Cruising the Southern Caribbean: Traveling to Puerto Rico

We recently got home from a Southern Caribbean cruise and I thought I had best write about it now, before my memories and tan have all faded away…

I thought I would start at the very beginning (you know, the very best place to start) and that would be at my favorite airport, San Diego International.  Let me tell you, if you live in Southern California and have not been flying out of SAN, you are missing out.  Traffic to San Diego: not bad.  Airport parking: easy.  Check-in: quick.  TSA screening: surprisingly not painful.  Airport itself: relaxed.  Compared to flying out of LAX, San Diego International is like a spa day.  🙂

Anyway, we booked a redeye to San Juan, Puerto Rico, so we arrived at the airport at about 8:30pm.  In less than 30 minutes, we were in our terminal and enjoying dinner at the Stone Brewing restaurant in terminal 2.  This is a great place for burning time at the airport since it has good food, Stone beers for those who are feeling parched, and most importantly good people watching from the open dining area.  What else could you ask for?

At about 9:45 we headed to our gate.  To find out that our flight was delayed.  And then delayed again.  And again.  Turns out the first officer was sick (or a little too much fun in the Gas Lamp District of SD, perhaps?) and they were trying to get a replacement in.  Long story short, there were extra issues because TSA closes at 11pm and therefore they would have to get a replacement in before then. Of course the only guy they found to step in lived out of town and was unable to make it by 11:00.  But through some major miracle (and possibly bribing) TSA stayed open past midnight for our flight and we actually made it out.  At about 12:10am, they started boarding the passengers; at 12:30, the new first officer boarded the plane to joyful applause; and by 12:33am, we were taxiing away.  Oh and let me hand it to JetBlue on this, they kept us all updated and snacked-up while we waited.  That’s right, in the age of stingy airlines, JetBlue rolled out the snack carts and waters and it was open season on snacking while we waited.  Woohoo!

jetblue 1
Proof that we finally made it onto the plane ~ Hooray!

Once we took off, we made an effort to sleep.  I took some melatonin blend from Trader Joe’s and it put me in a nice sleepy haze, though I never got comfortable enough to sleep for more than 20-30 minute spurts of time.  About an hour before landing, as I was settling in for a final little catnap, my lovely neighbor opened the windows and started listening to loud videos on her phone.  Thaaaaanks…  But on the bright side (literally bright, darn it) I got a nice view of Fort Lauderdale as we made our descent.

jet blue 2

Once we arrived at the gate, we grabbed our carryons and sauntered casually raced to make it to our connecting flight.  Since our departure from San Diego had been delayed by over two hours, what was going to be an irritatingly long layover was down to just long enough to use the restrooms and line up for boarding.  But hey, we made it!

The flight from FLL to San Juan is only about 2 hours.  Since it was nearly 9:00 in the morning, people had their windows open and I was enjoying the views–well between brief spells of narcolepsy–of the ocean and islands below.  Here is one of my favorites:

fll 3

At about 11:15am, after what seemed like eons of traveling, we made it to the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport.  Having been to Puerto Rico several times, it is starting to feel like coming home.  🙂

Version 2

Off the plane–Hallelujah!–we headed to the baggage claim where we were sure to wait a while for our luggage.  We actually wondered if it would make it at all since our connecting flight had been so delayed.  But lo and behold, our bags popped onto the carousel in record time.  Apparently last bags on are the first bags off.  Nice.

Then off to the taxi stand.  A quick side note: there is major drama between the taxi union and Uber in Puerto Rico right now–which I will probably mention in a later post–and from our experience this time around, I am a little partial to Uber. But there is something nice about knowing the reliability of the taxis in San Juan.  Prices are regulated and there is an easy system at any major tourist area (airport, ferry terminal, cruise terminal, etc.).  Anyway, all that to say that getting a cab from SJU is a breeze.  Walk to the ground transportation area outside the baggage claim, locate taxi stand, get your price quote based on destination and number of bags, and you’re off.

taxi.jpg

From here we headed to the Caribe Hilton, our very favorite place to stay in San Juan.  Now to be fair, we have only stayed at one other hotel there, but still, the Caribe is the best.  🙂

Since I have already posted about the hotel (see link above), I will spare you my long winded spiel.  But here are just a few pictures…

Tips and Lessons Learned:

  1. I know I already said it, but seriously, if you are a SoCal resident and are looking for a nicer alternative to LAX and ONT, head to the San Diego Airport.  It is so much better.  No wait, that will make it more crowded and less appealing for me.  Never mind, as you were.  Continue on to LAX.  😛
  2. Jet Blue is not bad.  They are generous with snacks, they give you mini bottles of water as opposed to a cup of water, and the coffee is decent.  They also have Fly-fi that works pretty well once you figure out how to get logged in (seriously took me way too long to get it figured out–I had to seriously evaluate my intelligence on that one).
  3. When flying, please consider your neighbors.  Really truly, to the woman who sat next to me on the first flight, I think you’re swell and all, but please cover your coughs and use headphones when you watch videos!  Pretty please 🙂
  4. When grumbling about a really long layover, remember that it just might save you when your first flight is super delayed.  Yay for long layovers!
  5. If you are going to San Juan, be sure to consider the Caribe as an option for your hotel.

