Here it comes!…Round 2…plunge, twist and release!…

Oh, goodness!  Tomorrow is my second round of immunizations, this time including the scary “live” yellow fever vaccine. I must admit, I’m terrified.

Getting stabbed in my puny “years of hard-workout” muscles doesn’t scare me. Anyone that works out regularly, as I do can stand a little pain especially for the ten seconds it will take for Nurse Marcia to plunge, twist and release the four vaccines into my eagerly awaiting triceps.  Ouch! Definitely ouch, but then again, over quickly.
Nor does it frighten me that my arm may be sore, red, or swollen for days. Nope, not that.  But…becoming ill from the vaccine scares me!!  

In reading about the risks of the yellow fever vaccine at the CDC’s web site, the only added risk I may present is my age, over 60.  Darned that age thing!  Then again, if we weren’t so old we wouldn’t be retiring and wouldn’t be spending seven months in Africa.  

I can’t recall any time in my 45-year career that I could have gone to Africa, planning vaccinations well in advance and taking off the required time for receiving the vaccinations, preparations, and actual travel time.


Tom begins his vaccinations at the end of May with nary a worry or concern.  Its a guy thing…toughing it out.
I’ll report back tomorrow afternoon after the big event is over. Hopefully, I won’t have a reaction but if I do, I will post photos of my red, hot, swollen, puny muscles on my pale Minnesota arms. Say a prayer for me!

Fine tuning the itinerary, continued…

When I finished the post on Friday, Tom and I discussed our options for the ten-day gap in Belize (two on the front end, eight on the back end). We decided to contact the owner of the little beach house in Placencia asking her if we can extend our stay from 2/1/2013 to 3/31/2013, changing to 1/29/2013-4/8/2013.

When we originally discussed this with her, she suggested we’d most likely want to explore the country for those ten-days to see the many tourist areas.  If this were a typical vacation for us, most likely we would have been attracted to this prospect.  

After all, sitting outside the little beach house in beach chairs, overlooking the sea, will get boring after two months. Ha! Are you kidding me? We will happily want an additional ten days!

Those suitcases!  Our nemesis!  Yes, they will inhibit us from freely moving from location to location on a whim. We accept this reality.  We are not the adventuresome twenty-year-olds who bravely travel the world with a single backpack they haul, hunched over, with no reservations, no cruises, no fear, and a willingness to sleep in a tiny tent in a bug-infested jungle. Yeah for them!  Not us!

We’ll stay in air-conditioned comfort (most of the time), take $5 a day malaria pills (so we don’t have side effects), wear Exofficio Bugs Away Clothing, drink purified water, watch movies and TV online at our leisure and keep an otherwise very tight budget to make such these seeming luxuries possible.  

We patiently await hearing back from the owner of the cute little beach house in Belize, hoping to spend the additional ten days at the rental. If she is unable to accommodate these dates, we will have no alternative than to find hotels on either end.  We will write back about the outcome.

We have another itinerary change.  Yesterday we added Cruise #7 with Joaquin at Vacationstogo.com.  On 4/9/2013, this cruise, previously booked that picks us on and brings us back to Miami.

7 nights departing April 6, 2013 on
Carnival’s Carnival Liberty
Brochure Inside $1,669
Our Inside $429
You Save 74%
Brochure Oceanview $1,969
Our Oceanview $539
You Save 73%
Brochure Balcony $2,194
Our Balcony $719
You Save 67%
Brochure Suite $2,669
Our Suite $1,039
You Save 61%
The prices shown are US dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. They include port charges but do not include airfare or (where applicable) airport or government taxes or fees.
ITINERARY
DAY DATE PORT ARRIVE   DEPART
Sat Apr 6 Miami, FL 4:00pm
Sun Apr 7 At Sea
Mon Apr 8 Cozumel, Mexico 7:00 am 5:00 pm
Tue Apr 9 Belize City, Belize 8:00 am 5:00 pm
Wed Apr 10 Roatan, Honduras 7:00 am 3:00 pm
Thu Apr 11 Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands 10:00 am 6:00 pm
Fri Apr 12 At Sea
Sat Apr 13 Miami, FL 8:00 am

 

Now listen to this crazy plan!  As you can see, we will arrive in Miami on 4/13/2013 at 8 am with a seven day lag in Miami, awaiting our cruise to Barcelona on 4/20/2013. During this lag we can stay in a mid range hotel, rent a car and dine in restaurants for all meals for an estimated cost of $2800 or pester friends, living in Miami to stay with them.  

