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2003 Date: 9/9/2003

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Email: greg@cruisingreview.com

TEL: 608-238-6001

A Trip to Voyage the Mediterranean

I have been looking forward to this trip for months now. Back in June, the ship hit a submerged object which damaged one of its podded drive system and only two days before I was supposed to jet over to Rome, the cruise was canceled for that week and the ship was dry-docked as it was repaired.

Carlson Documentation

The travel agency that does all the booking for Radisson Seven Seas is Carlson. This is my third cruise with Radisson, and every single time, Carlson has had very poor documentation services. The first cruise, it was being double charged and documents sent addressed to the wrong person, wrong address. The second cruise, again, a address problem. And now, they misspelled my name on the tickets, sent the package to the right address, but had somebody else's name on the package. It's clear that they don't double check their work. What is needed is a web-based entry system so that the passenger can enter a name once, and then all the documents are based off of that web entry. As it is now, I'm sure names are entered by hand and entered incorrectly, as the problem cascades. How in the world they get a different name on a overnight package from the tickets inside is beyond me. Double check your cruise and air tickets if you go through Carlson. And do not let somebody tell you that it's ok if you name is not spelled correctly. With security measures in place, it's doubtful you'll even get on the plane.

Madison To Cincinnati, Cincinnati to JFK (Monday, September 8th)

My first flight was from Madison to Cincinnati aboard a Delta Canadair Regional Jet which took a little over an hour. The seats were quite cramped and the jet was really showing its age. Even though I carry on my luggage, I actually checked myRollaboard plane side since there is not much room in the CRJ's. In Cincinnati, I boarded a Delta 757, which was fully booked. This is the first time I've flown Delta in years, and found the seats in Economy Class to be very crowded when compared to American or Northwest. I tried to upgrade to Business Class, but the flights were completely booked. At JFK which is in bad need of a facelift, the airport was like going back into the 70's. Luckily earlier this year, I purchased a WorldClub Pass from Northwest which allows me to use the First Class lounges when flying on Northwest and its partner airlines. Delta has a Crown Room Club in the international terminal which is very reminiscent of the Northwest WorldClubs. Not only does it have quiet, and comfortable areas to relax, but it also has a business center which allows you to use phones or plug in your computer. Northwest usually has a wireless (WiFi) network you can tap into, none at the Delta Crown Room Club. I have to admit, I was not looking forward to the seven hour flight to Nice in Economy. The weather was picture perfect all day long, and it was eerie flying into New York City without the twin towers commanding the skyline.

JFK to Nice, France

Flying aboard a Delta 767, I was in 28B in Economy Class. I was lucky because the flight was full, yet I had a window seat next to me that was empty, so at least I had the space they had in Business Class (but not the food or spirits). The flight left at 7:30 p.m. (after sitting in the plane for an hour and being on ground hold while 20 other flights departed) and was scheduled to arrive in Nice around 9:00 am Tuesday. We got to Nice early, around 8:15 a.m. local time. Our ground speed, which was shown on screen by flight following put us around 595 mph. Departing from JFK right at sunset was more spectacular when a full Moon rose right at the end of our departing runway 13. So in one flight, I got to see a sunset, moonrise, and sunrise, all in seven hours. Nice was predicted overcast with thunderstorms, but I could only see one thunderhead in the distance as we landed. The approach to Nice is incredible. In the distance lay the alps, snow-covered and dominating the horizon, while Nice is nestled in several crescent shaped bays of the Mediterranean. The airport in Nice is modern and efficient. The terminal building is a huge mass of glass and steel which welcomes passengers from the moment they step off the plane.

Hotel Negresco

Since I had no luggage (I travel only with a carry-on), I breezed through customs and was the first one out. I was promptly greeted by my driver (Eric) and a brand-new Mercedes which took me to the hotel, in downtown Nice. The Hotel Negresco is one of the most unique hotels in the region, if not in all of Europe since it is one of the oldest hotels, and is adorned with the most amazing works of art. I would have preferred to stay at the hotel Meridien which is in Monaco, but they were booked. Since the Negresco is located across the street from the rocky beach, it was a good substitute. Even though the beach is rocky, there are plenty of sun-seekers and a long avenue along the beach for walking, biking, roller-blading and other activities. Prices here are very expensive, some of the most expensive that I have seen in my travels so far. I had a very basic hotel breakfast buffet for 20 Euros, and that was basically cereal, fruit and some cheese. I recommend getting out of the hotel and into the streets, where the small cafes offer up more sights and more culture. This hotel is not cheap. They do not offer a single rate, so you are paying for two people. My nights stay was $695 (US), and I recommend finding hotels on your own if Carlson cannot find you where you want to stay. If I were to do this over, I would have looked harder for a place in Monaco (if I were going to drop this kind of money for one night, might as well be where you want to be !).

