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12 San Francisco to U.S.A. Cruise Reviews

We are on the last leg of a 21 day cruise and are currently experiencing very rough seas on route to our final destination New York. To give you a flavour of this ship our bath is currently filling up with sewage and the plug is broken so ... Read More
We are on the last leg of a 21 day cruise and are currently experiencing very rough seas on route to our final destination New York. To give you a flavour of this ship our bath is currently filling up with sewage and the plug is broken so we cannot stop it. The staff say that is what happens on this ship in rough seas! We await the results! Last week our toilet flooded and although a plumber was on hand within minutes is this really what we should expect of so called luxury cruising? We understand that they are taking this ship on a world cruise in 2017. Our advice for what it is worth? Do not go! The choice of food is very limited and on a 21 day cruise the menus did not change once. Can you imagine 128 days of it! The menus are the same as they were five years ago. The ship is cramped. The staff are generally indifferent and unlike five years ago when we started with Regent it is now a case of spot the really keen friendly staff as opposed to the poor ones standing out from the rest. The same test should be applied to the food with the occasional meal standing out. The cafeteria style breakfast is now dated. Food is being cooked to order in good hotels such as our pre cruise one in San Francisco. Here the bacon is piled high and the beans congeal as time goes by! Service by staff inside and on deck is intermittent. The top pool deck was often ignored by the pool staff. The woman behind the bar both by the pool, and again in the evening was terse and argumentative. She basically told me I was wrong when I suggested I had ordered soda and lime many times and had been served Sprite and lime. According to her that was impossible. When I returned a glass of champagne which had clearly been poured hours before I was met with a scowl. I have served myself wine and cleared my own table more than once. On the pool deck I forgot to look at my table number so rather than help me out by looking across the deck to where I had pointed the waiter simply refused to take my order. I actually took a soiled sunbed cover to reception to show them the standard of cleanliness. After three days of finding dirty covers I thought at least if I took it down something would be done. I was treated as if my complaint was not worth the time and subsequently found that it had not been passed on. It was only when I followed it up a week later having heard nothing that someone called me to say it had been noted and would not happen again. Needless to say it did. We did not have any representative or information at our hotel on embarkation day. A driver pulled up to collect four people from our hotel but did not have names of clients or the ship. We just got in with two others and directed him to the Navigator berth in the terminal. We are taking a post cruise tour. Our hotel has been changed twice. The woman here on Destination Sevices failed to listen to our request for confirmation and just kept talking about something else so we walked off and are having to phone Regent in England to find out what is going on. The fixtures and fittings in the cabin are worn out. The drawers stick, the pillows are lumpy and the shower is dated. Who needs a soap tray these days? Somewhere flat to stand the shower gel would be better. The television and video player which we relied heavily upon because of the lack of entertainment, were unreliable and out of date. We have spent a lot of money in our own house to upgrade our standard of living and did not expect to be going down a notch in terms of comfort. The standard of cleaning in our cabin was poor. I often found items I had placed in the bin such as dental floss on the floor after the staff had been in. At least they came I suppose apart from two days when they forgot us completely. I decided I would use the gym on this cruise as a kick start to a new fitness regime at home. I wanted to use the time to familiarise myself with the machines. The fitness instructor was either absent from the gym or could not find the time to explain the machines to me. I felt like I was too unfit for him to take time over. When I did ask a question about heart rates and programmes on the cross trainer he barely gave me the time of day and kept darting out to reception as if looking for more important clients who had booked extra sessions and paid for them. I gave up on him and did it myself and yes I lost 6 kilos! That should give you an idea of how easy it has been to refuse the food which was often just not worth the calories. We found the entertainment team aloof and very much seperate from the guests unlike our experience on Seabourne where they really join you on the dance floor! The dancing here is late at night and the Regent orchestra is poor and boring. Everything seems rooted in the 1940's in terms of music and shows which have hardly changed over five years. We didn't bother with any and just stuck to our own films and box sets whenever we could coax the dvd player and remote in to life. This is an all inclusive cruise and in the past has been well worth it but not anymore. We are gold members as a result of all the cruises we have taken with Regent over the last five years. This is to be our last with this company. I am always fair whenever I review anything and this may seem a harsh review but it is all true. We like to reward good service and are loyal clients to may firms and companies. Although not required we did tip two waiters Siva and Alvin who embodied the old spirit of Regent. Such a shame it has come to this. We are going to book two luxury land holidays next year and give cruising certainly with this company a miss. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
Just little "aggravations". Perhaps the worst coffee in the world. Not only in every dining room but at the International Coffee Bar as well. The first thing we did when we got off the ship was to seek a decent cup. Really ... Read More
Just little "aggravations". Perhaps the worst coffee in the world. Not only in every dining room but at the International Coffee Bar as well. The first thing we did when we got off the ship was to seek a decent cup. Really yucky coffee every day...every meal. Dining Rooms are attractive and Dining Staff is superb. Professional without 'being your best friend' type. Food is fine. But don't spend the extra $25 a person surcharge for the CROWN GRILL. Just terrible. We were complaining to strangers as we were leaving the ship and they said they heard the same thing from others. My steak was half gristle and fat and sort of thin. The tri tip in the dining room (with no surcharge) was much much better. My wife's lobster was mushy. Can you imagine. It's a trick to get lobster mushy. The lobster the last night, in the dining room, with no surcharge was much much better. I don't get that. Our friends also didn't enjoy the CROWN GRILL. Stay away. The Spa and Sanctuary are five star; check those out. ALL THE STAFF....WITHOUT EXCEPTION...WERE SUPERB. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
Just finished the west coast cruise, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, LA, San Diego, Ensenada cruise on board the Princess Star, 3/14 - 3/21. I was writing my thoughts on the tour and quickly realized that I was heading into "War and ... Read More
Just finished the west coast cruise, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, LA, San Diego, Ensenada cruise on board the Princess Star, 3/14 - 3/21. I was writing my thoughts on the tour and quickly realized that I was heading into "War and Peace" territory, so I've revamped. My thoughts in truncated form: Food in buffet: Has greatly gone down in choices and lots of food that should be hot were cold (seriously, who likes cold, hard biscuits with cold gravy, for example). Ugh. Room Steward: He threw away the slice of fudge I bought. it was on the table, not sure why he did that, but he crossed the line. Chocolate is sacred! You simply do not touch my chocolate. End of subject - and enough said. Excursions. One left us 40 minutes to grab a bite and drink at Old Town (San Diego). Wish she would have said, "If you'd like to spend some more time here in Old Town, here are alternative options for getting back." (Yes, we could have asked, but our brains were on overload and it simply didn't occur to any of us.) Trust me, 40 minutes is not near enough time to properly enjoy anything, considering at least 10 of those minutes were spent trying to find a restaurant. In Santa Barbara, I had arranged a wine tasting tour by Deetours and was happy, happy, happy. There were 6 of us and we had a wonderful time. I can't say enough about it, best excursion of the whole trip. Coffee place. We love our lattes, so don't allow passengers to butt in and grab them out of order. Riles us up and we get major cranky. Learn to make them in order, and when someone cuts in front of another passenger, DON'T LET THEM. Tender. In Santa Barbara. We've had tenders before, but never experienced this on any cruise. Getting the tender back to the ship required a wait time of at least an hour - standing in line - in the hot sun. I love the Star Princess - she was our first cruise ship and she's as elegant as ever. Love Skywalker Lounge. You meet the best folks on a cruise. Our room was perfectly fine. Every cruise is a learning adventure and I'm looking forward to our next one.   Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
