Measure twice, book once.

Ok, that’s not how the saying goes. But this trip had surprises around every corner….not the good kind. The best advice for travelling, whether by yourself or with others, is to pack tons of patience and go with the flow. A bad day travelling is ALWAYS better than a day spent working.

On a whim, I booked a short MSC Mediterranean Cruise. This is how my brain works when I’m bored. Oh look, a cheap trip…click book. Then worry about the details later. This is how a typical day off goes for me. Laundry, groceries, errands–followed about 90% of the time looking at travel deals.

For many reasons, cruising wasn’t a favorite for me. I get seasick, yes, even on a cruise ship. I also don’t like being hot, or sitting in the sun, which are things almost always associated with cruising. The deal searcher in me calculated up some costs and decided, since I was due for another trip to Europe (honestly can one ever NOT be due for a trip to Europe?), to give it a whirl. The cruise cost with an upgraded spa package, and a couple drinks on board cost me under $400. We won’t talk about how much I spent at the casino. Like father, like daughter? Just kidding, I actually won $40 total in the casino.

I had a British Airways voucher to use by December from a cancelled 2020 Covid trip, so that covered a flight, the rest I left up to chance. I did very minimal research, which is very unlike me, but I also love (in hindsight) learning things the hard way. This trip had a handful of travel fails, but also some wins.

The first leg of my journey was from Boston to London Heathrow. I’ll spare you the nightmare of Heathrow, if you know, you know. Then Heathrow to Milan. My flight arrived in Milan past midnight. I was confident that my Citymapper app would get me to my hotel, however, that really only works if you follow the correct mode of transportation–not buying a train ticket for a route that was for a bus. Leave me alone, it was a long travel day. So at 1 AM I’m on a train to nowhere! Milan city center is about a 45 minute journey from the airport. It was fine, the train got me close and the rest was nothing a quick UBER ride couldn’t handle. Upon arrival at the Hyatt Centric Milan, I found myself in an upgraded room full of all sorts of bougie features.

Future me: book the hotel at the airport when arriving late.

I spent a half day exploring the streets of Milan. What a nice city. I found it to be clean and not too crowded. The Italians I encountered were all quite friendly.

Next up: Train from Milan Centrale to Genoa. I boarded this two hour train with plenty of time to spare. I was expecting a nice European long journey train, but instead this one resembled a city commuter train.

Just before we were due to leave, a woman with some cute (giant)pink suitcases asked if the seat across from me was taken. After some small chat we realized we were both going on a Mediterranean cruise solo. Sadly, we were on different ships but our journey didn’t end here. We decided to meet up later on and explore Genoa, have some cocktails and tapas, best pizza ever, and some limoncello shots.

Future me: Although my hotel was close to port, next time I will book a hotel in the city’s old town.

The next day was cruise embarkation. This process went very smoothly, and my room was ready upon boarding, which isn’t always the case. Unfortunately, this is the day I realized I made a horrible booking mistake. Somehow, I booked my flight home a day earlier than planned. Dummy. So after scrambling and realizing I did not want to pay $500+ just to change my flight a day, I planned to disembark 12 hours early. Honestly, this wasn’t really a big deal. A quick $30 Ryan Air flight got me to Barcelona in time for my booked flight.

In true Ryan Air fashion, it was delayed quite a bit. So much that I didn’t even bother going to the hotel I had booked. (pray to the travel insurance gods for me) Honestly, are you even a traveler if you haven’t slept in an airport? Barcelona Airport was like a giant slumber party. Luckily I was able to go through security to find place to cozy up for a couple of hours.

Future me: Research harder and take advantage of the airport hotel that books rooms and showers in 3 hour increments. Sadly, they were fully booked when I got there.

My survival was mostly due to the airport lounges finally having space and letting me in. London has been basically useless to even try since Covid. Luckily, I was massively successful in Palma de Mallorca and Lisbon. Thanks Priority Pass.

With tons of time to blow in the lounge I stumbled upon a different type of “seat upgrade” bidding system with TAP Airlines. I decided to give it whirl and $30 later I am writing to you all from the bulkhead seat 6A. I was way too cheap for the business class seats which were going for $500 to upgrade. I’m happy with my decision, and now headed up to Boston, will fill you all in about the cruise and ports visited next time!


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