We booked a hotel at Cleveland Clinic…

A craggy shore in Madeira, Portugal.

With only 50 days until we leave for Cleveland, it was time to book something for at least our first week there. At this point, we have no idea how long all the tests will take before the surgery is scheduled or how far out the surgery will be scheduled. There may be many patients in much worse condition that will be scheduled ahead of me, of course, depending on how I am doing at the time of my first three appointments on August 28.

If I am “holding my own,” it could be two or three months until the surgery is scheduled. The question is, “Do we stay in Cleveland in case of an unforeseen event requiring immediate surgery? Or do we go somewhere else while we wait?”

Only time will tell, along with the test results determining the urgency of my case. Right now, my only obvious symptoms of valve disease are difficulty walking and occasionally being out of breath. I don’t have the classic swollen legs and chest pains, which are severe symptoms of the condition.

However, the two valves have been diagnosed by three cardiologists and echocardiograms as being “severe,” which, untreated, could result in a stroke or heart attack if left too long without treatment. There are no drugs that can prevent these potential outcomes.

In reality, regardless of how long we have to wait for surgery, we’re better off staying there than in some other city in the US. We must play it by ear and see what transpires during that first week or two.

As a result, we booked only one week at a hotel connected to the clinic with a shuttle service back and forth to the hospital. Finding an affordable hotel was a lot trickier than expected. We were willing to pay more than usual for the convenience of the first week of tests and may have to extend it if further testing is required. There again, we have no idea at this point.

This morning, we started searching online. We were particularly interested in the Intercontinental Hotel, Cleveland Clinic, since it is .2 miles from the hospital, which has a shuttle back and forth, preventing us from the necessity of renting a car for the first week. Here are the prices we encountered:


InterContinental Cleveland, an IHG Hotel

InterContinental Cleveland, an IHG HotelOfficial site

14% off


Free cancellation until Sep 8


Free cancellation until Sep 7
All options

InterContinental Cleveland, an IHG Hotel

InterContinental Cleveland, an IHG HotelOfficial site

Hotels In America

Hotels In America
With these high prices, most of which didn’t include taxes and fees, we searched further from Expedia on our website at the link on the right side of our page. Because we are Platinum members and use $46.00 in One Key cash, we could book the week for an average of $211 per night.
Of course, these perks may not be available to those using Expedia infrequently, but we’ve found it’s an excellent place for frequent travelers. Building relationships with various sites that provide excellent pricing for their frequent users takes time and effort.
Once we have completed the first round of tests after consulting with the doctors, we can make a plan for our future stay. We may stay a few miles from the clinic, where prices are considerably lower. We might stay further away during a waiting period and move closer once the surgery transpires. We shall see.
That’s it for today, dear readers. Thanks for all the well wishes, supportive comments, and emails regarding our Fourth of July post two days ago.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, July 6, 2014:

Even a cloudy day in Madeira, Portugal, has some appeal. For more photos, please click here.

Boston, Massachusetts, our hotel booking for next September…why Boston?…a sorrowful loss lingers on…

My parent’s wedding photo.

Spending the first 10 years of my life living in sunny California, I was saddened when our parents told my two sisters and I that due to our father’s employment and desire to be near his mother in her later years, we were leaving our ranch home in Long Beach to move to Boston. 

Our grandmother, whom we adored, owned a triplex on a dreary residential neighborhood with a state mental institution at the end of the street to be found by a relatively short walk up the steep road, difficult to navigate in the snow and ice of winter. 

In 1958, we left that California home, which my parents rented long term to the baseball player, Gil Hodges from the LA Dodgers.  Moving into the main floor of our grandmother’s triplex in Boston was traumatic.  I felt frightened by the neighborhood, the school, the mental patients who wandered aimlessly in the streets during the day and were prompted to return to the hospital at night by the sound of an earsplitting horn.

In a perpetual state of terror, I remained quiet and to myself focusing on my studies.  My father meant the world to me. 

In those days, children didn’t speak of being frightened, fearful that parents would disapprove of weakness.  His gentle demeanor along with his frequent hugs and kisses went far in helping us get through.

In October 1960, my father was killed in an industrial accident, living three days with third degree burns over 98% of his body. 

Life was changed forever.  How could I live without him?  He is buried in Boston.  Soon, I will visit his grave.  I still miss him today.

