Archive for the 'travel' Category

by mkeefe on Dec 19th, 2012

Why Most Airlines Suck and jetBlue doesn’t

It all began with me arriving at BOS (Logan airport) about 2 hours early to catch a flight to ORD (O’hare). Upon seeing the massive check-in line I quickly jumped to the kiosk which usually gets you in and off to TSA quite quickly. Except when half the kiosks are offline and then the one I do use says I need to see a Front Desk Attendant. Alright, off to a great start. I go back to the line, plead with the ticket checker to let me skip ahead as I have now wasted 20 minutes at the kiosk and I get the best response ever “Sorry, I can’t help you.. have you tried the kiosk?” .. ummm, yah.. came from there. Okay, anyways I wait in line once again.

Finally about 40 minutes before my flight leaves (not boards, but leaves) I arrive at the longest TSA line ever. I quickly realize AA’s system is slow as dirt today and a few other travelers are stuck in line for the same departure time. We try to flag down a few attendants, but that is pointless as they only tell you they can’t help. After about 15 minutes of slow line moving I ask the other travelers to hold my place in line and i’ll go up to the front and ask around for assistance. Luckily one TSA agent is helpful and tells me to go back and get the others for expedited screening (read: mandatory body scanner) but we are a little closer to the plane at least. After 2 hours of hell, waiting and unhelpful AA staff, I arrive at my plane 5 minutes after it was supposed to leave the gate.. phew, horrible experience with American Airlines is over, or is it?

In something similar to an episode of the twilight zone I arrive to ORD in hopes of quickly getting through check-in, TSA and get some food while I wait for my plane.. and if I flew jetBlue I probably could have. However since AA is destined to make my life hell they once again tell me the ticket is un-linked and in one case, not paid. How is this even possible? Its not like this is Joe’s Airline from the midwest. Well thankfully after trying the kiosk (yes, they made me) and getting a manager I was able to get some quicker assistance. This time it was a bit less eventful, the desk attendant just called corporate, got some override, typed in a bunch of numbers (all the while telling me what it is she’s doing) and I got a ticket. Oh but thanks to all these delays I have 40 minutes to get through TSA onto my flight. Luckily for me this attendant walks me to TSA and gets my priority placement (front of the line) to get through and get some food!

One of the worst flight check-in experiences i’ve ever faced and unlucky for them its the first and last time i’ll fly American Airlines.

Now, how would this have unfolded if it were jetBlue? Well first the kiosk would recognize me, but on the off chance it didn’t, I would find an attendant in blue, explain the issue and they would walk me to the front of the line or close (if others are in the same process) and quickly get me to the plane. Doubt it? Well a while back I had a client book a flight and they misspelled my name, so of course the validation failed upon check-in. After two forms of ID and a couple key presses later I have a boarding pass in hand, no convoluted trouble-codes (VCR, wtf is that?) and unhelpful attendants.

Of course your mileage and experiences may vary, but this traveler will be sticking with jetBlue whenever possible.

So, in closing:

Why jetBlue runs circles around the competition

  • Free drinks (okay, AA had this)
  • Free snacks (not on AA, I got a free cookie since they couldn’t find it in the system)
  • In-flight TV, at your seat and even includes XM radio
  • First bag free

What jetBlue could add to be near-perfect

  • In-flight WIFI. AA did have this (for a fee) and it was very useful
  • Offer Passbook support in their mobile app
  • Bring back Munchies mix


Update: From jetBlue on my horrible experience.

by mkeefe on Aug 30th, 2010

Heading to PhotoshopWorld 2010

Scary enough its that time of year again where I pack my bags for Las Vegas to meet up with friends and watch technology demos on new and upcoming technology at PhotoshopWorld West.

As usual I will post a recap once I return, but hopefully this trip I can post nightly or from my phone as I am learning about different things. Maybe even shoot some video and upload that as well. I know one thing I am looking forward to is the annual PhotoshopCafe photo walk with some of the most amazing people in the photography world.

If you will be at the show take a moment to stop by the PhotoshopCafe Booth and say hi, we have roughly 11 new titles covering various topics and i’m sure you will have a blast with us. The booth will even have some speakers where you can learn a thing or two live, on the floor.

by mkeefe on Feb 24th, 2010

Back on dry land – Cruise Recap

As you may know I have just returned from a 9 Day cruise to the South Caribbean with my family. I wanted to take this time to talk about the trip much like I did a few years back when I went to Japan. Whether you have cruised or are thinking about it I hope you find this information interesting and useful.

Norwegian Dawn (NCL)
This was my first cruise so I have nothing to compare the ship to, but I do know there was a lot to explore and spend time with. On the ship you will find a few clubs, many restaurants and even a theater. Throughout the week we took in many shows ranging from comedy to 60s celebrations. There was a great amount of entertainment even beyond the ones we attended. Every night you will find each of the clubs/theaters feature some event, for all ages. Late at night the adults will find more “explicit” content such as comedy hours.

This particular boat was the home of hilarious comedian Dave Heenan. We actually had the chance to see him 3 times and each time he had us in fits of laughter. One time to the point where he noticed my aunts laugh and we told him (from the crowd) we were all from Boston. This of course opened the floor for many Boston jokes. As it turns out he plays Boston so I will be sure to see him again!

Of course food is a big topic on a cruise, after all everyone has to eat. Well the Dawn certainly doesn’t take this fact lightly. You will find all sorts of food choices ranging from buffet to gourmet steak in one of the premium restaurants. Over the course of the week we had the opportunity to eat at all but one restaurant on the ship. Each place has a speciality while the basics pretty much can be found at any of them. Our family made reservations on Valentines night at the Dawns Impressions, a wonderful italian restaurant that has one of the best Veal and Chicken dishes I have ever eaten!

