Saturday, 29 August 2009

The 'Odd'yssey (Part 12)

After we returned home from Hoover Dam (it was 3:30pm when we got back inside) we had time to grab a quick late lunch in the buffet then went up to our room for a nap. Our intention was to try and see one of the shows on the strip in the evening. Meg really wanted to see Bette Midler but couldn't justify the $125 per ticket so we were leaning toward 'Menopause - the Musical' however when Wayne woke up his objective was to get to one of the half price ticket booths to see if it might not be possible to get cheaper tickets. Leaving Meg to get a bit more rest he wandered off along the strip trying to avoid the heat (it was 108°F) by staying in the air conditioning as much as possible.

It wasn't a long trip to the nearest half price booth but it was long enough for a number of shows to have already taken place. We were both stunned to realise that in a city that never sleeps (Las Vegas has been trying to take that title from New York City) people really like to see shows starting at 5:30pm. This meant we had missed out on the opportunity to see 'Menopause' (possibly the title was an indication as to why that show had been on early) but also a number of others. It was clear that, unless we wanted to see something specifically 'adult' that we would struggle to make any show. One option was Rita Rudner (the comedienne) which also involved having the opportunity to meet her and have a photo op. however the cost being cut to $85 each didn't seem cheap enough, so he headed back to confer with Meg.

As he headed through the Luxor toward their room Wayne took note of a lady and two men leaving an adjoining room. The lady was walking away counting some money, while the men were busily adjusting their clothing. Consequently, when he entered the room he asked Meg if she had heard some noises. Rather than being next door, there had been lots of banging in the room above. In fact, while she had been in the shower as well as the banging, the bathroom light had stopped working. As they sat and chatted about what they could do instead of seeing a show, Meg reflected that the shower noise upstairs was taking a long time and, shortly later, that the noise seemed to be even closer. Walking into their bathroom Wayne discovered a veritable waterfall descending from the light fitting in the ceiling.

Meg jumped on the telephone to reception and about 15 minutes later a security man was knocking on the door. Over the next hour and a half we gave statements, had photos taken of our bathroom, made and received more phone calls and waited to find out what was going to happen. When we questioned the security man he wouldn't tell us anything at all about what had happened on the floor above. When it got to 9:30pm we still didn't know what was going to happen but we needed to head to the restaurant in order to have dinner before it closed. After we finished eating, Wayne stayed downstairs to watch some baseball while Meg went back to make a phone call to the reception one more time.

The outcome of our experience was that the Luxor gave us a different room. Rather than being on the second floor, we moved to the top floor into a suite with views out over the strip. This new suite had multiple rooms; a large bedroom with a big window looking out over the city; a huge bathroom complete with jacuzzi; an enormous lounge room with a television, dining table, large bar, and big television; and a foyer with a separate, guest bathroom. Sadly, we were only going to be there for one night but it was a beautiful room. We were also to receive compensation for the cosmetics that had been damaged by the downpour and Meg's woollen coat (which she had kept out ready for our 7 hour lay over in Auckland on the way home) was dry cleaned in a very short space of time. Best of all for us, we were given a late check out from the room so that we didn't have to carry our luggage around for a few hours before our flight out.

The next morning we had determined would be a relatively relaxed one as we made good use of the new room. Strangely, at 9am the maid made her first appearance wanting to clean the room. We let her know that we would be checking out around 4pm and that it would be good if she came back to clean then. A couple of hours later we received a call to go down to reception to receive the compensation money for Meg's cosmetics, so we made a trip down the strip to find some replacement cosmetics. Not long after we returned, so did the maid, this time she started cleaning despite our request that she wait until we had gone. When she started to vacuum in front of the television while Wayne was trying to watch the baseball (again) it got a little beyond a joke.

Despite a request to the bell desk to send someone to collect our luggage at 3:45pm so that we could make the airport shuttle at 4:05pm no one turned up until 4:15pm (although the maid had made a couple of further visits) however once again the hotel showed some class and paid for a taxi to the airport for us. It didn't take long to check our luggage and we were able to move through security and up to the gate ready to board our flight to Los Angeles. The free wi-fi broadband got a bit of a workout as we checked emails and tried to inform people of where we were going to be and when, not entirely sure how much time we would have to make the connection with the Air New Zealand flight at Los Angeles.

Boarding the airplane was easy; however we started to worry a little when we had been sitting in our seats for quite a while without much sign of movement. After about 15 minutes two last passengers boarded the plane and we imagined the sort of announcements that must have been made in the terminal prior to that. However, almost immediately we received a message from the pilot saying that there were a few technical problems happening with the plane and that there would be a delay. Neither of us were overly surprised by this, having long got past the expectation that things would go smoothly when we travel.

It took a while, but eventually the plane started to reverse, with the pilot having made some comments about problems with the GPS. However, the terrible grinding noises that came from underneath the plane while we were reversing were a bit worrying and led to some comments that maybe the handbrake had been left on. We taxied out to the runway but it soon became clear that there was still something wrong with the aircraft. Another announcement from the cockpit confirmed that we would not be flying out on this airplane and, given the noises that it was making and the description that the steering on the front wheel had gone.

