Megabus first experience not so great

** updated March 5, 2010 **
The refund came through on my credit card.

Michelle made the return trip on Megabus and was quite impressed. The bus was a modern double decker and was clean and pleasant. I think we’ll use the service again but we’ll just keep a very watchful eye on the weather and call them for updates before we get to the airport in the future. Do not trust that they will contact you if there are scheduling issues.
** end March 5, 2010 update **
** updated February 25, 2010 **
While I was crafting this entry I received notification of the refund for my original ticket price one way. So they were true to their word on that front.
** end February 25, 2010 update **

Nearly a month ago we arranged for Michelle to head up to Canada to visit her sister. As usual the airfare to fly directly into Toronto could only be described as “bend over and take it until you collapse”, so we booked an Airtran flight with a bus trip to Toronto using MegaBus.

Michelle arrived at Buffalo international airport early this evening in good time for her bus and then proceeded to wait.. and wait.. She wasn’t alone, there were another half dozen folks waiting with her. When the promised 7:45 pm bus didn’t show up she called me and I got on it.

I first called their contact us number (1-877-462-6342 per the website) and was informed that all buses had been canceled for the entire day due to weather. The guy I spoke with seemed rather surprised that we hadn’t been alerted.

I quickly checked the weather and saw that there actually was an advisory that we were not aware of, it certainly didn’t affect her flight.

The guy at 1-877-462-6342 told me that I could contact 773-890-6342 or inquiries.megabus.com (which I later found was inquiries@megabus.com an email address rather than a web site).

Calling that number got me put on hold and then eventually I was offered the option, if my call was regarding ongoing service disruptions to speak to a dispatcher. What I got was a lady (with loud laughing and raucous people in the background) who was somewhat confused that I was talking to her and she gave me the number of the New Jersey dispatch office (908-282-7420).

At *that* number I spoke with someone who knew what was going on who contacted the megabus dispatching office in Canada and determined that there would be NO service between there and Buffalo tonight.

She further determined that Coach Canada *was* running service and that we could likely get on one of their buses. At first she offered that, if we could get a Coach Canada ticket and keep the receipt, they would be willing to reimburse is, then she backed off and offered to refund the original ticket price saying that I could send a note to inquiries@megabus.com to explain what had occurred and that they might be able to work something out with us.

She also provided me with the Coach Canada phone number (1-800-644-5197 ext 1) .

So I called Michelle back to see where things stood for her before making any arrangements and found that she, and the other stranded passengers had managed to purchase tickets on the Coach Canada bus that had been sitting there at the airport while they were waiting for their Megabus.

So I’m going to send this story to Megabus and see what they say. I’ll update this post with any response. But my main points are:

  1. We were never contacted regarding the outage. I had given them MY contact information as anybody who knows me also knows that I am VERY reachable via the web and phone. Had we suspected an issue we would have made arrangements many hours earlier.
  2. Looking at my reservation screen below which I captured at about 35 minutes *after* departure there is still no indication of an issue with the reservation even though apparently ALL buses had been canceled.
  3. I’m surprised that there is no agreement between the bus companies or that Megabus does not have any facility for ensuring that stranded passengers are handled. The new ticket was about twice as expensive as the original and, had Michelle had to wait overnight that would have been that much MORE expensive.
  4. I’m further surprised that they wouldn’t run their buses while Coach Canada didn’t seem to have an issue continuing to service their routes.

What do I want from Megabus?

  1. An acknowledgment that they screwed up the notifications and maybe some assurances that they have maybe done something to correct that issue.
  2. Obviously I want the ticket refunded. I think it would be a nice gesture if they went the extra distance and reimbursed us for the extra ticket cost too. But the amount of money is not huge.

Anyway, I passed their contact information on to Michelle so that the other passengers could make whatever arrangements they may and she is now en route to Toronto and will arrive only a couple of hours later than planned.

I post this so others can know about our experience. If it’s an isolated incident then this post will get lost in the shuffle, if it’s a regular occurrence then my voice will be added to others who may choose to post as well.

Posted under Retail Experiences

This post was written by Marc
on February 25, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Quicken 2010 Deluxe R7 Warning – Final word from Intuit

After a few exchanges with the Intuit folks (see the comments here) here is what they finally had to say on this matter:

Recently you requested assistance from Quicken Customer Care. Below is a summary of your request and our response. We are committed to resolving this issue to your complete satisfaction.

Thank you for allowing us to be of service to you.

Subject
Need to revert back to R5 from R7 release

Discussion Thread
Response (Shivani)    02/25/2010 01:10 AM
Dear Marc Bourassa,

Thank you for contacting Quicken Customer Care.

I can completely understand your concern.

Marc, I would like to inform that issue will resolve in next few weeks. You can visit the link given below to know more about:

http://quicken.intuit.com/support/articles/using-quicken/income-and-expenses/7733.html

You cannot revert back to R5.

I hope this clarifies.

