Leaving the Continental US!

 

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The P&O Cruises Arcadia

We are taking a cruise ship to Australia because the thought of the 15 hour flight was daunting for both of us. While researching options for the Australia trip, someone recommended we look at repositioning cruises and I found a whole website devoted to listing every cruise line in the world and where they had ships www.repositioningcruises.com . On that list was a cruise from San Francisco to Sydney at about the time of year we were thinking of going on our trip. The cost was within reason when compared to roundtrip airfare, so we decided to pull the trigger and give it a try. As it turned out, the cruise we found was actually a leg of the British line P&O Cruises world cruise for 2019. So, this will have us spending three weeks with a ship full of mostly English people travelling from England, to the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, across the Pacific to Australia, up to Hong Kong, India, through the Suez Canal, Israel and through the Mediterranean before returning to England after almost 100 days.

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Looking back toward San Francisco from the Arcadia
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The Bay Bridge as seen from the Promenade Deck, Forward

After boarding the ship, getting settled and taking a very quick exploratory walk, we decided to head up to a high deck so we could enjoy the departure which would take us under the Golden Gate Bridge. As the sun was setting we stood on the deck and enjoyed the views of the city as the evening lights came on. We were enjoying the light show on the Bay Bridge and were speculating as to what the pattern might be, or even if it was a pattern or a trick of light, we were politely interrupted (it was polite if for no other reason that it was by a southern accent) “not to eavesdrop…but I took a tour today and know the answer! They are randomly generated by computer, if you don’t like someone, tell them to look for the rabbit!” Yep, the first person we talked to on the ship was one of the few other Americans. A lovely woman from Alabama who was on a portion of the cruise with her husband who works for the cruise line. Not only did we meet an American so early on our British cruise line trip, when we introduced ourselves we all had a laugh because they have the same first names as we do (but she uses a different nickname)!

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The lights on the Bay Bridge as we pulled away from the dock

We left San Francisco and the Continental United States after sunset and proceeded out the bay beside Alcatraz, where we took photos of the island and people finishing their tours of the prison took photos of the ship.

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Coit Tower in the evening
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Alcatraz at night

The ship did indeed take us right under the Golden Gate Bridge, and we realized that we would be pretty close to the bottom of the bridge as the ship is tall!

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Golden Gate Bridge

 

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Going under the Golden Gate Bridge – that is the smokestack of the Arcadia in white

The trip from San Francisco to Hawaii is a long way, 7,263 Nautical miles which means four days at sea, so we have been spending a lot of time walking the decks and watching the waves. The sea was pretty rough for the first few days with high winds, so there was a lot of surf to watch. On the second sea day the captain announced that the ship was speeding up due to a medical emergency and put out a call for blood donors, which we heard generated a number of volunteers. We are not the blood type requested, so all we can do is send out positive vibes and hope for the best. With the increased speed we arrived in Hawaii approximately 8 hours earlier than scheduled.

The lesson we took from the call for blood donors, which included the provision that they needed to have blood donor cards with them reminded us that we should include that information in our travel documents for the future. We will be researching exactly what information is likely to be useful or necessary before our next big trip. The captain reported that the patient was doing well as we pulled out of Hawaii, so that was good news.

San Francisco Visit

We decided to spend a few days in San Francisco before boarding our ship to Australia, so I booked a hotel near Fisherman’s Warf. Not so much for the area, but it was the best option in our rewards program when I booked. It does have the advantage of being just about one mile from the cruise port so we have the option of walking.

We had an uneventful flight out, flying over some beautiful views of the Rockies and Sierra Nevadas! 

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We hopped on the BART Train from the airport into downtown San Francisco and then then thought we would hop a street car, but neither of us actually looked at the directions for that, so we started walking toward the hotel thinking we could catch transit, after a few blocks we agreed we would hail a cab, after more than half way there, we saw the first cab of the day and decided we would just keep lugging our stuff the rest of the way. I only made a wrong turn once, and Dan caught it pretty fast. We arrived, 1.8 miles later, at our hotel and checked in. I have since decided we do not need to walk to the cruise port with our luggage!