We are the worst house guests in the world when by feeling overly grateful to stay with friends that we tend to go overboard cooking, cleaning, shopping, buying wine, and gifts. The cost in time, money, and effort becomes greater than a relaxing time in a hotel. Dear friends, please forgive us for this peculiarity!  
Thus, we have decided to stay on the above ship, the Carnival Liberty,  in the same Balcony Cabin, on the same day and continue on its seven-day cruise to the Caribbean which leaves at 4 PM, not only enjoying another cruise but as you can see from the Balcony Cabin price, save ourselves about $1200.
7 nights departing April 13, 2013, on
Carnival’s Carnival Liberty
Brochure Inside $1,669
Our Inside $479
You Save 71%
Brochure Oceanview $1,969
Our Oceanview $599
You Save 70%
Brochure Balcony $2,194
Our Balcony $814
You Save 63%
Brochure Suite $2,669
Our Suite $1,139
You Save 57%
The prices shown are US dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. They include port charges but do not include airfare or (where applicable) airport or government taxes or fees.
ITINERARY
DAY DATE PORT ARRIVE   DEPART
Sat Apr 13 Miami, FL 4:00 pm
Sun Apr 14 Half Moon Cay, Bahamas 9:00a m 5:00 pm
Mon Apr 15 At Sea
Tue Apr 16 St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands 9:00 am 6:00 pm
Wed Apr 17 San Juan, Puerto Rico 7:00a m 3:30 pm
Thu Apr 18 Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos Islands 11:00am 5:30 pm
Fri Apr 19 At Sea
Sat Apr 20 Miami, FL 8:00 am


This cruise arrives at the Port of Miami at 8 am on 4/20/2013.  Our next cruise, the Norwegian Epic, departs on the same exact day, at the same exact Port of Miami at exactly 5:00 pm.  In time, as more information is posted, we will know how far we will have to maneuver those dreaded bags to get over to the pier where the Norwegian Epic is docked, to begin our eleven-night journey across the sea to Barcelona Spain.  

In total this leg of our journey is 22 days at sea. Who’s complaining?

Fine tuning the itinerary…

There are some gaps in our itinerary. It’s unavoidable. We’ve tried to book our vacation rentals as tightly as possible around our cruises. Many owners have a preconceived notion that booking their properties from Saturdays to Sundays or from the 1st or the 15th of any given month, results in a more desirable scenario for the next renter. 

With our far-reaching bookings, some of which are all the way into May 2015, we have found the owners feel more secure in sticking to these notions to ensure what they see as more desirable availability in the future.  We understand. 

By negotiating amazing rental prices we have been able to maintain a $1667 a month average, with many of the homes in the $1100-$1200 month range, to the one month high of $4651 in Hawaii for our family gathering at Christmas 2014.  (Although this Hawaii rental sounds outrageously high, it actually breaks down to a mere $155 a night, a bargain rate for Hawaii during the high season. Most often, a basic single king room with an ocean view will start at $225 a night)!

However, this entire adventure would be impossible for us if we were staying in hotels at $155 a night and eating all of our meals in restaurants as most of us have done when taking one or two-week vacations.  

Thus, with our overall nightly rate average of $54.82 for the rental homes, we aren’t complaining when we see a gap of a few nights.  We will either stay in a mid-range hotel or,  ask the owner of the vacation rental to accommodate the additional nights at a prorated amount if the house is available. These additional potential hotel costs have already been factored into the above monthly rental rates.

Originally, we had promised ourselves to keep the monthly rental average to no higher than $1500.  However, adding the higher one month in Hawaii plus the five additional following months in Kauai at $2000 per month, our numbers were thrown off for 2014.  

When we depart on October 31, 2012, we’ll begin to breakdown these numbers, year by year, as they actually accrue rather than by our current estimated “running total” for the entire period.  For now, this has aided us in keeping a lid on the costs.

We have created multiple spreadsheets for all of these estimated costs which will be changing constantly knowing full well at this point, other than the fixed rental amounts, the numbers are estimated.  

We will continue along this path in the next post this upcoming Sunday. We have an eleven-day gap in Belize, three when we arrive by a cruise in Belize City on 1/29/2013 (our rental begins 2/1/2013) and eight when our rental ends on 3/31/2013 when the cruise ship comes back to Belize taking us back to Miami. We need a plan for these dates at both ends.  

Our options:
1. As mentioned above, we can ask the owner to extend the rental, if it is available on these dates prorating the rent.  This plan is the most cost-effective.

2.  Find a reasonably priced hotel in Belize City near the port and check out the local attractions while there.  Unfortunately, Belize City doesn’t sound like a safe and desirable place to vacation for three days.  


3.  Travel to another area, such as Ambergris Caye (highly desirable, very expensive) to incur additional transportation costs, pricey hotel rates, and the necessity of dining out for each meal.  

Do we choose “easy” or “adventuresome?”  Or, is living out of a suitcase for 949 days so far, not having a permanent home, being away from our family, friends, doctor and dentist “adventuresome” enough for two 60-somethings like ourselves used to “sitting in our comfy chairs, watching endless TV, rarely dining out” and amazingly enjoying it all?

Any suggestions?  

Fitful night..worrying…

Worrying is a enormous waste of time, especially during the night when restorative sleep is so vital to our well being.  Each morning I am able to see how well I slept the previous night by plugging in my fitness armband to my computer.

As a lifelong fitness fanatic (“nut,” as Tom would say) I have been wearing a fitness armband for the past two years made by BodyMedia which tracks all my activities, calorie burn and sleep patterns which I can view on 
either my Android smartphone or laptop throughout the day to see how I am doing.  My goal is take 10,000 steps per day,a tough goal lately while spending considerable time online these past months researching for our future travels.  

