In September, my husband and I launched our first vacation in four years. We had to plan our time around family obligations, needs of our children, needs of our parents and somehow we gained enough confidence to escape to the Caribbean via the Liberty of the Seas. It’s a good what for us to travel. My husband spends every night driving the I 95 corridor along Maryland and Virginian roads delivering loads of UPS treasures to the different hubs. He gets a little tense behind the wheel when driving. Okay, that’s a lie. He gets really tense because he’s got tons of weight behind him and people don’t always pay attention to the big brown Mac he drives. You know, the drivers that are unaware or simply distracted on the road that make life difficult in the dark. So I don’t really want a driving vacation. It’s a busman’s honeymoon with possible loud remarks and anxiety. We leave the road behind when we can, and having someone else pilot a ship takes the responsibility off his shoulders.
The vacation started out as a major disaster (originally I typed it as a Cluster**** to beat all Cluster*****, but that didn’t sound like me. I have a hard time swearing.)
I had booked us on American Airlines from BWI leaving early in the morning for Houston which was our roadway to Galveston. Then life happened. The route was completely removed from the airlines routes. No one told us, not Orbitz who we booked through or the airline. I called to check in the day before only to find no reservation. A quick call to American Airline gave me a woman who bent over backwards trying to assist us. Hermione, (remember her?) was raging up the east coast and places were shut down. She found us a flight from Washington National, but the catch was, we had an hour and a half to get there. So we did. We were leaving a day early, but stood a really good chance of good fortune because we had called in so early. Throwing things into our bags which were mostly packed, we hoped into the car and drove in a polite and orderly way to the airport. I only forgot my swimsuit. My husband remembered everything. The drive was smooth although we resorted to driving up the privately owned center lanes of the HOV lanes. It was worth the money as we bypassed several areas which would have held our arrival up. Eric went to park the car leaving me with the luggage to get to the counter and get everything set.
It didn’t work. I arrived at the counter, only to have dropped my credit card. I tried to get the counter clerk to take cash in US and Euros for the luggage but my husband wasn’t there yet and he didn’t really want to be bothered. By the time my husband arrived, it was too late. We could catch the plane, but our luggage would have to stay behind. The clerk told us that we would have to buy a ticket from another airline in order to get the luggage and us on our way. The good thing that happened? Someone found and handed me my credit card. But the two of us were floundering. The clerk told us that United had a flight at 6:15 that we could buy and we’d have to wait for a refund. So off to United.
United sent us back to American and this time I went to the first class desk where I met Troy who was horrified that we had been treated so badly by United. He got us tickets on the 6:15, got the manager to override all of the holds incurred in doing so, and we had time to tell the manager exactly what his other employee had treated us like. Troy was asked to escort us directly to United where it was 45 minutes before the flight left.
Problem solved? Not in the least. United said it had no one on duty to take charge of the luggage so that we could travel but without our bags. My head was beginning to hurt and my husband’s head began spinning around like the little possessed girl in The Omen. One of the other clerks came over and mentioned he could get us on the 10:00 PM plane out of Dulles if we could get there. We took the tickets.
Then we called our son, asking him to meet us back at home and could he please drive us to Dulles. It was after six, and his shift at the car dealership was almost over so he most kindly agreed. We arrived at 8:15 and took our luggage to the luggage check in. Somehow one of the bags had gained three pounds in the trip from one airport to another. We were instructed to move our things around and lose the three pound overage. We even succeeded. We were sent to another window where the employee of United just laughed and got out things on the way. I still was forgetting my swimsuit.
The plane was late arriving for boarding, but I had time to book a room at the Super8 near the Houston airport while we waited. When we got on board it was a shiny lovely new plane, smaller in scale but with real leg space for us. The flight went well. We got to Houston 30 minutes early, at 11:30. The time is important or I wouldn’t bring it up. There was no ramp to deplane us. The pilot had called ahead, told them that we’d be thirty minutes early and asking them to make sure they had an employee to help those changing flights and for a ramp so we could get off the plane. No ramp, no agent. The pilot called again and told them we had arrived. It took the full thirty minutes to get a ramp so it was midnight when we finally got off. Got the bags, no worries there, and were sent to the people mover below the airport to find the place the hotel shuttle should have been at.
