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Host Jazzbeau

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About Host Jazzbeau

About Me

  • Location
    New York
  • Interests
    Jazz, food, wine
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    the next one
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call

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  1. Host Jazzbeau

    Sky Suite... Butler?

    Right, I get that at the airport for free!
  2. I don't know for sure. We were scheduled to leave Dover at 6 pm and we didn't arrive at Greenwich until 12:45 pm the next day. [I had questioned them to make sure they meant PM!] I didn't really pay attention to what happened between 6 pm and early morning [we got back to the ship after a long shore excursion shortly before 6 and I rushed to the theater for the Captain's farewell (already in progress), then the Chef's Table for dinner at 7, then collapse ]. I think the real point of the 18 hour sail was to get the shops open one last time, and then to have a dramatic sail up the Thames [and through the Thames Barrier] in late morning when everybody would be able to witness it [and the narration by one of our history speakers]. That was really nice. Unfortunately when we arrived in Greenwich the process of securing the ship to the floating dock took a long time, and there was another long wait before the first tender pulled up [it reminded me that Great Britain is an island – because we were certainly on 'island time' ]. We jumped on that tender and made the most of a short afternoon at the Observatory and Royal Naval College – because we had to get back onboard for a very early dinner and then the optional excursion to the London Eye.
  3. Host Jazzbeau

    Flash sale for Edge

    Tour prices tend to go up as the cruise gets closer, and I haven't seen better than 20% sales – so jump on this.
  4. Host Jazzbeau

    Amsterdam Airport

    It's the "if your flight is on time" part that can ruin your trip. This past year we have had a lot of flights delayed – in May JFK to AMS left over 5 hours late! Thankfully we had added 2 extra days at the beginning of our trip, so the missed connection didn't ruin it completely.
  5. Host Jazzbeau

    The Douro? What Do You Think?

  6. Host Jazzbeau

    The Douro? What Do You Think?

    Another option is to book the AMA one-way cruise through Backroads. It costs more, but they include special shore excursions every day [with a focus on hiking]. There will still be a ride from the ship to the good stuff, but in a smaller van. Also the itinerary is much more varied [we were turned off the regular AMA – and every other river line – itinerary because it seemed to be port tasting, port tasting, port tasting...]
  7. Host Jazzbeau

    Shore excursion to Pompeii

    It's easy enough to get to Pompeii and back on your own (assuming your cruise port is Naples): Take Tram #1 to Piazza Garibaldi train station (5-10 min.) then the Circumvesuviana train (dest. “Sorrento”) from Porta Nolana to Pompei Scavi (40 min). Coming back, get off the train at Porta Nolana and then walk through Naples to see the Duomo. If you want a low-cost guided tour of Pompeii, join the "Rick Steves shared tour" mondoguide.com More details about how to do this are in the Rick Steves books that cover Naples (e.g. Italy, and Mediterranean Cruise Ports)
  8. Host Jazzbeau

    Celebrity Cruisers Thinking About Trying Azamara

    Thanks, that's really good to know. With the Elite discount it would be really worthwhile.
  9. Host Jazzbeau

    Included tours: is that it?

