Begining to End

If you happen to be very bored and/or just want to read this in it’s entirity, then you gotta scroll down to June 29th.

Carry on my wayward sons and daughters. Go on, read!  Read like the wind!!

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It’s Over

Of course, I had expected this to be an account of my travels to ten countries and my experiences along the way.  Unfortunately it has just been an account of a dream trip gone horribly wrong.  I feel like such a fool to have been sucked into this situation and for allowing myself to have such high hopes and expectations for a trip over which I had very little control.  I arrived back home last night and I would be unpacking right now except that my luggage is either still on the ship, or is on it’s way to me.  I don’t know which, because no one has seen fit to tell me.

I will finish this with an account of what happened after we got kicked off the ship.  A tiny little ray of light managed to peek out between watching the ship sail away without me and getting back home safe and sound, and for that I am grateful.

After we left the ship we went back to the Holiday Inn Express and got our room back. It was Saturday so we weren’t able to get a hold of anybody at Sixth Star (the lecture company that Bel contracted with) or Celebrity to find out what would, or could happen next. So, of course we had to stay there that night and Sunday night as well. Bel stayed always in the room, always on the computer or sleeping. She had become very withdrawn, quiet and uncommunicative. All she would say was something about maybe going to Italy where she has family. Unable to get anything out of her as to a plan of action, I decided to make my way back to Heathrow and see if I could get my ticket changed. The next morning I left the Holiday Inn and took a bus to the airport, stopping off in Winchester for a few hours to shoot the cathedral.

When I got to the airport, Miranda, Bel’s boss at Sixth Star Inc, called and said that Celebrity was going to put us in a hotel for the night and then fly us to meet the ship in Iceland. But she needed to get in touch with Bel to make the arrangements, and did I know where she was?  I said maybe Italy and she said that if I heard from her I should tell her the new plan, but in the mean time they would put me in a Holiday Inn at the airport, which they did. Once there, I had reliable internet and started trying to get in touch with Bel and the only way was by email or on facebook.  And that raises another point.  What kind of experienced world traveler DOES NOT CARRY A PHONE??!!

Anyway, the next day Miranda called again and asked if I had talked to her and I said no, but I had emailed her saying all was ok, we could still cruise and that she needed to get a hold of Miranda. Miranda had said that she had emailed Bel and also sent her a message on fb while BEL WAS ON FB and that Bel was seemingly ignoring her. By that point Bel was ignoring me as well, though she was busily posting pictures of Italy on fb. So, not only did she lose us the initial trip, she refused (by ignoring everybody) to have anything to do with us rejoining the ship when it was offered. Unbelievable!!

Of course, the deadline for which we could re-join the ship came and went and still no word from Bel.  So, I went ahead and got the next available flight back to Minneapolis to the tune of ANOTHER $250, and for me the die was cast. This trip, and any hope of salvaging it was over.

Two people who WERE very helpful and professional were Miranda with Sixth Star Inc. and Kevin with Celebrity. It was Kevin who kept me from sleeping in the airport for the three nights while I waited for the next available flight home. He arranged for me to stay at the Heathrow Hilton until Wed. when my new flight was.  I think there must have been some realization on someone’s part that Celebrity had screwed up by throwing us off the ship.

The best way to describe this whole experience is a roller coaster ride from hell.  Waay up when I stepped onto the ship, waaay down when I stepped off of the ship, up again at being told we could catch up with the ship, down again when it didn’t happen, a smaller up at arriving home safe and sound, and the last “down” at coming home with no luggage.

What have I learned from all this?  If you travel with someone, KNOW that you can trust them, that they are reliable and responsible and honest.  If you’re only travel companion option is someone who does not possess these qualities, then travel alone, because they can let you down and leave your best laid plans and preparations in ruins, and turn a dream into a nightmare.

P.S. Not once so far have I heard anything along the lines of, “Rick, I am sorry for what happened.”  Nothing, not one word.  Instead I was blamed for not reminding her to bring her insulin.

The crypt, ths lowest point in the cathedral.

