This short cruise was an easy commute to the San Francisco pier from our suburban home, and even better at its discounted price.
Embarkation is complicated because the pier is located on the Embarcadero where there is no parking, very limited passenger and luggage dropoff at the curb or double parked in the street. the luggage handlers are very aggressive, demanding a tip to take bags, unlike Florida or San Diego where the workers suggest a tip. My San Francisco Longshoreman friend said it is more of a ripoff because the workers are paid full union scale and the tip increases their income to about $500/day each. Checking in was rapid, sooner than the specified "no earlier than noon". There are many seats where one can wait inside, but registration clerks were rapid if each passenger had passport, ticket data, and the form you signed on entry saying that you had not been sick over the past few days. The walk to the ship is long, and there are no escalators. The elevator is small hence long lines were there. Arrival on the ship requires the usual photo, but no one escorts passengers to cabins, but we got directions easily. We got a lunch in the buffet, which was crowded as it always was at breakfast and lunch.
The cabin was adequate and clean, although there were ceiling marks from some prior leak. Air conditioning, flat screen TV, refrigerator all worked normally, there were no bathroom issues.
Sailing out under the Golden Gate Bridge at Sunset was delightful and many passengers were on the top decks looking and photographing.
Our first stop at Santa Barbara required tender transport to shore, which was well done with enough tenders and use oif tickets for people on shore excursions first ( we were). The open bus trolley tour of Santa Barbara was well planned and narrated by a local, and when he returned us to the beach after about 90 minutes we returned to the ship for lunch.When we docked the next day at Long Beach, next to the permanently docked Queen Mary, we took the ship excursion to the Getty Museum ( 4 hours there, not enough) and a one hour visit to Rodeo Drive ( walk around looking at the stores, windows, etc.) and return to the ship. There is a small souvenir park in front of the Queen Mary, and one can tour( ticket required it ) and/or a Russian submarine also docked there. the terminal is large, utilized for cruise ship departures/arrivals, and has ample toilets.
Nest day: San Diego. We took the excursion to Balboa Park which included entry to 4 museums over 5 hours there. We only had time to thoroughly see 3 museums, and get a lunch snack at the patio cafe located near the museums../
Next day: Ensenada, Mexico. We took the locally offered($4, round trip) van shuttle down the pier, and into the center of downtown Ensenada., about 10 minute each way. We opted to take the local van tour out to 'La Bufadors' which is a 45 minutes drive each way to the coastal cliff site where waves splash into a narrow cleft and splash up to the tourists above where there is a low stone wall. There are hundreds of souvenir vendors in buildings along lthe walkway from parking lot to the wave splash area. They sold clothing, ceramics, jewelry, candy, baked goods, etc. Prices were very negotiable, quality varied.
The ship: Although an older vessel, ship appeared to be well maintained, with no appreciable wear of carpets ( except in elevators))or furniture. Open deck areas including pool areas were in good condition, poor was warm. Jacuzzi tubs worked well.Staff, including waiters and stewards were efficient, courteous, pleasant, not apparently overworked. Entertainment: shows were fairly standard, well rehearsed and performed musical revues with good singers and dancers. Comedian was not very funny and we left with many others. "Enrichment lectures" on our sea days were very poor, unrelated to the cruise ( "Driving highway 66") and not worth the time.
Food: Breakfasts- service the usual incredibly slow and inefficient in the dining room( tried it twice); goodf variety and well done in the buffet. Lunch: Buffet only, good variety, well served, very crowded and table sharing required. Weak spot was desserts which were uniformly very sweet pastries and similar, but with minimal flavor .Dinner: Main dining room , early sitting: good selection, slow service,food was hot, and generally quite good although not seasoned much.Better dessert selection than buffet, but also very sweet but not much flavor.
Additional: the usual art auctions on sea days passed some of the time, there was trivia from the cruise director in the top lounge at varying times, library was not very well stocked. There were numerous, mostly older movies shown on the cabin TV channels, CNN and Fox channels, and DVD movies could be checked out from the purser's desk.
Debarkation at San Francisco: very efficient, luggage arranged inside the ancient pier warehouse, and long walk to curbside. No passenger luggage carts, but longshoremen could help with bags if needed.