Pacific Coastal - 2015
EMBARKATION DAY -- Sunday
The Grand Princess was built for Princess in 1998, and at that time she was the largest cruise ship in the world. There are a few that are larger now, but she is still a grand old ship. She was re-worked in 2011 to remove a lounge that was up high, across the stern of the ship (the back end). It was considered deck 18. That is very high off the water. That was removed because it offered too much wind resistance, and kept the aft swimming pool in the shade. They also redid the entire public section of the ship, moving bulkheads and renewing decks and overheads. Translated... moving walls and renewing floors and ceilings.
We will actually repeat this exact cruise on May 17th of next year, with members of Ken's high school graduation class. They decided that we enjoyed our two previous cruises too much, and even though it is not a five-year increment like reunions usually follow, we are not getting younger, so... Why Not? We will be celebrating the 57th year anniversary of our (my) graduation from high school. So this report will have a little bit of a different flair to it. It is basically a description for those that will be sailing in May to know what to expect on that cruise, especially if it will be their first cruise.
We have our Passports and our Boarding Passes, we have printed our tags that we put on our luggage, and we are ready to start our new adventure.
We scheduled a driver to pick us up at our home in Pleasanton around 11 a. m. Sunday. The driver called saying that he would be a little early if that would be ok with us. He was fifteen minutes early and we left Pleasanton at 10:45. He dropped us at the new terminal building at Pier 27 in San Francisco at 11:40. We made good time.
Our 'Old Friend' was waiting for us. We caught this image of the Grand Princess sitting at her berth as we crossed over the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge. We have sailed on the Grand Princess three times before this, twice in the Caribbean and once when we sailed her to Hawai'i and back. in 2013. Below is her stern. Her 'aft' end.
Porters abound in the area where the driver lets you off, right in front of the terminal building. They will take your luggage that is already tagged so it can be distributed to the proper cabin on the ship. From the time we leave the house we no longer touch our baggage until we are in our cabin and they deliver it to the cabin. These guys are not part of the ship crew, so you might want to tip them a bit... maybe a buck a bag or so.
Entering the terminal building, we had to show our passports. This trip will stop in Ensenada, Mexico, so we need passports, regardless of whether we get off there or not. All cruise ships that sail from the USA and end up back in the USA are required by some Federal rule that it stops in a "foreign" port. So Ensenada benefits from that rule, being the nearest foreign port to the West Coast of California.
Next, as would be expected, all items including your belt go through the x-ray machine to make sure we are not carrying an atomic bomb, and then, if you are carrying booze on board for some occasion, you declare it now and they hold it for you until you need it. Any more than a bottle of booze will cost you a corkage fee.
After that comes a declaration that you sign, stating that you are not sick or have not visited certain countries recently. It is a Health Declaration basically. No sense in starting out with sick people on board.
Next up is Registration where we register ourselves and our credit card to pay the bills. They give us each a Cruise Card which is our payment process on board the ship. It is our identification on board, and our charge card. When we leave the ship it is our ticket off (so they know we are not on board) and, most important, our ticket back on when we return to the ship. It is also the key to our cabin door. Don't Lose It! I did once... lost it in the Vista Lounge (Deck 7, aft) and could not retrieve it. They just printed me a new one. We were also given a little folded map of the ship. This is very handy and is smaller than your bank savings book you had as a kid. You want to keep that with you. There are a lot of square feet of space on these ships and a lot of time can be saved if you glance at that map before you head out to a destination on the ship. They also gave us a numbered card and asked us to wait in a seating area to be called. We did not get seated before they called our number, and we began the walk up the series of ramps and walkways taking us into the ship.
You will get your picture taken twice before you reach your cabin. Once will be when you see one or two people asking to take your picture, and this can be singles or groups or whatever, and it is a "Welcome Aboard" photo that will be available for you to examine in the ship's Photo Gallery. If you like it, you can pay for it, or you can reject it. No cost to you unless you want to take it with you.
At the top of the series of ramps you step through one of the doors in the hull of the ship and they scan your Cruise Card with a hand-held scanner and camera device. This picture you will never see, and will be used each time you come back to the ship, to make sure you are the person that matches your Cruise Card. They take security seriously on Princess. At that point, you are On Board. Lifts (elevators) are right there to take you to your cabin or anywhere you want to be at the moment. There are also stairs, and if you are in good shape and wish a bit of exercise you can take the stairs. The lifts are rather busy with all the new people coming on board. We had a lift open up just as we were in that area so we rode it up four decks instead of 'breaking in' our legs. We have plenty of opportunity to do that later this week.
We were in our cabin by 12:15. Probably one of the quickest entries we have made. Our cabin was ready and spotless, as usual. We were only there for a few moments when a knock on the door indicated that our luggage had arrived. That was very unusual.
This is a first for us. We usually book a cabin that is classified as "ba" or "bb" which means it is one of several styles of cabins with a balcony to the outside. We love the balcony. It gives us the opportunity to see the world, see what "time" it is, see the weather, and get nice fresh air first-hand. This time, however, we were offered an "upgrade" for less than $300 total, to move to what they refer to as a "mini-suit", which is a little larger, allowing a sofa in the seating area instead of just a chair. Also the head (bathroom) is a little larger with a tub and shower over it. We are used to just the shower without the tub.
