Friday, November 21, 2008

Bloom-vertising

Thanks to the DVR I rarely watch any commercials. But once in a while I see a good one like Bloom's. And of course my all time favorite.



Saturday, November 15, 2008

Finally Home

The trip back was rough. The walk to the airport dragging my luggage was a workout in itself. The line at Capodichino airport was about a half hour wait for Alitalia. They only checked my bags to the first stop so I had to pickup and re-check my luggage at every stop. Rome was hectic, after deboarding, picking up my luggage, I didn't realize I needed to go to a separate terminal until after I walked the entire airport. So I had to take a shuttle to a new terminal and check-in for with continental for the rest of my flighs. I only had about 2 hours between flights so I barely made it. The trans-atlantic wasn't bad in an aisle seat. Arriving in Newark I only had 1:25 until my transfer. Miraculously I was able to pick-up my luggage again, go through customs, re-check my bags and make it to the next terminal. I was a few minutes early so I met Rikki walking down to baggage claim. Two weeks is too long to be away from home.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Returning to Naples

   The walk from the airport seemed longer this time. I was tired after the unexpected delay in Paris. I checked in without any problems and was disappointed the wireless wasn't in range of my room until I found the Ethernet cable that actually worked. The connection was slow, more like DSL than the cable I am used to but I was glad to finally be back online. This week's training also went smoothly without any major problems. The garbage is still an issue in Naples, the touristy areas have been cleaned up but the garbage is still on the sides of the roads outside of the downtown area. I noticed a lot of stray dogs living off the garbage. I can't imagine what other animals are thriving from it. The weather is still pretty warm here but I didn't notice much of a smell. I wonder if the fact that the majority of the population lives under the most active volcano in Europe has anything to do with it? Why take care of the environment when it can turn on you at any time... Mount Vesuvius (Pompei) is the deadliest volcano in the World. It is prone to explosive eruptions. With 3 million people living in close proximity the next time it blows the death toll will be high.



Problems in Paris

   My flight from Bahrain to Naples did not go as smoothly. The Gulf air flight was delayed so I missed my connecting Air France flight from Paris to Naples. So I went to the desk after arriving at Paris and was told I could get another flight at 1200 instead of the 0930 I missed. Great, no big deal. So I had to go pick up my luggage since Paris doesn't allow luggage to go through to international destinations (what a pain, this happened last time too). So I find my luggage and then go back to Air France to get my adjusted ticket. They tell me they can't help and I have to go talk with Delta Airlines. But they did give me a voucher stating that since Air France partners with Gulf Air it was their fault and not mine that I missed the flight. At this point I've already walked about a mile, no joking. So I start hiking again, stand in another line at another counter for Delta. The delta lady looks at me like I am crazy and states "this has nothing to  do with Delta, none of your flights are Delta flights." Which was true, but not what I was looking for so I told her I know, I was told to come here, how do I get Naples? She directs me back to Air France. So another hike, another line, at another counter. I stand in two other lines before being directed to the right place. I go to an Air France service desk and again get the deer in the headlights look when I give her my eticket. She says she can't change my eticket because I don't have a reservation number. I point it out to her on the ticket and tell her since it is an eticket this is all I have. I find it really hard to believe how clueless everyone was. Granted I had a large flight itinerary, but shouldn't they be able to read them with some proficiency? She makes some phone calls, types incessantly at the computer frowning and shaking her head for the next 2 hours and finally pulls out a receipt pad and hand writes a "voucher" that I have to show with my boarding tickets at both Paris and Rome. There were no direct flights available so my 12 hour trip was now going to take over 24 hours. I then go through security again after walking for what seemed like miles dragging all of my luggage. Of course I had to throw away my water bottle to get through security again, but luckily the flights were short so I didn't get too dehydrated. The rest was pretty seamless. I'm so glad I am not going through Paris on the way back. I hate that airport. I've never seen a more complex and disorientating setup in my life. The taxi from runway to gate is at least 15 minutes and you have to take buses everywhere or walk for miles. Lesson learned, never fly through Paris.



Sunday, November 02, 2008

Bahrain

   The flight to Bahrain was pretty uneventful. Norfolk to Dulles to Frankfurt to Bahrain. I did get a little sleep on the trans-atlantic but it definitely wasn't as comfortable as my last trip when I was upgraded to 1st class. The food wasn't bad either, but of course since you can't bring any "liquids" greater than 4 oz with you I was dehydrated until I broke down and bought a 6$ bottle of water in Germany. The vendors running stores inside security must love the new TSA rules. One guy was stopped at security and his bottle of cologne was confiscated. Once arriving in Bahrain I made it to the Avis desk and they gave me a Toyota Yaris. This is one of the few cars that have come out and I thought I might actually buy. It was nice, except the lights don't automatically turn off so I drained the battery once and had to get jumped. The best part about the car was how little gas it used, by the end of the week I only used half a tank and it cost less than 7$. Gas was about a dollar a gallon. The drive to the hotel was uneventful only one traffic circle. Last time I drove in the mid-east was to Doha, Qatar. There were no stop lights there, just traffic circles. I envy their merging capabilities at 70+ mph, I wish more Americans knew how to merge like that.


   The Gulf Hotel was easily the nicest hotel I have ever stayed at. But due to power, Internet, and service issues it isn't even in my top 5 hotel stays. Internet cost 15$ per 2 hours and the wireless signal did not reach my room. Besides that it was dial-up speed. The breaker in my room was trippped so I didn't have any power in any outlets the first night. The 12+ restaurants/bars, massive pool, and elaborate design was very impressive. The gym was pathetic, less demand for exercising due to the heat I suppose. The week went by quickly and everything went well. I gave 5 training briefs and 1 executive overview on IT service management and IT infrastructure library.



Saturday, November 01, 2008

Carnival Glory 2008

It has been 2 years since our last cruise so we were both looking forward to this one. I thought our 2006 Hawaiian cruise would be impossible to beat, but this cruise was much better than expected. Of course it helped that I was winning at the craps table. Although our ports of call could not compete with Hawaii they were good. Especially when Hurricane Omar caused our St Marten stop to be cancelled. I was very impressed with Carnival for scheduling a stop in Grand Turk to make up for the cancelled stop. Our cabin steward was the best we have ever had, and we did enjoy the scheduled early seating (we did have to change it to early since they gave us late seating even though we asked for it). Our last cruise was with Norwegian cruise lines (NCL) and their "freestyle" eating isn't as good as Carnival's nightly scheduled sit down meals. Though Carnival has also added an additional cost 5 star restaurant (30$ pp).


The ship was in great condition and the crew did an outstanding job. There were a ridiculous number of past Glory cruisers. It is a very popular ship. This cruise also hosted the 2008 goth and vampire convention. Only about 300 of them, but it was unique to see and talk to the very.... interesting people. The worst part about this cruise was that I had to come back and weigh-in for my bi-annual physical readiness test. I did stick to the "spa menu" for most of the meals and still had dessert after each. To make up for it I hit the gym every morning. Running on a treadmill on the 11th deck in light seas is a tough workout. Miraculously I lost 2 pounds during the cruise and passed the weigh-in without having to get taped (a more accurate body composition assessment, Navy requires < 22% body fat).


So overall this was better than the NCL cruise with the exception of the port calls. St Thomas and the Bahamas were nice and the Grand Turks was a great replacement for St Marten, but none of them were as nice as Hawaii.