It was an interesting trip. We flew into San Diego from Houston. We had booked our pre-cruise room at the Hilton San Diego Bay Hotel. We arrived a little bit after 12:00 pm. The Hotel looked nice from the outside. The lobby was ... Read More
It was an interesting trip. We flew into San Diego from Houston. We had booked our pre-cruise room at the Hilton San Diego Bay Hotel. We arrived a little bit after 12:00 pm. The Hotel looked nice from the outside. The lobby was spacious. The location was great. It was a short walk over the pedestrian bridge from PETCO Ball park. It was a short cab ride to the Cruise terminal. The Gas Light district is right across the street as well. There is a "metro rail line" close by as well. and on San Diego Bay.
The down side of the hotel was having to pay extra [$25.00] for early check-in (we were there a little after noon). If you did not want to pay for early check-in, having to pay extra for a bay side view [$20.00], which then allowed you to check in early. It all boiled down to paying extra to get into the hotel or paying extra to leave your bags with the bellman.
We ate lunch and breakfast at the hotel. It was a bit pricey [what hotel restaurant isn't], but the food was good and the value was reasonable.
The ship departed for a 6 day repositioning from San Diego, California to Vancouver, B.C. Canada. Our stops included Santa Catalina Island, Ca., San Francisco, Ca., Victoria, B.C., Canada, and ended in Vancouver, B.C. Canada.
Boarding was quick and painless. It was funny that the Platinum line was checking in quicker than the Diamond and Diamond plus line. It did not take that long to get processed and join the ship. Our dining times were confirmed, our table position checked out, spa appointments made, and on to the Windjammer. At 1:00 p.m., they opened the rooms for passengers.
We were in Room 8664. It is a starboard side balcony room with a partially obstructed view. The obstruction was the ships "washing" platform that was "parked on the forward part of our balcony and the aft portion of room 8662. It got in the way of a few pictures, but you soon learned to either wait or zoom. This was a standard room. We normally store our suitcases opened underneath the bed, but you had to fold it at a 90 degree angle to get them started under the bed. Then you could put the items you did not put in the closet and drawers back. This room was a long walk to the elevators [aft]. If you do not want to walk 100 yards to and from your room each way, then get something closer to midships or forward. Given that this ship runs on gas turbine - electric motors, it was pretty quite.
Our room attendant was Debbie Roberts. She was good natured, friendly, and efficient. We would sing a duet or get a friendly greeting every time we saw her. Thanks Debbie.
We ate in the main dining room at the first seating. Our dining table attendants were Sampong [Thailand] and Julian [Saint Lucia]. They did a great job. They helped us enjoy the cruise. They were both outgoing, friendly, and attentive. Julian was a bit of a character. Both were also funny and engaging. Thank you gentlemen.
Our first stop was on Santa Catalina Island. The ship stopped and tendered into Avalon. It was just a get off for us and walk around the shops in town to see what was there. Since I was stationed on San Nicolas Island for about 20 months, I passed on the nature excursions. SNI was about fifty miles west of Santa Catalina Island. With the exception of the million dollar buildings on SCI, San Nicolas Island contained a lot of diverse wildlife, birds, and flora that we were able to get right next to or even in the middle of to enjoy.
The cruise up to San Francisco had a few large whales and a lot of pilot whales. There were a few dolphins, seal lions, seals, and birds near San Francisco tearing up a bait ball [feeding]. The weather was cool [50s-60s].
It was interesting to come in under the Golden Gate Bridge. I believe the Captain said that we had about 15 meters from the top of the ship to the bottom of the road deck of the bridge when we went under it.
Even staying overnight in S.F., we could not cover much of it. We went on the hop on - hop off double decker bus tour. Unlike Sydney Australia's version [travels in both directions], this one only went one way. So if you missed getting off at a stop, you had to either ride the 2 1/2 hours around to get there again or catch a cab from the next stop. This was a bit disappointing. The first day in we rode the bus around it's entire course and then got off at Fisherman's Wharf. While we were walking around Fisherman's Wharf, there was a power outage shutting down the shops, stores, and restaurants. So we walked the mile or so back to the ship and kicked back waiting for dinner.
On the second day, we went to the Academy of Sciences in the Golden Gate Park. It was interesting, but plan on being there for several hours if you want to give it justice in looking at all of the exhibits. They have a nice aquarium, butterfly garden [rain forest], whale exhibit [on loan from New Zealand], planetarium, earth quake simulator, and other exhibits. We did not go through all of them. We then boarded the bus back to the ship. We were supposed to stay in S.F. until 5 p.m. and then depart for Canada. However, the ship had a problem starting one of its gas turbines. There are two on board and at the speeds we were traveling, they only needed one, but the USCG would not let them leave port until the problem with the second turbine was fixed [can't blame them, it is a safety item]. We did not leave until approximately 2:00 a.m. I know, I stayed up and videotaped the departure and travel under the Golden Gate Bridge.
