DCL Mediterranean - May 2019 BFF Adventures!

lorimay

Celebrating 33 years! 🥰😍
Joined
Dec 11, 2008
Wow, Cabanas now offering dinner Buffet? Wonder if its just on The Magic in Europe?
Enjoying your report, this is a cruise definitely on my bucket list.
 

GuardMusic

Castaway Club Platinum
Joined
Jul 18, 2005
Monte Carlo/Monaco - Thursday, May 30, 2019 (PART 1 of 2!)



It was another 6:01am alarm for us with the PA call time of 7:30am. UGH.



We were technically anchored at Villefranche, a central point for Nice, Cannes, Eze, & Monte Carlo/Monaco. I say anchored instead of docked, as this was our sole port that required tendering.



Our PA for this port is the one we questioned the most, and it was the only one we did that was just a half-day.

Monaco, The Marina and The Little Train (V01)
Due to the “little train” portion of our PA, as expected, we had a large group with a handful of pretty young kids. In fact, I think they split our PA into 2 or 3 different groups, each filling an entire charter bus. I think there were actually about 30 in our group after tendering, which took longer than expected.

Our guide was a nice British bloke, Paul. I think it was 8:15am by the time we pulled out. The port is at - and the busses travel through - a castle to exit; the tight turns required maneuvering by a charter bus that I didn’t believe was possible! Phew!

Kara: I love the water, but our only other experience with tendering was in the Caribbean, which is a bit unnerving. As we made our way out to the tender, I leaned back to G and said, “This isn’t your grandma’s tender boat.” They attached an entire ramped dock system to the side of the ship and our tender boat was a nice size touring ferry. Very, very easy. We also managed to get a couple of great shots of the ship while on the tender.



Also as expected, we drove around curvy roads and tunnels to get to Monte Carlo. They said there is one police officer for every 60 people in Monte Carlo, which totals 38,000 residents. (That’s over 600 police!) Honestly, you would need it for all of the overt wealth apparent everywhere you look. Overall, it was beautiful, clean, and the one word I’d use to describe it is “Opulent.”

Of course our guide educated us about Princess Grace and Prince Rainier along with their children, the filming of 2 Bond films, and homes of U2 and Elton John. The Cannes Film Festival had been held just a few weeks prior. We walked through (quite quickly) the Cathedral. It reminded me of a much smaller version of a mix of both Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, as it had aspects of both “dark and light”. Somehow the combination worked beautifully here.




We were given only about 10 minutes to browse around a few tourist shops, so it was no useful time at all.






Then we took our 30 minute Little Train Tour, which had a good auto-audio guide. During the tour we witnessed the holistic dismantling of the Grand Prix circuit. Just the week prior the 90th running of the Monaco Grand Prix was held. We got to drive down the starting line and saw (didn’t drive on) the (to me) famous Tony Stark curve from Iron Man 2”.




Sidenote: The above statement is the main reason I chose a Monaco PA. Between my love of fast cars, Iron Man, and Disney-Pixar’s Cars 2, I really wanted to “be here”. My thoughts really changed weeks earlier, as (not being overdramatic) I was traumatized by what they did to Tony Stark in “Avengers: Endgame”. (I doubt I will ever be able to watch this movie again.) Thus, my experience was sadness rather than excited elation. However, between my Tony Stark/Endgame reflection and a book I was reading at the time, the experience gave me some deeper thoughts on what it means to be driven by fear….







Our tour ended with a beverage at the Marina with spectacular views of the harbor with its multi-million dollar yachts and the (no kidding) yacht-shaped Yacht Club - LOL! Monaco is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited, but with more time, I don’t know what we’d have done other than stroll around and find an overpriced cafe.






Kara: I could spend a few weeks in this general area and not take it all in. Between the museum, the castle, watching the water, going over to Eze and Nice and strolling - easily a few weeks. While there was certainly incredible opulence in Monaco I loved every moment of this tour, well except for one thing which you’ll read about in a moment.




We took a scenic route back through Eze - & inexplicably, Nice! In fact, we got stuck in traffic, not getting back to the ship until 1:15pm. (By the PA description we were supposed to be back by noon at the latest.) Thus, we could definitely see how people could easily miss the all aboard time in this port!

END PART 1
 

GuardMusic

Castaway Club Platinum
Joined
Jul 18, 2005
Monte Carlo/Monaco - Thursday, May 30, 2019 (PART 2 of 2!)
Heading back toward the port:



When we finally did get back everyone was running off the bus, as we had a non-stop screaming infant in our group. He reminded me of Jack-Jack in full-on flame mode. (Kara said the same family was on her Naple/Sorrento tour during which the baby shrieked the entire time then as well. Kara nick-named him Demon Child.)

