Pacific Coastal - 2014
We have an Alaskan cruise scheduled in June to go with Ken's graduation class to celebrate their 55th year since graduating, and we had a cruise scheduled in the Fall on the East Coast to see the "fall colors", but Princess offered a "deal" where if we took a short, four-day coastal cruise they would apply the cost of the cruise to a future cruise. Thanks to our cruise agent, Suzy (of SuzyCruizy fame), she was able to apply the cost of the coastal to the Fall cruise. So... with Alaskan Air's offer and Princess Cruise's offer, this little get-away is essentially free to us. So, do we go? or not? Hmmm. Silly question.
We flew out of San Jose, CA early Thursday morning, heading to LAX, or Los Angeles International Airport. The plane we flew on was a two-engined, prop-driven plane called the Q400. It displays the Alaskan Air logo but it was owned and operated by Horizon Air. I don't usually expect to fly in a plane with a propeller today, unless I am taking a short hop in Alaska. But this little guy carried 78 passengers and traveled over 350 miles per hour. It was in the air just over an hour. I was impressed.
The two props were six-bladed props and the two engines appeared to be Turbo-prop engines... very smooth and quiet. And the flight was smooth and uneventful.
We had not made the arrangements to get from LAX to San Pedro where the ship was located, but being only nineteen miles we were probably going to just grab a cab. After we located and retrieved our luggage Rosalee went to the information desk to inquire as to how to snag a cab but walked past two ladies wearing the Princess Cruises uniforms, and they got two seats on the Princess shuttle bus for us. A little bit more money than a cab but we were not in the hands of Princess and they were in charge. No more guessing or fretting. We pulled into the pier shortly before 0930 to start the embarkation process.
This always takes some waiting, moving, waiting, blah... blah... but it went well. We just had to wait a bit because the ship came in that morning and they had to get everyone off the ship, re-fresh all of the cabins, restock all the supplies, swab the deck, batten the hatches, and all of that stuff before we came on... and that is done in a mere four hours or so. We were on board around noon, just in time to make our way up to the Horizon Court buffet on Lido Deck, deck 14.
Taken from our balcony on the ship, we see a cargo ship coming in, passing under the Vincent Thomas Bridge.
On the other side of the ship, on the roof of the terminal building, was a major solar electric array. A rough counting tells me that there are sixty times the number of solar panels that our neighbors, the Fulton's, have on their home that provides all of their electrical power. This has to be about a one-half-megawatt-hour supply.
Our ship is the Sapphire Princes, the same ship on which we sailed the Mexican Riviera with Frank and Shirley Stenzel (their first cruise) back in 2008. This will be a four-day cruise that stays along the California-Mexican coast line, and cruises North to Santa Barbara, then heads South for a day at sea and stops in Ensenada, Baja California (Mexico). Then we head back North to San Pedro.
On the horizon as we left the port we could see Santa Catalina Island. It is a favorite destination for a lot of the "Coastal" cruises that leave Los Angeles (San Pedro) Harbor, but we will not be visiting there on this cruise.
FIRST FULL DAY - SANTA BARBARA
Our Position: 34° 23' 31" N 119° 40' 50" W Time: 0743 hours Status: Standing at anchor off Santa Barbara
We knew that we had to rise early this morning so last night we filled out a request for room service breakfast and it came right on time. We had to be in the Princess Theater this morning by 0830 to queue up for our tender trip into the port where we were to get onto a trolley (gas powered) that would take us around to visit various points of interest in Santa Barbara.
Rosalee and I have visited Santa Barbara in the past, and have always enjoyed the lovely weather and beautiful Spanish architecture. We learned something today that we never knew before: They had an earthquake in 1925 that devastated the area, and when they rebuilt they tried to keep all of the new construction the same design style. So THAT's why so many of the buildings in the town are so similar.
While we were gathering in the Princess Theater we noticed two gentlemen that were probably in their seventies that were very friendly and great kidders. They were wearing the same design and color of clothing, both had similar gray hair, seemed to have similar voice, and looked an awful lot alike. They HAD to be brothers... more than likely twins. We ended up sitting next to them in the theater and then on the tender... and again on the trolley. We got to know them fairly well. But we were very wrong. They were not twins... or even brothers. They have been partners for 44 years. I guess in their case it really is true that living together for years you get to look alike... and sound alike... and act alike.
When new home construction started, a large quantity of light tan sandstone was found to have been washed into the area many eons ago, and rather than haul it all away, it was used to build foundations and homes and garden walls. Even the Santa Barbara Mission is constructed of that rock.
