Hawaiian Islands - 2013
Walt and Janet came down to Pleasanton and stayed a few days prior to the start of the cruise, and Ed and Andi joined us from their home in Livermore (five miles from us) the day we left. The six of us had a service pick us up and drive us into San Francisco to meet the ship. The service could carry luggage (we had nine pieces total) and the six of us, and no one had the hassle of driving us down onto the Embarcadero and plow through that mess. Fortunately only one ship was in that section of the port (Pier 35), so the traffic was not the gridlock that it can be when a second ship is in. The ships usually come into port and go out again within the same day. That means the average large cruise ship is disembarking nearly 2,000 people and all of their luggage... WHILE another 2,000 or so are coming in to board for the next cruise, and with two ships those numbers are just doubled. Our ship for this cruise will be the Grand Princess, which carries close to 3,100 passengers and over 1,200 crew members, so it just makes traffic that much worse.
Of course, while all of this is happening, you have taxies and limo drivers and friends and relatives bidding bon voyage, and trucks are delivering enough stores to keep those floating palaces afloat and tending bar and serving meals for at least the next week. And all of that has to be taken aboard, as well as the luggage that is coming off and the new luggage is going on. The logistics are amazing. It is the epitome of "bustling like a bee hive".
The view from
our balcony: San Francisco's Transamerica Building rises next to
the left extension of our bridge.
Embarkation was very smooth for us this time. Princess has four classes of passengers (Gold, Medallion, Platinum and Elite), and there really is not a great difference in the class levels at sea. They do not have different decks for different class levels as they had in the movie "Titanic". Your class level is determined by the number of cruises/days cruising with Princess you have accumulated. We are currently at the Platinum level, Ed and Andi are Medallion (but this cruise should bump them up into Platinum class when it is over), and Walt and Janet recently become Elite. Platinum and Elite have a lovely, shorter line coming in off the street to Embarkation, and that can really save some time and effort. Elite is in that line also, and they allow us to bring on a couple of a 'lower class' with you (so you don't break up the group), so all six of us had the 'yellow brick road' right through the process.
Also seen from our ship is The new Oakland - San Francisco Bay Bridge, being built to replace the 50-year old structure behind it... just as soon as they can resolve the problem of failed anchor bolts
Other 'perks' for upper class levels include a couple of hours of free time on the internet, and possibly the ship's crew doing your personal laundry if you wish, and the higher class levels have a more comfortable location in which you can wait for your "luggage tag color" to be called for disembarkation. That is how they determine your order of coming off the ship. We will try to get all three couples' luggage tagged the same color so we can walk off at the same time, since we will all be driven back to Pleasanton together.
Our cabin is Caribe 314 (Caribe is deck 10, with deck one at the bottom of the ship) on the Port side (left side) of the ship. Ed and Andi are on the same deck, starboard side (right) and so were Walt and Janet, but Princess asked if they would take an "upgrade" so they could fill the boat (not an unusual situation). They were asked if they would take a cabin that was the same size... maybe a skosh larger, but three decks up on the Lido deck, deck 14. No, that is not a typo... there is no deck 13 on any ship... or a 13th floor on most any high-rise building as you likely already know.
They usually cruise with an "inside" cabin which has no exterior exposure, because it is less expensive, and they spend time in other locations on the ship a lot. The cabins are all different sizes but theirs was the same as ours, but with no exterior opening. However, it had a wonderful 'port hole'. It was a solid glass wall looking out over the sea. It looks right down to the water. They are on the same deck as the Horizon Court, which is usually our choice for breakfast and lunch. And the Ice Cream Bar is there... as well as the two larger pools and the open-air movie theater.
On the larger Princess Ships, they lay out the decks in a fairly similar fashion from ship to ship. The lowest deck that passengers can frequent is deck five, except when leaving by tender (small boat) for shore you go down to deck 4, but only in a small section to reach the water level. The Medical Service is also on deck four usually. Deck 7 is usually the Promenade Deck and you can walk on an 'outside' deck completely around the ship on deck 7. If you care, on this ship three trips around the ship equal one mile. Main dining rooms and the main galley are on decks five and six. General/public rooms like theaters, lounges and the ever-present photo gallery (selling pictures of every move you have made since boarding the ship are for sale) are on these three decks (5-7) and residences are usually in the deck 8 through deck 12 area. Decks 14 and above are usually 'party' decks, with swimming pools, gyms, spas, hot tubs, outdoor movies, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and the buffet. They give you a small, folding map of the ship when you get your cruise card during embarkation. Be sure that you do not lose that. LOL.
Placards abound at each area of lifts (elevators) and ladders (stairs), and sometimes the carped hallways use a different color to remind you if you are presently on the port or starboard of the ship. Cabin numbers are split with evens on port and odds on starboard. And deck numbers are well marked. Plus each deck is given a 'name', but with deck numbers ascending, the deck names DEscend. "Aloha" is deck 12, "Baja" is 11, "Caribe" is 10, "Dolphin" is 9, etc. Keep your map close.
There are ten locations on the ship that serve meals (including the ice cream bar for those on an ice cream diet :-) ). For those that are so inclined, there are eight bars, and the waiters at the restaurants will take your bar order when you are seated for dinner. Room service is available also, with a small fee. Soft drinks and alcoholic drinks cost extra, but water, tea, fruit and vegetable juices, and coffee are gratis during the whole cruise. All treats and meals are included in your ticket price, with the exception of a few specialty dinning rooms that charge a minimal fee, around $20 to $30 per meal. They are multi-course meals that take quite a bit of time to get through the meal.
They always do a "Sail-Away" party somewhere on an upper deck and sailing from San Francisco that is a great experience because you get to see lots of boats and ships in the area, and you go closer to Alcatraz Island and see the famous prison which was closed and then occupied (and excessively damaged) by some native Americans to make some statement or other. And no matter how many times I sail past the city, there is something that is totally magic about the skyline of San Francisco. Coit Tower... Transamerica Building... Palace of Fine Arts... But the real excitement is that you sail out under the Golden Gate Bridge, and you get to see the bridge as you cannot see it from anywhere else. After you are 'outside the gate', it is plenty chilly, and you are likely late to join your party at the dinner table. We did not weigh anchor until 1800 hours... at least a full hour behind schedule. The fog was closing in on the Golden Gate Bridge.
Coit Tower - built by a private citizen as a tribute to the city's firefighters
We try to get back together for dinner when we sail, but the ship was late sailing, due to delayed deliveries we were told, and we left nearly 1 1/2 hours later than planned. That goofed up our schedules and we did not get to dine together that first evening. With all of this confusion, and trying to unpack and stow everything away (sometimes one of your suitcases does not show up on time... usually the one with your long pants so you can go into the dining room), it can be a bit tough to do anything as a group. The entertainment is pretty weak on that first night as well.
I do have to tell a story on ourselves... one would think that by the twelfth cruise we would have our act together... but not quite. Rosalee usually chooses the clothes that are to be packed and stacks them on the bed before we leave for the ship. I have the job of getting it all into the suitcases and coming under the weight limits on the bags. With no flights on this trip we have no weight limitations, so I packed it all and was amazed when both bags were somewhat under the 50 pounds many airlines adhere to. When we unpacked in our cabin, we realized that neither of us put in my dress pants. Oops. I had two pair of jeans and plenty of short pants but the dining rooms require at least long pants and Smart/Casual attire. We managed with my black jeans, but I did not feel right. We did bring my dark suit for our three 'formal' nights, but I cannot wear that for fifteen dinners.
