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7 night Mexican Riviera- April 27, 2019
"TNC Dancemonsters Cruise to Mexico"
This was a really fun cruise and I will say that my opinion of Princess is definitely getting a little better. My last couple cruises on Princess have gotten better. Of course, the Royal Princess is a newer ship, I did sail on her during her inaugural season- you can read my previous review here: ROYAL PRINCESS 2013 as that review will tell you mostly about the ship and how she differs and is similar to other ships.
This was a 7 day Mexican Riviera cruise out of Los Angeles and even though we could have flown down the morning of the cruise, I am never very comfy doing this and I really don't advise my clients to fly the day of the cruise. You don't want to miss the ship! Since we were sailing on a Saturday and my husband has Friday's off, we took a leisurely afternoon flight into our favorite airport- Long Beach. I had booked our room using Marriott Bonvoy points at the Westin Long Beach. We always like to stay at different hotels so that we can have the different experiences. The hotel was going through renovations, which I was not aware of when I booked, but for 1 night it really was not that big of a deal. The front entrance was moved due to lobby work, so you had to walk a bit from drop off point to front desk, but the bell boys were happy to help. Also, the restaurant & bar were somewhat "temporary" during the construction. I am curoius to see how the hotel looks once it's all done, so we will stay here again when we need a hotel in the area. The room seemed a little "dated" , in fact, I didn't even take photos of the room which is really unlike me!
We like staying in this area of Long Beach because it's a very quick ride or a little longer walk to the waterfront area called Shoreline Village. Here you can walk around & visit a variety of shops or pick one of the many restaurants for dinner. Once we were settled into our hotel room, I had a few work things to take care of, we then ventured over there to get some dinner. In preparation for our 7 day cruise to Mexico, we visited Tequila Jack's for Mexican food! We were also able to find a perfect spot at the bar in front of the TV's that had on the Warrior's playoff game, so we were completely content to be able to watch the game while eating. Food was very good as was the service. Once we got back to the hotel, we met up with other friends who would be cruising with us for a nightcap before we all got our beauty rest for the vacation ahead!
GETTING TO SAN PEDRO CRUISE TERMINAL:
Since we were a group of 6 people heading to the port together, I had pre-arranged a ride to pick us up. Much to my delight, they sent us a Sprinter mini-bus! (Did not pay for a vehicle that large, thankfully) But we were driven in comfort to the port and arrived safely. Downtown Long Beach is about 8 miles away from the San Pedro cruise terminal and even closer to Long Beach cruise terminal. It is also very easy to get a taxi or call an Uber to pick you up and take you there. With 6 bodies and all the luggage, it was just easier for us to have a pre-planned service.
CHECK IN AT THE CRUISE TERMINAL --OCEAN MEDALLION
Princess is starting to roll out on all of their ships the new Princess Ocean Medallion. It's probably a good thing that this review is being written late (9/10/19) because my biggest complaint is no longer an issue. When Princess came out with this Ocean Medallion, they also came out with about 5 different apps that you'd have to download and it was very convoluted and unnecessary. Thankfully, just about a month ago they have consolidated all app features into ONE app- the Ocean Ready app. Once you have completed the basics on the Princess website under your cruise personalizer, then you can finish the process with the Ocean Ready app. You complete your registration process by taking a security photo (or uploading one that you have readily available) & then you can order your Ocean Medallion. You have options to upgrade your Medallion or purchase different accessories in which to wear your quarter sized Medallion or you can choose to receive the basic "free" version. I am not a fan of having to wear anything around my neck or on my wrist that is not my jewelry, so we opted for the basic. Your medallion arrives about 2-3 weeks prior to your cruise, just in time to get your super excited for your cruise! Probably the coolest feature of the Medallion is that your door will automatically unlock when you are about 5 feet away from it. It's super handy to not have to fiddle for your key card, especially if you're carrying things in your hands. My husband usually had his Medallion in his pocket and never had to take it out! Other notable features with the Medallion is that the bartenders know who you are and you don't have to pull out your keycard to pay for things. If you have the drink package, you don't have to really do anything at all because you order, they tap their screen on your photo, it shows that you have the drink package and you're good to go! It really is taking the service and experience level up a notch.
