I find that I have started many posts but have found with the holidays, sickness and lack of time I never completed them. I’m truly sorry about that. My New Year’s resolution is to do a better job in 2016! Hold me accountable and we’ll review it at the end of 2016.
Some of you may remember that last year a friend and I took a last minute cruise on Holland America to the Panama Canal. We enjoyed it very much and decided then that we would try it again this year.
I had been watching a cruise that I was interested in, eleven night Southern Caribbean, but it was too expensive, even at last minute – $1700 for an inside stateroom. Nope, not going to do that. Part of the reason for last minute was the less expensive staterooms. We knew we wouldn’t get the best room however we knew we wouldn’t be in our room often. Last year we received a partial obstructed stateroom with floor to ceiling windows and only half the window was blocked by a lifeboat.
We found a cruise that we both liked about 3 weeks before sailing on Holland America again. We will be sailing 10 nights to sunny and warm locations in the Caribbean. We will be going to Samana, Dominican Republic (a new port to me), Aruba, Bonaire (another new port), Curacao and Grand Turk. With taxes, port charges and our stateroom it will cost us about $1000 each.
In additional to that, since I own 100 shares of Carnival Cruise Line (the parent company of HAL) stock, I will receive a $100 On Board Credit (OBC) by faxing in a statement from the past six months that shows that I own the stock. I know that we will get an OBC from our travel agent as well. Those credits will help to offset the gratuities that we pay to all the works and is charged directly to our stateroom.
With the room all booked, it was time for the flights and the hotels. Since my friend lives very close to IAD, we will be flying out of there. I couldn’t find a roundtrip flight that was just what I wanted or the price that I wanted. I found we had a better selection of flights and prices if we booked two one way tickets. In reviewing the flights and prices, I found higher prices on the day the cruise ended since it is MLK Day. Rather than paying an extra $170 each, we decided to extend our vacation and go home the next day. Even with the hotel and meals, it will be less expensive.
Airline Travel Tip– I went back and forth on United’s site hoping to find something a little less expensive. When I found what I wanted to book, after checking with my friend, I found that the price was no longer there – it was more expensive, really! And it was only a matter of minutes. I tried a little trick that someone told me. Rather than going straight to the United site using my regular browser, I went to “private” or incognito” browsing. That way they had no history of me looking at those flights and the lower price was there. Tuck that tip away in your arsenal of finding less expensive flights.
A few weeks ago, Hyatt had a promotion that if you proved that you had status with another hotel chain, they would grant you their top Diamond status. I actually have Spire Elite with IHG which is their top elite status. I sent them proof of my IHG status and proof that I had stayed with IHG within the past few months (remember my road trip) and was awarded Diamond status. Their Diamond status means more at certain hotels than others.
When I have cruised out of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, I have stayed at the Hyatt House in Fort Lauderdale (17th Street/Convention Center) because of its proximity to the Harbor Shops shopping center even though you don’t get any perks at the Hyatt House. I like staying there because we are within walking distance of all the stores and I often have to run into Publix to get last minute items or a bottle of wine to take on the cruise with me. I decided that I would try another Hyatt – the Hyatt at Sixty Six Pier, just down the road, adjacent to the marina. To get to the shops, we could take the Sun Trolley for $1 or use a cab or Uber. This hotel was also less expensive than the Hyatt House. Worth a try. The ground on their web site look amazing. I’ll report back on the hotel with my impressions of it. We will also be staying here after the cruise unless I dislike it so much that it would be better to go elsewhere. As it was getting closer to our departure I began doubting myself that this was the BEST hotel that I could find. I went back and double checked other hotels. Though some did have shuttle service from the airport and to the cruise ship, It was $80 more – didn’t need that. Other hotels were about $150 more that what we were paying. I guess I did make the correct decision.
Now my time was t be spent looking for excursions that were not ship related, as I really don’t like to be crammed into a bus of 44 people where someone or a few always run on their own time. I’ll report what I found.
Have you ever booked a last minute trip in an attempt to get something less expensive?