Cruise suggestions.

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btenny
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Cruise suggestions.

Post by btenny » Thu Feb 16, 2017 12:04 pm

My wife and I are planning to take a 15 day long cruise around the Med this fall. We are starting in Italy and traveling to Greece and stopping in lots of other places along the way. We are paying a lot for this trip. So I am wondering what things I need to do to save money or precautions I need to take before finalizing my reservations. We are traveling on their air line reservations as well. We will be leaving two days early for ease of travel and staying extra time at the end to visit other places.

Any suggestions?

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Sheepdog
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by Sheepdog » Thu Feb 16, 2017 1:05 pm

I have traveled in my 70s and early 80s, Including in the Mediterranean. I now always purchase trip insurance to protect my investment if I can't go and to pay for medical treatment if needed on the trip, including getting us back home in such a case. We are careful with money and where it is on our person. Pick pockets are everywhere, they say. Stay with a group on shore is recommended (but we often were not). They all love US money, after all. I try to pre plan excursions by searching on line. Some, I reserved from the cruise line, but some I purchased on shore (usually cheaper). We sometimes became friends with other passengers and shared taxis to see the sights. Taxi drivers in places like Athens, Istanbul, Isles, etc are mostly well versed and English speaking tour guides themselves. Cheaper usually. You get my point? Have you searched CruiseCritic.com, especially your particular cruise to read what has been written there? You can get recommendations and read experiences from past passengers.
Enjoy the cruise..I would love to go there again.
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BUBear29
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by BUBear29 » Thu Feb 16, 2017 1:26 pm

We did a seven day out of Barcelona in September. Fabulous.

As mentioned above, try to book any excursions yourself (utilize google, lonely planet, trip advisor) as the cost of booking through the ship is high and you often get stuck in large groups. We prefered having private tours.

We never had an issue with pickpocketing. Just try not to look like a tourist.

Make sure to know international fees on your credit card and debit card. Always withdraw cash in the local currency and do not take the additional charge from the bank for a currency exchange fee.
There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no one independence quite so important, as living within your means.

ResearchMed
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by ResearchMed » Thu Feb 16, 2017 1:27 pm

Sheepdog wrote:I have traveled in my 70s and early 80s, Including in the Mediterranean. I now always purchase trip insurance to protect my investment if I can't go and to pay for medical treatment if needed on the trip, including getting us back home in such a case. We are careful with money and where it is on our person. Pick pockets are everywhere, they say. Stay with a group on shore is recommended (but we often were not). They all love US money, after all. I try to pre plan excursions by searching on line. Some, I reserved from the cruise line, but some I purchased on shore (usually cheaper). We sometimes became friends with other passengers and shared taxis to see the sights. Taxi drivers in places like Athens, Istanbul, Isles, etc are mostly well versed and English speaking tour guides themselves. Cheaper usually. You get my point? Have you searched CruiseCritic.com, especially your particular cruise to read what has been written there? You can get recommendations and read experiences from past passengers.
Enjoy the cruise..I would love to go there again.
Also (strongly) suggest you browse through http://www.CruiseCritic.com

Several subforums:
-- The cruiseline you are taking, for general info, and specifics about your ship;
-- Ports of Call, for suggestions about excursions/sights each place you will be;
-- general topics like "Ask a Cruise Question", "First time cruise questions", etc.;
-- Travel Insurance (we ALWAYS get this, and have had a few claims);
-- special situations (disabled, over 55, with families, luxury...);
-- the ROLL CALL - the subforum for those on your particular cruise;
and just browse on the main forum listing.

We also keep an annual MedJetAssist policy. This covers you if you are admitted as an *inpatient* (not just ER) at a hospital more than 150 miles from home, and it will medevac you to the hospital of your choice in your home country.
Benefits are no bean counter makes the decision, and no local med staff need to declare themselves unqualified to care for you, etc.
We keep the annual, as that's much better for us than a "per trip" policy. Not only do we have more than one major trip per year, but this also covers us for domestic and business travel throughout the year.
(Fortunately, we have not had experience with them, but we almost did almost 2 years ago... but I started to recover before we did that, and after some additional rest, I was able to continue with the last few days of the vacation. Travel Insurance covered the extra costs very well.)

Enjoy!

RM
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dm200
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by dm200 » Thu Feb 16, 2017 2:26 pm

I would pay for medical coverage and cancellation insurance.

SueG5123
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by SueG5123 » Thu Feb 16, 2017 2:56 pm

First and foremost, heed warnings of pickpockets. They don't want to physically harm you, but they do want your cash and cards and they are expert in the means to do so. Recommend no purses or wallets unless you use them as "dummies." Money belts or zippered pockets are excellent investments.

Secondly, if you use local transportation, don't forget to validate your ticket (bus, train, whatever), as you will be subject to a significant fine if you don't. If you don't know how or where, just ask someone else, we've always found people very helpful.

Third -- if you plan to do any independent sight-seeing, let me recommend Rick Steves audio guides. Free from his web site, just download them and you can listen to them on your cell phone. You'll whiz right past crowds in places like The Louvre, see everything you wanted to see.

