Sunday, May 24, 2015

Planning European Cruise


Sometimes planning the cruise and doing all the research is almost as much fun as the actual cruise.  I always say to people "you are spending thousands on this vacation, make sure you know a little bit about where you are going and what you want to do when you get there". 

Now I will admit I am a bit over the top when it comes to planning.  I love it, yeah I get more excited when I can start researching a new place or learn about a new tour, or a book arrives for me to read about a place I will visit.

So as many of you know we will be travelling this October to the Mediterranean to do our first cruise there.  We have both been to Europe before but not any of the countries this cruise will take us to.  

For this voyage we will be visiting:  Rome, Livorno, Cannes, Corsica, Naples, Mykonos, Istanbul, Kusadasi, Athens, Venice (3 days), Dubrovnik, Salerno, Florence, Toulon, Barcelona, and Ponta Delgada.  

At first I felt overwhelmed, where would I start.  Well I have lots of cruise friends who have been to most, if not all these places.  So first thing was a quick email listing the ports and asking for their advice and tour recommendations.  And they did not disappoint.

I took out my binder and added a paper for each port and at the top listed the port name, the date we are there, and the times we are there. Then as I got pertinent information I just wrote it on each page.  Sometimes it is short like hours of a museum we want to go.  Or it is -- buy tickets ahead of time.  Sometimes I have booked a tour and I just add the info for the tour here and print out the confirmation paper and put it in my binder.  I copied all the information that each friend sent me into this binder as well.  Note I normally later create an electronic Notebook for each port with all the detailed information there so I don't have to bring all the paperwork.  But initially I find it easier to just open the book and write down info as it comes in.  Like a restaurant recommendation.

Next was getting some information from the local library.  I got all of Rick Steve's DVD for these countries and watched.  



I then bought the Rick Steve's Mediterranean Cruise Ports Guide .  I read thru each port and highlighted things I thought would be interesting.  My honey then read the book and marked things he thought we should do in each of the ports, and I followed up with my thoughts for each port too. For many of the ports we are going to follow many of Rick's walking tours and use most of his Audio Guides that we have already downloaded to our phones to listen when we get there.  

You can find out more about Rick's Audio Guides here.  

Flights there were reserved quite early when a great deal came by our way so we are flying one way with British Airways from Vancouver with only one short stop in London.  
A friend of ours recommended an apartment (The Green Apartments) to rent for the five days we are in Rome and so we contacted them and were able to reserve the perfect place for a very good rate of 120 E a night.  Most hotels were more and this way we are close to many sights and we can still come back and do some of our own cooking, wash, and enjoy the terrace.  

For Rome we knew we needed to come up with a game plan of what we wanted to accomplish cause we know we can't do it all.  Then we looked at the days we are there and did a rough itinerary of what we will do each day.  We were able to scoop up tickets to see the Tomb of St. Peter and we decided to check out the Vatican Museum/Sistine Chapel on their night tour for a different perspective.  We also have a cooking class booked for the last day there.  So other than those set items we are fluid with what we see and when on the other days.  But of course we are planning to see all the regular sites.

After reading Rick's guides and also reading Ron In Rome's webpages we know we can easily take the train to the port. This will save us tons of money that we can use elsewhere. It is also helpful with transportation tips from the airport to the center of Rome.

For all the ports we have only three official tours booked. The first is for Ephesus in Kusadasi and the other is in the Azores - Ponta Delgada.  Both tours are small groups and from guides that came highly recommended.  We also have coordinated private transfers from Livorno to Florence for 8 but we are on our own once we get there.  Once again we will be using Rick's advice and touring around ourselves.



It was key for us that this very port intensive trip would have to be paced out.  We are keenly aware of our tolerance and level of patience when it comes to touring. It is important for us to not have things overly planned but to take time to savour the moments.  

Because of this we purposely have decided to not visit Pompei, not because we don't want to see it, but we know by that day we will be tired and we just won't do it justice. We will tour around Naples and visit the museum that does hold a lot of artifacts though.  And we know there will be more trips to Europe in order to see it then.

Also Athens was a port we originally had a tour booked for but it will be the third port in a row with all very long days of touring so we rationally decided that we would opt to book the hop on hop off bus and do it on our own but not force ourselves to see it all, cause we just can't.  Again we know we will be back.



