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  1. I have what will probably be viewed as a terribly naive or asked-and-answered question, and will ask for your patience in advance. We have booked hotels, cars, and flights through such sites as Travelocity, and have also booked travel directly with the hotel, airline, or car rental company -- more or less seamlessly. We are 3-star mariners with HAL, and love the line. We booked our first cruise online directly with HAL, and were assigned a HAL TA for all of the others. Those agents have all been outstanding in terms of knowledge and responsiveness. I recently noted an advertisement for cruise bookings through ***.com (I understand that we are not supposed to use the actual name, but am glad to do so if not forbidden). Upon pricing that cruise, I contacted our HAL agent, made her aware of the ***.com price, and asked to what extent HAL itself could match it. The price quoted by HAL exceeded the ***.com price by a measurable margin -- not a huge amount, but certainly enough to turn my head. So, I am interested in your experience and wisdom as to what is risked by booking through an entity other than HAL? Will our "veranda" room be located next to the engine room? Will we arrive at the pier only to be told that we have no booking at all? Stated otherwise, it is worth the extra money to book directly with a HAL agent?
  2. Most has been said already, but -- 1. Although the melee of scooters and the like is sometimes unnerving, I actually am heartened by the fact that older, less mobile folks still have the gumption to travel despite their physical limitations. We are still fortunate enough to walk about on our own, but I am not sure that I will have the nerve to travel when we are unable to move about with the assistance of other devices. In any event, there is hope for my future, as I see those so challenged living their lives and seemingly enjoying themselves despite their limitations. 2. Line-jumping is one of those things that absolutely drives me berserk, regardless of whether it occurs on the highway, at Panera, or other places. My spouse is aware of my incipient "rage" at such things, and has thus steered us into dining early when using the Lido, and otherwise having dinner in the MDR. I agree that it is difficult to locate the front of the line, especially at those stations that actually begin on either end, and feel that there could be better signage to point folks in the correct direction. 3. Our other favorite vacation spot is Disney World (yes, I know that it is expensive, crowded, tacky, food for the masses, etc., but so is a cruise), and one of the things I have observed is that the staff (aka "cast") seemingly never intervenes to deal with line jumping. Believe me, those who cut in line at Disney far exceed the miscreants on a HAL cruise. 4. As to the beverage package --- we have carefully calculated that this package is in no way economical for us -- and nonetheless seem to purchase it anyway! Once on a ship, I would prefer not to obsess about the cost of alcohol, and instead enjoy trying out different concoctions -- drinks that we would never have at home. Fortunately as an old Kentucky boy, I cut my teeth on cheap whiskey, and am thus happy with pretty much anything with an appropriate alcohol content. Sadly, however, my favorite bourbons are not embraced within the SBP, and I thus sympathize with the OP in this regard. That said, the beverages offered are pretty clearly stated in the material, and I wonder whether it would have been worth the cost for the OP to upgrade to the "elite" package? 5. We were on the same cruise on the same ship as to the OP last year, and loved every minute of it, but all of the points raised by the OP (limited booze selection, chaos in the Lido, insufficient computers and slow speed, line breaking, scooters), are entirely correct and it was proper for the OP to raise those points. We are just happy not having to make up the bed every day.
  3. Thanks much for the opinion. I suspect that 2020 will be "the year" for us.
  4. This is a marvelous review, from someone who obviously knows his "stuff." Copper 10-8 seems to one of the "go to" people for HAL information, and that makes it even more interesting. We have booked -- and canceled - a number of trips (cruise/land or vice versa) to Alaska, primarily for various intervening family-related reasons. At this point, we are considering much the same trip for Summer, 2020. That said, my question is whether, frankly, it is "too late" for a meaningful trip to Alaska. It seems that the ports are crowded with cruise ships on every review I read. Has the (literal and proverbial) "ship sailed" in terms of visiting that area, or does sufficient wilderness remain for it yet to be enjoyed in a meaningful way? Thanks for the thoughts.
  5. Thanks very much for all the advice. It sounds as if we wouldn't be "promoted" until after the cruise, regardless of the number of points involved. We typically purchase the SBP. Although probably not cost effective in our case, I like trying new drinks and not fretting about the invoice at the end of the cruise. We are also renting a retreat cabana, which might help. Anyway, this is a nice problem to have, and I enjoyed reading everyone's very helpful comments.
