Embarkation Day

Sunday, September 22, 2019 : San Pedro, CA

This morning we sleep in a little. We’ve decided not to join what is usually a wild, crowded scrum to get to the cruise port as early as possible, and for the first time we will just go later in the morning or early afternoon.

But first, my package. After a quick shower, and a cup of hotel room coffee, I am fortified. While Jeff gets cleaned up, I head down to the lobby. When I get to the front desk, I ask for the manager. (Darn! I can’t remember her name.) The woman says she can help me, and I start to explain. I ask if she got the explanatory note from her staff last night. Apparently not. I am not pleased and as I start to explain she says, “Let me check into your package…” and I interrupt, “NO! I can tell you ALL about my package.” and I relate the entire saga. She asks, “How do you know it was delivered?” Resisting the urge to reach across the counter and throttle her, I say, “Because I just told you not only were the tracking numbers of both packages recorded on your log, but we also know who signed for them.” Then she says, “Let me talk to my supervisor…” Okay, that was the last straw. Now, I’m angry. “I TOLD you that’s who I wanted to talk to in the first place!” She scurries off and returns with a very nice young woman, who has indeed received the note, and is already fully briefed on my complaint. She is well-versed in customer service (and has probably already looked me up to see that I am at the highest reward tier in this company). I show her my Amazon receipt, she refunds my money for the purchase and then arranges for the head bellman to drive us to CVS, wait for us, and drive us back. Good call. Jeff and I get into our private shuttle bus. Well, this is going to be more expensive than a $30 bottle of sunscreen, because we had quickly made a list of difficult-to-find-in-Costa-Rica items that we might pick up. $156 later we get back into the van!

Time for breakfast. We walk up to a lovely coffee shop that we discovered last time – Sirens.

Oh so good coffee and a lemon poppyseed muffin for me and a blueberry muffin for Jeff. This, also, is a local place. There is a little family, old and young couples, and a relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere. And they have the perfect sign on their counter…




Back to the hotel, we figure out how to get our CVS purchases into our suitcase. Happily there is plenty of room in our backpacks as well. Nothing is very large, there’s just a lot of little stuff to shove into nooks and crannies; a lot of this we won’t use before we get home but we remove all the packaging to save space.

Since it is Sunday, and we know the Denver Broncos are playing early, I turn the game on and lay on the bed to watch. As is our norm, we text back and forth with Tom Delaney during the game, mourning the lousy plays (way too many) and celebrating the good plays (what very few there were). The Broncos get pummeled, we commiserate with Tom, and say “bye” as it is time to head for the Island Princess.

Jeff and I are the only people on the shuttle to the ship and when we arrive at the cavernous check-in area we are the only people there as well. Wow! This sure beats the big crowds and hours of sitting on hard chairs waiting to board. As we go through security, we bypass the alcohol check-in station with our two bottles of wine. No one even asks us about alcohol. And we are very quickly on board and in our cabin. That was fast!!

Our cabin is the last one on our deck at the back of the ship, and we are thrilled when we open the curtains and see our balcony.

It is a little longer than usual and curves around the back of the ship a little giving us a much wider viewing area than a normal balcony. It is also covered so we are protected from the afternoon sun and any rain. Hooray!

Our suitcase hasn’t been delivered to our room yet, so we unpack our backpacks, putting stuff into their “usual” spots. Then we go through the list of free amenities we’ve received for the cruise. Let’s see, there will be: chocolate covered strawberries; a bottle of wine; an evening’s dining in one of the specialty restaurants; and a special champagne breakfast delivered to our balcony. Doesn’t that all sound nice? A knock at the door and in comes Rodolfo, our room steward, with our welcome aboard glasses of champagne. We’ll save those for later.

We attend the safety drill that is required of all passengers. Our safe area, where we will gather in an emergency, is the gym. I whisper to Jeff that I would prefer a room that was NOT filled with heavy machines and free weights! The safety briefing takes about 30 minutes, not long for something that may save your life.

Back in our room, not only has our suitcase has arrived, but also the chocolate covered strawberries. We quickly unpack, slide the suitcase under the bed for storage, and get ready to to sail away. Standing on our deck, champagne glasses and strawberries in hand, we wave goodbye to Los Angeles.

Houston, Do you have a problem?

Friday, September 20, 2019: Houston, TX

We are up in good time, I even have time for a shower, and as we leave we snag our “to-go” breakfast bags that the hotel has prepared. Let’s see, there is a bottle of water, a carton of juice, an apple and two different types of granoly bar things. It is dark:thirty in the morning and having had no coffee, I am concentrating on not being snarly.

We get checked in for our flight (since it is an international flight, we can’t do that online ahead of time) and we go to the airport’s second level to eat some of our breakfast. Water and juice have to be consumed, of course, to clear security; the apple will need to be eaten before landing in Houston – so we are fortified with the liquids and 2 of the 4 hardboiled eggs we brought from home.

