Cruising vacations don’t mean you spend all your time on your ship. You often extend your vacation on the front or back end. This often involves renting a car. If not, tr involves being a passenger while someone else drives. Here are our 10 most memorable driving experiences. In some, it’s amazing we have lived to tell the tale.
- The Mercedes S class in Zurich. We fly to Zurich with a friend. We book a Mercedes “C” class with the car rental company. This isn’t an extravagance. BMW, Audi and MB are the “domestic” cars in this part of the world. They have none, but bring great news! We are upgraded to an “S” class, with the caution: “Please don’t even get a scratch on it!” We rented a Mercedes because if we were in serious accident, we would likely survive. He was giving us a far better car because we looked like responsible drivers!
- Parking the Mercedes S Class in Zurich. Same trip. At the time, the average European car was much smaller than this Mercedes. When we used the parking garage spiral ramp, the radar system screamed because the car was so close to the wall! When parking, Jane and our friend needed to get out first, then I would squeeze it between two cars and manage to somehow get out in about 8” of space!
- The taxi and the semi in Asia. We are in a taxi heading from the airport on a busy three lane highway. We are in the slow lane. A flatbed semi carrying pipe sections passes us in the center lane. Then he moves into our lane! Had the driver not slowed down quickly, we would have been crushed between the trailer and the guardrail!
- Why traffic stops as you approach an exit ramp. We are in Asia again, in a taxi. We are amazed how four lanes of traffic comes to a crawl as you approach the highway exits. Eventually we realize they aren’t used to the convention of getting into the right lane when you plan to exit. People in the far left passing lane just stop and attempt to slipstream across three lanes as the exit appears.
- When is a bridge not a bridge? I’ve told this one before. We want to cross a major river. We see what appear to be bridge signs. We barrel down the road, approach the water’s edge and there’s no bridge. There’s car ferry service and the signs indicate the location of the dock where you would wait for the next boat. Fortunately, we stopped in time, not submerging the car.
- German parking garages. We visited during December to see the Christmas markets. When it gets busy, cars form a line outside the parking garage. Each time a car leaves the garage, the system acknowledges it and spits out a ticket, allowing one more car to enter. You cruise the entire garage, figuring out which parking space they vacated!
- The talking car in England. We are in the UK on a motorway, listening to the radio. The music is suddenly interrupted by a voice telling you about traffic delays or major accidents beyond the exit you are approaching. This was startling. Where did that voice come from? Who is that?
- When right turn on red doesn’t mean what we think. Here’s another Asian example. We are used to crosswalks as the designated areas where pedestrians cross. We don’t expect them to work like UK zebra crossings. In England, traffic stops when you place your foot on the stripes. In the country referenced, we realized mopeds (and sometimes cars) don’t connect “right turn on red” with stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks. They keep rolling along at speed. You need to run or cross on the far side of a crowd of other pedestrians.
- Who knew St. Moritz closed for the season? On a trip to Switzerland we decide to drive to St. Moritz. It was probably April. It took a couple of hours to get there. Upon arrival, the entire town was deserted. No sidewalk cafes open. Hotels are closed. Apparently the entire town closes between the end of the ski season and the start of the summer holiday season! We turned around and drove back!
- Gorges Du Verdon. It’s France’s version of the Grand Canyon. Winding roads at the cliff edge. No guardrails. It appears they have a line of raised cobblestones as edging, apparently to alert you as you plummet over the edge. Our friend who was driving was an experienced race car driver. He explained “You need to use the whole road.” This means you drive in the center, atop the white traffic lines, getting back in your own lane if you see a car (or worse, a truck) approaching. They even have stone huts for people stranded there at night!
Driving abroad isn’t the same as driving at home. It still provides great memories. Yes, we buy insurance every time we get into a rental car overseas!
Cover photo: Celestyal Crystal Cuba Cruise: 1950s American cars still cruising in Cuba, photo (& story) by All Things Cruise journalist