ROYAL PRINCESS - Nov 30 –> Dec 10, 2017
Wednesday, Nov 29 - Travel day
Well, here I am in beautiful downtown LAX at gate 25. It is 4:30am and boarding begins in twenty minutes. I was woken up at about 2:15am by a ringing sound. After a few seconds I identified the source of the noise. It was my alarm clock.
I was showered and dressed and ready when the limo driver arrived around 3:00am. It sounds expensive, but it is the same price as a taxi, much more comfortable, and very much more professional. Given the early hour, there was not much traffic. I assume the driver used to be a taxi driver, based on the way (and speed) he was driving.
So I’m at the airport by 3:30am. Unfortunately, nothing happens inside the terminal until 4:00am. Nonetheless, I am checked in and waiting at the gate by 4:20am. So with nothing better to do, I begin my review.
People seem to like details, and I have a short memory (my memory has been timed with a stopwatch), so I write my review while on the ship. People also seem to like photographs, so I’ve brought three cameras; a DSLR, a point and shoot camera (for shore excursions), and a waterproof camera for, you will not believe this, underwater shots (bet you didn’t see that coming).
In the past I posted all the pictures with the review. After a while that became time consuming, tedious, and boring. So I set up albums and posted some of the pictures with the review and most of the pictures in the albums. Then Photobucket dot com restricted third party linking to its most expensive plan (the $400 per year plan). I don’t mind paying a little for the third-party-hosting, but I’m not moving from a $40 dollar plan to a $400 dollar plan just so I can post my photographs online. So I did some checking around and found that SmugMug offers unlimited storage and unlimited linking for $48 per year. Since I have unlimited storage, and can upload bigger photos and longer videos. This is especially good now that Cruise Critic limits the size of the photos that can be posted. So, I’ll post some of the photos with the link and provide links to albums that will contain all of the photos. Please let me know how you like this new system.
Well, boarding should begin soon, so it is time to shut down the laptop. I will probably continue this on the plane.
Well, it is about 9:18am, seven miles below us. I’ve had breakfast and now it is time to continue working on this. My boarding pass said gate 25. When I looked at the sign, it said next flight was to Atlanta. What I missed is that the flight leaves at 6:45am, and I am on a 5:30am flight. I was wondering why nobody was lining up to board. Turns out my flight is leaving from gate 24 (my boarding pass said gate 25).
It is only 5:00am and boarding started at 4:50am, yet all sections have been called, so I am one of the last to board the plane. And there is someone in my seat. Why? Because they (it is a couple) think someone is sitting in their seat. They are booked in two different rows, no one is in their seats, and they just wanted to sit together. Well, then they should have booked two seats that are next to each other.
So, a little about me. This is my 32nd cruise. I reached the second highest level on Royal Caribbean (D+), Carnival (Platinum), and Princess (also Platinum). I am not sure of my level on NCL, but I have been on three NCL cruises and this is my fourth Princess cruise. I have one more Princess cruise booked and two more NCL cruises booked. Most of my cruises have been on Royal Caribbean. However, lately I have become uncomfortable with the direction Royal Caribbean is taking, so I have been trying other lines. I like Carnival, but I also like longer cruises (this one is ten nights) and Carnival does not have many cruises longer than eight nights. I still want to try Celebrity, HAL, and Costa.
I also want to see other private islands. So far all the private islands I have been on belong to Royal Caribbean. This cruise’s first stop is Princess Cays, then St. Thomas, Martinique (originally it was Dominica, but the hurricanes took care of that), Grenada, Bonaire, and Curacao. I’ve been to Dominica, so now three of these islands are new to me (Princess Cays, Martinique, and Grenada).
Well, we are more than halfway there with about 90 minutes until we arrive in Atlanta. Since I only got about three hours of sleep last night, I think I will sign off now and try to get some rest.
I’m in the Atlanta Airport now. It has been a long time since I was in an airplane restroom. It is even smaller than a ship board bathroom. I mentioned to the stewardess that it would hard to get lost in there. She got a big laugh out of that.
I made it to Fort Lauderdale. I put my camera in an overhead bin and the person sitting next to me was trying to get some sleep, so I missed a few good photo opportunities.
I “won” the Marriott Fort Lauderdale North via Hotwire. The last time I used Hotwire I got a good hotel near the port. Marriott is supposed to be a good hotel, but my first impressions were not good. Also, it is NOT near the port.
I’ve got two checked luggage (flying first class, so both are free) and two carry-ons (one for the computer and one for the cameras). I checked in and went upstairs. The room cards did not work. So back downstairs I went. I was given two new cards. The new cards worked. However, the room was occupied. I called from the ninth floor phone, but they kept me on hold too long and I knew I would have to go downstairs again anyway, so I hung up the phone and went back downstairs again. They gave me a different room and room cards and back upstairs I went. The cards did not work. I called. They sent someone to meet me. He tried the card one time, and it did not work. He tried the card a second time, and it worked. I asked him for the secret. He said it is not you, it is me. Apparently after one failed attempt he changed cards to his get in any room card. Then he went and got me some new cards and reprogrammed the door.
All of that got me a free bottle of water and twenty dollars off of something. I wonder what I will get when I tell them about the alligator in the bathtub? Since the room is prepaid, I’m kind of stuck having dinner in the hotel’s restaurant or forfeiting my OLC (on land credit). So, off I go. I will let you know if it is worth it. There are a couple of other issues. One, the entry light takes three seconds to come on. So one gets to stand in the dark until the light comes on. Two, there is no in room safe.
I will catch up with you after dinner.
Well, the restaurant was not as expensive as I expected it to be. The food was good, about on par with Black Angus. However, the menu was two photocopied sheets of paper stapled together. Really? That reminds me of an out in the middle of nowhere pizza place. I would have expected better of a very nice looking restaurant inside a Marriott Hotel.
