BootsnAll Travel Network

Josh and Nicole’s Awesome Caribbean Adventure 2011: Day 1 New York City – San Juan, PR (Via Atl)

My alarm clock went off at 5:30AM, in preparation of our flights which would eventually land us in Puerto Rico hopefully around the 4PM hour. The cruise is scheduled to leave tonight at 10PM, giving us plenty of time to arrive in San Juan and make our way to the cruise terminal and on to the ship. Once I was up, I quickly went into the shower, and gathered up the last minute belongings that I left out and had to remember to make sure to pack. Now as everyone knows, that isn’t always the case and usually I leave things behind (i.e. iPhone charger going to Asia in 07). This time, it appears that everything made it into their appropriate spots in the appropriate bags. I was actually proud of myself this time managing to only take one suitcase and my blue and black Northface backpack on this trip. The trip consisted of a 7 night cruise on Carnival’s Victory Fun Ship, leaving from San Juan, Puerto Rico and visiting several magnificent islands of the Southern Caribbean.

Mom had been nice enough to take Nicole and I to the airport and we thanked her for that. This also enabled me to stop along the way for some breakfast and lunch to take along on our journey to the Caribbean. So, naturally we stopped at Best Bagels in Great Neck, NY. The name says it all as they easily have the best bagels I have ever had. I picked up some sandwiches for Nicole and I and we were on our way to grab Nicole. When we got to Nicole’s she came down with her ginormous tote carry-on bag that she was so adamant in wanting to take with her. When I grabbed it to put it in the trunk, I exclaimed “damn this thing is heavy,” she smiled and made a small hand gesture signaling for me to just put the bag in the car and shut up; while this carry-on was big and heavy my main concern all along with the size of her suitcase. For fear that she would be bringing all her belongings on this trip, I suggested that she drop it off the night before, allowing me to weigh in and measure it to make sure it was in compliance with AirTran baggage policies. Her bag weighed in at a cool 47-48 pounds, a mere 2-3 pounds under the 50 pound limit. Mine had weighed in at 42 pounds, which included my toiletry bag weighing an ung-dly 5 pounds! I also attempted to measure her suitcase using the dimensions according to AirTran, but I wasn’t quite sure if I had done it correct.

Upon arriving at New York’s LaGuardia airport, easily the most disgustingly looking airport I’ve ever seen, we were able to use the self check-in feature since we had checked in the night before, purchased our bags and gotten our boarding passes. It was going smooth until the girl checking us in thought out loud and said “I wonder if the bag is 62 inches.” I looked at Nicole and she knew this wasn’t going to be good. I had measured the bag last night but once the woman broke out her tape measure, I knew this wouldn’t be good. After adding up the dimensions she kind of hinted that it was a tad over, but made it seem like she would let it go. Then she got smart and said “let me have someone double check it.” I then said to her “it looks fine, you said its under, just let it through.” She said “I can’t we get audited and if they find out it was me who let it go I’ll get in trouble.” At this point I was getting annoyed. It appeared this woman was on her high horse and taking advantage of the small amount of power she bestowed over us. It was like she was the bag g-d holding Nicole’s in bag purgatory. As it turned out Nicole’s bag was 1 – 1.5 inches over AirTran baggage limits, costing us $49 in oversized baggage fees. As a note to people wondering how strict AirTran is. It appears they are sticklers for weight and size limits of your bags. They have expensive overage fees so be careful when packing. Make sure your bags are in full compliance and with some weight and room to spare.

After forking out the $49 dollars and wondering why the woman was being such a biatch, we proceeded to security and to the gate. Man, LaGuardia just flat out sucks. Not only is in aesthically unpleasing for both the inside and outside, but the shops are terrible, it is dirty, the gate areas are old and unpleasant and the people working there are equally unpleasant. Plain and simple, this airport sucks and it’s a shame that it is a major New York Area airport.

The highlight of this part of the day might have been right before boarding. Apparently, like many budget, low-fare airlines as well as some of the bigger ones, the flight was oversold. This means that AirTran actually sold more seats on the flight then the plane has. They gamble is simple; people will either miss the flight, not show up or rearrange their plans leaving enough seats on the plane. Well in this case AirTran lost. Not only was the plane oversold, but everyone and their mother showed up for the flight. The flight was sold oversold that the gate attendant working for AirTran had to offer one of the best compensation packages I had seen traveling. At first the guy started at $300 worth of AirTran flights. Nobody flinched. Then he went to $400 and a business class upgrade (not big whoopee). Then the guy went up to $500, a business class upgrade on the next flight and a business class flight on your rescheduled flight to Atlanta. Upon that offer, some dude jumped up and said I’ll take it! This was the third and final person AirTran needed to get bumped in order to have the flight go. I’m pretty sure they would have upped the offer more if no one budged because they had a few hundred people waiting to leave.

