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Florence the Zebra Sails Again! Last Ruby before drydock: Sept. 22-29 Northern California Coastal

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SEPTEMBER 21:  THE DAY OF WAITING

 

When we last closed the book at the end of Flo’s last chapter, she had returned from the blistering heat of the Panama Canal to reconcile being returned to The Drawer (which really, she should have appreciated more, as it was the warmest place in the house that frigid February).  After waiting far too long to take another cruise (life got in the way), we may go down in our own personal record books as this being the least prepared for and least researched cruise of our history.  Are we becoming complacent?  I think not.  Just busy. 

 

And so it was, that Florence, still unbathed from her last adventure, was taken out of The Drawer, fluffed, and given new neckwear suitable for the autumnal adventure, and we began our trek which we entitled Coast to Coast Fall Fling.  For those of you who haven’t yet met us, we are a couple clinging to “Mid Fifties” status, who this time travelled without offspring, except for Florence, who never complains, never gets lost, and is pretty much the best travel companion ever – especially since she fits so well into my backpack.  OK, maybe not the BEST companion, The Mr. definitely gets that status.

 

For those of you who HAVE been following Florence’s adventures, a little catching up is in order.  Formerly residing in the beautiful Maritime province of Nova Scotia (in Canada eh?), we made the big move west a year ago.  Well, “big” might be pushing it, but it was “west” of us, and we did take up residence in a new to me province:  New Brunswick.  Just an hour away from our previous domicile, we are now the happy residents of a seaside resort town whose claim to fame among other things, is the World’s Biggest Lobster.  Yep.  That’s where we live now.  We have left the home of the songster Ann Murray for …. a Lobster.  Florence has yet to visit it – she’s a bit apprehensive.  We’ll get her there sometime. 

 

I digress.  One of the pros of our move is that we are now only 11 minutes (when The Mr. is driving) from an airport.   Another is (sigh) we still have three kids living with us and they could drop us off at the airport, so no long-term parking fees! 

 

The Day of Waiting began.  We waited to leave the house. Waiting STAGE ONE.   The Mr. WILL NOT book flights leaving at ungodly times of the day or night, so he had carefully booked all our flights (remember that) with this very thought in mind.  We were leaving from the bustling International airport of Moncton (insert laugh track here) at noon.  Construction demanded that we take more than the aforementioned 11 minutes, so after a circuitous route, we arrived at the airport and took our CARRY-ON ONLY luggage (because that’s the way we roll) out of the car, waved goodbye to the kiddos, and sauntered in to the building.  Watching The Mr. perform his Pre-Security Screening ritual is always mildly entertaining:  Belt off, watch off, bag of liquids/gels secured, I-Pad out just in case.  All this, while I stand motionless in my Sketchers and non-metallic clothes.  All this, before we get anywhere near security, because he doesn’t want to look unprepared.  Guess who scores the Random Body-Scan?  The Mr. of course.  Other than that, security was cleared without incident and he could re-clothe himself.   Stage Two of The Day of Waiting had now begun.

 

Despite the super busy airport we were in (a grand total of 4 gates, yes FOUR! But they were only using one) we were relatively on time (not the airport’s fault that we were incredibly early and were forced to wait) for our departure and after a few bumpy patches, gum chewing, swallowing whilst plugging my nose, and left ear pain, we landed, and I recovered.  My impression of Montreal has been and apparently always will be……WALKING……FOREVER.   How domestic flights can be so far from each other remains a mystery to me, but the walk was good for me, right?  Stage Three of The Day of Waiting wasn’t very long, and we were soon on flight #2, where we had not been able to secure seats together, but were in middle seats behind/in front of each other.  Because we don’t pay extra for choosing premium seats.  Again, the way we roll.  By the way, I should mention right now, that our carry on luggage all fit in easily in the places it should on both these flights.  Just sayin’.  

 

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Once on board, another couple was in the same situation as us so we did a quick switch and everyone got to sit with someone they already knew.  Interestingly, I had mentioned before beginning our day of flights, having recently watched The Commuter, “ya know, you wouldn’t really want to see Liam Neeson walk on your flight wouldja?”.  This was the flight that (no, no, don’t get all excited) Liam was going to sit right next to us.  3 year old Liam.  However, another switch put him with someone HE actually knew, and the man who orchestrated the switch just looked at us, smiled, and said, “you’re welcome” ever so quietly. 