Kara: I adore kids, especially when they are cute and engaging as this little guy could be. G’s statement is true though - he had some demonic issues with being in a bus and I was OVER it.

This photos on the way back was fun to capture.




We dashed up to Cabanas before it closed at 2pm, since by this point we were starving. We did capture some lovely photos during/after lunch.



Then we escaped (finally) to our stateroom for some much-needed quiet. It was finally sunny and almost warm, so we sat on the verandah (me in a hoodie and jeans with sandals) to read.

Kara - We enjoyed a little table right by the window in Cabanas - it was LOVELY! Then we strolled around on deck enjoying the sunshine. I think Gayle might have been on a different cruise than me at this point because the weather was purely delightful.





Today’s VIP treat from Zoe was cookies - yum! We also stopped by Guest Service to make sure the gratuities were on my folio, as we always dedicate our onboard credit for this.

At 4pm I started to get ready for dinner, as I didn’t want to be late. Tonight we were in Rapunzel’s Royal Table for the second time. Part of the reason I requested this rotation was so we could be in Rapunzel’s Royal Table for the “Lantern Show” on the same night as the “Tangled” stage show. This was perhaps the thing I was MOST excited for on this cruise!



Thus, we were the FIRST people into the restaurant! As our head server indicated earlier in the cruise, we were able to move to an empty table nearby/on the center aisle (the exact location we were at on the Disney Wonder in Tiana’s)! I captured some video and Kara selflessly took pictures of me with Rapunzel and Flynn Rider.

Kara: We started OUTSIDE the restaurant with photos:













The Famous Sea Bass!



Dessert Menu



My dessert came in a mini-cast iron skillet! (It was basically a donut with chocolate sauce & ice cream, which was underwhelming.)



RAP VIDEO https://www.dropbox.com/s/83thkfq30cgwsw1/IMG_1843.MOV?dl=0

Our server challenged us to find the 3 “hidden” Pascals around the restaurant. I found 1; Kara found the other 2. BOOM. (We will not give away the locations here!) Since we were in early and are quick with ordering our meal, we again had time for our server to try to stump us with table/crayon puzzles. (FYI with the “Mickey Mouse” clue we were then able to solve the “4 boxes to 3 by moving 3 crayons. I include this here to recall it in the future!)

After dinner, I spotted Hotel Director Lisa (Zoe’s boss) to share our positive feedback about many aspects of our cruise experience.

Part of tonight’s “Tangled” theme was O’Gills Pub being “taken-over” as the Snuggly Duckling!



Kara taught me rummy, while we simultaneously played and sang “Thugo” (Thug-themed bingo) with the entertainers.



Kara pointed out a great banner that I may (will definitely) duplicate in my office for my university honors students:




We all have dreams. Now go follow yours and get out!

LOL!!!

Kara prompted us to the theatre before the doors opened so I could pick a prime location to view “Tangled”.



I will say the show was...good. (The puppeteer for Max was great and the singer portraying Mother Gothel was INCREDIBLE.) This is tough because the stage shows are simply a performance of the movie. My stance is I can go to my stateroom (or stay home - gasp!) and watch the movie. Disney Cruisers get accustomed to and have a deep appreciation for their original Broadway-style shows - something you can only get on Disney Cruise Line. (I’m looking at you “Disney Dreams”.) And some are only offered on one or two of the four ships at that. So putting the movies on stage seems like a lesser effort on their part. Based on the limited time and facility they really can’t go “full out” like they do with the Broadway tour productions. (FYI they do “Frozen” on the Disney Wonder, something I found to be a painful experience and have no intention of going to ever again.) Still if they have to choose a movie to put on stage, “Tangled” is definitely at the top of my list!

Overall, it was a great night! And even more so since there was no alarm for the next day’s Day at Sea! Back in the stateroom we journaled and enjoyed our regular nightly cookies.



Kara pointed out on this trip we visited the 2 smallest countries: The Vatican and Monaco!

We tried not to go into pre-emptive “sad mode” since tomorrow was the last full day of the cruise. With all the PAs, a 7 night cruise never flew by as fast as this one.

Disclaimer: I (Gayle) am a travel agent with Authorized Disney Travel Planner agency.

Next up: Day at Sea!
 

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  • GuardMusic

    Castaway Club Platinum
    Joined
    Jul 18, 2005
    Debarkation/Return to USA - Saturday, June 1, 2019

    Settle in for another flying adventure, folks!


