Archive for June 2011

I am crazy…but that’s okay…   Leave a comment

Never satisfied with what I’ve got booked, I’m always poking around to see if there’s some miracle deal out there.  I don’t know what compels me to do this given that all of my vacation time is booked and I can’t take off at a moment’s notice.  That said, in case you’re interested, I found that you could fly from Boston to Bermuda for the 4th of July weekend for $600 each, including two nights at the Grotto Bay Resort.  That’s actually a very good price for Bermuda!  Too bad I’m just torturing myself.  🙂

I also tortured myself and saw that we could fly to Iceland for Labor Day for under $600 each…the last time I looked it was over $900 per person.  There is no reason for me to poke around at stuff like this other than I like to…and sometimes I find things to my advantage…like the cruise (NYC to Bermuda, 7 nights) for $149 pp for an oceanview.  I was goofing around when I found that beauty as well!  Including taxes the cruise was $649 for the two of us!

On a better note, or should I say a note that is more based in reality, I realized that I have enough points with Marriott for a free night at one of their hotels.  Their points never expire so I figured why not sign up for an account when I booked the Marriott for the night before our Alaska cruise in 2009.  Now it’s two years later, but I have enough to either go to the Cape for a night (that could be fun!) or stay in Boston the night before we fly to Los Angeles (sensible).
JetBlue has moved our flight time twice so far and at the moment we’re departing at 7:30 in the morning…instead of the 9:00 originally scheduled.  At any rate, I’m not a fan of getting up a “o’dark-thirty”, and getting a hotel near the airport the night before we fly is getting more and more appealing.  For reason’s I can’t fathom, the prices are crazy.  I’ve been looking at this for months, but the hotel I usually choose is nearly $300 a night!  Double what I’ve booked it for in the past.  The Courtyard Marriott isn’t a bargain either (AAA will save me a whopping $3 a night, dropping the stay to $206 from $209).  Using my points for a free stay is looking really good at this point!

Posted June 20, 2011 by cubechick in Cruise Planning...it never stops!

Panama Canal…the planning continues…   Leave a comment

At three and a half months out, it’s time to start thinking excursions!  If you’re going on a cruise, a great website is www.cruisecritic.com.  There you can find out everything you ever wanted to know about cruising (and then some!).  If you’re torn between ships (or cruise lines) check out the reviews section.  If you’ve booked, you can usually find other cruisers on your sailing by visiting the roll call pages (I say usually because some roll calls can have almost no activity while other hundreds of posts!).  If you have questions about the ports, they have pages set up for that as well.

I begin my port research by seeing what the cruiseline offers by way of excursions.  I don’t always book through the cruiseline (you can usually save money by booking with a third party), but I find it’s a great way to get ideas for what’s available at each stop.  I’m finding the pickings to be rather slim at these ports of call.  Unlike Hawaii which had pages and pages of interesting excursions to wade through, the Panama Canal stops only have one page of offerings for the most part.  My smart DH pointed out that as NCL only sails through this area 4 times  year, they don’t have as many vendors under contract as they do at ports they stop at more frequently.  Okay, so I understand why, but find myself rather underwhelmed by the choices.

In a nutshell, with the exceptions of Cabo San Lucas and Key West, the selection boils down to: tour of the area or something involving ziplines or ATV’s…in Acapulco cliff divers are thrown in.  I’ve taken the easy way out on two of our stops, Puntarenas and Cartagena.  A person on our Cruise Critic roll call has reserved tours at both of those stops and asked if anyone wanted to sign up.  (Another benefit of joining a roll call!)  After doing some research of the tours she chose  (both on the ports of call boards and through Trip Advisor) I gladly signed up.  That’s two stops down and minimal effort on my end!  Yay!

Searching the port of call boards also told me that Huatulco has a nice port area with a nice beach right there.  As it’s a short stop (we’re only docked for 5 hours) and none of the organized tours are jumping out at me, we’ll likely just walk around and hit the beach. 

