Beijing, China. (Day 1) Arrival
Our cruise ended actually at Tianjin, a harbor town about 2 hours southeast of Beijing. We needed transportation from the ship to Beijing proper and thought transportation was included in our cruise package deal, especially when we had this detail confirmed in writing. But it turned out to be just another nightmare arrangement we had to settle with Oceania, the cruise line. Oceania did not budge. Only with the help of our travel agent did we find transportation to Beijing. It was a nightmare because our travel agent is in Vancouver, Canada. We were at sea and the Internet was very spotty and in Beijing we are 11 hours ahead of Vancouver. It certainly added another big wrinkle in dealing with Oceania. I can no longer recommend this cruise line.
The harbor terminal is a great, new, building. Tucked far away from civilization, it is an efficient port that is very good when ships are there. But once a ship leaves it falls asleep, I am sure of it. So it was necessary to get into town from this isolated location. I got a bit nervous when our pick up was not there. Usually there is a hand held sign for me to read with my name on it. There were others holding up signs but none for me. At 9.25 AM, for our planned 9.30 AM pickup time, there was no sign. How do you ask for help in Chinese? I was negotiating a taxi fare (it would have cost at least $U.S. 280.-) when our pre-arranged car showed up. Right on time, without a sign held up, but all went ok in the end. Phew, that was close. Too close for my comfort and totally the fault of Oceania. My frantic last second arrangements via email worked out in the end but it would have been easier if Oceania had honored their negotiated agreement.
Our contract spelled out that all transfers are included. People who had to get to the airport were taken there by Oceania. We asked to be taken to the airport too. Since our flight was not booked for the day of disembarkation, Oceania would not take us to the airport and surely would not drive us to downtown Beijing. Other passengers we know very well who also had delayed air travel were taken by Oceania to the airport. Go figure! Oceania did not care, we were on our own. Once you step off the gangway of the ship, Oceania no longer recognizes you as their passenger. That is what I was told by a crew member and it certainly was how I was treated. Well, good bye Oceania. I wish you good luck. If I see you again it will be from the rail of another ship, I will certainly wave to you. You have good people on your ship but your head-office needs to rethink a lot of things.
So off to Beijing we went. We arrived at the Novotel Hotel Beijing Xinqiao on Chong Wen Men Xi Da Ji. The hotel is at a perfect location. After checking in we just walked the neighborhood to see what was around us. A food court is across the street, another food street is nearby. The subway is in front of the door. Taxis always wait for passengers at the
side of the hotel. The hotel is within walking distance (20 minutes) to
Tiananmen Square and going south, to the Temple of Heaven.