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geoherb

LIVE: Crown Princess Transatlantic Cruise, 9/22/19 - 10/8/19

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We are onboard the beautiful Crown Princess ready to embark on our transatlantic cruise after spending a couple of nights in London. I'll try to keep up a live thread, but I decided against purchasing the internet package and will be using just my 250 free minutes for updates, checking my emails, and downloading my hometown paper. The speed of how long it takes to upload photos will determine if I get the daily Patters in here or not. 

 

There’s never enough time in London, but for this cruise, we had to postpone leaving to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 93rd birthday. We visited her for lunch and then flew out from Raleigh-Durham on Thursday evening. We flew through Toronto. Our flights on Air Canada were uneventful—just us and more than 300 others on the flight from Toronto to Heathrow. 

Customs and Immigration in Heathrow were a breeze. When we came last year, we had around an hour wait to get through. This time it was less than 15 minutes. It was a long walk through the airport to catch the Tube. We bought our Oyster cards for the couple of days we’d be in London. I guessed on 20 pounds for each of us. That ended up being too much, but I received refunds this morning. 

 

The Tube ride from Heathrow to Covent Garden took about 45 minutes. We were walking distance from the station to our hotel, just a few blocks away. We stayed at the Strand Palace Hotel, which is a few blocks from Trafalgar Square, appropriately located on the Strand. It’s a nice hotel. On our previous trips to London, we’ve stayed a little farther from the center of things. We spent a little more per night this trip, but we were only staying two nights. It was especially great to be within walking distance of the theaters. 

 

We did not do much the first afternoon. We arrived at the Strand Palace a little after 2. I walked to Leicester Square to buy tickets for shows. We saw Fame the first night and The Play That Goes Wrong the second. On the way to Leicester Square, I walked through Trafalgar Square to see the leftover demonstrators from some sort of environmental protest. We had seen some of them on the way from the Tube to our hotel. We ate a light supper of sandwiches from the Sainsbury’s a block away from our hotel. I originally went into the Pret nearby, but they did not have any sandwiches in stock that DH could eat. Sainsbury’s and Tesco are less expensive as well and have a nice assortment of sandwiches, especially if you get one of their meal deals. 

 

Fame was enjoyable. It starred Nica Paris. Apparently she is famous from 20 or 30 years ago. I read some reviews of the show after we saw it. There isn’t much to the show’s plot. And the rousing title number gets a little bit of an intro in the first act, segueing into another song. They do the full version at the end for the curtain call. The theater was near the London School of Economics. We saw The Old Curiosity Shop nearby. It was great being able to walk back to our hotel instead of having to catch a bus or train like we have when we stayed farther away. 

 

We both slept well. Our room at the Strand Palace was about the same size as our inside cabin on the ship. It’s an older hotel that has some up-to-date rooms but others, like ours, that haven’t been fully brought into the 21st century. The receptionist offered to upgrade us to one of the rooms with air conditioning for 30 pounds. I did not bother to ask if that was total or per night. In the heat of the summer, our room would have been intolerably hot. But it was fine for us since the high was around 80 degrees and the evenings were in the 50s. 

 

I liked the electric kettle to make tea in the morning. I went to Tesco both mornings to pick us up quick breakfasts. It was under 2 pounds the first morning and 2.09 the second. The hotel also supplied us with bottled water and packages of cookies to go with our tea.
 

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Saturday we went to Kew Gardens near Richmond to see the Chihuly exhibit there. I found out about it a long time ago and wanted to come ever since knowing about it. I’m glad we did. It was fantastic. The gardens themselves are spectacular on their own, of course. We took the Tube from the Embankment Station. It’s one of the times people have to pay close attention because the District Line has different terminals in the same direction. We wanted the Richmond train and not the other one. It was around 40 minutes to get to Kew. I could have purchased tickets in advance. Since I had not, we waited about 15 minutes in a queue to get them. By the time we left, the queue to get in was three times as long, but they had opened more ticket windows.

We spent a little over three hours walking around the gardens. In one of the art galleries, they had some of Chihuly’s smaller pieces on display. They also had some for sale, starting at 4,950 pounds. The most spectacular displays were in the Temperate House. I walked up the spiral staircase to get wonderful views, but DH stayed down below. I somehow managed to get him on the tree walk near the Temperate House. It’s a 50-foot tall walkway through the trees. The supports are huge iron beams. I did not realize from the ground that they sway with the wind. 

