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Old 06-05-2014, 03:27 PM   #1
dolphingirl47
I will post my goodies once I am back
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I Love the Little Fishies. Don't You?

Day 1

This was a slightly unusual start to a holiday for us. Even though we live reasonably close to the airport, we tend to stay the night before a flight at one of the airport hotels. This time round, this was not practical. When we booked this holiday, for some reason the prices at the airport hotels were sky high. I also knew that I would have a rather busy time in the run up to this trip and staying the night before we left at home gave me extra time to sort stuff out. The drawback with this is that I did not have the chance to decompress before we left and it did not really feel like we were going on holiday.

As our flight left at 9:45, we had a quite early start. Our alarm went off at 5:30. This made me smile. I use my iPhone as my alarm clock and the ringtone for that is actually the DCL horn. I have to say that the realization that the next time I would hear this would be the real thing on the Disney Wonder lifted my spirits quite significantly. We got up and ready and then headed out.

I had given some thought as to what the best way would be to get to the airport. The obvious option would have been a taxi, but traffic can be pretty bad that time in the morning. As we only live a 10 minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly station, this seemed the better option. So this what we did. Everything worked like clockwork. The train was on time and it did not take us long to walk over to the correct terminal.

The terminal was one of the things that I was not too keen on before the trip. We have two great international terminals with all kinds of shops and restaurants and then there is terminal 3. Terminal 3 was originally a satellite terminal and is designed for domestic and short haul flights. Due to the close partnership between American Airlines and British Airways, American moved in there a few years back. They have recently been joined by US Airways, too.

One of the drawbacks of putting long haul flights with short haul flights became obvious straightaway. This terminal is simply not set up for the added levels of security for flights to the USA. The security checks created quite a bottleneck and the line looked huge. Still, it moved mercifully quickly. It is still a big source of joy for me that I know longer get the Spanish Inquisition every time I want to leave the UK. What a difference a British passport makes! Still, we got a few unusual questions. They wanted the complete breakdown of electronics we were taking and also how long we had owned our luggage for. Still, the security guy was really nice and the process was quick and painless.

Once we had cleared the security clearance, we were then directed to one of the self-service check in machines. I had tried to do online check in the day before, but kept getting an error message. Unfortunately the same thing happened at the self-service check in machine. Instead of our boarding cards, we got a piece of paper advising us to seek assistance. There was somebody straight behind the check in machine and I approached her. She accessed our booking and after a few entries in here system, she printed our boarding cards. She asked us if we had bought our tickets through US Airways, which we had. Looks like their systems are not fully integrated yet.

With the booking fixed and our boarding cards in hand, we then proceeded to the counter to check in. My suitcase was 2.5 kg heavier than it should be. We were given the option to reorganize our luggage and accepted this gratefully. Graham took his telescope bag out of his suitcase and took this as his personal item. He then got a couple of pairs of my sandals. I also put some odds and ends in my hand luggage, as there is no weight restriction for this on American. When we weighed our luggage again, both suitcases were within the permitted limit. We went back to the baggage drop and did not have to wait at all. Our baggage was tagged and we were off through security.

The line for security looked quite long, but moved pretty swiftly. Once we were through security, I took a couple of photos of the fore field and then we headed to the departure lounge. Even though they had obviously spend some money, there is still not a great deal there. We did however find a Costa Coffee and decided to have something to drink. Graham had an Americano and I had an Iced Peach Lemonade.



Once I had finished my drink, I had a quick look at the duty free shop, but nothing there grabbed me. This is just as well as they were already calling our flight when it came out of the shop. I got Graham and we headed to the gate. This is where he encountered the first hold up. Initially shortly after we got to the gate, we got an announcement that boarding would commence shortly. This was then followed by a further announcement about 10 minutes later advising that there had been a delay in the arrival of the cabin crew and boarding would commence as soon as they had arrived. We were pretty laid back about this. We had a transit time of 5.5 hours to play with. Our gate was in a spot that planes taxiing to the runway had to come past and I also had the Internet on my iPhone. So I was well entertained. In the end the cabin crew arrived and the boarding process was conducted at the speed of lightning. As we approached the aircraft door, we were asked to store our hand luggage and sit down as quickly as possible. It most certainly helped that the plane was not full either. In the end, we managed to take off on schedule.





