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About Us: Married couple from Los Angeles in our early 40s, no kids  4th cruise, 2nd Princess cruise It was such a pleasure that we were able to actually leave from a port without flying there. Since we live in Los Angeles, we booked SuperShuttle to take us to the port. That was cheaper than leaving our car parked at the port for 15 days (at $12 per day). We had planned to arrive around 1:00 - 1:30pm, hoping that we would miss the crowd. It still took almost 2 hours for us to go through everything and board the ship. Crew told us that the previous cruise, it was even worse since there were multiple ships in port that day.  I guess we were lucky that we were the only ship in San Pedro that day. Demographics Since it is such a long cruise (15 days) and has so many at sea days, I would guess that the average age of the passengers was around 70 - 75. There probably weren't more than 5 - 10 kids on board, and we almost never saw them. I would guess that about 70 - 80% of the passengers were 60+. This was a bit surprising to us - guess because we haven't been cruising that long, it was older clientele than other ships/itineraries we have done. It did seem to be well-traveled passengers - the passenger with the most cruises had been on 40+ cruises for over 300 days. The runners up weren't far behind either. Crew The level of service on this ship is fantastic. I don't think I've ever had a more attentive and accommodating dining staff ever - they were the best! The cruise director and staff were fun and engaging and worked very hard. The performers did a really great job too. Our room steward was okay, but didn't have as good of attention to detail as I have experienced in the past. He often forgot to give us clean beach towels when he took the old ones, and little things like that just not as attentive as the other staff, but all in all, he did a good job. We got a new captain in the middle of the cruise  I guess the replacement didn't make it to Los Angeles in time, so the old captain stayed on board a little longer. We met the new captain at the Members Circle party and found it odd that he doesn't shake hands. Not a very engaging guy, in fact I never saw him smile, but that really isn't so important anyway, now is it? He got us to the ports and home safely, so I'm happy. One little thing I like about Princess is that I haven't even had problems with their accents like I have on other ships. They seem to do a great job of selecting and training their staff. Our Room We had booked a mini-suite very close to the rear of the ship on the port side (we booked last minute so we got what was available). The room was in pretty good shape although a bit smaller than I had anticipated. Not a lot of room to walk around the bed but it was nice to have the extra seating area and couch with a second TV especially since we spent more time in the room than usual with all of the sea days. The beds do have the new duvets although we found it a bit strange that they have eliminated the top sheet on the bed since they are using duvets. One recommendation that I'm sure everyone has seen a million times but you really do need a power strip if you have any electronics. The one plug in the bathroom is located to the right of the sink in the storage shelves, but it only fits the old style plugs where both prongs are the same size (my blow dryer plug wouldn't work since one side of the prong is larger than the other). The other outlet we found was above the desk but situated in such a way that cell phone, camera battery or any other large size plug is difficult to plug in. Also, out by that desk is a well-powered blow dryer that we ended up using instead of our travel one. The bathroom toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc.) in the mini-suites were good quality I think it is different from the ones they put in regular rooms. The shower curtain caused us some frustration - for some reason the magnets never worked to hold it to the side of the tub and it always seemed to be blowing into the shower and sticking to your butt - but we finally figured out if you aim the shower head toward the shower curtain and slightly open the bathroom door, it helps keep the curtain away from your body so you could shower. On our balcony, there were 4 chairs and a small table. I asked about getting a lounge chair, but was told that due to the fire on the Sun, they have now replaced all of those lounge chairs with the new style chair and the steward showed me how two of the chairs were designed with backs that can recline. The Food We were booked for second seating dinner. I guess on this itinerary, the early seating is the most desired - the waiters told us that they were extending tables to pack as many people into the early seating as possible. So, if you want more individual attention, the late seating is probably the way to go on this itinerary. Two of our table mates met us for dinner the first evening, but then were able to get moved to the early seating. The other two never showed up, so we were alone at a table of six. On the 3rd night, we joined some terrific Cruise Critic folks and changed to anytime seating then dined with them the rest of the cruise. We were able to book the same time and table even though it was anytime seating so we had the same wait staff the whole cruise. I can't say enough good things about their service from the Maitre d hotel Ignazio to the head waiter Yarmin (or something like that) to our waiter Agnes and her assistant Aron - they were all terrific. They went out of their way to bring special things for us and really took good care of us for the whole trip. We did eat in the Bayou Cafe one evening, and in Sabatini's the other evening  both were very good, although I happen to prefer the food in Sabatini's. Both places, we ate so much we thought we would burst. There was an outbreak of Norovirus on our cruise  about the 2nd or 3rd day they made an announcement about it and stopped letting us serve ourselves at the buffet (and took away the salt, pepper, etc. at dinner). It must have cleared up by mid-trip, because they stopped all of those precautions about 4 or 5 days later. Who knows how much of it was Norovirus and how much was just really rough seas. Overall, I think the food was good  although maybe not as great as I had hoped. I certainly had more than my share of the amazing breads that they bake daily  and the pineapple on the ship is truly fantastic. We would get a bowl of it every night and save it in the fridge for breakfast (for some reason they didn't normally serve the pineapple at breakfast). We also had some very memorable fruit sorbets. The regular water on the ship is VERY good - we drank a lot of it! We did use bottled water for in the room (so it wouldn't spill) and for ports, but for all of the meals, we were very happy with their water. On the negatives, we found the fish was often a bit fishy, and the cakes a bit dry and bland. As everyone has already mentioned, the coffee is really bad. On our galley tour, we mentioned it to Ignazio, and he showed us that it is a Columbian coffee extract syrup. If you want brewed coffee, you can get it from the coffee bar, or Sabatinis (they brought it to the dining room from Sabatini's for us a few nights). The always available shrimp cocktail and filet were a good choice if nothing else on the menu was appealing. They brought us the following night's menu each evening to help us select which nights to go to Sabatini's and Bayou Cafe. We went to the Bayou Cafe on the evening after the first formal dinner, and to Sabatini's the evening after the second formal dinner. It did seem that in general the menus started out a little weak and got better toward the end of the cruise. The grilled chicken, burgers and brats were always good at the Grill, and the pizza was also good with a perfectly crisp thin crust. Weather The weather was very pretty on embarkation day, but turned chilly by the time we left port that evening. We had pretty rough seas on this trip. Even quite a few of the crew members were ill. The second day at sea on the way to Hawaii was definitely the worst. My husband gets seasick, so he took Bonine and thankfully was only a little queasy. I'm pretty confident now that I just don't get seasick so lucky for me. That day at sea was our first formal night, and only about half the dining room was full that night. The last day at sea on our way to Hawaii was better and finally warm enough to be outside by the pool that was probably the only sea day we could do that. The weather in Hawaii was terrific! Couldn't have asked for better. We had one small rain storm late afternoon in Kauai, but I think that was the only rain the whole time we were there. Otherwise, it was sunny and nice the entire time we were in Hawaii daytime temps in the low 80s. When we left Hawaii, the first at sea day was definitely rough with periods of sun and rain. After spending an hour or two going from the outside pool area to inside area (every 15 minutes it would rain and strong blowing wind), I gave up and stayed at the indoor pool. The seas got increasingly better as we got closer to Los Angeles. However, it was VERY windy and rather cold the entire trip back. Aside from my 15 or 30 minutes in the sun that first day at sea on the way back, the rest of the return trip was pretty cold. They even ended up turning off some of the automatic doors between the pool areas because the wind gusts were so strong. Both of the pools were empty and closed after that through the end of the cruise. I think the indoor pool (which is a wave pool) was splashing too much for