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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cruise to Hawaii, part 1

CRUISE LOG TO HAWAII: 28 DAYS….. Day 1 Saturday, October 20th, 2012….. Today is the very first day of our 28 day cruise. The first day of a cruise is always the most exciting for us. It is the day where we step onto the ship that will take us on our amazing cruise adventure. Since we haven’t been on the same cruise ship twice in the 7 cruises Chuck and I have taken together, it’s always exciting to be able to explore and find all the exciting nooks and crannies of our cruise ship. We had been in L.A. for a few days so the first thing we had to do was turn in our rental car. Once we did that, we were able to take a shuttle from there to the airport and meet a Princess representative. For $24 each we were able to take a shuttle bus from the airport to the cruise terminal. Our luggage was tagged at the airport, and taken away by Princess so we didn’t have to worry about it once we got to the cruise terminal. From the airport, we were taken to a local Sheraton hotel, and not only were we able to check into Princess and do all the paperwork, including health forms from the comfort of a hotel waiting area, where we were also given coffee, tea, and pastries. We sat around tables of 8 and met other passengers that were also going on the cruise with us. We sat near people that were from Orlando, Florida, Ontario, Canada, and Seattle, Washington. It was interesting to hear people’s stories of how long it took them to get to L.A. from home, and how many other cruises they had been on. It was also interesting to hear their views of other cruise lines. By 12:45p.m. we were ushered back onto the buses and taken directly to the cruise port at San Pedro. Once there, we were directed to a line where we checked in and picked up our cruise cards, went to another line to check in with security, and sent on our way to board the ship. This was a much better way to board than if we had just gone directly to the cruise port ourselves, checked in our bags, and waited in many lines. It was very exciting to walk up the ramps and onto the ship. We were able to go directly to our stateroom as soon as we got on the ship. That’s unusual for us because usually we get on a bit earlier but have to wait till our stateroom is ready a few hours later. We went to our mini-suite cabin. Right away we noticed a few things about the room that reminded us this is an older ship. Some of the woodwork had dents, or places where the wood had been scraped off by suitcases from past cruisers. We noticed that the closets on the Sapphire Princess does not have doors. That’s only a problem if the ship hits a rogue wave that knocks all of our clothes out of the closet but I am pretty confident that this won’t happen! Once we checked out our room, and took pictures, we headed up to the food court. I had read a review that said the food in the Horizon Food Court was very good and in some cases, better than that in the main dining rooms. Based on our first lunch, we were pleasantly surprised that the reviewer was right! It was delicious and as always, there was plenty of food to choose from. After eating, we went back to our stateroom and found our suitcases had arrived so we unpacked. I was trying to get over a cold so took a nap while Chuck went to work out. We dressed for dinner, but the dress was smart casual so not too dressy. We had our first dinner of the cruise in the Pacific Moon dining room. Unfortunately we were both sorely disappointed in our meals. We started with the cream of mushroom soup, which I must say was out of this world delicious. For our main courses, Chuck had an end cut piece of prime rib, which he found to be too dry, and I had macaroni and cheese with scallops and shrimp, which I found to be way too fish tasting. The lady at the table next to me had the same thing and neither of us liked it. It was definitely a seafood dish first and foremost, and should have been named seafood macaroni as the taste of cheese was hardly in this dish. But the dining room redeemed itself with dessert. We both chose the flourless chocolate cake which had a double cream layer on top, and it was one of the most delicious desserts I have ever had in my life. Almost like the chocolate melted in your mouth. We headed to the room after dinner and checked out some of the movies on TV. Princess cruise lines has a nice assortment of television programs and popular movies to choose from which is always nice if the entertainment being offered that night is not to out liking….. Day 2, Sunday, October 21…..... Chuck was great about getting up and going to church on the first morning of our cruise. I was still not feeling great due to the cold so I opted to stay in bed a bit longer. Chuck came back raving about the church service because although it started out a bit dry with a few hymns, they offered