Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Tuesday, October 19, 2010 16:32:42|
PRINCESS EAST COAST CRUISE 2010:
Son Paul Walker and his wife-to-be Laura arranged this trip for their wedding. Marilynn and I were in Victoria, B.C. so flew to Newark, New Jersey on Oct 8, 2010 to stay at the Grand Summit Hotel, where a dinner and reception was held to introduce everyone in the cruise/wedding party. We had an excellent meal, and great evening dining, drinking and dancing with a fun group of people. This hotel was selected as it is where Paul & Laura met.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Two 15-seat buses took us to explore some of New York City. There were 6 in our bus - son Ryan & his wife from Costa Rica, the bride and groom to be plus Marilynn and I. The tour guide was excellent and we saw several places we hadn't seen before. Marilynn even went to the top of the Empire State Building with us, in spite of her fear of heights.
The bus let us off at the cruise ship terminal, where a tip was solicited by a baggage handling longshoreman in such a way that we felt not paying could cause our baggage to end up get on the wrong ship. Check in was quick and efficient. Our cabin was on the 8th deck, right over the propellers at the stern of the ship. It has a large balcony, two small beds, a desk, fridge and good storage space. While not exceptional, it was more than adequate. After check in we joined some of the others on the top deck for the departure from New York past the Statue of Liberty, and a great seafood meal in the 15thfloor buffet restaurant.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
We lay in bed dozing for most of the morning instead of going ashore in Newport, Rhode Island. Neither of us slept that well, as the beds are not very comfortable and are shorter than I am. They have no top sheet and the duvet, if up to my chin, came to my shins, but if I covered my feet it barely reached my chest.
Princess Cruises seem to have become really chippy since we last cruised with them. They charge for soft drinks and bottled water - if you use the ones supplied in the room fridge you are charged $1.95 for each can of pop and $3.50 for the water. Soft drinks in any of the food outlets or bars are the same price, plus a compulsory 15% tip - then there is a large space above the signature line that says "gratuity" in case you don't consider paying 15% for getting it yourself is sufficient.
The ship's information says the 15% tip is "added for the convenience of the passenger", as is a $10.50 per person per day (including children -$11.00 for suites) addition to each person's account as a "discretionary" tip. I suppose to keep advertised cruise prices low (this cruise started at $500 on internet) they use low paid staff from countries such as Romania, Macedonia, Peru, Philippines and pass the wage costs on to passengers by way of tips. Quite a few staff could not understand English.
After lunch Eugenia joined Marilynn & I on a walk to explore the ship - Ryan was not feeling well. There are some excellent entertainment venues, restaurants and bars. The two top restaurants, one Italian and one steak house, charge $20 and $25 respectively as a "reservation fee".
In the evening the formal wedding was held in the ship's disco, on the 18thfloor. It was well done, with the captain doing a good job on the ceremony. There was an open bar during the photo session, followed by a super buffet. A DJ played old time rock & roll, until the wee hours of the morning. I don't think any of us who closed the place remember what time we staggered back to our cabins.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Slept late and had bratwurst with beer for breakfast before heading ashore in Boston to join some of the wedding group. We taxied to Boston Common and joined the others on a walking tour guided by Randal, a US Coast Guardsman stationed in Kodiak, Alaska, who knew his way around the city. A welcome stop was made at Cheers Bar (famous for the TV show of the same name) before walking across the common and on to the Quincy Market, past various historic buildings.
Back on board the newlyweds hosted a cocktail party in their cabin, which was crowded and fun. The attendees all seem to have a great sense of humour and love a good time. All 18 of us had dinner together.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Another late start before catching a tender to the small town of bar harbour, where the 5,000 residents were mobbed by almost twice that number of passengers from three cruise ships in the bay. I found a bar while Marilynn, Ryan and Eugenia braved the crowds to shop. My main mission was to find the best place in town for steamed fresh lobster. Although the second floor bar had a restaurant, the bartender said the best lobster was behind another bar called Fantails, past the commercial area of town.
When the others arrived we had a drink, and then hiked the remaining distance to an area of outdoor picnic tables beside a gas station behind Fantails. There was a large tank full of fresh lobsters and two huge steamers built into cement. The bartender's advice was right on - the lobsters were the best any of us had tasted.
Wild blueberry pie is a specialty in the area this time of year, so on the walk back to the ship we stopped at another restaurant where the clam chowder looked so good we had that as well. Both were superb! It was indeed a great gourmet day in this pretty little town.
