Ah, the time has come for the vacation synopsis. Since I have only been at work for an hour and have managed to complete my homework, I have plenty of time to relive my adventures at sea! So let us begin:
Saturday July 26
It all started early that Saturday morning, shortly after going to bed. (We had a party at our house and people were there until around 2). I was running a few minutes late, trying to get those last minute items shoved in my well-vacced suitcase. We picked up Bill and had to make a few pitstops along the way. The plan was to be at the airport at 8:15... we got there about 8:45, but still plenty of time to spare. I stood in line at the curbside checkin for about 5 minutes, and was reminded that for my international flight, I mush check-in inside. So I walked in to find a line wrapping around the back of the desks. I kindly asked a Delta agent how long the line was taking and if she thought I would make it for my 10:15 departure (it was about 9 by this point). She said that it should be no problem. As I stood in line, other agents came through announcing flight numbers to exotic destinations like Tokyo and Aruba. Yet no word on flight 773 to St. Maarten. As 9:30 approached and the front of the line did not, I began to grow apprehensive. I finally decided it was time to be the annoying customer in line and ask about my flight.
"Excuse me sir, can you help me with flight 773?"
"That flight closed at 9:15." man walks off
WHAT?!?!?! That flight is CLOSED?!?! Get your a** back here and explain that to me! According to this horrible man, my flight was closed and that's all there was to that. No, let me help you figure out how to get there, nothing. Just a simple statement and move on to the next person! Boy was I enraged!
So I found another agent. "Excuse me, that man just said my flight was closed. But I've been in this line since 9 and no one ever mentioned this flight."
"I'm sorry ma'am. Let me see what I can do for you. You know you're supposed to be here two hours before departure for all international flights."
Well, duh, let's stand in line FOREVER so you people don't screw up. If I'm in line before the flight closes, why does it matter if I've been there for an hour or 15 minutes?!? And what about the guy outside who noticed where I was going, but made no mention of the flight closing and suggesting I go to the first class line? What time were the flights closing that were going to those exotic locations? 10:30?... 11?... Who knows, all I know is that my flight was never called for and I got shafted in Atlanta!
Well, I finally got to a desk... "yup, that flight's closed." Only thing we can do is re-ticket you for somewhere else. Ok, um, San Juan? Hassle, hassle, hassle... "here's your ticket to San Juan. Flight departs at 3:30." Bye, bye...
FREAK OUT?!?! Now what do I do... I need to call mom and dad to tell them that I'm not getting on that plane, but I don't have an international calling card. Hmmm... store... calling cards... all domestic. Wait a second... Hello, Sprint, what are your international rates to St. Maarten? You can't activate that service for three or four days? Nevermind...
Hello, AT&T, what are your international rates to St. Maarten? You don't know?!?! (Incoming call... mom)... Bye, bye...
Hi mom... bad news. She's asking me if I'm getting on the plane and I just burst into tears telling her the whole story about the terrible airline people that never mentioned MY flight! I'm stuck in Atlanta, and I'm not so sure I'll be getting out. And I was really looking forward to this vacation. How can I go back to school now... everyone thinks I'm going on vacation.... She tells me to go to the Delta information desk and get a red jacket to help me figure it out. Bye mom...
I go to the information desk. But it's not there! According to this woman, it's been moved. Well, DUH, I figured that much out! Where did it go... where can I get information? Go pick up one of the phones. (obviously...)
Pick up phone... explain situation to reservationist... start sobbing... reservationist tells me there's no way I'm getting on the plane to San Juan... gee thanks chic from the desk earlier... way to pay attention to the customer's needs! What about St. Thomas, reservationist? Yeah, St. Thomas looks good... 11:45 departure. Pick up your ticket from the guy at the counter.
Hey guy at counter, don't I need one of these green tickets too? Are you sure... ok... well, let me surrender my San Juan tickets cause they usually make me do that anyway.
Off through security, and to the gate. Check out status... ok, still don't have an international card. They probably sell one on the international concourse. Head out there... no deal, buddy, same stupid AT&T card (do they have an airport monopoly or something?) Pit stop in the food court for a hot dog before watching the monitor. Hurrah! We have a seat! Call mom... board plane...
