Vacationing Aboard Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam

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The ms Nieuw Amsterdam is first and foremost a high-caliber floating resort. It was designed to appeal to both first time cruisers and well-seasoned cruise veterans – it has everything the sea faring vacationer could desire. 

in port

We booked a 20-day passage on the Nieuw Amsterdam. The itinerary included ports in Italy, Monaco, Spain, and Portugal before heading across the Atlantic for the ship’s repositioning to Florida for its winter schedule in the Caribbean. It was a fabulous cruise.

This is the fourth Nieuw Amsterdam

In 1626, Dutch settlers named their new-world Atlantic colony “Nieuw Amsterdam.” It was not until the Dutch turned the island over to the British in 1664 that it became New York.

Holland America Line (HAL) was founded in 1872. In 1906, HAL began a tradition of honoring the old-Dutch colony and launched the first ms Nieuw Amsterdam cruise ship. That first namesake served until 1932.

In 1937, at a time of growing global unrest, the second Nieuw Amsterdam was christened. Like other great cruise-liners including the Queen Mary, the new Nieuw Amsterdam was conscripted to military service early in WWII. After the war – having served admirably in the conflict – she was again outfitted for cruise service and fulfilled that charter until 1974.

The third ms Nieuw Amsterdam was an instant hit when it began its Rotterdam to New York run in 1983. For 20-years, she was recognized as an elegant star by ocean-going celebrities in ports around the world. After a life of uncompromising reputation and service, she was sold in 2003 to make room for the current ms Nieuw Amsterdam.

Homage well paid

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The Nieuw Amsterdam is a fitting tribute to New York City. Its passageways, lounges, and public rooms are filled with nostalgic artistic renditions and iconic images depicting historical, social, and multi-cultural aspects of The Big Apple – there is even a seven-foot shiny aluminum apple that welcomes exiting elevator passengers on the Port Deck. 

Speaking of elevators

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Many contemporary cruise ships have glass elevators in the interior of the ship’s atrium. The Nieuw Amsterdam also has four outside glass-enclosed elevators – an interesting novelty – and lots of fun as they zip up eleven decks and provide ocean views on the way to the ship’s spacious Observation Deck. 

Always a lady

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Walking the decks of the Nieuw Amsterdam is a visual delight. She is outfitted in gleaming chrome and deep rich tones of red and tinges of other subtle hues. Call it understated elegance, or simply chic – in any case she is entirely comfortable. 

An unexpected test at sea

We boarded the ms Nieuw Amsterdam in Barcelona. During our first night at sea we encountered gale winds upwards of 80-miles per hour and 25 foot sea swells. Our balcony stateroom was on Deck 5, and we experienced drifting rushes of spray on our glass door throughout the evening.

The Nieuw Amsterdam listed occasionally and slightly from the starboard battering of the storm, but rode the waves like the 86,273-ton technical marvel she was designed to be. There was little discomfort among the 2,016 passengers and 868 crew members.

During that first night’s gale, and during much better days thereafter, our veranda stateroom was quiet and we could hear neither the wind outside nor our neighbors on either side of our stateroom. There was the occasional door slamming along the passageway, but even that sound was so muted as to not be disturbing. We heard no other noises, and nary a squeak. She is a well-put together craft. 

The staterooms

stateroom

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The staterooms are of comparatively good size, and the addition of the Holland America tub shower in the bathroom will appeal to those who enjoy a good soak, and those who need a little extra room. If you cannot easily navigate over the side of a tub, you can request a cabin with the more traditional cruise-ship shower stall. 

Tempting your inner gourmet

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The Nieuw Amsterdam has a dazzling array of eating venues to satisfy every palate. As You Wish® dining on all HAL cruises means guests can chose from a wide selection of dining times and eating places.

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There’s the two-level Manhattan Dining Room that is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This is the main dining room and appeals to those wanting a more formal dining affair.

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On the other end of the spectrum is the Lido Restaurant on Deck 9, where comfort food and ethnic/regional dishes from around the world are all offered up buffet style. Self-seating ocean view tables are always available at the Lido.

Casual table service is available at the adjacent Canaletto restaurant, which specializes in delectable Italian cookery.

hot dogs

There are two poolside walk-ups near the Lido Restaurant. The Terrace Grill serves hot dogs, burgers, paninis, pita sandwiches, and fries. The Slice is a poolside stand that serves up piping hot pizza by the slice or whole pie – with your choice of toppings.

Guests can also enjoy their food selections along-side one of the two swimming pools on the Lido Deck. There are open seating tables, and if so inclined, private cabanas. There are also bars at both locations.

pool

The larger Lido Pool has three hot tubs, and the entire area is covered by a retractable dome, which is open in fair weather and closed in foul. The aft Sea View Pool provides reflections of where you have been as well as the ship’s wake. Holland America thinks of everything. 

Specialty Restaurants

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We also had the pleasure of dining in the Nieuw Amsterdam’s specialty restaurants, the Pan-Asian Tamarind

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and the Pinnacle Grill, specializing in steaks and seafood. There is a nominal charge for each guest at both of these reservations-only restaurants. The food is excellent at all the ship’s eateries, but these two choices are truly special.

