Day 17 – Reflections on Our Adventure
Hi all –
The 5 am alarm was a shock, the showers and check-out were a daze. The Roma airport was an organizational nightmare (12 counters or checkpoints before we could get to the gate). Were we really heading home? It seems like years since we left! Will Roxy still remember us when we pick her up?!? And 29 hours of time to get home – yikes!!!
We learned some great lessons on the trip, and we thought we’d spend our final Blogging from Blue Water message sharing some of these with you.
Before you go:
- Call your debit card holder and let them know you may be charging things outside of your regular travel area. They may place a security hold on your card if foreign charges show up. (This happened to us in Vancouver last year for 2 bottles of water from a machine!)
- Call your credit card holders as well, and remember that American Express is not, in fact, accepted everywhere! Carry a Visa or MasterCard as well.
- Make a copy of your passport info page and the fronts and backs of any debit or credit cards you carry in case they are stolen. Take the copies on your trip but keep them in a place other than with your cards!
- For checked luggage before a cruise, consider splitting each person’s clothing among all checked bags, so that if one bag is lost, everyone still has something to wear.
For a cruise and/or city or regional travel:
- No one can really predict what a transocean crossing or any other cruise will be like, weather-wise, so pack layers accordingly.
- Get a balcony, because it gives you the privacy of doing nothing and just watching the waves go by, undisturbed, or watch the scenery go by when you’re near land.
- Anytime or free style dining on a ship gives you plenty of options and on many lines, it is now the dining preference of most passengers. And you get to meet new people (or not) everyday if you like!
- There is SO MUCH to do on the days at sea! You’ll only be bored if you choose to be! There were many things on the ship that we never got to experience because we ran out of time!
- Before leaving home, do some online homework about the ports you will visit. In many cases, large cruise ships dock in the industrial port. A shuttle will be required to get into town.
- For the town experience itself, organized tours are a great way to become familiar with areas you have not visited before, particularly if you are uncomfortable with the language. Not everyone speaks English!
- Many major cities have their own versions of the hop-on hop-off bus system, which offers a great way to get around if you are willing to be more adventuresome.
- If you go into port on your own, pay attention to the back-on-board time! Some captains will not (or cannot) wait for late passengers! (Applause from the balconies greeted the two very embarrassed women who were 45 minutes late in Gibraltar! At the farewell party, the Captain chided them for being the only people who could get lost in a 3-mile long country where the port is just about always in view!)
And then there are the global lessons we learned in Roma specifically, which apply to many major cities where we are foreigners.
- Again, don’t assume everyone speaks English, and don’t be an ugly American who just speaks louder and gets mad when they aren’t understood! Learn at least to say your apologies about your poor understanding of ____ and pick up a few key phrases before you go. (There are stories here!)
- On a tour or on your own, when there are facilities available, use them. Who knows when you’ll find the next one! (Public toilets are not the norm overseas.) And remember that in many countries, it is expected that you pay for their use, so keep some currency in small change handy for each person.
- Do your homework on the city. If we hadn’t been so busy, we would have spent more time learning that we could get online tickets to the Vatican (avoiding the lines).
- Get a really great map of where you plan to spend some time. Don’t assume that the hotel can give you something detailed to use.
- Carry a notebook and pen to write down ideas for your next trip and memories from this one.
- Weigh the price benefits of being on the perimeter of a city as opposed to being downtown, since cabs can be expensive and time consuming. Next time we would stay in the city’s center, so we could just walk out the hotel door and be in the city ambiance.
- Always ask and don’t assume that any place, including major restaurants, take any credit cards or your brand of plastic.
- Bring an umbrella for each person and very good walking shoes! In many cities, walking is much more prevalent than what we’re used to, and in some areas it’s the only way to negotiate narrow old streets.
- Try foods you don’t find at home. The fresh anchovies in Alicante were to die for! (As was the pasta in Roma, of course.)
- Don’t over-schedule yourself. Take some time to just be in a city and absorb what living locally might be like.
- Allow PLENTY of time in foreign airports for your departure. For example, the Value Added Tax (duty free) refund in Roma required 5 steps of our final day process. The signage in the airport in Roma is poor, and no one was willing to explain all of the steps in the check-in process. Lines get long quickly, and in our terminal for all U.S. bound flights, there were only 2 security lanes open! Couple this with amateur travelers and things get backed up very easily!
- Don’t expect American efficiency anywhere other than the States – we are SO spoiled!
So we’re back, safe and sound. Hope you’ve enjoyed the messages! Until our next great adventure… Ciao!
Yvonne & John