Monday 11th April 2016 – San Francisco

We were not at Pier 33 this time. Since the America’s Cup was last here, there has been a brand new terminal left behind, at Pier 27, which is now used for cruise ships. It has an air bridge, which significantly lengthens the walk to the street, and, of course, P&O made it very difficult to get a wheelchair to help mum over the distance. But eventually, we made it, and, not long after, cousin Fran turned up. It was so good to see her.

I put my dress and bag in the boot/trunk of her car, ready to change into later, and off we went. What ensued can best be summed up as ‘shopping’. We managed to purchase pretty much everything we needed, and also stuff I didn’t need at all, which was nice. One particular purchase consisted of two pairs of shoes in under ten minutes. In fact, I think I spent longer queuing at the till than I did choosing them! So that’s a tick off the list. When in San Fran, DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse) has to be done, no matter how little time is available.

We had lunch at The Cheesecake Factory inside Macy’s, including a gluten-free burger for me, which was positively joyful.

Much more shopping later, we took mum and dad, and all the shopping, back to the ship, and then Fran and I headed to her house. She ran some errands, while I used her free wifi to set up my new laptop. Then I got changed ready for our evening ‘do’, and Fran got changed ready to go to the gym (not bad for soon to be 70!).

P&O organised a posh dinner at City Hall for all the Round the Worlders – about 400 of us. City Hall is an astonishingly beautiful building. They certainly don’t build them like that any more. The jazz band was very good, but did not need amplification in a space so small, which meant it was hard to converse, even with the person sat right next to you!

The food was quite good and the service likewise, right up until the main course. At this point, the script changed. Someone had decided that, with several different dietary requirements listed, it would be best to just prepare one dish that covered everything – no nuts, no milk, no cheese, no meat, no fish, no gluten. It was essentially a vegan salad with some gluten free fettucine laid on top. The fettucine was stone cold and tasted like refrigerated boot leather. The salad beneath most closely resembled a (warm) Russian salad in fairly tasteless green mayonnaise with cherry tomatoes instead of carrots. I can’t tell you what was said. But suffice to say, I received something I could swallow on the third try (the Russian salad bit without the pasta – I’m coeliac, not masochistic), at which point the vegan bloke on the other side of the table just gave up and skipped straight to dessert. Which turned out to be quite nice, ironically.

The speeches were abysmal, and our table was hardly in the mood now anyway. By the time we even received our hideous main courses, other tables had completed dessert AND coffee, so we all got cold food and were all pretty miffed. And that was BEFORE we tasted it!

I have no idea who the people were on the other side of the table, but we had the HR Manager from Southampton near us. We talked to her about the training of chefs and cabin stewards. It was pointed out (by someone else) that this is the most expensive cruise they sell, and maybe they should not be hiring chefs who cannot differentiate between ripe avocados and not. Perhaps, just perhaps, for nearly £30,000 a head, the passengers have earned the right to be served by chefs and stewards who have already learned their trade, as the waiters have? She said they are setting up a new training school in Mumbai, so that people can be trained before they board, instead of on the job.

My feet were screaming from all the shopping, walking and late application of heels, but I had my day shoes with me on the bus, so I just changed back into them, and walked back on board in surprising amounts of comfort. Beautiful mauve evening gown, stripey socks and boys’ school shoes. Style is my middle name.

Coach back before pumpkin hour. Just. Will need to take a sleeping tablet tonight – we are stationary.

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