We were approximately 5 1/2 hours late getting into Victoria, B.C. This put us in too late to go on our tour to Butchart Gardens and also make dinner on board. Being that it was the last night on board, we always go to dinner to tip our wait staff and thank them for helping make our cruise enjoyable.
Instead of taking the tour out to Butchart Gardens, we took a cab into Victoria and then walked from China Town down to the wharf near the Parliament Building. We had been here before, and we just wanted to roam around and see the town under the lights. The Parliament Building was brightly lit up. A little souvenir shopping later, we took a cab back to the ship.
We enjoyed the on board entertainment. We had seen one of the entertainers on two prior cruises. He is a comedian and entertainer. He had updated a lot of his act, so it was good. We either participated in or watched a lot of the on board activities in the lounges or clubs. We were visiting with friends from Arizona on this cruise. We had fun.
The only thing we were truly disappointed with on the cruise was the lack of any real late night snacks, "late night bites" [gone for years], cookies, and burgers/fries. The only place to go to was the Solarium [opens at 11:00 pm]. You could get pizza, hotdogs, sometimes wraps, and sometimes turkey sandwiches on "chibata" bread. Your drink choice was water or water. They could have had cookies, coffee, tea, lemonade, and water without much of a hassle. We always asked the "chef" if he had cookies. One night we brought some, asked him if he had any, and when he replied, "we don't have any", we offered him some. He got a good laugh out of that.
The short jaunt to Vancouver was uneventful. We waited to get off until our scheduled time of near 9:30, and then discovered that my suit case had been seriously damaged. They tore three of the four wheels partially off of the suitcase. This was quickly reported and a report taken by one of RCI's personnel. We then went out to the taxi line to depart, and it took us over 90 minutes to get a cab. That was disappointing. If we had known that there would be this kind of delay, we would have arranged for a shuttle or a limousine to take us to our hotel in Richmond, B.C.
We took a cab from the Cruise port to a nearby car rental agency, rented a car, and then arrived at the Pacific Gateway Hotel in Richmond, B.C. [next to Vancouver International Airport] at approximately noon. We were met outside by a bellman [which we did not need] who greeted us and directed us to the front desk. The lobby was spacious, but it lacked seating space if the desk was busy and you needed to sit down. When we arrived, there were only two people ahead of us, so it was no big deal. There was an $18.00 CAD per day parking fee. There is a small lobby shop, but it did not have much in the way of drinks.
Check in went smoothly. We provided a credit card for incidentals, obtained magnetic keys, and we were off to our room. You need to have a room key to go up in the elevators. Our first room was 713. We got into the room and then moved the thermostat down to 68 F. The fan did not come on and the Air conditioner did not come on. We called the front Desk and they promptly supplied us with another room . The A/C came on when we moved the thermostat down to 68 F. This was a King size no smoking room. While it faced the airport, it was not too noisy. My wife told me that she heard several sirens the first evening/night. It turned out there is a local fire hall [fire station to us] about a half mile up the road.
The room was fine for the two of us. The side chair was a bit boxy and reminded me of an office chair for a lobby visitor. There was a desk with various connections and outlets. WiFi was free. The bathroom was clean and had a tub and shower [in one]. As we were packing to leave, my wife commented that the dust ruffles on the bed could stand to be cleaned. We did turn the thermostat down to 66 F as it was a bit warm to us at its 68 F setting for sleeping.
There is a connected bar and grill [Pier 73]. There is a "tidal river" adjacent to the Hotel. It was spacious, had an outside deck, and the food was good. As with most hotels, it was a little on the high side of mid ranged fare. We did not eat in the breakfast restaurant inside. There are two direct contact flight "computers" for carry on fliers only. There were two computer terminals with a common printer for other uses including checking in for flights that did not require scanning your passport. Given that we were flying international, we called the 800 number to get a confirmation for our flight.
The hotel had a 24/7 shuttle to the airport. It left the hotel on the hour, 20-minutes after the hour, and 40-minutes after the hour. It picked up passengers at the terminals at 10-minutes after the hour, 30-minutes after the hour, and 50-minutes after the hour. It was handy when we dropped our rental car, and then the next morning [5 am] when we went to the airport to catch our home flight.
All in all, we enjoyed the trip. Six days was short for a cruise [even though most we have been on were 7 days].
Notes: The advantage that existed in on board pre-booking an open cruise ticket have essentially disappeared. The only real advantage is a $25.00 cabin credit. We still have an open ticket from last year that we will use in the future.
We were told that the Jewel of the Seas will be undergoing its 30 day dry docking in 2016. That will freshen up the ship and give her that new feeling.
It should be noted that the Diamond, Diamond Plus Lounge was created by using the Viking Crown Lounge and Vortex Nightclub as an exclusive venue from 5:00 pm until 8:30 pm each night [good idea when there is no dedicated lounge]. There were a lot of Diamond and Diamond Plus members there. The first night was not well prepared. Someone "forgot the canapes" and a "make do" set up was put together. After that, the canapes were done right. There was only one bar tender and one server for the area. That needs to be fixed for future cruises. The service was slow. Read Less