Jul 182012

After getting a taxi, it was off to the hotel for my short evening. It was already nearly 5pm, and I if all worked well I’d have enough time to sit on the beach a bit, watch the sunset, get a good dinner, and head out the next morning. I’d booked at the Catamaran Hotel which was right on the beach in Foulmouth Bay.  It was a very laid-back sort of Caribbean place, and while I got everything I needed, service was quite distant.  Actually after arranging a taxi to dinner for me the reception locked up…and as far as I could tell left for the night!  I actually ended up leaving the door unlocked the next morning with the key on the desk, because the office wasn’t open!

Room was good-sized, bed was comfortable, and the AC worked!  Location wasn’t near much, and it seemed most everything was closed up for the off-season.  There was a good-sized convenience store just down the street where I picked up some Diet Cokes for the morning, as well as a local ice cream shop just up the road which was super popular.  Other than that, it was quite a quiet area.  There was a small marina near the hotel beach:

Also, a bird who was intent on posing in my obligatory shot towards the water:

Then, the sun began to set.  Since I had a perfect westward view I’d hoped to see more, but….

It did get better!  A gorgeous Caribbean sunset.

After sunset, I’d scheduled a taxi to pick me up for dinner at 7:30.  I’d also let the lady working the office know I’d require one to the airport the next morning.  Turns out she called someone she knew, and he was going to be my driver to dinner, from dinner, and also the next morning.  We quickly negotiated a reasonable rate, and were off to dinner.  Everything in the Foulmouth Bay area was closed for Hurricane Season, so I headed down the road a mile or two to English Bay for dinner.  Almost everything was closed there as well, but at least there were a few options, and I chose Trappa’s Bar based primarily on the TripAdvisor Reviews of it.

A basic review of Trappa’s:  lots of the stuff I read on the web said it was über popular and to be prepared to wait, so I called ahead and made a reservation.  Turned out to be totally unneeded, since the place was 50% full at best.  Got a nice bar-type table al fresco, and the giant menu blackboard was brought over for me to look at.  Chatted up the waitress a bit, and of course ordered a rum punch while I waited.  Of the six countries, this was definitely the weakest and least tasty of all the ones I had…unfortunate ending, but hey, win some, lose some.

After asking a few questions, decided to start with the “fish balls” in thai chili sauce.  They were amazingly tasty, and had huge lumps of grouper in them.  I usually stay away from fried foods, but they were quite tasty!

Next up was a blackened grouper entree which was also delicious.  Finished it off with the recommended brownie and ice cream.  Yum!  Food was nothing great, but was definitely quite good and given the location the price was quite reasonable.  I’d definitely go back, but just expect good and not awesome.  The people watching, however, was something else!  It was definitely the season of slightly odd people, the type you seem to find from time to time in the Caribbean.  I can’t describe it any better, but imagine Jimmy Buffet concert meets DeadHeads, and you might be close!

Back to the hotel, watched a bit of TV and crashed early for my flight.  As I mentioned above, my driver was waiting…the hotel staff was not…so I left the key in the room and headed off to the airport.  Got there at 6:00 for a 7:55 flight (international to the USA after all) and the check-in wasn’t open!  It eventually opened at 6:30, and despite not having any first/business class on the small plane, there was a dedicated first/business line.  I used it, was the first helped, and things were good.

Immigration and security were totally painless, but the Priority Pass lounge was closed at this hour.  No worry, the waiting area was nice and chilly, had free WiFI courtesy of LIME, and the time went quickly.  Soon, it was time for my first American Eagle experience.

American Eagle flight 4839
Antigua (ANU) to San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU)
Depart 7:55, Arrive 9:20, Flight Time 1:25
Aérospatiale ATR42-200, Registration N431AT, Manufactured 1994
Seat 1D

Chatted up the check-in agent, told a little of my “how I came to American” story, and she promised that she’d keep the seat next to me free since there were about 5 empty seats on the plane.  True to her word she did…and actually kept all of row 1 free!  Someone (after politely asking) moved up to row 1 on the other side after takeoff, but it was great.  Another wonderful customer service experience from American.

Nothing to really say on this flight…it was on-time, service was good, the Diet Coke was a good batch, and soon were were landing into San Juan!

View above is walking away from our plane, and into the airport.  Global Entry worked like a charm, and TSA…well, it was TSA except en español.  So, San Juan airport.  I won’t say too much, except it was just odd.  Yes, I know it’s part of the USA, but it just felt odd…especially on the Fourth of July.  The American lounge was absolutely fantastic here, with super friendly staff.  They’d actually brought what appeared to be home-baked fourth of July treats to the lounge, and there was a generally festive atmosphere.  Can’t fault this lounge in any way.

Soon, was time to board. One other note: I’m still a bit surprised you can buy duty free between San Juan and the mainland.  Just seemed odd to me.  Moving on.

American Airlines flight 535
San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU) to Miami (MIA)
Depart 10:40, Arrive 13:20, Flight Time 2:40
Boeing 757-200, Registration N604AA, Manufactured 1995
Seat 3B

Let’s see, crew was friendly, and this was definitely a vacation crowd in first.  It was a giant game of musical chairs (i.e., mostly upgrades…seatmap only had 4 seats taken until a few days out) but everyone ended up happy.  I switched twice, kept my aisle seat, and was happy.  Meal was some sort of a chicken salad which was more than adequate.  Chatted up the flight crew a bit, and they were super friendly and chatty and we had a good talk about American, United, and the industry in general.  They were especially interested to hear about my mother who retired from Northwest after 42 years the day before Delta took over.  No pictures here, I was too focused on watching some tv on the iPad…oh and wine.  Way too much wine.  American so far does seem quite liberal with it…

Couple of hours in Miami, same as before.  They really need some better free food.  Cookies don’t cut it…at least give us something like cheese or some real protein.  Oh well, the staff was rather friendly, and soon it was off to the gate.

American Airlines flight 734
Miami (MIA) to Washington DC, National (DCA)
Depart 15:30, Arrive 18:00, Flight Time 2:30
Boeing 737-800, Registration N866NN, Manufactured 2010
Seat 5F

Flight showed completely booked in first, but we ended up going with three empty seats.  Are there really that few elites on American?  I can’t remember the last time I saw an empty first seat on United or Delta in first.  Even flying non-rev I’ve never seen an empty seat on Delta when I got upgraded.  This was super strange…and being DCA made it more strange!  Probably one of the most elite-heavy cities in the country.

Again, a super crew, and they had the most awesome wine glasses:

Warm nuts and cocktails, but not a meal flight.  Are you listening UA?  No throwing pre-packaged nuts at people.  American is blowing you away, and you’re not paying attention.

I’m still convinced most folks in first are choosing based on convenience, but at some point service does matter.  I’ll continue to choose whoever is the most convenient, but I have to admit that American really did make me feel like they wanted my business on this trip.  I’ll have three more in the next few weeks, so we’ll see if the pattern continues!

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