A few months later at Christmas, my mother and 16 year old sister who was granted a driver’s license only days before we left, drove us the long scary drive back to California.  We spent Christmas Eve in a dumpy hotel in Lubbock, Texas.  No gifts, no celebration, only sorrow filled hearts.  I was 12 years old. My younger sister was four years old, sent ahead on an airplane with my mother’s parents, our grandparents, who’d come from their home in California to Boston for our father’s funeral.

We moved into an apartment while waiting for Gil Hodges’ lease to run out. It was almost another full year, requiring us to change schools two more times.

Moving back into that house was angst ridden.  At that point, the emotional toll over the loss of this beloved man was almost more than we could bear.  Each of our lives became fraught with sorrow but somehow filled with an unstoppable desire to survive and… to succeed. 

In our own ways, each of the three of us sisters, found a determination only grief can manifest.  Today, the three of us couldn’t be closer, loving and respectful of one another and able to laugh together as with no one else.

In 1976, the last time I was in Boston, my sisters and I returned to visit our grandmother and family members (with whom we’d stayed in close touch over the years) and to visit our father’s grave.

Returning on September 14, 2014, once again I’ll see our few remaining family members, my dear cousin and my treasured uncle, my father’s brother, who continues to enjoy life at the age of 94.  And, once again, I’ll visit my father’s grave.  The prospect of this visit fills me with a deep sorrow that tightens my throat, as the tears flow freely.

This, is why we chose a cruise ship from London that ends in Boston.  Tom, an ancestry.com buff, has pieced together not only his roots but mine as well.  He’ll be at my side both in love and in his desire to complete some of the missing pieces in my family history.

Many of you have known such loss, easily relating to my story.  Recently, a dear friend on Facebook shares her loss of a sister and in her grief, I am brought back to my own, as some of you may feel on this part of the journey with me.

Life is short.  Life is fragile.  Life is filled with ways in which we can heal and which in essence, becomes a choice.  It’s a choice to celebrate the life of the ones we’ve lost, of the ones we’ve loved and to carry with us the gifts that their lives gave us, that linger on forever.

Here’s the link to our hotel in Norwood, Massachusetts, close to Boston.  The hotel required payment in full for the good rates we received for an upgraded room for these dates:

Room charges
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Monday, September 15, 2014
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Tax recovery charges and service fees

The nuances of booking hotels throughout the world…Expected costs for hotels meeting our criteria…

On our first cruise and venture outside the US on January 3, 2013 on the Celebrity Century, an “Old Hollywood” style ship through the breathtaking Panama Canal.  This cruise line and particular ship still remain as our favorite, even after an additional 7 cruises that followed. Our all-time favorite bartender is shown in the far right, Juan.  What a guy!

Over the next 12 months, we will be staying in hotels for short periods while we’re between modes of transportation or, between pre-booked vacation homes. We’ve shared some of that information with you in prior posts.

But as time marches on, we realize how reliant we are on available hotels and the criteria we’ve established that fulfills our goals including:

  • Free WiFi (when possible)
  • Laundry facilities in room or in the building
  • A sofa in room (it’s tough to sit on the bed typing on my laptop for hours posting photos and writing)
  • Convenient location: to our next destination (when possible), for sightseeing, (if time allows) and for local modes of transportation for dining out, grocery shopping, etc.
  • Kitchenette or full kitchen for longer stays (when possible)
  • Reasonable cost (in most cities a decent hotel room will run from US $175 to US $200 per night or more with city taxes and fees
  • Air conditioning (we seldom, if ever, will travel in cold climates)
  • Safe in room
  • Good view. For us, this is important. If we’re to pay US $200 a night, we want a good, if not great view.
  • Great reviews by recent guests for a 4.0 rating or higher. Tom will read from 30 to 50 recent reviews to satisfy our objectives.

Researching online is a laborious process when trying to achieve all the above criteria, although filters are allowing us to select most of these features. However, we choose not to use the filters in the event we may be willing to forego features when the remaining aspects are more than befitting.

We tend to use the advertisers on our site, which includes: Hotels.com and Expedia.com for the best rates and convenience. We’re signed up for points and perks at both of these websites as is the option for any travelers. Feel free to use these and any of our other readily available links.

In our early planning stages, we’d hoped to avoid hotel stays as much as possible due to the added expenses, not only the cost of the room but also the necessity of dining in restaurants for all meals, extra cab fares, and tips which add up quickly.