I've cruised many times on many cruise lines. The Star Princess West Coast cruise out of San Francisco was just excellent and deserves five stars. I would particularly recommend it for families with children. I cruised with family ... Read More
I've cruised many times on many cruise lines. The Star Princess West Coast cruise out of San Francisco was just excellent and deserves five stars. I would particularly recommend it for families with children. I cruised with family including 2-1/2 year old twins. The ship staff could not have been better. The dining room staff really helped us out to the point of walking the kids around the dining room to let us finish our after dinner coffee. I have never before received such good service. The children's activity areas on this ship are top notch. Though the kids were too young for the activity program, we were welcomed to use the family areas that were very well set up for the little ones with craft areas, toys, outdoor space including tricycles and a shallow pool. The West Coast ports are excellent for children. We found a Sea Museum on the wharf in Santa Barbara set up with exhibits the perfect size for little ones with interactive exhibits. San Diego provides easy access to the zoo or Seaworld. We even did a day in Disneyland from the Long Beach port. For the adults, excellent service continued with the bars. This ship still has the Vines bar, my personal favorite, and the staff there became friends before the end of the cruise. This ship also has the thermal suite that is one of my favorite places. This one was particularly nice with multiple steam rooms with varying temperatures and the wonderful heated beds. The new San Francisco cruise terminal is a huge improvement. We live in San Francisco and were able to embark quickly and easily. For people who don't live here, the terminal is on the busiest part of the waterfront and allows quick access to multiple activities. Plus, what could be better than sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge? This ship is in excellent condition. My cabin, aft on Deck 12, was a few steps from the stairs leading to the aft pool and Horizon Court. I could not have asked for a better location. Our other cabin was on Deck 5 allowing easy access to the International Cafe, Atrium and exits with the necessary double stroller. Thumbs up to Princess and the Star staff for making this such a fun and memorable experience! Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
My wife and I have about 30 cruises between us on Carnival and NCL, I really like NCL but we decided this time to go with Princess because we didn't have to fly anyway to get to the ship. 1 hour drive to the port was great. The New ... Read More
My wife and I have about 30 cruises between us on Carnival and NCL, I really like NCL but we decided this time to go with Princess because we didn't have to fly anyway to get to the ship. 1 hour drive to the port was great. The New Cruise ship terminal at SF is awesome except for having to wait in line outside with no cover, going to be pretty bad if raining or a cold day, luckily it was a nice day and from drop off to onboard was maybe 45 mins. We arrived at about 1:30pm. By the time we got on board our luggage was already at our room, super fast and first time that's ever happen usually on other ships luggage maybe might be at your cabin around the time you leave a 5 or later. Food, so so, Main dining room really didn't have much as a menu, I'm and steak and potatoe type of guy and they only offered steak one time , I tried the tri-tip one night and they tend to over spice everything. Our waiter was nice though and took really good care of us, we had daughter son in law and two grand kids ages 1 and 4.......the 1 year old was awesome, she wasn't too bad , a couple of nights she was up early but other than that she had a great time, the 4 year old....totally awesome, she was either at the Kids play area or in the swimming pool, this 4 year old is fearless, she dives in the deep in.....we had joining rooms so it was cool. Food on the buffet was just OK, except some of the workings don't know english well, several nights things listed on the line like Pineapple was listed as Watermelon, or Watermelon listed as Cantalope, and some of the meat items, well not sure what they were, breakfast was good, fried eggs already cooked on a pan and they were great believe it or not, same with omellets....and BACON, BACON and BACON...:) The servers on the Horizen court were good, always asking if we needed drinks with one exception, at the read of the ship deck 14 at the Out rigger bar there was one gut that needed a refresher course on manners....and on other ships we've never had to pay for HOT CHOCOATE , here it 2.50 for it.... We got to know the ship well because the wife and I are taking the same ship to Hawaii in Dec......:) Ensenado was a port I could do without, just off the ship to the gift shop and bought the wife a gift then back on for a massage...:) Long Beach was great, visit the Queen Mary and you get on with your ships card for free. San Diego, Awesome, took the USS Midway tour, got in 1/2 price for both of us cause I'm retired military. Santa Barbara is very pretty, haven't been there for years, have to tender walked state street had lunch back on the ship.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
We sailed on Saturday, October 11, which happened to be the Saturday of Fleet Week in S.F this year... Blue Angels, etc. We got to watch the aerial acrobatics from the top deck of the ship after arriving early... prior to sailing. Amazing ... Read More
We sailed on Saturday, October 11, which happened to be the Saturday of Fleet Week in S.F this year... Blue Angels, etc. We got to watch the aerial acrobatics from the top deck of the ship after arriving early... prior to sailing. Amazing air-show, great vantage point! There were passengers on board that said they chose this cruise in part due to the departure date and the Fleet Week show vantage point. We were upgraded from a cabin near the bow, deck 8, or Emerald deck, two days before we sailed. We received an email that we could trade up (no added cost) a cabin on deck 10, Caribe Deck, mid-ship. It turned out to be an excellent upgrade. The bow of the ship is prone to more motion in high seas (though admittedly the ship is so large, the motion is minimal)... mid-ship you tend not to feel it so much, and that was our experience. We ventured forward during the little bit of rough seas we encountered, and there was a difference, though seemingly nominal. The best part about our location was the closeness of elevators and stairs to the entire ship... that and the large balcony and better than average room-size. This ship was designed to have more balcony cabins than most. My wife has been on two cruises before this, and can attest to the huge difference having a balcony can bring. We loved being able to leave our sliding glass door open to the air at night, to listen to the waves against the hull, and the ability to venture out at 6:00 AM as the ship reached port and set up for docking without needing to dress to go up on deck. It adds an entire dimension to your cruise... well worth the added cost in our opinion... and she would never have expected it after two cruises with inside cabins. Caribe deck is known for bigger balcony's, and better than average sized cabins. This is the deck where most of the suites are, so it stands to reason it's the most spacious and comfortable. We were in C 502, just aft of a string of suites, and close to the central elevator/stairway, which makes for great access to all parts of the ship. The room was more than adequate as far as stowage, a comfortable queen bed, room to move, and a huge balcony with a table and two lounge chairs. The balcony was also 50% covered, adding a measure of privacy. Among the amenities, we loved the rock band "Volume", the line dancing lessons, the Broadway shows put on by the AMAZING staff, and the shore excursions. The food was generally OK (though plentiful, and generally fresh), with higher marks for the Steak House (which costs extra but was worth it), Mostly we kept to the buffet, which had plenty of variety, reasonable quality, and was fast and easy. We also dined in one of the dining rooms twice which was a slight upgrade in quality, but took excessively long, though service was attentive and pleasant. Our steward Rolan was terrific... I made certain to follow up on a recommendation I read in another review, and gave him $60 in advance when we met, with a thank you note, then followed up with another nice note an an additional $20 at the end... this on top of the percentage that's automatically added on to every room, bar charge, etc. Roland probably would have been outstanding regardless, but we enjoyed his discretion, excellent care of our needs timed to our schedule, his willingness to attend to our every request, and his friendly rapport. My wife kept reminding me that there's a tip added to every