The plane for the first leg of the journey was a Boeing 757, which is a narrow body single aisle aircraft with 3 seats on either side of the aisle. I have to admit that I was more than a little worried about this in the run up to the holiday. Still, sometimes you have to compromise. The fantastic deal we got on those flights allowed us to take this holiday. Not long before we left, I also read a pretty damning review of a flight on American on this kind of aircraft. I did not need to have worried. The plane was relatively new or at least had been recently refurbished and the seats were very comfortable. There was also some pretty generous legroom. While we were waiting to pull away from the stand, cabin crew started to reseat people, as there was plenty of spare seats. I was hoping that they may move the man who was sitting next to us so that Graham and I would have the three seats between the two of us. This did not happen. Instead we were asked if we were travelling together. We confirmed this and were advised that there were two seats with extra legroom behind each other near the front of the aircraft and were asked if we were interested. We definitely were. By then we had started to taxi out and were advised by a member of cabin crew that she would move us once we had reached cruising altitude. True to her word, she came back as soon as the seatbelt signs had gone off. What she had for us was an emergency exit seat and the seat behind it. As there are only two seats by the emergency exit, the window seat behind had a lot of legroom as well. This was just perfect.

The flight was rather pleasant. Shortly after we were moved, they did the drinks service. Rather than the mini cans that most airlines use, they actually offered full-size cans of soft drink. I had a Coke and Graham just had some water. Shortly afterwards, lunch was served. That was a lovely surprise. We both had the Beef Stroganoff with Rice and Vegetables. The vegetables were actually slightly crunchy and tasted like vegetables. This was the first time ever that I had vegetables on a plane that were not overcooked. Apart from the main course, we got some fancy salad, which I passed on to Graham, a Pretzel roll, cheese spread and crackers and some honey and oat biscuits.

After lunch, they showed the first film. I had no intention to watch a film on the overhead screens, but they showed Frozen and I changed my mind. Unfortunately I missed a big chunk of it as I fell asleep. The rest of the flight I spent reading and getting started on the trip report. They were very generous with juice and water during the flight. About an hour before we were landing in New York, they served a snack. I declined as we had plans for late lunch/ early dinner and did not want to spoil my appetite. Graham had one and we ended up sharing this. The snack box consisted of a ham and cheese sandwich in a Pretzel roll, a dried fruit snack, some salt and cider vinegar crisps (which were really gross) and a Twix, which I got to eat. Once the rubbish had been cleared away, we had already started our descent into JFK.

The fact that we were flying into JFK had been another source of concern for me in the run up of the trip. We had flown through JFK once before and even though we had twice the minimum connecting time; we ended up missing our onward flight. With 5.5 hours to play with, this was not really a worry, but I still did not look forward to the experience. I have to say that it filled me with considerable joy when we were taxiing to our gate when I realized that the old Delta terminal with all its inefficiencies had been torn down. I hope that they now have a nice modern terminal. We pulled up to a very nice modern terminal. I had a small problem. The Boeing B757 does not have enough space for hand luggage especially as a lot of people bring stuff that I would classify as a small suitcase. My backpack is slightly too high to fit under the seat. So it ended up in the overhead compartment a few rows forward of our original seat, which had been at the back of the plane. When we moved, I just left it there. This meant that I would have to go against the flow to retrieve it. So we just stayed put and waited for everybody to get off. I was quite surprised when somebody said "hi" as we were waiting. Somebody I work with was on the same flight.

Eventually the plane was clear and I manage to retrieve my backpack. We thanked the cabin crew and were on our way. The terminal reminded us a lot of Atlanta. There seemed to be endless hallways. Once we got to immigration, there was hardly anybody there. We were directed straight to a counter and there was one person in front of us. The only question we were asked was how long we would be staying in the USA. We told the immigration official that we would get on a ship the next day. He wished us a nice trip, stamped our passports and we were on our way.

