Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Cost of Cruising Going Up?


Yesterday I was reading an article put out by Cruise Radio called Cruise Boss Tells Guests to Pay Up.

This article is about NCL CEO Frank Del Rio justifying the cost of cruising and how it is going up.  

Now sure, running a cruise corporation is a business and they have shareholders that they have to account to so I get raising prices.  In fact I think all cruise corporations think exactly like Frank does but are afraid to say it to the media. 



If we raise the price of drinks, tours, cabins, excursions, specialty restaurants will people pay?

Probably....

Cost of cruising itself has only recently seen a substantial increase from when I started cruising back in 1990.  I can go back and see that, on average a cost of around $80 per day for an inside and around $100 a day for a balcony. Sure some cruises were more some were less. 


Where costs have really gone up is once I am on board.  I remember when drinks were around $5. When sodas were free, espresso drinks too.  Okay but I am dating myself here.  I keep some of my old shore excursions brochures from ships on each port.  I can see that for St Thomas a "normal" beach break cost $15 per person and is now $45. Specialty restaurants were $15 - now $25.

But hasn't everything gone up?  Certainly groceries, gas, taxes, and well just about everything has gone up.  So I can understand the added costs of things on board.  

But since I was paying around the same price for the cruise as I use to it wasn't such a big thing for me.  I would get on and then would cut back on what I spent once on board -- or not.



A few years ago an officer on board commented to us that fare prices would be going up on Princess and this would be happening industry wide.  Well it has come true.  Even our cruise this January is around 25% more than it was just a few years ago for the same cabin type and same itinerary (mind you it is on the Royal instead of the Emerald).

Sure the economy in some countries is doing much better, but sadly in Canada our dollar is at a major low!  Every US dollar is costing us around $1.30 Canadian.  So a cruise that cost us $1,000 each is now $1,300.  That has hurt.  Then once on board everything is 30% more for us.

Canadians make a huge percentage of cruisers and I am sure people are thinking twice about booking. Sure if you already have something booked you keep it, but how many are going to choose a cruise over a vacation that is affordable and a country with a better exchange rate for their next vacation.  

Gelato bar - added cost

For many that have gotten hooked on cruising recently and have to stretch their vacation money, will they choose cruising as an option?  Maybe but maybe not as often as they use to.

Overall I know cruising is still a great holiday that is an amazing value.  And I still recommend people take a look at a cruise as a vacation when they plan something.  

In the end cruiselines are profiting but I foresee a drop in bookings in the next year or two as people come to terms with the higher cost of booking, hotels, flights and cost on board.

For us this is the first time in a very very long time we are not planning a cruise later in the year.  We are seriously looking at other options.  We will be looking at all options and looking for some amazing deals.  And will even look outside of Princess if something spectacular comes along.

So are costs going up on cruising?  Yes!  Are fewer people going to cruise because of it?  In the long run yes.

What are you thoughts?  Are you cruising more?  Less?  

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My Reflection on Cruising the Mediterranean on the Island Princess


 

We have been back for a month now and I have been meaning to do a blog post about the entire cruise.  Our thoughts on the itinerary, flights, ship, food, entertainment, ports.  I am sorry it has taken so long, but with getting back in the swing of things at work and then Christmas it was always put on the back burner.


Flights:  

We flew from Vancouver to Rome via London on British Airways.  We booked it ourselves as we could get a better price than what Princess was offering at the time.  But it is worth looking at both options.

It is a long flight, but the biggest issue for us was the time change and jet lag.  Be prepared to be tired and make sure to give yourself enough time to rest when you arrive.

Make sure you arrive a few days before your cruise.  The cruise is going to be exhausting so having a few days in the embarkation port to rest and adjust to the time is key.

Take a shuttle service from airport to city for quick, efficient and very cost effective service.  It was just a bit more than taking the train and after a long flight it was much appreciated. Plus no worries on trying to find hotel as driver dropped us off right in front.


Accommodations in Rome:

We really were happy with our apartment we rented from Green Apartments.  The building had four apartments with a lovely terrace for us to enjoy.  Cost was less than many of the hotels we looked into.  Plus it was very large and so nice to have a small kitchen.



Check out Airbnb, or other apartment rental sites.  Our place was within walking distance to two different metro line stations.  Right on a tram route.  And a few blocks from the Coliseum. 


Time of year:

We can't easily get time off in the summer so we planned it for the fall.  We wanted to do a transatlantic, so we had to go with the schedule from Princess.  We left late October from Rome and we were often one of the last ships to visit a port for the season.  

