It was stressful today flying from Victoria to San Diego. First of all, my alarm awoke me at 3:30AM and I was out the door at 4AM in a taxi to the airport. After check-in at the United counter at Victoria Airport and passing through security, I have time for a cappuccino at the new Spinnakers, and wait for my flight to leave at 6:30AM. After boarding, the aircraft sits on the apron for about 15 minutes, but the pilot finally announces we are ready for departure. Apparently the delay was caused from San Francisco, where there was some doubt we would get a slot for landing due to fog. The weather cleared enough for landings in San Francisco, so we take off from Victoria. The first hurdle is cleared, and I’m on my way! This flight is very odd: there are no children or babies aboard, and everyone is very quiet…a bonus since is so early.
The flight down is very scenic once the Sun rises. We fly inland from Victoria to San Francisco. It certainly is very foggy in San Francisco as we approach, however there are clear patches and the pilots bring the aircraft down perfectly and everyone leaves the aircraft quickly. I’m thankful for this, because I’m still nervous about all I have to accomplish before boarding my next flight to San Diego. As soon as I leave the gate, I can see the airport is being renovated…never a good sign for someone not familiar with a large airport.
Before I can claim my bag, I have to clear US immigration, and two other large aircraft from China have just arrived at the same time as our little aircraft. For some inexplicable reason, we have to go through security again before we can get to US immigration. There was a woman at the crossroads of a major intersection inside the airport that insisted on directing all of us to the busiest security checkpoint with hundreds of those Chinese passengers waiting in line. As I reluctantly followed her bad advise, I stopped to ask a man with a badge if this was the best way to get to my gate, and he immediately said “no”. Thank goodness he volunteered to lead me, and some of the other passengers off the Victoria flight in the opposite direction to another, less busy security checkpoint. He also points out that some of our tickets were marked “TSA PRE”, which means we are pre-cleared and entitled to use a priority line. Although we still had to go through the security checkpoint, he probably saves us a half hour of waiting!
It ends up taking me about 10 minutes to clear security. At that point, I can go through US immigration, but wait…there are those hundreds of Chinese passengers ahead of us again! After about 20 minutes of waiting, they open up additional immigration agents, so I finally get processed for entry to the USA. Now I go to the baggage carousels and find my bag, and proceed through yet another US inspection. I re-check my bag for the next flight, and I’m off to find the boarding gate.
As it turns out, the gate for the San Francisco to San Diego flight is only the third gate past the baggage checkpoint, so I actually arrive 45 minutes early! This flight only has a few empty seats, and we are back to a typical flying bus scenario: crying babies, sneezing and coughing kids, old folks who struggle down the isle to their seats, and a bunch of middle aged folks who just want the flight to end.
We take off northward from San Francisco, and then circle around and fly down the coast to San Diego. The urban development between San Francisco and San Diego is impressive. This is a very crowded patch of the USA. We touchdown in San Diego at 12:25PM, arriving on time! Thankfully, the cruise terminal is a short taxi ride from the airport, so after I deal with a surely Russian cabbie, I present myself at the check-in for the ship. It is fairly well organized, but with over a thousand passengers checking in, it takes a bit under an hour to wind my way through the various lineups before I am issued my Holland America ID card and walk onboard the Statendam.
I knew ahead of time that this day would be stressful, and it was, but ultimately everything worked out fine. I’m safely aboard the ship, and I still have time for a late lunch in the Lido before I unpack my bags. I have a quick look around the ship’s outer decks, then go back to my cabin for a well-earned shower and nap. By this time, it is nearing departure time, but as per Holland America’s policy, there is a mandatory lifeboat drill before we leave.
Once that is over, the ship slips away from the dock, turns around in the harbour and heads out past the city as the sun sets off our bow. The city is beautifully lit by the setting Sun, so we have great views of the marinas, city centre, airport, and naval base as we sail away. A beautiful Moon rose from the California hills behind the city, as the pilot leaves the ship. There is a dense fog bank waiting for us as we clear the entrance to the harbour and head off across the Pacific Ocean.
After dropping off my camera gear, it is time for dinner in the Rotterdam Dining Room. This is classic table service with a 4-course menu, which I always look forward to. Since I am traveling solo, I always make a point of asking to join a large table, where there are many people to meet and talk with. It is so interesting to hear their stories and tell them mine as we work our way through our fine meals.