Saturday, October 27, 2018

Cruise Ship Saturday - A New Adventure and Extended Travel FAQs

It’s Cruise Ship Saturday and we have a new extended adventure coming up next week that'll take us a while to get through.


  • Fly Boise to LAX to Rome.
  • A couple days in Rome.
  • Board the Crown Princess for an Italy-France-Spain-Portugal-Ft. Lauderdale transatlantic voyage.
  • A Florida Keys road trip.
  • Board the Royal Princess for a Caribbean cruise.
  • A flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Atlanta to San Francisco.
  • Board the Grand Princess for a Mexican Riviera Cruise.
  • Stay onboard for another Mexican Riviera Cruise.
  • Fly home.

  • I'll be blogging live the whole trip so keep an eye out for new posts each day!

    But before we head out next week for that lengthy adventure I’m covering some FAQs about traveling for an extended period of time. It's a long post, but pretty darn thorough. (I had a lot to say.)

    You used to spend all your time Alaska; now you’re all over the place. Did you get bored?  What changed?
    We definitely didn’t get bored with Alaska! Hard to believe that we’ve been 15 times and we still want to go back. But now we aren’t working and can move around any time of the year from ship to ship, place to place, in order to meet up with our crew member friends. That’s the reason we do so much ship-hopping – to get to as many of our crew buddies as we can.
    How do we choose which itineraries to cruise / regions to visit?
    We don't care where we go. There hasn't been a place we haven't liked! So for us, it starts with price. When something pops up with a great (and sometimes unbelievable) price, we then look at other cruises before and after it. We also look at the list of our National Parks we still need to visit to see if we can tie it into the trip. Then we go from there. We'll be able to get three new National Parks in during this upcoming trip.
    What’s the best part of extended traveling?
    Being able to be completely immersed in travel mode. It takes several days to finally relax once we’ve left home, and having an extended time away lets us really get into the relaxing mode. No worrying about meals and cleaning and sprinklers and grocery shopping. It’s like running away from home and living in a different world. Who wouldn’t want a trip like that to last as long as it could?
    What’s the worst part of extended traveling?
    The organization it takes. We really don’t like having to stick to a schedule, but when planning for an extended trip there are so many moving parts – flights, taxis and buses and shuttles, ships, hotels, rental cars, specific places we want to visit – so we need to have some sort of structure. I make a spreadsheet that shows where we are every single day (that part is set in stone) but thankfully the rest is flexible. We like being able to wake up in the morning before deciding what to do for the day. We can't predict how we'll be feeling on a specific day a month from now (heck, we don't even know about tomorrow) so we don’t book many tours ahead of time.
    Here’s what part of our May-June spreadsheet looked like.
    One of the other things hard about extended traveling is we don’t really get to relax when we’re home. When we're not traveling we're either hurrying to get things done around the house before we leave or trying to get the house back in order after we get back. And let’s not even talk about how furiously fast I have to work to pre-tape Tuesday Tutorials before we leave again! This year we traveled Washington and Alaska in May and June, the Caribbean in August and September, and now another trip in November and December. It has almost been a year of too much traveling spread out too much throughout the year. (If there was such a thing.)
    Have I always had the travel bug?
    Hi, my name is Deb and I'm a travel addict. I used to camp with my grandparents every summer so it started young. A couple months back my mom brought one of my old school papers dated February 10, 1976. In my fifth grade handwriting I had included this in a poem:
    Looks like I had adventure on my mind even back then.
    Once my husband and I became a two-career family we started traveling together with our daughter. Almost every Thanksgiving break, Christmas vacation, spring break, and summer vacation since then has been spent traveling. We even traveled all 50 states with her before she went off to college. Thanksgiving in Iceland? Christmas in Hawaii? Spring Break in London? Easter in Mexico? 4th of July in Alaska? Been there, done that. 
    How much longer will we do this?
    I’m not sure. Every time we take a trip I think it’s going to be the last one. Hubby’s cerebral palsy is continuing to make movement harder for him and it will only get worse. And the falls he's had aren't helping things. My rheumatoid arthritis isn’t improving, both knee replacements are wearing out, and having only one working lung continues to make things a bit of a struggle. I’m not certain how adventurous we can be anymore. In fact, I just canceled a month-long trip to South America. I think it’s time for us to stop planning ahead and instead live a day at a time. I say that, but yet we talk about living in Alaska for the summer. Go figure.
    What do we pack when we cruise?
    Still using the one shared suitcase and shared backpack.
    Hubby struggles enough walking on his own so we make sure his hands and arms are always free. If we want to take something I know I’ll be the one responsible for carrying it through the airport or into the hotel so we keep extras to a minimum. Just call me the pack mule! We only take one set of nice clothes in case we wind up at the Most Traveled Guest party. Otherwise it’s casual all the way. Nothing exciting or unusual can be found in our suitcase. Other than being loaded with a bunch of snacks for crew members.
    One trip required an extra suitcase just for crew snacks.
    And my encouraging words money pockets that I'll be dropping off each day somewhere along the way. I have Euros for some of them, too.
    Cut, glued, labeled, stuffed, and ready to go.
    How do I prepare my blog posts, and how long do I spend writing them?
    I usually type them up in a Word document, copy and paste, and then add the photos. When we were on the Caribbean Princess for the month they had the amazingly super-speedy unlimited internet so I could work right within the blog post. But alas, these next couple months will be spent on ships where super-slow internet is the norm. Most likely I won’t be able to post many pictures until we get to some speedy land-based internet. Probably a good thing as I work way too much on blog stuff when I’m traveling. (And I still wind up with mistakes.)
    Do I blog while I’m home?
    Unfortunately (or is it fortunately?) I do. For years I did a post a day based around a picture I took. 1000 straight days of pictures and stories. (That’s the Pic a Day Project tab at the top of this page.) Then I took a break. At the beginning of this year I decided it was time to get all my travel “stuff” off my computer and do something with it. This year my new content schedule has been crazy.
    I’ve had to work hard to get information and photos posted several times a week. At the end of this year I’ll be re-evaluating things. I’m not sure what next year’s blogging will look like yet, but I need to cut back a bit on something.
    What travel apps do I recommend?
    For someone who used to teach technology classes to teachers, I’m a pretty boring app person. Just a few months ago I figured out (with my daughter’s help) that I could download Google Maps for offline use. I use Mobile Passport every time we go through Port Everglades to get us into the super-short Global Entry line. I do use WhatsApp a lot because that's how we communicate with our crew member pals. Looking at the home screen on my phone you can tell how boring I am.

