Notes from a non-recovering Cruise-a-holic

As fairly experienced cruisers, we’ve learned a few tricks over the years that help make cruising more affordable. Having a Holland America credit card, that earns double points on all Holland America charges (ie the cruise itself, shore excursions, onboard expenses, etc.), has been worthwhile for us.  The 0% annual fee is a plus. However, this isn’t a card I’d recommend unless you are a frequent cruiser with Holland America.  We trade the points for onboard amenities, gift cards and merchandise. As a bonus, you can use them for airfare statement credits.  

Carnival Corporation is the majority owner in the four major cruise corporations.  We purchased one hundred shares of Carnival Corporation stock a few years ago.  As the parent company for Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Costa Cruises, Holland America Line, AIDA, P&O Cruises (UK), P&O Cruises (Australia), Seabourn, and Cunard, shareholders get benefits when sailing on these lines.

For each fourteen day or longer cruise, we receive $250 credit per stateroom on Holland America.  An additional perk is that the stock has increased in price since we bought, so we’ve also received dividends!  Our investment has paid for itself and reaped benefits.  The best of both worlds.

Though it does take time, we check several sources for information about ports and shore excursions.  One of the best has been Cruise Critic, especially for longer cruises.  For every cruise, their website has a “roll call.”  You can easily join Cruise Critic by registering on their website: https://www.cruisecritic.com.  Besides finding our “Roll Call” for the cruise we’re doing, information is available on destinations, ships, deals, cruise tips, news and reviews.  

Through this we’ve “met” people ahead of the cruise that share common interests!  For longer cruises someone usually takes charge and organizes an onboard  “Meet and Greet.”   And, many other cruisers share information about shore excursions they’ve researched and want to share with others to reduce expenses.  We’ve enjoyed the pleasure of shared experiences organized through these connections.  Besides the delight of the excursion, friendships germinate that  last for years.

For last year’s Grand South America cruise, another couple (Tim and Julie) posted about a penguin excursion.  Not being sure whether it would be too strenuous for my Honey, I inquired about the physical difficulty.   Tim  (from Minnesota, my Honey’s home state) checked with the travel agent and we decided against him trying this one. I did it and had a great time though!

Bishop’s Finger and Old Speckled Hen beers with our tour guide, Jimmy

With a few penguins

Magellanic penguins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did connect  with the travel agent who booked us on an amazing private penguin tour in the Falklands that was very doable for my Honey.   Not only did we arrive at the prime penguin viewing area a half an hour ahead of the ship’s tours, we went to the Globe Tavern afterward for adult beverages.  My Honey had a “Bishop’s Finger” and I enjoyed the “Old Speckled Hen” beer. Our tour guide, Jimmy, who seemed happy with our tip, treated us!

We ended up booking other private tours through Jelena, each  with excellent results, and have referred her to several friends. I very much appreciate that she is well traveled and responds in a timely manner to my inquiries.

Lunch on the balcony at Viñamar de Casablanca

With Sebastian, our guide, and Leonardo, our driver

At Viñamar de Casablanca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Valparaiso, Chile, Jelena arranged a tour to the Casablanca wine region.  Not only did we have a tour guide, we had our own driver!  Besides visiting several wineries, we went to one where we enjoyed a gourmet lunch overlooking the vineyard.  

Here is Jelena’s email:  jelena@skitara.com.  We’re currently booking shore excursions through her for our next cruise.

A few other helpful websites are:

https://www.tripadvisor.com

https://www.whatsinport.com

https://www.cruisingexcursions.com

Costco members can check:
https://www.costcotravel.com/Info/Shore-Excursions

It’s nice to have options . . . and, the fun of researching possibilities! Holland America seems to have realized that cruisers are smarter than the average bear.  They now offer a Best Price Guarantee.  From their website, “To apply for the onboard credit:

  1. Book your tours through Holland America Line.
  2. If you find the same tour elsewhere that is priced comparatively lower, complete the required fields below and submit the form. You must be logged into the booking # that contains the tour purchased through Holland America.
  3. Within two business days, you will be notified by email regarding the status of your request. If your request is accepted, you will receive 110% of the difference in the form of a non-refundable onboard credit to your shipboard account.”

We haven’t used this option yet, but will certainly give it a try!  Note the term, “comparatively lower.”  One of the tours we’re considering is only $5 more on Holland America.  Hmmmm . . . that might not qualify.  At any rate, we’re having fun trying to find things we haven’t done before and are getting excited about the adventure!

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