Booked!

Our original thought had been to book Celebrity Millennium’s transpacific cruise from Vancouver to Tokyo (15 or 16 days depending on how you count the dateline day), stay in Japan for eight days or so, fly to Hawaii and stay there a few days and then board Celebrity Eclipse and cruise back (11 days) to Vancouver. We had been waiting to book the outbound cruise until after final payment for those who had already booked in hopes that we might catch an even better deal than what was already been offered. We didn’t expect to book the return cruise until that ship’s final payment date which is next month.

After lots ( I mean lots!) of discussion and research and phone calls and emails and looking at our finances and other nashing of teeth, we booked earlier today the major portions of our Asia adventure.

But of course, something always comes along to mess with one’s plans! On Saturday, Mike got a promo email from Viking offering a good price (at least for for Viking) an upgrade and “free” airfare on their 14 night Beijing to Hong Kong cruise. That is when the nashing of teeth really started! LOL

While it wasn’t in our financial plan, after doing a major spreadsheet, we came to realize that while it was a little bit more money out of pocket than the Hawaii/cruise back plan that due to the extended length that it really wasn’t that much more expensive on a per day basis than what we were already doing.

How is that for rationalization?

We also decided that seeing China from the relative comfort of a cruise ship (especially a Viking one!) as well as the number of overnights that Viking does would be a good introduction to this vast country which frankly we are somewhat concerned we may find overwhelming.

So we bit the bullet this morning and are in the process of booking these two cruises, as well as figuring out the itinerary for the time between the two cruises. Right now we are looking at flying from wherever we end up in Japan to X’ian to see the terra cotta warriors on our way to Beijing where we have booked (at a really good price we believe) Viking’s two day precruise “extension” (seems like it ought to be called something else to me). Of course we are concerned about riding in the back of the bus from Hong Kong back to Seattle to pick up our car and continue our road trip…but hopefully we will be able to at least buy up to some extra legroom seats….fingers crossed!

I am still working on our plans after July 4th when we leave Illinois headed to Montana, Calgary and Vancouver, but now we are also starting to plan the Asia portion. Hope you will enjoy following along as we do so!

Oh yeah, I know, I know…I promise to post regarding our fun times after Columbus through our stay here in Canada…soon, no really…soon! LOL

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Final Thoughts

After several weeks to contemplate our spring trip, I think all three of us will say it was most enjoyable.

Mike and I enjoyed our return to Viking and noticed some differences none of which negatively impacted our time onboard. The food portions seemed to be slightly smaller which given all the good food available was appreciated by our waist lines. This transatlantic seemed to be more crowded than last year but perhaps that was due to us eating earlier than just us two would normally do. We don’t know whether it is a cruise line initiative or simply the difference between Hotel Directors, Chefs and Cruise Directors but there were many more “special” events this year-pool side lunches (Cesar Salad, Mexican, etc.), pool side events (two or three dance parties, ship building competition), Port Greetings when we returned to the ship, Sunday Brunch in the Winter Garden and of course this year they made an event out of our passing of Gibraltar-even though it was still too dark to really see it.

We missed having the Virginia Gentleman aboard but the entertainers did a fine job despite there being two less singers and no dance couple. The shows seemed a little more professional and used the show band more than the prerecorded music that was typical last spring. There was at least one more lecturer than last trip and their topics were more diverse as well as interesting. There was also a bridge instructor on this crossing which I don’t recall from last time.

You may recall that part of the last minute deal we got was to pay for the lowest category cabin -Veranda (V) and reside in a higher category – Deluxe Veranda (DV). The staterooms are identical except the DV comes with a coffeemaker. I thought this would be great but turns out I only used it once. The other differences are “soft” ones-the sodas in the fridge get replenished daily and we could make reservations for the alternative dining venues before we boarded. Since one staying in a Veranda could replenish the soft drinks by asking at the bar during meal time for an extra can or three and we ended up changing all our reservations once onboard (so as not to miss lobster nights) I don’t think the perks of a DV would be worth paying any extra. Guess we are just too frugal. But when offered for free, they were great!

We also enjoyed the included airfare although I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see whether we could deal with long haul economy if it was “free”. Well maybe not really disappointed, the ice cream sundae in AA business class fixed that!😂

The Viking officers and crew were just as friendly and helpful as previously, the room lovely and we continue to think that Viking is a great value for their repositioning cruises. Lois really enjoyed herself and now is sold on the benefits of smaller ships. Having John the Scotsman aboard and his friendliness to her and willingness to have two special meals made just for her probably helped in this regard.

Of course no one aboard will ever forget the Great April Fool’s Day Toilet Paper Fiasco! LOL

Our post cruise time in Barcelona was great as it was in Rome. I think the highlight for Lois in both was Sagrada Familia and I certainly was blown away again by it. Even though it had only been 6 months since our last visit, we saw progress so maybe they will be finished with construction by 2026 as they are predicting (while crossing their fingers according to our guide).

