Toronto to Venice

Our trip officially began at noon on Wednesday, July 12. That was the time our limousine arrived at our house to take us to the Lester B. Pearson Airport in Toronto. The weather wasn’t great - quite warm but raining a fair bit. It was still an enjoyable limousine ride to the airport, knowing it was the start of our vacation.

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  • Wednesday July 12, 2006

    Weather Delay in North America

    We checked in at the airport in Toronto at around 12:30pm, 2 hours ahead of the scheduled flight time of 2:30pm. At the counter next to us we noticed another couple with similar ship luggage tags to ours; our first contacts.

    Our first flight took us to Washington, DC. We flew in a small United Airlines Embraer ERJ-145 (50 seater) airplane. Gary had had experience flying in these planes in Africa, but it was was Linda’s first flight in this sort of plane - and in less than ideal weather conditions. All that being said, the flight was good with a nice flight attendant (just one on the plane).

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      We arrived in Washington’s Dulles Airport on time just after 4:00pm, but the weather conditions were deteriorating. Our next flight was scheduled to leave at 6:10pm for Frankfurt, Germany. We had received all of our boarding passes in Toronto so all we needed to do was find the departing gate. On the way to the gate we made a detour to a Starbucks - good to get a real cup of coffee. The delays began with announcements that our plane had arrived (presumably from Frankfurt) but was not allowed to approach the gate because of lightning in the area. We boarded the plane about the time it should have departed, but that was the start of the long delay. We sat in the plane for approximately two and a half hours on the tarmac in Washington. The weather had shut down air traffic throughout the eastern part of the USA. According to our plane’s captain, nothing was moving. Our flight connection in Frankfurt was tight, so the delay was stressful.

      Once our plane moved for the first time there was a sense of hope - only to be dashed to find we moved in what felt like tiny increments on the tarmac as the air traffic controllers managed what must have been hundreds of flights all delayed in that part of the USA. At that time we were #13 in the queue at Washington, but the frequency of departing flights was not the normal quick succession of take-offs. We were told that air traffic was closed north of Washington, and that there were no flights out of New York or Philadelphia. The total delay for us was three hours, so we already knew that we would miss our flight in Frankfurt. The crew were as good as they could be during this delay - allowing people to move around and serving drinks. The other good thing was that the air conditioning was operating while we waited to leave!

      Another moment of frustration came with the captain’s first announcement once the plane was in the air - because of the weather, our flight would be routed north over the Toronto area and then out over the St Lawrence River en-route to Europe - basically where we had come from and where we should have flown from to get to Europe in the first place.

      For the moment, though, it was best not to think about the delays and frustrations - with the hope that everything would be okay once we reached Europe. The flight itself was nice, we were flying in a Lufthansa Boeing 747-400. The flight crew was pleasant, service was good and the food not too bad. We both made an effort to sleep some on the overnight flight.

  • Thursday July 13, 2006

    Missed Connection and Revised Plans

    In the morning of Thursday, July 13, 2006 we woke to the unmistakable smell of airplane breakfast. You know the smell? never really sure if you like it or not. We had both managed to sleep some and even though we had concerns about our missed connecting flight we were feeling good about now flying over Europe.

    After breakfast there was an encouraging announcement that the ground staff in Frankfurt had been notified and that arrangements were being made for alternate flights. We had checked before leaving Canada that there were other flights from Frankfurt to Venice after our originally scheduled flight at approximately one hour intervals.

