First Mate

Hometown: Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas area.
Joined: 03/14/2016
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About danwdooley

My wife Sandra and I love cruising. It seems, though not particularly planned that way, for the past several years we have made one cruise each year. I am retired from a career in medical electronics field service and Sandy is retired from Sears. Photography, cruising, mountain trail hiking, kayaking are just some of the activities we enjoy.



danwdooley's Past Cruises

Sapphire Princess

April 2016 - Sapphire Princess to Other (Asia/Africa/Middle East)

Outside of Our Own World

Though I have been to Asia a couple of times in the past, those trips were a very long time ago and they were business trips.  And, I traveled there by myself.  Thus this cruise and our visits to the various ports was a new experience for my wife.  With her company, in spite of my having seen a couple of the places before, this cruise was a unique and most enjoyable experience.


This was our longest cruise to date.  Seventeen days.  Add to that the travel time to and from and the extra day spent in the area at the end of the cruise and it made for what seemed like a long time away from home.  Well actually it was a long time away from home. 


When it comes to describing these cruises, after the first few, the accounting becomes a little repetitive.  "Left the embarkation port, settled into the cabin, enjoyed dinner and the evening show and the shore excursions."  There you go.  That can cover the basis.  So what is notable about this one?  Of course it's in a different part of the world from any place we have ever visited by cruise before but the same can be said for each new cruise destination we've done before.  That's ok.  It adds to our catalogue of enjoyable cruise experiences.


Every day aboard ship is approached with the attitude that we are going to relish ever minute detail for after all, seven days or seventeen days, in a blink it will all be over and we will be back home.  Some things in life are just too valuable in the way of personal experiences to gloss over and let slip past without savoring each tender morsel of the day.


As is our custom, upon boarding the ship for the first time we will dump our extra carry on items in the cabin and stroll about the outside decks just getting to know the ship.  This one was no different.  We knew that we would have a little while before the mandatory safety muster and besides, we were physically worn from our trip from home to the port of Singapore.  No, we try but we both find it difficult to sleep on airplanes thus it had been what seemed like a couple of days since we had actually slept.  So, we'll keep moving and keep to the local time schedule and go to bed not too late tonight.


'Sapphire Princess' is the biggest ship we'd been on for the last couple of cruises.  Four mostly identical dining rooms plus a fifth, the International Dining room separate from the others.  We initially set out to try each of the four at least but shucks, they do have the same menu and other than being physically laid out a little differently, there is no real difference.  We'll just stick with the Santa Fe for the rest of the cruise.  Besides, after the first couple of nights at the same table, we became more familiar with our regular table mates and that can make for some nice dinner conversation.


We opted for the 'Anytime Dining' rather than a set dining time.  That does not mean we differed much in time for our entry into the dining room but at least we had the flexibility in the event that something such as a late return from a shore excursion occurred.  Following dinner, it's off to the theatre to catch the first show.  Following that, most of the time it's back to the cabin for us.  No, my wife and I are not party people.  The idea of partying till all hours of the night is just not out thing.  Everyone to their own, you know.  I have pictures to dump from the cameras to the laptop and some time to spend doing some photo processing while she watches a movie before lights out time.


We do tend to be somewhat early risers.  We'll usually be in the Horizons Dining room even a few minutes before it officially opens for service.  Coffee, juice and something sweet to start off before going through the line and we'll sit by the window and look for passing ships or the approach of the next port. 


Speaking of the Horizon Dining Room.  Is it just me or has the quality of the food slipped a bit?  This was our second Princess cruise and the previous one was several years ago so whether this was just unique to this ship or the line, I don't know.  Now we're not food snobs and we do not consider the food uneatable.  It fills the belly and suffices until the next meal which may be lunch on board or out on shore.  So, I am not making this a complaint.  Just an observation.  Additionally, it seems that considering the size of the ship, the size of the serving islands and thus the number of offered items is a little small.  It seems no more than on the much smaller ship we were on through the Panama Canal.


But, if there is a complaint about the cruising experience which is pretty much across the board, we eat too much on cruises anyhow.  It's not like we're ever going to go away hungry.  Our eyes can sometimes be bigger than our stomachs, to use that old adage.  Dinner in the sit down dining room will be just fine and there indeed the food quality lived up to our previous experiences and expectations.


We have never tried any of the specialty restaurants before and though we did briefly consider it, perhaps being slightly on the cheapskate side, the cover charge put us off.  We did try out the pizza place on Deck 4 in the Atrium area a couple of times for lunch.  We do enjoy pizza so that worked for us.


