Monday, February 28, 2011

Do Not Over-research Your Destination

Good friends and regular readers of this blog will read that title and say, "WHAT? This advice coming from Diane?"

I know...I know...I am probably one of the biggest destination researchers out there. But there is a point and time when I say enough is enough.

About 20 years ago we visited London for a week. Our plan was to stay in London and take the train to Dover for a day and ditto with Oxford. Trip worked out great. But I have to admit that I researched London so thoroughly, including things like reading about 'walks' and 'best places for...' that, when I finally got there, I stood on a street corner and felt like I had already been there.

Now, I still do my research of course...places to stay, things to see. But I finally draw a line and stop. For instance, on our Holy Land cruise we did a tour of the Peloponnese Peninsula. We had several full day tour options and instead of researching them all, I left it up to the tour operator to pick one that would give us a good overview. We were not disappointed and I thoroughly enjoyed all of the new and different things we saw, without me researching them to death.

So definitely do some homework before traveling to a new a map, a guidebook, enter the name of the area into Yahoo! or Google search and see what comes up. But leave some unknowns...and enjoy the new and unexpected.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Review: Coral Princess Carara National Park, Costa Rica Shore Excursion

On our recent Panama Canal cruise, we decided to take the Carara National Park excursion out of Puntarenas. I had been to Costa Rica before and wanted my husband to have a chance to experience one of Costa Rica's national parks.

There were only 11 of us on this excursion. The local contractor was Swiss Travel Costa Rica. The minibus was comfortable and there was plenty of room.

Our ride to the park was only about 1/2 hour. We had a 2 1/2 hour hike on an ungroomed trail. The weather, typical Costa Rica, was hot and humid. Our guide was very good at spotting wildlife and our only complaint about him was we wished he spoke in a quieter voice. He certainly worked very hard trying to give us the experience we came for.

Ditto with the bus driver. We went through a small town that in the past had a nesting pair of scarlet macaws. The driver stopped and asked a young boy if the pair was back and the boy led us right to the field holding the nest. As we drove back to the ship, our guide spotted a rosette spoonbill in a cow field, our driver brought the bus to a screeching halt and then maneuvered the vehicle off the road so we could get out and take pictures.

Lunch was at a luxurious resort overlooking the water. It was a beautiful location with an excellent multi-course lunch that included two beverages (juice, soda or beer) per person, salad and fresh grilled fish.

When I read the description of the shore excursion on-line, I knew it would be expensive. I had a feeling there would not be many people on the tour and the price of the lunch at this exclusive resort would certainly bump the price up.

It all worked out as anticipated and met our expectations, even to the point of arriving back at the ship 45 minutes later than scheduled because of the extra time and effort taken by our guide and driver to show us the birds of Costa Rica.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Using Old Princess Coffee Cards

On our Holy Land cruise we had coupon books that had a coupon for the coffee cards: buy one get one. So three couples bought coffee cards and split the cost with three other couples. Worked out great.

It also meant we had more than enough for the trip and several of the group finished the cruise with cards not fully punched. Knowing we would be sailing Princess in January, they gave us their cards.

We had absolutely no problem using the coffee cards on our Panama Canal sailing. We used them the entire cruise and finished off the last punches getting cappuccinos on disembarkation morning.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Cruise Port Review: Puntarenas

We stopped here on our Coral Princess Panama Canal cruise. It was our departure point for the Carara National Park shore excursion that we took. After we returned from our excursion, we made a quick cabin stop then returned to the pier to go ‘into town.’

The walk off the pier was quick and easy but for those wanting, there was a shuttle running….a multicar tram running back and forth.

The town itself is nothing to write home about. There is a beach right off the pier and which I did walk on the sand and put my feet into the water, nobody was swimming except what appeared to be a few locals.

The big draw is the number of vendor stalls lining the beachfront. Good opportunity to buy Costa Rican crafts and, based upon my experience (I had been to Costa Rica before). the prices were fair. I wanted two pareos and found them for $10 each. Did a lot of browsing and there was some very nice items (like original paintings of birds and flowers) but one did need time to sort through the junk.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

To Cunard or Not to Cunard - Review

Very good friend of mine, who has sailed everything from Carnival to Regent and Seabourne, just came off of her first Cunard cruise.