We went by too quickly to get an image, but there was a small commercial building that called "The Penny Shack" or some similar name, and the entire exterior of the building was completely covered with pennies. Certainly not attractive but definitely unique and unusual. I suppose no one worries about theft because most people today would not stoop to pick up a penny in the street. I still do. So, does that make me cheap? or just old?
We returned to the ship in time for lunch. We decided to pick up a burger and a veggi-burger at the Trident Grill on the Lido Deck, next to the Neptune Pool. They were good, with fries and an iced tea. We did not have the occasion to sit with anyone and talk to them.
We did a little business before going back to the cabin. Suzy, our cruise agent, had sent us a ticket to redeem for a complimentary bottle of wine. She has known us for years and knows that we don't drink alcohol, but she said that she has no choice on what is given on the complimentary gifts, and told us that we could take it to the Purser's Desk and get credited for the value of the wine. We did not know that they would do that.
We thought we would try the Santa Fe Dining Room tonight. All of the dining rooms have the same menu, but four of them are "themed" and those rooms offer one dish that is not on the menu. It reflects the theme of the room. Santa Fe offered Fajitas which I ordered and they were quite good. Rosalee ordered "Surf and Turf" which was an excellent fillet of beef and several nice shrimp.
When we entered the room we told the Maitre d' that we were "Two for dinner and we will sit with others" which means they can seat us at a larger table, saving the tables set for two for couples looking for the more private dining experience. Even though we were the third couple to enter the room he said that he had no tables "to share" and seated us at a table for two. We were inches from another table for two so it was practically the same table. Ann and Bob who live about ten minutes from where we got onto the ship were seated at that table, and we ended up visiting with them over dinner. And they visited with the couple at the table on the other side of them.
Entertainment was a fellow doing a stand-up comedy routine. It went over well.
DAY TWO - AT SEA
Position: 32° 51' 6" N 119° 59' 26" W Heading: 102° Destination: Ensenada, Baja CA, Mexico Time: 1100 hours
We had an uneventful morning, waking without an alarm. We caught a little news on the TV and got ready to climb the 48 stair steps to Lido Deck and the Horizon Court to partake of our Princess Scrambled Eggs and have a little "People Fishin'" time which we enjoy. We sat next to a couple that caught our eye because he was wearing a shirt that had "Chico State College" on it. Ken graduated from there. The fellow at breakfast had a daughter that went there, so he was given the shirt. He was in construction in the Los Angeles area. She worked for her local school district in the personnel department. They were cheerful and fun to speak with. Of course, we cannot remember their names. We are both bad about that.
We are back to our cabin and serenely cruising along with almost no wave movement on the surface of the water. Just before we headed up to breakfast I caught the glimpse of a critter jumping in the seas, possibly a yard long. Fish or porpoise... ?? I can see what appears to be the backs of others... too small for whales but possibly dolphins or such.
I turned on the TV in the cabin and found some soothing music... stuff that would bring tears of boredom to our grandchildren, for sure... even our kids... stuff like "Pennies from Heaven" and "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered " Bing Crosby singing "Young At Heart" and I'm singing along. Talk about a time warp. Our Class Song at the graduation from 8th grade was "Young At Heart" back in 1955. Talk about a time warp.
The day is entirely at sea, moving from Santa Barbara to Ensenada, Mexico. The water is totally smooth, with almost no movement other than our own wake. We are headed in a basically South-Easterly direction, following the Southern California coastline. We will not arrive in Ensenada until tomorrow morning, 0800 hours.
For dinner we thought we would try a different dining hall, possibly getting the opportunity to sit with someone and visit. So we went to the Pacific Moon Dining Hall, the same one we went to the first night when we dined with Suzy and Marie. They also told us that they had no available larger tables. It appears that people with a group are calling and reserving their larger tables. So they seated us at another table for two.
A couple were seated at the table for two next to ours, and they were Connie Collins and Marty from Torrance. A short ten minutes away from the pier where we embarked. They were an enjoyable couple, and Connie suggested that we try to be at a table together tomorrow night, same restaurant and same waiter... Connie enjoyed our waiter, Allen. He was a good waiter.
Entertainment for the evening were two black fellows who asked the question "Who says Stand Up has to Stand Still?" Their entire act was done with the lights of the Princess Theater were on. They interacted a lot with the audience. They gave the impression of a couple of 'gang-banging LA youths', and introduced themselves as a couple of guys from LA. They did a lot of jive and kidding around, basically with the idea that with most of the passengers being older, they were a bit of a shock to the audience. But they carried it off well. The audience enjoyed them very much. It may have helped out a lot that someone blew up a dozen large balloons before the show and they got bounced around the audience for ten minutes before the show started.
