PORTS OF CALL San Francisco, CA; Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Loreto, Mexico; La Paz, Mexico; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; San Francisco, CA
ABOUT THE REVIEW
Other reviews give extensive information on the ship, cabins, food etc. Our reviews are not like that; they are primarily a journal of what we did in the various ports, including web links to tourist information sites and maps. In general, we prefer DIY port tours, private tours with other Cruise Critic roll call members, or shared public tours. However, we will take a Princess tour when the logistics or cost make that a better option. Tour operator contact information is included in each port review.
John and I (Carolyn) are retired Mississippi State University professors in our early sixties, who currently reside in central North Carolina. Both of us are natives of New Orleans and, as such, are interested in good food (and wine!) and good times. Our preferred souvenir is a small regional or national flag. On this itinerary, I would not need to acquire any flags.
We enjoy both cruises and land tours; often our trips combine the two. Many of our cruises have been in the Caribbean but we have also cruised to Alaska, the Mediterranean/Greek Isles, Scandinavia/Russia, the Panama Canal, the Hawaiian Islands, French Polynesia, South America/Antarctic Peninsula, the Far East, the Amazon River, the North Atlantic (Greenland, Iceland and parts of the British Isles), the Norwegian Fjords, the Galapagos Islands, the Holy Land/Egypt, Australia/New Zealand and the Canary Islands. We have taken land tours to the Netherlands, Canadian Rockies, Mexico (Cozumel), London, France (several wine regions and Paris), China, Argentina (Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls, Mendoza wine region), Chile (Santiago, several wine regions), the Hawaiian Islands (Kauai, Maui, Hawaii) and to many parts of the continental USA.
On our trips, we prefer nature and wildlife tours that involve snorkeling, SCUBA diving or hiking. In particular, we will hike for miles to see waterfalls, volcanoes, caves or other interesting geologic features. We also enjoy lighthouses, forts, castles and anything else we can legally climb up on for a good view.
We are Elite members of Princess' Captain's Circle loyalty program, but have also sailed with Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Costa, Celebrity and Commodore.
This would be John's and my first cruise to the Mexican Riviera ports. We took this cruise B2B with the subsequent 7-day California Coastal cruise.
ABOUT OUR CRUISE COMPANIONS
We were joined on this cruise by our DS, DDIL and DGDs (ages “almost 4” and 2). Our DS has previously cruised many times on Princess as well as other lines; he is an Elite member of the Captain's Circle. DDIL has cruised several times on Princess and other lines; this was her first cruise as a Platinum member of the Captain's Circle. Our DGDs have cruised once before on Princess (to Alaska) and are technically Gold members of the Captain's Circle. However, they will carry blue cruise cards and receive no Circle benefits until they turn 18.
CRUISING WITH TODDLERS
Cruising with toddlers/young children requires flexibility and a sense of humor. It also presents special challenges, including deciding how many childcare duties the grandparents will assume. While not anxious to take full responsibility for the DGDs, we wanted to allow our DS and DDIL some time to spend together as a couple. On the other hand, John and I also wanted to be able to enjoy the cruise and ports.
Our compromise approach started with the choice of a round-trip cruise from San Francisco, because our DS's family lives in the Bay Area and they could drive to the port. The Mexican Riviera is a good itinerary for young children because there are beaches and other kid-friendly attractions near (or a short bus ride from) the piers where the ship/tenders dock.
Next, we chose two adjacent balcony cabins so that the partition between the balconies could be unlocked and we would be able to use a baby monitor to keep tabs on our DGDs when their parents were not in their cabin. We would have preferred a double and a quad on the Caribe deck because of its larger balconies. However, at the time we booked, the only suitable cabins were two triples on the Aloha deck. We asked our TA to mark the cabins “no upgrade” so that we could guarantee this arrangement. She also linked the two reservations and specified our requests for a table for six in Early Traditional Dining, two high chairs and a Pack 'n Play.
For more information about our previous experience traveling with toddlers and useful hints about things to bring along, please refer to my review of our families' cruise last year to Alaska (www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=223953).
