Friday, February 7, 2020

Pacific Princess - Ft Lauderdale to Dover UK - June 12 - 30, 2019

Two years ago or so, we were on a Princess Cruise and decided to look at one of the future cruise brochures.  One cruise in particular, caught our attention:  "Fire and Ice Explorer" from Ft Lauderdale to Dover UK and stopping in Iceland.  Well, that cruise finally came up as an option and I got the booking.  Sometime, patience pays off.

June 11, 2019 – Travel Day

Our original flight to Ft. Lauderdale departed at 11:45 AM giving us a chance to get up at a reasonable hour.  A few weeks before flight time, United changed our departure to 8:35 AM, which meant a taxi pickup at 6:30 AM and a wake up time of 5:00 AM or so for me. 

The cab did come on time complete with a sick driver – wiping his nose the whole time (the first chance I had, I disinfected my credit card used to pay the fare). 

We got to the airport before 7 AM and used the kiosk to check our bags – I got half way through the process when the kiosk died.  A United rep saw what happened and pulled over to a monitor and checked us in right away.  From there we got into a humongous TSA Pre-Check line to go through security.  The line moved right along and we only had a short walk to Gate B7 to catch United 2319.  The plane arrived at the gate a few minutes after we did.  The forecast last night was thunderstorms in South Florida but the forecast at the gate was partly cloudy. 

We boarded on time at 7:58 AM.  This flight is on a B737-900 Seats and we upgraded to Economy Plus Seats, 9C/9D.  The flight pushed right on the nose and departed soon after.  The pilot was unintelligible over the PA system but the head flight attendant repeated some of his comments.  I thought he said it would be smooth for most of the flight but closer to FLL it would get choppy.  Our seats were comfortable enough but they were too close to the coach washroom (in this plane, there is a washroom right before the First Class Cabin).  The problem is that people gather in the aisles and stand next to your seats (I will need to note that for next time).   

The entertainment system was so- so.  The plane had DirecTV (not On Demand) and my Kindle UAL App did not work with United WiFi so I could not access any movies.
As I thought I heard the Captain say, the flight would be generally smooth until we got close to Florida – attendants were told to sit and buckle up but the turbulence was never really an issue – better to be cautious than not.  The plane dodged cumulus clouds the whole way in but the chop was nothing.  Out bags were some of the first to come out.

The complimentary hotel shuttle picked us up on the same level as baggage claim (look for blue sign) within a half hour.  The hotel – Hyatt House, Dania Beach - is right across the street from our usual hotel but this one is much nicer (except no free shuttle to cruise port).  Our room, 531, is a suite set up complete with kitchenette. The place looked brand new and had the biggest shower we’ve yet seen in a hotel.  The beds were comfortable but there was a nice couch complete with an ottoman set to sit on.  There were plenty of plugs for our devices.

We went down to the pool area to get some air and rest.  The pool had very comfortable couches to sit on and I had my computer.  Our late lunch consisted of what we didn’t eat for breakfast on the plane.  We stayed down by the pool for a couple of hours and went back to our air conditioned room (it was 87F and muggy).

Our plan was to walk to the mall across the street for dinner – there was a Sweet Tomatoes there and the Humus Factory was there as well.  We wound up stopping at the Burger King right across the street for an “Impossible Whopper” (these burgers are being test marketed around the country). I subbed a salad for fries for no charge along with my diet Coke.  The burger was good – not meat and not a garden burger – not the best I’ve had – the one on Oceania was better but this one was still pretty tasty.  

I was just about to refill my diet Coke when the power went out – there were thunderstorms in the area (we could hear the thunder but no lightning).  Apparently, there was lightning because a strike took out a large portion of the Dania Beach area.  We went back to the hotel and sat in the hot and humid lobby (the Burger King locked up and didn’t let any more customers in).  One good thing was that the emergency lights in the washrooms were on so the bathroom issue was solved.
The power outage lasted about 90 minutes – the hotel manager said it would be restored in that time and she was right.

Back to our wonderful air conditioned room for the rest of the evening.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

May 19, 2019 - San Franciso, CA - Mostly Cloudy - 60s

Our journey has come to an end.

