Sorry, no regular post today!…

Tom and I are patiently waiting for my turn. Tomorrow will be a new and brighter day, and we’ll post the outcome of today’s findings.

Astounding! We are so lucky to have all of you rooting for us! Again, .thanks for all the prayers and well wishes!
Back to you no later than 24 hours from now.
Be well.

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.