The Pinnacle Grill features Sterling Silver Beef® and fresh seafood served on Bvlgari® china, Riedel® stemware, and Frette® linens and is well worth the money for a quiet evening of fine dining, or for celebrating a special event. 

Of course, if none of the above is appealing, there is always the complimentary 24-hour room service menu.

In our next article, we will reveal many more of the gratifying features and amenities that Holland America has thoughtfully included on the Nieuw Amsterdam. We will also give our readers some insight into the personalities of the Captain, Crew, and Entertainers that were part of the launch of this beautiful high-seas resort.

For more information about the ms Nieuw Amsterdam or any of the other Holland America Line ships, check out their website at www.hollandamerica.com or contact your favorite travel agent.

We had a delightful flight from New York to Europe on Aer Lingus.
Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

A Vacation Aboard Celebrity’s Silhouette

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Celebrity Cruise Line continues to forge its reputation in the mass appeal luxury cruise category as a ‘notch above’ with the Silhouette.

Design and layout

“Inspired by a balance of light and shadows and the fluid lines of modern art and design.”

The Silhouette has the feel of modern luxury and sophistication, but she is not stuffy or pretentious. She sports contemporary color schemes and inviting tones throughout her interior – yet the overall sentiment is warm and relaxing.

As you can see from the photo gallery, this is elegant space designed with the most discerning cruise customer in mind.

There is much to discover on this ship that is not immediately obvious. There is attention to detail even in the most unlikely places. It was too hard to contain all the new and exciting features in a single article of reasonable length. There will be a Part II, so stay tuned.

Pedigree of the Silhouette

The Silhouette is the fourth of Celebrity’s Solstice Class fleet. The newest ship in this class is the Reflection, which is getting rave reviews.

Captain Nicholas Pagonis
Nicholas Pagonis, Master of the Silhouette on our cruise, and now Captain of the Reflection

The Silhouette is a big ship, but not the biggest. She is 122,210 tons with 15 decks above the waterline. She has 1,443 staterooms with a capacity of 2,886 passengers. She sails with a crew of 1250.

Big ship, but not crowded

Many prospective cruisers fear crowding on these very large ships, but they are so well designed for traffic-flow that there is rarely a jam-up or uncomfortable cluster of guests.

Even 2,000+ passengers tend to disappear when you spread them among seven decks of corridors with 1,443 staterooms, ten restaurants, a huge theatre, a casino, a library, art studio, photo gallery, a computer center, video arcade, fitness center, jogging track, spa, beauty salon, 14 lounges and bars, multiple swimming pools, sundry whirlpools, several sun decks, a dozen or so “quiet hideaways,” a vast real-grass lawn club, and a huge gallery of fine boutique shops. Whew! They should issue walkie-talkies to stay in touch with friends.

Even during port visits, the disembarkations are orderly and the process moves along quickly.

Nice “touches” in the staterooms

The stateroom designs on the Silhouette are sleek, open, and comfortable. Each standard stateroom has sizable modular closets and useful under-bed storage. The beds are luxurious with rounded bed corners. The bathrooms are roomy with sliding doors on a bigger than expected shower. There is a convenient footrest in the shower – sometimes it is the smallest things that make us smile.

Each stateroom has digital entertainment. That means a reasonable selection of free movies, and crystal-clear reception on a flat screen TV. Network TV channels are conveniently available at sea.

The staterooms are quiet – no rattles, squeaks, or passageway noise.

Eat your heart out

The pictured penthouse suite in the slideshow photo gallery is 1,291 square feet of floating luxury. All the suites aboard the Silhouette elegantly avoid being trendy and thematic. Each suite is lavishly decorated to be a fitting home for any duration. We wanted to stay after we took the photographs, but the lucky vacationing key-holders had arrived.

Speaking of eating

Food plays a role of cardinal importance on any cruise vacation and Celebrity prides itself in culinary leadership and innovation.

Plenty of dining choices and venues

With ten restaurants, and multiple dining-time choices, only those who favor open dining without a reservation face any delay in seating in the main dining room.

On Celebrity, passengers can enjoy the traditional early or late seating at the same table and with the same companions at every dinner. Conversely, they can reserve a different time for dinner every night – In which case they can dine alone or with others – a chance to make new friends. In either situation, seating comes quickly in the main Grand Cuvee’ restaurant.

For breakfast and lunch there is open seating in the main dining restaurant for the published hours that the room is open.

For those who don’t wish to ever shed their shorts and T-shirts

The Silhouette has one of the finest casual buffet dining rooms at sea. The Oceanview Café on Deck 14 has both indoor and outdoor seating. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner from a series of small food islands in the center of a circle of ocean view tables.

Each island features a cornucopia of different tasty selections at every meal, and the culinary offerings are reassuringly diverse. Care for Indian, Asian, Italian, Vegan – it’s all there to enjoy. It would be a rare guest indeed that could not find an interesting and delicious meal at the Oceanview Café.

The kitchen

Executive Chef Steve Van der Merwe

A very important personage on any cruise ship is the Executive Chef. In the case of the Silhouette, and on our cruise, his name is Steve Van der Merwe from South Africa. Chef Steve is a true master of balance and expediency as he orchestrates 13,000 meals per day among several dining venues. His staff also prepares between 100 and 700 room service trays per day.

An example of the complexity and enormity of a cruise ship kitchen: A favorite dinner on any cruise is one that offers broiled lobster. Typically, passengers on a ship the size of the Silhouette will consume about one ton of lobsters at that single meal. Serving thousands of lobsters at just the right temperature, texture, and consistency is just short of a culinary miracle. Somehow, they get the steaks just right as well.

Kudos to Chef Steve and the other great Chefs of the Seas.

The specialty dining rooms

If you want more intimacy while dining, or wish to celebrate a special occasion, for an additional charge the Silhouette offers the answer. The specialty dining rooms offer food to inspire even the most discerning palates in a most enchanting dinner setting.

We sampled the cuisine at the “Murano,” one of the five specialty restaurants on board the Silhouette. Each of these restaurants has its own kitchen, and each table is replete with exquisite china and gorgeous crystal. Mr.Tudor Soacat, Maitre D’ Hotel of the Murano spares no effort to make certain his guest’s continental dinner is delicious and memorable.

Entertainment

The 1113 seat Silhouette Theatre is the first Theatre on a cruise ship designed to accommodate aerial acrobatics – this is an exciting addition to the traditional Broadway style reviews usually found at sea.

Like other progressive lines, Celebrity Cruises does not require their professional entertainers to do double duty as Bingo hosts or passenger group moderators. Consequently, they can attract a better class of performer. The quality of the “star attractions” on the Silhouette was quite good.

However, we were disappointed in the choreography, costumes, and the set designs of the revues on this Celebrity cruise. In our view, this was the only aspect of the entire cruise that failed to meet the high Celebrity standard. Crews constantly change, hopefully the production will be improved for your cruise.

Notwithstanding our disappointment with the production shows, we heartily recommend Celebrity Cruises and the Silhouette for a vacation at sea. In our fast-paced modern world, the chance to get away from it all can do wonders to recharge our batteries and re-energize our lives. There is nothing like a top-notch cruise to do the trick.

Be sure to see our complete photo gallery of the beautiful Silhouette by clicking *here*.

If you go

Passing the Eclipse in port

It is easy to book a cruise on the Silhouette or any one of the other Celebrity Cruise ships. Call your travel agent, or book directly with Celebrity by calling toll-free in the US: 1-800-647-2251 or by visiting their website at http://www.celebritycruises.com/

The Silhouette will be sailing an Eastern Caribbean itinerary from December 2013 to April 2014.

On this trip, we also discovered a great private-car service in GroundLink.com. They offer private car service throughout the United States (and many foreign countries) and all airports and cruise ports. More on them in the next article as well. You can check them out now at http://groundlink.com, or call toll free in the US: 1-877-227-7260.

Happy travels.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. www.maps.google.com

Uncompromising Service Aboard the Newest Celebrity Cruise Ship

In our first article about Celebrity Cruise’s newest ship the Silhouette, we intentionally did not write about the extraordinary level of crew service we experienced – because we wanted to give it special attention.

The service aboard the Silhouette was so exceptional that we decided to do a little research into the reasons. We started our inquiry with an interview with an important ship’s officer.

Sue Richardson – Hotel Director of the Silhouette

On Celebrity cruise ships, the Hotel Director is the ranking officer directly responsible for passenger comfort and satisfaction. On our Silhouette journey, the job was well fitted to Sue Richardson a veteran of 23-years of remarkable service to very discriminating guests.

During her career, Sue has been responsible for managing hotels, the hospitality function of several ships, and even a private island in the Bahamas.

Onboard the Silhouette, Sue has ten department heads reporting to her. Her departments make up the majority of the crew and all the folks responsible for making your sea voyage a vacation to remember.

Among her duties, Sue is responsible for the food, beverage, dining, entertainment, and cabin services – need we say more?

Cruise crew contracts

It is not obvious to passengers, but all members of a cruise ship’s company work under a time-definite contract of employment. For example, restaurant servers or room stewards might contract to work for six or eight months at sea with two months off.

Due to the nature of these maritime contracts, ship employees are coming and going all the time. We asked Sue how it was possible to keep the high team spirit that was so evident aboard the Silhouette.

She explained, “We start with an initial core of highly motivated people on every new ship. Our global recruiters are charged with finding individuals who understand and appreciate what excellent service is all about – and are eager to provide it. We then train them in the Celebrity culture.”

She went on, “We select people from forty different countries (always being careful to keep a balance on each ship), and we hand pick individuals who have a positive work attitude.”

Sue said that when nurtured, the ship’s company gels and things start to hum. Over time, each new employee enters the crew and senses the already existing can-do attitude of his or her peer group. They blend in quickly and service remains excellent.