Sit back and relax for three hours on plane to St. Thomas... sleep (some.)
Arrive St. Thomas... this looks familar... comfortably familiar. Head out to baggage claim... pick up bags... head to ticket counter. Ok, how to get to St. Maarten. ID-90 to St. Maarten on Liat... nope, sorry lady, flights are overbooked all week... big week in the Carribbean! Ok, let's try ID-90 to San Juan, to St. Maarten. Yeah American Airlines. And thank you laid back Delta employees for giving me an ID-90!!! (Boo US Delta employees for not giving them to my mom the week before) Problem... can't get the computer to issue an ID-90 to St. Maarten from San Juan... you know what, no problem, I'll just get it in San Juan. Call mom... here's the new plan... see you around 10:30 tonight (this is the longest day ever!)
Security, wait for plane... board... fly to San Juan... (Graham's least favorite airport)
San Juan... not sooo, bad (yet) Baggage claim... Delta counter... NOONE there... they might be at dinner... good idea...
McDonalds... Quarter Pounder con queso... mmmm, tastes like home. Back to Delta counter. Two more people waiting... still no Delta peeps. Calling Delta... "Yes, I'm at the San Juan airport and no one is at the desk and I need an ID-90."
"I'm sorry miss, we can't do that over the phone."
"Well, there are two other patrons here at the counter, could you see if you could locate someone to help us?"
"Let me check..."
"Ma'am, there might be someone at the baggage claim desk, but that's about all I can do for you." gee, thanks Bye, bye...
American counter... "How much is a ticket to St. Maarten tonight? $141? I'll take it. Can I change before you check in my bags? Thanks!"
Security (again)... wait... board... we're off...
Finally arrive at St. Maarten (the Dutch side)... customs (BTW... YOU'VE BEEN INFECTED WITH SARS greets you at the customs booth, with a much smaller disclaimer that as an international traveler, you might have been exposed to the syndrome). Clear customs (walk on through) and finally see mom and dad! I have arrived.
Off to the kick a** hotel... separate rooms from the snoring!... Time for BED!!
Day rating: HORRIBLE!
Sunday, July 27
Finally, we've made it to the second day! Breakfast at the hotel restaurant, everything is open, and then packing up to move into one room while we await word that we can board our boat. It's going to be awhile, so we hang out at the pool. We can get on the boat... still hang at the pool. Mom and Dad have to make a run to the grocery... we'll wait til you get back to eat lunch. Two hours go by, still no mom and dad... sit in restaurant, waiting... waiting... waiting... embarrassing!
Finally they return... lunch at last. (Not that it was marvelous) Showers on board, and then scout the area for dinner. We've eaten too many meals in the hotel restaurant. Oh yeah, the marina is just on this side of the French side. So all the other restaurants (that are still open at 7) are French cuisine. Lobster bisque... mmm... then again, not so good. By the way, we did spend some time watching the end of the Tour de France on French television... couldn't understand a word... thought maybe the nice French people at the restaurant could tell us if Lance won... we needed an interpreter to ask that question... End of the meal... FREE SHOTS!! for everyone...
Time to head to bed on the yacht before sailing to St. Barts in the morning.
Day rating: Okay
Monday, July 28
Wake up... btw, the sun comes up down here at like 4:30 because these people refuse to observe Daylight Savings Time (freaks). Have to have a Sunsail dude cruise us out of the marina... and we're off...
I've got the bracelets on and the dramamine in... I'm good to go... maybe not... must lie down. I know you people out there are yelling at me, just like Graham, that lying down is not the way to go when you're seasick, but let me tell you... You're Wrong! At least for me, lying down and closing my eyes, the typical cardinal sin for vertigo, is the only way to feel better. Arrive at midpoint for lunch... ah, lunch! Food... sandwich... yummy!
And we're off again, and I'm down again... finally, safe harbor in Gustavia, St. Bartholomew. Dad is off to clear customs... 30 min later, dad is back to kidnap mom and her wallet to pay for customs (I guess they don't take American Express or Visa). Graham and Maggie and I are embibing, waiting for their eminent return.
