Tuesday, January 3, 2017

[Day 09] River Rafting in Puntarenas, Costa Rica

We arrived Christmas morning in Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Puntarenas is on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, very far south. We'd visited Costa Rica before on our Panama Canal partial transit cruise at Limon on the Caribbean coast.

Pacific Princess

If you read my Panama Canal partial transit trip report (2012), you might remember that we had an excursion-gone-wrong in Costa Rica. Since we didn't have the best luck with a DIY shore excursion last time, we decided to not take any chances and book through Princess.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

[Day 08] Volcano Hiking in Nicaragua

This morning, we woke up in the port of San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua - another unique port that we'd yet to visit!

Since it was our first time, we opted for one of Princess's cruise excursions - "Masaya and Mombacho Volcanoes, Vistas & Lunch" (SJ1-340), "a rigorous full-day guided photo experience via air-conditioned transportation". The activity level was rated "strenuous".

San Juan Del Sur is a tender port, which lets guests off at a very narrow floating pontoon with steep steps. The message in the Patter was very specific - Due to the size of the pontoon, no assistance is available to our passengers and therefore all passengers going ashore today need to be able to walk unaided (there is no room for wheelchairs and not wide enough for walking frames) along a narrow, moving pontoon and negotiate approximately 8 very steep steps.

They really packed us onto the tender boat tightly. I was in a very uncomfortable position near a window leak, and it kept dripping repeatedly on my shoulder, water torture all the way to the dock.


Friday, August 19, 2016

[Day 07] At Sea

December 23 - Christmas Eve Eve! A day earlier, Rachel and I barely missed the signups for the the Great Gingerbread House Competition. Really, it was bogus. They said that sign-ups were until 12, so we went to the customer service desk at 11:45 to sign up, and they said, "Oh, we already sent the list away." "But it said in the guide that sign-ups were until 12." "Well the list is gone, so it's too late." Hmph.

Anyway, everyone onboard the Pacific Princess is incredible lucky that we didn't make the sign-up list because we would have kicked some major butt. I mean, I spend the majority of my life right now making architectural models and am fiercely competitive, so it's probably a good thing because I would've turned this friendly "hmm can we assemble a pre-made gingerbread house?" competition into a battle til death!

Instead, I unleashed my competitiveness in this afternoon's game of water volleyball.

Water volleyball actually wasn't on the schedule today. Rachel and I were just minding our own business in the pool when the water volleyball pool recruited us. They needed us to be down for a game so that they could convince the activities director that they should shut down the pool for an unscheduled game. These guys literally chased down the dancers, begging for volleyball. Finally, they found Jen and were able to persuade her that we should play. These are the perks of being on a small ship.

I am no good at water volleyball because I am not tall enough to stand in the pool (really, I couldn't stand anywhere in the pool), so I had to tread water the entire time which was exhausting. But I've got heart and had nothing better to do, so I joined the crew of afternoon water volleyball players.

After the net was taken away from us a few hours later, the guys continued wrestlemania, which I was down to watch (they kept trying to recruit Rachel and I for a sister-v-sister match, but I'm pretty sure they were just hoping for a wardrobe malfunction).

There were two minority groups on this cruise - children and young adults. And both were in the pool right now - kids splashing on one side, and the WWE bros on the other. But the kids got greedy and wanted both sides of the pool, so they kept swimming over to where the guys were rough-housing, and eventually a dad intervened and asked the guys if they could leave the pool.

So we moved to the hot tub. I might have mentioned this already but the hot tubs were always scorching hot! Like maybe you can dip your toes in hot. Not just annoying, but dangerous, especially with what I'm assuming was a record number of children onboard.

Went back to the room to clean up for dinner and noticed that we had a few stowaways outside -


Monday, August 15, 2016

[Day 06] Sea Day = Spa Day

This morning was our first spa day (since it was a 17-day cruise, we determined that we should have two spa treatments - one at the beginning of the cruise, and one at the end). Rachel and I got deluxe treatments since that's what our discount was good for. I got the chocolate indulgence (50th anniversary special) for research purposes, and Rachel (who hates the smell of chocolate) went for the seaweed treatment.

When you first visit the spa, you fill out a questionairre in which you answer questions about your health and rate your stress levels. I told them about my asthma, but other than that, I gave them a big thumbs up. I rated my stress level extremely low (not so in my normal life, but hey, I'm on vacation!) and didn't claim to have problems with dry skin or breakouts or anything. I did this because I didn't want them to sell me anything, and I thought that having very few problems might help minimize the amount of products they could "prescribe" to me.

Both times we went to the spa, I lucked out with the good masseuse (either that, or Rachel is just much more critical than me). She was young and really great at making me feel comfortable. She was friendly, but didn't talk too much (and she told me that I have an athlete's body! I love this girl!), and massage-wise, she applied just the right amount of pressure.