This stateroom also has a second TV, so one is viewed from the bed and the other is viewed from the couch. It has the same size balcony as the "ba". The cabin number is D 237, Dolphin Deck, just slightly forward of the forward stairs and lifts.
This is also a 'first' for us as this is the closest we have been to the bow of the ship when sleeping. We are getting some slightly rolling seas and we are feeling a slight amount of movement, but it is November, so seas will be a little more active, but it is not enough to bother us. We normally try to book closer to mid-ship, where she rides a bit smoother. We accepted this one to try out the mini-suite. It could be dangerous... we might not want to 'go back' to a "ba" cabin next cruise. LOL.
Guess what? It's time to eat! On a ship it is always time to eat. We headed up to the Lido Deck... deck 14. Our stateroom is on deck 9, Dolphin Deck, so we need to climb four levels (there is no deck 13 on most ships). Strangely enough, Princess numbers their decks starting from the bottom 1--2--3--4--5-- etc., but names them from the top down Aloha, Baja, Caribe, Dolphin, Emerald, Fiesta, etc..
So... Stairs or lift? The lifts are quite busy so we climbed. We can still do it... sorta... at our age, so we did. Works up the ol' appetite, as if we need that done. LOL. We have always tried to walk the stairs each cruise so that we get the exercise that we need, and be able to eat that Crème Brule' at dinnertime. FYI, there are 64 steps from our deck to deck 14. And 72 down to deck 6 for dinner. That is the important information.
From the moment you board a Princess ship, the Horizon Court, deck 14 aft (Lido deck) is a buffet and is open for those just boarding. It is open most of the time with very few hours that it is not open. We sat with Mistie and Casey, two widows from Concord, CA (about twenty miles north of our own home), that were in their seventies, possibly. They were delightful tablemates.
Back down to our cabin where we rested up a bit and read the daily Patter, a four-page brochure that lists the many things that are being offered on the ship for that day. Plenty of things to do, if you are interested in doing things. I did a little catching up on e-mail, although I was not connected on-line yet. I'll do that tomorrow.
At 1600 hours we had our Emergency Drill where we return to our cabins, pick up our life jackets, and proceed to our Muster Station. This is where we will go in an emergency. For our cabin our Muster Station was straight down the staircase to deck 7 (Promenade Deck) and forward to the Princess Theater in the bow of the ship. We got our obligatory lecture on what to do during an emergency, how to tell there is an emergency, and then released about half an hour later. Always nice to know what to do, when, and where.
There is usually good internet service on the ship, which means someone is aware and attentive of the antenna system to maintain contact with the internet while this floating city keeps moving about. Currently we are still at the port in San Francisco. Using the ship's internet service at sea is expensive. You can buy time on the internet by the minute or you can purchase packages that are a little cheaper. As "Premier" members we are each given 150 minutes free to use.
We were scheduled to drop the dock lines at 1600 hours (4:00 pm) That is sea talk for the time. If the time is past '1300', subtract 1200 for the P.M. time... and example is '1324 hours' is 1:24 p. m. One of my favorite things about sailing out of San Francisco is watching the SF skyline as we sail out under the Golden Gate Bridge, which looks amazing as well as you sail under it. Up on the top deck of the ship you are not that far below the roadway of the bridge. But today we sailed later for some reason, and we were at dinner and it was after dark when we sailed. Note: later we learned that several of the trucks that bring the food to the ship were detained. That kept us in port longer, waiting for them. We weighed anchor around 1800 hours (what time is that? subtract 1200... we sailed at... 6:00 p.m.). As you can see, we were still at the dock after the sun had set.
We chose Anytime Dining, which means that we can eat at any of the restaurants on board, as long as they are open, and as long as they are not designated for Traditional Dining. If you choose Traditional (when you book your cruise) you are assigned a table in a beautiful Dining Room, and you have the same people eating with you, and the same wait persons, each evening meal of the cruise. This works well when a larger family travels together. When traveling in a group, such as a class reunion, we try to book two or three large tables next to each other and just sit at one or the other to be able to visit with everyone in the group.
With Anytime Dining, we tell the Head Waiter at the door "Party of two, and we will sit with others". They seat us at a table that may seat four, six, eight or ten. And usually we have different table mates each evening. That is the fun part. Tonight we were joined with Nobe and Brooke from San Francisco, and Andy and Lizzie, also from San Francisco. Lizzie retired after 41 years of teaching students English As A Second Language. Andy retired from banking. They both were born in Chile.
Rosalee and I both selected Prime Rib from the menu, and were not disappointed at all. It was very good, as usual. I started the meal with a shrimp cocktail and then Asparagus Bisque. For dessert I could not pass up the Crème Brule.
