Friday, February 26, 2010

Update on my missing reservation

I am an idiot.
At least, I was apparently an idiot on January 21st of this year.  I finally got hold of a live human at the airline so that I could have them find my missing airline reservation for the cruise.  I gave him my credit card number - no joy.  I gave him my confirmation number and name, and he found the reservation just fine on his system.  Yep, absolutely perfect.  A reservation for a flight leaving Denver and flying to San Diego around 6:00 pm on Friday the 12th.
Of February. 
I booked the wrong month and - obviously - missed the flight altogether.
The customer service rep was very gracious, and the airline had held my reservation as unused credit, so I was able to apply it toward the correct flight on March 12th.  Granted, I had to provide some additional cash to get on the new flight, since the cheapo fares had long since been exhausted, but I have a seat and the additional cash is a reasonable price to pay for idiocy.
I don't know what made me try to do the early checkin the other day, but I am incredibly glad that I did it - just think what might have happened if the first time I tried to pull that reservation was 24 hours before the flight! 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Carnival and Me - I think I finally figured it out

We've sailed on Carnival ships twice now - more than on any other line - but I don't think they'd be my choice in the future.  I've been wrestling in my mind with why, because, as noted two years ago, the Conquest was truly a gorgeous ship, the food was good, the service more than adequate.  But it was just all wrong for me, and for a long time, I could not put my finger on a reason.
This is going to sound truly weird, but I think it's their repeated emphasis on "fun".  Despite the very upscale appearance of the ship, the demographic it was catering to was not upscale - the activities and infrastructure were aimed at people who enjoy Vegas for the slot machines and shows and go to amusement parks and waterparks a lot, and who spend their "evenings out" at nightclubs or bars, drinking and dancing and singing karaoke.  I'm not one of those people.  When I'm in Vegas, I enjoy the neon lights and the utter bizarreness of the tourist offerings, but slot machines and gambling in general bore me, and I wouldn't go to Vegas as a destination; it's always a stop en route to somewhere else.  I like an occasional visit to an amusement park - with kids; I wouldn't go for my own purposes - and I really don't get waterparks.  My vision of an evening out involves music at a volume I can talk over (if necessary) - jazz or symphony - performed by other people, not me.  With drinks included, maybe, but not as the central reason for being away from home.  Perhaps I'm just getting old.
The weird thing is that I know for a certainty that both Royal Caribbean and Princess had casinos and pool slides and nightclub options - and I liked both of them better than Carnival.  The only reason I can think of is that those things were not front-and-center on the other lines in the way they were on Carnival; other activities and venues were the "attractions" instead.  The shows were different.  Royal Caribbean fascinated our entire party with a quick-change-artist act, and we were vastly entertained on Princess by the hypnotist's act.  We did see a fairly amusing ventriloquist on Carnival - I'm still wondering how he worked the whiteboard dummy - but everything else seemed to be aimed at another group; not us.
So our next cruise is on yet another line - Holland America - which has a reputation for being targeted at an older audience even than Princess.  I don't know if we fit the demographic there or not; guess we'll find out.  I do know that their Culinary Arts Center program is a huge magnet for me, and they are definitely downplaying the karaoke contests and things of that sort, which seems like a move in the right direction.  I guess I'm looking for more of an educational slant on cruising - give me a lecture on the geologic origins of the rocks at Cabo San Lucas, or teach me about the migratory habits of the whales, or introduce me to new cuisines or art forms.  (Wow, do I sound like a snob!  But that's really what I would enjoy.) 
I think our bucket list includes a Cunard lines cruise in some class above steerage (they really do have classes of cabins on their ships, although I'm not so sure about steerage).  If we do go some day, I almost hope that they don't turn out to be the perfect match for us; I'm not sure I could sustain the wardrobe.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nothing like a disappearing flight reservation to start the day off with a bang

I was kind of groggy when I first got up this morning, but no more. 
After posting my last, I did some searching around in my e-mail archives and found all of the very detailed packing and to-do lists from our last cruise, and that spurred me to some action overnight.  I did a poor-man's laminate job on the luggage tags (covered both sides with clear packing tape).  I sent the packing list to my daughter.  I resolved to get a swimsuit or two purchased (like that's going to be easy in Colorado in February).  And this morning, I hunted down my confirmation e-mail for my flight reservation, to make sure I had it on my phone calendar.
The airline I'm planning to fly on offers early check-in for an additional $10, and after thinking about it, given that I'm likely to be a bit busy the night before I'm due to leave, what with settling the dogs at my parents' house and various other things, I thought I would spring for the extra money to get one thing off my plate.  The link was handily right there on the e-mail, so I clicked it.
And the window popped up, nicely loaded with my confirmation number and my name - and a nasty red message saying that they could not find my reservation in their system, with a few reasons why that might be so.  None of which applied to me, unfortunately.
I logged into their site with my frequent flyer number.  The flight doesn't show up on my upcoming itineraries.  I did a regular search on their site, typing in my name and reservation number.  Same rather annoying red message.
I have an e-mail into their customer service, asking them please to find my reservation, which was made with my frequent flyer number (I can see it on the e-mail), and which has been paid for (I checked my bank records).  They'd better find it, and soon.  Because I'm flying to San Diego two weeks from this coming Friday (which is the day after tomorrow), and if they've lost me, well, the loss will be permanent.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Shouldn't we be doing something about now? Anything?

