Wednesday, August 25, 2010

October 6 - San Francisco

Rice a Roni a San Francisco Treat - I am laughing because we had been to San Francisco twice already this year and I said to Bernie "I Love San Francisco but would like to go somewhere else for our next holiday" guess where we are today. Yup San Francisco! But I am glad, it is a beautiful city and we have made arrangements to meet up with our friends Jerry and Rose, along with Angelique and Simon.

I should say that our Captain on board this voyage is Nicolo Bommarco from Italy.

We aren't scheduled to arrive in port until 10 am but when we get up around 7 am we can see that we are going to be late. Fog is heavy as we eat our breakfast on our balcony and can see San Francisco bay in the distance.

I headed to the "secret spot" which really isn't that much of a secret anymore. If you head all the way forward on Caribe or Baja deck there is a door that looks like you should be allowed to go thru but you can, then there is a second door and that leads you a narrow passenger deck just below the bridge. Very popular while going thru the canal, but today it is very quiet. There is about five of us and the ship's videographer. This is where I took these shots.

It is now 10:30 and there are a lot of people mulling around with their bags waiting to get off. But we are fortunate enough to be staying on! We head back to the cabin and watch as we pull into the pier by backing in and then going horizontally right next to the pier.
Today is the day! The Island Princess is the first ship to be hooking up to power on shore in San Francisco's Pier 27. Media has formed on the pier and we can see the big plugs. We keep joking -- will we short circuit the entire system and black out San Francisco -- nope everything went fine.
As we are waiting to get clearance to go ashore we can see Jerry and Rose off in the distance waving. We're coming!

We are off around 11 am and meet up with Jerry and Rose, tell us you are boarding and coming with us... not this time. We head off to the Safeway to pick up more wine, then Starbucks to get a mug for Bernie. Then we arranged to hook up with Angelique and Simon for lunch at the Fog City Diner.

Jerry and Rose, who we will be sailing with again in January in the Caribbean.

Angelique and I

Angelique, Bernie and Simon, wish we could sail again with them.

We had a great lunch and great time seeing our friends. We hope to see them all soon and love keeping in touch with them on Facebook, but nothing beats seeing them face to face. It was nice of them to travel from Sonoma for Jerry and Rose and Sacramento for Angelique and Simon.

We had to be back on board at 3:30 for sailaway at 4:00. We are on around 3:00 pm and head back to the cabin and have a nap only to be woken up by the muster drill. Thankfully we don't have to attend because of the back to back. Note: they did scan our cruise cards at the Muster Drill so they know who attended and who didn't.

We were lazy tonight didn't really feel like dressing for the dining room so we just headed up to the Horizon Court and grabbed a bite to eat and we were in the cabin early and had an early night. We now have two days at sea.

October 5 - Day at Sea in the Pacific

Nothing better than a day at sea. Nothing to worry about, nothing scheduled, just a day to do whatever we want and and enjoy the time.

It is a bit cool out but still nice, so we head up on deck.

Off in the distance we spot a whale, yes that is a whale... wish I could of gotten a better shot but by the time I got the camera out and changed the lens this is what I got.

Here are the pizza guys! Princess makes all their pizzas from scratch, the dough which they stretch out right in front of you and then the toppings. It is consumed as fast as they come out.

At 11:15 we head to the Wheelhouse bar for our first of many trivia contests. Brett (our cruise director) is the host. It is quite popular and the place is packed. Beside us I recognize a couple, yup they are Helen's brother and sister in law... Mike Forest and his wife... they are doing the two day cruise and will be getting off in San Francisco. Well we didn't do too well at the trivia but we had a good time. Here is a shot of the Wheelhouse when it is quieter, it is a great lounge that has lots of wooden detail with high back chairs and in the evening they have a band play there, but during the day it hosts lots of different types of games, like trivia, scategories, pictionary, etc.

The Atrium
We planned a lunch gathering for the Cruise Critic gang that got on board in Vancouver. Claus & Krista, Jan & Michael, Connie & Derrick, Caroline & Ken and myself attended. It was nice to put a face to all the names. Everyone got along and we look forward to meeting all the rest of the gang once they board in San Francisco.

I try to get on the internet but it is down. The ship was in drydock two weeks prior to us getting on board in Victoria. This is when they installed MUTS (Movies Under the Stars) and new carpet pretty much throughout, but that is all that we the passengers can see. A lot of things were done behind the scenes and things we can't see. But they did installed a new server and wireless throughout the entire ship, but there seems to be some issues as we can't get online. When I finally can set up an account there is no packages. With Platinum and Elite status you get a free internet package -- I am told by the internet attendant to just buy a small package and you will be credited so that is what I do until I get bounced off the server when it goes down. It is frustrating but not too bad as we don't have to pay for it, I do feel for those that did need to get online and had to pay. Needless to say when we got our final bill the next day for the two day cruise they did charge us for the internet, but a quick stop at the Purser's office cleared it up and we were given the credit.