Last -- eat local. Try the local foods, wines, beers. What's the point of going to Rome to eat a hamburger?

zbxb006
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by zbxb006 » Thu Feb 16, 2017 3:18 pm

Join cruise critic if you haven't already. Go to the 'roll call' for your trip. There most likely will be people there organizing private shore excursions and looking for folks to fill up their van. Usually they hold six to ten people. Not only will you save a tremendous amount of money vs using the ships tours, but you will be in a much smaller group and almost certainly will have a better experience and probably see more things. Also, the roll call is the best place to ask about the ports and things to do. You will find that there are many people on the roll call that have extensive experience in Med cruises.

Some of the ports will have taxis and tour companies at the dock that can be quite good also. But the problem is you don't know which ports will have them, some have nothing at the dock.

Most of the bigger stops have hop on/hop off buses that will take you on a tour around the city. They can be a good deal.

Most everywhere you are going takes Euros, some will take USD at a mostly fair exchange rate. We bought a bunch of Euros from our bank before leaving (they even shipped it to our house via FedEx), and planned on using local ATMs if we needed more, but turns out we didn't. We never used a credit card, always cash.

If you have any health problems medical insurance can come in handy. If you don't opt for the whole trip cancellation insurance, the medical piece becomes more affordable.

If you are starting from Venice, be careful about hotel locations as hauling a couple weeks worth of luggage up and down all the bridges is a pain. Many of the hotels are in locations that are hard to reach except by the boats.

Biggest potential money-saver: Go to Cruise Compete and get bids on your cruise. In my experience they will probably get you the best price vs local travel agents or the cruise line.

Have a good time. We just finished a 42 day cruise of the Med.

zbxb006
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by zbxb006 » Thu Feb 16, 2017 3:31 pm

Oh, the best part - local food. I found the food to be very affordable, which surprised me given the rep for expensive european food. We did a lot of exploring off the tourist path and had lunch in the little back alley shops where the locals eat. Fantastic food, although finding English speakers was a little harder there. When in doubt, point at the menu item and smile. Everywhere we went there was excellent pastry too, if you are into that. It's like a national obsession.

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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by Cruise » Thu Feb 16, 2017 7:54 pm

btenny wrote:My wife and I are planning to take a 15 day long cruise around the Med this fall. We are starting in Italy and traveling to Greece and stopping in lots of other places along the way. We are paying a lot for this trip. So I am wondering what things I need to do to save money or precautions I need to take before finalizing my reservations. We are traveling on their air line reservations as well. We will be leaving two days early for ease of travel and staying extra time at the end to visit other places.

Any suggestions?
We might be able to help with specifics if you identified what cruise line you are on and to what ports you are travelling.

It sounds like your primary concerns are risk avoidance. In light of that, I would add:

1. Purchase travel insurance.
2. Make sure you fully understand the terms and conditions of the insurance. These can be highly detailed/specific.
3. Medjet Assist
4. Make sure you know what countries that might require a visa for you. Double/triple check.
5. Do you have passports that have 6+ months of validity on them from the last date of your journey?
6. Apply for Global Entry
7. Add your Known Traveler Number to your airline reservations

Bon Voyage...

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midareff
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by midareff » Thu Feb 16, 2017 8:01 pm

Gratuities, any optional ground excursions and alcohol on board is the general.

Traveler
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by Traveler » Thu Feb 16, 2017 8:38 pm

You'll have a blast. Don't worry too much about safety - you can carry a purse just like you would at home. Be vigilant but there's no need for paranoia. I've traveled all over Europe, many trips by myself, wandered cities after dark, sometimes tipsy and (knock on wood), have never had a problem. Istanbul, in my opinion, requires more caution, but even there, just be aware of your surroundings. Have fun!

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Jazztonight
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by Jazztonight » Fri Feb 17, 2017 1:11 am

The first cruise my wife and I ever took was Istanbul to Rome, through the Aegean and the Greek Isles. It was great. Since then, we've been on half a dozen cruises: Panama Canal, SF to Hawaii, Alaska, Mexico, and most recently Quebec to Ft. Lauderdale.

We always get travel insurance, but I believe that certain credit cards will provide you with insurance if you charged it on the CC. Check into it.

Medical care on the larger ships is very good--DW had a bunch of lab tests on one of the cruise ships, and it was a very detailed panel, with good care.

Regarding excursions: sometimes we get the ones that the ship provides, and sometimes we book our own. Sometimes it's worth paying more if you think there is added value.

You will probably have a certain amount of "Shipboard Credit" that was given to you by the cruise line or your travel agent. Use those credits for tips and excursions. Book early for the most popular excursions--they often sell out.

Take advantage of the entertainment on the ship--it's often excellent. Use the exercise facility and walk the promenade deck if there is one. Use the Jacuzzi and swimming pool. Be prepared for windy and/or cool days at sea. Or, it could be broiling hot! Don't overeat or you'll put on unwanted weight. Not only do many cruise ships provide church/religious services (often self-guided), but they have AA meetings, Trivia games, dance lessons, sing-alongs, talent nights, and lots of other stuff to keep you entertained.

