A huge savings after a phone call…Well worth the hour-long phone call…

Many mongooses stopped by for the new roll of paloney we purchased yesterday.

When Tom saw a mention on CruiseCritic.com that our upcoming Azamara cruise on August 1, 2023, had a price reduction, he was determined to see if we could make use of the promotion. On September 3, 2021, we booked the cruise and wrote about it in detail in this post.

We were excited about this cruise since we’ve longed to go to Norway for the longest time, but all the cruises were so expensive we hesitated to book this 600-passenger Azamara cruise. At the time, while we were here in Marloth Park, we hoped this smaller ship would be less likely to have as many cases of Covid-19 by the time it sailed.

At the time of the booking, neither of us had tested positive for Covid-19, and we’d hoped we’d never would. As it turned out, as most of our readers know, we were infected on the Celebrity Silhouette, with 2886 passengers, hundreds of which became infected with Omicron during the cruise.

It was a tough time for both of us when we became ill for many months. Tom got Covid pneumonia, and I got long-haul Covid sinus issues that still linger today, ten months later, although it has improved considerably in the past two months. You’d think we’d be gun-shy about sailing again, but we are still traveling the world, and for us, part of that experience is sailing on cruise ships and other vessels.

Zebras come to call.

We, like many others, have decided to move on with our lives, whether we’re traveling or not. We can’t remain entrapped in fear and apprehension over getting infected, now three years after the onset of the pandemic. Gosh, it was about this time, three years ago, that our private tour of India was fast coming to a close due to sightseeing venues rapidly shutting down, and only days later, our ten-month stint in lockdown in a Mumbai hotel room began.

Well, at least the cruise to Norway didn’t get canceled, as with many previously booked cruises. We’ve been excited to embark on this itinerary which we’ll share again when we set sail on August 1, 2023, less than six months from now. Or, if interested, you can click on the above link, here again to see the full itinerary.

As mentioned in that post, the total cost for the cruise for the two of us was listed as follows:

“The total cost of this cruise for the two of us is US $16,275, ZAR 234,559 (based on today’s value of the rand). The cruise includes an upgraded balcony cabin on the Azamara Journey, tips, drinks, and WiFi for one device. Once we board, we’ll pay for WiFi for a second device. Shore excursions are extra.”

Over the past year or so since we booked this cruise, there have been several price drops. In each case, Tom has called Costco Travel, which always requires over an hour on hold, but he was able to get the price dropped each time. Through his determination and patience, the price has decreased considerably.

Stopping for a drink from the pool.

On Saturday, Tom discovered another price drop, but based on the time difference and Costco’s hours of operation, he didn’t call to request the new lower price until Monday afternoon, when he knew Costco and Azamara’s offices would both be open. In each case, the rep from Costco has to call the cruise line to provide us with a lower price.

I should mention, as I have previously, that these price reductions are not automatic. It is up to the passengers to keep checking prices and promotions and inform their cruise booking service that they’d like to take advantage of a lowered price, added perks, or upgrades. Tom is diligent in keeping track of possible changes, saving us thousands of dollars over the years.

Then, of course, we had multiple credits from cruises Azamara canceled due to the pandemic, which we rolled forward to future cruises. But, for today’s sake, I am only getting into the difference from the original price to the new reductions that occurred in the past 18 months.

So here are the totals for two passengers in a balcony cabin

Original Price: US $16,275, ZAR 234,559

New Price:      US $7,522.62, ZAR 137025.36

As it turns out, the accumulated credits leave us with a credit balance, which the cruise line is applying back to our credit card on file. We owe nothing when the final payment is due on March 20, 2023. This gives us peace of mind after losing quite a bit over the Seychelles fiasco.

Here are some of the perks we’ll receive on this cruise:

  $450 Costco Shop Card Costco Shop Card
  Azamara’s Sale $250 per person Shipboard Credit
  Azamara’s Early Booking $150 per person Shipboard Credit
 ***The amenities included above (including shipboard credit or Costco Shop Card) are assigned to this booking as of (02/13/2023). Any changes to price, cabin, category, sailing date, promo, etc., may result in a change of amenities.***
We’ll use US $800, ZAR 14382.10, and shipboard credits toward WiFI fees. A basic drink package and tips are included in the cruise fare. We’ll pay extra for any shore excursions, but often we choose to go on private, small-group tours arranged with other passengers to travel on vans, instead of the 40-passenger bus experience, which we don’t care to do.
That’s it for today, folks.
Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, February 15, 2022:

This is a Thick Neck. He hasn’t been coming around as much as he did before Gordy claimed his territory. We can distinguish Gordy and Thick Neck from TN’s thicker neck and Adam’s Apple on his throat. Zoom in to see this anomaly. For more photos, please click here.

