Sunday, April 27, 2014

Platinum / Elite Lounge

If you have attained Platinum (5 cruises or 50 days) or Elite (15 or 150 days) status with Princess' loyalty program, or are in a full suite you will receive a card from the Captain circle host that outlines the days the lounge is open (usually every day except the nights the Captain Circle Party is).

Here is what we had for a drink special and complimentary pre-dinner canapes while we sailed on a 10 day Emerald Cruise.  Drinks are now $5 fleet wide.

Beef Steak Tartar with Melba toast - Chivas Regal Rob Roy

Smoked Salmon with Toast Points, Onion rings, capers and lemon - Chairman of the Board

Authentic Mexican Salsa with tortilla chips - Mojito

Wheel of Stilton with port wine, walnut baguette - Sandleman's Port

Herb-Marinated Goat's Cheese with Crisp Rosemary Flat bread and Tomato Bruschetta - Brezza Marina

Shrimp Fountain with cocktail sauce - Cosmopolitan

Assorted Sushi with soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger - Japanese Slipper

Note there are usually cheese, veggies, crackers and olives also served.

I have seen it where there is someone at the door checking names to ensure you are allowed in, and I have seen it where there was no one at the door checking.  There normally is a sign stating it is the Elite/Platinum Cocktail Party and/or Private Party.  

I often get asked, can I bring my friends who are not Platinum?  Well technically the answer is no.  But do I see it happening, yes.  I don't think they would have a problem with bringing one or maybe two people in but like all the rules on the ship, if everyone didn't follow them there would be no sense in having them.  So if you hate if people don't follow dress code in dining room, save seats in theatre, throw towels on lounge chairs to hold for hours, and send their kids into the adult pool then you know what the answer is.

We have found that on our last couple cruises we rarely even go to the cocktail hour as we find the times don't fit well with our dining time of around 7:45 or 8 pm.  I don't want to dress early just to go there and then when it closes down at 7 I have to wait around even longer for dinner.  Also now that they have raised the prices up to $5 it really is not enough of a savings to entice me.

One thing we have noticed on some ships (note may not be available on all ships) is that you can order any of the drinks that are on the Elite Menu, so even though it is Rob Roy night you can order a Mojito for the same price even though it is not Mojito night.  

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Ordering Wine On Board

Do you enjoy wine?  I know I do.  And because my job day-to-day requires me to be alert as I drive for a living I rarely drink anything at home.  But boy when I get on a ship I sure enjoy my wine every night at dinner.

Princess recently updated their wine list and there were quite a few of my favourites that are no longer there, but I can say now after sailing recently I have many new favourites. 

A great place to try a glass of wine is Vines (if your ship has it).  Vines will sometimes even let you sample a bit of wine before you buy, especially if you are a regular and you want to try something new before you buy.  Note this only happens if they already have a bottle open.  

Then if you want buy a bottle of wine in Vines and then enjoy a glass and they will store it there with your name and folio # so you can enjoy it the next night.  I love doing this, nothing better than a nice glass of wine on an afternoon at sea while reading a book.  

For dinner I ask my waiter or head waiter for a recommendation.  This has given me the chance to try wines I would not normally try.  Again if you don't finish the bottle your waiter will gladly cork the bottle and save it for another night.  Lately I have found they have given us a small card with the wine and the dining room you had it in that you can present the next night if you are dining somewhere else.  This is handy if you are dining in a speciality restaurant or maybe horizon court. 

My favorite dessert is the cheese plate and the opportunity to enjoy the rest of my wine.   

For those of you who like Princess you probably already know about the wine package.  But for those of you who don't let me tell you a little bit about it.

Wine Package is available on most cruises that are at least ten days or longer.  However we have been on a few longer cruisers where they didn't have it so be warned it may not be an option.  But if it is read on.

It is a bottle promotion whereby passengers can prepay for bottles of wine of varying quantities at a discounted rate. There are two packages that are available and you will need to decide for yourself which one will work for you.

Silver Package -- is any bottle of wine up to and including a cost of $29 in value.  You can buy a 7, 10 or 12 bottle package.  

Gold Package -- is any bottle of wine up to and including a cost of $45 in value.  You can buy a 7, 10 or 12 bottle package.

