THE PRE CRUISE
2/28 Arrived in Santiago today after a 14 hr flight from SFO. Many children on the flight from Miami. Later found out this was the last week of vacation ("holiday") for the children, as they start school first week in March. Flew right through the fees, immigration and customs at the SCL airport. $32 for a cab to Ah Hotel. Nothing fancy, very plain room, sparse furniture. A little kitchen. 5 th floor no elevator. Helpful staff speaks English. Wi-fi exists but only successful once in logging on, and even then very slow, so didn't bother. Walked around the corner and found a nice Peruvian restaurant. Janet had salmon, I had a rice and calamari dish. Both very good. salad had a hard to identify veggie in it, but I figured it out to be huge kernels of corn, thumb nail size. Walked around the shopping district earlier, many,many small shops selling everything.
2/29 Chilean Journey gave us a tour of Santiago today. Trip included shopping, government bldgs., drive thru wealthy areas, embassy, San Cristobal M,t 1000' high. In the afternoon went toa lapis store and lunch before the winery tour. Good prices on silver/lapis. Lunch at nice restaurant, La Vaquita Echa. Good food but way too much. Some special meat dish for two, meats on a mini BBQ in front of you at your table included filet, chicken (dry), pork chop, chorizo (rough texture, not spicy) and potatoes. Also tried a traditional corn pie, much like a tamale pie in a clay pot and a little sweeter masa. Tried the national drink pisco, wine n lemon drink that tastes like a rum drink. Off to the winery, Concha y Toro. Largest winery in Chile. English speaking tour. Bought 2 bottles. Returned back at the hotel at 6. Nap and went to eat at 8:30, an early dinner time for Chileans. Went down to an area of town that has quite a bit of food and bar places clustered together. Very popular destination. Again made the mistake of ordering the dish for two, a huge meat plate like lunch but much more meat! Took a cab back to the hotel as recommended by our tour guide. Safer. Back by 10:30.
3/1 Checked out of hotel at 9 am. Breakfast is simple at hotel, continental style but enough. Instant coffee, ok, but miss our Starbucks. We saw Starbucks about a half mile from here. Tour guide Picked up at 9am and left Santiago and headed NW to Vina del Mar/Valparaiso. Main road is toll to the coast, about 80 miles. Go thru a tunnel to get thru mountain ranges. One tunnel we avoided and took the old road to climb over the pass. Stopped at the Emilana winery, Chile's first organic wineries. Wines were young that we tasted. Dropped off luggage at Best Western Marina del Rey. Beautiful hotel. Had a suite. 10 minutes from ocean. We were shown Vina del Mar and the crowds all left last week so it was great time to go. Had lunch at Restaurant Siete Mores. Seafood stew great but again too much food! Janet had this huge piece of salmon. Had some time to walk the beach collect rocks. Stopped at the Michael Jackson rock, "it used to be dark but the seagulls have turned it white". Forgot the rocks on the tour guides car. Then we went to Valparaiso, a seaport on the West coast. Very old community, very busy, run down but there is a huge "redevelopment" going on with many boutique hotels, hostel, shops, art galleries, restaurants being remodeled and streets under repair. Valparaiso is a very hilly city, rode two gondola cars to climb hills. Was shocked to learn that throughout Chile all firefighters are volunteers! One paid person the rest just "show up" at the fire. Back to hotel around six. Internet worked with the hotels computers but couldn't get the iPhone to work.
3/2 Breakfast at hotel very good with good coffee. Walked down 5 blocks to the beach and the flower clock of Vina Del Mar. Got some rocks along beach, mostly granite and milky quartz. Extreme Northern end of city has a huge sand dune area, apartments very close to dunes! Walked by the Sheraton hotel. This hotel is right on the beach but is not close to any shops or dining so I wouldn't recommend. Wandered up some streets, kind of not knowing how far away we had drifted, and low n behold, came within one block of our hotel! Walked around a lot, city is very busy, say 10-2. Eat after 3 if you can. Went shopping at the supermarket, well stocked. Did pay a lot for sunscreen though. Ate empanadas. Hot today around 90 but the afternoon breeze is nice. Had pizza for dinner. Janet able to log in with her droid but I could not with the iPhone.
3-3 Walked down to the water and our ship has come in! We stored our luggage and moseyed around town. Going to be another warm one. Maybe 35C. Ate a lunch, then back to the hotel to call a cab and claim the luggage. Ten minute ride to cruise terminal.
Check in a breeze. A document you will NEED, the tourist card that airlines has you fill out and the immigration personnel stamp. We had packed our paper but still allowed to board. You must now surrender your passport to Princess. You get a receipt for the passport. From security point boarded a bus for a five minute ride to the ship. It's a working dock area so movement is controlled. Explored the ship, got the coffee card, the wine tasting, and later did the muster drill at 5:30. Buses still arriving at 5:55pm. Set sail at 6:20. Had a nice late dinner. A Russian couple at the table did not speak English, but staff was very helpful. In our discussions at the table with another couple, I understand that one of the earlier ports, Ushuaia, of the first half of the cruise was missed because of politics between Argentina and the UK. We did not go to a show the first night.
3/4 ship docked in Coquimbo, Chile before sunrise. Cloudy overcast. Cleared up and in the 80s. A lot of introductory activities on the schedule, but didn't attend. Joined thermal suites for a place to relax. Janet made it to the gym despite an aching knee. Well-equipped gym. We decided not to take the shuttle into La Serena. Never got off the ship. Coquimbo is and old looking town built on a granite knoll. Some houses appear to have been damaged in the earthquake and never torn down. In northern Chile a lot of mining goes on, copper and a lot of desert. We did not go ashore, as I would not feel comfortable without my passport. No indication when these will be returned. The Europeans and the Americas, the fashions never cease to amaze me. Sitting around the pools you see them all. Turtlenecks, angora sweaters, jeans and of course the swimsuit that may have fit a few years ago, but not now. Eww . No shame here! Had a nice dinner and again sat with some nice couples and daughter. Small family sitting at the table next to us had the cutiest little girl, very well mannered, maybe 6-8. The dining staff gave her this HUGE plate of spaghetti, certainly larger than an adult portion. Cute watching her trying to be polite with those noodles. From our table, again we heard the story of the Star not docking at one on the Argentine ports, Ushuaia. After dinner, took in a comedy show, Gareth Oliver, a British comedian. Very funny with some original ideas. A number of people walked out on him, but he was sure to send them off as part of a joke. A little rough seas last night but soothing. Don't think it rained at night, just a heavy mist.
3/5 At sea today. Cappuccino was a great way to start the day. Finished my book Battle of the Crater". Time change this morning, first of five. I know people aren't supposed to do it, but patrons are filling water bottles at the drink stations, with staff right there. Several precautions are being taken, I think to prevent Noro, no salt and pepper shakers, limited self-serving in the Horizon bakery area. My tummy has a touch of something, so taking every precaution! At noon the Captain came on the PA to announce an increase in Noro cases on board. Maintain that hygiene! Relaxed in the thermal suites. Busier than I remember from past cruises. And showing its age and lack of cleanliness. Saw the TV program on the 33 Chilean miners. Well done. Tonight is formal night and I have forgotten my tie. I went to buy one from the little store on board and was not prepared to pay $20 for what looked like hand-me-downs from another era or something from your dry cleaners "unclaimed" stack. So I rented at the front desk, $6. Ryan was very helpful despite those working condition, the nearby quartet playing what sounded like maybe Russian folk music way too loud. Move the quartet or move passenger services. Formal night dinner was very nice and we had very nice table guests. I may have been the only one without a tie in the entire dining room, as mine failed to arrive in my cabin. Oh well, maybe next formal night. Comedy tonight was Al Brown, British fella with that Brit twist. Just okay.
3/6 Sea day. Walked deck 7, the designated deck for walkers. Not crowded at all. Normal breakfast, still people filling up their water bottles at the water station. Iced tea is instant so Janet has been brewing her own in the room. Coffee is made from a concentrate, weak. If you have a coffee card, you can get brewed coffee at the International Cafe, along with specialty coffees. A talk on Manta Equador was very good. The UNESCO talk on history of South America was good too. Some passengers will be getting off the ship in Callao/Lima and flying to Machu Pichu for a three day trip. They will return to the ship in Manta, Ecuador. We went to a very nice wine tasting with ships sommelier, $25 each, 6 tastings and well done. Just the buffet for dinner. Evening show Los Gauchos. Good. Not much more for the evening.
3/7 Callao-Lima, announcement, it is too foggy to get in to dock the ship on time so we are waiting for the fog to lift and the Callao authorities to give us the OK. Six-hour fog delay we will get the tours started here shortly. Finished the book "No Return". The ship is in need of fuel for the next leg, so unable to miss this port! I noticed today is bed linen exchange day. Five days. I asked the room steward to flip our matresses as they seems pretty saggy, two craters. Not solid at all. The pillows are lifeless, but they get fluffed up each day. We are edging along in the fog looking out for the dock. This may take a while. Our buses started running around 3 PM so it looks like a 4 hour port of call with abbreviated bus tours. I did notice a few of the crew had families come aboard the ship to see the Star. Great gesture on the behalf of Princess, just not sure of the security implications. On the tour bus at 2:30pm. Toured a private museum, Largo Museo and then drove thru Mira Flores. Stopped and shopped at the Indian Market, bought some rocks of Peru, earrings & a silver spoon. Soviner shops right next to the ship also. Back on the ship at 6:15 PM. Very busy port, no walking on your own. Set sail by 8. Enjoyable dinner and no after dinner show for us. No movie under the stars tonight. I guess it was too wet to sit out in the fog.
3/8 Internet down for 24 hrs. Gym was crowded but got 20 minutes on. Used thermal suites a
little, but just doesn't seem as nice as in years past. Bed are so so warm and there is no "scenery" like on the Coral. Just 5 lounges in a room. The steam rooms and showers are filthy and need aesthetic repairs. They are falling apart and a little putty or masking tape aint a pretty fix. Went to a Costa Rica and Nicaragua presentation by Billy May. Very good pointers. Following this was a presentation by Tom Jenkins, Lighter Than Air Naval Service. Very interesting history talk. The ceremonial "polliwog", crossing the equator took place, 36 early. Will have to wait and see it on TV, as 2000 people at the back of .the ship trying to see the event. Funny group. Went to the presentation on the equator and the Galapagos Island, very good. Walked by a room on the Caribe deck, a small electrical fire in one of the rooms. No alarm sounded. Staff seems to have it under control. The Internet is out still and we understand a part is being flown in to hopefully fix problem. Dinner was lamb, very good. Also had a little red snapper. Tried Vines and had a good glass of Kenwood, Jack London Cabernet. Tonight saw comedy, Gareth and Al together.
3/9 Manta, Equador arrived around 8:30. Tour today to be Monticristi and a museum/ city tour. We are, 200 miles from Quito, the capital were the equator monument is. Visited the ship yard where they were making fishing boats by hand, visited an archeological museum and then a small home where panama hat maker demos how they are made. Went to Montocristi for a short 30 minute shopping trip in downtown. All sorts of handicrafts. Got back to the ship around 1pm. Read most of the afternoon and finished "Chasing Shadows". Set sail at 6 PM, beautiful sunset and worked on a bottle Chilean wine. Crossed the equator at approx. 9:15. Went to the show production Stardust at 10:15. Good if you like this sort of song and dance of oldies tunes.
3/10 At sea. Lecture on "An Interoceanic Canal through Nicaragua". Very interesting presentation. Off to take a promenade walk, 30 minute speed walk. Warm day 85+ and very windy. The decks are empty. Some thermal suite time and continue a new book. A new site! Ping-Pong in a thong, or would that be thong ping- pong? They have no shame. We did Sabatini's specialty restaurant, $20 each. The food was very good, service sort of confusing and good ambience. What's with the two meat slicers prominently displayed, one in the seating area and one huge one right on the counter? Had the lobster dish and Janet had the shrimp scampi. Internet is still down tonight. Saw the stage show "Words & Music". Well done, but a bit too oldie for me. But good dancers. Getting up there in age myself, I wonder when 60's-70s music will become hip on a cruise ship?
