Friday, May 31, 2013

Thursday May 30 – Galcier Bay

I am up early and I am dressed and out on the Promenade deck to watch as we enter Glacier Bay.  There are a few of us out there and even though it is cold out I am dressed appropriately.  I have jeans, long sleeve top, fleece jacket and my weather proof jacket, gloves come out later. 

As we enter the Bay there is quite a bit of wildlife, we spot whales in the distance, lots of seals right at the surface and numerous birds.

They are serving hot chocolate and coffee out on deck and of course you can spike it with your choice of liquid if necessary.

The park ranger has come on what I like is he is talking intermittently not constantly however the volume is very loud to the point it is hard to make out what he is saying. 

Bernie pointing out a glacier to Mark

I will add that while travelling in Glacier Bay the rules are very strict.  You are not allowed to bring paper napkins, paper cups, leave food around on the open decks.  This is to ensure that nothing goes overboard or that the birds feed on people food.

We are going in slow because there is so much ice in the water.  We are following the NCL Jewel (I believe) and we make our way slowly towards to the Margerie Glacier passing Johns Hopkins Inlet to our left and Russell Island to the right travelling up Tarr Inlet.

We arrive at the base of Margerie and Grand Pacific Glacier around 11 am and the Captain spends about an hour there turning the ship to ensure a great view from all areas.

Around noon we head back to the cabin and we see some more whales in the distance.  But we are hungry and very tired after getting up so early. 

We decide to order room service – two club house sandwiches very yummy.  And then we are out like a light for a few hours.

Tonight is formal night and we also have the Captain Circle Party.  We are invited to the second party and glad too as the Captain attended that party, he couldn’t make it to the first party because we were delayed in Glacier Bay because of the ice and the ranger didn’t get off until about two hours late and he was needed on the bridge.

Have to say this is the smallest Captain Circle party and it included the Gold/Medalion members cause there are so few people Captain Circle Members.  There are only 81 elites on board.

For dinner we head to the Savoy dining room to try and get a table in Sandudee’s section and his great waiter Na both from Thailand.  So nice to see him again and of course they take such great care of us. 

I have the spring roll to start, the appetizer size of raviloli and then the pork for my entrée and Sandudee insists we get a lobster tail.  But I am not a huge fan of lobster especially the one on the ship just too rich for me but I did have a bite and others around us loved the lobster.  We didn’t have any dessert as we promised to meet up with friends for the show tonight.

We attend the Born to Be Wild Show and loved it – this is the first time I have seen it and how the heck do they get the pink Cadillac on the stage?

Brett the CD is hosting the big party in the Atrium this evening and we head there and dance dance dance and the place is packed.  We had a great time and Brett is a GREAT host.  At midnight we are crawling into bed.
Brett our great CD

Thursday, May 30, 2013

May 29 – Skagway

Well so much for an early night.  After seeing the show – which was amazing we went for drinks with friends in Wheelhouse and we didn’t get back to the cabin until midnight.  What happened next has never happened before in all our cruises.  The couple next to us were having a big argument, well he was screaming at her.  It did not sound good at all, it actually sounded violent and we both grew concern for the safety of the woman.  We decided to call the front desk and when we did they took the cabin number and then we know they called the cabin next to us as we could hear the phone ring.  Front desk called us back and they said they had called them and that they will quiet down.  We told them that yes it was now quiet next door as it seemed that someone had left the cabin.  Even though this resolved the situation I was disappointed that security did not come to their cabin to address it as I did state that it sounded really bad.  In the end it stopped – and this is the first time we have heard them this cruise, and hope whatever was happening has settled down.

We dock early Wednesday morning but we sleep thru the docking and the announcement that we are cleared to go ashore.  We slept in until 9 am and got dressed and made our way to the Horizon Court for a quick breakfast.  I had an omelet made to order, took only about three minutes and was very good. 

It is another beautiful day here in Alaska.  We can’t believe how great it is and this is the third time in Alaska in May and every time it has been stunning.  Today we choose to wear shorts and t shirts as yesterday we were way too hot.  We did bring a light wind breaker too but it stayed in the bag the entire time.  In fact as we went about the entire day all we heard was how hot everyone was and how they wished they had brought more summer clothes.

So we left the ship and decided to do two less strenuous hikes.  We walked towards town (note there is a shuttle you can take for a small fee right from the pier) and then we walked along 1st avenue and turned left at Main and went around the airport to a pedestrian bridge that goes across the Skagway River.  We turned left from there and traveled along the trail to Yakutania Point.  In all it was about a 3 km walk from town return.  Great views from the lookout down Lynn Canal towards the Chilkat Mountains, there is even a picnic table if you wish to have a nice little lunch. 

When we left the lookout and we got to the bridge we thought why not keep walking along this side of the river to see how far it goes.  We walked and came across a pet cemetery and continued for about a half hour but the trail was not passable as the river had caused areas to be blocked by large puddles that made it impossible to cross unless we got wet.  But I believe later in the season it would be fine.  So we back tracked to the pedestrian bridge and back towards town.

