Sunday, October 26, 2014

Podcast Episode 5a - California Coastal Cruise Recap

I finally got around to recording my California Coastal Cruise podcast.  Well actually I recorded it three times. First time it was way too long so decided to re record it without the port information. Will do a separate podcast for just the ports.  Second time was good but then I thought I had saved it but I had not so had to record a third time, so third time is a charm.

In this podcast I discuss how we got to the ship, embarkation, the food, the entertainment, dinner at the Crown Grill, Skywalkers Elite Lounge, our cabin, Vines, and the dining room and then disembarkation.

Check it out.

If you have any questions feel free to post a comment here or check out my facebook page Cruising Princess Cruiseline with Vickie



Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Thoughts on Cruising with the Ebola Crisis



Many people have been contacting me wanting my opinion on the Ebola Crisis in Africa. 

I have not wanted to deal with it on my page because the Facebook fan page for me has always been a place where we talk cruises and keep politics/heated discussions out. 

Debbie sent me the press release from Princess so I have attached it . 

My personal view is there are more dangerous threats out there in the world and they don't stop me from travelling. Flu/heart disease/diabetes/cancer/hunger/violent acts kill more people on their own than Ebola. All are bad and I hope they stop but none of them will keep me home. 

Dengue Fever is a bigger threat for me as a passenger sailing in the Caribbean. Princess even has a notification about it in my personalized. 

Friends always said why do you cruise cause you could get Norro... ironically I got Norro but got it at home. 

So my answer re Ebola is: 

  • I don't travel anywhere near the affected areas
  • I am not worried about a disease that is transferred only by bodily fluids
  • My love of travel means I can't protect myself from everything. 


Driving and getting hit by a distracted driver is more likely in my city. I will monitor all the comments here closely to ensure a respectful environment.  Here is a link to Princess' press release on the subject.   link to press release

Monday, October 13, 2014

Podcast Episode - Interview with Jim David about his 12 Night British Isles Cruise




A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of chatting with Jim David from Nova Scotia Canada about his cruise on the Ruby Princess to the British Isles with his lovely wife Janice.  

This was a celebratory cruise to commemorate his 61st birthday.

The podcast is up on youtube but you can watch it here as well.  





Here are some links to things we discuss in the podcast that you may be interested in:

Blog about Bringing Wine Onboard Princess

Port Information:  
Dublin Hop on Hop Off Tour
London Hop on Hop off Bus Tour
Edinburgh Tattoo
Le Havre Train to Paris


Notes from Jim 

Transportation from London to Southampton
Travel – National Express Bus Paid $13 GBP - 1 adult 1 Senior


Guernsey: 
Bus around Island for a Euro  Guernsey Bus

Cobh/Cork:
Kinsale Tour for 8  Pickup at 8:30 am – Back at 4:00 pm

Dublin:
The City Bus Tour is far superior with live commentary not recorded.  City Bus Tour

Belfast:
The tour is all day. It would go to Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle, the Rope Bridge, Bushmills, and a tour of both Protestant & Catholic sides of Belfast.
Van which seats six comfortably.  Tour website
  
Orkney:
There is also a Hop on Hop off bus tour click here, but there is only one bus.   
  
Invergordon: (Planned but ship did not dock)
Invergordon itinerary

336 pounds for 8 people; you pay that day either in USD, pounds, or euros:  If pounds:  84 pounds + tip per couple  US$  $137.50 + tip per couple

Edinburgh:
Catch bus from Ocean terminal to Waverley Station on Princes Street.  bus timetable

Recommendation for tour:
Great Scot Personal Tour Guides
16 Milton Court,  Dumbarton
G82 2UD  TEL: (44) 01389 731917  FAX: (44) 01389 731917
Email: info@greatscot-tours.com
  
France:
Train into Paris from LeHavre:
http://www.raileurope.ca/index.html

Money Guide:

Euros for:
Cork/Cobh
Dublin
France

British Pounds for:
Scotland
Belfast
England

Recap of our California Coastal on the Crown Princess

 


I always have good intentions on doing a recap of a cruise but seems once I get home and get back to "normal" life I don't find the time and then it is just too late.

This time I wrote it on my to do list and that list has been staring at me for a week since we got back so here I go.