REVIEW OF THE CRUISE
01 MAR (SAT) – 04 MAR (TUES) PRECRUISE IN THE SF BAY AREA
We flew United nonstop from RDU to SFO a few days ahead of the cruise to enjoy extra time with our family and get over jet lag.
05 MAR (WED) SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA (All Aboard 3:30 p.m.)
Tourist Information: www.sanfrancisco.travel
Waterfront Map: wikitravel.org/upload/shared/f/fe/Sanfrancisco_fishermanswharf_printmap.png
Unfortunately, our DS does not have a car large enough to accommodate four adults, two children in car seats and luggage for six. Rather than paying an additional $180 to park a second car near Pier 35, John and I opted to use public transit, while our two suitcases rode with the rest of the family. Our DS drove us to the Redwood City Caltrain station (www.caltrain.com) where we took the train ($5 pp) to the San Francisco stop (end of the line). From there, we walked a few blocks (about 0.3 mile) to the stop for bus route 8X, the Bayshore Express (www.sfmta.com/getting-around/transit/routes-stops/8x-bayshore-express), at the intersection of 4th and Bryant Streets. We only had to wait a few minutes for the bus ($2 pp cash) and the bus was not very crowded. The Bayshore Express stops right across the street from Pier 35.
Meanwhile, our DS and family loaded up their car and headed for Ace Parking (www.aceparking.com/san-francisco-cruise-parking/). It is a good idea to reserve a parking place there well ahead of time because the garage often fills up quickly on cruise days and cars without reservations are turned away. We arrived at the garage about 15 minutes after they finished unloading their car.
Together again, we walked over to the terminal building, checked in and went through the security screening. We had completed the health survey (www.cruising.org/sites/default/files/images/PUBLIC-HEALTH-QUESTIONNAIRE.pdf) before leaving for the ship, eliminating one hassle at check-in. Right after security, there was a table to declare any wine we were carrying on board. As we had four adults and four bottles, there were no issues about the wine; our cabin numbers were recorded and after the obligatory “Welcome Aboard” and security photos we could finally board the ship.
We headed to our cabins to drop off our carry on baggage. We were surprised to find that most of the usual “welcome” items (including our complimentary minibar setups) were missing. However, the items that were under control of our Steward Renato, such as the deluxe bath amenities and the Pack 'n Play for our younger DGD, were in place. We learned later that the ship had undergone a 90-day immigration inspection that morning, which had only been completed around noon and which delayed the preparation of the cabins.
DS and family headed to lunch in the Horizon Court but John and I chose Alfredo's Pizzeria. Before going to lunch, John stuck the sparkling wine in the refrigerator to start cooling down before sail away. I tried to call Room Service to request a large bucket of ice and four champagne flutes. Despite multiple efforts to get through to Room Service over the next three days, I never even received a message assigning me to a waiting queue – I simply received a constant busy signal.
Our minibar setup and other items were delivered later in the evening. The setup came shrink-wrapped in a fixed assortment, which explains why it is pointless to request specific items on the Cruise Personalizer. The server who delivered the setup was not supposed to accept requests for exchanges. While Renato was making up the room later that evening, he noticed the list I had made of the items that I wanted to exchange. He offered to handle the exchange and obtain the wine glasses and flutes we needed. He also replaced the used wine glasses with clean ones.
The whole family reunited at our cabin before the muster station drill and returned there afterward for tumblers of sparkling wine. Unfortunately sail away was delayed almost two hours while stores were loaded and the ship waited for delayed passengers. Because we had received our requested Early (5:30 p.m.) Traditional Seating, we had to go to dinner before the ship departed and miss most of the sail away
Our table in the Botticelli dining room was served by Waiter Francis and Assistant Waiter Sergio. Although our travel agent had specified two high chairs on our dining reservations, this request had not been passed on to the dining room staff. Francis and Sergio scrambled to get the high chairs and the chairs were waiting for the DGDs every night from then on. Our wait team made every effort to ensure that we had an outstanding dining experience. They were especially quick to cater to finicky toddler tastes, such as our older DGD's love of avocado and whole raw carrots.
