We are almost gone

IMG_1736This is a picture I took yesterday because I found these (photo above) when I was looking for something else that I wanted to take with us tomorrow when we fly to Edinburgh. What you are seeing is the SeaPass card (combo room key and onboard credit card for you non-cruisers) from every cruise we have ever taken (except the one on Carnival we don’t tell anyone about). Starting in the upper left with our first Alaskan cruise on the old Holland America Westerdam in 2000 all the way through out Fall Foliage cruise last October on Celebrity’s Summit. Those SeaPass cards represent a lot of great times with a lot of great people.

The trip we leave on tomorrow will include our 26th cruise. Not as many as many of our friends (including our buddy Seth who has taken more than 65 cruises) but we think it’s pretty good. This time we will be adding a SeaPass card from Celebrity’s Reflection headed from Dublin to Belfast, on to two ports in Iceland and then back to Cork and Dublin Ireland before we fly home. Before we ever get to the cruise we will be staying five nights in Edinburgh, six nights with our fellow Martini Mates, Paul and Gail in the Yorkshire region of England and then three nights pre-cruise in Dublin,. Lots of travel and that’s just how we like it.

We invite you to join us as I will try my best to (and since I won’t spend my entire days driving like I did in Arizona) post some pics and notes every day we are on the road. So come back here often and let us know what you think by commenting.

Enthusiasm is excitement with inspiration, motivation, and a pinch of creativity.
—Bo Bennett

I just like being finished!

Frustration2I have this thing about finishing things. As we head towards flying to Europe next Monday I am beyond frustrated today. Whenever I am working toward a trip I make my huge list of things that I need to get done before we can go. Then I work my butt off to get those things done, crossing them off one after the other. But this week has been beyond exasperating. Every time I try and get something completed and off my plate, either I can’t because of something outside my control or more things keep showing up. It is beyond frustrating. Did I mention that already?

Ever since I can remember I have been this way. I hate starting projects that I know I won’t be able to finish with things within my control or in the time frame I have given myself. I guess I am the opposite of a procrastinator. It’s one of the reasons I have gotten so much enjoyment out of owning and running my own business. I set the timeframe on every project and I am the only one responsible for getting it done. When a client sends me stuff day after day to add to something I am doing for them, I want to strangle that person. Just give me everything at once and let me finish! A great example is my e-mail inbox (I have five of them). I feel totally accomplished when I empty them. But I have a friend who brags that he has more than 4,000 e-mails in his inbox. That would kill me!

Right now I am doing my best to redesign the website for our agency. I did it originally (the one that is online now) in Adobe Muse. But Adobe is killing Muse in a two years (DAMN YOU ADOBE!) and it isn’t possible for our agency owner to make changes or additions to the site without me doing it, so I am moving it to WordPress. But not the WordPress you are reading this in, the WordPress(.org) that let’s you download the software and install it on your own server. The one you are reading this post on right now is WordPress.com. You have to pay for this WordPress every year and we are trying to avoid that. Besides, I have my own server, why would I want to pay again to use another one.

So I went out and bought myself what looked like a great WordPress theme to use. It came with a promise of supreme tech support and total ease of use but so far, that hasn’t not been the case. Finished it all up (at least I thought I did) last Tuesday and showed it to our owner and we both agreed there were some little tweaks that needed to be done. Six of them to be exact. I wrote the tech support people (turns out to be one guy…in India) with those six questions. All pretty straight forward and waited. I am still waiting. The tech support guy has sent back basically the same e-mail every day. He says “tell me what you want done and I will do it.” Well I don’t want him to do it, I want to know how to do it so I can do it again later on or in other places on the site. But no, he just wants to fix it for me. And it’s simple stuff like being able to make a text a link in his theme template (which I can’t get into without coding) or making some text bold (which isn’t working—what the hell!) So, another project I  can’t finish. And I am not sure I will be able to finish it before I leave. And totally out of my control. Just some guy in tech support who obviously writes his own testimonials.

The only good part of my work life right now is that all my yearbook stuff is done. I mean DONE! That I can control. I can decide when a product or service I provide is finished. I can work forward and provide content through the day we return from the trip.

But on the travel side, I still have group cruises to work on, vacations and cruises to book for people and a lot of that is on hold as well. Thank God we don’t fly until Monday evening. My current goal is to be completely done with everything no later than Friday morning as we have some fun stuff planned with our local kids on Saturday and want to get Jayesh and Lisa over from next door one more time on Sunday. And maybe I should try packing someplace in there. YIKES!

Do not plan for ventures before finishing what’s at hand. —Euripides

Pack it up!

IMG_1717I just finished reading an online article about packing for travel. To be honest, it has been on my mind a lot lately. All because of one spot on our upcoming trip where I am seeing a possible problem. We leave for Edinburgh a week from Monday (May 20) and on Friday of that week we will be heading to York by train to visit some of our favorite people. That’s the day I am just not sure about. You see that morning I need to get us from a train platform into our seats on the train with our luggage. And I am still not sure how I am going to do that.

