Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day, so some leaps of ideas…

Sixty-one days until we drive out our driveway on our way to start the cruise—which is exactly 11 weeks from today! Our box of things to take with us is growing fuller and fuller.

Our son and daughter-in-law (Greg & Yolanda) are here from Sydney so we are picking their brains about what we should wait to buy when we get to Oz and what we should bring from here. And Randy and I are arguing about whether or not we should have Greg and Yolanda bring a suitcase back to Oz for us. I maintain that that is just another suitcase that  will have to bring home again in September. We should bring just over what we’ll bring back (plus of course the souvenirs that we’ll pick up!), otherwise we’ll be overloaded on the way home. Randy just doesn’t want to carry it over ourselves if we can get G&Y to carry it over for us! And round and round we go.

I’m starting to look at clothing catalogs for beautiful stuff clothing to bring with us. I think I’ve found a couple of formal-wear shops online with some handsome vests and ties for Randy to wear on formal nights. I can tie a formal bow-tie but all the bow ties are already put together—fake bow-ties. Bummer. And a shirt. His formal shirt is so old it’s starting to turn yellow!

Our friends, I’m sure, are getting heartily tired of hearing about our upcoming cruise! Oh, well, I can’t seem to help myself. Hey friends, it could be worse! At least I have this outlet!

I am learning from the other travel blogs what I enjoy reading about and what I don’t enjoy reading about. I don’t enjoy hearing complaints—unless they are done in a humorous way. I do enjoy hearing about the people the bloggers have met and I love really good descriptions of the scenery and good descriptions of interactions with the local populace. So that’s what I am going to strive to do. Whether or not I succeed—well, that remains to be seen, but I’ll try to be, at the very least, entertaining.

We won’t be in New York until July 20 and 21 but I’m already trying to figure out what we’ll do, other than going to The Book of Mormon. I’d like to find a good tour company but am not having a lot of luck. Many tours are walking tours but at our age, I don’t think I want to spend the better part of six hours walking around NY! On the other hand, knowing the traffic gridlock that can happen in NY, maybe I don’t want to be on a bus either. Perhaps we can just wing it, figuring out what we want to see and just taking the subways to get there. I imagine that if we do that we may have some of the Aussies go with us, which would be really nice. Randy, I’m sure, would love to show off NY and we have two days to do it!

Similarly in Los Angeles. Perhaps sharing a van and driving around to the most famous sights would be fun. Too little time to see Disneyland (we’re only there for 10 hours). In a request to our friends for suggestions of what to see, one of them said, “Why on earth are you only planning 10 hours in LA?” Uh, maybe because we don't have a choice? The cruise ship is only in town for 10 hours?

I told you it was some leaps of ideas.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What did the US do to piss off India???

90 days to go until the cruise departs. BUT, I just realized, we will be leaving our house two weeks before that so we are now less than two and a half months from departure! It’s starting to feel real to me! I may have to actually start DOING things rather than just writing about doing them!

I’ve been reading Garry & Joanne’s blog and especially watching his videos to hype myself into the mood for the cruise. Yeah, I really have to hype myself to get in an excited mood for this adventure!

One of the things I had to actually get around to DOING was getting an Indian visa. So, I just spent over two hours dealing with said Indian visa. I swear they are doing their best to aggravate travelers to India so much that they will decide not to come (or is it “go”?—I’ve been reading my favorite editing blog!) to India. However, not going is not really an option as we HAVE to have an Indian visa even if we don’t get off the ship and of course we are getting off the ship. We are taking a tour (which I have organized so I hope it works out well!) with Mumbai Magic, a group that comes highly praised by previous cruisers.

Back to the visa, aside from the cost, which is about—assuming no complications—$313. There is a $63 charge for the services (mandatory) of the company (ZVS) we deal with (heaven forbid India should have to deal directly with us) plus a $79 charge for the issuing of the visa by India. There are other charges, such as the charge to have it overnighted (we could pick it up ourselves but by the time we drive to LA and back we’ve more than spent the amount of the overnight cost), and some unspecified charges if I have failed to copy everything I’m supposed to copy. All that because we will be in Mumbai for 10 hours. Let’s see, that’s $15.65/hour/person not including our tour.

Oh, well, I’ve promised myself not to get (too) exercised about things I have no control over.

The other tour I have organized is one (six people, max) out of Le Havre to the beaches of the Normandy invasion in 1944—I think it was 1944. Anyway, so far I have no takers; not surprising considering that only 5% of the passengers will be American and I’d guess that not too many Aussies have much interest in the World War II Allied beach landings.

