I’m pretty neurotic when I travel. For example, I’ll check that I have my passport and cruise card with me half-way down the passageway even though I just put it in my onshore kit a few minutes ago, and have a double good look around my seat on the plane to make sure I have everything. Something went wrong this trip, very wrong: I lost my iPad.
It’s just a device, and I know that I can claim it on our insurance, and that once I get home to my desktop computer I can back up my apps and content to a new one, but there is one significant difficulty with all that. Besides being out in the commercial world of cruise tourism and being a cruise addict, I am also a PhD student (researching the rise and fall of cruise destinations), and I had about 600 articles loaded onto my lost iPad to do some solid reading during our cruise. Yeah, all the articles are also in DropBox (but try downloading 600 articles at ship’s speed and costs), and they are also on my laptop, but it’s kinda hard to read and take notes on the same relatively small UltraThin notebook screen. So, my options were to replace the tablet or buy some other output device en route, like a cheap printer (I’ve done that before on long cruises, and indeed, we’re on the 35 day voyage; I end up giving the printer to a crew member when I’m done with it).
Where did I lose it, is the first question? I had it on our Emirates flight from Dubai to Amsterdam, and I think I had it in the hotel. After that, I do not know. But it did not appear when I went to empty the safe prior to checking out, and a complete re-pack did not reveal its presence either, so as you can imagine, I was kinda upset.
Time to get to the ship, and after chucking in the laundry (I put our dirty laundry in one of the carryons so I can get it going before everyone else finds the laundry room), I started to try to log on to the ship’s WiFi so that I could cancel my linked Apple Store, Vodafone (mobile phone carrier) and Kindle acccounts, even though the iPad was password protected. Well….almost a complete meltdown because of the weak to non-existent WiFi signals in the rooms. Blame the steel in the middle of the doors. But, I must have made some sort of connection because much to my surprise, I saw half-a-Facebook page mysteriously load on my laptop’s screen about an hour later.
Fortunately, that hour coincided with the arrival of the ship’s amazing Internet Manager, Simon, and I explained what happened. Entirely sympathetic and understanding, and probably because he saw my name on an email as the voyage’s blogger, he credited back all but about the 4 minutes I might have actually used, and explained the issues on the Prinsendam (not to mention the 2MBPS bandwidth for the WHOLE ship): the signals which do leak into the rooms are mostly not strong enough to load a logout page, so you’re sunk (metaphorically speaking, that is). In fact, he pointed out to me the two places to sit in the Internet Café/Library which will give me the best hope of getting a relatively strong signal at the best of times (ie not when everyone else is online).
At least all that was solved, except I did have to enlist the help of my niece in New Zealand to de-activate my Apple account – as with everything with Apple, it’s a convoluted, picky process. I also emailed friends in the Netherlands to see if I left it there (“no”), and corresponded with the airlines and the hotel (same answer, “no”). BTW – Emirates has a fantastically good lost property webpage, and they responded within a few hours.
The next issue would then be, of course, how to get some sort of output device.
First conspiracy-against-me: Our port call to Ystad was cancelled. Tenders don’t like high winds or having to travel long distances to shore. Then, we called into Gdansk, and our wonderful tour guide and driver took us to a fabulous electronics superstore in one of Gdansk’s flash shopping malls, but alas, the price for printers was extremely (extortionately) high, and then I would have had to contend with the regionalisation of the printer cartridges, making sure I bought enough to last me for the cruise. Back in the car, not a solution.
Brainwave: my cousin was planning to join us for the second part of our cruise, so having confirmed her departure date, I leapt onto Amazon.com, ordered a new Samsung Galaxy Tablet and had it shipped to her house in Miami, ready to be hand-delivered on the 15th July. Two days later, an email came from a devastated Sally saying that they couldn’t make it after all – family emergency (please know, though, that since then, all is good, but their cruise had already been cancelled). Thus, the hunt was back on (and that tablet will be shipped to me in New Zealand).
No opportunities in Klaipeda or St. Petersburg, but my first question to our host in Helsinki, a friend, was “where can I buy a printer or tablet?” Local knowledge is a wonderful thing. Teijo knew a giant electronics warehouse very close to our berth, so within 20 minutes I had a new iPad, case and stylus.
I asked for the duty free documentation but then realised that I would need to use it before I exported it. I do have the receipt, although not the bonded packaging. I anticipate doing some fast-talking when I pitch up at the VAT refund desk at Schipol on the 5th August. Like “it’s already packed in my hold luggage.”
Armed with my new device, I embarked on setting it up, but of course, an iPad needs a WiFi connection to do it. Aaargh. Fortunately, Simon was at his desk, and together we logged on to the ship’s system and experienced the normal hesitancy with the ship’s WiFi, but with his help, got it up and running. Bravo.
Then, later in the day, I needed to download a reading app, and for about an hour off and on tried to access the iTunes store on both my device and my laptop, but got kicked off each time. In semi-hysterics, I thought it might be an IP address problem, thinking that the Apple server was looking for my NZ address to match the account, but fortunately, that wasn’t the issue (and besides, the ship’s IP address is in the US). It was partially a case of too many people hunting on the same WiFi signal, and partially a case of Simon just knowing what to do.
Back to the cruise for a minute to put the next episode in context. Last night, around midnight, we docked at Rostock instead of Warnemunde (for Berlin) because the ship’s stabiliser needed a repair (going on right now); the repairs could be done at the berth at Rostock but not at nearby Warnemunde. If I could get some free WiFi (to have time to play) and/or an Apple support person, I could resolve the problem. However, no free WiFi anywhere in sight at our berth so I asked one of the ship’s destination/shorex people where the nearest shopping district is. A new conspiracy was about to play out: she said there are likely to be more computer and Apple stores here in Rostock, but the estimate was a Euro 20 cab ride to get into town, and a Euro 20 cab ride to get back to the ship. The alternative would be to take the ship’s shuttle to Warnemunde (30 minutes away), the original planned port call, and then the train back to Rostock (and back again to Warnemunde to catch the shuttle to return to the ship) because Rostock is a University town and likely to have plenty of computer support, but who wants to roam around Warnemunde with a laptop and iPad (wouldn’t want to go without taking advantage of doing some sightseeing) – so we decided not to do either (taxi or shuttle).
Good we didn’t. Simon fixed it. He performed his rituals, with the process being to keep at it if you have the same problem: keep interrupting the install and then re-starting, keep re-booting both your laptop and your device if you have to, or just put out an emergency call for Simon-from-the-Prinsendam.
Primo. But then, another problem – also encountered last night, and that was – for the same weak-WiFi reasons – I couldn’t authorise the iPad on my laptop, therefore potentially barring me from transferring my much-needed 600 articles across to the iPad, the reason for this long and involved saga. Simon to the rescue again.
Done. Dusted. Happy PhD student. (Even happier husband, not having to put up with anymore meltdowns.) And I must say, that I didn’t end up spending as much time on the Internet as I thought I would have to to do all this. Yes, perhaps half-an-hour in total, but at the same time, my email kept coming through, I had my daily roam around FB and read our local news, so no big drama in the cost-effectiveness department.
I did email my two PhD Supervisors, offering the lost iPad as the 21st Century’s “the dog ate my homework excuse,” but that didn’t wash with one of them (or so he claimed 😉 ). However, one of Brent’s articles was amongst the lot re-loaded, so I feel a redeemed PhD student.
Cruising isn’t just about relaxing and exploring, but also about how to solve problems on the fly, in foreign countries, or onboard. Just hope that Simon is nearby.