Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Time to Book a Cruise

Of course what vacation of ours would be complete without a cruise. 

Since this long vacation still had a few weeks left we searched for cruise itineraries that left from California (either San Francisco or LA).  We had a few options, Grand, Ruby, Star or Island.

Island was doing the Panama and it isn't our favorite ship and the dates didn't match up so that was easy to drop from our list.

Star was doing 15 day Hawaii and those dates didn't line up either.

The Grand was doing an itinerary we really wanted to do (10 day Sea of Cortez) and we had people we would love to reconnect with on board. But that would be only one 10 day cruise as after it was heading to Hawaii and we didn't have enough time (plus it was expensive) to add that on.  So that was dropped.

That left the Ruby.  The Ruby is doing 7 day Mexican Riviera cruises that stop in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas.

We love Mexico so we knew we would be happy with that. The price sure was right. Probably some of the lowest we have seen in a long time, so that helped.  Deal for past Princess cruisers!

Wasn't crazy about 7 day itineraries as we would then have two turnaround days. But hey - what a silly thing to be a negative point.

So we booked!  Yup three legs on the Ruby. 

What is even better is it looks like we have many cruise friends that will jump on for one of the legs.  Price and itinerary and proximity were a big selling point.

But in order to do three legs we had to compromise and we booked an inside cabin for all three legs.  Even though the price of a balcony was very reasonable. Getting it for three legs added another $1,000 in total and we agreed that we could use that money elsewhere. 

I always say it is your holiday and you do what you have to do. 

People ask how we can do three legs, well being in an inside is one of the ways. But who knows if we get an upgrade or an upsell things could change.

Disneyland Booked

So as you have read so far we are booked on a flight from Lima to Los Angeles.  Our plan was to have this great adventure but we also need some rest and relaxation.  So we started to look at cruises we could do from Los Angeles.   
But all the cruises only left on the Saturday and well I will admit it, I really wanted to go back to Disneyland.

It may have something to do with Disneyland offering Canadians a discount when they buy a 3 day or longer pass because of our exchange rate. Then it seemed every hour there was a Disneyland commercial on the tv.  Hmm are they telling me something?

We were able to scoop up some passes from airmiles.ca at the discountated rate. Note we knew others were experiencing a lot of problems trying to redeem their points. Although we never have had an issue we weren't about to wait and find out.  We have used airmiles for a lot of things in the past but a few years ago we switched credit cards to one that provided better perks as well as better rewards so we were not really accumulating that many points with airmiles. So what better way to use them.

Once ordered it only took about five days for them to deliver to us the pass.

I started to research hotels in the Anaheim area.  Last time here we stayed at the Red Lion a block from the park. We really liked this place and would of easily have gone back but we realized the cost of that convenience meant we may have to look at a bit further away.

We searched most of the big sites for the going rates. I then went to Hotwire.com and selected the location and the star level (make sure to research what hotels are in that area and the star level first) and accepted the price.  

We were surprised to see we got the Holiday Inn Anaheim Resort.  Great hotel but not on the main drag. It is still only a half hour walk to the park but off the beaten path. But after more research I see that the ART (Anaheim Rapid Transit) stops right there and can take us to almost anywhere we need to go and their daily pass is quite affordable.   

Another great perk here is they offer free parking. Even though we are not sure if we will rent a car, it is still an option.

Monday, November 28, 2016

More Flight to Book - Lima to Los Angeles

Since we have the main flights booked to Peru we were able to rest a bit and take our time searching for flight from Lima to LAX.

What is funny is even though we had a great deal from Vancouver to Lima with that amazing direct flight from LAX to Lima it was not a great deal to fly to LAX direct.  WHY! Oh yes the flight demons.  

All flight options that were remotely reasonable had at least one connection.  

Remember in my blog a few days ago that I said that airlines watch flight routing and dates and price will suddenly jump up.  

Well it happened to us.

There was a great flight with JetBlue that left at midnight from Lima and routed to Fort Lauderdale with a 3 hour layover there and then a flight to LAX for around $450 Canadian each.  A steal we thought, plus that would save us a night's accommodation as we would be in the air overnight. 

