For those yeomen in the know, you will know that I am off on my jolly holidays. Off to the Caribean to join a cruise.
Today is the 18th November is officially designated as being 'at sea'
Only I am not at sea.
Yes, fair yeomen, there is a tale to tell...
Now before I start to spin my yarn, I should warn you. There are no pictures. No fancy footnoting. This is just a few paragraphs to help me later when the tale will be told with my normal pedantic glee.
Yesterday, the 17th Novemer we set off from home at just after 5:00 am UK time to travel to Birmingham airport. Journey uneventful, although by the time we parked the car at the airport it had started to rain.
The bus turned up almost straight away to take us to the terminal. Check in was smooth (apart from a lady very concerned over the state of my digestion.
The new security checks are a pain, but if they are prepared to risk my shoes in the machine, then I am prepared to take them off.
The plane was due to take off at 09:50, but in the end it didn't leave the ground until 10:50 - only only an hour delay so no big deal????
Generally a boring flight. There were tow films. Pirates of the Caribean - Dead Man's chest and Good Night, Good Luck (Not a good film for nicotine deprived travellers at virtually every scene involved someone lighting a ciggie (I wonder if that is against the UN Charter of Human Rights?)
The leg room on the flight was OK - although I felt the seats were narrowerer than normal - Is a 767 normally configured 2 -4- 2?
About 50 minutes of of Barbados, things started to take a turn for the worse. Our wonderous Merkin allies felt the need to test a missile. As a result the Merkin Air Traffic Control re-routed the flight around the area. According to the little display showong the progress of the flight - this was quite a major diversion.
(We had also flown over thunderstorms for a fair portion of the flight which gave turbulance which fixed you to the seat)>
At the point of the diversion we had been on the plane for 8 hours.
Sadly, the diversion was so big, that the pilot needed to do a splash and dash at Antigua to make sure that we had enough fuel to get us to Barbados and to join the ship.
We landed with the optimistic view that we would land, re-fuel and take off. I even took a couple of pictures from the windoow of the plane to prove that we had indeed visited Antiga.
An hour an a half later we hadn't moved and no fuel lorry had arrived. We later learned that we were not actually waiting for fuel, buta slot on the apron so that fuelling could take place.
The poor pilot hasn't had much Customer service training. Announcements on progress were few and far between. Yet, there was a kind of Blitz spirit on the plane with all sorts of British varieties of the stiff upper lip being displayed.
By the time we reached the apron it was dark. Still no fuel was forthcoming. WE had been on the plane for over twelve hours before the fuel arrived. By the time the fuel was pumped - the crew had run out of hours. We were stranded.
At 11:15 UK time, we were told that we would be moved to the terminal.
HAlf an hour later we moved to the terminal. After 14 hours on an aircraft, I understood just how bad conditions could be and what it must feel like to be held hostage.
We had flown over another ship from the same cruise line when we were landing - perhaps they would have dropped off an officer from that ship to help with the situation. Did they? No.
Once in the departure hall, we had an unsightly scrum around the food concession. Over 315 people queued patiently for food and a drink. No food or drink had been served for about 5 hours on the plane - the crew ran out. Indeed, three of the four toilets were out of action at the end.
Oh, I forgot the queue for the security check. Even t6hough we were an arrival - we still had to go through another security check. By this time my shoes were a definite biohazard!
We were in the lounge for over two hours. there was no news - just rumours.
The Manchester flight had been through re-fuelled and then sent on its way.
The Gatwick flight had been delayed on the ground for 8 hours.
Two hours later after no other news we got the news the flight had been cancelled. Tempers began to fray. the Blitz spirit started to desert us.
We then had to fuill in immigration and customes forms. Then collect our bags.
We were then placed into taxis. A BIG PAT ON THE BACK TO THE GUY ORGANMISING THE TAXIS _ HE WAS DOING A GRAND JOB!!!
In the official Holder's Worlds Worst Taxi Drivers League we have a new #1 with a bullet! Antigua taxi drivers are the worst I have ever seen. it was a true white knuckle experience.
We arrived at our temporaru resort at 2:45 (on 18/11) UK time.
OK. So I had my first rum punch of the tour (lots of rum!) I did get a bed by 03:30 UK Time. But I feel for the elderly on our plane - they were having to hauul their cases etc.
We still didn't know how we were going to get to the ship as we laid diown our weary heads.