Tuesday, October 11, 2011

3rd Day and Disembarkation - aka Chaos

The seas have calmed, the water is smooth as silk, things are back to normal.  And with one day left to enjoy this ship we want to relax, and take it easy.

We head to the dining room for breakfast and I am happy as they has Eggs Benedict on the menu.  But it is immediately clear that the passengers are up and ready to enjoy the last day too.  Those that had been under the weather are taking advantage of today.  The dining room is packed, the staff got slammed at the same time and the service is slower today.  A few around us are complaining but we are like "heck where are you going to go anyways".

The on board outlet sale is going on at 10 am and we wander in, well almost in, as soon as we saw the line up of about 20 people to pay, we walked out without even looking at a thing.  I hate lining up and do I really need anything in there, probably not.  But it does appear that quite a few people scooped up some deals.

We are back in the room around noon when the announcement signal comes over the speaker into the cabins -- you know that is not a good sign.  The Captain announces that because of the storm yesterday our arrival into San Pedro will be delayed by three hours, instead of 7 am we will arrive at 10 am.  I look at Bernie and immediately we both know we won't make our 11:45 am flight.  I head straight to the Internet cafe where a line has already started but I quickly get access to a terminal.  But with everyone trying to access the net, here and in their cabins the connection is slower than molasses.  Again, it is going via a satellite not a DSL cable from the back of the ship and the more on the signal the slower it will be.  Sure it is frustrating, especially right now with needing to make a change to our flight.  It is almost impossible for me to access our airlines web page so I think fast.  I fire off an email to our friend Anita (who is one of next most travelled savvy people I know) and copy my itinerary and ask her to work her magic and we will check back later.

Lunch is in the Crown Grill for the Pub Lunch, much prefer it in the Crown Grill than in the Wheelhouse bar like some other ships, in the Crown Grill you get a proper table.  In the Wheelhouse it is more of a bar setting and the tables are like coffee tables and often too small.  We both ordered the fish and chips and they were okay, and very small.  Other times we have had it and they were larger fluffier battered pieces. 

We try to enjoy our lunch but so many people around us are complaining about everything!  We are almost at our breaking point.  We discuss our options, and I am always the positive one so I say the worst is we rent a car and drive home, or heck stay over night and fly home the next day, no worries. 

After lunch Anita responds and she has cancelled our current reservation that we couldn't make and re booked us on Alaska later.  We did have to pay a cancellation fee, and there is a small credit for future flight, and thankfully using her $99 companion coupon we lucked out.  But we will be getting home later than normal Wednesday night.  We can now relax.

I met up with Kimberly and her son who is a contributor to my Facebook page

We sit and enjoy some nice music in the Piazza and discuss the voyage.  We ponder if these three day voyages are worth doing.  A few things come into play, there are a lot of first time sailors - and not that this is a bad thing it is just that they don't know how things work, and if something goes wrong like the weather, or delay well all hell breaks loose and they are like chickens with their heads cut off.  Now on every sailing we encounter rude, impatient people, but somehow with everything else this just brought out the worst in most people.  I am sure after a few months when it comes to another repositioning cruise we will book again but might need to do a happy dance or two first.

The line up at the Purser's desk is never less than 20 people all day and all night.  The poor staff there are taking it from every angle.  People are asking about arrival tomorrow, wanting off first, bag issues, credits for the internet.  I will add that Princess did provide internet time free for those that required it and asked, and even provided some with free phone calls to their airlines, which shows they do care and is something they didn't have to do.

We decide to head back to the cabin for an hour or so of relaxation before our dinner in the Crown Grill at 6 pm.  Tonight is also the Captain Circle Party, however we can not attend as it conflicts with our schedule, but amazingly when we head down to dinner people are allready lining up to get in the door 20 min prior to it opening.  Come on people you are on holidays, it isn't like they won't let you in.

Crown Grill!  Yes, and as soon as we sit down we notice the menu has changed slightly, the foie gras is no longer there and the lobster tail you can get extra is no longer there, but they still have the small lobster tails.  Also they now serve three different types of salt on the side to go with your steak. 

