Part 4...New bookings...A new country...A new lease on life!...Tomorrow, our new itinerary!...

Mumbai.
"Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland"
"The longest river in the country is the River Shannon. The river is 360 km, 224 miles, long. The River Shannon (Irish: Abha na Sionainne, an tSionainn, an tSionna) is the longest river in Ireland.  It drains the Shannon River Basin which has an area of 16,865 km (6,512 sq mi), one-fifth of the area of Ireland."
______________________________________________

As mentioned in yesterday's post, we hesitated over spending so much on this cruise, especially after the cost of the Maharajas Train on which we'll embark on February 3, 2020.  

We have two months to travel while in India while we look forward to this upcoming cruise embarking on April 3, 2020, ending in London on May 2, 2020, 29 nights later.

We've yet to decide where we'll go when we arrive in London.  We have plenty of time for that, a little over 10 months.  We may plan to stay around Europe for a few months.  With the Schengen visa restrictions, we can only stay in most European countries for 90 out of 180 days.

There are several countries that aren't part of Schengen.  For more details on Schengen visas, please visit this site.

According to visa regulations listed on many sites for India e-visa, a traveler from the US and many other countries may only stay for 60 days.  We'll actually be in India for 63 days.  If necessary, we'll apply for an extension through the Indian Embassy through the consulate in San Francisco, the location we must use as residents of Nevada.

However, at the governmental e-visa site for India, the following is clearly stated as follows:

"Stay:
Continuous stay during each visit shall not exceed 90 days for countries except the USA, UK, Canada, and Japan. For the USA, UK, Canada, and Japan continuous stay during each visit shall not exceed 180 days.


Today, I sent them an email asking to clarify if a 90-day stay is accurate.  After all our visa issues these past few years, we aren' taking any chances.  Nothing spoils a visit to a country like immigration issues.  

Anyway, back to the cruise fare...We weren't thrilled that Viking requires payment in full so close to the time of booking and far from the time of sailing.  In this case, the final payment, as shown below is due in full on July 24, 2019, a little over three weeks from now:  

Cruise Fare $19,998.00  
E-Check Discount ($633.53)       
Past-Passenger Discount ($800.00)            
Grand Total: $18,564.47   
Total Deposit Paid: $483.50    
Total Balance Due: $18,080.97  Final payment due July 24, 2019 

Gifts/Amenities Included: 
Jessica Lyman: $300.00 Onboard Credit 
Thomas Lyman: $300.00 Onboard Credit 

We justified this expensive cruise based on the fact that we have three cruises we've booked with deposits we are able to transfer to later cruises, most likely to 2022, giving up plenty of time to recover the big expense.  

In the interim, we'll wait and see if we can sail on the cruise from Lisbon to Cape Town on November 10, 2020, on Azamara, which visits many ports on the western side of Africa, a very rare cruise.  

We're waiting to find out if the five-year ban from returning to South Africa is lifted for medical reasons.  We applied for the waiver almost seven weeks ago and have inquired several times to no avail.  They simply don't respond to our inquiries by phone or email.  

On Friday, we inquired again and will do so every Friday until we get an update.  If we don't receive the waiver, we'll lose part of the deposit we paid and miss this exciting itinerary and plan when and if we'll get back to Marloth Park.  When and if we do, we won't stay longer than 90 days in South Africa.

Today, we've added photos and information about dining options on the Mumbai cruise with Viking including the complimentary specialty restaurants.  Please see below for details.



FastDeal
21770
29 nights departing April 3, 2020, on
Viking Cruises' Viking Sun


Brochure Balcony$9,999
Our Balcony$9,999
You Save 0%

Brochure Suite$16,749
Our Suite$15,999
You Save 4%

Prices include select shore excursions and unlimited internet.
Book select categories by June 30 and pay a reduced deposit of $250 per person.
Promotions may not be combinable with all fares.
___________________________________________________________

Dining options on Viking Sun:


"The Restaurant
Cuisine: Continental
Dress Code: Elegant casual
Surcharge: No
Reservations Required: No
Hours
Breakfast: 8:00am - 10:00am
Lunch: Noon - 2:30pm
Dinner: 6:00pm - 10:00pm

