Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mediterranean Madness Part XV - The Journey Home

115We flew to Amsterdam, where we were going to connect with Delta. What a treat it is to fly into Amsterdam and see the flowers in the fields and the lattice work of canals that crisscross the planes. We landed, and then we were promptly ushered into a line, which led us to Customs. This was something of a surprise to us, as we had no intention of staying in Amsterdam, and I was worried that we were about to exit from the airport, but that is standard procedure for the Dutch. We passed through Customs and even got a stamp in our passports. We found ourselves in the main terminal, where we worked our way to the Delta gates. We stopped to buy some Cokes and a snack. Sarah got a Dr. Pepper, and the rest of us selected a local soda of some kind. The guy behind the counter told us we couldn't take the drinks or snacks with us to the gate, but we didn't know what he meant. We walked another 20 feet and discovered his meaning. In order to fly to the US, we had to pass through another security checkpoint, one in which no liquids are allowed to pass. So, we stood there and slammed our drinks and snacks so we could pass through this check point. And let me tell you, it was thorough. Thoroughly thorough, in fact. And then we were herded into a waiting room with a lot of people and very few chairs, where we waited until our plane was ready. By this time, it was early afternoon. We got on the plane and headed west, flying over Iceland and Greenland, and landed in Seattle. The sun was up the entire day. This may not seem extraordinary to you, but we left Barcelona at around 11:00 that morning and landed in Seattle sometime around 4:00 that evening. By the clock it was a short day, but we had traveled about 18 hours, give or take. It was a much shorter trip for us to fly home than it was to get to Barcelona at the beginning of the trip.

We were so tired when we arrived in Spokane that we checked into a hotel and crashed until the next morning. We were glad to be home, but we had such a wonderful trip that we immediately began to calculate ways we could return to Europe ASAP. We're thinking about a Scandinavian cruise. That will probably be our next big trip.

Thus ended our Mediterranean vacation. I'll wrap up this rather verbose review with the following comments:


A random thought about ordering pizza in Europe, especially in Italy.  If you want a regular ordinary cheese pizza with a tomato type sauce, then you want the Margherita pizza.  If you want an American style pepperoni pizza, then you will need to order the salami, and probably the spicy salami.  It's the closest you'll get to the one from back home.  Do not confuse my last sentence with the one that immediately follows.  If you order a pepperoni pizza in Italy, you will get a pizza with small peppers.  Don't make this mistake if you don't like peppers on your pizza.  The pepperoni in Florence had bell peppers; other places had a different variety.  If you order a pizza with ham, it will be ham, but it will be several sheets of thin, parma ham that are scattered across the pizza and it will resemble a Picasso.  The ham pizzas are very good.  One pizza will almost always feed two people.  We knew that, but we continually ordered a different pizza for each member of our party.  They were usually between 6 and 10 Euros per pie, and they were always thin crust.  They also had a tendency to be ever so slightly gooey (just a little) in the very center, as if it needed 2 more minutes in the oven.  Not one pizza that we ordered in Italy (or Barcelona) was sliced.  We had to slice it with a fork and knife, and that is hard to do with randomly placed deli slices.  If you asked they might slice it in the kitchen, but we continually forgot to ask.

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A thought on using the restroom in Europe.  Unless you're at a facility that offers those services, you are expected to pay for them.  Anywhere from .50 Euro to 1 Euro, but usually between .50 and .70 euro.  The bathrooms are clean.  Very clean.   Your change is actually funding the services of the person who stands off to the side in the restroom and then cleans it when you are finished.  After a while, you will get used to that person standing there.  They ain't watching, if that's what you're worrying about, and they won't be impressed, if that thought flashed through your mind.  The toilets with holes in the ground are just as useful.  None of the seats in Europe are built for comfort; you don't want to read the Wall Street Journal while you're in there.  They're built for function.  "Thank you for coming, thank you for leaving" seems to be their motto.  And unlike the riot I almost started at the Vatican, observe and respect the waiting line.

Another travel tip in general: Sarah picked up some battery packs that you can plug your phone or game into and it will charge your device, just like electricity in a bottle, which is what a battery is, I suppose. But it will work on a plane or while on a bus, where you might not have a plug available. We actually used these almost exclusively to charge our devices while in Barcelona.  Never had to use the power adapter/converter.
This is what cruising is all about!
I mentioned that we were going to give you a final thought about the global roaming issues with our phones. We made plans to use an international calling plan, and prepped one of our phones for that purpose. But, we discovered that we had easy access to Wi-Fi signals almost everywhere we went, and we were able to stay in contact back home via texts, face time, Facebook, and Whatz App. Next time, we won't bother with adding an expensive call package that we never used. If I need a phone that bad, I will probably pick up a burner phone, which can be found on almost any street corner in every place we went.

My final random thought: We had a horrible time with artwork we purchased on the ship. In fact, we never received our order, which we paid for with a credit card. We contacted Royal Caribbean, who told us that the art company was going bankrupt, and that they would do everything they could to refund the money we spent. Fortunately, the credit card payment could be reversed, so I was thankful we used that instead of a debit card, which makes it more difficult to refund money. Sarah looked online and found the exact same painting and paid 1/3 of what it cost on the ship, and we received that order in less than a week. Lesson learned!

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