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  #31 (permalink)  
Old January 13th, 2006, 09:34 PM
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hey Donna...if he meets anyone from LOST...shouldn't he run just as fast as he can?
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  #32 (permalink)  
Old January 13th, 2006, 11:20 PM
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Default Jan. 12 - Honolulu

Jan12 – Oahu – Island Princess

We had an early wake up call set on our telephone as the golf tour we were going on was leaving at 8:15 AM.

The Ko’Olau Golf Course is a “monster?, but it was in excellent condition compared to when we last played it in 2003. All the same this is not a golf course I’d recommend for players on a cruise ship. There’s significant travel time involved getting to and from the course, and because it is such a difficult course, a round of golf can easily take between 5 ½ and 6 hours.

Today was an example of the age old adage, “the best laid plans…?. When I called Hawaii a week ago to make reservations at the House Without A Key, for our cruisemates get together, I told the manager I would call the during the day, on the day we arrived in Honolulu to confirm that my call wasn’t a hoax.

While on the golf course, at noon when the restaurant opened, I called to confirm, and was informed by a different manager that our reservation had been cancelled because the place is too busy to hold space for as many as I had booked for. The House Without A Key does not normally take reservations, BUT I had made an arrangement with them, which they agreed to. At the time I called, had they simply refused our reservation request, I would have looked for an alternate location. However I was VERY upset that I was just finding this out mid-day on the day of the event, and with people already out on tours, or exploring the island, it was going to be nearly impossible to inform everyone.

We decided we should head to the restaurant anyway to let people know what occurred when they arrived. When we got to the restaurant, the place was about half empty, with plenty of room to accommodate us, so I have no idea why they had been so eager to turn down business.

To confuse matters even more there had been a very serious head on collision between two vehicles on one the islands main roads. All the major roads became parking lots of bumper to bumper traffic, so many of the group who rented vehicles today to do their own tours couldn’t get to the restaurant on time.

It’s a lovely setting at sunset, but as upset as I was with the management decision that was made, as soon as the sun set, we left.

After talking to the Maitre D this morning we also weren’t sure if Elena and Marius (our dining room team) were going to be allowed to join us. Once we knew about the problem we left a note for them, before we left the ship informing them our plans had changed a bit, and if they were finally given permission for the time off, we gave them my cell phone number to call, so we could let them know where we’d be.

Turned out at 8 PM, when their late dining passengers hadn’t come for dinner, they were both allowed off the ship. We had actually just returned to the ship moments earlier, but told them to meet us across the street, at the Aloha Towers in 5 minutes.

Mrs. Kuki and I went and met them, and knowing they had to be back on the ship by 10 PM we just went over to Hooters because it’s right at the pier. We bought them dinner and drinks, and spent a few fun hours together visiting… as friends, instead of service staff and passengers.

Both Elena and Marius were very appreciative of the effort we’d gone to get them a bit of time off to spend with us. And we were very appreciative that they had chosen to spend time, from their own very rare free time to be with us.

There are many staff members who are not on shift during ports of call, and are allowed off the ship. This was evidenced by how busy Hooters was! However dining staff getting time off in port during dining hours is a real rarity, and Elena and Marius made us very aware how special they felt.

While other crew members looked on, Elena and Marius seemed to be beaming -very proud of being at the restaurant with passengers. We thoroughly enjoyed our short couple of hours together. And I thank the Matire D for allowing it to happen.
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  #33 (permalink)  
Old January 14th, 2006, 09:10 PM
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Default Jan 13 - Kauai

Jan 13 – Kauai – Island Princess

Today’s port of call was Kauai, which is known as the “garden island?. The ship docks here, so tendering is not necessary. As usual there’s a variety of tours available, but I think with little doubt, the very best is to see this exotic island from the air, via helicopter.

We’ve done the helicopter tour before here, so as you probably guessed, I went golfing. Our golf course of choice today was the Kiele Course, at Kauai Lagoons. It’s a spectacular golf course, with amazing ocean views, and they offer free shuttle service from the pier, and back afterwards. You can book this directly on your own in advance, and with transportation not being a concern, can save yourselves a considerable amount of money, versus booking through the ship.

For the shoppers, there are free shuttles available from the pier to a few different shopping opportunities, and the Marriott Resort beach is not too far from the pier as well. At the pier there were quite a large number of vendors offering different tours of the island, including helicopter trips.

In each Hawaiian port security returning to the ship has been very tight. They check all bags, backpacks, etc. quite closely before allowing you to get back on the ship, even checking all the pockets of my golf bag, and requiring passengers to remove their footwear before passing through the metal detectors.

Returning to the ship after our outing, and realizing I hadn’t eaten in over an hour, I went to the Horizon Court for a snack to tide me over until dinner. The 24 hr. Horizon Court is a wonderful amenity. We’ve been on several ships, where after returning from a busy port day hungry, it was difficult to find anything to eat other than finger sandwiches, pizza or limited room service menus. The one strange thing about the Horizon Court is drinks, other than coffee and iced tea, are difficult to find. There are no fountains dispensing lemonade, fruit punch or the like.

The Internet hook-up onboard has been painfully slow. I’ve used cruise ship’s internet service at sea often enough to expect slow downloads, but for some reason on this cruise it requires much more patience to watch sites load at a snail’s pace. It’s also the reason I haven’t responded to any of the posts or questions in this thread (if anyone was wondering).

I’m a bit of a night owl, so I have wrote each of these daily reports at the end of the day, when I return to the cabin (that should explain some of the incoherent ramblings ). Then, sometime during the course of the next day, I sign on, and post them.

The Wi-Fi service is available only in the public rooms around the atrium, on Decks 5, 6 and 7. The Internet Café with desk tops is located on Deck 8. There is no in cabin Internet service available. The per minute rates are quite low compared to other cruise lines, but I’m finding it can take 30 minutes just to check my e-mail (without even responding to most) and “clip and paste? the daily story to post on the message board.

Crooner’s Bar, on Deck 7, is my favorite place to plant myself with my laptop, next to one of the windows, to sign on. If it happens to be during the evening, a pianist entertains here with mostly “easy listening? tunes. This is not a typical Piano Bar with sing-a-longs, as much as it a relaxing lounge atmosphere.

Tomorrow we’re visiting Lahaina, Maui, and this is a port where the ship anchors of shore, and tenders passengers in. It will be interesting to see if the process goes smoother than it did during our Kona visit.

And.. by the way… tonight for my “birthday celebration? Elena convinced a table located close to ours to come over and join in singing Happy Birthday to me.
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  #34 (permalink)  
Old January 14th, 2006, 11:16 PM
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Default Daily live cruise log

Kuki, I've been following along on your Hawaii cruise. Enjoyed all your posts taking us along. We did the Vancouver to Hawaii in '95 on LOS and when you talked about playing golf at the Khuai Lagoons that was where we were married in '88. Is the octagon chapel still there? That property was Westin back then before Hurricane Iniki destroyed much of the island. Only fault I found with Princess: no lemonade. (Do they have soft serve ice cream cones?) Hope your cruise was all you hoped it would be.

Betty
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  #35 (permalink)  
Old January 15th, 2006, 07:21 PM
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Well, Kuki,
How is your scores? Golfing anywhere is GREAT! especially in the Hawaiian Islands!

Glad you both are having a wonderful time.

Susan
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  #36 (permalink)  
Old January 15th, 2006, 09:07 PM
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Default Jan 14

Jan. 14 – Maui – Island Princess

The tendering process over to Lahaina went much more smoothly today than it had in Kona. Though we had booked our own golf today, the pro on the ship kindly allowed our golf group to take the first tender off the ship, along with his golf excursion. But Mrs Kuki and other cruisemates had little trouble getting a tender ticket at a reasonable time.

This morning, while enjoying breakfast on Lido Deck, we saw several humpback whales breaching right next to the ship. I talked to several people in our cruisemates group who took whale watching excursions today, and they say they saw literally hundreds of whales. At one point a tour boat had so many whales surrounding it the boat couldn’t move until some whales left the area. Obviously this was a real treat for those lucky enough to be onboard. So, this is seemingly a good time of year to visit the islands if whale watching is on your list of things to do.

While others took a variety of tours, other cruisemates rented cars and explored on their own. Speaking to some of the people who rented cars, they also were able to see whales quite clearly from various lookout stops along the coastal roads.

Today, we went golfing at the North Tournament Course, at the Kanaapali Golf Course. On our last visit, two years ago, I had played their Resort South Course, and loved it. The North Course was equally as much fun to play. There are some beautiful views from the golf course, and it’s only a short taxi ride from the tender dock. Including transport time, if you’re going to golf here plan on about five hours.

The fairways are quite wide, and forgiving, but the test comes on the large undulating greens. Lots of speedy downhill putts, with all sorts of bends and turns, which makes judging the weight required for putts coming back up hill knee shakers.

After golf we grabbed a taxi back to Lahaina and strolled along Front Street for awhile before returning to the ship. Lahaina is one of my favorite stops, and on previous cruises to the islands the ship has stayed here overnight. That was not the case on this itinerary and we missed spending the evening.

We were on our balcony, visiting with our cruisemates neighbors, and watching the sunset, and spotting the occasional whale, while the ship sailed from Lahaina. Then we noticed about 15 minutes out the ship had quit moving. We stayed in this position for about another 15 minutes, when a small boat, carrying two of the ship’s passengers, came racing out to the ship. These people had missed the last tender to the ship and must have found a way to quickly communicate with the ship, convince the ship to wait, and arrange transportation to the ship.

They must have happened to find the Captain in a good mood, to be able to convince him to hold the ship for them. The normal procedure if this should happen to you is that the ship will leave without you, and you’re responsible for getting yourself to the next port. In this case it would have been Hilo, which isn’t all that far, but if anyone is late tomorrow, they’ll be paying for a flight from Hilo to Los Angeles.

In the case of this ship’s itinerary the cost to passengers missing the ship could have been much higher because of a decades old law, called “The Jones Act?.
The Jones Act forbids anyone from disembarking a vessel, which originated its voyage in the United States, in another American port without first visiting a foreign country. Doing so can result in fines over $5000.

This also explains why ship’s sailing this round trip itinerary have a “service call? in Ensenada, Mexico before returning to Los Angeles.

During the course of the cruise I’ve had a chance to talk to some of the people in our cruisemates group who have “Any Time? (Personal Choice) dining, to inquire if they’ve had any problems getting seated when they would like to, or general impressions about the option. Perhaps surprisingly, I haven’t heard from anyone who has had to wait to be seated. A few have commented that some nights they’ve had better servers than others, but I’ve heard very few complaints.

We did finally get permission for some of the group to move to the empty table next to us, which I had mentioned was assigned, but had gone unoccupied since the beginning of the cruise. And they’re fortunate that it in Elena & Marius’s section. Though they were forced to earn it, and join Elena and Marius to sing tonight’s Happy Birthday to me.

Tomorrow is Hilo, and our last day on land until Jan. 21st. You may all be shocked, but I am not golfing in Hilo. Tomorrow evening, and for the next 4 evenings following, we’ll begin our CruiseMates Trivia contest. We have a set of trivia questions for each dining table in the group to work on over dessert and coffee in the dining room. And once we’re back to sea days we’ve got a number of group activities planned. I’m looking forward to seeing people in the group who I haven’t run into much during the busy 5 ports in 5 days.

Though we’ll be having plenty of activities during the upcoming sea days, in the coming reports I’ll also be talking more about the ship, now that we’ve had a considerable time onboard to build impressions and opinions.
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  #37 (permalink)  
Old January 16th, 2006, 06:12 AM
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I'm having such a good time on this cruise and I haven't even left home. Please keep it coming.
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  #38 (permalink)  
Old January 16th, 2006, 08:29 AM
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I am not surprised that the ship stopped for the passengers. When I was on the Grand in '04, the ship set sail late everytime because of passengers being late. it was incredible regarding the amount of late comers. That law is interesting though. As the last post stated, I have enjoyed the cruise also from the privacy of my office chair .
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  #39 (permalink)  
Old January 16th, 2006, 12:17 PM
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Default Thank You Kuki

I had posted earlier that I was looking forward to the daily reports because I will be aboard when the IP sets sail this coming Saturday.
Having read all your postings has me even more excited about this cruise that I was before, and the before was very excited. From you descriptions, it sounds like the IP experience has been good.
It must be so great to see all the whalesup close. Can't wait for our whale watching excursion.
Thanks again and keep up the great work. I'll be reading your postings thru Thursday, then I fly to L.A. early Friday morning. :o
flamomo
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2/07 Sea Princess - Southern Caribbean
11/07 Golden Princess - Mexican Riviera
3/08 Diamond Princess - Hawaii
11/9/08 Tahitan Princess - Tahiti & French Polynesia

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3/14/10 Golden Princess - Hawaii
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  #40 (permalink)  
Old January 16th, 2006, 04:05 PM
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Kuki, you meant to say Passenger Vessel Services Act instead of Jones Act (whic covers cargo). Here is a recent article on the topic:

Quote:
The U.S.-flag ship business takes baby steps in Hawaii
In an ideal cruising destination such as Hawaii, why is only one large cruise ship sailing inter-island itineraries? The answer is rooted in centuries-old maritime laws.

The Jones Act is commonly cited as the source of the cabotage regulations controlling cruise ship routes in the U.S., but it controls shipment of goods and services, not passengers. Most cruise ships must comply with the U.S. Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886, which forbids foreign vessels from transporting passengers between U.S. ports without a penalty unless they call at a foreign port during the itinerary. Only U.S.-flagged ships — those built in America, owned by Americans and operated by Americans — can transport passengers between U.S. ports without visiting a foreign port.

But the Passenger Vessel Services Act reaches far beyond Hawaiian waters. It is a determining factor in itineraries from the mainland by major cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean International, Carnival, Princess and Norwegian. It's the reason you can't sail from Los Angeles to Seattle and that you have to stop at a Canadian port when sailing from Seattle to Alaska. It's why cruises from the West Coast to Hawaii leave from Ensenada, Mexico, or Vancouver, British Columbia. And it's why NCL's Norwegian Wind, which is registered in the Bahamas, must call at Fanning Island in the Republic of Kiribati on its Hawaii cruises. It's the reason the Pride of Aloha, owned by NCL America, has a virtual monopoly on Hawaiian itineraries. Its officers and crew are American. It is registered in the U.S.

Until June, the Pride of Aloha flew the Bahamas flag as NCL's Norwegian Sky, built in 1999 at a German shipyard. It was reflagged after Congress granted an exemption requiring U.S. construction. (NCL created the NCL America brand to operate its U.S.-flagged ships in Hawaii.)

Past U.S.-flagged companies have foundered economically in Hawaiian waters. NCL America sails in the wake of American Classic Voyages, which stopped sailing its Patriot in Hawaii after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

So far, NCL America has faced more start-up problems than is usual for a new cruise line. Its Pride of America was to be introduced to the fleet in July but was flooded in a German shipyard. Instead, the Pride of Aloha made its debut in July after reflagging and a rushed refurbishment.

The line has had trouble hiring, training and retaining an American crew, amid reports that many had quit because they didn't like the long hours and hard work or work conditions. The cruise line has said the attrition rate has been normal. But passenger complaints about service and other problems led the line to temporarily drop its mandatory daily service fee of $10 per adult.

Operating in Hawaii under the U.S. flag has unique challenges, said Rod McLeod, the last cruise executive to try it. With a long track record in the industry, McLeod oversaw the launch of American Classic Voyages' Patriot in late 2000.

"The problems NCL is experiencing are not unusual from the experiences I had with the Patriot," he said. "Our challenge was a three-step process: recruiting, training and retaining the crew, and the most difficult is recruiting."

It's harder to get and keep U.S. workers on a ship than it is to recruit workers from Eastern Europe, Asia and other regions where incomes are lower, he said. For a worker in Eastern Europe earning perhaps $200 a month, it makes economic sense to take a cruise ship job with an average income of $3,000 or more a month with tips, McLeod said. (Nearly all those earnings come from tips; workers on foreign-flagged cruise ships are paid low wages by U.S. standards.)

By contrast, U.S. workers can get shore-side jobs making comparable wages to those aboard a U.S.-flagged ship.

"The issue becomes more one of lifestyle. A very good waiter in Las Vegas would make probably what he would on a cruise ship. But in Las Vegas, he goes home every night. If you're a waiter on a cruise ship, you're there for 13 weeks and you get home for seven," McLeod said. "You have to go … find people who are prepared to accept that lifestyle."

McLeod said American Classic Voyages had difficulty hiring Hawaiians, because in the islands' culture, family bonds are strong, and many Hawaiians don't like to be away from their homes and families. Hawaii also has a well-established resort market, which competes with ships for workers, and often wins.

"[NCL America is] a new venture, and no one has done this successfully in 50 years," McLeod said. "It's going up against an international-flag industry.

"The U.S.-flag large-ship business is in its infancy — it's learning to walk while the other cruise lines already know how to run."
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  #41 (permalink)  
Old January 16th, 2006, 04:59 PM
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Default Jan 15

Jan15- Hilo- Island Princess

A couple of interesting people have been sighted on this cruise. “Captain Stubing? (Gavin Macleod) has been on the ship since the beginning of the cruise. Though I personally haven’t seen him yet, some of the cruisemates group have, and have talked to him. I understand he has “Any Time Dining?, so our paths haven’t crossed.

He’s onboard with a production crew filming new Princess Cruise Line promotions, but the production has been unnoticeable, with no disruption to any passenger facilities that I’ve noticed.

Also spotted onboard is the man who finished third in the recently concluded Survivor T.V. show. I haven’t mentioned him in earlier reports because none of us can even remember his name, but I know it’s him. I haven’t wanted to go up to him and say, “You’re the guy who…?.

The weather while in “the islands? has been pretty close to perfect for us, and today was no exception, other than a few sprinkles on the windshield of our rent a car while we were driving to Volcano National Park. The park is a truly surrealistic landscape of barren hardened black masses from previous eruptions and lava flows, and many areas where steam rises out of fissures in the rock due to the heat of the lava still flowing well below the surface.

Many times on Hawaii cruises, at night, you can view the lava flowing into the sea, when traveling between Kona and Hilo. On our itinerary, unfortunately the ship took a different routing, with Kona being our first visit, and then on to other ports, and returning by way of Hilo before heading back to Los Angeles. Therefore we had no opportunity to view what can be quite a spectacular display of Mother Nature’s magic.

When we were back on the ship, sitting on our balcony, waiting for our sail-a-way from Hilo, we spotted a lot of whales once again. At first they were simply water spouts out on the horizon, but eventually a number of them seemed to come within a couple hundred yards of the shore. Then, as we left the harbor the Captain announced that whales could be seen close to the ship on both the starboard and port sides. We watched one grouping of whales travel quite a distance across the ocean with amazing speed. I don’t know all that much about whales, and hadn’t realized just how quickly they can travel.

En route to the islands, at our CruiseMates cocktail party, I’d “lei’d out? a calendar of group activities I’d planned for our sea days on the return trip. I wanted to refresh everyone’s memory, so today I wrote a memo, and asked the Guest Relations desk if they could make copies of it, and deliver them to the cabins of everyone in our group. They did so with no hesitancy, and also printed thirty copies of today’s CruiseMates Dinner Trivia game sheets, and all at no charge. I’ve had other cruise lines charge me $1 per cabin for delivering notices or invitations on previous cruises, so this was a nice display of customer service onboard.

The food in the dining room continues to be very good. I haven’t had a menu during the entire cruise, where I had difficulty finding something appealing to choose, nor have I had a bad meal. The rolls, breads, and bread sticks have been wonderful, with a varied assortment each evening. About the only weakness in the food department, in my view, have been the deserts, particularly the sugar free variety.

Elena and Marius continue to do an amazing job on the service end of things, and the last few nights our head waiter, Daniel, has begun joining in the fun at our table as well. And, naturally, it was my birthday again tonight!

Tomorrow we have a CruiseMates golf tournament planned for the morning on the “Princess Links? mini golf course. It will be good to get the group together again, and hear more stories of what people did while visiting the islands.

Traveling eastward we lose an hour tonight (that we had gained traveling westward). After being up early for 5 days in a row, I am VERY MUCH looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow morning.
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  #42 (permalink)  
Old January 16th, 2006, 10:44 PM
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Kuki, I'd be very interested in your CM Trivia. Can you post a few sample questions here? or better yet, e-mail me the lsit when you get home!

donna
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  #43 (permalink)  
Old January 17th, 2006, 07:17 AM
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Still no postings of golf scores. I think we are being deprived of an essential detail of this cruise. Keep it coming Kuki, I'm having a good time on this cruise.
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  #44 (permalink)  
Old January 17th, 2006, 09:26 PM
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Default Jan 16

Jan16 – A Sea Day

Last night we started the first of five nights of CruiseMates Team Trivia at dinner. Every night I’ll be leaving a sheet of trivia questions at the entrance to both the “traditional? and “personal choice? dining rooms. All the cruisemates who want to play pick up the sheets from the head waiters on their way to dinner, and then spend some time at dinner trying to answer, with everyone at the table forming a team. We’ll get together the last day of the cruise to give the correct answers and award prizes.

The dining room staff is already being included, with cruisemates asking for help, and it looks like everyone is going to have fun with this.

Momentarily this morning it appeared we’d left the Hawaiian weather behind when we left the islands. However, as the morning passed the sun began to shine, and it turned into a lovely day by the pool.

The ladies in the group who had done the pottery classes returned today to finish them off, and the crafts instructor will be “firing? them, and returning the finished product to those who participated.

Today I organized a few “group? things for the upcoming CruiseMates get togethers, and met with the casino manager to confirm that tomorrow I’ll be joining the casino staff, as a casino host for a day, and will be hosting the Blackjack tournament.

On this itinerary, the casino staff, have an odd job. The casino is totally closed down for the five days we’re in the islands. Yet, returning to LA now, then embarking the new guests, followed right up with 4 sea days back to Hawaii, results in 10 straight days of work.

The Princess Patters was once again filled with various activities for those people whose interests went beyond relaxing on deck. Frankly, there are more activities to choose from on sea days than I can recall on any ship I’ve sailed for some time, running the gamut from naturalist lectures, to pool games; cerebral to silly.

After dinner this evening there was a choice of two shows. A soprano, Philippa Healey appeared in the Princess Theater and comedian Jeff Wayne in the Universe Lounge (the ship’s alternate theater, aft). We chose to see the comedian, and apparently made the wrong choice. The cruisemates, who attended the Princess Theater, raved about Ms. Healey’s show, and reported that the songstress got a standing ovation. The comedian got people standing as well, to walk out. I’m “kuki? enough to laugh at just about any joke, but I didn’t even give a mild chuckle over this fellows act.

At the beginning of this cruise I had every intention of trying the two ship’s alternate (surcharge) restaurants. But the service and the food in the dining room has been too satisfying for me to feel the need to try something else.

Aesthetically I personally prefer the ship’s which feature two deck high dining rooms, with sweeping staircases joining them. The Princess dining rooms are one storey, and divided into many smaller areas using half-walls and railings, to give the effect of a much smaller more intimate restaurant. The ceilings feel low, and the lighting a bit dim for my tastes. However, our round table for eight is nicely located, and the area is designed well, so there’s no feeling of tables and work stations being crowded together.

Another oddity popped up in regard to the dining room. There’s a variety of chairs at our table. Some of the chairs have arms, others are open, and there seems to be some variance in the height of the chairs as well. We tend to move around the table each evening, and on several occasions it has seemed I got the “kiddie chair?, where I was reaching up to the table.

Tomorrow we have our Kuki Puzzle Solving Scavenger Hunt for those cruisemates who want to play, and in the afternoon I’ll be joining the ship’s staff; working as a casino host, and dealing cards at the Blackjack tournament.
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Old January 17th, 2006, 11:53 PM
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The fun and games sound great Kuki, wish I was there to participate!
I can't imagine a guy as big as you sitting in the 'kiddie chair"!

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Old January 18th, 2006, 12:07 AM
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The third place guy from Survivor is Rafe.

Thanks for sharing your cruise with us, Kuki. I'm really enjoying following you, since friends from Ridgecrest are cruising in your group.
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Old January 18th, 2006, 12:40 AM
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I also love, "two deck high dining rooms, with sweeping staircases".
It gives you a feeling of grandeur (sp?)
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Old January 18th, 2006, 08:32 PM
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This cruise has been too long for me. I've already gained 10 lbs.
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Old January 18th, 2006, 08:43 PM
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Jan17- at sea on the Island Princess

Unfortunately the chill is back in the air on the open decks as we’re making our way east to Los Angeles. This may be the sole down side to this itinerary, at this time of year; you’re likely facing at total of 4 days of less than ideal weather.

Today some of the cruisemates group got together for our puzzle solving scavenger hunt. It’s a simple but fun diversion, and good way to get some of the group together.

This afternoon I was to act as an assistant casino host during the ship’s Blackjack Tournament in order to write an article for CruiseMates. Little did I know, aside from signing up participants, and making a few announcements to encourage people to participate, that I’d also get the opportunity to deal the cards. You’ll have to wait for a bit to read the entire story on the CruiseMates Home Page sometime soon, but I will say we had a GREAT time! Nikki, the Casino Manager, and the Casino Host, Michelle, were very nice to “the rookie?. And I think the entire casino staff got a kick out of watching someone attempting to their job. Hopefully it will make for a fun read once the article is done.

In the fall, a few months ago, the Island Princess was in dry dock for a fairly major refit, with new beds, bedding, carpeting, etc. And as a result the ship does sparkle as if it was new. Our cabin is a mini- suite on Dolphin Deck. It is one of the cabins where the balcony is totally open to above. At first it may seem odd to be on the balcony with people on decks above looking down on you, but after a few days, we didn’t even think about it, and never found it to be a problem. In fact, it made it rather fun to talk to the people on the decks above us, and around us.

We have members of our group in the cabin next door to us, and the first day we had the steward open a door in the partition between balconies. The partition does not open completely, to make a larger balcony. It’s just a small doorway that allows you to walk between balconies. Also, not all the balconies have the connecting doorways. Every second balcony is a solid divider that’s part of the ship’s metal structure, so even if you are traveling with family or friends in the balcony cabin next door, you may not have a partition to open.

The mini suites washrooms have a bathtub with shower head, rather than just a shower. There are two things with this set up which I don’t care for. Firstly, even with the tub there’s a shower curtain, rather than a sliding glass or plastic tub enclosure. Therefore the body chasing shower curtain problem exists, just as it does with cabins equipped with showers only.

The other problem is for tall people only. The ceiling above the bath tub is very low. I’m 6’ 3? tall, and when I lifted my arms while taking a shower, I’d smack them on the ceiling.

The new beds are quite comfortable, with a wonderful duvet comforter; however I was surprised to find the flimsiest of pillows. I was also surprised to find that bathroom towels had not been upgraded. Several times we found towels with holes in them when the steward replaced the towels from the previous day.

Other than those minor problems, the mini suites are nicely laid out, with more than adequate storage, even for over-packers on a long cruise.

The entertainment this evening in the Princess Theater was a ventriloquist we had seen on previous cruises. We enjoyed his show last time we saw him, but didn’t feel the need to see him again. In the Universe Lounge, the alternate theater, the staff did the traditional London Pub Night, which is always fun.
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Old January 19th, 2006, 02:51 PM
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Default Jan 18 At Sea

Jan18 – Island Princess at sea

At last a morning where I slept late and it felt pretty darn good! When I did get out on deck, about 10 AM, the sun was shining and it had the promise of a nice day to suntan by the pool. The weather changed quickly, and by 11 AM there were some showers, and a cold wind was blowing across the deck.

Once again the “Princess Patters? was showing a full schedule of events for guests to participate in, from trivia games to motivational lectures. I was to be back “at work? as a casino host by 11:30 AM, to host the Slot Tournament. There were lots of people participating, and I’ll describe more of this experience in my upcoming feature article.

The ship’s indoor Lotus Pool area was a busy place today, as was the spa, and most indoor activities. Plenty of people were doing laundry today in the ship’s self serve laundry facilities, and others spent a lazy day reading in quiet spots, watching movies, or napping the day away in their cabins.

After my hosting duties I stuck around the casino to play some Blackjack, visiting with some of the cruisemates gang as they would wander by, or stop to play for awhile.

After having dealt cards in the Blackjack Tournament yesterday, and hosting the Slot Tournament today, I had a lot of the people who’d been around the casino asking me questions about CruiseMates, as with others in our group, as word got around about some of our other group activities, they were being asked for details about the group and the CruiseMates web site.

It was interesting that a lot of people wanted to know about the price our group had paid, and I wasn’t all that surprised to learn that everyone who inquired of our group members had paid more for their cabins than those in our group.

Other passengers who didn’t know of CruiseMates prior told me they went and checked out the website today, in the Internet Café, and were amazed at how much information appeared to be there. With the speed of the ship’s Internet they must have been very interested, and patient, to have more than a tertiary look.

People were stopping me in the hallways and even the elevators to learn more about CruiseMates, and I was, of course, more than happy to speak of our virtues.

I stopped by Crooners Bar to post yesterday’s log report at 4:30 PM, just prior to our scheduled group get together in the Wheelhouse Bar, at 5 PM.
In that half hour, I was able to clip and paste my post, and submit it, but didn’t have any time left over to even check my e-mail.

As much SPAM as I get on my computer, it seems there are overwhelming amounts of junk mail/ads being placed in the mail box for our cabin. I fill a garbage bag each and every day with this trash, and I’m bothered by the massive waste. Maybe the ship needs to offer NO SPAM sign on the cabin mailboxes.

At 5 PM we met up with the group in the Wheel House Bar for our “CM Ugliest Aloha Shirt or MuMu contest. There were some VERY ugly shirts, and even some unique creations of ugly clothing. Once again, in talking to people in our group, I have heard very few complaints about the ship, the food, the crew, or the entertainment; all pretty important issues which have a direct impact on your cruise experience.

As a group organizer, one complaint I have had is with the busy schedule of ship’s activities during the course of a day, it has proved difficult to find a space for our CruiseMates events, and get-togethers.

Tonight at dinner was the second last installment of “Team Dinner Trivia?, and I seem to be driving people “Kuki? with some of the questions. It appears I may have made some of the questions a bit too obscure, but I think when we get together on Friday to reveal all the answers people will have enjoyed the nightly game.

At dinner Elena and Marius once again “celebrated my birthday? with a cake and a song, and then someone at the table next to us was also having a birthday celebration. Elena insisted that we do ours again, but much louder, as an impromptu competition with the other “birthday table?. She is truly a special, quirky, and fun waitress. She’s a bright girl, who does her job superbly, but isn’t the least bit hesitant to display the humorous and delightful portion of her personality.

Tonight’s menu selection was yet again, excellent! And the food lived up to the billing as well.

There were both pre and post dinner shows scheduled for tonight. A magic and comedy show was scheduled for 7 PM, , and the Hilarious Comedy of Vance Hughes, in the Princess Theater at 10:15 PM. Vance is without doubt the funniest comedy entertainer I’ve ever seen on a cruise ship. If the opportunity arises to see his show, MAKE CERTAIN you go!

Returning to the cabin tonight I found a Customs and Immigration Form, notifying non US citizens when and where they must appear on the morning of Jan. 21, the day he cruise ends. I took great affront to receiving information even suggesting that my cruise was coming to an end. They still could have had 2 full days to deliver these. Don’t get me thinking about the end of my vacation, when I’ve got 2 full days left in my vacation!!!
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  #51 (permalink)  
Old January 19th, 2006, 10:02 PM
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Kuki, thanks again for you detailed postings. I will not get to read the last few until I get home, as I am flying to L.A. tomorrow.
I'll be looking for your disembarkment (is that a word?) on Saturday, as I arrive for check-in.
Thanks to you reviews, I am really looking forward to this cruise. Hope we all have as great an experience as you did.
flamomo
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Old January 20th, 2006, 07:51 AM
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I'm having a great time on this cruise and I haven't even had to pack. Keep it coming.
Papa
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Old January 20th, 2006, 02:54 PM
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Jan19 – Island Princess at sea

We lost another hour last night, and are back on Pacific Standard Time. I and a few other cruisemates had a late night in the casino last night. No one scored big last night, but we had some fun, and played quite some time without losing big money either.

After the late night, and not expecting much sunshine, hot weather, and pool games today, I slept in. We left the cabin for breakfast, and to give the cabin stewards a chance to clean up the cabin, and then I returned to the cabin for a morning nap. That actually felt quite relaxing and even luxurious… having a nap, after only being awake for an hour.

Unfortunately today it truly feels as though the cruise is coming to an end. With the inclement weather the shops are full of passengers picking up last minute souvenirs, and the rolling bags for those who have shopped too much, are displayed prominently.

I tried to spend some time on the Internet this afternoon, and proceeded to my “wi-fi hangout, at Crooner’s Bar on Deck 7. The experience was almost torturous. It took a half hour of internet time to check my e-mail. Then I tried to sign on to the CruiseMates site, and while the site loaded I had time to smoke a package of cigarettes, and drink the ship half dry; 22 minutes just to load the forums page. Passengers and crew alike get red in the face and blood vessels in their neck swelling when discussing the ship’s Internet connections.

I feel worse for the crew than for the passengers, because while at sea, e-mail is the only way for many of them to stay in touch with families back home.

Speaking of the ship’s crew, everyone we’ve had any encounters with, throughout the ship are friendly and helpful. From the guest relations desk, who have been printing all our trivia sheets, to our terrific dining room service team (Elena Santos and Marius Dumascu), as well as all the bartenders and bar waiters, have all helped make this a wonderful cruise.

If you’re sailing the Island Princess anytime soon, be sure to stop in to the casino and visit the Casino Host, Michelle Brzowoski, and the Casino Manager Nikky Giannico, and tell them you’re from CruiseMates. They, as well as the entire casino staff were so nice about letting me have a glimpse into their work world and their lives.

The last formal night was this evening, and once again dinner was superb. The sea food lovers were excited, as tonight Lobster was served for the second time during the cruise. And those are our dinner table said the lobster was delicious tonight! It must have been, as I saw just about everyone ordering extras.

Each night, along with everyone’s individual entrees, we’ve been ordering two plates of “community pasta? for the table. With the exception of one night, the pastas were also wonderful.

The menu also offers quite an extensive “always available? menu, including Caesar Salad, NY steak, Beef Tenderloin, Salmon, Baked Potato, French Fries, as well as a cheesecake desert. Other than the Caesar Salad, and French Fries one night, the menus have been so good I haven’t found the need to order from the “always available? section.

After dinner tonight the production show aficionados in the group went to the show, Piano Man, in the Princess Theater. They all raved about the quality of the entertainers in the show, even though the stage is small, and the sets not as elaborate as some of the other cruise lines. At the same time, the ventriloquist and the awful comedian were entertaining in the aft Universe Lounge.

The “cruisemates casino crew? returned to the casino tonight, for an encore performance of the night before because we’d had so much fun. We had another fun night, and I even made some money at the Blackjack table for a change.

It’s been a good trip for various folks in the CruiseMates group in more ways than one. One group of cruisemates won a $2200 Bingo Jackpot earlier in the cruise. Another one, won the ship’s Survivor contest, and to his surprise won a gift package worth over $1000. And yet another is in the finals tomorrow for the ship’s MasterMind Championship – an individual trivia challenge to find the “most intelligent life-form on the ship?.


Today Mrs Kuki walked the ship checking for the cabin doors of all those who entered our Door Decorating Contest. There were some very original and creative entries, and pictures of them will follow in a photo gallery soon.

Tomorrow afternoon, before the ship’s arrival in Ensenada, the CruiseMates group will be getting together to learn the answers to our Dinner Team Trivia, so we’ll find out who had the smartest group of tablemates. I’ll get rid of all the prizes we dragged along, so we should then have plenty of empty space in our luggage for “the stuff? we’ve accumulated during the cruise. You think you’re really not buying much of anything, until all that nothing that you bought begins to fill all the empty storage space in the cabin.

I’m told the ship may lose its entire Internet access (as slow as it is) as we get to Ensenada, so posting this may be delayed by two days, rather than next day reporting.

We are post cruising for one day in Los Angeles, and no doubt I’ll find much faster Internet connections from the hotel.
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Old January 20th, 2006, 06:33 PM
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Kuki:

I have been reading along with you and almost feeling like I was there. I will look forward to your pictures.

I have always found that Princess Internet has been a bit frustrating. Then again I haven't met a ships Internet connection that I have been really happy with. Then again, I'm "picky".

I look forward to your return.

Take care,
Mike
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Old January 21st, 2006, 06:55 AM
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Boy have I had a great time on this cruise. I can't wait to see the pictures.
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Old January 21st, 2006, 12:16 PM
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Please add me to the list of people who really enjoyed "going with you" on this cruise. I had a great time, and I look forward to pictures.

Judy
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Old January 21st, 2006, 05:41 PM
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Default The llast day - Jan 20

Jan20 – Island Princess – At Sea/Ensenada

A sad today; it’s the last day of the cruise. The Island Princess is slowly making its way to Ensenada, Mexico. We’re scheduled to arrive at 4 PM, and depart at 8 PM. This is really nothing more than a “service call?, added to the ship’s itinerary to abide by the Passenger Services portion of the Jones Act, though passengers can disembark if they wish, and shuttle buses are provided from the pier to the center of town, for $2 per person going, and $1 returning.

By the time most passengers got into town this afternoon, temperatures began to drop, and it got quite cool, so many didn’t stay in town very long.

Temperatures were still “coolish? earlier today, with highs near 69 degrees Fahrenheit. But it was comfortable enough for many passengers to sit out in the sun pool-side. Many of the cruisemates took advantage, and did just that, between trips to their cabins to pack.

At 3 PM we had our last CruiseMates group get together in the Explorer’s Lounge. A bit of a melancholy mood was pervasive, but we managed to have some laughs, while going over the answers to the dinner trivia, and awarding prizes to quite a few of those in the group who put great energy and creativeness into their door decorating efforts.

Then a good number of the group members gathered in the ship’s atrium for the customary group photo. I do have to mention that though we were a fairly large group, everyone got along great. With this bunch no one could have felt left out, unless they wanted to be. Fortunately we had a very participatory group, and I think everyone enjoyed their cruise more because of that.

I was very touched when someone “spilled the beans? about today being my birthday, and the group sang Happy Birthday to me. It was so nice to meet so many new friends who I had never met before, and to meet other friends who I hadn’t seen for some time.

I was also a bit humbled today. As the CruiseMates group were gathering, three people who happened to be on the ship, and had heard about our gathering today, came by just to say they had to come meet me, and how much they enjoy the CruiseMates web site, and my articles. It’s just so nice to be associated with a web site that takes a huge world, and makes it smaller, and more personal.

Today, by good fortune, I also happened to bump into Kevin Hughes, the comedian I have mentioned in an earlier report, as well as his wife Kathy. I normally don’t like to intrude on entertainers, but I felt I had to tell Kevin that he’s the best comedian I’ve seen on a cruise ship. His “act? is about relationships, and his wife Kathy is featured prominently, but in a very loving way; not mean spirited comedy.

We ended up enjoyably chatting for over an hour. Kevin truly has a brilliant mind. A bio chemist by trade, with an obvious gift of humor combined with a down to earth view of the world. He’s currently under contract to stay with the Island Princes through May. If you’re fortunate enough to cruise while he’s entertaining, he’d love for you to say hi from CruiseMates. There’s no question he’s a “don’t miss!? act.

Many of the people in the CruiseMates group have also run into Raffe (from the latest Survivor TV show). He’s been very approachable, and personable. Taking time to talk to everyone who’s approached him, posing for pictures, and even handing out autographed pictures. He even delivered an autographed picture to one person’s cabin, because they didn’t have a camera with him when they met. It’s nice to see he’s enjoying his “celebrity?, and dealing with it with a warm demeanor.

I personally haven’t “run into him? yet, so we haven’t spoken. And by the way, I haven’t run into Captain Stubbing yet either.

Passengers were instructed to put their luggage out in the hallways between 6 and 8 PM tonight. I found this very strange considering the ship didn’t leave Ensenada until 8 PM. Just another of life’s oddities.

Because the ship offers “express checkout? (where guests can carry off all their own luggage), if your luggage is not in the hallway when they’re collecting bags, they’d could easily just assume you’ll be carrying them off yourselves. No doubt some guests who put their luggage out late may find them still sitting in the hallway when they leave their cabins tomorrow morning.


This evening in the dining room Elena, Marius, and the Head Waiter, Danielle, were obviously ready for my “real birthday?. They had the pastry chef prepare an incredibly delicious Key Lime Cheesecake for my birthday cake, and Elena had enough candles on it that when I saw it I was concerned the ship’s smoke alarms were going to go off.

I discussed the ship’s tipping policies with Elena and Marius tonight, and they told us, they and the head waiters are given a list of their passengers telling them if they’ve left the auto-tip on their billing statement, or removed them. I also asked whether additional tips offered had to be turned over to the “pool?, and they said, if guest leave their automatic tipping in place, if any additional gratuities are offered the servers are allowed to keep the extra tips for themselves. Our service throughout the cruise has been so superb that everyone at our table offered additional tips above the suggested automatic tipping guidelines.

Elena then told us about one of her tables at early seating dinner. Earlier in the cruise she had begun to tell us about a table for four who hated everything about this cruise from the beginning. They complained that they hated the ship, hated the menus, hated the food, and hated the entertainment… simply hated everything. They hated it so much they apparently tried to disembark the vessel permanently in Hawaii (or at least they said they did). Then, as one might expect, at the end of the cruise they removed the automatically charged gratuities at the Guest Relations Desk, and gave no tip to Elena and Marius.

I really do understand that different people on the same ship can have different experiences, as everything is affected somewhat differently by different circumstances. However, with this situation I was dumbfounded!
We had the same dining room staff, who all our tablemates thought was the best team any of us have ever had on a cruise. Yet, these people thought the service was so bad they refused to leave any gratuity!

This is one of those “Give Me A Break? moments, to be sure.

The way the debarkation process is described in the “debarkation documentation? sounds very well organized. It will be interesting to see if they make it work as well as it sounds like it should.

Considering that when we boarded on Jan. 6 passengers were still getting off the ship at 12 Noon, I have some doubts.
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Old January 22nd, 2006, 03:50 PM
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I wrote this at sea but was unable to post it due to horrid connectivity:
-----

Hi all.

Here on the Island Princess the day before Ensenada and I just thought Id post a few notes for those that are interested in this cruise from a “virgin cruiser? perspective.

THE SHOWERS. Ok I’m big. But I’m not so big that I have ever had a problem bathing before in my life. The shower in our balcony cabin represents the first occurrence of this to me…. Ever….. It was so tiny that even were I to soap the walls, get in, and spin, I would not clean well. The shower head is a convenient 6+ feet above the floor, meaning that my hair and shoulders were pleasantly moistened by the shower, but there are other parts of me that are under my shoulders that needed water too. The first few days were a trial of ingenuity in which I discovered some unique and thoughtful ways to clean myself. I won’t spoil the adventure for the rest of you other-than-small passengers but my bathing victory involved the hand sink, a shovel, 15 feet of copper tubing, a soldering iron, ¾ roll of duct tape, a colander, 4 towels, a short stick, and a set of silver soup spoons (don’t ask about the spoons, ok… I wont tell you)

THE SERVICE: I am traveling with some old folks and some handicap folks. And I have never been more happy with the service and assistance that they received. There was always someone available to carry their piled up plates from the buffet for them. They had absolutely no trouble with the tenders or ports. There even was a shore excursion that everyone THOUGHT would be ok for handicap, but at the last minute wasn’t…. So guess what… They refunded it! That is cool of them. Also, my sister rented this huge Cadillac of a buggy to carry her around the ship. Well on day 3 they somehow broke it. It was stuck and just blinked lights at her. She was sure that here cruise was virtually over. But the engineers from the ship’s nether-regions sent up a crew of oompa-loompas and carted the Cadillac off to some Captain Nemo Laboratory on deck one and within 12 hours they had overhauled her buggy to be as good as new. It had a blown solenoid and some bad fuses and was low a quart of oil. They fixed it all for free and got her back mobile again. This was the most amazing and generous thing I have ever imagined receiving from the crew and that literally saved the cruise for my sister. The buggy even seemed to gain some horsepower from whatever they did. If you were on this cruise you surely saw the Cadillac buzzing around with my sister in control and my paraplegic BIL hanging onto the back of her with a cane.

THE FOOD: Excellent. I remember seeing a lot of posts about mediocre food, and I think I know how that happens. The first few days of the cruise, even the first week, we were stunned with the high quality of the cuisine. And then as the cruse moved on I was less and less taken aback by the prettiness and greatness of the vittles. Mind you, the quality never decreased, but I was starting to get spoiled by the scrumptiousness. So from now on, whenever I see a post about food being bleh or no-good, I will remember how spoiled I got and how the perfect-ness of the eats wore off as I cruised …and ate… .more and more.
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Old January 22nd, 2006, 05:02 PM
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Hi Bob!
Great review!! I'm so glad that the cruise worked out well for you and your family.

Shar
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Old January 24th, 2006, 06:37 PM
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Bob, loved the recap (and finally got to read back on Kuki's excellent reports)

Harry
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