To begin, I must say everything went quite smoothly from the beginning to the end of this cruise. My wife and I are in our early 60's and have now cruised 20 times (18 with Princess and 2 with Norwegian). This cruise on the Crown Princess was a most memorable one that we won't forget.
Our journey started out the day before (Friday May 2) on a direct flight with Southwest Airlines from Milwaukee to Los Angeles (LAX). We arrived there at 11:00 AM, collected our baggage and headed outdoors in search of a "Super Shuttle" van. A month earlier, I booked transportation on line with Super Shuttle from LAX to the Crown Plaza in San Pedro. The cost was (senior discount) was $17.00 per person one way. The dark blue vans were easy to find and very convenient.
We arrived at the Crown Plaza in about 35 minutes which included dropping off some folks at another location. We were able to check in early a little after 12 noon. Being a IHG member, the girl at the front desk upgraded us to a corner suite on the seventh floor. Believe me, that really started our week off on the right track. It was a great room with some nice views (4 large windows being on a corner). I will be staying at this hotel for sure in the future when cruising out of San Pedro. They have complimentary shuttle service to the cruise terminal which we took advantage of the next morning. The hotel has several restaurants and pubs nearby. Two blocks behind the hotel on 6th Street was the San Pedro Brewing Co. (brewpub). A great place for good beer and food. We spent a couple hours there in the afternoon. For dinner we walked a couple blocks towards the harbor where the maritime museum is. Right next to it was a great Mexican restaurant called the Acapulco Restaurant & Cantina. Up and down this street are several restaurants to choose if looking for something else. Back behind the Crown Plaza on 6th and 7th Street and in between are many little shops, restaurants and pubs to explore. Saturday morning we found a great little place called "Happy Diner" on Centre St., fantastic breakfast! Also on Friday afternoons they run a vegetable and craft market on 6th Street (two blocks long). We really had a nice day in San Pedro.
After a good nights sleep, it was finally cruise time (Sat. May 3). We arrived at the cruise terminal around 11:00 AM. Check in was a breeze, but we were then directed to the Princess elite area where we waited till roughly 12:30 PM to board. Time went fast talking to other passengers. Once onboard, a great week began!
We first headed to our cabin on Emerald deck (E207). We had an obstructed ocean view room which was great for us. We unpacked our carry on bag and I was able to place my cruise critic poster and Brewers magnet on the outside of our cabin door. We joined the cruise critic roll call for this cruise which I will talk about later. After this was done, we headed off for a light lunch and some dessert at my favorite place onboard. The "International café". I'm known to indulge in a few sweets, believe me, this was the place to get my fix! After a few hours exploring the ship, it was time for the muster drill. Our main luggage had arrived when we went back for our life jackets. The drill took place in the casino for us, then it was back to the cabin to unpack for the week. Afterwards, we headed up top side for the sail away. What a beautiful day it was, plenty of California sunshine and 80 degree temps. It was onwards to beautiful Santa Barbara, our first port stop the next day (Sunday May 4).
Now before I talk about port stops, I would just like to mention a few observations I had of the Crown Princess. First off, there was no signs of the norovirus being present. The Crown did encounter this problem on a few cruises before us, but everyone seemed healthy, lively, happy and just having a good time the entire week. Princess employees were constantly keeping the ship clean and in tip top shape. Hand cleaning dispensers were every where. I even seen them in front of the casino entrances.
Santa Barbara, what a gorgeous day it was! We arrived at 7:30 AM. This is a tender port, so life boats were used to get us ashore. We booked a Princess excursion touring Santa Barbara by Trolley. The main aspect of this tour was to see the Santa Barbara Mission that was founded in 1786. It was worth the visit, beautiful place and grounds. Afterwards, we cut our tour short and had the driver drop us off at the Santa Barbara Courthouse. What a place this was to see. We were able to climb the stairs to the top of the clock tower for impressive views of the area. The interior of this courthouse is unbelievable in it's Spanish style of architecture. Beautiful woodwork and paintings throughout. A must to see! Next up was a two block walk over to State Street, the main thorough fare of the city. It has many cafes, pubs, boutiques and every store you can imagine on it. A great place for a casual stroll on a beautiful day. Thanks to Jim & Diana from our cruise critic roll call, we were able to visit the newly just opened Santa Barbara Market Place. It's located just off State Street on Victoria Street. It has many specialty shops along with a bakery and restaurants. We especially enjoyed having a glass of wine and beer at the "Wine Plus Beer Bar" there. The owners were great with a nice selection. Our day ended with one last stop at the "Santa Barbara Brewhouse" near the tender port. It's located straight down on Bath street on Monticito Street. What a great little brewpub we discovered last year during a cruise to Santa Barbara. We had to go back and have a beer and say hi to the owner we met last time.