You'll love it!
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yatesd
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by yatesd » Fri Feb 17, 2017 6:16 am

Really enjoyed the tips already provided. My wife and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary and taking a 9-day cruise on Silversea in late August from Venice to Athens. We decided to take our first 2-week vacation and add 5-days in Venice and 1-day in Athens.

One tip...our local library provides free access to Rosetta Stone Language training that can be accessed from a computer or your phone. I am sure we will will also use Google translate.

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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by cherijoh » Fri Feb 17, 2017 6:52 am

btenny wrote:My wife and I are planning to take a 15 day long cruise around the Med this fall. We are starting in Italy and traveling to Greece and stopping in lots of other places along the way. We are paying a lot for this trip. So I am wondering what things I need to do to save money or precautions I need to take before finalizing my reservations. We are traveling on their air line reservations as well. We will be leaving two days early for ease of travel and staying extra time at the end to visit other places.

Any suggestions?
I took a brief Greek Isles tour about 20 years ago in October (after a business conference). I was surprised by how rough the seas were. We totally skipped Mykonos (the main reason I took the cruise :annoyed ) because it would have been too rough to send out the tender boats. So come prepared with motion sickness medicine even if you don't think you will be sick. I always travel with motion sickness acupressure bands (brand name SeaBands) when I travel. But I am an especially queasy sailor, so I also get a prescription for the behind-the-ear patch for cruises.

On a separate but related note. Check and see which ports of call (if any) will require tender boats due to the depth of the harbor. We stopped in Sitka on an Alaska cruise and people who didn't book a cruise-sponsored excursion were placed at the end of the line for getting a tender off the ship. The order was based on the departure time of their excursions (which were staggered based on duration). This might influence which ports you book excursions through the cruise line.

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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by oldcomputerguy » Fri Feb 17, 2017 7:28 am

SueG5123 wrote:Third -- if you plan to do any independent sight-seeing, let me recommend Rick Steves audio guides. Free from his web site, just download them and you can listen to them on your cell phone. You'll whiz right past crowds in places like The Louvre, see everything you wanted to see.
Wow, thanks for this. DW and I are planning a trip to Europe this spring, this should come in handy.
Last -- eat local. Try the local foods, wines, beers. What's the point of going to Rome to eat a hamburger?
Um, how about going to Rome and eating pizza? :twisted:
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Watty
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by Watty » Fri Feb 17, 2017 9:15 am

Get the Rick Steves book for Greece and Italy.

Both Italy and Greece are prone to having strikes, like train strikes, that can disrupt your travel but usually they are brief. Be sure to get to the port where the cruise leaves from a day or two ahead of time to allow for unexpected delays. You mentioned getting into Italy two days early, If possible I would get there earlier than that to allow you to adapt to the jet lag before the cruise starts.

+1 on travel insurance.

That is not just if you have to cancel the trip before you go but once you get out into places like the Greek Islands you will be a long way from good hospitals to the medical evacuation insurance is important too. Some things like airfare may be non-refundable but depending on your airline ticket you may be able to change it for a fee so you may not need to insure 100% of the cost of a trip.

Pre-existing condition exclusions are usually waived if you buy the travel insurance at within a week or so of when you make the first payment of for the trip so you will want to buy it promptly.

michaeljc70
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by michaeljc70 » Fri Feb 17, 2017 10:37 am

I just came back from a Med cruise this week. I've been on about 5. Without knowing the cruise line, my suggestions based on your question are:

-The ship's excursions are very expensive. For example, the all day Rome on my cruise (NCL) was $400 per person. Unless you are going on a high end cruise that includes excursions, carefully plan what you will do. I see 2 approaches to this:

1) Find out (online) how you will get to where you want to go. This often involves shuttles, trains, buses, trains and/or walking. Use online resources (like Rick Steves mentioned above) or a good guidebook to plan out what you will see and have easily accessible the guidebook pages when you get there. Figure out the best order to see sites and how you will move between them. This takes quite a bit of research. Keep in mind this is not for the newbie traveler and involves walking, taking public transportation in a foreign country (or cabs, but they are of course more expensive), etc. As an example, in Florence we walked around a mile to a local bus stop, took the bus to the train station, train to Florence and then walked to all sites from there.

2) Hire a private guide. Sometimes they will pick you up at the pier. Sometimes they won't (pier is 1.5 hours away from Florence). Again, there are cruise sites that have great resources, reviews of guides, etc. If you want a lower cost, post on cruise forums to get other people on the same cruise to go on the tour (most vans hold 6 or more and you pay for the van). Otherwise you will probably be going with a larger group put together by the tour company.

I find the cruise ship tours to slow me down. They go at the pace of the slowest person (and many have 40+ people). They spend too much time at junk souvenir shops. However, you are obviously losing time if you have to wait for buses, trains, etc. on your own.

-I don't know if you drink and what cruise line you are going on. Some include alcohol. On my cruise I found the alcohol to be expensive (compared to restaurants in the major city I live in). I opted to buy my own wine and pay the corkage fee ($15 a bottle on my cruise). I figured that saved us around $400.