There was a football game on the large 350 sq. ft. outdoor screen up on top of the ship, a playing of The Sound Of Music in the Vista Lounge (Deck 7, aft), a showing of "The Ant" topside, later on in the evening, and a host of other entertainment items and parties going on all around the ship. We went to the Princess Theater and caught the Welcome Aboard Showtime presentation with singers, dancers, a ten-piece orchestra, and some aerialists that danced and did some antics from a hanging hoop.
Much more is going on, but we retired to the cabin and did some reading and computer work. I got this chapter of this website set up so I could start my entries into it.
Some Helpful Shipboard Hints
One common problem that we encounter on a ship each time we head back to our cabin is trying to figure out "Which end of the boat is the pointy end?" and another is "On which side of the ship is our cabin?" These... and other questions will be answered in time, but it helps if you know some tips ahead of time. This little primer may help answer some of your questions,
1. The first thing to do once you find your cabin is look down at the carpet. Now check the carpet in the hallway on the other side of the ship. On the Grand Princess you will see this:
The carpet on the left is the color of the carpet on the right or starboard hallway of the ship. The carpet on the right has the red color added, and this color of carpet is on the left or port hallway of the ship. That gold metal strip you see in the top corner of each image is a light strip that lights your way to the exit should an emergency occur, like they have in airplanes today.
2. Staterooms with even numbers are located on the port side of the ship. Staterooms with odd numbers are located on the starboard side of the ship. This 'shelf' is at your stateroom door, and you will receive your communication in this 'box', such as your Princess Patter which is a daily four-page newsletter with a list of things that are going on the next day. Also they place things like your final account statement and invitations to various events. It also tells you who you are so you will know if you are in front of the correct door. LOL.
3. There are three areas of the ship that have the lifts (elevators) and the stairs, and at each of them, on each deck, you will see a sign that tells you which way to go in the hallways of that deck to get to the stateroom number you are seeking.
4. Staterooms are numbered starting at the front or bow of the ship and become larger the closer you get to the back or aft of the ship. There is a plaque like this at each deck, near the stairs, so you can find your way around the ship. Look to the side as you reach each deck and it will tell you the deck that you are currently on. You tend to lose count after a while.
5. The shower controls in most ships are of an "international" design. On most Princess ships, the controls look like this:
The top control lever selects between shower and tub use, if your stateroom has a tub. Some have only the shower (no tub).
The two round knobs control the temperature (top knob, measured in Celsius Degrees) and water volume (lower knob).
The red string hanging on the right sends an alarm to call for help if you slip and fall.
6. You only have to search for a lost suitcase once to realize it is helpful if you take a photograph of your luggage before you even leave the house on your cell phone. Then, if you have to search for a lost bag, and the helper asks "What does it look like?" you can simply whip out your cell phone and say "Just like this!"
7. You do not need to bring a hair dryer as the Grand has one built into the wall, similar to many hotels.
8. After you unpack your bags, they should easily slide under the bed, out of the way.
9. If there is anything that you need, you have a 24-hour number you can call for service from your room steward.
10. When you arrive, your phone has a "call waiting" and a red light flashing. Listen to the whole message (welcome aboard, etc.), listen to the end of the message and it will tell you how to turn off the flashing light and erase the message.
11. When we leave the stateroom for breakfast we put out our little tag to indicate service is required. Your steward will service your cabin while you are out. We place it out again when we go to dinner and the steward will have your bed turned down and ready, including chocolates on your pillow. We place it out with "Do Not Disturb" when we are inside the cabin. If they need you, they will knock.
FIRST FULL DAY - AT SEA -- Monday
A day at sea means two things: A relaxing day... and a Formal Night in the Dining Rooms. Three things, actually. Formal nights are when the ship's photographers set up staging all over the ship... mostly in the Piazza area... and they will do a small series of photos of individuals, couples, families, groups... whatever you want to do. They have the photos on display for purchase, if you like them, in a day or two.
Some ladies are not fond of Formal Night, and even more men don't like "...gettin' dressed up in a monkey suit..." but we enjoy these evenings. You don't need a formal gown or a tuxedo, unless you want to go that far. I generally wear a dark suit and tie and it is fine. I see many that are short of that level of formality. But when people "dress up", they act differently. They do different things, and do things differently. Everyone is friendlier and more congenial. Things are more enjoyable. More humorous. More 'forgiving'. Everyone is a 'friend'. It is infectious.
We woke to a little turbulence in the sea and it was good that we were not in a hurry to get somewhere. We had all day and all night to reach Santa Barbara, something we could easily do in a matter of hours if we upped the speed to our maximum 24 knots of speed... about 27.5 miles per hour. When the sea is rough, the faster we go, the tougher it is on those trying to walk on the ship. So it was noticeable, but not too bad. Before lunch time we saw some rain. By mid-afternoon it was pleasant and sunny. By dinner time, it was very peaceful and calm.
Up to the Horizon Court for breakfast. We sat next to David and Karen from Vancouver, BC. He is retired from Canada's Immigration Service. I asked him if Canada is doing any better about their immigration problems than the USA is, and he said "NO!" He said he was glad that he was retired as things have not gotten any better since he left.
