Frisco Tourbus driver over the hill

Adventures and mishaps in San Francisco tourism

Leave a comment

Cruise ship to Alcatraz

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.

Leave a comment

Watch out for comps on a tour bus!

Tour companies will often throw on a concierge or travel agent as a comp, I. E. a travel professional complementary excursion.  The management does not always tell the driver or guide.  Since I am both, in a small bus or big SUV, I can really be annoyed when I do find out that basically I have a spy on board.


It it is often easy to recognize it.  The person may be diffident or so bored that he or she stares at their cellphone.  They are not very responsive even in the simplest of questions, such as, shall we stop for lunch?  Hello?

they may well consider that the ride and free meal is part of their everyday job and therefore a drag.  They would rather be home and  away from tourists.  Their attitude towards me shows lack of interest or respect in a surprising number of cases so it is the first warning sign that this person can cause you and your company some trouble.

This is especially true with Yelp and TripAdvisor.  These are powerful weapons to bring a company down with a low rating and a bad review.

The last such nasty experience was with a Desecrae Bruise from the Nikko Hotel.  A woman of complete self-absorption and little awareness of what good manners demands, with little experience As a hotel concierge, having just transferred out of the hotel kitchen, she was arrogant, rapidly drunk, foul-mouthed and invasive towards all of us.  She tried to run the tour for me with the help of her gay Mexican sidekick, another hotel employee.

British on board found them both boorish and Argentinian fellows made their own loud and domineering Spanish language games    A polite request to honor the other passengers on board brought an ugly South Pacific sneer to her blank face

in this case I had been warned that she was coming but it was only five minutes before leaving the office.  I begged the boss to put her on the other Napa wine tour bus, because these comp passengers cause trouble.

He insisted that I was the best and we had to impress the Nikko Hotel.  I had been with the company 14 years!

She and her sidekick got back to the city and wrote a nasty review.   The boss was justifiably upset and blamed me.  Rather than investigate why she drank so much and disrupted the tour from the onset, he fired me.

Fear of minority’s claim to racism was part of this story   She exploited it although she was a born American.


Could a caucasion minority Irish fight back?

Yes.  More to come: a visit to Nikko’s lobby and Desecre😂Unable to handle interruption in her conversation with guest.   Dish it out, brown girl!  Cannot respect a white woman at her work?!  Accuse the white of racism!  Bruise!