Now with the app and medallion you are able to order drinks off the app and have them delivered to you. I was especially excited to try this out because when we enjoy the sunshine by the pool, we like to find a spot on the upper deck overlooking the pool area, but not in the mix of the crowds. As such, we do sometimes have issues with getting served. Wait staff never seems to get that far to where we are, so it's usually a bummer. We tried using the app a few times, but it seemed that our "GPS" tracking medallion put us out of range for drink delivery. We tried it once in the buffet once we were seated with lunch and because the place was so crowded, the server did take some time trying to find us. The other drawback is that the app only has basic drinks that you can order, so if you drink anything fancy- you still need to find a server or bartender to take care of it. It definitely has potential, but it's not quite there yet. TO READ STEP BY STEP DIRECTIONS ON HOW TO GET "OCEAN READY", CLICK HERE FOR A PDF COPY
We were cruising with a group of about 30 people on this cruise. The "TNC Dancemonsters", which is a fun-loving group of people who are all dancers. We have all met through Country Line Dancing and because many of the Dancemonsters were celebrating milestone birthdays in 2019, a cruise together sounded like the perfect way to celebrate! We had space reserved so that we could dance to our own music in the disco, our very own "DJ Ray Ray" brought his laptop to hook up to the cruise line's sound system and we gave him our requests. There were a few casual "lessons", but for the most part we met up and did our dancing together and went our separate ways during the day, sometimes running into smaller groups here or there. Everyone dined at their preferred time, so we were equally split between the early and late dining times. Initially, we had most of our group set up for early dining, but about 5 months prior to sailing, Princess decided to re-define the the times. So Early used to be around 6pm, it is now 5pm and late that used to be 830pm, was now moved to 7pm. It's too bad because most people were happy with the 6pm time, but 7pm was too late for many and 5pm was too early for the rest. But we definitely got together as much as we could for various shows & cruise ship events.
There was a small group of us that decided to dine one night in the Crown Grill ,which is one of the Specialty restaurants on board the Royal Princess. It's essentially a steak house with some non-steak items and everything was cooked to perfection, the steak was so juicy and tender. Thankfully, it was towards the end of our cruise because otherwise, we might have opted to dine there again. Our service in the Crown Grill was excellent as well. Our Main Dining Room service was a little slow, but I think we had a newer assistant waiter and he was not "up to par". I also think that since "our group" dining at 7pm consisted of two tables next to each other, they were trying to get us all served at the same time and that's just nearly impossible to do. Fortunately, we didn't have anyone dining after us but it did make it hard to get out to get to the shows. I will say with the 7pm dining time now for "late", they would expect you to see the first viewing of the big shows in the theatre, but the problem with that is we don't want to be dressed for the evening at 5pm. So I am not a fan of the new times. Any future Princess cruise that we take, we will be sure to select Anytime Dining so that we can tailor our schedule accordingly. With a group, you have to be a little bit flexible.
As for entertainment during the week, we enjoyed the live music & some of the shows. Mr. Lou Gazzara of American Idol fame was the headliner one night. He put on a really great show & then later in the week, I was fortunate to run into him walking around the ship & he was gracious enough to take a "selfie" with me! We always found ourselves in the disco at night and danced to the DJ music. We had a great DJ, in fact the first time that we've had a female DJ, "DJ Whit" from Ohio! She had no problem playing all of our requests and she even got out on the dance floor to try and learn some line dances. She'd always give us "last call" with about 3 songs left to request and often she'd play "just one more" for us. She really made coming to the disco at night a lot of fun for us. It was also a lot of fun for Bill & myself because we had other line dancers with us! Often times on a cruise our "line" is two people long- just us!