For us we first went with a gold package, then after that was finished we bought a silver package.  We found it much easier to find wines we liked in the gold range than we did in the silver range.  There are not many bottles that are $29, most of the ones we bought were around $33

Here is how it breaks down for the silver package which is a $29 bottle price  

If you buy the 7 Bottle Pack: total cost is $161 making the average bottle $23
If you buy the 10 Bottle Pack: total cost is $210 making the average bottle $21
If you buy the 12 Bottle Pack: total cost is $240 making the average bottle $20
Here is how it breaks down for the gold package which is a $45 bottle price 
If you buy the 7 Bottle Pack: total cost $217 making the average bottle $31
If you buy the 10 Bottle Pack: total cost is $290 making the average bottle $29
If you buy the 12 Bottle Pack: total cost $336 making the average bottle $28 

They punch the card as you use up your bottles.  If you bought the silver package and you order a bottle of wine that is say $34 what you will find on your bill is the total cost of the wine charged to your account then that evening the bar manager will credit your account the $29 which then means you are only charge $5 for the difference.

Note the 15% gratuity is added to the final cost when you buy the package.  Also if you don't consume all the bottles in your package you can get them and take them off with you. You can use your card in any restaurant (including Horizon court, Specialty Restaurant, or any dining room).  You can not use it in any bar, Vines, or for room service.  But we once ordered one at dinner to be sent to our cabin and we had no problem with that.

Below is a sample picture of our gold 12 bottle package.  We were very happy with these packages and would definitely do it again.  We found on our voyage, which was a very long one (49 days) they started to run out of some wines.  This meant we had to find another wine to pick, but great recommendations from our waiter, head waiter and even the bar manager led us to new favourites.  So don't be afraid to ask for recommendations.

Note if you get the Silver Package ($29 bottles) and you buy a bottle of wine that is $34.  What they do is charge you the $34 and then later that night the $29 credit shows up on your account.  So it is nice to try higher price wines than what you bought and you just pay the difference.

How Do I Book A Cruise

People ask me this all the time.  Probably at least five times a week.  It isn't a easy question to answer.  

How do I book a cruise, is easy, but how should you book a cruise could be very different.

For me I book thru an online travel agency I have used for a long time.  

I have a specific agent I use all the time.  Connie knows me and takes very good care of me.  I have cruised over 60 times and know the industry quite well.  I know the cruise line I want.  I know the type of ship I want.  I know the type of cabin I want.  And I feel very comfortable navigating the web to find and answer most of my own questions.  

So the answer I give on How Do I Book A Cruise is easy.  I book with Best Price Cruises.  

But before you go and search out Best Price Cruises make sure you are like me and can answer many of the reasons above with yes.  

If you answer no to more than two of the above reasons I recommend the following:

Find a reputable travel agency that knows cruising, trust me not all of them do.  Ask your friends for a recommendation. Find one that you can walk in and go and chat with them. 

Not all agencies are alike and it is key to find one that you can head to or call easily to answer any questions you might have.

A good agency won't just book you on a cruise that is having the best deal they will ask you questions about what your needs are and what you look for in a vacation.  Not all cruise lines are the same, not all itineraries are the same and are suitable for everyone.  

Note our last cruise to South America that was 49 days would not be a good cruise if you are bringing small children.  I think I could count the number of kids on one hand, therefore your kid would be bored stiff.

As many of you know Princess Cruise line is our cruise line of choice, it suits us.  We have been on other lines and even though they were good they were not for us.  This means that Princess may not be necessarily the line for you.  A good agent will fit the right line for you and your travel companions.

Also a good agent will find you the best cabin type for your needs as well.  Would an inside cabin be okay with you and then save the difference?  Or is this a trip that a balcony is the only way to go?  Or is it a special trip that a mini suite or full suite could make the trip EXTRA special?  Also they will make sure the cabin location is also the right location for you.  They also can help explain what a cabin guarantee means.

I have even heard of agents that enter all your data into your cruise personalizer, print out your boarding pass and luggage tags.  Have it all together neat and tidy with sometimes extras like luggage tags, luggage straps and even some have all kinds of gifts if you are on one of their group cruises.

