Sunday, February 10, 2008

Montego Bay, Jamaica: Arriving in Houston, TX (IAH)

10FEB08 Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

We landed and made our way to the gate at Terminal E after a short taxi. I got my stuff together and joined my travel companion who had already exited the plane.

We chatted as we headed for the Immigration hall. I had envisioned a long line based on our arrival time and sure enough there was one. The Continental flights from Paris and London as well as Amsterdam had arrived and so have other flights from Mexico and Central America.

We walked through the long line and ended up going on another side of the room as there were additional officers there.

We both saw an officer about the same time and I was cleared without any issues. He however was selected for secondary screening. I accompanied him into the secure room as we were escorted by an airport worker. This guy was strange, it was as if he did not want to work.

Anyways, we entered the room and sat down. I commented on how serious everyone looked even the Officers. The seats were very good and although made of hard plastic it pushed forward when you leaned back. Did that mean we would be there for a while?

I looked around and there was about ten or so people in the room. One guy went up to the desk and said something about being later for a flight. I don't think that was a good thing as he was told to sit until called.

It got better when a nun showed up; I wondered what she was in for...? After twenty minutes, it was all over and we left and headed for the baggage room. We both showed our Customs forms and departed for a waiting parking shuttle.

Montego Bay, Jamaica: Montego Bay to Houston, TX

CO863 10FEB08 Donald Sangster International, Montego Bay Jamaica (MBJ) to Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) 2:18p 4:52p 738 N??280

Flight Time: 3:35

As we boarded this 16-seater First cabin and 141 seats in Economy class airplane, the flight attendant said hello. I said hello back and made my way to my First class window seat. My travel companion took his seat, helping me to put my stuff away.

I started looking around and was thrilled to find two power outlet between our leather seats. Awesome, I thought, now I can continue to charge my computer and get some work done.

Passengers continued to board as we were offered pre-departure drinks; I'm loving this service already.

There were a few last minute upgrades and a little activity at the boarding door. Apparently, the rear thrash can was not emptied so that had to be done before we left. I also heard the flight attendant say something about all the bottled water being taken off the plane, but I did not pay attention.

A flight attendant came by and offered complimentary headsets; in Economy, they are 1 USD, but you can always use your own at no cost. We were also asked what we would like for dinner after takeoff; our choices were a Ruben sandwich or shrimp over rice. We both chose the shrimp over rice.

The doors soon closed and we pushed back as the safety video was played in English. We taxied down to the runway passing an Air Transat A310, as well as a Ryan International Boeing 737 at the gate. There was also a US Airways plane being pushed back as well.

We took to the runway after a short pause and was airborne quickly. It was a beautiful sight as we looked out the window. One could see the coast with all the beautiful hotels, beach and golf courses in the clear afternoon.

We turned right and all that disappeared.

About 35 minutes after takeoff, we passed two islands and I wondered what they were; the Captain came on the PA and announced that Cayman Islands would be on the left in a few minutes. So I assumed that the two islands was Cayman Brac and Little Cayman; a passenger confirmed that this was the case.

"The Nanny Diaries" is the movie for the flight and it started shortly. I've seen parts of it on several flights and just can't bring myself to watch it, so I just read until the meal arrived.

First, we were offered a wet towel, then our drinks of choice arrived with a packet of mixed nuts. The drinks order of choice were taken at the same time as the meal order earlier.

Our lunch order arrived on a tray; it consisted of butter, a salad, salad dressing, shrimp on a bed of rice and vegetables on sauce.

We both ate heartily as the movie continued and we headed north towards Houston. The flight attendant was great about refilling our drinks as well. After the meal, we were offered dessert of a chocolate cheese cake with pecan, plus coffee and/or an after dinner drink.

It was funny as the coffee came when the seatbelt sign was still on :-).

After the service, I was really tired so I fell asleep. I awoke as we started our descnt into Houston. I did see a Customs form on my table so my travel companion must have left it there for me. I filled it out carefully and then relaxed for the landing.

It was nice and bright outside and you could see the lakes around Houston as we descended. It was hard to see where we were coming in, but eventually, we figured out that it was over the Lee Road area. As we descended close to the end of the runway, once could see all the plane spotters just shy of the end of the runway. It was good to see as for a while, this area was closed.

