Three Great Reasons to Book a Cruise Out of the Port of San Francisco

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Reason #1 – San Francisco is an outstanding port city with great cruise itineraries

Imagine spending a vacation touring the fabulous attractions of San Francisco and then boarding a luxury cruise ship bound for another remarkable destination like Hawaii, Mexico, or Alaska.

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If you have sufficient time and money to both explore the many sites of San Francisco, and then sail off on a cruise that begins with drop-dead gorgeous views of the City by the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge – that’s a combo vacation that is hard to beat.

How the bayside of San Francisco became a tourist Mecca

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Soon after the infamous 1989 earthquake, the City made a very wise decision to remove the always hideous and then dangerous freeway that separated the iconic Ferry Building from the rest of San Francisco. Before that time, except for the stretch between Fisherman’s Wharf west to the old Presidio military installation, the bay front was not a place favored by tourists.

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The freeway teardown was the continuation of the amazing renaissance of the San Francisco waterfront that began in 1978 when the ever-popular Fisherman’s Wharf was joined by a new and exciting Pier 39 to its east. West of the piers, in 1994, tourism benefited from the conversion of the beautiful Presidio into public use land.

It just kept getting better

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Next, in 2003 the historic Ferry Building was brought back to its original glory and reintroduced as the centerpiece of San Francisco’s waterfront. Taken together, the city did a brilliant job of revitalizing the San Francisco Bay scene. This area, once run-down, is now safe and alive with entertainment, walkers, joggers – and tourists from all over the world.

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Embarcadero Avenue, which runs all along the new waterfront offers visitors and residents outstanding views of the Oakland Bay Bridge*, Treasure IslandAngel Island, and Alcatraz. Go further west along the water and enjoy Ghirardelli Square and the Presidio National Park.

The new Bay Lights

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*Very recently, the world’s largest L.E.D. light sculpture began illuminating the 1.8-mile western span of the Bay Bridge with 25,000 surging lights. Created by artist Leo Villareal, the new nighttime light extravaganza has added to the joy of tourism and living in San Francisco – another blessing for a city with so many blessings.

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Beyond Ghirardelli Square, there is the Marina Green with its vistas of the famous St. Francis Yacht Club, and Golden Gate Bridge. Try your hand at kite flying in sight of the historic Palace of Fine Arts, and Coit Tower.

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The icing on the cake of the entire waterfront refreshment was the construction of the spectacular AT&T Ballpark – home of the SF Giants – right on the bay where boaters anxiously wait to fish out home run balls beyond the park’s right field wall in McCovey Cove.

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These are only a few of the bayside attractions – the vacation paradise of San Francisco offers so much more!

Reason #2 – The New Cruise Terminal in San Francisco

The America’s Cup Challenge finals will take place on San Francisco Bay in September 2013. The headquarters for the America’s Cup is in a new and modern two-story glass and metal structure on Pier 27.

The America’s Cup will remain a tenant until October 2013, after which the building and area will be restyled to become San Francisco’s new Cruise Terminal – and what a terminal it will be. There will be ample room to accommodate today’s jumbo ocean liners and to handle over 2,500 passengers arriving and departing the terminal.

Cruise lines and destinations

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At the time of this writing, familiar cruise lines such as Princess, Holland America, Cunard, Regent Seven Seas, Crystal, and Oceania all book cruises sailing from San Francisco.

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Typical destinations are Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, and the Panama Canal, but cruises also depart for Asia, the South Pacific – and the world.

Reason #3 – Super selection of pre and post cruise attractions and lodging

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Many vacationers prefer to arrive at the cruise port a day or more before their ship sails, and some like to exercise their land legs after a cruise and before flying home.

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There is no better city for either occasion than San Francisco – the assortment of tourist activities and excellent hotels and restaurants is legendary.

About our cruise

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We took a 15-day round-trip cruise from San Francisco to Hawaii on Princess Cruises. For our part, we did a pre-cruise stay at the fabulous Embarcadero Hyatt Regency Hotel* at the foot of Market Street and directly across from the Ferry Building. This Hyatt is an iconic venue that is very close to the cruise terminal. More about that wonderful Princess cruise and the SF Embarcadero Hyatt Regency experience in upcoming articles.