The last choice is going directly with the cruise line to book your cruise.  Now I know many people who do this with no issues whatsoever and wouldn't change how they book. But I have to say that booking with an agency will be far better.  

It will never cost you more than booking directly with a cruise  line.  In fact it often costs you less that booking directly.  Agencies have a lot of booking power and can often get great deals on many sailings.  And many times they have bonuses that you rarely see thru the cruise line. Like on board credits, bottles of wine, small gifts etc.  It is important to note that agencies can not advertise online their best deal.  Often you need to enter some details and they will email your their best quoted price.

When you book directly with the cruise line you don't have anyone protecting your interests.  A good agent will ensure you are taken care of.  If there are any issues they will deal with it directly with the cruise line.  And trust me things happen.  I know my agent has worked very hard for us.  I recall one time them calling Princess directly to get something corrected which was really my fault.  Connie my travel agent reminded Princess how often I have sailed with them and how dedicated I am to their brand, and the issue was resolved and I even got a bottle of champagne when I got on from Princess welcoming me back and thanking me for my continued loyalty. 

No matter which way you book, it is important that you ask lots of questions to your agent and that you read all the important information on your cruise personalizer.  Make sure all travel documents are taken care of.  Make sure you have proper passports, visas, or anything else you may need.  A good travel agent will make sure you are aware of this.

So head out and book a cruise, and enjoy.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Planning for Future Cruises - Care to Join Us?

The one downside of doing such a large cruise this year is that it used up almost all of our vacation time this year.  So what is a girl to do?  But plan a future cruise.

We really missed the Caribbean this year so I discussed with Bernie, do we go back next year?

The one good thing is that the Royal will be doing the 10 day itinerary instead of the Crown.  Now is that good or bad, well I guess it depends who you ask.  

We haven't been on her and I really want to see her, but there are some things I will miss from the Emerald (Skywalkers, Oustide cabins, wrap around promenade, oh and the Explorer's Lounge).  But there are quite a few things that I am looking forward to on the Royal (Champagne Bar, Fondue dinners, the aft area of the ship, the bigger showers, the new Live Theater, the larger Horizon Court and well a ton of other things).

Bernie's birthday is the 18th of January so it is a given we have to be away then.  But the ship is scheduled to leave on the 18th, so it looks like it will be our embarkation day.

We have now booked the highest inside guarantee on the Royal for a back to back to back.  Thirty Days again!  We talked about twenty but we knew that we would be disappointed if we had only twenty so we thought lets do it for thirty.  This is why we have to book an inside, we just can't justify the added costs for the balcony.  If we booked a balcony for twenty days it would actually cost more than the thirty days in the inside.  

We are also excited because we will get to see so many of our friends again.  On each sailing we will have friends we know on board.  

So if you are interested in joining us, look into the January 18, January 28 and the February 7th cruises on the Royal.

Ports include:  Princess Cays, St. Thomas, St. Lucia, Barbados, Grenada, Bonaire, Aruba, St. Kitts, Dominica, Antigua, and Grand Turk.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Disembarkation - April 5, 2014

We prepared for the worst - and boy it turned out a lot better than we expected.

When we disembarked two years ago in San Francisco after our South America trip, and last year's Grand South America trip both experienced horrific disembarkation.  This was mainly because after visiting so many foreign ports where drugs can be an issue and first port back into the US after almost two months sometimes draws a red flag.  Customs agents last time came on board and we all had to clear customs before getting off.  Sniffer dogs were all over checking bags.

This time completely different.  

We were assigned a disembarkation time of 9:00 in Da Vinci.  Of course there was a Platinum Elite Lounge.  But with so many in that category they actually had two lounges.  Club Fusion and Explorers, your location was based on your cabin location.  

We stayed clear of those two lounges as they were packed.  We agreed a quick breakfast in Horizon Court and then we would head to Da Vinci.

Horizon Court was quite quiet... and we grabbed a simple breakfast, may as well get use to smaller meals just like home.

We head back to the cabin to grab our carry on and then down to the International Cafe to grab a coffee and relax until our meeting time.

Things seems to be going smoothly as walk offs are off and a few of the first groups.  There are two gangways on Promenade deck, one just outside of Club Fusion and one right beside Explorers.

We head to Da Vinci and take a seat.  They are a bit behind but nothing too serious.  

