Exciting new location!…An exquisite private villa, exclusively for our pleasure!…Welcome to Post #700!..

This is a view of the pool and the sea at the exquisite private home, we’ll be renting in 2016.

It’s hard for us to believe that today’s post is #700.  In some ways, it seems as if this should be #7000. We’ve experienced so much since our first post on March 14, 2012.  Click here to read, post #1 which is one of our favorites.

In the early days, we posted a few photos when we’d yet to own a good camera or know how to take a post-worthy photo. As time marched on after we left Minnesota on October 31, 2012, and later left the US on January 3, 2013, gradually we came to realize that photos were a vital part of this form of communication.

View of the house from the water.

It took a while for us to finally post each day and to include at least a few photos in each post. Now, we never miss a day or a day with photos unless it’s a travel day without Internet access, a rarity in this world.

The infinity pool.  Note the cabanas at the far side of the pool.  Perfect for after-sun relaxing.

Speaking of photos, today we’re excited to share the photos of our latest booking which may prove to be the last booking for a while when we’re set for the upcoming almost two years. 

Facing the house from the lawn. We’re unable to see the pool in this photo due to its infinity edge.

We’re going to Bali! We’ve rented a four-bedroom, four and a half bath villa, obviously more room than we’ll need but, without a doubt, we’ll treasure every moment while we’re there.

The only people I’ve ever known who have gone to Bali are ambitious newlyweds, young people with the patience and stamina for the long trip from the US, the costly airfare averaging at US $2000 per person, EU $1465.31, taking from 27 to 42 hours with two to four layovers, plus the cost of a hotel, meals, tips, rental car, and incidentals. 

There are multiple areas for lounging by the pool.

However, we’ll already be in Perth, Australia at the end of our cruise on April 28, 2016, and the round trip cost for us will be US $463 per person at three hours and 40 minutes, non-stop. How could we not go to Bali? When will it ever be this easily accessible?

The challenge was in finding an affordable place to live. In addition, we had to face the reality of getting a visa for Bali which is tricky. At most, we can get 60 days at immigration at the airport. However, if we hire a visa agent in advance, we may be able to get a retiree’s visa for a longer period. It’s too soon to apply for that now so we’ll wait until we’re closer to the time of our visit. 

Each day, we’ll have to decide where we’d like to lounge with many options by the pool.

Bali is an island in Indonesia with strict immigration laws. There’s no way we’d be interested in flying to Jakarta to extend our visas. Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia is overcrowded with some of the worst traffic in the world.  No thanks.

The dining table set for eight with beautiful dinnerware.

Unsure about being able to extend our visas at this point, we booked the Bali house shown here today for 59 days. If we’d known that we could have stayed longer, we’d have booked it for many more nights. 

The main floor lounge, one of two living rooms in the villa.

The glorious property, owned by a lovely couple who don’t permanently live in Bali, was one of those that kept me awake at night anxious to hear back if our rental terms were acceptable. When the owner didn’t receive my message accepting the terms, we thought all was lost when we didn’t hear back with a request for a deposit through PayPal. 

The main floor living room.

(Here’s the link to the Bali house listing from which we “borrowed” today’s photos).

One of three master bedrooms, all with king-sized beds, en suite bathrooms, and air conditioning.

Almost a day passed with no word. In my persistence, I wrote back again to later discover she never received the message. We were experiencing Internet issues as Portugal’s part in the World Cup was in full bloom with locals most likely online more frequently.

Bedroom two with another king bed.

Finally, we settled on mutually satisfactory terms. We were giddy. Once again, we’ll have a full household staff as we did in Morocco. However, we’ll be able to cook our own meals with the staff helping with all of the chopping and dicing if we so choose. Tom won’t have to do the dishes!

Bedroom three with another king bed. How will we decide which one we’ll choose? Here again, I’ll have a separate bedroom for showering and dressing so I don’t awaken Tom on the rare occasion he sleeps in.

However, in Bali with the pool and ocean at our door, we won’t feel trapped inside as we did in Morocco, unable to leave the riad unless we were ready to tackle the crowds in the souks. This will be very different. Walks on the beach, dining poolside, or at a cozy beachside bistro, shopping in quaint farmer’s markets will be the order of the day.  We couldn’t be more thrilled.

Bedroom four with twin beds.

No, we’re certainly not young newlyweds reveling in an exquisite South Pacific experience. But, us old-timers, may just settle back and pretend for a while that we are, from April 28, 2016, to June 26, 2016, in Bali, Indonesia.

                                             Photo from one year ago today, July 10, 2013:

Whether it’s mountains, hills, lakes, or sea, we love to have a great view from the veranda of our vacation homes, as was the case in Boveglio, Italy one year ago today. For details for that date, please click here.

A second booking in Fiji…Keeping it all straight…A year ago, puffy clouds in the mountains…

Photo of beach at our second Fiji house.

After booking the house on the island of Savusavu, Fiji for 89 days ending on December 6, 2015, as described in this previous post (click here), we had a month “to kill” before our upcoming cruise as described in our posts of a few days ago, leaving Sydney, Australia on January 5, 2016.

Originally, we thought that the easiest thing to do was to stay in Sydney for the month over the holidays. After considerable checking for one-month vacation rentals near Sydney, we had little luck. With the holiday season in full force, the rentals were either already booked or too expensive.

Veranda overlooking the pool.  The average year-round temperature in Fiji is in the 80F, 30C range with little variances from month to month.

Staying in a hotel in Sydney for a month was another option but proved to be prohibitive when hotel rates were high and we’d have no choice but to dine out for every meal.  (Although, next month we’ll be in hotels for a month split between Paris and London, in both cities we were able to get excellent rates and, most importantly, we’d budgeted for these expenses). 

However, we hadn’t planned for an expensive month in Sydney, no doubt a beautiful city. Most likely, we’ll have an opportunity to see the sights of Sydney when we are on any of our three cruises in Australia.

The kitchen appears to have everything we’ll need. Many of these photos were taken at night. We’ll be taking plenty of photos during daylight.

At this point, we discussed our options. We had to get back to Sydney by January 4th for the upcoming cruise the next day.

With Fiji’s 120 day visas for US citizens, we had the option of staying another month in our booking in Savusavu, a separate island in Fiji with challenging transportation, or, as Tom suggested, fly to the main island of Fiji to ease the flying back to Sydney on January 4th. We both agreed this was a better plan.

Most likely we’ll find a table somewhere in the house to use as a coffee table.

While I was busy logging all the data for our recent multiple bookings, Tom went to work to find something suitable on the main island of Fiji. Much to our surprise, in only one day, he found the house which we’re sharing today.

We booked this house from December 6, 2015 to January 4, 2016 when we’ll fly to Sydney, spend one night in a hotel and board the cruise the next day. Whew! Lots of monkeying around!

We love having a pool!

After contacting the owner, we worked out an equitable rental amount, paid the deposit, and took a deep breath, knowing this leg of our journey was handled. 

Here’s the link to our second house in Fiji, on the main island:

When the January 5th cruise ends in Auckland, New Zealand on January 19, 2016, we’ll rent a car and make our way to the Alpaca Farm as posted here

Side yard.  The ocean is beyond the bushes.

With our comprehensive record-keeping, it’s easy to keep track of the “holes” in our itinerary. At this point in time, we have only a few one-night hotel bookings and a few flights yet to book, all the way to the last booking ending on June 26, 2016, almost two years away. It’s too soon to book anything beyond that date.

Knowing that we’ve booked two years out with deposits paid and rental agreements, in hand we can now sit back and enjoy ourselves knowing that we don’t have to think about future bookings for another year. 