Exiting the plane we were asked to queue in order to make arrangements for what was going to happen next. Those people for whom Los Angeles was to have been the final destination were given first option to board another flight and around 53 people took them up on that option. For the rest of us, who were making connections to another destination, there was some considerable frustration as it took a long time to sort various options out. This led to one passenger screaming at the person who was trying to help her and throwing items at him. Others were trying to gouge as much as they could out of the airline, with some people refusing to take the flight options being presented to them unless they were upgraded to first class and paid for their trouble.

Around midnight we were told that we would be given a night in another hotel. Northwest had also booked us onto the equivalent flight the following day, although they couldn't contact Air New Zealand to guarantee that we would have seats on the flights to New Zealand and on to Australia. Heading out to the car park, we narrowly avoided being filmed by a television show taking place outside the airport and boarded a shuttle to the Hampton Inn and Suites, a hotel which is located opposite the south-eastern corner of McCarran-Las Vegas International Airport. After check in, we hit the 7/11 to grab some food (we had thought to eat at LAX or on the airplane) before heading back to the room. At this time Wayne decided to try and sleep while Meg made as many phone calls as she could to try and guarantee the flights with Air New Zealand. After being told that we would have to pay as much as $300 each to change our flights she eventually retired to bed.

The following morning we went down for our complimentary breakfast and then determined to catch the hotel shuttle back to the airport to see if we could find out what was going on in person. We had been unable to retrieve our suitcases the night before which made the trip in relatively easy and then it was off to the Northwest Counter to see what could be done. The two women that assisted us were absolutely marvellous. They not only booked us on to an earlier flight to Los Angeles (with U.S. Airways) to ease any worries that we might have had about connections, but they also contacted Air New Zealand and made sure that we were booked on to a flight out of L.A. and a somewhat earlier one to Brisbane, so that our time on the ground in Auckland would not be too bad.

Checking in with U.S. Airways was (relatively) pain free, as was going through customs and making the flight from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. There was so much turbulence on the flight that the stewards barely got to serve drinks and we commenced our descent in to the city. A walk from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 got us to the Air New Zealand desk and after some too-ing and fro-ing they eventually decided that they would let us on to the plane without taking any money, although there were some questions about Wayne's ticket which would later come back to haunt us.

We then set up camp in the Boarding area near our gate, where we could use the internet with the payment of a small fee (it wasn't free like it is at Las Vegas and some of the other airports which we have been to) grab some food and try to relax. It was fascinating watching some of the characters who passed through LAX and eventually we were able to board Air New Zealand Flight 5. This came not long after an interesting experience where we heard our names called over the loudspeaker and asked to report to another Gate. As it turns out we suspect that it was just to make sure that we were at the airport after the dramas of the previous day (because they didn't have anything to tell us when Meg got there). It was nice to be back on a 747-400 where there was a bit more leg room. As we sat we encountered a lovely girl from Richmond, Virginia who was moving to Torquay in Victoria to work as a nanny. As someone who really wanted to travel she enjoyed hearing some of our stories. 'Hi, Annie', if you are reading this on our blog.

Coming in to land at Auckland Airport was very impressive as it was not yet light and the lights of the city were visible as we circled around before making our final approach. There was some high cloud but otherwise it was relatively fine as we disembarked from the aircraft and accompanied Annie up to a more distant gate where she was shortly to board her flight to Melbourne. We had a few hours up our sleeves so took the opportunity to use the bathroom, pick up a couple of souvenirs, use the internet (again for a fee), take photos of the airport and surrounds, and make sure we were well hydrated.

Eventually the call came to proceed to Gate 2 ready to board the plane and it was at this point that we found out that things hadn't gone as smoothly as we might have liked when the flights were transferred. While Wayne had managed to board the plane in Los Angeles without any difficulty, he was stopped at the gate and removed to one side. Meg was told that everything was fine with her ticket and that she could proceed on to the plane. Wayne told her 'Goodbye' and that he would see her when he finally made it to Brisbane, however, after a few phone calls by the staff on duty everything was settled to their satisfaction and our anxieties were relieved. Only one more leg to go and we would be finally back in Australia.

Once again Meg was able to get some sleep and even Wayne drifted off during the trip across to Brisbane. Both of them were awake once it was made clear that we had begun our descent to make sure they caught their first glimpse of Australia in 19 months. As is usually the case the flight into Brisbane was fairly spectacular, with the plane circling around to make the final approach from the south, then flying up alongside the Brisbane River past the city and out to the airport. This gave us the opportunity to see many familiar places and it was a beautiful day. Touch down was quite smooth and the only real wait was to see our luggage (which we hadn't seen since Thursday) before we headed out to be met by Meg's mother and brother, Aaron (aka Gus).

While it had taken a long time (given that it was now Sunday afternoon) we were quite pleased to be back on familiar soil. There is only one question that remains; given that we finally boarded our flight from Los Angeles on Friday evening, and we landed in Auckland 14 hours later on Sunday morning, we seem to have misplaced Saturday. We have checked all the usual places that we lose things (ie: behind the lounge, at the bottom of the suitcase etc) but to no avail. If you have seen our Saturday please let us know because we could surely use it to try and catch up on some sleep.

No comments: