The Mother of All Trip Reports
  a cruise report by Tally Briggs
We just got back from the 9/28 sailing, and there is just so much to report! I know I'll never
live up to the great chesterh review, but I hope I do this fabulous cruise justice.

So, with your patience and indulgence,

Star Princess

Day 1 – Los Angeles
Sailaway Has Arrived!

After spending what seemed like endless weeks preparing for this trip, and haunting these boards for every bit of information on the STAR, our time was finally at hand. It always seems like the cruise date will never arrive; yet it eventually, actually does! The day before was spent packing, and running last minute errands to the dry cleaners, and picking up various last minute items like sunscreen.

Saturday morning hubby (Todd) and I were both up early out of sheer excitement, especially since we had been upgraded
to a suite, and both of us were fearful it was all too good to be true. We had visions of getting to the dock and at check in
we’d be told, “Sorry, there’s been a terrible mistake, and we have a small inside bunk only cabin available for you.”

Last cruise we hired a limo since we were traveling with another couple, and it was the same price as leaving two cars parked at the quay for the week. This time we decided we’d do the same thing since it was so damned fun, and we were picking up S&D (Sandra and Dave) a great couple from Adelaide Australia who we had met here on the boards, and now have become great friends.

Ok, I know it’s a girl thing, but I really must learn from this trip and pack LESS. We took way too much stuff. I took way too much stuff. Todd had his golf clubs along as well, and we took a case of champagne – hand carried on board, along with several bottles of wine packed in our luggage, and had no problem. The bad thing was there just was barely room in an eight-person limo for the four of us and all of our luggage. But hey! It was FUN! Nothing like a little champagne on the
drive down to get the bon voyage party started early.

We left Toluca Lake (Burbank) at 8:20am (limo was early), and picked up Sandra and Dave at the LAX Hilton around 8:45am. We pulled into an overcast, quiet San Pedro and up to the ship around 9:10am.

Let me tell you, the STAR is HUGE, and boy is she gorgeous! We got there before the previous passengers cleared customs, so there were only a few other passengers waiting to embark, gdcruisers included! They recognized the blue Maui Dive bag
full of tacky plastic leis (which we were already wearing), and came to claim theirs and were ready to party.

They opened the upstairs embarkation lounge for us, mostly to get us the hell off the street, since that would be filled rather soon with the bustle and chaos of disembarkation, which I will get to much later in this review. They have recently remodeled the terminal in San Pedro. It is beautiful and clean, but there are lots of bugs to be worked out. The fire alarm went off for a good 45 minutes, which got a bit trying.

Since there was apparently a delay clearing the ship, the shore staff came around and made sure everyone had their paperwork properly filled out, so things would go smoothly when they finally opened the counters for check-in. I have to say, this is still a bit unorganized, as there are two lounges, each for certain decks since this ship is so large and they have two gangways going (the Diamond will be even larger, which is hard to fathom), but they had us all get our sign & sail cards in one room, instead of splitting us into two groups. They opened the other lounge after check-in, for boarding. It was a bit confusing.

At first they had a problem finding our cards. We had gone to the correct window – for suites on the Caribe deck, but for some reason they were in another location, and had to be searched for, (so much for express check-in). When they were
finally found, Todd’s was correct – it was gold since he is a gold Captain’s Circle member, but so was mine, and it should
have been Platinum. I explained this to them, and they said all I needed to do was go to the pursers office onboard the ship
and it would be corrected. But the important thing about being Platinum is you are boarded first, so they fixed our numbers
they attached to our boarding passes, putting us in the Platinum boarding group, (thankfully!)

Poor Todd was carrying the heavy case of champagne, so we raced past the photo-op, and got our cards setup with security, Todd’s photo with the case, and mine with my goofy plastic lei, which the gangway security staff teased me about for the rest of the week. It was pretty funny. Once onboard, there was no trouble finding our cabin, especially as it was so centrally located. We were in our cabin by 12:15pm.

Our Cabin
Can I just say WOW. We are sooooo screwed now that we have had a suite. It was huge, and gorgeous! Located amidships on Caribe deck, it even had a name – St Kitts. There was a marble entrance, with a large potted plant by the door, and large desk, to the left, and one of the bathroom entrances immediately on the right. Just past the door to the bathroom, was the wet bar. WET BAR! Then storage cabinets which held one of the televisions, and above that was various bottles of small, airline size, complementary liquors – we had two each of Smirnoff, Beefeater, Courvoisier, and Canadian Club, along with glassware, and a note stating that any of these we wanted replenished would be added to our onboard account. Below the television was the fridge which contained a small ice bucket full of ice, and two each of Coke, Diet Coke, Club Soda, Perrier, spring water, one each of Bud Light, Miller Genuine Draft, Ginger Ale, and a tonic water. WOW!

Past the desk on the left was a sofa, and small glass coffee table, and end table, then one of the two sliding glass doors to the enormous balcony. Between the two glass doors was a small table with an arrangement of fresh flowers, compliments of the Captain. The bed was in a queen configuration, with small nightstands (with three drawers each). To the right of the bed was another desk and bureau with tons of storage space. Just around the corner from the fridge, and wet bar setup, there was the other television for the bedroom, then just beyond that was more cabinet storage space where the safe was located, and the walk in closet. WALK IN CLOSET. Tons of space for shoes, and more hangers than even I, with all my too many clothes, could use.

Between the desk in the bedroom, and the walk in closet, was the other entrance to the bathroom. The bathroom was a marble work of art, consisting of two separate rooms. One with the toilet, and sink area – tons of shelf storage, and real plastic bottles of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and bath gel, all with a green marble countertop. The other with a separate marble shower – with adjustable shower head for massage, or soft water pressure, and Jacuzzi tub – where I spent most of my time.

Outside on the enormous balcony, was real wooden furniture, all with thick cushions for total comfort. There were two full size wooden lounge chairs, two small end tables, along with a full size dining table with four full size wooden chairs. We had breakfast out here all but one day. Our cabin steward Luis, who was amazing, we most likely made crazy since we never wanted to leave the cabin so he could clean it.

After exploring our cabin, and rearranging the contents of the fridge so we could put some of the champagne away, we went out on the balcony to watch for Sandra & Dave to board. After they were settled, they came to check out the suite and were as amazed as we were. Then we all headed up to the spa to make some appointments.

We had purchased the deluxe anniversary package, but only the robes (in nice plastic bags) were there when we boarded. However, the suite comes with deluxe robes (the $90 ones), which were super plush, and nice, along with slippers you can take home. We thought about exchanging the regular robes and upgrading to the plush ones, but decided against it by the end of the cruise, as the regular ones are very nice. But it certainly felt special to be spoiled with the use of the plush ones for the week.

The spa took a bit longer than anticipated, as there was already a line. Our anniversary package included a half hour spa treatment each, and we both wanted to upgrade to an hour massage. So I sent the rest of the gang off to find pizza, and I met them after making the appointments. While standing in line for the spa, I met a lovely couple from New Jersey, Vanessa and Perry, who we saw later at the Captain’s Circle cocktail party. Hopefully we can hook up on another cruise, as they were great company.

After a slice of pizza, and a bloody mary, we went exploring the ship. I cannot overstate how big the Star is. There are places I never made it to in an entire week. We stopped by the Wheelhouse bar, then went to Sabatini’s and made reservations for dinner for the last night, and brunch on Monday, while confirming the reservation for the wedding party for our friends Bryan and Dennise. All was well, and at that point, reservations were easily had. The only hitch was that Sandra & Dave who were supposed to be at our table for late traditional seating, were at a different table, but we were pretty sure that could also be handled without a problem.

Like the Sea Princess, the Star is very tastefully appointed with lots of light, warm wood, soft color carpet, brass, plants, and marble fixtures, with some very nice artwork throughout the ship. It gives a very soothing feeling overall. Nothing loud, or glitzy, and no overly large public rooms which makes the ship seem never crowded, not even by the pool on warm sunny sea days.

By now, it was getting close to muster, so we agreed that afterwards the boys would take the lifejackets back to the cabin, while the girls made it up to Tradewinds bar with the bag-o-leis to start the Cruise Critic Sailaway Party. Muster went smoother than ever before, and before the first line was let go, we were up and ready for the gang to arrive, and arrive they did. I am so grateful for Sandra’s help during this. People were arriving, hugs were happening, and thankfully she was there to assist with the lei distribution!

We must have had the greatest group ever! Roy and his family are a HOOT! I’ve never seen a group cover so many miles in a single cruise! And with his dad in a wheelchair! They ran circles around me that’s all I know! Almost everyone in the CC group made it to sailaway, and we all had our goofy leis. There were even other people who thought it was the greatest idea, and came to join our group. I know I can’t name everyone here, and I’m not even going to try (although most likely I might get to you in this long tirade), but I thank you ALL for making this trip one of the best ever for us! It’s like there was a huge family reunion, as there were familiar faces the entire week, with everyone always glad to see each other! It made the ship seem that much more intimate. In fact, the only time the ship seemed crowded and I felt the huge number of passengers the ship actually holds, was at disembarkation.

We didn’t last as long as I had hoped at sailaway because it was cold, and starting to sprinkle. No gorgeous view of Catalina as I had hoped for thanks to the marine layer. I had feared we would have nasty weather, and packed for it, but I was on a cruise, and at that point nothing was going to upset my mood.

By the time we got back to our cabin, our too much baggage had started to arrive, along with our chocolate covered strawberries, Princess logo champagne glasses, and bottle of Moet on ice, and we set about toasting and unpacking. Not only was there plenty of space for our stuff in that cabin, there was room to spare. After unpacking we changed, and got ready for dinner, then decided to begin our assault on the casino on our way to the dining room.

After a small payback we made our way aft to the Amalfi dining room, which was for the traditional seating. We found our table no problem, and as it was set up for eight, and there were a total of nine of us, there was no problem getting one more chair and place setting, and relocating Sandra and Dave to our table. The group was intact!

On normal days in our life ashore, both Todd & I are early risers because of our jobs. I get up at 3am, work out for an hour, get ready, and hit the road at 5am to beat the traffic down to the LAX area where I work. Todd leaves usually around 5:30am/6am depending on where the current job location is. We tape everything on television, and are usually in bed by 7:30/8pm. You might be wondering why the hell we love late traditional seating… not sure, but we do. So, this first night,
after my lovely shrimp cocktail, and Caesar salad, I was DONE. The lovely Mondavi Pinot Noir Todd had ordered didn’t
help my body demanding sleep, and we ended up not staying for dessert. A first! But I was exhausted. We bid goodnight to our cruise critic cruise mates Berrie & Bud, Sandra & Dave, Darcy, and Bryan & Dennise, all we had met on the cruise critic board, and arranged to have the same table at dinner – which made for great company all week. We really lucked out. And made our way back to our cabin.

We came in to our bed turned down, warm and inviting with chocolate hearts on our pillows, and the lights turned down low. It was all I could do to get undressed and crawl into the comfy bed on the first night of a super smooth voyage.

