A Travellerspoint blog

Anaheim - Day 2

Sunday, 22 March 2015


View 2015-02 South America on greynomadm's travel map.

The main task this morning is to writeup the events of yesterday. It took a while. No specific plans for today except that we needed some supplies for breakfast. We decided to walk to the nearest Neighbourhood Market. Google maps estimated 20 minutes each way and proved to be correct. From the HoJo we walked North on Harbor Blvd and crossed the Santa Ana Frwy. Fortunately there's a bridge over this massive expanse of concrete. There appears to be at least six lanes of cars in each direction and despite it being early on Sunday each lane was quite busy. On reaching Ball Rd we turned right and walk Eastward to Anaheim Blvd. Thankfully there were pedestrian lights at the intersections as both thoroughfares were 10 lanes wide. An incredible amount of traffic and surprisingly tolerant drivers. At a number of minor intersections the drives waited patiently for the two of us to waddle across.

There's a coffee brewing machine in the room and it makes a fine coffee but Jenny can't stand it and needed some hot water. I tried running the machine with an empty capsule but couldn't get a clear cup. We asked the housekeeper and the solution is simple, get an electric jug from the Front Desk. Coffee is so much the 'standard' drink that hot water for tea is considered 'unusual'.

Jenny snoozed in an effort to catch upon a sleep deficit and I walked around the complex. The most interesting and active area being Castaway Cove a kid's watery playground with water slides and water jets. The thing that impressed me most was a huge bucket that slowly fills with water and then upends itself. The park-like surrounds provided a softening effect to the stark white buildings.

Started writing this blog and stopped for a quick snack and snatched a short siesta. Actually lasted longer than I expected. We walked down to Katella Ave to P. F. Chang's China Bistro. The place was certainly popular, it was only 17:30 and we were told there would be a 15 minute delay. We didn't have to wait quite that long and were seated. The menu was extensive and not too expensive. We ordered two main dishes and a Fried Rice. The waiter explained that the dishes came with steamed white or brown rice. We dropped the Fried Rice. Once again we'd underestimated the size of the serves. Even without the rice each of the main dishes would have fed both of us. If we had a microwave in the room we'd have asked for a left-over box to carry half of it home. Jenny surprised me in that she left very little of the Chicken with Almonds and Cashews for me to clean up. Despite the growing line of people waiting to be seated we didn't feel rushed and the waiter was quite happy to chat.

Walked back to HoJo for a cup of coffee and some fruit.

That's about it for today, tomorrow it is Disneyland, it will be interesting to see how long we'll last.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view my latest photo by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 20:08 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Checked in to HoJo Anaheim

Saturday, 21 March 2015


View 2015-02 South America on greynomadm's travel map.

Today promised to be a bit chaotic and lived up to expectation. There was no time for my regular visit with the sunrise and the camera had been packed away to reduce the number of 'attachments' I had to carry off. A quick breakfast, hugs from some of the wait-staff and we were off to the Medical Centre for Jenny's final visit. Then on to Disembarkation.

There were lots of people to process, a complex procedure, lots of luggage, delays at lifts - many mutterings of doom and gloom. This is how it panned out for us. After the visit with the Doctor on Deck 4 Midship, carrying only our passports and immigration documents, we proceeded to the Casino on Deck 6 where we were directed to the Conference Room on Deck 6 Forward. No delay, didn't even stop. The US officials were set up at tables and the line moved very quickly, we were out of there in under 5 minutes. Back to the cabin on Deck 11, last time up those stairs. Crowds of people and cases on each landing as we went up. Collected our two large cases, a duffel bag and out carry-on bags and negotiated our way to the Deck 11 Forward lifts to join dozens of likewise encumbered passengers.

The four lifts were fully loaded each time they stopped on our floor. Finally managed to squeeze into a lift going up to Deck 16 along with another couple who had come up from Deck 8, so were still on when it started down. It filled up at Deck 15 and stopped at each deck on the way down to Deck 6 passing a lot of frustrated people on the way.

Now the easy bit. The 'Elite' Lounge was set up in the Da Vinci Dining room where we parked our luggage and enjoyed a fruit juice, iced water and some pastries. Very comfortable and nothing to do until we wanted to get off. There were many others in the room not in the same state of mind !!

One couple, with a number of carry-on plastic bags had misunderstood the directions and had fought their way to the Immigration lounge only to be sent back because they were at least two hours ahead of their 'scheduled' appointment time. At the correct time they had to lug their plastic bags all the way forward to Immigration, process through there and then come back to the Da Vinci to await the call for 'Disembarkation'. They were not permitted off the ship until their 'checked' luggage had been unloaded and assembled for collection.

