exchange rate of 120. Overall, I was satisfied with the taxi service and enjoyed my visit, but I simply did not leave with a positive impression of Sarandë. There was just too much trash everywhere, even inside Butrint, where I picked up trash and empty abandoned water bottles and deposited them in readily available but overflowing trash bins around the site. Just a shame, because as I said, I wanted to love and be able to recommend Sarandë because I enjoy seeing tourism transform struggling economies into prosperity. Again, maybe someday.
  4. Athens... was yet another underwhelming arrival location, an unfortunate trend for this particular itinerary, but honestly we were so busy and exhausted, we did not make time to be on deck during arrival or when setting sail, so it wasn't such a big detraction for us. The port of Piraeus near Athens is gigantic. It is hard to say which transportation might be best to reach Athens for the lowest cost, between Metro nearer the ferries or the X80 at the higher terminal numbers. We exited the port terminal and found the X80 stop, only to realize there was nowhere there to buy a ticket. We never did find where we were supposed to have gone within the terminal area to buy a ticket and wait, but that is what the X80 bus driver said we should have done. He was kind enough to let us ride with him back into the next terminal for his next stop and buy our tickets at that kiosk. It was 4.50 for a day pass on all public transport, best value which included X80 even for just one trip out or back. We got off at the last stop of the Acropolis. We were among the first to get off and head left to follow a large wall around a park with ruins inside, realizing a short while later that the rest of the group was crossing the street in front of the bus, in the correct direction of the Acropolis. Already committed to our direction knowing we would be behind the entire crowd of our bus, We found ourselves circling a very long wall and eventually found ourselves at the Olympian, a fortuitous mistake due to a very short line to buy the combo ticket for 30 to access all ancient ruins sites in the area, compared to 6 for Olympia plus 20 for Acropolis, plus up to 5 others whose individual prices I didn't notice. It was getting hot fast, so we sped through Olympian to get back out and make a bee-line for Acropolis. We walked straight to the turnstiles, passing a 200m sea of people waiting to buy tickets directly at the Acropolis entry. The Pantheon and Acropolis were everything I imagined! It was intensely crowded, especially on the switchback to enter and exit the plateau through on of the ruins. It is very hot and very sunny, but we were fortunate to have a bit of cloud cover for even more fantastic photos and even a pleasant but of light rain to cool us off. When we exited and reached the area where the blacktop pavement begins, we went left looking for bathrooms which we didn't find, and instead bought soupy 4.50 slushies to keep the kids motivated for touring. I told them it was their gasoline. We then headed right up a hill that had some modern steps, thinking there were more ruins there. Instead, we found ourselves looking down the opposite face of the mountain of Acropolis, with the X80 stop and Olympian behind us, on the opposite side of Acropolis altogether. It would have been a long way around to get back down there, and we could see there were more ancient sites down below on this side, as well as a metro station (Monastiriki?) with direct service all the way back to Piraeus port terminal which was included in our 4.50pp day pass. We took our chances hiking down a well traveled path on the back side of the hill. The terrain was steep two areas. We ended on a gravel road that circled the perimeter of the site of Agora. We walked to the right along this road perhaps 500m, and reached the entrance to the Roman forum, included in our 30pp combo pass. We found restrooms nearby. We also entered the site of Hadrian's library- be sure not to miss the small museum room of protected artifacts from the excavations, including the large statue of Nike (Victory) and bust of Athena. From there, we found the Monastiriki metro station, and decided we had time to stop for lunch. We had a delicious authentic Greek lunch for about 25 for the 4 of us, after being hustled by Jamaican "refugees" wanting to give our kids "free" bracelets, which sadly slipped off their wrists later in the day. They want a donation of 5-10 euro for this gift. Hint: Jamaicans do not have refugee status, but we paid the money just to get them to leave us alone. It is a really good thing we still allowed ourselves plenty of time to reach the ship. We used the metro with no problem, but discovered that the Piraeus metro station was nowhere near where our ship was. We could see a Norwegian ship in the distance, but MSC Musica was not even visible. We should have taken the time to figure out the bus to take a bus to our terminal, but to be honest I was not entirely confident where I needed to go except general direction, and I underestimated how far it was. We walked steadily for a solid 39 minutes, when the sidewalk evaporated and the road next to us became something like a highway. We decided to veer right toward the water into a port terminal we knew was not for our ship, seeing the Musica still what looked like 2km away. We figured we could get a taxi if the sidewalk did not continue from closer to the port. It didn't, and we couldn't get a taxi to take us- they could not understand that we were asking to go to the Musica at terminal 12, and instead kept offering to take us back to the Acropolis. A local hanging out at the port came up to help us, explaining that yes, we could indeed eventually convince a taxi to take us, but better to go through the terminal and take the shuttle bus from inside the terminal. I think we were at terminal 8 and our ship was at 12. We got inside the terminal and started to worry when we had to go thru post security. Would they let us through without passports (my husband didn't know I did have them anyway)? Would they let us use ship cards for not just a different ship, but a different line altogether? They did a double take, but did let us through using only the MSC cruise cards. We boarded a shuttle with a sea of other norwegian line passengers headed to their 2nd ship. We were the only ones from MSC, and my husband had to yell at the driver in Greek to PLEASE STOP! (he didn't respond to a request in English) after the MSC gangway crew waved them on to the second gangway which the driver confused for driving on completely. All in all, Athens was an excellent stop for us, but more of a check the box type of bucket list visit which I would not go out of my way to visit again.
