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Day 7: Shanghai, China and 1st cruise day

Shanghai, China

Day 7: Friday, December 18th, 2009

Shanghai, China and 1st cruise day

We began the day much later than usual as we were so tired we slept past 8am. Hunter ordered hot eggs for breakfast and then we packed up our suitcases before hopping in a taxi to the French Concession area of Shanghai. The hotel bell hop had told the taxi driver the wrong location, so when he stopped at the wrong place, Hunter used his handy iPhone Shanghai application to show him a new location in Chinese. We got as close as we could to the French Concession area and then walked the rest of the way. This area was filled with many shops and restaurants, and had a busier and more upscale ambiance than did Nanjing Lu. It reminded us of 5th Avenue, but it wasn't that high end. We did some window shopping and then took a taxi back to our hotel and walked to a main department store complex nearby. I had lost my nice sunglasses in a taxi and so we had to buy a replacement pair and some liquor (for the cruise ship). This department store had everything – including a liquor store on the ground floor! It was the only liquor store we saw in all of China and was pretty limited. Our tour guide in Beijing told us the Chinese do not drink much but when they do, it is predominantly beer.

We walked back to the Marriott just in time for our late check-out at 2pm. We then headed up to the Executive Lounge to type emails before taking a taxi to our cruise ship. We didn't want to board the cruise ship too early (we like to wait for the crowds to subside) and wanted to take advantage of the internet as long as we could. We ate free finger sandwiches and enjoyed our last free alcoholic drinks for a while. We started to get so excited for the next leg of our journey as our cruise will be a whole other type of experience!

Some final thoughts about Shanghai....there were definitely more people who spoke English here, but as soon as we ventured even a little bit off of the touristy areas, our English resources became slim. Hunter had a great software application on his iPhone that highlighted major places of interest in Shanghai and gave driving directions in Chinese (our hotel was also listed in the app), so any time we needed it for a taxi, Hunter could just find the location we wanted and hand the phone to the driver. Thanks, iPhone!! Shanghai is a wonderful mix of old and new China. From the optimism of the futuristic-looking skyscrapers, to the quaint and bustling street markets of Old City, one can experience the dichotomy of present-day China all in one city. At the JW Marriott, we see a lot of Western businessmen, sometimes seeing them even meeting up with their Chinese counterparts. Maybe one day we will return for business! There are much fewer people in Shanghai walking around with face masks on – probably because the city overall is cleaner than Beijing. It was a little disconcerting to see so many surgical masks in Beijing, but because people just randomly spit in the streets as they walk, it is probably prudent to wear one each day! We saw several market stands selling masks – they even sell ones that are decorative and lace and embroidered!

Beijing and Shanghai both surpassed our expectations by a large margin. We felt so much safer here than anticipated and we thought both cities were thriving economies with lots of opportunities and excitement. We would recommend both cities are tourist destinations, and unless you want to do a lot of walking, we would recommend personal tour guides for each city so you could learn more history than we did and feel less disoriented upon first arrival. We walked a tremendous amount in each city and our muscles are aching! We are looking forward to tomorrow when we have a full day at sea. We will be taking it easy on-board the ship, reading and staying indoors. We are thankful we are leaving behind the cold weather and are putting away our scarves and heavy gloves. Luckily, we only needed our toe and hand warmers once in Beijing.

Around 4:15pm we packed up our laptops at the Marriott and prepared to leave for the port and cruise ship. However, we were delayed a good 25 minutes talking to the concierge to get the name of the cruise port terminal written out in Chinese. The Executive lounge attendant translated the “Princess cruise” into Chinese and got an address from the concierge on the 1st floor where the cruise boats normally dock, but the address was different from the one Princess had given me, so we tried to call the US Princess number but couldn't get through. We decided to chance that we had enough information for us to get there without getting too lost, and we left the hotel around 5pm. Within 20 minutes we were pulling up to the port, without getting lost. We still had about 90 Yuan left over, but I was thankful to have had more money on the last day than to have been worried about not having enough.