We would visit our friends at the Piazza Bar, where they would have periodic shows on making various drinks. If someone ordered off the "special" menu, they would then do a step by step demo of how to make that drink. It really was fascniating to watch Ryan, who was the lead bartender at this bar. He was very passionate about the flavors that go into the drinks & shared a lot of interesting factoids. This is where I got hooked on the Chocolate Martini! So delicious! I made sure to write down the recipe so I can make these at home, though I've been home for 5 months and have not made one yet!
They really are YUMMY!!
The event staff was overall pretty good, I did have a large birthday cake ordered for one of our dance sessions and they did not deliver it on time. When it did arrive, they didn't have all the plates, forks, etc., but they did eventually "get it together". The cake was delicious & I'm happy that I did get that set up. It was a wonderful way to celebrate 9 miletone birthdays at one time! We also had one milestone Anniversary to add to the celebrations! We did have a group cocktail party one evening before dinner with the entire group and that went very well. They had a secluded section of Crooner's Piano Bar set up for us and the cocktail waiters/waitresses were wonderful. It was also pretty fun to see all of us dressed up!! Everyone cleaned up very nicely & before we let the early birds go for dinner, we were able to take a lovely group photo on the staircase.
We also took a lot of photos around and about the ship. When you purchase the unlimited photo package, you take as many photos as you can because you never know which photographer has "the eye". We also like to have some fun and take some "prized" shots...this one is definitely one of my all-time favorite photos taken with our Cruise Buddies! Never a dull moment and we got a lot of laughs from others waiting to take their photos too! Priceless!
PORTS OF CALL:
Bill & I have cruised the Mexican Riviera countless times! We usually do not get off of the ship because we've "been there, done that". But given that we were with a different group of people, we decided that we would get off the ship for 2 of the ports. For Mazatlan, we stayed on board and enjoyed the quiet pool area. This is when we tested the drink ordering app unsucessfully. But we enjoyed the warm weather and looking out at the ocean, watching other cruise ships depart before us.
Puerto Vallarta, we joined about a dozen of our group for lunch downtown at a place called Pipi's. Our friends have gone here many times, it's on thier "must do" everytime they visit Puerto Vallarta & I totally understand. This is the way we feel about Pancho's Backyard in Cozumel! Our friends had called ahead to make reservations, we grabbed two taxi vans and headed to the restaurant. Amazing food, large portions and some pretty great Margaritas! We had a lot of laughs and afterwards about half went walking around town, and my half headed back to the ship for a siesta! We actually did some shopping at the pier where local vendors were set up to sell. It was a great day in Puerto Vallarta!
In Cabo, four of us decided to take a ship excursion to Todos Santos! I've wanted to go here for some time now, but when we've cruised to Cabo it had either not been offered or we weren't in port long enough & when we've stayed in Cabo at a resort, we're always so much farther away. It was about an hour bus ride away, we had a great tour guide and it was a lot of fun to walk around the cute Mexican town. It's a very "artsy" town, which a lot of local artisians. Art Galleries, pottery galleries, blown glass...really a lot of very cool art. Walking around the town, you see so much beauty. The flowers, the rich textures of the doors, the cobblestone streets..it's just a very quaint little Mexican town. Once our walking tour was finished, we had a little time to kill before lunch at the Hotel California. So we walked around the immediate area, did a little shopping and sat down across the street to sample what is called "The Best Margarita in Todos Santos" It was definitely GOOD! Afterwards, we walked across the street to lunch which was delicious. Everyone was given a combination plate. There was just a bit more time left afterwards to go tequila tasting in the Hotel California shop. Their tequila was not that good, but the bottle was very pretty! Everyone took a siesta on the bus ride back to Cabo & we still had about 2 hours left to walk around the Marina area. Coincidentally, our of our favorite musicians from the Bay Area was on vacation in Cabo and she will often perform while she's there, so we stopped by the Cabo Cantina to hear her sing. Some of our other friends stopped by as well and she was surprised that we had so many people with us! (We have all danced to her music for years). It was a really fun day in Cabo and Todos Santos! To See more Photos from this great trip, you can click here: TNC DANCEMONSTERS CRUISE TO MEXICO