This review also includes many details of our companions in addition to those of the ship, but they were as important to the wonderful experience as the Star itself, so I hope no one minds too much.

Star Princess Mexico part II – The Wedding Day

Besides setting our clocks an hour forward the night before to begin to catch up with time in Puerto Vallarta, we were still set on our internal “at home” clocks, and awoke to a spectacular sunrise around 6:30am. There were mostly clear skies, and only a slight breeze. It was already warmer than when we had left Los Angeles the afternoon before. We both put on our plush robes, and Princess slippers and sat out on our balcony to watch the sun rise from the port side of the ship. In the distance you could see the rocky outline of upper Baja.

Realizing we had neglected to fill out our breakfast card and place it outside our door the night before, we decided it would
be quicker to get breakfast ourselves rather than wait for room service, so we tore ourselves away from the spectacular view, and got dressed. We had never done breakfast in the dining room, and haven’t been big fans of the food in the Horizon Court, so we decided to give it a go.

The Portofino is the open dining room for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, and we were quickly whisked to a lovely table by a window. After ordering our coffees, another couple were led to our table, but the woman took one look at us, and promptly pooh-poohed the idea stating she didn’t want to bother anyone else. Just as well really, she seemed rather cross. Her loss really, as we ended up with four other lovely tablemates. Two ladies who ended up being in a cabin directly above ours, which made for great fun later in the cruise when they recognized Todd, and a honeymoon couple who were adorable.

As for breakfast in the dining room, I must say I expected more than was offered on the menu. No steak and eggs, for example, which is Todd’s favorite. Maybe the menu varies from day to day, but it was certainly nothing special, and I feel
we really haven’t been missing out on anything. I did notice they had papaya on the menu, which proved to be invaluable information from that point on.

After breakfast we stopped back by the casino, but even though it was 9am, it was dark and quiet. I guess whoever was scheduled to open it had forgotten to set their clocks ahead. We decided to do a bit more exploring on this seemingly endless vessel, and set out to find the Princess Links since Todd is a golf addict. On our explorations we ran into THE BRIDE, Dennise. She had just come from a run upstairs on the jogging track, and had left Darcy to do a few more laps. She looked bright eyed, and relaxed, which was great, not a haggard, nervous gal at all. She reminded me of our hair appointments at noon, and suggested we all come to our suite for a gal’s glass of champagne before they went to get dressed. I said I’d be there,
and that the champagne was an excellent idea! She had already run into Sandra and told her to meet up with us after hair.

We bid her goodbye, and went back to the search for the Links. We looked and looked and finally got tired of not finding it,
so we headed back to the casino for a few slots. It still wasn’t open, so we headed back to the cabin, which Luis had already made beautiful.

The nuptials of our friends Bryan and Dennise, was scheduled for 3:30 at the Hearts & Minds wedding chapel on board, located just next to Tequila’s. It was very exciting, as I had been asked to be the witness, which meant I got to sign their wedding papers along with the Captain. I was so honored.

Back in the cabin I decided to take the first of many long relaxing bubble baths in my huge luxurious Jacuzzi tub, before my
hair appointment. I even brought several bottles of bubble bath just for the week. Let me tell you this tub was amazing!
Bigger even than the one at home (well, ok, we don’t have a Jacuzzi tub at home either.) So I grabbed one of the bottles
of Perrier from our fridge, and settled in for an hour of sheer bliss. While I was in my tub-o-Heaven, Todd went back, determined to find the Links. When it’s about something regarding golf, there is nothing that can stop him.

As I was getting out of my bubbles of bliss, he came back happy, but disappointed. He had at last found the legendary elusive Princess Links, and had even given it a try, but said that since it was on a ship, along with the nature of the greens, the ball had a life of it’s own, and bore little to the actual game of golf. He said it was far more of an exercise in futility (which is how I feel about golf itself), than fun of any kind.

While I got dressed and made my way to the salon for the gal’s hair day, Todd headed for his first bingo outing, which was fun but not profitable. The Lotus Spa is beautiful. Lots of dark marble, accompanied by various waterfalls, fountains, and bamboo, all coupled together to give a soothing feeling whenever you are there. Darcy, Dennise and I met, and checked in, and were shown where to sit in the waiting area. Dennise was holding up rather well, but was beginning to be a bit nervous about repeating some of her vows, as the Captain, Cesare Ditel, (that’s Che-zar-eh, only you have to say it with a thick Italian accent), who is Italian (and adorable), has a very strong dialect. Dennise was afraid she wouldn’t be able to understand him, and wouldn’t know what to say. This proved to be a bit prophetic.

Even though Dennise was THE BRIDE, they took me in first, which was a little disappointing as we thought we’d all be able to be together. I had a very nice, cute guy, Colin as my stylist. I have very short hair so I told him to do something fun, cute and sexy. This was a mistake. Since my hair is so short, I really didn’t think there was much to be done with it in the first place, boy was I wrong. It started off looking great, very sleek and sophisticated, then he decided to turn the crown of my head into little “corn husk” rows of twists, that ended in spikes like Lady Liberty’s crown. Now, I was very flattered he thought I looked young enough to pull this off, but being in my early forties, the Prom Look was just not for me. Of course I have zero confrontation factor in these situations, so I smiled, and tipped him, and went back out to the waiting room to find Dennise, THE BRIDE, still sitting there waiting to be made even more beautiful. It was after 12:30! She loved my hair, and I smiled
and thanked her for being kind, and headed back to the cabin to make the necessary repairs, after we made sure they hadn’t forgotten her.

About 1:20 Sandra came over, and just after than both Darcy and Dennise came in looking a little tense. Todd was great, and made sure all the gals had champagne, so we could have a moment to relax. Poor Dennise kept touching her hair. She had wanted it all down and very wavy/curly, but they put part of it up, with fat ringlets around her face. Also very prom. We ended up talking her into putting it all up on her head, and forgetting about it. This turned out to be perfect for her as she has such a graceful long neck. It looked gorgeous up, and she never gave it a second thought. Lesson learned: skip the salon if you are good at your own hair.

After the girls headed out to get dressed we began the same process ourselves, but since it was the first formal night, we didn’t want to upstage the wedding couple, so opted for dressy as opposed to our formal wear, we’d save that for later.

We were up and at the chapel by 3:10pm, and found Sandra manning (womaning ) the video camera, and Dave standing in to be ring bearer. Cesare was also in place and ready to go, only Bryan seemed a bit anxious to see his bride. While Todd headed off to get the groom a glass of champagne, Cesare introduced himself to the ladies present. He shook my hand, and just like a smooth Italian player, drew me in close, and asked in his soothing Italian voice, “Alo Tally, are you renewing your vows this week?” all the while squeezing my hand. He is such a smoothy!

The wedding group on the Star was amazing. They have this down, and it operated as smooth as silk. They went over with us briefly what we would be doing with regards to the ceremony, the signing, and the photos afterwards. When it came down to the moment, it was perfect. Darcy headed up the aisle, then Dennise, in a gorgeous pale green kimono like gown. She turned the corner just as Etta James sang out “At Last” and started her walk up the aisle. There was a lump in my throat from that moment. The two of them looked so happy, and it seemed that yes, indeed – At Last.

Bryan went first with his vows, and did very well. We all thought that Dennise would be fine as she had heard them all twice at that point, but it came down to a certain part, the vow was “and protect you from harm” which Dennise said without hesitation. But Cesare said, “no, not arm, ARM.” Dennise repeated, “protect you from harm”, while gazing lovingly into Bryan’s eyes. Cesare repeated again, “no no, not arm, ARM” in his thick Italian accent. Dennise again said, “harm”. Then, the funny guy he is, Cesare said, “No,” and Dennise looked at him in confusion, “not arm, ARM” and he made a gesture with his right arm.
We all lost it, Dennise included, and it was a perfect moment. Dennise jumped in with, “Ohhhh! ARM! I protect from the ARM!” and we went on from there, every one completely relaxed, and laughing. It became the watchword for the rest of
the cruise. Not arm, ARM! Protect from the ARM!

Photos after the ceremony went smoothly, and they ended up with some amazing shots with the Star as a backdrop. Roy and family had come by at the end to see the gorgeous bride, and wish them well. We had brought little bubble bottles for the nuptials and there are some fantastic shots of bubbles, kissing, and the sun splashed ocean behind them. During the photos Todd went to put on his tux for the evening, and showed up looking like James Bond with a cat that ate the canary smile on his face. Even though he occasionally complains, he knows he looks super good in it, and it showed. When he returned I headed down to change as well.

They all met back in our cabin for a champagne toast before we headed to Sabatini’s for our 6pm dinner. Our evening canapés arrived just in time for everyone to have a wee bite. That night they were smoked salmon. Yum!

Here is a subject much discussed on these boards. Let me just give you what we experienced, and you can decide from there. We arrived and were greeted very warmly, and shown to our table for eight. A wonderful fuss was made over our Bride, which was delightful. Since there were so many of us, we decided on two bottles of Sangiovese to start, and the food orgy began.
We were brought little bits of everything on the menu to sample, up to the main entrées, which is where we made the only choice. Some of the more amazing dishes were the pizzas, the cioppino, and the crab cakes. The best by far of the pastas
was the gnocchi, which is stuffed with cheese and served in a cheesy alfredo sauce. Unbelievably good! Halfway through,
Todd ordered a bottle of Mondavi Merlot from the premium wine list and they brought out the deep red tasting glasses for everyone. It was super special. For my main dish I had the lobster tails, which were very good, but not as good as in the
dining room later in the week. All in all, it was a great dining experience, but once was enough. We ended up giving our reservations for dinner later in the week to someone else.

After dinner, we stopped by the dining room to say hi to Berrie and Bud at our table. Poor Sandra was losing her voice by then, and we were thinking of getting her some semaphore flags as a communication device. Berrie and Bud were doing well, and informed us we had a new wait staff, after only one night. I found that quite odd, as we were in the traditional dining room, but he looked like a nice enough guy, although a little perturbed he had setup a table of nine, only to have two show up for dinner. Oh well.

We met the rest of the wedding party at Explorer’s Lounge for a few dances before it turned into karaoke central, and we ran away to Skywalkers. Skywalkers is great! Even though it gets super busy, it never felt cramped. It’s a very large lounge, with a good-sized dance floor, and great sound system. It can at times get a bit smoky when they use the fog machine, and many people are already smoking.

Around one a.m. my feet had had enough, so we headed back to the cabin, and wished our wedding couple well. We would all hook up the next day for brunch, again at Sabatini’s.