 

After touring the gardens, we stopped in the little village around the Kew Gardens Station for lunch. The little bistros around there were pricier than I wanted to pay. We ended up getting meal deals from Tesco and some vegetable samosas and chocolate pastries from a street vendor. We caught the train back to Embankment. We had time to walk around Covent Garden before getting ready for the show.

 

I had picked out a nice little restaurant near our theater for dinner. They had a pre-theater special of three courses for 15.50. But they also had a 45-minute wait, so we could not eat there. We ended up across the street at Fish Works. There pre-theater special was 20 pounds for three courses. We let the hostess and our waitress know that we needed to eat in time for our show. They said it would not be a problem. But service was a little slow. We ended up wolfing down our desserts to get to the theater five minutes before the show started. The food was delicious, though, so that was a plus. I had a seafood soup with comté crouton and saffron mayonnaise, sea bream with chili spiced cucumber salad, and lemon tart with raspberry sorbet. DH had the soup, fish and chips, and an espresso panna cotta. 

 

The Play That Goes Wrong was hilarious. We saw A Comedy about a Bank Robbery last year. That’s another show put on by the same group. I forget their name. They have two new shows coming for the fall. Perhaps they’ll be around if we make it back next year. I like doing one play that’s distinctly British. Two years ago we saw Half a Six Pence and last year, Everybody’s Talking about Jamie. The latter one is still playing in London and is a great show to see.
 

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We checked out of our hotel and walked to Embankment Station to catch the Tube to Victoria Station. There were around 30 steps going down to the Embankment platform and a couple of dozen going up in Victoria. Somehow we managed. I know my suitcase weighs more than 50 pounds because I rearranged a lot of stuff to make room for the three bottles of wine in my backpack. DH had three bottles in his as well. It was a quick train ride to Victoria Station and a long walk from the Underground station to the Coach Station, about four blocks. As mentioned before, I cashed out the extra amounts we had left on our Oyster cards. There was a little bit of a drizzle as we walked, but not heavy enough for us to get out the umbrellas. 

 

I had prebooked our coach ride on National Express. It’s the least expensive way to get from London to Southampton, around $20 for the two of us. It’s also not a bad ride on a Sunday. I’m sure it takes longer on weekdays during rush hours. As we got close to Southampton, it started to rain. The couple who sat opposite us on the coach mentioned about sharing a cab to the port. We took them up on the offer. I think we would have been fine walking if it had not been raining. The cab ride worked out to be 7.60 pounds split for the four of us. 

 

We had few problems getting on the ship. I had our luggage tags ready in their holders on our two checked bags. We walked right up to the check-in counter and waited less than a minute. The woman doing our registration had a problem with my medallion and had to rescan my passport. I know I had done it beforehand in the Ocean Ready app, but somehow it did not take. We then went through the security screening. No one mentioned our wine bottles, so we just kept walking. I noticed the alcohol table. We’ll pay the corkage at dinner whenever we take a bottle.

 

We were on the ship by noon. We came directly to our cabin on the Aloha Deck. It’s an inside with the beds for upper berths jutting out from the wall. I knew this ahead of time, so it did not surprise us. Technically it’s an upgrade from our guarantee Cat. IF to a Cat. IB. DH’s medallion worked like it is supposed to—recognizing him without his taking it out of his pocket. I may need to get a new medallion because mine does not seem to be working as well as DH’s. I had to hold it up against the sensor to unlock the door for me.

 

Lunch in the dining room had the menu I like. We both had salads. I had an appetizer size portion of the ravioli with spinach and cheese stuffing. DH had the shrimp salad. I had the beef tenderloin cooked rare. It was almost too rare for me. DH had the salmon because he knew he will order the prime rib tonight. He had the orange soufflé for dessert. I skipped dessert. We sat with three couples who joined the ship in Dublin nine nights ago. I know from our roll call that some people have been on even longer, including a couple who did back-to-back British Isles cruises before our transatlantic one.

