Cruise Ships : the Yangtze Gold One !
Read our previous posting at “Chongqing : Mountain city, foggy city!”
The Yangtze Gold One is the first of a new series of river cruise ships commissioned by a Chongqing based company specifically for the Yangtze river cruise in China. The Yangtze Gold One was launched just a few months ago and is supposed to be one of the best cruise ships on the Yangtze river.
After a ban ban porter carries our two suitcases aboard (what a look he gave me when I tipped him a generous ten yuan; “go back to hell you cheap foreign devil” is what I thought his look meant to convey), we go check in at the reception counter on deck two; the ship does look brand new, and gold and mahonagy seem to be the main colors. I am asked to leave our passports overnight for the usual police check and we head for our cabin in the forward area of deck three. I ask Charlie, our Chongqing guide, to come with us; the cabin more than checks out. It is spacious, clean and with almost all the commodities one could hope for, including HVAC with air conditioning service, fully room darkening curtains, a balcony with two chairs and a table, slippers, bathrobes, a rain forest shower, hair dryer, lcd cable tv, stereo system, minibar, safe, etc… At the desk is an Ethernet connection with a paper claiming that they offer broadband internet in every cabin.
There seems to be no bottle water in the room, however; so we ask Charlie if we can buy all of the water bottles in his vehicle. He agrees and goes to fetch the eighteen or so bottles left over from our day in Chongqing. Lynn then dutifully fills the evaluation sheet which every guide seems to be required to obtain from us before we take leave of him; since we have to give the evaluation sheet back to the guide himself, we do not find it appropriate to give him anything but glowing comments. That is a practice the travel agency should change.
After Charlie leaves, I examine the room in a little more detail. The electrical plugs in the room are either two prongs or the inverted angle type, which means that I will need to dig up some of the adapters stored in my backpack. In a later blog, I may well tell you the inventory I keep in my backpack for this sort of occasion. There might be Ethernet internet in the cabin, but I can’t make it work, so I’ll continue to rely on my hotspot. There seems to be no spare Kleenex or spare toilet paper, so we need to call for some. The tv has a few English channels, but no CNN, and more importantly, the ship information channel, the channel which carries information about the program of the day and any and all announcements is only in Chinese. That is when I began to realize that we had truly booked ourselves onto a Chinese ship; it dawned on me that we might be the only non-Chinese people aboard! We can’t tell because we are the only passengers aboard as far as we know, so we’ll have to wait to find out.
I examine the information binder which we have in the room. It is bilingual Chinese and English, although the English would qualify for a mention or two on the Jay Leno show. As an illustration, let me copy verbatim the description for the VIP restaurant on deck no 6: “VIP restaurant covers area about 300sq and only serve for 80 customers. There is great environment and beautiful outlook during the dinnings.” Room service is available until 1am.
After checking with the front desk, we are informed that there is an English language program, and they will make a photocopy of it for us if we go to the reception desk every day. What about the movie theatre on the ship? It will have English sub-titles.
We finally head to the main dining room on deck two to try to grab some dinner. We had been told that dinner on the evening of boarding was not included in the cruise price, but would be available as an extra.
We entered this large dining hall, full of large empty round tables save one, and sat down for dinner. There were several staff on duty, and one brought us an English language dinner menu, which consisted of six to eight pages of about twenty or so large text and large picture main course dishes, like spaghetti Bolognese, or steamed dumplings. Lynn asked: Do you have any vegetables? Vegetables was a word the staff did not understand, so they retreated in a corner. I looked up the word vegetable on the English Chinese app on my iphone (a great app by the way, it speaks the Chinese word as well as shows it in both Chinese and pinyin characters), and waited for the staff to return.
But no one came to take our order. We waited a long time before Lynn had enough of it, stood up and walked over to the staff. I could see the staff in full retreat as Lynn charged ahead, finally ending up with a woman officer with lots of stripes on her shoulder and a comprehensible English. “You should not have taken our money and let us board if you can’t serve us in English”, Lynn was saying as the officer tried to apologize and find a face saving way out. Lots of discussion ensued; suffice it to say that we ended up being served not only our main course, spaghetti Bolognese (I was in no mood to experiment), but also two superb vegetable dishes, the bok choi which Lynn asked for as well as Chinese water spinach, a superbly tasty vegetable which was on the house.
During our meal, the passengers for the coming cruise boarded in droves, and yes, they were all Chinese. We are the only foreign devils on this cruise, and we are going to have to speak Chinese to get anywhere. Isn’t that great?
Read what happens next at “Yangtze River cruise and the Yangtze Gold One !”
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