Four years ago when Mauricio and I got engaged and started wedding planning the most amazing thing happened and we won a honeymoon! Here’s how that went down. I was all over the internet looking at wedding ideas and such, as many newly engaged people are, and I found weddingvibe.com. This site was chock full of giveaways. Everything from personalized napkins to wedding toppers to videographers. They had so many little giveaways going and every time you entered one you got another entry into their grand prize giveaway for a honeymoon. They did two honeymoon giveaways per year and this one was for a cruise. So you better believe I entered every single giveaway that site had going. And when they added new ones, I entered those too. I have no idea how many entries I ended up with, but it must have been a lot. Now, Mauricio and I were planning on doing our wedding in March of 2016 so I was entering these giveaways in the fall of 2015, and the grand prize would be drawn in December of that year. Well, come December we had decided to move our wedding to October of 2016 because we were in the middle of building our house and it wasn’t going to be done by March.
Planning a wedding and building a house at the same time just wasn’t ideal, so pushing the wedding back a bit made the most sense. I had totally switched out of wedding planning mode and was fully engrossed in building a house. Then one day I got a call. It was from a travel agent letting me know that I had won the grand prize for the honeymoon, but I hadn’t responded to the email they had sent 2 weeks ago, so they weren’t sure if I was interested. WHAT?! I had no idea! So I went and checked my spam email and sure enough there it was, the grand prize was a cruise on a ship in the Caribbean or the Mediterranean. I went and checked the Wedding Vibe facebook page as well and yep, I had missed the status update announcing us as the winners too. We were so excited, but also hesitant. Was it really a free honeymoon? Would we end up paying a small fortune in port fees and hotels? Where would we even be going? When would we go since we had moved the wedding? I’ll answer all these questions and more, coming up now on Modern Mom in Progress.
I explained to the travel agent who would be helping us that we had moved the wedding to October, and he was easily able to get us an extension on the prize until the end of 2016. But the catch was, we couldn’t actually book our spot on the ship until 1 month before we sailed. Basically they had to keep spots open for actual paying customers. That might seem a bit extreme, I mean cruise ships are huge right? Well, not the one we would be going on. The prize was with a company called Star Clippers, which currently has 3 ships in its fleet. And they aren’t cruise ships like you have in your mind, they are sail boats. Like actual wind propelled, tall ship, sail boats that only carry about 200 people including the staff. They are beautiful and extravagant and way above anything we could afford. So we were very excited!
But there was a hiccup in this whole plan. Mauricio didn’t have his residency yet. He had DACA, which didn’t permit him to travel internationally. So we weren’t able to leave the country by the end of 2016. Getting residency isn’t exactly a fast moving process, so after the wedding in October of 2016 we didn’t have high hopes of actually using the cruise by the end of the year. And we didn’t, instead we went to Puerto Rico in January as a delayed honeymoon. It was amazing, and we were happy. Mauricio got his residency in March and we sighed a little at the missed opportunity but we moved on. Fast forward to May and I get a call from the travel agent who we’d been in contact with in about the prize. He wants to know if we are still going to go on our honeymoon cruise, as we have until the end of 2017 to use it. What?! How did I misunderstand that? I got excited about winning all over again. Now we were able to leave the country no problem, but we had already done our honeymoon trip, and therefore spent the money we had for a honeymoon. Could we actually make this happen? Well I am a pretty firm believer in making memories and collecting experiences more than physical things. So yes, we were going to make this happen.
We were told we could go on any trip in the Caribbean or the Mediterranean, so we browsed through the upcoming trips and made our top 3 picks. The ship we could go on was in the Mediterranean until the very end of the year, so 2 of our choices were in the Mediterranean and one was in the Caribbean. I started researching all the amazing things to do in Greece and Italy while we waited to hear what we’d be confirmed on. They got back to us pretty quick with a “yeah those are all booked, here’s your real option”. It was a cruise leaving from Southern Spain, going through the Strait of Gibraltar, stopping in Morocco and ending in the Canary Islands. Of all those places, Spain was the only one that had ever been on our radar as far as vacation spots. But, it was a free cruise, and there was no way we were going to turn it down. Also, the port fees that we would have to pay were much less in these countries than the other options. So we were pretty sure we were going to be going to Spain in October, but again we couldn’t actually book it until a month beforehand, so we had to wait to buy our plane tickets. I did all the research, because I think I secretly am supposed to be a travel agent, and found the flights that we would take assuming the cruise worked out.
Well, come September we got our paperwork to fill out and we were officially booked on our amazing cruise to set sail Oct 31st from Malaga, Spain. We were able to finalize our flights and AirBnB reservations for the nights before and after the cruise and we could finally get really excited about going!
So here’s the price breakdown for what “winning” a honeymoon looked like for us. We had to pay to get ourselves to Malaga, Spain and back home from the Canary Islands that ran us about $1,100. By far the largest expense. Then there were the port fees and tips, we opted to prepay our tips for the cruise staff, those totaled around $680. We got to Malaga twos days before the cruise left and left the Canary Islands one day after we got off the ship, that meant AirBnBs on each end which totaled about $200, including a rental car in the Canaries. We also stayed in a Yotel in London, which I’ll explain more in a later post, for about $80. So the grand total we ended up paying to book our “free” honeymoon was about $2,000. Not exactly free, but if we had done the same trip and paid for the cruise we would have paid A LOT more. It was a deal for sure.
I’m going to do a post about the cruise itself and the amazing places we were able to go, so stay tuned for that. Also, for those who may not put this together, I was about 4 months pregnant when we were going on this trip, so this was a honeymoon turned baby-moon.