Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Half a Million HITS

Wow can you believe it!  My counter just turned to just over 500,000 hits onto my blog.  That is half a million!

I am truly blown away.

When I started this blog in 2009 (OMG that was a long time ago) it was just a small journal to write about our voyages and trips.  Mainly my close friends and family followed along.

Now I have people from all over the world that read it. I am continually being recognized on board ships with people recognizing me from my blog or videos.  Note I love it when people approach me and some have become really good friends.

The blog has grown immensely with so many ports listed and with easy to search port labels. I try to create detailed information about each port for others to learn from and I know others appreciate it because I get great comments every day on how my blog/video/page helped them.

I try to be objective and post what I see and how it impacts me.  I don't post second/third or fourth hand information. I am a very positive person and tend to look at the glass half full. If there is an issue I state it and how I think it could be better.

For now I still love doing the blogs. Sure there are days on the cruise it is a bit of a chore but 90% of the time it is a treat to do.

I want to thank all who have taken the time to read, write, comment, introduce yourselves - because of you I keep doing it.  I really want to thank Princess Cruises too and every crew that has made my trips extra special.  Without them I wouldn't have been blessed with so many great memories.

Keep following and make sure to check out my new webpage vickiecruises.com that puts all my cruise information all in one place.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Time to Book a Cruise

Of course what vacation of ours would be complete without a cruise. 

Since this long vacation still had a few weeks left we searched for cruise itineraries that left from California (either San Francisco or LA).  We had a few options, Grand, Ruby, Star or Island.

Island was doing the Panama and it isn't our favorite ship and the dates didn't match up so that was easy to drop from our list.

Star was doing 15 day Hawaii and those dates didn't line up either.

The Grand was doing an itinerary we really wanted to do (10 day Sea of Cortez) and we had people we would love to reconnect with on board. But that would be only one 10 day cruise as after it was heading to Hawaii and we didn't have enough time (plus it was expensive) to add that on.  So that was dropped.

That left the Ruby.  The Ruby is doing 7 day Mexican Riviera cruises that stop in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas.

We love Mexico so we knew we would be happy with that. The price sure was right. Probably some of the lowest we have seen in a long time, so that helped.  Deal for past Princess cruisers!

Wasn't crazy about 7 day itineraries as we would then have two turnaround days. But hey - what a silly thing to be a negative point.

So we booked!  Yup three legs on the Ruby. 

What is even better is it looks like we have many cruise friends that will jump on for one of the legs.  Price and itinerary and proximity were a big selling point.

But in order to do three legs we had to compromise and we booked an inside cabin for all three legs.  Even though the price of a balcony was very reasonable. Getting it for three legs added another $1,000 in total and we agreed that we could use that money elsewhere. 

I always say it is your holiday and you do what you have to do. 

People ask how we can do three legs, well being in an inside is one of the ways. But who knows if we get an upgrade or an upsell things could change.

Disneyland Booked

So as you have read so far we are booked on a flight from Lima to Los Angeles.  Our plan was to have this great adventure but we also need some rest and relaxation.  So we started to look at cruises we could do from Los Angeles.   
But all the cruises only left on the Saturday and well I will admit it, I really wanted to go back to Disneyland.

It may have something to do with Disneyland offering Canadians a discount when they buy a 3 day or longer pass because of our exchange rate. Then it seemed every hour there was a Disneyland commercial on the tv.  Hmm are they telling me something?

We were able to scoop up some passes from airmiles.ca at the discountated rate. Note we knew others were experiencing a lot of problems trying to redeem their points. Although we never have had an issue we weren't about to wait and find out.  We have used airmiles for a lot of things in the past but a few years ago we switched credit cards to one that provided better perks as well as better rewards so we were not really accumulating that many points with airmiles. So what better way to use them.

Once ordered it only took about five days for them to deliver to us the pass.

I started to research hotels in the Anaheim area.  Last time here we stayed at the Red Lion a block from the park. We really liked this place and would of easily have gone back but we realized the cost of that convenience meant we may have to look at a bit further away.

We searched most of the big sites for the going rates. I then went to Hotwire.com and selected the location and the star level (make sure to research what hotels are in that area and the star level first) and accepted the price.  

We were surprised to see we got the Holiday Inn Anaheim Resort.  Great hotel but not on the main drag. It is still only a half hour walk to the park but off the beaten path. But after more research I see that the ART (Anaheim Rapid Transit) stops right there and can take us to almost anywhere we need to go and their daily pass is quite affordable.   

