Today my Mother and I hopped in a cab and headed for Pier 35 in San Francisco for a Mexican Riviera cruise. We kind of hopped. I had two large suitcases and a luggage cart loaded with my laptop, good camera, video camera, bag with a six-pack of small bottles of spring water, a liter of spring water and a container of Kirkland disinfectant wipes, and my handbag. My Mom brought one monster of a suitcase. The luggage cart set-up fell apart as we tried to maneuver it into the cab, which became a problem when we got out in front of Pier 35, where there was a mob scene. Porters were lined up and one grabbed our bags as I struggled to reassemble the camera and laptop setup with a bungee cord. We said “bye-bye” to our bags and made our way into the terminal, through the various check-points and then up the gangway into the Star Princess, one of Princess Cruise Line’s larger luxury ships, able to accommodate 2,600 passengers and a crew of 1,000. The Star Princess was built in 2002 and this was its first voyage after being in dry dock for a renovation, so we were able to enjoy an especially modern and clean environment. Why a ship would need a reno after only six years seems odd, but I suppose cruise ships take a beating from both passengers and the elements. There was also a major fire on the Star Princess in 2006 – something I chose not to think about while on the cruise but which entered my mind every now and again, like when I was in our windowless cabin during the night. We made our way to our lovely little room to check it out and then straight to the buffet to tie on the feed bag. We arrived on ship at about 11:00 a.m., so there was plenty of time after lunch to take a few photos of the San Francisco skyline and go exploring. As we did the latter, my Mother, no stranger to cruising, explained the ins and outs of how things work, and how the card I was issued in the terminal could be used to charge anything that was not included in the price of the cruise, like drinks with alcohol. Cruising is an almost cash-less experience, and you only need real money in ports of call, it turns out. We unpacked when our bags arrived, which was late in the afternoon, and had no problems at all with space and with getting about 30 extra hangers from our room steward, John, a lovely young man from the Philippines. At about 5:30 p.m., after getting organized, we took the elevator down to the Portofino Dining Room on the 5th floor for dinner. We were pissed off about being wait-listed for traditional (reserved) dining, but found that “anytime dining,” which is what Princess calls it, is just fine. I had been convinced that this happy moniker meant that it would actually suck compared to traditional dining in the Amalfi Dining Room, but this did not bear out. We were seated at table 133 with one couple each from Union City and San Bruno, the latter being from Germany, and a few other Bay Area folk. This is what I was waiting for: nightly fine dining with no driving home afterwards, no parking, no check, no having to settle for only one of something if you want two. To be able to sit down at a beautifully appointed table and receive super-attentive service is one of the great pleasures in life, and one that I planned to never miss while on this cruise. Why would we be crazy enough to eat dinner in the Horizon Court Buffet? Better to go there late in the evening, when you are looking for a little snack that might have been a main course in one of the fancy dining rooms earlier in the day, or perhaps a ripe slice of cantaloupe, or hunk of Gouda. I caught on quickly that a cruise means many meals per day, so you find yourself eating modestly at each so you are able to experience all. I certainly did not want to miss the daily formal tea, what with its little savories and pastries, nor did I plan to do without the mini paninis I saw in passing this afternoon at the International Cafe, located in the Piazza on deck 5. The final act of the night, after a civilized cup of tea for myself and a cigarette and coffee for my Mom out by the Terrace Pool, was the application of anti-nausea patches behind each of our right ears, to ensure we would not spend the next couple of days in rough waters in our cabin wishing we were dead, which is apparently how sea sickness makes you feel. You can see the water in the pool listing to one side with the ship. Oh, Lord, I forgot to mention that this is Fleet Week in San Francisco, so we all had the pleasure of a Blue Angels demo from the deck, as well as major traffic on The Embarcadero en route to the ship.