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Swice

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About Swice

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    Cool Cruiser

About Me

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    Charlotte, NC, USA
  1. Swice

    New Cruiser to Alaska

    I actually have a different opinion. I'm "thrifty" and my wife is "cheap." 😉 We are not big spenders. We've done two cruisetours... one with the meal plan (Princess) and one without (HAL). If you take Denali out of the mix, the other lodges (hotels) are in more remote areas. You are stuck with eating at the cruise line owned hotel restaurants. The menu prices are expensive. It made our experience so much more enjoyable to "ignore" the menu prices when we were on the meal plan. We were able to order "anything" we wanted. Honestly, if I was looking at the menu prices, I would have order the least expensive items (seriously, the prices are outrageous). We found the food at the Princess lodges far superior to the food on the ship! The food was truly excellent. By the way, the Princess and HAL lodges are right next to each other at Denali and you can use your meal credits at either location. Extra bonus opinion: - We liked the ship experience better with HAL - We liked the land experience better with Princess
  2. Swice

    Is Club HAL always this anemic?

    Sorry, but I strongly disagree with this statement everytime I see it. HAL is for kids and ours have had wonderful experiences in Club HAL over the years. I would argue NO cruise line is "for" kids when school is in session. In addition, no matter the time of the year... the longer the cruise, the higher probability the passenger list will skew older. All of the cruise lines schedule kid programming based on the number of kids they have on the manifest. It is quite common for a cruise line to fly a "camp counselor" in for just a week because of a high number of kids on the reservation list.
  3. Swice

    How to do laundry on a long cruise

    Typically when sailing Europe, we go a few days early and may stay a couple of days after the cruise. The $9 daily rate totally removes the stress of packing and washing in the room/cabin. We tend to walk a lot and are active (some of those European cities are hot!), so it's nice to board the ship and immediately send out our traveling clothes and the clothing we just wore pre-cruise and start "fresh." We typically don't pay for a lot of extras on a cruise but the laundry is worth every penny in my opinion. Reduce your stress and go for the unlimited.
  4. Swice

    holland america formal nights

    Thanks... I noticed later and couldn't figure out how to "edit."
  5. Swice

    Booking tours on Alaska inside passage cruise

    pasting partial response from another thread: Please, please, please do shore excursions! We looked for more active ones to take, but still all were tame and suitable to almost anybody. Booked all ourselves and in almost every case, they came to the ship to pick us up at the gangway. I used Cruise Critic and every recommendation turned out to be terrific: Ketchikan: islandwings float plane Juneau: Coastal Helicopters Dog Sled with Extra Landing *******off the charts excellent experience Harv and Marv whale watching Skagway: Dyea Dave tour van/ white pass railroad return from Yukon Interior Alaska: Talkeetna flight over Mt. McKinley ***** one word, "wow." One other Alaska note: We are a family used to doing things on our own, but we ended up booking the cruise with an "escorted land tour." It's not so much that we needed a "guide" but these escorted cruise/tours include food (just like on the cruise ship). The cruise line lodges are remote for the most part and it's not like there are other restaurant options nearby that you can walk to, so you will end up eating at the lodge restaurants. The menu prices are expensive. In my opinion, pay for the escorted land tour because by the end of your trip, you very well could end up paying the same price as the escorted tour but with more hassle and consternation (once you see the menu prices). Use your cabana money for the escorted tour!!
  6. Swice

