Back to the Real World

The last time I wrote I was sitting in the American Airlines business class lounge in Heathrow at ten in the morning. Unfortunately, we were still sitting there at five in the afternoon, about three hours after we were supposed to leave, to hear the news that our flight to Charlotte was cancelled. They had strung us along for the last three hours with various stories about repairing the refrigeration or air conditioning system on the plane. Prior to that, we were told that the plane was too hot for us to board because of the extreme heat (70’s) in London that day and they had to cool the plane first. They should be in the Carolinas to learn what extreme heat feels like. I speculated that they had no need for AC in London so no one there knew how to repair it.

They switched us to a flight that arrived in JFK at 11PM with a connecting flight at 5 AM to Charlotte and then a third flight to Myrtle Beach. American offered to put us up in a hotel that was about 75 minutes from the airport, but we figured the three hours at the hotel wasn’t worth the hassle. Unfortunately, security was closed then and there are no chairs on the checkin side of the terminal. A lot of our fellow Vikings were in the same situation. Four of them had found the doors to the entry desk of the American Lounge partly open and occupied four chairs near the check in desks. There were two benches there which Susan and I occupied. Unfortunately, the cleaning lady reported us to security and we were thrown out after about an hour.

After wondering around the open area and finding lots of people sitting and sleeping on the floor but no open chairs, we found a group of Vikings that found a source of wheel chairs to sit in. I had never sat in a wheel chair before, so I used the opportunity to practice wheelies and parking. Susan did not like the image of sitting in a wheel chair, so she put on her iPod and sneakers and walked around the terminal. After being up for over 24 hours we had to do something to keep ourselves entertained.This worked for about another hour until someone came and said it was her job to collect all the wheelchairs and put them back where we found them. With no place comfortable to sit, we then stood, sat, or lay on the floor at the entry to security until it opened at 3:30 AM. It was a rapid comedown from life on the Sun! You will not find many Vikings with many good words to say about either JFK or American Airlines. You certainly won’t hear any good words about either from me! To add insult to injury, one of my bags didn’t get on the plane to Myrtle Beach! This is very much the Readers Digest version of our problems on the flights home, but I will say that business class is much nicer than tourist! The remainder of the blog was written prior to arriving in London.

After 141 days of being served gourmet food; having our room cleaned twice a day; beIng entertained every night by singers, musicians, comedians, or magicians; being only steps away from a bridge game or several bars where all the drinks are on the house; and having a different view out our window every morning (except on sea days when the view can be rather repetitive), it is time to see if we can still live in the real world. One of our biggest worries is that at the conclusion of a restaurant meal, we will stand up and walk out the door without paying the bill. I know Visa and Mastercard are both worried about me, and Target must be really concerned that they haven’t seen me in so long.

Let me try to answer a few questions you may have. Was it a great experience? Absolutely! Would we do it again? Yes. Would we do another world cruise? Maybe, but only if most ports are new to us. Did we see places we want to return to? Oman, Singapore, and Malta. Did we make new friends that we will see again? Absolutely! Did we like the excursions offered by Viking? Many of them. But some ranged from OK to bad. Would we travel with Viking again? Yes, but I am concerned that they are growing too fast and it is going to be hard for them to maintain their standards – particularly in ports that are new to them. Did we gain weight? Yes, but nothing too extraordinary. Was the weather nice? Most of the trip was very hot, but we only had one day in the whole trip that we had to use our umbrella during a tour. This is remarkable since it was the rainy season many places. Did you ever get sea sick? No for Bruce and only in the Tasman Sea and Bay of Biscay (both are notorious for their rough seas) for Susan. How many days did you play trivia? 67. How many trivia questions did you attempt to answer? 1030. How many did you get right? I plead the 5th. Did you pack enough? Too much for Bruce and there is never enough for Susan. Are we still in love? Yes!!!

