Eric and I spent Sunday evening August 10, 1997, on a cruise of a little different sort, on the Odyssey III in Washington, D.C., which is about 45 minutes from our house. I thought it might be amusing to compare this cruise to your standard 7 day Caribbean cruise. Unable to find any travel agent who would handle such a low budget deal for me, I called the cruise line directly and spoke to a very nice reservations agent, who gave me all the specifics with regard to the cruise, but of course did not give me any of the "specials" until I specifically asked her for the same. When queried, she did indicate that there was a special half price sailing on the evening of Sunday, August 10. The rate for this cruise was $87 for two, including all taxes, gratuities and port charges, which included a four course dinner, entertainment and dancing and an approximate three hour cruise. ("A three hour cruise...A three hour cruise...The weather started getting rough....G!!) Where was I?? The regular price for this cruise seemed really steep to me--Sunday through Thursday, the price is $87.00 per person, $69.76 if booked at least three days in advance. Friday and Saturday, the price is $99.00 per person, $76.00 if booked three days in advance.
The cruise price was non-refundable from the moment of payment (Any Renaissance fans out there??). One could start boarding at 6 P.M., so we arrived at the port about 6:15. As we boarded the ship, we joked that at least we could skip the obligatory boarding photo. WRONG-O, as the young lady hopped out of the bushes just prior to our stepping aboard. (Pictures were available for viewing as we disembarked. We didn't even look at them.) We had booked the cruise partly to meet up with another $P$ couple, Ethel and Jerry Volin, who mostly inhabit the St. Martin BB, but who have been on a few cruises in their time also. Neither one of us really knew what the other looked like, but were supposed to be placed at the same table. It got to be around 6:45 and we couldn't figure out why Ethel and Jerry weren't there yet, when one of the waitresses finally approached us to inform us that they had screwed up our tables and had placed us at different tables. No problem with smoking or non smoking tables, though, as one was allowed to smoke only outside. Dress was supposed to be semi-formal and most folks complied, although we did see a couple of people wander through in shorts. I saw some of the staff setting up a couple of tables outside on the deck. Don't know if those people were sitting outside at their own request or at the request of the fashion police.
One of the major reasons that I had picked the Odyssey over one of it's major competitors here in D.C. was that the Odyssey serves a 4 course sit down dinner and the Spirit of Washington serves only a buffet meal. The food was palatable except for the very weird oriental steak salad which I ordered and made them take back, and except for the fact that the filet mignon which I had ordered medium rare came out well done. The service, however, would have made even Carnival fans want to strike, as it was horrendous. The boat was literally half empty, as it has two huge dining rooms and one of them was closed and dark. I don't know if they were understaffed as a result. The service was ridiculously slow and it took forever between courses. Some fellow not our regular server came out and tried to serve us a second round of appetizers. The only drinks provided free were coffee and iced tea. Alcoholic drinks were ridiculously priced, with mixed drinks being $7.50 plus tip, and glasses of wine averaging $6.00 plus tip.
After dinner, which took an inordinately long time, we stepped out to take a look around the boat and to get some air before dessert. You didn't really have a choice in the matter, though, as they basically waited till everyone was finished with dinner and cleared the tables before offering any dessert. The Odyssey has a wonderful design that allows it go much further up and down the river than the Spirit, in that it is much lower to the water. We actually cruised up and down the river from Georgetown to National Airport a couple of times and the cruise part of the trip was quite wonderful, especially after dark as we cruised past the Kennedy Center, Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial lit up, with a wonderful warm breeze off the Potomac. I'm not sure that I would be so happy to be outside on a cool day, but on this night in August was wonderful.
There was a nice little band which played during part of dinner and then dance music afterward. Unfortunately, since we had such bad service, we were unable to dance even if we wanted to, as we were still eating. Dessert and coffee was the best part of the meal, with a wonderful cheesecake with raspberry sauce.
Would I do it again? Yes, maybe, if I got another special price. The regular price seems hardly worth the money. It's something that I probably wouldn't do just by ourselves, though, but it was fun to do it with another couple, and we had a lovely time with Ethel and Jerry. We might check out the Spirit the next time though. The cruise itself is cheaper and maybe the drinks would be cheaper and the service better.
Carol & Eric
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