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07 October 2010

Here and There, Part II

First, I would like to thank the persons who really worked at making this trip the success that it was: John Chin, Cynthia Sung, Ellen Bozzo and Chris Bozzo.

John found the specific cruise.  Cynthia made sure our parents were in the loop as well as planning our family Portland excursion.  Chris took the time to figure out the exact cabins that we should book based on the complex formula of comfort: being mid-ship, above the waterline, not above nor below any public rooms, no less than and no more than x and y number of doors from the elevator, etc, and we should have listened to him!  Ellen organized the onboard pre-dinner cocktail parties.  Cynthia and Ellen shepherded us through picture-taking sessions.  There were two formal dinner nights and Cynthia arranged to have a celebratory cake at one of them for our parents, one whose landmark birthday was in early August and the other whose b-day is just arriving this month.  Portland was our family stop.  It was going to be Bay of Fundy, but unfortunately, because of Hurricane Earl, that port of call was cancelled.

Speaking of Hurricane Earl and cancellations, we ended up spending two days at sea, circling the storm with Tropical Storm Fiona pressing up the south of us.  The captain had regular 9am, 12N and upon-sailing-time updates, and they weren't significant or noteworthy until he told us on Wednesday that we were skipping St John, Bay of Fundy.  By Thursday, he was saying conditions would deteriorate considerably by Friday night.  If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the contents of our stomachs would have been more lost than they had been.  Anything that was not bolted down had a tendency to slide.  Larry was out and about early Saturday morn and he watched the water in the pool (it's saltwater, did you know?) slosh from one side to the other, following the movement of the ship, and spilling over the sides.  Then, the maintenance personnel came and secured canvas over them.  There was no swimming on Saturday.

I wish we had known the exact longitude and latitude of Cape Liberty, Bayonne.  I think it was supplied somewhere, but I did not have it on hand as we watched on the television a miniature topical terrain drawing of the Atlantic Coast with lots of Atlantic.  Like the electronic crayon of an NFL play rehash, the projectory of the ship's movement was drawn in a bright red line on the screen with the ship's current position cryptically shown in the corner.  We could tell we were south of Philadelphia, but how south?  We ultimately arrived 5 hours later than scheduled on Sunday and waited some more in the comfort of the Celebrity Theatre (site of previously carefree viewing of standup comic and dancing & singing) until we were allowed to disembark.  We were entertained by Jamesy who started running out of ways to entertain us. He told us all about himself again (My name is James.  If anyone did not know that, HELLO!  Where have you been this past week?) and how he had come to New York hoping to be the fifth member of the Sex in the City cast.  He called into his walkie-talkie for backup and fish and chips as we waited past 1pm before being called to head to the gangway (Larry, I, Ellen and Chris were in group PINK1, as we said we were trying to make plane flights).

Now for the real disappointment:  We called United Airlines as soon as we could on Saturday evening to change our flights, as we didn't think we could make it in time for a 2:40pm flight back to Illinois.  We were charged a net amount of $138 per person.  UAL had been waiving fees for flight changes due to Hurricane Earl.  We were told on the phone that that offer ended at the end of 4 Sep (Saturday).  Upon coming home, I had taken the advice of a UAL ticket counter agent and requested a refund online.  I also put in a comment.  Response to the comment came first.  The respondent said the customer service agent was correct and that no one received fee waivers for travel after 4 Sep.  He asked that I answer a survey about the promptness and professionalism of his response.  It was quite professional and too prompt.  I felt that he did not do enough to assist.  A couple of days later, I received an e-message from someone else at UAL who apologized for the inconvenience and stated that a $150 refund was being processed.  I was astounded.  Either the left hand and the right hand were not working together or UAL was being amazingly responsive.

And, I received two $150 refunds, apparently one for each ticket!  Shhh.  Thank you, United.

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