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Copyright © 1995-2001 
Linda Coffman



by Buck Peck 

In the spring of 1999, I became aware of auctions on various web sites selling almost anything at a dizzying array of prices. Whatever the traffic bears seemed to be the rule as an almost narcotic gambling urgency seized participants. Eventually, I heard of a couple web sites that had cruises on the block and I was hooked, spending an hour or so daily in pondering from a lurking, ready to spring posture.

A cruise travel writer (Linda Coffman, the Cruise Diva) mentioned a friends’ good fortune and I followed up by hitting the site (now morning and afternoon. Holland America, our favorite line, came up with several auction offers on their European program that appealed. The new Rotterdam had always seemed to be priced rather high but a good deal on an auction might be a way. We chose a Baltic cruise that offered a Category G (minimum outside) for the May 31st 12 day run from Harwich, England to Copenhagen. With spousal blessings, I bid $2400.00 ($100.00 per day per person) using Bid Master, a system that raises your bid as needed up to your preset limit. The next day we were declared a winner at $2319.00 for the cabin for 2 for 12 days! Adding port taxes raised the cruise only total to $2917.00 or about 26% of  “List”. We later received a complimentary upgrade to a Verandah mini-suite so the effective cost was roughly 18% of catalog list. Of course, I would never have coughed up the 16 Grand list!

We then purchased United tickets from Norfolk  to London and from Copenhagen back to Norfolk leaving a few days before and after the cruise. Feeling guilty, I bought HAL’s overpriced 3 day pre-cruise at the London Hilton and 3 day post cruise at Copenhagen’s Scandic as a way to recompense the poor line. All set with a month to go!

Feeling like a winner, I could not avoid checking in just to see what was going on. The Maasdam run from Istanbul to Harwich, another 12 day schedule sailing on May 13 was going for small numbers as time was getting very short and folks were not anxious to get anywhere near the Serbian conflict. Dear wife said I was insane but “Why not?” so I posted a bid matching yesterday's winner as another cabin came up for bids. The next day we came in at $909 plus taxes for a cabin total of $1407.00 or 14% of the Cat G list. We were later upgraded to a Cat D outside.

United could not help us to Istanbul, and HAL was all out of air seats, so I booked Delta from Norfolk to JFK where we had a 2 hour connection on their 767 directly to Istanbul. Calling 1-800-HILTONS turned up a couple days at the Conrad International ($175.00/day). HAL was able to sell us the 3 day post-cruise at London Hilton which matched up with our Rotterdam pre-cruise package for an even six day stay in London with HAL transferring us bag and baggage to and fro, an important consideration for an older fellow's bad back. Wow, 10 May to 15 June booked. I finalized my detailed itinerary and it clicked into place for the whole five weeks, a period that we will never forget!

In the fall of 1999 we booked the last cabin available on HAL's Noordam Fort Lauderdale to Valparaiso 19-day trip through the Panama Canal and down the West Coast of South America. We paid in full and bought the Cruise Protection Platinum plan for cancellation. A few weeks later, up it came for bids and voila we connected and cancelled our original booking for net savings of $2500.00. This cruise connected the dots, completing our circumnavigation of South America and winding up a year of fantastic good fortune!

~Buck Peck in Norfolk by the Sea ~