Friday, December 31, 2021

Living and Traveling in Interesting Times

A woman spends most of her Icelandair flight isolated in the lavatory…


A couple spends most of their Norwegian Cruise Lines cruise confined to their stateroom…


Interesting times indeed.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Christmastime Comings and Goings

 The weather has been frightful, to quote the old Christmas song. We somehow still managed to see our family in various locations.

Kim and family drove up for a pre-Christmas dinner at our house, featuring some music.





Christmas night we crossed the Canadian border for the first since 2019 and drove through rather horrendous white-out conditions to enjoy Christmas dinner with Karen and family.



Canada Immigration handed Brian a Covid test to be "self-administered" via video. What a nuisance that proved to be! Completing it took up most of the visit but it was still good to see them.


December 26 we drove down to Renton to spend a couple of nights with David and his family. The highways were in decent conditions, but it's been a particularly good time to own a Subaru Outback with its all-wheel drive and assorted safety features.

We're hoping for more visits through the New Year's weekend but they will be weather dependent.

Friday, December 24, 2021

What Your Drink Order Onboard Supposedly Says About You

 The New York Post has reprinted a lighthearted (silly?) article in a British tabloid about a Tik Tok video made by some British flight attendants.

I’m a flight attendant and here’s what your drink order says about you as a person 

There is one bit of advice contained in the article that we've taken seriously for some time:

"By the way, don’t ever drink coffee or tea from an aeroplane. If you don’t know why, go watch my previous videos."

As reported, Kamalani said you should never ask for anything using hot water because the tanks are never cleaned — and are right by the toilets.

Even on early-morning flights, we get our coffee fix before boarding the plane.

Is Artificial Intelligence Coming to an Airline Near You?

 If you're a customer of American Airlines, it already has, according to this article linked by The Travel Insider.

American Airlines has a special way of dealing with angry customers 

I asked the company what sort of emotions its AI could detect and how it does it.

I received a splendid techworld response: "NICE Enlighten's AI Sentiment Analytics platform employs natural language processing and trained language models to identify positive and negative words and phrases, spoken by customers during interactions with agents."

You may already imagine that a customer uttering words and phrases such as "appalling," "ruining my trip", and "I'll never fly this bloody airline again" would be readily spotted by customer service agents as expressing displeasure.

 

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Alaska Airlines Comes Through

The other day a neighbor called us in a flap. Her granddaughter, on the way for a visit, had arrived at her departing Texas airport for her Alaska flights after the cutoff time and was subject to being offloaded.

Alaska did her a favor by rerouting her as far as Seattle with a late-night arrival, but it's a ways from there to Bellingham in the midst of our changing December weather.

Kathy called the Alaska Airlines elite line, and explained the dilemma to a typically kind agent. After checking with her supervisor and the "rate desk," the agent added a connecting  flight from Seattle to Bellingham the following day.

Brian was checking hotels at the same time and we found a competitive rate at the Hilton SEA Doubletree, close to the airport with a shuttle running every 20 minutes 24/7.

Our neighbor was very grateful, but we let her know that it was the willingness of Alaska employees to bend the rules - and a bit of Christmas spirit -  that led to such a happy ending.


 


Sunday, December 19, 2021

Dealing with Flight Delays and Cancellations

Kathy checks our upcoming flights, and the flights of family and friends, on a regular basis.

Sure enough, this morning she found an ugly change on a relative's itinerary (no names because the relative doesn't know yet). What to do?

Coincidentally, travel blogger Gary Leff, one of our go-to travel writers, posted 9 Things That Will Keep You From Getting Stranded In The Airport.  While Gary is emphasizing those nasty curve balls thrown at you in the midst of a trip, the same rules are useful when dealing with a change on a future flight.

The single best strategy to attain a positive resolution is to do your own research in advance. A cellphone with data is a powerful tool. Just as a lawyer wants to know the answer to every question he asks a witness, you should know what you want before you talk to the airline rep. As Gary puts it, "Don't just accept whatever flight the airline offers you, do your own homework."

We also have to accept the fact that travel is an adventure that will includes ups and downs not limited to takeoffs and landings. In 2017, for example, we ended up stranded in Seattle with grandson Blane in the midst of flights from San Francisco to Bellingham. 

When the Bellingham Airport closes due to snow on the runway, and when a Microsoft convention takes up all the decent SEA- area accommodation, sometimes the best even "experienced travelers" can manage is to spend a few hours with one's precious grandson in a dump. In truth, Blane did just fine and his grandparents survived too.