Back in the cabin, which was dark with the low lighting, and inviting covers turned back with the nice chocolates. We also
had an invitation for our bridge tour the following day at 3pm. We changed out of our finery, and crawled into our cushy
robes, donned our slippers and headed out to the balcony for a glass of champagne before bed. The air was already
beginning to get warm and balmy, even though it was still our first day at sea, and we had yet to pass Cabo San Lucas.
It was nice and quiet, with the sound of the sea below, and the endless stars above. From there you can even see the Milky Way, which is impossible from home in the Los Angeles area. We must have sat for a good half hour, just sipping
champagne, holding hands, laying on the loungers and staring at the stars….. ahhhh… could it get any better?

Before we crawled into bed we made sure our breakfast card was filled out and hanging on the door for pickup.
We weren’t about to miss out on another breakfast on our balcony.

A small note or two, that I forgot in my previous installments: Our Anniversary balloons were on our door when we got to the cabin on the first day. But since we left dinner early the first night, we never received our anniversary cake (if we were indeed supposed to get one in the dinning room, but more on that later). I know I am forgetting details, but I'll throw them in, if and when they seep back into my memory.
Day 3 – Brunch, Sun, and Spa

Having hung our breakfast card out on our door, requesting a 7:30-8am arrival, we put in for a 7:20 wakeup call. Todd managed to sleep in all the way to 6:30am! 6:30! Imagine! woo. I however, did not want to move from the comfy cocoon of the bed, so I made him draw the room divider curtain, semi-effectively blocking out the rising sun over our balcony. I managed a little more sleep, but as he is a smoker, and had permanently moved out onto the balcony for the morning, it was up to me to listen for room service’s knock on our door, which happened 15 minutes early at 7:15am.

Having taken notice of what was on the breakfast menu the day before in the dining room, we wrote in most of our order, which consisted of:
Poached eggs
2 croissants
Scrambled eggs
3 coffee
3 decaf
2 orange juice

Everything arrived as expected, except the poached eggs had the bonus of being on toast as they are served in the dining
room. We took our time over breakfast, watching the sunrise over the outline of Baja. The skies were clear, sunny, and
already balmy and warm. During breakfast we even sighted some distant whales breaching.

At some point during this time of bliss, we realized our massage appointments were going to conflict with the bridge tour, so
we phoned to see if we could reschedule. They said, “How does right now sound?” Being around 8:45am, we thought it sounded rather fine, so we accepted, and made our way up to the Lotus Spa. Every cruise I’ve been on in the last few years I’ve managed to have a massage onboard, and they have varied in quality from mediocre to this one, which was fabulous. Cherry, from Scotland, who had worked for four years at a health resort, was amazing, and really knew what she was doing.
It was by far the best massage I’ve had on a ship.

Afterwards, we ran back to the cabin for a quick shower and change, and then made it to the casino for a quickie before our brunch at Sabatini’s. I managed to turn it into a lucrative visit with a ten spot on a Ms. Little Green Men nickel machine, and before I knew it, I was over 2000 credits and needed a hand pay. WooHOO! $100 for my ten minutes, not bad.

Our brunch reservations were for 11am, and we were wondering how many of our little party group would actually make it. I’m happy to say that everyone was on time, and looking incredibly rested considering the festivities of the previous evening. We were led to the same table, and it briefly felt as though we’d never left.

Mimosas and spicy bloody marys were ordered right away. I was hoping they’d also have bellinnis available as well, but I was told, “not yet, hopefully soon.” There is a buffet setup with crab legs, sushi, shrimp, smoked salmon (and all the trimmings), scallops, smoked mahi mahi, and various fruits. There are also menu selections for various egg dishes, Todd and I had the eggs Florentine, and hot entrees, I had orange roughy which was good, but Todd’s oso bucco on saffron risotto was out of this world fabulous. I would say it was a great brunch, well worth the $15 especially as they are pouring Domaine Chandon along with any other brunch beverages your little heart desires.

After brunch, we headed back to the casino for another brief visit, where I managed to hit $80 on a dollar Double Diamond machine, $50 on a quarter Pink Panther machine, and $60 on a quarter Pinball machine. Meanwhile, Todd contributed to the black jack table. I managed to pull him away while we were still ahead, and we headed back to the cabin to get into our swimsuits to soak up some sun before our bridge tour.

We managed to collect Darcy, and the newlyweds on the way and we all got some loungers together up on the sun deck, overlooking Neptune’s Reef pool, and ordered a bucket of coronas. With a slight breeze, and about 85 degrees on deck,
with a pool temp of 83, it was more bliss all around.

Finally it was time for our bridge tour, so we dropped off our towels, donned a bit more clothing, and headed off to the forward stairs on deck 14 where we would be collected for the bridge tour.

I must say it is quite an amazing place. Everything is computerized, and Windows 2000 based! Bill Gates is everywhere.
Who knew? Quite an expansive operation, and what a view! Not to mention there are such sensitive smoke detectors,
they can tell if you are even burning a candle in your cabin, (which in light of the Diamond catastrophe, I’d leave at home.)

Being as it was Monday, and the almighty Denver Broncos were playing in the MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL game,
Todd had arranged with Darcy to skip the dining room, and meet her in Shooters to watch the game. They were actually
not sure it was going to be on at all, considering there were no Sunday games televised, which was quite surprising to
many fans the day before.

After figuring out that it was starting an hour earlier than he thought, and playing right on our television in our cabin, he decided to stay and order room service instead, especially since it was French night. I climbed back into a bath of bubble bliss, dressed, and went to the dining room, joining six of our nine tablemates. Darcy went alone to Shooters. Brave gal. Our canapés arrived just in time for the game, this time they were some sweet puff semi-mouse things. Todd inhaled them.

Our new waiter Mar was a bit cranky not having a full table, which I thought very out of place. I mean, what was the big deal? Two empty seats, less people that night he has to worry over. It didn’t seem like there was any wait list for late seating, as there were several empty tables near us every night. I wondered what kind of improvement Mar was over our original waiter from the first night.

One of the joys and evils of cruising is the fabulous food, and Princess has rarely let me down. I had wonderful escargot, Caesar salad, French onion soup, and penne pasta with lobster ragoût. Most yummy. Followed by an assortment of cheeses – one of my favorite things!

Toward the end of dinner, Todd, his beloved Broncos having taken a nasty beating, gave up on the game, and stopped by the table to say hello before going back to contribute some more funds to the black jack tables. Shortly thereafter, I myself made my way to the casino to join him in the contribution, and managed to break away before too much damage was done. A strange pattern was beginning to take shape: The sound of clanking coins emanating from the casino during the day was far louder than at night, as the sound of money being sucked seemed to drown out everything else in the evenings.

Après casino, we headed back to the cabin, for some more champagne and starlight time, with a quick stop off at the
internet café to check the weather in Puerto Vallarta the following day. We had been following it closely, as we had booked
the excursion to Las Calletas, and I was worried about the predicted thunderstorms. But so far the weather had been perfect since we’d left L.A. Todd convinced me that all would be well, and the latest forecast was calling for PM thunderstorms only. Note on the internet charges: as I had my Platinum card the first day at sea, we were never charged for the internet, if my
card was used.

Lounging on our balcony there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and so many stars it was almost hard to make out Orion. Of course, the gentle rocking of the ship, the soft whisper of the waves, the dry champagne, along with the warmth of the cuddly body next to me, was a bit of a distraction as well. We both wondered out loud if we could get any sleep out there. Having an early departure, and wanting an early breakfast, we opted for the bed. Once again, making sure our breakfast card was filled out and hung in a timely manner.

sorry.... I am actually home with a fever - still. It came on Saturday night, after we got home. I believe it's a curse from our
cat for leaving him for a week. So that's my excuse for leaving out the links to the previous installments. DOH.

First I want to thank everyone for their support in this seemingly endless rant... but it's a lovely way of reliving this fast-as-hell week I just experienced.

Before we get to part IV, a few forgotten items to catch up on – my bad.

A funny thing about my darling hubby: Every time we go away where there will be swimming, usually Las Vegas, he forgets
his swimsuit. After making fun of me packing for the entire week before we left, guess what Mr.-I-Can-Pack-In-One-Hour forgot on this trip? That’s right! His swimsuit. Poor Todd. Forced to shop in his favorite store, luckily located aboard the
Star – Tommy Bahama – he found yet another new swimsuit. How many gals out there have a hubby who has as many swimsuits as they do?

One thing I forgot about yesterday: Afternoon Tea. The gals had decided to try to make it to Afternoon Tea, which is served
in the Portofino dining room from 3:30pm-4:30pm. We agreed to meet at 4pm, and have a spot. After the bridge tour, Todd headed to the cabin, and I ran to tea, hoping to make excuses as I was dying for a nap. But all of the smiling faces that greeted me made it nearly impossible, so I asked for some decaf.

I have to say; tea is something they need to get a bit more organized. There are no basic tea condiments other than sugar on the table. No milk, cream, honey, or lemon. If these are something you want, you must ask. At one time there were six people at our table waiting for their first cup of tea, yet had been offered various cookies and sandwiches several times over. I did get decaf tea bags, waited a bit for water, never saw any milk, or the other five get any tea. Perhaps this is more organized when you come at 3:30pm. After finishing my cup, I made it back to the cabin for an attempt at that nap, but Todd had Sports Center on, so that was a pipedream.

Day 4 – Puerto Vallarta and the magic of John Huston

As we had set the clocks one hour ahead the night before, we managed to sleep in until after we were docked in Puerto Vallarta. We awoke to another gorgeous sunny warm day, with some puffy clouds in the distance. Our day at Las Caletas
was going to be fabulous!

Our excursion tickets instructed us to meet on the quay at 8:30am, so we put in for breakfast for 7:30am. Again, all was as ordered, Todd had switched to sausage this time, and we added 2 cranberry juices in addition to the O.J. Once again, breakfast on the balcony, this time really paid off being on the port side of the ship, where we had a bird’s eye view of the bustle on the quay. Already there were various tour operators with signs in hand ready for the masses to disembark.

After a leisurely breakfast, we dressed in our swimsuits & shorts, gathered our snorkel gear, towels, and sunscreen, and headed for the gangway, which turned out to be not nearly as busy as I had anticipated. Getting past security and the
gangway crowd was a breeze, and we quickly found our designated meeting spot. We didn’t have long to wait, and after
about ten minutes, we were led around the corner to a double deck boat, which would whisk us across the Bahia de
Banderas to this secluded hideaway, which is only accessible from the sea. John Huston discovered it while filming
Night of the Iguana, and built his own private hideaway.

It takes about an hour to get there by boat, and Vallarta Adventures does it up right. A very energetic crew who entertains along the way, as they make sure you have coffee, juice, fruit, or muffin. Having had plenty of breakfast, we opted just for juice. The only downer of the ride over was two very little girls got a bit seasick on the journey. But given ten minutes on the sandy beach with the gentle waves, they were having more fun than you could imagine, and their brief illness wiped from memory. The boat is open air, so there was a great breeze. This day was so warm there was no jacket needed. The breeze was welcome, as was the spray of the sea.