We had what was labeled the "extended, angled" balcony cabin.  We do often set out on the balcony on sea days.  With its configuration it is a little deeper and even wider but also angled such that the view to the front was a bit enhanced.  This one was at the end of the side balcony row on Deck 11.  We're good any place on the ship and have had cabins up front as well as all the way aft.  The cabin itself was very much like the others on previous cruises.  Nothing really of note other than it was clean, comfortable and met our needs as expected.


Obviously due to where we were the shore excursions were interesting, and yes, enjoyable.  I may add some comments on some of them at a later point but we did make each one an adventure of its own.  Both my wife and I shot a lot of pictures on these excursions and as I get to it I will post a few.  The operation of the tours was handled well with the guides and staff being knowledgeable, personable and even entertaining.


The shows in the evening were a treat.  We enjoyed some very different and very talented acts.  When one makes review posts such as this it's pretty much expected that what is said will reflect just the opinions of the one making the post so though we do enjoy the evening shows we realize that what appeals to us, may or may not be everyone elses' taste preference so I will just say that we found the acts entertaining and enjoyable and let others who also made this cruise judge their own experiences.


I think the same thing can be said for pretty much the entire experience on this cruise and applies to any cruise which I may review.  We did not have any negative experiences nor did we find anything to be short of our expectations.  The crew and staff were all great.  The on board services were good and thus nothing negative or out of the ordinary to report.  Thus this may seem to be a bit of a non-informative review and perhaps it is.  But, that's what a cruise should be about, I think.  Enjoyable with no drama nor unpleasant experiences.  Just relaxing and memorable.

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Legend of the Seas

April 2015 - Legend of the Seas to Panama Canal, Central America

Small Ship Big Adventure

Royal Caribbean 'Legend of The Seas' is the smallest ship we have cruised on.  The next smaller was NCL 'Norwegian Spirit' on our Mediterranean cruise in 2013.  As 'Legend of The Seas' was our first Royal Caribbean cruise, it would not be fare to use it as a basis for judging the entire cruise line, and I certainly will not do that.


Being a bit on the smaller side, as it had to be to pass through the Panama Canal, meant that things were a bit more compact and not as many things available to do and see while aboard.  Obviously everyone has a different expectation of what a cruise ship experience should entail so what I write is only from our perspective.  We are not "night life" people so whether or not there will be a large assortment of places to party after dark is not of interest to us.  We like the shows after dinner and the ones on this cruise were on par with every other cruise experience we have had before. Places to eat naturally were a bit more limited due to the more restricted size of the ship.  But, the available choices were fine and we found the food comparable to every other cruise.  Perhaps the Holland America food experience (back in 2006) might be a bit more up-scale but who remembers back that far?  Happy


We consider the shore excursion experience major elements of any cruise and it is only on sea days that we take more note of the smallness of the ship and the smaller number of available things to do.  That is, things which fit into our interest.  There were some outstanding seminars put on by a couple who make this their professional work.  There were also the spots we found to hide away during the day if we wanted to spend some time just reading.  That's something we do every cruise anyhow, on sea days. 


We enjoyed a couple of the pools a couple of times.  My wife and I both enjoy swimming but as we have our own back yard pool, we may not bother that often with the on board pools.


Shopping aboard was a bit more limited.  Once again, due to the smaller size of the ship.  It's more of a pass time activity rather than actually buying things - although my wife always manages to make at least one major purchase - but it's just part of our routine of milling about the decks on sea days.


Our cabin felt to be pretty much the same size as other balcony cabins.  Good storage in the form of drawers and closets.  The bathroom seemed to be about the same as well.  One thing we did discover but as this ship in addition to being smaller is also older, the height of the space under the bed was not as much as on other ships we have been on.  We did mange to get our suitcases underneath but it took more work to do so.  That's not a major nit pick.  Just something to note.


No two ship experiences will be exactly the same so to note that this little detail or that one perhaps not being quite up to par is not something we ever make an issue of.  We look at the over all experience.  The experience was the Canal passage and all of the other adventures we enjoyed on the shore excursions.  Zip lining in Costa Rico, kayaking and snorkeling at Cabo, for just a few.  What more do we want?   Would I say this is the best ship we have been on?  Of course not, but I would neither judge it as a disappointment nor judge the particular cruise line based on one experience.  Neither my wife nor I would turn down another cruise on this ship if that ship was the one in use on a particular cruise we wanted to take.  And, if another cruise involves Royal Caribbean, we would not hesitate.  We would not pick the cruise just on it being that line nor would we turn it down for that reason.

