Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Reverse Thrusters! Middle East to the Mediterranean

Carpe Diem,seize the day!  Carpe Deal,seize the deal! 

Those are the philosophies guiding our travels these days. Which means sometimes we just never know where we might end up. Only two weeks ago, I  was telling you about that cruise we’d booked, the round-trip Abu Dhabi, Arabian Sea adventure. And that's where we were headed, until a week ago when . . .

The Scout and I were on our back deck enjoying our Friday afternoon ‘coffee break’ (a carry over from our 8–to–5 work-world; now just a relaxed time of sipping Starbucks and a bit of conversation) he off-handedly mentioned,

“I found a cruise you should take a look at.” (You know how The Scout is always scouting for deals and destinations).

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Celebrity Constellation
He proceeded to show me a Celebrity cruise that departs Rome, Italy on November 2nd and ends up in Athens, Greece 12 nights later.  It is the Constellation; the same ship sailing to and from Abu Dhabi and the one on which we crossed the Atlantic a few years ago. She’s affectionately called, “Connie” by repeat guests.

The routing
The routing (shown above) appealed because it  included stops in some of our favorite Mediterranean places, but it was the price that jolted me far more than the java I was sipping: only $849 per person for a balcony room.  Ocean view, $723, and inside cabins only $653.  Were they kidding? Or was it a series of typos? Those were incredibly good prices!

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Athen's Acropolis from the Electra Palace Hotel
Hmmmm. . .it ends in Athens. “That would be convenient,” I said. We could get a rental car at the port and drive home. (Short flights and easier travel in Europe was one of the factors we considered before buying our Stone House on the Hill in Greece.)

Now admittedly it ends in Athens because Celebrity has pulled out of Istanbul as result of recent unrest there and it does have three days and nights in Israel and one in Turkey (Kusadasi). Each of those stops could still be could be changed on a moment’s notice as result of safety concerns, but then any port can be pulled for a variety of reasons on cruise itineraries, even weather. If so, some other interesting port would be substituted or we’d spend another day at sea.  Not tough duty anyway you look at it.

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A balcony room on the Constellation
The Scout pointed out this cruise is three nights longer and cheaper than the one we had just booked in the Middle East.  Airfare to Rome from Athens (with the checked bag fee included) is $154 for the two of us. . .another cost savings over the flights to and from Abu Dhabi.

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Sunsets at Sea can't be beat
We refilled the coffee cups and grabbed the calendar. We were still well outside the final payment (90 days in advance in this case) of that Arabian Sea cruise we’d just booked.  We’d get our entire down-payment back; in fact we’d just transfer it to this cruise.  Downside of this cruise: we are within the 90 days so full payment was required at time of booking. And no changing our minds once that happens. . .

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Hora Sfakia, southern coast of Crete
We discussed the pluses and minuses of the two cruises. One would sail us into whole new worlds and the other would take us back to old favorite places.

Then we talked about that pizza we’d eaten in Naples on our last cruise visit there several years ago. “Oh, there’s that wine bar near the Spanish Steps in Rome. We could go back there,” I suggested.  The Scout noted that we’d have time in Crete to rent a car and drive down to the village of Hora Sfakia on the island’s southern coast and visit Greek friends there.  Israel, with an overnight stay in the port of Ashdod puts us near Tel Aviv and all the attractions it offers visitors. Kusadasi is the gateway to Ephesus. . .

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Sea Days are among my favorites
Two hours later we’d 'reversed thrusters', and with the final payment made on Saturday morning, we are set to sail the Mediterranean ~ we’ll get back to the Middle East one of these days!

Before You ‘Carpe Cruise Deals’

There are deals to be had in Europe (land and sea) now. I checked and the deals are still available for this cruise if anyone is interested.  We use a few filters before jumping on a deal - just to make sure we aren't blind-sided later. Here are some of our considerations:

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Basking in the Mediterranean Sun - Celebrity Constellation
-- Cost of the airfare? Consider how much your airfare will add to the cost of the trip before signing up for a cruise deal. If you find a fly/cruise package check to see if booking your air travel separately might save you money.

-- Cost of hotels? It is best to schedule your arrival for a cruise one day early as it gives you time to get over jet lag if coming a long distance, retrieve luggage that might have been delayed and simply  enjoy the port city and not view it from the back of a cab racing to the ship.  It does mean you’ll need to add the cost of a hotel stay to your projections. We've decided to stay two nights in Rome because of low hotel rates.

