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Bruin Steve

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  1. It was never a matter of buying one... I own my own tuxedo...but I learned NOT to pack it for cruises...especially as airline luggage weight restrictions got tighter and tighter. I'd go away for a two week European cruise plus several days on land before and after and be limited to 50 pounds...No need to use over half that allowance on formal wear...Plus, the thing would get wrinkled and abused and need to be dry cleaned at great expense when returning home. Therefore, rent the tuxedo...for the convenience far more than for the cost... BUT, the company going out of business was inevitable. The same company contracted with most of the cruise lines--not just Princess--to provide the rental tuxedos...But, Oceania didn't have formal nights, Azamara followed suit (unintended pun), then NCL stopped having formal nights...Celebrity discontinued formal nights. I think Carnival may still have them...but "formal" on Carnival means you wear your good jeans...and a T-shirt without the beer advertisement printed on it... Princess is one of few with a formal night left...and, sorry to say, even on Princess, most people seem to be dressing down more and more for formal nights. I don't pack--or rent--a tuxedo anymore. To comply in spirit, I pack black dockers, a black/white dress shirt and a polyester (to reduce wrinkling concerns) black blazer...I don't need to pack patent leather shoes, cummerbund, braces, cuff links and studs, etc...and the effect of the black/white appears formal enough...and I'm still overdressed, even on formal night, compared to 90% of the men on the ship... So, basically, in what was once a lucrative business renting tuxedos to half the men on every cruise line, they were now reduced to renting out a handful of tuxedos on Princess, Royal Caribbean and maybe a few other ships. But the business model requires them to stock tuxedos of ALL sized on every ship they serve...So, the product requirement hasn't gone down--but the supply of customers has fallen off dramatically. I am surprised they stayed in business this long...
  2. Hopefully it all stays afloat until our visit in July 😁
  3. Okay, so avoid Ye Olde King's Head... But there are lots of everything else...Seafood, Mexican, Italian, various Asian cuisines, burger joints and more...Probably the real most local cuisine is "Mexican"--which is really "Cal Mex"...it's not the same cuisine as found deep in Mexico...but it is what has become known to be "Mexican Food" in most of the US--since we Californians are really good at spreading our fast food franchises and chain restaurants (Taco Bell, El Torito, etc.) Cal Mex has more in the way of Flour tortillas rather than corn (Wheat is not really grown in most of Mexico--only in the extreme northwest--Baja California and Sonora--so, since the original Mexican immigrants to California came from those very nearby areas, the cuisine is different...Also, a lot of things like fish tacos and shrimp enchiladas. Don't eat this at a Taco Bell, though (eccchhhh...) Find a more one of a kind place...El Cholo (Wilshire and 11th is a branch of a very old -in LA terms-Mexican Restaurant--but a little bit of a hike from the Promenade area...Blue Plate Taco and Red O Taste of Mexico are trendy, a little pricey but in prime Ocean Avenue locations across from Palisades Park near the Pier...Cabo Canina is pretty inexpensive and casual and right on the Promenade--great for drinks and tacos...more of snacks or lunch than dinner...Mercado on 4th is nice and a bit upscale... And, of course, lots of other kinds of food in the area as well...
