While we had said that we didn’t want to be guinea pigs and be on some of the first cruises, early today we booked our first cruise since our covid shortened transatlantic in March 2020.
We expected it would be sometime in 2022 before we went anywhere but yesterday Viking announced three circumnavigation of Iceland cruises.
After some quick research we determined that while certainly not inexpensive, compared to a land trip the cruise is a much better value (Iceland is really expensive!). So that left deciding if we want to deal with masks, Covid tests, temperature checks and the other procedures implemented to keep the sailing safe.
While we are worried they may negatively impact our trip we also think this short cruise will be a good test to see if traveling in this new normal is worth it. Figure it is better to find out now than on a longer cruise.
Hard to believe that it was a year ago that we were enjoying our first cocktail aboard Viking Sea. We thought we were headed to Europe through June until Lady Rona decided that wasn’t to be. 😢
Hope everyone is well and staying safe. We are both fine though bored. We aren’t yet eligible for the vaccine but it appears that our group in NC may start before the end of the month. 🤞. Mike’s mom Lois gets her second shot next week and several friends have already gotten both of theirs. First time since I was a tween that I wanted to be older!
Mike has been teaching himself to sew via YouTube with some assistance from our friend Linda in Chapel Hill and Gail in Montana-the joys of FaceTime! In addition to pillow covers for our sofa and bed throw pillows, he has now branched out to beach and tote bags. He made one to match the accent fabric in our guestroom. It is hanging in the closet waiting for guests to use it!
Clay is slowly taking up watercolors using the set Mike gave him for Christmas. Not as good as what I would like but better than expected! PracticePracticePractice!
I had intended to share photos of our new hobbies but there is not enough storage on WordPress for more photos 😢
Because of this storage issue, this will be my last blogpost unless I find a new place with larger storage capacity (or a cheaper price!)
So, I really hope you will consider following us on Instagram (@ClaynMike) or on Twitter (@RealClayClayton) where I will continue to post regularly and even more when we finally get to travel again!
Hope everyone had a great Holiday season – we enjoyed ours here in Raleigh. It was great to see some of our Christmas tree decorations after being packed away since 2018. Especially those that Niece Madison and Nephew Jack made with their grandmother when they were toddlers.
Mike’s mom joined us for Christmas after her trip to Colorado was canceled due to Lady Rona. We had a quiet Christmas Eve and Day.
New Year’s Eve was also quiet but I suspect that like us, you were happy to say a quiet farewell (and not a fond one) to 2020.
Here’s to happier times ahead in 2021. Best wishes to you and yours for a healthy, safe, and more travel filled year.
Hope everyone is well and not going too stir crazy during these crazy times through which we are living. We are happy autumn is finally here. We have enjoyed having the air conditioning off and the windows open. We even had to put a blanket on the bed! Unfortunately that is likely to change next week as temperatures are predicted to rise again. But for now we are loving looking at our thermostat.
Mike and I are both healthy but bored most of the time. Our plan to volunteer and reconnect with old friends here in Raleigh has definitely been negatively impacted by Lady Corona. But we are happy we have a comfortable place to live and are healthy. We know how lucky we are compared to so many others.
In addition to becoming a baker, Mike has gotten started on learning to sew. We bought a used machine for $20 and his first project was a pillow cover for the guest room. He used the same fabric that I had used to recover the (free) chair we found on Facebook Marketplace. We didn’t realize when we bought the clearance fabric that it was going to coordinate so well with the quilt Mike’s grandmother made so we were excited when we put the room all together. So with those, the new bed and the painted end table and desk, our guestroom is basically finished!
And the guestroom has had several uses. Sam (our friend from DC) came for a long weekend after the 4th of July, and after two weeks of self-isolation, our friend Claudia came for her birthday celebration-Claudigras! That was followed by my brother and his family for a long weekend. We however spent the whole time at the lake so hopefully they will make it to Raleigh sometime. Then after more self-isolation, Chris and Jennifer (Mike’s brother and sis-in-law) spent a night here before we all went to the lake for several days.
No more plans at the moment for visitors so if you’re up to visiting, please don’t hesitate to come on. We get good reviews!