-- What is the real cruise cost? Does the price quoted include port charges and taxes?  These can be significant additional costs. What are the terms of cancellation? (That's important if you change your mind as frequently as we do.)

-- What are the onboard benefits?  We are receiving a $450 on-board ship credit (which can be used to purchase excursions, beverages, internet, for example), and had our choice of a beverage package for two, prepaid gratuities, or free internet.  The on-board benefits represent significant cost savings.

-- Is a better deal available through a different agency?  Now some of you are loyal to ‘your’ travel agent and would never change and we understand that.  However we have found deals vary between on line agencies that specialize in cruises.  We have used Cruise Compete to compare prices (as everyone can do) and we’ve seen differences of several hundred dollars in costs or on-board benefit packages. We routinely use Vacations To Go and Cru Con on-line agencies.

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Cabin location on a ship can afford interesting views - here we watched the refueling operation

-- What is the category of the cabin and where is that group located on the ship?  An ocean view room that is at the waterline won’t provide much view nor is a ‘view obstructed balcony/veranda’ going to be much fun either.  Find out the category of the room, then go to a layout of the ship (found on the cruise line’s web site) and check for that category’s location and deck. Often times the agency has particular rooms on hold, so get the numbers, look up the location and then request a specific room.

-- Will you feel safe in the ports of call?  A number of you’ve responded to recent posts, saying you aren’t comfortable with travel to certain destinations right now.  So before booking a ‘deal’ make sure you really want to visit the places on the itinerary. If you aren’t going to get off the cruise ship, do you really want to take the cruise?

-- On your own or cruise ship excursions?  Check the price of the excursions offered by the cruise ship – they are generally expensive and can add significantly to the total trip cost.  You don’t need to participate in those groups, you can tour independently or find smaller groups being organized by fellow cruisers who participate in the on-line, Cruise Critic, a cruiser user-group.

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Lazy days at Sea
That’s it for this week – hope you’ll be back soon and bring a friend or two with you.  Thanks for the time you’ve spent with us ~ as always we appreciate it!

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And a disclaimer about the sites listed above:  We are recommending them because we use them - we don't get any payment or benefits from recommending them to you.

This week we are linking up with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

38 comments:

  1. Wonderful trip ... Beautiful scenery

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    1. We hope it will be - it sounds like it might be.

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  2. As always, your post has beautiful images and so interesting infos. Since the last cruise presented by you, I saw that there are additional costs... (so, it is so good to be known these aspects before planning)
    Many thanks for sharing them with us; who knows, perhaps one day, i'll have the chance to go into a cruise. For now, it's a joy to share your experience through the your lovely travel posts! I always can observe and learn something new reading your articles.
    Best regards and a good day!

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    1. Alexa, what a wonderful comment: 'it is a joy to share your experience' and I am so glad that you are traveling 'with us'. Thank you for a lovely comment - see you again soon! Jackie xxx

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  3. Love your photos, Jackie!
    I like the idea of a cruise but I've only done one. (Aren't they just so romantic!)
    We got off easy - my cousin planned ours and all we had to do was pay and show up.
    Reading your post makes me want to do a Mediterranean cruise - especially one that ends in Greece!

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    1. And you know that if you ever do take a cruise that ends in Greece and if I am there the welcome mat will be out for you at The Stone House on the Hill!! (I do like the way you went about your last cruise -- a good cousin to have around!) xxx J.

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  4. Replies
    1. We hope it will be Rejesh! Thanks for your visit ~

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    1. When it is fun, it is really fun and when it isn't, it isn't! Thanks for the visit~

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  6. This is SO exciting!! I love a change in plans. Plus how perfect to end in Greece, your second home.

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    1. Well, it will be interesting to arrive 'home' in a new land, Gaelyn!

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  7. Looks like an awesome trip ♥

    summerdaisycottage.blogspot.com

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  8. Great advice on cruising and "scouting" the deals. While many say travelers don't cruise, it is an inexpensive way to get lodging, food, and transport to areas your are considering for longer term travel. Yes, you get entertainment too but I was never fussy about that. Once you are in port, you can visit any tourist site you might like or just hang out for the day and check out the local vibe.

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    1. We use cruises, as you say, for scouting trips. And in this case like a 'weekend getaway' because we can have short tastes of some of our favorite places, and it is much cheaper than renting a hotel room and eating out (although we plan to eat in several 'favorites' while on shore in various stops).

