Friday, May 16, 2014

Nanaimo Friday May 16, 2014

We sailed into Nanaimo arriving about 9:30 AM - were given customs clearance and if you wanted to you could go ashore - either walking the short distance  from the industrial part of the port into town or waiting and taking the free shuttle.

As I have a ship's tour to the Horne Lake Caves that doesn't leave until noon I am in no hurry to get off ship but when i report to my meeting place at the Theater we are told once we have our tour sticker we can go ashore and meet our tour there and that is what I did.

There are twelve of us on this tour and we are in a small rental van for the approx one hour trip to the caves.

Our driver/tour guide is a native of Nanaimo and as we head out of town she is full of history - we take the slower Oceanside route to Qualicum where we head inland to the caves - we do make a pit stop at the McDonald's in Parksville.

Arriving at the Caves around two we are given some instructions, get our helmet and light and meet our cave guide Miles.

Horne Lake has a number of caves - some are self-guided, others are tour guided only.

We climb up the trail for about a mile - we are stopping a number of times to get information from Miles about the complex system of caves believed to be underground.

We finally reach the entrance and it is quite the entrance - we go down a steep metal stairwell into the cave - we will only follow it about 1/4 of its way but it is not an easy walk - unlike some previous caves that I have visited this one is quite rustic - there is no lighted path - it is slippery and rocky and you are crouched low for the most of the tour.

When we reach the end of the tour my camera battery dies on me - it was fully charged when we left the ship but the cool temps in the cave - a constant 8 C or 47 F and having to use the flash drained it - I did bring a spare but it is in my day pack back on the tour bus.

After we return to the bus we drive a short distance to Horne Lake Regional Park - next door to the provincial Park and have a picnic lunch - we are given water to re-hydrate and have smoked salmon on crackers and a Nanaimo bar for dessert. 

Then it is back on the bus and the hour drive back to town - we have the option to get off in town and that is what I do.

The weather has for the most part been fine - there were a few raindrops as we left the cave area but that was all.

I got off the bus at the Bastion and started to walk along the seawall promenade - originally I toyed with the idea of going over to Newcastle Island but I wanted to have supper and with the last ferry back at 8:45PM it wasn't worth the $8.00 round trip cost for only and hour or so of hiking the island.

Looking for a place to eat I came across the Troller - a fish and chip place on the waterfront - reflecting back I ate there the last time I was in Nanaimo on a cruise ship.

The meal did not disappoint. After dinner I walked through the redeveloped Port Place mall and then back to the ship - opting to walk rather than take the shuttle.

Back on board I enjoyed the free beer that the captain gave us Platinum cruisers.

If I have one recommendation about this tour it would be nice to have more time at the caves and perhaps a little less time seeing the favorite hideaway beach of the tour guide who lives close by in the community of French Creek.

I go to the Passenger's service desk and pay most to my bill with my remaining $US dollars.

Tomorrow the cruise will be over - if a stroke of luck my cruise critic friends who will share a taxi with me are also disembarking at the same time.

More tomorrow and some final thoughts.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A missed port - Astoria, Oregon

While I was awake and reading in my cabin the Captain came on just before 7 AM to announce that due to tide, current conditions we would not be docking in Astoria and instead would spend the day at sea slowly working our way up the Washington coast and into the Strait of Juan De Fuca and then the final turn into the Straight of Georgia and arrive in Nanaimo as couple of hours early at 8AM tomorrow.

While I would have like to see Astoria again it isn't the end of the world for me.

As is the case where ports are missed extra events are added to the daily schedule - none appeal to me so I continued reading and finish off one novel and started on the second.

Tomorrow is Nanaimo and for me a visit to the Horne Lake Caves.


A day at sea Wednesday May 14, 2014

After the hectic pace I set upon myself in San Francisco it was nice to enjoy a sunny and warm sea day.

I continued to read a novel that I had brought from home and at 11AM attended a cruise critic meet and greet in the One Five lounge - there were about 20 us there and we spent the next 30 or so minutes getting to know each other.

I was able to help some of them who haven't been to Vancouver by answering there questions and about docking at Ballantyne Pier and not Canada Place.

Then it was onto a pub lunch in then Crown Grille - had my usual fish and chips.

Then up to deck 14 and the ice carving demonstration.

After supper took in the welcome party in the Piazza where the Captain formally welcomed us on board and a bevy of balloons were released to the throng of people on the dance floor. The band playing at this event had us rocking with lots of 50 and 60's music and that would continue later in the Explorer's lounge.

Also got our instruction about customs in Nanaimo - form filled out in advance so not a long process there.

Off to bed and tomorrow Astoria.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

San Francisco May 12 and 13. 2014

 Unlike the problems getting off the ship my time spent in San Francisco went smoothly.

