Thursday, November 13, 2008

Visas, Visas, Visas

We went to the Chinese Consulate after a late lunch and got in line to retrieve our passports and, hopefully, our Chinese Visas. After a fairly short wait, and for a mere $260 cash, we now have our passports with one year, multi-entry visas. It is obvious that we will have to make another trip before November 10, 2009 to get our money's worth!

Tomorrow, after getting a cashier's check for $130 we will submit our passports to the tender mercies of the US postal system in hopes of getting our Vietnam visas back within a reasonable time; say December 1st.

We should be OK in the visa department as soon as we get the ones for Vietnam. All total we will need twelve visas. Princess will get our visa for New Guinea and charge the $50 fee to the cabin. Dick filled out a form online for the Australian visa and it is just in the computer system that the airlines and Australian Immigration access. There is no visa, as far as we know, placed in your passport. The charge was $16.69 each and no lines. It was a very civilized way of doing it!

Cambodia may be a third world country but their visa process is almost the same as Australia’s. The only difference is we will pay $25 dollars to get the visa added to the passport when we arrive at immigration in the Siem Reap airport.

South Africa is another whole ball game! They require 4 full empty, consecutive no less, visa pages in the passport if you are just coming to South Africa. If, like us, you are going to another African country and coming back to South Africa then you must have six empty pages! Fortunately, we can fill out the forms and just give them to the officer at the airport immigration along with the fee and get a "visa on arrival". We will travel through Johannesburg on the way to Zimbabwe, then come back to South Africa for a while. We have read that South Africa has denied entry to people who didn’t have the required empty pages. Don’t want that to happen! Hence the reason for getting all the extra pages.

For the next three visa countries, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and United Arab Emirates, we can fill out the paper work, give it to the immigration officers when we arrive and get a "visa on arrival". Of course we will still pay the fee’s, but at least we don’t have to mail our passports somewhere! We may or may not have to get a visa for Kenya; the regulations seem to indicate that since we stay in transit and are there for less than 24 hours each time we don’t need a visa. Even if we do, we can get it when we arrive.

Seabourn will get the last three visas we need, Oman, Egypt and Turkey so that is one more thing we don’t have to mess with. Again the fees will be charged to the cabin.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Planning Begins

The Planning Begins in Earnest: We are 60 days from departure!

Actually this trip has been in the planning stage since we took our first real foreign adventure trip in the Fall of 1984. That trip to Europe had the barest of plans: fly to Brussels, rent a car and follow my father-in-law’s path during WWII, take a train from Vienna to Venice, cruise on the Vistafjord from Vienna to Yalta and back to Genoa, fly to London and fly home. We were gone six weeks, traveled with 7 large suitcases, had a great time and visited 14 countries!

That first trip awakened the explorer in us! Over the years we have made trips almost every year to other countries, visiting 34 more countries on six continents. In addition to the time spent tavelling overland, visiting places such as the hallowed battlefields of Flanders and Normandy, the mystical peaks of Machu Picchu and the beautiful campgrounds of New Foundland and Alaska, we have spent 243 days at sea. We have sailed across a stormy Bering Sea in early April and a placid lake that was the North Sea into the ever setting sun of the Baltics in June. We have cruised to Svaalbard (Spitsbergen), 600 miles south of the North Pole and done an eleven day expedition cruise going south of the Antarctic Circle with a landing on Antarctica’s continental landmass along with numerous Antarctic islands. On this last trip, The Drake "Shake" gave a new meaning to "ship movement" with seas to 30+ feet and a ship roll of 33 degrees for almost 46 hours!

For several years we have been talking about doing a trip around the world when Dick retires. Therefore, for some time now, I have been looking at world cruises and places we might want to spend time. This Fall Dick announced he would retire on December 31. We already were in the planning stages for a trip to New Zealand and Australia for the first part of 2009 so it made perfect sense to just go on around the world.

We had to get new passports for our South America and Antarctic trip this year. So, we ordered ones with extra pages. We got stamps at every research station we visited in Antarctica plus the regular stamps and visa entries for the South America countries. After counting the free sections and whole pages in the passports (30 full pages), several weeks ago, and figuring out how many visas we would have to get either before we left the US or as we traveled plus all the entry stamps (probably 28+ pages worth) Dick sent the passports off for yet more pages. We didn't want to be denied entry into a country at some airport! The passports came back last week with 20 more pages! I don't think we will run out of pages any time soon!