The rest of our ports remain up in the air…although in Acapulco, we’re leaning toward a hike.  Not something that I generally book in hot and humid destinations, but being that the cruise is 15 days, we’ll need our exercise when we can get it.  Also the island is owned by the Navy and given that there are some concerns with safety in Acapulco, the island is looking pretty good to me!

I have to make a little confession here…we also have a cruise on the Norwegian Spirit booked for February 2012.  I have more excursions booked for that cruise than I do for the Panama Canal!!!!  It’s a Western Caribbean (never been to these ports) cruise sailing from New Orleans and we’ll get off the ship in time for Mardi Gras.  Take that bucket list!  🙂  Because we booked well in advance, the cruise was very cheap (the better to offset the hotel prices which are not cheap due to Mardi Gras).  I’m just waiting for JetBlue to open their booking window that far out so I can book our flights.  JetBlue is the only airline that flies direct from Boston to New Orleans, so they’re my airline of choice again! 

Ah, so many cruises, too little time!  🙂

Posted June 17, 2011 by cubechick in Cruise Planning...it never stops!

Panama Canal   Leave a comment

I booked this cruise about a year and a half before the cruise date (October 2011).  That sounds crazy to some people, but that’s how I save money…and my sanity.  By booking that far out I got the room I wanted (actually, I had to settle for the room on the other side of the ship from where I’d normally be, as there are other crazy planners out there besides myself!), at a price I could stand, and I get the great pleasure of having future cruises booked.  Truly, nothing gets you over PCD (Post Cruise Depression) faster than knowing that once you’re home, the luggage has been unpacked and the laundry done, you can launch yourself into the next adventure.

In this instance I am really, really, really, glad that I booked early as at 4 and a half months out, our cruise is nearly sold out.  No lie!  So pay attention to things like the frequency of the cruise you want to book.  There are only 4-6 Panama Canal cruises offered per year by Norwegian Cruise Lines, therefore they’ll command a premium price and sell out fast!

After booking the cruise I began researching airfare.  Obviously I couldn’t look at our exact dates 18 months out, but I could look at the upcoming October (2010) and get an idea.  Now, lots and lots of airlines fly between Boston and Los Angeles.  A lot fly direct which is crucial for me as I have a DH who isn’t that thrilled with flying.  I narrowed down my choice to Jet Blue as my research indicated that before the baggage fees were calculated, the price between Jet Blue, United, Delta, American, Alaska Air, etc. was the same.  But when you factored in baggage fees and the fact that Jet Blue allows one checked bag per person, I would be able to save a minimum of $30 – $50 per leg of the journey.  That adds up!  The day that Jet Blue’s booking window opened, I booked our flights.  Phew!  I like the feeling of having that task behind me.

Finally, I’d read that you could get a really cheap hotel through Priceline.  Once I knew for sure that I was going on this cruise (my company approved the time off, that is) I put in my $65 dollar bid through Priceline and won a night at the Crowne Plaza near the Los Angeles Cruise Terminal in San Pedro.  Excellent!

Until we completed our Hawaii and San Francisco trip, I just couldn’t begin to focus on this cruise.  However, now we’re back…I’ve written my reviews and it’s time to get focused.  The first thing I did was write down all of the ports.  Seriously, besides Cabo, Cartagena, and Key West, I had no idea where we were stopping.  Now that I know, that doesn’t necessarily help all that much.  We’re going to Acapulco (which sounds down right scary at this time due to crime), Huatulco, MX, Peurto Quetzel, Guatemela, and Puntarenas, Costa Rica in addition to what I already knew.  Preliminary research shows that we basically have a choice of snorkeling or touring the city/area.  Not a lot to go on (unlike Hawaii, where there were numerous things at each port that were considered “must dos”).  Well, I jumped onto a couple of tours that had been booked by people we’re sailing with…that leaves 5 ports for me to figure out.  Can I go against my nature and just “go with the flow” at each port?  Unlikely, LOL, but the thought is appealing!  🙂

Posted June 2, 2011 by cubechick in Cruise Planning...it never stops!

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