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Norwegian Jewel

March 2014 - Norwegian Jewel to Caribbean - Western

A Spring Break Cruise?

Spring break cruises could be the stuff of nightmares.  Or not.  When this cruise was planned, we knew it would be during spring break but that timing was necessary since it would include our grandkids.  Our son, daughter in-law and the four grandkids.  Since they are school age, this was the only time, other than summer which we could make the cruise.

This cruise departed out of the Port of New Orleans.  That was close enough for us to drive from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area to New Orleans.  Parking for the cruise terminals is virtually next door to the terminal.  That was convenient for both the departure and return.  Things like this are especially helpful if you are going to have four energetic kids along.  Kids who had never cruised before and are understandably excited and yet subject to potential confusion if the logistics of the trip become too complected.

We booked two balcony cabins adjacent to each other.  We divided up the sleeping arrangements so that the two girls were with their mom and dad and the two boys were with us.  The included folding couches in the cabins which open to make a full size bed were used by the kids.  Between the part of the cabin with the couch and the part with the bed is a wall to wall pull curtain so at night that gave my wife and I a little privacy separation from the boys and them from us.

My wife and I have been NCL fans over several cruises and this one was just as expected over all.  I can't think of any problems we had with any of the facilities or services.  The food services were good as always. 

One thing we did differently involved dinner.  Normally, my wife and I do the main dining rooms for dinner rather than the buffet dining.  We did that the first night of this cruise but we quickly found that it bored the kids and so for the rest of the cruise we dined in the buffet dining room where the kids had a ball with trips and repeat trips back to the serving lines.  That was fine for us too as the buffet dining room being less structured allowed for a more relaxed eating experience.  When you have four kids along who may take a long time to eat due to playing around and repeat trips back for more, you need a place where you can sit and relax and talk and speaking of that, it also makes it easy to enjoy those sporadic conversations which may pop up between adjacent tables.

Speaking of kids on a cruise and the potentials for the nightmare scenarios, this was spring break and yes there were other kids on the cruise.  It never became a madhouse.  The ship was not overrun with kids.  I suspect a lot chose another cruise line which well, I will just say my wife and I don't cruise on.  As to activities for the kids, there was enough to keep them more than busy from dawn to dusk when we were aboard.  Of course on port days we were ashore enjoying the shore excursions

Though this cruise was a little different for my wife and I who for the most part have cruised only as a couple, having the grandkids along really did make for a different but really rewarding experience with lots of memories to come away with..

A couple more points about this cruise.  The trip from New Orleans to the mouth of the Mississippi River at the Gulf of Mexico takes about eight hours.  The ship left port at 4 PM and it was in the middle of the night when we entered the Gulf.  All the way down the river until it became too dark to see, we enjoyed the sights which are not quite the usual expected to be seen on an "ocean cruise".  You will pass many other ships and other watercraft coming and going all the way.

Cruises to the Western Caribbean come from two main sources.  New Orleans and Galveston, Texas.  Interestingly, for some reason of itinerary scheduling, for a seven day cruise, the ones out of New Orleans have four port calls while the ones out of Houston/Galveston have only three.  Thus you end up with one more sea day when originating from that port.

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Norwegian Spirit

April 2013 - Norwegian Spirit to Europe - Eastern Mediterranean

Eastern and Western Mediterranean

We flew into Venice a little early in order to have a little more time to explore that historic city.  We had planned an extra day to be there.  Unfortunately one of our flights was cancelled and so we got into London (for the connection) a day later.  Anyhow, it turned out ok as we did have all of one afternoon to explore Venice and all of the next day.

Compared to our other cruises and particularly with Norwegian Cruse Lines, the Norwegian Spirit is on the level of the other ships we have been on.  No problems with any of the accommodations.  The ship is a bit smaller than some of the others we have been on but all features and facilities were what we have come to expect from our cruising experiences.

Interestingly the majority of the electrical outlets on the ship were of the European style.  Not North American style.  We had the proper adapters with us to mate the two styles so the outlet differences did not create a problem.

We have learned to carry extension cords and a small multi-outlet power strip.  Even with the correct power outlets for our use in the cabins, there never seems to be enough outlets.  Between my laptop, camera battery chargers, e-readers my wife's curling iron and whatever else we might need we do need the extra outlets.

