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Published: August 27th 2018
We woke one last time in the cabin that has been our home for over one month. There was no rush this morning. Our two bags in the hall were taken ashore by the porters. We still had our carry-ons, and what we planned to where today. The Lido was bustling with activity and there were actually lines waiting to get food. Again, we sat on the pool deck; but, well away from the window and drainage trough that nearly twisted Sharon’s ankle yesterday. “Did you intentionally choose this table?” Sharon inquires. I just smile.
At the Main Desk there was another line. The daily News and Puzzles were not out and available; but, you could still get them from the front-desk staff. We weren’t scheduled to see the onboard immigration until about 9:15 AM and we were scheduled to disembark around 9:45 AM. This time I finished the Sudoku first without making any mistakes.
Immigration must have been running ahead of schedule because they called us around 8AM. This is vastly improved compared to the immigration that cruisers were faced with who disembarked just prior to our arrival. On that day, immigration was done on shore, and the backup was interminable. The immigration and custom agents had evidently decided to sleep in and hadn’t shown up! The line didn’t move, and those disembarking were delayed for hours. People had missed flights and it turned into a massive debacle. This obviously wasn’t HAL’s problem; but, they did have a solution to prevent it from happening again. The process was sort of hokey though. HAL scans your cabin card as proof you went through immigration. The immigration agent looks at your passport, and then looks at you, and then hands your passport back to you. And finally, another HAL person punches a whole in your cabin key. The key still works, and we waited back in our cabin for our Pink-1 Group to be called for those having purchased HAL’s bus transfer to the airport. I saw Intan in the hallway, one of our cabin stewards, and I gave her envelopes with her name and with the name of our other cabin steward Hasyim to show them how much we appreciated the excellent care they gave us on this our longest cruise. We then headed up to the Mix area to wait for our disembarkation announcement so they could get started on our room.
They announce that “Pink-1” is now disembarking about 9:15 so they are still ahead of schedule, so we head with our remaining luggage up to the Lower Promenade to exit by way of the gangway. Quite a few of the staff were present to say good bye, and Barry From Boston was right there as we stepped onto the gangway. We were directed to where the “Pink Bags” had been offloaded; but, we could only find “Pink 2” and “Pink 3” luggage. Sharon went out and searched for “Pink 1” and after five minutes or so (it seemed longer but time does that when you have the angst of being separated from your bags) Sharon comes back, and she is not happy. She spots one of the luggage supervisor and says, “I can’t find any Pink-1 bags.” “Nonsense,” the woman professes dismissively. “Look, right there, behind you!” And we look at one solitary bag standing alone, not four feet from Sharon, and it does indeed bear a Pink-1 tag; although, it was admittedly quite well camouflaged. I go out and do a more thorough search and see what they did. They evidently lined all of the Pink-1 bags one or two deep along the wall. Then they piled the Pink-2 in a second group in front of half of that line of Pink-1 bags; and beyond that, they did the same for Pink-3, virtually hiding the Pink-1 bags from view. I found my bag; but, when I returned with it. I went out and found her bag as well. We then proceeded right out of the terminal. There was no more customs or immigration or passport controls for us to deal with; nor, had we filled out a customs card (as we had to do onboard prior to our arrival to Canada on two occasions).
If we thought that our ordeal was over, we were sorely disappointed. It looks like choosing a taxi to get to the airport might have been a better choice. Those going to taxis went to the right, where taxis were waiting to spirit you away. We hadn’t made that choice since we had so much problem getting a cab the last time we disembarked the Rotterdam in New York City. Those headed for the airport by HAL busses went to the left. We were directed to go down by the white tables. On our way we started passing people in line, who were real quick to point out to us that we’d already passed the end of the line for the busses. We got into line. Those who had the foresight or need to hire a porter; however, got themselves whisked to the front of the line. Evidently one of the busses that was supposed to be porting people to the airport was unavailable this morning so we were in line for a very long time before they finally started boarding people and luggage. We did eventually get on the bus and get to the airport. We were flying Spirit Airlines primarily because the cost was about one-third of other carriers. We were aware of some of the pitfalls with this choice, namely, there is a surcharge for EVERYTHING. You want some water, you pay for it. You need your boarding pass printed, you pay for it. You want to put a carry-on in the overhead bin, you pay for it (and you pay more for it than you would just to check the bag). And if your checked bag is over 40 pounds (not the normal overweight threshold for most carriers), you pay for it. It took them some time to figure out which bus we belonged on; but, we did get on the right bus that included American and United travelers. At the terminal, we had to walk to the far end to reach the Spirit counters, and after waiting in line for some time we get a young woman agent sporting a hijab. After checking our passports and boarding passes she hands them back to me, “Come back, one hour.” I ask why we can’t check in now. “Too soon. Plane not go, four hour. Come back, one hour.” We make our way to find a couple of seats. “Did you ask her, how much to check our bags now?” Sharon wants to know, I’m sure doing a cost benefit analysis of waiting. “Go ask another agent.” So, I head back to ask another agent, who clarifies the situation. A supervisor gets involved explaining they will only check in bags three hours before flight time. That actually worked out to about forty minutes; but, the supervisor decided, that was still too much for us to check-in now. After we waited for the time to pass, we had no trouble checking our bags in; except, of course there was a long line with crying kids in front of us.
