Archive for the ‘Cruising’ Category

Cruising: The good, bad, and why were we not warned

 

A good part of our cruise was our upgrading our dining experience to club status.( JJacobs photos)

A good part of our cruise was our upgrading our dining experience to club status.( JJacobs photos)

Sometimes a travel article has to be about a trip where everything wasn’t perfect so that people planning similar vacations know what to ask and what not to do.

We have always had good experiences on the Princess Cruises Line so we expected to have a great cruise down the west coast of South America last December.

First, the good part of the cruise was that we signed up for a package that included good mattresses and extra treats like chocolate covered strawberries and wine.

We also opted for a dining experience that put us on one side of a dining room where we were away from crowds, had a couple of extra food choices and got to know our server.

Also good was that we arranged for a couple of days in Santiago, Chili where we disembarked. We stayed at the Ritz which is a Marriott property with a great pool and concierge room. There we made our personal city tour arrangements.

Now, the bad. What we didn’t expect on the cruise was that the ship would continually have maintenance issues.

Throughout the whole trip, elevators were alternately closed for maintenance, the pools were often closed for maintenance when they really would have been good for swimming laps (the rest of the time they were so wavy and sloshy it felt like swimming against a tide), and no matter where we tried to sit there was painting and other coatings going on so there were fumes.

In addition, some of the public washrooms needed work and about half the washing machines  were not working.

As to our land excursions, we should have made our own arrangements because except for Lima where we had an excellent tour, and the rocky Ballestas Islands near Paracas where we saw blue-footed boobies and red legged cormorants, seals and penguins,  our excursions taken through Princess promised much more than they delivered.

So, here are a few cruise vacation suggestions:

  1. If booking a cruise, ask how old the ship is and what maintenance was done beforehand and what will be in process during the cruise.
  2. Check with your favorite travel agent about hooking up with a reliable shore tour – either a group excursion or a personal one.
  3. If there are packages available that will up the vacation level from a C to at least a B +, seriously consider the option.
  4. Check what other cruise lines offer for similar destinations before reserving your cabin.

 

Chicago knows how to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day

 

Either come to Chicago, to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, the town rated tops n the country for wearin’ the green, or if already in town find out about all the events because they are likely to be happening where you are or want to be.

Don’t’ worry that you missed such neighborhood parades as the Southside one that take place the Saturday before March 17. They’re fun but a lot more happens March 17 including turning the Chicago River green followed by the big, downtown parade. Of course there are also pub crawls. a run, and two days of music and dance at the Irish American Heritage Center. Just bring something green to wear.

Chicago turns its river green in honor of St. Patrick's Day. Photo complements City of Chicago

Chicago turns its river green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Photo complements City of Chicago

 

The River  

Join the crowd at 9 a.m., March 17, 2018 on Wacker Drive (upper or lower) or on the east side of the Michigan Avenue Bridge to watch the river turn green with an eco-friendly substance poured from the boat that you’ll see going by. Best plan is to get there early.

 

The Parade

After seeing the river, find a spot on Columbus Drive west of Michigan Avenue between Balbo on the south and Randolph Street on the north before the noon step-off time.  Sponsored by Chicago Plumbers Local 130 UA and the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade committee, the city’s downtown parade always has politicians marching but there are also several Irish dance groups and Irish bands. For more information visit City of Chicago/Parade and ChicagoStPatricksDayParade.

 

Irish American Heritage Center Festival

IAHC’s  festival is a two day event of Irish dance, singers and music. This year it actually falls April 17-18, but sometimes it is held the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day if March 17 is not on a weekend. Typically drawing about 10,000 visitors after the parade and the following day, it goes from 1 p.m. to midnight. There’s also a crafts’ fair, Irish gifts and food and drinks available to purchase. Admission tickets are $15 or $12 if purchased before March 16. Youngsters age 12 and under admitted free. IAHC is at 4526 N. Knox Ave. Chicago. For tickets and more information visit Irish American Festival.

 

St. Paddy’s Day Run

Certainly there is a lot of drinking and also some eating. So a good way to work off the weight ahead of time is to participate in a 5 or 8 K run or walk in the Lincoln Park neighborhood just north of the downtown. Once known as the Leprechaun Leap, the event runs from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. March 17 from near the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Participants enthusiastically put together their green attire but they also get a commemorative shirt, and an invite to the post party at Select Steak House (2808 N. Halsted St. north of the Finish Line. For registration and other information visit Paddy’s Day run.

 

Lincoln Park St. Pat’s Crawl

Going from 3 to 9 p.m., March 17. participants of this crawl visit several bars in the Lincoln Park neighborhood starting at 2247 N. Lincoln Ave., To register and for more information visit Lincoln Park St. Pats Crawl. You Sat, March 17, 2018

 

Chicago Shamrock Crawl

Do the Wrigleyville bars from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 17. Participants can pick up their tees and other paraphernalia ahead of time. Registration and other info visit Chicago Shamrock Crawl.

