September 7th, 2009 – by: X_Drive
We hadn't been on the ground for thirty seconds when another plane followed us in.
After flying north back over our home and Fresno, we proceeded north over Lake Tahoe and the Reno area and finally past Mt. Rainier and arrived in Vancouver at just 12 noon. Our paperwork from Princess Cruise Lines gave us very specific instructions on how to follow very closely guided directions from the flight departure gate to the cruise registration area of the airport so that we wouldn't have to go through the full customs rigmarole. And we did follow the directions and at each point where a Princess Cruise Line employee in their lime green knit shirts checked to make sure we were headed in the right direction. But as we neared the registration desk, just to our right about thirty yards, we spied restrooms which were just to our left over a bridge style walkway.
We made our way over and used the restrooms, and I even got a sip of water from the small fountain just outside. Then we headed back over the bridge towards the registration desk. As we got back over the little bridge a Princess employee told us that although she would not report us, we had done something that in the true spirit of the rules and laws could have made us go through the full customs routine. We had left the sterile route for plane passengers boarding the cruise. Well, we made our way thru registration and waited a few minutes for the next bus load of travelers to be escorted to an elevator and down to the waiting room and special customs check-through area, where we basically showed our passports, walked through a very low powered metal detector which didn't even blink at my suspenders and watch. Then into our bus, which was sealed by placing a special paper seal on the outside of the door, and off we went for a forty minute drive the 11 mile ride to the cruise ship dock.
Taxiing in to our gate.
Vancouver is a busy airport.
Our bus driver was a real pleasure. Canadian as the day was long, he kept a great narration and monologue going the entire trip. He showed that the price of gas was presently $1.12 per liter. Just a little higher than what most of us from the U.S. are paying. Then he pointed out the five Olympic rings that are now on display as you drive from the airport towards downtown. A first sign of the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics which are to be held there early next year. As we neared the dockside area we had to check at a security checkpoint where they checked to make sure the seal was still on the door and had not been tampered with. Again, the sterile route was in place.
Finally he took the bus in under the terminal area along a very narrow drive and through another security gate, and finally to a stopping point where the Princess staff assisted everyone off the bus and through yet one more checkpoint. Then up to a another line where we were sent to a person who checked her computer and created our on-board plastic pass card, which we would use to enter our room, show for meals, and flash for credit on anything else on board. Then it was onto the ship itself, where once more we had to flash our cards before going to our stateroom. Do you think there were enough checkpoints???
The Olympic rings are already in place on the way to town.
And finally, by nearly 3 p.m. We were onboard and could relax. And even one of our two pieces of checked luggage was waiting for us.
The other one showed up less than ten minutes later. Our next chore was to unpack and get everything stowed and set up for our next week's sailing.
Lots of pretty clouds but no rain.
We were aboard, settled and ready to sail!!
Lunch was the next thing on our minds, seeing we hadn't had but a couple of minuscule breakfast burritos for breakfast. We checked the directory and made our way up to the front of the ship where the buffet lunch was being served up on deck 14.
Of course there were nearly two thousand other starving passengers doing the same thing, so even though the food was there, finding a place to sit and eat was a challenge. We finally found a table with two empty spots and asked to join them. The food was not anything fancy or special but tasted good and relieved us of our hunger.
After finishing our meal we had to return to our stateroom to retrieve our life vests and when the signal went off make our way down to the muster station for the emergency drill. We learned how to put on our life vests and what to carry with us (all medications, a heavy jacket, hat and gloves) in case of the vessel sinking. My mind told me that if all of the old folks like us had to carry all of their meds the small life boats wouldn't fit half the people.
After the instructions we returned to our stateroom to put the life vests away and headed out to find the Wheelhouse Bar where we were supposed to meet some folks from another on-line site called Cruise Critics. They had suggested a sail out gathering on the port side there at 4:30p.m.. Well, with Wheelhouse Bar turned out to be on deck 7, which was not a good place to watch the sailout, and there wasn't anyone from that group there so we went back up to the 14th and 15th decks. That is where Princess had a huge sailout party with drinks being pushed by a hundred servers even if you already had one in your hand. And there were way too many people to start going around asking people I had no clue about, except a screen name used in that site. They don't even put up profile pictures of themselves. So we gave up on that and headed up where we could get some good shots of the sailout and the Queen's Gate Bridge as we sailed under.
Vancouver's signage about the Olympics at City Hall.
Lots of building going on for the upcoming events.
Dinner the first night was in the Bordeaux Dining room on the fifth floor and we ate with eight others at a large oval table. A couple from the San Diego area of California, a couple of elderly quiet ladies, a couple from Oklahoma, and a man and his grown son from Savannah, Georgia. The waiter said he was busy and said he would be back shortly. We all checked the menu over and one helper brought dinner rolls and butter to the table after about fifteen minutes. Then ten minutes later brought small butter knives and set one a each place. I mentioned the slowness to the lady to my left and she said that the utensils were placed as needed and they made a pretty big production out of bringing each fork, spoon, knife, etc.
to the table on all of the dinner venues. I knew it was going to be a long meal!! After another wait they finally came to explain the menu to us, letting us know that all of the items shown on the left page were available each and every night and only the items on the right side were evening specific. The menu included appetizers, soups, salads, and main courses. My wife and I only picked an appetizer, shrimp cocktails, and a main course, she had the Baramundi (fish) with rice and I had pork slices with a sweet glaze sauce over white beans. We got our shrimp cocktails fairly soon but had to wait while a few others had soup, then salads before getting our main courses. The conversations ran a very full range of things including politics and everyone stayed pretty civil even though the individuals had wildly different views.
Desert for me was a very refreshing mint sorbet (yeah, can you believe no chocolate), and my wife had cheesecake. Our table was the last to leave the dining room at just after 10 pm, and then only because to two elderly ladies wanted to go to a show.
The downtown area.
We ended the evening back in our stateroom reading all the news that Princess wanted to pass along about the cruise.
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