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thecartoonman last won the day on April 23 2018

thecartoonman had the most liked content!

About thecartoonman

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  1. thecartoonman

    Miami Stay

    Well back from a very enjoyable 7 night cruise with MSC that took in Cuba. We did travel direct to Miami on the BA A380, which was superb and arrived into Miami at about 19.45pm. We then cleared US Immigration within just 5 minutes of joining the line and our luggage appeared within another 10 minutes and we were out and in the terminal. Now, I had not expected this and it is very possible that our evening arrival time meant that not too many other international arrivals were taking place at this time which may well have helped? Once out in the terminal look for the floor mounted Ground Transportation signs and follow the directions for Hotel Shuttles if you are staying close to the airport. This will mean getting a lift up to the Departures level and then exiting onto the inner curbside through one of the many doors, which are numbered. All of the shuttles, or Uber's cruise around here and we moved down to door number 7 as there is a natural wide bend in the road here and you can see the drivers looking for passengers, you basically wait for your hotel bus, or Uber and when it appears wave, for an Uber it is useful to give the driver your door number so he can locate you and the same for the hotel shuttle if you have to phone the hotel and request a pick up. We stayed at a nearby Marriott Residence Inn, there are 3 Marriott hotels within the complex and you can use the facilities of all of them. It appealed as it had a nice pool area and a sports bar with good food all within the gated area, useful when you have just arrived and don't want to wander around in an area you don't know and the free shuttle bus took 5 minutes. The hotel arranged for a shuttle to the cruise port for $12 each, you just book it with the reception desk on arrival, or you can take an Uber/Lyft. We had never used either before but set up the apps on our phones and following instructions from our son who uses them all the time took one to Miami Beach and then back, as we had 2 days before the cruise, they were very easy to use and the 2 drivers excellent. We stayed on after the cruise hiring a car from Fort Lauderdale Airport rather than face the Miami area and this was a good move, as the airport is much smaller and easier to leave and get back to, we then got a Go Shuttle bus from FLL back to Miami Airport to catch the flight back. Miami International departures after security is a dive and fully lived up to it's poor reputation but by that time you were at least on US time and not jet lagged. For info, we took a shuttle bus from Port of Miami to Fort Lauderdale Airport with Jiffy Jeff Transportation ($15) which we arranged pre-cruise from the UK. They lived up to their 5 star reviews and were in constant contact on our arrival at POM, they do not go to Miami Airport but for anybody perhaps taking a cruise from Fort Lauderdale and needing transport they are well worth a look. If you are flying straight back after your cruise, MSC have a couple of excursions that take you and all your luggage and then drop you back at Miami Airport in the afternoon to catch your flight which is useful as you are off the ship pretty early 8.00/8.30, though immigration at POM was slow. If you want any other info please feel free to ask, more than happy to help if I can with info as at March 2019.
  2. thecartoonman

    Have You Been On A Cruise To Cuba?

    Most cruise lines will overnight in Havana, giving you 2 good days, so if you feel you may need 3 nights you would need to arrive early, or stay on after the cruise which from your comments you may not want to do, though from the information above 2 days would seem to be fine to experience some of the flavour of Havana. It also seems that the Cuban authorities are insisting that cruise passengers undertake a couple of excursions whilst in port and to satisfy this demand the cruise line may include 2 excursions within the price of the cruise, certainly MSC are doing this, so this also allows you to see a bit of Cuba as part of an organised group before heading off to explore on your own, knowing the comfort of the ship is close by. We are booked to visit Havana in March 2019 as part of a 7 night MSC cruise departing from Miami, it seems they are using Miami more now and it does give you many more flight options from the UK than flying direct to Havana, with prices for a 'cruise only' starting at around £699 it really is hard to beat and will give us a chance of a glimpse of Cuba before it inevitably changes in the coming years. I hope you get the chance to go.
  3. thecartoonman

    MSC ?? do I or dont I book

    Interesting, since on both our MSC Cruises, so far, we felt the food was very good, well presented and not too much, while the main buffet was SO much better in choice and quality than the P&O cruises we have done, not for MSC cardboard toast. We are not fussed about the Theatre shows, which are always going to be a challenge when trying to please 5/6 different languages and particularly when you have experienced the Disney Cruise Line performances, while we would agree that some of the vocalists were average, but then again some were very good particularly one guy on a harp who was a joy to watch and listen to surprisingly! MSC do offer excellent and varied itineraries, at really good prices, on clean ships that are well run with pleasant staff, with a hard to beat AI drinks package and from our point of view a nice dining experience and we like the continental style of their ships, as ever, if you were paying 50% more then your expectations would be higher, but we really enjoyed both our cruises with MSC and for the money paid felt we received excellent value. As ever, it always depends on what you are looking for when cruising, which is why there has never been more choice, at all price points and it's a case of finding a cruise line, or two that works for you.
  4. thecartoonman

