Itinerary.

So not sure what happened on Christmas day…this old post was suddenly reposted and all the links and pictures were stripped out…..if you want to see the original post, go back a few and voila.

 

Sorry for the confusion

 

 

At least the first five months worth!

While Mike and I have had a general idea of where we wanted to go, figuring our actual itinerary has been like playing jinga!

We can only be in the Schengen Zone (sorta the European Union but not exactly) for 90 out of 180 days and since we had planned on being gone for closer to 240 days, we had to figure out how to leave Schengen for a bit. But without knowing where we were going to stay made it a little difficult to count the actual days.

The other jinga part was our tight budget for housing. While researching Airbnb as a possible source of housing for us, I discovered a great resource online, The Senior Nomads, Debbie and Michael Campbell. (www.seniornomads.com) This adventurous couple has been traveling for since July 2013 staying in Airbnbs almost everywhere. Their tips and techniques have been most helpful and they were quick to answer my email when I had a question. I highly recommend their blog to anyone who is interested in long term travel or about learning about Airbnb.

Unfortunately, Mike and Debbie have a larger budget than Mike and I so we had to work hard to find places that were within the $50 per night we were working with and met our other wanted amenities. There are Airbnbs available at our price point but once we added the desire for a washing machine and an outdoor space, it greatly narrowed the field. But we have finally found places and worked the jinga puzzle so we are booked (and paid for!) through June 28th.

Below our current plans along with photos (and links) to the Airbnbs where we will be staying. Generally speaking we have rented one bedroom apartments but they all have sleeper sofas (or nearby hotels!) if you have any interest in joining us along the way.

3/4/18. Board Viking Sky – San Juan

3/5/18. St. Maarten

3/12/18. Madeira, Portugal

3/14/18. Seville, Spain

3/16/18. Valencia, Spain

3/17/18. Disembark in Barcelona and travel to Valencia

3/17-4/9. Valencia, Spain

4/9-5/1. Seriate, Italy

5/1-5/5. Santorini, Greece

5/5-5/28. Sofia, Bulgaria

5/28-6/11. Lisbon, Portugal

6-11-6/28. Porto, Portugal

6/28/18. Fly from Porto to Copenhagen to Lisbon to Miami

Yes that’s right Miami! Talk about getting out of Schengen! More on how that happened in a future post.

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Stateroom Assigned!

VikingSky3008

When we booked Viking, we elected to take a guaranteed stateroom – that means that we paid the price for a certain stateroom category (in our case the second lowest since the lowest was “sold out”) but saved a few hundred bucks by not selecting a particular stateroom.  We were guaranteed no worse a stateroom than the one we paid for and based on my reading on Cruise Critic, many ended up in a higher category.

One of the reasons (other than the money savings ) that we were willing to do this was because there aren’t really any bad rooms on Viking.  All of their staterooms are larger than on most cruise ships, the only real difference is location…and since it is a small ship, there aren’t really any bad locations.

Of course the big hope was that they would run out of our category and have to “upgrade” us to a higher category – the next major category up comes with an in-room coffee maker and shoe shine service and the one above that comes with those perks PLUS complementary refills of the mini bar.

So we were especially hopeful of an upgrade when a few weeks back, I noticed that no longer were many of the categories “sold out” but that the prices for our category had dropped significantly.  I got in touch with Viking who correctly noted that they didn’t have to honor the lower price which wasn’t what I was expecting but I was hoping they would “upgrade” us to the category that was now being sold for about what we paid.  No such luck.

Only after threatening to cancel (which would have a resulted in them keeping a portion of what we had already paid) and rebooking at the lower rate, did Viking come up with an offer that we eventually accepted.  They are “giving” us an onboard credit (money on our onboard account) which we can use for gratuities, alchohol purchase, excursions, massages, etc.  So while it isn’t as good as the cash in my pocket would have been or even as reasonable as moving us to one of the many empty cabins now being sold for less than what we paid (can you tell I am a little incredulous that this wasn’t their go-to response?) it was good enough for us to accept.  Of course it just means I will be ordering coffee from room service rather than making my own and walking around with dull shoes!

So we are ready to be in “our” cabin as shown in the photograph (look closely four in from the front of the ship on the lowest level of balconies and you will see us smiling at you).  Unless of course, the upgrade fairy happens to decide that we really should be in a better category cabin….I mean after all the Owner’s Suite is still showing as available! LOL

Bargain Shoppers.

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For those who are keeping up, our original plan had been to be in Europe from March 2017 until Fall 2018 exploring potential locations for our next place to live, come back to the US late in the fall and spend the holiday with family, visit Cuenca Ecuador and San Miquel de Allende Mexico and then figure out where we are going to plant ourselves for the next piece of our (non-working) life. However, the vagaries of the Schengen Zone meant we couldn’t stay as long as we hoped in the EU.  So, we figured we would go to the United Kingdom since Mike has never been and I have only visited London (and Leicester to meet my Dad’s WWII sweetheart and almost fiancée) but given the high summer season prices, we were worried about the impact to our budget.

As we were trying to figure out the UK possibilities, I happened to see a great business class fare sale from TAP, the Portuguese airline from Europe to the US and after some consideration, we booked it. Some of you may recall that after enduring 14 hours in economy on an overnight flight from Valparaiso Chile to Toronto after our “round the horn” cruise, that I swore (in my best Scarlett, “as God as my witness” voice) I would never do long haul in economy again and I have said for a while that after we stop work I hope never to have to fly long haul again…why not cruise in comfort instead?  Well, there weren’t any affordable summertime transatlantics (trust me, even looked at going to South America) so when we saw we could fly roundtrip on lie flat seats for $1,300 roundtrip (and it is refundable) why not???

TAP

The downside is that to get this great deal we have to fly from Portugal to Copenhagen to catch a flight back to Portugal to change to a plane winging its way to Miami. So, we are planning a cheap Ryan Air flight from Porto to Copenhagen late in the day on June 27, 2018, hanging out in the airport before boarding our flight back to Lisbon early on the morning of June 28th arriving in Miami later that day.  We are booked to return to Copenhagen on September 9th (maybe a Baltic cruise in our future???) so we have two full months to satisfy all our family members who keep saying, “we will never see you again”  and  work in the trips to Ecuador and Mexico so that by the time we finally come back in November we will have visited all the places we think we might want to retir…ahem, live after we cease work!

Speaking of returning in November, we are booked on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Star departing Rome on November 5th.  This was one of the cruises I had been watching as our potential ride home but as Star is one of Norwegian’s few ships that doesn’t have a good outdoor non-pool area (where Mike and I tend to hang out when we don’t have our own balcony) it wasn’t my first choice BUT I was lurking on the rollcalls on Cruise Critic (the internet forum where I am very active) and discovered that two couples we met on our Panama Canal cruise were already booked on this cruise so decided to push the button on that too! So we booked an inside cabin, used points from our Norwegian credit card and upgraded ourselves to a balcony!

Norwegian Star

With most of the major travel planning done, we now can’t postpone figuring out any longer the two big issues of retir…ahem, ceasing work – what to do with all our crap and how we gonna get healthcare insurance.  Please try to maintain your composure while waiting for that exciting upcoming blog post!