    What are some of my favorite travel websites and blogs?
    There are two blogs I use as resources for every cruise we take. If we’re heading to a new port or are even going to a port where I’d like to do something different, I head to both sites to do my research. 
    *Yellow Fish Cruises (Pescado Amarillo) has been writing about winters at sea for nine years now.  Look at all the cruises she's written about! And I can't even get all her port information into one photo. She just headed back out for a trip most of us could only dream about and boy, does she have plenty of ports coming up in the next few months. And thanks to her, I’ve borrowed stolen most of these FAQ questions from her blog. (Thanks, J!) If you want to see how a seasoned cruiser with over 1,000 days on a ship answers these questions, check out her FAQ post here
    *Vickie and Bernie Travel is my other go-to. Vickie blogs all about Princess Cruises but also has a bunch of port information there. Just look at it all! Vickie is going to be the South America destination expert for the Royal Princess next year so I'm sure her resource list will continue to grow. I was able to meet Vickie on the Caribbean Princess in August and she'll be on our ship these next couple weeks. We have something in the works for both our blogs, so stay tuned.
    Since they’ve both been blogging live from cruise ships for the last several years they have a ton of great information on ship life, too. They are also are fun to read when I’m stuck at home with nowhere to go. They both have great connections with crew, staff, and officers. We love it when others love and respect the same people we do. Be sure to check out both of their blogs. You'll see why I like reading them so much.
    *I use Viator quite a bit for when I do need to book things ahead of time. We’ve used companies on Viator for both tours and transfers around the world. We're using them at least a couple times (so far) for this coming trip.
    Book now on Viator
    *Since I'm all about finding the lowest prices I also use CruiseCompete.com a lot. With Cruise Compete you choose a cruise you are interested in and several travel agencies will provide quotes, each trying to give you the best deal. In addition to trying to beat each other's prices, sometimes they offer additional onboard credit, a bottle of wine, or specialty dining to get you to book through them. I’ve used quite a few of the agencies and have found the best cruise bargains by booking through Cruise Compete.
    *If you haven’t signed up for the USPS Informed Delivery service, do it. You’ll get to see a scan of the mail being delivered each day. Even though we have our mail held while we’re gone, it still shows us what is coming. How did we travel without this?
    Does extended travel like this still excite us?  Is taking one long cruise better than several shorter ones booked back to back? Are four cruises in a row four times as much fun as taking one cruise?
    We much prefer the extended traveling over the one-cruise thing we had to do when we were working. We are comfortable on the ship and when we visit the same ports again and again, those begin to feel like home, too. But I think one of the biggest plusses for us in repeating the same itinerary is the flexibility. When we hit a port just once we feel like we have to cram in as much into a day as humanly possible. We want to see it all. Which leads to exhaustion. Makes the vacation feel like work. I surely don't want that so I like revisiting the same ports several times. But four cruises in a row aren't really four times more fun; they are just more relaxing. 
    We’re not big on the longer cruises. Passengers on longer cruises are typically more well-traveled and can be a bit more "particular." Just like I shared in September:   
    An older lady saw my black (Elite) card. Then she looked at me. Then she looked hard – really hard – at the number of cruises on my card. I could see her mind spinning, trying to figure out how someone looking like me (younger, chunkier, wearing shorts and a t-shirt) could even be in her “Elite” group. The judgement eyes were upon me. Big time.
    Those instances happen more often to us on the longer cruises so we don’t do more than one every couple years.

    Whew, that was a lot. Now, off to finishing up trip preparations. See you next week from Rome!

    Disclosure: Some of the links are affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.