This would be our second cruise. Our first had been a Thomson’s Mediterranean cruise and it might have been because it was our first cruise or the variety of destinations or the fact that we were with family members who were just as excited as we were but it has a special place in our heart.
That might explain why we didn’t enjoy this second cruise as much. Don’t get me wrong, the ship was grander, the destinations were amazing (apart from Astoria which I’ll get to) and the weather was perfect but there were issues. That said (we’re not naturally negative people) there were a lot of special memories.
For the purposes of this blog, we have split our issues and special memories into two sections.
So without further ado here were the issues as we saw them, though others might have seen them differently :-
The ship – No atmosphere. Age range 65+. It had a large section of the ship dedicated to an art gallery with the option to purchase. Who goes on a cruise to buy a painting?
The gym had a section that enabled us to create a small exercise area and we would regularly use it. Whilst using it we would observe a mix of passengers getting health checks, filling in questionnaires etc. It became quickly apparent that this ‘service’ was another way of cashing in on the demographics of our fellow ‘worried well’ patrons. Of course nobody from the fitness team would acknowledge us. Not even a ”good for you”! We were obviously too healthy for them and our fitness appeared to unsettle them.
The onboard activities continued to disappoint. One activity in particular was the putting tournament. This involved a golf club, a carpeted section, a golf ball and a plastic target. As it turned out I (Tom) was rubbish at it and with my Scottish accent, Scotland having a long golfing history, it made my rubbishness seem even more magnified. Luckily Aileen saved the day with a great performance and won it! My reactive grumpiness was further boosted when this guy came up to me, after hearing my Scottish accent and asked – ‘Do you really think that Scotland can afford to be an independent country?’ Obviously referring to the independence referendum the year before. I think I barked back something like ‘I’m not interested in talking about that right now pal, I’m trying to win a game of putting!’ and he walked off.
Then there was the flood in our room. We returned to find our room ankle deep in water and we quickly headed to reception. The receptionist took a note of our room number and with a face that a poker player would have been proud of i.e. no emotion, empathy or sympathy stated ”I’ll get someone to look at it”. Safe in the knowledge that we would be looked after, we headed for lunch. On return to our room we discovered that there was now a large noisy machine attempting to dry out our room. A maintenance guy suggested that it could take at least 24 hours to dry out and we should head back to reception to organise another room. Our current room was with a balcony and we were given an alternative room in the bowls of the ship with noisy air con and uncomfortable beds. Sometimes that’s just the way things happen and we accepted it. It wasn’t anybody’s fault. What we did struggle with was the lack of apology or acknowledgement that we had been inconvenienced. I questioned this approach back at reception and to be fair they did accept that this was poor practice and offered us breakfast served on our balcony the next morning, when we were back in our now dry room.
So basically those were our non life threatening and insignificant issues that in the greater scheme of things are not that important but hey ho they were our issues and we thought we would mention them. Now onto the whistle stop tour of our amazing memories :-
Astoria. We’re not quite sure why we stopped at Astoria. Maybe it was a convenient distance between Seattle and San Francisco. It had a rundown feel to it, which we don’t mind as some run down places can have that ‘something’ about them as well as a rich history but Astoria didn’t leave us with that feeling. Nevertheless we decided to make the most of it and go for a wander. Our initial research had suggested that we should take a walk to the Astoria Column. A tower built in 1926, the concrete and steel structure is part of a 30-acre city park. So we began our hike to the top of a reasonably steep hill, only to find this – photo. It was closed and not only was it closed, it was covered up. That was it, that was Astoria and apologies to everyone in Astoria but this is our personal account and we may have missed many things.
Vancouver – Our perfect city. Views to die for, beaches, clean with friendly people who stop and ask you if you need any help, cycling around Stanley Park and Granville Island with its markets and artisan shops, walking along the port with huge ships docked and the sight of water planes coming into land.
We were only in Vancouver for a couple of nights prior to embarking on the cruise ship and it was too short and we plan to return there one day and spend more time in a city that we fell in love with.
Victoria – OK but a bit too British for our taste. It has some lovely architecture, beautiful parks and wide clean streets but I suppose when you’re looking for
something different, it can have an impact on your experience of a place. So basically – sorry Victoria it’s not you, it was us.
Seattle – We won’t forget waking up, going out to our balcony and trying to adjust to the sight of a large American city. It was still early but starting to heat up and Seattle was starting
to wake up. Sky scrapers, car horns, the background noises of people shouting at each other. We loved it and couldn’t to get off the ship to go exploring. Highlights included a city bus tour although we soon realised that we had gotten the more reserved tour as our but would regularly pull up beside another tour bus which was blasting out Reggae music, driven by a Rastafarian and it’s passengers were having a great old time. We were given the educated tour. Oh well at least we now know about – Starbucks, Grunge music, Frasier, Microsoft and of course Sleepless in Seattle.
San Francisco – If ever there was a city that we want to go back to it is San Francisco. Our ship arrived early in the morning and we had pre-prepared our own itinerary. So off we went, like a couple of demented tourists, keen to savour as much as possible before we would have to return to our ship:
Open top bus tour – check. This was a great way of taking in vast areas of the city and was fascinating and informative.
Golden gate bridge – check. We walked over it and back again, as well as going over on a bus, although that was an accident as we had got on the wrong bus but it was another chance to go over the Golden gate bridge and how can you not be happy about that!
Alcatraz – check. What a great day trip this is. Well organised with a mix of helpful guides and an opportunity to wander on your own. An amazing and thought provoking place.
Peer 39 – check. Just time for a bite to eat in a vibrant part of the city. With the sun going down, live music and surrounded by people who appeared laid back and friendly, it was a perfect end to a special city.
Los Angeles – Our final destination. We said our goodbyes to a ship that in reality had been no more than an expensive taxi for us. Although that had been disappointing, at least most of our destinations had lived up to our expectations. Would Los Angeles do the same? This part of our journey requires its own special page and you are welcome to read it here