In Around the World in Eighty Days, Phileas Fogg, Jules Verne's stereotypical English gentleman hero. states definitively that "the unforeseen does not exist." Of course, it's how we deal with the unforeseen (as well as the foreseen) that counts.

Oh, and that cancelled flight problem we started out with this morning is now resolved. In fact, it turned out that the partner airline, American, had already scheduled an acceptable alternative flight. Miracles do happen. 

Still, forewarned is forearmed.


Thursday, December 16, 2021

Multiple Hertz Customers Sue, Claim False Arrests for Car Theft

Add this to the list of car rental headaches. And here we thought showing up for a rental only to be told no car was available is the biggest problem we might face.

We've known about this Hertz situation for some time, mainly through Gary Leff's View From the Wing

Basically, customers are suing for false arrests after they claim Hertz has reported their rental cars as stolen. Individuals have claimed to spend up to 40 days in jail before the matter was resolved. Yikes!

We see that CBS is now covering it.  

Hertz claims in a November statement that "Situations where vehicles are reported to the authorities are very rare and happen only after exhaustive attempts to reach the customer."

Somehow that doesn't reassure us as much as Hertz intends it to. 


United Airlines Denies Use of Underwear as Mask

One has to give the would-be passenger credit for ingenuity. Apparently, he was also trying to make a deeper point.

Man kicked off United Airlines flight at FLL for wearing women’s underwear as mask

He actually may have a point. The CEOs of two major airlines just questioned the need for masks on flights in their congressional testimony. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

About Those Annoying Hotel 'Resort Fees'

The first time we recall encountering a "resort" or "amenity" fee at a hotel was during a disappointing stay at a Miami South Beach boutique hotel that we documented in our very first Trip Advisor review way back in 2005. The $5 resort fee we were stuck with seems surprisingly modest in retrospect, but we were annoyed at the time.

The fees often include a list of "benefits," the most laughable example of which is "free local phone calls" in this era of almost universal cellphone use.  

The Today Show recently ran a feature about those nuisance fees, including an account of recent government lawsuits in Washington DC and Pennsylvania designed to curb or eliminate the practice.

The video includes a couple of helpful tips but overlooks a significant one for collectors of loyalty program points, one that we make use of quite regularly.

We collect hotel points both through stays and through credit card spend. When we use our Hilton points to pay for a hotel that has a resort fee, the fee is automatically waived. Obviously, we hoard points for use at expensive properties, and that daily fee tacked on the bill is part of the calculation. We also accumulate Marriott and IHG points.

Incidentally, we discovered that Today Show feature via Christopher Elliott, who is briefly interviewed in it. We've recently subscribed to Elliott's free daily email newsletter and scan his website. He's a controversial figure in travel blogger circles (he's adamantly opposed to frequent flyer programs for one thing!), but he and his staff come up with interesting stories and they certainly help travelers out on a regular basis.



Monday, December 13, 2021

A New Tower Opens at Basílica de la Sagrada Família

We finally managed in 2019 to have a look inside Antoni Gaudi's famous Barcelona Cathedral, still under construction nearly a century after his death in 1926.

We now read that a new tower has officially opened. It wouldn't tempt us to venture back inside - one time is enough - but to each his or her own.


Sunday, December 12, 2021

Alaska Airlines Status Seekers

It just so happened we flew a lot during the first three months of 2020 before the world shut down.

Once we'd been fully vaccinated in early 2021 (and feeling safer than perhaps we should have), we booked a number of cheap domestic trips on Alaska, including some paid First Class fares. 

We flew to Tampa, Reno (twice), New Orleans (twice), Raleigh, Fort Lauderdale, and Portland. We also flew to Barcelona on American using points (miles).

To attain MVP Gold 75K status, one has to fly 75,000 miles with a minimum of 6 Alaska segments.

To attain the new 100K status, one has to fly 100,000 miles with a minimum of 24 Alaska segments.

Since Alaska, like most other airlines and hotel chains, carried over everything earned in an account from 2020 to 2021, we have been credited a total of 121,500 status miles and 28 Alaska segments. 

We have thus reached Alaska's new top tier. Both 75K and 100K include oneWorld EMERALD status. The only tangible extra benefit for 100K at the moment appears to be one additional one-way international upgrade certificate on American Airlines. 

We'll hope the world will have returned to some semblance of normal that enables us to take advantage of our status in 2022.


