Flight 1/15: Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe, to San Juan, Puerto Rico

As I promised, here starts my review series of the flights that make up the Ultimate Flight Marathon (i.e. my personal Amazing Race).

Airline: Seaborne Airlines

Date: May 7, 2016

Type of plane: Saab 340 TurboProp

Duration of the flight: 1.5 hours

Delays: We did leave about 10 minutes behind schedule, but it didn’t impact our arrival time. However, it was a bit nerve-wracking that boarding only started after we were supposed to have taken off already (as I knew I had a tight connection in San Juan).



General info: Seaborne is a tiny Caribbean airline that partners with American Airlines and Jet Blue. Therefore your e-ticket may say American Airlines (as mine did) but rest assured – your aircraft will be much more exotic than “plane” ol’ American (pun intended). On the route from Guadeloupe to Puerto Rico, Seaborne operates a tiny 30-seater twin-engine propeller plane, Saab 340 TurboProp. It’s definitely not the most modern aircraft out there – Wikipedia tells me that the production of this plane type ended in 1998.

What was special about this plane: The overhead bins are so small that a regular carry-on suitcase won’t fit up there. Therefore the staff collected bigger carry-ons from people as they were stepping up to the aircraft, and stashed them in the plane’s luggage compartment. Folks got them back as soon as we landed in San Juan. Luckily my backpack was small enough to fit in the tiny space we were allotted. (Yay for packing light!)

Highlight: It was entertaining to watch the lone flight attendant, Julio, trying to play several roles simultaneously and to try not to hit his head onto the low roof.


What I would do differently next time: The whole left side of the plane is made up of single seats, so everyone got a window seat – except for me! I managed to be assigned the only window seat onboard that didn’t have a window. Lame. So next time I’ll ask for a seat that is not 2A. I had to gawk over at my neighIMG_7446.jpgbor’s window to steal at least a small glimpse of the pretty islands of the Caribbean we flew over.

Food served: We got two bags of pretzels and a choice of mango/guava juice and water. Not shabby for such a short hop across the pond!


Turbulence: In smaller planes you tend to feel every twist and turn. From that perspective the ride was exceptionally smooth. There was practically no shaking at all – just a tad at the landing time.

Price: This was the first flight of the two flights that made up my one-way ticket from Guadeloupe to NYC. The total price of this ticket would have been $220, but I paid it with the awesome Thank You points from Citibank. As long as you have the Citi Prestige credit card, these points offer great value if you are booking an American Airlines flight or a codeshare (which is what this one was). Yet another reason to love that card (getting access to airport lounges is another!). Of course I would have much rather taken one of the cheap and direct Norwegian Air flights from Gwada to NYC, but unfortunately those flights aren’t running again until November.

Miles earned: Not a whole lot – I earned just 331 miles, which I deposited into the American Airlines AAdvantage program.

Overall experience: Just OK.


Map of Guadeloupe

Are you wondering where each island is located in Guadeloupe?

Here’s a handy map of the “continent” of Gwada and all the outer islands that we drew for my e-book. As you see, Grande Terre and Basse Term form the wings of “the Butterfly Island.”

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If you are looking for a detailed offline map to download on your phone or tablet before your trip, check out the free maps at http://maps.me.


Guadeloupe’s jewel is disappearing

One of my favorite places in Guadeloupe is Ilet Caret. It’s a tiny sand bank in the middle of the Caribbean Sea that has really clear water and a couple of palm trees. Paradise on earth! It’s also a popular place for locals to park their private boats and have an island party. If you go there on a weekend, you may see upwards of 30 boats parked on all sides of the island and you’ll hear a cacophony of music all around you. So if that’s not your scene, you should go during the week when it’s more quiet.

I’ve visited it four times now, and can’t wait to go back. Love it!


Sadly, it looks like Ilet Caret has taken a turn for the worse since my last visit about six months ago according to a recent French-language news article. The island is disappearing, and it’s happening even faster than anyone thought!

Take a look at the new aerial photo published in the article. Sad, eh??

So does this mean that Ilet Caret is no longer worth visiting? Of course it doesn’t. Quite the contrary – it means the time to visit is NOW, since we never know how much longer we’ll have this island beauty in our Gwada lives.

And even if nearly all the palm trees have fallen victim to the waves and the rising seas, the island’s white sand and clear turquoise water still remain.


If you are coming to Guadeloupe with the cheap-as-chips Norwegian Air flights, I highly recommend keeping Ilet Caret in mind. Visiting it makes for a really fun day out!

One of the easiest ways to visit the island is to take an organized speedboat day trip from St. Rose, Basse Terre, or to travel there from the Marina Bas-du-Fort onboard the King Papyrus catamaran.

