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Re: Where is... Where is Marco Polo? I have not seen him in a while, did I miss something or he just disappeared?
January 27, 2016, 09:33:00 AM
Re: The zow Family's First Cancun Vacation Trip Report, 2/2016 Part 2 - Monday.

Flights from BOS to BWI and then from BWI to CUN were uneventful. I was kicking myself for forgetting to bring along DW's expired AXP, but we probably wouldn't have had time, and only she would have been allowed entry, if at all. DD2 wanted wifi inflight bwi to Cun, so we splurged. She said it was spotty, not worth it, and we didn't end up getting it on our return.

I already posted in real time the kosher meal we received on WN (Star-K!):

Arrival in CUN was similar to others' reported experience. Long wait, maybe 30-45 minutes?, at immigration. Once through, about 20-30 minute wait to go through X-Ray scanner of all bags. After getting all our bags through, we pushed the button and got green light. But even then, from other DDFers' experience, I knew we were not home free. Sure enough, I hear one agent say something about one of our multi-colored bags. I also heard them say something about frutas, but I know we didn't have any produce, nor did we have any perishables whatsoever. All we had were packaged snacks. So, we kept walking because they weren't talking to me directly. But before we can make it to the exit doors, an officer stops us and says she wants to examine our bags. Asks if we have any meat or chicken. Nope. But she is looking for fruit. As she's rifling though our bag, it occurs to me that our can of tennis balls might be the culprit. Sure enough, they thought we were trying to smuggle in citrus, chas v'shalom.  So after that slight delay, off we went.

We rented at Hertz as I said before. The area outside the customs area and, particularly, past the rental car and shuttle desks, was packed with people.  We could see the row of rental car offices just about 100 yards away. Apparently people do take shuttle bus but seemed to us so much easier to walk, given the crowds of people and apparent gridlock. Glad we walked. Was easy, though we had to snake around a fence that prevents walking as the crow flies.

Already reported above how Hertz made sure we got the executive treatment...not. But the rental process was reasonably smooth. When they brought the SUV out, I proceeded to start taking photos of any little scratch. Not to be outdone, the Hertz guy was also taking photos with his iPad, and they eventually emailed me the photos with the rental agreement. I like that protocol.

Driving from airport to the strip was uneventful. I was very cautious with my speed. Of course in had my wallet prepped with a $10USD and $5 USD no more, but thankfully never had to use them.

We passed a Krispy Kreme Doughnut store. We didn't stop. I can't find anything online either way regarding its hashgacha or lack thereof. Does anyone know?

Arrived at the Aloft uneventfully. Parking was ridiculously cheap. I don't recall but something like $2USD overnight. Got checked in easily, two adjacent non-connecting rooms. Rooms are spartan but as Shiframeir said, they do provide bottled water. The beds were comfortable and the bathrooms clean and functional. We didn't have a chance to check out the rooftop pool. When I asked the front desk agent if the water was warm, she said sure. When I asked if it was heated, she smiled sheepishly, so I take that as a "no".

We were all hungry for dinner. We decided to go to Dag Dag. Called first and got no answer. Decided to walk over but got there and found the place dark. The security guard for the building told us it hadn't been open for months.

By now, the natives (three teenagers) were not only hungry but also feeling that maybe Moses had taken them out of Egypt, where they always had plenty of meat, chicken, fish, etc, with the unfulfilled promise of the land of milk and honey. Fortunately, as always, Hashem heard their rumblings and gave them a sign.
(Photos from Google)

Key thing here is that the Kosher Luxus - Red Heifer is one place. And they moved sometime in mid 2015 from near LM to current location, around corner from Aloft. And the good news is that with the move, the quality of food and service seems to have moved up a few notches.

Unfortunately I didn't take many photos but we were satisfied with almost everything we ordered. After reading Dan's report, I kept looking for the guacamole from the package and the uninspired local cuisine, but we didn't find it. They served a bread basket that could have been refilled but I don't recall that they did.  Dan had described the bread as airy and not satisfying; I thought it was pretty tasty and of good substance, not airy. Everything we had was tasty; some items, like the duck carnitas and the beef tostadas were especially memorable. The nachos were just fair -- they didn't have any pareve sour cream which we think is essential. In general, we loved the appetizers and liked the mains. That's our general experience most places.