I had found the link above on my own a couple of days ago and am waiting for them to fix the issue. In the meantime I’m keeping updates turned off and I will be ignoring future update reminders (when this issue has been dealt with) for a week or so to ensure that they don’t cock things up for me again.

Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on February 25, 2010 at 7:01 am

Pole Dancing in the Olympics

You know, I don’t have any problem with having pole dancing in the Olympics.

It requires skill, physical stamina and quite frankly it’s from the ground up a spectator sport.

If folks sledding down an ice chute (be it “Skeleton” with middle aged moms competing or the “Luge”) then I really don’t see how anybody can argue against the pole dancers.

I know, I know *I* couldn’t do the other sports (well.. Skeleton I’m pretty sure I could do with a couple of months training). But I *know* that the Pole dancing is out of my league.

The only limit I’d say is, like the uneven bars and the balance beam, this one can be for the ladies only…

Posted under Opinions

This post was written by Marc
on February 24, 2010 at 6:12 am

HP Laserjet 1012 Printer – I love it!

Nearly 6 years ago (March of 2004) I paid $210 for my HP Laserjet 1012 Printer. When I did so, I took a look at the cost to replace the toner cartridge in it and saw that it would run me about $80 per cartridge.

Given that the cost for just black and white inkjet cartridges at the time was between $8 and $14 (depending where you shopped and if you bought in bulk) I decided that the LaserJet was worth the gamble.

My needs were:

  • Black and White only is sufficient.
    • Printing Color photographs is ridiculously expensive, they have a tendency to fade quickly (aren’t “fixed” properly as they are in a proper photographic process)
    • While pretty, color maps and printouts are not necessary for my personal use
    • Any of the above that I need can be done for pennies a page by putting them on a thumb drive or emailing to a local Kinkos or CVS.
  • Need a printer that can tolerate relatively long periods between printing (maybe even a few weeks)
    • I found that inkjet cartridges tend to gum up if left inactive for any length of time, ruining the first page or so.
  • Would like what I *do* print to be of high fidelity
    • I did not like the propensity for inkjet printers to pick up some dust or to have a jet malfunction and have a smear or a blank spot through the entire print job.
  • To be cost-effective
    • When inkjet cartridges are reporting themselves to be empty you can ALWAYS feel that they have more ink remaning in them
    • If you have a combo-inkjet where all the colors are in a single cartridge you need to throw a lot of good ink away in the remaining cartridge cells just because one of them is empty (at least reported empty)

Here I am, February of 2010 and I still have not had to replace my original toner cartridge. I have printed literally hundreds and hundreds of pages  – I really wasn’t keeping count of how many reams of paper I’ve put through that little printer – and I’ve never had so much as a smeared page. I’ve not even had to tap the toner cartridge to loosen up any leftover toner or whatever tricks may be necessary to eek out those last few printed pages if I do not have easy access to a replacement when it finally does empty out.

If / when it comes time to replace this printer, I’ll be looking to the same technology again. Inkjet technology has likely come a long way since 2004, but I don’t see that it will ever hold a candle to the laser technology or whatever tech eventually supersedes laser.

This is easily one of the most satisfying and worthwhile purchases I have ever made in the computer sphere.

Posted under Opinions, Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on February 22, 2010 at 7:15 am

Quicken 2010 Deluxe R7 Warning

Just allowed Quicken to go ahead and apply an update bringing it from R5 to R7 and have found that my registers now no longer have a “balance” column.

To be more precise, the column is still there but it is blank. No title, no content.

At first I thought maybe the balances were off the screen so I restarted Quicken and tried running in full screen but neither inspiration worked.

I then tried to use the “pop out registers” option thinking that maybe the different approach to rendering them may help but that also did not correct things.

I’ll send an email to Quicken and see if they have any ideas.

But just a warning, if you use Quicken 2010 Deluxe, you probably want to put off applying the latest update until this issue has been resolved.

Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on February 21, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Action Shots of Michelle

From our shore excursion “Lost Canopy Tour” in Belize, here are a couple of animated Gifs of Michelle.

This first is of her doing the zipline (click on the image)


Mich-Zipline

And her rappeling (click on the image)

Mich-Rappel


Posted under Photos

This post was written by Marc
on February 15, 2010 at 7:29 am

Carnival Legend Cruise through Western Carribean 2009

*Note to Facebook folks – there are a lot of pictures that won’t make it into the facebook note. Please click on the link to see them.*

It took me a while to organize the pictures that I wanted to post along with this blog entry.

Back in November Michelle and I took a cruise with our friends Polly and Stu. As luck would have it our cruise departed November 8th and just missed Hurricane Ida on our way out to the Grand Cayman islands. In fact our departure was delayed by a couple of hours I believe for exactly that purpose. The folks that had just come off the ship had said that they had encountered very rough seas.

DSC_3336Our ship was the Carnival Legend, cabin 5281, and we shared a balcony with Stu and Polly (cabin 5277).  The first night was VERY rough. I absolutely loved it. The tops of the waves were being torn off by the wind and looked like that fine icy snow you see blowing around on a crisp day up North. The ship was rocking so intensely that it was difficult to read in bed with your knees up ’cause of the force you had to exert just to keep them from falling over!