If you know me, or have been reading my blog for a while you know I am glass half full kind of person. And this review will be like that too.

Embarkation:

Very smooth, very easy when arriving at the pier, easy to find porters, easy to find the appropriate lines.  Security was quick and relatively painless.  We were there later and missed the mad rush so we were able to go right on with our Priority Boarding.  Although I think if we had not been Priority we would of had to wait cause I did hear in the background them calling out a group to board.  In all I would say it was a half hour from dropping off our bag to walking into our cabin.

Cabin:


We had an oceanview cabin on Emerald Deck and it was just right.  The layout is exactly the same as an average balcony cabin, except where the door is there is a large picture window.  Lots of storage, big tv, great view out the window.



But the cabin did look tired.  The mattress was in bad shape with a very noticeable sag in the middle. Steward said he would work on getting a foam for the bed and said they were bringing on new mattresses in San Diego.  For some reason Princess can't seem to provide good mattresses, if hotels can do it not sure why Princess can't.  Carpets, bedding, walls, and furniture look old and tired, but not horrible.

Food:

This is a personal thing and I have to say I thought the food had improved considerably since we were on the ship for 49 days earlier in the year to South America.  On that trip many items were way too salty, cold or no flavor.  This trip we found the food to be quite enjoyable.  When we did encounter an issue with something being cold it was quickly remedied.

We dined at the Crown Grill and the experience was lovely. We did have an issue with the soup being completely cold but it was quickly remedied.  All other items were great and the wine recommendation was perfect.  We tried to book into Sabatinis but had such a hard time getting the reservation line on the first two days.  We even stopped by there at dinner time the first day to be told they weren't taking reservations at that time but to call the dine line. And since we couldn't get thru to the dine line we just gave up.

Overall I love the variety of food that Princess offers and all the different venues you can get a meal from.  Sadly I just didn't find time for pizza, afternoon tea, room service during the day, Crab Shack or Sabatinis but hopefully next time.

us goofing around with Mark and Lorelie


Dining room was the highlight of our trip.  Being able to be served again by Lorelie and Mark Joseph was the best.  They are some of the best servers we have ever had on any Princess ship.  I can see them both going far within Princess.  Mark is so attentive and patient and so willing to assist people. Personally I think he would be great in the Purser's Department helping passengers.  Lorelie definately should be promoted to waiter now, she is the sweetest and most caring person.  Miss them both so much already.

Internet:

We had been warned that the ship was in the process of running new wifi cables.  And yes we did notice the guys doing this, but for some reason the wifi signals I got were never that great.  It seemed slower than normal and gave up trying to connect a few times.  I am just thankful I have a free internet package and don't have to pay for it.

Entertainment:

I wish we could report more on this but this trip we did not attend a single event in the Princess Theater or Explorers. But they did have numerous Production Shows and game type shows in Explorers and we heard a lot of people speaking highly of those events.


We really did enjoy the Mariachi band that played every day in the Atrium.  They were great and really got us in the mood.  Also enjoyed the variety of Movies that were shown up on deck with MUTS and also in the Theater.

I have to say that the Cruise Director Billy Hygate was out and about much more on this voyage than he was the last time we sailed with him.  He even said hi to us a few times. Still don't really care for his morning show, just too boring but I am sure others liked it.

I will say his staff were outstanding, always around, lots of activities, always a friendly hi or even hug from a few we knew from past sailings.

Bars:

We noticed a lot more people enjoying the All Inclusive Drink Package this trip.  We personally did not get it, but friends Mark and Lisa got it and they liked it.  They did comment that it was inconsistent with regards to ordering two drinks and they would sometimes put the order on one account or sometimes one on each.  Sometimes they had to sign a bill sometimes they didn't.  

They did have a Clean Sweep Bar Bill draw but not once were we offered a card or asked if we had a card.  So after two days we just decided to forget about partaking in the draw.  

Fletcher

We loved a few bars on board. Skywalkers at sunset is amazing. Fletcher took very good care of us there. Crooners bar for a pre/post dinner drink was a highlight. Victoria the bartender there made the best Brambles.
  

And finally Vines! Anthony and Red took such great care of us, welcoming us by name each time we stopped by. Great wine recommendations and great service kept us coming back. Oscar the sushi chef we can easily say was one of the best we have ever had.  