Friday, December 10, 2021

Disneyland Bringing Back the Main Street Electrical Parade

With fond memories of playing a cassette of this repeatedly for our young children in the "tan van" (our 1980 Dodge Maxivan camper conversion) after a Disneyland visit, we have to think this is a good sign of better things to come. From USA Today...

Disneyland bringing back Main Street Electrical Parade, 'Fantasmic' and more this spring

This is a terrific 28-minute history of the parade...

ElectroMagic: The Music of the Main Street Electrical Parade

And here is a soundtrack...

Main Street Electrical Parade Custom Soundtrack 

 


Thursday, December 9, 2021

Evening Landing in Seattle

A lovely evening…



And time to relax in the “main” SEA Alaska Lounge before the short hop to Bellingham.




A Slightly Odd Near-Bump

The gate agent for our RNO-SEA flight announced that no checked bags would be loaded for this fight and that 44 volunteers might be required at a starting compensation rate of $250, all because of weather and eight and balance issues.

Naturally, we got our names quickly added to the volunteer list. The gate agents finally announced we’re all good to go. We’ve boarded, and the luggage is being loaded, albeit an hour late.

We had a long layover in Seattle, so should still have plenty of time to use our remaining 2021 lounge passes before flying onward to Bellingham.




Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Atlantis Reno Red Bloom Asian Restaurant

Although the name reminds us of oceanic afflictions ( Ted Tide and Algae Bloom), the food is tasty.





We enjoyed the pot stickers and Shishito Peppers as an appetizer.



After that, we split a Korean-style steak creation.

A tasty meal z

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

At the Atlantis in Reno

Happy Hour in the Bistro Napa is outstanding.







The BBQ Pork Ribs and Lamb Meatballs are highlights. 




SEA’s Renovated N (North) Terminal

It was a mess for a long time but it’s beautiful now.







Quick Trip to Reno

A quick trip and probably our last flights of the year.

All we could get on the Q400 out of BLI were two aisle seats across from each.



A thin young man is next to Brian.



A not-so-thin man next to Kathy. He uses a seatbelt extender. Those are the breaks sometimes.



It’s only 20 minutes or so in the air until we’re on the ground  at foggy SEA waiting for our single gate-checked bag.



Another view from Alaska’s beautiful  N Lounge, where we’re using up our final 2021 passes.



Deicing at the gate just below us…





We’ve enjoyed sitting here and watching planes disappear into the fog. It’ll be our turn to disappear in a little over an hour from now.




Stalking the Elusive Bargain Fare

Yesterday, after hours of effort, we managed to buy two round trip Business Class tickets to Europe for well under $2,000 each. That’s a deal.

Between Chase stupidly denying our purchase of British Airways tickets with our BA Visa, and BA’s own clunky site, we discovered we’d bought FOUR tickets.

It only took 40 minutes of waiting time on the phone with BA to sort that out. We may let Chase know of our dissatisfaction, knowing they’ll care deeply.

Despite all that, it was a profitable use of our time.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Sunday, December 5, 2021

In the News: 'Ten COVID-19 cases identified on cruise ship approaching New Orleans'

 It's the Norwegian Breakaway, a 3200-passenger ship returning from a seven-day cruise out of New Orleans. 

Norwegian Cruise Lines is owned by the same holding company that also owns Oceania and Regent.

'Ten COVID-19 cases identified on cruise ship approaching New Orleans'

 

Saturday, December 4, 2021

A New Golden Age of Travel? Not Yet

We managed, post-vaccinations, to make a number of domestic trips in 2021 to Florida, New Orleans, and Reno, capped off with our first trip abroad since March 2020, flying to Barcelona and sailing to Miami on Oceania's Marina. We've scheduled another quick trip to Reno in a few days.

Still, between the requirement to wear masks (and the continual bombardment of threatening entreaties in airports and on planes to wear them), the testing requirements on our most recent trips, and the general feeling that things are still not as they used to be, we find that air travel in particular is something to be endured, and not enjoyed, even if we're fortunate enough to be seated in First or Business Class.

In reviewing our plans for a European trip in early 2022, we suddenly noticed that a train we planned to take from Point A to Point B is no longer running. We spent much of yesterday trying to patch together an alternative, given that we've already bought the tickets to arrive at Point A and depart from Point B. We're reminded again that the pandemic was extremely destructive to many businesses, and the entire travel industry.