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*Starting in May and through the end of July 2013, Alcatraz Cruises, and the Hyatt Regency San Francisco have partnered to present the traveling show “Alcatraz: Life on the Rock.” This is a museum quality display about the history and stories of Alcatraz Island. The exhibit will appear in the Embarcadero Hyatt’s famous grand atrium lobby. If you are in San Francisco this summer, be sure to check out this terrific exhibit.

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Further, we also stayed at the newly converted officer’s quarters that is now the upscale Inn at the Presidio. This is a must-do if you enjoy luxury accommodations mixed with volumes of fascinating military history. You can read the story and see our pictures of the Inn at the Presidio *here*.

A little tight for now

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Until the spring of 2014, the location of the San Francisco cruise ship terminal is at Pier 35. It is small and in need of a facelift.

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Because Pier 35 is located on the busy Embarcadero, and lacks sufficient handling capability for large ships, it is more difficult to arrive and depart that terminal. However, the San Francisco cruise terminal administrators do an admirable job of working around a tight situation.

As mentioned above, the good news is that the new facility at Pier 27 will be available for passengers in the spring of 2014, and Pier 35 will become a backup terminal. We look forward to that improvement.

Summary

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A holiday in San Francisco followed by a round trip cruise out of the port of San Francisco to another great vacation destination like Hawaii or Alaska – is the stuff getaway dreams are made of, and we highly recommend it.

If you go

Click on the title for information about Princess Cruises , the San Francisco Embarcadero Hyatt Regency, and for the Inn at the Presidio.

See our Examiner photo gallery for this story *here*.

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

Uncompromising Service Aboard the Celebrity Silhouette

In our first article about Celebrity Cruise’s Silhouette, we intentionally did not write about the extraordinary level of crew service we experienced – because we wanted to give it special attention.

The service aboard the Silhouette was so exceptional that we decided to do a little research into the reasons.

Service quality starts at the top

Nicholas PagonisMaster of the Silhouette on our cruise and now Captain of the new Reflection

We have interviewed many ship’s captains. The master of the Silhouette was one of those that immediately makes you feel comfortable and leaves you with the certainty that you are in the hands of an extremely professional and capable veteran of the sea.

Like many of his peers, Captain Pagonis has a maritime family history, which led to his interest in applying for the Marine Academy in Athens in 1981. After graduating in 1984, he spent two years in the Greek Special Forces before returning to the sea. He received his Master’s License in 1998 and his first command in 2003. Married with three children, the captain resides in Belgium and Greece. He has intellectual interests in European and Roman history, and gardening – especially gardening!

What Cruise Ship Captains like most about their job

We always ask each Captain what is his favorite aspect of being a Master of a cruise ship. The answers are often similar. In addition to their primary duty to provide a safe and enjoyable vacation to all passengers, most Captains relish the hands on stimulation of maneuvering and docking these colossal leviathans. These are obviously congenial men of vision with a keen appreciation for the enormous.

Captain Pagonis is an individual you would enjoy having as a neighbor. His enthusiasm for his work and the sea is contagious. We could have listened to him talk all day, but he is indeed a busy man.

Our next interview was with another important ship’s officer.

Sue Richardson – Hotel Director of the Silhouette

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On Celebrity cruise ships, the Hotel Director is the ranking officer directly responsible for passenger comfort and satisfaction. On our Silhouette journey, the job was well fitted to Sue Richardson a veteran of 23-years of remarkable service to very discriminating guests.

During her career, Sue has been responsible for managing hotels, the hospitality function of several ships, and even a private island in the Bahamas.

Onboard the Silhouette, Sue has ten department heads reporting to her. Her departments make up the majority of the crew and all the folks responsible for making your sea voyage a vacation to remember.

Among her duties, Sue is responsible for the food, beverage, dining, entertainment, and cabin services – need we say more?

Cruise crew contracts

It is not obvious to passengers, but all members of a cruise ship’s company work under a time-definite contract of employment. For example, restaurant servers or room stewards might contract to work for six or eight months at sea with two months off.

Due to the nature of these maritime contracts, ship employees are coming and going all the time. We asked Sue how it was possible to keep the high team spirit that was so evident aboard the Silhouette.