Our hotel is close to many of the tourist attractions in the Fisherman’s Warf area, including the National Maritime Historical Park, which opened on the penultimate day of our stay, the Cannery and Ghirardelli Square and the end of the line for the cable cars. We have had great fun walking around the area and checking out lots of great views of the Bay, including both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, Alcatraz, and Angel Island. The hotel upgraded our room and we have a direct view of Alcatraz! We can also watch the many ships cruising on the Bay – cruise ships, ferries, sail boats, fishing boats and huge fully loaded container ships.

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The view from our room! Alcatraz looks pretty close.

As we have been walking around the city we noticed that some of the intersections are not exactly 90 degrees, in fact, many aren’t. This is because some major streets seem to run diagonally, other areas just have more than four streets making the intersection. Whatever the reason, the real estate has filled in with lots of flatiron style buildings, often with lovely round rooms at the corner. We walked by a really nice one with lots of beautifully aged copper accents.

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Just a pretty building on a triangle (not really a block since it only has three sides).

After our fantastic tour of  Chinatown, my California Cousin stuck around for the rest of the afternoon and we took a walk up Telegraph Hill to check out Coit Tower and the views. Coit Tower is a local landmark built in 1933 with a bequest left by Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a local eccentric with some money who apparently loved firefighters and, according to one historical marker, often followed fire trucks in the city. She left funding for a building and a tall (11 stories) tower was placed on a hill overlooking the bay. The building includes murals on the ground level the were painted by various WPA artists depicting life in California during the depression. There were many related to agriculture in the area where we queued up to wait our turn on the original elevator to the top. The views from the top are stunning and it was a beautiful sunny day.

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Coit Tower from the Ferry Terminal
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The view of the Cruise Terminal from Coit Tower
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Looking downtown from Coit Tower
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The Bay Bridge from Coit Tower
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Our hotel is down there somewhere…

We ended this afternoon with a walk down to the financial district to find  a nice place for some California beers – Success! But the postcard I kept to remind me where we went got written and sent off to some deserving relative. Needless to say, we enjoyed the beers, company and the building was a lovely old place with high ceilings and a lovely bar. From there we decided to take the Cable Car back because we had done a lot of walking. Dan and I were walking toward the Cable Car turnaround and discussing what the fare might be when a perfect stranger walking near us said “$7” I said thanks and then asked if we had to buy tickets at the turnaround, he told us we could hop on and pay on the car. We thought that might be the case based on what we could see, but it was nice to have confirmation, so we found a stop, boarded the next car and took the ride. It was cool. We weren’t really in a position to get any good pictures though.

During our Chinatown tour one of the historical facts we got was that the cable cares are actually an artifact of the gold rush. The technology of the cable cars was developed and use in mining and was brought to San Francisco for the gold rush. Pretty amazing technology and infrastructure that it is still in pretty heavy use today. And the hills we climbed were good sized!

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No Cable Car picture, but cute birds
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Another bird, these guys are all over and they are way bigger than Ohio gulls

For our third day we decided to walk along the coast of the bay following the bike trail which took us to Crissy Field, the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Presido. Lots of military bases are in this area, dating back to when California was under Spanish control. We had many great views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the views of the coastline across the bay really change as you move west toward the ocean.

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Golden Gate Bridge
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Looking back across Crissey Field

We left the coast of the bay and headed up to the Presido passing the old Cavalry stables where they still have some horses, who were out in a paddock right next to the trail. As we approached the old base there is a large National Cemetery with a number of old monuments that are far outnumbered by the more familiar white headstones. You can see the cemetery from the trail along the coast as well, it is pretty impressive.

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National Cemetery at The Presidio

Walking back from the Presidio we headed up Lombard St. through the Cow Hollow Neighborhood. No streetcar to pull us up the hill this time, we had to hoof it. We got to the top and were able to then walk down the “crookedest block” in the world. The sidewalk is straight, but it is a fun walk. Some tourists were in this little 3 wheeled touring car heading down and he failed to make the turn sharp enough at one point and he and his passenger had to get out and push their little vehicle back on to the road. They were followed by a self-driving SUV. We could see the driver with his hands hovering over the steering wheel, but the car was driving itself and doing a better job than the tourist ahead of it. It is tough to get good pictures of the street because of the landscaping, so you will have to look that one up yourselves.