While Mike is sewing and baking, I’m texting on behalf of Joe and the Democrats. It had been great to connect with others who are supporters and even some of those who aren’t. While many Republicans have been unpleasant, It is nice to know there are some who are still polite and with whom one can have a civil conversation. I’m hoping (but unfortunately not hopeful) that after November 3rd our country can be one again. 🤞
Please stay safe, wear a mask and wash your hands! I want to be able to visit with you again when all of us are able.
Magnolias are blooming so it’s summer in North Carolina. While I love their scent, I could do without the heat and humidity that comes along with them. Happy Father’s Day to all the Dad’s out there!
I hope everyone is safe, healthy and wearing their masks and washing their hands. We are both doing fine though the whole idea of settling down and reconnecting with friends hasn’t worked out as planned due to our friend Lady Covid. 😢. By now I had hoped to be volunteering a few days a week somewhere and be enjoying get togethers with old friends. Oh well, we recognize how lucky we are and are thankful that we are able to be comfortable and healthy. Just bring on a vaccine!
Other than a short 4 night trip to Folly Beach to help celebrate my niece’s high school graduation, we have been practicing lots of isolation. We have purchased though Facebook Marketplace and the LetGo app some furniture for our new place. I hope to start painting some of our “treasures” this week 🤞
We have received refunds (or credits after disputing the charges to our credit card companies) for all our planned travel. That has been a relief though the effort it took is a bit annoying. We do however look forward to being able to plan travel again….someday. Just bring on a vaccine.
Hope this post finds everyone healthy and isolated. Both of us are but like most others, a bit bored.
For long time readers you probably saw this picture above and are wondering what we are doing at Mike’s Mom’s lake house on Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia.
About 11:15 pm on April 9th, the fire alarm in our new (to us) condo building in Raleigh started going off. After checking to be sure there wasn’t a fire in our unit we gathered outfront with all our neighbors. About 10 minutes later the fire department arrived. 10 minutes after that they came out asking who lives in #204. That’s us! 😳
We go upstairs and find out that sometime after we left the unit, it got flooded.
Turns out that a pipe to the water heater in the unit above us burst, the heat from the hot water apparently caused the fire sprinkler in that unit to activate which drenched us and the unit below us.
We initially thought that our makeshift buckets and staying up until 3am had saved our new wood floors but by the time the Home Owner’s Association’s remediation contractor woke us the next morning at 7:30 am, the wood was already starting to buckle. The water had gotten below it into the subfloor. Additionally, the ceiling and walls were showing signs of water damage.
So we packed up and headed up to the lake while the contractor got to work. The video below was taken last week when we visited to meet with the electrician.
We decided since the ceilings were down we would spend some money we don’t have and add some can lights. Doing this was on our long term list but wasn’t going to happen for a while. We so wish the water had of damaged the master bath and/or kitchen. LOL
Heard today that the drywall is going back up so we are headed down tomorrow to see what progress is being made. We don’t have a completion date yet as they don’t have a delivery date for the replacement wood floor. Hoping we won’t be up here at the lake too long but we recognize that we are so lucky to have a place to stay!
After an uneventful disembarkation -not even a temperature check (so much for enhanced screenings!), we are in the Turkish Airline Lounge at MIA (courtesy of the Priority Pass that is a perk with one of our credit cards. It took about an hour from White 3 being called onboard Viking Sky for us to be at the airport and another 15 minutes to get to the Lounge.
Before joining the others waiting for their luggage color to be called in the Living Room we had our traditional last (and first …and as many times as we can get it) lamb chop breakfast (and a pistachio roll!😂) while looking across the Miami skyline. So much more civilized than the buffet!
After our color was called it was a quick roll off the ship (we are loving our new AWAY spinners), downstairs and onto the bus. It was amazing to see so many ships docked. Many ships are tying up at the pier while others (like ours will be) are anchored offshore nearer to the Bahamas. It is going to be interesting see how the cruise industry recovers.
It will also be interesting to see what happens with the airlines. The Miami airport is not quite a ghost town but certainly isn’t what one normally finds at MIA. It’s more like Raleigh-Durham in the middle of the day.
So we are almost home …that’s weird to say after two years of not having one of our own. Unfortunately, our new home isn’t furnished yet so we are hopeful that we can find a furniture store open tomorrow to buy at least a sofa! Wish us luck.
