Trip Report Family Vacation of 2003 (Nov 24-Dec 18)
Caribbean (St Maarten, San Juan, St Thomas, Martinique, Barbados, Aruba)
USA (Miami/Ft Lauderdale, LAX, Las Vegas, Phoenix)

All Photos Sam Chui. Best Resolution 1024x768

1. Flight Routing

United Airlines

SYD-SFO B747-400 N173UA Y
SFO-DEN B777-200 N219UA C
DEN-MIA A319-100 N839UA F
MIA-ORD B767-300 N652UA C
ORD-LAX B777-200 N211UA F
LAX-SYD B747-400 N181UA C

American Airlines

MIA-SJU B757-200 N610AA Y
SJU-MIA B767-300 N394AA Y

Southwest Airlines

LAX-PHX B737-700 N790SW Y
PHX-LAX B737-300 N331SW Y


2. Cruise Routing

Ship name: Carnival Destiny


7 day Cruise of Southern Caribbean

Nov 30 San Juan
Dec1 St.Thomas
Dec 2 Martinique
Dec 3 Barbados
Dec 4 Fun day at Sea
Dec 5 Aruba
Dec 6 Fun day at Sea
Dec 7 San Juan

3. Photo Galleries and Commentry

Nov 26-29 St Marrten/St Martin

St Maarten/St Martin (SXM) is absolutly awesome, the beauty and excitement starts when you arriving over the Maho Beach seconds before touch down! It is the most beautiful Caribbean Island I've been overall! The photo spots are all easy to find and people are most relaxing and friendly with lot of smiles around, beer at SXM is very cheap even at Sunset Bar is merely 2 dollars a bottle. Lot of sun, bikini ladies or muscline man ;-). Beware of the jet blast and sand blast when there is a plane taking off, do NOT stand behind the plane as the jetblast will blow you into the water, and with the sands covered your eye and a big wave covered your whole body, it is a dangerous experience but I have lot of fun riding the waves and getting blasts around (my swimpant fell off once in the water after the string was broken!)...waters are warm and just about the nice temperature to swim, not much big waves like the Gold Coast. SXM is a perfect place for vacation and to relieve the stress. Enjoyed those cool Pina Codala and fruit punch+ rum! :-)

Maho Beach hotel is an excellent hotel with unbeliable views. Ask for a deluxe Ocean Terrace room (about USD$249/night in high season) will put you in front of the tortoise ocean and the approach path, you can sit in the balcony and watch planes fly over the beach at your own comfort and privacy. The hotel have 2 pools, one called Oasis Pool with waterfalls and a pool bar, the other is Ocean Terrace pool, with nothing but beautiful ocean in front of you. SXM is a place that you don't want to leave abd you don't want to know what time it is. There are also many Casinos and fine restaurants and jewellery stores on the island. You DO not need to carry a passport to cross French and Dutch border everytime! Watch the traffic because most roads are only one lane each bound, there are only a few traffic lights around so common sense prevail.

View of the infamous Maho Beach!
View from the Maho Beach hotel Ocean Terrace pool area

Nov 30 San Juan, Puerto Rico

Observation Deck in San Juan Int'l Beautiful deck shot can be easily made there.

Stayed at Embassy Suites San Juan, a very good hotel with nice gardren atrium. Went to spotting at the Aeroparque (Aero Park) in SJU, they have a great balcony with snack shop and children's area around. Planes going to Rwy08 for takeoff taxi past you slow and nice. Traffics on weekends are a lot higher, because of the Cruiseliners bring in the pax from US mainlands. US Airways use a A330, Continental a B767 and lot of B727 around with Pan Am (Saw 5 that day), Planet, Air Santo Domingo, Transmeridien, Falcon Air....A great deck in SJU and most hotel locate only a few minutes away to the airport!  P.S. Taxi do not use meters but use flat rate there!

Dec 1 St Thomas, US Virgin Islands

Here are a few photos of Carnvial Destiny cabin and facility. We stayed at the category 12 large suites, can fit 4 people. Our room are twice as large as the normal standard stateroom! A Cruise to the Caribbean is very affordable these days, some pay as low as 399USD for 7 days , 5 Island nations, eat as much as 8 meals a day, free Vegas style shows, casinos, duty free shopping, you do the maths, less than 50 bucks a day to live like a king! Way to go!

Carnival Destiny docking in St. Thomas Part of our cabin #7194. Cabin #7194
A part of the long balcony we had! This room have more TV than anywhere else, is called Point After Dance Room! Grand Dinning Room 

The city in St Thomas(STT) is called Charlotte Amaile, STT is probably the most popular port in the Caribbean, on a good day I was told there are more than 10 Cruiseships around. With all the tourists on those boats, it almost outnumber the residents! St Thomas is also very famous for cheap duty free shopping, I think it is the cheapest port around, a bottle of Bacardi Rum cost only 5USD! There are factory tours of Bacardi available as offshore tours. Airport in St Thomas is equally fasinating. Rwy 10/28 extends into sea. Take a car to go up to the hill in the East, you can get a good panaromic view of the airport! Traffic mainly arrive in the afternoon from US, about 10 jets per day call in.

Airport Overview of St Thomas Afternoon rush hours! Other Cruiseliners around, Norwegian Sky!

Dec 2 Fort de France, Martinique

A French territory in the Caribbean like many others, Euro is the currency and most car on the road are imported from France and Europe, Renault, Mercedes etc...Most people speak French and can understand English. There is an interesting tale that long time ago there is a Volcano eruption, killed all the people on the island but one, because he is in jail at the time, which luckily saved his life. The great Napolean's wife Josephine, is also born in Martinique! This Island is more expensive than others, I do not recommend to do heavy shopping there. Airport is world class but only 1 Air France and 1 Corsair 747 called in regularly.

