Lifou Cruise Ship Port

Lifou cruise port

Explorer of the Seas in Lifou

Lifou Cruise Ship Port

Cruise ships visiting Lifou anchor offshore and tender passengers to the island. Lifou is the biggest of New Caledonia‘s Loyalty Islands. Our tenders from Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas landed at a barge on the end of a long dock. Once you get to shore there’s a beach near the dock. There are no sidewalks or footpaths in Lifou, but the small roads are not busy and if you walk on the side what little traffic there is goes around you and any dogs that wander into the road. Most vehicles at the port are there for shore excursions from the ship, though a few offered on-the-spot van tours during our visit.

Lifou, New Caledonia

it’s a long walk down the tender pier at Lifou

Going to the left when reaching shore leads to all the things the port has to do. Other than a few viewpoints for taking ship photos there’s not much to the right anywhere near the port. You can walk on the road going out that direction, but make sure to stay at the edge of the road in case any traffic goes by. We saw people walking down the middle of the road totally oblivious to a car trying to get by and the driver did not look happy.

coconut crab

juvenile coconut crab

Besides a beach there is a hillside full of things to do just above where the tenders come in. Most of the little shacks offer things like massages and hair braiding, but there are also places to get food or drinks and to shop for crafts (local or made in China). One booth made their money with a coconut crab on a leash for tourists’ photos. Coconut crabs are large omnivorous native crabs that can climb coconut trees. They eat many other things besides coconuts. Though the one at the booth looked large in comparison to the average crab it was not full-grown. The leg span of a mature adult can reach 3 feet. This one  probably wasn’t even half that.

massage booth at Lifou cruise port

Some of the little booths have rentals of things for people to do. You can rent kayaks, bicycles, or snorkel gear. We heard an announcement saying glass bottom boat tours were available there too. There is some coral at that beach, mainly at the far end. Someone from our ship said they snorkeled a bit at that beach, but left the water quickly when they saw a sea snake.

Jinek Bay

fish and coral at Jinek Bay

For better snorkeling take the hike to nearby Jinek Bay Marine Park. We spent a lot of time snorkeling there and saw lots of fish and coral. We did not see any sea snakes. If you don’t have your own snorkel gear rent it before hiking over there. They did not have any snorkel gear for rent at Jinek Bay when we were there.

native hut on Lifou

native style hut by the road on the way to the cave – this one is for tourists to look in

From the port area about halfway up the hill there’s kind of a road/trail off to the side of the road that goes up the hill. That path leads to some native style huts, a little dive shop, and other areas of the beach. For anyone planning to spend their day in the cruise port area it may be a good idea to bring your own toilet paper. The bathroom there did not have any during our port stop. It’s also a good idea to bring beach shoes. The sand can get rough if any recent storms have brought up broken bits of coral.

lifou map

map of the area near the cruise port on Lifou

About halfway up the road leading from the beach to the top of the hill on the opposite side of the road from the trail a bike rental place had a handy map of the area. It’s there to let bike renters know what they could go to see, but is also quite handy if you want to find  things in the area within walking distance of the port. At the top of the hill a sign points one way for a cave and the other direction for Jinek Bay. It says both are 5 minutes away, but that would take a very brisk walk. Most people will take longer to get to either one, probably closer to 10 or 20 minutes depending on their walking speed. The sign does not mention the church at the top of the island that you can see from the ship, but if you take the road toward Jinek Bay and bypass the turnoff for the bay you’ll get there.

real native hut on Lifou where someone actually lives

Island currency is in pacific franks. They see enough tourists from Australia that people at or near the port are accustomed to taking Australian dollars. They were quite happy to take American dollars as well, but charged on par with Australian dollars and no accounting for the exchange rate so everything cost a bit more for Americans.

butterfly on Lifou

Lifou had lots of butterflies

We saw no bugs on the island other than lots of butterflies and a few ants. Bugspray kills coral larvae so wearing it to any beach with coral is quite harmful. Oils and chemicals in ordinary sunscreens also harm coral so be sure to bring reef safe sunscreen when cruising to tropical places. The good news is mineral sunscreens also better protect people from skin cancer so while helping the coral you also help yourself. Just be sure to use one that either says biodegradable or reef safe because the inert ingredients can be harmful even in a mineral sunscreen if choosing the wrong one.

flowers growing by the roadside

As for bugspray I never bring any on cruises. I’ve taken a lot of cruises to a variety of places and never seen a mosquito at or near a beach. I’ve actually only seen mosquitos once ever on a cruise and that was in a jungle in Mexico. If you’re worried about them, a dryer sheet in your pocket while you’re on dry land helps keep them at bay without posing a danger to the coral. There are lots of mosquitos in the woods near my house. I hike there all summer with a dryer sheet in my pocket and almost never get bitten. Without the dryer sheet I’m the one who gets all the bites even when nobody else gets any. I had a dryer sheet in that Mexican jungle and got no bites at all while other people without dryer sheets did get bit. Bonus – you can still use it in the dryer after you are done hiking around with it.

this sign lies – it’s longer than a 5-minute walk to either place

Cave

The walk out to the cave is pretty scenic with lots of flowers on the roadsides. Some of the flowers were full of black and white butterflies. When they stopped long enough to fold their wings we saw orange on them as well. Along the way we saw some traditional huts, one of which was set up for tourists to take photos – and it had a donation jar. The others were actually people’s homes.

church by the cave on Lifou

church near the cave

If you walk out to see the cave you know you are nearly there when you come to an obvious church on the left and another building not so obviously a church on the right. Just past the church on the left there’s a field with an archway sign for the cave at the far end. Far enough back in the field that you aren’t that likely to notice it from the road. When we were there the open-sided building at the corner of the field was full of people who had a sign by the road about the cave. When we first walked out there in the morning it said $5 for a guide to the cave and we decided not to go in.

cave trail sign Lifou, New Caledonia

the cave trail sign is not near the road

After my husband went back to the ship I decided I wanted to see the cave after all. I like caves a lot more than he does. When I went back later their sign said it was $10 for adults and $5 for children. I don’t know if these guys are officially taking money for anything associated with the cave or are just locals who have found an easy way to make some cash, but they let me go by for $5 with no guide.

trail to Lifou cave

a steep narrow path through some rocks started the descent to the cave

Nobody I came across in the cave actually had a guide and the people I asked about it had paid the full price. There were no posted signs anywhere saying that it actually cost anything to go to the cave, but the guys with the sign did not let anyone pass without paying. You could probably get to the pathway to the cave from the other side of the church rather than walking directly past them, but they would still see you. I figured it’s not that much money and they probably need it worse than I do even if they are just locals with a scam and not officially associated with the cave. Of course it is possible they actually are legitimate. Plus if they weren’t there most people would walk on by down the road and never even know they had missed the cave since the pathway to the cave was at the far end of that field with a sign nobody would be likely to notice, but the signs those guys had made it obvious that was the right place.

trail to the cave on Lifou

the rope along the cave trail may have been stable in the past, but does not look trustworthy now

The cave is not far from the road. Their sign said 2 minutes walk, which is far more accurate than the sign that said 5 minutes to everywhere from the cruise port. At first it’s a level trail, but once you get near the cave it becomes quite steep in some places. It’s not accessible for anyone with any balance or mobility issues or walking problems. Of all the sites you can walk to from the port in Lifou this one is the most difficult to get to. Some places on the trail require climbing over rocks and there is a hill laced with tree roots. Parts of the trail traverse narrow ledges. Most of the trail has a rope along the edge, but not all the posts the rope attaches to are stable so holding onto it for balance would be a bad idea.