There is a Tuxedo rental service on board, so the next day we rented a pair of tux pants, and I had brought a black jacket and enough dress shirts. So the tux pants worked, but tux pants do not accept a belt, and I am not shaped to keep the trousers at the level they need to be to keep from walking on the cuffs, so the next night we ordered a pair of suspenders. Rosalee suggested a coat was not needed (not required to meet the normal "Smart Casual" dress code for dining in the dining hall we wanted to go to) but I spent too many years on the farm to allow myself to wear dress pants, dress shirt, and suspenders exposed... so I added the black 'dinner jacket' that I brought. That worked.
With the 'Sail Away' being so late, W&J could not wait that long for dinner so we dined with E&A later in the evening. We were joined by Lois and Patty from Petaluma. They were delightful dinner partners.
|DAY ONE - AT SEA
250 Nautical Miles from San Francisco... Sailing at a heading of 240░ (West South West)... Speed: 19.1 knots... Wind blowing at 7 knots... Our position is 35░ N by 127░ W... we are on our way to Hawai'i.
People wonder how rough it is out to sea. This was taken three hundred miles out and the only waves are the ones that we are making as we glide through the blue water. You can see the balconies for cabins one deck below us.
Ed and Andi have met a fellow at their gym classes in Livermore that indicated to them that he was going to also be on board this cruise. He is often hired as the "Enrichment Lecturer". His name is Ray Rychnovsky (Rick - nov - ski) and he is accompanied by his wife Sheila. He is an engineer retired from Sandia Labs in Livermore and travels extensively. He is a fisherman extraordinaire and has written eight books, several 'apps', and more than 600 articles for national and regional magazines. His lecture today was entitled "Pirates... They Aren't Just In The Caribbean Anymore". He uses a lot of images (many he has taken himself) and his presentation was very interesting. All six of us attended.
Another fellow, Randal Jack Ashley, is on board and he is listed as the "Naturalist", and his talk today was entitled "Hawai'i - The Birth of an Island - And Most Remote Place on Earth". We missed it, but I was able to catch it late that evening on one of the Princess channels on our cabin TV. It looks like this is going to be our 'educational cruise'. We seldom catch lectures on the cruises, but we definitely wanted to meet Ray, and I guess that just started the ball rolling.
The six of us were able to eat dinner together. We run into each other all through the day. We often eat breakfast and lunch on our own, unless we spot each other as we are going into the Horizon Court, our usual choice for those two meals. They are buffet style and with two complete serving/seating areas they can close one to switch from breakfast to lunch while the other remains open with breakfast selections. They are open from 0600 to 2300. They have much of the same selections (with some exceptions) that are offered in other restaurants on the ship, but they do not serve you at the table.
Rosalee and I like to sit at a larger table, and when 'the crowd' comes in, people will often ask if they might be able to join us, and we are always open to that. We meet very interesting people that way. We call it "people fishin' ". Sometimes we will join someone already at a larger table. Sometimes we may chat and sometimes we are not together long enough to share too much information.
The usual questions are generally "Are you enjoying your cruise?" or "How many cruises have you taken?", or the big question: "Where are you from?" With this ship having its home port in San Francisco now, it is not unusual for them to answer "Near the Bay area in California". Of course that requires them to be more detailed, and if the city is the same as ours, we are discussing street names as well.
The evening of Day 1 is usually when they offer some type of variety entertainment show. The singers and dancers on board for this cruise joined the ship the same time we boarded, so they are all very young and new. Tonight they had in the forward theater (always called the "Princess Theater" on Princess ships) singing and dancing, and a young black lady with a very nice voice. The aft theater is more of a lounge theater, and is called the Vista Lounge. It had a show with two comedians with short programs. The company has shortened the entertainment shows to a little over a half hour for each show, so they can put in three shows a night. The comedians were both good. And one of them did some magic tricks.
|DAY TWO - AT SEA
728 Nautical Miles from San
Francisco... 1,374 Nautical Miles from Honolulu, Hawai'i...
We met Linda and Jerry, a Christian couple from Texas at breakfast. She teaches early grades of school. They were delightful. Jerry is a boisterous fellow. The kind of guy that comes up to you and has a big smile and a loud "Hey, y'all". With their Texan Drawl so clearly coming across, I asked them: "So, you folks are from New York?" They both roared. That 'broke the ice'. We did not get to visit with them for very long, but we enjoyed our time with them. We had to hustle as Randy was about to give a lecture down in the Princess Theater. The title today is "Who Really Fired The First Shot At Pearl Harbor?"
The lecture was very interesting, and discussed some things that we did not know about the attack on Pearl Harbor in the early morning hours of Sunday, December 7th, 1941. We had known about 3 to 5 miniature one-man suicide submarines that were nothing but an electric motor and a torpedo. It turns out that an allied ship spotted a miniature sub miles from Pearl Harbor and it resulted in a skirmish that sent the sub to the bottom... to rest for sixty years before it was recently discovered. The 'top brass' in Pearl refused to believe that the skirmish happened, and ignored the ship's captain's warning and report. A lot of that went on that day it seems, including the ignored radar report of the incoming enemy planes.
What we also learned, was that the sub that was sent to the bottom was a TWO-man sub, and that there were five of them that were involved. A gentleman named Tom in our cancer support group told me years ago that when the bombs were dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he was on a transport, just days from a planned Tokyo invasion. The Surrender Papers were signed before he pulled into Tokyo Harbor, so their mission was thankfully scrubbed, but he said that the harbor was filled with these miniature submarines.
Ray's talk today was on "The 49ers Gold Rush And How It Changed The World", and he took us through those early days, showing images of the people in the area at that time, those that were significant in the gold discovery and mining, and the places around the gold mining/panning areas. Rosalee and I have many fond memories of driving through this area, along highway 49 through Central California, and attending church with Rosalee's parents in the Grange Hall in Colma, CA, next to the re-constructed Sutter's Mill where the first "Golden Mettle" was found. We stayed in the small towns in the area, in the small hotels, and slept in the small beds that were common 160 years ago. Ray talked about other areas of concentrated gold recovery beside the Central California area as well. Very informative.
We were delighted to have Ray and his wife Sheila dine with us tonight. They are a lovely couple. They do this lecture/tour routine about four times a year, depending on what is available, and what fits their schedule. They promised to join us again.
A comedian Steve Bruner was in the Princess Theater after dinner, and he was pretty good. Princess does get fairly good entertainers. They do not reside on board like the singers and dancers do, but come aboard at the port before their performance and leave at the port that follows, since they perform while we are at sea. In some cases they may stay longer as they may have a return engagement later on in the cruise.
Everyone was getting tired so I ended up doing the late show by myself. In the Vista Lounge was Brent Webb, a Mentalist... ok... not sure what that means. Basically he did some mind reading and guessing what card is pulled and that sort of thing. It was an ok show... not yet ready for prime time. LOL.
|DAY THREE - AT SEA
1197 Nautical Miles from San Francisco...
904 Nautical Miles from Honolulu, Hawai'i...
Last night we passed The Point Of No Return (1051.4 Nautical Miles)... half way between our beginning and our first destination. I recall reading about how the early airplanes flying between California and Honolulu had a point of no return, where you knew that should trouble come up, it would be quicker to continue on than to turn back. With piston engines that were underpowered, a limited quantity of fuel on board, crews that were tired, and weather pretty much unknown for the most part, that PONR became very important. Those flights took two to four times as much time as they do now.