One reason we booked this trip was the three days, two nights we will have in Venice.  We booked a lovely small group tour the first evening that will take us to different bars to sample wine and tapas. The next day we will check out the Doges Palace Secret Itineraries Tour then again using Rick Steve's Audio Guides we will check out the other sites.  

We recently booked our one way return flights from Fort Lauderdale because the price was right and we were concerned about less availability and prices going up as it is the day before the US Thanksgiving.

I have decided to bring my laptop so I can blog.  Originally I was just going to bring my tablet but typing a whole blog for an entire month is.... well.... a pain in the you know what.  So I will bring the laptop and will try to keep on top of the voyage sharing what and where we are.  

For  us travelling is about experiences, connecting with the locals, experiencing the food/drink. Trying to communicate with the locals.  Taking local transit and walking as much as possible. Choosing to sit on a bench and just watch the people if necessary.  Interacting with the kids and savouring the moments.




Sunday, May 10, 2015

Disembarkation - Vancouver and Recap of the Cruise

We are docked in Vancouver.  It is time to head home.  We decided to do self disembarkation as we only had one suitcase and we are just catching transit to head home.

We were assigned the first time of 7 am and the meeting lounge is Explorer's Lounge, but we are going to head to the Elite Lounge.

We head back to the lounge around 6:50 and right at 7 we are cleared to head ashore.  We are ushered out a door to the promenade and right to the gangway.

Cause we had already cleared Canadian Customs the day prior in Victoria we didn't have to do anything at all here. We just walked straight thru the terminal and out of the building right to the skytrain station and to the Canada Line towards the airport.  Our car was parked close to the airport and we were in it at 7:40 and home by 8:20!

I am now going to reflect on the cruise.

We originally booked this voyage as an inexpensive get away and to see so many crew that we knew.

We were not disappointed.  It was relaxing and fun and we loved seeing so many friends on board as well as in port. 


Ship in General:


  • we had been concerned that the ship was going into dry dock after this voyage and was worried that we would notice work being done.  I am happy to report we noticed nothing to show that it was going into dry dock.  There were workers on board but they were mainly working on things below deck
  • the ship is great condition and even though yes there are signs of wear and tear (many will be refurbished during dry dock, ie carpets, upholstery, etc) the ship is still beautiful
  • MUTS was a pain to watch cause so many bulbs (or panels) were burnt out (but again this is being dealt with in dry dock)
  • I love the public spaces on this ship.  The huge promenade deck, the big Skywalkers Lounge (great for sail aways), Vines and of course Explorer's Lounge (that was really missed on the Royal).  The aft pool with the views from there are another plus about this ship.  Oh and I can't forget Adagios and Sabatinis location for a quiet intimate evening, or quiet place to read during the day.

Cabin:

  • We booked the lowest inside guarantee and were assigned the highest outside guarantee.  We loved the cabin location on Plaza deck so close to the main atrium.  It was very very quiet with little traffic.  
  • Biggest down fall in this cabin is the docking lines (sorry don't know technical word) are right below and the winches deploying and bring up the lines make a lot of noise that actually makes the cabin vibrate.  This noise is heard upon arriving and departing for around an hour each time.  
  • Everything in the cabin worked great.  Take note the cabin only has one larger night stand as the room is a little less wider than the standard cabin, but it is longer.  This really didn't affect us too much.  
  • Our steward Qi was very very good.  Considering this was only her second voyage serving passengers she did an amazing job - even better than some stewards have been doing it for much longer.  She is a great asset to Princess.
  • I am not sure why but Princess falls short in the bed department.  I would say that 50% of the time we get a sagging/hard bed that has seen better days.  Then the linen on Princess ships seems to really be low end.  I would love to see their bedding be more like we would find in a four star hotel, or what we have found on other cruise lines.  It is not uncommon to find holes, tears and thread bear linens.  Oh and don't get me started with the moldy shower curtains that need replacing more often.

