Golden Princess 9-20-09 Coastal: Golden Princess Cruise Review by ccrain

Golden Princess 5
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Golden Princess 9-20-09 Coastal

Sail Date: September 2009
Destination: USA
Embarkation: Vancouver
Golden Princess Pacific Coastal 9-20-09 C753 BB Aft Balcony


Overall, a very good cruise when combined with the follow-on HI cruise. Definitely in our top 5, if not the #4 cruise. We added this particular coastal cruise to the HI 14 day cruise because of the price and it was different. Different ports and a nice starter to the 14 day HI. The most recent cruise to compare to would be the Grand Caribbean Collection in April of 2009. That cruise was in our top 3 at #3.

Not only that but we were able to get C753, one of our favorite aft cabins.

Food - Overall: Very Good. The Crown Grill on this Golden cruise was not as good as the Grand's steakhouse (April 2009 Caribbean Cruise) or the Ultimate Balcony Dinner (UBD) we had on this cruise as well, but well worth it since both the Grand and the UBD were absolutely fantastic. (Sort of comparing a fantastic experience to a just very good experience.) Dining room food is just as good as the More Grand, and because of Mario's (our Head Waiter) little tidbits here and there, even better. HC food is actually better in the morning and the luncheons than the Grand was in April. With the addition of the International Cafe and Vines, I'd have to give the Golden the edge here over the Grand in April as far as overall food.

Service - Simply top notch. Again because of Jean Paul (Maitre De), Mario and Konrad (Head Waiters), I'd have to give the edge to the Golden. Not to take anything away from the Grand and Bruno (Maitre De), but the Golden was just about perfect.

Cabin Steward - Dead heat for service. Both fantastic, but Inri has given us TOWEL ANIMALS, which we have named. A really nice touch and greatly appreciated, all the while he is worried about his family in the Philippines getting flooded out by a typhoon. One of the best of our cabin stewards, in 21 days, never once caught him cleaning the cabin.

Entertainment/Activities - Quite frankly, a little disappointing on this cruise. Granted, it was a repo cruise and a fair judgment cannot be made until the end of the next cruise, but between the canned dance music in the Wheelhouse, and with an inadequate canned music selection, and a cruise staff that just wasn't jelling together, maybe because there is only one girl and a bunch of guys, it just doesn't hold a candle to Tim Donavan and his staff on the Grand in April. But, I'll recheck these observations next week when the real cruise starts to and from HI. (It got much better during the HI cruise the following week.)

A couple of entertainment bright spots: Vian, the ballroom dance instructor, the production shows, especially Motor City, the Baby Dolls (Explorer's dance band) and Dave's (David Cole - Cruise Director) morning show. Vian especially was just not teaching ballroom, he was enthusiastic and it was contagious. The dance company on the ship just seems a bit more "mature" (read older than 21) than we're used to, and it shows in their dancing and singing. It really showed in Motor City when you are up close and personal with the dancers. The Baby Dolls, in spite of the 11 minute opening cha-chas, in which I refused to wimp out, are lots of fun. Both lead singers (Karen and Kenyata) have great range and they can play a large range of music. Dave's morning show was never recorded, which I really appreciated, short, sweet and to the point - in spite of his cruise ship joke book.



We flew up the day before from Denver, Colorado, Saturday, to stay in the Hampton Inn in Richmond, BC, close to the airport. We stay at the Hampton for a couple of reasons - 1) HH Points, only 20k, 2) The Boathouse, which is walking distance down the street and; 3) STEAMERS AT THE BOATHOUSE

Yes, I am a clamaholic. I've had them on the East Coast, in Florida, CA, the North Sea, but nothing beats Pacific Northwest steamed clams and mussels in a light white wine boil. The boathouse has a large bowl of steamers with the most perfect bread dipping au jus, and all the sourdough bread you want to dip. Add a couple of pints of the local ale, a great view and you have the perfect start to a vacation.


On Sunday we boarded the Golden for the 7 day coastal down to LA. Port stops in Nanaimo, Victoria, San Francisco, San Diego, Catalina and then San Pedro.

Then we get set to be "In Transit", do the funny off and on shuffle in the San Pedro terminal, and then back to the buffet for a 14 day cruise to Hawaii (Hawaii, Oahu, Maui and Kuai'i...with a stop in Ensenada) and back. 21 glorious days including 9, count them, 9 days at sea. (We like sea days...)

Yes, I also suffer from OCPD (Obsessive Cruise Planning Disorder). An affliction which causes those of us sufferers to scour cruise message boards for two year old menus and Patters so that we may plan to the last minute the shows we will see, the food we will eat and the schedules we will keep. We worry, up until the time we actually arrive on the ship, that we've booked the right flight, know how to fill out each form, cringe over the thought of forgetting one item, constantly checking to make sure the passport is in the pocket - and then having that little moment of panic when it's not, ITS IN YOUR RIGHT HAND.

The good news is that OCPD lessens a bit with experience, age and senior moments - or at least it has with me. Yes, last night was the dream that we missed the ship and this morning's bridge cam showing the Golden still at sea was a bit of start - until I found the Canada Place webcam and breathed a sigh of relief. Get the picture?

Almost time to catch the cab. And another moment of panic...The Canada Place headline this morning was to the effect that 4 cruise ships in port will impact traffic and loading times and OMG here I go OCPD again...(slap)...(slap)...better now...with a Starbucks across the street and unlimited coffee in the Hampton, caffeine overload is rapidly approaching.

The cab ride was actually pretty interesting. We had to fit 2 suitcases and 3 carry-ons in a little Prius cab. A tight fit. The port was very crowded and they were only allowing traffic in from one direction, but the cabbie did an illegal U-turn, cut in front of the line and zoomed in to the offload. (We tipped him well...)

The lines were pretty long with 3 ships in Canada place, but they weren't boarding yet. So we went through the line, waited about 10 minutes in the elite holding pen and then bolted for the cabin. All in all, about 45 minutes from stepping out of the cab to the cabin.

We are in C753. Yes that BB cabin on the aft starboard corner with the big balcony. Our favorite BB cabin. Plenty of room, covered balcony, aft wake view, it does not get any better. (They could have put more furniture here. Only two chairs and a little coffee table, but what the heck.)

First business of the day, LUNCH, pizza, burger, washed down with a nice cool refreshing Long Island Iced Tea. Well lubricated, fed and relaxed, we toured the new amenities on the Golden. The Piazza, Vines, Cafe and Crown Grill makeover are absolutely incredible. They did a great, great job! From the tile, marble and wood floors to the dark rich wood trim, the Crown Grill is a sight to see. Far, far better than the old Sterling Steakhouse. We can't wait to try the Crown Grill for my Birthday.

We did not like the casino on Deck 7. You basically had to walk through holding your breath or go outside on the deck and bypass the smoke. But if it increases revenues and holds down cruise prices, I can hold my breath for a couple of minutes!

We did the Sail-Away party and I noticed three changes right away. No live band. (Might be because this is a once only itinerary.) The cruise staff was hawking lanyards. Never saw that before. And the giveaways were to a raffle in which you had to visit 10 kiosks around the ship, get your $1000 card stamped at each one, then deposit it in the drum for drawing. ($500 of the giveaway was a credit on art work.) It was pretty popular, so must have been a good idea from someone.

New line dance called the cha cha slide. A rather subdued sailaway, but then all of the ones from Vancouver have been subdued compared to Caribbean and Mex Riviera sailaways. I bet the one for HI will be pretty wild.

Hit the Wheelhouse at 530 for dancing. NO SMOKING IN THE WHEELHOUSE! They have eliminated the smoking section next to the dance floor - someone has been reading our gripes over the years! We can now breathe and dance at the same time. Unfortunately, the band was so-so. One cha-cha later, the band took a 2 hour break and we headed for the new Elite Lounge in Skywalker's. (Yes, they card you at the door.) Gorgeous view. We must have missed the advertised sushi and had cheese/crackers with olives instead. Mingled with a few other couples then went in search of more dance venues. Believe it or not, this would be the only time we make it up to the elite lounge for the next 21 days!

Ended up at Explorers for the Baby Dolls. OH BOY! Latin, salsa, rock and roll, jazz, swing, you name it, they do it and they do it well. We're gonna have fun with this band.

