Saturday, February 27, 2010

Land Ho! Punta Arenas

Here is what happened. After leaving our first stop in Uruguay the wind and waves came up to the extent that we were only wallowing along at about 10 knots. There was no way we would reach our next port in time, so the stop was canceled and we kept steaming along.

The next couple of days have been much better and we just docked a half-day early at our next stop, Punta Arenas Chile.

We walked off the ship and found an Internet cafe right in the dock area. The first priority was to let folks know that the massive earthquake has had no impact on us up to now. We still have no idea whether or not we´ll be stopping at the remaining ports of call, or even if we´ll be able to fly out of Santiago on schedule, since early reports indicate there has been damage there. Control towers? Runway? Who knows at this point? The important fact is that we are all fine and enjoying ourselves on Insignia.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bad weather all day! We're wallowing along at 10 knots and will miss our first port.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Night Before

The Buenos Aires Marriott lobby was jammed today with a bunch of those darned American cruise-ship tourists. It turns out the Hilton is jammed with 350 rooms reserved for a pharmaceutical conference from Brazil - obviously money in the drug business.

The hotel itself proves to be "quaint," and has a lot of "character." That means that you have to walk up a full flight of stairs from the lobby (or downstairs a half flight of stairs) to reach the bank of three elevators. The average wait for an elevator during our brief stay has been 3-4 minutes but it seems longer of course.

The rooms have their own charm, the executive lounge seems actually to have a much better choice of food than the Hilton (even though they charge for alcohol), and it's an interesting change from the ultra-modern Hilton.

We're heading out for a pizza in awhile at the Filo Ristorante, and there won't be much more blogging for awhile, other than little updates sent by text message. Posters to Cruise Critic write that the Internet is just as slow and expensive as ever, and we fortunately don't have any business so pressing to require us to pay about $10 every time we hook up to the Internet and download the e-mail.

Updates will follow sporadically. Bon Voyage to Us!

Hotel Hopping in Buenos Aires

In an hour or so we'll check out of the Hilton and take a cab over to the Marriott,in the old heart of the city, where we'll await the arrival of our cruise companions, Greg and June.

The Hilton had no vacancies tonight (pre-booked cruise passengers?) so we're moving from one of the city's newest hotels in a trendy renovated area to the city's oldest hotel. Our stay at the Hilton has again been very pleasant, although we suspect the inflation rampant in Argentina (15% in 2009 and 20% projected for 2010) has led to some deterioration in, for example, the quality of the breakfasts.

The Marriott generally comes off second-best in comparisons to the Hilton. Its main virtue is its location right in the center, although even then there are warnings to be careful when venturing outside after dark.

Greg and June will probably be most interested in a good night's sleep after their overnight flight, and we're still getting over our colds, so we'll be ready for a quiet night before boarding Insignia tomorrow.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Terroir Casa de Vinos and an Another FT Coincidence

At a small dinner party we happily attended in Birch Bay a couple of weeks ago, we mentioned our plan to pick up some wine in Buenos Aires to carry aboard our cruise. One of the BBV Wine Club gurus, Jenise, recommended Terroir Casa de Vinos as a fine place to pick up wine for our cruise, and arranged for the owner, Alex, to e-mail us.

We made an appointment to meet him Friday afternoon, and despite the storm and flooding mentioned in the previous post, spent an enjoyable hour as he picked out some wines for us.

Early in our conversation Alex casually mentioned FlyerTalk, and we soon learned Alex is the legendary Gaucho100K in the Argentina Forum, sponsor of the legendary Cow Do and the Forum's major source of advice on all things Argentine.

We'd actually gotten some personal advice from him in advance of our previous trip two years ago and would have checked with him this time for wine had Jenise not already supplied us with the name of "another" merchant. How many wine merchants must there be in Buenos Aires? Incredible!

In any event, Alex was a charming host and offered us some eminently drinkable wine to after we'd completed our business and made efforts to wait out the flood. As you can see from the photos, he was completely soaked after walking earlier to a nearby gas station in a failed attempt to find a taxi for us back to the Hilton. Still, there are far worse places to be stranded than a wine shop.

