Day Three of our Singapore sojourn, courtesy of the unpronounceable volcano. Both of us wake up with a plan.
Mine: find a cheap vacation rental before we blow the rest of our travel insurance money on business hotels. His: re-ticket to New York, cross the Atlantic by ship and train back to France, where we live.
Option Two seems ludicrous - until you do the math. One route under consideration - business class (the only seats left) from Dubai to Nice - would cost between seven and twelve thousand euros for three, depending on the day. That's contingent on Singapore Airlines agreeing to fly us to Dubai, and there would still be a train or rental car to pay for.
Six days in an inside cabin on the Queen Mary 2, all meals included, would be a bargain by comparison.
But luxury cruises have a dress code, I remind him, and we've got almost nothing but beachwear. This is Singapore, he says. Suits can be made overnight! Imagine the memories! He's willing to forgo several future vacations in order to splurge on a transatlantic water-taxi.
Such wild and crazy thinking from my usually less-than-intrepid travel partner is a rare opportunity, not to be missed. East Coast phone lines don't open for several hours though, so I begin investigating my option.
Craigslist Singapore offers three apartments renting for around USD 75 per day. The owners respond quickly, but e-mail exchanges dwindle as the light bulb goes on - for them and a few other of the 40,000 travelers stranded here - that short-term rentals have just become an extremely lucrative commodity. Invited to check out one apartment "with all the others interested", I chicken out and retreat from the bidding war.
Nine a.m. New York time I call the first cruise vendor I find on the Internet. "Queen Mary?" she says by way of greeting. As this is neither my name nor title, it quickly sinks in that we will not be looking for a tailor today.
Indeed, both the 29 April and 8 May crossings are completely sold out.
So, still stuck - but still extremely fortunate. We remain in a hotel with a swimming pool and nice-smelling toiletries, while people from our original flight last Thursday continue to camp at the airport. One of us is missing preschool, but not her SATs. One of us faces a significant work backlog, but at least his product is not perishable and becoming worthless as its flights, too, are cancelled.
A couple of days ago I lamented the fact that our current circumstances had erased the Zen effect of the Thailand trip that landed us here in the first place.
But in fact it has resurfaced, here in hyperactive Singapore. For the moment we cannot push, pull or pay our way out of this situation. We can only sit, stay positive, and watch how things evolve.