“Celebrity does everything in its power to keep its employees happy, and they in turn keep our customers happy.”

It is obviously a winning formula, Sue!

Toward a happy crew

We wondered what was involved in keeping sea-going employees “happy.” We were invited to tour the crew’s quarters on the Silhouette, and came away most impressed.

We were not able to photograph individual living spaces, but can report that they are quite comfortable. The old days of crowded and impersonal sleeping rooms are gone. One or two people to a cabin is the norm, not the exception.

We were delighted to learn that the crew eats the same food as the passengers and in their own private dining room. They relax in comfortable staff lounges, and exercise in well-equipped gyms.

Being a member of the crew of a contemporary cruise ship is still hard work, but the living conditions are more than adequate – and very different from the stories of old.

More about crew changes

We have found many cruise vacationers to be under the impression that the Captain responsible for their specific cruise and safety is like Captain Merrill Stubing of the Love Boat. They expect to find him at the helm the next time they decide to sail on the same ship.

The reality is that Masters move from ship to ship on a routine basis. A captain’s contract is likely to include three or four months at sea, with equal time-off. By default, that requires an ongoing change of Captains.

Contract times vary, but this practice of rotation is also true of the other ship’s officers and crew. In order to make such an inherently mobile system work effectively, standards, practices, rules, and protocols, must be stringently adhered to throughout the industry.

Service quality starts at the top

Captain Nicholas PagonisMaster of the Silhouette

We have interviewed many ship’s captains. The master of the Silhouette was one of those that immediately makes you feel comfortable and leaves you with the certainty that you are in the hands of an extremely professional and capable veteran of the sea.

Like many of his peers, Captain Pagonis has a maritime family history, which led to his interest in applying for the Marine Academy in Athens in 1981. After graduating in 1984, he spent two years in the Greek Special Forces before returning to the sea. He received his Master’s License in 1998 and his first command in 2003. Married with three children, the captain resides in Belgium and Greece. He has intellectual interests in European and Roman history, and gardening – especially gardening!

What Cruise Ship Captains like most about their job

We always ask each Captain what is his favorite aspect of being a Master of a cruise ship. The answers are often similar. In addition to their primary duty to provide a safe and enjoyable vacation to all passengers, most Captains relish the hands on stimulation of maneuvering and docking these colossal leviathans. These are obviously congenial men of vision with a keen appreciation for the enormous.

Captain Pagonis is an individual you would enjoy having as a neighbor. His enthusiasm for his work and the sea is contagious. We could have listened to him talk all day, but he is indeed a busy man.

A final word – about safety

We noted in our first article about the Silhouette that the unfortunate accident involving the Costa Concordia has dampened the enthusiasm of some prospective cruise vacationers. Please don’t be put off by this isolated mishap. Cruising is one of the safest family holidays available.

The Wall Street Journal quoted G.P. Wild, an industry consultant, “Over the six-year period from 2005 to 2010, the [cruise] industry carried nearly 100 million passengers, but only had 16 fatalities and 518 injuries from maritime accidents.”

Remember – you are infinitely safer on a cruise ship than you are in your family car.

Be sure to read our opening article about the Silhouette at http://is.gd/wgvfVi and see our photo gallery of the ship *here*.

If you go

It is easy to book a cruise on the Silhouette or any one of the ten other Celebrity Cruise ships. Call your travel agent, or book directly with Celebrity by calling toll-free in the US: 1-800-647-2251 or by visiting their website at http://www.celebritycruises.com/

As of this writing, the Silhouette is sailing to the Caribbean from Cape Liberty, New Jersey. Click here to read our review of the Cape Liberty cruise ship port and its environs.

Happy travels.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff – Photo of Sue Richardson compliments of the Silhouette

You can see the world with Google Maps. www.maps.google.com

A Great One-Day Catamaran Cruise in Antigua

Antigua is a beautiful tropical island in the West Indies situated east-southeast of Puerto Rico. This is an isle with an assortment of extraordinary leisure pursuits for vacationers of all ages.

One fun activity worthy of consideration by every age group is an all-day catamaran cruise. Here’s what we experienced when we signed up with Antigua’s #1 tour operator, Tropical Adventures.

Selecting the activity

We had just arrived in Saint John’s, Antigua aboard the Celebrity cruise ship Silhouette. One of our shore excursion choices made available by Celebrity Cruises was a day sail on a 65-foot catamaran named the “Mystic.”

The offer

We wanted to get wet, and the promise of a remote sandy beach accessible only by boat was romantic and appealing. Picturing ourselves on the bow, with a gentle sea breeze wafting through our hair as we sailed to paradise was most alluring. The fact that a lobster lunch and beverages were included, and all we had to do was sit there and enjoy the experience – sealed the deal.

Welcome aboard

It was a short walk from where our cruise ship was docked to the Mystic’s small wooden pier.

The Mystic catamaran is quite roomy and can hold about 90 guests. There are two bathrooms aboard, and the center of the spacious deck is dedicated to a well-stocked open bar.