3/11 Puentas Arenas, Costa Rica arrived at 5:00 am. Restless night for myself as the air is very dry in the rooms and I have a sinus problem. We are headed out on an island cruise on a catamaran, a private arrangement with the CruiseCritic group, Calypso Cruise to Tortuga Islands. One hour and forty-five minute catamaran ride to the picnic area. Snorkeling, banana boat rides, horseback rides, lunch and other beach sports. Very hot. Full bar. There until about 4:00 and a bus was waiting to take us back to the dock area one hour and forty five minutes later. Wonderful excursion, book it on the Internet. Left the port at 7:00pm. The Internet was back up this morning. But just found the biggest Princess fraud, the Internet connection. Way too slow for 21st century, and waste at 75 cent a minute. Of course the platinum members get it free, but who has that kind of time to sit in front of a monitor and watch the MTN Notwork. Will see if I can track down a connection in Nicaragua.
3-12 Dropped anchor off shore of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua and tendering in today. Very windy but warm this morning. What a tender ride! Captain later said winds were "gale force nine". Tough to get to port. For some reason our tender boat took on 7 extra people, I being one of those seven, lucky enough to ride on top, outside. Going into San Juan del Sur was bumpy and wet. Simply soaked upon arrival at the dock. We were not cold but you would of expected a single towel. No, just applauses and pictures. The town was nothing special, small, few sellers and fairly clean. Found internet for a buck an hour, 2 liters of soda, some cough medicine and a nice meal. This small town enjoyed seeing tourist and we noticed a lot of American youth in the area passing the time away. There must of been a lot problems getting everyone on board by 3:30, as we were two hours late leaving. Pulled in 180 meters of chain and 14 tons of anchor. Captain if you are reading, bad vibration in the cabin walls when the thrusters are
being used. Ah ha Captain just came on the intercom and we are having a slight problem with the starboard side propulsion, nothing too serious. Let's hope. Supposedly engineering staff will be working to replace some part. Never heard if they finished the work. Went to see Jaqui Michaels in the Princess Theater. Good singer. There is a C&W night tonight, but not participating. I have my own achy-breaky body ache to take care of, a slight head cold and cough.
3-13 Sea day. Stuffed up medicine head this morning, but feel OK. A walk in the sea air will help that. It did help. A group of bird watchers are on the bow each day with their telescopes hoping to see that rare bird. Thermal suites for me today. Went to a lecture on Mexico. Before the talked started, this lady was hocking Cabo jewelry. Too much! Couldn't get her out of there quick enough. The talk on Mexico quick and short. Tried my hand out with the slots tournament. Play two games get the third one free. Then heard a lecture on the Mayan calendar. Interesting but lots of sleepy people, myself included. Trying to shake this head cold before tonight formal night. Went reading in the Skywalker's lounge, only three people in there. Formal photos tonight and nice dinner. Went to see the ship's version of the Newly Wed Game. Hysterical. Then the late show was Alex Crow, mentalist with a good audience participation show. Seas are little rough tonight
3/14 At sea day. Beautiful morning. Feeling a bit better. Walked the decks for some exercise and fresh air. At sea Lecture titled Fireworks and Celebration. Really "geeky" talk but fantastic background of the subject and the lecturer. Enjoyed. Next lecture "What Was The Grestest Invention of the 20th Century". Lynn Gres. .Pretty dry talk. Oh well. Got a little sun before the wind picked up. Finished the book "Moneyball". Hope the movie is better. In the afternoon the cruise director Sammi had a cute skit involving passengers called "As the Propeller Turns". Went to the Captain's Circle cocktail party. Number one cruiser on this ship has accumulated 1570+ days with Princess. Wow. Had dinner in traditional dining room tonight with a couple I had not seen in nearly 20 years. Small world. Went to the Bobby Borgia magic show. Very good, but I'm impartial to magic and illusions.
3/15 Docked in Manzanillo, Mexico around 6:30am. This is only a 5.5 hour stop. Not sure why. Manzanillo is major cargo port, luckily we're did not have to contend with cargo traffic 5 miles away. Docked right next to the town. Really nothing too special, friendly people, lots of Internet and tourist spots. Cheap liquor. Bought a little pint for the remaining days. No crowds early on but later in the morning, very crowded. Pulled out of port around 1:00 pm. "The Artist" was the movie today. Previewed the recently filmed Machu Pichu video from our fellow passenger's adventure. Captain announced a weather warning that willl impact our Cabo San Lucas stop. Arriving two hours earlier and leaving two hours sooner than planned. Trying to stay ahead of a weather front approaching California. Six meter waves perhaps. After dinner, went to Stephen Kane and Jaqui Michaels show. Ok. Tonight was the postponed long awaited deck party. Crew did a good job of getting everyone involved. The Argentine band sucked, but the variety of the DJ saved the night's festivities. I was noticing in the past few days, the number of people with coughs similar to mine. A deep chest, upper respiratory dry cough. Not sure if the medical staff is treating any cases.
3/16 Dropped anchor around 7 am in the bay of Cabos San Lucas and will be tendered into town. We have planned a whale watching tour, EcoTours. Boarded at 9:30 in the marina. Viewed arch rock, beaches a a number of whales and drank whatever you wanted on the catamaran. Had time for lunch and some shopping. The line to board the tenders was long but moved quickly. Disney Wonder was also in Cabo for a half day. Wife is getting the cold now. Tonight's show is comedian Tom Briscoe. Quite the seasoned comedian, been around awhile with some repeat material, but I always enjoy comedy. Read and retired early. TV reception bad since we left port.
3/17 At sea. Cool blustery morning. Sun is peeking through off and on. Sunbathing is finished once the ship has left Cabo San Lucas, a fact we have learned in past cruises. Another Wesley Smith lecture this morning. This guy is good and a keeper for Princess. Kind of nerdy talk but interesting. Then lunch. As a novice foodie, I would love to be in the chef's shoes when he decides his lunch time menu. "What to do we with this leftover London broil?", "what to do with this leftover pork roast?" "Agh stir fry beef" "Agh sweet n' sour pork". Sort of reminds me of home. Overall, evening meals have been good, breakfast hard to mess up and lunch, just about anything you could or would want. And the salad have been great. Need blue cheese crumbles for salads and fresh cold milk with those desserts. And fried chicken anytime. This afternoon I tried my luck for the first time at Bingo. Was not crowded at all, or as popular as past cruises I had experienced. Didn't win. Tonight was the last formal night, but we chose to eat at the horizon court. Went to "Destination Anywhere" production show, by far the Star's best show. Well done. And then another dose of Tom Briscoe comedy. Captain has warned us we may get the 6-7 meters swells right before sunrise.
3/18 At sea. Quite a ride this morning, 3-4 meter swells off the coast of San Diego/Los Angeles. Spent a few minutes enjoying the ride in the Skywalker's lounge at the back of the ship. About 11:00 the bridge announced that deck 14, Horizon Deck, was "unsafe". Not sure what that meant. In the Princess Theater for the cooking demo and galley tour. Fun, but not what I had expected. Went to the lecture, "Virtual Bridge Tour" in the afternoon. Also the movie is on, "J. Edgar". Last game of bingo today will be for $2600 jackpot. No I didn't win. Dinner for the final night was nice and then the Bobby Borgia show.
3/19 Arrived in SF right before 6am. Staff is prepping the ship for the trip to Hawaii. Immigration at 7:30. Thirty minutes of standing and waiting, smooth. Non- US citizens had a separate waiting area. There was a slight delay, 40-45 minutes in getting everyone cleared. We were the third group announced, got the luggage and we were boarding a taxi at 10:20.
Princess is a people caring company, I believe and they do there darnedest to get the right people and they get that smile on your face. We never sat with a discouraging couple. Trips were great. Food was OK. Entertainment was varied, mostly "hits" and a few "misses". There were things on the ship that needed fixed and you wonder how long they can put them off. The internet has got to be upgraded or has to go. There has got to be a technology out there that could advance this experience to near "dial-up conditions". Slow was not the proper term. And to see our older generation complain about the lack of speed was hilarious. My only other beef is the bed, worn out and the pillows need replaced. The staff was wonderful and I would do the cruise again.