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Old March 11th, 2011, 02:20 AM
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Sapphire Princess - March 10
As we made our way to Ensenada today the seas were much calmer than when we sailed out from Los Angeles. However, it was a cloudy and chilly day out on deck, which forced most people into the area around the covered Calypso pool, or other indoor areas.

For breakfast this morning I decided to try the French Toast from the Horizon Court buffet. I really should have done a “touch test” first, but instead just accumulated some breakfast on my plate.

When I sat down to enjoy my breakfast, as my fork made contact with the French Toast I realized a saw, not a knife, would be required to cut into it. The molded plastic table out on deck would have been easier to cut.

My expectations for the quality of buffet food are pretty minimal to begin with, however I do believe the crew, or their supervisors, should be doing the “touch test” before I do, to assure the quality of the product is at least edible. As noted in earlier reports, there are options for freshly made eggs as well as waffles. But, that’s really not the point is it?

We haven’t had dinner at the buffet, but I did pass through the Horizon Court buffet late one evening to see what they were offering, and the selection available seemed quite broad, though I didn’t taste anything, except some fruit tarts which were delicious; baked with light and fully miniature pasty shells.

Last night one of our tablemates had a need to visit the ship’s infirmary. Thankfully for something routine for her. She commented the service there was very good, but noted that they charge from everything to cotton balls to bandages. She wasn’t concerned about the charges because she does have travel insurance.

In conversation the nurse and doctor did say the infirmary has been very busy throughout the cruise. This shouldn’t be all that surprising considering the length of the cruise, and the age demographic onboard.

They’ve been faced with several cases of heart failure, and apparently quite a number of cases of pneumonia; explaining that when the elderly travel by air to get to their cruises, picking up some pneumonia is not uncommon.

I’ve always had a hypothesis that cases of “cruise crud” were common for air travelers post cruise, as a fair number of people do seem to return from their cruise vacations with a cold, or such. Apparently the problem is also not uncommon just prior to beginning the cruise either.

This is as good a time as any to talk about the layout of the ship. There’s one bit of confusion in the design of the Grand Class Princess ships, which they have in common with most ships that have both aft dining rooms, and mid-ship dining rooms; the “you can’t get there from here” syndrome.

If you’re in the forward section of the ship, and want to get to the International Dining Room, located at the aft, on Deck 6, you must get across the ship on a deck above deck 6, and go down to deck six once you reach the aft stairways or elevators.

If you’re aft of mid-ship and want to get to the Vivaldi, Santa Fe, Pacific Moon, or Savoy Dining Rooms, you must use deck 7 or higher, to move to the mid-ship elevators or stairway to access those dining rooms.

The reason - the galleys serving all of those dining rooms are located on Deck 6 between the mid-ship restaurants and the aft, International, as well as below on deck 5. From the ship’s public rooms, you simply must get used to using deck 7 for moving the length of the ship, without going up or down near your dining room destination.

A “Backstage Tour” was offered free of charge today, accompanied by the Cruise Director, for those interested in a peek at how the back stage entertainment areas of the ship operate.

At this point, I think it would be unfair to those of you who have been reading along, to not share the follow up resulting from my conversation with our Head Waiter/ Assistant Maitre D.

Upon our entry to the dining room there was a bit of a chill in the air from our waiter and assistant waiter, so we have to assume they were spoken to. Sadly, because my question actually was not directed as a complaint about their service. However, as we know……slides down hill.

At any rate, I noticed right away that our orders were now being taken first, ahead of the smaller tables seating others in our CruiseMates group nearby. As were the orders for another 8 top, not with the group several tables over.

It was not my intent to get our table served ahead of others, and as a result to have any delays or issues simply moved to another table. Interestingly perhaps, the other thing that changed tonight was the assistant Maitre D helped out in the entire section, filling water glasses, etc.

As a result, our table, plus all those around us that we could see, seemed to get efficient and timely service. We finished dinner and left the dining room approximately the same time we did other nights when service was efficient. In other words, we didn’t rush, nor were we rushed through dinner. And all the CruiseMates tables left the dining room within minutes of each other.

When we did leave, I noticed our entire section of the dining room, consisting of perhaps 20 tables was emptying, while the remainder of the dining room still appeared to be finishing dinner. I don’t know if this was coincidence, but it did have an odd humor to it.

BTW… tonight was formal night, and for those who like it, “lobster night”; actually a Lobster & Shrimp combination plate. The lobsters appeared to be a pretty decent size, and the waiters did offer extra lobsters to anyone wanting more, once their first portion was finished. The other dishes on the menu were very good as well, and everyone seemed pleased with the various dishes they ordered.

As we made our way out of dinner, the traditional Princess Champagne Waterfall, had been finished, and the Champagne was just beginning to flow.

Following that, we attended a show in the Explorer’s Lounge, by magician/comedian James Michael. Though magicians on ships are often rather boring, with the exception of the odd illusion, this act was very entertaining.

Tonight was also the 4th night of the cruise when the casino has been designated a non-smoking area after 6 P.M.

As the cruise winds down, what has pleased me the most is that everyone in our CruiseMates group who I’ve been speaking with today, tonight, and the past the last several days; whether in casual conversation passing each other on deck, having drinks, or dining together has commented to me about what a wonderful time they’ve had.

They’ve been telling others, and I’ve had strangers walk up to me to ask me about our CruiseMates group cruises, as well as the name of the agent who handles our group cruises, Nancy Bogert, who all those in the group have been speaking so highly of.

The camaraderie is one of the best thing about CruiseMates, and is the best thing about our group cruises!
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