Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Holidays to all my Followers

I wanted to take some time today to wish everyone a very Happy Holidays.  This year has been an amazing journey. 

I have been blessed to have been able to explore even more of the world this year.  Our trip to South America rates as one of the best trips we have ever taken.  In fact we often think of going back but are concerned at how it will rate when compared to this year's amazing voyage.  

Being on board the ship for such a long time enabled us to make so many new friends in the passengers and also the crew.

Then to be lucky enough to get to see the Crown Princess every other week docked at Canada Place in Vancouver while it did it's Alaska run was fun.  We often found ourselves down at the pier welcoming some of the crew to the city and a bit of a tour of our city.

Because of all those great friends on board we managed to squeeze some days off work and do a California Coastal cruise in September on board the Crown.  Which we often say was a week away for just the two of us.  It ended up being a very relaxing, romantic, restful get away.

In November a trip to the Mexican Riviera on the Grand enable me the opportunity to return to Disneyland.  I had not been there since 1970 and it had always been a dream to head back.  Three days exploring the two parks was a highlight of my year.  

Then the ten day cruise on the Grand with our friends ended up being a highlight and really enjoyed it.  We were concerned about the ports and the ship but in the end they scored highly and want to do that itinerary again. Especially La Paz.

The two three day cruises that followed on the Golden were a disappointment (read earlier blog to find out why) and left us with some major concerns about the Princess product. But in the end we knew that the time of year and the length of the trip and itinerary may have played a bigger role in the results.  

Although we have not booked any further cruises, other than what we already have planned until we sail this year, to make sure we are still happy with the product.

2015 is going to be another exciting year.  As many of you know my job is unique, a transit driver in Vancouver.  Our holidays are chosen in October for all of 2015.  So we already know when we have time off and what we have planned.

The new year starts back in the Caribbean on our favorite Caribbean itinerary, the ten day.  Which is now being done by the Royal Princess.  This will be our first cruise on the new class and we are both excited about it.  We will be spending a month on the Royal and getting away from the rain in Vancouver.

In June we are heading to Las Vegas!  Apparently no cruise ships sail into Las Vegas but we are still going.  My sister in law is a huge fan of Las Vegas and when she told us she was getting tickets to Brooks and Dunn we wanted to go too. But with no vacation scheduled it will have to be a short get away but filled with great memories.  

This summer is our 20th anniversary and my 50th birthday and since it is very hard to get vacation time in the summer with my job we are moving the celebration to the Fall.  We have booked our very first Mediterranean Cruise.  We are off to Rome baby!  We will spend five days there before getting on the Island's inaugural season in the Med. and then it's Trans Atlantic cruise back to Fort Lauderdale.  This cruise excites us cause we are getting to do lots of research and learn so much.

And finally this coming year represents Princess' 50th Anniversary too and lots of great things are planned. It will also see us doing our 50th Princess cruise in January.  I look forward to reporting back all that that will entail.  

So thanks again for following, happy travels to everyone, and especially a Happy New Year.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Flight to Rome - Too SOON?

Now you know I am organized... probably a bit too organized.  But this is the earliest I have ever booked a flight.  

10 months prior! 

Am I crazy?

We knew flying one way to Rome would not be cheap and we had been trying to get an idea on the cost when planning this trip.  

From Vancouver we were looking at $1600 per person!  So we kept looking and just this week we saw with more options opening up the price had gone down over 50%.

We scooped up a deal - I think.  

Flying out of Vancouver direct to London then a few hours in London then a short trip to Rome.

All for the price of $700 Canadian per person!  And we are flying British Airways which is a better option than some other airlines (won't name names).

I saw that Princess Air was also a good option but the airfare from Vancouver was much higher.  

Seattle is another option and the price was just under $700 US.  So when you add in the exchange rate, the three hour drive, the parking we were looking at just over $1000 each.

So my advice is always weigh out the options.  Decide what is best for you.  What you feel comfortable with.  Talk to your travel agent too cause they may have a better option.