There were about 70 passengers aboard our excursion. Our fellow sailors hailed from a mixed bag of island accommodations including vacation rentals, hotels, and several cruise ships. Ages ranged from the low 20s to the mid-80s. We wondered how the mix would influence the outing.

A quiet start

We did not know any of the other passengers and that appeared to be true of most of the guests. On our outbound sail, people kept to themselves as they enjoyed the warm tropical sun and sea.

A remote beach

After about an hour of passing small islands with flowing palms, we approached a charming cove with a white sandy beach and the absolutely clearest turquoise water. Our captain pulled the Mystic close to the sand and we all waded ashore.

The passengers stayed with their familiar groups and took off in all directions to enjoy beachcombing and swimming in the warm and inviting ocean. For those interested in snorkeling, the equipment was available aboard the Mystic at no extra charge.

Just when we started to get a little hungry, the Mystic crew enticed us back to the boat with the promise of grilled lobster and champagne.

One by one, the passengers returned from their swimming and shore explorations. Once aboard they selected places to sit and have lunch.

The crew did a marvelous job of passing out the lobsters and corn – and champagne. Within the hour, everyone had their fill of food, but apparently not – champagne.

Heading home

As the Mystic pulled away from the beach, a metamorphosis overcome the guests. The heretofore-soothing island music seemed to grow in dimension and volume, and there was a definite repositioning of people on the deck of the boat.

Dancing ensued

Energized by champagne and a delicious rum punch, some of the younger folks began to strut their limber stuff on the makeshift dance floor in front of the now busy bar.

This was followed by somewhat older passengers and the merry Mystic crew engaging in a limbo contest upon the bouncing sea.

Beverages for all

Beer began appearing alongside the rum punch cups that covered the bar, tables, seats, hatch covers, and deck. Water, fruit punch, and soft drinks were also available – but not in great demand.

Some elders found a loose case of champagne among the empties, and were happy to share their bounty with their juniors.

A gathering of spirits

Smiles turned into laughter, and quite miraculously, everyone seemed to find long lost friends across generational lines. All over the boat, new entrants to ongoing conversations were greeted with handshakes, hugs and hearty slaps on the back.

Good things do end

Before long, we were back at the Mystic dock. The roughly 6-hour day sail had ended all too soon for everyone on board. As the passengers carefully disembarked the boat, they all gave high-fives and tips to the wonderful Mystic crew.

Memories

On our slow and cautious walk back to the Silhouette, we could hear our fellow Mystic passengers singing the now familiar tunes that we shared all day. In fact, we could hear them singing in the passageways of our cruise ship throughout much of the early evening. We just smiled – along with the other 50 or so new best friends that we met on the Mystic.

If you go

Information about the fabulous “Mystic” sailing catamaran and other excursions and tours run by Tropical Adventures in Antigua can be found *here*

This tour is definitely worth the price of admission. Be sure to bring a swimsuit and camera.

Happy travels!

Here is a list of other Caribbean stories written by the authors. Click on the title to read the article.

Fun at Labadee on the Island of Haiti

A vacation aboard the Celebrity Silhouette

The most exciting vacation starts in the Bahamas

Service aboard the newest Celebrity cruise ship

Best of the Sans Souci Resort  in Jamaica

A submarine adventure in Grand Cayman, BWI

Couples only Tower Isle Resort in Jamaica

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

Three Great Reasons to Book Your Next Cruise Out of the Port of San Francisco

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Flying along the bay side of San Francisco

Reason #1 – San Francisco is an outstanding port city with great cruise itineraries

Imagine spending a vacation touring the fabulous attractions of San Francisco and then boarding a luxury cruise ship bound for another remarkable destination like Hawaii, Mexico, or Alaska.

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The Golden Gate Bridge

If you have sufficient time and money to both explore the many sites of San Francisco, and then sail off on a cruise that begins with drop-dead gorgeous views of the City by the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge – that’s a combo vacation that is hard to beat.

How the bayside of San Francisco became a tourist Mecca

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Soon after the infamous 1989 earthquake, the City made a very wise decision to remove the always hideous and then dangerous freeway that separated the iconic Ferry Building from the rest of San Francisco. Before that time, except for the stretch between Fisherman’s Wharf west to the old Presidio military installation, the bay front was not a place favored by tourists.

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Pier 39

The freeway teardown was the continuation of the amazing renaissance of the San Francisco waterfront that began in 1978 when the ever-popular Fisherman’s Wharf was joined by a new and exciting Pier 39 to its east. West of the piers, in 1994, tourism benefited from the conversion of the beautiful Presidio into public use land.

It just kept getting better

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The Ferry Building

Next, in 2003 the historic Ferry Building was brought back to its original glory and reintroduced as the centerpiece of San Francisco’s waterfront. Taken together, the city did a brilliant job of revitalizing the San Francisco Bay scene. This area, once run-down, is now safe and alive with entertainment, walkers, joggers – and tourists from all over the world.

