Friday, March 13, 2020

Not Going Anywhere

Last night I started to write a new blog post “Should I Stay, or Should I Go.”

The thought behind the post was based on the current concern over the COVID-19 Virus.

I’ve been waiting to start my travel adventures for many years. When my wife and I got married 37 years ago, we dreamed that one day we would travel the world, see the sights and enjoy life.

But because our families were on opposite coasts, we spent our vacations visiting whichever family was farthest from where we were living at the time. We always said we would travel in our “Golden Years.”

Finally, in the last year, we began taking our first “real” vacations. Our first was to England in September 2019. The trip was everything we had hoped for, and on our return, we began to look forward to our next adventures.

We signed up for a Panama Canal cruise, starting in Florida in late April 2020, traveling thru the canal, arriving in Los Angeles in mid-May.

We chose a mini suite, made arraignments for our shore excursions and waited for months for our embark date.

I even booked us first class flights to get us to the cruise port, the first time I ever ponied up to sit in the front of the plane. It was to be the perfect trip. We were even scheduled to be in Cabo on my wife’s birthday. She wanted to swim with the dolphins on that day, something I knew for years was a “bucket list” item for her.

I also booked a quick trip to Vancouver BC for our 37th anniversary in March 2020.

Then came news of the COVID-19 virus.

We watched as the virus spread and we were surprised as the world began to panic. Then came the closures.

We debated the pros and cons of cancelling our cruise and made the decision to go anyway.

It looked like the decision was going to pay off, literally, the cruise line was giving us a credit of $200 on our ship board account.

Then yesterday morning, Princess Cruises made the decision for us. They put all their ships on a 60 day stand-down. Our trip was 45 days out.

My first thought was that they were over-reacting. They had increased screening, they were checking temps of passengers and crew, and had made changes that decreased the risk to passengers and crew.
But, even though I think they are taking it too far, I can respect the decision.

It wasn't the first time we had trouble while traveling.

Years ago, we were involved in what Jet Blue Airlines refers to as the “Albuquerque Incident.”
It started out as a typical vacation visit to the family on the East coast.
Not long after we arrived, I began to feel a little sick. I ended up spending the better part of two weeks in bed with an extreme fever. During the “vacation,” my wife hauled me off to urgent care or the emergency room three times. After two weeks on antibiotics and pain killers, I was ready to head home. We made one last trip to the ER, where the doctor cleared me to fly home.
After boarding our Jet Blue flight at Boston’s Logan Airport, the first announcement over the public address system explained that we would all be getting a voucher for $25 towards our next flight. The reason – our “direct” flight would have to take on fuel in Albuquerque New Mexico.
The pilot told us that because of headwinds, the plane couldn’t carry enough fuel to safely make it from Boston to Long Beach, California. It seemed like a reasonable accommodation, we wouldn’t go to a gate, just land, fuel and be off.
I won’t go into all the details of the flight, but I will tell you it ended in Albuquerque with a Class A ground handling incident. (I’ll write about the Albuquerque Incident in a couple of days)
Once there was an entire plane full of Jet Blue passengers stuck in a remote corner of an airport in New Mexico, the Jet Blue team went to work.
They arraigned for hotels for all the passengers, found transportation and got everyone checked in for a few hours of sleep (I think it had been about 18 hours since we left Boston).
The next morning, we all got wake up calls, and proceeded to breakfast buffets set up in our hotels. After breakfast and a few minutes to get ready, they transported us to the airport.
When we arrived at security, we were greeted by escorts and taken immediately to our gate.
At the gate there were several members of Jet Blue upper management, flown in overnight to make sure we didn’t have any further problems.
Once airborne, they informed us that our flight cost would be refunded and we would all receive a voucher for a free flight anywhere they flew.
A couple of days after we arrived home, Jet Blue called the house to see if we had incurred any additional expenses. If we had, they were going to send us a reimbursement check.
I cannot imagine anything else they could have done. The problems were not caused by their actions, but they stood up and took care of all the passengers.
I have been a loyal Jet Blue customer ever since. I even invested in Jet Blue stock
This week, Princess Cruise Line made a difficult decision. Putting all their ships in port to make sure that they provide the safest possible experience, even though it’s costing them a lot of money.
They are putting their corporate values and customer service above corporate profit. That’s rare in this world.
They may have just made me a lifetime customer. Oh yeah, I did just invest in their stock.

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