Monday, December 22, 2014

Southern Pacific Coastal Cruise – Golden Princess – Los Angeles to Valparaiso, Chile – December 3-19, 2014

Cruise Background.  This will be the fourth time we have been to South America and our second repositioning cruise.  This cruise, on the big ship – Golden Princess – will take us from Los Angeles, along the coast of Mexico and Costa Rica, across the equator, to Peru, and then to Chile, ending up at the major port, Valparaiso. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2013 – Travel Day

No early flight today so we can get up at a reasonable time for our flight to Los Angeles.  The cab was scheduled for 8:00 AM (I used a phone app to set it up – really easy) and he was right on time.  There was absolutely no traffic on the way to O’Hare so we were there in plenty of time for our 10:05 flight on AA1169. 

Our plane – a B737-800 –

20141202_AA1169 ORD LAX (Small)

was waiting at the gate and we boarded right on time at 9:40 AM.  This plane was literally brand new – even the carpets were clean and new.  All seats had screens (movies cost money but other entertainment was available).  The screens had USB and other charging ports and each set also had a standard plug by the seat pouch (no more reaching under the seat for the plug).  The flight tracker was very cool with HD graphics – the little plane icon was our exact model and even had the new AA color schemes.  We paid a few bucks for exit rows and it was worth it – lots of room.

20141202_Flight track plane (Small) 20141202_flight tracker (Small)

New Generation Flight Tracker

The plane pushed early and we were on the active runway right on time.  I should mention that the Captain was totally understandable – none of that pilot mumble talk.  He said we would encounter some bumps along the way and so we were going to a low cruising altitude of 28,000 feet to minimize the chop.  The flight was still bumpy with most of that chop happening over the Rockies.  Once we got past the Rockies, we were in the shmoo.  Our plane had to kill some time over Arizona because traffic was being slowed down due to weather in Los Angeles.  I could see the zigs and zags the aircraft was executing to slow down. 

I watched the planes approach on my flight tracker (couldn’t see anything out the window) and noticed that the plane – now at only 2000 feet – had flown past the airport and was out over the Pacific Ocean.  I have to admit that I was a bit confused as to the flight path but had confidence that the pilot had it well in hand.  Finally, the plane turned back toward the airport and after a very bumpy descent, I caught a glimpse of the beach out of the window just prior to touchdown.  The plane had made a very rare approach over the Pacific – for wind and visibility reasons probably.  A smooth touchdown.  The rain was really coming down.

It took a while to get to the gate – traffic was even slow on the ground.  Our bags made it to Carousel 2 and we headed to the rental car shuttle pick up area.  In a few minutes, the Enterprise van showed up and took us to the offsite rental facility.  It took no time to get our slick black Chevy Cruz (very cool car with lots of bells and whistles). 

We drove the car through the clogged streets of Los Angeles to spend time with my sister, brother, niece and brother-in-law.  She ordered fantastic Italian food and it was a great visit.

At about 8:30 PM, we took off for San Pedro and the Best Western Plus Hotel on Gaffey Street.  It took about 45 minutes to get there on the traffic-free but rain soaked freeway system.  LA now has a “Fastrak” toll system for people who want to avoid the bulk of the traffic.  The city has built these massive sky ways to accommodate the Fastrak cars and they are Godzilla huge.

We found the hotel, checked in, and spent only a few minutes settling down before calling it a day.

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