Golden Princess Hawaii 9-27-09 C743 BB Balcony
This particular cruise follows on the heels of the Golden's coastal cruise the prior week. We booked them both as a B2B because of the low cost of the coastal cruise when we booked, and the neat idea of using the 7 day cruise as an intro to the Hawaiian cruise. Not only that, but coastal repo cruises stop in new ports that are rarely visited during the regular seasons.
All in all, a wonderful 3 week vacation. Not perfect. As we've explained to Vian, perfection implies a lack of need to continue practicing. And we intend to practice cruising with Princess until they do get it perfect - and hoping they never do.
But, the worst part of a 21 day cruise is leaving the people you have become amazingly close to in such a short time - both passengers and crew. Such a wonderful bunch of people we met on this cruise - Mario, Konrad, Maria, Inri, JP, Christianna, Vandolph, Monica, Karen, Olga, Kenyata, Karen and the boys, and most especially Vian and Jane. These kind of people make Princess the line it is and why we keep coming back - ok the free laundry helps...
And a great bunch of fellow passengers. We've probably made new life long friends in Paul and Elizabeth, if they will have us. Paul has made me rethink working myself to death. Early retirement sounds pretty good to both of us right now.
A lot of people have mentioned several of the cutbacks seen over the years since we started cruising with Princess. Time to mention a few additions. The Vines and International Cafe, lemonade in the HC, free soft serve, the Elite Lounge, MUTS, to mention the most obvious ones. Princess has been listening, or reading, for sure. Smoking sections that bothered us on prior cruises have been moved or eliminated. The internet cafe is pretty user friendly. The layout of the old atrium into the new Piazza is really something to see. The new suites on Deck 15 and 6 were a great idea.
It was fun, relaxing and carefree with great food, entertainment and service.
What more can you ask for?
So Let's Cruise To Hawaii...
We arrived in LA on the Golden itself, being my favorite type of passenger: "In Transit".
Movement from C753 to C743, 10 whole feet, was painless, as was the trip around the San Pedro terminal as we "in-transits" were walked around to the elite waiting area. Customs didn't get the memo as we were asked questions like "where are you going now", errr...back to the ship, we're hungry (here's your sign), and grilled us on how much money we won at the casino. Yeah right!
Judy's girlfriend of 50+ years and her husband were one of the first to get into incoming line at 11am - we happened to see them go by. They were on board and their luggage arrived in less than 45 minutes.
I hotfooted it down to deck 5 to sit with Maitre De' Jean Paul and reserve Chef's table for the 4 of us. There already was a line 8 groups long when I got there, but no one left upset as Jean Paul must have addressed everyone's concern. Really a nice and professional Maitre De' - one of our favorites.
We've moved around the corner from C753 to C743. Still that great Caribe Deck balcony, half covered. This time we have a dining height table, two recliner chairs and two normal deck chairs. Diana and Keith were able to join us and enjoy those elite bar setups. But while the ship is in motion it is windy on the side balconies. Much windier that the aft cabins, which is why we really like the aft cabins.
We have the same cabin steward - Inri. He was supposed to go back to the Philippines, but with the Typhoon and the closure of most of the airports, he's staying at least one more cruise. Bad news for him, but great news for us.
Sailaway was much better attended, organized and performed. Yes, Elua is on board. Elialoha and David. A very nice couple that does most of the Hawaiian cultural talks, hula lessons and specialty music. We learned the little grass shack hula, then the standard electric slide, hey baby, mambo #5, Macarena, etc. The crowd was a little bit more enthusiastic compared to the Vancouver Sailaway the week before.
We did an hour of pre-recorded ballroom dancing in the Wheelhouse, then hopped over to the Baby Dolls in the Explorer's lounge, had some dinner and then went to the welcome aboard show, with Kevin Jordan.
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 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 and you don't have to change shoes all the time, just wear the sneakers and you're set.
Dinner in the dining room was Sailaway. Judy ordered the pan fried barramundi, I had the beef filets in peppercorn sauce. The cream of porcini mushroom soup was great, as usual. The cream vegetables soups are some of our favorites. I did have to send the first round of filets back, as Tom Colicchio would say, it was already dead, there was no need to kill it again. (Yep, we're Top Chef fanatics as well.) Judy's barramundi was good as well. The second round of filets was great.
Mario (Head Waiter) has placed us in the middle of the dining room with Christianna and Vandolph. Christianna has just joined the ship from vacation and her husband is the head pastry chef. Mario informed us that he is ordering a special pasta for the 4 of us tonight. Konrad (Head Waiter at the door) has already arranged a standing reservation for this table. These people go out of their way to make sure you have a great vacation. That's why I find it hard to believe some of the horror stories that are told. We have never, in 17 cruises, run into anyone that was rude, or deliberately mean. They all go out of their way to show you the best time possible, and we really appreciate it.
9-28-09 At Sea
The Patter this morning is chock full of stuff to do, AND, there's another dance band in the wheelhouse tonight - The Golden Quartet. We're planning to do the morning Foxtrot class with Vian, go the Cruise Critic M&G at Skywalkers at 11, do the history of cruise ships at 1:45, line dance at 3:30, dinner at 5:30, dancing at 7 in the wheelhouse, dancing at 8 in Explorer's, back to the wheelhouse at 9:30 (we're not Karaoke fans), back to Explorer's at 10:30 for the 70's party and then up to Skywalker's at 11:45 for Mardi Gras.
Started out a bit on the rock and roll side this morning, not bad as far as open water cruising, but enough to kick start Judy's motion sickness. So now she's doped on generic Dramamine, sea bands and ginger.
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.
We started the day with Vian, the Foxtrot and the Rhumba. With Diana on board, Judy's childhood friend, and her non-dancing husband, a couple of us helped Diana through both dances, which she thoroughly enjoyed. (Side note - Guys, you can buy her all the dinners and diamonds you want, but if you really want to make her smile, take her dancing.)
