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January is a good time to reflect on the past year and make plans for this year.  Are you planning a cruise this year or even for next year?  After booking, the anticipation is part of the fun.  Researching the ports you will visit, reserving shore excursions, talking about it with friends and shopping for new outfits makes the time pass faster when you book months or even a year away.  We have cruises booked as far out as Feb of ’17, which isn’t that far away now, but it was when we booked it.

Your first cruise is one you always remember.  Our first was in 1991 on Premier Cruise Line, The Big Red Boat.  It was actually the Oceania, but its 3 ships were affectionately know as The Big Red Boats because of their red hulls.  Now it would be a small ship, compared to all the giant ships today.  We had no balcony, no window, not even a porthole.  There were 2 bunks waist high on the walls and we had to step over a ledge about 6 inches high to go into the bathroom. There was no tv, radio or telephone. We were with a Shriner’s group, and Eddie was an officer, so a few of  us got to have dinner with the captain and his wife.  It was a short 3 day cruise with a beach day the only port, but it was a lot of fun and kept us dreaming of the day we could do it again.  Our next cruise wasn’t until 2003, a 7-day to Alaska, and there was a noticeable difference in the size of the ship and the cabins and public areas were so much nicer. Premier later became Disney Cruise Line.

 

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The Red Frog Pub is relatively new on Carnival ships.  We recently sailed Miracle to Mexico again and played RFB progressive trivia.  It was different from any other trivia we have played because the questions were all related to the Caribbean or the pub.  Examples:  What is a group of frogs called?  What was the original name of the Bloody Mary?You get one point for each correct answer on the the first five, then on the second 5 you get two points each.  However, if you don’t know the answer and write a funny one, you get one point. The host checked the papers and read the funny answers.  Normally Carnival allows you to check your own, leading to the same people winning a lot with no one checking their answers.  For extra points, we had to appear one night with our shirts on inside out and backwards.  Every team participated.  The second night we got extra points if we brought a new team with us, but none of us were able to find one. We had two groups of people say they would show up, but neither did.

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Here is Terrance, our fun host for trivia.  He was the ultimate cruise staff member and we had many good times with him. Our team is wearing bathrobes over our elegant night clothes for extra points.  Once again, every team showed up in bathrobes.

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Our team won!  We received a medal, a deck of cards, a 14-carat gold (plastic) ship on a stick and that huge Beachcomber drink, which the four of us shared after dinner.  It was delicious and a great ending to the evening.

The Pub has games like chess, Jenga, electronic darts, Foosball and table shuffleboard.  It was challenging figuring out where to aim the puck, allowing for the ship movement.  At night they had a band playing and most of the time the pub was packed.  The bartenders are top notch and fun.  They take pictures of the customers and they pop up on tvs all around the room.  Do check out the pub when you cruise on Carnival.

mingos3I love flamingos; they are so graceful and beautiful.   Do you know that their coloring depends on their diet?  The campy pink plastic lawn flamingo was created by Don Featherstone  in 1957.  He passed away recently, so RIP Don.  Your creation is still going strong.

 

After 35 cruises, I have to say we have never noticed the cruise director much.  Except for introducing the shows and the Captain at parties, they seem to be behind the scenes most of the time.  They do have a lot of work to do behind the scenes.

But, our last cruise on Carnival Miracle was a brand new experience.  Enter Cory Rogers!  He is fabulous. We first met him at the sailaway party, where he not only appeared, but got right in with the dancing.  He is so much fun to be around.  He taught a dance class one day and hosted Harry Potter trivia, to the delight of the younger cruisers.   He seemed to be out and about from early morning to late night.

On the last night, he and most of his staff were hanging out in the Red Frog, talking to guests, having a drink and dancing to some great music.  Oh, and we played shuffleboard with some of his staff.  The Red Frog is a great new addition to Miracle, with board games, darts, foosball and shuffleboard.   A shout out to Abbey, Hailey, Jonathan and Gary,, who kept us entertained with trivia, Karaoke, dance classes and more.  There was so much to do, sometimes we had to choose one activity over the other.

sandbarSomehow, in all our trips to CA, we had never been here. It is a fun town, easy to walk around and the weather was beautiful.  We needed to buy a watch battery, which turned out to be an adventure.  In our younger days, we always went to a department store for this, but we walked to the mall and neither big store had them.  We checked out camera stores, Radio Shack and anything else we went by that might have one.  Finally, a sales clerk sent us to a jewelry store, which was over a mile away.  They promptly installed a new battery, and we were on our way again.  We were surprised by the gated door that required them to buzz us in.  I guess no matter the area, jewelry stores are prime targets for thieves.

This was a great 7-day cruise, and it’s nice to be able to drive to the port.  In the past, we have always done longer cruises on Princess, so we discovered something new.  On shorter cruises, each time you make a purchase at a bar, they punch a card and when it is full, they all go into a big tub and one is chosen on the last night.  We tried to find out where they would do this, but no one seemed to know.  After dinner, we went to the Wheelhouse Bar, which was our hangout.  Imagine our amazement when Roli told us our card was chosen at the drawing.  We didn’t even believe it at first!  Having our card drawn  zeroed out our bar bill for the entire trip!  And we didn’t pay for any drinks that night after it was drawn. We had been teasing all week that if we had a chance to win, maybe we should buy extra bottles of wine, but we did not. This was a fabulous way to end the cruise!

