Posts Tagged With: cruise ship

Plot twist: Our time in Puerto Montt

So getting into Puerto Montt tends to be pretty easy. Getting out is another story.

We traveled from Santiago to Puerto Montt overnight (12 hours, in cama seats), and all I can say about that trip is a little girl kept kicking my seat through most of the night.

Most people tell you to get out, get out of Puerto Montt. It’s the largest seaport in the area and the last good-sized town with roads before heading farther south in Chile. According to Lonely Planet, it’s called “Muerto Montt” by Chileans, or “Dead Montt.” We arrived expecting it to smell a little fishy, but we decided to continue on to Punta Arenas (a very long trip that crosses into Argentina and back again) immediately.

But we had no such luck. Most bus companies were full until March 10 or 11, a full week and a half from now. Boats and cruise liners travel through the area, but only on certain days. Planes were a little expensive for us. So, grumbling and frustrated to be stuck in a dirty, smelly, expensive town, we purchased bus tickets heading to Punta Arenas on March 5.

We had four and a half days to spend in Puerto Montt, and we began it by looking for a hostel. Turns out those are expensive, too. The best and cheapest one we could find was 40 USD a night, which is pretty expensive. But we had no choice, so we began the hike there. Seriously, this entire city smells like a stray dog rolled in garbage. I’m trying to be nice here.

Our hostel/hotel is quaint and the workers friendly, so they suggested we do a few tours around the area.  To the south of Puerto Montt are a few very pretty islands, and to the north by a couple of hours is Chile’s lake district. So I guess we’re doing that for a few days. Thankfully, we’re told the tours are very cheap–the same price as the regular bus to get there and back–so we aren’t losing money that way. Hopefully no more problems develop.

We weren’t expecting to stay here for so long, nor did we want to, but I suppose that’s all a part of the adventure! We will see what happens.

Categories: Chile | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Temples and Current Events

Early, early in the morning we woke and loaded into the van at 3:30 a.m. This wasn’t too hard for any of the people coming from the States, because we’re still getting over jet lag. Right now waking up at 3 is normal for us!

After joining a long convoy of other tour buses, we began the 3 hour drive to Abu Simbel, an ancient temple far in the desert. When we signed up for this, back in August, the 3 a.m. wake up call was not advertised. But we were able to sleep some on the bus, so it wasn’t bad.

Around 7:30 a.m. we arrived in the tiny town of Abu Simbel, on the shores of Lake Nasser. This lake was created in the 1960s to stop some over-flooding of the Nile, only about 40 miles from the Sudanese border.

Abu Simbel and the neighboring, smaller temple is the famous one you’ve all seen in history textbooks. Built by Ramses II, it was erected way out in the middle of the desert along a trade route to show his power and his military prowess (carved on the walls are details of his military campaigns against the Nubians/Kushites and Assyrians). It was just massive. And gorgeous.

The temple was discovered in 1817 by a European archeologist and a local boy (named Simbel). It had been buried with sand for over a thousand years, perhaps two thousand, and they discovered the top hieroglyphics. Another archeologist arrived from Cairo to help start and expedition to dig deeper, and the famous faces of Ramses II were found. Soon the smaller temple, dedicated to his favorite wife, Nefertari, was also discovered. Ramses II placed himself at almost equal with the gods, his statues beside them to be worshipped. His wife was portrayed as the goddess represented as a cow, and hieroglyphics also show her being crowned as queen. The goddess of the cow symbolized motherhood, milk, sustenance, and nourishment.

20141230_084047After watching a video describing how the temple was cut into pieces and moved 6 km away from the flooding area, we drove the 3 hours back across the desert.

For dinner later that night our guide, Abraham, took us walking through the bazaar and to a local Egyptian restaurant. I ordered stuffed pigeon on the recommendation of Ahmed, and Egyptian on the tour with us, and Jordan ordered grilled lamb chop. Somehow by the end of the meal I had promised Ahmed that in Luxor I would try the meat from a camel’s head. I drew the line at the brain and probably the tongue also, but I suppose when in Egypt you should eat like the Egyptians.