Dining/Food:

  • We normally do Anytime dining but this voyage we wanted to be served by Mark so we had to go to Traditional dining as this is where he was.  After dining with him three nights (note two nights were open seating cause we were in port and two nights we dined at a specialty restaurant) we know Traditional dining is not for us.  Way too noisy, service is long cause everyone gets served at the same time.  I much prefer the flow and staggered dining that Anytime brings.  Also was so disappointed in other passengers who felt that the time of 8 for dinner meant anytime after 8 and would show up when it suited them, which threw off the service of the entire table and the waiter had to deal with it.  Note we only had a table for two but found we would often wait long periods while our waiter had to deal with these late comers.
  • Food in general we found to be only fair and certainly not the standard we are use to.  For us we found the food often overly salty (but this is a personal thing) but it was definately saltier than what we have found on other ships in the fleet.  Sometimes it was so salty we couldn't finish it.  We did encounter this once before and ironically it was the same ship on another voyage.  Often food was warm and not hot (staff quickly remedied this).  Twice in the Crown Grill our courses were not hot and had to be returned.
  • Dishes were not presented the way they are on other ships.  For example the beet and spinach salad with heirloom tomatoes and goat cheese in Crown Grill.  Very very different than what we have had on other ships.
  • Selection was amazing and never had an issue with finding something we like.  We especially like the 50th Anniversary items.
  • We really enjoyed the lunches in the Horizon Court.  I find our experience on the Crown that they have one of the best salad bars.

Crew:

  • This is really where this ship shines.  The crew on board are so friendly, kind and helpful.  They seem happy and it shows when they serve us and other passengers.  I love that they treat everyone with kindness and respect.  It doesn't matter if this is your first cruise or your 100th. We even noticed crew serving upset passengers with kindness that I know I as a person who works with the public would have a hard time doing.  But they do it, time and time again.
  • The bar staff were a highlight this voyage for us.  We got to know many and rekindled friendships with a few others.  They were outgoing, friendly and full of tips and advice and recommendations.  I tried many of their recommendations and they always checked to see if I liked it and I am happy to say yes I did.
  • We always connect with a shoppie and this time it was Henishia in the perfume shop.  What a dear and so kind and so very helpful.  But because of her I spent way more than I normally would in that shop.
  • The Captain Circle Host Fleur was so lovely and helpful and patient.  Another great asset to the company in my opinion.

Itinerary:

  • At first when we booked this itinerary we were like - ah who cares where it goes we just need to get away.  But after we completed the trip we were - wow I loved this itinerary and would love to do it again.  We especially liked the overnight in San Francisco and the full day in Victoria.
  • We could of skipped Catalina, not because we don't want to go to Catalina, but a half day there with last tender at 1 pm meant it was hard to get off and really enjoy the island.  
  • I think Princess should offer one way cruises LA to Vancouver 7 days and then 7 day return. This would meet the Jones Act and it would be a great way for people to see this side of the world.

Embarkation and Disembarkation:

  • Both events were some of the smoothest and easiest embarkation and disembarkations we have every experienced.  
  • Note that the port authorities in San Francisco really need to get their act together to make it a more fluid operation.  Read my blog about our visits to San Francisco here.  

Friday - Victoria - All Day and All Night

The Coral docked with us around noon
I wake to the sounds of docking... oh I won't miss that noise.

Then Bernie informs me he is not feeling well.  He has abdominal pain and a headache.  It may be something he ate, it could be allergies, it could be so many things.  I tell him to just rest in the cabin today as I will be just fine on my own.  -- footnote, after getting home a few days later he ended up in emergency with worse pain, they have ruled out appendicitis, and it looks like it is his gallbladder and will probably have to come out soon.

We are in Victoria today and it looks like a beautiful day. We had to fill out the Canadian Customs forms prior to arrival and hand them over to the Purser's desk or our steward.  We don't have to clear customs here at other than that form.  Nice and easy.



Today I have arranged to head ashore with some crew who are close to us.  Mark (our waiter), Giovannie (our assistant waiter), Victoria and her husband Jason and Riza (all waiters/assistant waiters).  We meet up on the pier at 11 and we walk to the harbour.



Walking around Victoria is very very easy and the walk to the harbour is about 20 minutes.  But there are shuttles from the pier to the harbour for $10 US or $12 Canadian (roundtrip - $6 one way).  There are many taxis and pedicabs too and even horse drawn carriages.



I take them to the grounds of the B.C. Legislature and I explain our government to them.  I show them the totem poles and we pose for pictures.  



We head into the Legislature and I show them around the stunning building.  They tell me later that they had no idea you could go inside and are amazed.


