Friday, February 6, 2004
The day starts with customs and immigration officials. A grilling by two government officers before 8am is not a great way to start any day. Once the boat, and its passengers clear, there is a mad rush for the luggage in the storage container. We need our dive bags so that we can pack up our dive gear and get to the airport.
Brent, Pam and I are going to share a minivan to the airport. Brent is ready and waiting for both Pam and I. The taxi driver is rushing us. I finally say - forget it, I'll take my own cab. Then everyone calms down and decides to not rush us anymore. I get the suitcases packed and the dive gear packed. Holy crap, I have a lot of stuff!!!
We get to the airport by 930am. I line up and go through Air Canada's check in. I pay the overweight luggage fee and then find a seat for the wait. My flight (which also happens to be Fred's flight) is scheduled to leave at 120pm. I have never been to the airport so early in my life!! Fred and I are amused by all the extra time we have to burn in the airport.
I wander off to the washroom and happen to notice the HUGE lineup for security clearance. It is now 11am and I am hungry. I tell Fred about the big line, let him know that I'm going to the restaurant to eat and then I'll work my way through the security line. Fred decides to visit the washroom to shave and tidy up while I wait for a seat in the restaurant (Chili's, I believe). I chow down on Mexican food and then head to the lineup. It takes about 30 minutes to make it to the security officers.
Of course they decide to go through both of my carry on pieces (one is underwater camera equipment and the other is my toiletry bag and a novel). That takes another 10 minutes. By the time I am through security, it is 12:40. We rush to the gate. Oh, the flight is delayed due to weather in Montreal. We will now leave at 2:30. At 2:20 they announce that we will leave at 3:40. At 3:40 we are on the plane and waiting for luggage to be loaded - we take off at 4:10.
In Montreal, my bag with all my dive gear in it has gone missing, so I have to fill out customs forms and baggage forms so that it will be able to get to me (since I have not cleared customs with it!!). I have 15 minutes to make my connection to Moncton. I run from one end of the airport to the other end. They rush me onto the airplane so that I can sit and wait for us to be de-iced - a full hour!!!!!! I get home at 12:30am on Friday night.
I have never been so happy to sleep in my own bed (even though it was still woozy and wavey in my head).
I did truly enjoy the trip - the diving, the people - but I don't know if I would do it again. The rough crossing at the start of the trip put a bad taste in my mouth and took a lot out of me.
I truly believe that the Bahamas is one of the best dive spots close to home, but the islands leave a lot to be desired. The people are odd - perhaps it's all the isolation from the real world. But they just don't give tourists what they expect or want.
Blackbeard's Cruises is a bit like the Bahamas - the diving is great, but the land (or boat, in this case) just doesn't thrill me. The boat was not very clean, I saw dirt at the beginning of the trip that stayed there till the end of the trip. The washroom I was to use with 6 other adults was grungy from start to end. My sheets were dirty when I arrived (a footprint in the middle of the sheet I was to sleep on). I also had concerns about the safety precautions, or lack of, with regards to diving. We did not sign off the boat with a time when we did a dive - we could be in trouble and no one would know until we didn't come back - and that troubled me greatly. Overall, I do feel that I got what I paid for. I was told it was like "camping at sea"
You can see more photos at http://www.pbase.com/kiml/black