Last week I accepted a step-on job; usually I am a driver/guide. It’s a quite different gig There is a lot less control more chaos
I take BART downtown and walk to Pier 27 to meet a cruise ship group. These passengers pay $120 each for a guided tour to Sausalito and then to Alcatraz. There are usually about 40-50 on a big bus. As you can imagine, the cruise world is mainly made up of seniors, who tend to know a lot and have travelled almost everywhere. They tend to be well disciplined and easy to handle as a group, such as coming back on time to the bus at various stops. On the other hand, they can have high expectations of special treatment as they get on the ship. They also tend to have knee and hip problems
My group was a happy and compliant bunch. The driver was excellent, an older American with years of experience. This is a rare treat lately. More and more of the local charter bus driving is done by Chinese male immigrants, who tend to be slow and cautious drivers, but very bad at English. It’s isually impossible to communicate with them and discuss the timing or route. I just give them short commands on the spot, such as “left here😄”! Even “left” and “right” as common English words can’t be assumed …
Apparently there is a bus driver training school in Oakland which is run by a Chinese immigrant. They pay thousands for the training to get their Class B license. But how did they pass the written exam ? California will test you in the language of your choice, alleluia !! Everyone must get a driver’s license it seems, rapido ! Then they can start working all the time to just pay for a car and insurance!!
in any case, all went well. The weather was clear if a bit cool, but that’s always better than heat. My driver and I had a coffee and discussed Germany while on break in Sausalito. Some of my tourists spotted us and brought to our table half their big pizza— they couldn’t eat it all. We said, “Thanks!” Cafe Tutti pizza!
We get back to the bus and return to Fisherman’s Wharf to the Alcatraz Landing. All is well. But oh no! I am one ticket short on the Alcatraz tickets! The lady is at first calm but quickly becomes overwrought. She is one of a group of eight middle aged Canadians, very jolly, but she in particular is here for a remarriage ceremony on board that night. When my struggles at the ticket booth to provide her with another ticket for that Alcatraz boatload seem to be failing, she really gets angry. It’s not with me but with the cruise people who shorted us a ticket. They miscounted perhaps
The situation is getting unpleasant when suddenly one fellow from her small group of friends suddenly appears, buys his own and gives his ticket to her. He goes on a later boat voluntarily. All is well. I give him cash on the spot to reimburse him for his $40 credit card ticket purchase.
But all doesn’t end well. I get a text today that someone is claiming he was not reimbursed. I have his credit card receipt to be sure that I would myself be paid. But someone amongst them is lying and making a fuss—Possibly to get a full refund of $120… such games are everywhere. I have to admit I am surprised at this chicanery from the Canadians. They seemed so reasonable originally.
All in all, although I am no expert, I can say that cruise ship passengers can be tricky and suddenly become irate. Staying calm on my end isn’t the easiest thing.