Huston had the right idea. Las Caletas is amazing. Nestled against the base of a jungle-covered hill, it is a quiet, magical
retreat, with a view across the bay. The Star looked like one of the resort hotels in the distance. Along the beach are lounge chairs, and various water equipment including kayaks, and large ring floats, which are a blast. The water temp must have
been 85 degrees; it felt like bathwater, but the snorkeling was murky since they’d had some rain recently, so we made
massage appointments. Yes, we are massage fanatics. The massages were $25 for half an hour, $50 for a full hour, so we
both opted for the full hour. With about 45 minutes before our spa appointment, we did a bit of swimming, after discovering
the bad quality of the snorkeling, and grabbed two ring floats and relaxed in the water for a while. (They provide snorkel equipment, we just prefer to bring our own.)

All along the waterfront there are hammocks strung between breezy palms, and several dining areas scattered in various locations along the hillside, as well as along the beach, depending on your preference. There is also diving for an additional cost.

We finally dragged ourselves out of the bathwater of the Pacific, and made our way up to the hilltop spa for our massages.
It is a quiet little open-air adobe at the top of the cliff, looking down on the beach. All you can hear is the breeze, the cry of
the gulls, and the gentle surf below. The day we were there, the two masseuses were both young female medical students
who are putting themselves through school with this job. And wow! This was by far the best massage EVER! She was amazing! She blew Cherry away, and I didn’t think that was possible, all for only $50 (+ $10 tip – she deserved more!) Todd’s was as good as mine, and we both wished we had their talents here locally.

While Todd was waiting for his gal Rosalita to be done with the client she had before him, he had decided to sit on a white bench overlooking the beach below. Well, come to find out, it had just been painted, and no one had bothered to post a
“wet paint” sign, so Todd’s new Tommy Bahama gray swimsuit now had a butt full of white paint. Luckily, it was a water-based primer, as the bench ended up yellow before we left for the day. Also fortunate, Todd has one of those
skinny dancer butts, so calling attention to it with all the white paint wasn’t an entirely bad thing.

After the blissful hilltop massages, we made our way down to see if lunch was getting close, as the smells permeating through the trees was heavenly, and making both our tummies rumble. (No big surprise, as we had pretty much been non-stop eating since we boarded the Star.) We found a friendly server, Julio, and he sat us at a quiet table overlooking the beach below, and ran to get us some margaritas, which turned out to be some of the best we’ve ever tasted. Must have been made with fresh squeezed limejuice, they were very refreshing. An open bar, and full lunch is included in the price of the excursion.

Along with all the relaxing locations, the activities, and refreshments, there is also a collection of Huston’s film memorabilia, which we never got around to finding; a beautiful friendly macaw, which you can get your photo taken with, and a recently born, month-old fawn. We’re talking Bambi, complete with spots. It was precious! So small, and very friendly, as it’s been around people since it was born, and will sit on your lap to be petted like a cat! It even licked my hand!!!!!! We took our
turns with the critters as we sipped our margs and waited for the food to be ready.

The food! AH MAH GAWD! The freshest salsa EVER, freshly made tortillas - we watched them being made – grilled
spiced pork chops that melted in your mouth, chicken fajitas that were to die for, fresh black beans, zucchini, and salad.
We were in Mexi-food heaven! Finally after more margaritas, and one last brief swim in the fabulous bathwater, it was
time to head back to the ship. So soon?!!?

It was funny, as I had been thinking prior to taking this excursion, “gee, it’s seven hours! What if it sucks, and we’re stuck there???” Oh to be so stuck! It’s too bad there is no hotel here, but again, it’s probably fortunate. They do have a nighttime dinner and show held at Las Caletas, which is solely lit by torch, and candlelight. Now, that would be something to see.

2:30pm, and we had to get back to the boat that would take us back to the Star. Just as we were boarding, clouds began to gather, and a gentle rain began to fall. It was as close to Hawaii as anywhere I’ve ever been, only the water was warmer!

The ride back was a blast. Margaritas for everyone, and great music. We met a wonderful couple, Camille & Dennis from Canoga Park – hey, we’re practically neighbors! We laughed, and danced, and finally back at the ship, we invited them up to our balcony for a sailaway cocktail. We had invited our tablemates as well, and extended the invite to George and family from below us on Dolphin deck, who we had also made friends with from leaning over the balcony railing. Ok – so the mini-suites don’t give you much privacy, but it’s a great opportunity to make new friends!

Having done this itinerary three times together, Todd & I have a few “Mexico rituals” we also make sure to partake in. One is having a cervesa at the small bar on the quay, and buying some small trinket from the Mercado. This time was no exception, and I acquired a $5 silver ring, while Todd added to his cigar collection. While partaking in a cold brew, we also decided to get Todd’s sister a nice bottle of Centenario Anejo for her birthday, which was not confiscated when we reboarded the ship, but the gangway crew gave me grief for not having my lei on.

Back on the ship, we all met back on our enormous balcony, and broke out more champagne. (Believe it or not, we actually brought three bottles home with us, and gave one away to Luis.) It was lovely, watching the clouds move in over Puerto Vallarta, and the rain begin to fall. As we pulled away from the quay, somehow the Star managed to keep a small ray of sunshine on her, albeit small, and we sailed north, away from the clouds.

After our bon voyage fest, everyone retired to get ready for yet another meal. This night was not only Italian night in the
dining room, but the Island Night party on deck as well, so festive aloha wear was a must! (Twist my arm.)

Poor Sandra’s voice had totally abandoned her at this point, and she had acquired a nasty cough to go along with it, so she opted out on the dining room for the evening. She wanted to save her energy for the deck party. Poor Mar, one more night without nine people! He was in a bit of a cranky mood, even telling Todd what to order. “Your wife is having the rabbit, you have the veal, you can share.” Todd was soooo angry! I must admit, this was the first cruise on Princess where our wait staff wasn’t spectacular. Mar’s assistant, was fabulous, but he was constantly being ordered about by Mar, so his charming personality rarely had the opportunity to shine.

That night we had brought one of our wines to the dining room (we brought three total, and were never charged a corkage),
a nice Cambria Barbera. Todd asked Mar for the deep red tasting glasses, and charming, accommodating guy that he is, informed Todd that he could not get them, Todd must ask the headwaiter Eduardo. Eduardo turned out to be a love, and
from that point on, we had tasting glasses when we brought wine, without having to ask. Well done Eduardo!

Tonight’s food orgy consisted of prosiutto e melone, eggplant parmesan (appetizer), Caesar salad, Pappardelle with braised rabbit, (Todd’s veal was better), Love boat dream, cheese plate, and chocolate ice cream. (I am on an air diet now.)

After dinner, we gathered out leis and headed out to the Island Night deck party, picking up Silent Sandra along the way.
It was a party! Lots of music, dancing, games. Jeremy, a fellow cruise critic, was in the midst of a Musical Men game
(musical chairs – only men instead of chairs.., use your imagination.) We didn’t last long however, the evil casino was
calling to us. Again, we played, but failed to make it a lucrative night.

We kept threatening to make it to one of the comedy shows – the musical ones just aren’t to our taste. I think we’ve been spoiled by Cirque du Soleil in Vegas, but this wasn’t the night for it I’m afraid. Once again, we headed back to the starlight
of our balmy balcony and had a sad moment at the thought of our cruise being half over in the blink of an eye.
Mazatlan, Golf, and the evils of alcohol.

Day five arrived early as we sailed into Mazatlan's harbor. This is our third time on this itinerary together, and my fourth.
Each time we’ve come here, two things have been constant: 1 – Todd plays golf at Estrella Del Mar, and 2 - we end up
at Senor Frogs. This time golf would be the constant, but I was determined to break the evil habit of Frogs. Don’t get me wrong; Senor Frogs is a fun place, with fabulous and strong margaritas, along with some damned decent food. It’s just that every time we’ve gone to Frog’s, we’ve ended up napping, and missing dinner. (Did I mention their margaritas are strong?)
The first time on this itinerary was on Carnival’s Elation, and we ended up waking at 3:am. Thankfully Carnival had a 24 hr pizzeria. No, this time, no Frog’s for us.

Todd’s golf excursion was scheduled to leave at 8:15am, so we marked the breakfast card for 6:30am. And because it
was a Golf Day, Todd was up before the sun, as always.

I have to admit it was an amazing sight watching the Star maneuver about 180 degrees once she was inside the small harbor channel, so that at disembarkation she can just head straight out of the harbor. This put us facing away from the commercial quay, which was fortunate, as I had planned on resting on the ship until Todd was back from golf, and there was some very noisy construction happening on the quay that day.

Breakfast was nice on the warm, sun-drenched balcony, although Todd wasn’t much into his cheese omelet, so I made a
dent in it as I had only ordered my papaya. As soon as we were docked, the RCL ship, Legend of the Seas came in, passed us, also turned about, and docked further down the quay. It was amazing to see that ship pass so close. I’ve passed close to her before in Mazatlan, on the Sea Princess. But being on the Star, and as large, and wide as she is, was something far different. You could see the awe in the faces of those on the Legend as they passed by us. I couldn’t help feeling a bit of
pride being on such a marvelous vessel as the Star.

Once I had Todd packed up, and headed out for his golf outing, I watched a bit of television and got a few hours more sleep.
I know we drove our steward Luis crazy with never wanting to leave our cabin.

Around 11am, I finally crawled out of bed, and headed up to Neptune’s Reef pool for some quiet sun. What a great call to
stay on the ship. I have been all around Mazatlan, didn’t feel like shopping in the Golden Zone, and didn’t want to go play
with our pals for fear of getting sucked into one more afternoon at Frogs. The pool was nearly empty, and so relaxing.
Air temp was 85 degrees and clear; water temp 82. Sheer Heaven.

Around 1:30pm I had had enough sun; even with my 36 sunscreen I was threatening to overdo it if I wasn’t careful, so I headed back to the cabin. I took a quick shower, and decided to order room service for an avocado sandwich, since I
wasn’t sure when Todd would make it back to the ship. Wouldn’t you know it; he arrived just after my sandwich did.

Notes on Golf at Estrella Del Mar:
It is a half hour van ride each way, to and from the course. The first time Todd played this course, we were sailing on Carnival’s Elation. I had booked with Randi’s Happy Horses, and Todd had booked also with an independent tour operator, instead of going with the ship. One word of advice – For this excursion, go with the ship. On the way back from the course, Todd’s taxi was stopped by the federales, and detained. They finally let him go when they realized he had no money to pay them off with, but they could have held him up until he missed the ship. Thankfully that did not happen. Again, go with the
ship’s tour. It’s the same price and you’ll have more peace of mind.

Greg, the Golf pro – who used to be the golf pro on the Elation (where we met him) now works permanently for Estrella Del Mar. If you go, say hi from Todd from Burbank, and that he recommended the course, and see what he says. He’s a real friendly guy, and it’s pretty amazing he has remembered Todd each time he’s been to the course. For a limited time they are giving away in a blind draw – a three-day/two-night condo vacation – staying at the condos on the course. Princess had failed to mention this drawing, which made Greg a bit cranky. Todd say’s he’s not sure how long contest will run.

