Saturday, December 8, 2018

Grand Princess in Manzanillo, Mexico

Hello from Manzanillo, Mexico. That is, from a ship docked in Manzanillo, Mexico. They have the front portion of deck 15 closed off so this is the closest picture we’re getting today.

We’ve been to Manzanillo before, spending our days walking through the town. Walking to the colorful Manzanillo sign.
Making our way to the giant sailfish statue.  Manzanillo is the sailfish capital of the world.

Having lunch at a restaurant on the marina.
Taking photos of the street decorations. Manzanillo is probably the closest thing to real Mexico you will find in a cruise port.

But Manzanillo, like other ports on the Mexican Riviera, is not easy for those with disabilities. Sidewalks are uneven and curbs steep. While we’ve able to make the trek through town in the past, this year it won’t be happening. While we might have considered taking a Princess excursion in this port, there is not one listed that sounds appropriate for someone with mobility difficulties. In fact, not one excursion offered by Princess on this entire cruise is wheelchair accessible. While hubby doesn’t yet need a wheelchair, he does need activities that don’t required standing, long periods of walking, or steps. Even beach options are tough. He can't sit in a lounger and needs a regular chair, and can only walk in firm sand. (Wow, when I look at that list our travel options are quickly dwindling, aren't they?)

So we had to be content staying onboard today. There was an all-crew drill today that took up a good chunk of the morning which, in turn, allowed me to stay in bed longer than usual because our crew buddies were busy. Add that to an early departure from port (all aboard is 3:30) meant right after my leisurely morning I had to get to working at tackling some emails and typing up the blog. How can it be that I have to come to Mexico to tap into my cell service to get internet? And with much better speed and reliability than the internet provided to the most traveled passengers on this ship.

Tomorrow we’re off to Mazatlan.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Grand Princess in Puerto Vallarta

I remember several years ago when our luggage was lost for the first time. We were headed home from Los Angeles and instead of the luggage heading to Boise, it headed to Puerto Vallarta. While we were waiting for its return (it took a few days), we kept joking about how our luggage got to go to Puerto Vallarta and we didn’t. At that point we didn’t even know where Puerto Vallarta was!

We do now. We’ve been back here several times over. Puerto Vallarta is usually one of my adventure ports. I typically leave hubby on the ship and go do my thing. Go to the beach, zipline in the jungle, swim with sea lions. But hubby is still struggling with even getting out of a chair so I can’t leave him by himself. While I thought we might at least make it across the street to the farmacia in the mall, we didn’t. I parked myself by the pool and alternated between floating in the water and sunning myself in a lounger. Who is lucky enough to be listening to Christmas music not from home where the temperatures are in the teens but on a cruise ship in Puerto Vallarta where the temperatures in the 80s?

I can’t complain. Puerto Vallarta was only seen from the ship on this visit and that’s okay.
We were docked right across the street form the mall and Walmart.

Staying on the ship also gave me the chance to get to yet another crafting session - quilling. I haven't seen it on a ship since our Alaskan cruise in May and I've been anxious to try it again. I tried so hard to find supplies during our mini road trip after the cruise, going as far as running from craft store to craft store in Wasilla and Anchorage, Alaska to find them. Geez, all I need to do was wait until Mexico! Go figure. So today I made my version of the Alaska state flower, the Forget-Me-Not.

Life has a way of working itself out, doesn't it?

Off to Manzanillo tomorrow.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Grand Princess Sea Day

Hello from past the coast of Baja California but before Mexico.
 As anticipated, we did need to switch our schedule around today to make it to the Most Traveled Passenger Luncheon. Mostly it just required us skipping our late breakfast and me skipping the morning crafting session. It was just mask making for the Day of the Dead festival this afternoon. A celebration we planned on missing anyway.

The luncheon, as usual, was very nice.