For lunch we thought that we would give The Crown Grill a try ... they were offering a special selection today: Fish & Chips, Mushy Beans, and topped off with Bread & Butter Pudding. It was good.
We sat with Wayne and Bonnie from Lodi. Right after his military service in the Air Force, Wayne lived in Pleasanton with his parents who lived in military housing on Camp Parks, across 580 Freeway. It is amazing how many people we meet on cruises that have some connection to our town or friends of ours or people we know.
We walked up to Lido Deck (14) for a treat from the Ice Cream stand. They often also have sugar-free ice cream. While enjoying our 'dessert' by the forward pool, we noticed the crew member in this image. We first saw him with this lady, over on the far side of the forward pool. The lady had hold of his arm and he was carefully walking with her. She had a cane and had a stride of no more than six inches. SIX INCHES. Do you know how many six-inch steps it takes to cross the beam of this ship? This crewman so gently walked her all the way across the deck... to the ice cream stand. When she was ordering and the crewman walked past us I got his attention. He came over and I told him that we had seen what he did and we really thought that he was a true gentleman. He smiled and made like it was just a 'regular' thing to do. I had never seen a crewman go to that extreme to help a passenger. It was very sweet.
We dressed early for dinner, so we could go down to the Piazza to find a photographer to take our picture. Why Not? Our problem is that we don't really care for the backdrop that most of them use. It is an ugly sepia-toned image of a staircase or another of a ship or... just ugly. We look for a simple, plain colored backdrop. They had one that was black, which we thought might work, but then found one that was a deep gray with a tad of color. That's the one we chose.
Now we can go to dinner. Tonight we ate with a couple from Mesa Arizona named Mel and Elmeda... that is a first for that name. Then two ladies joined us... Chris and Penny, from Castro Valley and San Leandro, both near to our home. Penny works in Pleasanton. The circle continues to be quite small.
The show in the Princess Theater tonight was "Stardust" and featured the Princess Singers, Dancers, and Orchestra. The lighting and staging were very nice. A lovely show.
SECOND DAY - SANTA BARBARA --Tuesday
Rosalee and I were in Santa Barbara on a cruise just last year. We spent the day this time on the ship. We did some business here on the ship and just relaxed. We arose late, and went down to breakfast a little after 1000 hours. There are two gentlemen on board that we have "named" Col. Sanders and Santa Clause. We shared a table for breakfast with Col. Sanders. Long white hair combed back with a white goatee beard and white handle-bar moustache. As we joined him at the table I said "We have seen you on the ship earlier and I told my wife 'now there's a perfect Southern Gentleman'". He said "Col. Sanders at your service". LOL. He named himself.
On the earlier cruise, we did sign up for one of the excursions in Santa Barbara. It was the tour in the trolley (gas powered) that took us around to visit various points of interest in Santa Barbara. It was very informative. We learned something about Santa Barbara that we never knew. I studied Architecture at Cal Poly, only a few miles from Santa Barbara, for two years. Never... did anyone explain to me why so much of Santa Barbara seemed to match in their architectural design. We learned that they had an earthquake in 1925 that devastated the area, and when they rebuilt they tried to keep all of the new construction the same design style and that is why so many of the buildings in the town are of that similar 'Spanish' design.
There are several excursions offered that are escorted trips around town. We took one that carried us downtown, and up past "The Oldest and Largest Fig Tree in the USA" that was supposedly brought from Europe by a young man, to give to his lady love.
That trip also took us up to see the Santa Barbara Mission, one of the original missions built by the Spanish from Mexico. It looks marvelous, considering it was reconstructed after the 1925 earthquake.
Today, we are anchored far out in the bay, to protect marine life that is in close to the shore. In the center of the image above, you can see the facade of the Mission, standing high on a hill, overlooking town and the bay.
This stop is one where we are "tendered" into the port. The tenders that are used are some of our motor launches from the ship. Some of the lifeboats are larger and carry nearly 200 people. They are used to carry people into town, and back out to the ship.
You can see the tenders pulled up alongside our ship, where passengers can get on and off them.
We had lunch by the forward swimming pool. It is open-air with shaded seating around it. It also has the huge outdoor TV screen for Movies Under The Stars. The Mid-ship pool has a sliding roof over it for protection.
Trident Grill is located by the forward pool and they make a nice selection of burgers, dogs, sandwiches, etc.
One interesting facet of life at sea is that you don't need to decide what to eat or where by first thinking about cost, All food is part of the price of the ticket. It is like eating in a large food court with many types of food, but the price was paid at the gangway when you came aboard. Yes, there are several extra-special restaurants that are showing up on some ships, where they offer a special dining experience. It is not at all rushed for time, and dinner is served in multiple courses. They do cost an extra $25 or so, but you are getting something similar to a $60 meal for the money.
Later, for dinner, we were seated at a table for ten. I was not able to get all of the names. Some were from California, some from Canada, and the couple nearest to me were from England. It is difficult to have much of a conversation at a table for ten. It is a little too large. Especially with the level of noise as high as it is. I should rejoice at the noise level as that means people are talking and having fun, not just sitting quietly and not communicating.
