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marne-c

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Everything posted by marne-c

  1. My wife Debbieand I were on Ascent for its eastbound transatlantic in April, about 5 weeks ago. There was no extra charge in Blu for a second lobster tail. In fact, the waiter recommended to Debbie that she get two, since they were on the small side. Debbie ordered two, which was the right amount of lobster for her. No extra charge for us, or for most of the dining room which was having 2+ lobster tails. --Marne
  2. Roger this big time! Or read my longer review here. --Marne
  3. @-Lew- Sounds like a great plan for Bordeaux! Besides Sonoma County, Paso Robles has some terrific wines. A great area! --Marne
  4. @-Lew- EXCELLENT!!! Debbie and I owned a Pinot Noir vineyard in the Sonoma Coast / Russian River appellations in Sonoma County for 19 years. We were just growers, selling our grapes to a couple of artisan wineries. --Marne
  5. @Texed We indeed were together on Ascent's just-completed eastbound transatlantic. AND, as you say, I believe we have sailed together in the past. Perhaps the future too! --Marne
  6. @-Lew- Excellent! We will indeed see you on board this fall. Are you wine drinkers????? --Marne
  7. In the Istanbul port, the issue was Turkish visas. Oceania had (correctly) advised pax that B2B passengers needed them, but all others did not. However, the embarkation staff at the port wouldn't process anyone without a visa, which only were available online if (a) you had a smartphone that (b) you knew how to use, to (c) pay online with a credit card while (d) in a tent with hundreds of annoyed pax trying to use (e) primitive WiFi with dialup-speed throughput and the bandwidth of a string telephone for the entire tent. Oceania personnel did come down from the adjacent ship to correct the issue, even when alerted to it by boarding passengers. The Callao port for Lima, Peru is a container port. Its infrastructure is not designed to handle cruise ship embarkation (or, from what we heard from other pax, disembarkation, or on/off transit of passengers for port-stop ShoreEx. Embarking passengers not on Oceania hotel packages were dropped off at a seemingly random side street a mile or so from the port entrance. There was no Oceania signage nor Oceania personnel. But there were a small group of very well-meaning teenagers hired by the port trying to assist the arriving, disoriented pax. One nice young girl spoke some English. A few police loitered nearby. Scores of passengers, all with full complements of cruise luggage and many with walkers or wheelchairs, packed onto the sidewalk awaiting buses to the port. These didn't come for well over an hour, as more and more pax arrived. (Fortunately, there was no rain that day, nor hot sun.) When two buses did arrive, the more able pax pushed through the elderly and less aware pax to toss their luggage into the bus' lower compartment and jump onboard. Over half the crowd didn't fit into these buses, so they remained on the sidewalk dazed, confused and angry. Oceania could have, should have had signage and personnel at this transfer area, But no. (Amazingly, things went waaaay downhill on the bus after departing for the port blocks away. That was not an Oceania issue, but having an Oceania rep on the bus would have helped to explain the situation and to communicate to the ship the extent of the snafu.) My thoughts, @QuestionEverything: If you are going to embark in Istanbul, get a visa online before heading to the port. With decent WiFi in your hotel room or at the airport pre-cruise, it's a 5 minute task. The cost is a fraction of your cruise fare. Do this even if Turkiye's rules say you don't need one. And just don't embark, disembark or leave the ship for a port stop in Callao, Peru. --Marne
  8. Multiple things. One thing, experienced on two consecutive cruises half a world apart, was Oceania having a waaaay too hand's-off attitude at problematic embarkation ports. Another was turning off WiFi for about nine days on a 25 day itinerary. And another, again repeated, was falling very short on their signature commitment to 'the best cuisine at sea'. Regent was a much better choice. When we considered Oceania's cruise fare PLUS what we spent additionally for gratuities, shore excursions and wine, Regent was a better deal, financially. And great service. --Marne
  9. We are delighted and committed (per my sig line below) Regent pax. But our Ascent cruise was wonderful, and what a different kind of Captain can do was eye opening. --Marne
  10. I wasn't sure where to post my review. I ended up putting it on the Celebrity forum here. --Marne
  11. My wife and I now happily sail with Regent, after Oceania twice in a row sinned unpardonably. (See my signature line below for our cruise history.) But our dearest friends wanted to do an eastbound transatlantic with us, and a Celebrity Ascent itinerary best matched our desired timing and price point. I was dubious, since I had read here on Cruise Critic plenty of not-so-great things about Celebrity (mostly on penny-pinching). But I was willing (grudgingly) to give it a college try. Whoa! Start to finish, the cruise was excellent in every way. A major mental reset for me. Let’s start with the food, the key reason we originally left Celebrity and began a long set of Oceania cruises. The food on the Ascent was outstanding, certainly the best we have had on any cruise ever. Food preparation was spot-on throughout, even for difficult-en-masse entrees like lobster and duck. Amazingly, this held true for MDRs as well as specialty restaurants. We were AquaClass, and so could eat regularly at Blu. Again, comments on CC about Blu being boring were thoroughly wrong. We had plenty of variety, without annoying (or even noticeable) repetition. Even the buffet had terrific food, in astounding variety, sensibly