Rosalee and I did some People Fishin' for breakfast this morning and met Paul & Julia from Yorktown, England. They were fun to converse with. With our having friends in England it is always fun to meet others from there. And we usually meet British cruise mates on Princess, possibly because their ships are of Bermudan Registry.
We could go to one of the main Dining Halls for breakfast and order from the menu, and it would be table service, but we enjoy the multitude of items and full control over the quantity of the servings in the Horizon Court, our buffet restaurant that is open about nineteen hours a day. Wait staff schlep coffee, tea, tomato and orange juices or water to the table, and are always present to remove finished dishes and clear/reset vacated tables.
Randy was speaking today on "Whales - Gentle Giants Roaming The Seas", and it was quite interesting. Rosalee and I were house-sitting for the Brown's in Hawai'i in Jan/Feb of 2010 and were able to do our first Whale-Watching boat ride. It was very interesting. I reported about it under that date under Hawaiian Travels on this website.
Rosalee has a new laptop that is running Windows 8, and that can be difficult enough for us 'olde folkes' that did not fully grasp the previous system, and to complicate things, the internet on the ship can be accessed, but it basically costs you a buck a minute to use it. You don't want to linger very long reading e-mails and such. You log into your account, up/down load your e-mail, check to see if any require your downloading images or other files, and log out. Repeat: LOG OUT!
They warn you "If you do not see "You Are Now Logged Out" on your screen, you are STILL LOGGED IN! That can become rather costly. On Rosalee's system, the window that allows you to log out moves off into some never-never-land and she could not retrieve it to log out. I just took her computer and went down to deck five to the Internet Cafe to find out how the heck you can log out. He showed me how, and she was indeed still logged in. She had been in for thirty minutes. I requested that they remove that charge and they did so.
Because we have cruised enough with Princess we are classified as "Platinum" members, and we receive a couple of perquisites, including 250 minutes of on-line time (each of us have that). So we guard that with a passion. Sometimes e-mail service gets hung up, or you can't get a link out of the ship... something comes up, and it can take twenty minutes to send out an e-mail, so we watch carefully. I have been doing my e-mail work in about six minutes per day.
That was a "Cruise-First" for us... "What do you do if you cannot get logged off the internet?" Now we know the 'tricks'.
Ray spoke on "The Transcontinental Railroad - The Greatest Project Of Its Era" and being a rail fan, I was very interested. We all attended, and it was a good lecture. Ray and Sheila will join us again at Dinner and we can ask questions at that time.
OK... time for another "Cruise-First" for us... again. Ray spoke in the Vista Lounge and when I returned to our cabin I noticed that I did not have my cruise card. The cruise card is a plastic credit card, basically, but you get it when you are going through the embarkation process at the terminal building on the very first day (day zero). You basically 'buy' that card with your credit card, and anything you do on the ship that requires an expenditure (drinks from the bar, purchases in the shipboard shops, rental for extra pair of pants, extra special dinner arrangements, gambling debt, etc.), because your money and your credit card are 'no good' on the ship. It is also your ID card for when you get on and when you get off the ship.
A side note... if you cruise, and you wish to 'go ashore' at a port of call, be absolutely sure the machine 'reads' your ID card and registers with a 'clang' or 'beep' or something. That is the only way they have of knowing if all are aboard when it is time to weigh anchor. Until all are aboard, they will not leave... up to a point. They will NOT be happy with you if you are late, but they will not leave you or feed you to the dogs.
I immediately went back to the Vista Lounge to the seat where I was, and of course... it was the only seat in that area that was occupied. She was a little ol' lady from... Taiwan... or someplace, and she spoke some broken English, so I was able to get her to understand the problem and she got up and helped me check for the card. She was on her hands and knees looking underneath the sofa. The crack behind the non-removable cushion had another crack that went into oblivion. She wanted to tip the sofa back but it was secured to the deck. LOL. She was sweet. No luck finding the card. Of course, any finder has an open door to charges on the ship... on MY account.
So... I headed down to the Purser's Desk on Deck Six and asked: "Um... What is the protocol to replace a lost Cruise Card?" With a correct response to several questions, I was in possession of a brand new Cruise Card in a few minutes.
After dinner was "Stardust", singing and dancing to popular songs from the 50;s ...show tunes mostly. This new troupe that joined the ship at San Francisco were getting used to the ship, but they did pretty well. The Princess Theater is quite nice. The seating is for well over 800 people, and tapers up in the rear (excuse me... aft) of the theater and are a whole deck higher than the stage. It is a large facility. It is up in the pointy end of the ship so the audience can fan out from the stage nicely. And what else do you do with that section of the ship, down that low to the water (decks six and seven).
The Vista Lounge had a comedian/magician named Lorenzo Clark, and Ed and I went. We had Jerry and Linda from Texas sitting next to us. We are starting to see them all over the ship. Maybe they just stand out, but there are some 3,100 bodies floating in that tin can.
|DAY FOUR - AT SEA
1664 Nautical Miles from San Francisco... 439
Nautical Miles from Honolulu, Hawai'i...
Another day at sea. I'm ok with that, but it does affect some people. It is not like we are having a tough time at all. The sea is very calm. The information on the TV in each cabin (Channel 46) is a constant source of cruise data and information, such as that stuff up there that I use to start out each daily report.
Breakfast was quiet... we didn't 'catch' anyone while fishin' so we made our way down to the Promenade Deck (deck seven) and forward to the Princess Theater. Randy's subject this morning is "What's Happening To Hawaii's Volcanoes? Can You See The Lava?" He talked about some history and the present situation at Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. It was very good.
Ray, an engineer, spoke in the afternoon on "Panama Canal -- Engineering Marvel", and it truly was/is. The Gatun locks at the Northern (Atlantic) end of the canal are poured concrete that was done early in the second decade of the twentieth century (when concrete was still in the almost experimental stage) and it contains three individual locks that each lift a 980 foot long ship some 85 feet to the next lock or to the lake, and it is one solid piece that is one mile long. It was the largest concrete pour in the world until it was exceeded by the Hoover Dam project. We had the pleasure of cruising through the canal in 2007, the cruise on which we met Walt and Janet.
Janet enjoys her ice cream, and she is the one that is almost the first person on board to know when and where you can get ice cream cones. Remember... food is free on board during the cruise. So, we are starting to develop a habit here... going up to Lido deck (14) to the Ice Cream Bar, up between the out-of-doors swimming pool and the indoors swimming pool. I did learn that they serve sugar-free ice cream, so I joined in with the others.
Brent Webb, the "Mentalist" was in the Vista Lounge again tonight. And the young black singer was in the Princess Theater. We did catch Webb but the singer was canceled for some reason, so they showed the movie "Lincoln".
Tomorrow when we wake up we should be in Honolulu, Hawai'i.
|DAY FIVE - HONOLULU, OAHU,
As the sun is
coming up, we can see the skyline of Honolulu coming into view,
and the islands are coming into view. Just enough sun is coming
through to remind us
That is what we see... the Aloha Tower,
an ancient (ok... 1926) tower that welcomes ships to Honolulu Harbor. It
contains the harbormaster's working area to control the ships coming
and going from the harbor. The clock was installed in the first
year, and was the largest clock in Hawai'i, and one of the largest
in the United States.
