As much as I like long distance railroad travel, I find myself taking cruises because of their convenience and value. Unless I were to travel both ways by train, I'd be forced to fly to reach a destination - and that's something I don't want to do in the age of "security theater". Yet, if I ever want to take a Hawaiian cruise or travel to England, I will have to bite the bullet and fly - if only to save time. But that will mean that I will need to go through more intensive screenings, which could be more troublesome if I travel en-femme. However, the focus of today's post is not mainly the headaches of traveling en-femme. Instead, it is the lack of freedom my current financial situation puts me in.
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In the past, I wouldn't think about the financial issues regarding a cross country train trip. Instead, I'd be arranging to take two consecutive weeks of vacation and arranging both transportation and accommodation for the trip. The hotel room would be booked first (in sync with flights I'd want to take) to lock in rates. If I couldn't get the transportation I wanted, I'd have no problems canceling the room if it were in a citiy such as Chicago, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. Immediately afterwards, I'd lock in my transportation - making sure that I booked rail travel first, followed by a one way plane ticket. And finally, I'd lock in my rental car. Gone are the days I'd leave this up to a travel agent who'd take care of all the little details. And yet, I wish I could do this with a small premium for the service I want. (Yes, travel agents still exist. But they have morphed into selling package deals, and not always the types of deals I want.)
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Given the bang per buck of cruising (and the lack of headaches by sailing out of New York), I have shifted to cruising until I have upgraded my financial position. So far, I have taken the following cruises:
- Alaska - Inside Passage (Princess) - 1997
- Eastern Caribbean (Holland American) - 1998
- Canada - Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (Princess) - 2013
- Caribbean - San Juan, St. John. St. Maarten, Tortola (Norwegian) - 2015
WDJ hunts for bigger bargains than I do, and she has taken more than one cruise with Carnival. I'm a little leery of sailing with them, as they aim for a younger demographic. I've heard good things about Royal Caribbean, but I don't want to schlep to Bayonne to take a cruise. Ideally, I'd be able to take mass transit into NYC and back home, as I'm accustomed to humping my bags through Grand Central and into cabs. This is not attractive to Lili. So on any future cruise, we will park her car at the passenger terminal and spend $40/day for the privilege.
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Recently, I went to see an off-Broadway play with HWV. I can't be sure if her response was serious. But when I mentioned that I'd gladly accompany her on a couple of her planned trips, she sounded like she'd like the company. For example, we both consider San Francisco as one of our favorite cities. So when she said she wanted to fly to the Bay Area and stay there for a couple of days before flying to Hawaii for a cruise, then stop in the Bay Area on the way home - it wasn't a stretch for either of us to consider each other as traveling partners. We'll have to see how things go over the next year, as I could be misreading her intent.
Next comes the Cat Lady. She hasn't taken a vacation by herself in ages, and might be interested in traveling with me. Given that GFJ is ebbing from the scene, it pays to consider another new person as a traveling partner. (GFJ told me a couple of things unrelated to our "relationship" that could have some bearing on her future. Her divorce is affecting the family business, and that is affecting other things in her life. I'm not sure if our breakup wasn't a potential blessing in disguise.)
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In the end, I miss being able to have a vacation I want to have - alone or with a partner of some sort. When I dated the woman from Rochester, I got used to the rhythm of the rails, and enjoyed the slow pace of travel. Unlike cruise ships, one sees a lot while traveling by rail, and one gets a better feel for this big country of ours. Hopefully, one day soon, I'll be able to travel cross country with some woman in a sleeping car (nookie isn't possible in the inexpensive roomettes due to a bunk bed arrangement) and share the experience....