trail to cave on Lifou

pass over rocks, roots, and narrow ledges on the way to the cave

At the bottom of the tree root hill the trail splits. One way (left) goes to an overlook of the pool at the bottom and the other which at first looks like a dead end leads to the entrance to the area with the pool, which is the cave. The way down to the cave entrance is very narrow so if someone is coming out wait in a wider spot for them to pass by before continuing down.

cave on Lifou

small cave with a pool near Lifou cruise port

The cave is a large opening in the rock, mostly inside except the window at the overlook. There is a light on one wall so it’s not too dark. People jump off the walls into the pool. Mostly from the large flat area that is closest to the water, but some from a higher ledge on the far side. Once in the pool they have to climb up several feet of rock wall to get out. As caves go this one is not too impressive. It’s not actually a cave at all, but rather a landlocked cenote which is basically a sinkhole in limestone so the pool goes down quite deep. It’s most noted for nautilus shells divers found deep in the pool that were later determined to be from ancient sea creatures trapped there when the cave lost its connection to the sea rather than something someone threw into the pool.

last bit of the pathway up to Notre Dame de Lourdes church

Notre Dame de Lourdes Church

Where the road to Jinek Bay branches, the left fork leads to the church and the right to the bay. We saw more of the mainly black and white butterflies and some yellow ones on the way to the church. Also a lot of them up by the church. There was a dog sleeping on one of the overlook platforms at this church, and we saw a couple on the porch of the church by the cave as well. I guess the dogs of Lifou like to go to church.

trail to the hilltop church on Lifou

pathway to the church at the top of the hill on Lifou with a view of tenders and the dock

The pathway up to the church varies from a cement type ramp to uneven coral stairs. Some portions of it could be difficult for people who are not steady on their feet.

hilltop church

Notre Dame de Lourdes church on Lifou

Notre Dame de Lourdes Church is smaller than you would think when looking at it from the ship. I guess the hill is not as tall as it looks from a distance. It’s a tiny church with a big view.

inside old mission church

inside Notre Dame de Lourdes church

The little church was built by missionaries who came to the island in the 1850’s. It fills the majority of the space at the top of the hill, but there is room to walk around it and a couple platforms to stand on and enjoy the views. Besides the cruise ship, tender pier, and open water, Jinek Bay is visible from the hilltop.

good to see people protecting their coral

Jinek Bay Marine Reserve

On the way into the bay there’s a sign that says not to put on sunscreen before going into the water. This is to protect the coral. Oils and chemicals in ordinary sunscreens suffocate and bleach corals leading to their demise and this is a protected area for the coral. Where the road bends to the right when you’ve nearly reached the bay there’s a building off to the left. It’s a free bathroom with toilet paper. This may not sound too impressive, but for Lifou at the time of our visit it was a great find.

coral reef

fish and coral

Of all the places we’ve snorkeled, only the Great Barrier Reef was better than Jinek Bay. This bay is full of a variety of corals, bigger and brighter than those found in the Caribbean. There are some of the yellow and purple colors found in corals of the Great Barrier Reef, and plenty of brownish or beige ones closer to the colors most often seen in the Caribbean. Standing on corals is not allowed, but there are some broken ones where people have disobeyed that rule. Centuries to grow and seconds to break. Sadly there is quite a large patch of dead coral near the shore, most likely due to careless visitors.

clown fish

clown fish and sea anemone

There are numbered bouys about the bay. We found the most colorful coral near number 4 on our visit. Number 2 had a patch with sea anemones and neon bright clown fish. Out near 6 and 7 the deeper water made for taller reefs and number 8 had some big brown and white corals shaped like giant flowers that I have not seen anywhere else.

coral

Jinek Bay had lots of big brown flower-like corals

It costs $15 to snorkel in the bay and there was no snorkel gear for rent there on our visit so you have to bring it with you. They did have some noodles and other floatation devices for those who wanted them, but having one was not required. The water was pretty calm the day we went and I used just the mask and snorkel, no fins. Most other people did wear fins. I never use snorkel vests or other floatation devices if it’s not required because it’s actually harder to dive under the surface than it is to float on top, but for anyone who is not confident in their swimming skills it is good that they have some available.

pathway down to the water at Jinek Bay

You pay a lot more than $15 for shore excursions that rarely go to places where the snorkeling is this good so we considered it money well spent. There is no beach at this bay. Entry into the water is via a stairway that goes down from both ends of a platform. All the cruise ship people used the stairs, but some local boys were jumping into the water from the platform and the shore.

boy jumping off a cliff

boy jumping into the sea

People just leave their things on shore while they go into the water and nobody bothered them. I did not have anything of value in my bag other than the required ship’s card and my ID and a small amount of cash. Getting back on board the ship could be difficult without the ship’s card so it was probably the most valuable thing I had. They did not ask for ID at this port. Mostly American and Canadian ports are the ones that will ask, but now and then some other random port does. I always figure it would be sure to be the one where I didn’t have mine if I ever didn’t bring it.

even among fish you find posers

There are little waterproof plastic cases that can be used for small items like cards or cash in places that it isn’t safe to leave your things on shore. I have one on a string that hangs around the neck, but did not use it at this place. Most of the people there were other passengers from our ship and there’s not much crime on Lifou.

staghorn coral

staghorn coral

Corals here included brain, staghorn, hard, plate, and many others. This is an excellent port stop for snorklers. Snorkeling is my favorite thing to do on cruises. The $15 is good for all day and I actually did come back to Jinek Bay again for a second snorkel session after my husband went back to the ship. Caves aren’t the only thing I’m more into than he is.

clownfish

clownfish

Excursions offered from our ship for this port were all lower priced than the average cruise ship excursion at $49 to $55, but still about double the total cost of going to both the snorkel bay and the cave on your own. Going to the church on the hill was free. The ship had a tour to the Cliffs of Jokin, one to a Vanilla House, one to a beach on the far side of the island, a Melanesian encounter, and an excursion to a forest and secret grotto. Because of the excellent snorkeling at Jinek Bay, Lifou is one of my all-time favorite port stops.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019
Posted in Explorer of the Seas, Pacific Ocean & Islands, Ports of Call, Royal Caribbean | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Exploring Yokohama

Yokohama, Japan

view of the ship and port area from the ferris wheel

In a port stop at Yokohama, Japan’s Osanbashi Pier passengers don’t have far to go to find tourist attractions. In fact the pier itself is an attraction with trails and green space on top of the port buildings. From our ship, the Holland America Westerdam, we saw locals running by having their morning exercise on top of the pier.

sailing ship museum in Yokohama

looking down on the sailing ship museum from the ferris wheel at Cosmoworld

The waterfront trails run beyond the pier to Yamashita Park, which is near to the Yokohama Marine Tower and Chinatown. The area is dotted with various little museums, including one in an old ship at the park and another in an old sailing ship near an amusement park in the Minato Mirai Shinko district area out the opposite direction from the pier.