  4. It's not that hotel, it's the entire area just to the east of LAX near Century Blvd. There just isn't a lot there and you will feel a bit stranded. You'll likely need to take Ubers to find somewhere else to hang out and eat dinner...unless you are totally drained and don't want to leave the hotel...But, if your flight isn't until the evening of the 16th, then there's no real reason to stay there. To "make the most" of your time in LA having never been here before (and absent knowledge of any specific special interests), here's what I would suggest: Find a hotel for that night in Santa Monica--something near the Third Street Promenade/Santa Monica Pier (Loews, Marriott Le Merigot, Shutters-at-the-Beach, Fairmont Miramar, Huntley, Wyndham, Georgian, Hampton Inn, Marriott Courtyard...even the more budget minded and old fashioned CarMar). It may be a bit pricier...but the location cannot be beaten and it will make your time in LA the most productive. Contact Sunseeker Tours and see if they can arrange a full day tour for disembarkation day with a pick-up at the ship and a drop-off at your Santa Monica hotel with your luggage. (The alternative would be to get an Uber from the ship to your hotel, then use the HOHO bus to tour Hollywood, etc. on that first day). The assumption is that, as a newbie to LA, you'll want to take in the typical tourist favorites: Walk of Fame, Hollywood Sign, Chinese Theater, Rodeo Drive, etc. When you get to the hotel, check in, then go for a walk along Palisades Park--if it's still prior to sunset--for the views of the sun setting over the Pacific...then, choose an area restaurant for dinner--there are a number of good ones on the Promenade, a block or so off or on Ocean Avenue and near the Pier (Ask your hotel desk for some recommendations depending on what you want to eat--there is virtually everything available--in terms of type of cuisine and of price range)...Then stroll along the promenade in the evening...You'll find street performers, lively shops, etc. The next morning, have the hotel hold your luggage after check-out until you are ready to leave for LAX. Head down to the Pier...or, if the weather is good, maybe a quick ride (Uber or public bus) down to the Venice Boardwalk. When you get closer to your flight time (or 2-3 hours before your flight time--it is LAX, fifth busiest airport in the world), be back at your hotel to retrieve your luggage and catch an Uber to LAX. That would probably give you the best use of your limited time to get the California experience... BTW, an added note: Santa Monica has long been a favorite of British Expatiates...there are several British pubs, Fish and Chips houses and more...Back in the 70s, there used to even be an English Music Hall ("Mayfair Music Hall")--but, unfortunately, it's long closed now...What I've heard from British friends is that it reminds them a bit of English seaside resorts like Brighton--but with much better weather! http://www.bbcamerica.com/anglophenia/2012/09/the-brit-list-the-most-british-towns-in-america/6 https://www.tatler.com/gallery/santa-monica-travel-guide
  5. I used to live in Santa Barbara (now I live a little over an hour south)...I really don’t know what’s on the trolley tour...but... First, I really wish you had a longer day... If you did, I’d recommend a tour out of town over the scenic San Marcos Pass to the Danish town of Solvang (where there is also a historic Franciscan Mission) and to the wine country of the Santa Ynez Valley (one of the best wine growing regions of the world—where the movie “Sideways” takes place)...BUT, with a ship departure time of 2:00 pm, you really don’t have the time... So, you will be staying in the city of Santa Barbara proper... Santa Barbara is actually a very historic town by Southern California standards. It has one of the original Franciscan Missions founded by Father Junipero Serra(1786) ...I would make it a point to visit that... Other historic buildings can be found at El Presidio, in the downtown area on Canon Perdido...also dating to the Mission period... The other historic structure is Stearns Wharf...which should be where your tender lands...it dates to 1876... old by California standards... There are a couple of museums—Maritime and Natural History—with exhibits of local historical significance...For just walking around, head up State Street into the downtown area...lots of shops and restaurants...what most people do in Santa Barbara... Have fun...
