Cruising, International Travel

My first trip to Europe. What did I think?

My husband and I just got back from a 2-week trip to Europe. We started in Barcelona for two nights and hopped on a cruise ship for a 9-night cruise on the Italian Riviera (with port stops in Marseille/Nice France, Portofino, Naples, Sicily, and Rome). Unfortunately because of high winds, we were unable to port in Livorno which meant we missed Florence/Tuscany. 😦

What we saw and experienced was nothing short of amazing. The scenery, architectural masterpieces, and the mind-boggling attention to detail in grand churches literally took our breath away. We enjoyed tasting various foods from each of the three countries –Paella (a rice dish) in Spain, Croissants and various wines including Rose from Provence in France and Homemade Pasta, Chianti and limoncello in Italy! We had beautiful weather for most of the trip and walked nearly 6-8 miles each day at each port stop (which allowed me to eat all the Gelato I wanted!)

Photo by Julia Volk on

Although we went in the ‘off-season’, Europe, especially Italy, was flooded with tourists. The streets were full of people that appeared to be mostly Americans/Canadians (based on their conversations). It appears we’ve definitely boosted their economy, and they had no shame in charging exorbitant prices on food, hotels and various souveniers. However, what surprised me the most is that the residents of these countries didn’t seem thrilled to have the tourism. In fact, the warm friendly experience I thought I was going to have (especially in Italy), really didn’t happen. I experienced many impatient and rude waiters, tour guides, taxi drivers, and store attendants. Perhaps it was because we were in highly crowded tourist areas, and/or the language barrier as most Europeans did not speak English like I originally thought (and read about). Either way, my conclusion is that people are people, no matter what country they live in. Some are friendly, some are not.

Would we go back? Since we were on a cruise ship for most of the trip and only had time for a small snippet of each area, we thought we might want to return to some of the places we visited. However, after careful contemplation, we decided that we would likely only return to Italy, but not in the same places, and not anytime soon. (Long flights are not fun! 😉 )

If you’ve been to Europe, how was your experience?

Cash Savings, Cruising, No Buy/Low Buy, saving money

How we are saving over $1,500 on our upcoming cruise.


Cruising is our preferable way to vacation. We love the convenience of unpacking once, having multiple venues to eat, free entertainment, and many ports to visit. But we’ve learned there are more costs to cruising than just the cruise/airfare. Even the “all-inclusive” lines sneak in extras. Since we have taken quite a few cruises since 2016, we have figured out what is worth the extra cost and what is not.

And, in the spirit of my 2022 No/Low Spend Year, we have decided to cut out some most of the ‘extras’ and save a bunch of money.

Pre-Cruise (at home):

  • Manicure/Pedicure/Waxing: Usually I would treat myself to a gel manicure and a spa pedicure before the trip, as well as a brow/lip wax. Instead, I’ve decided to give myself a spa day at home and save the time and money at a salon. I have all of the tools to do so. I will bring touch up nail polish on my trip. Savings: $150.00$200.00
  • Dog sitting: Original plan was to hire a dog sitter. Instead my daughter graciously offered to take care of him (which hopefully will always be the plan!) Savings: $400.00


We chose a less expensive hotel this time that included a few extra perks: Free shuttles, free happy hour, free breakfast. (You would be shocked to see how much two eggs over easy and toast cost at hotels in Ft. Lauderdale!) Savings: $100.00

On Ship:

Photo by Live on Shot on
  • No alcoholic drinks. For this cruise, all drinks are included. One might argue that we already paid for the drinks. However, we booked this cruise over a year ago, and prices were a lot lower. We are figuring we have saved at least $150 – $200 on drink costs.
  • No specialty dining. Most cruise ships have specialty restaurants that offer different food fare – Hibachi, Italian, and steak houses to name a few. We have always taken advantage of trying one or two out on a trip. This time we will not. There are more than enough food venues already included, so we will not be paying extra for dining out. Savings: $200.00$300.00
  • No shopping. Even though the $10 sale will entice us me, we will not buy a thing. Savings: $10 – $100.00
  • No gambling. Ah, the excitement of the casino. We often played the slots ‘in our downtime’ between dinner and a show. However, we won’t be contributing to the cruiseship’s bottomline by participating this time. Savings: $100.00

At Ports:

  • No Excursions. We’ve been to all of the Caribbean islands on this itinerary so we won’t be taking any excursions. We do plan on getting off the ship and enjoying the public beaches for a couple of hours. At most, we will pay for chairs and an umbrella. Savings: $250.00 – $500.00
  • No Port Shopping. With the exception of a possible t-shirt for my husband, we will not be purchasing anything on the islands. Savings: $100.00

Total savings: $1,460 $2,000! Wow!

We will still have extra expenses — Uber rides, meals outside the cruise, and tipping. But saving almost $2,000 on stuff that won’t make or break our trip? Ahhmazing.

Cruising, Gratitude, Pandemic, Positivity

What to do instead of travel. Cruise travel, that is.

Getting cabin fever?  Tired of this never-ending pandemic?  Yep.  Me too.  I was so excited in May when I thought it was all behind us.  In fact, I was so excited, I booked five cruises.  Of course, they are spread out over three years, but I was able to lock into rock bottom prices. My husband and I love this way of travel.  We miss it and were very excited to get back to it.

One of our cruises was scheduled to take place this November, celebrating my 60th birthday.  I even got the t-shirt.

Cruising My Way Into 60 Gift Black T-Shirt Front

The final payment was due at the beginning of this month, but after careful consideration I canceled.  The cruise line protocols were more than I wanted to endure — masking, testing, and possible quarantining if contact tracing led to a case on board.  Not my idea of fun.