DSC_3350The ship was well appointed and we marveled at the cabin facilities. Everything was functional and just worked as it was supposed to. Our room steward (Natalia) was very pleasant and did a top notch job of keeping our cabin clean and stocked.

Another great surprise was that the mini bar prices were nowhere near as outrageous as I’ve seen in the past ($2 for a soda, $7.50 for a mini-bottle of booze).

The shows and activities on board were OK, but not spectacular (‘though I rather enjoyed the Monday night Jazz show) of note was a pretty bad balancing act (not naming it) that I would have thought was an SNL parody if I hadn’t known it was serious.

The dining room offerings seemed to go between extremes. The Caesar salads were uniformly bland while the potatoes were excellent, the ribs superb and filet mignon  was tough and lackluster. The offered dessert of melted chocolate cake was excellent and the hot chocolate was always inspired.

There was an ongoing language issue with staff unable to understand basic inquiries or not knowing the answers and making something up so we would be on our way (in the wrong direction usually). This is something that Carnival needs to work on.

Grand Cayman Island

PICT0021We did not schedule any excursions in the Grand Cayman Islands, preferring instead to just lounge around on the ship and then head out to shore for a late day drink and meal. We found a great little place called Rackam’s Bar that was close to the port but relatively quiet.

Cozumel

We elected to do the “Ruins of Tulum” as our shore excursion. I heard after we had booked this trip that the “ruins” tour in Belize was better than this one. Even without experiencing the Belize tour first hand I have to say that I’m confident that it’s probably the way to go.

DSC_3353We started with a 40 minute boat ride from the port which featured a great guitarist / singer who kept us entertained, we then spent about 20 or so minutes on a bus where we met our guide, Raul. He was very engaging, kind of like a Mayan Robert Deniro. Really, he was one of the high points of the trip. This stopped briefly at a little artisans place where I picked up some shot glasses. I really am a sucker for shot glasses…

DSC_3383_edited-1The ruins themselves were modestly interesting. Everything was roped off and sealed so you could not touch or really experience anything.

If you have ever wanted to climb a Mayan pyramid then this is definitely *not* the tour for you.

DSC_3420_edited-1There are some interesting lizards and I’m pretty sure that every tour group that goes through there gets an entirely different story from what I heard listening to some of the other groups going through there.

Belize

From everything that I read Belize was the place to go. It’s not nearly so tired as Mexico and it’s way more mature than Isla Roatan.

Bak a bush 001 (98)_edited-1We decided to do the “lost world canopy tour” in Belize. This involves 5 zip lines and 2 rappels at a location that is about a 40 minute bus ride on smooth road and about a 20 minute ride on one of the bumpier roads that you’ll ever ride on. Surprisingly, and I kid you not, the bumpy bus ride is pleasant, almost invigorating.

The canopy tour was a lot of fun, made so not only by the obvious professionalism and care for safety taken by the crew there but also by their easy going and frank manner whenever we had a chance to chat.

This trip was a little pricey at about $100 per person but I think it was worth the investment. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Bak a bush P3210073If I could have my ‘druthers, I’d have spent all of our shore time in Belize. There were many other excursions that appealed and all of them seem to get a thumbs up from folks who took them. Polly and Stu elected to go Quad Vehicle riding that day and they had a great time too.

Isla Roatan

We had a catamaran excursion planned for this port that we ended up canceling at the last minute since it was raining that morning.

Instead, when the rain let up later in the day we went into the port to wander around a bit. There is a quaint cluster of shops and restaurants immediately within the port grounds. We elected to head out into the village to see what it had to offer and were immediately assailed upon leaving the port by offers and solicitations of all kinds. Everybody leaving the port ended up with an entourage of children – usually about 3-5 who would hover and attempt to cajole you into each establishment that they had a deal with.

It was a little unnerving, though Michelle commented afterward that it was a worthwhile experience to see such naked capitalism. But we quickly ended up retreating back to the port for drinks and conversation. This is one place where I’d only trust the cruise line shore excursion offerings instead of trying to work out something in port. The folks here need the dollars the tourism brings, but they are far too aggressive in trying to get them.

Overall

PICT0010All in all I really enjoyed the cruise. I would definitely visit Belize again any time to explore what they have to offer. I like the cruise lifestyle and being able to just relax on the ship. There is always food available and room service is part of the deal if you prefer to spend time in your cabin. As we were cruising with friends, we often got room service in the morning and breakfasted together out on our balcony. The balcony, by the way, is something that I will be sure to get on any cruise I take in the future. It was great to be able to just hang out there and chat or think with nothing to break the reverie.

PICT0041_edited-1And, when you tire of being on your own, you just head out to the public parts of the ship and enjoy the sights and sounds of the other cruise passengers. As always, we bumped into some odd and interesting folks that add color to the experience and make it that much more memorable.

Posted under Opinions, Photos, Travel

This post was written by Marc
on February 14, 2010 at 7:21 pm