We made it to two shows tonight. In the Vista Lounge (Deck 7, aft) was Carl Andrews, a gentleman that billed himself as doing Amusing Mental Comedy. We arrived late, just before the show started, and caught two seats in the very back row. When the artist needed 'volunteers', he came all the way back and took the woman sitting right in front of us. She happened to be at our dinner table the next night.
The show was an amusing and talented show. When it was over we went forward to the Princess Theater where we caught "Dynamic Entertainer, Glenn Smith" who sang, played the piano and the 'fiddle', and harmonica. It was a good show. He added plenty of humor to make it even better.
THIRD DAY - LONG BEACH --Wednesday
We awoke in port, and interestingly enough, those of you that sailed with the Gridley class of '59 in 2009 on their 50th reunion, we were at the same exact berth as the Carnival Paradise was that we used then. Up next to the stern of the Queen Mary, who is a floating but moored hotel and museum now.
After breakfast we decided to walk over to check out the Queen. Our niece had indicated that a cruise card from our cruise would buy your way onto the QM, so we walked further than it looked to reach the ticket booth, and there was a rather long line queued up. Prices were well visible to all, and they offered a number of 'packages' that included various guided tours on the ship. Prices were from $25 to $37 and nothing was mentioned anywhere about a cruise card serving as a ticket. So we took images of the outside of the ship.
Several things are immediately called to our attention. Were we to be sailing on the QM... do you see the size of the portholes? That would be your entire viewing area when you are in an "outside" cabin. Not quite the same as the huge sliding glass door we have on the Grand. Also, there are no balconies. I think that was more of a cruise ship innovation, I don't know.
Something that did not miss my attention was the fact that the ship's hull is made of steel plates that are overlapping each other and then riveted together. Today, ships are still steel plates, but they are welded together to become a single sheet of steel. No joints to leak, or rivets to get loose and leak. The image below is the Grand, showing you the difference with the smooth-sided hull.
This might be a good time to share with you some of the Grand Princess's geography. The gangway is entering the ship at deck 5... which is actually the lowest deck open to the passengers... with two exceptions. Deck 5 is mostly for public use, but there are a few staterooms forward. If you have a need to go to the medical center, it is located on deck 4. If you save this image to your computer and blow it up larger, you will notice that there is a "sea door" in the hull just below that gangway. You can see a small porthole in the center of it. That actually folds out and becomes the landing platform for when you board a tender to go ashore. This is only when the ship cannot come alongside the pier. This would be the other time passengers ever are on deck 4. You will notice that they don't spend too much effort or expense on decorating on that deck. You see steel everywhere. Upper decks... little or no steel is exposed unless you are on a balcony or open deck where weather is an issue.
Those small portholes that look like those on the Queen... that is deck 4 that only crew members use. There are still three more decks below those portholes. Like a tree, there is a lot of the ship below the waterline so it floats upright. Engines are huge and very heavy, so even with 14 decks above the water she stays upright.
Deck 6 is also for public use, with no staterooms, as is deck 7, the Promenade Deck. It is the deck with rails, and is open almost completely around the ship. That is where you can 'go for a walk', and you are open to the weather, whether good or bad, but you are under cover. You walk under the lifeboats/launches that hang at deck 8 level. That is why most outside cabins with "Obstructed View" are on deck 8. The first flue railing you see in the picture above is the rail that is on deck 9, Dolphin Deck. Those are all balconies for staterooms. Several more decks are mostly staterooms, but deck 14 or Lido deck has the pools and the Horizon Court Buffet.
When we returned to our ship, we had been officially off the ship, so we needed our cruise card AND a photo ID re-enter the ship.
On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eleventh year of the twentieth century, the last shot fired in anger in WWI was fired. Nations over the world celebrate Armistice or Veterans' Day on this day. The Princess Grand crew held a 'one minute of silence' exercise on the ship to remember and honor those that served and those that died in the many war-time activities of all countries.
A special service was held at 1650 hours in the Vista Lounge to read some poetry and do an audience participation Responsive Reading, as a remembrance of those that served or had given all in the defense of peace worldwide. There were about 150 people that came. Five members of the Cruise Director's staff were in full uniform and were very respectful for the service. One member stood and played Reveille and Lament on a bugle. It was a nice service.
Anytime I attend any occasion that deals with anything to do with WWII I always think about whether Japanese people will attend and if they do how they feel about a war that we were brought into by an aggressive action on the part of the Japanese nation. Military actually.
I have been privileged to visit the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawai'i three different times (now named The World War II Valor In The Pacific National Monument. Many Japanese visit that memorial. Obviously, there were some people of Japanese descent that served well in WWII for the Americans and Allies, but my age has stained my memories of a very difficult time in history. I grew up hearing a lot of negative thoughts about Japan and her warriors, and that is hard to overlook. We try to forgive, but it is difficult to forget.
But when they show the movie that they offer, showing the bombing of the naval base and the destruction, it is very common to see Japanese people in tears and some apologizing to the guides. Each time the guides are sweet and remind them that it was a different time and different people then. It has to be tough for everyone involved. There were many Japanese passengers on this cruise, and there were Japanese people in this meeting.