Another great perk here is they offer free parking. Even though we are not sure if we will rent a car, it is still an option.

Monday, November 28, 2016

More Flight to Book - Lima to Los Angeles

Since we have the main flights booked to Peru we were able to rest a bit and take our time searching for flight from Lima to LAX.

What is funny is even though we had a great deal from Vancouver to Lima with that amazing direct flight from LAX to Lima it was not a great deal to fly to LAX direct.  WHY! Oh yes the flight demons.  

All flight options that were remotely reasonable had at least one connection.  

Remember in my blog a few days ago that I said that airlines watch flight routing and dates and price will suddenly jump up.  

Well it happened to us.

There was a great flight with JetBlue that left at midnight from Lima and routed to Fort Lauderdale with a 3 hour layover there and then a flight to LAX for around $450 Canadian each.  A steal we thought, plus that would save us a night's accommodation as we would be in the air overnight. 

Oh but that doesn't sound appealing either.  And leaving at midnight would mean that last day in Lima would be a long one.  We discussed and then agreed that this was the best option and we went to book. 

NOOOOO the fight now has jumped to $650 each.  See even I have frustrations when booking.

Okay back to the drawing board. We knew that if we waited a few days that JetBlue would probably put that flight back down in price (in fact at time of writing this blog a week later the price is back down to $450 Cdn).  I also needed to look for alternatives now too.

Now there was a great flight with Avianca (which I researched and had good reviews and great planes - make sure you check out seatguru.com).  The flight was leaving at a better time of just after 10 am and had only one layover in San Salvador (but we don't change planes) with an arrival in LA that evening for a cost of $650 Canadian. Which was the same price as Jet Blue and was a shorter flight, better plane and flew during the day. So no brainer we booked it.  

Sometimes things happen for a reason.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Booking Flights Within Peru

So here I go again - a new endeavor for me.  Booking flights within Peru.

Our journey with Puma Adventures starts in Puno, Peru for Lake Titicaca and ends in Cusco ten days later. We needed to arrange one way flights from Lima to Juliaca (closest airport to Puno) and then Cusco to Lima at the end.

One thing I learned is Kayak.com had some great deals but often when I would go to the deal the LATAM flight was not priced correct.  This kept happening.  In the end I had to go with a different booking site to secure the flights.

But it was relatively an easy process and a fair price.

I was surprised too (not sure why as it is a distance away) that the flight to Juliaca is 2 hours!  

We were able to secure the same flight that Dylan and Ben are on at 10:45 am - a more sensible time. This will allow us time to rest and get a good breakfast and to store our bag at the airport (this bag is for our travels after we leave Lima and we don't want to lug with us).

We are being met in Juliaca and will then be transported to Puno where our journey will begin.

After our time (10 days) with Puma Adventures we will leave Cusco and fly to Lima.  

We have decided to spend two nights in Lima to explore the city some more. We did visit here on our last South America trip and thought two full days was necessary. 

Plus you may remember Daniel who is from Peru and works as a waiter on Princess. Even though he will be on board a ship (Star Princess) we are hoping to meet up with his family. 

Hotels in Lima are reasonable, especially if you choose one of the many boutique hotels. We discussed at length whether we should book a big name hotel and have a more "Canadian" like atmosphere. Or try a boutique hotel that is run by a family and offers a more "Peruvian" experience. Easy decision we went with the boutique hotel. 

We reserved a room for two nights at the Casa Bella Miraflores. Centrally located, includes breakfast and will arrange to meet us at the airport and transport us to the hotel for an added $20 US each way. The hotel rate is $55 US a night and it will meet our needs I am sure.  

I was quite impressed that I was able to reserve the room on line and they responded very quickly to my request and any questions I might have and the offer for transport. 

Booking Flights to Peru

This is something new for me.  You see I am normally booking flights to join a cruise.  Sure I have booked flights for land vacations.  Back to visit family, and flights with charters to Mexico.  But I have never booked flights to a foreign country where a lot of things were new to me.  

So from our earlier blog you now know we are heading to Peru for an amazing trip of a lifetime.

But first we need to buy fights to Lima.  Getting there from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada has a few challenges.  