Yokohama at night

night view from the ship

The walking trail along the waterfront extends in either direction from the end of the pier. From the ship you can see a large ferris wheel and heading toward it takes you into the Minato Mirai Shinko district past the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse and World Porters shops. Though only the ferris wheel is visible from the ship, once you get there the amusement park called Cosmoworld has many more rides and attractions. There are roller coasters and both indoor and outdoor arcades near the ferris wheel, and other rides and a children’s ride area across a bridge near the sailing ship museum. Just across the street from the ferris wheel sits the Cup Noodles museum. For anybody who swears the name of this product is Cup O’Noodles – the name I remember it by – it was called Cup O’Noodles in the USA until 1993.

blue elephant in Yokohama, Japan

Funny little blue elephants dot the sidewalk by a seaside park. The yellow stripe with raised bumps and strips is for the blind to feel with their canes so they can find their way.

On the way to the Cup Noodle Museum and Cosmoworld we walked through a waterfront park area across the water from the ship. It had funny little elephant statues along the walkway and great views of the ship and the pier. Locals gathered there at lunchtime as well as passing through for their daily exercise running or walking their dogs. Like vehicles, dogs in Japan tended to be small. Our blue heeler is a medium sized dog at home, but would have seemed huge there.

how to cross a busy street in Yokohama

raised circular pedestrian bridge for crossing a busy street

Farther along the way to the Ferris Wheel and Cup Noodles Museum we came to a busy road. They made crossing it easy with a circular walkway above the road where people could enter or leave at any corner. The raised walkway offered some great views of the surrounding area and a semi-distant bridge.

display at the cup noodle museum

the tiny shack where Momofuku Ando lived and invented instant ramen

Like many things in Japan, Cosmoworld didn’t open until 10am so we went to the Cup Noodles Museum first since it opened earlier. Inside there are a variety of displays about instant ramen and cup noodles, all invented by one down-on-his-luck Japanese man named Momofuku Ando. Well down on his luck before his inventions anyway. His fortune turned around after that.

cup noodles museum

display of year-by-year ever expanding product lines

He first invented the instant sort of chicken ramen with its fried noodles and soup packet that most people are familiar with in 1958 when he was in his forties. Japanese people ate ramen noodles long before that, but they were not the instant type.

making ramen at the Cup Noodle Museum

kids making ramen at the Cup Noodle Museum

Later came cup noodles in 1971 when he was in his sixties. The biggest dilemma with these was how to get the cluster of noodles into the cup nice and straight with a bit of air space underneath. After trial and error they finally discovered putting the cup down onto the noodles worked better than trying to put the chunk of noodles into the cup. His final invention was Space Ram, which he invented in his nineties. This space-friendly version of ramen noodles was actually used and eaten by astronauts in space.

cup noodle museum

at the Cup Noodle Factory people design their own cup and pick their own flavors to design their own personal Cup Noodles

Besides displays on ramen and cup noodles the museum also has (for an extra charge) a make-it-yourself chicken ramen factory where kids make their own ramen noodles from scratch and a cupnoodles factory where people start with a cup they can design to their liking and then fill with noodles and their choice of soup and toppings. That cup can then be sealed to take home.

giant ferris wheel in Yokohama

at the top of the ferris wheel

Prices at Cosmoworld amusement park are per ride. The giant ferris wheel moves continuously at a slow enough rate that people can get in and out of the gondolas without stopping the wheel. You just get once around, but it goes up quite high and the views are fantastic. From up there you can see all the other rides which include a flume ride surrounded by water and a diving coaster roller coaster that disappears into a hole in the ground surrounded by a fountain that sprays up as the coaster enters giving the appearance of it splashing into the water.

diving roller coaster

diving coaster at Cosmoworld

To ride either the ferris wheel or diving coaster you start by walking up a stairway – blue for the wheel and pink like the track for the coaster. At the coaster you leave any loose items like phones, cameras, purses, or backpacks in a locker before the ride starts and pick them up when it ends. It looks like a lot of pink track snaking through the amusement park, but the coaster travels pretty fast so it doesn’t take it long to get all the way around. When the coaster dives into the hole it travels a short distance underground surrounded by neon lights before resurfacing back above ground. At night the wheel lights up like a laser light show.

fake food

one of many fake food displays in a market stall that sold only fake food

Red Brick Warehouse shops seem to be a common thing in Japan as we saw them in some other ports as well. This one had a lot of shops featuring fake food. While the fake food makes sense as display menus for restaurants like we saw in Hakodate, the things here appeared to be for personal use. They even had fake toast light switch plate covers with or without jelly. At least plastic jelly only looks sticky.

odd Japanese snacks

can’t say that I’d want to eat anything called Death Mix

Besides the usual assortment of snacks unidentifiable to anyone who doesn’t read Japanese, we also saw some edibles that looked downright frightening. Even worse than the usual sort of gelatinous blobs of unknown substances in plastic wrap that are probably some sort of seafood, but possibly sweets. Although with these new treats it was more the name we shied away from than the actual appearance of the product.

pedestrian bridge in Yokohama

on the pedestrian bridge

There is more to see or do in Yokohama within walking distance of the ship than there is time to see it all during the average cruise ship port stop, but for those who want to venture farther a shuttle is available to a nearby train station which can also be reached from a walking path. There are parks, gardens, a museum, and a zoo near the train station, and people can catch a train to Tokyo from there.

Yokohama, Japan

view of amusement park rides from the ferris wheel

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019
Posted in Holland America, Japan, Port Cities, Ports of Call, Westerdam | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Fold a Towel Skunk

towel skunk

Some people might think making a towel skunk stinks, but I had a request for instructions on how to make one, so I had to figure out how. Here it is, a brand new My Cruise Stories original towel animal. Possibly the only towel skunk folding directions in existence since the person requesting it could not find them anywhere.

Supplies Needed

2 black washcloths             1 white washcloth               1 rubber band

black bath towel                 eyes (googly, felt, or paper)

Head

fold each corner down from the center of the folded end of the washcloth

Use 1 black washcloth to make the skunk’s head. Start by folding the washcloth in half on a straight line so it comes out as a rectangle.

with both sides folded over it looks like a triangle

From the center of the folded edge, fold both ends over into triangles so that the center of the original fold is at the peak of the larger triangle formed by folding the ends over.

fold over the long edge

Fold long edge over on top of the side with triangle folds.

fold in half with previous folds to outside, secure with a rubber band, and shape ears and nose

Fold the whole thing in half with the long fold to the outside. Carefully pull the tips of the corners of the triangles out from under folded edge to make small ears. Shape nose as desired and secure long bits with rubber band under head.

Body

towel origami

roll both ends of bath towel to center

The skunk uses the standard towel animal body. Start by laying the bath towel out flat. From the short ends, tightly roll both sides to the center.

fold with rolls to the outside and pull tips out of the center of the end of each roll

Fold in half with the rolls to the outside. Pull the tip out of the center of each roll.

towel art

take the tips of one roll in one hand, and the other roll in the other hand

Grab the pulled corners of both ends of one roll in one hand, and the pulled corners of both ends of the other roll in the other hand.

how to fold cruise ship towel animals

pull all 4 tips at once until the rolls pull out into the 4 legs of an animal body

Pull them tight and stretch into animal body with four legs. If you can’t pull all 4 legs all the way out at once pull them as far as you can, then set the body down and do one pair at a time. Set the body down with the longer part of the towel running lengthwise across the legs on top. (The side shown in the picture above.)

Tail and stripe

fold black washcloth into a triangle, roll white washcloth and set in triangle’s peak

Fold the second black washcloth in half diagonally so it forms a triangle. Start with one corner of the white washcloth and roll it until you reach the opposite corner so the whole thing is one long roll. Place white washcloth with the tip of one end sitting just inside the peak of the triangle in the black washcloth.

fold the sides of the triangle over the roll.