On our last full day on the continent we wandered down to Pier 39 to check out the sea lions and there was a nice collection of them congregated on the piers. They started hanging out there after the 1989 earthquake and a few years later it was decided to let them stay. There is a conservation center there and they have become world famous “sea-lebrities.” They are a boisterous and noisy group.

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Sea Lions – cuddling?
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There are more in the fall, but a good crowd today
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Sea Lions

Lunch was at the Ferry Building which has been beautifully restored and now houses and nice collection of market stalls and produce stands. There were stalls for mushrooms, olive oil, artisan cheeses, small batch chocolate, and many more.

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Ferry Building
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Inside the Ferry Building
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A good view of Alcatraz through the masts.

“[Walking] is the perfect way of moving if you want to see into the life of things. It is the one way of freedom. If you go to a place on anything but your own feet you are taken there too fast, and miss a thousand delicate joys that were waiting for you by the wayside.”
Elizabeth von Arnim, The Adventures of Elizabeth in Rügen

A Local Gave Us a Great Tour of Chinatown!

We met a really nice couple from San Francisco while we were in Little Cayman and my California cousin mentioned she was meeting us for a day while we are here and managed to finagle an offer of a Chinatown tour. Of course we took her up on it! After my cousin managed to take a wrong turn out of the parking garage across the street from our meeting place and wandered a few extra blocks before she found us, we met right by the Dragon Gate and began learning all sorts of cool things! “Things you think are old are often recent, and things that you think are recent are some of the oldest places here.” Case in point, the Dragon Gate, designed by an architecture student and built in the 1970s.

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The Dragon Gate

We then started traversing the busy streets of Chinatown and discussing history, shopping and food as we looked at buildings, peeked in shop windows and even stopped in the Catholic Church to look at some historic photos (and talk to the priest as they were lining up to begin Mass). The church overlooks a lovely square that once housed a variety of brothels that the church successfully lobbied to be demolished. In the church were a collection of photos taken of the devastation following the 1906 earthquake and fire. It was remarkable to see the photos of the area and then step outside and look out on the modern skyline. The church also sustained significant damage during the 1989 earthquake, but was restored both times and is a nice church. On a side note, the Priest heard we were from Columbus and mentioned that his order also has the parish at Ohio State, he was so pleased to have that connection!

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Former Home for Wayward Women run by one of the first Social Workers

Another example of a building that looks old, but was built after the 1906 earthquake was this building. It looks like it might have been built of salvaged bricks, but we saw several other buildings that looked the same, so it could have been a style choice as well. The building started out as a home for wayward women (and their newborns) run by a woman who was likely one of the first Social Workers in the country as this place pre-dates Jane Addams’ Hull House in Chicago.
The wayward women, who were wayward because they were pregnant out of wedlock, likely worked in buildings just down the street. There were very few women in San Francisco in the early days and most were prostitutes working in brothels. The brothels were usually 3 story buildings and the prostitutes were arranged by color – actual color, not necessarily race – with those who would pass as “White” working on the lowest floor, those looking “Asian” on the next level and those considered “Black” on the top floor. I am certain there are excellent histories that talk about the role of women and the impact of sex work in San Francisco, but I have not done any research on the issue, so you will not learn any more on this subject in this blog post.

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Former brothel and now home to a Chinese benevolent society aligned with the Masons

As we moved on through the neighborhood we explored several alleys which once housed opium dens but now have restaurants, barber shops, news stands. We came across a group of you people practicing martial arts. The alleys in Chinatown are active real estate and an important part of the history of the area.

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A bronze plaque in the sidewalk showing the many alleys

Down another, we stood in line to enter the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company where they were making fortune cookies, even on a Sunday. One free sample was enough to make me buy a box, and we saw the process of filling and folding the cookies – alas, Dan handed me the camera, so the photographic evidence is not the best. But the place smelled great and the cookies were a nice snack!

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Filling and folding warm fortune cookies – one read “You will enjoy good health, you will be surrounded by luxury” – we’ll take it!

A few blocks away and we were climbing 3 flights of stairs on our way to the Tin How Temple on the top floor of a building that had apartments and a business below. The temple was busy as we are approaching Chinese New Year (Year of the Pig) soon. It was full of incense, offerings of oranges and other fruit, and people getting their fortunes. Because it was busy we were not able to learn much, so going back here will be on the “when we come back” list. The Temple had a balcony that overlooks the Financial District, so you walk out of a traditional Chinese place of worship and look out onto the top of the TransAmerica Tower and several other skyscrapers over the top of the shorter buildings.

