Saturday, April 10, 2010

My Journey To Cuba - Damn My Passport Has Expired - Part III

I was so happy on Tuesday.  I kept reminding myself to find my passport and put it on the dresser so that I would not forget it.   I looked through my wife's stash where I found my passport along with the others.  I left it out as planned and put it into my backpack for my trip on Sunday.

As my buddy and I backed out of my driveway I asked that we both double check that we had our passports. 
When I looked more closely at mine my heart sunk.  Expiration Date  08 April 09.

We drove to the airport to see if there was a means of getting a temporary passport for immediate travel.  No luck.  Not only was it "Sunday" it was "Easter Sunday".   The lady at the passport services office (a private company) stated that they have a 2 day express service for $450.   She said that I could go to one of the passport offices for a face to face interview but it still would require overnight processing.

My buddy agreed to go forward to the Bahamas and then to Cuba.  I figured that Cuba had slipped away. 

I was mad and depressed at this point.  It was all my fault for not more closely inspecting my passport beforehand.  Now this oversight is going to cost me dearly.

If I went to Miami, Philly or Washington DC on Monday I would not get my passport till Tuesday.  I would miss my connecting flight for that day and would not get into Cuba until Wednesday.  A one day trip.  I was not worth it.

Then I figured that it would be best to have my passport in hand just in case my buddy got in trouble in Cuba.  My options for obtaining a passport were:
  • Miami - No appointments available until Tuesday
  • Philly -  Fly up on Monday morning for a 11am appointment, wait until Tuesday, fly back
  • New Orleans - They have appointments on Monday morning but I'd have to drive 7 hours down
I chose to drive to New Orleans.  Driving gave me more control of my own schedule than did flying.    I left my house on Monday at 2am.   I remembered that they are on central time and thus I had more time to take a nap along the way.

I thought that I would have to spend the night in New Orleans as I waited for my passport to be processed.  As fate would have it - THEY DID "SAME DAY SERVICE"!!!     They told me that I could come back at 2:30pm to obtain my passport.   This was an important piece of the puzzle.   With no passport the flight schedules to the Bahamas would be irrelevant.

As I waited for my passport I did what I always do while in the Big Easy:  Purchase a copy of the "Louisiana Weekly" - the most biased newspaper in the nation!!

No time to read the paper though.  I went to lunch and pulled out my laptop, trying to find a flight to the Bahamas by 12 noon on Tuesday.   My option was to find a flight from some city in Florida where I would drive from N.O.  or drive back to Atlanta and take the earliest flight.  The problem with Florida is that I would have to go and retrieve my car.  More money!

Airtran had a flight that departed Atlanta at 12noon.  This would cause me to miss the 2:30pm flight to Cuba on Tuesday.   I also learned that I had enough frequent flier miles on Airtran to leave from Atlanta to some city in Florida.  I would need to find a flight from FL to the Bahamas that left early enough for me to make the Cuba flight.

Turns out that Delta has an 8:45am flight to Nassau and there were seats available.  The lady even told me that I had enough Skymiles to pay for the ticket.  This was going too good at this point.  I could fly to Cuba on Tuesday instead of Wednesday.

After she booked the flight she asked me for a credit card.  WTF?    "Why do you need a credit card?  I thought I had the miles to pay for it?"

  • $150 Emergency Booking Fee
  • $20 since you talked to an agent instead of booking on line
 I now needed to make sure that I got back to Atlanta and did not miss my early morning flight.
I hauled it back to Atlanta, getting in at 11pm.   I left extra early to make sure that I was at the gate when the flight to the Bahamas pushed back.

I arrived in Nassau, Bahamas and had a two hour wait for my flight to Cuba. 

I noticed a few things while in the Bahamas:
  • The airport pay phone - They wanted $28 for a 3 minute call to Cuba with $5 per minute afterward.  No thank you.  I am not giving you my credit card number lady
  • Wendy's:  While I was standing in line I observed the accent spoken by many of the young Black male workers around the airport.  It sounds like they have some Dutch influence to their English.
  • Internet Cafe - The Bahamas has fast Internet connectivity to the USA, just as does Jamaica
I checked into my flight to Cuba.
  • $60 change fee
  • $42 departure tax
All of the tickets done in handwritten form.  No computer printed boarding passes.

I boarded my Russian made turbo prop plane and headed toward Cuba.

I was only one day late.
The original plan was to spend the night in Nassau and catch the Monday afternoon plane.  I caught the Tuesday afternoon plane.


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