them to keep water in it. So, the only water was in the hot tubs, which were quite busy on this trip. The weather was in the low 60s when we returned to Los Angeles, and although it was sunny, it was windy and chilly. Ports Kona Our first port was Kona. We were definitely ready to be on land after so many days at sea. Unfortunately, it took us several hours to tender off the ship. We arrived in the Explorer Lounge at 9am and were on the 16th tender. We finally made it off the ship around 11:45am. Keep this in mind if you schedule anything on your own. Since we had never been to the big Island, we were a bit surprised by the landscape in Kona. It isn't the lush landscape you expect from Hawaii- it's more like a big volcano field. Guess we should have expected that. We had rented a car with Thrifty at the hotel there and it was a breeze to pick up and drop off the easiest rental of our whole trip. I tried to call them to tell them we were running late getting off the ship, but never got an answer. Thankfully, they had a car waiting for us when we arrived (even though we were 2 ½ hours later than the reservation time). You definitely want to book cars in advance and online, the same car we had reserved for $29 was being quoted at $79 to people that just walked up. And by the time we got our car in Kona, they were out of cars completely. We had reserved a snorkeling excursion privately with Dolphin Discoveries (referred by someone on CC), but they left us a message that morning that they cancelled the afternoon excursion not sure why. So that left us with a full day to drive around and just check out the Kona area. We saw the painted church, a coffee farm, and started to go to a beach, but it wasn't a sandy beach, so we changed our minds and just keep driving. We also found a nice area north of Kona with quite a few resorts and high end shopping, but didn't have enough time to go all the way up to Waimea. Hilo The Hilo landscape is in stark contrast to Kona. Again, we rented a car and headed off on our own. We spent a couple of hours at Volcano National Park it is really interesting with probably 5 - 6 stops to look at different areas of lava flow, craters, steam vents, etc. One of the last stops is a blowhole this is not to be missed, but does require a bit of hiking and is a little muddy. After we left VNP, we headed to Akaki Falls and hiked the circle trail there. It's quite interesting to go from Volcano craters to dense rain forest with less than an hour's drive. On our way back from Akaki Falls, we took a short scenic route along the coast and stopped at What's Shakin for a delish fruit smoothie. Then back to return the rental car and head to the ship. Honolulu We were fortunate to have friends in Honolulu, so they took us on a couple hour drive to give us different perspectives on the island, then loaned us their car for the rest of the day. We were intrigued to find out that the micro climates really impact the weather from mile to mile. Our friends live in a valley and get 200 inches of rain per year, half a mile closer to the beach, it only rains 100 inches per year, and in Waikiki, they only get something like 18 inches a year. All that in only a few miles. We headed out to the North Shore. Unfortunately, the waves weren't big enough for the surfing competition to be on that day, but we enjoyed watching the surfers practice. It was very windy on that side of the island but a completely different feel than Waikiki. We then continued on around the island to the Buddhist Temple that was fascinating. If we had more time, we probably would have gone to the Polynesian Cultural Center, but it is a whole day experience and costs around $40, so not a good half-hour stop kind of place. We also drove to Hanauma Bay, but found it was closed on Tuesdays. We ended our day on Waikiki Beach with a Mai Tai at sunset at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Classic! Kauai We privately booked a helicopter tour here with Safari Helicopters and we had a great time. The ride was very smooth nothing like my husbands prior experience with a helicopter tour on Maui that was more like an e-ticket ride. Definitely book this on the internet! We went with other people that paid over $200 for the same tour they had called rather than booking online. The Safari people picked us up at the port, right on time. The actual air time is probably more like 45 minutes (they say 55 minutes, but that must include time on the ground in the helicopter). It was very beautiful and a great way to see the island. Once we got back to the ship, we took one of the free shuttles about ½ a mile to the beach & shopping center. The shuttles run about every 10 - 15 minutes. Then we just hung out on the beach for a couple of hours. This is also where we picked up some mac nuts and other small gifts (at the ABC