    We set alarms even though we know the ship docking always wakes us up. It’s a good thing we set those alarms, because somehow the ship docked smoothly and quietly. We gave ourselves about 30 minutes to get ready/get out since most of our luggage was already gone. It’s also a good thing we give ourselves a bit of extra time because this was taking longer than anticipated.

    image

    At some point Kara decided to dash down to claim her limoncello and meet me in Cabanas. FYI we never dine in the Main Dining Rooms (MDR) for breakfast. The times are always earlier than we want (especially with Main/early dining) and we find the meals to be too fast and lacking options. A buffet, where I can pick & choose what I want and how much, is always going to win. We calmly sat back to dine and wait for our luggage character (Minnie) to be called. While waiting we chatted with our Paloserver, Alvin.

    Kara: It has been hit or miss whether you actually get Mickey waffles in the buffet on this last morning - and we DID!!!

    Too soon Minnie was called. We headed down to Deck 3 to wait in the 2 dreaded lines to drop off our cruise survey and swipe off the ship. :(

    image

    We were likely off the ship around 8:30am? Fairly quickly we found our luggage and were happy/surprised there was no customs to contend with!

    We hadn’t booked transfers to the airport and this time were very glad we didn’t. While the taxi queuewas long, it moved quite quickly. We even got to jump ahead because there were only two of us (vs the larger families with a bunch of luggage needing a larger vehicle).

    Traffic at the BCN airport was crazier than anticipated. Once inside we went to work to reorganize our luggage, moving a ton of stuff from the morning carry-off the ship into the checked bags. Kara also needed a break, as she wasn’t feeling well. We had plenty of time as we were probably at the airport by 9am and our flight was at 12:50pm.

    Sidenote: Either the night prior or that morning Kara tried to check us in for our flight, but said she couldn’t. I thought this was lack of signal or being out of data….

    It was time to face the American Airlines check-in - a place that had traumatized us just days earlier. We again went to the Priority line, as we’d booked Premium Economy for the return. At the desk our agent types. Looks at us. Types some more. Uh oh. I lean over to Kara and offer something like, “Since we didn’t arrive on American, I wonder if they think we never got here and canceled our tickets?” The agent then looks down the line to the (dreaded) station labeled “pasajeros con incedentes” (roughly “passengers with incidents” and picks up the phone. OH NO.

    Kara: I realize now we didn’t include this the first time but we had visited this same lady last Saturday morning when we’d arrived/returned to the airport desperate for our luggage. We needed some direction as to how to get down to baggage claim even though we didn’t have security screening. She was, on that previous day, helpful. Today would sort of be a seemingly different story.

    The agent then indicates for us to follow him to the dreaded station, where the same woman (Isabel) from last week is working. No. NO. NO! Isabel gets to typing and yep - that’s exactly what happened. American canceled our return tickets! Isabel says no problem she’ll just add us back, and… the flight is sold out. Are you freaking kidding me?! At this point Kara and I were so beat down from the arrival debacle, we were in a joint “Whatever”-mode. We were going home and had no time table so there was no reason to freak out (this time).

    Isabel finally finds us a Barcelona to JFK flight that she joyfully proclaims, “…will get you home 2+ hours earlier!” Whoopie. JFK?! Yet another of our most hated airports. And to keep adding insult to injury, of course Premium Economy was full and Isabel couldn’t figure out how to add us to the waitlist. Yes, because this is the international flying fate we have on this trip. She keeps trying, but at this point urges us to head to security. This flight shows it boards at 10am! YIKES!

    So off we go! We quickly toss our full bottles of water and eventually find our way to security. Through a snaking line we make our way through, but OOPS (Americans), Kara and I both leave our tablets in our bags and are made to take them out and go through the process again. (FYI there were no signs.)

    After this we immediately find ourselves in an equally long line for Customs. (FYI I think there was an expedited line for a few countries, including the USA, but I’d forgotten USA in Spanish is EU and didn’t connect it as an option.) As we are in this line, I realize it’s now 10am! (I also noticed a small group in front of us are going to Japan and their boarding passes say they board at 9:50am.)

    We eventually make it through and are trying to dash to our gate. We see every gate number except ours as we look around frantically and realize there is barely any A/C in this airport. It had to be at least 75F in there. We finally ask and the man points to a gate yes, but there are no seats anywhere. (Not all the seats are full, but rather there is no seating at all.) We ask for the restrooms, which are hidden fully out of site behind walls facing the glass looking out onto the tarmac. Yet another line for the restroom, which only has 4 stalls, 3 sinks, and one dryer.

