People, we have MADE IT!
Well, in this part of the story, I’m still stuck in Bermuda, but this is the last and final installment of the craziest journey of my entire life, so thanks for joining me along the way. If you haven’t read Part 1 or Part 2, read before continuing!
Now, I promise you that I DO get to Orlando by the end of the story, but there are still a few questions to be answered such as:
- Why did our flight not take off at 1pm like it was supposed to?
- How many hours did I spend wandering around the Bermuda airport?
- Why did Virgin Atlantic almost get in trouble with immigration?
- Why did the flight attendants spend a solid 30-45 minutes walking up and down the rows of the plane, counting, before take off?
When we last left off, I was falling asleep in a four-star hotel (the Fairmont Southampton), having been driven by a taxi in the middle of the night 45 minutes away from Bermuda’s airport. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the accommodation and that, in fact, no tents were required.
I woke up after about 4 hours of sleep (thanks, jet lag and general confusion about why I was in Bermuda!) and went down to the breakfast that we had included in our stay.
Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and I was not let down.
I was one of the first at breakfast around 7am, and this was on purpose: we were meant to meet for our taxis back to the airport at 10am, and I was NOT going to have emergency landed in Bermuda without taking advantage of the scenery.
So I took a walk around the hotel property, first, to see what wonders I could uncover.
Bermuda reminded me a lot of Florida, and while it may be a British Overseas Territory, you couldn’t tell by looking at the palm trees and pastel buildings, so I was pretty satisfied.
If you take a second look at those pictures, you’ll notice that the winds are whipping the trees pretty heavily. The sea was extremely choppy, and when I told the man at the desk that I was headed out to the beach (for a walk!), he looked HORRIFIED and made me promise him I wouldn’t go in the water.
I shook on it with him and then ventured out to Horseshoe Bay, supposedly the 8th most beautiful beach in the world.
It did NOT disappoint. It was right out of a postcard, and even now, looking at these pictures, I can’t believe I was there.
At this point in the journey, I was feeling really grateful, which sounds silly, but made perfect sense to me at the time.
The thing about me, the quality that prompted my ENTIRE life in the UK, is that I love seeing new places. I get stuck in a rut really easily. I get bored. I would happily spend most of the year living in different places. But suddenly, after so many years of going to a new city for college, then moving to London, then traveling lots as a student to cities in Europe I had only ever dreamed of before – I stopped. We go on a few vacations a year, mostly to Florida and then to the same places over and over again (places I love, but still!), and that’s it.
Being stuck in Bermuda reminded me that I could always choose to explore new things. I could always hop on a plane and head to some island in the middle of the Atlantic if I really wanted to.
I stood on the beach for awhile, watching the trees blow around and appreciating the bizarre journey that the world had sent me on.
That would have been the perfect ending, of course. Walk back to the hotel, get on the taxi, and wallah! Home to Orlando by 3pm with a healthy dose of perspective.
OBVIOUSLY NOT. Have you even been reading this story?
I did get back to the hotel, packed up my things, and went down to the lobby to check out.
According to the letter we received when we got off the plane the night before, our plane would leave Bermuda at 1:00pm.
Until there were no sign of taxis, and we got this text.
The reason for the delay? There was a storm on the island and the winds were too strong for the plane to take off.
So, in fact, we did outrun one hurricane back in England, but basically straight into the arms of the other.
An hour delay didn’t seem so bad though, considering all we had been through. I waited in the lobby a bit, then got on one of the first taxis that left around 11:00am.
After a fantastic tour of Bermuda (seriously, he pointed out all of the local sights on our 45 minute drive back!), we were at the airport.
It was now 11:45, and there was nothing to do but sit and wait. Virgin Atlantic doesn’t fly to Bermuda, so we didn’t even have proper check-in desks, and mostly just hung around in herds wherever the airport staff could fit us. Virgin even had to fly in staff from elsewhere to help us out, which caused a BIT of kerfuffle with Bermudian immigration, as found in this article in Bermuda’s local news!
As time wore on, there was mention of lunch. This was good in the sense that we were getting hungry and food sounded excellent, but bad in the sense that it was now approaching 1:00pm (or later) and there were no real signs of anyone checking the 450 + passengers in for our flight that supposed left in just over two hours.
I went and stood in yet another line to get my lunch, but luckily it was my favorite meal, so I went and found a corner to sit in and eat my garlic bread in peace.
I also had a slice of cake with me from my husband’s birthday a few days before. He had sent it with me on the plane in the hopes that I would get to enjoy it on the flight. I didn’t end up eating it on the flight, but carried it all around Bermuda with me in case I got hungry. Island survival skills 101!
At maybe 3:00pm, it was ABUNDANTLY clear that we would not be taking off on the new scheduled time. And since we weren’t even an official flight taking off from that airport, there was no information on the departure boards.
It was like we didn’t exist.
Except, as evidenced by the 450 extra people wandering the airport, we did.
Judging by my texts to my dad, it was around this time we started being able to check-in.
Have you ever tried to check-in 450 all at once? Including massive families with tons of luggage? Screaming babies? Weary travelers?
If not, then…don’t. It was absolute insanity and took a good couple of HOURS to get through everyone. And I’m not talking about boarding, I’m talking just the check-in process! I didn’t even get in the line until the very end because there was no way I was waiting in another massive line with no promise of a ride on Space Mountain at the end of it.
In fact, while everyone else was waiting in line, I walked right outside the airport to take some pictures of the island. Absolutely beautiful!
Finally, around 5:30 Bermuda time, we all made it into the boarding area.
It was revealed at this point that part of the delay was due to waiting on some oxygen tanks to be flown into Bermuda and transferred to our plane, as we had used all of our oxygen on the infant the flight before and couldn’t legally take off without it.
We waited around another 45 minutes to an hour in the departure lounge while my dad (my pick up person in Orlando!) tried to figure out what was going on. Flight trackers were incredibly useless, as even when I found our flight number, it showed that we had already taken off…
FINALLY at maybe 6:30 we made it onto the plane.
“We’ll be leaving soon!” said the captain.
AS IF, Sir. AS. IF.
Of course we didn’t leave soon. Because the check-in process was almost all done by hand (Virgin Atlantic doesn’t have check-in computers in Bermuda, remember??!) they had to check their records against the number of people who were on board.
And they weren’t matching up.
They walked through the cabin, up and down, up and down, counting, counting, counting.
No matter how many times they did it, something was still off and they couldn’t take off unless it matched.
By this time, the identical version of our flight that had left the next day from London had BEAT us to Orlando!
Eventually, around 7:00 or 7:15 Bermuda time, they were satisfied that everyone was on board (or just fudged the numbers, who knows) and we were IN THE AIR. On our way to Orlando!
I stepped foot in Orlando around 9:30pm, after having left England about 29 hours prior.
And the best part?
I went out of my way to take that flight because it was direct, and I didn’t want to bother with changing planes on an indirect flight.
One thing I will say though is that, despite this comment from a local resident who feels we weren’t treated right, I am TOTALLY ON BOARD for another Bermudian vacation!
Every single person I met on the island was amazingly helpful and friendly. And even in the horrible weather, Bermuda was gorgeous.
I will also not hesitate to fly Virgin Atlantic again. Neither situation were in their control (okay, the “Mayday” call I could have done without), and the crew member I interacted the most was the nicest person ever. Also we will get 600 euros compensation, no questions asked, and they gave us a $25 giftcard to a restaurant in Downtown Disney so I’ve got no complaints.
Thanks for reading, and I’m wishing everyone a lifetime of on-time flight arrivals!