store). We made it back to the ship with what we thought was only minutes to spare, but it turned out that there was a huge traffic accident and over 100 passengers were stuck in traffic (including several Princess tours). So, we didn'tt end up leaving port until about 1 ½ hours late that day. The local laws require that ships be out of the port by sundown, so the ship left a tender on shore and the ship left the port, then about an hour later (around 8pm) tendered the last of the passengers back to the ship. This is one of those times though that if there hadn't been Princess tours still stuck away from the ship, some of the passengers would have likely been left behind. The other ship in port that day had the same problem and ended up tendering some of their passengers out to the ship too. Maui Since our snorkeling trip in Kona was cancelled, while we were on the ship we were able to book Princess' Molokini Snorkel excursion at 10:30am. Since it was a tender port, the tour passengers actually met on the dock at 11am. We went in a bit early and walked around the downtown area until our 11am meeting time. I would guess that this is probably the only way to do it if you're on this ship. Most of the local excursions go in the early morning, but since it is a tender port, I doubt you can make it off the ship in time to go on a privately booked Molokini snorkel trip. We had a great time the crew on the boat was really great and they offered both wetsuits and underwater digital cameras for rent on board. I personally didn't feel like I would have needed a wetsuit there. I'm not a strong swimmer, so I took my own dry snorkel and snorkeling buoyancy vest with me, but used their fins. They will provide all equipment if you want, but I've never seen a snorkel company to offer dry snorkels, so I always take my own mask/snorkel. They also offered the water noodle things, and had staff in the water on surf boards to help out any hesitant passengers. I have to say getting off the boat is the worst part for me, so being able to fall forward onto the surf board was really great. Once I was in the water, I was fine and not at all scared. On the way back, they served complimentary tortilla chips, salsa, fruit and drinks (including pretty good mai tais). We spent another half hour or so walking around, and then got in line for the tender back to the ship. It seemed like the days in port went very quickly. I was a little tired of having so many full days back to back and was ready for a sea day (or five). Ensenada I'm not sure you can really consider this a serious port. We got in around 5pm and left at 7:30. Just long enough to catch a shuttle into the downtown area ($2 each to go, $1 each to come back). I ended up buying a bottle of Kaluha for $10 in the shop right off the ship. There is also a small bar there, and about 6 - 8 stalls where they sell stuff without you having to go into the town or come back in through security. It was quite cold (probably in the 50s). The trip back to LA was pretty uneventful. Just remember to pack warm clothes! Those sea days can be pretty chilly, and so can some of the public areas. Disembarkation was quite smooth and easy. We were off the ship by 9:30am and through customs and had our luggage within less than 30 minutes. We had arranged for SuperShuttle for our return trip. You may be better off not booking something in advance though we saw people getting better rates without a reservation than with one but not by much, just a few dollars. One thing we found frustrating though is that the driver had no idea where anything was in the San Fernando Valley. He told us that because SuperShuttle is a franchise a different company has the franchise for the San Pedro area than the Valley or Orange County. So, someone from the SF Valley shuttle can't pick up at San Pedro, and the San Pedro vans can't pick up in the Valley or Orange County. It made for a frustrating return trip because different people were telling the driver different ways to go and bickering about who would be dropped off when the whole trip. I would probably recommend arranging some alternate transportation for the return trip since there were so many people on the ship, we were packed in that van like sardines. Of course, on the trip to the ship, we didn't share with anyone and had a really nice trip down there. A big thanks to all of the cruise critic folks on these boards that helped us in planning this trip. Also, to everyone who participated on our roll call it was great to meet you all. Note: we met before lunch the first day at sea in the Wheelhouse (we had 50 - 60 people I think). It was the perfect time to meet everyone who had been communicating in advance and also to meet so we could recognize familiar faces throughout the cruise. Thanks to everyone that participated in making that possible!

Island Princess - Hawaii

Island Princess Cruise Review by splummer

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: December 2006
  • Destination: Hawaii
About Us: Married couple from Los Angeles in our early 40s, no kids  4th cruise, 2nd Princess cruise
It was such a pleasure that we were able to actually leave from a port without flying there. Since we live in Los Angeles, we booked SuperShuttle to take us to the port. That was cheaper than leaving our car parked at the port for 15 days (at $12 per day). We had planned to arrive around 1:00 - 1:30pm, hoping that we would miss the crowd. It still took almost 2 hours for us to go through everything and board the ship. Crew told us that the previous cruise, it was even worse since there were multiple ships in port that day.  I guess we were lucky that we were the only ship in San Pedro that day.
Demographics Since it is such a long cruise (15 days) and has so many at sea days, I would guess that the average age of the passengers was around 70 - 75. There probably weren't more than 5 - 10 kids on board, and we almost never saw them. I would guess that about 70 - 80% of the passengers were 60+. This was a bit surprising to us - guess because we haven't been cruising that long, it was older clientele than other ships/itineraries we have done. It did seem to be well-traveled passengers - the passenger with the most cruises had been on 40+ cruises for over 300 days. The runners up weren't far behind either.
Crew The level of service on this ship is fantastic. I don't think I've ever had a more attentive and accommodating dining staff ever - they were the best! The cruise director and staff were fun and engaging and worked very hard. The performers did a really great job too. Our room steward was okay, but didn't have as good of attention to detail as I have experienced in the past. He often forgot to give us clean beach towels when he took the old ones, and little things like that just not as attentive as the other staff, but all in all, he did a good job. We got a new captain in the middle of the cruise  I guess the replacement didn't make it to Los Angeles in time, so the old captain stayed on board a little longer. We met the new captain at the Members Circle party and found it odd that he doesn't shake hands. Not a very engaging guy, in fact I never saw him smile, but that really isn't so important anyway, now is it? He got us to the ports and home safely, so I'm happy. One little thing I like about Princess is that I haven't even had problems with their accents like I have on other ships. They seem to do a great job of selecting and training their staff.
Our Room We had booked a mini-suite very close to the rear of the ship on the port side (we booked last minute so we got what was available). The room was in pretty good shape although a bit smaller than I had anticipated. Not a lot of room to walk around the bed but it was nice to have the extra seating area and couch with a second TV especially since we spent more time in the room than usual with all of the sea days. The beds do have the new duvets although we found it a bit strange that they have eliminated the top sheet on the bed since they are using duvets. One recommendation that I'm sure everyone has seen a million times but you really do need a power strip if you have any electronics. The one plug in the bathroom is located to the right of the sink in the storage shelves, but it only fits the old style plugs where both prongs are the same size (my blow dryer plug wouldn't work since one side of the prong is larger than the other). The other outlet we found was above the desk but situated in such a way that cell phone, camera battery or any other large size plug is difficult to plug in. Also, out by that desk is a well-powered blow dryer that we ended up using instead of our travel one. The bathroom toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc.) in the mini-suites were good quality I think it is different from the ones they put in regular rooms. The shower curtain caused us some frustration - for some reason the magnets never worked to hold it to the side of the tub and it always seemed to be blowing into the shower and sticking to your butt - but we finally figured out if you aim the shower head toward the shower curtain and slightly open the bathroom door, it helps keep the curtain away from your body so you could shower. On our balcony, there were 4 chairs and a small table. I asked about getting a lounge chair, but was told that due to the fire on the Sun, they have now replaced all of those lounge chairs with the new style chair and the steward showed me how two of the chairs were designed with backs that can recline.
