This part of our trip, the cruise, seems to have been not what it was expected to be. For starters, the itinerary was changed after we had left Canada so too late for us to change plans. The ship had to go to another country before going to Beijing, (a change just recently put in place by the Chinese government), thereby making it impossible to see the places that most people that come to Beijing come to see, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. We end up going to Korea to a place that most people on seeing it, would never choose to go to again.
Then, this is the absolute “best part,” we all are in a sense, were being held hostage at sea. The morning that we were to dock in Tianjin (port city for Beijing), we had to return to 15 miles out to sea and anchor …….waiting for the smog inversion to lift. We waited and waited and waited, never knowing what we were to do. The port officials had closed the port. No traffic going in or out including buses to take people to the airport. Most of us were to catch flights out later that day but we didn’t know if we were going to get off the ship or not. Do we phone and change flights to the following day and book hotels or do we wait and see if it lifts? Most of our luggage had been packed and moved down the evening before, for easier disembarking. Huh! So no change of clothes, clean or otherwise. We sit around, having not got a lot of sleep the night before what with the fog horn blasting all night and machinery clanging and grinding cuz the seas were also rough….windy with swells……not the worst of our trip ….and then rising early cuz we had “to vacate” the ship early so that they could clean it all up for the next set of passengers set to arrive as we were to leave. Any ways, all the staff and officers were doing their best to help us all make our changes….changes that we could not do on line…….after noon when the wifi was programmed to shut down. (Later they manually put it back on for us but by that time my call to Air Canada was made and had flights changed. We were able to let those that were picking us up, know that we would not be arriving when scheduled). The phone lines were jammed too with too many trying to call out. We also couldn’t buy any drinks because the accounts were also closed in the morning. Oh my!!! Finally they made a decision to include free wine and beer for lunch. Then at about 5 pm they opened the bars to free drinks and the Grand Dining Room and Terrace Cafe to free wine and beer as well. We still didn’t know at that time if this ship was ever going to pull up anchor and move into port but finally we were told that we were going to spend the night. Shortly after we started our dinner, they announced that the pilot boats were coming out to decide whether we could sail into port. When they arrived, they made the decision to come in. It was recommended that we all just stay on board the ship otherwise once you leave you cannot return to the ship. We all crashed right after dinner. We were all exhausted. A very stressful day! This morning, March the 5th, we cleared immigration and were on a bus leaving the port by 9:15…. on the way to the airport. Our flight doesn’t leave until. 5:40 but there isn’t much you can do since it is several hours just to get there. The “Excursions” desk had done some juggling to atleast offer a short trip into see the Forbidden city on the way to the airport for the day we were supposed to arrive but since we are going the following day, that was not an option because only so many people are permitted in there on any given day. We arrive at the 5th Ring Road that goes around Beijing, at 11:15….2 hours after leaving the port. Still we are not at the airport. It was almost noon before arriving.. The lineups are horrendously long but surprisingly enough go quite quickly. I am certainly glad though, that we were not trying for the 1:30 flight that some were scheduled on. The flight left pretty much on time…maybe a half hour late. Big plane, a Boeing 777 full with I imagine about 6oo passengers. I think I counted row 64 or 65 and there were 10 seats in a row…….3, 4 and 3. Shortly after the plane left Beijing, I think we were over Siberia, the plane hit turbulence. I mean like when you go over the top on a roller coast ride and the bottom drops out from under you and everyone screams involuntarily. Let me tell you, the passengers all screamed ….involuntarily! There was quite a bit on and off again but none quite as severe. We arrived in Vancouver on time but again, all those people that were on that plane plus I don’t know how many other planes that had landed and so had to clear customs, immigration, yadda, yadda and then walk the gauntlet to the far ends of the earth to the catch the plane to Victoria arriving at the gate just as they were loading. Oh thank God I didn’t miss it. In Victoria we, Jeanette and I plus a few others were short half our checked luggage. That was the icing on the cake. But they did deliver it …….about 5 minutes after I finally hit the pillow and promptly asleep. What a way to remember my birthday!
Back now in Victoria. What a beautiful place we live in. The sun was shining…..bonus! And the trees and shrubs and daffodils are all blooming. Wow!
Now that I am home and on “good” wifi, I will be posting pictures to this blog. Stay tuned.