Hello from Marseille, France, where I’m lucky to be sitting aboard the new Carnival Breeze on the first day of a Mediterranean Sea cruise. Lucky, because I broke one of my basic cruise rules on this trip: Never plan to arrive at the port on getaway day, as you might miss the ship.
Carnival Breeze was to begin a 12-night cruise at 5 p.m. on Friday.
Feeling a significant measure of comeuppance, I watched my flight to Europe take off without me on Thursday night. Due to mechanical difficulties, my connecting plane from Cleveland was 90 minutes late arriving in Philadelphia. The Cleveland plane was still sitting on the tarmac of the Philadelphia airport, waiting for a gate, when my scheduled flight to Barcelona taxied out to the runway.
I could imagine my empty seat winging its way across the Atlantic.
No empty seats to Europe
“Sorry,” said the US Airways service representative in Philadelphia. “I can get you to Barcelona on Sunday.”
“But my cruise leaves on Friday.” I said. “Please just get me to Europe, and then we can figure out how to get me to Barcelona by 4 p.m.”
She said that every US Airways plane to Europe from Philadelphia was booked solid that night, with no seats available.
I give US Airways high marks, as service reps worked their computers to do the best they could, which was to move me to the top of the standby list for a flight to Frankfurt, Germany, where I could connect to a flight to Barcelona that was scheduled to arrive at 3:15 p.m.
If the new plan worked, and planes were on time, I could arrive at the port before the cruise ship was scheduled to depart. I emailed my Carnival cruise group leader that I was on the way.
But of course I wasn’t on the way, because there were no seats available on the plane to Frankfurt. My only hope was that someone missed that 8:25 p.m. flight, just like I had missed mine.
At 8:20 p.m. I was still waiting at the gate – and my luggage waited on a cart because no bag gets on a plane to Europe until the person who owns it boards the flight. At 8:22, I was told there was one seat empty, and I hustled aboard the plane, which already was moving by the time I fastened my seat belt.
The story ends well
In Frankfurt, the Lufthansa computer had my reservation for Barcelona, the last seat available on the plane, said the gate attendant.
Amazingly, in Barcelona, my suitcase was on the carousel, the first time I had seen the bag since I left Cleveland (extra points for US Airways). A Carnival representative at the airport pointed me to a taxi. Though the freeway to the docks was packed with traffic, and we crawled most of the way, I arrived at the ship in time. Barely.
Rested and fed, now I am breathing rather normally. The story ended well, but this is a sequence of events I do not intend to repeat.
David Molyneaux is editor of TheTravelMavens.com