Weather was wonderful, actually better than I had expected.  We dressed in layers.  Often first thing in the morning it was cooler and by the afternoon we were in short sleeve shirts.  Again when the sun went down it got cool again.  Many Mediterranean ports like Ephesus, Mykonos, Santorini, Dubrovnik were very warm.  It was even nice enough to swim in the pool on the ship on a few occasions.

The crowds were a heck of a lot less than what you find in the summer.  We were very fortunate to visit sites quite easily with very short or no lines to enter at all. Everywhere we went people commented that boy it is sure quiet here compared to the last time they were there in the prime time.

One downfall of this time of year is that we encountered two ports where things were shutting down or were closed for the season -- Mykonos and Santorini, but we still managed to see a lot.

I would not hesitate to visit again at either the beginning of the season or in the Fall again.  


Currency:

We brought Euros with us to help us get started.  In every port - except Dubrovnik, they took Euros, including Turkey. When we required more money we easily withdrew money from ATMs.  We had no problem finding machines that would accommodate our card.  Make sure to let your bank or credit union know you are travelling.  

In Croatia we exchanged some Euros near the port with no problem - of course there was a transaction fee.  When we dined there, and paid for our entry to the walking on the wall, we were able to pay with our credit card.

We usually used our credit card to pay for all larger things, like meals, entrance fees to attractions and purchases from stores.  We have a pin credit card and we never had an issue.  

Be prepared - things here cost a lot more than what we are use to at home, especially with our low Canadian Dollar. We made a point of not thinking about the exchange but to just go with it and enjoy.  But if you need to pick up items be prepared it will probably cost you twice what you would pay at home.


Dining Ashore:

We tried to have a meal in every port.  For us we loved the time to sit and reflect and rest and try some of the local foods.

I highly recommend picking a restaurant that is further away from major tourist sites.  Look for restaurants that don't have a sign in English with menu items.  Look for a chalk board or sign that states in their native language the menu.  Look for a restaurant that doesn't particularly cater to tourists but to serving good, authentic food.

we walk down this street and found the most amazing restaurant


Our game plan was always to walk away from the major street down a side road and then to look for a restaurant that had daily features with many locals inside.  

Every meal we attempted something new - and sometimes we had no idea what the item was - we just pointed to it on the menu and often we were surprised and happy.  Later in the trip we would just state to the server "what do you recommend today" and again we were never disappointed.


We often would order one dish and share it, so one pasta and then one main dish and share.  Meals were large and this gave us the opportunity to try a few things.  We also would let one person pick the food one time and then the other would pick the food the next time.  It was fun trying to figure out items and surprising Bernie with special things.

Ask for the house or table wine, which is sold by the glass, half litre or full litre.  Certainly a more economical way to go and very very good.  Note red wines are often served a little chilled.



In fact if you can stop into the wine stores that sell the wines in refillable bottles.  We were able to buy empty plastic bottles and have them fill them for a few Euros.  We then would just enjoy this wine in the cabin before dinner.



Try some of the local customs.  For us it was getting our espresso every morning at the coffee shops that the locals went to.  Standing at the bar and drinking it is a great way to blend in and fit in.  Plus it usually a lot cheaper than taking a table to enjoy.  Stop by the sandwich deli type stores and have them make you a sandwich.  Take it with you and sit on a bench or grassy area and enjoy.  


In the evening after enjoying a great meal, go for a stroll and get some gelato and watch the people.



In Venice we really enjoyed visiting the wine bars where we sat and had a reasonably priced glass of house wines and some small finger foods (sort of like tapas).




Ports:

Hit the ground running.  Do lots of research before you leave home about each port.  Find out what you might like to do and take note of that.  Each port we had a rough idea of what we were doing and we worked at accomplishing that.  But I quickly learned that often I had too much planned in the ports and we soon realized we could really only accomplish half of what we wanted to and realized we would just have to come back.

Watch the port lecturer's show - either live or in your cabin (it was replayed in the cabins) to learn key bits of information about each port.  Transportation, sites, restaurants, and history.  



Don't be afraid to take local transportation in each port. Often Princess offered shuttles from the ship to the town at a cost.  But frankly the cost was so high per person that it forced us to look for other options.  Example is Venice - ship's shuttle was only one water taxi from port to St. Mark's Sq (ended at 11:30 pm) for 24 hours at a cost of $20 each - so it would of been $40 each for the 48 hours we were there.  Venice's ACTV vaporetto service is 30E each for 48 hours and we could take any of the lines at any time of the day.  Often taxis were the same cost as the ship's shuttle. But we easily found local buses, trains, private shuttles or taxis to be a better value and gave us much more flexibility.  