Dessert was good but nothing to write home about. There was a volcano cake (the red heifer brownie) thing that wasn't sufficiently gooey but was okay.

The service was excellent. Attentive but not stuffy. Had a nice bottle of wine.

We got back to the Aloft, crashed, and got ready for a good night sleep in advance of our first full day in Cancun.

March 25, 2016, 03:35:09 PM
Re: Where is...
Where is Marco Polo? I have not seen him in a while, did I miss something or he just disappeared?
30 to go and then you too can retire and fall off the face of the world ;)

May 11, 2016, 09:31:32 AM
Re: Where is...
Where is Marco Polo? I have not seen him in a while, did I miss something or he just disappeared?

Every time I come across his name I get chills. As Dan recently put it "i"m chatting with strangers". You can be in his surrounding  for years, but then he can just vanish off the earth.

May 24, 2016, 01:39:17 PM
Re: Pictures taken from or on the plane/airports (only taken yourself) Couldn't get a normal picture, but I just saw 2 of these land at JFK.

June 05, 2016, 11:51:34 AM
Re: Zero Gravity Chairs Case Of 2 Lounge Patio Chairs Outdoor $49.99 via eBay DD these chairs are junk I bought 4 last year 2 are broken
July 17, 2016, 11:18:43 AM
Yehoshua's South Africa TR Planning and Routing
The planning for this trip started back in November 2015 when I decided that I wanted to go to Africa in the summer. I’d never flown any of the “Big 3” Gulf carriers, so that was the goal on this trip. I ended up booking:

For 100k AS I booked (blue on map)
7/5 LAX-DXB in EK F A380 4:45pm-7:30pm+1
7/7 DXB-JNB in EF F 777 2:20pm-8:50pm

For our domestic flight I bought cheap coach seats on Mango (orange on map):

7/13 JNB-CPT 8:10am-10:20am

For 135k AA I booked (red and brown on map)
7/17 CPT-DOH in QR J 787 1:20pm-11:50pm
7/18 DOH-AUH in QR F A320 8:25am-10:30am
7/19 AUH-JFK in EY F A380 3:35am-9:35am
7/19 JFK-LAX in AA F A321 12:30pm-3:54pm

For hotels we booked the following:

PH Dubai for 1 night for ~12k UR booked through UR
Black Rhino Game Lodge in Pilanesburg Game Reserve for ~$168 cash (redeemed for A+ credit)
Intercontinental OR Tambo (JNB airport) for 1 night for 30k IHG
Protea Sea Point hotel for 4 nights: 1 night for 15k Marriott, 3 nights for ~$67/night
Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi for 1 night for ~$87

We stayed with friends of friends in Joburg for the 3 nights we were there before going to the game reserve.

For food, we brought along some instant oatmeal for breakfast in Dubai, Joburg (before our flight to CPT) and Doha. Joburg and Cape Town both have kosher restaurants, but we needed food for Pilanesburg. We could have ordered from POM, had them ship it to LA, and schlep it around the world with us, but I found another solution. Kosher World in Joburg also has travel meals for a fraction of the price. While I only asked for dairy and pareve items, the price range was from R55-81 for a 500g portion, or about $3.75-$5.50 for just over 1 lb. of food. You can’t beat that! Like POM, the meals are frozen in advance and can be heated in the microwave or oven. To contact KosherWorld, you can email them from their website. They responded to me rather quickly and we arranged everything via email.

Now on to the trip itself.

July 18, 2016, 06:07:19 AM
Re: Boston for a 22 Hour Mileage Run TR with @Itsyehuda Not exactly a milage run but more of a fun beer run.

Would love to visit Boston again.

August 04, 2016, 03:50:41 PM
Re: Boston for a 22 Hour Mileage Run TR with @Itsyehuda Thanks for the HT and the TR.
You did so much in <24h.
Hope to meet you next time.

August 04, 2016, 06:03:08 PM
Nescafe Italy/London Honeymoon I wanted to start my report by thanking all DDF’ers for helping me plan this trip. I couldn’t have done it without you! 