I won't take the time to review all of the shore excursions we enjoyed on that trip.  We visited spots in Italy, Greece, Turkey, France and finally ended at Barcelona.  For some reason the excursion to Rome and the Vatican was a bit on the chaotic side.  I don't know if it was a one time problem or not.  Though the tour guide was friendly and attempted to be helpful and informative but there were several problems experienced with the tour.  The end result was that there were sufficient complaints which resulted in all participants of the tour getting back a very large portion of our payment price for the tour.  The tour was not a wash, by any means.  We still enjoyed it in spite of the problems.

One sea day they set up a German food theme spread on the aft deck.  It is the extra fun things like that which do add to the enjoyment of cruises. 

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Grand Princess

March 2012 - Grand Princess to Caribbean - Eastern

Down East, Eastern Caribbean, that is

Though my wife and I had been to a few Caribbean destinations before, our first Caribbean cruise was on Grand Princess round trip out of Ft. Lauderdale in 2012.  That was also our first cruise with Princess Cruise Line. 

If we made one potential mistake, one which did not come back to bite us, it was flying into town the same day the cruise departs.  Now that is ok if you do want to save the price of a hotel stay the night before and presuming that your incoming flight will not be delayed or cancelled but looking back we realized the potential risk we took and from that point on we have made it the practice to arrive at the departing port city the day before. 

Leaving Port Everglades, the ship enters a beautiful channel out to the open ocean.  The views were very nice and as a photographer, made for keeping the camera busy.  We were preceded by a Carnival ship and it was interesting to watch another cruise ship in the near distance and wonder where they might go if not to the same ports to which we are headed.

Once Sandy and I board a cruise ship, one of the first things we do is to take an exploratory walk around the ship.  Just to see it.  Of course somewhere during the time between boarding and departure from port will be the mandatory safety muster and dinner.  Chances are the luggage will not be delivered to the cabin until a little later.  That's ok.  We'll unpack once we return to the cabin at the end of the day.  Right now we want to see the ship, do dinner and see the push off.

Our first port call is to San Juan Puerto Rico.  I wish the timing of the arrival had been such as to allow us more time there but as it is, it's not quite half a day.  At least that did give us enough time to explore the historic fort and the old part of the city.

Other ports were St. Maarten and also St. Thomas, USVI.  At both ports we enjoyed shore excursions of kayaking and snorkeling.  Those being two of our favorite activities anyhow.  The cruise ships dock at those ports close enough to enjoy local shopping up close to the pier so when we returned from our water activities before we went back on board we spent a little time exploring the local tourist shopping areas.

The final port was at Princess Cay, a private island area owned by Princess.  A fun (and good) shore lunch on the beach and some snorkeling and beach time made up the day.  The snorkeling could be potentially good but as it was just off the beach the rolling surf made it harder to stay still for any time at all.  For someone trying to photograph the underwater scenery and fish life, that can make good shots difficult.  Not that it was not fun to be out there anyhow.

As to anything being particularly unique or notable about this cruise, I can't say that it differed.  The cabin (balcony cabin) was good.  Comfortable, clean, roomy enough for us so that pretty much covered it.  The food both in the buffet and main dining rooms was good.  We've never had it not good on any of our cruises  so perhaps we're just not picky people.  There are always enough choices to insure having something you will like. I like it all so I'm good with the choices.

Onboard activities are very much the same as those we have encountered on other cruises before and after this one.  We spend the day (sea days) checking out available program activities, sometimes spending a little time in one of the pools, eating (of course) and enjoying some quite cubbyhole to do some reading.  After dinner, we go the early show which usually begins around 7 PM.  For both sea days and days in port, the end of the day does see us enjoying the shows.  We're not late night people but upon returning to the cabin at the end of the day, and that may be somewhere around 9 PM or so, while she watches some TV I will usually spend a little time dumping the day's accumulation of photos from our cameras to the laptop and I may even spend some time editing and processing some of those.  It's just something I do anyhow.  Even at home.

Back to the Princess Cay visit for a moment.  This port is a tender port and once we had enough of the beach time we caught a tender back to the ship and spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on our balcony enjoying the view back to the shore and the view of the tenders making the back and forth trips between the ship and the shore.  That's some more reading time with the camera sitting on the little balcony table ready to catch something interesting through the long lens.

We only choose balcony cabins (there was one exception on one cruise) and in addition to opportunities such as the one at Princess Cay, to sit out there and enjoy the view back to land and I should add, the beautiful weather, once we arise in the morning either at sea or coming into a port, opening the curtains and stepping out on the balcony to view a place we have never seen before is enough a part of the cruising experience for us to never do it otherwise.

