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About XBGuy

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  1. It appears that Princess has a 16-day R/T out of New York that includes three stops in Greenland along with stops in Canada. https://www.princess.com/cruise-search/details?voyageCode=B027
  2. For dinner we always dine at a two-top. I find it difficult to respond to your "your push comes to shove" scenario. I cannot recall a time in the last thirty years, or so, where we wanted to get "seated earlier" while on a cruise, We would either wait or go to another venue. One of the great things about cruising is that there is always another venue. In fact, I often wonder. if my wife had her way, would she order from room service every night?
  3. TimesPrince, I actually struggled, a bit, when I composed my essay. I tried to acknowledge that I am aware of the effort that the organizers put into these events. To me it is difficult and time consuming, and I'm not sure that the reward is commensurate with the effort. So, as I wrote above, I always make a point of thanking the organizers before I leave, and, invariably, I am one of the last to leave. I admire the effort that you have put into your events. If we ever cruise together, I will try to be there. I can't be definitive, because I would definitely be a no show on embarkation day. Mrs. XBGuy gets 100% of my attention on embarkation day. 😉 I understand your comment in the last paragraph. I agree, completely--mostly, because my hearing is not that great. What I found I've had to do is "Table Hop." It is not unlike a cocktail party. I feel no obligation to meet and chat with every single person, but I will walk up and introduce myself to multiple groups.
  4. The best M&Gs I have attended have been informal get togethers where somebody on the Cruise Critic Roll Call will just announce something like "We will be at such-and-such venue at such-and-such time. If you can make it, feel free to stop by and say, 'Hi.'" Invariably, other Roll Call participants will respond with comments such as, That sounds great. See you there Not sure I can make it, but, if it works out, I'll be there. Unfortunately, that does not work out for us. I hope we can meet on the next cruise. As somebody above has mentioned, I have found that there is a lack of social interaction in the more organized M&Gs. People find a seat in whatever lounge and wait for the organizer to tell them what to do next. When the organizer has finished with whatever program was planned, there seems to be a rush to leave. Very few people seem to want to hang around and chat. With the informal gatherings, it seems that people are more inclined to introduce themselves and start up conversations. However, I want to take a second to recognize the work that organizers do. Contacting Princess, inviting officers, rounding up prizes for raffles, bringing name tags is much more work than I care to take on. I do appreciate the effort, and I make sure that I thank them in person before I leave the gathering.
  5. That is very cool. The only times we've had flowers delivered on embarkation day were the times I pre-ordered them. We did receive a nice treat from our room steward on our seven-day cruise last December when, for the second time ever, we'd booked a full suite. Each Princess suite has a blooming Phalaenopsis Orchid in the sitting area. Orchids are particularly well-suited for a number of reasons: They are strikingly beautiful. The blooms last for weeks and, if you're lucky, even months. So, they don't have to be swapped out very often. They are odorless. Great for passengers who have allergies. When we arrived at our suite on embarkation day. I noticed that the orchid was looking a bit weary--down to its last two blooms. Sure enough, on the morning of day three, I noticed that the last bloom had dropped off. No big deal, We were having a great cruise, We were very pleasantly surprised, though, when we returned from dinner, that evening. Our steward had left a very beautiful arrangement of cut flowers for us.
  6. Keith, my wife and I are booked on the Star Princess sailing the 15-day Hawaiian itinerary out of Los Angeles on January 13. I'm afraid that my post cruise report will be too late for you to have any timely reliable information. I have followed many of your posts here on Cruise Critic the last few years, and I think we are on the same page as you regarding the food on Princess. In her working life, my wife was also a chef--although, not in a restaurant. She was the one who developed recipes used as marketing collateral for consumer food products--think, back labels, shelf tear-offs, neck hangers. Princess is our preferred cruise line, because it we can drive one hour to the port and board the ship. No airlines and no airports. We just enjoy the shipboard experience, and the itinerary is not terribly important, We do have an issue with the dining room environment, and I'm pretty sure it is not a Princess issue. We just don't care for that production environment. We want to dine, not eat. For our next two cruises--next month to Alaska and, then, the January one to Hawaii--we have booked a suite. So, I know that we will be ordering room service off the dining room menu and enjoying it, at our leisure, in our cabin--with our own wine. Since we live driving distance from the port, it is easy for me to carry my own wine on board. On the other hand, I have to agree that the recent upgrades to the Princess dining room wine list have made it more attractive. We will have a few meals in the specialty restaurants. I am not sure if the Star Princess has the old Sabatini's or the new Sabatini's Tratorria menu. People here on Cruise Critic seem to feel that it is the new one, but the Princess web site sure makes it look like it's the old one. We have had one cruise with the Tratorria menu on the Grand Princess, and we had dinner there two evenings. All in all, I think I liked that menu better than the old one. I have read that the Tratorria menu has been updated. So, that is another consideration. I know, and understand, your opinion on the Crown Grill proteins. My experience has been hit or miss. I have had some very good meals--nothing transcendental--and I have had some that are just meh. My wife's favorite Crown Grill entree is the Mussel Pot. She will have that at least once, and often, more per cruise. I have to say, the Sea Bass entree has been very good, I've ordered the Lobster Tails once. One and done. We have done the Chef's Table--I think it was on the Crown Princess. Again, one and done, The food was excellent--well-prepared and tasty. Unfortunately, we were just not comfortable in the group. We have consistently enjoyed the Ultimate Balcony Dinner on multiple Princess ships. Of course, we especially enjoy the attentive service. Two servers dedicated to us. How can it get better? I have to admit, however, that on one occasion my Filet Mignon was, again, meh--chewy and lacking in flavor. It is unfortunate that we do not have any cruises booked on a ship that has SHARE. In multiple cruises we have had 10, or so, meals in SHARE. We have tested all three iterations of the menu, and, while I certainly, have found menu items that I would not go back to, I honestly feel that every meal I have had there has been excellent. I honestly do not believe that you are going to find that the food has significantly improved, Keith. We try to make the cruise about us, not Princess. I should mention, however, that we are looking at an Oceania cruise in September 2020.
  7. Thank you, MSCC. This looks familiar. I think that somebody posted something very similar, if not identical, here on Cruise Critic a few weeks ago. I am glad to see Carnival take this action. I truly hope they can live up to the ideals that they are espousing.
  8. I can report that the noshes that are provided from Room Service vary, somewhat, from ship to ship. Here are the raw vegetables that we ordered on the Grand Princess a couple years, ago n On other ships we have been given a slightly bigger platter of vegies instead of the bowl shown here. Cheese platter and vegie platter on the Ruby Princess last year Again, I've seen slightly different presentations. BTW, those are dried apricots at the southwest edge of the cheese platter. I have ordered the Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, but I don't have any pics. They are nice sized--each one is two or three bites--and they are pretty. There is a lot of ire here on Cruise Critic about the canapes, but I do not get it. I have ordered the canapes, I have had them with the Ultimate Balcony Dinner and I have had them in those wine tastings that they offers in the dining room in the afternoon on some sea days. They are bite-size noshes--pate, whipped cheese, shrimp, cured meats--on little pieces of bread. There is a pretty current thread on the Ultimate Balcony Dinner in which somebody has posted pictures--including some canapes.
  9. I have posted multiple times, here, on Cruise Critic, that the Chef for a given room makes a lot of difference. We rarely have dinner in any of the dining rooms, but we often dine in the specialty restaurants. I am going to use the example of the Crown Grill because most Princess ships have a Crown Grill (or a Sterling Steak house which is close enough) and the fare is agreeable most Cruise Critic posters. I should mention that, in all honesty, I feel that I can buy a steak at my local grocery store (probably, no better than USDA Choice), grill it in my back yard, and it will be as good or better than any steak that I have ever had in the Crown Grill. In certain regards I am not particularly fussy. In certain regards I am quite fussy. When my wife and I go out to dinner, we want to dine not just eat. That is the reason that we prefer the specialty restaurants. I have had some very good steaks or chops at Crown Grill. I have, also, had numerous chewy and, even, flavorless ones. 100% of all my Princess cruises have been California embarkations. I am pretty sure that there have been no drastic variations in the sourcing of the meats. I have also had both