“Do you want to upgrade?”

This trip was long in the making.  Back in late 2004 or early 2005, around the time we took our first big international trip, Justin put together a long list of trips we were interested in on the white board in his office.  Most everyone at the office had a “to-do” list of things on the horizon, such as discovery responses, upcoming depositions, prep for hearings, etc.  Justin didn’t like the optics of having that sort of (ultimately) meaningless stuff being what was staring him in the face every day, so he put his travel to-do list in the upper left-hand corner of his white board.  When he left his firm in 2015, shortly after we returned from our trip to French Polynesia, the only trip without a checkmark next to it was “Madeira, Canary Islands, Morocco.”  Today we were – fingers crossed – going to start checking that off, via a cruise with Seabourn.

We woke up at our normal time, going through a fairly normal morning routine, plus doing a couple last minute items.  Our backpacks were 95% full, but it was nice to know that in a pinch there was 5% more we could have added.  We had used backpacks on our last trip, to Central Europe, and we decided we should try for that again assuming we could fit everything we wanted.  This meant we’d be wearing some of the same stuff over and over on the ship, particularly for the evenings.  But it also meant we wouldn’t need to worry about our luggage not getting to Lisbon before we needed to get on a cruise ship for two weeks.  We’d found on the trip to Central Europe that we could get by with a lot less stuff because going to big cities in Europe allowed for the possibility of purchasing things that we couldn’t do in more far-flung places, such as extra liquids and lotions, backup camera bodies and lenses, etc.

We said bye to Avon and Lola, and Crystal’s parents were kind enough to pick us up around 10:30.  We had originally planned to head over around 11, but we were already ready, and figured we’d rather pass the time at the airport in case there were any hiccups.  Turns out, there was a hiccup.  At the airport, Crystal’s ticket didn’t have Precheck on it for some reason.  Seabourn had helped us book our tickets, and we were amazed at the prices they were able to get – it was something like $350 per person for the roundtrip or something ridiculous like that.  But somehow in that process Crystal’s pre-check information got left off of the ticket.  She tried to get a replacement ticket printed with TSA and United, but it wouldn’t work for some reason, and it took her 30 minutes or so to get through the long security line, while Justin wondered what was going on and why.  So we were glad we came 30 minutes earlier than originally planned.

We went to the United Lounge for a bit.  It was a lot busier than when we were here in December (which was in the evening).  We were on the early afternoon flight to DC, and then connecting at Dulles to go on to Lisbon.  Surprisingly, Justin slept some, and unsurprisingly Crystal slept some as well.  Sometime whilst we were asleep, the person behind us got sick, and went to the back of the plane.  We were awake (or perhaps awakened) when they went on the PA to call for medical help, but we had no idea it related to the person sitting behind us.  When we disembarked, she came off first.  She looked really sickly – we aren’t sure if she had a bad reaction to some drug, food poisoning, or whatever.  She looked otherwise normal in terms of age, weight, etc., so we are hopeful this was just a temporary bad afternoon for her.

In Dulles, we noted that our physical plane had changed, and now our seats were separated from one another as part of them having to re-assign all of the seats.  So at the lounge, we asked the agent if she could get us seats together.  While she was working on that and looking at the available seats, she said there were a ton of Polaris seats (which weren’t on the original plane), the vast majority of which were empty because of the plane change.  “Do you want an upgrade?”  We asked how much, and she looked, and the price was apparently so exorbitant she didn’t even bother telling us the price.  So we went downstairs in the lounge to get some food and drink (the chicken tortilla soup was pretty good).

Whilst we were down there and Crystal was grabbing her food, the agent came down and told Justin that she hadn’t originally seen that we could do points and dollars together for an upgrade - $550 plus 20k points.  That seemed a bit high for a flight that was “only” 7 hours, but then we thought we might actually get some (restful) sleep, plus we each have a ton of points that we eventually need to use.  So Crystal ate her food whilst Justin went to an agent on the lower floor to book.  This process took forever, as the agent either wasn’t fully checked out on how to do this, the United system was giving her fits, or both.  In the meantime, another person came on and simply wanted to change seats from 1A to something further back in First Class, and she had trouble with that as well, so Justin thought maybe it wasn’t the United system.  But whatever, it eventually worked out.

On the plane, we had our own little pods, across the aisle from one another.  There were places to store stuff, and no one seemed to care if some of our electronics were out and being charged.  After takeoff, we could recline the seats all the way to flat.  Justin’s feet ended up in a wedge at the end of the pod, just barely fitting.  Crystal got some sleep, but Justin got none.  He did get to watch all of Season 1 of Big Little Lies, however.  He noticed there’s a running issue on most of the best TV shows (Mad Men, Breaking Bad, etc.) – they all have supremely unhappy people that “should” be happy.  Big Little Lies was like this as well – a very good show with a lot of people that were unhappy living lives that 90% of the population would love to have.

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