  • First there are no direct flights.  
  • Second it isn't cheap.  
  • Third routing can be almost anywhere.  
  • Fourth layovers really need to be factored in.

I love using kayak.com for my searches - but make sure to do it in an incognito window so they don't track the flights. 

One reason -- you end up seeing prices go up for flights you are looking at the next day. Companies now can track how many have looked at a particular flight, on a particular day, and routing.  Heck even cruise lines are doing this.

Our goal was to find a one way flight to Lima with only one connection, with a reputable airline, with minimal layovers for a reasonable price. A daunting task!  Or am I asking too much.

After searching various sites over a few days of travel (make sure to look at flight leaving a day or two earlier) and taking lots of notes. 

One thing we saw was great prices but the layovers were crazy.  I for one don't want a layover of 13 hours in Toronto or Mexico City.  Flights with less layovers jumped in price.  

In the end we came across a flight that got us into Lima the night before our flight to Juliaca.  

Thankfully we secured an Air Canada flight that leaves early in the morning in Vancouver with a 2 hour stop in LA, enough time to change to our Lima flight (which is more than enough because luckily we clear US customs in Vancouver and won't have to in LA). 

We then board a LATAM flight (we flew with them a few years ago to Brazil and loved them) direct from LA to Lima, Peru.  Arriving in Lima just after midnight local time.  And the price $400 US each!  

We have learned that if we find a great flight at a great price don't hesitate -- BOOK IT because there is always a chance (and we have been burned before) it won't be there at the same price later.

We then reserved a hotel right at the airport (Costa del Sol Wyndham) to crash before our flight the next day to Juliaca for our time in Puno and Lake Titicaca. 

It was hard to accept the cost of this expensive hotel ($200 night and we would only be there 9 hours) but after searching for less expensive accommodations away from the airport that certainly would of been a lot cheaper we agreed that those cheaper hotels were not going to cut it. 

This night we would need a comfortable bed that is close by.  Also not having to worry about securing transportation to and from the hotel and enabling us to rest for longer made us realize we made the right choice.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Next Trip - So Excited

I can officially announce our next trip!

After a lot of reflection and trying to figure out what we could do with a lot of vacation time in January/February we finalized it all this week.

We are heading to Peru and Machu Picchu.  This is going to be a very special trip that will lead us on a journey that we will never forget.

We are booked with Puma Adventures  for ten days (9 nights) starting in Puno and Lake Titicaca and the floating Islands.  Then to Cusco and the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu with so much more. 

Check out the tour Cameron Diaz did with Puma. 

After the tour we will head to Lima for a few days then fly to Los Angeles where we will start a totally different holiday.

Disneyland!  Yup I wanted to go back and since they are offering special discounts for Canadians I thought why not. 

So after four days in Los Angeles we will board the Ruby Princess for three 7 night cruises b2b2b. I know it is not something we would normally do, but we love Mexico.  We want to sail on the Ruby again.  And finally the price was just so good we couldn't pass it up. 

We did look at options to fly to Florida and join a Caribbean cruise but they were just too costly per day compared to the Ruby.

So stay tuned as we prepare for this voyage and make sure to follow my blog when we are on our adventure.  I know it will change my life.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Disembarking the Royal Princess

Well darn! We have to get off. 

So many people say to me how can you handle such a long time on the ship. Well I don't know I just do. It is easy. But whenever I have to get off I am prepared to get off and ready to go home. But I could easily stay on too.

We wake to the alarm clock - what I swear I just fell asleep. Didn't sleep well. I actually woke up from a dream at one point thinking I had packed all my clothes and had nothing to wear ashore. I then had to get up and check to ensure I did in fact leave clothes out. How many of you have done that?

We quickly shower and get ready and then head to Horizon Court for a quick breakfast. It is still early and not too crazy. 

Back in the cabin just after 7 am to collect our carry on bag and knapsack and then we head down to deck five to get a coffee for us and one for Barbara the Captain Circle host who is manning the Platinum Elite disembarkation lounge.

Thankfully we see Yami so we are able to say good bye to her too. Was nice to get to know Yami better this trip. Hugs!

We arrive in the disembarkation lounge which is Concerto Dining room. Not many people here (again the demographics) and we take a seat. We don't wait long, by 7:30 we are called (meeting time was 7:20 - note that is a meeting time not a disembarkation time and is just an outline). 

