Friday, 5 January 2018

Stranded in Charleston

We sailed for 2.5 days from San Juan to our disembarkation port - Charleston SC. The second last day the temperature plummeted from 28C to -1C overnight. The second last night, the swells were 6m high. Skip and I both took anti-nausea medication and conked out.

When we arrived in Charleston on Tuesday, it was sunny and cold. We were made to disembark and go through customs and immigration before going back to the ship for our last night. Charleston has a nice, big terminal but nowhere for people to wait before reboarding the ship. We ended up walking the neighbourhood which, fortunately, was close to Market St. and lots of restaurants. After lunch, we went back to the terminal where we were allowed to reboard the ship.

We spent the afternoon packing then had dinner at the specialty Italian shipboard restaurant, Prego. After dinner we finished packing and put our suitcases outside the stateroom and went to bed. As our flights were later in the afternoon we were in the last group to disembark at 9:30.  Unfortunately, by that time it was freezing rain and things were getting really slick. We were shuttled to another building were we could retrieve our luggage and get a cab to the airport. As we made our way there, we noted that many bridges and ramps to major highways were being closed. Our very capable Uzbek driver got us there safely and waited to make sure we got our cancelled flights rescheduled. He then let me use his cell phone to book an airport hotel and then drove us there.

Then the freezing rain turned to snow and it snowed quite heavily for the rest of the day. The only place we could get to on foot for a meal was Waffle House. Nothing else was open.
Knitting instructor well equipped with winter woollies
Characteristic palmetto with ice and snow.
It snowed all day. By night time, it was below freezing and the ice under the blanket of snow was very slick. A state of emergency was called and people were told to stay off the roads.

The Crystal Serenity was scheduled to sail at 6pm. Many passengers hoping to fly into Charleston that day would not have made it and would have missed getting on the ship in time.

This is what the deck of the ship looked like last week.
and what it looked like at 5pm on Wednesday.

We were excited to be leaving the next day and shortly after I printed our boarding passes for our re-booked flight, I got an email from Southwest that our flight was cancelled with no instructions for re-booking. I got online and searched for flights on Southwest and there was nothing for two days so I found flights on Delta to BUF via Atlanta. I checked in only to find those flights were also cancelled and booked again for Friday.  Yesterday when I went to check in for today's flights, they were also cancelled and we were rebooked for Sunday night via JFK. I then started investigating nearby places inland we could drive to so we could fly home.

Halleluja, there were affordable flights from Charlotte (a 3 hour drive) for tomorrow. I couldn't get through to Delta to change the flights so I just went ahead and booked them. I've been continuously trying to get through to Delta to cancel the Sunday flights with no success. They're understandably swamped with rebooking others who have been stranded along the eastern seaboard with this winter storm Grayson.

Next came the task of trying to book a rental car. It took me 1.5 hours to find a car rental place that would answer the phone so I could confirm that I could pick one up at the airport. Hertz finally came through for us. Even though the airport was closed, they were still open for business and had a car for us.

It then took us 3.5 hours to get a cab to take us the 5km drive to the airport. Our cozy airport motel didn't have an airport shuttle. Finally, a friend of our Uzbek driver from Wednesday took pity on us and drove all the way out of downtown Charleston to take us to the airport.

We now have a rental car and will be 'blowing this popstand' tomorrow morning and driving to Charlotte for our late afternoon flight. The roads are much better now and once we get 30 or so miles inland, there should be no more snow and ice.

We have had no end of trouble trying to roam (i.e.get cellular service in the US) with my Rogers cell phone. I enabled the cellular network and there's NO SERVICE here. WTF?? Charleston is not in the boonies yet it's a dead zone. Thank goodness I have a Skype phone plan that lets me call anywhere in the US or Canada if I'm connected to Wifi. The wifi in our hotel room has been kinda iffy so when Delta asks me to hold for over 2 hours it cuts out. When they ask me for my cell number so they can call me back, I don't get cellular service with my useless 'Roam Like Home' plan. I even called Rogers and they were NO help at all. Grrrr.

Our other issue was lack of food. As everything was closed, and we didn't have a car, we've been existing on Circle K gas station food. Yesterday I had a bag of chips for lunch and a roller grill hot dog for dinner. The Mobil station next door was closed as was the McDonalds across the street.

On top of everything, I came down with a wicked cold and spent all day yesterday in bed. I am still sniffly but have turned the corner and feel much better today.

We are keeping our fingers crossed that everything goes well and we can be reunited with my car in Buffalo tomorrow night. I have boots in there and Skip has a winter coat. We'll bring them into the hotel and let them warm up before we drive back to Whitby on Sunday.

What a pain in the butt all of this has been. Southwest refunded our tickets with no questions asked but I don't know if Delta will be as accommodating since I booked other flights before cancelling our re-re-re-booked ones. At this point, I just want to get the hell out of here.

Stay tuned.

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