Montego Bay, Jamaica: Leaving Montego Bay

10FEB08 Leaving Montego Bay, Jamaica (MBJ)

Our ride to the airport promptly arrived at noon and we got to the airport at 12:16p.

We checked in and paid our departure taxes of 41 USD then decided if they had moved the car as yet. We went over to the lot and indeed it was moved. I guess it is not too good to see a banged up car in the car rental parking lot.

We then entered security, well we did immigration first. As it turns out, the same Officer saw us again. I did not even recognize him until he called it to our attention.

This area is new; about a year old the lady said once I cleared security. They have a mega duty free area so we walked around and found something to eat.

As we did so, w saw the Continental Boeing 737-800 with winglets land. It was good to confirm that it was a larger plane so we should have no issues getting a seat today. Looks like they will close gates 1-7 as they are done with the airport development. The new part of the airport is really nice though.

I checked the cost of Internet and it is outrageous, more than the hotel which was 11.95 USD per day. The cost at the airport is:
$15.95 for 1 hour
$22.95 for 1 day
$49.95 for 1 month
Good grief, no, I thought.

We walked around for a bit and then made our way to the gate after leaving the duty free liquor store. While there I heard the cashier tell a customer they can take as much Bailey's as possible to the U.S. which I know is incorrect. Check this page at to know what are your limits.

We went to the gate and got our tickets and we were fortunate enough to make it to First Class. We went walking again and looked at the FIDs. Most flight were going to the U.S., but there were a few to Canada as well and about three later at night to Italy.

You can see the FIDs at Note how they have Los Angeles, CA and Toronto, CA as opposed to Toronto, ON CA...

We decide to board in a few minutes after boarding commenced.

Montego Bay, Jamaica: In Jamaica (a car accident)

09FEB08 Jamaica

O.K. So this blog is about the journey, never the destination, but here is an entry with an exception to that.

On Saturday, we journeyed about two hours over the mountains to St. Elizabeth to see my aunt and grand aunt. We had a good visit experiencing the culture as we did so. Basically eating our way across the island.

It started to pour rain while at my family's place so it delayed our departure. Actually it even altered our departure as the roads from whence we came would have been bad for us to drive.

The going was slow as it continued to rain throughout the mountains. As we neared an area called New Roads, I touched the brakes to slow as I negotiated a left hand corner and the car skidded to the right into oncoming traffic, i.e. a van on the side of the road. Thankfully, all was well and no one was injured. You can see a picture of the damage below. The other gut took a bunch of pictures with his camera and although we had a camera we did not take any pictures or video for some odd reason.

It took a few hours to get it all straightened out (for want of a better expression). Which also involved a visit to the Darliston Police station (the station in charge of that area) to give an account of the accident. It was a very pleasant experience and the Officer was very courteous. Adding that when it rains, there is always an accident at that location. He also said that there is supposed to be a "Slippery When Wet" sign there, but that had not been put up as yet.

Luckily the car was still driveable, despite the fact that everyone stared at us all the way back to the airport. Hey, I would have stared too.

At the airport, though, the car rental company was not nice as they said thy had no more cars to rent (not true as we caught them in a lie) so we were out of luck. They even initially refused to get us transportation to/from our hotel until we finally convinced them that they were still obligated to us under contract and negotiated a ride to the airport that night and back the next day (today).

A note to the car rental company will address this lack of compassion and customer service.

Montego Bay, Jamaica: Donald Sangster International Airport, Montego Bay, Jamaica (MBJ)

I noticed that there was an American Airlines Airbus 300-600 (AB6) at the gate with the jet way pulled. It had arrived the night before and would make AA's first flight to Miami today.

Our plane was the first one to arrive at the airport. It was strange to see the terminal that void of airplanes. We pulled up to the gate and deplaned.

I noticed that we were walking to a new area of the airport. Since my last time here in Sept. 2006, they had built a new arrival area which was rally nice now.

We cleared that area and then cleared the Customs area and approached the car rental area. We knew we had to wait until 8a (it was now 7:30a) for them to open. As we waited, we saw an agent from another company show up, we asked her about a rate, she said she had one and we took her up on the offer.

By 8a, we had our car and headed for the hotel.