Notes on the course:
Fairways - have always been in excellent condition.
Rough - has been short, this last week, their rough mower was broken, so the rough was about 2"-3".
Greens - have always been aerated, but are fairly flat.
On the back nine, the winds will pick up, and make it fairly difficult.
If you are a high handicapper, he recommends playing from the whites.
There are LOTS of bunkers, and LOTS of water. But you're on vacation, and it's a beautiful course,
so it's fun no matter what you shoot. He averages a 110, as a 25 handicapper playing from the blues.

ok! Enough about golf already.

After I ate my dainty sandwich – they even cut the crusts off for you – we headed down to have a quick walk through in the Mercado on the quay, and grab a cervesa and a taco or two. As Mazatlan is a busy commercial port, even where the passenger ships dock, you aren’t allowed to walk from the ship. Instead there is a shuttle tram that transports the passengers from the ships, through the endless lot of disposable cars, to the entrance to the quay, and the Mercado. We ran into Bud from our table on the tram, and headed into the Mercado with him.

We left Bud in search of t-shirts, and told him to meet us over by the bar. While we were shopping, we ran into Miss Darcy, who had gone to a lovely time-share presentation, was plied with four margaritas for her time, and spent the afternoon on the beach. We talked her into joining us for a cervesa. We found a shaded table near a giant fan, and just underneath the bandstand, where a group of mariachis were gathering to play. Ahhhh. Could it get any better?

Just as I was sitting back to relax, enjoy my cervesa and some fabulous music, Todd tapped me on the shoulder, and pointed to my left. There, about ten feet from us, at the next table, was a young woman with long blond hair, who was sitting in a chair, bent over at the waste, and was attempting to hurl all her internal organs into the patch of grass at her feet. One guess where she’d most likely been earlier in the day. (I think I mentioned the strong margaritas.) There were two guys, trying their best to make her more comfortable, from holding her hair, to pouring cold water on the back of her neck. Too bad neither of them could figure out to move the umbrella closest to them so they could get the sun off of her back. The mariachis played, and sang; looking on as if this was as common an occurrence as the sun rising. Darcy turned to me, and said, “Thank you for talking me out of going to Senor Frogs.”

Luckily the giant fan was blowing her direction, and I know it sounds gross, but the smell of the fabulous tacos was wafting
our direction, (and probably making it worse for her, poor thing), and we couldn’t resist having a bite. I guess we were
sober and hungry enough to ignore the adjacent activity.

Eventually they walked her back to the ship, barely.

Finally, it was time for the rest of us to head back, so the four of us wandered through the Mercado, picking up various items along the way. Aloe gel for me, and a Senor Frog’s t-shirt for Darcy’s man she’d left back home. See, you can get the gear, without getting damaged; it’s damned near everywhere.

Back on board, we put on our swimsuits, and headed to the aft pool so we could see the view as we left port. From up
above on the sun deck, overlooking the aft pool, and beneath the shadow of Skywalkers, the view is nothing short of
amazing. Sandra, Dave, and Roy made it by to join us for the view, and eventually, as Mazatlan faded into the distance,
we headed back to the cabin to dress. Before dinner we made a stop at the casino, since we had tons of time to kill.
Todd made a small contribution, but I hit the max payout on a nickel Jackpot Party machine. 1000 coins! Ooooh!
Fifty whole dollars! But hey, it was still the JACKPOT!

Dinner was still missing our beautiful, now squeaking, Sandra. She and Dave had opted for Horizons that night. Miss Darcy was napping. I think Mar was finally getting over it. Tonight, I skipped both the appetizers, and the soups (for real), and had
a Caesar salad (surprise), and an appetizer size of the amazing fettuccini alfredo. I then indulged in some of the best rare
rack of lamb dijonnaise I’ve ever had, and loved the alfredo so much I ordered another as a side dish. Oink.
Followed by cheese of course. Mmmmm.

We had been threatening to go for a late night swim, but the siren call of the casino always sidetracked us, though tonight’s
visit was brief. I was actually winning on another nickel machine, so Todd left me and headed back to the cabin. When I arrived 20 minutes later, he was in his robe, out on the balcony, asleep on one of the loungers. I guess that yes, indeed, we could have slept outside. I even put my robe on, and came out to actually give it a try. I curled up next to him, and watched
the stars as I listened to the soft waves whisper below. The only thing that deterred me from committing to sleeping alfresco was the breeze was blowing my bangs around my face and it was getting a bit annoying. After awhile, Todd awoke, and we decided to give up camping on the balcony for the comforts of the bed. I always sleep so well onboard ship. It’s like a huge cradle.

So. In we went, noshed on our chocolates and crawled beneath the covers – after placing the breakfast card outside the door, of course. Tomorrow we’d be in Cabo. An early day, and one full of our cruise rituals, so we scheduled breakfast for 6am.

Well, I finally saw the Doc, since five days of fever was getting pretty tedious, (funny, she & her hubby are going on the
Star in November), got better drugs (love that tussinex), and finally slept. 

and now....

Part VI - Cabo, the therapeutic (yet dangerous) combination of tequila and shopping, and the Romantic Renewal Ceremony!

Cabo. One of my favorite ports. I just always wish the ship spent more time here. There is nothing like watching the sunrise
light up the rocks at Land’s End; I’d love to see a sunset someday as well. We awoke just as the sun was barely lighting the horizon, and the sky had a soft, thin, pale yellow glow along the distant waterline. We could just make out the shadows of the rocks, and Los Archos. The barking of a seal was one of the only sounds breaking the silence until the crew began lowering
the tenders.

As we waited for our very light breakfast that morning, through the gap at Lover’s Beach we could see another cruise ship slowly sail into view heading south into the bay. We could make out right away that it was another Princess ship, just which one was the question. As she came closer and the light improved, we could make out
“Ocean Princess” alight amidships. What a nice surprise.

Just as she disappeared past our stern, towards the rising sun, room service arrived. The wonderful young man who usually brought our breakfast, (I have no idea of his name, which is a shame because he was wonderful, always smiling and friendly, but at that hour I am rather bleary-eyed, and am doing good if I can get to the door without knocking anything over), was full
of apologies because he could not get any papaya for me. (How sweet!) I explained it was no problem, as we were planning on having a proper pig-fest breakfast in port – one of our Cabo rituals – but he was quiet upset. “I could bring it later in the day, perhaps around 1pm?” I smiled and said we’d call if I really wanted it, and it could most certainly wait until tomorrow. What a sweetheart!

So with our coffee and croissants we watched the sun light up the sleepy town of Cabo San Lucas. One of the big draws of Cabo is the marlin fishing. In fact, every fall there is a big money tournament, with a $2,500,000 purse that draws sports
fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. This morning seemed like many were getting in a little early practice; dozens
and dozens of sports fishing boats were heading out to sea, in a never-ending stream.

Because Cabo is a tender port, and the Star is such a big ship with so many passengers, they were giving out tender tickets in the Explorers lounge. You needed to get a ticket, before you could board a tender. I have to say this is a great idea – in theory, and I can understand why they would want to do this. The idea is, when you are ready to go ashore, come to the Explorer’s lounge, get a ticket, have a seat, and you will be escorted to a tender. Many people came by to get tickets, not ready to go directly ashore, and there was much confusion. We had to wait about 15 minutes, instead of the five we were told, so they could get a group together. Our group only consisted of about eight people, since it was barely 7:15 at the time. The shore excursions were meeting in the Princess Theatre, and they were getting directed to tenders from there. When we finally got to the tender, we never needed to show our ticket, so the entire exercise seemed like a waste of time. I suppose later in the morning, if/when there is a rush for the tenders, it might make more sense, in light of what I know now about the chaos of disembarkation in Los Angeles, but was then happily ignorant of.

Climbing aboard the tender, we chose to go above on the top deck to get a good view. Last February, on the way into the quay, a whale breached just yards in front of the tender. It was amazing. No such action this time, just a nice smooth ride in,
but it’s great to feel the crisp morning breeze on your face.

We disembarked on the quay before the crowds began for the day, especially since there were two large cruise ships in port. The nice thing for the Ocean Princess, they were in port until 6pm. Lucky people! We had to be back on the ship by 1:30pm. No time at all for such a lovely port.

Once on land, we dodged past the various tour vendors, and headed around the boardwalk towards the marina. There are several waterfront restaurants open for breakfast, but our favorite is Baja Cantina. They have the best machaca, and chiliquilies; along with great bloody marys and margaritas, and from their patio, there is a beautiful view of the port and marina. Looking at all the fancy fishingboats, I wondered where they kept all the ones that had headed out to sea earlier at sunrise; the marina seemed to be full now.

After a leisurely breakfast, we grabbed two margaritas to go, and decided to walk around and have a look at the shops. (Cocktails to go – just like Vegas and New Orleans. Gotta love it.) After stopping at a local pharmacia to pick up a few things, we went on to acquire several t-shirts for friends from a very funny store called “Die Trying” where they have shirts with such witty quips as “He who laughs last thinks slowest”, we wandered farther into town towards one of Todd’s favorite cigar shops, J&J HaBetos. Along the way we stopped into another t-shirt shop (Die Trying for gals, so I could acquire some gifts for friends – “I’ll try to be nice if your try to be smart”), and neither of my credit cards I had with me would work, even though they had just worked up the street. This was odd, as I had called my banks prior to the trip to tell them we’d be using the cards in Mexico, and to not panic and think they’d been stolen. Unfortunately, we had spent most of our cash at the pharmacia earlier since their credit card connection was down.

I attempted to find a phone, (these t-shirts were hysterical, and had they not been the perfect gift for some friends, I’d have given up without a second thought), while Todd went in search of the cigar shop. After several tries, it was not to be. The phone system would not handle 800 calls, so I made my way to the nearest shade, which just happened to be a jewelry store. A diamond jewelry store.

They saw me coming. Me and the fossilized shark tooth I wear around my neck. “What a great shark tooth! Come in and have a look around.” Well, it was cool in the shop, and I was eager to get out of the sun, as it was already approaching 87 degrees and it was barely 9:30am. And I can’t say I’m a gal who doesn’t find diamonds attractive. So, I looked. Besides, I thought, my credit cards aren’t going through, so I’m safe. Todd wasn’t far behind me, and when he came around to the front of the store looking lost, they asked if they could help him. “I’m looking for my wife.” He said.
“Is she wearing a shark tooth?”
“She’s inside. Come in and have a look around. Want a shot of tequila?” They were pouring Huradura repasado, and that was the beginning of the end. While I looked at diamond earrings, Todd was lubricated. I however, hold the gold. Todd would spend the rest of his life in a golf store, and we’d never make rent if he had access to the fundage. He is well aware of this, and appreciates not having to be the accountant of the family. Unfortunately, when he says a piece of jewelry looks beautiful, and I deserve it, my resolve tends to melt away, as it did that moment in Cabo.

