Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Cruise, Part 1

Despite my best attempts at brain damage, I did manage to survive our vacation. I really did have plans to update more regularly, but my stubborn refusal to pay Princess Cruise Lines ridiculous internet charges (oh, and by the way, the speed was 1 MB/s at peak and they wanted upwards of 70 cents per minute for that. Christ preserve me) coupled with my desire to actually see the cities we were visiting as opposed to hunkering down in an internet cafe put an end to that idea. Oh well. There are worse things than not constantly being on the internet for weeks at a time. The break probably did me some good.

So how was the cruise? It was pretty good, I think. This was our second cruise and I think if you were comparing the vessels - The Carnival Miracle and The Emerald Princess - they are remarkably similar. They're pretty close to the same size, can handle about the same number of passengers (although our ship wasn't sold out. I suspect the accidents from earlier the year have affected many ships in the same way) and have many of the same things to do on board. That wasn't planned. I think if we had known going in how similar the two vessels were we would have been concerned because we were frequently bored when sailing the Miracle.

The problem with the Miracle was the number of sea days. We had four of them and then four at different ports. And most of the stuff on board wasn't of interest to us. I'm not a sit on the deck and let myself get irradiated by the sun for days on end. I don't like casinos nor am I a big drinker. Take those away and the options for entertainment on the Miracle, when she was at sea, were quite limited.

The benefit to the Emerald Princess was that of the 11 days we were on board, nine of them were spent in ports. The two days at sea worked because they were spend recovering from all the land activities. So lounging on our balcony reading a book as the Baltic Sea swept on past was actually quite relaxing. We aren't going to be rushing off to do another cruise any time soon, but at least we know we prefer the "destination" cruise as opposed to the more aimless wander through the Caribbean.

The thing that most people seem to care about on these cruises is how is the food. In our case it was fine. It was nothing spectacular, but it was certainly good enough. I wasn't looking for the meal of a lifetime on board. Although it was amusing that the one night we decided to splurge on one of the two "higher end" restaurants on board - an Italian one where you have to pay a cover charge - was the day of the choppiest seas of the cruise. And since the restaurant was on the back of the ship, well, it was entertaining at least.

There was certainly plenty to eat, which isn't great news if you're trying to lose weight (one of our waiters was quite insistent that he could bring us everything on the menu if we wanted). I found the deserts to be better than the main courses which, again, bad news if you're on a diet. And our one big gripe was that so many of the meals were seafood (Cathy's allergic) and the bad habit they had in the main dining rooms of having meals containing nuts and not mentioning that on the menu. Happened three or four times when Cathy would get something on her table and there they were. Seriously, who puts almonds on mashed potatoes?

The other secret to cruise ships is to have some will power. They have you on board, therefore they're constantly bombarding you with ways to spend your money. Especially since you don't have to use your credit card directly. You have a ship card that everything goes on. At the end of the cruise, you get your bill. We saw one lady have a six page bill printed off. Having learned from the previous cruise to watch our spending, our bill was quite reasonable. About half of it was simply the mandatory gratuity that gets charged every day to your account.

But yeah, they're trying to get you to spend. There's the gift shops and the constant reminders you should buy your stuff on the ship because if you want Baltic Amber or nesting dolls, you're taking a big risk buying them onshore because they're probably fakes (I mentioned that to a tour guide in St. Petersburg. I thought she was going to drive back to the boat and set it on fire she was so mad). Or the spa, which had some truly spectacularly expensive packages. And, of course, the booze.

The staff was also pretty good. You tend to hear a lot of nitpicking complaints on these ships, but honest to God, they're all insanely friendly, they all say hello to you or wish you a good morning or evening. They cater to your every reasonable whim. I'm not sure how much more some people are looking for.

I tended to look at the Emerald Princess this way...she was a very nice, high end ferry. I didn't need to spend a lot of time aboard of her...I just needed her to get me to the next city I wanted to see in a degree of comfort. And she did that just fine.

Next blog post, I'll talk about some of the cities we visited and how I will completely judge a place in the eight hours we normally got to spend there...

Last Five
1. I would die for you - Garbage*
2. Codes and keys - Death Cab For Cutie
3. Oh Carolina (live) - Elton John and Ryan Adams
4. Taste it - INXS
5. Sky blue and black (live) - Jackson Browne


Hallett said...

Your getting soft...the 'Old School Bastard' would have thought nothing of wasting valuable vacation time updating his blog...

Anonymous said...

Lol, he may be wiser with the €£¥$. I've used the cruise Internet before. Expensive and slow. It's always some guy who is trying to hack the system and download porn torrents while the ship is cruising. Lol

Good to see a TB post, looking forward to more. And of course pics is time permits.

Hi from Michigan.