    Exiting the bathroom we notice there is now a line snaking fully out into the walkway that ends at the doors of our gate. We hear no announcements and of the 2 lines to our gate, we don’t know which to stand in. We kinda guess. Eventually an employee comes by, needs to inspect our passports, and puts a sticker on the back. Weird. Then another walks through inspecting carry-ons, noting if they needs to be gate-checked or not. Boarding moves along quite slowly.

    We were about 2 people from the front of the line when we hear our names called over the speaker. What now?! In a miracle Isabel was apparently able to get us on the Premium Economy waitlist and it came through. While we were in Premium Economy we were in the middle of a row of 4 instead of the window option of just 2 seats. At this point we’d take whatever we got.

    We scan through and follow other passengers… to stairs leading down?! Then I remember a single article I read about having to bus to your plane. Yep, we load onto one of those busses with the joint in the middle. Exiting the bus there is no direction if we are to go up the stairs at the front or rear of the plane. Knowing we were in Premium Economy (PE) we headed for the stairs at the front. (How did they handle any passengers with disabilities?!)

    Our aisle seatmates were obviously already seated and settled in. Thus, we were tossing items in our seats trying to figure out what to put in the overhead vs keeping at our seats. Since we were in the first row of PE there was a divider/bulkhead wall, so we couldn’t stow our backpacks on the floor in front of us.

    I spent a good deal of the flight typing this report; it was the only reason I packed the portable keyboard all the way there and back. FYI I felt stupid that I couldn’t get my in-seat screen to deploy, as I thought I’d tried every button and knob in reach. Apparently not. On this note the earphones plug into the back/under the armrest, where even on my knees and using my phone’s flashlight, I could barely find the port! After all that frustration, I settled in for “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald”. The first film in this series I just couldn’t get into and thought a flight with no interruptions would help. I really enjoyed this follow-up film; it’s what I thought the first one would be and am looking forward to the next.

    The lunch was pretty ok; I got the cauliflower mac & cheese. Along with a small salad and roll there was also some chocolate ganache cold pudding. The snack, which Kara can probably detail, was a set of (to me) disgusting options to the point I only ate the dry cracker straws.

    Kara: I have absolutely no recollection of anything other than a not great container of ice cream. The premium economy option was nice but I felt hindered by not having my backpack beneath the seat in front of me and thus I was anxious the whole flight. I prefer having my things in reach - like I said - anxious flyer.

    About 6 of our 8 hours in we started chatting about our connection, primarily what time it was. While the in-flight screen showed a connection to IND, there was no time listed! We knew Isabel had told us we had like an hour and ten minutes, which was perfectly “legal”, but this is JFK! How would we make that with customs, claiming, & re-checking luggage?!

    As we are landing an announcement comes over telling people on 4 specific connections (IND included) to see the gate agent immediately upon landing. Ok. Long before this Kara had gone into “over it” mode and we brainstormed if we missed this connection. She said she’d either get a car to drive home or even take Frontier (an airline we avoid at all costs). I offered, “No, we’ll take Southwest… if it flew out of JFK.” (FYI it doesn’t.) As long as we were back in our country (or even Canada!) we’d get ourselves home!

    Exiting the plane we see 4 taped signs of the connections, one being IND. We approach and see neon orange Express Connections envelopes with our names on them.

    image
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    We’re told to keep the envelopes in our hands on top, which will expedite us to the front of lines. Ok.

    We go to get in the LONG customs line (it’s JFK - and yes, remarkably they are still playing the Tapestry of Nations music from EPCOT that I remember from my 2011 trek through JFK!), but are looking if there’s somewhere else we are to go. (I initially looked for Mobile Passport, but it seemed this magical Express Connection would trump that.) Kara goes to ask, we are directed to another queue, but it dumps us out at the same place. We use the Customs kiosks, and with those receipts, are luckily plucked directly in front of a Customs window. As we wait, our little bright orange EC group grows to about 8 or 10 of us.

    There is miscommunication that the expedited window is somehow taking regular people. As the last passenger in our Customs window leaves, the Customs agent closes the window and leaves! At this point, I’m on it and walk down the line to the airport employee trying to organize the lines. When I tell her what happened her eyes grow big and says she’ll be right there to move us.

    FINALLY we get through Customs, get to the baggage carousel and our bags haven’t dropped yet. Ugh. Not too long we get our bags, dash to the Baggage Re-Check area, literally toss them and take off. We are in Terminal A and our connection is in C. We find ourselves at the airline check-in desks area and luckily affirm we are headed in the right direction. At TSA we’re directed to Pre-Check (which we unexpectedly already have on our boarding passes), and luckily there were only about 4 people ahead of us - a miracle!