Another example is our day in Florence - the shuttle from Livorno to Florence was 360E and it could take 8 people. The ship offered a bus transfer at a cost of $99 US each and it was a set time with a full bus.

Taking the train to many cities is easy and efficient.  We used the train to Pisa and Rome very easily.  

Using local buses can also save you time and it gives you the opportunity to connect with the locals too.  Drivers were very helpful and patient and locals were very open to assisting us on directions too.

Don't be too afraid of getting lost, or wandering - this is the time when I often found a hidden gem.  

Highly recommend that you download a Map App to your phone that you can use offline.  I used Maps2Go which is free and I could easily locate myself on the map and then figure out how to get to where I needed to go.  Another great app is a translator app.  We used this often especially when getting directions, ordering or buying personal items (saved us when we needed to buy conditioner in Italy).


When researching take note of sites that you can pre book. This saved us numerous times.  We pre reserved the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Necropolis tour, Museum in Florence, Doge's Palace and a few others.  It is very easy to pre reserve many of these places by going directly to their websites.  Read each blog for each port where I have links to the sites we used.  Having pre reserved tickets allowed us to skip the line and saved us valuable time.

Wear appropriate clothing and shoes!  We witnessed numerous people being turned away from certain sites because they were not dressed modestly to enter.  Cover the shoulders and no shorts are the rule in many churches. A good pair of shoes that you can wear, cause trust me you will log a lot of steps.  Also be aware of the terrain.  Often the streets/sidewalks are uneven and comprise of cobblestones.

Carry some small bills and coins as most public washrooms require you to pay (usually a Euro).  Take advantage of washrooms at the sites you visit - like museums, or restaurants.

When dining ashore note that tipping is not the norm here and often an automatic tip or service fee is added to the bill and is clearly marked.



Each port had very good tourist information booths that provided excellent maps and ideas and many allowed people to reserve tickets too.

We found that we were able to communicate quite easily in every port.  Although English is often spoken in many of the tourist areas a few words in the native language can help.  

Petty Crime was an issue for many people that we encountered.  Seemed like every port we heard of someone who had some kind of issue.  Don't risk it... carry your items in a safe spot that is difficult to access.  If you need quick access to some money, just carry a small amount in your pocket and keep the rest in a secure spot.  We carried our pacsafe bag and had no issues at all.  Pacsafe is a great brand with all types of bags to suit your needs but there are other brands that also provide theft resistant bags.  

No matter what you do, don't carry all your money, credit cards, passport with you.  At times we were requested to bring our passport ashore.  When we did we put it in a separate bag that was secure.  We always leave another credit card in the safe in the cabin.  This way if the main card gets stolen we have a second credit card to use after we cancel the one we lost.  

Keep your wits about you when you are ashore.  We witnessed thieves trying to distract tourists at ticket machines - often they offer assistance while their friend helps themselves to your possessions.  Don't carry your wallet in your pocket in your pants, not your front or back pocket!  Three different guys we spoke to had their wallets taken exactly this way.  


Ship:

We sailed on the Island Princess.  I really loved the size of ship and really liked that it was easy to get around.

This ship recently went thru an extensive dry dock where the Universe Lounge was removed and cabins were added to the aft area on decks 6,7 and lido.  Also the casino was made more narrow and cabins added to the port side.  Of course this impacted the cruise because more cabins equals more people.  

Unfortunately no more public spaces were added, including no more dining areas.  This did cause some issues with waits for the dining rooms.  Also this ship does not have an International Cafe and we really missed that.  Having an International Cafe provides us with an alternative place to get something to eat.  Often a quick item from there filled us for breakfast or lunch.  But because it was not there it only impacted the already over crowded venues.

For this very port intensive itinerary this ship worked.  It doesn't have all the bells and whistles that the big ships have but it felt just right.  In the evenings we were often too tired to partake in too much so the lack of the missing venue didn't impact us too much.  The few times we did see a production show we had no real problem getting a seat, especially if we went to the late show (note this itinerary had two longer shows, instead of the three shorter shows we often see when sailing other itineraries).

Have to say that the food on this ship was probably one of the best we have ever had on any Princess ship.  Food had more flavour, much more variety (especially in Horizon Court) and food that was suppose to be hot was hot.  



Then the next best thing about this ship are it's crew.  Again they just blew us away on how they seemed to work so hard and do it with a smile on their faces.  With being on for a whole month we made some great friends among them. Top notch crew who obviously care about what they are doing.

