Sun. Sept 9th: Docked in Vancouver. Had to wait to disembark. Looks like a big city. We are in front of a large white building with a sign “Port of Vancouver.” We felt like cattle being herded off the boat. Rita and Ron were assigned to a different group, thus they ended up on an earlier bus to the airport. We assured them we’d find them at the airport.
As we left the boat we were greeted by many of the crew who were in full uniform. And all of them had what sounded like German accents, but were probably Dutch, since the Noordam’s home company, is located in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
It was 60 degrees out with a slight drizzle. On the bus to the airport the drive through Vancouver was pretty cool. The downtown is spread out, looks much like any big American city. It was busy for a Sunday. We passed newer skyscrapers juxtaposed beside smaller older ornate limestone structures. One building with a lighted marquee read Metropolitan. (just looked it up. It’s a high-end hotel.) We drove through old neighborhoods with beautiful tree lined streets and big older beautiful homes, many surrounded by tall hedge rows, neatly trimmed flat. They resemble the Green Monster at Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox. Several houses were hidden behind rows of tall narrow pines, standing shoulder to shoulder to form another green wall.
The Hoppers were on an earlier bus. Me and Joe and Gloria on one bus, JR and Jackie on the last bus. We crossed a river, logs and logs and logs floating along one shoreline. I assume timber production is a big industry here. There were lots of barges moored on the other side of the water and industrial sites along both sides of the waterway.
The airport is Vancouver International, YVR, not sure why the Y. Got to YVR around 10:30 am. Someone dropped the ball, because we had over 11 hours to kill at the airport. I guess when Greg, our AAA Travel Agent, asked if the red eye flight was ok for our return, it seemed like a great idea. Sleep while we fly. And no one seemed to take a closer look at our itinerary. If we had, maybe one of us might have asked, “What time do we leave the ship?” and then the next obvious statement would have been, “Hey, this ain’t good. We don’t want to go to the airport ten hours early. We should do something fun in Vancouver, then head to the airport.”
But as it was, we had a long day ahead. Our flight to Toronto leaves at 10:30 pm, we arrive at 6:05 am EST the next day, then on to CVG – Greater Cincinnati Airport, arrival time 10:45 am. We had over 11 hours to kill and we soon found out that we could not check our luggage until 5:30 pm, so we used the free buggies available to hall our luggage with us as we moved from here to there. It was very annoying. So we wandered off in shifts, leaving several persons behind to watch all our bags while groups of two or three would go out on reconnaissance missions, moving with purpose through the airport, hoping to find some distraction.
Ron was installed in a wheelchair, but no airport personnel was going to push him around, so Rita had to be the driver, while Gloria pushed the baggage buggy. We had lunch at a food court, Tim Horton’s chicken wraps. Every move of our group entailed rolling everything to a new location. Joe and JR entertained the idea of changing flights, paying whatever it cost just to get moving, but there were no flights on the board that would get us to where we needed to be without another layover in another city. They then checked out the Airport Hotel which was right there on the premises. No one was too keen on paying over $170 for several hours of sleep, considering that it would be pretty hard to fall asleep in the middle of the day. And the last option would be to pay $7 per bag, to have them checked in a secure unknown location, then take a cab into the city and hang out or do something, anything. Not enough takers for this idea either. So we hung out and hung out and walked around and sat in stiff hard chairs and read our iPhones, and Kindles and looked at Facebook until we were blue in the face.
On one of our recon excursions, Joe and I headed over to the International side of the airport, trying to find a faster route into the US. Lots of people from many countries moving every which way. We saw terminals for Air France, British Airways, and Lufthansa Airlines out of Germany. At one point we walked past a group of men in what looked like military special forces gear, with the words POLICE on their black bullet proof vests. They also had a very alert K-nine officer with them. Most likely a bomb sniffing dog. The two legged officers each had automatic rifles slung over their shoulders, very intimidating. One officer, who had a full beard and a turban, the kind some men from Indian may wear, wrapped snuggly around his head, moved with purpose across our path. He was cradling his weapon across his front, and I knew he would be able to use it in an instant, with no hesitation, if need be. I’m sure the strong presence of this kind of airport security would cause any terrorist to take a detour or forget any plans they may have had of causing trouble in Vancouver. After we passed the officers, I wanted to turn around and snap a photo of them, but I thought better of it, hoping to be ready to get a good photo on our way back. But on our return walk, the security detail had moved on.
At 5:30 pm exactly we all headed to the check in and were able to unload most of our luggage. We went through security to our departure gate and found a nice Italian restaurant nearby. We ate in two shifts, so we could leave our carry-ons behind, not wanting to deal with backpacks and bulky book bags during dinner.
We finally boarded our plane at 10:15 pm and were in the air by 11. I took a prescription Dramamine and tried to get some sleep using the new neck pillow I had purchased on the boat. Joe used his neck pillow but was unable to get much sleep. Flying all night is excruciating. We learned the hard way.