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Patricia

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Patricia

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Apr132014

Tour/Activity

San Antonio Roundtrip Airport Transfers

San Antonio, Texas

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

Pro:
The highly-organized company has a counter in the baggage claim area of the airport. Redeem your voucher there, retrieve the suitcase, and get on the shuttle right outside the door. The driver will load the luggage on board, which is very helpful.
Con:
Difficult to make a reservation for the return to the airport. If you go on line, you'll be asked to pay again, which is strange when you have the ticket in your hand. If you call, you'll be put on hold forever, and will have to call back several times only to have the same "voice" make the reservation.

Overall, the service is excellent and exactly on time. If they tell you 10:02 a.m. for a hotel pickup, the driver is there at 10:02 a.m.

Apr062014

Tour/Activity

Puerto Vallarta Small Group Roundtrip Airport Transfer

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

On April 6 and 13, I was the only one in the yellow cab. Excellent service.

One warning about the airport: When you arrive, walk straight past the hawkers to the arrival hall and find the driver holding a sign with your name on it. After going through Immigration, don't be conned by all the men who will ask to see your transportation voucher and sell you tours.

Dec272013

Tour/Activity

The Original London Sightseeing Tour: Hop-on Hop-off

London, United Kingdom

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

I took the hop on hop off tour bus on the final two days of a 2-week vacation in London over Christmas 2013. It's worthwhile, because you see monuments, attractions, museums, neighborhoods, etc., that you obviously don't see by using the Underground getting from point A to point B.

I put the ticket/receipt in a plastic holder attached to a lanyard so that it would be ready to present to each bus driver--and so that it would be protected from the elements.

One thing to know is that there's no guarantee of a seat on the bus. If you're standing downstairs, it's almost impossible to take pictures, or to see anything more than passengers in the public bus sitting next to you in traffic.

Dec262013

Tour/Activity

Skip the Line: Madame Tussauds London

London, United Kingdom

My Rating
3 star rating: Worth doing

My Review

I toured Madame Tussauds in London on Boxing Day, 12/26/13. Even with a voucher, there was a long wait outside to get to the one employee inside who was checking in voucher holders via computer.

You then walk up a flight of stairs, take an elevator, and start battling the crowd milling around free-standing wax celebrities.

It's almost impossible to take a picture of a celebrity without waiting for a tourist (or a family of tourists) to move away.

My two suggestions to Madame Tussauds London would be to display the "how wax figures are made" exhibit first, not last, and to let visitors take the history of London ride more than one time.

Dec182013

Tour/Activity

London Pass

London, United Kingdom

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

I bought the 3-day Pass and managed to tour 11 attractions and 3 [free] museums in between.

The least fun was picking up the London Pass at the tourist office in Leicester Square. That spiral staircase is treacherous, particularly when you're trying to go up and other people are trying to come down.

Regarding the London Pass use, buy a laminated map of London before you go, clump together attractions by area, write an itinerary, and budget your time when you start using the Pass. The savings is amazing.

Nov302013

Tour/Activity

Glendalough and Avoca Day Trip from Dublin

Dublin, Ireland

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

This tour is geared towards hikers and fans of the movie "P.S. I Love You" [a bridge in the Wicklow Mountains] and the UK TV series "Ballykissangel" [the town of Avoca]. If you aren't familiar with either one, do your research in advance.

Aside from that, when you reach Glendalough, you have three choices during the 1 hour 45 minute stop: (1) Hike with the driver/guide to see a waterfall and the upper/lower lakes, (2) Walk around an old cemetery to take pictures of Celtic crosses and headstones bent across pathways due to age and weather, or (3) Sit on a bench and wait for the group to return to the tour bus. When you reach Avoca, you'll be herded into the pub for lunch [at your expense], and the bill will put a dent in your budget. Even fish and chips are expensive in that place.

Overall, the tour is wonderful, because the scenery is amazing.

Mar092013

Tour/Activity

Grand Tour of Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

After being picked up at the hotel, you'll go to the tour operator's office near LAX to redeem the voucher for a ticket. The tour leaves within 15 minutes, and the van is roomy and comfortable.