The Chocolate Indulgence is.... well.... not the most relaxing experience. It involved being rubbed down twice with chocolate, and then I had to get up and shower to rinse it off. Two showers! It did seem great for my skin - it was so soft afterwards. But if you're looking for a relaxing 50 minutes, the Chocolate Indulgence is not for you. Yes, there are relaxing times - mostly at the end, after you're done being rubbed down with chocolate - but it's a lot of up and down and scrubbing. Also, the chocolate is really hard to get off. Imagine being a miniature person and standing underneath a chocolate fondue fountain. I would scrub and scrub, and I'd get an area clean, but the chocolate would keep re-appearing. My masseuse would come in and rub my back down for me to get it off, so unless you have incredible behind-the-back reach, I wouldn't recommend this for the super modest person, either.

Also, I bet the spa workers are swearing the person who invented the mess that is Chocolate Indulgence. I left the shower full of brown goop. It was clogging up the drain, which made the water rise to my ankles. All of the towers were covered in chocolate. I would hate to be the person who has to clean that up.

Another pro for my masseuse is that she was AWESOME at not trying to sell me ANYTHING!!!! She didn't even write out a card with "health tips" for me (Rachel got one). She didn't "prescribe" me to one product - didn't even mention the names of products she used on me (ummm... Hersheys? Godiva? I would welcome a prescription to any type of chocolate).

Despite the mess of the Chocolate Indulgence and the two chocolatey showers I had to take, this was definitely one of my best spa experiences ever. And at the time, it was my best cruise ship spa experience.

After being wrapped in chocolate and seaweed, it was time for some grub. Rachel and I were super pumped that they were offering a Pub Lunch upstairs in the steak house. We were really sick of the buffet lunch food at this point, and the burgers by the pool were getting way too repetitive. (We forgot to remind Dad about the Pub Lunch, and he was ridiculously disappointed that he missed it. Really, he was still complaining days later.)

Menu offerings were Fish & Chips, Bangers & Mash, Steak & Kidney Pie, Ploughman's Lunch, and Bread & Butter Pudding.

I wanted everything and wished that I could try it all on different days, but Rachel and I both went for the Fish & Chips.

Pub Lunch

Thursday, April 28, 2016

[Day 05] Welcome Back.... Everyone!

Finally, it was warm and sunny, and we were ready to get our tans on!

Notice how many available pool chairs there are? It was like this the entire cruise! There was absolutely no issue with chair hogs, and it seemed that the majority of the passengers preferred to stay inside. We never had to wake up early to claim deck chairs. We could hit the pool deck at any time of the day and find a chair right beside the pool. It was wonderful!

Pacific Princess

Rachel and I liked the tenth deck, forward, for tanning because there was a nice breeze.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

[Day 03] Lady Luck and Lots of Lotion

Again, Rachel was an early riser and was out and about the ship before me. She signed mom and I up for the Ladies' Pamper Party that afternoon. I got up in search of breakfast and ran into Rachel on the pool deck. We decided to do the $500 Treasure Hunt which was due at 11 AM. It took all of ten minutes to walk around the ship collecting stamps from each venue.

So at 11:15, we headed to the Cabaret Lounge to see if we'd win the drawing. We didn't win anything, and it was a little frustrating because this huge family of teenagers from the LA area kept winning everything, and there were also two husband and wife winning pairs - how weird is that? Clearly, they did not shake up the bowl before the drawing if husband and wife were winning back-to-back.

Rachel wanted to play Bingo, so Dad bought her a pack of cards. Princess has paper Bingo cards that you just cross out the number with a pen or pencil - not the punch-in kind. I was also glad to see that there were no electronic bingo cards because I don't trust those things. I am skeptical of them and don't understand how they don't provide better odds or an unfair advantage (maybe they do, and that's why they cost more). Also, what's the fun of Bingo if you can't find your own numbers to mark?

Bingo was led by Michael and Dylan, two of the dancers. The really cool thing about this ship is that the dancers all played several roles. They were in the production shows at night, but they also led Bingo, line dancing, water volleyball, arts and crafts, and greeted guests going to the shows. You saw them all over the ship interacting with guests (we learned later that part of their job is conversing with passengers). It felt very Love Boat and I enjoyed it.

Michael was very energetic and cracked a lot of corny Bingo jokes which I laughed at loudly and a little too late. First round of Bingo is a straight row, anywhere. And... Rachel won! We didn't see it at first, and so Rachel called it late - "Bingo?" Michael gave us a hard time throughout the rest of the game about how just like we call Bingo late, we get the jokes three seconds behind.

The grand prize in the first game of the day was..... $50. Of course, she'd win the smallest prize. Remember how I said Dad bought the Bingo card? Well, that was an important note because throughout the rest of the cruise, Dad would argue that he actually bought the Bingo card, so really it was his winning card, even though Rachel was the one holding the cards (okay, Dad, you kinda won, congrats). He also kept pushing that Rachel split the winnings with me since I helped cross out the numbers (it's okay, Dad, really). So if Rachel were to have paid Dad back for the Bingo card and then split her winnings with me, she would have come out with... $12? Forget that. Keep your $50 bill, Rachel, you earned it!

Big Winner