We have been so busy with everything in our business that this trip has kind of snuck up on me. It’s hard to believe that we are leaving for Europe in just under two weeks. This is a trip that we have been planning on since January. It all started over dinner with some friends, when we said “We really should go on another vacation together some time.” These are really good friends of ours who we’ve traveled with in the past to places like Costa Rica, Death Valley, Las Vegas, and more. They are really easy going, have similar interests, and are just really fun to hang out with.
In our initial planning stages, we talked about all kinds of things such as China, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, and Scandinavia. The trip ended up coming down to China in Scandinavia. We ended up ruling China out, because my wife and I are going there for a business trip in October. So, Scandinavia took the lead. The problem is there are so many countries in Scandinavia that we wanted to visit and I’m not big fan of packing and unpacking. So, we started looking at cruises. In the end we found the cruise that worked out perfectly for us. We get to visit places like Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Russia, and Germany. The cruise itself is 11 days and is round-trip from Copenhagen. So, we are going to arrive in Copenhagen a couple of days early in order to acclimate to the time change. It will also give us the opportunity to see more of Copenhagen.
On the way back we will be spending three nights in London before heading back home. I’ve done a lot of traveling over the past few years. Add that to the fact that I charge all my personal expenses to an airline miles credit card, that gets me 1.5 miles per dollar, I’ve banked up over 2 million airline miles. Airline miles are great way to fly first-class on long-haul flights. The downside is they are very hard to use and there are a lot of blackout dates. So in order to find a way to use my miles we are flying out of Los Angeles, but directly into Copenhagen (with a connection in Paris). The crappy thing is there just wasn’t a way to get home from Copenhagen. So, I had a book a flight from London three days after our cruise returns. On the plus side, I was able to get on a Virgin Atlantic flight from London in Upper Class, which is just absolutely amazing.
I’ve been to London several times, but it’s always been for business. So, it will be neat to have a few days there to be a tourist. The other awesome thing is my wife has never spent any time in London, so it will be cool showing her round as well.
As for the cruise, we’ve planned very little ahead of time. The only ports of call that we’ve made any plans in advance for are St. Petersburg and Berlin. The reason we made plans for St. Petersburg is because of visa issues. It turns out that Russia doesn’t make it very easy for Americans to visit. However, they have some special relationship with the cruise line, that if you use their tours you don’t need a visa. So, we booked a private driver and a van for the two days we are in port there (though the cruise line). This way, we can go at our own pace and not feel like I head a cattle on one of the larger tour groups. We also made plans in advance for Germany. The cruise docks in some small port city about three hours north of Berlin. So, we booked train tickets from the port city to Berlin early in the morning and returning later that night. The train ride is about three hours each way, but we’re in port for about 14 hours. So, we will have a full day in Berlin to be tourists. It will be a long day, but we can sleep on the train.
As for all the other ports, we plan on just getting off the boat and letting life take us where it takes us. I’ve been on a lot of cruises and I have the most fun in port this way. I enjoy many aspects of cruising, but one thing I hate is large tour groups arranged by the cruise line. Not only are they outrageously expensive, but you can’t go your own pace and you feel like a head of cattle.
We will be sailing with Princess Cruise lines, who I’ve sailed with in the past. I remember it being a great experience and I hope this one is equally as great. We have a deluxe balcony stateroom that will undoubtedly feel way too small.