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Sonora5

26 days on the Oosterdam-Venice to Fort Lauderdale-Report

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A couple of years ago we did a tour to Valldemossa. Beautiful little town in the mountains. Frederic Chopin spent some time there and we were treated to a short recital of his music. His time there is considered one of the most productive periods in his life. He stayed in the Carthusian Monastery. When he left Mallorca he had trouble at customs forcing him to sell his treasured Pleyel piano. It is still at the monastery. His bronze bust in the garden shows a well polished nose from visitors rubbing it. It's a practice that is frowned upon today.

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We got in to Cartagena at about 8 am and it was a beautiful, sunny day. Much better than the gray skies of Barcelona and Mallorca.

 

We had booked a segway tour with Anne and Eugene. We are experienced segway riders but it was their first time. We met the segway guide right at the pier, and we proceeded to do our "training" right there on a wide, flat plaza. I went first to show Anne that even a klutz could master a segway, and soon all four of us were swooping around with ease. I think our guide's name was Sergio, and there was also a second person from Cartagena segway to help. Cartagena has a lot of history as  a port that changed hands many times, and also was (and is) a center for shipbuilding. Early submarines were built there in the 1880s.

 

We swooped by the Maritime Museum (closed on Mondays) and learned about the ship names in the sidewalk bricks. We went to the Calle Major-lovely, filled with shops and cafes, and with a very photogenic City Hall. Then down the malecon to another interesting site, and up the small mountain to a scenic overlook. There was a castle, and we were also treated to a sweeping view of Cartagena, including Roman ruins and a soccer stadium.

 

All too soon we were returning our segways. Mr S and I decided to revisit the Calle Major on foot. We wondered around, bought some lottery tickets and magnets, and stopped at a cafe to have a snack. The croquettes were so-so, but the pour on the gin and tonic was very generous.

 

We tipped accordingly and headed back to the ship. Trivia and Happy Hour.

 

Next: Gibraltar

Edited by Sonora5
forgot something

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On 12/3/2018 at 7:35 PM, Sonora5 said:

Such a great bunch of cruisers! Please everyone book the Rotterdam for Oct 3, 2020 TA. I will have some great tours for you! I already got some cool ideas from a friend who has done some of those French ports.

 

Already heard for KPitch (Kathy), she told her she booked this cruise, we are seriously going to consider it for 2020 as we had so much fun, love you guys......... you certainly made our cruise so enjoyable........

 

Diane

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12 hours ago, xjust4fun said:

 

Already heard for KPitch (Kathy), she told her she booked this cruise, we are seriously going to consider it for 2020 as we had so much fun, love you guys......... you certainly made our cruise so enjoyable........

 

Diane

We love you too, get on board the Rotterdam with us!

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I mean... Look at the marble streets! That building is a government building. It shows the pockmarks from the bullets during the civil war.

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A late request. We are riding segways. One of our favorite modes of transport.

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13 hours ago, ZN1300 said:

Morning in Cartagena looking at another one of our yachts.

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I saw this, I mean your, "Sailing Yacht A" in Corfu in September. It's owned by a Russian oligarch and supposedly cost a half billion dollars!!! 

Edited by Chickens!
price correction

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On 12/3/2018 at 5:35 PM, Sonora5 said:

Such a great bunch of cruisers! Please everyone book the Rotterdam for Oct 3, 2020 TA. I will have some great tours for you! I already got some cool ideas from a friend who has done some of those French ports.

Already booked. Need to get Anne and Eugene to sign up .

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Gibraltar

 

We had always wanted to call in Gibraltar. We have sailed by it many times at night and could  only see the outline of the large rock. So we were really pleased to have this port this time.

 

We did a 3.5 hour tour with Inside Out Gibraltar tours that we booked with three other couples. Our guide, Dennis, was wonderful. He met us promptly at the pier, which was a relief because it was a cold and windy tour, raining off and on.

 

We got a great overview of the island with Dennis. He was very knowledgeable and fun, and promised not to let the monkeys jump on me. We saw the cave-big and spooky, and you can go down I don't know how far. Light up with blue and green lighting. There is a souvenir shop just outside.

 

We also visited where the macaques are fed, and then went on to the tunnel. This had the option of going in pretty far. We didn't go too far. There is a great place with an expansive view just outside the tunnel, and we got some cute pictures of a mother and baby monkey.

