Serenade of the seas

As mentioned briefly in my last blog about travel and medication, the 2 of us are planning an absolutely super long holiday from mid-August to mid-November, 97 days from start to finish. The planning for this holiday is significantly more complicated and more work but we know that it will all be worth it in the end.

It is a combination of cruising, self-driving and visiting friends. Altogether we will be visiting a total of 34 towns and cities in 9 countries. Preparation actually started in August 2017 when it was agreed that our first stop would be a week in Portugal using Holiday Club points prior to embarking on a cruise departing from Copenhagen on 26 August 2018 to arrive in Boston on 11 September 2018.

Serenade of the seas

The Serenade of the Seas will take us from Copenhagen to Boston

From there the ideas and plans just ‘grew like Topsy’ as the saying goes. We would arrive in the USA so, instead of just turning back home, let’s visit some places as well as members of my AFS family of 50 years ago. We have seen each other 3 times since I stayed with them in 1968/69 but how could we come so close and yet not see them. Since they live in the Mid-West of the USA we decided to continue to the Grand Canyon which is on my bucket list.

Curved plateau

Part of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River

Oh well, we would now be a stone’s throw from San Francisco and Los Angeles which probably would not happen again so we decided to visit these cities. It then made sense to continue to move westward towards South Africa so we will fly to Honolulu to take a cruise to Sydney, Australia, crossover to New Zealand and spend 11 days doing a self-drive through the country and then go and visit an old school friend in Perth. We will visit for a week and then fly home!

cliff formations 2

Milford Sounds between New Zealand Islands

As I said earlier, bookings began in August 2017, a year in advance. We could not be guaranteed a booking at that time at the resort we chose as their bookings only opened at the end of December. In the interim we were given a booking at an hotel in central Lisbon. After waiting until mid-January or and still not getting a confirmed booking, we chose to accept the hotel booking which, in hindsight, is probably an excellent idea. We had asked for a self-catering resort on the west coast but that would mean having to travel by bus every day to get to any places of interest. We will now be able to explore Lisbon by walking and using the Hop-on/Hop-off bus and also take the train or coach to interesting towns and sights more conveniently and at a lower cost.

City Gardens 2

City Gardens, Lisbon, Portugal

I had not thought to book the cruise from Copenhagen at the same time, planning to do so in January but a travel agent advised me to do so immediately as these cruises fill up quickly. It was excellent advice as when I submitted my booking request o 5 October 2017 there was already a limited choice of cabins but we seem to have got a decent one with a large window and not just a porthole. Of course, there was the deposit to be paid to secure the booking.

Copenhagen The Little Mermaid 4

Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid

We are truly grateful that Mr Ramaphosa won the Presidential race of the ANC and later of the country as everything is paid in US$ and our currency, ZAR or South Africa Rand, strengthened significantly from December. In October the exchange rate was $1/R14 whereas it is currently $1/R12. From January we have started the tedious task of applying for visas – we need a total of 8! I have had an excellent agent assisting with the more difficult ones and those for which we do not have to present ourselves in person.

Interestingly, both Australia and New Zealand (NZ) no longer place the visa in the passport but issue an email visa. It is sent to the applicant by email for printing out. We now have our visa for NZ and the Australian one should arrive this week. We will be going for an interview for our USA visa on Wednesday 11 April and then the agent will apply for one for Canada. Then, it is one each for Greenland, the UK, New Caledonia and a Schengen visa for Portugal.

It takes quite a lot of careful administration and recording especially as so much is done electronically. There are also places to book for accommodation and once again I have used a site that is easy to access and use and efficient. Any queries are followed up promptly and in a friendly manner. We are booked now for wherever we will be visiting and the good part is that we can cancel up to the day before and only pay after we have spent time at the hotel.

This is as far as we have got to date. A break over Easter weekend seems a good idea.