Archive for April, 2008

cruising the ship

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Tonight we met our dinner companions for the week. I was a little worried. But they’re a really nice family. A couple, her mother, and their two children. Their little girl is just a little bit younger than Kaitlyn. I hope they hit it off. Kaitlyn wolfed down her dinner so she could go to kids club. (She went first thing this morning, too, she was so excited.)

After we finished eating and before it was time to pick up Kaitlyn (we knew better than to pick her up early), Bill and I wandered around the ship to try to figure out where everything is. We found the rock climbing wall, the putt putt course, the shuffleboard games, the nightclub, the casino, the Ben and Jerry’s.

The schedule for tomorrow looks good. There’s a few things I want to do, but they’re all at the same time in the afternoon. We’ll see if I get to any of them.

Like a Rock

Monday, April 21st, 2008

We cruised full steam ahead all night long to try to make up time since we left Lisbon some four hours later than we were supposed to. And it was windy. Really windy. The boat rocked back and forth like mad. We could barely stand up to unpack our luggage. I couldn’t decide if I was getting sea sick or if I was just thinking too much about it, but to be safe I took one of my motion sickness pills. Then I couldn’t sleep all night. Bill says those pills make me wired, which I never realized, but the main ingredient is tobacco. (They’re French.) I should have just turned on the tv when I realized everyone else in the pitch black cabin was snoring.

Despite the captain’s efforts, we didn’t make up four entire hours overnight. Imagine that. At the end of our mustering drill (which had to be held this morning because of the late boarding yesterday), the captain announced that we’d be arriving in Gibraltar about three hours late… but that we’d stay late to give everyone time to see it. We stopped by the line at the excursion desk to ask what time we were supposed to meet, but decided that was a waste of time. They’d tell us eventually and as long as we were cruising, no one was getting off the boat.

When we got to Gibraltar, we headed off on our excursion to see the monkeys. Well, apes. I had no idea until I started looking at the excursions for this cruise, but apes roam the Rock of Gibraltar. Wild. Free. (But taken care of.) Our excursion said it started with a cable car ride up to the top of the rock, a walk down to the ape’s den then some other stuff we were less interested in. Allow me to set the record straight. The cable car was not what I’d imagined. It was not like a cable car in San Francisco… firmly attached to a cable in the ground. No, it was a telepherique that dangled from a cable in the air. I’m getting more used to them. I got in, went to the middle where it swings less, grabbed the pole to hang onto and was ok. Bill and Kaitlyn stood at one end of the car so they could see out. Yuck.

The guide told us before we got on the cable car to be careful of the apes. Don’t poke your finger at them or reach out to them, they will bite. Oh, and they might jump on you. Or try to steal your purse or your bag. Don’t carry a plastic bag, they think there’s food in them and will go to great lengths to get them. Never fear, he assured us… his walking stick reminds the apes of the blow gun used to tranquilize them and he can scare them off if necessary. How comforting.

We spotted some apes as soon as we got off the dangling cable car. They were sitting on the ground picking bugs off each other (I assume, I didn’t get that close). I took a picture of Bill standing near one then he took one of me. Kaitlyn wasn’t interested in that particular photo op.

When I tore myself away from marveling at the wild apes roaming around, I listened to the tour guide pointing out that from where we were standing we could see Spain and Africa. It was pretty amazing. When we were cruising into the port I wondered what it was on either side of us.

Before our walk down to the apes den, we stopped in a little gift shop. Kaitlyn picked out a stuffed monkey she can hang around her neck. I bought a postcard, but they didn’t have stamps for the U.S., so that was silly of me. We also bought a couple of bottles of water, which I was afraid the apes would try to steal. I guzzled mine then couldn’t find a trash can, so I stuck the empty bottle in my jacket and zipped it up. I’d also put my purse under my jacket. I looked like I’d gained 20 pounds in my attempt to hide things from the monkeys. There was a sign in the snack bar warning you not to take your ice cream outside because they’ll take it. (The sign did not mention any unusual ape interest in the water, but I worried anyway.) Some kid in our tour group didn’t believe it… until an ape dashed out of nowhere up onto his head to grab his ice cream and run off. The kid will always have a good story to tell. And I’m sure he’ll leave out the part about there being a warning about carrying food around the apes.

The walk down to the apes den was not exactly what I’d have expected for an organized tour. We walked down an extremely narrow road with a pretty steep drop off on one side… and a steady stream of tour buses driving along it. There were no more apes in their den than there were anywhere else on the rock.