-It is smart to get there before the cruise in case you have flight issues, but it seems you have that covered.

btenny
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by btenny » Fri Feb 17, 2017 9:10 pm

OP here. We are looking at a Viking Ocean Cruises trip to Israel and Greece with a departure from Rome plus stops in Naples and Cyprus. Viking has a good reputation with river cruises but ocean stuff is new for them so I am wondering about lots of stuff. There are no comments about this particular cruise I am taking on Cruise Critic. Any reviews I can look up?

I am wondering about cruise quality?
I am wondering if there is a way to get the cruise cheaper via other sellers instead of direct with the cruise line?
I am wondering how you handle money in places that do not take Euros like Israel?
I am wondering about the weather as the trip is in mid November so it will be cool. Has anyone been in these places that time of year? Is it rainy?
How should we dress for the day trips inside Israel? Greece?
Viking cruises offers connecting air line tickets back to the US that are cheaper that I can purchase direct. Any reason to not buy direct from the cruise line?

Sorry for the late information but our home internet has been down for a while. I am using a hot spot.

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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by ResearchMed » Fri Feb 17, 2017 11:18 pm

btenny wrote:OP here. We are looking at a Viking Ocean Cruises trip to Israel and Greece with a departure from Rome plus stops in Naples and Cyprus. Viking has a good reputation with river cruises but ocean stuff is new for them so I am wondering about lots of stuff. There are no comments about this particular cruise I am taking on Cruise Critic. Any reviews I can look up?

I am wondering about cruise quality?
Look at all reviews for Viking Ocean Cruises, not just the specific itinerary you will be on. Because the line is new, you should just gather whatever info does exist in terms of feedback.
I am wondering if there is a way to get the cruise cheaper via other sellers instead of direct with the cruise line?
This is tricky. Some of the "lower cost" rates come with other potential penalties or restrictions. We are siill searching for actual significant savings, without giving up some of the regular flexibility/etc. We would love to know if these "real savings" - of any meaningful amount - really are available. Even with Amex Plat Travel, what we "got" was a cheap bottle of wine and an invitation to a really poor quality wine tasting. We did get some extra OBC [On Board Credit], but the percentage for the suite we paid for was not enough to make any serious difference. And having to go through an intermediary who wasn't all that responsive... not worth it. (Yes, some of this is deterioration in Amex Plat Trav services, not "all" possible travel agents.)
I am wondering how you handle money in places that do not take Euros like Israel?
I am wondering about the weather as the trip is in mid November so it will be cool. Has anyone been in these places that time of year? Is it rainy?
How should we dress for the day trips inside Israel? Greece?
Viking cruises offers connecting air line tickets back to the US that are cheaper that I can purchase direct. Any reason to not buy direct from the cruise line? You might want to see if you can opt for the routing/scheduling of your choice. Often the cruise-air "offers" more connections or bad times. There may be a way to do this, for extra cost or not. We *strongly* prefer to be in charge of our own air reservations, and hotels pre/post cruise, but we just prefer the choices and also flexibility just in case we want/need to change something.

Sorry for the late information but our home internet has been down for a while. I am using a hot spot.
Don't forget that travel insurance!
And make SURE that you have sufficient medical coverage, regardless of how.
Have credit "room" on your charge card, as almost all travel insurance (but not *all*) is a reimbursement type. You pay, submit receipts, get paid later.
PM if you didn't yet get insurance and you made your first payment more than 14 or 21 days ago, if you need pre-existing condition coverage.
Or just contact http://www.TripInsuranceStore.com
That's who we've always used (thanks to recommendation on CruiseCritic some time ago), and we've had some large claims paid without nonsense, which is what it is all about, after all. (The insurer we used was Travel Insured, due to certain types of coverage they offer that fit our needs best.)

Enjoy the planning, and then the trip!

RM
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sperry8
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by sperry8 » Fri Feb 17, 2017 11:48 pm

Wow, so many feel travel insurance is worth it. I have never bought travel insurance and wouldn't even consider it. I've traveled to over 75 countries without it. Yes, I have seen doctors while traveling. Taipei, Australia and Paris come immediately to mind. I just paid out of pocket and it wasn't expensive at all. Other countries aren't like the States where they charge super high fees that are then "negotiated downward" once one shows an insurance card. They charge fees that one would consider reasonable.

Now I am healthy and on the younger side. But the OP hasn't stated his or DW health issues or age. And yet, everyone is recommending it. I think it's a cost that can be avoided assuming you are healthy. If OP, you or DW are unhealthy or have health issues that may require being evacuated off ship - I understand the need.

As for money - get a Charles Schwab checking account and it's debit card. This will work in any country and you will be reimbursed for all ATM fees. Best way to travel and access money abroad imo.
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by Cruise » Sat Feb 18, 2017 1:47 am

btenny wrote:
I am wondering if there is a way to get the cruise cheaper via other sellers instead of direct with the cruise line?

I used to book directly with cruiselines, but an internet friend introduced me to his travel agent, and she has been getting me 10% off cruise fares. That kind of discount adds up! Feel free to PM me if you want more info.

I am wondering how you handle money in places that do not take Euros like Israel?

Easy, use no FTF credit cards. I also withdraw local cash as needed from ATMs, using my no-fee Fidelity Debit card. Others use Schwab cards.