Yesterday, Tom and I were giggling over how much we both enjoyed this process over the past month. The anticipation and the hope of working out equitable rental amounts and deposits left us flush with excitement as we waited to hear back from owners of the various bookings. 

Over the past month, I was often so excited that I awoke early in the morning to see if we’d heard back from an owner overnight. In many cases, there was as much as an 11 hour time difference making communicating online tricky. We’d jump for joy when we’d see that our proposal, or a workable alternative to our proposal, was accepted by the owner.

Settled down and content with the outcome of our hard work, we can’t stop smiling. Yes, we know that there will be mosquitoes, no screens (we have no screens now), creepy-crawly, and flying things but we’re tougher now. 

On both islands in Fiji we’ll have several hours of driving on scary bumpy roads from the airport to our homes, one as long as the four-hour drive in Belize. Here again, we’re tougher now and give it nary a thought.

We continue on, dear readers, fine-tuning our skills and our psyches as we grow and learn more each day as we live as nomads exploring the many treasures our world has to offer.

Tomorrow we’ll share our most exciting booking since we began our travels. Please check back!

Photo from one year ago today, July 9, 2013:

It’s ironic that here we are in Madeira, Portugal one year later and we have similar puffy clouds as we watched in the mountains in Boveglio, Lucca, Tuscany, Italy. Although close to the ocean in Madeira, the clouds are much denser. A year ago, we wrote the story of living life without cell phone service when no SIM cards were available. For details, please click here.

Another cruise itinerary, prices and details for a new booking on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas…A year ago…a recipe…

Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas is a larger capacity ship with cabins for 3835 passengers than yesterday’s posted Celebrity Solstice’s  at 2850. We prefer smaller ships but its not always possible to find both the preferred size, itinerary and dates. The ship’s size is near the bottom of the list of our criteria.

Here’s is the total price (for two) we paid for an upgraded cabin category not shown on the various cabin categories as listed prices below.  Vacations to Go, as well as other cruise agencies, tend to list the lowest priced cabin in a category to attract passengers, later fine-tuning the price to include specific preferences

Cruise (includes port charges)   $4,283.00
Government Taxes*        431.20
Pre-Paid Gratuities        384.00
Pre Paid Gratuities       -384.00


Total                        US  $ 4,714.20

Overall, we saved approximately US $500, EU $367.57, off the lowest posted price for this cruise, comparable to the savings on yesterday’s posted cruise on the Celebrity Solstice.

16 nights departing April 12, 2016 on
Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas
Cheapest Inside $1,380
Cheapest Oceanview $1,800
Cheapest Balcony $2,145
Cheapest Suite $3,052
No brochure rates were provided by Royal Caribbean. 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.
Tue Apr 12 Sydney, Australia 9:00pm
Wed Apr 13 At Sea
Thu Apr 14 At Sea
Fri Apr 15 Wellington, New Zealand 3:00pm 10:00pm
Sat Apr 16 Picton, New Zealand 8:00am 6:00pm
Sun Apr 17 At Sea
Mon Apr 18 Dunedin (Port Chalmers), New Zealand 7:00am 5:00pm
Tue Apr 19 Dusky Sound, New Zealand (Cruising) 9:00am 10:00am
Tue Apr 19 Doubtful Sound, New Zealand (Cruising) Noon 1:00pm
Tue Apr 19 Milford Sound, New Zealand (Cruising) 4:30pm 5:30pm
Wed Apr 20 At Sea
Thu Apr 21 At Sea
Fri Apr 22 Melbourne, Australia 8:00am 7:00pm
Sat Apr 23 At Sea
Sun Apr 24 Adelaide, Australia 8:00am 7:00pm
Mon Apr 25 At Sea
Tue Apr 26 At Sea
Wed Apr 27 At Sea
Thu Apr 28 Perth (Fremantle), Australia 6:00am

With these two new cruises booked along with the cruise we’ll be taking from Hawaii to Australia on May 24, 2015 plus, the two upcoming cruises over the next several months, we now have a total of five booked cruises over a period of fewer than two years.

Although this may seem self-indulgent, we’ve made a point of choosing affordable vacation rentals to ensure we’re always able to incorporate cruising into our itinerary and stay within the strict constraints of our budget.

Sure, at times, we’re tempted to step outside the confines of the budget and “go for it!” But, we don’t. Knowing full well that doing so simply results in forcing ourselves to further tighten our belts in the future, sacrificing some of the comforts that bring us such pleasure; good food; great surroundings; and amazing views.

Each rental we choose, each cruise we book, every meal we eat, each necessary flight we take all draw from the bottom line. There’s no room or reason to push ourselves to a point of stress and worry for added luxury. 

This particular ship is rated 4.5 stars due to its age, built in 2000, refurbished in 2010 which will again be refurbished again in 2015 and completed one year prior to our sailing on May 24, 2016. We’ll be anxious to see if it’s rating increases after the renovations. In any case, we have found that we favor some of the older ships with their “Hollywood” flair.


(If interested in booking a cruise with Anna Urban at Vacations to Go,
please click the above blue link for her email address. We are not affiliated with VTG
other than as a customer).

Explorer of the Seas

Ship Rating: 
The 138,000-ton Explorer of the Seas is loaded with recreational amenities: an ice-skating rink, in-line skating track, rock-climbing wall, television studio and full-size, open-air basketball court. The Royal Promenade, which runs through the center of the ship, is longer than a football field and wide enough to accommodate three lanes of traffic. Here you’ll find restaurants, shops, entertainment and street performers. The basketball court converts to a volleyball court, and there’s also a golf simulator, nine-hole miniature golf course and jogging track. Adventure Beach, just for families, has its own pool. Spots for socializing include a champagne bar, cigar club, sports bar, jazz club, dance club and a cocktail lounge at the top of the ship. Hungry? There’s a casual grill, ice-cream parlor, the Windjammer Cafe and Johnny Rocket’s, modeled after an authentic 1950s diner (complete with jukebox). Portofino, an intimate reservations-only restaurant serving Italian fare, complements three main dining rooms.
 Ship Statistics 
Year Built 2000
Last Refurbished 2010
Tonnage 138,000 tons
Registry Bahamas
Length 1,020 feet
Beam 158 feet
Passenger Capacity 3,835
Crew Size 1,185
Total Inside Cabins 618
Total Outside Cabins 939
Cabins & Suites w/ verandas 757
Suites 119
Maximum Occupancy per room 8
Age Restrictions One person must be 21 or older
Dinner Seatings 2
Seating Assignments 
in Main Dining Room
Dining Hours 6:00 p.m. & 8:30 p.m.
Dining Room Dress Code Dining
Tipping Recommended? Yes
Tipping Guidelines Royal Caribbean will automatically add a $12.00 USD gratuity ($14.25 USD for Suite guests) to each guest’s onboard SeaPass® account on a daily basis. 15% tip included on beverage orders.
Onboard Currency US Dollar
Services & Amenities
Bars/Lounges 12
Beauty Salon/Barber Shop Yes
Casino Yes
Chapel Yes
Disco/Dancing Yes
Elevators 4
Hot Tub 6
Cell Phone Service Yes
Internet Center Yes
Wireless Internet Access Yes
Note: Available in certain areas
Laundry/Dry Cleaning Yes
Library Yes
Movie Theatre Yes
Outdoor Movie Screen No
Onboard Weddings Yes
Self Serve Laundromats No
Shops Yes
Showroom Yes
Spa Yes
Video Arcade Yes
Fitness & Sports Facilities
Basketball Court Yes
Fitness Center Yes
Golf Driving Net No
Golf Simulator Yes
Ice Skating Rink Yes
Jogging Track Yes
Mini-Golf Course Yes
Rock Climbing Wall Yes
Swimming Pool 3
Note: 1 Heated
Tennis Court No
Water Slide No
Water Sports Platform No
Cabin Features & Amenities
24-Hour Room Service Yes
Hair Dryer Yes
Safe Yes
Telephone Yes
Television Yes
Kids Facilities
Babysitting Yes
Children’s Playroom Yes
Kiddie Pool Yes
Supervised Youth Program Yes
Teen Center Yes
Special Needs & Requests
Adjoining Cabins
(private connecting doors)
Kosher Meals Yes
Single Occupancy Cabins No
Single Share Program No
Wheelchair-Accessible Cabins 26

Then again, there’s a certain degree of “safari luck” which allows us to rent superior properties at reasonable negotiated prices when we find vacation rentals that appear more expensive and out of our reach.