We have had several beautiful days on our slow(ish) ride back to Miami. We are scheduled to be aside there at 5:30 am tomorrow morning-March 17 and off the ship and on the way to the airport by 9:30. We will see if those predictions are accurate. To the best of my knowledge no one on board is ill so hopefully we will have an easy disembarkation.
We didn’t purchase our airfare through Viking so we were in the process of figuring out the best way back to Raleigh when we received a letter from Viking saying they would book our return flight. Another great service gesture and completely unexpected! Now if they would just tell us what/how they are compensating us for this cruise!
Initially, most believed (including the onboard sales person apparently) that we qualified for Viking’s extremely generous program for corona-canceled cruises-either a voucher worth 125% of monies paid for a future cruise OR a 100% refund. However, it quickly was changed to “the home office will be in touch shortly after you return home with a unique package”. Hoping that means at least 3/14ths of a refund since that’s what we have lost. I’m not overly concerned that Viking won’t be more than fair, just can’t figure out why so secretive. We are still trying to get Vuling and Airbnb to clarify their refunds and will start on RyanAir, LOT, British Air, American Airlines, Amtrak, ibis Hotels, Eurostar, Stonehenge-Windsor Tour and Wimbleton refunds after we get home.
Despite it all, we have had a nice cruise and the service level has remained top notch which must be difficult since the crew doesn’t know what is next for them after we leave and they turnaround and sail back to Europe. Has to be hard to smile and work so hard when you don’t know if you’ll have a job in under a month. Of course watching the stock market slide has raised similar concerns with us. But I’ll be Scarlett and “worry about that tomorrow!”
The entertainers have done afternoon shows in The Living Room and extra lectures and daily Trivia and Name that Tune have kept us all engaged
And of course we have enjoyed incredible meals. Last night we had our favorite Chef’s Table menu-“Lotus” and it was even better than those we have had before. The Singapore crab and the Thai Lamb chops were as good as ever but this time the amusè bouche wasn’t a dense potato cake on top of over cooked spinach, instead it was a light and fluffy cloud of cheesy air resting on top of saag paneer without the cheese. That was followed by the Chocolate Extravaganza for all aboard.
Then to top it all, during breakfast this morning, the World Cafe Manager stopped by and told us to find Chef Singh at lunch that he had made something special just for us. Early in the cruise, we had specially decided to eat at the buffet as they listed fresh pea soup on the menu. Last fall aboard Orion, we had chilled fresh pea soup as an appetizer that was so good after our main course we asked for another bowl for dessert and then accepted our waiters offer to send some more to our room. We had it the next day for lunch.
Anywho, while eating the pea soup early in the cruise, the manager stopped by and asked if we were enjoying our meal. We said we were but had hoped for the chilled soup. So guess what? Today they made it just for us. We each had two bowls. Talk about personal service! Hopefully my Instagram posting about it will get Chef Singh a special acknowledgement from Viking!
After loosing at Name that Tune, we returned to the room and finished packing-since we don’t have a washer and dryer yet, we tried to wash everything yesterday so we will only have a few dirty clothes to take home. Of course with the social distancing, I suspect we will be wearing gym shorts and tshirts most of the time after we get home.
Tonight we are having our final dinner in Manfredi’s and hopefully will have an uneventful travel day tomorrow. I’ll post again once we are home….or if 🤞they suddenly decide we can stay aboard and ride to Europe with them!
We had a relaxing day today, slept almost through breakfast so had brunch! After breakfast I searched out and found the General Manager and discussed with him my disappointment that we had not yet been informed of what compensation we would be receiving for our shortened cruise. He repeated what the ladies at guest services had told us, “the home office will be in touch shortly”. I told him that I had spoken with one couple shoe I understood to say they had already used a voucher worth 125% of what they paid for this cruise (this would be inline with what Viking announced for cruises canceled due to Corona between today and May 1st) to book a future cruise. The manager seemed genuinely surprised and immediately got in touch with the future cruise salesman aboard and based on one side of the conversation it appeared that we would all he offered the same compensation. More than what we expected but certainly welcome. I heard him ask for “it in writing from L.A.” and said he would be in touch. Later on the afternoon I got a call from the sales person who said that “the home office would be in touch shortly with a special package”. When I asked about the others who had used vouchers to book future cruises, he said, “ I promise you, no one has used a voucher to book a future cruise “. However later in the afternoon I spoke with another guest who said he had already discussed doing so and had an appointment tomorrow to finalize using their voucher for a future cruise. Hmm, hope I don’t have to start a mutiny! It is so disappointing after such transparency and generosity from Viking (remember the unexpected On Board credit in China due to the inconveniences of the National Holiday?) for them to drop the ball on something such as this. I intend to followup with both of the guests and see if they indeed are booked. If that’s the case, I will give the onboard folks one last chance before I hit Twitter with my complaint.