  6. The website excludes casino spending, which isn't a problem for us. The rest of the answers make sense, and I appreciate the quick responses.
  7. I apologize in advance if this question has been asked and answered in the past, but didn't see anything on point when doing a search. We have 19 points to go before attaining 4-star status, and are booked for a Caribbean cruise in February, 2020 using one of the non-refundable deposit promotions. As to the "onboard" purchase bonus points: (a) are they awarded for a pre-purchase of the signature beverage package based upon the total price; (b) if we do not purchase that package but instead purchase individual beverages on board, are points awarded based upon the total of those purchases; (c) do points apply to the "flight-ease" program and/or HAL-booked pre- and post-cruise hotels; (d) do points result from our pre-rental retreat cabana? Thanks much.
  8. Our meal at Rudi's on Nieuw Amsterdam last winter was among the best we have ever had -- shipboard or not. The sole, in particular, was absolutely perfect. In fact, we were so enthused by the experience that we twisted the arms of our traveling companions to ante up for the experience on our New England/Canada cruise aboard Zuiderdam in September. Sadly, that experience was so dissatisfying as to embarrass us. Although the waiter was lively and attentive, and while the first couple of courses were good, the entree was way too late in arriving and, once it did, the sole which I ordered (and which had been so outstanding earlier in the year) was so salty as to be inedible. By then, we were late in the evening and nobody was in the mood to wait any longer for the dish to be prepared anew. To cap it all off, the after-dinner brandy we ordered (while waiting for the entree) was served in a cocktail glass instead of a snifter. I am not sure that we will visit again if the meal was "comped" to us.
  9. Following advice received on this forum, we have generally packed a floppy duffel or similar collapsible case in our airline checked luggage, stopped at a grocery to pick up soft drinks to stick in the bag, and then carried them on. On one early occasion, we checked the bag at the dock, and it did not turn out very well because the bag was obviously mashed in with others.
  10. We are anything but seasoned cruisers (I think that this is our tenth on Holland America), but as for us (and assuming that we are granted access to the room upon boarding), we tend to: (a) introduce ourselves to the room attendants; (b) check reservations for meals, excursions, cabana, etc., in order to make any needed changes or corrections as early as possible; (c) secure valuables in the safe; (d) check out the location of our table in the MDR; (e) repair to the Lido deck for a mojito and Dive-in Burger; (f) wander around the ship to get our bearings (if the ship is new to us), and to enjoy the atmosphere of other folks boarding and soak up the general anticipatory excitement. If we are not granted immediate access to our room, then we immediately engage step (e) and (f). A tip from Cruise Critic that we have adopted is not to completely unpack until later in the evening, or until needed for dinner. That is a task that is as easily completed at night, when the excitement of the day has waned.
  11. Thanks much, Jinty684. We have booked this at least twice before and canceled for one reason or another. Our earlier trip on Zuiderdam and reading the McCullough book on the Canal persuaded us to stick with this one.
  12. We are on this cruise departing on 2/27, and sure hope that it fulfills our expectations. I have always wanted to see the Canal, and we loved the Zuiderdam when on board for the New England/Canada trip back in the fall.
  13. Ottahand, thanks very much for the information. It is definitely worth a try.
  14. Am I to understand that the Elite package includes the tasting? That could change my thinking. I may have also overstated the dullness of my taste buds as to wine. In your opinion, do the better wines offered with the Elite warrant the additional cost?
  15. Your fiancé is wise. I do favor the Beverage Package because it eliminates fretting, not because it saves money. Again, Knob Creek and Makers Mark are plenty good neat or with a single cube, but an opportunity to upgrade to Woodford Reserve, one of the better Four Roses, or (in my dreams) or one of the Pappy or Stagg products would be highly tempting. We are sailing on the Zuiderdam, which does not (I believe) have the tasting bar you mention on Kdam. I wish that I knew enough about wine to make an decision as between Signature and Elite, but the old taste buds have been so long dulled by cheap rotgut whiskey that I doubt I would know the difference.
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