The Trip Home

Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more that I have seen.” – Benjamin Disraeli (Courtesy HAL)

When we decided to book this Grand Adventure with Cruise Specialists, the reasons were many and varied: 1) the fantastic itinerary, 2) 19 ports of which 13 were new and a chance to re-visit some favorites , 3) 6 countries and cultures we had never experienced before, 4) A chance to visit our 1966-1969 home in Kifissia, Greece, 5) We loved sailing in the Prinsendam, 6) Captain Gundersen and crew,7) Henk and Lucia Barnhoorn, Travel Ambassadors with Cruise Specialists, 8) the duration of 36 days.

These positive aspects of the cruise certainly outweighed the negatives, some of which caused me to be anxious: 1) The flights, 2) the servicing airports.  Don’t get me wrong, I love flying, it is just the hassle that it takes to finally get seated that I dislike, and any flight other than direct, is cause for more consternation.

Since I knew we would be flying out of Marco Polo in Venice, I was haunted by an experience at the Marco Polo, Rome, a year previously.  I need not go into details, bust suffice it to say – it was a glimpse of hell.  Backed up by comments from previous travelers departing from Marco Polo, Venice and the fact that there so many flights departing that day, I think you can picture where my mind was.

Although HAL had arranged our transportation from the Laguna Palace to the airport and had scheduled our pickup for 10 AM, I asked for it to be moved up to 9:30 AM.  It takes no more than 30 minutes to get to the airport, but I would rather arrive two hours early and spend  that time at the boarding gate, than risk some unforeseen delay in arriving..  In all fairness to the Italians, I must tell you that this was the smoothest departure in a foreign country we have ever experienced.

Shortly after 9:30 a young man from “Venice Travels Limousine Service”, dressed in all black, including his sunglasses, arrived in a Black Mercedes Limo-Van, looking very much like  (I hate to say this) a Mafia Staff Car driver. Barbara took these photos, I don’t know what I was doing in the picture on the right! Probably fiddling with a pesky zipper.Eye rolling smile

2012 GM8 (377)2012 GM8 (378) Venice,Italy

2012 GM8 (388)

We could not have asked for anyone better or more professional, and never once was his hand out for a gratuity. Rather than take the “freeway” our driver opted to take us through the countryside on the back roads.  There was little traffic, however I think our driver did enjoy showing off his driving (and passing) skills to us, as we enjoyed one last look at the Venetian countryside.

We were “Loaned” two carts to get all our luggage, etc., through check-in. Once that was completed, in a very professional manner (love you Delta), Ii returned the carts to the “cart station” inserted the locking key and got my Euros back. (In New York and Seattle,cart rentals were as much as $5, thank you very much!)

When I tried to check in online 24 hours earlier, There was a some “unknown” problem with checking in Barbara and paying for our 4th bag, so we had to go through that process during check-in with the agent at the airport, which cost an extra $20 over paying for it online.  I was a bit steamed, but “steamed” will get you nowhere! Now here is why I like Delta so much; When we got home, I complained to the company and promptly received an email reply asking for documentation which I provided, the check for $20 arrived in the mail a few days later.

Going through security was fairly smooth for me, although Barbara always seems to get “hung up” because of her hair pins or something in her carry-on.  But the extra time we had came in handy.  I must give Marco Polo Venice kudos for having their act together, and especially Delta Airlines.

Marco Polo Airport (1)

In no time our flight had climbed to the top of the reader board and we started loading….but wait a minute, I said to myself as I got settled into our assigned seats… where is  Barbara? We went through the gate together and I saw her just behind me as I headed down the tunnel to the door of the plane!  While we were waiting for our flight at the gate, a young stewardess was waiting to board and work this flight, so we had some facial recognition, and I approached her now as she went through the process of readying the flight for departure and asked her if she could help me, once again “Delta Cares” and she assured me she would. As I was about to de-board and find her, I saw her coming down the isle.  She had been pulled aside AT THE GATE, for a “random” security recheck!!!

The flight left on time and soon we were winging our way home……and our connecting flight at JFK…. should be no sweat since there were over two hours before our flight left for Seattle.   Never underestimate the ability of  US customs and TSA to make flying unsettling.   Upon arriving inside the terminal in this very warm underground tunnel, and as two incoming flights converged on a single doorway to the customs area, and we were just getting “sweated up”, an announcement was made that they would be processing all “non-Us citizens first”.    Not “those with connecting flights”, no the bureaucratic mind seems to be incapable of logical thinking.  Ever watch grass grow, or molasses run down the side of a container? That’s what the movement of the line through customs  felt like, while the sand in the hour glass proceeded at faster than normal, because pull of gravity is greater in these holding corrals.

Finally we exit customs and can now claim our luggage and re-check it for our connecting flight. Now we get to deal with the wonderful folks at TSA, who on this evening only have ONE machine working!!!!  More Molasses! Finally someone within the organization realized that there are people in this line who HAVE CONNECTING FLIGHTS, and started moving them (30 minutes or less) to the head of the line.  Isn’t it amazing how flight schedulers always make sure that your connecting flight gate is calculated to be the farthest from your arrival gate?   No  time for a bathroom break Barbara, let’s get to the gate, located in “never-never-land”!

If you haven’t flown in some time, you may not know that planes have loading zones, which are called after folks with some sort of “privilege pass” the number of which seems to be growing, and usually those who don’t feel that the carry-on size restrictions apply to them.  Our seats are in Zone 4, or something like that, somewhere near the tail section or on the tail, whatever, and it is now being called as we skid to a halt at the gate.  Here again is another reason I LOVE Delta – the gentleman who checked our boarding pass was as kind and professional as they come.  It was almost as he knew what we had gone through to arrive at his station and he could genuinely say, “welcome aboard Mr. Cummings, have a nice flight”.  Just those few words were enough to settle me.

The rest of the trip, including an overnight stay at the Radisson SeaTac, went as smoothly as our arrival at Marco Polo Venice, and the final leg of this 18,300 mile journey onboard the Dungeness Bus Line was great as well  Just glad we had warm coats for our arrival in Port Angeles, and its spring weather.

2012 GM8 (481) SeaTac,Seattle,WA

One final photo by Barbara and I will bid you adieu, it has been a pleasure sharing our adventure.  Can’t wait for what Barbara has up her sleeve for our next trip!!!

Jack and Barbara Cummings – Grand Mediterranean 2012

5 thoughts on “The Trip Home

  1. What a fantastic “wrap-up” for your amazing adventure. You certainly left me with smiles & chuckles today. Some parts made me think of our trying to leave the Rome airport last year–that was an adventure also!!! Keep me signed up for any future “writings” you do—Jack you really should publish something—it’s such a joy to read your writings. Thanks for sharing. Connie

  2. Thank You, Jack for sharing this magnificent journey with all of us! The vicarious thrill enjoyed through your wonderful prose and magnificent photo albums has made my time “ashore” for six months truly tolerable!

    I hope you and Barbara are already dreaming of your next adventure on the high seas!

    Your Shipmate….


  3. So glad you had a wonderful trip. Who knew I would still be keeping tabs on you and Barbara since our 2007 Asia Australia & Polynesian cruise on the Amsterdam! Loved every minute. I like the new photo format and will have to try it.
    Susan and Ray M

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