We walked along Main street all the way north to Alaska Street where you encounter the Railway Station.   We walked along the gravel road towards the Gold Rush Cemetery.  There is a great write up of the characters buried here, make sure you read to learn more about Skagway.  We continued from the cemetery to the Lower Reid Falls.  The falls was beautiful and running very fiercely.

We are tired, but now we have been hiking for over three hours we are in need of food.  We stop in and get an ice cream and sit on a bench on the main drag and watch many familiar faces go by, chatting with a few of them about their day.  But we need more of a meal and we head into the Skagway Brewing Company.  The food was okay but the service was very poor.  Had to keep asking for things like water refills, fork/knife, napkins.  Our bill came and they had entered my bloody mary drink but there was only a $0 amount next to it.  We pointed this out to our server and she corrected the bill.  Then we paid and she didn’t bring us back the right amount of change but $5 less than it should of.  So we told her she is missing $5, but not to worry that that would be the tip.  Don’t think I can recommend this place at all.  

You can certainly find better food elsewhere and the loud music (played only the Stones, which we like but not for an hour continuously) that it is hard to talk. 

Last year when I was here I visited a store where I bought some earrings and I really wanted to go back.  I found it easily, it is on the main drag of Broadway and it is called Sevigny Studio Art and they have really great art pieces, jewelry, pottery and great service.  You can find their website at   I bought two more pairs of earrings from local artists.

Then of course I had to head to Sweet Mammas for some cupcakes.  We picked up four and brought them back on the ship.  I love cupcakes and the ship does have cupcakes but they are not that good, more dense and the ships’ icing is well not that great and certainly not butter cream.  But sweet mammas’ cupcakes are to die for.

We are back on board and a quick coffee in the coffee bar chatting with a great waiter Sanoi from Hawaii and a few other passengers.

We have dinner reservations tonight in Sabatinis at 7:30.  There is a bunch of things going on tonight here is just a quick list of what is going on.

Dinner was very good at Sabatinis tonight.  I started with the calamari, then a nice salad and the veal chop – cooked perfectly as my entrée.  Dessert for me was Artisan Cheese and washed down with a bottle of wine from the Okanagan of BC. 

Movie:  Zero Dark Thirty.  North to Alaska with Skagway Entertainer Steve Hites, Small Group Jazz in Club Fusion, Evening Gallery Auction, The Princess Singers are performing in the Atrium some Motor City songs, Jeff Warren in Crooners tonight performs Stage and Screen the Best of Broadway, North American TV Theme Song Trivia, Hawley magic performs in the Princess Theater, and movies under the stars is showing Les Miserables.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


It is another early docking but we are not in a real rush to get off and head to the International Dining room for breakfast.  We had a great meal and got to speak with Irma again.  Need a high protein diet so that we have the energy this am for our hike.

Hey and guess what we turn on the morning show and our Jasper Moosejaw is on again.  He is comfortable with Brett.  Guess he is in good hands.

We head ashore just after 9 am and walk towards town and the main bus depot.  We are planning on taking local transit to the Mendenhall Glacier, but I did notice that the price for the local shuttles to the Glacier have gone up considerably.  They are now at $8 each way per person.  Still a reasonable cost considering the ship charges $40 per person and you only get a short time at the glacier.  But since we promote transit as transit drivers we decided to take transit.  The cost is $2 per person each way but you should be aware that the bus drops you about 1.5 miles from the visitor center.  But it is level and an easy walk.

We catch the 10:05 bus, you can take either the #3 or #4 bus and it takes about 45 minutes.  Note you can also take these same buses to Costco and the mall.  We arrive at the visitor center around 11:20 after walking in.  Oh and boy oh boy is it HOT, and I mean HOT.  When we dressed we both decided to wear pants and long sleeve t shirts, and we dragged along jackets.  In the end we were so hot we wish we would of worn t shirts and shorts and forget about the jacket.

We take the Trail of Time (about half a mile) to the East Glacier Trail and start heading up.  According to their info the East Glacier Trail is a 3 mile loop that is challenging with rocks, gravel and stairs.  It is definitely for those that are physically fit.  We don’t come across too many people but a few and a few tours.  We later read up on the Princess tours and the tour to the glacier with a guided trail hike that we did is $99 per person.  Our cost was $4 each person, but unguided.

We loved the hike, we had great views of the Glaciers and the mountains.  We didn’t see any bears but there were warnings.  We did see quite a few birds, a squirrel and a few eagles.  When we took a short hike up Nugget Falls trail we came across some bear scat and decided we would stick to the East Glacier Trail.

We went up to the lookout point and sat there for a bit drinking our water we brought.

this was our rest stop
In all the trail we took, took about 2 hours to do but we did it rather fast as we hike a lot.  We made our way back to the Visitor Center where you can enter for a $3 fee and learn more about the Glacier.  I encourage you to go as we learned a lot here and the guides were very helpful.