A smooth sail to SF and a quick breakfast up in Terraces.

We walked off with our luggage on this cruise and made our way through immigration quickly (just a "welcome back" from the agent).

We took a cab that cost us $32, a reasonable amount for the 15 miles or so from the pier to SFO.  We were at the airport around 10 AM.

Our flight, AA2634, departs SFO at 2 PM so we have quite a while at the airport.  We found those very comfortable seats adjoining the gift shop near Gate D11 (plugs and relative quiet) and made that our home.  Ellen had prepared some food courtesy of Oceania, and along with an overpriced diet coke and chips from the gift shop, made for a very nice lunch.

When we went to the gate, which was very close, I noticed a plane that had TWA on its tail and AA on the fuselage.  Since TWA hasn't flown in years, this aircraft had to be some kind of throwback version.

Our 737-800 took off on time - we are in roomy seats but not aisle across - 7C and 8C.  I had to set up separate itineraries for us and couldn't get seats together.  That did not prove to be an issue.

The flight was uneventful and the bags appeared on the carousel and we were home.

A very nice cruise on the Oceania Regatta.

May 18, 2019 - At Sea - Pacific Ocean - Party Cloudy - 70s

On the bell lap of this voyage.

Yet another beautiful day at sea.

Another fine breakfast, followed by another delicious latte served up by Barbara,  I should mention that Baristas was my favorite place on the ship.  Not only because of the coffee and friendly baristas but also the views and the quiet. I could go through my material while watching waves - to me, that's one of the plusses of cruising.  This pictures sums it all up.

My final talk - "Forensic Detectives: Identifying the Famous and Infamous" - was well attended capping off a very successful forensic series on this ship.

The audiences came and were engaged.  The support from Corey was a positive thing and the AV systems worked perfectly.

Our final dinner was once again up in Terraces.

One Note:  We did go to the shows in the lounge and did listen to other talent on board.  I simply, without my logs, cannot remember who or what they were.  I do remember, however, that the Destination Speaker and the singer in the casino lounge were married.

May 17, 2019 - San Diego, CA - Partly Cloudy - 70s

A beautiful day in San Diego - aren't they all?

The sail in was memorable as the Regatta sailed by the San Diego Submarine Base (the largest in the world according to the Captain).  There were subs in the water and the base itself was huge.  The base is part of the Point Loma Naval Base. (you can see by the blue tinge that these pictures were taken through the windows of the ship - some windows throw a blue hue and some don't).

Regatta docked right downtown and right across from the USS Midway Museum.  We were able to get a nice view of the vintage fighter planes exhibited on the flight deck.

We decided to stay on board today and make this a docked sea day.  The ship wasn't crowded, as indicated by the nearly empty pool deck,

and you could find quiet places everywhere.  We read, ate lunch in Terraces, and generally did R and R for the whole day.  I was especially thrilled to be able to watch planes take off and land at nearby Lindbergh Field - SAN.

Views of the city skyline were beautiful both during the day and at night.  The picture below was taken during Afternoon Tea - delicious scones and hot tea.

Tomorrow, we have our last sea day.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

May 16, 2019 - At Sea - Pacific Ocean - Partly Cloudy - 70s

A beautiful day at sea.

No pictures so you'll have to take my word for it.

I did give my seventh talk today to a full house - "Forensic Detectives: The Search for Jack the Ripper".  The turnouts have been very consistent.

May 15, 2019 - Cabo San Lucas, Mexico - Partly Cloudy - 80s

Another picture perfect day at the tip of Baja California.

We are not on tour today so we plan to tender into Cabo and seek out a nice spa and get great massages at great prices.

A bonus when you are in a tender port is your obstructed ocean view is not longer obstructed.  Hence, the beautiful view of Cabo from our cabin.

We are very close to Cabo at our anchorage so El Arco is in full view.

The weather is perfect and the water in the harbor is like a lake so tendering in is smooth and scenic. We are the only ship here today.

