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TRAVEL THERE: WHERE ARE MY RUBY SLIPPERS WHEN I NEED THEM?
So, I’m in Dahab and I’m not happy about it. I usually try to make the best of any situation, but for once, I just wasn’t. I was being an ugly American.
Welcome to Dahab Paradise
All the way from Sharm I had tried to convince myself that Dahab Paradise wasn’t going to be as bad as I thought and the initial impression made me feel a little better. Then we went to the room. It had a big balcony and a lot of charm, but it was tiny and didn’t exactly have the basic comforts of home. Let’s not talk about the bath. It was clean, but that’s all it had to recommend it. I was trying to decide which emotion was strongest – frustration, anger or fear.
In the few moments it took to make an inspection of the minuscule space, Bill fell on the bed and went to sleep. He claims he was merely exhausted, but I think his emotional radar warned him trouble was brewing. Interrupting one of his naps is a really bad choice, so I tried going to the balcony. Gale force winds drove me back inside.
There was no place to sit inside the room, except the bed and Bill was taking his half in the middle. I thought of going out, but I couldn’t decide what I would do. The wind made sitting by the pool a non-starter and there hadn’t been any sign of a bar in the small lobby. Besides, I had no idea where Bill had put the key. While I was quite angry with him, I didn’t want any of the Bedouins or radical Islamist the State Department had warned me about to come in and steal him away.
So, I sat on a small corner of the bed and tried to entertain myself. I caught up in my travel journal, read a book and worked some crossword puzzles. This was some kind of nap he was taking.
Part of my problem was that I was getting very hungry, but since I didn’t have my head screwed on right, I didn’t recognize it as a rapidly declining sugar level complicated by dehydration. I just sat there getting angrier and angrier. By the time Bill woke up I was in a full pout and he didn’t even do me the courtesy of acknowledging it.
Re-joining the Human Race
The wind had died down a little bit and a trip to the balcony revealed everyone was at the pool. I followed Bill down to join them and finally someone noticed I was pouting. I think it was the groom. After some gentle ribbing about my demeanor, I realized I needed to straighten up. I wasn’t happy to be there, but I’m not the kind who wants to ruin it for everyone else.
I also realized I was hungry, so Bill ordered some food. After a few bites, the world seemed to be a tiny bit better. Since I am writing this blog, it’s obvious that we were not attacked by Bedouins, radical Islamist or even your run of the mill thieves while we visited Dahab, but that was part of the problem.
Bill is the luckiest person alive. He lives on the edge of the envelope with aplomb. He’s never suffers any of the minor irritations in life that I do. I should just trust his luck and count it as my own, but that’s hard to do on a consistent basis.
I have no luck. You can be sure if there is any small print involved, it will bite me in the worst way. If there’s traffic, I’ll be late. I’m the one that loses my glasses, has wrecks and gets speeding tickets. I show up for things on the wrong day at the wrong time. I was sure if I headed off into the desert in spite of the State Departments warning I would become a casualty, but I forgot I was with Bill.
I’m thankful Bill’s luck protects me in all kinds of situations, but I have to admit I also resent it from time to time. On the trip to Dahab, I thought it would serve Bill right if we were held captive in the desert for ransom. Intellectually, I realized this would be a really bad thing, but I wasn’t doing reasonable very well that day. Thankfully I’m usually better at it. Come back next week when I’m over my pout and find out about the good things at Dahab Paradise.
TRAVEL HERE: NO GUARANTEES
So I’ve given you my secrets to finding a great cruise:
Now for some real life application!
Hit or Miss!
Do you have a friend who finds amazing bargains at a particular store? Have you ever walked into that store and not found a darned thing? Was that the last time your visited? Well, travel planning is a little bit like shopping in that way.
If you are a savvy shopper then you know where to go to find the best stuff at the best price, but you also know that you won’t find what you want every time you walk in. Sometimes you will find so much great stuff and it will be so cheap, you’ll feel like you’re cheating someone. The next time you go – nada. Then maybe the next time you pick up an item or two, but it’s nothing to write home about. Eventually you look in your closet and it seems like all the good stuff came from that place and no one would believe you if you told them how little you paid for it all.
If you rarely travel, then you are more likely to hate traveling. When you think about traveling, you dread it because everything about it is a hassle and more often than not, it’s not worth the effort. However, the more you travel, the more you figure out about it and the better you are at it. Your wins outweigh your losses and even when things don’t exactly go right, you learn how to grab victory out of the jaws of defeat.
The truth of the matter is that you can do everything right and bomb out completely, but isn’t that true of everything in life? The great thing is you can also decide on Thursday evening to take a long weekend at a nearby B&B and have the time of your life. I’ve never been fond of gambling, but I love taking at chance that I am going to have a great time when I travel.
I’m lucky. My mom loved traveling and I started learning travel secrets from her when I didn’t even realize that was what was going on. I watched her plan huge road trips from scratch when there was no internet and long distance phone calls were too expensive for her to make on a regular basis. Those were the good old days, but do I ever have some great stories to tell.
The main thing I learned from her was that you can’t get it right every time and even when everything goes wrong you can still have a good time – or you can be miserable. It’s a conscious choice.
And that leads me right into our latest cruise – number 7 for us, but it wasn’t our lucky cruise. It started one Sunday evening as a kind of lark and turned into a trial by cruise boat. Oh, none of those disasters where everybody is sick or stranded. There was no man overboard or running aground. It was just a miserable time or it could have been. Instead we pulled a pretty nice escape out of what could have been a travel horror story.
Since we’re still enjoying Egypt on Wednesdays, we’ll call this a Travel Here series, because it all started in Galveston in our home state. Come back next week and I’ll share our story. Maybe you’ll learn some tips on how to turn travel traumas into great vacations.