Heavy Rain and Flooding in Buenos Aires? We Must Be Joking

We left our hotel around 4:00 p.m. yesterday for the 20-minute cab ride from Puerto Madera to Palermo to stock up on wine for our cruise at the wine merchant recommended by our neighbors back in Birch Bay. More on that in the next post, but our excursion featured copious quantities of that other vital liquid, H20. In other words we encountered one heck of a storm.

Our taxi driver on the way there proved to be somewhat crazy, certainly lost, and our "20-minute" cab ride consumed most of an hour. The driver, after warning me something about not wearing my "gold" wristwatch, borrowed our map several times to figure where he was going, sometimes while blocking traffic in the middle of an intersection. He eventually called the wine merchant, who tried to give him directions and subsequently told us was quite rude. He talked to himself a lot and kept explaining things to us in Spanish, and we were rather surprised to eventually pull outside the wine shop, as the taxi driver admitted he's been "stupid."

This all happened as a torrent of rain continued to fall and the streets of Palermo, the neighborhood where the wine shop is located, were flooding from backed-up storm drains.

Once we'd bought our wine (again, more on this later), our host tried in vain to find a cab or any kind of car to take us back to the hotel. We helped him a few small boxes of wine from his ground-level entry way up a few steps as the waters were already lapping up to the door of his shop. He eventually directed us over to a nearby gas station, after his wife reported that the power might soon be turned off to the neighborhood for safety reasons. We soon found a formidable cab driver who drove us through some incredible scenes back to the Hilton within 20 minutes in absolutely terrible conditions.

The streets were flooded at the edges and pedestrians were walking in water up to their knees. We lost count of the number of partially submerged parked cars we passed along the way. We called out Muy Bueno every time our driver navigated us through a roundabout clogged with stalled vehicles and had no hesitation in paying him twice the fare showing on the meter when we pulled into the Hilton, for which we received a big smile and a muchas gracias.

We weren't surprised to read this morning in the Buenos Aires Herald that the rainfall in this two-hour period totaled somewhere around 5-6 inches. At some point in the afternoon the rainfall was measured at 80 millimeters or 3.15 inches. Today's weather forecast is also ominous.

We noticed that somebody has already posted a YouTube video that gives a graphic picture of the flooding in Palermo.

We gather that some level of government is trying to tackle the infrastructure problems, e.g. storm drains, that lead to such flooding, but it will be some time until there's a solution. Not surprising to hear that some residents were out demonstrating in the middle of the storm.

We also managed to snap a few photos of the TV coverage, and a shot of an unfortunate fellow at the gas station clad in garbage-bag leggings trying to dry out his car...

Thursday, February 18, 2010


To end our day on a positive note, yes, Buenos Aires is a good place to be for those who like meat. We ate this evening at called El Potrillo Restaurante, next door to the much more famous Las Lilas. We'd tried both places on our previous visit to Buenos Aires with Greg and June, and agreed we preferred El Petrillo.

We greatly enjoyed the pork ribs, the ribeye steak tasted better than our last try at Argentine beef, and a 2008 Terrazas Riserva Malbec washed it down quite nicely.

These restaurants are near our hotel in Puerto Madera, the renovated dock area. As we left the restaurant and strolled back to the Hilton at 10:00 p.m. the night was just starting for the Argentines. We'll have to try harder tomorrow.

Chasing The Elusive Peso in Buenos Aires

Since we travel more than most of the people we know, other than the hardcore members of FlyerTalk, we sometimes get asked for travel tips. For example, what's the cheapest way to get money in a foreign country?

Travelers checks are pretty well defunct and we haven't used them in 30 years. Credit cards are fine in many places, as long as you're aware you're paying something around a 3% or more transaction fee. ATM cards are fine and we use ours frequently since we prefer to deal in cash where possible and the exchange rate is decent. Most banks charge anywhere from three to five dollars per foreign transaction, plus whatever the local institution charges, making smaller transactions quite expensive. We're fortunate to have an account with our bank (Wells Fargo) that allows to make up to four foreign withdrawals per billing period without charge.

Still, we're always looking for a better way, and a Wells Fargo Bank manager suggested we try their ExpressSend service to send a chunk of money to Buenos Aires. There's no transaction charge for an account such as ours, the exchange rate is decent, and all we have to do is walk into a branch of the local bank to offer our passport and transaction number in order to pick up our foreign cash. What better way to pay for hotel rooms and meals in the local currency?

