Friday, December 31, 2021
Wednesday, December 29, 2021
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
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.
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.
If you're a customer of American Airlines, it already has, according to this article linked by The Travel Insider.
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
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
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.
Saturday, December 18, 2021
Is this another Y2K-style scare? The CEO of United Airlines claims it's real. From CNET:
Thursday, December 16, 2021
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.
One has to give the would-be passenger credit for ingenuity. Apparently, he was also trying to make a deeper point.
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
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
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
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
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
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...
This is a terrific 28-minute history of the parade...
And here is a soundtrack...
Thursday, December 9, 2021
Wednesday, December 8, 2021
We enjoyed the pot stickers and Shishito Peppers as an appetizer.
After that, we split a Korean-style steak creation.
Tuesday, December 7, 2021
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.
Monday, December 6, 2021
The world is still not back to normal. Warnings like this appear to be the new normal.
Sunday, December 5, 2021
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.
Saturday, December 4, 2021
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.
Friday, December 3, 2021
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.
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
Wednesday, December 1, 2021
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.