We became”pen pals” with an Austrian couple after cruising with them a while back. In one of many e-mail exchanges, we told them we would be visiting Vienna which prompted them to send us a list of things to do while there. High on the list was a hot dog stand behind the State Opera House. Being too intriguing to pass up, as soon as we got into the center of Vienna, with cell phone in hand to navigate, we headed off in search of Bitzingers, the famous hotdog stand.
Arriving shortly after noon there was a line already formed. The customer directly in front of us was a member of the Polizei, the Austrian police. He provided inspiration for our selection choice as the proprietor was filling a carry away bag with a large number of different varieties of hot dogs/sausages/toppings.
Being unable to read the German menu, when it was our turn we very simply asked for two hot dogs, one plain and one with mustard. The preparation process involves having an end sliced, at an angle from what can best be described as a small baguette. The baguette is than pushed down on a stainless spike to make a hole for the hotdog. A squirt of mustard goes into the hole followed by a really good hotdog and than wrapped by a square of foil.
Simple, fast and remarkably tasty. Sometimes following the advice of locals is the best bet. Later while walking around Vienna we passed a couple of other Bitzingers stands, so this isn’t a one-off operation. However, most new visitors to this city are drown to the city center with its palaces, museums, cathedrals and blocks of shops and cafes so knowing the downtown location of Bitzingers could come in handy. It is right behind the State Opera House which is an easy landmark to navigate towards. Also within a few blocks of the Opera House quick a search on your phone with Google Maps should provide a precise directions.
Manila is the capital of the Philippines, an island country in Southeast Asia and a major city with a population of 1.7 million. It has been the country’s largest city for about 400 years. It sits on Manila Bay, on the island of Luzon. The Pasig River runs through the middle of the city.
Where You Dock
Cruise ships usually dock at the industrial piers and this can be at a number of locations. Most of the docks are along a half-mile stretch of waterfront only four to eight blocks away from Rizal Park, which is in the center of old Manila. Usually you will be allowed to walk out but be sure and carry an official photo ID.
Taxis are readily available and fares are reasonable but you need to be very clear about where you are going and that the driver knows where it is and negotiate a fare before starting out. We had a full address for a restaurant in Pasay, which was less than two miles from where we started and the driver could not locate it.
The Manila Metro Rail Transit System also known as the MRT is a rapid transit system of Metro Manila. Running on just 2 lines and serving 31 stations in total, the 33.4 km long network uses a single destination system (averaging 12 pesos per trip) or a loaded card. The main line runs in a circular north to south route following the alignment of the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA). During rush hours the system is usually very full.
Manila is also famous for there unique vehicles. Jeepneys, sometimes called simply jeeps are the most popular means of public transportation in the Philippines. The vehicles were originally created from abandoned WW II Army Jeeps but are now manufactured new in the Philipines. They are known for their crowded seating and fantastic decorations, which have become a symbol of Philippine culture and art. We have never figured out any route system regarding the Jeepneys however, so our recommendation is to use taxis.
The Philippine peso is the local money with ten pesos equal to about 1 US Dollar. Non-Philippine currency is not usually accepted. We would highly recommend carrying some pesos when you go ashore. There are a large number of exchange operations in Manila and the rate and fees vary widely. Most restaurants and stores will accept most major credit cards.
One time we were short on pesos and our taxi would not accept a credit card so he had to take us to an exchange to convert dollars for his fare.
A Cautionary Note
While we have no firsthand information about crime or how safe this city is, there were a number of indicators that made us question if we should have been walking were we did. Like a large number of security people with shotguns protecting businesses both large and small was one significant sign.
Rizal Park (Filipino: Liwasang Rizal, Spanish: Parque Rizal), also known as Luneta Park or simply Luneta, is a historical urban park in the Philippines. Located along Roxas Boulevard, Manila, adjacent to the old walled city of Intramuros, it is one of the largest urban parks in Asia. It has been a favorite leisure spot, and a botanical garden and orchid garden.
Fort Santiago (Spanish: Fuerte de Santiago; Filipino: Moóg ng Santiago) is a citadel first built by Spanish conquistador, Miguel López de Legazpi for the new established city of Manila in the Philippines. The defense fortress is part of the structures of the walled city of Manila referred to as Intramuros. The fort is one of the most important historical sites in Manila.