The Food We were booked for second seating dinner. I guess on this itinerary, the early seating is the most desired - the waiters told us that they were extending tables to pack as many people into the early seating as possible. So, if you want more individual attention, the late seating is probably the way to go on this itinerary. Two of our table mates met us for dinner the first evening, but then were able to get moved to the early seating. The other two never showed up, so we were alone at a table of six. On the 3rd night, we joined some terrific Cruise Critic folks and changed to anytime seating then dined with them the rest of the cruise. We were able to book the same time and table even though it was anytime seating so we had the same wait staff the whole cruise. I can't say enough good things about their service from the Maitre d hotel Ignazio to the head waiter Yarmin (or something like that) to our waiter Agnes and her assistant Aron - they were all terrific. They went out of their way to bring special things for us and really took good care of us for the whole trip. We did eat in the Bayou Cafe one evening, and in Sabatini's the other evening  both were very good, although I happen to prefer the food in Sabatini's. Both places, we ate so much we thought we would burst.
There was an outbreak of Norovirus on our cruise  about the 2nd or 3rd day they made an announcement about it and stopped letting us serve ourselves at the buffet (and took away the salt, pepper, etc. at dinner). It must have cleared up by mid-trip, because they stopped all of those precautions about 4 or 5 days later. Who knows how much of it was Norovirus and how much was just really rough seas.
Overall, I think the food was good  although maybe not as great as I had hoped. I certainly had more than my share of the amazing breads that they bake daily  and the pineapple on the ship is truly fantastic. We would get a bowl of it every night and save it in the fridge for breakfast (for some reason they didn't normally serve the pineapple at breakfast). We also had some very memorable fruit sorbets. The regular water on the ship is VERY good - we drank a lot of it! We did use bottled water for in the room (so it wouldn't spill) and for ports, but for all of the meals, we were very happy with their water. On the negatives, we found the fish was often a bit fishy, and the cakes a bit dry and bland. As everyone has already mentioned, the coffee is really bad. On our galley tour, we mentioned it to Ignazio, and he showed us that it is a Columbian coffee extract syrup. If you want brewed coffee, you can get it from the coffee bar, or Sabatinis (they brought it to the dining room from Sabatini's for us a few nights). The always available shrimp cocktail and filet were a good choice if nothing else on the menu was appealing. They brought us the following night's menu each evening to help us select which nights to go to Sabatini's and Bayou Cafe. We went to the Bayou Cafe on the evening after the first formal dinner, and to Sabatini's the evening after the second formal dinner. It did seem that in general the menus started out a little weak and got better toward the end of the cruise. The grilled chicken, burgers and brats were always good at the Grill, and the pizza was also good with a perfectly crisp thin crust.
Weather The weather was very pretty on embarkation day, but turned chilly by the time we left port that evening. We had pretty rough seas on this trip. Even quite a few of the crew members were ill. The second day at sea on the way to Hawaii was definitely the worst. My husband gets seasick, so he took Bonine and thankfully was only a little queasy. I'm pretty confident now that I just don't get seasick so lucky for me. That day at sea was our first formal night, and only about half the dining room was full that night. The last day at sea on our way to Hawaii was better and finally warm enough to be outside by the pool that was probably the only sea day we could do that.
The weather in Hawaii was terrific! Couldn't have asked for better. We had one small rain storm late afternoon in Kauai, but I think that was the only rain the whole time we were there. Otherwise, it was sunny and nice the entire time we were in Hawaii daytime temps in the low 80s.
When we left Hawaii, the first at sea day was definitely rough with periods of sun and rain. After spending an hour or two going from the outside pool area to inside area (every 15 minutes it would rain and strong blowing wind), I gave up and stayed at the indoor pool. The seas got increasingly better as we got closer to Los Angeles. However, it was VERY windy and rather cold the entire trip back. Aside from my 15 or 30 minutes in the sun that first day at sea on the way back, the rest of the return trip was pretty cold. They even ended up turning off some of the automatic doors between the pool areas because the wind gusts were so strong. Both of the pools were empty and closed after that through the end of the cruise. I think the indoor pool (which is a wave pool) was splashing too much for them to keep water in it. So, the only water was in the hot tubs, which were quite busy on this trip.
