Jay's Internet Log

General

CCC 2016 Day 5 – Cruz Bay, St. John

by on Jan.16, 2017, under CCC 2016, General, Vacation

At around 5:00AM this morning Pacific Princess passed Virgin Passage, between the islands of Culebra and St. Thomas before altering her course to port and approaching Cruz Bay from the south. She passed Dog Island on her port side before arriving at her anchorage position in Pillsbury Sound.

We had no tour today. This is Heather and my first time in St. John, though Mom and Dad have been here before. This is a tender port, which I always like. The weather was spectacular.

We tendered in and walked up the street one way and around a few shops. There was a lot of standing water, but Heather had doused me in deet, so hopefully we didn’t get bitten by any mosquitos. After shopping for about a half hour, we decided to go the other way on the street in order to find a pharmacy, as Dad needed some Hydrogen Peroxide for a cut. Heather decided to go back to the ship as her back hurt from the extreme gingerbread house making yesterday. Mom also hurt her back from this, probably from bending over making the house.

Mom, Dad, and I walked up one street to a rotary, and we then had to choose from five different directions. Some locals pointed us in the right direction, but this was no easy walk. We finally got to the pharmacy, bought some things, and headed back. Nobody fell, which was awesome; also the goal.

Back on the ship, Heather was resting, but got up to watch The Legend of Tarzan in the Princess Theater. We had just watched this movie a few weeks back, but Mom and Dad had not seen it yet. Dad wasn’t a fan, though I enjoyed the movie.

For dinner, I had a cowboy steak, which is a sirloin steak with barbecue sauce and crispy onions on top, along with carrots and small potatoes. Heather and I lost the photography raffle, then watched a comedian named Thien Fu. He joked that he has a brother named Kung. He juggled a lot, and made us laugh.

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CCC 2016 Day 4 – At Sea

by on Jan.16, 2017, under CCC 2016, General, Vacation

Today Pacific Princess continues on her southeasterly heading towards Cruz Bay. Early this morning she passed the Turks and Caicos Islands on her starboard side, at a distance of 40 nautical miles. Tonight she will approach the north coast of Puerto Rico as she sails towards her first port of call Cruz Bay.

SWEAT UPDATE: I learned that an elderly woman had been staying in our room for a full three months prior to this trip, so I know whose sweat I was sleeping in the other night. Thankfully, after a full replacement of everything except the mattress, I think we’re good. I was told that the US Coast Guard inspection threw everything off.

This morning, we went upstairs and met with Mom and Dad who were finishing their breakfast. I then went to my hair appointment, which was nice, and I think my hair is shorter than it’s ever been.

I had lunch with Dad up on the back deck while Mom and Heather entered in a Gingerbread House competition. I’m so glad that the ship is embracing Christmas as much as it is. I wasn’t sure if they would or not, but we have multiple Christmas trees all over the ship, along with Christmas songs playing on all ambiance speakers. The staff are all wearing Santa hats at times too, along with Christmas lights, and funny antlers.

After lunch, Heather had a hair appointment, and I went to a complimentary wine tasting. It was nice. I took a few laps around the track while Heather napped, then we got ready for dinner. It’s formal night tonight, and of course, our air conditioner had an issue, so getting ready was quite interesting.

For dinner, I had leg of lamb, a salad, and French Onion Soup! We’re now sitting in the lounge waiting for the show tonight. Tomorrow we have our first stop of the trip, and we’ll be in St. John, which is a first for me. We have no tour planned, so we’ll just walk around, hopefully on a beach.

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CCC 2016 Day 3 – At Sea

by on Jan.16, 2017, under CCC 2016, General, Vacation

Today at sea, Pacific Princess will sail southeast along the Eastern edge of the Caribbean Sea. This afternoon at approximately 1300, she will pass San Salvador Island on her port side. San Salvador is believed to have been the first land sighted and visited by Christopher Columbus on his first exhibition to the new world in 1492.