While we may have had the inconvenience of our heavy luggage we had a much simpler route. With the shuttle booked for 10:00 we dragged our bags out to the lifts outside the dining room and used the staff controlled lift to Deck 7 and rolled off along a long but easy walkway. Walked straight past the luggage hall and out the door. Next Finding the Shuttle.

The scene outside the terminal building was extremely busy aggravated by the presence of another Princess in the port. In the space of just eight hours they have to unload 7,000 people and bring in 7,000 new passengers. Think about it and add the trucks that are delivering food and supplies and carting away refuse from both ships. And we have to connect with a driver.

Found one of the most helpful people in the area, 'Bob' wore a straw hat and the livery of Princess shore staff. He answered question and directed people with no fuss and he explained that the shuttle would drive past that area near the palm trees and would meet us there. The car would have our name in the window. Were early by about 45 minutes so we practised our car spotting technique for some of the others waiting in the same spot.

We also observed one of the 'Porters' going well beyond her job description. She'd transported the luggage for an ancient old fellow, found him a seat and helped him find the details of his booked car. It transpired that his Travel Agent had booked a car for 07:00 !! We were not due to dock until 08:00. She then spent time with 'Bob' who organised a seat on an airport bus for him. All this time the 'porter' guided him along and took care of his luggage.

Meanwhile time passes and we've seen nothing of our car. Allowing for traffic delays, not uncommon, we waited until 10:30 and still no sign. Call on Mr Fixit, good old 'Bob'. Had we called the company he asked, can't, had my phone stolen in Brazil. What's the number, show him the sheet of paper, two to three minutes on the phone and he assures me it will be there soon. Walked back to where Jenny was minding the bags and soon after our car arrived. He's been waiting near the other ship, it wasn't clear on the booking form, certainly not his fault.

As we climbed into the cute little car I observed the line waiting for a taxi, even with the delay I think we were away quicker than they were. The little car is a Ford but looks like nothing we've ever seen. Sliding doors on both sides for the passengers, plenty of luggage space, huge picture windows and a roof so high Jenny could almost stand up inside. Guided by his GPS the driver whisked us out of the port area and into a web of freeways, overpasses and exits. He's doing at least 115 KPH and in just over 30 minutes we're pulled up outside the Howard Johnson Plaza.

Their web address is hojoanaheim.com seems appropriate therefor for me to use the abbreviation when referring to our hotel. Howard Johnson (HoJo) is not just a building, it is a complex of structures requiring a map to locate your room. Our room is on the ground floor of building 6, it has two double beds and all the essential facilities. The free WiFi is phenomenal !! There are gardens, water slides, two swimming pools, a small 'Market' for snacks, sundries and souvenirs and just a short walk to Disneyland.

With the availability of the high speed WiFi I checked the credit card and bank accounts. All appear to be in good shape. I also checked the Global Currency Card intending to use it to withdraw some US$ cash. To my surprise the balance is more than $1000 lower than expected. Checking the transaction history I find a number of 'pending' transactions which have reduced my available balance. Using HoJo's fine WiFi and the magic of Skype I ring the contact number in Australia. Twice the line drops out but on the third attempt I get connected to the help-desk for 'on-line banking', not the Global Currency desk. I gave the young lady my details and she promised to have the correct people ring me back within 30 minutes. An hour later I decided they weren't going to call so we went for a walk. The primary aim was to find somewhere to eat. All of the popular fast-food outlets were represented and even some upmarket eateries.

We also found a Discount Tours and Tickets store. They also had a good range of brochures and the most helpful young ladies we've met in along time. They spent the best part of 15 minutes explaining the available options to fill in our three days. We settled for a Disneyland visit on Monday and a visit to the Medieval Times show on Tuesday evening. I'm sure we can find things to keep us occupied for any time between.

On our way back to HoJo we settled on Mimis Café for dinner. We should have known that American meals are HUGE. I ordered 'fish and chips' and Jenny a 'Chicken Pot Pie'. We both gasped when the meal was delivered. Excellent food but a challenge to get through it. We staggered back to the HoJo and I decided to leave the write-up to the next morning. I laid down about 20:00 and apart from waking briefly for the Disney Fire Works - sound only - slept until about 6 this morning. Jenny didn't sleep well at all and obviously still not 100%.

Nothing much planned for Sunday, perhaps a decent walk to get the circulation moving.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view my latest photo by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 08:17 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Last Full Day Aboard

Friday, 20 March 2015

Another interesting sunrise this morning, snapped off about 50 shots and then faced the daunting task of selecting just one. Leisurely breakfast and got to the cabin about the time Jenny was heading off to the medical centre for some more treatment. The nebuliser is helping her breathing and she will continue to use it three more times before we leave the ship.

