The kids made me do it

We just had to go to Disney. For kids who where born and grew up in a small kingdom in Africa the idea of a trip to Disneyworld was so incredible we just had to make it happen. It was a long trip – a four hour drive from our home in Mbabane Swaziland to Johannesburg International airport.

Then 11.5 hours flying time to London – and then another 9.5 hours to Orlando. Boy this Mickey Mouse better be worth it. And he was, as well as the Ninja Turtles and Goofy …. just the look on the kids’ faces was enough reward for me.

Having said that I did have to laugh when I came across this British comedy skit of a travel agent booking a Disney trip …. if you have time check this out. (“It’s just a man in a suit!”)

The mom’s face says it all

So I did Disney (twice) and thoroughly enjoyed it. I think the kids had more fun looking at me being terrified of the rides. And we did pace ourselves. Disney can be pretty exhausting if you are determined to get your money’s worth. I had to laugh the last time I was down there for a travel function. I have honestly never seen so many crying children and so many moms with strollers where the beverage holder had a beer! Well maybe it was a Coke!

Are we having fun yet?

Family holidays can be a challenge at the best of times but they do create some wonderful memories and some good stories to share over dinner.

Fishing trips were a big one in our family and the kids were taught at an early stage to fly fish. We took many camping trips while we lived in Africa. We would hitch up the trailer and drive down to the coast. The beach was miles long and almost deserted and we had to take the 4×4 to drive along it. Lunch in the cooler box, a fishing rod and not a life guard to be seen. Alas when we got back to the camp we found the monkeys had cleverly broken into the trailer and opened every Tupperware container they could find. What a mess!

No – I am not having fun – so there!

Or the time we took a cruise from Durban stopping off at a small port on Madagascar island. We took a taxi from the port to a nearby beach. Imagine the look on the boys’ faces when they saw that there was no floor in the car at the back – it had completely rusted away – so they had to keep their feet up away from the axle. And you wonder why they call that port Hellville!

Or our first cruise in North America – out of LAX along the Mexican Riviera. Our first sea day sitting up on deck I could not find the youngest one anywhere. I started to panic until I saw him leading the conga line – having the time of his life! That’s what you have to do on a family vacation – just roll with the punches and make sure you get a photo!

A funny airport welcome – not

I am sure you have seen those signs when you enter the arrivals hall after a flight. There might be a group of people with flowers, balloons and signs. Welcome home – Granny we love you – Welcome to Canada. Well there is a twist on those airport welcomes as was seen recently in Australia. This guy find out his girlfriend had been unfaithful – this was his welcome home sign for her as she stepped into the arrivals hall …

Well that’s a bit embarrassing …. I feel a bit sorry for the girl and so apparently did a lot of people online. This welcome certainly generated a lot of opinion. As someone said – he must have been pretty upset to put himself out there in public as being cheated upon. In medieval times being a “cuckold” was something to be ashamed of so he must have been pretty upset to humiliate himself like this. Someone said on twitter that if she was the girl he was meeting she would have just walked right past him without stopping as if she didn’t know who he was. Good call!

These kids had something else in mind to greet their mom when she arrived at the airport

Or this wit … how to call someone out

But I think I like this one the best

Airports can be bewildering places and it is always reassuring to see someone there to meet you – even if it is not family. I always book a transfer so that when I come through into the arrivals hall there is someone there with my name on a sign. Nothing worse than arriving tired and jet-lagged in a strange airport and not knowing what the heck to do or where to go. Also a pretty nice service I have found is the VIP fast track where someone meets you at baggage claim and then walks you through immigration. What a pleasure that is – I had this service in Egypt and also in Barbados and it was so quick and easy and no need to stand in a long queue.

But as always – it pays to keep your sense of humour whether at arrivals or departures.

The airline that doesn’t care

On a recent TV show in the UK a pilot who used to work for Ryanair said that the company “detests” its crew. That’s a bit rough but maybe true. In fact Michael O’Leary the controversial head of Ryanair once described pilots as glorified taxi drivers.

The full article is available on the Daily Star Online website (a UK online newspaper) but in that they state other woes that the airline has gone through – See below.