After a smooth arrival at EZE today, and an equally smooth ride in a remise (a pre-paid taxi) to our hotel, we set off walking to the nearest branch of the BBVA Banco Frances about six blocks away to pick up the trial $100 we'd transferred a few days, after which we'd wire a larger chunk of money. That's when things got interesting.

During our hour or so in the bank, the first teller told us we couldn't pick up the money because we're not Argentine residents. No, we never claimed to be. The next teller confirmed that yes, they had our money, but we couldn't have it. When Brian told her that maybe we should just call the policia, she barely cracked a smile. We then asked to speak to a manager. Throughout all of this, the fact that their English was better than our Spanish, but not by much, didn't help the situation.

We were then introduced to a woman important enough to have her own cubicle. She asked us to wait - actually she commanded "Wait," as did the others in the bank. It must be the way they're taught in their English classes how to politely ask people to wait. After sitting for a half hour or so, we were approached by both women, acting as if they had a solution. What we had to, she said, was to go to a government office just six blocks away to get an identity number. We could then return to the bank and pick up our cash. It's only fair to say they were quite apologetic and seemed to be trying to say that it was the result of Argentine government bureacracy rather than anything Wells Fargo had done wrong.

We set off with a slip of paper on which was written AFIP, the government office, Esmeraldo y Av de Maya, the intersection where it's located, and C.D.I., the identification number we were to apply for. An hour and a half later we'd trudged a couple of miles, asked no fewer than five locals, either passersby on the street or businessmen in their stores, and nobody could direct us to the building. We returned to the bank, and of course, being after 4:00 p.m., large metal doors sealed it off from us.

We walked back to the hotel, called a bank manager back home on Skype, and within a half hour he assured us we'd get our $100 transferred back within a couple of weeks. He also said that not even their experts at the ExpressSend service knew about this problem in Argentina.

The moral of the story: It's easy to spin your wheels trying to save a few cents here or there and sometimes it's just not worth effort. We did enjoy the walk on a sunny day here in B.A., but there are sights to see here other than the mythical AFIP office.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

ReLAXing at LAX

Our flights on Horizon / Alaska were fine yesterday. We stayed overnight at a very pleasant Hilton Garden Inn, went to bed early, and were up in time after a decent sleep to have breakfast before catching the 6:30 a.m. shuttle back to the airport. We've been sitting in the RCC since shortly after 7:00 a.m. after checking our bags and getting bumped to the front of the security line as 1Ks. A few hours flying on an airline on which we have no status makes us appreciate our little perks on UA.

We're carrying an empty wine shipping box so we can bring back some South American wine. Since wine shipping boxes cost about $50 US in Buenos Aires we're checking one suitcase and one cardboard carton full of styrofoam bottle inserts.

We're scheduled to board at 8:30 a.m. and fly to IAD (Washington-Dulles). We've also volunteered to be bumped from the flight to Buenos Aires (IAD-EZE) since it appears oversold and our schedule is flexible. It's doubtful but possible and you can't win the lottery if you don't have a ticket.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

And Away We Go

Not to channel Jackie Gleason but there's some blue in the sky, we both slept decently, and the colds we picked up along the way aren't slowing us down too much.

After hitching a ride to BLI (Bellingham International Airport) courtesy of our next-door neighbors (Thanks Victor and Laurie!) we fly Alaska Airlines BLI-LAX and overnight near the L.A. Airport. Why? When we booked our flights to Buenos Aires (EZE) the cost to fly out of SEA was exhorbitant compared to flying out of LAX: about $400 additional for each ticket, so it was mildly cost-effective to fly to LAX first.

Tomorrow we fly LAX-IAD-EZE and our upgrades have all cleared, meaning we're assured of lie-flat seats on the overnight flight - Yay!

We arrive Thursday morning and will spend some time wandering around Buenos Aires during our first three nights there, possibly attending a Tango show as we did on our previous trip. We might even return to Senor Tango, a touristy but magnificent production - after all, we are tourists. We're also forward to visiting a wine shop recommended by a couple of Birch Bay's resident wine experts who know the owner, picking up some Argentine Malbec to take aboard, and possibly a case to bring back.

We're staying at the Hilton for three nights, now one of our favorite Hilton properties, and at the Marriott after Greg and June, Kathy's brother and sister-in-law, arrive the night before the cruise, since the Hilton was full.