Each morning I plug the Bluetooth enabled device into my computer to recharge.   As the data is uploaded, I can view how well I’ve slept the previous night.  Invariably, my sleep pattern is totally dependent upon how much worrying I’ve done during the night.  Last night my sleep efficiency was 81% indicating that approximately 19% of my laying in bedtime was spent worrying.
Sure, I may have spent 5% of the 9 hours lying in bedthinking pleasant thoughts, chatting with Tom, planning my day, wondering about the weather, and contemplating getting up. Subsequently, I actually slept about 7.5 hours, certainly plenty on an average night.
Why spend any time worrying?  My theory has always been that worrying is only beneficial when the avoidance of it is so powerful that it inspires one to change that which they worrying about. Otherwise, it is wasted energy, time, and health. Years ago, my eldest son Richard, reminded me of this quote: 
“Worry is interest paid on a loan that never comes due.”
 
Tom has reminded me of Richard stating this quote many times over the years. Oddly, for most of us, we worry at night. As we busy ourselves with the activities of our day, our worry dissipates, only to be revived in the middle of the night.  Years ago, I made a pact with myself:  if worry appears during the night, do whatever I must during the day, to make it go away.  
 
Today, I have a bit of a dilemma.  What task is necessary to stop worrying about one small part of our travels that kept me awake last night?  Here is the source of my worrying, that started last night while reading online about traveling to Belize this upcoming January 29, 2013, a mere 9 months away: 
 
We will take the cruise from Miami, disembarking in Belize City, one day before its final destination.  We were able to get permission from the cruise line to disembark early at Belize City, it’s second to last port. There are no cruises that actually “end”  or “begin” in Belize City with the reverse occurring when we leave on 4/9/2013, in both cases, missing out a few days of the cruise. The pricing both ways was less than the cost of a hotel, airfare and meals and thus we have been thrilled with this plan.
 
So, what am I worrying about?  When we arrive in Belize City on January 29th, we must find a way to get to Placencia, Belize, a 17-mile long peninsula, a four-hour drive from Belize City! This map illustrates the location of our rental property. Toward the right side of the page is item #69, listed as “Decked Out House.”   I was worried…how do we get there?  Here are the options:
1.  Rent a car in Belize City for the entire two and a half month period at the cost of $3000+. They don’t allow other “drop off” locations leaving us stuck with a car the entire period, barely using it with so much within walking distance as indicated on the map.
 
The popular means of transportation in Placencia is a nearby (walking distance) golf cart rental for about $10 hour, handy for grocery shopping, and nearby sightseeing.  We anticipate that we’ll rent a golf cart for 8 hours a week.
 
2.  Fly from Belize City to Placencia at a cost of approximately $400 round trip for both of us plus cab fare from the airport to property about $40 plus the cost of the golf cart.  Little prop plane. No thank you.  Golf cart rental plus airfare for a total of $1240
 
3.   Shuttle: $175 each way for an air-conditioned shuttle, leaving at specific times each day (may require some waiting) plus the cost of a golf cart for 8 hours a week for a total for entire period = $1150
 
Writing this down today, calculating the costs, realizing we won’t fly in the little plane, the solution is clear…we will use the shuttle and rent the golf carts for 8 hours a week.  If we decide we want to wander further away from Placencia, we’ll rent a car in Placencia, for one day at a time.  Worry dismissed!
 
What will I worry about tonight?  Our Placencia rental is from February 1 to March 31, 2013.  Our cruise drops us off on January 29th and our picks us up on April 9th.  Where do we stay on January 29, 30, and 31st?  Where do we stay from March 31 to April 9th?  
 
In checking out hotels on either end, it appears the average night in a decent hotel will be no less than $200 a night, plus transportation for 11 days, plus meals for 11 days (requiring us to eat every meal in a restaurant), plus taxes, plus tips may total $4000 or more, the usual cost of an 11-day vacation in Belize. This doesn’t comply with our budget and can throw off our numbers.
 
Time to get back to work on the Internet to find a solution for this dilemma, get that sleep efficiency number up to 95% tonight, and get in my 10,000 steps! Once this is done, I can start worrying about the zip line in Belize! Ha!

We don’t like flying…

It’s not that we’re fearful of flying.  We’re not. We both say a prayer upon take-off and landing, asking God to take us to our destination safely and praising God for the minds and skills of those individuals instrumental in creating and flying these beasts of the sky.

In our earlier discussions of the possibility of world travel upon retirement, we had this brilliant idea (so we thought) that we could avoid flying and cruise from location to location.
In the planning of our first year, we are able to avoid stepping foot in an airport from October 31, 2012 (retirement/departure date) to September 1, 2013, when we will depart from Rome to arrive in Diani Beach in Mombasa, Kenya for our upcoming three-month stay.

In looking at a world map, it’s easy to ascertain that cruising from Italy to Kenya is challenging, if not impossible.  The trip through the Suez Canal is wrought with dangers of political strife and rampant piracy which prevent many cruise lines from sailing through these areas.  

