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.

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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.

Ten Countries in 28 Days

Who’d a thunk it.  Sometimes life saves the best for last, or at least, for later.

It’s been almost 40 years since I went to Europe while in the Army, and frankly, I didn’t really expect to ever get over there again.  But, you never know when lightning might strike, so when the opportunity presented itself for me to go on a 28 day cruise to Iceland and nine other European countries, I said, Yes! God willing, I am ready!

For me, this is a trip of a lifetime, and at this late stage in life, a somewhat daunting undertaking.  A non-stop flight from MSP to Heathrow, a train, or bus, or whatever, to Southampton, find a room somewhere or an all night cafe, board the ship the next day and settle in for the next 28 days.  It’s actually two, back to back 14 day cruises on the same ship, the Celebrity Eclipse out of Southampton, UK.  The countries are Iceland, Norway, Belgium, Germany, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Sweden, Denmark and England.

I will try to keep this updated as the ship stops here and there, and I expect there will be an occasional picture or two.  I am told that wi-fi on the ship is prohibitively expensive, so I will have to rely on cyber-cafes or coffee houses along the way.

Wish me luck and say a prayer. I’m gonna need it “over there”.  : )

It’s adventure time!