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Live - Valiant Lady Dec 2-10


ceilidh1
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Here we go again! Hop aboard and join me as I sail solo for the first time ever on the beautiful Valiant Lady!

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Background: After many years as a loyal Princess cruiser, I started branching out and exploring other lines. I still enjoy the Princess product (not so much their policies or management style these days) and also like NCL a lot! Last year, my cruise buddy and I celebrated my 50th on Scarlet Lady and Virgin Voyages became my new favourite line. Sadly, living on the West Coast tends to limit the number of times I can sail with them, since the flight costs as much (or in this case more) as the cruise! But, here we are again...

 

I booked this cruise well over 1 year ago when there was a great deal on both the pricing and with no single supplement. I was able to get a central sea terrace as a solo for $1800CAD (pricing right now is over three times that amount). I was debating whether or not to keep this cruise (mom guilt at leaving the kids, work guilt at how much I have to do, financial guilt as I really should be saving with the economy the way it is) but,I couldn't pass up the price as I doubt Virgin will ever be this low again!

 

Flights: As mentioned, I live in the West Coast of Canada - Vancouver, to be specific. I'm totally spoiled in that I can walk to the port from my house in 8 minutes. Needless to say, the majority of my trips have been Alaska and the Pacific Coast as it's so easy and cost effective. Flying to the East Coast is not only expensive but is a hassle - the only direct flight is with Air Canada and once per day each way. I stalked pricing for weeks - the first price I saw was around $800CAD roundtrip for the direct flight. I was too cheap to pay that so looked at options with one stop. The price was about $200 less, but with really crappy times and connections, so I kept circling back to the non-stop one. I put a price tracker on with both Kayak and Google flights and constantly got alerts that the price had increased. I started to worry that I should have just booked at $800. At one point, the price was over $2k!!!! After constant monitoring, I finally tried searching for one way rather than roundtrip. Would you believe, there was some kind of promotion on for the Vancouver-Miami portion and it was "only" $370CAD for the non-stop flight I wanted. I snapped it up. So now I had a way to get there, let's worry about getting home later...Now, if you know anything about me, you would know that I'm a little OCD when it comes to having everything organized and prepared, so it was impossible for me to just leave things to chance for that return flight. I set up more price trackers and a checked several times a day on pricing and it finally paid off. I found my return flight for $400CAD and I snapped it up. Lesson learned - I could have just paid $30 more from the outset and saved myself the stress and searching....

 

I leave on Wednesday 29th at stupid o'clock in the morning, arriving around 6pm to Miami. This gives me all of Thursday and Friday to do touristy stuff in Miami and the ship boards on Saturday. I fly back December 10th (same day) at 6pm, getting into Vancouver around 11pm (ugh). I was too cheap to pay for seat selection with Air Canada so crossing my fingers that by the time check in rolls around I can still find a non-middle seat! I do plan on paying to check a bag - had I not been flying direct I would have done carry on to minimize the risk of my bag not making it. I have already pre-reserved my spot with YVR Express, which allows you to skip the line for security and have my CBP MPC all filled out and ready to submit once I arrive at YVR to skip the line for US pre-clearance. My plan right now is to jump on the first Canada Line train to the airport, which should get me there around 5:20am for an 8am flight.

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Hotel: Last time I was in Miami, I stayed at the Hampton Inn in Brickell and really liked it. I wanted to stay there again, but at $320CAD a night it was a little out of my budget. I really liked the Brickell area and I love the Hilton brand, so I was able to find a good deal on Homewood Suites in the same area. It's a little further away from the Metromover than Hampton, but looks as if it's still walkable to most places. I got one night free with points, and a good deal for the other two nights, so my total stay for 3 nights will be around $600CAD with taxes/fees. The hotel provides breakfast (and I really enjoy the Hilton breakfasts) so that's another expense taken care of. I'm hoping to make it there in time for the Wednesday evening social, but not holding out too much hope on that!

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Pre Cruise: With two full days in Miami, I really wanted to make the most of it so decided to look at the discount passes on offer. I settled on the Go City all inclusive pass. I was able to use my (insert name of agency) points to purchase it, so the two day pass only ended up costing me $30CAD. With the pass, I plan on doing the hop on hop off bus (and using this as my transportation), the Duck Tour (because why not), the Paradox Museum, the Art Deco walking tour, the free Cuban sandwich in Little Havana, the Millionaires Boat Cruise (did this last time and loved it), the aquarium, and the Thriller speedboat. There were some opportunities for full day tours to Key West or the Everglades, but I didn't want to waste a whole Miami day by leaving...

 

I also plan on hitting up @sid_9169 's fave SoCal Cantina - the food and drink there is awesome. Someone recommended an all you can eat sushi place that I may check out, too. Also, there is a pre-cruise get together on the Friday night at The Gabriel Hotel. This sailing has a very active group on the other site, with a Circle organised with Cruise Habit, so it should be a lot of fun! Even though I did not book with this circle, many of the events are open to anyone on the sailing.

 

Post Cruise: Since I have a late flight out, I plan on staying on the ship as late as possible. I currently have a day pass booked for a hotel near the airport, which I may or may not keep. It is fully refundable up to 48 hours prior so I will play it by ear. I figure that by the time I've found somewhere to hold luggage and paid for that, I just as well have a nice hotel room to relax in and sit by the pool!