Thursday, November 30 - Embarkation day
The hotel slips the bill under the door, just like the cruise ships do. The room is prepaid, so my bill is for the restaurant. The bill is accurate, however, there are a few additional taxes that I have not seen before. There is a beverage tax, a Caribbean tax and a “takeabreak” tax. All are zero, so as I said, the bill is correct, as the total is the same as the amount that I signed for last night.
At 8:20am I get a knock on my door. It is the cleaning lady, who is embarrassed to find me still in the room. Don’t they know I have not checked out yet? Overall, I am not impressed with this hotel. This is the first not so good experience I have had with Hotwire. Had embarkation day been a weekend day, I would have picked one of the two hotels overlooking the pier for the photo opportunities.
Well, it is time to go board the ship. Be back at you later.
The hotel ordered a “car” for me. It wasn’t until later that I realize that meant a limo. Sounds expensive, right? It was $49 plus tip (the taxi was $53.50 plus tip). Since there was no traffic at 10:30am, the trip was a lot quicker also. I was at the port around 10:50am. Much to my surprise, the lines were already long. The priority line was as long as the other line. Nonetheless the line moved fairly quickly and soon I was checked in.
We are supposed to board by group. I was in boarding group “H-Preferred” and I sat in the area I was told. However, I got up to ask the man guarding the stairs (sorry, I forgot the question I ask) and I was told there was a lounge upstairs for priority people. I told him I was platinum and he said I could go up, so I did. I basically ended up in the same type of chair I was in before, just higher up. I didn’t notice much difference.
Soon we were boarding. The Elites went first, then us. I went to my cabin and dropped off my carry-on luggage and then headed out to take pictures. I don’t recall the time, but I was on board before noon. I was surprised the safety drill was not playing in the cabin. I would learn why after sail-away.
The room comes with one 1.5 liter bottle of water and two half liter bottles of water. The half-liter bottles are $2.00 each. The 1.5 liter bottle is $3.95, so the 1.5 liter bottle is a better deal.
As I got close to the Horizon Court I decided to take advantage of the open seating (open meaning there were still tables available). All you do is fill your plate and then find a place to eat. The silverware and napkins are on the tables and there are waiters and waitresses there to take your drink orders.
After lunch I went back to the cabin to get my hat for sun protection. I met Dendi, my room steward. I told him I have late seating and I like plenty of ice. My luggage had not arrived yet. I then went back out and took more pictures. Pretty much took all the photos of the upper decks and my cabin that I wanted to get. I took 211 photos and videos today.
When I returned to my cabin, I found my luggage inside the cabin. Being tired, I laid down on the bed and turned on the TV. The TV turned on, but I could not change the channels. As I left for the muster drill (at 3:15pm) I saw Dendi and asked him if the remote worked. He said yes, so I told him the remote doesn’t change channels. He said he would check it. However, I was not able to catch up with him until after sail-away. He takes one look at the TV and says it is not connected. He will have to contact technical. So I explained that I like to follow the progress of the ship and I need the TV to view my account. He showed me how to do that on my computer turns out you cannot check your account on the TV.
At any rate, soon there is a knock on the door. It is the guy who is going to fix the TV. That was impressively quick. He looked a little confused, so I handed him the remote. The TV comes on and it is working. I was just about to ask him how he did that when I noticed the TV said it was set up for first time use. So I said, “Oh, you did something before you came here.” He smiled and asked how I knew that. I told him it was because the TV said it was set up for first time use. At any rate, the TV works, so life is good.
You need to put your room card in a little slot just inside the door, or no electricity. Any card will do, even the blue piece of paper with the boarding group on it (folded in half) works.
Well, it is 7:00pm, dinner is at 8:00pm and I haven’t unpacked yet. So I will catch up with you later.
I’m at a table for eight. Six of us where there tonight. Two couples from England and Canada and two single men from the United States (one from the east coast and one from the west coast). All seem to be experienced cruisers. Seems like a good group. I had pasta for an appetizer and prime rib for the main course. I wanted something cold for dessert, so I had chocolate ice cream with chocolate syrup.
One of the things I learned at dinner is that there is a special event for Platinum, Elite, and suite passengers every night from 5:00pm to 7:00pm in Club 6. Turns out that I did receive the invitation, I just had not read it yet.
When I returned to the cabin, I found that I had received a gift, a Princess tote, which will come in handy tomorrow. After finishing with this I watched the second half of the Cowboys / Redskins game. However, I fell asleep before the end of the game. I think the Cowboys won. At least they were winning when I fell asleep.
Friday, December 1 - Princess Cays
I woke up around 5:30am and decided to get dressed and take pictures of the inside of the ship. I was able to take pictures of most of what I wanted on decks five and six. So I will leave deck seven for another day.
We are stopping at Princess’ private island today. I’ve rented a locker for the day so that I don’t have to keep going back and forth to the ship when I change cameras. I’ve got a fifteen minute banana boat ride at 12:25pm and a one hour tour of the island at 1:30pm. After the tour I will probably come back to the ship. It is about 8:25am now and we are approaching Princess Cays, so I will catch up with you when I get back.
Well, things went fairly well for me on the island, but it was not perfect. I was the only one to sign up for the 12:25pm banana boat ride, and they were not willing to offer the boat ride for one person. I could wait for the 1:00pm group, but I had another tour scheduled for 1:30pm. So I was given my ticket back and was told to get my refund back on the ship. A second issue was I got a little too much sun (I did wear my hat).
My main goal was to get plenty of photographs of the island. However, while I don’t know if Princess owns the entire island, the resort area while quite large makes up only a small part of the island. Still, I did get plenty of photographs with my good camera. Then I got my underwater camera and got some good photographs of the fish in the snorkel area.