  6. First, I have no specific knowledge of NCL's offerings, but virtually every cruise line offers an LA tour with an airport drop-off on disembarkation day...BUT, I wouldn't take it...They're usually shorter than most tours and have a fairly early dropoff at LAX since they're expecting most on it to have flights out of LAX that day... The alternative I would suggest is doing a tour with these guys: https://sunseekertours.com/ They will pick up at the ship (maybe the only LA tour company that does that since they are based in Long Beach) and give you a more complete 8 hour tour in a smaller group/vehicle...and drop you off at LAX--or, likely even at your LAX area hotel...You can read a description of their tour on their site. BTW, if it can be avoided, you don't want to be dropped off at LAX to get a shuttle even to a local hotel--LAX can be a zoo...I would try to beg whatever tour driver I had to drop me off at my hotel if possible. As to staying at the Courtyard at LAX--or ANY hotel in the immediate area of LAX--I am not a great proponent of that--UNLESS you have a flight out very early in the morning that next day. The reason is that there is virtually nothing in the immediate vicinity of the hotel...You are, virtually one block from the end of the runways...and it is an industrial area with very little other than other airport hotels, car rental and long-term parking lots, warehouse/distribution facilities and offices for airport-related businesses. If you've taken a tour and are dropped off here before dinner, you really have nothing other to do than eat at your hotel restaurant (a very limited one at this hotel) or grab a taxi or city bus or Uber to some other area for a restaurant, then back to the hotel. If your flight home is very early on 16th, then you put up with the location so as not to worry about traffic that morning. Otherwise, you may consider staying elsewhere.
  7. We're on the Royal Princess January 4 sailing...Mexican Riviera--LA to Cabo to Mazatlan to Puerto Vallarta and back to LA... There are three ships, basically, mirroring each other on this cruise: The Royal Princess--with a "full capacity" of 4,360 passengers...The Carnival Panorama--5,146...and the HAL Oosterdam--2,250... The Royal cruises out of San Pedro, the Panorama out of Long Beach and the Oosterdam out of San Diego...BUT all three visit the same three ports on the exact same days. Mazatlan and PV don't pose major problems as everyone just walks off the ship...BUT Cabo is a tender port...We arrive at 11:00 am, the other two ships at 10:00 am. SO, there will be as many as 11,756 cruise passengers plus a large number of crew members all trying to board tenders to get off the ship and into town...and then lining up to catch a tender back to the ship later in the day. Last time we encountered three ships in Cabo the same day was when on the Star Princess four years ago. It was a complete nightmare that day. We had a Princess shore excursion booked that day--the one that goes to San Jose del Cabo. We figured that, having booked that, surely Princess would make sure we got off and back on the ship on a timely basis. NOT SO FAST! They had us meet on the ship and we were there at the appointed time...but then they forced us to wait in the Crown Grill for about two hours (from my recollection). Supposedly, the problem was getting us on a tender. When they finally got us on a tender, the limited dock space became a problem. The three cruise ships all had to share the same tender dock in the harbor...and each tender took a long time at the dock to unload and reload...So, when we got to the inner harbor, we found ourselves in a queue waiting for the tenders from the two other ships to unload and load...so, we spent an unreal amount of time just sitting in the harbor with the busy dock in sight but nowhere to go. By the time we actually got to the dock, unloaded, made our way to the bus and made the drive into San Jose, it was already dark (luckily, that cruise had an overnight in Cabo) and by the time we made it back to the ship, it was scrounging a late dinner in the buffet... The ships that will be in Cabo this time have an even greater combined passenger capacity than that occasion. Does anyone have any RECENT experience with Princess (hopefully the Royal) in Cabo with three ships in port? Hopefully, they've found some way to handle this better...but, aside from the port allocating more dock space for the tenders, it's hard to see what they might do... This time, BTW, we don't plan on doing an excursion--just want to go into town, walk around and do some shopping...
