by Rob Holloway
May 11, 2011
We just completed a short three (3) day cruise up the Pacific Coast on the Golden Princess which we had booked for our wedding anniversary (May 11) while on the Sea Princess in November last year. The cruise was from Los Angeles USA to Vancouver BC Canada and was May 11 - 14, 2011.
As we live in Victoria British Columbia , Vancouver Island Canada I arranged for us to fly Victoria via Vancouver to Los Angeles the day prior to the cruise and fly from Vancouver to Victoria the day after the cruise.
If I say so myself that was a wise (Owl pun of course) move as when we docked in Vancouver on May 14, 2011 another four ships also docked at the same time. Instant pandemonium had by all who were waiting for taxis and busses including the ones arriving to get on these ships.
As we got off the ship, I saw a person with a shuttle bus sign to hotels or airports so was able to get the shuttle in about 45 minutes later and in our hotel by about 11:30 am while our friends were back at the terminal still waiting for the ferry bus to Vancouver Island at 1pm. We did stay at a boutique hotel (Sutton Place) in Vancouver that for dinner also had a Chocolate Fountain Buffet and all the sins you could eat. My wife was very excited.
Back to going down to LA. We flew to Vancouver then went to USA pre-clearance where they showed us our luggage on the computer screen in colour to verify it was ours, nifty as we did not have to transfer then between fights.
We must have been asked five times for our passports and boarding cards while going through Homeland security area and I got moved aside for extra wand checking where it beeped on top of my bald head and my shoeless feet. Give me a break.
We flew on an Embrer I90 , about a 2 hours 30 minutes flight into LAX and our bags arrived on time but to get to the pickup area you have to walk by where all the outbound security are is, a tight squeeze.
We took a taxi to Long Beach where our Hotel Hyatt Regency is located as were told more shops existed in that area as I originally wanted to stay at the Queen Mary Hotel . The taxi ride was about $65 US and the ride from that hotel the next day to San Pedro for Princess cruise port was about $30 US.
WE took a walk around the Hotel which is lovely but went the wrong direction as the next four blocks were all dining or fast food places, no shops or malls in sight. Had we gone the other direction we would have seen the marina and shops and the beach but we had fun. The staff at the hotel are very nice and say hello, it is a clean and safe hotel but no safe in the room for passports and tickets and they charge for WiFi. Otherwise we had a good time and used room service for our supper while in the morning we had coffee and muffins in thr lobby then they ordered a taxi for us to the pier. Next time I might use the hotels in San Pedro but taxi costs will still be about the same.
If you use a taxi, tell then you want to pay by CC when you get in and they do not carry change over $5 US. I elected to get cash prior to our trip.
Finally , we got to the ship about 12:30pm and boarded in about 30 - 45 minutes. I tipped the porter who I had to find as our taxi dropped us off behind a pile of bus passengers, she was only a few feet away, gave her $5 or two bags and she just smiled at me called me "dear' and pointed to where I should go and promised my bags would be on the ship. At least I made her day.
Go in the terminal, a pile of people , a lot of families with children from Disney World and five bus loads of folks from Las Vegas, Lots of Canadians on this trip. Quite a mixed bag of cultures onboard.
It was a sunny day, left port on time and averaged 20.7 knots for 2,700 kilometers from Wednesday afternoon to Saturday Am at 7am.
It was all sea days and the dress code was smart casual , staff were fine considering they would only know us for a few days and we had a mini-suite with two TV's but the remote batteries were weak so one had to stretch to adjust the controls. Balcony was fully out from the ship , not enclosed but the weather of course dropped into the fifties F so we did not sit out a lot but we could have course enjoy the breeze and the sea.
We had swells such at lunch the MDR windows were clear from middle of MDR and then the you could see the swell come up halfway in the window. Stabilizers help and one lady ssaid as she walked , I've not had anything to drink.
We were at a table for eight for 1st seating (6pm) but felt like Mum and Dad . One were a young couple in twenties, other a brother and sister (she left hubby and son at home) in thirties and another couple who must have just got connected (fifties) as he fed her food all the time and she just smiled and said nice things. They were great to know as we all got to know each other but we were a diverse table.
Service was very good and prompt as we got to see the shows this time and our wine when ordered was delivered on time. Lately I noticed on last two Princess Ships you have to remind staff in MDR to give you your receipts while elsewhere not an issue. Front desk and cabin staff were great but the Library has been reduced to about three chairs inside the Internet Cafe which as usual has it often slow moments.
Casino was running all day and night as we were cruising for three days and it was doing a good business , course on the Golden Princess you still have to walk through the casino to move from stern to bow and the MDR you have to walk down the photshop deck to use the stairs to get to the MDR as the kitchens are in the middle.
Art Auctions was doing a great business and people were buying anything for hundreds of dollars in a fast pace, still amazes me. One day they had a Trivia contest in the main bar while we sat near the windows reading as my E-Book (a Kobo) while Liz shuffled her paperback and tried to prevent ourselves from yelling out the answers.
All the meals were great including room service and we really had no complaints but you do notice a slight difference when on a short re-positioning cruise in that all of a sudden you have to pack on the third evening and Princess has not yet gotten to the point where you can stay in your cabin till your number is called as we had to leave the cabin by 8am Saturday. We met in the Vista room for a scheduled 9:05 am departure but did not leave till 9:40am approx. as Canada Customs had only assigned four staff to the 2,800 people leaving our ship.
All in all we had a great time and going back to my earlier entry in this post, 'Owl' made a very wise decision to book a hotel for the night after arriving in Vancouver and getting the Shuttle Bus to the Hotels instead of a taxi.
The lesson here is that if five ships are unloading passengers in Vancouver and getting new passengers on the same day be prepared for a wait or find alternatives as in take a cruise ship bus to the airport or a post cruise hotel to bypass and relax as you deserve it.