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After the temple, we continued on to Stockton Street where vendors were selling clothing, fruit, dried fish, mushrooms and so many things we could not easily identify or come up with the right use. Chinatown in San Francisco is a busy and vibrant neighborhood with a lot of history and a lot going on. As we headed on to find lunch we passed through a park full of people playing various games of card and mahjong (and likely gambling), kids running around and even a concert put on by a local organization to raise money.
We found a nice place for lunch and shared delicious Chinese food and a bottle of wine from one of the wineries my cousin works for, so it was a great day! We are so thankful for our local guide who shared so much information, her time and gave us a chance to feel like we had the inside scoop on wonderful place.

“Whenever you go on a trip to visit foreign lands or distant places, remember that they are all someone’s home and backyard.”
Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

Packing Light for a Long Adventure!

When we tell folks we are preparing for a 7 to 9 month journey to Australia and New Zealand, one of the questions is often “how do you pack for that?” Especially when the person realizes we will be there during both summer and winter months. Well, here is how we pack!

For this trip, we both started thinking about what to take fairly early on as we had multiple considerations: three different seasons, very large countries with different temperate zones, activities from touring cities and wineries to hiking in mountains, scuba and snorkeling to fine dining on a cruise ship and more! So, we had a fine line to balance in terms of variety and use of clothes. We have accepted that we are, by inclination, pretty far to the casual end of the spectrum no matter what the travel is, but the cruise ship we are taking has formal nights, so we didn’t want to be too far off, even if we didn’t fully participate in “formal.” This means I brought 2 dresses and skorts instead of shorts and Dan packed a travel sport coat and travel pants instead of cargo pants.

There are lots of blogs and travel websites that will give packing advice, for minimalists, for carry-on only, for having all that you need and even more scenarios. I am not going to go into a ton of detail in this post, but since so many of our friends and family asked, I am going to give you some information. First off, since it was such a big trip, we did use several trips earlier this year to test our packing and clothing strategies. We were able to take everything we planned to pack on a road trip with multiple stops and lots of cold weather – that validated that our layering strategy would work and that we could pack and re-pack without too much fuss. We also made a list of what we took and made notes about what worked, then we adjusted. After a few trips and adjustments we are both happy with the plan!

Whatever advice you follow make sure it makes sense to you and you can live with whatever limitations they give you. Many sites recommend 3 tops to 1 bottom, but for this trip and the variety of temperatures and activities, I could not make that work, so I have a bottom to top ratio that is closer to 1 to 1. By the way, I found that women’s golf clothes are great travel clothes, they are comfortable, quick dry, HAVE POCKETS and are a little more tailored that camping gear. One more consideration for me was that I had to like everything enough to wear it a lot over then next months, but no so much that if I find something I love while we travel I am not willing to ditch it so I have space for the new thing!

Here is what Lisa is taking:

Here is what Dan is taking:

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Next, there is some methodology involved. We both use packing cubes, of course I use 7 and Dan uses 1, but that is for another type of post. Also, I roll my clothes and Dan folds his. Below are 3 packing cubes with my clothes, a shoe bag, my coat and rain gear and the outfit I am wearing on the plane – much less space than the 4 pictures of stuff I showed earlier.

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Another point is that the type of clothes matter. We both have amassed a collection of “travel” and hiking clothes that are quick dry, don’t wrinkle or hold wrinkles, and can be used in both casual and active situations. They also all pack up small. I even found a nice pair of jeans that are thin, quick dry, have some stretch and fold up the same size as hiking pants. Our down jackets and rain gear also squish down, a lot. We try to have things that do double duty as well, like our rain hats end up being our sun hats too!

We have been packing carry-on for a while. On one of our first big trips together Dan challenged me to go carry-on because we were going to be staying in four different places on a 10-day trip. That was quite the challenge for me in those days as I was a “just in case” packer and always had everything I might need for a variety of unlikely situations. But, with a bet on the line, I managed to do it, and boy was it liberating. No waiting for bags, no worrying bags would not make it, easily hauling your stuff around, the option for last minute travel changes and so many more benefits. And besides, we seldom travel to places that don’t have some stores.