On this adventure we will explore our seventh continent, visit new countries for new experiences and return to some old friends for pure pleasure. Like the first trip, we will travel by rented car, by plane, by train and cruise the seas for 48 days. However, this trip will have a very different feel! Last time we left with a map of Europe and our plane, train and cruise tickets in a travel packet. This time I have a folder with over 40 pages of email confirmations, various tickets and lists of places to visit and eat! Last time we were expected home by three children and two jobs. This time our RTW plane tickets are good till January 8, 2010! That is the "or maybe more " in the title. However, in reality, I guess we are free for as long as we can stand to live on the "go" with the clothes that will fit in two small suitcases weighing, at most 15 pounds, each!

Today, Dick took our passports and our visa applications to the Chinese Consulate in Houston. They were accepted as presented and he got a receipt to pick them up on Thursday.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Travel Plan: Friday, January 9, 2009 through Thursday, May 21, 2009

On our trip around the world we will travel over 52,000 miles. It will be like circling the globe more than two times. We will visit 26 countries, nine for the first time, on five continents. Our itinerary is :

Friday. January 9 - Fly to San Francisco.
United Airlines #UA377. Mandarin Oriental Hotel - San Francisco.

Saturday, January 10 - Fly to Auckland, NZ.
Air New Zealand #NZ0007.

Sunday, January 11 - Cross International Dateline.
Lost Day

Monday, January 12 - Fly to Wellington.
Air New Zealand #NZ405. Arrive 9am. Pick up Hertz rental car. Stay at the Holiday Inn for two nights.

Tuesday, January 13 - Wellington.

Wednesday, January 14 - Travel to Nelson.
Ferry to South Island. Pick up Hertz rental car. Drive to Nelson. Stay at Bella Vista Motel for two nights.
Thursday, January 15 - Nelson.

Friday, January 16 - Drive to Fox Glacier.
Stay at Misty Peaks, Cooks Suite.

Saturday, January 17 - Drive to Queenstown.
Stay at Novotel Queenstown Lakeside for two nights.
Sunday, January 18 - Queenstown.
Drive to Milford Sound and back to Queenstown for boat ride on Milford Sound.

Monday, January 19 - Drive to Dunedin.
By way of Invercargill and coast. Stay at Bella Vista Motel.

Tuesday, January 20 - Drive to Christchurch.
Use inland route. Stay at Bella Vista Motel for two nights.
Wednesday, January 21 - Christchurch

Thursday, January 22 - Fly to Sydney, Australia.
Air New Zealand #NZ783. Stay at Marriott Hotel at the Rocks for two nights.
Friday, January 23 - Sydney

Saturday, January 24 - Depart for Perth, W Australia.
Board the India Pacific Train at 2:10.
Sunday, January 25 - On the Train. Stops at Broken Hill from 6:40AM to 08:20 and Adelaide 15:05 to 18:40.
Monday, January 26 - On the Train. Stop at Kalgoorlie at 19:10, depart 22:40.

Tuesday, January 27 - Travel to Lowlands Beach.
Depart train in Perth. Pick up Hertz rental car. Drive to Cape Howe Cottages ("The Wardroom") for four nights.
Wednesday, January 28 - Lowlands Beach
Thursday, January 29 - Lowlands Beach
Friday, January 30 - Lowlands Beach

Saturday, January 31 - Drive to Yallingup.
Stay at Wildwood Valley, Honeybee Cottage for two nights.
Sunday, February 1 - Yallingup

Monday, February 2 - Drive to Fremantle.
Stay at Quest Harbor Village Apartments for three nights.
Tuesday, February 3 - Fremantle
Wednesday, February 4 - Fremantle

Thursday, February 5 - Fly to Darwin, NT Australia, Quantas 792.
Stay at Mantra Esplanade (Saville Park Suites) Hotel for two nights. Pick up Hertz car at the airport.
Friday, February 6 - Darwin

Saturday, February 7 - Depart for Adelaide, S Australia.
Board the The Ghan Train at 09:00. Arrive Katherine 12:40, depart 16:45.
Sunday, February 8 - On the train. Arrive Alice Springs 11:15, depart 15:15.

