We had a fabulous vacation which I will begin to tell you about in this post. If you read the pre-vacation posts, you may remember that I stated that we were traveling with airline employees using Buddy passes -- which is basically standby with Business Class options. This is a very adventurous way to travel because you never know where you will have to go to get to your final destination. Our final destination in this case was Harwich, England.
Since the airlines have cut back the number of flights and are notorious for over-booking, it is a little more difficult to fly this way. We were scheduled to fly out of OKC on Monday, August 31 around 6 A.M. We also prepared with plan B and C just in case. Sure enough, leaving OKC for Minneapolis was a "go" but getting to Detroit from Minneapolis was not possible. Plan B was to drive to Memphis on Sunday and then fly to Detroit or possibly Atlanta (plan C).
Sunday afternoon we devised plan D. We drove to Dallas and spent the night. We rescheduled our flights to leave from Dallas to Detroit to London. Our friends' son lives close to the DFW airport so he came and picked up the car and kept it at his house. The next morning we left Dallas for Detroit around 7 am and then had to wait for a 5:30 pm flight to London.
As time drew closer to leave we realized that London was NOT going to happen. Just in case, we had already done some extra planning and now Amsterdam was the next option for us. We needed to get to Europe in order to make it to the ship on Wednesday. (We were losing 7 hours as we traveled -- basically a day).
There were two flights scheduled to leave for Amsterdam around 6:30 & 7:30 pm. The first flight didn't look too promising but the agent was working on it. At the last minute, all four of us were able to get on -- and -- in Business Class (we were praying for that). We realized that getting on this flight a miracle from Jehovah Jireh (our provider).
Note: We always make our travels a matter of prayer and trust God for safety and guidance. We were certainly blessed by His hand of guidance and provision throughout this entire vacation.
Bright and early Monday morning we landed in Amsterdam. We have been in this awesome city countless times and are fairly familiar with the airport and train system. We made our way to baggage claim only to discover our luggage was not on the plane! We are now in Amsterdam and our luggage is possibly in London (it was checked through to London at the DFW airport)! We checked with the agent and they could not locate the luggage at that time. We knew that was another flight coming in in less than an hour so we waited.
It is now Tuesday morning and the ship sails at 5:00 pm Wednesday with or without us. We have to find our luggage and find a way to England. I began to pray. I thanked the Lord for providing the miracle of getting us on our flight and for allowing us to be in Business Class where we could actually stretch out (almost lay down) and get some sleep. I told Him I knew that I believed that He could and would take care of the luggage problem and asked that it be on the next flight from Detroit. No more had I said "Amen" than the conveyer belt started and the first piece of luggage out was ours! God is so mindful of His children!
Now . . . we were all together, us and our luggage, but in the wrong country! We now needed to get to London (so we thought -- God had other plans -- better plans).
First we checked with the local & international airlines and since we needed on right away, nothing was available. Next we checks on trains. There was one and it cost about $600 per couple (better than missing the ship). It would be an 8 hour trip to London and then we would have another 2 hour train and taxi ride to the ship. Time was running out on this option and our friend was checking on something else. We were really feeling the pressure.
Our friend discovered that there was a ferry that acrossed the English Channel straight to Harwich -- our final destination. The trouble was, no one could give us a time schedule, price or exactly where we had to go to catch the ferry. We bought tickets to Central Station and was able to find out the city was Hoek Van Holland Haven, 1.5 hours away by train. (This city is also called the Hook of Holland . "Hoek" is pronounced like "hook".) They printed out the schedule -- in Dutch so I studied it for a while then double checked with a ticket agent to be sure I understood the schedule. I could only understand one of the column headings, "spoor" which means platform -- the rest might as well have been Greek b/c I don't understand Dutch. But . . I actually did make sense of it and had it right!
The scheduled was printed out 5 minutes before the train was due to leave so when we arrived on spoor 2, the train was gone. Fortunately, these trains are a part of their public metro system so it was possible to catch another one. I showed our schedule to an agent and he directed us to spoor 1 and said it was leaving in 10 minutes. We hopped on the train -- well. . . . . with each of us handling 1 large suitcase and one carry-on size, we didn't exactly hop. We had done this before so we knew what we needed to do to get it on and where we needed to be to ride.
We sunk down in our seats while keeping an eye on our luggage. Shortly the train began to move and we were off to find a ferry -- still not sure what it's schedule was. We were told that it may leave at 5:30 pm but that was not definite. We were schedule to arrive around 5 pm.
The Dutch countryside was gorgeous. We saw farms, small towns, old windmills -- such beauty! My camera was buried in carry-on luggage and pictures were not a priority. We had to carefully watch the map and station signs b/c we were to make one train change. There was no room for a mistake.
A young couple got on the train and sat down on the steps near us. Hubs began talking with him and asked about the ferry. He was not sure but he said he would check for us on his telephone.
Wonderful news! There definitely was a ferry leaving at 10:00 pm arriving in Harwich, England at 6:00 am. He told us the cost and that there were cabins to rent it we would like to rent one.
Everything was working out perfectly.
After making one train change, we arrived in Hoek Van Holland. (I even got a Dutch lesson from a college student on how to properly pronounce "Hoek Van Holland".) :)
We found the terminal and bought our tickets w/cabins. It's now around 5:30 pm but we found out that they begin boarding the ferry at 7 pm, so the wait will be short. We had a nice dinner out on the front "porch" area on the old train depot. We always travel with games, so we had time to play some cards and relax.
The ferry was so nice. Nothing like any ferry I had ridden before. It was almost as nice as the cruise ships! We had nice showers and comfortable beds. The next morning we awoke, dressed and headed to the elevators to disembark the ferry. As we were walking off, I looked up and there was our SHIP! God had delivered us 100 yards from the cruise ship -- no trains -- no taxis!
After clearing customs, we got some breakfast and went to the ship terminal, around 9 am. We found a table and played some games to pass the time (normally they do not begin embarkation until at least 12 noon). They were right on scheduled with the disembarkation and said it wouldn't be long before we could board! As we sat there, the luggage handlers came to us, asked to see our tickets and tagged our luggage with our stateroom numbers and headed to the ship with them! Before long, we checked in and got on the ship. We went directly to our staterooms to get rid of our carry-ons (we always keep them with us). When we arrived in our rooms -- OUR LUGGAGE WAS WAITING! It usually doesn't arrive until after 5 pm!
If we had to do this all over again, we would take the same route. It was the most logical, direct and restful. It just would have been nice to know it all in advance, but isn't that how faith works -- sometimes blindly?
Below are pictures of the ferry and a picture of the cabins. We chose inside since it was a night crossing. The ferry's name was "Britannica". Later I discovered that the Stena Line has many ferrys from Denmark to Ireland. Who know? God did!