A bumpy boarding, an empty airport, 100 water bottles, and the exploding Coke

I’m currently (May 28) in Civitavecchia, aboard the Regal Princess cruise ship, about to embark on my first real vacation in over two years. It’s a glorious feeling. However, it’s not been without its challenges. Whether it’s that I’ve forgotten the mojo of traveling, the travel gods are against us, or I’m just a klutz, I’ve experienced more the normal amount of oopsies.

It began with me meeting my BFF of more than 40 years at Dulles airport at the baggage claim. She had flown in from her home in the West and we’d agreed to meet there for the second leg of our trip to Rome. Almost immediately, I nearly killed her by mismanaging my heavy suitcase on Dulles’s escalators. I was hanging onto the suitcase for dear life, it having managed to place two wheels on each of two escalator steps - and she was desperately hanging onto me! We navigated that near-crisis, mostly because the escalator wasn’t that long and we reached the top, where I spilled out in an ungainly mess.

Fast forward an hour or so and it was time to board our plane to Copenhagen. It’s my first time on SAS and so far, I hadn’t been too impressed by the website and the customer service, but I had liked the few employees we ran into. At Dulles I was absolutely gob-smacked that they took us out to the SAS plane in that weird little bus thingy they have, raised it to the level of the airplane, knocked on the door, and let us in! It was the oddest, strangest boarding I’d ever had into a commercial plane!

Once in Copenhagen, we were shocked at how quiet and empty the airport was — literally no one was around. Next step: Coffee. After about a mile of trekking through the empty airport in a search for a coffee shop, we found one. Ordering two regular coffees we were floored by the sugar shaming — the packets read “You’re sweet enough as you are … think twice.” No other sugar options were available. While a small amount of milk was offered in the coffee, It wasn’t anywhere near what we’re accustomed to as apparently creamer shaming is a thing in Denmark, too.

The best part? The 12-ounce-ish coffee cost about $4.50!

Fortunately things calmed down and we had an uneventful flight to Rome, and even the beginning of our tenure in the Rome airport went well. Sure there were COVID testing request machines that didn’t work, the whole rigamarole of doing the testing to begin with (we were negative), and the general hubbub and annoyances of being in an airport with way too much luggage. Things really took a turn for the worse when we absolutely could not locate our shuttle bus to our B & B. Keep in mind by this point it had been about 36 hours since we’d slept so as we walked to and fro we got progressively more and more exhausted and, well, just done. We finally settled on a too-expensive taxi and spent the rest of the day in much more comfort.

This morning (May 28), after a sleepless night (thank you, time differential), I was definitely not my usual graceful self …

We needed to get back to the airport, this time to pick up the shuttle to the cruise ship. I should have known it would be another challenging day because, as we left the B&B — the host had assured us all we needed to do to get the airport shuttle was “stand by the gate” — there was a full-blown, street-overtaking, multi-block market in front of said gate and all up and down the street. Fortunately, others leaving with us knew the trick — wind our way through the veggies, books and clothes to the other side of the street where one lane snaked through the neighborhood.

Back at the airport we had no trouble locating the Princess Cruise Lines people and we had time for a quick snack before winding our way, full luggage carts in tow, to the shuttle, which was about 100 miles away. OK, I exaggerate. But the trip was notable because our baggage was wider than the carts and we kept sideswiping things along the way, most notably a cart full of water bottles some Viking Cruise Lines people had — foolishly — placed near our obstacle-laden circuitous course.

Since I was working on only a few hours of sleep, the intricacies of this perilous path were an enigma to me, and I am the one to hit the water bottles, which flew everywhere — all across the pavement, into the street — everywhere. Of course I stopped to pick them up, no easy task since, again, they were everywhere, and I almost missed the bus. Only after I finally boarded and went to put my carry-on bag in the overhead did I notice that I had, indeed, picked up one of the bottles of water — it was cap-down in the open pocket of my bag!

But even before noticing my larceny, I had, in my rush to get into the bus, swung our bag containing our two bottles of wine and assorted snacks up on the same overhead and a Coke Zero in that bag — well, let’s just say it exploded. Again, EVERYwhere. On me, on my traveling companion. On the bus floor. On the bus seat. On the bus ceiling. On my bag. On my previously white sneakers. Everywhere.

Such an inauspicious beginning! Wish us well …