Big itinerary change!…Part 1…

Without a doubt, an itinerary change was inevitable. When we began this process, we decided that any major changes would not be on our part unless an unforeseen health issue or misrepresentation of the situation occurred. 

If we found a better “deal” elsewhere after paying a deposit on a vacation home or cruise, we agreed that we would stand behind our original decision.  Good health providing, we decided that if we arrived at a vacation home, finding it dirty or in ill repair or, not as represented, we would never force ourselves to stay for what could prove to be uncomfortable, dangerous in any manner or unbearable.

In the past, I was the person that would check out the hotel room to ensure it was to our liking before committing.  If it wasn’t, I would gently and kindly request an alternative, rather than ask for a price adjustment. 

At times, this resulted in an upgrade.  This was never intended to be a case of whining to “see what one could get” but more a situation of exercising the privilege of getting that which one pays for.  Fairness. 

Over the past several years, finally maturing in my 60’s, I became less picky, expending my energy on more important issues.  With Tom at my side, I could live in a tent.  Of course, the cotton inside the sleeping bag would be 600 pt. Egyptian cotton and the tea would be loose leaf Pouchong from Taiwan.

Our original plan had been to spend from May 4, 2013, after a cruise from Barcelona to Mallorca, staying until June 4, 2013 in the lovely property, high on a hill overlooking the sea, the beautiful historic island of Mallorca, Spain (also spelled, Majorca). 

It was a good plan, to be followed by a Mediterranean cruise from June 5th to June 16th which would end in Venice, Italy, where we’d take a train to Florence, spending the remainder of the summer in a renovated 17th century farmhouse in Tuscany.  Ah, what a plan!

Shortly before we left Minnesota 12 days ago, we were informed that the property in Mallorca may be sold.  Rather than leave the owner, a dear friend and neighbor in Minnesota, in a tough position we graciously agreed to bow out and find other accommodations for this time period while leaving all of our other plans in place.

The new challenge, to fill this odd time period from May 4th to June 4th with something especially daring and exiting, rather than filling the spot with a
month in a residence hotel.  Compared to our planned two to three month stays in various locations, this to us, was a short period to fill.

And fill it, we did. This weekend we wrapped up our plans:

May 5, 2013 – May 21, 2013- Aboard this 15 day cruise from Barcelona to Dubai:

FastDeal 10789
15 nights departing May 6, 2013 on
Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas
Cheapest Inside $959
Cheapest Oceanview $1,049
Cheapest Balcony $1,499
Cheapest Suite $2,649
$$$ Early booking bonus! Book now and receive a FREE $50 per cabin on board credit on select categories.
Royal Caribbean – Mariner of the Seas, departs 5/6/13, 15 nights
 Mon May 6 Barcelona, Spain 5:00pm
Tue May 7 At Sea
Wed May 8 At Sea
Thu May 9 At Sea
Fri  May 10 Cairo / Giza (Alexandria), Egypt 7:00am
Sat  May 11 Cairo / Giza (Alexandria), Egypt 3:00pm
Sun May 12 Suez Canal, Egypt (Cruising)
Mon May 13 Luxor (Safaga), Egypt 7:00am 10:00pm Tue May 14 Petra (Aqaba), Jordan 9:00am 10:00pm Wed May 15 At Sea
Thu May 16 At Sea
Fri   May 17 At Sea
Sat  May 18 At Sea
Sun May 19 At Sea
Mon May 20 At Sea
Tue  May 21 Dubai, United Arab Emirates 6:00am

With taxes the total was $3900, averaging at $260 per day for both of us, higher than our preferred $200 per day including meals. Plus, another $900 total for our return flight to Barcelona on June 4, 2013, yet to be booked. 

We realized this month long trip was higher than our budget allowed for any one month. But, averaging our total daily budget over the extended period of 945 days booked thus far, we’re still within our daily budget of under $200 per day including every known expense: health insurance, emergency evacuation, personal insurance,  XCom Global for MiFi Internet, incidentals, my lipstick, haircuts, booze aboard ship, tips, taxis, ferries, planes, car rentals, boat rides and on and on).

Giza and the Suez Canal become a dream come true only a short four months after we’ve experienced the Panama Canal on our cruise beginning on January 3, 2013, the date we first leave the US.  Tom loves the idea of seeing two of the largest waterways in the world, history buff that he is. 

Yes, we may ride a camel to see the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. And yes, photos will follow.

Please read this about Giza from Vacations to Go’s website:

“Highlights in Cairo include the Ibn Tulun Mosque, which dates to the ninth century, and the Citadel, a medieval fortress. Many passengers choose to visit the Great Pyramids of Giza, considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World; the Sphinx is nearby. Tours of these sites are offered on foot, horseback or camel. The port city of Alexandria is set on a strip of land between the Mediterranean Sea and Lake Mareotis, and serves as the gateway to Cairo and Giza. In Alexandria, a tour of the harbor and Montaza Palace or lounging on the beach are favorite activities.”And this about the Suez Canal:

“The Suez Canal runs 100 miles between the sand dunes of the Sinai Peninsula and the Nile River delta. Cruise ships often dock toward the canal’s north end at Port Said, a gateway to Cairo. From the port of Safaga at the south end, passengers are offered shore excursions to the ancient city of Luxor, where Tutankhamen was entombed.”

And this about Luxor:

“This small port city on the western shore of the Red Sea is a gateway to Luxor and all of the splendid Egyptian temples, tombs and ruins found there. After experiencing the sights on the east bank (including Karnak and the Luxor temples and Luxor Museum) cruise across the Nile to the west bank (where sights include the Valley of the Kings and the Temple of Queen Hashepsut). Although most people head straight to the ancient architectural treasures, scuba diving and windsurfing are popular activities in Safaga itself. “

As on our previously booked seven cruises (this being the eight cruise), we once again chose a Balcony Cabin with the assistance of our fabulous cruise professional, Joaquin Contreras from Vacations to Go, truly the king of cruise planning himself!  Thanks, Joaquin!

Here’s the link to the actual cruise with more details. 

Next post, we’ll share with you how we ‘ve booked the remaining 13 nights in Dubai from May 21st to June 3rd, after which we’ll fly back to Barcelona for the next cruise in our itinerary, the following day. 

There is never a moment that we don’t marvel in our willingness to take the risk of selling everything we owned, leaving everyone we love behind to embark on this adventure, in this perfect time in the economy, in this particular time in our lives; with one another, full of love, full of joy, full of wonder and full of gratitude. 

Giving up habits..Wean me slowly!…

Bye, bye tea!

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

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

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

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

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

Good riddance!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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