 

St. Paddy’s Day Boat cruises

There are two cruises that leave from Navy Pier. The Irish-themed Architecture River Tour begins in the morning at 10:45 a.m. and lasts 75 minutes. For tickets and more information visit Shoreline Sightseeing. There is also the St. Patrick’s Day Dinner Cruise which is a St. Paddy’s Day party on the Mystic Blue. It boards at 6:30 p.m. goes from 7 to 10 p.m. For reservations and information visit Mystic Blue Cruises.

 

The only problem with celebrating the day in Chicago is the abundance of good choices.

 

In Chicago: Four sparkling New Year’s Eve events

Plan now for what you want to do New Year’s Eve. If in or visiting Chicago there are fun runs and cruises, count-downs and parties and delightful cultural programs. Most events require tickets.

 

1.Celebrate the changing of the year the Viennese Neujahrskonzert way. Performances take place in 24 North American cities near New Year’s Day. In Chicago, the “Salute to Vienna New Year’s Concert” will be at Symphony Center 2:30 p.m., Dec. 31, 2016.

Dancers from the Kiev Aniko Ballet in Symphony center New Year's concert.

Dancers from the Kiev Aniko Ballet in Symphony center New Year’s concert.

The program is all about wonderful Strauss waltzes and music from the Merry Widow, and Die Fledermaus by the Strauss symphony of Canada and the Chicago Philharmonic. Dancers are from Ukraine’s Kiev-Aniko ballet and the International Champion Ballroom. Singers are soprano Lilla Galambos and baritone Thomas Weinhappel from Vienna.

For tickets visit CSO or call (312) 294.3000. For other information visit Salute Vienna or call (416) 323.1403.

 

2. Celebrate with a Chi-Town Rising event.

The day starts with the Chi-Town Rise & Shine 5K race and Fun Run, check in begins at 7:30 a.m. for the 9 a.m. race beginning at Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph St., Chicago. The run also goes through Maggie Daley Park, Grant Park and by the lakefront. The event is a Special Olympics fundraiser. Handouts include pompom hats, gloves and hot chocolate. Click here to register and see details.

It continues with the Family Count-Down from 3 to 6 p.m. at Millennium Park’s Wrigley Square.  New Year celebrations start at different times around the world so parts of the event are activity stations showing New Year’s customs in different countries.  The event is free. The Kids Countdown Spectacular is 6 p.m.

Chi-Town Rising New Year’s Eve Celebration is 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Tickets are free but are required to enter the two viewing areas between Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive. There will be food and beverage concessions and views of the midnight fireworks. The North Viewing Area, north of the river, will be the site of NBC 5’s broadcast. South Viewing Area on Upper Wacker Drive will have the main performance stage.

Visit Chi-Town Rising details. For tips on clothing and other viewing areas visit FAQ.

 

3. Navy Pier is headquarters for two New Year’s Eve Parties.

Navy Pier New Year's Eve fireworks start at midnight. Navy Pier photo

Navy Pier New Year’s Eve fireworks start at midnight. Navy Pier photo

The 5th Annual Chicago Resolution Gala celebrates with several drink bars and buffet stations and dancing in the Pier’s Grand Ballroom. There is also a good fire works viewing spot. For tickets and details visit Resolution Gala. Visit tickets and details.

There is also a party in the Crystal Garden, the Pier’s six-story glass botanic atrium. There will be several bars and champagne for a toast. For tickets and more details visit Crystal Gardens.

 

4. New Year’s Eve Cruises go from Navy Pier. Watch the fireworks after partying aboard the Mystic Blue, the Spirit of Chicago or the Odyssey. Each cruise ship hosts a New Year’s Eve Party. Times and prices vary so see which one fits your budget. Visit Mystic Blue Cruises, Odyssey and Spirit of Chicago.

Have a happy, safe New Year’s Eve!

 

Rail initiative combines destinations on bucket list

Take a train west to San Francisco across impressive mountain ranges. Do a Hawaiian cruise. The two bucket-list dreams may sound like different vacations in time and space.

Travel by rail through the Rockies to enjoy the scenery instead of watching the road

Travel by rail through the Rockies to enjoy the scenery instead of watching the road

But Vacations By Rail, a Chicago-based travel company that organizes train trips to national parks and across Europe has lately been partnering with Princess Cruises so that travelers don’t have to choose between a scenic land vacation or a cruise destination.

Among the latest pairings is a two-night trip through the Colorado Rockies and Sierra Nevada Mountains to San Francisco from Chicago on the California Zephyr then on to Hawaii by cruise ship .

Travelers stay a night in the “city by the bay” then board the “Grand Princess” for a 14 night cruise to Hilo, Honolulu, Kauai, Maui and Ensenada, Mexico.  Cruising to Hawaiian ports means not having to fly to the west coast, then Honolulu and more airports to puddle-jump to different islands. After the Mexican stop, the ship returns to San Francisco.

The total trip of 19 days by train and sea can be extended. Options include returning to Chicago by Zephyr for a  22-day vacation or staying longer in San Francisco three to four days.

For more information visit Vacations By Rail  www.vacationsbyrail.com and call 877-929-7245.

Photo (C) by Jodie Jacobs

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