Johan wanted us to contact him before getting off so we head towards to the aft gangway and get in touch with him. Since our group has just been cleared we head off and give him big hugs and have to say I will miss him dearly.  He is such a sweet man and so kind and even though he has only been on for the last leg you can see how much smoother the ship has run since he got on.  He is very good at his job.  Love you Johan.

We are off the ship.... wow where did those 49 days go?

The line up for customs was divided between US citizens and Non US citizens.  Even both lines were rather long they moved fast and I think it took us about 20 minutes to clear.  

The bags were all lined up in a huge warehouse.  I stood near the front where our first bag was while Bernie went looking for our final bags.  While standing there a few bags behind me fell down. A few minutes later this passenger was trying to get by and said loudly to me "can you please move these bags".  

Well I kind of lost it, I had been holding it in for so long trying to be polite and patient and today I am sad and I am now off the ship and I just look at him and say "why should I have to pick up other people's suitcases" and his snarky response was "well it looks like you would be strong enough" and I said (okay don't hate me) "you seem so full of hot air that you can probably blow them away".  Then turned my back.  

We quickly leave the building which was a zoo with porters, lots of suitcases and passengers in a daze on where to go....   

We have been here so many times we know exactly where to go and we head outside and cross the first lane to the small island where the shuttles and taxis are.

At first we were going to take a shuttle to the airport but when we got there and there was a large group waiting around the shuttle area and not a big queue for the taxis and after seeing the prices for taxis we both agreed that for the small amount extra we would just take a taxi.

Taxi price to LAX from the pier was quoted at $57 and that is just about right I think it came to $55 plus tip.  A shuttle is normally around $17 plus we would of had to pay extra for the added baggage and we would of had to share with others and we just really needed our space right now.

We made it to the airport in great time, only a half hour, but then again it is a Saturday morning.

We are dropped off at terminal 2 for the Air Canada flight.  There is a bit of a queue for check in.  Why is there such a long queue?  Seems check in is still long no matter that we have pre checked in... why is that.   We then drop off our bags for scanning.  Have to say that LAX, at least the few terminals we have been, is poorly designed.  Just is not wide enough at check in for the queues and then the baggage drops.

We head to the Security line and we are disappointed that they don't acknowledge our Nexus Pre Clearance that gives us Global Security Entrance and access to that line in security.  Not sure why, it works fine in Seattle, San Francisco, Fort Lauderdale and New York recently.  ARGH so into the normal security line which took about a half hour to clear.  

Our flight isn't for another two hours so we have time and we head to Wolfgang Pucks for a meal.  Then of course I need a Starbucks, it has been a while but it goes down so well.

I decide to stop in and check out the Duty Free Shop.  Prices here are higher than on the ship but the selection is much bigger.  I decide to buy a bottle of the Hendricks Gin as the ship didn't have that brand and I am now addicted to these Bramble drinks that call for it.  The price was $44 for the bottle, and is a little cheaper than Canada.

The flight was quick, full, and crowded but on time.

We get off and head to the Nexus Line and scan our iris and we are out of there... simple!

Our bags are off and we are out the door and Bernie is off to get the car and an hour later we are at home and starting to unpack and well reality sets in.

To an amazing trip... and yes we would do it again in a heartbeat.

Last Night of Cruise - SAD, VERY SAD

Can you believe it!  This is the last evening.... 

We decided to tackle the packing just prior to dinner and amazingly we did

it together and we had only a few stern confusing looks at each other but we did it very well and we still loved each other at the end of it.  

We got everything in the three bags and the carry on.  We left one small roller bag to store my camera stuff and then store the necessities for the evening.

The hallways are filling up with lots of suitcases but they seem to really be on top of things and are collecting the bags constantly.  

A last drink in Crooners to toast the cruise.  Of course the place is busy, many others have had the same idea as us. Here is my last Bramble drink.

We wander around the ship to say goodbye to all our new friends.  A few tears are shed, lots of hugs, and promises to keep in touch.  It is easier to say goodbye tonight than to say goodbye tomorrow in the midst of all the craziness.