We loved the Stammisch table we did on New World Wines. What a great venue and experience.  Monica and Red hosted it and the food parings really did enhance the wines. We fell in love with a new wine this way.  

Ports:

San Francisco:  what is not to love about this port.  With an entire day and evening here we got to really explore.  The new pier is amazing and with still a few hiccups to rectify still, but it will be top notch soon.  Everything is close by or a short taxi away.  

Santa Barbara:  this is a tender port and this would probably be the only downside about this port. But once ashore it is easy to get around.  Lots of sights to see, shopping, tours, restaurants and just walking is close by.  

San Diego:  Docked right near the heart of the city, close to public transit and many sights.  Easy to get around and easy to spend a lot of money.  

Ensenada:  We love this port, it is nice to be in a foreign port and experience a taste of Mexico.  Head ashore even if it is just for a meal or a nice walk.

Overall the ports are not what drove us to book this trip, but they were all lovely.  

Disembarkation:


We did self disembarkation and we were the third group and it went very smoothly.  We cleared customs and were outside the port building about a half hour after getting off the ship.  

The main problem we encountered was there were minimal taxis.  The queue was long and it appeared that many taxis were loading up at the other ship that was docked in port along with us before getting to us.  We ended up walking over to the Super Shuttle stand just past the taxi stand and we were able to join others in a van going to Long Beach Airport right away.

Overall this was a lovely trip.  It is a great trip for a quick get away.  We much prefer getting away to more foreign ports and experiencing different cultures but for a great vacation to really rest and pamper yourself the 7 day California Coastal was great.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Our Next Cruise



I know we just got back you say... yes we did.  But the way our work is we go for long stretches in the Spring and Summer with no time off.  Fall hits and we then take our vacation.  So from now until late Winter we travel.

So this year we decided to plan a trip around a bathroom renovation.  

We are flying from Vancouver early November to Los Angeles and then are heading to Anaheim to go to Disneyland!  Yeah Disneyland.  

I have always wanted to go back to Disneyland.  I was there in 1970 when I was little and I never had kids and never thought of going as an adult.  


Well I did think about it but it wasn't top on our list. This trip I said lets spend a few days prior to the cruise in Anaheim.

We have a room booked within walking distance to the park for three nights.  Friends Angelique and Simon are going to meet us for two days too.  Can't wait to see them.


Then we board the beautiful Grand Princess for a ten night cruise to Mexico.  We absolutely love Mexico and this trip will allow us to visit some ports we love and one we have never been to before. We haven't been on the Grand since it had it's huge renovation so I will be snapping a lot of pictures to add to my album Grand photos

We stop in San Diego (which we were just at), then off to Cabo, which has reopened after the horrible storm.  I will report on the port and how it is doing.  

We then travel into the Sea of Cortez to visit Loreto and La Paz.  We have never been to La Paz but we have been to Loreto on a land vacation and loved it.  That was a long time though so I am looking forward to seeing it again.  

Our last stop with be Puerto Vallarta which never disappoints.

Now you would think that would be the end of the trip, but we still had a few days of vacation left so decided to extend the trip.  We will spend one night at a hotel in San Pedro and will rent a car and head up the coast to do some exploring around Los Angeles.


The next day we will board the Golden Princess for two cruises of three days each.  The cruise stops in Ensenada and there is also one sea day. We really don't care where it goes but a stop in Ensenada will allow us to get off and explore and maybe enjoy a meal.

So stay tuned.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Ensenada



We again wake to the ship docking, but today it is Ensenada. 

I sip my latte in bed and Bernie heads up for some breakfast.  Our friend Beatte is coming ashore with us for a good Mexican meal. 


As soon as we exit the terminal there is a shuttle bus there that will transport you right downtown for a small fee.








Not sure exactly what the cost is but it is minimal.  It is walkable but Beatte doesn’t have much time off so we go with the shuttle.  It drops us off right in the heart of things.



We head to Guadalajara restaurant.  Beatte does the ordering and soon the food starts coming, and lots of it.  A cold drink is in order too – well we end up with three drinks each!  Here is a bit of video of the ambiance.




