Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Queen Victoria Makes Maiden Visit to San Fran - But Not All Passengers Are Happy

The Queen Victoria luxury liner made a maiden visit to San Francisco today as part of a world cruise.

Although she is only in port until 6 pm tonight, her passengers did not disembark until about 11 am. And, contrary to the sumptuous presentation of the ship on Cunard's website, not everyone is  happy with the cruise.

The enormous liner waited outside the bay in the dark this morning for a pilot boat, then sailed majestically under the Golden Gate Bridge at about 6.30 am to berth at Pier 35 near Fisherman's Wharf.

According to NBC11, a handful of people turned out on the Golden Gate Bridge to greet her.

As befitting a queen, the ship has 990 staterooms and can entertain 2,000 guests over 12 decks. Unlike our original queen, however, she weighs 90,000 tons, is 964.5 ft in length, 106 ft wide and 179 ft high.

Other people went to meet relatives or friends off the ship. And although they were expecting an early morning disembarkation, passengers were not streaming off the ship until about 11 am.

Andreina who lives in the Bay Area, stood on the pavement for three-and-a-half hours with daughter, Nicky, waiting to greet her 'good, good friends of 46 years.' They were Betty and Brian from Hampshire, England, whom she had not seen for 'many, many years.' They had joined the ship at the start of the world cruise on January 4 in Southampton.

'I was told the ship would dock at 6.30 am and passengers would be out at 8 am,' she said. 'Wishful thinking!' She had hurried across the Bay Bridge in traffic, telling her daughter, 'We're going to be late! We're going to be late!'

Instead, by late morning she was trying to keep her feet warm in the chill air, while behind her, a long queue of taxis also waited for hours.

Finally, Betty and Brian emerged onto the sidewalk at about 11.30 am.

What did they think of the Queen Victoria?

'Beautiful ship,' said Betty. 'But overall we were slightly disappointed,' said Brian. The interior of the ship, what Brian referred to as 'the fabric' wasn't at fault.

'Lovely people, lovely food,' said Betty, trying to be positive. 'Drinks are expensive,' added Brian.
pic: Brian, Andreina, Betty, Nicky

'It wasn't up to our expectations,' said Brian. 'I guess we were looking for something a little bit more top of the range.'

The couple are veteran cruisers, having done about seven or eight previous ones, but with the Norweigan company, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines. This is their first Cunard cruise, and they won't be returning for another.

For three weeks on board, they had paid nearly £7,000 in total.

Judging from a website,, Brian and Betty were restrained in their comments. Yesterday, in Member Reviews, someone posted a comment with a litany of complaints over the food, entertainment, the attitude of some of the bar staff and room service.

According to a security guard at the pier entrance today, 800 people were to disembark, either to leave the ship or spend just a few hours in the city, and 200 new passengers were to board later.
One of the first couples to arrive, to hand over their luggage in advance of boarding, were Sandra and Jim from Sussex, England.

They had flown into San Francisco yesterday and were outside the pier at about 9 am. Veteran cruisers also, this will be their third voyage with the Queen Victoria - and the ship was only launched in December 2007!

What do they like about the ship?

'She's not too big - yes, Sandra really did say that! - and they look after you well,' were her comments, while Jim appreciated 'the activities during the day.'

The couple had flown to the city to join the ship here because they find that cruises taken from America are much cheaper. 'You get more for your dollar than your pound,' said Betty. As a couple, they have paid £8,000 for three weeks, and will be leaving the ship in Singapore to fly back to London.

But while they may be accustomed to the Queen Victoria, this is their first trip to San Francisco, and they were eager to enjoy a few hours here. Top of their sightseeing list was a trip to Alcatraz and a ride on the cable cars.

Also preparing to board was Helen, who will be one of the musicians on board. She rushed into the pier building to leave her luggage and a cello at the entrance, before dashing off to meet a friend.

On board, Helen, from London, will be playing a piano to accompany a flautist.

What had attracted her to the cruise?

'It's a very nice way to see and world, and it's work,' she said.

Tonight, Queen Victoria sails across the Pacific to Hawaii, the next stop on her 107-day cruise around the world.

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