After canceling I sat down to think about how we could entertain ourselves this Fall that mimic some of the fun things we do on cruises.  Here’s what I came up with:

  • Hiking new trails in our area.  Exploring new places is what we loved to do at ports of call. Bonus: we can take the dog.
  • Movies under the stars.  Our county offers several places to do this.  We would bring our favorite snacks and drinks.  We loved doing this on a cruise ship.
  • Go to a winery and enjoy dessert wine tastings paired with chocolate. Most wineries in our area offer this outside.
  • Hosting a casino night.  We aren’t huge gamblers but do like a good poker game. We could invite a few friends over.  No need for money to change hands.  Chips can be exchanged for chocolate. (Sensing a theme here?)
  • Trying out a new restaurant.  We always love trying out specialty dining on a cruise ship. It is a fun way to add a new culinary experience. There are plenty of restaurants in our area we have not yet tried, and this would be fun to pick one.
  • Driving to a beach.  Can’t have a cruiselike experience without the ocean.  Luckily we are less than three hours away from Virginia Beach.  A day at the beach, lounging in the sun, reading a book, listening to the ocean, and eating seafood.  Sounds almost perfect.
  • Spending uninterrupted time with my husband.  This may be the best part of cruising for me.  We aren’t distracted with work, family, or chores. It’s AHHHMAZING. Still trying to figure out how to replicate this one.

All of these ideas don’t really come close to a true cruise experience, but they will help divert my attention from the reality of a prolonged pandemic to some fun adventures this Fall.

Of course, let’s not forget all the fun “Fall” stuff, unrelated to cruising, we can do as well.  Sounds like another blog post coming in September!

Has anyone cruised or is cruising this year? Please share!




Anniversary, Cruising

25th Wedding Anniversary Plans – Cancelled?

This May, my husband and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary.  We wanted to do it in a big way, so we planned a two week trip, including a 3 day stay in Seattle —

architecture building cars city
Photo by Amanda Grove on

followed by a 7 night cruise to Alaska, then off to…

glacier snow landscape mountains
Photo by Pixabay on

Las Vegas for three nights.

attraction building city hotel
Photo by Pixabay on

Considering that Seattle is the epicenter of the Covid-19 virus outbreak, and cruises are strongly being discouraged, this no longer sounds like the dream anniversary trip we have been planning for the last two years. 😦

I’ve already pre-paid for air and cruise, as well as excursions and some extras.  If I cancelled, I would only get credit for a future trip (by airlines and cruise ship), and not cash back.  The cruise lines have given guests the option to cancel up to 48 hours before cruise with no penalty.  Airlines have offered a “no change fee” but I would have to use the credit within the year.

Although it is slightly more than two months away, my anxiety level is heightened to a point where I’m leaning towards cancelling.   This means I’ll have to make a decision by the second week of May.

What would you do?

Budgeting, Cruising

How much does a Caribbean Cruise really cost?

Over the past two and a half years, my husband and I have taken six cruises.  Yep, you might say we had caught the cruising ‘bug’ and went a bit crazy.  Our first cruise was in November, 2016 to the Western Caribbean and our most recent cruise was this past November to the Southern Caribbean.  We’ve cruised the Eastern Caribbean twice, and took a cruise from NYC to Canada. (It’s amazing how much money gets freed up when you are done paying for college! 🙂 )IMG_2627

My husband and I had a blast on these trips.  They were amazing.  But they weren’t cheap.


We’ve discovered that there are many ‘hidden’ costs to cruising — everything from insurance, gratuities, and drinks to hotel stays, excursions and airline tickets.   In fact, my mind was blown when I realized I could have hired a cleaning lady every week for a year for the price we paid for one week in the Caribbean on a cruise.  Ouch. 

Below is a typical budget for an 8 day, 7 night Caribbean cruise on a mid priced cruise line for a balcony cabin for two.  I’ve included air fare and a one night hotel stay, because it’s always recommended to go a day early just in case something happens with your flight.  (The ship won’t wait for you.)  If you can drive to the port, lucky you! 🙂


A Sample Caribbean Cruise Budget

8 days, 7 nights – Balcony Cabin MidShip on Royal Caribbean’s  Harmony of the Seas in April.

  • Cruise for two/taxes:  $2,800.00
  • Gratuities ($14.50x2x7): $203.00
  • Insurance for two: $400.00
  • Roundtrip airfare for two (Coach): $1,100.00 (from DCA-MIA)
  • Hotel in Fl.: $150 – 250 (mid range)
  • Uber/Taxi/Tips: $50.00
  • Meals in Fl.: $50 – $100
  • Specialty Restaurants: $100 (You will want to try one of them, trust me)
  • Excursions: $100-$300 (This is on the low side if there are more than 2 ports)
  • Drinks on ship: $200 (This is what we’ve spent for sodas, water, mixed drinks)
  • Misc. tips: $50-$100
  • Spending money: $250-$500 (depending on how much you like to shop and/or gamble 😉 ).

                           TOTAL:  $6,103.00

(I haven’t included all the clothes, accessories, luggage, etc. you purchase before you go on the cruise, so figure another $250).

Are you shocked?  We were.  We usually pay for everything separately which gave us the illusion that the trip cost less than it actually did.

Of course you can cruise less expensively.  You can choose to cruise off-season.  You can cruise with another less expensive cruise line (i.e. Carnival).  You can drive to the port, get an inside cabin, never take an excursion, never eat in a specialty dining room or never purchase a souvenir. You can skip the insurance and stiff the help by not tipping.  Or something in between.  Your trip will still most likely cost $2,000.00 – $4,000.00.

So, is it worth the price? Only you can decide.


For us, it was.  The time spent together and the memories that we made will be cherished forever.

The only difference is that now (since we know the true cost of cruising) we are being much more selective with our future cruising plans.

If you have cruised, please share! Did any expenses or the final cost surprise you?