We were happy to learn that this voyage offered the Princess wine package. Although the coffee card, soda package and new all-you-can-drink beverage package are widely promoted on the ship, the wine package is not advertised at all. Even some of the wait staff are unaware of its existence and they may need to check with a headwaiter. If you are interested in the wine package, you may have to be persistent in asking for it. The package comes in two versions and three numbers of bottles: Silver (wines up to $29) 12 ($240), 10 ($210) or 7 ($161) bottles and Gold (wines up to $45) 12 ($336), 10 ($290) or 7 ($217) bottles. Note that a 15% gratuity is added to the price of each package. Also note that either version can be used to purchase more expensive wines: the list price of the wine is charged to your on board account (no gratuity added) and your account receives a credit for either $29 or $45. We bought a 10-bottle Silver and a 10-bottle Gold package to share with our DS and DDIL; this was a very cost-effective choice for us. [Note: If you choose to buy the wine package, be sure to check your on board account statement periodically to ensure that the package is being applied correctly. We had two errors on this cruise.]
Just as we were settling in at the table, the ship began to pull away from the dock. This was accompanied by a tremendous amount of shaking and noise because the Botticelli dining room is right over the propellers and stern thrusters. Once we were out in San Francisco Bay, the noise and vibrations subsided; however, this is still one of the noisiest dining rooms we have had on Princess. By now it was getting dark and we only had intermittent views through the dining room windows of the lights along the San Francisco waterfront and the Golden Gate Bridge. We were sorry to have to miss the lovely sail away but early fixed seating is a must when cruising with our DGDs.
After dinner, John and I skipped the “Welcome Aboard Showtime” so that DS and DDIL could put the girls to bed and then bar hop a bit. We read for awhile, listening over the baby monitor while the girls quickly drifted off to sleep, until DS and DDIL returned. Our duty done for the day, we looked forward to a restful night of gentle rocking as the Grand Princess headed south to Cabo San Lucas.
06 MAR (THURS) AT SEA
During the night the ship encountered heavy fog, which persisted for the next two days. The foghorn greatly disturbed our older DGD but the younger one quickly learned to ignore it.
I spent part of the morning with our younger DGD in the “Fun Zone” while our older DGD participated in the organized Princess Pelicans Program activities. John went to an Enrichment Lecture about drones and intelligence gathering. Our DS and DDIL worked out in the gym.
In the afternoon we were all relaxing on the balconies when John spotted a pod of dolphins streaking toward the ship and following in its wake for some time. Later in the afternoon he spotted more dolphins swimming along with the ship.
In the late afternoon, there was a “Welcome Back” party for Gold and Ruby members of the Captain's Circle. During the night the ship's clocks were moved forward an hour to MST, the local time in Cabo San Lucas, La Paz and Loreto.
07 MAR (FRI) AT SEA
This was another relaxing day at sea. I spent part of the morning in the “Fun Zone,” John went to a lecture on the Iran hostage rescue mission and our DS and DDIL worked out. In the afternoon, our sharp-eyed DDIL spotted a whale spout.
Tonight was the first formal night and the Captain's Welcome Champagne Waterfall; the girls wore the formal wrap dresses I had made for them last year. We snacked on chocolate-covered strawberries and sparkling wine before dinner. On the way to dinner, our DDIL attempted to sit for some formal portraits with the girls. However, it is difficult to get two wiggly girls to smile and hold still for the camera at the same time.
08 (SAT) CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO (8:00am – 4:30pm)
Tourist Information: visitloscabos.travel
Town Map: www.allaboutbaja.com/cabosanlucasmap.html
For our day in Cabo San Lucas, John had reserved a whale watching by zodiac tour ($72 USD pp vs $99 USD pp with Princess) with La Isla/Oceanriders (www.oceanriders.com.mx). Our tour was scheduled for 10:00 a.m. but this is a tender port; we decided it was prudent to take an early tender. There was some delay with the port authorities and the first tenders did not depart until 8:30 a.m. We arrived ashore about 20 minutes later and walked from the tender dock around to the far side of the marina. Along the way, there were many booths and hawkers offering deep-sea fishing, glass bottom boat, whale watching and other tours.