Oh my goodness the food is so good!  We are stuffed, and the entire meal came in at just under $60 for the three of us with three drinks each.  Wow what a deal. 



We are back out walking the Boulevard Costero and this time we head to a different bar for a margarita each. 




I love this place.  I know a lot of people don’t like to get off here but that is just too bad.  The people are so nice here, so very friendly and as we walk down the street and they try to get our business we are left laughing cause the person on the street will say and do anything to get us to stop and go in the store.   Usually a polite no gracias will do.




Bernie and I walk back towards the ship and we are back on board around 3 pm.  The walk back is quite easy but with the heat and the distance take that into consideration.  It is not an expensive taxi or shuttle ride back if either, but it is easy to walk.






For sail away I head up to get my snack.  This is something I like to do but this trip have not even done once.  You see at 3:30 to 5:30 one side of the Horizon Court serves afternoon snack.  It consists of sandwiches, some salad, afternoon tea stuff – scones and cream/jam, baked potato with all the fixings, usually something like wings and some sweets.  I love getting the potato and I add cheese, bacon bits, sour cream and sometimes even chili.
 
We sit out on the balcony and enjoy the food and a cold Coke from the mini bar.  Another beautiful sail away.

We are both feeling a little melancholy, I can’t believe the seven days are almost over.  Where did the time go?  I will have a hard time saying goodbye to so many and I don’t know when I will see them again, but I am thankful I got this time with them. 

Tonight we will head to dinner and then we will make the rounds to say goodbye.  Even though we will be sailing again in a few weeks it won’t be the same ship.

We are doing self disembarkation tomorrow.  We both only have one bag each and they are not heavy so we are scheduled to be off around 8 am.  We have  a return flight to Seattle out of Long Beach at 11:50 am.  Back to work Monday but the memories will last a long time.

Once I get settled at home I will put up pictures into the blog.  I also will be doing a podcast recapping the entire voyage so look for that.


Thanks for following.

San Diego Evening - Formal Night


We wake just in time for sail away.  We pour ourselves a glass of wine and sit out on the balcony for the beautiful sail away from San Diego.  The sun is setting, the reflection of the sun on the water and on the buildings creates a stunning landscape.  Everyone is out on their decks doing the same.  And as what happens on board we are all one big happy family and we chat with each other.





Oscar made us "special treat"
Tonight is Formal Night and we dress and head to Vines to see Anthony and Red and our great sushi chef Oscar.  I decide tonight we deserve a special treat and order two glasses of champagne.  Oscar has made us a spicy tuna roll for us to enjoy while we sip our drinks.  He keeps trying to get us to eat some tapas too but we have to save room for dinner too.  The Mariachi Band is playing and we are taking it all in.  It is hard to believe the trip is almost over.



We head to the dining room and sit and Mark and Lorelei welcome us.  The dining room is busy but not full.
 
The bottle of wine we had last night is brought out and we finish that off with some lovely cheese that is waiting for us at the table. 



There is something about cruising that gives us the time to relax and enjoy the evening with few distractions.  We sip the wine, enjoy the cheese and chat.  I know Princess says “come back new” and we certainly do but truly this is the time for us to reconnect with no distractions.  Time for us to enjoy some great food/wine, to share our day, to hold hands, to look in each other’s eyes and toast another wonderful day.

Okay back to reality ---

I order the spring rolls to start, the goat cheese with tempura soup and the braised short ribs for my entrĂ©e.  I enjoy all the dishes but the ribs I just eat a bit of, they are good but I wish I would of got the ravioli like Bernie got.  Of course Mark wants to get me an order but I say no I am okay, and I am okay.  Bernie had the escargot to start and then the tomato soup and the ravioli as his entrĂ©e.  Of course the lobster is a big hit tonight too and many around us get that.

 
This trip is a way to celebrate my birthday.  Since my birthday is in August and I can’t get away from work in August we celebrate on board in September.  Mark and Lorelei surprise me with dessert and sing Happy Birthday to me.  What a great treat.

Today I brought my phone to dinner so I can play a song and we can sing to Mark/Lorelei.  So once the dining room has quieted down we make them sit down and we play “Thank You For Being a Friend”, you know the song the one that is played for the show the Golden Girls.  Okay we don’t sing great but we want them to know that we love them.  And they truly are friends.