 

We also visited the moorish castle, interesting, and some big gun-100 ton? We went down by the sea, and then drove across the runway.

 

Dennis offered us the option of being dropped off in town but we all decided just to go back to the ship. For a rainy, windy day I think we did rather well.

 

Of course, since we were in a small van rather than a giant bus, we were able to drive right up to all the attractions.

 

Next: LIsbon

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We have also only ever seen Gibralter from the sea & would love to do a tour. Are you going to post some pictures?

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Moorish castle.

View of Africa in the distance.

Oosterdam at the dock.

Road crossing the runway.

100 ton gun.

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Here are two shots of Africa as we sailed away. The 'Straights of Gibralter' is also called the pillars of Hercules. The northern Pillar, Calpe Mons, is the Rock of Gibraltar. A corresponding North African peak, pictured here, is identified as Abila Mons, the southern pillar, though there are disagreements on that name.

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Our next stop was Lisbon. The sail in to port through the Tagus estuary was lovely. We enjoyed it on our balcony for several hours despite the off and on rain.

 

When we finally got to port we were delayed in disembarking for about an hour. I think this was due to the rain and the water levels.

 

Unfortunately, even though we were an hour late getting off, our tour provider was nowhere to be found at first. We searched up and down the row of buses in the rain and finally the guide turned up. She appeared to be jittery and disorganized. Our "van" was not there yet. We milled around until it showed up. The guide was not helpful.

 

Our first stop was the Cathedral. Our group was larger than we anticipated, 16-18 rather than the 8-10 I thought we were getting. We had to wear annoying little hearing devices around our necks. Her commentary was not great anyway, and she did not make herself available for questions. We will never know who Senhor Dos Passos is, or why he was entombed in great style in the Cathedral.

 

On to Cascais, where she directed us to a restaurant that was full. We gulped down a small meal elsewhere, bought a couple of things and back on the bus.

 

On to the Pena Palace where again lack of communication was the order of the day. There was no info available from the guide about what to expect getting up to the Palace. Two gentlemen stayed behind and the guide expressed no concern or interest about this.

 

The Palace was interesting but the outside was an ugly orange/yellow. There is a large house near where we live that is the same color, we laughed about that.The grounds are nice and there is a tram that hauls you up almost to the palace. We were not told about the elevator until the tour was over, and I know there were people in our party who would have preferred to use it.

 

The interior of the Palace contains lots of nice things arranged in a scattershot fashion. The grounds are very nice.

 

Back down to the bus in the tram and off to Sintro, where the guide took off up a hill. We enjoyed a nice snack at a little cafe and then went back to wait for the bus.

 

We were then driven back to Lisbon and offered a tour (dark, rainy) of the City Center. Only one couple chose to do this, and the rest of us waited on the bus for them.

 

Dreary day, dreary night, when we are back in Lisbon in two years I will book a different tour.

 

Next: Finally, a sea day!

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Sorry to hear about your tour in Lisbon.

 

Disappointing to hear about your guide.  Do you mind sharing who you used for Lisbon?

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I decided I would share this info if asked. It was Spain Day Tours. I had never used them before, but I know they are a popular company with a lot of good reviews.

 

There were at least two other couples on the tour who were pretty unhappy. I think the owner of Spain Day Tours got wind that this tour was not all it should be, because he emailed me three times asking me how the tour went. I waited until I got home to respond.

 

We had a little bit of email correspondence. He offered me  a free tour which was nice, but he also claimed that everyone else was happy with the tour, which I know was not true. He offered another couple who complained two free tours.

 

I doubt I will accept the offered free tour. I appreciate the gesture, and his willingness to try to make it right. However, I am a little unhappy that he lied and said everyone else was happy.

 

My conclusion is that I would not use them again. I like smaller tours on vans, 6-10 people, where we can all get to know the guide and driver, and where plans can be amended if we all agree, and where we can ask questions and are not dependent on those listening devices you wear around your neck. That kind of shenanigans is best left for ship tours.

 

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22 minutes ago, Sonora5 said:

I decided I would share this info if asked. It was Spain Day Tours. I had never used them before, but I know they are a popular company with a lot of good reviews.

