Every time I think that things will get better, they get worse. So many bad things have happened that I can’t remember if I have already written about them or if I still have to. I have to say I have not talked to a single person on this cruise that is happy about it. Not one.
And I feel so bad for the crew. They are working as hard as they can, but they are HUGELY understaffed and HUGELY overworked. Having talked to some crew members, they work 11, 12 and sometimes more hour shifts. Everything to do with food is being manned by fewer people than they would normally have. Here’s how the end of yesterday and today went.
I posted early this morning, but I think I forgot to mention that we had a comedian who performed last night in the BB King venue, and he was pretty funny. The place was packed, and there were lots of people standing around the edges. He did two shows, we were at the first one, and the laughs were quick and numerous. See, there’s something positive.
We did dinner at the buffet, where only one side was open. That meant there were no seats on that side of the room, so we sat on the other and walked back and forth. I ate what I call my “not willing to stand in line” menu. I would get anything that I didn’t have to stand in line behind ten people to get. Not much selection in that lineup.
I have not mentioned how HAL is handling the buffet. In about 85% of the buffet, you cannot serve yourself. There is a plastic shield preventing you from doing that. In 15%, there are tongs and a space to reach through for a roll or a small sandwich. The only problem is that if you get a roll and want butter, you must get in line to ask for the butter. Or (like I did last night) I grabbed a sandwich and then took the same tongs to reach a little further back for potato chips and was quickly scolded by the person behind the counter that I was not allowed to reach that far and if I wanted chips with my sandwich, I would need to get behind the 11 people in the line. I was welcome to as many sandwiches as I could eat, but not the chips. Go figure.
Breakfast in the Main Dining Room
This morning, against my better judgment, Bob talked us into going down to try to get into the dining room for breakfast. We had not eaten any meal in there as of yet and really wanted to see what it looked like. So we went down expecting a long wait. Lo and behold, we were second in line and ushered to our table at 8:10. Keep track of that number; it’s important 😜.
At 8:40, we were still waiting for water and coffee and had not had a waiter stop at our table for anything. Judy was coughing and really needed water, and Bob pointed out that there were water pitchers on a table behind me. So I grabbed one and poured us all some water. Before I could set the pitcher back down, a waiter grabbed it from me. He finished pouring and went and brought us back to carafes of coffee, one with decaf for Bob and the other for the rest of us. Sadly, they were lukewarm and became cold pretty quickly.
The server came back about five minutes later to take our orders. He told us that it might take a while since they had just had a big group of people come in, and there were a lot of orders coming in. By this time, it was close to 8:55. I really wanted to point out that if he had taken our orders when we came in, we would have had our food by then, but I didn’t. I want to point out that this situation was NOT HIS FAULT! He was covering a lot of other tables, and the food was NOT coming out very quickly. We knew we would be waiting a while for the food to come back because the tables near us had been seated before we were, and they didn’t have food yet, either.
The food finally showed up at about 9:20. This is where it really gets good. Kathleen had ordered buckwheat pancakes, and they were OK but not hot. Just lukewarm. Judy had ordered banana pancakes, and as you can see from the photo above, they came with exactly THREE slices of banana on them. I asked her if there were any mixed into the batter, and she said, “No, these are just buttermilk pancakes with three slices of banana on top.”
Bob and I had both ordered the same thing—the ham and cheese scramble with hash browns, and I also ordered an English muffin. Now wouldn’t you think that a “scramble” would have the eggs scrambled into them? You know, scrambled eggs? No, when Bob moved aside the tortilla chips that were, for some reason covering his “scramble,” there were two (kind of) soft-boiled eggs on top. When I moved mine back…there were two hard-boiled eggs on top. That is NOT a scramble. It just isn’t. The ham, cheese, green bell peppers, onions and potatoes looked great, but the entire dish was dry without the scrambled (or poached, soft-boiled or any other kind of egg other than hard-boiled) eggs.
Not being willing to eat hard-boiled eggs, I called another waiter over and asked them to take them back and get me some scrambled eggs in my scramble. He did, and miraculously within about 5-7 minutes. But one small problem. The veggies and ham that were on the bottom were not cooked. Basically raw. The scrambled eggs were on top, and they were almost raw, very runny. And the cheese? Nowhere to be seen. It has probably run off with the hash browns and English muffins because they weren’t there either. So I pushed the veggies and ham aside and ate the wet eggs. Just as I was finishing them, out came two servings of hash browns. One was cooked almost well-done, and the other was close to raw.
We just gave up at this point as the coffee was cold, and it was obvious that my English muffin had gone to HAL food heaven with Bob’s Dive-In hot dog. I hope they are doing OK together. We left the dining room at 9:50 according to Kathleen’s recollection.
HAL rips off everyone on the ship…or at least attempts to
So after this wonderful breakfast, we decide to go and check out scenic Prince Rupert. Regular readers of this blog know that I walk a lot. My daily walk is always between four to eight miles. Kathleen, on the other hand, is not a big walker. She has a few things that make it difficult for her to walk long distances, and she can’t keep up with me. When we do go out together in a port, I try to walk slower so we can stay together, but she knows it is driving me crazy…but we make do. This also means that we like to tour by tram or bus.