Now I am getting excited.  But still ten months to wait!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Should I Be Worried About Princess' Product

I am finally getting around to publishing our review of the Golden Princess cruise we did in November.  I knew I needed to take some time to calm down after the cruise.  If I would of done the review right after it may of had more emotion reflected in the review.  So we decided to wait a few weeks and I am glad I did.

The cruise was actually a back to back three day itinerary that we did after doing ten days on the Grand.  

The itinerary for these three days was -- Los Angeles, day at sea, Ensenada, back in Los Angeles.  And we did it twice.

For those who don't know me let me explain that this isn't our first Princess Cruise.  In fact it was our 48 and 49th Princess Cruise and we have just over 400 days with Princess.

I am 49 and Bernie is 58.  We love to travel and we mainly travel on cruises and have been very loyal to Princess.   But I have done a few cruises with Carnival and one with Royal Caribbean.

These two trips on the Golden were a big disappointment and we left with some concerns.

I decided to do the review as a podcast cause I really wanted to get Bernie's point of view too and I knew writing it and how it was interpreted could be misconstrued.  

So take a listen and know that in the end we will still sail with Princess in the future.  But we may now look at other lines too.  

But if these issues we experienced are because of cut backs to save money, perhaps other lines are doing the same.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Reviews from a LONG time ago

Before I ever started this blog I was doing reviews of my cruises - from pretty much my second cruise.  I usually posted them on Cruise Critic but I did other sites too.

Here are some of the old ones that I found.

Carnival Spirit Mexican Cruise Nov 2005 

Golden/Grand Princess Jan 2005 - I think my 2n/3rd Princess Cruise

It is fun to read the old ones.... 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Final Day – Ensenada Mexico

We wake to the ship pulling into the bay.  We see that we are docking at the same spot but this time we are coming in bow first with the pier on our starboard side.  Last time we backed in and the pier was on the port side.

We had put out our room service request last night around 11 pm.  When it still had not shown at 8 am (we requested 7:30 – 8 am delivery) we look outside and sure enough they never picked up the order.  ARGH

So I call Room Service and mention no one picked it up.  She blamed the cabin steward, I responded it is not the cabin steward’s job as he is done well before we go to bed and put it out.  Of course this only adds to the frustration we have had with service on this ship. 

She promises it will only be twenty minutes and she is right it is delivered and we are happy (although the order was not correct we just didn’t feel like doing anything about it).

We really are in no rush to get off and we relax in the cabin for quite a while.  The weather is much nicer this time here than last time.  We are in shorts/t shirts and sandals.

As soon as we get off local officials are there checking bags for fruits/vegetables open bottles.  There is even a sniffer dog (the little boy in front of us got a kick out of that as the dog sniffed his backpack harness).  Many people are not aware you can not take off coffee/tea/apples/bananas and a lot is getting thrown out.

the shuttle you can take

We decide to walk into town.  If you want there is a shuttle for $2 per person to town and it is $1 per person to come back.

First stop is Starbucks and then we plan out what we are going to do.  We really want to get away from the touristy area and so we head in land a few blocks to a busy street and then we turn right.  

We walk and walk, we check out the shops and the merchandise and we are amazed at the sweet sixteen dresses… WOW and they are not cheap.  We probably walked for about an hour and a half before finding a place to eat.  

We chose Tacos Maru and we have a lovely local meal at a very reasonable price.

We walk back toward the main drag and then back track and head across the waterway to the old Casino that is now a museum and Cultural Center.  The cost to enter is only $2 and it is a fair museum, nothing that will blow your socks off but it is informative and we learn some new things. 

We walk outside around the gardens and then into the Cultural Building.  Now this is impressive.  This building use to inhabit a large hotel and Casino that the gangsters use to frequent.  Then when the embargo on Cuba came into effect the celebrities use to flock here for a getaway and to gamble.  The building is very large with historic pieces still intact.  It is showing its age and could benefit from a real historic renovation.

