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Old 12-06-2008, 07:06 AM   #21
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I bought a Rick Steves daypack from Amazon, and was impressed with the quality and price. What an empire! Although, his guides are now so ubiquitous that if you go anywhere he's recommended, there are mounds of American tourists standing around, holding his books. Pitfalls of success, and all that.

Tina, I'd die if I had to travel with someone who wanted it planned out like marching orders, I gotta say. We'd never have gone to any of the wonderful places we've been if that was a requirement. Ugh!
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Old 12-06-2008, 07:36 AM   #22
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There is certainly something to be said for simply wandering around and making serendipitous discoveries on your own. That's the way we like to travel.
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Old 12-06-2008, 08:27 AM   #23
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Tina, I'd die if I had to travel with someone who wanted it planned out like marching orders, I gotta say. We'd never have gone to any of the wonderful places we've been if that was a requirement. Ugh!
Back in '02, we did a 12-day cruisetour of Alaska and the Yukon for our 10th anniversary. We never had a real honeymoon since we had a cheap, no-debt wedding, so we considered this a "slightly" delayed honeymoon.

The tour portion used buses, trains and even a paddleboat down the Yukon River through the interior. We loved it, except for one thing: Most days, the bus left at or before 7 AM. I get up early enough for w*rk; I don't want an alarm clock rousting me out of bed at 6 AM on my friggin' vacation. And it was early June way up north; the sun didn't set until after 11 PM but the bus was always in its destination by about 4 or 5 PM. Couldn't you schedule its activity a couple ours later?
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Old 12-06-2008, 10:55 AM   #24
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Check out Lonely Planet guides also - they have a lot of details.
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Old 12-08-2008, 07:22 PM   #25
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About Rick Steves, I was not aware that he operates tours until I went to his Web site just now. I have only watched his shows and checked out his books from the library.

I have not taken any organized tour. It's ironic that Rick shows how people to travel on their own, and yet offers motorcoach tours. Are they the same 10-cities-in-14 days like I have seen advertised, or done better? I have relatives who went on such motorcoach tours, and came back not remembering even the name of the places they had been to. And they still thought it was fun!

For me, planning for a trip is half of the fun. I read up on the places, their histories, the local culture. Then, how to get around using the local transportation, where to stay, what to see, what special food and drink they have, etc...

A trip preparation usually begins with checking out from the local libraries all the DVDs and travel guides that are available. Then, I cull down to one travel guide that I would take with me. I also supplement the above with research on the Web.

Some friends teased me that such seemingly detailed preparation take all the spontaneity out of a trip. I beg to differ! There are always plenty of surprises, as things never work out like you plan, and I have stories to tell. As for flexibility, I always try to allow myself plenty of time for sightseeing, and am willing to drop some planned stops to have more time to linger. In other words, less quantity for higher quality. No 10 cities in 14 days here.

The above said, I can see myself taking tours in places that are a bit more tourism-challenged. In fact, even some civilized nations such as Japan can be difficult to navigate on your own if the local speaks no English, and you can't even read the street signs.
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Fuel surcharge
Old 12-09-2008, 12:46 PM   #26
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Fuel surcharge

FYI,
We just got another brochure from Holland American that said they were dropping fuel surcharges as of 12/17 sailings.
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Old 12-09-2008, 02:30 PM   #27
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FYI,
We just got another brochure from Holland American that said they were dropping fuel surcharges as of 12/17 sailings.
Norwegian Cruise lines has done the same. Grrr... unfortunately it won't save me the $200 in fuel surcharges on my cruise departing 12/13 (4 whole days before fuel surcharges are gone!!). On the bright side, I am going on a cruise to a warm place!
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Old 12-09-2008, 02:37 PM   #28
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FYI,
We just got another brochure from Holland American that said they were dropping fuel surcharges as of 12/17 sailings.
Good luck getting the airlines to get rid of the checked-bag fees for which "high fuel prices" were the excuse.

With the passing of each year, I hate air travel more and more...
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Old 12-09-2008, 08:58 PM   #29
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ZIGGY, There is always South West !!
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Old 12-09-2008, 10:57 PM   #30
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About Rick Steves, I was not aware that he operates tours until I went to his Web site just now. I have only watched his shows and checked out his books from the library.

I have not taken any organized tour. It's ironic that Rick shows how people to travel on their own, and yet offers motorcoach tours. Are they the same 10-cities-in-14 days like I have seen advertised, or done better? I have relatives who went on such motorcoach tours, and came back not remembering even the name of the places they had been to. And they still thought it was fun!

For me, planning for a trip is half of the fun. I read up on the places, their histories, the local culture. Then, how to get around using the local transportation, where to stay, what to see, what special food and drink they have, etc...

A trip preparation usually begins with checking out from the local libraries all the DVDs and travel guides that are available. Then, I cull down to one travel guide that I would take with me. I also supplement the above with research on the Web.

