Saturday, December 28, 2013

Stuff and More Stuff (with apologies to Peggy)!

My friend Peggy really dislikes the word "stuff" but there is really no other way to describe the piles that are accumulating around my house.  There seems to be no end of items that I don't think I can live without for four and a half months.  On a land trip it is usually very easy to get to a store and pick up anything you might have forgotten (or didn't realize you needed).  On a ship - not so easy.  For the last two years I have been building a list of stuff that I think I should take.  I will be the first to admit that some will likely never be used and after this trip I will know better what I really need and what I don't.  So, what is included in my "stuff"?  Here is some of it....

  • cameras and battery chargers
  • binoculars
  • iPhone
  • iPad with iPad/iPhone world travel adapter kit
  • MP3 player
  • extension cord
  • Belkin mini surge protector with USB chargers
  • portable rechargers
  • handheld scanner
  • travel steamer (Cunard allows them)
  • rollable compression bags and ziplock bags in different sizes
  • inflatable hangars
  • hanging clothespins
  • large clips (holds towel on chairs, etc,)
  • magnetic frames with family pictures
  • eyeglass repair kit
  • sewing kit and latch tool
  • lingerie wash bag
  • mini flashlights
  • over door hangar
  • hanging shoe organizer
  • Carbona grease remover
  • Goo Gone
  • large tote (for dirty clothes to take to laundrette)
  • small tote (for pool)
  • small tote that rolls up for handbag (to hold all the stuff I'll buy!)
  • Tervis tumbler with lid
  • various shoe pads, cushions, etc.
  • cooling towels and hand fan
  • First Aid Kit inlucing OTC medicines for almost every possible ailment
  • if space, plastic skirt hangars (that won't come home)
I am sure I will find a few more "must take" things before I leave.

I plan on being packed by January 6th so I will have more about the packing experience by then.

Smooth sailing until next time!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


How do you pack for a 118 day World Voyage?

I have been asked that many times.  Here is what I have planned.

Packing Challenge #1 - The Weather

About one quarter of the cruise will be in cold temperatures and the rest in warm to hot.  Possibly the only really cold places will be Southampton (where I will spend two days before the cruise starts) and New York City.  Average daytime temperatures are in the 50s for the other "cold" ports.  I am planning on layering for these places.  I have a great water resistant LL Bean coat with a zip out fleece lining which I will be wearing.

Packing Challenge #2 - Evening Dress

Cunard is probably the dressiest of all the cruise lines.  We will have about 35 Formal Nights.  When I first started planning (and purchasing) for this cruise Cunard had formal, semi-formal, and elegant casual evenings.  Earlier this year it was changed to formal and informal.  This made me change my packing list - removing some of the more casual outfits.  Since I never get to dress up in my regular life, I am making the most of these dressy evenings.  I have mostly separates and won't have to repeat an outfit more than twice.

Packing Challenge #3 - Luggage

I love luggage and would buy new pieces every trip if I had the money.   All of my old luggage was from before the airlines got strict about limits, so I gave some away and the rest went to Goodwill.  After looking at some expensive lightweight Samsonite (over $500 per case at the outlet store), I found International Traveller (IT).  Very light (4-8 pounds depending on size) and a good price.  I bought three large pieces and one carry-on.  Weight-wise I should be okay if I can get everything in (I actually weighed my clothes).  I am also taking a very old frameless bag (which once belonged to my daughter) that I can roll up and put in one piece of luggage for all the mementos I return with!

Smooth sailing until next time!


Sunday, November 24, 2013


About 12 of the countries we are visiting require a visa to enter the country.  At the least this means some paperwork and paying a fee.  At the worst, it is lots of seemingly unrelated questions (why do they need to know what my daughter does for a living or where my father was born?) and a significant amount of money.

The good news is that most of the visas are obtained onboard and the cost added to my onboard account.  But then there are the visas for India and China....