Then we went into some cave. It was ok… but the cave we went to here in France was actually prettier. This one was slippery and the ice-cream-kid’s dad slipped on some stairs and fell on his rear. Granted, there was no warning about slippery stairs. But we are talking about a family that went on a walking tour excursion wearing flip flops and crocks.

The final stop was a walk through a tunnel dug straight into the rock a couple hundred years ago when some governor wanted to put guns in there to defend it. That I could have skipped and been happy. But outside the entrance we could look down and see the airport. It was one runway perpendicular to two seas… and with a road running through the middle. Just on the other side is the border with Spain. The tour guide said they only get like one flight a day and when it is coming or going they simply close that road. How convenient.

I’d have never looked at a map and said “hey, let’s go to Gibraltar.” But it was really interesting. And now I can say I’ve stood on the Rock of Gibraltar.

all aboard! not quite….

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

We had the clerk at the hotel call a taxi for us when we went back to get our luggage, because the taxi driver who’d gotten us back from the aquarium didn’t seem like he’d quite understand a request to stay and wait for us. Which is fine. When we’d gotten in his cab, he had to put out his cigarette (in the ashtray just below the no smoking sign).

The taxi driver who picked us up to go to the port was trying to tell us which seat he wanted Kaitlyn to use because he had a built-in booster seat. We weren’t getting it in Portuguese and even though he’d heard us speaking to each other in English, he asked us if we speak French. So that was how he got his point across to us. By the end of the trip to the port, he started speaking to us in English… a few words here and there. Like to describe how there were way too many people there. Bill pointed out that he saw bus loads of people and packed taxis going the other way… which didn’t seem right. But with three ships docked at the port, I didn’t think a whole lot about it.

We got out at the area for Royal Caribbean and got in line along with everyone else. Everyone had luggage. Everyone was waiting. Soon, word started circulating through the line that something was wrong. The boat had come in late and no one was getting on. Then Bill pointed out people walking out of the boarding area with their luggage. He was right, that was not a good sign. We finally got up to the front of the line to turn in our luggage, and the baggage handler refused to take it. We didn’t have our pre-printed tags from Royal Caribbean; I hadn’t worried about it because the information I had said I could just fill some out when we checked in. And Bill says the luggage guy said he wasn’t taking any luggage for our ship anyway. Whatever his reason, he told me to go “over there” and check in. I quickly determined that being overly nice to this guy was going to produce better results than being mean, I begged him to help me understand better what I was supposed to do… he finally told me to stand where I was at the front of the line with our luggage and with Kaitlyn while Bill went to check out the check in. Bill came back with a tall, upset looking man from Royal Caribbean who said he was going to fix things.. that indeed no one was checking in at the dock… and that these guys would take our luggage. I finally managed to get a woman who appeared out of nowhere who worked for RC to give me the needed blank tags, then we were in business. The baggage guy took our things (I thanked him for his help, in hopes that our luggage would at least make it on the ship) and we headed off to get on a bus that would whisk us off to a hotel where we were told snacks, drinks and check in was waiting for us. Everyone around us in line was complaining but we really didn’t think things were all that bad… in comparison to our cruise with NCL.

At the hotel we were given a number as we got off the bus and told our number would be called when it was our turn to check in. So we sat and had some sandwiches and drinks. After about 45 minutes, Bill went to see what number they were on. He found out the entire number system had dissolved because a lot of people decided to take taxis rather than the buses and they arrived demanding immediate attention. I’m not saying the number plan was perfect but it might have stood a chance of working if people had gone along with it. But since no one was following it, Bill had us all go stand in the mob that had gathered outside the doors of the room to the check in area. It was horrible. You’d think we were all refugees waiting for our only chance at a crumb of bread. People pushed and shoved and used foul language (the horror!) and were downright horrid to one another. I pushed some guy who trampled Kaitlyn and that didn’t go so well (imagine that). We watched some young guy nearly push over an older gentleman with a cane. Honestly, we were all going to get on the ship. The mob mentality that was developing was outrageous and scary. It’s a cruise, people, not a war or a natural disaster. I never want to be around those people if they do find themselves in a serious situation.