Also, the seaports in Kenya are shallow as described in this link about the difficulty China has in importing goods to African seaports, not only due to its shallow ports but also due to a lack of an adequate river system to transport the goods throughout the continent.   As a result, smaller ships travel to Kenya, vulnerable to piracy.  Not an ideal scenario for cruising.

There are a number of cruises that travel through the Mediterranean to Egypt but only a rare few that continue on into the Red Sea to Kenya.  The cruise we have booked for June 4, 2013, doesn’t sail to Egypt.  In the future, we will experience a cruise to Egypt.  After all, we will have all the time in the world provided good health prevails.  

We selected this cruise which departs from Barcelona Spain, after our one-month stay in Majorca Spain, to fill a two-week lag we had to fill prior to the availability of our rental in Tuscany on June 16, 2013.   The cruise ends in Venice where we’ll either take a train to Florence or rent a car and drive to the Tuscany Region to our rental.  

When analyzing the cost of this cruise to the costs of two weeks of transportation through Italy, car rental, hotels, and meals, it proved to be slightly more economical.   We’ll have plenty of time to tour Italy while staying in Tuscany for almost three months. 

12 nights departing June 4, 2013, on
Norwegian’s Norwegian Spirit
Brochure Inside $2,399
Our Inside $1,249
You Save 48%
Brochure Oceanview $2,599
Our Oceanview $1,499
You Save 42%
Brochure Balcony $3,299
Our Balcony $1,929
You Save 42%
Brochure Suite $6,399
Our Suite $3,929
You Save 39%
$$$ Early booking bonus! Book now and receive a FREE $100 per cabin onboard credit and a FREE bottle of wine on select categories. Book select penthouse suite or villa categories and receive a FREE $300 per cabin onboard credit (call for pricing).
Promotions may not be combinable with all fares.
The prices shown are US dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. They include port charges but do not include airfare or (where applicable) airport or government taxes or fees.
Important Note: Visas are required for this itinerary.
ITINERARY
DAY DATE PORT ARRIVE   DEPART
Tue Jun 4 Barcelona, Spain 7:00 pm
Wed Jun 5 Toulon, France 8:00 am 6:00 pm
Thu Jun 6 Florence / Pisa (Livorno), Italy 8:00 am 7:00 pm
Fri Jun 7 Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy 8:00 am 7:00 pm
Sat Jun 8 Naples (Capri), Italy 8:00 am 7:00 am
Sun Jun 9 At Sea
Mon Jun 10 Mykonos, Greece 7:00 am 3:00 pm
Tue Jun 11 Istanbul, Turkey 9:00 am 6:00 pm
Wed Jun 12 Izmir, Turkey 11:30 am 7:00 pm
Thu Jun 13 Athens (Piraeus), Greece 8:00 am 6:00 pm
Fri Jun 14 At Sea
Sat Jun 15 Venice, Italy 2:00pm
Sun Jun 16 Venice, Italy Disembark

As always, we have booked a Balcony cabin.


And thus, we are limited by our transportation to Kenya.  Train travel through Africa appears interesting and varied but, the uncertainty of train schedules and creature comforts didn’t quite fit our goal of “wafting through our worldwide travels with ease, joy, and simplicity.”  

Simplicity and ease would not include dragging our bags through various train stations, often waiting overnight while sitting on a bench awaiting the next train. That, definitely would not be “joyful.” After all, we aren’t in our 20’s any longer. 

We’ve discovered that careful planning, well in advance, better prepares us to handle the “unknowns” we will encounter along the way.  

Flying to Kenya and three months later to South Africa could result in sleeping on the floor in an airport with our heads on our carry-on luggage due to a delayed or canceled flight.  It could also result in delays at custom checks or as a result of overweight checked baggage.  It may result in our being unable to sit together on the flight.  We’ll take these risks, albeit hesitantly, and book the flights as the time nears.

Once we arrive in Diani Beach, unpacked our bags, and get situated on the veranda, we’ll be quite content.

Photos of the Kenya Coast vacation house rental:

2 bedrooms for 4 people, large patio, beautiful garden, near the beach.
Kenya Coast house rental
Kenya Coast house rental
Kenya Coast house rental
Kenya Coast house rental
Kenya Coast house rental
Kenya Coast house rental
Kenya Coast house rental
Kenya Coast house rental
Kenya Coast house rental
Kenya Coast house rental

Giving up habits..Wean me slowly!…

 

Bye, bye tea!

“They,” say it takes three weeks to break a habit.  Yes, we still have six months and fourteen days until we leave for our adventure, but I feel compelled to start weaning myself off of some of my habits and routines.  Most likely, Tom will bring his habits with us! 

We often chuckle over our routines and habits, as written in the first entry in this blog on March 14, 2012, describing in painstaking detail how we jointly manage to change clocks twice a year for daylight savings. That bi-annual event is but the tip of the iceberg!

Creatures of habit, we are! As we anticipate the homes we will occupy in the countries we will visit, many of our familiar and comforting routines will be tossed aside.  Never staying long enough in any location to firmly establish new routines, we will strive to find ways to feel at ease and comfortable in someone else’s space.