Manila Ocean Park is the country’s first world-class marine theme park and a premiere educational facility. An integrated urban resort with marine life attractions and aqua-themed hotel, the park is geared towards an all-year, all-weather destination for locals and tourists.
SM Mall of Asia, also abbreviated as SM MoA or MoA, is a shopping mall in Bay City, Pasay, Philippines, near the SM Central Business Park, the Manila Bay, and the southern end of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue. The mall has a gross floor area of over 3.5 million square feet and if you are into shopping you need to allocate several hours here. A taxi ride back to the cruise pier will cost about twenty dollars but watch the time as Manila traffic can take almost forty five minutes at busy periods.
Finding food in Manila isn’t hard. There are a number of upscale hotels with good restaurants. McDonalds takes a back seat behind a Philippine fast food chain called Jollibee which features burgers, chicken, shakes and the usual fare and a good choice for a quick meal (it is now opening shops in the U.S.). Our favorite restaurant is Singing Cooks and Waiters with a review HERE.
Every Spring just outside of Amsterdam a garden comes to life with hundreds of flower displays created with millions of tulips. If you are going to be anywhere near Norther Europe be sure and get to the Keukenhof.
Old Quebec City is on a number of fall cruise itineraries. Starting in New York or Boston these cruises visit a number of New England and Canadian Maritime ports, go up the St. Lawrence Seaway, usually with fall leaves in full glory, and spend a day or two in Quebec City. The old city is full of historic sites, art galleries, good restaurants and beautiful scenery.
Where the Ships Dock – There is a modern cruise ship terminal on the riverfront along with a good length of docking space right in front of the Old Quebec neighborhood.
Transportation – Since Old Quebec is not that large an area and cruise ships will usually dock right in town, walking is the usual way to see the sights. The town does have a geography that rises steeply from the river so be prepared for a little climb. The city does have an alternative to the steepest climb though. The Old Quebec Funicular is a funicular railway in Old Quebec. It links the Haute-Ville to the Basse-Ville, climbing at a 45-degree angle, it covers a total distance of 64 meters.
Taxis – There are a number of taxi companies and generally they do not cruise for fares. They usually are available at the cruise ships or you call and they will send a car:
Taxi Coop Québec 418-525-5191
Taxi Coop Sainte-Foy-Sillery 418-653-7777
Taxi Laurier 418-651-2727
Uber – As of this writing you can make use of Uber from the cell phone app.
Rentals Cars – Readily available and a practical way to visit areas farther out from downtown.
Public Transit (local buses) – Réseau de transport de la capitale (RTC) serves Québec City. The Parcours 11 route serves Upper Town and the Old Port area and the ferry terminal.
Ferry – The ferry links Québec City and Lévis and runs 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It sails on the hour and half-hour during the day and every hour at night.
Money – Quebec uses the Canadian Dollar currently worth about 76¢ U.S. Also, do not count being able to use U.S. Dollars but credit cards are welcome.
Notre Dame des Victoires Church – a small Roman Catholic stone church in the Lower Town of Quebec City. Construction was started in 1687 on the site of Champlain’s habitation and was completed in 1723
The Historic Petit Champlain District – a neighbourhood in Quebec City, Canada. It is located in the district of Vieux-Québec–Cap-Blanc–colline Parlementaire in the borough La Cité-Limoilou – located near Place Royale. Its main street is the Rue du Petit-Champlain at the foot of Cap Diamant. It is the oldest commercial district in North America
The Port, Marina and City Market Area
The Musée de la Civilisation. – A modern Museum of Civilization located near the port.
Located on the southeast side of sheltered Akaroa Harbor, is the cute resort township of Akaroa. With increasing cruises around Australia and New Zealand this tiny town is becoming a popular port of call. It is also unique as it was the only French settlement in New Zealand. Geologically originally an island formed by two volcanoes, the peninsula has two ancient craters which form Lyttelton and Akaroa Harbors. The region was named for the botanist Joseph Banks, who sailed with Captain Cook on the Endeavour.
