Friday, January 8, 2016

Happy Endings???

We've arrived alive in the BVIs, ...... Sort of.
Our journey south this year started out so well, we actually managed to get all 7 pieces of luggage crammed into Wendy's car on top of her and Elmers luggage for their 5 weeks in Florida.
The trip down was great except for a few traffic jams. We stopped at that fabulous hotel in Elkins Pittsburgh, that had the wonder Christmas displays and arrived in Florida on the third day. 
Hotel in Elkins

Once there, I got in 2 shopping trips to Bealls (my favorite Florida store) then we had a really fun New Year's Eve at the clubhouse with Mom, Marion and George, Wendy and Elmer.
New Years
Thanks for the ride to the Airport, Wendy and Elmer, we arrived with plenty of time for a cold one  and a magazine. 
So far so good, right!
Once we headed for the taxiway, a shudder made Gord and I look at each other with "deer in headlights eyes" then almost immediately the pilot informed us the brakes were seized and that we were returning to the ramp. After 2 hrs waiting for a gate to open up, by 8 pm we streamed back into the terminal. They promised us hotel and food vouchers and rebooking  on a flight tomorrow. 
I have never seen such chaos and incompetence as this fiasco by American Airlines.
After 4+ hours standing In line, they claimed there were no more hotels available anywhere in Miami, but they would give us dinner vouchers and breakfast vouchers and get us out tomorrow on  a special flight.  I should mention that our flight was only about 1/4 full and it was a 4+ hour wait for not much of anything, with slow, snarky personnel, little information and no questions answered. It turns out that there were lots of hotels available and we ended up booking our own at our own expense, with a $40.00 cab ride each way on top of it. So much for customer service and I'm even an Advantage member.  The worst service ever, I really wonder how they could ever handle a full plane load?

Miami Airport at 1 am

Back to the airport in the morning for the rescheduled flight at 10 am for which we were told to use our original boarding pass.  I should stop here and tell you that it appears as if everyone in Miami has decided they should travel today. It's nothing short of a zoo, with huge long, slow lines everywhere. But we can breeze right through as our luggage is still onboard yesterday's flight and we have our boarding passes. Wrong, true to American Airlines incompetence, we can't get thru security with a boarding pass with yesterday's date.  After being shuffled from line to line, we finally grabbed a supervisor and begged and threatened till he finally checked and passed us through.  
Here we go again, a plane 1/4 full, waiting for clearance. I did mention that all of Miami is flying today, didn't I? So, it's hurry up and wait. 
The flight crew was just the opposite of customer service and were bending over backwards to make it up to us. Drinks and big cups of nuts while we wait. 
Crunch, crunch, snap and the tooth I had just spent $400.00 repairing, gave up a large chunk. I'm really not sure where it went, same place as the nuts, I suspect.  Gord thinks I should be on the watch for it cause he says he can Crazy glue it back in, but that's never going to happen.
No mechanical issues on this flight and we land and head for the ferry.  Our bags get checked, loaded onto  the ferry and we grabbed a spot on the bench for more waiting.
I'll stop here and let you know that this travel thing must be contagious as everyone in St. Thomas seems to be wanting to travel today and they're all at the ferry terminal and it's packed.  There are 4- to 5 ferries all going about the same time as ours at 4 pm  and the staff there seem to think that we're all born with the knowledge of which ferry is ours and from what spot on the dock it will depart. That would be pretty clairvoyant of us considering they never do it the same way twice.  
You guessed it! Our luggage went to Virgin Gorda and we did not!  
The ferries don't say and the clerks do not announce boarding, so it's a guess and our ferry decided, because it was so crowed with people getting on the fast ferry to Road Town, Tortola at the loading platform,  that they would just bypass it and leave from way down past the chained off restricted area.  Without us!
Now what?
Phone the hotel, as they'll  close after the ferry departs. Call the car rental, let them know we'll be late and beg them to get our luggage from customs and lock it into our waiting rental car. (you can do that here,) they pass you through customs, then you go get your luggage from the parking lot where they pile it in big heaps once it comes off the ferry.  But, what if there is no one coming through customs to claim it? Will it stay stacked in the middle of the parking lot in the rain? If so, for how long? That task accomplished.

Gord at the Ferry Dock beside the No entry chain where our ferry left us. He's trying to convince the car rental on Virgin Gorda to pick up our luggage from customs for us.

Now the thought turns to how we will get there!
The next ferry is to Road Town and leaves at 5pm and if we get very very lucky there is one last ferry from Road Town to Virgin Gorda at 6:45 pm that we Might be able to connect with.
The ferry driver tried very hard to get us, and the 3 others that also missed the ferry,  there on time, we were plowing up a wake up the side of the boat that was going over the bow as we sped along in the pitch dark. We made it! it's only 6:25 as we turn into the harbour.
On no, we jumped for joy too soon, remember that late, jam packed fast ferry to Road Town, that took our boarding space? Well at least half of that crowd is still lined up waiting for immigration and customs all the way out the building. We'll never make it now. Plus our ferry can not open the doors until all the luggage piled In heaps all over the boat is unloaded.   We wait, the clock is ticking and the line is not moving. 
Finally at 6:40 they released us off the boat, but the line is still out the building.  Gord immediately grabs a supervisor that is almost twice  his size and pleads for a way to get us on that 6:45 ferry that is still on the other dock in time. What a nice guy!  He  directs the customs agent to escort us and our other three  new buddies to the front of the line and low and  behold there is Gord's buddy, from immigration at Sopers Hole also named Gordon.  He stamps our passports, issues us a 30 day visa and sends us onto customs. She is right ready and just takes our declaration card and say's run!!
We round the building at a full run dragging our carry ons and there is our ferry pulling away from the dock. Now my small voice would never have made it but Gord yelled, hollered, jumped up and down, waved his arms and got their attention. Plus a few more minutes for our new buddies, Richard Miller and friends.   We truly had made it against all the odds. 
30 minutes later we stepped ashore on Virgin Gorda, the customs area was closed and deserted and there was no luggage hanging around the parking lot. Oh No,   But, there was Arrabella with our Rental car and keys and our luggage loaded.  By 9:30 we  had eaten at the Bath 'n Turtle Restaurant and were having a drink on the deck overlooking the ocean. The end of the journey, or maybe just the beginning?   Either way, we arrived and all our luggage also arrived.
I just love happy endings!

1st happy our in the Caribbean with Mike and Betts

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Sailboat owners Gord and Sue aboard their 55' Whitby Ketch "Ocean Wings" share their adventures and travels as they start their retirement, living their dream of seeing the world from oceanside.
Ocean Wings is a recent purchase and our first foray into the Sailing Lifestyle. We're excited and a little scared. Join us in our adventure.