Steer The “African Queen” While On Your Drive Through the Florida Keys

As we travel, we check off places that are on our Bucket List. Being film buffs, many of the things on our list are related to movies we have seen over the years.

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05-08-25-25-86-IMG_1112We recently checked off another “to do” from our list by skippering the authentic “African Queen,” the boat made famous by Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn in the 1951 Academy Award Winning film of the same name.

07-1-2-011-011-164-IMG_8358The “Queen” is presently docked at a destination also made famous by Bogart in the Florida Keys, Key Largo

Finding the Queen

08-2-1-028-028-181-IMG_8375We happened upon the African Queen quite by accident. We were in the Keys doing research for articles about luxury resorts and “old Florida” accommodations. A list of those articles follows this story.

The Florida Keys are fun strips of coral sand islands connected by 42 bridges and the Overseas Highway, US 1. They stretch for about 120 miles south into the Atlantic Ocean below Miami, Florida.

The Keys are ripe with salty myths and legends, and stories of true adventures like the finding of millions of dollars in sunken treasure on the Atocha. There are also unusual stories like those about Ernest Hemingway’s house of many cats in Key West.

All the excitement in the Keys make them an apropos home for the iconic African Queen.

The Queen’s history

03-07-19-19-80-IMG_1105The Queen had an interesting past long before she came to the attention of John Houston who immediately wanted her for the movie he was directing in the Belgium Congo. She was perfect for the role of the African Queen – just beat up enough to look the part, and just seaworthy enough – to run long enough – to finish the movie.

The vessel was built in 1912 in Lytham, England, where she was named the Livingstone. Her first job was to carry cargo, hunters, and missionaries on Lake Albert and the Victoria Nile in east Africa.

Houston found her in 1951. She was sufficiently worn by then, and perfect for the material role of the African Queen in his epic adventure.

In 1968 the boat was moved from Africa to the United States by a San Francisco restaurateur. He planned to charter the famous boat to tourists.

The Queen changed hands again in 1970 when she was purchased for the price of her boatyard bill, and moved to Oregon where she was successfully chartered a few months out of the year. Finally, on to Florida for an attempt at year-round chartering – that failed.

In 1982 she was born again as a tourist attraction at the Holiday Inn in Key Largo. About that time, she also made her re-entry onto the global stage and toured around the world in ports such as Sydney, New York, and London.

The news of her re-emerging travel and popularity caught the eye of Kate Hepburn who was said to be “delighted” that the old Queen had been saved, yet again.

A new life

06-11-007-007-160-IMG_8354Finally, in 2012, on her centennial, the most recent revival of the African Queen was completed by a new operator Lance Holmquist. She needed a new boiler, her steel hull required fortification, and her engine needed rebuilding. The work was a labor of love for Lance, and the Queen now delights vintage boat and film buffs once again.

Our wish came true

04-09-24-24-85-IMG_1111We took the helm like Bogart and Hepburn and chugged the little 30-foot boat through the canals of Key Largo and out into the open ocean. This was high-exhilaration for two old movie buffs.

10-3-3-057-057-210-IMG_8404As we approached the Queen’s home-dock near the Holiday Inn, Lance gave us the final thrill when he let loose the Queen’s shrill steam whistle. There is no mistaking that sound heard so many times in many places over the last century.

12-20-095-095-248-IMG_8442Check off one more from the Bucket List!

If you go

For more information about tickets for the daily cruises on the African Queen located at Mile Marker 100 in Key Largo, look at the website here. www.africanqueenflkeys.com

Note: The African Queen is a true relic, and she wouldn’t be “authentic” if she was spit-polished. So, don’t wear your Sunday best if you plan to board her.

You will also benefit by checking out the general visitor information about visiting the Florida Keys at www.fla-keys.com

The Keys are full of luxurious and unique places to stay. Here are three stories to read about some we have visited.