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” ― Alfred Wainwright, A Coast to Coast Walk

 

 

 

Fun in Little Cayman

This post is not about the diving! Sorry about that, but only one of us is a diver and he does not write for the blog. There was a diver with the camera so, if there are fun photos shared there might be a short post with those photos in the future!

After our eventful travel day we started our great week at Pirates Point Dive Resort. It is a 10 room resort that cooks great food and serves it family style, offers well guided diving and a very relaxing environment. You can find out about it at http://www.piratespointresort.com

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Views like this from our room and the sound of the ocean crashing through the windows. The resort has a “Resort Manual” in the room that gives the guidelines, but also the history of how the resort got started and great bios of everyone involved from the owner to each staff person. It is a family affair as the current owner is the daughter of a legendary innkeeper who bought the resort and became an institution on the Island. Really, the number of things named after Gladys Howard around the Island is notable. Her daughter Susan now runs the resort and is a gracious and charming host to guests. Many of our fellow guests were repeat customers who knew their way around the bar! The staff came from many interesting places, including Portugal, England and Canada and Susuan is from Texas! The team is awesome, but you won’t be mollycoddled here. You bus your dishes at breakfast and lunch, you deal with your own gear and the bar is self service! You will be spoiled though!

When we arrived part of our orientation was to tell us where the bikes were, and Ed announced proudly that they were new just in September! That was something we did not appreciate until another guest talked about riding one of the old bikes about 8 miles up the island only to have the chain fall off in such a way that it was not going back on! We made good use of the new bikes and took them out a  bunch, mostly acting like we were off to do some good exploring but really just headed out to the Hungry Iguana sports bar for some beer on tap and a chance to check the scores. There were other rides, including to the other side of the island to see that shoreline. Don’t be too impressed though, the island is only a mile wide.

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Breakfast and lunch are enjoyed outside under some lovely shade with a view of the ocean, but that is not really the show – it is the hermit crabs that roam all over the resort. Pay attention to where you put your feet because you don’t want to step on one. The first morning we noticed a few of them walking by the patio, then we noticed a few more, then we realized there were a lot of them. They are on the walkways and in the sand, but when you walk by one on the walkway, they will likely curl up in their shell so that something that was moving along the walkway all of a sudden just stops and collapses on itself!

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The hermit crabs were not the only animals at the resort. They have cats! One morning as we were gathering for breakfast one of the cats was playing with something. It had caught a lizard and seemed to be toying with it, that is until it decided to eat it for breakfast! That sight did not keep anyone from enjoying their breakfast, but I think our mango pancakes were better!

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There are also iguanas all over the island, in fact Little Cayman and sibling island Cayman Brac are the only place you will find a Little Cayman Rock Iguana. And they are well treated there, having right of way on the roads.

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We went looking for them near the museum one afternoon and ran into Tanya, the naturalist on the island who tags the iguanas and is working to manage an invasive green iguana problem. She introduced us to several of the island iguanas, including Gerry – who we saw taking advantage of his right of way a few days later!

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One animal that went unseen was the Cayman Racing Snake that took up residence under the tank the divers use to rinse equipment. During lunch one day a dive master came over to warn everyone that the snake was there, but “they are harmless, so don’t worry, but if you startle it they are really fast!” No one was able to see the snake after the warning though.

Little Cayman is also home to Magnificent Frigate Birds and Red Footed Boobies. In fact, one of the places named for Gladys Howard is the National Heritage Building at the Booby Pond. There were lots of boobies nesting along the pond by the road and they make a kind of growling, grunting quack as they glide into the nest. The Frigate Birds soar above you in a very graceful manner. One morning while the divers were out I went exploring and found myself at the Bobby Pond observing all of the action. There was a helpful sign that pointed out that male Frigate birds have a red gland on the neck that they expand during mating season. I looked up and could see some red on the neck of the bird right above me and I thought that was pretty cool. Then I looked across the water about 100 yards and I could see red in the trees. Using the view finder I discovered that those Frigates can blow that red pouch up quite a bit! 

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We ended our fantastic week like we started it, with an interesting travel day that included a late plane, landing in the pouring rain and needed to walk, outside in the rain to get to the terminal to be escorted through the security line because our plane should have been loading only to discover that we couldn’t load because of the rain we had just run through! Everyone got where they were headed though and we are already planning our next trip!