Bernie decided to head down to the Steep Creek Trail which is easy and I wanted to head to Nugget falls to take some pictures.  Even though it was later in the day we noticed there are quite a few people here.  A lot of the local high school students are here after school, or maybe they are skipping school.  They are enjoying the water.  Yes they are swimming, in fact a lot of people are swimming.  They told me it was nice but I think I will pass.

We walk back to the main road to catch the bus back to town.  It was very nice riding the bus and chatting with many of the locals.  A great experience I would highly recommend.

We get off at the Federal Building because we had heard of a great sushi restaurant that is right across the street from the Federal Building.  We had great sushi, but they also have some Chinese food items too.

We walk back to the pier, about 30 minutes and get back on board.  I did glance over at the table after the security screening and yes they were taking note of wine/alcohol brought on and they were charging the $15 corkage fee for those bringing wine on.

Back in the cabin and we are relaxing our bodies.  We are sore after about 18 km of walking (around 11 miles).

We are going to meet Peter for drinks in Wheelhouse around 9:30 and then we are going to go and see the Production Show “Do You Wanna Dance”.  It will be an early night.

A link to Mendenhall Glacier site

Monday May 28 - Ketchikan

We dock very early in Ketchikan but we are sleeping and don’t even notice when we dock.  I throw on some clothes and head just down the hall to get my latte and bring it back to the cabin.

This morning Jasper Moosejaw our mascot is on the morning show.  I video taped it so will put it up on Youtube and link it here. 

We decide to head to the International Dining room for breakfast and just squeak in before it closes the door at 9:30.   I get to see Irma and introduced her to Bernie and gave her a kiss from Ciska, we catch up and promise to come back and say hi again.

A quick stop in the cabin to grab some items and we are off the ship quickly and walking around Ketchikan.  The weather is amazing, couldn’t of picked a better day.  When closer to the water we encountered a breeze, but when we were inland a bit the sun was very hot. 

We walk over to Creek Street and check out a few stores, I buy a lovely long sleeve t shirt with a Haida design on the front.

We climb up a few stairways, Ketchikan’s answer to the stairmaster.   I want to visit the Totem visitor park which is accessible by a free shuttle near the pier but can easily be walked to as well.  It took about a half hour to walk there. 
Entrance is $5 per person and you can learn more about the Native People of the area and also the totems that they put up and what they represent.  They have numerous totems that are on display and preserved.  Well worth a stop at if you are interested.  And certainly something you can do on your own as well.
We head back towards the pier and stop in to buy some fudge.  Definitely a treat for us as we love the stuff but rarely eat sweets at home, but heck we are on vacation.

Back on board around 1 pm, all aboard is 1:30 and of course there are quite a few people that are late.  I don’t think I actually stated but there are 1800 first time Princess cruisers on board.  That is a lot!  So I am guessing many of them may not be fully aware of the all aboard time, which is always a half hour before the actual sail away time.

We did head right to the International Dining room when we came back on for lunch.  Since it was 1 pm the dining room was full and they said as soon as we entered “table for sharing” which we don’t mind doing but our only stipulation is that it not be a table of 8.  Six being the maximum cause any more than that it just gets too difficult to hear others at the table.  But they don’t have this and we say we will wait then.  But they shuffle us to an area to wait and we wait but we feel bad when they open up a new area just so we can get a table.

I had the mozarrella cheese sticks to start and Bernie has the clam chowder and then for our entrée we both got the fish taco which had a nice serving of fish in one tortilla with a bit of slaw and lime/garlic sauce and cilantro.  Very good dish.
Now this is what was weird, as we are sitting there the dining room is busy, but of course this is normal.  With the ship sailing at 1:30, everyone comes back on and they are hungry.   It was a lovely meal.

We want to head up for sailaway and so I grab my camera and a jacket and head up top.  Now one thing we have noticed is that you are affected by the weather temperature differently depending on where you are on the outside decks.  At first we went to the main pool area and up to the sun deck and it is windy and it is a little cool on the starboard side.  But if you cross over to the port side where there is more sun it was rather nice.  Then we headed aft to the back pool area on deck 15 and we laid down in the lounger and it is HOT, certainly no need for a jacket, in fact I got a sunburn on my face and chest.  There were numerous people in the pools and even quite a few sunbathing in their bathing suits.

We both are struggling to stay away, and considering we were up late last night we decide to head back to the cabin and have a nap.  Well that nap ended up being a three hour sleep.  When we wake we both comment “well I guess we needed it”.  And we both do feel refreshed.