cost associated with the cruise, and that I didn't need to give anyone cash, but Rolan was worth it, and we did give a few other outstanding individuals a bit of cash on top of the automatic tipping. The auto tipping is fine, and alleviates worry about the "how much" question, but the staff warmly welcomed the added cash when it was earned, and I think the auto-tip system detracts from competitive performance on the part of the staff, at least to some degree. Excursions: Ensenada was OK... the shore excursion was nice enough, but it's mostly about trying to wring out the ships guests wallets. Be careful of what you spend, and how. Don't stray too far from a ship-provided tour unless you speak Spanish, and expect everyone to try and hit you up for a dollar (or twenty). We saw good values in hand-made leather goods, and the winery we visited and tasted at, Santo Tomas, was definitely a highlight. My wife and I both work in the wine business in Napa/Sonoma, and the wines here were surprisingly good. The area just south of Ensenada is the Mexican "wine country", and it showed, though many of our less educated companions on the tour poo-pooed the wines without an informed reflection. Long Beach: Enjoyed a tour of the Queen Mary, with lunch on board (eat elsewhere but enjoy a tour nonetheless). Unguided tours are free with your cruise pass... we found there to be plenty of educational graphics. Don't miss the tour of the Russian u-boat next door. The "Scorpion" is a wonderful example of a cold-war nuclear device-armed submarine, and we felt the tour a highlight. We ended the afternoon excursion with a walk along the banks of the harbor, and tossed bread crumbs to myriads of attentive sea gulls. To visit the region further would require a bus ride, and I'm glad we stayed close to the ship, enjoying what there was to see within a half mile. San Diego: We took a two hour harbor tour (don't go for the one hour tour). The tour of the Naval shipyards to the south was very insightful, and we saw forty or fifty naval ships in one or another state of repair docked there... even a few stealth ships. The harbor is a-bustle with wonderful sights to photograph, and then tour was well worth the cost. We also took a long (3 hour), but rewarding tour of the USS Midway aircraft carrier, docked very close to the cruise ship slip, and an extremely well put-together tour... very professional and historically accurate, very thorough and entertaining. Santa Barbara: We scheduled to take a "trolly" tour of the town... it was informative, but not very professional, and we wanted off before it finished. The ship doesn't actually dock at this port of call... it anchors off shore, so beware... you'll need to board a tender, and those in wheelchairs or needing assistance will not be allowed. Santa Barbara is a charming community... the shopping would be first rate, though no bargains like Encenada. We found ourselves overwhelmed with the crowds, even on a Thursday morning (albeit a beautiful one). We got off the trolly downtown and walked back to the pier, where we ultimately had a nice seafood lunch. The highlight of our day was a (rented) bike ride along the waterfront... about 1.5 hours, covering much of what the trolly tour covered, but at a better pace, and with the added benefit of working off lunch. The beach here is wonderful. All-in-all, the Star Princess was excellent. We were especially pleased with entertainment, dancing; comfort, amenities, and the staff's professionalism. Embarkation and disembarkation were easy and well choreographed. The ship is beginning to look a bit rusty around the edges, but is clearly still a first rate vessel, with excellent comfort, a wonderful art collection, and outstanding, colorful tile mosaics decorating the interiors. This cruise company has the business down to a system. Its clearly about them making money, but you can have a wonderful time despite that, and if your a savvy shopper and experienced traveler, you'll generally be happy with the value. Normally, a ship this tonnage end length could hold 3,000 + passengers, The fact the Star Princess has only +/- 2,000 passengers, mostly in balcony cabins, attests to the ships commitment to the finest experience possible on a cruise. We felt the staff did an excellent job providing the best amenities and options available, and that the ship was well staffed and lacking almost nothing. If the food were enhanced a bit, and the nooks and crannies polished, this would be an outstanding value, worthy of 5 stars, all things considered. The size of the ship compared to the number of guests made for a more private and enjoyable cruise... it felt much more custom and accommodating according to my wife, than previous cruises. We give it 5 out of 6 stars.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
We embarked on a 7-day Coastal California cruise on the Grand Princess with 8 of our friends out of San Francisco, Pier 35. The embarkation was quick, painless and professional. We were on board with 15 minutes of getting into the cruise ... Read More
We embarked on a 7-day Coastal California cruise on the Grand Princess with 8 of our friends out of San Francisco, Pier 35. The embarkation was quick, painless and professional. We were on board with 15 minutes of getting into the cruise terminal. Parking was nearby at a cost of $14 a day, which is reasonable for SF, but is about a 1/4 mile walk back to the pier. Traffic getting to the ship is difficult, as Pier 35 is near Fisherman's Wharf and other SF waterfront tourist destinations, so we would suggest public transportation to lessen the stress of getting to the ship so you don't have to park. Once on the ship we found that the maintenance has not kept up with the aging vessel. The carpets were worn, painted wall surfaces were in need of an update, teak and wooden railings were chipping, checked and unvarnished. The ship did not have a "grand" feel in the atrium as other ships we have sailed on have had. The atrium was only 3 floors, very compact and a tad claustrophobic. There are no stairs in the center of the ship and only at the fore and aft of the boat. Even though there are many elevators, they are extremely slow and frustrating. A walk to the front or back of the ship and using the stairs were the best choice for us. We noticed the crowd for this ship was about 70 years old, with a lot of physically handicapped and older folks. If you are looking for a younger crowd or a more "active" experience, this cruise is not for you. Most daily activities on board included, card playing, bingo, art auctions and trivia. The entertainment was sub-par and not overly talented. The production shows were good, the entertainers tried their best but nothing that would want you to return to a second show of singing or dancing. The "Welcome Back Party" for repeat cruisers was a joke. Not even a free drink was offered and 2 bottles of champagne were raffled off to the hundreds of attendees as a "reward" for hearing the Captain speak for 5 minutes. No photo opportunities, mingling or social interaction with staff or crew. Very disappointing as compared to every other cruise we have been on with 6 different cruise lines, including Princess a few years back. Our cabin, on the Baja deck, was maintained by the room steward with great integrity. It was always clean, beds made, linens replaced, floors cleaned and supplies restocked. The cabin was a little small, even with a balcony. From our balcony, we could look right down onto the larger balconies on Deck 9 and 10. If you want some privacy, even though the balcony is bigger, don't book these decks. Decks 9, 10 & 11 are set up in tiered fashion. Deck 12 was right under Deck 14 and from comments by some cruisers on Deck 12, they could hear footsteps, chairs and general commotion above them at all time of the day. Since the ship is getting older, we heard cracks, creaks, vibration and lots of movement making the ability to get a complete nights rest impossible. Bring ear plugs to drown out the ships noises. The cabin shower was good, water pressure & temperature good. Unfortunately the entire toilet system for our cabin and many other rooms connected to the same "zone" went out one day for over 8 hours. We had to use public restroom facilities in another part of the ship just to get the toilets to flush. No warning, explanation or notice was given that the plumbing was inoperative and left some of them more immobile passengers in a perplexing and difficult situation. The problem was eventually fixed with no other issues. After returning to the US after a stop in Ensenada, we had to go through Immigration at Long Beach. The whole situation was handled poorly and it took over 5 hours to get everyone through. We lost the entire day in port, standing in line to get our passports checked, which took about 2 minutes once we got to the font of the painfully long lines. We were "bought off" with a free drink from Princess for our trouble. The food generally was mediocre. One night a slice of ham replaced was described as pork shoulder. Another night a piece of rolled, formed meat, was described as a pot roast. Most of the food in the main dining room was poorly prepared and tasteless. Seafood was sometime undercooked and food was very salty. We ate in the Crown Grill one night for a $25 up-charge, which was better. The meat was higher quality, but not "fantastic". The service however, was exceptional and attentive. Another night we ate in Sabatini's, another $25/person up-charge. The food here was exceptional, service even better and the experience made up for a lot of failures elsewhere on the ship. The bar service was always good, but the waiters were generally trying to sell, sell, sell to get more of their 15% tip on additional sales. The drinks were prepared well, but we would suggest buying only shots of alcohol, beer or wine as the pours into mixed drinks seemed to fall short or a "normal 1 oz. pour". The ports we visited were fun with San Diego having the USS Midway Museum right next to the pier, along with Little Italy, Gas lamp and Seaport areas. Long Beach was lost to the Immigration lines all day. Santa Barbara is always great with wineries, the beach, shopping and restaurants. Ensenada, well Ensenada is Mexico. Very touristy but fun shopping and haggling. We suggest getting to town here, have a beer, shop for an hour, get back to the ship and enjoy the warmth on deck. We would not take another cruise on this ship even though the dining room and cabin staff do a fantastic job in trying to make your vacation enjoyable. The ship is showing it's age and does not have the amenities & experience that many other cruise ships and cruise lines provide for the same consumer dollar. Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
We flew into San Francisco a few days early. I contracted ahead of time with Super Shuttle to arrange transport to the pier. We stayed at the Sheraton Fishermans wharf on pier 39. We were able to walk to the grand Princess on pier 35 with ... Read More
We flew into San Francisco a few days early. I contracted ahead of time with Super Shuttle to arrange transport to the pier. We stayed at the Sheraton Fishermans wharf on pier 39. We were able to walk to the grand Princess on pier 35 with our luggage, about a easy ten minute walk. Embarkation: We met up with three other couples at 10:30 at the pier. Once there, we were told there was no lounge for elite/platinum members. We were directed to a sit in a park next door to wait until they were ready to board. No shade, no water thankfully it was not raining. One of our CA friends was on a walker due to upcoming knee replacement surgery. About 11:30, a princess employee came to the park to tell us we can start boarding the ship. Cabin: we had a mini suite and loved it. Spacious bathroom with a bath tub/ shower, two flat screen tv's and a nice sitting room. The bed was very comfortable and the pillows were nice and big. Dining: we opted for first seating since there were eight in our party. Dinners were wonderful as always, plenty to eat and great choices. Since two people were diabetic, it would be nice if they had more than one option for dessert. Specialty restaurant: we opted for Sabatinis to celebrate 2 birthdays. The menu has not changed in years, we opted for the same appetizers and meal as in years past. Unless they change the menu, we decided we will not go there again, The newest specialty is the CRAB SHACK. Go Hungary, the potions are huge. Crab was plentiful and we loved this new adventure in eating. Ports: Not very many excursions on the southern CA coastal cruise. We opted to rent a car in San Deigo and in Santa Barbara. We stayed on the ship in Ensenada, our least favorite stop. In LA we took a LA tour I found online on the cruise critic called Sunseekertours.com. Had a wonderful day and saw everything we wanted to see like the Hollywood sign, Chinese theater, walk of fame, Rodeo drive, Hollywood and Venice Beach. In Santa Barbara we rented a car and went on a wine tasting tour and visited a Danish village. Had a wonderful day in Santa Barbara. Would like to go back and visit. Experienced a problem getting off the ship in LA due to customs. Got in line at 7:30 am (we had an excursion planned) and did not exit customs until 9:30. I called our tour guide and explained the problem and he was very gracious and waited for us. Heard people were not able to reboard until after 1:00 due to passengers hiding on the ship to avoid customs - they had outstanding warrants on their records. Not a normal customs experience but just a FYI in case you have an excursion planned. Entertainment: coming out of CA, we were hoping for a singer or two. The comedians, ventriloquist and the princess theatre put on great shows. Love the four piece band Retrospect (?) with the woman singer. She has a wonderful voice, loved the 60's music and entertainment in the atrium. Like how they utilize the Vista lounge as well. Exercise; on other ships, we loved joining in on Salsasize, dancing to a live band around the pool, senior Zumba, regular Zumba and line dancing. This cruise only offered Zumba on 2 sea days and line dancing once at 12:15 (lunch time!) on the last sea day. Disembarking was very smooth and orderly since we did not have to go through customs, we were promptly Off the ship and on super shuttle for our ride back to the airport. Our only regret is that we did not do a Back to back cruise. It was a last minute invite from our west coast friends (whom we met on various cruises thru the years) and could of went on a 10 day Mexican cruise to get some sun before the cruise (we are from Ohio) or went on a 14 day cruise to Hawaii afterwards. What we spent for a hotel and food in San Francisco would of paid for one of our passages to Mexico. Live and learn. . If you want the pool, sun, water and beach experience this is not the cruise for you. But it was a cool and relaxing seven day cruise and we are so glad we went.   Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
San Francisco, CA; San Diego, California; Ensenada, Mexico; Long Beach, California; Santa Barbara, California; San Francisco, CA ABOUT THE REVIEW Other reviews give extensive information on the ship, cabins, food etc. Our reviews are not ... Read More
San Francisco, CA; San Diego, California; Ensenada, Mexico; Long Beach, California; Santa Barbara, California; San Francisco, CA ABOUT THE REVIEW Other reviews give extensive information on the ship, cabins, food etc. Our reviews are not like that; they are primarily a journal of what we did in the various ports, including web links to tourist information sites and maps. In general, we prefer DIY port tours, private tours with other Cruise Critic roll call members, or shared public tours. However, we will take a Princess tour when the logistics or cost make that a better option. Tour operator contact information is included in each port review. ABOUT US John and I (Carolyn) are retired Mississippi State University professors in our early sixties, who currently reside in central North Carolina. Both of us are natives of New Orleans and, as such, are interested in good food (and wine!) and good times. Our preferred souvenir is a small regional or national flag. On this itinerary, I would not need to acquire any flags. We enjoy both cruises and land tours; often our trips combine the two. Many of our cruises have been in the Caribbean but we have also cruised to Alaska, the Mediterranean/Greek Isles, Scandinavia/Russia, the Panama Canal, the Hawaiian Islands, French Polynesia, South America/Antarctic Peninsula, the Far East, the Amazon River, the North Atlantic (Greenland, Iceland and parts of the British Isles), the Norwegian Fjords, the Galapagos Islands, the Holy Land/Egypt, Australia/New Zealand, the Canary Islands and the Mexican Riviera. We have taken land tours to the Netherlands, Canadian Rockies, Mexico (Cozumel), London, France (several wine regions and Paris), China, Argentina (Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls, Mendoza wine region), Chile (Santiago, several wine regions), the Hawaiian Islands (Kauai, Maui, Hawaii) and to many parts of the continental USA. On our trips, we prefer nature and wildlife tours that involve snorkeling, SCUBA diving or hiking. In particular, we will hike for miles to see waterfalls, volcanoes, caves or other interesting geologic features. We also enjoy lighthouses, forts, castles and anything else we can legally climb up on for a good view. We are Elite members of Princess' Captain's Circle loyalty program, but have also sailed with Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Costa, Celebrity and Commodore. This would be John's and my first cruise to the California ports, although we had previously made a port call in Ensenada and visited LA and San Diego on business trips. This cruise was the second leg of a B2B. Our review of the first leg (10-day Mexican Riviera with our DS and his family) is here: www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=252949 15 MAR (SAT) SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA (Departure 4pm) Tourist Information: www.sanfrancisco.travel Waterfront Map: wikitravel.org/upload/shared/f/fe/Sanfrancisco_fishermanswharf_printmap.png After escorting our DS, DDIL and two toddler DGDs to the parking garage and helping them load up for the drive home, John and I returned to the waterfront to enjoy some sightseeing before reboarding the Grand Princess. Instead of walking along the Embarcadero, we walked along the piers right next to the water. Along the way we found the location of the sea lions that inhabit San Francisco Bay. They seemed pleased with their perch and the visitors looking on. Our destination was