Testing the “attitude improving” power of our Motto! Adventures in customer service.

Our schedule to end 2018 is a week in the paradise that is Little Cayman with awesome cousins, some diving for the divers and some time for the reader to stick her nose in a book while facing the waves on a beach chair (that’s Lisa – for those readers who don’t know us that well).

We are on this trip with our west coast cousins. Dan and I spent the previous five days in Miami, are in our home time zone and are relaxed due to our retired state. The other 3 are taking time from busy lives and work and crossing 3 time zones. One of them took the red-eye and arrived 4 hours before our “scheduled” departure. The other 2 came in the day before, but needed to wake up early east coast time, which is wicked early to their west coast body clocks.

We all arrived at the airport with at least the 3 hours recommended by TSA. When the airline counter opened – slightly less than 3 hours prior to our scheduled departure – they immediately, but not particularly effectively, announced a delay in our departure of approximately 3 hours due to mechanical problems with our plane. They did offer that we could work with another airline for transport to Grand Cayman, but that airline does not go to Little Cayman.

While we were all travelling to the same location, we had purchased our tickets at different times, and had slight differences in itineraries. Dan and I had a fairly straight forward trip from Miami to Cayman Brac to Little Cayman, the other 3 went from Miami to Cayman Brac to Grand Cayman to Little Cayman. We all started on the same plane, but would get off at different airports for separate flights for the last leg. That last leg requires a pretty small plane.

Little Cayman is just that, a little island. About 10 miles long and thin, with less than 200 permanent residents and a few small resorts that cater to divers. The airstrip is a short runway, with no lights. I don’t want to sell the place short with that description – it does have a windsock.

20181230102943_IMG_0937The Airsock and the Runway

The runway is paved, to my experienced eye (I spent the summer of 1987 working on a road crew for ODOT and have driven many Montana roads) by using the chip and seal paving method. There is a cul de sac at one end and the plane crosses the main road to pull up to the Airport/Fire Station building.

20181230102413_IMG_0930Yep, that is the plane crossing the main road!

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To fly in to Edward Bodden Airfield, Cayman Airways uses Twin Otters for the inter-island flights to Little Cayman. These are 15 passenger planes with bench seats where the backs can fold down – a double on one side and a single seat on the other. I love flying on these planes for many reasons, not the least of which is that you know you are going someplace interesting if they use one to get there. These Twin Otters fly a route that appears to start in Grand Cayman, stop in Cayman Brac, then Little Cayman, then back to Grand Cayman.

But now our tale of how not to provide Customer Service despite the best and kind efforts of the staff – lack of training, knowledge and communication:

We had three separate reservations for our group of five, and we each had different experiences at the ticket counter, but all three shared the experience of a ticket agent who, while nice and trying to help, clearly did not have the training or experience to deal with the need to re-ticket passengers and assure them, with any veracity, that the delay from Miami would not impact the ability to make the connection to Little Cayman. The connection is important – remember, there are no lights at the Edward Bodden Airfield. And, to primary interest to the divers, late arrive impacts diving the first day of the trip – I have observed that getting between divers and diving is not a thing you want to do.

We are each assured that we will arrive at our connecting airport with a plane available to take us to our final stop – they will hold the plane in Cayman Brac and the plane will arrive in Grand Cayman in time to make the plane there. Both of these assurances proved to be wrong. There were a total of 15 people who needed to get from our plane in Miami to Little Caymen that day (remember how many people the Twin Otter seats?) – 6 of us got off in Cayman Brac to find the plane had not been held, but another was supposed to come and hopefully would arrive in time, a comment that struck me as a bit, odd. If it did not, we were assured we would be sent to Grand Caymen and get a flight the next day. So, again we waited.

Meanwhile, our tired, possibly cranky, travelling companions were carrying on to Grand Cayman, about 30 minutes later than the originally delayed timeline, which put them perilously close to missing the plane. The airline staff on the flight made every effort to assure they could deplane immediately and be expedited through customs, but again the information proved wrong, the process they talked about was not able to be implemented and seemed unknown to the those needed to make it happen. Indeed, the what did happen seemed designed to create more problems than it solved.