But it is now 7 pm and if we are going to do dinner we better get a move on.  Now the dilemma is where to go to dine.  We always take anytime dining, in fact we choose Princess because of their great anytime dining option.  We have never liked fixed dining but prefer the variety of dining a different times in different locations and with different people.  Now on the Diamond there is a choice of four different dining venues for anytime dining.  Pacific Moon, Santa fe and Savoy, and also Vivaldi which has fixed seating for 5 pm, but turns anytime at 8 pm.
At first we head to Savoy to see if we can sit in Sandudee’s section but when we get there we are told sorry but they can’t accommodate us but that Vivaldi can.  We said no problem and decide in the end we want to go to Horizon Court so we can eat quickly and head to trivia. 

Horizon court is not very busy and they have quite a few Asian inspired items.  We take as seat near the back deck as it is quieter but it is so quiet that not a single wait staff, even though they are walking around us, asked us if we wanted a beverage or cleared our plate. 

We discuss this and how we notice so far today we have felt that it is almost like we are bothering the wait staff, first at lunch with requesting a table for six or under or for two.  That the wait staff, including the head waiters at the door were annoyed that people were dining in the dining room for lunch.  Then again tonight with trying to get into Savoy and them sending us to another dining room.  Then again tonight in Horizon court where we are ignored.  We thankfully know this is not the norm with Princess but we do say considering how many first time cruisers there are we do hope that they don’t feel the same way cause we want them to keep sailing.  So far this has been the only hiccup we have noticed but nothing serious.

Brett the cruise director is doing a movie poster themed trivia in Explorer’s Lounge and we meet up with friends and try our best but well we just don’t know our movie posters as well as we thought.  But I love this kind of trivia and I am so impressed at how much Brett is out there with the passengers and doing this kind of thing.

Sarge the comedian is in the Princess Theater tonight with three shows.  We catch the 10 pm show and it is busy in there and he is funny, but that is all I will say…. We have seen better and we have definitely seen worse – Sarge is good with his observation humour just don’t understand why there are so many jokes about farting, shitting, and getting things stuck in your butt. 

It is now 11 pm and the ship is dead, not sure where everyone is – the crowd on board is relatively young but I guess they are spread out.  Superfly is playing in Club Fusion, there is a George Michael concert in Explorers, Wheelhouse had a band, there is Movies Under the Stars too.

We walk along the promenade deck and sit and people watch for a bit.  We try twice to speak to someone in Sabatinis about making a reservation, but the first time it was taking too long and we needed to see the show, and the second time we stood at the host station and no one came by for over five minutes so we left.  I guess we have to call the dine line. 

Time for bed, Juneau tomorrow.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday Morning May 26

It is a day at sea and we are sailing up between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia.  This is some of the most beautiful scenery ever.  Since I am up so darn early (5 am, which is really sleeping in for us since we wake normally at 3:30 for work) I quietly get dressed so I don’t wake Bernie and head out.  I walk the promenade deck and just stare and the views. 

After awhile I know I need some food so I head up to the Horizon Court and grab a small bite.  A bit of Musselix, half a bagel and fresh fruit. 

Around 6:30 I head down to deck five to the coffee bar and curly up in a chair near the window and read.  The coffee bar on this ship doesn’t open until 7 am and the staff here are just setting things up.  But around 6:45 the bartender says I can get you your beverage now if you wish.  I buy a new coffee card $29 plus 15% gratuity $4.35 total of $33.35 which gives you 15 espresso beverages.

Bernie comes and meets me and he gets his tea and then heads upstairs to get his breakfast.  On this ship the dining room serving lunch and breakfast is the International Dining room that is normally the Traditional Dining room at the aft of the ship.  Princess is smart they have set up a person on deck 5 and deck 6 near the dining rooms there to direct passengers to the dining room that is open for breakfast – smart thinking Princess.  And trust me there were a lot of people looking.

Seas are so calm, in fact I swear we are docked it is so calm.  Weather is lovely, sunny and clear, and cool but not cold, but if you head outside you do need a jacket as the sea breeze sends a shiver down your spine.  But really you couldn’t ask for better weather.
Lots of things going on around the ship this morning.  There is a Welcome to Princess gathering so people can learn about the loyalty program and that is followed by Future Cruise Presentation.  Goofy Golf Putting in the atrium where you had to put around the elevators, then past the future cruise desk, then into the library.  Looks like they had fun.

I attended Zumba led by Walter and boy was that fun and very crowded!  Worked up a good sweat.  Now it is time to shower then head to Mark’s first lecture on Glaciers All Around.

Mark Harris’ lecture on glaciers was very popular and I learned a lot. 

We are both hungry, it is 2 pm and we haven’t eaten for about 8 hours so we head up to the Horizon Court for bite.  And I wander around the ship afterwards, stopping to watch the last hour of the movie Big which is showing up on the pool deck.  The warm sun on my face is very calming and I am struggling to keep my eyes open.  The weather is perfect, the seas are so very calm that the sun is reflecting off it and blinds us. 

We see quite a bit of wildlife today, a huge school of dolphins played at the bow of the ship.  This morning there was a pod of whales, not sure which kind of whale because they were too far away.  Then this afternoon just looking from our cabin we see about four separate pods of whales in the distance.  We follow them with our eyes and just enjoy their majesty. 