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Alcatraz Island

Embarcadero Avenue, which runs all along the new waterfront offers visitors and residents outstanding views of the Oakland Bay Bridge*, Treasure IslandAngel Island, and Alcatraz. Go further west along the water and enjoy Ghirardelli Square and the Presidio National Park.

The new Bay Lights

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Oakland Bay Bridge

*Very recently, the world’s largest L.E.D. light sculpture began illuminating the 1.8-mile western span of the Bay Bridge with 25,000 surging lights. Created by artist Leo Villareal, the new nighttime light extravaganza has added to the joy of tourism and living in San Francisco – another blessing for a city with so many blessings.

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Fun on the Marina Green

Beyond Ghirardelli Square, there is the Marina Green with its vistas of the famous St. Francis Yacht Club, and Golden Gate Bridge. Try your hand at kite flying in sight of the historic Palace of Fine Arts, and Coit Tower.

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AT&T Park – Home of the San Francisco Giants

The icing on the cake of the entire waterfront refreshment was the construction of the spectacular AT&T Ballpark – home of the SF Giants – right on the bay where boaters anxiously wait to fish out home run balls beyond the park’s right field wall in McCovey Cove.

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McCovey Cove at AT&T Park

These are only a few of the bayside attractions – the vacation paradise of San Francisco offers so much more!

Reason #2 – The New Cruise Terminal in San Francisco

The America’s Cup Challenge finals will take place on San Francisco Bay in September 2013. The headquarters for the America’s Cup is in a new and modern two-story glass and metal structure on Pier 27.

The America’s Cup will remain a tenant until October 2013, after which the building and area will be restyled to become San Francisco’s new Cruise Terminal – and what a terminal it will be. There will be ample room to accommodate today’s jumbo ocean liners and to handle over 2,500 passengers arriving and departing the terminal.

Cruise lines and destinations

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View of Golden Gate from Pier 35

At the time of this writing, familiar cruise lines such as Princess, Holland America, Cunard, Regent Seven Seas, Crystal, and Oceania all book cruises sailing from San Francisco.

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Alaskan Glacier

Typical destinations are Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, and the Panama Canal, but cruises also depart for Asia, the South Pacific – and the world.

Reason #3 – Super selection of pre and post cruise attractions and lodging

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Golden Gate Park

Many vacationers prefer to arrive at the cruise port a day or more before their ship sails, and some like to exercise their land legs after a cruise and before flying home.

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Crooked Lombard Street

There is no better city for either occasion than San Francisco – the assortment of tourist activities and excellent hotels and restaurants is legendary.

About our cruise

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The Grand Princess

We took a 15-day round-trip cruise from San Francisco to Hawaii on Princess Cruises. For our part, we did a pre-cruise stay at the fabulous Embarcadero Hyatt Regency Hotel* at the foot of Market Street and directly across from the Ferry Building. This Hyatt is an iconic venue that is very close to the cruise terminal. More about that wonderful Princess cruise and the SF Embarcadero Hyatt Regency experience in upcoming articles.

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Atrium of the San Francisco Hyatt Regency Hotel

*Starting in May and through the end of July 2013, Alcatraz Cruises, and the Hyatt Regency San Francisco have partnered to present the traveling show “Alcatraz: Life on the Rock.” This is a museum quality display about the history and stories of Alcatraz Island. The exhibit will appear in the Embarcadero Hyatt’s famous grand atrium lobby. If you are in San Francisco this summer, be sure to check out this terrific exhibit.

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Inn at the Presidio Hotel

Further, we also stayed at the newly converted officer’s quarters that is now the upscale Inn at the Presidio. This is a must-do if you enjoy luxury accommodations mixed with volumes of fascinating military history. You can read the story and see our pictures of the Inn at the Presidio *here*.

A little tight for now

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Close up of Golden Gate from Princess Cruise ship

Until the spring of 2014, the location of the San Francisco cruise ship terminal is at Pier 35. It is small and in need of a facelift.

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Disembarking at Pier 35

Because Pier 35 is located on the busy Embarcadero, and lacks sufficient handling capability for large ships, it is more difficult to arrive and depart that terminal. However, the San Francisco cruise terminal administrators do an admirable job of working around a tight situation.

As mentioned above, the good news is that the new facility at Pier 27 will be available for passengers in the spring of 2014, and Pier 35 will become a backup terminal. We look forward to that improvement.

Summary

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So much to do in the City by the Bay

A holiday in San Francisco followed by a round trip cruise out of the port of San Francisco to another great vacation destination like Hawaii or Alaska – is the stuff getaway dreams are made of, and we highly recommend it.

If you go

Click on the title for information about Princess Cruises , the San Francisco Embarcadero Hyatt Regency, and for the Inn at the Presidio.

See our Examiner photo gallery for this story *here*.

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

Luxury Cruising From San Francisco to Hawaii on Princess Cruise Lines

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The Grand Princess cruises round-trip to Hawaii from San Francisco

In a recent article entitled Three Reasons to Book Your Next Cruise out of San Francisco, we wrote about the fun of spending part of a vacation in the famous City by the Bay, and part of it cruising to exciting destinations like HawaiiAlaska, and the South Pacific. This story is about the cruise we selected to follow our own tour of San Francisco.

