2019 and 2020 were rough, to say the least. When the news arrived my daughter’s best friend is getting married in March 2021 in Puerto Rico, to one of my favorite people, 😉 I was ecstatic! 💃🏽
In October 2020, I missed an important wedding; it was way too soon (in the height of the pandemic). Over 50 people were attending and there was no mandatory mask wearing; NO THANK YOU! So instead, I sent a generous gift.
Why did I say yes to the invite, in the middle of a pandemic?
Yes, me “Nervous Netty“, attended a wedding during a pandemic. The reason I said, Yes, to the Invite”, was everyone on the plane and in attendance of the wedding are required to have a negative COVID-19 test; not your standard COVID test .
Puerto Rico’s, a US territory, in case you didn’t know 😉, government requires everyone traveling to the island to produce a negative PCR molecular COVID-19 test (nasal or throat swab), no more than 72 hours, prior to visiting the Island; rapid test are not acceptable. Since Puerto Rico is a US territory, a negative COVID-19 test is NOT required when returning to the States. http://www.discoverpuertorico.com.
By the way, if you live in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and need a COVID-19 PCR molecule test, I highly recommend you go to SAME DAY TESTING in Tysons Corner, VA; the technician was so gentle. The worst place I received a COVID test from was INOVA in Centreville, VA; my body friggin levitated she was going so deep up my nose.
Stuck at San Juan Airport
For a very long moment, I knew I was about to experience what Tom Hanks in “Terminal” felt when stranded at an airport or Bridget Jones in The Edge of Reason movie, the airport scene, minus the drugs smuggling arrest. By the way, Love “Mark Darcy” Colin Firth. 😍
Ok, where do I begin? First off, I’m not good story teller. I go all around the “mulberry bush” before getting to the main points. I’m going to try, very hard, to get to the point and share only the important parts. 😬
As I previously mentioned, Puerto Rico’s government requires all persons who are visiting the island to submit a negative COVID test though their health department system. Once you upload your results, you will receive an email confirmation with a “QR code” enclosed that is presented to airport security, prior to exiting the airport.
First, when you get off the plane, passengers must walk through a glass covered walkway that has thermal cameras to check your temperature and an automated voice instructs you to keep moving (many passengers did not notice this feature). I’m walking and looking at the walkway/tunnel walls waiting for alarms to go off and the glass doors to block me in. Shoot, if the cameras detected anxiety, I would have been on a lockdown. 😨
Second, airport security was not your standard security, THIS WAS THE NATIONAL GUARD! INTIMIDATING! My mind instantly went to “did we land in a war-zone country, GEESH!” Did I feel safe, HELL YES! Trust me they had a system and no one was bypassing the process. I, along with the two women (Lee and Dee; names changed to protect the innocent) in my group, soon found out the hard way. 😂 I’m laughing out loud now, thinking about the experience, which was not funny at the time. Okay, getting back on track.
AIRPORT EXIT: The lines to get through the National Guard to exit the airport, was intertwined with travelers waiting to get their baggage; it was a chaos. Passengers standing in lines packed liked sardines. The air conditioning must have been broke because it was sweaty hot. There were rows of tables, as far as the eye can see, with people assisting travelers with paperwork issues.
Lee and I retrieve our QR code for the military to scan. We look over to Dee and ask her if she has her QR code; Dee waves her test result at us. Lee explains to Dee that she need a QR code to exit the airport. Dee responds, “I have my test result, they can see that it’s negative. Plus, I don’t remember getting a QR code.” Yup, I’m succumb with panic.😯 Anyone that knows me, knows I’m a rules follower and respect processes; they are there to maintain order and consistency.
Lee and I nervously (at times talking over each other) explained to Dee that she should have received an email instructing her to upload her test result. Dee informed she never uploaded her test result. 😯😯 Then there is announcement, “Everyone must have a QR code to exit the airport. If you do not have a code, scan the barcode on the column and follow the instructions.” Lee and I are now at the front of the line with shocked and confused expressions on our face. Dee, who is now panic stricken, begins to “sweat bullets”, literally. A soldier scans my barcode and allows me to pass. I stand to the side, on the other side of the rope, in front of Lee, who is helping Dee access the system to upload her test result. Approximately 15 minutes later, another soldier tells me I must leave and I’m not allow to stand in the pathway. I begin to nervousely explain that I must stay with my group, we can’t leave each other. He said, “Ma’m you must exit the airport and you can wait for them outside.” I leave and stand outside, right in front of the exit doors, keeping my eye on Lee; I could only see Lee’s suitcase then it disappeared. I FREAKED! Outside the temperature is hot and humid; I’m wearing a trench coat, drenched and about to lose my mind. “I can’t leave them! I must stay right here until they exit.”
Approximately 20-30 minutes later, I see Lee coming in my direction without Dee. I was happy and scared, at the same time. Lee looks worried and explains that Dee had the app open and was going through the uploading process. Dee was sweating so bad, from nerves and it hot as “H” in the airport that her hands and face was dripping with sweat that she accidentally exited herself out of the system. 😂 The soldier saw what happened, closed the line and directed Dee to another line that was in the opposite side of the airport. Lee was directed to exit the airport. OH VEY! 😂 Again, I’m laughing now but it was not funny at the time. We text Dee for her whereabouts and we finally see Dee standing outside, the opposite direction from us, nervously smoking a cigarette. We access the airport shuttle, looking like a hot, stressed, sweaty mess. 😂 The shuttle bus driver said to Dee, “I see you found your friends.” Earlier, Dee peeped inside the shuttle bus looking for us. 😂
COVID Hits Hospitality
Two and half-hours after our flight landed, we finally arrived to the beautiful Grand Hyatt Regency Resort in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. Before entering the hotel lobby, we had to present a copy of our test result, which was recorded in a log and the porter took our temperature . We glared at the Porter and explained we are hot, sweaty and it is very likely our body temperatures are high. Our temperatures were normal, no way!
It is now after 5pm, the rehearsal dinner has begun and I hear that our rooms are not ready. “YOU GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! Thank God my room was not part of the wedding block of rooms; I received a government discount and my room, which was a beautiful Ocean View, was in a different location from the wedding group. At this point, I did not care; I needed a shower.
Unfortunately, the resort is experiencing the effects of COVID. Many of the housekeeping staff remained on unemployment instead of returning to work. During our stay, the resort held a recruitment drive and non-housekeeping staff, including management, were required to clean hotel rooms. Thank God our stay was only three nights and we received clean towels, upon request, daily. Unfortunately, my daughter and I both stepped on broken glass (from previous guests). Would I go back, to Puerto Rico? Most Definitely! Would I stay at the Grand Hyatt Regency Resort, only if they have sufficient housekeeping staff.
Old San Juan
The resort porters went above and beyond to accommodate us. On a scale from 1-10, I would give them a 10+. The one day we went sightseeing, our taxi driver, Louis was Amazing! He took us sightseeing of Old San Juan and picked us up after touring and eating dinner. When we returned to the resort and arrived to the first guard station, our temperature, including Louis’ (taxi driver) temperature was taken. I wondered what would have happen if any of us had a temperature. 😯
For souvenirs, you know I had to purchase coffee mugs and coffee.
The Russell and Pasamonte ceremony was the most Beautiful wedding I have ever attended; I love these two so much! ♥️ Following are some highlights:
Now, time to prepare for my next destination wedding. My sister-dear is getting married in Hawaii. I’m happy to announce Hawaii has the same COVID testing requirement as Puerto Rico and for that reason I said, “Yes, to the Invite.” 😬