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  9. Oh what a glorious cruise!! I would love to follow in your footsteps ...or waves!! Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience!

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    1. Well, as I said, the deal is still available so you wouldn't need to follow in our footsteps, you could be there with us - the cruise is still two months away ~ Thanks for stopping by, Marilyn.

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  10. Enjoy the Connie! Sounds like a great itinerary and I like those prices. It's probably about time that the hubby and I got serious about ocean cruises. Thanks for all the helpful detailed info and costs.

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    1. There are deals to be had right now in Europe - that's for sure. Glad you liked the post, Cathy!

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  11. Good tips about evaluating the costs and value of a cruise. I look forward to hearing about your Mediterranean cruise.

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    1. It should be interesting, that's for sure, Donna. Thanks for stopping by ~

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  12. I really like that itinerary and the price of the cruise you found. We visited Ephesus last year and were very impressed by the extent of the ruins. We really felt as though we were in what had been a Greco-Roman city. I imagine that the spate of terrorist attacks in places that are traditionally tourist attractions have hit the cruise industry rather hard in Europe and the Middle East. Wishing you a bone voyage when the time comes.

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    1. Aaargh. Damn you autocorrect. "Bone voyage" was obviously meant to be BON voyage.

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    2. Aaargh. Damn you autocorrect. "Bone voyage" was obviously meant to be BON voyage.

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    3. I think you are right, Suzanne. The spate of terrorist attacks have made European travel a buyer's market this fall. Too bad so many are too 'terrorized' to take advantage of the deals.

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  13. Carpe deal indeed! It's such a luxury to be able to change direction and travel plans on a whim and at will and it looks like you've got a winner of an itinerary! A couple of years ago we were a day away from buying tickets to Malaysia and then - a housesit offer in Curacao followed by a trans-Atlantic cruise deal to Barcelona and a visit to Portugal ... And now, look where we ended up! It's all serendipity, Jackie! :)

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    1. I so agree that much of our life these days seems to be serendipity-driven. And I am certain that will one day bring the four of us together somehow, somewhere in Europe.

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  14. how amazing...yes, the prices on that cruise, wonderful...if you are in Rome...it is all out of our budget but love seeing all the wonderful places you visit..

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    1. It really does make a difference in airfare costs; something we dreamt about but still can't believe we are able to hop a short and inexpensive flight and be in some fabulous European city a few hours later. Hope we make the most of our location! Thanks much for the visit, BJ, and happy week ahead!

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  15. I am looking forward to one day no longer having to plan our vacations around school schedules. This is such a great deal, and I'm guessing part of the reason is that it's not peak travel season. I think the change of plans looks like a good idea. The Middle East can wait.

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    1. Well, we've laughed when friends say this is a better routing (as they think it is 'safer' when in fact none of the Middle East cities have had reported problems with terrorism). It will be fun and it is nice to be flexible enough to take advantage of these incredibly low prices!

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  16. My husband and I did a Windstar cruise in and out of Athens in early June, visiting the Greek isles as well as Kusadasi, the only port you'll be visiting on this itinerary, which looks like it will be great, and the price is a definite bargain! We loved our extra time in Athens, and would love to return someday to see more of Greece and the Greek isles. I'm wondering what the weather will be like for your November cruise, however. Could cooler and/or rainier weather perhaps be why the price is so low?

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    1. Actually we checked the temperatures in all the ports of call and they remain in the 70's so it should be perfect for sightseeing. The price drop I believe is due to the continuing decline in tourism to Europe for fears of bombings and other dastardly terrorist deads. Last year we had a cold raining Oct. 31 in Greece - we recall because we did our first olive harvest then - but had warm, almost hot weather most of November. So it is difficult to tell what might occur. . .glad you enjoyed your Windstar cruise and your time in Athens. Do the islands by Greek ferry if you come back and spend time in the villages - a cruise stop isn't long enough!

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  17. Thank you so much for these tips about booking a cruise! One of these days I'm going to take one, with or without my reluctant husband!

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    1. You will love it when you do, Rachel. Just make sure you love it's itinerary before you book it!

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  18. Wow, what a deal! I'd love to hop on that cruise, but we are still tied to school schedules here. Some of the stops on that cruise would be new to me, some would be places I'd love to go back to (oh, the pizza in Naples!). Have fun!

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  19. Good on the Scout for finding the deals. They are all good stops - hope they happen for you.

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So happy to see you took the time to comment. We read them all - and each is much appreciated. We hope you will be a regular here and comment often!

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