So after all that we are ready to check out what is happening around the ship.



We head over to Facets to see Ju Ju and he has his Polar Bear called Oregon there who gets along great with Jasper Moose Jaw.  Check out the picks.

The big balloon drop in the Atrium is happening.  The band is playing, people are dancing and we head to the dance floor to dance away some of that dinner. 


Up in Crooners we sit and enjoy a drink with Laura and she fills us in on what is happening with her.  She is quite excited as her honey is coming on board for a visit in LA for two sailing. 

It is just after midnight and well I wanted to go to Skywalkers but Bernie is dragging me back to the cabin.  He is the smart one, he knows I am better off just going to bed, and sure enough within a few minutes I am asleep.

Here is what was in the Patter for today’s events:  70s Cult Classic in Explorers, Production Show Blame it on the Boogie (8 and 10 pm), Football on MUTS, Movie Maleficent in the cabin, Music Trivia 70’s Disco, Big Band Ballroom Dance Date, Liam Stewart in Crooners, MUTS Godzilla, Princess Pop Star Heat #2, and the Balloon Drop Dance Party in the Atrium.
 
With regards to sales on board here are just a few of them:  Lotus Spa 20-20-20 3 treatments for $99, Contemporary Watches up to 35% off, Drink of the Day is the Hawaii Five-O.


Tomorrow is Ensenada, Mexico.

San Diego

We arrive in San Diego early and what is nice about this itinerary is we are close in distance to all the sites and we get there early and stay late too.  We have all day in the ports. 


right outside the terminal walking out to the street

We dock at 7 am and the sun is shining and we lounge in bed with the drapes open looking outside and we are so relaxed. 
free shuttle right at entrance to port

Today we ordered room service and it arrived promptly on time.  We sit outside and enjoy the meal and the time together.

walkway to ship
We are docked right off Broadway one pier over from the pier we docked at last time.  The pier is basically a big tent, it does the job though.  But it should be noted you have to walk down the gangway, across a paved area, into the big tent, to the end of the tent to the door to the road.  It could be a long way for some people.  But once you are out of the port building you are really quite close to things. 
USS Midway (friends said they bought their tickets ahead of time for the Midway thru Costco) is just a short walk to your right.  
USS Midway
Downtown is around five blocks in along Broadway, along with the transit station to get you around easily.  There were taxi cabs at the pier, but if you are up for it take a pedi cab to your destination.  Also the Hop on Hop off bus is right here too.

taken from balcony looking out at Broadway
But for us our mode of transportation is our feet.
We walk first to Starbucks to get our coffee and we sit and watch the people go by. 


the pier right beside ours that we came into last time, much nicer

train station where you can catch train to different sites.
Click here to read about taking the train to Old Town on our last visit, very easy

our view from our seats at Starbucks, ship is not far

We walk to the Seaport Village and check the numerous shops.  But it doesn’t seem to have the variety of shops I remember the last time. What we find this time is there are two of the same shops at different parts of the village.  Like Crazy Shirt is on the left side and the right side.  No big deal we are just wandering.





We walk and walk and walk and it is HOT in the high 80s I would say.  We walk along the beautiful boardwalk and up to the Gaslamp District and along that street all the way back to Broadway.  Then down Broadway back to the ship. 
We had discussed having lunch on shore but with the coffee and then a stop for ice cream we really are not hungry and we are now tired and hot.




I know our day in San Diego was not that exciting but it is just what we wanted and needed.  Plus we are back here in November on our next trip.


view from our balcony, you can see the USS Midway
Once back on board around 2 pm we first cool off in the room with the lovely AC.  I did get a sun burn on my chest and arms.  Even with the sun screen on I didn’t think of bringing it with me to reapply.
 
We head up to the Horizon Court for a light meal where I enjoy a big salad.  Up there Bernie spots Stephen the head waiter we had earlier in the year.  He is shocked to see us and mentions he just got back on board and is surprised we had not run into each other as of yet. 

We sit outside with Mark and Lisa at the Outrigger Bar with Victoria the bar tender taking care of us.  Life is so good!

But amazingly I need another nap!  I got to love vacations and the guilt free option of resting in the afternoon.