Back in August I found this Mediterranean cruise itinerary for a great price. We were looking forward to several months of intense daily babysitting and decided that we would need a relaxing break during our next travel opportunity. We just took this cruise over Thanksgiving and this is how we put it together using airline miles, hotel points, and unfortunately, cash.
We decided to book a 7-day round-trip out of Venice on Royal Caribbean’s Splendour of the Seas. There were two reasons we chose this cruise–great itinerary and great price. Bruce had not been to Venice or either of the Croatian ports, and I had not visited Split. We had rented a car for a port day on Rhodes several years ago, and had been wanting to return there for a more leisurely and introspective visit for some time.
We paid $383/person using the interline rate. This is (in theory) a special rate offered to members of the travel industry. Our daughter is an airline pilot, and we qualify as her parents. Over the course of three months, I saw the price of the cruise fluctuate wildly on almost a daily basis. The regular retail price got as low as $399, and went up to more than $700. We only saved $34 total using the interline rate! If we had qualified to get a Royal Caribbean shareholder credit, booking the interline rate would have been a big mistake, as you are not allowed any discounts when you travel interline.
The $383 was the base rate, and we had to pay taxes and port fees just like everyone else, so the total price for the cruise was $480.95/person. As always, we paid our gratuities of about $100/person. This is an area where we don’t cheap out–cruise line employees work extremely hard and deserve it.
Surprisingly we were able to find award availability on Delta at the Saver Level for 60K miles and $95.30 in taxes round trip per person in Economy. The routings were not ideal. We had a 7 hour layover in Amsterdam on the way over (which we used to our advantage, hee, hee, more later!) and we flew VCE-CDG-AMS-ATL on the return. But we got to Europe and back on a decent number of SkyMiles.
We wanted to stay in Venice proper on our first night there, so I booked the utilitarian Hotel Universo near the Piazzale Roma, which serves as Venice’s bus station. I found a rate of 55€/night on booking.com which got us a basic room with private bath in a very convenient location. The next afternoon we just walked ourselves and our meager luggage over the Calatrava Bridge back to the Piazzale Roma and the People Mover to the cruise port.
We stayed an extra night in Venice after the cruise. We had a 6:40 am flight out of Venice, so we wanted to stay near the airport. I found last-minute availability at the Marriott Courtyard near VCE for 30K points. The retail rate for this hotel is about $150/night, so we got a value of 0.5 cents per point. This is not a great redemption, but I am in spend-down mode on points. No hoarding!