They return and it's time to head ashore to visit the great harbor of Gustavia. Shopping galore, but nothing that grabs anyone's attention. Stop at the market, return to boat. Dinner? How about pizza! Strange little French (everywhere seems to be French down here, but customs doesn't seem to notice) place... wierd pizza... issues with "ice water."... again the free shots "to help us sleep"... off to bed.
Day rating: Good
Tuesday, July 29
Wake up... trying to decide if we should stay in Gustavia or sail... there's really nowhere to sail, at least that's relatively close by, so we'll stay. Fam decides to rent scooters and motor around the island. I decide to do some Greek. Work on Greek all morning while they motor away and then return for lunch. They convince me to join them for the afternoon session of scooter-ing and so I hang on for dear life, with a riding helmet strapped to my head! These scooters don't have much horsepower, so you have to super speed up in order to make it up the steep hills! I thought I was going to die at least 27 times! But it was cool to see the island... looked really pretty. The airport was right on the other side of this hill and the planes had to basically dive over the mountain, hit the run-way and stop before running into the ocean. Unfortunately we didn't get to see one actually land (or take-off) but we saw a lot of them head over the mountain from the harbor.
We did a little shopping where Graham and Maggie both find something exciting. Another trip to the grocery. Back on board, we deicde to sail around to another cove for the evening. This cove contained a house built by the Rockefeller's and a strange building that looks like it was pulled off the top of the Eiffel Tower. There were moorings in this cove, but we decided to also drop a stern anchor to stay put. Cooked up some quesedillias for dinner, and watched the sky before heading to bed.
Day rating: Pretty Good
Wednesday, July 30
Wake up (they all start like that, eh?). It rained a little last night, so I didn't sleep too great, but it's all good. We decide to sail to Philipsburg, St. Maarten (the Dutch side) today, so we get underway after a brief snorkeling adventure. (I can't figure out how to snorkle, so I just hung out on the boat) Ate lunch before getting underway, and then made the treck across to St. Maarten. As the harbor came into sight, we saw two cruise ships, one Carnival and one Celebrity. We had heard talk from the Carnival Glory on the radio, and there it was in the harbor! The harbor was really shallow, so we were pretty far from shore, double anchored. Jumped on the dingy and headed ashore for some shopping. And man was this the place to shop. Graham finally found a digital camera (after looking for at least a year) and we both stocked up on dutyfree alcohol. Headed back to the dingy... WHAT?!?! It's been punctured by the shady broken down dock. Dang it!! Dad and Graham brave a ride back to the boat with the alcohol while Mom and Maggie and I wait on the dock. We're supposed to go to the grocery store, but somehow that isn't accomplished. Dad returns, picks up Maggie and demands that we go to the store! We go, and I'm desparately trying to make it a quick run, when Graham shows up. He's come back to pick us up. Since we know that this is going to be the last trip in the dingy today, we pick up hot dogs for dinner and other essentials and head back to the boat. Dad has been on the radio to Sunsail, but they're closed. The ironic thing is that we're on the same island, just a different harbor. But we can't get a new boat until morning. Fix dinner, hang out, and off to bed.
Day rating: Okay
Thursday, July 31
Wake up. Lot's of comotion last night... anchoring just isn't a great way to stay in one place. Plus, it rained. The plan is to head over to the marina, but not go in. They'll bring us another dingy, and we'll just sail around to Marigot. So we head out and everything goes ok at the marina, and we make it to Marigot. Grab a bite before mom and dad are off to find out about flights home on Saturday. The drinks are out again as we wait for their return.... and wait... and wait...
