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Old February 25th, 2007, 05:53 AM
kryos kryos is offline
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Admiral
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Posts: 1,139
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I've told this story before ... on that "other" board ... but I'll repeat it here for those who haven't heard it.

My very first cruise ... a writer's conference taking place aboard the Rotterdam. I work in a data center and have to work in vacation time around others. Taking the night off before the cruise was impossible. Someone else was off.

I fly down to Fort Lauderdale the morning of the cruise. I'm not worried. I'm on an 8:00 or so flight out of Philly. So, I know I have more than enough time.

Our troubles started before we even lifted off. The pilot has us sitting on the tarmac for close to 45 minutes. Finally he comes on the intercom to say that a "light that shouldn't be lit is" ... so he says he's basically gonna reboot the computer that controls it ... because he thinks the problem is with the light and not with the aircraft. So he hits control, alternate, delete and all is finally well. We take off.

Not 30 minutes later, the good captain is back on the intercom. Ahhhhh, darned ... that light was right after all. We just lost an engine. We're diverting to the Baltimore Airport where a maintenance crew will meet us to repair the jet. I happen to be sitting next to an airline employee way back in coach. I ask her "does this normally take very long?" She tells me that it could. The maintenance staff will have to be brought over from Dulles, so it could be a while before they even get there.

About three hours later ... I'm on my cell phone to the travel agency for the writer's cruise. What do I do? HAL told me it's not their air arrangements and therefore not their problem. The ship sails at 5:00 and if I'm not on it, so be it.

Bottom line ... we take off again from Baltimore en route to Fort Lauderdale. Only problem is that it is now after 3:00. There will be no way we'll make Fort Lauderdale in time for a 5:00 p.m. sailing. I'm getting more worried by the minute. There are also five other passengers on this flight headed for the same ship. They are pretty worried too.

The pilot gets on the intercom to allay our fears. He tells us that he has been in radio contact with Holland America and they know about our plight. They will have someone waiting at the gate. Immediately, I sense relief. I figured that this person would be charged with loading us and our luggage into a van and rushing us to the pier. We would settle up for the transfer once onboard. I think we all relaxed at this point.

We get to Fort Lauderdale at about 5:15. No one is at the gate. We're told to proceed down to the baggage claim area and someone from HAL will meet us there. Well, yes ... HAL didn't lie. There was someone there ... and it was his job to tell us that we all missed the ship. It had sailed on schedule. We were all livid ... especially since HAL knew of our problem.

The ship's first stop was three days later ... Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. Basically, we had to meet the ship there. We would miss a full three days of our cruise in the process, not to mention the added expense of flying to San Jose, Costa Rica, lodging, transfer to the port (four hours), etc.

Thank God I had a good travel agent on that trip. He made it all easy by doing everything for me. To make matters even more difficult, he couldn't get me a room in Fort Lauderdale. A big convention was in town and all hotel rooms were booked solid. So, since the flights to San Jose went out of Atlanta anyway, we decided I should spend the night there and then fly to Costa Rica in the morning. He then had me put the Holland America guy on the phone and he told him what airline counter he wanted me escorted to. I had a flight to Atlanta in less than 30 minutes.

Believe me, it's no fun to miss the ship ... and thank God nothing similar has happened since. As it turned out, I spent two very pleasant nights in Costa Rica and got to see a bit of the country. I boarded the Rotterdam when it ported for the day at Puerto Limon.

Yes, it is very easy to say head to the port city a day or two before, but unfortunately, that is not always possible. Some of us have jobs where vacation time is limited and must be stretched. The extra night off could be the difference between taking a cruise or not taking it.

So, I still continue to fly into the port on the morning of a cruise ... as early a flight as I can possibly get. It is only when a cruise is going out of a west coast port that I will try to get the night off before the cruise and fly out a day before.

I guess I pays my money and I take my chances. I just hope my experience on that first cruise fulfilled my bad luck requirements in this regard for a long time to come.

By the way ... another good reason to get travel insurance. They did reimburse me for some of those added expenses for my Costa Rica side trip.

Blue skies ...

--rita
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