We then moved to the Piazza for line dancing. Dave, not CD Dave, still can't get the count for the electric slide right - he leaves out the boot scuff. So half of us were stepping on the other half. And there were about 50 of us strung around the Piazza.
Our CC M&G was held at Skywalkers at 11am. Good attendance. Finally met some of the one's we've been posting back and forth to over the past year or so. Nice to put faces with names. No one from the ship showed up, but we had a great time talking cruising. I think it's pretty unanimous though - the upgrades on the Golden are fantastic, well designed and well executed.
Dinner was Princess Dinner 1. It doesn't say 1 on the menu, just one of 4 Princess Dinner menus, all different. But this one was pretty good. Diana and Keith joined us for dinner. For apps, I had the ceviche (very nice), then the oyster bisque (needed a bit of salt, but after that mmmm). Judy and Keith had the prickly pear cactus and pineapple in tequila - which they both enjoyed. Everyone else had a salad, but the vinaigrette was a bit flat.
We had Mario's cherry tomato, basil and rigatoni pasta after that. The pasta was very good. For the main course, I had the duck, leg and thigh portions, Judy and Keith had the Turkey pot pie and Diana had the steak. The duck was good, the Turkey pot pie was, surprisingly to me, perfectly seasoned and very good. Diana said the steak was good as well. Christianna's husband is the head pastry chef so we had to try the black forest cake, black cherry ice cream and the cheesecake.
Of all the meal so far, the cheesecake really caught Keith's attention. He really liked it. The Black Forest cake was very good. I like the use of whipped cream rather than heavy frosting in the layers.
After dinner we danced in the wheelhouse for a while, then went to Explorer's lounge for the Baby Dolls. We danced to their first hour, and then I crashed and burned. There was no way I was going to be able to stay up. I needed Nyquil and a nice soft bed. (Yeah, I caught a little head cold.)
Turns out our new bed was hard as a rock. So Inri put another eggcrate on it and its much better now. Inri is taking very good care of us.
9-29-09 At Sea
The weather on deck is definitely cool and will only get cooler as the winter months approach. Yesterday it was overcast marine layer, this morning it is mostly cloudy, broken high clouds with patches of blue. My recommendation would be for the lighter weights, like hoodies and sweat pants, easy to pack and multi-purpose. As fall winds down, it will be quite chilly on the open decks.
Breakfast in the HC remains pretty good. Waffles, scrambled eggs, omelets made to order. Peanut butter is available upon request. Peanut butter with syrup on the waffle. Breakfast that stays with you more than 30 minutes and hey, the syrup coffee is not too bad!
Tonight is formal night and the waterfall will be up around 630 or 700. Judy wants to get some formal photos of all of us and her and Diana at the waterfall.
Oh - they have a ship building contest on board. Float a 6-pack across the pool. (Dicey horse racing is back as well.) So if you are interested, you might want to pack some building supplies. Now I have a use for the duct tape!
We are having a blast. We still can't seem to do it all, but it doesn't matter. The food is fantastic, the service great, the entertainment top notch, the people friendly. What more could you ask for, except maybe another 2 weeks on the ship?
I am very impressed with the activity schedule for these four sea days. It is non-stop. Boat building, ducky adventures, survivor and pool games starting today, lectures, sarong tying, hula lessons, line dance, ballroom dance, bingo, lei and ukulele classes. It fills one page of the patter in much smaller type size than normal.
Ballroom class came first, then a private lesson from Vian in Skywalker's on the Foxtrot. A few other couples are taking one on one lessons as well. Judy went to line dancing with Diana and a couple of other activities while I had a Nyquil nap.
It was formal night, and the champagne waterfall. I think it was great that they moved it to earlier in the evening. Keith and Diana were able to get their pictures taken at the waterfall, as were Judy and Diana. Then we wandered around different photo ops for photos of the 4 of us and then some formals of Keith and Diana. This is going to be an expensive photo trip for sure.
The Top Princess Head Waiter Competition continues. Our standing reservation came in VERY handy on formal night. Mario had ordered up a very simple pasta for us - spaghetti lightly sautEed in olive oil and garlic - and a bruschetta appetizer. Boy that was GREAT! So good for something so simple. It was the Captain's Welcome Dinner with the new menus.
Three of us had the smoked duck breast (this is very good) and Diana had the shrimp cocktail. Judy then tried the yogurt and tamarind cold soup, while Keith and I had the cream of asparagus soup. The asparagus soup was very good, but I did not care for the yogurt and tamarind. Reminded me of cumin infused yogurt and I'm not a big fan of cumin. For the main course I had the beef filets, cooked perfectly, Judy and Diana had the Wok shrimp and Keith had the pork roast. Everything was great. All are highly recommended.
For dessert, Judy and I had the cookies and cream parfait with grapefruit sorbet on the side. This was VERY good. The sorbet was unsweetened and absolutely wonderful.
Diana had ice cream, chocolate, vanilla and raspberry, which are always good, but Keith really liked the cheesecake from the night before, so he had the raspberry ice cream, the cheesecake and the chocolate soufflE. All of which he absolutely loved.
After dinner, listening to the Captain's speech and more photos, we went to the Princess theater to see Words and Music, and this time, at Vian's request, we sat in the first few rows up front. A much different perspective and a nice production show. We've seen it on other ships, but this one has Vian in it, so its much better - what can I say?
Now for those of you who haven't read the coastal travelog, we are mid-theater people, not up front people. The difference is incredible. We will never sit in the back again. There is an interaction with the singers and dancers. Vian let us in on a secret. They can only see the first couple of rows, but they try and connect with each and every person that they can see. It brings a personal quality to the show that we've never experienced before and will never miss it again.
But honestly the two lead female singers have great range and crystal voices. Very nicely done.
The Baby Dolls had finished their first set and a ballroom blitz was happening in the Vista. We went to see that. I just can't dance in formal wear. (I end up drenched.)