Kona Kai Resort

Little Palm Island Resort

Cheeca Lodge and Spa

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

Vintage black and white photo courtesy of United Artists

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

The Dining Delights at a Princess Chef’s Table

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09-13-053-26-IMG_3489Dining at a Chef’s Table should always be a titillating treat of tantalizing tastes. Traditionally, a Chef’s Table is located in the kitchen – where the guests can watch, and “ooh” and “ahh” as the Chef and his/her team work their culinary magic. That was not how it was at the Table of Chef Ottavio Bellesi aboard the Golden Princess – and here’s why.

From the beginning

49-02-IMG_0156Soon after boarding the Golden Princess in San Francisco, we had a meeting with the ship’s Maître d’ Hotel, Neville Saldanha, to discuss our dining preferences.

After learning that we were writing about the cruise, and knowing that food is always a popular subject with prospective passengers, Mr. Saldanha suggested that we make reservations for one of the two Chef’s Table events planned for the sailing. We quickly agreed, and a few days later our invitation was in our stateroom mailbox.

A dining we did go

On our assigned night, we gathered just outside the galley entrance with the four other lucky couples that would share our table. There we donned freshly laundered white lab coats and were led into the sparkling kitchen.

03-03-043-03-IMG_3455Our first stop was the sink, where each guest was required to wash his/her hands before proceeding into the galley’s inner sanctum.

05-07-047-16-IMG_3472After the salubrious ceremony, the Maître d’, Neville, introduced us to our grand host, Ottavio Bellesi, the Executive Chef of the Golden Princess. Together, they described how the evening would unfold.

18-26-013-032-IMG_4016First, a toast of Nicolas Feuillatte Brut to celebrate the event.

20-28-015-046-IMG_4030Then appetizers like Lobster Margarita with Avocado and Mango, and Fontina Cheese and Black Truffle Mini Quiche.

22-30-017-050-IMG_4034While noshing on our hors d’oeuvres, we will watch the artistic galley staff create ice carvings, and ingenious fruit and vegetable table settings.

12-19-006-008-IMG_3989Followed by a brief tour of the kitchen to look over the shoulders of the culinary crew preparing and plating the meals for the sitting dinner passengers.

24-35-024-076-IMG_4066All the above will culminate in a procession into the main dining room where our specially prepared, multi-course dinner will be served.

Chef led tour

13-20-007-011-IMG_3992Right on schedule, Chef Bellesi began to lead our walking tour of his vast stainless domain.

06-08-048-20-IMG_3479During our sparkling wine toasts, we realized THIS Chef’s Table was not to be like any other we had previously experienced. Not only would it be conducted by a great Italian Chef – but one who was also an extraordinary entertainer with a gift of contagious laughter.

Chef Bellesi’s cheerful laughter was so genuine, and totally disarming – that there was no escaping his charm. Within minutes, he had all of us wrapped around his little finger, and totally absorbed in his every word.

14-21-008-013-IMG_3994To make the situation even more hilarious, Neville, the Maître d’, was the perfect comic foil for Ottavio’s Italian-accented antics. He was Martin to the Chef’s Lewis, Abbott to his Costello, and Hardy to his Laurel. The ad hoc comedy team of Bellesi and Saldanha had us in stitches throughout the evening.

We learned and we laughed

32-53-066-36-P1000796Our two hosts exhibited a high-knowledge of food and wine. The chef added to the group’s understanding of the evolution of Italian cuisine from the basics of simple fresh ingredients to contemporary flavoring techniques.

Italian chefs often work with fewer ingredients and less elaborate preparations than others, making the quality of the ingredients of paramount importance. Chef Bellesi explained how the composition of Italian-style grand cuisine becomes richly enhanced when blended with traditional Italian techniques of “cucina casalinga,” or home cooking.

On to the table

25-36-026-084-IMG_4074A notable aspect of Italian dining is that the first course is frequently a filling dish like risotto or pasta. So it was at our table as we were presented succulent marinated poached Halibut atop a generous portion of Porcini Mushroom Risotto.