Fort de France with Volcano behind! Air France arrives in the evening!

Dec 3 Bridgetown,Barbados

This is the highlight of the Cruise, Barbados is situated at the very east of Caribbean, with one side face the rough cold water of Atlantic Ocean and the other side the calm and warm Caribbean. It is one of the most beautiful place with lot of former English expats. lives like the royal family there! Highlight of the airport is the recent arrival of the Concorde G-BOAE! Sadly the authority got fed up with people asking ramp tour, so I took my shot quietly outside the fence! Also BA have B777 and Virgin use B747-400 from Gatwick and Air Canada goes there regularly.

G-BOAE. Looking so sharp!
The Port in Bridgetown, some smaller Cruiserliner around us. A beautiful sunset!

Dec 5 Oranjestead, Aruba

Aruba is a cool place, with half the islands feels like desert covered with lot of Catcus, half other island feels like the Caribbean. The island is mostly flat without much hills like other islands. People are friendly and outgoing, also they have a bit of multicultural society going on there with many different nationalities. Lot of Casino and US hotels on the Island. We had a tropical storm near Aruba so we cancelled our snorkelling to the De Palm Island. Weather had gone overcast since we arrived in Aruba. Also a great port for shopping and taking a 4x4 cross country. Airport traffic beside DCA and KLM is mostly US carriers, with a few Venezulean carriers operates ATR42 there. It is not the best and easiest airport to photograph because of high fence around.

Ex-Aserca DC-9-15 dumped in Aruba Air Aruba DC-9-30 dumped. DC-3 dumped and vandalised.

Dec 7 San Juan-Miami
Dec 7-10 Miami/Ft Lauderdale

Early morning at 7am the ship arrived back to San Juan Pier No.5 , we cleared immigration and custom promptly bound for the airport for our early 0950 departure to Miami. The airport was very crowded with people every where, AA don't have e-checkins in San Juan and with only a few countes open, nothing's moving fast there. Arrived in Miami on Rwy 30, as a cold front around bring in cool temperature at mid 60s and some clear weather that day. The next 3 days stayed in Miami for some plane spotting and meet up the Aviation photography of Miami boys. This is my 6th time visit of Miami.

With Miami downtown and Coconut Grove under the wings! Final on Rwy30. Lot of Arrow Air DC-8s, seems no more Fine Air around!

Dec 11-16 Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas

5 days of non-stop photographing and spotting at the airports because of mainly sunny weather! Here is some of the selection photos. Special thanks to Mike Carter and Tim Keeney for their help to make my travel trouble free.

Incredible Climb Performance of the MD-11! China Eastern A340-642 B-6050 HS-TGH with special APEC large title takeoff 25R.
N323FE, ex United Worldwide Cargo N1852U. Swiss replaced their MD-11 with A340 service. Photo taken from Garage #4.
RJs fleet of America West. CRJ900. Take off 01R, with Hotel Luxor behind.
Landmark scenery of Vegas as background! HA001 Heavy bound for LAX and HNL with Hotel/Casino New York New York behind! Evening shot of NWA new color and shining Mandalay Bay Resort.


4. Flying Observations and comments

On most United flights I got upgraded which is a lot of comfort and on most domestic flight (even SFO-DEN a 2 hr flight) they still serve meals in the front cabin, I enjoyed a very nice Mandarin chicken salad and Deli sandwich platter, United do serve very well gourmet meals in their F/C cabin domstically, in coach, they start to sell meals like other carriers. United are also very generous to hand out free headsets and whole can of beverage, on my American Airlines flights, headset are $2 each, and drinks are somewhat limited.
Very impressed with the lower forward main cabin on UA's B747-400, you have 3 rows of Business class in a separate bulkhead (Row 6, 7, 8) and this section are very quiet and generally get meal/drink service first served, seats in business class recline about 160 degrees and about 55+ pitch, you have a lot of room and I see no point they need any flat bed because their business class is very comfortable at the moment! Most flights to Australia are overbooked heavily in December and my flights we have 338/347 pax loading with over 20 people standby failed to board.

Flown on a buddy pass on Southwest Airlines. They offer single class of service, but Mike said, "every seats on Southwest is a first class seat!" that statement is exactly right, Southwest have amazing efficiency that put most US major carriers way behind. Even during push back, the tug speed is twice as normal! Seats are nice leather seat with adequate legroom and flight attandent friendly and down to the earth. I give Southwest Airlines a big thumb up!

On American Airlines Caribbean service, perhaps they are the monopoly or leader in those markets, the service is very basic with drinks only from Miami to San Juan, very crowded and just ordinary flights and I believe AA do much better serving in premium Transcon and Int'l flights. The American Eagle flights are operated by Executive Airlines, which FA are also quite rude and very basic flights.

5. After travels thoughts

Well, it is a long trip for more than 3 weeks away from home. Caribbean is far far away from where I live, but is certainly worth going there, it is more beautiful than those words can describe, I found the color of the tortoise water very pleasing and relaxing. One can swim comfortably in the ocean without much waves around. St Maarten's greatness start to grow on me after I got home while looking at the pictures. Cruiseliner is a easy way to travel around, with no worries and hassles of security lines like flying do, I even know somebody live on a Cruiseliner around the world 365 days a year, and she said it is cheaper than live at home! I visited many new countries because of the Cruise, which is a good way to get around the island nations. I am now eagerly planning my next trip to Thailand, China, Japan and the US in Jan/Feb 2004.

Happy Holidays and take good care!

Sam Chui
Sydney 23/Dec/2003

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