 

We arrived safely in Toronto, escaping the plane just ahead of Liam and his entourage (“Liam NO! Liam don’t do that.  Liam come back here!”).  Some walking, some facility usage, and we were ready to make the plunge into U.S. Customs and security.  After finally managing to make our way through the self-service receipting (parts one and two) and standing in line for part 3, we got to an actual real person who in all the time we had been in line had not cracked a smile in her interactions with anyone.  Most were being sent back because of some problem with luggage tags or other infractions (aha!  Checked baggage problems?  I cracked a bit of a smile at that).  She seemed to relax when she saw we had no checked baggage and when she asked “occupation?” and The Mr. (or actually The Rev.) said “pastor”, lo and behold, she smiled and after asking me my occupation (which as of the moment is “unemployed”) she affirmed my status by saying “You are a Pastor’s Wife!”  She wished us a nice trip and we were on our way, bringing sunshine and happiness into the lives of everyone we met.  Except maybe Liam. 

 

 Stage Four of The Day of Waiting began.

 

This is where I should mention again that The Mr. really tried to do this up right.  He had booked us flights on points and gotten really good connections that would get us in to Seattle early enough in the evening that we wouldn’t be too Zombie-esque.  Alas.  Stage Four was, somewhat appropriately, supposed to be FOUR hours between flights once the lovely organizers of Air Canada finished messing with all that insightful planning.  Hey!  I have a priority pass!  What a good opportunity to use it at this airport!  Well, the priority lounge that is supposed to be so special, was not – since the real one was being refurbished (for 6 months) and the one they were using was totally crowded and not looking very prioritized at all.  We decided a walk was in order, so we walked and found dinner along the way at Wahlburgers.  I think we were ever so much happier there (I know Florence was) and we had a great time and the food was delicious.  And calories don’t count when you’re in the airport, right?

 

Did we need dessert after that?  Of course we didn’t.  But we were trying to prepare ourselves for a week of incessant eating, so we visited Timmies (Tim Horton’s) for one last tea for me and a donut for each of us.  Waiting.  Waiting.  Long.  Waiting.  Now, Toronto is a much bigger swankier fancier airport than the Four Gates of Moncton, but another flight was being re-routed to use OUR gate.  Imagine!  The audacity!  This did not look good for our waiting.  The flight going to Fort Lauderdale had been delayed since the afternoon (said The Mr. expecting me to feel badly for them), so after the longest Final Call for Boarding in the history of final calls, they loaded on their plane, and then had to wait while another flight attendant was found for them, and then we had to wait for the incoming flight to de-plane and be freshened up for us, and we found out OUR flight crew was late due to bad weather ….somewhere.  

 

Sigh.  So with all that we hoped they would expedite our boarding. (I don’t know what we were thinking either.)    With an announcement that bags would be measured and any not meeting the stringent dimensional requirements would be tagged and we would be charged baggage fees for them, my bag, of course, was the one chosen to be an example for all the others apparently.  However, with a discrete kick to the edge of it (“NO!  You must not try to squish it into the measuring device!”) I watched it slip gently into place, and the Flight Nazi…er…. Attendant?....put away his baggage tag with great disappointment.  Interestingly, after easily storing my bag on the plane, I saw many, many bags far bigger than mine come on the plane to be wedged in their places.  Sunshine and happiness, sunshine and happiness.  At least we weren’t routed through Ottawa, which was suffering from tornadoes that day.

 

Seated together, and in front of a comedian (literally, not figuratively) heading for the Norwegian Bliss cruise also leaving out of Seattle, we settled in for the long flight with Pringles and granola bars aplenty. 

 

 

We landed at 11:08 p.m. local time.  Yup.  11:08.  The Mr.’s original plan had us getting in early evening.  Not so.  But we did have our luggage and that’s always a good thing.  I’m a little sensitive about that, ever since my luggage destined for Rome took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and ended up in Germany. The free shuttle to our hotel was another thing.  You should know (and you probably do) that to phone for the free shuttle to ANY hotel at Sea-Tac, you leave the airport, cross over the pedestrian walkway and go to the pick-up place and THEN find the phone to call.  You do not look all over the airport terminal, use the washroom, look again all over the airport, and THEN try going across to the parking lot where it is fairly obvious to anyone who is reasonably conscious, where to phone from.  After almost another half hour the shuttle bus arrived.  We were sharing the shuttle with a group of 6 or so people.  Upon arrival at the hotel, I nudged The Mr. and told him quietly to high-tail it for the front desk and I would collect our bags so we would not have to enter Stage Five of the Day of Waiting, behind all the others.  It worked.  We were in.  Sleeptime could not come soon enough, and we tumbled into bed by 1:00 a.m. (that’s 5:00 a.m. for our bodies) and fell asleep. 

 

Did I mention that my reviews are LONG and self-indulgent?