We went up to breakfast rather early so we could disembark and find our scheduled tour.
Another Cruise First... for us. We found out what you do when you cannot open the safe in your cabin. Each cabin contains a small safe that might just hold a larger camera. It is for your wallet, passports, tickets, jewelry, etc. while you are cruising. Any number of people might just be able to open your door, and your cabin steward is in there at least three times a day. the safe door is electronically locked and you have to enter a new code each time it is closed. It can be the same code, repeated.
We were headed off the ship for a tour, and we could not open the safe to retrieve our tickets. I called the Purser's Desk and asked: "Um... what is the protocol when you cannot open your cabin safe and you are supposed to be going ashore in a few moments to meet a scheduled land tour?" I think the front desk is getting to know who I am by now. LOL
Within a few moments a knock on the door produced a fellow in uniform that opened it with a bunch of different pressed buttons. Rosalee was sure she used the same 4-numbered code we had been using, but... So, all is well again, and we are headed off the ship to find our ride to our excursion.
Ed and I had scheduled the "Home Of The Brave" tour which took us to the World War II Valor In The Pacific National Monument, which includes a tour of the monument erected over the USS Arizona, one of the battleships that were torpedoed or bombed and sunk early Sunday morning, December 7th, 1941. I was six months old at that time so I don't remember that happening, of course, but I do remember the World War that resulted from that bombing. You remember it I'm sure... it was in all of the papers. :-)
Walt was going to try to sign up for it on the ship, so we could be sure to be on the same bus, but it was closed out. He placed his name on a waiting list and he was told the next day that he was in, and we were all on one bus. We were glad that Walt was able to connect. Rosalee and the girls were planning on doing some shopping in Honolulu and Waikiki. They learned that the venerable International Marketplace shopping center, which is an education in itself, was scheduled to be terminated this coming Fall.
The World War II Valor In The Pacific National Monument recognizes three infamous ships: the submarine USS Bowfin, the battleship USS Missouri, and the battleship USS Arizona. This location was formerly known as the USS Arizona Memorial, and it still commemorates the loss of 1,177 sailors and marines that were killed when the Arizona exploded, burned, and sank (most remain entombed within her hull. The names of all members are inscribed on a marble wall inside the Memorial. It is a very sobering experience to visit the memorial). The combined monument now includes the Missouri as well as the Bowfin, which is associated with a wonderful submarine museum that is well worth your time to visit.
To the left is the USS Missouri.
The red & white tower is for the small airstrip on Ford Island (far
shore). The white structure in the center straddles the USS Arizona.
The white tie-downs along Ford Island were for "battleship row." The
circular structure to the right has a plaque for each damaged ship
with names of all servicemen lost on that ship.
This memorial straddles the
USS Arizona which went straight down. Her big guns and con tower were removed and
salvaged. You can see her rusty gun turret mount . The flag actually
flies from the Arizona and is raised each day.
Tree Of Life - -
"A symbol of renewal to inspire contemplation in visitors to the
We also toured Schofield Barracks, a military base established more than a century ago to defend Pearl Harbor and the island. It is almost 18,000 acres in size (26 square miles or 67 square kilometers) and currently has over 16,000 people stationed there.
Part of Schofield Barracks is Wheeler Air Force Base. The US did not have an Air Force when this base was established... or during World War II either for that matter. We had the United States Army Air Corps. We could see mainly helicopters and transport aircraft on the fields. The guide showed us main buildings and hangers that were repaired or rebuilt after the bombing of Pearl Harbor We were amazed as we drove through the area. It was literally a small town in itself.
Erected within Schofield Barracks is a memorial that consists of a large base, four statues and a rifle, boots and helmet memorializing the many men and women that have made the supreme sacrifice. I was not aware this existed. We were told that they are going to erect another like it in Washington D. C.
United By Sacrifice
Each of the four soldiers is dressed in the uniform that depicts the period of service in which he served. The weapon he carries depicts the one that most carried at the time he served. We were told that a young man was leaving to go to serve overseas many years ago. His family did a facial casting of his face, with the idea that should he lose his life in the war they wanted something to remember him by. He survived, and he was chosen to be the model for one of these statues.
We visited Fort Shafter, an area that was established one hundred six years ago. Today it consists of a large parade grounds for a full battalion that is circled by established palm trees. Officers quarters consisting of beautiful white, two-story Victorian homes are in a large circle that surrounds the Circle of Palms. One building (Richardson Hall) was known as the "Pineapple Pentagon" and was where the logistics of maneuvers by all the allied armed services in the Pacific Theater were controlled. It was a beautiful area.
Overall, the tour was very interesting, the driver was skilled and enjoyable and the guide was very informative and extremely proud of the role the US military had played throughout history.
I really enjoyed this excursion. Rosalee and I have visited the USS Arizona Memorial twice before, but you can never view this monument without reliving some of the losses of the many families that kept us free to live as free individuals. It is no wonder the men and women that lived through this era were indeed the "Greatest Generation".
We were back on board the ship a little after noon, and the girls were still out shopping in Honolulu.
After dinner, in the Princess Theater we enjoyed a delightful hula presentation, consisting of thirteen youngsters... Keiki... that were between about six years old and sixteen. Two of them were boys, which is a little more rare to see in Hawai'i. They all were very talented and put on a very nice presentation. A grandmother of one of the youngest girls was the leader that did some chanting, singing, and translating. We assume they came aboard during the day and left the ship before we left the port.
We departed at 2100 hours for Nawiliwili (Nah - wee - lee - wee - lee) Harbor, Kauai, Hawai'i, only 92 nautical miles away.
|DAY SIX NAWILIWILI
HARBOR, KAUAI, HAWAI'I
Kauai, the oldest and
Northern-most island in the State of Hawai'i, is also known as the
Rosalee and I were up in time to watch our ship pull into the harbor, to come about (full 180░ turn), and to lay up with our port side to the dock. Kauai is basically the oldest of the eight major Hawaiian islands. The soil has decomposed to where it is as much as ten feet deep in the flat areas. Trees love this, of course, and grow all over the island. The volcanic origin of the land is somewhat camouflaged by the dense growth of plants. There are mountains, of course, including Mount Waialeale (Wah - ee - ah - lay - ah - lay) which is considered one of the two wettest spots on earth, with an average of more than 460 inches of rain every year. The mountain's Hawaiian name means "Rippling Water". It also has the huge Waimea Canyon, often referred to as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific".
Nawiliwili Harbor, Kauai, Hawai'i
Rosalee and I were scheduled for a "Four-Wheel-Drive Excursion to the Interior of the Island"... yes, Rosalee did that. LOL. We were in a 15-passenger Ford 4 x 4 van and our guide was very knowledgeable about the island. He had been living there for about thirty years, and loved his job.
We had not gone more than a mile from the ship when we pulled onto a graveled access road that required the driver to open a locked gate. Most of our tour this morning was behind locked gates. We were on roads that the Ford was barely tolerating, but we never were in a compromising position. We were in full control all the time.
Elevated section of railroad no longer in service. It was designed to haul sugar cane cut from the fields to the mill.