  5. Ports Departure Venice: We stayed in Marghera at a hotel that would be a great value for solo travelers, but average value for groups of 3 or more. Antica Villa Graziella charges airport VCE shuttle service at 15 pp compared to typical 10pp. It was 43 for our taxi with 4 people, 6 bags, 2 backpacks, and 1 computer bag. (We usually travel light, but this cruise was during an international move, so we had to carry with us everything we need for the next 8 weeks.) We needed 2 rooms for 2 persons each, at 65 apiece. To reach the port, reception helped us arrange a taxi for 42. They arrived within 5 minutes. The bus would have been less than 15, but we simply had too many bags to make it on and off with 2 elementary age children. We declined the continental plus deli meat breakfast for a steep 7pp, and instead bought a large pack of muffins beyond security at the terminal in Venice. Our departure day happened to be a public holiday, so our plan to arrive at the port early enough to see the ship dock was a bust. Venice security was a breeze. When we normally would have boarded the ship directly, we were bussed to the unspectacular shipping port of Marghera amidst many shipping containers, so we had a disappointing view when setting sail the first day. A better value for 4 or more people pre-cruise would have been AirVenice Hotel for 113 per night room for 4, plus 6pp shuttle VCE to Hotel and 10pp shuttle Hotel to Port. Do be aware, if staying IN VENICE directly before or after your cruise, that Venice has no cars and lots of steps. Plan your transportation in advance, and don't make the mistake we did of thinking you can simply hail a water taxi with a bunch of bags, and get where you're going. Doh! Brindisi It was a pleasant little town to wander around on a quiet Sunday, but not a location I would be inclined to visit on purpose. I was glad we left the kids on board to enjoy a quiet afternoon with my husband. The port was once again primarily a shipping port and it seems to me the destination primarily serves the purpose of letting cruisers board from S. Italy. I suggest staying on the ship for a more restful day if you have already experienced small Italian towns and Roman monuments, or perhaps one of the excursions to somewhere a bit farther away. I personally refuse to book overpriced and overcrowded excursions with any cruise line, but in this particular case the duration in Port is so short, a cruise excursion might make sense. Katakolon (Olympia) From where we parked, we followed the port terminal walkway toward shore, around to the right, and eventually made a left turn under a large port terminal sign to exit the port into an obvious tourist trap. If you get off the ship early, get on the first bus you see, because it will also be the first everyone else sees, and therefore the first to leave. No need to book ahead, prices all appeared to be the same for a 2 hour visit in Olympia, leaving time at the end of the day to wander Katakolon if you so desire. We headed sharp left instead of directly ahead/right- the entry from the port is a y shaped intersection. Our bus left about 10 minutes after the one that had been straight ahead/slight right from the port exit under the sign into Katakolon. We paid 8pp for the round trip bus. Children 2-6 are 4, and under 2s are free. Older children pay adult price. Olympia is a bucket list kind of visit. It was a thrill to run out and back on the original Olympic stadium. The ruins are extensive. Bring water, wear sunscreen!! We finished 6 bottles for 4 people, refilled them all, and finished another 4 before our bus returned to the port. There are bathrooms and fresh water at the site of Olympia. There is an additional ticket charge to enter Olympia but I cannot remember how much. We did not visit Katakolon itself at all, because we were exhausted from all the sun and heat, and it basically looked like a tourist trap. More posts to follow for Mykonos, etc...
