Tuesday, May 1, 2012

San Diego - "Pacific Coast Cruise" Trip Report - April 26 - May 1, 2012

I booked this trip in November 2011 on the suggestion of my friend Pia who was taking this Carnival cruise on the "Spirit" after it finished dry dock.  I learned that meant it was getting "rejuvenated". Since I have been to California numerous times before (nine), but never to San Diego, I decided to accept her offer. It was not a bad price - I got an inside cabin all to myself for $318 ($359 after tax -total). There was a further price drop later, so I ended up getting a $45 "on board credit" as well.  This cruise was first labelled as "Cruise to Nowhere"...San Diego to Vancouver with no stops.  I also liked that the cruise ended up at home.   I booked two days in San Diego pre-cruise.  In hindsight, I would have booked longer, at least four days, but I just did what my brain told me to do at that time.

I booked my hotel on Priceline and got it for $75 a night.  Holiday Inn Downtown.  I tried to email the hotel several times with questions but all went unanswered.  I even tried their contact form from their website which too, went unanswered.  I had questions about their shuttle, early check-in, making a request for King size bed, etc.  Over the months (once a month), I tried a total of five times, not one reply.  I know, I could have called but I prefer to do things by email if possible, it doesn't interrupt anyone and they can answer when they have time, or NOT.  :-)  It does bother me if a business offers an email address or web form as a way of contacting them, then do not answer...on my last email attempt in March, it bounced back saying the address wasn't valid...I found a different email on their website.  It too went unanswered.

Picture from Holiday Inn website

April 26th:

I had an early morning departure flight from Vancouver at 8:40 am.  I had to leave the house at 6am to arrive two hours early at the airport.  It was raining again, so I was hoping for a better view in San Diego.  The flight was uneventful and on time.  I enjoyed a Bloody Mary and watched "Bad Teacher" which was entertaining.  I giggled a lot. We landed at 11:30 am.  It was weird flying in as it felt so close to the city.

I called the hotel shuttle when I collected my luggage and they said it would be there in ten minutes and it was.  It was cloudy but warm and my jacket immediately came off and went into my luggage.  I checked in and they told me I should have called in with my bed type request which was a perfect opportunity to tell them about the email problem.  He asked me for the email addresses and said he would look into it and mentioned they are "privately owned".  I told him I'd get that to him later.  They were very nice.  The hotel was dumpy and in need of good paint job on the walls in common areas but the room was fine.  It was spacious, flat screen TV, large bathroom, and great WiFi.  The AC worked well too.

I had a 1:30 lunch reservation at Dobson's.  I had read that the "Mussel Bisque En Croute" was a must have and it did not disappoint!  They break it open and drizzle some Sherry into it.  It was rich and soooo good.  The mussels were perfectly plump and juicy. I got the small portion ($6) and was good with that as a full one probably would have been too rich.

I also ordered a Niscoise salad.  There were no green beans!  I guess I took it for granted that there would be haricot vert in the salad... The tuna was very fresh though and the dressing was tasty.  I liked the potato salad that was served with it too.  Interesting salad...

Bill with tip and two glasses of "house cab" was $43.  I'd go back for that bisque over and over...Next up, I had a coupon for San Diego Fly Rides.  I paid $35 for it.  I took the "Spanish Twist Tour of Balboa Park".  I walked over there in about 5 minutes.  Got a quick training lesson on the bike and then my guide Megan and myself were off.  I was the only one so had my own personal tour guide.  She was really nice and had a lot information about the park. Our tour was a ten mile loop and I enjoyed it a lot.  (I peddled about half the trip - off and on - and used the motor the rest).  It took two hours total from start to finish. It felt good to be out in the sunshine and there was some pretty sites.

The "Mother of Balboa Park" - Kate Sessions

Megan did tell me the proper name of this Cactus but said they call it "The Bob Marley"  :-)

The best/funniest thing Megan told me was that she didn't like Canadian BEER!  :-)  This cute girl from Montana was downright serious about it.  I told her to be careful if she comes back to Vancouver and says that...told her they might kick her out of Canada.  ;-)  After Megan and I departed ways, I walked over to Horton Plaza and did some shopping. I did the purchases I came for and then felt extremely tired!  I only had 8 hours sleep total for the last two nights and I was starting to feel it.  I walked back up First Ave.  

I stopped at a liquor store called "Mixons" on First avenue and bought some wine/water for the room.  I came back to relax and have a glass before going to meet Pia for dinner at 9:15 pm at  Searsucker. She didn't get to San Diego until 6:30 pm which is why our reservation was late.  Googlemaps told me it was a 1 mile walk.  Normally, I wouldn't flinch at it but it was dark and I was done dead tired, so I took a taxi.  It was $8 something, $10 after tip which I thought was a lot for less than one mile (.9 of a mile)!

The restaurant was packed and buzzing and the atmosphere was energized.  It was part bar with D.J. and had a nice open kitchen. (I did not see the "Top Chef" in the house).  I was surprised how big it was... I really liked the feel of it. Staff were all lovely and service was very nice.  They also dropped a complimentary appy of "cheddar puffers" which were good but not amazing.  The food was somewhat disappointing to me.  It was good but nothing was WOW.  Actually, Pia ordered a tuna poke and ceviche dish that was pretty good - the star of the evening.  I ordered two "smalls" which were the mushrooms burrata (a little chewy and had a weird flavor I could not discern, plus the "toast" was as hard as rock) and short ribs (good, but boring - very one note flavour).  I would never order either again.  The pictures aren't great because it was super dark in there.  We had to use the "flashlight app" on the iPhone to read the menu!  We saw a few tables doing that actually.  Here's what I ordered.

