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About MarkBearSF

  • Rank
    Cool Cruiser

About Me

  • Location
    San Francisco, CA
  • Interests
    Broadway, Cruising
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Cunard, HAL, AMA
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    TA crossings & Europe

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  1. MarkBearSF

    White Star Luggage Changes

    We've used them in the past, with no complaints. Another advantage to dealing directly with the company is there is less opportunity for finger pointing. I'm certain that any complaints to Cunard about White Star would be quickly pointed to the shipper. (Although LuggageForward uses DHL and similar shippers, they actively work with the customer) It would be nice for Cunard to work with them to provide a WC discount code or similar.
  2. MarkBearSF

    Large Proportion of Asian Cruisers on Grand?

    Interesting. As I said, my estimate may be way off. However, I believe that the cruise had a larger contingent than they're used to since they ran out of honey and another item and the Maitre d' apologized and mentioned that it was likely because the larger number of Asian passengers when he conferred with our tablemate who had food allergies and would review the next day's menu with him and design her meals. Later, I mentioned to the table that it seemed that there were more Asians aboard than on other cruises and they agreed. She and her husband are Chinese (I recall that she was originally from Hong Kong, I'm unsure about him.) We didn't further discuss it, and certainly wouldn't get into numbers. In any event, I think I answered my own question - the 10 days we were on her, there were likely a larger than usual number of Asian passengers , as is the way things go - for whatever reason, occasionally a cruise will have a different "personality." Thinking further, another factor might be how I primarily interacted with other passengers. My husband needs to use the elevator, which means that we were in continual, close contact with other elevator riders, which skews more elderly, ... (especially for short rides - we were on Deck 5, behind the Art Gallery. so lots of rides between 5,6,7) and for Chinese, likely more comfortable with Cantonese/Mandarin/... Interacting on things like elevator buttons meant that we were more likely to communicate than say, when passing in a corridor. There were a LOT of Chinese grannies on the elevators. In any event, it was a wonderful cruise and I always appreciate being in the same boat as different people from different places - which is another reason I still love living in San Francisco.
  3. We were on the Grand Princess from SF to Mexico on December 13-23. It was a wonderful cruise with great service, good food, great company, and calm seas. One thing was very noticeable. There were large numbers of Asian cruisers, many from China (there were evidently a few tour groups). I would estimate that probably 30% of the passengers were Asian. (I'm allowing for the known bias where majority observers tend to overestimate "other" groups - the number seemed to be more like 40% to me). This is in no way a complaint nor a negative (as far as I'm concerned) merely an observation. Certainly, the fact that the ship is homeported in San Francisco and the cruise departed from there is a factor, given the large Asian population in the Bay Area. Also, I know how a group or two can affect the impressions of the passenger mix. But I was wondering if it may be an indication of the increasing interest in cruising in the Chinese market. Have any other recent cruisers (especially on the Grand) observed an uptick in Asian passengers aboard? Also, do you know... Does Princess make Chinese language Princess Patters or menus available? (I noticed that there was both a Japanese and a Chinese Cruise Staff member aboard on this sailing)
  4. Some friends will be taking a Celebrity cruise out of Miami (also flying into/out of MIA). They will likely be staying at hotels which may not offer shuttles to the port. There are three of them - likely with 3 very large bags and assorted backpacks and totes. They will be staying at a hotel the night before and the night after the cruise. Any suggestions for transfers between airport and hotel and hotel and pier? They will not take rideshare options like Uber. They're price sensitive, but if there's a big difference in convenience for a tiny difference in price, they can be persuaded. (I've gotten them sold on Dial7 in NY and a limo service in SF for past trips) Also, if they pack bags with cruise stuff only for the return, could they use Celebrity's Luggage Valet service for a flight the next day?
  5. MarkBearSF

    Ten best things about Transatlantic on QM2

    Simply our favorite way to spend 14 (or more) days. Anywhere. In 2020, we'll be in Princess Grill, however in our five trips thus far on the QM2 have been happily Britannia. Relaxation and grace each day. From delicious breakfasts to varied lunches (with breaks in the Pub and Caronia) elegant afternoon teas in the unbeatable Queen's Room and delicious dinners in the magnificent Britannia Dining Room. Fascinating lectures by world-class experts (typically 2-3 per day pique our interest), afternoon naps in the Planetarium, and classes on watercolor painting (wonderful!), fencing, acting (by RADA members), flower arranging, and ballroom dancing. And Ballroom Dancing. Cocktails in the elegant Commodore Club and the Chart Room which recalls the grand salons of the past. Pub Lunches and trivia in the Golden Lion Pub. Well-trained service with a smile, remembered preferences and gracious atmosphere. It's a rhythm. A pace as you march across the Atlantic. In our case, GLBT get-togethers at 5 PM in the Commodore Club are always a highlight - typically filling the area with 25+ attendees. While we don't typically take great advantage of the G32 or the Casino (occasional), Kings Court Buffet (seldom), Spa (never), and Gym (likewise) and Pools (theoretical) - they're well-populated by fellow passengers filling their days with their wishes.
  6. MarkBearSF