Well, let's get it out front now. Our newfound hobby during cruises is dancing. Latin, ballroom, freestyle and line. They play it, we dance it. We are self taught with a pile of DVDs, but we take all the day time cruise classes we can get. This cruise we're trying out something new. Dance sneakers - Sansha. Like a running shoe, but with a dance sole. Not leather, but a special neoprene that isn't too slick or too sticky. Judy has a pair and I have a pair, plus we both have our regular dance shoes. The Dance sneakers ended up working great.

Made a quick side trip to the Intro Show. Place was packed 15 minutes prior to the early show, but we got two seats up front. We did recognize a few of the singers from previous cruises. Dan Bennet, juggler, comedian did a nice show, he's one of our favorites on Princess. We'll have to make time for this full show.

Never did make it to the dining room for dinner. Lunch and cheese snacks in the elite lounge were enough for me. Judy ran up to the buffet and had beef, gravy, mashed potatoes and veggies, which she pronounced very good and tasty.

At 1000 we called it quits. Long 3 weeks leading up to this cruise. Time to catch up on some sleep.

Service has been very good from the get go. Minimal hawking, minimal pushiness, good service. Water and free cokes delivered with a smile and quickly. Lots of servers around. Speaks very well of the maitre de, JP, whom we will talk much about later.

9-21-09 Nanaimo (Tender Port)

Breakfast this morning in the HC was actually quite good. The French toast was actually good - French Toast is my benchmark for breakfast - the scrambled eggs (my other benchmark) not overcooked, the omelets nicely done, bacon crispy and even the dreaded syrup coffee not too bad either, although Judy still sticks with her tea bag Folgers.

So now, she's making reservations for tonight at the Crown Grill at 6pm. It's a formal night and we're going to skip the dining room and celebrate my birthday tonight with a nice quiet romantic meal. Back to the cabin, get all the shore excursion stuff and head to Nanaimo on the tenders for a couple hours of exploring.

Nanaimo is a really great port. Everyone was so friendly, the weather was gorgeous, the RCMP was there in all their dress uniform glory - there's just something about that bright red uniform and the Smokey the bear hat. I like ports where ships only come once in a while. Astoria, Oregon is like that. Everyone really appreciates you stopping by and the site of the Golden in the harbor surrounded by just drop dead gorgeous scenery was worth the price of admission alone!

People who live in this town are very, very lucky. It's just simply gorgeous; the water front, the trees, the mountains in the background. Phenomenal. We hit the local drug store to pick up one of our forgotten items - foaming hand soap for the bathroom. Much easier to use than the bars of soap and rinses better. We walked up down and through Nanaimo, snapping pictures as we went, checking out the local crafts, shops and entertainment. Came back to the ship for a swim and a hot tubbing. The main pool was still drained and the front pool was way too cold, so we just soaked in the hot tub for a while.

On the tender back from Nanaimo, we got a good look at the balconies on the new deck 15 suites. My next goal in life: 30days across the pacific in one of those. The bad news, the smaller ones are PH class suites. Very pricey. We did get to go into them on turnaround day. Very, very nice layout. I WANT ONE!

Lunch on board was drink, pizza and burgers. The pizza is thin crust and very, very tasty. The burgers fresh and done to order. (The chicken breast, as I would find out later, was also very tasty.) Then it was power nap time. Since it was formal night we ordered our canapEs, love those black cards, got dressed and hit the Crown Grill for dinner. (There really was no pre-dinner dancing available. A solo guitarist in the Wheelhouse was just not dance material.)

Now, about the Crown Grill. The menu is extensive with more seafood and a larger selection of meats and appetizers than the older Sterling Steakhouse or Desert Rose. The new decor installed during the Golden dry dock in May 2009 is absolutely stunning. You have to see it and touch it to appreciate the design and execution of that space. Just phenomenal.

I ordered the scallops and goose liver (faus gras?), onion soup with blue cheese and lamb chops. Judy ordered the grilled salad and the Brazilian Lobster tail (additional $9 charge).

The ambience was so much better than the old steakhouse, BUT, the service and the food just didn't hold up to the Grand's Desert Rose steakhouse in April of 2009. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't as good. There was nothing specific to fault. For example, service was not as good, but that was probably because the Crown Grill was packed, whereas on the Grand, there were only 3 other couples in the Desert Rose with us. The lamb was not as good as the Grand, or as I would find out later, as good as in the dining room, but Judy's lobster was grilled perfectly and worth every extra penny.

