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    by mkataoka Fodor's Editor | Posted on Nov 28, 16 at 01:31 PM
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Trip Report Europe (London/Berlin/Venice) Last MinutepPractical/Ordinary

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OK, it is 2 AM London Time and the jet lag stuff has kicked in big time: WIDE awake and likely to remain so. There have been longer and more detailed trip reports but I am going to commit to "paper" with the usual rationale, "In case it helps somebody else."

The trip was planned as a beginning to a 13-night cruise ship "repositioning cruise" from Barcelona (back) to Fort Lauderdale. However, while we were on a 7-night cruise out of Miami this past April (and enjoying it thoroughly...believe me, having a cabin overlooking the bow of the ship with its own concierge and dining room and pool that you got at a discount was memorable) we began wondering if we really wanted to be on a voyage that spent as many as 6 days at sea?

In a word, "No." So, cancelled the repositioning which left us with a one-way non-refundable air ticket to either use, pay $300 each in change fees, or forget altogether.

We decided to use it (which meant getting another ticket home but more on that later.

So, I will concentrate as much as anything on practicalities and if those are boring I understand and go ahead and browse elsewhere.

We left on Tuesday 21 October. The terminal (Number 3) we usually use at our somewhat small but fairly well-connected airport (Fort Lauderdale) is undergoing a major renovation. Since it was not a cruise ship day when, literally, 60000+ passengers can pass through in any 48-hour period, we arribed for check-in less than 2-hours prior to take-off and that was fine.

Being TSA pre-check really helps with no shoes off, no laptop out of the bag, and the dedicated line which usually moves fast. We had tickets on our usual USAirways which seems to be for many either the greatest thing since the Wright Flyer and Kitty Hawk or the worst thing since the Hindenburg.

Ate some mediocre "Italian" which is almost the only thing beyond Security besides candy bars and packaged sandwiches on our usual concourse but we were both hungry so paid the costs of the newly-opened second runway.

Had received complimentary upgrades to First thanks to my FF program tier status which I'll be able to keep for another year (everybody in the USAirways and American FF programs is wondering...and speculating about to death on FlyerTalk...how the newly-merged program is going to look).

We were in the bulkhead row where we NEVER sit if we can help it because we like keeping the carry-ons under the seat in front or at least handy.

The "fun" begins: on the plane and the woman and her husband across the aise are, literally, unpacking and re-packing their two "we went all the way around the world with carry-ons only and aren't we smarter than YOU" bags in their own bulkhead space as the plane is still boarding. Lots of high-pitched noises and a rear end periodically thrust into the aisleway making boarding an adventure for others.

Flight attendant has already given up and continues serving pre-flight beverages. I have started this vacation with a vodka Bloody Mary and the Husbear nurses his usual Diet Coke (filled with death row execution chamber chemicals according to a vegetarian 911 conspiracy theory close friend).

Cabin door closed; turkeys continue on cellphones despite evit flight atttendant looks but finally close them down. Woman across aisle AND her husband are having a "discussion" with the Flight Attendant as to why she cannot keep her purse IN her seat during take-off. I mean, who ARE these people, anyway?

Flight to Charlotte takes in a LOT of Florida since the usual route north is clogged with afternoon thuderstorms. Couple across the aisle are very concerned about making their connection in Charlotte. In fact, there is soon an announcement that we will get to Charlotte "on time." You wonder if anyone believes this.

We arrive in Charlotte ahead of schedule by a few minutes but no wait for a gate and we pull in. Couple across aisle jumps up and unloads basicallly an entire overhead bin with their two carry-ons which they have positioned sideways in the bin and stations themselves at the head of the aisle with the, "Don't come any closer or you will regret it," looks in their eyes.

Charlotte remains, for us, an easy airport to get through; we like it better than Philadelphia which we try to avoid when possible. Hour or so in the airline club with free hiuse booze and low-end snacks and being grateful we are not "road warriors" and then an easy flight in Business Class to London. The lie-flat seats have been a real God-send for me since I cannot fall asleep saitting up easily; Husbear could fall asleep in the deck chair as the Titanic sinks he is so laid back. What that "mystery" thing on the plate was at breakfast I am not sure.

We had arranged a car through Hummingbird and the driver called me as we were waiting outside of Customs so for the most part this was easy and prompt.

I want to say a word here about the "into London from Heathrow" advneture which has been discussed to death here in the past and will continue to be discussed here long after I am gone I am convinced.

We have done this in every possible form other than taking a bus (coach) and walking. We've dine the private cars; the Heathrow Express, the Tube, etc., and I have trouble saying which one is best BUT fear not because there are other trip reports from the "experts" who never, ever seem to experience traffic as we did yesterday morning.

Took us almost two hours from the time we left the parking garage at Heathrow to the arrival at the Savoy hotel. This was, I am sure, a function of the time of day; our fllight arrived at 7:00 AM and we were underway at around 7:45 AM so be aware if it is speed you are looking for at at this time of day a car may not be the best choice.

Were in no hurry since we doubted we would hear those wonderful words, "Your room is ready" even at "The Savoy" and we didn't! And a word about the Savoy seems warranted here. This is a new hotel for us since we usually stay in Firmdale properties but I got this "three nights for the price of two" deal in return for full non-refundable pre-paymnt so I jumed on it.

The staff have been, without exception, friendly and welcoming. The hotel has an interesting "lobby" situation. Nothing so crass as the usual "front desk" populated by either imperious nasty people or just-beyond-pimples too skinny (or Gay) to be believed types dressed in black. We were led to a room with several desks and treated with much deference and lots of regret and "we'll call you on your mobile when the room is ready but it may not be before two o'clock" stuff so we left all our luggage (and the two Oyster cards from the last trip...big mistake) and hopped into ma cab for the V+A Museum and off we went.

More later.

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