Fold the black triangle over on both sides along the edges of the white roll.

put the stripe between the folds of black towel on the back of the body with the tail hanging out between the back legs

Set the long part of the white stripe that is not within the black washcloth between the rolls on the towel body, with the tail part hanging out beyond the back legs and adjust the tail part so the black doesn’t cover the white.

Finishing

Put the head between the legs at the other end of body. Tuck the end of the stripe into the  back of the head and arrange the stripe, tail, head, and body as desired.

finished towel skunk

Add eyes. Googly eyes work nicely with a bit of double-stick tape to hold them on. Eyes made from things like felt, paper or bits of cloth work fine too. If you really wanted to get creative you could add a little white felt stripe to the face so the skunk has a stripe there too like a real one.

For instructions on how to fold lots of different towel animals, see My Cruise Stories Towel Animal Page.

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Los Angeles Cruise Ship Ports

people on the way to board and stuff waiting to get loaded on the Royal Princess

Like many cruise ports associated with large well-known cities, the cruise port in Los Angeles is located somewhere with a different name. Usually these ports are a completely different city, but in this case San Pedro has not been an independent city for over 100 years and is actually an area of Los Angeles. Most cruise ships sailing out of Los Angeles leave from San Pedro’s World Cruise Center, except for Carnival whose ships normally sail from nearby Long Beach which is a separate city.

Golden Princess at San Pedro World Cruise Center, taken from Royal Princess

Both of these ports are south of LAX, with San Pedro about 20 miles from the airport and Long Beach about 30. Our cruise on the Royal Princess left from the World Cruise Center in San Pedro. Given LA’s notorious reputation for long lines of unmoving traffic on overcrowded freeways, we booked flights that came in well ahead of the time it should actually take to get from the airport to the cruise dock before boarding time. Better early than late and we wanted to make it to the ship on time regardless of whether we had any airplane delays or faced severe traffic.

people checked in and waiting for boarding to start at the cruise terminal in San Pedro

You can get from the airport to the cruise dock by cruise line shuttle, taxi, Uber, or Lyft. Cruise line shuttles charge by the person so they often end up costing more than other transportation since the rest charge by time or distance – although a taxi meter running in unmoving traffic could surpass the shuttle’s set fee if someone got quite unlucky. The advantage of the cruise line shuttle is that if they are providing the transportation the ship has to wait for you if it is late, but you would still have to get to the airport in time to catch your shuttle. When getting to the port on your own the ship will not wait for you if you don’t get there before the all aboard time. Which is why it is a good idea to fly in well ahead of boarding time to account for any possible delays.

almost onboard

We went with Uber, which for 3 of us was considerably cheaper than taking the shuttle, and also less than taking a taxi. It just took a few minutes for pick-up, and we got lucky and didn’t encounter any slow traffic so we arrived at the port well ahead of our scheduled boarding time.

aerial view of the World Cruise Center in San Pedro (internet photo)

The World Cruise Center in San Pedro has 2 cruise ship berths, 2 terminal buildings, parking for people who drive to the terminal (at $18 per day) with shuttle service from the parking lot to the cruise terminal, and electricity by solar power. It’s the biggest cruise port on the west coast. There’s an old battleship (the Iowa) at the pier which is now a museum so if you have some time to kill before boarding there’s something to do right there. For those staying in San Pedro other things to do include a brewery tour, aquarium, shops, restaurants, and parks where you can see a lighthouse or the Korean Bell of Friendship, a gift from Korea in 1976. The day we boarded there was a Cirque du Soleil tent set up in the parking lot at the cruise terminal, but that is not a permanent feature.

aerial view of Long Beach Cruise Terminal (internet photo)

Carnival owns and operates the Long Beach Cruise Terminal. It is located next to the Queen Mary, a former cruise ship that is now used as a hotel, restaurant, bar, and entertainment venue. There are also ship tours available. Parking at the Long Beach port costs $20 per day. Hotels in the area offer park & sail packages for people who arrive by car and want to take advantage of the opportunity to stay for a night and leave their car at the hotel to save money on parking. For those who are staying in Long Beach before or after their cruise, there are things to do there in addition to visiting the Queen Mary. The city has an aquarium and plenty of shops, restaurants, and theaters. Whale watching cruises are available in the harbor.

big bumper for a big ship

Boarding the Royal Princess in San Pedro was a quick and easy process. The spacious terminal could have accommodated a lot more people than were there waiting before boarding time. The check-in process was quick and efficient, and once the boarding process started it didn’t take long to get through all the priority passengers and on down to everyone else.

watching a sailboat go by

The Golden Princess was also in port that day. It left just before we did. Apparently the way the ships were docked we had to wait for them to leave in order to use their space to turn around before heading out. We had a good view from our cabin’s balcony of the Golden Princess passing by our ship on its way out. We also saw a big sailboat and a harbor cruise go by. On the other side of the waterway our view was of a container port, but we could see the city from the top deck of the ship.

Golden Princess leaving LA

As the Golden Princess passed by our ship they tooted their horn, as cruise ships often do when leaving port. Of course when there is a second ship they often toot too, and sometimes get into a horn battle. Royal Princes responded to Golden Princess’ toot by playing the theme to The Love Boat on the horn, so Royal Princess won that horn battle hands down. A song beats a toot any day.

city view from the Royal Princess

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019
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Intrepid Aircraft Carrier Museum

Intrepid Museum

Vista through the Growler Sub at the Intrepid Museum

Our back-to-back European and transatlantic cruises on Carnival Vista came to a close after sailing past the statue of Liberty and into New York harbor in the middle of the night.

statue of liberty

sailing past the Statue of Liberty in the middle of the night

We were happy to have a balcony room so we didn’t have to go far to see the statue as the ship passed. It’s all lit up at night, but with just a pocket camera I didn’t get very good pictures.

Vista from the Intrepid

Vista behind the flight deck of the Intrepid

Vista docked on the west side of Manhattan just blocks from all the theaters and right next to the former aircraft carrier Intrepid, now a museum. While the ship stayed there a couple nights, the only passengers allowed to stay on it were those going back to back on the next cruise. We disembarked and stayed at a hotel in Queens for a couple nights, riding the subway into town like real New Yorkers.

concorde at the Intrepid Museum

concorde on the Intrepid

New York has lots to see and do. We quite enjoyed our stay there. One day we practically went back to the Vista since it was still there when we visited the unusual museum in a former aircraft carrier, the World War 2 and Vietnam era Intrepid. It’s definitely worth seeing. The base fare includes the ship and a submarine called Growler. Other exhibits like the space shuttle pavilion and the concorde cost extra. New York has other museums, but this is the only one we went to in our short stay there.

