It started like any other day.
Up at 4:27 AM. Prayers. Exercise. Shower. Coffee. Twitter.
A quick scan of the headlines… Something techy, something techy, JPII to be beatified, something techy… Wait, what?
I read it again… Yep, John Paul II was being beatified on May 1!
I, like every other tour company, had been planning to take a group to Rome for the beatification. Quick check of my calendar and… I saw that I would already be in Greece with a group. I must say that I was disappointed. Well, as disappointed as someone taking an amazing group to Greece and cruising the Greek Isles could be.
I love a challenge. And my first thought after that initial disappointment was – how can I rearrange my Greek tour of 30+ people and add in a few days in Rome.
It wasn’t even 6:00 AM, but I knew what I had to do. First, I needed rooms. I called my home in Rome, Hotel Alimandi and spoke with the owner. I had asked him over a year ago to block out any available rooms when the beatification was announced. And he did! Good thing too, within the first few hours after the announcement, he had hundreds of room requests – he only has about 40 rooms.
He held the rooms, while I worked out the details.
The biggest issue was that the group left JFK on a Friday and our cruise departed Athens early on a Monday. Neither of those were flexible, so I had to make everything else work around it.
I couldn’t speak with the airline until the group department opened at 8:00 AM. And I still needed permission to switch things around from the group leader, Lino Rulli. I emailed him right away and jokingly asked if he thought the group would notice if we landed in Rome instead of Athens.
I went ahead and planned the entire itinerary. Flying into Rome, it wasn’t built in a day, but we were going to see it in a day! Attend the beatification the following morning. Fly out that same evening. I immediately contacted my usual Greek airline about tickets. Space was available, but they could not confirm it for two days.
I spoke with my Athens hotel to be sure I could switch the dates. Spoke with my local Athens guide and confirmed she could change our plans.
The biggest trade off was that there was no way we could still do two days on Santorini if we were starting in Rome. Since we were planning to get off the cruise in Santorini, I had to contact the cruise line to make sure we could stay on an additional night.
It was now 7:00 AM and I already had tweaked the itinerary, worked with the Rome hotel, Athens hotel and cruise line on switching our plans and reserved our flight from Rome to Athens.
I was still waiting on America to wake up. So I did what any good Catholic would do, I prayed. I prayed I was doing the right thing and that it would work out the way it should.
I started getting emails from people on the trip jokingly asking if we could go to Rome as soon as they saw the announcement.
Then, finally, Lino called. And he was all for it. The next step was for me to get the group’s approval. They paid for a Greece trip and now I was wanting to take them to Rome as well.
I wrote up a quick email and sent it out.
In the mean time, Delta opened. No problem switching the flights.
The response from the group started to trickle in. There was some cussing, some laughing and I think even some tears at the prospect of going to Rome for John Paul II’s beatification. There were two people who were not thrilled, but agreed to go with the group’s decision.
So by midmorning everything was set. It still took a few days to confirm the Rome to Athens flight but everything else was confirmed and switched by the time the last person said they were up for it.
As for the price? It only went up $150! A few other Catholic tour companies organized beatification tours to Rome for just five days that cost more than my eight day tour that included Greece and Turkey.
Am I still disappointed that I was not able to make another trip out of the beatification? Nope! I couldn’t ask for a better group for spending eight days touring Greece, Turkey and now, Rome!