Delicious steak

Even tastier dessert
Look how pretty it was inside
We had the Captain’s Circle host(ess) at our table and again, as usual, I asked a ton of questions. I almost think I need to start bringing my tape recorder everywhere I go. Everyone – and I mean everyone – has a story. A story that should be told. And who else better to tell it than me, right? I’d like to report I’ve been catching up on writing that book about the crew, but this trip is more about just visiting. While the interviews continue, the writing itself will have to wait.

Except for the blog, though. How can three sea days use up almost 200 minutes of very minimal internet usage? Ugh and double ugh. There are so many other things I’d like to share pictures of but just don’t have the minutes left to make it work. I hope to get some decent cell service in Puerto Vallarta tomorrow so I can access the internet and actually get to open those hundreds of emails that keep piling up. (I know, I know, first world problems.)

In the meantime I can talk about some other things that may be of interest:
*On the first sea day they had an “Independent Traveler’s Luncheon & Catch-Up” where the cruise staff organized lunch arrangements for the solo travelers.
*Holiday movies are still running on channel 27.
*Christmas music is playing around the ship.
*This cruise is obviously full of people who like to eat in the dining room because the buffet is empty at dinner time. No lines, no worries about finding a table. Makes me wonder how long those dining room lines are! Dining room early seating is at 5:00 and the buffet also opens for dinner at 5.
*Life vests are available in the pool areas. We’ve seen them on ships all year so it must be something standard.

Off to Puerto Vallarta tomorrow. I’m not sure what our plans are other than probably making a run to farmacia.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Grand Princess Sea Day

Hello from the calm waters somewhere off the coast of Baja California. Seriously, these waters are the smoothest of our long cruising year. Take a look at that water.

We love this ship. Actually, we love the crew on this ship. Some of them have been on this ship for several contracts and we get to see them year after year here. They are what make us come back to the Grand again and again. I’ll never get tired of the love we get from these guys and am so excited to have 18 more days of it. Unfortunately, the ship is desperately in need of some deep cleaning. I had considered taking some photos of just how badly stained I’m finding things – carpets, furnishings, bathrooms, and shower - but decided to pass. It’s not ruining our cruise, but it is definitely very noticeable. As long as our favorite crew comes back this ship we’ll keep coming back. As soon as they move on from the Grand, so will we.

Working around certain crew member schedules has us falling into a routine:
  • Hubby grabs some coffee at a special bar with a special bartender while I sleep in a few extra minutes.
  • When I’m ready, I choose my encouraging word money pocket for the day and drop it in the Wake Show box then meet hubby at the bar where I get my morning beverage, ice water. (I don’t drink coffee and I don’t drink hot tea.) 
  • When we’re ready we head to breakfast at the buffet. 
  • After breakfast hubby heads out to do who-knows-what while I head to the crafting session. I’m very happy to report this ship has two crafting sessions a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Yesterday was the crepe paper flowers; today was button crafts. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow is.
  • Hubby and I then meet up again at noon and head to the Promenade deck. (Today it is almost warm enough to sit out there. Almost, but not quite.) 
  • Back to the cabin to work on typing up the blog in a Word document while we wait for another special crew member to get off his duty so we can visit one-on-one and share the love. 
  • Back to the special bar and bartender. 
  • Off to dinner in the buffet. (Except tonight I had to take a little rest between the bar and the buffet. Our bartender pal took very good care of me this afternoon. Enough to warrant a little lie down.)
  • Back to the cabin to, if we’re lucky, catch at least part of a movie before we fall asleep. (Last night I fell asleep to It’s a Wonderful Life. I really like that they have the holiday movie channel!)
Other than finding a few minutes somewhere on the ship with a solid internet signal to get the blog posted, that is pretty much our day. I am going to again complain about the internet. It takes almost 10 minutes just for my email to load. In two days I’ve already blown through half of my 250 minute allotment. And I’m not even reading anything else – just uploading a minimal number of blog pictures, posting the blog (which is just a matter of copying and pasting because I wrote it offline), and checking email. That’s it. No responding to email, no surfing the web. Nothing else. And I can’t even do any of that in the cabin because I have no internet access in there. It. Just. Plain. Sucks.