Next Up:

Cruising the Southern Caribbean: Pre-Cruise Fun in San Juan

 

 

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24 thoughts on “Cruising the Southern Caribbean: Traveling to Puerto Rico

    1. Thanks! I am a bit long-winded when I write (and talk. And think. 😂) so there are always details to be had. 😊 I wrote about the Caribe Hilton a while back. You can link to it from this post… 👍🏻

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      1. Haha, my marbles are permanently lost. Started with a slow marble leak when I became a teacher and the rest just fell right out when I had my second kid. 😛

        As for the meals and dishes, unfortunately it’s a common post-cruise symptom for me. The “I forgot how to cook and clean” disorder. I miss all the kindly people who did it for us on vacation. sigh…

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  1. They must know you in Puerto Rico by now!

    What stunning photos while in the flight and after you landed. Okay now two questions at once – What’s stone beer? Melatonin blend? And now I shall proceed to look up JetBlue because unlimited snacks in this day and age is unheard of. British Airways can please take a cue from it. Can you believe that it makes you pay for meals except if you are travelling Business and First? Thugs!

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    1. I know, I’m just too much of a sucker for Puerto Rico. We honeymooned there and so we have a soft spot for the island. Plus we love the southern cruise routes in the Caribbean, most of which depart from San Juan. Everybody wins (well, not the Puerto Ricans who keep praying we won’t come back, but I win 😛 ).

      As for Jet Blue, the small snacks are the only freebies. Still have to pay for the real food. I think the options are for pretzels, cheese-its, terra chips, and a couple of other options. Then you can pay for snack or meal boxes. They also sold blankets. Yeah, that is just wrong! I miss the good old days when food and blankets and pillows were included. I agree that the airlines are a bunch of dirty thugs now.

      We flew Copa (a Panamanian affiliate of United) last November and they gave meals and drinks for free. God bless Panama!

      Okay, last two: Stone Brewery is a San Diego brewery that specializes in IPAs and other hoppy beers. I think they are still mostly West Coast, but you can probably buy it at the store. The melatonin blend is just Trader Joe’s version of a natural sleep aid. I can’t remember what else was in it, but melatonin is usually a pretty good natural sleep aid–I am a fan when we fly red eyes.

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      1. But it is does look so dreamy, Kristyn. Your photos from before too were stunning to lure me into putting it down into my list. I do that btw. Pen in places into my diary. I might not give into a cruise yet but who knows one day…Okay I shall keep Copa in mind. All these tips help for future flights that we book.

        They sold blankets?! What on earth is air travel coming to. Next thing you know, we will be paying for using the loo.

        I love IPAs and hoppy beers! Stone Brewery sounds perfect. I will look out for it elsewhere too. Now that I have done my bit of pesky questioning for the day I shall make myself scarce. I am glad I was not the recipient of a snarky line! Or did you grit your teeth while at it? 😛

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      2. I have started adding to a list as well. But it is becoming hazardous as I keep reading travel blogs. Soon enough I will not be content until I have seen the whole word!

        I save the majority of my snark for my kids. hehe 😛 I am too glad to answer questions, especially for you, my friend.

        I have always thought similarly, that airplanes will start selling toilet paper. Thankfully not yet, though it would not be a surprise, would it?

        Definitely find a Stone source. I think you will not be disappointed. 🙂 Their website shows you where you can find it…

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      3. I shall look up Stone Brewery in NYC. Sounds a rum kinda place.

        I started this list only recently because I realised I was forgetting way too much as I kept reading more and more. My brain does not retain many things at one go.

        You have a point about airline stinginess. I am highly put off by it all. I do not mind it on low-cost airlines because they are admittedly low cost but the others…for shame.

        Don’t encourage me. You will get lots of questions then from time to time! xx

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      4. Yeah, isn’t it sad what happens to our brains? I am learning quickly that if it is not written down or if I don’t snap a picture, it is sure to be gone and soon. That is why I take so many pictures of my kids. 😛

        I keep hoping that airlines will go back to good service again someday. Like the pendulum has swung as far as it can get in one direction and it is time for it to swing back. Unfortunately it would seem the pendulum may be stuck…

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      5. You are a wise one. Go on clicking them. There might be an embarrassing bunch too to show their partners one day and reminisce 😉

        Sadly, the pendulum is stuck it seems unless one airline decides to get up and change the rules. I look at photos of air travel a few decades earlier and they look so lush in comparison to what we experience today!

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      6. That’s funny–when we get something really ridiculous, I always say it’s going in the wedding slideshow. 😂 I am all for embarrassing the kids.

        Yeah, I think air travel used to be such a different experience. Flights were not overbooked, flight attendants actually attended to needs, and passengers enjoyed the experience. I sadly cannot see an airline volunteering to up the service when sales are still so good. Oh well…

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  2. Nice photos, especially the one from your flight between Ft. Lauderdale and the Caribbean. I’m also a fan of Jet Blue, but they just don’t have enough flights where I live, so I don’t get to fly with them very often. Looking forward to reading about the rest of your vacation!

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    1. Thank you. I am so rarely in a window seat, that I think I sat with my phone pressed against the window for nearly half of that FLL –> SJU flight. I think my husband was a little embarrassed 🙂

      Yeah, I was pleasantly surprised with the airline. It had been years since we’d flown with them, but they still provide a pretty good service. Do you guys get many Virgin America flights in your area? I recall enjoying them a lot too, but I think they may also be limited in their destinations…

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      1. No, unfortunately our options through Virgin America are even more limited than with Jet Blue. I think the only place we could fly to with Virgin America is SFO. I’ve heard great things about them, though!

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      2. That’s a bummer. It has been years since we have flown with them, but I remember being really pleased with the airline. I remember their options being really limited, but I figured they would expand with time. Sad that they haven’t.

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