  8. I understand... Many of us are creatures of habit. We like the way things have always worked before and would rather not have any change... BUT things DO change...and we DO adapt... In my lifetime, I have gone from rotary dial corded phones to digital phones to cordless phones to tiny cell phones...I've gone from vinyl records to 8 tracks to cassettes to CDs to just streaming music...I've gone from a tube black-and-white TV with 7 channels to flat screens with cable or computer apps with hundreds of channels and "on demand"...and from Beta to VHS to DVR...I've gone from film cameras to digital... The list goes on and on...Things keep changing...we keep adapting...(Though, yes, some of us adapt faster...or slower...than others). Most of the changes make things better...or more convenient...or more amazing...and, yes, many also make things more complicated and require more training and work... AND, so we get to this "medallion" thing... Is it a MAJOR step in technology? Really, from what I can tell, it's not... Many of us already drive cars with the same technology--where you don't need a key to unlock the doors...or start the engine...It's the same thing here. It's not hard to deal with...and it's just slightly more convenient. Ever had your hands full and you need to reach in your pocket to find your key...or your ship card? With this, now you don't... Ordering a drink? You can use the app...or not...You can still just walk up to a bartender or ask a waiter...and flashing your medallion is little different than showing him/her your card... You don't have a smart phone? Well, yes, there are some parts you won't be able to access...but many of those you likely wouldn't have wanted to access anyway...The features like locating your spouse on the ship? As far as I understand, you can still use that feature by flashing your medallion at certain screens around the ship...(And that's one feature that sounds really good to me...my wife is often hard to find). I've done 55 cruises WITHOUT a medallion...and I've always been very comfortable with the "cards". Of course, when I started cruising, they didn't even have THOSE cards...they had PAPER ones that wouldn't even open your cabin door. Heck, we really could have used the medallion...or even those current plastic cards...way back when our daughters were teenagers and we could not locate them in Cabo and had to hire taxi boats to take us up and down the beach searching...and they delayed the ship's departure over an hour for us...only to finally find out they were back on board, sitting in the dining room eating...In those days, they didn't even have a way to track who was onboard or not! In January, I'll be on the Royal...my first cruise ever WITH the medallion...I am looking forward to trying it...to testing it out...to seeing what "works" for me and what doesn't. I don't fear advancement or technology. Things change. I'll figure it out...
  9. Since this discussion keeps going, I'll pipe in once again with my opinion on the Queen Mary and other options: I stayed just once at the QM...and, yes, it was some time ago...but from most reports, it has NOT gotten any better. There are a lot of things about it that they just cannot change. AND, YES, BTW, I understand that it has some fans... But, basically, it IS an old ship...cabins are small, dark, and set at standards of 1934. It is NOTHING like a modern luxury hotel. The main reason one would stay there would be to experience what it would have been like to have been on a cruise ship (or, really, to use the correct term here, an "ocean liner") a century or so ago. When I stayed on it, it seemed the pipes creaked, the room felt dank and stale and the beds seemed almost tilted. The location is very close to the Carnival pier--but little else--though you can pick up the free shuttle into the main part of town... OTOH, Downtown Long Beach has some very nice, very modern, first class hotels--close to lots of restaurants and shops...and from which one can always take that same fee shuttle in the other direction to visit the Queen Mary. The Hyatt Regency, the Hyatt Centric at the Pike, the Renaissance and the Westin are, IMHO, the four best and best located hotels in Long Beach. The Maya Doubletree and Residence Inn Downtown are also nice, modern hotels and are on that same side of the channel with the Queen Mary and the Carnival terminal and I would also take either of them over the QM. And the Hilton, though slightly less convenient than the first four, is also a nice hotel and a good choice. My advice is to stay at one of the much nicer hotels...and VISIT the Queen Mary to get your fill on nautical history.
  10. Almost anything is cheaper...and better...than the Princess transfer. Princess will wait until they've filled up a bus with 40+ people...and $44 pp means an $88 ride each way... The shuttle companies will charge about $17-20 pp for a shared shuttle. Generally, from LAX to San Pedro the day prior, they may make other stops at other terminals to pick up others arriving on different flights...and they may make stops at other hotels or addresses in the same area or direction as your hotel. The new Uber/Lyft/taxi rules--where you need to take a shuttle to the pick-up area does complicate things a bit...and there's been a number of complaints as they figure it out...But, Uber from the port back to LAX is relatively easy--and direct--and cheap--unless the system is overloaded and they go to surge pricing. Back in April, we did it post-cruise and it cost only around $30...and our ride was there to pick us up in less than 10 minutes...cheaper and better than the shuttles. And, returning to LAX, they are still allowed to drop off right at the terminals...