The master bath in our home has a sink with brass fixtures, a bit outdated, but still attractive and befitting our lodge-like home on a lake here in Minnesota. The faucet in the pedestal sink drips.  Over the years we’ve had several plumbers looking at it, telling us that the faucet cannot be repaired and must be replaced with a more current design. It still looks quite nice.

The faucet leaks when not shut off tightly (mostly by me). It drips onto the brass ring and stopper at the drain. This annoys me. Two to three times a day, I get out the Barkeeper’s Friend with a little sponge kept at the bottom of the closet (have to bend over each time), wet the sponge, sprinkle the Barkeepers and scrub the drain until it sparkles, drying off every last drop of water with a piece of toilet paper. 

Good riddance!

Throwing the t.p. in the toilet, I consider flushing it but don’t. Why waste water?  Why don’t I throw it in the little plastic bag inside the little decorative brash trimmed, off-white porcelain trash can?  Simple, I don’t want to have to feel compelled to empty the trash! (Now you can see why the details of planning this extended many years vacation, make me feel right at home as if you didn’t already know)! Two or three times a day, I do this! Twenty-six years!!!

Will I immediately go to a grocery store upon arriving in Belize, buy a Barkeeper’s Friend equivalent, and a small scrubby sponge to run back to our little ocean side house and start scrubbing the sparkly stainless steel drain two to three times a day?  I don’t think so.  Some habits will die on their own.  Good riddance!  

However, other habits will be harder to break. This morning, as usual (another habit) I awaken at 5:30 am.  I get up, hit the loo (Ha! Look I am already getting more familiar with foreign expressions!), brush my teeth, wash my face and put in my contacts in order to see and go back to bed to look at my phone, an AndroidX loaded with 100’s of apps but only a few I habitually use: Gmail, Facebook, Pulse, and Amazon Kindle Free App (containing my latest reading obsession).  

This morning I realized that this may not be possible once we are no longer on US soil.  Yes, we will have access to the Internet on our laptops, many times provided as wireless broadband by the property owners.  During these periods, we will be unable to use the Internet on our phones unless we are willing to pay outrageous fees. 

When I calculated the possible fees, it would be about $5000 a month for playing with our phones, considering our current megabyte usage, utilizing our current service provider!  No thank you!  (We will get into this in more depth on this topic as we move along here and discuss XCOMGLOBAL and SIM card options).  Thus, another habit to break!  Playing with our phones! Yikes!

We have three flat-screen TV’s as do many Americans, one in the living room, one in the bedroom and one in the kitchen. From the moment we are up and about, until going to bed, the TV is on in the background, quietly or off when talking or loudly when watching due to Tom’s hearing loss (42 years on the railroad).  

Although recently distracted with our laptops; Tom with ancestry, me with travel stuff, we usually spend most evenings together watching shows we programmed during the week.  This “getting outside your head” form of entertainment is a delightful respite from the stresses of everyday life.   

Most of the vacation rentals will have tiny hard to watch old TVs with shows in foreign languages.  No more piling up our plates with tasty homemade dinners to sit and watch yet another episode of “Downton Abbey” “Dexter” or one of our favorite mindless, sinfully deliciously reality shows.  

Guess we’ll watch TV on our computers when we have Internet access or watch the many movies we plan to download to a yet-to-be-purchased portable four terabyte external hard drive.  

Here’s another habit, hard to break. Every afternoon at 4:00 PM, I brew tea, one cup at a time, at exactly the correct temperature, with precisely the same pot, for exactly three minutes, with a certain strainer, a special timer, a sterling silver spoon, in a pale green cup, with 3 drops of liquid Stevia, my own version of Happy Hour.  
I only like one type of tea, Pouchong, a hard to find, buy-online-only tea grown in the spring in Taiwan.  I have tried numerous other teas to no avail. Oh, no! The bag of tea, the strainer, the cup, the timer, the Splenda, the pot, the spoon all weigh 2.7 pounds which equals 3.85% of our allowable luggage when we fly. Bye, bye tea!

Our first cruise, upcoming January 3, 2013

It’s about time we post an actual cruise itinerary!  It seems like it’s a long way off, but counting the months on my fingers, it’s almost eight and a half months away! Eight and a half months ago was last August but it seems as if that was only yesterday. 

Keep in mind, neither Tom nor I have ever been on a cruise!  Crazy, huh? We’re committed to six cruises so far and waiting to book more as they become available.  How do we know we’ll enjoy cruising?  Here are some good reasons that aided us in making this huge leap:
1.  We both have been boat owners, most of our adult lives with neither of us experiencing, seasickness, even during rough waters.
2.  We tend not to overeat since we both follow a strict low carb, gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free organic diet.  Thus, we won’t be tempted by the endless array of food. Although we enjoy nice meals, we tend to eat to live, rather than live to eat. 
3. We are easily entertained and rarely feel bored or antsy. 
4. We are friendly and sociable.  We won’t have trouble meeting people, whether together or alone.  My sister, a seasoned cruise passenger, warned us to be careful not to commit to hanging out with another couple until we are certain that we like them.  This will avoid feeling “stalked” by a not-so-fun couple while constantly trying to figure a way to “ditch” them or, as Tom says, “Vice versa.”
5. We are not claustrophobic, but we have booked BALCONY CABINS or MINI SUITES on all of our cruises thus far.  The thought of sitting together on the balcony overlooking the expanse of the sea with morning coffee in hand or later in the day at Happy Hour is deliciously appealing.
6.  We aren’t interested in souvenirs and trinkets nor will we always follow the pack as they get off at each port for organized tours and overpriced activities. If we find an event, particularly appealing, we’ll partake.  Since our journey will keep us traveling for years to come, we won’t feel a need to “pack it in” at each port. We can always return at a later date and experience the area if it’s especially enticing.
7.  Our expectations aren’t too high.  We will be cruising as a means of transportation where possible, and know that at times, modes of transportation can be unpredictable.

