Aruba 2003 Trip Report

Bonaire 2003 Trip Report

Aruba 1996 Trip Report

Curacao 1996 Trip Report

 



Getting Around the ABC's

October 2003

The only practical way to island hop the ABC's is to fly. We flew Dutch Caribbean Express (DCE) which turned out to be a nightmare. Where do we start. 

We needed to fly between Aruba and Bonaire, since we were using our United Airlines Frequent Flier miles to get to Aruba.. We wanted to visit both islands so we needed to do some island hopping. When we booked our reservation, DCE was the only provider between the islands. We booked online, WHICH YOU SHOULD NEVER DO, and had to make a layover stop in Curacao. (Seems that all DCE flights go through Curacao.)

Before we left on vacation, I thought I would check our flight status. We have read on the BonaireTalk message boards that DCE was horrible so we were very cautious. I called the United States 1-800 DCE number and is was disconnected! Great, that gives you a real warm feeling. So I then e-mailed DCE and asked about our flight status to and from Aruba and Bonaire. A week later we received a phone call which informed us that our flights have been moved around. Some were moved more than 4 hours! Ok, fine, we aren't going to let this spoil our vacation. 

The first flight from Aruba to Curacao went fine. When we boarded the plane to Bonaire there were only two other people on the plane. I looked in the luggage compartment and our luggage was no where to be found. When we boarded the plane I told the flight attendant that I did not see our luggage. She said "it will make it". A few minutes later she asked me what our luggage looked like. (Another warm fuzzy feeling overcame us.) 

A picture of our plane's cockpit is shown above. We were lucky. We had a pilot in training flying our plane! When we were taking off the pilot had to correct the pilot in training numerous times. When we landed in Bonaire our luggage did make it but I am convinced that it would not have made it unless I said something as we boarded the plane.

We were scheduled to return back to Aruba on Monday. Our flight was changed again, this time to 7:30 PM which meant we wouldn't make it to Aruba until after 9:00 PM. We stopped by the airport at about noon to again "confirm" our flight. It took the ticket counter 30 minutes to confirm our flight. We heard a few of them arguing as to whether or not the flight was even going to happen. They then asked us where we were staying in case they needed to call us. (Why would you need to call us, I thought, the plane takes off in 6 hours.) 

The last thing we wanted was to not make it to Aruba so we decided to buy a direct flight on Bonaire Excel. BonaireExcel is a new airline that serves the ABCs and is affiliated with KLM. We highly recommend BonaireExcel. They were a REAL airline!

DCE would not give us a refund on our ticket, even though it was a full fare ticket. They said that all "online purchased tickets" were non-refundable. This means that if you purchase a ticket on-line, they can change your schedule at will and you have no recourse.

We ran into some folks from England who had some real horror stories about their DCE experience. They became stranded in Curacao and DCE put them up in a roach coach motel. (I guess it had numerous bugs, open electrical switches, etc)

Bottom line is that you now have a choice of carriers, and needless to say, we highly suggest that you NOT fly DCE. Here is a link to Bonaire Excel UPDATE: Looks like DCA is no longer in business.

This doesn't surprise us in the least. Here is a link to the news. 

http://www.ruudleeuw.com/rem-dca.htm

(We do not normally like to criticize businesses on the web, but we have never seen such a lousy airline with absolutely no customer service.)