A last night with Mark and Lorelei in the dining room.... even they are emotional.  We have been blessed having had the chance to be served by such an amazing team.  I hope they realize how special they made our cruise and how they added to the joy of it.  You are both welcome to contact us in Vancouver for a tour anytime you are in port.

After dinner we try to hook up with Johan but he is not in his office.  I know we will see him tomorrow though.

The International Crew Show is tonight, it has been a long time since we have been to one so we walk in and grab a seat last minute.  

It was a lot of fun and of course Dan and Lisa certainly make a great comedic pair.  

The finale is the If I Were Not Upon the Sea and to see Dan in his ballerina outfit was priceless.  We are so glad we decided to attend.

We crawl into bed and snuggle and feel sad it is over, but happy to be heading home too.

Friday, April 4, 2014

April 4, 2014 – Last Day of the Cruise

I awake so darn early but we had to put the clocks forward today so really it is 7 am but we are now on Pacific time. 
Bernie heads down for tea, I skip the latte and will head down there later for my coffee. 

Lots going on today, here is a break down:

Tango Class, basketball shootout, ping pong get together, backstage tour, book club get together, trivia, golf putting challenge, Texas Hold’em Tournament, Enrichment Lecture Neptune:  King of the Seas with Jeffrey Wolff, Zumba, Farewell and Tacky Souvenir Exchange, Battle of the Sexes Trivia, Afternoon lecture with Michael Ziegfield about Puppetry Special Effects in Film and Television, Afternoon Movie on Mutts The Italian Job 2013, The PMS Gameshow with Dan, Enrichment Lecture with Jeffrey Wolff Gecko’s From Tails to Toe Pads, Bingo, Afternoon Tea.

Tonight’s Entertainment:

In stateroom movie:  Oz the Great and Powerful, Sabbath Service, The International Crew Talent Show, Movie The Great Gatsby on MUTS, Milanga Night with Jorge y Anabel (where everyone who has been learning the Tango all cruise long will get to show us their talents), Evening Movie in Princess Theater Mandela:  Long Walk to Freedom and the usual musicians.

My internet minutes are winding down so I am not sure if I will be able to add more to this blog until after I get home. 
But I am guessing today will be a relaxing day (of course).  Coffee, reading and I want to try and see the talk about the Puppetry, then Dan’s game show. Tonight I am hoping to see the International Crew Show and hopefully the Milanga Night. 

But we are also need to do the rounds and say goodbye to so many, passengers and crew.

Thank you for following us on our journey…. If you have any questions feel free to post a comment or better yet come and join my Facebook fan page click here and pose a question there.

I am in the midst of writing up a final review of the entire voyage that will cover everything, cabin, ship, entertainment, itinerary, ports, shops, dining venues and bars and more.  

At Sea – April 3, 2014

We wake and both realize only two more days and we feel like taking advantage of doing nothing cause soon enough we will be waking and heading to work.

It takes me a long time to get moving and when I do I head down to our neighbourhood coffee shop also known as the International Café for my latte and Bernie soon joins me. 

There is another sale in the dining room for three hours but I stay away, I really don’t need anything but it is busy.

The weather is a little cooler today with a strong breeze – temperatures are in the mid teens C, we are no longer in the tropics. 

The ship seemed to have a hum of frantic business as people go about getting their last minute items done and a lot of people are saying goodbye to new friends.  Many are sad to leave but happy to go home.

People are lining up changing their disembarkation luggage tags just to the right of the Purser’s desk that never seemed to be quiet.  We are fine with our time so no need to change. 

Our cabin has not been cleaned so I want to stay away so he can get it done so I search out a quieter spot to read my book that I can’t put down.  I see Explorer’s Lounge is being set up for the art auction at 1:30 so I sit in one of the couches.  There is maybe one other couple in here and after a half hour a group of six come in and where do they sit?  Yup right beside me and chat loudly…. REALLY of all the seats they could of taken they have to sit right beside me. 

OH well off I go to see if I can find Bernie and maybe do lunch.

He is not in the cabin and it is still not cleaned so I head up to the Sun Deck (which is quite busy with those getting a bit more sun).  I walk thru the Horizon Court, around Café Caribe, which is hosting a Dessert Extravaganza and looks lovely but I need to eat lunch first.  I grab a plate and some salad, loved the bean salad and a sandwich.  I sit with the Burns (Jimmy and Lynn) who we have gotten to know really well.  And darn it if an hour doesn’t pass by like a blink.
Oh I should say there is so much sea life out there today.  All you had to do was look out for a bit and you saw turtles, dolphins and lots of whales – LOTS of whales.

