Cruising

I love cruises! They are the best way to travel….think about it…..you get to see multiple destinations, eat practically 24/7, have a laundry list of activities to choose from all day and night, and see a wide range of entertainment to suit a variety of interests any time of the day or night you want…..all for one price! Now, granted, if you enjoy alcoholic beverages or dining at one or more of several specialty dining rooms (other than eating in the dining rooms and buffets that are included) and want to join one of several organized shore excursions, you will have to pay additional fees…..but, you don’t have to – that is strictly up to you! If you want to stick to what is included in your base price and just peruse the destinations on your own, you can still leave happy, entertained, well cared for, and well fed!!! Just try planning a week long trip that you will have to travel between 3-4 different destinations that are not within easy driving distance, pay for three meals a day plus snacks, book hotel rooms at each destination (and possibly in between – depending on distance between the destinations), and get tickets to quality live entertainment and activities each day……and then tell me that doing a cruise that covers it all isn’t a bargain….especially is you stumble onto a great deal and a cruise offering great incentives, like on-board spending cash and drink packages!!!

I cruised Coastal California and Mexico the week of March 25 – April 1. This was my sixth cruise – third since I’ve been retired. My first cruise was a two week cruise to Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Jamaica with my Aunt Betty when I was about 19 or 20. It was cool, but LONG……I didn’t think I’d want to be on a ship like that for a whole two week, again. My second one was a short three day cruise connected to a four day visit to Disney World with my husband and son – the just cruise went to Nassau. I thought that was too short – we were just getting our sea legs and figuring out where things were on the ship and it was over! Definitely not worth it for me! Then, I didn’t take any cruises until one I took my Mom on in 2010. That one was five days and went to Key West and Nassau. It was that cruise that I decided that a 5-7 day cruise was the right length of time for me. Those first three cruises were all on Carnival – nice cruise line, but more geared towards families and young adults. The next three cruises were all seven day trips – first was a New England/Canada cruise on Royal Caribbean that stopped in Portland and Bar Harbor, Maine and New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada in 2015 with my traveling buddy. Nice! Then, last year – 2016 – I went on an Alaskan cruise with Holland America – seven days and several Alaskan stops – with another good friend. And, this year did the Coastal California one on Princess, with stops in Santa Barbara, Long Beach, San Diego, and Ensenada, Mexico. Perfect! So, where might I cruise to next? Not sure – I’d love to do a transatlantic cruise or maybe a Mediterranean cruise. I’d also love to do a European river cruise someday.

But…..let’s talk about the one I just took! It was perfect — seven days, four ports, gorgeous weather, and fabulous shore excursions! This post is only going to focus on the cruise part and photos from the ship. This is the first cruise I took by myself. I don’t mind taking off on little trips alone and traveled alone for work quite often, but this is the first big trip like this that I’ve done by myself! It turned out great — I discovered I wasn’t alone, after all – I was cruising with almost 2000 other people! I went on group tours on shore and ate with different people every meal, which allowed me to meet some really interesting and fun folks! the funny thing about a cruise is that everyone likes to talk about how many cruises they’ve been on and what cruise lines they like best and where they’ve been……the most surprising was a lady from Wales that was on her 82nd cruise – all on Princess cruise line…..in fact, when she left this cruise, she was planning to fly to Fort Lauderdale, FL, where she was catching her 83rd Princess cruise that took her back to England with several stops along the European shore! WOW!

Grand Princess

Bon Voyage

We sailed out of San Francisco – before we set sail, I could see Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge from my balcony

And, this is a view of the Bay Bridge from the upper deck

This is a shot of my balcony cabin

And, a selfie as we pass under the Golden Gate Bridge headed out to sea

The upper deck was crowded with happy passengers as we head towards the Golden Gate Bridge

Every night we got a flyer with the list of all the special features, activities, and entertainment available the next day – multiple options every hour of the day!

Like what movie or concert was going to be shown “under the stars” on the Lido Deck

And fun parties and events

And what time the big balloon drop was going to happen on our last night at sea

And the day the Head Chef and Head Maitre ‘d put on a cooking demonstration for us

And then introduced all the chefs and waiters on the ship

Our first sunset from my balcony

And, my first breakfast delivered to my balcony as we pulled in to Santa Barbara!

Santa Barbara – early morning arrival

The first of two formal nights featured a champagne waterfall – the stand was for people who wanted to pour champagne into the glasses to have their photos taken while it cascaded down the tower of glasses……I did it, but the photo was one of the professional ones and I need to scan it in, yet!

One of many ice sculptures at the buffets

Want to go swimming? There are several heated outdoor and indoor pools available

Soaking in some sun on the Lido Deck – pool side – on the day we were in Ensenada – I chose not to go ashore that day!

Maybe gambling is to your taste……there is a huge casino with slots and poker and roulette and more!

And, entertainment galore……some in smaller areas, like the atrium

Some in more intimate areas, like a piano bar (doesn’t he look like Neil Diamond???)

And then there were the big productions with wonderful singers and dancers in one of two large auditoriums – this was called “British Invasion” and highlighted songs from that fabulous time in our music history when all the great British rock groups crossed the pond to bring their music to America!

This was a show featuring Motown hits

This was the big finale show highlighting the history of Broadway shows and choreography

BRAVO!!!

There were also comedians and magicians and jugglers……whatever your entertainment interests are, you’ll find it on board somewhere!

Here are just some examples of the food……this was one of several specialty dining rooms where, for an extra charge, you get a little higher quality meal!

Hey – they put out a craft paper table cloth and supplied crayons…..how could I resist???

The biggest “popcorn” shrimp and hush puppy appetizer I’ve ever seen!

Mixed seafood boil – clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops, and snow and king crab legs!

A chocolate dessert so rich, I could only eat a couple bites!!!

Little meringue volcanoes floating in a vanilla cream sauce topped with almonds and caramel

And, the most entertaining of all were the spectacular sunsets and sunrises……I got to see the sunrise from my balcony each morning and the sunset from one of the decks on the other side of the ship

This sunrise is over the Golden Gate Bridge as we pulled back in to San Francisco at the end of the cruise

And, we’re docked…….cruise end…….and the beginning of the second half of my West Coast Adventure – posts will follow in the coming days to share that part!

So far, I think my favorite cruise line is Royal Caribbean…..they are ALL amazing and the differences that make one better than the other are subtle and personal – what makes one the best for me, might not make it the best for someone else – any “complaints” are nit-picky at best – hard to complain about being treated and fed like Royalty!!! 🙂 I have yet to try out Norwegian and Celebrity – so, I can only say Royal Caribbean is my favorite “so far”! 🙂

Here are some of my pros and cons about Princess:

PROS:

  • Fewer shore excursions – you’d think this might be a con, but it really isn’t! With other cruise lines, there are so many to choose from, you get confused. Also – I felt like the list Princess had to choose from seemed to have more quality and bang for the buck! Except for Ensenada’s excursions – none really piqued my interest and I heard that there wasn’t much worth going ashore, so I stayed on board that day. But, over all – I was more impressed with the list of excursion options than with other lines.
  • The Muster stations are in the lounge areas…..meaning, in the event of an emergency (and during Muster Drills), you meet at a specified lounge inside – not out on the decks in the elements, standing like a herd of cattle with NO personal space between you and the next person!
  • The movies under the stars…….other ships had inside theaters – I like to see the movies they offer, but it seems sad to be inside a dark theater when you’re on a cruise!!! The Grand Princess had a big screen that could be seen from all three of the upper outside decks and they put pads and pillows on the lounge chairs with blankets to sit and watch the movies and concerts they showed – with access to the bar and snack areas and endless popcorn available!!! They also had an inside option if the weather didn’t permit sitting outside.
  • Baked Alaska on Parade…….on the last night in the dining rooms, the waiters carry flaming Baked Alaska desserts around the dining room to loud, energetic music while the diners wave their napkins in the air and cheer them on……this is something I enjoyed seeing on the Carnival cruises (a sister line to Princess), but missed on the other cruises! It was fun to see it, again!

CONS:

  • No towel animals!!! BOO HOO!!! I always get a huge kick out of coming back to my cabin at the end of the day to find chocolates on my pillow with the next day’s activity list and a different towel animal made by my room steward each night!!! But, that didn’t happen on Princess – the chocolates and activities sheet were there, but no towel animals!!! I REALLY missed it!!!

From my 2015 Royal Caribbean cruise

  • No day of the week panel in the elevators……other cruise lines change a panel in the floor of the elevators every day to tell you what day it is! Princess doesn’t do that……it was a disappointment!!!

From my 2015 Royal Caribbean cruise ship elevator

  • While the food was definitely incredible……I felt like there were fewer options and variety. On other cruises, I had a hard time choosing what I wanted to eat and narrowing it down……but, on Princess, I sometimes had a hard time finding something that I got really excited about — don’t get me wrong – the quality and flavor were amazing, but I wasn’t really happy with the lack of options for my tastes.
  • The soups were not as good……one thing I look forward to on cruises are the chilled soups for appetizers — the other ships I’ve been on had amazing and creative chilled soups that usually were a highlight of the meals! But, on Princess, they didn’t always have a chilled option and the ones they did have were bland and uninventive and a couple I didn’t even finish cause I didn’t care for the taste!
  • On Royal Caribbean, the centrum or atrium area was several decks high and seating around the railing of all the decks so you could overlook the entertainment down on the first deck of the area. On Holland America, it wasn’t as high, but still had seating around the railing of all the decks. On Princess, it was only three decks high and the only deck that had seating to enjoy what was going on was the main floor – if you wanted to watch from the other decks, you had to stand at the railing and the seating on the main floor was limited. So, it was difficult to see the action!

Again – nit-picky stuff —- over all it was FANTABULOUS!!!!

So…….there’s the cruise part of my West Coast Adventure! Hope you enjoyed it!

2 Comments on “Cruising

  1. Awesome pictures Kim. I really enjoyed your trip watching for and reading your posts each day. Thanks for your journaling each day.😍❤

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