The tour itinerary gives you time to walk around Marina del Rey, Venice Beach, the Chinese Theater, Stars' Walk of Fame and downtown L.A. and to shop at Olvera Street, Farmer's Market and The Grove. En route, you'll pass by stars' homes, TV and film studios, the Hollywood sign and famous sites used in movies or commercials.

Mar082013

Tour/Activity

Warner Bros. Studio VIP Tour

Los Angeles, California

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

Getting through security at Warner Bros. is quite an ordeal. Once that's over, you're brought onto the lot itself. We saw the set of "Ellen" plus the backstage area and her parking space, along with the set of "Friends" and "The Big Bang Theory".

There are some restrictions on where cameras are allowed, though, so don't expect to take pictures inside a building.

You'll also visit a costume museum where you can see outfits worn by Ben Affleck, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake, among others.

This tour is worth doing, not only because of what you see, but also because of all the "insider" activity on the lot.

Mar062013

Tour/Activity

Baipai Thai Cooking School Class in Bangkok

Bangkok, Thailand

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

I was in Bangkok for 3 days last week after spending a 7 nights in Vietnam. Going to this cooking school was one of the highlights of my entire trip.

The setting is almost spa-like, as the pagoda-shaped school is in peaceful surroundings on the outskirts of the bustling city.

After visiting a busy market, then being driven to the school, a chef and an assistant will show you how to prepare each course. Afterwards, you prepare the dish using their recipe cards and your own individual wok. You're given plenty of relaxing time to eat your creation, with more instruction between courses.

They have a small gift shop where they sell decorative tin cups used for the welcome drink of iced tea with lemongrass, or you can buy potholders, spatulas, aprons, etc. if you want a souvenir from the school.

I highly recommend the entire experience, because it's soothing and memorable.

Mar052013

Tour/Activity

Private Tour: Bangkok Temples including reclining Buddha at Wat Pho

Bangkok, Thailand

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

A private tour of the most important temples is a good idea, because the guide has to keep track of you, not the other way around when you're with a group.

Oddly enough, the concierge of the hotel will check to make sure that you're dressed appropriately before you leave with the guide. Expect to remove your shoes before going into a temple.

You'll drive through Chinatown before it gets busy, past the flower and vegetable market (the guide said that orchids cost about US$1 for 100 of them!), and you'll end up in a gem factory for a film presentation and walk through.

The timing is such that if you do this tour in the morning, you can go on the Rice Barge Cruise in the afternoon.

Mar052013

Tour/Activity

Bangkok Rice Barge Afternoon Cruise

Bangkok, Thailand

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

This cruise could be a highlight of your trip! You're picked up at the hotel at 2 p.m., and returned to the hotel by 5 p.m. First you ride in a motorized boat along the river, then transfer to the rice barge and ride along a canal. After passing in front of the Royal Barge Museum (where you're able to peek inside), you're given the opportunity to buy a loaf of bread to feed the fish, or you can simply take pictures of the fish being fed. After that, you're given a lavish buffet of sweets and ripe tropical fruits, along with a fruit punch drink with (or without) alcohol.

The commentary en route is interesting, and the whole experience is memorable.

Mar042013

Tour/Activity

Bangkok Cabaret Show

Bangkok, Thailand

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

Americans might remember Ricky Ricardo's club on the "I Love Lucy" television show. The cabaret theater looks just like that club, with lamps on small bistro tables.

The ticket includes one soft or alcoholic drink.

On the night I went to this "calypso cabaret" show, the cast got very light applause. My theory is that the audience didn't realize that the beautiful women on stage were once men.

