Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Homeward Bound

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Today the sun is shining brightly. We both must be excited to be heading home because we were up at 5:00 am! Watching the sunrise from the room over the harbor was very beautiful. I miss the dogs tons but I am very fortunate to have excellent petsitters. I have been receiving regular updates and also some videos of the dogs playing and going out for their walks. It makes my absence bearable and our ability to enjoy the trip possible.

We had requested a wake up call at 7:00 am but obviously won't be needing that now. Our flight is scheduled to depart from the Dusseldorf airport at 10:20 am. I took a very nice hot shower and checked email (free) while waiting for the breakfast service to start downstairs.

It has been a pleasant stay and I like the Hyatt very much. However, the hotel seems more suited for the male jetsetter with its iconic Porsche's, plush smokers lounge and the "machismo" room decor. I even noticed when I used the Alessio hair dryer that it had "Black Mambo" emblazoned across the side!

Sunrise on the Media Harbor

As we had a lot of time prior to the flight, getting some breakfast seemed like a good idea. We went downstairs at 6:00 am and were immediately greeted by what looked like a bouncer! This gentleman who was obviously security looked at us rather suspiciously and asked us if we were guests of the hotel. This was odd as we came from the elevator area and not from the front door. I told him we were indeed guests. While my mother has no resemblance to the Mayflower Madam our early arrival in the lobby must have been circumspect.

We soon discovered what the problem was. There were two women and four men standing in the lobby trying to figure out how to access the elevators. The men looked to be in their 20's and were not well dressed. The women were wearing sparkly short dresses. The security person kept trying to get rid of them. As you needed a key for the elevator that seemed quite easy. However, one of the guys went to the elevator and must of had a key. He soon came back and collected his posse.

I am hoping this is just part time work for these young ladies to get them through university. May be wishful thinking. It seemed very apparent that the hotel may have a problem with this type of business taking place.

We were still standing in the lobby observing the scene when the same General Manager we met last night walked by. She said hello and asked if she could be of assistance. We explained we were interested in breakfast. She said the restaurant does not open until 7:00 am but that she would be happy to have someone bring some coffee. We were not that hungry so that seemed acceptable. Mother drank her coffee in the lobby while I spoke with the nice young man at the front desk who completed our check out. I didn't get his name but he was from Seville. We had a little chat about my wonderful visit there last year. He sort of made up for the rude guy who processed our check in yesterday.

A little before 7:00 am we headed to the airport. I was hoping to take one of the hotel Porsches but I was told they have no control over them. I asked the General Manager about the cars but her explanation didn't make any sense to me either. Maybe they are just for show?

Hyatt Hotel Dusseldorf and fleet of Porsche's

We brought our luggage downstairs and climbed into the taxi. We were told it can take 30 minutes to get to the airport but on an early Saturday morning we made it there in about 12!

The airport is large and very white! Looks like a nice shopping mall without any stores in it. As I mentioned earlier the Dusseldorf airport is the 3rd largest in Germany after Frankfurt and Munich. It handles 18.6 million passengers annually. 70 airlines operate at the airport and offer 180 destinations on 4 continents.

Before checking in we needed to find the SIBA Point wrapping station for our polycarbonate carryons. I asked at the information desk and they said it is a mobile station and that he was most likely at the other end of the airport. We wheeled our bags in that direction and soon came across the "SIBA man". SIBA actually stands for Security Plastic Baggage. It is an Italian company so I am surprised they have that name.

Dusseldorf Airport

The SIBA station was indeed mobile. He moved to an area where he could plug in and get power. He wrapped the bags and we paid the 8 euros each. The airport was not busy at this hour. We easily found the Air Berlin counter for USA destinations and there were only a few people ahead of us. Air Berlin does not have online check in for USA destinations so we had to complete it at the airport. We flew Air Berlin before to Mallorca and were able to do the online check in 30 hours prior to departure. 

I had read online that the Dusseldorf airport has recently suffered a sprat of luggage nabbing incidents. Some of these happened at the check in desk. I told my mother not to let go of any of her bags while we were checking in.