Recommended? Absolutely, but it did suffer in comparison to our experience on the Grand, which was near perfection. (You can read my review of the Grand in the Member's Section.)

After dinner we hung around the Piazza to see the champagne waterfall. Another example of a simple change that really works. Rather than staying up until midnight, everyone gets to experience the waterfall during a decent hour. I'll bet there were even 2x or 3x as many waterfall pictures taken and will be purchased because it wasn't done at midnight. A lot more people were able to participate. A great idea where everyone wins!

After the champagne waterfall we changed clothes to start a night of serious dancing. With over 20 days of rich food remaining, we have to work some of this off!

We started in the Wheelhouse with Equinox. Better than the night before. The place packed up quickly and the dance floor got very crowded - thank goodness for the new smoking rules. From there we wandered over to Explorer's lounge to dance to the Baby Dolls for 30 minutes and hot footed it back to the Wheelhouse when Princess Pop Star started. We are not Pop Star or Karaoke fans.

After that it was back to the Explorer's for the 70's party and about 45 minutes of non-stop disco, including the hustle line dance. The Baby Dolls took a break, came back and Judy and I finished the night with a few more dances and then off to bed well after midnight for some sleep.

This is the way we like to cruise. Earn that good nights sleep.

9-22-09 Victoria

This is a great port for just getting out on your own and walking. We'd been here once before and did the "Walk on the Wild Side", which we really enjoyed, but this was a low cost cruise so we were going to do everything on our own until the HI cruise excursions.

We left the docks in Victoria and walked around the southern water's edge through the parks. Blue sky, clear water, absolutely beautiful. The parks and walking paths are just great for walking and picture taking along the seashore. We then cut across to the inner harbor via the Beacon Hill park and gardens. Really, really nice. Lots of picture taking, flowers, trees, gardens, peacocks, totem poles. Just a great morning jaunt. Went by the Museum, the parliament building, all the other totem poles, statues, harbor front and the cute little houses on the docks near the fishing marina. I seem to remember a "This Old House" episode with similar houses, or maybe they have the same thing back on the East Coast. Really cute little studio type apartment sized "houses" on the docks.

Note about Travel Insurance. You never know when you will need it. A lady slipped and fell on the curb and hurt her ankle. I'm sure they would recommend x-rays and wrapping. The cost of which would completely exceed any travel insurance purchased - and just for a simple slip.

But we made it back to the ship after 9 klicks according to Judy's pedometer. (Don't ask me why it was registering in km. Ask her!)

After coming back from the walk, we hit the buffet. Lunch in the buffet was actually quite good. Here the Golden shines better than most of the other Princess ships. It's hard to make buffet food look and taste good, but they do a pretty good job and service in the seating areas is simply second to none.

After the obligatory shower and relaxation nap we started with the ball room class in the afternoon. Taught by one of the ship's dancers, Vian. This is the first time we've ever been taught by one of the pro dancers. I was a bit apprehensive at first. We've had pro and amateur instructors on Princess before, and quite frankly the pros are too insistent on doing things right - in other words, their way. Not Vian. He was great. We did a swing class in the Wheelhouse, technical difficulties in the Vista, and tomorrow, hopefully we will do the foxtrot. (It turns out, Vian and his partner Jane would be one of the highlights of our 21 day cruise.)

Dinner was actually in the dining room tonight. It was the Alaskan menu. Very good. I had the cheese plate for an appetizer, I love cheese, learned that trick from Cruise Critic and I love cheese. Judy had the Fettuccine Alfredo. She is my pasta holic, and she pronounced it MMMMMMMMM - impolite to talk with your mouth stuffed full of pasta. At least she didn't lick the bowl clean - we were in public after all. I had the seafood soup which was a clear consume with pieces of fish, shellfish and veggies. Pretty good. Judy had the corn chowder. It was better. Thick, rich and creamy.

Our main course was the surf and turf. Filet cooked perfectly, three grilled shrimp, grilled asparagus, carrots and potatoes. Wonderful, great, tasty, MMMMMMMMM...

