Day 12...Circumventing the Australian continent....Answering a loyal reader's questions in an email...Remembrance Day observation aboard ship

View of the bridge where navigation of the ship is conducted by the captain and his crew.
"Sighting on the Ship in Australia"


Stone sculpture/artwork in hall near Cascades dining room.
In yesterday's post we discussed an email we'd received from a loyal reader, Elaine, who with her husband decided to travel the world influenced in part by reading our site over these past few years.
It meant so much that we may have played a small role in inspiring them to be willing to sell their home to become unencumbered with stuff to enhance the affordability and enjoyment of the experience for a two year period. 

However long one my choose to travel, with our without homes, cars and belongings in their home country, many find traveling to be a life changing and enriching experience.


Tender boats which are actually the ship's lifeboats were taking passengers to Benoa, Bali for sightseeing.  After spending four months in Bali, we saw no point in getting off the ship today.
In her email, Elaine had a number of questions, a group of which we decided required and deserved a little more time and space than we'd provided in yesterday's post.

Elaine wrote:

"One more question for you.  Which are your favorite booking sites?  Vacations to Go?  For cruises...VRBO for bookings (have you had any bad experiences with bookings?)  Favorite Airlines (sometimes a necessary evil)?   Any favorite ways to save money...ie Airline Miles plans etc."

For ease in reading our responses to each of Elaine's questions, we'll address each one separately as indicated below:

What are our favorite booking sites?
Long ago in 2012 when we built our site, we began using our favorite booking websites, some of which are listed as advertisers on our homepage.  We selected these companies to fulfill our travel needs after considerable research as to:  quality of service, pricing, response time, reliability of website, length of experience and user reviews. 

Each company/website provides it's own unique service which continues to serve us well with few, if any, issues over these past almost five years since the onset of our bookings which we began long before we actually left the US.  Please see our list below with details.



Some passengers had booked outdoor activities on this rainy day in Bali.
Cruises:  Vacations to Go, rep Brooklyn Earnhardt.  Exemplary service, quick response, best pricing possible on every cruise. Plus, if cruise's price is reduced prior to final payment, all we do is notify our rep and she'll lower the price accordingly but its our responsibility to continually check for price reductions which Tom does daily.  We've saved several thousand dollars on this feature.  (Price increases do not have any bearing on our pricing once initial deposit is paid at time of booking).

Hotels:  Almost in every case, we use this link on our site to Hotels.com.  With a rewards program that includes "one free night after spending 10 nights" this has worked well for us.  Their pricing is highly competitive and we've been very happy with results.  For our upcoming hotel stay in Minnesota for six weeks, they gave us an excellent corporate rate discount (based on long stay).

Vacation/Holiday Home Rentals:  Since our first vacation rental booking in 2012, we've been primarily using this link on our site to HomeAway.com.  On a few occasions we've used other sites such as VRBO.com but have found the most listing on HomeAway

Their easy to use site seems to have better priced listings than many other such sites.  Also, on HomeAway its possible to pay a deposit to hold the property whereas on AirBnB, which often includes shared rentals, (we're not interested in sharing a house), they require payment in full at time of booking for the entire rental period. 

Benoa, Bail as seen from the ship.
We aren't willing to pay three months of rent in advance, often as much as 18 months out, to a stranger.  Note:  DO NOT PAY RENTS OR DEPOSITS FOR VACATION HOMES VIA A BANK TRANFER.  THERE'S NO WAY TO RECOVER LOST FUNDS IF ANY ISSUE ARISES. USING A CREDIT CARD THROUGH A BOOKING SERVICE, SUCH AS STAYZ (IN SOUTH PACIFIC), HOMEAWAY OR OTHER BOOKING SITES OR, PAYPAL (USE CREDIT CARD PAYMENT OPTION, NOT BANK ACCOUNT WITHDRAWAL) RESULTS IN SOME FORM OF RECOURSE IN THE EVENT OF FRAUD.  CREDIT CARD COMPANIES WILL ASSIST IN RECOVERING FROM FRAUDULENT TRANSACTIONS.

How do save money using these sites?  Simple, negotiate property owners/manager, if possible.  If you have special circumstances such as only two people staying in large property or are requesting a long term stay (anything over two weeks), don't hesitate to ask for a discount.  Best way to accomplish this?  Suggest an alternate price for the entire period.  Don't ask the seller to suggest a price unless you're willing to wonder if you could have booked it for even less.

Bad experience?  Yes!  Our first vacation home rental outside the US was a beach house in Belize.  It didn't have regularly running water, no insect screens and was unlivable for us.  We left in a week losing our first month's rent.  The experience was awful considering it was our first international rental but we learned a lot. Luckily, we found another property (more expensive) but ultimately fabulous and enjoyed the remaining period of our stay.  See this link to begin this story which continues over a period of several posts.


Local tender awaiting passenger's boarding for tours.
Flights:  As little as we like the necessity of flying its difficult to see the world by cruise ship, train, car or other modes of transportation.  We've seen many options for cruises that we could use for further transportation to and from various continents in an attempt to avoid flying, but the cruise fares are often out of reach financially over the long haul.  Instead, we bite the bullet and fly only when necessary on an average of four to six flights per year. 

Do we use one particular airline?  No, its not possible.  We check this site for an airline's safety rating, and then choose  those with the best ratings based on best times and prices suitable for our needs.  Yes, we do sign up to become rewards members but based on our travels to date, we've yet to accumulate enough worthwhile points since we keep changing airlines. 


Close up of local tender boats taking passengers to the shore when the port of Benoa is too small to accommodate the ship.
As for booking airline tickets, we exclusively use this link on our site to Expedia.com.  One can accumulate rewards points but they aren't significant but after considerable time and research we've been happy with the efficiency, ease of talking to a "human" if necessary, and pricing.  The site is easy to use and understand for even the most inexperienced traveler.  One can shop for days for a flight in an attempt to save a few dollars and may in fact be able to save a little in doing so.  But, if one researches carefully, you may find, as we have, that there's always a tradeoff of one sort or another for even the smallest of discounts.

Saving money in general?  We're always searching for ways to reduce our costs.  Whether its the cost of a rental car, a trip to a farmers market or a hotel stay we never hesitate to kindly ask for an upgrade and/or a better price when the situation calls for it.  Only you can use your best judgment.  We choose diplomacy and kindness when asking and a high degree of gratefulness whether they've been able to comply or not.  Coupons, discount codes, special promos are often available at the above websites and other which are readily found on a simple google search.

The contraptions are "davits" described as:  "Any of various crane-like devices used on a ship for supporting, raising and lowering boats and anchors on a ship."
Today, with time and space running out once again, we've left out an vital aspect to our travels:  rental cars.  In tomorrow's post, we'll discuss how to book and save huge sums on rental cars throughout the world and a variety of nuances to consider when selecting a vehicle. 

This morning, aboard the ship at 6 am, a Remembrance Day Sunrise Service (same a Veterans Day in the US) was held poolside.   A few minutes ago at 11:00 am today on November 11, 2016, the entire ship observed a few moments of silence by ringing of the ship's bell at the beginning and end.  Every person, including all staff and ourselves, stood and bowed our heads in respect for the fallen soldiers of World War I and other wars.  

Please check back tomorrow on how we've saved on both costs and time in renting cars over these past four years. 
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Photo from one year ago today, November 11, 2015:
The special clothing in this shop's window is often purchased for Diwali celebrations which was celebrating one year ago on this date.  For more details, please click here.

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