Just when we were leaving we see Ursula. We met Ursula last May on the Ruby. She is a passenger from Florida who also loves Daniel one of our favorite Waiters. Big hugs to Ursula and can't believe she has been on and we hadn't seen her.  

We quickly are off the ship, find our bags and then head to the customs line. We take advantage of the Global Entry line (we have Nexus) and we are thru Customs right away.

Dock side we get in a cab and we are on the way to the airport! We arrive at the airport at 8 am! Wow that was quick, quicker than I anticipated. In fact we are too early we can't even check our bags. 

No big deal we head to the next terminal that has a Starbucks at Arrivals Level and we relax and sip our coffees and watch some Youtube Videos - want to catch up on the SNL sketches.

All our flights worked out and we were home in Vancouver by 1930 (Pacific Time). Soon after we were in our car on our way home.

Vacation over - but memories to last a life time. 

Thanks for following.

Last Day of the Cruise

Clocks were moved forward last night. This feels weird as for the entire crossing we kept gaining an hour, then we got another hour when we sailed towards Mexico. But we are now on our way back to Florida and we lost an hour. Reality is setting in.

We have our disembarkation information. There was no offer of Easy Check. I am sure it is because it is only a five night cruise which just is not enough time to offer it.

We are assigned Cream 1 for a 720 meeting time and disembarkation shortly after. Most people on board have walk off as most don't have much in the way of luggage for this short voyage.

Bernie has gone down to the Enclave. I did go down the first sea day but I am frustrated there as so many people reserve the heated lounge chairs or leave their towels there when they are done. Really people be respectful!

I will put this in my final survey how I think they should somehow address this problem. It certainly has deterred me from booking the Enclave in the future. 

Today's Patter shows the Most Travelled who have 1396 days with Princess. This voyage we were #11 and #12 Most Travelled - slowly moving up.

Lots happening this final sea day:  Culinary demo, Mardi Gras festivities, line dancing, wine tasting, Bingo, Pub Lunch, Trivia, Cha Cha class, art auction, on deck for the cure, and so much more. 

Something tells me it will be a relaxing day. 

I know it sounds boring to read but there is  nothing better than having no distractions from home. Reading, writing and watching a movie or chatting with friends. 

Life is good!

In the evening (after doing most of the packing) we make the rounds to say goodbye. 

We stop by Facets to say goodbye to Ju Juaq and Valeria.

We enjoy some wine in Vines to say goodbye to Larry and Amy and then we head up to Horizon Court for a quick meal.

We arrange to meet up with Sanja and Marty in Vines later for a last drink. This is hard. We love them both so much and hate to say goodbye. We don't know when we will see them again; hopefully at their wedding but we just don't know.

I feel so sad and I am holding back the tears. This is just too hard.

When we get back to the cabin we pack up our final clothes and put the bags out.

Tomorrow will be a busy day and long flight home. It has been an amazing trip.

Cozumel Mexico

We dock at 8 am. But when Bernie heads down to get coffees he comes back and informs me people are queuing up at the stairways at 745. 

I wish I could say this may be because of so many new cruisers on board not knowing the procedures and that arrival does not mean disembarkation. The ship needs time to tie up. Put out gangway, clear the ship with authorities. Normally this does not take long but expect at least 15 minutes to a half hour. An announcement will be made when people are able to go ashore and where the gangways are.

Today the weather is totally different than yesterday. It is hot and sunny.

Bernie is having some issues with his eye - seems like a stye. The bright light is especially difficult. He is wearing sunglasses inside.

I tell him "I am calling it" we are relaxing on board today - or at least you are. He feels bad. I tell him his comfort is more important. We have been here before and we will be back and a day on board will be great too.

I do head off for a short while just to look around. 

Princess docks at the Puerta Maya Pier which is the furthest one from the town. The pier is for Carnival Corp ships. It is about two miles from downtown and taxi rates are posted.

The same Carnival Ship is in port with us today too.

There are a lot of shops here. All the same shops and items you will find downtown are here too. 

Pancho's Backyard is a great restaurant and the margaritas are amazing. Since I am ashore by myself I just wander around the pier area and have a drink. 

I do highly recommend that you venture out and see the island. It is really beautiful here and the beaches are stunning. I know we will be back some day and I really look forward to it.

One thing I hate about so many of these Caribbean ports is everyone has to funnel through the duty free shop to get off and pack on the ship.