    Miami Stay

    @@Hi Will try and remember to leave a report after our experience of Miami, the intention is to have a couple of days before the cruise in Miami for a look round and to assist in getting onto US time for the cruise itself, though going to the US is easier than coming back fore the body clock. As we are staying on for 3/4 days after the cruise we will be hiring a car, the thought at the moment is to head to Fort Lauderdale Airport which is much smaller than Miami and from reviews is a much simpler place to collect and return a rental car, then join a shuttle bus to get back to Miami airport for the flight home - we shall see. Will let you know whether we survived it all!
  5. thecartoonman

    Miami Stay

    @All At Sea Thank you for your quick response. Our daughter works for BA, so we are using some of her 'family' flight passes which may prevent a non-direct route when they do fly to Miami direct from LHR, we shall see, but what you say would make a good alternative, particularly if you can route through somewhere other than JFK, clear immigration and then arrive in Miami as a domestic passenger. We are hiring the car after the cruise, so collection will be mid-morning and in daylight, with our body clocks on US time, so this should be easier than your experience and your comments about a shuttle train connection are helpful since we will know what to look for and once on the right highway/interstate it should be relatively easy, in daylight everything looks better. Thank you for your advice on Key Largo, we have been to Key West so this might make a good base at the start of the Keys to do a bit of travelling down them, while also enjoying a bit of beach time. Once again, thank you for your insight.
  6. thecartoonman

    MSC ?? do I or dont I book

    We have done 2 MSC Cruises in 2018 (MSC Poesia and the smaller MSC Opera) and loved them both. The ships were clean, the cabins very comfortable, the food very good and all the staff very helpful and attentive and all spoke good English, which is the first language of the ship, though many of the guests are Italian, French or Spanish with a good smattering of English speakers from around the globe. Their prices are good, the itineraries very varied and linked with their excellent AI Drinks package made for 2 great cruises. You need to go with an open mind, ready to enjoy yourself and remember how much you are getting for your money and if you enjoy putting on a DJ or Posh Frock twice in 7 days, then this is maybe not for you, though many guests did dress up for the formal nights but in a European way. We have already booked again since our experience with MSC has been so much better than with P&O and their much bigger fleet of ships offer far more options.
  7. thecartoonman

    Miami Stay

    @All At Sea It would appear from 2 posts today that you have recent experience of Miami Airport. We are scheduled to pick up an MSC Cruise from Miami in March 2019 and the obvious airport to fly into is Miami, Orlando is a fair drive away and you then need to rent a car, while Fort L has limited flights. I went through Miami many years ago and it involved quite a lot of walking, we plan to stay a couple of nights before the cruise and then return to the airport to hire a car and possibly head for the Keys, though various reviews speak of the pretty poor experience of the Rental Car Centre where all the car hire companies are based and Miami does look a nightmare to drive through! Is it just a case of grinning and bearing it at Miami, as it is so close to the Cruise Terminal and other travel options just add additional cost, or time? Any other advice, or thoughts would be appreciated.
  8. thecartoonman

    P&O's new drink packages?