the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park (www.nps.gov/safr/). There is a small museum, which we had toured on a previous visit to San Francisco. Today we were more interested in the historic vessels and exhibits located on the Hyde Street Pier. Visitors may walk along the pier at no charge but there is an admission fee to tour the vessels. Because I have an America the Beautiful Senior Pass (www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm), John and I could receive free entry stickers at the ticket booth. Not all of the vessels were open for touring today. We visited the two that were open: the Balclutha, a square-rigged ship built in 1886, and the C. A. Thayer, a three-masted schooner built in 1895 and currently being restored. We would have liked to tour more of the vessels but it still was a beautiful, sunny, warm day to be out walking along the Bay. On the way back to the ship, we stopped at Pier 45 to tour the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, a WWII Liberty ship built in 1943 (www.ssjeremiahobrien.org). This vessel is not part of the SFMNHP and has a $8 pp admission fee. This was definitely a bargain as the ship was fascinating. The tour is self-guided and takes the visitor to many parts of the ship, including down into the engine room. One of the enthusiastic volunteers explained to us how the ship's engine room was used to film the engine room scenes in the movie “Titanic.” We walked back to Pier 35 and had only a short delay at the security check before we could re-board the Grand Princess. We shared a pizza at Alfredo's Pizzeria and made a reservation for dinner tonight at Sabatini's Trattoria. When we returned to our cabin, all of our complimentary minibar items were there. We had a few items left from the minibar setup from the previous cruise plus a half-dozen or so from our DS's setup, so we decided to exchange the new setup for two coffee cards; the exchange was made before sail away. Today the Grand Princess departed only about a half-hour past its scheduled time. It was still full daylight and the air was very clear. We had excellent views of San Francisco, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge and there were many sailboats in the Bay. We watched the sail away from one of the top decks. It was very windy, so we went inside not long after passing under the Golden Gate Bridge. Because we were no longer traveling with two young children, John and I switched from Traditional to Anytime Dining. From past experience, we know that Anytime dining is chaotic the first night and it is wise to dine at one of the specialty restaurants instead. As usual, the food at Sabatini’s ($25 pp) was excellent; we had a window table with a romantic view of the rising full moon. We can never limit ourselves to one antipasto here: John had the calamari and the soft-shelled crab and I had the soft-shelled crab and the artichoke souffle. We both had the wonderful grilled veal chop as an entree. For dessert, John had the creme caramel, while I had the “Sinfonia;” we also shared a plate of artisan cheeses. We were happy to learn that the Princess wine package was available, even though this was only a 7-day cruise. Although the coffee card, soda package and new all-you-can-drink beverage package are widely promoted on the ship, the wine package is not advertised at all. Even some of the wait staff are unaware of its existence (e.g., our Waiter tonight in Sabatini's) and they may need to check with a headwaiter. If you are interested in the wine package, you may have to be persistent in asking for it. The package comes in two versions and three numbers of bottles: Silver (wines up to $29) 12 ($240), 10 ($210) or 7 ($161) bottles and Gold (wines up to $45) 12 ($336), 10 ($290) or 7 ($217) bottles. Note that a 15% gratuity is added to the price of each package. Also note that either version can be used to purchase more expensive wines: the list price of the wine is charged to your onboard account (no gratuity added) and your account receives a credit for either $29 or $45. We bought a 7-bottle Gold package, which was a very cost-effective choice for us. [Note: If you choose to buy the wine package, be sure to check your on board account statement periodically to ensure that the package is being applied correctly. We had two errors on the previous cruise and one on this cruise.] After dinner, John and I skipped the “Welcome Aboard Showtime” and read for awhile before settling down to a restful night of gentle rocking as the Grand Princess headed south to San Diego. 16 MAR (SUN) AT SEA There was some fog early this morning but it cleared later. We read in the One-5 nightclub until lunch time, when we enjoyed pizzas at Alfredo's. Later in the afternoon, we viewed the movie “Gravity” in the Princess Theater. In the late afternoon, there was a “Welcome Back” party for Gold and Ruby members of the Captain's Circle. Tonight was the first formal night and the Captain's Welcome Champagne Waterfall. We had snacked on chocolate-covered strawberries this afternoon, so we chose to go to the Anytime dining room (Michelangelo) around 6:30 p.m. and wait for a table for two. We only had to wait about 15 minutes for the pager to summon us to our table. After dinner, we went to the production show, “Stardust.” 17 MAR (MON) SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA (8:00am – 6:00pm) Tourist Information: www.sandiego.org Waterfront Map (B Street Cruise Ship Terminal is north of the USS Midway): www.portofsandiego.org/environment/clean-water/doc_download/4714-public-parks-brochure-2012.html This was the only port that would not have a wine-themed activity. We planned to go to the San Diego Zoo and had hoped to be there when the zoo opened at 9:00 a.m. However, the ship was late docking and obtaining clearance from the local authorities. Thus we were not off the ship until 8:40 a.m. and took off for the SDMTS route 7 bus stop on Broadway and Front Street; this is about a 15-20 minute walk from the B Street Cruise Ship Terminal and the bus ride to the zoo takes 16 minutes. Unfortunately, the route and timetable information at the SDMTS web site (www.sdmts.com/mtscr/route.aspx?r=7) is incorrect; the #7 bus stops further east at Broadway and Third Street. Even though we missed the first possible bus because of this incorrect information, we finally managed to reach the zoo at 10:00 a.m. The adult fare for this bus is $2.50 and the senior (age 62 and up) fare is $1.10 (show your driver's license or other proof of age; exact fare, cash only). The San Diego Zoo (zoo.sandiegozoo.org) is not only renowned for its animal collection but also for its conservation activities. On this beautiful spring St. Patrick's Day, it was a pleasure to stroll the beautifully landscaped grounds. The Panda exhibit is one of the most popular and crowded, so we headed there first. John's research had found that taking the Fern Canyon stairs was the quickest route there. When we arrived, there were only about a dozen people there listening to the staff member discussing Panda life and habitat. We had plenty of opportunity to view and photograph the zoo's two Giant Pandas. We worked our way back and forth through the zoo and were fortunate to see most of the animals, although some were hiding. There are about 3 or 4 miles of trails in the zoo, with lots of hills; we took the Skyfari (included in the day pass) twice from near the Polar Bears back to the entrance to save time. Our final activity at the zoo was the 40-minute guided bus tour (included in the day pass). We were extremely fortunate to draw Chris “Zooman” Clobber as our driver/guide. Chris is a stand up comedian and a grandson of Laurence Klauber, whose personal collection was the foundation for the Klauber-Shaw Reptile House at the zoo. Chris was raised in the zoo and provides a fascinating and enthusiastic commentary. He also knows the best time to pause at various exhibits. For example, he stopped at the Polar Bear exhibit right at the time the bears were being fed and we got to see them jump in the water and swim to catch their food. From the top of the double-decker bus, we were even able to see some of the animals that had been hiding from us earlier. The adult day pass for the zoo costs $46 pp and there is a 10% discount for seniors ($41.40 pp, age 65 and up). With the round-trip bus fare of $2.20 pp, our DIY excursion cost $43.60 pp vs $99 pp for the equivalent Princess tour. Of course, that does not include the $40 I had to spend to replace the sun hat that I somehow managed to lose on the way to the zoo. We left the zoo at about 3:00 p.m. and caught the #7 bus back to the stop at Broadway and First Street. We sauntered back to the ship and made it back aboard about 4:00 p.m. This evening we had reservations for the Crab Shack ($20 pp), which is a new dining venue introduced on the Royal Princess. This dining option is only offered on a few nights each cruise in the aft portion of the Horizon Court. The menu includes one appetizer (fried shrimp and hush puppies), one soup (Manhattan clam chowder) and four combination pots of boiled/steamed seafood. John and I both got the mixed boil with King Crab legs, shrimp, mussels, clams, sausage, corn on the cob and potatoes. The food was pretty good although the appetizer was only lukewarm. A real irritation, though, was the door to the aft