When I first booked out trip to St. Thomas (back in June), we had a perfect itinerary for the trip home. We left at noon, hit Chicago by 7:30, and would be home in our beds by 10:30 or so.
Evidently, they changed our itinerary. I'd noted the minor change to our original departure time... but not the whopper we got for the return trip. So, we started the day believing we had a noon flight. We got up, finished packing, and, at 8:30 we were about to head out for breakfast when I went online to double check that our flight was still on time.
That flight no longer existed. I spent a few minutes trying to find our actual itinerary.
At about 8:45, DH nabbed his cell phone to call Travelocity (from whom we got the tickets originally, and who almost certainly told me... I cringed at the phone bill I know we're going to get for that. Ten minutes of hold later, I grabbed the "villa" phone, cringing at the $2.50 plus unknown amount per minute charge that would be put on our bill, and called American.
Here is the one time all trip that American did right by us, well, once they finally answered the phone. They told us that we were booked on the 10:00 a.m. flight. We needed to be at the airport no later than 9:00, but preferably 2 hours ahead of flight time. We were then more than 1/2 hour away from the airport ... and since we knew that cruise ships were due in, we assumed it would be longer. There was simply no way that we could get to the airport in time to catch our flight.
American seamlessly (well, almost) switched us to the 3:45 pm flight. No extra charge. This is the same airline that was going to charge me $529 extra per ticket to change things on Friday?? Whatever. We were grateful. We relaxed....
And went to breakfast.
And then got in our little car and took a driving tour of the Island ... because... well... what else could we do? It was too late to do any morning boat things; swimming wasn't a good plan because by 10:00 we had to be out of our room, and besides -- I so didn't want to pack wet bathing suits!
So... we drove up a truly impressively twisty steep road to the lookout that most folks get to by taking a $19.00 per person gondola ride. We got to look out over the top of one side of the island.
See.... cruise ships... just like we thought.
And gorgeous views!
Then, we took that scary road back down, and headed across the island to see the world famous beach that had just opened back up. -- Magan's Beach.
We ate lunch there, but decided that even if we were willing to pack wet suits, we weren't willing to ride home all salty in clothes that we'd put on wet.
So, we drove some more, and stopped at Drakes Seat (a bench put up in honor of Sir Frances Drake in the spot where he allegedly watched for his ships to come into the harbour). From there, we could see the gorgeous views from the other side of the island.
With more time on our hands, we drove back across to our "original" side of the island, and stopped for the over priced tour at Blackbeard's Castle. They had lots of pirate statues
(one of which looked very much like Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow),
along with interesting pirate history; a few historic homes; a nifty lookout tower with a great view of the harbor and inlets thereto (hence the placement of the lookout tower)
and a former rum factory that sold all sorts of rum. By this point it was hot.
I mean seriously ... hot. We were no longer enjoying the balmy breezes... we were sweating in clothes that we had to travel in for hours and hours.
We headed to the airport, figuring that early couldn't hurt, and they might have A/C.
when we checked in, there were strange problems with our tickets. While they figured that out, I read the signs reminding people of all the things you can't take on the airplane ... like gasoline cans with gas in them..... or full propane tanks.... or 12 volt CAR BATTERIES...? (those are heavy!) Seriously! And the agent said that the signs were there because people really had tried to take these things in the cabin of the plane! Again, we check in to discover that we're seated all over the plane. Again, J, the 11 year old, is seated farthest from anyone. It's a full flight, so they can't move us easily.
Once they decided that yes, we were on the flight (and confirmed that it would be at no extra charge) we discover also that, although you don't need a passport to go from the U.S. to the U.S. Virgin Islands... you do need one to get back! I hadn't known this. Travelocity didn't tell us. American Airlines didn't tell us. The resort folks who sold us the package didn't tell us. Luckily for us all, DH is paranoid, and brought the passports anyway.
Once we were at the gate, I watched the desk like a hawk. When they announced that the flight was over booked, and started offering people money (actually, I think they were American Airlines vouchers) and a promise of a seat on the next flight if they'd give up their seats on this flight, I leapt to the desk. As soon as the first pair of people gave up their seat, I swept in, and managed to finagle two seats together for the kids, and two seats further back for me and the DH.
Evidently this full flight thing is standard -- we'd seen it in Miami too. I'm guessing that they didn't charge us for the switch from morning to afternoon because it saved them having to cough up vouchers.
So... we're all settled in, when someone in the front of the plane, likely trying to turn on her light or her air vent, accidentally touches the panel that ordinarily keeps the oxygen masks hidden away. Hers opens.... and they cant' get it shut.
Seriously. we sit there for awhile, and finally, they ask her to disembark, with promises to put her on the next flight! (Likely her seat mates as well, but as it turns out this girl, barely 18, is traveling with a group of St. Thomas students with their teacher/guide/someone as a group. The teacher finally gives her his seat, and he disembarks with some todo about how they'll meet each other at the other end.
Meanwhile... I notice someone on the other side of the aisle from me blotting the ceiling over her seat -- in that space near where the underside of the overhead bins meets the side wall of the plane.
We finally started to move ... and the dripping is now on our side of the plane. Dripping onto DH's arm. We're assured that its condensation from the A/C.
I've been flying for over 30 years now. I've never heard of condensation dripping on the passengers before. For the first time, I'm truly nervous as our plane lifts off to fly over the ocean to Miami.
Luckily... it landed just fine. We did our little dance of racing outside of security to get food, and going back through... emptying the water bottles.... not finding a water fountain etc.
On the flight back to O'Hare -- my light doesn't work. I had to make do with the light from DD's seat. This irked her, because she wanted to sleep.
When we land. .... our luggage doesn't come off the plane with the rest. Eventually, we find it with stuff that had arrived on an earlier flight from Miami. ??? Whatever. It's now past 10:30 pm. Luckily ... the Starbucks near the baggage claim is open. I get a large latte.
We get our luggage, and find a taxi. Taxi? What about that shuttle from our former hotel? The free one? It doesn't run past 10:00 pm. Would have been fine had our flight left at noon... but now? No shuttle. Taxi. With a driver who has no idea where our hotel is, and has to use his book.
Eventually, we get to the car, and start the three hour drive home.
Not so much with the returning from vacation all refreshed.
Not so much with the EVER wanting to fly American Airlines again.... I mean, seriously... condesation? broken oxygen mask things? (ignoring the whole broken lights and sound things). I think I'd rather drive.
But... the break was good.... and the Island was gorgeous...
And I finished a shawl, AND a sleeve.....