26-40-029-099-IMG_4091Soon after an Amalfi Lemon Sorbet…

28-45-031-104-IMG_4096came the Lobster Thermidor…

30-49-035-114-IMG_4106and a Filet Mignon Rossini, accompanied by a delectable truffled herbed Rack of Lamb, Mustard Hollandaise, Rosemary Jus and Lemon Butter Fondue, Roasted Parisienne Potatoes, and Sautéed fresh market Vegetables.

35-56-037-123-IMG_4115The above preceded Potted Stilton with Port Wine reduction and Walnut Bread, and all was finished-off with a delicate Marble Chocolate Semifreddo with a Raspberry soft center, topped off with a meaningful coffee and Chef Ottavio’s…

38-60-041-138-IMG_4131home made Biscotti & Amaretti. What an incredible feast!

Not an easy task

29-47-033-110-IMG_4102A Chef’s Table is an elaborate undertaking that puts a strain on a kitchen’s resources and staff. In restaurants, the event often takes place after the nightly kitchen rush.

10-16-056-42-IMG_3529In that regard, we found our lavish affair to be a testament to Chef Ottavio’s ability to create, organize, and coordinate the serving of our event – while his galley team was seamlessly providing superb service to the main body of 1,000+ passengers in the busy dining room around us. Amazing!

36-57-039-128-IMG_4120Abetted by many of his key staff, Chef Bellesi personally crafted our special Chef’s Table menu, and remained involved in the preparation and presentation of the feast from appetizer to desert.

34-55-036-118-IMG_4110Along with the ship’s Maître d’, the head Sommelier was there to describe the exactly paired wines that were selected for each of our courses.

31-52-067-34-P1000793At the end of our fabulous gourmet adventure, each participating couple received a hard-cover copy of, “Courses – A Culinary Journey,” autographed by Neville and Ottavio, along with a group picture – and the ladies departed with a rose. This was an affair to remember.

46-71-059-Chef WB-JBConsidering the investment in food, wine, supplies, and key staff time, we cannot fathom how Princess could make a profit on what each of the ten guests paid for the evening’s Epicurean enjoyment.

We rarely mention prices in our articles because prices change, but we found it amazing that our 3-hour gourmet spectacle cost us less than US $100 per person. Certainly, all the participants will talk about their bon vivant adventure with friends and family for years – and that may just be what Princess has in mind.

If you ever have an opportunity to participate in a Chef’s Table on a Princess Cruise ship – by all means, take it!  Seating is limited so apply early to avoid disappointment.

40-64-080-46-P1000926

39-65-079-38-P1000917And if the uber-funny pair of Bellesi and Saldanha should happen to be on your ship, absolutely do not miss their afternoon cooking demonstrations.

42-62-082-53-P1000933There is so much more to them than cooking.

For more information about Princess Cruises click here.

Happy travels and bon appetit!

Suggested reading regarding Princess Cruises by Wayne and Judy:

The Sweetest Suites for Two Aboard the Golden Princess

Luxury Cruising from San Francisco to Hawaii on Princess Cruise Lines

Three Great Reasons to Book a Cruise Out of San Francisco 

Saved by a Princess on the Tasman Sea

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

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

Fly to Kona and Drive to the Luxurious Sheraton Kona Resort to Start Your Underwater Adventure

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Manta rays are amazing and curious creatures. People are fascinated by their opposing nature of ominous looks, and sweet dispositions.

Sheraton KonaThe Sheraton Kona Resort on the Big Island of Hawaii pays homage to these gentle giants by providing a viewing area for visitors at the resort’s Rays on the Bay restaurant.

05-22-110-IMG_9641From the restaurant’s lookout, the magnificent and mysterious creatures can be seen gliding in the night ocean far below.

03-20-108-IMG_9617Guests can also attend a complimentary lecture about the manta rays arranged through the resort’s front desk.

11-24-083-IMG_3752The resort can also organize a water adventure to view the manta rays up close from a local tour boat named the Hula Kai – an opportunity we eagerly welcomed.

