We have been planing a get away this September, or at least it has been in the back of our minds for quite some time.
We have friends coming in September and we can't wait to see them so we needed to work around their schedule as it was way more important to see them than to cruise. After some research we had narrowed it down to a three day cruise to San Francisco, but the price was higher than normal and it had one stop in Victoria which made the port/taxes higher too. So a three day trip was working out to be $300 just for the cruise. Then add on a hotel in San Francisco to extend the vacation by one night and then the one way flight home and the cost rises. The other day while searching cruises I saw that the Crown Princess (the ship we spent 49 days on this year) is doing seven day California Coastals. Even though this is not a preferred or exotic itinerary, it is a nice and relaxing itinerary. It is a chance to really relax and not feel the urge to get off in every port and explore till we drop. This would ensure that we enjoy a week away from work. The price was really right too.... starting at $562 thru my agent with an on board credit to boot. Round trip air fare was only about $50 more than the one way flight would of cost. But we now need to fly out of Seattle so we need to add in the cost of parking down there and hotel. It is a long time between trips - beginning of April to end of September but we know that we have a few booked for the Fall and Winter. Plus it is difficult for us to get time off during the summer months in our job. Plus our house sitter is able to stay here more easily during the school year so she can attend college just a short walk from our place, so it all works out. We are also excited to renew the friendships with many of the crew that we sailed with this year.
Yesterday the Crown Princess was in and I was finally off so we coordinated with some crew on board to show them around.
We arrived at the pier early (around 8) as we were not sure what time they would be able to get off. While standing on the overhead walkway we saw Al Katz the guest entertainer we became friends with many years ago. We knew he was coming in and had hoped we could see him before he flew up to Juneau to meet the Golden. He had some time before he had to catch his bus to the airport so we hung out at Starbucks and enjoyed catching up with each other. After we said goodbye to Al we walked around and then went and waited just outside security for Thais and Beatrice. But after spending 49 days on this ship this year we recognized quite a few faces. We saw our cabin steward coming out with all his bags and I smiled not sure where or what department he was from. Then he smiled back and said hi and it came right back. Yup our Cabin Steward who said "I won't forget your name as it is the same as my wife's name". He is heading home back to the Philippines, safe journey I say as he rolls his bags to the bus. Beatrice comes out after doing an early shift at the International Cafe dressed to the nines and the shoes! Thankfully we won't be walking too too much. I walk with her to Starbucks and we sit and catch up while Bernie waits for Thais.
Thais also works in the International Cafe but today is the day she is going home. We had offered to transport her to the airport and show her around Vancouver for a bit before her late night flight home to Brazil. While sitting at Starbucks we ran into a few other friends... Mark our waiter from the dining room and James from the photo department. Bernie also got to see Francesco while waiting for Thais. We quickly got in the car and heading out as Beatrice only had another hour and a half before she has to get back on board for her next shift. Out to Stanley Park for a quick drive around and a few photo stops. Then down to English Bay and then along Davie and over to Yaletown, Chinatown, Downtown Eastside and then Gastown before dropping her off at the pier. We hug goodbye and we will be seeing her again this season for sure. Now we have more time so we are back in the car with Thais and we drive to Spanish Banks beach and the University of British Columbia grounds.
We head down to Granville Island (boy was it busy here) and we walk around and end up having a lovely lunch on the patio at Bridges restaurant.
A drive thru Shaughnessy and then up to Queen Elizabeth Park (which was busy with a grad class taking pictures for their prom).
We still have more time so we head South to Steveston and grab some ice cream and walk the pier and check out the daily catch and the sights. Off to the airport and big hugs and wishing her all the best. We don't know when we will see Thais again but we were so honoured to have met her and been able to show our city to her.
Next trip is planned. We are heading to one of our favorite countries - MEXICO in November. We love it here, the people, the food, the weather, the music. Well you name it we love it. Originally we were looking at all inclusive holidays for two weeks in Mexico but a few things changed our minds.
Don't really think we can handle being in the same place for two whole weeks. We really want to see a lot more places and we can't really handle being on the beach every day.
Often we like to do things separately and cruising allows us to do this knowing that the other person is okay. On a land vacation we are pretty much always together. I would never head off and do my own thing in port (I could but I just wouldn't).
We normally would stay at a four star all inclusive in Mexico but the level of service we experience on a ship is far above that. Sure we have to pay for our own drinks on board but we still come out ahead after all is said and done.
Lastly the cost of a two week all inclusive is quite high and we can cruise for much cheaper. Also the great on board credits we get from our travel agent, from our future cruise deposit, our loyalty and our stocks goes a long way to covering most of our on board expenses - well almost.
We saw this itinerary and we both really wanted to book it. It visits ports we have been to but also goes to La Paz a place we have never been. Also Loreto is a town we went to a long time ago for a two week holiday and we are looking forward to seeing it again. The ship is the Grand Princess and we have sailed on her but we have not sailed on her since she had her huge dry dock where they removed Skywalkers and put in a few new places. So I am anxious to see a "new" ship. One other thing we are going to do is head to Disneyland prior to the cruise. My last visit to Disneyland was in 1970 and I have a feeling it has changed a bit. Hubby isn't crazy about going, he really isn't into rides but he says he wants us to go there now as it fits in perfectly. Also fingers are crossed some friends can meet up with us there. And who knows if the prices drop on the short Mexican cruise that leaves LA on the 20th we may jump on that too as our vacation time is two weeks and going on a cruise is cheaper than staying at a hotel in Los Angeles. Stay tuned.
Yesterday I listening to CBC Radio and the whole topic was about how focused we all are as a society on ourselves and how we don't engage and meet as many strangers as we use to. They were interviewing a guy who is blogging about his challenge to meet and chat with a new stranger every day. Here is his link: The Stranger Project link. Also I have some friends who I have sailed with independently who just happen to be on the same cruise right now. They were both posting to their Facebook page about their embarkation and I thought "hey here is a chance for them to meet". I sent out a group private message to the two couples and they arranged to meet on board and they even had dinner last night in the Crown Grill. I knew they would get along as they had similar values, and of course they did. Here is a picture Larry posted today of them.
This got me thinking. When we cruise we meet new people when we are forced to meet new people. Like when we choose to sit with others at breakfast. When we have to share a van on an excursion. But what about the other times? How many times have I been at the railing looking out and someone is beside me, or I am sitting enjoying my coffee in the International Cafe. Or I am waiting in line for something. Sure sometimes conversations may start, but often I just try to keep to myself not wanting to bother anyone. I am going to change this. The whole purpose of travelling is to get to experience new things, to learn from the places you are going. So many people have amazing stories and I bet I would learn a lot. I remember on our last trip to South America I was sitting in the International Cafe one day when we were in port in San Martin, Peru by myself and a couple was sitting beside me. I had my head down focused on my Suduko but the man next to me wanted to talk. At first I was a little annoyed but i put down my puzzle and we struck up a conversation. I learned that they both were originally from Chile and that they had to flee Chile as he was an activist that fought for student's/women's/worker's rights many years ago for which the government at the time did not like. He came to Canada as a refugee and he has written a few books on the subject and he is now a professor at a university in Manitoba. We chatted for at least an hour and I learned so much.
I have had many experiences since starting this blog and my facebook fan page, of passengers coming up to me on a ship and introducing themselves to me. I have loved this experience and it has stemmed many new friendships or at minimum the chance to meet someone new. So for my next trip I will challenge myself and I will try and include these new encounters in my daily blog. I am sure there will be some people who just want to be left alone, heck even I sometimes just don't want to be bothered but I will not take it personally. So here is to learning not only about where you travel to but to learning about the people you are travelling with.