anyone the chance to stand up and say something, so a retired pastor of 41 years got up to speak. His church had been in the backwoods of Kentucky. He had also started an international missionary organization and recently retired from there as chairman of the board. Chuck found him to be very spiritually enlightening as many of the attendees asked him to return in the following services over the next few Sundays. After church, we went up to have breakfast. The breakfast offerings were varied and there is an area of pastries separate from all the fruit, cereal, and warm breakfast offerings. After breakfast we explored the ship a bit, including the stores and found the internet cafĂ© which I think Chuck will be visiting a bit to check in on business emails. I am hoping he doesn’t visit it too often because I want him to relax as much as possible on this trip. We checked out the library which has a whole section of travel reference books which will be great because there are a few ports that we did not book excursions in, and we will be able to find our own sites to explore using those books. Chuck found a book about Ronald Reagan that he took out of the library and he is enjoying that. After lunch, we headed to the pool area where they have a very large screen to show movies under the stars. Today they showed the Patriots vs. the Jets game and Chuck was thrilled to be able to watch it along with a bunch of other passengers out in chaise lounge chairs on a huge screen. I went along but read a book. Periodically I did look up for some of the touchdowns and it was almost as though you were there at the game because the screen was so large. We haven’t had any sun on the trip yet, so people were dressed in long pants and jackets, AND most also had blankets covering them, but it was still a fun experience. After the game, Chuck worked out and I took another nap! For dinner, we decided to skip the main dining rooms, and headed back up to the food court where they have more of a variety of foods to choose from. Princess used to have passengers go up and get their own drinks from a beverage area, and I don’t know if it’s all Princess ships or just the Sapphire Princess, but that has changed and now the staff gets drinks for all passengers. They work the staff pretty hard but everyone has gone out of their way to say hello and be really cheerful and polite to us. I don’t know how they can do that day after day. We had a wonderful dinner, and my favorite food was croissants that were filled with ham and cheese. They were so delicious I could have made a meal of that and salad, but there are so many other foods to choose from that it’s hard to pass them up. The desserts here onboard are truly amazing. We had a warm cherry crumble with vanilla sauce poured over it for dessert, although there are about 10 other offerings as well. The peanut butter cookies, and chocolate chocolate chip cookies onboard are truly amazing and go great with a cup of coffee after dinner. And fortunately for chuck there is soft serve ice cream, one of his favorite treats on cruises. After dinner, there was a hypnotist show, but neither of us was interested in it, so we went back to the room and watched the end of a movie about Michaelangelo. They have an art channel here with movies about many famous artists so I expect we will learn a lot about famous artists over the next 4 weeks. FOUR WEEKS! I still can’t believe we will be on this ship, relaxing for the next 4 weeks. It is truly a dream come true…. Day 3 Monday, October 23……… Today I decided it was time for me to start exercising to burn off some of the many calories I have been eating. There is a Zumba class each morning we are at sea at 9:00 a.m. It is held in one of the main lounges, and you have a choice of participating on the dance floor with the leader, or up in the lounge areas where flat screen TVs show what the leader is doing and you can participate in a nook or cranny where not everyone can see you. I chose one of those areas because where dancing is concerned, I don’t pick up steps that easily, and the leader said if we miss some of the steps, just keep on moving to keep our heart rates up. That worked for me. The class is 30 minutes and by the time we were done, we were all sweating up a storm! It was quite a good workout. While I went to Zumba, Chuck went to one of the port talks in the theater. He gained a lot of information, such as there is a souvenir shop at every island called, ‘Hilo Hatties”that has great prices on souvenirs. There are buses from every cruise port to Hilo Hatties, as well as to Walmart. I found that pretty funny! I met Chuck in the theater area for a very interesting talk on the historical aspects of Pearl Harbor. We will be going to the Arizona Memorial when we get to Oahu so I’m glad we went to the talk to be more prepared. In the afternoon, the movie Tora Tora Tora was playing in the staterooms so that was also an