Well, this is a first, and please don’t be eating while reading this first paragraph. I fell asleep wonderfully last night as this ship was moving around quite a bit, and still is as I write this. I awoke sometime in the night drenched in sweat. It wasn’t my sweat, and it wasn’t Heather’s. My pillow, sheets, and comforter all smelled this way. Earlier in the day, we had asked for an additional comforter and some pillows for Heather, and hers did not smell. I was so tired that I put a towel down and fell back asleep, randomly switching out pillows when the smell woke me up.

This morning, I told our room steward about the issue, and was able to get the whole bed except the mattresses replaced. Hopefully tonight will be better. We awoke and went up to the pool. It was 77 degrees, which was a tad cold for me, but I went in for about 10 minutes before retreating to the hot tub. We had sit-down breakfast, and then went to a port lecture.

At lunch, we sat with a random group of passengers, and told them of our night. Two of them happened to be Princess employees, and urged us to tell the head of housekeeping. Two others had friends on the ship for the past six weeks, and told us that many passengers had fallen ill. This was the straw that broke the Camel’s back for Heather, and she went to talk to the passenger services desk while I came up to write.

UPDATE: Heather is back and we were told that no sick people were in our room. The head of housekeeping wants to speak with me, so that should be a fun conversation that I didn’t want to have.

This afternoon, we are going to go to the scavenger hunt drawing that we missed on our last cruise. After that, I might take a nap in our new bed before dinner. We are planning on going to see the comedian from last night, Steven Scott, who made me laugh a bunch of times. Tomorrow is another full day at sea, and I’m getting my now-normal haircut and shave. I sure need it!

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CCC 2016 Day 2 – Boarding Pacific Princess

by on Jan.15, 2017, under CCC 2016, General, Vacation

This afternoon, once embarkation has been completed and the safety drill has been carried out, Pacific Princess will depart Port Everglades. Once clear of the buoyed channel, she will continue East and proceed through the Northwest Providence Channel around the Bahamian Banks.

I planned to get up at 4:30AM and walk up the beach to see the ship arrive, but once 4:30 came, and I saw how dark it was outside, we decided to stay in the hotel and not risk getting mugged out on the beach.

We had a nice breakfast at the hotel, and then took a van over to Port Everglades. There were three Princess ships here today; Royal, Island, and Pacific Princess. Since we weren’t coming in via plane, there was next to no waiting to get onboard. It also helps that this ship only holds about 700 passengers, compared to 3600 on Royal Princess.

This is my fifteenth cruise on Princess Cruises’ ships, and I’ve now hit the maximum level in the Captain’s Circle loyalty program, which basically means free laundry. This is quite the perk, and we plan to use it daily. I even packed a bit lighter due to having this service. Pacific Princess is a Renaissance-Class ship, and the last that Princess Cruises owns. This is the fifth itinerary that we’ve taken on one of these, and they are easily our favorite ships in the Princess fleet.

We walked around the ship, got a few scavenger hunt stamps, had some lunch, and went to the muster drill. I then went up to the top deck in order to record the sailaway. All three Princess ships were scheduled to leave at 4PM, but none of us did. Island Princess was the first to leave, around 4:45, followed by Royal Princess at 5:15. We went to dinner and our ship eventually pulled out around 6PM. This was at least partly due to the US Coast Guard inspection that we were told went well.

Dinner was somewhat of a mess because the food was still being brought onboard while dinner was starting. I had Prime Rib and chili. We are now sitting in the theater waiting for the welcome show and comedian. I hope it’s a good one, but no matter what, the ship is rocking nicely, and I’ll sleep well tonight!

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CCC 2016 Day 1 – Hartford → Ft. Lauderdale

by on Jan.15, 2017, under CCC 2016, General, Vacation

Our day started with a trip to Bradley International Airport at 5:30AM for the flight to Ft. Lauderdale.  We’re traveling down a day early in case there was a weather event that might delay us. We arrived and took a van to our hotel, a Courtyard Marriott, right on the beach. We even saw Santa out on the beach, which was pretty cool. We took a walk down the boardwalk, and the sun was extremely bright. 

Heather took a short swim in the pool, and we then walked around the beach and talked with a lifeguard.  I had this plan in my head to wake up at 4AM and walk about a mile down the beach to the rocks, in order to film the ship arriving a la Venice.