Cayman Airlines is a small airline, they have 9 airplanes and they have a very limited schedule, so they should know the impact of any delay on passengers and have procedures to address this. Based on the experience of our group, they do not. While every person we interacted with was nice and tried to be helpful, it was clear that they lacked some combination of training, resources, empowerment or an actual process to address what we all know is a very common issue for airlines.

To my project management trained eye, it seemed that streamlining the trip for the folks going to Little Cayman should have been prioritized because of the hard stop on getting a flight out later in the day, not holding to original itineraries. Alas, problem solving did not seem to be something the ticket agents were trained or empowered to do.

Well, the intrepid travelers from the west coast were abandoned in Grand Cayman and it took almost two hours to get hotel vouchers and rooms for the nine people that made it to that airport. Hotel rooms in Grand Caymen are a little hard to get last minute during the holidays and it required some pretty determined – but friendly, our cousins are awesome people – self advocacy. To add insult to all of this, it would seem that hotels don’t know what to do with the meal vouchers even when the front desk claims they will be honored at the restaurant. Again, all sorted out, but really? And, these three are not as adept at using the “oh goody, an adventure” mantra to reclaim calm and vacation mojo.

Meanwhile, back at Cayman Brac, your favorite bloggers (that’s Dan and Lisa, you know!) were re-ticketed for a flight that “we hope arrives in time” and for some inexplicable reason they were hand writing the boarding passes. After a few misstarts on that process they decided they could just cross out the original flight number and put in a new number which did speed up the process.

20181231_090253.jpg  Yep, that is the original boarding pass with a new flight number

So, the passengers are sitting in an airport gate, but no one seems to know if there is a flight for us, and the board announcing upcoming flights does not have the flight number hand written on our boarding passes. “Oh goody, an adventure, oh goody, an adventure, oh goody, an adventure – ohmmmm.”

As sunset approaches a jet lands, a hopeful traveler says “our plane is here,” only to be advised that a plane that big does not go to our destination. Then, a flurry of activity at the desk and an announcement that passengers going to Little Cayman need to present their boarding passes and get ready to go. Anyone waiting for the flight to Grand Cayman needs to wait – the plane will come back for them. Yikes. But, this also demonstrates that the airline can and will adjust the schedule on the inter-island planes as needed and somewhat on the fly – why was this not part of the process from the beginning of the day?

We are all encouraged to board the plane quickly – which meant no gawking at the sunset. As soon as everyone and all bags were loaded on our plane the pilot took off with undue haste as we were, literally, running out of daylight. A fellow passenger mentioned that the flight was late because they had waited at Grand Cayman for some passengers but could not wait any longer. Yep, our group, so they risked no one making it, by not having a better plan.

Our plane pulled in to Little Cayman as the sun disappeared over the horizon, with about 37 seconds to spare, but now had to make the turn to get back to Cayman Brac and on to Grand Cayman, luckily both airports with lights. The pilot directed us all to exit the plane as quickly as possible, and as soon as the last bag was off the plane and we were all clear, he headed off into the now set sun.

Now, alas, our group is separated and the morning dives are at risk of being missed.

We will end on the positive note of some great customer service and a happy ending!

Those of us who made it to Pirates Point Resort (a delightful place to be featured in future posts) have a lovely dinner and a night’s rest. When we get up in the morning we find out that the rest of our party is at the airport and will be on the first flight our direction that will arrive shortly before the divers are scheduled to head off for the day. While I am plotting ways to disable the carburetor on the resort van to delay the dive, the resort is reaching out to get the information they need to facilitate our divers getting picked up, loaded up, geared up and on the dive boat. They informed the other divers that we were waiting for the last of the party and what they were doing to streamline everyone getting what they needed so the dive would go off with minimal delay.

They had a great day diving, got naps, got showers, got beers and had a good dinner.

We are all together and are proceeding with the great trip we anticipated!

“Travelling’s not something you’re good at. It’s something you do. Like breathing. You can’t work too much at it, or it feels like work. You have to surrender yourself to the chaos. To the accidents.”
Gayle Forman (Just One Day (Just One Day, #1))

Miami Beach!

