When we returned home from Europe, we were jet lagged for over a week. The worst part was not being able to sleep at night. That’s when it first dawned on me that taking a transatlantic cruise home from our next European vacation would solve the jet lag issue, and be a great way to recover and relax from the vacation. Transatlantic cruises are a fantastic bargain until you factor in the one-way airfare. A few weeks ago I received a letter from one of my airline mileage accounts which suggested I use my miles to order magazine subscriptions instead of letting them expire. This prompted me to check the mileage balances, and I was pleased to discover I had enough miles to really go somewhere. The BIG question was: Where? We had talked about Panama, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, as our next travel destinations; but I wanted to go as far as I could, and I had enough miles for ONE WAY tickets to Europe. Did I mention that we had recently received our tax refunds? It was March and the spring transatlantic cruises were on sale, so I decided to see what kind of prices were available for the autumn transatlantic cruises across the pond. I found several itineraries that interested me, and so I called and placed them on hold while I attempted to book flights using my free miles.
My first choice was to return to Italy, but there were no free seats available so I looked at cruises departing from Barcelona, Spain. It was on a whim that the thought came to me, “I don’t have to fly to Barcelona.” I didn’t have a map in front of me and the only other Spanish city I could think of was Madrid. I easily booked flights to arrive in Madrid 8 days before the Navigator of the Seas’ 14 night sailing from Barcelona to New Orleans with ports of calls in Cartagena and Malaga, Spain; Tenerife, Canary Islands, and Nassau, Bahamas. This was a whim – totally opposite of how I had planned our Italian dream vacation. It was accomplished so easily! I texted my husband, “We’re going to Spain!” and then drove to Barnes & Noble to buy Rick Steves’ Spain 2012. From start to finish It only took me 2 days to research and book. The prices were so good I contemplated upgrading our accommodations to a balcony stateroom, but in the end decided to see just how little I could spend for a fantastic 3 week trip. The two one-way flights on United cost $20 and the cruise $1338.65 plus $118 in travel insurance coming to $1476.65 for both of us – just $50 a day for room and board for the 2-week cruise. Only then, did I start to research an itinerary and the little inns and B&Bs on TripAdvisor.
I decided to do 3 nights in Madrid, 1 night in Toledo, 2 nights in Segovia and 2 nights in Barcelona. I have a car reserved for us in Toledo so we can squeeze in Avila and El Escorial en route to Segovia where we return the car. Our accommodations cost 40 – 100 euros a night. Whereas in Italy I had a tight itinerary and list of must see destinations, I am keeping this trip much more relaxed. While the ship is in Malaga we plan to take the cruise line transfer to The Alhambra and will book tickets online.
I haven’t made our one-way flight reservations from New Orleans home yet. Who knows? We may have enough miles by then to get them for free also.
We leave in 129 days.