Friday, July 13, 2012

The Northern Mediterranean Sea Vacation, Part 1

Fifteen-twenty years ago, we were supposed to take a cruise of the Mediterranean...but the Kuwait War broke out, and we went to the Baltic Sea instead...don't get me wrong, it was a wonderful cruise...but we've always wanted to go to the Mediterranean.  A few months ago, a travel brochure arrived in the mail from the UCLA Alumni Association, and the wheels were set in motion.  My cousin Bob, and his wife Christina, decided to join us, so plans were made.
Christina and Bob
We were to arrive in Barcelona, our port of embarkation, on Saturday morning, 2 days before boarding our Oceania ship, the Regatta.  We had scheduled a Saturday p.m.walking tour of the Gothic area and Gaudi buildings with Context Travel, an agency whose docents are art history majors, archeologists, etc.  But because of storms at JFK in NYC, we arrived late and missed our connecting flight.  We spent 10 hours on a plane that should have been a 4 1/2 hour flight.  When just 45 minutes away from the gate, the airport was closed, we were stacked for about 2 hours, then landed in Allentown, PA for refueling.  We finally arrived at JFK at 10 p.m., and our flight had left.  After 2 hours on the phone with Delta Airlines, and standing in a line of over 100 people that never moved, I was informed that they had no available flights for us until Monday morning, the day our ship was to leave.  I asked them to put us on another airline...they said no, because it was weather related, they had no responsibility to us.  Only because we used a travel agent (which we never do), we were able to get on a Lufthansa flight which left the next evening.  So it's now Friday midnight at JFK, and we have to get our checked bags (another abnormality for us, as we always carry on).  Next stop, Delta Baggage Claim...what a joke!  

Robert in the line from hell
There were at least 200 people in a line waiting to talk with baggage reps.  There were no Delta employees anywhere, only three Delta reps behind the service desk, with the line of unhappy, tired, sweaty travelers, who like us, were stranded.  

Chaos...yeah.  The conveyor belt next to the line backed up, and people were climbing up onto the moving belt to claim their luggage.

Apparently, Delta has/had no contingency plan for unusual circumstances.  After standing in line for almost two hours (it's now 1:45 a.m.), a disgruntled passenger comes out of the office in front of the line that never moved, and stated that Delta had sent all employees home, all baggage had been locked up, and nothing would happen til the morning.  So don't you think that they would have made an announcement about this?  Nobody left the line, nobody wanted to  believe that this was true.  A Delta employee from another area came walking through, and was immediately accosted by a bunch of us.  My question, which was, "what would happen to our bags  which were checked through to Barcelona, on a flight which had already departed, and we were now on  a Lufthansa flight'?  Truth is, we wanted our bags so we could have clean clothes.  He said they'd be checked through, which I knew from previous travel snafus.  So it's 2 a.m., we try to get a hotel room by the airport, they're all full, so Robert says, "let's go to The Pierre" this point in time, all he wanted was "comfortable".  I called, they had a room, the taxi line had at least 100 people in it, we shared a town car with the gal in the line behind us.  At check in, they gave us toiletries, and made arrangements for our clothes to be laundered.  When we walked into our room, it was deja vu...I'm sure it was the same room we stayed in 30 years ago when Robert proposed to me! 
 Robert looking at room service menu...we hadn't eaten all day, only a snack on the plane.

I went straight to the mini bar, and pulled out a vodka miniature and cranberry juice.  Next stop, the bathroom...oh baby, look at that tub calling to me!
Before peeling off my drenched clothes, I decided on a Caesar salad with lobster.  So at 3:30 a.m., Robert and I finally had a meal...and then to bed for a few hours.

Our flight left at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, so we had the day ahead of us.  We decided to go to the World Trade Center.  Because the air was so clean from the storms, the photo ops were fabulous.  The reflections on the buildings were beautiful (and all these wonderful photos were taken with a Canon S100 - their new pro/consumer point and shoot - the size of a pack of cards!).


We were standing by the Engine 10 Company, the 9/11 disaster first responders, when their engine pulled up...what a special feeling to see the fireman, and have a peek inside their home...the messed up plane flight didn't seem so bad after all.

The security around the WTC is incredible...nothing should happen there again.
And Bob and Chris - they were supposed to leave on Saturday, to arrive in Barcelona on Sunday...but Delta cancelled their flight to JFK, and sent them to Atlanta, on an overnight flight that put them into Barcelona on Monday morning.  We arrived on Sunday at about 3 p.m., with no baggage, but hooray, we were there!  More later!

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