Saturday, December 29, 2018

Our 2018 Travel Year

Every time we think we're going to slow down, another bargain catches our eye. That's the story of 2018 and why we ended the year with enough flight miles to re-qualify for top-tier MVP Gold 75K status on Alaska Airlines, and with enough hotel stays for top-tier Diamond status with Hilton.

We started in January with a trip to Lima, the fifth biggest city in Latin America, via Mexico City (the biggest) on Aeroméxico, just before its partnership sadly ended with Alaska. 

February featured a trip to Chongqing, China, thanks to a bargain fare on Alaska partner Hainan Airlines. There we got our closest look at pandas since visiting Chengdu, and fascinating exposure to another huge Chinese city, complete with a growing middle class who enjoy their time off.

On March we embarked at Miami's cruise port on yet one more transatlantic cruise on Oceania's Riviera, sharing the enjoyment with friends from previous cruises as well as with Bentley and Brenda, Kathy's older brother and sister-in-law. A fine time was had by all along the way before we disembarked on a rainy Barcelona day.

In April we flew to Milwaukee on a bargain Alaska fare and made a pilgrimage to the best sausage store in the world

Our annual trip to Oz Fest, the gathering sponsored by Australian members of Flyertalk, involved another creative (weird?) routing via Europe, and a stopover in Hong Kong, before arriving at Noosa Heads, near Brisbane. There we visited the late Steve Irwin's zoo.

We spent June, July, and August at home, one of our longest (if not the longest) stretches of time Chez Warner since retirement without a flight or even a hotel stay. Staying home, we still managed to spend money on our boat (don't ask) and a new roof for our house. 

It also marked a big year for Australian visitors, three different sets of them that enabled us to return a little of the hospitality we always find in Oz, and to discover and share sights and attractions in our own part of the world. 

We haven't visited Washington wine country in years, and made it up for it in September with a road trip that covered a lot of wineries, including several in Red Mountain, the newest "hot" region.  

At the end of October we flew back to Montreal to embark on our 20th Oceania cruise, sailing from there all the way down to Miami on Insignia, one of the 684-passenger ships. 

The significance of the number 20 is the fact that Oceania's loyalty program designates the 20th cruise as "free," and free it was, including air transportation from YVR to YUL (Air Canada) and MIA-IAH-YVR (United), so we even picked up a few scraps of miles for our United accounts. The weather was lousy but the entire trip was still highly pleasurable, including being members of the winning trivia team

We were barely home from that cruise before making our first flight on Alaska partner Condor Airlines from Seattle to Frankfurt, on our way to a bargain Christmas market river cruise with Gate 1 Travel.

We're favorably impressed by Condor's bargain business class product. Lucky us, since we've already scheduled two more return flights in 2019. 

As for the cruise on the Gate 1's Monarch Queen, subbed for the Monarch Empress due to the low water that has plagued Europe since summer, it was a lot of fun. We boarded in Regensburg, and traversed the rather amazing Main-Danube Canal, before sailing on the Main to Frankfurt am Main, where we disembarked.

We visited numerous Christkindl markets along the way, enjoyed our guided tours (all included), and collected an impressive number of Glühwein mugs. 

We applaud Gate 1 for the way they dealt with the boat substitution. We snapped up a bargain fare of $800 each for this cruise, and the company promptly refunded us $200 each, making it almost as cheap as staying home (with an old 28-foot Bayliner in the driveway, we exaggerate only a little).

We visited no new countries this year, seemingly stuck on 76 sovereign nations, but we still covered a lot of ground (and air and water) in South America, North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. 

We'll be starting early - very early - New Year's Day 2019, on a new adventure that will take us to the Land of Smiles, and the home of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, (we won't be staying there), before returning later in January in business class on the world's longest commercial flight on another bargain fare.

Safe and happy travels to all in 2019 with happy Christmas memories!










 


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