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Cruise to Hawaii from the mianland

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Dec 12th, 2015, 09:54 PM
  #1
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Cruise to Hawaii from the mianland

After getting back home from our cruise to Hawaii on board the Ruby Princess, we heard the Grand Princess suffered a less than ideal fate. The Ruby Princess was round trip from LA whereas the Grand Princess was round trip from San Francisco.

It is always funny how things worked out. When we were looking at taking the Hawaiian cruise, we were looking at 3 embarkation ports: Vancouver, San Francisco and LA. If it weren't for a number of other determinating factors, we would have been on the Grand Princess on that particular voyage.

For those of you who know me, we tend to take cruises of less than 14 days, with a lot of port of call stops. This is actually the first time ever that we took a cruise with more sea days than port days. Of the total 18 days on board the Ruby Princess, it was 4 sea days to get to Hawaii, 4 ports in 4 days, 5 sea day, a short stop in Mexico, a short stop in LA, and then 2 more sea days to Vancouver, which was the final destination.

That many consecutive sea days is new to us. Maybe we are getting ready for retirement and want to test the water somewhat before committing to those 30+ days cruises or transatlantic cruises with many more sea days.

How well did we do with all those sea days? Stay tune.

BTW, I would have tag this under Pacific/Polynesian as well; but there are no Hawaii, Pacific/Polynesian, Australia/New Zealand on the tag area. Amy/Doug, can you fix this?
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Dec 13th, 2015, 02:06 PM
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What happened to the Grand Princess?

I have been fully retired since late Sept. as I have up my PT position after leaving the U of I in May 2014. I recommend retirement asap! My wife has cut back to 3 days per week and I hope she decides to cash in her chips soon.

I am following E. .
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Dec 21st, 2015, 01:30 PM
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Larry! You retired! I have no idea. Congratulations!! Sue should retired the same time as you and travel more. Now I am envious.

Although I should have pack it in long time ago, but circumstances just were not aligned for me to go, and at the rate things are going, not any time soon. Right now, I am looking at 2017 as the earliest and 2020 being the absolute latest. Things can change awfully quick though. As long as I am still enjoying "work", and I can still take my 3 or 4 trips a year, life is good.

The Grand Princess had a small engine fire and missed most of the port. I have it on another post, and I guess I scared a few people.

Okay ... back to the original reason for the post: the TR.

We arrived a couple of days early and stayed at the Marriott LAX. The hotel looked tired and dated but the room rate was very good and provided free shuttle to and from the airport. There is really nothing around the hotel except other hotels. There is an “Ocean Express” bus service that will take you to Manhattan Beach, plus a couple shopping malls along the way. It ran on a loop and will pick up passengers on 6 stops and make 3 destination stops. The cost is $5 round trip, probably for the whole day.

We stopped at all 3 destinations, spend a couple hours in each location and that’s about it for our pre-cruise activity for the day. We did find a lot of bargains in Macy's though. DW was happy.

On embarkation day, took the shuttle back to the airport and meet up with the Princess reps. We got on the bus and the luggage got on a truck and that’s about it. The luggage would mysteriously show up at our cabin later that day and it was quite convenient. Other than my backpack, I don't have to worry about it getting onto the bus, off the bus and to the crew at the dock.

As we have preferred boarding, the embarkation was quick. We got off the bus, walked in, filled out the health declaration and were ushered to the express line, checked in, get our cruise card, went through security and boarded the ship, maybe 15 to 20 minutes tops.

At some piers, you went through security before the check-in process so everyone waits in the long line to get the bag check before your priority status kicked in.

I like this better as there is less wait time and since the so call security check is a mere formality anyway.

As an aside, the USS Iowa was docked at the San Pedro pier. It was one of the largest battleship in its glory days. It dwarfed in size and looked out right tiny next to a modern cruise ship.
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Dec 23rd, 2015, 09:43 AM
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Yep the end of Sept. was it for me. When its time you just know. Sue has cut back and I think she will finally stop completely fairly soon.

For our upcoming cruise on the Sapphire we will have preferred boarding so that should help.

Someday I would love to see the USS Iowa. The terms of surrender were signed on its deck officially ending WW II. I think it displaces like 50k tons so yes its puny compared to todays cruise ships.