With so many first time cruisers on board a lot of people are lost or trying to figure things out, but the staff are very helpful and many of the seasoned passengers are assisting too. 

We have a great cabin steward (Sherwin) who is very attentive.  A light was flickering in the bathroom and within an hour of telling him it was fixed.  

Today for activities they had the wooden horse racing, slot tournament, Gemstones Around the World lecture, Bingo, Cruise Long Scavenger Hunt, another Zumba class (I popped my head in and again it was packed), golf chipping, line dance class, the movie Argo, carpet bowling and a medical professional get together. 

Tonight is formal night (but we are not dressing up but will head to Horizon Court instead).  Events tonight are a LGBT gathering, Captains Welcome Aboard Party, Majority Rules Trivia, Princess Popstar, and the Production Show tonight is I Got the Music.  What is odd is there is nothing in Explorer’s Lounge except for U2 and then a James Brown Concert. 
I am back in the cabin and it is around 6:30 and I am relaxing while Bernie decided to head up to Skywalkers for a drink at the Platinum/Elite Lounge.  Tonight’s Drink is the Chairman of the Board served with Smoked Salmon with Toast Points.

Tonight we put our clocks back an hour and we dock in Ketchikan early but we leave at 2 pm.  We don’t have any set plans in any of the ports but because it is a short day tomorrow we are just going to walk around.
Saturday May 25, 2013

We arrived at the pier around 11:30 and made our way with our bags to the baggage drop off.  Key was to find the right spot to drop off the bags as there were three ships in port.  We dropped off the bags, and made our way back out to the street and two blocks away to a restaurant where we met up with Connie and Derrick who we have sailed with a few times.  They were in town for a few appointments so we took the opportunity to see them and catch up.  

After lunch we decided to try and board.  It was just before 2 pm and with three ships in port the line for security was longer than normal but it moved continuously and took about 15 minutes to clear security.  Now we wanted to test the wine policy so we purposely brought on three bottles (one more than is allowed without paying the corkage) to see what they are doing at the Port of Vancouver.  When the bag carrying the wine was scanned we were directed to the table just off to the side where we had to show them our wine and they took our cabin number down and we signed a receipt for the $15 corkage fee.  Note you are allowed one bottle of wine/champagne per person to consume in your cabin.  Over that amount you are automatically charged the corkage fee no matter where you consume it.  They took one of the three bottles and put a stamp on it which identifies that we paid the corkage.  So if we take that bottle to dinner we don’t have to repay the corkage.  However if you take one of the other bottles that we didn’t pay corkage on to the dining room we would have to pay corkage.  Seems reasonable to me and I don’t mind, I am just glad Princess allows us to bring wine on.

After security it is customs and again another long line but this moved swiftly too and we maybe spent five minutes in this line.  Then the customary health form, and then we went to the check in counters to get our key card, which took maybe two minutes.  We walked up the gangway and were on!  In all the process took a little longer than normal because of three ships.  Please take note that none of the delays were Princess’ fault but had more to do with not enough security screening and custom agents, and three ships in port.

Once we arrived in our cabin – P330 our bags had arrived.  Sure helped dropping them off early and then coming on board later.  

I should say that we originally booked an inside for this cruise but about a month prior to sailing the price dropped and because of the fare type we booked we couldn’t get a rebated amount but we were able to upgrade to an obstructed oceanview for the same amount we paid.  In the end we were upgraded to an unobstructed oceanview cabin on Plaza deck very close to the art gallery and down a hallway that is a dead end.  It is a great room with a large window and much more space between the bed and cupboards and it is very very quiet.

We meet our cabin steward Sherwin and put in our requests for a few items that we will need, like the top sheet, extra pillows, and extra towels.

Muster was suppose to be at 4 but an announcement was made that they were delaying the muster because of late boarding passengers, and that we would be departing later too.  

So we head out to explore the ship and who do we run in to but Steve the Bar Manager who we have sailed with a few times.  Then Peter John the Captain Circle Host sees us and comes over fast for a big hug.  Oh it is so nice to see him again.  Then we turn around and who do we see but Mark Harris who was the Naturalist on the Hawaii cruise on the Star last fall.  He tells us he just got on 7 days ago and he is on until September.  We loved his lectures and trust me that is saying a lot as we have only come across one other lecturer (Jay Moore) who we enjoyed seeing the rest we couldn’t stand.

As we head up to the Lido deck a bar staff comments to us that he remembers us from the Star Princess in the fall.  We don’t really remember him but we are glad to see him again and we catch up with who is on.

The crowd on board seems really much younger.  There are a few large groups sailing from different parts of the world and it is fun to share this cruise with them.  For many this is their first cruise, and many don’t speak English.  There is a large group from China and we are impressed when they announce the Muster Drill information in both English and Chinese.