At the checkin counter we were assisted by Mrs. Papadopolos who was in her 30's with dark hair and a relaxed demeanor. She was very nice and efficient with our check in. The aircraft is a Airbus 330-200 and we had pre-selected economy seats in row 27.  I asked if any seats had opened up toward the front with a window and aisle. She confirmed that there were and gave us seats 19 A and C which was perfect. The bags were weighed and tagged for the baggage hold. Since this will be a nonstop flight to FL we are very confident Air Berlin will not lose the luggage.

I asked if our aircraft would be one of the recently reconfigured ones with the new "eco" seats and IFE. Mrs. Papadopolos laughed and said not this one. She added with a smile that they have 2 other planes from Dusseldorf that have been updated and maybe next time we will have one. I was expecting as much but she did a great job providing a positive spin on it. Back in October when we booked the flight I wondered if the updating would be done in time. It was supposed to be completed by the summer. It must be a rare occurrence and lapse in German efficiency.

I am looking forward to flying on the reconfigured planes with the LED screens that pop out if broken and replaced with a spare unit. IMS makes the screens and is based in Southern California. The new RAVE monitors are 8.9 inch LED's and have a USB port for operating devices like an iPod. RAVE stores the content locally and is not server centric. IMS has recently been selected to deploy their monitors on 80 wide body Lufthansa aircraft. The company manufacturing the seats is German and called ZIM Flugsitz. The new seats have 30 inches of legroom and are much lighter to save on fuel economy. Below is a photo of what the new Economy cabin looks like.

Reconfigured AirBerlin 330-200 but sadly not our plane

We had about 1 hr and 45 minutes before our flight. The security area was easy to get through and only took 5 minutes. There were several areas with food for purchase but not a place where you would sit down and order something. There was a nice Italian place with focaccia sandwiches and other items that they would heat up. We each picked out something and also added an extra item to take on the plane in case the food on board was unappetizing.  

We sat at a little table and ate our Italian breakfast. Afterward we looked at the shops which are very nice. I found a Lancel bag I liked which was only 89 euros but I was not in a buying mood. We found some seats near the gate area and waited for the flight to board. Since we had changed the seats I could not remember if row 19 had any downsides. Wifi was not working as Vodafone makes you pay for the service so I used mother's iPhone to check seatguru. I was happy I did. Row 19 was absolutely fine but row 20 behind us had a misaligned window. As a nervous flier the window is very important to me.

Since this flight would be 10 hours in duration we were a bit concerned about the comfort of the economy class seats. The last time we flew economy for this amount time was back in 2003 from Atlanta to Rome. The Air Berlin economy fare from Dusseldorf to to Florida was only $450 and too tantalizing to pass up.

The flight boarded on time. We walked to the sixth row of economy on the Airbus 330-200. The configuration is 2-4-2. The seats have a cerulean blue tiger print and are attractive. The plane was very full with only a few empty seats. The high point was there was no obstruction under the seat in front of me so I could stretch my legs out all the way. I am kinda short at just under 5ft 6in. I couldn't raise them but the option of being completely horizontal was very nice.

Getting comfy in our Economy seats

On our last Air Berlin flight the attendants were much younger and wore snazzy red gloves to move the carryon luggage around. Must be my inner dominatrix coming out but I missed the red gloves! The pilots didn't say much prior to take off. We taxied and were soon airborne.

I pulled out my earphones to listen to music however, my connection in the armrest was not working. Fortunately the earphones had a very long cord and as I was seated next to my mother able to reach her armrest. She plugged the cord in on the arm near the aisel and the cord strecthed across both seats. The flight attendant came by and I told her my connection was not working. The attendant had me try the channels on mine but seemed not to believe me that it was not working. Luckily my mother didn't seem to mind the cord across her lap and me being almost tethered to her. Air Berlin has 12 channels of music and I listened to one of the stations for a while and read the inflight magazine until they started the food service. When the meal was served I disconnected "the umbilical cord" and enjoyed the chicken and vegetables which were surprisingly good.

Lunch Meal

The entire meal was very tasty. The little cheese ball was good too. The meal was served quickly and the beverage service was soon to follow. I only drink water when I fly and I had a bottle with me that I brought on board.