The Rest of the Story

Well, sorry for sounding so dramatic in the previous post below, but I can honestly say that the experience was dramatic as well as traumatic for me.  After all the preparation, expectation, and anticipation, after all the money spent on airfare, clothes, luggage, memory cards, etc, after all the on-line research and souvenir promises, hopes and dreams, it is hard to get so close, only to have it snatched away at the very last moment.  Of course, I realize that from start to finish, there are so many things that can go wrong.  And in this case something did go wrong.  Several things actually.  It was the usual case of several individual things contributing to us ultimately being escorted off the ship at the last literal minute.

One of my professors does enrichment lectures aboard cruise ships during the summer.  Along with a free cruise for herself, she is allowed to bring a guest, and she offered her guest status to me for two back to back cruises.  I flew from MSP to Heathrow and she flew from Barcelona to Heathrow and we landed within an hour of each other.  I met her coming off of her flight and we took a motor coach to Southampton and then a cab to the Holiday Inn Express where I had reserved a room for two.  When we checked in she asked the front desk person to put her insulin in their fridge since there wasn’t one in the room.  The next morning we called a cab and went to the cruise ship terminal.

The Eclipse is huge and you can see her from a long ways away.  I just got more and more excited the closer we got to the terminal.  We unloaded all our luggage from the cab and went inside the terminal.  We were actually pretty early, which was fine with me because I wanted to walk around outside and see and shoot as much of the Eclipse as I could before we had to get in line to board.  Bel said she needed to go find a store and buy a watch battery and a couple other things before we left, so after I got some pics from outside, I came in and stayed with the baggage while she went shopping.

Five hours passed and long lines of people boarded the ship as I sat with the bags.  When it got to be two hours before sailing time (1630) I started getting nervous.  What if something had happened to Bel, what if she lost track of time? Plus, the terminal agent kept trying to find me on the passenger lists, to no avail.  Bel was on the list, but I was not. I figured it was just a glitch, but Bel had the documentation that said that I was her guest and she was conspicuous by her absence. The agent kept saying Where is she, where is she?  I didn’t really believe I would wind up sitting there watching the ship sail away. I figured she was sitting in some cyber cafe somewhere getting caught up on email and posting pictures to her blog.  When she finally appeared, she said that was exactly what she had been doing because internet on the ship is so expensive.

Anyway, after some tense moments and lots of discussion with several officials, it was determined that even though my name didn’t appear on any documentation, I could go ahead and board the ship as her guest.  I checked all the luggage, they took our passports, gave us “ship cards”, we went through security screening, and finally, we were heading up the gangway and into the ship. So many times I have watched so many people boarding cruise ships while thinking, some day, boy, some day that will be me.  Some day Iwill be getting on a cruise ship instead of just watching other excited people walking up the gangway.  And now it was happening!  I was actually getting ON this ship and I was going to be on it for the next 28 days!  Can you imagine?  I could hardly believe it was finally happening. All my life I have wanted to go to Iceland, and now I was going.  Two days at sea before we would get there!  Two days in the north Atlantic!  Unbelievably awesome!  I had brought the right clothes, I had the right cameras and lenses, I had done the research, I was ready.  And after three days at Iceland, then Norwegian fjords over the last nine days of the cruise before coming back to Southampton.  And then… another cruise!  Another 14 days of St. Petersburg, Russia, Berlin, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Bergen, etc. and then back to Southampton.  Who could believe a trip like that!

Well, obviously it was too good to be true, too good to be believed.  When we got to our double occupancy outside stateroom, Bel took one look at the little fridge and said, Oh my God, I have forgotten my insulin at the hotel.  She immediately told the concierge and calls were made to the hotel to see if they could put it in a taxi and send it to the ship.  But we had boarded so late that there was no time for a situation like this.  There was no time for ANY situation.  Anybody who knows me, knows that I always arrive early for everything, and this is why. Especially when leaving on a month-long cruise!

