Cruise to nowhere 9 July 2021
Well, after quite some time I am back travelling again. This tiny virus has caused the world to change in ways that will resonate for many years to come. As for me, it has had a huge impact on business and indeed my quest to take a back seat and do more travelling. However, we now seem to be having a gap in the tight restrictions that have applied in various stages over the last year and a half. When I say “a gap” I mean just that as I do not believe the present move by both the UK government and the Scottish government to remove restrictions completely, is wise and I have a feeling that before long, possibly by the onset of winter, we will be once again, back where we were a few weeks ago. However, time will tell.
In the meantime, here I am bobbing up and down somewhere in the Irish sea. My trip started at 02.00 yesterday, with an early rise and a short trip into Dundee City centre to catch the Airport bus to Edinburgh airport. Great service which leaves from the bottom of Union Street across from the Malmaison Hotel, once upon a time called Mathers Hotel, which, believe it or not, was a temperance hotel. Hard to believe that there once was a hotel in Dundee that chose not to sell aquaholic liquor . Then again, when you consider that Winston Churchill, at that time a Westminster member of parliament for Dundee and well known alchoholic, was unseated by Neddy Scrimgeour, who was an abolitionist , then it is perhaps not that surprising in the city of discovery, a city full of surprises.
I digress, so Edinburgh airport was like a ghost town, yes pretty early but nothing like the numbers you would expect in July, and down no doubt to the huge uncertainty about travel arrangements put in place by the Scottish government with a history of previous relaxations being abruptly changed, causing huge alterations to travel plans especially returns, with holidaymakers facing the choice of trying to bring their return forward or facing quarantine in hotels at considerable cost to them personally.
A big disappointment was that the airport lounges were all closed. I usually check into one of them to wile the time away whilst waiting for my flight to call. So, the second-best was a visit to Costa where at least you are always guaranteed a decent cappuccino. Flight called on time and boarding took minutes, there being only about 20 passengers, however once aboard it was announced that there was a problem with the main door and an engineer had been called. It turned out, it was a straightforward repair and only caused a short delay. A great fear regarding same-day travel to a port is that the flight can be delayed and that is why I generally give at least one day grace between making the main travel leg and the departure from port. One way to ameliorate this risk is to book the “travel to the leaving point” leg through the cruise company and then it is their responsibility to either delay the ships leaving time to accommodate your hold up or in extreme cases where there has been a major delay in flights, to get you to the next port to join the cruise.
Another scenario which could be encountered is when booking your own flights and there is a delay. There is still a responsibility on the airline to get you to your destination by the quickest route and manner possible and not necessarily using only their own aircraft.
A good example of this was several years ago when I was travelling from Scotland to Florida to join a cruise in Miami. Now, I had allowed an overnight in Miami to allow for just exactly what happened. I had booked with British Airways and the itinerary was from Edinburgh to London, London to Chicago and Chicago to Miami. Now it just happened to snow for the first time that year on that very day and because there were a few inches of snow on the runway it caused chaos in Edinburgh airport, with all flights held up. So this together with an actual fault on the plane, meant I would miss my connection in Heathrow unless that flight had been delayed. When I came off the flight in Heathrow a guy was waiting at the top of the walkway with a sign with my name on it and suggested I follow him quickly as they were to get me on an alternative flight that was about to leave. So, we were weaving our way through back corridors away from the main concourses and I began to get a feeling that there might not be a good outcome to this, so I asked the guy where this flight was going. “Los Angeles,” he said “whoa, just hold it there,” I said, “there is no way I am flying across the US and back again to catch a cruise in Miami by tomorrow, get me to the desk.” After some protest, he did take me to the British Airways desk, where I was told by a pretty snooty attendant that British Airways did not have any other flights that day and my only alternative was to fly the following day.
“Ok,” I said but you should be aware that under aviation regulations you have to get me to my destination if there is a time constraint, by any available means” and I quoted the regulation in question. I also told her that I believed there was a continental (now called United) flight to New York with presumably a connection to Miami. Oops, she went away presumably to speak to someone who knew what they were doing and came back and organized a ticket on Continental flying into Newark with the connection to Miami being the next morning. “Great,” I said, now can I assume you will have a hotel booked for my overnight stay, as I should have been staying in Miami and I have no intention of sleeping in the airport.
She did not look pleased in the least but eventually said that it would be organized by the time I got there, I did not have a good feeling about her assurances, and this was confirmed when I arrived in Newark as no one was aware of any accommodation booking. The problem was that British Airways and Continental use different parts of what is a huge airport. So, I eventually managed to get to the terminal (via the sky train), used By BA, found the office and was told that they had no record of any accommodation booking, and the office was about to close. I made it plain that unless they found accommodation quickly, then they would be closing the office with me in it, as I had no intention of moving until accommodation and transport to it was arranged. The guy picked up the phone and arranged the accommodation and the transport to allow him to get home for his tea without having the bother of first getting me arrested.
So, the moral of the story is, get yourself organized and make provision for delays when travelling considerable distances and have a cruise to catch.
So, back to the cruise. Boarding yesterday was possibly the best I have encountered quite possibly because of the low numbers of guests and the documentation checking process which had been streamlined to facilitate the minimum of contact.
The onboard experience is better than I imagined and has been well thought out. Everyone has to wear a mask when walking around the ship but all eating and drinking are of course mask free and the best surprise of all is that dancing is allowed. Because of the low numbers on the ship, it is much easier to enjoy the facilities and especially the buffet which is all served by the staff but you are free to walk around and choose what you wish.Room excellent and although I normaly book an inside cabin I had splashed out an extra fifty quid ( bargain) for an outside cabin and because of my loyalty level this was upgraded to a cabin at the bow of the ship with a great view.
Formal night tonight so better see if I can get the creases out of my Kilt. More as the week goes on.