Planning our honeymoon has been the most exciting and terrifying part of the wedding planning so far. I want the trip to be brilliant, and I really want the fiance to have a great time because he has traveled less, at least in Europe, and so has fewer expectations, which he tells me is a good thing–that he will be happy no matter what simply because it’s our honeymoon and we’re together having fun, not because of any preconceived notions of what we’re getting ourselves into.
Speaking of, what we’ve gotten ourselves into is a 15-day adventure, primarily in Eastern Europe and Asia (I forgot to mention to the fiance that Turkey is in Asia–a new continent for him!)
We’re also taking a two-day trip to Bucharest, Romania, which has been on my list ever since I read The Historian in college. Of the line up, I’ve only been to Venice so I’m really excited that this will be a whole new adventure for both of us. We have also never been on a cruise (the one I took up the Nile doesn’t really count) so that is another first I’m looking forward to experiencing together.
We received a lot of great tips and recommendations from friends and family who have been on cruises–some multiple times in multiple places–so I feel good about the basics. Now that we’ve booked, I know I’ll be spending a lot of time on the website looking into all of the excursions we can do at each stop so we can start booking those as well. I love creating itineraries for when we travel, so for me, the best is yet to come.
Other than selecting the excursions on the cruise, we also have full responsibility for planning our stay in Istanbul and Bucharest. Once I started thinking about it, I realized I knew at least three people who have been to each place so I already put out a call to all of them to see if they can provide any suggested things to do and see. If you have anything to share, I would love to hear it! I’m sure I’ll find ideas online and in my travel books/magazines, but the hidden gems are what really make the experience, and I’m looking forward to getting off the beaten path a little while we’re there.
Having never booked a cruise, we did a lot of research before narrowing down our selection. The amount of cruise lines, ships, ports, arrival/departure options, excursions, number of days, etc. is overwhelming.
Here are some things I suggest considering to help you narrow things down when you’re trying to decide the where, when and how:
- Time on the ship versus seeing the sights: We have never cruised so we aren’t sure how much we’re going to like it. I originally thought we would cruise the whole, or at least the majority of, the honeymoon, but we heard from a lot of people to take a short trip (seven days or less) this first time to make sure we enjoy the time on the ship and cruise experience. Depending on the cruise, you might have a couple days just at sea getting from place to place. While the fiance liked that because it’s a little forced relaxation time (apparently I have a reputation for jam-packing the itinerary–weird), I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend time just hanging out on the ship when I could be exploring a new country or city. Decide what’s most important to you and then see what itineraries are aligned. When we decided on a seven-day cruise, it really helped narrow down the options.
- Ports and excursions: My original idea was for us to just visit Greece and Turkey, but for the exact time we would be honeymooning there were no cruise options that only went to those countries that fit the bill. There were, however, many options that went to those countries as well as a few others, so the real question was what we hoped to do on the excursions and which ports would give us those opportunities. We heard a lot of positives about stopping in Dubrovnik, while many people said you need a day or less in Athens–those tips helped us think about ports and excursions, which ultimately helped eliminate some options.
- Travel to and from the ports of departure/arrival: Once we narrowed down to our top 10 cruises, we started looking into round-trip flights to the different ports of arrival and departure. This quickly eliminated several options because it turned out to be so costly and time-consuming just to get to the departure location. We ultimately ended up taking the money we saved by booking the least expensive airfare (round-trip to Istanbul <$840) to pay for local flights while we’re there to sneak in another stop. If you’re somewhat flexible, using the airfare cost to further narrow down your search may not only help you eliminate options, but free up some funds for you to use on excursions, ship amenities and more.
- Time of year: I found myself paying a lot of attention to the ports of call and the recommended times of year to visit those locations. If you have any flexibility on dates, you can focus on when the place you want to go is best from a calendar year standpoint to decide where you’re going when. Important note: This might also mean everyone else in the world wants to see that place at that time. Balancing tourist season with when a country is in its prime ‘viewing’ time can be tricky, but if you can arrange to go during a great time that’s outside the typical tourist season, the prices will also be lower, which may allow you to do more. I couldn’t believe how much of a difference in price we saw for the same rooms on the same cruises from early September (tourist season) to the end of October (just outside high season).
If this hadn’t been our honeymoon, I probably would have started with where we wanted to go and then based the dates we went off of the items I outlined above. I see why people like to cruise from a cost standpoint–it’s much cheaper than I expected, but you do give up the unplanned itinerary and experience of staying overnight at the destination in some cases.
On a personal note, Romania will be the 28th country I’ve visited. I’ve had a secret (until lately) desire to hit 30 countries by the time I turn 30, and this is going to put me close. It’s exciting, but I do still firmly believe it’s not how many places you go but the experiences you have along the way. I couldn’t be happier that I’m going to be sharing this incredible experience with the love of my life and future husband. On many different levels, I absolutely can’t wait.