Aiports and Queues

Trip Start Apr 21, 2007
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Trip End Apr 28, 2007


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Flag of Jamaica  ,
Sunday, April 22, 2007

Island Time, that is how our adventure to celebrate our 35th anniversary in Jamaica started. Our anniversary is actually April 15th, but we took our time and started our trip on April 21st. Our flight was not until 9:00, but we arose at 4:45, drank coffee, showered, dressed and left for the airport at 6:00 AM.

At 7:00AM we were standing at the check-in and getting our boarding passes and checking our three bags (remember the number of bags, it will be important later). The printer spit out three baggage tags and two boarding passes. The two boarding passes were for the two legs of our flight, and only for me, and none for my wife. When he corrected the error 10 or 12 boarding passes printed. He sorted through them and stuffed them into a folder and herded us toward the security check.

The first person in the security gauntlet said that I had boarding passes for Raleigh to Charlotte and from there to Montego Bay, but my wife only had a boarding pass for Charlotte to Montego Bay. We scurry back to the US Airways check-in, shove ourselves to the front of the line and directly in front of the man who printed our boarding passes. He printed out another hand full of boarding passes, sorted through them, ripping several in half, and put FOUR into our folder.

Our flight to Charlotte was over sold, and they bribed two people to stay behind and wait for the next flight. We finally boarded the plane, took off, spent 20 minutes in the air, another fifteen minutes taxiing to gate and we were allowed to disembark into an active construction site some distance from the terminal. A gentleman in an orange vest led us through a maze of concrete, steel bars, orange cones, and ultimately though a door marked "DO NOT ENTER". We are standing in the far corner of a communal seating area for all of the commuter flights in Charlotte. Our connecting flight takes off from a gate almost a mile away. Although our itinerary said we were scheduled to fly United, the flight turned out to be a US Air flight.

We endured a three hour flight with children who screamed for most of the flight, a row of old ladies talking simultaneously at the top of their lungs, and some other annoying people.

We landed in Paradise. Everything was good. A friendly airport worker pointed us to immigration and we started walking down a ramp. Montego Bay airport is not large, so I was expecting a short walk. My wife needed to use the restroom, and there had to be one nearby. We walked down several corridors more than 100 yards long, always ending with a sharp turn and a sign with an arrow pointing to immigration. At least of the airport is a corridor that leads to immigration. Near the end is a pair of bathrooms with a large group of men leaning against the wall. I soon discovered why there was a group of men. The ladies bathroom had a line that backed up out the door. With only three or four seats in the restroom, this was going to take a while. One of the ladies was the troublemaker we had seen in Charlotte. She had refused to stand in the proper line or do anything the gate workers asked. She finally had to submit and follow the rules, justice prevailed. Justice still prevailed; she would have to wait in the same bathroom line with the commoners. Her family (6-7 people) has to lean against the walls and pillars. I looked back down the corridor and another plane load of people were approaching. More ladies join the line; but several refused to wait and hurried around the next corner.

Large murals of Jamaica appeared on the walls and sets of steps led upward. Throngs of people were funneled into the opening and there was a mass of humanity trying to sort itself into another queue. We finally arrived at the top, and there stood two immigration workers. They turned out to be checking to see if your form was filled out correctly. They were sending about 10% of the queue to stand at the wall and correct their forms. My wife and I ended up against the wall. We had neglected to fill out the part of the form that you were to detach and bring for your return flight.

We finally completed our forms and entered a room with mazes to the left and right for international passengers and an aisle down the center for local citizens. We took the queue away from the still crying child and waited at the tail of the queue near a yellowed sign saying that the airport apologized for the broken air conditioning. When we finally got to the desk, I found out why it was important to fill out all parts of the form. Each section required the stamp and signature of the immigration officer.

We went down the step to baggage claim. We saw people from our plane and they seemed to be standing and looking at the conveyer and very few people were finding their bags. The bags were from our flight, so the owners of the bags must still be waiting in the immigration queue. After several minutes of not seeing our bags, I notice a LARGE pile of bags at the far end of the conveyer. There is only one conveyer and if you do not claim you bag within a couple of circuits it is removed and put in the pile.

I went to look for our bags in the giant pile, along with several other passengers. Two of our bags were black (like 95% of all the other bags) and one was red. We had red yarn tied to the bags, so I searched for red yarn or a red bag. I found the large black bag quickly. It was my wife's clothes. A few minutes later I found the small black bag. That held my wife's shoes. After several circuits of the pile there was no red duffle to be seen. This was the bag with all of MY clothes, shoes, and our snorkel gear.

I went to the US Air lost baggage desk and waited to fill out the form while my wife searched one last time for the missing bag. She returned without a bag, but she had spotted the still crying child and his parents. They had enough baggage for a family of 12 and were queued in the customs line, where they could amuse a new group of people with their serenade.

After filling out the form and much typing on the computer, the airline worker printed a certificate of delayed baggage. I had to go clear customs with the two bags that arrived, have them stamp the claim form for the missing bag, and return the stamped form to the airlines. Once everyone who possessed a stamp had stamped every piece of paper in sight, we were allowed through customs.

As we stepped through the door, the Couples lounge was in sight. They took our bags, let us use the bathroom, offered us a drink, and told us to relax and have a seat. Two minutes later the bus was ready to take us to Swept Away. The bus only had two empty seats, which we gladly occupied. They threw our bags through a window in the rear of the bus and we were on our way.

The driver tried to tell us about the areas we were passing, but no one was listening. We asked the driver a few questions, but the other passengers just talked among themselves. After 45 minutes one of the girls wanted to know when the driver was stopping for more Red Stripe and take a pee break. (You need to remember we are heading for an all inclusive resort, and you are handed a drink when you arrive.) These were some thirsty people.

We were warmly greeted when we arrived, given a glass of champagne, checked into the resort, and were shown to our room. It is even more beautiful than the pictures in their ads. Every type of tropical plant you can imagine is somewhere on the grounds. The white stucco buildings have red terra cotta tile roofs and floors and are nestled in the palms and almond trees along the shore.

There had been no chance to eat all day, so we went in search of food. We had a map of the property, which is nearly a mile long. There was a restaurant a few buildings to our south, so we started walking down the beach. On the beach is a bamboo bar with a thatched roof, we stopped and ordered mango margaritas. Next we found the Cabana Grill and had a Snapper sandwich and conch fritters to hold us until the main restaurants opened for dinner.

While we were eating, we saw our first sunset from Swept Away. They are incredible to watch. For about 15 minutes the sun paints everything in reds, oranges, and purple. Everyone gathers on the beach or their verandas to watch and take pictures.

At 6:30, just after sunset (Jamaica does not use daylight savings time), the main restaurants opened for dinner. We ate at Patois Patio, which is an elegant open air restaurant that seats about 150 people. The staff is incredible. Everyone is friendly and helps you with anything you need. They make an effort to learn everyone's name and want you to call them by their name or nickname. We had rack of lamb and jerked pork loin. We shared a baked peach with ice cream.

When we retuned to our room I called American Express. They have emergency travel assistance, and would help me get my missing bag. They give you a collect number to use from outside the US. Once they had the information they needed they started their tracking (which means they call the airline at regular intervals during the day and check the status of their search). They would call me and keep me informed of progress and issued a lost luggage claim number in case it was declared lost.

We prepared for bed and opened the veranda door and sat on the veranda and talked for a while. It had been a long tiring day, but we really were in Paradise. We left the doors open and listened to the gentle waves on the beach about 100 feet from our room.
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