Penguin Island, Antarctica 2008

Friday, December 31, 2010

Planning and Getting ready for this great cruise:

Well, as usual, we came to this trip in a round about way. More than a year ago Carolyn booked three cruises, back-to-back, on the Pacific Princess. The series of cruises included a transatlantic, Athens to Fort Lauderdale, and then a round trip from Fort Lauderdale to Manaus on the Amazon and back. It was 50 some days over Thanksgiving and the Christmas Holidays...sounded great and we were able to book the same aft suite on all three cruises. It included a return visit to the Holy Land and sailing the Amazon River which are on our bucket list. Then, as happens sometimes, thing got complicated! There was the volcano that disrupted European air travel and later the unrest in Greece. We got cold feet...unusual for us. But at 50 plus days and over the Holidays, we didn’t want to risk a problem. So Carolyn started looking again. This time for something starting closer to home!

Turns out Holland America’s Rotterdam was doing a 31 day cruise, round trip from San Diego to the South Pacific, in late September. That area was on our bucket list also and really a no brainer since there was no overseas air travel! We booked a full suite in a flash!

Then our TA sent information on this cruise. She had been after us to try Regent for some time. The itinerary looked great with the Amazon and Antarctica too! We wanted to go back to Antarctica for just a sail by some time. At the time there was talk that the area would soon to be limited to the small expedition ships. The Regent Mariner sounded really nice, being a small 700 passenger all suites ship; all inclusive including most shore excursions free; first class air fare and free luggage shipment. Plus this cruise wasn’t until 2011! We bit the bullet and booked last summer!

OK, fast forward to this fall.  Carolyn read about the shore excursions at the various ports as they came on line and booked the ones that appealed to us. The shore excursions that are in the $100pp range are all free. The ones that are over about $130pp are discounted by about that much. We booked some of both the free ones and the extra charge ones. Carolyn did check the prices quoted by Regent and the value was there. In fact this 71 day cruise on the Mariner compares very favorably with HAL’s Princendam, 65 day cruise, with almost the same itinerary.

We visited regularly with members of Criuse Critic Roll Call for our cruise and have made dates for a Meet and Greet and dinner with some new friends.

It is now New Year's Eve and the four bags of clothing and snorkel gear, totaling 170 lbs., were picked up this morning and will be waiting in the suite on Jan 11 when we board. Carolyn has the other bags, two very small carry ons and a larger bag that we will check, mostly packed also.

We will leave on the 9th and spend two days at the Ritz pre-cruise. The first night is on our nickel.  We will meet up with friends from our Rotterdam cruise for dinner. The second night is complements of Regent. There will be a gala dinner that night for all the full circle passengers.

Several weeks ago we were informed that the full circle group will be treated to a free over night trip to Quito, Equador from Manta and return to Quayquil. We are really excited because we didn’t do the day excursion to Quito when we visited Manta in 2007 while sailing back from Lima.

We have been through the Panama Canal four times, twice West to East and twice East to West and enjoy the trip. We have alsobeen  to South America four times. The first two were years ago and we only visited Columbia. Then in 2007 we flew to Lima for a trip to Machu Pichu and sailed back to the Virgin Islands. In 2008, we went to Argentina and Brazil, spending time in BuenosAires, Mendoza, Iguazu Falls and Ushuaia. From Ushuaia, we did an 11 day expedition cruise on the Polar Star to Antarctica where we went south of the Antarctic Circle and did numerous zodiac landings including one on the actual continental land mass. We are looking forward to the many stops we will make on this circumnavigation.  Some are repeats, but most will be new to us.

Eleven more days and we will be on our way for an exciting 71 days on a cruise ship!