Either way, go before it’s too late! I suspect that sooner or later, Ilet Caret will suffer the same fate as Ilet la Biche (pictured below). From that islet only this wooden shack remains on top of the water. It’s still an interesting place to visit on a kayak or a speedboat, but it’s not quite as picturesque as Caret Island.


If you want more info about Ilet Caret and Ilet la Biche and the ways to visit them, my new e-book The Quick Gwada Guide has the details (along with 60+ pages of information about Guadeloupe).

Caret Jenni

My Guadeloupe e-book is finally DONE!

It’s official! The Quick Gwada Guide e-book is finished! After six weeks of hard full-time work and a bucketload of joy and exhaustion … It’s finally done!! Yayyyyy. 🙂

If you are traveling to Guadeloupe with the new, cheap Norwegian flights from the US (or from elsewhere) and are interested in getting ideas for where to stay in Gwada, finding out the top 30 best things to see and do here, plus want to get answers to common traveler questions (What’s the seaweed situation like? Is it easy to find wifi? What should I bring with me? What if I don’t speak French?), this e-book is for you! It’s the first English-language guidebook about Guadeloupe written since the year 2000, so you literally cannot find more up-to-date information anywhere and in as concise of a format. (The e-book is 63 pages, but it’s easy to scroll to the sections that are most useful to you.)

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Here are some things that buyers have said about this e-book so far:

“I finished your book. It is absolutely excellent. This had to be a LOT of work for you, and I congratulate you on the result!” (Writer’s note: Yes, it was more work than I ever thought!)

“It is really, really good and I think it will be super helpful for first-time visitors! It would be really nice if Norwegian would put your guide in the seatbacks on all flights to Gwada!”

Very helpful book. I will take the time to offer some feedback after returning from Guadeloupe.”

“I just wanted to thank you for all your guidance and friendliness. It contributed to a wonderful maiden journey to Guadeloupe!”

“Mirva, thanks so much for the guide. You are like the Rick Steves of Guadeloupe. If you publish your guide on Amazon or anywhere else, I’d be glad to give you a positive review.

“Thank you so much! We got a lot of use out of your book.”

So yes, sounds like my guidebook has pretty much nailed it! And indeed, Amazon is the step I need to tackle next so that I can reach a bigger audience with this book. Another good contact could be the Guadeloupe tourist board and their new website. So much to do!

In the meantime, if you are interested in the Quick Gwada Guide, feel free to email me at gwadaguide@gmail.com to order a PDF copy. Based on reader reviews, it prints without any issues and can easily be read at least on the Amazon Kindle Fire.

The price of this e-book is $15 (thus a mere 23 cents per page!) and you will definitely save that money several times over if you invest in this guide. After all, I’m a budget traveler myself so I’ve included tons of tips for saving money while in Gwada, as well as a list of the top things to do here, many of them free or low-cost.

Payment is easiest done via Venmo or Paypal, using the email address of gwadaguide@gmail.com, but we can discuss other ways to pay if you aren’t familiar with those. Please leave your email address as a comment when you make the payment, so that I’ll know who to send the e-book to!



Coming soon: My Guadeloupe guidebook!

Last month I woke up to the reality that there are no good and up-to-date English-language guidebooks on Guadeloupe, my home in the Caribbean. Yet there are tons of American tourists coming here currently with the new crazy-cheap flights from the East Coast of the USA. Fares start at $69 one-way! Most of the town a return trip will cost you around $300, but that’s still VERY cheap compared to the pre-Norwegian airline prices. Needless to say, I was super excited when they announced these flights back in the summer time.

And now I’m also extremely excited to announce that soon there will be an awesome new e-book available for people heading to Guadeloupe: The Quick Gwada Guide! Written by yours truly.

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I’m currently in the process of putting in the final finishing touches to the e-book (who knew that picking and choosing photos  and formatting text could be so time-consuming??) and will be selling it through this blog soon enough. The book will answer all the commonly asked questions, and include tons of tips for your stay in “tropical France.” The Quick Gwada Guide will also help you save money with its budget travel tips for this island that is one of the most expensive in the Caribbean.

Please stay tuned and feel free get in touch if you want to be among the first ones to receive an electronic copy!

Get ready: Dirt cheap flights to the French Caribbean are comiiiiiiiing!

Last week I received an email from The Points Guy that said Norwegian Air was starting cheap flights from New York to the Caribbean in December.

“Hmm, that probably won’t impact my life in any major way,” I thought automatically. After all, the only Caribbean island that I fly regularly to is Guadeloupe, a relatively obscure and little-known island in the French West Indies. It seems to be the destination that all major airlines forgot even exists, and it can cost upwards of $700 to fly there from New York. Not cool, especially for me: I currently split my time between New York, Guadeloupe and Finland, as my work, love and family are in these three places, respectively – one of the dilemmas of being a globetrotter! 🙂

Here’s a picture from Gosier Island, off the coast of the “continent” of Guadeloupe (which is actually composed of two big islands together). You can be athletic and swim out to Ile du Gosier from the mainland in about 20 minutes, or take a quick boat for $3 roundtrip. Love that place!