and spaciously presented. So food, ten stars. The Ascent is near brand-new, having debuted right at the end of 2023. As expected, everything sparkles. The design with very well thought-out, providing plenty of venues and charming nooks-and-crannies for pax to hang out. We had nine sea days (seven of them consecutive), and the ship never felt crowded. My wife and I have and will continue to sail venerable vessels like the RSSC Navigator, so shiny-new is not a requirement for us. But it was marvelous. And there was another surprise for me. I’ve seen threads here on CC praising one or another captain or cruise director. But in 20+ years of cruising, my wife and I never had had a captain or cruise director than made any kind of impact on our on-board experience. Until the Ascent. Captain Tasos is the consummate leader — intelligent beyond measure, with a heartfelt love of people, accessible to everyone and thoroughly focused on mentoring the entire staff to radiate these same qualities. And the guy is funny as hell. On the PA and in multiple SRO theater presentations, Captain Tasos and his (much shorter) sidekick and straight man Cruise Director Alejandro had pax rolling in the aisles and (deservedly) singing his praises. It would never have occurred to me before to choose a future cruise based on the ship captain. But now Captain Tasos would add serious weight to my cruise considerations. And likely stemming from the leadership and mentorship of Captain Tasos and his hand-picked executive team, the Ascent crew has been superlative. (With one exception noted below,) they entirely have been personable, competent, on-the-spot and endlessly willing to make our cruise special. Highest marks. What else? The entertainment was plentiful, focused and competent. Granted, not much to my taste, but my taste is waaaay out there, and no cruise yet has really hit the entertainment mark for me. WiFi: This was the first time we’ve shipboard service by Starlink, and we had the best throughput and consistency we’ve ever had on a cruise. Embarkation was the smoothest and fasted we’ve ever had, an astounding experience given the 3200+ pax on this sold-out itinerary. Disembarkation was a snap too. Was there anything negative? Yes. We had a less-than-satisfactory experience with Future Cruises. (The manager later apologized abjectly.) I didn’t like the cover on our bathroom trash can. And the switch on the Infinite Veranda window and the TV remote both occasionally had Y-chromosome lockout enabled; they’d only work for my wife. But this happens at home too with the FireStick remote in our bedroom… So would we sail Celebrity Ascent again? Absolutely! We’ve already booked the westbound transatlantic this fall. Would we sail with Celebrity again on a non-EdgePlus class ship? We’d certainly consider it. So I was wrong to hesitate — we had a seriously wonderful time on Celebrity Ascent. No regrets at all. --Marne
  12. @HeinBloed It is SO great to see that you still are cruising and contributing to this great community. Waaaaay back, 17-18 years ago, I relied on your perfect advice and step-by-step photo-illustrated instructions to happily navigate cruise-stops like Venice and Warnemunde. Happily, I'm still cruising too. MANY thanks and good wishes, HeinBloed! 🐻 --Marne
  13. @forgap Thanks for the reference on Gate One Travel. I'll look them up. --Marne
  14. @forgap Debbie-wife and I will be on the RSSC Explorer in Fall 2025. I am VERY much enjoying your travelogue!!! I love your itinerary to-date. Please tell me how you planned and organized your tour. Was it DIY? Or did you work with a tour company? --Marne
  15. @catsmit Cathy: Thanks for the check-in info. We hope also to board at 11am. --Marne
  16. @catsmit Great pics! Many thanks!!! My group and I board on 14 April. A question: You note that you're at the terminal for check-in at 10am. Did you have any issues arriving at that time? (I assume that your official check-in time from Celebrity was later than 10:00.) --Marne
  17. @alserrod Wow! Fast response and great answers!!! I'll get working on buying our tickets now. Again, many thanks. --Marne
  18. @alserrod: MANY thanks for a wonderfully informative thread!!! I have a question for you after some prelimiary explanations. My wife and I, plus another couple, will be disembarking the Celebrity Ascent in Barcelona on Saturday morning, 27 April. We plan to take a taxi or Uber to Sants, then a train to Madrid. We have a dinner-show in Madrid for 6pm, but otherwise we are unscheduled that day. Since cruise disembarkations are, um, variable, we cannot be sure what time we'll actually get to Sants. But we can reasonably expect that we can be there by 11am. Using the links you've thoughtfully provided above, I note several fast trains on different lines for the late morning of 27 April. I know what class we'd like for each of the lines, and what the change fees are for them. My question: Should we buy tickets in advance for one of the lines to definitely have seats, or should we wait until we actually arrive at the station? Partly this question is 'How much do fares increase and trains fill up over 60 days?' And partially, it's 'How much easier is it to walk into the station with tickets in-hand versus buying them on the spot?' Thank you in advance for your advice. --Marne
  19. Hey, @Georgia_Peaches: I'm a fan! Do indeed get the Flight Aware. Besides useful if scary stats about on-time history, it's also really helpful in seeing what gates flights typically use. --Marne
  20. @Pcardad Thanks for that info. Good to know. —Marne