Before I continue on to the next day (Monday May 5), I want to tell you who our captain was. John Foster from Liverpool, England. We had the chance to meet him later in the week at the "Captain's Cocktail Party" for platinum and elite members. What a nice guy, he spent some quality time speaking to the crowd. He didn't rush off, told some funny stories and jokes about his career at sea. I also found out that he will be transferring to the new Regal Princess this year. I'm glad as we will be on the Regal November 9th. The cocktail party was nice being held in Club Fusion, but what I really liked was the invitation stated come in casual attire. I normally miss these events because they require dress up clothes. It's more relaxed this way. We also enjoyed sitting with Don & Sylvia from our cruise critic roll call. The most traveled passenger was Marcia Macdougall of southern California, 938 days at sea. I would also just like to mention that our cruise director was Neil rose from Kent, England. His assistant was Bernie (a gal) from Brazil. They had a great supporting cast that made all the events fun throughout the week.
Monday being our first sea day, was a lot of fun. At 11:00 AM in Skywalkers Lounge we had our cruise critic meet & greet. First I would just like to thank Ann from Brea, California for organizing this. She did an excellent job and also sent invitations out to many of the Princess staff to come join us, which many did. The Maitre D Ignazio D'Agostino showed up and spent a lot of time mingling with us. We really had a nice turn out from our roll call group. Conversing with people for several months on line and then finally meeting everyone was a pleasure. It was really nice getting to know Rob & Adaris from Port dover, Ontario, Don & Sylvia from Portland, Danny & Dana from Long Island, NY, Adele and her mother Mary from the San Diego area, Jim & Diana from Vancouver, BC and so many others through out the week. I was able to take many pictures at this event and many will be posted on our roll call thread.
During our two sea days, the other being Wednesday May 7th, was more about relaxing and eating more food, especially desserts. You know me. Anyway, we did make time to go to the "British Style Pub Lunch" on sea days in the Wheelhouse Bar. The pawns (actually shrimp) and fries were my favorite. During these days at sea, we did spend a fare amount of time in the casino, but as usual, no luck. A few movies were also shown in the theater during these afternoons. We saw "12 Years A slave". Many good movies were shown during the week on "Movies Under the Stars". The only problem was, it was too chilly on the top deck at night to watch.
San Francisco was our next port call on Tuesday May 6. I woke up very early this morning, 6:00 AM. The reason being I wanted to be top deck coming into San Francisco Bay and going under the Golden Gate Bridge. I was up on top by 6:15 AM, perfect timing as we were just approaching the bridge from several hundred yards out. I was able to take some fantastic pictures on both sides of the bridge. It was also very cool seeing the city of San Francisco from the ship and then watching us dock at pier 35. While passing the famous pier 39, you could see all the seals moving about and making their loud arking noises on a quiet, still morning. The day was another perfect one being sunny and around 70 degrees. Next up, we had a 10:30 AM Alcatraz tour we booked on line a few months back. Alcatraz is run by the National Park Service, so go there and the site will direct you to the right place to buy tickets. Prices are reasonable and they have a senior discount. The pier for the Alcatraz tour is at pier 33, just a short block or two from where we were docked. The ferry seems to hold a couple hundred people that takes you to the island. I do recommend you buy tickets early and far in advance as many tours and time slots sell out. We loved the tour, they show you a 17 minute movie about the history of it. Then you do roughly a 45 minute audio tour with headsets of the prison. The stories are amazing to hear. One highlight for me that day, was meeting one of the prison guards that worked there from 1957 to 1963 when the prison closed. He wrote a book about his experiences there. I was able to chat with him and bought his book which he autographed for me. I also got my picture taken with him. We were so happy we did this tour and I highly recommend it for anyone. After the tour we headed over to pier 39 to browse around and see the seals. We did not leave till we enjoyed the popular chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Believe me, it was delicious. Then it was off to Ghirardelli Square to enjoy a hot fudge sundae. Again, very tasty and delicious! What a way to end a great day in San Francisco.
