|# of Nights:|
We started our journey on the 14th when we left Tucson at 5am for a 6:30am flight. As much as I tried to stuff everything in to two suitcases, I was unable to do so and we ended up paying for the 3rd suitcase. I say this because the suitcases never made it to San Diego until the morning of the 15th.
The hotel we stayed at was extremely accommodating; they comped two full breakfasts and gave us a cheaper rate for the night than what had been quoted. We ended up having pizza delivered and split most of it with the front desk staff.
On Sunday, Jerry and I hoofed to the grocery store (about 5 miles away) and bought a 5-cup Black and Decker coffee pot, filters, coffee, and six 6-packs of Lipton ice tea. Yes, I schlepped my own coffee to the ship. Good thing because their coffee was by far the worst coffee that I had ever encountered in my 50+ years. (Our room steward loved when I made a second pot because that meant he always got a cup or two.) I left the pot, filters and coffee for him at the end of the cruise.
We weren't able to board the ship right away because of a noro-virus outbreak on the cruise that had just finished. So we were taken to the San Diego Convention Center. Total embarkation took no more than 5 minutes. Within the Center were hundreds of tables and chairs (linens and all), buffet spread of sandwiches, chips, cookies, fruits, water, sodas, tea and coffee. Most of us felt sorry that the ship's bar was losing money; and not alot of grumblings as to why we weren't on the ship.
We were bused to the port of entry close to 5 and in our room shortly thereafter. Complimentary wine and champaign was available until we sailed off.
Signs were everywhere reminding us that bleach had been used and not to lean against anything; wash your hands; use hand sanitizer. For 4 days, we handled nothing. Everything was given to us, including salt, pepper, sugar, cream being poured into our coffee. By the time we got to the first port (Hilo), we were declared a healthy ship.
Every paper reminded us that the medical office would treat you for free if you had such and such symtoms (of the virus).
The weather from San Diego to Hawaii was cold (in the 50s); slight wind but rather smooth sailing. We saw our first sunny day in Hilo.
The ship provided lots of activities indoors and out; lots of variety in terms of crafts, dancing, educational opportunities (computer classes, naturalist talks, spa and fitness talks, special artists on board) and evening shows and movies. Each room had a VCR/DVD but the library was closed for the first 7 days so I'm not sure if we could even "rent" any. There were pay-per-view movies as well as a different movie each day in the movie theater.
We had two brunches in the main dining room, three formal nights, an evening luau and an afternoon picnic. Jerry and I ate one breakfast in the main dining room, ate one lunch in the main dining room, all dinners but one in the main dining room and pretty much went to the buffet for all of the other meals. The day we were in Oahu we went to the sushi and stir fry station and brought it to our room. They also had 'casual dining' where you paid $2/per person and were served dinner upstairs in the indoor area by the pool.
Everyone raved over the waffles and omelet stations, as well as the stir fry. As a matter of fact, the stir fry was supposed to be just from 5-7pm, but because of it's popularity, it actually opened at 11:30am and stayed open until 9:30pm.
We set our clocks back an hour a day for the first three days in order to get on Hawaii time and reset it an hour a day for the last three days to get back to California time.
The weather in Hawaii was picture perfect. We loved everything that we did and missed Marcy and James a lot. I'll post something separate about the islands under the Destinations forum.
The 5 days sailing back to San Diego were incredible. High wind, high waves (sometimes 12-15 feet), cold and damp. Everyone on the ship said that this was typical sailing weather to/from Hawaii. The ship stopped in Ensenada for a few hours the last night (7-midnight).
The ship was spotless. I'm sure some of it was to be germ free. But I'm also sure that this was Celebrity's standards.
Celebrity advertised Azamara and all of it's other sailings every day in it's paper. They had two people at the conceirge desk and offered ship board credits and lower deposits if you signed up for a cruise during our cruise.