interesting look at the Pearl Harbor incident. I went with Chuck to the work out center today but instead of using the work out machines, I headed to the adults only pool that also has hot tubs. There were only a few people there, and in fact I had one hot tub to myself. I also swam for a bit and the water was quite warm. For me to say that, it means it was very warm because I am quite a chicken when it comes to getting into cold pool water. Tonight was the very first formal night. There will be one during each of our four weeks on the ship. There was also a reception for people in the platinum level on Princess cruises, and Chuck is in that level. We went to a lounge and were given free appetizers, and each had a glass of wine, which was NOT free, but it was actually the first glass of wine we had since boarding so we toasted to the cruise. We had a table right near the window so the view was beautiful. We felt like we were finally totally relaxed. After the reception we went to the main atrium for the champagne waterfall event. The atrium of this ship is beautiful. It is 3 stories of marble and glass with circular staircases winding their way down each floor. The champagne waterfall is set up in the middle and consisted of a pyramid of over 400 glasses of champagne. When the actual event starts, people sit in chairs on the main floors, and line the staircases and railings. The maitre’d starts pouring a bottle of champagne from the top. Then any of the passengers who would like to have a chance to participate can stand on a platform and the maitre’d helps them pour the champagne while the ship’s photographer snaps your picture, and the videographer also captures it on film. Now, the main reason for this of course is to boost sales of the ship’s trip DVD and photos in the photo gallery. Passengers are not forced to buy them, but it’s hard to resist if the photos come out well. Chuck convinced me to go do it…the jury is out on the still photos but we will probably be buying a DVD! They were also doing formal portraits so we had one of those done. We have decided that we will only purchase pictures that we BOTH like, so that may cut down on our actual purchases this time, but with a month onboard I am sure we will have many pictures to choose from. After the champagne waterfall experience, they bring the captain and main members of the crew out for introductions, and from there we went to dinner. We both started with a Caesar salad, and had the main course right afterward. My dinner of beef medallions was much better this time, and Chuck had chicken so he had a better meal as well. He just had ice cream for dessert, but I had a New York cheesecake that was the best New York cheesecake I have ever had, even though we aren’t in New York! After dinner, we changed and went to the first show of our cruise, which was a dance show called, ‘Do You Wanna Dance.” It was very good, but was really just an introductory show so lasted only about an hour….. Day 4 Tuesday, October 23……… Today I was up and at Zumba again for my second class. It seemed to go a bit easier than yesterday, but still a good workout. Chuck went to the port talk about The Big Island and we met afterward to just relax. He read his book and I wrote in here. We were near a lounge where they had a trivia game going on so we played that informally and didn’t do well, but it was fun trying. There is so much to do here onboard on sea days. Every day they have lots of choices of activities. There are ballroom dance classes, line dancing classes, a knitter’s club, demonstrations on cutting fruit, certain crafts to make, ukele lessons, hula dancing lessons, bingo, ping pong, golf, etc. The best part is we have no schedule so we can pick and choose whatever we want. After lunch, the sun finally was out for the very first time in the cruise. This had bothered Chuck a bit, but I was so happy to be on the cruise I didn’t care what the weather was like. We got in our bathing suits and sat by the pool for the first time. Although it was a bit breezy on deck, laying directly in the sun was warm and felt wonderful. Chuck got so0me visible sun, but I layered up with some Coppertone 15 sunscreen, and you can’t really tell I got any. But that’s ok because it was just our first day and I would rather be safe than sorry. After getting some sun, Chuck went to work out and I went to the adult pool again. The hot tubs were full today, so I just swam for about 30 minutes. I met a very nice lady from Switzerland who works for herself as a physical therapist and makes arrangements to go on long vacations by having a colleague cover her clients when she goes away. I have been wondering how all these people can get away for 4 weeks at a time. The majority of the people onboard the ship are 65 and older, so I do understand that a lot of them are retired and can just go whenever they want. But there are probably a group of 20% who are too young to be