Just some background on us as a family: this was a family cruise, two of our daughters, our son in law and our other daughters partner plus us. We have cruised over 20 times. our daughter and son in law about 15 and our other daughter, is a virgin cruiser, so we have all levels of comparison. Those of us who are veterans have sailed most mass marketed lines and a few that are now in ship heaven or should be.
We come from all areas of the country, us from Arkansas, our daughter from Texas and our other daughter from Portland, but we met in Los Angeles. We spent 2 days in the L.A. area prior to sailing as we were originally from Los Angeles and wanted to visit friends, family and see the sights we hadn't seen for many years. We choose the Holiday Inn Express at the airport. It wasn't upscale but comfortable, inexpensive and offered a great location for those who have a rental car and want to do some driving around. the staff was friendly and helpful, the location was near Westchester, which is good for dining and any last minute shopping and the beds were as good as they come. Like all Holiday Inn Expresses breakfast was included though it wasn't much.
Saturday we returned our rental car and took the rental car company's shuttle to the airport where we met with a few others on our cruise and shared the Super Shuttle to the pier. This was a great way to get to know a few cruisers. I set the shuttle up ahead of time, because we had a full 9 passengers the cost was only $11 per person including gratuities.
Arriving at the pier all 3 couples went their own way for a while, our one daughter, who hadn't cruised got into the main line, our other daughter the latitude line and we had VIP service (don't know why, but who is asking)? We were escorted to Cagney's for lunch, the other 4 ate in the Summer Place main dining room, all of us were impressed with the food and service.
Just prior to 2pm the cabins were ready for occupancy, before that, you could drop off your carry on luggage and enjoy touring the ship. After unpacking, reading the freestyle daily and going to the muster drill we were on our way to the Star bar for a meet and greet that had been set up. About 30 people attended. This was the start of our fun with new friends. After a couple of glasses of vino it was off to La Cucina where we had reservations at 6:45pm. Dinner was all we had hoped for the the service was outstanding. We started with antipasto, followed by salad and our entree. I choose Salmon that was cooked to perfection. It was moist, tender, tasty and served with Italian beans (those I could do without) what Italian dinner would be complete without tiramisu? Dinner lasted too long for us to do a show so we split with some going to listen to music which was being offered in several locations and the rest of us headed for the casino.
The casino was clean, a great size and I was impressed with the circulation. You could not smell the smoke like in some casino. We smelled it for the first few minutes, that was it. There is a great selection of penny, 2 cent, 5 cent and higher slots, poker machines, plus Texas holdem, poker, blackjack and craps..at 11am we had our official meet and greet with several staff members including Andy, the cruise director. About 60 people attended.
Sunday was a sea day so we were free to do whatever. I did think the choice of activities has gone down some but there still were things to do: trivia, card games, tournaments with the staff, exercise equipment, and a few other activities, all are free, there are other things with a slight charge and don't forget the beer, wine, martini and whiskey tasting throughout the week.
early in the afternoon was the first latitude party followed by a game show, similar to jeopardy. Hubby came in second, that was fun. When all that was over it was time for progressive trivia. That night we all split for dinner. We decided to eat in the buffet (I think in 20 plus cruises we have only done this two or three times, but there was a long wait at the main dining rooms and we wanted to see the show.
Monday we ventured into San Francisco on our own. All of us did our own thing, but met some old friends for lunch at Aliotos. Aliotos isn't the greatest place to eat or the cheapest, but it brought back memories. After that we walked around and eventually headed back to the ship for martini hour. At 6pm martinis were 2 for 1 in the Star bar. We did not find the cost of drinks expensive at all. 2 for 1 marities were from $7.50 to $8.75, standard low ball drinks ranged from $5.75 to $7.75 and fru fru drinks, higher of course, but there were daily specials. House wine was $6.25 a glass.
Tues was another sea day, with the usual, we hit the casino, did some reading, played trivia, would have gone to the pool but it was quite nippy so we choose to stay inside. We did catch up on reading like on most cruises. In the early afternoon some of our group choose to see the movie. There was a new one offered just about every day and they were first run. That night 4 of us ate in Indago dining room. The food and service left nothing to be desired. Everynight there are 6 "always available" entrees, plus 2 or 3 specials of the day. Lobster and grouper were one choice that night. After dinner it was off to the show and time for bed.
One of our favorite ports a call was Astoria, Or, though it was raining a little and a bit cool we were able to catch the shuttle bus that was an on again, off again coach so we were able to see the sights of this delightful and friendly little town with its victorian houses, beautiful flowers and delightful downtown district..
Thursday we docked in Victoria. Though we didn't do much except venture into town (we had been there before) our daughter and her partner toured Bouchant Gardens which is a must. Another fun tour is the high tea and the Empress hotel.
Friday we tendered into Nanaimo in British Columbia. This was the Pearls first time visiting the seaside village. Some, who did tours like the cranberry farm loved it, most of us thought it wasn't a place we would return to, but at least it wasn't windy like Vitoria.
I reflect back on the week that has past, the service with the exception of one night in the MDR was as good as we have even had. Our cabin stewards could not have been more accommodating,even calling us by name. The food was almost perfect. Of course we managed to eat one dinner in Le Bistro which is never to be missed. We were lucky to have access to Cagney's for breakfast and lunch, but we did eat in the buffet a few times. Most of our dinners were in the MDR, we preferred Summer Place to Indigo as it is smaller and more hassle free. One night the wait was quoted at up to 45 minutes but if you had a beeper you could go to bar city and get a drink for 20% off. We did just that and the wait was only about 20 minutes. The rest of the nights we had no wait or not more than maybe, 5 minutes. So don't let those words "up to" scare you off.
We managed to see 3 shows, all were top rate, no, they are not Vegas quality, but the entertainers are not paid Vegas wages either. We didn't stay up for any of the late night entertainment though we heard it was all fun and worth missing sleep.
I can honestly say, this was one of the best cruises we have had in the past 5 years or so, clean, beautiful ship, wonderful crew (in fact a few times I wanted to say, stop smiling, it can't be that good) and the food was better than we had expected. The biggest disappointment was Blue Lagoon, the service was very slow. Of course both times we ate there were rush times and the kitchen is quite small, really not able to handle a full house.
Now, we are home, we have to finish the laundry, I have to go back to cooking and dreaming of our next cruise. Our daughter, who hadn't cruised before wants to go again next month if not sooner, we said, how about next year?