Montego Bay, Jamaica: Los Angeles, CA (LAX) to Montego Bay, Jamaica (MBJ)

JM074 08FEB08 Los Angeles International, Los Angeles CA (LAX) to Donald Sangster International, Montego Bay Jamaica (MBJ) 10:00p 6:25a+1 320 6Y-JMF

Flight Time: 5:15

As I boarded the greeting flight attendants inspected my boarding pass. I said hello, then I turned right and walked through three rows of 2-2 configured First Class cabin with one empty seat.

There is a divider from the Economy class cabin with its 3-3 blue cloth seats with a red cover that had a humming bird (love bird) on it. There were the usual people trying to get in their seats as we walked down the aisle.

As I walked down, I did notice that the legroom was really tight on this airplane; good thing that we have an empty seat between us. There were also blankets and pillows on select seats throughout the cabin.

We got settled in and soon it was time for pushback at 10:17p. As we did, the manual flight attendant demo started. It took us a little time to get to the runway and soon, we tookoff at 10:32p into the dark night air.

After takeoff, we were welcomed aboard and the crew was introduced by the lead flight attendant. She explained that we should stay in our own cabins and that we would have a light champagne snack service after we leveled out and then 1.5 hours before landing we would have a hot breakfast. She then said to sit back and relax and enjoy the service.

Immigration forms were handed out for those whose final stop was Jamaica followed by headsets. The movie screens then came down from the ceiling. The entertainment for today would be “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” says the Skywritings inflight magazine.

The inflight snack of a pack of cookies came and was followed by a service of beverages. All drinks were complimentary except fot beer and wine which was 3 USD.
As I was pretty tired, I fell asleep while looking at the movie without using the headsets.

About an hour and a half before landing, we were served breakfast. There was a choice of French toast or a cheese omelet; I opted for the cheese omelet that was served with a sausage, potatoes and a roll. Drinks followed after the meal was served.

I heard the lady in front of us ask for coffee. The flight attendant said that hot beverages are never served when the seatbelt sign is turned on. A strange rule I thought and wondered what happened to cause them to instituted such a rule.

After the meal and drinks were served, they came back with tea and coffee as the seat belt sign was now turned off.

The pilot then came on the PA at 6:27a and welcomed us onboard and said that we should touch down at about 6:48a. He also said that the temp was 78F and next time we come back to Jamaica we should bring a friend.

The flight attendants did an Exit row demo just before landing and ensured that our blankets were stowed away as well as the window shades were up. One passenger was still doing his forms with the tray table down and he had to put it up. The flight attendant was not happy that he was doing that at all.

As we descended, one could still see night lights on the city of Montego Bay. The Caribbean sea water was incredibly clear though.

We touched down as promised and made our way to the gate.

Montego Bay, Jamaica: In Los Angeles, CA (LAX)

08FEB08 Los Angeles International, Los Angeles CA (LAX)

We left the Presidents Club and made our way to the escalators that would take us down to the walkway between Terminal 5 and 6. I knew we had a little walk ahead of us so I was hoping that there was a cart down there and sure enough there was.

I spoke to the guy who was on his cell phone if he could take us. He was still on the phone when we sat on his cart, so I told him that if he can't leave now, we would just walk, so then he started the cart and we left.

At the other side, we made our way upstairs to the terminal. We went over to the gate and waited for an agent to arrive. W saw one and asked if we could check-in at the gate and she said yes, but that she had to go meet the incoming flight. We also saw the crew waiting behind the podium as well.

My travel companion was busy getting the hotel booked as the Internet site was just not having it earlier. Eventually he got that accomplished and we had a room for Saturday-Sunday at the Rose Hall Resort & Country Club. We decided against the All Inclusive as it was too pricey.

We got checked in with seat assignments in a row at the back of the plan at about 9:30p and then we made a quick trip to the Delta Crown Room Club. I showed my credentials and the agent asked me for a ticket. The agent who was training her told her that none is necessary with a Presidents Club card. Another lady before us was asking about gaining entry, but she could not with only a ticket on Air Jamaica. It appears that Air Jamaica does not have a lounge agreement with Delta, but I am not certain.

The Club is quite small and almost all the seats were taken. W eventually walked around and found two seats next to each other. We then had some refreshments before rushing back to the gate. As for Internet access, Delta uses T-Mobile and I had to pay so I did not bother.

At the gate, they had not started boarding as yet, but the crew had gone, so that was a good sign. In a few minutes they did start the process and we boarded when it was our turn.