The few things that I found lacking about this ship that I wish they would work on are:  


  • improved television on demand service - since this was so port intensive we found many of our evenings were spent relaxing in the cabin after dinner and a good movie would of been nice.  We missed the on demand tv that the Royal and Regal have.
  • Internet on this ship was very poor.  Now I know most people now hook up to the ship's wifi with their devices and those devices suck up a lot more data that ever before with auto updates, notifications and so on.  But really it seems Princess is falling way behind in providing high speed internet that other lines are managing to provide - and at a much less cost to the passenger.  I should also add that the routers are placed throughout the ship, but it seemed my cabin was just too far from a router to get a very good signal.  Had to stand right by the cabin door to get a half decent signal, but if I wanted to use my laptop I had to take it to a public area.
  • Dining rooms - this ship has one dining room on deck five that is for anytime dining and one dining room on deck six that is traditional.  We always choose anytime. On the first leg we found that most people preferred to dine late, on the second leg the demographics changed and was a much older crowd and the dining rooms were packed early.  It seemed that the Head Waiters had a hard time trying to accommodate everyone (remember all the added cabins) in the two dining rooms.  I heard of many traditional diners that went to anytime dining whenever they couldn't make their assigned time - which was frustrating for those of us who don't have the option to go to traditional dining when we want.  Also the dining room on the sixth floor is exactly the same as the one of five, but it is right below the Promenade deck and the Wheelhouse bar.  So when the band starts up you can hear it in the dining room on deck six.  
  • On a positive note we dined probably 75% of our dinners up in the Horizon Court.  We dined here more this cruise than we ever had.  The service up here was amazing. Not only were the waiters attentive to any of our needs, the chef's serving us remembered us and would welcome us and chat and became a highlight to see them each night.  Food here was plentiful, hot, and lots of variety. A hidden gem that many people pass up, but works very well on this very port intensive cruise.  Plus it was nice to not have to dress for dinner in the dining room after a long day.
  • Specialty Restaurants - this ship has two of them.   The Bayou and Sabatinis.  We dined at the Bayou twice and Sabatinis once.  The meals were good, not spectacular, service was so so and certainly not as good as in the dining room or Horizon Court.  We find the cost of $25 to be a decent price but find that the meal and service just don't make it special.  Both of these venues were usually empty on this long voyage and there was very little promotion for them either.  But then what is worse is you do go and you are disappointed because of the lack of service - waiters are cut to the bare minimum and just can't handle all the tables that do show up.  Princess I hope you read this and work at improving this area.


Demographic on the Cruise

The first cruise that was 12 days from Rome to Venice the demographic was younger, I would guess the average age was late 40s, early 50s.  Some families and even some kids. The second cruise which was Rome to Fort Lauderdale 19 nights was a much older crowd with the average age I am guessing to be around 65 and I think only two kids.  

Final Thoughts from Us

We loved this trip!  We loved Europe!  We especially loved Italy and could see us spending a lot more time there.  I know once we retire we have talked about spending months at a place before moving on to another town/city and now Italy is a place we want to spend more time in.  

For us the bigger cities were the highlight, but that may of been because they offered so much to do.  After a while I am sure the smaller places would have more appeal.  

We found the locals to be very welcoming and friendly. Make a point to connect with them by asking them questions about themselves, their store/restaurant etc. I don't think we left a table without a free drink at the end of the meal provided by the owner.  

We loved Rome, Naples, Venice, Pisa, Barcelona, Athens, Kusadasi and Porta Delgada.  We kind of liked Florence, Toulon, Dubrovnik, Salerno, Corsica.  We liked but they weren't on the top of our lists Mykonos, Santorini, Cannes.

I know we need to go back and explore some more.  But we both agreed this trip was exhausting - until we starting the crossing.  There is no way we could do this itinerary and come right back to work.  We needed the sea days that the crossing provided to rest up before heading back to work.  

Although we loved the Mediterranean we have agreed that we will put off future trips to it until after we retire (which is coming up soon - five years!).

Our biggest complaint on this trip was all the smokers in the ports.  The smoking rules, although are stricter than they use to be, are much looser than they are in Canada/USA. We would of loved to have dined more often on terraces, but smoking is often allowed on the terrace which meant you inhaled smoke as you ate or drank your wine.  Seems that all age groups smoke there too; whereas here at home, young people tend to smoke less and less.  

I highly recommend that people take this voyage while you physically can.  This itinerary is demanding and being able bodied helps.  


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Our Two Last Days Sea


What can I say about today…. Well just repeat most other sea days. 

Breakfast up in Horizon Court and I have to say I was quite saddened to hear a hostess speaking to another crew member about a passenger.  I know she thought I did not hear or understand her, but I did and I was saddened.  Later I did mention it to a head waiter that we know quite well for him to deal with it how he wants.