In the next few days, we’ll be sharing a few more of these; two more booked vacation homes in the South Pacific that we’ve yet to mention, that literally make us jump for joy. Keep an eye out over the next few days. 

The cruise described here today is a long way off, 21 months to be exact. We booked these two cruises early when we noticed online that some of their better cabins were fast being booked. 

Please scroll to the right to see the full deck plan.  We’ve chosen a cabin on this level at the “bump-out” area for enhanced viewing. As always, we checked the itinerary to ensure we will be on the better side of the ship for viewing as we sail past land. Note the deck plan indicates the location of cabins after the renovations are complete on 4/24/2015, one year before we sail.

Explorer of the Seas Deck 8 (starts 4-24-15)

Royal Family Suite with Balcony

Category FS

Two bedrooms with two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long (one room with third and fourth Pullman beds), two bathrooms (one with shower, one with bathtub), living area with double sofa bed, private balcony, and concierge service. Stateroom can accommodate up to 8 guests. (561 sq. ft., balcony 246 sq. ft.)
Superior Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony

Category D1

Category D2

Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, private balcony, sitting area and a private bathroom. Rates vary from deck to deck. (179 sq. ft., balcony 52 sq. ft.)
Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony

Category E1

Category E2

Category E3

Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, private balcony sitting area with sofa and a private bathroom. Rates vary from deck to deck. (164 sq. ft., balcony 51 sq. ft.)
Family Ocean View Stateroom

Category FO

Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, additional bunk beds in separate area, separate sitting area with sofa bed, and a private bathroom with shower. Stateroom can accommodate up to 6 guests. (265 sq. ft.)
Large Ocean View Stateroom

Category F

Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, sitting area with sofa, vanity area and a private bathroom. (178 sq. ft.)
Promenade Stateroom

Category PR

Bowed windows with a view of the Royal Promenade, two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, sitting area with sofa, vanity area, and a private bathroom. (160 sq. ft.)
Interior Stateroom

Category K

Category M

Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, sitting area, vanity area, and a private bathroom. (150 sq. ft.)

Stateroom with sofa bed.
Stateroom has third Pullman bed available.
Stateroom has third and fourth Pullman bed available.
Connecting staterooms.
Indicates accessible staterooms.
Stateroom with sofa bed and third Pullman bed available.
Stateroom has four additional Pullman beds available.
Deck 8 (starts 4-24-15)

Another important factor we must mention is the “bill” we’ll receive on the last night of any cruise which includes charges for WiFi (no refunds for unused data), beverages if not included in a pre-purchased beverage package, gratuities if not included in original costs such as for our personal cabin steward, favorite bartender or a special server in a restaurant, specialty restaurants, spa services and any purchases made in any of the ship’s shops all of which offer overpriced merchandise. 

We always ensure that we have plenty of toiletries to last throughout the cruise. The cost of a tube of toothpaste, razors, or a bottle of Tylenol can be outrageous. All charges are charged to the credit card kept on file which is charged periodically to the card. One must ascertain that they have plenty of “room” on their card or another credit card on hand as these expenses add up quickly. 

There are expensive ATMs aboard ship and a bank where one can exchange currency. But, the fees for these services may be higher than expected. We don’t gamble on ships or otherwise, although we’ve seen many passengers hovering at an ATM when their gambling isn’t going well. Casinos on ships are less likely than land casinos to produce winners.

Checking on daily cruise updates has always been a “Tom task” when I’m busy updating the spreadsheets with our ongoing expenses and related tasks. Besides, he enjoys doing it where I have little interest in watching the status of cruises until it actually applies to us. It’s through Tom’s diligent research that we’ve been able to secure great pricing and cabins.

At the moment, all of our cruises and vacation homes are booked with required deposits paid. Today, after writing here and a trip to the little local market to have our skilled butcher cut meat for us, I’ll start logging our latest bookings that have been wrapped up over the past several days.

Please check back tomorrow and Thursday for two very exciting updates to our itinerary with many photos.  In the interim, we revel in the excitement of these two cruises, one highlighted today and the other in yesterday’s post.

Stay tuned.

Photo from one year ago today, July 8, 2013:

We posted our favorite low carb, sugar-free coleslaw recipe and how we’ve had to cut the cabbage by hand when we can’t ever find bagged shredded cabbage and carrots. For the recipe and detail from that day, please click here.

Cruise itinerary, prices and details for a new booking on the Celebrity Solstice…

Celebrity is our favorite cruise line. This is the ship we’ll sail on for 14 nights beginning on January 5, 2016, ending on January 19, 2016. Built in 2008, it’s rated 5.5 stars, of a possible 6 stars  We love the smaller size of 2850 passengers as opposed to many of the larger ships with a capacity with upwards of 5000 passengers.

In 18 months, on January 4, 2016, we’ll be departing Fiji to arrive in Sydney, Australia, spending one night in a hotel. 

The following day, we’ll make our way to the Port of Sydney to board this 14 night cruise on the Celebrity Solstice as listed below which ends in Auckland, New Zealand on January 19, 2016 when we’ll make our way to New Plymouth, New Zealand to live on the on the Alpaca Farm for 83 days

Please refer to Part 1 and Part 2 posts from the past two days to see all the criteria and factors that come into play when pricing a cruise. Please click these links below in the event you missed them over the weekend:
Part 1, Booking cruises
Part 2, Booking cruises

When reviewing the prices below it appears that our total cost for two would be US $4498 EU $3676.69. Not so fast. Based on the addition of taxes, fees, and gratuities and the upgraded category for our preferred cabin number, the cost had jumped to a total of US $5340.32, EU $3928.51.

By researching prices for our choices. we were able to find an all-inclusive total for US $4771, EU $3509.70 through the free site, Cruise Compete

By doing so, we then asked  Anna at Vacations to Go to match this best price. She was able to match the price after sending her the link as to where we found the best pricing. In other words, many cruise agencies have the ability to “match the best price found.” However, proof in writing that the best price is always required when asking for the best price discount.