terrace, which let in a blast of frigid air every time a server went through it to get drinks from the Terrace Bar. The door did not completely close automatically and some of the servers did not try to close it. John and I each got up and closed it because the cold air was so uncomfortable. The maitre d' saw John close it and must have had a word with the servers because it was less of a problem after that and the maitre d' suddenly became much more concerned about how we were enjoying the meal. 18 MAR (TUES) ENSENADA, MEXICO (8:00am – 5:00pm) Tourist Information: www.enjoyensenada.com/ Town Map: www.lonelyplanet.com/maps/north-america/mexico/ensenada/ Valle de Guadalupe Information: www.bajabound.com/destinations/bajawinecountry/ John and I had visited Ensenada on a previous cruise but that was a short, perfunctory stop merely to satisfy the Passenger Services Act. There is a small shopping area at the port, a car rental booth and a tourist information booth. Taxis are not allowed to pick up passengers at the port but there is a shuttle ($2 pp) into the main shopping area downtown. Both the shuttle and taxis charge $1 pp to return to the ship. John investigated possibilities for a private winery tour to the Valle de Guadelupe but decided that the ship's excursion was the best option for this port. John, I and 45 of our closest friends were bused to two wineries: one very large and one very small. While we were waiting in line for the tour to proceed to the bus, an agricultural inspector with a dog checked all of us. As we continued to wait, the dog reacted to a group going ashore with a baby stroller. They had to open all their bags and quite a bit of unsealed food (mostly apples) was confiscated; packaged, sealed food (like their carton of yogurt) was allowed. There were a lot of new cruisers on this voyage who may have been unaware of the restrictions on taking agricultural products off the ship. The Princess Patter had only mentioned bringing contraband back on board and an announcement about not taking food ashore was not made until well after passengers had started to disembark. As we left the port, our guide (Gloria) strongly hinted that we should be tipping her and the driver (Jesus) at the end of the tour. During the 40-minute drive, Gloria gave us some information on the history and economic conditions in this part of Mexico but admitted that she did not know much about wine (she prefers whiskey) or the wineries we would be visiting. As we approached the first winery, Gloria informed us that she would handle the tips there but we should tip at the second winery. John and I have toured and tasted at over 100 wineries all over the world and this is the first time there has been any suggestion that the wine pourers were expecting us to tip them. The first winery we visited was L. A. Cetto, which is one of the largest wine producers in Mexico. The tour was led by Ruben, a winery employee, who described the production process and showed us the processing machinery, fermentation tanks and barrel room. Next we were led to a tasting room that was barely big enough to cram in our large group. Gloria had brought along some slices of bread, cheese cubes, olives and olive oil, which she placed on the two long bars so we would have something to cleanse our palates between wines. Ruben gave generous pours of four Cetto wines but did not know much about them beyond his memorized spiel. Then he pulled out a tip jar, which we ignored. There was a little time allowed for those who wanted to buy some wine to take home. By now Gloria was anxious to herd us back to the bus. As we re-boarded, we were each handed a bottle of Cetto wine that was a blend especially produced to give to tour groups. The Cetto winery produces wine from far too many varieties and knows this. They are trying to determine the grapes will produce the best wines for this area. The wines we tasted were on the whole pleasing and showed good varietal characteristics but were not outstanding. We would be interested in returning to try wines from some of the smaller wineries in the area. In contrast, the Casa de Dona Lupe (www.lacasadonalupe.com), is an extremely small wine operation. In addition to wine, it produces liquors, herbs, jams, spreads, filled breads and pizzas. We were encouraged to taste the jams and spreads on our own; Gloria had a couple of the stuffed breads and pizzas cut up so that we could each have a small taste of those. Each of us received a card that entitled us to four small pours of wine. No descriptions of the wines were offered by the pourers; in fact, they never spoke at all and Gloria was naturally of no help. I did not see a tip jar but no one there was doing anything that deserved a tip anyway. The wines were non-vintage and of uncertain variety. They were at best drinkable but only marginally. The food was better. At one point, we had a brief glimpse of Dona Lupe herself and there was a costumed dancer doing native dances and selling jewelry. At least there were clean bathrooms. Altogether this was a decent way to spend a port day in Ensenada. However, we would not seek out any of the wines we tasted to purchase in the future. After the bus returned to Ensenada, we were offered the option (which only one couple took) of remaining in town and returning to the ship on our own or of going directly back to the ship. There was a long line for the security checkpoint to re-enter the port. Tonight there was a cocktail party for the Most Traveled passengers in the One-5 disco.; the three Most Traveled passengers had each sailed 1250 days with Princess. We went to dinner before the party and thus sampled only a few of the many delicacies in the impressive display of hors d'oeuvres and desserts. We did have a couple of snifters of cognac, which were very enjoyable. 19 MAR (WED) LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA (7:00am – 6:00pm) Tourist Information: www.visitlongbeach.com Waterfront Shuttle (free) Map: www.lbtransit.com/schedules/pdf/30.pdf Today John had planned to rent a car, drive to the Temecula Valley and visit two or three wineries. However, our plans were drastically altered by a Customs and Border Protection inspection at the port and delays at the car rental agency. Yesterday we were given a suggested schedule for the CBP inspection, which was supposed to start at 7:20 a.m. after the ship had been cleared by CBP. We lined up about 7:10 a.m. with about 30 people ahead of us. We waited for over an hour for the ship to be cleared; by then the line stretched around the atrium and into the casino. Posts on CruiseCritic.com reported that the delay was due to a thorough search of the ship for illegal substances and that several people were taken off the ship in handcuffs. Once the ship was finally cleared, we exited to the cruise terminal, where we had to present our passports and custom forms. Even passengers who did not want to go ashore in Long Beach had to go through this procedure and no one was allowed to return to the ship until everyone had been processed (reportedly about 1:30 p.m.). If your itinerary calls in Long Beach right after a stop in Ensenada, do not plan to be on your way sooner than two hours after the ship's scheduled arrival time. Because we were near the front of the line to get off the ship, we went through the customs and immigration inspection quickly and headed off to the closest car rental agency (Enterprise). There was no sign of the free Passport shuttle, so we briskly walked the 1.5 miles to the Enterprise office in about 23 minutes. Although there were only two people with reservations ahead of us, it took 50 minutes to obtain our car. The office was seriously understaffed, with only one person behind the counter to process reservations and answer the telephone; three other staff members wandered in and out aimlessly. The telephone rang constantly with people calling from the cruise terminal to be picked up. There were so many reservations that only the drivers could be picked up (supposedly in a half-hour); after they got their vehicles, the drivers would have to return to the terminal to collect the rest of their groups. John and I were thankful that we could make our own way to the rental office and did not have to rely on Enterprise to pick us up. We finally left the Enterprise parking lot at 10 o'clock. We had planned to visit three wineries in the Temecula Valley (www.temeculawines.org) but had already lost three hours of port time. There was no way that we could be on time for our first winery appointment; however, I was able to call and reschedule it for later in the morning. We did not have appointments at the other two wineries, so we could make a decision later about visiting them. John reviewed many wineries in the Temecula area before selecting Leoness Cellars (www.leonesscellars.com) because they seemed the one most serious about their wines. Many other area wineries seemed to be more like holiday destinations. We took the VIP tour and tasting ($35 pp) and were really pleased. We toured the vineyards, viewed the facilities and talked wine philosophy with Dawn, the Host Department Manager. Leoness is serious enough about their wines to submit them to wine reviewers for evaluations and typically their wines do quite well. After sampling eleven different wines there, we can understand why. Temecula is still finding itself as a wine region and Leoness is still making wine from too many varietals (a fact they recognize), but they are becoming an outstanding winery. We highly recommend a visit to anyone interested in a serious winery and serious wines. Because of our late start and the legendary LA traffic, we decided to enjoy a relaxed experience at Leoness and forgo visiting any other wineries in order to allow extra time for the return to the ship. If we visit this area again, we would like to taste and tour at Wiens Family Cellars (www.wienscellars.com) and Callaway Winery (www.callawaywinery.com). Dawn at Leoness said that she liked the Italian-style wines at Renzoni (www.robertrenzonivineyards.com), so we would probably add them to our list.