With the above in mind, we feel confident we’ll enjoy cruising, meeting other travelers, partaking of those activities we find appealing, and most of all, spending time together, talking, laughing, and sharing our story.

We booked all of our cruises, as mentioned previously with Vacations to Go, with the help of the best cruise guy on the planet,  Joaquin Contreras, at 800-338-4962, extension #7338.  (We are not in any manner associated with the company, other than as customers, but have been thoroughly impressed with their pricing and quality of service).  

In the future, we’ll post all of our cruise itineraries at the time of departure as well as posting our activities and photos during each cruise.  

As mentioned in a prior post we are provided with a price guaranty enabling us to enjoy the benefit of any reduced pricing up to 90 days before we sail when the final payment is due.  This is a particularly popular cruise and the price may not drop substantially until that time.  

In any case, we are satisfied with the BALCONY price which translates to $306 a day, plus taxes and tips (for both of us) which is the most expensive of all of our future cruises. The Panama canal is under construction and Tom was particularly interested in seeing it during this time.  Of course, I am delighted to join him!

 

Celebrity’s Celebrity Century

Brochure Inside $1,479
Our Inside $1,429
You Save 3%
Brochure Oceanview $1,779
Our Oceanview $1,729
You Save 3%
Brochure Balcony $2,349
Our Balcony $2,299
You Save 2%
Brochure Suite $3,949
Our Suite $3,949
You Save 0%
$$$ Early booking bonus! Book now and receive a FREE $100 per cabin onboard credit on select categories.
Promotions may not be combinable with all fares.
The prices shown are US dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. They include port charges but do not include airfare or (where applicable) airport or government taxes or fees.
ITINERARY
DAY DATE PORT ARRIVE   DEPART
Thu Jan 3 San Diego, CA 4:00 pm
Fri Jan 4 At Sea
Sat Jan 5 Cabo San Lucas, Mexico 11:00 am 6:00 pm
Sun Jan 6 Puerto Vallarta, Mexico 12:30 pm 7:30 pm
Mon Jan 7 At Sea
Tue Jan 8 At Sea
Wed Jan 9 Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala 7:00 am 6:00 pm
Thu Jan 10 At Sea
Fri Jan 11 Puntarenas, Costa Rica 7:00 am 6:00 pm
Sat Jan 12 At Sea
Sun Jan 13 Panama Canal (Full Transit) 6:00 am 6:00 pm
Mon Jan 14 Colon, Panama 6:00 am 4:00 pm
Tue Jan 15 Cartagena, Colombia 9:00 am 4:00 pm
Wed Jan 16 At Sea
Thu Jan 17 At Sea
Fri Jan 18 Fort Lauderdale, FL 7:00 am

Who are we kidding?… We’re not unique!…

Had it not been for my dear husband Tom’s 42 years of hard work, this dream would have been but a dream, along with all the “would have,” “could have,” and “should have” that we all carry in the emotional baggage we haul around throughout our lives.  We think we are unique, but we’re not.

In my 40’s, I gave up the dream that I’d ever find the perfect mate after two failed marriages, and then Tom miraculously appeared. At 50, I let go of the dream of a hugely successful business that would provide a lifetime of financial security, a fancy lifestyle, and accepted the reality of being middle class.    

At 62, I threw in the towel and retired, after 45 years of hard work, grateful for the experiences, grateful for a fabulous marriage, grateful for family and friends and grateful for endless stories we will tell our grandchildren of the lessons we’ve learned along the way. That’s quite typical!

We were anticipating the “usual” retirement; living in a condo in a warm climate, visiting family for holidays, summers and special occasions, playing bridge with new friends, preparing for a neighborhood dinner party and acquiring a newly found affinity for “The Price is Right.”  This works for most retirees. This would have worked for us.  Hardly unusual!

We are a cheerful, animated, and upbeat couple that over these past 21 years together have managed life’s challenges, myriad health issues, and the loss of loved ones, unfailingly supporting one another with love, compassion, dignity, and grace.  This is what most people do.  Nothing special here!

We have accepted the physical changes most of us experience as we age; sagging skin, hairy ears (Tom, not me), bushy brows (Tom, not me!) wrinkles, creaking joints, aching backs (mostly me) and middle of the night potty breaks (me, not Tom) resulting in poor sleep.  That happens to many of us!

Over the years we’ve adopted a healthy lifestyle, enjoying homemade, organic low carb meals, grass-fed meats, fistfuls of supplements, exercising (mostly me), low alcohol consumption, and Tom’s continuing effort to quit smoking.  