14 nights departing January 5, 2016 on
Celebrity’s Celebrity Solstice
Brochure Inside $3,298
Our Inside $1,649
You Save 50%
Brochure Oceanview $3,998
Our Oceanview $1,999
You Save 50%
Brochure Balcony $4,498
Our Balcony $2,249
You Save 50%
Brochure Suite $8,298
Our Suite $4,149
You Save 50%
$$$ Book now and receive a FREE US$100 per cabin onboard credit on select categories plus choose one of the following offers on  select oceanview, balcony, and suite categories: an additional US$300 per cabin onboard credit (for a total per cabin onboard credit of US$400), FREE pre-paid gratuities (a per cabin value of US$336 to US$434), or a FREE beverage package for two, which includes select alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages onboard (a per cabin value of US$1,372).
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.
Tue Jan 5 Sydney, Australia 6:30pm
Wed Jan 6 At Sea
Thu Jan 7 Melbourne, Australia 8:00am 6:00pm
Fri Jan 8 At Sea
Sat Jan 9 Hobart, Tasmania, Australia 8:00am 6:00pm
Sun Jan 10 At Sea
Mon Jan 11 At Sea
Tue Jan 12 Milford Sound, New Zealand (Cruising) 8:00am 9:00am
Tue Jan 12 Doubtful Sound, New Zealand (Cruising) 1:30pm 2:30pm
Tue Jan 12 Dusky Sound, New Zealand (Cruising) 4:30pm 6:00pm
Wed Jan 13 Dunedin (Port Chalmers), New Zealand 9:00am 7:00pm
Thu Jan 14 Akaroa, New Zealand 8:00am 6:00pm
Fri Jan 15 Wellington, New Zealand 8:00am 6:00pm
Sat Jan 16 At Sea
Sun Jan 17 Tauranga, New Zealand 8:00am 6:00pm
Mon Jan 18 Bay of Islands, New Zealand 7:00am 6:00pm
Tue Jan 19 Auckland, New Zealand 6:00am

Here are the details of the ship, the Celebrity Solstice, rated a 5.5 stars (out of a possible 6 stars):


Celebrity Solstice

Ship Rating: 
The first ship to be a part of Celebrity’s Solstice class, the Celebrity Solstice features many of the personal amenities passengers have come to expect from Celebrity while carrying 2,850 passengers. Each of the ships in the Solstice class feature wireless Internet throughout, larger staterooms with flat screen televisions, spacious bathrooms, more storage space and plush European bedding. Balconies are available in 85% of the ship’s staterooms, and the Solstice-class ships include an exceptional range of guest-inspired services and amenities made possible due to the ships’ larger size. Spa-enthusiasts aboard the Celebrity Solstice can enjoy the 130 “AquaClass” veranda staterooms, with unlimited access to the Aqua Spa relaxation room and the Persian Garden, and exotic aromatherapy and steam room. AquaClass guests also receive exclusive complimentary dining in Blu, an intimate 130-seat specialty restaurant.
 Ship Statistics 
Year Built 2008
Tonnage 122,000 tons
Registry Malta
Length 1,033 feet
Beam 121 feet
Passenger Capacity 2,850
Crew Size 999
Total Inside Cabins 102
Total Outside Cabins 1,323
Cabins & Suites w/ verandas 1,177
Suites 56
Maximum Occupancy per room 5
Age Restrictions One person must be 21 or older
Dinner Seatings 2
Seating Assignments 
in Main Dining Room
Dining Hours 6:15 p.m. & 8:30 p.m.
Dining Room Dress Code Dining
Tipping Recommended? Yes
Tipping Guidelines Added to onboard account. $12.00 per person, per day in staterooms, $12.50 per person, per day for Concierge/Aqua class, $15.50 per person, per day for Suites. 15% tip included on beverage orders.
Onboard Currency US Dollar
Services & Amenities
Bars/Lounges 14
Beauty Salon/Barber Shop Yes
Casino Yes
Chapel No
Disco/Dancing Yes
Elevators Yes
Hot Tub 10
Cell Phone Service Yes
Internet Center Yes
Wireless Internet Access Yes
Note: Available in certain areas
Laundry/Dry Cleaning Yes
Library Yes
Movie Theatre Yes
Outdoor Movie Screen No
Onboard Weddings Yes
Self Serve Laundromats No
Shops Yes
Showroom Yes
Spa Yes
Video Arcade Yes
Fitness & Sports Facilities
Basketball Court Yes
Fitness Center Yes
Golf Driving Net No
Golf Simulator No
Water Slide No
Water Sports Platform No
Ice Skating Rink No
Jogging Track Yes
Mini-Golf Course No
Rock Climbing Wall No
Swimming Pool 3
Tennis Court No
Cabin Features & Amenities
Hair Dryer Yes
Safe Yes
Telephone Yes
Television Yes
24-Hour Room Service Yes
Kids Facilities
Babysitting Yes
Children’s Playroom Yes
Kiddie Pool No
Supervised Youth Program Yes
Teen Center Yes
Special Needs & Requests
Adjoining Cabins
(private connecting doors)
Kosher Meals Yes
Single Occupancy Cabins No
Single Share Program No
Wheelchair-Accessible Cabins 30
Speak to a Cruise Specialist

Call toll free from Portugal to our US offices

Open Mon 12am-4am, 12:30pm-12am, Tue-Fri 12am-8am, 12:30pm-12am, 
Sat 12am-8am, 3pm – 12am, Sun 12am-2am, 4pm-12am

Here is the deck plan for the Celebrity Solstice from which we chose our preferred cabin on this level in Category 2B.  Please scroll to the right to see the far right of the entire deck plan. 

Celebrity Solstice Deck 7 – Sunrise

Sky Suite

Category S1

Features include floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, two beds convertible to queen-size, bathroom with shower/tub combination and washbasin, living room with sofa queen sleeper and vanity, mini refrigerator, 40″ LCD TV, and veranda with lounge seating. (stateroom: 300 sq. ft., veranda: 79 sq. ft.)
Family Ocean View Stateroom with Veranda

Category FV

Features include floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, master bedroom with two beds convertible to queen-size, second bedroom with one twin bed, sitting area with sofa convertible to trundle bed, vanity, privacy partition, 32″ LCD TV and veranda. (stateroom: 575 sq. ft., veranda: 53 to 105 sq. ft.)
Sunset Veranda

Category SV

Features include floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, sitting area with sofa, two beds convertible to queen-size, vanity, 32″ LCD TV and veranda. Some staterooms may have a trundle bed. (stateroom: 194 sq. ft., veranda: 54 sq. ft.)
Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom with Veranda

Category 1A

Category 2A

Category 2B

Features include floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, two beds convertible to queen-size, sitting area with sofa, vanity, 32″ LCD TV and veranda. Some staterooms may have a trundle bed. (stateroom: 194 sq. ft., veranda: 54 sq. ft.)
Ocean View Stateroom

Category 07

Features include an ocean view window, two beds convertible to queen-size, vanity, 32″ LCD TV and a sitting area with sofa. Some cabins may have a trundle bed. (177 sq. ft.)
Inside Stateroom

Category 11

Features include two beds convertible to queen-size, vanity, 32″ LCD TV and sitting area with sofa. Some cabins may have a trundle bed.(183 to 200 sq. ft.)

Convertible Sofa Bed
Inside Stateroom Door Location
One Upper Berth
Triple Occupancy
Quadruple Occupancy
Two Upper Berths
Connecting Staterooms
Wheelchair Accessible Stateroom Featuring Roll-In Showers
Deck 7 - Sunrise

In all, we’re thrilled with the price, our cabin selection and of course, the itinerary as shown above. As with all of our cruises, we’ll be sharing details and photos of the ship, the ports of call, the excursions we choose and the meals.

More follows tomorrow with details of the second cruise we booked in the past few days on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas.

Have a wonderful Monday!

Photo from one year ago today, July 7, 2013:

A year ago, we wrote about mechanical issues and nuances of living in a 300-year-old house in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy. his photo of Tom standing in the hallway, at 6 feet, 1.83 meters, his head almost reaches the ceiling. If he didn’t walk down the hall straight and centered, he’d bang his head. also note, the  upcoming doorway at eye level in which he had to duck to enter. For more details about the old stone house, please click here.

Part 2…Booking cruises, competitive prices…How we book our cruises…

Even a cloudy day has some appeal.

Yesterday, we described two important elements to booking cruises, one, “determining the starting prices” and two, personal preferences that determine the final cost of a cruise. Here’s the link to yesterday’s post, in case you missed it.