Once we got inside the coveted check-in room, there were ropes set up to help people who can’t queue do just that, and everything was fine. When it was our turn to check-in, I started to panic that maybe I hadn’t printed out every last piece of paper I was supposed to have (since ours was done entirely online, they didn’t mail us anything, they sent us notices that things were ready for download). I looked at the people staring at their laptops trying to process the angry passengers and realized they weren’t even Royal Caribbean employees… but were with a company that had been hired to help handle the crush. The guy helping us first had trouble with the credit card I’d given for our on board credit because on one form I put my name and on another form I’d put Bill’s. We have the exact same credit card number. The RC supervisor came over and helped him type in the right whatever to make that not an issue (she said right away it was not a problem). Then he told me our room keys weren’t ready and that we’d get a paper boarding pass.. something that was happening to a lot of people. Ok. Then he said “uh, I show someone else is in your room.” I knew this guy was in no position to really help sort this out. I couldn’t tell Bill what was going on because he was trying to keep the now bored and restless Kaitlyn occupied. So I made the decision to accept a boarding pass for a room someone else was probably already in and sort it out on the ship. All I wanted to do at that point was get on that ship.

When I had all the papers this guy could give me, we walked back into the chaos of the hotel lobby and I caught Bill up on what had happened. We went out to get on a bus to go back to the ship. So far, even with all this, we weren’t upset. It was still better than our first cruise.

As soon as we tried to get on the ship, the issue with our cabin number popped up. The guy led us straight to a man who was handling problems. He typed in our name and said “we’ve upgraded you to a junior suite.” Oh, well, ok then! He gave us our key cards and sent us on our way. We couldn’t believe it. We actually had room to walk around in the stateroom. Our bathroom had a bathTUB in it. And our balcony was huge… two chairs and a lounger. We weren’t upset. Our stateroom attendant came right away to introduce herself and ask if we needed anything. They announced that dinner would be open seating, so we went to the dining room to eat right away. (we heard later the line was crazy long at 9pm with people who didn’t realize it was open seating, so we made a good call with that one)

After dinner our luggage still hadn’t made it to our room. Our stateroom attendant said she was told we needed to go to the purser’s desk to try to identify it among a pile of luggage that hadn’t found its owners. Bill went and soon after someone arrived with all three bags.

We left port around 9… four hours behind schedule. No one could tell us how it would affect our stop tomorrow in Gibraltar. But, still, we were happy and excited and ready to start our cruise.

fishy attraction

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

After snoozing from about 6:30 last night until 7 this morning, we all woke up ready to try to salvage our time in Lisbon. But our morning started with discovering trails of ants in our bathroom. They weren’t very smart ants because we had food in our room… no where near the bathroom. But that’s where they all were, marching along the bathtub and sink. Yuck. I suppose it could have been much worse.

At breakfast (we ate upstairs in the breakfast room this time) we decided that since we were up so early ,there was time to go to the aquarium before having to check in at the cruise ship… especially if we take a cab. (Now that we’ve found that not every cabbie is out to rip us off. Although standing on that street hungry and pissed off, I didn’t care what it cost to get to the Hard Rock Cafe.)

We checked out of the hotel and left our luggage in their care, then we walked down the street to the trolley stop, which is next to the taxi stand. Bill stuck his head in one taxi and asked to go to the aquarium. And the driver just looked at him, sort of shrugged, and made zero effort to figure out where we wanted to go. I guess he was happier sitting there doing nothing than making a few Euros. Bill handed me the tourist map we’d gotten at the hotel and I got in the cab and tried. I showed him where we were trying to go and he said “oceanariumo” or something like that and I said “yes, si, oui” (to cover my bases) and we got in. It was a pretty far drive in the opposite direction than we’d been going the last two days. And it is in the new, modern section of town, which Bill liked. We now know he isn’t thrilled at going to places filled with old, crumbly buildings. How unfortunate, given that all our travels are in Europe right now.

In the center of the aquarium is a huge tank filled with all sorts of sea creatures like sharks and sting rays and some really ugly fish I’d never seen before. It was pretty cool. You could see it from different windows all through the building, so as you walk through and look at the other exhibits you can stop every so often to check out the different vantage points into the big tank. Kaitlyn was a lot more interested in the aquarium than I thought she would be. (And far more interested than she was in those coaches.) We saw penguins and sea otters and jelly fish and sea horses that look like seaweed and star fish and I think just about any fish you can think of. And the aquarium was just the right size… just about the time Kaitlyn was getting bored we were done. She picked out a tube of plastic sea creatures in the gift shop. She says now her dollies can play pet shop. It’ll be one weird pet shop. Outside we stopped to get a small lunch. We ate at a cafe right there, rather than risk finding one along our walk to where we could catch another taxi. (Lesson learned yesterday, thank you very much!)