We didn’t really do a whole lot else this whole day, but it was warm out, which was a nice change.  We had dinner in the hotel, and got an early night’s rest.

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Alaska LPC 2016 – Day 7 – Victoria, British Columbia

by on Jun.03, 2016, under Alaska 2016, General, Vacation

At lunchtime, we will pass Cape Flattery on the Washington Olympic Peninsula and enter the Strait of Juan De Fuca. At around 5:00PM, we will cross the International Boundary into Canadian Waters and set a Northerly heading past Race Rocks on our Port side. At 5:45PM, we will embark our Canadian Pilot by boat on the Starboard side and enter the harbor to be all-fast on our berth by 7:00PM. On departure, the Canadian Pilot will disembark and a Southerly course will be set towards Port Angeles where we will embark our Puget Sound Pilot at approximately 1:20AM. An East and then Southerly course will be set into Puget Sound towards Seattle where we will all fast alongside at 6:00AM.

I mentioned yesterday that I “might try their lamb chop and maybe a small steak”. Well, that’s true to an extent. I did have their insanely amazing lamb chops, along with a rather large and excellent NY Strip Steak, while Heather had filet mignon and four lobster tails. Also, we shared garlic fries, mashed potatoes, salads, French Onion Soups, freshly-baked rolls, ice cream, and a sampling of four different desserts. It was amazing as the Crown Grill usually is. This is the first time that we’ve visited them twice on a single voyage, and I’m glad that we did.  After dinner, we watched an episode of The Love Boat and went to bed at around 10:00PM.

We slept in today all the way until 8:00AM, which is the record for this trip. We got up and went to the Thermal Suite to sit in the hot tubs and steam rooms for a bit before we got packing. There’s not a whole lot going on today, so we’ll be packing our bags most of the time so that we’re ready for our tour later on. We’ll be revisiting the Enchanting Buchtart Gardens, so I hope it doesn’t rain later on!

Mid-afternoon, I saw what ended up being the Norwegian Pearl coming up strong and close on our port side, and as it got closer, both ships entered heavy fog. This was the first time this trip that we’ve seen such dense fog, and it was a lot of fun listening to the two ships blow their fog horns back and forth to each other. We were the last ship to dock in Victoria, after the Pearl and Holland America Amsterdam.

After dinner of Tom Turkey and custom-made French Onion Soup, we returned to the room to find my Captain’s Circle information, which made me very happy!

The Buchtart Gardens were phenomenal as always. I think we were a bit early in the season, as many of the flowers weren’t much more than buds at this time, but it was still an amazing trip. It was good and dark by the time we left the gardens, and once we got back on board Ruby Princess, we had enough time to put our luggage outside the door and get a 5-hour nap.

As I said in the first post, the main reason for this trip was to get Elite status in the Captain’s Circle club, and that goal was attained, along with some much-needed relaxation.  I’m now very-much looking forward to our next voyage!

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Alaska LPC 2016 – Day 6 – At Sea

by on Jun.03, 2016, under Alaska 2016, General, Vacation

Our two SE Alaskan Pilots will disembark at 11:00AM and we continue on a Southerly course down through the Chatham Strait. At 5:30AM we will enter the open waters of the Gulf of Alaska / North Pacific Ocean and set a Southeasterly course, taking us past the Prince of Wales Island, Dixon Entrance, and Haida Gwaii Islands. Late tonight we will pass to the west of Cape Scott, the northern most tip of Vancouver Island, and will continue off its Western shores on a Southeasterly heading towards the Strait of Juan De Fuca.

I didn’t make it far into Star Wars last night, but that was expected due to the temperature here in Alaska this early in the cruising season. Clouds also rolled in while I was up there, so I decided against staying up to see stars, as I don’t think I would have.

We awoke this morning at 7:00AM as we both had massages booked at 8:00AM. My massage was basically 75 minutes of getting beat up with bamboo sticks by a very strong Romanian woman. As I write this 8 hours later, my legs are still in pain. I very rarely get massages, and I sit at a computer all day, so my muscles were very tight. Afterwards, I met Heather in the Thermal Suite, and then we came back to the room.