She explained, “We start with an initial core of highly motivated people on every new ship. Our global recruiters are charged with finding individuals who understand and appreciate what excellent service is all about – and are eager to provide it. We then train them in the Celebrity culture.”

She went on, “We select people from forty different countries (always being careful to keep a balance on each ship), and we hand pick individuals who have a positive work attitude.”

Sue said that when nurtured, the ship’s company gels and things start to hum. Over time, each new employee enters the crew and senses the already existing can-do attitude of his or her peer group. They blend in quickly and service remains excellent.

“Celebrity does everything in its power to keep its employees happy, and they in turn keep our customers happy.”

It is obviously a winning formula, Sue!

Toward a happy crew

We wondered what was involved in keeping sea-going employees “happy.” We were invited to tour the crew’s quarters on the Silhouette, and came away most impressed.

We were not able to photograph individual living spaces, but can report that they are quite comfortable. The old days of crowded and impersonal sleeping rooms are gone. One or two people to a cabin is the norm, not the exception.

We were delighted to learn that the crew eats the same food as the passengers and in their own private dining room. They relax in comfortable staff lounges, and exercise in well-equipped gyms.

Being a member of the crew of a contemporary cruise ship is still hard work, but the living conditions are more than adequate – and very different from the stories of old.

More about crew changes

We have found many cruise vacationers to be under the impression that the Captain responsible for their specific cruise and safety is like Captain Merrill Stubing of the Love Boat. They expect to find him at the helm the next time they decide to sail on the same ship.

The reality is that Masters move from ship to ship on a routine basis. A captain’s contract is likely to include three or four months at sea, with equal time-off. By default, that requires an ongoing change of Captains.

Contract times vary, but this practice of rotation is also true of the other ship’s officers and crew. In order to make such an inherently mobile system work effectively, standards, practices, rules, and protocols, must be stringently adhered to throughout the industry.

Be sure to read our opening article about the Silhouette at http://is.gd/wgvfVi and see our photo gallery of the ship *here*.

If you go

It is easy to book a cruise on the Silhouette or any one of the other Celebrity Cruise ships. Call your travel agent, or book directly with Celebrity by calling toll-free in the US: 1-800-647-2251 or by visiting their website at http://www.celebritycruises.com/

The Silhouette will be sailing the Eastern Caribbean from December 2013 until April 2014 out of Ft. Lauderdale.

Happy travels.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff – Photo of Sue Richardson compliments of the Silhouette

You can see the world with Google Maps. www.maps.google.com

Vacationing Aboard Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam

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The ms Nieuw Amsterdam is first and foremost a high-caliber floating resort. It was designed to appeal to both first time cruisers and well-seasoned cruise veterans – it has everything the sea faring vacationer could desire. 

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We booked a 20-day passage on the Nieuw Amsterdam. The itinerary included ports in Italy, Monaco, Spain, and Portugal before heading across the Atlantic for the ship’s repositioning to Florida for its winter schedule in the Caribbean. It was a fabulous cruise.

This is the fourth Nieuw Amsterdam

In 1626, Dutch settlers named their new-world Atlantic colony “Nieuw Amsterdam.” It was not until the Dutch turned the island over to the British in 1664 that it became New York.

Holland America Line (HAL) was founded in 1872. In 1906, HAL began a tradition of honoring the old-Dutch colony and launched the first ms Nieuw Amsterdam cruise ship. That first namesake served until 1932.

In 1937, at a time of growing global unrest, the second Nieuw Amsterdam was christened. Like other great cruise-liners including the Queen Mary, the new Nieuw Amsterdam was conscripted to military service early in WWII. After the war – having served admirably in the conflict – she was again outfitted for cruise service and fulfilled that charter until 1974.

The third ms Nieuw Amsterdam was an instant hit when it began its Rotterdam to New York run in 1983. For 20-years, she was recognized as an elegant star by ocean-going celebrities in ports around the world. After a life of uncompromising reputation and service, she was sold in 2003 to make room for the current ms Nieuw Amsterdam.

Homage well paid

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The Nieuw Amsterdam is a fitting tribute to New York City. Its passageways, lounges, and public rooms are filled with nostalgic artistic renditions and iconic images depicting historical, social, and multi-cultural aspects of The Big Apple – there is even a seven-foot shiny aluminum apple that welcomes exiting elevator passengers on the Port Deck. 

