A few months ago I was invited on a press trip aboard Princess Cruises. I usually take these sorts of trips alone, but was thrilled when I found out my sister Janet could join me. In case you missed it, you can read my initial blog post here. It includes photos from our first day aboard the ship, with insight for first time cruisers.
A part of me was so excited to share in her “world of food and travel”, but the biggest part was how grateful I felt to spend precious time with her. Growing up with our grandparents being a large part of our lives, along with our great Aunt Ella, Jo and I embraced this trip as “Grandma and Auntie”!! She even brought along 2 huge pairs of oversized, retro sunglasses for us to wear.
There were so many activities on the cruise that Jo and I decided to “divide and conquer”. Jo being the gifted food and travel writer, I on the other hand enjoy any type of physical activity. Personally, I had a fear of gaining weight on the cruise, so I vowed to only use the stairs the entire time.
When we arrived at the Port of Los Angeles and saw the Ruby Princess docked, we both could not get over how magnificent and huge the ship was!! It was beautiful on the outside but would soon discover how gorgeous it is inside!
Never having been on a cruise, we were amazed at how easy and pleasant the check-in and embarking of the ship was. Our luggage was delivered to the door of our beautiful room (with balcony!). It was such a lovely room with fresh flowers and chilled champagne! Within minutes, we met our cabin attendant and then attended a “Mandatory Muster” for emergency purposes. Basically we carried our life jackets to a predetermined location and chatted with other passengers. It went so smoothly and every person was accounted for, impressive!!
“Anchors aweigh” and the party began!! The Ruby Princess was leaving the port and we went to the main deck to watch and partake in the festivities! There was a live band playing all of my favorite “wedding reception” songs: “Happy”, Earth Wind, & Fire’s “September”, “the “Cha-Cha” song and “Disco Inferno” to name a few! The deckhands led the line dances and handed out leis. That was the first of many activities I enjoyed! I honestly danced like “no one was watching”! As the sun began to sink in the Pacific, the ship gently took us around Catalina Island for our first night…I couldn’t help but think about how much my family would enjoy this!
Jo worked hastily setting up all her social media and Wi-Fi connections while I diligently studied the ship’s activity program and placing stars on everything interesting to me. I planned to visit the gym and take a ballroom dancing class for starters. Every evening, a new activity brochure with articles from the captain was left at our door.
The Salty Dog gastro pub was the first culinary experience on the itinerary. I met new faces and had the opportunity to see Jo interact with various food and travel experts! The lobster mac and cheese was indulgent, over the top and plain delicious. This was just the first day!
I was welcomed the next morning with a gorgeous sunrise as I enjoyed a cup of coffee and did some reading on our balcony. Later on, Jo and I found our way (via the stairs) to our first breakfast buffet. I’d heard about cruise ship buffet from friends, and this did not disappoint! The selection was overwhelming! I enjoyed my “nontraditional”(for me) breakfast plate of smoked salmon, egg whites with mushrooms, fresh slices of melons and Musili cereal. Jo’s plate was much more a reflection of what a great breakfast should be: scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and spam! We carried our plates outside and enjoyed our breakfast near the stern of the ship.
Again, I couldn’t help but think about how much my family would enjoy this! After breakfast, Jo and I made our way to the gym and the Lotus Spa at the bow of the ship. We were each welcomed to a complimentary spa treatment where I chose the “Seaweed Wrap” and Jo chose “Teeth Whitening” treatment that which we scheduled for Thursday. Next we explored the gym and it’s state of the art equipment. Jo had to return to our cabin to work on her social media updates, so I attended a class about “Metabolism” (I learned so much).
I wanted to take the “Cha-Cha” dance class next, but had to literally run to the stern of the ship and down several flights of stairs to make it on time! It was a 45-minute class led by our instructor J.P. who made the experience so much fun! My partner Pam and I learned 3 parts to complete our dance. It was quite a fun workout! On my way back to the cabin, I passed by the upper deck, outdoor movie theater then stopped at the buffet to enjoy a cup of split pea soup and salad, yummy!
I wanted to experience a poolside time with white wine and a good book. The staff on the deck were so attentive, I felt very welcomed even though I was by myself. I wished that I could stay longer but Jo and I had a champagne waterfall on deck 5 and a lovely dinner at Chef Curtis Stone’s “Share” restaurant to get ready for! The six-course meal dining experience was amazing (especially the seafood) as well as meeting more new faces from both the culinary and travel worlds! Yes, we did use the stairs to return to our cabin! This was only day 2 of our trip and we hadn’t even gone to port yet… again, I couldn’t help but think about how much my family would enjoy this!
Our third day was our first time to visit a port…Santa Barbara was our first destination. We boarded a small boat called a “tender” that transfers passengers to the shore and back. As we settled in to the short trip, we were surprised to see “The Love Boat” actress Jill Whelan sitting near us. As a child, she played the captain’s daughter “Vicki Stubing” and is currently the “Celebrations Ambassador” for Princess Cruises.
Our Santa Barbara excursion began with a 50-minute shuttle bus ride inland to “Buttonwood” and “Sunstone” wineries where we spent the day tasting beautiful wines at stunning vineyards! We had a light lunch outdoors next to a pond at Buttonwood winery, so delightful! At Sunstone winery, we toured the estate and had a wonderful spread of appetizers with all the beautiful wine!
