Jul 292014

Up way too early to head back to the airport to fly home.  Seaborne only has one flight a day out of St Kitts, so I was left with really no choice on timing.  I was planning to fly United San Juan – Chicago – Washington National, but United retimed the flights changing my layover to nearly 6 hours in San Juan, and getting home at nearly 1 am….no thanks.  United offered to rebook me on the nonstop San Juan – Washington Dulles, and despite the loss in miles I decided to take it as it would get me home nearly 8 hours earlier.

Quick check-out at the Marriott, quick 15 minute cab, and we were at the very quiet St Kitts airport….which wasn’t all that quiet because in addition to our Seaborne flight there was a full American 737 to Miami also checking in.  Not a problem, except American also handles the check-in for Seaborne so ended up waiting about 15 minutes to check-in.  Again, no biggie, and the agent was so rushed and flustered that she forgot to charge me for my bag…hooray for small victories.  Then, we got to immigration, which is where the shitshow began.

There was one immigration officer handing a full 737 plus our flight, and the American flight (which left 30 minutes before ours) was already boarding…and there were still 50 American passengers in the immigration line…not to mention security.  I made small talk with the lady in front of me in the queue and she was from New Orleans, and kept going on and on about how American  was paging her over the intercom but she was stuck in line.  I noticed she had the dreaded SSSS on her boarding pass…so I’m sure they were looking to get her extra search out of the way.  Eventually something happened, and a second very annoyed looking immigration officer came to assist….but was doing no more than “give me your passport, I stamp it, you go.”  No checks or anything.  Hooray for border security?

Anyways, everyone made their flight, and we’ll assume lived happily ever after?

The St Kitts Airport is just one big room with 3 or 4 duty free shops and a bunch of chairs, and a small snack stand.  It actually reminded me of the airport in Podgorica, Montenegro…it was designed exactly the same way…even down to the check-in area, security/immigration setup, waiting hall, and “gates.”  Possible they were designed by the same firm?

Soon, it was time to board our ride to San Juan.  There were only 12 passengers, and I was allowed to keep my seat 1A.

Seaborne Airlines flight 4513
Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis (SKB) to San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU)
Depart 7:50, Arrive 9:00, Flight Time 1:10
Saab 340B, Registration N336SA, Manufactured 1993, Seat 1A

Walking out to the plane:


Fully boarded, we managed to get airborne about 10 minutes before our scheduled departure time.  Unfortunately, despite my carryon bag being quite small, they crew insisted it wouldn’t fit under the seats (I was in the bulkhead) and insisted on gate checking it.  Ugh.  I don’t know why I didn’t think, but I let them do it…with my passports, laptop, and even wallet in the bag.  It was obviously early and I was uncaffeinated, because I didn’t even think to protest.

The view on takeoff from St Kitts:


“Meal” service…there was a snack basket with three or four options, I couldn’t resist the cookies.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Diet Coke in tall cans before….usually only see Red Bull in these:


Had a nice chat with the flight attendant for a bit, and learned a bit more about how Seaborne works.  Both of my Seaborne flights were quite nice, and I hope they manage to grow and fill the gap left by American Eagle in San Juan.  Landed about 15 minutes ahead of schedule, and taxied to a waiting area where several Seaborne planes were parked.

Retrieved my carryon, and headed inside and down a long series of very warm corridors towards immigration.  Bienvenidos a los Estados Unidos!


Now, a word of advice.  As I mentioned…I was tired and not thinking clearly.  Not so much tired, because I’d been getting plenty of sleep, but just caffeine-deprived.  Two things I recommend you do NOT do when entering the US in Puerto Rico.  Even when the Global Entry machine spits out a “ok, you can go” receipt, do not do two things:  1)  juggle your Zero Halliburton briefcase in one hand while fumbling to hand your global entry receipt to the CBP officers and 2)  don’t greet CBP officers with “buenos dias officers!  gracias!”  I got the privilege of playing 10 questions with them for that, while they decided if they were going to pull me into secondary for looking shifty.  Fortunately, I was allowed to go  😉

Unlike the transit from United to Seaborne, the transit from US Immigration to United in San Juan was all indoors, nice and cool, and a relatively short and air conditioned walk.  Check-in was nice and quick, and there was no line at all at TSA pre-check, so I was through security in no time…and very quickly was at Starbucks.  And all was right with the world again.

