Wednesday, August 27, 2014

November Trip to California and Booking the Three Day Back to Back

I have already posted how we will be doing a 10 day Mexican cruise on the Grand in November.  But since we have two weeks of holidays at this time we thought we should add on to the trip.  

At first we thought about just staying in California.  We checked out hotels and seeing that there was not much under $200 a night that was half decent, then add on transportation, food and the such we changed our minds.

The Golden Princess is doing three day cruises at this time that go from LA to Ensenada with one sea day put in for good measure.  So why not just book that?  All meals, entertainment, and great accommodations are all thrown in.  So we were looking at the November 20 and 23rd sailing as a back to back.

Prices were quite reasonable at $200 for an inside and a bit more for an oceanview.  

At first I thought I will just wait to see if it will come down and one cruise did come down but the other one didn't. Then the other came down but the first one did not. Today I log in and take a peak at the second cruise and I see all inside cabins are sold out!  Price has not changed but now I don't have the option of even booking an inside (of course I could go on a waitlist if I wanted).  

What to do?  

My options are book an inside on one leg and an outside on the second leg, book both in an outside, or splurge on a balcony, or hey why not go crazy and book a suite. Okay I held back on the last two options. Costs wouldn't justify us doing two in an inside for the price of one cruise in a balcony.  

So in the end I booked the highest oceanview guarantee I could get for a great price.  I made sure to link both sailings and now the waiting game begins. If I get the category I booked, fine, but there is a good chance we should get an upgrade.

In the end with tax we are looking at $100 a day for the cruise per person.  $200 total per day, and that is what we would of paid for a hotel on land including taxes. Plus we still would have to pay for entertainment and food and transportation.  

But you can see that even I, with all my travel experience made a mistake in waiting.  If I would of booked a month ago I would of had more options and in fact would of saved a little bit of money too.  

This voyage is not so much about seeing sights as it will be about relaxing before going back to work. 

Plus while we are gone on this voyage my bathroom at home will be under renovations so there will be no rush to come back and deal with that.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hotels in Fort Lauderdale, Florida are CRAZY HIGH

Boy I have been checking out hotel prices in Fort Lauderdale for January and the prices are CRAZY. 

Hotels on the beach, near the airport and even our favorite area 17th Street are so high.  They were similarly high last year in February too.


The Hyatt on 17th street that we use to pay $75 for is going for $300 a night!  Who can afford that, and it is only a three star hotel!

I will keep checking prices in hopes that they will come down or else I may have to resort to staying further away and renting a car.

Anyone else notice this?

* about a week after posting this I was able to succesfully bid thru Priceline on a hotel right across from Sawgrass Mall at the Double Tree for a price of $105 Canadian a night.  

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Sea to Sky Gondala

Today we wanted to head out and try something new. Earlier this year the Sea to Sky Gondola opened near Squamish. 

Because it was a Saturday the roads were busy but then as we were driving we remember, oh yeah it is the Squamish Music Festival too. But the park was not too bad and we arrived around noon after about an hour and a half drive from our home. About 45 minutes from downtown Vancouver I would guess.

Bernie bought the tickets and we had a very short wait to get in the gondola. Each gondola can hold 8 people but going up we were just 5 and coming down we were 6. They will group families/groups together and ask for smaller groups to go together.

The ride was stunning. The length of the ride is ten minutes and it is 1920 metres long, it rises 850 metres and in total the summit is 885 metres above sea level.

Once up at the top there is a lodge that serves food and has a gift shop and washrooms. If you feel adventurous you can travel across the suspension bridge to the Spirit Trail platform for a stunning view.  

We continued on along the Spirt Trail 400 m, then once we were back at the summit plateau we decided to head along the Panorama Trail which is is only 1.6 km and very easy to walk. There are a few view points and a stunning platform view from the Chief.  

We even ventured along the Look Back Trail that was marked difficult, but I really would say it was moderate. The end of the trail takes you out to the View Point with a stunning vista of the gondola and a bit of the town of Squamish.

We didn't see much wildlife today, but that doesn't mean they are not around. I am sure with all the noise from the people they were not interested in coming too close.

There are numerous other trails you can take while you are there but we were late in the day and the sun was hot and we had hiked around for about 2 hours. We would definately like to come back and we even talked about actually hiking up the Sea to Summit Trail which is about 4-5 hours one way and about 10 km with an elevation gain of 916 m.

But today is not that day.  

For more information about the attraction you can visit their site at Seatoskygondola

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Back to Back Cruises and What to Expect on Turn Around Day

We do a lot of Back to Back cruises... the procedure is similar no matter what the port and ship, but it is important to remember a few things may be different so take note of the information provided to you at the end of the first segment of your first cruise.  

