Joan, an old friend of mine (with whom I had gone on a cruise, her first, on the late lamented Norway in Jan 2002) recently had a chance to return to the Carribbean. Her brother, an avid cruiser, had a late-March trip all booked on RCI's humongous Adventure of the Seas, rt from San Juan Puerto Rico, with his girlfriend. Then, at the last minute, his girlfriend had to bow out to start a new job. Everything already being paid for, he offered his sister Joan an invitation to share the cabin. (Having recently been unjustly fired from a job, she deserved a break!)
A year after our Norway trip, I too had taken a cruise rt out of San Juan, so Joan asked if I had any advice. I had LOVED Puerto Rico-- Old San Juan was magnificent, and the El Yunque rain forest, a veritable Garden of Eden, was less than an hour's drive out of town. Since her flight on the final day didn't leave until 5pm, I mentioned that on the last day of my cruise, I'd taken a great shore excursion up into the rain forest before being dropped off at the airport in plenty of time, where my luggage was waiting. It cost just 30 bucks-- only ten more than a straight pier-to-airport transfer! Or, failing that, I advised her to just go into beautiful Old San Juan and enjoy strolling the cobbled streets and admiring the well-preserved colorful colonial architecture.
Well, Joan had a wonderful time overall with her brother on that cruise, but that's not how she spent her final day after arriving back in San Juan. She was off the ship by 8am, at the airport by 9-- and essentially SPENT THE NEXT EIGHT HOURS STANDING ON LINES! Lines to check her bags, USDA inspection line, airport security line, and most of all, US Airways' check-in. The airline had ONE GUY behind the counter to deal with HUNDREDS of departing passengers! What a miserable way to end what should have been an ideal vacation-- and what an appalling impression Puerto Rico left on her as a result! She said she'd never have the slightest interest in coming back again.
The airport had been quite busy and crowded at the conclusion of my 2003 cruise-- not surprising, given that 6000-odd cruisers were making their way home at once-- but what Joan described to me was so insane, I could scarcely believe it. I advised her to write to both the airline and to Puerto Rico's tourism board or Chamber of Commerce, describe to them her experience, and that because of what she had to go through, she'd never be back. They need to know what happened, and what kind of effect that's liable to have on future tourism revenues they rely on.
So here's the question: was what she went through just some terrible one-day fluke? Or have other recent San-Juan-based cruise passengers experienced anything remotely this awful?