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Everything posted by mk-ultra

  1. Last notes: The museum of modern art (The Broad) is catty-corner to the Conrad Hotel. Literally, a three minute walk. Admittance is free unless you want to also get admission to one of their highlighted artist exhibits. You do need a ticket though (they rate-limit the number of people -- good). Not really a ticket, per-se... just go online and get a QR code they scan when you enter at your scheduled time. I showed up at 10AM, right when they opened and had no problem getting a QR code in line using my phone and going in right away. https://www.thebroad.org/ The Broad has the usual suspects. Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko and assorted company. Worth a visit if you're already in the neighborhood. I wouldn't make a side-trip to do it. Didn't make it to Japantown. Next up: first time on Quantum of the Seas in May. Vancouver > Alaska > Seattle. Might be a little bit wet/brr, but I have foul weather accoutrements
  2. Post-cruise day 1, Friday Disembark was painless. I cheated a little bit and went down to deck 4 at 0745, beating more than a few people off of the ship. No massive conga-line around the deck to hit the gangway. "Self-assist" departure, meaning I wheeled my one suitcase off the ship instead of tagging it and putting it out the night before to pick it up shore-side. CBP has the newer facial scanners on the way out. No wait. Boom: done. Taxi rank was surprisingly excellent. Less than 10 minutes to put my butt in a cab. ~35 minutes from pier to the Conrad Hotel in LA. Funny and loquacious driver, in the good kinda way. Had an early check-in and a nice room upgrade. 20th floor, overlooking the Ghery-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall. https://www.musiccenter.org/visit-explore/visit-explore/campus/walt-disney-concert-hall/ Props to AMEX FH&R again for those. As soon as I dropped my bag in my room, I left the hotel on foot in a random direction. No destination. Spent about 2 hours just wandering around. Sometimes, that strategy really works out. It's been a long time since I've been to Downtown LA proper. In the '80s... it was, um, not something one would pick as a destination stay. Wow -- has it changed. Tons of new hotels and clearly a lot of hopeful investment raising it above the infamous Skid Row days I saw when I was a young teen. It's still gritty if you lift the covers though. I'm fine with gritty, and the hotel is gorgeous, but for family/kids? Na. Not the location you want. Stumbled across the Grand Central Market. Oh man, eat there. It's indoors, but an open breezeway kind of set-up. Being from SF, I'm spoiled for good Mexican food -- but there are tons of counter-service eateries, Mexican and otherwise. If you can't find something to eat there, you're doing it wrong. It smelled glorious the second I walked in. Had one lengua and one cabeza taco, Spanish rice, draft Corona. https://grandcentralmarket.com/ Grand Central is directly across from one of DTLA's more famous spots, the optimistically-named Angels Flight Railway. Taking a little break from the walkies. Back at the hotel having crab croquettes and a mojito to reinforce my countenance. More walkies tomorrow. Probably MOMA and Japantown.
  3. Day 7, Thursday. At sea again today, which I don't mind at all. We didn't seem to get the bigger swells that were predicted last night, but there's a good chance I just slept through it if we did. Getting bigger rollers now, about 2 hours after local sunset. I sleep like a baby in that stuff though. I think I lucked out on timing for this trip. GTFO'd out of the SF Bay Area just in time to miss all the bomb cyclone festivities. Housemates have a cabin up in the redwoods and all the accumulating storm run-off is dumping into creeks and rivers. They went up there (Cazadero) to prep for flooding as best they could -- then sensibly scooted right back to SF so they don't wind up treading water. Parts of Guernville and Cazaero all the way to the coast near Jenner sound like they'll potentially be hosed. ~0700 arrival at port of LA tomorrow. 0800 disembark for me. We're back to cold and windy shipboard. This time around, I'm doing two post-cruise days at a hotel. Conrad LA looks pretty nice, and the The Broad (modern art museum) and Japantown are in easy walking distance. https://www.hilton.com/en/hotels/laxavci-conrad-los-angeles/ https://www.thebroad.org/ Hopefully, our atmospheric river takes a break by then. Radar still looks a bit sketchy. Lots of precip lined up.
