My husband and I are both 32. This was our 7th cruise and 7th unique itinerary, our 3rd cruise with our daughter who is 3, our 2nd cruise we’ve taken with other family members, and our 1st cruise with Princess Cruises. Our others have been 3x Carnival, 2x Disney, and 1x NCL. I am a travel agent that specializes in Disney and Cruises, so I do a lot of research prior to traveling. We love cruising and wish we could sail all ships and itineraries. We are slowly working our way around the world by sea! We’d like to try out other destinations on their own, but the value of a cruise gets us every time.
Travel to Embarkation Port:
Cabin:We had an interior cabin A717, Aloha, Deck 12, Category ID. We were 1 cabin away from the AFT elevators. We selected this cabin location to be ‘near’ the kids club, which was AFT on deck 17. We were also 2 decks lower than the LIDO deck where the buffet was located, for easy access to drinks and food in the early morning. We also needed a cabin that had room for 4 and also had similar cabins next door, for our family that was traveling with us. Given the limited choices we had, this was the best pick. The location of the cabin to the elevator bank and stairs was perfect. The location to the spots on the ship we spent most of our time was a bit of a walk. We took stairs when we could, but there were times, with the stroller for instance, that using an elevator would be more efficient, but the waits at peak dining times were bad, due to our closeness to the buffet.The noises from the area in our direct vicinity were minimal. The noises from the thrusters, early in the morning when we arrive at port, or leave in the evening were quite loud. Lucky for me, I tend to get up early, even on vacation. We had some early starts to our port days and the unexpected wakeup call helped in those situations. Our daughter slept through the vibration every time. It wasn’t that loud or disturbing, but just enough to wake you gently if you were in that stage of a sleep cycle.The layout of the room was fantastic. Looking at the floor plan, I was worried that it would feel cramped. Our daughter is only 3, so she doesn’t take up too much space and her bed was only down from the time after dinner through breakfast the next morning. Our luggage fit easily beneath ONE of the twin beds and we found a spot to prop up the stroller in the closet. Speaking of the closet, it is great! I thought I might be bothered by the lack of doors and openly ‘messy’ look of seeing hangers and clothes all the time, but the openness greatly outweighed the messiness. There was room for twice as many clothes as we brought to hang up. We could have used more hangers, and meant to ask for more, but we didn’t run into our steward in time for it to be worthwhile. He was ninja sneaky the first few days of the cruise.Then there is the bathroom. It can always be bigger on a cruise ship, but I don’t have many complaints. I felt the layout was nice. I am smaller than most, so I could comfortable move about. All three of us were inside the room brushing our teeth one night, so that alone is impressive. The shower did seem smaller than some, but I think one always thinks that when they see their shower on a cruise. :) The hair dryer leaves something to be desired, but did in fact dry my hair. It takes a while to get going, but once it reached full heat, it seemed to dry quickly. The air temperature in the room was nice and the control on the wall appeared to work well for what we wanted. The TV, we didn’t use it too much. We mostly caught a movie in the morning while getting ready for the day and at night after picking our daughter up from the kids club. There is a double plug at the desk, in which we could really only use 1 at a time, due to the size of the phone charger adapters. We managed to reach behind the TV and plug in our second phone. We had a double charger, but only one device would charge at a time, they probably have a way to limit the amps going to each outlet.The cleanliness of the room was great, I didn’t notice any areas that were in need of great repair. Though, one of the drawers on a nightstand didn’t work. We had 3 others to use and lots of other shelves and storage spots to stick all our random pieces. To help organize a little, I did bring an over the door organizer to hang on the bathroom door, it worked great for the items I use more frequently.Cabin Grade: 4/5, 5 for an interior cabin.
What’s not to love about this city? I think there is something for everybody here. We did just about all anyone could do in a 12 hour period. The ship docked around 7am and sailed away around 11PM.At 8am, we left the ship and walked a few piers North to the Alcatraz Tour. We had booked this tour on our own and grabbed the first time of the day, along with 300 other people! It looks like a lot of people, but we all moved at different speeds, so it wasn’t TOO crowded at any point. We opted for the free audio tour, which was informative and interesting. They share day to day operations as well as stories from several prisoners, including attempts at escape. There was an art exhibition going on as well, by a Chinese Artist. The subject was freedom and the governments’ acts to restrict it. I wanted to explore more, but time was of the essence and we were starting to get hungry for lunch. So, we hopped the next ferry back to the city. For $30 per person, for the ferry, the price was a little steep, but such is a monopoly! You could try to swim there.. I suppose. :)We walked from the Alcatraz Ferry landing to Chinatown. Maybe 20-30 minute walk. We stopped at the first restaurant on my list to check out the menu. In the weeks before the cruise, I had used Yelp! to come up with a list of yummy places to eat in Chinatown. We took a chance on Lai Hong Lounge. The prices are higher than other Dim Sum spots, but it has the added benefit of being table service. No carts here. But, the quality of the dim sum was excellent! Our lunch in Chinatown was maybe $50 or so, for 7 people, and the food was amazing. We later saw the window of another place I thought about trying. It was more street side deli style. The dim sum there were HUGE and cheap, but I had heard it was sometime more wrapper than it was filling, and I think there was more selection at the restaurant. ! We hit up the usual tourist stops: Dragon Gate, Grant Ave shopping, and the fortune cookie factory. I picked up a bamboo flute and paper fan for my daughter, $3 total. They still probably made $2.99 on that sale. :)Our next stop was the Golden Gate Bridge, which was 4 miles away. We were in no way walking that! So, we used google maps to find us a bus route. The quickest route ended up being a commuter bus. The ‘locals’ weren’t so happy about us taking up space and it did cost twice as much as the Muni bus, but it got us there in less than half the time we were expecting! We got our photos and caught the Muni bus to Ft Mason and walked the rest of the way to Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman’s wharf, etc. We personally, went to these spots mainly for our travel companions and maybe to say.. yes, we’ve stepped foot there. To us, they are just touristy traps for shopping and expensive/mediocre foods. $10 sundaes? No thanks! Of course, we didn’t mind the free sample of chocolate at Ghirardelli! Hehe! After shopping, we hoofed it back up the hill towards Chinatown and had a few drinks and food at Rogue Public House. We wanted to do a local brewery, but their locations weren’t very convenient to the ship. Instead we settled for what we thought should be a solid choice. Rogue is known for their good beers, and that part was good. The food was OK and they were out of many things on the menu… really? A sign of bad management… how does one run out of pulled pork and French fries in America!? The beer cheese soup was watery, but it tasted good enough after a long long long walk of a day. The hummus was good enough, but of course.. not enough chips/bread.By the time we left, it was dark, and the ship was around a mile away? So, another 20 minute walk, which included a flight of stairs, and loud drunks following us (family). Thankfully someone local was walking around to let us know the stairs were there… because it was a little confusing to be looking at bushes when you thought the road continued that direction.. haha. We got back to the ship safely and boarded without any issues. It was a long but good day in San Francisco, I can’t wait to go back.
