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Cruising and Space A


IRMO12HD
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I'll use this as a timeline and (sort of) live blog for my experiences using Space A travel as a means of getting back home (to Eastern Washington state) after a Transatlantic cruise.

 

First, a few notes:

 

I am retired so will be Cat VI.

My cruise takes place in mid April - early May, before the main PCS season begins and the (DODDS-Europe) school year ends, so (theoretically) I won't be competing with as many AD and Cat 2-5 travelers.

My cruise ends in Civitavecchia, Italy on a Sunday, with a port stop the day before in La Spezia, Italy, so I should be able to see and use the 72-hour schedules for the relevant terminals.

I have booked a refundable flight via Delta just in case I don't catch a hop, which gives me a way back (and, if they need it, a viable return ticket to show the Schengen authorities)

 

My  main concerns:

1.  Where, when and how I will get a Schengen stamp for my arrival in the Schengen area.  We have four port stops before reaching Civitavecchia, all in Schengen countries. They are: Portugal (Azores), Spain (Malaga, Cartagena), and Italy  My concern is that two of those four stops occur on a weekend, so I will have to find an office/agency that is open.

2.  I usually book travel in advance, but since I'm not sure where I'll try to catch a hop first, I'll have to "wing it" for either train or air travel to wherever I hope to fly out of.

3.  I'm still wrestling with what kind of luggage I'll bring; carryon only, or one suitcase and my trusty backpack.

 

Next up: what I have done (or am doing) to prepare.

 

 

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  • 2 months later...

I am interested to hear how your trip worked out? I will be marrying a retired Army Veteran this year and he and I both thought it would be interesting to try out Space A when we are retired and have time and options

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This will constitute both a continuation of my notes from March 25 and then the results of my Space A efforts in conjunction with a cruise.

 

I made the following "preparations" as I went along.

 

Registered at Ramstein, Spangdahlem, and Mildenhall 55 days in advance of my hoped for departure date of May 8 or earlier.

Registered at Naples NAS 40 days in advance of my hoped for departure date of May 6 or earlier 

Booked a provisional hotel (free cancellation) at the port of Civitavecchia for May 5 in case I got stuck in terms of transportation (cancelled it while on the cruise); 

Researched and eventually booked FlixBus from Rome to Kaiserslautern leaving at 5 pm on May 5 (our disembarkation day), due to an impending national rail strike that was supposed to start at 5 p.m on May 4, and go through 9 pm on May 5.  As I became more concerned about the extent of the rail strike, I also booked the ship to Rome (center -- the Tiburtina train station) transportation for $79.  I probably could have caught a train, but this turned out to be a much smarter and more relaxed choice.  As it turned out, the strike didn't affect all of the trains I thought it would, but I was already committed to the (20 hour!) bus ride to K-town via Munich.

Made sure I could fit everything into a big suitcase and my backpack, as the flix bus would supposedly only allow one carryon (not the case, but oh, well).

Made a reservation for a hotel in Ramstein that was near both the Airbase and the train station.  The Airbase was supposedly walkable but I never tried it.  It was Hotel Michaela, and was a really nice place to stay.  I had a large room with a large patio for about 120 Euros/night.

Ramstein has a pretty good bus service onto the base; the bus stop is near the train station, and it costs 2 Euros.  Taxi was about 12 Euros.

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Results of my efforts, starting with May 6 as my Day 1, and ending with May 9 as Day 4 and my flight from Frankfurt on Delta Airlines on May 10.

 

Day 1 (May 6):  Marked myself present for a mission to Dover and Travis at about 1530; roll call was supposed to be at 2230.  Mission date and roll call changed to Wednesday 8 May at 0730

Day 2 (May 7): No flights.  Slept in, toured around the Airbase and Ramstein, played 9 holes of golf, had a nice dinner.

Day 3 (May 8 ) Roll call at 0710; arrived at 0613. Not selected (although after looking at the online Roll Call document, I think I should have been).  Checked in to the Air Force Inn as I had only booked the Hotel Michaela for May 6-8.  About twice the price, but it was really nice to be right on base and close to everything.  The rooms are quite nice.  Patriot Express to BWI for 5/9 shows 20 seats available.  Roll call at 1535 tomorrow

Day 4 (May 9)  Left my bags in the hotel storage for the morning; roll call is pushed to 1700.  I have train tickets to get to Frankfurt leaving at 1800 so this is going to be tight.  In the end I don't make this flight either (again, I think there was an error based on the roll call stats, but that's all water under the bridge.  Classic advice is to not give up until the aircraft leaves the ground, but I couldn't do that and still get to Frankfurt to my hotel while it was still light -- also couldn't cancel my Frankfurt hotel room after 1800 and get my money back)

 

My lessons learned:

I think I calculated the lead times for registering for Space A pretty perfectly.  The flight schedules just didn't work in my favor.  Because I was traveling solo, I wasn't as flexible in my travel plans for lodging and getting around in general.  If I try it again (which I will), I'll build more of a buffer of time on the end to give me more time to catch a hop.

 

My luggage plan worked well; I had my 26" suitcase, a backpack, and my Travelon purse which carries quite a bit.  I was able to maneuver it pretty well, even at the Kaiserslautern train station where the elevator for my train platform wasn't working and I had to lug it up the stairs!  

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Oh, and I now have a transferable, does-not-expire Southwest airfare credit because I didn't make the PE to BWI.  I'm sure I'll find a use for it at some point.

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Finally, regarding the Schengen stamp.

 

I tried getting it in Malaga, Spain (our only weekday port stop!), but since it was an interim port, the (National Police) authorities couldn't give me a stamp.  They said I could only get it at the first port of entry (Punta Delagado in the Azores) or our final port (Civitavecchia).

 

As it turns out, I was able to get my passport stamped in Civitavecchia, along with everyone else.  Semi funny story -- when I got to the Passport Control agent (who was very curt and obviously not enjoying his day), he growled at my "Buon Giorno," grabbed my passport and inspected it, and then stamped it . . . with the "Exit" stamp instead of the Entry stamp.  He then growled again (not kidding!), lined through the stamp with a pen, and stamped it with the entry stamp.  I was a bit concerned that his German counterparts might take exception to his pen and ink correction, but they did not, and I was able to depart Germany on May 10.

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