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Friday, April 17, 2015

Garbage ... I Will Never Waste My Money On Apple Products Again

Review: Apple 60W MagSafe Power Adapter (for MacBook and 13‐inch MacBook Pro)

If you like to travel as much as I do, a computer is a necessity in your home away from home and I take mine wherever in the world I go. Having heard wonderful things, propaganda, about Apple products, I took the leap less than two years ago by purchasing a Macbook Pro, then an iPhone 5C. What a mistake!

Just shy of warranty expiration, my Mac's OS went TANGO UNIFORM (military speak for hard‐broke), causing me to spend countless hours on the phone with support, wiping my hard drive clean, reinstalling the OS, and recovering everything from backup ... several times. Then my 6 month old iPhone died while on vacation in Puerto Rico, stranding us in an unfamiliar area while using Google Maps to navigate the island, losing my ability to take vacation photos/video and unable to contact relatives back home over the holidays.

Most recently, my MagSafe power adapter's (plastic) "L" connector head broke off. After removing it with a pair of pliers, I super‐glued it back on, allowing me to charge my computer for a couple weeks, but now it will not charge at all. Having paid close to $3500 for three Apple products (including my wife's computer), I would expect better quality, but what should I expect from overpriced products Made in China? I was shocked to see that Apple wants $79 for a replacement MagSafe adapter. Where else would you pay $80 for a power cord other than Apple? Nowhere! Based on the reviews this product has garnered, it is a piece of $80 junk just like the rest of Apple's products, I can see that my problem is fairly common. I will buy a new adapter from another supplier for just $30 and I will never buy another Apple product again.

CombatCritic Gives Apple, Inc. and their MagSafe 60W Power Adapter A Dismal 1 Bomb Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!









Title: Garbage ... I Will Never Waste My Money On Apple Products Again

Key Words: Apple, macbook, pro, MagSafe, power, adapter, 60W, MacIntosh, computer, iPhone, 5C, Mac, phone, product, broken, review, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, tech

Saturday, April 4, 2015

U.S. Divers St. Tropez Snorkeling Kit Is Inexpensive, Durable, and A Great Value

For the price, the equipment is quite well made. We purchased the set (mask, snorkel, fins, and a mesh bag) for a trip to Puerto Rico and they held up quite well over three weeks. Sturdy, leak-proof, and cheap, the set worked quite well for basic, novice snorkeling, but if you are serious and plan to snorkel over a long period or SCUBA dive, you should definitely invest in a more expensive, durable set.

CombatCritic Gives the U.S. Divers St. Tropez LX Mask, Seabreeze II Snorkel, Trek Travel Fins & Mesh Bag Kit 7 Bombs Out Of 10 ... Bombs Are Good!

Title: U.S. Divers St. Tropez Snorkeling Kit Is Inexpensive, Durable, and A Great Value

Key Words: US Divers, St Tropez, mask, Seabreeze, snorkel, trek, travel, fins, kit, snorkeling, beach, ocean, fish, SCUBA, travel, value, Amazon.com, Amazon, CombatCritic, Puerto Rico, puerto, rico

Photo Courtesy of Amazon.com

Clean, Safe, Fair Priced and Unlike Anthony Bourdain … Some Reservations

Hotel Heritage Home
1603/4 Main Bazar, Pahar Ganj
Near RK Ashram Metro Station
New Delhi 110055, India 
Phone: +91-987-352-9223

Prices: $$$$$

New Delhi (Paharganj), India: I found Hotel Heritage Home on TripAdvisor and made my reservation on Booking.com after reading numerous good reviews. The hotel is just a few blocks from the Ramakrishna Ashram Marg Metro station (opposite end from the train station) on Main Bazaar and just around the corner from Café Festa. It was easy to spot because of the good signage in front. It has a clean, open, rustic feel with a long entry through automatic glass doors, a small reception along with a travel office, an elevator and a rooftop restaurant. The area around the station is seedy to say the least, but vibrant, energetic, and colorful although filthy as is the case around much of Delhi.