Growler submarine

bunking with torpedoes on the Growler submarine

The submarine Growler was near the entrance and didn’t have much of a line so we went there first. Space on that submarine was so tight that some sailors had to bunk with the torpedoes. Strange bunkmates indeed, but at least they didn’t snore or complain about anything.

sonar room on a submarine

sonar room on the Growler

The captain fared better than most, having a room to himself, but even his quarters were cramped. Of course this submarine is old enough to be a museum and not very big. Larger modern day subs probably have nicer accommodations for the crew.

aircraft carrier mess hall

mess hall display on the Intrepid

Compared to the submarine quarters on the aircraft carrier are spacious. Even the bunks themselves are bigger, though there was a room with 36 of them in about the space of one cruise ship cabin. Officers and enlisted men had separate mess halls and dining areas on the ship.

aircraft carrier bridge

bridge on the Intrepid

old fashioned phone

bridge communications 1940’s style

You know the ship is old when you see rotary phones on the bridge. If the phones went out, communication with the rest of the ship was done through tubes that the captain could yell into.

aircraft carrier museum

planes on the flight deck, and the Vista photobombing

The flight deck has quite a display of aircraft from different times and places. You can find more on the hangar deck. It also has several movie screens on the hangar deck that drop down at showtime to tell the story of the day two kamikazes hit the ship during World War 2. Lights and smoke effects enhance the part of the story where the ship catches fire. It survived that hit and continued service through the war and beyond.

airplane hanger in aircraft carrier

airplane with folding wings in the hanger

The hanger deck also has an exploration area where people can go inside model cockpits from planes, helicopters, and even a submarine. There’s also a few rides there.

space capsule on an aircraft carrier

retrieval of an apollo era space capsule

Besides the flight and hanger decks you get to go into the tower and see the bridge and navigation. From a window there you can see the ship retrieving a model of an old space capsule after splashdown.

Intrepid bunk room

bunk room on the Intrepid

The other deck on display is the third level down which has living quarter and mess hall displays as well as food for sale in a former mess hall.

space shuttle

space shuttle Enterprise

The space shuttle pavilion houses the very first shuttle, named the Enterprise. It was a prototype and test model that never actually went into space. Underneath the Enterprise space shuttle sits a movie prop shuttlecraft from the original Star Trek show’s Enterprise.

Star Trek shuttle craft

shuttlecraft from the Enterprise on the original Star Trek show

The space shuttle pavilion also has several displays with different information about space shuttles and the shuttle program.

space capsule

looking inside a Russian soyuz space capsule

Before space shuttles the Russians had the Soyuz Space Capsule which they still use to this day. Since America no longer uses the shuttles they now have to pay Russia to bring people to and from the space station.

aircraft carrier museum

Intrepid

Overall the Intrepid Museum had quite a lot to see and visiting it made for quite an interesting day. This ship served the nation well in its time, but technology moves on and if the military doesn’t keep up the world leaves it behind so they get new ships and old ones like this that were once the pinnacle of technology become a piece of history.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019
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Cozumel Cruise Ship Ports

Cozumel cruise ship dock

Veendam at Puerta Maya dock in Cozumel

There are 3 cruise ship docks in Cozumel. Carnival has its own dock called Puerta Maya. Ships from any of Carnival Corporation’s cruise lines can go to the 4 berths there. The nearby International Pier, which is the oldest pier on the island, holds 2 ships and Punta Langosta Pier in downtown San Miguel is also available for other lines so ships not from the Carnival family do have places to go. If there are more ships in town than available dock space they can anchor offshore and tender to Punta Langosta. We’ve never seen it that crowded, but apparently it does happen. Carnival Corp owns a lot of other lines besides Carnival Cruises so their dock will sometimes have ships from other lines, like our ship when we came there on the Holland America Veendam. All the other berths were empty that day, but even though our ship had Puerta Maya to ourselves it docked at the farthest spot from shore.

shops in Puerta Maya

Most of our visits to Cozumel have been at the Puerta Maya dock, though we did dock at the International Pier once when sailing with MSC. We have not been to Punta Langosta, though I have seen Norwegian ships docked there from a distance when sailing into a different pier.

Puerta Maya

more shops in Puerta Maya

At Puerta Maya dock passengers have to walk through the longest duty-free shop ever to get to the entrance to the port area. Sometimes we have been able to bypass part of the shop and walk outside, but other times that area has been marked for crew only.

duty free shop Puerta Maya

long narrow duty free shop on the pier

Once you finally get to the end of the shop you have to pass by fruit-sniffing dogs so don’t bother trying to smuggle any fruit to shore from the ship. Normally when we pass through there the dogs actively sniff everyone, but on our last visit two dogs snoozed lazily while their handlers hand-checked all the bags. It took them a whole lot longer to look in bags than it takes for dogs to sniff them so it pretty well stuffed up the line of people trying to get to shore. We also saw fruit-sniffing dogs the time we were at the International Pier. The ones there were actually hard at work with their noses busily sniffing everything anyone brought to shore though so people pretty much just walked by while they sniffed without them really slowing anyone down unless they had a suspicious smelling bag.

cruise ship port in Cozumel

Three Amigos bar at Puerta Maya cruise ship port

After the bag check in Puerta Maya you come to an open space with signs designating meeting places for ship’s excursions straight ahead, and bars to either side. Either Straight ahead beyond the shore excursion signs or off to the right past Fat Tuesdays leads to a lot more shops, bars, and food, or you can go to the Three Amigos bar on the left – the one with giant chairs out front.

Puerta Maya cruise port

sign at the entryway to Puerta Maya cruise port

Upon making your way to the far end of the port there’s a taxi stand with a sign saying how much the ride is to Chankanaab Park or a variety of beach bars. A lot people who don’t do ship’s excursions will take a taxi either to Chankannab or one of the many little beach bars scattered along the coast. The price varies slightly depending on how far away each bar is, but it is by distance rather than by person so if you have a few people to split the bill with it hardly costs anything. Just beyond the taxi stand you can leave the pier to walk toward town.

Cozumel, Mexico

in Cozumel near Atlantis Submarine

The International Pier also exits passengers through a shopping area as they leave their ships. The pier entrance may not be downtown like Punta Langosta, but it certainly feels like you are right in the heart of a town there with shops and hotels all around. Carnival’s pier isn’t much farther out so it’s just a short walk from there to all the things along the road near the International Pier.

ferry in Cozumel

ferry to Playa del Carmen

The main ferry dock in town for those wishing to go to Playa del Carmen on their own is near Punta Langosta, but there is always a ferry to Playa del Carmen right next to the cruise ship dock for people with excursions on the mainland. When we came on Holland America Veendam one ferry picked up all of the people with mainland excursions right off the ship before disembarkation started rather than at the nearby dock. A lot of the mainland attractions have a bus ride after the ferry and excursions there run for around 7 or 8 hours so if there is something on the mainland that you really want to see it’s easiest just to book it through the ship – plus if your excursion gets back late the ship will wait when it is their excursion, but not if you go on your own. And the return ferry drops you off right by your cruise pier for their excursions.

rocky coastline

most of the coastline near the cruise port is rocky

To explore Cozumel on your own from either Puerta Maya or the International Pier, going to the left as you exit either of these piers leads into town where there are options for things to do. Although the actual downtown area is about a half hour’s walk or a short taxi ride away, there is quite a bit right there within easy walking distance of the two piers. Scooters and jeeps are readily available for rent and little “information” booths offer rides to beach bars as well as snorkel or island tours. It’s a pretty short walk to Atlantis Subs so anyone who didn’t book through the ship, but decides they’d like to go can find it there. Next to the Atlantis place there’s a little beach with stairways into the sea where people can go to dive or snorkel. It’s free if you have your own gear, and there’s a dive shop on the far side of the beach that can rent gear or even provide snorkel tours or diving lessons. They did recommend taking a float along if snorkeling from there so the boats can see you as that area does get some boat traffic if you get very far from the beach.

beach bar in Cozumel

beach bar near the cruise docks

Most of Cozumel’s beach bars are out the other direction and too far to walk, but easily accessible by taxi. There are a few beach bars along the stretch of town near the piers as well. Most of the beach bars in Cozumel have a cover fee to get in. One fenced off stretch of beach belongs to a hotel across the street, and they will give cruise ship passengers a cheap day-pass that includes a buffet lunch if those passengers want to take the time to see the hotel and its rooms and listen to their spiel about staying there should you ever come to visit the island without the cruise ship. Kind of like going to a timeshare presentation just to get the prize offered for attending.

