7.13.2012

Have Passport Will Travel

My Passport!!!!
I got my passport in the mail last month and I'm finally starting to get excited.  So where are you going you ask?  EUROPE!!  Mj has been to Northern Europe before but I've never been anywhere near it.  Like having a wedding it's just one more thing in my life that I've always figured I'd never get to do.  It's too expensive!  Yes, it's expensive but I'm finally at the point in my life where I'm not letting that hold me back anymore.  I've been told over and over that "you can't take it with you" and while I still am and always will be frugal I'm finally starting to believe them a little.  I'm a saver.  I've saved up enough to do this (on top of my other savings) so why just let it sit in the bank?

[Photo Source:  worldatlas.com]
Mj is now attached to an Army reserve unit stationed in Stuttgart, Germany so he'll be doing his drill there for about 40 days. The timing at work is miserable so I didn't think I would be able to go but it would be such a shame to pass up this opportunity.  His airfare is paid!  I just have to meet him there. Europe is huge and there is so much to see.  Trying to narrow down where to go has been really hard.  Mj just said "decide where you want to go and we'll go."  I like that.  I'm in control which is awesome for me because I love to plan and it's also awesome for him because he gets to let me figure everything out and show up.  Kind of like our wedding!  I've always wanted to go to Greece and was hoping to fit it into this trip but it's so far South that it's just not possible.  We're going to save that for a separate vacation.  I did my research and broke down how much everything would cost us.  Hours and hours of obsessive research have come down to two options which I typed up with ridiculous detail into a Word doc and have cut and pasted here for your viewing pleasure.

Option #1  
EUROPEAN VACATION WITH CRUISE: 13 Days

Barcelona, Spain (1 night)

Western Mediterranean Cruise, Norwegian Cruise Lines (8 days, 7 nights)
           Sun: Barcelona, Spain departure
           Mon: At Sea
           Tues: Naples, Italy
           Wed:  Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy
           Thu:  Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Italy
           Fri:  Cannes, France
           Sat:  Provence (Marseille), France
           Sun:  Barcolona, Spain return

Paris & Versaille, France (3 days, 2 nights)
            Barcelona to Paris:
            Barcelona Sants to Paris Lyon ARC/TGV (7 1/2 hours) OR
           
Amsterdam, Netherlands (1 night)           
Paris to Amsterdam:  THA
            Paris Nord to Amsterdam Centraal (3 hours)

Depart Amsterdam to Stuttgart (overnight on train) 
Amsterdam to Stuttgart:  ICE
Amsterdam Centraal to Stuttgart Hbf CNL Sleeper Train (8 hours, 8pm-4am)

Stuttgart Airport departure early morning

Mj's never been on a cruise so with this option we'll get to kill two birds with one stone.  We'll get some easy traveling and get fed on the Cruise ship but then also get to experience the Eurail train travel on our own as well.   Mj would take a flight from Stuttgart to Barcelona and I'd meet him there.  It's best for us to cruise out of Spain instead of Italy or France because it's a much cheaper/shorter flight for MJ.   There is another cruise that starts in Barcelona (MSC Cruises) and includes Tunisia-Africa, Malta, Sicily, Civitavecchia (Rome)-Italy, and Genoa-Italy.  That one is a little less expensive but it means seeing less of France....still deciding.

Option #2
EUROPEAN VACATION w/o CRUISE: 14 Days 
Frankfurt or Stuttgart, Germany (1 night)

Venice OR Verona AND Rome (5 days, 4 nights-2 nights in each)
           Germany (Stuttgart) to Italy (Rome) (Car:  10 hrs, 671 mi)*
            Stuttgart Hbf to Venezia Santa Lucia IC/EC/ESà (10 hours)
            Venezia Santa Lucia to Roma Termini ICN (7 hours)  
            Stuttgart Hbf to Verona Porta Nuova ICE/EC (9 hours) OR
            Verona Porta Nuova to Roma Termini R/ES (4 hours) 

Barcelona, Spain (3 days, 2 nights)
            Italy to Spain (Barcelona) (Car:  12 hrs, 849 mi)*
            Roma Termini to Barcelona Estacion de Franca ES/EN Sleeper (18 ½ hours)
           
Paris AND Versaille, France (4 days, 3 nights)
Spain to France (Paris) (Car:  9 hrs, 666 mi)*
            Barcelona Estacion De Franca to Paris Austerlitz EN/INT Sleeper (12 hours) OR
            Barcelona Estacion De Franca to Paris Lyon R/ARC/TGV (8 hours)

 Amsterdam, Netherlands (3 days, 2 nights)
            France to Netherlands (Amsterdam) (Car:  5 hrs, 322 mi)*
            Paris Nord to Amsterdam Centraal THA (3 hours)

  Frankfurt or Stuttgart (1 night)    
            Netherlands to Germany (Frankfurt) (Car:  4 hrs, 275 mi)*
Amsterdam Centraal to Frankfurt (main) Hbf ICE (4 hours) OR
            Amsterdam Centraal to Frankfurt Flughafen Fernbf ICE OR
            Amsterdam Centraal to Stuttgart Hbf (5 ½-6 hrs)

 Frankfurt or Stuttgart Airport Depart early morning

Researching this really took a lot of time because I had to figure out exactly where these places are on the map and the distance between them to determine logistically what we can fit in.  Knowing the driving distance put it in perspective for me then I figured out how long it would take us on the train and what trains would take us there in the shortest amount of time.  We want to use the high speed trains which carry an additional fee on top of the Eurail pass cost but I think it'll be worth it to save time.  It's a lot of hours of train travel which could be fun.  I like this option because we fit in more time at different cities I want to see but I worry that I might get worn out by all that traveling.  Oddly enough both options cost about the same.  With the cruise option we have to factor in the cost of the cruise but we spend less on hotels, food and the Eurail pass.

