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Posts posted by tropicbird

  1. Spirit that bad?


    We have scheduled a Spirit flight Boston to Ft Lauderdale in January the day before the cruise, should I be worried?


    Not so much that Spirit is bad or good, but that they differ from legacy airlines in some important ways (this applies to Frontier and Allegiant as well):


    Spirit flies point to point, without hubs. So if you miss a flight, it may not be possible to reroute via another connection, you just have to wait until the next flight from your point of origin. Legacy carriers with hubs can often get you to a hub and from there on to your destination. (and as I noted above, Spirit does not transfer passengers to another airline in case they are unable to accommodate)



    Spirit rarely has additional aircraft available in case of mechanical issues. Legacy carriers can often swap out a plane in case of mechanical issues.


    Spirit has a limited flight schedule, so "the next flight" may not be for a few days. On legacy carriers there are often multiple flights per day, so the difference can be hours vs. days.


    Ultra low cost carriers may have advantages (I've used them from time to time for various reasons) but never with the expectation that I have to be somewhere at a certain time. For example, whenever I fly into a larger airport to connect to overseas, I always choose a large hub and spoke carrier with multiple departures and always take a flight that is not the last to depart before my connection, that way I have at least one, or more, additional options in case things go south.

  2. If it was a non-weather cancellation, the airline should have rebooked them on another airlines. That’s what they should have demanded yesterday.





    Recall that Spirit does not have interline agreements with any other carriers. This is something that is seen more often with legacy mainline carriers, but is not required. Spirit, Frontier, etc. DO NOT re-book on other carriers. You MAY have success with a legacy carrier like Delta, American, etc.


    Also, consider choosing airlines with daily (and multiple daily flights).

  3. Just returned from the 6/11-6/18 sailing of Oosterdam (Juneau, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Ketchikan).


    From the ship had the following cetaceans:


    Humpback Whale - 103 (seen each day other than sailaway from Seattle. 40+ at the seaward entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca on 6/17)


    Orca - pod of 5 at south end of Chatham Strait


    Sei Whale - 3 lunge feeding within 100 yards of the ship while sailing west of the Queen Charlotte Islands on 6/12


    Fin Whale - 1 west of Queen Charlotte Islands


    Harbor Porpoise - daily


    Pacific White-sided Dolphin - only seen one day, 6/16 in Hecate Strait


    Not whales, but still cool:

    Sea Otter - perhaps a dozen to twenty while sailing out of Sitka


    Laysan and Black-footed Albatrosses - west of Vancouver Island


    Mola mola (Ocean Sunfish) - Strait of Juan de Fuca


    Harbor Seal - moms with pups on ice floes at Hubbard Glacier (20-25 total)


    Steller Sea Lion - daily


    So, yes, you can see whales from the ship. But many of them are distant and you travel past wherever they happen to be fairly quickly. For great looks, take a whale watching shore excursion, especially from Juneau.


    We did and added the following to the totals above:


    Humpback Whale - 5

    Orca - pod of 6 with one adult male

    Harbor Porpoise - 2


    To be fair, I spent more time looking than the typical cruiser would, and therefore likely saw some things that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. Optics used included Vortex Razor 8x42 binoculars and a Kowa 82mm spotting scope with 20-60x zoom. Average observation time per day was about 2-3 hours. Observations from our balcony (6th deck, port side) or the Crow's Nest (enclosed lounge with windows offering views over the bow)


    Happy cruising (and whaling!)

  4. You can "see" whales from the ship, but recall the ship often travels at ~20mph. Whales stay down 3-5 minutes between "breaths". Math says that you often just get a glimpse before you're too far away to really get much out of the encounter (you've traveled a mile and a half while the whale has probably moved a hundred yards). Typically whales seen from the ship are not particularly satisfying, but do allow one to "check the box". I've seen Sperm, Pilot, Cuvier's Beaked, Humpback, etc. but none of the views were as "good" as on a dedicated boat.


    Tours will take you right up to the whales and stay with them as they move around (yes, within strict Federal limits (yes, which are often "bent", there's a handy loophole))


    I usually take a birding spotting scope (telescope) along with me, which allows for much better viewing, but even then, the ship doesn't stop or angle toward the whales when spotted, whereas the whale watching tours do.


    And while all the whale watch companies sport fantastic pictures of breaching whales, recall that whales typically don't do much. Expect blows and tail flips ("fluking"), be quite happy if you see feeding activity, feel blessed if you see a breach (took me 20+ whale watching trips to get a humpback breach, and even then I saw that from the beach!)

  5. Interesting article in the New York Times on the Canal amplification project. There are several neat graphics embedded in the piece showing the operation on the locks, etc.


    Warning: the article raises a number of concerns about the project, usability, safety, etc.


    Those of us who love the PC hope none of these come to pass! (but it will be interesting to see... are the new tugs safe enough... is there enough room??)







  6. Don't get too caught up on semantics. While there is a specific difference between Customs and Immigration, the words are often used interchangeably in casual context, and most people don't really care about the difference between the two.


    I think we know what everyone means, the dreaded bureaucracy of parading by early in the morning with passport in hand. The last time I ran this route, it took a ridiculous amount of time and was a real pain in the keister. Folks were missing non-ship sold shore excursions due to long lines and not enough inspectors.


    Interestingly, cruise lines can apparently get waivers, as I've done several trips on Royal Caribbean that visited a non-US port and then come to a US "port call" before returning to a US home port, where we did not need to do the "passport hustle".


    Glad to hear that this process has been relatively trouble-free lately. We are doing the NA Western in March and will get to participate in the "security" procedures in EYW.

  7. Hurricane might be a bit of a stretch. The current model runs vary quite a bit on this storm, and there is a very good chance that it will go the way of Danny, which is to dissipate. And current satellite loops are showing a very unimpressive storm indeed.