I feel like I'm forgetting something important.  After all, we leave in quite a bit less than 3 weeks, now, and all I've done so far is buy some shorts and get the passports out and print off our boarding passes.  I've done cruises before, and I KNOW that preparation is involved.  So this is sort of freaking me out.
I have a pack list done - for me, anyway.  My husband is on his own as regards clothing decisions, and my daughter, being at college, is beyond my help.  My pack list includes those weird shipboard necessities like nightlights, travel clocks, and powerstrips, so that's taken care of.  It does NOT (so far, at least) include formalwear.  What it does include (not counting the weird shipboard necessities) is:
  • 5-7 polo shirts or dressy t-shirts
  • 3 pairs of walking shorts
  • 1-2 casual skirts
  • 1 pair of exercise shorts
  • 1-2 exercise t-shirts
  • 1 casual dress/swimsuit coverup
  • 1 cardigan sweater
  • 1 ballcap
  • 1-2 swimsuits (aha!  I need new ones, I think - something that needs to be done!)
  • sneakers and socks
  • casual sandals
  • (maybe) slightly less casual sandals
  • belts
  • underwear and pajamas
  • toiletries
  • jewelry
I think I could cram all that into a duffel bag.  Are we definitely going on a ship here?  We don't even have a self-service laundry on this one, so that eliminates the detergent-and-quarters item from any possible list.
We aren't signing up for any shore excursions this time, so nothing needed there.  At the moment, we're not even sure we'll bother going ashore - this cruise is to places we've been before, so we don't need to do much in the way of exploring.  Although I did really like Mazatlan's old city and wouldn't mind wandering around there again.  Nonetheless, I don't think there's any planning to do in that arena.
I got the scoop on my shipboard activity of choice (the Culinary Arts Center classes), and can't do anything about signing up until we get on board.  Note that this trip, I am not even going to go out of my way to find the spa on the ship.  It has taken 3 cruises to do it, but I am over the whole shipboard treatments thing.
Our luggage tags have been printed - yet again, we're faced with the "fold it in thirds and staple it around a handle and hope it doesn't rip" instructions, and no one to laminate them for us this time.  I think I'll add a step to the instructions - "cover both sides with clear packing tape" to occur after the folding and before the stapling.
There IS a pile going in the closet, though - so far, it's 3 pairs of walking shorts and some of the weird shipboard necessities.  I guess we could get a suitcase down, but I know what will happen if we do.  The cat will sleep in it for the next few weeks - and then we will really regret the lack of a self-service laundry when we go to put anything on.  We'll have a coordinated wardrobe then, all right - every item grey and fuzzy.
I guess we can wait a while longer.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Going down to the sea in ships (again)

It would appear that, for our family, the need to go to sea surfaces on about 2-year intervals.  Given that we were last at sea in June of 2008, it's time again, and we're scheduled to be sailing on the MS (I think) Oosterdam from San Diego on March 13th (less than a month, now that I think of it!).  Mexican Riviera for 7 days again, but on Holland America instead of Princess.  I don't know if we'll even bother to go into any of the ports this time - they're nice and all, but the whole point of this trip is to be on a ship on the ocean.
Our original plan was to go on NCL in a mini-suite (the dates matched up with the offspring's spring break), and were particularly intrigued with the "freestyle" aspect of the whole thing.  My husband vowed at the time that he would spend the entire week in shorts or a swimsuit and that he was looking forward to not having any formal nights.  So of course, when we went to book, the mini-suites were all gone and our best option was just a balcony room - which seemed very small in the pictures.  HAL had a cruise on the same basic schedule, and their balcony rooms looked less likely to provide a "family bed" from the combination of fold-out couch and bed.  And besides, they offer cooking lessons.  So we changed lines.  My husband is still vowing to spend the entire week in shorts or swimsuit and to avoid formal nights.  Which is fine by me - it means that the 3-suitcase goal of our last cruise is so achievable it isn't even worth worrying about.  Shoot, we can probably do it in 2 suitcases.
Except that my daughter keeps letting slip little sentences that start out, "I could bring this for formal night...".  Hope she's okay with our ultra-casual program here.
If anything of interest occurs, I'll add it here.  Given our track record, it seems likely.

Cruise Clock ticker