retired and I wonder how they are able to get away. I don’t think they are all substitute teachers like me! For dinner, we went back to the Horizon Court buffet. I am surprised at how many people are eating dinner in the buffet on this cruise. Most cruises only have a small percentage of diners in the buffet area for dinner, with most preferring to go to the dining rooms. I guess they agree with the reviewer who said that the food in the Horizon court is better than in the dining rooms on the sapphire princess. The dessert offerings were not as interesting, but I did manage to find a delicious piece of pineapple cheesecake! After dinner, we went to see our first official movie under the stars which was, ‘Crazy, Stupid Love” starring Steve Caroll, which I had wanted to see. I really liked it but Chuck didn’t. It must have kept his interest somewhat though because it’s one of the few movies he has watched with me during which he didn’t fall asleep. Watching the movies under the stars on the big screen, on lounge chairs, with blankets and popcorn is a real treat though. One of my favorite things about Princess cruises. We were going to go see the show which was labeled the best comedian from Jamaica, but it was a ventriloquist act so we just went back to the cabin and watched a movie about Jackson Pollack which I found very interesting. Day 5, Wednesday, October 24…….. today was another day at sea. Our 4th in a row which means at this point we are very relaxed. I could just continue at sea for another week or two, but tomorrow we get to our first port stop in Hawaii which will be Maui, at the port of Lahaina. So, I truly enjoyed today. I didn’t go to Zumba today, instead preferring to work out with Chuck tonight. We were able to get out in the sun for a bit, and it was relaxing. I went to the library a bit to see what we can do when we get to Maui because we don’t have a shore excursion planned. The library is only open a few hours per day, and have a lot of fiction as well as non- fiction books which can be borrowed, but I was most interested in the reference travel books on Hawaii. We went together to a port talk on Kauai which we will visit as our 4th and last stop in Hawaii. We have a trip planned to Waiamea Canyon that day and this is supposed to be the most lush of the Hawaiian Islands so I am looking forward to it. We watched some pool games this afternoon but did not participate. We have been taking naps every day after lunch which is pretty funny considering we don’t have a very taxing schedule. But it adds to the relaxation of this trip. After our naps, Chuck always goes to work out at the gym onboard. Today I did go with him, and walked on the treadmill for awhile, then we both went into the hot tub together in the adults only area of the ship. It’s this fantastically relaxing area with a beautiful pool, and 2 hot tubs. Hardly anyone goes there in the afternoons so it’s a wonderful spot to relax. During the time we were in the hot tub together, approximately 20 minutes, we were treated to 2 different beautiful rainbows arching over the ship, about 10 minutes apart. It was an amazingly beautiful site, especially when viewing it from a hot tub. It was a moment we will always remember. Tonight we went to the Horizon Court buffet again, preferring to pick and choose what we wanted to eat. After dinner, we saw 2 shows, 1 of the ventriloquist we missed the night before, and he was actually quite funny. And then afterward there was a comic we thought we had seen before on other Princess ships. His name is, “Sarge” and apparently he’s been headlining for Lionel Ritchie and doing some movies, if any of you have seen him. I was not impressed. He actually made fun of the elderly, in a rather unfavorable way, and since this is a cruise filled with mostly elderly, I don’t think the show went over very well. He did some singing impersonations of some famous singers and seemed to me to be a better singer than comic!....... Day 6, Thursday, October 25……. Today was our first port visit. We had breakfast and then had to wait for 30 minutes to get a tender off the ship to the town of Lahaina, on Maui. Since we didn’t have any excursions planned, we just walked around town. The first landmark we saw was the largest banyan tree in the United States. Of course we took pictures by it, then toured a small museum and gift shop. It was pretty hot and so we were trying to find a shady area to tour. We found the Blake House which was lived in by the first missionaries to Maui. It was quite interesting to see the house itself and the many furnishings from the time period. The family and it’s many children and grandchildren became quite prominent in this town. We walked up and down the streets and stopped in a few stores to cool off. This is my first time to Hawaii, and I have heard it is the same temperature all year, with an average temperature of 82 degrees, but what I didn’t know is that