Thanks for following along, hope you enjoyed it as much as we did…and that you will stay with me as I blog about our upcoming North American roadtrip (hopefully with a cruise to Japan 😲🤞thrown in). We leave Danville on Friday headed for DC and don’t expect to be back to the southeast coast until Christmas. Stay tuned for details…

Upgrade!

Almost forgot! When we checked in today, it appears our request to use miles (25,000) + dollars ($350) to upgrade our fre..ahem included in our cruise fare by Viking economy seats to business had cleared. So all three of us will be sitting in comfort from Rome to Philadelphia. We are all so excited. What was going to be a dreadful flight is now going to at least be tolerable and hopefully comfortable in these lie flat seats.

Unfortunately it appears Lois’ and Mike’s upgrade for the short flight from Philly to Raleigh didn’t clear…but mine did!

So the question now is, should I be the good Son-in-Law and let Lois sit up front?

Decisions Decisions.

Barcelona

I put together a group that totaled 11 from our CruiseCritic roll call and we had a nice van that picked all of is us (and our luggage) at the ship after disembarkation 😢 and drive us with a great guide to Montserrat, the serrated mountain with a monastery about an hour from Barcelona pictured above at the entrance and below when we first saw it from the freeway.

During the curvy drive up we could see the snow covered Pyrenees and maybe even France.

The town itself is very small, really only a hostel, small hotel, a cafeteria, a museum and of course a gift shop. Our guide explained that prior to four or five years ago, few visited except pilgrims coming to see the Black Madonna (carved of wood and blacked by centuries of candlesoot). The whole area is now a protected park and is full of hiking trails and of course mountain climbing possibilities.

The primary purpose of our visit was to hear the boy’s choir. It was impressive to hear the pipe organ and the choir in the beautiful church.

The Madonna is in the small apse way above the altar. Here is a slightly closer view. There are two people (who waited in a VERY long line) standing in front of her so they can reach thru plexiglas and touch her. The legend is that when you touch her you touch the Universe.

The church is very beautiful thought most of it had to be rebuilt after Neapolitan destroyed the original area.

We had hoped to be able to take a funicular to the very top of Montserrat but the lines were crazy long and our time was limited. Always leave something for the next trip right?

We had a beautiful day and I certainly enjoyed it. Our guide was very informative and at the end our tour as he was taking each of us to our hotels he explained that the real importance of Montserrat to the Catalonians is because it was the one place where the Catalan culture was kept alive during the time of Franco. He says that often you see people who weren’t allowed to speak Catalan during those times at home crying when they visit Montserrat. They recognize the importance it had to letting their culture live today.

We arrived at our hotel about 3. We have a two bedroom/two bath apartment one block from Sagrada Familia. Mike and I stayed here over twenty years ago (it was brand new then) with our friends Scott & Robert.

Later tonight we are going to a concert and tomorrow we tour Sagrada. Will hopefully be a fun time.

Final Tea 😢

We purposely didn’t have dessert at lunch today so that we would have room for tea. How’s that for good planning?

Today is our last sea day and we have done a little bit of work and a little bit of relaxing. After a leisurely breakfast in the Restaurant (we half and halfed lamb chops and steak with eggs) And our walk on the promenade, I started a load of wash and went to Trivia while Mike showered and moved the clothes.

We lost again though I was one of only two people in the theatre (the other was Jenna, the Cruise Director) who knew the name of the 1992 Release that is the world’s best selling soundtrack. Can’t believe everybody didn’t know it was The Bodyguard!

We then had lunch watching the water over the stern. We split a burger and made some nachos from the poolside bar they had special today.

After lunch we folded and packed our bags with everything but our clothes for tomorrow and Thursday. 😢. We then attended a small talk by one of our fellow Cruisecritics who is also a music critic. He gave us some insight into the concert we are attending Thursday night in Barcelona.

So now we are having a late dessert! I just love their scones. We taste tested and decided we like Devon scones better than Cornwall. Special thanks to Jenny & Brian to introducing us (when we visited them in Aberdeenshire last Fall) to milk in our tea. I never really liked tea before, but now I do.

Off to relax on the balcony until time to eat again! LOL (FYI, we didn’t eat all the sandwiches and desserts on the tiered platter)

Cadiz (don’t forget it rhymes with Gladys)

Had a lovely walking tour of Cadiz this morning. Rain threatened but didn’t actually appear until we were back aboard😄

Since I believe my blog last year reported fairly throughly in this beautiful small city, today I just took pictures I found interesting.

How to handle a problem like Maria

One stall on the street of flowers

Like Mother, like Son

Jeez, I wish these tourists would go home

The market and towers-there are 131 of these left. They used to be used by companies watching for their ships coming into port.

Interesting building details

Wowsa, he has some abs!

After a light lunch aboard ship, I took advantage of the port day spa discount and the onboard credit provided by our Travel Agent (ask me if you need her contact info) and had a great massage!

We should be leaving any minute and if we do and the Captain makes the full steam ahead he has promised we should be passing Gibraltar right at dusk🤞