We take a peak in the Princess Theater for the Stardust Production show but it is packed and we really don't feel like sitting for an hour to watch a show after such a big meal.  We venture down to the Piazza bar where I have a Brown Cow and Bernie has a Key Lime Martini and we chat with Ronnie.

We head to the 50's trivia where we do surprisingly well considering I wasn't even born then and Bernie was born in the late 50's but we came in third.  A nice stroll up on deck is in order, we love to stroll up there and check out the stars and well walk arm in arm.  Can it get any more romantic? 

Time for bed.

The next morning we are up and pack up, and we are not really ready to get off.  That is the downfall of these short voyages, the time is just too quick.  We leave our bag in the cabin and head up to the Horizon Court for a bite, but man who let the dogs out!  The place is a zoo - again with people who have never sailed before and with a later arrival more people are eating at the same time and they just don't know where to go.  Now those that know me know I don't do well in crowds, I actually get a little freaked out.  So I am getting a little freaked, every time I turn someone is bumping into me, line ups everywhere, people complaining, I grab a yogurt and some fruit and run for a quiet spot.  Bernie is frustrated too and he barely gets his oatmeal.  We opt out of anything else to eat for now and head back to the cabin for our bags. 

We have Group 4 (Group 1-3 are for Walk Offs for US citizens - Group 4-6 are Walk Offs for Non US citizens) and we are told we will be off around 10:45.  We sit for a bit in the Atrium, I get a latte and an egg sandwich, Bernie grabs a few items too and we relax and try to digest the voyage, thinking positively.  We head into the dining room that is the Platinum/Elite disembarkation lounge -- it is packed, again I try to breathe and we ask to sit with a nice couple.  But this woman at the next table is freaking out, she has a flight at 1:30 she asked to be in the first group!  They took the first group ticket she had and gave her group 2, why are they letting the US citizens off first, she demanded!  I am getting off 1st anyways, she says.  We both look at each other and pray she isn't on our flight that is also at that time.

Our group is called, we file off, again people are complaining why is the gangway on deck 7 when we are on deck 5, we have to lug our bags.... come on people you asked for self disembarkation which means you are to handle your own bags!  There is quite a long line for US citizens and a short one for Non US, but then again they just let out the Non US citizens.  We get to the agent, Bernie nudges me to look to my right, who is there, but the woman who complained in the dining room, she obviously didn't save time.  We are outside and we head over to the shuttles and we didn't have a reservation and we said we would go with whoever left first, and we got on and the van was now full and we were off.  Again we had to listen to two woman complain and complain.  The cost of the shuttle was $17 each, we tipped the driver $6 just because we wanted him to know we all were not complainers.

We get to the airport, and thru security and to our gate at noon, so there was no way we could of made that original flight.  We had a nice lunch and then relaxed for a bit before boarding our plane home.  During the flight I head back to the washroom only to see miss complainer from the dining room on our flight (guess she made the flight) squished into her middle seat! 

All in all, it was a good trip, not a great trip -- but what made it good and not great has nothing to do with Princess but to do with the rude and inconsiderate people we kept encountering.  We now count down to our Emerald back to back in November and to great memories.

Bernie's closing comments are:  we did encounter a lot of passengers that we would rather not encounter, but fortunately we did meet many who were great and again the staff worked their magic.  They made us feel like we were at home.  This is the main reason why we stay with Princess.
thanks for following.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Golden Princess Day 2 - September 26, 2011

Nothing like the rocking of the ship to ensure a good night sleep!  Hmmm not sure what time it is but gee this ship is really rocking, go back to sleep Vickie, she is really rocking (as the hangers bang in the closet), must be time to get up?  It is 8 am, it is really rocking!  But I have been on ships that rocked before, so let the fun begin.

I get dressed and inform Bernie that I am heading to the Internet cafe and then the International Cafe where we will meet and head for breakfast.

As soon as I head out the door something is different.  There are those airline sickness bags all over the ship, just in case.  At the elevators, in the washrooms, at every bar, at every lounge --- my first thought is really, people get sick with this motion. 

