My $19.95 + tax, per person "Dine and Cruise" experience on Saturday, July 6, 2013. The fee includes a buffet style dinner onshore at the Dolphin View Seafood Restaurant and a 90 minute live nature and historical narrative aboard the Pastime Princess.
Mediocre best describes both the food quality and offerred at the Dolphin View Seafood Restaurant. Lacking is the word that best describes their wait service. Bleaching and in need of a major makeover are two thoughts to decribe the ambience onboard the Pastime Princess. What I could see of the landmarks and waterview was fine, but never again sums up my desire to repeat the experience.
My first ordeal began with being manually banded by a singular employee to differentiate all the dine and cruise patrons from the rest. She stood atop a ramp by an area of the Dolphin View Seafood Restaurant designated for buffet patrons. She could have just handed the self-sticking "cutesy" paper wristbands to myself or one other member of my group upon confirmation to ease through the ever growingly line of restless "dine and cruise" patrons bottlenecked by this ceremony. All of us had to weave and squeeze through droves of other folks on either side of us who were already seated on our right or standing in other lines on our left at an order/pickup window by the side of the building.
The next challenge was to find some sort of seating, even if it meant that my family, a party of 16 had to sit in three different places. My repeated emails with our prepayment requesting to be seated together were unreplied. Seating is on a first come first seated basis, including the cruise. The least they could have done for the sake of all the prepaid "Dine and Cruise" patrons was to have reserved enough seating for the scheduled time allotted for dining prior to boarding. Half of my group were "fortunate", if you could call it that. They found seating indoors in a dingy dry dock-like warehouse which offered shelter but remained open to the elements. My half was relegated to seating by the water's edge on old weathered makeshift wooden tables, benches and boxes of various sizes and heights.
For over twenty minutes prior to dinner, we tried in vain to get the attention of any servicer to order drinks. Finally, in desperation, some of us approached the makeshift corner bar inside the warehouse to get our own. When the buffet was finally opened, we were channeled into 4 columns to facilitate our visit. It consisted of a tossed salad, bread, meatballs in tomato sauce, baked chicken thighs, fried tilapia and two pasta dishes ... one with shrimp. It was embarrassing to return to our seats only to find that a couple of strangers had commandeered our table. They mistook our absence as a vacancy for their own group of friends. After a near argument they left ... our loss it turns out. We both agreed that the blame lay with the event organizers. Unfortunately with the sun in my eyes, I couldn't fully appreciate the sand on my feet and in my shoes, the clouds of dust in the breeze and waving away a fair amount of flies from our meals.Best advice here is don't come hungry or thirsty. There is a $1.00 charge for water and soft drinks and $2.00 beers. You will definitely need something to drink in order to assist you in keeping your food down.
Boarding the ship early was the strategy of those wise enough to quickly exit the buffet area or skip their meals entirely. I will say in a qualified way that there wasn't enough suitable seating for everyone. Go figure?!. Why require prepayment?! Regardless, we were glad to abandon our gastric ordeal to finally board the "Pastime Princess." This 100 foot vessel has two passenger levels and is a repurposed deep sea fishing boat that doubles as a no frills "passenger cruise liner". Believe me, it looks and smells like the former. Against the blinding sun on the horizon, I squinted at, baked and had to relegate to imagination more than half of what the cruise narrator tried to point out or describe during the 90 minute tour. The ship's public areas midship on the main deck were dingy, dilapidated and needed a major makeover. No one took advantage of the dirty and ripped booth seating provided in what looked like an indoor dining area. In addition, the windows lining the eatery portside and starboard were thickly encrusted by what appeared to be grime or salts. When you visit their website for the combo package (http://www.dineandcruise.com) it hints that ownership of both the restaurant and fishing vessel are one and the same.
In all fairness, the place was packed with post 4th of July celebrants and auto race fans and the cruise narrator did a fine job and even visited with most onboard. I would advise him however to either mute the background music or lower its volume substantially prior to giving us our mandatory safety instructions. Purchasable soft drinks and beer were available on a cash only basis. Complimentary chocolate mints were offered. They held multiple free drawings during the trip. One member of my family won $25.00. The mood among the passengers was much lighter. We enjoyed the usual cruise-type music selections played over the ship's sound system towards the end. When the sun set I finally regained my eyesight and did manage glimpses of landmarks and dolphins at play, but only towards the end of our trip. I even waved at passing boaters and folks on shore, some even eagerly danced during the ship's musical interlude.
In retrospect, for a little less they should just deep six the meal. A good dining experience anywhere else would have made the cruise much more tolerable. Aside from indigestion, a sunburn and having wasted my money, I hope that is all I have to regret.
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