Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Night the Fraser River Became Tropical...sort of

Rollin'...Rollin'...Rollin' down the river...

Like the old Creedence Clearwater Revival song, that's what we were doing on a Saturday night in July, to celebrate the Divine Ms. K's birthday.

We'd boarded "The Native," a restored paddlewheeler operated by Paddlewheeler Riverboat Tours of Vancouver.

This trip - a dinner and a cruise, with a tropical theme - was actually our third with the company. In 2008, we did a trip up Pitt Lake, their "wilderness cruise" (which at the time, was sponsored by the Nature Trust of B.C.); and in 2009, we rolled down the Fraser River one cold Sunday morning and afternoon, to historic Fort Langley and back.

We enjoyed both our previous trips, and each one was a bit different.

This one - officially labelled the "Sunset Dinner Cruise" continued in that vein.

Standing on the gangplank at the New Westminster Quay, waiting for our tickets to be taken, I noticed three women with leis in front of us - and suitcases!

All aboard!
"Boy, they're really getting into this 'tropical cruise" theme,' I said to Ms. K. "They brought suitcases!"

Turns out, they were actually dancers, from a local Polynesian dance group, there to perform in various costumes, in keeping with the theme. The costumes were in their suitcases.

But first things first. Once we pulled out from the dock, we checked out our table and the menu. The drink menu, that is...we already knew what was on the food menu. The drink menu had some special tropical drinks made up specifically for the cruise. Of course, in the interests of this blog, I had to sample them all...

I started with Blue Hawaiian martini (vodka, curacao and juices); followed it up with a "Tropical" (rum, grenadine and other potables) and topped off the pre-dinner cocktail hour with a coconut-pineapple concoction whose most important ingredient was rum.

The appetizers were good, but some of them were almost gone by the time it was announced that they were ready over the P-A system (we were up top, they were serving on the lower deck). But they must have realized their faux-pas, and we had first crack at the main course.

The appies - while not exactly tropical - were good: shrimp, cold veggies and dip, cheese and crackers, candied salmon. Ditto, the main course: not tropical, but we did not go hungry, with choices ranging from roast beef, roast potatoes, roast veggies, veggie or non-veggie lasagna, and salads.

Dessert was two choices of cake: tiramisu and chocolate.

Before and after dinner, we spent time wandering the decks, spotting some seals on a log boom going upriver, then as we turned around to head back downriver, we were treated to a beautiful B.C. sunset.

Then came the post dinner entertainment: The three ladies from the Kalaya Dancers doing a variety of dances in various costumes.

Nothing says "tropical" like Polynesian dance.

This was actually the second time we'd seen them; we went to their annual show in Port Coquitlam the previous summer.

They did a marvellous job, performing without a real stage and just a boom box for music.

Overall, I was a bit disappointed that tour did not put a bit more thought and detail into the "tropical theme." The music they played was just a canned collection of hits from the 60s-70s-80s. Not exactly tropical. Easy to remedy, too - you can walk into any HMV or even London Drugs and pick up some Hawaiian or Polynesian music CD's.

I guess the food could have been more tropical, too. Not real luau type food, but some tweaks could have made it more "tropical." The drinks were a nice touch, mind you.

Aside from the drinks, the table decor and (maybe) a group of guys who were obviously a stag party for one of their group who was getting married, the most "tropical" part of the evening was the dancers. Now I don't expect the cruise to be so tropical that it would have parrots on board, but a few simple things could be done to make it much better.

Tough to beat a sunset like this.
The other part that was a bit disappointing: when I booked it, I told them it was my wife's birthday, and the girl said they would do something - but they never did. I thought it would be looked after, so I didn't mention it to any of the staff. Should have said something on the ship, but hindsight is 20/20.

Doesn't mean I wouldn't go to any more of their cruises ... just not this one. I'd still do the Pitt Lake cruise again, and some of their others that I have not yet done.

And then there is that wonderful sunset...

The theme idea is good, but the presentation/delivery needs a bit of work to really make this "tropical" cruise more, well, "tropical."

I wonder if they're taking volunteers...?

(Want to see more photos from this event? Visit my Facebook page, Sunset Dinner Cruise.)

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