Friday, December 17, 2010

Welcome Back...Meredith Simmons

Back in October, I invited fellow Writing With the Stars finalist Meredith Simmons to guest blog and talk about her travels across the country. You may remember that Merry was getting ready to leave on a month long cruise of the South Pacific, and today's she's back to tell us about her trip. Please give her a warm welcome!!!

Thanks, Alannah, for inviting me back to talk about our latest travel adventure. We got home about three weeks ago from a month-long cruise of the South Pacific. What an incredible journey!

My husband and I flew to Sydney, Australia and boarded the Sapphire Princess – a beautiful ship. Now I previously talked about “frugal” travel, but I have to admit that this once-in-a-lifetime trip doesn’t quite fall into the inexpensive category. I still managed to stretch our travel dollar, however, and I’ll get to some hints after I give an over-view of the cruise.

We left Australia and crossed the Tasman Sea to the west coast of New Zealand where we cruised Fjordland National Park. The most famous of these fjords is Milford Sound, an area of truly spectacular scenery where steep mountains crash into the sea. We then sailed around the southern tip of New Zealand’s South Island to ports on the east coast. We visited Dunedin, Christchurch, and Wellington. A special treat in Wellington was meeting my Writing with the Stars mentor, Brava author Bronwen Evans. She was the one who told me I’d made it to the second round of the WWTS contest and the two of us ended up happy-dancing all around the entrance to the TePapa Museum while my husband pretended he didn’t know us. Bronwen gave us a wonderful personal tour of New Zealand’s capitol, which I can describe in one word – windy!

Our last port in NZ was Auckland, on the north of the North Island. This is the country’s largest city, but we didn’t stay there long, choosing instead to go to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. This tour allowed us to see a lot of the countryside, something we try to do whenever possible. New Zealand has a vast amount of beautiful and impressive scenery. It’s no wonder Lord of the Rings was filmed there.

We then sailed to islands scattered across the Pacific – Fiji, American Samoa, Moorea, Tahiti, and Bora Bora. Each had its own special charm, but all were postcard pretty with oddly shaped mountains piercing incredibly blue skies, wide beaches of either white or black sand bordered by tall palms, and everything surrounded by sparkling, aqua seas. My favorite was Moorea, which is the sister island to Tahiti, but isn’t quite as “touristy.”

After a number of days at sea, we arrived at the Hawaiian Islands, stopping at both Honolulu and Lahaina. What can I say about Hawaii? Lovely! From there we sailed to Los Angeles and flew back to North Carolina – the end of a terrific odyssey.

I’d thought with so many sea days on this cruise I’d get a lot of writing done. Well, that didn’t happen. There was always so much to do on the ship. We particularly enjoyed two really interesting lecture series, but my favorite activity was talking to new friends around the pool. And then there was all the food…

As I mentioned earlier, this trip fell into the “Big Splurge” category, but we still did all we could to stretch our travel dollar. We used air-miles to fly from North Carolina to Australia, a savings of about $2,500. And then, we stayed in an interior cabin instead of one with a balcony since adding the balcony would have been an additional $3000 for a trip of this length. Now I’m not one of those travelers who say balcony rooms aren’t all that important. I love a balcony. But the compromise here was having an interior room on the Lido deck. In just a few steps we could be outside at one of the pool areas and we used this as our really big balcony – except this one came with a swimming pool, a couple of hot tubs and often, live music. Very nice! So my frugal hint is to look for an interior room with such easy access to an outside area. You can save your money but still enjoy all the perks of a balcony.

As I write this, we’re having a mixture of snow and sleet – but all those beautiful islands make for warm memories. Hey, Alannah, are you ready to pack your bags?

You know I am!!! I don't handle the cold well, and this snow/sleet mess isn't making me happy. In case I didn't mention it before, Merry and I are neighbors! We live about 45 minutes from each other, which is crazy considering this contest was open to contestants from all over the world!

Thanks for sharing the details of your trip with us.


I have an annoucement to make and I'm so sorry I've failed to share this information with ya'll before now. I wasn't allowed to tell anyone the news until this past Monday, and by then, I'd forgotten that it was actually "news."

The bad new is, I was eliminated in the last round of the WWTS competition. The good news is, I've been contacted by an agent who learned of me because of the contest. While I was in the contest I couldn't share LAST CALL with an agent or another publisher. Now I can! :)

Since I'm no longer in the contest, I'm going to ask you to vote for Merry. I'd love to see a fellow Eastern NC writer win this contest!!!! Here's the link to go to RT's website and cast your vote.

Have a great weekend!!!
Peace and love,


Beth Caudill said...

Wow Merry I am so jealous! I'd love to take a cruise like that. Good tip on making compromises to still enjoy your travels but save some money.

Good luck with the contest.

Sorry you didn't make it Alannah.

meredith simmons said...

Thanks for your good wishes, Beth. Being frugal with our travel costs makes it possible for us TO travel. Organized tours tend to be very pricey, so I've learned to do most of the planning and implementing myself. I'm one of those people who just "has" to know what's on the other side of the hill, but it sometimes takes some finagling to get there.