    We found that the included tours on the British Isles Explorer itinerary were all very basic, and ended up not taking any of them. We did pay for 4 optional tours, with very mixed results. Thankfully we were able to arrange private tours through the Roll Call for most of the ports, and they worked out very well.
  10. DW and I returned several weeks ago from a wonderful cruise on Viking Sun: the British Isles Explorer itinerary from Bergen, Norway to Greenwich, England.  A complete day-by-day blog and lots of pictures are posted here: jazzbeauxbritishislescruise2018.wordpress.com  Here is the text of the review [last post on the blog]: This was our 19th cruise, on ships ranging from 100 to 2,852 passengers, putting Viking Sun at the smaller end – but it always felt like a much bigger ship in terms of space [never crowded], seaworthiness [a very smooth sailer], and options [dining and entertainment]. Our first reaction on boarding Sun was: Wow! She is so elegant and luxurious [Four Seasons, rather than the snide claim of IKEA], and very well laid out. Soft, unobtrusive music plays in the background in public areas [so much nicer than the jarring music on Celebrity lately]. As we explored the ship throughout the cruise, every area was just stunning! Not just to look at, but even to touch: soft coverings, e.g. leather on all the handrails, gave an elegant feel. Cabin: Our cabin, 5082 [PV1 category] was spacious, bright, and well appointed with unusual touches like the heated bathroom floor [now adjustable] and the self-opening drapes. Plenty of storage [and we pack heavy]. The location was quiet and convenient. Staff: This was the one area where Viking didn’t quite measure up to the best of the other cruise lines we have sailed. Our cabin attendant [who was very good] was the only person on board who learned our name throughout this 14-night cruise. We have been spoiled by Azamara, so it felt odd that we never saw the ‘stripes’ out mingling with the guests – that provides easy avenues for feedback on Azamara [which is acted on immediately] and also gives the ship’s staff a personality. Food: The food was excellent, and being able to visit the specialty restaurants as often as we liked [at no extra charge] made the cruise feel very luxurious. We dined in the main dining room [imaginatively called The Restaurant ] six times, The World Café once, Manfredi’s twice, [on shore once], and – to our surprise – the Chef’s Table four times [because the menu changed every two days, so there were no repeats]. Not every dish was a hit [duck was always dry and I had to send one steak back], but we enjoyed every meal and would rate the food on Viking Sun up there with our best prior cruises including AmaWaterways, Azamara, and Celebrity’s Luminae suites restaurant. Most of the included wines were acceptable, and if you didn't like them you had three choices to upgrade: the beverage package [no good for us because both cabin mates have to buy it], buying a bottle from the wine list [fairly priced], or even bringing wine on board [no corkage fee – very unusual on ocean cruises!] The Chef's Table was a real highlight. The portions are small enough that DW didn't feel stuffed, and the presentation is stepped up a notch from the MDR. The premium wine pairings were well chosen [and since DW doesn't drink at all, they were comped for me – which made them taste even better!] Note that you can only make two reservations each for Manfredi’s and the Chef’s Table in advance, but once on board we had no trouble making all the additional ones we wanted. Entertainment: Small ships generally have smaller budgets for entertainment – but Viking Sun again punched well above its weight. The four main show singers were as talented as any we have seen at sea [maybe the fact that they didn’t have to dance much allowed the casting director to focus on singing], and the show band was excellent and sounded like there were more musicians than we could see. The specialty acts were very good, and it was especially apropos that the first one played Norwegian music as we overnighted in Bergen. Most surprising was the amount of enrichment: four speakers on a wide range of topics. Casino, Art Auctions, Photographers, Kids: One of the nice things about Viking Ocean ships is that they don’t have any of these! It makes for a much more refined and laid-back atmosphere, and it frees up more space for general public use. Shops: We browsed a very little bit and weren’t tempted by anything. But we really enjoyed that no one was pushing us to buy ‘gold by the inch’ or anything else. Most times we walked by the boutiques, the salespeople were standing around talking to each other – so maybe Viking could free up even more public space by cutting these functions down [or out]. Itinerary: This was the British Isles Explorer itinerary, from Bergen, Norway to Greenwich, England. Viking uses Bergen as the start or end port on many of its cruises – both because this is their ships’ homeport and because Norway’s status outside the EU means they don’t have to worry about charging VAT onboard. But Bergen isn’t the easiest city to fly into, so we started our trip in Oslo and took the scenic train across Norway: an excellent decision! After that, we enjoyed every port and felt that the itinerary was very well thought out to give a well-rounded introduction to the British Isles [and Ireland]. Starting in the North was also a good decision, as the scenery began with stark beauty and became more lush as we went along; that also worked well with late-summer weather, although we had ‘fine soft weather’ almost every day. And ending in Greenwich gave us a very scenic [narrated] sail up the Thames. Excursions: Viking justifies the prices on its ocean ships in part because of the included excursion in each port – but after studying the available options we ended up not taking any of them. They also offer a wide range of optional choices, but most of them seem like the standard tours available on other cruise lines [at similar prices]. So we followed our usual practice of arranging private tours and lowering the price by sharing with members of our Cruise Critic Roll Call – this worked out well for us, but it is sometimes difficult on Viking Ocean because fewer people are looking beyond the ‘free’ choices. We did take four Viking optional excursions, because they were things that couldn’t be done easily or safely on our own. A Taste of Norwegian Farm Life was excellent, and gave us a nice glimpse of living in the countryside near Bergen. The Knockan Crag Hike in Ullapool was also very good [despite the infestation of midges that drove us crazy] – we could have done this on our own, but the short tender call would have made getting back to the ship stressful. Ancient Castle & Abbey Tavern in Dublin was much less satisfying; Malahide Castle was worthwhile, but the time in Howth was entirely devoted to a pub and the guide and driver were not ready for prime time. London and the London Eye was well-planned, but torrential rain put a wet blanket on it [I like my puns intended ]. Summary: Viking Ocean joins the short list of cruise lines we hope to sail again. There are only two things that may prevent that: (1) the prices are high if you don’t take the included excursions, and (2) the itineraries are mostly pretty plain-vanilla – we have reached the point that we want intensive itineraries that really let us get to know a country or area [like the Azamara Costa Rica-intensive cruise we did last January, or the circumnavigation of Iceland we are doing on Ponant next year]. I hope that as Viking adds more and more ocean ships, they will get more adventuresome with their itineraries – because we would like to be back! Again, you can find a complete day-by-day blog and lots of pictures here: jazzbeauxbritishislescruise2018.wordpress.com
  11. Host Jazzbeau

