The Crystal Serenity concludes her world cruise in Fremantle. I have heard that Filipino cruise staff will be taking refuge on board as they will not be permitted to return to their homeland. The sun set in Dallas at 7:39 although it was cloudy. QM2 is continuing her voyage as a merchant ship back to Southampton. As I start this post (9AM EDT, March 23) she has arrived in Mauritius for refueling. Her next stop according to AIS is Durban.
While my flight to Sydney had been in Economy, the ongoing itinerary back to Baltimore was in Business Class and my boarding time was 12:55PM. I did not set an alarm and woke up around 7:30 and went to the hotel restaurant for breakfast about 8, getting sausage and toast.
The shuttle to the airport was for fee and ran once every 40 minutes. After breakfast I booked the 10:10 shuttle and took a short walk to a local park which had I think a Cricket wicket.
With Business Class my baggage allowance had gone from 1 23kg bag to 3 32kg bags. I left the rolling bags as they were and put only the things I needed to carry (electronics with li-on batteries and meds) in the medium sized backpack and checked the large backpack (only about 7kg). Checkin was a breeze and should have gotten me priority the rest of the way to the gate. Unfortunately, the automated passport control did not like my passport and I had to go to the regular line for a live agent but was still finished pretty quickly, and security was also pretty quick. Once in the terminal I needed to pass through quite a large business area at the entry to the gates. Our malls are all shut down, but every business in this area was wide open.
Qantas had a nice lounge where I still had the better part of 2 hours before it was time for my flight. As boarding time approached there was an announcement in the terminal that my flight would be delayed “while the aircraft was catered”. Almost immediately after that the screen said “proceed to gate” but it was almost departure time when boarding actually started. To make matters worse near the end of the process the pilot announced a problem with the aircraft which would require a complete shutdown of the plane and reboot. Fortunately, the reboot was successful. Our scheduled departure was 13:40 but it was 14:55 when the plane started moving forward and 3:05 when we left the runway.
The plane was an Airbus A380, I’m quite sure the biggest I have ever flown; 2 full passenger decks, each served by it’s own jetway. Service started off with a dinner about an hour after we left. I chose a steak entree.
The seats each extended flat to form a makeshift bed. The woman next to me who had flown from Perth overnight slept a lot while I got only a bit of sleep and a lot of rest. There was a little pantry in the galley where I grabbed a bag of chips mid-flight. A breakfast was served about 90 minutes before we landed, even though it was almost noon in Dallas by that time.
Our scheduled arrival was 12:55 but we touched down at 1:30 and exited the plane at 1:55. My connection to Baltimore was 2:25 and there was no way I could make it. I have Global Entry but the system did not like my fingerprints and I had to go through Immigration the usual way. There were no questions but I expect there were thermal sensors and I’m quite sure our passports are scanned at each country even if they are not stamped and I assume the officer could see where I had been recently. ln any case I was through pretty quickly. Just before the baggage hall there were a number of ticket jackets taped to the wall arranged by destination city and passenger. My new boarding pass was probably about the 6th in the line.
The 484 passenger plane was almost full and assuming about 2 bags per person that created a real zoo at the baggage carousel. There were abundant trolleys and I found my 3 bags in about a half hour. I had more than enough time as my new flight didn’t leave until 8:30.
A first class domestic ticket does not entitle use of a lounge on American. I checked with the Admiral’s Club to see if there was a possibility based on my incoming flight. They thought so but sent me to the Flagship Lounge a couple of gates further down. They had to scan both my incoming and outgoing boarding passes to get me in the door. The lounge was not great but was better than trying to hang out in the open area.
I left the lounge about 7:45, needing to go from Terminal D to Terminal B on a little train. The flight was lightly booked (perhaps 1/3 full) and ran pretty much on time. We landed at BWI at 12:30 and I had my bags a bit before 1. There was no problem getting a taxi home and I arrived about 1:25 and was in bed about 1:45.
Sleeping has been unsteady. I did not sleep much Friday night. I had a pretty successful grocery shopping day Saturday although things were really strange. Saturday night I slept until 10:15AM. Since my church’s virtual worship was at 10:30 at the time I was still getting ready for the day and not very attentive for the first 15 minutes or so. I took walks in my neighborhood both Saturday and Sunday but on Monday it has rained so no exercise so far. I also did not sleep very long Sunday night. It may take a while to get contoll of my body clock back after a 12-hour shift in less than 3 days.
My parting shot will perhaps be a bit long and surprising. I wanted to end on a positive note and had saved a few photos for a sea day out of Fremantle which never happened. People often ask what the difference is between a cruise ship and an ocean liner. Much of the answer is technical like strength of the steel and hull design but I like one graphic. People often ask about a ship “Can you go out on the bow?”. There are 2 heavy steel doors at the front of the promenade deck that are normally open and lead to an open deck with spare propellor blades that sure looks like the bow:
Not so fast. Go all the way to the railing and there’s a second long bow that you can’t go on.
But wait, there’s more. Looking closely at the mast in front you don’t see the bottom and if you move to the side you can see a 3rd bow”
That massive bow reinforcement is largely responsible for the way QM2 handles raging Atlantic storms. I’m sad that I will miss a month of QM2 doing what she was designed so well to do but look forward to my next transatlantic on her.