There are about 10-12 other tours that have been organized by Cruise Critic members and Princess has just put out their list of what tours they are organizing. This will be the first time Randy and I have been on, let alone organized, a private tour. We’ve always done the ship’s tours. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 13, 2012

But I digress…

I know this is a blog about our ‘Round-the-World cruise, but I just have to vent my spleen about the mortgage refi morass.

We refinanced our home mortgage in order to get a better rate. I freely acknowledge that we are lucky to be in a position, i.e., not underwater, to do this. But why, WHY does it have to be so painful?

First, the mortgage company wanted to see our ENTIRE banking account record. I understand that they have to know whether we will be able to repay the loan. But do they really have to see every check we wrote for the past 2 months? Every payment we made? What happened to privacy? Why does the mortgage company have to know which doctors I go to? Or whom I hired to clean up my house? Or to whom we donate money. Or any of a number of other transactions that should be nobody’s business but mine.

Then there is the Title Company. For anybody who has refinanced in the past few years, that probably is all I need to say. If ever there was a business in need of restructuring and clean-up, the Title Company is it. I think they think they have a license to print money.

I understand SOME of the fees: the appraisal fee, the credit report, flood certification. But others! Why are we charged a Doc Prep Fee of $110 when we are also charged a Processing Fee of $450 (processing what? Nobody could or would tell me), an underwriting fee of $650, a Lenders Policy Fee of $869, a Lender Charge of $995 (a Lender Charge? What are the other charges?), an Escrow Fee of $135, an Endorsement 8.1 PUD (?) of $100. Where is all this money going? Her response when we asked what the fees were for? We have to make money.
Almost all the pages are 8 ½ by 14. Who has the space to store 8 ½ x14 sheets of paper? There are 131 pages, not counting the 400—yes, 400—pages our bank sent. And not counting the 2 years of income tax returns that were sent. All this could be electronic, I can hear you lament. Yes, it could and was, but guess what? the mortgage company PRINTED OUT all 600 pages! What a waste. And what a security and privacy nightmare.

We each had to sign one or both of our names on 42 of those 131 pages! The escrow officer wanted to verify our signatures—does she have no idea of how signing your name 42 times in half that number of minutes can change what your signature looks like? My signature on her notary book looks nothing like what my signature on the first of those 42 pages looks like!

OK. I feel better now.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Dieseling right along...

We are now less than 104 days from our sailing date. [Aside: why do we still use “sailing” when clearly the ships we go on are power boats? Probably because it sounds really weird to say, “104 days from our dieseling date.”] That means we now have fewer days until our ship diesels away than we will have on board. I think that makes me a bit more excited than I’ve been.

You may have noticed on the bottom of this blog there is a little collection of flags, each with a number denoting how many people from that country have visited my blog. I love to sign on in the morning and see how many new people I have accumulated (I hope I’m not disappointing anybody who takes a peek at my deathless prose) and what country they are from. A tiny puzzle has emerged: Why so many from Finland? I know why there are more from the US and from Australia, but now the number from Finland has eclipsed the number from Australia. There was a tremendous surge in the past couple of weeks. I don’t even have the tiniest of ideas why the Finns seem to enjoy my blog—or at least visit it. In any case, the ever-increasing number of Finns has seemingly stopped. So I have two questions: why the increase? And why did they stop? Have I insulted the Finns? I hope not, one of my favorite people is a Finn.

My much more serious worry is about the situation in the Middle East. Our ship is going to travel through the heart of this area with planned stops in Dubai (assuming the Strait of Hormuz is open, a pretty big question mark right about now), Salalah, Safaga, Aqaba (Jordan), the Suez Canal, and Alexandria. I’m not a sailor, but I don’t think there is any other way to get to North America from Australia in summer than by going through the Suez Canal. In winter, of course we could go around Cape Horn but I doubt that is a viable alternative for THIS cruise!

I heard on the news this morning that the powers that be think (how on earth can they know?) that Israel may bomb Iran in May, June, or July. Let me peruse my itinerary—hmmmmh, we’re planned in Dubai on June 6 and the Suez Canal on June 16. Smack dab in the middle of the “planned” bombing of Iran.

Well, there’s not much I can do about any of it so I might as well relax and keep planning for our cruise. That’s much more fun than worrying, anyway! Besides, I’m pretty sure the ship with have to go SOMEWHERE and we do have a stateroom reserved.