it’s a very humid type of heat, so we sought shade as much as possible. There were some great breezes in the shade. We found an ABC store and apparently that has the best prices for souvenirs, and sundries on the islands so we bought a couple bottles of wine to keep in our room and have a glass before dinner, and a lot of snacks. We found a small little gelato store and shared a cup, while sitting out on the back deck of the shop where we could see the shoreline filled with small shops and palm trees, as well as our ship anchored out in the water. We found a small park and I took some great pictures of palm trees…I couldn’t go to Hawaii and not take pictures of palm trees! After Lahaina, it was back to the ship for lunch and a rest, workout and dinner. Before dinner though, I happened to be walking through the buffet area and found some absolutely delicious scones with freshly made whipped cream. They serve afternoon refreshments of a formal tea in the dining room from 3:30 – 4:30 every day, but you can also get scones during this time at the buffet. 2 years ago on our honeymoon cruise on the Norwegian Epic, I discovered the scones and real freshly made whipped cream and have been hooked on this treat ever since. I was thrilled to find this same treat aboard our Princess ship. We went to a new dining room tonight, called, The Santa Fe” which was different than the other formal dining rooms as it had a Southwestern Flair to it. We found we liked this dining room the best so far. I had a delicious meal of steak fahitas, and Chuck had lamb. Both meals were great. We stopped by the show after dinner, which was another singing and dancing show, but it didn’t seem all the interesting so we left and headed to bed because tomorrow we need to be at the Princess theater area for our tour to the USS Arizona at 7:40 a.m. Those of you who know me well know I am not looking forward to that!!!.....More to come, but it’s time for a work out now! I hope any of you in the area that the hurricane hits will be safe, and we’ll be praying for you!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

An Update from the Start of Our Trip...

We left for our once in a lifetime trip yesterday. We are staying in Los Angeles for 3 days, and on Saturday are leaving for our 28 day cruise to Hawaii, Tahiti, and American Samoa. I still can't beleive that I am fortunate enough to be experiencing this type of trip. I have a couple minutes of down time and wanted to give you all a shout out from not so sunny California! It's about 75 here today and cloudy with a bit of a breeze...yay, my favorite temperature. I don't like the heat. We had a great couple of flights out here, and then last night Chuck took me to the Queen Mary in Longbeach. It was so great to walk around this old cruise ship from the 1930' different from the beautiful new ones we are used to. There were pictures all over the ship of famous people that had cruised on her...Fred Astaire, Bob Hope, Robert Montgomery, Alexis Smith, etc. And they had the interior, including the shops, very much the same as it was back then. We walked around on the promenade deck, and then up on the top deck. The Queen Mary has 3 smokestacks, that look similar to the 4 on the Titanic. There were strings of lights that went across the top decks and when you looked up, and saw the smokestacks behind them, I tried to imagine what it must have been like for the passengers on the Titanic to look up into the night sky on that fateful night, hearing the band playing in the background, and knowing their ship was sinking and they were in grave danger. It gave me chills to do that because it all seemed very real. We took a lot of pictures because the Queen Mary has been kept as original as possible and is quite amazing to see. We had a glass of wine to celebrate our first night of this amazing trip. Then we ate dinner in The Chelsea Chowder House. It had white tiled walls and orginial floors with a tin ceiling. The food was delicious, and we had a beautiful view of the Longbeach Harbor. Today, we went to visit my aunt who lives about 10 minutes from our hotel. As always, Chuck charmed her and she pulled me aside and told me I made a very good choice in him! I told her I definitely agree with her. Tonight we are having dinner with a friend of mine from high school, and tomorrow night we will be visiting with Chuck's son and his family. Then on Saturday, we will embark for the adventure of a lifetime. We are so looking forward to this time together...just the 2 of us without interuptions of the phone, emails, work, calls for rides from my kids, bills, etc. This will be a second honeymoon for us, and a start of our new life together now that my children are all on their own. I am not sure I will be able to get online to update this anymore before we come back, but I will be writing blog entries to post when we get back. I hope you all have a wonderful 4 weeks. I know we will!