Fortunately, we haven't been around any incidents of "air rage," nor have we experienced any drastic problems renting a car, as cited in the following article, but in our opinion it offers a pretty good summary of the current status of travel.

We Were Promised a New "Golden Age" of Travel in 2021. What happened?


 

Friday, December 3, 2021

Hertz Hurts: A Cautionary Tale

 After just completing successfully a one-day Alamo car rental to get ourselves from Miami to Fort Lauderdale, we discover in David Rowell's invaluable The Travel Insider Newsletter an account of an extremely unpleasant experience endured by a woman who had reserved a car.

Hertz, of course, was in bankruptcy for a year, but that's no excuse for what happened to this woman, her companion, and her elderly cocker spaniel. She wrote a detailed letter to Hertz that went viral on Twitter and Hertz has already promised her compensation (the fact she's a practicing lawyer doesn't hurt her cause). 

Hertz has of course done even worse by customers. if you consider getting thrown in jail worse. 

Something to think about before your next car rental.


Comments Welcome Again on the Wandering Warners: Moderation in All Things

One of our occasional readers recently mentioned that it wasn't possible to leave a comment on our blog.

We've fiddled with the settings and think we've enabled commenting after its disappearance a long time ago. 

Please feel free to give it a try. Comments come to us for moderation and it will be interesting to see if it really works. 

A task like this helps to postpone some of the mundane but necessary jobs we have to complete after being away from home for a couple of weeks.


Thursday, December 2, 2021

A Tale of Two Dinners

Last night at the Tuscany Caffe in Dania Beach, Florida, we enjoyed Fiochetti Di Casa.



Tonight it was a lovely crab pasta as we relaxed back at home.




A Change in the Weather

A pleasant flight, even if 90 minutes late.

We arrived at N Terminal, took the train to C, and arrived at our gate for BLI, where boarding won’t start for another 10 minutes.



Seattle is rainy. What a surprise.

Late Departure at FLL

The incoming Alaska red-eye from Seattle arrived late, so we’ll be departing late as well.

It will be a tight connection from there to the Bellingham flight.

We’ll see what develops.

We did enjoy our dinner last night so we’re easing our way back to reality.

In the meantime, we’ve been entertained by a small bird flying around and a noisy door alarm that whined for 20 minutes until somebody arrived to fix it. 




Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Dinner in Dania Beach

We said our farewells to our Toronto friends, Bud and Jessie, at MIA after taking a Lyft from the cruise terminal to the chaotic-as-always airport.

We picked up our rental car and drove to Dania Beach, where we’re staying overnight at the Dello Hotel.





A room was ready for our 11:00 AM arrival, so we brought up our rollaboards and drove over to Hollywood Beach to stroll along the boardwalk and admire the Christmas decorations.





Tonight’s dinner will be at same little joint we enjoyed so much in April. We’ll see if it’s as good as it was then.

Disembarking Marina

We’re in Miami. All good things must come to an end…




Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Aboard Marina: Sunset


A glorious view from our balcony on the final night of the cruise.

Aboard Marina: Covid Test Day

An hour in line that didn’t fly by. Still, all the precautions allowed us to cruise.



.


Aboard Marina: Red Ginger Repeat

Duck and Watermelon Salad, Bulgogi Ribeye (the spiciest dish we’ve ever eaten on Oceania), and their famous Bounty Cake (which didn’t do much for us).










Monday, November 29, 2021

Aboard Marina: Sailing Along

We play the top-deck putting green as we earn Big O Points for prizes and sail past the Dominican Republic on the port side.






Sunday, November 28, 2021

Aboard Marina: US Immigration at San Juan

Here’s the way it works. Everyone has to be off the ship and go through US Immigration at our first US port before we’re allowed to reboard.

We took our time getting off but we’ll still have awhile to sit before climbing back on. Fortunately it’s cool in this shed.

The Marina uses our stored photos to let us off and on - no card needed.

US Immigration and the TSA use our stored photos too - no passport required.

Creepy or cool or some of each? You decide.




Saturday, November 27, 2021

Friday, November 26, 2021

Aboard Marina: Dinner at Toscana

Our favorite barista, Massimo, is in charge of the olive oils and vinegars, and looks after us.

The carpaccio di manzo is as good as ever.



Three of the four of us opt for the Trio Toscana as our pasta course.



We can’t go wrong with osso buco.



Bud and Jessie enjoy the sole.





A tiramisu and a stylized cappuccino for dessert cap off another great evening of dining.