 

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I can't figure out how to get my photos into the right spots in my review!  I've tried over on the test forum but it seems to be beyond me as of yet.  I will keep trying however, and day of embarkation will be up soon.  

 

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September 22:  Embarkation Day!  Ruby Princess Here We Come!

(I did it.  I figured out how to do the pictures.  I think.  We shall see.)

Awake at 5:00 a.m. and feeling fantastically refreshed after 3 ½ hours of sleep, I remained still as a statue so that The Mr. could sleep until 7:00, when, well, nature called me.  Loudly.  All the tables were taken in the breakfast room, so we took our not-too-exciting breakfast back to the room so we could say we used the microwave there, and proceeded to re-pack and re-tag for the Ruby! We had decided to use Seattle Express shuttle service as, even with the two of us, it came to much less than the cost of a taxi, and being up and at-em relatively early, we had earlier booked the discounted 9:00 shuttle online.  Because really, who in their right mind would want to get to the port THAT early?  (Florence jumping up and down in that “I would I would” kinda way.)   We could wait at the hotel or at the pier.  We chose the pier.  Promptly at 9 a bus pulled up and the driver came out and called our names, we loaded up and had an enjoyable tour of most of the other airport hotels, before driving to the pier in a safe and quiet manner.  Except for the one lady.  She was not quiet.  She was talkative, happy, and LOUD.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that….I just noticed is all. 

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 We were at the port at 10:00 and a porter met our bus with the words you love to hear “I can take luggage for anyone on Ruby Princess”.  Score!  We checked and noted that Loud Lady was not jumping at the opportunity and realized she was on the Other Ship.  Double Score.  We let him take our bags, and then watched them with the practiced eye of an experienced parent, making sure they went where they were supposed to go. 

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Our initial plan had been to take a stroll on the Elliot Bay Trail towards the city since we were arriving quite early.  Plans are made to be decided against, and so we decided to stand in unity with the few others waiting to go in the building.  By 10:20 we were inside the building and heading for Priority line-ups (which really don’t help that much since at least a third of the passengers had priority boarding, but it’s fun to be able to do.) I have to say, I do not miss filling out the health questionnaire.  Well, obviously I noticed its absence, but I didn’t weep over not getting to fill it in.  Check in was super quick, and we were in Priority Boarding Group #2 and shepherded to the Platinum/Elite area where there was food and drink waiting.  We weren’t even on the ship yet and there we were – eating and drinking!

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At 11:00 the Bon Voyage tour participants went on the ship, and once they were looked after, the Elite passengers followed.  We hadn’t been paying attention (I was involved with a donut) so we went up to inquire, and we were waved on.  On board by 11:10. Yes. Love that feeling of being on the ship before most and getting to explore.  It was cool (the temperature) and there were a few drops of rain, but it was fine for touring around the upper decks.  We had been on the Emerald Princess for our very first cruise when the Emerald was doing her very first cruise, so it was like going back in time and discovering the layout all over again.  Did I mention that The Mr. has a thing about NOT repeating ships?  Well, he does.  Deal with it.  I’m sorry.  That was rude.  Not fitting for my nationality.  Please accept my apology. 

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It was 11:45 and The Mr. was getting a bit peckish so we headed for Horizon Court and settled on a table in Café Caribe, our favourite area.  Once The Mr. has his first bite of pineapple he knows he’s back on Princess, and there was that smile.  Having more recently been on the Royal, Regal, and Island, it took a bit of getting used to the layout again of Horizon Court – not my favourite layout, but hey!  I didn’t have to cook or do dishes – I’m all about that!

 

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Does 'Other Ship' indicate there is only one? Alaska from Seattle is on my to-do list but I've heard complaints if there are too many ships in port.

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John, there was only one other ship at Pier 91 where the Ruby was.  Eurodam was there.  At the other pier (61?) which is downtown, the Norwegian Bliss was docked and we encountered them a couple of times on our trip, but I'm not sure what the itinerary was for either of those.  We didn't notice any congestion at the port because of 2 ships being there - but then, we got there pretty early before there would have been mobs of people coming.  

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(Close by - the Eurodam)

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Downtown at Pier 66 was the Norwegian Bliss 

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Embarkation day continues.......(September 22)

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After lunch we explored more and did Important Things.  Like rehearsing where the pizza is found.  Like finding International Café and noting there was no chicken salad.  Like finding somewhere to sit and relax while we waited for our room to be ready. 

Sure enough, right after 1:00 we were able to get in our room – an inside on Aloha deck.  We did notice some of the older style things, like the smaller shower and no drawer in the desk, but would that take away from our sunshine and happiness?  I think not! 

