From the US to Turkey and back ... trips that were realized ... trips that had to be shortened ... trips that were canceled. All during a year that saw the world dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic.
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    European Quest Booked

    July 17, 2019, Barentsz Sea ⋅ 🌧 43 °F

    We're cruising the Barents Sea. Having called on Arkhangelsk, Russia yesterday, we're enjoying a day at sea aboard Oceania's Nautica on our way back to Norway. We did something today that impacts our 2020 travels, so I thought I'd write up a quick footprint to give our 2020 overseas travel journal a kick-start.

    Our plan was to keep 2020 fairly simple travel-wise. An Eastbound TransAtlantic at some point in the spring to take mom back home ... time in Turkey. That was it. Then we'd fly back to the US to spend the summer and fall months at home in order to explore our new home state ... perhaps with a new motorhome. Honest ... that was it.

    Today those plans jiggled when we booked a short 10-day cruise on Oceania's Marina. Roundtrip out of Southampton means no complicated logistics. Mostly new-to-us ports ... all but one of them in France. Sounds good to me.

    The itinerary is so port-intensive that we opted for an oceanview cabin ... the Cat C on Marina have floor-to-ceiling glass and are quite nice we've been told. This category was only available as a guarantee, so we might end up elsewhere on the ship. We'll have to wait and see.
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    Air to US ✔︎

    September 12, 2019 in Turkey ⋅ ☀️ 84 °F

    There are no westbound Transatlantic cruises from Europe to the US in June. Well, there might be on Cunard, but we're not interested in that cruise line. So, the only way to get back home after our European Quest cruise (R/T out of Southampton) is to fly back from the UK.

    We debated using miles to get award tickets on Delta or United. Then we remembered Sonia mentioning that Norwegian Air's premium cabin is pretty decent — especially for a long-haul low-cost airline. When our research unearthed a route from London Gatwick to Denver — non-stop no less — we were sold. Two bags each ... meal service ... extra legroom even if the seat doesn't lay flat ... pre-reserved seats (1A/C). Sounds good to us.
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    Eastbound T/A ... Westbound Air

    December 3, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 52 °F

    Busy day here in Colorado Springs ... finalizing some 2020 travel logistics.

    Taking advantage of Cyber Monday sales, yesterday I booked two cabins on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas. Full payment made today.

    This Oasis-class ship is a true behemoth that can carry 6,700+ passengers when booked at full capacity. I am hoping that our 1 March crossing to Europe will be closer to 5,000+🤞🏻. The ship will easily be the biggest one we've ever set sail on. Not sure how I feel about it, but the price was good ... and the date worked with our plans to get to Europe before the end of March. As well, our Elite+ standing with Celebrity's Captain's Club will be reciprocated as Diamond in RCI’s Crown & Anchor Club ... a few perks never hurt.

    Frankly, I was surprised at how late the eastbound T/As sail from the US. None of our preferred cruise lines leave until April. Oh well. One good thing about the Allure OTS ... there should be plenty to keep us busy on the nine-day crossing. Yup, nine days instead of the usual 6-7 days ... all because there is only one port of call in Málaga, Spain before we disembark in Barcelona on 13 March ... good thing we are not superstitious about that number!

    While I was in travel agent mode, I decided to take care of some airfare needs as well. First up ... I booked us on Southwest Airlines from Denver to Ft Lauderdale to embark Allure OTS on 1 March. We decided to add a few days in Florida pre-embarkation, so the date of the flight is set for 27 February. We'll Uber up to Denver to catch our Southwest flight.

    Then I booked us on THY from Barcelona to İzmir after we disembark Allure OTS. Too bad it's not a direct flight. We'll have to go through İstanbul ... sigh.

    Next, I turned my attention to the flight Mui and I need to get us to the UK to embark Oceania's Marina in Southampton on May 25. Here I lucked out with a Sun Express flight direct from İzmir to London Luton Airport (LTN) ... at a very good price. The only problem? This low-cost carrier operates only on select days ... in this case on May 22. What to do? Add a few pre-cruise days and do some sightseeing in the UK of course.