A short stroll across the street and we walk into the Empress Hotel, again the grandeur of the building blows them away.  Sadly I find the Empress is not as nice as it use to be before they renovated it. Now it is hard to see the beauty unless you actually dine there.  You can however walk thru the south end and see some beautiful wood work.  
We exit via the Victoria Conference Center, which has stunning aboriginal art in the public spaces to view.

My main goal today is to take them to a Filipino restaurant. I had gotten a recommendation from a friend, made note of it, found it on a map and headed there.  As we find the place I glance at my map, and back at the building, back at the address I have and back at the address on the building. Nope this is NOT a Filipino restaurant.  It is now a coffee shop (as if we need another coffee shop).  I ask a guy there and he said the restaurant closed around four months ago.  

Darn!  I feel so bad.... but the guy does say there is a good Filipino store in the next block.  So we head there cause the crew will be in Victoria for two weeks while in Dry Dock and they could always come here for a taste of  home at least. The store doesn't disappoint

We end up at a Thai restaurant and enjoy a lovely meal.  It is nice to spend time with all of them away from the ship in a more casual atmosphere.

After lunch we walk over to the mall so they know where it is and they can check out some costs for sim cards for their phones so they can have access to their phones during dry dock.  

Back out on Government Street we spot the ship's shuttle but at a cost of $6 one way it is cheaper for them to just take a taxi back to the ship.  

I decide to wander around a bit and make my way back to the ship on foot later.

When I get back to the ship around 5 pm Bernie is still not feeling well and he is just wanting to rest. I am restless and since so much on board is closed.  Note the shops and casinos closed last night and will be closed all day today cause we are in port.  You had to close out your casino accounts last night.

Restaurants on board are doing open seating.  Amazingly there are a lot of people on board still.  I don't really want to stay on board for dinner and it is a lovely night and since we don't sail till very late I have lots of time.

So off I go again ashore and head back to the heart of the city and head to my favorite noodle restaurant.  Noodle Box it is called (there is one in Vancouver too), nothing fancy but I like their philosophy and the food is good and quite reasonable.  When I use to teach in Victoria for a few days I would mainly eat here and just bring it back to my hotel.  

After a full belly I decide to walk back via the harbor and the sea wall.  This is a lovely stroll that is easy to do and takes a bit longer than cutting thru the residential area, but offers great views of the harbour and inlet.  Although cutting thru the residential area is lovely too, residents take pride in their homes and have cute gardens blooming with all types of flowers.  The locals are friendly and it is okay to say hi and how are you, and if you need help just ask away.

Here are some links you may be interested in when visiting Victoria:

BC Legislature

Empress Hotel

Butchart Gardens 

Victoria Tourism

If you like chocolate visit Rogers' Chocolates on Government Street

Cruise Shuttle 

Walking route - note they say it is 40 minutes but you would have to walk slow to take that long

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Thursday Night - Most Travelled Party and Sabatinis



We have a busy night planned.

First we are up at the Elite Lounge for a drink and to say goodbye to Rock and David.  We really enjoyed our time up here and the views are so much nicer here than in Club 6 on the Royal. 
 
Tonight is the Most Travelled Cocktail Party.  We are honoured to be in the top 40.  

Princess hosts a cocktail party or a luncheon for the top 40 passengers (in days).  I like both.  The luncheon is nice cause you get to spend time at a table with one officer. But sometimes we have had bad experiences with this too where the other passengers at the table take this time to complain to the officer about anything and everything.  

The cocktail party is usually held in Adagios and you can sit wherever you want, you can order whatever drink you want and the food that comes around is amazing.

We get a picture with the Captain as soon as you come in. Then we take a seat with Rick and Monika.  Liz soon joins us, then Stephano joins us.  


Jazz is serving us again and she keeps them coming. Waiters come by with food and then Claudio and the Captain stop by.

It is a nice way to meet and chat with many officers.  We have a great time and laugh our heads off.


After the party we make our way over to Sabatinis to enjoy a lovely dinner with Claudio, Francesco and Liz.  

It was nice to chat with them all and see what they have been up to.  Francesco and Claudio give us tips for our Italy trip coming up this Fall.  

The food was very good and the service was top notch. Sabatinis on this ship is aft all the way up and the place is lovely with great views.