  6. Review of MSC Musica Venice-Brindisi-Katakolon-Mykonos-Piraeus/Athens-Sarandë-Dubrivnik-Venice 7 days We just got off the MSC Musica yesterday after an excellent week around the Med. I posted a mixed review with ratings of various aspects of the gluten free service after the 1st day, receiving a lot of flack from other posters here that I was complaining and ought to simply get off the ship. My mixed review of the gluten free service still stands, but did not detract from an overall great experience. Itinerary The itinerary was good (not great), but exhausting. With 7 ports in 7 days, it is best suited either for visitors who are used to fast-paced vacations and want to cram as many new destinatiins as possible into one trip, or cruisers who travel enough not to feel they are missing something if they stay on the ship. Ship Before continuing regarding the ports, a little about the ship Musica. She is a beautiful ship with a luxurious feel, but without the grand 2-story ceilings of a more modern ship like Meraviglia. I liked the layout a lot, usually possible to avoid trekking through the often smoky casino (to be fair, far far better than average air quality in the casino, but it was a bit sleepy compared to what I've observed on Carnival ships where I carefully plan my route to avoid even the stairs and elevator near the casinos. Music was good, and I had preferences which musicians I enjoyed or not. Lots of options for style, and I appreciated that the best live band was not strictly isolated to a smokey casino. Win! Dance and dance fitness instruction was energetic, fun, and easy to join. I liked that it often took place on the pool deck, rather than in the gym. One weakness is small and only 2 pools for a rather large ship-always crowded except first thing in the morning. Another weakness is missing slide or water park type area for kids (and adult thrill seekers like me). I was pleasantly surprised to find mini golf, but the hours where you can get clubs and balls, or sticks and pucks for shuffle board, were much too limited and short, so we never did work that into the busy port schedule to my and my son's disappointment. The programming for children and services were good. My son and daughter both found several of the counselors a bit mean, however. My son said that when we left them in Juniors Club for dinner, a counselor sweetly offered to get whatever a child needed food-wise or to escort a child to the bathroom, but when he asked to go to the bathroom, she groaned, rolled her eyes, and roughly grabbed his arm to take him. There was also a computer problem one morning at check in when I wanted to change his band from red to green since he earned our trust to roam the ship alone. The counselor assured me she would change his band as soon as the computers were up, not to worry. I offered to write a note, but she reassured me she would take care of it. Well, she forgot. Poor little guy was trapped in kids club like a mini jail, while his sister roamed freely, and none of the counselors believed him or my daughter that the counselor agreed with me to change it. Making matters worse, I had forgotten his ADHD medicine that morning, so both he and the counselors had a tough day. Given the circumstances, they handled the interim professionally. I should have insisted on writing the note! Shows that I watched were very good, but 9pm is my normal bedtime. I usually didn't finish 19.00 early dining until 20.30, and 2nd show typically didn't start until 22.00. Had I not been limited to MDR due to needing a gluten free meal, I would have done buffet dinner and early showing at 20.00 in order not to be nearly asleep during the shows. Quality of performances and performers both excellent. Stateroom was always clean and tidy with beds made up and folded down at correct times. State room 12159, interior fantastic, was only fair. We had a toilet problem the first day addressed immediately and received a complimentary cookie plate the following day. We had a problem with poor temperature regulation on the shower which got progressively worse, with the water cycling from unpleasantly cold to scalding hot. We called maintenance when the shower began steaming when we had it set around 22C. Someone came to check it out and agreed it was not good, and said someone would be sent to work in it. I do not know whether anyone came or not. It never steamed again, but it was still too hot to stay in at times and other times cold enough to give goose bumps. They did leave a second complementary plate of cookies and a bottle of champagne after the 2nd call to maintenance, which I though was a nice gesture even though I don't like champagne haha. The noise from the kitchen overhead kept me up a few nights, and I started taking sea sickness medicine just to help me sleep, which was a good solution. The location was convenient, and other than the kitchen, quiet while also accessible to the buffet and the kids' club area, also easy access from Port or starboard. I always cruise inside cabins for value, but with this particular itinerary being so jam packed, I might suggest a balcony or ocean view to enjoy views or the Ionian and Adriatic seas while relaxing in your room. Choose starboard side for more land views!