I think the city should really invest some money here.  Make it look like it used to when all the old celebrities use to come here.  Set up a cultural show and dinner and marketed it to the tourists.  They would love that. 

hmmm I wonder if they will regret buying this

We walk back to the ship for around 2:00 pm.  One thing with so many new cruisers they are not aware of the procedures so as we approach the gate to the pier no one has their cruise cards out.  We just flash ours and come right thru.  When we enter the security line again it is long and people are not aware that they have to remove items from their pockets.  They also have to show their cruise cards and of course they are searching for that.  I would say it took twice as long than normal to get on board.

the line for the International Cafe

I was craving something sweet from the International Café but the line is CRAZY.  Guess everyone else had the same idea. 

I run up to the Horizon Court to grab some cheese/bread/dried fruit to enjoy our last bottle of wine with. 

this poor guy was stuck here for two hours

When I head out on deck I see that a bunch of seagulls are on the deck above us.  We see that the people above us left food out and guess who is enjoying it.  The birds.  But when we come out the birds fly away, except for a small juvenile seagull who is trapped in the 45 degree angle of the aft balcony between the steel wall and the glass railing.  It just doesn’t know to back up and fly away it just sees forward and it’s reflection and keeps trying to fly up and forward but can’t go anywhere. 

After about an hour (after I went and got our boarding passes printed) I see that the people above us have in fact closed their balcony door now.  But they did nothing about the bird stuck there.  I call the front desk and ask for the Environmental Officer to come to the cabin.  They show up at ours (go figure even though I said it was Caribe Deck Last Cabin).  They head up there but they call us later to say they can not go in the cabin cause it has do not disturb up.  Really!  Gee it is a bird that needs assistance.  Even we tried to call the cabin but there is no answer obviously they put up do not disturb and left the cabin and the bird.  Shame on them.

Finally after two hours the cabin steward attends to it with a bath towel and it flies away.  Gee for a while there I thought the bird would end up in California.  The woman above us says the bird has been there an hour now and we respond actually it is over two hours we called it in but they could not take care of it cause you had do not disturb on the door.  Okay Vickie patience, but I am hoping this person has learned something.

We pack up our stuff… always a sad thing.  We don’t have a lot but we do have a bag each and one small roller bag for carry on.  But we do need to take into consideration the no liquids things and pack accordingly.  Both bags are well under weight so at least we don’t have to worry about that.

Our flight tomorrow is around 2;30 and we have a direct flight home to Vancouver.  The flight is not long so we should be home around 6:30 pm after a quick stop at the grocery store for essentials for lunches/breakfast the next day.

Back to the grindstone Thursday.  Christmas time is always a crazy time with passengers on the buses.  I think we have around 8 weeks until our next voyage in January so stayed tuned.

I will be preparing some more podcasts about this voyage and some of the ports and will do a few blog posts just on certain ports for information. 

I hope you have enjoyed the journey with us.  It has been great. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sea Day!

Yeah… well maybe yeah.  We decided to get room service for this morning instead of fighting the crowds on board.  The throngs of kids and large groups is noticeable.  Even though it is nice to see the families and the younger people on board it is cramping our usual cruise style.  But we need to go with the flow and adjust.

We relax in the cabin for quite a while and only head down to the International Café for our usual coffees at 10 am.  The doors to the Bijoux sale have just opened and you would think it is a Black Sunday Sale they are rushing the door and you can’t move in there.  I make it in, but just to the first display and have to give up.

Instead I walk up to Calypso Cove and check out the new 50th Anniversary items.  I end up buying a lovely sweater (not one of the anniversary items) and it will come in handy on future trips.

Bernie heads to the trivia and I head to the casino to do some donations.  Normally I am not a big gambler on board (or even at home) but since we had quite a bit of on board credit I thought why not try it.  I end up breaking even… and I walk away.

Bernie says he wants to go up on the top deck for some sunshine. Me I just want some peace and quiet and I think right now on this ship the only place I am going to find it is our cabin. 