 

There were at least two other couples on the tour who were pretty unhappy. I think the owner of Spain Day Tours got wind that this tour was not all it should be, because he emailed me three times asking me how the tour went. I waited until I got home to respond.

 

We had a little bit of email correspondence. He offered me  a free tour which was nice, but he also claimed that everyone else was happy with the tour, which I know was not true. He offered another couple who complained two free tours.

 

I doubt I will accept the offered free tour. I appreciate the gesture, and his willingness to try to make it right. However, I am a little unhappy that he lied and said everyone else was happy.

 

My conclusion is that I would not use them again. I like smaller tours on vans, 6-10 people, where we can all get to know the guide and driver, and where plans can be amended if we all agree, and where we can ask questions and are not dependent on those listening devices you wear around your neck. That kind of shenanigans is best left for ship tours.

 

 

Thanks kindly and for elaborating.

 

Would have been nice if they offered a refund or even a partial refund instead of a free tour. 😉 . 

 

I don't blame you for being unhappy with the misrepresentation regarding "you being the only unhappy one".

 

I'm with you - I prefer the smaller tours of 6 -10 people whenever possible.  There are a number of very good tour companies in Lisbon & Portugal.  

 

Thanks again for sharing your experience.  I'm sure it will be helpful to many.

 

 

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Wow ! Guess I need to post the other side. I was going to keep quiet. I posted the tour on Cruise Critic, you signed up on SDT for a small group, all day tour.  Small group, as define on their web site, was a small mini-van up to 18 people. I SAID I HOPED IT WAS 8-1O.  Starting at noon, an all day tour needs to go till around 7-8 pm. Hour delay with docking. Fourteen out of 16 met the tour operator at the base of the elevator and walked over to the bus. You showed up late, didn't follow the instructions and exited the wrong end of the building.  Yep, rain and drizzle, not a nice day for a beach port or a walk in the mountains. I hate ear buds so I do not use them. I have a small set of headphones that work great.Three or four persons took the elevator, the guide showed it to them. You were off taking pictures and not paying attention.

Other unhappy passengers , yep. Didn't want to walk up to the castle in the rain. Yep, didn't want to  walk the winding streets in Sintra in the rain. Had four or five choices for lunch and picked the wrong one.  The couple behind us wanted to get back early for dinner. Yes my wife and I went for the walk in Lisbon in the rain. Yes, would of rather had a sunny beach and a bar, but when you have lemons make lemonade. I have had my own problems with Spain Day Tours, this was not one of them. Bad day, bad weather, cranky guests and a GREAT GUIDE.  In fact I have posted that tour for my next cruise and asked for the same guide. I want and hope to do that tour on a sunny day. Smaller group is easy, it's only money, spend it.

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Don, I think you are mistaken as to much of what you have said. We were not late. The disembarkation was late.

We did not exit at the wrong end of the building. 8 of us in the group met on board and walked off together. There may have been two people who were late but they weren't us.  The guide was nowhere to be found. When we did find her-8 of us-she had no useful information about how long we would have to wait for the bus or anything.

 

I was rarely off taking pictures. The rain was bad luck but not the fault of Spain Day Tours. Leaving us out in the rain because their bus was late was. I am glad you had a good time, but I request that withdraw your comments about what I was doing because they are not accurate. I think you are thinking of a different couple.

 

We toured Gibraltar in the rain and it was a great tour.

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1 hour ago, Sonora5 said:

Don, I think you are mistaken as to much of what you have said. We were not late. The disembarkation was late.

We did not exit at the wrong end of the building. 8 of us in the group met on board and walked off together. There may have been two people who were late but they weren't us.  The guide was nowhere to be found. When we did find her-8 of us-she had no useful information about how long we would have to wait for the bus or anything.

 

I was rarely off taking pictures. The rain was bad luck but not the fault of Spain Day Tours. Leaving us out in the rain because their bus was late was. I am glad you had a good time, but I request that withdraw your comments about what I was doing because they are not accurate. I think you are thinking of a different couple.

 

We toured Gibraltar in the rain and it was a great tour.

We totally support and agree with the statements made by Sonora5, We were on this tour also and as a matter of fact we were part of the 8 that disembarked together for this tour.  There was 2 older ladies travelling with the Bollinger’s who were late getting off the ship to the point that Fran said they may not even go on the tour.  They showed up.  