They finally have a speedy Sudoku challenge today (thanks Chris) in the Wheelhouse.  It is well attended and it was a difficult one but I am happy to say I did come in third.  However they held it again the next day and I gave up after 20 minutes when I couldn’t read the puzzle anymore after erasing so much and still only two winners had been called.
I checked out the fruit and vegetable carving demonstration – wow these guys have talent.

There is another Onboard Outlet Sale going on but I tried to go in three times but it was way too busy and gave up.  I am sure there was nothing I really needed in there.

They were holding a pub lunch again today in the Bayou Café but we both opted for no lunch as we still were full from breakfast.

bar staff busy for happy hour


Explorers is hosting the bingo and the Happy Hour – reason is the art auction was in the Wheelhouse Bar.  This is probably one of two times I have missed the Universe Lounge.  Normally Bingo would be in Universe but to have Bingo and Happy Hour in one place meant no place to sit for everyone.  The other time is when they host the Captain Circle Parties, which also used to be held in Universe.  But in all it really has not impacted our cruise too much, but it is missed.


I will add that I was very impressed with the Bar Supervisor who found seats for people and even went and got folding chairs to ensure those that wanted a seat got one.

We settled in the chairs and tables out along the windows outside of Explorers.  Gina one of our favorite bar staff found us and made sure we were well taken care of.  I ordered the Illusion drink – yummy.

Around 4:30 we are back in the cabin and we decide to invite our friends Karin/John down for a drink.  I run up and get some snacks, chips/salsa, cheese, nuts, and fruit.  We had a great time with them.  We always have fun with them and laugh our heads off.  We hope to sail with them again soon.

Football is up on the MUTS screen tonight and just prior to that is the movie The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  I really wanted to see this but I guess I am just going to have to wait till we get on the Royal Princess in the New Year.
It is also Formal Night and we hear quite a few grumblings from passengers that they really are not up to dressing up for a third time.  Bernie certainly doesn’t want to.  So we stay casual and opt to enjoy dinner in the buffet again.

Buffet was great again and quite a few people are up here enjoying it and not dressing up.  Of course there are quite a few who just want to eat and watch the football game in comfort too.  Key is it is your vacation, do what you want.

We first attempted to check out Scott Wyler’s comedy show (totally different show than the other night) in Explorers at 7;15 but there is not a seat to be had.  With so many having first seating they headed right here afterwards.  We will come back for the later show, and we do and he was very very funny again.  Also there were even seats left for latecomers at the 9:15 show.


After dinner we head to the Princess Theater for the Production Show On The Bayou which we missed the first leg but we have to see this cruise.  This show is only on the Coral and the Island.  It use to be held in the Universe Lounge but this is even better cause it can hold more people and the set is fabulous.

Great show, and I am impressed as this is the first time this crew perform this show.  Loved it and wish it could be on more ships.

We are in bed around 10 pm, early night but Bernie says “hey I didn’t get a nap so I earned it”.

The next morning we are awake early – no surprise since we were asleep by 10:30.  It is a little cloudy but still very warm.  There is a bit more wind and we definitely feel more movement on the ship, but nothing serious.

Today is packing day!  Not my favorite.  Hard to believe it was 30 days ago we boarded and unpacked.  Around noon Bernie pulls out the bags and we both comment that these suitcases have seen better days.  They weren’t cheap, and they certainly have been on many trips but I think this will be their last voyage.  I vote for buying cheap bags cause they never last anyways.  We will see when we get home.
We are doing EZ Check for our bags.  We have two 25” bags and two small roller carry on bags.  Our bags are lighter than when we came – go figure. 

One thing I will add if you want to do EZ Check make sure you decide before the cut off.  Yesterday while sitting near the Purser’s desk and after everyone had gotten their luggage tags I saw many coming up to the desk requesting EZ Check now.  Guess what, it is too late. They need to know by a certain date so they can confirm with the airline and arrange it. 


Since our flight is not until 14:40 we will just walk out of the port and to 17th Street and get a coffee and a lunch and then catch a cab to the port.

Disembarkation:

We arrive on time and we are up early and showered and pack up the last few things into our carry on bag.  

Dining room is open until 9 am and we arrive and run into Karin and John and eat with them.

It was a nice way to end the cruise with a meal with friends.

The ship is ahead of time with the schedule and they keep making announcements that you should arrive at your designated lounge 15 minutes ahead of time.

We still have time so we just go to the Shore Excursion office area as there is no one there and there are some nice seats there to rest.