  11. Everyone sells diet soda...The Vons will have the largest selection of diet soda...
  12. Anna, I'll try to give you a few options... First, though, let's assume that, since the Royal Princess typically departs on a Saturday, this means that you are arriving some time on a Thursday at LAX...So, you will have whatever is left of that Thursday after making it out of the airport and getting to and checking into a hotel, then the full day Friday...followed by Saturday morning before boarding the ship in San Pedro... Long Beach works, in a way...You would need an Uber or shuttle from LAX to your hotel in Long Beach on Thursday...and an Uber from Long Beach to the pier in San Pedro on Saturday morning. I would recommend staying at one of these hotels in Long Beach: Hyatt Regency, Hyatt Centric at the Pike, Renaissance or the Westin...Those are the four best hotels in Long Beach and put you right in the middle of the most attractive part of Long Beach with the most restaurants and shopping in close walking distance. There are, basically, two main attractions in the area--The Aquarium of the Pacific and the Queen Mary. The Aquarium you could walk to from those hotels, the Queen Mary is reachable using the free Passport shuttle. There are also two specialty shopping centers--Shoreline Village and the Pike...both walkable from those hotels...and a number of restaurants of all kinds in very close proximity. IF you wanted to do a sightseeing tour of LA on that Friday in between instead, Sunseeker Tours does pick-ups at any of those hotels for the standard tour up to Hollywood, Beverly Hills, etc. Another option would be to stay in Santa Monica...Santa Monica doesn't have attractions like those two in Long Beach, but it does have more to do in the area of just shopping, eating and hanging out. It is, perhaps, the quintessential Southern California tourist experience. extremely scenic with Palisades Park on the cliffs overlooking the beach and the Pacific, a wide white sand beach, the most classic amusement pier-The Santa Monica Pier, with roller coasters, ferris wheels and other rides...and a location you will recognize from a large number of movies, and the Third Street Promenade--a pedestrians-only walking street with lots of trendy and exotic shopping, restaurants and a large number of street performers. Hotels in this area tend to be a bit pricey--but there are several of them in this core area--Loews, Marriott Le Merigot, Shutters-on-the-beach, the Fairmont Miramar, Huntley, Georgian, Wyndham, Hampton Inn and Marriott Courtyard among others...even the lower -priced CarMar is a reasonable option. It would, though, require an Uber Ride about 10 miles north of LAX to get there...and a longer Uber ride down to San Pedro on Saturday morning...but the experience may be well worth it. Personally, though I like Long Beach, I love Santa Monica... An alternative to Santa Monica is Marina Del Rey/Venice Beach, though February is not exactly the prime season for the Venice Boardwalk, it is that crazy California experience with the body builder on the beach, the girls roller skating in bikinis, and all of the assorted street crazies--though it is much busier in the summer months...It's just a little north of LAX and there are a good number of nearby restaurants... BTW, Uber would be the preferred way to get around. LA mass transit is not the best answer for most tourists (with rare exceptions)...It is difficult to navigate, especially with luggage--it's just not set up for that...And the routes aren't really designed for what you need--you'll end up with too many changes and long time requirements.