Swimming with the manta rays

Like whales, manta rays eat plankton. The plankton are attracted to light and that is the secret to successful manta viewing from the Hula Kai. Our excursion went like this:

04-21-109-IMG_9621We boarded the nearby Hula Kai at sunset and moved just off shore of the Sheraton Kona.  We donned wetsuits, googles, and a snorkel provided by the concessionaire. We were given a quick course on manta watching, which is done from a horizontal position floating on one’s stomach and holding fast to a length of 3” diameter buoyant pipe – set out from the stern of the boat much like a floating rectangle.

08-15-IMG_3722Soon darkness was upon us, and the Hula Kai engaged underwater illumination used to attract plankton to the site. We entered the water by ladder and positioned ourselves around the floating pipe. We looked down into the clear bay water and breathed through our snorkels.

Our bodies were made buoyant by the wetsuits, so maintaining our balance was not difficult. It did not take long before the first of six manta rays appeared from out of the shadows – and the fun began.

01-12-IMG_6907Manta rays are big, but harmless to humans. They, like the whale, are filter feeders. Mantas are fish related to the shark, but have no bones, teeth, barbs, or stingers. However, they do have size – up to 2,000 pounds – which they use in a very good-natured way.

Manta rays are often given names by the crew of the Hula Kai. Each ray has distinctive “spots” that make identity possible.  The same rays tend to return for evening dining and playing with the snorkelers and divers.

For a period of about one-hour we watched these graceful giants do underwater summersaults just below us – performing like rolling acrobats with gray tops and white underbellies.

Although touching the mantas is not allowed, the creatures have no such restrictions. Frequently, one or more of the rays did a graceful roll just under a snorkeler and purposely pressed its sleek white underbelly along the length of the viewer’s body – an exciting encounter that will be remembered by anyone that experiences it.  The top of a ray feels like sandpaper, and the underside is as smooth as velvet.

Tempus fugit, so do it while you can

Sharkgroup1200For nature and adventure lovers, snorkeling with the manta rays in the back of the Hula Kai in Kailua, Kona is right up there with diving with the reef sharks in the Bahamas, and snorkeling or diving with the sting rays at Stingray City in the Caymans.

Click *here* to read our story and see pictures of the beautiful Sheraton Kona Resort on the Big Island, and *here* to check out the resort’s website. To read about all the services offered by the company that operates the Hula Kai Manta Snorkel, click *here.*

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff, shark picture by Wayne Bayliff, Manta Ray pictures courtesy of Sheraton Kona.

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

We flew to Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines

A Panama Canal Cruise is a Great Alternative to a Christmas Driving Holiday

We live in California and two of our best friends reside in Florida. We wanted to visit them during the holidays, but didn’t want to endure the stress and aggravation of crowded airports and airplanes, and it’s just too far to drive – so an opportunity to sail from nearby San Francisco to Ft. Lauderdale through the Panama Canal was especially appealing.

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03-27-Amsterdam 1Our cruise was an anomaly for a Holland America Panama Canal Cruise because the usual port of embarkation for the Canal trip is San Diego. However, it was our good fortune that the Amsterdam had been in dry-dock in San Francisco for a two-week spruce-up before our cruise.

02-b departing SFThat meant a few hundred lucky passengers got to see the dramatic glow of the San Francisco skyline during departure – we picked up the majority of the passengers for the Panama Canal Cruise two-days later in San Diego.

Size matters

10-24-02-02-P1000566Our last few cruises were on much larger ships, those with capacities over 2,500, so a ship that holds 1,380 passengers and a crew of 607 felt compact, and just a little cozier because of it.

11-LibraryThe first thing we noticed upon boarding the Amsterdam is that her color schemes are nicely subdued and her décor is a bit more refined than found on some of the newer ships. Of course, being a member of the Holland America fleet, she is elegant and uber-clean.

32-IMG_2770At the heart of the Amsterdam is the Planeto Astrolabium, a magnificent three-story structure that tracks constellations, and the planets.

09-35-22-P1000559The Planeto Astrolabium is also the ship’s hub for customer service activities, and the area to find a bevy of nearby exclusive shops.

