Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The "other" side of the dream vacation

As much as I loved my dream vacation last week... there are a few adventure stories to tell that weren't such a dream. Just so you'll get a chuckle out of all this, I thought I'd share what the flip side of my dream vacation looked like.

THE BASICS -- This is an eleven (turned twelve) day dream vacation that started in Tampa for a couple days including a trek to Orlando for a conference... then I got on a cruise ship bound for the Western Caribbean for seven days, then back in Tampa for another day and a half before heading home. Sounds innocent and easy, right?

PACKING -- It all started when I left work 3.5 hours later than I'd planned to the day before my vacation. I had a lot of work to wrap up before I was completely unplugged and disconnected from the office (no internet or phone on the cruise). And when I got home, I still had some errands to deal with and packing to start-and-finish. By the time I was finished packing my last bag, I had about 30 minutes before I needed to leave for the airport on Friday morning for a 6:00 a.m. flight. So I just stayed up. It's been a long time since I pulled an all-nighter!

PACKED TOO MUCH -- So what happens when you pack in a hurry and do it in the middle of the night? You pack too much! So I got to the airport and paid an over-weight fee for my single checked bag. Stupid, Pam! Lesson learned on that one. I bought an extra suitcase in Orlando when I arrived so I wouldn't be faced with that charge again. I needed a new small carry-on-sized suitcase anyway, so this wasn't a big deal and since I was buying in a tourist city, I got a super great price. See the picture here for what my pile of luggage looked like on the way home - filled up after souvenir shopping and before the suitcases got lost in the Chicago snowstorm (more on that later).

SNOW and ICE -- As my flight was leaving we were getting the beginnings of a snowstorm in Michigan. The flight was delayed slightly and once we got in the plane we had to go through the de-icing station which seemed to take forever. We arrived late in Detroit, so I had to run to my connecting flight on the other side of the airport. They held the plane for me and a couple other passengers who were delayed and left as soon as I got my seatbelt on. I didn't need a workout after that major trek!

GRAPHIC DESIGN CONFERENCE -- I wanted to attend a 3-day conference in Orlando, but I couldn't afford the whole conference fee and extra night of hotel and car. So I settled for a day long class on Saturday and a ticket to the expo afterward. My tickets said the class started at 9:30. After getting slightly turned around in Orlando, I walked into the arena for the class around 9:25 only to find out the class time had changed to 9:00 and the instructor had actually started the class around 8:45. So I missed a huge chunk of stuff. But what I did learn was amazing and I'm so glad I went. Lots of cool tips and tricks I'd never heard of before. And the expo was a stunner too!

FOG DELAY -- Apparently my cruise woes made national news. Check out the video below for the news story about how my ship got stuck outside the Tampa Bay port by the Coast Guard because of heavy fog on the day we were set to sail. (Another news update here.) We should have boarded the ship around 11:00 a.m., but we didn't get on board until around 9:00 p.m. and set sail around midnight. I was not at the Port with the other 2,000 or so people... I was at the airport with about 450 other Carnival cruisers who had arranged for transportation from the airport to the port ahead of time. Thankfully the staff at the Marriott in the airport took care of us and let us crash in their lobby and pool and patio areas and even set up a banquet room with coffee, ice water, and cookies all day. They even let families with kids use their pool to help keep the kiddos occupied. I love Marriott! We had the full run of the airport rather than having to stand in line at the port like you see in the video. And Carnival gave us a credit on our account to cover lunch and dinner. Being stranded at the airport (like Borat) was not exactly how I wanted to spend the first day of my cruise, but it was definitely an adventure and gave us all something to talk about on the cruise all week.

EXCURSION BOAT -- a tiny mishap, but still something to add to the pile of misadventures was a mechanical issue with the boat that took us to the private island in Cozumel on the second day of the cruise. After speeding out of the dock for a 40 minute boat ride to the island, and just as the Latin music was cranked loud so we could party on the way there, we heard a loud beeping alarm go off. The captain stopped the boat, killed the music, and went to investigate. I'm not sure what the ultimate problem was, but some part needed to be replaced and they had a spare on board... we were back in action within 15 minutes.