After all my picture taking it was time for lunch. It is basic buffet fare, hot dogs, hamburgers, and chicken. At least they had ice for the water. I then took an extra half of a hamburger bun and feed the fish that I had just photographed from the observation platform just above the area where the fish hang out.
After lunch and the missed banana boat ride, I took the coastal cruise. Basically we go down to the southern end of the island and back in one hour. It was not as interesting as I had hoped, but the tour guide was fantastic! She spoke in a nice clear voice, was knowledgeable, and funny.
On the tender back to the ship there was a film crew filming a couple. I’m not sure why, but these were no amateurs. There was a makeup artist, and the camera they had was very professional looking and easily worth $10,000 or more. I asked the camera man a little about his equipment and he said his sensor was bigger than a full sized 35 mm sensor. Looking at the numbers on the lens I realized he was shooting with a very wide angle lens. He was only about one to two feet away from the couple as he photographed them. He even let me view part of the scene that he shot.
Now I had noticed some people on the island with expensive cameras set up, but those were just nice looking DSLRs on a tripod. Back on the ship I showered and then went down to the shore excursion desk to get a refund, which went smoothly. But there was another camera man with a steady-cam shooting a documentary for an English company. I ended up talking to the person who they were focusing on. I signed the waiver form, so who knows, I might end up on English TV. I hope the English can understand me despite my American accent.
All eight of us were at the table tonight. The other couple is from the United States, but I didn’t catch which state (Middle America - perhaps Kansas). This is an interesting group and we had a very interesting conversation. I had chicken as an appetizer and pasta as the main dish. I went with same ice cream combo again. The head waiter stopped by and I asked him a question that had come up the night before. How do you assign table mates? The main three things that they look at are whether you are part of a group or if your reservation is linked with someone else, language spoken, and age.
For your information, there is a very noticeable vibration in the Allegro Dining Room. The Allegro Dining Room is all the way aft on the sixth deck. We have all noticed this vibration both nights. How noticeable is it? If it was a bed, you would expect to pay ten cents ever ten minutes, or as a special, 25 cents every fifteen minutes.
I put most of the things you can get charged for in the mini fridge. I was wondering if the cabin steward would notice that while out of sight, I had not opened the water (until today). I also have a wet hand towel in the fridge so I have something to cool me down with when I come into the cabin. He did, as today I received a receipt to sign for the 1.5 liter water bottle that I opened. Fair enough, at least he is checking.
Well as I mentioned, I got a little too much sun today, so I am kind of tired. Also, we move our clocks ahead one hour, so it is now 12:30am. At least tomorrow is a day at sea, also known as a day of rest, so I will see you later today. Good morning.
Saturday, December 2 - Day at sea
Good morning fellow cruisers. With the time change and the late hour I went to sleep, I didn’t wake up until about 7:30am and didn’t get out of bed until about 8:00am. Oh the advantages of a day at sea.
It must have rained last night. The bridge cam is wet, my balcony is wet, and outside all I can see is water.
So today I will check out the stores, attend a meet and greet at 11:00am in Club 6, take some sea day photos, dress for formal night, see the production show, and have my picture taken with the captain. Also I had a couple of pictures taken of me on Princess Cays, so I will spend some time look for them (I wish they would put names on the pictures, it would make finding each person’s pictures so much easier).
I found my room steward and asked him how to get my account on the TV. You can’t. Well, that explains why I could not figure it out. So I checked on my account on my laptop computer. Fortunately since I am platinum I get 250 free minutes for this cruise (checking one’s onboard account does not count against the Internet time). It took a while to figure out what Princess is doing. The $13.50 daily charge was easy to figure out. But it looked like I was getting charged again for all the prepaid shore excursions. However, then I saw the large credit, which covered the shore excursions (I assume - I will check the math later). Did the credit for the missed banana boat ride show up? No, but then I realized, neither did the charge.
The Princess Patter (the ship’s newspaper) has an enrichment article. The history of EFFY Jewelry. So, I guess the infomercial has figured out how to invade the printed media.
Well, I’m off to see how much trouble I can get into. So if I don’t end up in the brig, I will let you know how things went. Actually I just need to clear the cabin so that Dendi can do his thing.
I had a light breakfast, checked out the stores (didn’t buy anything), attended the meet and greet (we had a good turn out, but none of the crew showed up), took some sea day photos, found only one of my Princess Cays photographs (I bought it) and went back to the cabin to relax and have a light lunch out on the balcony.
Yesterday one of the light bulbs burned out. That was quickly repaired today.
So, shortly after 5:00pm I got dressed in a suit and tie and went to Club 6 which becomes the Platinum/Elite/Suite Lounge from 5:00pm to 7:00pm. It is a nice meeting place, but not really my style. At 6:00pm I went to the Princess Theater to watch the production show, Colors of the World. At 7:00pm I was expecting to get a picture with the Captain. However, the Captain just introduced the senior staff, then posed for pictures by request. So I ended up with a picture of the Captain, not with the Captain.
Tonight was formal night. I had pasta for an appetizer and beef for the main course (and of course my chocolate ice cream with chocolate syrup for dessert). I ate my beef fairly quickly, so the waiter brought me a second helping. It was good. Today was one of the couple’s fiftieth anniversary. So the staff sang Happy Anniversary to the tune of Happy Birthday.
After dinner, having had a fairly full day, I went to sleep. So, until tomorrow, good night.
Sunday, December 3 - St. Thomas
I woke up around 5:00am and went to the seventh deck around 5:30am to finish photographing the public areas of the ship. I finished around 6:15am and thought about trying to catch the sunrise. However, there were two problems with this. First, the ship was heading right at the sun. That is not normally an issue, except this ship has no forward observation deck.