Oh, and the cruise? It's a 13-day Oceania cruise on Insignia starting from Buenos Aires and sailing around the Horn before landing at Valparaiso Chile. Since that link may become defunct once we've sailed, we reproduce the itinerary below:

Feb 22
Buenos Aires
6:00 p.m.
Feb 23
8:00 a.m. 4:00 p.m.
Feb 24
Cruising the Atlantic Ocean
Feb 25
Puerto Madryn
9:00 a.m. 10:00 p.m.
Feb 26
Cruising the Atlantic Ocean
Feb 27
Cruising the Atlantic Ocean
Feb 28
Punta Arenas
8:00 a.m. 8:00 p.m.
Mar 01
Cruising the Chilean Fjords
Mar 02
Cruising the Chilean Fjords
Mar 03
Laguna San Rafael
8:00 a.m. 8:00 p.m.
Mar 04
Puerto Chacabuco
8:00 a.m. 2:00 p.m.
Mar 05
Puerto Montt
8:00 a.m. 6:00 p.m.
Mar 06
Cruising the Pacific Ocean
Mar 07
8:00 a.m.
Disembarkation Port: Valparaiso

From Valparaiso we catch a shuttle we've booked to the Santiago Airport (SCL)and fly Air Canada back to EZE, overnighting at the Hilton before flying home March 8.

We're all packed, definitely including the Meclizine since we hear it can be a wee bit of a bumpy ride around Cape Horn. If you too are subject to mal de mer, you may want to skip the video.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The 24-Hour Turnaround

Today has come and gone. It started for us in Issaquah, involved our drive home and another trip back to Bellingham for various errands. We're halfway through our packing but it's midnight in the Eastern Time Zone where we spent nine days so it's off to bed we go.

Tomorrow's another day.

Disney Cruise Lines Disembarcation Debacle

Nothing like a negative experience to get the alliterative juices flowing: Disney's Dumbo Disaster, Dismal Disney... so many choices. Why the petulance? Read on.

Here we are Monday morning after overnighting in Issaquah and getting ready for a quick trip home before flying from Bellingham Tuesday (tomorrow - Yikes!) and flying to Buenos Aires Wednesday after an overnight in Los Angeles.

Our cruise on the Disney Magic with three sweet grandchildren and their parents was terrific right up until the very end. The employees are uniformly excellent, the ship itself is beautiful and well equipped, the entertainment is in a (Disney) class of its own, and even the food was surprisingly good for a line catering to families with young children. For example, Palo, the specialty restaurant, offered a champagne brunch about as lavish as anything we've enjoyed at sea or ashore. Their dinner menu, the service, and the food were also superb.

No, Brian outlined our complaints in a Cruise Critic thread titled Disney Magic Stuck in Bahamas!

Rather than rewrite it all, we'll just paste it below:

Disembarkation Debacle


Originally Posted by DLaForce
I was on the ship that was stuck and we just got home. We had to leave Grand Cayman early due to weather and everyone was wondering why we didn't leave Castaway Cay early as well. The crew stated they knew the bad weather was coming but that they didn't think it was so fast. The ship tried to leave twice in the evening and we kept being blown into the bay. We even hit the wooden pole marking the channel (about 10 feet from the rocks). We tried to leave at 2:30 am and twice around noon the next day. Finally made it out around 4:30 pm on Saturday. We were eating in AP and it felt like eating in a massage chair the entire restaurant was shaking.

Disney offered free phone calls but not internet (3rd party vendor). People were waiting in line for up to 9 hours and there were a ton of chairs on the third floor. However, they were terrific in getting together another day planned (i.e. activities, kids club open). They also offered 20% off to people when booking another cruise whether they were on the ship still or not.

This is a long post, but then it's been a long couple of days...

We were on the Magic as well in party of seven, including three young children. The Disney reputation for organization and, for want of a better term, crowd control, suffered greatly IMO during this episode, especially the disembarkation "process."

First, as you point out the weather was clearly problematic. "Captain John" blamed the third-party tender providers for requiring everyone to return to the ship at Grand Cayman no later than 2:00 p.m. He said they had spoken to them "to no avail" (or similar words) and implied that he would have remained in port had it been his decision. Considering what happened at Castaway Cay, that seems significant.

