I have had quite a bit of contrast over the past days: Enjoying and working non-stop at the Monaco Yacht Show while staying in an elegant hotel to spending the night in a rather depressing Dover, England and then boarding the wonderful Seabourn Pride.
The Monaco Yacht Show is where the ultimate in luxury makes it statement and this year was no different…though the crowds were decidedly smaller and the yachts for sale were decidedly larger. Yes, the economic problems…especially in Europe…are having a serious effect in the yachting world; not just the cruising one.
Aside from the normal meetings and yacht inspections, I attended a party for but 150 people held by The Superyacht Group aboard the MV Alexander (http://www.privatsea.com/newsite/mv-alexander-121m.html); a 1960’s era cruise ship converted into a private yacht. At just over 400 feet, this private yacht she is about the same size as the Seabourn Pride and with a similarly number of guests onboard, it was really interesting for me comparing the layout, passenger use of space and, of course, the champagne and canapé quality and consumption levels. I won’t bore you with the details, but what I can tell you is that this event made me look even more forward to my cruise because I know what “the show” was and what the Seabourn Experience is.
I also attended another exclusive party held by Boat International at the Hermitage Hotel. This is one of “the” parties filled with owners, yacht show sponsors and a “no exceptions” guest list. With the champagne flowing, a really wonderful variety of gourmet hors d’oeuvres, I had another great “compare and contrast” moment. But, to be honest, as wonderful as it was, there was a “fun” party I was invited to and wanted to make an appearance at…and then I wanted a hamburger; just a hamburger. (And at a Monaco 25 Euro price for that burger, I am glad I was a guest!)
Early the next morning (and trust me it was way, way, way too early) I flew from Monaco to London to meet my wife and some longtime Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise clients for our 2 hour drive to Dover, England. We arrived at the Best Western Plus Marina and Spa, a 178 year old property where Winston Churchill once visited in one of the hotel’s prior incarnations. The hotel is clean, the beds comfortable with fresh linens and most of the staff exceedingly pleasant. While the food quality was excellent for such a venue, the restaurant service was surprisingly inconsistent. For our one night pre-cruise it was fine, but uneven.
In the afternoon we took a walk through town and the sign below said it all:
Apparently it is perfectly acceptable to drink publically in the subway if you are not warned…or if you are warned by a police officer not in uniform…or if you are seen drinking by an officer in uniform, but who doesn’t warn you. It pretty much paints an accurate picture of this downtrodden town.
The next day, after a lovely stroll along the waterfront and up a pier, it was time to grab a bite before heading to the Seabourn Pride, which we could see in the distance.
This was a “Why you need to be careful of TripAdvisor ratings” moment. In Dover, which is not exactly the hotbed of fine cuisine, there is a very small Italian restaurant called Il Rustico. In its window hangs a poster boasting its 4.5 star rating…and more mementos of its “success” on the walls inside. The place was nice enough and the food was OK to good and two people said the dinner the night before had excellent pasta, but 4.5 stars? I have dined at some pretty nice places that get 4 stars or less on TripAdvisor because the measure by which they are rated is clearly far different than the one Il Rustico is. For Dover I would probably give it a 4.5 star rating. But as compared to restaurants generally it would have been a solid 3 stars…and no more. But I digress.
It was now time to board the Seabourn Pride (I shoot for 2:30 p.m. so that I am not asked to wait in the lounge until 2:00 p.m.; using my time for better purposes…like lunch with great friends), so after a 7 Pound taxi ride of about 3 minutes we were at the cruise terminal. The only thing that delayed our boarding was the friendly faces that remembered me and that I remembered. We were onboard and in our suites in about 15 minutes…and the Seabourn Pride already felt like a pair of favorite shoes.
With most of our luggage yet to come, and the one holding my bathing suit delivered, it was time for me to head to “my” hot tub for a pre-departure soak. My comfortable shoes still fit me oh so well.