Dessert was the Vanilla Crème Brule for Judy, cheesecake and nectarine ice cream for me. Just can't beat Princess cheesecake. Judy really liked the Crème Brule - I'm just not a fan of Brule at all - and the nectarine ice cream was light on nectarine flavor but good.

So after dinner, it was time to work off some calories. Once again they had canned music in the Wheelhouse. So we waited for the Baby Dolls in Explorers and then danced for a couple of hours until time to go to MUTS at 10pm for Wolverine. The MUTS screen is brand new, has a couple of pixel flaws in it, but it is much better than the one on the Grand.

But after such a packed day, we lasted about 45 minutes into the movie and crashed. Hard to watch a movie with your eyes closed. Since the captain is booking for San Fran, we had the door open last night and went to sleep with the wake noise, a slight rolling motion, completely exhausted and in each other's arms. Just can't get any better than that.

9-23-09 At Sea

The one and only sea day occurred on the run to San Fran. I see the predicted California heat wave everyone on Cruise Critic is talking about has not occurred. We are currently in the marine layer with just bits of blue here and there. Cool, breezy, but no cooking, cleaning, washing or working. Can't complain.

Speaking of ice cream - ITS FREE SOFT SERVE!!!!!!

Scoops is no more. Now we have free soft serve, vanilla or chocolate or swirl, as many or as much as you want. Still not sure if they have the ice cream in the HC at 330.

A couple of notes of interest in today's Patter. They will be serving a pub lunch in the Crown Grill. They are having a sale in one of the dining rooms, it'll be left over Alaska stuff, today as well.

They do have "shows" by resident comedians and jugglers in the Piazza during the day and they have wine events in Vines. Today's is a Stammtisch with 3 wines and cheeses for $15.

But we basically chilled the entire day. Turns out Judy's handy, dandy pedometer clocked us for 18 klicks on Tuesday between the Victoria walk and all the dancing during the night. I think that deserves a day off!

Lots of activities on a sea day, but dinner was Italian, so I skipped lunch. For those of you who don't know, I'm also an Eggplant Parmigiana junkie. (Come to think of it, I'm probably a cruise food junkie.)

We did the ballroom class with Vian, Cha-cha. We like Vian. He's a pro instructor that isn't teaching us to be pro's, just to have fun, which we appreciate.

I have to say, the Vines area in the Piazza was a brilliant marketing idea by somebody. With wines becoming more and more popular, what better place to sell more wine than offer a wide selection by the glass with free tapas or sushi. From what I can tell they essentially took away from crew space, and reduced the size of the old Patisserie, to make more room for the Piazza, including the International Cafe and Vines, and the internet cafe. There's much more space in the "atrium" area now. With more seating, a more efficient layout and I just can't get over the decor, the flooring, the woodwork, the way everything goes together so well. It's a treat to the palette and the eyes at the same time.

We also checked out the new machines in the gym. All are new Precors, including their new elliptical with the individual TV screen. Love that machine. I want one when my old Precor wears out.

Service has remained excellent as well, the buffet food pretty good, the drinks, well, what can go wrong there, except my tastes are switching from Long Island Iced Teas to Whiskey Sours.

So after the obligatory power nap, an important part of every cruise, we did the Italian Dinner - a very special benchmark for every cruise we go on. The Eggplant Parmigiana did not disappoint - I had two. A little milder and sweeter than the Grand in April, but every bit as good. I was able to resist licking the bowl clean. Judy had the seafood salad appetizer sans the mayo. It was actually very good as well. Clean, fresh, almost an Italian ceviche, but with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I had to try the red beam Fagioli soup. As usual, rich, thick and tasty.

We need to talk about Mario, our head waiter, and Konrad, the head waiter that runs the dining and handles reservations. We talked to Mario to see if he knew Gino, our first ever head waiter, and Albuquerque, our favorite all time Princess head waiter. He knew Gino, but not Albuquerque. We talked about how Gino would make Pasta during the cruise and how Albuquerque would come up with these special pastas as well. During the conversation, he asked if we liked the table, which we did, so over comes Konrad and basically makes us a standing reservation at that table for us for the rest of the cruise - and the next cruise as well.

I guess Mario decided he should take us up on the Princess Top Pasta Head Waiter challenge. The night before, he mentioned he would have some special pasta delivered to our table. So tonight he delivered Rigatoni, with a cherry tomato sauce that contained garlic, olive oil and jalapenos.

Judy was in heaven. I was simply enjoying a fantastic tomato sauce. The cherry tomatoes were sweet, perfectly acidic with just the right amount of garlic. Could have used a bit more jalapenos, we like things a bit spicier than others, but otherwise excellent.

(Who's ahead in the Princess Top Pasta Head Waiter competition? I think we need at least a couple more cruises and many more bowls of pasta to figure that out.)

The main course arrived. Judy had the chicken and I had the vegetarian course of stuffed zucchini. The cheese on the chicken was a bit strong, but still pretty good. The Zucchini was really different, not "interesting", and very good. It's new on the menu and really tasty. Try it, don't let the Vegetarian scare you off.

Anyway, dinner was so good, we just skipped dessert. (Don't fall out of your chair, it happens to the best of us.) Besides, I needed room for a Dirty Banana later on in the evening.

We ended up in the Wheelhouse after dinner, dancing to canned music. Now this I have to whine about a little bit. 2 1/2 hours of canned dance music, but they just have 3 audio CD's which the bartender (Monica) has to rush over and change out every 30-40 minutes. I know Princess is trying to cut costs. Over the past 8 years I have seen the bands reduce in size and in fact on the Grand in April I said, you should just go to canned music instead of trying to dance to a soloist guitarist. So they went to canned music. Ok, I'll live with it. But at least leave a good selection of dance tunes, or an MP3 with a couple of hundred on it, in place. That can't be too much to ask.

So after the canned music, we hopped over to the Baby Dolls. (I think Equinox thinks we don't like them, they come back and we leave.) They're just fine, but the Baby Dolls are better. So we danced with them for the rest of the night, through the 50's and 60's tribute and then off to bed.

9-24-09 San Francisco

Time to do a little more hiking, less than 9 klicks I hope, and a little shopping. I want some sourdough bread. Hard to beat San Fran sourdough bread. We learned something about San Fran sourdough. Did you know its only flour, salt and water? Plus the 140+ year old mother? No oils, no seasonings, no eggs, nada. The perfect vegan food. Seems that there is a certain bacillus in the air in San Fran that makes the unique sourdough flavor. (Several other analogies and comments come to mind, but let's keep this on the up and up.) So we bought, yes, MORE FOOD. We are going to go to the movies and have sourdough instead of popcorn - nuff said?. YUM.

We saw the sea lions down on the wharf. Holy smokey frijoles! Have they taken over or what? It's pretty incredible. What are they eating, besides every living thing in the bay? And loud! And smelly! Anyone who hasn't seen this has just got to go down there.

Needed a new SD card for the camera. Boy did we pick the right port. On board a 2GB is $34.95. An 8GB was $49, (+ $149.65 in CA sales tax - just kidding) on shore. Yeah, I know more than Amazon, but we simply didn't have time to wait for FedEx.

So we walked up and down the Embarcadero looking at all the shops. After buying the sourdough we headed back to the ship to do our workouts in an empty gym. The precors are nice. They have therapy balls, free weights, half balls, treadmills, ellipticals, and a host of targeted Precor toning machines.

We went to Vian's ballroom class. Foxtrot and Rhumba. We already know the Rhumba, but have never learned the Foxtrot. Nice to start a new dance so that we don't just sit around during Sinatra.

Today is my B-Day. So we planned the UBD. Now this was a real treat. Combine fantastic food, one on one service, great company, a romantic setting and you have a memory for a lifetime. Our waiter was Magdalena and her assistant waiter Alla. It was a pleasure to talk to them, interact with them, hear about their countries, how they got into cruising, contracts, Princess (don't worry it was all good), just great dinner conversation without the noises or interruptions from the dining room.

So where were we, ah yes, the UBD. It was simply to cold on the balcony, so we set up inside. Yep, plenty of room for the card table in the BB cabin.

We started with cocktails, moved to champagne, canapEs, a crab cake, a salad, and for the main course a lobster tail and filet with drawn butter for the tail and a wine/mushroom sauce for the filet. Dessert was a duo of chocolate mousses with a chocolate fruit cup and mixed berries.

Everything was simply superb. The highlight was the lobster and filet. (Putting on my Gail Simmons hat.) The lobster was sweet, succulent and perfectly cooked, the filet a perfect medium rare, very tasty, the sauce an excellent complement, not overpowering, but tied the elements of dish together quite well. (The chef is now safe through to the next round.)

If you've never done the UBD, do it. If you have, do it again. Unfortunately Magda is leaving the ship in LA, but I'm sure they will find another partner for Alla that is as fun and entertaining. And yes, I did tip the girls extra because they are room service personnel and not part of the standard tip pool.

We actually did not dance that night. It was one of those nights that there was too much to do. We wanted to do it all. We failed. Star Trek and sourdough bread was calling us from MUTS, Motor City was playing and we promised Vian we would watch it, the Newlywed game was on as well, Ballroom Blitz and Kevin Jordan. Some nights you can't win for losing. It's a rough life and if it was easy, anyone could do it.

Anyway, we started the UBD promptly at 6pm exactly. (These girls are precise.) And finished about 830. We went to Motor City, then to the newlywed game and then to see Kevin Jordan.

Motor City was good. Two sequences are our favorites. Judy liked the black light sequence to "Superstition" and I really like "Heard it Through the Grapevine" in which all the ladies are dressed in men's zuit suit jackets and hats, no pants. What is it about a woman dressed in a man's suit jacket or long sleeved shirt? Especially a dancer with legs all the way...but I digress.

The newlywed game. Now you have to hear about this. The host, the deputy cruise director Benjie (Australian), apparently had never had a gay couple in the game. It was a whole series of exchanging one foot for the other. If he was faking it, he was very good. Everyone lost track of the score, it didn't matter. For those of you familiar with the game and the questions, now put yourself into a host position asking those questions and you can see what I mean.

Kevin Jordan is the comic, ex LAPD, with the flashlight. We'd forgotten his shtick but it came back quickly. Turns out the audience had the perfect setup. A brother and sister (22 and 23), no jobs, on the cruise with their parents. That, 4 ladies traveling together, 2 guys in tuxes in the balcony seats and 2 guys in very casual clothes in the front section and you have a recipe for a lot of situational and improv comedy.

After the show, we crashed. Slackers! (Hey, we're on vacation!)

9-25-09 Headed To Catalina

So we did our first room service breakfast on the balcony this morning. Our first ever actually. It was ok. It would have been better if the balcony furniture would have been more complete - only two chairs and a small coffee table. We should have hit Inri up for a dining level table, but never thought about it.

The sun has finally come out and we are booking it to Catalina. We probably won't get off the ship. I know we can black card it to the head of the line, but why tick off a ship load of people. Catalina is a hard tender port. The entire ship is awake and everyone wants off NOW. Best to stay low, do our workouts and prep for the evening.

But we missed Catalina. The sun starts shining and we hit the fog bank. I've never seen it this foggy at sea before. Could hardly see the water from our Caribe deck balcony. That's foggy. That plus a medical emergency transfer and Catalina was aborted.

Tonight is Country and Western night. We just spent the last four months learning the Tush Push so we could participate in the Tush Push challenge - hey, everyone has to have a hobby! Let's just hope it's the same Tush Push!

Once again we just can't do it all. We have to go to country night, but I wanted to do the movie and sourdough as well. Tonight is Ghosts of Girlfriends past. (Yeah, I know, the sacrifices I make for my wife.) She loves movies, especially MUTS. Hopefully they will replay on the next cruise, and we did buy enough sourdough.

Judy's girlfriend of 50+ years will be joining us on the next cruise. We called them from San Fran to give them packing tips. If they follow them all, they should be easy to spot with the roll around dump truck carrying their luggage.

But not having planned to get off, we did the workout thing, then lunch. Did I mention the grilled chicken sandwiches at the Grill? Very good, or the Pizza? Yesterday was a four cheese pizza with a blue cheese as well. WOW! Nice bite, unique flavor.

So dinner last night continued the Princess Top Head Waiter competition. Mario presented a bruchetta appetizer and a pesto lasagna. (The bruchetta had a bit of Jalapeno and Cilantro in the tomatoes.) WOW, again. I think this definitely puts Mario in the lead. We've never had a pesto lasagna and tonight he promises a seafood pasta. None of this stuff is even on any of the menus. But it keeps appearing at our table. LOVE IT!

The regular dinner was the Chef's Dinner. I had the goat cheese souffle. This, along with our wine and the bruschetta was a real taste treat. WOW, WOW and WOO HOO! Then we had the strawberry sorbet, this was really good as well. A fantastic palette cleanser. Judy had the seabass, which she liked, it was ok with me, I prefer a grilled fish, but the risotto underneath was quite tasty. I had the seared pork. Nothing spectacular there, but not bad either.

We skipped dessert. After all the "extras" from Mario, we were stuffed.

So we headed for the Wheelhouse for some canned dance music. We actually got to practice the Tango and the foxtrot basics we learned on this cruise. Vian is a great teacher. On a previous cruise, we learned the Tango, but simply didn't care for it. Vian taught it in a different way and made it much more fun.

Then it was Country Night in Explorer's. So we got there early for the Baby Dolls and was treated to an 14 minute Cha-Cha. (Geez, that was painful, but we cowboyed up and danced the whole thing.)

Country Night included several line dances (Acky Breaky, Electric Slide, Boot Scootin Boogie), the bang bang game, no Cotton Eyed Joe and the Tush Push challenge. We started the challenge but Baby Dolls sped it up too fast too soon to get in the groove. But we tried.

We missed the movie start by about 20 minutes, so we didn't go. After 3 solid hours of dancing we just called it a night. It took about an hour to come down anyway.

9-26-09 San Diego

So we docked in San Diego, next to Carnival Elation. Going to go out and look around, see the sights do some supply shopping, come back and work out. We need water, another memory card and some miscellaneous stuff.

We walked downtown to the mall about 4 blocks from the ship, picked up some supplies, moseyed south through the village and back up to the ship.

We've been in San Diego before, so we really didn't do anything this time. But if you go, you have to do the Midway museum or the harbor cruise or Sea World or the zoo. All of it is good.

This afternoon we did the HC lunch. Excellent. From the shrimp salad, the Greek salad, through the sandwiches and desserts, it was all good, except for the fried chicken. Judy likes fried chicken, but it has to have seasoning in it. This one not so much.

We had a very nice talk with the HC stewards, had our drinks (hey its 5 o'clock somewhere), relaxed and watched the world go by for a while.

Sailaway from San Diego on our rear balcony was a real treat. Sunset in the west reflecting off the downtown highrises onto our wake. Wow.

The Landfall dinner menu that night was pretty standard. What wasn't was the pasta Mario ordered for us. A seafood pasta (spaghetti) with shrimp, mussels, squid, clam and scallops, sautEed in olive oil and garlic. It was the best pasta of the cruise so far. I have since informed Mario that we will not be cleaning our plates and that if we do he will have to roll us off the ship. The food is so, so good.

Judy had ordered the poached sea bass and I the meatloaf. Both were just so-so after that sea food pasta dish. Again, we just had to skip dessert. The sea bass was so-so, the meatloaf not recommended. Its MEATloaf. In other words, the crackers or rice fillers that my mom used to make were not in there. So it tasted funny.

We went to MUTS and saw Monsters vs. Aliens. MUTS on Golden is so much better than the Grand. Not quite the setup as on the Ruby, Emerald, Crown or CB, but very nice nonetheless.

We did pack everything into our suitcases, but left the clothes in the closet on the hangers. Inri said he would take care of them.

9-27-09 Turnaround

I love turnaround day when you are "In Transit". You get to watch everybody else grumble off the ship while you lounge around waiting for the trip around the block. It's a blast telling everyone you're not leaving and they laugh and chuckle until they realize you're not joking.

So we all meet in the Promenade Bar at 11am, go out and around, sit in the holding pen, then in through security and back to the room where everything is already there.

The bad/good news? Inri, our room steward was to leave and go home after his 9 month contract. The typhoon in Manila has delayed all flights and messed up his replacement. He is staying for our trip to HI. FANTASTIC....

So now we're getting set to go to Hawaii, but then that's part of the next cruise Travelog...

See ya on the flip side! Less

Published 10/31/09

Cabin review: BBC753 Balcony

Aft BB cabin. Great balcony, view and location.

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