The ship is much quieter than normal.  Bernie meets up with me at the Internet Cafe and we log on (we get $75 Internet package each for free because of elite status, and it sure comes in handy later).  The people around us are grumbling the usual stuff "how do I log on", "how much is this", "why is it so slow", and then the most annoying couples reading out their emails for their partners (really people I am not interested in hearing about little Johnny and how he is sick).  This cruise we opted to not bring the laptop for such a short voyage, and right now I am missing the quietness that comes from using your laptop in your cabin.  For those that are new to sailing, Internet on board a ship is not like logging on at home, there is no long DSL cable at the back of the ship to the last port.  The signal comes from a satellite, and depending on the weather, and the numbers on it speed varies, but it is still better than dial up (for those of you who remember that).  Setting up an account on board is very very easy, but you do need to follow the direction, which of course people don't do. 

We head for breakfast in the main dining room, which I much prefer, but Bernie doesn't, but he is accommodating me.  We are sat with a group of 8 and the meal is very good, I had a lovely fruit plate with yogurt, and toast.  Bernie had his oatmeal.  One thing about breakfast in the dining room is it is long but heck where am I going to go.

We head out to the International Cafe and I get my second latte of the day and Bernie gets his tea.  Yes they do have specialty tea but it isn't the Revolution Tea that they usually have but it is still good he says.  We discuss what we want to do today, and one thing we both agree on is we are tired.

I see there is Zumba class at 10 am and ponder going, but it is cancelled due to the movement of the ship - don't need anyone getting hurt now. 

Some of the entertainment offered today are:  Tour of the ship, Movie Super 8, Friends of Bill W. Meeting, Zumba, Lecture on Restless Oceans - tides, Hurricanes and Tsunamis Can They be Predicted, Morning Trivia, Honeymooner's Champagne Meet & Greet, Texas Hold'Em tournament, Acupuncture, Bingo, Pub Lunch, Movie Red Bull, Martini Demonstration, $500 Slot tournament, Movie Just Go With It, Art Auction, Line Dance class, Movie Midnight in Paris, Veteran's Get together, Ballroom Blitz Dance Class, Sommelier Wine Club, Single Get Together, Golf Chipping Contest, Movie Thor, Afternoon Tea, Wii Bowling, Afternoon Trivia.

We decide to try out the trivia in Explorer's Lounge, we join two women and we fair quite well but not well enough to win.  I decide to wander around the ship and take some pictures and here is a video of how the weather is outside.  The swells are not high considering we have heard of worst the wind is what is the real problem.  Captain says the winds are at force 10, Storm Force Winds.  You can hear the sound the ship is making as the winds hit it, lots of creaks. 

All I want to do is find a quiet place and go and read, so I grab my Kindle and I am off to find a spot and decide to head up to Skywalkers Disco which is the highest point of the ship at the aft. 

I find this nice quiet spot to read and settle in but I am entranced by the weather outside and the sounds around me.  All I hear is creak, crack, creak, crack and crash (as a few glasses break in the bar nearby), I start to freak a little, this Skywalkers is going to go flying off!  I decide time to head to more secure spots on board.  Feeling so tired. 

here you can see the weather outside as I head down from Skywalkers
the pool deck with the rain coming down

covered pool - all pools were drained for safety reasons -most of the padded chairs were soaked because of water coming in thru the panes.

I head to the enclosed pool area to read, find a chair with a nice cushion that isn't soaked and curl up to read.  But can't keep my eyes open, I try to sleep but keep getting water dripping down thru the panes in the ceiling (sure the wind had something to do with it).  I figure enough is enough and head to the Horizon Court to get something to eat.

I get to the buffet and nothing really seems to grab me, I realize my tummy is a little upset.  I am thinking maybe I do have a little motion sickness after all.  I get some soup, a roll and head to a table, lots to choose from, the place is deserted.  I request a Ginger ale, hoping that will settle my stomach.  Can't really finish the meal and then I figure yup it is definitely motion sickness.

