January 12, 2022 77°F/24°C
Viking surprised passengers with an extra included tour today. I suspect the crew want one more really quiet day to clean, unpack provisions, and generally get the ship “ship-shape” for the next leg of our cruise.
The tour was called “Santa Monica, Malibu, & Beverly Hills” and took us by bus to not only those places, but also Marina del Rey and Venice Beach.
Being on a bus tour, with only a couple of photo stops, meant not very many pictures, although there was certainly plenty to see: stunning hilltop homes in Malibu, lots of surfers catching waves, funky dwellings and community gardens in Venice Beach, hundreds of yachts and sailboats in the marina (our guide said Marina del Rey can house 11,000 boats!), and posh hotels and stores in Beverly Hills. We also passed 4 different filming locations, complete with stars’ trailers/dressing rooms and lots of catering trucks and camera crews.
Sadly, there’s a much less glamorous side to L.A. As well, with as many as 70,000 homeless people living on the streets and highway verges, where there can be fairly large homeless “towns” of cardboard, plastic bags, and garbage. In Beverly Hills, where we made a rest stop at one of the VERY clean public washrooms, there was a homeless woman washing her hair in the ladies’ room sink. In that same park area we witnessed the compassionate treatment of several homeless people by the bright blue-uniformed “Beverly Hills Welcome Ambassadors”, who seem to be empowered to help not only tourists but also the homeless to find directions and overnight shelter. L.A. has set aside a large pot of money for homeless shelters and addiction programs, but as is the case almost everywhere their efforts are hampered by a “not in my backyard” mentality. Apparently one of the most successful shelter programs operates on a former military base, and initiatives to help homeless veterans have been some of the most successful.
I have to add our bus ride to this blog so that I won’t forget it.
Two years ago in Costa Rica, I had a harrowing but entertaining experience with our tour bus, some hydro wires, and toll booths. Today, we had a couple of memorable experiences too. En route to a photo op near Malibu Lagoon, our guide Allan directed our bus driver Denise into a very narrow curving park access road (so narrow that the trees on both sides were brushing the bus) only to discover that not only was it too narrow, but also closed – not the right access point at all! With no possibility of going forward or turning around, Denise BACKED OUR FULL SIZE TOUR BUS THROUGH THE CURVED ROADWAY AND BACK ONTO PACIFIC HIGHWAY 1 !! Anyone who has driven the Pacific Highway knows what a feat of skill that was. Suffice it to say it involved honking. Allan commented that he now owed Denise lunch.
In attempting to reach the correct park entrance, Allan’s iffy directions caused us to overshoot our goal. There are not a lot of intersections on Highway 1 where a bus can turn around, and it is so close to the shore in Malibu that there are also no bus parking lots. SO Denise PULLED A U-TURN WITH A 56 PASSENGER TOUR BUS ON THE PACIFIC SHORE HIGHWAY! More honking (mostly by Denise warning other vehicles that we were about to do something insane). We passengers suggested that Allan now owed her a full dinner.
After our tour, and lunch, I headed to the theater to watch RESPECT, starting Jennifer Hudson, on the big screen – a real treat after more than 2 years without being in a movie theatre. There was even popcorn! Ted, on the other hand, power-walked 9 km (5.6 miles) on the outer deck.
We enjoyed another delectable dinner in the main Restaurant, where the table service continues to so impress us.
Tonight was the Welcome Reception for the world cruise, which introduced us to our new captain, Captain Olav Soevdsnes (below) as well as most of the officers and our new (German!) executive Chef Thomas Noack. Captain Olaf is really quite droll – it will be fun to see him around the ship as the cruise progresses.
It was a great start to what we all hope will be a wonderful Covid-free cruise.