My bag is 49.5 pounds. She then tagged it and readied to put it on the conveyor. Sharon’s bag was 42.5 pounds and she tags that and placed it next to my bag. “You’re overweight.” I thought that she was going to charge me for being over my ideal weight. “It’s thirty dollars per bag, extra!” I guess she wasn’t satisfied with my “Oh well” shrug. “Don’t you want to re-arrange things?” “No.” I’m sure this must have deprived her of some of the fun she must get from this job where people open their bags and try to find some combination that saves them some money. While we might have gotten the 2.5 pounds out of Sharon’s bag, putting it in my bag would have raised that bag over 50 pounds, triggering even higher fees. She charged me the extra fee.
We breezed through security with our Pre-Check status and made our way to the Gate. We reached a food court and decided to both get McDonalds for lunch. Sharon got a burger and fries. I got a Big Mac and one of their Artisan Grilled Chicken sandwiches (although they weren’t advertising the BBQ variant that is much better). I figured, this is probably my lunch and dinner. When the previous flight at our gate departed, seating freed up and we got some choice seats with USB power sources in rocker/swivel padded chairs. And they were near the restrooms too. They then made a Gate Change announcement, and another flight was now leaving from our gate, after we were supposed to start boarding the plane. Sharon kept checking the overhead, but it still showed our flight to Atlanta leaving from this gate. About the time that we were supposed to start boarding, about a dozen people started streaming to the adjacent gate and I told Sharon, “I think they changed our gate.” They had; but, at least the change was to the adjacent gate. We were in “Group 1” because we had paid for the overhead carryon, and we walked right on the plane. We were crammed in, and our extra carryon bag and computer bags were stuffed in where our feet should go. This really is cramped. I had texted Chuck and Marcy who would be picking us up at the airport that we were still on schedule and confirmed the time with them. They said they would be ready. It wasn’t a terrible flight to Atlanta; but, there was going to be a crew change. Sharon had noticed that the flight number for our flight to Atlanta was the same as our flight number for our flight to Las Vegas, and that we had the same seats on both legs. But, due to the crew change, we needed to get off with all of our bags and re-board. Sharon whispered, “Hopefully the screaming kids in front of us isn’t going to Las Vegas.” It did give us a chance for a restroom break. Evidently, only the forward lavatory on the plane was working.
Some people had taken the opportunity to grab food from Popeye’s or Five Guys and the smells were quite tempting but they were already boarding when I got out of the restroom. We re-boarded and were jamming ourselves back into our seats. Sharon was complaining about all of the smaller carry-ons that were being put into the overheads that were supposed to be reserved for the larger carry-ons that won’t fit under your seat and that were paid for. Noticing that most people were in their seats, and there was still quite a bit of room in the overhead opposite us, I say, “I’m going to put the computer up there.” Flying two-plus hours to Atlanta cramped up is one thing; but, I don’t know if I can handle a 4-plus hour flight to Las Vegas. “Can you put this up there too?” Sharon requests, handing me her under-seat bag, satisfied that the over-weight charges give us this prerogative. Again, I text Chuck and Marcy that we’re still on schedule. I get a happy-face emoji response.
We land at a new terminal and have to walk the entire distance to the baggage claim. Normally there is a train involved to get to baggage claim, but we got to walk what seemed to drag on forever. We got our bags and made our way to the terminal 1 pickup. We texted Chuck and Marcy who’d been waiting in the cell phone lot, and they soon picked us up. We took the long way home on the freeway that looped by the independent living facility that my mom had once called home. And the next morning I got the result of my diligence for eschewing the bread rolls at meals aboard the Rotterdam. I had neither gained or lost weight after a week of travel and 38 days on the Voyage of the Vikings! Maybe I will be able to handle these longer voyages in my future which would be a good thing.
So now we’re home dealing with mail, laundry, etc and thinking we should start counting days till the next cruise. It was a great trip with only a few minor irritations that really don’t amount to much in the overall scheme of things. We know how lucky we are to be able to travel to such wonderful places and have made many more great memories from this trip to add to our list. Thanks to those of you that followed along with our trip. We’ll be back next spring for another trip and blog.
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