Ellen and I have talked about doing a Mediterranean cruise, with or without friends and family, since we found out we were moving to Spain. Ted and Joelle thought it sounded like a great idea, and in the summer of 2002 we started looking at our options. We wanted to have a Spain departure so that they could come visit our house first, which really narrowed down the cruise options. Royal Caribbean has a 7-day cruise that starts and ends in Barcelona, but we were having trouble finding a good price. In November 2002, Joelle went to a travel agent and found out about Orient Cruise Lines. She was able to get a 7-day cruise from Barcelona, plus airfare, pre- and post-cruise hotel stays, and shipboard credit for less than the cruise-only portion of Royal Caribbean. The travel agent was kind enough to get us a similar deal on the cruise-only portion, and when all was said and done we paid about $3000 for the two of us. We’re booked in a cabin with a porthole on the lowest deck–room 3033 to be exact–but I’ve read that if the ship isn’t full we can expect a free upgrade. We originally had cabins on Deck 5, but the twins didn’t convert into a queen-size bed. I don’t know what’s up with Europeans, but to me $3000 to spend 7 nights in a twin and NOT in the same bed as my wife is unacceptable, so we asked the travel agent to move us to a cabin where the beds go together. Hopefully we won’t get “upgraded” back into the same cabin!
Using Joelle’s travel agent had its advantages, since she took care of both couples together better than 2 separate travel agents would have, but there were drawbacks as well. With the time difference and the expense, we weren’t ever inclined to make a long-distance call, but the agent’s email response was almost nonexistent. Joelle and Ted wound up making phone calls, faxing for us, and even visiting the office to take care of things for us. We were so thankful for all of their assistance that we think they should earn the TA’s commission! Short of that, we got them a little Travel Clock to show our appreciation. Thanks you two!
An interesting tidbit about our ship, the Crown Odyssey: Orient Cruise Lines is owned by the much-bigger Norwegian Cruise Lines, and in 2003 NCL decided to pull the Odyssey under the NCL brand. From what I’ve read, the ship was refurbished, given a new paint job, and renamed the Norwegian Crown. As the NC, it’s going to be a freestyle ship, but it’s unclear whether those changes have taken place even though the ship is already sporting the new name. As far as I can tell it will continue its Orient Lines program until the end of the summer when it leaves Italy for the US and its new life under NCL. So, what does that mean? To be honest, I’m not 100% sure, but I think it means we’ll have at least one formal night whereas the freestyle ships are more casual. I found that info and a lot of other, more useful information at www.cruisecritic.com.
For those of you not interested in going to Orient’s site (see link on the sidebar; I’m tired of typing it in), here’s our itinerary:
25 Jul Embark in Barcelona, Spain
26 Jul Monte Carlo, Monaco
27 Jul Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy
28 Jul Sorrento, Italy
29 Jul Valletta, Malta
30 Jul At Sea
31 Jul Santorini, Greece
1 Aug Disembark in Athens (Piraeus), Greece