Had a couple of calls I had to make for work, so used the American Admirals club thanks to my Citi American card, where the internet was nice and speedy, and it was a comfortable place to wait for a couple of hours and get some work done.  Plus, the staff there as always were super friendly.

I was getting starved by this point, having subsisted on Diet Coke, Espresso, and a bag of cookies to this point, so I gave in and went to the Air Margaritaville for lunch.  Well, liquid lunch….but in fairness, I did have a cuban sandwich as well which was significantly tastier than I expected.


The margarita was tasty, but this place was an absolute ripoff.  One margarita and a cuban sandwich set me back nearly $40…I know it’s airport prices…but come on, get real!

Headed over to my gate, where the gate lice were frantically scurrying about, trying to make sure they were first on the plane.  There were also more than 20 wheelchairs on this flight.  Definitely a leisure route, since even the two Silver Elites in front of me were making sure that everyone around them knew they’d been upgraded to first class.  LOL.

As soon as boarded was called headed on with global services and military, and managed to escape the scrum…fortunately…because there was a fierce battle even in first for overhead space.

United  flight 1067
San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU) to Washington, Dulles (IAD)
Depart 12:45, Arrive 16:40, Flight Time 3:55
Boeing 737-800, Registration N14242, Manufactured 1999, Seat 2E

This was one of the more ancient 737s in the Continental…I mean United….no, I mean Continental…as the pilot reminded us to “sit back and enjoy the fine service provided by this Continental Airlines doing business as United crew.”  Ugh…I thought you guys were past those childish post-merger games.

Pre-departure beverages were offered, and I got greeted with “you must not fly much, we haven’t had the margaritas in years!”  Uh, you had them a few months ago, but not going to argue.  Thanks for the insight  😉  I went with water, and waited until lunch to have a glass of wine.

Oh, and the cut-price half cashews weren’t warmed…which I actually prefer:


Then, it was time for lunch…or what passes for a 4 hour domestic lunch these days on United.

Hola!  Mi nombre es Jeff!  Hay muchos camibos ahora a United que creo que te va a gustar!   ….¿Quieres un burrito?

with sombrero

The burrito…aka the “tan” meal…everything was some shade of unappetizing tan…except the wine, and that was added for colour.  Note, once again, too cheap for a bread plate….but the butter gets its own bowl?!  WTF United catering:


Though, I will admit, whatever is in that chipotle-mayo-whatever sauce combo is like crack….I think I ate all of the sauce and maybe half the burrito…and skipped the “freshly baked…just for you” cookie.  Gag.


Landed on time, moon buggy to baggage claim…and then we waited.  And waited.  I think I grew several grey hairs.  Still we waited.  I watched a diabetic passenger go into shock and need emergency glucose.  Dinosaurs roamed baggage claim.  The Leafs won the Stanley Cup…no wait, it wasn’t THAT long   😉  Anyways, finally 77 minutes after landing, our bags started showing up.  Seriously United/Dulles…WTF.

With that, an amazing long weekend was over.  Several weeks of relaxing at home before the next big…and super insane trip.  I’ll give a teaser:

DC ->  Honolulu ->  Paris -> Barcelona -> Andorra -> France/Spain/France/Barcelona/Paris -> Honolulu -> Vegas -> DC.

It’s gonna be crazy.  There will be bachelor parties.  There will be my 159th country visited (also my LAST in Europe).  There will be chocolate croissants…there will be beaches…there will be madness….

Jul 262014

Woke up again at 630am after another solid 8+ hours of sleep feeling fantastic and went back to Rituals coffee for breakfast. Another great triple iced espresso, but instead of the bagel sandwich today they had amazing double chocolate chocolate chip muffins….yum!

Met Jeff in the lobby again, and Dive St Kitts picked us up right on time for another morning of diving. When we got to the shop, we learned we were the only two people diving today so we could get going as soon as all the gear was set up. Sweet!

Out first dive site was called “The Rocks” and the coolest feature is that the last couple of months a reef shark had been hanging around the site, and we’d try and find it. Strategy was to try and find a lionfish to spear, and then dump it on the ground and wait for the shark to smell blood. The dive was in a fairly narrow “channel” between two reefs, and dropped from about 50 feet where we entered to about 75 feet further down where we turned around and swam back on top of the reef.