Second, there was much talk of the weather as we arrived at the somewhat aptly named Castaway Cay, both from the captain and Peter, the cruise director... we were very fortunate the weather was so wonderful, it was an "envelope," it might get worse later in the day but it would be beautiful for much of our stay, etc. We were actually quite surprised to step out on deck and find that it was quite cloudy - still, no complaints about the weather while we were there.

Yes, there was a lot of talk about the weather, but it was the captain and his fellow "cast members" who apparently didn't do anything about it (please pardon the sarcasm but it's been a grueling trip back to the West Coast where I'm writing this).

As anyone who has visited either Castaway Cay or HAL's similar Half Moon Cay knows, it's a very controlled environment. Unlike a regular port, the passengers are readily available and could have been loaded back on the ship early. That was a judgment call, and IMO the Captain and Disney made a mistake in judgment that cost us, for example, several hundred dollars in airline change fees and a lot of aggravation.

Fellow passengers standing in line at the airport said that the ship usually "backed in" to its dock. Perhaps other posters can confirm or deny if that is the practice. We docked bow first, so the challenge the captain faced was to back out with strong wave action and gale-force winds, causing him to hit the pole, as a fellow passenger told us he had captured on video. It would seem there would have been greater control and power had we been able to leave the deck and head out bow first. It's not all that reassuring to be a on ship trying to back out and repeatedly failing in weather conditions that are obviously extremely challenging. The captain had talked about trying to get Bahamian tugs at one point but they apparently didn't want to venture out in this weather.

The facts speak for themselves. We've been on ships in the middle of the Atlantic in far worse conditions. The mistake was in not leaving Castaway Cay early, a mistake the tender providers at Grand Cayman did NOT make.

Yes, the crew was excellent in throwing together a program for the day. Our grandkids were very happy in the Kids Club and the six-year-old almost had to be pried out after dinner. The dinner was a repeat, so-so but certainly ample. A couple of the adults attended the evening's show, which the comedian and juggler made much of having thrown together. They did their best but we left after the first half hour and I'll say no more.

Yes, the lines for the phone were extremely long and we heard a rumor of people waiting up to six hours, similar to what you heard. Two of us had brought laptops and we called the front desk, who confirmed we could use the Internet for travel arrangements and would not be charged. We confirmed that by phone afterwards and also via the final bill. There were NO Internet charges. We also used communicated with a relative ashore by text message on our cell phone to make some travel changes for rental cars and hotels. We "bit the bullet" and called our airline on our wireless while still docked at Castaway Cay and subject to the Bahamian provider. With AT & T we're guessing it will be about two dollars a minute, worth it to snag a later flight out Sunday.

Now to the debacle. Instructions were that we were to completely vacate our staterooms as soon as we went to breakfast, as early as 6:30 a.m., i.e. "take your day packs with you and make yourselves comfortable in the common areas." We had tipped our cabin attendants generously, and tipped them for the extra day as well. One employee had mentioned that they often lost out in these situations because most passengers naturally didn't tip them for the extra day aboard and the next load of passengers were angry at missing a day of their cruise and consequently tipped a lot less.

So we stayed in our staterooms until about 8:30 a.m. We then saw the Disney Theatre was virtually deserted and sat in there with a few dozen other passengers. We mentioned to some employees making preparations for the opening night show on the next cruise that it wouldn't cost Disney a lot to run some cartoons on the big screens for kids and, amazingly, they started doing that a few minutes later, albeit without sound.

Throughout this time we heard further profuse apologies from Peter that they couldn't get enough CBP staff to work the ship, because of all of the other ships in the main port. We were also told that we wouldn't be docking at the main terminal because it was full, but we weren't told (or at least we didn't hear) the specific location of our terminal, which turned out to be Terminal 3. Had we known how important this information would be, we would have asked the Front Desk.

At around 9:00 a.m. an employee entered and made an announcements to people sitting behind us (we were halfway down) and then left. People started to exit and we asked what he'd said. Apparently he'd said we could now leave the ship, a bizarre way to inform people, sort of a word-of-mouth pass-the-rumor along approach.

