Pre-Cruise Stay – Los Angeles, CA
We are planning to spend a few days in LA before embarking Celebrity Eclipse. This will give us a chance to see Noah and my sibs before we set sail. The two cruises we are going on were not formally listed on Celebrity's openings but my agent was able to work with the cruise line to get me on board. The timing of the cruises is perfect as Noah will still be in school and everyone else we want to visit will be in town. Sometimes, things just work out.
Celebrity has set up my flights – we are flying out on United Airlines (UA1796) and our return flight is sure to be an adventure on Southwest Airlines (we are flying first to Denver and then quickly changing planes and flying to Chicago – arriving around 10:30 PM; the alternative would be a return flight arriving around 2 AM - yikes). I have already prescheduled a cab pickup at ORD at 10:30 PM. I also have a prompt on my calendar to be sure to check in with Southwest 24 hours pre-flight, which I will need to do on the Southwest app while on the ship. It should be an interesting process.
October 18, 2023 – Travel Day
Our flight departs at 1:05 PM (a rare afternoon flight) so our taxi was scheduled for 11:15 AM. The cab, as is usually the case, arrived a little early, and with his freeway driving skills, we arrived at Terminal 1 at around 11:30 AM. We were told by United via email to got to Gate 1E for the expedited bag drop but there was an agent outside that was taking bags so we checked our bags with him. We zoomed through security and were at Gate B14 in plenty of time.
Our plane, a B-737 MAX8, was already at the gate and the baggage was being loaded.
We are in Priority Boarding Group 2 and in Economy Plus seats 10D and 10E (cost an arm and a leg). In contrast to the last United Flight which involved WWE style boarding, the boarding on this flight was orderly. We actually didn’t need the overheads as both our backpacks went under the seat in front of us. Our seats are middle and window (I like to watch the takeoff and Ellen is small enough to fit in the middle seat). And seat 10 on the Starboard side does have a window (unlike row 11 Port side – no window).
There was a little delay in pushing and then we got in line for takeoff.
The flight had to go through some unhappy air (high clouds and turbulence) so the flight attendants were seated for about an hour until we were able to find calm air.
I had made some delicious tuna/egg salad sandwiches that morning which made for the perfect lunch on this flight. That was topped off by Diet Coke, some good coffee and airline provided Biscoff biscuits.
The flight was pretty smooth the rest of the way with good visibility as we passed over Arizona and Nevada and into California.
While I could see the layer of smog up against the San Bernardino Mountains, the basin looked pretty clear.
Our luggage came out pretty quickly and we dragged our bags over to the Purple Zone where rental car shuttles came by. We are renting again from Fox because their facility is located very close to the airport on Manchester Blvd. Maybe five or more National and Avis vans went by before our lone Fox shuttle showed up (about a 30-minute wait – about the norm). This shuttle had absolutely no functioning shocks so my poor vertebrae got a real workout.
The line inside to check out cars was long and slow – there were only two agents and one of them was fully occupied by a customer who clearly had a unique problem. She was there the whole time the rest of us were trying to get to the only other agent. We finally made it an agent and I was all prepared with license, credit card, and all the answers. We were instructed to head over to parking Stall 10 and pick out any car. There were a couple of cars but we didn’t like the choices – we did eventually find another car – A Jeep Compass – that we liked and took that one (we had contracted for an economy small car and instead, as is usually the case, got “upgrade” to a better car. The car had Android Auto and that’s all we needed – it had all the safety features and was also very comfortable to drive. It looked new but it had 54,000 miles on it.
I inputted our destination, the Green Tree Hotel and Suites in Alhambra, into the GPS. The route generated took us along just about every available freeway to get to our destination. If was only around 4 PM but the traffic was moving at a glacial speed of 4 mph. I guess the settings on Google Maps on my phone included highways (I doubt it would have made little difference if we took the streets). Even though the route seemed counter intuitive, we did eventually arrive in Alhambra and at the Green Tree Hotel (on Main Street).
The hotel is clearly Asian managed – all of the staff are Asian and the hotel is fitted out in an Asian motif. There was a coffee and tea station in the lobby. The staff was friendly and check in was fast.
Our room, 411 (even though the rooms have an 8 in front of the room numbers. Each room had a very cool hi-tech room sign, that tells the staff when a room needs to be cleaned, etc.
We were across the hall from the elevators but we don’t anticipate that to be a problem. The room itself overlooks the parking lot with mountains in the distance.
The issue with the parking lot is that this hotel is strictly non-smoking (a $250 charge goes on the bill even if you are vaping) so the smokers all congregate in the parking lot (there is a seating area there) and sometimes this happens into the evening.
The room does have some perks – free pretzels and Pirate Booty along with daily bottled water (from Costco, of course).
We called Noah and he said he wanted to meet us at the hotel. We got permission to let him park in the lot (guests have passes that go on the dash for overnight parking). We chatted a while and he went back to his house. We did decide on a place for dinner later, Mama’s Pizza and Pasta in Pasadena.
We picked Noah up and went to the restaurant. Not a fancy place – you order at the counter. We ordered a salad (for me), a pasta marinara, and a medium cheese pizza. All the food was good but it was clearly too much food. We took some home and so did Noah. So far, so good.