Cruising in comfort

14-Suite LivingThe Amsterdam’s suites are sophisticated and chic.

13-Suite bedroomThey are comfortable, classically elegant,

12-Suite Dining Roomand successfully avoid being trendy and thematic.

16-Suite VerandahThey also reflect the natural allure of privacy at sea in graceful surroundings.

Repeat cruisers

We learned very quickly that many of our fellow passengers were not disembarking along with us in Florida. Rather, they were continuing on for the 114-day round-the-world cruise. The Grand World Voyage itinerary is sailed by the Amsterdam, and a stalwart group of Holland America loyalists make the annual voyage. We did a story about one charming lady who is among those habitual world cruisers, and you can read about her *here.*

For those interested, the 2015 Grand World Voyage begins on January 5th and departs from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Cruise included holidays

Our trip encompassed both Christmas and New Year’s Day.

By Christmas Day passengers and crew alike were in a festive mood – a wonderful holiday spirit that was most evident at the crew’s inspirational holiday program entitled “The Sounds of Christmas Carols.” Hundreds of passengers genially joined in the crew’s evening group-sing.

12-27-03-P1000605The merriment continued right through an impressive shipboard New Year’s Eve celebration at sea.

The seasonal gatherings aboard the Amsterdam helped form a genuine bond between passengers and crew – all from different countries, cultures, religions, and life experiences – quite marvelous to be part of it.

An amazing crew

07-05-17-P1000640The staff on Holland America ships hail mostly from Indonesia and the Philippines, but on our cruise there were also crew members from 32 other nations. All were accommodating and friendly – a sure sign they were happy at their work, and with their employer, Holland America.

Meet the Captain

01-29-06-06-IMG_3127Like all the other ship’s Masters we have interviewed, Captain Fred Everson set his sights on a life at sea from a very early age – he had a great mentor – his father was a captain on cargo ships. He subsequently attended and graduated from Holland’s maritime academy in Rotterdam, and joined HAL in 1980.

Everson told us, “My main concern as the Captain of the Amsterdam is the safety and pleasure of my passengers.” The captain informed us that Holland America has installed and is now testing the first thermal imaging system designed to immediately detect a person who may accidentally fall overboard.

07-11-157-IMG_3332When asked what he likes best about his job, Captain Everson answered, “It offers me an opportunity to see the world.” His professed favorite place is Antarctica, “I love the remote grandeur, topography, and animal life.”

With a work schedule of 3 months on and 3 months off, Captain Everson has ample time to indulge in his favorite pastime – motorcycle trips from his home base in Del Ray Beach, Florida. He has logged over 150,000 miles on motorcycle tours of North America.

When Captain Everson retires he plans to continue touring, “There’s so much I haven’t seen.” A few years back the captain purchased an RV to assist him in his roaming. Happy motoring Captain!

Eating aboard the Amsterdam

We found the quality and presentation of food aboard the Amsterdam to be up to the usually delicious Holland America standards.

La Fontaine Restaurant

10-17-72-IMG_2986The main dining room is the two-story La Fontaine Restaurant and is well designed with numerous windows for abundant natural light during day-time meals.

11-34-19-P1000556Our table was next to one of the windows so we enjoyed constant vistas of the sky and sea while dining.

Lido Restaurant

02-02-135-IMG_2734Many of our breakfasts were taken at the informal buffet-style Lido Restaurant,

03-14-43-IMG_2949where we savored made-to-order omelets and a wide variety of meats, cheeses, cereals and fresh fruit and juices.

Specialty Restaurants

The Canaletto has introduced a new menu featuring Italian family style dining with some toothsome recipes.

21-02-08-P1000631We relished our starter of Vermouth Braised Clams with spicy chorizo, garlic and basil.

22-03-10-P1000633The Rigatoni with Italian sausage, Kalamata olives, and a spicy and delicious tomato sauce was a perfect pasta choice.

23-04-11-P1000634The large plate entrée was a tasty Grilled Lemon-Thyme White Sea Bass with roasted fingerling potatoes, shaved fennel, and orange-olive salad.