Right from the beginning I had been worrying over the visas  for China and India.  I had followed roll calls from other world voyages and read about the trials and tribulations of getting these two documents.  I had asked a number of questions on Cruise Critic and we had discussed it on our roll call.

After doing a lot of research on line, I found that I could not directly mail my applications to the embassies.  For China, I could drive to D.C. and leave my passport and application and come back four days later, pay the fee and pick up my passport.  For India, I could only use the company to whom they had outsourced the processing of visas.  (I thought it was rather ironic that India outsourced the visas when so many of our jobs have been outsourced to India!)  My other choice was to use a company that acquires visas for you.

I finally decided to use the company recommended by Cunard - Visa Central (CIBT).  I still had to fill out the forms (or pay Visa Central an extra $225 to do it for me).  I decided to tackle the Chinese visa first.  I had had a Chinese visa for my 1988 trip there and did not 
remember having any
problems.  It was quick and fairly easy with the only problem being my address in China since I was going to be on a cruise ship.  A conference call with my travel agent (Patty), Cunard, and Visa Central cleared up that problem.

And then it was time to tackle the Indian visa.  I had found a sample online and had written directions.  Filling out the form (about four pages) was not too bad except for the question about reference name, address and phone number.  Once again my travel agent had to get in touch with Cunard.  After you have completed all the questions you get a chance to check your responses.  Once you verify all your answers and click to proceed, there is no going back.  The application that then appears looks nothing like the form you filled out and there is a big empty box that says "Address of Place of Stay/Hotel".  Wait a minute!  They never 
asked me that.  I can't go back and double check.  Time to call Visa Central (and freak out 
on my roll call).  Turns out that box is supposed to be blank.  I decided to get the ten year visa so if I went again I would not have to worry about applying again!

With both applications completed, it was time to send them and my passport off to Visa Central which I did on October 29.  An email the next day said they had received everything and would be in touch if they needed more information.  A week went by and I finally succumbed to curiosity and checked the Visa Central website.  It showed that my applications were being processed and the return date was by November 30.  Another week goes by and the UPS man comes to the door and my passport was back - complete with visas - two weeks, one day and $515 later!

All in all, I worried about the process way too much.  The problems others had did not 
materialize for me, thank goodness.  Now I could get back to planning, preparation, and 

Smooth sailing until next time!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cruise Critic

Love to cruise?  Do you know about Cruise Critic?  The name may be confusing, making you think it is nothing but people complaining about their cruise.  But actually, Cruise Critic is a community of people interested in cruising.
When you first go to Cruise Critic you will see categories like, “Reviews”, “Find A Cruise”,  “Deals”, “Destinations”, “How to Cruise”,  “News”,  and “Community”.  Most of these have a pull down menu with specific information.  If you are reading the reviews, remember to take them with a grain of salt.  They are very subjective – what one person finds unforgivable might not bother another person.   Very few cruises are going to be totally horrible or totally fantastic.  A good rule is to eliminate the top 20% and the bottom 20% of the reviews.
For me, the best part of Cruise Critic is the “Community”.  This is where you will find dozens of forums covering just about any aspect of cruising.  Here are just a few of the forum topics:
Honeymoon and Wedding Cruises
Luxury Cruising
First Time Cruisers
Disabled Cruise Travel
Solo Cruisers
Cruising Technology
World Cruising

Most of the mainstream cruise lines have a separate forum where you can ask (and answer) the questions of fellow members.  Sometimes these discussions can become very heated and the board moderators have to step in and encourage everyone to “play nice”.

There also are “Roll Calls” where people who are going to be on the same cruise can chat with each other.  Roll Calls are interesting as some of them become very popular and others just sit there.   For this cruise I have been very lucky to be part of an amazing roll call.  We have discussed all kinds of topics of interest from excursions, setting up meet and greets, what to wear, to the pain of getting visas for China and India (more about that in a future post).  Although I am traveling solo, I do not feel like I am traveling alone because of all the great people I have met on the roll call.