good and mediocre experiences on different cruises of the same ship. I attribute it to the kitchen staff. A poster above commented about the fact that there is one Executive Chef on the ship and he is not preparing most meals. However, every kitchen does have a chef who has overall responsibility for the operation of that kitchen. My opinion is that he sets the standard. So, yes, that chef does matter. When I order a steak or chop, and the server asks how I would like it prepared, I always specify, "Rare." I have learned that I also have to make sure that the server gets the message, and, so, I will pause and look him/her in the eye and say, "Rare. Blood rare." Usually, that works, but not always. On the Emerald Princess a little over a year ago, I noticed that the Crown Grill chef would occasionally stroll through the dining area. On our second visit that cruise, I ordered a Porterhouse steak and, yes. specified, that I would like it "Blood rare." When the steak was presented to me, the server asked me to slice it to make sure it was to my liking. When I looked up, I noticed the chef standing behind the server. I sliced the steak and was pretty disappointed to see pink and not red. I guess I did not disguise my disappointment. The chef stepped around the server, picked up the plate and told me, "We'll do it again for you." I would not be surprised if somebody back in the kitchen received a reprimand. Again, as has been stated, the various kitchens are preparing meals from standard recipes. However, attention to detail is important. If the chef for a given kitchen pays attention to the details, and if he insists that the other cooks in that kitchen pay attention to detail, then superior meals will come out of that kitchen. If the chef does not care, then, guess what, the staff doesn't care. The exact same thing happens in the front of the room. The headwaiter sets the service standard for the room. I have had mixed levels of service in, picking again on, the Crown Grill. Invariably, the times I have had mediocre-to-poor service, the headwaiter has not been in sight. The times I have received crisp attentive service, I have seen the headwaiter all over the room. Chatting with diners, pouring glasses of wine, helping out with the delivery of courses to large parties, clearing off tables. When the service staff sees the headwaiter hustling, they know that is the standard. When the service staff does not see the headwaiter on the room, that is another message that they receive. I had an interesting experience in the Crown Grill on the Crown Princess a few years ago. We were seated at a table next to a large group of 16 who took up two tables. Our server had to take care of us and the large party. Guess who received the short end of that stick. I did feel sorry for that server. In addition to being large, that group was pretty demanding, No headwaiter anywhere in sight. Towards the end of our entree I see the headwaiter along with the ship's Maitre d' table hopping. Soon enough, they stopped at our table and asked how we were enjoying our meal. "Fine," I started. "Thank . . . ????" That was all I was able to get out. I was looking at their backs as they walked away. Well, that explains a lot. The headwaiter doesn't care because his boss doesn't care. Front of the room and back of the room management matters. The fact that management changes fairly often leads me to conclude that you cannot make general statements about the meals of any specific ship. A ship that is being denigrated in Cruise Critic one month my get new management and turn around completely. Also, vice versa.
  10. I am one of the UBD's biggest cheerleaders. So, I am happy to jump in, here. If you have a particular date in mind, and it is important that your event be on that date, by all means book it through the cruise personalizer and pay up front. For example we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary with a UBD on the Ruby Princess, and we wanted to do it on THE day. If you are not particularly fussy about what day you do it, then call the DINE line when you arrive at your cabin on embarkation day. The odds are that they will be able to accommodate you, but, as in the above case. there are times when I want a sure thing. For what it's worth, a Room Service Manager once told me that most of the UBDs are served on port days. People enjoy dining on their balcony while in a calm port. That means, of course, that there is more opportunity of getting a reservation on a sea day. Also, my observation here on Cruise Critic is that many people want to make sure that they don't miss whatever specials are being served in the dining rooms on formal nights. So, there might be more openings on formal nights. Another quick story. The first time we enjoyed the UBD it happened to be on a formal night. We figured what the heck, and decided to wear our nice clothes. When the server arrived and saw us she was completely thrilled that we were dressed up. I honestly believe that we received extra attention, that night.
  11. Our very first cruise multiple decades ago. We took a Caribbean cruise for our honeymoon. We knew nothing about cruising. We did not know anybody who had ever been on a cruise. This was years before "The Love Boat" (which, who's kidding who, would have, probably, filled our heads with false expectations). There was no such thing as Cruise Critic. We went into the experience wide-eyed, but pretty naive. On the first sea day of the cruise, we attended a presentation given by the cruise director in the ship's theater. I was surprised to learn that the ship actually arranged excursions for the various port stops. I had no idea. Of course, then I quickly learned that there was a charge for any of these excursions. Who knew? Well, I had enough money, or credit, to enjoy excursions at most of the ports. Obviously, we enjoyed ourselves, because we are still cruising. I did, though, learn from the experience. My personal solution is to make sure that my credit card has room for unexpected expenses. I just assume there will be some.