Some friends teased me that such seemingly detailed preparation take all the spontaneity out of a trip. I beg to differ! There are always plenty of surprises, as things never work out like you plan, and I have stories to tell. As for flexibility, I always try to allow myself plenty of time for sightseeing, and am willing to drop some planned stops to have more time to linger. In other words, less quantity for higher quality. No 10 cities in 14 days here.

The above said, I can see myself taking tours in places that are a bit more tourism-challenged. In fact, even some civilized nations such as Japan can be difficult to navigate on your own if the local speaks no English, and you can't even read the street signs.
NW-Bound, you and I are like twins! I spend a lot of time researching places before going anywhere, and most of my sources are the local libraries as well. The planning is certainly half of the fun. Besides I find that I get most of my trips if I research it thoroughly.

The most extreme case was my most recent trip to Central America, where I developed a spreadsheet with daily itinerary and budget. It also had built-in variables (ie. scenarios 1, 2, 3 for certain days depending on how I like a place). As nerdy as it sounds, it worked out great. I had the best trip ever and spent within $50 of my estimated budget. There are a few days where I deviated from my plan based on people I met and new information, which was fine.

Back to the OT, I am noticing a lot of low, last minute airfares. DH booked a ticket only 3 days in advance from the Midwest to the East Coast and it only cost $250. Would have been unthinkable a few months ago.

I am planning on going to Costa Rica this winter, but I haven't looked into currency conversions yet.
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Old 12-10-2008, 12:21 AM   #31
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The most extreme case was my most recent trip to Central America, where I developed a spreadsheet with daily itinerary and budget. It also had built-in variables (ie. scenarios 1, 2, 3 for certain days depending on how I like a place). As nerdy as it sounds, it worked out great. I had the best trip ever and spent within $50 of my estimated budget. There are a few days where I deviated from my plan based on people I met and new information, which was fine.
Er, I am afraid I am not so disciplined. We merely have a rough estimate of how much we are willing to spend on a trip, based on preknown costs like airfare, hotels (we try to reserve online in advance), and Eurail passes (have to buy while in the US). Usually, we do not overspend though.

Because we use no guided tours, that forces me (my wife totally relies on me for this) to know how to even navigate from the train station to the hotel for example (bus, metro, or walking?). We had to use the expensive taxi in Monaco only once, and that was a hilarious totally unexpected experience (too long to tell here).

What I found was that I learned more about the local culture, and their way of life through the trip preparation, and would enjoy more when I got there. I found out that I had to improvise a lot, when things often don't work out like you think. Hence I do not jam our sightseeing schedule too full, and won't feel bad if we have to miss a few places to visit. Like Rick Steves says, "Assume that you will return". And we will, at least to the places we love.

Glad to hear other people having the same idea about travel. When we get older, and cannot walk a couple of miles with our carry-ons with GPS in hand, we probably will book guided bus tours. Until then, two for the road ...
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Old 12-10-2008, 07:13 AM   #32
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Because we use no guided tours, that forces me (my wife totally relies on me for this) to know how to even navigate from the train station to the hotel for example (bus, metro, or walking?). We had to use the expensive taxi in Monaco only once, and that was a hilarious totally unexpected experience (too long to tell here).

What I found was that I learned more about the local culture, and their way of life through the trip preparation, and would enjoy more when I got there. I found out that I had to improvise a lot, when things often don't work out like you think. Hence I do not jam our sightseeing schedule too full, and won't feel bad if we have to miss a few places to visit. Like Rick Steves says, "Assume that you will return". And we will, at least to the places we love.

Glad to hear other people having the same idea about travel. When we get older, and cannot walk a couple of miles with our carry-ons with GPS in hand, we probably will book guided bus tours. Until then, two for the road ...
I am also another self-planner who really enjoys the pre-planning stage. We also enjoy trying to use local transportation and feel this really gives you a feel for the local culture. When we were in Thailand, we road the local train (non-airconditioned car - the train actually had windows that were open so you could get a real sense of the country-side). We also used a water-taxi in Bangkok (quite an experience) and public bus and train (sky train is new and modern and awesome). We love trying to find our way around on our own - it's part of the adventure. We always say we'd love to be on the Amazing Race - except I can't imagine having the world watch me freek out when I'm tired and whiny, LOL.
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Old 12-10-2008, 09:15 AM   #33
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Norwegian Cruise lines has done the same. Grrr... unfortunately it won't save me the $200 in fuel surcharges on my cruise departing 12/13 (4 whole days before fuel surcharges are gone!!). On the bright side, I am going on a cruise to a warm place!

Fuego,

You get to buy more pina coladas!

Norwegian then suspended their fuel surcharges for all voyages departing in 2009. For existing bookings that are within the final payment period, Norwegian will refund the fuel supplement in the form of an onboard credit. The surcharge will be removed from the final payment amount of all existing 2009 bookings that are outside the final payment period.
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Old 12-10-2008, 11:53 AM   #34
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... Norwegian will refund the fuel supplement in the form of an onboard credit.
Sounds like you're just exchanging diesel for ethanol... check the octane rating first!
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Old 12-10-2008, 01:29 PM   #35
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Fuego,

You get to buy more pina coladas!