Finally they return, thoroughly frustrated with their attempts to make an international call on a local phone and vice versa. Apparently nothing is easy down here. Dad had trouble filling out the all-French customs forms in St. Barts and now the issue with making phone calls. Frustrated, we decide that eating in Marigot is a good idea. We all get ready for dinner and then dingy over to the beautiful dock. We pick out a restaurant that is vegetarian friendly (for Maggie) and have a wonderful evening at dinner. There was lobster, steak, 2 different fish, and pizza as well as assorted beverages. It was quite tasty. And while searching for a Maggie-friendly restaurant, mom and I had found a quaint little French bakery that we were thinking would be a fun stop for breakfast in the morning. And then it happened. We walked back to the dock and alas, our dingy was no where to be found. "WHAT?!?! Someone stole our dingy?!! This is outrageous!" We went to what we thought was the police station only to realize it was just immigration. We found the police station, but got no answer... apparently if no blood is shed in this town, the police don't show up. We were all furious, as I'm sure you can imagine. And how the sheol were we going to get back to our boat. It wasn't even that far from shore this time, but far enough that there's was no way to get to it without a boat. The police weren't even available to help us with that! A nice French family appeared and my mom dropped the bomb on them and they were kind enough to take us back to our boat. Apparently they had had a dingy stolen from this harbor and weren't taking any chances this time... their boat was chained to the dock. We tried to call Sunsail, but again it was too late. Dad was appalled, because in his 40 years of sailing, he's never had anything stolen. Mom remembers reading in the crusing guide that there was a rash of thefts, mainly targeted at dingys and empty boats in this harbor, but fails to mention it. The guide tells us to ask our charter company about it. As if we would have read the guide before arriving in this stupid little harbor!
Dad goes immediately to bed, totally pissed off at the situation. The rest of us sit up and gripe about the injustice of it all, the horrible management of this town, and our plans to build a website in order to inform people of the problems with Marigot! We finally go to bed as well...
Day rating: Quite possibly more horrible than Saturday
Friday, August 1
Wake up to the sound of the motor... we have apparently docked in order to file the police report. The police have a hard time translating dad's occupation... apparently they don't have a word for construction. Things in France just miraculously appear on the scene. We've notified Sunsail of the theft... that's about all we've accomplished. No trip to the French bakery... at this point all the good in Marigot has been forgotten!
Take the long way back to the marina, just to get in some sailing. Dad thinks we're going to eat in the roughest seas we've encountered all week... we remind him that there's a nice large harbor on the way back (Philipsburg) that we can stop in. As Philipsburg appears on the horizon, we notice what appears to be a very large cruise ship in harbor. Once we get in, there are three, but two pale in comparison to the monstrosity that is Royal Carribbean! The other two appear to be local cruise lines. Oh how I wish I was on a Royal Carribbean cruise at this point!
We eat a quick bite and then head around to the marina. Dad gets to sail us into the harbor, straight to the fuel dock. We fill up and the Sunsail guy speedily docks us and we begin the process of preparing to leave. There are concerns that we will be charged for the theivery, but we manage to get out (so far) without paying for it. We shower, cook leftovers on board and head to bed.
Saturday, August 2
Wake up... super early... dang non-observers of DST! Dad is convinced that things must occur at certain times in order for us to be ready when the cab arrives at noon. We start showering around 10, and everyone is ready by 11... and then we get to sit in the soooo-not-air-conditioned lobby of the hotel for an hour waiting for the cab. Basically, it was a waste to take a shower.
The cab arrives, and we blast the air conditioning as we begin the 30 minutes journey to the airport. We arrive at the airport, to the un-air-conditioned reception area. They manually search our check bags before we can step to the desk and when we do the airport nightmare begins again. Apparently the woman back in Atlanta had cancelled my entire itinerary when I didn't get on flight 773, and there was nothing that said we had paid for the return segment. After about an hour, we got it all taken care of, along with ID-90's for everyone in case we didn't make the flight. Stupid Delta in St. Maarten closes before the plane even takes off, so if people get stranded, there's nothing they can do til next week. That's right... next week. Delta only flys from Atlanta to St. Maarten on Saturdays. You miss it, you're screwed!
Well, we sat in the airport forever, and we missed it. We had to go back to the desk to get our bags and then get re-checked at American in order to check-in there. We met a really tall guy (American) who was trying to find out how much alcohol he could take back and we all chatted for awhile. Turns out he, his brother and his father all work for United, so he knows exactly what we're going through.
