Sunday, February 5, 2017

Crystal Serenity - “Bourbon Street to South Beach” – Caribbean Cruise – December 6-20, 2016

Monday, December 5, 2016 - Travel Day

Hoping for good weather today since it snowed yesterday.  Hazy today but no snow in forecast.

Our flight today, AA4678, has a scheduled departure time of 10:11 AM.  We are planning to use Uber for the first time ever today so I planned to call for the ride at around 8:15 AM.  Hopefully, that will give us enough time to get to the airport comfortably.

Using the Uber App was easy and I could track the car’s progress on the app.  He showed up about seven minutes after I called him.  He didn’t help us with the luggage (maybe the no-tip policy had something to do with it).  The car was small but OK and he drove safely. 

The Uber to the airport came to $31.29 (net 11.29 with a first user coupon).  A cab runs $29 plus tip so Uber is a little better deal.

We didn’t run into any traffic at all so we arrived at the airport in plenty of time.  Our time through security was minimal even through the TSA Pre-Check Lines are getting longer.  Not having to take off shoes or take out your laptop cuts almost all of the delay out of the process.  Even if the lines were equal not dealing with laptops or shoes still makes TSA Pre-Check the better deal.

When we got to the gate, there was no plane and soon the AA app started to issue delays (small incremental ones).  I checked with the gate agents and she told me she had no idea about the length of the delays and I should check the boards.  When the app indicated a gate change, she was unaware of it.  We packed up and headed for the new gate and as we were doing so, the gate change was announced.  AA should look into the information flow to its gate agents.

The plane, an EJ75 finally pulled into the new gate about 30 minutes late. 



AA4678 Late Arrival at ORD

The Embraer 750 is like a mini-737 so cleaning the jet and getting it ready to go is probably a faster process than with other jets.  In about 30 minutes, we were ready to board.  What could have been a major delay turned out to be just about an hour.  The plane is a two by two layout which is comfortable but there are no chargers at the seats.   Ellen had put together mini-bagels with lox spread so we were all set for lunch.  We were not in a very big queue for takeoff so in a few minutes we were airborne.




The takeoff was smooth and soon we passed through the low cloud layer as the jet found blue skies.  Usually, at this point – especially in the cold air of late autumn – my expectations were smooth skies to New Orleans.


I was so so wrong.  The flight was bumpy on the way to our cruising altitude and all the way to New Orleans.  The seat belt sign was on the whole time and the attendants were having trouble negotiating the aisles with their carts.  I had to make one run for the bathroom (only one washroom for coach in the back), when I felt that the chop was easing up (I have developed a sense for that).  When I sat back down, the nasty chop continued in both clear skies and in the shmoo of clouds.  The pilot had very little to say.

I knew from the forecast and from the radar at the airport that there were thunderstorms in the New Orleans area so I expected even worse chop on our approach.  The co-pilot, a woman, came on to indicate we were beginning our initial approach and that the area had rain and thunderstorms (I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a pilot use the word “thunderstorms” – they usually say “weather” or “showers”).

The approach was almost completely in the clouds with lots of nasty chop.  The co-pilot was weaving her way around the storm cells to get us down.  We finally saw the ground at less than a thousand feet and soon the plane was skillfully set down.



Almost on the Ground

Our bags also made it here and were one of the first to come out of the carousel.  I called for another Uber – I also tracked him but couldn’t tell exactly where he was (the app told me that Uber pickups took place across from Baggage Claim 6).  Eventually, the driver called me to tell me he was in the parking lot across from Baggage 6 and that he was in a Dodge Charger.  I found him and we were off t our hotel.

The Uber to the Hotel ran $33 – it was a pretty long drive and based on the drive to ORD I thought the fare was just about right.  The car was very nice and so was the driver. 

We are staying at the Country Inn and Suites on Magazine Street (just two blocks from the French Quarter).  I didn’t book this hotel through and must have chosen this property for its location.  It turned out to be a great choice at a great price.  When we pulled up to the hotel, someone on staff greeted us and the desk clerk gave each of us some beads (not even Mardi Gras). 

The hotel itself is very impressive – it used to be a factory that has been renovated (not yet complete). 


ET in the Lobby


Semi-Renovated Central Courtyard



The Hotel Pool (not yet finished)

We are in Room 345 in the back of the building away from Magazine Street. A non-smoking room with a huge king size bed.  The bathroom was roomy enough. 


Room 345


Check out my beads

The room also had a large window with a nice view of downtown New Orleans.


The View from Room 345

Since it was pretty early in the afternoon, we decided to head down Magazine Street to Canal Street, the boundary of the French Quarter.  One of the landmarks on Canal Street is the huge and colorful Walgreens Drug Store.


While checking out the sights of the French Quarter, we were also scoping out a place to have an early dinner.  Almost every restaurant had the same menu (Cajun and creole stuff, as you would expect) and a pricey menu at that.

Some of the streets seemed familiar and a church in the distance pointed us the way to “Jackson Square”.  Not a lot of impromptu jazz going on at the Square today but I did document that we were there.  I also learned something new – when this area was part of the Spanish province of Louisiana in the early 18th Century, Jackson Square was known as the Plaza de Armas.


IMG_20161205_JacksonSquare_thumb IMG_20161205_JacksonSquare1_thumb

We passed by Café du Monde (no beignets and chicory this time out either) and photographed the golden statue of Jean D’Arc.  


When we started our walk from the hotel, I noticed a woman carrying a Subway bag.  As we checked out more and more menus,it became clear that we were not going to be sampling any local delicacies.  I used Google to find me the closest Subway, which turned out to be just off Canal Street. 

The Subway guy was very generous preparing the tuna sandwich – he even cut the sandwich 2:1 so we could share it.  We ate our sandwich in the lobby area of the hotel (the hotel had coffee and tea out) – very comfortable and nice.

I arranged for a late checkout at Noon tomorrow.

The room seemed comfortable and quiet.

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