 

Our cabin steward introduced himself. I asked for an extra pillow. The minibar was ready when we got to the cabin. We also had the Elite bathroom amenities. They were on the counter, not in the gold mesh bag that they usually come in. We received conditioner, shower cap, emery board, bag with cotton balls and swabs, and lip balm. We did not receive either the eye mask or scrubby thing, not that I’ll miss those. 

 

DH went to the Ocean Medallion presentation. I skipped it. I’ll get the info from him or by watching the replay on TV. We do have the new TVs with on-demand shows. I missed having that when I was on my Island Princess cruises this summer. 

 

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We were on the Crown two cruises before you.  Instead of the Oyster card we ordered our Capitol One cards with the contactless emblem.  They worked just the same.  We took buses instead of the tube so no stairs to climb.  Enjoy the cruise.

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Thanks. I did not try our contactless Visa cards this time. When we were in London two years ago, they did not work for the Tube. They worked fine everywhere else we tried them.

 

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The muster drill went fine. The couple across the hall from us were heading to it when our cabin steward let them know they did not have to attend since they were on the previous cruise. One of the couples with whom we ate lunch had wondered about whether they had to attend. They had not read their letter carefully about in-transit passengers. Our muster station is in the Wheelhouse Bar. We arrived too late to get a chair, but there were railings around the dance floor that we could lean against. They played the Love Boat themed recorded muster drill info. It seems like by now they would have edited the script—it’s been over a year since we had to bring life preservers with us and they’re now scanning our medallions instead of cruise cards. Seems like easy changes to make. I could have it done in less than 10 minutes if I were still working.

 

The weather cleared for sail-away yet they had the party in the atrium instead of on deck. It did not matter to me. I would have never had known if I did not have to get a new medallion. Mine did not work well. The new one works fine. Lots of folks were having problems with medallions and/or the apps. We enjoyed watching the ship turn around at the end of the harbor then sail away from Southampton. One year we need to get to Southampton a couple of days ahead of time to take the ferry to the Isle of Wight. 

 

I broke down and purchased the internet package for the cruise. I’ll have enough onboard credit to cover it since DH talked me out of getting a wine package. It’s the slowness of the internet that made me do it. Downloading our hometown newspaper is taking over 20 minutes. I’d use up all of my minutes and some of DH’s just to read the newspaper. Uploading the photos to this thread is taking 2 minutes per photo. When I checked the connection speed, I received results of 2.27 Mbps for download and 5.88 Mbps for upload. Feels like the days we had a dial-up modem and Prodigy. We also are receiving $13.48 each back for port tax refund.

 

We have six fun people at our table at second seating. All of them were on the past cruise, although one couple did not get on until Dublin while the other two were on since Southampton. One of the couples is originally from Southampton, although they lived more than a couple of decades in Canada. They met friends for lunch. Another couple took the excursion to Salisbury and Stonehenge. They said it was good but wet. The other couple decided not to get off the ship because of the rain. They had originally booked one of the excursions to London for the day. Princess canceled all of them due to the car-free day today in London. We noticed a few streets closed off when we were heading out of the city this morning. Perhaps more were closed later in the day. The route the coach took was out Cromwell Road. 

 

I had the basa (fish) with tropical salsa for my main course tonight. It was not great. I doubt I’ll get any fish on the cruise that is as good as last night’s was. (Here’s a photo of our main courses from Fish Works.) I forgot to take my reading glasses to dinner. Fortunately, I took a photo of the menu to post here and could blow that up to read. I enjoyed the melon appetizer and the crispy spring rolls. I had the flourless chocolate cake for dessert. It’s one of our favorites. I make it frequently at home. 

 

Strangely they scheduled a comedian to play Explorers Lounge and showed a movie (Rocket Man) in the theater. By the time we arrived, no real seats were available. We sat on a marble ledge beside the stairs. It gave us an easy escape route without the comedian noticing us when we left after a few minutes. The performer was Rikki Jay. 

 

I stopped to listen to one number by Tommy McPhee at Crooners. I enjoyed it when he played the piano while singing. Then he went to a prerecorded sound track to sing his next number. I left. The party band on board is Xcite. Guitarist and vocalist Ella performs at the Wheelhouse. Other Wheelhouse entertainment includes Ryan7 Duo and jazz melodies with the Outl@wz. Igor Kisiel performs piano classics at Crooners. I’m sure there are others who will be performing throughout the ship.