 

We are big users of Spain Day tours and this tour was also in our opinion the worst we have ever taken.  We also received correspondence from Spain Day  about giving them reviews about the tour and reiterated that it was the worst ever.  I even used my ship internet to communicate with them. I gave them rave reviews for the Palma de Mallorca tour I took with them but they certainly missed the mark on this one.  

 

Upon returning home I received a lot of additional correspondence from Spain Day tours and wrote them a long review.  We were also offered free tours of which I will not be using. First of all we had requested small group, it is my understanding that there was more than 1 vehicle doing the tour.  I’m glad that certain people got free tours because there was 16-18 people so of course these people are not going to complain because we actually paid for their tour.  Fully understandable...... 

 

The tour guide was awful, her constant cackling and laughing at nothing was driving us all up a wall, had to remove the ear buds.  When we got to Cascais she made us walk to a restaurant and told us we had 45 minutes, the place was packed, we waited for a long time for a table, ended up with a sandwich, there was only 2 toilets in the place (1 for women, other for men) long line-ups to use.  We had no time to walk around and visit this town, which would of been a first visit for us, back to the bus we went.

 

The visit to the Palace was another big fiasco.  A group of us waited for a very long time by the gift shop for travelling companions to find us as the guide failed to tell certain people where to meet.  Several people needed to us the elevator but had not been made aware of it.

 

We had a great cruise, met a lot of very nice people and we did mostly private tours everywhere but this tour was the worst.  This was also our 3rd time going to Lisbon and we wanted to do something different.  WE DID..... would not recommend this tour..

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1 hour ago, xjust4fun said:

First of all we had requested small group, it is my understanding that there was more than 1 vehicle doing the tour.  I’m glad that certain people got free tours because there was 16-18 people so of course these people are not going to complain because we actually paid for their tour.  Fully understandable...... 

 

Am I understanding this correctly?  You arranged a small group tour of 8 -10 (which I know is much pricier with SDT - we've done those) and ended up in a van with 16-18 people?  

 

If I am reading this correctly, that's absoltuely deplorable.  SDT does do small private group tours and, honestly, they are much more reasonable (and better) in Portugal with other operators.  I've done SDT and didn't use them again in Portugal.

 

I'm not a fan of that large a tour unless it is just a transfer or no other choice so I haven't used SDT for a number of years due to the "standardness" of their tours.

 

Sorry for you experience. 😞 

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53 minutes ago, kazu said:

 

Am I understanding this correctly?  You arranged a small group tour of 8 -10 (which I know is much pricier with SDT - we've done those) and ended up in a van with 16-18 people?  

 

If I am reading this correctly, that's absoltuely deplorable.  SDT does do small private group tours and, honestly, they are much more reasonable (and better) in Portugal with other operators.  I've done SDT and didn't use them again in Portugal.

 

I'm not a fan of that large a tour unless it is just a transfer or no other choice so I haven't used SDT for a number of years due to the "standardness" of their tours.

 

Sorry for you experience. 😞 

Yes Kazu when we booked the tour we requested small group.  We did not arrange this Lisbon tour.  I understand that they could get up to 16-18 people on a tour.  We contacted SDT often to enquire if the tour was a go. I arranged the Mallorca one and we had 10.  We’ve also booked numerous tours with this tour provider in the past 6 years and this was not up to their standard.  The operator sent us 2 vouchers to take any of their future tours.  SDT is a reputable company, we never had issues with them before, thus reason we booked this tour.  The company requested feedback from us on numerous occasions and we responded with a fair assessment as a result they sent us this email,,,

 

“Dear Diane,

 

Thank you for your kind email and I hope you have safely returned home.

 

I just wanted to let you know that I have already updated our system with your complimentary fare and you can redeem it ANYTIME in the future- even 5 years from today.  If you wish to give it as a present to someone else, please ask them to use your email address as reference when contacting us and we will be happy to pass this offer to them in your name.

 

Thank you very much again and we look forward to the opportunity of being at your service again.  Best wishes to you from Spain!

 

Best regards,

Joseph”

 

As stated above SDT is a reputable and professional tour operator, we’ve used them extensively in the past and will again, we will just not recommend this particular tour and I support all the statements made by Sonora5.  Lots of people were so fed up that they wanted to just return to the ship.

 

Diane

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