We met our room steward Savio from India who was awesome all week, aside from not being completely sure of my name at any point!  He definitely got points for trying, and I responded to pretty much anything.  Except Shauna, which one of the other stewards called me.  I do not respond to Shauna.  Anymore.  Not now.  That was the Eighties and we’re done with that.

So, they mean the pool right?  They aren't telling us not to jump or dive off the ship?  Because if that's the case, we should tell the people standing beside the sign that may not have noticed it.  

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I was surprised that The Mr. agreed to schlep along on the Scavenger Hunt, so off we went to collect our stamps before he changed his mind.  We rehearsed on the way to the Spa, “no we do NOT want to tour the Spa, we would just like our stamp…please.”  (Note the return to national politeness.) When we got there they didn’t even ask us that, so we were unprepared for them seating us in the chairs and giving us a “sample” massage.  They DID stamp our cards though, and The Mr. walked away muttering “I did NOT enjoy that.” 

 

The Safety Assembly (were there just too many passengers calling it the Mustard Drill?) was at 3:30 and we trooped obediently off to that.  We were in The Crown Grill which was good, because I tend to fall asleep if it’s in the theatre.  While corny, I did enjoy the fact that they’re having some fun with the Love Boat theme in the safety video we were instructed to watch.  I appreciate any attempts at humour. 

 

We returned to our room to check whether any luggage had come.  My littlest of my two carry-on bags was there.  All by itself.  Alone.  In that big ol’ hallway.  It looked quite ridiculous to be honest.  But it was a start.  Just not much to unpack.  The Mr’s bigger bag arrived sometime after that, and mine (of course) was the last to arrive shortly before Sailaway.  How do three bags manage to get SO separated?  Must have been SOME party in the luggage area. 

 

After some speedy unpacking, we headed up for the grand event that is Sailaway!  Oh, the gala! Oh, the partying!  Oh, the sight of it all! Oh, the masses of humanity!  We didn't even bother trying to find a place on the dance floor.  

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The band was good, and that’s pretty much all I have to say about that.

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Yep, Embarkation Day Part 3

(By the way, is there still a maximum number of photos per post on the newfangled CC?)

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(The Eurodam was in hot pursuit....)

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After watching our departure from Seattle from the front “secret” (shhhhh) decks and then from the aft, we headed back to our little home for the week to change for dinner.  We had booked Anytime dining, so Michelangelo would be our dining room for the week, since we like to dine early (5:00 after all, is like 9:00 p.m. for us Maritimers!).  Da Vinci, the other dining room, was not available for Anytime dining until 7:30.  We had no trouble getting a nice table for two right away.  (When we left at 6:15 there was a really long line-up. 

Mmmmm, the crab cakes.  Excellent.  One of our favourites of the whole week. 

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My cold pina colada soup was perfect, and The Mr.’s melon, was, well, it was melon, all right?  He had pork tenderloin and wonder of wonders, he actually liked the sweet potato served with it.  He never likes sweet potato.  I had the Alaskan Cod on lentils, and to say that the lentils were the star of the dish shows how I felt about the cod.  It was just boring and really the only entrée I ordered that I regretted during the whole voyage. 

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But.  Dessert.  (Insert drumroll.)  MILK.  CHOCOLATE.  HAZELNUT.  SOUFFLE.  There are no words.  Or pictures.  Apparently there were no pictures.  No words AND no pictures.  Because you know what they say about a picture......

By the time we had eaten and headed to the shop to purchase our obligatory magnet, the only challenge left was to stay awake past 7:00 p.m.  Since there was only one performance in the Theatre this night, we decided we should get there early.  We arrived 45 minutes before showtime and still managed to score aisle seats albeit on the far side, but there WERE a lot of people there already. By 8:15, only a few single seats remained, and they were taken quickly, with separated couples waving feebly to each other from their distant locations.

 

The CD was Duke from Wales, and he was just o.k. – his accent was lovely though!  Instead of the usual welcome show, it was a full production show “Magic to Do”.  I really am in no position to review this show, as it was taking all my strength to stay awake, vertical, and in NON snore mode (no fault of the show).  We lasted for 3 (maybe 4 if we did fall asleep) songs and then gave up our prime seats.  With all the people standing in the side aisle, I wondered what kind of fist fights broke out as competitions for nabbing those seats ensued.  Of course, if those standing were the 209 Canadians on board, they probably just kept apologizing, and no one took them.

 

In spite of our earlier explorations, it still took us a couple of tries to find the pizza.  Yes, I said we were tired, but we came to eat, and eat we would.  No matter the sacrifice.  It was no longer “cool” up on Lido – it had turned windy and downright cold, so we owed ourselves some warm pizza.  And Grandma’s chocolate cake.  And a spring roll.  And a slice of Flourless chocolate cake.  Totally unnecessary?  You bet. 

