Monday, October 22, 2012

A weekend South of the Border (Part 3 of 3)

(Apologies in advance for lack of photos in this instalment!)

Upon awaking that last morning before heading to the flight we came across the only disappointing aspect to the trip, when checking upgrade status on we discovered that while mine had cleared, Michelle’s hadn't  Unable to call into customer service we figured we’d take our chances at the airport and head over a bit early to try to figure out what had happened. But first we took our last hot showers for quite a while and enjoyed the view, space and multiple shower heads that the W's huge shower afforded.

There was just enough time for last stroll through Polanco to grab breakfast, normally we love the breakfasts at international Starwoods but this spread was awfully weak appearing in both quality and selection. A couple blocks up the road near where we had dinner the first night were 2 very European bakeries with a wide selection of macaroons, breads, croissants, and even Brezel!

The W Mexico City offers a car service anywhere including the airport, it was 400 pesos if charged to the room and 350 if paying cash. While maybe convenient and an additional way to earn some Starpoints it’s definitely not economical, a taxi is only about 200 pesos.

AA #105 (737-8) Seats: 4A & 7C
Depart: MEX 6:40 AM
Arrive: MIA 7:05 AM

At check in we were informed the reason only one upgrade had cleared while the other didn't is because the phone agent we spoke with before the trip had failed to merge the PNRs as she had indicated, hence when I requested the upgrade it only requested for me and not Michelle. There was one seat left available but 2 Platinums on the wait list ahead of us, which did not bode well. Due to the early check in we had plenty of time to kill after clearing security, was awfully nice to just have a metal detector, before we boarded so a visit to the Admirals Club was in order. The Club in Mexico City was quite large with nice views of both the tarmac and an indoor courtyard at the hotel, not to mention a decent library and a few hot and cold food selections. Thankfully they had a shuttle when boarding was called as it was a good 10-15 minute walk to the gate, as we found out when first looking for the AC.

I offered Michelle the business class seat many times but she refused and instead took refuge in her empty bulkhead row to stretch out and sleep for the flight, was probably a fair choice! Breakfast was served and I went with chicken enchiladas which while a bit cheesy were good and did the job. The flight was smooth and uneventful except for an incident in which I tried to give Michelle my blanket, after she’d had it for about half an hour one of the other passengers, a very wealthy looking lady with her family, decided to complain to the crew that I’d given up my blanket and that it’s not fair for one coach passenger to have a blanket while her family member who was sitting in coach didn't have one. She thought it worthwhile to complain loud enough and frequently enough about how it’s not right for me to share my blanket with my wife, even though I wasn't using it, that the crew ended up taking the blanket back from Michelle! I still can’t believe how inconsiderate some people are, just because you can’t share your blanket what’s wrong with me sharing mine? The crew even said that it was her that was complaining and not her family member! Sometimes I wish you could tell someone off on a plane, unfortunately as we see from time to time any disagreement usually leads to police involvement and crazy accusations. 

AA #2230 (757-2) Seats 17E & 17F
Depart: MIA 5:30 PM
Arrive: STT 8:20 PM

Dinner was a trusty toasted panini in the MIA Admirals club that would not have been possible without our flight to STT being delayed by nearly an hour, that also gave us time to check with the AAngels about some better seats and they were able to grab us 2 exit rows, making the late flight somewhat bearable, they really are lifesavers sometimes!

We took advantage of Priority AAcess and boarded early which proved to be a smart decision as Pressure was going back to STT with his entourage who ended up filling probably 1/3 of the plane plus all the VI shoppers coming back from States with their arms full of shopping bags and all fighting over overhead bins.
Despite a short nap on the plane the flight without food passed slowly so I was very happy to see the lights of St. Thomas glittering ahead as we made our approach.\, I was surprised at how small and empty the island looks when coming in from the West! Bouncing awkwardly down the short runway it was somewhat surprising the pilot was able to get it reigned in and slowed down just at the end of the runway to take the last exit to the taxiway.

We grabbed our bag which despite being priority tagged was the 3rd to last out, come to think of it all the priority bags came in a group and the end…We really need to get our act together in the VI when it comes to airports and customer experiences! That’s when we realized we had VI taxi dramas again, being short on cash we hit the only ATM at the airport only to find it was broken (see comment above!) and taxis here take cash alone. We were able to convince the dispatcher that we could get cash at the hotel and were herded into the next group of 15 that was headed in the direction of our hotel, yep no private taxis and rarely a direct taxi here. We got to spend the next 40 minutes making a 15 minute drive due to all the stops to drop passengers off but finally reached our destination, the newly renovated Marriott Frenchman’s Reef. Having heard so much about the supposed Marriott jewel of the Caribbean we took advantage of a discount rate available to Marriott Rewards Silver members and got in for about $100.

While in all fairness we only went to the gift shop to buy toothpaste, our room and the lobby I can confidently say we won’t be back…especially at the $300+ rates they charge during season. We were told at check in that we had been upgraded, which wasn't important as we were due to leave at 6:00 the next morning, but upon reaching our room we had a low level connecting room facing the parking lot. I'm fine with no upgrade; especially from a chain we've stayed 0 nights with this year but don’t lie about being “upgraded”. Anyhow the bed was lumpy and far too soft to get a good sleep, and for a Caribbean hotel that is heavily marketed to tourists the rooms were very boring; white walls, tile floors, a kitschy painting on one wall and a TV  desk, chair and bed. The only thing with some colour was the chair but it seems like they neutered the hotel during their big renovation and now it could be any Marriott or Motel 6 anywhere in the world. All in all I was just surprised and disappointed that this is, apparently, some of the “best” the VI has to offer.

Another overpriced cab ride that I had to sit on the floor for this time (not enough seats) and we were at the seaplane terminal for our flight home. No photo of this one but same stunning view, only this time because the flight path for St. Thomas to St. Croix is higher than St. Croix to St. Thomas we were able to see the other seaplane heading in the opposite direction. A cool sight any time but especially as the bright red sun rose over the beautiful turquoise and sapphire Caribbean Sea.

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