Boarding the Royal Princess in Los Angeles, California was a much easier process than their pre-cruise emails made it sound. After having been told just a couple weeks before the cruise that we couldn’t get on the ship until 2:30pm when the official boarding time started at 1pm we were ready to never book a cruise with Princess again. Our flights were already booked, and with notoriously bad traffic in LA a possible issue we never would have cut the arrival time that close with an all-aboard time of 3pm. It turned out they worried us over nothing as we got right in the building when we arrived around 10:30am – earlier than expected as we didn’t get stuck in traffic. We got right through the check-in immediately with no line, and boarded shortly after. Not only prior to the 2:30 time they had told us we couldn’t board before, but before the official 1pm boarding time as well.
The buffet is always open at boarding time, or at least it was prior to Covid. Hard to say if buffets will still exist once cruising gets going again, but some sort of post boarding lunch should still be an option. Then of course exploring the ship is fun. There’s always a spa tour on boarding day, which is a good way to see if the thermal suite is worth booking, and on the Royal Princess it was. One of my sisters hurt her knee just before the cruise so a lot of walking around wasn’t in her best interests. I did most of my explorations of this ship alone in the early mornings while my sisters were sleeping.
We got lucky with the weather this cruise. Other than being misty with wet decks in the morning sailing into San Francisco, the weather was pretty dry. Foggy, cold, and windy at times, but not much rain so that’s good. Our first port stop was in San Diego. We’d had an excursion booked, but it got cancelled shortly before the cruise so we just go off the boat to see what was there and found a hop-on hop-off trolley right at the pier. There were also lots of people riding on little self-powered scooters. They were probably available for rent somewhere and would have been a fun way to tour the local area, but we went with the trolley tour.
We spent the next day at sea having a bit of time to enjoy the ship. When sailing with my husband we try to avoid having our picture taken, but when sailing with the sisters we seek out photo ops because they like to buy the pictures. None of us are photogenic, but as Barbara put it we have bad pictures of good memories. The photo department’s choices of photos to put into the fancy pictures they made weren’t necessarily the ones we’d have chosen, though even with a big pile of photos it’s pretty difficult to find one where none of us look horrible. Especially me since I’m the least photogenic of the three.
Photo ops weren’t the only thing we sought out this cruise that I usually avoid. Since one of my sisters hurt her knee just before the cruise and was not in any shape for much walking we were seeking elevators rather than avoiding them – at least anytime that particular sister was there. If I was alone or with the other sister we still took the stairs.
Royal Princess is lacking in good running space since their promenade deck is just four little sections, one at each corner. Just oversized balconies really rather than an actual promenade deck that people can walk around the ship on. The rest of what is there is crew only, and even it doesn’t extend all the way around the ship. They do have a jogging track on the top deck, but I don’t ever use those. Besides being exposed to sun, wind, and weather they generally always go past a smoking area. On the Royal Princess the smoking area was at the back one deck below so when the ship is in motion it’s more likely to go the other way making that issue better than most ships, but still out in the open without the shade, shelter, and wind protection you get on a promenade deck.
They did have the gym open 24 hours a day meaning treadmills were accessible in the early morning, so though I don’t really care for indoor running I did my runs there, sneaking out of the room early while my sisters slept. Showering at the gym after a run wasn’t too pleasant though as I’d be nearly done before the water finally got warm – unlike our cabin where the water warmed instantly. Returning from a run for a shower in a one-bathroom cabin right about the time the others woke up wasn’t really an option though.
The buffet on the Princess had a lot of variety, but it lacked the cook-on-request stations for things like omelettes or waffles that some ships have. They did have a station that would make gluten-free pancakes or hand out gluten free muffins on request, but it was not labeled in any way so we had to ask around to find it. They did not have any gluten free English muffins or anything onboard, just gluten free toast. The meals were good though and dinners in the dining room we could pre-order the night before and have made gluten free. They often brought us something off the menu for dessert that was both gluten and dairy free since we all have problems with both.
