by Rosemary Spencer
Cruising is something I’ve watched and heard others do. They come back raving about their experiences and the places they’ve seen. They show us photos and tell us about the next trip they’ve already booked.
Seeing other countries by cruising became more and more appealing and our desire to follow in my parents footsteps to St. Petersburg, Russia and round the Baltic was something to plan for.
Travel has been in my blood since I was little, even if it was youth hosteling. A Baltic cruise in our retirement would be the icing on the cake. Then for our 35th wedding anniversary my mother said she would try to help us with the cost of a cruise round the Baltic.
Having done the trip herself she was excited to think that we would be traveling in her footsteps. She got out all the brochures of her trip in readiness for our arrival in the UK for her 85th birthday. By now she lived vicariously through her children, so this was as much her trip as it was ours.
I approached a cruise travel agent. A lovely person, full of enthusiasm and caring. We spent a couple of hours together talking about my mother, my ideas for the trip etc. I felt comfortable with her, assured that she would find the right dates to fit in with my mother’s birthday the following Spring.
Since my family in Canada had to inform their work of holiday dates, and I wanted to set up the house for all the visitors to the party we were giving for my mother, it was imperative that we get the dates for the cruise absolutely finalized before I could start on any other part of the itinerary.
MSC Cruises was the only line that did a one week Baltic Cruise and luckily near enough the dates of my mother’s birthday. I booked the cruise.
I called my agent twice during the following months to make sure there would be absolutely no hitch in the dates. Once I felt secure in this knowledge I started planning the specifics.
My family in Canada had to take time off without pay. Since we needed our arrival to be closer to the cruise date we had to delay mum’s party – to her chagrin.
I spent hours from January to March plowing through tourist books for the Baltic states, working out how we could get from a small village in the middle of the UK to Copenhagen (from where MSC was departing), and booking every post cruise detail to dovetail with the return cruise dates. To be on the safe side I booked us into a B & B right in the city 3 nights in advance of the cruise.
I had never booked online before so it was a massive undertaking and quite scary to book all the trains, planes & B & B’s that would take us round Scandinavia after the cruise. But at least I knew I had a week’s cruise to recoup from the party and the planning process.
If I had known what was to happen I would have planned everything differently and it would have cost us a lot less. By doing the post cruise trip from Copenhagen to Bergen, Norway, coordinating flights back to Canada became convoluted & much more expensive – adding greatly to the overall tension.
I was to leave for the UK a week in advance to help make beds & clean house for mum. So with only 6 weeks before I was to leave I was devastated to find a message on my answering machine from my TA telling me that we were no longer on the cruise. (Even now, as I write, I feel shaken).
You have no idea how devastated we were. The next day we phoned the TA who of course couldn’t believe it herself and was most apologetic. But that was all she could do.
There had been no offer at this time. We were directed to Encore, the TA’s intermediary with MSC. They managed to get an offer out of MSC for 25% off another cruise. My heart sank. My husband phoned MSC in Florida more than once, to no avail. The deed was done.