Unfortunately, the harbor master had closed the port to small boats because of high winds. As soon as we showed up at the Oceanriders meeting point, one of the boat captains told us about the problem and directed us to a line for assistance. They were re-booking people who were staying in Cabo but that was not an option for us. They told us to contact the company that sold us the tour and tell them of our situation to receive a refund. After we returned to the ship, John emailed the whale watching company about the canceled tour. We were pleased that, on the next business day, the company emailed back that they were sorry for the inconvenience and would be issuing a full refund to our credit card. As promised, they emailed us again when the refund had been processed and the refund was credited to our account five business days after we first emailed them.
Disappointed, we headed back to the tender dock in search of our DS and family. We found our DDIL deep in negotiations for a 40-minute glass bottom boat tour. Although the original posted price was $35 USD for each adult, we ultimately paid $60 USD total for the four adults (no charge for the DGDs); there was an additional $1 USD per adult boat dock fee.
The boat owner (Walter) took us over to the dock and introduced us to “Capitan Flash”; then we waited for Flash to bring the boat around to the boarding area. It was at this point that we learned the boat was named “Sex Machine I” and all the life jackets had “Sex Mac 1” written on them. Oh well, the DGDs can't read yet; they were pleased with the colorful fish painted on the side of the boat. Someday they will get a laugh out of Grandpa's photos.
The SM1 headed out towards the cape, which separates the rough Pacific Ocean from the calmer Cabo San Lucas Bay. “Glass bottom” is merely a figure of speech – the glass was covered by a thick layer of algae that some of the fish grazed on but that was difficult to see through. However, Flash stopped several times to toss bread in the water, which attracted many colorful fish and thrilled the DGDs. The shore out to the cape is lined with dramatic cliffs, culminating in several pinnacles and the famous El Arco. Flash pointed out many named rock formations that gave us some laughs as we tried to visualize them. The girls also liked the sea lion colony and the many birds.
At the end of the tour, Flash motored over to Playa Medano, where he would pick us up later at a prearranged time. For us, an hour was sufficient for the DGDs to enjoy the beach and the water without getting too much sun or becoming overtired. Our older DGD went into the water with her Dad and (using a PFD) was eventually confident enough to paddle around a bit on her own. Our younger DGD enjoyed chasing “birdies” (seagulls) and playing in the sand right at the edge of the water.
After we all tendered back to the ship and got cleaned up, our DS and DDIL tendered back into town for a little shopping while we played with the DGDs. Our DDIL bought stone and silver bracelets for herself and the girls while our DS bought a blanket.
As the Grand Princess sailed away from Cabo San Lucas, we spotted a Humpback Whale breaching.
09 MAR (SUN) LORETO, MEXICO (8:00am – 5:30pm)
Tourist Information: www.loreto.com
Town Map: www.virtualmex.com/loreto.jpg
For our day in Loreto, John had reserved a snorkeling tour at Coronado Island ($68 USD pp vs $129 USD pp with Princess) with Wild Loreto (wildloreto.com/2013/03/coronado-island-adventure/). This was a wise choice! The company met us at the tender pier with our name on a sign. Also on the tour were a couple of people staying at a local hotel. While we waited for them, our guide (Noe) took us on brief walking tour. We really appreciated his descriptions of the attractions of this small town.
Then we were off to beautiful and rugged Coronado Island – a small extinct volcano ringed by lava cliffs and occasional pristine white sand beaches. Coronado Island is one of five islands in the Loreto Bay National Marine Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On the way there our boat driver spotted a fisherman and bought some local chocolate clams for us to eat later – outstanding, absolutely fresh, raw seafood served with a squirt of lime. We saw the noisy sea lion colony and several bird rookeries, including some blue-footed boobies. Finally we pulled in at an empty pure-white sand beach for a short walk and pleasant snorkeling. The turquoise water was clear and there were some nice fish. We are used to seeing more sea life in the Caribbean but still spied many urchins, star fish, sergeant majors, a few juvenile parrot fish, a puffer fish and one shy green moray. This tour included snorkel equipment, beverages (beer, soft drinks, water) and a sandwich lunch. The only downside of the tour was that the boat developed a steering problem on the return trip, which precluded more snorkeling from the boat. Otherwise, this was a wonderful day in Baja.
