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Tim Foolery

Home » 2012 » April (Page 2)

Monthly Archives: April 2012

Trinidad: POS Customs/Immigration

We arrive in Port of Spain and I was hit with the thick warm air that had a subtle sweet smell of a nice cigar.    I wander through the terminal to customs.  I didn’t realize that the mayhem that was customs and immigration was typical for all governmental services in Trinidad.

There really was no organized line, we all just grouped together in a big mass slowly moving towards the less than efficient immigration folks.  I handed over my passport and immigration form (eventually) and was asked what my purpose was (pleasure) and where I was staying (with EAD) and the address (unknown, let me look): “Eh, not necessary”, she said as she stamped me and waved me through to immigration.

Baggage claim was a mess too.  I don’t understand why people who fly to the Caribbean travel with half a dozen suitcases each.  Luggage carts were stacked high as the passengers pushing them to the large gymnasium sized room that housed two x-ray machines.  I didn’t see any proper lines or directions, so I start walking towards the exit, bypassing the machines and heading straight outside.  Evidently I was supposed to go through some other sort of screening/review process.

Such is life, right?  I made it through the three ring circus that was customs relatively quickly and found EAD waiting with a ton of other folks for their friends and loved ones to emerge from the gymnasium.

I am here Trinidad!

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Trinidad: Flight Review: ORD-SJU-POS

I really don’t fly American Airlines and the only reason I did so on this trip was because it was really the only viable option.  I didn’t really know what to expect. I must admit I was surprised. I stand about 6′ tall — not monster tall but tall enough to be concerned about leg room.  I had ample leg room on this flight – and I was in a standard row: not exit or bulkhead.  Unfortunately I didn’t take photos of the leg room, but it was enough to make me think about switching my preferred airline (well, we know how that turned out, don’t we?).

The flight was surprisingly empty. I would say it was about 60% occupied, which I don’t understand since there was another flight to San Juan earlier in the day that was cancelled. Where were all of those people?

The service, food and entertainment were uneventful.  I must admit each time I fly to San Juan, I am surprised how far it is.  It is 2,072 miles from ORD to SJU. 300 miles more than any place on the west coast and 600 miles more than Cancun.  It makes sense when looking at it on the map, but sans-map I am just at a loss.

Flying into San Juan

We got to San Juan on time (new adjusted “on-time”). I had 35 minutes to make my connection — so once that door opens I take off.  Come to find out SJU is a small airport.  Large enough that I couldn’t use my lounge pass here though. I head off to my gate and arrive just in time for us to board our bus. Ugh. We all know what I think of remote stands (unless you are flying Lufthansa through FRA).

SJU is glamorous, eh? 

We flew a Dash 8 from SJU to POS.  The plane was hot and we couldn’t turn the A/C on until the pilots got there which took nearly 30 minutes from the time we all were seated.  The pilots arrive, carrying to-go meal bags. They tell the stew they were hungry and decided to stop for dinner…but don’t worry, they only ate half their meal at the restaurant and will finish it in air.  Now that is service.

My notes indicate the flight took 3.5 hours (can that be right?), this plane was horrible.  I was lucky enough not to have a seat mate.  These planes had no entertainment (other than the loud passengers telling tales of their lives) and limited service. I did manage to get a beer.  The flight was so loud and vibrated so much I was just waiting for a wing to shear off. Luckily that didn’t happen.

We land smoothly and quickly taxi to a remote stand and quickly head into Customs and Immigration.

Trinidad: Chicago – New Air Travel Experience

It goes without saying that I’m a United man. Unless absolutely necessary, I won’t even consider another (non-Star Alliance) airline.  My options to Port of Spain, Trinidad were limited. This trip was before Continental joined Star Alliance (long before the merger).  My only real option to Trinidad at the time on Star Alliance was through London.  Love the miles idea, but for a 5 day trip this just didn’t make sense.

Yes, I had to opt for a flight on American.  Good god, I know!  I hadn’t flown American since I was in college and using Priceline tickets all the time (and I haven’t been on American since I took this trip either).

I woke up early this mid-April morning to find 1-2″ of snow and ice on the ground.  Great.  I check the flight status and all flights are on time (ahem, no one has bothered to change the status, ugh).  I hop in a taxi – and it appears the taxi driver was as surprised by the snow as I was, as half of the back seat was covered in snow and ice.  This is a great way to start a vacation.

I arrive at the American terminal and it is total mayhem. Dozens of cancellations caused hundreds of confused people just milling about.  I used the self check-in Kiosk, check my bag and head through security.  Since I’d have a layover of 2+ hours in San Juan, I decided to buy the Admiral’s Club Pass.  It was a day pass, not a single use pass like you often see now.  I had this pass and a delayed flight, so off I go to my first Admiral’s Club experience.

The club was larger than I was expecting and my favorite part, it had a pretty good view of the tarmac.  There were two people delivering drinks and giving us flight updates — they were very attentive.  The club was pretty empty too, surprising considering all of the cancellations that day.

My notes from the day indicate that over 250 flights were cancelled in the morning alone – including every OTHER flight to San Juan.  We were delayed two hours.  Which means if we kept this schedule I would have a whopping 20 minutes to connect to the last flight of the day to Port of Spain.  I was a bit nervous as I had no idea how big the airport was in San Juan (HA!).

As I made it to the gate and found a plane full of nervous people checking their watches and commenting on how they will be missing their connections.  At least we are all in the same boat, eh?  As soon as I walk to the boarding area, I hear my name being called from two separate areas. Upgrade maybe??? No, two separate friends that I met from two different charitable organizations with their wives heading out on vacation.  Small world, eh? While it was great to catch up with these people (and introduce them to each other) I think I would have preferred the upgrade.

Trinidad Trip Index

I went to visit my friend EAD in Trinidad a couple years ago because…well, I had never been, he was there and it was winter in Chicago. Do I need a better excuse? He had just said goodbye to friends from home who had stayed with him for nearly a month — so he didn’t have a lot of time to take off and hang out with me.  We still made my 5 day trip pretty exciting and it was a great way for me to relax.  It was also my first international trip as an adult — I hadn’t traveled abroad since college, perish the thought.  Over the next few days I’ll be providing you my thoughts on this island nation.

I hope you enjoy!

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Trinidad Travels…really?

I’ve been reading several travel bloggers who are planning trips to Trinidad and Tobago. Some are building a bit of vacation onto a business trip, others are just going on their own accord.  I must admit, T&T never really made it to my list of dream vacations. Nothing against T&T, I just never gave it much thought.  I think in my heart I want to visit every single country on Earth, but if I were making my list of destinations, T&T would be lower on the list.

That being said, I have visited Trinidad (I didn’t visit Tobago though).  A dear friend was stationed there for work for a couple years so I decided to fly down for a few days and see him and take a tour of the bigger of two islands.

I will not spend a great deal of time with restaurant reviews or even a hotel in Port of Spain review as it has been a few years since I’ve been there and well…I didn’t stay in a hotel in the City.  I will provide what hopes to be timeless advice on T&T and perhaps an amusing travel anecdote.  There will also be a big surprise for you all when it comes to transport.

Have you recently been to Trinidad and Tobago?  Is it high on your list of places to visit? If so, what moves it to the top: the beaches, the business, the wildlife?