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About SoCalTraveler

  • Rank
    Cool Cruiser

About Me

  • Location
    Los Angeles
  • Interests
    Genealogy, traveling
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Princess, Celebrity, AMA
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call

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  1. Replying to a post above, I'm not aware of any sharing with staff of those hotels who charge a resort or destination fee. (IMHO, resort or destination fees are simply a way of advertising a lower price.)
  2. I heard of this happening on one of our RCCL trips when the restaurant decided to host a murder mystery dinner at about $60 per person, above the then specialty restaurant charge. Some folks with reservations were disappointed, and I don't blame them.
  3. This happens in all travel settings. I understand how frustrating it is. We've arrived at hotels to find out there is no room at the inn. (My people have had this problem before, but DW will not stay in a manger without room service.) We had a hotel do this to us earlier this year. As to more extensive arrangements, we had a tour operator cancel a 14 day escorted tour on the last possible day, 60 days out, because it had only sold 29 slots and 30 was its minimum. We, too, have work schedules that could not be altered at that point and had already booked and paid for flights. It took multiple fights with our then travel agent to get our money back. We got refunded in three separate credits over a period of months and all after we returned from the trip. (we were required to pay in full so much earlier that disputing the credit card charge was not a possible path. I would keep pressing customer service to make this right.
  4. If you bank with Bank of America, they have a no fee deal with Scotiabank, which has ATMs all over Vancouver. When we wrre just there, we spent about CAN$100 that we had left over from prior trips, but we could have charged most of that. Getting local currency from a local ATM is always the best rate.
  5. On our Canada/New England cruise, we had luggage tags inserted into the hard plastic holders. Then could not find them. So we went to the dock, the staff put cheap tags on, and our bags arrived promptly. When we got home, we found the missing luggage tags.
  6. 1. Bring Euros with you for incidentals between landing at the airport and the cruise. (Taxis, snacks, etc.) The best rates here will be at big banks, but those rates are still not great. We bring $100-$200 in Euros. I use B of A, which has comparable rates to Wells Fargo. I have easy access to a money changer who will, reluctantly, match B of A. Check on line with B of A for the exchange rate. You can also go to a number of sites such as XE.Com for the rate if you are buying $100,000 worth of Euros. That's the approximate rate, plus a conversion fee, your credit card company will use plus a conversion fee. Our experience is the $100,000 rate, plus the conversion fee, is still a better deal than buying Euros here. 2. Charge everything you can to a no-foreign-transaction-fee card. If presented with a choice by the merchant choose the local currency as your bank's conversion rate will be the best. Make sure you have notified your credit and debit card issuer. If at all possible, use a different card from the one your cruise charges post to. Princess will tell your credit card issuer that you are in Santa Clarita, CA. RCCL will tell them you are in Miami. It confuses the computers and generates warnings. If your credit card company calls you, you won't get back to them fast enough. 3. If you need Euros in Europe, get them from an ATM. Make sure you have a 4 digit PIN; some European ATM's will not accept a longer PIN. Some banks (and perhaps Schwab) will rebate fees. Bank of America has a no-fee network. See this link: https://locators.bankofamerica.com/international.html We have found that B of A, even where the list geographically limits the bank, there were no fees regardless of the country for participating banks. So, for example, we got Euros at a BNP Paribas branch in Venice without fee. Here's what B of A says: (And I believe First Republic is affiliated with B of A.) Traveling Internationally? Use your Bank of America ATM or debit card at one of our International partner ATMs and avoid the non-Bank of America ATM $5 usage fee for each withdrawal, transfer or balance inquiryFootnote1 as well as the ATM operator access fee. Barclays United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey and the Channel Islands) BNP Paribas (France) BNL D'Italia (Italy) Deutsche Bank (Germany and Spain) UkrSibbank (Ukraine) TEB (Turkey) Scotiabank (Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, and the Caribbean countries: Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Maarten, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos Islands, and US Virgin Islands) Westpac Bank (Australia and New Zealand) China Construction Bank (Mainland China, excluding Hong Kong) Bank of America will assess an international transaction fee of 3% of the converted US dollar amount.Footnote2 Foreign ATM operators may offer to do your currency conversion for you, but they may charge a higher fee for conversion. To insure that your currency conversion does not incur a fee higher than 3%, you may refuse the ATM operator's offer to convert the amount of the transaction. Note: Participation in this program is subject to change, please review participating Financial Institutions prior to traveling internationally and using International Partner ATMs.