So we had a very nice talk with David Cole about Princess, the cruise, the ship and things in general. A very nice guy. Personable, energetic, and a great scheduler. One of the nice things about his show schedules is that each is on for three showing. Two one night, one the following or preceding night so that you have three chances to see each show or entertainer.
9-30-09 At Sea (Day of the Southern Pacific Tsunami)
Apparently two Princess ships left HI docks prior to the Tsunami arrival, which the captain says was about 12" in HNL. When he made the announcement at about noon no one knew how bad it could be. Better safe than sorry. Too bad CNN can't give a simple straight answer - they were running around talking about 7 meter waves, come on folks, that's 20+ feet high!
This morning the weather, according to David Cole, will be great from now on. Broken clouds, about 72F outside, very nice, very comfortable weather.
Today we plan to do a lot more outdoor stuff, or at least watch it, to give you a flavor of what there is to do. But we have a private lesson first off this morning and then cha-cha class. We are having a blast teaching Diana in ballroom, and she's picking it up quite well.
Some bad news for you later on cruisers. Had breakfast with Karen from the Baby Dolls, this morning. They are leaving with us. They were supposed to leave the end of Alaska and we thought they had a couple more months to go, but Karen says they only extended two more cruises. This might change, everything is subject to change, but hopefully the replacement band is as good. We've gotten to know them quite well and like their music.
Interlude - Princess People
Any of you who have read my previous reviews and "live froms.." know that we interact with the staff and the crew from day one. It's one of the most enjoyable things we do on a cruise. Tonight, for example, we had drinks with Vian and his fiance, Jane, in the wheelhouse for an hour. Paul and Elizabeth, along with Elizabeth's mother "Mom", sat and chatted about how they met, how they got into dancing, their life on a rose farm in South Africa, what they plan to do in the future, shipboard life, you name it, we talked about it. One of the most enjoyable conversations we've had in weeks.
When we left Vancouver, I hunted up the Head Waiters and talked to Mario about Albuquerque on the Star. Quite frankly we wanted to know if he was on this ship. Jean Paul, the maitre de, knows Albuquerque and one of the other head waiters knows him, but not Mario. So the conversation turned to loving pasta and Albuquerque's special pasta. At which time Mario asked if we wanted some special pasta the next night and standing reservations for a particular table and it just went from there.
It's hard to describe in words, but these people are professional hosts. They would not be head waiters, which takes years of apprenticeship, specialized training and a great resume, without enjoying their jobs. Just like I get satisfaction from solving an engineering or project issue, they get satisfaction from interaction with happy customers and showing off their trade.
Tonight, for example, Mario ordered the seafood pasta for us, but the chef used red sauce instead of olive oil. (Judy just doesn't like sea food in red sauce, it just doesn't settle properly on her stomach.) Mario apologized up and down for the error. Diana, Keith and I enjoyed it, but Mario felt really bad about it and he promised to make up for it, which he most definitely did. He knew Keith and Diana were first time Princess cruisers and that they were essentially our guests, so he just went all out to give them the best experience they could possibly have.
And we're not the only ones being treated this way. There are several different tables in the dining room that Mario is frequenting and plying with specialized treats and service.
But it all starts with interactions, talking to head waiters, the maitre de, the wait staff. Does it work every time? No. We didn't get special pasta on the Grand, even though Bruno, the maitre de, would stop by and see us almost every night. Did we miss it? Sort of. Did we have a great time? Absolutely. Are we enjoying ourselves this time more? Yep.
It does really depends on the head waiter and Mario is one of those special head waiters that just really goes out of his way to make give you an enjoyable experience. When we don't have a head waiter like Mario, we have fun with our table waiter and junior waiter. It's all good.
Dinner was French-Mediterranean menu - yep, with frog legs and snails. Snails were as good as ever, wish my taste buds were behaving better. Duck al'orange was good as well. Already talked about the pasta mixup. Keith really likes the cheesecake, and I mean really likes the cheesecake.
Afterwards we danced to Equinox in the wheelhouse, then hopped over to the Baby Dolls for one of their opening 11 minute cha-chas, then back to the wheelhouse for an hour long conversation over cocktails with Vian and Jane. That for us was the highlight of the evening. We'd seen Kevin Jordan on the last cruise so Keith and Diana headed for his show while we had drinks.
Nothing else was going on until 1030, so we just turned in early.
It's amazing how much stuff Dave is piling into the activities list. Ballroom with Vian (Diana learned the cha-cha really fast), line dancing with Martin (the other Dave is doing something else - us line dancers are tickled with Martin), Hula classes with LeiAloha, survivor tribe selection, pool games started, no way to do it all.
BTW, if you plan on using the ellipticals or treadmills, they are the Precor's with the individual TV screens. Bring a set of earphones that you are comfortable with so you can hear the sound while running. Standard mini jack that almost all MP3 players use.
And tomorrow we land on the big island and do the volcano hike. My cold is getting better, able to pop my ears this morning. Judy's motion sickness is under control, although there are no waves to speak of.
I just don't know how to fit this all in and still get some sleep. Yeah I know, life's tough all over.
Today and tonight is going to be a lot of stuff. We can't do it all, so we'll probably split up, since Hula dancing is not my forte. I can do the Huki-Lau, but that's about it.
No special pasta tonight, but the roast lamb was excellent. Even better than the lamb chops in the Crown Grill last week. We are scheduled for Chef's table on the first sea day home. They have people lined up waiting for chef's table, so get your reservations in early when you board. They are planning for 3, maybe 4 on this cruise, but because of the new 14 day menus, the chef is pretty busy. On later cruises they may have more Chef's tables.
Keith continues to marvel over the cheesecake. I like watching first time Princess cruisers. He thought I was paying extra for the special treatment we've been getting, standing reservations, pasta, all the head waiters stopping by, JP stopping by. Nope, just good old Princess service. We've never been disappointed with the overall service, maybe an incident here and there, happens all the time, but never with the overall service.