To see Sabatini's menu click here

After a full night we are ready for bed.  Tomorrow is Victoria and our last day.

Thursday – Astoria


We wake to the sounds coming from below.  We are just above where the door opens for them to throw the lines.  

The thrusters and the winches for the ropes are noisy.  But it is a decent hour (7 am) and we had a good sleep.  You certainly don’t need an alarm clock for this cabin. 

But I will say this cabin is so very quiet all the rest of the time, but when coming into port or leaving it is very noisy for about an hour each time. 

We get clearance to go ashore about 7:45 and the International Café is busy.  Today I go and get the coffee/tea and see Beethoven behind the bar. 


I really like their set up here for ordering.  There is a large menu board above and even one on the counter.  A sign clearly identifies “Order Here” and to the left is another sign “Pick Up Here”.  They ask your name when you order and call out your name when it is ready. But note this is all changing with dry dock next week.

Very foggy first thing

ship's photography dressed as lumberjacks

stalls set up at pier

No set plans today except to meet up with Beatrice to go ashore and grab a meal for lunch.   

She is off work and we meet her and head ashore.  

I have never been here before but the weather is lovely and a friend has recommended a water not far from the pier. Bridgeview Bistro is not far, maybe a 15 minute walk.  



There is a lovely Riverwalk you can easily do.  There is also a shuttle that will take you right to town too as well as a trolley too.

A few stalls have been set up on the pier to sell local stuff.

Bridge View Bistro

Lunch is very nice.  We all order a drink and I get a beef burger, but Beatrice gets a nice ahi tuna burger that looked amazing.


After lunch we walk further enjoying the sites.  We see some sea lions and some nice birds.  I wish we had more time here but I know we will be back.

Plus after stopping here for a stop I know we could always drive down here and visit it for a few days too.


Wednesday Night

It is a full night.  It is a formal night and there is the Captain Circle Party.  We dress and we head upstairs but we have about a half hour to kill before meeting up with friends.  

We decide to check out the Wheelhouse bar for one of the signature Norman Love Cocktails.  Note the Wheelhouse is the only place to get them.  We take a seat off to the side and sit there but after ten minutes we realize if we want a drink we will probably have to move to the bar.  And I really want one of these drinks.

This is how the drink should of looked
So we take a seat at the bar.  I ordered the Chocolate Whisky Bacon drink. Yup Bacon.  First issue is the bacon is not behind the bar so he has to get one of the servers to head to the galley to get a plate of bacon.  That takes about ten minutes.  The drink is made and when the bacon arrives the bartender is looking for a crispy piece but all the pieces are flimsy and not crispy.  He picks out the best and lays it on top of the drink and then puts chocolate on the bacon. 

this is how it looked - bacon was soft and not crisp
Hmmm doesn’t look very appealing but I give it a try.  I take a bite of the bacon with the chocolate and well, not really that good.  The actual drink is very good, kind of like an adult chocolate milk and very strong.  But have to say the presentation is not good.  As I write this I am not exactly sure how it should look but when I get home I will look it up to see.  I would not order any of them again.


Because the drink took so long to make we have to leave right away to meet up with friends so we take the drinks and leave and make our way aft to the Vista Lounge.




Rick and Monika from Kelowna are the Most Travelled Passengers and they have asked us and Kim and Norma to join them at their table at the Captain Circle Party.  The first person to greet us is Jazz and her Happy Happy greeting.  She  takes all our orders and even poses for a pic, and takes our picture too. 



Tonight we are dining in the Crown Grill and the main reason is because Beatrice is there.  We are sat at a table right behind the Hostess Station so we can chat with her when she is not busy.

Woody from Thailand is our waiter and he takes our order and Beatrice serves us our drinks. 

Our first course is the Black and Blue Onion Soup and when it arrives we are warned it is very hot and to be careful.  But when we taste it, it is just warm, certainly not hot.  We call Woody over and he whisks it away and brings us hot ones.

The next course is the beet with goat cheese, heirloom tomatoes and spinach salad.  The presentation is very different from other times we have had it and there is not as much in the way of beets or goat cheese.  Tons of spinach and the tomatoes are not heirloom but a mixture of under ripped tomatoes and some cherry tomatoes.  It was good but not at all what we have had on other ships.