A woman sitting next to us, and I both remarked that there was not one single flag displayed for the entire service. I intended to make a comment to someone after the service about the flag issue, but it hit me before it was over that there was a good reason for there not to be a flag. What flag should they present? We forget that even though most of the people we have met on this cruise live in California, and we sail from and back to California, the ship is registered in Bermuda. It is not an "American" ship. The crew comes from more than 57 countries. And we are honoring warriors... from all nations. Which flag represents that many people? I shared that with the woman next to us and we both felt a whole lot better.
And that answered my question about Japanese people in the audience. We were honoring all warriors that fought for their nation, regardless of who they were or who they battled. I had to flash back to the touching monument that we saw in Concord, Massachussets at the North Bridge where "The Shot Heard 'Round The World" was fired. A stone in the stone wall honors the two British soldiers who were the first of the British soldiers to fall to American fire. They were soldiers doing what they were told by their countrymen.
Dinner was in the Dining Room and we ate with two other couples, Jay and Paula from North Carolina and Tom and Judy from Oregon, and they were all delightful. We all enjoyed the company as well as the food.
One of our table mates informed us that our cruise card would have allowed us to tour the Queen Mary on our own without a tour guide. Next time we will know. When we repeat this cruise next April with out high school reunion, we will be sure to take in the Queen.
Our tablemate Judy was the woman that had been called up to be on the stage with the magician last night. Her task was to select each of seven different colors of ink pens and while the magician stood on the other side of the stage in a blindfold, he asked Judy to choose any color she liked to color the hair of a face on a white paper on an easel. When she was finished with all seven colors, he opened an envelop and produced a second picture of a face, with each of the features colored exactly the same color as the one on the easel that Judy had done. Judy and Tom had stayed after that show and caught the second show, and another woman was selected to do the same routine. Judy said that the woman randomly selected the same exact colors that she had chosen for the face. And it again matched the picture in the envelop. The second woman was not there to witness the first show.
Tonight's show in the Vista Lounge was called Motor City, something that Princess does each cruise, but they change it up a little to keep it fresh. The Princess Singers and Dancers and the ship's orchestra really go all out. Princess hires good talent and trains them as a team in California, and then the whole troupe joins a ship ready to perform. Maybe the moving earth in California helps train the performers to be able to perform on a rocking and rolling deck of a ship. :-)
We caught a second show in the Princess Theater by a stand-up comedian Francisco Ramos.
FOURTH DAY - SAN DIEGO --Thursday
San Diego is a beautiful port. San Diego is a beautiful city. There is so much to do here, you have to eliminate choices until you get down to a manageable number to choose from. There are "Trolley" rides that are several hours in an open motor coach that drive all throughout the town telling you what you are seeing. Some will take you over the bridge into the Coronado area, which is one half military. There is a ride to the world famous San Diego Zoo. IF... you go there and have never been, you might consider riding on a coach inside the zoo that will take you all around throughout the zoo grounds, and then you can walk directly back to anything you wanted to watch more intently and for longer times. You can walk a distance of three city blocks, down into a low area, just to see a large animal sleeping, and then you have all of that to walk back... uphill. You might be a bit pooped by now to be doing that. The huge bird cage is a favorite, where you are inside with the birds.
We usually berth within 300 yards from the USS Midway CV-41, an aircraft carrier that is permanently stationed in San Diego. When launched in 1945 she was the world's largest ship, until 1955, and was decommissioned in 1992. Across the channel from our ship is the USS Ronald Reagan CVN-76, another aircraft carrier, when she is in port. She was launched in 2001 and her home port is Yokosuka, Japan.
This couple is a recent addition to the area to the south of where our ship is berthed. You probably remember a picture taken in New York's Times Square of a sailor celebrating the Japanese surrender in 1945. Classmates of Ken's (Mike and Groverlee Dahl of Gridley) found a copy of this same statue standing in front of Memorial de Caen in Normandy, France. We did not walk over to this statue so we do not know why it is placed here in San Diego, other than it is of a well-known sailor.
This statue is part of a park area that is south of where the Grand is berthed. It includes various monuments to persons and ships that hold special merits with the City of San Diego. There is also some statues of various members of the military listening to Bob Hope, which has a recorded voice of Hope doing one of his famous Christmas visits to the men and women in uniform overseas.
It is a short walk to the park and a cute shopping center called Seaport Village with restaurants, gift stores, art galleries... and a Tom and Jerry Ice Cream stand. The image below was taken as we sat enjoying an ice cream cone.
Walking back toward the ship you can see how far the Village is from the Grand. She can be seen sticking up above the USS Midway.
ry to be awake and topside when you sail into the bay, or have a late dinner and be topside when we go out. It is a lengthy trip to reach the ocean and you will see dry docks and air fields and other military installations.
