As I’ve mentioned, I went on my first scrapbooking cruise in October 2006. It was sponsored by Creating Keepsakes magazine and toured the Mediterranean Sea. I’m going to write some things about it to share my advice for anyone who might be taking or considering a scrapping cruise. I’m no travel expert, so all I can do is tell you about my experience – how I prepared, what I packed, the excursions, the crops/classes/activities, and life on board my ship. I think I’ll break it down into different entries; otherwise, it will be too long :) I hope you enjoy!
First, the basics: I learned about ‘Cruisin’ With Lisa’ (Bearnson, founding editor of CK) from an ad in Creating Keepsakes magazine in Spring 2006. My mom and I had to plans to go to Italy ‘someday’, but nothing was concrete. When I saw the ad, I thought ‘This is it!” so I called her at 10:30 that night. She’s like, ‘What’s wrong? Why are you calling so late?’, but I just could NOT wait until morning to ask if she’d go on this cruise with me. (Think I kinda freaked her out, oops). She was on board right away (pardon the pun, sorry) and soon after a good friend ‘K’ decided to join us. By the time we called to reserve our spots, much of the cruise was booked. I learned that, had I been looking on the CK events site or been on their e-mail list, I would’ve known about the cruise months sooner. We were still able to get the rooms we wanted for the most part (by that I mean the cheapest choice, or we could not have afforded it!). We had to leave a series of deposits, and the cruise had to be paid in full well before the departure date. For this reason, I would highly recommend travel insurance. It’s not that expensive compared to the amount you have at stake if you have to cancel your trip. That being said, ‘K’ is STILL trying to get all of her husband’s money refunded through insurance; he had to cancel due to some family health problems. I have faith she will get her money back and still think insurance is the way to go.
The most frustrating part was planning the rest of the trip – getting there and back, and our plans to stay in Rome for 2 days while we were over there. I don’t know if this is true of all cruises, but the travel agency….despite contant begging and harrass-…ummm…politely asking….would NOT confirm the times of our flights into/out of Rome, nor the ship departure/arrival time until 2 weeks before departure. We didn’t even know what vacation days to ask for from work…uurrgghh. This is an extremely long story but the moral is this: do not make your travel arrangements yourself through the internet, do it through the cruise lines. It may seem like it costs more but - I compared notes with those who used internet and they paid MORE in the end – it’s cheaper through the cruise line. It’s also simpler, less stressful, and safer. By safer, I mean that if you book your flights, hotels, transfers and excursions through the cruise lines, they are obligated to get you to and from the ship on time. The ship cannot leave without you if you’re late, etc. It’s a nice feeling of comfort and worth every penny. We had a seamless trip, while others had hassles, lost bags, lost reservations, were running terribly late, etc. The best part was the transfers – someone carries your bags everywhere you go. We could not have done it otherwise because, for a 12 day trip, we each had a large suitcase, a small suitcase, a carryon, a purse, a camera bag, and my mom had a walker. Traveling makes you very tired anyway – can you imagine carrying all those bags too?
Other things to do ahead of time are: get your passport (this can take many weeks unless you want to pay top dollar), have other photo ID, read travel books (so you can fully appreciate your destinations), join the Yahoo group about CKU cruises (very helpful!), get a copy of the cruise lines brochure (if I had done this sooner, I wouldn’t have bothered the travel agent with so many little questions cuz it’s all in the brochure!), and talk to a local travel agent even if they don’t book anything for you (they can give you hints about how to travel in a foreign country, etc).
Please join me next time for another episode of Scrapbooking Cruises when I will discuss ‘what to pack’. Caio!
Note to self: Even if you have strep throat, do NOT take Tylenol with codiene right before bed because it gives you wierd visions when you close your eyes. Ugh! (The good part about being afraid to fall asleep was that I looked through my awesome new MW catalog all night and brainstormed ideas….projects, make and takes, hostess gifts, incentives, oh my!).