We're leaning towards including the cruise since logistics for eight full days of travel are already taken care of and it'll be easier but I'm thrilled to be going either way.  Which option would you pick?  How sad.  I've had a passport for ten years and never needed it!  It's about time I actually use it and get some stamps.  The thought of packing for this trip is already stressing me out a little but it'll be worth it. 

21 comments :

middle child said...

This will be an awesome trip! I am sooooo impressed with your planning. Wow! Have a great time.

ruthy ann said...

spending money on travel is the most worthwhile investment. You'll never regret it! yay! so excited for you :)

CeCe said...

Thanks! Yeah, I spent a ridiculous amount of time on the planning but it was fun!

CeCe said...

Glad to hear that from someone who has already done a lot of traveling. Thanks!

Lauren said...

Your trip sounds like it's going to be so much fun! I think that travel is one thing it's okay to spend money on! I think I'd much prefer the option that's not a cruise, but either way, you get to go to Europe! So that's great! And the packing should be fun! I always think packing is exciting. Pack lots of dresses and accessories. They can change up the outfits easier. I also heard (I've never been, so don't take my word for it) to pack comfortable shoes in Europe, because you'll be doing a lot of walking (especially the non-cruise option)! Hope you two have a great time! :)

Lauren
http://laurensweetnothings.blogspot.com/

Newlyweds on a Budget said...

first off, CONGRATULATIONS! This must be so exciting for you! And second, we are seriously twins in every aspect. I also will save save save but i always splurge for travel. It's my thing. I also love to plan plan plan. I think thats one of the most fun things of traveling, is planning your trip!
I would definitely say go for the cruise. But I would choose the second cruise option rather than the first. Sicily is absolutely gorgeous (and way more to do than Pisa or Florence). You can always add France to the end of your trip on your own. But either way both options sound amazing. Keep us posted!

CeCe said...

Thanks for the tip on Sicily. I'll have to do more research (yeah!!) on the port cities for both. We will still see France for two nights afterwards even if it's not part of the cruise once we start traveling on our own so maybe that will be enough of France. And then, I could say I've been to Africa too!

CeCe said...

If I can just get over my extreme paranoia of forgetting something AND realize that I can't bring EVERYTHING and just get over it then I'll be ok!

Mrs. Pancakes said...

Love the title of the post...and how exciting about your trip...I love Europe and you are going to have a ball:-)

Michelle said...

Wow that sounds amazing! I'm so jealous. I need a passport too.

Faith said...

So, so exciting! I think money spent on traveling is the best money spent because those memories truly last forever! I've never been to Europe so I'm excited for your pictures and to see where you decide to go!

P.S. one of my favorite things is getting stamps on my passport :)

Carla said...

I'm sure which ever option you choose you'll have a wonderful time, nonetheless. I'm thinking about a cruise in November to Cozumel. I do know that the first change I get, I'm going to Africa.

Amy said...

The cruise sounds pretty awesome ;) but either one you choose with be a vacation to be remembered!

Natalie said...

Your trip sounds fabulous, I am suer jealous!

ShellyShell said...

I read your blog all the time and never comment. I took the first cruise you have listed. Let me tell you...YOU WILL NEED A VACATION AFTER! NOTHING is where the boat docks. You are running from sun up to sun down! When you get to Naples. I highly recommend hiring a driver to take you to the sights. Our driver took us to Pompeii and then up the Amalfi Coast to Positano(absolutely beautiful) by far my favorite part of the trip. Rome was about an hour train ride from the boat. So you have to factor in time. Florence/Pisa we hired a driver too. He left us in Florence for 4 hours and came back and drove us to Pisa(not much there but the tower) and then back to the ship. Cannes not a lot to do there. We went and ate and hung out at the beach all day! You could go to Monoco(just depends what you want to do). If you can I would spend two days in Barcelona. There is so much to see and Sangria to sip..lol! While you're in Barcelona make sure to vist "la sagrada familia" it's a beautiful church. The architecture is stunning.

CeCe said...

Thanks so much for the cruise tips. It's looking like we may not take either of those cruises after all BUT it's helpful to consider that the port city is probably not necessarily close to the sights we want to see. I'm really looking forward to Barcelona. It's so hard trying to decide where to go and how long. I wish we could do it ALL!! Thanks for reading my blog!!

CeCe said...

Get one. But don't wait 10 years to use it like I did!

CeCe said...

We are booking it this week! I'll keep you all posted on where we end up going.

Sara said...

This is super exciting girl- I can't wait to go to Europe one day, too! I was going to suggest the cruise because it would be a little less involved planning-wise, but seeing from the other comments, I do think the drawback is having only a set time wherever the boat docks for the day. On our honeymoon we just went with the flow and it was GREAT! It was very unlike us to do that but playing it by ear can be really fun! I guess I vote option 2! Take an adventure!

Ameena said...

You are going to have the best time!! My thoughts:

1. The Eurorail is great. So worth the extra $$ because it's so much faster and cleaner and organized than other trains.

2. Barcelona is amazing. Paris is amazing. I don't think you can spend too much time in either city.

3. Amsterdam is gorgeous but tiny and a bit boring. Or so Ali and I thought. And it is extraordinarily expensive for no reason!

I love to be in control of vacations...it's the only way I can have a good time. Love all your research!

Janna Renee said...

This is soooo exciting! I love Europe, and we did a cruise. It makes it so much easier AND ends up being cheaper as food and lodging is covered. Y'all are going to have so much fun!!

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