For my entrée I ordered the tiger prawns with the rice and Bernie had the lamb.  His lamb was cooked perfectly and loved it.  I also really enjoyed my prawns and loved the bit of punch in flavor and spiciness it had.


For dessert Bernie ordered the chocolate obsession and I had the Norman Love Peanut Butter Bar.  I love this Peanut Butter Bar and hope it stays after the anniversary year.  Bernie’s chocolate Obsession was perfect too.

To see the Crown Grill Menu click here.  



In it was a great dinner.  It was so nice to spend some time with Beatrice.  You can really see her shine as hostess here.  She is so welcoming and friendly with the passengers.  She makes them feel like you are personally dining at her home.  As passengers leave she wishes them a good night and tells them she hopes to see them again and many respond back with lovely comments. 

Our server Woody was very good too and very attentive when he needed to be.  In all the Crown Grill is good but not great.  Sadly it doesn’t feel all that special and the food is often not better than the dining room and tonight I would say it was probably worse than the dining room.


We are off to the cabin and hopefully a good night’s sleep but the ship is moving.  We make sure that everything is safely secure in the cabin.  Hangers are pushed to one size to eliminate the clanging.  The bathroom door is closed shut as it often swings open/closed with the movement and we settle in to bed being rocked to sleep.

Day at Sea – Wednesday

Oh my is the ship a moving.  I am sure there will be a lot of people who are sea sick today.  Huge swells!  Often the spray covers our window completely and the room goes black.  
video

It is sunny out and temperatures are around 14C but I think it is pretty windy out there. 

I can’t believe I slept until 10 am!  I really needed it though I haven’t had a full night’s sleep since we left LA and even last night I woke often cause of the movement of the ship.  

But I feel very rested today.

This is our first and only sea day and the day is filled with activities.  Of course the normal things are happening the Onboard Outlet Sale and the Culinary Demo/Galley Tour are huge draws.  

They are doing the pub lunch today and there is the Sound of Music – Sing Along in the Princess Theater too.  

For me it is going to be all about relaxation and lots of reading.  

The ship is busy inside and feels crowded because the weather outside is just not nice enough to sit out there.  

This forces everyone inside.  It is difficult to find space in the Atrium to relax, the Art is taking up a lot of space in the Explorer’s Lounge for the next auction.  Vista is an option but there are constant events happening there so it is noisy.  I did consider Adagio or Skywalkers but with all this movement of the ship it is probably not the best place to hang out.

The Captain announces this morning in the cabins that they had to slow down the ship because of the weather and altered course a bit to ease the movement (gee wonder how bad it would have been if we had not altered).  Right now we are 3 hours behind schedule because of it but he hopes to make up some time during the night.  He advises everyone to hold on to railings and to take caution when moving about the ship and in your cabin.  The pools have been closed and many open deck areas are closed too.

I sit in Crooners and chat with two guys from New Jersey (Jim and Jason) and catch up with Red.  When Bernie joins me we decide to have lunch in the dining room.  

After lunch I find a quiet spot in Vines and enjoy a coffee while reading.  

Third Night - San Francisco

Once we are back in the cabin we take a short nap before dinner and when we wake we dress for dinner in the dining room.  

I meet up with Bernie in Crooners for a pre dinner drink and passengers come and go.  The Motor City show is just letting out and second show is just about to begin.  It is Rock and Roll night too in the Vista Lounge.  

Dinner for us is 8 pm in Botticelli Dining room and when we arrive both Mark and Giovanni are waiting for us.  It has only been two nights but we have missed them both.  

Their sections and those around them are full, but ironically many of the sections elsewhere are empty again.  We notice many waiters and assistant waiters from other sections are helping Mark and Giovanni out serving water, pouring wines, clearing plates, getting them dishes, etc. This is impressive and it is noted by us and trust me we know this doesn’t always happen.

The table beside us is celebrating an anniversary and Mark serenades them for the occasion.  Everyone loves him and we see why.  

Dinner tonight is the Chef’s dinner and we have to say that it was not the best.  I start with the shrimp cocktail and the shrimp are mushy, they have been sitting in liquid for too long I am guessing.  

Then I have the fettuccini Alfredo in the Parmesan bowl.  I notice the parmesan bowl has tons of chopped chives in it and it really adds to the flavor and I enjoy that but the Alfredo sauce is really runny and not very flavourful and after two bites I just leave it.  