 

We lose an hour tonight as we head toward Belgium. 
 

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I bought a new cell phone about a week before we left on this trip. My old phone died. I had had a phone through Virgin Mobile for nearly 20 years. I liked the price. I ended up getting a phone with Sprint because Virgin stopped selling Android devices. They used to have them at Best Buy and Target plus online. My last two Virgin phones were Android devices. I really liked my last one, a Samsung Galaxy j7 Perx. It was three or four years old. I went with the Galaxy s10 through Costco. They had a deal for people 55 and over. I’m paying just a few dollars more than I did to Virgin (not counting the 24 monthly payments for the phone). The best thing is that I have free texts from Canada and Europe and the ability to make voice calls. They’re 25 cents a minute according to the text I received when I turned my phone off from airplane mode. I can also use 2G equivalent data for free while in port or purchase a daily or weekly plan. I decided to leave my camera at home and just use the phone. We have enough photos, but I still like to take a few as reminders. Maybe one day I’ll make us another photo book like I did for our 25th anniversary several years ago. 

 

Here are the activity pages from the Patter for our day in Bruges.

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The time changes finally caught up with us, and the wonderful darkness of our inside cabin let us sleep in this morning. We did not wake up until nearly 9. We are changing our plans for the day. We will skip going into Bruges. We will get off the ship later this morning to take the free shuttle to the port gate and walk around Zeebrugge just a bit. I see a few chocolate shops nearby on Google maps. Being on the ship for the crossing was always our primary destination for this trip, so missing Bruges is OK. Last year, we missed Bergen, Belfast, and St. John's due to weather when we took the Royal's transatlantic.

 

We ate breakfast in the Horizon Court. I had an omelet made to order and some fresh melon and pineapple. When we finished breakfast, we went to Explorers to play trivia. Enough people for six or seven teams showed up. We ended up in second place but four points behind the winners. 

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Thanks for posts.  We will be on the Crown for 20 days this winter.  We have never been on the Crown so I'm sure we will learn a lot from your posts.

Cynthia

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We walked around Zeebrugge for a couple of hours. There's not a lot to see. My Google maps failed me. We walked down a residential street where there was supposed to be a grocery store (Janssens/Erik). Nope. Just townhouses. It was nice to see how Belgians live. A woman asked the shop assistant what languages they speak. Her native tongue was Dutch (Flemish). She also learned French, German, and English in school. I looked up the info and found that the first three languages are spoken in varying parts of the country. We're in the Flemish area of the country. French predominates in Wallonia and Brussels. Native German speakers are a small minority of less than 1 percent of the population in areas along the German border that were annexed after World War I. The other grocery store (SPAR) was closed today. It's across the street from a church: Sint Donatuskerk. We went in. The stained glass windows are very modern, but the architecture of the building is neo-gothic from the 1920s but mostly rebuilt after being destroyed in World War II. The stained glass windows are by Lionel Holvoet. 

 

DH called his mother. We managed to keep the call under three minutes. I'll let him call again from Bilbao or Lisbon later in the cruise. I love that we have the ability to make calls (even if they are costing us extra) and send and receive texts. We bought his mother a dark chocolate bar at the P&J Chocolate Factory near the port. The shuttle bus ride was just a few hundred yards. There's a fairly new building at the gate where they let us off. The chocolate factory is just a few hundred yards from there.

 

A few bistros were open near the chocolate factory. Prices seemed high (20-30 euros for a meal), and since we had eaten a late breakfast, we weren't quite ready for lunch. We weren't ready for a drink either. I did like seeing a seafood market. Here's a photo of it and the drink menu from the Wheelhouse. Tonight the Wheelhouse will be the Salty Dog Gastropub from 6 until 10. We ate lunch at the International Café after getting back to the ship. We played the bean bag toss. DH won the first round after sinking one bag out of four and then winning the tie breaker with a woman who also scored one. They weren't counting the bags that landed on the board like we do in cornhole. The prize was a little Princess notepad in a hard cover. I tied with the same woman and a man in the second round with two in the hole, but I lost the tie breaker tosses. The woman eventually won. We played trivia again, with a new junior cruise director joining the two of us. We came in third. The winning team had 20 out of 20. They're the same team that won the morning trivia. They had the same notepads for prizes. The guy who joined us got on the ship and started his first contract yesterday in Southampton. He said they want him to come up with 20 different trivias so that he can do several cruises in a row without repeating questions. We both gave him good ideas about places to find questions and the types that we like.