The Muster drill is finally held and we attend and yes they scanned all the cruise cards of those that came.  It is nice to have the drill just one floor above ours, certainly made it much easier to return to the cabin afterwards.

As I was saying there are quite a few first time cruisers, and in fact when we walk down most of the hallways all we see is blue cards, and gold too.  We later find out there are only 81 elites, and the most travelled only has just over 500 days.  Boy that isn’t much as we are use to days in the 1,000s.  We do qualify for the Most Travelled Party, we are #10 on the list.

Sailaway is held outside as the skies cleared and we actually had a lovely sunny evening which made for one of the most beautiful departures ever from Vancouver.  There is sailaway party on the Lido deck and we are impressed to see Brett Siborne in attendance.  I say this because for the past six cruises the Cruise Director has not been there.  But I know Brett loves the interaction with the passengers and he is really hands on and it shows.  We don’t hang around the party much mainly because the band – Superfly – is really not to our liking at all, to the point we can’t handle even listening.

Dinner tonight is going to be in the dining room.  At first we try to find where my friend Sandudee – Junior Waiter is and he is Savoy Dining room and we say hi to him but his station is full and we promise we will be back another night.  Instead we head to the Sante Fe Dining room and we are given a lovely table by the window.  Our servers – sorry I forgot their names – but they are a married couple from the Philippines were amazing.  We ordered a bottle of wine and I started with the ricotta/leek tart, then the salad and for my entrée I had the Basa Fillet.  

After dinner we decide to try and catch the Welcome Aboard Show in the Princess Theater. We get a seat up front as we came in kind of late.  It is busy but not full.  Again we are impressed to see Brett there and he really did a great job introducing the ship and welcoming so many first time cruisers on board.  The Princess Dancers and singers performed as well as Sarge the comedian who we thought we had seen but as soon as he came out and started talking we realized we had never seen him before.  We really laughed hard at his show and we look forward to his full show on Monday night.

After the show the ship is dead, really dead, I thought everyone had gotten off!  It was only 11 pm but it was hard to see anything or anyone around.  So we decide to hit the hay.  

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Saturday May 11 - At Sea

We have a restful sleep and are awake early but anything past 3:30 is sleeping in for us as that is the time our alarm usually goes off at.  We awake today around 6 and we both comment on what a good sleep we had. 

It is overcast outside, and foggy and in the distance I can hear the fog horn - since we have a more aft cabin it is less noticeable, but for those up front you would certainly hear it.  Looks like it is either raining slightly or there is spray coming from the ocean.  But we don't care we are on a ship and we don't have to work.

We tune into the morning show and it is nice to see Richard Joseph the cruise director and he is even doing wake show questions.  

After a quick glance at the Patters we see that Zumba is happening at 8 am and I force myself to get up and head to it.  I loved doing it on other ships and want to see how this ship compares.  First it is held in the Universe Lounge (which has a much larger area to work with) and Eve is hosting it and she has a huge following from the Panama cruise and we get into it.  It went on for 40 minutes and we all worked up a good sweat.

I wander down to the coffee bar where of course I run into Bernie who is sipping his tea.  I get my latte and relax for a bit, and I swear an hour passed in a minute.

After a quick shower I need some food but it is pretty much lunch soon so I hold off and head up to the Horizon Court for a bite.  

There is a Holiday at Sea sale today and I pop my head in and I am surprised at how quiet it is, but I am sure with the 700 in transit from the Panama many have already done their buying.   

I wish I could say we did something exciting but we really didn't.  We just relaxed, read, had coffee, chatted with passengers and well that is about it.    Oh we did run into Joel the Executive Chef down in the International Cafe and we caught up with what has been happening with him.  

We decide to head to the Grapevine Wine Tasting and are sat with six other people and we had a nice afternoon there, but it was all the same wines.  Really enjoyed when the Emerald had a few different wines to try.  

When we get back to our cabin we see that they have delivered some chocolates and chocolate covered strawberries courtesy of Executive Chef Joel.  How sweet!  We decide to enjoy our champagne tonight before dinner in the cabin and it goes very well with the chocolates.  Thanks Joel!

Tonight since we are not that hungry and since we had a nap after that champagne we decide to head to the 7:45 Spotlight Showtime featuring Comedian Phil Tag.  We rarely go to the early show and we are shocked when we walk in at 7:40 that the place is PACKED.  We are told by the staff that it is okay to sit in some of the rear rows that are reserved for those with disabilities.  So we take a seat and the show starts very soon after. 

I am impressed that Richard Joseph the CD actually came out on stage to do the introduction.  That is one thing I was disappointed with in Lee Childs, he prerecords his intros and only makes a physical appearance at the end.  So thank you Richard we liked seeing you prior and after the show.

The comedian Phil Tag had his moments but all in all it was 45 minutes I would of rather have been doing something else.  Bernie liked him more than I, but humour is such a personal thing so give him a chance if you run into him on board.