I do head up to get some lunch to bring back to the cabin and as I climb the stairs I almost trip over this large group of teenagers (around 15) in a circle at the base of the stairs.  REALLY can you not find some other place to hang out at.  But I don’t want to slam teenagers or kids in general.  There are a lot of great kids on board and a lot of very polite ones too, often a heck of a lot with better manners than many adults I meet on board.

I did try and make a reservation at the Crab Shack for the last day but couldn’t get thru to the dine line at all yesterday before sail away and today when I try at noon the only spots available are after 9 pm so we pass and Bernie promises me we will do it on the Royal.

Nap time!  I know I should have been more productive but the nap is calling and I just can not deny it.  I wake refreshed and ready for a busy night.

It starts with drinks in Crooners chatting with the amazing bar staff there.  We have reservations tonight in the Crown Grill for 6 pm.  We are sat at a great table and Ivan is our server again.

We order a bottle of wine and I start with the Spinach/Beet/Goat Cheese Salad.  Then the Black and Blue Onion Soup.  I really don’t want steak tonight so I go for the seared shrimps served over rice.  It is a nice change and a bit lighter.  Of course the Chocolate Obsession for dessert! 

The food is amazing!  Sadly the service was not.  But like the other night this is not because Ivan is not a good server it is just he has way too many tables to serve and he gets no help from an assistant or the head waiter.

We had to refill our wine glasses, and we even had to reach into the ice bucket to fill our glasses with the sparkling water too, when we just couldn’t wait any longer. 

No one came to ask us how our meal was or if Bernie’s lamb was cooked correctly.  We ordered dessert and it was delivered and no one asked if we wanted tea or coffee.  We asked for tea and an assistant came and delivered it but she really didn’t know what to do… we then asked for milk (as she brought neither cream or milk with the tea). 

In the end we both comment that we love the food but the service is lacking in the specialty restaurants.  Is this a sign of cutbacks?  Probably… but sadly it may mean that fewer people will do it.  I know we have cut back how often we dine in the specialty restaurants because of the changes.  It just is no longer special, in fact it is often poorer service than we get in the dining room.

We leave the Crown Grill and we are happy to say we didn’t over eat!  The party in the Atrium is just wrapping up.  Looks like a good crowd.  Lots of people are dressed up, even the kids look amazing.  Many are posing for pictures… what a great souvenir.

There is quite a bit happening around the ship tonight.  Hawley Magic is on board this ship too (they were on the Grand last week) and they have two shows tonight in the Princess Theater 8:15 and 10:15 pm. 

After using the washroom on deck six near the dining room I noticed it was in desperate need of cleaning – garbage’s were full, no toilet paper, one toilet was full, mess on the counter.  It had been an hour and a half since the last cleaning and with so many people using this washroom because they access it while dining or partying in the Atrium.  I pick up the nearest phone and call the Purser’s Desk…. Of course I get the voice mail saying press one for dining, two for housekeeping, three for reservations, four for blah blah blah… I just press 0.  And what do I get the menu all over again… press one for dining, two for housekeeping… blah blah press for tours… argh!  I hang up and just walk over to the Purser’s Desk and inform them that the washroom needs attention. 

We stop into the Explorer’s Lounge for some music with “Dealing with Colors” which is a young band but they are very good.  It is Rock and Roll Night and the music theme is from that time. 

Majority Rules is starting and we decide to stay and enjoy and we have some good laughs.

We enjoy our two free cocktails with our coupon in lieu of the Captain Circle Party. 

After the game we head towards Vista Lounge to see the comedian but it is 9:30 and the show starts at that time and I know that it will be impossible to get seats (and it is impossible).  The comedian Derrick Cameron has another show at 11:15 but we are both not up to hanging out until then.

We are back in the cabin and we see we have received our disembarkation information and luggage tags.  We received Gold 5 which is independent US Citizens.  There is a group for Non US Citizens so Bernie heads down to the Pruser’s Desk and he comes back with the Non US Citizens group.

