We're in our mid-40's and have been on 30 cruises on 6 different cruise lines ranging from 4 to 15 days. This was our third time on the Century, we already know we love the ship, and were super excited for this itinerary, as all the ports were new for us.
We flew to San Diego Thursday May 3rd on United from Minneapolis via Chicago. We've been flying Delta mostly since they devoured NWA, but I have been increasingly unsatisfied with their service. When my airfare watchdog search turned up a good price on United I decided to give them a try. We had a quick flight on a smaller plane to Chicago O'Hare, then an Airbus 320 from Chicago to San Diego. Since the flight from Chicago to San Diego was 4 hours, I decided to buy us a cheap upgrade to their enhanced economy which offers 5 additional inches of leg room, well worth the comfort for a longer flight. I enjoyed the service on United, they provide headphones to watch the movie free of charge, while Delta sells them for $2-$3.
At O'Hare I was initially disappointed that there wasn't a sit down restaurant to have breakfast at in our concourse. We stopped at the little Goose Island bar and ordered a breakfast sandwich that was surprisingly tasty.
We arrived in San Diego about 2:30, it was sunny and 70, and we collected our bags and called the hotel to pick us up. We are staying at the Holiday Inn Downtown, booked for less than $100 a night on Hotwire. We were given a room on the 15th floor overlooking the city. The room was clean, a bit small, but fine for our two night stay. After settling in, we decided to walk down by the water; it was about a 4-5 block walk. The Sapphire Princess was docked there; we walked a bit further and saw the Midway. It was almost time to meet friends at Old Town for dinner; we deciphered the San Diego light rail system and caught a train from downtown to Old Town. We explored a bit before heading to the Old Town Mexican Cafe to meet friends. The food was good and conversation better. After dinner we went back down by the water and the patio at the pub of the Holiday Inn On The Bay, before heading back to our hotel.
Friday we decided to ride the hop on hop off bus to check out the area. Our first stop was the Gas Lamp District and found Petco Park, where we will return later for a baseball game. Next was Coronado, we explored Hotel Del Coronado and stopped in at McP's. Today started out cloudy, but all the clouds burned off while we were in Coronado and we had another sunny day. Then we went back up to Old Town, which was gearing up for a big Cinco de Mayo celebration. We had yummy margaritas and nachos, before heading back to Gas Lamp and the baseball game. We like visiting ballparks, but find the game more interesting when one of our favorite teams is playing. I had a very yummy pretzel at the game; it wasn't a typical pretzel but more like a cheesy, garlicy breadstick in the shape of a pretzel.
Saturday, it was finally time to board the ship. The hotel shuttle brought us to the ship about 10:00AM. Check in was easy, dropped our bags first then right up to the desk to get our key card, then I think we waited less than an hour and were on board before noon. After lunch we went to the Sunset Bar to meet up with folks from our roll call. We had an active roll call and a good turnout for our informal meet and greet on embarkation day. Muster drill was pretty easy; our muster station was in the casino. After muster we went back to the Sunset Bar for sail away. After sail away we unpacked and changed for dinner. I wasn't going to go back to Murano, but when I got the 20% off for the first night offer I decided to try it again. I had prepaid for a reservation for 8:00. We stopped at the martini bar for the first of many before dinner martinis throughout the week. I honestly don't remember much from dinner, when we finally got our entrees three hours after arriving I was so bored and tired I took a couple bites of my steak and left to go to bed. I should have stuck with my first instinct. Then it took a couple trips to guest services to get my 20% credited to my on board account.
We were in an inside room on deck 12. We had stayed in this area on this ship before and enjoyed the convenience to the buffet, pool area and sunset bar. These rooms are designed very efficiently, the rooms aren't very big but have plenty of room to move about and plenty of storage, we only used maybe half the available storage. The showers on the ship are some of the biggest I have seen, with very good water pressure, although sometimes hard to get the desired temperature, sometimes it was too cold other times too hot.