But old age keeps comin’ at us no matter how hard we try to avoid it.  We aren’t exempt.  We each have our few prescriptions that once a month I put into our own little pill cases, another sign of advancing age.

Last night, as we sat in our respective comfy fat-stuffed chairs, computers on our laps; Tom, working on his ancestry stuff, me,  working on travel information, I looked at him and smiled, thinking, “I can’t believe he’s willing to do this.”  He turned his head toward me asking, “What are you looking at?” his voice, playful and obviously fishing for a compliment. That’s to be expected!

“Oh, I’m just thinking about how much I love you and that we have so much to look forward to,”  I said, as a warm wave rolled over me. 

“Same here, Sweetie and yes, we do,”  he said while his bright blue eyes wandered back to his laptop.  In seconds, he was entrenched in the census’s recently posted on ancestry.com totally tuning me out.  I smiled to myself and turned back to my laptop. How typical is that?

 

Lamps and bowls from stormy weather…

Bowls I had made by a woodworking guy from downed trees in our yard after a storm.

When the powerful wind blows in from the south our storm door whistles an eerie sound.  This morning I bolted out of bed to that sound at 5:50 am, a short time after Tom had left for work.  In my sleepy stupor, I thought I was hearing the train-like roar of a tornado.
My heart was pounding in my chest as adrenaline was pumping fervently through my veins.  I sat down on the stairway landing, took a deep breath as a sudden wave of sorrow washed over me, remembering the storm of 2007 that took twenty of our mature trees.  

I recalled the many middle-of-the-night tornado warnings that sent us lumbering down the steep stairway to the basement, the power outages that lasted for days, prompting us to finally buy a generator (which we didn’t need to use for another five years).

As I mulled over all the dastardly weather-related events in our lives these past 21 years together I smiled, as my heart pounding eased and my breathing returned to normal.  

I recalled the time the 10′ diameter, 500 pound round picnic table flew through the yard like a Frisbee, the snowdrift so high it took four men and a bobcat to break it down (while we stayed indoors stranded for days), the sturdy dock that flipped over, the pontoon boat that drifted away, the rain so hard and long that not only the road flooded but also our basement. We called the fire department to rescue us.  

We made it through, always grateful that it wasn’t worse, grateful we shared the experience together, grateful our family members, friends, and pets were all safe and… grateful for the way it changed us, a little bit at a time, always for the better.

It was Friday night August 10, 2007.  Ragweed was in full bloom and I couldn’t stop sneezing. Taking two over-the-counter antihistamines around 10 pm, I anticipated I’d be out like a light in no time.  

Tom stayed awake to watch the weather, planning to come to bed shortly. The barometric pressure, the temperature, and the humidity had been outrageous all day and into the evening.  In the morning, we planned to grab our ambitiously packed luggage in order to head out the door to catch a flight to Miami for a week-long convention for Tom’s work and, a much-needed vacation.

At 3 am, Tom tried to awaken me to go down to the basement, to no avail. He later told me I had refused to get up.  He came back to bed while the house shook with violent straight-line winds attacking us from all sides of the peninsula.  

The alarm clock didn’t go off as planned.  The power was off.  It was 8 am and we had to leave for the airport in one hour.  I bolted out of bed realizing we had overslept and dashed to the kitchen to turn on the coffee which I needed more this morning than ever.  But, the power was off.  No coffee machine. 

It only took one glance out the window to realize that something awful had happened during the night. Running back to the bedroom to awaken Tom it became quite clear that we wouldn’t be leaving for the airport and we didn’t have to rush.  We weren’t going anywhere.

Our tree-lined yard looked as if a bulldozer had come through knocking down every tree in its path. One giant oak tree with a 36″ diameter was down, along with dozens of smaller red cedars and pine trees. Gone. Gone was all of our newer patio furniture.  Gone were all of our adorable handmade birdhouses.

Gone was the wood duck house with the huge tree it was secured to.  Gone was the tree that WorldWideWillie climbed on command.  Gone was the Weber grill along with its big black lid.  Gone was the boat dock into a mangled twisted mess on the lawn.  Gone was the 26′ pontoon boat, it too a mangled mess lying on the rip rap shoreline.

The new siding on the house was severely damaged by falling trees, the stone chimney flue for the furnace, toppled over into a pile on the damaged thick wood shake roof.  Hail damage on both of our cars.  No power, not for 5 days. It was 95 degrees for each of the 5 days.  Going to Florida seemed unimportant. We called and canceled everything.

After two weeks of hard work, no less than ten workers from tree removal companies, the considerable expense to remove the downed trees, most of which wasn’t covered by our insurance, a new pile of downed red cedar trees were neatly cut and stacked awaiting future fires in the fire pit.  

We were relieved that the house hadn’t been more severely damaged and of course, that no one had been hurt in the 3:00 am storm.  Gawkers came from all over to see our devastated property. We were sad over the loss of so many hundred plus-year-old trees that not only changed the look of our yar but also effected the lighting in our many-windowed home.

