How My European Holiday Just Doubled in Length

Some coincidences are so random and odd that you can’t even reconcile them in your head.

A while ago, I went to the Africology Spa Launch at the Maslow Hotel. It’s stunning- you must go check it out. While there, I met Sarah who blogs at The Angel Headed Hipster. I also met her mom, Kerry, from Pleiades Media. We got chatting about what we do and I told her about my upcoming trip to Europe. She mentioned that she does PR for Cruises International.

I’ve never really been interested in going on a cruise, possibly because the only cruises I’ve heard people talk about are the MSC ones that go to “nowhere” or to an isolated Portuguese Island where there are no toilets. I’m definitely more keen to explore a city, rather than a ship, so have never pursued reviewing a cruise liner. I told Kerry this and she said I’ve got it all wrong- Cruises International do luxury European cruises, through the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Now that sounds like my kinda holiday 🙂 We spoke about maybe looking at me doing a review of one in 2014, because I was already going to Europe this year and I have endless leave constraints, but also because she suspected they might have exhausted their press trips for 2013.

We promised to stay in touch but then I lost her business card and forgot about it for a while, until a tweet from Sarah popped up on my timeline and I was reminded about it. I asked Sarah for her mom’s email addy and dropped her a mail just introducing myself for future reference.

About 2 weeks ago, she gave me a call and asked if I’d like to go on a cruise straight after my holiday to Paris, Madrid and Barcelona, given that I’m already going to be in Europe.
I immediately googled the liner (Azamara) and discovered that there was a cruise through the Italian Riviera happening 4 days after I was due to depart Madrid. So, obviously I said yes, but I knew there were tons of obstacles in my way and it most likely wasn’t going to materialise. The thing is, opportunities like this don’t come around often. I declined a press trip to Mauritius earlier this year because it “wasn’t the right time” and now they’ve run out of tickets and I’ve lost the chance to go. So I was determined that if I could get this to work, there was no way I’d turn it down.

1) Kerry still had to check if a) the ship was even interested in hosting me and b) if they had availability for the specific cruise I wanted to go on.
2) I needed to check with my editor at the Sunday Independent if she would be happy for me to write a story about the cruise. She already agreed to me doing a trade exchange with a hotel in Paris in return for a story in the newspaper about that so I was worried 2 travel stories may be too much.
3) This “extended” version of the trip would require 15 days of leave. By July, I’d only have 13.
4) What’s the point of an adventure if you can’t share it with the person you love most? I still had to convince my anti- travel husband, whose arm I already had to twist to agree to the Paris/Madrid/Barcelona trip.
5) At this point, my dad had just been hospitalised and was not doing that well. If his condition were to worsen, I was contemplating cancelling my original trip.
6) The cruise ends in Nice, so I’d have to change my flight from Madrid – JNB to Nice – JNB. Cost implication, a hefty R10k for the 2 of us.

So, you can understand why I was pretty much convinced that I wouldn’t be able pull it off, especially with 2 weeks to go!

Slowly, the pieces of the puzzle started coming together. Kerry said that the ship was keen to send me, we just had to confirm availability. The editor agreed to me running the story. Work allowed me to take 2 days of unpaid leave. Rishav saw that we’d be going to Monaco on the cruise and that alone seemed to convince him. My dad started feeling better and was discharged from hospital. Miraculously, the airline cost dropped from R10k to R4k. And then, the cruise confirmed availability a few days ago.

And I was finally allowed to get excited 🙂 I know. I’m disgustingly lucky.

So: here’s what I’ll be up to:

We leave for Paris next Tuesday night, and arrive there on Wednesday morning. After 3 nights there, we go to Barcelona for 4 nights, and then to Madrid for another 4 nights. From there, we fly to Rome, spend 4 nights there, and then embark the cruise. The itinerary for the cruise looks amazing. Check it out.

How awesome is it that the ship docks at each spot early in the morning and only leaves late at night, so there’s no real time wasted on the ship, and lots of time for exploring and eating.

Azamara has tons of other cruises- fancy cruising through Greece? What about going from Ibiza, to Cannes, to Nice? The cruises start at around R25k per person which is probably what you’d pay for 4 star accommodation in those places anyway. Plus with the cruise you get free drinks and transport (obviously :P)

Visit www.cruises.co.za for more.

So- a quick 10 day trip turned into 3 weeks in Europe, starting Tuesday. Sadly, I just have not had any time to write any posts to schedule while I’m away. I need to write all of June’s Sunday Independent stories in advance and that is going to occupy me most of this weekend… so this blog is shutting down until July 🙁

I’ll miss you guys terribly, but follow me on Twitter: @hasmita and Instagram: jozilicious for the low down on what I’ll be up to. And I’ll be seeing some of you at the Jozilicious Reader Mixer- yay! Thanks so much for the AMAZING response I received- tickets were sold out within a few hours! I’ll make sure to host the next event at a bigger venue 🙂

Stay warm, eat well and have fun.

Lots of love, H