Sunday, September 11, 2016

Alaska- Part 2

It's finally time to leave!  To Chicago overnight and then to the airport in the morning to catch our first flight.
Kevin and I aren't huge fans of city driving, but traffic was fairly light, and GPS guided us around construction zones so we arrived at our hotel at the expected time. We'd take the shuttle to the airport in the morning and leave our car in the parking lot. (When I made the hotel reservations, Expedia did not indicate that we would have to pay an additional $8 per day to do that-what's an extra $80 at this no-turning-back-stage of the plans:)

We settled down for the night and had a shuttle scheduled for 7am in the morning.  Paul and Libby would be leaving Charlottesville, VA even earlier to meet us in O'Hare for the 9:30 flight to Edmonton.

My cell rang at 4:30am. Oh no, it was Paul, and I didn't think he was calling to just give us a cheery morning hello. They were delayed and most likely not going to make it to Chicago in time.  His second call informed me they had decided not to go to Canada, but instead schedule another flight from VA. to Seattle on Sat. morning. I understood their decision.  Sometimes the hazzle of rearranging flights with airlines outweighs the pleasure of actually being where you wanted to go!  As we were soon to discover for ourselves... But I was disappointed they would not be with us. Paul had reserved the rental car to take us from the Edmonton airport to the cousin's houses, about a 90 min. drive. We'd have to do that now ourselves when we arrived about 3pm. Feeling less confident about trusting airlines, I changed our flight to Seattle from Edmonton, from Sun. morning to Sat. afternoon.  Missing the ship would be the greatest deal buster.

At the airport we located our gate. We prefer to get to airports early;waiting is more relaxing then having something go amiss and rushing to get on board last minute. Our flight gate was changed 3 times.  Maybe a precursor of what was to come...We waited past the boarding time.  I approached the counter and was told a mechanical issue was delaying the plane.  Any delay was not good.  We had a 50 minute layover in Denver.  There would not be time to make the flight to Edmonton. As I explained the situation to the attendant, I expected we'd be routed to another, later flight. She quickly searched the computer and said she had nothing else. I've never been told that before.  Airlines usually get you on another plane even if they have to use a different airline. When I booked the flight I had seen other flights to Edmonton later that day.  I also knew those other flights wouldn't arrive in Edmonton  until after 9 or 10 pm. Maybe if I would have pushed harder, maybe if Paul and Libby hadn't backed out, maybe if our visit with the cousins was for a longer time, maybe it just felt too daunting to arrive there around midnight, which was 2 hours earlier than real time for us....all. those. factors ... I decided to cancel, also.  We received a full refund, and as I headed back to tell Kevin we were retracing our route home, he reminded me that we had checked in Big Red- with all our good clothes, with well-thought-out items we needed for a successful cruise.  I hurried back to the counter.  Yes, we would be refunded for that fee. We could go to baggage claim and talk to an agent there. Disappointment mixed with relief, anxiousness about Big Red, thoughts of more expenses, likely, to cancel the Seattle flight and rebook it to leave from Chicago, tempted to feel things were stacking up against us and what else would go wrong, dogged us as we hurried to Baggage Claim.

The attendant looked Big Red up in the system and in a done-deal-like manner said there was no way to get it back off the plane. But the plane is grounded and can't fly-why can't someone get our bag!
He said it would go to Edmonton and then be sent back to Chicago; we arranged to have it sent from there to the South Bend airport-it would have been COD to be brought to our house.  I'm not too impressed with United's service, but just wait...He made promises that I'd be updated by text every 6 hours and suggested the bag could be in South Bend later that evening. He circled a phone number on the claim sheet he had printed out for us, but advised us not to call the 800 number because we'd only get a foreigner somewhere in India and we wouldn't be able to understand them very well. Kevin asked about the TX number below that and were told that wasn't much better. OK, then!

We drove back home.  It was Thursday afternoon; we'd leave again Sat. morning.  We had that all- dressed-up-with-no-place-to-go feeling. Time off from work the next day, but no plans for how to spend it. It almost felt like we should stay indoors, hiding, since everyone expected us to be gone.

I decided it was best to jam a few more things into the carry-ons, just in case Big Red didn't make it back to us in time.  That involved a trip to Goodwill for a lightweight jacket for Kevin and snatching a few more dressy clothes still hanging in the closet.  Oh, yeah, and throw another tie in for Kevin.

Updates from United texted as promised, with zero new information. By Friday afternoon I decided to brave a phone call.  The bag was still in Edmonton but should be back in Chicago later that day. Maybe we could pick it up in Chicago before our flight left in the morning!

Alas, no bag awaited us Saturday am and the baggage attendant's computer search said it was still in Edmonton, BUT was coming to Chicago later that day. After we would leave, of course. Let's have Chicago route it to Seattle, was the only thing left to say.  One more chance, Big Red, to catch up with us!

How exciting to see Paul and Libby in the Seattle airport!  We were actually starting our vacation! My take-charge brother marched to baggage claim while I followed. He was convinced I wasn't aggressive enough with United personnel. We were told the bag was definitely on it's way to us.  My brother insisted it be brought free of charge to our hotel room, whatever time of the day. He made sure United had the address, and my cell phone number.  This was sounding more hopeful...

 Seattle is a wonderful place to explore. We had about 12 hours to see its sites. The concierge at the hotel armed us with suggestions and pamphlets. Pikes Place market was fascinating with all it's shops, inside and outside. Like flower shops selling  bouquets of gorgeous  varieties! And the first Starbucks establishment with its quarter mile long line to enter.  Other eateries tantalized our senses.

Dinner at the Wild Ginger Thai restaurant didn't disappoint.  Afterwards we rode the Monorail to the Space Needle.  Instead of riding the tram to the top, we opted to visit the glass museum near the base of the Needle. The displays were very impressive.  Take a look:
The Space Needle reflected in a glass ball
The first day together

One of the hanging displays
Accents of glass in a natural setting
Back in the hotel we checked on Big Red before crawling into bed.  United claimed we'd receive the bag by 8:30am.  Instructions were given to deliver it to our room anytime, day or night.  The sweet sound of a knock at the hotel door at 5:30am interrupted our sleep.  As I wheeled Big Red in, we fawned over her, patted her sides lovingly and checked the decoration of tags that were looped to her handle.
Other than a small zipper tear, she looked the same, inside and out. If only we could get flyer miles of her travels added to our account!

Big Red!
We had a few more hours in the morning to roam Seattle and find a breakfast place. Besides the shops and attractions we visited, the steep slopes of the streets exercised our legs and lungs. There will need to be future trips to this fascinating city.

It was time to board the Ruby Princess!  The hotel provided a shuttle to take us down to the dock.  It felt like one last nod to Goshen, IN. as the shuttle waited at a railroad crossing for a long slow train to pass.  

At the dock we captured a picture of our home for the next 7 days.
Embarking was surprisingly fast as we were herded through the lines of waiting passengers--security scans, health forms to sign, passport presentations--and finally received our official card that would serve as money for any on board purchases, our room key and our ID to get on and off the ship.

Our constant companion!

Bon Voyage!

 Where great adventures await us!

More to come...

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