By Joseph Babiasz
Travel is my passion. I'm one of those guys who'll hop on a plane at a moment's notice just to get out of my home state of Michigan, especially in winter. I've been known to book a trip just to keep my airline status at a high enough level to pay for steerage, or to get upgrades to business class, or to add a few notches to my favorite cruise line rewards program.
I only take advantage of such opportunities when the value is higher than the price I have to pay, however.
Many of you who cruise have heard that Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines changed their Crown and Anchor loyalty program recently--and, I'm happy to say, for the better. In the past, the company based points on the number of cruises taken, regardless of the number of days at sea. One cruise, one point.
This was great for the crowd that took advantage of three- and four-day cruises but not much help for those jumping on a longer cruise. For 2011, Royal Caribbean changed their system to reward cruisers based on how many days they sailed. You earn one point for each day you spend at sea.
With that in mind, I've found a great way to rack up points on RCCL while going on a really cheap trip. The Navigator of the Seas sails from Fort Lauderdale on 2 May 2011 for a 13-night cruise to Civitavecchia, Italy near Rome. And, based on the price, there isn't a better way to add to your loyalty program. Because this is a repositioning cruise--moving the ship from the western Caribbean to Europe--the rates start at just $499 per person (double occupancy).
The Navigator of the Seas begins its trip with eight days at sea, just enough to read those novels you've had piling up. On the ninth day, you sail into the port of Tenefrie in the Canary Islands, a spectacular island about 200 miles off the coast of Africa.
From there, you will spend two more days at sea before arriving at Palma De Mallorca in Spain's Balearic Islands, the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and a popular destination on the Costa del Sol.
The following day, the ship docks in Ajaccio on the French island of Corsica, best known as the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte. Departing for its final night at sea at 5:00 that afternoon, it docks in Civitavecchia, the port serving Rome. From there, it's just a little over an hour to Rome where you can spend as long as you like in the Eternal City.
At a cost of just $38 a night for an inside cabin with all the amenities you'd expect on a world-class cruise ship (add about $6 a night for taxes and port charges), this ranks as both a travel bargain and a smart way to pad your Crown and Anchor loyalty account. Cruise the Atlantic to Italy, or sleep in a cheap hotel with stale coffee and a soggy muffin here at home? I know which I would choose.
My suggestion upon arriving in Rome? Plan to spend a week in Italy and make the trip extra special by renting a vintage roadster from Zephyrus Tourism d'Epoca. For around $1,000, about what you would spend on a new Fiat 500 rental car, Zephyrus can put you behind the wheel of a vintage first series, small bumpered Fiat 124 Spider for a week.
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