Monday, February 24, 2014

Cruise Cricket is such a better name…

Less than six weeks to go!!!

Actually it is 39 days to go but who’s counting?

Our daughter came to visit on Friday for just two nights but she brought her enthusiasm for the upcoming trip with her as well as her work-in-progress Excel spreadsheet. Randy & I use checklists and try to get each checklist to be no more than one page (even if we have to put it in 9 point type!) but her spreadsheet has definite advantages.

First, it is one document no matter how many “pages” (sheets: she has three separate “sheets” so far). This is a huge advantage because it means we don’t have to haul around many pieces of paper (you’re welcome, trees!) or store many different files on the computer.

Second, it’s easier to color-code. I’m a great believer in color-coding. I’ve done a spreadsheet for our friends for the available tours (you can see it on this message on and have colored the cells according to “Full,” “Cancelled,” etc. Love those colors!

Third, it’s a different way of looking at what needs to be done and that makes my mind work in a different way and think of things I hadn’t thought of before.

All that may not seem like a lot, but it is, to me. I’m now excited all over about the trip and what needs to be done. Have you guessed that for me planning a trip is almost as much fun as actually going on the trip! For our daughter, too, I think.

My son-in-law calls the Cruise Critic website Cruise Cricket. That is a SO much better name! Lots of people we’ve met on ships think “Cruise Critic” (understandably) means a bunch of people who like to criticizer what’s wrong on cruise ships. Couldn’t be farther from the truth, but the name does lend itself to that interpretation. So, from now on, to me at least, it’s going to be Cruise Cricket. 

Thank you, Ken!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

How we decide who-what-when-where-how of our trips

So Randy and I started to plan a trip—in August of 2013 for April of 2014. Our main idea was to take our children and their spouses on the river cruise in Europe that we had promised them two years ago (we went around the world on Princess Cruises instead So that was the first thing we planned. We decided on the river cruise company Uniworld because it seems to be the only one with a long (27-night) trip from Bucharest to Amsterdam (because we like long trips) and has a shorter segment from Vienna to Amsterdam (because the kids are still working and can’t get a lot of time off). We are SO looking forward to that part of the trip and to the houseboat in Amsterdam. The bonus for us is that it actually starts in Istanbul, a city we definitely wanted to go back to. And the cruise includes everything: booze, entertainment, and tours—no decisions to make! Well, we’ll have to make some small decisions about exactly which of the available tours we will take.

The kids were able to get the time off for a May 25th departure from Vienna so now the river part was settled. Next was how we were going to get to Istanbul. We wanted to use miles on United but there just weren’t any convenient flights and I was getting desperate. We happened to get a brochure in the mail from Holland America touting some transatlantic cruises (translation: repositioning cruises) that were pretty darn cheap. One ended in Rome and one ended in England; both started on the same day from Fort Lauderdale and ended about a week before our river cruise started. Purely because I didn’t want to have to deal with another language, I decided on the ends-in-England trip. We were able to get a first class flight from Gatwick to Istanbul for approximately the usual price of coach so that really clinched the deal.

We had our trip over, the flight to Istanbul, and the river cruise but we needed a place to stay in Amsterdam. I checked hotels for three couples; outrageous prices! Then I remembered we had stayed on a houseboat with our son and daughter-in-law, Greg and Yolanda, in 2006 but that particular boat didn’t seem to be available. I enlisted my very organized daughter to help narrow down the huge list of houseboats. She excitedly emailed me about a houseboat that seemed perfect: slept 3 couples, was downtown, and not outrageously priced. She said it was the Prins et Brouwer ( and it seemed ideal. Not only was it ideal, it was exactly the same houseboat we’d stayed on before! I had gotten bad information about the availability. The owners even remembered us.

Now we just needed a flight to FLL and a flight home from Amsterdam and hotels in England and a reservation at the same hotel that Uniworld is using in Istanbul, the Crowne Plaza. The hotels in England would wait for information from friends and a bit more research. The flights were easily arranged using miles so we were pretty much set. And we needed a car in England, also easily arranged. The hotel in Istanbul was easy but now I am bedeviled by ads for the Crowne Plaza Istanbul every time I go on the internet!

By now it was getting into January and I really needed to find a place (or places) to stay for 5 nights in England. We knew we didn’t want to go to London—but Randy really wanted to see Greenwich—so we (I) settled on the Cotswold area. We (I) asked friends and checked with friends on facebook and googled cities and hotels and castles—yes, castles! We’re going to England, why not stay in a castle? So we’ll be in a B&B ( in Chipping Campden and Thornbury Castle ( in Thornbury. Tons of stuff to see and do in that area!

All was set and we were happy until United changed our flight to Fort Lauderdale and wanted us to change our connection so that we traveled on the day of the cruise. No way! So now we will go to Phoenix a day early so we can get to Fort Lauderdale the day before the cruise. We’re crossing our fingers that they won’t change anything again!

So all we have to do now is wait patiently 47 more days!