They are having a happy hour again tonight in Skywalkers Nightclub from 10 pm to 11 pm.  But who are we kidding we won’t be there.

Other things happening:  Stateroom TV Movie Maleficient; Uber Rossi is preforming again in the Piazza (busy guy); MUTS Teen Guitar Hero; Piano Bar Luke Yates; Rock and Roll Night Theme party in Explorers; Texas Hold Em Players Meet in Casino; MUTS Guardians of the Galaxy; Karaoke in Explorers.

Sunday Evening – Sail Away from San Pedro

Great Sailaway

Because we are in transit we don’t have attend the Muster Drill again so we lay on a lounge chair up on deck 16 aft for some R & R.  The sun is shining and it is a very different sail away from the one a few days ago.

They are doing quite a bit of work around the ship.  I guess with these short trips it gives workers time to come on board and do jobs.  I know the bathrooms by the pool were worked on last trip and this trip I see they are working on the bathrooms deck 14 aft by the elevators.  I think they are putting down new tiles.

Bromley is on board

Today they are also working on the flooring around the main pool by Muts.  For some reason at the sail away party they are putting down some sort of coating that is very strong in smell.  The workers all have respirators but the DJ standing right by it doesn’t.  We go to the party but there is no way we can dance at the spot they have right by the pool cause the smell is too strong.  We head up one deck, at least there is a bit of a breeze but I still feel like I am getting stoned from it.  We can’t hang here for long because of it and head back to the cabin for our own sail away. 

We get all the paperwork again.  We once again are one of the Most Travelled Passengers and this entitles us to dinner at one of the Specialty Restaurants.  We get two drink coupons in lieu of a Captain Circle Party.  We get our certificate from our loyalty credit – we get $75 loyalty credit as this is our 49th Princess cruise.  At 52nd it will go up to $100.

Neither of us feels like going to the dining room so we just head up to the Horizon Court for a meal.  The food on board has been very good.  Service is a little hit and miss.  But heck we are on holidays and at least I didn’t have to cook and clean.

We head to the Atrium where Megan is hosting the Martini Demonstration.  It is a fun one certainly a bit more entertaining than some that I have seen. 

Princess Theater is showing the Production Caliente which I think we have maybe seen once before.  We sit right up front and we notice a large section on the port side is closed off.  We later see that it is for some passengers on board who are hearing impaired.  Princess has provided a stand and an interpreter and even the words of the show and someone is signing for the hearing impaired guests.  Now I have to say I commend Princess for going that extra mile.  Everyone should get the opportunity to Come Back New! 

The show is great.  But I have to speak up here.  We sit near the front or in the front.  The singers and dancers can see maybe the first two or three rows only and to look out and see people that look like they are in a trance (or like Bernie calls them Zombies).  These guests never clap, never move, sometimes fall asleep, and the guy beside me had his legs up resting the side of the stage and he picked his nails most of the time.  Really, show some emotion and reaction to the amazing show.  At least clap after each song.  So Bernie and I try to show our appreciating and we really do.  Great job Golden Princess Dancers and Singers.

We head to the Casino for a bit to make a donation.  But it is just too smoky we don’t last long.

Explorer’s Lounge is having Liar’s Club hosted by John and the Cruise Staff are the Liars.  But it is long and drawn out and well relatively boring.  I much prefer when they get some of the officers from around the ship to be the Liars.

We stay in Explorers cause there is a late night trivia.  We are joined by a couple from LA (actually I have yet to meet someone on board who is not from California) and we enjoy getting to know them. 

The trivia is all about Princess…. Now that is a topic I can do well at.  In fact we got 12 out of 13 questions right.  The only one we got wrong was how much dark chocolate per day does the ship use – oh and the answer is 110 lbs per day.

We won a bottle of champagne and gave it to the couple with us as they are celebrating her birthday.

Off to bed.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday Morning – Turn Around Day

We wake early from the thrusters pulling into the port at around 6:15 am.  Argh… I have a headache too! 

