Tomorrow morning, I board a Thai Airways jet in Stockholm bound for Denpasar, where I’ll embark on Silver Shadow. I’m flying on a Business Class ticket that was selling for $6,370. Yet, I paid less than $1,800.
I used points (airline miles) that I had purchased last fall to buy the ticket, and yet I will sit in the same seat that I would have sat in had I paid $5,000 more. A victory for the “coupon clipper” in me.
I view points/miles as valuable currency, and I purchase them whenever special offers are available. This past fall and again in January, USAirways featured identical special offers: Buy up to 50,000 miles and receive 50,000 for free. I leapt at the opportunity both times, accumulating 200,000 miles that I planned to put to good use.
Points/miles can be used to purchase seats that I could not otherwise afford (those at the front of the plane), and tickets awarded with points or miles are much more flexible than the low-fare tickets I would otherwise be a able to purchase. Using miles to book my tickets, I can usually change travel dates — or even redeposit the miles/points for use at a later date — with little or no penalty.
I also apply for credit cards that offer miles as incentives. Last year, I applied for credit cards earning me 50,000 miles on United, 50,000 on Delta, 80,000 miles at IHG Brand hotels and 50,000 at Marriott hotels. The latter two hotel-branded credit cards also award certificates for one-night stays at hotels within the respective brands, which, if used wisely, more than offsets the annual fees of less than $100 per card.
For my flight on Sunday to Southeast Asia, the cost of 50,000 miles, with the 50,000-mile bonus, was $1,881.25 with taxes included. Actually, the cost was a bit less, because USAirways’ generous-award chart requires only 90,000 miles for a roundtrip Business Class ticket on Star Alliance carriers between North America or Europe and Southeast Asia. That means from my purchase of 100,000 miles, I have 10,000 miles remaining, an incredible value. I am flying in Business Class for less than I would have paid for an Economy-Class ticket.
Getting to and from your cruises, especially those exotic cruises that are a long way from North America and Europe, shouldn’t be punishing, and in fact, in Six Tips To Extract More Joy From Your Cruise, I advise booking in Business Class whenever possible. And as I my flight to Southeast Asia suggests, you can sometimes travel in Business Class for about the same cost as you would pay to fly in Economy Class.
I’ll be writing more about strategies to fly in comfort in a future column here on Avid Cruiser. At the moment, however, I want to tell you a little about my cruise. The bulk of the coverage begins on Monday, when I step aboard Silver Shadow in Denpasar to cruise Indonesia, but I’ll give you a taste of what is to come here.
The last time I was in the Indonesian archipelago was nearly 30 years ago, as a 26-year-old backpacker exploring the world. It was remarkable then, and I’m sure it will be equally remarkable now. My upcoming adventure on luxury operator Silversea Cruises will prove to be quite a different experience I am sure from the backpacking adventure where I traveled on $5 per day — or less.
I am particularly excited about some of the shore excursions. I hope to do the Elephant Safari Adventure on Tuesday. The shore excursion includes a visit to an Elephant Safari Park that is home to 27 rescued Sumatran elephants and a 30-minute trek on a wooden seat atop the elephant’s back. No upgrades to Business Class I am afraid.
I do hope you will follow along. The voyage promises to be an exciting adventure (perhaps as much so as my recent voyage to Antarctica on Silver Explorer), and for me, it’s always more fun when avid cruisers like you follow along and engage with me on Avid Cruiser, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on our sister site Live Voyage Reports.
To my fellow countrymen, I hope you enjoy the Super Bowl. I’ve read that you will consume 1.23 billion chicken wings on Super Bowl Sunday. That makes me a) envious; and b) glad not to be a chicken.
I’ll write to you next from Indonesia.