In fact, it is ironic that this ship has no ocean view cabins (it has inside cabins, balcony cabins, and suites, but no ocean view staterooms), because unless you are on you balcony, or deck sixteen or seventeen, you are not going to see the ocean. There is no view of the ocean on the public decks (decks five, six, and seven) except for the public spaces aft of the aft elevator shafts (which are mostly restaurants). Because the Promenade deck (deck seven) is where the lifeboats are stationed, and because the lifeboats are safety equipment, much of the Promenade deck is off limits to the passengers.
The second problem is that there are clouds over the horizon and none overhead, which is the exact opposite of what is needed for a good sunrise photo. So I took a couple of photographs, but they are nothing to write home about.
After breakfast I headed back to the cabin to work on this and rest up a bit. Then I went to visit downtown St. Thomas. Prior to the hurricanes my plan was to visit Sapphire Beach. However, now my plan is to visit the town and go up to Paradise Point (if it is operating). So I will catch up with you later.
Well, Saint Thomas is about eighty percent back to normal. However, that does not include Paradise Point. I went downtown and bought some things for some friends, then headed back to the ship and went swimming. After swimming I had lunch, then showered, and watched some football and worked on this. I should mention that I have been showering with the temperature set as low as possible, not because I like cold showers (I don’t) but because the cold is warm enough for a shower in the tropics. It is warmer than room temperature (and a lot warmer than my room temperature).
While I was shopping there was a big downpour, so I am glad I was not at Sapphire Beach or I might have gotten wet - yikes! I’m sure I will return to Saint Thomas sometime in the future since all the one week Eastern Caribbean cruises stop at Saint Thomas and/or Sint Maarten.
We received our debarkation forms today. This will be the first time I am doing self-assist. Because I didn’t want to take any chances, I chose a 10:45am flight out of Fort Lauderdale. However, I am hoping to catch an earlier flight, so I am going to self-assist and hope for the best.
So until it is time for dinner I am going to sort photographs. I will catch up with you after dinner.
Next to our table is a table clearly set up for something special. Today it was being used as the Chef s table. From what I could tell, the people are served things that don’t look anything like food. As for myself, I had a pasta appetizer and the surf and turf main course. Now here is where having the same waiters every night works out well. Realizing that the steaks are small, our waiter asked me if I would like two steaks with my surf and turf dinner. Of course I said yes. I had my usual double chocolate ice cream. It is cold and yummy. I’ll order something different for dessert when I see something I really want.
Otherwise, I did a lot or walking today, developed a blister, discovered I don’t have even the most basic of first aid kits (like some Band-Aids - duct tape to the rescue, at least I have duct tape), and I don’t get along with heat or humidity (and both are here in large quantities), so it is off to bed for me. The bed has one blanket, which is keeping me more than warm. We are currently one hour ahead of East Coast time, so I watched a little of Sunday Night Football before falling asleep.
Monday, December 4 - Martinique
Martinique is the replacement for Dominica, which more or less got destroyed by the hurricanes. I woke early today and decided to try for a sunrise photo. Once again there were clouds on the horizon, so the photos were not that good. The reason is, the higher the sun has to rise before being seen, the brighter it is which causes the colors to fade.
Then I had breakfast and then came to the cabin to rest and cool down. This is the first time I’ve been here, so I wanted to explore a bit. Nothing that Princess offered seemed interesting. I considered a taxi tour (I’ve had good luck with those before) but just settled for looking at the tents and stalls the locals have for selling souvenirs. Everyone (which includes the other islands) is selling the same things. It kind of puts a real damper on shopping for something different when everything is the same (except for the name of the island). Finally I settled on a shot glass for my friend and headed back to the ship.
An iguana was causing quite a scene. The tourists all wanted to get close to it to take a picture. The local ladies acted like the women in the cartoons when they see a mouse. The iguana was surrounded by people who were either trying to get closer or running from it, and being a wild iguana, it didn’t want to be near the people. It was quite the scene. All I wanted to do was get back to the ship so that I could cool off.
The TV (flat screen, I would guess 40 to 43 inches) is mostly full of news shows (BBC, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC plus ESPN, ESPN2, the bridge cam and the not to be missed Yule Log, in case you can’t do without a fireplace) and no regular stations (ABC, CBS, Fox, or NBC) so I decided to watch one of the many free movies that are offered. This one I watched was Jason Bourne. Then it was time to work on this and sort more photographs.
Tuesday, December 5 - Grenada
We arrive early in Grenada and then leave early. I don’t like this kind of timing because when we arrive at 7:00am none of the stores are open. So there is a lost hour there. All aboard is 1:30pm, meaning the six and one-half hour stop has turned into a five and one-half hour stop. As it is my first time in Grenada, I’ve decided to take a tour. Then it turns out the shop I want to visit is a ten minute walk. So, if we get back to the ship at 11:30 I will lose another twenty minutes round trip, leaving me with only one hour to shop for the things I want to get (which leaves me with a safe margin for getting back to the ship on time). As it turns out, I’m able to work things out, but more on that later.
When we arrive, I am dressed and ready to go. I take some pictures with my good camera, have breakfast, and then because there is a sixty percent chance of rain, switched from my DSLR to my travel camera. Then I head down to the pier.
I am a little early, so I decided to take a look around The Esplanade Mall. Back outside there is a rainbow over the ship. I take a few pictures that turn out well, but wished I had my better camera so that the pictures would turn out even better.
There is 335A and 335B tour. I’m on tour 335A. We leave on time or maybe a little early. However, the driver ends up at the wrong entrance at the first stop, so 335B is the first one there. We join 335B for a tour of Fort George. I took the tour because it offered some good photo opportunities, and it did. Again I wish I had taken my DSLR rather than my travel camera.