Railroads were built to carry the cut sugar cane into the mills where it was processed into sugar. In time it was determined they needed to replace the railroads with "haul trucks" and the railroad roadbeds were converted to "haul roads". Cane haul roads were made when the farmers needed to move large volumes of sugar cane to the mill on huge, overloaded trucks that had no requirements about safety, licenses and load limits since they never left private property, so they avoided accidents and road damage. That was what we were traveling on today. We went to the top of an extinct volcano caldera which is at the base of Waialeale, and offered a beautiful view of the island.
I just read a book* on life in the sugar cane town of Koloa, this very area we are visiting, and the author mentions that all of these 'cane haul roads' were open to all, and the Aloha spirit was predominant on the island... until the sixties when visitors to the island began vandalizing the historical structures and locations, and leaving an abundance of trash everywhere. They are guarded by locked gates now.
*"The Story of Koloa - A Kaua'i Plantation Town" by Donald Donohugh c. 2001
Kaloa Sugar Mill - The last operating sugar mill on the island, which closed down in 1996. A combination of union/labor problems and Hurricanes Iwa in '82 and Iniki in '92 drove the sugar industry from the state.
A 'Haul Road' through a half-mile long tunnel dug to reach the Koloa Mill and the Poi'pu area.
We have been to Kauai twice before, and to this day you still cannot drive completely around the island at or near the water's edge. Up in the North-West corner there are no roads. It is literally nothing but vertical Pali... cliffs and mountains. People live in that Na Pali area, but they are completely off the grid and "out of circulation" to modern life. They do not have much contact with those on the 'outside'. You basically cannot drive into the center of the island, unless you have that magic key. It was very interesting to see the island from this new point of view.
Not a house to be seen for miles.
Parts of this island are so densely covered with plant growth and jungle people can literally go "off the grid" for years. When Hawaiians had to face the increasing numbers of inhabitants that were contacting leprosy, they did not understand how to treat it and many patients died as a result of the disease. In the 1860's their only defense against the disease was to ship anyone that had the symptoms of Leprosy to Kalihi Hospital in Honolulu where they were given a final diagnosis, and then they were shipped to Kalaupapa, Moloka'i. No one was ever expected to come back that was confined there.
Many patients actively avoided being sent to Kalaupapa ("The Leper Colony") and several dozen hid out in the dense jungle of Northern Kaua'i. One young man and his wife and child hid for three years, until the son died and then the man died, both from leprosy. The mother went back to civilization without having leprosy. Four lawmen died trying to find this young man.
Many locations on the island, such as Lawa'i Kai Valley, were and are used as film sets, including the more obvious, like "Lost" and "Jurassic Park". The guide told us Hollywood loved the open fields in the interior because they could "make it" become many different parts of the world in the movies.
Lawa'i Kai Valley - in the center
of the island, has a short section of the gravel road paved
He took us to a beautiful beach on the South side of the island, where he had some snacks and drinks for us. All in all it was a lovely drive/bounce. :-)
We were back on board the ship by lunch time. Our cruise mates were on other excursions and they were dragging in later in the day, barely before we were scheduled to cast off our lines for Hilo, Hawai'i... the Big Island.
We enjoyed a lunch in the Horizon Court and then were able to sit on our balcony off our cabin and enjoy the 78░ weather. Our cabin is on the Port side, which by tradition is usually the side against the pier. That would explain why we turned the ship about when we came in and not later when we were ready to leave. It appears that 'rule' is not always applied to cruise ships, because when the Grand Princess is in Pier 35 in San Francisco, she is docked against her right, or starboard side.
They have no lectures from our two main speakers when we are in port, as they assume people will be going ashore. They still have many of the regular activities on board though. No one can say that they were bored on a cruise ship... unless they really do not care for trivia and lectures and lessons on computer usage and photography and culinary arts and ice carving and dance lessons and dancing to music and Bingo and art auctions and exercise classes and the use of the gym and yoga and acupuncture and card games and teeth whitening... yes, that's right... and Pilates and wine tasting and towel folding and Veteran groups and AA groups and Devotional groups and Mahjong and book reading and computer work and Water Volleyball and swimming and wave surfing in the pool and Sudoku and Texas Hold'em and Bridge and shopping and instruction on good posture and Choir singing and scrap-pile-boat-building and Sarong Tying and Karaoke... and eating. And that is what is listed for today... while we are in port. Phew!
We set sail at 1700 hours for Hilo, Hawai'i, a distance of 288 nautical miles. We should be pulling into port at daybreak.
Dinner dress code for tonight is "Smart, Casual", which is what it is every night if you are eating in one of the main Dining Halls, except for the "Formal" nights. We have three of those on this cruise, and it is always on a full sea day, so you are not out riding a jeep until late and coming in and trying to get pretty. Formal dress for men is Tuxedo or a dark suit or slacks and a dinner jacket with a tie. It is not at all what people seem to dread so much. No tie needed on the Smart Casual nights.
The main shows for tonight are Motor City, a musical show in the Vista Lounge, and a Robert De Niro movie in the Princess Theater (Silver Lining Playbook). We took the musical show, and it was a good show.
|DAY SEVEN HILO, HAWAI'I
Inside the breakwater in Hilo Bay, the Big Island
It is time for breakfast and we can see Hawai'i off the starboard bow. We sat with a Christian couple, Lanny and Debbie Cook from Denver, Colorado. He is a retired machine shop instructor. She works for the US government in the department that disperses surplus materials, confiscated property, etc. He is a published author ("Fingernails On The Chalkboard") that discusses his experiences as a teacher and administrator in the public school system. Lanny and I had a lot we wanted to discuss but we were not going to have time this morning, so we talked about trying to get them to join us for dinner.
Rosalee and I have been on the Big Island seven times, but I have only been to the Hilo port once. Two years ago, while I was house-sitting for the Browns and supervising a scheduled construction job at the house and Rosalee was getting my mother through a crisis at home, Janet and Walt took this same cruise (that we are currently taking) with her brother Dave and sister-in-law Pat. We had arranged to meet them at the port and 'do something'. I went ahead and met them, and we spent the day together. Now we were the ones on the ship (along with Janet and Walt) and Rosalee and I had arranged to ride with a fellow in a mini-bus.
Rainbow Falls near Hilo.
Ed and Andi went with us, and we went to the Lava Trees park, and then saw parts of the big island that we have not seen in a good while. We stopped by Rainbow Falls and it was running much heavier than we have seen in years. We also went down into the Kalapana area, where erupting lava traveling to the sea during 1991 had overtaken the town and covered over Kimu Beach, a well-known black sand beach. We walked out onto what used to be the beach (about ten feet below the surface of the new lava) and continued to walk out another 300 yards to the NEW water's edge. The island has grown that much since 1991.
Pahoehoe lava that has flowed in the Kalapana area in South Hawai'i within the last twenty years. The trees have been planted to hasten habitation of the area. Below is the New Kimu Black Sand Beach that has formed in the last two decades.
A beautiful video showing the beauty of a pahoehoe lava flow can be viewed at: http://vimeo.com/16516332
I had done something to my knee when Walt, Ed and I did our bus tour on Oahu, so when we stopped to tour another beach... with warm springs feeding the pools... I spent some time talking with Todd, our guide. He was born and raised on the island. He was a wealth of information. He did find some beautiful beaches, however.
Two different beaches on the south side of the island
Kilauea Volcano is currently erupting and has been since 1983. The lava is flowing down and across the Kalapana area and falling into the sea. As it is immediately cooled in the ocean, it shatters into small particles and they are washed up onto the shore to make a new black sand beach. Each time a new flow occurs, it leaves another layer of lava on the ground.
