Anticipation is Half the Fun

Anticipation is Half the Fun

The anticipation is killing me! As of this writing, I am 22 days away from next trip and I’m completely invested in the vacation mindset. Not only am I excited about getting away and enjoying the Caribbean sunshine, but I’m also excited about the preparation itself. I’m a “list” person so I love thinking about all the things that need to go on a prep list and then getting to cross things off as they get done. It’s like a game. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I haven’t even told you about my upcoming trip…

At the end of April I will join 3,000 of my closest friends on the Carnival Glory for a 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise out of Miami with stops at Half Moon Cay, St. Thomas, San Juan, and Grand Turk. I’ve booked a balcony stateroom and will be traveling on my own (aside from the other 3,000 people onboard). This will be my third cruise, all of them with Carnival.

Why did I choose this particular sailing? The past two cruises I went on (in 2013 and 2015), I don’t think I was a deliberate about the choice as I was this time. Probably because I didn’t know enough about cruising to know what to look for. And yes, I know I have a LOT more to learn still, but I feel like I’m a bit more prepared this time around. Here are some of the thing that were important factors in my choice of this particular trip:

LENGTH – I wanted a 7-day cruise. When you figure that the first day onboard is really only a half day by the time you embark, go through the muster drill and get settled into your stateroom, you’re already losing a day. Then the last day isn’t really even a day since you’re disembarking early in the morning and kicked off the ship before you even finish eating your last breakfast burrito from the Blue Iguana. So a 7-day cruise is really more like 5.5 days of true vacation.

TIMING – Based on obligations at my day job, I needed to travel after a bunch of deadlines in April. With an April 29th sailing I’m actually cutting things a bit close to those deadlines and I’m going to have to scramble in the coming weeks. But waiting much longer factors into the next point…

PRICE – Price was definitely an issue for me. Traveling alone comes at a premium since cruising is based on the dreaded “double occupancy” — my fare wasn’t exactly double what a single person pays, but it was pretty darned close. (Yes, I’ll be talking about exact prices in another blog articles if you’re interested.)

AMENITIES – The ship was important to me this time. My first cruise was on the Carnival Legend and I discovered the adults-only Serenity Deck was my favorite spot on the ship. My second cruise was on the Carnival Conquest and to my dismay, I discovered there wasn’t a Serenity Deck on this ship (I naively assumed it was a fleet-wide amenity, I guess). So finding a ship with this feature was essential to me this time around. Carnival Glory fit the bill.

PORTS – I wanted to visit San Juan so finding an itinerary with a stop in Puerto Rico was factored into the decision. This was a “nice to have” not a “deal breaker” option, so I’m happy that I found a trip that worked for this wish. The rest of the ports on the list didn’t really matter to me. I haven’t been to many places in the Caribbean so my main goal was to visit new places rather than repeat an itinerary that I’d already been on.

This trip is the first time I used the services of a travel agent – specifically a Personal Vacation Planner from Carnival. Once I had settled on the exact trip I wanted to book, I left the trip in my shopping cart on the Carnival website and called David Chirinos and asked him to look over my reservation and get me booked. I have heard from multiple sources online that having a PVP with Carnival has been super helpful, so I thought I’d give it a try. David saw the cabin I’d chosen on my own and pointed out a couple flaws with my choice (I would have been right above the theater and the crew often have full-blown, loud rehearsals after the shows are over and it can get noisy). So he helped me move my cabin choice to a quieter area of the ship but still convenient to the amenities that were most important to me.

Once the cruise is booked then there are all the “other” things to tackle. Like airfare, hotel, transportation, excursions and port activities. I’m a researcher, so this part is just as fun as figuring out which cruise itinerary to book. The hotel and transportation are figured out, but activities in each port are still up in the air. But thanks to Amazon I’m now armed with a couple new travel guides about the ports of call in the Caribbean and I’m still doing my research on what to do in each port. No, I haven’t yet booked any excursions so I’ll save that discussion for another blog article about the plans.