‎ When we returned the car to to Enterprise, there were several people already waiting to be driven back to the cruise terminal. Given all the delays this morning, we chose to walk back to the ship at a leisurely pace (30 minutes this time). Even with stopping to take some photos of the Queen Mary, we probably beat those people back on board. BTW, we later read on CruiseCritic.com that, during port calls in Long Beach, cruise passengers can show their cruise cards for free admission to the Queen Mary; we might check that out if we ever call here again. When we returned to our cabin, we found two free drink vouchers. Even though the long delay this morning in disembarkation was not Princess' fault, the company wanted to do something to mollify the passengers. This evening we had dinner at the Crown Grill ($25 pp). John ordered a seared scallop appetizer and I had the marinated goat cheese and heirloom tomato salad. Instead of a steak, we both had the blackened beef chop covered with mushroom and onions. Several sauces are offered to go along with the meat, as well as three flavored salts. The finale was a dessert sampler with small portions of each of the four dessert options. Normally, we are hesitant to get the beef in the Crown Grill because it cannot be “grilled” on board the ship. However, the chops were outstanding and may become a new choice for us. 20 MAR (THURS) SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA (7:00am – 6:00pm) Tourist Information: www.santabarbaraca.com/visitor-info/ Waterfront Map (Tenders dock at Sea Landing, #18): www.santabarbaraca.gov/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?BlobID=17186 Waterfront ($0.50) Shuttle Map: www.sbmtd.gov/maps-and-schedules/maps/dwe-map-stops.pdf We were a little worried about our port call in Santa Barbara, which is a tender port. A storm on March 1 had blocked the harbor entrance with sand. Next, the dredge that was clearing the sand away broke down and it took a week for it to be repaired. Fortunately for us, the harbor was reopened a couple of days before our arrival. We took the first tender from the ship to Sea Landing. There was a tourist information tent at the end of the sidewalk leading from the tender dock; good maps and attraction brochures were available there. From here it was a short walk (0.7 miles) to the car rental office (Avis). We reached the rental office just after it opened at 8:00 a.m. and were on our way five minutes later. What a pleasant surprise after yesterday's ordeal with Enterprise! Today's plan was to visit Santa Barbara Wine Country (www.sbcountywines.com). Our first appointment was at Stolpman Vineyards (www.stolpmanvineyards.com). Tours at Stolpman are normally limited to members of their wine club. However, our sincere interest in wine and wine making must have come through in John's emails; we were able to schedule a tour of the vineyards and a tasting hosted by one of the owners, Peter Stolpman. We had some extra time before our appointment, so we drove through Solvang to see its windmills and Danish-style buildings. From there we drove up scenic Ballard Canyon Road to Stolpman's vineyards. We met Peter at Villa Angeli, which is on a hill surrounded by vineyards and is the venue for many wine club events. From there, Peter drove us through the vineyards, stopping to explain the Stolpman wine philosophy and to point out the numerous innovative viticultural practices being employed. This tour was especially interesting to us, given our backgrounds in agricultural research and actually was one of the best we have ever done. After this unique tour, we went to the tasting room in Los Olivos to sample a selection of excellent wines. Stolpman is specializing in Rhone varieties like syrah and roussane with a side interest in sangiovese. Our next reservation was for the VIP Tour and Tasting ($20-25 pp) at Fess Parker Winery (www.fessparker.com), which is north of Los Olivos. Another couple asked to join us when they overheard us tell one of the pourers that we had arrived for the tour. We had a brief tour of the vineyards and the facilities, followed by tastings of ten wines. Fess Parker (yes, Davy Crockett/Daniel Boone!) was one of the original wineries in the Santa Barbara area and produces a broad selection of good wines. Our final appointment was at the Brewer-Clifton (www.brewerclifton.com) tasting room in Lompoc. We needed an appointment because the tasting room is only open Friday-Sunday. This was another good choice and we tasted six outstanding wines. Brewer-Clifton specializes in producing small quantities of wonderful pinot noirs. If we had had more time, we might have visited Dierberg Vineyard (dierbergvineyard.com) or Gainey Vineyard (www.gaineyvineyard.com). The ship offered three wine tasting tours: a full day tour of two wineries plus free time in Solvang ($179 pp), a full day tour of four wineries plus a picnic lunch ($179 pp), and a half-day tour of two wineries ($159 pp). Tonight was the second of two formal nights on this leg and three Captain's Circle parties for Platinum and Elite members were held. However, we decided to skip the party this time. Instead, we used our free drink vouchers for an after-dinner glass of Sandeman port. 21 MAR (FRI) AT SEA This morning we faced the unpleasant task of packing for the end of our 17-day B2B. Later we enjoyed our last pizza at Alfredo's Pizzeria. The Princess Grapevine wine tasting was held this afternoon in the Botticelli dining room. As Elite Captain's Circle members, John and I received complimentary invitations. At one time the wines were the same at every Grapevine but in recent years there has been more variety. This can cause some problems for the staff hosting the tasting. One of the persons speaking to the wine described a Pouilly-Fume from France as being a chardonnay from Australia. We thought it was rude that some people drank the final wine as soon as it was poured and then walked out while others were still trying to hear the presentation on that wine. After dinner, we went to see the production show “British Invasion” and enjoyed hearing music from our high school years. 22 (SAT) SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA (Arrive 7am) This morning we waited in the Platinum/Elite/Suite Lounge (Vista Lounge) until our assigned disembarkation time. Disembarkation went smoothly and we had no problems finding our luggage in the terminal. The stop for bus route 8X, the Bayshore Express (www.sfmta.com/getting-around/transit/routes-stops/8x-bayshore-express), is just across the street from Pier 35. We rode the bus ($2 pp) to the intersection of Harrison and 5th Streets and walked the short (about 0.6 mile) distance to Caltrain's San Francisco Station (www.caltrain.com). We took the train ($7 pp) to a station near our DS's house. From there it was an easy walk to his home. After enjoying another week with our DS and his family, we were ready to head back to RDU on United’s nonstop flight and get back to work on the plans for our next Princess cruise, a Canada/New England cruise on the Ruby Princess in October. Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
Embarkation, 15 March, 2014: Embarkation was very easy. After going through the routine activities of check-in and security, we were directed to a holding area to await our group number being called. The wait was relatively brief compared ... Read More
