February 21, 2014

Around Cape Horn, #1: Screw-Ups by MS Outlook, LAN Airlines and Yours Truly Almost Ended this Trip Before It Began

I’ve been looking forward to this cruise around South America. It was set to start this past Monday with a flight from Washington to Miami, then a connecting flight to Santiago, Chile, where I was booked into a hotel before the Holland America cruise ship departed on Wednesday from nearby Valparaiso.

I’ve always prided myself on my trip planning and organizing skills. Now I’m not so sure. Witness these events:

1)  I always save crucial vacation emails to a “current trip” folder in Microsoft Outlook. But several weeks ago, Outlook decided to freeze all my folders with saved emails. Since I couldn't seem to fix the problem on my own, I hired a computer geek. In short order, he worked his magic -- by making all my frozen files disappear completely! Not the solution I was looking for.

2)  Fortunately, I had printed out a few crucial emails, including the final page of my purchase agreement for airline tickets, which showed the flight itinerary. The email from LAN (the Chilean airline several friends had recommended) showed that the initial flight to Miami left at 11:05am Monday from Washington National Airport. (Most people use its new name, "Reagan National Airport." I don’t.) My housemate Nimesh planned to drive me to the airport. On Sunday, I decided to check-in online and get my boarding passes. The internet process didn't work, so I called LAN. More confusion, more wasted time, and NO check-in or boarding pass. I noticed that LAN was using American Airlines for the segment TO Miami, so I called them. I soon discovered that my flight was departing from Baltimore-Washington Airport, not National. Good thing I checked a day ahead, or this whole adventure might have ended before I left home.

3)  Finally, my goof. When LAN gave me my confirmation, I noticed a big layover in Miami -- about ten hours worth! In my younger days, I'd have gone back online to find a better connection. The LAN flight from Miami didn't leave until 11:30pm, so I spent ALL DAY in the airport, watching the flight departure board, wishing I had been more careful with my own planning.

I got some sleep on the flight to Santiago, after being served a big meal at midnight. But the next day -- the free day I had hoped to spend exploring Santiago -- I was completely wiped out . . . liked never before. I even thought about canceling the cruise.

I decided to wait and see how I felt Wednesday morning. I did my usual “joy of quiet” exercises and meditation in the middle of the night, and woke up feeling a little better, but not great.

I’m writing this update on Thursday night, after the first full day on the ship. I had hoped I'd be able to spend these days at sea relaxing on my quiet balcony, watching the water and soaking up the sun. Not today -- it was far too windy and cold for that. And -- at least for now -- we're heading south toward Antarctica, into even colder territory. 

My two cruises last year – Alaska and the Mediterranean – didn't involve the open ocean, so this excursion brings my first experience with the rock-and-roll of moderately rough seas . . . not exactly ideal conditions for a guy with Parkinson's.

Ever the optimist, I assume things will get better. Stay tuned.

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