Puerta Maya cruise ship port

meeting area for ship’s excursions in Puerta Maya

Ship’s Excursions

Cruise ships offer quite a variety of excursions in Cozumel. Some of these excursions stay on the island while others take a ferry to the mainland, landing at Playa del Carmen. The Veendam had mainland tours to several different Mayan ruins as well as one to the Amazing Secret River, which is swimming and walking through an underground cave, and one to Xcaret park. Tours on Cozumel included island tours or San Gervasio archeological site, wine and or chocolate tours, a teqilla tour, atlantis submarine, America’s cup sailboat racing, ATV, zip line, fishing, snorkeling, kayaks, snuba, and diving. Other lines offer some of the same excursions and some different things.

Cozumel, Mexico

shoreline near the cruise docks

More Blogs about Cozumel

Cozumel, Mexico

Atlantis Submarine

Cave Snorkeling

Chankanaab Park

Palancar Reef Snorkel

Playa Mia Beach Bar

Sky Reef Beach Bar

Tulum Mayan Ruins

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019

 

Posted in Caribbean, Holland America, Mexico, Ports of Call, Veendam | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Yokohama Cruise Port

Yokohama Cruise Ship Port

Osanbashi pier, Yokohama, Japan

Westerdam in Yokohama, Japan

Osanbashi Pier in Yokohama, Japan is an attraction in itself with green spaces and a rooftop park with floorboards that mimic rolling waves. Though the architecture resembles a skate park skateboarding is not allowed. The pier is open to the public and visited by people not on cruise ships who come to the port area for the skyline views as well as the nearby shops and restaurants.

Osanbashi Pier

Osanbashi Pier near the cruise terminal entrance

Cruise ship passengers do need ID to get into the secure area leading to the ship. There’s even a small events hall at the pier, though nothing was going on there when our ship was in port. The pier is close to Chinatown and bus and train stations. On our visit they provided a free shuttle to a train station for cruise ship passengers who wanted to take a train into Tokyo or to explore the area near the station. Runners and walkers frequent the pier because the parklike area on top connects to a trail around the bay.

cruise terminal and park all in one

the port terminal building has greenspace and walking areas on top

There is an information booth at the pier with maps of the local area and of Tokyo too. Yokohama has more to see and do within walking distance of the ship than the average cruise ship passenger could experience in one day so it’s a great port for people who like to go out and do things on their own. Japanese ports also often have money exchange available right at the port.

Osanbashie Pier

ship model inside the cruise terminal at Osanbashi Pier

Yokohama is a full service cruise port where ships can embark or disembark passengers at the start or end of a cruise as well just stopping for the day for a port stop. The Holland America Westerdam did both with some passengers leaving, new passengers arriving, and about 700 people carrying on to the next cruise. Passengers not disembarking were given a special in transit pass to enable them to avoid the boarding lines of newly embarking passengers when returning to the ship after spending time on shore.

loading the Westerdam for the next voyage

resupplying the ship in Yokohama

Things to do in Yokohama

From the pier it’s an easy walk by waterfront promenade to the Minato Mirai 21 neighborhood, which translates to Harbor of the Future and contains shopping centers, hotels, a convention center, an amusement park, a relaxation center with natural hot spring baths, museums and access to the Sea Bass boats that provide transportation around the area.

Yokohama Sea Bass Boat

Sea Bass Boat in Yokohama

The waterfront promenade also extends the opposite direction from the port to nearby Yamashita Park, which also has access to the Sea Bass boats. The park is mostly open green space, but it has some attractions like an old ship turned museum and some fountains and monuments. The park’s admission fee includes the museum.

amphibious waterbus in Yokohama

amphibious waterbus in Yokohama

From the port it’s about a 10 minute bus ride to Sankeien Garden, a traditional Japanese Garden. Other things to do in Yokohama include a zoo, aquarium, ramen and cup noodles museum, beer factory tours, and the historical Yamate area where westerners were originally allowed to live when Japan first opened opened to interactions with foreigners in the 1850’s. Most buildings there were built after 1923 because an earthquake destroyed earlier structures, but the cemetery dates back to the 1850’s.

cupnoodle museum

Cupnoodle Museum in Yokohama, Japan – The yellow line in the sidewalk is for blind people to feel their way with a cane and was common in all the Asian ports on our cruise

The Cupnoodles Museum has an area where people can make their own ramen or cupnoodles as well as exhibits about the history and invention of instant ramen and cupnoodles (which were previously called cup o noodles in the USA, but no longer are.)

Cosmoworld, Yokohama

Cosmoworld Amusement Park is within walking distance of the ship

The wheel at Cosmoworld amusement park is visible from the ship so it’s quite easy to find. At night it is brightly lit with ever-changing colored lights. Cosmoworld has roller coasters and other rides and games as well as the giant Ferris wheel. There’s no admittance fee to get in, but each attraction has a price. The Cupnoodles Museum is right across the street from Cosmoworld making it just as easy to find from the ship since all you have to do is look for the wheel.

old ship museum

old ship turned museum located near the amusement park

Trains into Tokyo include regular and bullet trains, which leave from different stations. When disembarking and traveling with luggage taxis are recommend to the train station. Without luggage the shuttle bus is an option if the port happens to provide one for cruise ship passengers that day and if it is going to the right train station. There are 2 airports so those disembarking and flying out need to know which one they are going to. Passengers can arrange for a luggage service to take their bags to the airport if they prefer to travel by subway or shuttle (if available) since taxis in Japan can get quite expensive.

red brick warehouse shops in Yokohama

red brick warehouse shops

Ship’s Excursions in Yokohama

The Westerdam offered one excursion in Yokohama for people disembarking that day which had a visit to a shrine, temple, and shops in Tokyo with airport transfer. The ship also had optional direct transfers to either Narita or Haneda airports.

how to use a sit toilet

Sit-down Japanese public toilets often have instructions on how to use a sit-down toilet because squat toilets are common there and in China. Some tourists there have never seen a sit toilet before. Some restrooms in Japan had both styles.

For those continuing onto the next cruise the ship had 3 tour options. Best of Tokyo had stops at the Imperial Palace, Senso-ji Temple, and the Ginza district. Temple & Shrines of Kamakura went to Koutokuin Temple to see the great Buddha and Hachimanu Shrine for the god of war. Old Town Tokyo went to a museum, shrine, garden, and market.

Yokohama at night

Yokohama skyline at night taken from our cabin window on the Westerdam

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019
Posted in Holland America, Japan, Port Cities, Ports of Call, Westerdam | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

New Caledonia

Lifou, New Caledonia

Lifou cruise ship port

New Caledonia is a French overseas island territory made up of a group of islands and the world’s largest lagoon. It is located east of Australia in the south pacific. It has a tropical climate with the hotter and wetter season from November to March and the cooler drier season from June to August. The central mountain range of the largest island called Grand Terre creates a variety of micro-climates and land formations allowing for the development of endemic species of plants and animals found nowhere else.