Embarkation, 15 March, 2014: Embarkation was very easy. After going through the routine activities of check-in and security, we were directed to a holding area to await our group number being called. The wait was relatively brief compared to other embarkations that I have experienced. The only con that I have for the embarkation from San Francisco was the lack of refreshments and drinks. Other waiting areas I have visited had vending machines for snacks or drinks (water or sodas). The only liquid refreshment that I found was a thermos of cold water. Other passengers were also commenting on the absence of refreshments in the waiting area. Sailaway: Sailaway was fantastic. I situated myself on the observation platform located on the roof of the bridge. Unfortunately, I forgot my jacket in my cabin. As the wind got stronger, the temperature got colder. Sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge is always exciting. As we sailed under the mid span, we could hear the cheers and greetings from the people waving from the walkway on the bridge. As we looked back at the bridge, the sun made the bridge's red-orange color stand out against the clear blue sky. What a beautiful sight it was, with the city skyline in the background. As we sailed away from the coast, we entered a cold fog bank that required the ship to sound it's fog horns. The fog broke just long enough for us to view a magnificent sunset. Sea day: A dense fog greeted us for our first sea day. Later, the skies cleared and a warm, sunny day followed. Seas were relatively calm with a gentle swell moving the ship. During the day we could see the spouting of migrating whales on their journey north. We tried our luck at gambling at the Grand Casino. Note, I said tried. Dining: Our usual pattern is to eat at the Horizon Court buffet. But we opted to try other restaurants during this cruise. For lunch, we had fish and chips at the Crown Grill. It was delicious. For dinner, we went back to the Crown Grill for some Seafood and lamb chops. The lobsters were delicious and plentiful. There must have been four lobsters with wonderful salads and desserts. The wife had lamb chops. What a wonderful, filling dinner. Crab Shack: A new dining experience is the Crab Shack. Available are boiled Alaskan crab and shrimp, Crawfish (mud bugs), sampler , and other assorted seafood. Make sure you are hungry because the portions are large. It was a wonderful meal. Stateroom: Our midship mini-suite was very spacious and comfortable. The bathroom had a shower-tub combination with a lavatory with a lot of storage space. There are two flat screen TVs, one for the bedroom, the other for the sitting area. As on most ships, channel selection is minimal, with many repeat broadcasts. Unfortunately, there was only one remote for both TVs, which made channel changing difficult when both TVs were in use at the same time. Another negative about the cabin was the constant creaking and banging at night when the ship was sailing through heavy swells. This made sleeping very difficult. The noise seemed to come from the space above the ceiling and the space between our cabin and the adjoining cabin. This was by far the worst cabin noise I have ever experienced on any cruise ship. Shore Excursions: See Port section. Since there was no port selection for Santa Barbara, I will comment here. Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara is a tender port. Tender tickets must be obtained to board the tenders unless you are on one of the Princess sponsored excursions. We did the Trolley tour of Santa Barbara. Our tour took us to see some of the most beautiful areas of town including the Mission and the largest fig tree. I would recommend this tour for first time visitors to Santa Barbara. After the tour, we walked to nearby Stearn's Wharf for lunch and souvenir shopping. Disembarkation, 22 March, 2014: Disembarkation went smoothly. We were released by groups according to our disembarkation time. Luggage was waiting in the pier as scheduled. Everything was well organized. The ship: The Grand Princess is a beautiful ship, with a few rough edges. I noticed many areas around the ship where bare rusty metal and flaking paint could be seen. Our balcony door to the adjoining balcony was missing the locking mechanism and the door had to be secured with a wad of paper to keep it from swinging open by itself while at sea. Many areas around the pool were also rusty. The public areas of the ship were beautifully appointed, especially the atrium and the Piazza. Princess made a beautiful upgrade to this area. While waiting for disembarkation, I watched as the Photo Department crew gathered hundreds of unpurchased photos from the display cases. My wife and I were in awe at the number of stacks of these photos were tossed. The cruise lines need to develop a better method of offering photos to cruise customers instead of printing thousands of photos in hopes they will be purchased. Either offer a digital option for purchase, or display a single photo that can be duplicated if the customer wants more copies. I know the cost of these discarded photos are passed to the cruise customer, so the cruise industry should find a more cost effective alternative to offering photos to customers.   Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
This short cruise was an easy commute to the San Francisco pier from our suburban home, and even better at its discounted price. Embarkation is complicated because the pier is located on the Embarcadero where there is no parking, very ... Read More
This short cruise was an easy commute to the San Francisco pier from our suburban home, and even better at its discounted price. Embarkation is complicated because the pier is located on the Embarcadero where there is no parking, very limited passenger and luggage dropoff at the curb or double parked in the street. the luggage handlers are very aggressive, demanding a tip to take bags, unlike Florida or San Diego where the workers suggest a tip. My San Francisco Longshoreman friend said it is more of a ripoff because the workers are paid full union scale and the tip increases their income to about $500/day each. Checking in was rapid, sooner than the specified "no earlier than noon". There are many seats where one can wait inside, but registration clerks were rapid if each passenger had passport, ticket data, and the form you signed on entry saying that you had not been sick over the past few days. The walk to the ship is long, and there are no escalators. The elevator is small hence long lines were there. Arrival on the ship requires the usual photo, but no one escorts passengers to cabins, but we got directions easily. We got a lunch in the buffet, which was crowded as it always was at breakfast and lunch. The cabin was adequate and clean, although there were ceiling marks from some prior leak. Air conditioning, flat screen TV, refrigerator all worked normally, there were no bathroom issues. Sailing out under the Golden Gate Bridge at Sunset was delightful and many passengers were on the top decks looking and photographing. Our first stop at Santa Barbara required tender transport to shore, which was well done with enough tenders and use oif tickets for people on shore excursions first ( we were). The open bus trolley tour of Santa Barbara was well planned and narrated by a local, and when he returned us to the beach after about 90 minutes we returned to the ship for lunch.When we docked the next day at Long Beach, next to the permanently docked Queen Mary, we took the ship excursion to the Getty Museum ( 4 hours there, not enough) and a one hour visit to Rodeo Drive ( walk around looking at the stores, windows, etc.) and return to the ship. There is a small souvenir park in front of the Queen Mary, and one can tour( ticket required it ) and/or a Russian submarine also docked there. the terminal is large, utilized for cruise ship departures/arrivals, and has ample toilets. Nest day: San Diego. We took the excursion to Balboa Park which included entry to 4 museums over 5 hours there. We only had time to thoroughly see 3 museums, and get a lunch snack at the patio cafe located near the museums../ Next day: Ensenada, Mexico. We took the locally offered($4, round trip) van shuttle down the pier, and into the center of downtown Ensenada., about 10 minute each way. We opted to take the local van tour out to 'La Bufadors' which is a 45 minutes drive each way to the coastal cliff site where waves splash into a narrow cleft and splash up to the tourists above where there is a low stone wall. There are hundreds of souvenir vendors in buildings along lthe walkway from parking lot to the wave splash area. They sold clothing, ceramics, jewelry, candy, baked goods, etc. Prices were very negotiable, quality varied. The ship: Although an older vessel, ship appeared to be well maintained, with no appreciable wear of carpets ( except in elevators))or furniture. Open deck areas including pool areas were in good condition, poor was warm. Jacuzzi tubs worked well.Staff, including waiters and stewards were efficient, courteous, pleasant, not apparently overworked. Entertainment: shows were fairly standard, well rehearsed and performed musical revues with good singers and dancers. Comedian was not very funny and we left with many others. "Enrichment lectures" on our sea days were very poor, unrelated to the cruise ( "Driving highway 66") and not worth the time. Food: Breakfasts- service the usual incredibly slow and inefficient in the dining room( tried it twice); goodf variety and well done in the buffet. Lunch: Buffet only, good variety, well served, very crowded and table sharing required. Weak spot was desserts which were uniformly very sweet pastries and similar, but with minimal flavor .Dinner: Main dining room , early sitting: good selection, slow service,food was hot, and generally quite good although not seasoned much.Better dessert selection than buffet, but also very sweet but not much flavor. Additional: the usual art auctions on sea days passed some of the time, there was trivia from the cruise director in the top lounge at varying times, library was not very well stocked. There were numerous, mostly older movies shown on the cabin TV channels, CNN and Fox channels, and DVD movies could be checked out from the purser's desk. Debarkation at San Francisco: very efficient, luggage arranged inside the ancient pier warehouse, and long walk to curbside. No passenger luggage carts, but longshoremen could help with bags if needed. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013

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