When I get back to the cabin Bernie is there.  Apparently he was at Barb and Craigs for drinks and had a nice time. 

I wander into the perfume store and see that they have my lotion that I bought last cruise on sale again.  When I originally bought the first bottle I was told by the store manager Claire that was all they had left.  But today there are five more bottles and I buy two more and I was happy when I got the discount that I got from my first sale as I bought enough to get the 10% discount, plus my elite discount… now that is a deal!  Great service from the shops on board.

And boy where does the afternoon go?  Still lots going on around the ship but we relax in the afternoon.  We discuss packing and agree that for the sanity of our marriage only one of us will pack and the other will leave the cabin while this is happening.  Bernie volunteers and I am okay with that.  I will clean some things up and put aside what I will wear for disembarkation and he can pack all the rest.

Tonight is a formal night and we dress and meet up in Crooners for a drink.  The music is playing and people are dancing and the atmosphere is one of celebration.
UNTIL – the Captain comes on and guess what we are under Red Alert again.  Seems this flu virus has caused the numbers to go up again.  Although I really haven’t seen it around.  Yes there are a lot of people hacking but having heard of many getting ill with Noro.  I have been hearing of a lot of people having stomach aches but many are saying they feel it has more to do with what they ate as it passes quickly.  And I have to say I agree, today I have such a tummy ache and I am thinking it has to do with the yoghurt I had at the IC this morning.  It was very very sour and warm and after a few bites I put it aside.  I think this is what caused my tummy issues a week ago too.  I am curious if they are taking notes on those that are ill and exactly what they had eaten.

We head into the dining room at 7:55 but there is someone at our table!  Apparently the Guissipe sat someone there later and they were still on their dessert.  Hmm so we wander around for ten minutes and head back in and they are just setting up the table now.  So nice to see Mark and Lorelei again. 

We have two more bottles of wine left on our wine package and we decide to get the two tonight. One to start and one to take back to the cabin.  One issue is they are running out of many of the wines we like and won’t get restocked until Los Angeles.  We ask for the one we like Nobilo and Stephen the Head Waiter finds one in Club Fusion so he heads there to get it.  There are no more bottles left so we ask if he can find any Dazante and off he goes again and searches and WOW he finds the last bottle.  Such great service and truly appreciated.  We make sure to tip him tonight to thank him for the great service.

I am not really hungry but Bernie is really hungry as he didn’t eat lunch.  So I try and eat lighter tonight.  I try the Thai Salad Roll and they were very good, the tomato soup again GREAT and reminds me of my own homemade soup.  Bernie ordered a small appetizer of the ravioli with mushroom and he really enjoyed that too.  For our entrée we both got the pumpkin filled crepe served with squash.  Bernie has been raving about this dish for so long that I had to try it.  He loves it, me, not so much I found it way too rich for my taste and didn’t finish it.  Mark was all worried and wanted to get me something else but I was fine and feel well soon enough I will be back to eating a lot less so I may as well get use to it.

For dessert I enjoy a cup of green tea and some orange sorbet which was so good and soothing.  But we need to go as we are having a friend over to the cabin for drinks soon.
In reflection today is a day of anticipation of looking forward to heading home and reflecting on all the adventures we have just experienced.

And I want to say Happy Birthday today to my Mom…. She has been gone for three years now and I know she is watching down and travelling along with me in spirit.  Love you.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Evening - April 1 – 2014

We are not hungry tonight and neither of us feels like dressing for the dining room.  We still have three bottles on our wine card so we get a bottle of wine from the card from the dining room and we take it to vines.  Note you can’t use your wine card in Vines or any bar, silly I think.  You bought the card you should be able to use it anywhere. 

But we do take the bottle and sit in Vines.  Anthony is happy to get us some glasses and some sushi/tapas.  I had the tapas and sadly they were not good, except for the chicken brochette was good.  The asparagus wrapped in salmon was not to my liking but may be to others.  The Bruchetta was so salty I couldn’t even eat it same for the crab stuffed mushroom. 

