Having checked with the travel agency (Great Southern Island Adventures of Jackson, MS , whom I unreservedly recommend) and independently scanned the internet, my wife Carol and I decided to fly Air Jamaica to Bonaire. The schedule was more convenient (one transfer in Montego Bay vs. DFW/Miami/San Juan, with return departure time at a civilized hour) and the prices quite reasonable. Besides, who can turn down free Red Stripe beer and champagne? Checking in at IAH (George Bush International, Houston) went smoothly; following the advice of other travellers on this message board, I made sure all of our checked luggage wore the neon green tag that indicated a transfer to Bonaire at Montego Bay. A split bagel and two cups of coffee later, our flight was announced, and off we went into the pink-and-gold dawn on a new Caribbean adventure.
The airplane was clean and well-maintained, the cabin crew efficient, and the headphones on our side of the cabin non-functioning. I wouldn't have minded that, as I had brought Steven Ambrose's latest book to pass the time, but seated directly in front of me was a slender,elderly black gentleman with an apparently insatiable desire to talk (loudly) to whomever would respond to him. He inflicted himself on the man in the seat next to him, and rattled for perhaps an hour about various personal impressions and life experiences, complete with dates and times, as the poor fellow in the window seat politely nodded in silent answer to the infrequent pauses in that one-sided conversation. Honestly, I must say that my wife was more offended by the man (who was thereafter referred to as "that crazy old bastard") than myself, but she is a little more sensitive than I to the observation of common courtesy by those around her; she is a teacher of five-year-olds, and is in the business of imparting instruction in the basic social graces to those who know no better. Mercifully, the C.O.B. was all but silenced by the morning meal, and thereafter donned his personal CD headsets and shoulder-danced the rest of the way to Jamaica. We did not see him after that.
There was a delay of nearly an hour in Montego Bay as we awaited the late arrival of the flight from Atlanta. We were turned away from the check-in area and told to wait elsewhere, then ordered by the overhead announcer to assemble for boarding five minutes later. Organization in the island world is a tenuous thing, grasped casually, an attitude the traveler must adopt if he is to maintain normal pulse rate and blood pressure.
The plane to Bonaire was uncrowded, and the short hop to our destination pleasant. Almost before I was ready, we taxied up to the pink edifice of Flamingo Airport. A quick walk across the tarmac, a brief wait at baggage claims (all bags present and in good condition), a cursory check at the immigration counter, and off to Budget for our vehicle. The Toyota Hi-Lux crew cab was practically brand-new with a powerful air conditioner, manual transmission and a wooden scuba tank rack in the back. After the usual walk-around inspection and several signatures, we were enroute to the Plaza. At the resort entrance we were waved in by the gate security guard (dressed as a paratrooper) and proceeded to the main building, where we completed our check-in and were escorted to our suite. I was grateful for the help of the golf cart-mounted bell captain in the transportation of our luggage, as the walk from the parking lot to our room reminded me of a transfer in the Miami airport without the air conditioning. My initial impression of this hike was softened during our stay by the convenience of the facilities, the lack of traffic noise and the rapid response of the resort staff to our every request.
Our room (a Grand Suite) was large, high-ceilinged, tile-floored, air-conditioned and equipped with two queen beds. We were pleased to find a hair dryer, mini-refrigerator and color cable television all in working order, plus a shady balcony facing out on the resort beach with a western view of the turquoise sea beyond. After a quick call home to confirm our arrival, we hit the Coconut Crash beach bar (a few easy steps from our room) for happy hour, where the personable and fast-moving Giovanni helped us get on island time. Then off to the Banana Tree restaurant (onsite) for supper. Carol had the beef tenderloin served with french fries and I the pork tenderloin over rice. We were pleasantly reminded of the European practice of preceding every meal with fresh bread and butter (garlic and herb in most cases) and the meal was made more pleasant by attentive but unobtrusive service. Dinner for two with two Amstels: US45.00 including tip.
I checked in at Toucan Diving and found that the dive orientation would commence at 0830 the next morning. Carol and I strolled the expansive grounds for a bit, then headed off to bed, happy to finally be away from our everyday world and looking forward to the next day's new experiences.