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Perks: When I booked this sailing, it did not come with the whopping $600 bar credit, but did offer an additional $100 credit if I purchased the $300 bar tab. In addition, I got $100 for Deep Blue Extras since they matched my loyalty status. I also get upgraded internet, free coffee, a bag of free laundry, and priority boarding. A couple of weeks ago, I got a survey from VV that offered $200 sailor loot if I completed it. Don't mind if I do. Well, although the survey explicitly said the loot was for your next sailing (ie this one), when it came through it said I needed to book a sailing to apply it. I reached out to sailor services and, obviously, I wasn't the only one to do so. Within 24 hours the loot was applied to this sailing. So I have $500 bar tab and $200 sailor loot and I'm sailing solo. I have no idea how I will go through it all...😜

 

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Activities: My one gripe about VV is that when bookings open for dining, you have no idea what else is happening on the ship so you are really taking a shot in the dark and booking dinners that you hope will work with shows, etc. I grabbed random places and times knowing that I could probably just get walk ins as a solo anyway. Since I love all the restaurants on Virgin and this time I'm doing 8 days, I was able to book them all. The only night I didn't book was the first one as I heard that VV usually organizes a solo get-together for dinner at Razzle Dazzle, so we shall see! I really want to do the grog walk that first night, too, so that will be my top priority once connected to ship wifi! Aside from that, my top priorities are Dual Reality, A Ship Show (it wasn't on my last sailing), Scarlet Night, and the PJ Party. The rest I will play by ear.

 

The Cruise Habit group has some things planned - sailaway, cabin crawl, solo meet-up, etc so I think there will be more than enough to keep me occupied! I also plan on making full use of my hammock!

 

Excursions: Nothing on VV jumped out at me when excursions opened, despite having stayed up until midnight to grab them. Last time I did the cabana on Bimini - it was $300 and included $100 of drinks, so well worth it. This time it was $600. No thanks. I looked at independent excursions and settled on:

 

ALL INCLUSIVE

EAT DRINK & BE MERRY
THE BEST OF PUERTO PLATA CITY TOUR https://www.iguanamama.com/eat-drink-be-merry-puerto-plata-city-tour.html

 

SAN JUAN OLD AND NEW TOUR https://www.shoreexcursionsgroup.com/tour/old-new-san-juan/casjcstgrponw

 

St. Croix - nothing booked

Bimini - just the beach club probably, but might need some input from @MeganGC1983

 

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Well I made it through my last work day yesterday, which turned out to be a double shift due to staff shortages. Twelve hours later and I was dancing out of there knowing I wouldn't be seeing it again for another 2 weeks! Today I'm in full Zombie Apocalypse mode with cleaning my house from top to bottom. I have no idea why I feel the need to do this (especially since my kids are staying home this time) but every time we go on vacation, I have to do it!

 

I set my alarm to remind me to check in for my flight this morning, and I did so right on the 24 hour mark. Got me a nice aisle seat about mid way down the plane. I can never decide if aisle or window is the way to go. I like window so I can nap and have something to lean against, and don't need to constantly get up with folks trying to get out of their seats. Now that I'm old, though (lol) I also like the aisle so I can get up to pee whenever I need to...😆 I also bit the bullet and paid the $35CAD to check my bag (which isn't even packed yet). This time tomorrow I should be touching down in Miami.

 

About an hour ago I got an email from VV telling me there was something wrong with my docs. Uh, what? I did all the check in stuff months ago, and now they tell me there is an issue? I went into the app and there was a message to call sailor services. Not going to happen. Instead, I deleted my passport info and re-entered it, and now it says I'm all set to go.

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Wakey wakey eggs and bacey! It’s travel day. The only thing I hate more than unpacking is packing so, needless to say, I was still doing that last night and this morning. I changed clothes, shoes, and coat twice before I was ready to actually leave and I’m sure my case is over 50lbs. No idea what I actually ended up putting in there as I had no system this time. I usually have it all written on multiple lists so I don’t forget any kid stuff but, with just me, I’ve haphazardly thrown stuff in and now I’m not even sure I have anything wearable! 🤣

 

I left my house at 4:30am and walked to the Canada line train. Now speeding my way to the airport - I love that I don’t have to do the $50 cab ride out there.

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Surprisingly no lines at Air Canada so I was able to go direct to the kiosk to print my bag tag. Did a quick weigh in and came in at 47lbs. Phew. Oddly enough, even though I had prepaid and had my bag tagged they still require you to stop at an agent before dropping the bag. So what is the purpose of the kiosk? Bag dropped and on to security.

 

I had YVR express that allowed me to go to the front of the line - spoiler there was no line. I also pre did my MPC for US pre clearance so went through a separate lane there to skip the line. The problem was that there were no officers servicing or even looking at that line so, after standing there for 5 minutes or so and being ignored, I just ducked under the stanchion and joined the regular line. It was short so I was through in minutes.

 

Now enjoying my first coffee of the morning and of course it had to the Timmies Baileys Cream! 

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It was all going so well…we were meant to take off 40 minutes ago but instead we are still on the ground waiting to be de-iced. Apparently, when it’s foggy they have less de-icing crew. Not sure how those two things correlate but that’s what they said. We are next in line supposedly and they just assured us we would be on our way in 10 minutes…

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3 hours ago, ceilidh1 said:

Oddly enough, even though I had prepaid and had my bag tagged they still require you to stop at an agent before dropping the bag. So what is the purpose of the kiosk?

 

That's usually when they check your ID to see if it matches the name on the ticket. They can't let just anyone drop off a bag.

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39 minutes ago, CineGraphic said:

 

That's usually when they check your ID to see if it matches the name on the ticket. They can't let just anyone drop off a bag.

That's been my experience too - the bag can't travel without an associated passenger for security reasons.

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