Once I have a trip booked I find myself highly distracted in almost every other area of my life. It’s hard to focus on the mundane tasks of the day job or my business and I have to force myself to pull back from thoughts of lounging in the sun if I expect to get any real work done. But anticipation is half the fun, right? Surfing Pinterest and Trip Advisor and Cruise Critic and Facebook for fun things to do while you’re traveling and meeting new people before you even arrive. Right now I already know 145 other people who will be on the same cruise as I’ll be on because I’ve connected with them online already. And they’re just as excited about the trip as I am.

Female Solo Traveler: Why I love it

Female Solo Traveler: Why I love it

I’ve been traveling alone for years and I love it. Trying to remember exactly when it all started, and I think it was about 20 years ago when I first started going camping by myself. Then it progressed to long weekends in Northern Michigan and trips to out of town conferences with some vacation days tacked onto the end. Then suddenly I found myself on the balcony of my stateroom on a 7-day cruise to the Caribbean.

That first cruise in 2013 was the big leap for me. I went from timid weekend trips or safe camping trips to something big, scary, and expensive. Not only did I go on a cruise by myself but I was also traveling out of the country. Alone. Yes, I was a bit nervous but I wasn’t scared or fearful about the trip. My mother, on the other hand… she was making plans for my estate and making sure she knew where to look for my body when I didn’t make it home. (But she was also excited for me and a little bit jealous of my freedom, she later told me.)

That first cruise had me hooked and I’m about to embark on my third trip to the Caribbean. In the past few years I’ve settled into a routine of solo travel and I’m loving it even more now that I’ve found my confidence and sense of adventure. OK – maybe the word adventure isn’t the right word for the kind of travel I enjoy, but we’re going to go with it anyway.

If you search the Internet for “female solo travel” you’re going to find dozens of websites about how to do it safely. So yes, pay attention to those things. Tips like:

  • Always letting someone back home know your full itinerary
  • Making copies of your driver’s license, passport, credit cards and emailing them to yourself or keeping a copy with you while you travel
  • Trusting your instincts and playing it safe in dicey situations
  • Smile and be friendly to strangers
  • Research your hotel before you book to make sure it’s in a good part of town
  • Keep a tight hold of your purse or bag because thieves target people who are alone
  • Know the area you’re traveling to and ask the locals about spots to avoid
  • Keep your head up and look around when you’re walking around town

Great tips, huh? But why are they only female solo traveling tips? Shouldn’t everyone observe these tips – even if you’re traveling in groups or with your family? Believe me, I’ve read all the blogs and articles and I follow that advice. I just find it interesting that women need different safety tips than anyone else. But hey, if it helps women overcome their fear of traveling alone, I’m all for it.

I get one of two reactions from people when I mention that I’m going to be traveling alone (or when I meet strangers while on my trip). Those reactions are:

  • Aren’t you bored being by yourself?
  • Oh no! Be safe, it’s so dangerous for women to travel alone.

I’ve traveled with friends and family plenty of times and I can assure you that I don’t get bored being by myself. In fact, I love the freedom it gives me. There’s nobody to consult about where to go for dinner or if I decided to skip the planned activities of the day at the last minute. If I get distracted by an interesting site on the way to something else, I don’t feel guilty about wanting to stop and explore. There’s nobody to answer to but myself and I am allowed to be as selfish about my time as I choose to be. Honestly, the freedom is probably the best part of traveling alone.

I’ve also discovered over the years that I probably have some quirky things about the way I travel that others might find…. interesting (yeah, that’s a good word for it). So let’s just clear something up right away. I’m a self-proclaimed geek. I’m a girl but in my luggage you’ll find that the gadgets outnumber the pairs of shoes that I pack. Don’t judge.

Look for another blog article about traveling with gadgets. Ha! Maybe I need to focus less on “female solo traveler” and more on “female geek traveler.” It might be an untapped market.

I’ll close with that thought and just add one final thing. No matter who you are, male or female, solo or family, geek or non-geek, traveling and exploring is a life-changing adventure and I highly recommend you venture out and find your own style of travel. And have fun!