The port duty free we have to funnel thru is the white one here patience is needed

Especially this pier where the store is very narrow (it is actually on the pier). We are docked with the Carnival Breeze. So just imagine two large ship's passengers trying to make their way thru two narrow aisles in this shop that seems to go on forever. It is so frustrating!

I have lunch up in the Horizon Court when I get back on and take my food to the Outrigger Bar where I sit and look out at the Carnival Breeze docked beside us. 

The ship looks like a fun ship, but probably not for us. I don't need or want water slides, rope course etc. But if I had a family it would be a good choice to sail on.

Tonight is smart casual and also 50's and 60's night.

There is a variety showtime with Magician Farrell Dillon and comedian Carl Strong. Also happening are: Passenger Feud, Marriage Match Game, Majority Rules all in the Princess Live.

Tonight we are dining with Dylan in Sabatinis. Dylan and Ben are heading to Peru in January and we are seriously thinking of joining them if we can afford it. So we get time to catch up with him and discuss Peru.

In Sabatinis we are offered a special entree tonight -- veal scallopini which I ordered and loved! Everything was great! Especially the service. Again Royal Princess does specialty dining right.

After dinner Bernie heads back to the cabin as all he wants to do is crash. I wander around.

I check out the new Effy Store on board. They had a huge opening last night but we missed it, plus we try and stay away from the crowds.

The store looks great. I even got to try on a ring! OMG I am nervous just trying it on $25,000 hmmm what do you think?

I wander some more checking out things and after an hour I am back in the cabin. Bernie is asleep so I slowly tuck myself into bed and let the seas rock me to sleep.

Costa Maya, Mexico

Today we dock early in Costa Maya - 7 am! When Bernie returns with coffees we sit on the balcony and enjoy the arrival.

Sadly it is pouring rain but I believe it will pass. The usual Caribbean shower I say. But we hear people complaining how they can't cancel their excursion because of the rain. Really! I don't think Princess has control over the weather. Plus it will pass and a little rain will hurt no one.

We head ashore with Larry and Amy. We haven't been to Costa Maya in a very very long time. Way before they were hit with the hurricane in 2007 that destroyed the port.

The whole port area is huge and is similar to many of the port destination beach areas - similar to Grand Turk, Mahogany Bay, and even Amber Cove (from what I hear). 

We are docked with a Carnival ship and this port really can't handle two ships in my opinion. 

Our first goal is to leave the port area and head to the town of Mahahual. 

Note most of these pictures were taken when we got off way before the second ship docked and before it got crazy busy.

Took us some time to exit the port area. Note I saw lots of washrooms, shops, bars, restaurants, tour companies. You could easily spend your entire time here but it will be busy. Oh they also had some lockers for rent too.

But we are wanting to head out to the town. Just before you leave the port area there is a table set up (see above pic) where they sell shuttle tickets to the town of Mahahual for $3 US per person one way. The shuttle is similar to those you see in St. Thomas - open bench seating in the back of a truck.

However if you leave the port building compound - just outside is a taxi stand (they are not allowed to pick up people in the compound but can drop you off inside). The taxis to town are $10 US total - as we took at a taxi back. Note the shuttle only operates going to town, not sure why but that is the way it is. Taxis to come back were plentiful and fast and cheap.

We walked along the street to the furthest beach bar/restaurant and checked it out. We could enjoy the lounge chairs and beach as long as we ate/drink at the restaurant. No problem. 

We secure four chairs under some palapas as it looks like it could rain again. Order some drinks and enjoy the scenery.

This place also had an all inclusive package but I can't recall how much it was and really there are so many places along the beach that offer this type of thing I would not personally pre reserve. Just show up and check things out and then choose.

After a few hours here and dodging rain showers we attempted to grab some food in the restaurant area. But because of the rain it was packed so we opted to just leave and walk the boardwalk.

It is very nice, busy and people will try and get your business - massage! Beer! Drinks! Food! Beach! Trinkets! you name it.

We all agree to just head back to the ship and walk off the boardwalk to the street and easily grab a taxi back (again only $10).

Tonight is the Most Travelled Cocktail Party. This voyage it is a cocktail party as opposed to a luncheon. Just not enough days in the cruise to squeeze it in. 

We really enjoy the cocktail party as the officers get the chance to mingle with everyone and we can order whatever we want from the bar. Not to mention the food is amazing. 