The next stop is Fort Frederick, which also offers some good photo opportunities, but not of the ship. I was still wishing I had taken my DSLR right up until it started raining. Then it was off to the beach (our last stop). Just as the beach goers get set on the beach and the non-beach goers (like me) get comfortable on the lounge chairs, the down pour begins. It ended up being a twenty minute downpour (which is fairly typical for the tropics). I stayed under the umbrella as it was doing a good job of keeping me dry. I noticed all the beach goers returned to the bar area where there was a roof keeping people dry.
When the rain stopped, I explored a bit. This was a Radisson resort and it has a really interesting pool that has waterfalls on each end and is perfect for small children, given its large shallow area.
When it was time to go back to the ship, I asked the driver if he would pass by Dot’s Plaza. He said yes. Would he drop me off there? Yes. Since I already purchased some spices at Fort Frederick, all I wanted were some more spices for family and friends, and a shot glass for a friend. By stopping at Dot’s Plaza, I saved about 25 minutes. Ten minutes of walking, five minutes of the bus ride to the ship, and ten minutes at Dot’s Plaza because it is such a small shop.
So what is special about Dot’s Plaza? It is one of the “preferred” Princess shops, which basically means that there is a kickback agreement (that is why it is “preferred”). What I was interested in was how the spices were packaged, since the spices have to be packaged per US Customs’ specifications, or the spices will not be allowed into the US. I saw no fundamental difference between Dot’s packaging and what I got at Fort Frederick, so I should be good to go.
The walk back involved walking through the tunnel of death, better known as the Sendall Tunnel. Built in 1894, it was not designed for pedestrians and cars. It is 350 feet long, nine feet high (limited to a vehicle height of seven feet) and close to nine feet wide. You have to trust that the drivers will not run over the pedestrians.
Back on the ship I drop off my loot and then have lunch. Then I head back to the cabin to rest and watch Skull Island. Then I upload my photographs, backed everything up to a USB drive, showered, and dressed for dinner at the Crown Grill (I told my table mates last night that I would not be there tonight). I had a rib-eye steak for dinner. It was very good.
Then I headed back to the cabin to work on this and then time for bed. So I’ll catch up with you tomorrow morning as we are heading to Bonaire (we arrive around noon, which is why we left Grenada early).
Wednesday, December 6 - Bonaire
For some unknown reason I woke up at 3:30am. Given the four-hour time difference, that means it was still yesterday back home. Eventually I just gave up and watched a movie, Rouge One. Then I caught a half decent sunrise. Then breakfast, and finally back to my cabin to rest, as I didn’t get as much sleep as I would have liked and we don’t arrive in Bonaire until noon.
I had to leave the room so that the room steward could to do his thing, which he does very well. So I went to the library and looked at a couple of travel books.
The last time I was in Bonaire (November 2014), they were just getting ready to accept cruise ships. Most of the stores had just been built and were not yet stocked. I’ve booked a resort mainly because there are no other tours that are interesting, the price was reasonable, and I’ve never done a resort before (I’m not really a resort person - wildlife and photo opportunities are more my thing).
I then realized that I did not really pack for this. So I went to the ship’s store and bought some water shoes and small bag to carry the beach towel (which I got from deck sixteen) and whatnot in. So, when I get back from the resort I’ll tell you how it was.
Well, I am back. As resorts go, it was not that impressive. The resort we went to on Granada was much more impressive. However, there were plenty of lounge chairs, some good snorkeling, and a couple of fresh water pools (also known as swimming pools). There was a children’s pool for non-swimmers, and a nice adult pool with plenty of room to just sit comfortably, if that is what you wanted to do.
I rented a mask and snorkel (they hold your ship card until you return the mask and snorkel) for ten dollars for the day. Then I took some pictures of the fish. When I was done with that I had lunch consisting of a sandwich for me and some French fries that I shared with the fish (four dollars each for the sandwich and fries).
It was scheduled for three hours, and with travel time, we spent about two and one half hours at the Spice Beach Club. The Princess tour included transportation, a drink, and free use of the lounge chairs. Doing it your own would cost ten dollars for the transportation (five dollars each way by water taxi), five dollars for the day for the lounge chair, and whatever the free drink is worth (let’s say five more dollars). The total is twenty dollars. Through Princess is forty dollars for an adult and $25 for a child.
On the bus ride to the Spice Beach Club I spotted the store I wanted to go to. So upon our return I went to the cabin, showered, changed clothing, and when back out to the store to get some shirts and a shot glass. On the way back I bought a couple of necklaces for a couple of girls I will see Sunday as I stop off in Texas on my way back home.
The Crown Princess was also here, and it arrived before we did (I would guess the Crown Princess arrived about eight or nine in the morning - we arrived around noon). The Crown Princess left around 6:00pm and the next thing I remember is waking up at 7:40pm, just in time for dinner.
Tonight was Italian night. I had a chicken appetizer and pasta for the main course. We also had a sample of the chef’s special pasta, as an appetizer. It was good but I went with spaghetti with meatballs.
Then I returned to the cabin, uploaded my pictures and worked on this. I’m tired, but I have a noon time tour tomorrow, so I catch up on my beauty sleep and will catch up with you tomorrow.
Thursday, December 7 - Curacao
Good morning from beautiful downtown Curacao. It is 6:25am, time for sunrise. However, while the sky is turning a light shade of blue, the sun will not make an appearance for a while. There are thick clouds on the horizon and no clouds overhead, which is the exact opposite from what is needed for a good sunrise. So, I brought my camera back inside.
