The day started early. Very early. So early it might still have counted as the previous night…I’m not entirely certain. What I am certain of is that I’d had lots of caffeine quite late in the afternoon, and getting up in time to not only make a 6am flight…but in time to check luggage for one, was not likely to be a whole lot of fun. Even though I’m only about 2 miles from the airport, by the time I manage to get an Uber, etc etc, it still takes time…and with the 45 minute baggage cutoff, there was no way I wasn’t leaving at least 90 minutes before the flight…and that meant getting up at least two hours before…yes, 4am. NO THANKS.
I’m still not sure why I didn’t just fly American one-stop via Miami instead of United. It was a paid business ticket anyways, so it’s not like I had any particular reason to give Uncle Jeff my money…oh well, lesson learnt. Oh, and did I mention I had managed to leave myself a 70 minute connection in San Juan? Add that to the fact that upon check-in I learnt United doesn’t have an interline agreement with Seaborne…and I was looking to be screwed. No way I would get my checked bags, find out where Seaborne is located (turns out, in a different terminal) and check my luggage…while still making it to the gate on time…in 70 minutes. Yeah. Not one of my brighter travel decisions.
Despite having access to the 1K/elite/whatever line at DCA, it took me more than 20 minutes to get to an agent. United was woefully understaffed this morning, and something as simple as checking a bag as a top-tier elite should not take 20 minutes. Ever. Fortunately, there was no line at TSA PreCheck, and I made it to the gate just as we were about to board.
United Express, Operated by Skywest, flight 5249
Washington, DC, National (DCA) to Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
Depart 6:00, Arrive 7:00, Flight Time 2:00
Embraer ERJ-175, Registration N113SY, Manufactured 2014, Seat 2A
Skywest just recently started flying this route for United Express, and their E175s are a dream for elites. Only about 75 seats total, of which 12 are in F, giving them probably the best upgrade chances in the fleet. I was on a paid business fare today, and until four days before the flight was the only one in the first cabin. By takeoff, there were three uniformed pilots, and all the other seats were taken as well. My usual shot of the Pentagon upon takeoff:
I’d made the incredibly risky decision not to have any coffee before the flight in the hopes I might catch a little extra sleep. Anyone who’s seen my pre-caffeinated in the morning will understand the risks we’re talking here. Fortunately, shortly after that Pentagon pic, I completely passed out and managed another hour of sleep.
Into gate B20 at Chicago, and my departing flight was from the C gates. We were a little early, so no huge rush and I decided to stop at Starbucks. Now, Starbucks rarely gets my name right. I’ve been Justin, Jasmin, Jensen, Jackson, you name it, but rarely Jason. Today, they were really butchering names, and I have no idea how they pulled this one off. If it wasn’t for the “grande in a venti cup extra ice” I would have assumed it was someone else’s:
Happily beginning to caffeinate, made it to the gate with plenty of time to spare:
United flight 1688
Chicago O’Hare (ORD) to San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU)
Depart 8:10, Arrive 13:55, Flight Time 4:45
Boeing 737-900, Registration N69818, Manufactured 2013, Seat 2E
Pre-departure beverage was a Coke Zero with lime…mainly to test if they had limes…which they did! I’m not sure what I was thinking on the caffeine front (probably the Starbucks hadn’t quite hit yet so I wasn’t thinking) but I was bouncing off the walls by the end of this.
Breakfast choices? “Scrambled eggs” or the “Giant Plate o Carbs.” Eggs on planes scare me, so I decided to go with the carbs. Carbs, carbs, and even more carbs. I think I’m about to go into a diabetic coma just looking at this pic….and yes, there was more Coke Zero.
There was no way I was getting any more sleep after all that caffeine, so I stayed up and finished off season 2 of House of Cards. There was a dedication plaque
Landing was about 5 minutes late into San Juan, meaning I was going to be running for it. Baggage claim area was adequately signed, and I had no problem finding it. However, there was no clue which bags were coming out on which belt. The first skycap I asked didn’t appear to speak a word of English, but a “donde esta el equipaje de United?” managed to point me in the right direction. Miraculously, the priority tags worked, and mine was first on the belt…less than 15 minutes after pulling into the gate. DO YOU HEAR THAT DULLES AIRPORT? 15 MINUTES DOOR TO BAGS.