The spa offered most of its specials while we were in port. Their prices were way too high for me to even consider anything. I did attend two of their lectures and was very pleased that neither person pushed product or services. They actually offered information that was useful and easy to do!
The casino staff was very friendly, very casual. They had two blackjack tournaments (Jerry placed 2nd the 2nd time) and three slot tournaments as well as daily Texas Hold'Em lessons and tables. I stopped gambling by day three; Jerry kept trying to win "the big one". Never did. But really enjoyed himself.
The ship stores pretty much offer the same schlock (okay, truly wonderful stuff that you can't live without) and offer sales towards the end of the cruise. Everything was duty free/tax free and there were no declarations to be made (if you didn't purchase anything in Mexico.)
Liquor/drink specials were daily as were wine tasting events and champagne tasting events ($10/person.) Again, no hard sell of product. Lots of education about the product. Throughout the cruise, there were free wine and champagne offerings.
Jerry and I were pretty close to the youngest folks on this cruise. We did meet a few couples on their honeymoon; a small selection of younger families; and a few couples celebrating "special" anniversaries. By and far, this was the first time we encountered the majority of the ship using wheelchairs, walkers, etc. Lots of warnings when we were being tendered (two different ports) and that it would be difficult to maneuver and there would be steep steps.
We met lots of folks from Germany on this cruise. Announcements were only made at noon and they were in English and German. NO OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS the entire time!!!!
A few grumblings could be heard on a daily basis from some of the guests, but most everyone else seemed extremely happy.
Crazie made a huge impression. I hope her pictures turn out!
Debarkation was a breeze. Non US citizens cleared customs rather quickly. We never heard "so and so needs to come to customs" at all on Monday. The ship offered luggage service directly to the airport (we didn't do it because I had so much to stuff in after we claimed our baggage). We were off the ship by 10am and at the airport by 10:30 for our 12:30 flight to Tucson.
A few things that I learned:
If you are looking for sunny at sea days, sailing to/from Hawaii won't get them for you. Stick to the Caribbean and Mexican Riviera.
If you are looking to relax, sleep and just kick back, then crossing the Pacific (and I imagine the Atlantic) will work just fine.
Yes, I definitely overpacked. I had an entire suitcase of clean clothes that were never worn. I just need to remember what we did wear and pack that.
Too many shoes. They take up way to much space. Jerry and I are going to have to minimize in the shoe department (and I thought I did a rather good job this time).
Jerry HAS TO TRY ON HIS PANTS before we leave. His tux pants weren't even close to buttoning. Thankfully I brought black dress pants that he was able to wear with his tux shirt and jacket. (Either that or he has to start losing a few around the waist line.)
Better to pack smaller bathroom things and toss them out when finished. They, too, take up way too much room and have to be in the suitcases. If we had the small ones, they could have gone with the carry-on.
I did have the ship do laundry mid way. If there was a washer/dryer on board, I would have done some myself. Not really that expensive considering 7 days worth of clothes were washed. I guess if I didn't have the laundry done, we would have worn most everything.
I need to be a bit more vocal when it comes to my food allergies. I prepared a list of everything that I can eat and gave it to the maitre de' (or however it's spelled) and our waiter. On all of the other cruises, the waiter would present me with the menu for the next evening so that I could pre-select my meal. For 16 nights, I had salmon, steamed broccoli and steamed cauliflower. THAT'S IT!! I'm not sure where the communication dropped, but it did.
Jerry thoroughly enjoyed all of his meals as did the other folks at our table. Lamb, veal and beef were offered nightly along with a fish selection, pasta selection and vegetarian selection. You could always order chicken breast, salmon, NY steak or pasta.
Desserts always looked beautiful. Chocolate conncoctions and creme brulees were a huge hit as were Cherries Jubilee and Baked Alaska.
Another thing that surprised me was how fast our waitstaff was to bring the food and take it away. We had to slow them down a couple of times.
I think that about sums up this vacation. Off to figure out where our next trip will be!