Everything was delicious, however we found it unusual that no breads or rolls were served at the Canaletto, an Italian restaurant. Perhaps that has changed – we hope.

The best steaks and seafood

03-P1000539The Pinnacle Grill is romantic and intimate and the favorite rendezvous of beef and seafood lovers. We were happy to learn that Holland American serves only seafood caught in a sustainable manner.

16-31-07-P1000544A Caesar Salad prepared at the table was an excellent opener,

17-30-06-P1000542followed by Dungeness Crab Cakes with spiraled shaved cucumber and sweet chili-mustard sauce. Outstanding!

19-32-10-P1000547The filet mignon was a perfect size for a four-course dinner and was prepared with sun-dried tomatoes, and the master chef’s green peppercorn béarnaise sauce and maître d’ garlic butter.

20-33-15-P1000552We finished with Baked Alaska a la Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream flamed with Bing cherries jubilee. OMG!

Terrace Grill

hot dogsAfter shamelessly feasting for days on end, it was nice to occasionally take a breather and enjoy a simple old-fashioned hamburger, hot dog, or slice of pizza. The Terrace Grill poolside was a welcome, albeit brief departure from lavish dining. May we recommend an ice-cold beer for accompaniment?

About the cruise itinerary

18-25-19-19-P1000586Our Panama Canal voyage on the Amsterdam started on December 18, and took 17 days, and covered 5,914 miles. The same trip was an arduous 13,715 miles before the advent of the 50-mile long Panama Canal.

17-28-Ships locationThe Amsterdam stopped at six countries between San Diego and Ft. Lauderdale. Ports included Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; Corinto, Nicaragua; Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica; Cartagena, Columbia; and Georgetown, Cayman Islands.

The ports we favored were Cartagena, and Georgetown, but of course, the highlight of the cruise was passing through the historic Panama Canal.

24-13-18-IMG_2919In a future article we will write about all the ports of call on the Holland America Panama Canal Cruise and include a summary of the exciting history of the Panama Canal.

An all-day event

It takes about eight-hours to transit the canal’s three locks and navigate the lake that lies between the locks and seas.

04-03-059-IMG_3234The passengers were up at the crack of dawn to watch the Amsterdam approach the first lock,

05-04-085-IMG_3260and be tethered to the electric locomotives that guided her seemingly effortlessly through the narrow Miraflores Locks.

13-25-60-60-IMG_3142Once the Amsterdam was released from the second locks into Gatun Lake, passengers had several hours to observe the dark and mysterious waters and dense sweltering tropical jungle from on-high aboard the ship.

334-IMG_3513Everyone watched as the liner glided along patches of small uninhabited tangled green islands – all safely visible from the glass enclosed and air-conditioned lounges and public spaces on the Amsterdam.

14-19-304-IMG_3479Our minds wandered and considered the lives of the thousands of diggers who suffered (an estimated 25,000 died) to conquer this hostile wilderness for the betterment of mankind. How fortunate we are to be able to witness the engineering marvel they created.

Check out the related video below for a brief depiction of the passage.

by HollandAmericaFan

Don’t miss it

12-18-244-IMG_3419A trip through the Panama Canal is one of the most interesting cruises on this planet. We recommend it highly.

10-14-199-IMG_3374For more information about Holland America cruises, itineraries, and specials, look at their website at www.hollandamerica.com

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

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

A Brief Roadtrip: Then a 28-Day Cruise in a Princess Suite

Our goal in taking a month-long cruise around Hawaii and Tahiti on the Golden Princess was to experience – and then write about – how a major cruise line like Princess caters to its suite passengers. It was one of our most enjoyable projects.

© Travel Photo Interact – Place your cursor over any photo to enhance it – click to enlarge.

19-28-29-04-P1000964We started our adventure by renting a car in San Francisco and dropping it off in Lomita, just south of Los Angeles. We caught a taxi to San Pedro; it was there we boarded the Golden Princess.