I am wondering about the weather as the trip is in mid November so it will be cool. Has anyone been in these places that time of year? Is it rainy?
How should we dress for the day trips inside Israel? Greece?

Dress in layers, and you will be prepared for anything. We rarely leave the ship without my backpack, which holds any layers we don't have on.

michaeljc70
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by michaeljc70 » Sat Feb 18, 2017 6:32 am

btenny wrote:OP here. We are looking at a Viking Ocean Cruises trip to Israel and Greece with a departure from Rome plus stops in Naples and Cyprus. Viking has a good reputation with river cruises but ocean stuff is new for them so I am wondering about lots of stuff. There are no comments about this particular cruise I am taking on Cruise Critic. Any reviews I can look up?

I am wondering about cruise quality?
I am wondering if there is a way to get the cruise cheaper via other sellers instead of direct with the cruise line? Try Cruise Compete. You enter your info on what you want and it goes out to a lot of travel agents that give you quotes. They almost always differ
I am wondering how you handle money in places that do not take Euros like Israel? Use an ATM and credit card. Cruise lines typically will change money too, but the exchange rate probably isn't the best.
I am wondering about the weather as the trip is in mid November so it will be cool. Has anyone been in these places that time of year? Is it rainy? I"ve been in Nov. It is cool. I was there (Southern Med) this week. It varied from 40 (3 am) to 70 degrees. Nov would be similar with highs a little lower I expect. Maybe 50s during the day. I looked up the avg day temp in Tel Aviv in Nov and it is 64. I needed a jacket or sweater every morning but wound up carrying it in the afternoon some days (especially sunny days).
How should we dress for the day trips inside Israel? Greece?
Viking cruises offers connecting air line tickets back to the US that are cheaper that I can purchase direct. Any reason to not buy direct from the cruise line?

Sorry for the late information but our home internet has been down for a while. I am using a hot spot.

motorcyclesarecool
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by motorcyclesarecool » Sat Feb 18, 2017 8:04 am

btenny wrote:I am wondering if there is a way to get the cruise cheaper via other sellers instead of direct with the cruise line?
+1 on trying Cruise Compete for that sailing. We saved money on a Disney cruise that way (Disney Cruise Line's reputation is that they don't permit discounts below the published fare, so different agents compete by offering different on-board credits.) Plus you'll be dealing with an agent who wants you to be happy, vs someone at a call center.
btenny wrote:I am wondering how you handle money in places that do not take Euros like Israel?
Check with your bank / cu ahead of time to find out what banks they have a relationship with in that country. Use the ATM. Also, get yourself a credit card with true "chip and PIN" capability. Most chip cards in the US are "chip and signature" and will be a PITA in the Eurozone. Small US bills (down to $1)work fine throughout Israel. Four years ago, I got 5 Shekels to the dollar all day long, and that was good enough for me.
btenny wrote:Viking cruises offers connecting air line tickets back to the US that are cheaper that I can purchase direct. Any reason to not buy direct from the cruise line?
Make sure flights are aboard a reputable airline and not with an ad-hoc charter operator. You don't want to find yourself on an unscheduled adventure in the Azores because the plane ran out of fuel (This exact thing has happened as recently as 2001 with a North American charter operator)

Edited in two places to clarify.
Last edited by motorcyclesarecool on Sat Feb 18, 2017 8:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
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tadamsmar
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by tadamsmar » Sat Feb 18, 2017 8:18 am

In Athens, I think I gave a cabby a $20 bill and it magically became a $10, so don't absent-mindedly hand them a bill, make sure they know you are playing attention.

The Hop on hop off buses in Athens were great and inexpensive for seeing the sights, and they were not listed in the guide books we had. We stayed at the Jason Inn which is near the Ancient Agora, it's an OK hotel but try to not get a room on the noisy street.

I'd avoid hotels on or near Syntagma Square, unless you like the smell of tear gas. If there are still protest going on, they tend to occur there.

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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by michaeljc70 » Sat Feb 18, 2017 8:52 am

tadamsmar wrote:In Athens, I think I gave a cabby a $20 bill and it magically became a $10, so don't absent-mindedly hand them a bill, make sure they know you are playing attention.

The Hop on hop off buses in Athens were great and inexpensive for seeing the sights, and they were not listed in the guide books we had. We stayed at the Jason Inn which is near the Ancient Agora, it's an OK hotel but try to not get a room on the noisy street.

I'd avoid hotels on or near Syntagma Square, unless you like the smell of tear gas. If there are still protest going on, they tend to occur there.
Yes...the bill switcharoo in the cab. It happens in many cities. Best to have close to exact change for cabs, especially at night when you cannot see what they are doing with the bill you give them. In some countries cabs are known to give you your change in counterfeit money too. Haven't seen that in Europe though.

michaeljc70
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by michaeljc70 » Sat Feb 18, 2017 8:56 am

Just for an example, through Cruise compete in Nov I got a very cheap rate (10 night, outside, ncl, S America, $399pp) and they threw in an Ultimate Drink Pkg ($2000 value) and prepaid gratuities ($260 value). Not all the offers were so generous. Some offered a $100 room credit and the same price for the cruise.