She called and told me that not only was this her first Cunard cruise but it would be her last Cunard cruise. She said service was awful. Food was better on the last Princess cruise we took together. All in all she found the class system on the ship unpleasant and won't sail on Cunard again.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Princess Shore Excursion Review: Panama Canal Railway

We took Princess' shore excursion for the Panama Canal Railway. By choice we selected to go in the refurbished old cars. This was a quick decision we made on board ship. Our first choice (Monkey Watch & Canal Nature Cruise), which we had booked pre-cruise, had been canceled by the operator and we learned of this upon boarding. So we went to what had been our second choice.

We boarded the bus which was waiting right near the tender stop. Short drive took us to the railroad terminal. Everyone boarding was given a bottle of water. I was one of the first into our car and chose a seat on the left side of the car since I knew that would be the side the canal was on.

The train left at 10:00 a.m. and the ride lasted a bit over an hour. It was very pleasant and we got to see some very nice scenery and, of course, the canal. During the entire ride, my husband was out on the open air platform that is at the end of the car, taking his pictures from that vantage point.

In Colon we reboarded our bus and were taken to the observation area at the Gatun locks. It was very interesting watching the locks working from that vantage point, with the electric mules moving practically within touching distance right in front of us.

The bus ride back took us through the old part of Panama City where buildings used during the construction of the canal, and monuments to the builders, were pointed out to us and then were returned to Fuerte Amador to reboard the tenders.

Review: Trattoria Mia Casa

While going through some of my memory cards, I came across the restaurant sign for Trattoria Mia Casa. I had wanted to write about this restaurant and had forgotten the name. So I'm glad I took a picture of the sign.

Based upon our experience, this is a little family owned restaurant and it is located down a small alleyway. I had noticed the number of people going into the restaurant and decided we should try it one night.

It was a delightful place filled with locals. Some of the staff did not speak much English and had to ask another staff person to help us out. No problem. We noticed that most of the clientele was eating pizza so that's what we ordered. And it was delicious.

Friendly, reasonably priced and with good food, located near Hotel Giorgione, we definitely recommend this restaurant.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cruise Port Review: Fuerte Amador

This is where we anchored after transiting the Panama Canal on our Coral Princess cruise. Tendering from here to shore took about 30 minutes. Fuerte Amador is the third of three islands connected to the mainland by a man-made causeway. There were restaurants and some shopping, including crafts. We spent a few minutes here after our Panama Canal Train Shore Excursion because I wanted to shop…specifically for molas and tagua jewelry.

Long story short is that I was very disappointed with what was available. I found no tagua jewelry and the molas in the shops were, in my opinion, of very poor quality. My husband got a ‘Panama’ hat for $4.50 and then we headed back to the ship.

If you are not taking a shore excursion and simply want a pleasant and safe place to take a walk, then come ashore. The causeways were nicely landscaped, with benches, and sidewalks. Otherwise, IMHO, there is no reason to leave the ship.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Laundry Rooms on the Coral Princess

We just returned from a Panama Canal transit on the Coral Princess. One very often asked question is about laundries on board ships.

The Coral Princess has a laundry on every passenger deck. Both the washer and the dryer (4 of each on our deck 5) cost $1 and you needed 4 U.S. quarters. In the laundry room was a change machine and a machine for purchasing detergent and softener, also $1 each in quarters. There were also two irons and two ironing boards in the room.

I only used the washers. They held a lot of clothes and the clothes were spun so dry at the end of the 40 minute cycle, that I simply brought them back to the cabin and hung them on hangers and my clothesline to finish drying.

I used the machines twice, once on a port day when we stayed on board and a second time on a sea day and I had the rooms to myself. I would have no problem planning on using them if we sail on the Coral Princess again.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Coral Princess: Change in Traditional Dining

I like to read the Cruise Critic message board and have received some wonderful and helpful information from forum members. So when we returned from our Panama Canal transit cruise, I felt the least I could do was post a review of the Coral Princess.

Those that read the review noted my complaint about Anytime dining and the two seatings for traditional dining: 5:15 and 7:45. Several of the forum members who will be sailing on the Coral Princess in the future noted that on their sailings, traditional dining now had three seatings: 5.15, 6.30 and 7.45.