Suites for two

Over the past ten years, we have photographed and written about suites in B&Bs, hotels, resorts, and on cruise ships. It is our writing practice to always consider our subjects from a “couples” perspective. In that light, we have found many suites to be overly expensive or disproportionately large for two people. However, on the Golden Princess, we found a group of full-size suites that were not only luxurious, but the perfect size for two people on a cruise of any duration.

16-24-30-042-IMG_359631-25-42-29-IMG_4498After boarding the Golden Princess, an elevator whisked us up eight levels to the Sun Deck where we were escorted along an elegant wood-toned hallway to the Palermo Suite – our home for the next 28 days.

A suite life

38-2-31-IMG_4500The Palermo Suite, was one of ten new suites added to the Sun Deck of the Princess during a 2009 revitalization.

27-03-13-22-15-P1010074There are two entry doors to the Palermo Suite, with a small barrier foyer between. The second door acts as a noise and privacy baffle. Upon entering the living room we were immediately impressed by the polished marble floors and shinning granite counter surfaces.

The walls and ceilings in the Palermo are a mixture of delicately textured golden earth-tone material and light natural woods. Light fixtures and other suite features are of brushed stainless, and the suites well-chosen art is framed in a soft muted gold – perfect for the elegant and airy setting.

33-10-03-IMG_4545The living area can be separated from the sleeping room by floor to ceiling privacy drapes, and there are large flat panel TVs in both chambers. The living area TV also has a DVD player. Guests can select from a library of recently released or vintage movies, and they are delivered right to your door.

35-11-02-7-IMG_4582The bedroom has an ever-so-comfortable Queen sized bed, which can be made into two twins, and the wooden ceiling vault houses a handsome alabaster dome that illuminates the room in a warm and subtle glow.

26-07-04-298-20140423_101158Bathrooms on cruise ships are not noted for their spaciousness. However, this style of suite on the Golden Princess offers a sink and toilet room, and another room for a large marble shower and a separate full size soaking tub.

A spacious walk-in closet and an electronic safe are also nice amenities for a long cruise.

28-08-14-23-22-P1010081Most couples are not working on computers while on a cruise, but we particularly liked having two granite-topped work spaces for the purpose.

24-18-40-15-IMG_4441Handily, one space was also a well-lighted vanity with multiple mirrors – such a help when preparing for an evening of exquisite dining and entertainment aboard the Golden Princess.

37-4-41-IMG_441430-09-15-27-27-IMG_4496Two sets of floor to ceiling sliding doors provide extraordinary changing views of the islands, and two finished teak deck lounges make for excellent conversation, private reading, and contemplation at sea. 

Other in-room distinctions

The first mini-bar setup is complimentary, and the premium upgrades include fresh flowers, delicious canapés, and special bath amenities. Also, one small, big thing – electrical outlets. Plugs for your electric devices are as rare as Indian Head Pennies aboard cruise ships. Being able to plug in only two devices in a stateroom is normal. In the Palermo suite we had eight outlets. Electric Valhalla!

25-19-41-18-IMG_4444The Palermo Suite, along with its nine siblings (Corsica, Florence, Grenada, Malta, Pisa, Provence, Sardinia, Seville, and Tuscany) are not the largest suites on the Golden Princess, but we found them to be a perfect accommodation of size, layout, and comfortable décor for a vacationing party of two.

All in all, the full-size Palermo Suite has about 600 square feet of living space, including the balcony. As a comparison, a mini-suite aboard the Golden has approximately 323 sq. ft., and a balcony stateroom about 250.

Suite privileges

Those that occupy the luxurious full-size suites on Princess ships enjoy amenities and privileges not afforded other passengers. After completely reading this article, you may decide that the roominess of a suite along with the following additional niceties, are sufficient reasons to consider reserving the best accommodations your budget will allow.

Breakfast at Sabatini’s

12-21-36-31-P1000726One of our favorite Princess full-suite perks is the exclusive and private dining breakfast at the Sabatini’s restaurant.

Every morning, the Sabatini’s is transformed from an elegant Italian dinner eatery into an exclusive breakfast retreat for the passengers that occupy the 30+ full-suites aboard the Golden Princess.

