This cruise was booked by my traveling companion many many months ago! She cruises frequently with her service dog and has a thread on the disabled boards. When she ended up with no traveling companion and I ended up with an unexpected week off: opportunity taken and soon she had me added to her manifest and I was booking air travel from Atlanta to Los Angelas.
We shared an inside "handicapped" accessible cabin. This cabin is more like a mini suite with a sitting area and larger areas between the beds. It is designed for wheelchair accessability and was quite spacious. She definently qualifies for this cabin and for those who would want to book this cabin without a need: SHAME! However, it was an appropriate cabin for us and I enjoyed the extra space. Our room steward was quite gracious and showed up with a "doggy" life jacket for service dog Brenda.
Traveling with someone with special needs had it's challenges including the constant attention a service dog brings. My friend was gracious about sharing her stories and her dogs with other passengers and cruise. I found my self fielding questions for her so she could travel quickly down the public areas.
We had first seating traditional dining. I enjoyed our table mates and enjoyed traditional. My husband and I always have anytime dining and this was a nice introduction to another side of Princess Crusing. Service was excellent and the early time allowed us to "run" to the theatre as it was always full. Our only challenge was sitting next to a large family group with two screaming toddlers. As a pediatric nurse I could tune it out, but it did take away from the atmosphere of the dining experience. The early time did not allow us to participate in most of the sail aways, and for that reason I would prefer anytime dining to this.
We attended most of the shows in Princess Theatre. I did not realize how unfriendly this venue is to the disabled. Only a row in the back was reserved for wheelchair needs and it filled rapidly. My cabin mate would sit in this row and I would sit down in front to allow for more access.
It would have been nice to see the shows together, but, was not a real challenge for us. I did not enjoy the commedian on the cruise at all. I did enjoy the shows and for those who have never sat on the front row, it has it's advantages. It is now my favorite place to sit.
Other ship's offerings..I always enjoy the art auction and the wine tastings. I enjoyed the pianist in Crooners who always seemed to be playing a show tune I liked.
I never had any trouble finding a chair outside and soaked in some sun and some tasty drinks. Also still love Princess Pizza. Ymmmmmm
I endulged in a massage and facial at the spa and tried out the swim against the current pool at the Lotus Spa. Totally loved both, but really the pool Pack your goggles and prepare for a great workout.
Horizon Court was good as usual. I don't really like the new process in and out, but the food was tasty, and if you timed it right, you had no lines.
Ports of Call:
Santa Barbara: A tender port, but I had no line to get on the tender and it was a quick trip to the dock. They had an art show on Sunday so I just browsed up and down then had a nice long barefoot walk on the beach. My traveling companion stayed on the ship as her service dog was not up to the tender experience. I found the quiet time very refreshing.
San Francisco: Again I was off by myself. I walked to fisherman's wharf, enjoyed the atmosphere. Jumped on a independent boat that took us under the golden gate and around Alkatraz..a good $15 spent. Afterwards I treated myself to the chower in a bread bowl and an excellent glass of wine at Tarratinio's. I watched the boats come in and out and again relaxed. Many stayed for dinner ashore as the ship did not sail until after 10pm. Sailing under the golden gate was awesome. I was up early for the entrance with the rest of the early birds. Leaving was more fun as most of the passengers were up, city lights were gleaming and the golden gate bid us adieu.
San Diego: Again I was on my own and I took the ship's tour to the Zoo. The zoo is a great place to be by yourself and I toured it at my own pace and interest. It was a great trip, but I was glad to be back on the ship. So glad I stopped for a margarita and a shot of tequila on the side! Again, ymmmm
Ensenada: I treated it as a sea day. The weather was lovely so after I indulged in breakfast in the dining room I found a chair by the sea and basked all day.
Disembarkation was easy. We had breakfast, then went to Club Fusion. Snagged a comfortable place to sit, poured a cup of coffee and enjoyed my last minutes on the ship. Found our luggage right away and soon I was at LAX waiting to return to hearth and home.
A few notes: Traveling with someone with a "disability" was an eye opening experience. Waiting for the elevator because the stairs were not an option, not being able to walk from point to point without being stopped, and constantly watching out for people not to step on the service dog. While most people were gracious with their questions, some were pretty rude. Seriously, you don't ask someone "what is wrong with you". Not all disabilities are visibly apparent. And for the record: The ship provided a 4X5 box filled with mulch for the dog's "potty" needs. Ours was placed in an interior crew stairwell which provided some privacy. Although one day several passengers followed us to watch the dog potty.
I was blessed to take this cruise. I loved the ship and loved the itinerary and loved being "Aunt Sunshine" to Brenda the service dog and Roz the most wonderful adopted big sister! If you have questions about traveling with a service dog, just pop over to the disabled thread. I am sure your questions will be answered.