 

None of that chocolate kept us awake for long though, once back in our room.  Enough time to read the Patter for the next day and tuck in to enjoy the almost non-existent motion of the ship. 

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SEPTEMBER 23, Sunday: ASTORIA, Oregon

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Awake after a sound sleep at 3:00 a.m. I had time to ponder why I pronounce Oregon differently than everyone else I know.  Is it because I am a native West Coast Canadian and not a true Maritimer?  Must I change my Bluenoser2 moniker?  Heaven forbid!  (I think it is actually Florence’s avatar, not mine anyway.)

Where was I?  Oh yes, awake.  We lasted until 6:30 a.m. before needing to get to breakfast in Horizon Court.  I had my chocolate pastry and knew I was good for the week.  Surprisingly, I did not have another during the voyage.  Perhaps I AM becoming complacent.  Or discerning.   Hmmm…..

 

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We spent time on the upper decks watching the approach to Astoria.  It was a little chilly in the wind, so I trekked back down to the room to get my jacket.  By the time I returned, it was so warm I was wondering what on earth I had been thinking.  Shortly after 10:00 a.m. the ship was docked and cleared for us to go ashore.  After much waffling about whether to wear my jacket or not, the announcement claimed it was raining and jackets were recommended, so after all that agonizing I took it.  Yes, I was happy to have it a couple of times for a few minutes, but really the day was quite lovely.   We found the Riverwalk easily as we left the ship and it was a lovely well-maintained pathway along…. well, obviously…the river.   

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Edited by bluenoser2
wrong picture at end of post

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(Astoria, Oregon continued...)

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The well-marked pathway of the Riverwalk  shows you how far you have yet to go before reaching “downtown” which is reassuring and helpful if you’re the kind of person who second guesses themselves.  Constantly. 

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(Just because of the name of the building.)

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Along the way we heard a rhythmic sound which we assumed was some kind of construction tool, and  jokingly commented “sounds like a seal!”  - well, it WAS a seal!  It was actually several seals under the pilings of a building we were approaching on the water’s edge, so we spent some time enjoying their banter, and it caused me to wonder, can a person actually NOT smile when they hear a seal barking?  It’s like a banjo.  It’s sunshine.  And happiness.  Well, at least Florence agreed with me.  The Mr. just gave me that look he gives. 

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Back on our trek, and without losing much track position (The Mr. is all about Track Position and NASCAR, even when we’re walking.) we made it to the downtown area.  Since it was a Sunday, we were able to browse in the market, which (as the information person at the ship told us) you can’t miss.  It’s four blocks of the main part of town.  We had a great time going through the stalls and checking things out.  Not that we bought anything other than a magnet (but an artsy magnet!) but we did appreciate it all. 

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Edited by bluenoser2

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(Astoria...still.)  We love a good sign, and Astoria was full of them.  Like this one.....

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(a graphic portrayal of what will happen to you if you attempt to ride a bicycle on the train tracks)

Or this one....

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That done, was our walking tour over?  Not hardly!  We decided that on the map the friendly information person gave us, the Astoria Column didn’t look too far away, and we had come this far, so we might as well walk the rest of the way.  We’re so funny.  You may smile or smirk knowingly here.  What the map doesn’t show is how UPHILL the rest of the walk is.

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  I am pretty secure in my assumption that we were the only people walking up to the Column from the ship that day.  However, we did it, and when we reached the top and realized that driving a car would have necessitated a $5 parking fee -  oh how we laughed.  Or was that wheezing?  Might have been gasping for air.  I’m not sure.  I do know, that after some careful consideration, we decided against the climb up to the top of the Column to get a better view.  How much higher did we really need to be? 

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We rested our feet for a bit, had a snack, and then made the return trip downhill and back to town. 

 

We took a different route back to the ship so as to stop at McDonald’s for a well-deserved $1 coke and free wifi.  Aren’t we the big spenders?  Yes, we had free wifi on the ship, but we didn’t know how long that would last, what with the kiddos looking after the home front and needing our advice on…well, a lot of things.  The Riverwalk is definitely the preferred way to go, but McDonald’s isn’t on it, hence our departure from the most desirable path.   The trolley also goes along the way of the Riverwalk, but we didn't take that either.  

