Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Fly Me to Bangalore

After months of happy anticipation Dave and I have finally arrived in Malaga, eager to board the cruise ship that will take us to exotic ports in Spain, Morocco, Madeira, and the Canary Islands. We've cashed in some dollars for euros and are waiting at the baggage claim to grab our trusty Rick Steves travel bags and head for fun.

There’s just one problem—no suitcase for David.

The throng of excited travelers has long disappeared and we find ourselves alone in the cavernous baggage claim, the conveyor belt continuing its helpful circumnavigation, empty but for a few forlorn items that have obviously gone astray.

Forlorn are we too, as we head to the Iberia Airlines lost luggage cubicle to report our missing bag. With a near expressionless face—imagine dealing with anxious people like us all day—an agent hands us a laminated chart of images for us to pick out the one that most resembles David’s bag. It’s just like this one, I keep saying, pointing to the identical suitcase that holds my precious cruisewear. My bag successfully negotiated the hand-offs from Indianapolis to Atlanta to Paris to Malaga—why didn’t Dave’s?

The patient lost luggage people promise to keep looking for it, and hand us a complimentary bag of toiletries—a toothbrush, toothpaste, a razor. That’ll do David just fine for a nine-day cruise, I think grimly. It’s now noon, and we have to board the ship by 5:00 p.m. Maybe we can find a department store and grab a few clothing items to tide David over until his bag catches up with the ship.
But we decide to check into our floating hotel first. It may be noon in Malaga, but to our weary bodies it’s the middle of the night, Eastern Standard Time. A quick cab ride through the palm-tree lined avenues of this busy modern city brings us to the port—and there she is, the lovely Spirit, our Norwegian Cruise Line home for the next seven days.

The Spirit works her magic on us, gradually eroding all concern about the urgent shopping spree we had planned. We’re greeted at the door by an enthusiastic crew member flanked by a dark-haired senorita in full flamenco garb. A quick glance around the grand lobby reveals ample opportunity to sit in comforting chairs and forget our troubles with a foo-foo drink. We explain our plight to the concierge, who expresses her condolences and kindly offers us a complimentary toiletry bag, one white NCL t-shirt, and a certificate for free laundry service. Dave may have to wear the clothes on his back for nine days, but he’ll have no trouble keeping his teeth brushed and beard shaved!

The concierge takes up our cause with the lost baggage people at Iberia, and there begins a nerveracking game of get-the-bag-to-meet-up-with-the-cruise ship. It’s sure to meet us in Casablanca, definitely arriving at Funchal, unlikely to catch us in Arrecife. Our concierge has chocolate-dipped strawberries delivered to our stateroom on day five with her continuing condolences—kind of her, considering this was not the least bit NCL’s fault.

How did Dave survive the ordeal of a clothes-less cruise? Very nicely, thank you. Dave wore my khakis the first day at sea, and no one was the wiser. At our first stop, Barcelona, we spent an hour at El Corte Inglés (their version of Macy’s) and bought three pairs of socks, Jockey shorts, a long-sleeved blue and green checked cotton shirt, a striped polo, a pair of khaki Dockers and a pair of Levis, the kind with the buttons. Nobody cared that Dave wore the same outfits day after day, least of all Dave. We availed ourselves of the free laundry service, and had a wonderful cruise! We even got through two fabulous days in Granada with David identically clad.

The day before our flight home (the twelfth day of our trip!), we stopped at Malaga airport to see if fresh clothing could be had for our final night in Spain. And there, by the familiar lost luggage desk, Dave was at long last reunited with his belongings. We asked the agent if he knew anything about what had happened to the bag. He checked a computer screen briefly, then told us the mixup apparently happened at Charles DeGaulle airport, and Dave’s suitcase had gone to Bangalore. Go figure!

Oh what tales that bag could tell…

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