Be Back Whenever


2/2024 – Plan B

This trip needs a prologue! Way back in July 2023, Mark asked Susan what she wants to do for her 70th birthday. This first idea was a cruise through the Panama Canal from end to end, not into the middle and back out. When we couldn’t find one that operated during the birthday, the next idea was to see the Northern Lights. After all, if I have a winter birthday, why not just go from cold to colder?
We found one on Hurtigruten, the Norwegian company that Per and Lise told us about. We booked a cruise leaving from Amsterdam to Bergen and up the coast of Norway to the Arctic Circle and back again. It was on the MS Maud. I even signed up for the various Facebook pages for Hurtigruten trips. This becomes important about December 22!
We start preparing for the trip – plane flights, hotels, etc. We found an excellent price on a Singapore Air flight from JFK-FRA Business Class which we booked, adding a weekend in NY and tickets to see “Book of Mormon” on Broadway. Mark bought us some North Face coats so we are all ready to be cold in Norway and see the Northern Lights!
The drama begins as Christmas approaches. A serious storm hits the North Sea on December 22. The MS Maud sees this coming and changes a port stop so they can beat the storm across the North Sea to get back to Tilbury, UK in time for their Christmas cruise. The ship doesn’t make it! The MS Maud is hit by a rogue wave, breaking the bridge windows. The ship cannot navigate; calls for help. The passengers put on their water rescue suits and spend 8 hours at the muster stations in wild weather. Finally, 3 ships arrive from Norway and Denmark, the Maud gets some power back, and everyone heads to Bremerhaven, Germany. You can Google to read the whole story.
I know all of this thanks to Facebook! At this point, Mark and I start betting our cruise will be a no-go. However, Hurtigruten trades out the Maud for the Spitsbergen. Once again, we learn about this from Facebook. We finally get an email from Hurtigruten about the trade off and the Spitsbergen being a smaller ship – no room for us! We’re offered a refund, rebooking, or a voucher. We chose the refund and actually received it in just a few days. Since we have flights and NYC and hotels, Plan B is the next option.
That’s where the trip starts – Plan B!

We flew to NYC for a long weekend.

We did a tour of the hospital on Ellis Island. It’s very interesting. This is the view the immigrants had from the hospital beds.
We visited the Museum of Modern Art. Once in a while, we need some culture.
The “Book of Mormon” is one of the best musicals we’ve ever seen. We laughed our way through the entire production.

After NYC, we flew to Frankfurt and on to Amsterdam. Mark didn’t want to take Deutsche Bahn to Amsterdam which was a good decision since DB had a strike the day we flew to Amsterdam. The original trip had us spending a few days in Amsterdam before we took the tram and bus to Ijmuiden, where the ship sailed from. Jutta, a German friend, was meeting us there for the day. Rather than undo all of that, we went to Ijmuiden for the night.

Fun brewery on a chilly Sunday afternoon in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam wants to make sure everyone understands the rules.
Ristafel dinner – Indonesian food. It’s yummy! The waitress asked if we had any food allergy. We said “no” and she told us “Boomers never have allergies”. Guess it pays be older.
Ijmuiden, Netherlands has spectacular beaches along the North Sea. In January, the wind howls, making it a hot spot for wind surfing and kiteboarding.
The MS Spitsbergen – the ship we were supposed to be on.

996,607 down, 3,393 to go – updated May 2017

I’m on the hunt for 1 million miles on United Airlines after joining their Frequent Flyer Club when it first started in about 1981. Mark already has 1 million miles so I can be his designated Premier Gold partner but it’s the principle of the matter. I want my own Million Mile designation!

I made up a spreadsheet with Excel and with only 47,00 miles to go as of January 25, I’ve searched high and low for flights with the most miles/dollar. Since I don’t really want to spend my life on planes, I’m searching for long flights.  Last year I went to Hong Kong from Denver but routed myself through Newark to get about 1500 extra miles for the same price. So far this year, I’ve found Denver to Tokyo to Bangkok to accrue miles and I did that trip in January.  (The miles have to be “butt in seat” on a United plane so only the DEN-SFO-NRT miles count.)

The Aloft Hotel pool – Bangkok

View from the Mo Chit BTS stop for the Weekend Market in Bangkok – cabs and buses!

Memorial to the King of Thailand who died in 2016

Year of the Rooster – Bangkok

Sushi in the United Airlines Club at Tokyo Narita airport. You won’t find this in the U.S. United Clubs.