SueG5123
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by SueG5123 » Sat Feb 18, 2017 9:26 am

Viking Ocean Cruises -- I can offer some specific input here. My husband and I were on the maiden voyage of the Viking Sea last spring (the last ship departing Istanbul before the problems there!).

Cannot say enough about the quality of the cruise! The free excursions were wonderful, although the ship is small enough and gets into ports that the deeper draft vessels can't, so that you can strike off on your own in many places (Montenegro, for example) . The food was great and plentiful, and the specialty restaurants were free (you are limited to a number of visits based upon your cabin level). We often used the free 24 hour room service as we would be out exploring during regular lunch hours. Wine and beer flowed liberally at every meal. The cabins were spacious, with radiant heated floors in the bath. Every room has a balcony, so we spent many an afternoon having a glass of wine and a snack on ours, looking at glamorous scenery. Staff is solicitous to a fault. There were entertainment options, which we largely skipped, but we really loved the fact that lecturers were available to speak on the history of the places we visited. We most enjoyed the talks of a retired Royal Navy admiral who gave us insights into ancient trade and World War I.

We loved the cruise so much, we've already reserved a relocation cruise from Puerto Rico to Barcelona for 2018.

Now, we did have one hiccup: Viking neglected to make our return air reservation, so we were effectively stranded at debarkation in Venice. We had to "play rough" to get them to help us at all (the ship's staff kept telling us to just go to the airport and file a claim with travel insurance! It wasn't a travel insurance issue--it was Viking's responsibility, since we paid them, extra I might add, for the air.)

michaeljc70
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by michaeljc70 » Sat Feb 18, 2017 10:05 am

SueG5123 wrote:Viking Ocean Cruises -- I can offer some specific input here. My husband and I were on the maiden voyage of the Viking Sea last spring (the last ship departing Istanbul before the problems there!).

Cannot say enough about the quality of the cruise! The free excursions were wonderful, although the ship is small enough and gets into ports that the deeper draft vessels can't, so that you can strike off on your own in many places (Montenegro, for example) . The food was great and plentiful, and the specialty restaurants were free (you are limited to a number of visits based upon your cabin level). We often used the free 24 hour room service as we would be out exploring during regular lunch hours. Wine and beer flowed liberally at every meal. The cabins were spacious, with radiant heated floors in the bath. Every room has a balcony, so we spent many an afternoon having a glass of wine and a snack on ours, looking at glamorous scenery. Staff is solicitous to a fault. There were entertainment options, which we largely skipped, but we really loved the fact that lecturers were available to speak on the history of the places we visited. We most enjoyed the talks of a retired Royal Navy admiral who gave us insights into ancient trade and World War I.

We loved the cruise so much, we've already reserved a relocation cruise from Puerto Rico to Barcelona for 2018.

Now, we did have one hiccup: Viking neglected to make our return air reservation, so we were effectively stranded at debarkation in Venice. We had to "play rough" to get them to help us at all (the ship's staff kept telling us to just go to the airport and file a claim with travel insurance! It wasn't a travel insurance issue--it was Viking's responsibility, since we paid them, extra I might add, for the air.)
Their site says they include one shore excursion in each port. I am curious as to the type, length, etc. Is it one that encompasses most of the major sites or focused on one particular point of interest?

I would say not booking your return airfare is more than a small oversight. What if all the flights were full? I would think you would get your flights sent to you in advance.

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runner9
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by runner9 » Mon Feb 27, 2017 2:06 pm

ResearchMed wrote: PM if you didn't yet get insurance and you made your first payment more than 14 or 21 days ago, if you need pre-existing condition coverage.
Or just contact http://www.TripInsuranceStore.com
That's who we've always used (thanks to recommendation on CruiseCritic some time ago), and we've had some large claims paid without nonsense, which is what it is all about, after all. (The insurer we used was Travel Insured, due to certain types of coverage they offer that fit our needs best.)

Enjoy the planning, and then the trip!

RM
We're going on our first cruise to the Caribbean in May. I used this link for trip insurance and also called them with a couple questions. Was impressed by the knowledge and helpfulness.

delamer
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by delamer » Mon Feb 27, 2017 3:08 pm

sperry8 wrote:Wow, so many feel travel insurance is worth it. I have never bought travel insurance and wouldn't even consider it. I've traveled to over 75 countries without it. Yes, I have seen doctors while traveling. Taipei, Australia and Paris come immediately to mind. I just paid out of pocket and it wasn't expensive at all. Other countries aren't like the States where they charge super high fees that are then "negotiated downward" once one shows an insurance card. They charge fees that one would consider reasonable.

Now I am healthy and on the younger side. But the OP hasn't stated his or DW health issues or age. And yet, everyone is recommending it. I think it's a cost that can be avoided assuming you are healthy. If OP, you or DW are unhealthy or have health issues that may require being evacuated off ship - I understand the need.