  13. Last time we were faced with that issue, we took a tour with these guys: https://vancouvertours.com/pre-post-cruise-tours/ ...the "Sea to Sky" tour...Picked us up right from the port...was a pleasant day visiting a waterfall, taking a gondola to the top of a mountain and some other sights...kept our luggage in the bus the whole time and dropped us off at a perfect time for our flight. We had also considered renting a car...but a little too much hassle with pick-up, drop-off etc. But, had we done that, we likely would have done a similar route--since we had already visited Vancouver itself multiple times... Also, if you just want to wander around Vancouver, there is a luggage storage facility at the cruise port...Look here: http://www.cdsbaggage.ca/
  14. First of all, I've taken well over 50 cruises...on 8 different cruise lines...I am Diamond (just short of Diamond Plus) on Royal Caribbean, Elite Plus on Celebrity ...and Platinum on Princess...I tend to book cruises for the itinerary and timing--rather than sticking to just one line... Every cruise line does a lot of the same things...differences, for the most part, are subtle...and most people likely won't notice any large differences...But, I guess I'm a little crazy, so I really notice a lot... Personally, my favorite cruise line is Celebrity--for a host of reasons...My wife really likes RCCL--for the incredible ship amenities and for the outstanding entertainment (Broadway, water acrobatics shows, ice skating shows, etc.)--which no one matches... So, I'll start with the entertainment. Princess, generally, has some excellent entertainment--but it comes with a few issues...First, compared to RCCL (and especially to Celebrity), the show venues are WAY undersized for the number of passengers...The only answer is to get to the show room VERY EARLY--often over a half an hour early...and that's to get any seat, not just a prime seat. Princess recognizes this, so often, they will schedule entertainment in ways that will force you into making a choice--like a production show in the main showroom and a magician in a lounge with the Magic show starting around the same time the main show is just wrapping up. They are trying to split up the crowd...So, don't plan on leaving one show, then rushing to the other venue to catch the magic show--there won't be a single seat or even standing room by the time you get there. Personally, I think where Princess shines is in the comedians/magicians/impressionists, etc. field...so, if you have to make a choice, go with that rather than the production shows... The production shows do not match RCCL... Second thing you may notice is that the standard cabins seem a bit small...They note the square footage as similar to what you find on RCCL or Celebrity, but the cabins are generally designed with more wasted space due to the orientation of the closet/bathroom...So, the standard cabins do not have a sitting area with a sofa. On most Princess ships, you need to upgrade to a mini-suite to get that small sitting area. On the Royal class, though, you can get a small sitting area if you book a "Deluxe" Balcony cabin... Also, be aware when booking a Princess ship (other than the Royal class that have no window cabins) that when you book an obstructed view OV, those views can be way more obstructed than you'd ever want to believe--like the entire view is of the side of an orange lifeboat right up against the window--better to have an inside cabin...But there are a few that are between lifeboats--so you at least have some view. On the Royal class, there are a few obstructed view DELUXE balconies at the very front of deck 8 where the obstruction is merely a solid, rather than plexiglass, railing...not bad if you are willing to be at the very front of the ship--larger cabin, way larger balcony, lower price--we took one of those for our upcoming Royal Princess cruise. You will find that the closets in your cabin are ample--even way too big for a short cruise. The shower curtain, OTOH, sucks--plastic, sometimes mildewy--and clings to you. Some day Princess will learn about glass shower enclosures. One really good thing on Princess is that they open the MDR for lunch on embarkation day--so you don't have to hassle with a buffet. As to kids onboard...YES, like all cruise lines nowadays (except the premium ones), there can be plenty of them...but it really depends more on the timing of the cruise than the cruise line...IF your cruise is during a school vacation time, there will be kids...on Princess, RCCL or any line. It won't be an issue, this being your first Princess cruise, but I am always aware of the loyalty programs. Compared to RCCL and Celebrity, Princess' is disappointing. They don't have the Diamond lounges RCCL has or the Elite drinking hours one finds on Celebrity--with the unlimited free drinks. What they do have is a lounge dedicated over to Elite and Platinum members during pre-dinner hours--where they have drink specials--for only a slightly reduced price from the ordinary prices...and on a limited number of drinks...You need to get to Elite in Captain's Circle to get their better benefits--like free laundry and a small "bar setup"--a few little airline sized bottles--in your cabin. But getting to Elite on Princess takes far more cruises than on RCCL or Celebrity. One cool new thing on the Royal Princess (and a few other Princess ships as they roll it out slowly) is the new "Medallion" thing...Rather than a card, you will get a little token...and an app to load on your phone--you can use it to track down other members of your party or to order drinks in a bar...and a few other assorted uses. Not sold on it yet, but it IS different...
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