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The thighs screamed from the downhill walk (that and the fact that we DO NOT do elevators on the ship – stairs only, and we were just becoming acclimated to the rigors of deck 12 to deck 5 to search for the elusive chicken salad at International Café.    On our return, I did stop at the IC to check, but settled for a ham and cheese croissant and Thai beef salad (which was very good, but it was NOT Chicken salad!) while The Mr. trudged up to Lido for his cheeseburger.  He claimed that the burger seemed to be getting smaller than it used to be, but that may have been the stairs talking. 

Time for some r&r, so The Mr. retired to the pool area, and I found myself a tea, got a book at the library and “read” in my room.  I use the term “read” loosely, as the book was open, but the eyes were not. 

So, shortly before 5, we showed up at Michelangelo, and there were no tables for 2 left!  Imagine!  Much to the surprise of the hostess, we requested a pager, and found a lovely spot in the piazza to people watch.  Barely 15 minutes later, our little pager began vibrating in that excited “Come to the dining room RIGHT NOW” kind of way.  So we did.  Go.  And we were seated in one of those long lines of tables for 2 that really feels like a table for 12 that you don’t have to acknowledge the people beside you if you choose not to, because after all, it’s a table for two.  Being so close together created some entertainment for us as one lady, in her effort to get to her seat came very close to upsetting the next table’s water glass.  Thankfully, the lightning fast reflexes of the woman sitting there averted disaster.   Lower the Cone of Silence and Pretend You’re Alone.  We started with the Alfredo, just to make sure we didn’t miss it in the week, and it was as stellar as ever (still miss the parmesan basket, but not as much as before, having been weaned off it over the years).  Our entrée was the shrimp and scallops over yummy mashed potatoes (I don’t think that was the title in the menu, but it was our title).  For dessert The Mr. managed to get his skim milk which is always a hit or miss kind of thing, and it went ever so well with his cheesecake, which he proclaims is the best dessert of the week on Princess.  I had the crème brulee which is usually a highlight for me, but I was unable to finish mine this evening since the topping was just on the verge of tasting burnt.  That’s about as critical as I’m going to get on the food for the week, so if you’re looking for more dining room bashing, you won’t find it here.  I’m all over it. 

 

We missed the Oktoberfest celebrations in the piazza, but the decorations were nice.  We did go to see the comedian/musician Steve Moris.  He was pretty funny for two very tired souls such as us.  After some walking and browsing, we decided to forego the show in the theatre and headed up for “a drink of lemonade” in HC.  Well, ok, we did have some black forest cake to go with the lemonade, and after trying a piece of pie that The Mr. could NOT figure out, he returned to the buffet and returned with schnitzel and mushrooms.  Of course – what any discerning dessert goer would substitute for an unsatisfactory sweet.  The Mr. just can’t turn down a Schnitzel.  He was happy.  And so we headed off to bed after many miles accumulated and gave our toes a rest. 

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September 24, Monday:  Day at Sea

 

Awake before 6 again, (well, that IS like sleeping in until 10!) we were more than ready for breakfast at 7.  Since we liked sitting in Café Caribe so much we decided to just have our buffet items from there.  We learned that there is no pineapple in Caribe.  No prunes either.  We made the best of it, and after eating and performing dental hygiene in our room, we took books to the library to give Savio a chance to clean something, since everyone else appeared to be sleeping in.  By 9:30, we were in danger of succumbing to sleep, so we chose to do some walking on the Promenade deck.

 

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(The Grand Princess going the oppposite direction as us.  Florence waved.)

 

 The first day, we hadn’t been able to do the full route, as there was maintenance happening in a short spot at the end, but today it was all clear, and after determining that 2 ½ times around the ship is a mile, we accomplished two miles.  I was surprised at the brisk pace of The Mr. until I realized that Track Position thing he loves.  Way to get him to move!  We were passing everyone – “serious walkers” I heard someone comment.  Actually, we were laughing a lot of the time, so I don’t know how they got the serious thing. 

 

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Let me just say at this point in time, that after fears of “being the last cruise before drydock” that had been expressed in our rollcall, and after that much publicized fiasco experienced by another cruise line’s ship pre-drydock that shall remain nameless (nameless not because I’m so diplomatic or correct but mostly because I’m too lazy to look it up, and too scatterbrained to remember), we had no negative experience with regard to maintenance.  The only thing I noticed during the week were the signs saying “Wet Varnish” on some of the wood columns in the pool area.  And doesn’t “Wet Varnish” just make you want to touch it to see if it really is?  I held Florence back. 