Abraham has opened up a little bit about the revolution and his thoughts on it, which are fascinating to hear. Almost everything he has told me has been exactly what I learned in my graduate classes, so it’s niceto get confirmation that everything is accurate, and a local, eye witness perspective is really great. Most educated Egyptians, such as Abraham, are glad the revolution took place, glad the people joined together to oust Mubarak, but are very disappointed in the power grabs afterward, as well as the continued free reign of the police, which are see as brutal and henchmen for whomever is in power. The military is considered a more legitimate form of power, because they are made up of many Egyptians. Service is required from a man in the family with more than one son. While the high leadership was/is probably just as corrupt as Mubarak and his personalistic cult, the regular military men are very sympathetic toward the Egyptian people because they are their families.

However, many people in the Middle East—even well-educated ones—do not understand the concept of democracy. Expediency and ease are not the points of democracy, often, democracy slows the decision-making process down to make sure only wise decisions are made (no rash ones) and make sure everyone has had a chance to be heard. This is completely foreign to them—they would much rather get something done quickly and have strong leadership. While I already knew this, it’s fascinating to have conversations with people that believe these things. Ideas and culture really do affect the beliefs of all of us.

Categories: Egypt | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

How we went on a cruise

This is a continuation of a series on how to afford and plan for large trips. See here for the full list.

We did very little for our first anniversary, so we wanted our second anniversary to be big. Jordan had always wanted to see Mayan ruins, so we found a 6-night Carnival cruise ship that took us through the western Caribbean.

To save up money for the trip, I worked about 24 hours a week at a hotel as a front desk agent. It was the job I had over the summer and would’ve quit in August when school began again. I decided to keep it around to make this cruise trip possible. I worked as a tutor and as a graduate assistant at FSU, which was how I made the money that we lived on every month. That money went with Jordan’s paychecks that we saved or spent as needed. My hotel paychecks were put into a different account so I wouldn’t be tempted to spend it, and sat until we were ready to buy the trip. I will tell you: this was rough. I worked a good 45-50 hours a week on top of classes and homework. I’m not sure I would do that over.

But, I made roughly $330 every two weeks from that job, and I worked from late August to Thanksgiving 2013 and was able to cover the costs of the entire cruise, including gas to get to Miami and back and the motel we stayed in the night before.

Because we were very specific on where we wanted to go, there weren’t many price options for us. If you’re much more open to destinations you will have a better chance of finding deals. But we were focused on the stops rather than the cruise ship itself, so it all comes down to priorities.

We booked through USAA, our bank. Members of USAA have great access to discounted cruise rates and shore excursions. Because we had signed up for this membership through our bank, we got an equivalent of $75 off our cruise booking and 10% off some of our shore excursions. We felt confident in our shore excursions choice because they were booked through a company affiliated with our bank, so they were reputable. Also, they weren’t through the cruise line, which meant they were much cheaper.  Once on the excursions, the tour guides knew that they had to perform better than the cruise-sponsored companies to compete for business, which meant we had great service and it was worth all the money we spent.

On the cruise ship we stayed to the meals and drinks included in our package. It’s important to read the fine print, just to make sure you’re not spending money unawares! Jordan ordered two frozen lemonade that the bartender got wrong, and we ended up paying $21 for those drinks. Later, we purchased some coke while we were on one of our excursions in Mexico. We got the local price, just $1.50 for a 2-liter, and carried it on the ship with us. If we purchased the same amount on the ship or at the port, it would have easily been $7.

All in all, we ended up being very pleased with our destinations but not the cruise ship experience, but that’s because neither of us are big drinkers or gamblers, nor did we come with a large group to hang out with.

What we learned:

  • Don’t book excursions through the cruise line
  • Search around for decent discounts
  • If you like cruising, sign up for loyalty points. Those are significant
  • Don’t buy any goods/food on the ship or in port
  • Be aware of what’s included and not included

What other tips and ideas do you have for a cruise vacation?

Categories: Practical Matters | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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