Even though we were the last people off the plane, because immigration had been so quick, the luggage had not started arriving when be got to the baggage hall. It started arriving shortly after we got there and our suitcases arrived together shortly afterwards. At the other side of the baggage hall there were two customs officials who just took the form off people and waved them through. Immediately after this, we handed our luggage in again and followed the signs for connecting flights. We were surprised that we left the transit area and ended up landside near the check in counters. The whole process was very smooth and even with the delay with getting off the aircraft; it only took 30 minutes from the time the aircraft door opened until we were in the departure area. That must be a new record.

The first thing we noticed was a beautiful mural with famous buildings at one of the walls. This mural is called Skylines of the World and actually carries on through security and the airside part of the terminal. We stopped and took some photos. Once we had admired this for long enough, we had a quick bathroom break and I got some Dollars from the cashpoint machine and then we headed through security. This was a fairly quick and smooth process, too.











Once we were through security, I was on a mission. It had always been our intention to get a late lunch/ early dinner while we were at JFK, as we would not arrive in Miami until 21:20 and I did not want to worry about getting something to eat then. Having been to a few US airports and especially after a previous visit to JFK, I was not too optimistic about our choices and figured it would be a question of having something to eat at a food court outlet. A couple of weeks before we left, I was looking for something else on the JFK website and noticed that there is a steakhouse in the American Airlines terminal. This sounded great to both of us. So we planned to eat there. Once we were through security, I looked at a map of the terminal to see were we needed to go. I was approached by a member of airport staff who asked what I was looking for. I told her that I was looking for Bobby Van's Steakhouse. She pointed diagonally across from where we were. It was right there. We thanked her and headed over.

The restaurant looked quite busy, but we were seated straightaway. I was not too impressed that the majority of the seating was made up of high tables and chairs and we were directed to one of those. I prefer having my feet firmly on the floor. One thing that did impress me is that our server asked us how much time we had until our flight so that they could tailor the service to this. He was happy when we told him that we had plenty of time. I ordered a Coke and Graham had a Budweiser. We both went with Ribeye Steak with a side of Macaroni Cheese. The steak was divine. It was juicy, flavourful and cooked to perfection. The Macaroni Cheese did not wow me. It was ok, but I had much better elsewhere. Still, it was a nice meal and the perfect start to the holiday.

When we had finished our meal and had paid, we went exploring. The terminal is a beautiful light and airy space with plenty of art around the place. My favourite were a statue and a collage with 1000s of Swarovski crystals. Unfortunately they were impossible to photograph due to the reflection of the crystals. I was also looking around the shops. In the USA the seventh and last installment of the Kingdom Keepers series had been released on 1st April. Back home, this was not due to be released until 22nd May. So I was hoping to pick this up at JFK. I had bought books at Hudson News before so I had a look at a couple of their shops. I was out of luck. I decided to give up and we headed towards the gate for our connecting flight. Luck had it that right opposite our gate was a dedicated bookstore. Initially I thought I was out of luck there, too, but just as I was leaving I caught a glimpse of what I was looking for out of the corner of my eye. I retrieved my prize and headed to pay. I was happy. So far everything had worked like clockwork. I even managed to find a bottle of Gourmet Orange Soda on my travels and enjoyed this when I had rejoined Graham back at the gate. I then spent the waiting time finishing the book that I had started on the plane and having another look around the shops.