34-1-28-P1010115However, not all suite guests take advantage of the Sabatini’s privilege; some prefer the ultimate personal option of suite room service, while still others choose one of the conventional dining forums like the Horizon Court Buffet above.

03-15-26-20-P1000685The limited number of tables in the Sabatini’s provides an intimate setting for a quiet breakfast.

36-31-11-29-P1010178An exemplary staff of four waiters is orchestrated by a congenial Head Waiter who greets and seats each arriving guest. Food is prepared by three cooks supervised by a Chef de Cuisine.

06-30-35-28-P1000723The Sabatini’s Breakfast Menu includes everything imaginable for the morning meal, carefully prepared and skillfully presented.

07-29-10-22-P1010170The artistic presentation may change with the muse of the chef – but is always to the highest culinary standards.

05-33-33-25-P1000720We generally started out with a wake-me-up Mimosa and freshly squeezed orange juice.

04-32-34-20-P1000715That was usually followed by a delicious decaf Cappuccino and a warm-to-the-touch baked mini-pastry and a chilled stemmed glass of hand selected berries.

02-13-27-16-IMG_325810-5-06-P1000880For our main course we picked from a unique assortment of waffles and French toasts, and the usual varieties of fresh eggs, such as Benedict, omelets, scrambles, etc.

11-26-09-44-P1000806Even simple cereals are brilliantly presented in Sabatini’s. 

Sabatini’s by night 

Found only on Princess ships, the Sabatini’s restaurant is a specialty Italian restaurant that is open every night to all passengers. There is an additional charge for dinner dining in the stylish and intimate Sabatini’s, but well worth it to celebrate a special occasion – or simply to enjoy truly outstanding Italian cuisine.

More Suite Privileges

VIP boarding

In many ways, Preferred Boarding can be equated to waiting for an airline flight in a private lounge instead of the communal terminal. Preferred boarding means you are the first passengers to board the ship at embarkation, therefore among the first guests to be settled into their stateroom and afforded early access to the delicious buffet that awaits oncoming passengers. There’s always plenty of food for all, but it is a comfort to be at the front of a line, is it not? 

Priority ship to shore tender passes

18-17-32-107-IMG_3668Three of the nine ports we visited on our cruise required being tendered to shore. For those not familiar, this is a procedure where the cruise ship does not dock, but rather anchors offshore, or remains stationery away from the land.

21-06-08-14-IMG_3703Passengers wishing to go ashore are shuttled by means of motorized launches called “tenders.” The process is called “tendering.”

The act of tendering is very organized, and within a short time a few thousand people can be transferred to the shore with relative ease.

17-16-31-066-IMG_3623While general passengers are issued group numbers on a first come first served basis, and comfortably wait for their group to be called to “tender,” suite passengers are afforded a privilege that allows them to board the next available tender, therefore getting them to shore a bit earlier to enjoy the port.

Complimentary laundry and dry cleaning

Although laundry and dry cleaning services are available to all passengers for a reasonable charge, full-suite guests are provided the service as part of their complementary privileges. Should it be your preference, there are also self-service laundry facilities throughout the ship for all passengers.

Internet Café

1-1-14-IMG_4366For those suite customers who want to keep in contact with the world while at sea, there is a suite internet program for use either in the Internet Café or from any part of the ship when a personal wireless device is used.

Our recommendation

13-8-15-IMG_3918During our month long cruise on Princess we noted a consistent level of excellent service for every category of passenger aboard. But, the additional perks afforded suite occupants, made a most pleasant journey that much more elegant and enjoyable. Our recommendation – do it if you can. You only live once, and how suite it is!

Happy travels!

20-05-07-09-IMG_3696More stories about our 28-day cruise to the South Pacific on the Golden Princess will be forthcoming. For more information about the Golden Princess check out the PDF file *here* For additional information about booking a cruise on Princess look at their website at www.princess.com or call your favorite travel agent.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

32-3-35-IMG_4504Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

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