Almost Live from HAL Westerdam Spring 2011 Coastal Repo: Pre-Cruise Day in San Diego

Sometimes travel is an uplifting adventure, and sometimes it’s a comedy of errors. This trip, so far, is the latter.

Sittin’ at the railway station

It was probably an omen when my travel buddy dropped her computer mouse squarely into her teacup, but we chalked it up as a freak accident. Later, standing on the Amtrak platform, I discovered that while I’d carefully packed my netbook, mouse, headphones and cell charger, I’d forgotten my computer’s power cord. With the train a scant 7 minutes away, we decided to get settled at our hotel first, then see if the concierge could help us locate an electronics store.

Ticket for my destination

I love taking Amtrak to meet my cruise. Train travel has everything that used to make flying enjoyable: comfortable seats, plenty of leg room, great scenery, free coffee, tea and pastries in business class and no “gotcha” fees. Arriving by train means you arrive relaxed, stress free and feeling like your vacation has already begun. You’ll be surrounded by fellow cruise passengers, so the ride feels like a sail-away party.

Suitcase and netbook in hand

Light packers can walk two blocks from the train to the cruise ship. Taxis and pedicabs are available straight through the terminal on India St.

I’ve always wanted to try a pedicab, but in retrospect, two women and 5 bags wasn’t the best timing. Oh, I enjoyed it plenty, but my cruise buddy furtively whispered that we looked like colonial oppressors. I tipped liberally and added a silent prayer for the pedi-cabbie’s knees.

Every stop is neatly planned

We had reservations at the Se’ San Diego, a chic, modern boutique hotel where I’d gotten a killer deal through Expedia Unpublished Rate. The hotel is located some 9 blocks directly inland from the train station, on the far edge of Gaslamp quarter. The door to this thing is massive slab of burnished metal that looks more suited to sealing a bank vault or a futuristic airlock than a hotel.

Once inside, we learned that the Se’ was overbooked and we’d been given a courtesy transfer to the Omni, some 8 blocks diagonally back toward the waterfront, next to Petco Park. For our second cab ride of the day, we opted for something with an internal combustion engine.

The streets all look the same to me

We arrived at the Omni completely turned around with no idea where we were relative to the harbor. The front desk staff was welcoming, and our 19th floor room had a great view into Petco Park. If we ever come for a game, we know where to stay.

We settled in, then decided to see about my power cord. The concierge whipped out a map which he quickly decorated with a football-worthy diagram of X’s and arrows leading us to Office Depot. And after our third cab ride of the day, we discovered that Office Depot is located… right next to the train station. DOH!!

And Jason was a one man band

Standing in the aisles of Office Depot some $45 in cab fares poorer, I found myself staring at an $80 wall charger while my vacation fund dwindled before my eyes. My savior appeared in the form of Jason, a shift manager who helped me find the proper cord. Even better, it was eight bucks and change, tax included. Woo hoo! Jason then summoned our 4th cab of the day.

An endless stream of restaurants and magazines

With our electronic crisis settled, we turned our attention to more serious business – where to go for dinner. I had a list from the experts at one of my favorite cruise boards, and I cross-referenced their suggestions with the X’s and O’s on my football map. We couldn’t face another cab ride, and we wanted something light, so the winner was Rama, an excellent Thai restaurant three blocks from the Omni. (A full review will follow.)

HAL-ward bound!

Morning brought bright sunshine, a croissant the size of an armadillo and the excitement only a cruise embarkation can bring. I’m having my coffee at the window, hoping for a glimpse of the harbor where my ship lies waiting silently for me.