    A few logistics details remain ... booking accommodations for our three nights in Florida; getting from Luton to wherever we want to spend time before our European Quest cruise and figuring out where to stay; getting from Southampton to Gatwick after the cruise. I'll deal with all that another day.
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    Getting from Southampton to Gatwick

    December 4, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 52 °F

    Having been to Southampton a couple of times now, finding a way to get us to the airport after we disembark Oceania's Marina on 4 June was easy peasy. It certainly pays to have prior experience of a port!

    I clicked open the National Express website to purchase bus tickets. Good thing I called Mui over to verify the dates and times ... I almost bought tickets to Heathrow since that is our usual airport in London. Not this time, though ... Norwegian Air operates out of Gatwick.

    The 9:10a departure will get us to Gatwick at 11:50a ... plenty of time to spare before our 4:00p flight departure. I opted to pay extra to reserve seats — 1C/D — so we won't have to worry about queuing up with the masses to get a decent seat. Another logistics detail ✔︎.

    P.S. An Uber or a cab from the taxi stand at the cruise terminal will easily get us to the Southampton coach station on Harbour Parade. That means I have two logistics details taken care of today 😊
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    Switched Cabins

    December 6, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 43 °F

    After booking the TransAtlantic, I started worrying about the fact that our cabin connected to another one. We find the noise that can filter through a connecting door especially bothersome. So why did I accept the cabin to begin with? I wanted to be adjacent to mom's cabin. Available cabins that met that requirement were few.

    Fingers crossed, I called RCI today. As luck would have it, 7316 had opened up. A few quick keyboard strokes and we were no longer in 7312.

    P.S. If you read between the lines, you'll figure out that mom will be in 7314 😉
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    FLL 2020 Logistics Cont'd

    December 9, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 37 °F

    After being out and about with mom and Aylin for several days in a row, I took advantage of a cold day here in Colorado Springs (high of 36F / low of 19F) to stay home and deal with a few more details for our pre-T/A days in Ft Lauderdale.

    First up, Mui rented a car from Alamo to get us around. They claim to still operate a shuttle from FLL to Port Everglades, but I've read conflicting reports. I guess we'll see what happens when we go to turn in the car on 1 March. Worse case ... Uber or a taxi will get us to the port.

    While Mui was taking care of wheels for us, I was researching accommodations. It didn't take long to determine that booking two hotel rooms would be pricey ... especially since we'd also have to pay to eat out three times a day. So, I turned my attention to VRBO and the like for an apartment or bungalow or condo ... anything that would sleep three in two separate rooms.

    I found what I was looking for on — Alani Bay Luxury Condos. A family-owned property ... with free parking, which is a big deal in Ft Lauderdale. We'll plan on having breakfast and one other meal at home ... maybe dinner ... if, that is, we don't meet up with friends who live in the area.

    We have until a month prior to our arrival to cancel if something else pops up ... not that I will be actively looking.
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    Checked in for the T/A

    December 30, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 32 °F

    We have 62 days to go before we embark Allure of the Seas for the TransAtlantic crossing from Ft Lauderdale to Barcelona.

    Unlike airlines, which allow passengers to check-in for a flight 24 hours ahead of the scheduled departure time, I was able to check-in for our cruise earlier this week. No need to print out anything ... the SetSail passes are available in the app on my smartphone.

    There will be plenty of entertainment opportunities during the cruise ... most just walk-in. However, reservations are highly recommended for a few of the featured shows (no charge) ... such as Mamma Mia, Ocean Aria, Ice Games, and Blue Planet. This is new to me ... we've never had to pre-book shows before. I guess I can understand the need to do so, however — we'll be sailing on a behemoth after all.
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    T/A Docs Ready

    January 14, 2020 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 48 °F

    Forty-six days to go before we embark Allure of the Seas in Ft Lauderdale, FL.

