We had to get up early this morning as we always do on disembarkation day. The Balmoral was due to sail at 6.00pm tonight on her return journey to Southampton; quite a lot of the passengers (at least the ones that don’t have to go to work on Monday!) who had been on this voyage were also returning to Blighty by sea. However, we were due to fly home tonight from JFK Airport at 7.30pm.
We ate our final breakfast in the Palms Café before returning to cabin 4170 and collecting our bags. After a last look round to make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything, we vacated our cabin and went along to the reception desk to post our completed Customer Satisfaction questionnaire. No sooner had we done this when we heard the announcement for our group to disembark. We had received notification that we would be taken by coach to the Milford Plaza Hotel in the city centre until our transfer to the airport at 3.00pm.
We disembarked the Balmoral and joined the growing throng of people milling around on the pavement near the bus stands at the pier. We were able to get a last couple of photos of the Balmoral moored up, but it was utter chaos as a Carnival ship had come in overnight and her passengers were also disembarking.
We had to wait a full hour and a half before there was any sign of our bus. We fought our way through the crowds of people, luggage and wheelchairs, loaded our cases into the bus and finally boarded the vehicle, a bit disgruntled at just being kicked off the ship so early. Ah well, at least we’d have the relative comfort of a hotel, hopefully with snacks and tea and coffee, until it was time to go to the airport.
The bus battled its way through the Friday morning New York traffic and eventually pulled up outside the Milford Plaza, a fairly average looking hotel in the Hell’s Kitchen district of the city. Our suitcases would remain on the bus, and indeed we could leave our other bags on, but I didn’t fancy leaving my carry-on bag unattended so I took it with me.
When we went into the hotel, we asked where the Balmoral passengers had to go. The concierge (English was not his native language) looked totally blank. We rephrased the question, speaking slowly “Can you tell us which room the Balmoral passengers are in please?” He still looked blank, and asked us whether we had a reservation. “No, no” we said, “We’ve been sent here to await our airport transfer at 3.00pm. Can you tell us where we have to go?”
To cut a long story short, it turns out the hotel staff had no knowledge at all of us; they were not expecting us. Incredulous, we realised that the hotel was literally just a drop off and pick up point; we’d effectively just been dumped in New York! Maybe the organisers thought they were doing us a favour, giving us another four hours to look around New York city, but Hell’s Kitchen is a bit of a shabby area (although it’s being done up) and we weren’t happy at having to lug our bags around with us. 🙁
We spotted a pub over the road that was open, so we went in and had a couple of drinks each before going to McDonald’s over the road for our lunch at 12 o’clock. They have free Wi-fi in Maccy Dee’s so I was able to check my emails and do some of this blog while drinking my coffee.
After we came out of McDonald’s, we found another pub and went in there. There were one or two other people from the Balmoral, all of whom were complaining, saying that they could have let us stay on the ship a bit longer.
Eventually it was time to go back to our bus outside the hotel and set off for the airport, which was just over an hour’s drive away. It is a massive airport with a lot of terminals. We pulled up outside the British Airways terminal and went inside to join the check-in queue.
Check-in was fairly quick and efficient; then it was through security and into the Executive Lounge for a couple of hours. 🙂 We enjoyed a few drinks and nibbles then went to Gate 3 to board our flight BA176 Boeing 747 for our seven-hour flight back to Heathrow.
And so ended an absolutely unforgettable cruise; it was a complete one-off and one in which we felt so privileged to have taken part. God rest RMS Titanic and her passengers and crew – she will never be forgotten.