“Viva Mexico” 20th Anniversary Cruise: Day 1, Embarkation

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera
What: Crown Princess
When: April 9-16, 2016
Why: 20th Wedding Anniversary Celebration

We started celebrating our 20th anniversary, which officially occurs in August, with the Valentine’s weekend kickoff trip, instead of just focusing on that day in August. We’d had many ideas for the “big” trip but decided on a cruise back to the Mexican Riviera. We’ve cruised to Mexico 4 times in under a year and we just can’t get enough of it. It’s not a place we would choose to be in August.

I began to worry about the weather for our sailaway day. Rain was predicted for about 4 days in a row. I kept hoping they’d revise the weather report. But with an El Nino year, I feared April would not be the best time to sail out of L.A. Cruising out of L.A. any time of the year can be tricky – it definitely isn’t Florida or the Caribbean where your tropical vacation begins the moment you board the ship. In L.A., the first day out and the last day back are usually not that great weather-wise. And this year it would be the worst ever.

Noting the temps were similar to what we were having at home, I’d tested the weather a couple of times. It seemed warm to me so I didn’t pack a sweatshirt. Slap on the forehead. I know better – you usually need some kind of jacket at the L.A. ports almost any time of year.

We packed the suitcases in the Jeep and left our home in Las Vegas at about 9:30 a.m. We stopped for breakfast in Barstow with a sausage burrito at McDonald’s – only 300 calories, which is about the lowest you can find for a fast food breakfast. We entered it in our trackers, although we figured once we boarded the ship, all precautions would be thrown to the wind.

We ran into rain in the higher elevations over the two passes between Las Vegas and L.A. and, in spite of our printed directions, we ended up at the Port of Long Beach (out of habit?) instead of San Pedro. We asked 3 security attendants for directions and got back on the road. We drove over one bridge and exited, not being able to see much of anything due to the downpour. We asked a patrol car for directions and he set us back on the right path.

We parked the car and dragged our luggage to a long line of people waiting to board the ship. Rich checked the larger bag and we continued to pull along our two carry-ons. Eventually, we realized the line was for checking baggage only and we could walk right in and get in the check-in line.

By the time we checked in, we were able to board immediately instead of waiting in the seating area like we did last time on the Ruby Princess. When we got our photos taken for I.D. purposes, the guy said, “What a pretty smile for a pretty lady.” Okay, I’m liking this cruise already. 🙂

We dropped off our carry on bags in our mini suite and took a look around. We were very impressed! It was very spacious, with two separate rooms really and the bathroom was a big improvement.

The 4-night Ruby cruise gave us an opportunity to try out this class of Princess ship before booking a 7-night cruise, and that’s when we knew we could never sail in one of their tiny balcony cabins with the tiny bathroom ever again. We had to book a mini-suite if we were to sail Princess again, so we did. Btw, the balcony cabins were larger on the Grand Princess and we were taken by surprise by how small the cabins were on the Ruby Princess.

We made it to the Botticelli dining room for embarkation lunch and were seated at the long beach for couples, spaced out accordingly. The food was tasty and the service very good. Not everybody knows about this lunch and, in fact, the crew will direct you to the buffet when you board. It’s one of those “in the know” experiences.

Rich had the pasta for appetizer, chicken and more pasta for entree, and Apple tart for dessert. I had the avocado and shrimp appetizer, salmon for entree, and trifle for dessert. I tasted Rich’s pasta side and it was the best thing at lunch (the best pasta dish for the entire cruise). Neither dessert was very good. We also each had a glass of Sangiovese.

We then made ressies for Crown Grill for Sunday night, the first formal night, and then a spa massage for Rich (his neck was killing him after that tense drive in the rain) and mani/pedi for me. Usually, I do this before the cruise but I couldn’t quite fit it in and thought it might be fun onboard the ship. By booking it for the first night, we each were given discounts.

We waited in our mini-suite and met our cabin steward, Frankey, who brought us a welcome glass of champagne. Nice touch for the mini-suite. We also made our requests known for ice, robes, and fruit (and later, a top sheet).

Before long, it was time for the muster drill, which was an improvement over the one we had on the Ruby. Short, early and we were seated in the Princess Theater instead of standing around the photo gallery like on the Ruby. Boy is that theater claustrophobic, though. I can’t believe that’s their only theater. I knew it was small but had forgotten.

Then it was time for our spa appointments. We waited in the quiet room. I was scheduled to go first but my technician was late so Rich was called for his massage first. I chatted with a friendly woman from Arizona. They’d stayed with friends in Riverside the night before and when they were ready to drive to the port, their car wouldn’t start. So their friends drove them to the port and would work on getting their car fixed while they were on the cruise.

I was then called in for my mani/pedi. As it turns out, I didn’t like spending ship time doing something I could have done at home. It was fun to try something new but wouldn’t do it again. And it’s true about the upsell pitches – very annoying! At least, for Rich, it didn’t happen until the end of the massage. For me, she tried it throughout and when I pushed back, she got snippy with me. The view of the cargo containers in San Pedro in the rain was not the best either.

The captain announced that due to the diver polishing of the propellor (in the rain) taking more time than expected, we would sail late. I mean, really? The captain began to lose his credibility with that announcement – lol!

After our appointments, we were tired and relaxed so we returned to our mini-suite and ordered room service (club sandwich with chips), and went to bed early. It had been a long, exhausting day, as embarkation day always is.

The weather today was cold and rainy.
The best thing today was embarkation lunch.
The worst thing today was the terrible weather.
The funniest thing today was the captain telling us we were late sailing because some diver was late polishing the propellers in the rain.
Today we tried using the shipboard spa (massage for Rich and mani/pedi for me).
And the result was we would choose to do this on land and not onboard ship.
The most magical moment today was seeing the mini-suite for the first time.

Crown Princess

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About Kathy

Novelist, Poet, Songwriter/Music Producer