Monday, November 17, 2014

Alaska - Day 1, All Aboard the Star Princess

Sunday, September 21
Our first trip to Alaska!

The view from Pier 23 Cafe
Photo by Chris.
All rights reserved.
Our son and grandson gave us a ride to the brand-new cruise terminal, Pier  27, on the Embarcadero in San Francisco this morning. It's always hard to gauge the amount of time needed to get from our place to the City in case of traffic and so on, and we wanted to be among the first on board. Boarding day counts as "Day 1" of a cruise, so we figured we might as well get on board, unpack, find out way around, hang out on the ship, and start eating (not necessarily in that order). We allowed an hour and a half for the trip from our house to the dock.

The weather was overcast, as it has a tendency to do in San Francisco. Unless there's a storm brewing, that doesn't mean it will rain. It's just the fog layer, keeping things air conditioned. The temperature was in the mid-60's F, and a light windbreaker was plenty to keep us very comfortable.

We arrived at the terminal in less than an hour, at 11 a.m. That was not great, as boarding was set to begin at 1 p.m. And, as I discovered, 1 o'clock means 1 o'clock. Or 12:30. Ours was the first departure from this beautiful terminal. I yearned to be inside the doors rather than outside. On the plus side, we were allowed to drop off our suitcases with the porters outside, which we did (while fervently praying that they would be safely delivered). But, naturally, we kept our hand-carry luggage with us, since there were things in there that we needed to keep our eye on. And so our foray in the vicinity was limited due to our bulky state of affairs. We went to Pier 23 Cafe and sat in the beer garden, where we had a spectacular view of the ship. Conveniently, Fog City Diner is right across the street from the terminal.

The pool in the back with the skyline.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
At 12:30 sharp, the doors to the terminal opened. Hooray! In spite of the "bugs" to be worked out in the boarding process, the computer systems, the information screens, the waiting areas – well, there were some "bugs" to work out – we were soon (more or less) and with minimal aggravation (more or less) on board. Whew!

A balcony big enough for 2 loungers!
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
We decided to find our room before doing anything else. We were on Caribe Deck, which is Deck 10. The cabin was larger than we expected, probably because of what looked like two drop-down "bunk" berth rectangle shapes in the ceiling. It also had an extra-large balcony. Surprise! It's nice to know that the "cabin for four" is actually big enough for four people, so long as they aren't all trying to squeeze into the bathroom.

Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
After a quick trip up several flights of stairs to the abundant buffet on Deck 14 for some lunch, we returned to our cabin to find that our bags had arrived! What?! Already?! Harry took a nap while I unpacked, and there were extra hangers. Again, what?! But you know what they say about things that are too good to be true.

We were supposed to sail at 4 p.m., but there was a problem loading the baggage, apparently, so there was an announcement that we would be delayed three hours. What?! Disappointed, we headed up top to the sail-away party for a little while, then got ready for dinner. 

A lovely day on the Bay.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
We chose early (5:30 p.m.) dining this time. That's a lot earlier than we eat at home, but we wanted maximum time for checking out the music and the shows! Also, late seating was at 8, and we didn't want to be leaving the dining room at 9:30. We arrived at dinner promptly, were seated at a table for eight, and looked forward to meeting our table mates, who all got there eventually. First came Nona and Phil. Then came Mark and Judy. We were eating our entree when Jeff and Lorene arrived at the table. Everyone was friendly and contributed to the conversation, which was an excellent start.

What we ate:  We both started with the "Red Snapper Mojito" (ceviche) appetizer. I had the chicken broth with tortellini, and Harry had the cream of porcini mushroom soup. For our entree, I had seared basa (yes, basa...not bass) with mango-papaya salsa, and Harry had crawfish etouffee. We both had creme brulee for dessert. Another excellent start!

Night lights -- Bay Bridge
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
We admired the San Francisco skyline and the Bay Bridge from our balcony at dusk, then at night. If we didn't live here, we'd think it was incredibly gorgeous, which it is. And now we were four hours late. And it turned out it was the longshoremen's union flexing its muscles, holding us hostage due to some dispute or other with the City. We were not pleased.

I had so been looking forward to sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge, which we eventually did – five hours late – but we were at the show when that happened, so we missed it. Boooooo! Hisssssss! The "Welcome Aboard" show, however, was terrific. The Star Princess Singers and Dancers were very good, and comedian "Rollin'Jay Moore" was hilarious. 

Music in the Piazza.
Photo by Chris.
All rights reserved.
After that, we went to the Wheelhouse Bar, where a band called "Phoenix Rising" was playing all kinds of music “except rap and girl songs.” They knew "Since I Fell for You," so I give them bonus points. Also, Harry danced with me. So make those bonus points five stars instead.

When "Phoenix Rising" took a break, we wandered over to the Explorers Lounge, where a party band called "Xcite" was playing dance music. And we danced some more...awesome! We were having a great time already.

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