About six months ago, Duzzy and I booked a seemingly perfect vacation...about a week and a half ago, that perfect trip turned into a perfectly good disaster story we'll probably talk about for years.

Let's start from the beginning:

The plan was to fly from NJ to Miami late Friday night, stay in a hotel, wake up and enjoy a nice relaxing breakfast and some time outside before heading off to the port for a 7 day cruise to the Caribbean.

St Thomas
Laurie Cataldo

If only.

I had checked the flight status all day. On schedule! Woo! After I got home from work, we both bundled up in the 15 degree weather, and dragged our suitcases and carry-ons through the snow in Red Bank on the 5-10 minute walk to the train station. We got to the airport, checked our bags, made it through security, and with our flight still showing as on schedule, had about 45 minutes until we were supposed to start boarding (8 p.m.)

At 7:55, we were wrapping up dinner, finishing the last of our drinks, when Duzzy gets an alert that the flight is delayed more than 2.5 hours. About 10 seconds later, the alert shows the flight is canceled. The blood pressure starts to rise.

We head over to the gate, where, yep, flight's canceled. I call our hotel to explain and tell them I hope to rebook, but my be late. They tell me I'm going to be charged for the night whether I show up or not. Awesome! We continue walking towards the airline's customer service desk.

The line has about 150 people on it. The line isn't moving. An overhead announcement tells us to go to rebooking...so off we go.

airline a
Laurie Cataldo

What do we find? 500+ tired, frustrated, cranky travelers...1 agent working. Stellar.

While in line, the overhead announcement says to call their dedicated rebooking number to save time...so we do...and are met with 2 hour hold times.

Well...we have nothing else to do, so we wait, both on the physical rebooking line and on the phone. A lovely man named Sonny from somewhere overseas answers my call, and attempts to help get us on a different flight, but tells me nothing is available. I ask him to look into flights out of other airports too...Philly, Baltimore, DC, ANYTHING.

He tells me he can put me on a flight Sunday from Newark to the Bahamas. Not helpful, Sonny. He says there's a 6 a.m. flight out of Cleveland. My patience is wearing thin. It's close to 10:30 p.m.

Duzzy goes onto a travel website and within 2 minutes has found an early morning flight out of DC that winds up in West Palm Beach, Fl...1 hour outside Miami. Guess we're making a night of this... Book it! I let Sonny know we rebooked our own flight. Somehow he thinks I want him to cancel my RETURN flight home to Jersey. He now has to call THAT airline and straighten things out. He'll call me back. I'm panicking.

We go down to baggage claim to retrieve our checked bags, only to be told they are not returning any bags until the morning. They will all be sent to our final destination (Miami.) Sigh, FINE. We'll pick up the bags in Miami.

We rent a car, and hit the road at 11:45 p.m., headed for D.C. We stop at the Turnpike rest stop just south of the airport for some coffee and snacks and to charge our phones. Sonny calls me to say he's still trying to get the other airline, but they have him on hold. I have an emotional breakdown at the rest stop. I am tired, cold, and I just want to be in Miami. After almost an hour of regrouping, we hit the road.

We get to D.C. around 4:15ish, drop off the rental car, and Sonny calls me back. The return flight is back on. Fabulous. You're the best Sonny!

We have a couple of hours to kill in the DC airport until our 7 a.m. flight. Duzzy will later regret the McGriddle he chowed down on.

We fly from DC to Atlanta, connect there to West Palm Beach...and rent another car for the hour drive to Miami. We get to Miami Airport at around 1:30. Ship boards until 3:30 p.m. We're in good shape!

We get to Miami Airport, my bag is there...Duzzy's is not. Sigh. Luckily, the cruise line had a check-in counter right near the baggage office, so we check in with them, explain the situation, and they tell us to just board the ship, and the luggage will get sent to our next port. 'Happens all the time,' they say!

On the way to the ship, I call the baggage folks again, explain that I'm about to get on a ship, and I need to give them my itinerary info so they can get my bag to our next port.

The heavily accented man on the other end of the line has zero concept of what is happening. He keeps asking what flight I rebooked to get to Miami. I have not slept. I am frustrated. I am overwhelmed. I'm wearing the same sweaterdress I've had on for 30+ hours and it's now 83 degrees.

