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

Saturday, March 26, 2016

[Day 02] Drinking Bad Champagne and Making New Friends

Rachel was suffering from "early risers' syndrome" and was finding it impossible to sleep in, so she left the room early that morning to read on the pool deck. She was amused by all of the intense speed walkers around the walking track on the 10th deck. I'll note now that even though it's small (13 laps for one nautical mile), it's much more efficient than other ships which have the track surrounded by deck chairs. This way, it's continuous circulation, and you can run or walk at any time of the day without worrying about people's chairs intruding on the track or slow people in swimsuits getting in your way.

I, on the other hand, still had not quite adjusted my sleeping schedule from post-final-review-recovery (when you go to bed at 3 AM and wake up at noon).

Since we had 17 days on the ship, we didn't feel like we were in a rush to get out and do something. The first day of our cruise last year ended up being a recovery day for us, too, but it was nice to be able to take our time doing things, relax a little, and not worry about missing out (plus, it was a small ship, so what were we really missing out on?). We were boring and spent a good bit of our day in our stateroom watching movies and The Love Boat.

Pacific Princess Programmatic Section

We were also pleased to learn that our balcony was easily accessible. I had read stories about the forward balcony doors being difficult to open, but we didn't have a problem. The Pacific Ocean was peaceful, so it was enjoyable to spend time out on the balcony with a light breeze.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

[Day 01] All Aboard Pacific Princess!!!

My east coast family had no problem getting up early in the morning. My dad was up, had made up his bed, gotten us breakfast from downstairs (another Residence Inn perk - complimentary continental breakfast buffet), and walked the the Queen Mary and back before I had even gotten out of bed.

Port of Long Beach

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Shingletons arrive in Los Angeles!

My parents and Rachel flew from Atlanta into LAX which is about ten miles away from my home in Los Angeles. They would then be going to Long Beach to spend the night at the Marriott Residence Inn before the cruise. When I lived in South Carolina, I would describe distance in time – “Oh, it’s just a two hour drive.” “About 40 minutes away.” This doesn’t work in LA because ten miles could take 15 minutes or an hour and a half depending on time of day and traffic. Since their plane was scheduled to land at 3:30, that would put them in LA right before rush hour, so ten miles would mean about an hour.

I don’t think my dad initially realized how complicated it was going to be for me to meet up with them. He was contemplating two scenarios – one in which I take an Uber from my house to their hotel in Long Beach. In the other, I go to the airport and pick them up and take them to my house… but because of all of their luggage, I wouldn’t be able to take them all in my sedan in one trip, so it would be two trips to and from the airport. In rush hour.

Then, the day before the cruise, he texted me to bring two cases of water. And I lost it. I was NOT going to take two cases of water, along with my two suitcases and backpack, in an Uber. Had he ever even taken an Uber before?? Did he understand that it was just normal people driving their cars which may or may not have room for all of my crap? And that first I would have to haul it all out onto a curb by myself to wait for the Uber? And that I’m a tiny person, and this is a lot of stuff for me to keep up with by myself??? No. No. No!

So I stopped responding to his text messages until he told me to forget the water, and I thought of a third scenario in which I meet them at the airport and ride with them to Long Beach. My best friend gave me a ride to LAX, so I avoided awkwardly cramming a bunch of luggage into an Uber, as well as the surge rush hour fees, with the added benefit of familiarity and great conversation. And I even brought one case of water.

We roll up to Southwest baggage claim and there is Mom, Dad, and Rachel with about eight suitcases. “The next time someone asks us if we’re moving, just say yes!”

Dad had arranged for a limo service to pick us up from the airport (but I think limos might be out of fashion because everyone rolls around in black Suburbans in LA nowadays). We timed it perfectly to hit rush hour. The drive to the hotel took over an hour, and it was rather miserable. The windows on the ‘burb were heavily tinted, so I couldn’t really see out of them and felt completely disoriented as we sat in stop-and-go traffic the entire way.

We were quite excited to finally arrive at the Marriott Residence Inn, and we were hungry. It was food truck night, so we were able to get tacos without even leaving the hotel. And they were serving complementary beer and wine in the lobby. So we really lucked out.

Residence Inn - Long Beach

Our room at the Residence Inn was spacious and nicely furnished.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Pacific Princess Panama Canal - Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale

I didn’t go home over Christmas break. After missing my flight and almost my Christmas cruise last year, my family decided to fly to me, instead. We embarked in San Pedro and spent 17 (!!!) days on the charming Pacific Princess, sailing through the Panama Canal, and disembarking in Fort Lauderdale.

After we sailed the Panama Canal Partial Transit on the Island Princess back in 2012, the full transit was added to our bucket list. And it turned out that this Christmas was the perfect time to take our dream cruise. For starters, my dad was required to take off 30 days from work (the man loves to work – he was not happy about this). My winter break at UCLA aligned almost perfectly with Rachel’s break from Clemson. Also, this is Rachel’s last year at Clemson, so it’s probably the last time we’ll be able to take such a long vacation. Our options for Panama Canal cruises over Christmas were limited to a 14-day itinerary on the Island Princess or a 17-day itinerary on the Pacific Princess. Honestly, 17 days on a ship seemed like an awful long time, and I had seen the Pacific Princess in port a few times before, so I knew how small she was. My vote was for the Island Princess…. But the Island Princess returned to port a day later than the Pacific Princess, which would mean that I wouldn’t get back in time for the first day of winter quarter. So the Pacific Princess it was.

Pacific Princess

Like I said, the Panama Canal was a “bucket list” cruise, which meant we spent a bit more on it (in time and money) than we typically do our quickly-planned Caribbean cruises. 17 days on a cruise ship isn’t inexpensive, but where the cost can really add up is in the one-way flights to get to the port of embarkation and to get back home. My family traveled from Atlanta to Los Angeles and took one-way flights on Southwest (2 free bags each!). They also had to book one-way flights on Southwest from Fort Lauderdale back to Atlanta. Since I live in Los Angeles, I only needed a return flight home, a one-way on Spirit (no free bags, paid checked bags, upcharge for everything).