Since I overheard many of the Anytime diners complaining about no room in the Traditional dining room, I'm wondering if the 6:30 seating was added to accommodate all those extra Traditional seating requests.

IMO, this will be great for the Anytime diners, easing the 6:30 rush. But based upon my experience, is 1 1/2 hours really enough time to have a relaxed meal in the Traditional dining room? Or will those 5:15 and 6:30 diners feel like they've been rushed through their meal?

Delta Mileage Program Changes

Got a very welcome e-mail from Delta today. Mileage in their frequent flyer program, Skymiles, will no longer expire!!

What a hassle it has been trying to stay on top of that. One less thing to concern myself with.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Review: Transiting the Panama Canal on the Coral Princess

OK…let’s get the complaints out of the way first. This ship is not meant for photographing a canal transit. Around all of deck 16 and a good portion of deck 15, the topmost decks, is glass which we suspect acts as wind protection. The glass is slanted inwards towards the deck and, although transparent, is tinted blue. Definitely not for shooting photography through and my husband (and others) had a fit. (You can see the blue glass at the bottom of this picture as we are waiting to enter the first lock.)

After much searching, my husband did find a decent vantage-point and, to ‘claim’ it, we were out at 5:30 a.m. for the transit. Even at that hour we were not the first people on deck. Many people had brought up chairs from tables at the Grill and on the Lido Deck and had positioned themselves right up front, behind the slanted, blue glass. They had a great vantage point and it was perfect for anyone as long as they didn't want to take any pictures.

But for those that wanted to photograph from the front of the ship, many resorted to standing on hand rails to get up above the glass and some, like myself, eventually ended up claiming a spot, literally, on the deck, under the angle of the glass rising from the deck. With 3-4 inch spaces between the glass and its metal support, I was able to get my camera through and get some good ‘down the canal’ photographs. Still, the situation could have been more photographer-friendly.

That out of the way, the transit was fantastic. We had beautiful weather. A very nice breeze kept us comfortable. Previous to the sailing there had been a lecture about the canal which we attended (could have been better) and it helped to refresh my memory from reading Path Between the Seas by David McCullough…well worth reading before the transit.

The Panama Canal really is an engineering marvel and it was neat watching the ships go through and how smoothly the operation ran. Our ship was Panamax size meaning it is of the maximum size that can go through the canal. There were a lot of large ships going through at the same time and we learned that is what is done during the day…..large ships transit during daylight hours. During the night is when the smaller ships go through.

The sailing through Gatun Lake was beautiful. We went under the Centennial Bridge, through the Gaillard Cut (still quite narrow and only one Panamax ship can pass at a time) and we saw construction for the new larger locks. At 5:00 p.m. we passed under the Bridge of the Americas, completing our transit.

Overall it was a great experience and I would certainly not have any problem repeating it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Travelling to Ghost Towns Via Television

I appreciate the guest post, Jewel Rodgers

My daughter Cynthia and I love travelling to ghost towns. We love the excitement of it. We have always gone locally to many of the areas near our home and have had a little experience outside of your home state. However, that all changed when we began watching a television show on our Direct TV that featured ghost towns across the country.

Now, Cynthia and I travel all over the country visiting ghost towns. Many of them are commercialized with a lot of people there, all doing the same thing we are. But, we have found some smaller ghost towns that no one visits and those are the most memorable for us. From the television shows, we have learned that there is certain equipment we should take with us. Flashlights are essential and recording devices are recommended. We have brought many of these items with us and have recorded some pretty scary things. We also take our cameras hoping to catch some of the possible ghosts and have had mixed success in this area.

We have seen multiple orbs on our camera shots that were not visible in the rooms we were in with the naked eye. And, we have also captured a ray of light in a shot when the room was completely dark. Our ghost adventures are made more enjoyable when we watch these shows and know if we have already been there or not.

Cruise Port Review: Cartagena

Probably unfair for me to write a port review of this stop since we didn’t get any further than the cruise terminal. (Which, BTW, has crafts, jewelry and a beautiful garden area with ‘people-friendly’ macaws.) So this post is partly about what we learned from those who took tours or simply hired a taxi.

Those that went on tours sounded happy with what they did. Everyone enjoyed the visit to the San Felipe Fortress. Most enjoyed the old city. People who hired taxis paid anywhere from $15 to $25 pp based upon the number of people in the group and we didn't hear of any problems about the taxis. The only problem we heard, and this was consistent, was the aggressiveness of the street vendors. Everyone complained about how awful they were.

