In Jan of '03, at the conclusion of a week's cruise rt from San Juan on Celebrity's Constellation, I took a ship's shore excursion to the nearby El Yunque rain forest national park prior to my 4pm flight. (It ran 30 bucks, just 10 more than a straight-to-the-airport transfer-- pretty much of a no-brainer deal!) This tour of a real-life Garden of Eden was the perfect ending to a great cruise. When we arrived at the San Juan airport, our bags were waiting for us. With at least 6000 cruise ship passengers headed home on the same afternoon, (3 Panamax-sized ships' worth) the airport was a bit of a zoo, including the added line-up for the Agriculture Dept luggage inspection, but I had no trouble making my flight.
Okay, now fast forward to March '05: A friend of mine was unexpectedly invited along on a Royal Caribbean cruise by her brother, a frequent cruiser, after his girlfriend had to back out due to a workplace emergency. This was a rt out of San Juan as well. She had a great time aboard, but things came to a crashing halt upon their return. Having been warned in advance that the San Juan airport could get pretty crazy on Sundays because of the cruise ship factor in addition to the usual end-of-weekend crowd, she and her brother decided to pass up any post-cruise excursions to the rain forest or Old San Juan or anyplace else, and just head right to the airport, even though their flight home wasn't until 5pm. They were at the airport by about 9am-- and proceeded to spend THE NEXT EIGHT HOURS STANDING IN LINES! This was principally due to the fact that US Airways had alloted all of one guy to process thousands of departing passengers, but the security and Agriculture Dept screenings were similarly understaffed. What a wretched end to an otherwise lovely vacation! Even having arrived EIGHT HOURS PRIOR to their scheduled departure, it was all they could do to make their flight on time! I posted a comment on the message board about this when she told me about it, under the heading "San Juan Insanity".
And now, the latest outrage: over dinner with my friend about a month ago, she mentioned that her brother the avid cruiser had just gotten back from another voyage rt out of San Juan-- and that on this occaision, he'd been stuck in the San Juan airport for TWENTY HOURS!!!
And so, I once again pose the questions of my previous posting on this topic: What in the name of God is going on down there? Have other recent San Juan cruisers been confronted with this nightmare? Are the tourism authorities of Puerto Rico too brain-dead to realize the kind of horrible impression this must be leaving on visitors who would otherwise have departed with happy memories and smiles on their faces? What or who is responsible for these unbelievable daylong Sunday clusterf**ks? And are there any plans in the works to do something that might remedy the situation one of these years?