Heather went off to get her nails done, while I started my very last load of laundry ever on a Princess ship. This wasn’t so easy though, since this is a huge ship and it’s the last sea day of this voyage. I went to decks 9, 10, 11, 12, and 14 just to see every single washing machine full. As my last hope, I wandered down to deck 8 to see two machines empty.

I started them up, put some soap in them, then headed back to the room to grab the clothes. After dropping them off, I had some fries and a Diet Coke. When I went to change the clothes over, Heather showed up with beautiful nails. We then went and had our normal lunch of cheeseburgers, fries, and pizza. You really can’t go wrong with that combination on a Princess ship!

At 1:45PM, we watched in full, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s always fun to watch with people who have never seen it before, and this theater was packed full of them. We had a blast. Heather’s now taking a nap before dinner tonight, which we’ll have in the Crown Grill again. I’m thinking that I might try their lamb chop and maybe a small steak.

 

 

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Alaska LPC 2016 – Day 5 – Skagway, Alaska

by on Jun.03, 2016, under Alaska 2016, General, Vacation

Once clear of the berth we will set a southerly course back down the Taiya Inlet & Lynn Canal. At 5:45PM we will pass the historic town of Haines on our starboard side and then at approximately 6:45PM we will pass Eldred Rock Light. As we continue to head south, it is worth staying on the upper decks as providing the visibility is clear, the view of the mountains, glaciers, and general landscape is particularly dramatic.

Before I start with today’s entry, I must touch upon dinner last night. After having some issues a few nights back, one head waiter told us that if we ask for him by name, he will have a table for two set up for us each night for the rest of the cruise. Dinner last night was fantastic. It was Italian night, and our head waiter sat us at a table for four, but just for the two of us. He provided us with some tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. He made us some fresh pasta that was very spicy and good. We also had spaghetti and meatballs, prosciutto and melon, and I had braised pot roast while Heather had Alaskan Cod. The service was excellent and exactly what I’ve come to know Princess Cruises for in terms of “dinner”.

Last night, two people were late getting on the ship, but we waited for them like always. I’ve never seen a Princess ship leave passengers ashore, even though it is threatened. I think it’s just that though. This time, the culprit came running towards the ship with a 12-pack of Heineken in hand, noticeably intoxicated. My guess is that they lost track of time in some Juneau bar.

Today we were in Skagway, which is my favorite port on this itinerary. This is Heather’s second time here and my fourth. This will also be the fourth time that I’ve taken the White Pass & Yukon narrow gauge railroad up the mountain. If I had to only choose a single Alaskan tour in any port we visit this trip, the train ride would be it. As soon as we were allowed in the train area, I booked it to the front car, right next to the engine. This happened to be a brand new car, with a nice balcony on it. The train takes you up 3000 feet above the ships in Skagway, into British Columbia, with breathtaking views the entire way. At the top, a conductor comes and detaches the engine from all the cars, then takes it and attaches it to the other end of the train, meaning that the ride down is much more relaxing than the noisy ride up. All you hear are the click-clack of the tracks as you descend the mountain. It’s very relaxing.

After the train dropped us off in town, we walked back over to our ship, had a quick burger and pizza, then headed back into the town of Skagway in order to shop, mail some items back home, and hopefully find Robert Lee (LeeBob) who we met in 2010 and bought a totem pole that he made. We entered the shop where we bought the piece, only to see that he wasn’t there, but a new, 6+ foot tall version of it was in the window. We inquired about him from a woman who ended up being his aunt, and she told us that he was at one of three possible stores, but wasn’t sure which one. We ended up tracking him down at an ulu and knife shop, and chatted with him a bit. It really felt good to catch up with LeeBob, and we exchanged email addresses.

We mailed our items home and continued to shop around. We picked up a small carving that was made out of an antler for our display case at home, then headed back to the ship. We headed to the Thermal Suite for about 30 minutes, then got ready for dinner.