The stairways were crammed with people all the way down to Deck One. We walked to the aft. Again, the stairways were packed, an extremely unsafe situation after all of the emphasis on safety throughout. We managed to catch an elevator and fall in with the crowd heading for the gangway. By now, Disney had apparently given up and just wanted us all off the ship. For the first time for us two grandparents in upwards of 200 days of cruising on a variety of lines (Princess, Celebrity, HAL, RCCL, Oceania, Cunard), we walked off without a swipe of the key card in a stream of humanity.

We proceed with the rest of the line toward the small building where our luggage was stored. Terminal 3 is used for small ships (gambling ships?) and the employees confirmed it was completely inadequate for a ship of this size. We eventually managed to get our luggage, but we feel for the people who absolutely needed porter assistance. They were few and far between and the room was so crowded it was very difficult for the few porters available to make their way back in. The "smart" passengers were leaving the room, getting a porter, and bringing him back in. Others waited patiently in the room with their hands up.

In our case, the four adults could just barely manage the luggage, car seats, and three young children. We then rejoined the line to leave. NO passport check, but a cheerful CBP officer removed our Customs declaration (nothing to declare, thank goodness) from my pocket, as my hands were full. "Welcome to Ellis Island," I said, and he grinned and said "Oh yeah."

We then emerged into the 45 degree breezy day (as the ship warned us). Now there was yet another huge lineup for people to cross a street into a parking lot where buses were waiting to take people either to the airport or the parking lot. Where were the loud hailers to direct passengers or at least tell him the situation? There were employees and they were no doubt doing their best. One told us "don't yell at me. I'm doing my best" before we'd said a word to her so there's little doubt they were bearing the brunt of passenger dissatisfaction.

We were well off the ship and announcements were being made to those on board. The only announcements we'd heard were a combination of repeated calls by name for non-Americans to report for Immigration inspection on board and repeated apologies for the lack of CBP officials and "it's completely out of our control." Yes, it was out of control.

We had a private prepaid shuttle and gathered it was fair to jump the line if we weren't waiting for a bus. By now the little children were quite cold as the sweaters we'd pulled out for them weren't meant for staying outside for any length of time in this weather.

We ended up waiting nearly 40 minutes for our shuttle, which isn't specifically Disney's fault. We repeatedly told the dispatcher where we were and it wasn't until the third call that it eventually seemed to dawn on them that the Disney Magic was not docked in its usual spot.

We may well request compensation, probably a futile gesture, for our airline change fees. Could we make suggestions? Yes, we most certainly could, but they're the experts, aren't they? Better communications on board, better communications at "Port Canaveral" so shuttle drivers know where to go, employees with loud hailers, some kind of order rather than word-of-mouth for disembarking passenggers, etc.

We still have nothing against the Disney Cruise Line, and we've had problems disembarking a couple of other times, including a lengthy delay in September on Jewel of The Seas in Boston. At that time, however, it was Grandma and Grandpa on their own. A shipload of children, including our own precious ones, adds a new dynamic and the passengers were not well served yesterday. We can only hope Disney learns from the experience and does a lot better next time.


We didn't go into detail in the Cruise Critic post, but the shuttle experience was another comedy of errors and misunderstandings, all on their part we hasten to add. When the shuttle finally showed up, there were two Canadian women on board who told us they'd been driving around for the past half hour after being picked up from another ship while the driver looked for us. They had reserved and paid for a "private shuttle" and so had we and we thought there was no way we could physically fit into a large Ford van.

Eventually we did, though, with people sitting with items on their laps or under their feet, or jammed into the front passenger seat, with two of the three grandkids on laps quite unsafely. Still, we made it, but we'd suggest that Logan Transportation, should they remain in business, establish better communication between their dispatchers and their drivers.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

On the Disney Magic that is. And what a catchy title for a blog post...

A funny thing happened on our way back to Orlando. The Disney Magic was marooned at Castaway Key, the company-owned island that’s a stop on cruises, due to the storm that swept down from the north.

We apparently stayed a couple of hours too long on our final stop because the captain bumped the ship against a post on the breakwater while trying to leave and we awoke Saturday morning to discover we still hadn’t moved an inch of the 226 nautical miles to Port Canaveral.