Sooooooo…. I opened The Points Guy’s chain email without much fanfare. You can only imagine how I felt when I read the blurb about these up-coming Caribbean flights.

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The thrice-weekly flights from NYC to Gwada are starting at just $79-$99 one-way, an incredible deal even from the world’s leading low-fare airline. This means Guadeloupe will go overnight from being just about the most expensive Caribbean destination to get to, to the being the cheapest. Whooooooooa!!! MAJOR NEWS!!

It turns out Norwegian chose Guadeloupe and Martinique because the airline can fly unlimited between the USA and the EU under the Open Skies agreement, and these new Caribbean destinations are officially part of the EU. Sneaky sneaky! As for now the flights are a winter trial, and the airline will see how they go before expanding their Caribbean service.

So get yourself over to Norwegian‘s website and grab some bargain fares to escape up-coming gloomy winter! The price doesn’t include checked-in luggage, so check out my tips for packing light.

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Aren’t those prices just crazyyyyy?? And those are for direct service! The flight only takes 4.5 hrs from NY to Pointe-a-Pitre. Incroyable! Being used to the $700-1000 roundtrips that require changing in Montreal, Miami or St. Martin and take all day (and sometimes require an overnight layover), this is pretty unbelievable.

Here are some more scenes from Ilet du Gosier to motivate you to book a trip before all those cheap fares are snatched:

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See you in the French West Indies! Let me know if you are interested in a tour of the islands – I’m thinking of starting small-group tours that show you the best of Guadeloupe within a few days for those on a tight schedule.

Au revoir!

Fancy a timeout in the Sahara?

Guys, it’s that time of the year again – the time to sign up for the Road Junky Sahara Retreat in the Sahara Desert in Morocco! If you could only do one cool thing in your life, this one would be a pretty strong contender if you ask me.

As you may remember, this past February I was one of the 24 lucky ducks who managed to take a week off from the modern world and surround themselves with nothing but sand, dunes and bypassing camels.

And what a week it was, as you may have read from my post back in March. The next retreat will take place sooner than you think, from Jan. 27 – Feb. 2, 2013, so jot down the dates in your calendar and dust off those dune shoes (just kidding, there’s no need for that – it’s much easier to walk up and down slippery sand slides without shoes!).

So what can you expect to get in return for you 295 euro attendance fee? In a nutshell: unreal desert scenery, interesting classes such as yoga and aikido, simple but tasty local food, accommodation in shared Berber-style tents, travel stories shared under the full moon by the bonfire and lots of new friends. Most people come to the retreat by themselves, so don’t be afraid to do the same.

Transportation to the meet-up spot in Merzouga is not included though, so you’ll need to find your own way to Morocco (I flew with the superb low-fares airline Norwegian Air but you could also check out Ryanair. In February their flight from London to Morocco was 25 euro – you can’t beat that). Most Sahara Retreat participants fly to Marrakech, and embark on the 10-hour bus ride to Merzouga together as a group the day before the camp starts.

And what exactly goes on during the week? Nothing much and a whole lot at the same time. Quoting myself, “unexpected things will happen if you bring 24 people to the Sahara Desert. An anti-American hippie will befriend a clean-cut Midwestern guy, a vegetarian will succumb to the smell of delicious chicken tajine and a reserved German will throw himself in the middle of a cuddle puddle of entangled human bodies. Unlikely friendships will form, long-overdue tears come running out at the sight of the most beautiful sunset and strangers will care for each other as if they were family.”

“Overall the retreat was great fun and definitely helped me empty my mind of daily worries for a bit. Some of the things others mentioned enjoying were the friendships, sunsets, losing track of time in the desert, workshops, feeling the connection to the earth, sensing love and peace, seeing the moon rise out of the horizon and finding new energy for the future. All very hippie-sounding, but I guess that’s not such a bad thing after all.”

If you have questions about the retreat, feel free to ask me! Or check if your concerns were already answered here, such as these very crucial questions:

Will there be broadband internet connectivity? Can I get a banana milkshake in the shade? What if the guides belong to Al-Qaeda?

(Answer: The Road Junky Retreat is probably not for you.)

(Photos courtesy of various members of our Sahara group. Thank you for all the fun times!)

PS. If you think you might want to go but are not sure yet, don’t worry. Last time I signed up about two weeks before the starting date and that was fine! But of course if you want a spot for sure, you might want to get cracking on this one.