The Chef's Table
Cuisine: Continental
Dress Code: Elegant casual
Surcharge: No
Reservations Required: Yes
Hours
Dinner: 6:30pm - 10:30pm

Manfredi's Italian Restaurant
Cuisine: Italian
Dress Code: Elegant casual
Surcharge: No
Reservations Required: Yes
Hours
Dinner: 6:30pm - 10:30pm

World Cafe
Cuisine: Variety
Dress Code: Elegant casual
Surcharge: No
Reservations Required: Yes
Hours
Breakfast: 7:30am - 10:00am
Lunch: 11:30am - 2:00pm
Dinner: 6:30pm - 10:30pm

Viking Deli
Cuisine: Scandinavian
Dress Code: Casual
Surcharge: No
Reservations Required: No
Hours
Check onboard for hours

Aquavit Terrace
Cuisine: Al fresco options
Dress Code: Casual
Surcharge: No
Reservations Required: No
Hours
Check onboard for hours

The Kitchen Table
Cuisine: Cooking school and restaurant
Dress Code: Casual
Surcharge: No
Reservations Required: No
Hours
Check onboard for hours

Mamsen's
Cuisine: Norwegian breakfast and lunch
Dress Code: Casual
Surcharge: No
Reservations Required: No
Hours
Check onboard for hours

In addition to the restaurants mentioned above, the Viking Sun also features afternoon high tea in the Wintergarden, a pool grill and 24-hour room service. "

Last night, our dinner for guests was canceled due to an unexpected illness of one of our guests.  We're hoping she will recover soon.  We ended up thoroughly enjoying the dinner we planned and spent a quiet evening at "home."

Tomorrow, we'll be back with our new itinerary.  Please stop back to see it!

Be well.
__________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, June 30, 2018:
The particular "dazzle" of zebras visiting that morning was all female except for a youngster.  For more photos, please click here.

Part 3...New bookings...A new country...A new lease on life!...More tomorrow...

In 2013 we sailed on a similar itinerary but this 29-night Viking cruise offers additional ports of call which appeal to us.  Also, other than Antarctica this was my favorite itinerary, sailing through the Middle East and the Gulf of Aden.
"Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland"
"In 2007, Ireland saw 40 straight days of rain."
                   ____________________________________________

To ensure we'd get the full flavor of the country of India we decided to spend about 60 days traveling to several locations and staying a few weeks at each.  As mentioned in a prior post, we'll attempt to spend little time in the cities with the most population, commotion, and traffic.

In India, the massive population in the big cities is one of its attractions bringing tourists from all over the world.  Certainly, we won't miss out on this fascinating opportunity.  
Indoor pool.
Our days of staying in one location for many months, other than a few here and there, are over.  After my recent heart surgery, we felt we needed to take advantage of each and every day.  Staying in one holiday home for long periods, wouldn't provide us with the quality of experiences we're seeking at this point. 

Since I'm not yet 100% of my former self, how often we move about will be based on how I'm feeling down the road.  It's difficult to determine right now.  In several months, we'll know more and be able to plan accordingly.
Lounge area on the main deck.
When we knew we'd be in India, Tom got to work trying to find a cruise to and from Mumbai.  This is a preferred departure point by many but most cruises are outrageously expensive and beyond our reach.

His continued research resulted in him finding the cruise we're describing here today, which we've booked with a bit of hesitation due to the cost but with considerable excitement over the ship and its luxury feel, its amenities, and the fact its a 29-and day journey.
One of two outdoor pools.
With many amenities included in the cost, such as unlimited high-speed WiFi, only 930 passengers, free specialty restaurants, complimentary self serve laundry (soap included) and no children under the age of 18 allowed.  

Don't get me wrong, we enjoy children but on cruises, the running in the halls and public areas and the seeming constant screaming distracts from the otherwise adult experience.  Relaxation is the key along with adult conversations and activities.
This is the type of cabin we booked.  All cabins on the Viking Sun have a veranda.
The ship offers many educational sessions in the theatre as we approach port after port.  Since we've already visited a portion of the ports of call, we'll venture out to see the more obscure locations or, if we'd like, stay aboard the ship when there are no tours befitting our preferences.
Comfortable theatre.
At each port, one tour is included in the cost.  Most certainly, we'll take advantage of these, even if it is a bus tour of the city.  We'd already visited Petra in 2013 and making that long hot trek (45C, 113F or more) once again isn't necessary.  It was a fabulous once-in-a-lifetime experience.  

