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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cruise: The cruising experience

We took our first cruise this last November, just got back on Sunday. I had decided I wanted to take a vacation where once it started I wouldn't have to be taking care of a thousand details. I wanted to be the Queen.

First thing you have to do is to decide WHERE you want to cruise to. At first we thought Hawai'i, but then discovered the Panama Canal cruises. Wow! Then you have to decide which cruise line to use. For us it was between Holland America and Princess. We picked Princess because of the ports of call. Besides going all the way thru the canal, you also stopped in 6 countries.

We boarded the Island Princess on 16 November, not knowing what to expect but very excited. Over the next 14 days there were ups and downs... mostly with the cruise line itself. But overall we had a great time as most things are what you make them.

The Good:

*We had a balcony mini-suite and it was wonderful. Lots of space. Queen size bed, sofa & chair, desk, 2 TV sets (so you could watch from the sofa or bed!) and a mini fridge. Nice size closet (and you could store your suitcases under the bed). Big bathroom.

*Our balcony. It was lovely to sit out and watch the ocean slide by and catch the sea breeze. And on canal day, it was fantastic.

*The food in the dining room was delicious!

*Free room service. Gotta love it!

*The server staff (dining rooms, pursers, our room steward) were people (mostly in their early 20s) from all over the world. Argentina, Peru, Brazil, Uruguay, South Africa, Italy, Portugal, England, Wales, Germany, Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Ukraine, India, Thailand, Bali, Philippines, Australia, Austria, New Zealand.

*Crafts. The cruise line hires people to come on and do craft classes. What fun! I learned to watercolor. I'd always wanted to try it, but didn't want to shell out the $$$ to take a whole class. Here I was able to take 3 free workshops and discover that I do enjoy it.

I learned to throw pottery on a wheel. What a hoot! It's still fun to play in the mud!

And I also painted a ceramic mug.

*Room stewards. Now THIS I could get permanently used to! Go out for breakfast and come back to a made bed and fresh towels. Go out for supper and come back to a turned down bed with chocolates on your pillow and the schedule of the next day's events to peruse.

*The gym (this was a plus for Himself - I never went near the place! Hey, I was on vacation, you know!)

*Going thru the Panama Canal was awesome! There was a commentator brought onboard who told all about the canal over the speaker system and in-ship TV channel.

The Bad:

*The bed. Well, the bed wasn't fabric covered concrete as some had implied, but it was pretty hard. Two egg-crate pads made it OK. For me, the more annoying thing was the rigid metal framing and the way it sagged to the middle. It was uncomfortable to sit on.

*No towel animals! OK, I know this is silly... but I was looking forward to that!

*The ship's officers were pretty stuck on themselves. 'Nuff said.

*Excursions. Whoever writes up the descriptions for each excursion package must have at one time written real estate ads. Only 2 of the 6 packages we went on met their description (although we did have good time on all of them - you know us!) Some of the bus drivers were pretty wild (one of ours, and ones we heard of from fellow cruisers). If we cruise again, we won't be doing any excursions thru the ship. At every port were companies offering trips (sometimes the very same ones as the ship at a lower price!) or a taxi you could hire. We did the taxi thing twice which I'll write about later.

*The spa. When you got there, you had to fill in a form that asked all sorts of questions about your aches and pains. They tell you the info is needed so they can take care during your massage. Baloney. During my "Relaxing Hand Massage with manicure" the girl didn't shut up trying to sell me things I "needed" - like a gel that would fix my ankle I twisted years before. I cancelled my back massage. Living commercials are a drag...

*The photographers were along the order of your standard no-name-set-up-in-a-mall-walkway variety. They didn't wait for you to get ready for the picture. Talk about some BAD photos. I didn't see a whole lot sold.

*"First run movies" were not so. All the movies had already been released to DVD or would soon be so. Example: The Great Debaters was released in theaters Dec 07, released in DVD May 08.

The Ugly:

*We were shocked by the 'entertainment' provided by Princess Lines. Every show (even the culinary demos!!!) where loaded with sexual references. And the "International Crew Show" where regular crew members could share their talents was made downright vulgar as between the real acts there were "skits" put one by the Cruise Director's staff. We had no idea that the Princess was one of Hugh Hefner's girls!

*There was an incident where we were unwarrently loudly verbally attacked by a member of the Princess crew who accused us lying about having permission from the Cruise Director for Himself to play a piano in the wedding chapel. I filed a complaint and said I wanted to see that person's superior. I was assured I would be most definitely contacted that day (Thanksgiving). Got the same assurance again on Saturday. Never happened, never got an apology. Now I write corporate.

*The boozing. I saw too many people who are going to have no memory of those 2 weeks except thru the DVD movie of them acting the fool. Oh my...

1 comment:

  1. always wondered about cruises... thanks for the honest assesment. looking forward to seeing more picts and reading more stories.


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