I stop in to see the crowds in Explorer's Lounge and to say goodbye to Crissy the Captain Circle host.  The Platinum Elite lounge is CRAZY busy.  

Our lounge is the casino and we show up there early and they tell us we can already go ashore.  Great!

We walk off and clear customs right away.  No need for us to pick up our bags as they have gone ahead of us to the airport.  

We are at the furthest away pier!  The Emerald is at pier 2. Apparently since she is a bigger ship with more passengers she gets priority.  This does put a wrench into our plans as we were just going to walk to 17th Street.  

We still plan on walking but it takes a half hour to walk there instead of five minutes. Note when we tried to walk away from the building many Princess Cruise staff at the pier told us we couldn't but we know we can.  They warn us there are no sidewalks.  But they are wrong.  There is a sidewalk all the way to 17th Street.  It is windy but totally safe.

Our flight is on time and we have no problem making our connection in Houston.  Our bags arrive in Vancouver right on schedule and we are home in an hour.  

I plan on writing a summary of our thoughts on the Mediterranean cruise soon, so stay tuned.


Day at Sea Nov 22, 2015


It is so nice to see such a friendly face on the Patter today.  Chris Sweets our new Cruise Director is on the cover.  He is doing a great job and hope he gets his permanent position as CD soon. 

I slept like a baby but Bernie was up most of the night.  We slowly get ready and head to the Horizon Court for a light breakfast.  Clothes are definitely tighter and reality is kicking in.  A diet is in order as soon as we get home!

After reading in the coffee bar for quite a while and enjoy my coffee we both agree it may be worth heading outside as the weather has changed and it is much much warmer. 

We change into bathing suits and head up to the Sun deck.  Sadly this ship has no outdoor pool that is away from MUTS.  Princess Bride is playing on the big screen and it is almost impossible to even carry on a conversation if you are sitting nearby.  I still wish Princess would not play movies during the day here.  Light music and images would be fine.  You can’t even see the screen that well during the day, and they only show old movies during the day so it would not be a big deal. But that is my opinion.  Anyone agree?

After two hours we are worried about getting a sunburn.  We didn’t bring sunscreen – we really wouldn’t need it for most of the cruise, except for the last few days.



Bernie gets a burger for lunch (two days in a row) and I head to the pizzeria and get two slices of the special 50th Anniversary pizza.  Today it is potato bacon and brie cheese with a pesto sauce.  Yesterday it was Thai Pizza.  Have to say Princess I love these special pizzas, I hope you keep them.


We then grab two lounge chairs in the shade.  Not only to get out of the sun but it is so hot if you are sitting in the sun.  The enclosed pool is like a sauna now.



This afternoon is the Passenger Talent show and we promised our friends we would attend.  Wow the place is packed and it was quite enjoyable.  Oh and Barbara and George did a great job – now worries you two I did not take any video, but here is a picture!

It is early evening and Bernie is exhausted.  I don’t think he will be up for much longer.  I head out to the promenade deck to sit on the lovely teak lounge chairs and watch the sunset and finally finish the very long book that I started in Rome. 

Lot is going on tonight but it looks like it will be a quiet night for us.

Stephani Parker is the Spotlight Showtime but she is a singer who sings Whitney Houston songs and well I have to pass, just not my thing.  Explorer’s Lounge is doing a Remember the Lyrics Game Show; there is football on MUTS, and the big Festivals of the World Mardi Gras Party is happening in the Atrium.


Overall it was a very relaxing day.

At Sea – November 20, 2015


This is our third day at sea out of six.  Seas have calmed down considerably.  The weather has also improved and gotten warmer and more sun.  Definitely can sit out by the pool more comfortably but windy.

After slowly getting dressed we head up to the Horizon Court for breakfast and sit with Barbara and George.  They are participating in Passenger Talent Show which will be tomorrow and we promise them we will be there to support them.

I wish I could say our days were filled with exciting things that would keep you all on the edge of your seats but nope it was rather boring.  But for us boring is okay.  

We sit in the Atrium and enjoy our latte while chatting with people there.  I do a bit of reading but it is getting busy here and too noisy.  We grab our stuff and head to the open deck where we sit and read for awhile and look out at the ocean – ahhhh.  Can you picture it?  

Around 12 pm we both agree it is time for a hamburger.  We love the hamburgers up on the open deck at the Trident Grill and we have not had a single one yet.  It was good! And a special treat.

Still seeking out a quiet area (wish this ship had a skywalkers) to read.  So we choose to head to Crooners and sit on a lovely couch right by the window.  It is perfect.  

