Because we live in Palm Springs, Ca. we decided to cool off for a couple of weeks in early September. So, we booked a trip on the Dawn Princess sailing from San Francisco for ten days and we stayed four more days in San Francisco after disembarkation. The temperature at home when we left on September 14th was 106 degrees. It was nice to arrive in chilly San Francisco!
We tried to log on to the Princess Cruises web-site to pre-register at least 15 times over a month, but each time they told us the site was busy and to try again tomorrow. We arrived early in the morning in San Fran and decided we might as well go to the terminal and register. But the registration desks didn't open until about 11 o'clock, so we sat around and waited. To wait in the terminals in San Francisco is not what you would call inspiring. As soon as we had registered, we went over to Scoma's for lunch. Having been on Princess a few times before, we knew what the buffet would be. After returning from lunch, we were told that we could go to our cabins. Remember not long ago when upon boarding you were greeted by neatly attired crew offering a glass of cold champagne and someone who escorted you to your cabin and made you feel welcome? No more. I would think that the crew members would miss the tips! We were assigned Cabin 6017 forward and a good location. The cabins are very small and uncomfortable especially the bathroom. In the cabin, in addition to the two beds and a desk, there is but one chair, so if there are two of you and you both want to watch TV, one has to lie down on the bed. I understand in building the ship, they suddenly decided to add verandas and so cut two feet off the end of the room and added the very narrow balconies. In fact, the whole ship looks as if it had been designed as it was being built.
After the life-boat drill and the beautiful sail-away, I went back to the cabin before dinner to rest a bit while my companion stayed on deck to absorb the cool breeze. We picked a wonderful time of the year to be going to Alaska. Except for one day of rain in Skagway, the weather was perfectfoggy some days at first, but smooth waters so the days at sea were perfect. There was a contingent of people from "Cruise Critic" on board, but we never met any of them. We did meet four other very nice people that we hung out with and had enjoyable times lunching in the few ports we made. However, the itinerary was great. Most of the other cruises are 7 days, which is too short, and the ten day itinerary was the main reason we chose the Dawn Princess.
So on to dinner. We had asked for second sitting in the assigned table restaurant, but our agent had paid no attention to our request so we were in the "anytime" seating. The first night was great and we got a nice table for two. But the second night after a day at sea, I guess everybody was ready to go to the dining room and we got there at 6:30, the same time as the night before and they told us unless we wanted a table of 12, we would have to make a reservation for 8:30. There seems to be something about Princess that abhors couples or foursomes. Most of the tables are for 8, 10, 12 or 14. Isn't it nice to have breakfast at a table with 14? Which happened to us the next morning! We were greeted at the door by this NASTY Section Captain who is named Ron and who immediately led us to a table with 12. When we asked for a smaller table, he said "This is open seating, you have no choice!"
Luckily we went to the pizza restaurant and had a wonderful dinner with soup, salad, pizza and dessert. We also found a very good waiter, whose name was Rodrigo, and he would suggest our menu every time we went there, which, of course, was often as we couldn't get into the main dining room for lunch. So. later in the afternoon, my companion went to the maitre 'd and asked about changing our evening seating.. He is a very pleasant and efficient man-I think his name was Mr. Saldarha-and is one of the best malted's on the seas. He told us there would be no problem getting a table for 2 at the 7:45 seating. Wonderful! And when we got to our table that night, who was our section captain? RON!
The crew on the ship was fabulous. We have never had a better room steward and our two waiters were excellent. The people at the reception desk were very nice and very helpful and did a couple of very nice things for us while on the cruise. We never do the ship's add on for gratuities. We do our own tipping. Isn't that what tips are for? To reward good service? So no tip for Ron.
The food on the ship, other than the pizza parlor and the outside grill was not good. But the biggest disappointment was the specialty dining room, the "Sterling Steakhouse", priced at $15 per person, plus tip. We made a reservation for the last night. When we arrived, we found the venue to be in a corner of the buffet. The menu looked marvelous. Having heard from several of the waiters that the steaks were the best on the SHIP, we both ordered steaks. I ordered the filet and my friend ordered the New York cut.. We both ordered the Caesar salad. The salad was excellent but what else we ordered, I don't remember because it was so unbelievably bad. As was the service! The steaks in the dining room were bad enough, but these were dry, over-cooked, monstrously huge and had absolutely no flavor.
There was absolutely no dress code on the ship. On the formals nights, guests were dining in jeans, t-shirts with all sorts of "cute sayings", caps and what have you.
Disembarkation was uneventful. Taxis are always plentiful at the San Francisco terminals and we were at our hotel by 10 o'clock am. It was nice to be in a room where you could stretch out and sit in a comfortable chair once again.