Before we left the ship for our little walk, we went up to the Horizon Court for lunch and an Asian couple joined us... Andrew Ho, who was born in Mainland China and his wife Bing Ho who was born in the Philippines. Her full name is Bienvineda, which is Spanish for "Welcome". He worked with the US Immigration Service, starting in Chicago and ending up in San Francisco. He spent time on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, in the Entry facility (California's equivalent to Ellis Island). They were a cute couple. She was a nurse and they met in the U.S. Immigration Service. Both are now retired.
At dinner we were seated at a table for four. Already seated were Don and Sandy from Texas. They were retired from the education system. An enjoyable couple and as usual, a delicious meal.
The Vista Lounge was showing the movie "Ant Man" and in the Princess Theater we saw Jeff Petersen, a comic/magician that we saw last Tuesday, but he had a different show. He puts on a good show.
FIFTH DAY - ENSENADA --Friday
Friday The Thirteenth... should we travel on this day? Looks like we will.
Today we are in Ensenada, Baja, Mexico. The Harbor is much larger and busier than it was back in 1997 when we did our first cruise. At that time it was not much more than a sleepy backwater with old tires floating in the water and hay bales piled on the breakwater. Today it has modern, busy equipment with container ships in port being unloaded with those large cranes that look like those tall walking robot animals in Star Wars movies. I think they were called AT-AT.
This image shows a shipping dock that was on the ocean side of our ship. The city of Ensenada is on the other side of our ship.
They were messing with a lifeboat/tender this morning and since the winches and motors are just below the deck of our cabin, when things moved it made lots of noise. You can see in the image the davits extending out and the cables lowering down the boat. I was standing on our balcony, leaning over the rail to take this picture.
We went up to have breakfast/lunch and sat at a table for six with one woman sitting at one end. Very soon her brother joined us and then her husband joined us. They were Tim and Linda, and her brother Dave. He was from Oakley and the couple were from Pinole. They were frequent Princess cruisers and we chatted about past experiences. We also talked about Linda's mother and their experiences of traveling with her. We discussed dealing with Alzheimer's Disease and the elderly in general, as well as about cancer. Dave is a widower because of the cancer his wife had at the age of 53.
Looking at this ship from the side when off the ship, it appeared that you could walk to the very front of the ship on the Promenade deck (deck seven). Usually that area is cordoned off due to the placement of the winches that secure the shore lines, and when walking around the ship on the Promenade deck they usually shuttle you into the body of the ship to the other side before you reach the bow. So we went down around 1300 hours and checked it out.
We were able to get almost there, walking forward and then we had to step up some stairs to deck 8 and then continue forward. We actually could walk clear to the front of the bow. With three trips on this ship before this, how did we miss this? I looked back to our Western Caribbean cruise in 2002 and she clearly had the open deck in the bow then. It is a rather enjoyable place to be.
This is an example of where open steel is seen. But that is genuine Teak decking you are walking on. You can see this area when viewing the ship from the shore.
You can clearly see the open walkway coming around the bow. It is like you are walking in the bill of a large bird.
Up at the top in front, you can see what looks like a window that goes clear across the front of the ship. That is the Bridge, where the folks driving this boat hang out. Notice that the Bridge comes clear out on those 'outriggers' to either side of the ship. That allows the captain to walk out there and look straight down along the side of the hull when docking on that side of the ship. The ship has 'thrusters' that are propellors in the bow below the waterline, and more in the stern. The can move this ship sideways, making it so the ship can literally do most of what is needed without the need for a tug boat.
FYI... there are 22 of those motor-powered life boats on the ship... enough to hold more than the number of souls that ride this ship, including the crew of over 1,200. If you save this image to your comoputer and blow it up larger you can see many more details. Between the fifth and sixth lifeboat on this side are what look like round barrels. They are blow-up lifeboats that can be launched off the ship, clear of the hull that may be sitting at a serious angle, so there is plenty of ways to care for everyone in an emergency.
I did notice that the life-sized mermaid that was next to the Mermaid Grill was missing. I commented in the 2002 report that she would likely not last because she was not wearing sea shells on her chest like the "socially acceptable" mermaids of today do.
Tonight is our second and final Formal Night. We dressed and came down to the Piazza to find a photographer set up to take portraits, but with a plain background. None were plain. They all had graphics that just were too busy for portrait work.
Waiting to go into the Dining Room Don and Sandy, the Texas school teachers came by and we invited them to share a table for four again. We found plenty to talk about.
These are the images that we kept from the first photo sitting.
Tonight was the Princess "British Invasion" show which seems to be a big hit because it is pretty much a "standard" on all of their larger ships. We watched it and they did a good job. Those kids work extra hard on those shows.
We have noticed two things about this particular cruise: There is a rather high percentage of Asian folks on board. We assumed that was because the ship sailed from San Francisco. We have also noted that the applause is not as strong and loud as usual on good shows and good performances. Tonight, in the 'British Invasion' we were sitting amongst a large group of Asians, and I noticed that they did not clap. Strange. They did not seem to 'participate' in any of the shows. But the seats were filled early with them. Different ways I guess.