The Japanese built two super battle ships, the Musashi and the Yamato which displaced 80k tons. Both were sunk by waves of hundreds of US bombers and torpedo planes as at this stage of the war the Japanese naval air force was a non-factor. Ok so end of that bit of history and am following your TR!!
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Dec 23rd, 2015, 12:29 PM
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"...Someday I would love to see the USS Iowa. The terms of surrender were signed on its deck officially ending WW II..."

Sorry, you are a bit confused. The terms of surrender were signed on the deck of the Battleship Missouri not the USS Iowa.

At the time the USS Iowa served as Halsey's Flagship and was anchored in Tokyo Bay along with the USS Missouri.

The USS Missouri is now moored at Perl Harbor. The USS Iowa is now moored at the Port of Los Angles. Both are "museums" and can be accessed by the public.
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Dec 23rd, 2015, 03:27 PM
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This is correct, my error. It's an Iowa class ship and yes it's the big Mo at Pearl where the terms of surrender were signed. I read that President Truman wanted it this way as he was from Missouri.
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Dec 23rd, 2015, 04:18 PM
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Something happened at the muster drill which was typically very routine and boring. Of course, we all knew the rule changed after the Costa Concordia mishap, necessitating the muster drill before the ship leaves port.

You should hear the "murmur" when the PA announced during the drill that the ship will “rock” a bit on the open sea as there is a “storm” blowing through from the north, so please use caution, hold on to the hand rails when moving about etc. Since we booked a cabin located mid-ship lower deck, it shouldn't be too bad for us.

As I have said earlier, we liked port intensive cruises so this Hawaii round trip cruise is making DW and I a bit nervous. 2000+ nautical miles and 4 days at 19 knots would get us to Hawaii. I guess we will have a lot of time to relax and take it easy, and the ship sort of became the destination. We have been on the Ruby a few times so we are familiar with it, so I don't know if it is a plus or a minus at this point. Only time will tell.

The age of the fellow passengers were older than what we have become accustomed to with Princess. This group was much older and I saw more canes, walkers and electric scooters. Even the cruise directors were making jokes that most of the passengers were from California or Arizona. In a causal conversation with one of the “older” fellow passengers, it sort of made a lot of sense that the fellow passengers are older and mostly retirees. On a cruise lasting more than 14 days (15 days in this case), you will see mostly retirees or special occasion cruisers. Most working stiffs (like me) wouldn’t be able to take the more than 2 weeks off at a time. We also noticed a lot of “repeat” customers. Someone made a comment this is their 8th Hawaii cruise and someone chimed in saying it was their 12th.

There were some younger passengers as there was a wedding party. With no disrespect to my fellow older passengers, as I will be there too soon, the area outside the dining room became a parking lot: full of walkers, scooters etc. I made a joke about the parking lot and I don't believe some took it as a joke. DW elbowed me and told me to keep my trap shut.

Back to the rough sea ...

We expected the sea to be rough around this time of year and it was. There were 2 surprises. The firsts one was with the bridge announcement during the muster drill, I thought it would be worse but it was not as bad as I would expect. The wave was only about 15 to 20 feet so it wasn’t that bad at all as we had seen much worst. The ship rocked side to side just a touch, mostly due to the cross wind coming at it from the north at 40 to 50 knots which was quite strong. Some people said it was the worst they have seen and all I can say was it wasn’t even close. I have been through worst on a Caribbean cruise and it wasn't during hurricane season either.

The second surprise was the precaution the ship took. We expected the usual lock down on the open decks, nets over the swimming pool and so on, but they took the extraordinary step with all the cabin balcony doors locked and the balcony passengers do not have the use of their balconies as a safety precaution. For us, that’s a first, not sure what they are going to do about compensation, if any. No one seems to be complaining though.
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Dec 23rd, 2015, 10:28 PM
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You've got my attention now. Looking forward to more.
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Dec 24th, 2015, 04:45 AM
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I never heard of locking the balcony cabin door before. Did they unlock them when the weather improved?

I do wonder what % overall of cruise passengers are seniors. Maybe I will ask the CD on our upcoming cruise.

Keep it coming!
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Jan 4th, 2016, 12:19 AM
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Larry, this is the first time I come across it too. They unlocked the balcony doors after the second sea day.

On this particular cruise, I am guessing 85% or better are seniors, myself included, and we are the "younger ones", except for the wedding party.