Selecting  a cruise

As Mark Twain often noted, it can be a bit chilly in San Francisco regardless of the time of year, so we thought a cruise to some place warm would be the perfect other-bookend for a vacation.

We did an internet search and explored all the cruise line itineraries sailing out of San Francisco on our travel dates, and Princess Cruise Lines had exactly what we wanted – a roundtrip sailing from San Francisco to the Hawaiian Islands. We made the right choice, and here’s what you can expect if you decide to take the same plunge.

The day before the cruise

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Atrium lobby of the SF Hyatt Regency

We arrived in San Francisco the day before our cruise departure to Hawaii. We toured our favorite sites in the city, had a nice dinner at Scoma’s on Pier 47, and checked into our favorite and always fashionable San Francisco Hyatt Regency.

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View of the Ferry Building from our veranda at the SF Hyatt Regency

The hotel is directly across from the iconic Ferry Building on the Embarcadero, and a very short distance from the cruise terminal at Pier 35. 

Sailing out of the Golden Gate

We settled into our port side stateroom, popped open a bottle of bubbly, and when the ship pulled away from the dock, we proceeded to our patio to watch the San Francisco skyline on slow parade. There was Ghirardelli Square lit up in its entire splendor, and the famous Transamerica Pyramid Building – outstanding among its traditional “square” neighbors.

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We could see the Golden Gate Bridge coming up above the bow, and we bid a fond farewell to old Fort Point as we made our way out of San Francisco Bay and into the vast blue Pacific. All we could think at the time was, “What a spectacular way to start a cruise!

Next stop – Hilo, on the big island of Hawaii. A future article will describe the Hawaiian ports of call in HiloNawiliwiliLahainaHonolulu, and our final stop in Ensenada, Mexico, before returning to San Francisco. Why are cruise ships sailing to Hawaii from US ports required to stop in a foreign port like Ensenada? We will explain in the upcoming article. 

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Movies Under the Stars

This story features the many vacation pleasures aboard the Star Princess. Note: The Grand Princess has now replaced the Star Princess on the Hawaiian route out of San Francisco. They are sister ships, so the differences are minimal.

Sweet suites

The Star Princess has several luxury suites positioned throughout the ship. The Grand Suite is 1,314 square feet of pure indulgence, with a walk in closet, large bathrooms, and an over-sized balcony. These elegant digs are for the truly fortunate among us.

Welcome to the Grand Suite
Welcome to the Grand Suite
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Grand Suite living space
Grand Suite bath
Grand Suite bath
Grand Princess extended and exclusive balcony
Grand Suite extended and exclusive balcony

Sweet extras

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Sabatini’s specialty restaurant

Besides luxury accommodations, the suites come with supplementary amenities such as an exclusive Suite Breakfast at the Sabatini’s specialty restaurant – where you can start your day with a complimentary “Good Morning Mimosa,” and select other goodies from an extraordinary breakfast menu.

We expected the service to be impeccable, and it was.

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Did you know that the famous champagne and orange juice “Mimosa” drink was first created and named at the Paris Ritz in 1925? Its namesake is the mimosa plant, which has bright and frothy yellow flowers.

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There are also afternoon and pre-dinner cocktail and private nosh parties where suite passengers get to mingle and mix with the ship’s officers that drop by.

Care for a quiet dinner for two? Having a lavish room service meal served in a ship’s suite is the height of seagoing indulgence and sublime privacy.

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Suite passengers are also provided with priority boarding, and disembarkation via the Elite/Suite Disembarkation Lounge. While visiting ports that require taking a launch to shore, suite occupants are furnished Priority Tender Disembarkation Tickets – a nice time-saving touch.

Time for dinner

It was soon time for our initial dinner on board the Star Princess. The first night aboard a cruise ship is a casual affair, so after cleaning up a bit, we made our way down to the Portofino Dining Room on Deck 6.

The Maître d’hôtel was busy orchestrating the process of showing the first diners to their assigned tables. Remember when everyone ate at either an “early” or, “late” sitting? These days you can dine in traditional fashion or decide to eat at any time you choose during dining hours. There are advantages to both practices – it is clearly a matter of personal taste.

That’s entertainment

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After a sumptuous dinner, it was time for our opening night of entertainment in the Princess Theatre on Deck 6 and 7. The first show included the entire cast in an extravaganza review. The large two-story theatre was packed, but comfortable, and everyone enjoyed the lavish musical production.

We took a stroll around the Lido deck before returning to our stateroom after the show. Not quite ready for bed, we turned on the TV, and watched our first movie from the library of closed circuit films. It was an oldie,  An Affair to Remember, starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr – a quintessential tearjerker with the plot starting on a cruise ship. What could be more apropos for the setting?

Days at sea

It took four days to reach our first port of call in Hilo. We travelled 2,003 nautical miles (2,303 highway miles) from San Francisco. The time passed quickly.