So far, the necessity of booking hotels is for the following dates and cities (reasons are listed)

1.  November 30, 2013, Johannesburg, South Africa: With a 12-hour layover on our way to Mpumalanga, South Africa, we chose to stay overnight rather than wait in the airport. 
2.  August 1 to August 16, 2014, Paris, France: With a one-month layover in Europe while we await our transatlantic cruise out of London, we decided o the two-week stay we described in a prior post.
3.  August 16 to August 31, 2014, London, England: This period is the second half of our one month waiting period for our upcoming transatlantic cruise out of London on August 31, 2014, arriving in Boston, Massachusetts, US on September 14, 2014.
4.  September 14 to September 17, 2014, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. We’ll stay in Boston to spend time with family and to visit the cemetery where my father is buried, who passed away when I was 12 years old in a tragic accident. On September 17th we fly from Boston to Vancouver.
5.  September 17 to September 23, 2014, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. During this period, we get to know Vancouver while we’re awaiting our upcoming cruise from Vancouver to Hawaii, sailing on September 23, 2014, a partial Pacific Ocean crossing.
6.  October 5 to November 30, 2014, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA. At this point, we’re looking to fill this period with a hotel booking in Honolulu for a possible 2 weeks with the remaining period in vacation homes on other Hawaiian islands.  Hawaii is expensive, more than any other location we’ve researched thus far. We shall see what we find, posting our bookings here when completed.

For the best rates for many hotels, a prepaid, non-refundable price is an option. When possible, we prefer cancellable rates but often this runs as high as US $50 more per night. We weight each situation case by case, deciding, based on our options. 

Yes, we currently have paid out US $5100 in hotel pre-booking fees, US $3800 of which is non-refundable. This enabled us to get a fabulous room in an almost completely booked hotel at a considerably lower price. We decided to take the risk, which we won’t take in every case. But on occasion, it may be a decision one may choose to make.

As you can see, booking hotels (and vacation homes) is a time consuming, a thought-provoking process requiring diligence, persistence, and patience. I recall the amount of time I spent in our old lives, booking a hotel and air travel for a single trip. Now, faced with all of these, (some of which we’ve already booked), it can be a daunting task when looked at in its entirety. 

But, in line with our motto of “wafting through our worldwide travels with ease, joy, and simplicity,” we’ve chosen to take “bite-sized pieces,” nibbling away, in a manner we both find pleasurable and fulfilling. After all, the planning process is almost as much fun as “getting there.”

Time to book hotel reservations for Barcelona….Itinerary updates…

Yesterday, while we were docked in Colon, Panama again staying onboard, we realized it was time to go online to book a few hotel reservations. We had a strong signal with our XCOM Global WiFi and decided to take advantage of the it.

Now, today, we’re in Puerto Limon, Costa Rico, comfortably seated in the Sky Observation Lounge in the bow of the ship, hoping to get a better Internet signal with our XCOM Global MiFi, while we notice a number of passengers getting off of the ship, walking the mile long parking lot and subsequently returning to the ship.  Apparently, there was nothing to see from this location. 

The few offered excursions included a bumpy bus ride to “touristy” shopping areas at the cost of $49 per person.  Why spend money to spend money on items we don’t need or want?

As mentioned earlier, we had no problem visiting a few of the same ports we experienced earlier in the month on our journey through the Panama Canal.  We love cruising and visiting two of the same ports in the past three weeks was no different to us than if one was on vacation and awoke in the morning to the same view as the prior day.  No big deal, right?

On to our hotel reservations.  Requiring reservations on two separate nights, May 5, 2013 and June 3, 2013 in Barcelona while we’re between cruises, it was time to book these after we had made our airline reservations from Dubai back to Barcelona with Emirates Airlines last weekend while in Florida.

Here’s how this looks directly from a portion of our itinerary.  The highlighted items are  five of our six remaining cruises.   Everything you see here is booked, as is the reminder of the first 2 1/2 years of our journey which will grow as we continue on:

Belize to Miami  (return trip to Miami from Belize)
3 4/9/2013 –
Cruise Miami to Miami (Caribbean cruise) 7 4/13/2013-4/20/2013
Cruise Miami to Barcelona
Cruise (across the ocean)
11 4/20/2013 -5/1/2013
Cruise Barcelona to Mallorca 4 5/1/2013 – 5/5/2013
Hotel Barcelona 1 5/5/2013 – 5/6/2013
Cruise Barcelona to Dubai 15 5/6/2012 – 5/21/2013
Dubai Condo – High Rise Tower
overlooking Palm Island
13 5/21/2013 – 6/3/2013
Flight Dubai to Barcelona 0 6/3/2013-6/3/2013
Hotel Barcelona 1 6/3/2013-6/4/2013
Barcelona to Venice – Cruise 12 6/4/2013-6/16/2013

As a pleasing point to us, the above first two cruises, beginning on 4/9/2013 and 4/13/2012 respectively, are on the same ship and in the same cabin.  The next two, beginning on 4/20/2013 and 5/1/2013 are also the same ship, same cabin.  This translates into a 10 day stint and a 15 day stint moving only once in between. 

