August 20th was my 27th Anniversary with Bob! I made sure black-and-white cookies had arrived for him so we could virtually celebrate even though we were on separate continents :).
I was now at my connection spot in Madrid, Spain, and the sun was just rising over the horizon as I landed.
I was fortunate that Madrid was my only connection to make. My mom had three connections. When I got off the plane in Madrid, it was quite a long, involved walk down featureless hallways, with no signs or indicators, with twists and turns, before I reached a first ‘stopping point’ of a destination board. My next flight to Athens was listed, but it was the only flight in the next 3 hours without a terminal or gate or anything by its flight number. So I had no idea of where to go.
Everyone else around me started out in various directions. I tracked down an information booth to ask where to go. They pointed me in the direction of a passport check. By the time I got into the passport line it was quite long. Still, it shuffled along. About half of the people were still wearing masks from our mask-requiring flight.
The actual passport check was very quick. They asked what I was doing in Greece and then asked which countries the ship would be stopping in. That was it. Then I was out the other side.
I still had no idea what terminal / gate I was going to. Another boarding display up ahead showed my flight but not any destination info. It was stressful, but I lemming-like followed the main group which went down to a subway system. I had no idea if leaving my current terminal area was a good idea, but it seemed everyone else was, so I had to trust this was where most of the flights were going to leave from. I got onto the subway.
The signs on the subway walls said we should be wearing masks, but by this point most people weren’t. Off we went.
We arrived at another terminal area. We went up to a main junction with a row of monitors. Again my flight was on the board but had no terminal or gate information listed. At this juncture, half the people went left, half right. I didn’t even know who to follow any more.
I went to an info desk to ask. The woman was very dismissive and said my flight was about 2 hours out and the board would be updated with info by the hour mark. I went back to look at the board. This was a smallish area with turnstiles to the left and the right. There weren’t any chairs or benches or anything to sit on here.
I finally went back to the info desk, to a new woman, and asked if I was really supposed to stand in this smallish area for an hour until the board updated. She looked at my ticket and said I should take the right-hand fork and there would be benches there so I could wait for further updates.
Off I went through the right-hand turnstiles.
The space opened up. I was now in a very long terminal area split into the letters J-K-L. There were shops and benches, but all the benches were stuffed full of people. I had to walk quite a long way to find an open bench. I had just finally sat down when I got an email alert from Iberia that my gate was at one end of the terminal, far from me. I got up and started walking. I checked the displays along the way and they all said ‘contact company’ for the gate info, which wasn’t reassuring.
Eventually I got to the gate, which had people at it. That was encouraging. The sign over the check-in desk was completely blank. Less encouraging. I sat down. Waited. Occasionally I got up to check the departure displays, but while they steadily counted down, my flight was still only listed as ‘contact company’.
About 15 minutes before boarding I got another email, saying we were going to board from the far opposite end of the terminal. I got up and started walking. Again the departure boards I passed just said ‘contact company’ for my flight’s gate, even though every other flight had its info. I wonder how people without phones were supposed to know what to do?
Finally I got to the gate just in time. They had lines for section 2, 3, and 4, but no line for business class. There were two random lines by the main entryway. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I just milled around the desk area.
They called people with small children and people who needed assistance. I waited. Then they called groups 1 and 2 together. Apparently people who had been in group 1 (business class) had already gone in with the ‘people who need assistance’ group. So I headed onto the plane.
Business class on this leg was not really much different than non-business-class. It was simply the first three rows of close-packed seats. I was in row 3. Behind me was a curtain and the next rows of close-packed seats. I sat in my window seat. The woman behind me with painted toenails decided my seat rests were perfect for stretching her bare feet on. She put one foot on each arm. She kept poking me with her bare toes by accident. So it was an interesting flight. No TV monitors.
I tried to sleep.
Finally, we landed in Athens. I got off and headed toward baggage claim. The baggage process took quite a while, and my luggage was near the very end, but I did get my luggage. So that is a good thing. I later heard that other people on the ship had luggage go missing.
Luggage in tow, I followed the signs out to the exit. There were no security checks or anything. I nearly instantly found the woman holding the Regent Cruises sign. Apparently they were waiting just for me and my mom. More than that, they had a minivan just for me and another minivan for her, so we wouldn’t have to wait for each other.
I wanted to ride with my mom. After all, the entire purpose of this trip was to spend time with her, and apparently she was landing shortly! I wanted to wait here for her. However, they seemed to want me to go into my minivan, so, exhausted, I gave in. It was just me and my driver on the 45-minute drive to the ship. It seemed fairly wasteful of gas and resources to do it this way, but I was, as mentioned, exhausted, and not up for pressing the point.
My driver and I arrived at the docks. Attendants took my larger bag, and I wheeled my smaller one into a big building. This building was clearly set up for large groups, with banks of chairs, but I was the only one there in ‘line’. I showed my proof of recent PCR covid test. They put a wristband on me indicating I was OK with my test and sent me along. There were two or three people sitting in chairs in the massive area apparently waiting for their test results.
I walked over to the security building. It was in essence the same setup – a very big building set up for long lines, but just me there. I went to a desk to get my key card handed to me. Then I went through a metal detector, and I was out of the building, down the stairs, and at the short walk to the ship.
The gangplank was fairly long with lots of shallow steps, so sort of tedious to walk up. Then I was on the ship and checking in with my key card. A group of crew members were waiting in the entry lobby area. I was the only passenger in sight. One of the crew members gave me a glass of bubbly. Another then escorted me the short distance to the theater to tell me this was where I would muster in case of emergency. They no longer make you sit through a muster drill – they have you watch an in-cabin video. Then I was released to go to my cabin, number 814.
I went up the elevator and down the hall to my cabin. I did not see a single passenger this entire time. I got to the room. It was quite lovely. There were two twin beds, a desk area, a couch area with table, and a balcony with two chairs There was a walk-in closet. The bath area has a bathtub, separate shower, and vanity with two sinks. There was a bottle of sparkling wine and a fruit basket waiting.
A steward soon showed up to explain that the room lights turn on when you put your key card in a slot by the door. That way it conserves electricity when you leave. You can’t have things plugged in while you’re not in the room, for safety reasons. She said the passengers are required to watch the safety video on the TV all the way through before the TV acts normally.
I’ll note that nearly all plugs in the room were European-style plugs. I’d brought converters, but Mom had to unplug a lamp to get to a US-style plug.
I headed back down to the gangway again and sat underneath the tent there. It was maybe a half hour later when my mom arrived. Hurrah! I went with her as she was shown her muster station, and then we went to the cabin. Our luggage arrived soon after. We were all set! Exhausted but on the boat!
I showered and the floor area of the shower ended up fairly swamped – and there was water out in the toilet area, too. I mopped it up with towels and figured I’d had the shower on too strong and that it got past the sliding glass door. I would do better tomorrow to have the shower on a lower pressure.
We had a welcome reception in the lounge with the group my Mom booked this tour with. We talked with them a while.
Normally my mom loves listening to the classical string quartets – but oddly there weren’t any listed on the schedule. Just a pianist. We decided to go to the main dining room for dinner. We were nearly the only ones in there. We were given a table by the window. Dinner was delicious and artfully arranged. We’d recently cruised on Oceania and I’d commented that their presentation was just not what one would think for fine dining. Regent really showed what a nice dining experience could be. It still was odd, though, how few people we had seen on the ship so far.
Dinner done, we were beyond exhausted. We headed back to the room and climbed into our beds.
Ask with any questions!
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