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Days at sea can be quiet or exciting – it’s your choice. You can shop endlessly in the myriad Ship’s Boutiques or…

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Catch up on emails at the Internet Cafe
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Sit and listen to the String Quartet in the ship’s atrium lobby
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Preview the art auction
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Have a workout in the extensive health facility
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Learn to paint
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Pizza, hot dog, hamburger? May we help you?
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Try your luck at gaming – the Casino is open

Having your teeth whitened is another option, as is enjoying sundry Spa indulgences, snoozing by one of the Pools, and chatting it up while enjoying the entertainment at your choice of the many Bars and Lounges. There is also the opportunity to watch Movies outdoors or indoors, peruse the Library, read, and of course – eat.

The ship’s master

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Captain Edward Perrin

On one of our days at sea, we had an opportunity to interview the ship’s captain. At the time of our sailing, the master of the Star Princess was Edward Perrin who hails from DorsetEngland. As is usually the case, Captain Perrin was most congenial and very willing to share stories about his ship and experiences at sea.

We always ask sea captains what they like best about their jobs. Captain Perrin revealed that he most enjoyed the ability to have a positive impact on people’s lives – both crew, and passengers. He gave an example of an elderly couple who saved all their lives to take a cruise. They approached him with the problem that they had no more money to spend while on the cruise. Captain Perrin summarily wrote a list of “free” things the couple could do on their cruise vacation. They were elated, and the good Captain was equally gratified – it made his day, and he has never forgotten that wonderful feeling of satisfaction.

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Captain Perrin with Terri Lynn Cybuliak, the Star’s Hotel General Manager

Where passenger services are concerned, an important member of the crew is the Hotel General Manager. On the Star Princess, that was Terri Lynn Cybuliak, and she greatly contributed to our fun discussion.

As we have mentioned in previous cruise articles, ship’s captains are contracted to be masters for months, not years, and therefore transfer from ship to ship quite frequently. Keep an eye out – you may very well find Captain Perrin at the helm of your next Princess cruise.

Attention on the bridge

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After our meeting, Captain Perrin invited us to join him on the bridge. The ship’s bridge is always manned 24-hours a day by two officers working four-hour shifts in a three-watch system. It is interesting to witness the vast array of sophisticated systems that run these mega ships in a controlled and quiet atmosphere.

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No more ship’s steering wheel
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In my next life…

The control seats on this oceangoing Star Wars style bridge are very comfortable.

Dining in the specialty restaurants

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Typical main on Princess Cruises

All the food aboard the Star Princess, and most other cruise ships for that matter, is quite delicious. It is amazing that seagoing chefs can prepare thousands of assorted meals daily, and do it with such finesse.

People always ask, “If all the sit down meals are included in the price of the cruise, why would anyone pay extra to eat in a specialty dining room?” The answer is quite simple – intimacy – and a little something extra special for an important occasion.

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Extra special services highlight a romantic evening in a specialty restaurant
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Doesn’t that look scrumptious?

Each specialty restaurant has its own kitchen, so there is just a touch more attention to detail in the food preparation and presentation. The waiters have fewer tables to attend, and the overall experience is that of eating in a truly fine restaurant. The extra charge is never extravagant, and the experience is worthwhile.

Avoid disappointment, reserve your specialty restaurants early.

Our recommendations

Throughout the years, we have enjoyed many cruises, and Princess Cruises is one of our favorite lines. It provides first time cruisers with an enjoyable introduction to cruise vacationing, and it offers seasoned cruisers a nice selection of accommodations and amenities. Whatever your wallet dictates, a Princess Cruise will provide good value for your vacation dollars.

If you go

San Francisco International Airport is about 20 miles and a $65 taxi ride to the Cruise Terminal or Hyatt Regency. Your travel agent or Princess Cruises can also arrange transfers to and from the airport, but if there are two passengers involved, we recommend taking a cab, it’s a lot less hassle. 

To contact Princess Cruises click *here* the SF Hyatt Regency *here*

A final note

The San Francisco Cruise Terminal is presently located at Pier 35. That will change when the America’s Cup Headquarters pulls up stakes from Pier 27 sometime around September 2013 – after the US (hopefully) wins the Cup.

After a quick facelift and the addition of a new park at the site, the vastly improved cruise terminal at Pier 27 will be capable of handling larger ships, and will come with expansive views of the City including Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower, the Ferry Building, and the Bay Bridge.

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Before we go – chocolate anyone?

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

If you do spend additional time in the San Francisco area, you might like to read these other stories by Wayne and Judy. Click on the subjects below. 

Discover a luxurious hideaway in the California Gold Country

Enrich your San Francisco vacation with a stay at the Inn at the Presidio

How to have the most fun on a scenic coastal drive between San Francisco and Los Angeles

Napa Valley is a great getaway

Calistoga is not just another pretty town

A California boutique hotel in charming Half Moon Bay

Cavallo Point: San Francisco’s exciting and historic Golden Gate hideaway

The best whale watching tours out of San Francisco

Everybody loves the sea lions at Pier 39 in San Francisco

The Sausalito houseboat community