We flew into LAX on Friday and took the Supper Shuttle (booked online) to the Crowne Plaza, San Pedro. Had a nice Mexican dinner at the Green Onion; the only restaurant close to the hotel (besides the hotel restaurant). Our room had a view of the terminal. There was a Silver Seas ship in Berth 93 that apparently departed in the middle of the night???
Day 1 - I awoke to find the NCL Star docked, but no Sapphire. She finally sailed in just before 9:00 a.m. I heard 3 different stories. I took a walk down to the terminal while DW readied herself. Upon returning to the hotel about 10:45 we loaded into one of the hotel shuttles and headed for the ship. Embarkation was painless and we were on the ship before noon. Went to our room to drop the carry-on bags and were greeted by a couple seals (sea lions?) under our balcony. Had a nice lunch at the International Dining Room and set out to explore our home for the next seven days. Later we went to Churchill's lounge to watch the Spartans go down to the Bulldogs... only one other Michigander in the room. Oh, well, it was a good run considering we were without our best player. The room was a bit stinky from ceegars, but there were lots of TVs and they had a nice spread of chips, taquitos, pico de gallo and guacamole. DW felt a cold coming on, so went to bed early. I went to the Savoy Room and enjoyed what was described as a Cajun Seafood Crockpot for dinner. It was a basically a giant pot pie with a latticed top; unique and delicious. I then went to the welcome aboard show and left a bit underwhelmed.
Day 2 - Hit the gym; played on the weight machines and an elypitcal machine for an hour or so. A bit cool outside, but the aft balcony provided protection from the wind. Late in the day we spotted several whale spouts. We wandered around with no particular direction/destination, just relaxed and enjoyed the ship. The Conservatory (indoor pool) area was packed. The comedian tonight had us in stitches.
Day 3 - See day 2, but a getting warmer. Attended a stretching class followed by an abs class at the gym (ouch!). We had lunch in the International Dining Room. Passengers have migrated from the Conservatory to the Neptune pool. It's formal night so I donned the dark suit and went to dinner. Don't recall what I dined on, so it must have been at least OK. I think this was the magician night, it was good.
Day 4 - Puerto Vallarta... very nice port. I took a stroll on the top deck as we steamed in and saw a pod of dolphins (porpoises?). We stopped at a shipside booth to inquire about ziplining and made arrangements for one that was only 3 hours and only 15 minutes away. They took us into Old Vallarta to the office where we signed our life away and paid our dough. I then reconfirmed that this was a 3 hour excursion, "No senior, this is 4 ½ hours and 45 min away." That is cutting it too close for comfort. It would have us back to Old Vallarta at 3:30 and the ship sails at 4:30. Well, no guts, not glory... and we found a family from the ship that also "went for it". In my head I was thinking of an alternate means to get to Mazatlan and asked the driver how far it was. I was told it was about 200 miles and took upwards of 8 hours to drive. As it turns out they found us a direct ride home after the ziplining (foregoing the river swim and tequila tasting). We were back shipside by 3:30. DW went to the straw market and I went over to Walmart for some beverages. I think we did dinner in the buffet this night as there was nothing on the dinner menu we felt was worth the pomp and circumstance. Sometimes we just like to lay back and graze and the mustard and herb incrusted tenderloin at the carving station was one of the best things I ate all week.
Day 5 - Mazatlan - Not a nice looking port by a large stretch. We took a cab to the Aroma Spa for massages... ahhhhhhh, thank you CC'ers, it was fantastic! We then went to Lety's on Stone Island and ordered a couple brews and shrimp fajitas. Decided to head back early to the ship. Picked up what was almost certainly a fake Cohiba to enjoy later, which I did.
