Disembarkation day. Always a day of stress.
First we had the great joy of sailing into Venice on a beautiful clear morning. We were up early to witness the first landfall through our cabin window. Then we went up on deck to have breakfast and watch as we sail past St Marks, Santa Maria della Salute and then down the Guidecca Canal to the dock. We all marvelled at the seagulls who hovered and then dove down and took food out of passenger's hands.
It was time to leave. We had a tight connection to our plane and low expectations of Italian organisation. To our surprise we were off early, our bags were ready and we hopped straight into a cab at the dock which whisked us off to Marco Polo airport. It was the best EUR45.00 we have spent.
At the airport things started to go downhill. Much like the rest of Venice, this little airport is bursting at the seams as it tries to cope with the volume of passengers. It was a battle just to get to the check in desk. British Airways had three flights leaving before midday so the queue was already long. No need to stress though - we were making good time.
Just as we got to the head of the queue, the baggage conveyor belt broke down. So all check in desks ground to a halt, not just the BA desks. We all waited for thirty minutes for it to be repaired. We finally checked in and were given priority access through the security screening (does that count as an upgrade?). The Navigatrix had the pleasure of the gunpowder residue search but the officials were only interested in one of her bags. The Navigator had to manage the other three... plus the computer... and the phones... as well as the coins... and the belt. Don't forget the glasses.
By now we had lost all of the time previously gained and there was only 45 minutes until our plane departed. Unfortunately there was no time for the airport lounge, which was just as well because the queue for passport control stretched the entire length of the terminal. We are not joking - it must have been 750 metres long. Of course a queue this long jammed up the concourse, making it almost impossible to move in any direction. The Italians seemed incapable of managing any traffic flow at all, so it was almost total chaos. Fortunately, this was one time having a non-EU passport was a benefit because we eventually we moved into a shorter queue.
Then we had to go downstairs to the gate. In this little space they were trying (unsuccessfully) to manage 8 flights of passengers onto buses to get to the planes. There are only 12 gates at Marco Polo with airbridges, the other 38 'gates' are to planes parked out on the tarmac. Here it really was total chaos as no-one knew if they were in the right queue and there was a mad rush for the bus when the gate was finally opened.
Unfortunately Venice Marco Polo now rates as our worst airport experience. Even worse than Miami Florida. Next time we will leave by train.
Finally we made it onto the plane and after a further delay took off about 20 minutes late. We circled over Venice, flew over the Alps, then to the north of Paris and then into Gatwick. At passport control we had the benefit again of a non EU or British passport - there was no-one in the queue. We had the following exchange with the official.
"You're going to Maidstone?!? Must be family then."
"Cousins," we replied (OK, that's a lie).
"Off to Sweden."
"To do what?"
"Visit more cousins." (That's not a lie.)
"Iceland... and then back to the UK to visit more cousins." (Not a lie either)
"Blimey. How many cousins do you have? How long are you away for?"
At that point he gave up and waived us through.
Indeed we are staying just outside Maidstone on the Medway River. It's quite pretty with all the boats moored on the riverbank. We went into Maidstone. Now we understand why the security officer was so incredulous. We should probably not comment on people's accents but cannot help ourselves. Although hurricanes hardly happen in Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, the leading 'H' is dropped with alarming regularity, including this corker overheard in the local supermarket: "You need to 'elp me coz I 'ate 'im. I 'ate 'im so much and 'e 'ates me."
Oh the joys of travelling to other places.