March 16, 2014 – Sunday – Disembark & flight from San Diego to Victoria
Venus rising in the east before sunrise with the pilot boat beside us, as we approach San Diego
I wake up before my 6:00AM alarm when the Pilot boat shines his light on the side of the ship my cabin is on. The pilot is scheduled to come aboard at 5:15AM, but it is a bit later than that I think. As I peek out the windows, I see Venus shining through the clouds above the shoreline, which is visible since we are quite close to shore in the navigation lane to San Diego. I take a few photos in the pre-dawn with my dSLR.
The ship arrives about 15 minutes early and I am one of the first group to disembark the ship, since I enrolled for Expedited Disembarkation. I roll my big bag, with my briefcase on top and walk out of the ship and down the ramps with my camera bag over my shoulder. The U.S. Immigration agent doesn’t ask any questions, stamps my passport, and I’m free to go. I am one of the first to grab a taxi, and I’m at the airport about a half hour before I expected.
San Diego airport is great because it is located right on the harbour and in the city, so it is easy to get to. United Airlines check-in is now automated, so I’m forced to check myself in. Thank goodness there are people there to help with the process and to tag my bag. The TSA must have been listening to their clients, because the security check is all over in a couple of minutes, thanks to TSA Pre-check. I didn’t have to remove shoes, belts or watches, and I didn’t have to remove my notebook computer from my bag. I just had to take my cellphone out of my pocket and put it in my camera bag, put the two carry-on bags on the scanner belt and walk through the scanner archway. That was it…I just picked up my bags and continued on my way. The terminal where my flight leaves from is brand new, and really nicely done. The airport offers free Wi-Fi and there are power and USB outlets at every seat. I update the apps on my MacBook Air while I wait three hours for my flight to leave from San Diego airport.
The flight to San Francisco starts off with a bit of conflict in the cabin, since seat assignments seem to be a big issue with several people involved. Eventually everyone is seated and we roll away from the gate. Shortly after takeoff, the guy behind me and one seat over starts ranting very loudly about something. All three of us seated ahead of him ignore his outburst and he seems to calm down for the rest of the flight. When we arrive in San Francisco, we are a bit late, but as it turns out, I stay on the same aircraft as it continues to Vancouver. So I don’t have to go looking for a gate…it’s right here! Just as well, since the boarding for the onward flight starts about 20 minutes after our arrival. Our passports have to be checked before we can board, so that adds a bit of a complication, but everyone eventually is processed and seated on the aircraft.
We pull away on time, and the pilot reports at the start of the flight he expects our arrival to be 10 minutes early, so the flight takes two hours flat.
After landing in Vancouver Airport, here is possibly the most convoluted disembarking procedure I have ever encountered:
- Disembark aircraft.
- Walk along an overhead glassed-in walkway to Canada Customs, which is a very long distance away.
- Directed to self-reporting kiosks for customs and immigration, where my passport and declaration form is scanned.
- Wait for bag to arrive on the carousel.
- Walk to the far corner of the huge baggage claim floor, take an elevator up to the 4th floor, and walk half way across the terminal, schlepping my bag.
- Check in with an Air Canada clerk, and put my bag on a conveyor belt. There is an Air Canada agent at the belt, but he doesn’t offer to help.
- Walk out to the main entrance to the terminal.
- Clear security again.
- Walk the rest of the way to the domestic terminal to find my gate and board my final flight to Victoria.
The weather in Vancouver is cold and rainy – welcome home!