I maneuver to the bathroom and try not to wake Bernie with the light as I stumble looking for an aspirin.  The other thing about this room is the closet is right at the foot of the beds so if you want to dress in private and not wake the other it is almost impossible.  But he is awake anyways.

Bernie heads down to get some coffees and we sip them in the room and contemplate what we should do for breakfast.  We know it will be a zoo in the Horizon Court but we attempt it at 9 am thinking maybe most are off already.


It is crazy!  Both sides are open and for some reason on this ship they have two entrances to the buffet open (at least for breakfast).  After struggling around the people getting food I opt just for some fruit and a bit of scrambled eggs.  I gave up trying to get hot food or bread cause of the crowds.  Really miss the outside station in the Horizon Court like other ships have that have the toast/pastries. 

I tell Bernie I am going to head aft to try and find a table, but they are all full so I head outside.  I get a table and put my stuff down and then head back in to let Bernie know where I am.  When I come back my plate is gone, boy they are efficient.  I walk back to the buffet and say to Bernie “I give up” and head back to the cabin when we both realize the dining room is open for breakfast till 9:30 so we head there.

There is only ten minutes before it closes and we are sat at a table for two.  The waiter quickly takes our juice order and food requests.  They feel really rushed around us.  The staff I am sure are trying to get this breakfast over and done with so they can do what they need to.

Back in the cabin the stewards are busy doing up the rooms for the new guest that are going to board in just a few hours.

I write up my blog from the evening before and try to post on line but it is down cause of the turnaround. 

So I pamper myself a bit with a facial and deep hair conditioning treatment and a long shower in that huge shower! 

At 10:15 we head down to the Piazza to have a coffee.  I did manage to get some pictures of the beautiful window suites on deck six forward. 

I see that the Princess Dancers and singers are rehearsing in the Atrium a new dance for the 50th Anniversary.  It reminds me of the Come Back New show they are doing, in fact it is the same song but the words have changed to reflect the anniversary.  I hope they preform it this voyage, if not I am sure I will see it in January on the Royal.

Bernie says he ran into Sami Baker our cruise director who just got on this voyage.  We sailed with Sami on the Star three years ago to South America.  Bernie went up to her and said “hi Sami, remember me” and she said your face looks familiar but I can place where/when and Bernie jokingly responds “WHAT and you said it was a night you would never forget” and they both laughed. 

We are “In Transit” meaning we are coming from the last voyage right onto the next voyage.  We have been given information to meet in the Crown Grill with all other in transit passengers at 11 am.  However at 10:45 an announcement comes that all in transits should head to the Crown Grill now.  So we do and someone from the staff checks us off the list.

In total I would guess there are about 50 in transit (guessing numbers here), many are workers who are doing work on board, also a few entertainers too.

Now we have never done In Transit in LA before we have always done it in Fort Lauderdale or in South America.  It is a bit different here, or at least it was this voyage.

We are lead off the ship, binged off from security.  Lead down the gangway, thru a very short customs line to an agent, passport stamped and then lead down the escalator to the first floor.  Now this is where it gets weird.  We then proceed out of the building, turn left at the sidewalk and walk back in the main entrance, past the workers handing out health forms, up the escalator, thru security and then to the holding area.  It is kind of like we are pens.  One for in transit, one for bon voyage experience, one for elite/platinum/suites, then one for each group.

We sat here for 35 minutes until they had clearance we could get back on board.  I am not sure why we have to wait.  They should have had a count of zero right when our last in transit got off but for some reason we waited until 11:45 to board. 

We are the very first group to head back on board, binged back on with security and we are back on the ship.  In total it took one hour. 

I don’t think I would do many of these three days back to back because a turn around every three days is a bit much, heck turn around after ten days seems a lot more civilized.  But all the staff working ashore and on the ship make it worth it.

Once I get on board Bernie and I head to the International Café for a sandwich and coffee. 