Mushrooms $13
Short ribs $12

It had started to rain when we got to dinner.  We shared a cab back, she moved onto Holiday Inn on the Bay.  I got to my room about 11:30 and went straight to bed....

April 27th:

Surprisingly, I didn't sleep very well...the bed was very comfy but I was wide awake at 5:00am.  I had to force myself back to sleep (which took a couple of hours), then managed to sleep until 9am.  Today an "old friend" was coming from Orange County to see me.  We haven't seen each other since 1989 and were reunited by Facebook...My stomach was in knots...he was expected to arrive around 1 pm.

I didn't get moving and he emailed saying he would be early and would be there shortly after 11.  I had to rush to get everything done so I would be ready in time.  In fact, I just finished as he knocked at the door.  We had some champagne, briefly caught up and headed out to Coronado for the day.  We walked over to the ferry landing.  It was a beautiful sunny day and not too hot.  Pretty much perfect weather.

USS Midway Museum

Tickets for two on the ferry were $17 return.  Neither of us had eaten so we decided to stop for lunch first at Candelas on the Bay.  We sat on the outside patio and it was a lovely setting.

We shared the Chips and Guac and they were really good.  

This was "Pollo al Chipotle" which was chicken stuffed with spinach and mozza.  $19

I had fish tacos.  Bill after tip with a couple glasses of Sparkling wine was $74.  After lunch we took the ferry.  We walked from one end to the other making our way to the Hotel Del Coronado.  We took a walk along the beach to get there.  It was a gorgeous beach.

The hotel is huge!  This was looking at it from the beach.

Looking over the pool.

The hotel was beautiful, and has a dreamy, romantic setting.  I would have loved to have stayed there. We sat and strolled and then made our way back for the return ferry.  We had a half hour wait so we returned to Candelas and sat at the bar for a Happy Hour drink.  We walked back to the hotel and relaxed.  We had dinner reservations at Cowboy Star but didn't end up going and just ended up walking down the block for some "not so bad" Italian food at Cap's Pizza and Bar.  My friend departed around midnight, and after a really stellar day, I was soon asleep.

April 28th:

I awoke and decided to take one more quick walk around downtown.  It was really warm and beautiful.  I packed and headed out, just walking around, up to 6th street and back.  I picked up some wine and water for the cruise and checked out.  The hotel arranged a shuttle for cruise passengers which was nice.  We left at noon.  Boarding was easy and I was on the ship pretty quickly.

The Carnival Spirit in port at San Diego (Pic courtesy of Pia from her room at Holiday Inn on the Bay).

The new "Green Thunder" Waterslide at the top of the ship.  

Sailing away from San Diego...I didn't know how much I'd miss the weather...

After sail-away I went to a cocktail party arranged from the cruise board forum.  It was $11 for one hour of open bar, so I managed a few glasses of wine and then headed for late dinner with the lady who arranged the party, who invited me to join her dinner table that evening.  Had a very nice time and had some good laughs.  Here's the French Onion soup and the Short Ribs. Food was good!  I enjoyed it a lot.

After dinner it was 10:30.  I faded.  All the drinks caught up with me and I went down for the count.  I missed my invite to the comedy club...

April 29th:

I awoke to my bed rocking and rolling...Rain, grey, just downright depressing weather!  I just wanted to show this towel animal my room steward left me.  He left me the same one all three nights.  How lame!  The last night he didn't even put the eyes on!!!   :-)  He also took my own personal bottled water out the fridge!  I thought that was rude.  

I can sum this day up rather quickly...you couldn't go outside.  Many people were sicker than dogs.  I gambled, I ate (dinner was "elegant night"), I went to the comedy show and then an 80's dance bar with the group later.  I had a fine day that ended with a long political debate that put everyone to bed at 1:30 am and the promise of me to never ask "Do you like Romney?" again...  ;-)

Sushi appy at lunch.

Stuffed mushrooms at dinner.

The Lobstah

The Prime Rib

April 30th:

Last day and the weather is the same...I slept in (well needed!) and went to meet the group for lunch in the Main Dining Room.  The dishes would rattle all over the room as it was so turbulent.  Did that every meal actually since we boarded except the first night.

Trout Almondine

Donated more dollars to the Casino and dinner was at the pay restaurant.  It is a Steakhouse and is $30 per person to dine at.  Had a pretty nice view at the window to watch the rain.  (Yes, that's sarcastic).  

 Tuna Tartare
 Table side prepared Caesar Salad (It's not a TRUE preparation, just a mix and toss)
 My Cowboy Bone In Ribeye
 Surf & Turf (Filet)
This was my Cheese Plate - for one!

Dinner was awesome.  Worth the money.  A perfect way to end the cruise.  We ended up at the Casino Bar to meet the others and listen to the singer there.  They had a conversation on Religion which half of us moved away from and knew better than to participate.  :-)  I lasted till about 11:30 and just wanted to rock and roll to bed.  This day was particularly bad with the waves.  I still felt fine but not as good as the last two days...Sleep came easy.

May 1st:

Disembarkation came relatively painless.  Lines moved fast from everything to leaving, customs and waiting for a taxi. I carted my own luggage off and was home some time after ten. I had a wonderful trip.  I think three days cruising is perfect - doesn't make me stir crazy.  San Diego was absolutely beautiful. I would love to return some time.


  1. wonderful review, makes me wish I was there!

  2. sounds like you had a great little 'get away'. It makes me want to go to San Diego.

  3. I think anyone would like San Diego! Go! :-) And thanks for your nice comments!

  4. Tammye: aka Cruisnmom007May 6, 2012 at 7:21 PM

    Perfect review Christine!! Loved it and loved getting to cruise with you! I look forward to more!

    1. @Tammye: Hopefully I'll make it to NOLA with you all! :-)