The featured photo was taken in February 2018, when we visited the Czech Republic and stumbled across a really cool Soviet era airplane museum. I trust Lufthansa will have more comfortable planes when we fly next month.
I don’t have a lot to write about this morning. Bill and I had a very nice weekend together. It’s great to have him home again. We made a video for younger daughter, and Bill talked to his mom on Skype. I talked to mine a few days ago and wished her a Happy Mother’s Day then.
I meant to watch Eurovision, since we finally got local TV, but I forgot it was on and hung out with Bill in our dining room, where we drank wine. 😉 Sweden won the contest. Maybe I’ll look for it on YouTube, but I find that Eurovision is more fun to watch live. We used to be in the habit of watching every year, even when we didn’t live in Europe. There were a couple of years we happened to be vacationing in Europe in May, when Eurovision airs.
Since today is May 15th, that means that it will soon be time for us to hop on a plane and go to Norway for a week before we get on our cruise in Sweden. Our flight to Oslo is on June 16th. I’m really looking forward to this trip, for so many reasons. If it goes well, maybe we’ll get back into traveling like we did pre-pandemic. Maybe I might even be persuaded to go back to the United States.
I find that I still love to travel, but as I get older, I don’t have the stamina I used to have. It’s too bad, since we have more money now than we did when we were younger. I just find nowadays that I value my alone time more. I think we’ll enjoy the cruise, but I also think I enjoy land based vacations more. We’ll see how we like Regent, though. It’s definitely going to be different for us.
When I told my mom about our trip, she said it sounded great… for us. I know kind of what she means. Mom is going to be 85 years old this year, and I think traveling is exhausting for her now. It’s tiring for me, and I’m only 50. But I love to see new places, try new things, eat different foods, and meet new people (within reason).
Then, after our big trip, it may be time to get a new dog… 😉
Sorry today’s post is kind of brief. I’m still kind of tired this morning. I woke up at 3:00AM and couldn’t get back to sleep. I feel drowsy as I type this, and I think I’ll probably need a nap sooner, rather than later. So, I think I’ll sign off, practice guitar, walk Noyzi, and crash for an hour or so. Maybe I’ll write more later… but I probably won’t. I need some inspiration.
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!
Because this post involves travel, I’m going to cross post it on my travel blog. The featured photo was taken in 2019, when Bill and I went to Sweden to pick up our car and drove it on a Nordic adventure.
I’m in the midst of trying to plan a summer vacation/birthday trip for Bill and myself. Because of the whole COVID-19 odyssey, and the seemingly endless lockdowns that followed, we’ve decided that this year, we’d like to fly somewhere. And because there are a lot of places in Europe we still want to see, we decided to choose our destination using the “champagne bucket” method.
I’ve written about the champagne bucket method on my travel blog. Basically, I got the idea for it from “blind bookings” on Germanwings (now known as Eurowings). I’m not sure if Eurowings still does blind bookings, but Lufthansa does, and Lufthansa owns Eurowings. It basically involves booking a surprise flight, and usually paying a lower fare. You don’t know where you’re going until after you pay for the ticket(s). Bill and I have done it four times to great success. We visited Barcelona, London, Berlin, and Munich that way.
When we moved back to the States, I decided that it wouldn’t be hard to plan more of our vacations that way. Instead of relying on the airline, we just put our choices on slips of paper and put them in the champagne bucket. Then, Bill picks one of the slips out of the bucket.
I was really rooting for a trip to Armenia and possibly Georgia this summer. That was one of the choices, too. Bill was a bit reluctant, because of political and military issues going on in Armenia right now. We may still go there this year, but for a short trip to Yerevan, instead of an all out country tour. Then, I can show Bill where I lived, when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer, and sign him up for a more extensive trip. 😉
Anyway, when we did our champagne bucket challenge, Bill ended up choosing Finland. Neither of us has ever been there before. We have been to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Estonia together. Bill has also been to Latvia a couple of times on business. Neither of us has seen Lithuania, but we’ve met people from there and Latvia on cruises.
