Friday, May 26, 2023

March 10, 2023 – Rome, Italy – Cloudy, chance of rain, 65F

Looks like we are getting out of here just in time as today’s weather is not going to be so great.  Seems like "nice" and "not so nice" days alternate here this time of year.

Up at the breakfast buffet when it opened at 7:00 AM.  Another bowl of Corn Flakes, strawberries, and milk.  Two pancakes and two eggs over medium.  A roll with butter and a pastry plus some sliced oranges.  As delicious as always.  As I was leaving, I told the cook that he had done a great job for us and we told us to come back soon.  If we do, we will certainly look at Hotel Isa again.

I took the bags down to the lobby while Ellen was getting ready.  The clerk at the desk came over to tell me that our scheduled ride was running at least 10 minutes late and that he could call me a “White Cab” that would be here in four minutes.  I opted for the cab, and he got there in about a minute. The fare was actually a little less at 50 Euros.  The desk clerk loaded our bags in the cab (full service) and we were off. 

The cab took the surface streets for about 90 percent of the trip and then got on the highway and then finishing up on a multi-mile FCO exit ramp on which he did about 70mph.  We got to Terminal 3 serving American Airlines and were directed to our check in line. There was no one in line so the agent checked us in quickly and tagged our bags.  She told us that our gate, E31, would require a shuttle bus to get there.  The shuttles were downstairs at E1.  We somehow missed E1 and had to backtrack to find it.  I should mention that the part of FCO we were in was essentially an upscale mall with shops and restaurants.  I did not remember any of this the last time we flew out of FCO.

We found E1 and boarded the shuttle that meandered around gates and planes and eventually got us to E31.  We found a seat and we would only have a short time to wait.  Our plane – AA111 (787-900) – had flown in earlier from Philadelphia and was due to depart at 11:05 AM with boarding at 10:25 AM (in about 10 minutes). 

Our group, Group 4, was called quickly and we boarded.  We are in Cabin Extra seats 31A and B (aisle and window) with a woman with a bad hip on the aisle.  She asked us if we wanted to trade the window for the aisle, but I like to watch the takeoff, so we passed.  The problem was that it was difficult for her to get out of her seat whenever I needed a break.  That’s the price you pay for the aisle seat.  I had a nice view from my window,

We've only flown on a 787 Dreamliner once before and it was a very nice experience.  The plane has a different design than other Boeing jets.  It has a pleasant blue light in the "roomy" washroom, large windows that darken via a high-tech process (the windows contain a gel that darkens when an electric current is applied). and, because the plane is constructed partially of carbon composite, it can be pressurized to a lower altitude.  This makes it more comfortable for passengers especially on landing when ears pop (or don't).  The wings on this plane also flex a lot more than on standard jets.  It's a nice plane.

We have a female pilot on this flight (very easy to understand) and we pushed right on time.  We did wait a long time on the active taxiway before turning on to the runway.  

Finally, the engines spooled up and the nose lifted and we were off.

The climb out was smooth 

but we would spend some time in low clouds before seeing any blue sky.

The delay would be made up on the way over.  The flight time was about 9 hr. 45 minutes.  The flight was smooth the entire time across Europe (we were over Nice and Cannes in this picture)

and the Atlantic 

and only got bumpy when we made landfall in Newfoundland.  We had ordered kosher meals and they consisted of rice and chicken, rolls, a desert cupcake, and inedible, as always, cold veggies.  Overall, the meals, prepared in Italy, and packaged in a nice box were very good (the meal was easy to unwrap).  I had a white wine cooler with my meal. 

My only complaint had to do with the darkening windows. When needed, the window darkness on this jet can be controlled by the flight crew and for some reason, they blued out the windows for about three hours or more during the crossing.  For me, this resulted in artificial jet lag by simulating night and sunrise.  This was not done the last time we flew one of these jets.  Finally, the sunlight returned.

This photo was taken as the plane flew over Lake Superior (when the windows were "open" again).

About an hour before arriving in Chicago, when this picture was taken (check out the cool contrail),

a kosher snack arrived as well – pizza, and some rice croquettes along with another roll and desert cupcake.  I had a club soda with this and also a Baileys on ice.  The snack was good too.

We landed on time in Chicago at around 2:15 PM at Terminal 5.  We took another long walk to the customs area and went through Global Entry.  I barely had time to take off my cap for the photo when Ellen said that we had passed and should get our bags.  They came out quickly (maybe because they had "priority" tags) and we handed our Global Entry passes to immigration and headed for the exit.

I called American Taxi and cab 107 was there in five minutes and soon we were back at the condo after an amazing trip.

Summary: Celebrity Beyond was not as noisy as we thought it would be; the second cabin on deck 9 was wonderful and Guest Services was very helpful in dealing with the cabin issue; the food on Beyond was good (at least for me); the Entertainment Staff was great to work with; the lecture turnouts were great; positive feedback from the passengers was generous; we both coped reasonably well with the time changes on the crossing; Hotel Isa was great (especially the food); the weather on the cruise was mostly good especially once back on land; the time in Rome was nice, despite the iffy weather, and using the hop-on-hop-off bus (the first time we had done this) worked perfectly. I was able to do the walking despite my back and leg issues.

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