Showing posts with label European cruise deals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label European cruise deals. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Greece ~ Where Autumn Comes in like a Lion. . .and Lamb

"Listen!  the wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!"
-  Humbert Wolfe

The wind which began last evening continued through the night. Its gusts have unrelentingly rattled the window shutters and pummeled our doors. The rain that threatened yesterday has made good on its promise today. I am wrapped in my flannel robe as I write on this dark, chilly October morning.  This time of year the sun doesn't make it over the mountain behind us until after 8 a.m. 

View from the Stone House on the Hill on a stormy day

I suspect we won't see it at all today. And to believe that two days ago I was wearing shorts and basking in the afternoon sun on our deck and later that day we sat outside at the local taverna sipping krasi, wine at sunset.

Sunset sipping wine in Stoupa village
This autumn's weather in the Greek Peloponnese, The Mani specifically,  is proving to be much like last year: both a lion and a lamb.

PicMonkey Collage
How are gardens grow in the autumn
Autumn is a time for gardens to flourish. Blooms are no longer punished by the intense Mediterranean summer sun. Garden stores are selling tiny truck garden plants for winter garden harvest – we only wish our time here would be long enough to plant and harvest them. Our flowers are in full bloom, these photos taken within the last week and all but the Lantana (bottom corner) are growing at The Stone House on the Hill.

Autumn leaves begin to fall. . .
Yet, there is no doubt that autumn is preparing the area for winter’s arrival. . .

A cloudy October day
We had two sets of guests last fall, one came in late October and we sat huddled together in The Stone House on the Hill waiting for a break in the wind and rain to go explore the countryside.

A November morning
The second set arrived in early November and we explored the area in our shirt sleeves under sunny, warm skies.

A number of you have told us that you are planning to visit ‘someday’ and some have asked,  “When is the best time to visit, when is the weather the best?” 

Late September Stoupa beach
We prefer -- and recommend -- the spring and fall but I checked a couple of travel sites to see what other travel writers have to say. While they are speaking of Greece in general, it pretty much echoes our thoughts:

September view from our deck at The Stone House on the Hill.
Frommer’s Travel Guides say, “. . . that the best time to visit is Greece is spring and early summer (mid-Apr to mid-June) or autumn (Sept to mid-Oct). This way, you'll avoid the summer high season, with its inflated prices, hordes of tourists and high temperatures (heat waves of 100°F/+40C are routine)."

Another site, points out, “December to March are the coldest and least reliable months, though even then there are many crystal-clear, fine days, and the glorious lowland flowers begin to bloom very early in spring.”
Approaching Kalamata airport - Taygetos Mountains
Airfares, like the weather, are usually better on these shoulder season months than in the height of summer tourist season.  But those of you thinking of flying directly to Kalamata should keep in mind, that flights here operate primarily during high season (late spring, summer, and into October). We just managed to catch one of the season’s last on British Air from London in September.

British Air flies from London to Kalamata in the spring and fall
Speaking of travel, regular readers know that travel to other destinations in Europe and beyond, was one of reasons we bought a home here Well, I wrote this post at the end of last week because I knew we'd be on the road this week -- our first such close-to-home trip in Europe. We flew to Rome from Athens on Monday, (two hours and 10 minutes gate to gate)  and we set sail on the Celebrity Constellation on Wednesday.  If you want to take a look at where we are off to, just: click this link

Thanks for spending some time with us during these blustery autumn days in Greece’s Mani. It is currently gorgeous weather in Rome, but they are predicting rain showers tomorrow.  Lion and Lamb, it seems, everywhere this fall.  We’ll be back as shipboard internet allows in the next few weeks. Hello to our new followers who wrote us such nice messages about our blog last week (you know who you are)!  To all of you, wishes for safe travels~

Linking up with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

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).

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!

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.

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.

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. . .

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. . .

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:

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.

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.

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!

Couple of housekeeping notes:  I've noticed a number of you have signed up to receive our blog posts as weekly emails but you haven’t taken the second step to make that happen: 

After you've entered your email address in the box on the blog's home page, you’ll receive an email (in your regular or junk mail) from “Feedburner” asking you to verify that you did sign up, you must respond to that email to actually sign up.

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


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