  7. I also do not recall seeing wine in the store. Moreover, I would never bring alcohol into Abu Dhabi. It's liable to bring scrutiny. Unless your hotel has a bar, pass on drinking for those few days. When in Rome ...
  8. We cruised out of Los Angeles on the Carnival Inspiration. At least one of the prior posters here said that Carnival had a reputation as the "Walmart of the Seas." I believe my review of that cruise said that Carnival was not like the good Walmart. We had bad service in the dining room. Even when the maitre'd intervened and promised we would get our drinks before the main course, Carnival had trouble delivering. (Here's a tip: if you serve folks drinks right away, they might order a second round.) One morning it was a multi pronged effort to get a cup of tea. Another day my son wanted tater tots, but they would only deliver two at a time. (I ordered two for everyone in our group to solve that.) Another time Carnival could not deliver French Fries. My son got up, went to the buffet, got French Fries, and returned. The maitre'd chastised him for bringing food in. The maitre'd did nothing about the missing French Fries. (They were on the menu that day for lunch.) We're still waiting. On the Inspiration that cruise, the outside cabins were kept at a steady 55F. (January in Los Angeles) The kids next door would not stop pounding on our walls, even after an officer intervened. Entertainment one night was watching a couple (this is a family site) in the other Jacuzzi. Staff did not care. We went to a show one afternoon which ran late, so they let the bingo players in and sold bingo cards from the stage, making watching the show impossible. The cruise director said, "Bingo must go on as scheduled." Carnival sells beer. Much like Justice Kavanaugh, I like beer. What I don't like is sitting on or stepping on beer caps around the pool areas. Carnival staff did not care. You could watch them (when not watching the couple in the other Jacuzzi) walk past caps, bottles, empty glasses and assorted other debris. This is the only cruise I have ever been on where I removed tips. We gave cash to our steward, who was barely OK, and cash to our waiter/assistant on the theory that we would have tipped 5-10% on shore for their combined bad service. Would I take Carnival again? Yes, if it met my schedule and went somewhere I wanted to go. For this cruise, it was the opportunity to get 12 relatives together. However, I'd have my eyes open. And if you like even a bad Walmart, well, then, Carnival is for you.
  9. A few observations: I've booked on board, in part in response to promotions which stated book early for the best room and rate. That sometimes turns out not to be true. I've gotten Carnival/Princess to give me the better rate. On the Caribbean Princess cruise, Princess unexpectedly wrote to us, told us the price had fallen $100 pp, and gave us an on board credit. On one of our RCCL cruises, a much better offer showed up, and RCCL claimed that if we cancelled to get the better offer, that RCCL would figure it out, and charge us the old, higher price. I've had a senior executive at RCCL say that their pricing, rates and promotions are "bewildering." I don't think that's an accident. I can't recall any cruise where the cancellation penalties were not obvious. We always use or own TA, and she imposes a modest non-refundable fee as well. From a legal perspective in the states, the UK, Canada and other countries, you enter into a contract. You agree to pay X, and the cruise line agrees to take you on a cruise. If you breach that contract by non-payment, the cruise line is entitled to its damages (i.e., the price of the cruise less what you paid already), but probably has a duty to mitigate, that is, to sell your cabin to someone else. If they get more than you paid, the line has no damages. To eliminate the obvious proof issues, cruise lines specify cancellation penalties in their contract. The cruise line is free to waive cancellation penalties, especially if you book another cruise.
