After leaving my last contract I was 99% sure I would never return to the sea unless it was in a small dive boat in a stunning tropical location. I even headed to Thailand and the stunning Koh Phangan Island to complete my Dive Instructor course. It was phenomenal with lots of hard work and stress, but pretty soon I was taking divers out and teaching courses. Unfortunately for me, it turned out to be one of the worst tourist seasons the island had seen in over 8yrs and also resulted in what little savings I had left after paying for my course to whittle down at a frighteningly rapid rate. In the end I opted to say farewell, head home for the holidays and accept another contract.
It felt surprisingly normal to tell people that I worked on a cruise ship and many showed interest and envy. I was excited and nervous about returning to the ships after having almost a year off. At first I was offered the same ship as last time in the Med, but then two weeks before departing they asked me to switch to a small ship (new to my collection) and Northern Europe. It meant another 2 months at home (much to the joy of my father knowing it meant 2 more months of home cooking) and on the small ships there was only 1 crew bar, smoking. But I had always wanted to do Northern Europe so I jumped at the chance.
Two months rapidly diminished to 2 days and then it was time to leave….
Things always come in threes…
the trip started innocently enough with a usual check in at the United counter to fly to San Fran then onto Munich and finally Lisbon. The company had booked the trip through Lufthansa and all documentation stated that 2 bags were allowed free of charge. The first leg was Eugene to San Fran and was operated by United air. At the counter I was informed that I had to pay $100 for the second bag and take out 3 pounds (or pay $260, extra bag + overweight charge). I politely informed them that I had a seaman’s ticket allowing not only 2 bags but a few extra pounds… I was met with blank stairs… A manager was called over and she informed me that even though Lufthansa allows 2 bags the 1st leg was on United and they allow ONE! That will be $100.
After paying and heading through the gate I sat down and looked over the ticket information I had been sent and sure enough there it was : 2 bags allowed. I headed to the gate counter and asked there, the lady seemed very confused and tried to help, looking into the system. Unfortunately there was nothing she could do so she suggested I contact United Customer Service handing me the number.
So there I was sitting in the waiting lounge on the phone with United and the best response I could get was the following:
“ I am sorry Ma’am but since your first flight was on United we follow United policies despite the fact that it was booked through Lufthansa.”
“But my documentation clearly states that I should be allowed 2 bags”
“Ma’am perhaps that means that 2 bags are allowed but only 1 is free….”
I think she was starting to reach a little. Oh well lets hope that the company reimburses me or I am able to get Lufthansa to do so.
Arriving at San Fran I headed to the international terminal checking my flight on the board. Since it was still 5hrs the board simply showed my flight as:
Gate = INTL (International). I asked the attendant there and she said it was still too long till the flight to have a confirmed gate… perfectly feasible I guess.
I found a great Japanese place and enjoyed a delicious meal of pork cutlet, rice and some green tea.
Then off to find a comfy chair to relax. I watched some movies and waited another 2 hrs (total of 3 1/2 hrs). Then I figured it must surely be close enough to the flight (now 2hrs away). Checking the board I noticed that my flight appeared to no longer exist, and double checking my alphabet and making sure i was spelling Munich correctly I tried my best not to feel that panic rise.
I went to the gate I had originally had on my boarding pass to find an agent already speaking in German with 3 others (heading home for wedding). Apparently the plane had been struck by lightening and had been forced to return to Munich. He informed us we had to go up and to aisle 4 to talk to Lufthansa, when we asked him what that meant he simply said “up and out then aisle 4 past aisle 3”…. Still uncertain where to go we asked at the United Lounge who said aisle 4 was outside security just passed a gate to our left. So out we headed.
As we rounded the corner we were faced with the other 100 odd passengers who had arrived to check in all standing inline and no one giving any information. I found a rep and he handed me some info and told me to stand in line and suggesting I call the number on the page. The other family had been rebooked and quickly headed back the way we had just come to catch the flight. I on the other hand had not received any emails or text messages because my flight had been booked through the company and was not linked to any of my info.
Luckily while waiting in line I was connected to a very helpful lady at the lufthansa customer service and she informed me I had been rebooked to arrive in Lisbon, via Philadelphia on American Airlines, Saturday morning at 8:50am. I explained the situation about trying to reach Lisbon in time to catch my boat and if there was any way to get me there any earlier, she said she would try her best and put me on hold while she searched. In the mean time I had discovered that the line I was standing in, the one that hadn’t moved in the last hour, was for the hotel voucher and not for rebooking, that was the line next to us. So I begrudgingly moved to the other line wanting to double check that a flight of some sort would be booked for me. The lady on the phone got back to me right before I got to the counter saying my only option was the trip the next day. I got to the counter and they confirmed for me again that I had been rebooked on American. I queried the bag issue, explaining what United had done and my fear that American may do the same thing. They were not as surprised at United as I wish they had been and, while not promising, they did say there was a chance American would honor the 2 bags vs their usual policy of 1 bag. Guess that’s better than nothing.
They then informed me to just pop over to the other line with about 20 people in it, the line that had not moved, literally, to get my hotel voucher as they were only rebooking, oh fabulous.
We must have stood in that line for another 2 hours waiting for hotel vouchers with no one giving us any information as to why the line was not moving. Finally I asked if we could get some drink vouchers or something, leaning more towards the idea of “we all need a tequila shot”, but the very sweet Lufthansa lady named Marabel offered water. We could use that too I guess. People relaxed al little when the water arrived and information seemed to be flowing a bit but we were still exhausted and just wanted to get to the hotel. Apparently Lufthansa was calling all the hotels and booking rooms and would only then give out the vouchers.
The family who had dashed off to get to their rebooked flight appeared from the other counter, they had just missed the cut off time to get to the gate, and were not allowed to board, so they were stuck with us waiting for a hotel and most likely going to miss their god child’s wedding.
We continued the query as to what happened and were told by the staff lightening strike, but by some of the passengers it was just a strike…. interesting…..
Finally at around 9pm, after waiting for 4hrs to get info added to the already 3 hours I had spent waiting at the gate we were handed hotel and food vouchers. All we had to do was head outside and pick up the shuttle…. turns out they had not called the shuttle, so that meant a further 30min wait in the cold.
Luckily when it arrived we were all able to squeeze on and had developed a great sense of camaraderie planning to meet up for dinner at the hotel…
But wait there is more….