Saturday, Sept 22: We flew out of LAX to Vancouver. Going thru Passport Control was a breeze, all of 5 minutes or so, absolutely no lines. Our single piece of luggage took about 35 minutes or so until it showed up on the carousel. Called our airport hotel for their complimentary 24-hour shuttle service, only to be told that the service had stopped operating for the day, and this was still around 8pm!!!! Got a cab, a receipt and asked for reimbursement of the cab fare/tip (which we did receive) once we arrived at our hotel.
Sunday, Sept 23: Took the hotel shuttle back to the airport, then took bus 424 to the Transportation Centre and bus 98 to Downtown Vancouver, this stops at the Waterfront Station, 1 block away from from Canada Place, (the cruiseship terminal). It is maybe a 3 minute walk from the bus stop to Canada Place. Took us about 25 minutes or so from the airport to downtown, cost for the two of us was $4.50, cannot beat that!
Embarkation on the Golden Princess was a breeze, we were on the ship and in our cabin in about 10 minutes, absolutely no lines at all, although there was a continous flow of passengers arriving. Had lunch at the buffet and went back ashore for a couple of hours. Berthed on the other side of the pier was Holland America's Statendam. Back in time for the muster drill and ship sailed out around 5pm, passing beneath the Lions Gate Suspension bridge on our way out of Vancouver.
Monday, September 24: Victoria, Vancouver Island woke up to a slight drizzle and 50 degree weather!
The Captain loves the cold weather, although it ain't the Mrs cup of tea! We've been to Victoria a couple of times before, the Mrs knew exactly what she was after and off to Government Street we walked, stalking out the various Candy/Chocolate stores for CADBURY English Chocolate. We ended up with 2 bags of Cadbury, Quality Street and All-Sorts Liquorice. Yummie!!!
We spent some time at the Inner Harbor and also visited the fabulous EMPRESS Hotel, we stayed there 2 nights a few years back, brought back a lot of wonderful memories.
Tuesday, September 25: Finds us in Astoria, Oregon. Last time we were here was in the mid-80's, this pretty little town has not changed much. Such a jewel!
and it drizzled early in the morning but cleared up in time as we went ashore. Purchased 2 Day Passes ($5 each) which allows you to use the local buses and the waterfront trolley, found a very accomodating conductor on the trolley who let me fulfill my wish of yelling out the official "ALL ABOARD" at each and every stop we made. Some interesting trivia, they had built a block of apartments bang on the watefront about about 25 years ago, the trolley conductor told me the townsfolk were not too excited or impressed with the developer for building what was then considered an eyesore and he could not sell those apartments for $25,000 each! He went bankrupt.......Well fast-forward about 25 years, there is now on average a 3-year waiting period to get an apartment, the last one sold for $275,000!!!!
Wednesday, September 26: Day at Sea, slept-in till 12 Noon. Shame on the Mrs!
Thursday, September 27: We sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge around 6am, arriving at Pier 35 in San Francisco around 7am. The famous SF fog blanketed the bridge and also Alcatraz for most of the morning, the bridge itself remained under a blanket of fog all day long. Well we are now home in California again, beautiful and sunny day, temperatures back up into the 70s. The Mrs is happy once again
. We can never get enough of San Francisco, we must have been here at least 20 times, if not more.
We walked to Fisherman's Wharf, stopped by once again as we always seem to do at Boudin's Bakery for a serving of Crab Chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. In the afternoon we walked towards the opposite side of town, made our way to downtown and into Chinatown and eventually working our way back to the ship. San Francisco is such a pedestrian-friendly city, it is such a friendly city, period! Sailing out of San Francisco Bay beneath the majestic Golden Gate Bridge to the cheers or pedestrians is ALWAYS such a thrill, NEVER TO BE MISSED!
Friday, September 28: We arrived in Catalina around 12 Noon. Tenders required here, the Captain and the Mrs obtained tender tickets for the first group to go ashore, again we've been here numerous times. We got talking with this cruiser and her elderly Mom who had tender tickets for group 14!!!!! Being their first time in Catalina and hating to see them wait for like close to 1-1/2 hour until it is their turn, I offered to swap my tender tickets for theirs, naturally they were elated, but seriously, for us it was no biggie. When we did make it ahore, we just walked the town, over to the Casino/Theater, spent about 30 minutes chatting with this character from Newport Beach who now finds himself being an implant on Catalina and just loves living there, the guy lives on his sailboat anchored off Avalon (the name of the only town on Catalina Island). Many passengers from the ship were renting golf carts from the guy just across from the pier, he was charging $60 an hour, 2 short blocks away another place was renting them for $40 an hour, buy 1 hour, get 1 hour free! We've done this before, time and again, so we decided to just hang around and give others some pointers of where to go around town on those golf carts
Saturday, September 29: Back in LA and berthed in San Pedro by 7am.
We did express disembark (carry your own luggage) and were off the ship by 8.30am and home by 9.30am
Ship: The Golden Princess is a big, beautiful lady, immaculately kept clean and tidy. The layout of the ship can be a bit confusing to people who have not cruised before on the GRAND class of ships, but give it a few days and you will find yourself no longer needing that handy ship plan that they give out as you board the vessel for the first time. She has 3 regular dining rooms, 3 Pay restaurants and a Buffet. Plus a pizzeria and a hamburger/hotdog joint. You can choose from traditional early/late seating dinner or anytime dining. Even though this was a full sailing, we never had any problems getting a table for two, we chose anytime dining and the longest we waited for a table was about 10 minutes.
Food: We've had better, even on other Princess ships, but then again, we've fared worse on others. The buffet layout is the most confusing I have seen on ANY cruise ship I have been on. The dining room selection/service was OK. If I were to grade the buffet, I'd give it 7 out of 10, the dining room I'd give that 6 out of 10. But the lower score could be because we chose Anytime Dining where personal attention/service can be lacking versus what you would expect if you were dining at assigned times. There were NO midnight or late-night buffets on this sailing and NO chocolate buffets either. Mind you, been there - done that. But those would have been some nice touches for new cruisers and we have seen those on other Princess cruises. We never used any of the pay restaurants so I cannot comment on those. The last day, there was a cooking demonstration followed by a tour of the galley/kitchen.
Entertainment/Entertainers: on this ship was GREAT. They had like 2 different headlining shows every night. The comedians, the hypnotist and the Magician were first-class acts. The production shows, although we don't care much for those anymore were also good. We used to go the 8:15pm show, have dinner after that and then go to the 10.15pm show afterwards. The Cruise Director, Billy Hygate was nowhere to be seen on the ship during the day, night-time he shone! He's old and needs to give a chance to the up and coming stars to take over from him, permanently
Accomodation: We had an inside cabin on Baja Deck 11. We only paid $290 each for this sailing, ports charges and taxes included. We booked the lowest category and got "upgraded" to a higher category inside, although an inside to inside upgrade to me does not mean a thing, although this one kept me one notch closer to the buffet
! Our cabin attendant did not speak much but he got the job done well, which I suppose is what matters most.
One final comment that I found odd on this sailing: The captain NEVER ever made one announcment over the PA system. All, and I do mean ALL
announcements were made over the PA system by the officer of the watch. No daily briefings from the bridge by the captain. The only time I ever heard an address by the captain was on Friday after we departed Catalina. And there was no Welcome Aboard Party like I have seen on many other cruiselines, Princess included, where the ship's officers are introduced to the passengers.
Our next cruise is coming up in 9 days time, we leave San Diego on the NCL SUN for an 18-day cruise thru the Panama Canal, ending in Miami.
Happy cruising everyone