Monday, February 9 - Travel to the Village of Seven Hills, Clare Valley.
Arrive Adelaide 1:10PM. Pick up Hertz rental car. Drive to Wren Cottage at Skillogalee Winery for two nights.
Tuesday, February 10 - Village of Seven Hills

Wednesday, February 11 - Drive to Oakbank.
Stay at Adelaide Hills Country Cottages (Lavender Fields Cottage) for four nights.
Thursday, February 12 - Oakbank
Friday, February 13 - Oakbank
Saturday, February 14 - Oakbank

Sunday, February 15 - Travel to Kangaroo Island.
Drive to Jervis, leave car, sail to the island on the Spirit of Kangaroo ferry. Check into "The Lookout", Kangaroo Island for two nights including two days of an island private tour.
Monday, February 16 - Kangaroo Island

Tuesday, February 17 - Travel to Sydney.
Return to mainland via Sealink ferry. Drive to Adelaide Airport. Fly to Sydney, Quantas 764. Check into Quay West Suites for two nights.
Wednesday, February 18 - Sydney

Thursday, February 19 - Board Tahitian Princess.
Cabin #6091 Owner’s Suite. Sail at 22:00.

Friday, February 20 - At Sea

Saturday, February 21 - Brisbane, Australia 8:00 to 18:00.

Sunday, February 22 - At Sea
Monday, February 23 - At Sea

Tuesday, February 24 - Cairns, Australia 7:00 to 18:00.
Helicopter trip to Great Barrier Reef and Marine World on Moore Reef for SCUBA diving.

Wednesday, February 25 - At Sea
Thursday, February 26 - At Sea

Friday, February 27 - Rabaul, Papua/New Guinea 7:00 to 14:00.

Saturday, February 28 - At Sea
Sunday, March 1 - At Sea

Monday, March 2 - Guam 12:00 to 19:00.
Rent a car and explore the island, maybe do a shore dive.

Tuesday, March 3 - At Sea
Wednesday, March 4 - At Sea
Thursday, March 5 - At Sea

Friday, March 6 - Osaka, Japan 8:00 to 20:00.
Take the train to Kyoto for the day.

Saturday, March 7 - Hiroshima, Japan 9:00 to 17:00.

Sunday, March 8 - At Sea

Monday, March 9 - Inchon, Korea 8:00 to 17:00.
Trip to DMZ.

Tuesday, March 10 - At Sea

Wednesday, March 11 - Shanghai, China 7:00 to 18:00.
Private car for tour of water town Zhujiajiao.

Thursday, March 12 - At Sea
Friday, March 13 - At Sea

Saturday, March 14 - Disembark Hong Kong, China.
Check into the Intercontinental Hotel for two nights.
Sunday, March 15 - Hong Kong

Monday, March 16 - Fly to Hanoi, Vietnam.
Vietnam Airlines VN791. Check into Hilton Hanoi Opera for three nights.
Tuesday, March 17 - Hanoi
Wednesday, March 18 - Hanoi

Thursday, March 19 - Fly to Bangkok, Thailand.
Thai Air TG683. Check into Peninsula Hotel for two nights.
Friday, March 20 - Bangkok

Saturday, March 21 - Fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Bangkok Air PG915. Check into Victoria Angkor Resort and Spa for two nights.
Sunday, March 22 - Siem Reap.
Visit Angkor Wat and some other temples.

Monday, March 23 - Fly to Bangkok.
Bangkok Air PG906. Check into the Peninsula Hotel for three nights.
Tuesday, March 24 - Bangkok
Wednesday, March 25 - Bangkok
Thursday, March 26 - Bangkok.
A late hotel check out for a flight to Singapore. Thai Air flight TG401.

Friday, March 27 - Travel to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
Fly to Johannesburg, South Africa, Singapore Air Flight #SQ478. Fly to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, South African Airways SA40. Check into Victoria Falls Hotel.

Saturday, March 28 - Travel to Dullstroom, South Africa.
Fly to Johannesburg, South African Airways SA41. Pick up 4-WD Nissan Trail Hertz rental car. Drive to The Highland Rose B&B, Dullstroom, Mpumalanga Highveld.

Sunday, March 29 - Drive to San Sabi Reserve.
Travel through beautiful Blyde Canyon area and on to Kirkman’s Kamp in the San Sabi Reserve, Greater Kruger, arriving early afternoon. Enjoy two guided game drives, lodging all inclusive.

Monday, March 30 - Drive to Kruger National Park.
After morning guided game drive 7:00 to 9:00, self drive safari into Kruger National Park. Overnight at Satara Rest Camp. Check in by 17:30 when gate closes.

Tuesday, March 31 - Self drive safari through Kruger National Park.
Overnight at Lower Sabie Rest Camp.