Originally, I was planning for us to go to Helsinki and do a land based trip, then go by ferry to Tallinn, Estonia, stay a few days, and work our way south to Latvia and Lithuania, before flying back. Then I started researching and discovered, there’s no easy way to travel to Latvia and Lithuania that doesn’t involve riding a bus. We considered renting a car, but that seemed potentially risky.
So then I thought, maybe instead of trying to hit the Baltic capitals, I could go west. Visit Finland, do a day trip in Tallinn, then head west toward Norway, which we know we love. Then I thought, maybe it would be better to start in Norway, and head east to Finland, then go to Tallinn and spend a night or two…
Then I realized how expensive flights would be… plus the stress and inconvenience involving finding transportation, hauling bags, and booking hotels… and although I’d already looked for cruises and initially didn’t see any I liked, I kept getting ads for Regent Seven Seas on Facebook. And Regent is– or was– considered a luxury line, although it’s a much bigger ship than we usually go for when we cruise.
I noticed they had a cruise available during the time we plan to travel. It starts June 23 and ends June 30, and hits ports in Sweden, Helsinki, Estonia, Latvia, and Denmark. We could still go to Norway and do a land based trip, working our way to Stockholm, a city we’ve been to, but didn’t really get to explore at all in 2009. Best of all, the cruise in question is on sale. It’s still expensive, but doable for us. We wouldn’t even have to stay in the cheapest stateroom. I pitched the idea to Bill, who liked it.
I started making a booking request. It took about a half dozen times to finally get registered. I mismatched my email address, or added one too many dots in the address, or the passwords didn’t match. Finally, I had my account, and started to make the request.
But the stateroom I wanted was listed as twice as expensive than was advertised. While we technically could do it, I’d rather spend that much money on a new car or a down payment on a house. So I stopped making the request, and sent an inquiry to Regent, asking them to confirm that the cruise is on sale.
About an hour later, I got a phone call through my iPad, which I wasn’t prepared to answer, as I was reading something to Bill. I also got a message, written in German, indicating that the cruise is on sale, and inviting me to call between 11am and 8pm today. I sent a message back in English, asking if I have to call to get that rate, and clarifying that I’m American and can’t speak German worth a damn. 😉
Then I went on Cruise Critic and started reading reviews and comments on the messageboards. The consensus is, the ship I’m looking at booking is beautiful, although Regent has “gone downhill” in recent years. Bill and I have done cruises on Royal Caribbean, SeaDream, and Hebridean Island Cruises. SeaDream and Hebridean, like Regent, are considered luxury and are all inclusive. However, they are much smaller ships. So Regent would be a different cruise experience for us, and it would offer some convenience, as we’d be hitting places we want to visit– albeit for a shorter time than we would personally plan for ourselves.
I truly am attracted to the cruise because of the itinerary and the time the cruise is going. I don’t have particularly high expectations of great service or being treated like royalty. A cruise just offers a convenient way to cross some items off our bucket list.
On the other hand, I was kind of looking forward to a deeper dive into the areas, and exploring more on our own. Also, there’s less chance of running into people with whom we don’t mesh when we do land based trips, or getting sick from any number of viruses on ships. I like to plan trips and look for interesting places to stay. I guess the pre cruise travel to Norway would offer that, but I was kind of wanting to get more of a feel for Finland.
Either way, this trip is going to be expensive. Good thing Bill got a generous raise this year. We do have the money, too… at least for the cruise. I’m just not used to having that, either… being somewhat well-heeled is kind of a new experience for us.
Sigh… a trip to Armenia would be a lot more economical. On the other hand, if I develop a bleeding stomach ulcer, I’d feel better about seeking treatment in a nordic country. 😉
This is truly a first world problem. I’m sure I should just go for it and see what happens. We’ve had some great times on cruises and made some friends. And a bonus is, since Regent ships are a lot bigger, there’s less chance I’ll get seasick this time.
We’ll see what happens. I may scrap the idea of the cruise. It is tempting, though… Regent is probably more comfortable than the Stockholm to Helsinki ferry.
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