Although there is a nice public beach right at the tender pier, our DS and DDIL opted to remain on the ship and let the girls frolic in the splash pool (the other pools were much too cold). After John and I returned to the ship, our DS and DDIL tendered into town for a little shopping while we watched the DGDs. Our DDIL bought a watercolor painting by a local artist of a butterfly for the DGDs' bedroom.
Tonight the DGDs wore the tropical print dresses and headbands – the same print in each of their favorite colors (green and orange) - that I made for them and their new bracelets. Although they were born 19 months apart, the DGDs are almost the same height; their parents are constantly asked whether they are twins. On the elevator after dinner, we met two older men wearing matching tropical shirts who actually WERE twins.
10 MAR (MON) LA PAZ, MEXICO (7:00am – 12:30pm)
Tourist Information: www.lapaz-tourism.com
Town Map: www.allaboutbaja.com/lapazmap.htm
This morning the Grand Princess docked in La Paz. Actually, we docked in Puerto de Pichilingue, where there was a mariachi band, a small flea market and a nice cactus garden at the pier; nothing else is within walking distance. Princess claimed the pier was a 20-minute complimentary shuttle ride from La Paz, with stops downtown and at Coromuel Beach. However, our DS and family took the shuttle into town; the ride actually took 40 minutes each way and did not stop at the beach. Once they were downtown, the prospects for families with toddlers appeared minimal, so they continued on the shuttle back to the ship.
Today John and I were looking forward to checking a big item off our bucket list: swimming with Whale Sharks. John had investigated tours with several local operators whose prices were about one-third that of the Princess shore excursion ($155 USD pp). However, Princess had changed the all aboard time from 1:30 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. and none of the local operators would commit to getting us back to the dock in La Paz (not even the cruise dock) before 1:00 p.m.
The Princess excursion was scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., so we had some time to check out the flea market and cacti before the tour. Our group of 30+ was herded over to a small dock for a short orientation talk and then divided onto two boats for a half-hour ride to the snorkeling site. The tour description said we would stop at a marina first to gear up and we had been asked to submit our wetsuit and fin sizes to the tour office two days before the tour. Instead, there were bins of fins and masks/snorkels and a stack of wetsuits on board the boats. Unfortunately, the wetsuits available did not correspond to the sizes of the people on the tour; there were not enough of the smaller sizes. John and I both had to wear XLs, which were much too large for us.
This was very late in the season and only 3 or 4 Whale Sharks remained in La Paz Bay. Nevertheless, when we reached a sand bar where the Whale Sharks often hang out, we found one pretty quickly. Because Whale Sharks are an endangered species, only a limited number of snorkelers can be in the water with them at one time. We were divided roughly into two groups that would take turns snorkeling. Our guide (Javier) was very good at making sure that those who did not get to see a Whale Shark right away got extra turns in the water so that eventually everyone had a good experience.
John and I were in the first group in the water and got our first glimpse. John was better positioned than I and had a better view on this turn. On two subsequent turns, he was able to follow the Whale Shark for a long distance and get excellent views. On my next two turns, I was frustrated because I could not get around the other snorkelers to see the Whale Shark at all. Finally, on my last turn, Javier helped me get ahead of the pack so that I could swim above the Whale Shark for several minutes and see it in detail. Both John and I were thrilled to be able to see these magnificent animals up close in the wild. Unfortunately, John's waterproof camera developed a problem and he was only able to get a few photos.