 2017, hundreds of thousands of passengers had their travel plans wrecked after Ryanair admitted it had “messed up” the planning of its pilots’ holidays.

The airline was forced to cancel 20,000 flights – a move that, along with strike chaos throughout 2018, lead to it issuing profit warnings.

Customers came forward to tell the Channel 5 show the tales of appalling rudeness experienced by those who dared complain.

One woman, who was charged €300 for Ryanair to print out the boarding pass she had forgotten, was told to forget about a refund.

The general tone was that “it was your f***-up”, she said.

Daily Star Online has approached Ryanair for comment.

Well as long as they don’t ask Michael O’Leary for a comment – but they probably won’t get one. The travel industry press had great fun back in the day when O’Leary would entertain us all with his outrageous statements. It seems however that Ryanair has somehow managed to shut him up and we haven’t had comments from him for a few years. Here are a few beauties from the past …

On British Airways: “BA have got waterfalls in their head office. The first thing I’d do if I were in charge of BA is turn off the waterfalls. The only time we have waterfalls in the Ryanair office is when the toilet leaks.”

On how to keep employees motivated and happy: “Fear.”

On refunds: “We don’t want to hear your sob stories. What part of ‘no refund’ don’t you understand?”

If you can’t find a low fare on Ryanair: “You’re a moron.”

On charging passengers to use the loo: “One thing we have looked at is maybe putting a coin slot on the toilet door so that people might actually have to spend a pound to spend a penny in the future. If someone wanted to pay £5 to go to the toilet I would carry them myself. I would wipe their bums for a fiver.”

The list is long and full of **%#@@ words but if you want to have a good chuckle go to https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/lists/Michael-OLearys-most-memorable-quotes/

My personal favourite ….

On travel agents: “Screw the travel agents. Take the ******* out and shoot them. They are a waste of bloody time. What have they done for passengers over the years?”

Fly and flop

I made Leslie Horton laugh when I first used that expression.

FLY AND FLOP

It is a bit of a British way of making fun of the annual holiday down to Mallorca. Pack up, get on the plane – get to the hotel – and flop for a week. Never mind that rubbish about sight seeing, churches, museums – heck no. Get on the plane – get down to the beach and …. yes that’s right – flop!

Look – there’s nothing wrong with that. After a whole year of working hard, taking the kids to hockey practice, cleaning the house, shoveling the driveway – yeah – hardworking people are quite justified in their desire to get somewhere they don’t have to make beds and cook meals and they can just lie on the beach for a week – even if it is pouring with rain!

Of course it has bred a whole sub-culture of the locals who laugh at the tourists and regard them as a necessary pain in the butt. I understand that. I grew up in Mullion, Cornwall – a pretty village with spectacular beaches. There was always a bit of a panic in the air towards the end of June – the “visitors” were coming. And you could spot them a mile away. Dad would have a hanky on his head and would be enjoying an ice cream cone.

Mom would be struggling down the main street with an oversized beach bag and very burnt arms. We fled to beaches that only the locals knew about and waited there until 4th September when peace in the village was restored and the visitors all went home.

And here we come to the “flop” part – it’s problematical. Finding somewhere to flop that is. Pop your head out of the window of your hotel in the early hours of the morning and I bet you will see people sneaking down there to drop a towel or a book on a couple of chairs to reserve them. The hotels don’t like this and nor do the other guests. But a place to flop is very very important.

The strange thing is that the all inclusive hotels these days have so many activities on the go you would be hard pressed to spend the whole time flopped in your chair. What with aqua aerobics in the morning and karaoke in the afternoon round the pool and name that tune in the evening. (Can I run away now???)

So if lying on the beach all day is your thing – Go for it! I say. You worked hard. You deserve it. It is your holiday and you should spend it how YOU want to spend it and forget about any criticisms. Just remember the suntan lotion and don’t fall asleep in the sun.

The final word is from Jokesoftheday.net. It says it all…..