  10. Muster stations are related to the lifeboats that will be used by that muster station.
  11. The "air supply" is not limited, especially in the art gallery area. It might get warmer and slightly more humid, but there is more than enough air. It's a matter of physics. One might get anxious about being stuffed in a crowd (it makes me uncomfortable), and standing in a crowded area might be uncomfortable. But the "air supply" is more than adequate to support everyone there. I'm there for a refresher course on what to do in an emergency. As noted above, I was on a ship that later sank with great loss of life. As best as I can determine, no one ever suffocated from being at a muster drill.
  12. We've done muster drills outside (standing) and inside (generally standing). I have yet to hear of anyone actually running out of air. The ship is not designed with seating capacity sufficient for every passenger in the rooms where the drills are held. (See above for the problems using dining rooms). Sine the drills are conducted generally at the muster station, no ship is designed with that much seating capacity at the muster stations. Having survived enough problems (emergency landing, helicopter crash, two terrorist bombings, boiler explosion, 4 high rise fires, etc.), I'm glad that they are running the muster drill. The Yarmouth Castle, on which I sailed in 1964, burned and sank in 1965, with great loss of life.
  13. My experience is that auto gratuities show up everyday on the bill. We check our bill every few days. On my first two cruises (see signature) gratuities were cash in envelopes. Every cruise since then has had auto gratuities, and on every cruise we have also tipped extra. It's just part of the cost. Except for the Carnival Inspiration. You can search out my review. And even there, I gave cash gratuities on the theory that I would have tipped a shoreside waiter 5 or 10% even with exceptionally poor service.
  14. On our first cruise of the "modern era" (see my signature block) we had purchased two first class tickets to wherever American flew in North America at a charity event. (No tax deduction, the value of the tickets exceeded what we paid.) We decided to go on a cruise out of San Juan. American could not/would not put us on the one non-stop per day from LAX so we elected to change at JFK. Our red eye to JFK was on time, and we boarded a morning flight to San Juan and pushed back. We then circled JFK (under construction, which began in 1947 and is expected to be finished in 20-30 years). The pilot determined that the radio did not work, so we went back to the gate and waited for repairs. The radio was swapped out and, about two hours later, we pushed back again and visited JFK's construction sites. Lined up to take off and stopped. The radio did not work. Back to the gate. Two hours later we pushed back again. Radio replaced again. We pushed back and, for the third time, the radio failed. The pilot cancelled the flight. American had 3 or 4 flights to San Juan yet that day. Full. Standby full, including first class standby. American reservations suggested we fly first class to LAX, and then take two seats which had materialized on the LAX to San Juan flight. We declined to cross the country three times in 24 hours. (I've flown to New York and to Jacksonville from LAX just for the day on business.) American then produced a spare plane and we quickly loaded. We arrived after dark in San Juan. Let's leave out what the hotel mess was. Suffice it to say, the hotel where we had a confirmed reservation did not have a room for us, we were "walked" to an unsatisfactory substitute (no food service-did you think we had a meal all day?) and then moved by central reservations to another hotel, where the only food service available was Chinese fast food in the casino. We had a great two week B2B on the Caribbean Princess. So that's the story, right? Nope. On the way back, we took a Princess tour from the ship, through the rain forest, ending at the airport. (Great tour, well worth it.) That morning, as soon as we had cell service, we checked in with American. Remember that cancelled flight? Well, putting us on the substitute flight, American had cancelled the reservations for everyone on the flight for any future including us. There were no seats available in any class out of San Juan to New York. Except they could fly us to LAX and back to JFK. I spoke with American, who admitted it was their fault and told us there were a bunch of us coming off the CP whose reservations were cancelled. They offered to put us up overnight and have us go standby the next day. (There were no seats available.) I suggested they round up a Gulfstream V. Well, when we got to the airport, American had added a second section of our original flight, and we got to JFK in time to see the construction zones again. So would I fly in the day of the cruise? Nope. Now, on the other hand, we got everywhere we were supposed to be, safely, as did our luggage. American generously and without prompting deposited a bunch of miles to our account. And the first hotel paid for both substitute hotels, food, drinks and gave us 30,000 points. Having been in an emergency landing (wings iced up in a snowstorm) and a helicopter crash, this trip was a great success.
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