As for money - get a Charles Schwab checking account and it's debit card. This will work in any country and you will be reimbursed for all ATM fees. Best way to travel and access money abroad imo.
We always have bought insurance, but the main purpose was to be able to cancel (or cut short) our cruise if our elderly parents or college-age kids had an emergency. Another important issue is medical evacuation; we make sure to get $250K when traveling outside of the USA/Caribbean.

The only time we actually used the insurance was when one of the kids got sick in Europe and it paid for the costs of my husband and kid to reconnect with the ship at another port two days later. Actual healthcare was reimbursed by our regular health insurance. Interestingly, we also were reimbursed (proportionally) for the time that husband and kid were off the ship since they missed part of the vacation, through the travel insurance.

btenny
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by btenny » Mon Feb 27, 2017 3:43 pm

I looked up the insurance on the above website and found it much cheaper than Viking. About $530 vs $1200 for two people. Was this site that cheap when other used it? I also do not understand all the language about pre-existing conditions. I am an old guy with some medical things wrong that I take meds for those. Does this stuff mean these things are not covered while traveling? Or if I get sick before the trip and cannot travel is it covered if I have to cancel? Is it a cash rebate insurance or some sort of script for future travel?

Please explain this stuff if you can. Thanks in advance.

ResearchMed
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by ResearchMed » Mon Feb 27, 2017 4:43 pm

runner9 wrote:
ResearchMed wrote: PM if you didn't yet get insurance and you made your first payment more than 14 or 21 days ago, if you need pre-existing condition coverage.
Or just contact http://www.TripInsuranceStore.com
That's who we've always used (thanks to recommendation on CruiseCritic some time ago), and we've had some large claims paid without nonsense, which is what it is all about, after all. (The insurer we used was Travel Insured, due to certain types of coverage they offer that fit our needs best.)

Enjoy the planning, and then the trip!

RM
We're going on our first cruise to the Caribbean in May. I used this link for trip insurance and also called them with a couple questions. Was impressed by the knowledge and helpfulness.
Glad they were of help.

We found out about them on CruiseCritic.com, and we are very, very grateful.
First, Steve (owner; but his associates, too) has been incredibly helpful explaining things and also helping to make sure we got the "right" policy, at best cost.
We've had two large claims, and one small one, all with TravelInsured, and they were paid with no nonsense, which is what matters, after all.

It's taken a lot of "worry" out of planning and the travel itself, especially at our ages.

RM
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ResearchMed
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by ResearchMed » Mon Feb 27, 2017 5:01 pm

btenny wrote:I looked up the insurance on the above website and found it much cheaper than Viking. About $530 vs $1200 for two people. Was this site that cheap when other used it? I also do not understand all the language about pre-existing conditions. I am an old guy with some medical things wrong that I take meds for those. Does this stuff mean these things are not covered while traveling? Or if I get sick before the trip and cannot travel is it covered if I have to cancel? Is it a cash rebate insurance or some sort of script for future travel?

Please explain this stuff if you can. Thanks in advance.
Are you comparing the cost of insurance purchased directly through Viking for a trip with Viking, vs. what you found at http://www.TripInsuranceStore.com ?
Our understanding is that the coverage through independent insurers is almost always better than through the cruise line.
One exception, for those who would be satisfied, is that some cruise lines have more liberal cancel coverage, but only for a cruise credit that has a deadline. That wouldn't work for us, especially with a time deadline.

I strongly encourage you to *call* them. The online summaries just can't provide all the details.

Re Pre-Existing Conditions! We both have a few of those.

The coverage we get (from TravelInsured), has what is called an "Waiver of Pre-Existing Condition Exclusion".
That multi-negative syntax means that if you purchase the coverage early enough, your medical history does *NOT* matter.
What DOES matter is: You must be "fit to travel" on the day you start the insurance coverage, and with TI, for the type of policy we get, one must start the coverage within 20 (used to be 21) days of the very *first* payment/deposit, regardless of whether it is refundable or not.
This is extremely important to us.

We think it also speeds up a claim due to medical problems, as there is no need for them to sort through old medical records to see if the "event" is related to something pre-existing or not. That makes the claim not only faster (I think) but easier (I am certain).

Oh, it's a nice check in the mail back, for the full amount of loss.
And there is also a rider (costs more, no surprise) of "Cancel For Any Reason" (CFAR), which is exactly what it says, at 75% refund (cash).
Two weeks in advance, for example, you realize you were invited to something extremely special? 75% back, if that is your preference.

PM me for more details, or maybe just suggestions about what to ask Steve.
(I'm not a licensed insurance broker! But I DID stay at a Holiday Inn Express once, so I can offer some preliminary help, plus how it's worked for us. :happy )

We also have a 96 yo MIL, so... that is always in the back of our minds.
If "something happened" the coverage we got would cover all cancelled plans, including mid-way through trip.
It it wasn't "severe enough", we could always use the CFAR (like if MIL suddenly insisted that she didn't want us to go or something, although she's the last to do that, at least thus far).

DH just bumped up an age bracket, so his coverage is now a bit more expensive.
The same will happen in 2 years for the MedJetAssist coverage, but that one requires a quick review of medical records, so... we'll see what they are looking for soon enough...

Good luck.

