As I mentioned in a previous blog, after some extensive research, we decided on a spring-break cruise with Princess.
I had booked this cruise in Oct 2009 and made all the payments at that time. After which, there were several months of email harassment from Princess, in which they were counting down the months as if, (a) I could not count (b) We are going to Mars on a one-way journey, and not to Mexico. Each time, the emails come with some red tabs indicating “Please review” or “Please confirm” or some such. Seemed like they love to have their customers review the same invoice and its details over and over again. Well, over and over it was …
April 2nd 2010 (Friday)
Good Friday. After returning from Church, we had an early dinner and went to bed. A couple of weeks before this, I had booked the airline tickets to Los Angeles. Also, packing was completed earlier, for all of us. The idea was to leave this day free of any last-minute tensions. This is my typical style 🙂 I do not like last-minute hurry-burry.
Reconfirmed the cab for the last time, for 7AM PST tomorrow.
April 3rd 2010 (Saturday)
Rhea woke up almost at the same time as me and started “packing her bag” (with pretty much all her toys, books etc.). After doing some intense negotiations and bringing it down to a few items which fit into a small shoulder bag which she herself can carry, we all got ready. 7.15 … 7.30AM … No sign of the cab. Thanks, Raj! My calls kept going to Raj’s answering machine. This guy was someone I had used multiple times in the past and I never had any issues. In fact, I used to tip him well for his services. Finally, we decided to use the Long-Term Airport Parking and drive down ourselves. I could do this easily, because I had left a “1 hour buffer” time. I was planning to leave home at 7AM PST and the flight was at 9AM PST. I was glad that I did not leave the schedule too tight and intentionally kept some buffer time. The downside? If the cab was on time, we would have had around 45 minutes to kill, at the airport. Not that bad in my opinion, if you consider the other end of the spectrum: Missed flight, mad rush to the Cruise Terminal in Los Angeles etc. Since this was supposed to be a nice and relaxing vacation, I did not want to deal with any of that.
After the customary struggle through the Airport Security (thankfully, no stretching exercises this time!), we had some breakfast at one of the eateries near the Gate. Its funny how Rhea is immediately “starving” once she enters places like Airports and Theme Parks. The kids were quite excited and kept making a ruckus.
I love SouthWest. No frills, but great customer service. I do not recall a single incident where I had to deal with bad service during my travels with them. The fact that their prices are great and that they allow up to two baggages for free helps! 🙂 Anyway, after a comfortable flight during which I noticed that the flight magazine had an indepth article about Cruising (nice coincidence!), we arrived at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) by 10.15AM. This was Joe’s first flight where he had a seat of his own. He was looking all serious and “grown up”, though his expression when the flight took off was hilarious. Next up was a cab ride to San Pedro World Cruise Terminal. I noticed that there were several Princess staff (in their prim uniforms) waiting to take passengers who opted for the “Airport Pickup” from Princess. A good option, if you love to pay a 40-50% premium for this service, when compared to a regular cab. Our cab driver was from Armenia and we had a chat about his experiences in US. USA in general, and California/NewYork in particular, are a true cultural hotch-potch.
As we were nearing the pier, we could see the top of the Sapphire Princess, over the buildings. Once we got to the pier, I struggled with the bags a bit, which happens to be a routine I am very familiar with and one which I do expect during family travels.
Princess attendants came over and took the bags from me pretty quickly. Whew! During the checkin, they gave us a “Cruise Card” each. They linked it to my credit card and we were supposed to use it for: (a) Identification (b) Room Key (c) Credit Card. I thought this was a cool idea. This way, we need not carry around our purses and IDs while on the Cruise.
As soon as we got into the ship, attendants (with their massive smiles) showed us to our room. Our room was on a level they call Aloha, which was Level12 (or Deck12), towards the center. I had booked an Interior Cabin. The room had two twin beds (with bunk beds on top), table, chair, dressing area, shelves and a bathroom. All efficiently crunched into around 200 Sq.Ft. (which the Cruise Line claims to be “spacious”).
Since we had got into the ship earlier than most passengers, we spent the time exploring whatever we could. We then went to Deck14 and had some cocktails. There was a great view of the Los Angeles Harbor.
We noticed that pretty much everyone who was coming to Deck14 were walking briskly through one door. What was behind that door? Horizon Court. Sapphire Princess’ 24-hour Buffet! Thats when I noticed that it was just 1.30PM. After a lunch consisting of Roast Beef, Shrimp Salad, Wontons (they were great), Gobi Curry (Desi!), 12-grain buns, Roast Turkey, Rock Fish Fillet, Sardines, Blueberry Crepe and a portfolio of fruits, we went to our “stateroom” (not my name, that is what Princess calls it!) A338 for a 1-hour power-nap. The buffet had many other items, but I stuck to the items which I though I would like. We are trying to teach our kids to not waste food, so we all think hard and take food which we can realistically complete. I must say I struggled to finish the Rock Fish Fillet though 🙂
At 3PM, we had the Security Drill and had to go to our “Muster Station”. That is where we are supposed to gather when a “Titanic” happens. We all went to Deck7 Explorer’s Lounge (which was the Muster Station for A338) and went through the drill of wearing the life jackets etc.
Rosemary and Joe went back to the room for a nap. Rhea and myself watched the “Sail Off”. It was exciting to see how the ship manouvred itself out of a “parking area” and turn itself like a car and then go off to the open sea. Pretty much everyone, except Rosemary and Joe, were on Decks 14/15/16 to watch this event.
Rhea then insisted on swimming (all the other kids were). She seemed to have a blast in the pool. After her swim, she was quite famished and Rosemary took her to the Savoy restaurant (Deck6), where she had a Hot Dog. During this time, Joe looked after me in the room (:-) ), while wolfing down the “welcome” chocolates …
We all then went to the Princess Pelicans (Deck15), which is the play area for kids 3-7. Since Joe is not yet 3, one of the parents would have to be around in his case (like a Play School). We signed up the kids, which is a one-time process. Since Rhea had her dinner already and they had some Party for the 3-7 -year olds, we three went back to the Horizon Court for dinner. This time around, I had Smoked Salmon Fillet, Marinated Mushrooms, German Potato Salad, Beef Salad, Coconut-Vanilla Pudding (this dish was really something! And I am not a guy who is that fond of pastries …), and a variety of fruits (strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe etc.). I wish I had more stomach for the pudding … 🙁
By this time, the ship was well on its way and it was water all around us. The ship was shaking much more than what we had thought. Anyway, we had the medication, just in case one of us fell sea-sick. At 10PM, Rosemary went to pick up Rhea and soon after, we called it a day …
Note: If you are interested in photos of the trip, please check me out on Facebook.