Aug 262011

The big day has finally arrived, and the big adventure has begun!  After several long months of planning and anticipation the day is finally here:  it’s time to head out on the big trip Around the World!

Stop one is Aruba via a Newark connection.  I have to admit, I really haven’t missed Newark in the past years since we gave up on the old Northwest/Continental alliance and went over to United, but I do admit the service on Continental.  I had two primary concerns about this segment of the trip.  First, the connection in Newark was only 65 minutes, which even on a good day could be a bit of a challenge at Newark.  Secondly, I figured (maybe foolishly) with 24 first class seats on this plane, the complimentary platinum upgrade would be a sure thing – after all, leisure routes to vacation destinations tend to be easy for the most part.

In the two months leading up to departure date, it went from 2 seats taken, to 8, to 12, and eventually to 23.  This was NOT part of the plan!  Up until the day of departure, however, it stuck at 23 seats taken so there was at least a reasonable chance one of us would get the upgrade.  One nice thing about Continental is their mobile app.  You can see right where you stand on the upgrade list in real time, along with lots of other useful information.  I really hope this stays after the merger!

Unfortunately, a 7am departure meant getting up by 430am to get caffeinated and ready, but in the end it wasn’t too bad.  Check-in at DCA was easy, the Continental staff were incredibly friendly, and everything was going off like clockwork.

Continental Flight 2185, Operated by ExpressJet
Washington, National to Newark
Depart 6:56 Arrive 8:02- actual departure 10 minutes easy, arrive 15 minutes early
ERJ-145, Registration N14991, Manufactured 2000
Seats 1A and 2A

Not too much to say about this flight. It was booked to 23 out of 50 seats, was nice and light, weather was good, and it was completely uneventful. Any time you arrive early into Newark is a good thing! We got the joy, however, of arriving into Terminal A and getting to take the shuttle bus over to Terminal C for the connecting flight. Ahhh, that’s the Newark I remember!

Continental Flight 1638
Newark to Aruba
Depart 9:06 Arrive 13:40
Boeing 757-300, Registration N78866, Manufactured 2002
Seats 6F and 21D

Unfortunately, only one of our upgrades cleared, and as an early birthday gift Matt was kind enough to give it to me. However, in the end, I think he might have gotten the better deal! An empty exit row, and not sandwiched between obnoxious New Yorkers talking about their $150,000 cars, unreliable nannies and complaining about the unkosher meals. Ahhhh, Continental!

Due to weather, we pushed back, and then got the honour of waiting roughly an hour to depart due to weather to the north of the field. Despite nearly an hour late departure, however, we ended up arriving only about 45-50 minutes late, so not all that bad in the grand scheme of things.

The meal service wasn’t much to write home about. Some eggs with potatoes, fruit, and ham, or a cereal and yogurt. Both with either a biscuit or cinnamon roll. Most of it was rather unappetizing looking, and after trading with my Atkins diet but non-pork-eating seat mate, I ended up with a meal of extra ham and fruit. Not too bad in the end!

Arrival was just a bit late, through immigration in 15 minutes or so, and out to taxi land. I had a hard time figuring out the currency situation in Aruba beforehand. I knew there was an Aruban Guilder which is the official currency, but lots of prices seemed to be published in dollars. I looked for an ABM in the airport, but not finding one, we decided to take our chances on a cab. Also, we did something we never do – despite there not being a meter, we didn’t even bother asking the fare and just set off.

Around 20 minutes later we got to the Westin, and the driver quoted a fare of “25.” Not knowing if this was fair, but seeming not too bad, I handed him $25….he went to the cab, got some change, and gave me $15 back. I guess the 25 was in Guilders. Strange, because so far everything else I’ve seen on the island has been quoted in dollars, so it’s a bit difficult to figure out how everything works.

The Westin Aruba is pretty nice, and we ended up with a complimentary platinum upgrade to an Oceanview Suite – hopefully some pictures to follow tomorrow. We were too anxious to get to the beach before sunset, so didn’t do much looking around today.

Dinner was at Wacky Wahoo’s which we had booked in advance due to recommendations on TripAdvisor. We didn’t know it was walking distance from the hotel (maybe just over 1km or so) so that was just an added bonus. We also weren’t sure if the prices were in US$ or Guilders…but even in US$ hey weren’t too bad. The service was efficient and very friendly, and the fish was amazing. Probably some of the best we’ve ever had! We started with a calimari and conch plate which was excellent, and for entrees I had a great shrimp and conch stew which was billed as “island viagra for those who can stand spicy!” It wasn’t that hot, but was absolutely delicious. I would highly recommend it!

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