At water's edge, waves break away the land structure, exposing the many layers of lava, each one representing a separate lava flow from the Pu'u O'o vent through the area South toward the ocean,
We returned to the ship a little late for lunch... although we certainly helped ourselves. But we usually went to dinner around five or five thirty, so we just did a little bit of relaxing in our cabin.
We loosed our shore lines at 1800 hours and set our course for our final Hawaiian destination: Lahaina, Maui, the "Valley Island."
After dinner we enjoyed hearing and watching a fellow that did a nice job of singing in the Theater. The late show in the Vista Lounge was an hypnotist, and I was not that impressed with her previous show, so we did not take in that show.
|DAY EIGHT LAHAINA, MAUI,
During the last of the 18th century and the start of the 19th century sailors were beginning to frequent the Hawaiian Islands (known as the Sandwich Islands at that time) and a lot of ships began coming to Honolulu and Lahaina because there was a whale breeding ground in the area. During that time, the port of Lahaina was very convenient for them, and many ships would be sitting in the bay at any one time. The town became "a den of inequity" and the American missionaries were constantly trying to 'clean up' the city. The heavy whaling operation started to decline after oil was discovered in Pennsylvania.
It is 0900 hours and we are
anchored off the West coast of Lahaina, Maui.
The sun was breaking over the tall mountains as we pulled into the bay. We will anchor offshore and use some of our tenders (the more powerful of our two dozen life boats) to go ashore (there is a platform that folds out down on deck four, just above the sea level so people can walk out onto the tender). Rosalee and I were not in any hurry to go ashore as we were only going to walk into town for a short time. Actually we were looking for a grocery store to get some of the Crystal Light tea drink that I intended to pack... but did not. I suspect that my feet are swelling due to an excessive amount of sodas that I am consuming. Normally I might have a diet drink at home once in a great while, but I have been having several a day since the cruise started.
We walked into town and learned of a grocery store, where we found what we were looking for. We ran into Ed and Andi who were talking to their family in California on the phone. They needed to borrow E&A's car that was parked behind our home, so we told them we would contact our neighbors, Lee and Judy, so they would not think that the car was being stolen. LOL. We enjoyed a very good hamburger in the shade of large trees.
Andi and Rosalee had shopping ideas and Ed and I were ready to return, so the guys went to the ship first.
Another Cruising First for me... we were in the tender at the ship heading to town when I realized that I did not have any ID with me, other than the cruise card for the ship. No license, no passport... nothing. I asked several operators if I would need it and they all told me that I would not. When we got to the pier, I asked another fellow and he said to check with the guy at the edge of the pier that we will see first when returning. I did that and they said they can look me up in "the book" and ask me a question or two and I will be fine. So, when Ed and I headed back, we put that theory to the test, and I got through. Next time I'll make sure I have what I need before I leave the ship. A real rookie mistake, for sure.
Planted in 1873 this Banyan Tree
was planted in Lahina and now it covers almost an entire city block.
While getting together the data to make this blog, we looked back on Rosalee's excellent and professional records and it revealed something interesting... In 1985 we came to Hawai'i the first time, and it was to Maui. We were here for about a week, but have never been back to this island. Today, as we left Lahaina, we ended the Four Hundred First day we have been in the state of Hawai'i.
The girls were back on board shortly after the guys arrived, and the Captain lifted the starboard anchor at 1800... we are on our way to Ensenada, Baja Mexico. Two thousand two hundred and fifty two nautical miles to the next port.
It is 1700 hours and the hills
look different under different light. Maui's West coast. We are
still anchored in the bay,
The Vista Lounge has a comic tonight... Derrick Cameron, who has been on the Tonight show and traveled with Johnny Mathis for seven years. He was good. We passed on the other show.
|DAY NINE AT SEA
We are back at sea, heading on an Easterly course across the Pacific. Breakfast in the Horizon Court, then down to the Princess Theater to catch a talk from Randy: "How Life got to Hawai'i and Island fun Facts". It was enjoyable. We have gotten to look forward to the lectures. Lunch and then down to the Vista Lounge to catch Ray: "Taming the West - Cowboys, Indians, Outlaws and Gunfights". Now it's two o'clock... I mean 1400 hours and it is time for Ice Cream, so up to deck 14. Then back to the cabin to R&R and get ready to hit the Dining Room.
The hypnotist has a 'new' show tonight but we all elected to skip it. We did catch the other show though... "Do You Wanna Dance" with the singers and dancers. It was a good show.
Sometimes walking through the ship, usually transferring from the Princess Theater to the Vista Lounge, there will be small groups of entertainers, or soloists, spread throughout the ship. In the Piazza (central atrium) or the Crooner's Lounge or the Explorer's Lounge or... all over the place. Sometimes if I am alone because Rosalee retired earlier, I might sit and listen to some of them. We have met some very good artists in past cruises, including Billy Andrusco, a pianist on the Dawn Princess during our 2000 Alaskan Cruise. We still keep tabs on him and purchase his music.
One evening about six people with instruments were playing Dixieland music in the atrium, and it was very good. Then they talked to a gentleman that actually performs in San Mateo, not too far from our home. He was 90 years old and he and his wife were celebrating their 65th anniversary. He had brought his case with a clarinet and they invited him to play with them. WOW! He could really play a mean 'stick'. It was wonderful. Everyone was really appreciative of the music.
|DAY TEN AT SEA
We started the day by having breakfast with Geoff from England. He was a delight to speak with. We got a nice start to our day. Randy had another interesting talk: "The 'Other' Hawaiian Islands - The 124 You Rarely Hear About". He spoke about all of those smaller islands that were formed one at a time, as the Pacific Plate moved across the volcanic 'hot spot' that formed each island. It is currently continuing the development on the big island, and as we speak is forming a new island to the south of Hawai'i that they are calling Loihi.
We ran across Lanny and Debbie after the lecture and since we had not been able to get together for dinner we arranged to have lunch together today. We had a nice chat and learned more about each other. I told him that I was going to order his book when we get home and he said that he had a couple with him and he would give us a copy. He signed it with a nice note to us.
Ray's talk was "The Silver State Turns To Gold - Nevada's Long, Colorful Mining History". Rosalee and I have always enjoyed the times we drove through and 'played' in the "49'er" country, where the 1849 Gold Rush basically started.
As usual, following Ray's talk it was 1400 hours and it was time for Ice Cream. :-) And they have Sugar-Free ice cream, too.
Dinner tonight we will again be joined by Ray and Sheila. They are both delightful dinner guests. We always sit differently at the table; it just depends upon the order in which we follow the Maitre d' to the table. If we eat dinner in the Dining Room, we can be assigned a particular table and wait staff for the whole cruise, or we can reserve a table for a certain party size and REQUEST it to be in the area of a favorite waiter, or we can request to be seated at a certain table number and if it is available they will seat us. The other option would be to tell the Maitre d': "A party of two and we will be glad to join others". We could also request a table for two should we want that. The staff work very well in accommodating us as much as possible.
