Pre-Cruise Vacation – October 23-28, 2014
Thursday, October 23, 2014 – Travel Day
The voyage on the passenger yacht, Sea Dream II, which has been on the schedule for several months, is finally here. It is a 12 day sailing from Lisbon, Portugal to San Juan Puerto on a ship with 56 cabins and a maximum passenger capacity of 112.
We are scheduled to fly to Lisbon via Madrid on Iberia Airlines. Although Iberia is a partner with American Airlines and we are going to get mileage credit for this trip, my pre-flight experience with Iberia has been exasperating. Our tickets have been reissued twice, which meant getting new seat assignments. Then our seats went away and I had to eventually pay to reserve seats (not exit rows – just ordinary sardine seats). I could never reach Iberia by phone and their website and app were not helpful at all.
I was able to check in on line after some difficulty (I had to use American’s locator instead of Iberia’s reference code). So, it was with some dread that we set out for ORD for our 4:36 PM departure.
Iberia is in Terminal 3 along with it’s older cousin, American. Fortunately, we did get PRIORITY with Iberia so went through some very short security lines and soon we were at Gate K19. Again, I have to thank my “Lock Lace” tennis shoes for making that task easier.
Iberia 6274 was not yet at the gate but the big Airbus A330-300 rolled in about an hour before flight time. The plane was so close to the gate and so big that I couldn’t fit it into the frame. The A330-300 seems to be the star of the Iberia fleet and looked brand new.
Iberia 6274 – At the gate getting ready
We boarded with the Priority Group and found our seats, J19 and L19 on the right side of the plane. These were standard seats but OK for pitch – when you put the seat back back, the seat itself slide slightly forward (first I have ever seen that). I was able to cross my legs (my foot was in the aisle) so that was good.
The plane pushed right on time – the Captain was understandable but didn’t say much – most of the communications came in the form of a message on the Entertainment System. The plane again was brand new with re-designed seats and tray tables – the bathrooms were nice and the sinks always drained on their own. The Entertainment System was fabulous – the best I have seen in the air – HD quality movies and super stereo music, TV shows, and games. The system also had USB charges under the screen (no fumbling for under-seat chargers) and they were fast chargers.
Iberia Entertainment System and USB Charger
Next good thing about Iberia – the pilot extended the flaps and slats right after starting the engines. Even though this was a new plane, it made an awful clunking and rubbing noise as it rolled into take off position. In all of my flying, I had never heard such a noise (coming from the port side of the plane). I thought it had something to do with the bumpy runway but the noise was there when the plane was standing still. Apparently, there were no warning lights in the cockpit because the plane gunned its engines and we were off.
O’Hare Climb Out
The noise disappeared once we were in the air. The only other unusual thing was the slow climb (per the flight map). It took the plane a long time to get to 10,000 feet but eventually we made it to 36,000 feet and then to 38,000 feet across the Atlantic. Our route was essentially straight across the Ocean starting from Long Island, NY. We usually head up through Canada before heading across to Europe.
Our Kosher Meals were very good (glazed chicken with rice and a moon-pie for dessert). We also got some white wine, which we used to make wine coolers with Fanta.
I re-watched most of “Godzilla” and tried to watch “Malificent” and some other recent movies but just couldn’t get into it. I did watch “Million Dollar Arm” and thought it was one of the better movies I had seen in a long time. The movie was based on a true story and, at the end of the film, they showed the real people in the story and what happened to them after the story ended. Nice.
The flight was relatively smooth (the seat belt sign was only on for about 30 minutes at one time). This plane had a warning light for “Electronic Devices” instead of the useless “No Smoking” light which is always lit and has been for the past 20 years or so.
Friday, October 24, 2014 – Madrid Spain
The flight arrived in Madrid (in the dark) at about 7:45 AM. It was the first flight to Europe we had taken that landed in the dark.
Final Approach – Madrid Airport
The flight map confirmed that we had landed at Madrid, Spain.
We passed through Passport Control very quickly and walked about a half mile to catch a train to take us to Terminal 4, which contains Gates J, K, and L. All planes leave from these gates but, like Heathrow, the exact gate number is not posted until about an hour before flight time.
The airport is very nice and looks new. Terminal 4 is also new and high tech. We tried to rest a bit before our flight was called.
Terminal 4 and Ellen Resting between flights
Our gate turned out to be J40, which was right where we were sitting. Our plane – an Airbus 320 - was there and we were also PRIORITY on this flight.
Iberia 3110 Read to Go
Our seats were 10D and 10C – two across the aisle in the 3X3 configuration. We noticed that no one was seated in the Exit Row so when the doors closed, we took the middle and window seat and got the extra legroom for free.
This plane also made a horrible “sawing” sound as it taxied for takeoff. The noise also did not affect the flight as the plane took off on time at 11:25 AM.
On Our Way to Lisbon
There was no beverage service at all of this flight – the first time I had ever seen this. No mention of drinks even for purchase. Very bizarre.
Final Approach to Lisbon Airport
Our flight landed right on time at 11:45 AM (Lisbon is an hour earlier than Madrid). The crazy sawing sound returned as we taxied to the gate (I should mention that the clunky noise on the first plane also returned as it taxied to the gate). I am going to Google this to see if anyone else has heard these noises. We’ve never flown an A330 before but we have been on several A320s that were noiseless. Very curious.
Best news – both our bags made it to Lisbon. No Passport Control here. We caught a cab and 15 minutes later (fare: 10 Euros including the tip), we were at our hotel, Neya Lisboa on Rua Dona Estefania. The neighborhood may not be the best in Lisbon but our hotel is brand spanking Euro Chic New.
Hotel Entrance and Lobby
We were early so our room wasn’t ready so we got some water from the bar and rested a bit. We checked in our bags and walked around the immediate neighborhood. It is actually OK with shops and a big market (by European standards). We bought some water (12 cents a bottle) and some snacks for the next few days.
When we got back, our room was ready. We are in Room 402 which is in the corner of the floor. There is a nice lift (not like Amsterdam).
Illuminated Room Signs
Our room is fantastic with nice finishes and a very nice bathroom. Again, it all looks brand new. It is hot in Lisbon today and the AC in the room is efficient and quiet.
Room 402 Beds and Bathroom
We also have a nice view from our room.
The battle to stay awake continued until about 10 PM when we admitted defeat.
Tomorrow, we plan to explore the neighborhood.