I just head over to the International Café and grab a Cuban Sandwich and some orzo pasta salad and that hit the spot.
A bottle of wine later and we are wandering about the ship.  The Ole Pub Night is happening in Explorers and since we missed it last time we grab some seats up front but way to the side.  Even twenty minutes early it was hard to find seats.

It was a fun night and really enjoyed the show but it probably is not something I would come back to see over and over like I would many of the Production shows.  Oh and Bernie and I were brought up on stage to take part in the pub games, and well we did not do very well.  But we did get a Princess magnetic clip each. 

We did enjoy the sing a long and the jokes they told and the songs they performed.  It is a nice change and addition.

It is just after 10 and we crawl up the stairs to the cabin and what do we see but our luggage tags and disembarkation information in our mail slot.  Oh well reality sucks but we are ready for it.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - April 2, 2014

Up early – WHY!  Maybe my body is telling me it is time to get ready for going back to work and very early shifts?  But I read for a bit and wake slowly.  Bernie has gone to get the coffees and we sip and read for quite a while.

Yesterday was the first time I took out my IPhone and looked at my upcoming work schedule for next week.  So last night I was thinking about work and returning to reality.  This morning it is the same – what do we need to do on Sunday to get ready for our work week?  What routes am I doing?  What days off do I have next week? 

Also what is more tragic is we don’t have another cruise booked before we get off this one.  That hasn’t happened in a long time.  It isn’t that we don’t want to sail again.  It has more to do with this trip took most of our vacation this year.  We still have a few weeks late in the year but are hoping to do a land vacation (famous last words).  Also we will probably book the Royal for next January/February just not sure of the dates.

Both Bernie and I head up to Horizon Court for our breakfast, I refuse to go back to the dining room for breakfast as I much prefer to grab something quick and hot than slow and cold from the dining room.  I enjoy a hot bagel with hazelnut cream cheese and an apple.  Just right!

We are not docking in Puerto Vallarta until noon so we still have a lovely morning to enjoy.  There is a lot of sea life out there today.  Lots of whales, turtles, and tons of dolphins, and as we approach the Bay of Bandaras millions of jelly fish.

I attend the speed Sudoku in Adagio Bar at 10 am.  This is the first time I have been to one as they only hold it on port days when we are normally on shore.  Today I arrive a few minutes early and oh my do you ever feel the vibration up here.  It is horrible.  I know we feel it in our friends cabin A747 but it doesn’t feel this bad.  I have to say this ship you really feel the vibration, more so than the Emerald, and not sure why.  Okay back to Sudoku I suck normally at trivia but I am good at Sudoku and I come in second and win a lanyard.

The ship is crazy – one thing about docking at noon people are chomping at the bit to get off and have converged in the Piazza near the gangways. 

I walk out to the Promenade deck and watch as they set up the gangways and the vendor are setting up.  A Mariachi band is starting to play and the photographers and some locals dressed in full Mexican costume are there to pose with those coming off. 

My favorite thing was watching so many of the crew who were having family come meet them and tour the ship.  The crew were so excited, I see them running all over the pier trying to find their family and once they do meet up the hugs and kisses and tears.  Lovely and I am touched.

The gangways are packed with people when they open them up.  I am glad we decided to gather at 1 to go off and even then it is still quite busy.

Today we decided to go to Bucerias which is a town about 20 minutes by car north of the port.  We offer to our friends Jan/Michael and Barb/Craig to join us.  Since we are docked at pier 3 (new to us as we are normally at 1 but a Carnival ship is there and a Holland ship is at pier 2) we see we have a very short walk to the main street.  There is now a brand new mall right there too!  We cross the street so we can catch the buses going north.  Right away a bus comes by and we flag it down.  Cost was just around $1.50 US each.

We get off right near the town center of Bucerias and wander around looking at the vendors and the shops and giving the others a chance to see the town.

Our restaurant was one that we had found on line and also a friend on board had recommended.  El Burjo is right on the beach and offers us the opportunity to enjoy a great meal on the beach and to go swimming too. 

