My newest blog project is to plan a summer of Mediterranean travel using last-minute cruise bookings interspersed with land travel. I want to see what the ratio of land/sea travel would turn out to be, and to come up with an approximate cost.
One of my recurring fantasies is to spend a good part of the year traveling–perhaps months at a time! I’ve also wondered about the economic feasibility of spending a good bit of that time on cruise ships–using them as a home base for extended travel. I’ve done SOME research on this–check out my posts on Living on Cruise Ships (see the category Living on Cruise Ships in the sidebar.) I looked at the costs of spending a month on the same ship, using Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Princess cruise ships as examples. I found that in general, it is more economical to book these back-to-back cruises ahead of time.
Now I’m wondering if it would be possible to book different cruises at the last-minute–and be willing to take land side trips if suitable cruise options can’t be found. I would be giving us the option of changing cruise lines and ships as we go. Family responsibilities preclude our actually doing this travel. But planning is half the fun isn’t it? (sigh!) This will be the travel equivalent of paper trading a stock portfolio–for research purposes only! I will test out costs and logistics without actually going on the cruises.
I’m going to look at the costs of two people traveling, since that is how I usually travel. I would need to position us near a busy cruise port where it is possible to spend some quality time on land when suitable cruises can’t be found. I’ve come up with two possibilities that I’m interested in.
Southern Florida Based Cruising
This would involve keeping a car in Florida so that we could drive between the cruise ports of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and Port Canaveral. We could drive our car down from Georgia and be at any of these ports within a day. We would have to find places to park our car at/near the ports but we could disembark from any of the ports in the morning and be at any of the other ports in the early afternoon. Since I’m starting this investigation now (in April) I’m thinking that the prices for these cruises will be fairly high over the summer. I’m also not thrilled about the idea of spending any non-cruise time in southern Florida during the summer months. I may work out a southern Florida virtual cruise scenario this winter.
Mediterranean Based Cruising
The Mediterranean ports are much more interesting to me that the Caribbean, Bahamas, or Mexican ones. I could visit Rome as a port day an unlimited number of times even though I’ve already spent about six weeks there. Naples, Livorno, Athens–I could go back again and again. I would be more likely to plan a summer in Europe than I would in Florida, so I am going to choose Mediterranean cruising as the focus of my little experiment! The main cost of these cruises is often the airfare to get there, so I am going to make my first virtual cruise a transatlantic.
Deciding on a Transatlantic Cruise
I started looking at affordable options a few days ago and I’m seeing those options shrink as each day goes by. These cruises are selling out. (BTW our cruise next month on the Royal Caribbean Empress has been sold out for several weeks!) I’ve decided to virtually book the Norwegian Getaway 16-night cruise from Miami to Copenhagen. The total cost for two would be $1729 and that includes their Free at Sea amenities–ultimate drink package, free specialty dining, cruise excursion credit and some wi-fi. (I’ll add gratuities later.) I think that beverage package would come in mighty handy on those sea days! Here’s the itinerary:
Flight to Miami and Hotel
I most likely would use airline miles to fly to Miami, but I could book us two one-way tickets ATL-MIA for $69 each on Delta! Of course we would plan to arrive the day before embarkation. I would book a hotel in South Beach on points, and take Uber from MIA to South Beach. The next day we would Uber it to the port, or if we are feeling really cheap we would take the public bus (which we’ve done before!)
Flight from Copenhagen to Milan
I’ve priced out a EasyJet flight from CPH to MXP at $58/person! I’ve not decided if I want to make a virtual stay in Copenhagen, but we could also fly out the day we arrive in port. Milan seems like it would be a good place to fly into as we could potentially sail out of Rome or Venice. I’m working this out later.
Keeping Running Costs
Here at the end of my posts I’ll keep a running per diem cost for two people. I like to do this on all my real trips anyway. Our land trips in Europe cost us about $120-$200 per day, so it will be interesting to see if the virtual cruises stay close to this budget. I am going to add $27.00 per day to any cruising costs for gratuities for two. I will also try to come up with some reasonable costs for do-it-yourself shore excursions for the port days. Here’s the per diem we’re starting with:
Positioning cruise Miami to Copenhagen: $1729 (cruise fare) + 16*$27 (gratuities)= $2161/16 (nights) = $135/day
If you have any suggestions at all at this point I would be glad to hear them!