Oh but that doesn't sound appealing either.  And leaving at midnight would mean that last day in Lima would be a long one.  We discussed and then agreed that this was the best option and we went to book. 

NOOOOO the fight now has jumped to $650 each.  See even I have frustrations when booking.

Okay back to the drawing board. We knew that if we waited a few days that JetBlue would probably put that flight back down in price (in fact at time of writing this blog a week later the price is back down to $450 Cdn).  I also needed to look for alternatives now too.

Now there was a great flight with Avianca (which I researched and had good reviews and great planes - make sure you check out seatguru.com).  The flight was leaving at a better time of just after 10 am and had only one layover in San Salvador (but we don't change planes) with an arrival in LA that evening for a cost of $650 Canadian. Which was the same price as Jet Blue and was a shorter flight, better plane and flew during the day. So no brainer we booked it.  

Sometimes things happen for a reason.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Booking Flights Within Peru

So here I go again - a new endeavor for me.  Booking flights within Peru.

Our journey with Puma Adventures starts in Puno, Peru for Lake Titicaca and ends in Cusco ten days later. We needed to arrange one way flights from Lima to Juliaca (closest airport to Puno) and then Cusco to Lima at the end.

One thing I learned is Kayak.com had some great deals but often when I would go to the deal the LATAM flight was not priced correct.  This kept happening.  In the end I had to go with a different booking site to secure the flights.

But it was relatively an easy process and a fair price.

I was surprised too (not sure why as it is a distance away) that the flight to Juliaca is 2 hours!  

We were able to secure the same flight that Dylan and Ben are on at 10:45 am - a more sensible time. This will allow us time to rest and get a good breakfast and to store our bag at the airport (this bag is for our travels after we leave Lima and we don't want to lug with us).

We are being met in Juliaca and will then be transported to Puno where our journey will begin.

After our time (10 days) with Puma Adventures we will leave Cusco and fly to Lima.  

We have decided to spend two nights in Lima to explore the city some more. We did visit here on our last South America trip and thought two full days was necessary. 

Plus you may remember Daniel who is from Peru and works as a waiter on Princess. Even though he will be on board a ship (Star Princess) we are hoping to meet up with his family. 

Hotels in Lima are reasonable, especially if you choose one of the many boutique hotels. We discussed at length whether we should book a big name hotel and have a more "Canadian" like atmosphere. Or try a boutique hotel that is run by a family and offers a more "Peruvian" experience. Easy decision we went with the boutique hotel. 

We reserved a room for two nights at the Casa Bella Miraflores. Centrally located, includes breakfast and will arrange to meet us at the airport and transport us to the hotel for an added $20 US each way. The hotel rate is $55 US a night and it will meet our needs I am sure.  

I was quite impressed that I was able to reserve the room on line and they responded very quickly to my request and any questions I might have and the offer for transport. 

Booking Flights to Peru

This is something new for me.  You see I am normally booking flights to join a cruise.  Sure I have booked flights for land vacations.  Back to visit family, and flights with charters to Mexico.  But I have never booked flights to a foreign country where a lot of things were new to me.  

So from our earlier blog you now know we are heading to Peru for an amazing trip of a lifetime.

But first we need to buy fights to Lima.  Getting there from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada has a few challenges.  

  • First there are no direct flights.  
  • Second it isn't cheap.  
  • Third routing can be almost anywhere.  
  • Fourth layovers really need to be factored in.

I love using kayak.com for my searches - but make sure to do it in an incognito window so they don't track the flights. 

One reason -- you end up seeing prices go up for flights you are looking at the next day. Companies now can track how many have looked at a particular flight, on a particular day, and routing.  Heck even cruise lines are doing this.

Our goal was to find a one way flight to Lima with only one connection, with a reputable airline, with minimal layovers for a reasonable price. A daunting task!  Or am I asking too much.

After searching various sites over a few days of travel (make sure to look at flight leaving a day or two earlier) and taking lots of notes. 

One thing we saw was great prices but the layovers were crazy.  I for one don't want a layover of 13 hours in Toronto or Mexico City.  Flights with less layovers jumped in price.  

In the end we came across a flight that got us into Lima the night before our flight to Juliaca.  

