Arrival: We drove to LA from Phoenix, arriving at the hotel around 10pm.
Hotel: We booked ourselves into the Best Western Plus San Pedro, and highly recommend it. The rooms have been recently redone in an unusually gothic (think Haunted Mansion) but pleasing style. The room was spotless and very comfortable, with separate sink and tub/toilet rooms, which is much appreciated. For $9 per day you can leave your car at the hotel’s garage and take their van to/from the ship, which is a substantial savings over the port itself. We enjoyed the complimentary breakfast at the hotel then took the shuttle over at 10:30. The vans run every 30 minutes and hold 6 people; be sure to reserve a spot as soon as you arrive.
Embarkation: The World Cruise Center isn’t much to look at from the outside, but the check-in and waiting areas are the nicest we’ve seen. The escalator was out of order, and we got stuck in the elevator for a few minutes, but that was the last trouble we had on our trip. We waited in the Platinum/Elite lounge with our party and enjoyed the refreshments. We were called and on board before noon.
Ship: We’d been on the Golden Princess previously, also for a short coastal cruise in 2010. The major public areas were in very good condition and very clean. The steam room and sauna were in need of refurbishment. The adult pool was drained and painted during our trip, but was back up within a day.
Cabin: We had a forward mini-suite on deck 9. We checked out our friend’s cabins (interior, balcony and another mini), and they were all in good condition and very clean; you could tell the carpeting had been replaced recently. However, the bathroom tile/grout, reading lamps, and balcony floorings were in need of refreshing. Our steward, Allan, brought us champagne and introduced himself. He kept the room spotless during our voyage.
Food: On our previous cruise on the Golden Princess our food experience could best be described as “meh.” We were somewhat leery of how the food would be for this trip, but our fears were easily allayed starting from our embarkation meal in the dining room. We had anytime dining and tried out a different server/table/dining room combinations until we found the best pair on our third night, and requested them the rest of the trip. We love anytime dining and found the waits to be very short if you make a reservation. The food was very good this time, with only a few misses the entire trip. Four of our friends were first-time cruisers and amazed by the ability to order any combination of foods you desire. We had one lunch at the buffet, and it was Mexican themed, which was a nice touch. The food was good and actually had some heat to it. We ate all other meals at the dining rooms and were pleased with the food and service.
Ports: The first stop was Santa Barbara, a tender port. We rented a car and drove to Solvang. Santa Barbara is lovely and there are plenty of things to do. We had no problems with the tenders, only experiencing short waits both directions.
The second stop was Ensenada. We walked downtown, dodging urchins and hucksters of everything from trinkets to prostitutes, and had margaritas at Hussongs. Not much else to say about Ensenada. Despite Ensenda’s official slogan of “One day is not enough”, we’d replace that “not” with “more than”.
Disembarkation: The worst part of any cruise! Left our cabin at 8:30am and headed to the MDR for breakfast. Afterwards we waited in the Elite lounge until our group was called. We were through customs and on the hotel shuttle short order.
Photographers were not too bad on this voyage. The selling of merchandise was at the normal level, though the tables were out every day, rather than at the end of the cruise. Servers tried very hard the first day to sell the ‘premium’ wine tasting package. Our friends reported that they were heavily approached about the soda package for the first two days as well.
Overall, this was a fine, if short, cruise. Our first-time friends were impressed enough to put down future cruise deposits. It didn’t hurt that we got 100% of our fare applied as future cruise credits. We’re hoping Princess sticks with the short cruises; they’re a fine alternative to Carnival.