Now, it should be noted that Bel did have five days worth of insulin with her, and it is only two days to Reykjavik where she would be able to get more.  In addition, the ship’s doctor was consulted and the ship even had plenty of insulin on board.  But with ten minutes to go before sailing, some pompous, huffy-puffy, power mad, sad excuse for a human being over ruled the concierge and the doctor and presumably every other reasonable minded ship officer and said the they just couldn’t take a chance and that we had to leave the ship.  Our bags hadn’t even been delivered to the room yet!  So, with five minutes to go, were rushed off of the ship like stowaways.  We were told our luggage would be on the gang way, which was a bald-faced lie.  So, that’s how I wound up with my nose pressed against the glass, watching the ship pull away from the dock, watching the people on their balconies and all the people lining the railings on the upper decks waving at loved ones and the poor stuttering stranger who looked up at them in shame and disappointment.  Rounded up and put off the ship, forced off at the very last minute, like some kind of criminal, and through no fault of my own what so ever.

Who was this person?  What kind of person has so little in the way of humanity or compassion?  Well, I will tell you who this person is.  Maria Kelly is the Activity Director on the Eclipse and it was she who over-ruled all the others who saw no problem.  She obviously could care less that someone might have spent a couple thousand dollars to get there, could care less that someone had planned and dreamed and looked forward for months to a trip of a lifetime.  Yeah! I had talked to her on the phone.  She called the cabin and said, “Don’t unpack your bags.”  Ha! what bags?  “Oh, no bags? Well, they will be waiting for you. You are getting off the ship.” I was talking to a monster on the phone. An inhuman, insensitive, emotionless, heartless, lying, ego-maniacal Maria-monster. She not only denied me my dream trip and Bel her cruise job, because of her, the ship was without a lecturer on the two sea-days and the rest of the cruise as well.  She denied the revenue paying passengers the excellent enrichment lectures that Bel is known for. She also denied the room stewards the $24 a day they would have gotten from Bel and I. That’s $336 that they won’t be able to send to their families. You are really quite a liability to the company, aren’t you, Maria Kelly.

So, now I’m in Southampton, England  with only the clothes on my back, an airline ticket good for a month from now, and a dream turned into a nightmare.  Dear reader, I don’t care how corny it sounds, no one will ever know how much I looked forward to those cruises, how happy and excited I was for this amazing unbelievable opportunity. It was a dream come true.  Thank you Maria Kelly for what you have put me through and taken away from me.  Bel told them to let me stay on board with the bags and she would retrieve her insulin and fly to Iceland.  But Maria wouldn’t hear of it.  If the lecturer wasn’t on board, how could the guest remain?  So, it was get off! Go, be gone! Just go, and make it fast!  Thank you Maria, thank you Celebrity, and thank you, Bel.   Next time, keep tabs on your prescriptions. I do. It’s the responsible thing to do.  Second, don’t arrive at the last-minute. If there had been more time, the insulin could have been brought by taxi. And finally, if you knew that you had more than enough insulin to get you to Reykjavik, why say anything to anyone, especially people who have the power to put you and your guest on the beach!!  All this could have so easily been avoided three separate times. Leave nothing in the motel rooms, arrive early, and don’t say anything that will get you kicked off of any form of transportation.

Yeah, if it sounds like I’m bitter, it’s because I am.  If it sounds like I’m feeling sorry for myself, I am.

I am not in the financial position of being able to spend over two thousand dollars for a weekend in a motel in the UK, and wind up having my luggage stolen in the bargain. So, yeah, I am bitter.  It will be interesting to see if Celebrity will get my bags back to me.

Well, there it is. I’m going to bed.

Live and Learn

Well, I guess I should update this, though it is the least of my worries right now.Image

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It is amazing to me how life can give you sweet kisses one minute and then rip your heart out the next.

This is a post I don’t even want to write, but I started this damn thing, so I feel some obligation to be true to it.  In short, the cruise, the dream, the whole adventure, was over before it even started.  An hour after we boarded, we were being given the bum’s rush off the ship and back down the gangway.  I was practically in a state of shock and disbelief at what was happening to me, even as it was actually happening.  Five minutes later I stood and watched as the ship pulled away from the dock… with all my luggage on board.  Yes, I was staying in Southampton but my luggage was going to Iceland.

Did manage to get a few pics during our short time aboard, even though it was pouring down rain outside.