Dec252012

Tour/Activity

Christmas Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride from Salzburg

Salzburg, Austria

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

Wish I could rate 100 stars for this sleigh ride, because riding through the mountains is not only picturesque, it's like something out of a fairy tale. I did this on Christmas Day 2012, and it made my Christmas. We passed farms, private homes, churches, cross country skiers, ski lifts and jumps, etc., and even though I've been to Austria many times, I couldn't take pictures fast enough. This experience trumps walking on sidewalks in towns or riding in a tour bus, that's for sure. En route from Salzburg to Ramsau, you'll stop for 30 minutes at a rest stop. The Australians made good use of their time by throwing snowballs, because many of them had never seen snow before. You'll stop once during the lengthy sleigh ride so that the horses can rest, and you'll finally stop for a meal (at your own expense) that's excellent. I chose veal (weiner) schnitzel with boiled potatoes plus hot cheese strudel for dessert, and the food was incredibly good. It's interesting watching the driver of the sleigh. When we approached terrain that only had a shallow covering of snow, he'd have to reach down and quickly manipulate the wooden gears to lower the wheels. As soon as we got to ground that had several feet of snow, he'd have to repeat the action to put the wheels up and lower the blades. HIGHLY recommended!!!

Dec252012

Tour/Activity

Mozart Concert and Dinner at Stiftskeller in Salzburg

Salzburg, Austria

My Rating
2 star rating: It was OK, but could have been better

My Review

I dined there on Christmas Day 2012. The food was good, even though the waiter took away my entree to give to someone else at the table who hadn't been served yet (then returned it to me). He spilled dirty silverware down my back while clearing the dishes, and laughed.

The musicians were good for the venue, but they're not concert level like you'd hear at Hellbrunn Palace in Salzburg. And it was odd that the male opera singer sang directly to the musicians, and rarely looked out at the audience.

I discussed all of this with the general manager of the Stiftskeller two days later. He listened to everything I had to say, knowing that I didn't want anything. I'm confident that improvements have been made to the overall dining experience, but, to me, the experience on December 25, 2012 was disappointing.

Dec242012

Tour/Activity

Salzburg Christmas Eve Tour to the Silent Night Chapel

Salzburg, Austria

My Rating
4 star rating: Recommended

My Review

There's still daylight when the bus brings you from Salzburg to Oberndorf, so you can see the green rolling hills of Austria and the snow-covered mountains. Once there, it's a 3-block walk from the parking lot to the little chapel (that's not it in the picture, by the way). You can shop in the stores before the outdoor Mass begins, go into the chapel for a quick photo, then stand outside while the Mass is going on (also outside). When "Silent Night" is sung, it's only in German. It seems that none of the tourists wanted to sing on December 24, 2012...! There's still time when you get back to have dinner in Salzburg, and go to Midnight Mass at one of the churches or up at Nonnberg Abbey.

Dec232012

Tour/Activity

Christmas Markets Tour from Salzburg

Salzburg, Austria

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

This tour was one of the highlights of my 12-night stay in Salzburg in December 2012. You visit three different villages, with a boat ride in between, and the entire day is magical.

Dec222012

Tour/Activity

The Original Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg

Salzburg, Austria

My Rating
4 star rating: Recommended

My Review

Watch "The Sound of Music" for the 100th time before you go, because you'll need to know details of the movie before you take this tour. You'll see the gazebo, which is now at Hellbrunn Palace; the trees in which the children played, the lake where the boat capsized, the front and back of various estates used in the movie, the horse fountain in Salzburg, etc.

A bonus is going to the town of Mondsee to see one of the cathedrals used in the wedding scene. I took this tour on December 22, 2012 and had fun at the Christmas market in town, so that was another bonus.

Dec192012

Tour/Activity

Salzburg Card

Salzburg, Austria

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

My best advice is this: If you want to do a speed tour of museums and the Fortress, buy this card. I used it for three full days, then calculated what I would have spent without it. The savings was amazing!

Aug162012

Tour/Activity

Boeing Factory Tour from Seattle

Seattle, Washington

My Rating
3 star rating: Worth doing

My Review

Photography is prohibited inside the massive building; personal effects must be checked in a timed locker for $1 cash. Guide, Patty, was militant in her presentation. However, it was interesting seeing the engineers at work on their computers near the airplanes being assembled.