Wednesday, April 1 - Travel to Cape Town.
Early morning self drive safari to Kruger South Gate. Drive to Johannesburg Airport. Fly to Cape Town, South African Airways SA365. Pick up Hertz rental car. Check into Derwent House Hotel for five nights.
Thursday, April 2 - Cape Town
Friday, April 3 - Cape Town
Saturday, April 4 - Cape Town
Sunday, April 5 - Cape Town

Monday, April 6 - Travel to Arusha, Tanzania.
Fly to Johannesburg, South African Airways SA304. Fly to Nairobi, Kenya. South African Airways SA184. Fly to Arusha, Tanzania on Precision Air KQ6726. Pick up by Kiliwarriors and transfer to Arusha All Suites Hotel.

Tuesday, April 7 - Drive to Gibbs Farm.
Visit Lake Manyara Park for PM safari drive and then overnight at Gibbs Farm.

Wednesday, April 8 - Drive to the Serengeti.
Travel through Ngorongoro Highlands. Have a picnic lunch and safari drive in the Serengeti. Check into Serengeti Sopa Lodge for two nights.
Thursday, April 9 - Serengeti.

Game drives.

Friday, April 10 - Drive to Ngorongoro Crater.

Game drive through Serengeti to Ngorongoro Crater. Check into the Crater Lodge, South Camp for 3 nights. Afternoon at leisure.
Saturday, April 11 - Ngorongoro Crater.

Morning game drive. Afternoon free.
Sunday, April 12 - Ngorongoro Crater.

Morning game drive. Afternoon free.

Monday, April 13 - Travel to Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Drive back to Arusha for lunch. Fly to Nairobi, Kenya on Precision Air KQ6727. Fly to Dubai, UAE Kenya Air KQ310. Check into the Hyatt Regency for two nights.
Tuesday, April 14 - Dubai

Wednesday, April 15 - Board Seabourn Spirit.
Suite #CS01, Deck 5. Sail at 17:00.

Thursday, April 16 - Khasab, Oman 8:00 to 17:00.

Friday, April 17 - Cruising the Gulf of Oman
Saturday, April 18 - Cruising the Gulf of Oman

Sunday, April 19 - Salalah, Oman 8:00 to 14:00.

Monday, April 20 - Cruising the Gulf of Aden
Tuesday, April 21 - Cruising the Gulf of Aden
Wednesday, April 22 - Cruising the Red Sea

Thursday, April 23 - Cruising the Red Sea

Friday, April 24 - Safaga (Luxor), Egypt. Arrive 7:00.
Private car for tour of Luxor.
Saturday, April 25 - Safaga (Luxor), Egypt. Depart 18:00.

Scuba diving in the Red Sea at Safaga Beach Club.

Sunday, April 26 - Aqaba (Petra), Jordan 8:00 to19:00.
Private car for a tour of Petra and Aqaba.

Monday, April 27 - Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt 5:30 to 14:00.
Scuba dive at Shark’s Bay, Red Sea.

Tuesday, April 28 - Sokhna(Cairo), Egypt 7:00 to 23:00.
Private car for a tour to Cairo.

Wednesday, April 29 - Transiting the Suez Canal

Thursday, April 30 - Alexandria, Egypt 6:30 to 19:00.

Friday, May 1 - Cruising the Mediterranean Sea

Saturday, May 2 - Marmaris, Turkey 8:00 to 23:00.

Sunday, May 3 - Rhodes, Greek Isles 8:00 to 18:00.

Monday, May 4 - Santorini, Greek Isles 7:00 to 18:00.

Tuesday, May 5 - Patmos, Greek Isles 8:00 to 18:00.

Wednesday, May 6 - Mykonos, Greek Isles 8:00 to 17:30
Thursday, May 7 - Volos (Meteora), Greece 8:00 to 23:30.

Friday, May 8 - Cruising the Dardanelles

Saturday, May 9 - Disembark in Istanbul, Turkey.
Check into Four Seasons Hotel for 3 nights.
Sunday, May 10 - Istanbul
Monday, May 11 - Istanbul

Tuesday, May 12 - Fly to Frankfurt, Germany.
Lufthansa LH3341. Pick up Hertz rental car. Begin a driving tour through the wine areas of Germany and France and a visit to Waterloo.
Wednesday, May 13 -
Thursday, May 14 -
Friday, May 15 -
Saturday, May 16 -
Sunday, May 17 -
Monday, May 18 -
Tuesday, May 19 -
Wednesday, May 20 -
Thursday, May 21 - Fly home.

Lufthansa LH440.