On board ship there was a local 16 page newspaper entitled 'Destination Cartagena' that I saw as I walked by the Passenger Services desk. (I think it should have been handed out to pax as they exited the ship....along with the shopping advertisements and port shopping map handed out at every port.) Nice item to pick up as it included information on the old walled city, buying emeralds, city history and a map.

One of the pages was a list of FAQs. The first question: “Is Cartegena dangerous”? Which we, like many people we spoke with, did wonder about. We had heard that Cartagena had done a lot, over the past few years, to improve safety and its image. Quoting from the answer "Contrary to conventional wisdom, Cartagena is very safe as long as you visit the normal tourist areas."

The last question had to do with the beaches. Typical of any tourist beach, there is the warning to carefully watch belongings. But it also adds "Vendors and hustlers of various types can be a real bother." Which was definitely verified by returning passengers. That alone is enough reason for me not to get off the ship. (And it made no difference if the passenger was on a cruise tour or a private taxi tour. Show the very slightest interest in anything and the vendors were all over you.)

Actually, several things kept us from going ashore. One was the question of safety. Another was the heat. And we have seen many South American old cities and fortresses and that wasn’t what we had taken this trip for. So we simply walked to the cruise terminal, visited with the macaws, and then walked back to the ship.

BTW, Princess did have a shuttle running back and forth from the ship to the terminal. But the walk was pleasant. Based upon the little we saw, the city has tried to make itself attractive. The pier was lined with large pots filled with beautiful flowers. The chain link fence along the commercial area of the port was covered with thick growing vines. And the garden area around the small terminal building was lovely.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Small World Stories

After we first boarded the Coral Princess on January 24th for our Panama Canal cruise, we went to the Horizon Court for a buffet lunch. Of course we simply sat down at an available table, where two other people were already seated. Had a nice conversation and then we excused ourselves.

The following day was the Meet and Mingle for Cruise Critic members who had signed up on the forum roll call. Would you believe the couple we arbitrarily had lunch with yesterday were members of the Cruise Critic group? Out of 2000 passengers, we meet one of the 37 couples who had registered on the Roll Call.

Then I walked into the casino and recognized a dealer who I had met on the Pacific Princess. He recognized me too and even asked ‘where is the family?’ as we had traveled with a group of 14 on that sailing. He joined the Coral Princess same day we boarded.

And lastly, there were two big ships in port in Aruba…us and the Jewel of the Seas. We are walking down the street in Oranjestaad and my husband hears his name being called. Former co-worker is also in Oranjestaad, off of the Jewel of the Seas.

It’s a very small world.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cruise Port Review: Aruba

We have been to Aruba several times so did not feel we needed to do a shore excursion. I had hoped to go to Eagle Beach, very easy to access via public bus from the bus terminal. But we only had a few hours on the island and decided to just wander around Oranjestaad.

Which is significantly more built up than we remember. And Aruba is not a cheap island. We passed shop after shop of upscale items and the Caribbean standards like Columbia Emeralds. For those looking for crafts and t-shirts, there were stalls lined up along the waterfront, to the right as we excited the cruise terminal. We wandered for a while, including heading to a gas station to the left of the pier entrance for water and other sundry items, took a picture of the ship from land and then headed back on board.

We talked to several people who took tours. Those that took the island tour that included the north side of the island liked their tour. We’ve been there and it has some beautiful areas. Some took the ship tour to the beach and were also happy. Everyone else we spoke with felt pretty lukewarm about the tours. Not the fault of Princess or the tour operator….. in our opinion, Aruba is a pretty boring island.

Review: Coral Princess

The Coral Princess is huge compared to many of the ships we have sailed on. She holds around 2000 passengers and we got worn out as we toured her 15 decks.

Our cabin, on the other hand, was smaller than what we have sailed in recently. And I’m not just comparing it to the mini-suite we had on the Pacific Princess. There really is no comparison to that. I’m comparing it to the cabin on our last river cruise.

