by Pamela Scala
The Australian cruise itinerary that we have waited for finally became available. Most cruises in Oceania (as that part of the world is known) usually hit many ports in New Zealand with just a wink at Australia, stopping in Hobart, Melbourne, and Sydney. Australia is a huge country and it felt like a wasted trip to go that far and see so little. Celebrity offers an 18-night itinerary with a pretty respectable dose of New Zealand, the usual Hobart, Tasmania, and two days in Sydney. We then sail along the southern coast of Australia with three more ports and disembark in Fremantle, the port for Perth.
Never wanting to miss an opportunity to make our trips complicated, it has taken me hours and hours to put it all together and we aren’t finished yet. First issue is that using frequent flier miles to fly business or first class to Australia or New Zealand is the most difficult itinerary to capture. I can vouch for that after having tried in years past and spending so much time on it for this trip. The change that made it much easier is the ability to book one-way trips. Airlines only allow bookings 337 days (United) or 330 days (American) out. If your return wasn’t within a few days of your outbound, your return seats would have been grabbed by someone with a shorter itinerary. Hint: It’s easier to capture difficult frequent flier seats if you book them one way.
Our outbound itinerary is ridiculous and probably only acceptable as an award ticket. We fly MCO-LAX-PVG-AKL. That translates to: Orlando–Los Angeles–Shanghai–Auckland. There are two long hauls in that itinerary and a necessary overnight in Shanghai.
On the return from Perth I booked us with British Airways miles to Melbourne, a city we will not visit on the cruise. British Airways miles are simply a pain because of the huge numbers of miles needed to book flights, plus BA charges high extra fees. Flying on their partners using BA miles is viable so I snagged that flight easily on Qantas and with few miles. I cheered for hours when our return on MEL–LAX became available on United. It is highly unusual to be able to book that flight. It was simply a matter of synchronizing my bookings with availability (it has become a science) and then finding first class availability from LAX back home to MCO.
Miles acquisition can become a part time hobby, as it is for me. The benefits are huge because we fly international long haul flights a few times per year and only pay the taxes. Booking the flights requires patience, time, and a lot of know-how. You cannot depend on the airline reservationists’ knowing their stuff. How about this one: “How do you spell Perth? P-a-r-k-s?” Oh dear. Give the woman a map!