Sea

Disembarking a ship can be a challenge on its best day. Yesterday, we were not in a hurry to leave Enchantment of the Seas as we had a 9am pickup scheduled, so we decided to forgo the priority disembarkation opportunity offered to us by our Royal Caribbean Diamond Plus status, and take our time. In the end, that decision did not cost us that much time, but for some reason, everywhere we went, we were in line behind someone who just didn’t know what to do. Hurry up, and wait seemed to be the rule of the day. I think one of the issues may be the design of the terminal Royal Caribbean uses at Canaveral itself. There are too many escalators and chopped up spaces. In an effort to prevent overcrowding along the way, the local security staff is more dedicated to enforcement of “rules” than any I’ve witnessed. Stop here. Only one person on the escalator until there are three steps in between you and the next person, and heaven forbid you are wearing “croc type shoes” because it’s to the elevator for you. For my safety? Perhaps. And I can live with it, because the baggage claim and customs hall were not oppressively crowded.

We got our bags and picked a line to visit with CBP and hand in our blue forms. Of course, we got in the line behind the person that either didn’t have their documents filled out or didn’t realize a driver’s license alone wasn’t going to cut it to get out of the terminal. Finally, another agent called us around the line blocker. In retrospect, we probably looked like the ideal merchandise smugglers with four bags for a four night cruise, and having only one $25 purchase of a small gift for our nephew to declare. What the agent did not know was that we were traveling with not only our bags for the cruise, but for MrsMJ’s five day stay at Zumba instructor convention (translation – we had a lot more stuff than we would usually be traveling with). We then proceeded to get the most thorough third-degree I’ve experienced from CBP whether returning by air or sea. I’m not an interrogator by nature, so maybe delivering questions with a bit of suspicion and attitude is part of the drill. If so, we got that, and then some. Why are you in a hurry, where do we live, what’s in our bags, where do we work, what specifically do we do at work, any booze, fruit, etc? We calmly answered everything, and just when I was convinced we were going to get sent to have our bags searched, he shoved our passports back at us, and off we went. Not my preferred way to end a rather enjoyable four night cruise, but I digress. But this reminds me…. is it wrong to wish for Global Entry at sea ports? 🙂

Air

Then we arrived at the ever precious Orlando International. Friday in the Orlando area must be “issues” day because I find myself in line behind people that have travel difficulties of some sort. Message to Delta Air Lines – It is a rare event that I trouble you with a visit the Sky Priority line at the ticket counter, so when I do, it means that I really want to talk to an agent, not a machine. Why? Agents that just deal with the machines can’t “see” past the machine. I’m traveling with MrsMJ, a non-Medallion for a short while longer, and she is in a separate PNR. We have four bags to check. Hey, I’m human…. if I can possibly avoid paying a baggage fee, I will. A conversation with an agent would likely have made this easy.

Instead, I get directed to a machine because I’ve been in line a while. I get us both checked in. My Medallion upgrade (er…MrsMJs) has cleared so I get a three bag allowance. MrsMJ, in her own PNR was facing the checked bag fee for our additional bag. My experience in the past has been that once an agent sees our situation, they may waive the extra fee as a courtesy since we are traveling together. The agent responsible for the kiosk’s solution for all this? He scans my boarding pass into the machine to add the 4th bag. Fourth bag fee? $125 vs. either $25 for her one bag or $0 if they happen to be nice and waive it because she is flying with a Medallion. I tried to explain this to the agent, but got a blank stare in return. I then did what I should have done in the first place, I took matters into my own hands. I cancelled the transaction, re-checked MrsMJ in, paid her bag fee with my Amex Platinum card (which will credit the fee back to my account), got the fourth bag tagged, and left for security.

I pontificate on a frequent basis about the joys of PreCheck. I’ve encouraged those I know that fly often enough to sign up. I was especially encouraged to see just two people waiting for PreCheck yesterday as opposed to the masses in line for regular security. MrsMJ and I were waiting to have our boarding passes scanned by the agent behind a man who seemed affable enough. The kind of guy I wouldn’t mind sitting beside on the plane. He had a Platinum Medallion tag on his bag, so I’ll assume he flies a bit. Trouble is, the gentleman had never heard of PreCheck, and had been sent over from the regular line. As a result, he had a whole series of questions for the agent. What is PreCheck? How did I get picked for it? Do I get it all the time? You get the drill. The friendly enough agent finally had to tell him to move along. We both got the glorious “3 beeps” and moved onto the metal detector. Only problem – I was behind the same guy from boarding pass check. I finally decided the guy was lifetime Medallion and hadn’t flown in years. It was like his first trip through the airport metal detector. After four tries, he made it through. I’ve learned to remove a certain belt that I was wearing yesterday, walked through, quick swab of the hands after handling my insulin pump, and we were on our way to the Sky Club….where normalcy finally settled in.

Once we got on the plane, everything went fine. On time departure, nice crew, early arrival. Bags on the carousel when we got there. Service I’ve come to expect. Overall, these were just a few minor annoyances that were fun to talk about once we got home. We really enjoyed a great vacation. MJ on Travel is well-rested and ready to go. Hope nothing bad happens at the day job to change that on Monday. 😉 The blog returns to its regularly scheduled programming beginning tomorrow, and there are a lot of interesting things to discuss during the week ahead.

-MJ, August 24, 2013