Well, what do you know? They’ve done it again. Not only did we arrive an hour late (again) but it then took a further two hours to get off the ship.
This is getting beyond a joke. We were supposed to arrive at noon and leave at 9.30, which is surely short enough as it is. We set foot on land at two minutes to three. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to “do” an entire city, particularly when you have to allow half an hour each way for the shuttle bus.
When confronted, yet again, about the fact that there was only one gangplank for passengers (the other was for staff and crew only), the response was “the Americans will only let us have one gangplank”. Really? They care, do they? I doubt it. P&O strike again. And once we got off, they were only loading one shuttle bus at a time, leaving hundreds standing on the quayside. The queue actually doubled back on itself. It was all appalling. Absolutely atrocious.
So, once again, it was all a rush. Well, we had lost a THIRD of our time to incompetence.
We were dropped at Pike Street Market, which was full of some fascinating dross. Then we caught a cab to the Space Needle, which I duly went up, took some photos, ate a beef hot dog, drank some lemonade, used the loos (which were peachy)(not as in the American term for wonderful, I mean the smell. They smelt very strongly of peaches), bought a t-shirt and came back down again(and did something untoward to my neck in in the 41 second lift ride up and down, I think*).
Then we took a cab to the waterfront, Dad having passed the time I was gone picking passing brains as to where to go. We found a lovely (chain) restaurant called Red Robin’s, where we had tea. Mum and dad shared a tiny piece of Mud Pie (see photo) and I had an apple crisp, which was essentially a very sweet oat crumble. We discovered something even better than free refills of lemonade. Free refills of Lite lemonade! Less tooth-achingly sweet and much more refreshing.
We then went for a wander along the waterfront, and were shocked at the amount of begging going on. In London, most rough sleepers are much less visible – I suppose they are moved on during the day, sent to shelters for a meal or whatever. Here, it is much more blatant and, frankly, a bit unnerving. Some were quite creative (see pic), and one guy thought he would get a tip for holding my taxi door open for me. I was, however, too busy checking he hadn’t picked my pockets to fulfil such hopes.
The waterfront would be lovely – pleasant shops, boats, lots of restaurants, even a carousel – were it not for the Alaskan Way Viaduct, a two-tier motorway that runs above the dual carriageway that runs along the front. The noise from the viaduct is absolutely deafening. We couldn’t hear ourselves think and couldn’t converse either, because we simply couldn’t make ourselves heard without stopping walking, leaning into the ear of the other person and yelling at the top of our voices. The local highways people really need to address that, before people start suing for hearing loss caused by repeated exposure. I’m not kidding – it was that loud.
We returned to Red Robin’s for an early supper (most restaurants in Seattle seem to be utterly obsessed with seafood to the exclusion of all else, which is ironic, because their shipping fleets can and export almost everything and the seafood on sale here is actually flown down from Alaska), which limited our choices. Tortilla chips (in a startling array of colours) and guacamole, followed by (or, rather oddly, served at the same time as) Caesar salad for mum, a beef burger for dad and a chicken burger for me. One of the best chicken burgers I have ever eaten. It was so perfect, I was actually very sad when it ended!
By then, it was time to return to the shuttle stop, as we had no idea if we would be able to get on a shuttle bus straight away and mum is paranoid about getting back in time. In the end, we were back on board with an hour to spare, which seems a terrible waste, but you just can’t cut it too fine when there’s a shuttle run involved. Added to which, it allowed mum to have a shower while the ship wasn’t moving, which is always helpful.
I was disappointed to miss Seattle’s public art. Every building project has to allot 1% of the total cost to the provision of public art, which means that Seattle is full of amazing sculptures, some personally donated by Paul Allen and Bill Gates. I got to see virtually none of it.
Apparently, we missed all the excitement on the ship yesterday evening. There was a mass walkout of waiters last night. They marched off the ship and staged a sort of strike on the quayside. There was no first sitting dinner served at all. All we have been told is that it is a dispute over money. Whether it’s about not getting paid overtime for the norovirus, not being paid til Southampton, the rumour that virtually no one who left in Barbados left a tip, or other reasons, is unclear**. What we do know is that the Purser’s wife died unexpectedly(on board) last Friday and so he left and a new Purser has come on in San Francisco, and the first thing he had to deal with was a full-scale mutiny. As the computer says when you swipe your Cruise Card “Welcome on board”.
* I have only noticed since reboarding the ship that my neck is so stiff I can barely move my head.
**My sources have confirmed that it is, indeed, about tipping. As the ship is not registered in the UK, it is not covered by UK employment law, and therefore part of their salaries come, quite legally, from tips. This crew has been on since January, and has done a “world” cruise, a two-weeks in the Med cruise, and now this long one. The tipping was so bad on the worldy that some people only tipped a tenner for three months of service – that’s not even 50p a day. They made more in tips on the two-week Med jaunt than on the two-month worldy. So you can see why they’re a bit peeved! Southampton had promised them an answer about making it up by San Francisco but, as usual, had reneged and provided nothing but silence. So they walked. The Captain promised “no retribution”, so hopefully they will all keep their jobs, but you never know, really, and whatever happens, they won’t tell the passengers.