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Norwegian cruise, London, Bavaria and the Maldives

Daver6

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The time has come for MrsDaver6 and I to head off on another adventure. We start on 28th October and will be on the road for four weeks. I'll do so pre-trip posts with details and planning for those who are interested. During the trip I'll try post a bit, likely to be mainly photos.

We started planning this trip ages ago. I have a bunch of HH points to blow and we decided Conrad Maldives was the way to go. The plan was to also fly on a 280k J OWA so we obviously needed to visits some other places. And so we decided on a cruise up the Norwegian coast would be in order. We decided we'd stop by London to visit friends and family and Bavaria to visit family.

In late January we enlisted the assistance of the AFF Award Flight Assistant service. This was money well spent! We did our own research on the cruises and decided we were going with Hurtigruten. We had narrowed down the list of their ships we'd be happy to go on and our preferred dates. This gave us specific dates we needed to fly in and out of Bergen (BGO). We also knew was wanted 6 nights in the Maldives. We had some flexibility with how long we'd be in London/Bavaria and flexible about the order (although did have a preference). With all this info provided to the Award Flight Assistance person assigned to us, we were presented with options. In the end our flights path looks like this.

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with the flights as follows, all in J unless otherwise specified:
PER - SYD QF (overnight but only a transit)
SYD - DOH - HEL QR (stop)
HEL - ARN - BGO SK Y (seperate booking, will explain later)
BGO - LHR - HEL AY (stop)
LHR - MUC BA (stop)
MUC - LHR BA - DOH - MLE QR (stop)
MLE - CMB UL (Y) - HKG - PER CX

The QR flights from SYD - DOH and LHR - DOH were specifically chosen Q-suites. As a bonus the DOH - MLE flight has also been upgraded to Q-suites. MLE - CMB only had Y availability, but should be able to slum it for just over an hour.

Originally we were meant to fly on AY from HEL - BGO. This is the only OW flight into BGO each day. Unfortunately about a week after booking, we were notified that the flight for that day had been cancelled. AY and QF were not interested in putting us on another carrier to get us there. Flying the next day was not an option as literally, our ship would have sailed. We were offered a refund (which really was just taxes). Not sure how, but that turned out to be fairly significant.

Thankfully we arrive in HEL first thing in the morning and only need to be in BGO by the evening. I used one of my Amex travel credits to book us flights on SK to BGO via ARN. Again for short flights, Y would suffice. Turns out with the generous tax refund and using the Amex travel credit, we came out ahead.
 

Daver6

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First (unofficial) stop us a night in Sydney. This gives us the opportunity to catch up with some friends for dinner. Originally we booked at the Rydges airport hotel. However the QR flight doesn't leave until 4:40pm the following day, we decided to stay elsewhere. Looking at options on Amex FHR, the Sofitel Darling Harbour has a special that amongst the usual FHR benefits, also included an additional $200 USD dining credit. This was quickly booked and the tanking AUD will make the credit even more valuable.

The guaranteed late checkout is also a bonus, but realistically we'll head to the airport when check-in for QR opens in order to make the most of the QF F lounge. I will need to somewhat pace myself as based on past experience, food and drink on QR is excellent.

The QR flight was originally showing a the A350-1000, but the commencement date for that aircraft has been pushed back slightly, so now on a 777 but still Q-suites. We have preselected the middle two (couples) seat.
 

Major

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Are you planning to visit any special wine areas ?
 

Pushka

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Enjoy the Maldives, the water is truly as blue as the brochures. And the Baltic’s are fabulous.
 

Daver6

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Are you planning to visit any special wine areas ?
No wineries on this trip. However, I'm certain some good wine will be consumed in London. Both my uncle and a friend there are into their wine.

Originally when considering other options (other than the cruise), we looked at flying into Paris and then driving through Champagne and along the The Jura. That will be for another trip.
 

Daver6

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As mentioned previously, I had a lot of HH points and we'd been wanting to go to the Maldives for ages. Having read lots about the Conrad, this seems like a great opportunity. Just prior to booking, A Waldorf Astoria also opened in the Maldives. We did consider this, but decided that could be for next time.

