5 things I learned on my Princess Cruise

Between the time we docked in San Pedro and our arrival back in Portland, we reflected on our cruise experience. We learned a lot about sailing with Princess Cruises, but five things stand out in my mind

1. The process of embarking and disembarking shouldn’t be a mystery.

We thought we needed to hurry to the ship, which turned out to be untrue. The embarkation process is similar to boarding an airplane. Those who sailed with the cruise line previously and had elite status boarded first. Had we known we had more time, we could have toured the USS Iowa that is docked in close proximity.
Disembarking may have been less of a mystery had we watched the infomercial, but seriously, who wants to spend the last day of their cruise watching television? We looked all over our cabin for information about disembarking, but couldn’t find anything. We looked on our bill, but could find no information there either. We decided to follow the crowd, which was a good move. A crew member asked us for our disembarkment location, which we didn’t have, but he was able to direct us to the proper location. Once there, we saw that people were in groups. Since we didn’t know which group to join we asked another crew member. She was quite surprised that our bill didn’t have the information, so she just put us in the group that was disembarking next. YEA!
It was a pretty simple process, and had we known how fast it was going to be, we would have called our transportation service, A-1 Express so they could be waiting outside the terminal. Our driver Eric arrived as quickly as possible and made his way to LAX to drop us off for our flight home. He was masterful at navigating the LA morning rush hour.

2. Photographers are everywhere.

We were glad we had been warned about the photographers taking pictures on the ship. These photographers seemed to be everywhere; when you boarded the ship, when you left the ship, while you were dining.  I’m not against having my picture taken, but they don’t ask you. They made it seem like this is what everyone does. We courteously walked around the “opportunity” or did not make eye contact. The crew was very nice about using our camera to take our photo when we asked.

3. The food is plentiful, but not extraordinary.

The food was good, but didn’t live up to the hype. It was fun to be adventurous and try new things without worrying about the price. I would definitely order the chilled soups, again! The desserts looked amazing, but we learned to avoid cakes. I love cake, but every time that was our dessert choice, it was stale. Pizza is good, but even the pizza at Alfredo’s (which everyone raves about) wasn’t overly special. Everything we ate in the dining rooms was good to great, but not superior to most restaurants.

4. Take the buffet home.

This isn’t something I learned during this cruise, but ALWAYS take advantage of “portable” food (especially if you’ve already paid for it, or it’s free!). During lunch at the buffet on our last full day, I noticed sandwiches wrapped in plastic. I grabbed a couple and took them back to our room and put in them in our refrigerator. We also grabbed some extra cookies and muffins. This little stash came in handy for our flight home the following day.

5. Cruising is a good vacation option.

Did we enjoy it? Yes. Did we love it? No. Do we want to take another one? Yes, but only if it is the best way to visit a specific destination, such as Alaska or the Caribbean. We’re already saving for our next cruise, but we figure we won’t set sail again for another five years or so.

If you’re considering a cruise, do your research. Compare the different cruise lines and cruises on sites such as Vacations To Go. Read message boards (cruisecritics.com).  Consider taking a short cruise, like we did, so you can get your feet wet, so to speak, and see if cruising is for you without spending a lot of money.

Bon Voyage!

Memorable anniversary weekend

While planning with a limited budget isn’t the husband’s forte, he did pretty well organizing our annual anniversary trip. He was able to keep the location a surprise until we had to turn off I-205 North and head toward the coast. He’d arranged a weekend in Long Beach, Wash at Boreas Bed and Breakfast Inn.

I was somewhat surprised that he’d chosen the coast, since we’re always trying to escape the grey, cloudy, drizzle we experience too often (in our opinion) in the Pacific NW. However, when he explained his thought process it made sense. He was searching the internet for romantic hotels and resorts and then narrowed them down to those in locations we’d not been. When Boreas popped up, he was intrigued.

We’d been to a bed and breakfast inn previously and had a good time, although we did not like sharing a bathroom with other guests. Our room at Boreas, and in fact all the rooms, had a private bathroom.  We stayed in the Dunes Suite, which featured a feather-topped king bed, sky-lit private bath with a jetted tub and shower. French doors that open onto the patio, a wall of windows and skylight, made the room feel bright and airy. A hand-painted mural of the North Head lighthouse, the cliffs and the dunes of Long Beach gave it the proper “beach-y” feel without going overboard.  

The 3-course breakfasts were amazing and the portions generous. The first morning’s menu started with Pineapple Dream Coffee Cake with Toasted Macs and Boreas Berry Fruit Soup. I would have been satisfied if the meal had ended at that point, but we were also served ginger pancakes with chicken sausage. Oh, so good, but too much! The second morning we enjoyed Puff Pastry Cheesecake Tarts and cooked pineapple followed by Smoked Salmon Frittata and pan-fried potatoes.

At breakfast we had the opportunity to talk with other guests, which was interesting. The first morning we met two couples from the east coast who travel together to National Parks.  The second morning was made up of repeat visitors to the inn. Each live within a 2-3 hour drive, and have made Boreas their getaway of choice.

If I have any complaint about the inn, it was that breakfast was at 9:30 a.m., which is really late for us. We’re very early risers even on weekends and vacations and rarely sleep past 6:30 a.m., so waiting to eat for three hours was a little difficult. Because we were so full from breakfast, and our dinner reservations were at 5 p.m., we didn’t eat lunch either day. We began to get a little hungry around 3 p.m., but since we’d be eating in 2 hours, we chose to wait.

We had a lovely time, and the hosts were warm and welcoming. However, it is doubtful we’d return since we have so many other locations yet to explore. It’s my turn to plan our anniversary trip and I’ve already got a destination in mind. It’s only a year away, so I’d better get on it!