For all the many cruises I’ve been on over the years, this cruise featured my first overnight port. Based on our experience, I can definitely say that it won’t be my last!
It didn’t hurt that our overnight was in San Francisco, one of my favorite cites in the country. It’s also the home to one of my friends since high school and close to where my brother lives. Our overnight port allowed us to make time separately to see both of them without having to carefully (over)coordinate our plans.
On the night before we arrived into San Francisco, we were seated at a table with a couple of frequent cruisers, one of whom mentioned how great overnight ports could be. The best part, he said, was how free you felt because you didn’t have to worry about losing track of time and missing the ship. This seemed a little overly dramatic to me.
But as it turns out, he was right! Upon arriving in San Francisco, we got off the ship around noon and wandered around the city for several hours before meeting my high school friend at his house for dinner. We enjoyed a leisurely dinner and called a car from Lyft around 10:30 pm to take us back to the cruise ship. (If driving in San Francisco, it’s best to do it at times when the city’s notoriously bad traffic is at a minimum, and late on a Monday night is definitely one of those times!)
I loved our overnight port in San Francisco, and I would definitely choose an itinerary with an overnight stop again. It allowed us to take both daytime and nighttime pictures of the fabulous view from our balcony (pictured above and below), but most of all it gave us the peace of mind to enjoy our visit without the worry of missing the ship that so often lies beneath the surface on every port day.
I have to say – I am a huge fan of a balcony cabin on a cruise. I love sitting on the balcony, especially when the ship is moving, and watching the world go by. Balconies are also a great place to park yourself when you’re pulling into or out of port.
But balconies can also be expensive. So for our Pacific Coastal cruise, I initially planned to pinch a few pennies and get us an oceanview room instead. It would probably be too cold to sit on the balcony, I rationalized, even though our cruise left in the middle of September. If I was wrong, we could always make use of the public space outside.
When it came time to make our final payment, I decided that just for fun I would take a look at the going rates for the various categories of cabin. I was shocked to find a rate on a balcony room that was cheaper than the ocean view I’d booked a few months earlier! Cruise ship cabins are very much priced on supply and demand (as well as the amount of time left until the cruise departs), so it’s not uncommon to see this kind of price drop (although usually it happens after the final payment date).
So I switched us to the balcony room, which also was conveniently located near the elevators on the aft end of the ship. Was it worth it? Well, I was actually paying less than I’d planned to pay for the ocean view room, so in that way it was certainly a deal. I will say, though, that we didn’t spend a whole lot of time on the balcony – early mornings (when I like to sit out on the balcony and drink my coffee) were too chilly, even with a jacket, and we preferred to be up on deck for most of the sail aways, such as our trip under the Golden Gate bridge as we left San Francisco.
As a cruise nerd who likes to try new things, I’ve been wanting to try a Pacific Coastal cruise for years. It doesn’t hurt that I lived for four years in Eugene, OR attending grad school at the University of Oregon for my Ph.D. I love the Pacific Northwest, and these cruises primarily run during the month of September – after the Alaska cruise season ends and one of the most beautiful times of year in the PNW.
There was only one problem: In my (actual nerd) day job as a college professor, I was always teaching during the times that these cruises were offered. So when I decided to take a year off teaching to start this blog, the Pacific Coast cruise was on the top of my list.
For some reason, these cruises are often not quite as popular as those in areas such as Alaska and the Caribbean. As a result, you can often find fairly cheap cruise fares on these itineraries. If you’re living near to Seattle or can fly there relatively cheaply, this one might be a good cruise to book last-minute and get a deal. (If you’re doing this, I recommend that you keep an eye on the second week of these itineraries. In the week before our cruise, the ship had done its last Alaska route, and many of the people I had talked to did a back-to-back in order to get both itineraries. On another note, the next time I’m not teaching in September, I’m totally planning to do this back-to-back!)
Overall, I can’t recommend the Pacific Coastal cruise we took highly enough. Our itinerary featured 2 sea days, on days 3 and 6, which were perfectly spaced out. We had an overnight in San Francisco that was just fantastic, including one of the more memorable sail aways where we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge. There were a couple of downsides to our itinerary – our ship seemed way too large for the small port of Astoria, and we hit some rough seas due to weather on our way back up the coast – but they were vastly overwhelmed by the advantages of this unusual itinerary.