While our daily routine doesn’t sound exhausting it must be because we have been asleep before 9 every night so far. Tonight is formal night and we’ll leave the Champagne Waterfall for those who can manage to stay up later than we can.

Tomorrow is yet another sea day and the Most Traveled Passenger Luncheon. We might just have to alter our busy boring schedule to fit it in.

(For those looking for the Patter, I’ve tried several times to get it to upload into Google docs. The internet is just taking too long. Sorry. I do have it scanned, though.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Grand Princess Sea Day

Hello from the cool waters off the coast of California.

After having spent the last two weeks in nothing but shorts and t-shirts, this weather is a shock to the system. Long pants and sweatshirts, even when inside, are the clothing choices today. It’ll be warmer in a couple days, but right now it’s just brrr.

Today is a sea day so the ship is buzzing. Lots of activities to found everywhere you turn. I even made it to the arts and crafts session, crepe paper flowers. Take that, Royal Princess! We made roses, and mine isn’t nearly as pretty as the other competitive trying-to-impress people at my crafting table. But maybe good enough to fit in our bouquet. Can you tell which one is made from paper?
Why can’t people on cruise ships just come as they are, be who they are, and not feel the need to show off and one up each other?

We have no need to fall into that trap. We’re back to an inside cabin this week, not planning any excursions, have no specialty dining reservations, and no spa appointments. Oh yeah, and we eat at the buffet. We did have something new at the buffet today. A supervisor was walking around, handing out surveys. Here’s a copy:
It really is too early in the cruise to give out impressions, but I filled it out anyway. I do hope they give it out the first day on next week’s cruise so I can fill it out based on 10 days of service and food, not just one day. We did have quick drink service today, though!

Some other things of note about the ship:
*Yes, it’s decorated for the holidays. Just today they added little decorations to our cabin mailboxes.
*Quad cabins have the bunks on the wall, not in the ceiling. As we booked a guarantee cabin we didn’t even realize we had a quad cabin until we came in the room. Hubby tried his best to get in and out of our bed with the bunk protrusion sticking out, but after one night he’s realized he just can’t do it. So we had to ask the cabin steward to move them into twins. Much better for hubby, for sure.
*I forgot the Grand has the smaller closets. The tradeoff is that the bathrooms and showers are larger. We never used all the space in the larger closets anyway so it is fine for us.
*The TVs are not on-demand and they are still the smaller screens. We’ve had big screens on Princess ships all year but not on this ship.
*Today Christmas and holiday movies are running all day on channel 27. Hope they have it every day!
*The internet sucks in the cabin. I loved the super speedy, super reliable, unlimited MedallionNet on the Caribbean Princess. I flew through my minutes and hubby’s minutes using slow internet as we did the transatlantic on the Crown Princess. I trudged through the frequent dropped connections on the Royal Princess. But here on the Grand, I keep getting the taking too long to respond crap when I'm trying to work in the cabin. I say crap to that.
*Yesterday we had the fastest mini bar swap in history. I called before muster drill when hubby was taking a shower. They arrived with the swap before he even got dried off and dressed. Now that’s fast.
*The new bar menu is starting next cruise. New wines, new drinks, new ingredients in drinks. Bartenders are saying it’s a huge switch. I’ll be on next week so I’ll try and get new menus posted then.

I wasn’t planning on posting all the Patters, but there are folks coming on next week who might find them useful so I’ll go ahead and do them for this cruise. You can find them here.

I am doing something different with the encouraging word money pockets for this cruise. I am putting them in the Wake Show box each morning. Even they need the warm fuzzies! (The Wake Show is the TV program filmed everyday where the cruise director goes over the happenings of the day, announces birthdays and such, and has trivia questions.) So shh…don’t tell.

Off to another sea day tomorrow.