If it's the end of the day and you are stranded in Newark because of a cancelled flight, and you are faced with the choice of either getting a hotel room, or taking a train into Manhattan, so that you can stay up all night in the city that never sleeps. I say, take Manhattan. You aren't going to get any sleep in your crummy airport hotel anyway, and you'll face a lot less aggravation in the Big Apple. Take it from the voice of experience.
We went with the hotel idea last Saturday, when our flight was wiped off the board, and here's what unfolded: We were told the airline would reimburse us for our hotel, but we had to call around and find one. Good luck! Many of them were booked. The room we finally got at Howard Johnson's would be $279. And once we said yes to it on the phone, we were locked in. No cancelling the reservation. We waited 50 minutes for the Howard Johnson shuttle to pick us up, even after calling them twice to ask where they were. When the shuttle driver finally pulled up, she didn't get out to open the doors for us until she saw we had bags (duh!), at which point she got out to open the back end of the van. She drove aggressively, tail-gating other drivers and taking the curves fast. A printed sign on the windows of the shuttle said No eating! No drinking! No smoking! Someone had written underneath in pencil, "No breathing! No farting! No being gay!" The hotel was located in an ugly industrial lot a mile or two from the airport. Just across from the hotel was a huge lot full of cars behind a tall wire fence, and a car carrier loaded up with even more cars.
The lobby of the hotel smelled like cigarette smoke. There was nothing good on the hotel TV. It was all crime shows and violence. And this was the noisiest hotel I've ever been in. We could hear a woman in a nearby room taking a shower, could hear the shower runining the whole time. Every time someone turned on a faucet somewhere, or opened their door, it echoed through our room. We heard a little kid running pell mell down the hallway in the wee hours. The worst sound of all though, was the deafening shriek and roar of incoming airplanes. We were right in the flight path and when some of the planes came in for a landing, I swear to God, it sounded lke they were headed straight for us. Lilah had to put the blanket over her head to keep from screaming. I knew, intellectually, that they were not really about to slam into our hotel, but every nerve in my body told me that they were. "This is it," I thought, as I heard the plane's engine dive in closer and closer. This happened at least 6 or 7 times.
I supppose I fell into some sort of uneasy slumber for 45 minutes or so, before the alarm went off, but I didn't get much sleep. I just lay there wanting dawn to come so we could get the hell out of there. To think I could have been hanging out in Times Square instead. If I have to feel worn out and uneasy, at least I would like to be someplace awesome. And there would have been street vendors selling hot dogs.
We went downstairs to catch the 6:00 am shuttle back to the airport. It was like ten minutes till the hour. Another guest, disgruntled, said the guy at the desk had told him the shuttle driver had just left--- before the scheduled 6:00 am time, and with an empty van. The desk called the shuttle and told it to come back to pick us up. Roger went to the desk to get a receipt for our stay, so we could get reimbursed. When he asked for one, the clerk made a put-out expression as if Roger had requested a free massage and facial. Meanwhile, the rest of us waited outside. There were two benches --both of them broken and about to collapse. The ground was littered with cigarette butts. Annabelle ran in to take a drink from the water fountain. When she pushed on the bar on the fountain to make the water flow, it fell off.
When the shuttle driver did come back, it was the same lady who had dropped us off before, and who had apparently been driving all night. She drove just as crazy, but on even less sleep.
We didn't find out until that morning that the reason our flight had been cancelled was because there was no crew to fly the plane. I was not a happy Continental customer, to say the least.
There was one consolation: When our plane took off, it flew right over New York City. We saw the Statue of Liberty, we passed directly over Central Park, we could see the bridges leading into the city, could see that Manhattan truly is an island, top-heavy with skyscrapers. That was an incredible view. Which made me wish even more we had been there.
So I say avoid Newark and Continental airlines entirely if you can, but if fate leaves you stranded....
you know what to do.