I have now been on 30 cruises, and even though I realize I have felt like this before, including the last 20 days on the Emerald where I felt ill one evening, this is the first time I realize it is motion sickness.  I am prone to it, I am not the person who can sit at the back of a van, I can't be in a car and read without getting nauseous, and obviously the times on the ship prior when I thought I was hung over I was actually suffering motion sickness.  So now that I realize it I have to figure out what I am going to do.  I head to the store and purchase some Bonine, a graval type medication - which they are selling very rapidly, along with Ginger Ales and Ginger Pills.  The box contains 6 pills for $8.24 (a bit of a rip off but hey it isn't like I can head out to my local pharmacy). 

I am back in the cabin and Bernie is snoozing and wakes to see me walk in and disclose what I have discovered.  I take one pill and head into bed, after about two hours I take a second one as symptoms are still there and that does the trick.  Ironically I never had an issue with watching the movement, the seas or throwing up, my stomach was just upset and felt tired.  From now on I will take along some type of motion sickness pills, just in case. 

After sleeping the afternoon away we both agree we are not up to dressing for dinner and agree a nice simple meal in the Horizon Court is in order.  We see there are not many people out and about and enjoy a bowl of soup with a bit of pasta and a cup of tea.  The ship is still moving quite a bit and we find ourselves having to grab our glasses of water often as they slide from one end of the table to the other. 

We find out as we wander the ship that numerous windows on the Promenade and Lido deck have broken because of the high winds.  The crew are quick to cover with plastic wrap and board up.  Many glasses have been broken but other than that all seems well.  The ships production show Stardust has been cancelled tonight to ensure the dancers safety.  The comedian will now be in the Princess Theater, comedian is Carl Banks.

Ironically they are still going ahead with the Champagne Waterfall in the Atrium, and then when we see it we see that it is much smaller than normal and they have placed some kind of sticky substance to hold the glasses in place.  We grab a seat in the Bar on deck 5 and notice Ronnie as the bartender.  We sailed with Ronnie on the Emerald in January.  It is always nice to see a familiar face.

Since I am feeling better I decide to ask for my bottle of wine from the dining room that we corked last night, since we didn't eat in the dining room tonight and will not be eating there tomorrow either.  The server says I can get it but it will be a $20 corkage fee, I said really, but it was a gift from the ship and it is already opened and it is in the galley waiting for us.  I said that is okay and decided to see the head waiter in the dining room and when I walked in I ran into Maitre d'hotel Angelo who remembered me from a few years ago and asked what he could, I explained the situation and he quickly got a waiter to retrieve our bottle and it was delivered to the bar.  See even on board one crew member gives you one answer and another gives you another answer.  If you feel you are correct, seek out advice or ask the right person.  We made sure to tip the waiter who delivered the wine.  And Vickie enjoyed the last two glasses of wine from the bottle.

We sit and watch the champagne waterfall, and then sneak out to get seats for the comedian Carl Banks, who I thought was funny but Bernie thought was just okay, and said "he isn't Al Katz".  Really I am just surprised we have never seen this comedian before and I enjoy that.

There is a 70s dance Party going on in Explorers but it is quiet and we really are not into dancing tonight, we are still tired and head to bed around 10:30.

I should mention the officers on board.  The Captain is Craig Street, who we sailed with three years ago when he was Staff Captain on board the Star Princess.  He married a woman from B.C. and now calls the Okanagan home.  Staff Captain is Graziano Napolitano, Hotel General Manager is Danilo Portoso, Cruise Director is David Bradshawe, Food and Beverage Manager is Oliver Neuburger, Customer Services Director is Andrea Cavallucci, Executive Housekeeper is Michael Collins, who was also on the Emerald with us, Executive Chef is John Convery, and the Maitre d'Hotel is Angelo Balbiani who we sailed with on the Golden two years ago.

Friday, October 7, 2011

3 Day Coastal on the Golden Day One - September 24/25

We originally were just going to head down to the pier on the Sunday the 25th to board, but Bernie won some Canuck Hockey tickets to a pre season game on the Saturday.  So we thought why not make it an early start to our mini vacation and head into the city on the Saturday and stay a night at a hotel. 

