Wednesday, September 10, 2008

From Miami to Athens: An Adventure

Toward the end of Ocrober my wife and I are taking a three and a half week cruise that starts in Athens, Greece and ends in Fort Lauderdale. Getting home at the end of the cruise is fairly easy. A limo will pick us up at Port Everglades and we will be home in about 45 minutes. Getting to Athens requires a bit of planning and scheduling.

More after the jump . . .

There are a couple of rules that I impose on myself when making schedules like this. (1) Use stand-by passes (our daughter is a flight attendant) to get to Europe, (2) once in Europe, use the cheapest flight to final destination, (3) arrive at the cruise embarkation location at least a day before the cruise starts. Not a rule but this time we would like to be in Athens a couple of days before the cruise. We have been in Athens before and love the city.

Miami to London

For this leg of the trip we will be "non-revenue" passangers which means that we will fly only if there is space. Sometimes that means that we may not take our first choice but the second choice (or even third or fourth choice). We also like to fly first class or at least business class. An eight hour flight in coach is not something I would look forward to! Therefore I listed all flights on Oct 26 via American Airlines from Miami to London and there are about nine or so flights. Only one is direct and the others fly from Miami to London via NYC, Chicago, Dallas and Boston. Therefore we will be "wait-listed" for the first flight out of Miami and see what happens.

Overnight in London

We will arrive in Heathrow early in the morning after and overnight flight from Miami (or NYC, or Chicago, . . .). We know that the flights that we would take to Athens we fly from Gatwick so we take the bus for Heathrow to Gatwick (about an hour and a half trip) and will spend the night there. We have done this before so I booked a room at the Copthorne Hotel outside the Gatwick Airport. The hotel is a refurbished manor house with gardens, a stream, swans, etc. Nice place.

London to Athens

Remember one of my rules: use the cheapest airline! As a result of this rule we have been able to fly from Miami to Shannon, Ireland on Aeroflot (the Russian National airline), and from Copenhagen to London on Maersk. (That's right, Maersk the Danish ocean shipping company. They also had a small airline division but sold it a couple of years ago.) So what is the cheapest airline flying from London to Athens - EasyJet! Kayak.com shows rates from about $200 per person to $3,000 per person. It also shows EasyJet at $102 per person. Such a deal! Unfortunately, the flight is at 6:20 AM and EasyJet does not assign seats before hand so we will have to get to the airport about 4:00 AM to get to the head of the line. Also free luggage is limited to about 20 lbs per. Our cruise is three and a half weeks! I suspect extra luggage will cost us about another $100. Still a bargain.

In Athens

We will arrive in Athens on the afternoon of the 28th and want to spend some time there until the cruise that starts the afternoon of the 30th. Previously we had stayed at the Attalos Hotel in the Plaka area, the old section of Athens near the Acropolis. Every travel search site I used (Kayak, Travelocity, Hotels.com, etc.) shows no rooms available on the dates we need. Therefore, we found a hotel in the downtown area but not in Plaka and we thought we could walk or metro from there anyplace we wanted to. Booked it for two nights through Travelocity. Then I was looking for something about Athens and came across comments from persons who had stayed at the hotel I had just booked. The first comment was, "Don't ever stay at this place!" The next was, "I am a fairly big guy but I was leary about going out in the neighborhood at night." Next just said, "A vice hotel." Gee, maybe I don't want to stay there. Went back to Travelocity, cancelled my reservation (still cost me $25), found another hotel with fairly good reviews and so we're all set.

All in all it only took three and a half hours to make reservations!

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