We head back to the cabin and watch a movie and take some shots. We got our mini bar set up and switched out most of the hard liquor for vodka but left four Canadian Clubs. Here is a picture of Jasper Moose Jaw (our travel mascot) with his favorite drink.

We did get two mini bar set ups because we booked this cruise as two different cruises. Also we got two loyalty credits of $25 for each sailing as this is our 21st and 22nd Princess cruise. This is a new perk that Princess is offering, at 31 sailings it goes up to $50, 41 to $75 and at 51 it is $100. Every little bit helps. Also because we have 100 Carnival shares we got the stock credit for the first sailing of $50 and for the second sailing for 15 days we got $250. Getting the shares is a definitely must if you sail often with any of the Carnvial cruise line (Carnival, Princess, Costa, Holland America, Windstar). For a cruise of 6 days and less you get $50, 7 - 13 days you get $100, over 14 days you get $250, all tax free.

Here is our cookie monster, every day around 3 pm someone comes around with warm cookies and cold milk. A nice treat.

Tonight Bernie and I went to the dining room by ourselves as the other four ate early. We ended up at a table for 8 and everyone at the table is doing the entire voyage. It is Italian night and normally this isn't one we care for but we really enjoyed the eggplant appetizer.

They are having the Champagne waterfall tonight in the atrium but we don't mind missing it and head off to the "No Soup for You" Seinfeld Trivia Gameshow that Brett is hosting in the Explorer's Lounge. We had a good laugh remember the shows but didn't fare too well in the number of right answers. Elliott Max is the comedian tonight and we have seen him many times but drop in for a few good laughs.

Tomorrow we arrive in San Francisco around 10 am, we are suppose to head under the Golden Gate Bridge around 9 am.

October 4 - Vancouver - All Aboard

Today is the day! We board the Island Princess for our second cruise thru the Panama Canal.

Again we booked thru Best Prices Cruises, and again their price just couldn't be beat. I can highly recommend them. As you read prior, this cruise was booked sort of last minute. Two months ago as we relaxed on our weekend I went and checked the prices and the cost for flight home and well we felt we couldn't pass it up. We booked in a lowest balcony guarantee as that was all we could get. About five days before sailing we got a cabin assignment, we were upgraded from a BG category to a BD category, our cabin was B716.

Joining us on this cruise will be Shelley and Rob, and their friends Laurie and Jim.

Rob arranged a limo to drive us all to the pier. We were picked up shortly after noon and got to the pier around 1 pm.

After our last experience at the pier in May and the long line ups, we knew this time would be different as the Island was the only ship in port. From the minute we got out of the limo to when we got into our room I think it was only 15 minutes!

Since this cruise was sold as the entire 17 day voyage to Fort Lauderdale, but also as a two day repositioning cruise to San Francisco many were just doing the two day port. I would guess that about 75% were doing just the two day portion and therefore luggage was minimal and that allowed our bags to be delivered in RECORD time to our cabin. We were maybe in our cabin for 20 minutes when our bags arrived. We quickly unpacked and then went for something to eat.

Bernie remembered as he passed the ice cream bar that ice cream is free, so here he is getting his first of many ice cream cones.

Up to the Sun deck to watch the sailaway. The band Revolution was playing and the dancing began.

We ordered our drinks and took in the beautiful scenery.

This cruise will take us to San Francisco, Cabo San Lucas, Puntarenas Costa Rica, Panama City, Panama Canal, Cartegena Columbia and Aruba then back to Fort Lauderdale where we will fly home. Lots of relaxing sea days to spend with friends and my honey.

This waiter was hilarious, he comes out spinning the tray and showing off his talents, only to discover that it is glued onto the tray. The weather was a little cool, you definitely needed a sweater, but then again it is October.

But check out these young girls in the whirlpool. The other pool had a guy in it who had a beer in one hand and a ice cream cone in the other. Now that is dedication.

That night we decide to head to dinner in the dining room, but check out this sunset first.

We head down to the dining room for 7:30 but the line up is so long for anytime. I think everyone who is doing the two day cruise has anytime dining. Bernie tells us to hold on as he heads up to the traditional dining room. He comes back and says we are in for 8 as there are tables available. While dining we see a retired driver at the table next to us, Al and his wife are doing the entire 17 days too.

It is an early night for us and we head back to the cabin around 10:30 and hit the hay, dreaming of the next 16 days of pure bliss.