Doing back to backs is a great way to enjoy the itinerary and not worry about missing something cause you can do it the next time around.  It is also a great day to do wash in the passenger laundry cause it is quiet.  I also love wandering around the ship on that day when most passengers are off and exploring the ship.  

This is what we received on the last night of our first segment on our last back to back on board the Emerald Princess.

Back to Back Passengers
We hope that you have enjoyed the first segment of your cruise on board ….. Princess and we’re pleased that you’ll be joining us for our next sailing.

As the Consummate Host, we’d like to make your transition to the next voyage as smooth as possible.  Please note that you will be accommodated in the same stateroom*, for the next voyage to Fort Lauderdale. (if we had to change cabins they make it easy - we pack all our stuff in our suitcases, although leave stuff on hangers - and we touch base with new steward and arrange to have our stuff put in the closet of new cabin first thing and then we return to the cabin after they have cleaned it and un pack.  They will help you move your stuff if necessary)

For your convenience, we have enclosed your new cruise card as well as a “Passenger in Transit” card.  Should you wish to go ashore tomorrow in Fort Lauderdale, please bring along these two cards and your current cruise card.  Simply advise gangway security staff that you are a “Transit” passenger and present your cards to avoid delays.

If you do not plan on going ashore in Fort Lauderdale, please meet in Explorers Lounge on Deck 7, Midship at 10 am and bring both your current and new cruise cards as well as your Government Issued Photo ID.  You will be escorted ashore and through immigration.  Once the vessel is cleared you will escorted back on board where your new card will be activated and will then be free to spend your time on board as you wish.  (this doesn't usually take very long, it depends on the number of in transit passengers, but normally no more than an hour tops)

We have also attached some Frequently Asked Questions for transit passengers that you can read at your leisure.  Familiarizing yourself with this document will give you the quickest answers to your questions about transitioning from one segment of the cruise to the next.

Should you have any further questions, or if there is anything we can do to enhance your experience on board, please do not hesitate to contact the Passenger Services Desk.  We hope that you continue to enjoy your time on board the Emerald Princess and escape completely.

* for this case we are staying in the same cabin but there have been times we have had to move.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to settle my shipboard account upon arrival in Fort Lauderdale?
If you have registered a credit card for Express Checkout, your account will be automatically settled on arrival in Fort Lauderdale and re-registered for the next segment of your journey.

Will my present stateroom steward continue to provide service during the next segment of the cruise?
Generally you stateroom steward will remain the same unless you are assigned to move to another stateroom, in which case, the accommodations manager will advise you.  Please speak to your stateroom steward if you have any questions regarding the moving of your belongings to an alternate stateroom and they will be happy to assist.

Will my present dining room waiter and assistant waiter continue to provide service during the next segment of the cruise?
For those who have opted for Traditional Dining, every effort will be made to reserve your same table.  However, there are times when this is not possible due to the waitlist for a particular seating and therefore a table or seating change may be required.  Your table number for the next cruise will be indicated on your new cruise/key card.  Should you have any questions regarding your dining arrangements, please do not hesitate to speak with the Maitre d’Hotel.

Am I required to attend the passenger safety drill in Fort Lauderdale?
No.  It is required by law that you attend the drill in your original port of embarkation.  Although it is not mandatory for you to attend the second drill, we do recommend that you attend. 

As I am travelling on ore than one cruise, will there be any repetition of menus and entertainment?
While the menu cycle will be the same, this gives you the chance to select either the same dish you previously enjoyed, or try another. Similarly with entertainment, this also allows you the flexibility to enjoy the same event or attend another.  Either way, by taking more than one cruise, you will experience even more of our unparalleled dining and diverse entertainment.

What we like to do often on turn around days in Fort Lauderdale is wait for the crowds to get off. We do our wash, we clean up the cabin, we explore the ship and we grab a coffee and meal and relax. Usually we meet up with the other in transit passengers at the set time, but often if it is a large number of in transit we may head ashore just prior. You will need to bring your passport with you to clear customs when you get off. Then we just walk over to 17th street in Fort Lauderdale to have lunch, stock up on supplies (aka wine) and then a coffee at Starbucks and maybe a little sightseeing. We then make our way back to the ship. Sometimes it is quiet at the pier, sometimes it is not. Thankfully we have our In Transit cards and this allows us to by pass lines and just go thru security and then right back on to the ship. Make sure you have your new cruise card with you as you need it for the next leg.