After a wait of almost 3 years, we were very excited to be travelling once more.
As I have mentioned in a previous blog, we had had our planned celebratory trip to the Waterways of the Tsars cancelled twice because of Covid and then cancelled because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we were looking forward to travelling to Italy and the Greek Isles. As you know, the by-line to my site is, ‘Expect the unexpected” and this trip had the unexpected and frustrating in chunks.
St Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow
Due to the Russian invasion taking place at the end of February, we only changed our cruise to the Viking Italian Sojourn from Rome to Venice in the first week in March. Suddenly, we needed a Schengen visa through Italy instead of Greece as we would spend more time in the former country. What an unsuccessful mission that turned out to be! It was impossible to obtain an appointment in Durban until October as Italy had closed her consulate in Durban and was working only through VFS.Global who were overwhelmed by applications.
We then took on the services of an agent who, after some checking to see if we could have gone to Johannesburg to file our application, this was flatly refused by the Italian Embassy. The agent then recommended that we make an unconfirmed trip in Spain which could be cancelled once a visa through that country had been awarded. It was not possible to do that as, for an application for a Schengen visa, one has to prove purchase of air tickets, booked accommodation and confirmation of travel plans within the country. We chose to spend 16 days in Spain, made hotel bookings via Booking.com and rebooked our air tickets back to South Africa from Madrid instead of Rome. An appointment with the Spanish Embassy in Durban was arranged for the 12 May and, incredibly, we received our visas within a week. Not only that, but, they were issued for 2 years until June 2024. Something was going right at last.
Or so we thought. We were due to leave Durban for the first leg of journey to Johannesburg on a Comair Flight on 08 June 2022 but another unexpected happening came into our situation. Comair suspended all flights on 31 May due to lack of funding. Quickly, our travel agent had us booked on a Safair flight but this added to our costs. Surely, nothing more could go wrong?!
Or so we thought. As I wear orthopaedic boots and Trevor is over 6ft, we had requested and paid for extra leg room seats on our long-haul flights on Turkish Airlines. We checked-in at the Johannesburg counter, giving the lady on duty the copy of our ticket showing our booked seats. Unfortunately, we didn’t think to check and so received a real surprise when we found ourselves sitting in regular Economy. We had been booked right through to Rome with the same error for each of the 2 flights. We were really angry at this error and the representatives of the airline were unconcerned. Now we await a refund.
We arrived safely in Rome on the morning of 9 June and were taken to our hotel in the city by representatives of Viking Cruise Lines as 2 nights in Rome were included in the package. We enjoyed a wonderful day exploring Rome for the 2nd time having been there in 2006. The following day we boarded the Viking Sky and enjoyed a wonderful cruise around Italy, details of which I shall write in separate articles, but to end our holiday, there was one more upset to come.
St Mark’s Square, Venice
Prior to leaving South Africa we had a Covid PCR test for the Italian cruise and it was negative so there was no problem in boarding Viking Sky. After this cruise we spent a week travelling around Italy to get back to Rome to board our 2nd cruise to the Greek Isles on 26 June 2022. For this cruise another negative test was required. Quite confidently, we had one in Florence on 25 June and were totally surprised to learn that it was positive. This was a real blow as we were immediately denied boarding and had no accommodation from that Sunday for 8 days. We had no choice but to return home and, all thanks to our wonderful travel agent, we boarded a flight that night and were home the next evening. This resulted in our holiday being cut short by 25 days as one unexpected occurrence took place after another.
Travelling the world is wonderful but always, “Expect the Unexpected”