Today has gone much better than yesterday or the day before. Bill is right. Planning is important when you travel.

catching more z’s than trolleys

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

After stuffing ourselves at the Hard Rock Cafe with nachos, chicken strips, and hamburgers, we headed out to tourist central. We no longer had any sort of plan, that went right out the window.

We realized we were near the Elevator de Santa Justa… built by an apprentice to Eiffel (of the Eiffel Tower). As walked there, I realized more and more I’d made a real mistake in my hotel choice, but there’s nothing I could do about it now.

We got in line for this elevator and I was surprised to see that our fare was paid for with the transportation cards we’d bought yesterday in the Metro station. I stood by the window ready to try to get video of the ride up… nine whole floors. Nine floors. This is the big attraction in Lisbon. An elevator that doesn’t go as high up as the elevator in the condo building where my dad lives.

At the top of the elevator we walked over to another part of town where there was another square and cafes. We caught a trolley and rode to still another touristy area with shops and the like. Finally, we’d found what we had become convinced Lisbon was lacking: things to see. But Kaitlyn could do nothing but whine and beg to watch tv at the hotel so we dragged her back there for a nap. She finally fell asleep thanks to Bill lying with her counting sheep. Unfortunately all that sheep counting also put me to sleep.. and Bill to sleep. Bill and I woke up around 8 or 9. We couldn’t get Kaitlyn to wake up. We had no idea what to do about dinner. I finally remembered seeing a few sandwiches listed on the hotel bar menu, so I called and ordered three sandwiches which the bartender made and brought down to our room. Kaitlyn still wouldn’t wake up. Bill and I nibbled on ours but we really were still full from that huge stuffing at lunch. We tried watching some Portuguese TV (the show Bill was interested in on Discovery was, naturally, not in English). I fell back asleep. I remember Bill woke me up to take off my glasses. I guess we were all pretty tired.

oh, so THIS is where to go….

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

Bill and I were determined to have a plan today, since yesterday we didn’t really have one and things didn’t seem to go too well. We had breakfast delivered to our room and while we ate decided the best idea would be to go to the Coach Museum which got big thumbs up for kids and then to a palace I’d read was still decorated in its original grandeur. They are pretty close together and it seemed like a good start. Two places that are close together should be do-able for Kaitlyn.

Today we knew where to go to switch trolleys to get to the museum. (It’s down the street from the bakery with those yummy custard thingies.) I’d told Kaitlyn she’d get to see coaches that princesses used to ride in… like the one Cinderella’s fairy godmother made out of a pumpkin. Our welcome to the museum was getting ripped off by the ticket seller. I gave him a 20, he said I gave him a 10, but I couldn’t prove it. It stunk. He must be a former cab driver. The museum had some very fancy coaches. The fanciest were made for the Pope to use when he’d come to visit Portugal. Kaitlyn’s interest waned after the second coach. Then she and I dashed around and I did my best to find things to keep her interested. Finally I gave up and found Bill. Then he tried to keep her entertained while I went back and read a little more about the coaches I’d rushed past. Good thing the museum isn’t very big; it’s inside an old royal stable. When I found Bill and Kaitlyn she was sporting a new princess key chain.

It was around noon when we finished there and I suggested we eat then go to the palace. There were a couple of cafes just outside the museum, but Bill thought we’d be better off walking to the palace and getting food somewhere around there. It looked close enough on the map, but of course maps don’t show you that you’ll be walking uphill. We paused under a bus shelter to avoid another massive downpour and when it stopped, we trudged ahead. We went past a few restaurants but none seemed to have any English on the menu and Portugese is not close enough to English or French for us to be able to decipher. We got to the palace in time to discover it closes for lunch. And to discover there’s no where near it to eat. We went to a trolley stop and stood there for about 20 minutes but no trolley ever came. So we walked back down to the little row of restaurants to see if another look would produce more promising results. It did not. So we stood at a bus stop that no bus came to. After about 20 minutes of that, I’d had it. We’d all had it. Kaitlyn was hungry and whiny. Bill and I were arguing about how the vacation could have been going better had I just planned more before leaving home. So I stepped into the street, hailed a cab, got in and said “Hard Rock Cafe.” Five Euros later (he charged us what the meter said) we were in the middle of where we’d probably wanted to be all along: tourist central. There were restaurants and shops and a big open square and lots of people and lots of English. And the hotel Rick Steves had recommended and I don’t remember why I didn’t book us there. We had to wait for a table at the Hard Rock, but we didn’t care. We felt much better just to be somewhere that we could understand what people were saying and where we knew a hamburger or mac and cheese or nachos or some other American dish was waiting.

not thrilled with Lisbon

Friday, April 18th, 2008

We say that our first night in a new city when we’re traveling is always rough. At one point, that was a true statement. Now I’m afraid it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

We took a cab to our hotel in Lisbon and were promptly ripped off by the taxi driver. The last time I checked the meter, which was while he was driving us in circles unable to figure out how to get to the road our hotel is on, it said 12 Euros or so. When Bill went to pay him, the driver wanted 24 Euros. Nice. I’d read that the taxi drivers from the airport will try to cheat you. Glad to know we were given the official greeting to the city.

The hotel was ok. I’d picked it off Trip Advisor. It’s on a small side street and is definitely a little worn around the edges. Clean, but in need of some freshening up. The desk clerk led us to our room. I’d booked a family room. We got a family room with a private terrace. It had an incredible view of the city and the water. Too bad it was too cold and rainy to sit out there. The clerk told us he’d given us the upgrade because he had the room free… which may be true… but I had requested it. Still, we got the room with a separate sitting area where the couch folded out into a bed, doors that closed off the bedroom, a tv in each room, the terrace which was bigger than our entire room inside, and a decent bathroom.

It was about 2 when we were ready to head out. I was afraid that if we went to the aquarium, we’d just end up eating then running out of time to see the fish. Although Kaitlyn tends to run past exhibits anyway, so I don’t know why I was even worried about it. Wishful thinking that maybe she’s finally getting old enough to actually look at at least a few exhibits. We decided instead to just head toward some of the other attractions we wanted to see, to get a lay of the land, and find something to eat.

The trolley stop is a couple of blocks downhill from the hotel. We went down there and stood waiting until finally a trolley came along. It stopped across the street, at a little turn-around in the track. Everyone got off, so we figured the trolley would turn around and go back down the hill, headed where we wanted to go. It sat. And sat. And sat. Finally we walked over to see if we were supposed to get on there. The driver barely stopped her cell phone conversation long enough to chew us out for trying to get on in the wrong place. So we walked back across the street just in time for her to hang up the phone and drive right over to where we were standing. It was stupid. So we got on and rode down the hill.

We weren’t exactly sure where to get off. We got off one stop after the one that Bill said looked like where we should have gotten off. There was absolutely nothing at our stop. Why it even stops there I have no idea. The only thing that is there is a little cafe with a big sign for ice cream out front, so we had to buy ice cream for Kaitlyn who was by now getting hungry and cranky. Then we walked back down the way we’d ridden and finally turned and walked toward the water along a pedestrian street. There were people sitting at tables outside what looked like rinky-dink cafes so we sat down to get real food. We asked for pizza without anything but cheese and the waiter told us it wasn’t possible. Nice. So we got up and left there. We wandered closer to the water and closer to a lot of nothing. I saw the Tourist Information office and went in to ask about buying a transportation pass for the trolleys and metro. The woman in there couldn’t put down her phone long enough to acknowledge me. Another clerk finally came up and some woman stepped in front of me and started asking questions. I didn’t even say anything, I was getting so frustrated by everything already I was just ready to throw in the towel. Finally the first clerk finished her phone conversation and begrudgingly offered to help me. She convinced me not to buy their transportation card but to go the cheaper route by buying a card at a metro station. Across the big square outside. So I went back outside and found Bill and Kaitlyn and we went down into the metro station and found the machine and bought the tickets.

We didn’t actually get on the metro. What we needed was another trolley But I was getting so hungry I couldn’t even think and had to stop for food. (Anyone who’s been unlucky enough to be around me when I’m really REALLY hungry knows I become entirely unreasonable.) There was a restaurant with people sitting outside eating so we went there. It was unbelievably overpriced. I ordered garlic shrimp for 13 Euros. It came out in a bowl smaller than a cereal bowl. The menu also said they’d charge us for every packet of butter we used on the bread. It was insane. The guy seemed less than thrilled that we didn’t order much and didn’t order wine. I don’t normally fuss over the price, but that was just too much.