My mother looked up at the CRT monitor and remarked that they were showing a movie. I had to break the news that it was a very old episode of "Cheers". As much as I enjoy Ted Danson, the monitor was much too far away to see from row 19. I decided to pass on the show as I didn't want to squint and be tethered at the same time.

Air Berlin offers 1 complimentary glass of wine per person in economy. I passed on it and asked for water instead. I should have known better as my mother glared at me and I understood that meant she wanted my allocation. The attendant was already 2 rows behind me and I had to wait until she circled back to ask for the wine. She seemed surprised I had changed my mind and even said "are you sure you want the wine?" Doubtful she would have heard of our Vintage Room escapades or was aware of my low alcohol tolerance. I hesitated and said "yes I still want it". She obviously sensed my uneasiness or the wrath I would suffer because she then asked my mother if she wanted another glass of wine which she graciously accepted. Problem solved!

Prior to our cruise I had downloaded several movies to my iPod Touch specifically for this flight. I had serious doubts we would get one of the newly configured aircraft with the inflight entertainment. I downloaded the following 4 movies: The Whistleblower, The Way, The Housemaid (Korean) and The Longest Day.

On the iPad I only had one movie but I should of added a couple more. The iPad had the French movie "The Heartbreaker". I passed the iPad to my mother who watched that one. I luckily had a second set of earphones as the ones from Air Berlin are double pronged and won't work on an iPad. I also had a Mophie Juice Pak which doubled the amount of battery power for the iPod.  

I watched The Way first which starred Martin Sheen walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain in his son's memory. I enjoyed it very much and seeing the scenes of Santiago Compostella was a nice memory. Next was The Whistleblower which is about an American woman who signs up for what she thinks is a police job under the United Nations in Bosnia but turns into discovering a human trafficking ring and a struggle to help the victims, save her job and restore her reputation. I had read the book by Kathy Bolkavac which is based on the movie. As in most cases, the book version was much better and provided a lot of background which was missing from the film. However, Rachel Weisz who played her did a great job.

During my movies I glanced over at my mother who was enjoying The Heartbreaker on the iPad. I am glad it is a long movie as it was keeping her busy. The flight was very smooth and the passengers all very polite and cordial. I think most of the passengers were German.

We were about 6 hours into the flight when I took a photo over the Atlantic. The overhead monitors did display our location in between showing the TV shows and a few children's films.

Somewhere over the Atlantic near Canada

Shortly thereafter they started the service for the second meal. Although I would prefer the newer seats and the IFE, AirBerlin is an excellent value and we were reasonably comfortable for the 10 hour flight. The next meal was supposed to be a snack but seemed more like a full meal with potato salad, mixed meat (kibbe?) and a yummy brownie.

Second Meal

I went back to my movie and looked out the window for any signs of land. I prefer to sit on the right hand side of the plane on transatlantic from Europe so you can see land earlier than on the left side. From the display it appeared we were now past Canada and hugging the US coast on the way to Virginia.

About and hour later I could finally see land as we crossed over Norfolk.

Over Norfolk, Virgina
After flying over Virginia we were again just looking at water but the sun was out and we had glorious weather the entire way. For the next hour or so we hugged the coast and finally crossed Florida near Daytona. We were right on time for our landing.

We deplaned and walked to the customs area. It was at this point we realized there were only about 8 Americans on the plane and about 20 landed immigrants. Everyone else was either from Germany or another country. We were welcomed back to the US and went to collect our luggage. I felt sorry for the 300 people who were waiting in line to get through customs. There were only 2 desks open so it was going to take awhile!

My bag appeared first on the carousel and then it was about 7 minutes before my mother's appeared. We were the only ones with wrapped bags so they were easy to identify. After a quick exit through the airport and a taxi home we were greeted by the wagging tail brigade to sheer delight. Thrilled to see the boys and they looked great and lost a little weight, which in Siebren's case is a good thing!



Looking for truffles? Don't think so!
The next post will be a recap of our cruise including some highlights and recommendations for cruisers who may be first timers to Crystal and visiting some of the same ports in the future.

1 comment:

  1. What a beauitful sunrise to make your final day in Germany. The boys are adorable. Have enjoyed the ride!