Well, we actually docked last night but were told no one would be allowed off until today. We arrived early because they wanted to give the luggage movers as much time as possible. About 1100 people were disembarking today. That is a lot of luggage when you remember it was a four month trip.
They had given each of us numbered and color coded luggage tags. Apparently these corresponded to our flight times and it made it easier to spot our bags. It also made it easier for the handlers to sort the baggage. When we arrived in the baggage area they were sorted by color. I was black #4. I think these people have done this before. They were very well organized. I chatted and had breakfast with several friends and waited for my number and color to be called. The letter which accompanied my tags had predicted that I would be called around 9:15 AM and that was just about right. Pretty amazing.
I went to the baggage area and there was Chris from Vantage. He was helping his peeps find their bags. He found three of mine for me. Good man. I will miss our discussions and his lectures. I hope we'll meet again. Once I had my bags he summoned a porter and I was off to Customs. I was amazed that it took only about a minute and a half for me to clear customs. The Customs personnel had a list of all purchases we had made onboard the ship and I guess when my Customs Inspector saw how little I had spent shopping onboard that she knew I hadn't exceeded the $800 per person allotment for duty free goods. I had declared about $400.
Things were going so well that I should have been worried. Although Holland America was supposed to have checked on our flights, just as every flyer should before going to the airport, someone dropped the ball. I should have been skeptical because yesterday Darryl said he checked on his flight on the internet and the flight number was no longer valid. He checked with the front desk and was told it was fine. He emailed his son and his son checked for him by phone and discovered that the flight had been changed to a different number and flight time (earlier of course). Well, guess what happened to me.
So, I get off the bus to check my bags at the American Airlines baggage check-in and the checker gives me the good news. My flight too has been moved up and I can't make it. I am way too calm about this because I really don't need to be anywhere at any particular time so I don't even get upset. Since Darryl has already given me reason to expect problems I just figure whatever. I'll be in San Antonio today or they will put me up in a hotel. No problem. I have packed for a week anyway so I'm good. The real surprise was that we didn't have to work this out by ourselves. The checker asked for our ID's and went into the terminal. About ten minutes later he returned with new tickets! Now that is service. I was impressed. Of course, the adventure wasn't over yet but for the moment things were back on track.
The next problem was that my new flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Dallas was delayed. So by the time I got to Dallas it was too late to make the connecting flight. I showed up at the gate and it was already gone (I was close but not close enough). Again, they took care of me. It was about 4 PM and they got me a seat on a 7:55 flight and offered the opportunity to try to get on a 7:10 flight on standby. I said sure and after having some dinner (I confess, I had a Big Mac and Fries! I'm back in the US now so that's ok right?) I got on the 7:10 flight.
My son, Bunky (Harry IV), was there to meet me at about 8:10 PM in San Antonio. I'm back in Texas. Yeehah! It is good to be home. I do still have a day's drive to El Paso and it will be fun to see how I get four suitcases of into my Miata but I have a plan. If it doesn't work I can always leave some stuff here and pick it up on my next trip. With two new grandsons here I know I'll be making the trip even more often than I have in the past.
So, the adventure comes to an end. I will be processing what I have learned and how it has changed me for some time to come. I do know that I am not the same person I was before the trip but just how and how much I have changed remains to be seen. I do know it has been a fantastic experience. People have asked me if it was worth it and the answer is unequivocally YES! I have learned a great deal about places and people but I have learned a great deal about myself as well. That may be the most important part of the trip and perhaps the real reason for traveling. Interesting concept. Travel to other lands to discover yourself. Hmmm. That will be my last philosophical observation in these chronicles. Ask me in a year what it means and perhaps I'll understand it well enough to explain it.
At any rate, I have one more thing to share in this last daily report. I have posted some pictures on the .Mac website I tried to use at the beginning of the trip. It works quite well and I will no doubt be putting additional stuff there for those who would like to share. The pictures I have posted are the 389 pictures (out of several thousand) I have judged the prettiest from my trip. I did not take them all. Some were taken by Anita and others by Daphne. They are titled indicating who took them. If you want to see some of the beauty I have been lucky enough to witness in the past four months please go to:
You will find several sets of pictures there. I posted some before I boarded the ship. The fourth one is the Prettiest Pictures... one. I hope you enjoy it. You should be able to figure out how to use the site to show the slides or pick individual ones to download. You can select one or more and download them or download the entire set. Or you can just watch them on the site. If you have any problems please let me know.
Finally, thank you for sharing this trip with me. Having so many family and friends interested in my daily experiences helped me feel connected to home and that helped me enjoy the experiences more. I have a tendency to be lazy about keeping track of things on vacation and the memory fades far too quickly. Knowing I was sharing made me keep my journal far better than I would have if you guys weren't following my progress. I know I'll remember more because I have this record as well as my journal, pictures and video. This has truly been a trip of a lifetime and thanks to you I will enjoy it far more than if I had just done it alone. Thanks for coming along!