Once on the plane, Nicole and I grabbed our seats, two on the left side, near the front of plane. There was a good amount of leg space and foot space and our carry-ons fit nicely in the overhead compartments. One thing I didn’t know is that AirTran eliminates rows 4-9 on most of their planes so by being in row 14, we were pretty close to the front which is always nice for deplaning. This flight was scheduled to take about 2.15 hours and we managed to leave on time and arrive on time. Our second flight was scheduled to depart at 1215, giving us about an hour to get from one gate to another. Since Atlanta is a huge finger airport (meaning terminals are like fingers and getting from one to another can take time (even with the train running between them), I was a little nervous about how much time we would really have. Well, we didn’t have all that much because after being sent to the wrong gate/terminal by the AirTran employee directing people to connections, we were then shuffled to another one and only waited 10 minutes or so before the flight to Puerto Rico boarded. The plane on this flight was larger as it had three across for both rows. The last one was 2 and 3 and we were lucky enough to have the row with the 2s. This time we had aisle, middle with a random for the window. We were hoping, like most times that non-fat and smelly person was sitting in our row. As it turns out we got lucky, the woman sitting in the window seat was non-smelly and non-fat and did not say a word, nor did she get up for the entire flight. She did speak to us briefly after the flight was over to give us some tips in San Juan, none of which appeared to be true (mainly that the airport was 30 minutes from the cruise terminal, it actually took about 15 no traffic).

Our entire trip rode of these flights being on time from take off to landing. While we had given ourselves about a 7 hour window, even the slightest delay would cause me unnecessary odgeda (anxiety) and a rise in blood pressure. Today was no different from any other day of traveling where time is of the essence and problems happen. When we landed in San Juan the pilot got on the horn and informed us that there was a problem with the plane at our gate, there were no other gates available and that it could be “a while” before we could deplane. At that moment my heart began to race, blood pressure began to rise and my anxiety soared through the roof. The only thought on my mind was the thought of missing the cruise ship and our trip being ruined. Nicole knew it and opted wisely to get let me rant, rave and stew in my own anxiety. Luckily, the problem wasn’t mechanical or electrical like the time I was stuck in London for hours when the jetway lost power and they couldn’t detach the plane. Apparently, this time the flight crew was stuck in traffic and couldn’t get to the airport in time. They were waiting for the crew to arrive and to board the aircraft. Upon the arrival, boarding of the passengers would take place and we could get off this plane. Luckily the total delay was about 30 minutes, giving us plenty of time to get to the ship. Disaster averted.

After we got our bags, found the carnival team to transfer us to the cruise terminal and tagged our checked luggage, we were on our way to the cruise terminal. Now a note about the transfers. I think it is absolutely worth it to buy the transfer to and from the airport that the cruise offers. I think it was $25 round trip for both of us. We were greeted at baggage, taken directly to the ship in a nice airconditioned bus, no fuss, no mess no haggling with taxi drivers. It was fast, easy and efficient. While I am unsure how much a taxi is from San Juan Airport to the cruise terminal near old san juan I can imagine that it could end up being more than $25 each way, especially if there is traffic (which San Juan is known for), plus you have to find a taxi, and not get ripped off.

Once we were dropped off at the terminal it looked like mayhem. Thousands of people were lined up down the block from the ship just waiting to get into the cruise terminal. We got on line, threw our sun glasses on and stared at the Carnival Victory, a fun ship, snapped some photos and just couldn’t wait to get onboard. It was a line to a line to a line to a line to a line to a line to a line and about 12 hours until we stepped foot on the ship from when I picked up Nicole. Even on the ship there were lines and we decided to walk up the stairs to our room on the 7th floor, middle – back of the ship. Upon entry, we were both extremely happy with our room. King-sized bed, nice sized bathroom and shower, beautiful balcony with chairs, couch and ample closest and draw space. Yes this was my fourth cruise and besides the room my family had on our first one to Alaska this was by far the best yet. We did the tour, started unpacking our carry-on stuff, enjoyed the scenes from the balcony and I tried to calm Nicole down from worrying about when our luggage would be arriving. After relaxing for a bit we were both hungry. We weren’t sure if the dining room was open or what the deal was, so we decided to hit up the 9th floor buffet which ran alongside the ship near the pools.

We also picked up the unlimited soda package (which is highly worth it if you are a soda drinker. $42 each plus 15% gratuity and we drank our soda faces off during this trip). We got some food from the buffet, which turned out to be really good, some desert (froyo in a delicious sugar cone) and walked around the ship. We had a drink (or 2), and waited for the ship to leave the port. The ship ended up leaving the port a little late due to a major traffic jam which prevented some passengers from getting to the ship. Apparently what took us only 15 minutes, took some people over 2 hours to get from the airport to the cruise terminal. The cruise ship was nice enough to wait for these people. Even though we would be leaving late, they told us we weren’t going to arrive that late off the scheduled time to St. Thomas (USVI) our first stop on the cruise. After enjoying the warm breeze of the ship moving through the Caribbean sea and a little gambling at the casino (which wasn’t that small, had about 15 tables, one online poker table, 2 roulette, 2 craps, and ample slots), it was time to call it a night. We wanted to get up early and make sure we took advantage of our day in wonderful St. Thomas! As usual I had a great night sleep. Cruises and overnight trains rock me to sleep like a baby and this was no exception.


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