  12. OP, one more thing I would like to add regarding the chapel. It is called "Hearts & Mind." While it is, usually, available for private meditation, it is, in fact, sometimes scheduled. These scheduled events will be announced in the Princess Patter. So, you can check before you head there. Somebody has already mentioned that there have been "Friends of Dr. Bob and Bill W." meetings. I have also seen Jewish services during the High Holidays, and I have seen an announcement of a Catholic Rosary once. Interestingly, I don't think I have ever seen a Sunday service scheduled at Hearts & Mind. I have seen nondenominational Sunday services scheduled at larger venues such as the Princess Theater or the Explorers Lounge. but this is not a regular occurrence. In fact, it might be a rare occurrence. Interestingly, on our last cruise the pianist who performed in various ship venues would practice in Hearts & Mind. It was pretty cool standing out in the hallway getting a private recital. That was the only cruise where I have observed that. Regarding tendering in Alaska, it's been too many years since our last stop at Sitka. However, at any of the other Alaska ports, there is always a chance of tendering. While each port has docking capacity to accommodate multiple ships, sometimes (rarely) the number ships exceeds the number of docks. A few years ago we tendered in Juneau. It was no big deal, the tender trip was very short. Also, my recollection is that we were advised prior to embarkation that we would be tendering in Juneau. My recollection, however, may be faulty because I do not recall how we received that advice.
  13. Our experience with embarkation day pre-orders has been a bit inconsistent. There have been times when a pre-ordered nosh has been sitting in our cabin when we first arrived. I confess, however, that is the exception. Usually, our orders arrive prior to the safety meeting. In every case where that did not happen, the delivery arrived while we were attending the safety meeting. As a previous poster has indicated, if any alcoholic beverages are pre-ordered. There will be a note in the cabin with instructions to call Room Service to arrange delivery. An adult must sign for it. They won't just leave it in the room.
  14. That is what we do. We also like to sip Sparkling Wine and nosh on our balcony as we are leaving port. We have pre-ordered the vegie platter and the cheese platter from the cruise personalizer. The cost is a nit. Yes, you can certainly run up to the buffet and fix your own platter, but we like being pampered on the first day of our cruise. I, usually, bring my own Sparkling wine, but I have also pre-ordered it and had it delivered to our cabin on embarkation day.
  15. Mikado, TM gave a pretty good description of the protocol for paying the corkage fee on your wines during the check-in process. Of course, though, I feel compelled to add my $.02 worth. When you arrive at the "wine" table after going through the security scanner, you will meet some Princess crew members (they usually seem to be bar or dining room staff). They will prepare a chit for you to sign for the corkage fee. That charge will appear on your account in a day, or so. They will also ask you which wines you want to designate as your "free" ones. They will attach a sticker or a stamp on the other bottles. This sticker/stamp indicates to restaurant/dining room staff that the $15 corkage fee has been paid at the pier, and, so, is not subject to another charge in the restaurant/dining room. It has been reported that, sometimes, when people arrive at the wine table, there is nobody staffing it. If that is the case, do not be concerned. Just walk onto the ship with your wine. Since you did not collect any stamps/stickers on your bottles, the restaurant/dining room staff will just assess the corkage fee, when you bring the wine in to have with your meal. It is perfectly fine to carry your wine into the restaurant/dining room with you. You will, most assuredly, see other passengers doing it. So, it's cool. At your table the headwaiter or the server will inspect the bottle and, if there is no sticker, will advise you of the corkage charge. Generally, the server will uncork the bottle and bring wine glasses, but there have been times when the headwaiter has uncorked for me. If it is a white wine, after the pours the server will, invariably, immerse your bottle in an ice bath. There will be several located around the room and, more often than not. there will be multiple bottles in each. If you don't want your wine to be "frosty," you can, certainly, direct the server to leave it on your table. I have tried to be as clear and complete as possible, Mikado. Do not hesitate, though, to come back with additional questions or requests for clarification. Have a great cruise. We have taken the 10-day AK cruise out of San Francisco twice in the past few years, and it is a good one. Also, by the way, there are a couple of threads currently here on the Princess Board with peoples' reports on their experiences on this cruise. You might get some good insights if you check them out.
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