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Are you thinking of traveling outside of the U.S.? Think again! My advice is to stay within the U.S. The Customs inspections are a pain in the aspergillosis. I'm in favor of strong, thorough inspections by Customs to prevent anything akin to the disasterous terrorist attacks of 9/11, but read this tale of woe.
I was a passenger recently on a cruise ship out of Boston, but this is not your usual travelogue ... "On Monday we visited ... the next day we went to..." My complaint is these Customs inspections are too thorough. It's overkill.
In view of the recent news concerning cruise ships and viral infections... 500 passengers were infected on one liner, and several on another, I am glad that our ship took steps to prevent same. As we made our way to our stateroom when arriving, we noticed a very strong odor of chlorine in all parts of the ship. Nobody gave any explanation.
When we went to dinner that evening, we were instructed to wash our hands with the Towelettes provided. We asked why and were told simply, "U.S. Government regulation." This rule was even more strange at the buffet meals where we were not able to serve ourselves. Waitresses with rubber gloves did the serving, even though this was a buffet meal. Although this continued for most of the trip, I am now thankful that this ship took these precautions. Otherwise we would probably have been infected with whatever.
Following stops at seven Caribbean islands, we arrived in Miami at 3:45 a.m. The crew offloaded the luggage and arranged it by colored tags in double rows on the dock. This enabled the trained sniffing dogs to walk the rows to detect any illegal drugs.
Our bags had green tags indicating the first luggage to be picked up by the first passengers to debark. This was because we would pickup our baggage to be loaded on buses along with us and travel 40 miles to Fort Lauderdale where we had to catch an 11:10 a.m. flight to Boston. We were due to debark at 9:10. It was said, "We are waiting for clearance from immigration." It was actually 90 minutes later when we did get the message to debark. We had already missed the flight to Boston and it was seven hours after the ship had docked.
After the buses arrived in Fort Lauderdale, we were given a thorough Customs inspection. "Unlock your baggage and pass it over." The Inspectors were polite but hand-inspected every piece of clothing and other items in the bags. Okay, now that's over. Nay, nay, because it was repeated at the Delta terminal. Now we are inside the secure area and on standby hoping to get on the next flight. When we were called and accepted as standby pasengers, we went through another customs inspection, including body search with shoes off. I was glad I wore the socks without the holes.
I maintain that this third inspection was overkill. We were inside the secure area after the first two inspections. How could we possibly insert anything illegal in our luggage? Then to top it off we were stopped a few feet from the doorway of the plane and told that the luggage racks were full. If our carry-on bags would not fit under the seat, it would be necessary to stow them in the body of the plane. I said firmly, "It has always fitted under the seat before." We proceded into the plane to find our seats while the other passengers, who had filled the overhead storage space, glared at us for being late. We sat down with a sigh of relief and to listen to the lecture on what to do if the plane should have to ditch in the Atlantic.
I hoped the others had been inspected as thoroughly as we were. Okay, let's get this big bird into the air.
December 6, 2002