  7. I just got off the Musica, with my husband and I both having gluten intolerance. Strengths were Attention to avoid cross contamination 5/5 (separate kitchen and table service, not buffet), and quality/selection of food 4/5. Weaknesses were speed and timing of service, and introduction to the program. I received a generic form letter in my cabin that my "request for special care would be handled" but nothing specific regarding where to find the gluten free service. I would have to visit guest services with all the other confused cruisers boarding the same day. 2/5. Worst aspect was painfully slow service for lunch, waiting 10-15 for menus and 30-40 minutes from ordering to receiving food. Usually took an hour and I have when I normally finish a meal in 20. In the MDR for dinner, the timing was even worse, with the waiter bringing out our GF food at completely different times from the rest of the table, up to 15 or 20 minutes before or after. Very awkward! Another aspect of the poor timing was limited opening hours of the lunch dining room which made it impossible to enjoy part or sometimes any at all of your port days. I did Not inquire whether it was possible to get GF room service or a brown bag lunch, because my and my husband's sensitivity are mild enough to take our chances on the well-segregated buffet, where meats and cheeses were completely isolated from breads, cakes, and pastas, and once again from fruits and yogurts. Being lactose free or having a dairy allergy would have been more difficult to manage at the buffet than to avoid gluten. Unlike an earlier poster, I did feel like I was missing out on various parts of the menu not offered as gluten free. Most notably, there was no gluten free pizza, an enormous disappointment I must say. I also do not accept my gluten free diet gracefully in general, and I looked wistfully and lustfully at all the croissants and pastries on other's plates. Dessert in particular was less decadent with fewer choices. It was not until the last day of 7 that our server remembered to bring butter for our bread, predictably dry but served warm on all but 2 nights. With the most important factors of contamination and quality being good, I would still rate the GF service overall a 4/5 but with lots of room to improve the speed and timing. Suggestions for food choices: The king prawns were mushy, the mashed potatoes were soupy and downright awful, the pasta was not notably better than what I can fix at home (and very al dente in traditional Italian style, but otherwise good to excellent. Desserts of the day were all cakes, predictably dry just like all GF cakes, but they offset most with thick layers of cream so all in all quite good. They seemed to be cut from frozen rather than fresh, though. You can request ice cream or sherbet even if it is not listed. I kept forgetting to take menu photos most nights. I highly recommend the octopus, veal, calamari, roast beef. Husband said the moussaka was not at all authentic (he is half Cypriate so he ought to know) but nevertheless a tasty dish.
  8. They must be introverts like me, because this is the only reason I ever pay in cash in the states. Ha! Here in Germany, many breweries and bars, mostly the good ones, are still cash only.
  9. Interestingly, we were instructed NEVER to leave loose change on the table. In Germany, this is considered very rude, basically a deliberate Insult to the waiter. It sounds, though, that we should Keep the gratuity as it is on the cruise, and treat it basically the same as we would in the US. I wanted to ask, because there was a quite heated discussion on a Facebook Forum where Europeans were absolutely up in arms over the rumors that MSC might make gratuity obligatory ("They might as well just increase the cost of the cruise!"), and the Americans were accusing the Europeans of being cheapskates for considering gratuity optional in the first place. Obviously I am generalizing here, but that was the gist.
  10. Well, thank you Beamafar and SirWolf, for the correction regarding the collection, purpose, and Destination of VAT. You are wondering, Beamafar, why Americans understand it this way. I cannot speak for all, but the tipping Situation in Germany was explained in that way to me by a native German living in America, an American who previously lived in Germany, and by my professional cultural briefing Team. the explanations went something like this: "We generally do not tip in Germany, except to recognize outstanding Service, and even the, the tip is usually applied by rounding up to the nearest €5 or €10, not 18-20% as in the US. The workers are paid a fair wage, and VAT is built into the menu Price." Maybe they are connecting VAT to tipping in a circuitous way, since taxes Support the social welfare System? I once had a Situation, during our house hunting trip, when I rounded my bill up by 2 or 3 €. The waiter basically blew up at us, exclaiming, "You call this a tip? That is not even worth my time to process." He then dramatically reset the credit Card Reader, and ran the charges without the tip. When my husband explained what happened to his German academic advisor in the US, my husband said he had never seen his advisor become so angry. The advisor insisted that we did things absolutely in line with German behavior, that this waiter was trying to take Advantage of us because he assumed we were typical uninformed tourists. My question has still not been answered at all, though: Do the workers on the ship depend upon the gratuities for a living wage, or are they already compensated fairly with the gratuities structured as a Bonus for great Service, on top of fair pay for their hard work?