Speaking of elevators

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Many contemporary cruise ships have glass elevators in the interior of the ship’s atrium. The Nieuw Amsterdam also has four outside glass-enclosed elevators – an interesting novelty – and lots of fun as they zip up eleven decks and provide ocean views on the way to the ship’s spacious Observation Deck. 

Always a lady

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Walking the decks of the Nieuw Amsterdam is a visual delight. She is outfitted in gleaming chrome and deep rich tones of red and tinges of other subtle hues. Call it understated elegance, or simply chic – in any case she is entirely comfortable. 

An unexpected test at sea

We boarded the ms Nieuw Amsterdam in Barcelona. During our first night at sea we encountered gale winds upwards of 80-miles per hour and 25 foot sea swells. Our balcony stateroom was on Deck 5, and we experienced drifting rushes of spray on our glass door throughout the evening.

The Nieuw Amsterdam listed occasionally and slightly from the starboard battering of the storm, but rode the waves like the 86,273-ton technical marvel she was designed to be. There was little discomfort among the 2,016 passengers and 868 crew members.

During that first night’s gale, and during much better days thereafter, our veranda stateroom was quiet and we could hear neither the wind outside nor our neighbors on either side of our stateroom. There was the occasional door slamming along the passageway, but even that sound was so muted as to not be disturbing. We heard no other noises, and nary a squeak. She is a well-put together craft. 

The staterooms

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The staterooms are of comparatively good size, and the addition of the Holland America tub shower in the bathroom will appeal to those who enjoy a good soak, and those who need a little extra room. If you cannot easily navigate over the side of a tub, you can request a cabin with the more traditional cruise-ship shower stall. 

Tempting your inner gourmet

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The Nieuw Amsterdam has a dazzling array of eating venues to satisfy every palate. As You Wish® dining on all HAL cruises means guests can chose from a wide selection of dining times and eating places.

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There’s the two-level Manhattan Dining Room that is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This is the main dining room and appeals to those wanting a more formal dining affair.

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On the other end of the spectrum is the Lido Restaurant on Deck 9, where comfort food and ethnic/regional dishes from around the world are all offered up buffet style. Self-seating ocean view tables are always available at the Lido.

Casual table service is available at the adjacent Canaletto restaurant, which specializes in delectable Italian cookery.

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There are two poolside walk-ups near the Lido Restaurant. The Terrace Grill serves hot dogs, burgers, paninis, pita sandwiches, and fries. The Slice is a poolside stand that serves up piping hot pizza by the slice or whole pie – with your choice of toppings.

Guests can also enjoy their food selections along-side one of the two swimming pools on the Lido Deck. There are open seating tables, and if so inclined, private cabanas. There are also bars at both locations.

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The larger Lido Pool has three hot tubs, and the entire area is covered by a retractable dome, which is open in fair weather and closed in foul. The aft Sea View Pool provides reflections of where you have been as well as the ship’s wake. Holland America thinks of everything. 

Specialty Restaurants

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We also had the pleasure of dining in the Nieuw Amsterdam’s specialty restaurants, the Pan-Asian Tamarind

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and the Pinnacle Grill, specializing in steaks and seafood. There is a nominal charge for each guest at both of these reservations-only restaurants. The food is excellent at all the ship’s eateries, but these two choices are truly special.

The Pinnacle Grill features Sterling Silver Beef® and fresh seafood served on Bvlgari® china, Riedel® stemware, and Frette® linens and is well worth the money for a quiet evening of fine dining, or for celebrating a special event. 

Of course, if none of the above is appealing, there is always the complimentary 24-hour room service menu.

In our next article, we will reveal many more of the gratifying features and amenities that Holland America has thoughtfully included on the Nieuw Amsterdam. We will also give our readers some insight into the personalities of the Captain, Crew, and Entertainers that were part of the launch of this beautiful high-seas resort.

For more information about the ms Nieuw Amsterdam or any of the other Holland America Line ships, check out their website at www.hollandamerica.com or contact your favorite travel agent.

We had a delightful flight from New York to Europe on Aer Lingus.
Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/