Thankfully we secured an Air Canada flight that leaves early in the morning in Vancouver with a 2 hour stop in LA, enough time to change to our Lima flight (which is more than enough because luckily we clear US customs in Vancouver and won't have to in LA). 

We then board a LATAM flight (we flew with them a few years ago to Brazil and loved them) direct from LA to Lima, Peru.  Arriving in Lima just after midnight local time.  And the price $400 US each!  

We have learned that if we find a great flight at a great price don't hesitate -- BOOK IT because there is always a chance (and we have been burned before) it won't be there at the same price later.

We then reserved a hotel right at the airport (Costa del Sol Wyndham) to crash before our flight the next day to Juliaca for our time in Puno and Lake Titicaca. 

It was hard to accept the cost of this expensive hotel ($200 night and we would only be there 9 hours) but after searching for less expensive accommodations away from the airport that certainly would of been a lot cheaper we agreed that those cheaper hotels were not going to cut it. 

This night we would need a comfortable bed that is close by.  Also not having to worry about securing transportation to and from the hotel and enabling us to rest for longer made us realize we made the right choice.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Next Trip - So Excited

I can officially announce our next trip!

After a lot of reflection and trying to figure out what we could do with a lot of vacation time in January/February we finalized it all this week.

We are heading to Peru and Machu Picchu.  This is going to be a very special trip that will lead us on a journey that we will never forget.

We are booked with Puma Adventures  for ten days (9 nights) starting in Puno and Lake Titicaca and the floating Islands.  Then to Cusco and the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu with so much more. 

Check out the tour Cameron Diaz did with Puma. 

After the tour we will head to Lima for a few days then fly to Los Angeles where we will start a totally different holiday.

Disneyland!  Yup I wanted to go back and since they are offering special discounts for Canadians I thought why not. 

So after four days in Los Angeles we will board the Ruby Princess for three 7 night cruises b2b2b. I know it is not something we would normally do, but we love Mexico.  We want to sail on the Ruby again.  And finally the price was just so good we couldn't pass it up. 

We did look at options to fly to Florida and join a Caribbean cruise but they were just too costly per day compared to the Ruby.

So stay tuned as we prepare for this voyage and make sure to follow my blog when we are on our adventure.  I know it will change my life.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Disembarking the Royal Princess

Well darn! We have to get off. 

So many people say to me how can you handle such a long time on the ship. Well I don't know I just do. It is easy. But whenever I have to get off I am prepared to get off and ready to go home. But I could easily stay on too.

We wake to the alarm clock - what I swear I just fell asleep. Didn't sleep well. I actually woke up from a dream at one point thinking I had packed all my clothes and had nothing to wear ashore. I then had to get up and check to ensure I did in fact leave clothes out. How many of you have done that?

We quickly shower and get ready and then head to Horizon Court for a quick breakfast. It is still early and not too crazy. 

Back in the cabin just after 7 am to collect our carry on bag and knapsack and then we head down to deck five to get a coffee for us and one for Barbara the Captain Circle host who is manning the Platinum Elite disembarkation lounge.

Thankfully we see Yami so we are able to say good bye to her too. Was nice to get to know Yami better this trip. Hugs!

We arrive in the disembarkation lounge which is Concerto Dining room. Not many people here (again the demographics) and we take a seat. We don't wait long, by 7:30 we are called (meeting time was 7:20 - note that is a meeting time not a disembarkation time and is just an outline). 

Just when we were leaving we see Ursula. We met Ursula last May on the Ruby. She is a passenger from Florida who also loves Daniel one of our favorite Waiters. Big hugs to Ursula and can't believe she has been on and we hadn't seen her.  

We quickly are off the ship, find our bags and then head to the customs line. We take advantage of the Global Entry line (we have Nexus) and we are thru Customs right away.

Dock side we get in a cab and we are on the way to the airport! We arrive at the airport at 8 am! Wow that was quick, quicker than I anticipated. In fact we are too early we can't even check our bags. 

No big deal we head to the next terminal that has a Starbucks at Arrivals Level and we relax and sip our coffees and watch some Youtube Videos - want to catch up on the SNL sketches.

All our flights worked out and we were home in Vancouver by 1930 (Pacific Time). Soon after we were in our car on our way home.

Vacation over - but memories to last a life time. 

Thanks for following.