What, you may ask, was my camera doing outside? Well, as I said, I keep my cabin as cold as possible. If I try taking the camera out of my cool cabin into the warm humid air and then try to take a picture, it will look like it is really foggy. Why? Because the water condenses on the lens. So, I put it out about half hour before taking pictures and there is no problem. If I don’t have at least twenty minutes, then I use the hair dryer (which is in the desk drawer - the furthest point from the shower) set it on low, and spend about two minutes warming the lens and the camera up. All I need is for the camera to get warm. It is only eighty something outside. As long as the camera is about the same temperature as it is outside, the pictures look great (or at least as good as possible).
Of course, going from Bonaire to Curacao, the crew could have rowed and we would have made it. So, the captain went at a reduced speed (typical up until last night was 20 to 21 knots, about 23 to 24 miles per hour - last night it was closer to twelve knots) and over shot the island, so that he had to make a “U” turn to get back to the island. We visited six islands. Princess Cays was a tender port (you could tell by sticking a fork in it) and the five we docked at I ended up with an ocean view. I would have preferred a dock side view.
Well, it is 6:50am and I still don’t see the sun. The pilot boat just went by. I have no idea why. If the pilot wants to get home, all he has to do is step out on the pier, since we are docked.
Well, it is 6:58am. The sun is finally peeking out above the clouds. We have been cleared to go ashore. You cannot hear the announcements inside the cabin unless you have the TV on the bridge cam channel.
I guess I will watch another movie, have breakfast, check out the town, and then get back to the ship for my afternoon tour. So, I’ll catch up with you later.
I love it when a plan comes together. I did watch another movie (The Fate of the Furious), then had breakfast, checked out the town, got some good pictures and videos, bought more stuff for my friends, and got back to the ship in time for my tour.
Curacao has a natural bay similar to San Francisco, just not as big. Near the entrance is a swing bridge for pedestrians only and further inland is a bridge for motor vehicles only. The car bridge is high enough for even the biggest of the cruise ships. The pedestrian bridge floats on the water and swings out of the way when a ship needs to pass. When the swing bridge is in the open position, then a free ferry service will transport people back and forth.
I got a few good pictures while on the Swing Bridge, and some more good pictures as we crossed the bridge on my tour.
I was hot and tired and basically booked this tour because it stopped at an Aloe Vera factory. Of course there is talk about the process which is kind of boring. When we went inside I was able to buy a couple of products I wanted. Unfortunately the tour guide did not keep track of the time, and we were then running late. Fortunately it was all made up by shortening the second stop by keeping the talk brief.
The second stop was at an artist’s house with a strange specialty. I have pictures, but let me see if I can explain this art form, from my own observations. The place is Serena’s Art Factory. The website is “chichi-curacao.com.” The subjects are women sitting. They are not exactly to scale. They all have extra-large breasts, no hands and no tows. Their head, arms and legs are painted black. The rest of the body is painted very colorfully. If a woman wore a bathing suit with a similar color pattern, they would be noticed by everyone. This artwork would clearly be a bright addition to someone’s home or office space. It is just not my style of art.
The third stop was at the Curacao Liqueur. I am not normally a big drinker, but when I found out that they have chocolate Liqueur, I bought a bottle. It kind of made my day because it was an unexpected surprise.
Back on the ship I decided to go swimming to cool off. Back at the cabin I showered, dressed for dinner and uploaded my photographs.
At dinner I had a kabob as an appetizer and southern fried chicken for the main meal. It was okay, but Kentucky Fried Chicken has nothing to worry about (unless Pioneer Chicken becomes popular again). I had my usual chocolate ice cream and chocolate syrup for dessert.
After dinner I watched a little of Thursday Night Football and then fell asleep.
Friday, December 8 - Day at sea
Well, today should be a relaxing day at sea. The only problem is, I’m waking up at 4:00am. I end up watching the Magnificent Seven. When the movie is over, I get dressed and go outside for some sunrise pictures. It doesn’t look good with clouds on the horizon and no clouds overhead, but we are not standing still. The clouds were still on the horizon, but the ship moved and more clouds appeared, leading to some nice sunrise photos. Then I had breakfast and then went back to the cabin for a couple more hours of sleep.
Then I started working on this until the room steward showed up. I went outside to get some day at sea pictures, then came back in to bring this up-to-date, and having done so, decided to go for a swim.
Tonight is the second formal night and the captain has asked me to the Princess Cruises Captain’s Circle Cocktail Party at 5:00pm in the Vista Lounge. So I’ll catch up with you later.
Well, I typed the above paragraph before 4:30pm. Then I laid down for until it was time for the cocktail party. Unfortunately the next thing I know it was 5:10pm and I arrived at the party just as it was ending.
There were seven at the table tonight, as one of the eight was upstairs at the Crown Grill. This has been a great group to eat with. The wait staff has also been great. Tonight I had pasta for an appetizer and Beef Wellington for the main course. Once again I had chocolate ice cream with chocolate syrup for desert. Tonight they actually had a dessert that normally I would be interested in, but I decided to just go with the regular.
When I returned to the cabin, I sorted some more of my photographs and then I went to bed. Hopefully I’ll sleep past 4:00am. So, until tomorrow morning, goodnight.
Saturday, December 9 - Day at Sea
Finally, I don’t wake up until 5:30am. That is actually my normal time. I then go back to sleep. The next thing I know it is 7:00am, which is the time I get up on weekends (today is Saturday). Unfortunately I missed what looked like a good sunrise. Not perfect, but good. Sorry I missed it.
Instead, I decided to watch a movie again (why not, they are all free). This was about a single man trying to raise a little girl who as it turns out, is gifted. Problems arise when the little girl’s grandmother finds out that the girl is gifted. The movie is called Gifted.
After that I got dressed and went out to get the customs form (in the past the room steward always brought them to the cabin), see if there was anything worthwhile at the last day sales (there was), take a few pictures, and have breakfast.
Then it was back to the cabin to work on this, and sort some more pictures.