This time there were food stations (we had only seen them walking around with food at other cocktail parties). This is amazing. There is a cold station with sushi, and other cold items. Then a hot station. Then a dessert station. Very impressive.

We arrived and posed with Captain Street and again with Leanne, his wife. She saved us a seat and Gail (Ron's wife), Kelly (Deputy Cruise Director), Dylan (Senior Doctor) joined us. 

It was great to relax in this casual atmosphere and get to know everyone even better.

There was so much food that we did not need to go to dinner.

In fact right after the cocktail party I tell Bernie that I could really use some hot water and take a Neo Citron and hit the hay to try and get over this cold. So that is what we do. We are asleep by 2130. But it was a fun day.

Sea Day - Crown Grill - Heading to Mexico

This is the first sea day on our way to Costa Maya. The weather is perfect! Iam slow to get moving (so what is new). I officially have the cold that everyone seems to be getting. But hey it could be worse - I could be suffering a cold at home and at work! So I take cold meds (thank you Bernie for always being prepared).

Bernie heads up to the Horizon Court and brings me back some mixed fruit and yoghurt.

I have message Tracie (who is doing a live thread and who I have sailed with just over a year ago). We arrange to meet for lunch.

It is so nice to see Tracie again and even better to have another cruise addict to talk to. 

We have a lovely lunch and then sit and enjoy a coffee together. She was the coordinator of the meet and greet with Cruisecritic and originally I wasn't going to go but since Tracie is going by herself and I would be going by myself I agree to join her.  And I am glad I did, it was nice to meet other cruisers. But it is a small gathering and short, but I did meet some nice people. Thanks Tracie for coordinating.

This afternoon a nap is required (I can blame it on the cold but really this afternoon nap is a usual occurrence at sea).

Yesterday evening when we were getting ready I clearly smelled cigarette smoke. I did look out to see who was smoking on their balconies but could not locate it.  This morning we again smelled it and after looking again we saw that the people below us and one over were the culprits. 

Bernie heads down to ensure we have the correct cabin number (they are blue carders). Since this is their first cruise on Princess they may not be aware of the smoking policy. Even though it is laid out in your cruise documents and stated over the PA during Muster Drill. 

Once he knows the cabin number he heads down to the Purser's desk to report and show the picture I was able to take from our balcony.  Clearly they are smoking on it. They promised to send security. And about an hour later I guess they were informed as they came out and cleaned their balcony of the ashtray and packs of cigarettes.

Tonight is formal night and a lot of people are dressed up. I would guess just over half the ship. But the demographics of this cruise are very different from the crossing. For the crossing it was older and more seasoned cruiser and very few kids. This sailing it is much younger and a lot of new cruisers and a lot more kids/families. Both are great but different.

For formal night many are very fancy, some are formal and some are not formal at all. It is key to do what is right for you. But if you dine in the dining room make sure you are adhering to the dress code.

Tonight we are dining with Larry and Amy in the Crown Grill. We specifically requested either Ramon or Ricardo as our server. We are sat in a lovely booth in Ramon's section. 

Service again is top notch. Again the ship understands that the specialty restaurants are special and ensure they have enough staff to accommodate our needs. 

Assistant waiters are in place to ensure all our beverages are topped up, plates are cleared and everything else is taken care of. 

Food was outstanding - I had my usual - spinach salad, onion soup and filet mignon.

Production show tonight is Sweet Soul Music but we missed both shows as we were at the Crown Grill. Tonight being with great friends is more important.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Fort Lauderdale - Turn Around Day

Turn around day is always an early day! As we dress and pack up to change cabins we can hear everyone around us getting ready to disembark. 

Our new cabin isn't ready yet but Danny our steward is working hard to have it done as early as possible. 

We had booked a guarantee obstructed balcony and we were assigned an unobstructed balcony just a few doors from our old cabin with the same stewart. 

The people in that cabin don't vacate until 8:30 (note it is suppose to be 8). And Danny works on that cabin as soon as they vacate. It is ready at 9 am! We really appreciate his hard work. 

We move our own bags and clothes on the hangars to the new room (just a few down) making sure to return empty hangars to the old room. Of course if we would of needed they would of moved our items, but we were totally capable of moving the stuff. 

We don't need to unpack as much as we won't need the sweaters, jackets and long pants - so they stay in the suitcase. We travel rather light so the whole process goes very quickly and we are totally settled by 9:30.