    After that I’m the one scoping the gate numbers. First we have a long connection hall to traverse and then we arrive at like Gate 12? We need gate 31. Seriously. I’m basically jogging at this point on behalf of both of us, as Kara is in “given up” mode.

    Kara: I was actually jogging as well - and let’s be clear - I don’t jog.

    Huffing and puffing at the gate, we still need to get seats assigned. We were supposed to have Main Cabin Extra on this leg, but this plane didn’t offer that. This time our seats weren’t even together. Kara asks how much time before boarding, as she has to go to the bathroom. The response? 8 minutes. More jogging/dashing!

    At the gate we’re basically just trying to text/message people we made it back to the USA when we hear the announcement our flight is now delayed for maintenance. REALLY?! Luckily only about 10 minutes later we are boarding a tiny jet with that terrible 1-2 seat configuration. Whatever. Just get us home.

    Luckily we effortlessly returned to IND, which we casually strolled, now that all the upheaval was behind us!

    Next up - What’s Next?

    I describe this trip in 3 parts: 1) best Disney Cruise Line “cruise” experience of our lives, 2) port adventures were hit or miss, and 3) airline nightmare.

    In an embarrassment of riches, we were traveling together again less than 72 hrs later. We had the opportunity to attend Disney Institute’s inaugural Women’s Leadership Summit (with complimentary registration). Clearly no one bypasses that opportunity, so Tuesday we were headed to Disney’s Contemporary Resort!

    Some of you may also know that the next Thursday Disney Cruise Line announced their Fall 2020 sailings, which is what we were waiting for. (I will be leading, and perhaps also Kara joining, a Rome/London study abroad May 2020, so we needed to push the next cruise to a later/regular fall time.)

    We were hoping for a New England option (with better ports than in the past), but no dice. So we got our options down to a September 5 night Halloween Double Dip on the Fantasy or a November 5 night Merrytime (San Juan to Miami) on the Magic. There were pros & cons to both. We went with the latter based solely on the lower cost. (And honestly after the amazing experience we just had on the Magic, this is the first time we actually used a specific ship as a factor in our decision! This is an especially big deal for me to give up having a Vanellope’s/Sweet on You feature!) We’re both wanting to do some home improvement projects, so we need to keep this trip cost low and may even consider skipping it altogether. We know there are at least 2 BIG trips we want to do 2021-2023 and those take priority. Stay tuned!

    P.S. Once home we did electronically submit refund requests to American Airlines, since we didn’t get the Business Class cabin we paid for. It said if we didn’t get a response in a week - which of course happened - to submit a follow-up email. Remarkably, about a week after that Kara and I each received our notable refunds. And yes it was actual refunded “cash” to our credit cards, not ridiculous airline points or vouchers!

    Disclaimer: I (Gayle) am a travel agent with Authorized Disney Travel Planner agency.

    THANKS FOR READING! Love the comments & questions!
    Gayle
     

    monkeydawn

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 16, 2019
    I just booked airfare for my 2020 Med cruise. I am booked through JFK outgoing. I am hoping the reason you dislike JFK is only when you are incoming and have t0 deal with customs. I have a 4+ hour layover so I am hoping that will be enough to deal with any snafus on the first flight to JFK. Any tips would be appreciated. Delta in case that matters.

    I am incoming through Boston in case there are any thoughts on that. Its a tighter timeframe with only 2.5 hours but at least wont derail our vacation if things go sideways.
     

    GuardMusic

    Castaway Club Platinum
    Joined
    Jul 18, 2005
    I just booked airfare for my 2020 Med cruise. I am booked through JFK outgoing. I am hoping the reason you dislike JFK is only when you are incoming and have t0 deal with customs. I have a 4+ hour layover so I am hoping that will be enough to deal with any snafus on the first flight to JFK. Any tips would be appreciated. Delta in case that matters.

    I am incoming through Boston in case there are any thoughts on that. Its a tighter timeframe with only 2.5 hours but at least wont derail our vacation if things go sideways.
    I believe I've only dealt with internationally departing JFK in 2011 (as I was leading a study abroad) and we were on American. It wasn't bad, we just didn't have a lot of time to grab some food before departure. As you read, the only big problems is getting to your pre-Europe stop (JFK) late. The good part, and also as you read, getting to a big international airport so if something goes wrong, then you have more options to still get across the pond. I thought getting to Philly was a good move, which is was, but not for the reason I thought. With it being an American hub, I thought that would fix our issue. But even with all those pluses, we still get put on an entirely different carrier. So my only advance is to pack at least one full change of clothes in your carry-on! The other thing is to look online and see how many other Delta flights are leaving after yours in case you get delayed; this includes first thing the next morning. If it's late and there are none, then yes, look to see what other later flights on other carriers are. Although in our case all the flights coming in were late, so it was definitely a "take what you can get"!