We felt lucky to have been able to do this.  But, after meeting many people aboard ship, apparently avid travelers often book cruises back to back to avoid moving luggage and for the purpose of extending their experience on one particular ship.

Ideally, we wouldn’t have these nights in between the cruises but based on the advice of our cruise guy, Joaquin, at Vacations to Go, it was too risky to plan to get on another cruise on the same day when subject to an airline reservation. 

This is the case on the return flight to Barcelona from Dubai on June 3, 2013.  The earlier date in May was simply an extra day in between two cruises.  That was as tight as we could book these particular two cruises. 

Yesterday, off to Expedia.com we began a search for an affordable highly rated hotel in expensive Barcelona our criteria being:  close to the pier, free WiFi (which we may not need if we have our trusty MiFi), rated four stars or more by Expedia reviewers. 

We lucked out!  Our first reservation for May is $166 a night and the second in June is $140 (both with taxes) and to boot, with a 4.7 our of a possible 5 star rating. We couldn’t be more thrilled. 

Earlier today, while looking online for a storage facility in Barcelona to store our excess baggage during our trips to Dubai, Kenya and South Africa (when we’ll have no choice but to fly), I stumbled across a few travelers who had worked with a number of hotels in Barcelona which were willing to store luggage for a fee for extended periods.  This would be ideal with Barcelona as a central location for many of our comings and goings.

If we can’t convince the hotel to store our bags, there is a huge self service storage facility less than five miles from the hotel.  As time approaches and we have a better feel for what we’ll need in our luggage, we’ll decide if its worth storing two or three large bags or paying for excess baggage fees.  We don’t fly until May leaving us time to figure it out. 

Check out this link for the Grums Hotel in Barcelona for our two separate nights.  We opted for non-refundable reservations for both nights in order to save almost $100. 

How did people travel the world without use of the Internet?  Somehow, they managed, making endless long distance phone calls, using the services of travel agencies, all the while booking directly with each establishment. 

The time saving benefits of using the Internet makes this experience much easier for us.  However, in any case, it still requires an enormous amount of advance thinking and planning.

A few night ago at dinner we spoke to a couple, perhaps a few years older than us, who said they’d spent days planning this single cruise.  They asked, “How in the world did you book one location after another, keeping it all straight?”

The answer is clear to us…bite sized pieces coupled with precise record keeping with absolutely NO RISK of losing the records by storing them in multiple locations.  In our case, we’ve stored all of our records (and photos) in Dropbox of which we each have separate accounts, local copies on the desktops of each of our computers and in each of our Outlook and Gmail accounts.  In addition, my new Windows 8 laptop has the cloud Skydrive where we also store copies.

Thus, if both of our computers were stolen, all of our records (and photos) would be readily available online in our multiple accounts.  This gives us considerable piece of mind. 

Wherever we may go, whatever plans we may make, there will never be a time as we continue to travel the world, that we can stop being mindful of the next location.  Luckily, we both enjoy the process.  Tom may not do as much of the searching as I do but his suggestions and input is equally valuable to us in the process.  Is it overwhelming?  Not at all. 

For me, its not unlike grocery shopping.  If we like homemade food, we make a list,  plan meals creating a menu for the week, whether written or in our heads.  I’ve never tired of grocery shopping.  Each time I walked into the same or a different grocery store, I was challenged by the opportunity to make delicious and varied meals that we or our guests would enjoy.

Its the same with planning our next step in the journey; make a list of that which we desire to do, first consider our existing itinerary, plan a budget, do some research to determine if it is possible and affordable and then…begin booking, all the while documenting the results. 

Actually, I do miss grocery shopping.  After almost 23 days aboard ship with every meal prepared for us, it’ll be time to dig out that little skillet I stuffed into one of our bags and start cooking again. 

In a matter of a mere three days from today, we’ll be tucked into our little beach house in Placencia, Belize figuring out how to get a ride to the grocery store to purchase our first week’s groceries.  Wonder if they’ll have grass-fed meat, organic vegetables, coconut oil, free range chicken and eggs.

If not, well…we’ll improvise.