Norwegian then suspended their fuel surcharges for all voyages departing in 2009. For existing bookings that are within the final payment period, Norwegian will refund the fuel supplement in the form of an onboard credit. The surcharge will be removed from the final payment amount of all existing 2009 bookings that are outside the final payment period.
Unfortunately we are departing 12/13/08, exactly 4 days before they are refunding fuel surcharges by giving on board credits.

So I'm going to make sure to smuggle aboard a fifth of rum that I just bought for $5 and drink all of it aboard, thereby "saving" me around $120 in bar fees. For spite purposes only, of course.
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Old 12-10-2008, 01:37 PM   #36
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Unfortunately we are departing 12/13/08, exactly 4 days before they are refunding fuel surcharges by giving on board credits.

So I'm going to make sure to smuggle aboard a fifth of rum that I just bought for $5 and drink all of it aboard, thereby "saving" me around $120 in bar fees. For spite purposes only, of course.
Some cruise lines have "future cruise sales" desks on the ship (we usually cruise with Princess, for example, and they do).

If you decide at some point that you may want to cruise again with Norwegian and you're willing to put up an (often reduced) deposit on a future cruise then and there, you may want to try to negotiate your willingness to book another cruise if they give your shipboard credit for your fuel surcharge as a goodwill measure, seeing as you only missed by four days.

You could try to wheedle with them anyway, but your best leverage to get it would be to offer up future repeat business in exchange for the concession.

I know on Princess, the usual deposit is 25% of the fare but if you "pre-book" a future cruise on the ship you can do so with only a $100 deposit per person instead of the customary 1/4 -- so it can be a good thing to do IF you're pretty sure you'd want to cruise with them again and if that line offers a similar program.
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Old 12-10-2008, 01:57 PM   #37
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Some cruise lines have "future cruise sales" desks on the ship (we usually cruise with Princess, for example, and they do).

If you decide at some point that you may want to cruise again with Norwegian and you're willing to put up an (often reduced) deposit on a future cruise then and there, you may want to try to negotiate your willingness to book another cruise if they give your shipboard credit for your fuel surcharge as a goodwill measure, seeing as you only missed by four days.

You could try to wheedle with them anyway, but your best leverage to get it would be to offer up future repeat business in exchange for the concession.

I know on Princess, the usual deposit is 25% of the fare but if you "pre-book" a future cruise on the ship you can do so with only a $100 deposit per person instead of the customary 1/4 -- so it can be a good thing to do IF you're pretty sure you'd want to cruise with them again and if that line offers a similar program.
I may look into it. I know for a fact they have a deal where if you place a $250 deposit towards a future cruise (which you can pick later), they give you $100 on board credit right away.

I'll probably just write off the fuel charges (unless I hear others are having success getting comped). We're still getting extremely cheap fares all things considered, and I did get them to give me a free upgrade to a much higher category room.
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Old 12-10-2008, 08:14 PM   #38
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Unfortunately we are departing 12/13/08, exactly 4 days before they are refunding fuel surcharges by giving on board credits.

So I'm going to make sure to smuggle aboard a fifth of rum that I just bought for $5 and drink all of it aboard, thereby "saving" me around $120 in bar fees. For spite purposes only, of course.

FYI, NCL supposedly is more strict about catching those who try to smuggle alcohol than the other cruise lines (via x-ray scanner of luggage). We successfully smuggled via rum runners (Rum Runner Flasks). Good luck!
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Old 12-11-2008, 08:10 AM   #39
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SG, those are the coolest flasks! What a great idea. Thanks for the link.
DH is heading to Guatemala in January on another guy trip. Last year they hiked Costa Rica's highest peak, Chirropo, and this year it will be Guatemala's--a volcano called Tajumulco.
I have tried to let them do all the planning, but had to step in on a few items, just to reel them back to reality. They wanted to take a private taxi from the city to Xela, at a cost of $60 each for the three of them. I put them on the bus, with the encouragement of their guides for the climbing trip, who said the bus was a better choice. And they wanted to stay in a hotel that was $30 each per night, but I changed that to the hostel where the guide office is, for $3 a night.
If I have to stay in cheap digs when we travel, he sure as heck isn't staying nicer with the boys!
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Old 12-11-2008, 12:55 PM   #40
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FYI, NCL supposedly is more strict about catching those who try to smuggle alcohol than the other cruise lines (via x-ray scanner of luggage). We successfully smuggled via rum runners (Rum Runner Flasks). Good luck!
I plan on using one Sam's Choice bottled water 20 oz. Empty that sucker out then fill er up! Should hold most of the fifth of clear rum we have. Close the bottle tight, then toss it in the checked luggage or carry-on (maybe the kid's carry on ) along with a few more bottles of Sam's Choice bottled water for some camouflage/decoys.

We'll see how it goes. I managed to smuggle 3 or 4 gallons on board on a Celebrity cruise. Came back from a port visit with two large cardboard boxes labeled as liquor and walked right through the security checkpoint, no questions asked. I really felt like a rum runner that day!

No way would I spend actual money to smuggle rum on board! I'm too cheap for that... Creative idea though
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