Over the past several days, as in the past when booking cruises, these factors come into play, as we just so happen to be in the process of booking two cruises to be finalized today receiving the booking confirmations by the end of the day.

View of the ocean as we drive further into Sao Vincente.

Here’s some of our “why” and “what” of cruising:

1.  We enjoy cruising to various locations that we’ll either visit for a short term or stay for as long as 89 days or longer, visas permitting. In most cases, we choose one-way cruises staying at the new location, rather than taking a “round trip” cruise which usually works best for most travelers.
2.  Appealing itinerary: Hopefully, with ports of call we’ve never visited in the past.
3.  The length of the cruise: Befitting our preference for longer cruises as opposed to those three or four-day cruises crowded weekend tourists.
4.  The quality of the ships and cruise lines: Often based on past experience. We’ve never chosen a ship rated under 4 stars, in this case, Celebrity Solstice is rated a 5.5 and Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas is rated a 4.5 (older ships, although often remodeled within the past 5 to 7 years usually receive a lower rating than if new or newer).
5.   The final cost: Including the opportunity that most agencies offer at a price reduction if the actual cost of the basic cruise which is reduced prior to paying the final payment, usually up to 90 days before sailing. Since we left the US on January 3, 2013, we’ve been able to be credited US $2000, EU $1468 on booked cruises on our first of eight* cruises. It is the customer’s responsibility to watch for price reductions promptly reporting them to the agency for a credit. More than one price reduction is accepted. But, if not reported promptly and the price goes back up, the credit is no longer available. Check the free popular cruising site, www.cruisecritic.com for updates on price reductions. Another site we use, for a small fee, automatically notifies the customer by email of a price reduction. For this check www.cruisefish.com which charges are based on the number of cruises booked. 
6.  Cabin selection: Each ship has a “deck plan” that clearly illustrates the placement of all cabins, stairwells, elevators, and venues by number. Before we attempt to book any cruise with our chosen agent and agency, Anna Urban at Vacations to Go, we decide on 3 choices of cabins, in order of preference, which we provide to our agent, hoping to pin down one of the three which is relatively easy when booking early.
7. Researching prices at other agencies: While in the process of preparing to book a cruise, we research other pricing offered by other agencies by using this free website:  www.cruisecompete.com which once we enter the cruise and our preferences, within hours we receive “bids” from other agencies. Once we receive several bids, we request that our agency match the lowest bid which they do.

Many areas may look the same as we post photos here, but as we drive to various villages, we note distinct differences.

*(An error correction from yesterday’s post: I miscounted past cruises, accidentally including two upcoming cruises in the next three months. I stated that we’ve been on 10 cruises when in fact we’ve been on eight with two more upcoming shortly which are not the same two cruises that we’re booking today).

More hillside farming.

Many have asked us, “Why do we like cruising when we vigorously avoid crowds?” 
1.  We use cruising as a fun means of transportation, not a vacation. It’s easier than flying when we’re in no rush. We plan our vacation home bookings around cruises, not vice versa. Cruising is relaxing and relatively stress-free as opposed to flying.
2.  The are no fees for overweight baggage.
3.  We’re housed, fed, and entertained. In most cases, when calculating the cost of flying, meals, and daily rates in vacation homes or hotels, the cost becomes more affordable.
4.  As for the crowds, we plan our time carefully avoiding venues at the busiest times, when possible. Within a day, we settle into a comfortable routine we’ve found to be extremely pleasurable. Plus, at night when dining in the main dining area, we chose “table sharing” where we are able to join a table for 6 to 10. In most cases, we have a fabulous time meeting new people often making new friends. On occasion, we dine alone in order to experience the specialty restaurants, usually at an additional flat fee per person.
5.  The small cabin, often under 200 square feet, 18.58 square meters, isn’t problematic for us. We spend as little time as possible in the cabin.
6.  The chefs on all cruises have been 100% cooperative in complying with my way of eating.
7.  Attending educational classes and seminars have been a highlight on many of our cruises, often centered around historical and geographical topics concerning our itinerary. If a movie theatre is available, we may attend an afternoon movie. We don’t nap. Instead, a movie is an excellent form of relaxation for us both.

Although the roads are often steep and winding, the roads are in excellent condition.

Based on the above criteria, last night we notified our rep at Vacation to Go with the following on the two cruises we’d like to book, both in 2016, January and April:
1.  Preferred cabin numbers (three for each ship)
2.  Choice of offered packages: Celebrity Solstice has a 1-2-3 promotion now which includes the choice of one, an onboard credit of $300 or, two, prepaid gratuities at US $24, EU $17.82 (in this case 14 days includes both of us) for a total of US $336, EU $246.68; three, identical beverage package required for both us at US $98, EU $71.98 per day for a total of US $1372, EU $1007.70. 
Although I don’t drink alcohol or sweetened beverages, it made economical sense for us to choose the free for two beverage package if Tom had four cocktails per day at the usual US $9, EU $6.61 (including tax and tip) the total for 14 days would have been US $504, EU $370.17 for the entire cruise. Comparing this cost to the other choices, it made sense to choose the beverage package. Plus, with my having the beverage package, my bottled water is included throughout the day. It was a no brainer for us.
3.  Charge the US $900, EU $661 deposit per cruise to our credit card number on file.

Weathered house situated in the hills.

Soon, our cruise confirmations will arrive in my email with the document as a web page. I convert this to a PDF, placing a copy into the cruise folder on my desktop, saving it on the cloud and external hard drive, and sending a copy to Tom’s email. Once we both have a copy we review it together for accuracy. We’ve yet to find an error.

Once we arrived in the village of Sao Vincente, we drove through the neighborhood of well-kept homes.

Over the next few days, we’ll be posting the details, final cost, and itinerary of each of these cruises enabling our readers to see the completion of the booking process.

This may seem complicated but, it has become a normal course of action as we strive to receive the best possible pricing, terms, and accommodations ensuring a great experience, barring any unforeseen obstacles or incidences over which we have no control.

Peculiar tree.

Please check back tomorrow for the details and prices of these two exciting cruises. At this point, we have 5 upcoming cruises. This may seem to be a considerable number but, they are broken up as follows:
2 cruises in 2014
1 cruise in 2015
2 cruises in 2016

Of course, our primary concern in all of our travels is the budget and estimates and later, the final cost per day.  Our goal is to secure affordable vacation homes to ensure that we stay within the budget in order to be able to include cruises in our travels. So far, we’ve stayed on target. And, it’s entirely our responsibility to engage in diligent planning as we continue on this journey.

Photo from one year ago today, July 6, 2013:

The entrance to many of the old stone houses in Boveglio, Italy were often decorated and appealing to the eye as in this house in the neighborhood. For details of that day when we visited the local pub, please click here.

Part 1…Booking cruises and competitive pricing… How do we book our cruises for the best pricing?…

The fact that I was standing on a steep hill is evidenced in this lopsided photo of this steeple in the hills in Sao Vincente. Certainly, I could have straightened the camera to adjust, but I was distracted by the views.

Currently, we have four cruises booked with more we hope to book over the next several months. Yesterday, we posted our upcoming itinerary from July 31, 2014, through April 11, 2016.  f you’d like to see it, please click here.

The vineyards, the sparse trees, and the mountains in the background create a pretty scene.

Finding the best possible prices for cruises is tricky and time-consuming. Since we began our travels outside the US 18 months ago, we’ve been on 10 cruises, all of them booked through Vacations to Go where we received the best pricing.

The rich soil in the hills is ideal for gardens and farms in this scene from Sao Vincente.