    Cunard Drink Packages as of 26 Nov 2018

    It would also be helpful if someone posted a current bar menu. Thank you,
  7. MarkBearSF

    There's No Place Like Home (Cunard)

    One more item I thought of... Princess production shows are way superior to Cunard. Where I mostly attend them on Cunard to "hate watch" (the concept, staging, selections and book - not the performers, generally), there was no snark to be had on the Princess shows. I saw four shows and they were all well-written, interestingly staged and well-performed. One show in particular, "Born to Dance" was a standout. Created by Stephen Schwartz (composer of Wicked & Pippin) with sets and costumes by Tony winners Beowult Borrit and William Ivey Long, respectively. Notably, it included Rogers & Hammerstein songs (R&H Org charges big $$ which is why you seldom see their songs on shipboard shows), and video interviews by Broadway actors and dancers, this was an investment by Princess that was well-spent. BIG demerits, however, for the lack of live orchestra for most of the shows. (Whereas, I believe Cunard uses the Cunard Orchestra for all their shows)
  8. MarkBearSF

    There's No Place Like Home (Cunard)

    I got off today. It was a wonderful getaway and my initial impressions held true. In no particular order: Cunard's speakers cannot be beat. In number and quality. - Our Princess 10 day cruise had 2 speakers. One the equal of average Cunard, the other below. - There were no port lectures on our Princess cruise. - A recent Celebrity cruise had slightly lower quality lecturers, and an off-putting degree of self-marketing. (not the case on either Princess or Cunard) Princess service on this cruise was on a par with Cunard Britannia, and a bit friendlier - Cunard can be a bit too haughty at times (some Purser's Desk and occasional Commodore Club) Dining in the MDR was equivalent to Britannia - Some items were perhaps more to my liking here, others less, but still consistently excellent - I appreciated the extensive always-available items listed in the menu (unlike Cunard where you have to ask) - Service was as good as Cunard. Well-trained, on top of everything, remembered preferences. Drinks did not come with a tab (and once they knew your cabin, waiters didn't need your card). Since there's an auto-gratuity (and the signature really isn't required) this is more convenient. - However, there's no way to add an extra tip besides cash - Of course, this eliminates a way of tracking, but with easy access to your account, this downside is minimized. - HAL has also stopped asking for a signature, but does bring a receipt The Princess buffet remains a strong point. I especially appreciated the Iced Tea spigots - as opposed to hunting for the one or two juice machines in King's Court which have tea and hoping that it's working - we seldom ate at buffets on either ship, so I can't provide a useful comparison. Cunard's Steakhouse at the Veranda is superior to Princess Crown Grill - My porterhouse steak at the Crown Grill was large and cooked to the proper doneness, but was not a great cut (gristle) and had no seasoning - However, the $29 price was also much less than the Veranda - Each had their silly pretensions for customer selection. In the Crown grill, you can select from the color salt you want, as opposed to picking your steak knife in the Veranda. - In spite of the higher cost, I may return to the Veranda Steakhouse on the QM2, but am unlikely to make reservations at the Princess Crown Grill The QM2 alternative dining in the King's Court is a winner - We really enjoyed the alternative dining options on the QM2 and consider it a great deal. - We didn't try the equivalent on Princess, the "Crab Shack" but were not impressed with the menu, and speaking with others who had eaten there, none spoke highly and recommended it. Cunard's pub lunches are a winner - Pub Lunch was offered on two sea days of the 10 day cruise (in the Crown Grill) as opposed to every day at the Golden Lion Pub. There was a long line and only one seating, so if you don't arrive early to stand in line, you miss out. - Food was better and more authentic on Cunard. Although I given them credit for including mushy peas with the Fish and Chips, the fish was far better in the Golden Lion. - Princess: Fish & Chips, Prawns & chips, Chicken Curry, Scotch Eggs, (Something veggie?) - Cunard: Fish & Chips, Cottage Pie, Chicken Tikka, Ploughman's, Sausage & Mash (Portobello?) I didn't attend afternoon tea, but still feel confident that the experience on the Grand Princess cannot match that in the Queen's Room on the QM2. Princess passenger tech is superior to Cunard - Internet speed was as slow as Cunard on this ship (20 years old) - Besides older metered packages, they offered cruise-long tiers differentiated by available sites and functions (but since it was too slow on the back-end for streaming, there was no reason to purchase the top plan) It appears that these offerings are being phased-in. - They provided equivalent perks to Platinum members (6-15 cruises like CWC) with a reasonable credit toward the tiered offerings (or minutes like Cunard) - They have a handy app (really a mobile-centric web app) listing daily activities, making dining reservations and checking your account. (HAL has a similar app.) - An upcoming "Princess Medallion" technology will track you on the ship, open doors, and do all sorts of things, modeled on the Disney bracelets. It's been piloted on one ship, moving to a second with rollout plans following - Kiosks were available for passengers to check their accounts - There were no smart functions on the TV (account lookup, reservations, etc). This may be available on newer ships. Princess thankfully doesn't call the pitiful corner with a few bookshelves a library. It's called "Leaves" and you can also get tea there. ("leaves" - get it?) - Needless to say, this doesn't even approach being compared to Cunard Princess still does irritating announcements on the PA for daytime activities.
  9. MarkBearSF

