Who plans a winter vacation in the summer? Discerning travelers do!

A taste of winter on St. Margaret’s Bay, Nova Scotia last November. It usually doesn’t snow this much!

Our story begins this past weekend when over a glass (or two) of wine, we began to talk about those travel-related things on our bucket list, two of which include a South American vacation and trying out Crystal CruisesBut…it’s only June! You rightly suggest.

The sun is shining, the temperature is rising on our deck, the dock is in the water waiting for the boat to arrive from the marina – sure signs that summer in Nova Scotia is about to arrive.  And not a moment too soon in this part of the country.  So, why in the world have we begun planning our winter vacation?  The reason is simple: long years of experience.  Being a discerning traveler often means taking action many months before actually setting out for the airport.  So, that is precisely what we did this week.

Our first step in planning this vacation was to revisit our bucket list.  A South American adventure was right on top of that list alongside a desire to cruise our way through the luxury cruise lines. Regent cruises?  Check. (Actually check more than once). Silversea cruises?  Check. Cunard Queen’s Grill? Check. Crystal?  No check yet.  So putting those two desires together, we’ve decided that we want to visit Rio and Buenos Aires and travel between the two by ship.  Next stop, the web.

Visiting Crystal’s web site uncovered the perfect cruise for us departing from Buenos Aires on February 26 (a bit late in the season for our taste, since we’re trying to avoid winter weather up north,  but occasionally you have to compromise to get what you really want) and landing 12 days later in Rio.  We’d plan to spend a few days in each city before and after – we could feel the flamenco coming on already. We chose the level of suite we wanted, and were on to our next stop, Angela, our wonderful travel agent.

Perhaps we’ll have another wonderful lunch like the one we had here in Tulum, Mexico.

Angela was quick to respond to the query about prices on Penthouses and Penthouse suites that we were interested in.  “Sorry,” was the reply.  “None available.  But there are deluxe staterooms.”

A quick look at the size of the “deluxe staterooms” was enough to send us scurrying over to Regent’s web site to have a look at a similar itinerary.  There it was – and the suite we wanted was available – just one left, we might add.  So, that one is now being held for us while we figure out all of the other things that go along with planning a big cruise.  Getting to Argentina, visiting Buenos Aires, visiting in Rio at the end of the cruise etc.  But it isn’t over yet.

Just today we found a couple of Silversea cruises that sound interesting though: Cape Town to the Canary Islands and Bali to Singapore.  So many cruises, so little time!  But there is a real lesson here.

We were going to wait until September to book our February holiday.  In years gone by when we were looking to get away to a resort in the Caribbean, that strategy worked.  If price is your only criterion, then waiting for a sale and taking what you get might work.  But not for us.

But…we’re hoping to dine on our suite verandah again this winter.

As we’ve gotten older, we’ve gotten more discerning in our travel choices, and we’ve found that each trip is imbued with a kind of nostalgic feeling: we may never travel to these destinations again (but we’ve thought that before, and you know what happened!).  This means that each decision is significant.  Sure, we occasionally do something more or less on the spur of the moment (we did book our April vacation only six weeks before), but we’ve been seeing a pattern over the past few years when it comes to booking cruises in particular.  The higher end the cruise, the more likely the suites will be booked far in advance.  It seems that discerning travelers everywhere are simply not taking a chance.  Neither are we.

John Steinbeck once wrote that “…a journey is like marriage.  The certain way to be wrong is to think you can control it…” Hold that thought – right from the moment you begin to plan that journey.  Think you’re in control?  Think again.  Now, 30 seconds of winter to get you thinking about booking your own winter holiday!

The Celebrity Century: Welcome to our suite life!

If you have taken even one cruise, it is likely (at least the statistics say so) that you will take another one.  Oddly, when we asked out 22-year-old son a few months ago about his vacation preferences, even he said that his very favorite vacations were cruises.  So, evidently cruises are not just for the boomer-and-beyond crowd!  So, as you contemplate booking that next cruise – whether you’ve been on one or ten – with respect, please permit us to give you a wee piece of advice.

If you are thinking of upgrading to a larger, nicer, better-located-and-with-more-amenities stateroom, consider the answer to this question before you do:  Are you prepared to book this level of stateroom (or above) and pay the price for every cruise you will take in the future?  If the answer is no, then step away from the upgrade.  The fact is this: once you upgrade, you will never go back!

We know this because on our 20th wedding anniversary five years ago we decided to book a Royal Suite on a Celebrity ship to travel the Mediterranean for the first time.   Since then, we have been on half a dozen cruises and we have never been able to convince ourselves that we’d enjoy anything less.  Ouch, that can be expensive – but oh how you will enjoy your cruise!  From the perspective of the discerning traveler who is judicious about that luxury spending, it his worth every penny.   In our opinion, as we’ve mentioned before, bigger is not better when it comes to cruise ships – unless you’re referring to your suite!

Before we cruised only in suites, we didn’t know what we were missing.  That was just fine.  But we find now that the lines are using photos of their suites in much of their advertising.  If you’re a bit curious about what a suite is really like, come inside our suite on a recent cruise aboard the Celebrity Century.  In later posts we’ll take you aboard Regent and Silversea.  Promise!  Click on the photo to take you to the tour…