Now, as time marches on, we’re finding competitive pricing at other sites for the cruises we’re yet to book.  Booking cruises is not as easy a task as one might think.

The well-utilized hills illustrate the creativity of the people of Madeira in using their surroundings.

There are several factors that determine the starting prices of the cruises:

  1. Rating of the ship: Rated from one to five stars
  2. Cruise itinerary: Certain itineraries are always more expensive than others
  3. Length of the cruise: Longer doesn’t necessarily equate to a lower price
  4. The popularity of the cruise: Supply and demand
  5. Time of the year: Often the best time of year to cruise is often between Christmas and New Year’s due to lack of demand and in the first two weeks of January when the public is experiencing holiday withdrawal. Or, if one prefers a cruise can be booked during hurricane season in the Caribbean for a better price.
  6. Taxes, fees, including gratuities (which is seldom shown in the advertised price but often is required to be paid to paid at final payment), special promotions, discounts for past customers, coupons, or discounts for special categories such as AARP and others.
More beautiful farming in Sao Vincent.

The following personal preferences determine the final costs for a cruise:

  1. Cabin selection: Inside cabin (no windows), Oceanview (from a small to large window depending on the ship), Balcony (includes a varying in size balcony accessed through sliding doors from inside the cabin), and Suite
  2. Category selection: In each of the above cabin selections, there are Categories with varying pricing which may double the price or more, as in the case of Suites, which can be from a Mini-Suite (extra amenities, slightly larger) all the way to a “Grand or Royal” Suites (apartment/penthouse type suites). Some cabins may have an obstructed or partially obstructed view or be above or below a noisy venue which may or may not have a bearing on the price.
  3. Location of the cabin on the ship: The deck number, proximity to areas customer favors, easy access to stairs or elevators, etc.
  4. Side of the ship on which the cabin is located for best viewing when sailing past points of interest.
  5. Packages and excursions preferred: Beverages package (multiple categories as much as USD $59, EU $43.40 per person/per day!), specialty dining (not all meals are included on cruises. There are often multiple restaurants each with a “fixed price” that can be booked. Excursions at varying ports of call from private tours to bus tours.
  6. Internet: Internet fees are outrageous on cruises, usually at US $.75, EU $.55, per minute to prepaid packages bringing the cost down as much as 50%. 
  7. Spa and salon services, personal trainers, specialty training in various categories, personal purchases, photos (often taken without your permission and later offered to you at high prices), casino, art auctions, etc.
  8. Beverages not included in either a pre-purchased beverage package or if no beverage package is purchased, the cost of drinks not included with meals (coffee or tea) or provided at complimentary coffee/tea stations located in the pool and casual dining areas; bottled water, soda, specialty coffees, and alcoholic beverages.  These can add to as much as a 25% increase in the overall cost of the cruise plus an added 15% gratuity on both beverage packages and individual beverage purchases.
  9. On many cruises, there are special activities and events that may impose additional costs if the customer chooses to partake such as bingo and other games with cash prices, dance lessons,  etc.
  10. Travel insurance: This may be as much as US $50 per person/per day of the cruise. (We never purchase travel insurance on specific cruises. We each have an annual travel insurance policy that provides this type of coverage at a considerably lower price).
As we approached the ocean in Sao Vincente.  The road was too narrow to stop.  I took this photo while the car was moving.

All of the above come into play when we decide to book a cruise. We have no delusions as to these costs and luckily did our research before booking our first cruise. Having an experienced cruise agent is also a factor which incurs no obvious additional cost.

This was the first swimming pool we’ve seen on the island of Madeira. With the cool climate, a pool, unless heated, wouldn’t be enjoyable. This may be a small hotel or B & B.

Tomorrow, we’ll describe the cabins we typically choose and why, the amenities we prefer, the extras we willingly include and, the cost of a few of our upcoming cruises as listed in yesterday’s itinerary.

Please check back.

                                             Photo from one year ago today, July 5, 2013:

Driving through Collodi, Italy, the village where the author of Pinocchio lived, we spotted the Villa Garzoni, a restored mansion which we believe is now a hotel. For details from that date, please click here.

Happy 4th of July to those in the US!…New itinerary for 620 days, posted here today!…

Yesterday, we entered the longest tunnel we’ve been through in our travels, the “Tunel da Encumeada” as we drove to Sao Vincente. Click here for a short video we found on YouTube, taken at 2x speed through this tunnel. It took us almost four minutes to drive through it.

We both wish all of our family and friends in the US a happy and safe 4th of July. It’s great it fell on a Friday, so all of you still working have a nice long weekend. Enjoy the festivities and fireworks!

Here it is, folks, our itinerary from July 31, 2014, to April 11, 2016, all of which is booked and set for our arrival, except for a few flights and a few one-night hotel stays:

Madeira, Portugal to Paris, France
0 7/31/2014
15 7/31/2014-8/16/2014
(Chunnel) Paris to London
0 8/16/2014
15 8/16/2014
London to Boston – Cruise 14 8/31/2014
– 9/14/2014
Hotel Boston 3 9/14/2014
– 9/17/2014
Flight Boston
to Vancouver
0 9/17/2014
6 9/17/2013
– 9/23/2014
Vancouver to Honolulu – Cruise 12 9/23/2014
– 10/5/2014
11 10/5/2014
– 10/16/2014
Maui Rental 57 10/16/2014
– 12/1/2014
1st house
Pahoe Hawaii Rental 
46 12/1/2014 – 1/14/2015
2nd house
Pahoe Rental  (family visiting)
0 12/20/2014  – 1/3/2015
Kauai Hawaii
120 1/15/2015 – 5/14/2015
9 5/15/2015 – 5/24/2015
Honolulu to
Sydney – Cruise
18 5/24/2015  – 6/11/2015
Beach, Australia
89 6/11/2015 – 9/8/2015
Fiji Rental
-Savusavu Island
89 9/8/2015 – 12/6/2015
Fiji Rental
#2 – Fiji Main Island
29 12/6/2015 – 1/4/2016
Sydney Hotel 1 1/4/2016 – 1/5/2016
Sydney to
Aukland – Cruise 
14 1/5/2016 – 1/19/2016
New Plymouth,
New Zealand Alpaca Farm
83 1/19/2016 – 4/11/2016
Total Days
Booked into Future
620 7/31/2014 – 4/11/2016

Please note: Not all flights are posted here since we’ve yet to book them this far in advance. Flights cannot be booked more than 330 days in advance. In most cases, we don’t book flights any sooner than 90 days prior to travel. Also, in the next few days, we’ll be adding a few cruises, not shown here.

These sparse trees lined this hill.

The time and effort we put into booking the last 10 months of this itinerary was more work than we’d ever expected. It wasn’t easy planning this leg of our ongoing journey with higher prices than we’ve ever seen and many properties booked well in advance.

The low lying clouds impeded the clarity of our photos, which often occurs.

We’re satisfied with the end result and look forward to every step of the way (except for “flying days” which are always tiring and stressful). Beyond April 11, 2016? We don’t have a clue where we’ll go next other than the few above mentioned yet-to-be-booked cruises. A year ago, we didn’t know we’d be going to Australia. The decisions all come in time as a natural evolution. 

The hillsides everywhere on the island are filled with beautiful gardens.

We often look at the world map wondering where we’ll go after the final booking. We’ve yet to visit South America, the Orient, Antarctica, the countries in the former Soviet Union. At some point, we’ll cruise to Alaska and tour the US and Canada, most likely not for years to come. 

In reality, we’re not trying to visit every part of the world. We’re traveling to places we find most interesting.  We’ve yet to even count how many countries we’ve visited thus far. With over 200 countries in the world, we still have a long way to go. But, this isn’t a contest, a race, or an attempt to break some arbitrary record.

