Again, cross-posted on the travel blog… The featured photo was taken on the car ferry from Denmark to Germany, back in 2019.
Yesterday, I wrote about my apprehension about booking a cruise. I termed it a “true first world problem.” Aye– as my Scottish ancestors would say– that it is. Twenty-four hours ago, as I was pondering whether or not I wanted to spend big bucks on a luxury cruise in the Baltic region, I started looking for alternatives.
A friend of mine had suggested touring the Norwegian fjords on Hurtigruten, which is, of course, a perfectly good suggestion. However, if I had decided to go for the fjords, that would have completely negated using the champagne bucket to choose where to go. The Norwegian fjords are a place I’d love to see the right way, and a cruise is probably the right way to go. But it wasn’t one of the choices for this particular trip. Moreover, I never asked for alternative suggestions.
I still decided to look into the Norwegian fjords experience and found that besides Hurtigruten, there’s another line that does cruises along the fjords. Maybe at some point we’ll pull the trigger on that. I did look into short cruises in Norway for the days we’ll be there, but they aren’t very convenient to our plans.
After a short while, I stopped researching travel possibilities, and turned my attention to my guitar, which badly needed new strings. I don’t play it so often that I routinely change the strings. But, it had gotten to the point at which I had forgotten when I had last changed them. The old ones were starting to get discolored, and weren’t staying tuned well. So, as much as I hate changing the strings, but love the results of changing them, once they stretch, I knew it was a job that urgently needed doing. I had just put one string on when my phone rang.
It was someone from Regent Seven Seas Cruises calling. I felt confident in answering, since I knew Bill was already agreeable to my booking the cruise, once we confirmed the correct price. The cruise specialist, whose name is Andrea, is from Germany. She thought I was German too, and was speaking German to me, even though I had made contact in English. I didn’t realize it, but the voicemail on my phone is in German… No one ever calls me, so I didn’t know. I thought the call was coming from Germany, but actually, it was a U.S. based call that somehow looked like it came from Germany.
Andrea and I got to talking, and it turns out she lives in Florida, which is where Regent is based. She’s been there since 1991. I always find myself bonding with Germans in the U.S., since I’m an American in Germany. As we discussed the cruise, we talked about how we ended up in each other’s countries. In many ways, Germany is kind of like the U.S., but I find that the U.K. feels more like home to me than Germany does, even though people drive on the other side of the road and kids wear uniforms to school.
Andrea said that my request went to her, because I am in Germany. She handles all clients from Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany, even though she’s based in Florida. It was still very early in the morning where she lives when we were talking– maybe 5:30AM! Nevertheless, she was wide awake and friendly. I guess she’s a morning person like Bill is. All of our documents are in German. Andrea says there’s nothing she can do about that, since I’m in Germany. Google Chrome will save us, I’m sure…
It didn’t take long for Andrea to sell me on Regent. I put a deposit on the cruise. I would have just paid for the whole thing, since the cruise is coming up in June, but I used my credit card with a lower limit, and the whole cruise costs more than the limit is. I used that card rather than the other one, because I knew it was less likely to get declined for “suspicious activity”. Both of my cards usually have zero balances. I rarely use them because it took me forever to pay them off when we were less affluent. The deposit didn’t raise any red flags, which made me feel confident.
Bill got home later and I proposed booking the flights. I was thinking of flying into Stavanger or Bergen, since we had never been to either of those beautiful towns, and we have been to Oslo. But it turned out there weren’t any flights that worked with boarding Noyzi and didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Like… there was an attractive flight that would have worked, except it left at 10:30AM, and that wasn’t enough time to get Noyzi to the Hundepension and get ourselves checked in at the airport. So, Oslo it is…
I had no idea that Norway’s cities were so far apart. Stavanger looks like it’s not that far from Oslo, but it’s a seven or eight hour car ride or train trip. Bergen, likewise, is hours away by car or train. There are cheap flights available, and we may decide to avail ourselves of one, just so we can get a feel for a city other than Oslo. But, we did also enjoy visiting Oslo when we were there in 2009, and that was at a time when we had a lot less money.
Oslo is also closer to Stockholm, which is where we will be meeting the ship. We haven’t seen anything in Stockholm except the cruise port, which is where our first Baltic cruise in 2009 ended. It was a four night “short break” on Royal Caribbean, and we started in Oslo and stopped in Tallin and Copenhagen, then ended in Stockholm. We couldn’t enjoy the city, because Bill had a conference in Garmisch-Partenkirchen the next day. So, we hopped a plane to Munich. I spent the next week taking tours out of the Edelweiss MWR Lodge while Bill tended to his Army duties. We had flown to Oslo from Munich, and when we got back to the parking garage, the car battery was dead, necessitating a call to ADAC. Plus, our bags didn’t make the flight, and had to be brought to us in Garmisch.
This time, we will end in Copenhagen, a city we’ve been to twice, but haven’t had much of a chance to really enjoy. The first time, it was on that short cruise, that only allowed a few hours in town. The second time was in 2019, when we were passing through on our way home with our new car and stopped for a night of rest as we continued onward to Rostock, Germany. This trip will at least give us a full day to enjoy Denmark. We’ll spend a couple of nights there before coming home on July 2.
So, off I went to Lufthansa to book our flights, after confirming with Bill which ones we wanted. I input all of the information, then tried to use my trusty credit card to pay. Sure enough, it was declined. I called up PenFed and explained that I was trying to book my vacation. I should have probably asked them to raise the limit on that card, too. Maybe next time I call…
The tickets are now booked. All I have to do now is decide on hotels in Norway and Denmark and maybe book transportation to Stockholm. A flight from Oslo takes an hour, but a train is much more scenic and is about five hours of fun. 😉 Oh… and I also need to choose excursions and restaurant reservations for the cruise, since they are included in the fare.
It’s hard to believe, just a few days ago, I was agonizing over all of this. It’s all coming together now, like magic. I wasn’t planning to do a cruise, but this may turn out to be a bit of a Godsend. If it turns out we really love any of the places we see, we can come back and do a land based tour, as I originally planned. They are now building a railway in the Baltics that will make it a lot easier to travel there. And I do want to go and spend more than a few hours. We already know we like Tallinn from our 2009 trip, and Bill enjoyed Riga when he went.
I know… first world problem, and maybe I should be ashamed of myself for writing about it. But, at least this isn’t a cranky complaint post about politics or similarly unpleasant topics.
For those who are curious, here’s a video highlighting the ship we’re going to be on. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s not like you don’t get a lot for the money. This is also not our usual style. We normally prefer much smaller ships, and that generally means the ships we’re on are usually much older. Splendor was built in 2020. Hebridean Princess, by contrast, was built in 1964 as a car ferry and later became a cruise ship in 1989. SeaDream I was built in 1984. I think Vision of the Seas is 1998 vintage, and I’m not even sure if it’s still in service.
Again, I chose this entirely for the itinerary, and the fact that it’s an all inclusive cruise. I’m not a Regent cheerleader, and I’m not sure we’ll give up small ships for this. But then again, maybe we will. We won’t know until we actually have the experience. At least now, I’ll have something new to write about on the travel blog!