A couple of weeks ago I went, con mis amigos, to Paradise Island, Bahamas. The cheapest way to get to Nassau, incidentally, was flying Delta from ATL-FLL, then Chalks Ocean Airways from FLL-PID (Paradise Island - the seaplane terminal located on Nassau Harbor).
Here's the trip report:
MON 23 JULY
Boeing 767-332 (formerly an L10)
Sched dep 1120
Sched arr 1300
Stayed overnight Sunday night at the Renaissance Atlanta Hotel-Concourse, which is located about 100 yards off 26R/08L. The balcony roooms offer excellent panoramic views of the entire airport. Highly recommended. Checked in for DL1510 at around 1030 for the 1120 departure, and went straight to A25, where boarding had begun.
Boarding was quick and efficient. I actually applaud Delta on the music played during the boarding process. Today's musical selection is much more appealing than the screeching Adiemus chants of the '97 marketing campaign. And they've got the volume just right this time. Very relaxing.
Settled into 36B, on the aisle but still with a nice view of the trailing edge of the wing. Pushback was on time and taxi was initially quick. Heavy outbound traffic, though, delayed takeoff until about 1125 as we waited, and waited, and waited on the inner taxiway Lima for 09L. The takeoff acceleration was good on this full flight to FLL, but initial climbout was fairly bumpy. The flight crew provided only sparse information about the flight, which included a prediction that we'd head southwest toward Tampa and make what I figured was the FORTL 4 arrival to FLL.
In actuality, though, I identified the JAX airport and then the Atlantic coast, which we hugged all the way down to FLL. Thunderstorms in FLL that day meant a lot of deviating around the build-ups, a process that took us out over the Atlantic for a good part of the approach. I'd estimate about a 20-mile final to 27R at FLL, which was flown low and slow but which afforded a nice view of the beach just before touchdown.
Landing was a bit late because of the weather - around 13.15. Chalks, a small operator that flies 17-seat Grumman Mallard flying boats between FLL, MIA, NAS, PID, Walkers Cay, and a couple of other destinations in the Bahamas, doesn't have an interline agreement with Delta, so we had to claim our bags in FLL with dispatch and head over to the Chalks terminal (terminal 4) for a 14.25 departure to Nassau/Paradise Island.
The bag-claiming process was agonizingly slow, as is always the case in these types of hurried situations. At long last, all 4 of us had our bags and walked far enough to a map to realize that we'd have to walk outside, skirting terminals 2 and 3, before we'd get to terminal 4. Which would have been fine if not for:
a.) the 90-degree temperature;
b.) the 100% South Florida humidity; and
c.) the rain.
Grumman Mallard flying boat
Sched dep 14.25
Sched arr 15.30
But the urge to get to the Bahamas does strange things to rational men, so out we go. Chalks' check-in counter is not placed with the bank accommodating the other airlines on the 2nd level of T4, but rather is downstairs in a drab basement that houses the same check-in facility for Key Air, Chalks, and a couple of other very, VERY regional Florida carriers.
Michelle checked us in and provided us popsicles while we waited for the boarding process to begin. I remember her very well.
The "boarding process" for the Chalks flight was late, of course. (If you fly back and forth to the islands, would YOU worry about something called a "schedule?" Didn't think so... Neither would I.) We boarded the aircraft about 30 min late, having been led onto the tarmac by Michelle (my friend thought she might be the pilot, as well). No security checkpoint. No questions about baggage security. Just check in, wait, wait, follow me, watch your head, have a nice flight.
The Chalks flight was a transcendent experience. Chalks' route network is a parallel universe, flying working testaments to aviation history in and out of paradise on earth. Quite a memory. The cabin was small, with 3-abreast seating. I sat next to a large picture window located just forward of the wing, adjacent to the propeller, which afforded a great view of the enchanting scenery and of the cockpit, which had no door. The captain conducted the "safety briefing," which I couldn't hear over the drone of the engines as we held short of 09R for departure (the wind had apparently shifted).
In each seatback pocket there's a safety card outlining the "safety features" of the Grumman Mallard, a copy of "Paradise" Magazine, the magazine of Paradise Island, and an airsickness bag. Those are listed in order of least to most anticipated use, although I used none of them.
Departed 09R and took about a 120 heading off the coast. I could clearly see the radios and noticed that Bimini's VOR on 116.7 was the nav we used for a majority of the flight. I assume the departure was the Fort Lauderdale 9 departure, which took us on a runway heading to BEECH intersection, defined by the Bimini VOR, but I could be wrong. In any event about 20 min from landing they tuned in 112.7, the Nassau VOR, and I knew I was about to be a very, very happy man.