    There's No Place Like Home (Cunard)

    It's been a few days and I've discovered some things are handled very well on this ship. Most importantly, staffing and service. They seem to have hit that sweet spot (to me) for service and attitude. Consistently, the waiters and crew members are happy, helpful, and maintain an attitude that is both warm and professional - without being aggressively friendly (Royal Caribbean & NCL at times) or haughty (Cunard at times - especially the Purser's Desk). The waiters and bar staff are as well trained as Cunard. Over 4 days, 3 meals, I can only think of one microscopically tiny misstep (delivering the wrong juice in the morning to the wrong person). They consistently remember our names and preferences. This is not to admonish Cunard, whom I think does an excellent job of training, but to salute Princess. Additionally, the staffing numbers seem perfect. Unlike some recent voyages (Celebrity Infinity, NCL) we've never had to search for a cocktail waiter (yet they don't bug you - NCL) and staff never has seemed to busy to fully deliver. Our cabin steward is one of the best we've ever had (and we're "in the cheap seats" with an oceanview cabin). I'll update this thread with other observations as the cruise continues. There have been other aspects that have been the equal of Cunard, if not slightly superior. (Internet offerings, MDR dining menus). However, I still miss my beloved QM2. ...and NO SHIP has bested Cunard's QM2 in variety and quality of daytime offerings.
  10. We're currently on a 10 day cruise to Mexico on Princess. I miss Cunard. The two guest lecturers are way below the standards for presenters on Cunard. Daytime activities are sparse. (Fewer and poorer lecturers, no classes like watercolor, fencing, or floral arranging) And for those complaining about Cunard drink prices (and I'm not arguing) - I'm told that they very recently raised their prices. But it's difficult to easily tell. There are no complete bar menus, just a pamphlet with featured drinks. And they no longer bring a tab with your drink - it's simply charged (with the gratuity included, of course). It was a last-minute cheapie cruise, and it's based in SF, conveniently where we live, so we're enjoying ourselves. But I miss Cunard.
  11. MarkBearSF

    QM Grills Access from Stairway C?

    I have no issue with going up or down a deck (assuming elevators are available for my husband) Having started cruising over 30 years ago, including four trips on our beloved QE2, we're accustomed to having to plan our path to avoid dead-ends. (Although I wish it were not necessary) ..which is why I asked - to be prepared, and avoid the problem. Thanks all - and happy holidays!
  12. MarkBearSF

    QM Grills Access from Stairway C?

    Yeah, that looks like what we'll do. Probably elevate to Deck 5 or so and then walk down to D and then continue up to Deck 7. It would've made it so much easier if there was an entrance to the Grills Lounge on either end. Oh well, if that's the only thing I have to gripe about, I am a VERY lucky man!
  13. MarkBearSF

    Unable to send a message.

    How would you recommend I contact the forum host to ask that one of my posts be removed? (A roll call start that was evidently originally for the GLBT Roll Calls board wound up replacing a regular Roll Call last month in the system upgrade - and evidently caused some hurt feelings by the originator of the "real" roll call. I would like my "misfiled" one deleted, but would rather not draw attention to the issue on a public board - as it appears that feelings were hurt already..
  14. I get this alert "You are only allowed to send 0 messages per day. Please try again later." whenever I try to send a message. (with only an OK button ...and it's NOT OK) This has persisted on multiple browsers and times and I have been unable to message. (Certainly since the upgrade, but I can't be too sure beyond that as it's a function I use seldom) Suggestions on things to check? Thanks
  15. MarkBearSF

    Best way to get to Newark following QM2 cruise?

    That's basically to protect them from passengers who add extra stops mid-route or who make the driver wait extraordinarily long. (And the "state congestion tax" I think is something that has been discussed for midtown but isn't a factor yet, so they're likely protecting themselves for future bookings) The only time we've paid extra was when we ordered a scheduled pickup at Red Hook and we were delayed more than usual in the customs line. We asked the driver to wait. (After which I was scolded for using a phone in the customs area) He did. And we were fairly charged. For hotel pickups, they usually arrive about 5-10 minutes early (no charge). ...AND be sure to pick up the code for first-timer discount. (Both companies - typically about $10)