We had other stops to make, so I said we’d think about it. Not wanting us to leave without the merchandise, a better price
was offered. I held my resolve and still said we’d think about it, and see where we were after our next shopping stop (if the credit cards were working). Of course, at this point, they think they have the harder of the two of us convinced, having Todd
in their corner, so yet another price was thrown our way. I took a deep breath, and said we’d be back, grabbed Todd’s hand, smiled, and dragged him out of the store.

Around the corner was J&J HaBetos, the cigar shop. They also happen to carry a wide selection of fine luxury tequilas.
We both enjoy a fine sipping tequila. A fine anejo can be as complex as any aged single malt. So while Todd went into the humidor to browse, I looked over the beautiful hand blown bottles on the shelf. After Todd and the proprietor, Beto came
out of the humidor, Beto noticed my gaze and asked if I had tried the one I was currently eyeing. Oro Azul Anejo. I said we hadn’t and without a skipping a beat, Beto brought out two sipping glasses, and poured us each a shot. (What time was it?) We sipped. It was heaven.

My credit cards had no problem, and as we were wrapping up our purchases; two bottles of Oro Azul, the anejo and a plata, and Todd’s several cigar choices, I noticed yet another beautiful bottle. It was a tequila liqueur called Agavero. I had never seen it before and it really caught my eye. Without hesitation, Beto grabbed the bottle, and poured us two more shots. It was like nothing I’d ever tasted before. Agavero is a blend of reposado and anejo tequilas, and then fussed with the essence of the Damiana flower, which is indigenous to the mountains of Jalisco, Mexico, where tequila is produced. It tasted of honey, and smelled of wildflowers. It was truly amazing. Of course, we were already over our alcohol import allotment by one bottle, and I’m a coward when it comes to customs, so it will have to wait until April when we return on the Sun Princess. But I have
never tasted anything like it before. It was sweet and smooth like Drambuie, while being crisp and sharp like tequila, all at
the same time. Quite remarkable.

As we made our way back down the street with our newly acquired booty, Todd took a turn into the jewelry store. Uh-oh. They smiled, and my new friend Melissa, a gal from California who had married the gorgeous Alex who also worked at the store, relocated first to St Thomas, then here to Cabo to raise their daughter, beamed, ran over, and squeezed my arm and said, “Your back!” Alex was right behind her with the bottle of Heradura and poured another shot for Todd, and offered me one as well. I waived him off, as I’d had quite enough by that point. I smiled at Melissa and said, “Let’s do this.”

So, after making it to two ports relatively souvenir-free, (we’ve been known to do our Christmas shopping while in port –
you can’t beat $6 Mexican blankets!) we did some damage in Cabo. After wrapping our purchase of the diamond earrings, and getting Melissa’s email address (these two would be fun to have dinner with if we ever have enough time in Cabo),
we stopped once more at the girlie Die Trying store to purchase the t-shirts. My credit cards were obviously working fine.
But no go. Both were again rejected, and I gave up; assuming it was their credit card connection. Sans femme t-shirts, we headed back towards the quay. It was approaching 11am, and I had visions of an endless stream of people standing in the
sun waiting for the tenders – as I’ve seen it before.

Every time we have been to Cabo, the Mercado on the quay has changed. This time was no different. They keep improving it, and building more of it. This time it had been relocated entirely to a new area, closer along the boardwalk into town. In fact, the building is not finished yet, but they’ve got their stuff setup, nonetheless. Even the cantina in the center is up and running.

While browsing for yet another silver toe ring, we ran into Darcy, who’d misplaced the newlyweds, Bryan and Dennise,
while haggling over some item. As Todd told of our shopping adventures for the morning I spied the ring I wanted, and
worked a deal for $5. “That’s it. We’re done.” I announced, just as I turned around to see a beautiful blue and yellow
fish platter that screamed to come home with me. So much for my resolve after too much tequila.

“How much?” I asked.
“Thirty-eight senorita” was the reply. Senorita – nice work amigo.
I hesitated.
“Thirty-five” he offered, as I stared in silence.

“Hmmm” I said, as I got out my goofy little money pouch. (Seriously, I keep everything in a tiny plastic cosmetic pouch the
size of a credit card I got from some free gift-with-purchase from Clinique. I can’t be bothered with a wallet, or purse in a
port like Cabo. I gotta go with what fits in my pocket.)

“I think I’ve only got thirty left,” I mumbled. As I rifled through what was left of the cash I had taken ashore with us,
Darcy whispered in my ear she had an extra five if I needed it. I gave her the look of “no no no no – that’s not how this works,” and pulled out my thirty dollars and announced, “I only have thirty left.” He very kindly smiled, and wrapped it up
for me. Now we were truly finished, and we headed back to the tenders.

To our delight we found there was no line at all, and within minutes we were back aboard the Star, in our cabin, and Todd
was napping off his tequila intake.
“I’m just going to lay down for a few minutes honey,” he blathered.
I knew better, opened a club soda and went out onto the balcony to relax and take in the amazing view.

It is truly a wonder at how fast the community between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo is growing.
Each time I’ve come there are several new resorts under construction. It almost reminds me of Las Vegas.

Before I knew it. We were weighing anchor and were on our way. We swung about so we could pass close to the Ocean Princess. As we did, the officer of the watch came on and made a ship-wide announcement that this was one of the Ocean’s last voyages with Princess. She was headed through the Panama Canal to Ft. Lauderdale, before doing a trans-Atlantic
where she would become part of the P&O division fleet, and renamed Oceana. As we sailed past her there were several whistle salutes back and forth between ships. It was quite impressive, and a great photo-op.

As we swung about to starboard, sailed past the lighthouse at San Jose del Cabo, and the Ocean disappeared behind our stern, I changed into my swimsuit, left the sleeping Todd, and want up on deck to get a last glimpse of Land’s End, and
Cabo San Lucas. I was not disappointed. It was a warm 88 degrees, and not a cloud in the sky; just perfect with the
ocean breeze across the deck.

Eventually, as the resorts and condos on the Pacific side of the peninsula faded in the distance, I grabbed a few pieces of
pizza and went to see if sleeping man had risen. He stirred slightly as I entered with the yummy smelling food.
“What time is it?” He mumbled with his face in the pillow.
“Three o’clock.”
“What?!” he said, as he sat up surprised. “I missed sailaway?”

“You missed quite a few things. You even slept through a ship’s whistle conversation
between us and the Ocean Princess as we sailed past her.”

“You’re kidding.”
“I did drink a lot of tequila, didn’t I?”

Want some pizza?”
Want some Advil?”

“I’ll get you some.”

A few minutes after first aid had been administered, he managed a slice of pizza, and decided he had the energy to try his
luck in the casino one more time. I told him we couldn’t play too long, as we had Sandra and Dave’s wedding renewal ceremony at 6:20pm, and it was formal night so we needed to get ready. He did much better than I and managed to
keep me playing for the time we were there, turning the afternoon into a positive one, as he returned up around $50.

We headed back to the cabin to dress, and returned to find chocolate dipped strawberries as our canapés for the evening.
We didn’t realize we were pushed for time until Todd realized that several of his tuxedo button studs were missing.
Panic set in.

You men think we’re bad when we are having a fashion emergency. HA! This was male fashion trauma. Especially as it
had to be my fault as I was the one who had tidied up after the first formal night. I’m the kind of person who cleans up
before the steward can come in to clean up.

We looked everywhere, and they were nowhere to be found. Not to worry. Vest instead of cummerbund, and he could get
by with the two studs we actually had in our possession. Of course, this did not come without some hesitation, as he really
had his heart set on the cummerbund for this evening, since he had already worn the vest the first formal night. Oh no!
Not a fashion repeat! (I love when men care this much! Welcome to my world.) We made it to the renewal with seconds to spare. I groveled our apologies, and we ran to the front row and took our seats.

Sandra & Dave were celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary and had decided to do their renewal aboard the ship when they originally booked the cruise. Unfortunately, since they were dealing with Princess’s International office, a few things just didn’t make it to the US office, like their dining table assignments. Well, the renewal ceremony was another one. When they had boarded, they had been told to see the purser’s office to get the time of their renewal ceremony. Unfortunately, the purser’s office had no record of it. Fortunately, after several phone calls, all was sorted out, and things went on without a hitch. Sandra’s father, Jack, and stepmother, Lorraine, had even made the cruise to celebrate the occasion, and had brought with them a card that Dave’s brother had given to them which had an original Wedding photo of Sandra & Dave at their nuptials outside the London registry office, some thirty year ago as a surprise. I have to say: Sandra & Dave haven’t aged! They still look just as fabulous!

It was a beautiful ceremony complete with our favorite Princess Personality, Captain Cesare Ditel. At the end of the vows, Dave made a beautiful speech to Sandra, and thanked her for being his best friend for the last thirty years. It was so beautiful, and had me crying like a baby. Afterwards we all celebrated with a drink, then Todd and I gave our congratulations, and excused ourselves to head to the Captain’s circle cocktail party.

We entered the Vista lounge to find Captain Cesare, grinning from ear to ear as we approached, since we had only left him moments ago at the renewal ceremony. I winked and chided him to stop following us around the ship; he laughed and pulled
me in close, and asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to renew your vows? For a beautiful woman like you, I could fit it into the schedule.” He then pulled me to his left as he congratulated Todd once again for being a lucky man to “Acquire such a
bella donna for a wife.” Of course I was melting since he is such a smoothy. As he was shaking Todd’s hand, he was running his fingers up and down my spine as I had a low-backed gown on. Ok, so I ‘m a sucker when it comes to Italians.

Once inside the Vista lounge, we spotted Vanessa and Perry, and they invited us to join them. Seems I wasn’t the only one
to fall into the Cabo jewelry trap. Vanessa herself was sporting a lovely new ring, and we all shared our adventures of our morning in Cabo. One note on the onboard cocktail parties: You are not limited to the cocktails they are circulating on the trays. Order what you want, they will bring it to you, on the house.

No mention was made of the fire aboard the Diamond at this point, which we’d only been getting snippets of details of what had happened. A few passengers had managed to catch the story on CNN earlier in the week, and news had traveled pretty fast. Sandra & Dave had already booked on board, their next cruise for 12/27/03 – their actual anniversary – on the
Diamond, and we were hoping to join them. However, as usual, much ado was made for those passengers who seem to
live aboard these ships. All three of the top travelers were women, the most having 38 cruises under her belt. WOW.
I think it’s so nice that Princess makes a big deal of these things, along with anyone who has cruised before. They even had
a special luncheon on our cruise for those who’d traveled to ports in Europe and the Far East that Berrie & Bud had been invited to for the next afternoon.