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TRAVEL THERE: A RELUCTANT TRAVELER
One day as we were planning the trip to Egypt, Bill tried to sell me on Dahab. There’s a certain tone Bill gets when he’s trying to convince me of something he knows I won’t like. That’s the tone he used when he showed me gorgeous pictures of a resort in the town of Dahab. I could tell right away that something was fishy.
A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing
Sometimes ignorance is bliss. There was a time when Dahab would have been a mystery. The proffered photo of an elegant resort would have been all I had to go on, but now we have the internet. I could find the same lovely picture of the Dahab Paradise Resort as Bill was showing me, but I could also find a map, which proved that Dahab was way out in the desert. The only thing Dahab was famous for was a Bedouin Festival that died after two years of trying. There was nothing else to recommend going there.
To make matters worse, the US State Department was aggressive in their insistence that Americans had no business whatsoever in Egypt, especially in a beach resort like Sharm el Sheihk and most especially anywhere in the desert beyond Sharm. Fly to and from Sharm and do not go into the desert, their website warned in several different ways. In other words, Dahab was not some place they would recommend for my touring pleasure.
From the get-go, I suggested that if everyone else wanted to go to Dahab, then they certainly should, but I could stay safely tucked away in the Sharm Marriott, with or without Bill. That just wasn’t going to fly. Even though I kept singing the same song up until the very moment we turned in the key to our room in Sharm, Bill wasn’t budging. By then, the awful Good Friday bombing had happened and the US State department was even more serious about their warnings, but my pleas were falling on deaf ears.
Climb Aboard & Leave the Driving to Us
Things didn’t get better. I was told to ride in the last few seats of the bus, just in case we were stopped. Not only was the US State Department worried about my well-being, so was Egypt. If Americans were headed into the desert, a police presence was required, but it had been decided, that since everyone else was an Egyptian, either past or present, (or in the case of my grand niece and nephew looked like they were Egyptian), we could get by without the escort. So I sat in the back of the bus and was told to keep my hat and my shades on. I complied, but I was furious with Bill.
The hour long trip into the desert was without incident, but as we pulled into town I felt like I was in a movie. You know the kind I mean. Someone has disappeared and some idiot goes to the last place they were seen, a godforsaken wide place in the road that you shouldn’t approach without a full squadron of Navy Seals. No one can be seen anywhere in the streets, but you know your hero or heroine is about three frames from a gun fight or a kidnapping. Yep, that’s Dahab.
Thankfully we rolled through the center of town without stopping, passed through a residential area and finally arrived at the resort. For the most part, the pictures on the website had been very accurate. It seemed like a really nice spot – it just wasn’t a spot I wanted to be anywhere near.
Things didn’t magically get better. For the next hour or so I was beyond miserable. I couldn’t even put a finger on all the reasons I was unhappy, but I was most definitely not thrilled to be there. Come back next week and I will make a full confession.
TRAVEL THERE: STEPPING UP TO SUITES & STATEROOMS
The ultimate experience at sea is supposed to be a suite. I have one friend who won’t cruise without a suite and another who enjoyed Celebrity’s Aqua Class, but would cruise tomorrow with or without it. I have to base my comments on their experiences, because I’ve never enjoyed the suite life.
Over the Fence
While I am sure every ship I’ve ever been on had suites, it wasn’t until I cruised with Norwegian that I realized I was missing something. As we roamed the decks during the Sail Away Party, we ran into a high barrier. I got out my map and realized we’d come to the section reserved for the suite clientele.
Sometimes suites are virtually unrecognizable as a suite from the outside. They have a door on a hall, just like everyone else. Only once you get inside do you start getting the royal treatment. Nowadays many ships not only have suites, they also have whole sections of the ship that peons like Bill and I never get to see. That was the case on Norwegian. They call it The Haven. Havenites have their own pool, their own restaurant and their own decks. No need to mingle with the unwashed.
This new suite arrangement is kind of like First Class on airplanes. You know how you walk down the aisle and stare at all the people in those great big leather seats, fully aware that you are about to subject yourself to several hours of space deprivation. Well, when you’re strolling along a deck and suddenly come up against the barricade hiding the suite section, you know you’re missing something. Did Bill figure out a way to look over the top? I’ll never tell, but it did make us wonder what we were missing.
So my bestie took a cruise and tried out Aqua Class – that’s your usual stateroom with suite amenities. Your room will be a little larger than the guys who merely opted for a balcony, but you’ll also get more. You’ll have special access to the spa, your own specialty restaurant and special amenities – those lovely terry robes and swanky toiletries you find in upscale hotels. Did she love the extras? You bet! Did they ruin her for suite-less cruising? Not at all. It was sort of like me and balconies.
Suites on cruise ships work for the same reasons hotels have suites. In some situations one room just doesn’t cut it. Many cruise lines have family suites designed to make traveling with kids a little easier, without putting you in the Ritz. However, most of the reasons people move up to the suite life have to do with luxury. They just want more – more room, more service, more opulence.
Are you a suite cruiser? First, look at your budget. You’re going to pay for the extras and only you know whether the extras are worth it to you. However, be careful. What’s the suite life on one ship does not necessarily translate to the next ship. Know what you expect and what they are offering.
It’s not just about a little extra space, though. You get preferred boarding and disembarkation. You often get a butler or concierge. Special events like dinner with the captain often come with a suite. Some of the things other people pay for on board, like shore excursions, wi-fi or certain spa privileges are included. You get specialized treatment in various restaurants, special tables in the casino and often you even have an exclusive restaurant. The Suite Life is the Sweet Life.
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