Well it was perfect until this guy sits at the bar right near us and all he does is complain.  Complaining about the passengers, complaining about Princess, complaining about the food.  After sitting there for a half hour listening to him we get up and move to the other end of Crooners.

At 2 pm we go to the Movie Music Trivia with TinTin and we do respectfully with only 3 wrong.  But this cruise is full of strong trivia players and we rarely stand a chance, but it was fun.  TinTin is very good with the passengers.  He has patience and a good sense of humour and doesn’t let things get too far out of hand – but it is time he cut that hair.

The cabin is calling and I sit on the balcony reading and enjoying the view.  Bernie is reading on the bed and I bet he will fall asleep very soon – YUP – he is asleep.  

I quietly leave the cabin around 4 to do some walking.  Even though the Promenade doesn’t go all away around I like that it is easy to walk all around deck 15 (yes you have to climb the stairs at the aft to the sports deck and back down again) and at this hour it is relatively quiet.  One downfall is you have to walk thru the smoking area on the starboard side forward.  But there are not many smoking.

After four laps I head down to Aloha deck and then walk that deck, then down another deck to Baja and around that deck.  I do this for the entire ship until I get to my deck on Emerald.  

Once back in the cabin Bernie is getting ready and I follow him.  Tonight is the Captain Circle Party.  Ours is set for 6:25 in Explorer’s Lounge.  There are three parties tonight and two tomorrow.  We take a seat with Karin and John at a table up front.  We get a round of drinks and trust me they take very very good care of us.  Bernie makes sure to tip Alvin who was very helpful in keeping our drink supply in tack.

Gina and Bernie

Crissy Reid our Captain Circle Host welcomes us and informs us of the top three.  If memory serves me right the numbers for the top three are 1,200, 1,400 and 1,600 for number one!  Wow!  The Captain says a few words – short and sweet – and the party is over!  Only a half hour and we are ushered out!  Okay it was good, but we feel a bit rushed.  It is understandable because there are so many Platinum and Elites but I am feeling that maybe even this party needs to be revamped.

It is 7 and we all decide to go to dinner together.  We arrive at the dining room and our Head Waiter welcomes us and shows us to a lovely table in Boots’ (our waiter) section.  It is Italian night – the sweaters the waiters are wearing are a dead giveaway.

We enjoy the rest of our Mouton Cadet wine and I start with the eggplant ptarmigan.  Then the pasta course.  For dinner I accept the recommendation of Boots and have the roast beef braised in a red wine served with polenta.  It was so good and I could cut the meat with my fork.

Tonight the feature entertainer is Alex Crow a Mentalist at 10:15 (he had an earlier show at 8:15).  We take seats near the front but still a bit back in row three.  We are amazed… blown away!  Karin is brought up on stage and asked to write the name and the time of one of her children’s births.  
She gives the paper to Bernie in the audience.  Alex guesses it within five minutes a 58 instead of a 53 and guesses her name!  Well make sure you check out his show if you see his name in the Patter.

When the Cruise Director comes on he asks what is everyone going to do now – we yell party – it is 11 pm.  But we do head to Explorer’s afterwards to dance to Latin Fever but there is maybe ten people here (taking advantage of the Happy Hour).  No one is dancing and the rest of the ship is quiet too.  We stroll back to the cabin.  And we gain another hour tonight – only one more hour to gain before arriving in Florida.

Other activities today:  Enrichment Lecture Pearl Harbor 1941, Zuma, Morning Trivia Super Sports, Walk a Mile, MUTS Mrs Doubtfire, Fussball Tournament, GoPro Seminar, Mission Impossible is playing in the cabin, Caribbean Drum Circle, Mastering the Masters, Ballroom Dance Class Rhumba, Chocolate Martini Demo, Bingo, Medical and Dentist get together, Festivals of the World Arts and Crafts Mardi Gras Mask Making, MUTS Avitar.

Evening Activities: Christmas portraits, Movie on MUTS Love and Mercy, Discovery and Sea Trivia: how is it made, Evening Stateroom Movie Run All Night, Ye Olde Pub Night, and so much more.

Some other items in the Patter you may find interesting:
GoPro Hero4 Silver for $399.99; Lighten Your Smile with teeth whitening for $119; Drink of the Day $8.95 Mucho Mango.

First Two Sea Day


Well what can I say, sea days are sea days – also known as relaxation days.

We gained an hour the first night and are up and showered and able to dine in the dining room for breakfast again.  

Bernie and I both want pancakes, especially since the ones we had yesterday were hot.  Well sadly neither of our stacks of pancakes were hot this time.  Warm but not hot.  