Dinner tonight was just as excellent as last night. I had country-fried chicken while Heather had scallops, and we shared a few pieces of chicken on sticks. When we came back to the room tonight, there was a large, bright rainbow outside our room, and salmon jumping all over the water. It was really beautiful.

 It’s now 8:30PM and Heather’s in bed. Star Wars TFA is playing up under the stars in 30 minutes and I’m hoping to go watch it, but it is absolutely freezing outside now, so I may just go watch a few minutes, as they’re playing it inside tomorrow afternoon, and that’s more Heather’s speed… especially since she’s already in her pajamas. There is a stargazing lecture where they turn the deck lights out at 11:00PM, so if I can stay up that late, I’d like to try it out, but we have bamboo massages at 8:00AM tomorrow, so I’m not quite sure. We’ll see.

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Alaska LPC 2016 – Day 4 – Tracy Arm Fjord & Juneau, Alaska

by on Jun.03, 2016, under Alaska 2016, General, Vacation

At 5:00AM we expect to cross the narrow, shallow ‘Bar’ and enter Tracy Arm, and at 5:40AM round ‘Big Bend’. Our progress through Tracy Arm is very dependent on the ice conditions, which change on a daily basis, further broadcasts by our Naturalist to update you will be made during the course of the morning. At around 9:00AM we re-cross the ‘Bar’ of Tracy Arm and set a northerly course into Stephens Passage. At 11:00AM we will enter the Gastineau Channel en-route to Juneau. On departure, we will retrace our steps back down through the Gastineau Channel and then overnight transit Stephens Passage, Favorite Channel, the Lynn Canal, and Taiya Inlet towards Skagway. 

Well, it was bound to happen someday. Last night, we had some really bad service in the dining room. This whole trip, the dining room staff has appeared overworked, and tonight was the straw that broke the camel’s back. First of all, we are sitting in Anytime Dining, which we don’t usually do as we’re usually traveling with Mom and Dad, who require set meal times.  No matter when we arrive at the dining room on this voyage, be it for lunch or dinner, there is never a table for two available, and we are made to share with others.  This is fine and all, but the staff at the door has been very rude to us, which is something that I don’t normally see on a Princess Cruise.  The day before, we walked into the dining room to see over 5 empty tables for two, but none available for us to use.  So last night, we were told that the only table available was for six people, and there was another couple waiting with us, so they seated the four of us at that table.  As soon as we were about to order, another couple joined us, so we then had to wait for them to look at the menu and order.  Dinner has not taken any less than two hours this entire cruise, with wait staff running around crazy-like, and noticeably sweating. I ordered a Curtis Stone-inspired Chicken and Leek Pot Pie, which on paper sounds very good, but as soon as I cut into it, I noticed what looked like mushrooms, which prompted a head waiter to come and tell me that there aren’t any mushrooms in it.  It was apparent, but I also found out that Ruby Princess is running wait staff of 1 team per roughly 20 guests.  This sure explains why dinner takes so long.  I really feel bad for these waiters and junior waiters. This head waiter reserved a table for two for Heather and I for the rest of the cruise.  I’ll let you know how that works out in a future post, and that’s all the negativity that I’m going to spew today. We’re here to relax, and that’s what we’re going to do!

[short update post-cruise] – Best Head Waiter Ever

We awoke at 5:00AM and opened the blinds up to the absolutely stunning views of Tracy Arm Fjord.

This place is magical, with lush forests that turn into huge rock formations that tower over this large ship. The last time we were here, we got a balcony breakfast, which was awesome. Today however, we dropped some laundry off and had some fruit for breakfast, before heading up onto the Observation Deck to check out the scenery up there. Two small boats had tied themselves to us for tours that we had thought about jumping on, but never did. These tours must only be offered on the large ships, as they can’t make it up too far into Tracy Arm. They then take you further up while the ship turns around and heads to Juneau. The tour guests will meet us in Juneau later in the afternoon. It sounds like a lot of fun, and I’d like to do that tour in the future.

