Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Back In The Swing Of Things

Home is a good place to be.
We have been back from our shortened cruise adventure for about 10 days now and I consider myself older and wiser with the lessons I have learned. I can share this much with you:

#1. Never book a cruise that leaves port the weekend of a Monday holiday.

#2. If you are traveling during hurricane season, buy travel insurance*.

#3. If you are sailing on Norwegian Cruise Lines, don't expect a straight answer from anyone on board the ship or on the phone.
*I reserve the right to amened that statement after we settle the claim with the insurance company!

To make a long story short. Our cruise that was scheduled to leave port on Sunday didn't leave until Tuesday. According to NCL this was the result of dangerously high seas. That's odd, because the marine report called for 4-6 foot seas on Monday. Labor Day. A national holiday here in the U.S. One of those holidays where union port workers would have to be paid holiday overtime pay. I have a feeling that the "safety of their passengers and crew" was less a determining factor than their bottom line.

This is a photo of the Music Park that I took while we were waiting for out ship to come in - doesn't that look like a nasty day for sailing? Note the ominous skies and wicked winds.

NCL graciously granted us a "refund" for the two days and two ports that we missed. They decided the best course of action was to apply that credit to our shipboard account. We didn't use the entire credit so now we have to wait 3 weeks or more for a refund. We were told that our pre-paid dive trips in the ports that were skipped would be refunded to our credit card. We were also told they would be credited to our shipboard account and that they would be refunded via check. I am quite sure that if I asked 6 more people I would have six different answers. It is going to take weeks, possibly months to straighten everything out.

We did finally get to dive in Costa Maya and Cozumel. We saw sharks (not the dangerous kind) lots of Lion Fish, my first eel - a huge 5' long green eel, lobster and beautiful tropical fish. The best part of the vacation. Although I have to admit that the beniges at Cafe DuMonde were pretty good too.

Oh, one more thing to share on the list of things I have learned:

#4. If you get sunburned on the first day out wearing a tank suit and all of the evening wear you brought with you has a V neck, you are going to look ridiculous at dinner!

Now I am going to enjoy the rest of National Sewing Month by doing a little sewing. Until Friday, when we have to leave for Quilting Around Chautauqua at the Chautauqua Institute in Chautauqua, New York. Are you going to be there? Stop by and say "hello". I am giving a lecture on Sunday Morning and my husband and I will be manning a booth in the ballroom of the Anthenaeum Hotel. It is a fun weekend and well worth the trip!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Caution: Vacation Ahead

Some days I wonder why I even make plans to leave my house.

I've already decided that my tombstone should read "It was a good idea at the time". I've been stranded in Washington DC because my seat was given away, had my luggage lost in Philadelphia (numerous times), been grounded by hail in Denver, sat on the tarmac in New Jersey for hours, driven home instead of flying because of ice in Florida. I've been searched, patted and swabbed in the best and the worst airports in our country and abroad. Why won't I learn to just stay home?

Earlier this summer I was pouting because we hadn't made plans for a "real" vacation. Not the visit the kids, kiss the grand babies, give a lecture while you are their kind of trip, a REAL vacation. The kind where you go for nothing but relaxation and enjoyment. My husband had pretty much told me to put my big girl panties on and deal with it when I received a very enticing offer in my email box. Oh that wicked email. Norwegian Cruise Lines was offering a ridiculously low rate on a cruise out of New Orleans starting on Labor Day weekend. It would have been an absolute sin to pass up the balcony rate. Seven days, 4 ports and 3 dive sites that we have never been to.

My husband is an avid scuba diver and he talked me into joining him about 10 years ago. I really do love to dive, but the absolute best part is that all I have to do is suggest a diving trip and he is immediately agreeable. I found some cheap flights, booked a balcony and relaxed knowing that I had a "real" vacation to look forward to.

Then Lee showed up.

We lived in Florida for almost 8 years. I know when hurricane season starts and I know when it ends. I also know that cruise lines make adjustments to their itinerary when necessary to avoid storms. I'm OK with that. I honestly have to say that when Lee showed up, much earlier this week, I thought we had dodged a bullet. Then it was as if Lee realized that moving at the pace it was it would blow through New Orleans before Saturday and that wouldn't interrupt my plans. The travel gods couldn't have that, so Lee immediately SLOWED DOWN. It has been pummeling those poor people in southern Louisiana with rain for days.

This map shows the current conditions in New Orleans. 24 hours before our ship is set to sail. NCL decided not too long ago and notified their future passengers that it is too dangerous to bring the ship into port so those passengers currently on the ship get an extra day at sea, well south of the storm. Those of us that are set to board the ship.... we loose a day. Oh, and they suggest that we change our travel plans to arrive at the port no earlier than Monday evening. WHAT? Change travel plans to fly into a tropical storm a day later? Are they kidding? Setting aside the fact that making a change with the airlines weeks or months, let alone hours before your planned flight requires a credit line and willingness to strap yourself to the wing, what makes them think those planes won't be grounded? I realize they make their living on the water, but do they not know that they gauge these storms by SUSTAINED WINDS?

We are sticking to our original travel plans. Our flight on Sunday is from Pittsburgh to Houston and Houston to New Orleans. There is an excellent chance that the Houston to New Orleans segment will be canceled. No problem. I know Houston well. I attend Quilt Market there every year. Better yet, this month is the Texas Shop Hop. Almost every shop in Texas is participating. With 24 + hours to kill we will rent a car and hit as many Houston area shops as possible. I guess this vacation just turned into a business trip.