A bucket of beer, a few margaritas, chips, salsa and some amazing dishes and lots of laughs.  Oh and the vendors constantly floating thru with their items for sale.  I did buy a pair of earrings and we did enjoy a Mariachi band but that is all we paid to the vendors. 

We stayed here for about two hours and it was a great time, and I am glad the other two couples liked it too.

We all agreed to a walk so we cross the little foot bridge, also known as the kissing bridge and started walking South along the road we use to take to get to the hotel we once stayed at.  We didn’t walk for too long, maybe a half hour before heading up to the main street and catching the bus back to town.  Just look for the bus that has the Walmart on it’s windshield.

When we arrived back at the port the others went inside the gate but we decided to do a bit more walking and walked to Sorianas, which is a large grocery type store.  I wanted to pick up some more Maja soap that we can’t get in Canada any more.

We then head towards a small ice cream place we use to go to but it is no longer there.  So we enter the port at the gate near the Carnival Ship and walk back to our ship.  The HAL ship has already left.

All aboard is 7:30 and at 8 we are off, sadly…. As this is our last port of the trip.  Two sea days and then Los Angeles.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Breaking News - Small Fire! - April 1, 2014

Thought I would let everyone know that tonight while watching the comedian in Explorer's lounge a bridge announcement came over the speaker.  First Aid attend to Incinerator Room Deck 4.  

All I thought, oh I hope there was not an injury to one of the workers.

Back in the cabin around 10:30 and announcement comes over the speaker all over the ship including the cabins.  It is the Captain explaining what has happened.

Apparently there was a small fire in the incinerator silo.  This is a large silo that holds waste before it is put in the incinerator.  The fire has been put out and they are just dealing with the smoke in the area and cleaning up the mess.  Everything is okay.

At 11:08 pm there is another announcement in the cabin from the Captain.  First Aid can stand down, meaning they are no longer needed.  

Captain Foster once again informs us that everything is okay and explains again what has happened and that they are investigating why it happened.

We are still on our way to Puerto Vallarta and will arrive at noon and apoligizes again and tells everyone they can sleep in tomorrow.

I have never been on when there has been a fire but I am quite impressed on how well this was handled and how well informed the Captain kept us.

I will post more if there is more to report.

At Sea – March 31, 2014

Two more sea days before we arrive in Puerto Vallarta.  We wake and head out on to the balcony and it is again warm.  Patter says 32 for today…. But at least we get the breeze off the water to keep us cool.

I head up with Bernie to the Horizon Court for some breakfast and the port side is very busy so I go over to the Starboard side and it is much quieter.  Cereal, toast and fruit are all I need today.

Down to International Café for a bit of caffeine, well you know the story……

Bernie goes to trivia and I head to Explorers where nothing is scheduled and relax at one of the couches and read for two hours.  Oh I finished my book yesterday and started a new one “The Replacement Wife” and can’t put it down.
When Bernie joins me after trivia (they didn’t fair very well he says) he says he is craving a dining room burger so we head to Da Vinci and are sat at a table for 8 and Bernie gets his burger fix.  I had the Weiner schnitzel which was very good. 

Back to the cabin and I lather on the sunscreen and sit out on the balcony…. But I only last an hour as it is just too hot and I don’t want to burn.  Oh and I saw a few turtles too.

Tonight is our Captain Circle Party at 7;30.  Again they are hosting four different Captain Circle Parties due to the high numbers of Platinum and Elite passengers.  When we head to the Promenade deck for the party the line up is huge.  When we finally get it, it is packed and there is obviously not enough room for everyone.  But we are okay hanging out at the back of the room and we get some drinks and I see they are walking around with some appetizers but we never got offered any.  I don’t think I have ever seen a CC party so busy. 

We duck out around 8:15 for dinner and Key and Sherri join us at our table tonight.  I had leechie/watermelon and ginger appetizer, gazpacho then for my entrée I had the beef stroganoff all was very good.  Mark even surprised us with a song… he has an amazing voice and we are really going to miss him.

After dinner we head out for a stroll and stop in to Explorers where Mark is hosting Jeopardy game.  Club Fusion is having Rock and Roll night, and the usual entertainment in various venues.  Up on Sun deck we admire the stunning sky and all the stars.

Today was a great day, very relaxing, lots of reading, chatting with people, and catching up on me time.