Cruising Alaska, day two: Departing San Francisco on Star Princess

We woke up to Star Princess dominating the view from our hotel room. She docked around 7 a.m., and I can only imagine how hard the crew worked to turn everything around for us to board at 1 p.m. Starting our day with that serendipitous view was not only a fun surprise but also added excitement to the anticipation of embarkation day. Yesterday I recommended the Best Western Tuscan Inn based on its upgraded Kimpton ownership and what we assumed would be a convenient location. Today I can certainly recommend the hotel as the perfect location for a pre-cruise extension. Though we have a friend who lives in the city and drove us and our luggage to the cruise terminal, we could’ve walked if necessary.

However, first things first: brunch. As planned, we headed back to the market in the Ferry Building. The historic F-Line street car we rode today was originally operated in Boston. Today it transported us to Mijita Cocina Mexicana. At the far eastern end of the market, Mijita serves breakfast all day (important information for readers who, like me, would happily eat breakfast fare for every meal). I had the breakfast burrito and while it was good, it lacked spice. Between my childhood spent in Southern California and the outstanding Mexican food we’re spoiled with in Salt Lake City, I wanted more depth of flavor, kick, something. Regardless, it’s a beautiful space and the prices are reasonable.

I enjoy taking photos of markets and do so all over the world. I find it fascinating to learn about a culture through the food. After a quick photo walk — artisan olive oils, cheesemongers, bakers, butchers, flowers, fruit, sensory overload — I purchased sweet goodies from Miette Patisserie (far western end of the market). With those tucked in my bag, we were on our way.

Looking up at the beautiful architecture in San Francisco's Ferry Building.

Two caption options: 1) Say Cheese!; or 2) This is my heaven.

Mijita Cocina Mexicana, at the east end of the Ferry Building, serves breakfast fare all day.

Authentic ambiance (with less than authentic food) at Mijita Cocina Mexicana.

The boarding experience at the cruise terminal could not have run more smoothly. It was as quick as can be expected with that many people in one place at one time. It was professional, friendly and stress-free. Everyone was helpful, from the athletic curbside porters hefting endless piles of luggage, to the army of smiling grandpas in red ties and white fedoras directing foot traffic.

When you’re online at home finalizing your Princess cruise details, you not only print a boarding pass but also a series of luggage tags that identify your stateroom. As long as you arrive at the cruise terminal with your bags tagged appropriately, you have nothing to worry about with the check-in process. Step aboard, relax in your room, explore the ship and her many features, and your luggage will arrive in your stateroom sometime in the next hour or so.

We were welcomed to our Star Princess Aloha Deck stateroom with fresh flowers, champagne, chocolate covered strawberries and a thoughtful note from Princess. Our steward and his supervisor also stopped by to say hello and explain their roles in making our cruise experience enjoyable.

We enjoyed the treats on our balcony and took in the views of Alcatraz on one hand and the iconic hilly skyline of San Francisco on the other. I also took this time to scope out the toiletries, a telling factor for me in any lodging experience. Princess did not disappoint. The products provided were from Princess Cruises’ Lotus Spa line and included the standard lotion, shampoo/conditioner and bar soap. There was also eucalyptus body wash, gel eye mask (waiting for me in my mini-fridge at the moment), linen spray, exfoliating loofah, emery board and two SPF 30 lip balms. Going beyond the expected toiletries was a nice touch.

Our Aloha Deck balcony stateroom allows us to have one queen or two twin beds.

Champagne and strawberries on the balcony...don't mind if we do. Welcome aboard!

Other nice touches included plush robes and slippers, room service breakfast (no additional charge) delivered at a time of our choosing, fresh fruit delivered each afternoon per indicated preferences (also no additional charge), and turn down service with the proverbial chocolates on our pillows. Attention to detail matters to me, and so far Princess has done it right.

The highlight of our day was sailing under the Golden Gate bridge. It was a memorable way to say goodbye to San Francisco and to kick off this adventure. The decks were full of windblown passengers, clicking camera shutters, and cheering as we cleared the underside of the bridge.

The notorious Alcatraz Island as soon from the Star Princess.

Goodbye, San Francisco. Sailing away...and leaving our hearts. 
Sailing under the Golden Gate was a memorable way to kick off our journey.

We enjoyed dinner in the Capri dining room with three different couples at a communal table. Jackie and Ron have been on seven cruises, most of those with Princess. They spoke highly of the consistent level of customer service. I’ve sailed only once before with Princess (Mexico in 2010), and my experience aligned with their praise. All Princess personnel consider themselves to be “hosts,” and that shows.

Tomorrow is a full day at sea, and I will spend time exploring and photographing the ship. I’m also reading two books that you may find interesting if you’re considering an Alaskan itinerary, so I’ll share those resources in a later post.

I hope you’re enjoying your virtual vacation. You can follow along on each day of the adventure through my Live Voyage Report landing page. If you're interested in following other Live Voyage Reports, visit The Avid Cruiser website to see where the team is exploring now!

Bon voyage...and love,

This article was originally published on the Avid Cruiser Live Voyage Report website.

Cruising Alaska, day three: Sailing to America's Last Frontier on Star Princess

Cruising Alaska, Day One: Pre-cruise Adventures in San Francisco