So today, we get off the ship, and there is a tram that takes you around Prince Rupert. Super! When we go to buy tickets, we are asked for our sea pass card. Now this is NOT a HAL excursion. Anyone can walk up and take it. But once they knew I was off the ship, they wanted my sea pass and would not take cash. So I gave the woman the card, and she wrote us a receipt. She had told me the trip around town took 90 minutes, and the cost for us would be $59.95. She handed me the receipt to sign, and I was SHOCKED to see it was $59.95 EACH! For a 90-minute tour around a very small town. We decided to skip that.
Then we started talking to a couple of local people who worked for the tram service, who were only too glad to fill us in on what was going on. It seems that HAL (and all the other Carnival Corp lines who stopped here) were buying out all of the trams for the days they have ships in port. Then they set the price for that day for everyone. Even if you happen to drive to Prince Rupert and want to take the tram, you pay the price set by the cruise line that is in town that day. He said the day before when Princess had been there, the price had been $69.95 per person. I don’t know about you, but this is just WRONG as far as I am concerned! They buy out the entire set of 15 trams (the only ones in town) to be able to charge their own customers more. Shame on them!
And later on, when I went out walking on my own, I passed one of these trams and saw them stopped in front of a house with the driver pointing at the house. That’s cool. Then as I went past him, he moved up one more house and started talking about that one and the people who had lived there. I walked another 300 yards to the corner where I was going to turn and looked back, and he had pulled up two more houses and was doing the same thing all over again. You see, I think Prince Rupert must not have that many things to show people who are from out of town, so they probably tell the guides/drivers to take as long as you can describing things to stretch this out as long they can. I am fully willing to hear from anyone who took this tour that it was a good value.
I also want to point out that when we got off the ship, there was not a single vendor selling any kind of tour. No boats, no helicopters, no airplanes, no taxis. Nothing near the port. The collusion between the city and the cruise lines is really evident here in Prince Rupert.
Lunch on board Koningsdam in Prince Rupert—how sweet it ISN’T!
After we had tried to go out (we did walk around for a short time), we came back to the ship; I changed into my walking shorts and a tee shirt and went out to do my four miles. Had a very nice walk as the weather was uncharacteristically (we were told by a local) beautiful and sunny. And then, when I came back, I had to again…stand in a 20-minute line to get back on the ship. We took our grandkids to Walt Disney World in February, and we were told by Disney that it was the most crowded four days in the park’s history. We have stood in more lines to get places on this ship than we did there. And at least at WDW, they give you something interesting to look at while you wait in line.
Once I was back, we went up and got a sandwich/slice of pizza on deck 10 (above the buffet, next to the indoor/outdoor pool). Got it pretty quick (which was awesome), but then we both felt like something sweet afterward (I had missed my English muffin at breakfast, remember?), so I went down to check out the desserts in the buffet. Above is the list of the desserts they had on offer today. Below is a picture of the actual desserts that were available directly below the sign. This was the only place to get sweets (except for a small ice cream station serving two flavors of ice cream with a line of at least 15 people waiting at all times) on the entire buffet. This is the second day in a row that this has happened. Nothing there for sometime before the meal is set to be over. At the point I took this photo, they still had more than an hour before the time the buffet was scheduled to close. I did walk by a little later and they were putting out a few apricot tarts but as soon as they were out, a swarm of people grabbed them all. Ah, the hoarding of desserts.
They did get me to spend money on gelato again. HAL has been doing really well getting me to spend money on extra stuff. Besides the gelato, I have purchased meals in specialty restaurants (which have been really great so far) on four of the five nights of this cruise. We are eating in Canaletto (the family-style Italian place) tonight and Rudi’s (Fish house) tomorrow night, the last night of the cruise.
For your viewing enjoyment here’s my selection of my favorite Prince Rupert photos from early morning and my walk around town. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…
It’s after dinner as I am finishing up this post; we are back in our stateroom. I have succumbed to the lure of a reduced-cost WiFi package and picked up the last three days of the cruise for around $25 US. Worth it to be able to check some things going on with Kathleen’s estate stuff and a medical appointment I have coming up, plus I get to post the rest of the way.
We had a very nice dinner at Canaletto, and we all ate way too much. When we had been on Nieuw Statendam with my brother and his bride, we had thought the food was kind of weak in Canaletto, but it is much improved here on Koningsdam. So far, we have eaten in three of the four specialty restaurants and we have had great food, efficient and friendly service and wonderful experiences. I just said to Kathleen, “this is where HAL is putting their experienced waiters and cooks—the specialty restaurants. Where they make money.” Again, that’s pretty sad, but I believe it’s true.
I’m scammed almost every day. Or, if not scammed, at the very least someone tries to scam me. Usually more than once a day. —James Altucher