    Final documents issued ... ✔️

    Luggage tags printed ... ✔️

    Boarding passes issued (and available on the Royal Caribbean app) ... ✔️

    Port plans ... ✔️ We have only one port of call on this 12-day TransAtlantic crossing. It’s a port we’ve been to before so I’ve not had to do a whole lot of research ... just a matter of picking one or two of the many sightseeing options in the city. Even lunch is a no-brainer ... assuming, that is, the weather cooperates for us to dine al fresco. If not ... well, I’m sure we’ll find an alternative restaurant that serves a tapas lunch.
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    UK Logistics ✔︎

    January 18, 2020 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 28 °F

    Back in early December, I booked a flight on Sun Express to get us from Turkey to the UK for our European Quest cruise roundtrip out of Southampton. The reason I picked Sun Express was that we can fly non-stop out of Izmir ... any flight that avoids connecting in Istanbul is a good thing IMHO.

    The downside — well, not really since it gives us extra sightseeing time — is that Sun Express operates this flight on specific days. In this case, on 22 May. Our cruise departs on 25 May. Thus, our plan to fly in only a day before embarkation was replaced with a multi-day stay prior to the cruise.

    The question then became — where to focus our limited time. My first instinct was to use Southampton as a base as that would work out well to visit Highclere Castle ... of Downton Abbey fame. Turns out that the castle is open to the public only on specific days, and the one that worked for us had an event scheduled. No can do ... don't want to deal with extra crowds. So, I shifted gears.

    After consulting my Lonely Planet guidebook, I proposed to Mui that we visit the southeast corner of England, including Rye, which is described as "one of England's prettiest towns." It certainly seems like there is plenty of things to keep us occupied for more than two days, but we'll at least get a taste of what the region has to offer.

    Today, Mui rented us a car ... at what I think is a reasonable rate considering we'll be picking up at Luton Airport and dropping off at Southampton port.

    I wasn't idle either. I booked us into a B&B in Tenterden, which a TripAdvisor forum member suggested as a central location and described as "... a nice little town in the heart of some lovely countryside." Works for us. Ivy Cottage is highly rated by those who have stayed there and the property owners have already been in touch with us ... very welcoming.

    Now to come up with some "fluid" sightseeing plans that we can adjust based on weather and other considerations once we arrive in England.
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    European Quest Saving Money

    January 23, 2020 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 39 °F

    Oceania Cruises has two pricing points. Well, three really. OLife, which includes airfare and one other amenity, such as a certain number of excursions, drinks, or onboard credit (OBC). OLife, without the included air, for which passengers get credit for not taking the airfare but can still get one amenity. CruiseOnly is the third option ... self-explanatory.

    When we booked our European Quest cruise, we opted for OLife with OBC and took the credit for the included air. We’re usually coming from or going to a cruise from somewhere other than the US, so arranging our own air makes sense to us.

    For the European Quest cruise, we have OBC — OBN really since it is non-refundable use-it-or-lose-it money — from two sources. One is the OLife perk mentioned above. The other is for having reached platinum level in the Oceania Club. Together they add up to a nice chunk of money. We don’t drink much, we seldom shop in the onboard boutiques, we don’t typically do ship-sponsored excursions, and our gratuities are prepaid by O as a platinum perk. So the funny money is usually spent on massage treatments. That is great when you have plenty of relaxing days at sea. On our upcoming 10-day cruise we have nine ports of call. Or putting it another way, we only have one day at sea. Not much time for a bunch of massages. What to do?

    We can’t do anything about the platinum perk OBC ... it’s just there ... no way to remove it. But we can do something about the OLife OBC by converting our booking to cruise-only since we have yet to make the final payment. So that’s what we did today. Our cruisefare dropped by an amount commensurate with the O Life OBC we canceled. Sure felt good to save some money. Especially since we still have the platinum OBC, which combined with the spa voucher we get for being platinum, will still buy us a couple of massages. All’s good.
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