Monday, May 3, 2010

Memories of Bad Vacations!!!

I've spent the day organizing clothes and packing for our trip. First, I laid everything out on the bed and then went back and cut out about a quarter of it. I waited an hour and went back and cut out some more.

Even with all that cutting, I know The Big Guy will complain about how much we're taking. He'll remind me we can do laundry there so we don't need so much. Then he'll play the trump card, "Remember, we did an 8-day cruise with no luggage at all!!"

Oh, yes. We did !!! I've been vacation traumatized ever since.

Just as in that commercial on T.V., our luggage toured the Western Caribbean and we didn't. We did, however, spend 8 days traveling through the Southern Caribbean. We were the ones who wore the same outfit over and over, and, yet, over again! Actually, we were one couple out of twelve caught up in that fiasco.

Yep, the cruise line personnel loaded an entire cart of luggage onto the WRONG ship!!! And, they did NOTHING about it!

We did everything we were supposed to. We claimed our luggage at the Ft. Lauderdale airport. We took it with us on the cruise line's bus to the Miami dock. We had the proper tags on each bag. We hand delivered our own bags to the cruise line's baggage handler at the dock (within 40 feet of our ship), who placed a second tag on each bag, further identifying the correct ship. They put all of the bags belonging to those of us arriving on that bus into a large luggage cart to be loaded on the ship. We walked aboard.

About an hour after we set sail, we had not yet cleared the Miami harbor, we (and twelve other couples) were called to the Purser's Office where they told us our bags had been loaded on the ship docked next to ours (approximately a block and a half down the dock). Both ships belonged to the same cruise line. We could still see the other ship on the horizon at this point. No attempt was made to stop them from sailing away with our bags. I believe they could have stopped the first ship at that point, allowed our ship to catch up and then send a tender over for our bags. This apparently made no sense to them. (We've been on enough cruises to know they CAN make up that time.)

They assured us our bags would be waiting at our first port (2 days later). The Captain and officers kept this pretense up for those two days while other crew members voiced some doubt. Our luggage did not show up in St. Martin's. We were told to expect it to "be on the dock" when we went into Barbados the next day. It wasn't. On the 4th day, they finally told us it was the airlines' fault. No one would fly unaccompanied luggage. I'm sure they could have spared a crew member to accompany all those bags. We were however assured the bags would be at the terminal when we arrived in Miami the following Sunday. (The luggage apparently only booked a 7-day cruise.)

Fat lot of good that did us. I had a pair of slacks, a pair of capris, a tank top, the underwear I was wearing and a pair of sandals. The Big Guy had a pair of jeans, a pair of denim shorts, a golf shirt and the shoes and boxers he was wearing. They did offer us each a T-shirt bearing the cruise line's emblem and a date from 2 years earlier. They came in Medium or Large. We were neither.

My man put up enough fuss they finally let him go to the gift shop where he found a T-shirt that fit very tightly and was priced at $25. Under protest they gave him the shirt. My bosum didn't fit any shirt they had available so I was offered nothing. When it became apparent the luggage was never coming, they issued all of us a $50.00 voucher for the gift shop. Note: These tiny little shops do NOT carry all the necessary toiletries one would expect. What they do carry, is priced at about 5 X the shore price which in turn is at least 3 x what you'd pay at home.

All those whose luggage was involved were given a cute little cosmetic bag containing a safety razor, one Q-tip, a tiny little toothbrush that resembled a toy, a tube of toothpaste that held enough for at least two brushings, one piece of floss about 8" long, a safety pin, one bandaid, a single pack of aspirin, and one or two other items. (This cruise line used to have a nice toiletry basket in each cabin like a good hotel but discontinued that prior to this cruise.) Anything we received after that was only after making multiple demands.

We spent our entire day in St. Martin's shopping for necessities. Note: The ship's crew was not the least bit helpful in sending us the right direction to find what we needed. We were told to ask a cabbie. Cabbies would only take us to the tourist district souvenir shops. We learned later there was a mall only about a mile out of that area that would have had most of what we were looking for.

Apparently, the clothing shops in that part of the island do not feel women wear underwear. We were able to find some for The Big Guy, but not for me. I spent every night washing my undies in the sink and drying them with the hairdryer. The neighbors had to wonder what weird activity we did each night after midnight that involved using that dryer for an hour! Most ships do have washers and dryers available to passengers. Of course, unless you are on a special nude cruise, you've got to have something to wear to the laundry room! The Big Guy spent several hours of the cruise sitting in the laundry room reading while our outfits washed.

We learned a lot on that cruise. We learned the cruise line will not knock themselves out to go the extra mile for you. You will only get what you demand. If you don't know it's available, you won't know what to ask for. Some folks demanded laundry service. (Of course, they were not guaranteed service faster than the 24-hr service advertised on board!) Some cabin stewards were better at providing extras than others. Ours was one of the latter. Some were able to obtain free formal rentals for formal night, although the selection is very limited both in total number, variety and sizes.

I have two sister-in-laws. One is built like a model and one is comparable to myself in many ways. Thank goodness the second one was the one cruising with us. I was able to squeeze into a bathing suit, a bra and a top or two she had for me. My backside is a bit broader so she couldn't help with pants or undies. Had the other been with us, I guess I could have borrowed earrings!!

In the end, the cruise line gave us vouchers for a free cruise at a later date. They gave one per cabin. Luckily, when we booked our cabin there was a special running for folks flying from our local airport. For that reason, we booked our room and The Big Guy's sister's room in each of our names, thus getting us two vouchers! Since the voucher was basically just the price of the cabin, it was only worth about $370. We did use them the next year.

That time, we left from Galveston. We flew there a few days early to spend time with a friend who lives there. Before he dropped us off at the ship, I loaded up about 7 carry-on bags with almost everything from our big suitcases. (There are size restrictions on carry-ons as they must go through an xray machine as you board the ship.) I wasn't taking any chances. Of course, the suitcases made it with no problem that time.

Did I mention this happened on our 9th cruise with that cruise line? We used our vouchers on our 10th with them. We had been going annually. We have not been back on one of their ships since and it has been several years.

I always tell folks, we've been evacuated due to a hurricane, we've gotten sick on vacations, had entire weeks of rain, car trouble, vacationed with teenagers (4 at a time!), spent multiple weeks traveling with a mother-in-law, had problems with the beach houses we've rented, been bothered by phone calls from the office continually throughout a trip, and more, but this sticks in my memory as our WORST vacation. It was not FUN !!!

So, what's your worst vacation story?

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