At last it was time to make our way to dinner, and tonight was my favorite: lobster! We also finally had our entire compliment
of nine at the dinner table. Mar had his hands full. Tonight’s indulgence consisted of: Baked Clams Casino, Roasted Garlic Veloute with Rosemary (fabulous), Caesar salad, Lobster AND pheasant, and an extra order of lobster (along with almost everyone else at the table who ordered lobster.) We also brought our last two bottles of wine, both Cambria; a Sangiovese, and a Rae’s Chardonnay. Sandra and Dave had a bottle of Moet they were sharing, as was Darcy who had a bottle of great Chianti. And if I’m not mistaken, Bryan and Dennise had ordered a bottle of merlot as well. We definitely had enough wine to go around, and I don’t believe a single bottle was finished. Knowing none of us were going to be at the table the last evening, Berrie & Bud were going to be taking our Sabatini’s reservation, and Darcy had made one at Tequila’s for the rest of us,
Todd & I corked our bottles, and took them with us when we finally had eaten all we could hold.

Of course the plan was to dance off the extra body we were all carrying, but along the way once again we stopped by the casino. We managed to play for a good hour. Todd was even ahead almost five hundred dollars at one point, but eventually gave almost all of it back. We left slightly ahead, and sleep pulled us cabinward.

Outside on our balcony it was still warm, but the humidity was dropping as we made our way north. Neither of us had the energy to go for a late night hot tub, so I settled for a bubble bath as Todd watched the stars.

Our Anniversary package came with a breakfast in bed morning that included a half-bottle of Veuve-Clicquot, so we decided the last morning to use that special breakfast card they had left in our cabin earlier in the week. We got brave and Todd wrote in Steak-rare with two eggs over easy. I put in for the usual papaya, and added poached eggs. It would be interesting to see how well our luck held out. We finally crawled into bed, with the doors open so we could sleep to the sound of the sea, and feel the cooling of the ocean breeze.

Next time – Tahiti – I promise to do my best with writing down details in the journal I bring. I brought it this trip, and never touched it once. The trouble is, memory is like the tides of the ocean; waves of it keep washing up on the shore of my brain, and I realize I keep omitting some fun times. Like the bad blue margaritas Todd and I ordered for sailaway from Mazatlan. How do you screw up a margarita? The blue ones are on the ship’s drink menu, and the only difference is the Blue Curacao. But hey – it’s an orange liqueur just like Triple Sec. I don’t get it. If you don’t like your margaritas on the sweet side, stay
away from them. Or after the casino Friday afternoon, when we decided to get a bit of sun and pool time in. We ran into Camille and Dennis at Neptune’s Reef pool, and shared a bucket of Corona in the sun. It was great. I even ran into Roy
in the pool, and told him of my jewelry adventure. (Roy used to be in the jewelry biz, and said I did good; so that was a
real plus!) Or how our cabin was the meeting place of the cruise, and our group would collect there like family. It was
fabulous. I miss everyone soooo much. Or how after the casino Thursday night Todd took me to see Shooters as I still
hadn’t been there yet. It is very small, and intimate. There are more television monitors than barstools and it even has a
pool table hanging from the ceiling. I also snuck a quick peek in the Princess Theatre and the tail end of one of the shows.
I had expected it to be bigger, but I could see there’s not a bad seat in the house. Or how during my feeble attempt at a
nap Monday after tea, Todd kept spotting dolphin off of our balcony, and would shout, “Dolphin!” just as I was almost
about to drift off. Of course, I’d bound out of bed to catch a glimpse of them. So magical.

Part VII – Homeward Bound, and the Million Dolphin March

I read tarot cards, and had promised Bryan a reading on the ship. We set that for 10am that last day, with a reading for Darcy at 9:30am, so our champagne breakfast was scheduled for 8am. It showed up on time, complete with extra papaya. (Our guy was soooo sweet, and he wasn’t our room steward – just the room service guy who was in charge of delivering to our cabin. NAMES TALLY – GET NAMES!!!) But our waiting until the last day to do the champagne thing, they’d apparently run out
of Veuve-Clicquot so we got a half bottle of Moet instead, which I love just as much. But if your heart is set on the VC –
do it early in the week.

Getting closer to Los Angeles, our balcony was still warm, but not nearly as balmy as before. Darcy showed up right on time, and Sandra and Dave came by to observe, and have a glass of champagne. Bryan was right behind them. After Darcy’s reading, everyone except Bryan headed up on deck to check out the fire sale on Alaska merchandise that was going on in the Atrium.

Just as Bryan and I sat down to begin his reading, the officer of the watch came on with a ship-wide announcement stating
there was a pod of dolphin ahead that was visible off both sides, but the majority were on the starboard side. We both bounded onto the balcony to see. There were lots! More than what Todd had pointed out earlier in the week. We watched
this for a good five minutes. When it was clear we had passed them, we headed back in. Just as I wrapped up Bryan’s
reading, the officer of the watch came on again, with another dolphin sighting, so back we went. This time the ocean was positively alive with them. There were hundreds and hundreds! It was as if there were more dolphin than ocean. They were everywhere! I’ve never seen anything like it in my life! Both Bryan and I were trying to get photos but the only way to
capture this would have been with video. This lasted a good ten minutes! I was hoping that everyone who’d just left had
heard the announcement, and had gone to look. At any given moment, there must have been fifty of them leaping out of the water, and this was at least a mile or two long, and extending from the side of the ship to at least a few hundred yards out. Dolphin everywhere; the water churning with them, for as far as the eye could see!

Todd returned just as we’d passed the last of them. Bryan went to see if his bride had managed to crawl out of bed to see them, and Todd and I went up to check out the sale, which turned out to be more people than stuff. We decided to stop
by the sales office but there was a line, so we went by the casino instead since I had a bucket of quarters from the night
before I needed to cash in.

Usually I sign up for the slot tournaments, but I just didn’t feel like it this time. The casino was a bit busy for this time of the morning, and I realized it was because the tournament was underway. I wandered over close, and sat down at an I Dream
Of Jeannie machine with the shouting going on right behind me. After three spins, I hit $120. Not bad! I cashed out, but the hopper ran out of money, so I had to wait for a tech to come fill it. As I waited, I began playing a Triple Lucky Sevens
machine next to my Jeannie machine. After two spins, I hit $60. I cashed out, and it also ran out of money. Todd was
having no luck, so he came to wait with me. As we sat there, a guy playing one coin on the only five-dollar Wild Cherry machine (one of my favorites) was hitting and hitting. He must have walked away with over $1000. All I kept thinking
was how much it could have been if he’d been playing TWO coins!

After the small windfall in the casino, we headed for pizza, then stopped back by the sales office and there was only one
couple at the desk, so we grabbed the two chairs closest to wait. Dawn Seaman, the gal in charge of onboard sales, is the nicest girl ever! In fact we are meeting her in Vegas at the end of the month for a drink. She worked us a great deal for the
Sun Princess in February, as we’ve wanted to see Acapulco and Ixtapa, along with just having more time on the ship.
A single week goes by in the blink of an eye. We also wanted to book the same cruise on the Diamond that Sandra and
Dave had booked earlier in the week, but since the fire, everything was up in the air. We decided to let it go, and when
we have final word with what is happening to the cruise they’re on, 12/27/03, we’ll go from there.

Sandra and Dave are in Vegas until sometime around 10/20, so they most likely are too busy making money to
worry about it until they get home.

After booking yet another cruise, we decided to go change into our swimsuits and get some last day sun. We found Darcy
on deck and joined her. Todd ordered a regular margarita this time, and it was still bad. Sweet as hell like before. Bleh!

Before long Camille had found us, and took over Todd’s seat since he was headed to his blackjack tournament, then Bryan and Dennise found us and joined the party. What a relaxing afternoon. Good friends, great weather, gorgeous ship. Aaaaahhhh.

Before too long, Todd returned, walked up to us and said to me, “How much do you love me?” Everyone else thought it
was a bad sign, but I knew better.
“How much did you win?”
He opened his hand and handed me five black chips and three green ones, for a total of $575.

Todd and I have a standing deal whenever we’re gambling: when one of us wins, we split the pot. I have a deal that when we win BIG we take most of it home. At this point I bargained with Todd, and managed to keep the black chips, with the understanding he could have more of it later if he needed it. He agreed, and returned to the casino with the $75, and returned 20 minutes later with nothing. A little while later we returned to the cabin.

I think I mentioned before that Todd is a huge Tommy Bahama fan, (He has more shopping genes than most females), and had found a certain golf shirt he wanted. Well, considering he had returned fruitful from the casino earlier, I worked a deal that part of his half would go to the purchase of said shirt. He agreed, and while I took another blissful bubble bath, he headed back upstairs with two of the black chips – one to put on his onboard account to purchase the shirt.

Twenty minutes later he returned to the cabin without the shirt, but announced he had discovered a new color chip – purplish-blue. I had never seen a $500 chip before. I was determined to not let this one go, so we began getting ready for dinner.

And pack. *sniff *

It is so amazing how many things you bring on a trip that you not only don’t wear, but also forget you have brought with you in the first place. I make a mental note to bring half as much on the Tahiti cruise. Todd’s tuxedo button studs have been officially abducted by aliens.

Of course, the canapés they brought that last evening were the best! Little mounds of dark chocolate over rice krispies.
Oh yeah!

Let me start by saying this was the BEST MEAL we had all week. No joke. The food and service blew everything else, including Sabatini’s and the dining room out of the water! If you are expecting AmeriMEX food like what is served at restaurants such as El Torito, you’ll be most likely shocked and disappointed. No, this is gourmet Mexican food.
More the kind of food you’d find at a five star restaurant in Mexico City.

Our server Mueritcio was the best server we had all week! He treated us like family, and couldn’t spoil is enough!
Having seven of us at the table made for lots of sharing, so here is a rundown on what was on the table:

We started out with some GREAT margaritas! Finally, somewhere on the Star there was a bartender who knew how to
make a great margarita. We had every appetizer on the menu except the Texas Lobster and Black Bean Soup which I
want to try next time! The guacamole was super-spicy and fresh! The taquitos and empanadas were tasty, but the brie quesadilla was amazing; the Jalapeno/Cilantro sauce it’s topped with had the perfect fire.

Mueritcio did a fabulous table-side Caesar salad to die for! Even asking me how much anchovy I preferred. He made it
one of the best salads ever, with great table-side flair. The table captains used to do those table-side in the dining room,
once upon a time.

As for entrees – no one ordered the Catfish or the pork tenderloin. But Between the seven of us we had – Tequila shrimp, which was the best shrimp of the cruise. Nice and spicy with a hint of tequila giving it a nice tangy finish. One of the best steak filets I’ve ever had. Thick and prepared perfectly rare, it is marinated in whisky and dried peppers and was so tender my fork almost melted right through it. Amazing.

The chicken fajitas smelled divine, but I was too busy stuffing myself with the steak and the wonderfully spicy white bean enchilada, which was perhaps one of my favorite things on the menu. You have to like things SUPER SPICY. If not, stay
away from it. The description in the menu makes it sound rather tame, but believe me, it’s not. It does have nice cooling sautéed cactus leaves in it, but the fire is substantial, and lingers on. It you like it hot, then the enchilada is for you!
Lots of great fire coupled with fabulous flavor!