Lifou Beach

beach by the tender dock in Lifou

The human population is made up of a mix of the original inhabitants called the Kanak people and people of European, Asian, and Arabic origin as well as some from other pacific islands. The majority of the population speaks French. Indigenous languages are also spoken and taught in schools. The islands have a thriving economy with nickel mining providing a good percentage of their exports.

map of New Caledonia

New Caledonia

Grand Terre is surrounded by a massive barrier reef, making it a vacation destination for scuba and snorkeling enthusiasts. Beaches, French cities, mountain chalets, hiking, and camping are other tourist pursuits enjoyed in New Caledonia.

tropical island

Maré, New Caledonia

Citizens of the EU can visit visa-free for as long as they like. Citizens from a number of other countries including the USA can stay as long as 90 days without a visa. Cruise ships  visit Noumea (which is on Grand Terre) as well as the islands of Lifou, Maré, and Isle of Pines (Ile des Pins). Our ship stopped at Lifou and Maré. Lifou had more things for tourists to do at and near the port than Maré. Both had good snorkeling within walking distance of the tender pier if you have your own gear.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019
Posted in Explorer of the Seas, Pacific Ocean & Islands, Royal Caribbean | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

James Island State Park

James Island dock

dock on James Island

For cruisers of a small private boat nature, Washington State’s San Juan Islands have much to see. The San Juan Islands vary from tiny rocky outcroppings used only by birds and marine life to islands big enough to hold towns and ferry service, and everything in between. Islands serviced by ferries are easy for anyone to visit from the mainland. One of the bigger islands, coincidently enough called San Juan Island, was home to the Pig War during the 1850’s when ownership of the San Juan Islands was the center of a dispute about where to draw the boundary line between the USA and Canada. Both countries claimed ownership. The only casualty was the pig who’s death by gunshot started the war – hence the name Pig War. Both English Camp and American Camp are now historical parks on San Juan Island.

Anacortes island transporter

island transport from Anacortes (internet photo)

Island hopper boats deliver foot passengers or vehicles to some of the larger small islands not serviced by ferries. These transporters can pull right up to a dock, boat ramp, or even a beach to load or unload people or cars. Some people live on these islands, others have cabins, and some are visitors to vacation rental homes or B&B’s. Decatur is an example of an island of this sort being a private island accessible only by boat or plane, with a handful of year-round inhabitants, lots of vacation homes, and a few rentals.

James Island

map showing location of James Island and a ferry route

There are many state parks throughout the San Juans. Some can be reached by car on the bigger islands with ferry service. Others like James, Doe, and Sucia  are marine state parks on small islands only accessible by boat. James Island sits along Rosario Strait across a small channel from the much larger Decatur Island.

James Island State Park

view of James Island dock from shore

James Island has a dock and some mooring bouys, 13 primitive campsites with picnic tables and fire pits, and a few composting and pit toilets. Much of the 581 acre island is National Forest that is closed to public use, but it does have a mile and a half long hiking trail and a couple public beaches. Island visitors need to bring their own water as there is none provided on the island.

James Island mooring buoys

mooring buoys

The mooring buoys are on the opposite side of the island from the dock by sea, but it’s just a short walk by land from the dock to the overlook with a view of the buoys.

James Island

beach at James Island by the dock

The island is a popular stopping point for boaters and kayakers. Fishing and shellfishing require a license and adherence to rules and open seasons. Most of the island is forested. The hiking trail runs along steep bluffs in some sections. Other parts go through the woods. Now and then the trail comes across some of the campsites scattered about the island. There is a stairway to a beach with a view of the dock near one of the campsites.

beach on James Island

beach near the hiking trail

Boaters pay a moorage fee to stay at the dock overnight. Day visits are free.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019

 

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Royal Princess

Royal Princess

Royal Princess in Seattle

Royal Princess is the first of Princess’ Royal class, which also includes the Regal Princess, Majestic Princess, the soon to launch Sky Princess, and coming in 2020 the Enchanted Princess. Sister line P&O’s Britiannia also has a lot of similarities to this class of Princess ship. Royal Princess launched in 2013, christened by the Duchess of Cambridge (Princess Kate). Regal launched in 2014, followed by Majestic in 2017, and Sky is due to launch in October 2019.

view to the sea and life boats from the sea walk, a unique feature of royal class Princess ships

This is currently Princess’ newest and largest class of cruise ships. Royal Princess holds 3560 guests in 1780 cabins and 1346 crew. The ship is 1083 feet long and 217 feet high topping out at deck 19 with no deck 13. Like floors in hotels, cruise ships often skip 13 when numbering their decks.

outside area of the Lido deck

The Lido deck has a pool and hot tubs in the outside area, and a buffet inside. There are additional hot tubs on the deck above running along the sides of the Lido’s pool area.

balcony cabin A111

Other than the medical center on deck 4, passenger areas are on deck 5 and above with the lower decks reserved for the crew. Unlike most ships, the 3 lowest decks with passenger access are all public areas with no low-deck cabins in an area where oceanview cabins usually reside. There are no cabins on the lifeboat deck either where obstructed view cabins are often found. In fact this ship has no ocean view cabins at all. All of the passenger staterooms either have balconies or are inside cabins. This is the first cruise ship I’ve ever seen that had no oceanview cabins.

view of the sea through the floor of the sea walk

The sea walk featured on decks 16 and 17 curves out beyond the rest of the outer edge of the ship. Glass panels in the floor of the sea walk on deck 16 allow viewing straight down through the floor to the lifeboats and the sea. The lower level is fun to walk on for the floor views, and the upper level is one of the best places on the ship for scenic views.

misty morning wet jogging track

Royal Princess has a basketball court, ping pong, and mini golf on the sports deck. It also has a walking and jogging track, which circles around about half the distance of the ship and has some fitness stations along the way.

one of 4 unconnected deck sections that are all Royal Princess has for an outside promenade deck – it’s not really a promenade deck if you can’t walk around it. The part under the lifeboats is for crew only.

It was a bit disappointing that there are just 4 small sections of the outside promenade deck open to passengers. Promenade decks often circle the entire ship, providing a place to walk or jog. Usually they have some shade and shelter from upper decks while tracks on a top deck are open to wind and weather. Luckily the gym was open 24 hours making treadmills an option even for those who like to work out early or late. It had official open hours when it was staffed, but the equipment was available for use anytime.

view of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge from the sea walk

Royal Princess had some nice unobstructed views off the stern on several decks, but no unobstructed forward views. One of the back decks was the smoking area. Having smoking at the back means the ship sails out of the smoke when underway, and people are unlikely to inadvertently walk through that area on the way to anywhere else. So that’s a good place for it to be.

shops and casino

Indoor smoking was allowed in the cigar lounge, which was fully enclosed and did not leach smoke into other areas of the ship. That’s a nice feature princess ships have. It gives the smokers a place to go without subjecting the rest of the passengers to their smoke. I don’t think smoking was actually allowed in the casino, but it smelled like smoke in there. Perhaps it was allowed in prior years since the smell never goes away without a complete gut job. Possibly people brought the smoke smell into the casino on their clothes, but since we didn’t notice it anywhere else on the ship it’s more likely that the smell was embedded into the room itself. Whatever the reason we tended to walk through the adjacent nightclub rather than the casino when passing through that deck.