We watched a couple of movies on the cabin TV when we returned, before we drifted off into slumber.
DAY THREE - ENSENADA
Position: 33° 44' 51" N 118° 16' 35" W Heading: 89° Status: Berthed at Ensenada, port side Time: 0800 hours
We went up to breakfast and on the way spoke with a couple that were from the Los Angeles region. When asked where we were from we said "Near San Francisco". The fellow asked us "Which direction... North, South...?" We said "East bay, over the hills". He asked "Any where near Pleasanton?" LOL. He was familiar with the Good Guys car show held there every year. It is common that people know our home town by that one feature, no matter where we may be.
After getting our food (buffet style) the tables were quite crowded, and we did find a table for four with one lady sitting. We joined her, and we learned that she was from Los Angeles. She was just about finished so we did not get to talk with her very much. We both noted that table service was not very attentive in that location. We had to get the waiter's attention to have him bring us drinks... they are not self-service. Our meal was finished before we saw our drinks. A bit unusual for Princess and rather disappointing.
Tomorrow we will dock in San Pedro early and be off the ship no later than 1000 hours, but our flight home will not be until around 1930 (7:30 pm), so Rosalee booked an excursion that would pick us up, take us into Long Beach to explore and shop, and take us to the airport in time to wait a couple of hours for the flight. It turns out that we are the only ones that signed up for that excursion, so they had to cancel it. So Rosalee went down to "Passenger Services" (formerly the Purser's Desk) to get that changed to a shuttle from the ship to the airport. We will spend the day at the airport. Goody.
Today is an expected tough football game for the SF 49'ers with the Seattle Seahawks to see if they will stay in contention for the Super Bowl in early February. They have the game on TV in several places around the ship. They will all be jumbo screens, including the huge screen used for Movies Under the Stars up on the top deck. We will try to catch part of that game, while getting our luggage together so we can put it out immediately after dinner for disembarkation tomorrow. And we are meeting the Collins' for dinner at 1700 tonight.
We did not go ashore into Ensenada, and watching the game was difficult. The ship was trying to pick up the game on the satellite receiver. It was very sporadic. We were getting about 50% of the telecast. But we got the chance to sit with a couple that were fun to visit with. When we said we had to leave for our dining arrangement, they asked "You have to leave already? How well do you know these people?" LOL
We left for the dining room just before "half-time" in the game, and the 49'ers are ahead. Sadly, the ending score was determined very late in the game when Seattle won with a three-point lead, knocking San Francisco out of the Super Bowl this year.
The Collins' were on time, as were we, and they seated us at a table for four. Marty was not too talkative tonight, much like last night, but it was likely due to his difficulty of hearing. We did learn, however, that Connie was a widow, and Marty was a close friend. They live near each other, and were a cute couple, and were fun to dine with.
The evening show was a musical number, and it was well done.
Tomorrow we will be back in Los Angeles Harbor, and we have an early disembarkation time, but out flight from Los Angeles Airport is not until after 1700 hours.
DAY FOUR - DISEMBARKATION
Status: Berthed at Los Angeles (San Pedro), port side Time: 0800 hours
We had arranged to get off the ship early so we could get on a bus that would take us and our luggage into downtown Long Beach, turn us loose to shop, stay in the area with our luggage, and take us to the airport in time to catch our plane to San Jose Airport.
We arranged to have Room Service drop off breakfast at our cabin, so we could be off the ship for catching the bus. Last night we were told that they had to cancel the last excursion, due to lack of interest. We were the only two that signed up for the excursion. So we traded for a bus ride to the airport.
Disembarkation went well, and our luggage was easy to find. We found our bus and got to the airport by 0900 hours. Hmmm. What do we do now, for the next 8 hours before our flight? And to make it tougher, we could not enter the secure area (which is where the restaurants are located) until our luggage was accepted, and they only accept luggage no more than four hours previous to the plane leaving, so we had to fine a place to sit for a few hours. We found a couple of seats that were located near a wall outlet and I worked on my computer.
Around 1300 hours we checked in our luggage and went through the security check and found a place to buy a ten dollar hamburger. At least it was a really good burger, and the fries were good. Then we moved over to a small area with chairs to sit and wait until boarding time.
Our plane was the same type as the one we flew down in... it may have been the same plane. The flight was short and uneventful, and it was dark by the time we landed. The driver service picked us up and on the way home we learned that he attended the high school in which I taught, back in 1966.
Back home... everything seems in ship-shape here at home. Tomorrow... back to work on the Carriage House.