Back onboard, the entertainment was great during the whole week. The comedy vocal impressionist, Jason Neistadt was really funny. Another comedian later in the week was Derrick Cameron, another talented guy, very funny. One other show my wife and I really enjoyed was the "Mexican Powerhouse Diva" , vocalist Teresa Lopez. She performed two shows in Explorers Lounge. What a singer! We actually went back to see her second show, she was that good. The Princess singers and dancers were also very good. we caught two of their three shows during the week. "What A Swell Party" and "Disco-Blame It On The Boogie". We also took in some game shows during the week which were fun, like the "Marriage Game Show", "The Majority Rules Game Show" and the "Liars Club Game Show". Other fun events that week were the "Runway at Sea Fashion Show", the "Rock N' Roll" night in Club Fusion where we danced up a storm. We also attended the culinary demonstration in the Princess Theater and then toured the galley afterwards. The executive chef Antonio Costantino and the Maitre D Ignazio D'Agostino were hilarious. Another event we attended was the Princess Grapevine in the Michelangelo Dining Room. Good wine and you actually learn something about it. One thing we never made was bingo, that's a first for us on a cruise. The joke of the cruise was, who's going to the disco lounge in Skywalkers? The cruise director would always ask that question after shows and everyone stayed quiet. We were an older crowd onboard, not to many late night partiers on this ship.
Now for our port stop in Astoria, Oregon on Thursday May 8. It was a cool and very rainy day. I was glad they had shuttle buses running into and back from town. Well worth the $7.00 cost per person. We ended up having a blast here, the rain did not dampen our mood. We went too 4 micro breweries on this day. The Fort George Brewery & Public House, Astroria Brewing Co (Chart House), Wet Dog Café & Brewery and the Buoy Beer Company. We ended up meeting with Danny & Dana from our cruise critic roll call. We really had lot's of fun and laughs. The beer was going down good! I can't believe we participated in a photo bomb while this couple was having their picture taken, blame it on the beer. Everyone we met in Astoria was so welcoming and friendly. A great little town!
The next day Friday May 9 was our last port stop in Victoria, BC. What a beautiful, clean city, The day was pretty decent too. We walked into town which took about 30 minutes. We strolled by some beautiful hotels near the wharf and as we got near downtown. People in this city really pride them selves with beautiful flowers and shrubbery around their homes and businesses. We ventured over to the Empress Hotel, a center piece of the city. What a beautiful structure, especially inside. Thought about having afternoon tea there, but at $59.95 per person, it was quite pricey. The little desserts they served did look delicious as we walked through. We ended up finding a little Dutch Bakery & Café on a side street. We had a dessert lunch that was awesome. We finished the day doing some tourist shopping before walking back to the ship. Once back, it was time to start packing the suitcases for the next day disembarkation in Vancouver. I couldn't believe the week was coming to an end. We also printed out our airline boarding passes at the internet station onboard. Many people were.
The next day in Vancouver (Saturday May 10) we were up early at 5:30 AM to get ready. We had Princess bus transfers ($29.00 per person) to the airport and had to be in the dinning room at 7:15 to disembark. That didn't happen till 8:00 AM. Our bus driver did a wonderful job explaining and pointing out sights during the drive to the airport in Vancouver. It took about 30 minutes to drive there on the bus. The cruise terminal we docked at is called "Canada Place", it really is a beautiful structure in the heart of downtown Vancouver. Some day I would love to spend a few days here before or after a cruise.
Now to wrap up this review, I would just like to mention we never ate in the dinning rooms or specialty restaurants onboard. We enjoy the buffet or catching light meals at the International Café. The food was well prepared for our tastes and very good. We always look forward to Bavarian and Italian night at the Horizon Court Buffet and the Princess desserts are always tops in my book.
We had a wonderful week of cruising on the Crown Princess. We even talked about doing this itinerary again in the future. It was fun!