The company has to deal with a shipload of customers, most of whom would like to disembark, while having to deal with a shipload who’ve shown up for the first day of their cruise, only to be told to try again tomorrow. We have our staterooms, food, and entertainment, and the always hard-working room stewards returned everybody’s luggage to the staterooms by 8:00 a.m. Yes, it's another great day not to be involved in the travel industry.

While we were watching the movie Up in the big Walt Disney Theater the captain tried again twice full power to leave Castaway Key just awhile ago, around 3:00 p.m., but retreated to the dock yet again. He’ll try later.

With a great deal of help ashore (Thanks Kim!) we’ve managed to juggle various hotel, rental car, and flight bookings, and the seven Warners in this particular party will do fine if we manage to return to Port Canaveral 24 hours late.

After that, it could get interesting, especially for Kathy and Brian who’d planned a quick two days at home before flying to Buenos Aires.

Updated Saturday at 4:30 p.m. This time, the fourth or fifth try today, we threaded the needle and back out of the sheltered lagoon-type area into the still stormy open water in a maneuver that took the better part of a half hour.

We’re now on our way and should be docking in Port Canaveral around 6:00 a.m. Sunday morning, 24 hours late.
We're still here, 226 kn. miles from port and waiting for winds to moderate. Evening arrival at earliest!

Friday, February 12, 2010

We're still at 'Castaway Key' 5 hrs. late. Can't leave due to wind and rumors we 'ran aground' trying. Late at Pt. Canaveral Sat. A.m. For sure.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

We left Grand Cayman early with bad weather on the way from the north. Disney Cruises are not at all goofy, but great fun.
We left Grand Cayman early with bad weather on the way from the north. Disney Cruises are not at all goofy, but great fun.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Flying Fun and Follies

For awhile it looked like we'd almost jumped from the frying pan into the fire by rerouting through Denver, although that's silly since Washington Dulles is completely shut down. It's also a silly metaphor since it's snow rather than heat that closed Dulles but we digress.

Our first flight SEA-DEN went without a hitch. The only intriguing dilemma was that, with all the reroutings, there was a great bump opportunity for all seven of us. Unfortunately the earliest United could get us in was around 1:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon and that created a stress-inducing deadline to board a cruise an hour's drive away by 4:00 p.m. without fail.

Brian boarded early to find some room in the overhead. Oops... He hears through the flight attendant grapevine there's a mechanical problem, actually electrical... not good.

Kathy immediately calls to see if we can all be protected on the early-morning flight tomorrow that they'd been willing to place us on a few minutes earlier. No luck... now we could be faced with trying to fly or drive all the way to Key West to catch the cruise at its first stop. That wouldn't be fun.

United comes through with another 757 though - lucky we were in UA's Denver hub. It's flying in from Pittsburgh as Brian sits at the keyboard and we should be arriving in Orlando by 2:00 a.m. local time, giving us a chance to catch a few hours of sleep before taking the shuttle we reserved to Port Canaveral and The Mouseboat. The grandkids are watching a video on a computer and handling it all exceptionally well.

If there aren't any more posts for awhile, it should mean we caught the ship.

Update: Yes, we landed in Orlando (MCO) about 2:00 a.m. local time after a decent flight DEN-MCO and the clock read something after 3:30 a.m. when we finally climbed into bed at our hotel. It's now a little after 9:00 a.m. and we have a shuttle to catch to the cruise port at 10:45 so it'll be a long day, especially for the grandkids, but hopefully boarding the cruise ship will make it all worthwhile.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Snow on The Potomac

Or something a lot less scenic in actuality...

The second big snowstorm of the winter is heading toward IAD Washington DC and the weather forecasts predict as much as one to two feet of snow right about the time our flight lands on the way to Orlando. United has been issuing travel waivers (a generous rerouting option during irregular operations) for a day or two now.

We called the 1K line this morning after waiting to see what developed overnight and changed our SEA-IAD-MCO connection in favor of SEA-DEN-MCO with plenty of seats available. Even before we left home our original flights have now been canceled and the flights we booked are now looking overbooked.

It was funny to drive out of Birch Bay with the sun shining and flowers already blooming while thinking about major snowstorms elsewhere. We have a day and a half of elbow room before getting on our cruise but it wasn't a time to consider being stuck or else unable to get on an alternative flight.

It's a good reminder for anybody, not just travel junkies like us, to keep an advance eye on upcoming flights and connections whenever possible.