Gordon and I just got back from a Viking cruise and for the most part it was fun–with a few exceptions. So I’m going to vent about the really bad part of our trip–the flight to Prague on Alitalia. Then I can talk about some good stuff. But I really need to vent.
We got to the terminal in plenty of time. The Alitalia agent who checked our luggage and gave us our boarding passes was efficient and polite. I was pleasantly surprised; I’ve gotten used to airline personnel–with the exception of Southwest–to be rather off-putting when they’re not actually rude. We bought a bottle of water before we boarded the plane. Thank God we did. Things would have been much worse for us if we hadn’t.
The plane we boarded had to be at least 40 years old. The seat I was assigned had a big metal blob where I was supposed to put my feet. There was little space anyway and this made things worse. I had to share Gordon’s legroom space which meant I was twisted like a pretzel. The head rests were supposed to be adjustable but they didn’t work. That meant Gordon was twisted too. The seats were so uncomfortable that we just stared at each other when we belted ourselves in. This was going to be a long flight. It got worse. The media screens on the back of the seat that are supposed to stupefy the passengers with movies didn’t work most of the time. There was no touch screen; a hand-held control was attached by a cord that supposedly rewound when you tugged on it. But that didn’t work most of the time either. I had to stuff the control into it’s slot. When I managed to get a the control to work the movie would suddenly switch from English to Italian; I was constantly pulling on my handset to switch back to English. And it didn’t make much difference; the movie usually stopped halfway through which was really annoying. I wonder how Moana ended…
I tried to get an attendant by pulling out my control (see difficulties above) but nobody came. I don’t know if that button didn’t work either but I knew the attendants didn’t. When I took a bathroom break (which was a mistake; I should have kept the fluid I had but at least I got to straighten out) I found the attendants playing cards. Well, it was a long flight and the attendants’ movie screens probably didn’t work either.
I was glad we kept our water bottle because we were only allowed 2 half-cups of water over the 12-hour flight. And the food was awful. I know airline food is generally bad but this was particularly bad. Probably they nuked it to death to keep the passengers from getting any fluid. I don’t think they wanted to have to clean the bathroom. No problem; I was getting seriously dehydrated.
The flight from hell finally ended in Rome. We disembarked to look for the next gate and couldn’t find it on any boards. We finally asked a gate attendant (Alitalia, of course) where we could get the information. Instead of looking anything up, which would have made sense, she directed us to an information station in the middle of the terminal. After a brief wait, the info person rudely told us which gate we were supposed to be at. So we hoofed in to another terminal. We knew we only had a 2-hour layover and we wanted to make sure we were in the right place. Then the next torture began; customs. We had to get our passports stamped. About two plane-loads of people were in line but we figured we had plenty of time. Wrong! We stood and stood and stood. Every time a load of people came another agent disappeared. And the one agent working was clogged by a woman who only had a boarding pass on her phone and apparently they weren’t prepared for that. What was particularly annoying was the fact that at least two ‘bosses’ strutted around, doing nothing. They had big bellies handing over their belts and too-tight jackets but they pranced and yelled and waved their hands–and got nothing done. And time was passing. There were two young women standing around in official jackets; I could actually reach them so I pointed to my watch and said we were going to miss our flight. They looked embarrassed and I think they actually tried to do something but the strutters got in the way. A poor Australian couple behind us were in serious time trouble but they didn’t do or say anything. I guess American outrage is foreign to them. Well, I started agitating. I was afraid I’d end up in an Italian jail but at least I’d probably get some water there–maybe. The demands worked for the Australian couple. They were sheparded to the head of the line. Another clerk finally came back and we were processed. I think they wanted to get rid of me; other passengers were starting to get upset and I was leading the insurrection. As we ran to our gate the Australian wife saw us trotting by and she ran me down to tell me that they’d missed their flight and the next one was three days away! Well, we did our best for them. We got on the last bus to our jet (a bus? in Rome?) but made the flight. Thank God, we didn’t have to pee. That was the only advantage to not getting any water.
We landed in Prague and our luggage landed with us–which I considered a minor miracle. Not losing our luggage was probably an oversight on the part of the Italians. That was the only thing they did right. We found out later that day that Alitalia had declared bankruptcy for the second time in a year. It should go out of business. We were thinking of touring Italy but I don’t want to go anywhere near that place anymore. Those bureaucrats have tortured me as much as they’re going to.
I had to buy a quart of cranberry juice in Prague; after the enforced dehydration I was developing a bladder infection. Thank God there was a grocery store right across the street from the Hilton. And I pooped charcoal briquettes for a few days. Thanks Alitalia.
After this experience we took a closer look at the flight home that Viking had arranged. We were supposed to fly from Paris back to Rome, and from Rome to Los Angeles. Why fly back to Rome? It added an additional 5 hours of flight time on the airlines from hell. We went to the Viking personnel on the boat and had to pay a small fortune to change flights. We flew AirCanada from Paris to Montreal then home to Los Angeles. Why couldn’t Viking have arranged something sensible like that in the first place? I’m still mad about the flight Viking bought. None of the other passengers from the US on the boat were subjected to Alitalia; they got British Airways or AirFrance. I don’t know who from Viking got a kickback from Alitalia but I’m so disgusted by this treatment I’ll probably never take another Viking cruise. Cheat me once, shame on you; cheat me twice, shame on me. They don’t make this right they’ve lost a client. There are lots of other packages to buy.
Whew, glad I got that off my chest. Now I can talk about the more pleasant aspects of the trip. I was in Prague and Paris. How bad can that be?