MY POUCH RULES THE WORLD -- I said before I left that I was going to eat whatever I wanted (and I did) and that my pouch would have to take care of the portion control part of things. I only had one episode with my pouch and I not getting along on the cruise. It was the night I had filet mignon at dinner and probably didn't chew well enough - or maybe it was just because I ate too much (which is more likely the cause). For all the meals that I ate, I'm lucky that it was just that one that gave me trouble. I went to bed early that night, right after dinner, because you know how us WLS folks feel when something gets stuck and it's not going down or coming back up... you just suffer through.

THE BOAT WAS A ROCKIN' -- I suppose you can't have perfect weather every single day of your vacation and the last day on board the cruise ship was anything but perfect. It was very cold (40's) and very windy. Plus, the ship was going pretty fast to get us back to port on time. So there were a LOT of seasick people on board. I got a tiny little touch of seasickness -- maybe that's what it was, or maybe it was just a yucky feeling from eating too much all week long. Even though it was cold, I just put on some long pants and a sweatshirt and still went out on the deck to enjoy just being outside. I froze my butt off in the wind, but I didn't care much.

GETTING HOME -- Oh boy! This is where things got very interesting for sure. Here's the shortened version: My original flight home on Monday got cancelled due to weather in Chicago (where my connection was going through) -- the flight was cancelled just as they were boarding my original flight, so my luggage was already on board and would go on without me. American Airlines recommended a hotel and gave me a great rate for the night -- but the hotel was very scary and I didn't leave my room once I locked myself in. I should have left, but I was sorta stuck. Needless to say, I didn't sleep much because I kept waking up to loud noises and car/room doors banging outside.

DINNER DELIVERED -- Okay, this one is funny! As I was stuck in this crazy hotel room, I placed a pizza delivery for dinner. I just wanted something small (again, refer to the "eating too much all week" stuff above). So I ordered half of a stromboli and a house salad. The stromboli was only $8.99 so I figured it'd be small enough for one person. The salad was only $2.49, I think, so figured that would be small too. Oh was I wrong! The delivery came and there was enough food for six people!  LOL! I cracked up as I was opening everything. I ate enough for my one small pouch portion and left the rest for trash. I guess next time I'll know to ask the size of stuff before I order. Here's a picture of the HUGE stromboli that arrived.

STILL GETTING HOME -- I was rescheduled for a new flight on Tuesday -- but that flight got cancelled too (more snow in Chicago). I spent two hours on the phone from my hotel trying to get a new flight home. Finally got one secured and had to rush to the airport to make the boarding time. Once I got there, the ticket agent informed me that my connecting flight would most likely be cancelled, so she tried to find me a different flight that avoided Chicago. She found one from Tampa to Detroit, but couldn't find anything from Detroit to Flint until Wednesday. I took the Detroit flight and figured I was close enough to home that I'd find my way to my car somehow. Thankfully a friend picked me up and got me to Flint (thanks Lynn!). By the way, I was still wearing the same clothes I'd been in for two days since I didn't have any clothes with me on my carry-on tote. All my clothes are in my checked suitcases. The only stuff I had with me were all my electronic gadgets. So I was feeling pretty grimy by the time Lynn picked me up.

LOST LUGGAGE -- I arrived at the Flint airport to pick up my luggage (although nobody could seem to find my luggage in the system whenever I asked about it the past two days) -- the bags weren't there, of course. So I've put in a claim and hope that they show up sometime soon.

MAIL MISHAP -- I got in my car and drove home to find that my no-good-lazy-mail carrier hadn't bothered to put a package between my doors, she just left it square in the middle of my porch (she's been doing that lately and it drives me nuts!). Unfortunately, inside the package was a book which hadn't been packaged in plastic and the box was actually frozen to my porch because we'd had a snow and ice storm this past week. So now I need to put a claim in with ... Amazon? USPS? Someone? to get the book replaced.

So whenever I start thinking about all the crazy stuff that happened on my dream vacation... I'm going to just focus on the good parts of the vacation and not all these "adventures." I'll just think of all these things are the interesting story-worthy parts.  Ha!



  1. As a former Amazon employee, call/email Amazon. They will replace it and deal with the USPS. Don't bother going to USPS, go directly to Amazon. And if for some idiotic reason, you end up with a moron at Amazon, ask to be escalated till its taken care of. But it should be easy.

  2. Thanks ArwensRose -- I love Amazon and have always had excellent customer service with them. The book ended up drying out and being fine the next day, so I just kept it.


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