The weather was in the low 60s when we returned to Los Angeles, and although it was sunny, it was windy and chilly.
Ports Kona Our first port was Kona. We were definitely ready to be on land after so many days at sea. Unfortunately, it took us several hours to tender off the ship. We arrived in the Explorer Lounge at 9am and were on the 16th tender. We finally made it off the ship around 11:45am. Keep this in mind if you schedule anything on your own. Since we had never been to the big Island, we were a bit surprised by the landscape in Kona. It isn't the lush landscape you expect from Hawaii- it's more like a big volcano field. Guess we should have expected that. We had rented a car with Thrifty at the hotel there and it was a breeze to pick up and drop off the easiest rental of our whole trip. I tried to call them to tell them we were running late getting off the ship, but never got an answer. Thankfully, they had a car waiting for us when we arrived (even though we were 2 ½ hours later than the reservation time). You definitely want to book cars in advance and online, the same car we had reserved for $29 was being quoted at $79 to people that just walked up. And by the time we got our car in Kona, they were out of cars completely.
We had reserved a snorkeling excursion privately with Dolphin Discoveries (referred by someone on CC), but they left us a message that morning that they cancelled the afternoon excursion not sure why. So that left us with a full day to drive around and just check out the Kona area. We saw the painted church, a coffee farm, and started to go to a beach, but it wasn't a sandy beach, so we changed our minds and just keep driving. We also found a nice area north of Kona with quite a few resorts and high end shopping, but didn't have enough time to go all the way up to Waimea.
Hilo The Hilo landscape is in stark contrast to Kona. Again, we rented a car and headed off on our own. We spent a couple of hours at Volcano National Park it is really interesting with probably 5 - 6 stops to look at different areas of lava flow, craters, steam vents, etc. One of the last stops is a blowhole this is not to be missed, but does require a bit of hiking and is a little muddy. After we left VNP, we headed to Akaki Falls and hiked the circle trail there. It's quite interesting to go from Volcano craters to dense rain forest with less than an hour's drive. On our way back from Akaki Falls, we took a short scenic route along the coast and stopped at What's Shakin for a delish fruit smoothie. Then back to return the rental car and head to the ship.
Honolulu We were fortunate to have friends in Honolulu, so they took us on a couple hour drive to give us different perspectives on the island, then loaned us their car for the rest of the day. We were intrigued to find out that the micro climates really impact the weather from mile to mile. Our friends live in a valley and get 200 inches of rain per year, half a mile closer to the beach, it only rains 100 inches per year, and in Waikiki, they only get something like 18 inches a year. All that in only a few miles. We headed out to the North Shore. Unfortunately, the waves weren't big enough for the surfing competition to be on that day, but we enjoyed watching the surfers practice. It was very windy on that side of the island but a completely different feel than Waikiki. We then continued on around the island to the Buddhist Temple that was fascinating. If we had more time, we probably would have gone to the Polynesian Cultural Center, but it is a whole day experience and costs around $40, so not a good half-hour stop kind of place. We also drove to Hanauma Bay, but found it was closed on Tuesdays. We ended our day on Waikiki Beach with a Mai Tai at sunset at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Classic!
Kauai We privately booked a helicopter tour here with Safari Helicopters and we had a great time. The ride was very smooth nothing like my husbands prior experience with a helicopter tour on Maui that was more like an e-ticket ride. Definitely book this on the internet! We went with other people that paid over $200 for the same tour they had called rather than booking online. The Safari people picked us up at the port, right on time. The actual air time is probably more like 45 minutes (they say 55 minutes, but that must include time on the ground in the helicopter). It was very beautiful and a great way to see the island. Once we got back to the ship, we took one of the free shuttles about ½ a mile to the beach & shopping center. The shuttles run about every 10 - 15 minutes. Then we just hung out on the beach for a couple of hours. This is also where we picked up some mac nuts and other small gifts (at the ABC store). We made it back to the ship with what we thought was only minutes to spare, but it turned out that there was a huge traffic accident and over 100 passengers were stuck in traffic (including several Princess tours). So, we didn'tt end up leaving port until about 1 ½ hours late that day. The local laws require that ships be out of the port by sundown, so the ship left a tender on shore and the ship left the port, then about an hour later (around 8pm) tendered the last of the passengers back to the ship. This is one of those times though that if there hadn't been Princess tours still stuck away from the ship, some of the passengers would have likely been left behind. The other ship in port that day had the same problem and ended up tendering some of their passengers out to the ship too.
