Just got around to uploading this (since I couldn’t get a reliable connection on the boat to do it then!)….
Well, since the Internet on the boat is being incredibly slow (guess that is what happens when 1000+ people try and share a 1Mbit sat. connection) I guess it is good time to blog – once again my absence from my own blog is shocking as it constantly falls to the bottom of my ever growing daily to-do list.
First thing I have to mention is Chip and PIN. Sitting on the boat with a table to myself (so I can type in privacy) at the end of the counter to one of the on board coffee shops, with a cup of rubbish machine made coffee and a great magazine (E&T although can’t remember which month and someone put the cover photo over the issue details – excellent design…) watching the poor single staffed barista struggle to cope with a huge queue of American tourists. The issue is, none of them have cash (and this boat takes Euros and Sterling, so not sure where the hell they have been not to have any of both currencies used on the island of Ireland), not an issue normally as us in the civilised world have the amazing (and secure) invention known as Chip and PIN, the Amercian’s aren’t quite so up to date. So bemused to ever seeing a card that doesn’t have a chip, the barista couldn’t even find a pen for the American’s to sign the receipts to had to run off to find one. You would think, one of the worlds richest nations, in the spotlight lately (and in the past) for high rates of credit card fraud and payment system hacking would follow the rest of the developed world. With mainstream banks in the UK and Europe already moving rapidly in the roll out of contactless and mobile payments, it does make me wonder how far down the line those technologies lie for USA consumers.
The other thing I have noticed courtesy of the American’s is their desire for (and our lack of) iced drinks. I’ve heard several requests for iced tea and coffee in my time sitting here, and I sampled both several times on my latest trip to the USA and I really like them but it is hard to find here. Unfortunately for them, they aren’t sold on the boat because obviously you can’t easily get it from a machine.
In the interest of furthering my research into how to get treated better as a non-business class customer (on this boat “Premium”) which started out with my travels on British Airways I have come up with a handy tip discovered by accident. Having two phones sitting on your table appears to portray the image you are a “business” person (although got to be said as I sit here in my jeans and Vans shoes I don’t look the part) does change the behaviour of staff and those around you.
Tested out in two lounges on this boat (on different decks, so completely different staff), in the first lounge having one phone out means you are treated just like everyone else, staff seemingly ignore your existence unless you go to the counter or flag them over and people sit at the tables all around you. In the second lounge, with two phones (and a laptop, which I am typing this on in both lounges) you find that people see a different image. Staff are more willing to make you feel welcome, come over to the table more often to clean up or have a chat and people tend to not want to sit at the table beside you. In actual fact my second phone, which is a real phone, has no SIM card in it and is purely being used as a music feed for my Bluetooth headphones. Seemingly I feel (although haven’t tested) if you look busy (like me now typing this blog post) people are also more likely to stay at a difference as to not disturb you.
As a young person, I very much enjoy travelling, but as an Engineer I can’t help but feel we are going backwards rather than forwards. Forgetting about big changes in travel, the end of Concorde springs to mind, travelling (at least by methods I use most often) takes longer than in my childhood. The boats between Dublin and Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead are ones that I have been using almost all of my life to go between Ireland and the mainland but since I started doing those journey’s as a child it now takes almost 2 hours longer than it used to. Seemingly blamed on the rising cost of oil, this boat now takes almost 4 hours (by the time you count loading and unloading) to do 100 miles. Even the “fast” craft now takes 3 hours instead of under 2. Surely there has to be a better way. My 4AM blast down the motorway from Belfast to Dublin reminded me of what great benefit Engineering projects can have, the cross-border motorway project which finally connected the two capitol cities with an end to end motorway slashed journey times compared to during the 90’s, but I fear travel outside of cities, were most of the attention is now with regards to emissions and traffic, lacks significant innovation.