 

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This is the Grand Princess sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge.  We were on the Crown Princess, which is her sister ship.  We sailed out of San Francisco at night, and went up to one of the high decks as we sailed under the bridge. So glad we stayed up to see it, as we missed the arrival at 5 AM.   It was amazing, but our phone would not take good pictures.  It really looked close, but a crew member told us that there was between 8 and 12 feet of clearance, depending where you measured it.

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We have been to SF several times, so this time we explored Pier 39. It was walking distance from the ship, but it was a long walk.  In the past we have ridden the cable cars, visited Ghiradelli Square and sampled wonderful chocolate, and driven down the crookedest road in the US.   Pier 39 has lots of interesting shops, and we definitely walked off that night’s dessert.  The carousel is also at Pier 39.  It wasn’t running that day, so not sure if it usually does.    It was a bit chilly and windy, but that was expected.  We decided not to take the Alcatraz tour, as it involves a half hour boat ride, and we preferred not to do it that day.  It’s always good to leave something to do the next time.

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This is Travis, on his first day working as a bartender at the Edgewater Grill in San Diego.  See how happy he is!

The last post showed how tired he was after waiting on us, as he doubled as a waiter. He was so personable and fun to talk to.  We had a fabulous pizza and enjoyed the ocean view.  It was a hot day, and we had walked all around the Seaport Village shops, so we sat inside, and enjoyed the cool while most people wanted to sit outside.  This is a lovely place.

Seaport Village is a great place to walk around and see all the different shops.  There is something for everyone there.  We took a bicycle taxi from the ship as we knew we would get our walk in once we got there.  Gary entertained us as he pedaled.

We have been to San Diego numerous times, so we bypassed the regular tourist stops like the zoo and the theme parks.  It was a beautiful day and much warmer than the days in San Francisco and Santa Barbara.

In the past. we have boarded a cruise ship her, so it was different to get off the ship here.

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Does anyone recognize this tired man?

Hint:  He works in San Diego.

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Princess always has great sailaway parties, and Crown Princess kept up the tradition.  A live band always make it more festive, and they had a terrific one.  Tickets were given out to all who danced, and of course we were right in there!  They did a few line dances and a few freestyle.  There was a small group dancing, but more dancing than watching, which is unusual.  I was the first one to win a bottle of champagne when they drew the tickets, so that was a fun start to the cruise.
The next day was a sea day and so many activities the day flew by.  It was cloudy and cool, not many people in the pools.  We do all the dance classes for exercise.  This cruise they had party line dances, country line dances, cha cha, merengue, rhumba and jive.  Oh, and I took a tap dance class, minus the taps, while he did a golf putting contest. Princess offers free Zumba classes, but they were too early for us!  We seem to be out late and sleep in.  The cruise director’s staff did a terrific job on all the activities. A big thank you to Andrew,  Alex, Maddy, Sasha, Bernie, Kim and DJ.  Billy Hygate was the cruise director and we had some conversations when he had a few minutes free.

We like late dining so we don’t have to rush from a shore excursion or other activities in late afternoon to get ready for dinner.  We had a table for 2 in an alcove with another table for 2, and we enjoyed their company.  There are always other options besides the main dining room like the buffet, two specialty restaurants, room service and the International Cafe.  Also pool grill and pizza.  Pizza on Princess has been rated number one at sea several times.

Our first port will be San Francisco.  It has been along time since we have been there and we don’t have big plans this time.  This is a relaxing, restful cruise for us.

Eddie’s turn for festivities!

We boarded Crown Princess for a California Coastal cruise in late September.  It was our first cruise on this ship.  About 40 years ago, we drove from Las Vegas to San Diego and up past San Francisco in an RV. This time we did it in style; no cooking or cleaning, just relaxing and having fun.

Crown is an elegant ship  with a beautiful atrium area that they call Piazza.  There are several pools and hot tubs, lots of bars and lounges and places to eat.  We especially like Crooners Bar as it is  good for people watching.  They have delightful olive trays with huge olives stuffed with blue cheese, almonds, and other goodies.  There are cooking demos near it and martini making classes, napkin folding, and a great trio kept us entertained.  The International Cafe is in the Piazza and is open 24 hours.  They serve pastries, sandwiches, salads, desserts and fresh-baked cookies in the afternoon.  We had a balcony cabin on deck 10, which has bigger balconies that are half covered and half open.  There are small differences in ships even in the same class, and this one had plenty of storage space for 7 days.  Sotero was our terrific cabin steward and took good care of us.  Princess still puts a chocolate on your pillow at night, and it is a nice touch. They no longer have assistant cabin stewards except on turnover days, and he had 18 cabins to take care of.   All crew members work hard, but cabin stewards have an extra-hard job.

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