Maybe shows and food aren’t your style, well the Dawn has you covered. You will find a pool, basketball court, driving range, kids center and even an ice cream bar all on the ship.

Now of course we didn’t spend 9 days on the boat (though some people actually do). We decided to book an adventure at each of the ports of call, to ensure we got something specific to each island.

Sunday – Samana
Started with a boat ride through the Mangroves and then into a few caves for an in depth tour of historic carvings and stories. Our tour guide Mr. Kelly was very knowledgeable and let the group explore the caves while ensuring we stayed safe. It was actually so dark in the cave I shot all my photos at 1600 ISO with a 1/30 average shutter speed so they aren’t great, but still show the depth and sheer size of these caves.

After the boat tour we adventured into the city via a motorcycle pulled carriage and saw first hand how the poorest people live and survive. It not only was an eye opener to other parts of the world but really makes you thankful for all you have!

Monday – Tortola
Our tour guide Smitty let us get out throughout an open bus tour of Tortola to take photos of breathtaking beaches, mountains and even our cruise ship far down in the bay from a mountain top. It was nice to see each of the tour guides would cater to photographers as much of the tour had cameras. Of course just like any other tour I spent a good part of each stop taking photos for others, but i’m used to that. This was the first day I got to swim in the ocean, or more like swimming in a salt shaker. It was so salty (compared to the Atlantic) that you could actually become dehydrated.

Tuesday – Antigua
Coastal tour and party aboard a renovated pirate ship that served Caribbeans popular drink, Rum punch. Walked the plank and even took a few rides on the rope swing. Not too many photos on this part of the trip because I wanted to drink and swim. I do have a few from my Canon Elph and others my mom took from the dock as the pirate ship left.

Wednesday – Barbados
Nothing was planned this day just took it easy from a tiring time the day before. Stayed on the ship and photographed much of it.

Thursday – St. Kitts
The best port by far. We were taken on a tour of beautiful St. Kitts by our tour guide Mr. Mack. He took us through the town and didn’t leave one historic detail out. We then visited a park with a famous fabric creation that is particular to the Caribbean. After we boarded the bus and took a ride to a beach for some sun, food and Jet Ski riding. While on the island you need to find a cab to take you around but the previously mentioned Mr. Mack was kind enough to become our taxi driver for the remainder of the day at a great rate!

Final 2 Days on Ship
The final two days were spent on the ship headed back home. We took in a few great shows, slept in and ate like kings. One of shows was called Bollywood, an indian adventure with lots of aerobatics, smoke, lights and pretty good music. I actually would have enjoyed a soundtrack for purchase but there was none. I shot a quick video towards the end on my iPhone of the cast/crew farewell which was held after the Bollywood show.

Final Thoughts
People say a 9 day cruise is too long but I feel it was perfect. Just enough time on the islands and boat to not get bored. Of course if you don’t like spending hours at a show, comedy club, casino or restaurant than maybe you could become bored. However that wasn’t me and I can’t wait to set sail once again. For those who haven’t cruised be sure to bring larger clothes for the last few days and watch your alcohol consumption as it flows about the ship like water, you can buy it anywhere.. even at the pool!

I think my next destination will be Alaska or Hawaii!

by mkeefe on Jul 27th, 2009

Train Festival 2009

The Train Festival is held every year in various locations, much like the olympics. A town is chosen to host the festival and people come from all over the world to view and interact with steam engines and other trains.

This year Train Festival 2009 was held in Owosso Michigan, which is just a few minutes from Durand, where you will find a large train presence even to this day. The festival on its own wouldn’t be a reason to drive 17 hours each way, but we did. However the draw was the Morning Daylight 4449 which only makes an appearance every 4-5 years. This time it was brought out for the festival for fans to enjoy.

My family and I took an all day excursion on the Morning Daylight from Owosso to Alma and back. During the run photographers (such as myself) were offered the opportunity to photograph a train drive-by in the small town of Ithaca. Basically the train backed up and drove at about 30 mph, allowing us to capture a rare and amazing sight. There was no time to set up a proper shot, instead we all stood on the ballast (rocks that hold the tracks in place) and took photos.

The photo seen here was my favorite of the bunch where I got about 10 feet from the train and before the ground began to shake snapped a photo and then retreated to safety.

Morning Daylight

You can view the other Train Festival 2009 photos on my flickr photo stream.

Overall the festival was a great time. There was many steam engines, models, collectibles and train enthusiasts from around the world. I am sure we wouldn’t have gone if the Morning Daylight 4449 didn’t make an appearance, but I am glad we did and could see myself going back next year.

by mkeefe on Jun 26th, 2009

Photographers Block

After just returning from a 10 day vacation in Florida I noticed I took a dismal 150 photos. That averages to 15 photos a day, which is basically pathetic. I used to take more photos with my iPhone while running errands. Okay, so I looked back on the trip and tried to figure out how I ended up with so few photos. Well to start I was sick a few of the days, but that only accounts for a small percentage of the trip. The first two days of the trip was spent visiting with a friend which meant I didn’t bring my camera because i’d have to lock it up in lockers while running around Universal.

With these days accounted for I still am left with half of my vacation allowing me time to take numerous photos, but that simply didn’t happen. In fact, the last two days of my vacation was when I took some photos while at the beach and in the city. The only really good photo moment was when I visited Punta Gorda beach with a family member and we set up a impromptu photo shoot in the park and on the playground.

So, basically I am wondering if I could have planned more days for photography or should really reconsider lugging all of this camera gear anytime I leave. Especially since TSA is really starting to get annoyed with all the wires and accessories packed in my bag.

What do you guys think, do you tend to carry the camera more than you use it? Also, have you thought of getting a smaller kick around camera that you could throw in your luggage and not be so worried about losing?

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