I recommend you do Crown Grill, Chef's Table and a UBD on this cruise. Sabatini's as well if you haven't. In priority , I would do the Chef's Table 1st, UBD 2nd, Crown Grill 3rd and Sabatini's 4th.
BTW, an elite note, we've been turning in a bag of laundry every other night rather than every other morning. That ensures we get it the next night and it's much easier to put it together after dressing for dinner and before heading out the door. No missing clothes yet, nice pressing job. Very handy. Love that little black card.
A little rainy this morning in Hilo. Getting ready for our volcano hike. I feel like a pack mule with all the "stuff" we take. Never been to the big island before. Always wanted to.
The last four days at sea have just flown by. Activities packed into every nook and cranny. Survivor games started yesterday, but Judy got too hot in the sun and developed a heat headache. Watch the sun. Just as bad as in the Caribbean, you must stay hydrated and after a couple of days in the marine layer, you might let your guard down.
My hats off to Dave for managing a jam packed schedule with just a regular CD staff. The addition of Eric in LA as a senior ACD has helped, he's a blast, and the staff seems more relaxed. Us line dancers are very happy with Martin, who can count the Electric Slide and the Achy-Breaky, and teaches quite well. Trust me when I say, you will not be able to do it all and don't even try.
Well the ship is now turning to dock, so we're going to head up to the decks and watch the goings on, plus pack my backpack for the excursions, water, binocs, cameras, first aid kit, rain coats, towel, sunscreen, insurance paperwork...no wonder I feel like a mule sometimes. (Note - I just got a nudge from Judy who's reviewing this for me. "HEY, I had backpack on too!". Yeah, but it was a small one.)
So starts an almost perfect cruise day. Up early, great sights, heavy activity, tired, but hungry body, great food, fantastic entertainment...
We've never been to Hilo before, so we were up and at em. We did the Volcano Hike in and around the Kilauea Iki Crater and Thurston Lava Tube, a Princess Excursion, which covered about 4.2 miles, walked the lava tube, along the Kilauea Iki crater lip, down into the crater, around the vents on the bottom, and up the other side. Then went over to the Volcano Observatory to see the current eruption in Halema uma u Crater in the Kilauea Caldera. Left the docks about 9, got back about 3:15. Very energetic hiking, not too bad, but a good walk.
We felt sorry for the helicopter people. It drizzled the whole time, overcast, grey, but perfect hiking weather. Rained really well in Hilo as well. We carried rain gear, but didn't use it. Needed the cooling rain to cool us down while hiking. A great excursion.
Now some people used local guides, not Princess, and paid much less, got just as good a tour, had lots of fun, but one couple got back at 525 for a 530 all aboard. Too close for my OCPD nerves. Independent tours are always an option and there are a lot of them right outside the warehouse doors, but just be aware of the time. The ship will not wait for you.
Keith and Diana did not get back until 515 and then promptly crashed so Judy and I, hungry after our hike - we only had a little sandwich and a snack bar on the hike - and I mean really hungry, did dinner alone.
It starts out really good...
Another Princess menu, but that was promptly tossed aside as Mario brings Anti-pasta to the table. Think Sabatini's. Thinly cut sausage and hams, grilled zucchini, eggplant and peppers, then add the assorted cheese plate (a double), the freshly baked bread, a Long Island for me, a sour apple Martini for Judy and you have a wonderfully tasty appetizer treat. OMG this was good, and the fact that we were really hungry helped.
Then it gets better...
The only thing that caught my eye on the menu was Grandmother's Coq Au Vin. Chicken cooked in a heavy wine sauce. This was the single best dish on the cruise(s) so far. WOW, OMG and lick the bowl clean good. My mom's side of the family is Swiss. The Swiss, and I do at home, make a rabbit, or beef or liver stew, with red wine, to go over polenta (coarse ground cooked cornmeal). This Coq Au Vin wine sauce rivaled my Grandmother's polenta stew. I literally was scraping the bowl clean with the spoon to get the last drop. It was that good. Dessert was coffee crème brule for Judy, and the apple strudel for me, with vanilla ice cream of course. Both excellent.
So after dinner we run up to MUTS to see Ghosts of Girlfriends past. Yes it had rained, a lot, and yes the chairs were soaked, yes the movie started without sound AND IT DID NOT MATTER. We were having a blast. (I was translating the movie for her since I'd seen it before.) We were laughing and joking with people around us. All of us were just having fun with the no-talky picture show.
Then the sound kicked in and we enjoyed the movie together - munching on sourdough from San Francisco. (Keep in mind the ship is rocking pretty well going out of Hilo.) It's a good date movie with its moments. Dave comes wandering by and we chat for a while. He's just checking on everything.
After the movie we went back to the cabin and almost, I mean that close, almost crashed, but we had to go see Cinematastic. We had promised Vian So I drug my lazy rear end out of the cabin, and its a good thing I did, because
It got even better...
So we go down to the Princess Theatre early and have a great discussion with Bengie (Deputy CD), Martin and Alex (ACDs). For about 30 minutes we just talked about cruise critic, cruising, princess, HI, just a very nice conversation. The staff seems so much more relaxed in the past few days. I think getting off the Alaska itinerary and then getting the HI itinerary settled in has helped them get into a bit more of a groove.
We talked about the HI cultural programs during the day on the ship. During the sea days, there are lei classes, Ukulele classes, cultural lectures, (heck Dave's port lectures are a lot of HI information as well), just a whole host of getting to know HI culture, language, dance and people. This is in ADDITION, to the normal sea day pool games, trivia, dance classes and other stuff.
The staff was basically in awe of Dave. Apparently he set most of this up over the past couple of years and takes a great deal of pride in the "Princess Hawaii Experience". He is really in love with HI, the Islands and the spirit of aloha, and it shows in his cultural and activity programming.