Today is unique because this is the first time the Royal is docking back in the US after a long time away.

Can you see the crew lining up - it was so long they were lining up outside

Every crew member needs to go thru US Customs. This means crew (during their break) must head to the pier to queue up. We later hear the process took hours - up to four hours for some.

Even our steward had to work hard all morning then head to customs, then right back to work to deal with embarking passengers.

The faces of the crew really show their exhaustion and I feel for them.

For us we meet in the Princess Theater at 1045. There are not a lot of us, just over 100 but we are warned the process will be slow today.

We are lead to the port building (bing out our old cards with security) lead to the first floor of terminal 2. There are still a lot of past passengers queuing up to get thru customs. So we are told to wait until it dies down. We wait around 40 minutes.

The Custom agent scans our passport and we are cleared. It really is just a formality as we are not officially entering the US. We will do this after this next voyage.

I should add those leaving today have to fill out a Customs Declaration form. We were not given one as we are in transit. However while waiting in the Princess Theater Purser staff said we had to fill it out. So who are we to argue so we fill it out (one per household) although in the end we never did require it. Note if you are heading ashore you will need to fill one out.

Back to waiting. After sitting on the first floor a second time for about 20 minutes we are lead upstairs to wait again.

However some passengers are also being sent up. They are being led to an elite lounge right beside us. But direction is not that clear. As usual Princess falls down heavily with their embarkation facilities in Fort Lauderdale. This is not because of customs but because there really is no defined flow -- even under perfect conditions. But if you throw in one hiccup it truly falls apart fast.

My advice is to totally revamp terminal 2. Just take a look at Pier 18 where Oasis and Allure dock - now that flows.

We are now upstairs at pier 2. It is noon. Coast guard are on board the ship conducting drills. No passenger are allowed on until this finishes.

Around 1230 the in transit passengers are allowed on but regular embarkation did not start until 1300. Not passengers were warned that embarkation would be delayed.

Once we are back on board we drop our stuff in the cabin and head to Alfredos for pizza. We are the only passengers there! Pierre sits us, and he is tire! But his professionalism shows, he fights thru and never stops smiling.

I forgot to add earlier before we did customs there was a knock at our door delivery of our mini bar. We asked right away "can we trade it all for 2 coffee cards" she says we have to call bell hop after sailing. Okay we are use to this and will do it afterwards.

But Princess save yourself time, have elites fill out what they wish for the mini bar set up ahead of time. Send it via email or let it be part of your personalizer. This way you can have it set up beforehand. Or at least for those in transit, send us a form to fill out near the end of the first cruise with our preference.

Right now we have to call the bell hop or room service after sailing. But we couldn't get thru all evening. Finally got thru at 830 am the next day.

By having elites notify ahead of time it will save us from calling. Save bell hop from answering and then writing down the request and then getting that request and then delivering. Not to mention the passenger will have less frustration with having to try and get thru to bell hop.

After lunch I walk around taking pictures. When I run into Karin and John. We later head down to our cabin for drinks.

Muster is at 1615.

The flow of passengers from one building to the next then back again

I should add embarkation was so late due to uncontrolled circumstances beyond Princess' control.  They actually had people drop bags at terminal 2. Then head to terminal 1 to check in then head back to terminal 2 to board. 

If you were platinum/elite and got preferred boarding it went relatively smooth. If you were not it was longer.

For sailaway we went up to the Sun deck aft in the shade (it was hot). Larry and Amy our friends from Orlando are on and they joined us.

While sailing out a helicopter is flying all around us.  All kinds of advantage points for filming. We wave and wave. The helicopter is there to film the ship for Princess as we are the first ship with the painted bow with the seawitch.

Oh forgot to tell you that Facets has closed and will remain closed for a few days as they transform it an Effy store. Big reveal happens in a few days.

We received our Most Travelled Party invite. Not sure what the cut off will be. Will try and find out later. It is a cocktail party held in Club 6.

Also the Platinum/Elite Lounge is back in Club 6.

We meet Larry and Amy in Vines at 7:30 for a drink then dinner in Concerto. It is busy here. Have to say the food and service were lacking (which rarely happens on this ship or this cruise). I will not judge harshly since I know the crew are suffering due to a very very long day!

After dinner I am so tire and I know I am getting a cold. That cold made the rounds last voyage and looks like it has finally landed on me.