The only activity of interest this morning was another culinary demonstration in the Theatre. We did the walk through the kitchen only because our waiter had begged us to do so. It is funny how much the waiters enjoy seeing us around the ship in unexpected places. Tamara in particular looks out for us when she's working the buffet on the Horizon Court.

We had lunch in the Wheelhouse Bar - English Pub Lunch. Jenny chose crumbed prawns and chips AKA Breaded Shrimps and I had Fish and Chips with mushy peas. Then there was a trifle for sweets and as Jenny doesn't eat them, this little piggy had two. Nothing planned for the afternoon so I decided to sort through the accumulated papers and pack my bag. I must have moved some items from the "keep" to the "throw" pile and back again half a dozen times as I procrastinated about keeping or not keeping maps, brochures and ticket stubs. It was all sorted out in the end.

There is still some residual confusion about tomorrow's disembarkation with various opinions regarding who is to blame. The latest explanations is that we leave our luggage in the cabin, assemble in the Casino at 07:30 and wait to be called forward for the Immigration review. We then return to our cabin to collect our luggage and make our way to the Suite, Elite and Platinum lounge. There we wait until given the word that can go ashore. What isn't totally clear is when we have the Customs inspection. I get a little stressed when there are arrangements that have not been fully explained. I know, I should learn to go with the flow.

Jenny has finished her packing too and it is time for our "Last Supper" with Don and Mary. We've shared a lot of meals and enjoyed each-other's company in the dining room and in the Theatre. After diner we enjoyed the singing performance of Mark Preston from the famous recording group -"The Lettermen" bringing the final show of the cruise to a fitting end.

Jenny is off to the Medical Centre again and then I'll have to settle our account at the front desk. We are expecting a call from the Medical Centre to advise that the account is ready for collection and payment

This will be my last posting from the Ruby Princess but I'll continue to record events in LA for the next few days.

Tomorrow we disembark and for the next few days we'll be accommodated at the Howard Johnson in Anaheim. More from there.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view my latest photo by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 22:02 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Day at Sea and Formal Night.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Started the day photographing the sunrise. Massive clouds blanketed the horizon and overhead there were layers of different cloud types. Because the sun didn't rise until 07:24, I had a late breakfast and arrived in the cabin just as Jenny was getting ready to visit the medical centre for another check-out. I went off to the Theatre for the Destination Lecture for LA. It provided me with some ideas of what to do next time we visit on the Coral Princess in seven months time.

Caught up with Jenny and the news from the doctor is not great, she needs some IV treatment and has three sessions booked with a nebuliser. These treatments should have her sorted out by the time we arrive in LA. At this stage it looks like she'll be healthy enough for us to continue as planned.

Met up with some of the people from the morning coffee group for a lunch in the Da Vinci dining room. It was most enjoyable and the dishes I chose were excellent. Afterwards Jenny and I attended a talk by the Third Officer and the Staff Engineer who provided descriptions of their departments and afterwards answered questions from the audience.

Back in the cabin to prepare for the last 'dress up' for the cruise. Off to diner with lobster tails on the menu. Don and Mary were there but many of the tables remained unoccupied. We decided to skip the 'production show' as we've seen it recently. Back to the cabin to write this up and wait for for Jenny's medical appointment at 21:00. Jenny's back with a nebuliser to help her breathing overnight. She has another appointment for tomorrow morning.

Clocks go back an hour overnight and we start the last full day aboard. We'll have to start packing tomorrow for disembarkation on Saturday.

Have just received our disembarkation documentation and they've ignored our requested time again. I'd asked for a 09:00 time slot and they've allocated us an immigration interview at 09:45 after which we'd have to wait our turn to leave the ship. I, along with a long line of other disgruntled passengers approached the Customer Services desk to be told that their only solution is for us to do a "Walk Off" with our own luggage. This is NOT a happy way to end the cruise.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view my latest photo by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 21:03 Archived in Mexico Comments (1)

Magic Day In Puerto Vallarta

Wednesday, 18 March 2015


View 2015-02 South America on greynomadm's travel map.

We were treated to another beautiful sunrise as the ship sailed into the port. After a brief breakfast we prepared for our Shore Excursion. We assembled in the Wheelhouse Bar and were quickly allocated the standard coach worth of numbered stickers. 'Yellow 1' was our number and should indicate that as a group we would board a coach displaying that code. Not this time !! For reasons unknown, the Mexican tour operator decided to ignore the ship's arrangement and started issuing his own tags on a first come basis. This didn't go down well with a number of passengers and there was a virtual riot as three buses worth of passengers had their expectations dashed.