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Pride of America

September 2010 - Pride of America to Hawaii


June 2006 - Zuiderdam to Alaska - Inside Passage

First Time is The Charm

Our 2006 cruise on MS Zuiderdam through the Alaska Inside Passage was our first ocean cruise.  On this cruise, we shared the experience with another couple who have been long time friends of ours.  I should add as an aside that if traveling with other than family members (and maybe it should apply to family members as well) it is an excellent idea to know them well enough to know that your experiences together will be good.  As we had traveled with this couple before on holiday trips, we had no worries.  Anyhow, the idea of shared experiences which can consist of being with other couples or family members really can add to the enjoyment of a trip.  Not that it is a must of course since my wife and I have taken other cruises and non-cruise trips, just the two of us and enjoyed them quite well.  Anyhow, I digressed.

This cruise was the round trip one to and from Vancouver.  I am not sure what prompted us to select Holland America for the cruise. Perhaps time and itinerary but regardless, we made no mistake by choosing this cruise line.  Honestly it was long enough ago as to my having forgotten some or most of the finer details of the ship experience.  Holland America is a very good cruise line.  Perhaps on a scale higher than the ones we have cruised with since.  I simply cannot pinpoint any particular details which would be unique in setting it apart.

A couple of points to mention, however.  The staff was above and beyond.  When entering the dinning room, even the buffet dining room and having one particular member of the staff who every time, "good morning Dan, good morning Sandy, good morning Dean, good morning Charlotte."  How did he manage that with maybe a couple thousand other people on the ship a the same time.  Then the little cake with a candle and a song at our table to wish my wife and me Happy Anniversary one evening. 

The food and food service was outstanding.  The balcony cabin was great as well.  Like I said before, little details of the room may not come to memory right now but enough do to say that it was very comfortable and accommodating.  As to other amenities on the ship, I can't remember all of them so each person will have to judge for themselves.

One thing we have found unique to Holland America ships which at least so far we have not on any other cruise line is the open bow deck.  On other ships there are many good spots for views of the surrounding scenery, the bow presented a nice place to view and photography head on the sights we would encounter.  It's not a big thing but a nice one anyhow.

As with our other cruises we enjoyed a number of shore excursions on or various port visits.  I don't remember just how we made arrangements for booking those but we had no complaints regarding any of them.

In June in Alaska it is still a bit on the coolish to cold state.  A jacket is a must for spending any time at all out on deck.  For my wife, a heavier jacket was the choice.  Constantly available and good hot chocolate in a cup to take out on deck really hit the spot.

Oh yes, I should add.  This was Alaska, after all, and the availability of good, local salmon let those of us who enjoy seafood, enjoy our fill.

Though we have enjoyed every cruise we have experienced, most, we would probably not elect to repeat.  Simply for the reason that there are others yet to be experienced.  The Alaska cruise might be the exception.  I think that should we do it again, we might consider instead of the round trip version, do the added land excursion part.  Seeing Denali Park is something which would make it worth doing the cruise again.

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danwdooley's Tips

Princess Cays (Cruise Line Private Island) - Snorkeling up close to the shore as the accommodations allowed for may be a little bumpy if the surf is rough. We did get bounced around a bit by the incoming surf. The on the beach lunch was good. We're not beach people so after a couple of hours of laying on lounge chairs following our snorkeling time, we returned to the ship and spent the rest of the afternoon on our cabin balcony which was on the beach side.
San Juan, Puerto Rico - A beautiful, historic old city. I wish we would have had more time in port that day. But, at least we got a chance to do some sightseeing.
Cruise Inside Passage, Alaska -
Cruise Glacier Bay -

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received a helpful vote on their Grand Princess cruise review - Down East, Eastern Caribbean, that is

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received a helpful vote on their Norwegian Spirit cruise review - Eastern and Western Mediterranean

received a helpful vote on their Sapphire Princess cruise review - Outside of Our Own World

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received a helpful vote on their Sapphire Princess cruise review - Outside of Our Own World

received a helpful vote on their Sapphire Princess cruise review - Outside of Our Own World

received a helpful vote on their Sapphire Princess cruise review - Outside of Our Own World

received a helpful vote on their Sapphire Princess cruise review - Outside of Our Own World

reviewed their Other (Asia/Africa/Middle East) cruise on Sapphire Princess and gave it 5 stars!