Arriving at 1:30 AM after a 30-hour journey, I decided to defer to the hotel to pick me up at the airport. My driver spoke little English, but was right where I was told he would be with my name on a sign. The drive took about 25 minutes with little traffic due to the early hour. The trip was quoted at 900 Rupees ($14.65), not unfair by American standards but 500 Rupees more than the “standard” (400 Rupee - $6.50) fare from the airport to Delhi. In fact, when I inquired about my return trip to the airport, I was quoted 400 Rupees, so maybe there was a “late arrival surcharge”, an not totally unreasonable assumption.

I booked a “standard” room (1200 Rupees/night - $19.50), but found out the next say I was upgraded to a “deluxe” (normally 1800 Rupees - $29.25). The room was basic with marble floors, a large king bed, flat screen TV and cable, a small wardrobe, mini-sofa and table, and a bathroom that also serves as a shower due to the lack of a curtain or door. The room was fortunately in the back away from the street with no windows, which is not a bad thing considering I am sensitive to light and noise when I sleep and Main Bazaar is extremely loud due to the crowds below and the incessant honking of horns that Delhi drivers seem to thrive on.

The hotel’s travel office is convenient and helpful, but based on the prices I was quoted you may be better off booking your (train/bus/hotel/sightseeing) reservations online or directly with the provider as travel agents (and most other businesses) in this area are notorious for overcharging tourists. I will defer my opinion until I can compare quoted charges with online/counter prices through the respective purveyors.

Their rooftop restaurant is “relatively” quiet and inviting with plants, three parakeet cages, and local furnishings with several tables sitting below their own canopy for shade from the warm Delhi sun. The waiters speak barely passable English, but are attentive, efficient, and friendly. The menu has few beverage options, including bottled water, coffees (30-35 rupees – 55 - 60 cents), teas, shakes and other local drinks as well as vegetarian breakfasts, appetizers, pastas, sandwiches, and several options from India. There is no Diet Coke or other low calorie soft drinks and the coffee adequate, seemingly instant and likely Nescafe. The offerings are cheap by American standards, but not great. In two visits, I tried the egg and potato breakfast (80 Rupees - $1.30), accompanied by two pieces of toast (butter and jam), and a coffee with milk (35 rupees). It was adequate, but an excellent value. For dinner I went with the butter chicken (170 rupees - $2.75 – normally, one of my favorites) and an order of garlic cheese naan (60 Rupees - $1.00). The butter chicken came in a tomato-based sauce that tasted like sweet spaghetti sauce, not the creamy, savory variety I have come to love in restaurants in the U.S. and England, and the naan was slathered in butter/oil, a bit too much for my taste.

My biggest disappointments were the unexplained airport surcharge mentioned earlier, the horrible and nearly non-existent internet, and the phantom (500 Rupee) SIM card charge for my iPhone. The internet seemed to work OK upon my arrival and I was fortunately able to Skype with my wife and let he know I was alive, but it was “down” the next two days (the manager said it was their service provider’s fault) and accessible the next two, but so slow that my browsers gave up trying to load. Google also locked me out of all my email accounts because they thought someone was trying to hack me from India, but I could not access my ten accounts to resolve the issue due to lack of internet. What fun! When I told the manager that I wanted to get a local SIM card for my phone, he gallantly offered to have a colleague help me out. I was quoted 500 Rupees ($8.15 for a SIM card) and 495 Rupees for 2GB of 3G data. The data is an excellent value compared to American standards, but when I went to the Vodaphone store in Connaught Palace the next day because I could only get 1G data service throughout Delhi, I was told that “SIM cards are free, you should not have been charged for one”. Oh well, live and learn!

There are much cheaper (and more expensive) options available in Delhi, but if you are looking for a reasonably priced hotel, centrally located near the Metro in an area not abundant with clean, modern facilities, then Hotel Heritage Home is a good option, but be careful about add-on services as they are likely highly inflated.