To see our posts and amazing photos from Petra, of which there are several, please start at this link.
The Chef's Table, a special dinner made for a small group in a kitchen on the ship, included in price.  It will be tough to get a reservation for this but we'll try.  Also, we may be concerned if the special meal will work for me.
Today, we're busy getting ready for two guests for dinner.  We're doing it easy upon their insistence and based on my current limitations.  Thus, I won't have to spend the entire day in the kitchen standing on my feet.

Tomorrow, we'll be back with more to include the pricing on today's cruise along with some peculiarities Viking Cruise Line insists upon with passengers during the booking process.
There are many lounge areas throughout the ship.
Please check back tomorrow.  For the ship's list of amenities, please scroll to the bottom of today's post.

Have a fantastic Saturday, wherever you are, whatever you do.  Thank you for stopping by!
VacationsToGo.com

Viking Sun

Ship Rating:
Expand your horizons on the 930-passenger Viking Sun. This ship features all veranda staterooms and a unique onboard experience, from the peaceful Wintergarden area around the main pool, perfect for a calming cup of tea; to The Spa, a sanctuary of wellness; to the Explorer’s Lounge, where passengers can share their latest adventures. Also included are inspiring onboard talks that help you understand every destination in depth. The Viking Sun was built with understated comfort and elegance in mind and ensures you will explore every destination in comfort.

Viking Sun is dedicated to adults and therefore does not carry children or teenagers under the age of 18.
Viking Sun

Ship Statistics
Year Built 2017
Tonnage47,800 tons
RegistryMalta
Length745 feet
Beam95 feet
Passenger Capacity 930
Crew Size465
Total Inside Cabins0
Total Outside Cabins465
Cabins & Suites w/ verandas465
Suites47
Maximum Occupancy per room2
Age RestrictionsAll must be 18-20 or one must be 21 or older
Dinner Seatings1
Seating Assignments
in Main Dining Room
Open
Dining Hours6:30 PM
Dining Room Dress CodeDining
Tipping Expected?Yes
Tipping Guidelines
Viking recommends $15.00 per day, per guest. These amounts may be given to the onboard staff in cash, or you may charge them to your credit card at the end of the cruise. Bar gratuities should be made at the time of purchase.
Onboard CurrencyUS Dollar
   
Services & Amenities
Bars/Lounges Yes
Beauty Salon/Barber Shop Yes
Casino No
Chapel No
Disco/Dancing No
Elevators Yes
Hot Tub Yes
Cell Phone Service No
Internet Center No
Wireless Internet Access Yes
Laundromats (self service) Yes
Laundry/Dry Cleaning Yes
Library Yes
Movie Theatre Yes
Outdoor Movie Screen Yes
Onboard Weddings No
Shops Yes
Showroom Yes
Spa Yes
Video Arcade No
Fitness & Sports Facilities
Basketball Court No
Fitness Center Yes
Golf Driving Net No
Golf Simulator No
Ice Skating Rink No
Jogging Track Yes
Mini-Golf Course No
Rock Climbing Wall No
Swimming Pool 2
Tennis Court No
Water Slide No
Water Sports Platform No
Cabin Features & Amenities
24-Hour Room Service Yes
Hair Dryer Yes
Safe Yes
Telephone Yes
Television Yes
Kids Facilities
Babysitting No
Children's Playroom No
Kiddie Pool No
Supervised Youth Program No
Teen Center No
Water Playground/Splash Park No
Special Needs & Requests
Adjoining Cabins
     (private connecting doors)
No
Kosher Meals No
Single Occupancy Cabins No
Single Share Program No
Wheelchair-Accessible Cabins 2

__________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, June 29, 2018:
The sunset changed second by second, each scene more beautiful than the last while at Aamazing River View Restaurant last night.  For more photos, please click here.