RM
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rralex1
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by rralex1 » Mon Feb 27, 2017 5:08 pm

btenny wrote:My wife and I are planning to take a 15 day long cruise around the Med this fall. We are starting in Italy and traveling to Greece and stopping in lots of other places along the way. We are paying a lot for this trip. So I am wondering what things I need to do to save money or precautions I need to take before finalizing my reservations. We are traveling on their air line reservations as well. We will be leaving two days early for ease of travel and staying extra time at the end to visit other places.

Any suggestions?
We will be on a similar cruise.. Out of Barcelona, but either way one thing to consider for sure as suggested, is Med insurance. We will be taking additional Medical/Health/Medivac insurance beyond our current BCBS coverage. Our cruise will include Spain, France, a couple of stops in Italy, three in Greece, and Malta. Kusadasi Turkey was on the itinerary but has changed to another island in Greece... Although not fun to think about, with this itinerary Med+ insurance takes a higher level of importance, at least for us. There are many choices. I second the previous recommendation. https://tripinsurancestore.com/
Last edited by rralex1 on Mon Feb 27, 2017 5:15 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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runner9
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by runner9 » Mon Feb 27, 2017 5:10 pm

btenny wrote:I looked up the insurance on the above website and found it much cheaper than Viking. About $530 vs $1200 for two people. Was this site that cheap when other used it? I also do not understand all the language about pre-existing conditions. I am an old guy with some medical things wrong that I take meds for those. Does this stuff mean these things are not covered while traveling? Or if I get sick before the trip and cannot travel is it covered if I have to cancel? Is it a cash rebate insurance or some sort of script for future travel?

Please explain this stuff if you can. Thanks in advance.
I would call them. I called on a Saturday and Steve answered. Would have thought it was a family friend just talking. Very calm, asked several questions about what issues we might have, etc. Then went through the options same as I saw on my computer and explained his reasoning for taking one company's insurance over another.

ResearchMed
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by ResearchMed » Mon Feb 27, 2017 5:14 pm

rralex1 wrote:
btenny wrote:My wife and I are planning to take a 15 day long cruise around the Med this fall. We are starting in Italy and traveling to Greece and stopping in lots of other places along the way. We are paying a lot for this trip. So I am wondering what things I need to do to save money or precautions I need to take before finalizing my reservations. We are traveling on their air line reservations as well. We will be leaving two days early for ease of travel and staying extra time at the end to visit other places.

Any suggestions?
We may be on the same cruise.. Out of Barcelon,a but either way one thing that we are making sure is covered is Medical/Health/Medivac insurance beyond our current BCBS coverage. Our cruise will include Spain,France,a couple of stops in Italy, three in Greece, and Malta. Kusadasi Turkey was on the itinerary but has changed to another island in Greece. Although not fun to think about, with this itinerary Med+ insurance for us takes a higher level of importance.
btenny:

I forgot that you seem to be at the "finalizing plans" stage, so you're probably way beyond the "20 days after first payment".
Other insurers have a 10- or 14-day limit, but there is at least one, CSA, that allows one to *start* the coverage within 24 hours of FINAL PAYMENT (but note, this is defined narrowly, for obvious reasons).
No CFAR for this policy, but that's not the meat and potatoes of travel insurance for most people.
But that critical "Waiver" is available.

Do call Steve and ask him, making sure to tell him about what payments remain.

Enjoy your trip!

RM
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jdb
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by jdb » Mon Feb 27, 2017 5:41 pm

So I had a golf buddy last year take his first cruise, a two week trip out of Hong Kong on a large high end ship, he is in his early 80's and in good shape. Asked me for advice. I said always take the stairs on the ship, skip the elevator, it is great exercise. When he got back thanked me for the advice. Enjoy.

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JaneyLH
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Re: Cruise suggestions.

Post by JaneyLH » Tue Feb 28, 2017 12:49 pm

We enjoyed a Mediterranean cruise in December on Viking, Athens to Venice. Beautiful ship, incredible food, wonderful spa facilities available to all, lots of very comfortable space for 900 guests. You made a great choice!

The included shore excursions usually involve a town walking tour with a local guide. The groups can be large but they use a radio-based system with an earpiece so you hear every word and there is no need to crowd around the guide. If you have never been to the destination before, the tours are more than adequate and there are no worries about researching/selecting/meeting/paying an independent tour operator. Makes it more of a vacation!

That said, we joined the "Roll Call" on Cruise Critic for our specific cruise and someone posted that they were going to book some private guides and were looking for people to share. We did join for two tours and they were wonderful. Cost us about $100-140 each to join another couple or two for a 5-hour private tour with driver/guide. We got to see the entire islands of Santorini and Corfu instead of just the primary towns. But we compared notes for some of the other ports and the private tour seemed pretty similar to our free Viking tour! So, it depends on the specific port. My husband and I sometimes started off with the local tour but then left and struck out on our own... For example, in Dubrovnik we took advantage of the Viking bus transportation to the city gates then enjoyed the town on our own and re-joined the Viking folks for the return trip to the ship.

We loved the ship so much that we just booked an Atlantic crossing Puerto Rico to Barcelona with stops in St. Maarten, Madeira, Casablanca, and Valencia... and 8 sea days!

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