A guy fell asleep on the beach…
A guy fell asleep on the beach for several hours and got horrible sunburn, specifically to his upper legs. He went to the hospital, and was promptly admitted after being diagnosed with second-degree burns. With his skin already starting to blister, and the severe pain he was in, the doctor prescribed continuous intravenous feeding with saline, electrolytes, a sedative, and a Viagra pill every four hours. 
The nurse, who was rather astounded, asked, “What good will Viagra do for him, Doctor?” 
The doctor replied, “It won’t do anything for his condition, but it’ll keep the sheets off his legs.”

Read more on page: http://www.jokesoftheday.net/joke-A-guy-fell-asleep-on-the-beach/2017073022

Who’s an old bag?

Well not me.

But now that I have your attention – what did you pay for your checked bag the last time you travelled? This handy chart is a great little overview of the checked bag flourishing industry.

Hmm – that’s pretty interesting. So what has happened since 2010? – LOTS.

I found that most international airlines allow one free bag – that is with the exception of a few such as Transat, Jet Blue, Frontier, Norwegian Air, Spirit, Frontier, Westjet and Wow. Some even charge for carry on such as Wow, Spirit, Allegiant and sometimes also on American Airlines for some fares.

Now when baggage fees were first charged, as you can see from the chart above, people started trying to avoid those fees by not checking luggage and bringing everything carry on. This might be OK for the business traveller who is away from home for just a few days but if you are going on vacation for a couple of weeks it can be a challenge. And if you are travelling with kids – well good luck!

How many flights have you been on when you could not even find a place for your bag in the overhead bin? And what the heck are some people thinking of when they get on board with a carry on bag that clearly would never have fit into the frame at check in if they had tried?

So what is a traveller to do? Well first of all read the rules on the airfare – many airlines now are introducing different layers of pricing for the same journey and some will include free checked bags and others will not. Check this out and see if the difference is worth it. Chuck out those old heavy suitcases and invest in some new lightweight luggage so you can make the most of the weight you are allowed.

Wear your jacket and sweaters on the flight and those heavy hiking boots. Yes it might be a schlep to take them off and on when going through security but it will save you a ton of weight in your luggage.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3155944/Boyband-singer-collapsed-heat-exhaustion-EasyJet-flight-wearing-clothes-avoid-excess-luggage-fee.html

Ladies – you don’t have to take all those special shampoos from home – or the heavy jars with face cream. I promise you – your face won’t fall off in just a couple of weeks. Pick up the travel size items – they might not have the fancy brands but it will save weight. And if you cannot live without your Estee Lauder expensive face cream go and ask the salon if they have a trial size for you.

All in all, it looks like baggage fees are here to stay – and I am just going to blame it all on the shoes.

Most spectacular harbours

Cruising means ports – you start in one, you finish in one, you dock at others to get off the ship and explore. Some are wonderful and some are ugly – really ugly. Sometimes you might feel as if you are in a container warehouse far removed from the wonderful sights you signed up for.

So let’s keep with the positive and look at some of the most spectacular ports around the world – whether you are arriving or departing. Here are some of my personal favourites – please send me yours….

MALTA

This is always a fabulous sight to behold, coming into the harbour in Malta. The sandstone coloured buildings seem to reflect the sunlight in a very special way. Malta, slap bang in the middle of the Med, has had an interesting history. Christianity was brought to the island by St Paul who was shipwrecked on the island in 60 A.D. Then the islands were conquered by the Arabs in 870 who were there for centuries until the island was bequeathed to the Knights of St John who ruled the island for 300 years. Napoleon stepped in for a brief while but the British soon saw to that. Malta was far too strategic and in fact was a godsend to the Allies during the Second World War.

Even if you don’t get off the ship you will be assured of views in every direction – but do get off and explore. It is well worth it.

VENICE

It’s pretty hard to beat the experience of arriving into Venice port on a ship. But what size of ship? There’s the thing. There is a big movement to stop large cruise ships from coming right into Venice and I support this because the city is so precarious and so beautiful. It is something that needs to be preserved. The cruise ship in the above picture is the Star Pride which used to be with Seabourn and has now been taken over by Windstar. A beautiful little ship holding just over 200 guests – now that is the way to cruise into Venice. Those super large cruise ships are just too big for this port.