And then WOW...
Ok folks, we've been to every Princess production on a lot of ships. BUT we've always sat about halfway up in the theatre - you know the place. It's where you can make a quick escape after the show, but not have to stand up all the time with new people coming in. You know the places...
Vian recommended we sit front rows, center, and so for the past two shows we have. IT MAKES A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE. First of all, the performers can see you and they look directly at you while performing. It is a personal, direct connection, slightly uncomfortable at first (to me), but almost hypnotic. Secondly, you can see, and appreciate, the facial expressions they work so hard to project during the show.
IT ENHANCES THE ENTIRE SHOW. Trust me.
So I've mentioned before that this is a more "mature" cast of performers. In other words they don't all look 18, but it shows in their performance.
Cinematastic includes the use of the silk ropes and the two hoops from the ceiling in a Bob Fossy'sh, a bit more risque, sequence with the men in tight white shorts and the women in white bikini "underwear".
GULP, this was Coq Au Vin on the stage. Vian does the men's silk rope part, effortlessly, with incredible strength and smoothness. Two of the ladies do the hoops and a third does the women's silk rope dance?/trapeze act?/gymnastic? And from the front you can see the strength and grace as they transition through the various moves. Breathtaking.
Cinematastic is a high energy trip through the dance and music of movies. Flashdance, Footloose, Ghost, The Muppet Movie, tune after tune, dance after dance, it was visual mocha, double espresso coffee. We did not dance after the show, but it still took me 30 minutes to come down afterwards.
YOU CANNOT MISS THIS SHOW FROM DOWN FRONT. DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW FROM THE FRONT.
Get a seat rows 2-4 down front near center. You will not regret it.
An aside, after the show, Judy commented that she did want to see more of Vian during the cruise, she just wasn't sure she wanted to see that much more of him.
I'm not sure I wanted her to see that much more of him either!
We had a nightcap at Explorer's and then turned in. A completely satisfying day of cruising, easily the best day of the cruise.
So today in Oahu we are headed to Todai's in Waikiki for sushi and shopping. We've been to Oahu before. I was there just 3 weeks prior on business, and it's certainly not one of favorite places, but anyway we wanted to hike, get some miles on our dogs and I promised Judy sushi. In addition, we needed to do some shopping for our new friends on board. What else other than Chocolate macadamia nut candies? We have about 6 people on board we are going to buy some goodies for.
We did our 6 miles for the day. It's a nice walk along Ala Moana blvd, then Ala Moana park and beach. I bought Judy Sushi at Todai's. Then we went to the Ala Moana shopping mall to pick up gifts - Hilo Hattie's of course. Chocolate covered Macadamia nuts for Christianna, Vandolph and Mario, chocolate macadamia kisses for Olga, Maria, Inri and Luis.
Yes I gave permission for Judy to give kisses to Inri and Luis, but only if I got to give kisses to Maria and Olga.
The downside was, unfortunately, the walk sealed the fate of several blisters on both of our feet, so that would limit our dancing for the next few days.
Diana and Keith went to Pearl for the VIP tour and loved it. (Diana is a blue star mother - her son is currently on a second tour in Iraq with the Marines.) So I would recommend the VIP Pearl tours for Oahu, if you haven't been. They got in and out with hardly any delays. Kuai'i and Maui I would recommend independent tours or rental cars. There are many, many beaches in both places, especially Kuai'i, that are completely accessible and actually very private. Listen to the port talks that Dave gives, they will give you the tips and tricks.
Dinner was the South Pacific Menu. Keith and Diana didn't make it, but Mario hit us again with fried calamari and shrimp, so we skipped the appetizers and went straight to the main course. Judy had the sea scallops and I had the roasted lamb loin. As with all the dining room lamb dishes, this was really good. I guess I'm also a lambaholic on a ship.
That night in the princess theater was a cultural exchange show with kids from the local Halau Hula Olana. Very authentic, very nice.
After two hard days of walking, we hit the bed and hit it hard that night.
Kuai'i, was completely different from Oahu. From the dogleg entrance to the pier with a multi-million dollar ship to the gravel roads to the limestone, yes I said limestone, formation where the cave was, it was an interesting place to visit.
We got in the van to go on the cave hike and traveled to the cave site and hiked down the beach. We've been walking on lava rock for the last two days and I was totally surprised to walk on a limestone formation. That was unexpected and weird. I wish the professor were there to explain this "anomaly". It is, after some googling, called a "sea level high stand of mid to late Holocene formation of the Hanalei Coastal Plain." Now that really cleared things up...
The cave was interesting, no real wow factor. It was smaller than expected but a pretty standard limestone cave carved by a waterflow. But, unfortunately, I wouldn't recommend this excursion simply because of the cost. It was a beautiful walk, a magnificent beach, interesting cave, but simply not worth the price Princess was charging. Having now been to Kuai'i, the next time we will do something a bit different.
After getting back to the ship, we showered, cleaned up and hit the dinner bell after watching the maneuvering out of the harbor. Tonight Mario hit us with the anti-pasta again, but this time Diana and Keith joined us. This was the Princess dinner #4 menu with some interesting new things on the menu.
Judy tried the fresh mozzarella and Tomato salad, which she liked. I just stuck with the anti-pasta. It was sooooo goooood! I didn't care too much for the chilled spicy tomato soup, but I really enjoyed the Chateaubriand. Diana had the grilled beef medallions while Keith and Judy had the Shepherd's pie off of the new Home Style Cuisine menu. I tried a bite and it was very good. The Home Style Cuisine menus have proven to be very good.
Dessert for Keith was ice cream and cheesecake. We'd all had a pretty active day
Tonight was the deck party, one of our favorite things to attend. But Judy's blisters were just too much - she had 5 on one foot. We hit the hay early. (I have just been informed by my editor that it was I that caved in, not her. Gee, not how I remember it.)