If you need to find out information about your ports of call, there is a forum for that.  This is a great place to find out some of the best places to visit (or avoid) as well as reputable excursion providers.  Cruise Critic is owned by TripAdvisor which is another great site to learn about the places you will be visiting.

One of my favorite forums is the “Cruise Fashion and Beauty”.  Almost everyone on the forum is positive and helpful (even if they disagree).  There is even a recycling thread where people offer clothes, shoes, handbags, etc. that they have grown tired of, don’t fit any more, or they are just downsizing their closets.  If you are the lucky recipient of an item all you have to do is to send a check for the shipping to the giver and post a picture of yourself and the item on the thread.

So, if you are interested in cruising, give Cruise Critic a try.   You can read all the information but must register in order to post.

Smooth sailing until next time.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Why Take a World Voyage?

People have been going on ships for thousands of years because it was usually the fastest and easiest way to get from one place to another.  The idea of cruising for enjoyment is a relatively new concept (only about 150 years old).  A number of the ocean liners would take cruises to interesting ports during the off season (for example, when you wouldn't want to cross the North Atlantic due to weather - think pesky icebergs!).  These vacation cruises proved to be popular with the well-to-do.

In 1922 American Express chartered Cunard's brand new RMS Laconia (her predecessor was a U-boat casualty in WWI) to embark on a complete circumnavigation of the earth.  This voyage would visit 22 ports over the course of 130 days.  Laconia sailed from New York City on November 21, 1922 and returned on March 30, 1923 - completing the first continuous circumnavigation by a passenger ship.  This cruise was very popular and a world voyage (expanded to six months) became common until the Depression and then WWII.
Prosperity during the 50s and 60s saw people returning to cruising and World Voyages were sailing again.

When I started telling my friends I was going to sail around the world when I retired, I got mixed reactions.  Some people thought I was crazy, others looked like, "That will never happen".  A lot of people said they would love to do that but would never have the time, the money, etc. to actually do it.  At first, I was thinking about finding someone to travel with me, but the more planning i did, the more excited I got about going on my own.

I recently found this article that you might find interesting about the top ten reasons to go on a world cruise.

Smooth sailing until next time!

Monday, April 29, 2013


During the summer of 2011 I decided that I would teach one more year and retire at the end of the 2011-2012 school year.  So the decision was made to cruise around the world in 2014 but with which cruise line was still to be determined.

I started by researching which lines did a world voyage in 2013 since 2014 information would not be published for another year.  I came up with the following list:
  • Costa
  • Crystal
  • Cunard
  • Fred Olsen
  • Hapag-Lloyd
  • Holland America
  • P&O UK
  • Princess
  • Saga
  • Seabourne
  • Silversea
From that point I eliminated those lines that had what they called a "world" cruise but did not actually circumnavigate the world.  It was very important that I went truly around the world, starting and ending in the same place.  That narrowed my list down to:
  • Cunard
  • Fred Olsen
  • Hapag-Lloyd
  • Holland America
  • P&O UK
  • Saga
At that point I started finding prices and looking at pictures and videos of the ships.  Hapag-Lloyd was the first to go because of the price (well over $100,000 for a balcony for a solo traveler).  Next was Saga.  The ship's were old and the price was high (they have since given up world cruises).  Fred Olsen was eliminated next - the ship was old and I did not know much about the company,  I then had to let HAL go.  I had started out with HAL as my frontrunner but the Amsterdam (that does the world voyage) has few balcony cabins and they are high priced to start - then there is a 200% charge for solo travelers.  That made HAL over $30,000 more than Cunard or P&O.  So I was down to two.  I started asking question on Cruise Critic and also on the P&O Community Board.  I already knew some about Cunard because I had done a Transatlantic on the original Queen Mary.  I received a lot of feedback and for the most part people thought I would not like P&O because it catered to the British trade - I would not like the food, entertainment, and general ambience.  For the next two months I flip-flopped between Cunard and P&O.  I finally decided that I would meet a nice, international mixture of people on Cunard and the first major decision was accomplished.

Smooth sailing until next time!