It didn’t take long to find a spear a lionfish, and no sooner was the divemaster chopping it up, than this guy started circling:


A couple of slow circles around us and the dead lionfish, and he darted in a snapped it up and swam away.  For maybe the next 5-10 minutes he followed us around as we swam down the reef, probably hoping we’d feed him another easy meal.  Laziest shark ever!

Along the reef:




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Jul 252014

Woke up a bit before seven after more than nine hours of glorious sleep, despite the fact the room was slightly on the warm side – it never got much below 71/72 in the room despite the air being on full blast. Just cool enough to be sleepable, but barely. Headed straight out the hotel and down the main road to grab coffee and breakfast at Rituals Coffee Shop right when they opened at 7am. Rituals is a caribbean chain, and sort of like the starbucks of the Caribbean. Nothing fantastic, but a good reliable source of caffeine, which is just what I needed. They had no trouble making a triple shot over ice, and also got a ham, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich on the bagel.

Walked the half mile or so back to the hotel, and packed up the dive gear, since the dive shop was picking me up at 8am sharp for a morning of diving. While waiting in the lobby I spotted another person with diving gear, and we started chatting, and turned out he was there with the family and lived just a few miles away in Virginia. Small world indeed – and lucky for me because he helped me remember I’d forgotten my dive computer in the room so I ran up and grabbed it quickly.

We were picked up just a few minutes late by Dive St Kitts, which operates complimentary transfers for their divers between hotel and the the dive shop. Nice added bonus! They do a two-tank boat dive every morning, and I’d signed up for just one day to start since I figured I might want to use the second day to play tourist. The ride to the shop was maybe 15 minutes, and when we got there we sorted out paperwork while the crew prepared the boat. This was a full service operation, with them doing all the work for you. They hooked up BCDs, regs, and tanks, and all you had to worry about was diving – quite nice!

We did a very thorough dive briefing in the shop before heading out – and it was definitely the most comprehensive briefing I’ve had anywhere. Details about the dive sites we’d be doing, details on the boat including entry and exit to the water, etc. Although the shop is basically a older one-room seaside building, the quality of the crew was definitely amazing to see. Our divemaster for the day was also fantastic, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention their infamous boat captain, known as Captain Crabby. We got him to crack several smiles, however, so I’m pretty sure there’s a softy under that sarcastic exterior!

One more note…Jeff, the guy I’d met earlier in the lobby, turned out to be a fantastic photographer. I’d decided to dive without a camera since it had been nearly 18 months since I’d been diving, and I really just wanted to focus on enjoying it as opposed to fussing about pictures all the time. Turned out to be the right call, because Jeff was an amazing photographer and more than willing to share photos…so thanks to Jeff, I got these great shots from the first day of diving:

Wreck of the MV Corinthian:


Turtle just hanging out:


Marine life on the wreck:



Staring contest with the world’s laziest turtle:


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Jul 232014

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


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Jul 222014

I’ll be the first admit – I don’t “do” relaxing well. Why would I spend a whole week visiting the same country, when there are so many other places to go? You mean there’s another country only 50 miles away? We’re not making a daytrip there WHY?!

After 157 countries visited, I’m slowing down in some ways, and speeding up in others. There are some countries I have very little interest in, and I’m content with one or two nights, getting a feel for the place, and moving on so I can meet my goal of every country by September, 2016. However, there are other places I’m now choosing to do more in depth time and finances permitting. 

Which, is how we get to the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis aka St Kitts and Nevis…or just plain St Kitts. Somehow, it’s the last of the small islands I have yet to visit in the Caribbean, and it just never quite fit into my other trips. People had told me it was a bit sleepy and boring, so I went into the trip with the attitude that I was going to LEARN to relax, have a good time, and come back rejuvenated. It would also be my 158th country visited, leaving me with just 38 to go.

The relaxing? That didn’t quite happen. I had a few very jam-packed days, but also had an absolute blast!

I plan to break this report down into four parts, complete with tons of pictures:

Day 1: Washington DC to St Kitts on United and Seaborne Airlines
Day 2: SCUBA diving, and daytrip to the island of Nevis
Day 3: More SCUBA diving, relaxing at the pool, and a surprising dinner
Day 4: St Kitts to Washington DC on Seaborne Airlines and United

Grab a tropical drink, pull up a beach chair, and enjoy!