Our journey was confirmed & booked in June 2011, approximately 30-days before official retirement from Alimentation Couche-Tard, and a full 8 months before scheduled sailing.
First, why a world cruise? We've not traveled to any exotic places outside the US except Mexico, the Carribean & Tahiti. With a desire to see several foreign countries & cultures, taking such trips one-by-one is quite expensive and requires a great deal of planning when you consider airfare, cabs, lodging, sightseeing and meals. You never know when you may experience air delays, you won't know where to flag ground transportation once you arrive, the driver or drivers may not speak English, the currency conversion may be confusing, the lodging may not be suitable & the food may very well make you ill. With a cruise of this nature, you can visit nearly every major destination on your bucket-list without all of the hassels just mentioned. You pack & unpack once - you select your room (or stateroom) with the help of your cruise consultant - your food is prepared by some of the finest chefs in the world each day, no transporation or currency concerns, and your sightseeing or shore excursions are pre-approved by the cruise line enabling you to see the very best sights and engage in the very best activities possible - there's literally no guesswork involved. In terms of your stateroom, small accomodations may be perfectly fine for short cruises but for a journey of this nature and having sailed for as long as 21 days in the past, don't skimp. We booked a suite with a full bath, whirlpool tub, mini-bar & separate living area. While onboard activities will be numerous during days at sea, there are times when you want privacy and the ability to just spread out & relax. An inside stateroom or standard balcony room will become cramped very quickly - spend the extra money and be comfortable!
Once the cruise was booked, we received information from Holland America enabling us to start booking shore excursions. This took several weeks, and was actually fun. Shore excursions for each port were contained in a 155-page brochure - we spent many evenings going through each port and the list of possible activities before booking.
In November, and as required by the cruise line, each of us had to obtain the following vacinations:
- Japanese Encephalitis (two)
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Yellow Fever
Japanese Encephalitis was administered in two parts, one shot in early November with part two 28 days later. The other vacinations were all taken the same day and needless to say, we were both sore but experienced no side effects. It was somewhat comical as we were both in the same room at the clinic, we each had our own nurse, and both of them had a handful of needles sticking us one right after the other. The nurses were quite competent and very gentle - it wasn't a bad experience, but not an exercise you want to sign up for on a regular basis!
Cheryl has done an absolute amazing job coordinating bill payment while we're away - everything is setup on auto-pay. She also contacted the IRS and filed tax extensions - not only federal, but the states of Arizona & North Carolina as well.
Packing has been a challenge - we started in mid-December! Holland America made arrangements to send a FedX truck to the house on December 27 to pickup luggage - how great is that! This saves having to haul suitcases to the airport, to the hotel and then to the pier on embarkation day January 6. In total, 5 large pieces of luggage and 2 duffle bags. Clearly, it won't be sufficient to handle the changing weather, particularly the bitter cold in Antarctica but we'll do our best. Although there are laundry facilities aboard the ship, we signed up for an "unlimited laundry" package - a pre-paid program where the crew does your laundry as frequently as you wish. This will definitely be well worth the additional investment.
Our home will be under the watchful eye of our oldest son, Chris, and his girlfriend Shana. They will physically move in to care for the property plus the two cats! We love you both - we couldn't do it without you!
So here we sit on New Year's Day - 6 days away from sailing.
We'll keep you posted!