Orherwise today, we lost badly at Trivia, did a little better at Name That Tune and then went to Afternoon Tea. As usual the scones (Devon style for me, Cornish for Mike) were the highlight, but it is such a civilized way to wile away an hour!
After tea we returns to the room and finalized cancelations of our Airbnbs and sent more emails to the airlines requesting refunds for flights we now can’t make.
We continued our Taste of Britain with gin & tonics in the room whilst (see how I did that) dresses for our late dinner reservation at the Chef’s Table. This is one of Viking’s alternative ( complimentary) restaurants. The menu here rotates every three days and we had selected the relatively new menu by a British version of Ina Garten names Karen Burns-Booth. This menu debuted on the first few nights of this year’s World Cruise which started in London. Chef Burns-Booth was even aboard to oversee its introduction.
Our first course was a Scotch egg but rather than the usual pub fare of a hard boiled egg in breakfast sausage, this was a just beyond soft boiled quail egg in Italian sausage. A very tasty Amuse Bouche
Next up was Fish and Chips which is pictures at the top of this post. It was delicious though neither of us could taste the promised malt vinegar salt.
Our next course was the palate cleanser Gin and Tonic granite. Very nice-very lemony with a nice kick of quinine.
The main course was a wonderful version of an English Sunday dinner. Tender brisket, boiled potatoes and vegetables with a chive butter, a (not at all mini) Yorkshire Pudding with onions (popover to all my southern readers!) all serves with the most amazing gravy-very beefy with a hint of red wine. It would have made the napkin taste good! Just so yummy!
Dessert was Whim Wham which our Scottish friend Lady McGrath presumed was a made up name and dish-but she quickly emailed me that was incorrect as it is apparently from the Regency period. It was wonderful. Silky smooth whipped cream topped with raspberries and orange over sponge cakes soaked in sherry, orange juice and (scotch) whiskey. So so delicious! We hope we can recreate this dish in Raleigh when we entertain the Lord and Lady McGrath during their US visit this fall.
We enjoyed our dinner at the Chef’s Table and are looking forward to returning on Sunday night for the “Lotus” menu. I won’t plan on blogging about it, as I have done so previously. Suffice it to say, it’s are favorite menu at the Chef’s Table-the spicy soft shell crab appetizer is delicious and the Thai lamb chops incredible!
Writing this from the starboard (shady) side of the Aquavit Terrance after having a delicious made to order omelet and a sticky bun.
Returned to our room last night to have a surprise letter informing us that if we wished Viking would be booking (and paying for) our return flight to our home airport! After a minute of consideration of listing Barcelona as our home airport, we elected to list Raleigh. 😂
We have not been informed of what compensation we will be receiving for this cruise. The official guest services line is that the “home office” will be in touch in the near future. Those on the onward cruise to Venice from Barcelona appears to be eligible for either a voucher for a future cruise for 125% of what they have paid or a 100% refund. However, we spoke with at least one couple who like us were to disembark in Barcelona and they were told they would receive the 125% voucher and have already used it to book a future cruise. 🥴
I spoke with the General Manager this morning and he was unaware of this and after speaking with presumably the onboard sales guy, asked him to “get that in an email for me please”. So fingers crossed that Viking will give us this same very generous 125%/100% option. It would help cover some of our sunk costs in Europe-airfare, airbnb, etc.
Speaking of which, most of yesterday was spent sending emails to Airbnb, The Alhambra, Vueling, etc. seeing if we could get refunds. 🤞. Of course so far have heard nothing back.
So I guess today I am going to start canceling the ones where we should be able to get most of the refunds since we are a few weeks ahead of arrival.