This was our first trip and therefore the first report that I am writing, so pardon my lack of experience in writing a TR!

Ever since we got married almost a year ago we had wanted to go to Italy, but we weren’t sure how to go about doing it. That was until I bumped into DDF which gave me all the information I needed and a big push to start planning our trip. After reading through various threads on Italy, I was ready to go ahead and book tickets.
While searching for tickets, I saw that the best prices would be with BA to Milan since tickets to Venice were $500 more per ticket. I figured we would take the train from Milan to Venice, where we planned to start out trip. Since we were flying through LHR we decided to stay in London for a few days at the end of our trip. I therefore booked tickets JFK-LHR-LIN and LHR-JFK for $828.79 pp (using AARP-Cardofferu). I then booked tickets with Ryanair Business Plus from CIA-STN for $85 pp.

About a week after booking, I noticed that the price from JFK-VCE (via LHR) dropped to about $900 pp. which made me call up BA and ask if there was a possibility to change our reservation. To make a long story short: after 12 hours of continuous calling, and finally speaking to a supervisor, my reservation was switched to JFK-LGW-VCE for the price difference of $57 pp and a $25 processing fee. This was much cheaper and more convenient than taking the train from Milan to Venice.   (Of the 100 times I called, one of the agents felt bad for me and credited me 3,500 Avios to my account. So I got that too)

Ill skip the planning and write about the trip as you can read through the same hundreds of pages and get the same information I got 

The trip:
Our flight (JFK-LGW) was scheduled for Wednesday night at 9:55PM but was delayed by almost an hour. Our connection time in LGW was about 1:30 which was just enough time for me to daven (it was Rosh Chodesh and that took longer) and head to our gate.
We arrived in VCE after 3PM exhausted after not sleeping a whole night on the flight. In the arrival terminal, after stopping at an ATM for Euro (not foreign exchange fees for CPC) we headed to the information desk to buy tickets for the Alilaguna Boat which was €15 pp for a 1 way ticket. The agent at the desk was not well informed on which stop to get off by until we showed him on the map where we have to go. You can get this information by checking the hotel website.  We also bought a map for €3 which was unnecessary as the hotel provided maps for free.
We took a 10 minute walk through the white underpass/tunnel and followed the signs to the vaparetto/water taxi and boarded the Boat. We took the orange line (there are also red and blue lines) to the Guglie stop (as per our hotels website) (Pronounced Goo-Lee). The ride was about 45 minutes and the walk from the stop to the hotel was about 5 minutes with luggage. We arrived at our hotel 5:30.
We stayed at the Carnival Palace Hotel as it is the nicest hotel in the Jewish Ghetto area and we planned to eat there Shabbos. After settling into our hotel room, (and changing into comfortable sneakers) we headed out to explore the Ghetto neighborhood. We first stopped into Gam Gam to make a reservation for supper. We then strolled around and found the Chabad Shul, said hi to Rami and got all davening times. We then headed back to Gam Gam for supper. We ordered an entrée of Humus and meat (€9), Tagliatelle with meat sauce (like sloppy joes) (€9.5) and Shwarma (€15). Water is not for free. It has to be purchased with every meal unless you’re a cheapskake and bring your own (not sure if its ‘legal’) water costed €3. (pictures of food to follow). I liked the food, but my wife didn’t love it since she doesn’t like Isreali spices (zatar ect) that are used there.
After supper, I went to daven Mincha & Maariv in the Chabad Shul. (9:30ish)
After mincha/maariv, we took a vaparetto down the Grand Canal. Since it was so late at night, we had to buy vaparetto tickets at St. Lucia train station, which was about a 10-15 minute walk away from our hotel. The English option on our ACTV (24 hour ticket machines) didn’t work of course, so we stood there for a few minutes trying to figure out what to do. Some kind lady finally helped us (she spoke Spanish) buy a 1 day pass (€20 pp), as we planned to use it the whole next day. We found out afterwards that we could’ve bought a student 3 day pass, which is only available at the airport, to save money (€35 pp)
We got back to our hotel room at about 12:00 really tired as we still didn’t sleep since Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. (it was Thursday night).
Friday: Murano, Burano.......... to be continued

August 15, 2016, 11:01:25 PM