I run into Ali and her Mom who are on board for the afternoon.  Ali is so very helpful on my facebook page with lots of great information.  Her Mom is a wealth of info too with all her experience in cruising going a long way.  We had a lovely visit with them and hope to one day sail together.

Saturday Evening

After a restful nap we dressed and took one of the bottles of wine from L.A. Cetto winery to the dining room ($15 corkage fee).

When we arrived they had no record of us dining there tonight.  That again we are dining at the Crown Grill at 7.  When we say we never made a reservation at Crown Grill they apologize and sit us at a table in Denise's section.  

The head waiter apologizes and we say it all started the first night when we wanted to thank the Maitre D' but he was directed to the wrong table and since then Princess has confused the two couples.  

The Maitre D finally comes over to introduce himself and we thank him for the bottle of wine.  And he is confused cause again he was not aware that he was directed to the wrong table the first night. We all laugh at it and we are fine with it, but it has been a running joke.

We had a lovely diner and we decide to head over to the Crown Grill to make a reservation for the second night of the next leg.

Guess what, when we get there and give our cabin number the Head Waiter (that started the whole mix up) gives us a tisk tisk saying we didn't show for our 7 pm reservation!  We fill him in on what happened but I don't think he got it.  Oh well .....  We have our reservation for Monday night now.

We head around the ship for a bit.  We stop by Explorer’s Lounge to sit in on the Movie Poster Trivia for the last part of it. 

Vista Lounge is having the Marriage Match game and Deputy Cruise Director John is hilarious.  He does a great job at it.  A host can make or break this game and he does an amazing job.

Final thoughts on this first three day cruise.

Really nice to see a younger crowd.  Lots of families too.  Lots getting introduced to cruising for the first time.  They were quick to take part, enthusiastically take part which is a nice change.

Lots of partying, but not in a bad sense, just people enjoying the lounges, the music and the time away.

More kids definitely are on board and that is nice to see too. 

We really like our cabin and it’s location, it has a lot of positives and a few negatives.  I don’t know if we would book this cabin for a longer voyage but it is a nice treat.  It is perfect for tall people with that huge shower.  Also great for a couple where one may have mobility issues.  Negatives are it is two twin beds.  It can be made into a Queen but you will have little clearance at one end and no beside table/light for one person.  No full length mirror.  Cabinet next to bed instead of drawers.  The bathroom needs a nightlight so you don’t have to turn the light on and wake the other person in the cabin.

Staff are very patient and have to work harder to assist a lot of new cruisers.

Entertainment had a huge variety with lots to do all day/night.  Seemed even more than a longer voyage.

Food was very good on board.

But also the demographic of the passengers was a negative too. With so many new people on board we found it was often difficult because of the flow.  I guess we are use to people who have cruised before and know the routine and cruise life (and there definitely is one).  So it is a plus and minus.

A lot of people purchased the all inclusive drink package and we saw a lot of drunk people.  Security was much busier too dealing with those that had too much, and more kids running wild, and a few adults running wild too.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ensenada November 22, 2014

We are pulling into the Bay de Todos Santos and we are docked right at 7 am and I am shocked cause we get clearance right away to go ashore.

We are doing a tour here and don’t have to be out on the pier until 9:20 for our departure at 9:30.

Last night we put out our room service request and it arrived right on time.  The server was so bubbly – a ray of sunshine so early, and of course she opened the bathroom door like everyone else always does thinking that is the exit. 

We are docked at the Ensenada Cruise Port Village and we can see that a Carnival ship is also pulling in right after us. 

The tour we booked was the Casa Dona Lupe and LA Cetto Wineries with Wine Tasting.  It says in the tour info that it leaves at 9:30 and returns at 1:30 and the cost for adults is $49 and children it is $49 (note only those that are above the age of 18 can drink at the wineries).