    We recently had the AI Deluxe drinks package on MSC, it was good value and worked almost seamlessly, it was clearly laid out at the start what was included (nearly everything) and there was no maximum drink price as P&O are suggesting and also no limit on how many drinks you could have per day, which does seem very petty by P&O bearing in mind the suggested daily cost. There was a code on our cruise card which told the staff which package we had purchased. Our package entitled us to champagne by the glass, but one waiter advised this was not covered on our drinks package, when we pointed out the number code she immediately apologised as she had not read it correctly, but this was the only issue during the entire cruise. I was left with the impression that the waiters in the dining room actually liked these AI packages, as they could keep everybody 'topped up' with nobody complaining that they had not asked for another drink, we also found that many spirit drinks were supplied as doubles as they knew there was no 'on-board' charge. With P&O it's not an issue, but there is a 15% service charge added to all bills on MSC except if you have pre-purchased a drinks package, when this is not charged, so there is an immediate 15% saving. You signed a receipt every time and the prices were all fully listed but these were then removed to leave a zero balance - it was great and our bill at the end just had the daily staff gratuities and a €4.00 purchase from the shop! These forums are frequented by many seasoned cruisers, but P&O are looking to a newer, bigger market to fill these new big ships and the drinks package and a more relaxed cruising atmosphere with regard to evening attire is needed if they are to maximise their occupancy rates. As always, they should not be compulsory and technology should mean many different packages can be combined onto cruise cards to keep everyone happy.
  9. The lack of any AI packages meant we have booked 2 cruises with other lines this year, when normally we would have stayed with P&O. I have always been surprised when staying at various AI hotels how few people actually drink to excess, there will always be the odd few, but I do think P&O are missing a trick here, how many cruisers not frequenting various forums think like me and do like the option of purchasing an AI upgrade, since it caps the holiday spend and means that you can often enjoy a better glass of wine, or spirit plus other various soft drink and cabin mini bar enhancements for not a huge amount extra.
  10. I prefer MSC's approach where you can upgrade to various 'all inclusive' packages, but you can also stay on the basic cruise price if you so wish, that way, if you do not drink a lot then this offers you the best of both worlds as you just pay for what you consume. Personally, as a moderate drinker, I like the AI packages and I am not chasing the drinks to maximise my free spend, it's just nice to have paid for it beforehand, this also means you don't have to pay the 15% service charge and as we all know, it's not difficult to run up quite a bill on board, even with moderate consumption of alcohol and plenty of nice coffees etc. The lack of any AI packages on P&O has put me off booking 2 cruises with them this year and maybe they should be considering offering them as 'upgrades' but still offering the basic cruise as well.
  11. Have you ever been on any of the Disney Cruise Line ships? Having done 3 trips myself you will be amazed at how many adults are travelling on DCL without children, being Disney everything is provided to a very high standard and they are expert in creating adult only areas where under 18's are not admitted. Yes, there are plenty of children but you could easily get away from them and never a shortage of sun beds. DCL have 2 ships the Magic and Wonder that are just over 80,000 tons, so have that small ship vibe and with a smart casual dress code have hit the right note for cruising going forward. It's a reason why DCL are regularly at the top of US cruise reviews, but with only limited trips to Europe is also why UK travellers really no little about them.
  12. Hi I hope you have a great time. You don't say what time of the year you are travelling, but just remember that it takes a good few sailing days from leaving Southampton to get into the much warmer weather, so if you are leaving in the Autumn/Winter do pack some warmer clothes for all of you. RobBar made some useful suggestions, but Disney Cruise Line is geared completely for kids and there is so much more to keep them entertained than on P&O, so just bear that in mind particularly at the start of the trip with the long sea days before you get to St.Maarten. Enjoy.
  13. thecartoonman

    Your Election Forecast

    The Tories fought a poor campaign but highlighted areas that do need a radical review, however unpalatable the truth is and for all her faults, Mrs May is still my preferred choice in looking after our national security than the rag bag of Marxists and lefties hiding quietly behind Corbyn's very carefully placed election mask!! Labour reverted to type and promised a 'magic money tree' all paid for by the top 5% paying 'just a little bit more', if you believe that line then more fool you, everybody will have to pay for it in the years ahead and another visit cap in hand to the IMF is well on the cards, by which time the UK will be shot away and Len McCluskey calling the shots. The LibDems disappeared and fought an election on the basis of overturning a vote we have all moved on from, while getting hung up on legalising cannabis, they really don't deserve more than 10 MP's and Tim Farron had zero gravitas. After the last 6/7 weeks we all deserve a good cruise, happy sailings to one and all.
  14. thecartoonman

    Oceana Mediterranean Fly Cruise 20 April 2017

    Thank you Deck Hand, nice to read a comprehensive review. We intend to do a similar cruise from Malta in September and having been on the Oceana for 2 previous trips I would agree with everything you say, for the money paid you really cannot complain too much, the ship, which I like, does need a refresh since many areas just need a spruce up, or a total replacement, though looking at it's future sailing schedule not sure it's going to be a complete refit? I laughed at your comments on the Horizon Grill, you would not think it was possible to mess up simple food, but the chicken goujons I had were like eating beef jerky, tough, stringy and really only fit for the bin, yet other food offerings on the ship were good, I enjoyed Cafe Jardin for a lighter breakfast and a more enjoyable experience than The Plazza where you need your elbows out and why is the toast always cold and tough, while the coffee is pretty tasteless. Your comments on the balcony cabin were interesting and in fact has put me off looking at this option, think I shall stick with an outside view and use the money saved to 'enhance' my cruise experience in the excellent Magnums Cocktail Lounge before dinner, where they serve a small plate of canapes and nuts with your first drink.
  15. thecartoonman

    MSC Cruises in the Gulf (MSC Splendida)

    @Oldworldtraveller Thank you for that, not much to complain about on there, so would be interested to hear from any member who has actually sailed with MSC and/or the ship.