We've been reading Budget Travel magazine for years. These days their staff sends out frequent e-newsletters, sharing tips and advice and promoting economical travel strategies and opportunities. Last winter one edition invited readers to compete for the title of World's Best Cruiser. On a whim I submitted a list of the cruises we had been on and added a short comment asking whether our lengthy cruise list made us experts.
In March I was surprised to receive an email saying that we were among ten finalists in the World's Best Cruiser contest. A phone interview narrowed the field and we found ourselves competing online with two other couples. As part of the competition we were instructed to submit a thirty second video, filmed in front of a plain light background using props. Since we lived in the motor home last winter and it has no white walls, we struggled to fulfill these requirements. We had no props, but we did have many of our old photographs along, since Ken's winter project involved organizing them. We animated the photos, added music and struggled to get something meaningful said in thirty seconds. When we were told that our video did not follow the rules, we said, "oh well" and headed on down the road.
So we were surprised to get a follow up email asking for photos and we found our submissions posted on www.budgettravel.com, in competition with two other cruise loving couples. It really was a popularity contest and we are grateful to everyone who voted for us ever day for about six weeks until the contest was over. Sometimes the voting was a bit stressful. Every time the Budget Travel website changed formats, we would get emails from friends asking why they could no longer vote. We didn't know; we had trouble voting, too. Sometimes we could vote more than once a day; sometimes days went by when we could not vote at all. The contest ended June 28. On June 29 I woke to five emails from supporters asking why they could still vote when the contest was over. Oh well. We won despite the technology challenges.
It became clear that the cruise that we had won was not so much a prize for us as an opportunity for the magazine staff to pick our brains. This was fine with us - we love to talk about travel and cruising. But when we were told that we had to pay our own way to New York, we said no thanks. The air fare would cost us more than the cost of the four day cruise. So, now flights have been included in the prize.
We're feeling somewhat dubious about the cruise. We have never been on one this short. It's only going to one place, St. John's in New Brunswick. Coincidentally we will be returning to St. John's next month. We didn't need to go there again. We will be in an inside cabin with twin beds. It's been a long time since we haven't had a cabin with a balcony or at least a port hole. Some friends have asked us why we have agreed to such an uneventful, spartanl trip. It doesn't seem like much of a prize for well traveled folks like us. When it comes to travel arrangements, the internet has empowered us and allowed us to be control freaks. It was disconcerting to have no say about what sort of cruise we were taking, where and what category our cabin was, and other logistics.
But what has kept us interested is that we will be sharing the cruise with magazine staff and contributing our ideas and experiences to an article that will appear in the magazine in December. That's something we have never done. It could be interesting and could lead to something more. And hey - we're retired; we have the time and being on a cruise ship is always a joy.