Sunday, 17 July 2016

Hammering Out the Last Few Details

We spent some days checking various hotel prices in Amsterdam and Barcelona, as well as debating what area we wanted to stay in both of those cities, and if a hotel or an Airbnb situation would suit us better. With Barcelona, we will have two different stays, one before our Costa Cruise, and one after.

In Amsterdam, we settled for the Bilderberg Garden Hotel, which is on the edge of the Museumkwartier or Museum Quarter. It's about a five minute walk from the beautiful Vondel Park, which I stayed near to last time I was in Amsterdam 18 years ago. I can't wait to show Bill the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, walk the canals again, eat the gorgeous and varied food, and almost more than anything listen to the language again. We'll be there eight nights.

After a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt, a short layover there, then another Lufthansa flight to Barcelona, we'll be finishing our European vacation down in the south/ Western Mediterranean. For the first stay in Barcelona, we are staying at the W Barcelona, which is on the beach. We booked this room for two nights using Starwood Points.

The evening of July 31st, we ship out of Barcelona on the Costa Fascinosa, heading for Ibiza, etc.  It should be noted that Costa has improved its entire pre-boarding online customer experience. This includes an updated online  check-in system  that is far less clunky and time consuming to complete and process. As part of this, Costa has increased its automated communications to its customers and increased the level of self service, such as pre-filling out printable boarding passes and baggage tags. Bill hopes that this transformation (which he says is like moving from PeopleSoft 8 to Workday) is indicative of an all-around improved customer experience from embarkation to disembarkation- we can hope.
We couldn't wait to get off the Costa Magica last year. Let's hope the Costa Fascinosa is a better experience.
We decided to risk Costa's excursions again and will be taking an excursions from Naples to Pompeii, which Bill and I have always wanted to see. The next day, when we arrive in Savona we will again endeavor to take that excursion to Monaco that we tried to take last year. We hope that it's not cancelled at the last minute again, because we really want to see Monaco! Other than those two excursions, we will be exploring Ibiza, Palma de Majorca, and Palermo alone.
Looking forward to more Costa stickers to put on our shirts.
For our second stay in Barcelona, we looked around to try to find something in the Gothic Quarter or at least near to the older parts of the city and museums that we want to see, including the Picasso Museum, Gaudi's amazing Basilica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia, and just the architecture in general around Barcelona including other works by Gaudi.  We booked the Grand Hotel Central (by Design Hotels, another Starwood entity) for three nights. This hotel is right in the Gothic Quarter and has a rooftop infinity pool that overlooks the skyline of Barcelona. That will be the end of our latest European tour.

Another matter we looked into was travel insurance. There was an article in the newspaper a while ago about a person who had travel insurance having their lifetime allotment of extended medical wiped out after a claim on their travel insurance policy (N.B. it was a major claim). This was because the travel insurance company subrogated, seeking out whatever other insurance that the insured had to pay for the claim before they had to. This turned out to be the insured's extended medical and their extended medical had a lifetime maximum, so once it was used up on the travel insurance claim, the insured would not have any extended medical coverage anymore. Bill found out that BCCA will seek subrogation from your credit card company if they have any travel coverage and from your extended medical, but will not wipe out your whole coverage forever and will leave at least $100,000 depending on the size of your claim. Also, he found out that you can buy pre-existing medical condition coverage before you go on your trip and it's not as expensive an add on as we would have thought, so that's good to know.

Now it's just a matter of packing (our little place is an explosion of various piles of stuff we're taking, books, bags, suitcases, lists, and general chaos), researching where else we want to see in all the places we're going, perhaps picking up a Museumkaart in Amsterdam at one of the participating museums (like the Paris Museum Pass, etc. gets you into all the museums pretty much in the Netherlands for a month, or a whole year if you're a local, for one fee), and relaxing and enjoying our trip.
The cat is seriously suspicious of all the piles of stuff around the house and the suitcases . . .

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