    I'm actually leading a study abroad in May 2020 and will be heading over again. Crazy enough, due specifically to cost, we are on American going through Philly! So as least I know where to go/how to handle it, as I'll have 35 students looking for guidance!
     

    monkeydawn

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 16, 2019
    I believe I've only dealt with internationally departing JFK in 2011 (as I was leading a study abroad) and we were on American. It wasn't bad, we just didn't have a lot of time to grab some food before departure. As you read, the only big problems is getting to your pre-Europe stop (JFK) late. The good part, and also as you read, getting to a big international airport so if something goes wrong, then you have more options to still get across the pond. I thought getting to Philly was a good move, which is was, but not for the reason I thought. With it being an American hub, I thought that would fix our issue. But even with all those pluses, we still get put on an entirely different carrier. So my only advance is to pack at least one full change of clothes in your carry-on! The other thing is to look online and see how many other Delta flights are leaving after yours in case you get delayed; this includes first thing the next morning. If it's late and there are none, then yes, look to see what other later flights on other carriers are. Although in our case all the flights coming in were late, so it was definitely a "take what you can get"!

    I'm actually leading a study abroad in May 2020 and will be heading over again. Crazy enough, due specifically to cost, we are on American going through Philly! So as least I know where to go/how to handle it, as I'll have 35 students looking for guidance!
    Thank you for the advice. We are hoping to do carry on only but will definitely keep toiletries, meds and a change of clothing with us. Weve had sucky luck with luggage getting delayed so we tend to try to keep it with us. There is at least one other flight leaving after us from RDU to JFK in time for our initial flight, that was intentionally planned. We are skipping the earliest flight as that means getting up really early, hopefully that wont be a mistake. There other flights from JFK to FCO (where we are starting our cruise but not for several days after we land, still a delicate itinerary that I wouldnt want to see messed up) but not Delta that day as far as I can tell.

    Hopefully you will not need to put your expertise to the test in Philly!
     

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  • Mom2m&k

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 23, 2007
    Oh my goodness... that was quite the flight experience! We flew American to Rome and home from Malta in July and had minimal issues. In hindsite we were lucky that American changed our flight ho e so we were able to change it to a partner for no cost and flew home on British Airways and that was heaven! The DCL food looked much better then what we had on MSC but I think I liked the excursions we were able to do and they were much more reasonably priced. It was fun to look at your pics of the Vatican. We didn’t see the gardens but they look amazing. I enjoyed your report!
     

    ajluze

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Mar 1, 2014
    Departure Day -Thursday, May 23, 2019

    With my 16 year old cat, Kealy, having gotten sick many times throughout the day prior (even though she was already on antibiotics), I had another night of lacking sleep due to worry.

    I went to sleep around 11:30pm, couldn’t get to sleep, took something at 12:30am, and set my alarm for 6am - in case I needed to see the vet at 7am. Of course I awoke on my own promptly at 5:30am. Miraculously all seemed fine with Kealy (after checking the recordings on my Blink camera from overnight). So I set a new alarm for 7:15am.

    I was slow to get up & get in the shower since I didn’t need to leave until 10:30am. So I cleaned up the living room & kitchen, did the final prep & pack of the backpack.



    I also made a couple of last minute swaps due to the (sad) decline in forecasted temps.




    Grabbed some snuggles in my recliner with the kitty (watching the Rapunzel animated series to get in the mood), & pulled out by 10:35am. I stopped at a grocery near Kara’s to grab last minute gas, Wheat Thins, & caffeine pills in Indy.

    Our themed-luggage tags. We tend to make these for “big” trips!



    This is Kara. I slept well, as I often do, and having finished nearly all packing the night before had a quiet, easy morning. I had even finished emptying my work inbox the night before so other than a few last small to do items, I got to just tidy up around the house, say goodbye to my plants and wait for Gayle.

    We left by 12:05pm for lunch at Panera. Our flight was scheduled for 3:30pm.



    First it was delayed about ten minutes. Then delayed more. Then the news came: Ground Stop. Due to East Coast storms impacting Philadelphia, everything was stopped from even heading in that direction.



    We started talking about rebooking, as it seemed we’d miss our connection in PHL. However, the plane started boarding and figured we’d deal with it at PHL - at least we’d be closer to Barcelona and at an American Airlines hub.