Managed to find a helpful airport employee, who explained where the check-in for Seaborne was. “Go outside, turn right, walk down until that yellow wall, take the stairs two flights up, and walk over to the next terminal.” Sounds easy, right? It was also 90F and humid, and I was lugging a giant heavy bag of scuba gear. By the time I found the Seaborne check-in I was a hot sweaty mess (remember Cancun pics from my last post? Same thing. Lesson to self: changing planes terminals in the caribbean is a hot and sweaty experience and you’re going to hate it.)
Despite my lousy Spanish, the Seaborne agent preferred to keep speaking it even when I tried twice to switch to English, so I just rolled with it. Practice is practice. Had to pay $25 for a checked bag, but I’d made it…and I still had 40 minutes until departure! Security line was a bit slow (no PreCheck for Seaborne) and when I got to the gate 15 minutes before departure there was no plane. I sat and waited, and played translator for a family from rural Quebec who not only spoke not a word of English, couldn’t really speak much spanish either. Translating from Spanish in Quebecois was a new challenge for me…but unfortunately for them the translation was “your flight to Beef Island is canceled today due to high winds.” I felt bad I couldn’t help them more since they would be stranded on San Juan overnight, but I’m not sure how they expected to get by in the BVI either.
At that point, it was announced our flight was delayed “at least 30 minutes” so I asked the gate agent if it was ok to go over to the American Lounge for 20 minutes to wait. “Sure, no problem.” About 15 minutes later, the Aadmirals Club agent paged me frantically “hurry up, the plane is about to leave without you!” Ugh! Communication people! Ran to the plane, and was the last to board. “Take any open seat” was easy, as there were only 10 people on the whole plane.
Seaborne Airlines flight BB4580
San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU) to Basseterre, St Kitts (SKB)
Depart 15:05, Arrive 16:30, Flight Time 1:25
Saab 340B, Registration N353SA, Manufactured 1993, Seat 11A
Decided to choose a window in the very last row, to get a bit of a view.
…and we’re off!
Full drink service, along with Famous Amos cookies. Yum! 😉
Flight was just under an hour, and soon we were landing on St. Kitts. The flight stopped for 15 minutes, and then would continue on the 15 mile flight to Nevis. A pic getting off the plane – it wasn’t really as cloudy and ominous as it looked:
No trouble getting a taxi, which was actually a minivan. I’ve since forgotten my driver’s name, but she was intent on giving me the entire history of St Kitts on the 15 minute drive to the hotel. She was absolutely awesome, and I wish I’d gotten her number so I could have given her more business when I was there.
I’d pre-booked a “Royal Golf One Bedroom Suite” at the Marriott, which I kind of expected would be like a bungalow for some reason. Nope, just a regular hotel room, but for the fantastic rate I got I was seriously impressed.
The room’s living/sitting area, complete with a sink/fridge/half-kitchen:
On the way to the pool, there was a replica ship. I’ve unfortunately forgotten the details about it:
It was late afternoon and the sun was beginning to set, so I camped out at the beach bar, and watched the sunset:
I then made the genius decision after five weeks of not drinking to have a rum punch…and it was lethal. Made with extra-strong local rum, just one knocked me absolutely flat…but was delicious and a nice welcome to the islands:
I’d done a bit of walking right after arriving at the hotel, and found several promising looking restaurants within walking distance. I settled on a place called Rock Lobster which had really good reviews on TripAdvisor.
Nice seat on the lanai, and a rum punch to start:
Asked for a recommendation on a starter, and was told I had to have the Poke, which was a local sashimi appetizer. Good call – it was a mix of salmon and tuna sashimi, and was absolutely delicious:
For the main, I went with the local lobster, which was absolutely amazing as well:
…and to finish it off, bananas sauteed in rum with a bit of ice cream.
By this point it was 9pm, and I was exhausted from a long day. This, combined with an early morning to dive had me headed back to the hotel and absolutely passed out cold by 9:30 for a solid 10 hours of sleep.