In comparison to the last time we were in Tracy Arm Fjord on Royal Princess (currently Fathom Adonia [my favorite ship currently sailing]), we barely scratched the surface of Tracy Arm. As we started our way out, Heather and I went down to the Thermal Suite and sat in the tubs and steam rooms for a bit. My body got so hot that I had to cool down afterwards by walking around the open deck in my swim trunks, flip-flops, and an undershirt. All sorts of people bundled up in winter gear looked at my like I had three heads, but it was very refreshing.

We had a quick lunch of cheeseburgers and pizza before the ship arrived in Juneau.  Holland America Zaandam, Grand Princess, and Coral Princess were already in port. Our only tour today wasn’t really a tour, but we bought tickets to go up a tram that has a great lookout over Juneau. I didn’t know that there were all sorts of hiking trails up there as well. We looked around the gift shop and Heather saw a magnet that she wanted to get for her sister, but we figured we could just get it down in one of the shops below later on. We sat in on some local folk music being performed, visited an Eagle that they have in captivity up there, and then took a short hike up to some observation areas to get some photos.  This is probably the best “deal” for a tour in Alaska.  It cost around $35 per person to ride the tram all day, and there’s more to do up there than just look down, though looking down is worth the price of admission alone!

We then took the tram back down and walked around the various gift shops. Not a single one had that magnet that we saw up top, so on the way back to the ship, we decided to take the tram back up since our tickets were good for the whole day. We bought a few magnets, then headed back down. We’re now in the room getting ready for dinner, which I hope is a whole lot better than it has been so far this trip.

Libby Riddles is onboard to give a lecture tonight, but I’m not sure if we’ll be able to catch up with her. She’s a dog musher who was the first female to win the Iditarod. We met her back in 2010 when she came onboard for the same type of thing.

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Alaska LPC 2016 – Day 3 – Ketchikan, Alaska

by on Jun.01, 2016, under Alaska 2016, General, Vacation

In the early hours we will cross the International Border into Alaskan waters and embark our SE Alaskan Pilot off Twin Island. Various northwesterly courses will then be followed through the Revillagigedo Channel and Tongass Narrows towards our berth. On departure, we will continue through the scenic Tongass Narrows and into the Clarence Strait. At around 7:15PM, we will approach and then transit Snow Passage. Overnight, various courses will be followed through Sumner & Chatham Strait, Fredrick Sound, and Stephens Passage.

We slept in until the wee hours of 5:00AM as the sun started rising around 4:30, after setting at about 10:30PM last night. When we opened the curtains, we saw lots of pine trees as we approached Ketchikan.

As we got closer, we saw some boats, and folks with binoculars on the deck above us spotted three Eagles across the water. Binoculars are one of the items that we didn’t bring on this trip as we were trying to fit everything into one piece of luggage.

We had a quick breakfast and then walked off the ship to meet our tour group on the pier. I noticed that there were three ships in port: Ruby Princess, Grand Princess, and Holland America Zaandam. We walked a few blocks to our tour, which was a repeat of one we did back in 2010, the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. One of the lumberjacks came onboard yesterday, and we talked with him for a while. His name is Boone and his father is the owner of the Lumberjack show.  

He told us that for the last year, he’s lived out of his truck, and travels between Colorado, Alaska, Wisconsin, and Florida. He was part of the show today, and gave me a post card signed by all the lumberjacks. We bought some calendars on the way out. YO HO! (That’s what lumberjacks yell).

We walked around town for a bit, got yelled at by a local for not walking in the crosswalk even though there was no traffic, and made our way over to the famous Creek Street. This is an area with shops that in the gold rush days were brothels. They’re raised up over a creek on what seems like wooden docks. We were told yesterday from a crewmember that there were salmon jumping up the creek, but we didn’t see any. After Creek Street, we made our way back to the ship. There was now a fourth ship in pier, but I could not make out the name. It was quite a bit smaller than the rest of the ships.

Once onboard, we bee lined it to get cheeseburgers and pizza, both of which had lines 10+ long. At 2:00PM, we went to the Princess Theater to watch the movie Brooklyn, which was nice. After the movie, we headed back to the Thermal Suite and sat in the steam rooms for a bit. It’s now dinnertime, and we don’t have much planned for the evening. Tomorrow is a very early day of sightseeing, so we may not do much tonight.

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