With 189 days to plan there was plenty of advance time to buy new shoes and pack, but the day before we left I was busy. Last minute client projects and meetings, then down to Lodi to pick up my grandma and run a few other errands (like picking up pizza, going to the eye doctor and getting my car washed ... who knew it would rain the day we got back?).
My dad and I started day one of the vacation out first with a flight to San Diego, carrying a majority of the luggage (four checked bags and two carry-ons). We got the car and took the first load of luggage up to our hotel. With the drop-off complete we rushed back to the airport to pick my my mom, grandma, aunt and uncle who came on a later flight. Then had lunch and bought wine for the cruise in La Jolla. We stayed at the beautiful Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa (sister property of The Meritage Resort and Spa). It was my first time to the property and it is gorgeous, with beautiful landscaping, a great pool, spa and gym.
After dropping bags off, we picked up a friend from our European Cruise and my dad, uncle and I headed to the USS Midway, a retired aircraft carrier docked in San Diego. It was really cool to see what an aircraft carrier looked like in real life (I only know them from the Discovery Channel) and see how the sailors live (tiny beds). After our tour we headed back to the Estancia and enjoyed margaritas and light appetizers at Mustangs & Burros.
The next day it was time to pack up the car (somehow we fit six people, five large suitcases, six carry-ons and a few other bags in our minivan) and headed to our ship, the Celebrity Century. Boarding was painless (our Diamond loyalty status on Royal Caribbean translated to Celebrity's highest level, Elite, meaning we had a separate check-in line and some other perks on board). Sailing out of San Diego was spectacular, going by aircraft carriers and seeing the skyline in the background made for great photo opportunities and memories. (Pre-Pacific Coast Cruise and San Diego Pictures)
Our first stops were Santa Barbara and Monterey. Santa Barbara, what should have been one of our warmest stops, was the coldest with fog that didn't burn off until the afternoon, but it was still a beautiful city to tour. We started with a trolley tour of multimillion dollar homes, the Mission and downtown areas, before I explored Sterns Wharf on my own. As we sailed out it was a little too foggy for me to see the Bacara Resort (another sister property to The Meritage Resort), but I did look. The next day we sailed into Monterey Bay and walked from Fisherman's Wharf about a mile to Cannery Row and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. (Santa Barbara and Monterey Pictures)
With a quick sail up the coast we went under the Golden Gate Bridge and past Ghirardelli Square to dock in San Francisco for two days. It may seem weird to go on a cruise to a place that I live 90 minutes away from, but I must say actually having the opportunity to be a tourist in San Francisco is a lot different than just going for a Giants game or for work. Although my phone died (and was broken for the rest of the trip), I still had fun. We met up with my brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephews on the first day, hanging out on Pier 39 (including the Aquarium of the Bay) and Fisherman's Wharf before buying tickets for the cable car and heading inland to Top of the Mark for drinks. With a seven page martini list, I decided to stick with beer, the views from the top were nothing short of spectacular though. During dinner at the buffet we had a fabulous view of the light show on the Bay Bridge. The next day we went on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of the city. If you have been to San Francisco a million times and haven't done this yet, I actually recommend it, seeing the city from the top of a double-decker bus is a lot different from the confines of a car or even walking on the sidewalks. We didn't get off too many times, but we did take the opportunity to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, something I had done once before during a work trip, but my parents, aunt and uncle had never even dreamed of doing it. The bridge is breathtaking no matter how many times you have seen it and it photographs well (sorry for all of the pictures of it). (San Francisco Pictures)
After a relaxing day at sea we landed pretty far up the Columbia River in Astoria, Oregon. We were greeted by one of my dad and uncle's sisters and my moms sister's parents-in-law. The town was actually very nice, with quite a few antique shops and some other historical points of interest (Lewis and Clark settled near there), we didn't really explore too much, but did have the opportunity to have lunch with everyone, which was really cool. We had a giant round table overlooking the Columbia River and could just talk, relax and use their wifi (remember my phone broke, so having wifi and my iPad was a good thing). One of the coolest things happened as we were leaving, the harbor pilot, who typically jumps from the cruise ship to a smaller boat left via helicopter. They had all of the outside decks closed, but from our balcony and a hidden stairway at the back of the ship I got some good pictures of the helicopter at least. (Astoria Pictures)
On the ship we enjoyed lots of food (I may have ordered multiple appetizers, entrees and desserts a few nights), daily visits to the ice cream counter, hamburgers and sandwiches on the pool deck, entertainment, games of pinochle on our spacious veranda and a few other things, like dominoes in the game room and a backstage tour. Our room was actually pretty spacious, we were able to fit four people comfortably, with plenty of closet and drawer space for all of us (something very unusual in my opinion for a cruise ship).
As we headed home we were able to go through US Customs in the Vancouver Airport, which took about three minutes (I decided that every time I re-enter the US I would like to do it through the Vancouver airport). I tried, unsuccessfully to fix my phone using the airports wifi and then we took off for a short flight across the border to Seattle. From Seattle we got to Sacramento, where I'm pretty sure our bags magically beat us to the luggage carousel, thank you Alaska Airlines. The next day I went directly to the Apple Store, where I was told my phone couldn't be fixed ... I left the store a little poorer, but with an iPhone 5, so it wasn't all bad. After a work meeting, unpacking and getting some work done I headed to dinner with my parents at their former neighbor's house. Since we were traveling on Cinco de Mayo, we celebrated "Seis de Mayo" with margaritas, wine, tamales and some other yummy dishes. (On the Ship and Post Cruise Pictures)