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Challenges of Our Danube River Journey

First of all, I'll start by saying there were certainly good reasons to travel during these challenging times although there also were some issues to contend with as well.

The good includes certainly the overall lack of crowding every where we went relative to pre-COVID times along with the lesser capacity on planes, in airports, on board the ship, and in hotels. Also, the appreciation of everyone, everywhere we traveled was wonderful. They've missed having the tourism unlike the way many felt prior to COVID when the world, in certain places, seemed to be greatly overcrowded.

The most challenging issues included the testing required, mask-wearing in a number of places but predominantly indoors, and the constant hand cleaning and temperature checks although all of these protocols made us feel so much safer.

In particular, knowing that all passengers and crew had been required to be COVID vaccinated and COVID tested prior to boarding flights and boarding the river cruise ship made us all feel much more comfortable as we sailed the Danube River and toured together. The crew were all required to wear masks on board the ship and buses and initially many of us wore our masks, but ended up feeling so comfortable with everyone and stayed socially distanced from one another, largely, that we didn't feel the need to always wear them.

Certain countries like Germany had stricter requirements for mask wearing when we were indoors both on the buses and touring, while Austria tended to be more loose depending on the guides and the buildings that we entered although most people did wear masks indoor. Hungary tended to be a little more lax with their requirements both on buses and indoors.

All-in-all, the pros absolutely outshone the cons, especially once we arrived and started both our pre-tour in Prague, The Czech Republic and then embarked on our lovely ship ready to cruise!

Of course, before we even left North America to travel 'over the pond', we had some challenges that may or may not have been related to these COVID times we're in. The initial weather delay (thunder & lightening) in Washington, DC certainly didn't have anything to do with COVID. The mechanical issues, on the other hand, may have some bearing based on COVID although there's still no excuse for malfunctioning planes and then the fact that the airline handled the situation very badly.

The problem was that they loaded us up on a plane with no AC in 90 something degree temperatures and left us on the plane for 2 hours, then, proceeded to offload us back in to the terminal for another 2 hours of waiting before they loaded us back on the plane for yet another 2 hours. By that time, the AC was fixed and the plane was cooler, but then, they ended up canceling the flight until the following day.

They did very graciously, offer us a hotel room and nominal vouchers for food, but the following day, when we expected to board the 24 hour delayed flight, we were given seats in economy instead of those we'd paid for in business class right from the get-go. Then, they proceeded to tell us that 'our travel agent' canceled our return booking in business class as well! We were furious, particularly considering they were trying to pin the blame on me!

Fortunately, we ended up getting a 'Supervisor' involved to help 'fix' our flights to and return, but had to delay even further so that we lost a full day for our pre-tour in Prague, The Czech Republic. We also needed to fly to yet another North American city before we could finally get across to Europe 28 hours later than originally scheduled. Not a very good start to our trip and this fiasco almost caused us to cancel the journey and just head back home... to our puppies who were being well taken care of in our own home.

Our return journey wasn't quite so bad although finally when we were about to board our final flight on this same airline from Chicago to Sarasota, we were told they were yet again, experiencing mechanical issues and weren't sure when we were going to be able to depart. We couldn't believe it! Fortunately, they did get the problem resolved and we made it home about half an hour later than scheduled, which was, of course, quite acceptable. Needless to say though, their communication led us to believe that the flight may or may not have happened, especially based on our previous experience with them!

One has to be very patient in these times of traveling, particularly when incidents such as those we experienced occur. Traveling can have these issues occur regardless of COVID and you just have to be prepared to 'go with the flow' to a certain extent. Of course, NO ONE should ever have to endure what we did and I'm VERY HAPPY that my Travel Agent wasn't the one to let me down and, in fact, got the problem resolved as quickly and efficiently as one could expect, under the circumstances. ;)

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