OFF TO IRELAND … ALMOST!

We are not Irish; we had no intention of kissing the Blarney Stone, and Ireland had not even made it to our bucket list of places we wanted to see after retirement.  So why Ireland?   Well, first of all we love adventure and what I love even more than adventure is a good deal!

I regularly perused Travelzoo’s weekly e-newsletter and would often drool over the vacation packages, but since I had a fairly demanding job and limited vacation which always needed to be prescheduled, I was rarely able to take advantage of the deals.  But when I read “Ireland Five Star Castle Tour including airfare” and the price was only $799 per person…they had my attention.  Before I even drilled into the details and fine print, I casually asked George how he felt about going to Ireland.  His response was not an unequivocal NO, but a bit lackluster at best.  But I read on anyway.  The tour included a rental car with GPS, several breakfasts, entrance to Cliffs of Mohr and the Guinness Factory. There were several dates available that were after our scheduled retirement, which was still months away.  The drawback was that we would need to go in January or February when the weather in Ireland is less than ideal, but it was IRELAND!  It didn’t take a day before George had caught my enthusiasm and we booked the trip!  Now the hardest part was waiting until it was time to leave (or so I thought)!

We had poured over maps, searched the internet for information on weather, identified must-see attractions, and even talked our friends Elaine and Robert from the UK into meeting us in Dublin for the first few days.  The “included” airfare was from New York City, so we booked our flights from Las Vegas to New York and back and even planned an additional day in New York to buffer against any weather delays.  Finally it was time to pack!

One suitcase each under 50 lbs?  Check.  Raingear and warm gear?  Check.  Comfortable shoes? Check.  Passports?  Passports?  Yes, we had checked the expiration dates!  Yes, they were stored in a safe place!  But suddenly one was missing!!  Mine!  We were still one week away from departure, so my excitement came to a screeching halt. The only thing I could feel was sheer panic and determination to find it.  We searched  every nook and cranny for two days.  My friends and family from across the country were even suggesting places I might look.  It had vanished!  It was now 5 days until departure and I began to research getting a replacement.  I found a service on-line that guaranteed 24 hour turnaround (subject to anything they could not control)!  I paid them the initial $300 fee, then filled out the paperwork checking and rechecking that I had everything.  Luckily I had saved an old expired passport to send with my application.  I had it certified by the post office and paid another $150 to overnight it to San Francisco, and paid them to overnight it back to me.  YES, I know.  My great deal just cost another $500, but after waiting and anticipating the trip for so long, I just couldn’t play the TRIP CANCELLATION CARD!  So I dropped the package at FED EX and waited!!!

And waited, and waited!!!  I received a tracking notice that my package had been delivered.  But apparently the “carrier” assigned to hand carry my application was not big on returning phone calls.  Ok, granted, he is probably in line at the Passport Office!  And maybe he is not allowed to have his cell phone on!  I am trying to be positive. Then I began looking on the internet for reviews about the company I had selected.  All I could find were negative comments….about broken promises, terrible service, & false guaranties.  One man didn’t get his passport for 7 days!  I was doomed!  I should have researched further…instead of acting on desperation.  After 4PM passed and still no follow-up call or tracking information, I decided to call the contact for trip insurance cancellation.  They informed me I had until 5 PM tomorrow to cancel…NY time.

About 6PM I received the call from the courier in San Francisco.  He said the US Passport office was having technical issues and no passports had been issued that day and they didn’t know when the issue would be resolved.  All he could do is try again tomorrow.  Was he being truthful?  I began to further doubt the legitimacy of the company I had selected.  I had but one day left to get the new passport delivered before departure and now the threat of a huge snow storm in NY was adding further complication.  Deep breaths.  Deep breaths.  A massage.  A glass of wine.  But the bewitching hour came and I called to cancel.  The very nice man at the other end of the phone listened to my tale of woe and talked to his manager.  He said he would work late in the office and if I could call them back by 8PM (EST), they would still accept my cancellation.  I had prayer chains in action from the UK, from Dallas, Missouri, Ohio, California and more.  It was like one collective group of friends and family holding their breath with me.  At 4:45 PM (7:45 NY time), my phone rang!  I was given a tracking number and told that my new passport was on the Fed Ex truck!  I broadcast across FB.  I knelt in prayer.  And I think my sigh of relief was heard across Las Vegas!  We were going to Ireland!!!Image

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