There is a fellow that plays the piano periodically (there are more than a dozen pianos, so that can be misleading), in various locations but has a somewhat 'standing gig' in the Crooner's Bar around 2100 hours. He has a recorded rhythm and orchestration gadget and he accompanies the recorded sound. He also sings, and he is loud, but he plays popular "lounge" songs and people never fail to gather and to wiggle and shake to keep time. His name is Maurizio and he has the same long, golden hair found on the cover of Favio's paper-back books... except it is silver-white. He is playing in the Explorer's Lounge tonight for the early show, so we sat in on it, and he puts on a good show, no doubt about it. I would just rather hear him play a beautiful melody on the piano, but I don't think the average cruiser wants that as much as they want a good rousing rendition of "Delilah"... a' la' Tom Jones.
In the Princess Theater following "Tom Jones" was Nicole Sasser, billed as "The Sassy Sounds of...", Singer and Trumpeter. Huh? Well, she could certainly belt 'em out, and she played a very mean horn. She was very attractive, quite young looking, and she could 'triple-tongue' that trumpet like the best. She said her idol was Doc Severinson, but said she was not old enough to have ever seen him play. LOL. She had a good act.
|DAY ELEVEN AT SEA
Things are getting to be more relaxing now. We sleep in a little later. We take more time to do things just for us. But of course, we HAVE to climb up to deck 14 for our breakfast. We almost always have a short conversation with someone that is just leaving a table or just sitting down at our table as we are starting to leave. Most tables are for two or four, and many are sat together to accommodate six more easily. And as I said before, we generally will sit at a larger table to encourage others to join us. Often we visit too quickly to exchange names or hometowns.
Randy is speaking this morning about "The Restless Oceans". It was interesting to learn how the height of a wave is measured (what does 'seas are ten feet' mean?), or how Rogue waves can come about. He also spoke on Tsunami and Tidal Waves (not the same thing). It was very interesting. We can always count on getting there and finding Walt reading his electronic reader and Janet knitting something. During this cruise she made several tiny cradle caps for premature infants born in the hospital back home. She also made several pairs of socks, and I'm not sure what else. She makes sure she has her knitting with her at all times, except for dinner. To have a place to sit for the shows almost requires you to show up at least a half hour before the show starts to have a seat. That is when she can really make some knitting headway.
One thing about being on a cruise: EVERYONE is a friend. No such thing as getting into an elevator (a lift) without someone saying something... and everyone wishes you a good day when they get off. If you are sitting somewhere knitting you will have the people next to you asking you about what it is, who you are making it for, what else you have done... "Do you do quilting also?" The last time you got into an elevator... think back... did anyone say hello to you? Or "Time To Eat, Again!"
Ray's talk was one of his series he has developed on different Ports of Call: "History, Environment and Culture of Mexico and Ensenada". Another interesting lecture.
Oh oh... Know what time it is boys and girls? That's right... "I scream, you scream, everyone screams for ice cream".
We had a picture in our Princess Patter (our daily log of things scheduled for the ship, ship's position and status, little bits about officers and procedures and such) that was of a couple from California that were the "Most Traveled Passengers of This Voyage", and they have one thousand, two hundred thirty two days with Princess. There are others 'in the system' that exceed that, but they were not on this cruise. There are a few ships that have one or two passengers that find life content to maintain constant residency on some of the Princess Ships.
Another lovely dinner and being attended by Marlon our waiter and Eleonora our assistant waiter. We have tried (and succeeded) to sit at one of the three tables they take care of for better than half our dinners so far. They are a lot of fun. They are both from the Philippines. Eleonora has a fiancÚ' that works in the dining hall one deck above us.
Entertainment for tonight is "British Pub Night" with singing and dancing to music from "Across the Pond" as they billed it. There is a heavy British accent to the activities on all of the Princess ships. Most ships were launched or blessed or dedicated...whatever they wish to call it... by someone that is connected somehow with British Royalty. And most officers do have that beautiful British accent. The show was good.
Following that up in the Princess Theater was a return engagement of Derrick Cameron, the comedian. He put on a good show.
|DAY TWELVE AT SEA
We had the opportunity to change our clocks to be one hour later three different evenings on the way to Hawai'i. Like Arizona, Hawai'i does not change their clocks on Daylight Savings Time, and so they are three hours later than Pacific Coast Time in the summer. Then when we head back across the Pacific we get to change them back those three hours. They leave a little note with a clock face on it on your pillow when they turn down the bed at dinner time, reminding you to turn the clock forward or backward.
But nothing is scheduled today, other than the lectures, so we are not too concerned about when to get up. But with a balcony, we have a sliding glass door to the outside, and we leave the drapes open to prevent oversleeping in the morning. But on the ocean, there are no mountains for the sun to hide behind, and daybreak comes pretty early.
So off we go to start our day. Where are we going? All together now... Deck 14... Lido Deck... FOOD...
Randy's talk was on "Volcanoes That Changed The World -- And Will Again!". Most people do not want to really listen to this one... there are volcanoes on the West Coast of the US that are still considered to be "active". Been skiing in Mammoth lately?
After our fine lunch Randy had another of his fine port lectures: "San Francisco -- Everybody's Favorite City".
When we disembark, we place colored tags on our luggage and they are our identity for when to leave the ship. Can you imagine the free-for-all if they let 3,100 people off at the same time to search for their luggage? As it is they let them off in almost two dozen groups. Days before we get off they ask for special requests such as early plane flights to further destinations, or other special problems. You can also do an "early walk-off" but you have to take all of your luggage off the ship with no assistance. If you are not leaving the ship early, you get to wait in various public locations such as lounges and theaters for your color and number to be called. Remember, they need your cabin empty so they can clean and prepare them for the next cruise that will be taking on passengers after 1100 hours the day you are disembarking.
Since Walt and Janet are Elite class, we are Premium class and Ed and Andi are Medallion class, we anticipated problems, since we all needed to leave the same time to catch the same shuttle to Pleasanton. But the tags came through and we were all the same color/number... Aqua Six.
Dinner tonight... and it is our last of three "Formal Dress" nights. They are always while we are 'at sea'. We reserved our table for tonight, and it was a feast that we had been looking forward to... Two large Lobster Tails and two large Prawns... a meal fit for a king. What? Uh... WHAT diet? :-p
In the Princess Theater we saw "British Invasion" where the dancers and singers paid tribute to some of the better known entertainers coming from Great Britain to the US during the sixties and seventies. They had a good show.
In the Vista Lounge following that was the musical and comedy entertainer Duncan Tuck. He played several stringed instruments, including a 12-string guitar and a Flamenco guitar. It was a great show. I saw him after the show and bought his CD. I told him "When I want to 'rate' a restaurant, I usually ask for the Prime Rib. When I 'rate' a guitar player, I listen to them play 'Maleguena Salrosa'. And you are right up there on top." He appreciated that. He did play a great Maleguena.
|DAY THIRTEEN AT SEA
- and later ENSENADA, MEXICO
Today we will be at sea until about 1600, when we pull into whatever port there is at this time in Ensenada, Mexico. I mentioned before that this will be the Grand Princess' obligatory 'foreign' port of call. We will only be there for less than four hours. We do not plan to go ashore. It is a "Been There... Done That... Did Not Buy The T-Shirt... or The Chiclets". I think that Ed and Andi are planning on making the effort to check out the 'foreign soil'.