Part 2...New bookings...A new country...A new lease on life!...More tomorrow...

 
India is a huge landmass proving us with endless opportunities to explore.
"Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland"
"Ireland's flag has three colors for a reason. The green represents the Gaelic tradition of Ireland, the orange is meant to represent those who followed William of Orange and the white stripe in the middle represents peace between both."
____________________________________________

This morning we took off early and headed to Clifden to grocery shop.  We're having company for dinner tomorrow night and although we promised to make an easy meal, we still had to pick up a number of items at the market.

After my quick stop at the pharmacy for more bandages for my leg, while Tom went to the ATM for cash, we met at the market and breezed through our shopping list which I keep on an app on my phone. 

I've been using a grocery shopping app for at least the past 12 years, finding it so much easier than a handwritten list, especially since I can't read my own scratchy handwriting.

In no time at all, we were back on the road for the 40-minute drive back to Glinsce and our holiday home.  We quickly put everything away while Tom worked on removing the ice from the tiny freezer.  We needed all the room we could get in the small space.

After the big chest freezer in Marloth Park, it's quite a difference only having a freezer the size of a small chill box.  With the trays of ice and a bag of ice, there's little room for food.  When he was done removing the ice, I got to work organizing the items and somehow managed to get everything inside including the ice.

In my life, before heart surgery, putting away groceries wasn't a task.  But now, any activity that requires standing for long periods, bending down to put food into the below-counter refrigerator becomes a major undertaking.  But, I push myself to accomplish every task before me, knowing in time, all of these activities will only add to the rebuilding of my strength.

Today is our 28th anniversary from the night we met. We're making a special dinner and will enjoy some quality time together reminiscing and thinking toward the future. 

Most prevalent in our minds are the bookings we made in the past several days; the luxury train in India, the Maharajas Express, the "Heritage of India" and a cruise, a fantastic 29-night cruise we can't wait to share in tomorrow's post.

In yesterday's first post about the train, we promised to share more details of our upcoming train expedition beginning on February 2, 2020, a mere seven months from now.  It's not that we're wishing time to go by quickly.  Instead, its fun for both of us to plan into the future, knowing we have so much to anticipate.

We selected the deluxe cabin in order to keep the price down.  Sure, we'd love to have chosen a suite but the added cost is just not worth it to us.  
The main differential in cost is the size of the cabin and we're fine in tiny spaces when we spend so little time in our cabin.

So here are the pricing details for the Maharajas Express, the "Heritage of India":  

Prices Valid From 01 October 2019 Until April 2021

 Price in Sterling Pounds Per Person
Price Per Person Per JourneyDeluxe CabinJunior SuiteSuitePresidential Suite
Twin/Double Cabin£ 5072£ 7915£ 11040£ 18960
Single Cabin£ 8944£ 15040£ 22080£ 37920
 Price in US Dollars Per Person
Price Per Person Per JourneyDeluxe CabinJunior SuiteSuitePresidential Suite
Twin/Double Cabin$ 6340$ 9890$ 13800$ 23700
Single Cabin$ 11180$ 18800$ 27600$ 47400
  
Included in the above pricing is the following:

Price / Cost Includes

*** Accommodation in Air Conditioned Deluxe Cabin or Junior Suite or Suite or Presidential Suite with attached Bathroom on board The Maharaja Express
*** All meals including tea, coffee, and mineral water and house brands of Indian wines, beer, and spirits during The Maharaja Express
*** Transport for sightseeing with Deluxe Coaches during The Maharaja Express for Deluxe Cabin and Junior Suite Clients
*** Transport for sightseeing with Private Vehicle & Private Guide during The Maharaja Express for Suite and Presidential Suite Clients
*** Entrance fee to palaces, museums & parks during The Maharaja Express
*** English speaking guide during The Maharaja Express
*** Bulter Service for Suite and Presidential Suite Clients
*** Service of the Tour Manager on Board
*** One Transfer in Mumbai and One Transfer in Delhi by Private Vehicle with Driver

Of course, the most exciting aspect to the train excursion is the itinerary as follows:

Day 1 - Mumbai - Sunday

  •  09:00 Welcome and Registration at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel
  •  10:30 Proceed for Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaja Terminus Railway Station, Mumbai
  •  11:30 Maharajas’ Express proceeds to Udaipur
  •  12:30 Lunch onboard
  •  19:30 Dinner onboard

Day 2 - Udaipur - Monday

  •  08:00 Breakfast onboard
  •  10:00 Arrive at Udaipur. Proceed for a boat ride on Lake Pichola followed by a visit to City Palace and Crystal Gallery
  •  13:00 Return to the comforts of Maharajas’ Express
  •  13:15 Lunch onboard. You may choose Optional Activities – Spa at a hotel or Local City Tour
  •  18:15 Proceed for an Exclusive Dinner at Satkar Hall of Fatehprakash Palace or Jagmandir Island Palace
  •  20:30 Returns to comforts of Maharajas’ Express
  •  22:00 Maharajas’ Express proceeds to Jodhpur

Day 3 - Jodhpur - Tuesday

  • 07:30 Breakfast onboard
  •  09:15 Optional Tour to Bishnoi Village (De-board at Rohat Railway Station)
  •  13:00 Lunch onboard
  •  14:30 Proceed to visit the Mehrangarh Fort followed by a Walking Tour of the Old Clock Tower market and enjoy a joy ride on Tuk Tuks
  •  17:30 Proceed for an exclusive cocktail dinner at Hanwant Mahal or Khaas Bagh
  •  20:15 Return to the comforts of Maharajas’ Express
  •  03:00 Maharajas’ Express proceeds to Bikaner

Day 4 - Bikaner - Wednesday

  •  08:00 Enjoy the countryside while having breakfast onboard
  •  10:00 Arrive at Bikaner. Relax onboard or you may choose Optional Activities – Visit Lalgarh   Museum or Local City Tour
  •  13:00 Lunch onboard
  •  14:00 Visit to Junagarh Fort followed by sundowners at Sand Dunes
  •  17:30 Arrive at the Sand Dunes followed by cocktails, bar-be-que, and folk dances
  •  20:15 Return to the comfort of the Maharajas’ Express
  •  21:30 Maharajas’ Express proceeds to Jaipur

Day 5 - Jaipur - Thursday

  • 08:00 Breakfast onboard
  •  09:30 Arrive at Jaipur. Proceed for a visit to Amber Fort
  •  12:30 After sightseeing proceed to Rambagh Palace hotel for lunch
  •  16:00 Return to the comforts of Maharajas’ Express
    You may choose Optional Activities – Spa at a hotel, with a visit to the City Palace Museum and Observatory or Local City Tour
  •  20:00 Dinner onboard
  •  21:30 The Maharajas’ Express proceeds to Sawai Madhopur (Ranthambore)

Day 6 - Ranthambore and Fatehpur Sikri - Friday

  •  06:30 Proceed for an exciting Game Drive at Ranthambore National Park
  •  09:30 Return to the comforts of Maharajas’ Express
  •  09:45 Breakfast onboard
  •  10:15 Maharajas’ Express proceeds for Fatehpur Sikri
  •  13:30 Lunch onboard
  •  14:30 Arrive into Fatehpur Sikri
  •  15:30 Visit the deserted Mughal City of Fatehpur Sikri
  •  18:00 Return to the comforts of Maharajas’ Express
  •  19:30 Enjoy an “Indian Evening” followed by dinner onboard

Day 7 - Agra - Saturday

  •  06:45 Arrive into Agra and proceed to visit Taj Mahal
  •  09:30 Champagne Breakfast at Taj Khema
  •  10:45 Return to the comforts of Maharajas’ Express
  •  11:05 Maharajas’ Express proceeds to Delhi
  •  13:00 Lunch onboard
  •  15:30 Disembark and bid farewell to the Maharajas’ Express as your journey comes to an end
We're in the process of deciding where we'll visit during the two months we'll have in India while we await the cruise (see tomorrow's post) that begins on April 3, 2020.  It's exciting to research different locations and decide what appeals to us the most.

No doubt, we'll be booking a safari in India with a search for tiger sightings in mind.  Oh, my, this is exciting!  I can't wait to hopefully post photos of tigers we've spotted in the wild.