Days after the cleanup when Tom had gone back to work, I wandered over to the woodpile wondering how we’d ever use all the wood.  Tom talked about using the logs to line our driveway, connected by heavy-duty marine rope.  A great idea but not practical with the narrow road.

One of Two Lamps Made from Downed Red Cedar Trees

As I stood there looking at the wood I knew I needed an idea to turn this loss of nature into a wondrous memory.  It was that day that I decided to surprise Tom the next Christmas with lamps and bowls made from precious wood. 

After considerable research, I found a local woodworker who decided to take on the challenge.  The following Christmas the giant wrapped boxes sat by our memorabilia covered Christmas tree with Tom’s name neatly written on the colorful little tags.  

The bowls were his birthday gift on December 23rd, the lamps for Christmas. Tears welled up his eyes on both occasions as he excitedly ripped open the boxes to reveal the sentimental gifts, each engraved on the underside with his name and the date of the storm.

The shades were purchased separately, made by hand with actual leaves embedded in the fabric, visible only at night for a pleasing effect when the lamps are turned on.   Need I say, he was touched by these gifts assuming at the time that we’d have them forever. 

Each day, as we inch our way closer to the departure date of October 31, 2012, we face the reality that we will soon say goodbye, not only to those people we love and cherish, but also to these bowls and lamps, and the multitude of sentimental treasures we’ve accumulated over the years. 
We can only hope that whoever purchases these items from us will somehow discover a special meaning of their own.

As each of our lives nears the end, it is love that will accompany us as we travel on to our eternal journey. No lamps or bowls allowed.

Just booked cruise #6…

Planning our itinerary so far in advance has prompted questions from our friends, family, and readers.  Why book so far ahead?  There are reasons to planning ahead: 

1. Favorable Rental Rates:  Booking vacation rentals utilizing some type of contract between the parties; us and the property owner/manager, for a predetermined price, allows for a “locked-in” rental amount without consideration for inflation.  One would assume the benefit is all ours, but in reality, this greatly benefits the property owner as well.  
Should the economy continue to dive (as anticipated), it could result in a decline in travel. With a contract, a deposit, and a commitment from us for no less than one month and for as long as four months, the owner is provided a modicum of peace of mind knowing their property is rented in the future to responsible, mature travelers.
2. Favorable Cruise Pricing:  Our cruise agency and it’s amazing cruise agent, Joaquin Contreras, not only provide for discounted cruises, membership discounts (such as AARP, military, organizations) and past customer discounts. As I’d mentioned in a previous post, they guarantee the lowest prices up to 90 days prior to sailing.  Thus, if we book a cruise for 2014, if and when the price goes down, we get the benefit of the lower amount.  To avoid their customers waiting until the last minute to book cruises, this benefit ceases at the 90 days from the sail date.   
Yes, we could wait to book cruises until they offer the lowest possible pricing during the last 30-90 days, perhaps saving a few hundred dollars.  However, as we carefully peruse the 1000’s of cruises posted on their website, we notice many cruises are sold out.  We’d prefer the peace of mind knowing that we have avoided airports, luggage restrictions, bad airlines, long overnight travel and jet lag, an annoying consideration that is all but eliminated in the gradual course of a cruise.
3.  Using Cruising as a Mode of Transportation:  We will need to book no more than three flights for the 926 days we have planned thus far. If we could avoid these flights by cruising, we would. The difficult, if not impossible locations to reach by cruises is:   
a.  Kenya (due to piracy in the seas) 
b.  South Africa (still awaiting cruises to be posted for 2014)
c.  Madeira (a remote island 1200 miles from Lisbon, Portugal for which there used to be a weekly ferry.  Cruise ships only come to Madeira at certain times of the year) 
Today, we booked our 6th cruise.  When we arrive in Barcelona on May 1, 2013, our plan included getting off the ship hauling all of our “stuff” and take a cab to the port of the ferry line to get us over to the island of Mallorca for our pre-planned one month’s visit.  We would have spent hours awaiting the next ferry and hours traveling by ferry to the island.  

A few days ago a new cruise was posted.  The ship on which we will arrive in Barcelona, Spain, The Norwegian Epic, a repositioning cruise, will leave for a four-night cruise, stopping off in Mallorca the second to last day.  The cruise line has agreed to “drop us off” at Mallorca and continue on without us.  

Today we booked our same cabin on the same ship that brought us to Barcelona, Spain, allowing us to continue on to our next destination.  Of course, there is an additional cost, around $1100 for both of us, in the same cabin with a balcony.  This is called a “back to back.” 

The cost of the ferry would have been around $300 plus food for both of us. What are we getting for our additional $800?  Room and board on a fabulous ship for three additional nights, great food, beautiful seas, and romantic walks along the promenade with my honey.  

Adding the cost of the combined fifteen days of cruising from Miami to Barcelona and then, Barcelona to Mallorca, our average cost is $205.97 per night (for both of us) including taxes, port taxes, meals, and entertainment (tips are extra).  In looking online for the rates at a local Holiday Inn, 20 minutes away, mid-range, the cost with taxes would be $147.70 per night not including meals and entertainment.  

Now tell me, which sounds more appealing???