SJO is a very small airport and we are through security in no time. We buy coffee and sit to enjoy it at our gate. Possibility of snarling is steadily decreasing. As is our norm, instead of sitting at the gate, we walk. Small airport=many laps! As we walk by one area, Jeff says, “Isn’t that Andrea and Peggy? Sure enough there is Andrea and her mother who are friends from San Ramon. We chat for a bit (They are on their way to Cancun for a week.) then continue walking.

We were right about not changing our flight because of the weather – there is no delay at all in leaving, and, even better, the plane is less than half full! Jeff and I each have a row to ourselves, as did pretty much everyone else; I lay down across the three seats and snooze. It seemed like a fast flight, but we did have time to eat our apples and the other two hard boiled eggs.

Oh my goodness! Houston Hobby airport is a mob scene. Turns out that many of the people whose flights were delayed or cancelled the past 2 days are on stand-by. Loads of people everywhere. We have a four hour layover here, so we walk some more. And since we have a long layover we decide to have a real sit-down meal. But first, we walk. As we do so we check out the various eating venues, looking at menu choices and prices. Whoa! Expensive! Finally we settle on 6” sandwiches from Subway and Jeff buys waffle-shaped french fries from Chik-A-Fil. At least the sandwiches are healthy.

Back at the gate we learned our flight has been delayed. It is coming from Kansas or Oklahoma and there is bad weather between here and there. So that’s where the remnants of Imelda went… Delayed again, and again…our 4 hour layover stretches to a little over 7 hours. We aren’t worried or annoyed because we built in 2 days in Los Angeles before the cruise. Three of the sixteen people on stand-by for this flight get on, so there are no empty seats on this plane. Before we take off, well after our LAX arrival time, I send a message to the LAX shuttle company with our updated arrival time.

We fly Southwest a lot and I have 4 free drink coupons: two for going to LA and two for our trip back to Costa Rica. I order a mimosa and Jeff orders a beer. Since the flight was delayed, and the airplane’s WiFi is not working, the drinks are free. See there is always that silver lining. LOL

Whew, it has been a long day, but we are here. The shuttle is also full and Jeff and I are the last stop, the Crowne Plaza hotel near the port. It is 1 a.m. and way past time for bed…

See you tomorrow.

To Panama and Beyond!

September 19, 2019 : San Jose, Costa Rica

Two years ago Jeff and I, along with our wonderful friends, Mary Linscome, Eve and Leroy Measner, and Eve’s sister, Trish Nelson, took a 15 day Panama Canal cruise. We had a great time. This month, Jeff and I are celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary and thought repeating this relaxing cruise would be a fun way to mark the occasion. It won’t be the same without our friends, though. Happily Pokey and Gumby are joining us.

Yesterday our neighbor, Dale MacIntosh, picked us up at 12:30 pm to drive us to SJO (Juan Santamaria International) our new home airport. Dale, being in Costa Rica, has replaced our long-time “personal chauffeur” Tom Delaney. Don’t worry Tom, you are still on the hook for our trips back and forth to Colorado.

Our drive to SJO was uneventful, well, for Costa Rica, and we arrived at the airport arrivals area in good time. Yes, arrivals. We had Dale drop us at arrivals where we will catch the free shuttle to the Holiday Inn Express. As Dale pulls into the pick-up spot, the shuttle van is behind us. Wow, what great timing! I leap from the car, madly waving my arms to flag down the driver. With quick goodbyes to Dale and grabbing our suitcase, we get on the shuttle and are to the hotel in less than five minutes.

We’ve arrived before check in time and hang out until our room is available. I have a cup of coffee and Jeff prints our cruise boarding passes and luggage tags. The Holiday Inn Express is being renovated and we have one of the new rooms. Very nice…

Do you remember that I said “grabbing our suitcase?” Yup, we’re getting good at this. A 15 day cruise plus 3 hotel nights beforehand and 1 night afterward, and we’ve managed to put everything, including snorkeling gear, into one suitcase, and we’re still under weight. We each have a day pack for incidentals.

We spend the evening lounging around, watching the Thursday night NFL game not caring about either team (Jaguars vs Titans). I read some news. “Did you know there’s a big storm over Texas?” I asked Jeff. “No…”. A little more research tells us that Tropical Storm Imelda has dumped roughly 35+ inches of rain around Houston and its environs in the last 2 days. And, yup, both Bush and Hobby airports have been affected. Bush has closed because of flooding; but we’re going into Hobby and then have a connecting flight to LAX. A quick check on Flight Aware (a great app, by the way) shows HOU has no major delays. Feeling a little better now, I check our Southwest Airlines reservations. Oh dear, they are doing the ‘Your flight(s) might be affected and you can rebook for free.’ thing. Decision time…. We decide to keep our original flights thinking the storm will probably move on; anyway we’re spending two hotel nights in LA so if we get delayed a day it probably won’t be an issue.

We walk down to the front desk and ask the to pop our microwave popcorn – and enjoy a frugal traveler’s dinner of popcorn and beer.

The Jaguars beat the Titans. ho-hum, time for bed.

2019 Adventures