  4. I was at Las Caletas, so boats back to the pier from there aren’t hop on, hop off. 1415 run back from Las Caletas… so around 1515 back to the long line for a tender back to our tub.
  5. Thanks Visually, sea looks pretty sedate. Guessing it’s something to do with the swells’ periodicity.
  6. Day 6, Wednesday Sea day, about 1/4 of the way back north along the Baja peninsula. Not much to report. Took a little time at the blackjack table this afternoon -- but my head wasn't in the game. When fast visual math gets hard, it's time to take a break. Will definitely hit them up again this evening. Tonight is "dress to impress" night. For once, I refused to pack a suit and haul around a garment bag. I've got a nice collared shirt, but just jeans -- no slacks. That's as fancy as I'm going to get this time around. Interesting sea state. 3m rollers... not big. I haven't Googled what kind of stability augmentation Navigator has (yet), but even these little ones have us rolling a bit. That's forecast to increase to 6-7m this evening, so should be a fun ride. Not much to photograph today, so here... have a lovely sunset from Sunday's sailboat trip.
  7. Tendering off the ship, not so bad. Usual drill of getting stickered in the theater then lounging about there waiting for your group number to be called. Be fed, and avail yourself of the theater bathrooms because you'll spend an hour or so on the pier. Tendering back was... I don't know if I have quality adjectives. A massive line that wrapped all around the pier. I didn't time it, but ~2 hours of quality time in line? Delay didn't seem specific to Royal. The NCL Joy folks also got to enjoy the line.
  8. Day 5, Tuesday. So, we have the newfangled Starlink internet on our ship. When it's fast -- it's damn fast. It's been a little bit spotty though. Still, for satellite service, kinda awesome. Right now, not so awesome (sailing out of PV). PV was great. Did the "Las Caletas Escape". Basically, a very nice beach day. Good food, good drinks and good people. If I want to be grumpy, my only minor complaint is an 0740 show time, to wait an hour in the deck 3 theater, then to line up and wait on the pier, then do an hour on a cat to get there. First world problem, to be sure. Lots of people, but not crowded at all. Will add more pics when Starlink gets it marbles back. Blame Elon. Very, very good day. This is possibly one of the best itineraries RCI has outside of Alaska.
  9. Day 3, Sunday. First time for me rounding the south end of the Baja peninsula. I don't think I nabbed a photo that does it justice. Stunning introduction to the Pacific's mixing grounds. Then off to tender to my sailing event. Okay, color my skeptical butt very nicely surprised. The sailboat was an actual sailboat, not a catamaran. That's rude to you cat owners, but still. Real 50' boat with only ~14 pax and 3 crew. Promising. First half of our trip was spent motoring. Boo. But it's CRAZY busy with tour boats around the harbor, so I wouldn't feel cheery about being under-sail in that mess either. We went straight to Cabo's famed "arch" and the "keyhole" for everyone to get their Instagram / TikTok moments. After that photo op, we motored another ~35 minutes to the cove at Santa Maria beach and let everyone bob around like orange corks in PFDs for an hour or so. On the way there, we had a feeding. Grilled shrimp, fresh guac, pico de gallo, fresh fruit and chips. Served in an incongruous Japanese Bento box. Tasty though, and no shortage of booze selections. The highlight of the day for me (puts on sailing nerd hat) was the trip back. Mainsail up, motor off. Then... why not, let's unfurl the jib. And do big upwind tacks all the way home. And before every tack, let's really get it heeled over deliberately so everyone squeals with delight. And just to top it off, momma humpback whale with calf on the way back. Awesome. Cabo is new to me. With NCL Joy here as well, the line to tender back was looooooooooooooooong. Met some cool people from Norway and Denver though.
  10. 370nm south of Port of LA. Doing just under 20 knots and being trailed by what I think is the NCL Joy. Tomorrow is a tender port and I'll be be doing "Luxury Day Sailing" -- which in the real world means getting on a big catamaran that hasn't once had its sails deployed. I think I'd fall over dead in amazement if any excursion "sailing" actually used wind for anything. Blew some early afternoon casino time at the BJ table again. Still beating them up, so w00t! Lots of nice folks onboard. Cruisers are the most gregarious people you'll come across.