We finally get checked in for St. Maarten to San Juan and get on the plane. We arrive in San Juan around 7 and think there's a hotel attached to the airport we can stay in. Turns out it's not open yet, and we have to take a cab to a hotel that dad saw from the plane. We get there and before we unload, we find out that this hotel is booked. The valet is kind enough to find a hotel for us, and the cabbie is kind enough to take up there. We are out of cash at this point, so mom runs in to cash a traveler's check to pay the kind cabbie and it takes a few minutes because she has to get the room before they'll cash the check. Dad pays the guy, probably a lot more than he needed to, and we off to our hotel room.
We walk in the door and there's a living room and a table. I see a doorway to the left and think that there is a room on the other side... turns out there was a hallway on the other side that led to three bedrooms and two bathrooms. We called Pizza Hut and got pizza and Pepsi (sorry, guys) and watched movies until bed. I had to repack my suitcase and re-figure my dress plans for the following day. Mom approved my choice and everything else was securly vac-packed. Mags and I read until we fell asleep.
Day rating: pretty crappy
Sunday, August 3
Wake up at the crack a** of dawn, because apparently one must get up at 4:30 to catch a 7:50 flight! Had a piece of leftover pizza and some pepsi for breakfast before heading downstairs. The hotel would not order us a cab for 5:30, but told us that if a cab wasn't waiting they would call one. Well, we had 14 bags between the five of us and, well, five of us, to pack into the cab. A cabbie with a crown victoria swore he could fit us all in, but we didn't think it was possible, so we asked for a van. About 5minutes later the van finally showed up, but the tailgate wouldn't open. This cabbie swore we could get everything in the van through the sliding door... we told him to get lost. We ordered ANOTHER van, and we're now running late. About 5 more minutes pass and still no van. The crown vic cabbie has returned, and we decide to try it. Shock of all shocks we fit! It's off to the airport, PRONTO! We arrive, get in line, only to find out that our bags have to go through an unattended x-ray machine and get a sticker, as part of the USDA screening... whatever... we finally are in line and get squared away for the Song flight to Orlando. Again, issues with Delta and my non-dependant status. Stupid airline... Amy is fine as long as she's a student. Oh well.
We make the flight, no problem. Song was a breath of fresh air! I got to sleep, sort of, in the back row, all stretched out. It was exciting and pretty and we're excited about flying Song again... too bad it is still run by the idiots at Delta!
Arrive in Orlando. Attempt the next flight to Atlanta... sorry, overbooked...
Decide that there is plenty of time to grab a bite to eat. Burger King... onion rings! Wait, I'm sorry we don't stock onion rings at our airport location. (retards) Oh well... Burger's it is... hey cool, they have veggie burgers... but Maggie refuses to eat them, so her lunch consists of fries. Dad wants a shake, but sorry we don't have those here either.
Lunch done, we await the next flight (1:10) and decide to bump priorities. Dad is the only one that gets bumped cause Graham, who really needs to get home to move, doesn't have anymore. Dad gets on the plane, with our luggage, apparently. Bye dad....
Awaiting next flight... 2:20... flight delayed... flight arrives... we all get on... WAIT!!! Message to dad not to leave airport. Get on plane... relax!
Arrive in Atlanta... look, there's dad, he got our messages. No, he's just smart!
Baggage claim (thankfully they checked our bags through Orlando, so this is the first trip today). Graham and Mom must head directly to Auburn to get moving, so Dad, Maggie and I ride Marta home.
The day is mostly over, although I'm not in bed until 2, making this a 22 hour day.
Day rating: OVER!
Trip rating: um, let's just say, next time, if we're going to the Carribbean, it won't be back to the Leeward Islands. Although next time, I think we're booking with Moorings out of Baja! ...
Suggestions: NEVER GO TO MARIGOT!!
Glad to be back? Um, not to the Greek... but to the glory that is the US, you bet! (not to mention my own bed)
Number of family members killed: almost one
Next time: Leave the dingy at home!
And, that, my friends, is how we do vacation!