Another happy hour was enjoyed in the bridal suite, then up to Deck 15 for Oktoberfest night in the buffet, where there was a large selection of German food and beers.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
After not much sleep, due to a combination the beds, over eating and over drinking, we went ashore in St. Johns, New Brunswick. Marilynn & I hired a car driven by a long time New Brunswick resident who recently converted to Muslim. We watched a jet boat soak the passengers in the raging St. Johns River rapids, which reverse and flow the opposite way as the tide changes. I knew the Bay of Fundy has the world's highest tides, but didn't know that the volume of water flowing in and out is equivalent to the amount of water flowing into the ocean from all the world's rivers combined!
Our trip continued down the coast to see the colourful leaves in hues of red, gold, brown and yellow. The coastline has high cliffs, some with lighthouses perched on them, separated by beaches. Good fish chowder at a restaurant on the beach near cliffs with large caves eased the hunger pangs.
On our return we toured the city, then were let off in upper St. Johns to sample the very good local beer before walking through town and markets on the way back to the ship.
Dinner was gourmet night in the buffet, followed by a very funny comedy show in one of the bars. Once again we ate and drank too much - the food has been very good.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
We got together in Halifax, Nova Scotia with Ryan & Eugenia to flag down a passing Lincoln Continental taxi driven by a fellow from Lebanon who had lived in Halifax for five years. He is married to a local girl and loves the place. He droves us through part of the city, then out to beautiful Peggy's Cove where we wandered around for a while. The reflection of vibrantly coloured trees in the calm lakes was spectacular. After showing us a couple of other sites we stopped at a small restaurant on the water in a fishing village on a beautiful cove. The chowder and lobster were excellent.
On our return he took us on a city tour where we watched the changing of the guard at the Halifax Citadel before returning to the ship. I lived and worked in Halifax in 1964-65 and while the city has changed a great deal, the historic buildings. some of the oldest in Canada, are still intact.
We ate in the dining room with Randal & Maurine, who are about to be married, and Ryan & Eugenia before we headed off to enjoy the stage production of "Piano Man". The food was great, but it was like a Mexican beach resort with someone coming to the table every few minutes trying to sell something. There was a wine tasting, specialty coffees, bus transfers, a liqueur they brewed up and so on, all for a price.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Today was a sea day that started out foggy and cold, with strong winds and heaving, white capped seas. We hadn't slept well at night again, so laid in bed until late morning. I got up to contact my office in San Jose on Skype, and to arrange transport for Ryan, Eugenia, Randal, Maureen, their son, Marilynn and I from New York to Summit, New Jersey, in the morning. The price is much less than either the ship's shuttle buses or taxis. The sun came out eventually, peeking through the clouds. The weather has been amazing - cool, crisp, clear sunny days throughout the trip.
Seasickness is taking its toll of passengers, and after packing Marilynn also retreated back to bed with a touch of that problem. It made for uncrowded conditions in the buffet! All baggage had to be out in the hall for transfer to shore by dinner time, so only carry on items could be retained.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
We were required to vacate the cabin by 8 AM, so went to the buffet for breakfast after that. Departures from the ship were delayed 30 minutes and the procedure was slow - it was almost 11 AM when we got ashore to find a large, comfortable van driven by a fellow who was not happy at waiting as long as he had. To make it worse his office had sent him at the wrong time, so he'd been there an hour and a half.
We arrive back at the Grand Summit Hotel at noon, and as our rooms were not ready stored our luggage and walked through the pleasant town. Before leaving I asked that my room be made up as soon as possible, as I had some writing to do. We were originally told check in was 3 PM.
In town we had a delicious lunch with Ryan and Eugenia then strolled the main street. Marilynn bought a lens and other camera equipment. Expensive, these check in delays! We arrived back at the hotel at about 3:30 to find the rooms still not made up and the lobby crowded with people waiting for rooms, so we asked them to call the bar when they were ready and went for drinks. At 4:30 we returned to an empty lobby, however our room was last to be ready at 5:30 PM, and then it was an ordinary room, not the suite our travel organizer had booked.
The four of us walked back into town where we found an area of restaurants and bars. A wonderful meal and drinks were enjoyed in a lively pub before heading back to bed.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Marilynn and I arrived a little late for the buffet breakfast - most things were cleared away, however two of the waiters at the party last week were from Costa Rica and one of them immediately arranged a full breakfast for us both. After breakfast I asked to see the general manager to discuss the problems with reception on the previous day. He was very apologetic, and offered a vehicle at no charge to take the four of us to the airport.
The flight back to Costa Rica on Continental was great - they have replaced the 737 on the run with a Boeing 757 with all new interior. The first class seats recline to make a 6' 6" (2 meter) horizontal bed and the individual wide screen TV has a large selection of movies and games that one could start or stop on demand. Each seat has electric outlets and pouches filled will items usually found only on long haul flights were provided. We arrived in San Jose early, the first of an influx of aircraft. The immigration hall was deserted, and our caretaker, who was there to pick us up, was soon chauffeuring us home, ending a pleasant one-week break.