 

After a little Martini making demo, and a little $10 sale in the dining room, and a little of the cooking demo, the morning was declared a success and all that remained was to choose where to have lunch.  Since it was a sea day, we decided to avoid whatever masses there might be in the buffet and try out the dining room, where our food intake must have been three times as much as we would normally have for the lunch meal.  The tortellini app would have been enough, but The Mr. (being all virtuous and all) had Chef salad, and I had a hot and spicy potato stir-fry slaw.  The Mr. does not like anything coffee, so he passed on the Espresso Chocolate cake because of the description of the espresso flavoured sauce.  Which was 3 dots on the side of the plate.  Ha!  My dessert won for prettiness AND flavour.  He had the blueberry roulade, which must have been alright since he finished it all.  But mine was still prettier.   You can decide for yourselves.  

 

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An afternoon of “reading” and relaxing poolside, or, in my case, room-side, along with my intrepid search for the chicken salad at IC (still none), observing part of the art auction (people really buy!). We went to Club fusion to see what we might have won in the Scavenger Hunt, while at the same time hoping we didn’t, since all the prizes didn’t really suit us.  Fortunately, we won nothing, so all was well. 

 

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 Formal night meant we needed to practice our stalwart refusal to sit for any portraits.  So far on this cruise, we had not managed to escape the embarkation/port photos, but we had yet to even see them in the mass of photos in the gallery.  Maybe we didn’t look hard enough.  Maybe (more likely) we broke their cameras. 

 

We got gussied up and went to the 6:15 show of the magician in the Explorers Lounge.  He was pretty good, and I’m a sucker for a heavily put on French accent, so it was enjoyable.  We visited the Commodore’s Reception in the piazza before heading to the dining room, where we were seated immediately.  The crab quiche app was a no-brainer, and I loved it.  The Duck l’orange was very good and we (I can hardly believe it myself!) didn’t stay for dessert. 

 

A quick side note here…The Mr. has never before travelled without a suit jacket for formal nights.  I persuaded to try it just this once, and if they denied us access to the formal night, I’d owe him a Beef Wellington or something. Maybe a lobster.  It’s not like we don’t have them in our town (with the world’s biggest lobster, as you may remember).  After glancing around the dining room, wearing his dress pants, shirt, tie and vest, he said “I worried needlessly.  I feel a little overdressed.” 

 

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The highlight of the night…. after denying ourselves dessert at dinner, we dragged ourselves up to HC and there it was.  Right there in front of us.  Sacher Torte.  And it was good.  Very good.  Knowing that nothing could surpass that, we called it a night and turned in. 

 

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I have to say, when I first saw how long the posts were, I was going to move on, but I'm glad I read it all the way through.  I can't wait for more.

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Enjoying your review.  You’re an amazing storyteller!  Enjoy hearing about your cruise on the Ruby.  We got off on 9/22...the day you got on.  She’s a lovely ship.  

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September 25, Tuesday:  SAN FRANCISCO

 

Since the ship was scheduled to go under the Golden Gate Bridge at 5:30 a.m., The Mr. was up and about before 5:00 just in case.  I took my time and still found myself ready just before 5:30, so bundled up and went above to see what I could see.  Fog.  I could see fog.  Finding The Mr., and discerning that we were probably ½ hour behind schedule, I exercised my legs and my right to go to deck 5 for a chai latte (and a donut, but we’re not mentioning that), before returning to the upper decks (without the aid of elevators of course).   It was so foggy that we couldn’t really see the Golden Gate until we were practically right under it, but a cheer rose from the small crowd on deck when we passed through safely, and then we retreated to breakfast. 

 

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Shortly after 7:00 a.m. we were given the go ahead to go ashore, so we did.  After glaring at the pirates of the photo opp torture, we enjoyed walking to Fisherman’s Wharf when the only other people around were serious joggers.  And they were.  Serious.  Not a smile anywhere to be seen.  I'd like to see those photo pirates deal with these guys.  

 

 Nothing was open, but we were trying to find a tour place that would let us go to Muir Woods.  Which we did.  At 8:45. They still had spaces on their 9:00 tour so we were in!  A shout out to Tower Tours which we found a block back from the Embarcadero, which had exactly the tour we were looking for.  We just wanted a way to get to Muir Woods, and back, not something that would take the whole day.  It was a 3 ½ hour tour.  Perfect.  We joined the line-up waiting for the bus which appeared on time with our excellent guide and bus driver Marco. 

 

I managed to stay awake for the whole trip to Muir Woods (quite a feat for me in a bus), and Marco kept up a fairly steady monologue through The Streets of San Francisco and beyond. 

 

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(you know us and signs....)

 

The Golden Gate remained shrouded in fog as it did for the rest of the day.  Everywhere else, it was clear and sunny.  Marco stopped his spiel when he had to give his whole attention to the road entering Muir Woods area.  I gave my whole attention also to watching the road and not the drop-off to the side.  After navigating the challenging road to Muir Woods and parking, we were given 1 ½ hours to explore the Woods ourselves. 