It’s been almost 2 years since we last set foot on a Princess ship so it’s been a while. But once we got on board, the familiar lay out of the Princess Grand class ships sort of made us feel as home as we knew exactly where everything was. We still like the very simple and basic layout of the closet/storage area of the cabin; an open space, a large cupboard with no drawers but a lot of shelf space and coat hanger space, a full length mirror by the door and it is very functional. In comparison, other cruise lines offered sliding closet doors with all kind of drawers. It looks prettier but not as functional. I distinctly remembered that we both try to get at our stuff to get dress for dinner and I have to wait for DW to finish so I can slide the doors over and access “my” side of the drawers and the closet space.

The dinner menu was very familiar and not much had changed since we were on board last. A new feature was their new partnership with a celebrity chef who I have no idea who he was so in my mind, he wasn’t that famous. The menus will add items named “crafted by Curtis” and new menus will start to roll out next year, along with specialty restaurants by Curtis. I think he is Curtis Stone, from Australia.

With their 50th anniversary, they have their own “Sea Witch” brand of craft beers which I thought was pretty good, especially the IPA, not that I am a big beer connoisseur, but I tried both of them anyway. Drink prices has inched up which was not a surprise, but all in all, we didn’t felt we were being gouged, and the increase was relatively reasonable. The price was comparable to a typical hotel cocktail lounge.

I read elsewhere that this ship was “old” and tired and there were plumbing issues with plugged toilets and sewage smell everywhere. I am happy to report that I have not come across any of that. I did notice a fresh coat of paint on the promenade deck and you can definitely smell it.

The ship is going into dry dock (the second renovation since the ship was launched in 2008) after our cruise. I will be curious to see what changes they are making.

UP next: the entertainment
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Jan 4th, 2016, 04:25 PM
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Stone is a big name and yes he's from OZ. I have seen him on several TV shows for cooking competitions.

I too like the familiarity of their ships. makes it easy to navigate your way around.

I hope the Sapphire has the Sea Witch brews. I do like trying a local brew when we are abroad. Among the best I've ever had or at least to my taste was a Guatamalan beer called Gallo there though in the US its called Famosa and a Cayman islands brew called, what else, Caybrew. Tiger beer from Singapore is also very good. .

BTW it seems that a lot of your posts are done in the wee hours. Are you a night owl? .
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Feb 6th, 2016, 05:09 PM
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Would love to see the rest of this report - is it here somewhere or yet to be written?
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Feb 7th, 2016, 10:58 AM
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Eschew, I was on the Fascination in October and on the last night there were rough seas and my friends had their balcony door locked. Tell your DW, next time when she shops at Macys, if she shows her out of state driver's license she will get an additional 7% off and no sales tax. By the way great trip report, keep it coming.
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Feb 7th, 2016, 05:51 PM
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I hope Eschew is ok. Long time no hear. Time to check in pal!
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Feb 9th, 2016, 12:20 PM
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Hey Eschew I hope you are alright.

Waiting for the Entertainment part of your Trip Report.
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May 9th, 2016, 03:01 AM
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SOrry about the long dealy ... I am back ...
Larry, back to your comments form Jan about night owl ... It's 4 in the morning and I am wide awake ...

geosand, I'll finish the TR, now I have to collect my thoughts and remember where I left off. I knew entertainment is up next.

tch912, I am getting Macy email weekly, they credited my account 10% of my total first day purchases. I totally missed that you got discount the day you got the card AND a credit on top when you get the bill. It's a great deal. I'll have to remember the out of state driver's license for additional 7% and no sales tax for next time.

Percy, entertainment is up next ....
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May 9th, 2016, 07:38 AM
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Ok pal. Looking f/w to it!
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May 12th, 2016, 12:21 AM
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Entertainment on board any cruise ship is very hard to describe in a few words without giving the wrong impression. Words like traditional, vegas like, showy, boring, old, stale, loud, lame and a few other choice words come to mind. Other than NCL that use a brand name entertainment such as Blue Man Group, and Disney with their Disney shows, all the cruise ship entertainment is pretty well the same: singers and dancers, comedians, jugglers, magic show, maybe a tribute act and that's about it. The quality of the entertainer varies from ship to ship, not because of the cruise line but because of geographic locations, and the talent pool that is available close by.

Princess signed a staple of entertainers and rotate them from ship to ship. Most typically have a contract, 3 or 6 months, maybe a year whatever. I have seen the same entertainer a few times through my years of cruising. If they are good, their contracts are renewed and if they are not so hot, they are gone. They also "discover" new up and comers who appeared in talent shows, which helps with the "freshness" of the line up.