cooking demonstration in the theater that was part comedy show, part cooking

We went to a cooking demonstration one day that was sort of a cross between a cooking show and a comedy show. It was pretty entertaining. The chef said he could make 100 different kinds of potatoes. The show was followed by a short galley tour. All along the edges of the counters in the galley there was a long line of plates of potatoes, each with a label of what kind they were, all different. I’ve been on a few galley tours before, but none of the others ever had all those different types of potatoes on display.

photo in a hallway between passenger cabins

Royal Princess is a fairly large ship and even though it is 6 years old everything still looked new. Artwork in the hallways to passenger cabins consisted of pictures donated by passengers on former cruises. Most were idyllic vacation scenes, with a notation of who took the photo and which ship they were sailing on at the time. These attractive pictures were quite nice to look at while walking down the hallways. I thought it would have been nice if they had also included where the photo was taken. When looking at one of the photos and thinking I’d like to go there, it would have been nice to know where there was. A few places were obvious to everyone – like the moai of Easter Island. Some other places were recognizable to people who have been to that spot and remember the view, like the one of a monkey on the Rock of Gibraltar. I recognized it easily, but my sisters did not as they have never been there.

heated waterbed in the Enclave (spa thermal suite)

The ship had a nice thermal suite in the spa, called the Enclave. It had a pool, heated ceramic benches, some little heated waterbed things which I had never seen before, a sauna, steam rooms, and a variety of fancy showers in the enclave area. We always take the spa tour on boarding day to see if the ship’s thermal area is worthy of purchasing the thermal package, which allows you to use that area all through the cruise. We decided this one was indeed worthy, and enjoyed our time there.

self-serve passenger laundry

Though it does cost extra, if the ship has a nice thermal suite it’s one of the best deals at the spa since you can use it every day rather than a one time event like a massage or facial. There were no private dressing areas in the locker room, but the showers there were equipped with rain showers just like the ones at the gym. The gym and spa were on different decks at opposite ends of the ship rather than in the same area with a shared locker room like on most ships. The gym locker room did not have private dressing areas either, though the gym itself was quite nice with plenty of treadmills. In the times I used it there were always treadmills available for anyone who came in wanting one, which is not always the case on some ships. There were self-serve passenger laundries on nearly every deck with guest cabins, so that’s a plus. Princess always has them so if I ever take a long cruise on Princess I won’t have to wash clothes in the bathroom sink like I have done on most of the long cruises we’ve taken on other lines.

bar overlooking the piazza

The ship had lots of bars on various decks, and several eateries around the central piazza area in addition to the main food venues at the lido buffet, dining rooms, and premium restaurants. It had two pizza places with one in the piazza and one on the Lido. Other Piazza areas included a café with desserts, sandwiches, quiche, and specialty coffee and tea, a gelato place, and bars. The café there usually had a couple gluten free desert options and the food was free, but the specialty drinks cost extra so we brought free tea down from the Lido if we wanted to get a snack there. The crew was quite friendly and helpful in all areas of the ship. Being terrible with names and faces myself, I have no idea how the crew on cruise ships remembers all the guests and then learns a whole new batch the next week. It’s not just that they associate you with the cabin you’re in or the table you sit at in the dining room either because your steward or dining room staff will recognize you on sight anywhere on the ship and always have a friendly hello.

medallions replace key cards on the Royal Princess

Royal Princess is one of the first few ships to add medallion class after the initial two ships who introduced it. So far the medallions are unique to Princess. The medallion is a like a wearable waterproof key-card, but so much more. It came in a plastic case on a lanyard, but they do sell optional bracelets and necklaces to put them on. With the simple plastic wristband priced at $12, and metal bracelets or neck chains upwards of $40-$50, not surprisingly most people just stuck with the lanyards. On a warm weather cruise destination with beaches and snorkeling options I’d imagine they would have more sales of the plastic wristbands since they’d be quite useful there, eliminating the usual cruise port dilemma of what to do with the key card (or in this case medallion) while you go into the water.

interactive screen in the elevator bay can give directions, find shipmates, and play games

Besides opening the stateroom door and using the medallion to pay for onboard purchases like the traditional key-card, these could also be used to sign into interactive screens around the ship for things like wayfinding, game playing, or searching for your cabin mates. While useful when you want to find someone, the search feature is also somewhat creepy in that it makes it obvious you are being tracked everywhere you go onboard. The cabin door was supposed to unlock as you approach wearing your medallion, but we all had to touch ours to the screen outside the cabin to make our door unlock. We talked to a guy who said he had to touch his to the screen, but his wife’s would unlock it before she even got close so apparently some medallions worked better at that feature than others.

Alfredo’s pizza in the Royal Princess piazza

The medallions are also quite useful at check-in time. People have the option to be ocean ready before the cruise even starts. They can do their check-in process at home and if they live in the USA and complete it early enough they get the medallion mailed to them so they don’t even have to wait in line for it at the port. Ocean ready people have a separate check-in from the rest, which was promoted as having quicker access to the ship. We did not want to scan our passports and send the info over the internet so we did not do the ocean ready thing. I can’t verify how fast their boarding process actually went, but since that takes a good portion of the people elsewhere the regular check-in was a breeze.

almost all the seats in the Royal Princess theater are good seats

Royal Princess has quite a nice theater. There is no balcony overhanging the lower level seats, which means no view-blocking poles holding up said balcony. The upper seats are raised far enough above the seats in front of them to provide a good view. The lower ones don’t have as much of a rise, but other than the ones way out to the side of the stage, most still have a good view. As is common in so many places, the speakers were turned up a bit too loud, making some sounds a bit hard on the ears. Especially when seated in those not-so-good seats out to the side at the front because they are next to some speakers.

outdoor movie screen for movies under the stars

The ship has an outdoor movie screen with nightly movies under the stars. There’s something playing on that screen throughout the day as well. The entertainment staff provides a variety of activities throughout the day and evening in various places around the ship. The Princess Patter paper placed in cabins each night has a full schedule of the next day’s events and there was always a long list of things to do. These events are also posted on an interactive screen in the elevator bays and can be seen on smart phones for anyone who downloaded the Princess app, which also has a chat feature for contacting your shipmates. We had just 2 sea days on this cruise so there wasn’t a lot of time for onboard activities. Most days were spent visiting ports, but we still found time to participate in a few things besides hanging out in the enclave at the spa which is where we spent most of our spare time onboard.

ship art in a public area

Décor on the Royal Princes was kind of a modern understated subtle elegance. Everything looked nice, but none of the fancy ornate décor found on some older cruise ships. Princess does not have a bunch of ugly statues placed around the ship that seem to be required décor on some lines. Pictures in areas other than hallways to guest rooms tended to look more like paintings than photos, and each stairway had artwork unique of that found on other stairways, which makes it easier to know whether you are near the front, center, or back of the ship when you go up or down the stairs.

life ring on the Royal Princess

Overall Royal Princess is quite a nice ship, and we had an enjoyable cruise. The Piazza area at the center of the ship is a hub of activity with shops, eateries, and bars all around it and a variety of activities happening there all day and throughout the evening. There are all sorts of activities all around the ship so there’s always something to do. The cruise director hosted several fitness classes in a row in the piazza and looked quite energetic and like he was having a good time leading the class any time we walked by there so teaching all those classes must really have kept him fit. He did seem like rather a high-energy outgoing guy whatever he was doing, which is a type of personality that makes a good cruise director.

piazza on the Royal Princess

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019
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