Our outside cabin has the typical two beds pushed together, with the head of the bed under the window. There is a nightstand on each side of the bed with two small drawers. On one side of the desk, there is a refrigerator, which is wasted space as far as I am concerned. The other side has three drawers. And that is it for drawer space. Plus there are absolutely no hooks in the room. I’m glad I brought the 3M Command hooks as suggested several times on this forum. (This was my first time using them and they worked perfectly as advertised.)

The closet area is open which I prefer over closed doors. Lots of hanging room with lots of hangers. An enclosed cabinet holds the in-room safe and shelves. Without those shelves, with what I feel is a shortage of drawers, we’d be in trouble. And we travel very light.

As for the bathroom….well it is tiny. Ditto on the shower. Good thing we are not big people. That said, the water pressure in the shower was very good and the water could be set quite warm.

Some of the dining room menus were the same we had on the Pacific Princess. Food was comparative to that on our Holy Land trip, ranging from very good to excellent. The Horizon Buffet had two entrances and two lines, both offering the same food. Nice with this number of passengers and we never had much of a wait. Also available is pizza, which was very good and hot dogs and hamburgers, which we did not have.

There is a coffee and pastry bar with specialty coffees. We had leftover coffee cards from the Pacific Princess and had no trouble using them. The room service menu is more extensive than what was offered on the smaller ship. And then there is the ice cream bar with free soft serve ice cream, which I tried to avoid as much as possible. BG

As for some of the venues on board ship…this ship offers Movies Under the Stars. The nights there were movies we would want to see were too cool and/or windy so we never got to experience it. There are two pool areas, one indoor (that's where the ice cream bar is) and one out-door. The gym is large and, outside at the back of the gym/spa area, there is a space called The Sanctuary. Very luxurious, with comfy deck chair cushions and its own ‘dip pool’ and $10 for 1/2 day pass and $20 for a full day pass. However, we did find lots of nice quiet areas to sit outside including the promenade deck and deck 15 forward so I’m not sure why someone would feel they had to pay that money. There are also several decks that have chairs facing windows and loads of small lounges which were quiet during the day.

The Internet café is small for this size ship, IMHO (be sure to check both sides of the ship by the café as there are terminals set up on both sides). Maybe they figure most of the passengers would bring their own laptops and would be using wi-fi. Since I had pre-bought our Internet package to get the 60 free minutes, I had to work with the Internet café manager to get set up. Basically, I had to buy the 250-minute package, then he went into my account and credited the additional 60 minutes. A slip I signed would go to the purser’s office where the charge was then credited out.

There are two large lounges, used for shows, movies and things like bingo. Loads of small bar areas for games like trivia. Casino is large with lots of unfriendly penny and nickel slots. There is a craps and roulette table and lots of table games. Of course there is the usual collection of boutiques. And I found no bargains at the shops….unlike the sweatshirt I got for $10 on our last cruise.

Back to the dining rooms….early dining is 5:30 and late dining is 7:45…not quite right for us so we chose Anytime dining. But the first night was awful, as we went to the dining room at 6:30, where 15 minutes later we got a pager, which went off 30 minutes later. Not happy, we decided to take advantage of the option to make a reservation. Didn’t work out. Because it is their busiest time (no kidding!) we could not make a reservation for between 6 and 7:30. Either way, this is not exactly what I wanted from Anytime dining since we love the idea of not having a specific time we need to be at the dining room. It got better over the cruise but I think because people learned not to be there between 6:00 and 7:30. However, one could still expect to get a pager during that time frame and, believe it or not, they sometimes ran out of pages. So we made a point of going to the dining room after 7:30 and had minimal trouble after that. Yes, we did end up with 'late dining' but at least we had some flexibility, which is important to us.

General, it was a great cruise on a great ship. The staff was very friendly and very helpful. We took several shore excursions (which I’ll report about later) and they were all of good quality. If I could get unlimited Internet access, I would have no problem staying on this ship and heading back through the canal.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Delta Sending Employees to Charm School

I just read this article on Yahoo's home page:

Sick of Surly Airline Staff? Delta Sends 11,000 Employees to Charm School

We just got off of Delta yesterday. Based upon this article I'm glad we didn't have to deal with too many ground personnel. Our only experience was at Baggage Drop in our city of departure and on our return flight, out of LAX.

In retrospect, our home town agent was nothing to write home about. However, our LAX agent was delightful. (Had she already been to charm school?)

