Sunday, December 26, 2010

Getting Ready for the Caribbean

Can't wait, just a few more weeks before we sail again.  And now that Christmas is over it is now time to start planning for the cruise.

Now what to bring, what not to bring?

For us we tend to throw things on the couch in the den for the items we can not forget.  Then we have to get some of the clothes out, yes the summer clothes!  What do I still fit in?  What needs to be thrown out?  What needs repair?

I think packing is key, even after doing 27 cruises we still bring too much, even though we are bringing less and less we still bring items that we don't end up wearing.  For our 10 day cruise we will bring four pairs of shorts/skorts with about four tops that can be worn with at least two of the shorts.  I like to bring three bathing suits but then I again like to be in my bathing suit on most days.  Minimum two bathing suits, and a coverup.  For evening wear two pairs of pants/skirt/capri that can work with nice blouses.  We don't do formal evenings anymore, but if we did two dresses that can use the same pair of shoes will work.  Bernie usually would only bring one suit with two dress shirts.  A sweater or hoodie works for chilly evenings or if the AC is on high throughout the ship.  I also like to bring a shall to wear in the evening because after getting sun all day I get a chill -- gee I sound old.

Now our must items:  power bar (trust me with only one plug in the room you will need it), small air freshner for the bathroom, clothes pegs for hanging items that need drying, corkscrew for the wine, a small digital travel alarm clock. 

We also bring a few items that are not musts but certainly make things easier: 

-  we bring a over the door hanger that is meant for shoes, but we use if for toilitries, hats, sunscreen etc.  Helps with keeping clutter down to a minimum.
-  Ipod with speaker so we can listen to music in our room
-  suction cup hooks that I use to hang up items like pj, or robe
-  blow dryer, now most ships have blow driers but I like my own
-  air matress, normally we pick this up in one of the stores near the port for about $3.99 it sure makes hanging at the beach more comfortable, and we usually leave it on the ship after the cruise
-  a small colapsable cooler, on those port days that we go to the beach we fill with ice and we pick up some cold beverages and enjoy them on the beach

But the key is whatever you do decide to bring, think twice about bringing it, if you will only wear it once on the ship, then maybe rethink the item. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

South America Anyone?

Finally we are going to South America, I know I know it is still a while from now - but Feb 2012 will come soon.

We originally booked the Star March 3 Santiago to Rio then continuing to Fort Lauderdale.  But two weeks after booking our agent left me a message that Princess has cancelled these two voyages.  Bummer, but after some investigating I figured the Star princess is probably the ship that is being re routed to Alaska for the summer of 2012.

I read on the Cruise Critic boards that yes in fact Princess is moving the Star from Europe to Alaska for 2012.  Okay I guess I need to rethink this.

We ended up changing our direction then, we now start in Rio De Janeiro, which will be just at the start of Carnival -- Bernie's dream come true.  We will sail around the horn to Valparaiso, where the next leg will begin as we sail 16 days to San Francisco.  In total it will be 30 days at sea but boy oh boy is this ever a dream cruise for us.

I've created the file for the trip and I am doing research now on all the ports.  So if you have experience or advice for the following ports please leave a comment.


October 19 & 20 - At Sea and Heading Home

There is always a unique feeling when you know you are nearing the end of the voyage.  There are a handful of passengers who are staying on for the return trip to Los Angeles, lucky them another glorious 14 days on board the Island, but unfortunately Bernie and I have to head home and back to work.
But first we have two more sea days!
Tonight Ed Fernandez the Hypnotist is performing in the Universe Lounge and we all attend.  Shelley ends up on stage and she is hypnotized and boy what a good laugh we all had.

Here Ed tells the participants that it is really cold and you are shivering and you need to try and stay warm - Shelley snuggles the lady beside her.

 Now they are told they are professional ballerinas, Shelley is a natural

Ed tells the men on stage that you are in labour and giving birth, the women you are there to assist them, and doesn't Shelley just jump right in and offer assistance.

We are laughing our heads off and we can barely contain ourselves.  After the show we head to the Blankety Blank The Game Show in Explorers where we have even more laughs. 

Tonight is formal night and we then attend Silvio's (Matre D'Hotel) Madhouse Dance Party in the atrium.  The band is playing the place is packed and we are all dancing away.  This is probably the best final party I have ever been to on board.

Waiters and assistant waiters are in attendance dancing up a storm.  One mime is ridding the glass elevator when Shelley and Laurie get in, check out their surprise when they see who is waiting for them.

Paula and Ming

Klaus and Krista

check out the crowds!
The next day I try to sleep in but again Bernie has placed the order for room service and I am up early when it arrives, but it is our last day on board and I want to enjoy every minute of it.  And I do.
We meet up with our friends at the Platinum Elite Lounge for a drink and a good laugh and then we head to dinner and we pack up our suitcases and they are out early, around 9 pm.
When we wake up the next morning we go for breakfast and collect our items and then we have to go to the Purser's desk because apparently they are is a credit on our account because they charged us for laundry but didn't get a chance to credit our account before they closed it.
We catch our flight home and back to reality.
In the end it was a great voyage and very very relaxing and would sign up for it again in a minute.
On a final note, we got our credit card statement and noticed that Princess ended up converting our onboard account into Canadian even though we had clearly stated we did not want this to happen when we completed our personalizer.  This ended up working out to be a $45 extra charge in the end because Princess charges a conversion fee of 3%.  I have written a letter to Princess as this is the second time this has occurred, so far we have not heard back.  From now on we will be closing our account on the last night and ensure it is charged in US funds.

October 18 - Aruba, again


We are back, yup Aruba - but we are heading ashore today because we have an errand to run for a friend.  But we don't dock till later so Vickie finally gets a chance to sleep in.

We are excited to check out the Wake Show as our Jasper Moosejaw mascot is making an apperance on it.  Check out the video below - which I recorded from the television.

We decide to head off the ship with Rob and Shelley as they are needing to go to the store and to be led in the right direction for shopping.  I am not really into shopping so Bernie and I point them in the right direction and we are off to buy aloe lotion from Aruba and then we head towards the Rennaisance Mall to get a latte at our coffee bar, but low and behold there is a Starbucks here now!  But I really wasn't want a latte so we wandered around a bit and then looked at each other and decided to head back on board the ship.

We are back on board by 1430 and we change into bathing suits and we are up laying beside the pool very soon after, and then Laurie and Jim showed up and they had the same idea as us.  It was a very relaxing afternoon and a definate way to spend a day when in port, the ship was so quiet.

October 17 - Cartagena, Columbia

Cartagena Columbia

I am tired, been quite a few busy days and as I wake and throw the robe on and head out to the balcony I see we are all ready docked and it is only around 7:30.  It is another hot and humid day, and I am struggling and thinking of ways to get out of going ashore.  But Bernie says it is a short visit and we will regret if we don't go ashore.

So I get dressed and we pack our camera and I am off and the humidity hits me as soon as I head ashore.  We were here last year and we go to get a taxi and we see right away, as was the same last year, that the people at the port are trying to get us on a tour.  We were offered a tour for $20 but all we really want is a taxi.  We leave the port area where the taxis are and we are offered a taxi ride to old town for $4, but $5 is a good price too.  We are dropped right in front of the main gates and we run into Rob & Shelley and Jim & Laurie who are trying to figure out what and where to go.

This city is beautiful, one of the more beautiful cities I have ever seen.  It is very safe here, I know a lot of people are worried here but I felt great and have certainly felt less safe in other ports.  If you do feel a little nervous then I would recommend a nice tour.

check out these doors

the old city is surrounded by a wall, here is a great view on top of the wall and a nice breeze

We are looking for a washroom and there is a hotel here, so we enter and there is a beautiful courtyard and what do we see!  Check out the fruit loops bird.

Last year I got a picture in front of this statue and I had to get another shot this year.  Now this is a real woman!

Below are some shots of the board just at the exit to the port that shows prices for tours, and taxi fares.  Hope you can read this.

Since we depart early we are back at the pier around noon and head back on board. 
isn't she beautiful

After a quick shower and a quick bite to eat I am heading to the Princess Grapevine Wine Tasting in the Provence Dining Room.  I invited Rob to be my date as Bernie isn't interested and we get complimentary wine tasting with Elite Status.  I wish I could say it was a good time but the only good thing was chatting with Rob and Craig as the woman beside me was driving me nuts with her comments, couldn't wait to get out of there.

For the evening we had a lovely dinner in the dining room and then went to Explorer's Lounge for the Weakest One Gameshow where Bernie and Shaune entered, and some good laughs were had.

October 16 - Transiting the Panama Canal

Pamana Canal Today

We are here again!  I am so happy, for dedicated cruisers Panama Canal is their place.  But having been here just last year I am feeling a lot more relaxed about our transitioning of the canal.  I am wakened relatively early, mainly because of room service being delivered.  Here are some facts about the canal:

We are sailing towards the Bridge of the Americas, I am not even dressed as we sail under the bridge.  We line up to enter the first set of locks "Miaflores Locks", the time is around 7:00 am.

We are in our robes sitting on the deck and travelling thru the locks and then we start to head towards the Pedro Miguel Locks.  But we are hungry and decide to head to the dining room for breakfast.

The dining room is very quiet, we are sat at a table for two right beside the window.  Below shows us in the Pedro Miguel Lock with only about a foot between the window and the lock wall.

After breakfast we are up on deck as we leave the lock and it is hot!  Well really it is humid.  I decide to wander the ship and take pictures for a bit.  Bernie heads back to the cabin.

see how close we are to the wall!

We have now cleared the lock and we are heading to the new bridge - Centurian Bridge, that we travelled over yesterday - looks like the Golden Ears Bridge that they just built in Maple Ridge, B.C.
looking back at the Piedro Miguel Lock from behind

Centurian Bridge

see how steep the sides are - this is the infamous Gaillard Cut where so many lost their lives

The ship once again did the poster contest.  I did up the sign two days prior and Bernie is the one who came up with the quote, but we try to live by it every day.
The damn that created Gatun Lake

These little row boats are used to throw the lines to the ships
We have been travelling thru the Gatun Lake and had a relaxing time there.  We ordered room service and waited for our friends Craig and Barbara to come on over to enjoy some champagne while we travel thru the last set of locks - Gatun locks.

Bernie and Barbara at the aft of the ship going thru the Gatun Locks

crocodiles spotting

My man enjoying the scenery.  We exit the canal around 1530 and we are back to the cabin to relax after a long day, but a great one.