    Celebrity Edge's Blocks Are In The House!

    On the first few days there will be Celebrity staff stationed at each door with a big push "upgrade to a suite and you can use this space too!"
  12. Host Jazzbeau

    Celebrity Cruisers Thinking About Trying Azamara

    The thing that stops me from considering the drinks package is that it wouldn't cost me $21.95 a day, but rather $43.90 – since DW doesn't drink [not even coffee]. I don't understand why Azamara won't let one person in a cabin buy it. Mass market lines like Celebrity may be worried about people taking extra bottled water for their non-paying cabin mate, but that's already free on Azamara. If I could get it for $21.95 it would be worth it.
  13. Host Jazzbeau

    Everything Viking France: Normandy, Paris, Provence

    Jazzbelle normally does the driving [so I can navigate] but she put this on me since her manual shifting is even rustier than mine. Les Baux is absolutely worth it, and you can include it with Pont du Gard in one day. Not sure if you can also squeeze in Orange [we didn't go there]. In/near Les Baux, the Carrières de Lumières is also highly recommended.
  14. Host Jazzbeau

    Everything Viking France: Normandy, Paris, Provence

    We stayed at a lovely hotel on Ile St-Louis, which is like a private neighborhood in the middle of the Seine! Highly recommend it if you don't mind being away from the 'action.' Hôtel de Lutèce 65, rue St-Louis-en-l’ile As for renting a car: we rented at CDG and drove around Paris to Chartres and on to Giverny that first day. Then after several days touring around we dropped the car in Lyon before taking a cruise down the Rhone. Saving the cost of transfers on both ends paid back the charge for a one-way rental. Also the selection is much better at CDG than at Avignon – we were able to get a Golf with auto from Hertz, which proved to be just the right size. At the end of the trip we rented a car to go from Arles to Marseilles, and Peregrina is right about the lack of auto trans in that area – I had to brush up my manual shifting skills on the mountain roads to Les Baux!
  15. Host Jazzbeau

    Is October a good time to river cruise?

    This is the safest itinerary on the Danube. The stretch west of Vilshofen has had low-water problems in the past. The issue between Vienna and Budapest was unprecedented this year, but can be handled fairly easily with a hotel in Budapest and bus to Vienna. [As an aside: Crystal Mozart's round-trip Vienna itinerary begins to look like a real winner: go upstream and downstream as far as the water allows, but with a reliable docking situation at both ends.]