Where You’re Docked – Cruise ships need to anchor out and use tenders to reach the Akaroa dock. The dock is the focus of a number of boat tours and water attractions and is located right in the town with a number of restaurants and shops nearby.
Money – New Zealand uses the NZ$ which currently is worth US$0.70 and you will need to exchange money or use credit cards.
Attractions – Akaroa, is famous for its several beautiful bays and harbors and there are boat tours and sea kayaking. In Flea bay, a couple of miles southeast of town, is a rare penguin colony and Akaroa harbor is home to the worlds rarest and smallest dolphin. A short walk out of town is Meniscus Wines, a vineyard which usually is open when ships are visiting and don’t miss The Giants House, a unique sculpture mosaic garden above town.
You shouldn’t visit Hong Kong without taking an hour or two visiting Nan Lian Gardens. These beautiful gardens cover over eight and a half acres in central Hong Kong.
The best way to reach Nan Lian Gardens is to take the rapid transit (MTR MAP) to Diamond Hill station, leave through Exit C2 and follow the signs to the garden. The station is part of Plaza Hollywood complex, a large mall with exhibit space, a movie theatre and a couple hundred stores.
This park is an incredible classic style Chinese garden with formal planting designs, flowers, waterfalls, Koi ponds and pagodas and completely walled in by high rise buildings. Inside the gardens there is a souvenir shop, a vegetarian food restaurant and a Chinese tea house and admission is free.
Nan Lian Garden is also adjacent to the Chi Lin Nunnery connected by a bridge. The Nunnery is a large Buddhist temple complex founded in 1934 for Buddhist nuns and was rebuilt in the 1990s in traditional Tang Dynasty architecture. The temple halls have statues of the Sakyamuni Buddha, the goddess of mercy Guanyin and other bodhisattvas.
This port is a popular gateway to many Alaska cruises. While it owes much of its popularity in the cruise industry to an old and archaic U.S. law called the Jones Act it deserves to be recognized as a great destination as well. Vancouver is the largest western Canadian city with a large natural harbor and a thriving economy. Famous for a number of nearby wine regions, its great natural beauty and a vibrant city atmosphere.
The issue with the Jones Act prohibits cruise lines from picking up passengers in one U.S. port and allowing them to disembark in another U.S. port. Vancouver, Canada allows the cruise lines to avoid the problem of picking up passengers from a U.S. port.
Where You Dock – The cruise pier in Vancouver is called Canada Place and it is centrally located with a nice cruise terminal. Canada Place is also a convention center and community event venue so take the time to discover what’s going on inside. Just walking out of the terminal finds you in downtown with a tourist office within a couple of blocks of the pier. Only a few blocks walk to the southwest is Gastown (http://gastown.org/), a popular historic district with lots of restaurants and clubs. A few blocks farther south is Vancouver’s Chinatown, which is home to a large Asian population replete with markets and excellent Chinese restaurants.
Taxi – Taxis are common and fares average about $10 for trips within the central city. A taxi trip to the airport should cast about $30.
Rapid Transit – The Canada Line is Vancouver’s rapid transit rail connecting Vancouver International Airport (YVR) to downtown Vancouver in about 30 minutes. Trains leave every few minutes and run from 5 am till after midnight. Fares run about $3.00 per trip.
Bicycles – Vancouver is a very walkable city and you will discover that many locals commute on bicycles. There are a number of rental locations not far from Canada Place. Spokes Rentals is only four blocks down the waterfront (1798 W Georgia Street).
Money – A Canadian dollar is currently about US$0.80 and unlike the Eastern Canadian cities Vancouver businesses will often insist on cash being in Canadian money.
Gastown and Chinatown, as mentioned above are not far from Canada Place and well worth a visit.
Vancouver Aquarium located in Stanly Park down the waterfront to the northeast about a mile. It is an Canada’s largest and an good place attraction especially if you are traveling with children.
Science World was with its iconic dome was originally built for Expo ’86, and is home to a number of interactive exhibits as well as one of the world’s largest OMNIMAX theatres. Located less than a mile and a half from Canada Place.
Capilano Suspension Bridge is a ways out of town but people from all over the world come here to experience this bridge and the natural beauty of the area. It is located in the Capilano area.