The long gray cool winter of Seattle had really gotten to us. Having taken the 19 day Pacific Coastal trip in September enjoying Mexico's sun and sea life, we looked for a shorter version to find some blue skies and warmer temperatures. This week on the Golden Princess from March 1-8 was perfect timing for a getaway. We expected it would be great for whale watching and sightseeing, and we were not disappointed.
Flying from Seattle via Alaska Airlines into Long Beach seemed so easy. This tiny airport so near to Los Angeles was perfect for this trip. Avoiding LAX saved a lot of hassle, and we were so close to the cruise pier at San Pedro. Our uniformed chauffeur from U-R-There Limos met us at baggage claim and handled all our luggage. We did not have to lift a finger. We have used this service before and were impressed by their courtesy, safe driving, and friendliness. For $69, not much more than Princess transfers by bus, or a taxi, we were whisked off to San Pedro in relaxing Town Car comfort. At the pier, our driver handed off our baggage to the ship, and we went through embarkation in 15 minutes to our cabin. The luggage was at our stateroom shortly after lunch in the buffet.
Having taken this ship to Alaska we were quickly familiar with the layout. This was our ninth Princess cruise with seven weeks on NCL before that. We are in our 60s and like independent travel, anytime dining and lots of scenery. The varied and unusual itineraries of Princess draw our interest to places like Tahiti, Belize, Devil's Island and smaller islands of the Caribbean. The safety and knowledge of the Captain and crew keep us returning. In fact, it was safety issues that drove us away from NCL. We have been impressed with Princess' conservative attitude, and we have had no concerns so far.
Our room steward, Jerry, seemed to be a hard worker. He lugged heavy laundry carts and rushed about the corridor as he worked. However, we found a pink disposable razor laying in our tub on arrival. He forgot to replace dirty towels, left an empty Kleenex box, gave us dirty barware, and forgot the pile of dirty sheets he dropped on our floor. His effort seemed great, but his follow through was lacking.
The weather was 50 degrees and drizzling as we left San Pedro. It was shocking to see women arriving in skimpy clothes meant for 100 degree heat without jackets or sweaters. I don't know where they came from, but they were unprepared for the weather of LA or Mexico. Our travel outfits of fleece and jeans were much needed those first 2 days to view wildlife off our balcony. Although it was chilly, we were rewarded with sights of dolphins and whales each day. Sometimes the ship traveled through large pods of each, and we were delighted to see them so close. Some whales were just below our balcony, and we could even hear their lungs as they blew sprays of water quite near us. Several times we could see huge whales just below the surface of the clear waters, and it was an awesome sight! Each day we saw many humpback or gray whales and hundreds of dolphins, but there were many passengers who cruised the week complaining that they saw nothing! Of course you have to look to see them.
Food was OK. High spots were the carvery in the buffet with prime rib, turkey, ham, salmon, and beef Wellington. Low spots were the sticky cakes and ice cream made of unknown ingredients, and the greasy heavy pastries made with lard. We ate in the buffet, choosing to wear just casual clothes, and watch the scenery and sunsets through floor-to-ceiling glass windows. How relaxing it was!
Loud banging in the plumbing awakened us each night at 2 and 4 AM. We had not heard these noises on a previous trip but assume they were from air in the pipes. Another factor making us sleep less was a little girl running and screaming in the Dolphin corridor late at night without restraint.
We enjoyed visits to Puerto Vallarta (city tour for me, hike for husband), Mazatlan (city tour for me, hike to lighthouse for husband), and Puerto Vallarta (tour with glassblowing, San Jose for me, zip lines for husband). There was a nice mix of shore trips and something for everyone here.
Music on board was nice, but we made it even better by requesting Santana music from SOL Y ARENA. Their eyes lit up and they sang from the heart to a full house of fans. That really made the trip great!
Disembarkation was handled quite efficiently. People were sent from their staterooms to various restaurants or lounges around the ship to await their color being called. No one was allowed to sit in the hallways and announcements were only in these venues. Independent travelers could walk off with their luggage first, but they had to be able to handle it all on their own. Platinum/Elite Princess members were treated to coffee service in a dining room reserved for them. The quieter and less crowded sites made for a much more relaxing disembarkation for all.
We had hoped for a warm sunny break on this trip and got half of it anyway. Although the weather was barely 80 degrees in Mexico, it never rained, and the skies were very blue. The wildlife, lively music, and all the stunning scenery warmed our hearts and will carry us through until spring finally arrives in the gray Northwest.