 

The internet is impossibly slow again this afternoon. I'm hoping the photos below will load eventually.

 

 

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We went to the Elite, Suite and Platinum Lounge for a cocktail and nibble before sailaway. They have a drink of the day for $6.50, but I asked our server and she said we could get any of the featured cocktails for the cruise at that price. I'm not sure why they don't advertise that fact like they do on some ships. We had deep sea martinis. The menu for our cruise is below. Going there is a nice break before dinner. 

 

I asked about the Stammtisch at Vines. The server told me he had four people wanting to do it on our first sea day on Wednesday. I asked that he add us to his list. He said he did not have a list but to check back tomorrow afternoon. He did write down our cabin number. It was so much easier on the Royal, where we just added our names to the list they kept at table. He also said it would not happen every sea day but whenever he had eight people wanting to do it. 

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4 hours ago, paul929207 said:

Glad to see your posts. We are also onboard.

How was the cocktail party the other night? 🍸🥂

 

Let me know if you make the cut this voyage although the number for the crossing might be considerably higher. 

 

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P.S. The menu starts repeating again on the back of the card: October 4, goat's cheese; October 5, smoked salmon; October 6, steak tartare; and October 7, shrimp fountain. 

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Thank you SO much for posting the Lounge menu! Any chance you took a picture of what all was offered? 

Edited by canadarocks

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3 hours ago, canadarocks said:

Thank you SO much for posting the Lounge menu! Any chance you took a picture of what all was offered? 

 

I did not go back to see the gastropub food menu. Here's the link to it on the Princess website, but I don't know if it's the current menu.

https://www.princess.com/ships-and-experience/food-and-dining/specialty-restaurants/the-salty-dog-gastropub/salty-dog-menu.pdf

 

I finished reading the book I started Thursday during our flights and waiting time in airports: Blindness by José Saramago.

He is a Portuguese author who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998. It's a dense novel, but I enjoyed it. Apparently there's a film version from 2008 starring Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo. 

 

We enjoyed another dinner at our second seating table. The other three couples showed up as well, so I guess we're OK replacements for the couple who disembarked yesterday morning. We both enjoyed the dinner. I had the korma for my main course. DH had the steak. I had the chocolate journey for dessert. I don't remember this one being offered on my Island Princess cruises this summer, but those were 7-day cruises.
 

There were plenty of seats in the theater for the 9:15 show after dinner. We barely made it before it began. Tonight's entertainer was Rebecca Lisewski. She's a singer who has performed in several West End shows, including Les Miserables, Mama Mia, Starlight Express, and Cats. She sang numbers from these as well as a few other songs. DH said she is the best guest vocalist he's seen on a ship. Here's an old link of her singing a song from The Little Shop of Horrors. It's not one she did tonight.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCVKjsXsWxI

 

 

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On 9/22/2019 at 4:03 PM, geoherb said:

We are onboard the beautiful Crown Princess ready to embark on our transatlantic cruise after spending a couple of nights in London. I'll try to keep up a live thread, but I decided against purchasing the internet package and will be using just my 250 free minutes for updates, checking my emails, and downloading my hometown paper. The speed of how long it takes to upload photos will determine if I get the daily Patters in here or not. 

 

There’s never enough time in London, but for this cruise, we had to postpone leaving to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 93rd birthday. We visited her for lunch and then flew out from Raleigh-Durham on Thursday evening. We flew through Toronto. Our flights on Air Canada were uneventful—just us and more than 300 others on the flight from Toronto to Heathrow. 

Customs and Immigration in Heathrow were a breeze. When we came last year, we had around an hour wait to get through. This time it was less than 15 minutes. It was a long walk through the airport to catch the Tube. We bought our Oyster cards for the couple of days we’d be in London. I guessed on 20 pounds for each of us. That ended up being too much, but I received refunds this morning. 