I booked the Hyatt http://vancouver.hyatt.com/hyatt/hotels/index.jsp?null on Burrard thru Priceline.com for $125 a night.  The hotel is a great location, and the room was wonderful.  We were given a room on the 20th floor facing West.  Thru the buildings we could see Stanley Park.  The room had a lovely king size bed, flat screen t.v., desk and the bedding was like sleeping on a cloud.  The bathroom was outstanding, in fact we took pictures of it because we loved the décor so much we are thinking of using some of the ideas for our future bathroom remodel.

Saturday night before the game we headed out for a nice meal at Rouge http://www.roguewetbar.com/ which is located very close to the pier and in the same building as the West Coast Express, Waterfront Skytrain Station and the Sea Bus terminal.  Had a lovely meal or chicken coconut curry and Bernie had the halibut, and the drink I had called “The Cougar” was divine.

The game started at 7 pm and it has been a long time since we went to a hockey game and now I remember why we dislike going to games.  First the tickets were $80 each and they weren’t that great a seat and this was a pre season game.  The thought of getting a glass of beer was soon put out of my mind when I saw the prices, and they say drinks are expensive on the ship?

Everyone around us seemed to forget that they were there to see a game.  Two women in front of us dressed to the 9s (I swear they spent more on their outfits/hair/jewelry than I make in a week) and sat there chatting about everything under the sun except the game as they each sipped their wine.  The two guys to our left, chatted and took pictures the entire time.  The young couple to our right appeared to be on a first day, and if they took another picture of themselves I was going to puke!  Now really is a hockey game the ideal place to go for a first date and learn about each other?  Then there were the two behind us who drank so much I am sure they must still live at home cause there is no way they could afford all they drank without free housing. 
At the start of the third period, with a clear loss for the Canucks, we looked at each other and said, “do you want to go” and we did. 

We slept like babies and slept in the next morning until 8 am!
Sunday morning we had arranged to meet up with friend who were just getting off the Golden on its one day from Seattle.

We had not set a time because the ship was coming into Ballantyne pier
www.vancouverinfocenter.com/merchant2.php/list2/318/Ballantyne+Pier+Cruise+Terminal and we knew that they had to bus everyone from that pier to the Convention centre.  Bernie and I were hungry so we went for breakfast at our favorite place, the White Spot www.whitespot.ca  (locations all over British Columbia).  While at the restaurant we got a call that they were on their way and we met up with them and grabbed a coffee at the local Starbucks.  It was great to catch up with them both.  They currently live in Denver and are hoping to move to B.C. next year.

It is just before noon and we are back at the hotel but don’t really want to head to the pier right away as we knew things could be crazy with five ships in port and us having to check in at the Convention Centre and then get bussed.  So we dropped our bags off at the concierge and went out walking.  We walked to Canada Place and walked around and checked out the three Holland America Ships in port.  We then walked to Gastown as we wanted to pick up something for a friend of ours we will be seeing in the Fall, and I even got a little something I’ve been wanting.  A lovely pair of Haida engraved silver earings.  A quick stop back at the hotel for our bags and we walk a short few blocks to the Vancouver Convention Centre located two blocks to the West of Canada Place. 

As we arrive (around 1:45) the crowds appear minimal, a lot of people wondering where to go, but there were numorous Princess Reps. around to direct.  We delivered our bags to the waiting truck, to be seen in our cabin very soon.  We fill out the necessary health form, go the other necessary lines and get our cruise cards.  Yeah our 25th cruise on Princess!  Then there was a large area with long tables with about 200 people sitting waiting for their group to be called to proceed to the bus.  Thankfully because of our Elite status we were able to go right to the line for the bus.

We were quickly loaded onto waiting busses and transported to Ballantyne pier.  We boarded the ship around 2:30 (which considering all the unusual circumstances was rather quick). 