There were no lines at the cruise terminal (which had signs for Royal Caribbean) and we passed right through without any problems. We dropped off our largest two suitcases and took the rest with us. We got our pictures taken on board for our cruise photo, but we missed the official “first time on board photo” that they try to sell you. It is probably for the better as we don't need more photos! Our cabin, 4050, was right down the hallway near the Passenger Service desk, by the gangplank entrance. We walked in and were pleasantly surprised. We had a 2-seater blue couch with a yellow diamond print and yellow pillows, a nice vanity and deep blue cushioned stool, and a large dark wood cabinet and tv console. The TV is a flat screen, probably a good 17-in (maybe even 19-in). The large king bed is at the far end of the room, facing a giant floor to ceiling mirror which nicely opens up the room. We have a huge bay window with a nice ledge in front that we can use for storing things. The bed is elevated, so all of our suitcases fit under it nicely. The bathroom is tiny, of course, but the shower seemed roomier than the last cruise and there is plenty of shelve and cabinet storage space for our toiletries. The stateroom was perfectly designed – everything fit and I never felt cramped. We had a mini bar with room to store Hunter's tonic water (which he took from the JW Marriott to go with the bottle of gin he snuck in his suitcase). We keep the blinds closed most of the time we're at sea because the moving water makes us even more nauseous!

We were in our cabin for 6pm, and unpacked the bags we had brought on with us. By 10 min to 7pm the other two bags had not arrived and I was getting worried we would not be dressed in time for dinner. Hunter checked with the purser and the bags were delivered a minute later. We unpacked everything and realized that Hunter was missing two pairs of dress pants. We had forgotten that the two pairs he was wearing in NY the week before for work were supposed to come with him on the cruise. So he only has one light colored pair of pants and his tuxedo pants, but we think that is enough. We later saw that many people were dressed casually and there was a group that even came in jeans! We can always buy another pair of dress pants in one of the cities, but we probably won't be staying out late and so he'll only be “dressed” for 2 or 3 hours a day anyway!

At a little before 8pm we headed out and took the elevators to the 9th floor to check out the Panorama buffet and the Lotus Spa and Fitness Center. We got a mini tour of the facilities in the Lotus Spa and I booked a much needed deep tissue massage for 8am the next morning. My legs were hurting so much I was afraid the rest of my cruise was going to be ruined because of it and I wanted a massage to get me loosened up as soon as possible, knowing I would likely need several rounds of massages before the cruise was finished. I signed up for the earliest time as it was 20% off for the “early bird special.” The fitness center was small but had 4 elliptical machines and 5 treadmills, plenty of free weights for Hunter, and several yoga/pilate classes. The spa had a cellulite reduction machine which I would love to try!

At 8:15pm, we went down to the 5th floor and waited in a short line for the dining room to open up. Plenty of people were in the lounge outside, having drinks already. We were shown to a table of 4 (table #7) but the other couple never showed up. Our waiter's name was from Romania. We didn't particularly like him as he would always comment to us “oh, you don't like it?” if we didn't finish the whole meal. The tables were much closer together on the ship and there were only a few tables of 2 and many other tables of 8. We were lucky to get a small table. The dining room is decorated like an old English library, with dark wood paneling on the walls, and a back wall (separating the dining room from the lounge) that contained two English style 18th-C type portraits.

The food is typical Princess fare, with a lot of fish and the staples – fettuccine alfredo and shrimp cocktail and the signature Princess Love Boat Dream chocolate mousse on-top a brownie. The service was very slow, and got worse as the cruise ship progressed.

After the first dinner ended, we went to the Cabaret Lounge on the same floor (deck 5) and took our seats for the first evening show. They introduced the cruise director, a woman from Australia named Susan Rawlings, and then the rest of the cruise staff, who was mainly from Australia as well! Lots of cute blond girls from Australia. One short, brunette woman, Chantal (23 yrs old), was from Canada, and the men were also mainly from Australia. They said that this cruise had a junior cruiser program (not all itineraries on this boat have one) and they hired a staff member from the US – an older woman – to oversee the program. There was brief entertainment – a dance number from the dancers (all but 2 dancers are also cruise entertainment staff members) and then four songs from a male singer who was quite good at the showtune stuff but was so overly dramatic he reminded us of Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. Disappointedly, they did not announce the cruise breakdown of the passengers, but from our interactions with the passengers throughout the cruise, we deduced that most were from America, followed by a large British and Australian representation.

We got back to our room by 11pm and went straight to bed. The boat cleared for departure in China sometime between 9pm and 10pm and we could start to feel the boat sway a bit, so Hunter put on his wristbands.

permalink written by  mohicanfan on December 18, 2009 from Shanghai, China
from the travel blog: Beijing/Shanghai and a Princess Southeast Asia Cruise - Dec 2009
tagged China, Shanghai, Asia and Cruise

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At the time I am writing this bio (Jan 2010), I, Meredith, am a 28-year old woman living in Virginia Beach, VA with my husband of almost 6 years, who works in New York 4 days a week. We are both avid travelers and beach lovers and I enjoy writing and reading. I am also a fastidious recorder of...

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