Monday, 21 September 2015

Flying to Florida

As I mentioned on Google+, I'm on a writing retreat organized by the folks at Writing Excuses, my favourite podcast about writing speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, and horror). It's taking place on a Carribean cruise ship, the Independence of the Seas. This is a brief summary of how the trip has gone so far.

Warning: boring minutiae ahead, likely of interest only to friends and family. Executive summary: I had been hearing horror stories about how bad air travel had become in the 15+ years since my last flight, but nothing even remotely close happened to me. The trip had its minor issues, but nothing particularly unpleasant.

Kingston is two and a half to three hours from any international airport (Toronto, Ottawa, or Montreal), so I had to get up around 5am on Saturday to be ready for a 6:30 bus to Pearson. Naturally, I woke up at 4am instead. The bus ride was uneventful, arriving at the airport around 9:45. Clearing customs wasn't the horrid experience I'd been led to believe it could be; there was a fair bit of waiting in line, since there was only one agent on duty, but the actual interview was quick. Security was similarly fairly quick. I suspect the lack of crowds was due to the time of day; the rush of early morning flights was over with, and it would be a few more hours before the midday flights would start.

Then came the six hour wait for my flight's boarding time. I had arranged for a 16:55 flight to Fort Lauderdale; from what I'd been able to figure out from the travel website and the bus schedule, there was a big gap in availability of flights from noonish to late afternoon, and given the bus schedule, anything earlier risked missing my flight if there were any significant delays with getting through customs and security. But fortunately a friend had enough frequent flyer benefits to be able to give me a guest pass to the Air Canada lounge, which was a very comfortable place to wait. Food and drinks were free, and the chairs were much more comfortable than the ones in the main boarding area. There was a comfortable desk at which I could use my laptop.

My flight arrived a bit late at Pearson and they took a while to debark passengers and clean up the cabin, so we left about twenty minutes late. My seat was near the back of the plane, so I boarded just after the business class passengers and I managed to get my backpack into the overhead bins before people filled them up with “carry-ons” that are a significant fraction of the size of my suitcase. The seat was comfortable even for 50-pounds-overweight guy like me, at least for a 3 hour flight, and there was a reasonable amount of leg room even for somebody 6' tall. I didn't need to buy any of the airline food, since I'd eaten in that nice lounge not too long before the official boarding time.

At Fort Lauderdale we had to hold for another twenty minutes because of bad weather over the airport. This meant that I just barely missed the 9pm shuttle to my hotel, and waited twenty minutes in 30-degree (Celsius) muggy Florida weather for the next. I got checked in, dropped off my suitcase in my room, and managed to get into the hotel restaurant just before their 10pm closing time. I had a “Cajun chicken club sandwich,” messy enough to need a knife and fork, and some Florida Key Lime Pie, then got to bed around 10:30 pm.

Then slept badly, but that's usually what happens the first night I spend in a new place. On Sunday morning I took an 11:30 shuttle to the cruise port – but I'll talk about that and the ship itself in a separate post.