Jan 5, 2011

The Travel Nightmare

[caption id="attachment_37" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Outside the Marriott in San Juan"][/caption]

Many of you have been asking what happened on our 3 day attempt to reach Dominica.  It was long and frustrating at times, but overall was not as horrible as it sounds.  I will give you the brief recap!  For starters, here was our itinerary: Richmond to Philadelphia to San Juan, Puerto Rico to Antigua to Dominica.  Yeah -- it's really not surprising that we couldn't do all that in one day.  So here's what really happened:

Wednesday, December 29th

Awake at 3:30 am to leave for the airport by 4, to arrive with enough time to check in for our 5:55 am flight to Philadelphia.  Our flight is delayed an hour due to crew rest requirements.  Stand in line for an hour to try to get rebooked so we don't miss our connections.  Flights in Phillie get rebooked, and we wait at our gate to board the plane at 6:30.  Flight delayed further; re-booked again.  Finally we board the plane.  Sit there for an hour while the computer malfunctions.  Get off plane and get re-booked.  Mechanic from Newport News is called; flight delayed 2 hours.  Flight delayed an additional hour.  Flight delayed another additional hour.  Stand in line for 3 hours while our flights are rebooked, again, again, and again.  We are told that there are "no flights."  Fabulous.  Maybe we can leave by Friday, we are told.  Finally, we get booked on flights for the following day.  7 hours later, we leave the Richmond airport and go home and sleep for the rest of the day.  The good news is that we were able to be surprise guests at Ann and Julien's wedding soiree which we were upset about having to miss.  We were actually so glad everything got cancelled so that we could go to the party!!!! Yay!!!!

Thursday, December 30

Same sh*t, different day.  (Awake at 3:30 am to leave for the airport by 4, to arrive with enough time to check in for our 5:55 am flight to Philadelphia.)  Boarded plane successfully this time.  In Philadelphia, we arrived at our gate just in time to board our flight to Puerto Rico (which was a crazy flight, by the way.  Everyone spoke Spanish, and the whole plane ride, all the Spanish-speaking passengers -- basically everything except for Charlie and me -- talked the entire ride to the extent that it sounded like we were in a restaurant.  I feel like planes are usually quiet... not Puerto Rican planes.  That was comical).  We sat on the runway in Philadelphia for 3 hours -- the plane's wings were frozen so a mechanic was called.  The mechanic came and fixed some stuff and then we waited in line for 10 years before we finally took off.  Then we flew for 4 hours to Puerto Rico.

When we arrived in Puerto Rico, we has already missed our flight to Antigua, which would then take us to Dominica.  There were no more flights to Dominica, but we were told by Liat Airlines (the Caribbean airline that we switched to in PR) that we could check in at their desk at 6:30 to get our flights rebooked, and that we would have to spend the night in Antigua.  Our bags?  We were told that they had been checked through all the way to Dominica.  Charlie and I decided to talk to US Air to try to get hotel accommodations for the evening since we wouldn't be making it to Dominica.  US Air told us that our bags had not actually been checked all the way through to Dominica (apparently that was illegal) and that we had to retrieve them at baggage claim, and then go to the US Air check in desk to get rebooked and compensated.  We checked baggage claim and found all 4 of our bags strewn around the airport.  We were also approached by an elderly Puerto Rican man who tried to sell us medical textbooks (we passed).  We dragged our bags upstairs and stood in line at the US Air counter.  Here we met 3 other Ross students who were all in the same boat.  We were finally all rebooked for the same flights the following day (although we didn't get any new tickets) and given vouchers for a hotel, meals, and transportation.  The hotel was a Marriott in a cool area.  It was super nice and the hotel restaurant was really nice, too.  We had dinner, showered, and passed out from exhaustion.

Friday, December 31 (New Year's Eve)

We woke up, had breakfast, and went to the airport with the other Ross students.  When we check in at the Liat counter, we are told that our flights had actually not been rebooked.  30 minutes later we were rebooked on the flights (thank goodness -- I am pretty sure I would have started to lose it if we hadn't gotten on the plane!!!) and going through security.  Charlie and I got the special TSA pat down/molestation, but it did get us through the line faster, so it wasn't too bad.  We boarded a small plane to Antigua and had a quick flight.  We de-boarded in Antigua and waited in a long line outside with all the other Ross students (about 20 at this point).  A woman started handing our boarding passes by passing along piles of paper and telling us to find our names in the pile.  We couldn't find ours.  The woman asked our name and we told her.  She replied, "Wilkinson! I've been looking for you for 3 days!"  Yep.  We were then ushered through security and then into the most chaotic airport I have ever seen.  Almost immediately we were boarding our plane to Dominica (we had to board by pushing our way through the gift shop and then back outside to the Tarmac -- a little confusing).  We were served fruit punch juice boxes on our 30 minute flight, and finally we landed in Dominica!!!!!!!  It was exciting.

[caption id="attachment_38" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Our bags loaded on the back of a pick-up truck"][/caption]

We breezed through customs and immigration and retrieved 3 of our 4 bags.  We waited in line to file a claim for the lost bag.  Meanwhile, the bags that had made it were piled high on the back of a pick up truck, which were then wrapped up with a tarp and ropes.  An hour later, another plane landed from Antigua, and we got our bag, which was thrown on top of the truck.  We boarded a van and drove for an hour up windy mountain roads until we reached Dominica at last.  We herded into a huge barn-like school building where we were given chili dogs and fruit punch.  We also could make a phone call home.  Then our landlord picked us up and took us to our apartment, which was all good, until he tried to scam us and tell us that we had to pay and additional $100 a month since there were 2 of us living in the apartment, which he claimed he didn't know (which is entirely untrue).  Don't worry, Charlie told him off.

We spent the rest of the evening and most of the following day in an exhausted haze... but have since gotten lots of sleep are really enjoying life here (minus the landlord issue -- we pay our rent today, so we'll see what happens).

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