Planning Our London and QM2 Adventure

Why, you may ask, are we off to London when we were just there this past May and have already planned to return for Christmas week (more about that during the Yuletide season)?

Well, gentle readers, it’s like this: It starts when you’re made an offer that you cannot refuse.

To wit: some months ago, I received a promotion from Cunard, in celebration of its 175th anniversary, to sail on Queen Mary 2 at a pretty fine price point and with all kinds of swag thrown in:

$60 per day Onboard Credit per stateroom
Complimentary Gratuities
The Captain’s Wine Collection
Alternative Dining Credit
Internet Minutes (whew!)
Keepsake Photo (meh!)
Specialty Coffee Card (AAC will be SO pleased)

Plus, we’d get to do one of our favorite things: cross the pond in style from Southampton (the British one) to New York City over a leisurely 7 days (and nights).

QM2
Queen Mary 2

So, naturally, I went into full-on travel mode, multitasking to find the best deal on a flight over to London, contacting what is, arguably, the best service for booking travel by ship, Tully Luxury Travel, and arranging our digs in London, via AmEx Platinum.

I’d like to take a little detour to tell you about Tully Luxury Travel. We’ve been working with them for the past 10 years and they are sensational. Should you be planning to sail anywhere on the seven seas (or, perhaps, on some fabulous river), they will weave their magic to get you onto that gangplank. My go-to ladies there are Nada and Monika and I am in such good hands with them. They are real sweethearts.

You should also know that, over the past few months, Tully Luxury Travel has rebranded itself, under the stewardship of founder and CEO Mary Jean Tully, and expanded its services in a very meaningful way.

TRAVEL TIP: Tully Luxury Travel

While my ladies were getting me information on this voyage, I was checking out flights. For better or worse – and I welcome your comments on same – AAC CPA and I have lifetime gold status on American Airlines, which gets us, basically, not much of anything. But, we have accrued lots of miles (note to self: future post on my Excel spreadsheet keeping track of AA miles for travel for the next 2 years), and use them as strategically as possible.

For this trip, however, I found that it was better to purchase our flight over to London rather than using miles (which, believe it or not, do have some value attached). The reason is that I happened to find on AA.com a codeshare for a British Airways flight and the business class fare was at least 70% below the regular fare. (For kicks, I checked out the same flight on the BA.com website and, yesiree, the codeshare fare was some kind of red hot deal.) So before hitting the “purchase” button, I checked with AAC CPA and said to him, “Can we please take this trip???” Between the Cunard promotion and this fab fare, it’s like a sign telling us that we must go. And there it is and so we will (go, that is).

In the meantime, Nada got back to us and said that she could get us the cabin of our choice – Deck 9 on the sunny side of the ship, natch – and that Tully Travel Service would throw in another $600 in shipboard credit. So now we’ll have about $1,020 in mad money to spend on the ship. I’m telling you, it’s like we have this great travel karma.

Next stop was to contact my other favorite travel guru: Vernonica at AmEx Platinum. For those of you who like to travel, having the AmEx Plantinum card can definitely work to your advantage if you know how to use it. It’s true that you’ll pay an annual fee of $450 but, again, if you travel and make use of the perks through the AmEx Fine Hotel and Resorts Program (FHR) it is well worth the price.

When you make a reservation at a hotel in the FHR program, you get several amenities, including your breakfast, an upgrade at check-in (when available), an early check-in (whenever possible) and a special amenity (which can be a property or spa credit, for instance). When you stay in one of those fancypants hotels in Europe, the free breakfasts alone can offset the annual fee you’re charged for the card, not to mention the possibility of a room upgrade.

And, by the way, AmEx Platinum benefits go far beyond the FHR program. There are discounts and credits and freebies galore.

TRAVEL TIP: AmEx FHR Program 

Please allow me to tell you about Veronica. Again, we hit the travel karma jackpot. I don’t know how long Veronica and I have been working together, but it’s been well over 10 years, at least. She is the best and the most fun to work with. And, believe me, she puts up with a lot (working with me, that is). Not that I’m that demanding, but I do like to get a good deal, if you know what I mean. And Veronica always works with me to insure that will happen whenever possible. We also spend a lot of time laughing together, and why shouldn’t we?

Although our go-to hotel in London has been the elegant and well-located Corinthia for the past few years, we wanted to try something different this time, and we decided to book the Shangri-La at the Shard. We’ve previously stayed at Shangri-La properties in Paris and Tokyo and they were both wonderful experiences. (Note to self: remember to share how we got an upgrade at the Paris Shangri-La that had its own private terrace and a full-on view of the Eiffel Tower, which was only a stone’s throw away. Oh wait, I just did. Never mind.)

Shangri-La Shard
Shangri-La at the Shard

TRAVEL TIP: Shangri-La Hotel at the Shard 

So, within just a matter of hours, we’d purchased our flight over to London, put down a deposit for our cabin aboard QM2, and booked a lovely room at the Shangri-La.

As it turns out, we’ll have barely 36 hours in London that, I think, will set a record as our briefest stay there. And, wouldn’t you know that we’re already booked up for the entire time we’re there?

Stay tuned . . . . . . .

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