We returned to the Ruby Princess where my new friend Mia and I went to the gym for a much needed workout! The rest of the evening was very relaxing with cocktail and a light dinner at the International Café and Vines. Again, I couldn’t help but think about how much my family would enjoy this!
Day 4, I woke up a bit under the weather. I’d been dealing with asthma issues, mostly by using over-the-counter medications. But that morning my symptoms were much worse so I decided to visit the ship doctor. While waiting for the infirmary to open, I got to catch the most amazing sunrise from our balcony and visit the gym for a light workout. I arrived when the infirmary first opened and was welcomed by a very nice staff. I was seen by the ship’s doctor and given medications, which quickly began to help. This was not on my itinerary but it sure was a very pleasant experience under the circumstances! I was so grateful! I had the chance to bring breakfast to my sister Jo in our cabin as she was working. It was so much fun to load a plate with as many different kinds of bacon, sausages, hash and eggs as I could!
Our port -of -call that day was Ensenada, Mexico! Never have visited here before, I only had heard about notorious party bars like “Papas & Beer” and “Hussongs Cantina”. Our experience was (thankfully ) much more relaxed but still exciting. Our first stop was “Tacos Marco Antonio”. Originally a fisherman, Marco became a chef by canning tuna and creating other dishes. He opened a stand and soon was asked to open a restaurant. It was buzzing with locals standing in line. Always a good sign for any eatery. The shrimp, squid and salmon tacos were all my favorites! Marco himself was on hand to greet us. Such a kind and fun character… he even took pictures with each of us.
Next we stopped at the world-famous seafood street cart, Le Guerrerense . The owner Sabina recently opened a restaurant nearby (called Sabina’s), and we were thrilled she was on hand for our lunch. Her seafood tostadas are legendary and Jo noted this was a “bucket list” meal of hers. Of course we loved every bite and had to “have another beer in Mexico” (we’re both Kenny Chesney fans) while we licked our plates clean.
There was a LOT of food on this excursion. All of us on the tour were getting so full but we had another scheduled stop. “Restaurant 645” operated by a very young family. The chef and his brother are only in their 20’s and proudly showcased authentic Mexican cuisine. My favorite was the Chili Relleno.
Our last visit was to the “Santo Winery”…a hidden jewel in Ensenada! I wanted to bring home souvenirs for my family and I was so happy to discover beautiful wines and olive oils for my adult (4) adult children! I knew they would enjoy these more than t-shirts from either of the famous cantinas! On our way back to our ship, we walked through several fish markets.
When we were back on board the Ruby Princess, we headed for the Wheel House aka the Bridge, for a private tour with other travel writers. It was so magnificent and impressive to see all the workings of the “brain” of a massive ship. The crew was so informative and friendly. Again, I couldn’t help but think about how much my family would enjoy this!
Our last evening of the cruise was so memorable! I had scheduled my spa treatment at 4:00. The seaweed wrap was a first for me! Being ½ Okinawan, I love Japanese cuisine! I really thought the seaweed would be in strips like the “Nori” which I am accustomed to eating…much to my surprise; the seaweed was in a form that much resembled guacamole! My esthetician Christina was super sweet and shared a lot about the benefits of detoxification (as well as helping to reduce all the wrinkles around my eyes, yikes!!). The 100-minute experience was amazing!!
From there I had to literally run to the stern of the ship to get ready for our farewell dinner at the Crown Grill and celebrate Jill Whelan’s 50th birthday! Our menu included seared scallops, lobster cake, prawns and salad. Decadent desserts included molten Dutch chocolate fudge obsession, lemon meringue pudding torte, seven layer S’mores stack, milk chocolate peanut butter bar, and of course a birthday cake for Jill!
My sister Jo & I not only survived our first cruise together (we are so different in our personalities), but we will thrive because of all the fun memories and experiences this culinary cruise gave us!
“All good things must come to an end”, but wishing it not to, I truly hope to take our family on a Princess cruise next spring!! I know my family would enjoy it!! We have 4 adult children with both common and different interests, and personalities.
A cruise offers so many various activities and cuisines to delight any of their desires; it would be the best family vacation for us! We have RV’d and camped most of their growing up years which we all cherish, however I think a Princess Cruise would be perfect for our grown family to make more memories!
From the bottom of my heart (and tummy), I want to thank my sister Jo for inviting me to join her on this great adventure and also a huge “Thank you” to Princess Cruise, Brea Burkholz, Suzi Li, Jill Whelan, and many others for a most memorable time!!!
P.S. I didn’t gain one pound. Yippee!
Diary of a Princess (Cruise) By Janet Cubak
This culinary media trip was paid for by Princess Cruises.
4 night Culinary Cruise September 26-30 2016
The ship departed from Los Angeles and made stops in Santa Barbara and Ensenada.
Details on upcoming California & Pacific Coast Cruises on Princes Cruises
Thank you Princess Cruises! Jo
Read the first Princess Cruises blog post here. It includes photos from our first day aboard the ship.
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