Stopping at an overlook, we spotted this unusual tree.

This is just us, two senior citizens, in-love, enjoying time together in different environments, trying to live life to the fullest for as long as we can. We feel no pressure to do anything differently than we’re doing. If we screw up, it’s on us.
Yes, we miss our loved ones and yes, we’ll see them from time to time. But, staying in touch is easy these days, making them seem less far away. We hope and pray that they understand and accept the “why” to our lives.  

We noticed a tour bus when we spotted this group of tourists crossing this footbridge. Most likely they are touring from a cruise ship that had arrived in Funchal, a popular port of call.

We know being away may seem selfish to them. But, we hope we taught our children to live their dreams to the fullest and that also included us.  We hope this message is also conveyed to our grandchildren. Make a dream…make it happen.

This morning, I awoke at 5:45 deciding to get up. It’s now 8:15 am and Tom’s still sleeping, a rarity for him. As soon as I bathed and dressed for the day, I came downstairs, turned on the hot water for my tea, immediately I opened the heavy glass door to the veranda, and stepped outside. 

The tourists were heading down to this park.

The sun had yet to come up and the reflection of the billowy clouds always present, cast a colorful image on the sea. As I stood there in awe of the beauty it dawned on me that in 27 days we’ll leave this island and in time it will become a distant memory.

Unusual vine-covered narrow trees.

Yesterday, as we drove to the village of Sao Vincente taking photos, some of which are shown here today, with more shown tomorrow, we spoke of leaving this island and about how grateful we are that we’ve documented every step of our travels in words and photos. 

We were disappointed that there was a cloud cover when we arrived in Sao Vincente. It had been sunny when we left Campanario.  Rapidly changing weather is typical for this island. 

When and if the time comes, that we can no longer travel, we’ll always be able to look online to recall a date, a place, or an event; to laugh, to cry, and to know that through sheer determination and a bit of “safari luck” we somehow managed to live this dream. 

Photo from one year ago today, July 4, 2013:

This is the only photo we posted a year ago today when it was a rainy day keeping us indoors in Boveglio Italy. This photo was taken in May 2013 (one month earlier) when we visited Petra, Jordan which we hadn’t posted at the time of posting Petra photos. But, we posted it last July 4, 2013, when we had no new photos available to post. For details of the story from one year ago today, please click here.

Exciting news!…Living on an alpaca farm in New Zealand!…Kiwi lifestyle…Here we come!…

Pinch me! These are the alpacas that live on the farm we’ll be renting in New Zealand. We’ll be arriving at the time of the year when the babies are born. Could this be more fun?  The owner explained that they are very friendly and will hang out with us as they freely roam about the farm.

After an exhausting search over a period of weeks, we’re delighted to have finally found a home for 83 days in New Zealand. Our original plan was to stay for 89 days which has since changed to accommodate an upcoming cruise.

There were many factors that made the search painstaking with price and location topping the list. Partway through, we decided to reconsider our desire for an ocean view. That in itself was pricey and limiting.

The farmhouse is a saltbox style unassuming but perfect for our needs especially when these friendly occupants hover in the yard.

Renting a house in a subdivision or a condo in the center of a town is definitely not our cup of tea. In reality, it all boils down to having a photo-worthy experience for us and for our readers. We weren’t having much luck finding anything that appealed to us.

As we finally changed directions, we searched through the filters offered in Homeaway.com as to the “type” of property. The options were many, such as villa, castle, barn style, townhouse, condo, apartment, etc.

The living room is ideal for our needs with a fireplace, flat-screen TV and what appears to be comfy furniture.

Something caught my eye, a “farm.” What if we lived on a farm in New Zealand? How exciting that could be!  There were only two possibilities; both expensive and, over our budget. Perhaps a compromise would work.  Both had a lot of appeal to us but for me, one in particular. We appealed to both owners.

One came back at a proposal that was higher than we’d like to pay at US $4500 a month, EU $3296. We always strive to keep our monthly rent under US $3000, EU $2197. Here in Portugal in this gorgeous home, the rent was well under US $5000, EU $3662 total for the full 75 days! This type of reasonable pricing has been the norm for us as we’ve traveled the world.

The second farm came back at a more reasonable price, here again, based on our long term stay, from a kind and generous owner who may have predicted through our email communication, that we’d be decent renters who’d take care of their lovely farmhouse. 

Wonderful kitchen with cozy breakfast bar, modern stainless appliances and all the kitchen items we’ll need.  There’s a dining room table and chairs as shown to the left.

This farm has a magical quality that particularly grabs my heart…it’s an alpaca farm. And, when I saw the photo, although somewhat blurry, of the alpacas staring into a camera, my heart melted, my pulse quickened and I was in love.

Yes, I know dear readers, I’ll try not to bore you with endless photos of every possible pose an alpaca can make. I attempted to control myself with the rather homely warthogs in Marloth Park. Although early on in our arrival, I had a difficult time refraining when I literally fell in love with their adorable personalities.

If the warthog’s homeliness may have tempered my photo-taking enthusiasm how will I manage to contain myself with these adorable alpacas? Luckily, the area in which the farm is conveniently located is close to many attractions allowing us many photo opportunities of a variety of subjects besides the alpacas.

This the master bedroom with an en suite bathroom. There’s a second bedroom which I’ll use for my clothing and dressing room.

Views of Mount Taranaki provide an excellent backdrop to our upcoming farm living as mentioned on the Homeaway site, as “Just 10 km, 6.2 miles, from New Plymouth, the many attractions Taranaki has to offer are close by such as such as beaches, mountains, gardens, golf courses, parks, museums, art galleries and more.” There are 100 restaurants rated for New Plymouth on TripAdvisor making dining out close and convenient.

We are grateful to have found this setting for the upcoming 83 days from January 19, 2016, to April 11, 2016, when we’ll fly back to Sydney, Australia on a less than four-hour flight to board another cruise that sails on April 12th. Once booked over the next several days, we’ll share the details.

Today, we’re posting photos from the Homeaway listing of the alpaca farm which are a bit blurry. I can only imagine how fun it will be to post our own photos in the future.

We realize that this booking seems so far away at this point in order to garner this level of enthusiasm but, it’s actually we’ll be there in only 18½ months. We left the US 18 months ago today. How quickly that time has passed. Of course, we’re not wishing time to fly by. We have the moment, Paris, London, cruises, Hawaii, family visiting, Australia, Fiji, and now New Zealand ahead of us, all eliciting enthusiasm and excitement.

Even today, as we venture out once again to further explore this magical island posting new photos tomorrow and in days to come, we feel the same sense of excitement we’ve experienced in most places we’ve lived, as we continue to revel in the wonder and beauty in the world around us. 

We’ll be back tomorrow!

Photo from one year ago today, July 3, 2013:

We walked through the narrow alleys of Boveglio on our way to Bar Ferrari, where the locals gathered weekly for a party. For details of that story, please click here.

Patience and persistent…A necessary aspect of traveling the world…

An outdoor lawn ornament store in Campanario.

We still haven’t pinned down a booking in New Zealand, although we may be close. We don’t post details about a possible booking until it is confirmed and the deposit has been received.

Whether this flower was wilted or grows this way, we’ll never know.

In a way, I’m getting worried that as we continue to inquire, many owners or managers either don’t respond or don’t like our long term rental of 89 days.

The hillside scenery is always captivating.

When we first started looking we were hopeful when we noticed many affordable possibilities, but our hopes were soon dashed when we continued to be unable to pin something down.

Lilies, perhaps?