Once we’d had our 60 Euro “snack,” we got on another trolley to go over toward the monastery and bakery I’d read about. It was way on the other side of town, a pretty long ride. Of course, at our stop there seemed to be cafe after cafe with reasonable offerings. The bakery was easy to spot: the line was out the door. It’s where a specialty of the city was supposedly born. Pasteis de Belem… a custard filled pastry that only four people in the whole world know the recipe for… the brainchild of a monk. We got in line and Bill ordered 8 of the pastries. (They aren’t big, slightly more than bite-sized.) You sprinkle your own cinnamon and sugar on top. We took ours just outside to the sidewalk and found an awning to stand under because it had been pouring rain off and on all day. I thought they were fantastic – finally something the monks did right! Bill didn’t like them. Kaitlyn ate part then wanted to give the rest to the birds. While we were standing there eating the sky did open up and it poured buckets. By the time we finished eating it had finished raining… so we pushed on to the monastery down the street. The outside is covered in carvings of faces, animals, flowers… you name it. The inside was already closed for visits, so I don’t know what it looks like. Bill wasn’t that impressed and didn’t want to plan a return trip to see the inside.

We wandered from there to the ocean and a giant monument to Portugal’s conquests. It wasn’t too thrilling, but was in a good location to see the bridge that looks just like the Golden Gate bridge. After a few minutes fighting the wind, we decided it looked like more rain was not far away so we made a beeline for the trolley stop and got on just in time.

For dinner I tried to get us back on track by picking one of the restaurants out of the Rick Steves book. He says it’s small and locally run and authentically Lisbonesque and a good place for a heaping plate of seafood. It wasn’t too far from our hotel, just a couple of stops off the trolley line. It wasn’t easy to find, there’s no sign outside the place. I’d have never guessed it was a place to eat without reading about it in the guidebook. I was pleased to find steamed crab on the menu. I was less pleased when the waiter said they didn’t have any. I didn’t feel like taking the bodies off my shrimp, so I skipped that order. I was temporarily overcome with a feeling of adventure and ordered something under specialties called bread and shrimp. He told me it was a local dish with shrimp and seafood and tomatoes and olive oil and bread. It sounded pretty good. Kaitlyn got some broiled fish and Bill ordered the fried fish. When the food came out everyone else seemed pleased with their choice. Then I looked at mine. I hadn’t counted on the seafood in my “stew” consisting of tiny octopuses and clams and I don’t know what else. I picked out the shrimp the best I could and ate the bread but that was all I could muster. The waiter asked if I hadn’t liked it and I couldn’t bring myself to admit that I really hadn’t. I even told Bill I liked it, but I think he knew better.

Day one hasn’t been stellar. I hope day two goes better.

one very rough landing

Friday, April 18th, 2008

The pilot said we’d have a wonderful smooth flight until we got to Lisbon. And he couldn’t have been more right. About the time he announced that we were crossing the border from Spain to Portugal, the blue skies started to fill with clouds. Ok, clouds can be a little bumpy. But then it got windy. Really windy. The plane was rocking back and forth as we approached the runway. All I could think about was that video on YouTube of the plane that nearly tipped on its side landing. Bill pointed out that the video ends with the plane taking off again safely. Details, details. I was scared. I think the last time I squeezed Bill’s hand that hard was when I was in labor before I got the epidural. We landed just fine. But what a welcome to Lisbon.

crazy crowds

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Flying out of town on vacation in the middle of school holidays turned out to be, well, crowded. We got to the airport in Lyon two hours early like we wanted to (because we flew on Easy Jet which means you aren’t assigned a seat in advance… so promptness is extra important). But we still didn’t get in line to check in until 90 minutes before our flight. That’s how long it took us to find a parking place then ride the shuttle to the terminal. The parking lot made lots at malls at home on Christmas Eve look wide open. We drove and drove and drove. From the paved lot, onto a dirt lot, back to a paved section. It was crazy. Then we went to get on the shuttle bus… along with far too many other people. We were the first stop, so we managed to get on ok. But at the four stops that followed, people still stuffed their way on. I should have asked Bill if it rivaled the subway in Japan, but I think it had to. The problem is… next time I’m planning a trip… it will be during a school holiday… on a cheap no-assigned-seats airline… I guess we’ll just have to leave for the airport even earlier.

not a bon voyage!!!

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

The “maiden voyage” of the NCL Hawaii cruise we took a few years ago wasn’t the world’s best cruising experience.

But at least it didn’t get canceled on us at the last minute.

Friends who booked a Greek cruise on Easy Cruise’s maiden voyage have been so excited about their trip. Then they got an e-mail at 5pm tonight saying their cruise… which leaves Saturday from Athens… is canceled They aren’t ready. Aren’t ready? Like the company didn’t mark the date on their calendar to make sure they’d get everything done in time?????

Now they’re scrambling to figure out what to do. They have plane tickets Friday to Athens. A hotel there Friday night.

We’re supposed to see some rain on our cruise next week. At least we’ll be on the cruise!