For my entrée I had the scallops and the sauce is very very good but the scallops are smaller than normal, but I do think that is an issue beyond Princess’ control.  The sliced potato served with the dish is raw, not sure what happened there.  But I see some French fries on another table and ask if I can get some and Giovanni rushes off and returns with a plate of fries.  

We decide to enjoy the rest of our wine with some cheese and savor the evening.  We chat with many of the waiters/assistant waiters and head waiters who come by. So many familiar faces and such a great group.  

As many of you know we are not Traditional Dining types. We don’t like to be set to a schedule when on board and like to go more with the flow.  Dinner here is just not our thing.  We found we were constantly watching our watch checking the time to ensure we weren’t late (too much like work).  

Our table was lovely but found with everyone showing up at the same time the waiters were slammed and run off their feet at first.  We noticed sadly people showing up very very late, one woman who was a solo diner showed up at 8:30 and another table didn’t show up until 8:40. 

Dinner always took at minimum 2 hours and the noise levels were out of this world.  We felt often that we couldn't even carry on a conversation.  Because everyone arrives at the same time and are eating around the same time that conversation levels rose and fell depending on food courses.  
So in the end we know that we are better suited to Anytime dining where we can be less set on a time and it feels more like a restaurant at home where people are dining at various times and conversation (although can also get noisy) varies more.  

This is our last night at Mark’s table because tomorrow we are at the Crown Grill, then next night we are at Sabatinis then we are in Victoria for dinner.  We are going to see Mark and Giovanni and a few others in Victoria for lunch, where we will take them to a Filipino restaurant.

We don’t get out of the dining room until 10:30 and wander along the Promenade.  It is rather quiet.  I think  many people are tired and have gone to bed early.  We wander back in the perfume shop to talk with Henishia, and buy a few more items.  She arranges to delete our old bill and then ring everything up on a new bill so we get the added discount cause we are spending more.  Great service and we are very happy.

We are back in the cabin at 11 pm and we are both looking forward to a good night’s sleep.  The Captain has warned us all that there will be a lot of movement throughout the night and he didn’t disappoint.  The ship was a rocking all night long.  

Tuesday – Second Day in San Francisco


We wake around 8 am and Bernie heads upstairs for some oatmeal, but I am still full from dinner.  We are being picked up this morning at 9:30 by Simon and Angelique.

We head to the gangway at 9:15 but right as we get there they closed it.  Apparently the port needs to adjust the gangway.  We wait and wait and the line gets longer and longer and people’s patience is wearing thin.  We take it in stride.  

Although I was disappointed in the way one couple acted who approached the line and insisted because they were Elite they should get priority for getting off!  They stood right near the roped area and as soon as it was cleared they budded in…. obviously they did not read my etiquette blog.  
Part of me wanted to say hey we are elite too and probably a lot more sea days than you and we all have been waiting… but I didn’t… it would of served no purpose with these two.





Angelique and Simon are there waiting for us where we are whisked off to the Golden Gate Park to the De Young Museum for the Botticelli to Braque:  Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland.  






We toured the exhibit and then checked out a few other exhibits.  We stopped in the coffee shop for a coffee.  We are surprised how busy it is for a Tuesday.

a goffer peaks out


We are heading back downtown to Yank Sim Dim Sum Restaurant which they both love and we are anxious too cause it has been a very long time since we had Dim Sum. 




The food is very very good and it keeps coming!  Another great meal with great friends.

Back in the car we ask just to be let off at the BevMo as Bernie wants to look for a champagne.  But sadly we don’t find it and it is okay.  



We then walk back to the ship enjoying the sights of the city on foot.  A stop in for a coffee along the way, a peak in a few shops, some picture taking along the way and all of a sudden we are back at the waterfront.

It is busy down here.  Even though the sun is shining the wind is strong so a sweater and light jacket are necessary, but then a short while later it is too hot for the jacket.  So I spend a lot of time taking and putting on the jacket.  The weather is very similar to Vancouver.

When we arrive back at pier 27 and the ship at 5 pm – all aboard is 7:30, there is a queue just to get in the building.  

The security is checking our id with our cruise card.  That is odd cause they did not do that last night when we came back.  We show him and then they are holding people back from going up the escalator and there is a line for that.  