We left the Princess Theater and headed to the other end of the ship to the Vista Lounge where Glen Smith was playing his piano again. We sat down and just in front of us were Don and Sandy from dinner. Seated next to us was Mysty and Bill from San Ramon... ten miles from our home. Mr. Smith was extra good tonight. Fabulous skills on the keyboard.
Heading back to our stateroom after the last show we found a young lady photographer that was about to close her station. She had a plain black background. At last. So she took some pictures that we will check out tomorrow. Tomorrow is an At Sea Day.
SIXTH DAY - AT SEA --Saturday
We were slow about getting up this morning. Correction. I was slow about getting up. Rosalee is an early riser. She had been up awhile, reading... doing Soduko...etc. We went up to the Lido Deck (14) to the Horizon Court for a late breakfast. It was relatively busy so we sat at a table with another couple, and being an at-sea day, no one had anything that they HAD to do that day... except pack the suitcases to head home.
The couple were Bill and Marjory from Santa Cruz. They were enjoyable and very interesting to speak with. We talked about family and business and politics and National Security and........ we talked for more than two hours. LOL. That's what happens when you speak with someone that shares some of your own views on things. I found Bill to be very intelligent and very explicit about his views. He spent most of his career running companies. He shared his views on how most companies that are in trouble are that way because of the personnel that were making bad decisions. He would initiate the purchase of a failing company, fix it up, and then initiate the re-sale of that company, after it was on its feet again. Made Rosalee and I think of a favorite movie from way back... way, way back. 1959 actually. "Cash McCall" with a quite young and devastatingly attractive James Garner and a gorgeous Natalie Wood.
...in case you want to relive a movie trailer from 'the good ol' days'.
Something that you might want to do today is go to Deck 6, where the Passenger Services desk is, and over by the rail that looks down into the Piazza, around on the side, closer to the elevators, there is a machine with a video screen that you can scan your Cruise Card through it to get a copy of your on-board account. Your bill. It tells you where you stand, and whether you have a credit or a debit. If they have a copy of your credit card number, they will just charge your balance against your card. If you have a credit... you will lose it. It is not reimbursed to you in most cases. You get a credit if you have 'On-board Credit' because you are traveling with a group, or your travel agent gave you a credit. Either way, settle the bill on Saturday and you won't have to fight the crowd on Sunday during disembarkation. Don't leave anything to the last day as your time will be very short. They ask us to be out of our staterooms by 0800. You have a designated lounge or area to wait for your color and number to be called to disembark.
We went back up to the stateroom and packed our luggage. We received luggage tags that are a designated color and has a number. We were "Cream 4". They offer a list showing the approximate time that color and number will be called to disembark. What the cruise line likes everyone to do is pack their luggage and have it sitting in the hallway outside your cabin door for them to pick it up, the night before you disembark. That gives them time to get the luggage down below where they can immediately off-load it to the terminal building as soon as they are tied up to the pier. When we will walk off the ship Sunday morning, we will go into the terminal building and they will have an area marked "Cream 4" where our luggage will be waiting for us to pick up.
The problem is that you have to pre-plan what you will wear to dinner tonight (remember, they like you to dress somewhat nicely, but they do relax a little this last night) and what you will wear off the ship Sunday morning. Plus cosmetics, shaving gear, ...etc. When you sail think about what you actually HAVE to keep that last night, and plan on having some type of carry bag to put the stuff in for your walk-off. If you are flying when you leave the ship, just keep a carry-on case that you can take right onto the plane.
We went down to the Dining Room for dinner a little after 1700 hours (5 pm) and while lining up to go into the Dining Room, Don and Sandy from Texas came by. We asked for a table for Four and enjoyed dinner together again. We joined them in the early show which was Carl Andrews, whom we saw earlier in the week. He had a whole different show, but similar show in that he did stunts where he could tell if someone was telling the truth or not, or anticipating answers audience members would write down.
We just stayed in the Princess Theater for the final show. It was where some of the crew members would perform. Some did very well. Others were certainly better than me.
SEVENTH DAY - DISEMBARKATION --Sunday
We planned to rise early and head up to the Horizon Court early to find something to eat for breakfast before we start our trek home.
Early in the trip you can let the Passenger Services Desk (formerly known as the Purser's Desk) know your needs as to whether you need to meet an early flight or make some special arrangement to getting off the ship. One thing that is available to anyone is what they call "Early Walk-off" where you actually hang onto all of your luggage the night before, and you schlep them out of the ship on your own. That is not easy, as the elevators (lifts) are very busy with people moving about the ship. But you can be the first to leave if you want to do that.
We got a schedule of when you leave the ship, what your tag colors are (and numbers) and where you will wait for your number to be called. They need you to be out of your stateroom by 0800 hours, so they can start cleaning for the next group of cruisers. The ship is only in San Francisco port for 12 hours. During that time all clean-up and re-setting of everything for the next cruise is done, plus getting all luggage off the ship and all new luggage back on for the next group. And then they have to disburse those bags to all of the individual cabins.
We exited the ship by 1020 and our scheduled driver picked us up in front of the terminal building on time. He had us home in Pleasanton by 1100 hours. A very efficient disembarkation.