Our first stop was Catalina Island. We had reserved a four person golf cart for 11:00 to 2:00 and split the cost with another couple from our roll call. The golf cart place gave us a map to use to drive back to the botanical gardens and around the hills behind the casino building. There were some great vistas along our route. I think you could normally explore roads out the other side of town too, but the folks at the cart rental place said there was a rock slide blocking the road. We stopped at a place by the water and had pizza and tacos for lunch before returning the golf cart. After returning the golf cart we explored town on foot for a bit before stopping for margaritas and happened to catch the end of the race. Why do I seem to always book a cruise during the Talladega race? Back on the ship we spent some time in the comfy chairs by the Mast Bar, the weather was fantastic, sunny and 70's. Later we got ready for our first night in the dining room, after a visit to the martini bar of course. We booked Select Dining so that we didn't have to adhere to any schedule. We were seated at table 65 in Constantine's section and really enjoyed his service, so we requested his section for the rest of the trip when going to dinner.
Monday was our first sea day; I started with a visit to the fitness center, which was busy, but not too busy to find an available ellipse machine right away. Then to breakfast in the buffet where I found the eggs benedict bar and for the rest of the cruise enjoyed one traditional and one hash benedict freshly prepared for me each morning. My first stop after breakfast was to book future cruises. Today we had a busy day ahead of us, first the Cruise Critic Celebrity Connections party, then a bridge tour, then the Captains Club reception. On a Caribbean itinerary I might have elected to skip these activities in favor for pool time, but I'm glad I attended this time. Our Connections party was at 11:00AM in the Hemisphere Lounge, it was well attended by senior officers and the cruise director. They provided pastries and coffee, but I was still full from breakfast. After visiting with the roll call folks it was time to go get our ID's for our bridge tour. I had never been invited for a bridge tour before and was very excited to check it out. We were given a very detailed review of the procedures and instruments on the bridge. It was amazing! After the bridge tour it was time or the Captains Club party. They were offering several different kinds of complementary drinks, I chose sangria. There was also sushi, fruit with chocolate and a carving station, entertainment by a couple of the groups on board and a toast with the captain. We got ready for formal night kind of early, we took some pictures, but they didn't turn out good, so we didn't buy any. We went to the martini bar but couldn't stay because there was a private party there. This is the first time I've been on a cruise with so many private parties that affected my plans, perhaps since it was a small ship. Since we couldn't spend time at the martini bar, we went to dinner early and were able to sit at our favorite table. I was able to have a dessert martini after dinner, but I didn't stay up late since I wanted to be up early to be on deck when we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge on the way into San Francisco.
Tuesday morning we were up shortly after 6:00AM, we were scheduled to pass under the Golden Gate Bridge about 6:45AM. It was cool and foggy this morning, but I was determined to be on deck when we passed under the bridge. With the fog horn blowing we passed a couple ships on their way out, and then we didn't see the bridge until we were almost under it. The bridge stayed shrouded in fog much of the morning, but the air was clear and sunny at pier 35. Before we left the ship this morning, we noticed a crew working to replace some of the windows in the Hemisphere Lounge. We had booked a full day independent wine country tour through Terrific Tours. Since everyone booked on today's tour was from the ship, they moved our meeting place to the pier we were docked at so we didn't have to leave the ship early to find the meeting place. There were only seven of us on the tour and everyone was from the roll call so we had been chatting for a while. The first stop on the tour was the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge to take some pictures. Then due to a mix up we had an unscheduled stop at Muir Woods. After our driver/guide apologized, for the mix up we proceeded to the first winery. Buena Vista was the first winery in California. We had time to look around. The tasting room was in one of the original buildings, the new owner is restoring all the buildings. We sampled several wines, all were very good. After the first winery we went to Sonoma Square for lunch. Most of us had lunch at Maya Restaurant, I had yummy fish tacos and keeping with our wine theme for the day, had sangria. After lunch there was a place across the street with free wine sampling, so we made sure to have time to stop there before it was time to meet back at the van. After lunch we went to three more wineries. By this time it was getting very warm in Sonoma, sunny and into the 80's, it was a beautiful day. Our first stop after lunch was Larson Family Winery. This winery had three labs as their mascots and namesakes of some of their wines. Again some good samples, we also had time to go out back and our guide showed us some of their vines, they had the beginnings of grapes on them already. Our next stop was Meadowcroft Winery. More good samples, I thought I couldn't have wine sent home, because of local laws, but found that I could, so I bought a couple bottles to have shipped home. The wine arrived safe and intact two days after I returned home. Our last stop was at Jacuzzi Wineries, where we learned that the Jacuzzi family has been making wine much longer than they have been making hot tubs, beginning first in Italy then in California. Many of the wines they produce in California are from grapes they import from their own vineyards in Italy. At the conclusion of the tour we were dropped off at our pier between 5:00 and 6:00. We walked over to Pier 39 to see what was there.
San Francisco, day two, we had tickets for the double decker hop on hop off (HOHO) bus. About 6-8 weeks before the cruise Travelzoo had a half price deal for the HOHO bus, we got tickets for only $15 each. After my usual breakfast of fresh made eggs benedict, we hopped on the bus at the Fisherman's Wharf stop. Our first stop was the Golden Gate Bridge, it was a cold ride there, and there was a lot of construction and we had to wait a long time for the next bus, but we got a good view. Back on the bus, we rode through Golden Gate Park, fortunately as we traveled away from the bridge the weather warmed and the sun came out. Then past Haight Ashbury and decided to get off and explore at Union Square. We took the bus driver's advice and stopped at Lefty O'Doul's for a drink, the food looked good too, but we weren't hungry yet. Then we walked through Union Square and Chinatown to the next bus stop. We rode the bus around to where we had gotten on, then walked a few blocked to the bottom of Lombard Street, then walked through Fisherman's Wharf on our way back to the ship. We were scheduled to sail at 5:00PM; I was excited to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge again. I was back up on deck to take pictures and it was so windy I could barely keep my eyes open. Then it turned out I got the best pictures after we had already passed under the bridge and were looking back, so next time I will wait at the Sunset Bar and avoid all that wind.
Our second sea day was one wild ride. We were battling a 45 mile per hour wind and the ship was moving. It was still sunny, but very windy and chilly. We walked around the ship checking out the waves. I talked to several crew and they all said today was rougher than any day to Hawaii. I also stopped by the guest services desk for the second time to request my 20% OBC for Murano the first night. Today we dabbled in the casino, it seemed like I couldn't lose. I didn't win big, but I always took more money out that I put in. We also stopped at the shore excursion desk to book a tour for Victoria. At some point during the day I stopped at Cova Cafe looking for a bit more than coffee and discovered the Aspen, it is heaven in a cup! Baily's, Kalua, Frangelico and a bit of coffee and foam, yum. I thought tonight would have been our second formal night, but that's not until tomorrow.
Our next stop was Astoria Oregon. We dock at the edge of town which is 12 miles up the Columbia River. It was another gloriously sunny day. They were loading logs onto a cargo ship next to us; I thought it was fun to watch. We didn't book a tour, but planned to visit the local brew pubs. We paid $7 each for unlimited rides on the shuttle between the ship and downtown, the trolley and the bus up to the column. We decide to start with the furthest bar and headed to Rogue first. We took the shuttle to the Maritime Museum and waited for the trolley for awhile, but then decided to walk. It was a little more than a mile and the weather was great for the walk. There is a nice walking path along the water near the trolley tracks. I guess the trolley finally made it down there a while after we had already made it to Rogue. We probably spent too much time at Rogue, but I felt like sitting for awhile after the walk. We had a couple different beers here. When we decided it was time to go to the next bar we didn't bother waiting for the trolley again. For a while I didn't really believe there was a trolley, and then we finally saw it back at the Maritime Museum. Our next stop was Fort George Brew Pub. We had a beer and oyster shooters there. It was starting to get late, so we made the decision to skip the next brew pub to go up to the column to check out the view. We caught the last shuttle up to the column and took a bunch of pictures, and then it was time to head back to the ship. Tonight was our second formal night. They had an ice luge for martinis in the martini bar. After dinner they had the dessert extravaganza throughout the ship. I didn't wander around since I was full from lobster at dinner, but I know they had cotton candy at the martini bar. As you can tell we aren't much for shows on the cruise, but we do like to check out the comedians onboard. Tonight the comedian was scheduled for an adult only show in the Crystal Lounge. So we decided to go, we got there about 20 minutes early and I really loved the band that was playing and wished I had found them sooner. I'm glad the band was good, because the comedian was not funny at all and was totally PG, definitely not adult only.
Our last stop was Victoria, BC. At this port we booked a ship shore excursion to wineries and a distillery called, Great Fermentations! Wine and Distillery Tour. The tour started with a drive along the coast to our first winery. At Muse Winery we sampled several different wines along with locally produced cheese, fruit and chocolate truffles. We had a small world moment at the Muse Winery, because of a t-shirt one of us was wearing. We discovered the owner grew up in Door County Wisconsin; we spent a week camping there last summer. Our next stop was De Vine Winery; it was up on a hill with a beautiful view of Mt. Baker. We had several tastes here and spent some time in the sun out on the new deck at the winery. Our distillery stop was at Victoria Spirits. We learned how the still worked before we got to sample the gin and vodka. I was surprised at how small of a space in which this business as able to operate. They distributed throughout Canada and were looking to begin distribution to the US. We drove back to the ship through town and were offered a drop off; since it was getting late we decided to go back to the ship and save exploring Victoria for our next visit. Again the weather was fabulous and clear, I spent time sitting in the comfy chairs by the Mast Bar and stared at the Olympic Mountains, while others spent time in the hot tub. After sail away we had a great view of Mt. Baker. Tonight after dinner we spent some time at the Martini Bar then we went up to the Hemisphere Lounge for the 70's music trivia and party.
We disembarked the ship Sunday morning. I had purchased a couple seats on the Quick Shuttle to downtown Seattle. Getting off the ship and through customs and immigration was a breeze, finding the bus wasn't so easy. I ask three different people and got three different answers. After standing in the wrong line for awhile, we finally found the quick shuttle on our own. To find the Quick Shuttle you have to bypass all the lines and go out by the buses, and then you will see their desk. The bus ride was really nice. We did have to get off the bus for customs at the border with our carryon luggage, but we didn't have to pull out any of the luggage below. We were staying at the Sheraton downtown Seattle, the bus dropped us off at the Best Western about a mile away. Since we were dropped off at a hotel, I thought it would be easy to get a cab, but the hotel wanted everyone to use their unmetered car service. We got a room on the 28th floor of the Sheraton; we had a great view of the city and an NCL ship in port that day. After getting settled in the room we decided to head out and find something to eat. We found some happy hour margaritas and nachos. After eating we decided to go back to the hotel and sit in the hot tub for awhile. The pool and fitness center are on the 35th floor and have another great view of the city. We weren't very hungry after the nachos so we just went to a grocery store a couple blocks from the hotel and got some cheese and bread to snack on that night. The beds at this Sheraton Hotel are very comfortable, we had a good nights sleep Sunday night.
We were finally getting used to the West Coast time zone and slept kind of late, oh well, its vacation. We started our day with breakfast at Lowell's at the Pike Place Market. I had eggs benedict with crab, yum. After breakfast we explored the market some more then took a walk down to Pioneer Square. This is where the underground tour is, we did this last time we were in Seattle in 2009. I found it very interesting and recommend it. We stopped at the Central Cafe for a drink. Then we went back to the market and stopped back at Lowell's for a drink. In the early afternoon we stopped at Elliot's. We sat at the raw bar and had some wine, oysters and a fish taco. We walked down by the water for awhile. Then on our way back toward the hotel we stopped at The Brooklyn for martinis and oysters.
We had an early flight back home at 6:30; there is an available flat rate from downtown hotels to the airport for $34. There was no traffic, that early in the morning. We connected flights in Denver; our lay over time was extended about another hour due to the plane arriving from Las Vegas late.
We knew that we would love the ship since we had already sailed on the Century twice. We still love the ship and look forward to sailing the Century again. Although I love to try bigger and newer ships, I come back to oldies but goodies. The size of the Century makes it really easy to get around on the ship. The staff is very happy and compares themselves to a family; this translates into some of the best service we have experienced. The senior staff is very visible and personable. I saw the captain all over the ship and he would stop and shake your hand and chat. I was looking for something different than our usual Caribbean cruise and found it. All of our ports were new for us, great adventures exploring new places. We were very lucky to have great weather. I had packed a rain coat and umbrella thinking especially as we travel north it would get colder and wetter, but we never needed them. We have decided that we aren't done exploring the West Coast. While on board we booked a week on the Century in spring 2014 for the Los Angeles round trip itinerary. On that cruise we will visit even more new ports!