This man is not listening or helping. I hand the phone off to Duzzy in a fit of frustration. I am now bawling uncontrollably in the embarkation security area. Faaaantastic. We are about the last people on the ship, but hey! We made it! We're on the ship! I can get a drink!

Except...we have to go right to the safety drill. In my sweater. In his long-sleeve button down. Still exhausted. And surrounded by people who have been drinking since noon.

45 minutes later, we go to Guest Services, who tell us to go relax, they will handle the luggage claim, they'll call them and track down the bag and hopefully get it to the port the next morning...they give Duzzy a free t-shirt, free laundry pass, and a coupon to their shops so he can at least buy a bathing suit and some flip flops.

We eat dinner, and basically pass out.

Laurie Cataldo

The next day the ship arrives in the Bahamas. We go to Atlantis and spend a few hours at the water park, channeling our inner child and finally feeling a little relaxed...and then somehow after we got back to the ship, Duzzy realized he lost his debit card somewhere along the way.


Back to Guest Services. He cancels the debit card, but unfortunately, the luggage never made it to the Bahamas. They'll try to get it to St. Thomas on Tuesday.

By Monday, Duzzy realizes he's probably allergic to the laundry detergent, and is now breaking out in hives. He's sick of wearing the same clothes, and he felt like a chump on formal night wearing a button down and jeans when all the guys around him were in suits. His suit may or may not be covered in the wine also packed in his luggage.

On the plus side, I won a mixology contest, and my drink, the 'Caribbean Queen' (a turquoise blue melon pina colada) was the featured drink of the week, and I got 5 free drinks. Woot!

Drinking a Caribbean Queen
Sipping on my winning cocktail! (Laurie Cataldo)

Tuesday, we get to St. Thomas...still no bag, but we go out and do our best to enjoy some snorkeling and beach time on an awesome catamaran excursion to St. John. We get back, pick up some souvenirs, and head back to the ship. Still no luggage, but they're pretty sure it will be in San Juan in the morning.

Wednesday: No bag. Duzzy finds a Polo Outlet store and buys a button down, khakis, and a t-shirt. He's in much better spirits. We venture out and enjoy some of the historical sites in Old San Juan. We get back to the ship and get a message to our stateroom that the airline told the ship our bag was at the San Juan airport, but when the cruise rep went to pick it up, it wasn't there. They are looking into what is going on. (The Guest Services reps tell us they have never experienced anything like this.)

Thursday: Grand Turk. We don't even expect the bag anymore. We drink all day at the swim-up bar in Margaritaville. I now have a 22 oz. cup in the shape of a blender. Score!

Margaritaville Grand Turk
Laurie Cataldo

Friday afternoon I get word that I can't participate in the program that checks us into our flight and sends our luggage from the ship right to the airport in Miami because there's some kind of problem with my reservation. I just shake my head.

Saturday morning we disembark, grab a cab to the airport and attempt to locate Duzzy's bag. Still no sign of it. We check in MY bag and get our boarding passes for our flight later that night, then had back for a few hours in South Beach.

Our flight lands at about midnight, and we get back to the apartment around 2:30 a.m.

4 p.m. Sunday and a different airline (let's say Airline B) calls me. They have my bag. In San Juan. They say the original airline (Airline A) has no record of my claim with them. I give them my claim info. They're going to call me back.

4:05 p.m. Airline B calls me. They're sending my bag to Newark Airport tonight on a flight through Airline A. I can pick up my bag tonight in Newark.

Except they're out of their damn minds if they think I'm going to Newark to pick up the bag. It will be sent to my apartment, I will make sure of it. (I'm still working on that.)

I was told to submit my complaints to Airline A's website. An automated response wrote back saying someone would respond in 14-21 days. If I don't make it to my on-air shift tomorrow, it's because I'm still on the phone with said Airline, getting them to make this right.

Wish them luck.

All in all, it was a stressful start, but in the end, we made it work. Was it perfect? No, but nothing ever works out perfectly. The trick is making the best of it. (Then going all kinds of Jersey on the people who screwed you over!)

Have you ever had a nightmare vacation? Tell us about it in the comment section below!

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