Waters of the Mediterranean

The water here is almost a milky version of the Caribbean. It has a beautiful blue and almost turquoise hue to it. The beaches are small stones, so you need something to lay out on if you want to sunbathe. Bikes can be rented for $E6 per hour or $E15 per day, which is reasonable if you're only here for a day. Sometimes I wish I would pack a folding bike for all my journeys, jet the allure of speedy and hassle-free travel preclude something so bulky. The September temperatures here are in the 80's and 20's (C).

Exchanging Money

No matter where you go, you'll end up paying a fee for exchanging from dollars to Euros, or even cashing in traveler's checks. The bank charged me a $6 Euro fee for cashing in $300 worth of Euros.

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Learning French

While most people are willing to speak a little English, I highly recommend learning all the basic greetings and sayings in French. The bank teller and street vendors spoke French exclusively. While it's not really a problem to just speak English (or conversely not speak French), I think it's a nice gesture to at last try and speak the native language. Even if it's not perfect, you'll always get a smile and a friendly reply.

Pre-Dinner Martini's

I wasn't sure yet where to have dinner, since I hate to go out to eat alone, so I decided to have a few drinks to ponder the issue. The hotel has a piano bar and that's where I ended up having a Cosmopolitan and a rum and coke. I was hoping to meet some fellow passengers there, since the Negresco was one of four pre-cruise hotels, but there were none to be found. After a few drinks, I mustered enough courage to venture out into Nice on my own. I wanted a nice dinner, and didn't care even if I had to eat out alone, so I asked the hotel concierge (always a great resource) where to go. After a few questions, he narrowed my choices down to Boccaccio for seafood.

Seafood at Boccaccio's

I headed down Rue de France which merged into a street of open aire restaurants on the Rue Massena. After walking about 10 blocks, I saw Boccaccio's. While it did have outside dining, I opted for indoors and walked through the oyster bar to the upstairs, where I waited about 20 minutes for a table. Unfortunately, they sat me between a couple to my left who was speaking some other language, and another couple to the right who were definitely speaking French. Now I realized why I don't like to eat out alone ! I just sat there and looked at a map for about 15 minutes while they took my order. I decided on the Ahi Tuna (a long time favorite) which took about another 30 minutes to make. When the Tuna finally arrived, it was excellent, and worth the wait. I also ordered a rum and coke (I'm not a big wine fan) and was surprised when they brought me a glass of rum (full) and a pitcher of coke. I wasn't too sure if I was supposed to mix this on my own, but improvised and choked down a few shots of rum to make room for the coke. I also requested water, which took another 30 minutes to get (about the time I was done eating). The couple to my left had a huge seafood bouquet, which starts at $E100 per couple. My Tuna was a reasonable $E30 (about $33 US Dollars).

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Snake in the Restaurant

As I was eating my delicious Tuna, I noticed something moving underneath the bench opposite me. At first, I figured it was nothing, or a image born from the large rum drink which had descended upon me. But it kept moving. It was a long, thin, dark object, which slowly moved. About at this time I was about to just run out of the restaurant, not wanting the snake to coil around my feet when I noticed that at the end of the moving object was a loop. This was odd, since no snakes I know (nor care to know) are able to loop the back of their take back into their body. Just as I was reasoning myself out of panicking, a little Chihuahua emerged from underneath the table, trailing a leash (which looked exactly like a snake). The doggie then went back underneath the table, and underneath the bench to the couple on my left. Too amused by the dog, I turned to them and asked if they had seen the dog. Of course, by this time, the pup had already ventured elsewhere and we all had a good laugh. As in turns out, there were a Swedish couple, living and working in England and were on vacation. We chatted for about an hour on everything from dating to cruising and had a great time. I left quite satisfied that I had taken the plunge to go out alone, even in a foreign country (where I don't know the language). I started back around 10:30 p.m. and was pretty surprised at how many people were not out. There streets were full of people only a few hours ago, now it was just a few street vendors, or late night diners. I never felt uncomfortable, but I could tell a few times I was being watched by some street people. It pays to be vigilant.

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CONTACT TEL: 608-238-6001 Email: greg@cruisingreview.com