Monday, February 23, 2015

Star Princess – Hawaii Cruise – Round Trip San Francisco – January 13 – 28, 2015

We are about to take our third cruise to Hawaii from San Francisco – two on the Grand Princess and this time on the Star Princess.  This is the earliest, calendar-wise, cruise to the Islands we have taken so we are not sure how warm it will be on the way there.  To be seen.

Monday, January 12, 2015 – Travel Date

Our flight today departs at 10:39 AM so no pre-dawn taxi ride to the airport.  Instead, we got a ride to O’Hare.  There was absolutely no traffic this morning and we are in just about 20 minutes.  We are on United this time (on miles) and we are already checked in.  There are check-in kiosks open so I re-check in using one of the monitors and then take our bags to the counter where an agent tags them – and that’s it.  Five minutes. 

There is another miracle in play here – last year, I went on the UAL website and applied for TSA Pre-Check.  Even though we do not have status at UAL, we are TSA-Pre-check for this flight.  The Pre-Check entrance is right next to the counter and in about five minutes we were through security and on our way to our gate in the C Concourse.

A few minutes after arriving at our gate, we were told that even though our plane just arrived, there would be about an hour delay in leaving due to weather conditions in San Francisco (we would find out later that heavy fog had shrouded the airport slowing down air traffic).  One of the good things about the UAL gate (and maybe all of them) is that they have a charging station right there next to the seats. 

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UAL499 Just Arrived – Being Turned Around

UAL499 – an almost new A320 – left the gate about 30 minutes late and spent another 30 minutes in the “penalty box” before departing (again, I like UAL because they set the flaps right away).  We did not opt to upgrade to “Economy Plus” on this flight ($126 pp) but 29 C and D turned out to be OK especially the seat width. 

The flight was absolutely smooth the entire way (even over the Rockies). 

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Over Nevada

UAL also has a new system in place.  If you have their App on your phone or tablet, you can watch streaming movies through their in-plane WiFi for free.  I had the app on my phone but not on my Kindle.  What I was able to see for free was the real time flight tracker.  It was fun watching the flight on the Kindle (complete with all the flight parameters).  It’s the little things. 

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Kindle App Flight Tracker

The plane made up a little time (not much was available since I could tell from my flight tracker that we were bucking a head wind the whole way).  We picked up our suitcases and called the Citigarden Hotel to check on the free shuttle. 

It was an absolutely beautiful day in San Francisco – blue skies, hardly a cloud in the sky, and warm for January.

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SFO Terminal 3 and Waiting for the Shuttle

The shuttle arrived at the stated time and about 10 minutes later we were checking into the Hotel.  The desk clerks got us checked in quickly and we wound up in Room 119 (back of the hotel on the corner).

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Citigarden Hotel Courtyard and Gardens

This is a good time to mention that the Citigarden Hotel was the subject on the reality series, “Hotel Impossible” – a show that helps failing hotels improve so they can become profitable.  Since we had stayed here before, we were looking for all sorts of improvements.  Although the furniture in both the lobby and room were worn and needed to be replaced, the place was clean – room 119 looked like it had had its bathroom replaced or updated.  We also chatted with the desk clerks who told us that Anthony, the host of HI, staged a lot of what we saw on TV (especially the bit about missing the shuttle).  It begs the questions of why was Anthony called by the owners – my guess – free publicity and a makeover for one room.  The night we stayed there, the place – all 300 plus rooms – was full.  As they say, it’s not life, it’s TV.

We had arranged to meet our cousins, who live in the area, in the lobby of the Hotel.  We had a wonderful two hours with them.

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Mini-Family Reunion – Hotel Lobby

While the hotel has a Chinese Buffet, we decided to walk to the nearby Denny’s for dinner.  We both had breakfast for dinner.  Bottom line, my veggie skillet was so small it didn’t even fill half the skillet.  I complained to the manager, who told us that Denny Corporate had mandated these mini skillets (right down to the weight of all of the ingredients used).  This is the second time that’s happened to me at a Denny’s – the first time I complained on line and got a phone call from the District Manager and a free breakfast coupon.  Ellen found a coupon on line and the manager allowed us to use it so it compensated somewhat for the min-meal I had.  For the record, the service at that Denny’s leaves a lot to be desired.  Corporate needs to spend less time on the size of its omelets and more time on the training of its employees.

Spent the rest of the evening in our room – didn’t find anything of the sort that Anthony did.  What we did find was that our neighbors were either deaf or just liked to have their TV at max volume.  There is a “Quiet” clause in the room agreement that we signed, so we made two calls to the desk that didn’t seem to work.  I got dressed and went down to the office and had the desk clerk (a guy this time and not one of the many young women manning the desk) come with me to deal with the noise-makers.  He heard the TV and then literally banged on their door and shouted for them to open up (kind of scary, actually). 

The TV was turned off and we did get some sleep. 

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