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Miami's airport getting it right

Photo by Patriarca12

There's probably no such thing as a perfect airport, is there? Our recent experience in Miami left us thinking MIA comes close.

Here are two examples…

Number one: 

Many people who cruise like to arrive a day or two early, or stay a day or two late, or both. That often means renting a car. If there's any airport in which it's easier to rent a car, we haven't seen it. None of the car rental companies is in the terminal. They have their own building…an entire building, housing as many rental companies as you can imagine. You get there by taking a short ride on a tram. When one leaves, the next one is a minute behind. 

Okay, maybe two.

You go to and from your car by elevator. No struggles with luggage. When you return, elevator up…pay the man…turn the corner and there are the vehicles that shuttle you to the Port of Miami. Take a cab and it's 25 bucks, flat rate.

Number two:

We didn't know airports did this any more, since 9-11, but you can check bags and store them at the airport…just like the old days, except more expensive. It costs about $12 a day (depending on the size of bag), you have to be photographed, bags are subject to x-ray and you have to verify they're yours with proper ID.

So, if you want to rent a cheap car for a day or two before catching your cruise ship, you can leave bags at the airport, rent your car, hit the turnpikes of Florida, return your car, pick up your bags and head for the ship.

There are costs, of course, but what price convenience?

Carnival Conquest
7 nights
February 10, 2013
New Orleans (return): Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, Cozumel
Inside: $389
Cost per day: $55

Smooth Sailing in San Diego

On our most recent cruise, one of the ports new to us was San Diego. Not the city, the port. We’ve spent a lot of time in the city, but coming at it from the water was new, enlightening and a little chaotic.

Last year, we disembarked at the port in New Orleans, to be finger-printed (no choice) and be fast-tracked in slow lines only because we hired a luggage porter. Before that, landing at San Pedro (Los Angeles), it was like Disneyland…huge lines through the ropes before even getting off the ship.

San Diego was easy. We should mention that all three ships we’re talking about here were about the same size: 2,000 or so passengers. We left our stateroom to clear customs at about 7:50. We were back in the room by 8:03. Our assigned time to disembark was 10:30, but everything was going so quickly that they called for all remaining passengers to disembark about 20 minutes before that, and there was minimal delay in locating luggage.

Is it a credit to the cruise line, in this case Celebrity? Is it the customs and immigration people? The port? Who knows? All we know is it was flawless.

And then the fun began.

The Carnival Elation was unloading its 2,000 or so passengers about the same time, so you had 4,000 people trying to get off the pier in a 90-minute window. Lines for taxis were long. Inside the terminal, bus tickets for the airport were $10. Outside the terminal, shuttle tickets to the airport were $5. Unlike San Juan (Puerto Rico), where our cruise began, there was no per-bag handling charge.

From the ship, we could see planes landing at San Diego International. Getting there meant two right turns and a U-turn in congested traffic before turning left, the direction of the airport. With aircraft carriers and the pretty San Diego waterfront for scenery, the trip’s worth more than five bucks and a tip.

That’s it…we’re done.

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