It’s a freaky way of running a people mover. It’s a circle, so to get to area C from area B you have to go to area A then the backside of B then the Marriott hotel then to C and then hopefully the shuttle would be there when we arrived. We got on the people mover and went from B to A where the operator (a remote operator) opened all the doors and said, “Thanks for using the Houston Airport….we’re closing now until 3:30 AM. Have a nice day.” Our day was not going well. For those of you who don’t know, I have MS but am in good shape, I just get really, really tired. The day had been exhausting enough, but we had to walk the entire length of the airport from the basement with all of our luggage in hand, up stairs and we finally ended up back at B with no one around to guide us. Eric bustled us back across the airport and got a number from another shuttle for the Super8, but it was the wrong number. At this point, I’m beginning to think this is pretty funny because, what else can go wrong? Never think that way. What can go right? is a much better phrase.
We call the number to find out it’s the wrong hotel. They give us a number. It’s a wrong number. Eric is herding us back and forth between doors trying to get some assistance and losing his temper. That was when we passed the desk of the Houston Metropolitan Police Department. I told him I was going in and he freaked, so I left my luggage with him and was buzzed in by the kindest, sweetest, black female desk sergeant ever. She took a look at me, a look at Eric and acted. Using the address we had, she found a number for the hotel, and she called them directly. Informing someone that you are a police officer and that you have two bewildered out of towners in town searching for the hotel you are speaking with gets instant results. We were guided to the right door (forgive me for giggling here but it was Door B) where our ride appeared in ten minutes. Thank goodness.
We made it to the hotel. After making sure that our IDs matched and we were a legitimate married couple we got a room on the third floor. There was a Jack in the Box close by so we had something resembling breakfast. Then we collapsed. Eric fell instantly asleep but I couldn’t sleep at all. So I pretended, then showered, woke Eric for another breakfast and we headed back to the airport to catch the Galveston Shuttle. It all went smoothly. The shuttle was on time, took our bags for us and put us on the highway from Houston.
Land around Houston is really flat. You see oil rigs everywhere surrounding the city center. The highway is built above ground level because of rare instances of flooding. Those instances of flooding had just happened to the city and things were backed up a little. People were glad to get out and they all had an agenda. We had booked the shuttle early enough so that the delays didn’t worry us. It stayed smooth all the way into Galveston, where the traffic was backed up to the mainland in an attempt to drop everyone going on the cruise off. There were a lot of people being dropped off. Both Carnival and Royal Caribbean were leaving at the same time. Our driver took a right and a left and drove around the traffic. One more left turn had us lined up on a police traffic officer who let us through the intersection that would have held us forever otherwise. And we arrived at the beautiful Liberty of the Seas, captained by Captain Johnsen and his enthusiastic crew.
Now you see why this is going to have to be done in more than one blog. This is going to take a while. The ship was on a lock down because of the NoroVirus. They were attempting and succeeding at sterilizing the entire ship before the passengers would be allowed on board. We boarded the ship at 2, were greeted and instructed where we could wait onboard until the process ended. We were tired. Finding a corner that had coffee, juice, pizza and cookies we settled in until the boat drill. Then we were out on deck in the sunshine and stayed while the rest of the passengers went back to the bars and food areas. We left on time. We waved at the dolphins which cavorted around the ships, waved at the people who watched us leave, waved at the Carnival cruise ship and waved at the ambulance which had just removed a passenger from the Liberty and was taking them to the hospital. We felt pretty darn lucky to be on board. At six we were allowed to drop our bags and go to dinner. At six thirty, the rooms were ready and squeaky clean.
We were on an adventure indeed, and this was just the first 24 hours. More tomorrow…