    I ended up sobbing all the way to PHL.

    Huge Sidenote: Most people, including myself, would read all this and figure, “What’s the big deal? So you take a different flight? Maybe your luggage is late?” For me, this was 14 months of planning falling apart and we hadn’t even left our home airport yet. It was hours of work and planning for this flight, to find an option that would allow me to sleep (as I’m a terrible international/eastbound flier) and in a budget I could afford.

    That’s right folks, I mention that almighty dollar, as for some a trip like this can be a stretch. I have a great professional job, but I also chose a profession and position that can be lacking financial rewards. A “big trip” like this is something I need to plan years in advance, which I didn’t have this time, and wasn’t strong enough to tell Kara no. And putting it off just one year woudn’t work since I have to lead a study abroad next May. So this had been a YEAR of scrimping and saving, living somewhat like a “poor college student”, only to completely lose our business class seats. (Yes, I realize as I type this many are rolling their eyes, but in this moment my reality was crushed.)


    We landed at PHL at 7:12pm; our connecting flight left at 7:10pm! We were sent to stand in line at a nearby customer service gate, while having learned from the past, I simultaneously called AA. I put in for a call-back as we waited in the line. The Customer Service desk tells us since we’re international, we have to “go over there” to get help - from C31 to A17!

    During the trek I didn't hear or feel my phone go off - twice! - of AA calling me back. We initially couldn’t find the international help desk tucked in a set-back cove past A17, but finally got ourselves into that line. I finally noticed the 3rd call-back attempt and after many minutes was told there were ZERO options for anything arriving before… SUNDAY! (Our cruise was leaving Saturday!) Another meltdown, now from anger, had set-in. The phone agent told us to stay in the line we were standing in, that the in-person agent might have more options. What? How?

    Finally at the front of the line at 8:30pm we were offered two Economy (not our booked business) seats leaving in 30 minutes to…Paris with a 5 hour layover to Barcelona (BCN). (Trying to rebook us was so challenging, this flight would be via Air France, which is the SkyTeam-Delta, not OneWorld-American network.) It’s a testament to how desperate we were that we jumped at that option, with virtually no questions asked.

    When we arrived at the gate to get our seats, they were already boarding! To get any seats together, we were in the very last row- 35 G&H (which gave me deja vu for the very first time I went to Europe). I was able to shoot off a quick email to Barcelona Chocolate Tours, letting them know we couldn’t make our noon tour, as we wouldn’t be landing until nearly 6pm and respectfully requested a refund. We had a suitable Economy dinner and took ALL the drugs we packed to try to get even a little sleep. I think I maybe slept through 2.5-2.75 Harry Potter 1 movies.



    This is Kara. Gayle did a good job recapping this crazy set of events. I’ll add in here that we posted a photo to Facebook to commemorate the crazy turn of events as a last notification to our friends and family of what our status was. This specific photo is very important later in the story.

    Breakfast on the plane was yogurt & figs - gross. So I had my packed protein bar. Deplaning we certainly asked for help knowing where to go next. As we suspected, there was no luggage when we got to Paris (CDG). Went to Baggage Service and was told to wait until we got to BCN to put in a luggage inquiry. What?! This makes no sense, especially for how long all this might take. Kara called AA and was again told to wait until BCN.

    The small bit of “raging idealist” in me thought our luggage should be waiting for us in BCN. That AA knew we were going to BCN via our original ticket and the Air France ticket showed the same. So throw them on whatever the next BCN flight is. Period.

    After enduring the long layover at CDG (in a new beautiful Air France, but packed terminal), I put my headphones on to BCN because 1) Chatty Kathy was next to me, 2) Kara and I were 2 rows apart, 3) the aisle dude commandeered the armrest, and 4) Kara & I were both in middle seats.

    Arrive at BCN - no luggage. We wait in line at the American luggage desk only to be told to go to the next bay to stand in line for Air France, as apparently it’s the final airlines responsibility to deal with the luggage. So yes, there I am again having a meltdown. Why? We’re told to put in an incident report, which requested our entire cruise port itinerary and that our bags haven’t left PHL! At this time I also got email offering us a chocolate tour for Sunday, but at this late time no refund would be given. Talk about adding insult to injury.