Eventually cooler heads accepted that there would be a mixture on each of the buses. To Jenny and I it doesn't matter but larger groups had made an effort to travel together also the attitude of the tour company representative was a topic of conversation for at least the first 10 minutes. Our tour guide did his best to quell the bubbling ill-humour and eventually won over the most aggrieved of the passenger. The last excursion after a long voyage was off on a shaky start.

First stop was a comfort stop at a fancy jewelry store. The speciality of the region is SILVER and the store was filled with many objects, trinkets and other forms of silver jewelry. The other local ingredient was 'Fire Opals' with deep and brilliant colours. Jenny indicated she preferred GOLD and in a twinkle of an eye there was a tray of exquisite opals set in gold. As a special bonus, because we were the first bus for the day, they were prepared to offer significant discounts. After a few expressions indicating that she liked the pendant but couldn't come at the price it dropped from US$1200 to a mere US$600 -done deal. But wait, it needs an appropriate gold chain. Some resistance, some hints at a package deal and the chain went from US$550 to US$350. Can't even imagine what that will be in AU$.

After manoeuvring the bus out of the narrow streets we headed out towards the hills to the Hacienda Dona Engracia where we were greeted with a delicious cold fruit drink and handed over to a local guide. Quite the character he was and kept us interested as he guided us through the process of making 'tequila'. From the history of the drink through its refinement to the polished product produced there. Next stage was the tasting and once again emphasising that the best tequila is the one that you like. We tasted three grades of the fire water, from the young rough stuff - you share with guests - through the slightly mellower style - you share with family - to the aged matured premium product that you share with no-one. He then produced three flavoured products, peach, vanilla and coffee/chocolate. These have a lower alcohol content and I liked the coffee/chocolate one best. Perhaps my alcohol free taste buds had reawakened after six shots.

We were then shepherded to our Mexican lunch featuring hand-made fajitas with an optional hot sauce bearing the warning 'add this at your own risk'. Altogether an interesting experience. We were then given 30 minutes to browse the many stalls featuring many uniquely Mexican articles. Hats, dresses, ponchos, shawls, carved items and a bewildering array of knickknacks were eagerly offered for sale. Finally back on the coach to our next destination back in the old city.

The "Tile Factory" was a mere remnant of it's former glory. Our guide had warned us that the days of these ceramic artists were numbered. He told us that this establishment was the last one remaining in the district. The range and breadth of styles and colours was bewildering and I happily browsed the two floors of stock on display while Jenny occupied her time procrastinating over the possible purchase of some locally made leather sandals, she didn't buy them.

Back on the coach the guide described the efforts of the authorities to preserve and restore the buildings in the 'old city' to recreate the look, feel and function of the colonial past. Sidewalks are being widened to encourage pedestrians and roads are being cobbled to recreate the character of the streets. The sections that have been made over certainly looked appealing.

On to the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, an impressive structure built of basic materials surmounted by an intricate and massive crown on the central tower. The interior of the church was delightfully simple and lacked the stained glass windows one expects. The austere interior contrasted with the elaborately decorated and gilded altar. There was some serious money spent on this focal point of the church. To me it seemed fitting that there be few distractions inside the church.

To round off the tour we walked a section of the Malecon. A waterfront plaza and boardwalk featuring beautiful sculptures, magnificent views and a reprieve from the ever-present vehicular traffic. By the time we got back on the bus, I for one was happy to head back to the ship. The tequila and 28 °C temperature had no doubt contributed to my dozy feeling. Jenny managed to find the energy to explore the dock-side 'Flea Market' and finally rounded out her purchases for friends and family.

There was time for a quick photo-shoot of the surroundings from the deck of the ship. There are some impressive hotels, resorts and apartment complexes. There is also a well-stocked marina with a significant number of very classy yachts. Our departure was delayed for some time due to the late return of one of the tour buses but we were on our way out to sea by the time we refreshed and went down for diner. Only two more after tonight, can't believe the time has passed so quickly. Don and Mary were not at the table but we caught up with them in the Theatre where we were entertained by Cary Long, billed as a "hilarious, observational comedian". He was probably the funniest 'comedian' we've had. Jemmy did observe that the acts must be sourced from the retirement homes.

It is getting seriously late as I tap my way through this. Puerto Vallarta was great and would go close to being the best destination on the whole cruise. Given the inauspicious start to the day's tour was a real highlight.

Tomorrow is the first of two sea days as we head for LA. It will be the last Formal night and we get to wind back the clock an hour as well.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view my latest photo by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 20:54 Archived in Mexico Comments (2)

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