 

The Tube ride from Heathrow to Covent Garden took about 45 minutes. We were walking distance from the station to our hotel, just a few blocks away. We stayed at the Strand Palace Hotel, which is a few blocks from Trafalgar Square, appropriately located on the Strand. It’s a nice hotel. On our previous trips to London, we’ve stayed a little farther from the center of things. We spent a little more per night this trip, but we were only staying two nights. It was especially great to be within walking distance of the theaters. 

 

We did not do much the first afternoon. We arrived at the Strand Palace a little after 2. I walked to Leicester Square to buy tickets for shows. We saw Fame the first night and The Play That Goes Wrong the second. On the way to Leicester Square, I walked through Trafalgar Square to see the leftover demonstrators from some sort of environmental protest. We had seen some of them on the way from the Tube to our hotel. We ate a light supper of sandwiches from the Sainsbury’s a block away from our hotel. I originally went into the Pret nearby, but they did not have any sandwiches in stock that DH could eat. Sainsbury’s and Tesco are less expensive as well and have a nice assortment of sandwiches, especially if you get one of their meal deals. 

 

Fame was enjoyable. It starred Nica Paris. Apparently she is famous from 20 or 30 years ago. I read some reviews of the show after we saw it. There isn’t much to the show’s plot. And the rousing title number gets a little bit of an intro in the first act, segueing into another song. They do the full version at the end for the curtain call. The theater was near the London School of Economics. We saw The Old Curiosity Shop nearby. It was great being able to walk back to our hotel instead of having to catch a bus or train like we have when we stayed farther away. 

 

We both slept well. Our room at the Strand Palace was about the same size as our inside cabin on the ship. It’s an older hotel that has some up-to-date rooms but others, like ours, that haven’t been fully brought into the 21st century. The receptionist offered to upgrade us to one of the rooms with air conditioning for 30 pounds. I did not bother to ask if that was total or per night. In the heat of the summer, our room would have been intolerably hot. But it was fine for us since the high was around 80 degrees and the evenings were in the 50s. 

 

I liked the electric kettle to make tea in the morning. I went to Tesco both mornings to pick us up quick breakfasts. It was under 2 pounds the first morning and 2.09 the second. The hotel also supplied us with bottled water and packages of cookies to go with our tea.
 

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Thanks for posting your dailies.  

I embarked Crown in Dublin, September 13.  On to FLL.  I lucked out and got one of the few remaining barrel chairs in my balcony stateroom.   Did you?

Did you notice the serious engine vibrations when leaving the ports of call?

Edited by Kingofcool1947

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Thank you for the live report.  I love following along.  I really want to do a Transatlantic one of these days because  I love sea days.  But we have to wait for a time when my DH can take more time off from work.  Right now, the longest vacation we’ve been able to take is 10 days!

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On 9/22/2019 at 2:33 PM, geoherb said:

I stopped to listen to one number by Tommy McPhee at Crooners. I enjoyed it when he played the piano while singing. Then he went to a prerecorded sound track to sing his next number. I left.

 

We had Tommy McPhee at Crooner's on one cruise. He had a huge following that buried the venue each night. We didn't care for him at all and went to Wheelhouse where David Juneau - a Princess cruise staff member - played at night. We loved him and hope to see him on a future cruise. He was being sent to Japan for cruises there though so don't know when he may be back.

 

Thanks for the Live. Always good to hear how things are going on other cruises. Helps to keep cruising "alive" while we are on shore.

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The captain just made an announcement that we're skipping Portland today due to gale force winds making it difficult for the ship to approach the dock. He broadcast it throughout the ship, including into the cabins, at 7 a.m. We were already awake. We've had a rocky night. Fortunately, I like being rocked to sleep and slept very well, a full eight hours before getting up. (And now 10 minutes later we have the same announcement being made in Spanish.)

 

We did not have concrete plans for Portland and Weymouth other than walking around the town and having lunch somewhere to spend some of our leftover pounds. We can take them home for next year's trip. I'd love to come back to England every year.

 

CD Angela Kristensen and ED Duke Christopher will be coming up with additional Patter activities to fill our unexpected sea day.

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