We returned to the ship shortly before the all aboard time. After getting cleaned up, we got some pizza slices to enjoy on our balcony; DS and family joined us in relaxing there as the ship departed for Puerto Vallarta. As we sailed out of La Paz Bay, our DDIL spotted the splash of a Humpback Whale breaching. This whale made repeated breaches, sometimes lolling on its back and waving its fins in the air. We were able to watch (with binoculars) this whale's acrobatics for quite a while until it disappeared in the distance.
During the night the ship's clocks were moved forward an hour to CST, the local time in Puerto Vallarta.
11 MAR (TUES) PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO (11:00am – 7:30pm)
Tourist Information: www.visitpuertovallarta.com/#home
Waterfront Map: vallartainfo.com/hotelzone.html
Viejo Vallarta Map: mexico-on-line.com/puerto-vallarta/puerto-vallarta-maps/viejo-vallarta-map.html#.Uw1DAPldUfU
Transportation Options: boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1891879
As the ship maneuvered to the pier, backing in excruciatingly slowly, I spotted a sea turtle that surfaced not far from the ship.
Today John had reserved a three-hour shared tour with Vallarta Food Tours (puertovallartafoodtours.com/calendars/puerto-vallarta-walking-tour/). However, Princess nearly ruined the day by changing the docking time from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. (the start time for the tour) after we were onboard the ship. Panic City! We were able to email the company the night before our arrival asking for help. The response was posted around midnight that night and said “No worries!” They told us we should get off as soon as possible and take a taxi to their office; they would locate the current location of the walking tour and get us there.
Indeed, we were first off the ship (alas, at 11:20 a.m.) and took a ten-minute taxi ride ($12 USD, a higher fare than usual because we got the taxi inside the port and insisted on leaving immediately with only the two of us). The co-owner, Paul, was waiting and hustled us into his car. Then his mother ran out and handed two bottles of water to us! Paul drove around until he found the tour group (two other couples) but first bought us the birria (beef and goat stew) tacos we missed at the first food stop. He introduced us to Alex, our guide (AKA Brad Pitt – but Angelina was not around so we were suspicious).
We then proceeded to have an incredible food and cultural walking tour around the old part of Puerto Vallarta. The food ranged from street to elegant and was among the best real Mexican cuisine we've ever tried: artisanal chocolate, tortilla soup, ceviche, fish taco, fresh coconut water and meat, a hot tortilla straight off the conveyer belt, Tuba juice, two chicken enchiladas with different mole sauces, Tequila with a Sangrita chaser and candy made from local ingredients. Alex was informative and funny. This would have been a five-star experience based on the food and tour alone. And Paul rescued us from our dilemma deftly and calmly. He made sure we had all the food promised (which is misleadingly described as equal to lunch – it was beyond that!). His service was worth more than five-stars! The tour and service were an incredible combination.
After the food tour, John and I visited the Cathedral, which is dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe and features murals depicting her apparition to Juan Diego. A distinctive feature of the Cathedral is that it is topped by a huge crown, said to be a replica of the tiara of Empress Carolta of Mexico. We strolled through Vieja Vallarta and along the Malecon, enjoying the views of the Sea of Cortez, sand sculptures and public art. We eventually walked back to the ship, which took about an hour from the north end of the Malecon.
Meanwhile, our DS and family took the white-and-blue bus ($2 USD total with 5 pesos change for DS and DDIL, free for the DGDs) to the Centro and got off near the middle of the Malecon. They found a seaside restaurant where the girls could play in the sand with local youngsters while Mom and Dad enjoyed some queso dip and chips with drinks. After some touring and shopping (a dress for DDIL and a nesting doll for the DGDs) they returned from downtown on the white-and-blue bus in the Walmart direction. Yes, there is a Walmart and a Sam's Club right across the street from the cruise ship dock!
This evening we were able to enjoy the sail away after dinner as the lights came on in Puerto Vallarta.
12 MAR (WED) AT SEA
While DGD #1 was occupied in the Princess Pelicans Program this morning, DDS and DDIL took DGD #2 to the Fruit Carving Demonstration. DGD #2 was presented with a zucchini and radish flower, which she carried around proudly and occasionally snacked on.