We travel with the following (see the photo): two checked bags (I know, don’t check bags—see below as to why I have to), two regular-size carry-ons and my camera/computer bag and whatever Kathleen is carrying as a purse or bag (this time a backpack, I think). When we get to Waverly Station in Edinburgh, I need to get those on to the train. Each of the checked bags weighs around 50  pounds. The carry-ons each weigh around 25 pounds. All are fairly big as you can see from the pic. My camera/computer bag weights in excess of 25 pounds.

I would love to do the minimalist packing thing. I hate schlepping bags (one of the reasons we cruise, so we can pack and unpack once) but we are about to leave on a month-long European trip that will hit four countries, 3 weeks on land and a cruise in there someplace. I am a fairly big guy (6’2″, 215 pounds) and wear size 13 shoes. I have big clothes and big shoes (nowhere near as big as my little brother’s) How do I pack for that long without a checked bag? I need shoes for evening wear and shoes for working out at a minimum. One pair of my shoes almost fills a standard carry-on. Even if I stuff them with socks and underwear, three weeks worth of my clothing just will not fit in a carry-on. All that and we think that this trip we may hit snow in June (Iceland) so I need boots as well along with sweaters and other cold weather clothing.

So someone can tell me how to get all this in a carry-on I would truly appreciate it but I have tried for years to do that and the closest I have come was way back when on our first couple of land trips to Italy and the UK when we did it with one checked bag and one carry-on. But that was before I was exercised crazed and could travel the entire of a country with one pair of shoes. It was also before part of every major trip was a cruise where I knew I would need more than jeans to have dinner. And it was before we went all over the place on trips that included stops in four different countries, including Iceland.

Lastly, YES, I have read the quote below and tried that method. On the last trip I brought back exactly three things I did not wear and all three were sweaters. Not my fault that it was almost 90 degrees in Portland, Maine in mid-October.

When you get back from a trip, make a note of what you didn’t wear. This will avoid packing it unnecessarily next time. —Robert Powell

We beat Costco

Not sure if you, my faithful readers, remember that I wrote a little diatribe about Costco a few weeks back. The company I love to shop but hate when they try and sell travel. If you missed, it you can CLICK HERE to read it

Now that you are back, I want to tell you how good yesterday felt. This all started two weeks ago when some friends from out of town who we had sailed with before (let’s call them Couple A) asked us to book a nice verandah stateroom for them. It’s on a cruise we are going on as well (Fort Lauderdale to Mardi Gras and the Western Caribbean in February 2020—want to come?).

We booked Couple A in a very nice 1A stateroom with two free perks (free gratuities and free WiFi) at a very good price. Then we invited some other folks we (us and Couple A) had both sailed with before. (Let’s call them Couple B.) They decided they wanted to go but informed me that they usually booked with Costco but would like me to get them a quote on pricing and perks. I did that for a few days but the pricing had changed since we booked Couple A. There had been an Expedia Group that we had been able to price Couple A into  and it was at a great price with two perks. But it was full.

Since it was late in April at this point, I told them some of the specials were expiring and that the pricing might be better in May. On Wednesday evening when we were in East Wenatchee visiting the kids, Couple B sent me an e-mail saying, “Don’t bother, we bought our cruise from Costco. We got a great deal.”

The next morning I got an e-mail from Couple A asking, “How much did we pay for our cruise? I lost the receipt you sent me. And did we get any free perks?” My first thought was, “Oh, no! They are going to cancel and book with Costco. Our mutual friends must have gotten a great deal.” I e-mailed them back and said as soon as I was back in the office on Saturday, I would send them all of that info. Which I did yesterday.

About 20 minutes after I sent them their pricing and perks, I got a call from the female half of Couple A. She told me that the female half of Couple B had been in contact and that she was kind of bragging about the “great price I got from Costco. They gave her two perks and a $1000 Costco gift card.” Our friends (Couple A) said they were pleasantly surprised to see that they  had the same two perks, $50 onboard credit from our office and were paying almost $3000 less than Couple B got from Costco!

I was elated. After losing sleep the night before worrying that they were cancelling, we (me, Kathleen and that Expedia CruiseShipCenters group we put couple A into) had beaten Costco hands down. And I truly loved that after we had discussed it on the phone I got a text from her as well saying, “Thanks again for all the help!!! You’ve made it easy!” That made my day! That’s why I am here. To make it easy. Found them the stateroom they wanted at a great price with great perks. It felt so good—to finally beat Costco.

The average American knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Don’t be average.”—my favorite quote. Not sure who said it but I have loved it since I first heard it. I think from the greatest motivational speaker ever, Zig Ziglar.