The description from Princess is:  Discover Mexico’s wine country on this half day excursion.  You will visit two wineries in the Calafia Valley renowned for the quality of their grapes:  Casa Dona Lupe and L.A. Cetto.  Pioneers in the development of wine in Mexico, both have been plying their craft for hundreds of years and are highly respected for their expertise in the production of sherry, wine and brandy.  Learn how wine is produced from the crushing of grapes and fermentation, to the pressing, aging and bottling.  Afterwards, enjoy a wine tasting accompanied by an assortment of cheeses and biscuits.  The wines can be purchased from the wineries at considerable savings.  Upon return to Ensenada, you’ll have time to explore Ensenada on your own or be escorted back to the ship.

Now anyone who knows us knows we usually don’t do ship’s tours, not because they are bad, but more because we like smaller groups, more control and more options.  But for this trip we had some extra on board credit and thought why not do a tour and we had heard good things about this tour.

We met on the pier at 9:20 am as written on the ticket.  We are directed to a large bus that had air conditioning and plenty of room.  But every seat is filled (There were about 60 of us on this tour). 

We are introduced to Sol our tour guide for the day and the driver Ramon.  Sol’s English is excellent and she is very funny.  She provided lots of information about the area and makes it fun.  As we drive thru town she explains the history of Ensenada and what we are seeing, she goes into what three things drive the economy here in Ensenada – Fishing, Tourism and Wine Production.

The drive to the first winery is about 50 minutes on good roads and the views are stunning.  We both comment that the area looks a lot like Chile when we did the wine tour there.

Our first winery is L.A. Cetto that has been in here for three generations.  Sol introduces us to the guide from the winery – Jerry – and he takes us on a tour of the winery from grape gathering to the fermentation – how red and white wines are fermented different, and even sparkling wine.  The next building is where they store the red wine in three different size barrels depending on the type of wine.  He tells us a bit about the history of the winery and then our final stop is the wine tasting room.

We head to the wine bar and with 60 people trying to get wine and food it is a little overwhelming.  The people on the tour are nice though and people at the bar help by passing glasses to those of us at the back.  We try four different wines, sparkling, white and two reds. 

You do receive a bottle per person as part of the tour – and it changes depending on what they have available, today we received a Cabernet-Malbec 2013 called Marqués Del Valle.  We will enjoy it tonight and another day on the next leg.

The winery also produces olive oils and they have samples of great bread and olive oil.  My only concern was first it was hard to get to with all the people and also not enough napkins cause the oil often leaked thru the bread thru the napkin to your hands.  A plate may have been better but then again that would have been hard to hold and drink the wine. 

You were given the option to buy some wine here and their other products and many did.  I think if we would have been getting off the ship and not having to fly we would of bought something.

Back in the bus we are then driven a very short distance to the second winery – Casa Dona Lupe.  This winery we don’t receive any information on we are just directed to a beautiful courtyard where we are provided with a small ticket that gives you four tastings.

Dona Lupe the owner is there and she introduces herself.  I do find out from Sol that all the wine here is organic and produced here.  Sol is a great source of information and she is making sure we all get different types of bread (my favorite is the jalapeno bread, in fact we bought some bread to take back to enjoy with the wine). We also get some pizza and cheese with three different sauces.  Very good and a nice treat in a beautiful setting.

An Aztec Indian performs a welcoming ceremony and it is beautiful with blessing for the earth, sun, sky and the people. 

The only odd thing was after the ceremony they played music, great but Pink Floyd although I like just seemed an odd choice.

Again we have the option of buying wine, cheese, bread, candies, sauces and lots of other things.

Back on the bus for the drive back – which was a good time for a siesta. 

We chose to get off in town and walk around a bit.  We walked thru the fish market and stopped to get some churros and a hot chocolate and we sat on the marina and people watched.

I love Ensenada, I certainly felt safe here, probably a heck of a lot safer here than I did in some areas of California and even at home.

We are back on the ship around 3 pm (all aboard is 4:30) and I am tired.  Not having a nap for the past few days I think I am owed a nap todays.  I wake just as we are pulling out as the thrusters come alive below us.

We received our in transit information – meet in the Crown Grill at 11 for Customs if not going ashore.