After the show we head into the dining room for dinner and agree to sit with others.  We are sat at a table for six with two other couples, one from Alberta and one from California.  We enjoyed each other's company and getting to know each other better. 

For dinner I had the French Onion Soup to start and it was okay, very salty (which seems to be a trend on this ship), a nice salad, then for my entree I had the Pad Thai and it was good (but too salty again).  I opted out of the dessert and got my cheese plate instead.

One thing we notice is the menu is a combination of items from other menus.  Like they had escargot and then other items that are normally on different menu nights.  Guess with this three day repo they looked at what they could put together and made up new menus for it.  

We wander the ship dropping in on various venues to see what is happening but nothing really grabs us.  We are in bed at 11:30.

Other things happening tonight; MUTS is showing Life of Pi (but the weather really made this impossible to enjoy); Rock and Roll Night in Universe; Music and Dancing with Phoenix Rising; Dan Hodge in Crooners and Light Jazz with Celine DeeAz Quartet in Bayou Bar.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

May 10 - Evening

After the Muster Drill, which was well the usual.... cards were scanned upon entry, yes people put their life jacket on before they should, it was quick and efficient and a important.

We head up to the top deck for sailaway but as we get up there we both comment how we are hungry and the smells from the pizzeria pull us in.  We each grab a slice of the Margarita pizza and sit and watch some of the action.

We order a drink - remember if you are still within US waters you will be charged an extra tax.  It is easily identified on your receipt and will be broken down on your printout.

see how quiet it is

here is Ian at the bottom of the pic

We run into Ian who we met on the Emerald at the beginning of the year where he was a member of the photo department.  But he had applied to join the Cruise Director staff and he is now on the Island on his first contract as a deputy cruise director.  We catch up for a bit before he heads to the sail away party.

The atmosphere is surprisingly quiet and was surprised to see that the cruise staff did the draws and then left!  They were only there for about a half hour, 45 min max.... and then the bad played but most people departed quickly as we pulled away.  I know this is only a three day cruise but this seemed to be a trend on this trip.

The ship certainly doesn't feel full and the demographics are a change too.  Much younger crowd, more kids, families.  I find out that there are over 700 in transit passengers who did the Panama Canal and are continuing to Vancouver.  There is a large school group from the Vancouver area that we find out later is a jazz band that performed at Disneyland and is now heading home.   Those teens were very polite and considerate and looked like they are having a good time.

Among our Elite documentation we received information about the Platinum/Elite lounge.  I am actually surprised they are even having it because on previous short trips they haven't had it.  For this ship the lounge is held in the back of the Explorer lounge.  Along with the invite we were given two coupons for two free drinks in the lounge.  First time we have seen these but like it of course.  Tonight's drink is the margarita with chips/salsa/guacamole.  I get a drink but no finger food, I am saving myself for dinner.

Dinner tonight is in the Bayou Cafe (only on the Island and Coral) at 7 pm - cover charge of $20 each.  We have dined here before but really wanted to try it on this trip again.  We dropped off our bottle of wine ahead of time and it was waiting on our table when we got there.  The Head Waiter welcomed us and asked about the corkage fee.  We stated that we were charged it when we boarded, as I thought we were and was concerned about being charged it twice.  He said that normally they put a sticker on it when they charge the corkage and ours didn't have a sticker.  But he said no problem and did not charge us.  

For dinner we ordered different items.  My appetizer was the sausage which was very flavourful and I enjoyed but way too big, I only ate 1/3 of the dish to save room.  Bernie ordered the peel/eat shrimp which was served with fries and he had to control himself not to eat the fries, also this was a large dish.

We both had the salad which was outstanding and could of eaten two of them.

For my entree I ordered the blackened chicken and Bernie ordered the catfish, which again was served with lots of fries.  We enjoyed both the dishes, but Bernie commented he really wished they had something other than fries served with the meal.

Gee I can not even remember what I had for dessert but it was not memorable what ever it was.

Now the ambiance - certainly not my favorite.  Felt like I was more at a pub than a nice alternate restaurant.  We had a table for two on the edge of the railing where the band Celine DeeAz Quartet played.  Initially we were concerned about the noise level coming from the band and yes it was loud, certainly too loud to carry on a conversation but we really enjoyed the band thoroughly.  But if I had to dine here again I would request a table much further away from the band if I wanted to talk.

In the end we were not charged the corkage and we did tip an extra $20 (note your daily hotel charge of $11.50 includes tips for specialty restaurants) as we always appreciate the excellent service here.   We thought at the time that we had been charged the corkage on the two bottles when we checked in but later found out we had not been charged this as we were within our two bottle per cabin limit.  

After dinner we wandered around a bit and checked out the 70s show happening in the Explorer's Lounge.   Tonight there is also the production show Do You Wanna Dance in the Princess Theater but we were too late to attend it.  

Back in the cabin at around 11 pm where we crawl into bed and have a restful sleep.

