Baltic Trip on the NCL Getaway - Planning and Prep
Decisions, Decisions! I wanted to do a transatlantic cruise this year. I booked Southampton to New York, the Path of the Vikings, on the Norwegian Jade. It sounded wonderful to me, but I had a feeling my husband would be bored silly. I'm perfectly content to read and enjoy the ships activities and do nothing for 10 or 11 days, but that's not my Hub's thing. He's not particularly fond of silly games, trivia contests, or long days at sea. However, he was willing to go for me. Then, he started reading and telling me all kinds of things about Peter the Great. He even ordered VIDEOTAPES! Not DVD's. Not downloadable media, but videotapes! It was horrible quality, but it was what it was. In an effort to make this an enjoyable trip for him, I looked at other itineraries and found we could actually spend two days in St. Petersburg on the Baltic trip. I cancelled the TA and rebooked the Baltic on the Norwegian Getaway. I could have stayed on the Getaway and done a back-to-back cruise, with the second half being a TA, but that would have been solo (which is okay). However, with my job situation, I felt 5 weeks was pushing it!
I knew at a minimum for this trip, I wanted a spa room. (My deep desire was to have a Haven room, as I was incredibly spoiled by my last trip aboard the Norwegian Escape. It was awesome! A solo trip on my birthday to the eastern Caribbean. The Haven was wonderful.) Since Haven rooms are expensive, I thought maybe I could bid on a Villa when the time came. If I could afford small ship luxury cruising, I would do it, because honestly, I'm not a fan of large crowds. The Haven is my compromise. I can get away from the noise if I need to, and just enjoy the quiet of the Haven courtyard and the Haven restaurants.
As a side note about the bidding process, I did get the invitation to "upgrade" my room 80 days prior to embarkation. I'm perfectly happy with the spa room, and the bid price would have probably been about the same as I had paid anyway, so I'm happy. I got the room I wanted.
Next, we needed to find flights to Copenhagen. Flight and hotel reservations are extremely expensive. I spent many hours researching fares and hotels. I waited to make those purchases until close to final payment, just in case I couldn't find an affordable fare. I signed up with a number of sites that feed fares via Twitter. AirFareWatchdog is one, as is Secret Flying. Finally, I found a flight to Brussels that was extremely affordable. My initial thought was that we would fly to Brussels and then try to take a train to Copenhagen. However, it worked out so that I found flights from Brussels to Copenhagen that were very affordable. Round trip fare for both of us was less than one round trip direct to Copenhagen from Houston. Crazy! The bonus is that I have hotel points, so our pre and post cruise stay will be free. We will only pay for one night pre and post in Copenhagen, with four free nights in Brussels. You can bet I will be hitting the chocolate stores :-)
The cruise (still in the spa balcony room), and the air fare are paid for. Now comes buying trip necessities. Going to Europe, we need a power converter, rain jackets, a compact umbrella, packable layers of clothing, and we want a new camera. Research, research, research. Cruise Critic is a wonderful resource. If you are going to Copenhagen, be sure to check out the thread "Wonderful Copenhagen" in the Ports of Call section.
I did a lot of research on different tour operators, as the NCL tours are very expensive. I really wanted something more intimate. I ended up booking with SPB Tours for St. Petersburg. They have a very packed itinerary for the two days in St. Petersburg. I initially booked others tours with them, but then things changed. Of course, I followed the roll call on Cruise Critic for our ship, and have met with different people. We have planned a tour in Talinn as well. I had initially booked the Stockholm tour with SPB. They have a tour on disembarkation in Copenhagen. However, Miss Impatient here (me of course), kind of changed things up a bit. I called NCL and asked how much would an upgrade be to the Haven spa room using my NCL World MasterCard points. I had enough to knock $300 off. I texted my husband, and as accommodating as he is, he said he thought it was worth the extra money. I plunked down the extra $700 and upgraded to a Haven Spa Suite. In addition to the Haven perks, we get $50 off per shore excursion. So I had to rethink what I wanted to do as far as shore excursions. I already knew I wanted to do the NCL excursion in Warnemunde. My husband has always been fascinated by steam trains, so we're going to do the excursion with the Molli Train. It's a short train ride, but at least it will give him a taste. Then, I started looking at the options, and except for St. Petersburg and Talinn, I rebooked with NCL. I just couldn't pass up the $50 shore excursion credit per port.
Then I changed my hotel again in CPH. I moved us to the Clarion by the airport. So, the tour will drop us off at the airport, and we can go straight to our hotel for our flight back to Brussels the next day. I also remain undecided about the pre-cruise hotel in CPH, but I have one booked. That may change before September.
I will share more about my pre-cruise purchases, packing, and all of that in another post. We are 57 days out, and I'm excited to show you all of the stuff I have ready to take with me.
-By Susan Pittman: Contributing Blogger-