Maui Since our snorkeling trip in Kona was cancelled, while we were on the ship we were able to book Princess' Molokini Snorkel excursion at 10:30am. Since it was a tender port, the tour passengers actually met on the dock at 11am. We went in a bit early and walked around the downtown area until our 11am meeting time. I would guess that this is probably the only way to do it if you're on this ship. Most of the local excursions go in the early morning, but since it is a tender port, I doubt you can make it off the ship in time to go on a privately booked Molokini snorkel trip. We had a great time the crew on the boat was really great and they offered both wetsuits and underwater digital cameras for rent on board. I personally didn't feel like I would have needed a wetsuit there. I'm not a strong swimmer, so I took my own dry snorkel and snorkeling buoyancy vest with me, but used their fins. They will provide all equipment if you want, but I've never seen a snorkel company to offer dry snorkels, so I always take my own mask/snorkel. They also offered the water noodle things, and had staff in the water on surf boards to help out any hesitant passengers. I have to say getting off the boat is the worst part for me, so being able to fall forward onto the surf board was really great. Once I was in the water, I was fine and not at all scared. On the way back, they served complimentary tortilla chips, salsa, fruit and drinks (including pretty good mai tais). We spent another half hour or so walking around, and then got in line for the tender back to the ship.
It seemed like the days in port went very quickly. I was a little tired of having so many full days back to back and was ready for a sea day (or five).
Ensenada I'm not sure you can really consider this a serious port. We got in around 5pm and left at 7:30. Just long enough to catch a shuttle into the downtown area ($2 each to go, $1 each to come back). I ended up buying a bottle of Kaluha for $10 in the shop right off the ship. There is also a small bar there, and about 6 - 8 stalls where they sell stuff without you having to go into the town or come back in through security. It was quite cold (probably in the 50s).
The trip back to LA was pretty uneventful. Just remember to pack warm clothes! Those sea days can be pretty chilly, and so can some of the public areas.
Disembarkation was quite smooth and easy. We were off the ship by 9:30am and through customs and had our luggage within less than 30 minutes. We had arranged for SuperShuttle for our return trip. You may be better off not booking something in advance though we saw people getting better rates without a reservation than with one but not by much, just a few dollars. One thing we found frustrating though is that the driver had no idea where anything was in the San Fernando Valley. He told us that because SuperShuttle is a franchise a different company has the franchise for the San Pedro area than the Valley or Orange County. So, someone from the SF Valley shuttle can't pick up at San Pedro, and the San Pedro vans can't pick up in the Valley or Orange County. It made for a frustrating return trip because different people were telling the driver different ways to go and bickering about who would be dropped off when the whole trip. I would probably recommend arranging some alternate transportation for the return trip since there were so many people on the ship, we were packed in that van like sardines. Of course, on the trip to the ship, we didn't share with anyone and had a really nice trip down there.
A big thanks to all of the cruise critic folks on these boards that helped us in planning this trip. Also, to everyone who participated on our roll call it was great to meet you all. Note: we met before lunch the first day at sea in the Wheelhouse (we had 50 - 60 people I think). It was the perfect time to meet everyone who had been communicating in advance and also to meet so we could recognize familiar faces throughout the cruise. Thanks to everyone that participated in making that possible!
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