  11. Day 2, Saturday Sea day. Beautiful sunrise. Met a lovely couple who are on their bizillianth cruise together during breakfast at Chops Grill. I beat the daylights out of the casino last night playing blackjack, so... here's the part where I predict they teach me humility today. It's also NYE, so curious how that will be onboard. They have balloons staged all over the ship. Ship's time went +1 hour from "real" time (Pacific) this morning... which promises some pier wind sprints tomorrow in Cabo before we depart. We'll be cheering for the runners.
  12. First impressions about the Navigator. It's exactly what I expected. Well-maintained, and in general -- an RCI ship in all respects. They all seem to adhere to some design themes. She's a bit older, so cabin decor, while perfectly tidy, is a wee bit 20 years old in theme. Zero complaints. The GS cabin is like any other and more cabin than any single moron like me needs.
  13. Day 1, Friday. As is my habit (sigh) I woke up around 0430. What can I say, I'm like a little kid when it comes to cruise day. Overall, very pleased with the Hilton Maya. All of the food and service there were exceptional. I had an 1130 show time for check-in, so me and my luggage hit the Uber button at 1030 from the hotel. Uber was not happening. After not having a driver try to pick up my fare for 10+ minutes, I cancelled and tried Lyft. Much success. Had a driver pick me up in 5 minutes. Drive from hotel to the ship was a little longer than expected (20 minutes). Port of LB (nee, LA) is one of the world's busiest. The delay wasn't cruiser traffic.. it was just general commercial trucking and whatnot. Once near the 90's berths, it was (forgive me), smooth sailing. After getting dropped off, it took about 10 minutes to clear security and board. Not many photos. Port of Los Angeles is possibly the least charming port I've sailed from. Not complaining (yay, I'm on a ship), but it's about as industrial as ports get. One thing I wish I'd researched a little better was what is just adjacent to the berth RCI uses. Specifically, the USS Iowa museum. With a teensy bit of additional planning, I could have done my bag drop then walked a hundred yards or so and toured the Iowa before boarding the Navigator. Note to my future self. Really moody skies making our way out of the harbor, with what can barely be called occasional drizzle. Tonight, ship's whistle (horn) has been doing the once a minute fog signal, which is possibly the most nautically romantic thing ever. That feels like sailing.
  14. T-1. Boarding tomorrow. Gonna grab an Uber or Lyft from hotel to the LA Cruise Terminal around 1030 for my 1130 scheduled time. RC gives you +-1 hour on that, so I err on the minus side. It's a little bit nice to be onboard early and just check out the ship while it's still a ghost town. LA cruise port is a bit weird (having LB and LA sides). For RC, you want to put in 100 Swinford Street when requesting a ride. Final thoughts about the Hilton Maya: really good launching spot. The food here at Fuego (so far: crab cakes, Cubano sandwich, and a duck and pear flatbread with Gorgonzola and arugula)... waaaay better than most hotel food. Knock out crème brulée with fresh blueberries for dessert.
  15. W00t! Something new (to me)! Basics: Navigator of the Seas, 7 nights LA > Cabo > Mazatlan > Puerto Vallarta > LA Grand Suite Unique to this trip: NYE on a cruise This is my first time on a Voyager class ship. Launched in 2002, and with a 2019 Amplification and freshening-up, I’ve been looking forward to trying out Navigator. I’ve sailed on RC’s “small” ships (Liberty and Radiance), but since 2018 it’s all been on Oasis class. RC takes such good care of their ships, size and age hardly matter unless you want the bells and whistles only available on Oasis and Quantum class. I’m also very happy that us granola-eating hippies in CA finally have a ship again — one that goes further into MX than Ensenada. Nothing wrong with Ensenada (ask me about the wine country out in Valle de Guadalupe if you’re planning a stop there). Pre-cruise, I’m camped out for a couple of nights at Hilton’s Maya: https://www.hilton.com/en/hotels/lgbmydt-hotel-maya/. Maya is about 12 minutes drive time to the cruise terminal. To be honest, not much around hotel. Food here is excellent. Will do the walk across the bridge tomorrow to check out the city. Probably 20 minutes to get into town. Can see the Queen Mary from the "front lawn" of my patio room: It's pretty at night. Hardly anyone would describe the LA River as pretty, but it has its moments. Queensway Bridge: SFO was packed. LAX was beyond that. Flight time SFO > LAX was 53 minutes. Time from de-boarding airplane to "Port of Los Angles" hotel, 2 hours. Port of LA isn't in LA, it's in Long Beach, so fun times on the 405 and 710.