    holland america formal nights

    I am "middle aged" with teenagers. I'm not one of the "older" group set in my ways and holding on to the past-- and I'm not one of those "young" ones without any appreciation for manners and proper home training. ;-0 There has always been a threat about "formal nights," for as long as I can remember. We have to remember those who start the threads are really looking for practical advice and direction. They simply want to know what to expect and how to pack. My reply: There are no formal nights anymore like in the movies and on The Love Boat. You will see people wearing everything. For the most part, I would personally avoid shorts and flip flops (however you might see a few) in the main dining room. For the evening meals: guys wear Docker type pants and shirts (both polo and button up). On the "Gala" nights, more than a few will wear a sport jacket (a few suits and maybe a tux will still be scattered in but they are becoming less and less). Most women will wear what they would normally wear to a restaurant like Cheesecake Factory or Maggiano's (some woman will be more dressy than others and some will be more "cute." Note: I'm talking style not making a snide remark.). On the "Gala" nights, you'll probably see more dresses scattered in and even a few of the tops may have a hint of bling (but very few will wear long formal wear or even wedding clothing). Cocktail party attire (business) is as dressy as it gets now, and while you'll still see some of that, even that is in the minority. Because of parking constraints, most will wear sneakers each day and a second pair of non-sneakers to wear each night. But yes, you will see some in sneakers in the dining room.
  7. We have sailed Alaska twice in June (early and late June). I simply can't see why anyone would rent the cabana. Weather-- We take layers. One day I would be wearing a long sleeved t-shirt, hoodie sweatshirt and a lined wind/rain jacket. Two days later, I'd be in shorts and a t-shirt. Our teens are used to travel and have been trained to pack light (They've heard me say, "You are responsible for carrying your own stuff.") With that said, Alaska is has proven to be our hardest trips to pack for. BTW, I got the worst sunburn of my life in Fairbanks... so take sunscreen. Please, please, please do shore excursions! We looked for more active ones to take, but still all were tame and suitable to almost anybody. Booked all ourselves and in almost every case, they came to the ship to pick us up at the gangway. I used Cruise Critic and every recommendation turned out to be terrific: Ketchikan: islandwings float plane Juneau: Coastal Helicopters Dog Sled with Extra Landing *******off the charts excellent experience Harv and Marv whale watching Skagway: Dyea Dave tour van/ white pass railroad return from Yukon Interior Alaska: Talkeetna flight over Mt. McKinley ***** one word, "wow." One other Alaska note: We are a family used to doing things on our own, but we ended up booking the cruise with an "escorted land tour." It's not so much that we needed a "guide" but these escorted cruise/tours include food (just like on the cruise ship). The cruise line lodges are remote for the most part and it's not like there are other restaurant options nearby that you can walk to, so you will end up eating at the lodge restaurants. The menu prices are expensive. In my opinion, pay for the escorted land tour because by the end of your trip, you very well could end up paying the same price as the escorted tour but with more hassle and consternation (once you see the menu prices). Use your cabana money for the escorted tour!!
  8. Swice

    River Boat Cruising

    I didn't hear anyone on our trip even hint of an extra tip. Everyone's impression was that it was included. Even a USA Today article quoted a Tauck person as saying some get off the ship with a zero balance on their bill.
  9. Do we pack new items for each night? Absolutely not. You will see many repeats. And that's one reason we always do some kind of laundry package on longer cruises.
  10. Swice

    River Boat Cruising

    I'm not sure I totally agree with others about the "cost." My family (including two teenage boys) prefer HAL. Two summers ago, we took a river cruise on the Danube from Budapest to Passau, Germany on Tauck. The price was a shock-- at first. You pay everything up front. But the flip side is you don't have to pay a dime when you are there. NO extras for ship excursions, tour guides, bar fees, activity fees fees or tips!. Everyday, there was a city tour. After lunch, there would be a couple of choices for other tours (biking through a village and vineyard for example). Typically they gave us free time and would say, "meet us at the fountain at 4." At four o'clock they would take us to a shop for gelato or a place to taste of a local pastry or chocolate (again, no additional cost). They even took us to the Prater (historic amusement park in Vienna) and gave us all a few ride tickets. You could literally start your cruise and walk off without spending an extra dollar. Granted, you would pay extra if you chose to visit a certain museum or attraction or wanted to ride additional rides at the Prater. Our river cruise cabin was larger than anything we've ever had on an ocean cruise. The bath was huge and had double sinks and a lot of counter space. In addition, if you had a special interest at a certain port, they'd try to make arrangements for you (transport you at the very least and get the timed tickets for you). On an ocean cruise, we have ship tips and pay for excursions and activities at each port. You have bar tabs and special restaurant upgrade charges. Plus many times, there are costs for transportation at each port (shuttle, city bus or taxi). Based on our typical cruise/excursions/transportation patterns, the costs were surprisingly close. The one big variable is that we've often gotten "deals" on ocean cruises for 3rd & 4th passengers in the same cabin. On the river cruise, we had to get two cabins. Other than that, the actual costs were close. It's more a matter of "pay now or pay later." We were so pleased with Tauck that we'll be going again next year on an African Safari.
  11. Swice

    McKinley Explorer Talkeetna stop

    Exactly-- For Princess Lodge people to get on/off. It was very organized. They have all the lodge passengers already divided into groups for the proper car. The town is a short walk from the train stop... even if they let you off, there's no way you could walk and be back in 20-minutes. A side note: A VERY high recommendation for Talkeetna Air. One reason we took Princess last year was to vary our tour from our previous HAL trip. We rode the Princess shuttle (early) to Talkeetna and took a flight tour to see the peak of Denali (Mt. McKinley). It was a sunny day, but you couldn't see the peak from the ground. Our flight took us above the clouds--- and it was a life highlight. I'm not a "nature" person (my wife is) and even I would put it on my short list of life highlights.
  12. Swice

    Half Moon Cay

    Another "non" beach person here-- who loves HMC. Unlike my wife and kids, I really don't like going to any beach. But, I'll tell you, the last two times we've been to HMC, I was, by choice, on the LAST tender back to the ship. That about sums it up.
  13. Swice

    Visiting Monaco and Nice on same day - TOO MUCH?