We wait for a final response on one on which that I’m trying to hold my enthusiasm at bay. We agreed on price and terms, but we had to drop six days from 89 to 83 when we found a possible cruise we’ll take after living in New Zealand. 

The purest shade of blue, the sea.

We wrote back late yesterday when it was the middle of the night in New Zealand. With the 11 hour time difference, it’s tricky trying to communicate. By the time I went to bed at 10 pm here, it was 9 am there. I assumed I’d find an email in my inbox this morning when I awoke early this morning dashing downstairs to check my computer. Alas, there was none.

Thank you ocean, for providing such views!

Disappointed, I wrote back once more verifying that my prior message was received. I know I’m persistent.  Some would let it lie and patiently await a response. Not I. I dig and I dig deep. It’s my nature, always has been, always will be.

We find a certain charm in laundry hanging off the railings of houses. We do the same when we hang our sheets and use the rack for the smaller items.

In reality, it takes at least one of us to be persistent and somewhat pushy when traveling the world. Í will admit that my pushiness always includes a high level of diplomacy and kindness. Tom, on the other hand, is either too nice or gets frustrated deferring to me to handle uncomfortable situations.

The effort that homeowners make in preparing a picturesque garden astounds us.

When it comes to our safety or well being, Tom is as persistent and pushy as anyone can be. Perhaps, it may be stereotyping male and female roles.

After spending three months in South Africa observing animal behavior, I’ve come to accept that the female and male of any species have specific roles ingrained in their DNA and, strengths and weaknesses that should be treasured for their uniqueness and contribution in a working relationship. 

Some blooming flowers remain as the season winds down as in the case of this pretty hibiscus.

As a result, I wait, albeit not patiently, to hear back from the property owner or if not by tonight, we’ll go back to the drawing board to return to the search once again. We have the remainder of this month to get this accomplished and off of our minds. 

This branch was in the way of my shot, but I took it anyway.

By the time that we’ll be situated in our next vacation rental with time for searching, it will be October in Hawaii. For some goofy reason, I don’t think we’ll want to be sitting inside staring at our computers looking for a place in New Zealand when we arrive in Hawaii. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Photo from one year ago, July 2, 2013:

The long, narrow roads between the houses in Boveglio, Italy were too narrow for cars On occasion, we’d see a tiny car manage to squeeze through. The roads were very steep and a walk was a huge feat of endurance, as is the case in Madeira. For details from that day, please click here.

Human error…It’s rampant…Self included…

Although views on the hills seem redundant, each one has its own unique appeal.

It’s hard to believe that today is July 1st. How the time flies. Today, is the day to pay the balance on our upcoming cruise from Vancouver to Hawaii in the amount of  US $3216.02, EU $2349.44, that sails in 84 days.  Our earlier cruise from London to Boston sails in 61 days is already paid in full.

Vacations to Go has a credit card number on file which they’ll bill today. Later in the day, I’ll look up the credit card online to verify that it’s been paid. One must never assume such payments are always handled properly.

We’re not quite sure why cactus grow freely on the island of Madeira with its temperate climate. Our perception has always been that cactus grow in hot dry climates. 

At times, we find errors when verifying financial matters online. We’ve become diligent in verifying every transaction in which we partake. Human error is rampant.

I see it in myself.  I make mistakes regularly.  With all of our checking and rechecking, errors are made. When I look back at prior posts when “fact-checking” a date or comment, invariably I find a typo, a wrong date, or an editing error. Many of our errors are caused by me after having also been checked by Tom each day. We continue to find errors.

Even a cloudy day has a certain amount of appeal.

Once again, I rationalize my online errors for this blog due to the fact that we post every day. Doing so is comparable to writing an essay for a class, correcting and editing it before turning it in for a grade. It takes a lot more time than we can easily spend each day.

Of course, when I hit the “publish” button every day around noon, I make the assumption after rereading each word, that it’s error-free. Once Tom reads it online after publication, he finds anywhere from zero to six or seven errors that I missed when proofing it. I go back to the editing page making the corrections immediately.

There are some areas where flowers continue to bloom. Although, we’ve noticed a decline in the number of summertime blooms.

Later, when I reread a particular post by chance, I find errors, often several that we both missed. The biggest problem we detect is spacing errors. When we’ve had a poor connection, I’ve had no control over editing these issues. When we do have a good connection, I may go back to correct them as I did today on the “one year ago” post for July 1, 2013, as shown below.

To go back in and correct almost 700 posts would take more time than I’m willing to spend. Don’t get me wrong, in a perfect world there wouldn’t be errors. But, I must admit I’ve become less obsessed with attempting perfection since we began traveling so long ago. It’s not worth the stress.

Views of the sea are ever-changing.

In my old life, like many other Type A personalities, I strived for perfection, never really achieving it, never feeling quite satisfied that I’d done all that I could possibly do.

In time, I learned that “Life’s true perfection” is actually based on one’s contentment and happiness, not in trying to make life perfect in the accomplishment of one’s tasks, whether it’s a dinner party, a family get together or a work-related project.

Today, we’ve included a few new photos from our outing last Thursday. 

In part, striving for perfection revolves around trying to “please others.” The reality is, that no matter how hard we try we’ll never please everyone, nor will we ever totally please ourselves.

When I think back to the fancy dinner parties we held over the years, the days of work and preparation, I now realize that all our guests really wanted was to spend time with us. Sure, the food and the ambiance were nice. 

The rose blooming season is almost over.  Yet, I continue to find a few new blooms when I walk in the neighborhood.

But, knowing how hard we worked “to please everyone” was lost in translation often making our guests feel guilty for enjoying the fruits of our labor.

Now, almost two years later, I can hardly think of having a dinner party for four, let alone for eight or twelve at a fancy table setting with days of preparation in making scrumptious food and creating a breathtaking ambiance. 

Rock formations often illustrate areas where water flows from the mountain tops.

Our kids are in for a big pleasant surprise when they come to Hawaii for Christmas when they realize that I won’t be spending the day in the kitchen trying to appease everyone’s particular tastes. 

Those days are long gone. Easy meals will be prepared with the same love as in the long-ago past with more time left for the things that really matter, such as being together.

These low lying clouds appear every few days.

As I write here today, later than usual when I went back to sleep after an unwelcome 6:00 am wake up, finally awakening at almost 9:00 am. I feel no sense of urgency or stress as my fingers happily fly across the keyboard, albeit requiring that I push the letter “i” extra hard which therein lies many of my errors of late.

I write “itinerary” as “ntnerary” later laughing at the irony of an error that I didn’t willfully incite. I do correct those errors when we catch them not as a result of perfection but as a sense of responsibility to our readers for them to be able to decipher our message of the day.

With the necessity of spending time wrapping up future bookings, hopefully, our time will be freed up over the upcoming months of August and September when we’ll be “on the move” in Paris, London, Vancouver, and sailing on two cruises. 

The terrains is not as green as it had been with little rain this past month.

Surely, during that period, we won’t be spending hours online other than posting daily and dealing with zillions of photos during a month at sea (WiFi is pricey aboard ship) or sitting in a hotel room when we’d rather be out exploring our surroundings.

Perfect or not, we joyfully continue to share our photos from our remaining time in Madeira, Portugal, writing each day sharing our thoughts and photos. Hopefully, many of our readers enjoy our lighthearted ramblings, or not. We can’t please everyone nor do we expect that it’s possible. 

Corn is growing in many areas on the island both for personal use and as a farming crop.

By the way, we’re close to wrapping up a booking in New Zealand. We’ll be back soon with details.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, July 1, 2013:

We were so far from civilization that we spent considerable time exploring the area of Boveglio, coming to knowing it well. This was the cemetery at the church across from our 300-year-old stone house. For details, please click here.