  16. Not to sound hoity toity, but I really haven't seen much value in being D, or D+. If you already prefer suites and sail with a DX booze package... meh. I'm waiting to see if the 340 point level really reduces the single supplement in practice. That would be real value. Big dollars going from 200% to 150%.
  17. It's a shame that the CMTs are pressured by their company (they aren't RCI employees) to up-sell the daylights out of everything. It's bad enough that I'm about done booking massages onboard. I preface it every time with the brief, "I know you're required to try to up-sell me. We can skip that." speech... and still get up-sold on occasion. Everything, from the moment you fill out that "medical" form until you exit the spa is designed to vacuum the most money out of you possible. Sorta the opposite of a relaxing spa visit. Hot rocks, caning with bamboo, potions and lotions, "you need XYZ to 'detox'". Blah.
  18. This. App notifications are a thing. No reason the app has to be the one in use on the screen.
  19. My take on it: book, pay deposit, and (if you're good about setting the $ aside) -- hold off on final payment until near the deadline. Two reasons: 1. If you have to cancel, you aren't sitting around waiting for that $ to get credited back to your original method of payment. This isn't the big deal it was during the early COVID days (i.e., doesn't take months any longer)... but if you have a life event where you need that money, you aren't waiting for it. And, 2. If you have a credit card that occasionally has really good travel spending rebates (looking at you, AMEX Plat)... if you're already fully paid off you can't take advantage of it if an offer pops up between booking and final payment due date. I snagged a $250 credit a couple of months after putting a deposit down on a Princess cruise. Offer came after I booked.
  20. I'd start here: https://www.royalcaribbean.com/resources/guest-special-needs
  21. Curious to find out if others have booked anything through this program. I'll be on Navigator late in December, and it's going to be 3 ports new to me. I called (web form barfed twice) to see what they can offer up based on my preferences. Waiting to hear back from Royal. https://www.royalcaribbean.com/privatejourneys/
  22. The snorkel-only trips are usually on top of a reef no more than 10-15 feet below you. You can bob around on the surface and still get a decent view of fish and coral. If you do want to dive down a bit, it's a really good idea to try it in a pool first. Learn how to clear your snorkel when surfacing (it's just giving it a good blow with your head tilted back a little). If you inflate your BC vest (buoyancy compensator) you won't be able to get underwater. I'd start with it fully inflated when you step off of the dive boat. If you're comfortable after that, you can let air out of it to let you dive below. Rackham's advise above about staying calm and relaxed with your breathing is spot-on. If you feel anxious, surface, re-inflate your BC and chill out on top for a while.
  23. I wouldn't book any cruise based on expectations of an Aquatheater show. Too many variables. Got off Oasis last Sunday and the show happened on my cruise (and was great) but things like wind and sea state can lead to it be cancelled for cast safety. It was cancelled on the previous two cruises (not my cruises -- just what I was told by a Genie).
  24. No bartender or FoH management on a ship is going to mess around diluting alcohol. You'll get a 2oz jigger-measured pour, which may seem light compared to non-ship bars that have a heavier hand. Tip: use the same bar and bartenders and tip. They may accidentally begin to overfill that jigger.
  25. Clear was a sanity saver in MIA. Regular security line: disaster. PreCheck: better but still epic for PreCheck. Clear: absolutely no one using it, and 4 employees handling the kiosks. BOOM. Straight through. For those of you with an AMEX card, check your benefits. Clear enrollment will be refunded. That's for Plat, not sure about other cards.
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