The Princess productions shows in general, are adequate and comparable to other mass market ships. 4 singers, 8 dancers, you got the idea. All the ships will have the same shows, but with different cast and crew, and they rotate the shows and typically keep doing it for a couple years and then they create new ones.

For those who have cruise on Princess frequently, you would have seen the same production show over and over again.

On the first night, they usually offer a sampler show giving you a highlight of what to expect on the main stage. It is usually boring but we don't want to skip it. For whatever reason, we did this time so we have to rely on the daily patter to figure out what is going on.

Other than the first night, we did not miss too many of the main stage show as it is part of our routine, dinner, show, lounges/bar/night spots, bed. We did miss the Hula dancers though as we were ashore.

Not in any particular order, the main stage acts and their grades. I don't give out "A"s unless they are really good. Sara Brightman, Michael Bublé, Josh Gorban, you got the idea. C- is a passing grade for me. I am also quite charitable and seldom give failing grades unless they are really bad.

Steve Moris: he was the opening act for the beach boys for almost 20 years in the 80's and 90's. His act was billed as comedy and music. His hand shadow bohemian rhapsody act was interesting as was his beer bottles, and of course, he played a few beach boy tunes. Overall, he is quite good, but not good enough that I will pay money to see him specifically. I give him a B+

Eric Lyden: He was a regular at the Gotham Comedy Live. He didn't do too many typical cruise ship jokes which was fine with me. You can only take so many buffet feeding frenzy and small shower jokes. He would be a B-

Billy Joel tribute. The show is really good and he almost sounded like him, but I can't even remember his name! He will get a B+

A vocal group doing a bunch of popular Motown hits. Didn't remember the name of the group though. They are okay. The tunes are catchy, relaxing entertainment. Did the Temptation impression with I've got sunshine (whatelse?) I guess I will give them a B.

Nat King Cole tribute: this is probably the best act I've seen on board on this cruise. Donny Evins been on the cruise ship circuit for years as I have seen him on NCL before. A solid B+

The strangest main stage show was the Piano follies ... but then again, he is playing at Vegas. He tried to be funny, a combination of jokes and piano playing. Maybe a C?

Tyler Bryce was an interesting character. He is a vocal impressionist and he did impressions of many people, none particular bad, but none particular spectacular either. Since he sang mostly well known tunes from well known singers, he is a crowd pleaser. He is young (early 20+?) and I think he said he appeared at the America's got talent. He is new to the cruise ship circuit. He gave away free CDs to the audience, pointing them to his web page, He said he is going to make it "big" in Vegas. We'll see. He would be a B- in my book.

The Comedy Juggler is forgettable. At least no one walks out on him. He would be a charitable C-.

On the final day, they did a "Voice of the Ocean" show complete with the spinning chairs, audience voting and contestants (passengers) who qualified through Karaoke contests. Honestly, the talent wasn't all that great. The eventually winner was predictable as he is the only one who can actually holds a tune. Good entertainment value though as a comedy show rather than . The 3 judges were Tyler, the production show's singing captain, the ship's Captain (he got stuck with all those people who can't sing). I think they pay big money to use the name "Voice" as the whole thing mimic the TV show, and make constant reference to it.

The big disappointment, No crew talent show. I was really looking forward to that. Not that I want to see "If I were not upon the sea" again.

Next up, the production shows.
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May 12th, 2016, 05:44 AM
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Really enjoyed your entertainment reviews! Did you write all of that down? No way I could have remembered all if it.
We were on Princess Regal a few weeks ago. I thought the quality of entertainment was just barely average, except for a string quartet which was wonderful, but we enjoyed it anyway. Maybe it is just Princess these days. We were on MSC Divina last year and the entertainment was superb.
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May 12th, 2016, 11:11 AM
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E I think you summed it up very well. The ship performers are quite good but will never be big stars on their own. They have found their niche. I do admire them for all they do and their stamina especially. They do a very nice job and I usually like their production shows. Sometimes the individual performers are not up to par and at times we have left before they finished.

This is one area where I give NCL th edge. On the Getaway there is a theatre called the Grammy experience where to perform you have to at least been nominated for a Grammy award. That's a cut above usual ship entertainment.

Sass overall how did you find MSC?
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