David J. Danto
Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion
Vacation – Part 2 – Return Of The Cynic – May 2023
In my last blog I detailed how fabulous my recent seventeen-day trip through Europe was. My wife and I acknowledged that we had a great time – but not everything was great. This week we’ll take-on the dark side. The items below are in no specific order.
My arrival in Athens was made much more complex when United delivered to me soaking wet checked luggage. The bags were clearly left out exposed on the ramp in Newark during a rainstorm. That is a pretty crappy way to start a very long trip. And, while I’m on the subject of United, the other two miserable experiences they are responsible for on this trip are the international upgrade process and the 787 ‘Dreamliner’ itself. Coach on the 787 is 3-3-3. That’s nine seats across. The airlines took a plane designed specifically for comfort with eight seats across and made it an uncomfortable mess for coach passengers to squeeze more RASM out of it. This of course causes more people to want to upgrade, which on United costs miles and money. However, when the upgrade on the outbound doesn’t clear (as it almost never does) they don’t refund the miles and money till the end of the trip – so they can’t be applied to the return trip. Leave it to United to always and consistently prove that “Friendly Skies” is BS.
We were on the Celebrity Cruises ship Reflection. Being on a cruise ship with a lot of destination ports means taking excursions. The company knows that many people leave the ship and return mid-afternoon – so why is it that that’s when they close or drastically reduce restaurants? Every time we returned to the ship the lunchroom was closing. It seemed like they were intentionally inconveniencing us. And on the topic of food and the ship, the rules were clear – don’t take food off the ship and don’t bring food onto the ship from the excursions. So then why did the tour of Valencia and other cities visit their extensive food halls? That seems pretty counterintuitive. And the final point on cruise ships – if I’m paying thousands of dollars for a cruise it’s important that the firm realize it’s 2023 for gosh sakes – put at least a USB port if not a full-blown AC outlet at the night table. Anything less than that really is unacceptable.
Then there are the excursions themselves. We did some of them through Celebrity to spend promotional money they had given us with our deal, but we arranged most of them on our own. Despite the common-sense perception, there is no additional value doing this through the cruise line. They are just reselling third-party excursions that you could easily book on your own for lower costs. In fact, some of their mark-ups were just plain crazy-huge. They wanted over a hundred Euros for hop-on hop-off bus tours in Barcelona – which sell for a fixed price of thirty-three Euros when you’re there.
Europe Tourism in 2023
There were a bunch of issues that we experienced in Barcelona which I assume may be the same for all of very crowed Europe this summer. The tourist sites are generally packed, give little information, and are not always friendly. When we visited Casa Batlló we were never told that we had to walk all the way up to the rooftop before we could leave – that is a huge climb up and then down for someone who is dealing with an injury. Then, when leaving, visitors are trapped standing in an immersive multimedia room for 10 minutes before being let out. Sometimes they tell you that you can skip it (as they did with my wife) and sometimes they don’t (as I was trapped and very uncomfortable.) For another example, when we visited Park Güell it was literally a poorly planned zoo of humanity. We paid for tickets to experience the buildings, but the tickets apparently did not include visiting most of the property. The parts of the property one could explore that were included in the tickets had lines that stretched literally hundreds and hundreds of people long. They don’t tell you that before you go in. They also don’t tell you they don’t have a guide map in English. They seem unconcerned about that because they tell you there is an online, interactive a guide in English available to download. Unfortunately there is literally no mobile reception in the park and one cannot connect to the almost non-existent signal of their free Wi-Fi. (The information agent tried to show me what I was doing wrong on her device, but she could not connect either.) Will you experience exactly these same issues wherever you are? Probably not. But do expect over capacity crowds and some disappointing experiences as a result of the crowds wherever you go in Europe this summer. It was never meant to handle this many simultaneous tourists.
Finally, as I lamented and feared about cruise ships all along, we got sick a few days after leaving the ship. We were on a seven-night cruise. Had it been a bit longer I’m sure that the passengers would begin getting sick on board. As much as we enjoyed the treatment and services, and the available dates just managed to fit perfectly into my very late planned business trip, I still believe these things are floating petri dishes that should be outlawed.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.
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Copyright 2023 David Danto
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