Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mediterranean Adventures - Part 1 (flight/baggage)

After our stellar vacation in SE Asia, Dana and I decided to travel again. At first it was going to be hiking through Peru, but then it switched to a cruise around the Mediterranean. We stopped in five countries, three continents, and 19 cities. I am so excited to write all about it. Granted it wasn’t the most authentic experience abroad since most of the people on the cruise were American and they served cheeseburgers and French fries at every meal.
So it starts…
We flew into Rome three days before the cruise departed in order to see more of the sights. First we had to switch planes in Boston because we found ridiculous low airfare doing it that way. Yeah a round trip flight from NYC to Rome was only $250 (with $250 in taxes and fees, ha) if we had one stop and carrier switch. Our flight to Rome was on the Atalia airline or otherwise known as the shittiest airline EVER. These guys make Southwest look luxurious. I learned a valuable lesson that first day, customer service is the least appealing job in all of Italy.
Our flight landed and we waited for our bags, and waited, and waited. After 45 minutes we walked over to the customer service desk for Atalia, and told them our baggage was lost. At first, the Italian woman looked pissed off that we were speaking to her (or breathing the same air as her, I couldn’t decide). She rolled her eyes and told us that it was too soon to declare lost baggage and that we should wait another 30 minutes (you know because the baggage handlers were probably taking a break in the middle of unloading the bags).
We went back to the carousel and continued to wait. At first we thought our baggage didn’t make the switch at Boston (it was a tight connection) but later we realized a lot of the other people milling around were also on our flight. After 30 minutes, and two flights later (they were now on Argentina) we headed back to the pissed off Italian women. We gave them our claim tickets and expected them to just type them in and magically know where our bags were. The flight was 9 hours, so we figured in that time (plus the extra 90 minutes since we landed) they would have put the whereabouts of the bag in the computer. Nope! They gave us a phone number and told us to call tomorrow.
Our second lesson…when you lose a bag in America, they scan that bar code and can tell you the exact location of the bag AND they call you. In Italy, you call them…twice a day…with different phone numbers each time…to talk with people who ONLY speak Italian. When I lost my bags in Asia, they had already put on a plane by the time I had realized it was lost.
At least we had our carry-on bags that contained two outfits (one conservative for the holy sites) and four pairs of underwear. The sad thing is that we were two days away from embarking on a 15 day long cruise. We stressed to the airline people that we were leaving Rome soon and that there would be no way for the bags to follow us since we would be in a different city every day. Granted I was pretty worried I would have to begin to wash my panties in the sink.
Every morning and afternoon we would call the numbers and have the manager at our hotel talk to the customer service people. He would list off the claim numbers and then listen for about five minutes. Then he would hang up the phone and tell us “they don’t know where the bags are…they say call back later and maybe they will find them”. I am not kidding, this is EXACTLY what he told us numerous times. At first we thought he was joking, then we thought he was editing down the conversation because he was annoyed by our constant pestering. We were so frustrated that we walked down to another hotel and had their concierge call on our behalf. Same story, different person.
We were down to the last 24 hours before leaving on the cruise, so we finally had to put some good ole USA muscle behind this (because damnit, we are American and you don’t fuck with us). We called Dana’s Mom first thing in the morning. Well actually it was first thing in the morning for us in Italy, so it ended up being 2am in Indiana. Of course the machine picked up and Dana started off with “hey Mom, don’t panic, I am fine, just without luggage, blah blah blah”. Thankfully her Mom picked up and she explained the whole story to her. The airline only had one flight from USA to Rome a day, so it was essential that our luggage get on that last flight.
Our nightly call to the customer service at last had some good news. When we asked about our bags they said “let me check, oh yeah, they are sitting right here, we will deliver them to your hotel sometime”. We practically jumped on our hotel manager (he was on the phone) and demanded to know A) if they even knew which hotel we were staying at, and B) when exactly does “sometime” occur. Honestly we didn’t trust them to deliver the bags in time and half expected them to just strap them on the back of motorbike. We tried to calm our nerves with a late long authentic Italian dinner. We got back around midnight to find our bags sitting in the hotel lobby. Dana and I ran over and hugged them and vowed to pack more than four pairs of underwear in our carry-on from now on.


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