In the early afternoon I went out for lunch and to check out the swimming situation. Unfortunately it was to cool to swim and it was beginning to look like rain (eventually it did rain). So, since I didn’t want to chance getting rained upon, and have my bathing suit get wet from the rain with no time to dry it, I decided against swimming and went back to the cabin to sort pictures. While working on this I noticed two other cruise ships outside. One was the Celebrity Eclipse and the Carnival Vista. I took out my camera and got some good pictures of both ships.
Soon it was time to start packing, as I have a 5:30pm dinner at the Crown Grill. I ordered the same thing as last time except instead of salad I had a melting fudge cake with ice cream desert (yum!).
Then I came back to the cabin, uploaded some pictures and finished packing. Then down to the restaurant to say good-by to my table mates and give the wait staff an extra tip, as I did with Dendi.
Then back to the cabin to put all the little things where they belong in my carry-ons, read the disembarkation instructions (it says we do not need the Customs’ form unless we have exceeded our allowance (I’m under $500 and the US allowance is $800). I have not exceeded my allowance, but just in case, I’m going to fill one out anyway.
From the log of our cruise:
Port Everglades to Princess Cays 281 NM Average speed 17.9 Knots
Princess Cays to St. Thomas 737 NM Average speed 19.8 Knots
St. Thomas to Martinique 311 NM Average speed 20.1 Knots
Martinique to Grenada 156 NM Average speed 14.8 Knots
Grenada to Bonaire 391 NM Average speed 19.1 Knots
Bonaire to Curacao 128 NM Average speed 12.2 Knots
Curacao to Port Everglades 1150 NM Average speed 19.1 Knots
The total Nautical Miles traveled is 3154 (or 3627 Statute Miles or 5841 Kilometers).
Well, that is it for tonight. I have to get up early tomorrow because I am due to leave the ship at 6:40am.
Sunday, December 10 - Disembarkation
I was a little worried about getting up in time, as I don’t have a travel alarm clock. Usually on a cruise I do get up early, though on this cruise it has been exceptionally early. Sure enough I wake up at 3:00am. No use in fighting it, so I watch a movie. When the movie ends, we are just about ready to enter the harbor.
I watch us pull in, alternating between the bridge cam, the channel with the route, and my balcony. Soon after we clear the turning basin, another Princess ship arrives, followed by one of the extra-large Royal Caribbean ships (it is too dark for me to see the ship names).
About this time it is time for me to grab a light breakfast, then back to the cabin to drag my stuff down to deck five. I depart about 6:40am and make it through customs without being asked any questions. Never needed my customs declaration form.
Outside there is a large van that offer to take me (and several others) to the airport for $10. I arrive at the airport about 7:10am. I am too late for the 7:45am flight and the 9:45am flight is full, so I guess I am stuck with my original flight reservation of 10:45am. When booking the flight I was thinking of booking the 8:45am flight. However, after I booked, that flight was changed to 7:45am. I really didn’t like the 9:45am flight, as the layover was only 36 minutes in Atlanta. I was able to go to the Delta Sky Club for $29, so all in all, it worked out okay for me (so far - we are currently on our decent into Atlanta).
In the Sky Club I worked on this, then at 9:55am made a bathroom break and then headed to my gate.
First to board were the people in wheelchairs. There were a lot of people in wheel chairs. I have never seen that many wheelchair passengers on one flight before. Well, we will be landing soon, so I have to put my computer away. Maybe I’ll catch up with you in Atlanta.
Well, I’m in the Atlanta airport now. Boarding will begin in about thirty minutes. But there is no plane at the gate yet. Yikes!! Okay, never mind. The plane just arrived.
Since I’m up-to-date on this, I guess it is back to sorting photographs. Not sure when I’ll catch up with you again.
Landed early in San Antonio. We were earlier than the new schedule, but on time for the old schedule. But I’m not complaining. I used a carry-on sized suitcase as my second piece of luggage and forgot to change the lock to a TSA approved lock. TSA cut off my lock. No big deal, I have more locks at home. At least they zip tied the zippers together. No big deal, I don’t need to get into that suitcase until I get home.
Then I checked in at the Hertz counter inside the airport. The bus will take me to the car which is in an off-site lot. Only thing is, I have to go into the off-site office to get the navigation / GPS unit. The Hertz NeverLost GPS is different than another GPS unit I have used or seen. Now I am in an unfamiliar car, in an area I am not that familiar with (I have been to San Antonio before, but usually I am not the driver), and I’m stuck with a GPS unit that looks and acts completely different than another GPS. Yuck! I am just supposed to follow the blue line. Black lines are other street. The one good thing is that it give very good spoken directions, except it cannot pronounce the word “loop”. Instead is spells it out – Highway 41 L O O P.
At any rate I manage to figure out how to program it, and off I went, to a place I’ve never been to before. When I get on the street that is my final destination, I am told I have arrived. The house I am looking for is on my right. Well to my right is a dirt lot and the house numbers are wrong. I am looking for 288XX and I’m at 298XX. But the numbers are going down, so I keep driving. It is about a mile (and the end of the road) until I find what I hope is my friend’s house. The only problem is, I don’t recognize any of the cars. I later find out Mom’s car is in the garage, Dad’s car isn’t home yet, and the little red car I’m parked behind, that is daughter’s new car (she is sixteen, but still only has her permit.
A short history of the people I am visiting. In 2007 I talked my sister, brother-in-law and two nephews into going on a cruise with me (on the Freedom of the Seas). Somehow we ended up talking the next door neighbors into going too. So on the cruises I went on after that, I would pick up some presents for the neighbor’s kids too. But as my nephews got older, they became involved in more and more things and finding time to visit became harder and harder. So for Christmas 2016 I put together all the stuff I had picked up over several cruises and sent it to them. However, earlier this year they moved to a new house in the same city (so they are no longer my sister’s neighbors (though they are still friends).