As for flight personnel, our outbound crew was absolutely delightful with those boring safety announcements being made in a very humorous manner like 'if you tamper with a lavatory smoke detector we will ask you to step outside.' And there was nothing shabby about our return flight personnel either.

Fort Lauderdale Airport to Port Everglades Cruise Terminal Transfer

We departed January 24th on the Coral Princess for a Panama Canal cruise. We flew in a few days previously to Fort Myers to visit with some friends in Bonita Springs. We rented a car for the drive across the Everglades to Ft Lauderdale.

Upon returning our car, which had been rented from Alamo, I asked where to catch the shuttle to the cruise terminal. I was directed to go the third level, bus stop #1.

Upon entering the building by the car return, we discovered we were on level 2. Up to level 3 where we could see the counters for the major car rental agencies. We exited the building and walked right to the #1 bus stop.

The bus was there and the sign scrolling above the front window said “Alamo National” and “Port Everglades.” I had previously read that only Alamo and National had permission from the FLL airport to run a shuttle so this didn’t surprise me. We boarded the bus, with the assistance of a helpful bus driver. At no time were we asked to show that we had used Alamo or National or that we had a future reservation with either agency.

At the pier, the driver showed us where to go for the return shuttle, if we needed it. As we would exit the terminal, we would have to turn left and cross the roadway. There is a sign that clearly states the shuttle is for Alamo and National and if you have a rental with another agency to contact that agency. However, based upon the experience we just had, I’m not so sure the driver would ask for Alamo or National documentation and, since it appeared that the counters for all the agencies were in the same building, the free shuttle could work for anyone.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Sanctuary

Off we went on a Friday morning for a visit to Sanibel Island and a chance to tour the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Sanctuary. We had toured it many, many years ago and were looking forward to this second visit and the sanctuary’s wildlife drive.

Not! When we arrived we discovered that the wildlife drive is closed on Fridays. Very disappointed we decided to take the Indigo trail, hoping to see some wildlife. The weather was not the best, windy, cloudy and chilly, with fog significantly reducing visibility. We should have stayed hunkered down inside because it looked like the wildlife had the same idea.

I think we might have seen three birds. The trail is over two miles long and about halfway through we decided to turn around as the weather did not look good and there was absolutely no shelter on the trail. We made the right decision. About 20 minutes later the skies opened up.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Off The Beaten Path – Car Trips

Along with our international cruising and land trips, we have taken a bunch of car trips within the U.S. In my opinion, way too many people do not take advantage of what our country has to offer.

Our first car trips were when the children were young. Since we are from upstate New York, our trips were pretty much confined to the East Coast. Over the years we managed to do a lot of it, from Key West up to Prince Edward Island in Canada. Our trips started as coastal trips and over the years we have managed to move a bit inland.

Then the urge for international travel hit us and our trips were overseas. But it dawned on us one day that there was still a lot of wonderful places to see in the U.S. And so, retired, we started our U.S. car trips, most of them lasting several weeks.

The wonderful thing about a car trip is to be able to go off the beaten path. Looking at maps and guidebooks, having no time constraints, it is easy to make that detour and find small gems like Capitola outside of Santa Cruz. Having my laptop with me on these trips, it is easy to research new places along the way such as using the Santa Cruz County tourism website for things to see and the Santa Cruz Sentinel for up-to-date information on what is happening in the area.

I think it’s time to plan our next car trip.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cruising With Passport, Passport Cards or Birth Certificate?

I was reading a cruise forum and a question came up about using a passport card for children rather than spending the money for a passport good for only 5 years. So should you and your family travel with passports, passport cards or certified birth certificates (NOT certified birth record)?

There were many different answers on the forum. Some forum members said you don't need a passport if the cruise is a closed loop, departing and arriving at the same port. Others said you don't need one if the cruise simply starts and ends in the U.S. Others said it totally depends upon the cruise line.

I can tell you for a fact that a passport was required on our recent trip that started and ended in the U.S., although leaving and arriving at different ports. My TA told me it depends upon the requirements of the countries being visited.

So why get a passport? Another member of the forum brought up a very interesting point. Suppose 'something' happens....and you need to fly home from a foreign city. Without a passport you could, literally, not be allowed to get on an airplane to the U.S. Or, eventually make it, but after much delay, frustration and aggravation.

Certainly something to think about.