[url=https://flic.kr/p/nzkn13]









I realized that all was not well when I went to the bathroom around 17:00. I glanced at the departure board and our flight was showing a 45 minute delay. Now 45 minutes is not a big deal and I often joke that when it comes to flying, anything within 30 minutes of the scheduled time is considered on time. Unfortunately my bubble was burst shortly afterwards. An announcement was made that our aircraft had developed technical issues and had gone to the hangar for maintenance. They also advised us that the published time was not actually the new departure time, but the time the next announcement would be made. My heart just sunk. The fact that the aircraft was in the hangar was definitely not a good sign. Working for an airline, I can kind of read between the lines as I have dealt with my fair share of disruptions. Still there was nothing I could do and I kept an open mind. When I had another bathroom break about an hour later, I decided to see if I could get more information out of the gate agent. When I asked what the likelihood was that we were leaving that evening, he said that there was a small chance. That was the answer that I had feared. Ours was the last scheduled flight to Miami that night. I checked and there were three flights on the morning that still would get us to the ship on time, but I just did not need that stress.

Fortunately things started to look up. About a quarter of an hour later, there was an announcement that they had found us a replacement aircraft, which was due to land at JFK any minute, but there had been a change of gate. The new boarding time was 19:00. That sounded very promising. We headed over to the new gate and shortly afterwards the new plane arrived. I watched the people come off and the cleaning crew go on. They seemed all set for a quick turnaround. So I was somewhat surprised when there was an announcement that there was a further delay and if one person from each party could come to the gate with all boarding passes to collect meal vouchers. I was impressed that they issued meal vouchers after such a short delay. At $12 per person, they seemed pretty generous as well. We did not collect ours as we were still stuffed.

At 20:20, they finally asked us to board. They boarded the plane at the speed of lightning. 10 minutes later everybody was on and the aircraft doors were shut. Then there was a little waiting around as there were a number of planes ahead of us in the queue. When the Captain made this announcement, he also apologized for the delay. He explained that the Captain supposed to take us to Miami had been taken ill and they had called him at home to fly us there instead. I could not believe this. Tinkerbell and all her fairy friends must have been on standby to sprinkle serious Pixie Dust on us. I was seriously impressed with American. I don't measure the quality of a company by the fact that nothing goes wrong, but how they recover when it does. American passed this test with flying colours. To realize that a plane can't be fixed in a timely manner, find a replacement plane and a replacement pilot all within 2.5 hours is seriously impressive.

I managed to stay awake while we were taxiing to the runway and vaguely remember taking off, but I was essentially asleep for the whole of the flight. The flight was quite bumpy and this woke me up briefly a few times, but I went straight back to sleep. I woke up when the Captain announced that we had started our descent into Miami. Miami looks very pretty all lit up during the night. We landed shortly after and it was a smooth run to the terminal. We finally arrived in Miami at 23:30. Fortunately it did not take long for our luggage to arrive and both suitcases pretty much arrived together. At that stage we had a decision to make. Our plan had been to catch the train from the airport. I knew that the last train runs shortly after midnight. What I did not know is how far we were from the station. We briefly discussed this and decided to play it safe and just get a taxi rather than making our way to the station just to find out that the last train had left. That late at night there was hardly any traffic and it also cost less than I had expected.

We arrived at the hotel just before midnight. We went to reception to check in and were told that we were the family of the day. The person at check in advised that every day a family gets chosen and they receive an upgrade. That day it was us. We were upgraded to a one-bedroom suite and were also offered late check out. The suite was huge. The drawback with that was that it was on the second floor. I had requested a high floor and port view. Some of our windows were looking out towards the port, but we were too low to see anything. I had kind of looked forward to watching the Wonder come into port, but I figured I may not be awake that early anyway after our late night.

While Graham got ready for bed, I took some photos of our room. I think this was bigger than our apartment at home. I also put my iPad on charge and then I got ready for bed, too. I was definitely ready for my bed and fell asleep as soon as I had switched off the light.








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Old 06-05-2014, 03:49 PM   #2
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We're on the second leg of our flight home and they're boarding all the other passengers. Im sure they will be asking us to put phones on airplane mode soon, so I'm just subbing in here and will be back to read once I'm home and settled. Glad to see it started!
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Old 06-05-2014, 03:53 PM   #3
dolphingirl47
I will post my goodies once I am back
I have always been too worried to use the pillowcase
 
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Originally Posted by franandaj View Post
We're on the second leg of our flight home and they're boarding all the other passengers. Im sure they will be asking us to put phones on airplane mode soon, so I'm just subbing in here and will be back to read once I'm home and settled. Glad to see it started!
Have a safe trip home. I am glad to get started as well. It took me a little while to get going, but now I am ready to relive the trip.