Harsh reality…Big disappointment…

A hornbill was sitting on the barbwire fence overlooking the Crocodile River.

I don’t know how to begin today’s post other than getting right to the point. We are sorely disappointed to have had no choice but to cancel our triple back-to-back cruises for 42 nights, beginning on November 8 and ending in Cape Town on December 20, 2022.

Azamara Cruise Line was vague about how we were supposed to get visas for the cruise. After numerous calls and email messages, we were directed to Visa Central, which handles acquiring visas for cruise passengers. But, for us, we ran into a huge obstacle.

Another hornbill.

Passengers can use Visa Central, living in the US and other countries. Still, to acquire the several visas needed for this long journey, they must send in their actual passports, which will be snail-mailed back to them when the visas are issued, with the passports stamped by the various embassies.

After considerable research, we found the facts and how they would apply to us. We cannot mail our passports to the US while living in a foreign country, leaving us without passports in our possession. This is foolhardy and impossible for us, especially during these trying times. One never knows what could happen, and we’d be left without our passports for over a month. No way.

A hornbill with a left wing askew.

On top of that, the snail mail process from South Africa is cumbersome and unpredictable. Sure, we could use FedEx or DHL, but that wouldn’t solve the problem of being without passports in our possession while here. The only alternative is to return to the US and stay there while the visas are processed and the passports are returned to us.

We aren’t interested in returning to the US right now, especially when the average cost for us to stay there is about US $10,000, ZAR 167992, per month with airfare, hotels, car rentals, and dining out. Plus, with our recent bad experiences, we just aren’t ready to return at this time for this purpose.

Two giraffes on the opposite side of the Crocodile River.

Thus, we had no choice but to cancel all three cruises. Last night we spent over three hours on the phone with Costco Travel, who called Azamara, and there was no solution for us other than to cancel. We’ll lose the US $300 for admin fees for the two cruises and nothing on the third, most recent upcoming cruise, which we already paid in full.

Getting the cash back for the cruise we paid in full is impossible. We have to apply it to a separate upcoming cruise in August 2023, which they’ll do without penalty. Even though Azamara’s website claims, “Cruise with Confidence,” it isn’t as confidence-inspiring as one might think when there are admin fees we have to pay.

This Cape buffalo was out like a light.

We had inquired about getting the visas a long time ago when we first booked the three back-to-back cruises. But, Covid-19 repercussions were still prevailing, and answers were vague and unsatisfactory. We figured we’d wait it out but never figured we’d ultimately have to cancel.

We are very disappointed. This was going to be one of the most exciting cruises out of the 27 cruises on which we’ve sailed over the years. Plus, we loved the idea of keeping this house for the six weeks we’d be gone and returning to Marloth Park on December 20, 2022, only three days before Tom’s 70th birthday.

Another Cape buffalo in deep repose.

Now, we’ll have to come up with a new plan to be able to get yet another visa stamp for that period. We’ve started researching other places in Africa we can visit when we need a new stamp in November. Also, we may decide to file for another extension using the law firm. We’ll see how things roll out. With so many flight cancellations right now, we have to give this some serious thought.

All of this can be directly attributed to Covid-19. Several countries we were scheduled to visit on the cruises previously had e-visa options for travelers. Now with all the issues due to the pandemic, many countries are reverting to more stringent requirements for tourists to acquire visas to visit their countries. Once again, we are caught up in the mess, costing us money and plans.

Two Cape buffalos were lounging on the bank of the river.

Looking on the bright side, we couldn’t be in a better place to figure this all out. We love our house, our friends and the amazing animals visiting us daily. We’ll continue to look to the future to see where and when we can travel. The challenges? Well, they just “go with the territory.”

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, July 7, 2021:

Tom’s new Samsonite leather computer backpack that he purchased a year ago while we were in the US. For more photos, please click here.