Happy day to all. We'll be back tomorrow with more and...soon we'll post our new itinerary.
__________________________________________
Photo from one year ago today, June 28, 2018:
"The foot of the giraffe reaches a diameter of 30 cm (12 in), and the hoof is 15 cm (5.9 in) high in males and 10 cm (3.9 in) in females. The rear of each hoof is low and the fetlock is close to the ground, allowing the foot to provide additional support to the animal's weight."  For more photos, please click here.

Part 1...New bookings...A new country...A new lease on life!...More tomorrow...


The Maharajas Express Luxury Train* in India.
"Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland"
"Even though legend says that St. Patrick cleared Ireland of snakes, the truth is that these slithering creatures were never able to make it from Britain to the island."

__________________________________________

*Please excuse the quality of today's photos.  They were taken from the train's website and aren't clear when enlarged.

With our hesitancy to book future travels due to my recent health fiasco, the nature of our travels had changed dramatically.  At one point since we arrived in Ireland, we had no idea where we'd go in December 2019 after leaving Minnesota, Nevada, and Arizona to see family.

After days of research and planning, as of late yesterday, we're booked until May 2, 2020, almost a year out but also have a few cruises beyond that date which we may or may not take. 

We have moveable deposits on all of our remaining cruises with Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise Lines.  We have a Euro 731, US $900 deposit, paid for a cruise we'd booked from Lisbon to Cape Town on November 2020.  At the time we booked that cruise, we had no idea about my heart issues.
One of several lounges on the train.
When we went through immigration in South Africa on May 11, 2019, we were classified as "undesirables" since we overstayed our visas by the three months we had to stay in SA while I recovered, unable to fly during that time.  This classification would prevent us from returning to South Africa for 5 years.  Subsequently, we' ll miss this particular cruise.

We were provided with documentation to allow us to apply for a waiver that could potentially allow us to return sooner.  Immediately after we arrived in Ireland, we put together the detailed packet required to apply for the waiver and sent it via email as required.

Yesterday, I called to see how our file was progressing and was directed to another email address for a status update which I did, attaching all the relevant documents once again.  I was told we'd hear back in 24 to 48 hours.  But, I doubt we'll hear by then, based on history in dealing with governmental processes in South Africa.
One of several dining venues.
If we don't hear by the time the final payment is due in July 2020, we'll have no choice but to cancel the cruise, losing a portion of the deposit and not able to return to Marloth Park South Africa until May 2024.

In the interim, we're proceeding as if this isn't an issue, leaving a gap in time for the Africa cruise and the three months we'll have spent in Marloth Park.  We have a year to hear from immigration.

In order to get "back on track," we decided to proceed with events we've longed to do.  Yesterday morning, we booked the first of these exciting venues on the Maharajas Express, the India equivalent of the Orient Express.  We couldn't be more excited.
On one of many included excursions, close to the Taj Mahal.
We've talked about visiting India at some point but neither of us has been interested in experiencing the massive population as shown below:

"The population of India 2019: Looking into the latest UN data, the approximate population of India is 1,350,438,098. The population of India is rising at an alarming rate and this is why the country is known as the second most populous country in the world after China."

This is a big chunk of the world's population as shown below:

"The current world population is 7.7 billion as of June 2019 according to the most recent United Nations estimates elaborated by Worldometers. Thus, India possesses 17.7% of the world's population."

One of many dining carriages.
Based on our plans for India, we'll be able to avoid some of the traffic and commotion in the larger cities, although we'll visit some of them along the way.  No doubt, the crowds, and traffic are all part of the experience in India.

We plan to spend two months in the country, from traveling to different locations we're considering now.  But, as mentioned above, one of the most exciting elements of our time in India is starting on February 2, 2020, with a six-night excursion on the Maharajas Express from Mumbai to Dehli, stopping at outstanding points of interest along the way.

In the past several days, we spent hours researching pricing, accommodation, amenities, and routes and decided on the Maharajas Express' Heritage of India which provides us with the most exciting and comprehensive experiences.

With so much information to share here, we'll return tomorrow with more photos, pricing, amenities and the itinerary of the Heritage of IndiaWe couldn't be more thrilled, especially after this long haul of only focusing on my health.  This is exactly "what the doctor ordered."