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      The onboard announcement also told us that we had a favourable main terminal gate assignment and that Frankfurt ground staff would direct us to where we should go to get new boarding passes. After the plane touched down, though, the plane sat for a while and then came the news that we would be parked away from the terminal and would need to board a bus to take us to the terminal. The delays just kept coming and everything seemed to be going in slow motion. When we made it to the terminal, the reality was not quite what we were led to believe. We were told all of the remaining flights to Venice were full and that we’d have to go to the ticket counter to get new flight tickets. There was a long line up leading to the ticket counter, and we stood in that line for some time. Ahead of us, we saw some other ground staff pre-checking the boarding passes of people in line. We saw a woman that we knew to be on the cruise being directed to another line about 50 metres away. She motioned that we should go that way as well. We left one long line for another long line. After standing in the new line for a while we saw a staff member who was adamant that we were in the wrong line. Back we all went to the original line, now just further back in the line. A strong discussion ensued between members of the ground staff, the result of which was that we stayed in this line. It felt like an eternity in this line up. The positive side of this wait is that next to us in line were Isabelle and Lisa - a mother and daughter also heading to the same cruise. They, too, had traveled from Toronto - teammates, as it were, in this amazing race. We spent the time in line chit chatting and people watching. It made the time at least somewhat more enjoyable. Everyone was tired, hot, frustrated and anxious. It was about two hours for us waiting in that line when we were finally called to a ticket agent. He told us that the best he could do was give us stand-by tickets for the next flight. He further explained that the next flight and the following two were listed as full, but there was one later in the day that showed as having space. We took the stand-by tickets and quick marched to the gate. It was a long way away - down stairs, along many moving walkways plus long sections of plain walking.

      When we reached the gate the flight was pre-boarding, and we approached the counter. To our surprise the person at the counter told us that there wouldn’t be a problem getting on the flight. Out popped our boarding passes from the machine and we walked onto the plane. In hindsight, we suspect that there were many more people due to come from the eastern USA delayed after us, so there was availability on the flight even though it was listed as full. The big question, of course, was what about our luggage? The fellow who gave us our boarding passes said our bags would be loaded - we had more than doubts about that, having stand-by tickets and boarding the plane within 15 minutes of take-off. In our minds, not a chance that the bags would make it. Sitting in the Lufthansa plane in Frankfurt destined for Venice gave both of us a sense of such relief. We were now only about 75 minutes away from Venice. We were seated near the front of the plane on the right side. The approach to Aeroporto di Venezia Marco Polo gave us the most amazing aerial view of Venice. The city was off to the right side of the plane. Remember that if you head to Venice. We could see our ship, Millennium, and just a bit further beyond it lay the picturesque city. We could clearly see the green threads of canals woven between the mostly red clay-roofed buildings. We certainly were on the desirable side of the airplane and it was a beautiful day with a brilliant blue sky. The colours of the city were amazing. It felt a little surreal, but the sight will absolutely provide a lasting memory.

      Once inside the terminal building we headed to the baggage carousel even though we had pretty much convinced ourselves that it would be in vain. It took some time for any baggage to come down the conveyor that fed the carousel, but once it did we looked expectantly for ours - well, just in case. To our amazement one of our bags appeared on the conveyor and by the time it made it to the carousel the other one appeared. Both of our bags had made it! we were shocked. With bags in hand we proceeded to the arrival hall. It was in the arrival hall that we first saw people from Celebrity Cruises. There was quite a number of them there, all very efficient at directing people to the buses. Friendly, too. We took our luggage to the bus and left it to be loaded into the bus as we boarded it.

      It was about a 20 minute ride to the Port Terminal building - with no particular scenery on the way. As we got off the bus we were told to leave the bags and head to the terminal. At the terminal, we were able to check in quickly with the Concierge Class service that we had booked with our cruise, but that was as far as the advantage went. We were given a number for the one available shuttle bus that would take passengers to the ship. We were given #39, and they were calling #26 when we had completed our check-in. There was at least 10 minutes between the groups being called to the shuttle. We could see the ship - it wasn't that far away, but we weren't allowed to walk to it. We were there for about one and a half hours before they finally allowed people to walk over to the ship. That was a bit disappointing, it felt like we had wasted even more time. When they allowed us to walk, there was a throng of people wanting to take advantage of it - including us. It was good to walk, even though it was hot outside. We passed through a security check at the entrance to the ship on Deck 1, then took one of the midship glass elevators up to Deck 9, Sky Deck, where our room was located.

      We'd finally made it.

About WHITEonline

WHITEonline is the digital home of Gary & Linda White. We’ve been married since 1980 and live just outside Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Linda was born and raised in Toronto while Gary was born in London, England and moved to Canada at the age of 11. We enjoy travelling and taking photos while we travel. WHITEonline provides the opportunity to share some of our photos & experiences.

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