Afterwards I barely had room for the wonderful flan, very creamy, with tons of caramel.

If you love great gourmet Mexican food, and love it spicy, then I can’t recommend Tequila’s enough. Don’t wait until the
last evening of the cruise since you’ll most likely want to dine there more than once. If you time it right, they also have some decent entertainment on the country side. But even if country music isn’t your thing, it does make for some great atmosphere. There is even a dance floor for those wanting to show off their two-step. And as for traffic going to the theatre, we had no problem with this. There is another hallway that leads to the internet café, and Captain’s Circle desk that more people used,
so it wasn’t an issue the night we were there.

It seemed we sat there forever, not wanting to break the magic of the wonderful company – everyone realizing it was our
last dinner together, and also because we were so stuffed we could barely move. Meuritcio never rushed us, just kept
making sure we had coffee, margaritas, and anything else we could possible want.

Being as this was the last night, and Todd was feeling lucky, when we could finally stand, we headed to the casino (of course), but with a very limited amount each. Within a short hour we were up another $500. We decided to take our chance with the
$5 Wild Cherry machine, but it just made the nasty sucking sound, so we called it a night. We ended up walking off the ship with $1200. Not bad. Not bad at all!

We headed up to Skywalkers to have one last cocktail with the group, before heading back down to the cabin and our last night under the stars on our fabulous balcony. Neither of us wanted to sleep, as we never wanted this magical week to end.
I’d also miss the great night’s sleep I always get onboard. The gentle rocking of the sea is something you just can’t duplicate
at home.

Part VIII - Chaos, breakfast, more chaos, and why I’d go again in a heartbeat

Living in Southern California most of my life, I have grown to have several expectations. One being that most days by the coast consist of many hours of marine layer, especially in the Spring and Fall. When we left Los Angeles a short week earlier, it was cold, cloudy and even beginning to rain, and I expected pretty much the same on our return. So our clothing options for the day of disembarkation were varied. We also knew that we’d eventually make it home to the Valley, where it is normally as hot as the surface of the Sun. We were also taking the three opened wine bottles home with us. (I know, seems rather silly, but these weren’t cheap bottles of wine, and they were really good wines as well. No sense pouring them down the sink. Besides, after what I ate on this trip, I needed the workout.)

We also had the toiletry bag. (We both have short hair, and do little to it, so how does a bag get so heavy and so full of crap???) I kept a pair of jeans, and a pair of shorts, two sweatshirts, and a tank top out for the if’s of Los Angeles weather. Todd had shorts, a golf shirt, and his leather jacket. In any event, we were ready.

I awoke around 4:45am, left a sleeping Todd in bed, and crept out to the balcony just in time to watch us entering San Pedro harbor. The first thing that struck me was the silence. Yes, there is normally not a lot of noise, but with the Pacific coast dock lockout going on, there was no sound, and that work usually goes on round the clock.

I looked up and saw a cloudless starry night sky. Well, the few really bright stars that make it through the light pollution of Southern California anyway. I watched as the Star slowly made her way up the channel, past the sleeping Sheraton, and maneuvered unbelievably around the corner of the quay into her berth. It was truly an amazing feat. Todd did not want to get up, so I crawled back into bed for a while. Our time to report to immigration wasn’t until 7:15am, as we had cream-colored luggage tags.

No clouds, that meant it would be hot when the sun came up. We laid in bed in a state of abysmal depression for about an hour. Very sad our room service friend would not be visiting us that morning, and too drained to fight the vast hoards which undoubtedly would be converging on the Horizon Court for coffee and such. Instead, we got dressed in a state of silence.

I crammed the jeans between the wine bottles to cushion, and put on the shorts and tank, tying the sweatshirts around my waist just to save space. We made about fifty “last walk-throughs” of our beloved suite; just to be sure we weren’t leaving anything
in any of the seemingly endless storage spaces. When it was almost 7am, we finally got our stuff together, took our Happy Anniversary sign off the door, grabbed our door nameplate, and took one last look before dragging our sorry butts down the hallway to the stairs. Little did we know that chaos lurked just around the corner on deck seven.

The thing they are doing now, and it’s a relatively new procedure, as we did not have to go through this tedious exercise in February, is that everyone, even US citizens, have to go through immigration. You also have to show not only your passport
(if you have one), but your photo ID (driver’s license) as well (never mind that they are both photo IDs and it’s redundant).

When we reached deck seven we were in for a shock. I had no idea there were so many people on this ship. I mean, I technically knew, but seeing them all crammed into once place was something else altogether. The plan was to go at your directed time to the Vista Lounge, with your documents, ID, and the LETTER that Princess had delivered to every passenger the day before. This lets them know exactly who has checked in, and who they have to begin calling for over the ship’s PA.

The problem was, that there were so many people in line to get into the Vista Lounge, that you couldn’t tell where the end of the line was. It extended past Explorers Lounge, wound around the atrium twice, went back down the port side hallway, then back again, and towards the Princess Theatre. The line was moving fast, but there were so many confused, and pissed off people who had no clue where to go, and there were not enough stanchions and rope set up to be of any help. There were
also not enough crew in place to direct people where to go.

Todd dropped me off with all our bags, (why we didn’t put most of these out the night before still boggles my mind), and went to find the end of the line. As I waited, I saw so much behavior that I was surprised didn’t result in violence. People pretending to be stupid, and cutting in line, even though people who’d been waiting over an hour in line told them that was not the end of the line, and yet, rudely stayed in line anyway. People screaming at each other, many getting frustrated; it was a wonder nobody came to blows.

About an hour later, Todd made his way through the snaking line, and up to where I waited with the bags. From there it was
a matter of about 15 more minutes, and we were done. We decided to make our way up to the outside deck, aft of Horizon Court, and low and behold, we found most of our gang waiting for us! I went in and for the first time all week, got some food
at Horizon Court. I grabbed some scrambled eggs, two croissants, and some OJ. Todd went to look for cigarettes, and an open bar, which he amazingly found.

We sat and visited one last time with our newlyweds and Darcy, and queried Sandra & Dave about what they wanted to do first when they got to Vegas, meanwhile the Catalina Express helicopter, just on the other side of the channel, was taking off every five minutes it seemed. It was going to be a beautiful, hot, sunny Southern California Day. Even most of the smoke from the fire was gone. This past week was the best weather I’ve ever experienced on this itinerary, and it was still hurricane season! Seven perfect warm sunny days in a row!!

About 9:15am they started calling for certain slugs who hadn’t made it to immigration, to go to the Vista Lounge. This lasted
for about another thirty minutes, with the announcements going out about every six. Several people suggested they put photos up of these wanted persons along with the announcements, so they could be publicly mocked for holding everyone hostage. Not an entirely bad idea.

I found out later that the Platinum Disembarkation lounge was at the Wheelhouse Bar. Hmmm. Not great communication as far as Captain’s Club perks go. If I hadn’t read everything on these boards, I never would have known any of it, as we still haven’t received our fall newsletter. No one explained about the free internet, no one told us of anything, or made any mention of any of the perks given to Gold, and/or Platinum members. If I hadn’t read it here, I never would have known even that I was a Platinum member, or gone to the website to register for our $10 on board credit – which we got by the way, no problem.

When the ship had finally located the final six people who loved to hear their names called countless times, disembarkation finally began. We were getting home the same way we’d arrived, with our limo dude, and dropping Sandra and Dave off along the way at the LAX Hilton. The rest were catching flights back up to Northern California, so they were called off right away. Meanwhile, the four of us made our way down to deck seven where the gangways would be, and slowly closer to the atrium. It would have been nice to wait in The Wheelhouse with a cocktail. It certainly would have taken the edge off the chaos. Lesson learned – ask the Captain’s Circle desk next cruise where this little perk will be located.

We all agreed to find each other outside; not thinking it would be too difficult, especially since Dave is such a tall guy. And began making our way off the ship when our colors were called. Once off, we were guided downstairs to where the bags were organized in different rooms depending on color; the only problem being that it seemed these areas were placed geographically the farthest point possible away from curbside, and the porters. Todd located the bags, and found a point for me to wait with them, while he fought the jungle and went to bribe a porter, which thankfully he did in very short order. I have to say that a ten dollar incentive tip got us a great porter, who grabbed our mountain of bags, (which totaled nine including Todd’s golf clubs and the carry-ons – yes, that is too much stuff – I KNOW), then bypassed the main part of the line, and got us up to the customs hand off point within seconds. It was amazing. I then tipped him another $20 after he got us to the center island outside, all in one piece. I have to say he earned every penny, and it was money well spent. I only wish we’d given him fifty instead. I don’t know how these guys do this all week.

After locating Sandra, Dave, and their bags, we gave the limo driver a call to come ahead and drive up from where he was parked waiting. The first mistake that was made was he headed left (taxi lane) when he should have gone right, but who knew? There was no one directing traffic to tell him. Instead, they wait until you pull all the way forward, pull over and park to pick up your client before they tell you that you can’t park there, it’s for taxi’s only, and you must go around again, and come through the nightmare lane.

Twenty minutes later….. we finally got everything crammed into the limo, and were on our way. It seemed like no time at all before we were hugging our new friends goodbye, and wishing them well for Vegas. We had tentatively planned on meeting them the next afternoon at Universal, getting together for a quick dinner, then driving them back down to LAX, but the fever that hit me after we got home kept us from it. The last thing Sandra needed was to be around someone sick, now that she was at last recovering her voice.

We waived goodbye, and were at last headed to the Valley. When we finally reached home, and brought all the bags up in the blazing sun, our cat was, of course, nowhere to be seen. He was hiding in the closet full of attitude, which even a can of tuna wouldn’t fix. Oops. After a dragging him out of said closet, giving him some cuddles, then letting him creep back into the darkness, we decided we needed a margarita fix, so off to our neighborhood cantina we went, once again to be surrounded by the sounds and smells of our beloved Mexico. Not exactly the same, but it would have to do. In spite of all of the chaos, Princes does it like no one else, and makes cruising absolutely magical. We are already counting the days until our next Princess Cruise!

Star Epilogue

Special thanks to Don Hirschfeld’s site with the posted Princess menus at:

Sandra & Dave who brought so many gifts for everyone from Australia, it’s a wonder they had any room for clothing.
And all the rest of the wonderful lifelong friends we made on this trip. We need to plan a reunion cruise!

My apologies to whomever answered the phone at the purser’s desk when Todd called at the last moment during the tuxedo button drama – It was my idea for him to call and ask if they were carried onboard in one of the shops – I just didn’t think
he’d wait until two minutes before we needed to walk out of the cabin. You were correct – he “had just called.”
Thanks for even volunteering to “sort something out” for him. I gather you’ve done this before. Bless you.

We are already counting the days until our next Princess Cruise!

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