Maui is a tender port at Lahaina. We did the waterfall and hike tour. For those of us with excursions, we met in the Princess Theater and waited to be called to a tender. Once ashore we met up with our guide(s), piled into vans and drove to Kahulai to pick up lunch, water shoes and drinking water. We then drove to a farm on the Hana Highway.
Again, interesting but simply not worth the price Princess is charging. 1.5 hours in a van to hike 100 yards to a muddy waterfall. If they would have hiked us to the upper falls, about 1 mile, and let us swim there, that would have been much better. The water was still cloudy, from recent heavy rains, but much clearer.
We got back to the docks around 3:30, in time to catch a tender back, take a shower and get some rest before dinner because tonight was Chef's table!
This would be our third chef's table. Dawn Princess in April 2008 and Grand Princess in April 2009. We are treating Diana and Keith to Chef's table as well. For those of you who know Judy and myself, we are foodies. We watch Food Network, Bravo and Travel Channel. Cringe sometimes at Andrew's dishes, are jealous of Bourdain's meals with Morimoto, think this year's Top Chef has the best chef's of any of the past seasons, love Alton Brown, root for "The Chairman" on Dancing With The Stars, want to follow Guy Fieri's Triple D across America, and would have hired Kevin, not Dave on Hell's Kitchen, and spend most of our cruise blog time commenting on food. (Actually Judy tells me she would have hired Dave. Harumph. Comments from the peanut gallery for sure.)
So, without further ado, here's Chef's Table.
A very good presentation, food was excellent, the wines incredible. One of the reasons I like Chef's table is that the wines are picked for you to match the food. I'm not a wine person, but I do appreciate a good pairing. 49er and his wife (from Cruise Critic) were at this table as well. So it was nice to have people familiar with Chef's table around.
The most important thing is that JP only seats 10 at Chef's table. We're used to 12 in a seating. We like 10 very much. The table is much less congested, much more open to conversation and just a much better environment.
Apps in the galley included fau gras, caviar, crab margarita, spicy shrimp, all with accompanying champagne. I didn't care for the fau gras that much, but the caviar, crab margarita and spicy shrimp were great. We met the man responsible for Judy's fettuccine alfredo, gave him a big thumbs up! The galley is a stainless steel wonder. It would make Tim the Tool Man Taylor jealous.
The main table seating was in one of the dining rooms near the front door, where you can hear all the whispered conversations of people wondering what was going on with us and others wanting to sign up as well.
A mushroom risotto followed at the table. I like risotto ever since the first Chef's Table. Having heard about it so much on Hell's Kitchen I now order it whenever I get a chance. For a palette cleanser a grey goose vodka soaked lemon sorbet follows. I really liked the spicy bloody Mary sorbet with cracked pepper on the Grand in April better, but this was pretty good. Main course was veal chops and shanks followed by a camembert cheese tartlet, with a port wine reduction, and then dessert on a sugar plate.
The dinner was fantastic. Comparing to the Grand in April would be like comparing apples to bananas - but here goes. The table of 10 was much better than a table of 12, the apps were very comparable as was the risotto. The spicy bloody Mary sorbet on the grand was a clear winner compared to the lemon, but the veal on the Golden was simply stunning. The camembert was just as good at the goat cheese tart and desserts were comparable. The wine selection, one of the main reasons I like Chef's table, was stellar. JP sets a good table and Chef Norbert can really cook. A champagne, a white, a red and a dessert wine, all matched very well with the food and just downright good.
It was basically a tie. This is our third chef's table and every one of them has given us our money's worth. It's highly, highly recommended. You get a cookbook, photo, all the wine you can drink, specialty coffees, a rose for the ladies, a printed copy of the menu. Well worth the money. And Keith and Diana enjoyed it a lot as well.
After dinner it was time to find out if Judy's blisters were going to prevent her from doing the Country Western hoe down. So we started in the wheelhouse with canned dance music, danced with Equinox until the Baby Dolls came in, popped over there for a while, came back to the Wheelhouse when horse racing started and then scampered back over to Explorers for the Country Western Hoe down.
Now this was a fun night. We knew pretty much all the staff by now, all the band members by now and much of the bar staff. We also knew there was a line dancing club on the ship with about 20 members.
So the Country Western night was a few line dances, apparently they have stopped doing Cotton Eye Joe in the circle (sanitary reasons), but they did the bang bang game, electric slide, boot scooting boogie, a couple of others and the Tush Push Cruise Staff Challenge. I talked to the band prior to the show and asked them to slow the progression of the Chattahoochee so that those of us that knew the Tush Push could get started and keep up with the cruise staff. Sure enough there was about 20 of us on the floor with the cruise staff. And we kept up just as long as they did.
After all of that we just kept dancing for a while and then finally got back to bed around 130am.
Another long night, but satisfying.
10-6-09 At Sea
I am very glad that there is 5 days and nights left to dance and party after Hawaii. I wish we were in the ports longer and they were spread out more in time, but I know the logistics make this impossible and no, NCLA is not an option! Besides, PoA looks funny. That bulldog front is not one bit cute.
Suffice it to say we are having a blast. Good food, good entertainment, good company, no work.
We did order room service this morning, but the wind on the balcony and the motion of the ship made it near impossible to eat outside. Love those rear balconies with no wind.
Because of the change in ship motion, Judy went back to bed. I think she will be fine later, just a matter of adapting to the different movements the ship makes going in this direction. While Judy got her sea legs back during a nap, I wandered around the ship to the ballroom dance class, Survivor Part 3 and a couple of trivia games.
So I did our ballroom dance class in the morning with Vian and Jane, Rhumba, and Vian picked a perfect modern Rhumba tune to dance to; the lyrics include ' a vertical expression of a horizontal desire...'. Yep, that says it all.
This was a formal night, and Italian night at dinner, Caliente, the Love and Marriage Game Show and late night dancing.
Tonight is also the final showing of Caliente. They've just stood up this show on the HI itinerary. Vian actually has danced it 3 years ago, but had forgotten most of the steps, unless you play music and then muscle memory takes over. We've promised to be there for sure.
Italian night is one of my favorites. Two Eggplant Parmesans, special pasta from Mario and the veal. Judy really only ate the special pasta and the fettucine alfredo. Her taste buds were still a little off from the morning's motion. Diana had the turbot saltimbocca and enjoyed it.
The star was Mario's pasta with red sauce and capers. Very nice. Our second favorite after the seafood pasta with shrimp, mussels, calamari and scallops sautEed in olive oil. I also tried the lemon cello. Not one of my favorites. I probably should have just shot it, but I preferred to sip. Back to whiskey sours, yes I've changed over from Long Islands to whiskey sours. Variety is the spice of life.
So we went to Caliente and sat with Paul, Elizabeth and her mother - Mom to the rest of us. They had previously seen Caliente and directed us to the best seats.
So we sat center, row 3. Caliente was GREAT. Even more energetic than Cinematastic, with much more dancing, less singing, many more set changes...
And now, with our sitting in the front rows, it's a whole different perspective. I swear, it seems like Vian and Jane are pointing us out and all the dancers and singers look straight at us and smile or wink at us during the whole show. It really changes the show dynamic and brings you into the show itself. You just have to try this once.
Caliente had a lot of Latin music and dancing. Our favorite style of dance. Vian, as usual, was precise, energetic, graceful, but did keep his clothes on this time. Jane was gorgeous, as were all the girls. There is one girl with such a big smile, she literally lights up the stage. We are really enjoying the shows all over again from this new perspective down front.
By now all of you should now that Vian teaches ballroom, he is classically ballet trained, he does the silk rope thingy in Cinematastic, with few clothes. ( A side note. Apparently as he walked on the stage a couple of days ago, and those of you who have seen Cinematastic know that the walk to the silk ropes is done with a very stoic facial expression and a tense body posture, a little girl in the front row exclaims ' mommy, that man is naked' to which the mother replies ' no dear, he is wearing something'. Vian claims he maintained a straight face.)
So anyway, at the end of Caliente, one person wears a puppet harness for a large oversized giant paper mache figure manuipulated via the harness and poles attached to the harness.
Yep, it was Vian. Apparently this guy can really do it all.
So after Caliente, we hotfooted down to the Vista lounge and signed up for the Love and Marriage show, and got on. We were the middle couple and the intent was to have fun, not win. (The couple married for 67 years; who's first kiss, and first tryst; occurred on her mother's door step in 1942 in London, England won.)
It was a hoot - with free champagne. Unfortunately I am now called "tugboat" as I walk through the Horizon Court and Judy wants to use it as a nickname now. (This is not how I intended this to go.) And of course they found out Judy robbed the cradle while I was going out with her sister...take that editor in chief...
So we went dancing after the show to the Baby Dolls music in explorers and finally packed it all in after midnight.
A long day, an entertaining evening and a good nights sleep.
10-7-09 At Sea
Once again, today and tonight, there is a lot to do. The boat building finals, survivor final round, Gaetano the magician, a new comedian juggler, dancing...
Judy's just fine this morning. No motion problems at all, even though the boat is moving more than yesterday.
There was so much to do, we had to skip ballroom and line dance. Had to sample the other stuff at least once.
Judy went to a Lei demo class, while I puttered around the Wheelhouse.
Passenger feud was fun - just like family feud, sort of. Judy and Diana were on the girl's team. When I left they were behind and still came back to win.
We watched the survivor finals - an older guy who got voted out the first day won over the younger crowd - experience and sneakiness triumphs again! A couple of things about Survivor on a cruise ship. Dave makes this game so interesting. A lot of twists and turns. On the first day, 3 people get voted out, but then he has them form a new tribe and one of them ends up winning. Challenges include swimming, diving, throwing water laden foam balls in a bowl to be squeezed into a glass. The last challenge between the two finalist was to put two arms and a head into a tee shirt. Except the tee shirt, cotton, had been tied into knots, soaked and then frozen solid in a block of ice. Really a lot of fun.
The boat building finals - someone needs to design a submarine with a motor. That would be unique. The winner basically tied, with dental floss, a raft together of empty aluminum bear bottles. One of the runners up was a duplicate of the Golden Princess made out of empty water bottles, complete with cork skywalkers and bridge wings. Very creative, lots of fun.
Cosmopolitan Dinner menu. Didn't matter. Mario whipped out the anti-pasta. Grilled asparagus joined the peppers, zucchini and eggplant. The ham, salami and sausages were delicious - especially when joined with the cheese plate cheeses. Yummy!
Everyone had the fettuccine alfredo - even me. Good stuff. The barley soup was ok, but too much like oatmeal for breakfast. I had the leg of lamb, love that dining room lamb, Judy had the home style cuisine Dutch Ribs, also good. Diana and Keith had the surf and turf, which they also enjoyed.
Dessert was cherries jubilee made by Mario. One of our favorites - with vanilla ice cream of course!
Peter Sasso, a juggling comedian, was in the Vista. After he warmed the crowd up, it got very funny. Tomorrow night he has a different show, one liners only.
We danced prior to dinner, after dinner, before the show and after the show. Mainly to Equinox in the wheelhouse. The Golden Princess band did Latin tunes in Explorer's from 1030 on, but they covered the whole range and we don't know how to Mambo or Samba. About 1130, we headed over to the Wheelhouse for a night cap with Paul and Elizabeth. So I wanted to try a shooter. Monica and Olga came up with a Woo-Woo. Cranberry, vodka and triple sec. Very dangerous drink. Tasted like watered down fruit juice. Light, not too sweet, did not taste the vodka. She must have used the good stuff.
Slept like a baby...
