The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

May 21, 2013

How to Conveniently Ignore the Usual Crises for a Weekend or So

Filed under: travel — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 1:30 am

In what seems to be turning into an oddly recurring pattern lately, once again the past couple of weeks have seen me alternating between being on vacation and being incredibly busy at work.  This past week saw me getting off a cruise ship in Vancouver on Monday following a three-day trip up the coast, then working 49 hours in the next five days (including 11 hours on Saturday) as the team I’m on remains in crunch mode trying to get stuff out the door.  Somehow, I suspect that if I hadn’t spent the weekend on a cruise ship I probably would have spent much of it at work anyway, but that’s another story.  Fortunately, I’ve only got one more iteration of this recurring pattern to deal with, as I head for the Deep South for a few days for my brother’s wedding in Atlanta, followed by a couple of days of wandering around the area, then things settle down for a while (and by “settle down,” I suspect I mean that they’re going to get even busier at work.)  On one hand, it’s kind of nice to be able to have the ability to travel as much as I do.  On the other hand, a lot of traveling means that I’m spending a lot of time getting from one place to another.  Fortunately most of it is flights up and down the West Coast which are relatively easy, but the trip back home from the cruise (itself a  3-day ship ride, but after sorting out all the various conveyances involved in the cruise, we figured it went something like this:

  • Drive a car to an offsite airport parking lot;
  • Take a shuttle bus from there to the airport;
  • Take a plane to LAX;
  • Take a taxi to the cruise ship;
  • Ride the cruise ship up the coast from Los Angeles to Vancouver over the course of three days;
  • Take the Vancouver Skytrain from the ship to the train station in Vancouver (after walking most of the way there and back to the cruise terminal while wandering around to kill some time);
  • Take the Amtrak Cascades down from Vancouver back to Seattle;
  • Take the Light Rail back to the airport;
  • Catch another shuttle bus back to the parking lot;
  • Drive home.

For what’s supposed to be a relaxing vacation (in theory, at least) that sure seems to be a lot of running around.  And that’s just a 3-day weekend getaway.  Me and some of my friends are already in the process of looking into a potential 12-day Mediterranean cruise next Summer, which I suspect will turn out to be considerably more complex.   Of course, we do also have an entire year to plan that one,  so there should be plenty of time to figure things out.

As for the cruise itself, it was, as usual, a nice little getaway, although with only three days, it certainly felt short.  Not quite as short as the somewhat ill-advised 1-day trip I took a couple of years back where it seemed like we spent almost as much time in the security line at Canada Place as we spent actually on the ship, but certainly not like a full 7-day cruise either.   As seems to be the case with a lot of the Coastal cruises I’ve been on, the weather at sea wasn’t all that great, with much of the trip spent in fog, and not much opportunity to spend time above decks.  On one hand it was a bit of a shame because we had received a really nice  upgrade to a Caribe deck balcony cabin with one of the larger balconies to be found on the ship (not bad for having booked an obstructed oceanview cabin) and didn’t get much chance to take advantage of it.  As I’ve noted on some of the other cruises I’ve taken, when there’s fog at sea the ship’s horn is sounded at regular intervals, which can get a bit annoying after a while.  On the other hand, there was enough going on elsewhere on the ship that this wasn’t too big a deal.  Nonetheless, as much as I enjoyed the trip, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be going somewhere warm for the next one.

As for the ship itself (the Island Princess,) it was a nice shape in good condition, but I do have to admit that it took a little bit of getting used to.  I’ve been on six other cruises on four other Princess ships, but this is the first time I’ve been on one of the two Panamax ships in the Princess fleet (the Island Princess and her sister ship Coral Princess spend much of the year doing Panama Canal cruises when they aren’t in Alaska),  and although all of the various Grand class ships in the fleet share a substantially similar layout, the Coral and Island Princess very quite a bit from the others.  For example, the Horizon Court buffet is located on the forward section of the Lido Deck instead of the aft where you’d find it on a Grand class ship.  Similarly, the entrances to the two main dining rooms are located at the forward part of the ship’s atrium instead of the aft part where you’d find them on the other ships (there’s also a third dining room on the other ships that isn’t present on this one.)  And even though there’s plenty of stuff that’s different between the Panamax ships and the other Princess ships, there’s also plenty of stuff that’s in similar locations as well.  As a result of this, it took me a couple of days to get my bearings and to stop going the wrong way down the hallways trying to find our cabin.  I’m pretty sure the next time I sail on one of these ships I’ll have figured things out already and this won’t be an issue anymore, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind when you sail on one of these ships.  Then again, most people who sail aboard the Island Princess tend to have more time than we did to figure things out (the ship spends much of the year sailing 10 and 14-day Panama Canal trips, and it spends its Alaska season going back and forth between Vancouver and Whitter Alaska (a small town about 60 miles away from Anchorage) on alternating 7-day one-way trips.

Anyway, in spite of whatever difficulties may have arisen in finding one’s way around, the staff was friendly, the service was good, the ship was clean and well cared for, and things were overall quite nice.  Boarding was also quite simple and painless, which probably owes a lot to the fact that a third of the passengers on the ship had boarded at Fort Lauderdale and were continuing onward to Vancouver, so there were fewer people there to board the ship than one might normally expect.  Even if the ship was full (as it usually is), it never really felt crowded, which can be a bit of an unusual experience compared to some of the larger Princess ships (the Island Princess only holds 1,970 passengers and 900 crew, while the Crown, Emerald and Ruby Princess hold 3,080 passengers and 1,200 crew each, and the soon-to-be-launched Royal Princess will hold 3,600 passengers.)  Tables in the main dining room were easy to come by, as were seats in the theater (something of a sore spot for passengers on some of the larger Princess ships.)  Competition for deck chairs was virtually nonexistent, probably owing mostly to the fact that the weather wasn’t particularly conducive to spending much time outdoors.  All in all, it was a nice little getaway from what’s been a stressful few months at work, and I’d gladly do something like this again.  Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure I’m thinking Caribbean again for the next one, preferably when there’s some weather that I need to get away from.

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