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO

The old fort dominates the entrance to San Juan, as it should. I love this port for the beginning of a cruise. It is worth taking the longer flight to get down there because once you start your cruise from San Juan you are deep into the Caribbean. Also I enjoy extra days in San Juan, Puerto Rico, far more than spending extra days in Maimi or Fort Lauderdale – sorry Florida! The Old Town of San Juan is a muddle of cobbled stone streets and great restaurants, the fort is very well maintained and the beaches are wonderful. A definite plus to any cruise.

CAPE TOWN

Queen Mary 2 at cape town harbour. pic Whitestar

How could I not include Cape Town, the most beautiful city in South Africa. I sometimes imagine those early settlers after having spent months at sea, suddenly coming across the sight of Cape Town across the waters with the tablecloth of cloud draped over Table Mountain. Once docked in Cape Town the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront offers a huge variety of restaurants and shops, fantastic sea food and wine at prices you won’t believe. Having grown up in South Africa I was lucky to experience Cape Town many times and it still remains one of my favourite cities.

DUBROVNIK

Dubrovnik has become more and more popular, maybe thanks to Game of Thrones, or maybe just because it is a beautiful walled city that is a delight to experience. Now the cruise ships do not sail into the harbour seen in the picture above but just around the corner. Nevertheless, once you dock you can easily get into the old city which is superb. A tour around the walls of the city can be done with a handy audio guide and offers great photo ops.
The walls were completed in the 16th century and protectively surround the old town. The buildings are well-preserved and range from baroque to Renaissance and Gothic. Paved with limestone, the pedestrianized Stradun (or Placa) is lined with shops and restaurants. In fact these limestone streets have been polished for centuries by countless numbers of feet that they shine like glass.

FINALLY – MY MOST FAVOURITE HARBOUR THAT NEVER SEES A CRUISE SHIP

Mullion Harbour, Cornwall, UK. This is where I grew up and in my humble opinion it is the most beautiful harbour in the world. The coastline in this area can be treacherous and has seen lots of action going back to attacks by Spanish galleons. Luckily for the Spanish a change of wind enabled their escape from Sir Francis Drake otherwise there might have been a different outcome. Many shipwrecks along this coast provided bounty for local “country folk” such as tea, fruit and coffee as they scavenged whatever might have washed up on the rocks.

It was also a haven for smugglers who were able to make good money by buying smuggled barrels of brandy from France and selling for four times the price in England. Good business for a little harbour. We had many happy afternoons there and our school swimming lessons took place in this very harbour. There were tons of crabs so there was a big incentive to not put your feet down. So … no cruise ships here. Just fishing boats that go out every day at dawn to drop the lobster pots. Pure bliss!

Fasten your seatbelts

How many times have you heard that? Fasten your seatbelts please, we are going through some turbulence. Um…. what happens if you don’t have a seatbelt because you don’t have a seat and you are sitting on the floor of the plane. That’s what happened to a British family flying from Menorca back to Britain.

They had their boarding passes with their seat numbers all in the same row together. Only problem was that row did not exist. The airline had had an “equipment change” which even the check in agent at the gate apparently did not know about as she checked their boarding cards. Does this sound unbelievable?

Well the same thing happened to me flying from New York to Johannesburg, South Africa. We boarded the plane and could not find our row number. We stood around like lost sheep – the flight attendant told us to stand aside so others could board – so we huddled up against the bulkhead while everyone impatiently brushed passed us probably thinking to themselves “bloody fools – they should have booked their seats”.

Eventually the flight attendant told us that there had been an “equipment change” yep – so she was going to put us up front in business class ….

YAY

Until she realised we were travelling with two children. Then suddenly we were not OK to go into business class. We offered to throw the children out of the escape hatch or hide them in the overhead bins but that did not work. Instead four smug adult passengers were escorted up front and we were settled down eventually in our economy seats.

Seat selection is a very personal, very emotional issue for some people – especially on a longer flight and the playing field is changing. Often advance seat selection attracts a price to be paid and after that, what happens if there is an equipment change? The seat you carefully selected to be far away from the toilet might not exist any more – perhaps you even end up next to the toilet. Ah well – as the old song goes – Always look on the bright side of life! At least you won’t have far to walk. It’s all part of the fun… right? Nope 😦