    One of the more "optimistic" models has Erika surviving to be a TROPICAL STORM off Florida, but it's still just too early to make much of a presumption.


    Recall that El Nino years like this one are usually "very good" to Caribbean cruisers. The same weather patterns that create the El Nino usually create high wind shear across the Caribbean. This suppresses tropical cyclone development below what might otherwise be the case.


    Hurricane Hunters are scheduled to be in the storm this evening, and the resultant wx data should provide better model runs over the next day or two.

  8. I've found it hard to even find Belizian dollars, and the prices of items in tourist areas are usually in USD. The last trip we were able to secure some Belizian notes for souvenir purposes, but one of the clerks had to disappear for a while to procure them!

  9. You won't know in advance which lane of locks you'll pass through, so it's not possible to predict which side of the ship will face "out" or "in".


    As far as the canal itself, there's not much difference between the scenery on the east or west side.


    Choose your cabin based on other factors (like average direction of the sun with relationship to the cabin, etc).

  10. Since the ship is in port for 13 hours I can see how the trip would be possible, but the information on it being only 8 hours round trip.... I'd like to see the math on that one. You would have to fly in at least one direction to make that happen.


    Let's just say that I would not be making any dinner reservations that night.


    It is 4 hours by boat and bus each way, plus whatever time they give you at the site. If you leave COZ at 10:30, assuming you really get 3 hours off the bus, you'll be back around 9:30 p.m.

  11. Entrance to the park includes the Sea Lion show, but not swimming with the dolphins (or sea lions, or manatees).


    If your ship tour includes swimming with the (insert name of animal here) then you might be closer to the price of doing it on your own. But you can also purchase this at the park.


    Cozumel is one of those ports where there is little chance of the ship leaving you (unless you happen to pass out somewhere). Taxi from the pier to the park is about $10 and there are a line of cabs waiting to take you back. The ride is less than 10 minutes (you can see the ships from the park).


    I'd recommend just doing it on your own.

  12. Absolutely beautiful city. I was there (single traveler) in September for 4 days. I felt much safer than in most large cities in the U.S. The historic walled city is well worth the visit, as is the huge Spanish fort overlooking town and the La Popa convent. US tourists have not really discovered Cartagena yet, so prices are amazingly reasonable (like $3-4 for a 15 minute cab ride or $1 for a beer)


    I used Guianza Express for a city tour and was quite pleased.

  13. No. Only if you are coming directly from a country with endemic Yellow Fever is there a requirement, and the cruises don't meet that. If you were flying in from Brazil, yes. They are trying to make sure people don't ARRIVE with YF, not so much concern about people getting it there.

  14. I believe that you will get a better deal with pesos. The only place that I saw prices in USD were in the Bovedas shops in the walled city (and they are overpriced anyway). Local taxis (which are amazingly cheap) will probably want pesos (and small bills)... I had a hard time breaking the 50,000 peso notes.

  15. Yellow Fever is not something a casual visitor is likely to pick up. If you were camping in the back country in the Amazon basin, maybe, but as a day tripper on a cruise, no. The reason Colombia requires the vaccination for some travelers is to keep people from bringing it IN from places that have it, not so much to keep you from getting it there. Since you are not coming from a place with endemic YF, there is no requirement.


    Typhoid and Hep A and B are always a good idea, but there is nothing particular about this cruise that would make it more or less likely (i.e. you would want to take the same precautions going to Jamaica or Mexico)

  16. Coba is very spread out. Several small groups of ruins sprinkled across a large area of jungle. Most visitors ride bikes or pedicabs to get between the groups. This makes for a different experience than the ruins where everything is generally in one location. Coba has 2 ball courts 2 large pyramids, and dozens of smaller structures. Most are still surrounded by jungle. There are very few remaining engravings or stucco left at Coba, although there are generally more stelae than at other sites (but most of these are significantly weathered).


    My understanding of Xunantunich is that it is more of a condensed, single site and the ruins there have more (original or reconstructed) stucco and "decoration".

  17. There is a counter at the end of the maze of shops, just before the taxi stands. Similar prices and similar vehicles (usually pretty beat up) but then again you are not going very far. Take note of the location of the gas station and note ALL damage on the car when you pick it up.

  18. At the end of the dock, just before the taxi stand, is a row of rental counters. Both major and local companies. Prices generally similar. Cars generally much more beat up that you would expect in the states, but then again, you are not going far! Note that they will generally want the car back by 5 pm or so.

  19. I'm going on record to say 8 hours would not be possible from Cozumel (except via airplane). Figure an hour for the ferry to PDC, and then a solid 3 hours to CI... so 4 hours in transit each way... leaving no time at the site. There are only 2 ways to get there from PDC, the toll road (involving driving up to Cancun and then west) or via Coba (involving driving south to Tulum and then west). There is no new road other than the toll road. Are closer ruins (Coba or Tulum) being substituted?

  20. So we leave on Dream Saturday and still have "to be assigned" on our reservation (guess there is no point in bothering to print luggage tags!).


    We booked a guarantee inside. What have folks been assigned (original cat/assigned cat) WHEN THE GUARANTEE WAS NOT ASSIGNED UNTIL SAIL DAY? (I realize lots of guarantees are assigned in the weeks and days prior to sailing) The rumour mill has it that the longer you wait to get a cabin, the better it *might* be.


    Just wonder what we will draw (and before the flamers crack knuckles and get to work... I am perfectly happy with any old inside cabin (although since we have 3 in the room, I suspect the old upper/lowers are not a concern) ... not expecting or presuming that we will be upgraded. The guarantee was the only thing available at the time of booking)


    Happy cruising!

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