10-8-09 At Sea
Actually not much happening in the morning, so Judy and I did our 1 mile walk around the Promenade deck prior to lunch, which was a Sushi lunch.
Went to ballroom blitz rehearsal after lunch and signed up for swing and cha-cha. Enjoyed Dave and Ben's Life @ Sea talk. The held a Q&A with passengers on what life working on a cruise ship is like. Cruise critic got a big plug. Apparently someone posted a Dave comment two weeks ago that got Dave an email from corporate - 'you said what!?'
A power nap was absolutely necessary - and it was a good one. Dinner was Chef's dinner and Mario's pasta was great. Spaghetti sauteed in mushroom, garlic, olive oil and pepper flakes. Simple and extremely tasty.
Judy had the fried chicken from the home style menu and I went straight to the rack of lamb. Judy requested no slaw and the mashed potatoes from another main course. Mashed potatoes and fried chicken. MMMM! Again, the lamb was better than the Crown Grill lamb. Nicely done.
Entertainment was Peter Sasso and a host of jokes and one liners. No juggling this time. Then we went to see Gaitano, yep front rows and jeesh is his assistant absolutely stunningly gorgeous - did I just say that out loud? We've seen his show before, but again totally different up close and personal.
Then it was dance, dance and more dance. For some reason Equinox had the Rhumba hour, 7 Rhumba's in a row, then the Cha-Cha hour, 6 cha-chas in a row. Hopped over to the Baby Dolls and they did their obligatory 12 minute opening cha-cha, followed by 2 more. Learned a new line dance from the line dancers in the audience, danced a few more times and then headed to Skywalkers to check it out.
We found all the smoking refugees in Skywalkers. The only indoor party venue that allows smoking now. A quick pass through there and it was time to call it a night - at 2am, again.
Good thing we did that power nap thing.
10-9-09 At Sea
Tonight is formal night, but we just don't feel like dressing up, so we will be eating in the buffet at some time during the evening. We got to get in enough dancing to carry us through the next 3 months between cruises.
Luggage tags in the mailbox, Ensenada, packing, paying the bill looming tomorrow, work and home details starting to intrude back into the brain, thinking about scheduling, traveling, work tasking, problems, issues while in the shower. Happens every cruise, which is why I don't like the 7 day ones anymore (2 days to unwind, 2 days to wind back up) unless they are B2B2B2B...you get the idea.
So today we did the ballroom tango class (T-A-N-GO). Then we watched the culinary show with Norbert and JP. We still haven't found a culinary show to compete with the one on the Dawn several years ago. That one was a roll on the floor show, but this one was fun to watch. They make those dishes look so easy to make.
We missed line dance class, sorry Martin, since we had to get lunch having gotten up too late to do anything but coffee this morning. We went to the Morning Show Live taping with David and Ben, Judy went to ribbon lei class and I snoozed. Quite well actually.
The buffet is nice. They have cut back on the number of selections over the past couple of years, but the quality of the individual selections is much better, at least here on the Golden. Tonight though, I just wanted some fruit and cheese.
Tonight is one of those busy nights. Dancing, Motor City from the front row, Ballroom Blitz and then dance till we fall asleep tonight. I can always sleep on the plane on Sunday.
Motor City - up front and personal. We did indeed sit in the front row, and yep it was totally different, again. Judy gets picked out to go up on stage and dance with James, one of the lead male vocalists, and I get an up close look at "heard it through the grapevine". (Needed a smoke after that number, the girls were all wearing zuit suit jackets - no pants.) Apparently Vian had a hand in it since one of James' comments was, 'so you're Judy'. Too bad on the "no photo" policy.
Motor City is very high energy with a trip through Motown through song and dance. Kirsten (Bourke) and Leslie (Turner), the lead female vocalists, have amazing voices with great range. No offense to the guys, James and Roger, but these ladies can flat sing.
It's funny we've been missing half the show all these years by sitting in the back. I did peruse a couple of roll calls for follow on cruises. It appears that at least a few people are going to try the front rows. I think they will be pleasantly surprised.
Then we went to Ballroom Blitz. We haven't done that in several cruises. We signed up to do the Cha-Cha and the single time swing, and survived that. Hey, free champagne! Because of a technical glitch at Motor City, part of the stage wouldn't move, Vian and Jane did not do their Salsa demonstration because they were running late.
So we're sitting there at ballroom talking to one of the other couples we've been dancing with, all cruise by the way, and find out they live about 2 miles from our house, and that it's snowing and 37 degrees in Colorado Springs. Small world!
After ballroom, we went to the wheelhouse with a few of the other couples and kicked back with drinks for a while before heading off to bed.
Ensenada is a technical stop required by the PVSA, the Passenger Vessel Services Act. Any foreign flagged ship when carrying passengers roundtrip to a US port MUST stop at a foreign port prior to arriving back at the US. This is why Victoria is a stop on Round Trip Seattle cruises. (A foreign flagged ship carrying passengers from one US city to another, MUST stop in a "distant" foreign port. A port NOT in central or north America, which is why most panama canal ships stop in Aruba and/or Cartagena!)
We did not get off the ship. We've talked to some people about Ensenada, but the last day of a cruise is somewhat melancholy to us. It's a bummer. We really like the Princess Cays part of a Caribbean cruise, but you also have to pack. We took our last look at the photos, picked up our DVD, had one last dinner with Diana, Mario, Christianna, Keith and Vandolph. Passed out our additional tips to everyone, shook hands, hugged and said goodbye with tear filled eyes.
We danced our last dances with the Baby Dolls, went back to see Motor City again with Paul, Elizabeth and Mom.
Very smooth. We went to Elite Lounge and hung around for a while until our color was called about 930. Went out and caught a cab to LAX, checked in on United and flew home to Colorado. Picked up the car, went by and picked up the dogs and got home about 7pm that night.
A very good cruise, and highly recommended. Definitely in our top 5 at #4 or #5. We will do this cruise again for sure... Read Less