  21. My wife and I are many times Oceania cruisers, and recently have gone for Regent in a big way. (See my signature below…) But on short notice we needed to fill a couple weeks away from home, and chose to take a Panama Canal cruise on the Norwegian Bliss. What follows is my first impression after not quite three full days on board. These are my (and my wife’s) thoughts only — YMMD. I’ll admit I had MAJOR trepidations about sailing on NCL. They proved unfounded. The ship is quite nice, the staff is plentiful and very service oriented, and in general things are okay. It’s a fine cruise experience. In specific, we really like this large, near-new ship with lots of venues, and especially the wonderfully large and beautifully designed Observation Lounge. It is a pleasure sailing on a ship with updated décor, un-worn furnishings and a new, fresh-scrubbed ambiance. (Especially after our recent otherwise wonderful Oceania/Regent sailings on ships l-o-n-g overdue for refurbishment.) Our stateroom and balcony are capacious enough — just— with plenty of storage space. The balcony has simple but comfortable furniture (VERY welcome!). The bathroom design is quite accommodating — the roomy shower and long, double-fauceted sink are especially welcome. (The trash-receptacle-as-a drawer, though is a head-scratching choice.) On the downside, the safe is too small for more than a couple of wallets; our laptops and iPads wouldn’t fit unless sawn into quarters. And for me (shades of Mommy Dearest), I truly dislike staying in accommodations with nail-stud closet hangers. The non-removeable clips on the hanger rail severely inhibit rearrangement of hung clothes, and they make me assume that management feels their clientele (me and my shipmates) will steal anything unattached. To date, we’ve eaten in all three MDRs for several meals, and have had dinners in two different specialty restaurants. Food in the MDRs has been okay overall, with rare ventures into (a) wonderful and (b) awful. Our first specialty restaurant meal, in “La Cucina” was truly exceptional, start to finish. But last night’s dinner in “Ocean Blue” was largely meh. (To be fair, the sea bass was beautifully cooked.) Happily, there’s a (potentially) GREAT venue here for us — the wine bar. A very attractive space, staffed by (MANY thanks!!!) a very knowledgeable server. A pretty darn good selection of wines by the glass and bottle is on offer. Tables all have a tablet with a marvelously designed filterable presentation of each available wine. Two curious omissions, though: There are no standard table snacks — even crackers — to offset the alcohol intake. (A full charcuterie plate from the neighboring restaurant can be had.) And some lovely wine varietals are completely absent, notably zinfandel. Rhone wines, white and red, also are near no-shows. I read on CruiseCritic before we sailed that the two elevator banks are insufficient for the 4000-ish passenger count. That is true. But what I found interesting (and borderline evil) is that within a bank of elevators, different cars are on different circuits responding to different wall switches. We’ve seen something like this on ships with glass-enclosed atrium elevators — they work on different circuits than the all-metal cars. And sometimes we have seen that port-side elevators are on one circuit while the starboard elevators are on another. But never before have I seen that multiple cars on the same side operate on different circuits, and will skip your floor if you haven’t hit the button on their particular switch. The ship-only intranet and its extension to the internet has worked reasonably well. It was puzzling to set up initially (and remember, we are life-long tech folks), but with perseverance we got it. Connected just to the intranet, the NCL app proved quite useful in setting up reservations, seeing what venues and events are available, and providing guidance on how to get from here to there. Internet connections worked well enough for our needs (email and WhatsApp), but we did have to remember to deliberately turn off the connection on a browser using loginnow.com at the end of our session to stop the minute clock. On occasion though (right now as I write this), the intranet can be oversubscribed and unreachable. Now for my big turn-off — how Norwegian handles pricing. First, even before we boarded, I was very annoyed by our up-charge drink package having additional charges of 20% gratuities for the maximum computed value of possibly consumed beverages. These were added separately before boarding. I’m happy to pay gratuities on the posted value of drinks I actually consume. But to pay in advance for gratuities on 15 top-of-the-category drinks per day. Uh, no. I’m sure I agreed to this on some fine print disclosure. But to me, it’s near fraud. And on-board, my stateroom account is computed and presented in a seriously opaque way. First of all, our non-refundable on-board credits — like NCLH shareholder credit, and gifted credit from our TA — is restricted to only some kinds of on-board usage. For example, it can NOT be applied to gratuities. (*****!) Total charges on my account do not seem to relate to any definable set of individual charges. Our package includes $50 credit on ShoreEx, but I was told the credit won’t appear on my statement until after we take the tour. (Too soon to tell if true.) The net impression I’m forced to have is that accounting is deliberately obfuscated to increase revenue and bamboozle passengers. Not my kind of cruise. …So in summary, we’ll likely NOT sail with Norwegian again. But we WILL now look for ships with newer build-dates or significant refurbishments. —Marne
  22. @Georgia_Peaches I'm a BIG fan of your past posts, so I'm eager to hear what y'all have to say about Ascent. Especially so since my wife and our two closest friends and neighbors from Panama will board the Ascent in April. Sailing on an Edge-class ship will be a first for all four of us, as will our TransAtlantic itinerary. --Marne
  23. @laudergayle Wow! Super information!!!! We will do exactly that! --Marne
  24. Another voice noting full NCLH shareholder benefit while using a TA. --Marne
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