 

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We used almost all that time, with just enough left at the end to look through the gift shop.  Muir Woods is a place we have wanted to go since our last visit to San Francisco when we couldn’t because of a government shutdown.  (We did get to see Alcatraz that time just before it closed.)  The Redwoods were majestic and the woods are clean, well-maintained and easy to get around on foot.  We covered all the main pathways and took far too many pictures of trees (“We have trees in Canada…why am I taking so many pictures of trees?” questioned the Mr.).   

 

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By the way, that "other" cruise line was Norwegian.  I would hope that every cruise line learned a lesson after that fiasco.

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SAN FRANCISCO continues.......

 

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After a stop in Sausalito to let out those who wished to shop there and make their own way back to San Francisco via ferry, we were returned to the tour office right on schedule, and we hiked back to the ship at that point to partake of lunch (a sausage bun for The Mr. and a Stromboli from the pizza place for me, in case anyone is interested), change and continue our walkabout.  I say change because the sunny skies looked so warm and inviting.  Why take a jacket?  I hardly needed it in Astoria!  Throwing caution to the proverbial wind, I went short-sleeved and froze my way through the afternoon.  “It’ll be better once we get away from the ship’s pier”.  “Oh, let’s walk on the sunny side of the street…that’ll make all the difference”.  Sigh. 

 

We headed for Ghiradelli Square and visited every Ghiradelli establishment in the vicinity but alas, no free samples anymore (they were our best unexpected treat last time in SF!), so we had to buy some.  It worked.  Their clever marketing plan worked.  We caved. 

 

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Time for The Mr. to touch the Pacific Ocean, and then an unexpected pleasure when we came upon the Musee Mechanique at the pier.  We had seen it before, and just walked on by, but this time we entered (admission is free) and had a great time wandering through and alternately being amazed and slightly creeped out by all the old arcade games and such (I just find the fortune telling machines weird).  Just a quarter or so to use any machine, if we had more change we would have tried more of them!  I highly recommend this stop.

 

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 Following this little treat, we headed for the Boudin Sourdough café and bakery, which I also highly recommend visiting.  We climbed upstairs to do the little self-guided tour of the baking area from above and found it interesting and mouth-watering.  After smelling all the scents of the bakery, we just had to treat ourselves to some sourdough bread so we did and proceeded to eat it at the outside tables (brrrrrr.) 

 

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(We loved watching the guy throw big gobs of dough down to that little table on the lower floor.  He never missed!  Well, not in our watching.  It must happen SOME time though, right?)

 

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(she looks cold doesn't she?  Should've crocheted her a sweater to match her neck piece.)

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Thanks for your great review.  We were also on this cruise and enjoyed every minute of it!  In fact we liked it so much, we booked it again for next year on the Star.

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SAN FRANCISCO...end of the day

 

 

We wore our feet out browsing the shops of the piers and made it back to the ship by 5:30. Yes, we had until 10:30 p.m. to spend in the great San Francisco, but I was cold, and we were tuckered out, and felt we had done all we set out to accomplish. 

 

After getting ready for dinner, we went to Michelangelo and (silly us) again asked as usual for a table for two.  Such a little thing (literally) to ask for but no, there was no table for two to be had.  Apparently, we were not the only ones not out to take advantage of the late evening in the big city.  We took our little pager, which by now we had affectionately named Paige since we were becoming emotionally attached to her,  and not 5 minutes later she began her dance and we were called back and sent up to Da Vinci.  Ah,  I get it, the traditional diners were the ones making use of the late stay in San Francisco!  I had some Alaskan Crab legs for dinner since it seemed the right thing to do…. but only one order, not several as I noticed some of our neighbours doing.  Tonight, I had the Princess Love Boat Dream for dessert, because I must have  it at least once on every voyage. 

 

That done, we looked in on the performer in the theatre, but after hearing him wax eloquent on how he followed the likes of Michael Buble, when he began singing, we didn’t hear any resemblance, and took our leave.   This voyage had the least entertaining entertainment of any we’ve been on.  Oh no!  Are we becoming jaded?  Heaven forbid.  We may have to take another Carnival voyage to snap ourselves out of it.  I’m sure one Hairy Chest contest will have us begging for Princess again. 

 

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We returned to our little cave to rest and read (I actually DID read for the record, and it was The Mr. who had to drag himself out of a comatose state to return later for a slice of Mexican pizza up on lido and some lovely night cityscapes.  We opted out of seeing the ship go under the Golden Gate at 11:00 p.m. as it was still enrobed in fog. 

 

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