CombatCritic Gives Hotel Heritage Home 6 Bombs Out of 10 


… Would Have Been 8 If Not For the Airport Surcharge, Internet Fiasco, and Extraneous SIM Card Charge .. MORE BOMBS ARE BETTER!

Title: Clean, Safe, Fair Priced and Unlike Anthony Bourdain … Some Reservations

Key Words: Hotel Heritage Home. hotel, heritage, home, New Delhi, new, Delhi, metro, train, Main Bazaar, main, bazaar, budget, travel, value, TravelValue, CombatCritic, TripAdvisor, trip, advisor

Varkala Bus Dancer



Energetic ... Infectious ... Brilliant!

I wanted to go to a beach a few miles from where I was staying in Varkala, Kerala (India) and as I was waiting at the bus stop, a bus full of students stopped and told me to get on. I though it was a public bus, but they were apparently on a school trip to a beach farther north up the coast.

As the bus started down the road, the music went on and the kids started dancing and singing. They all wanted to take a photo with me as we neared my destination and as I got off the bus I asked who I should pay and how much. They told me "don't worry" as they drove off into the Kerala sunset waving goodbye as they continued singing. 

Enjoy "Varkala Bus Dancer"! 

— Varkala Beach, Kerala, India

Title: Varkala Bus Dancer

Key Words: Varkala Bus Dancer, Varkala, bus, dancer, dancing, dances, dance, music, video, Kerala, India, student, trip, road, beach, travel, value, TravelValue

Monday, March 30, 2015

DO NOT BUY! The WD My Cloud 6TB Personal Cloud Storage Device

Do you need cloud storage for all of your travel photos? I do! Do you not want to pay the ridiculous monthly or annual fees for years on end for Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, or Amazon Cloud?  I know I do not! The best and most cost-effective alternative is a "personal cloud", a wireless external hard drive (or drives) connected to your home wireless network with tons of storage space (up to several terabytes - TB - 1TB = 1,000 megabytes) that you can access either at home with your computer (or mobile device) or remotely anywhere in the world. 

After my old personal cloud failed, a 4 TB Western Digital (WD) MyBookLiveDuo, I had to find a replacement, so I decided to give WD one more chance only because of the decent price and good reviews on their new My Cloud products. I purchased a WD My Cloud 6TB Personal Cloud Storage device on Amazon for $269.99 plus tax, hoping that it would "connect effortlessly" to my network as advertised.

The WD MyCloud would not connect to my network when it arrived and after spending an additional 3 hours on the phone with tech support, 5 total, they could not help me and told me to return it to Amazon.  The only reason I chose Western Digital again after having two other products that failed, a 1TB MyPassport and a 4TB MyBookLive Duo, was because of the dearth of available products out there and the poor reviews on Seagate products. Never again WD!

CombatCritic Gives WD My Cloud 6TB Personal Cloud Storage 0 Bombs Out Of 10 ... Can't Get Any Lower Than That ... And A Spot On CombatCritic's Wall Of Shame 











Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor ... And Don't Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Title:  DO NOT BUY! The WD My Cloud 6TB Personal Cloud Storage Device

Key Words: WD My Cloud 6TB Personal Cloud Storage, WD, My Cloud, 6TB, Personal, Cloud, Storage, NAS, WDBCTL0060HWT-NESN, review, Western Digital, western, digital, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, tech, technology, photo

JustFly.com Offers A Good Price, But Little Else


I was taken to JustFly.com's website after searching Kayak, United, Delta, and Lufthansa extensively for fares on an upcoming overseas trip. I was hesitant at first being a unfamiliar website, but I decided to give them a try with the following reservations, pun intended ...

First, people need more information before paying for a reservation, like applicable baggage fees (not just a disclaimer saying "the airline MAY require baggage fees"), to make an informed decision. JustFly does not provide actual fees, only the disclaimer. Fortunately, having flown Lufthansa many times in the past, the carrier for the trip, I knew that the first bag (up to 50 pounds) was free, making the decision a bit easier.