Landing was to the east in the Nassau Harbor. Nassau/New Providence Island on the right, Paradise Island and the Atlantis Resort on the left. We landed next to several very large cruise ships at port in NAS. There's something vaguely unsettling about looking to your right, and looking UP at the top of a cruise ship, and looking out the window to your left and seeing the water growing closer, and closer, and closer, until...splash! Nothing but white spray on the windows until we slowed sufficiently, extended the landing gear, and taxied up a ramp right onto the Chalks tarmac on Paradise Island. An INCREDIBLE experience.
Customs in Nassau was a breeze. "Welcome to the Bahamas, sir. Do you have anything to declare?" No, sure don't. "Very well. Enjoy your stay in Nassau."
Don't get me wrong - no one down there was nice. No one. But the experience from...
MON 23 JULY-SUN 29 JULY
at the Atlantis resort was one of those life-changing vacations. Had a BLAST. I highly recommend Atlantis, for all the reasons you can imagine.
SUN 29 JULY
Sched dep 09.30
Sched arr 10.35 or somewhere thereabouts
I wouldn't know the specific times for that flight because we arrived at the airport, probably still clinically drunk from the night before, 30 min before departure, and we were bumped from the oversold flight. Reaccommodated on the next Chalks flight to FLL, which would depart at 10.30. I leaned over the counter and said, despite my haggard appearance and near-unconscious mental state, "Y'know, Delta would compensate me for this inconvenience."
The extremely pleasant Chalks ticket agent looked at her colleague at the counter, smiles, rolls her eyes, and turns to me. "So you will leave at 10.30 now, sir. Thank you."
I reference my haggard appearance and near-unconscious mental state because of this: Two hours of sleep the night before, plus a substantial number of Coronas, margaritas, and gins and tonic (remember, I'm still illegal in the States...) , saw me spending the time in the Chalks terminal popping Dramamines and fending off nausea. What a hangover I had... Boarding for the 10.30 flight was prompt, though, and took about 2 min to get everyone on board. We took off to the east from Nassau Harbor and made a left 180 to take us back over Paradise Island for one parting glimpse of Atlantis.
I spent the flight back to FLL asleep, but it was uneventful right up the time I woke up, about 10 miles offshore, on a right downwind for 09R. Landing was smooth and taxi quick right to the commuter ramp, where we disembarked and breezed through Customs.
Now the fun part...
Sched dep 20.40
Sched arr 22.32
The more observant among you would notice a problem here. Because our Chalks flight landed in FLL at around noon, and our Delta flight to ATL wouldn't leave until 20.40. That's an 8-hour layover.
That's where Tammer comes in. Tammer is a friend of mine from college, who lives in FLL, and who met us in the Delta terminal so we could do something in FLL during our layover. Delta's ticketing agent wouldn't check our bags to ATL that far in advance of the 20.40 flight, but suggested we try the sky-caps outside. The sky-cap was more than happy to check the bags to ATL, on DL230 and not before, and we watched with a bad feeling in our stomachs as we glimpsed perhaps the last sight of our bags ever, given the complexity of the process...
Tammer delivers us back to the FLL airport at 19.00, in plenty of time for the 20.40 departure. God bless him. The lesson: Never, EVER get drunk, sleep for 2 hours, then expect to spend a functional day in the South Florida heat with no place to go to sleep.
And now there's another problem: A quick look at the departures board shows DL230 delayed until 23.00 due to bad weather in ATL. It seems weather delays had delayed the inbound equipment on its original leg from SLC, and thus at 20.40 the flight had just arrived on the ground in ATL.
We waited and watched with dismay as every eating establishment in the entire terminal closed, but at 22.40 the aircraft finally chocks in at gate (blank). I have no idea what gate it was, still delirious and in need of sleep.
The aircraft is indeed a 764, one of the very few (perhaps the only one?) painted in the 1997 Landor colors. We're off the gate at 23.30, seat 36F, on the aisle. Quick takeoff on 09L, level at 3,000, per the departure, then climb up to FL330 as we cross back over the FL coast and proceed up to ATL.
One minor glitch: I'm almost asleep, about 3 min after we leave the ground, when all of a sudden every light in the damn cabin comes on. I mean every single light. Every reading light, every side panel light, every fluorescent light in the ceiling. About 10 sec later, after everyone recovers from the shock, every single flight attendant call button is rung by every single passenger, almost at the same time.
At length the lead F/A announces that they're resetting the entire cabin lighting system but will have to leave the sidewall panel lights on (those just above the window level on the sides). That takes care of the excess lighting problem, but now there aren't any reading lights. More "DING-DONG" of the call buttons. They announce that, basically, they don't know what the hell is going on, but they apologize.
Service was the usual: Delta's snack mix and a choice of beverage. SINCA 3 arrival to ATL, smooth landing on 27L around 00.45, taxi to A1, long walk to the train. Bags are there, miraculously enough, and we begin the long ride home in bright and cheery anticipation of going to work the next day.
Needless to say, I called in sick, visions of Atlantis still dancing in my head.