Finally we are allowed to go upstairs where there is a queue for the x ray scanners.  There are three machines but they have only one up and running and I would guess the line up has about 200 people in it.  

We patiently wait chatting with people around us.  Once we get thru that line we walk up to the gangway and a quick scan of our card by ship’s security and we are back on at around 5:35.

35 minutes to get on the ship.  And with the issues this morning with the port adjusting the gangway for  over a half hour.  And with the port only having one gangway for this big ship.  My personal thought is San Francisco Port is still not on the ball when it comes to servicing Cruise Passengers.  These issues were entirely the fault of the port not the cruise line.  

I love San Francisco and I know many others do too and I can’t wait to come back but I would take note if I was to sail from this port the pier still needs adjusting.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Night in San Francisco




I head up on deck around 1 pm to watch us going under the Golden Gate Bridge.  It is not often that we get to do this during daylight and boy is it busy, but I wander to the aft area and take some nice shots and video of going under. 
   

I then head on top of the bridge area for some neat shots of the very interesting docking procedure.  The wind is HIGH and the ship pulls up and then turns around and then docks.


The thrusters have to work extra hard to counteract the winds.  It is around 2:20 by the time the lines are put in place and the gangway is up and we are cleared to go off. 

There is a gangway on deck six midship and one on five but that one on five is for crew only, mainly because they have different screening and the gangway is not easy to maneuver.  The gangway on deck six is very similar to the kind you would use to go onto a plane.  

But the lines to get off the ship snake all around the Atrium and into the Casino to who knows where.  We look at each other and realize there really is no way we can get off quickly, get to Max’s diner and back before 5 pm.  So we go back to the cabin and drop off our stuff and get a light snack up on the Lido deck.  We then get an ice cream and sit at the Aft pool and enjoy the sunshine (although it is windy) and watch the happenings below.


shuttle to pier 39

At 5 pm we walk right off the ship and thru the new terminal.  It is a beautiful terminal and the outside area is large with lots of places to site and for people to come in and pick up people.  There are pedicabs, taxis, buses and a free shuttle that runs between the port and Pier 39.   

Transit is close at hand and many other options. Make sure if you want to learn more about the pier check out my video/blog.

Simon and Angelique our friends of ours we met many years ago on a cruise and have stayed in touch with and have seen often whenever we have come down here or they have come up to Vancouver.  We always get along and we love the same things and it is so great that they have agreed to come down for the night and spend it with us.

Simon meets us right at 5 and we are driven to their hotel where he runs up to get cleaned up and we take a seat in the bar at the Fairmont Hotel.  




We sip our martinis and catch up with them.  Three rounds later we better get going or we will never see the dinner reservations.




We get a cab to Fringale a restaurant that Simon and Angelique have raved about before and we are glad to get to finally try it.  But omg that taxi driver was crazy… I thought we would of died, but I laugh cause Angelique comments at least if we would have been in accident the alcohol on our system with of eased the impact.  But we made it.

The restaurant Fringale is nice, small, subdued and very welcoming.  We are met by the owner and shown to a table for four.  The menu is fresh and simple but great variety.  

The back has a whole meal option and we are told we can order items from that fixed menu if we like as well.

We start with a bottle of white wine and we all order appetizers.  For me it is a crab/avocado with mango salsa.  

Bernie got the amazing thinly sliced calamari that was sauteed in a chili oil.  Angelique got a charcuterie plate that was done so nicely and Simon had a nice salad with a light dressing with sliced apples.  

We shared all our starters with each other and ummmm and ahhhed at each bite.

For our entrees we had a bottle of red wine and I had Sauteed Petrale sole that was lightly sauteed and served with mashed potatoes and this red pepper and cheese sauce.  It is not something I would normally think of pairing but it was to die for.  

Bernie and Angelique got the roasted leg of lamb which they raved about and Simon had the braised short ribs, and MAN was that flavourful and tender.

I got a beautiful cheese plate for dessert and we are in heaven.  This dinner has been amazing!  A real treat.  I almost wish we could come back here tomorrow but I have made note of it and I will be back.

We are dropped off at the ship around 10 pm and we walk right back on and crawl into bed.  An amazing day but I am full, and tipsy and very very tired.