See you soon!
__________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, June 27, 2018:
Elephants crossing the road in Kruger National Park.  That vehicle stopped too close to them putting themselves at risk.  For more details, please click here.

The engrossing work in planning for the future...Do we use a travel agent?...


Oughterard Shrubbery is a lovely spot to stop and enjoy nature.
"Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland"
"A law was enacted in 2009 that makes it illegal to be drunk in public in Ireland."
                         _____________________________________
As we conduct research for visiting our next country, we're amazed over how much more work it is now compared to almost seven years ago when we first began traveling.
This is a stream in Oughterard Shrubbery.
Why is this the case?  It appears there is 10 times the number of websites advertising the same information for the same venue.  Sorting through them to ensure we're in the correct place with the best pricing, requires diligent efforts by both of us.

Once we get on a specific site simultaneously from each of our laptops and carefully peruse it, we're more able to determine if we should seek out another site.  
Steps to the stone footbridge over the stream.
It's a time-consuming process, often taking several hours a day for a week or more, to decide on what we'd like to do, which site we'll use, reviews from other users, and the details of the booking, it's only then, we'll go ahead and book the venue.

It's not as if we have a travel agent.  With the complication of the nature of our lives, it wouldn't be prudent to leave the many facets of our travel in the hands of a stranger.  
As in most areas of Ireland, there is a tremendous number of stones.
Yes, we use Vacations-to-Go for most of our cruise bookings after having worked with them since mid-2012 when we booked our first cruise.  We've been shifted from one rep to another over the years, as they've come and gone or been promoted in the company.

In a few cases, we felt the rep assigned to us couldn't handle our needs leaving us to diplomatically contact a manager for a suggestion for another more experienced rep.  Right now, we're very happy with Heather at Vacations-to-Go, our knowledgeable rep with years of experience.
Pretty flowers in the park.
Now, as we research plans for early 2020, we're finding the best route is to use a travel agency when we know so little about the country and the places within that country that appeal to our tastes.  Even so, this still is a complicated process.

At times, particularly on cruises, other passengers have described how much work they put into booking a single cruise, considering transportation to and from the airport or pier, public or private transportation while in the country, tipping policies, hotel bookings, and the many nuances of the cruise itself.
It's interesting how most of us are drawn to water scenes.
When booking a cruise, the cabin number and its location within the ship can require hours of research and contemplation, let alone the choice for dining times; excursions either through the ship or privately; WiFi availability and costs; drink packages and the various pricing;  pre-booked spa services, if desired; and specialty restaurant packages often offered before sailing.

For an inexperienced traveler, this task can be daunting, if not overwhelming.  For us, it was a trial and error process since we were traveling non-stop. For many travelers, this is a once-in-a-lifetime or once-a-year trip, for which they expect relative perfection.
An onlooker on the bridge over the stream.
Nothing is more frustrating than discovering a cabin is located above or below the disco (this happened to us once and they moved us after three days of requesting a change).  I could hear and feel the vibration of the music in my pillow at 1:00 am.  (The disco often stays open until 3:00 am).  Early on, we certainly learned a lesson after this experience.

But, these particulars are often unknown to the average traveler and we often see long lines at the ship's customer service desk with disgruntled passengers wanted to change to a different cabin.  Additionally, more experienced cruisers will wait in this queue for hours to request a free upgrade.
Sheep running away when we stopped for photos.
There's no way we're interested in standing in line for two hours to upgrade our cabin.  We strive to book the best possible cabin for our budget, thus far always with a balcony (this could change down the road) and if everything is working, clean and safe, we're happy to stay put.

So now, as we work to book the next country we'll visit, we do so with the utmost of care and consideration.  Soon, we have some details to share.
May your day be filled with wonders.
__________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, June 26, 2018:
Yesterday, we spotted this ostrich family near this vehicle.  It was over four years ago we saw our first ostrich in the wild in Marloth Park.  It was on December 7, 2013, that we'd spotted an ostrich standing next to this exact same vehicle at this exact same property, looking at himself in the window of the vehicle.  Click here for that post. Please click here for the one year ago post.