  11. Patrice, for the future, you can also try cruise compete. Get rid of the space and type it in your browser, because cruisecritic blocks links. It is a GREAT site, and I am able to use it as an American living in Germany, paying in US$ at the usually lower American rates, and also get American benefits. For example, US bookings receive some Kind of badge or flag on their account to get complimentary water in the Dining room, while no one else does. While I find the Situation a bit distasteful, I would have been more dismayed to discover I had to pay for water in the Dining room when I arrived! Basically, it is a Quote request sent to participating travel agents. They give you their best offer for cabin Price, OBC, etc... mine was $200 less and included OBC!
  12. We are cruising the MSC Musica this summer. I want to better understand the tipping Situation on European Cruises. I want to hear from People who REALLY know the EUROPEAN cruise market, not just People who want to share their strong opinions about tipping in the US that they have extrapolated to Europe without firsthand knowledge. Are gratuities "optional" in the same way they are in the US, where basically the cruise lines remove gratuity from the fare to make it appear cheaper, but the workers depend upon this income? Or are they truly optional, reserved for exceptional Service, or something in between. I want to be very clear: In the USA, gratuities are automatic, but not required. I would never, ever consider removing gratuity for myself or my children for an US sailing. The workers depend upon These tips to make a living wage. The tipping Situation throughout most of Europe is very different, however. I have lived in Germany for almost 2 years, and I am well Aware that tipping is truly reserved for exceptional Service, and that Service workers are partly compensated with VAT, value added tax, that basically acts as an automatic tip if you want to consider it that way. I believe this is true throughout most of Europe, including Italy where we depart from. I must admit, though, that I am not certain about VAT in Grecian ports, and whether the local port laws or the Point of origin laws apply.
  13. I am booked for MSC Musica this summer, cruising the Med to mostly Grecian ports. Can someone advise whether digital photos are included or not? How much are the digital Images? Are some Events excluded on the Mix&Match offer (although to be honest, I would insist on them showing me These exclusions if they tried to prevent me from choosing a particular photograph)? Do you get to choose the size of each photo you select, or are you basically at the mercy of the photo Printer, and if they print it in, say, 5x7, you get a 5x7, like it or lump it? We would like to purchase a photo package, but I cannot tell whether or not digital photos are included or not. The description reads, "All Events Inclusive Photo Package – Offered exclusively online Book Now and Save up to an amazing 50% vs Onboard Price! Including: Up to 50 printed photographs (Embarkation day, Studio portraits, Dining room moments, Sail away parties, Meeting the captain, and more) Possibility to choose your favourite photos printed onboard Our photographers will catch the important moments onboard. Capturing the memories of your cruise vacation is fun and easy with this photo service. The all-inclusive package includes photos for guests staying in the same cabin and is valid for one sail date only, it is not applicable for back to back cruises and does not include Wedding, Group Photos and Private Photo sessions." By comparison, other packages read, "Mix&Match 40 photos Book Now and Save 80% vs Onboard Including: Possibility to choose your 40 favorite photos taken onboard by our Photographers with a variety of frames, backgrounds, and candid shots ranging in size from 13x17cm (5x7) to 30x35cm (12x14) printed in the photo gallery. With so many great pictures to choose from you won’t want to pick just one, boon now this package and you don't have to. Smile when you see our photo team, the more pictures you take the more options you have to choose from. With this offer, you will additionally get 50% discount on digital copies of your selected photos." So, does that mean that with the All-Events-Inclusive package you already get the digital Images as one might understand "All-inclusive", or that you receive neither the digital Images nor the digital Image Discount? The 50 photo All Events inclusive costs $177 with digital Situation not defined, while the Mix&Match40 costs $189 with clear 50% off digital. I am confused as to why the 40 Image package is priced higher than the inclusive one.
  14. Sounds like there is really no need to skip Delos from the Mykonos port day. Does anyone know if there is snorkeling off the beach in Mykonos?
  15. Hi there! We are excited about our MSC cruise in July with a stop in Brindisi. Due to only a short time in port (5 hours), I have decided to limit my options to a ship sponsored shorex (Alberobello or Lecce) -the more costly option- or a nearly no-cost self guided walking tour of the city center. I have created a small walking tour map based on sites people liked from tripadvisor, and I would appreciate any feedback you have- things to add or skip? Any votes in favor of spending $200 instead to do a ship sponsored tour to either Alberobello or Lecce? thanks in advance! https://drive.google.com/open?id=1BZVyM-NNWMrR9L__c3Ks-rGOgvGWzM3-&usp=sharing
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