    Our ship (Westerdam) made an unscheduled stop in VilleFranche in June because of high winds in St. Tropez. (Most passengers seemed happy about the change by the way.) Our ship had been to Monaco the day before, but several had taken excursions/tours away from Monte Carlo... so much to their delight, they caught a city bus from VilleFranche to Monte Carlo to do what they couldn't fit in the day before. The ship staff was telling them the bus ride would be very short and cheap. So while I can't speak from personal experience, a bus ride may be worth exploring. It could be cheaper and more frequent than a train??
  14. Swice

    Sete to Carcassonne by Train

    Sete, France (Carcassone) A free shuttle was provided by the town to take you from theship to the edge of the port where you could walk into thetown. It is described as a movie set, an idealseaport town with art deco buildings along the Canal Royal. We did not see it. Instead, we went to Carcassonne, thenumber two most visited site in France behind the EiffelTower. But getting started was the hardpart. In researching options, I found some optedfor a train to Carcassone and others chose a rental car. Ofcourse the ship tour is always an option aswell. Before the trip, I didn’t see anyinformation about how to get to the train station. In addition, amap showed it was not near the ship. I alsodidn’t see much information about how to get from the train station to thehistoric site. I saw one person mention using Europcar for arental. But again, the office didn’t appear close to theport. I chose to use Hertz and got a fantasticdeal with my corporate code (less than $50 for an automatic) for a somewhatdecent sized car. By looking at the map, I was going tohave to take a taxi to either the train station or a rental car location, so Ichose Hertz for the price and to get points J. On the ship, I had the hardest time getting information about how/where tocatch a taxi in the port. When we got off, Sete shorerepresentatives were super nice and called a taxi to meet us at the shuttledrop off location at the edge of the port. It took30-minutes for a taxi to arrive. I’m not sure what wewould have done if we had taken the shuttle directly to the port gate because Ididn’t see any cabs. The taxi took us to the Hertzlocation (which was actually part of a Toyota dealership). Ittook quite some time to complete the paperwork even though I’mgold. Once we were in the car we followed Mapquest or an hourand 20-minute ride. Whew! Carcassone wasneat. It’s a walled city that dates back to Romantimes. Walking around inside the walled village is free. There are restaurants, candy stores, bakeries, clothing shops and even ahotel. It was easy to think you were in a manufacturedfantasy land at an amusement park, but the buildings wereREAL. The main attraction is thecastle. The entrance fee for that includes an audioguide. While standing in line to buy entrance tickets,a group of people wearing the cruise ship tour stickers came up behindus. In other words—the ship “tour” was transportationto Carcassone—They still had to buy tickets to visit thecastle. The castle history wasinteresting. I note there were no furnishings in therooms. After our tour, we walked along theramparts (along the top of the walls). There was a beautifulcathedral in the village and a music concert happened to be going on insidewhen we were there. We left around 2:30 andstarted back to Sete. There was a shopping centerwith a grocery store and a McDonald’s and gas station. Wezoomed in there to refill the tank. The gas pumpwouldn’t take my card and I had trouble finding someone who spokeEnglish. Finally I figured out I had to fill up my tank and thendrive to a booth and then pay before I could leave the gatedarea. Once back at Hertz, we asked them to drive usback to the port. We didn’t have enough time toreally see or walk around Sete. I would estimate our totalcost of the day was around $125. My full review: https://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=583756 Our ports of call: Rome (Civitavecchia) Livorno, Italy (Pisa/Florence) Monte Carlo, Monaco Villefranche-sur-Mer, France (last minute change from St.Tropez,France) Ajaccio, Corsica, France Almeria, Spain Ceuta, Spanish Territory Marseille, France Sete, France (Carcassonne) Barcelona, Spain
  15. Swice

    Spain ports

    I had some trouble finding information about some of the spanish ports before our recent cruise. We usually book private tours or do things on our own. So in an effort to help, I included some planning notes in my review. https://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=583756 Our ports of call: Rome (Civitavecchia) Livorno, Italy (Pisa/Florence) Monte Carlo, Monaco Villefranche-sur-Mer, France (last minute change from St.Tropez,France) Ajaccio, Corsica, France Almeria, Spain Ceuta, Spanish Territory Marseille, France Sete, France (Carcassonne) Barcelona, Spain
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