Day 6 - Cabo - Beautiful! We wandered around town, found a tee shirt for our son at the market, but had trouble finding his size (large). One booth had 2 guys who were scurrying through their stocks trying to find a large. Finally they produced one and put it in a bag and said $18, I said $10. They wouldn't budge. I pulled it out of the bag to verify the size and it was a medium... we just turned and walked. We found one on the way out for $10. Eventually we made our way to Cabo Wabo and sampled a shot of the famous juice... $8! We also ordered some chips that came w/ guacamole, chipotle sauce and pico de gallo. I sampled a shot at a hole in the wall on the way back to the ship for $1.50 that I felt was on par with Sammy's. In all fairness Cabo Wabo was a very nice place with good food.
This afternoon I participated in the passenger vs crew water volleyball tournament. They claimed to have never lost and we figured we didn't stand a chance. Don't believe them, they stink we took them down hard in the best of 3 game tournament. I think the scores were 15-2 and 15-8.
Formal/lobster night; the plates came with a lobster tail and 2 shrimps that were each about as large as the lobster tail. Enjoyed Steve Morris' comedy show in the Explorer Lounge.
Day 7 - At sea - Ah, the bittersweet last day. Went to the gym and played on the weight machines (no cardio today as I've been diligently avoiding the elevators for the entire cruise). Went to the cooking demonstration in the Princess Theater, it was very well attended, probably ¾ full. The banter between the Executive Chef and the Maitre' De was entertaining. It ended with a tour of the galley. Went and saw Steve Morris again; this time in the Princess Theater. It was more music and again it was very enjoyable. folksy humor and lots of sing-along. He is very talented with a very impressive resume. I believe this week (the one follower ours) will be his last as he said he was going to be working on a movie (forget the name).
Disembarkation / Catalina Island - We opted for quick off with our bags and it went very smoothly. We were off by 9:00 a.m. Tonight we opted for the Doubletree, but had scheduled Catalina Island for the day. We called the hotel and they sent the shuttle. We were dropped off at the Catalina Express terminal and our bags were taken to the hotel. Catalina Island was nice, we just wandered around Avalon, had some fish tacos for lunch. Bought a couple sweatshirts that we thought were very nice w/ prices on par with the Mexican markets. Took the 3:00 Catalina Express back to San Pedro, finally got some nice pics of the ship as she was sailing out of the harbor. Tonight we dined at the Ports O Call restaurant and had a wonderful cioppino. The Double Tree was fine with an exceptional view of the San Pedro Marina. Like the Crowne Plaza, they too will provide shuttle service with 5 miles.
Departure day - Supper Shuttle picked us up at our appointed time and took us to LAX. The highlight of this day was being able to pay Frontier Airlines $6 to watch the great finish of the Masters Tournament on the 4.5 hour flight.
This was our first Princess cruise and our first west coast cruise. We've done 8 or 9 other cruises with no particular brand loyalty, although the last 3 have been NCL. We've done several Caribbean (western, eastern, southern) as well as Bahamas and Bermuda. Overall, I prefer the warmer, clearer Caribbean waters and islands, but I would not turn down a good deal on another Mexican Riviera. It was actually a sweet deal on our flight that swayed us to this trip. We liked the Princess product; the ship was nice, the crew was consistently upbeat, the food was tastefully prepared (seasoned on the spicy side compared to other lines). My wife found the deserts to be the best she's encountered at sea. I found the beef to be a notch better than other lines. The buffet was cramped, but I knew this from accounts I read on these boards. I liked the subdued announcements; whereas other lines have the cruise director on the horn several times a day hawking the day's activities and promotions, there were maybe 2 announcements per day (in addition to the Captain's navigational report at noon), and these were informative, not hyped up sales pitches and they were seldom done by the cruise director. I liked the Wake Show done by the cruise director and deputy cruise director, this was a fun and informative TV show that was maybe 30min long that looped all morning and outlined the day's activities. It was nice to have on while we got ready in for our day. We did not attend any of the production shows, but found the magician, the comedian and Steve Morris to be rated G to PG with zero profanity, with minimal adult content. Attended the newlywed / not so newlywed game which by its nature is almost entirely adult content and was a bit surprised by the number of pre-teens in attendance.
All in all it was a great vacation and we would not hesitate to book another Princess cruise.