Trip planning and things which can go wrong.......

Updated: Dec 24, 2018



Ok, this needs a little intro….. When planning our trip, I wanted to see Great White Sharks and the best place to see them on the planet is in my view in Guadalupe for the simple reason that the water is clear and relatively warm if compared to South Africa and Adelaide. At 20 degrees and crystal blue water, this is a must do. But our dive travel agent (Padi) advised that we missed the season by 2 weeks and that the live aboards moved to Socorro (further south and famous for anything large under water except Great Whites. So we booked Socorro and gave up on Great White Sharks. We were to leave from a Mexico tourist sport fishing resort, Lucas Los Cabos boarding our ship, the Belle Amie. And so we reported as instructed in our itinerary on Nov 19th at noon time in the hotel where a hospitality suite was supposed to be, to drop our luggage and return for boarding the ship at 7pm.

One minor issue, the hotel did not know of any hospitality suite or the company we were supposed to go diving with. A manager recalled that the company did have a hospitality suite in the past but that they are no longer using the hotel. So 12.15pm rolled by and mild concern turn to major meltdown. We called the live aboard company and asked where in Los Cabos we are supposed to meet? “Los Cabos?” the friendly voice replies. Why are you in Los Cabos? We end the trip in Los Cabos but you need to be San Diego, USA where we pick up our guests at 7.30pm tonight from the Best Western Hotel. My heart sank as this was such a bummer….. I asked if there is a realistic chance getting to San Diego and she answered that this was not likely as it is past midday and we are in a small Mexico coastal town……

Sadness turns to anger and calling our travel agent PADI. Yup, the same as PADI Diving and Certification. You kinda think that they will know how to organise your dive trip….. It is akin to organising a piss up in a brewery you think. But clearly not….. It is now 12.30pm and speaking to Padi as to What the F… is going on and how come we have the wrong itinerary…… Instructions are to stay put where we are while they try to figure out what to do….. 1PM rolls by and still no news….. Our anger (still boiling and going nuclear) turned to a conversation as to what we could do instead now that we surely miss our boat.

Its dawns on us that we miss our Socorro boat and that our first big highlight of our world tour is gonna be a non event. Pissed off and unhappy I ask the hotel for transport to the airport as we decide that what ever happens next, we are not staying in Los Cabos. We are advised that in 2 minutes time, at 1.15pm, the last airport shuttle of the day departs. So with 2 minutes spare we catch the last airport shuttle….. No Internet connection on the bus and without a plan we are off to the airport. I am still boiling and unhappy while trying to make alternative plans. Do we stay in Mexico and go back to Tulum and go for cave dive certification? Shall we leave for Cuba earlier then planned and travel around there? I cant concentrate as I am so upset about missing Socorro…. At 2.05 PM the bus driver pulls up at the International Terminal before going to the Domestic Terminal….. Decision time….. No clue what International flights are available in Los Cabos, I ask an American couple leaving the bus where they are going and they answer: Santa Anna California. I asked how far that is from San Diego and in good American fashion, they had no clue where San Diego was relative to Santa Anna. Anyway, if there is a flight to Santa Anna, why not try our luck and get off the bus and see if we can still make it to San Diego….

Running in to the airport, with 6 pieces of luggage and no trolleys……, we divide and concur. To my surprise the nice people at the Information Desk allow Sharon taking control of their desktop trying to see what airline tickets she can buy on line while I check the flight board for anything that gets us to San Fransisco, preferably San Diego. It is now 2.15pm…. And there it is…… Alaska Airlines leaving for San Diego at 3.15pm. You would have thought that the smart people at Padi could have figured that out after our first call 2 hours earlier! A friendly lady explains that we can buy tickets at the check in counter but that we have to take our place in the queue…… By know minutes seem as long as hours and at 2.25pm we are at the ticket/check in counter. Chipper Sharon goes “Two tickets please for us and our ton of luggage!” Sharon is now fully in charge and I’m on the phone with PADI where someone tries to convince me that we need to go to South West Airlines and fly via via to San Diego arriving at 8pm if we make our connection and there are no delays. I am by now barking at the guy that we are at Alaska airlines and that our direct flight will arrive at 4.30pm in San Diego. So No Points for Padi once again. By now tickets are purchased, we check in close to 100 kg of luggage and expect a whopping surcharge. The gentlemen checking us in is by now totally up to speed with our predicament and hears me losing it with PADI people on the phone who now want to compare prices and surcharges between Alaska and South West Airlines. Sharon hands over the credit card and our total cost is US$ 211 each!!! We cant believe it as clearly he did not charge a thing for the extra luggage. Its now 2.35pm and the labels are on the luggage but somehow the luggage is not on the belt….. Politely pointing this out to the nice guy helping us, the luggage is finally on its way….. By now I am so done with PADI and explain that I really do not care about cost differences knowing that the Liveaboard cost is US$ 17k which I would hold them liable for in case we do not make in in time.

And now we are now on our way to immigration….. Oops… We lost Sharon’s immigration entrance card…… We need to go to a special counter, queue up once more, lose more valuable time and pay a US$ 30 fine and get a new immigration card…. (nice money scheme!) Got it! Running to immigration and scanning our ‘carry on’ (two 25kg carry on bags with underwater camera and light equipment) and we are off to the gate….. Well, gate is actually a bus station…. It is no surprise, we are the very very last ones to get on the bus at 3pm. A short drive we arrive at the airplane. Cargo doors closed and plane ready to go….. Did our luggage make it?

Boarding….. and to our surprise we sit in premium economy in an otherwise half full plan. Pleasantly surprised and maybe this turns out good after all. I wish I had the name of the gentleman who helped us at Alaska Airlines but he is now my hero and I want his supervisors to know that! So GO GO Alaska Airlines! A very long two hour flight worrying deeply if the luggage is on board as without it, we still cannot board the ship and the trip is over despite making it to San Diego against all odds…..

Landed in San Diego and with total anxiety we are standing at the luggage belt like two five year olds waiting to open our Xmas presents…… And there is the first of four check in luggages…. And the second….. and a long wait and there is a third…… and no more luggage on the belt….. The bag missing is all the dive gear…… Sharon immediately realises that this was a super heavy bag pack style luggage and may be at oversized luggage….. We are now more or less running to the oversized luggage counter, and there it was…..

By now we are the only ones left in an otherwise empty arrival area and we are dancing and high fiving each other as if we have won the lottery….. The US immigration officers down the hall are staring at us and must have been thinking what the hell was happening with these two…. Anyway, with huge smiles we arrive at the immigration officer who asked how long we would stay in the US. We answered jolly that we would be in the US a few hours only to board a ship and leave for Mexico, Los Cabos…. where we just came from… A tat confused we explain to him the whole story and he happily stamps our passports and lets us go….. A short taxi ride and we arrive at the correct hotel and hospitality suite and I declare a really need a long holiday and very large Gin Tonic……

Icing on the cake….. Why are we leaving from San Diego and not Los Cabos for Socorro in the first place? This is a once a year ‘transition trip’ where the ship first goes to Guadalupe for Great White Sharks and then sails for 48+ hours to Socorro as start of the Socorro season which is indeed the Los Cabos itinerary we were wrongly given in the first place. So from a total disaster, this turned to total Xmas! Not only do we go to Socorro, we will fist go to Guadalupe and see Great Whites!! I cant wait to get going…….

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