Second, JustFly does not provide a way to enter frequent flyer account information either before or after purchase.  I assumed that once registered with their site, I would be able to update my profile with the data, but that was not the case. The only information available for editing on their website are name and email address, no seat or meal preferences, home airport, passport information, or anything else for that matter. The ability to enter frequent flyer and other pertinent personal information once would save customers a lot of time later and help ensure they return to make future purchases.

The only plus was that their price and itinerary were better than I could find even on Lufthansa.com, therefore ...

CombatCritic Gives JustFly.com 4 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!







Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor ... And Don't Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Title: JustFly.com Offers A Good Price, But Little Else

Key Words: JustFly, just, fly, airfare, airline, travel, fare, reservation, trip, website, frequent, flyer, miles, value, TravelValue, CombatCritic, critic

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Come Down From Your Roost For Some (Pricey) Hooch, Breakfast, Or Lunch

Biscuits and Gravy - $7?
The Roost
920 Massachusetts Street
Lawrence, KS 66044
Phone (785) 843-1110
Web 920mass.com
Prices $$$$$

After 36 hours without food and cameras shoved every which way (I'll spare you the gruesome details), I thought it was time for some carbs and protein ... the biscuits and gravy tasted great, although quite pricey at $7 for a full order, the biscuits being rather small with barely enough gravy to cover them completely. UNSAT! 

Kansan - $8
I had the Kansan ($8) with eggs, bacon, home fries and English muffin on my first two visits. It was good, not spectacular, and a fair sized serving, but the bacon was a tad too crispy even for my taste. Being primarily a breakfast joint, they have very few popular or traditional options to choose from (can you say skillets?), so on my most recent (and likely last) visit, I ordered an omelette ($6) with bacon ($1), onion, peppers, and mushrooms (50 cents each for a total of $8.50). When the server asked me what kind of toast I wanted, I asked if they had English muffins and she said that they did. What she failed to tell me was that there was a 50 cent up-charge, a fact I spotted only after the check arrived (see bill below). The 50 cent English muffin dominated the plate, dwarfing the small, yet tasty, omelette and a smattering of bland, unseasoned fried potatoes (see photo - objects are smaller than they actually appear).

The ALL YOU CAN DRINK self-service coffee bar ($2) is the The Roost's highlight, a superb selection of four premium coffees with your normal choices of additions (half-and-half, skim and soy milk, cinnamon, sugar) available as needed.

Omelette - $8.50 + 50 Cents for an English Muffin
The service is adequate, not bad, not great, with little interaction and a bit of a "high brow" feel. A breakfast place should have a warmer, more inviting, friendlier ambience, especially in a small college town. For example, when I asked to barista to replenish the half-and-half at the coffee bar on our most recent visit, all I received was a scowl as she was poured a complimentary glass of alcohol by a cohort at 11:30 in the morning.

Their prices are quite high on most things, so I have to deduct a couple bombs when it comes to "value".  For example, $5 should be the maximum price for biscuits and gravy no matter how big the order is or how good they are and if you are going to up-charge customers, they should be told in advance in order to make an informed decision as to whether or not they choose to pay the difference.

Oddly enough, for a place that is only open for breakfast and lunch (7am-3pm), The Roost has a bar and will serve you rather expensive cocktails ($7-$8) or wine ($5), so if you are looking for a mid-day buzz along with your biscuits and gravy, this is the place for you. But based on the high prices, small portions, uninspiring cuisine, and mediocre service, I think I will keep trying to find a decent breakfast place in Lawrence. I have my doubts.


CombatCritic Gives The Roost 4 Out Of 10 Bombs ... BOMBS ARE GOOD!









Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor ... And Don't Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Title:  Come Down From Your Roost For Some (Pricey) Hooch, Breakfast, Or Lunch

Key Words: The Roost, roost, breakfast, lunch, bar, coffee, egg, biscuit, gravy, bacon, omelette, food, menu, Massachusetts, Lawrence, Kansas, 66044, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value