The butter just rested on top in a solid state.  Oh well I guess it was good while it lasted.

It is very windy and the ship is rocking.  Many people are commenting and many are feeling the effects, even the crew.  Us we feel great.  I will add the next day the winds died down but the seas got worse and we were really rolling.  Holding on to railings was key and I just hoped anyone with mobility issues were okay.  This is certainly not the worst seas I have experienced.  I have had worse seas off the coast of Cabo San Lucas, and just off the coast of Fort Lauderdale too.

By the third day at sea the seas have calmed and it is warmer.

Because of the weather most people are in the public areas.  
Finding a quiet place is difficult – not unlike many ships we go on.  We get a seat in the coffee bar and usually end up chatting with someone there and surprisingly an hour goes by.  

I have been enjoying the movies in the cabin and one day they showed the movie Big Eyes and the next it was Inside Out.  

Laundry is taking anywhere from 48 hours to 72 hours to be returned.  With so many elites it is understandable.

For last night I planned a special evening for my honey to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, which is in July but this trip was planned for that.  So I spent the afternoon running around getting things.

First I called the dine line and made reservations for the Bayou at 8 pm.  I then went to the front desk and ordered a rose corsage to be delivered to the cabin before dinner (cost was $15).  

Into Calypso Cove for an anniversary card and then some chocolates.  At first the woman recommended a heart shaped box of Godiva Chocolates but I ended up with a Toblerone Bar cause I know he would prefer that.  Just before our reservation I head to the Bayou and pre order a bottle of the 50th Anniversary Prosecco for the table. 

Back in the cabin later I write up the card and a note and place it beside his bed while he is napping.  Directions are: dress smart casual for dinner, put on corsage, and meet me in Crooners for a date night.



We start with drinks (me martinis and Bernie his vodka soda) with friends.  At 8 I take him to the Bayou for dinner.  
We are welcomed and are sat at a table right by the window.  The place is very quiet (right now) and the head waiter pours the Prosecco and Bernie and I toast to a great 20 years.

George is our server and he welcomes us back.  We place our order and we notice around 15 crew arrive, many of the dancers/singers sit at two tables.  Some other crew arrive a little later.  It is nice to see them getting to enjoy a dinner out (note they have to pay the cover charge of $25 too).  

The only problem with these other tables arriving is the two waiters are now very busy with tables all over the restaurant.

We are off to one side and we are kind of forgotten.  Plates take a long time to be cleared once we have finished our meal. I even went to the washroom after my entrée and came back and my plate was still there.  Our water and wine stay empty for long periods and I once had to ask to have more water.



The food was very good. I started with the sausage and polenta again and for my entrée had the blackened chicken which was very moist and flavourful but not blackened at all.  Bernie had seafood bisque to start and the catfish for his entrée.  For dessert we shared a dish of the pound cake which was amazing.  

This was our third experience in one of the Specialty restaurants and I do enjoy them.  But sadly Princess falls short in maintaining special service in these specialty restaurants.  Sure they have been very quiet this sailing and so they have cut back on servers, but when they get a rush they should be calling for assistance from somewhere.  

Service here is usually just as good or less than dining in the dining room.  It just is not special.

But it was still a beautiful evening of celebration and as we strolled down deck 7 and arrived at the Atrium we dance a bit to the sounds of the piano player Daniel Oliver who is good but he is no Corey Simon.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

A Cruise Friend For Life - Gone Too Soon


You know we get to meet so many wonderful people in our travels. With some we really connect with. 

Whenever we sailed with Jimmy and Lynn Burns (which was often) we knew a lot of laughing would be involved. 

We met them a few years ago when I was doing Zumba and Lynn was watching.  Right away we both recognized each other as we had sailed together a few times prior.  

After that meeting whenever we sailed with them we always had a great time with them.  Long conversations at either James' table in Horizon Court or just outside of it on the Lido deck by the pool.  His signature hat made him easy to spot.  

If Bernie went up for some food and was gone for a while I knew he was sitting with Jimmy and chatting about everything. Sure enough I would head up and there they would be.

Jimmy would always read my blog when we sailed together. He would laugh and say whenever I saw him "boy you are having a fun time I need to follow you".  

We had the pleasure of being tablemates last year twice at the Most Travelled Luncheon with them.  We both insisted we get to sit together.

He loved to talk about future cruises, future travel plans and especially about his Granddaughter and I know he was even more excited about a new grandbaby (who would of been born by now).  

You will be missed James Burns my condolences to Lynn and his entire family. Know that it was a pleasure to have called him friend. Life is short people - enjoy every minute.