We took advantage of the fifth redemption night for free and booked six nights all up. The cost in points was the same for a basic over water villa or a beach villa. We intended to split the stay between the two and given the monetary cost for an over water villa was dearer, we booked that for the six nights. About two months ago or so I made contact with the resort and we paid a small fee to upgrade three of the nights to a deluxe beach bungalow.

Being HH gold, we will get breakfast included as well as happy hour/afternoon tea.
 

BriarFlyer

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Looking forward to this one as the Norwegian cruise is on the bucket-list, and probably at a similar time of year.
 

Daver6

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The planning for the Norwegian cruise was relatively straight forward. Having never done a cruise before and never really having much desire to, this cruise actually seemed quite appealing to me. I think part of the reason for that is it's on a working ship. That is, this isn't a cruise liner, but a ship that transports goods to the various towns along the coast. People can take their cars on-board and get on/off at any of the numerous ports.

As outlined earlier, we had flexibility. We decided we'd do the "classic round trip voyage" that starts and end in Bergen. It goes all the way up to Kirkenes near the Russian boarder and returns along the same route. You land up stopping on the same towns, but in the other direction those which were night ports of call become day ones. As you can see, you spend a good amount of time north of the Artic circle. At this time of year the odds of seeing the northern lights at some point of the cruise are excellent.

1571190499435.png

So we decided on which of the ships we'd be happy on and used that as a short list for sailing days. In terms of cabins, they are all relatively small, unless you go for a suite. We opted for a basic outside (as opposed to internal) cabin. Logic being we'd rather save a bit of money here and it would encourage us to not just sit in the cabin, but go explore the towns we stop at and spend time in the lounge area of the ship. The price includes three meals a day.
 

ADLhighflyer

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I found that when I did the Hurtigruten cruise on MS Polarlys 2 years ago, I found that to see the lights onboard the ship required a very steady hand when taking pictures (due ship movement). Best chance to take some good pictures I feel would be off the ship during one of the port stops in an evening away from lights etc. Refer to my trip report for more info!
 

Daver6

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An interesting (yet not unusual) experence booking a rental car for Bavaria. Needed a full size sedan (3 adults and bags) and had a look at Hertz due to Presidents Circle status. I also get some Amex discount. Anyway, I checked out prices both logged in and as a guest on the AU and US Hertz websites. For a reasonablish price I could get a C class Merc which fitted the bill. Best way was actually logged into the AU site. I then figured I'd quickly check the German site. Wow...so much cheaper. They had a special going for a GLC Merc (guarenteed model) for even less than the sedan I was considering. However, logging in to Hertz the rate became stupidly expensive.

So I just booked as a guest and called Hertz AU to add my membership code. I don't know why Hertz have mulitple different rates for the same thing and really screw you if you're a member.
 

SponsorSFC

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Make sure you pack some mozzie repellent for the Maldives, we got devoured at the Quiet Zone HHonors Happy hour.

We didn't get them anywhere else though.
 

kermatu

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Looking forward to this. I did the north-bound cruise with Hurtigruten only, and while we have since been back once to Norway I regret not doing the round trip. Have fun!
 

Daver6

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Well the day of travel has arrived. Unfortunately this is where our aircraft should be...but clearly isn't

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100 minute delay. No problem, I'll have my bloody Mary in the lounge instead....no wait...fun police won't serve alcohol in the morning so this will have to do in the interim..

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Daver6

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Departing about 100 minutes late we had another 15 minute delay. The food truck had broken down and couldn't be moved away from the aircraft. Eventually done so and away we went. Sitting in row 1, it still took almost an hour to get my drink, followed by the seared tuna and pork chop. Both pretty decent. Cheese was very average. Not sure why QF can't serve Australian cheese and felt the need to use French.

Another delay near Sydney which saw us do a couple of laps near Canberra.

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Daver6

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We booked the lowest room through Amex FHR hotels. As mentioned, the dining credit was $200 USD. Upon checking in we were upgraded to a harbour view room (rather dirty windows). At check-in we were told we had a $150 AUD dining credit. I pointed out that it should have been $200 USD. The guy seemed to acknowledge this and clearly there had been some stuff up with Amex. He said that the $200 USD credit was on top of the $150. HE confirmed everything and low and behold we had $450 AUD to spend. As a silver member we also received a complimentary welcome drink. When he heard that a friend was meeting us, he gave us a third one too. A lovely gesture.

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