Quebec City has the feel of Europe without crossing the ocean. It is especially true of Old Quebec.
Its first home is still standing and serves as a charming restaurant. Parts of the city’s early protection device – a wall – still display canons, their rumble, smoke and explosions long gone. They stand as silent sentinels, ever ready to do their part.
The crown jewel of Old Quebec is the Chateau Frontenac (pictured above). To enter the lobby of this majestic overseer of the city, is like entering another time. A time when fur coats and long strands of pearls were the everyday wear of the wealthy ladies; pocket watches and waistcoats for the the gentlemen.
Our walking tour of the old city was lead by a wonderful gentleman who did his best to direct us to other sites for later. We took a break on our trek to warm up and get to know our fellow trekkers over tea at the the Chateau. The tearoom that waited for us was paneled in rich wood, while the many chandeliers in the room chased the darkness of the wood away and left it burnishing in shades of whiskey and caramel in its light.
Several delectable treats accompanied our hot tea and while we talked to others and rested our weary feet.
Our last night on ship had us hugging our waiters, enjoying the show the kitchen waitstaff put on for us as their way of thanking the passengers for a great cruising experience.
Our adventures continued that night because we had to have our bags packed, ready and outside our door by a certain hour. That left decisions as to what needed to be packed, and what was needed for the morning.
When disembarking, it’s done in groups. You’re assigned a color and number (we get used to this for excursions) and a waiting place (usually one of the bars or the theater). Our original time to disembark was 8:30 a.m. Normally I would say that’s perfect, but we had noon flights and when you’re accustomed to airport traffic (to and TSA lines) like there are at Chicago’s O’Hare, one likes to err on the side of caution and leave earlier. So
my sister-in-law and I went to the excursion desk to change the disembarking for my husband and I and Lady Rockford. We got an earlier time for the three of us with transportation to the airport. I could breathe a sigh of relief. For the Denver contingencies, they were spending an extra day in Quebec before flying home. They would be staying at the Chateau Frontenac!
Wednesday morning was cloudy and gray and we disembarked, grabbed our luggage and made our way to the airport bus. By 8:10 a.m. we were at the airport and wheeling our bags toward check-in.
When flying out of Quebec, Air Canada’s counters are open three hours ahead, other airlines are open two hours before a flight. With the aid of an Air Canada employee, we began checking in at a kiosk. Everything was going pretty smoothly until we had to scan our passports. I scanned my husband’s, then mine. I turned to Lady Rockford and asked for hers. She handed me the passport card – not the passbook. I attempted to scan, but the scanner did not recognize it.
I then turned to the airline aid who told us the passport card is only valid for sea or land – not air travel. If we were flying within the U.S., it would not be an issue, or if we were driving back to Chicago, we would be okay. But the airline would not let Lady Rockford onto the plane!
With our (mine & my husband’s) bags already checked in, we were in a conundrum. The airline aid directed us to the information desk. The woman behind the information desk connected me to the American Consulate. There, I was told they could issue Lady Rockford an emergency passport, but she would need new photos and it would take several hours. She also instructed us to re-book her flight. There was no way she’d have her passport in time for our noon departure.
The woman at the desk, gave us the address of a pharmacy and the Consulate. In the meantime, I now took my phone off airplane mode and sent a text to my sister-in-law. I figured, they still had their phones on airplane mode as well. I called them as well, but was only able to leave a message – (I don’t want to see how much this phone bill will be with roaming charges!). To make sure I covered all my bases, I sent her an email as well alerting her to the problem and they should expect Lady R at their hotel.
Then we went to work on re-booking the flight. Air Canada couldn’t help us because it was booked by a travel agent. I called United (their parent company) while Lady R turned her phone back on and called the travel agent.
The soonest flight was the same flight we were taking, only 24 hours later. We promised Lady R we would meet her at O’Hare the following day and escorted her to the taxi stand. I reviewed with her the written down tasks and where she needed to go. I told her once she got her passport, she should go to the Chateau Frontenac and wait for the Denver Contingency in the lobby.
Lady R turned to us and said, “Don’t worry about me, I’ll be alright.”
At that moment I felt like the world’s worst mother! I was leaving one of my little lambs in a foreign land! My mind leans toward the melodramatic, don’t you think?
The time I spent waiting for our flight I wrestled with what I could’ve done differently. Short of all three of us changing our flights, there wasn’t anything.
It’s here that I note there were several others on our ship that had the same problem. I don’t know if it’s seniors thinking ‘the card is cheaper, so I’ll get that’ or they didn’t take into account that they would be flying home on what is considered an international flight.
Two weeks ago, I included in my survey of the trip a note to the cruise line that they must do a better job of stressing the importance of a passport passbook, and NOT the card to its passengers on an international cruise.
This was the part about being open to the adventure that awaits – and you weren’t expecting! My husband said he was impressed with they way I charged through the rough waters of an emergency at the airport with Lady R. I was still feeling bad, even after we picked her up the following day. Everyone arrived home safely, and that’s all that counts.
Onto the next adventure…