    Meltdown Sidenote: Again, many might question the freak out. Here was a much bigger issue. They were now giving us indication they had no idea when or if we might get our bags and we were about to embark on a 7 night cruise with nothing but the literal clothes on our back and whatever snacks & tech we had in our small carry-ons! We knew our same PHL-BCN flight was leaving that night at 7:10pm with an arrival at 9am Saturday morning and basically begged to get our bags on that flight! As it was currently only about noon PHL time, we knew they had plenty of time, but all we were told was they would put in the inquiry (via tele-text?!) and PHL would have to act on it in time. If our bags didn’t arrive on that flight, we’d have only a couple of hours to try to go to unfamiliar stores and buy everything we’d need for PJs, toiletries, dinner clothes, port adventures clothes, and much more.

    Before leaving BCN we somehow had the wherewithal to request the luggage be held at BCN if it arrived, as we didn’t trust and couldn’t take a risk of passing it or a delay in delivery to the hotel &/or ship. We’d determined no matter what we’d return to the airport seeking our luggage Saturday morning, as it was the only real strategy we could take control of.

    We finally got to our hotel, AC Hotel Marriott Diagonal D’Illa, around 7:30-8pm and just like in all telling TV shows & films - yes, it was raining. It was fatefully connected to a mall. We ended up with basic chicken sandwiches (and by this I mean crustless white bread with shredded chicken) and water for dinner. I did pick up a piece of chocolate cake, more out of habit than want.


    That I couldn’t even bring myself to visit the Disney Store tells you how despondent I was.

    Our hotel room was like a “camp version” of a hotel room - just the bare basics. We showered (using every amenity kit we could from the hotel), put our same clothes back on, and borrowed electrical adapters to charge our phones.

    By absolute fate we had initially posted a photo of ourselves with our boarding passes on Facebook. I thought I’d covered our confirmation number, but apparently not. Via the “Monroe Family Network” (Kara’s family), her Aunt Idris sent our confirmation number to a distant cousin who happens to work for… American Airlines Customer Service! Through Idris we were told Cousin Kimberley spoke with a supervisor at PHL who had located our bags and would “do their best” to put them on our requested evening flight to arrive at 9am Saturday morning. Another follow-up re-affirmed.

    Friday night we also logged onto the Air France baggage site as instructed. The only thing it showed was “luggage found - awaiting confirmation”. At some point I decided trying to apply my social media knowledge (as I’m also a known blogger for a popular TV series). I sent the AA Twitter account a Direct Message with our confirmation number begging them to put our bags on the PHL-BCN 7:10pm-9am flight. Around 10:30pm we got a positive response that yes this would happen!



    Between this & Kara’s cousin’s messages, there were more hesitant and slight tears (of relief?), as we feared getting our hopes up.

    Continuing to pile on, there was loud party music raging outside our room from somewhere we couldn’t see. So Kara looked for some brainless TV. With my experience in Europe I assured her if she looked long enough she’s probably find NCIS &/or Big Bang Theory. Sure enough Gibbs & the team gave us a slight calm in the midst of our storm. We tried to go to sleep by 11pm (which was only 5pm back home).

    I woke up just past 2am. On the AA app it showed our confirmation number to check-in for our PHL-BCN flight - yay! But for a Saturday departure/Sunday arrival - NO! I figured this was our bags and was again defeated. I freaked-out internally while Kara slept. But the AA website showed our bags were loaded onto the requested flight at 3:20pm? Huh? So I took more drugs to get back to
    I am enjoying reading your trip report. We were also on this cruise, flying over from the US and had a similar experience getting there. We were a group of 8, some coming from Georgia and others from South Dakota. We were to meet in DC and fly to BCN. We all missed our flight due to the tornados. We had our mental breakdowns also and found only one flight that would get us to BCN in time for our cruise. We didn’t arrive until Saturday at noon. Way too close for comfort! So glad we always plan that extra day cushion!
     

    monkeydawn

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 16, 2019
    OK, I have to write again to let you know that this TR was life changing for me. I looked up Chacos after you mentioned them as good walking shoes and now less than 3 months later I have 3 pairs. I got the kind with the toe strap. I usually avoid toe separators because I have a bunion and those usually annoy me but Amazon had a cute pair in that style only with free returns so I gave them a try. I used to use a bunion corrector every night which went between painful and annoying and didnt really work all that great. Now as long as I get 3 hours or so every other day in a pair of Chacos I have much less pain than Ive ever had before. They dont even annoy me unless I accidentally over tighten and then I just need to readjust and I am fine. My poor Birkenstocks have been cast aside! Ive found that I do like the Cloud liner better than the regular liner.

    I decided I wanted a pair in all silver for our Italy trip and so I had to do the custom route. It was cheaper to get them personalized than to leave them plain over Christmas so they read Ciao and Bella in purple on the back. I 😍 them so much. Thank you for mentioning them in your TR!
     


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