January Travel Plans

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?






2 thoughts on “January Travel Plans

  1. My husband and I just stayed at Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six prior to a Holland America cruise. Here’s what I wrote in my journal in case it helps you for your upcoming stay:

    *October 28 (Wednesday, Day 1, Fort Lauderdale) – *

    From FLL we used UberXL to the Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six ($99/night using the Accenture rate) since Janet had a free Uber ride up to $30.The UberXL ride, in a big SUV, cost $23 but was free.We got to our upgraded room 1260 (a corner “suite” – just a larger room) and then ordered a “to go” dinner from the lounge and watched the Royals win Game Two on television from the comfort of our hotel room.We also ordered the wine and fruit/cheese tray with the Hyatt Diamond amenity. It was a great day!!

    *October 29 (Thursday, Day 2, Fort Lauderdale) – *

    Luckily breakfast was served until 11 AM since we woke up late.Due to Janet’s Diamond status, we enjoyed the free $23 pp breakfast buffet plus Phil ordered $19 crab benedict and Janet ordered $13 ricotta pancakes. The crab benedict was good but the pancakes tasted like the grill needed a good cleaning.Janet didn’t eat them but certainly didn’t go hungry due to the nice buffet spread.While we were finishing breakfast Janet got a call from a fellow passenger that was 30 minutes away.He and his wife are joining the cruise in Rome, the half-way point, and wanted to drop off some luggage that they didn’t need to travel with.We said “sure”.(CruiseCritic, a website that lets people on the same cruise get to know each other, is great for this kind of stuff.)Harold arrived and he took us to CVS (2 miles away and way too far to walk) so that we could get soda and water.Janet used her ExtraBucks to pay for everything and naturally there were some issues at the cash register, but Phil and Harold were good sports about it and we walked away with 4 cases of water and seven 12-packs of soda for free. The CVS excursion should have only taken about 30 minutes total but due to the cash register issues, it took an hour.Oh well.We got back to the hotel and said goodbye to Harold and had a bellman help us to the room with Harold’s two suitcases plus our CVS beverages.We turned on the TV and saw that there was a major fire at FLL airport since a plane caught on fire during takeoff.Several people were hurt and a taxiway was shut down since the plane was out of commission.A few minutes later our cruise friends, Ed and Lou, called from the Atlanta airport asking what was going on.Janet told Ed everything she knew and he was going to see what Southwest was telling them.Several texts later Janet found out that their flight to FLL was cancelled but they were going to get on another one and land around 8:30 PM.Janet then checked them into their room (1261).While the plane fire dominated the TV and Janet’s texts, we repacked plus labeled the beverages and all of the luggage for our cabin.

    By now it was time for dinner so we decided to eat at the other dining facility in the Hyatt.(Nothing is within walking distance of this Hyatt other than a convenience store across the street.)We started walking to Pelican Landing which is at the end of the marina and a Hyatt bellman took us in a golf cart.That was nice since it was kind of a long walk. The skies looked threatening so we decided to eat inside at one of the ten tables.It was a good decision since it started pouring half way through dinner.Phil enjoyed his tomato-based conch chowder appetizer and mahi mahi arugula entree salad while Janet liked her ropa viejo tostones huge appetizer and fish tacos.It was a lot of food and Janet could have ordered just the appetizer or the fish tacos but she still ate it all. We called for a golf cart to take us back to the hotel in the rain.We were thankful it was a travel day for the Royals so there was no World Series game tonight.After getting up at 5 AM in Scottsdale, Arizona, Ed and Lou finally arrived at the Hyatt around 9 PM. Quick hellos were said and then everyone went to bed.

    *October 30 (Friday, Day 3, Boarding /ms Maasdam/) –*

    We woke up, showered and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the restaurant.Neither of us had the $23 pp buffet and instead just ordered off the menu.Janet really enjoyed her breakfast of corn flake crusted French toast and Phil had the southeast skillet that was so big he couldn’t finish it.Janet liked her banana strawberry smoothie, too. We checked out and used Hyatt gift cards that Janet purchased from either Raise or Cardpool at a 12% discount for even more savings.

    Around 11:30 AM the four of us took the $7 pp shuttle from the Hyatt to port. (Take the shuttle since if the drawbridge is up, you’ll have to pay for the cab’s waiting time.) Embarkation was super fast since not only are we 5-Star Mariners but we also booked a suite.

  2. Thanks for the post. Please let us know what you think of the HAL cruise. We often cruise Celebrity but are interested in HAL and their service level. We recently stayed at the Hyatt Pier 66 (last month) and enjoyed the grounds and the pool. The restaurants were so so and breakfast was a chore if you want more than a roll and coffee. They usually offer an upgrade via email the week before your arrive. If it is reasonable, try for the tower rooms. The marina rooms are older and we found them to be noisy and a long walk to the main restaurants and lobby.
    There is a nice and inexpensive tour of Curacao offered by a local tour group in AC vans. Can’t remember the name but you will see the guides dressed in bright vests just after you cross the articulating bridge that leads into town from the docks. Easy to book a 2 hour tour on the spot.

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