Well, Mom made the kids write thank you notes and the youngest invited me to come over. The problem was, I had cruises booked out to 2019 and because I got very sick after my cruise in April 2016, I only have two extra vacation days. I tried to find a good window to come and visit, but nothing worked until I looked into a quick hit and run visit on my way back home from this cruise. Since Sunday night is a school night, I knew it would have to be quick. So I spent about one hour visiting with my friends, then when over to the high school to listen to a concert that my nephew was in.
Then I stayed overnight at my sisters’ house. I was so tied at this point, that I was only able to sort half a day’s worth of photos, and was too tired to copy the photos into the new folders.
Monday, December 11 – Travel day
I woke up at 5:30am and got out of bed at 7:00am. Had lunch with my sister at then off to the airport. This is where I ran into problem with Hertz’s NeverLost. It would say, in one half mile turn right at the exit. Then turn right here, which I did. On the surface streets this works find, given the distance between streets and the speed difference. I turned right when it said turn right now. But this was not the right exit and I was soon headed onto a different freeway. The only problem is, I’m on a bridge over the street that I should be on, and the GPS is telling me to turn right here. I must have gone in a circle about one and one half times with the GPS trying to get me back to the Hertz drop off site. At this point I had it with the GPS and decided to follow the signs to the airport, and then I would be on surface streets, where the GPS guided me to the drop off.
After checking in, the bus took me to the airport where things ran smoothly and soon I was waiting for the plane to arrive. It was a nonstop to LAX. The luggage was supposed to arrive on carousel six, but about twenty minutes later I found it arrive on carousel five. Thanks Delta.
Then I had to wait forty minutes for the bus to arrive, which took me to the FlyAway lot near where I live. It is $9.75 for the bus ride and twenty dollars, including tip, to get me to HOME!
That is where I noticed that TSA in San Antonio had cut off my zip tie but didn’t replace it. When I looked inside I had two notices that the luggage had been opened by the TSA and one cut lock. Everything in the bag was as I left it, and I have some doubts that it was actually searched.
Did I enjoy the cruise? Yes. Everything was very good or better except on thing. The demographic is mostly older people of retirement age. Now I know to expect that on a cruise in excess of one week that is during the school year. The problem is, there was no energy. When you are on a ship with a couple hundred of kids, there is a lot of energy. That just did not exist on this ship, which likely had less than thirty children between the ages of three and fifteen. I realize some people will see this as a good thing, and that is fine. But for me, I would like to see a little bit more energy. Still, I have another school time cruise scheduled for April to Alaska. I it round trip out of Los Angeles, lasting twelve nights. So, school time lasting more than one week to Alaska, I’ll be expecting more of the same. Still while I did not know anyone on the cruise prior to boarding (the roll call was not that lively, even though there were many where signed up for, and attended, the meet and greet), there will be people I have become friendly with via the float-away lounge (even though we have yet to meet). The float-away lounge is a forum that is for off topic (not cruise related) discussions.
Some other closing thoughts. The lack of any forward observation deck was a real negative for me. I have booked forward facing balconies for both of my Panama Canal cruises, and I like to use the forward facing observation deck when coming into the port. As noted, my cabin was in the forward section of the ship.
The ship has two (or four – depending on how you look at it) bridges that stick out from the structure of the ship called the Sea Walk. There is one (or two – again depends on how you look at it) on each side of the ship, about mid ship, on decks sixteen (Lido) and seventeen (Sun). There is a very important difference between the two that you should be aware of when you select your cabin.
The port side bridges have solid floors. If you are on the bridge and look straight down, all you will is your feet. If you look over the railing you will see either the water or the dock (depending on where the ship is and which way it is facing). However, if you are on the starboard side, Lido deck, and you look straight down, you will see the water (or the dock). The same thing if you look over the outside railing. However, if you look over the inside railing you will see the water and you will see into the balconies that are below you (there are no balconies above you).
So, if you like meeting people, having one of the balconies below the starboard side Sea Walk on decks fourteen and fifteen will be perfect for you. There are no balconies on deck thirteen (mainly because there is no deck thirteen – remember that when calling out floor numbers from the back of the elevator, it is good for a laugh or two). As you go lower (decks nine through twelve) the angle for looking in gets less and less, and the balcony is further away from the bridge, so it is harder to have a conversation with your new found friends.
Again, if you are into meeting people as they walk by and look into your “private” balcony, then you want to select the following cabins:
Marina deck: 411, 415, 417, 419, 423, and 425.
Rivera deck: 415, 417, 421, 423, 427, and 429.
On the other hand, if you want to make sure you will not get any rain (and very little sun) then choose one of these port side balcony cabins:
Marina deck: 412, 414, 416, 418, 422, and 424.
Rivera deck: 414, 416, 420, 422, 426, and 428.
Note, I have the pictures to support the above statements. Also note, the balconies under the ends of the bridges are slightly larger than the standard balconies. Look at the deck plans and you will see which balconies stick out further than the others.
You might be wondering why I mentioned my travels to and from the ship. That is because in the suggestions for the cruise review, Cruise Critic suggests covering this part of the cruise experience also.
For those that are interested, the written review is on its nineteenth page and is over ten thousand words and I took about 1700 photos. I will provide links to over 600 of the photos (over one third of all the photographs I took). I’m not sure how many of those photos I will post yet, but there is no way I would take the time to post 600 plus photographs. Also, the linked to photographs will be larger than the posted photographs, thus providing more detail.
Please feel free to comment (good, bad, or ugly).
Here is a link to my review on the main boards which contains links to all my posted photographs (you might have to copy and paste it into the address bar) ...
https://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2575145 Read Less