Shortly after getting checked in my friends Adele and Cliff arrived -
I first met them on a repo cruise some 9 years ago and everytime we are in  each other cities we get together.

With a slow internet I will post the general highlites of the day.

1. After there arrival we took the F line Streetcar to the Ferry Building where we caught the ferry over to Lakspur - it is easier for them to park there and take the ferry than fight traffic and in this case made sense as my plans were located in the area.

2. But first there was the matter of lunch and they know I love the In and Out Burger so we stopped at the one in Tiburon.

3. Then it was onto our destination for the day - I have wanted to get to the top of Mt Tamalpais - so we made our way up the winding, twisty road to the parking area at the top with one stop at a viewpoint - there we took a short 1.5 mile loop walk that gave us lots of views - the weather is very warm and they have an off-shore flow so it was hazy.

4. After we finished that walk I wanted to walk up to the ranger station and lookout - they opted not to go. Only took me about 15 round trip but there was some climbing.

5. Then it was across the Golden Gate and back to the hotel for the second part of the day - a Giants baseball game - Adele had found a parking garage close to the ball park - so we parked there then visited the souvenir store where I brought a ball cap - at $30.00 it was one of the cheapest they had.

6. With still some time before the gates opened I walked the area by the stadium and saw the statutes for Willy Mays, Juan Marichal and Willie McCovey.

7. Then  it was into the stadium and a bite to eat - chicken fingers, fries and a beer was $20.00. A T & T stadium is a gem - great feeling - we walked around the stadium and could see where the Norwegian Jewel is in dry-dock.

8. The game was a great one - a good pitching duel - SF prevailed 4 - 2.

9. Dropped off at the hotel - spent some time sipping on a 24oz can of PBR and getting caught up on email.

10. Up early - took the street cars up to Civic Center and then onto the end of the line in the Castro district.

11. Returned to the hotel at noon just in time to check out - then slowly walked the five blocks to the ship  stopping for a hot dog and pop.

12. Dropped luggage off and started the boarding process - was on ship about 20 minutes later - this surprised me a bit because there was another ship in port but as it was overnighting it wasn't as congestion as I thought.

13. Proceeded to my cabin B420 - the same one I spent 49 days on the South America cruise.

14. Toured the ship - had lunch and settled in for the trip up to Vancouver.

That in  capsule form is my San Francisco experience.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Disembarkation mess San Francisco May 12, 2014

Despite the best efforts of Princess telling everyone what time they should show up to clear customs and immigration - It turned out to be a mess.

Who's to blame I don't know.

Here's my story.

My documents stated that I was to appear at the Vista lounge at 8:05 AM to be processed.

Well at 7:50 I headed up only to find a line that stretched the length of the ship and no staff in sight.

It doesn't appear to be a DHS issue that they had plenty of officers on duty.

Finally after about 25 minutes I approached the Explorer's lounge where lo and behold there was a Princess staffer directing traffic.

She had us form two lines - one for US and another for non-US citizens. As  I was the latter we actually moved a fair distance and after another 10 or 15 minutes I was processed.

There were at least 7 agents for the non-US and 2  or 3 for the US.

I was finished at 8:30 AM  - then it was onto to the Portofino restaurant where us Platinum members could await departure from the ship.

This went fine - 9:30 was my appointed time and our color was called and I departed - picked up my bag and walked to my hotel - the Best Western Tuscan Inn about a 5 block walk from the ship.

There I waited for Cliff and Adele to arrive and start my exploration of the City by the Bay.

For some reason San Francisco doesn't like me - this was not the first time that customs was a nighmare at the port.

More later on my day exploring Mt Tamalpais and attending a San Francisco Giants game.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

A sea day Sunday May 11, 2014

Well this short cruise is almost over - sometime around 5:45AM tomorrow we will sailed under the Golden Gate bridge, pass the south side of Alcatraz and tie up at Pier 35 in San Francisco.

I did very little today - still tired and beat from the long walking day in Victoria.

The weather has cleared off and warmed up - I am now in shorts and the forecast is for warmer temps tomorrow so will stay in shorts for the next day or two.

Spent some time in the sun up on Deck 14 - enjoyed a couple of cold ones - one is courtesy of the Captain for platinum members.

The captain of this ship is Canadian and resides when not on the ship in BC.

My room steward is good - I don't see him but the bed gets made and turned down when I am not there. That's the way it should be.

My cold is still bothering me - taken the meds seems to help.

Tomorrow I will need to be up fairly early as my customs time is 8:05 AM and my disembarking time is 9:35 AM. I will head to my hotel and await my friends there as we explore the town and then take in the baseball game between the SF Giants and the Atlanta Braves.

The internet this evening is the best it has been all cruise.

More later.