From the tender port, we walked past the marina and onto the main street behind the hotel.  We walked several blocks trying to find the wonderful place we visited last time (when we were on the meds hunt).  Even with some pre-cruise research, we could not find the place.  Implementing Plan B, we checked out several spas until settling in on one that could take us both, looked clean and was reasonably priced ($20 per hour).  Ellen loved her session but I was not that pleased with mine - personal preference.  Nevertheless, the price was right and we were both pampered.

We decided that with my leg still hurting, instead of walking, we would take a "rickshaw" ($5) back to the tender pier area.  It sounded like a good idea but the human powered transport was very bumpy, which was also not good for my back and leg.  Still, it was probably better than walking.

We hopped right onto the tender and in a few minutes we were back on Regatta.

We were out on the open and shaded deck until dinner.

May 14, 2019 - Mazatlan, Mexico - Partly Cloudy - 80s

We are making progress on our homeward trek to San Francisco - today, we are in Mazatlán, Mexico.  It is a perfect weather day - not too hot and not too humid.

We have a morning tour - "Mazatlán City Highlights" - we grabbed an early breakfast and proceeded to dispatch at the Lounge.  We've been on this tour before but it was such a nice day to be out and about.

This is a commercial port and access is restricted - however, tour buses are allowed in and park near the ship.  Folks not on tour have to take a free tram to the port entrance less than five minutes away.

The tour started off with a visit to the Mazatlan Cathedral - "Cathedral of Immaculate Conception" in Old Mazatlan.

The parking is tight and the full size bus had to park several blocks away and we had to herd the passengers back to the spot.  The walk was not easy for me as I was still sore from my incident in Acapulco. I went in to the Cathedral to take pictures, once again, of the Jewish Stars on the stained glass windows.  They windows are not easy to capture but I had better luck this time.

I walked across the street to the main square - Plaza Machado - check out the many vendors lining the plaza.

The bus continued the tour with a stop, as always, at the fish market.  Every guide we have had always brings a sample of some slimy seafood item on board to show the passengers.  Tradition.

From the fish market, the tour went out of Old Mazatlan and headed to the Golden Zone, home of fancy shops and hotels.  We stopped near Gus' Jewelry Store to give passengers a chance to look at the local silver.  For me, this stop means gratis tequila tasting (pretty good but not the best I've had in Mexico) and cerveza - this time out, I am trying another brand I like, Pacifico.

This is also a comfort stop - the last time we were here at this store, there was a little girl cleaning the washrooms (with spray cleaner and paper towels and no gloves) between each user.  I cringed watching her go through the process over and over.  This time, she wasn't there and no cleaning between uses - so progress of sorts.

I walked across the street to look at the Mazatlan Deers sports gear shop - again, the items were so pricey that I didn't pick anything up.  I need to find a store that sells this gear like other souvenir stuff - knockoffs acceptable.  From the sports shop, I went through the breezeway between the shops to reach the beach.  There were few people at the beach today but the beach itself was beautiful - clear skies and blue water.

After a few snaps, I went back to Gus' to join the group.  Ellen's bus was also there - we are a little out of synch.

The final stop would be at the Malecon where the Mazatlan Divers do their thing.  Today, there were no divers performing but I did get some nice pictures of the bay and their take off platform.

This was our final stop and the bus headed back to the ship, passing El Faro, the World's Highest Lighthouse, and ending up at the port entrance.

Ellen and I decided to try getting massages at The Beauty Shop located just inside the port entrance.  Neither of us liked our sessions.  I had a new person and Ellen doesn't like the owner.  I guess it'll just be me that visits this place next time.

We took the tram back to the ship and had lunch in Terraces.

The afternoon was spent on the open deck in the shade reading books.

May 13, 2019 - At Sea - Pacific Ocean - Partly Cloudy - 80s

Another smooth and beautiful day at sea.  Blue skies and warm breezes.

Nothing more to say.

On a day like today, an iconic back deck photograph is mandatory.

May 12, 2019 - Acapuco, Mexico - Mostly Sunny - 80s

After some years, we are back in Acapulco, Mexico, and it is a postcard perfect day.

Ships have stayed away from Acapulco because of the lawlessness, including some involving tourists on excursions.  We are back here today and are scheduled to go on a half day tour this afternoon - "Historical Acapulco and Cliff Divers".  But the morning is ours.