We are spending Christmas week in Miami Beach because flying to Miami Beach, staying for a few days and then catching a flight to Little Cayman that originates in Miami is way cheaper than flying straight there from home. Crazy, I know, but that is the truth. There is a long story about how much money I saved even after we got to spend the week on the beach, but… Anyway – here we are, enjoying a windy few days on the beach. We have a nice view from our room and at night we get some festive lights!

The lifeguard stands along the beach are pretty cool, as are the kiosks for the beach chairs. 

We are in the area called Middle Beach, which is (drum roll) between South Beach and North Beach. You really do get a different vibe as you stroll along, South Beach has clubs, lots of hotels and restaurants, a large shopping district, and the famous Art Deco Buildings. Middle Beach has some great buildings and hotels, seems a bit quieter and we found an awesome Cuban diner just across from the hotel – Tropical Beach Café if you ever make it down here. Of course, we ate there multiple times. On of our friends who works at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Columbus used to work down here and he recommended it and several other places – Thanks Marius, all your advice was great!

We did not take many pictures, too busy admiring the buildings…

On our walks we have had awesome people watching, but also great people listening. The variety of languages and accents has been fun! We have heard some we think were Portuguese from Brazil, a few that sounded Scandinavian, German and New York! There are also a fair number of people with Southern Accents and Alabama gear. We think they might be here for the football game. On today’s walk, we were down where all of the stages are being set up for the Orange Bowl festivities and the ESPN College Game Day stage was up and the commentators were getting ready to go on air. Fun stuff! We do, however, count ourselves lucky that we will be long gone before the game.

On other walks we have seen some pretty interesting vehicles too. One hotel entrance had the following line up out front – a Rolls Royce, a Ferrari, a Porsche, a high end Cadillac, a BMW and several Suburban’s with uniformed drivers.  And then there are the boats parked in the river…

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“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”
Robert Louis Stevenson (The Silverado Squatters by Robert Louis Stevenson, Fiction, Historical, Literary)

The Great Goodbye Tour!

We have a great adventure planned for 2019 that will take us far away for many months, at least 7 if all goes as planned! Before we head off to Australia, New Zealand and other ports of call we have been catching up with friends and family from Indiana to New Jersey! Not only are we able to visit with the people we love, we have had some fine adventures as well!

While visiting my sister and her family in Virginia we wandered around Ball’s Bluff Battlefield, saw one of the smallest National Cemeteries and learned some interesting history about a Union general who was punished because he lost a battle he wasn’t even supposed to have had. Visited a few taprooms and enjoyed the local beers.

At a reunion of Dan’s family that included aunts, cousins, brothers, sister and nieces and nephews they tried to recreate some photos from their youth. No one was injured, but the laugh muscles were well used! 20181106_074829

We had a quick visit to Indiana that happened to coincide with prime leaf peeping and had a much more scenic drive than planned to avoid that traffic. I was able to present my cousin with a re-gift of a tacky piece of household décor, carrying on a family tradition. My uncle “created” (with pie dough, after attempting with croissant mix, he is nothing if not creative and thorough) Witechy Grubs to prepare us for Australian food. Good thing he didn’t find out he could have real ones shipped in time for that visit!We hit multiple tap rooms in several Indiana cities on that visit.

Headed to Pittsburgh to catch up with friends and more family. Timed that trip arrive the night 20181116_203116-e1543507163111.jpgPittsburgher’s kick off the holidays with parades, street fairs and fireworks! While catching up with friends we hit up several of the local tap rooms. Later we wandered to a cidery for some gingery apple goodness. A lovely dinner at a tiny Italian place capped off the visit to the ‘Burgh.

Then off to New Jersey to see more friends and the state capital. State capitals are a thing with me and I am trying to visit all 50. This one was under renovation, so we only caught the outside and it will join 4 others that I saw while they were under renovation. Between stuffing ourselves with turkey and pie (lots of pie) we visited a few local tap rooms and enjoy20181121_110922-e1543507266312.jpged several delicious flights of eastern beers.

We are enjoying lots of wonderful surprises in many familiar places as we go to visit folks before we leave. While we act like the visits are to make sure everyone remembers who we are when we get back we acknowledge that they are mostly opportunities to brag about our upcoming trip!!

“Family isn’t always blood, it’s the people in your life who want you in theirs: the ones who accept you for who you are, the ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.” Maya Angelou.