With one-week cruises it always seems like they are trying to boot you off the ship when you barely got on when you see the disembarkation papers in the cabin a few days after boarding. Of course they really just want to get everything organized, but that’s still how it feels. Royal Princess sailed into San Francisco in the early morning mist, but quite a few people were up on deck at 6am to watch it sail under the bridge. It totally looks like the ship is going to hit the bridge until it actually passes under it, then once through it doesn’t look like it ever could have made it, but it really clears by about 10 meters.
In San Francisco our cousin that we rarely see met us at the dock and showed us around town for the day. We went over the bridge on a bus tour so we got to go over and under the Golden Gate Bridge on the same day. We also rode a cable car, walked down Lombard Street, and went to Fisherman’s Wharf so we saw some of the town’s major attractions. Sailing out of town midday on the next day we had sunshine for passing under the bridge and views of Alcatraz.
The captain said we’d have a bit of weather on the way up the coast. I’ve been on enough cruises that I didn’t really notice the movement of the ship unless someone mentioned it, but my sisters did. It takes a lot to really rock a cruise ship. Besides their giant size they are also equipped with stabilizers. This time it didn’t even have enough movement to make people stagger down the halls like drunks, and barf bags only appeared at the elevators by the dining room rather than next to all of the elevators on the ship.
We had a nice sea day on the way up the coast. Linda and I went to a cooking demonstration followed by a galley tour. The cooking demonstration was done half serious, half comedy and was pretty entertaining. The galley tour was short, but free so we can’t complain. Reminiscent of any theme park ride or major tourist attraction, it exited through the gift shop. Which was actually the dining room with a bunch of sale merchandise set up on tables.
Later we went to a paper airplane contest. Usually it’s just whoever throws it the farthest, but Royal Princess had little runway lights set up in the Piazza, a crew member dressed up like an airplane marshal with little paddles, and a giant hoop. People made their paper airplanes with paper provided there, then one by one tried to throw it through the hoop from the balcony above. Most of them fell short of the hoop. Finally one guy got his through and they gave him a medal. As each person approached for their turn they asked your name and your airplane’s name. I just said ever-hopeful for my airplane name for hoping it actually goes through the hoop. Which it did not. It sailed right over the hoop and landed in the middle of the little runway they’d made out of lights. None of the other planes had landed in the runway so far so they gave me a medal for a perfect landing. More people went, again mostly falling short of the hoop. One kid’s plane went so far it bypassed the runway altogether and would have kept going a bit more if it hadn’t crashed into a barrier at the end of the open space in the middle of the piazza so he got a medal for going the distance. Linda’s airplane flew beyond the hoop, but veered off to the side and didn’t land on the runway so she didn’t get a medal. I only saw just the 3 medals handed out, but we didn’t stay long enough to watch everyone throw so there could have been more later.
Both sea days had formal night dinners, which means dressing up, but usually better food. We had lamb on the first one and lobster on the second. We saw balloons hanging from a net in the piazza for a balloon drop, which we kind of wanted to go to, but they had it late enough at night that we forgot about it and didn’t go.
Sailing down the Strait of Juan de Fuca we had sunshine and calm waters. We looked out the window of our balcony in time to see the pilot boat on its way back to Port Angeles after bringing the pilot to our ship, but not in time to watch him get on. We had good views of Ediz Hook and Dungeness Spit with its lighthouse, though the lighthouse looks tiny from the ship. It looks tiny from shore too. You have to hike out the spit to really see it.
Our last port before the cruise ended in Vancouver was Seattle. You would think California would be warmer, but we actually had our hottest day there. The ship docked right in town at pier 66 rather than out in the boon toolies at pier 91 where the main cruise docks are. That made it convenient for walking to attractions since it was right in the touristy area of the waterfront. We walked to Pioneer Square and took the underground tour.
In Vancouver our ship docked for disembarkation in Canada Place, the main cruise dock there. It is also located in the heart of the touristy area and just steps away from a sky train station and waterfront walkway. Bus stops are also nearby and taxis available so it’s pretty easy to get around in Vancouver.