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 returning from 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 airline 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 bookeda flight 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 total 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 a mere $50 a day for room and board for the 2-week cruise. Only then, did I start to research an itinerary and Spanish 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 (but we ended up canceling it.) 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 our own 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.