Monday, May 21, 2007

Level 70, Bait 'n switch, and A much needed Vacation...

Wow, look at that... 3 months? I rock at this blogging stuff. Sure, I COULD post every day, every week, or even every month, but I wouldn't want to cause an unnecessary burden on my avid readers. I'm so damn considerate!

So let's see... World of Warcraft is the first order of business, since it's the first thing I thought of.

Level 70
Burning Crusade was a great addition to the game, from what I've seen of it (which is actually VERY little) and provided me with a couple of extra months of entertainment.

I hit level 70 this past weekend, however, and it was frighteningly underwhelming. My mind wandered back to the days of Sonic the Hedgehog or Mario World where at the end, I'd get to see my game's hero flying through the skies accompanied by down-tempo numbers from the game played on a general midi piano synth and lots of scrolling asian names like Hayao Nakayama and Yuji Naka, none of which are memorable but provide me with the brief notion that actual people put effort into producing said game before I put it back on the shelf to gather dust.

Not long after the expansion came out, I transferred back off of a realm where I was a member of a raiding guild, to my original realm where I first starting playing with the Fisn N Chips crew (and real life friends) - I'd gotten tired of being reminded every time I logged on that I wasn't even halfway as hardcore as I needed to be in order to keep up with the rest of the guild, and I was having a hard time finding others that shared my casual attitude and pace. (Most of these guys power leveled to 70 in less than 2 weeks, essentially removing the pleasure of absorbing the new world and submersing oneself in the really nice storylines that were created for the expansion)

Anyway, since then I've played extremely casually, maybe once or twice a week, and have spent the majority of that time either PUGing through one or two early instances, or soloing throught quests and concentrating on reputation and crafting. The Fish n Chips guild is very small, there's only ever a maximum of about 6-7 players online at once, with half of them being lower level toons or people's alts. This is a stark contrast from being in a raiding guild, where you don't get to see the light of day unless your level is maxxed out along with your gear, and every time you hop on you're somehow obligated to join whatever raid is happening. Both setups have their challenges, I either can't do the smaller stuff because the raiding guild is whining or questioning my loyalty or devotion, or I can't do the bigger stuff because the guild is simply too small or there aren't enough people on. It'd be nice to get to see some of the cooler instances and raid instances in burning crusade but I don't really see it happening, which makes me wonder - Why am I playing this game? Sure, it can be fun, but now I'm at 70, with no desire to roll another character and do the same stuff all over again, what am I in it for? I'll be thinking about it quite a bit over the next few weeks and possibly re-evaluating whether I really want to spent $15 a month on this game any more.

Bait 'n switch
As I logged into the GRS system at work (I must have been doing some testing or something, or maybe I was just looking to punish myself that day) I was presented with a fantastic internal ad: "ALASKA CRUISE 349PP - SEE xxxxxx" - With our 10 year wedding anniversary coming up, this is something (Alaskan Cruises) I'd been wanting to look into for a while. We loved our Cozumel cruise and knew we wanted to go on others, so this seemed too good to not check out. I called our internal vacations lady (who this deal was posted by - let's call her 'Switchy') and yeah, it was true. $349 per person for a 7-day cruise from Anchorage down to Vancouver. I pulled the trigger and made the first of my two payments with a credit card. After taxes and fees etc, I was told, the total would be around $1100. Seemed like a fantastic deal for an all-inclusive vacation for two for 7 days. Switchy told me it would be a good idea to buy the cancellation insurance too. "If you have kids, you never know..." she said. "If you need to cancel at least you'd be able to get your money back". Seemed like a good idea. I think the insurance was $75 per person or thereabouts. Seemed like a good bet. We were also going to need transportation from Anchorage to Seward, since the airport and seaport are a fair distance from each other. Switchy told me that there was a transfer service for $45 per person if we wanted to use it, but that it was actually a very nice drive if we wanted to rent a car. I figured I'd defer that decision until later.

A couple of days later I received my invoice in the mail. - For $1400. Hmmm... I knew the taxes were more than a hundred dollars each so I tried for a while to figure out how 350-450 or so multiplied by two came to a grand total of $1400. I didn't have to try for long because on further inspection it was right there on the invoice - $549 per person plus taxes. I called Switchy and asked about the invoice, obviously there had been some sort of error. "Oh no... I told you on the phone, there were no $349 fares left, so I gave you the $549 fare... you remember, right?"

Well, I might not have the best memory in the world but that's certainly NOT what was discussed on the phone. I was pissed, but all in all it was still reasonably good for a 7 day vacation for two (although I was less impressed this time)

Days and weeks passed, and we discovered that we were going to have issues finding someone to take the kids during that time. Emily and I were actually going through a pretty rough patch and were arguing a lot, we had a lot of other stuff going on which was stressing us out, mostly around children, money, our relationship - the usual stuff, and we decided it was for the best that we just cancel the cruise, save the money, and not have to worry about finding someone who could take our children and all the issues and medicines etc that come with them. (more on that some other time)

No worries, I got the insurance. We have kids, these things come up. That was the exact reason I bought it right? I emailed Switchy to ask her what it would take to cancel the reservation. She called me that same morning. "I went ahead and cancelled it for you, and you'll be receiving $840 back to the card."

I think I was probably silent for a half a minute or so while the information permeated my cerebrum. "$840?"

"Yeah, the insurance covers the $840, you'll have to make a claim for the remainder"

"OK, What's the claim process?"

Switchy told me that the claim process was very similar to an auto insurance claim, whereby if I provided enough evidence about my inability to travel - you know, due to a burned down house, two broken legs, a death... that sort of thing - and that claim was approved, they'd refund 75% of the remainder.

More silence

"I'm assuming not being able to get babysitters isn't covered"

"Oh, no way... but you know, at least you got some of the money back"

I was fuming. I hadn't told her to cancel the cruise, I'd asked her to call me to talk about it. As it was, the cruise had been canceled and I'd lost about $500. The insurance was sold to me as a cancellation policy whereby I'm guaranteed my money back for whatever reason I decide to cancel. I'm actually surprised I managed to stay calm but I did... I made it quite clear that I'd not told her to cancel the reservation and she did eventually manage to 'cancel the cancellation', if that makes sense. There was no way I was going to just throw $500 down the toilet.

I managed to re-convince Emily that this cruise was much needed, that we were going to go on it and have a good time no matter what, and that we'd find a way to make babysitting work. She slowly came on board over the period of a week or so and when we both were fully committed again, we began to make plans. Flight to Seattle, Hotel in Seattle, Flight to Anchorage, Rental car in Anchorage (we'd actually decided that we would take the bus but Switchy's price this time around was $88 - double the originally quoted price - seeing a pattern here?), Flight from Vancouver to DFW....

All in all I think my $349PP ALASKA CRUISE will probably look more like $1200PP ALASKA CRUISE - What a complete farce.

I am, however, looking forward to A much needed Vacation...