Today the Most Traveled (top 40) Passenger Luncheon was held in the Botticelli dining room; the three Most Traveled passengers had each sailed 1240 days with Princess. Although the Captain's Circle Hostess could not remember the exact cutoff, she did mention that that John and I made it only because some of those with more days were traveling solo. As usual, food at the luncheon was excellent and we were disappointed to learn that on the second (7-day) leg of our B2B, there would only be a cocktail party instead of a luncheon.
The Princess Grapevine wine tasting was held this afternoon in the Botticelli dining room. As Elite Captain's Circle members, John, DS and I received complimentary invitations. I gave my invitation to our DDIL; John and I listened to the DGDs napping instead. Before we went to dinner this evening, we saw a number of whales spouting and even some backs and tails.
Over the past several evenings, Renato has been surprising the DGDs with towel animals, complete with eyes and other features, when he makes up the beds. Sometimes he arranged them next to the stuffed animals they were receiving at the Princess Pelicans Program. Among others, he made bunnies and apatosauruses. I am not sure what tonight's animals (made from a pool towel and a yellow cloth) was supposed to be (maybe a sea lion?) but it was a big hit. DGD #2 hugged hers fiercely and declared, “Me love him.”
13MAR (THURS) AT SEA
This morning, John and I went to an Enrichment Lecture about special forces operations. As the ship sailed further north during the next two days, we again encountered regions of heavy fog, bringing back the scary foghorn.
In the afternoon, DS and DDIL took an Improv Comedy Class offered by one of the entertainers. DDIL (who is an excellent singer) was becoming quite well known around the ship for participating in karaoke and singing games; she also qualified as a finalist in the Princess Pop Star competition. Now people compliment her on her singing as well as asking her whether the DGDs are twins.
Tonight was the second of two formal nights on this leg and three Captain's Circle parties for Platinum and Elite members were held. We were assigned to the party right before dinner and the girls were excited to meet the Captain. After dinner, DGD #1 received a birthday cake and a serenade from the wait staff. This included Princess Ayla, a tall, blonde Assistant Waiter from another part of the dining room. The DGDs had been watching all the female wait staff as they passed our table on their way back and forth to the kitchen. They were firmly convinced that all the tall ones with their hair in a bun were actually princesses. Princess Ayla was their favorite and we took her picture with DGD #1.
Tonight the towel animals were a donkey (with a mustache) and a kangaroo with a joey. These were greeted with the usual squeals of delight.
14MAR (FRI) AT SEA
Today I took the DGDs to the “Fun Zone” in both the morning and afternoon so that our DDIL could try to cram all their belongings (now increased by a number of stuffed animals and art projects acquired in the Princess Pelicans Program) back into their three suitcases.
Tonight's dinner featured the Baked Alaska Parade and our DGDs twirled their napkins over their heads with enthusiasm. The girls were sorry to leave Francis and both hugged him as we said goodbye. They also said a special goodbye to Princess Ayla.
We returned to the cabin to find Renato's final towel masterpiece: two towel monkeys hanging from the ceiling, one of them wearing DDIL's sunglasses.
John and I received our new cruise cards this evening along with a letter stating that in-transit passengers (1) could leave the ship with the first group disembarking in the morning and (2) would not be required to attend the muster drill before sailing tomorrow afternoon.
15 MAR (SAT) SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA (7:00am – 4:00pm)
Because John and I were staying on board the Grand Princess for her next voyage, DS and family moved their hand luggage into our cabin before going to breakfast. When it was time for them to disembark, we went along to help with the girls and luggage.
In the terminal, the first two bags were located quickly but the third was nowhere to be found. While DDIL was filling out a missing baggage claim form, we discovered that several other passengers in the same disembarkation group were missing their luggage too. We eventually learned that an entire bin of luggage had been left on the ship. By now the baggage hall was nearly empty but the missing bin was finally off-loaded and the final piece of luggage collected.
We escorted our group back to the parking garage and helped them load up the car for the drive home. John and I returned to the waterfront where we enjoyed some sightseeing before returning to the ship for the second leg of our B2B, a 7-day California Coastal cruise.