The seas were smooth getting here and our room continues to be quiet.  I had a nice breakfast, once again, up in the Terraces Café and Ellen had room service.

Later in the morning, I went to Baristas for another tasty iced decaf mocha latte and did a little tinkering on my upcoming presentations.  I make very few changes, I just go through the talks to make sure the facts and examples are stored in my head for use later.  Reinforcement.

After lunch, we once again assembled in the Lounge for dispatch on our excursions.  Ellen and I are on the same tour but on different buses.  Today, we are not on large buses but on mini-buses.  I took the last seat in the bus (as I am technically supposed to) and that would prove prophetic.  The map of Acapulco shows the general area and some of the sites we are going to visit.

Our guide is Juan and his English is good. The bus is a little bouncy as we leave the cruise port and head to our first stop - "Fuerte de San Diego".  This fort, built by Spain in the 17th Century (and rebuilt in the 18th Century) was an important defensive installation protecting the Pacific Coast of Mexico.  Today, it is a museum.

We have been here before but the exhibits are interesting and the grounds nice to walk around.  You can get a good view of the ship from the fort.

There was also some very interesting artwork (too good to be graffiti) on a wall in the Fort parking lot.

We spent about a hour at the fort, then re-boarded our mini-bus for our trip across the city of Acapulco.

Acapulco is a little like Waikiki or Miami with streets lined with all types of hotels - fancy and ordinary.  There are lots of stores, bars, and restaurants, as well as some things you don't see every day.  One of these was a giant Coke bottle.

What wasn't so visible this visit was the strong military presence.  The last time we were here, we saw several trucks carrying armed Federales patrolling the streets.

As the mini-bus headed for the Capilla de la Paz (The Chapel of Peace), we hit several bumps in the road, made even more bumpier due to old shocks.  And here is where it happened!  We hit a major bump in the road and I was lifted off my seat and landed hard on my hip,  It hurt for a bit and I moved to another open seat to minimize any more bumps.  But when I got out of the car, my leg was aching - and the most likely explanation is that I reinjured my disc.  I'll be looking at ibuprofen later.

The Capilla is located on a hill and the bus parked at the bottom of the hill - passengers had to walk up the hill and then a series of stairs to get to the Chapel.  It was a tough walk for me but I kept up.  The Chapel is flanked on both sides by a huge cross some 130 feet high

and a statue depicting intertwined hands.

The hands represent two brothers (of a prominent local family) killed in an automobile accident and signify "brotherhood.  I didn't go into the chapel (I think they were holding services) but I did get some nice shots of the site and of the Bahia Acapulco,

including a panoramic shot.

Our next stop was the Flamingo Hotel, made famous by owner, Johnny Weissmuller (Olympic swimmer and Tarzan).  The road leading to the hotel had roadside pictures of both American and Mexican movie stars.

The hotel is not in the greatest shape these days but it is still charming and does offer spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean (even got a nice panoramic shot).

The photos on the hotel walls were also interesting - John Wayne and, of course, Johnny W.


The passengers all spread out on the several patio areas to take in the view.  The stop also came with some well needed ice cold cerveza.

Victoria is fast becoming one of my favorite Mexican beers. The stop at the hotel was no more than 30 minutes.

Our final stop was at La Quebrada, where cliff divers have been risking life and limb since 1934.  We usually watch the divers from locations on one of the hotels overlooking the cliffs, but today we are in the public viewing area trying to get the best angle for a nice action shot.

The area also sports the obligatory "Acapulco" city sign (one of many around the town)

as well as the Acapulco "Walk of Fame".  I snapped a picture of Liz Taylor's star (yes, those are my shoes).

There is an interesting sculpture in the plaza area - seems like a nautical theme.

The divers are interesting to watch (we have seen them before) but the waiting until they dive is annoying - all of the waggling before they dive.  The divers don't get paid so they pander for tips from the crowd.

The bus headed back to the ship and once I got there, I popped a much needed ibuprofen and hoped for the best.

Dinner was up in the Terraces where I had another vegetarian pasta prepared for me.  The pastas are very good.  A Cesar Salad completed the delicious meal.

A nice afternoon in Acapulco.