Cruise Ship: Dawn Princess
Cruise Destination: Mexico -- Pacific Mexican Riviera
Cruise Dates: September 21 - October 1, 2005
Guest Contributor: George
Cruising in September on the West coast brings picture perfect temperatures, 82-92 breezy degrees in the day and 72 at night. Seniors come out in force and kids, freshly in school, stay home. This easygoing 10-day cruise to Mexico will take the stress right out of you, with lots of time to relax. The food, often criticized in other reviews, was surprisingly good later in the cruise. Don't look for super intensity or a party all the time. There's lots to do, but remember -- the seniors are out in force and the kids are in school. Staff aboard the Dawn is a friendly helpful crew of the usual mix: Italians at the helm, British and South Africans and Australians as social hosts, Indians running security, Romanians as stewards, and Filipinos serving dinner. The mood aboard was pleasant but a bit subdued, matching the crowd perfectly.
Pier 35 in San Francisco is reached easily by cab from the airport at San Francisco or Oakland. Southwest and JetBlue and other discount airlines serve Oakland so it may be a better choice. Four people in a cab round trip is cheaper than four Princess bus tickets, and there is no waiting. Although embarkation opens around 12:30, Princess recommends arriving after 2pm. Take this advice, as the huge initial crowd makes for a long wait to board.
No cruise line wants to be higher than average within their amenity range or people will tend to choose a competitor. With post-911 added security and rising fuel prices, cruise lines have to cut costs and raise revenue to compete. Princess is no exception, here are some the changes we noticed:
- Coffee drinks such as expressos or lattes are no longer free with a meal. Expect to pay $1.50-2.00 each.
- Free soft serve ice cream at the buffet is gone, but there's a for-fee sundae bar open in the afternoons. Ice cream and sorbets remain free with dinner.
- Waiters at dinner will actively peddle a featured liqueur, every night, for $3.95 to $8.00 including the glass.
- You must sign a receipt for room service breakfast and there is a tip expectation. Previously, breakfasts were delivered with no paperwork and no expectation. There is also a "gourmet" room service breakfast option for $12.50 per person.
- No more free lemonade at the buffet. Only coffee, unsweetened tea, and water.
- No more medals or decent prizes for winning trivia contests. Sure, it's just a game, but how about something more than a luggage tag.
- The onboard store prices are higher and offer few bargains, just convenience.
- No free welcome drinks on embarkation day, and a somewhat scaled back Captain's reception on formal nights.
- The pizza restaurant is now sit-down instead of buffet, set up to encourage sales of wine and beer. Expect to wait 30 minutes for your pizza.
- No more free cruise bingo or other free cruise giveaways during the trip. Note: the free cruise given for turning in the end of trip survey is for ALL Princess passengers, not just your ship for that week.
This was Dawn's first port call to Catalina after months on an Alaskan itinerary. The tenders were never deployed correctly and many people including us gave up after a long wait and went back to our room. Oh well, another time for Catalina. Puerto Vallarta has great shopping and one absolutely must-do excursion, the Jungle Canopy, a thrill of a lifetime! You're in a climbing harness, gloves, and helmet zipping across treetops from platform to platform, 30 to 90 feet up. Not for those afraid of heights. Gravity does all the work, all you have to do is ride and slow down towards the end. Exceptionally well-instructed, easy, safe, and fun. The hardest parts are a 5-minute hike at the beginning and a 20 minute hike at the end up a very steep trail. Mazatlan is ho-hum, not much history and too many all-the-same vendors. Cabo is the most beautiful port, most people agreed, with stunning views from pretty much all angles. And San Diego is an unusually clean vibrant and walkable city from the port area. Try the SEAL amphibious tour from Seaport Village for a scenic voyage around (and in) the Bay.
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