Our hometown! Yes, we cruised to our own city, we are a part of a lame cruise joke. We actually live 30 minutes north of the cruise port and downtown. Anyhow, we had family with us that had not been here before, so we used public transportation to get to the San Diego Zoo from the cruise pier. We are zoo members and had a few passes to get our family in for 50% off. We got to the zoo shortly before it opened at 9AM. We took them on a tour that covered just about the whole zoo, just not the Children’s area. We even back tracked to the tigers to see if he was out… we got a little bit of a glimpse. Other than that they got to see great views of the Pandas, Polar Bears, Elephants, Monkeys, Giraffes, etc. We even got a great view of the baby Orangutan, who is just under a year old and climbing the ropes on her own. We left the around 2PM to catch the bus back to downtown SD. We were tired and famished. We met our other family at the downtown Karl Strauss location for some local beer and happy hour snacks at 3PM. This is one of our favorite spots for good & inexpensive food/beer for happy hour, but we normally go to a location that is closer to our home. This location was only a couple blocks from the cruise pier, so it worked out well.
The first time we went to Ensenada, we did the winery tour. So, we sent a few of our family members on that tour through the ship. Our daughter stayed on board to play in the kids club, and the rest of us walked on our own around Ensenada. We got off the ship around 10am, because there was NOTHING going on. We learned it would have been better to get off at 10:30 or maybe even 10:45, because some of the places we wanted to go were not open yet.My plan was to go to Hussong’s Cantina and Taquiera Mexico Lindo next door. The walk from the ship to Avenue Ruiz, wasn’t too long, so we got there quickly. When we arrived, neither place was open yet. I decided we could go to the local super market and scope out the liquor prices. We had passed a Calimax, on our walk over, so we back tracked to check it out. Their selection was pretty slim and they didn’t have what I was looking for. So, we returned to see if the places we wanted to go were open. They weren’t, but, there were signs of life behind the doors, so we sat down to watch the antics next door at Papa’s and Beer. Think: Senor Frogs or Carlos and Charlie’s. AKA: Bad idea! We felt obligated to order something, so we all got a Margarita for $6.50. They were cheaper than on the ship, so why not? We watched them make it. A large glass with ice, 1 shot of tequila, lime mix, Controy, and filled the rest of the glass with tonic or soda water… something from the bar hose with bubbles… All you could taste was sugary water. Yum… not!! We should have gotten beer, because you know what you’ll get from a bottle. After finishing the sugar drink, we closed the tab and I stuck my head out to see if the taco place was open, which it was.Tacos are certainly tastiest when consumed in Mexico! At Taquiera Lindo, you can sit at the bar and watch the men grill and cut fresh steak, chicken, and fish (technically the fish is fried, but still fresh). They also make quesadillas, burritos, and will serve you up a plate of chips to eat with their array of fresh salsas and sauces. There must have been at least 5 or 6 salsas out on the bar in front of us, each of them unique in flavor and spice. They also have fresh chopped onion and, cilantro, and also sour cream in a bottle. They have bottled drinks in the fridge and the prices aren’t bad at all. I think the beer was $2.50 and tacos were $1.50 each. Three of us walked out of there only spending $17 + tip. We will be back!While we were eating, I noticed the reflection of Hussong’s in the windows across the street. People were coming in and out, now. After finishing up our tacos, we walked next door to get a drink before walking back to the ship. Prices were good at Hussongs, so we had another beer for around $3.50. They had a better selection than the other two places. Dos Equis, Indio, Bohemia, Sol, and other Mexican beers that are much better than Corona. We tried out Indio, it wasn’t bad. Then, we saw people re-ordering their Margaritas and thought… we might as well try them. If someone is ordering a second it must be good right? The story goes that the Margarita was created in Ensenada… possibly in the same bar in which we were sitting. They are served in a small bar glass and cost us $4.50 a piece. The flavor was fantastic and you could actually taste tequila in the drink.. so yay!!On our walk back, we hit up the liquor store in our port building. The guy there was nice to us earlier, chatted it up, and gave us a sample, so we came back to purchase from him. I had taken a note of what he charged and checked places we passed in Ensenada, and the prices were similar. Our goal was to buy some bottles of Controy. For around $13.50USD, you can get this orange liquor that can be interchangeable with Cointreau (expensive French orange liquor) in a margarita recipe. If we like it, we will have to go back for more!