Corinna
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Old 06-05-2014, 03:54 PM   #4
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Hi Corinna, great start and thank you for posting this tonight, I was so excited to start reading it.

Got to say, while I'm sure this pun was unintentional, it really made me laugh.

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Originally Posted by dolphingirl47 View Post
for some reason the prices at the airport hotels were sky high.
Which hotel did you stay at in Miami (I thought I might have missed it). Am impressed that you were family of the day at almost midnight lol

Looking forward to reading more about your trip.
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Old 06-05-2014, 04:01 PM   #5
dolphingirl47
I will post my goodies once I am back
I have always been too worried to use the pillowcase
 
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Originally Posted by wilma-bride View Post
Hi Corinna, great start and thank you for posting this tonight, I was so excited to start reading it.

Got to say, while I'm sure this pun was unintentional, it really made me laugh.

Which hotel did you stay at in Miami (I thought I might have missed it). Am impressed that you were family of the day at almost midnight lol

Looking forward to reading more about your trip.
Yes, the pun was unintentional, but it does work.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Port of Miami/ Downtown. We stayed there before our cruise on the Magic in December and loved it. I have noticed that most American hotels seem to allocate rooms for people who have not arrived at around 16:00. We have arrived at a number of hotels after this and were assured that we had already checked in only to then been told that they allocated our room at that time. I think they were probably gutted that their Family of the Day did not roll in until midnight.

Corinna
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Old 06-05-2014, 04:26 PM   #6
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Hi Corinna! Great to see that your trip report has started! Am looking forward to read about your cruise! It will be so interesting to see how your experience was different from mine. It was great to meet you and Graham in person!

I am planning on starting my trip report sometime next week (but then I have a good excuse since I could not go home directly from San Diego, but had to spend a week at Disneyland ). At the moment I started to sort through my 2350 pictures...

I am so envious that you got a transatlantic flight that was not sold out. Mine are usually booked in every single seat. But it sounds like your immigration experience was much better at JFK than mine in Miami - or even in San Diego!! I am always scared of getting connecting flights in the US as the duration of immigration and security can vary so much and I am always afraid I might miss my connecting flight. But it really sounds like you are happy with your experiences in that regard. Might have to reconsider my thinking and give it a try. But recently the best deals have been with Air France anyway for the flights directly from Paris to my destination and I do like flying with them.
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Old 06-05-2014, 04:47 PM   #7
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Subbing in!


Heading back to read.
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Old 06-05-2014, 05:14 PM   #8
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Nice start! Seems like AA come through with flying colours where issues were concerned. Glad you didn't have to wait it out for an early morning flight.

BTW - Congrats on getting the UK passport. I hadn't realised that your passport from the birthplace was still causing additional questions in today's day and age.

Love the murals and your description of JFK. Seems like they've cleaned up their act nicely.
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Old 06-05-2014, 06:37 PM   #9
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I'm here! Must come back to read. Excited to hear about your latest adventure
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Old 06-05-2014, 07:08 PM   #11
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Old 06-05-2014, 08:45 PM   #12
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I'm in! What a long first day, but a great room.
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Old 06-06-2014, 11:19 AM   #13
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Hi Corinna!

It was so nice to meet you. I'm looking forward to seeing all your pictures. It's always fun to see what other people did on the same trip.

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Old 06-06-2014, 11:50 AM   #14
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I am here.... Whew that was a long day
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Old 06-06-2014, 04:05 PM   #15
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YAY!!! you have started the trip report . I really enjoy your trip reports as they are full of information and they give me lots of ideas. Really looking forward to this one as we are doing this trip next year.

Glad that you did get to fly to Miami that day, I would have been a bag of nerves with the thought of missing the ship

What a long and adventurous first day. The hotel room looks great.
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