We are back on the Golden, this our fourth voyage on her, our third after her retrofit two years ago.  We booked the cruise back in June thru Best Price Cruises www.bestpricecruises.com/ for a very good rate.  We booked an Inside cabin, and the price of our cabin never went lower than what we paid; however for a few dollars more it was very easy to get a great Outside Cabin or even Balcony Cabin.  Even though we prefer a balcony for these short voyages that we take just for a long weekend we felt we couldn’t justify the added expense, not to mention the weather was too cool anyways to enjoy the balcony.  Our cabin was C720 which is aft.  I will go into details tomorrow on the cabin, it’s positives and negatives.

Our steward Marco introduces himself and advices us of the Muster Drill set for 3:45, our Muster Station is the Vista Lounge.  We advice Marco to put the beds together, add a top sheet, add an egg crate (beds are horrible, and bearable with the egg crate), an extra towel and robes.  We did tip him an extra $10 at this time, they work so hard and Marco did not disappoint.

We head to the International Café in the Atrium for a latte and some snack items.  I grab some chicken salad and a tomato and mozzarella/basil Panini and Bernie gets his greek salad and a Panini too.  I order my latte using my coffee card I purchased on the Island (no problems) and Bernie requested the English Breakfast Revolution Tea, but was informed that they don’t have English Breakfast.  We found that odd but figured we will check again tomorrow (sure enough the next day they did have English Breakfast but a different Brand, the new Brand was called Eco and it was quite good he said).

We visit the Future Cruise desk and purchase two Future Cruise Deposits for $100 each.  If you don’t know about the Future Cruise Deposit, learn more it is the best deal in town and always make sure I have a few FCC in my account, just in case.  We also stop by the Crown Grill to make a reservation for Tuesday night, and are given a 6 pm reservation for that night, we can’t wait.

We wander the ship a bit and then head to our stateroom and get our life jackets when the Muster Drill alarm sounds.  We head to the Vista lounge using the stairs (elevators are not recommended if you can use the stairs) our first giggle is a woman who says where is deck 7?  We say this because we are on deck 10 Caribe, on the carpet in front of the stairs is the number of the deck that you are on, the wall has a sign that says what deck you are on.  We politely say, Deck 7 is just a few more down just after deck 8.  The crew in the Vista Lounge are swiping the cards to track who is there.  We wanted to test this so we only got my card swiped and Bernie didn’t hand over his.  No one said anything and no one came looking for him; however he was there.  So obviously they do not track who attends and who doesn’t.

After the Muster Drill we head back to the cabin and unpack our items.  Not much for a three day voyage but we like to have our things in place and feel like we are on a real voyage.  Lots and lots of storage space, and the one nice thing about the inside is the three narrow shelves on the side of the desk beside the drawers, a handy place to put items like cologne, brushes, electronics, etc.

With Elite status you get a free mini bar set up, and even though we love that, for the three day voyage we knew there was no way we could drink 8 mini liquor bottles, two beers, six sodas, and two Perriers.  So we exchanged the entire thing for a bottle of white wine (red is available too – and there were a few varieties). 

Up to the Lido/Sun deck for sailaway, the weather is perfect and the band is good they were called the Melody Band.

We decide to eat in the dining room tonight, it is Italian Night, one we do enjoy and we arrive around 7:00 and are okay with sitting with others and are placed at a table of 8.  Ironically we are sat with a couple where the husband actually works for the same company we do, small world! 

The meal was very good, and we brought our bottle of wine from our mini bar and they opened it up and we drank half of it, corking the remaining wine for tomorrow. 

After dinner we decided to check out the Leonard Maltin Movie Trivia, we teamed up with the couple from our workplace and even though we were not the lowest scoring team we didn’t come close to wining either. 

I did ask about the Power Hour drink specials, and the waiter said yes they do have it and found this ship is serving a blue margarita as part of it’s special along with three others.  The price is $3.99 and it was quite good.  This Power Hour Drink special I did not see advertised anywhere but is usually available after 8 pm in all bars.  Just ask.

We walk around the ship and head back to the cabin and hit the hay.  It has been a great day and it sure is nice to be back on board a ship after 9 months!