While we love the overall experience of living on the cruise ship, we still feel that cruising is the worst means of travel to really experience the culture and see the sights of a destination. It is useful for determining what locations you would like to see in more detail. In our case, we had been to most of the countries on the cruise, so we already knew whether we liked them or not.

Another surprise was how illness spread around the ship. When you fly you are exposed to the germs of present and past flyers in the recirculating air and the surfaces you touch. The same is true on a cruise ship and there are more potentially sick people. Also, when you visit a different port every day, you get exposed to whatever might be going around that country. There was a cough/cold crud (that was the official diagnosis of the doctor) that started before Los Angeles and took a month to work its way around the ship. Several friends had three or four illnesses that laid them up at least a day each time that said this never happens to them at home. We are paranoid about washing our hands now. Another huge risk is falls. It seems there is a fall every other day. Some are inconsequential, but there have been many broken bones – most stayed on the ship, but some left. We were fortunate that we each had the crud only once and neither of us fell.

We will be very busy when we get home to Pawleys Island on Sunday. Some of you already know this, but it will be a surprise to others. Prior to leaving on our cruise, we purchased a new home at Del Webb Riverlights in Wilmington, NC. They broke ground on the house in April, and it is scheduled for completion in early August. We also put our condo on the market before we left on the trip. Since we live in a beach resort, we didn’t expect many lookers until Easter or even the summer. The condo sold in February and we have to move out on May 29. This gives us just over three weeks to say goodbye to our friends and get packed and out of there. If you are doing the math, it also makes us homeless for over two months. We will be filling this time staying at the empty houses of friends in Florida and North Carolina, visiting our daughter in Colorado, visiting friends in Minnesota, visiting our son in Charlotte, and checking out our new home in Wilmington. If there are some interesting travel adventures, I will be posting the occasional blog.

As always, we want to thank you for following our blog. Many of you we know as relatives and long term personal friends. Others we know mostly because of our common love of travel. Some of those we have met, and others we have never met. We are honored that all of you are interested enough to read the blog. We always enjoy hearing your thoughts and comments. We would love to meet all of you sometime in our travels. We will be in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico for the months of December, January, and March. This will be our fourth winter in SMA and the first time we stayed for three months. If any of you are going to be in SMA during that time period, let’s get together! Have a good summer.

The dinner for the couples that are bridge partners.Our trivia team. Marti, Julie, Karen, John, Steve, Mary Ann, and us.A Cruise Critic meet and greet.

The Mahjong group.

11 thoughts on “Back to the Real World”

  1. Thank you very much for sharing your trips. I enjoy reading it all, especially with your outstanding writing skills along with sense of humor.

    Good luck with your move
    Paula Nurnberger

  2. So much going on in your lives and all of it good! Hope the building of your new home goes well and you have years of health and happiness there!
    meanwhile, welcome back!

  3. Hope you’re planning to visit us at LBI during your “homeless” period!
    Glad you’re home. Looking forward to a long chat with Susan.
    Judy

  4. Wow! What an adventure! Boo hiss to American and JFK for treating their customers so poorly! But the entire rest of the trip sounds magnificent!
    We are in the surprised set of friends to hear that you are moving! Can’t wait to hear all about that! Must be a wonderful place you are headed to for you to leave beautiful Pawleys!

  5. Welcome back…. and what a journey you had coming home!
    Bruce, you are an amazing writer. Your posts are so enjoyable to read( although I missed most of them this trip). Anyway , give Susan a big kiss

  6. So glad to finally catch up with your blog. Feel guilty about our on time non-stop BA flight on Saturday from Heathrow to San Diego. Arrivd at 6:30 pm and slept in our own bed.

    Hope that your home sale, move and construction run smoothly.

    Please stay in touch. Hope to see you again. You are always welcome in La Jolla.

  7. I didn’t see a visit to Pittsburgh on your list during your “homeless period”. Maybe you can make that happen!
    Really enjoyed your adventure; thanks for blogging.

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