It has been 870 days since I last embarked on a cruise ship, and I cannot believe it is happening. Almost not, but I trudged through the flight delays, flight cancellations, and the overwhelming process to get on board. Firstly, as is my usual plan I do not usually fly through the USA from Mexico to avoid many of these issues, but I found a great deal with American Airlines, so I decided to go that route. BIG MISTAKE! The flight from Puerto Vallarta to Chicago went without incident and I arrived on time and spent the planned night at a nearby airport hotel. The next day things were moving along, and the flight was scheduled to depart on time, so I made my way to the airport via their free shuttle and upon arrival at the airport I found out that the flight was delayed 2 hours. Luckily, I had purchased business class airfare, so it includes access to the American Airlines clubs while you wait. Being that their new Admiral Club just opened, they were upgrading lots of people to that new lounge. It was genuinely nice, and little did I know that I would enjoy it for the next 9 hours………….
Things started to deteriorate as the afternoon wore on as the weather started to get awfully bad with thunderstorms causing at least 4 ground halts and striking airplanes in the area. Including the one that was supposed to take us to Athens. Needless to say, change of aircraft occurred several times and then when I heard that crew might now time out, it was time to make a change with my flights. Luckily, there was another flight leaving at 9pm for London and I could connect the next day into Athens; so, after no further delay I rebooked that option. I was pleased because shortly thereafter the original nonstop flight to Athens was indeed cancelled. I also learned during my research the flight the next day was quite full, no business class, and 200+ passengers from the canceled flight needed to be accommodated. But I was set and of course after another 1-hour delay, we were finally on the way to London Heathrow.
The flight was on the American Airlines 787-9 aircraft with 1-2-1 configuration and was a pleasant flight. I will write up the specifics in another blog with some videos and photos and a general review of the flight. We arrive at London Heathrow about 1 hour early and move our way through the process of getting onto a bus to take us to another terminal, clear security, immigration, and customs. Luckily, I had a 7-hour layover, so I made my way to the British Airways Business Class Lounge to wait around for the next flight.
The flight from London to Athens on British Airways is finally assigned a gate and of course we are delayed another hour before departure and what a disappointing Business Class on that airline! They use the Airbus 321 Neo plane and simply use the existing 3-3 configuration and leave the center seat empty, not my version of Business Class! There was no separation from the coach class section, although they did serve the usual free alcoholic beverages and a simple chicken dinner. Arrival and baggage pickup was quick, and I took a Taxi to the hotel I arranged in advance at the Radisson Blu Hotel downtown. I was originally going to arrive that morning at 8am and wanted to have a central hotel location to explore Athens, but I arrived at the hotel at 1am the next day. Time to sleep a few hours as my ship embarkation was to take place at 11am.
I awoke to have time to enjoy a nice breakfast buffet included in the room rate and at 1030am I got another Taxi to the Port of Piraeus which was about 30 minutes away from downtown Athens. Upon arrival I see there is a line up already with about twenty people in front of me working their way through a document vaccination check point and then you were directed through various stations to take a new antigen covid test before boarding. Then you had to wait for the results, given a pink wristband and you were finally cleared to get your keycard from the NCL staff in order to board. The entire process took about an hour, but later I saw longer lines, so I was not sure how long those people waited.
I had most of the afternoon to enjoy the ship, but guess what?? No liquor could be served until we were six miles outside of the territorial waters of Greece. I guess this was another new thing with the Greek government started a few weeks ago. What else to do after exploring the ship? I went to my cabin unpacked and took a nap! We did depart on time around 6pm and everyone was waiting by the bars to get some alcoholic beverages as soon as the all clear was given!
My planned Cruise itinerary this time took me to the ports of Kasudasi, Turkey; Ashdod, Israel; Haifa, Israel; Cyprus; and then Santorini, Greece. However, Santorini was canceled the day before because there was an impending dock workers strike in Athens, Greece and in order to arrive the evening before the strike, we had to spend a day at sea and then arrived in Athens, Greece at 730pm, a day earlier than planned.
Little did I know that my ending to this cruise would turn into a nightmare, so watch for my “Testing Positive for Covid on Board” Blog coming soon! In addition, I will have some blogs about the ports of calls, including my 2 days, 1 night off the ship Tour of Israel.