Saturday 17th April 1999
A seven o clock alarm call was requested and at 6.55am the telephone rang! “Matthew, pick up that phone, please” We had asked for an 8.45am taxi but by 7.30 am we were ready to go.
Then Matthew decided that he preferred his top covered in Sunny Delight, and so panic ensued trying to get it washed and dried in time. By 8am Tina gave up and I reopened a suitcase to retrieve a replacement top. By 8.15am we decided that it was time and we would go and wait in reception for the taxi. As soon as we got down a man said “Taxi for four?”, and grabbed our cases. I quickly followed him, whereby they were loaded into the back of his estate car and off we went. And didn’t we go!. I think the driver was used to driving passengers late for their flight, as he didn’t hang around and we arrived at the South Terminal 10 minutes later.
We offloaded our three cases at the Virgin Atlantic desk, then went and had breakfast. After food, we visited a few shops and by 10am went through customs into the departure lounge. Our tickets stated that we would be boarding at 11.30am, and at 11am I noticed we could go through the gates to the next departure lounge.
We then had our first crisis! Abby went to one of her many toilet visits but got disorientated and got temporarily lost. Tina checked the ladies, but there was no sign of her. Then I spotted out of the corner of my eye Abby in her pink top heading back towards us, tears in her eyes. “I couldn’t find you and so asked the man at the desk”, she said. After calming reassurance that we hadn’t moved to confuse her we all sat and waited for the plane to be boarded. Our row of seats were finally called and we queue patiently to be seated in rows 35 D to 35G.
After 10 minutes or so after we should have taken off, the captain made his first announcement. Essential maintenance work on one of the engines would take approximately 1 hour to complete (At least they did carry out the work then I thought!). At 14.45pm we finally took off, nearly 3 hours late, Abby and Tina clutching each other throughout the first 10 minutes of the flight. Once levelled out the rear seat TV’s were switched on and we selected our viewing choice.
Although the flight supposedly took nine and a half hours the time appeared to go fairly quickly and suprisingly we were soon approaching Orlando International Airport. After a very smooth landing we sat patiently ready to disembark whilst everybody else scrambled to get off the plane.
Orlando International Airport
We walked to the baggage carousel and almost immediately our first case was spotted, followed soon by the others. After passing through immigration and customs we then left our cases again and took a shuttle ride to the central terminal where we again had to retrieve our cases. We were directed by the Virgin reps to the Dollar hire car rental pick up point. I had decided that we would upgrade the allocated car to something bigger and chose a Dodge Caravan, a seven seater people carrier. A quick demonstration of the main controls and functions were given by the Dollar rep and then the keys were handed over.
Now at this point I intended to get used to the controls, read the map and take a leisurely drive in daylight to our hotel. But plans didn’t work out quite so well and off we went, the wrong way and in the dark. Good start! We reached our first toll with our dollar in hand, but another problem to overcome, how to open the drivers window? Eventually I opened my door and handed the startled booth attendant the money and moved on. We then started to wonder where to go next as the road signs weren’t too clear and Tina started to read the wrong section of instructions given by Virgin. After a few more miles, the next toll arrived and we confirmed that we were heading in the right direction. We found the main road (the 192) easily after that and made for our hotel. Next mistake – wrong hotel; the instructions given on the Virgin map were wrong and we’d already passed our hotel.
Soon after we booked into the correct hotel, the Days Inn Eastgate, found our room and chose our beds. Abby and Matthew in a double bed, that was to be interesting.
We crawled into bed at 3am BST (10pm local time) after a very long day.