While I was working on setting up the tours, Clayton was looking into airfare. We decided to use Icelandair again to fly to Europe. They have great one-way airfares to Europe! We needed to get to Istanbul but wanted to spend a few days in Rome first. Icelandair doesn’t fly to Rome, so we opted to fly into London, and then booked a flight through British Airways to get to Rome. We figured we would fly into Istanbul the day the cruise embarked.
We debated on whether to spend the extra money to fly in their Economy Plus section again but decided it wasn’t worth it. The last time, it only cost a couple hundred more; this time, the price was about $1000 more. Definitely not worth the price! We decided to see if we could create our own “Economy Plus” by booking an aisle and a window seat, and hoping that no one would sit between us. We check our seats every few weeks; so far, no one has booked the middle seat! We won’t get the free food by doing it this way, but for $1000/seat cost differential, I am pretty sure we can bring our own food on board.
We started looking for a hotel in Rome. We decided to find a place near the Colosseum; there seemed to be quite a few mid-range hotels that would suit our needs. We eventually settled on the Nicolas Inn, which is a place that Rick Steves recommends. If you mention that you read about them in one of Rick’s books, you get a 10% discount. We placed a deposit for three nights and planned on taking the train from Rome to the port of Civitavecchia the morning of the cruise.
Clayton then started looking at flights from Rome to Istanbul. We found a flight on Turkish Air that would work, but it was too early to book it. Good thing, because we found out that the cruise embarkation point was changed! Because of terrorism concerns in Turkey, NCL cancelled all cruises that were to embark from there. Eventually, they cancelled all Turkish ports on all cruises, as did almost every other cruise line.
NCL changed the embarkation port to. . .Rome! And, they added a day to the cruise length, so now it was a 21 day, rather than a 20-day cruise. Several ports were changed; we were now going to return to Naples and Athens (where we were just last fall). We would be embarking one day earlier as well. So, we had to change our hotel reservation, and would have one less day to tour Rome. All in all, though, it worked out great for us! We had purchased travel insurance, so if we had had to change flights, or make any other expensive changes, it would have been covered. Easier yet to only have to shorten a hotel reservation!
Next, Clayton turned his attentions to the end of our cruise. We decided we wanted to spend a few days in Hong Kong, so he researched locations and hotels there. He found a place with good reviews and a good price that was in a good location, so we booked 4 nights there. The final piece of the puzzle was finding a flight back to Seattle. After looking at many options, we ended up booking through United. We had cancelled a flight, and so had some credit with them. For the cost of the change fees, we were able to get two one-way fares back from Hong Kong.
We had one final change related to Rome. Through setting up tours, I had been exchanging emails with a lovely woman named Candace. She, like me, is a retired educator. She was going to be traveling solo and had signed up for many of the tours I had set up. Unfortunately, she had to cancel her trip and had a non-refundable room reserved at the airport in Rome. She very generously is letting us use that room since she is not able to. What a wonderful woman! Thank you, Candace!
One more little convenience – we have opted once again to pack one large suitcase and have Luggage Forward deliver it to the cruise ship. We decided that doing so would alleviate a bit of stress in London. Since we have to change terminals in order to catch our flight to Rome, we were concerned with collecting our checked luggage, re-checking it with British Airways, getting through security/passport control, and getting to the new terminal. Now, we will just have one small carry-on and a backpack, so will eliminate the “getting luggage/checking luggage” steps. And, as a bonus, when we take the commuter train from Rome to Civitavecchia, we easily are able to make the walk from the train station to the cruise ship, luggage free!