March 9 - Off to Los Angeles

Since we wanted to head to Los Angeles the day prior to our cruise we had to arrange for a flight after our work today.  We managed to get a flight that left at 16:25 out of Vancouver with Air Canada.  So after getting up at 3:30 am for work!  Yup I start work at 4:44 am every day but I am finished by 12:30.  

Friends picked us up and drove us to the airport (thanks Dave and Yvonne).  With only carryons we quickly cleared security and then US Customs and we had about an hour to kill prior to boarding.  Let the mini break start.

We landed on time and made our way to the shuttle pick up area at LAX.  We had reserved a shared ride with Prime Time Shuttle to our hotel in San Pedro.  Our shuttle arrived at 19:30, right on time and we shared the van with four other people.  Unfortunately with a shared ride we had to head all over and it took an hour and a half to get to our hotel after making two stops prior to ours.  Traffic wasn't bad but having to travel on non highways to make the stops slowed us down.  I laughed saying "heck this shuttle is going to take just as long as the flight here took".  I will also comment that this driver was very nice and helpful but his driving was crazy and when you are a professional driver like we are you really sit uneasy when you know you are being driven by someone taking chances.   

In the future we will not make prior reservations but will wait till we arrive and then weigh the options between Prime Time and Quick Shuttle to see who offers the best routing/fastest time.  Because we booked ahead of time we were stuck with Prime Time and their routing.

We booked our hotel - the Crowne Plaza LA Harbour at San Pedro - thru Priceline about two weeks prior for $78 for one night (Thursday night).  

When we finally arrived we were greeted by a friendly front desk person who quickly checked us in and gave us a room on the seventh floor.  

Since we hadn't really eaten anything since around 2 pm we dropped the bags and crossed the street to eat at the Green Onion - A Mexican Restaurant that really feels odd, sort of a pub atmosphere/restaurant.  We shared a combination meal and Bernie had a beer.  Although I had to return the glass I was given cause it was dirty, then the plate I was given was also dirty and had to get that replaced.  The food was okay, the taco was very good and also the enchilada too, but the Chili Rilenos was blah and mushy certainly premade and then re heat.  But the price was very reasonable.  Would I go again, probably not but it met our needs for the night.

I will add that the next morning when we had a chance to explore the area of San Pedro we came across numerous restaurants that we could of eaten at and would definitely go to the next time.

Back at the room we curl into a very comfortable bed and crash.  We both commented after waking up relatively early that we slept like a baby and found the room to be very quiet.  Other things we liked about the room was the size was good.  Loved the toiletries and have to comment on the water pressure which was amazing and a great way to start the day.  The restaurant served a very nice breakfast with great service the next morning and reasonably priced.  We would definitely stay here again.

Like I mentioned above we strolled around the area a bit on Friday and were pleasantly surprised at the lovely area we encountered.  Travelling along 6th Street we came across a street market with tables set up selling various items, fruits, vegetables, crafts, food, flowers, oils, and other things.

We stopped at Off the Vine (link to their facebook page) wine store which came highly recommended on the Cruise Critic site.  The owner assisted us by suggesting a few bottles.  Make sure you check out their page and tell them you learned about them from Vickie.

We made our way back to the hotel to grab our bags and even though the ship offers a free shuttle we both agreed with very little bags to drag we could easily walk to the ship and we did.  It was a lovely walk along the harbour to the ship, about 15 minutes.

hard to see but our hotel is the higher building on the right

Check it was very smooth and we were going up the gangway within 10 minutes but that is where the line up started.  On the Promenade deck they had a queue of about 100 waiting to board and scan your card and have your picture taken by security.  When we made it to the front of the line we noticed they only had two scanners and really felt Princess should of accessed the situation and added another scanner.  In the end it took 10 minutes to board, then another half hour lining up for security picture.

Now about boarding with wine - when we went thru the security scanner with our carry on bags which had a knapsack with two bottles in it.  The person reviewing the screen commented that there was wine and directed us to a table nearby.  We carried our bag there where we were asked to show them the bottles.  I am guessing to confirm that they were wine/champagne and not hard liquor.  They asked for our cabin number and our cruise card and they took our folio number down and that was it.  We did not sign anything and I just assumed that they had charged us the $15 corkage but was not sure.  Read more later to find out how it all played out.  

Our cabin E712 a balcony near the aft on Emerald deck was quick to get to and was ready and everything was set up, including our mini bar.  Our cabin steward Nate introduced himself and we put in our request for extra towels, two extra pillows and two more pillows (really wish Princess would change those skimpy little pillows for better/bigger ones, or at least offer a choice).

Officers are as follows:  Captain Marian Manfuso, Staff Captain Goran Favro, Hotel General Manager Richard Harry, Cruise Director Richard Joseph, Customer Services Director Paolo Rellini, Executive Chef Joel Directo, and Maitre d'Hotel Jacques Ghennai.  We are excited to see Richard Joseph - CD and Chef Joel Directo again.