Aug152012

Tour/Activity

Gourmet Seattle Walking Tour

Seattle, Washington

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

Guide, Aubrey, remained upbeat even though a 20-month-old, strong-willed child from Australia disrupted the tour continually. We sampled cupcakes, pizza with potatoes on top, potato soup with truffle oil, risotto, wine, beer, cheese, noodles, gelato and sorbet. This is certainly not a tour for diabetics, but it was fun.

Aug142012

Tour/Activity

Food and Cultural Walking Tour of Pike Place Market

Seattle, Washington

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

Even if you've been to the Pike Place Market on your own, this tour is a must because you deal directly with the merchants who are kind hosts. You sample chai with orange and cinnamon, three types of smoked salmon, seasonal fruits, sausage, clam chowder, seafood bisque, cheddar and goat cheeses, macaroni and cheese, pork loin, a salty caramel and miniature crabcakes.

Aug142012

Tour/Activity

Seattle Duck Tour

Seattle, Washington

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

Well organized and upbeat tour that I took my first morning (ever) in Seattle. It was great having fun out on the water and seeing the houseboats featured in "Sleepless in Seattle" and an HGTV program.

Jun022012

Tour/Activity

Cape Town Airport Shared Departure Transfer

Cape Town, South Africa

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

The driver was 20 minutes early picking me up, but didn't want to tell me for fear that I would be rushed. This was a private transfer from the hotel to the airport in a luxury SUV, and it was pure bliss.

May302012

Tour/Activity

Cape Town City Hop-on Hop-off Tour

Cape Town, South Africa

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

Taxis for tourists are expensive in Cape Town, and they don't take credit cards like cabs in other cities throughout the world. Therefore, the hop-on hop-off tour bus is the best way to get around and see everything in Cape Town and the surrounding area. The drivers and the hosts/hostesses on board are friendly and welcoming. They adhere to an exact (printed) schedule, so the "big red bus" is reliable. You can get off anywhere then catch another bus that suits your schedule, or simply spend the day riding the Red or Blue line, or both. With both routes, you see the downtown area, the majestic mountains, stunning beaches, and the V and A Waterfront. If you have time, buy the 2-day ticket, which includes a calming canal cruise in Cape Town past condos of the rich and famous., .I just spent 8 full days in Cape Town and rode the bus for 5 days. I miss the big red bus as much as I miss the city and it's people.

May252012

Tour/Activity

Cape Town Airport Shared Arrival Transfer

Cape Town, South Africa

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

After a 19-hour flight from Newark, and a 2-hour layover in Amsterdam, it was wonderful seeing a friendly driver in the arrivals halls at Cape Town International Airport with my name on a sign. He was enthusiastic about my visit, and filled with valuable information and tips en route to the hotel. Instead of dropping me off at the curb, he walked me inside to reception and announced my arrival to the staff. How kind, and how welcoming...

Apr112012

Tour/Activity

Skip the Line: Vatican Museums Walking Tour including Sistine Chapel, Raphael's Rooms and St Peter's

Rome, Italy

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

Our guide was too casual when she repeatedly referred to saints and popes as "those guys". Be prepared to hike up a winding 3-story ramp at the "new" entrance to the museums. Be prepared for lots of walking inside the museums. The "skip the line" method works only if there aren't lots of groups waiting to enter, too. However, it beats waiting in the long line of individuals and families. That line was almost 2 blocks long in the pouring rain.

Apr112012

Tour/Activity

Papal Audience Tickets and Presentation

Rome, Italy

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

A "must do" while in Rome. One has to be there early so that the group can secure good seats before the crowd appears. The pope travels in the popemobile directly in front of you, and it's a great photo op!

Apr102012

Tour/Activity

Rome Arrival Shuttle Transfer: Airport to Hotel

Rome, Italy

My Rating
4 star rating: Recommended

My Review

Driver was 30 minutes late with no apology, then drove into the long-term parking lot at the airport to buy a lottery ticket before bringing me to the terminal. At the terminal, he dropped me off an approximate 3-block walk from where I had to check in. Overall, it beats any other method of getting to the airport.

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