Ensenada de Todos Santos, Baja, Mexico
Today only known as Ensenada, it is a rather large city, but only the third largest in Baja. With a population of 280,000 (2010) that makes a lot of bodies down on that sandy finger in the Pacific. I wonder how accurate the census is when residents tell of preventing higher taxes being levied on their re-modeled homes by just not quite finishing the project... leaving one little corner to be completed... 'mananna'. Reminds me of some of my ongoing projects. LOL
Ray told us earlier that sometimes it is a surprise to him to learn that he is giving a lecture when he reads about it in the morning Princess Patter. Sounds almost like teaching. LOL. Today he was scheduled to do one of his 'stand-bys' but this time in the Princess Theater, and it was "Natives of Central America Are Thriving", and it was a great lecture. I could have listened to him speak of this subject for hours. He had images of his trip into the back parts of Panama, to visit two different tribes that were pretty much off the grid, but they did have some preparation of the visit. One has to assume what part of what was seen was 'real' and what part was 'show'. One thing that impressed me was that most of the younger children were more than happy to be unclothed and most of the women were bare above the waist. That impressed me because nudity is almost always covered by most 'scientific excursions' or 'documentaries', and since these people were naturally that way, they did not change just for the visitors. That tends to suggest to me that much of everything else the visitors saw was truly how they lived, and not staged to make the tourists 'feel better'.
Randy did not have a speaking engagement today, and in the Vista Lounge instead was a Passenger Talent Show where people traveling on board had arranged to perform with a pianist. We had dancers, singers, piano and players, ... even one playing an harmonica... and very well, too. About a dozen people that did a nice job. It was fun.
Land Ho! We came into Ensenada and they have what appears to be a new docking area that looks 100 percent better than the last time we were in Ensenada. And not one boat was sitting half submerged in the area. A Carnival ship was docked next to us, so things were looking up for the little port. Not that Ensenada is small... you can see the city go clear across the hills and out of sight.
Ed and Andi were on shore when meal time came so we went ahead with Walt and Janet and dined.
Michael Wilson performed in the Vista Lounge. He is a Vocal Impressionist. Then in the Princess Theater was The International Crew Talent Show. We had not seen one of these shows before. Some of the crew members did various presentations, like singing, dancing, playing the drums, etc. They were accompanied by the band. The show was excellent.
We cast off our lines at 2000 hours and headed for San Francisco, 536 nautical miles to the North.
|DAY FOURTEEN AT SEA
Our last day at sea... Disembarkation in San Francisco tomorrow morning, early. This is pretty much of a kick-back day.
Randy has an unusual lecture for us today: "Blood Falls, Sailing Rocks, the Green Flash -- Natural Wonders and Bizarre Events". We learned about some interest things.
Ray had the day off, but after lunch, we were treated to a lecture from an environmentalist that works on the ship and a second officer from the bridge to talk to us about navigation. I was always bothered by the amount of food that people place on their plates in the buffets... and then don't eat it. Or the huge servings for dinner every night, when Rosalee and I are used to taking home half our restaurant meal for the following day. Well, now I know... the ship takes all the scrap food and macerates it into a mash and when we are more than 12 miles out of port it is released to feed the fish... and they love it.
Before Christ was born, people were navigating across the ocean by reading the clouds, the currents, the birds, and searching the horizon. The big Island of Hawai'i with its two mountains that are close to 14,000 feet above the level of the sea can actually be seen on a clear day from 800 miles away. Considering Hawai'i is 2,000 miles away from California, you could almost fall into the islands, right? Well, ok... maybe not quite that easy. A friend and neighbor of the Brown's in Hawai'i talked about when he and his wife sailed their catamaran from California to Hawai'i a dozen or so years before. He said that he had a GPS so he was never lost, but winds have their own concept of "from point A to point B" and it was a not unexpected three weeks of sailing before he reached his destination of Hawai'i.
Star Princess docked in Honolulu Harbor - A Sister Ship to our Grand Princess
I do not have a really good image of our Grand Princess from this cruise, so I included this image of one of her sister ships, the Star Princess. She was tying up to the dock as we were just coming into Honolulu, our first port of call on this cruise. Our ship looks exactly the same as this one, with two exceptions: The name on her hull and the Skywalker's Lounge. Up there at the aft end, running across "the beam", looking like the handle from which you push the shopping cart, Skywalker's is on deck seventeen. Grand was the first of the series of ships with this lounge up there, and they removed Skywalker's Lounge from Grand last year. Star will lose her Skywalker's also, possibly next year. I'm not satisfied I have heard the reason for removing it. It was certainly an interesting viewpoint from up there.
This is the toughest part of any cruise. Packing up to go home. And to complicate things, in order for them to be able to carry more than eight thousand suit cases off the ship and sort them into two dozen collecting areas in the terminal building (and that has to happen AFTER we are docked and cleared by customs), we are asked to have our bags packed and in the hallway outside our cabin BEFORE we go to dinner. So we have to keep two changes of clothing out of our packed luggage: "Smart, Casual" clothes for dinner and stuff we can wear tomorrow when we have to schlep luggage when we get off... and be able to hand carry that off the ship. Traveling to Hawai'i is usually "One to wash and one to wear!". Right? This is the tough part of the logistics of Cruising.
So there you are, with an evening on your hands and all of your 'stuff' packed up and possibly removed to storage. What to do for the evening? The two big 'production' numbers are the movie "Lincoln", which we have already seen at home, and a combination show with three of the previous entertainers. So that is what we went for but it was a full house. So... we went back to our cabins.
There are plenty of things to do, don't read this wrong. The casino is open, taking donations. The bars are open. Half a dozen more intimate performances are offered in lounges and cafe's, games, strolls on the deck, etc. etc. etc.
So, the question of the moment is... do we want to be awake as we pass under the Golden Gate Bridge in the morning, around about Zero-Dark-Early. And will we even know it because the fog will be too heavy to see anything but the lights on the bridge?
Golden Gate Bridge, with Angel Island framed in its 4,200 foot suspended span.
It is always fun to go under the Golden Gate Bridge. Our last cruise into San Francisco Bay was at about 0600 and the fog was so thick that we could just make out the lights on the bridge. Today it was rather clear... VERY clear for "the gate" this time in the morning. It is always nice to come home and see the lovely Angel Island welcoming us to San Francisco Bay. And on the other side of the ship (starboard) is the beautiful San Francisco city skyline.
We are "Inside The Gate", passing the North Tower (Marin Side)
The six of us gathered together to wait for our number/color to be called. Ed and Andi were given their formal notification that they are as of now in the Platinum Class with Princess. It goes by the number of cruises/days on a Princess ship that you accumulate. The company does a very good job of tracking you and getting your 'rewards' to you. The number one perquisite that goes with Platinum Class, in my opinion, is a shorter line and faster embarkation procedure.
We are called, and we disembark for the last time, and within a reasonable time we found all of our bags. Last year we had to search for one of ours, trying to tell those that offered to help us find it what it looked like. This time I photographed each bag on my phone so I could show them instead of describe it. Fortunately we did not need the images.
Not too much trouble connecting with our driver out on the street and we had a nice ride to Pleasanton.
Walt and Janet stuck around for a couple more days, so we could 'de-brief' and unwind after the cruise. It was a great time.
A wind-torn tarp on the car cover... a leaking Reverse Osmosis valve... a leaking spud gasket on a toilet... weather station not responding... not bad for being gone fifteen days. We always expect to have a few forest fires to put out when we return.
Our second longest cruise... two days short of our Panama trip. We covered 5,406 Nautical Miles on this trip.
Glad to be home.
If you would like to see more images, visit Ed Myer's website from this same cruise. It is found at: