Mexican Riviera - 2012
SHIP'S LOG Embarkation Day 26 September 2012
The day has arrived. We are starting a ten-day cruise to the Mexican Riviera on the Star Princess. We have taken this trip twice before, the first time with Ed and Andi, Rosalee's niece and husband, and the second time with Frank and Shirley, friends from our early youth. It was a first-time cruise for F&S and it was a pleasure for us to share with them. We had achieved the "Platinum" status with Princess Cruises at that time, so we were given the wonderful perk of embarking through a less-populated line, and they allow us to bring two other guests with us in the process.
We have absolutely no problem repeating a cruise. It is never really the destination that counts for us. For all we care they can float this hotel out into the center of the bay and just sit there. It is the experience with the people we meet on board that makes the cruise for us. Yes, we continue to learn new things from new places, but when you cruise, you only have a short time ashore anywhere, and you can never even get started seeing things in that short time.
Back to the present... we had a car and driver pick us up at the house and that way we did not have to trouble a friend or family member to drive to San Francisco wharf area, with the traffic and mass of people. Over two thousand people getting onto the same ship requires a good deal of queuing area outside. As we later find out, one of Mickey's Disney ships was embarking from the berth next to ours so that added to the confusion.
It turns out that the Star was three hours late getting into port this morning so they were way behind schedule getting the ship cleaned up and re-stocked for the next run. That takes several hours, so the early arrivals were still outside waiting. Our driver was able to stop at the door where the porters were waiting and drop off our three bags, and we carried on the camera, computer, and Rosalee's infamous travel bag of miscellany. We had a line that started at the front door of the building, but was two blocks in length. How can that be? It was a U-shaped line that started at the front door and went South for one block, turned back upon itself, and went a block North, back to the door. But it moved along fairly well, and we got the chance to visit with the couple in front of us and the one behind us during that time. After all, Rosalee and I have always said that the purpose of our taking cruises, other than the relaxation and beauty of the sea is to meet new and interesting people.
We filled out a paper declaring that we were not sick... a requirement now... they don't want you to bring on board any diseases or bugs that will make problems. I'm sure just asking people to tell them they will get the full answer. LOL. Next we go through a security check which is nothing quite as bad as on the airlines. We did not have to open the computer bag or camera bag... the x-ray was good enough... or take off our shoes. I guess that they figure it does not take much of an explosive device to knock a plane out of the sky but it takes a lot of heavy boom boom to knock a large enough hole in the three inch thick plate steel to sink the ship.
The scanner we walked through was the same, and as usual, your host (me) hit the jackpot and set off the bell. So... as usual... I got pulled off for a more thorough hand check. No pat-down but the portable hand wand was able to zero in on my belt buckle, so he passed me on. That was always the case when I wore larger buckles but this one was a minimal buckle. They set the machines to be much more sensitive now I suppose. Even when I don't set off the scanner I'm usually the one they pull out to make an example for others and get the check-over for my Uzis and switchblades and shoe bombs.
A volunteer, souvenir pre-boarding photo was offered and declined, and an 'official' photo for ID purposes was taken and we were walking up the gang plank. From the car to the ship it was about one hour. Our cabin would not be quite ready yet, as they have a lot of cabins to make up in a short few hours. They work their buns off at this time. Actually, the 'hotel' staff (as they are billed) work all the time, constantly tending to everyone's wiles and wishes.
We were on board by noon, just in time for our first feast. Which brings up an important note. I recently became aware of a diet plan which is essentially a lifetime diet that is compiled from findings and discoveries of many individuals and put into book form by Doctor Cousens. It is a proven diet that can basically reverse the condition of Diabetes over a relatively short time. He does not feel that it is a DISEASE, but a curable, self-caused CONDITION in most cases, both Type I and II. If it is something that you were born with, he feels you can adjust your lifestyle and prevent your having to live with insulin or other meds to adjust your blood sugar level. Great... starting a CRUISE and being on a strict diet is NOT what anyone should do.
We found our way to the Horizon Court (deck 14, Aft, both sides of the ship) and dropped our carry-ons at a table, then started the trek through the huge layout of goodies. I checked each dish for the following limitations: Non-dairy, Non-flesh, Non-grain, Non-corn, Non-mushroom, Non-high glycemic, Non-heated food... did I miss anything? Is there anything left? LOL. I have only had a couple of weeks trial at home on this diet and I'm not too adept at making the correct choices.
You know how you have to live through something before you can really understand it? Something about walking in someone else's moccasins before making a judgment on their life choices? Well, I know now that restaurants do not do enough for those that have food restrictions. It is easier for them to just not go out.
Fortunately they had a
great salad selection and I was able to find plenty of un-cooked
greens, veggies, nuts and seeds to put together a delicious
salad. I am anticipating the evening dinner to be a tougher
San Francisco Skyline
We enjoy what we term "People-Fishin'" where we sit at a larger-than-two table and people will usually come along and ask if they can join us. A couple joined us (Bob and Barb from Pennsylvania). She was an administrator for a Day-care and taught the first part of her career. He was a retired electrician that worked on large commercial buildings. They were a delight to talk with, and none of us had anywhere to go, so we talked at length. That is why we cruise.
We went on down to the Carribe Deck (deck 10) where our cabin was located. It is the same 'class' of cabin that we usually use on Princess ships. Head (bathroom with toilet, shower, wash basin) and dressing/closet area to the right, then the main room with a nice double bed, desk/chair, hair drier, 2 night stands w/drawers, small cocktail table, refrigerator, TV, thermostat, and plenty of lighting on multiple circuits to suit your needs. Outside, through a full-sized sliding glass door is a full-width balcony that is about ten by twelve feet, overlooking the San Francisco Bay. A beautiful view for any 'apartment', but that view changes... No lie! LOL
We settled in. Rosalee found places to put everything and hung up the hanging clothes. All three suit cases were able to fit under the bed, out of the way. I fired up the computer and the ship's network was able to come up easily. Our 'Platinum' standing allows us 150 'connect' minutes online and that can be extended in increments at about a buck a minute on the larger packages. I am currently writing this 'offline' and will go online later and 'post' this to the website. At least, that is my plan. LOL
Going Under 'The Gate'
We are pretty familiar with the ship already. The Star Princess is a 'sister ship' to the Grand Princess and everything is essentially the same, except for changes that occur over time to individual ships as their time comes up in a rotating schedule for updates and repairs. The Grand was recently dry-docked to receive extensive internal changes and the removal of the Skywalker Lounge which is a night club at level 17. That's 13 stories above the water level. This ship is four years newer than the Grand so she will lose her Skywalker Lounge later on. Not sure why that is coming off but I think that they felt that it was a bit too tall for rough seas. You certainly have a great view up there.
We have selected "Anytime" dining as our registered dining option, and that can be changed. We noticed they are encouraging people to change from being scheduled for a specific table at a specific restaurant to the Anytime choice. There are about a dozen places where you can select your food, and there are a lot of variations. A couple of extra nice restaurants are on board that will have a premium charge of about $25 per meal per person, but the dining experience can be pretty lavish, taking several hours to get through it and being served 5,6,or 7 courses. Any other restaurant is completely free. Even tipping is done once at the end of the cruise, so people are not standing around with their hands out. Extra tipping is actually discouraged, but if you have a room steward that is extra special, you can certainly slip him a buck.
We are registered as Anytime in the Capri Restaurant (deck 5, Aft), so we walked down there to read the menu before dinner time. What a wonderful selection of Entree's. But each one was just not anywhere near meeting my diet. Prime Rib, Prawns, Chicken, several types of fishes, International Cuisine, Salads, Soups... just about anything you want, but... There was just one dish that fit into my 'requirements'. I can make special arrangements with the top guys but that is a lot of trouble, when we can return to the Horizon Court and make a delicious salad. Rosalee is a great trouper. She wants to support me, so she is with me in what I have to do. But we miss that social connection with others at the dining table.
We head up to the Horizon Court and we actually talked to the head chef of that restaurant and they were willing to work with me in any way they could help me. Of course you would no more say "raw" on a ship (with the contained people all just waiting for a bug to get started and it will make its rounds) than you would say something that was not "PC" in an elementary school PTA meeting, but it is only veggies that we are talking about. We are all used to heated foods, and it makes us happy, so we cook 80% of the nutrients out of the veggies and call them healthy.
I made a fine salad and picked up a couple of 'test' samples. I had a wonderful meal. They had some cold potatoes near the salad fixin's that I had to sample and they were wonderful... but they were cooked before of course, and cooking the potato changes the compound carbs into simple sugars, and although they were my life-long staple and favorite, they are my nemesis. And I added some nice pieces of jicama to my salad, that looked like french-fries, but found out they were a white cheese. I made several other mistakes and then on the way back to the cabin we walked through the pool area with the huge outdoor movie screen where they were popping fresh popcorn, and that led me to sin. The bag was really small and I really thought Rosalee would share them, but she did not and you know... you just cannot throw away good food, so I ate it.
Coming To Retrieve Our Pilot
Most ports require incoming ships take on an "advisor" to the Captain. Referred to as a Pilot, the advisor knows the depths, currents, traffic, bridges and other obstacles, to permit safe entry as well as egress from the port. This Pilot Boat comes out to meet each incoming ship, where the Pilot simply steps from the moving Pilot Boat to the ship, and goes straight to the Bridge of the ship. The Captain is always in charge, but the Pilot carries a great deal of responsibility to what that ship does. This image of the Pilot Boat was taken when they were coming to pick up the Pilot, after we had left the Golden Gate behind. The owners of the ship pay a nice fee for this 'service'... which is required to enter the port.
We Are On Our Way...
Back to the cabin, and
Gibson, our room steward had everything spotless, with candy on
the pillows. We retired for the night.
SHIP'S LOG 27 September 2012
We had an uneventful night. Rosalee was a bit restless due, she thinks, to too much tea at dinner.
Upon waking I went into the head (bathroom) for my morning routine. We have scant counter space but three small shelves with rails to keep stuff from pitching into the basin. There is little space for the electric tooth brush and the electric WaterPic ...and only one electrical outlet. But we will have things organized and ship-shape before the day is gone. We are used to this, and it just takes a little time to re-orient ourselves.
I did bring my glucose meter (of course) and extra meds since I recently lowered my dosage and with the menu selections here I just might slip up a bit. I read my number this morning and I was 137. The potatoes last night did not help me at all, nor did the cheese I had. I'm sure the "tiny" bag of popcorn had nothing to do with it. LOL
We went up to the Horizon Court (deck 14, Aft, Starboard) this morning for breakfast. They always have a very nicely spread out selection of just about anything that you would ever want for breakfast. Well, they do unless... you are some weird dude that is on a Dairy-free, flesh-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, non-mushroom, non-corn, non-heated Vegan Raw diet. But I think that I did OK. I did bend the rules a bit. I had the best scrambled eggs ever... something we have always praised Princes for, and expect to see on all of their ships. I found some broiled and seasoned tomato halves that were good, and some fresh apricots. A nice chunk of watermelon is borderline for sure, along with a couple of nice Kiwi's. They had a Spinach and Tofu soup that I tried, and it was good... a little 'greasy' for me but the way it is supposed to be. I just am not fond of that type of sensation when I eat soup. They serve water, coffee and tea at the tables so I asked if there was any place that I could find some tomato juice and he brought me a full glass. We think that it comes from one of the twelve bars that are located throughout the ship.
It is an easy trip 'home'... three decks down to deck 10, Carribe Deck. In case you are checking my math, that is three decks below deck 14, because as many of you know, ships (and most buildings in the US) do not have a number 13 deck or floor... and who said we were a 'Christian nation'? LOL We will always have just a bit of superstition in our lives, no doubt. At least they don't ban women from sailing any more.
We generally try to always walk up and down the stairs (ladders... causeways... ) rather than using the elevators (lifts), as this allows us to work off a little of the multitude of calories ingested at our many meals. The Cruise director last night at the 'welcoming show' said that the capacity of the lifts changes from 20 to a lesser number as the cruise goes on, because the average weight of the passengers increases. :-) We are still trying to do that (the stair-climbing), but when we have been doing a lot of walking anyway, and we have to go from deck three to deck 14... we thumb a ride from a lift. The reasoning that we claim is that neither one of us is eating enough high-caloric foods to worry about gaining weight. We will see if that is so when we get home. LOL
We had signed up for a tour of the Catalina Casino in Avalon at 1300 today. It is the round, columnaded, tall building to the right of any image taken of Avalon from the sea, so we will grab our lunch and be in the Princess Theater (decks 6 & 7, Forward - it consumes the bow on those decks) where we queue up to be 'tendered' ashore.
Lunch was good. I found the usual green salad material, and a cucumber/dill salad with yogurt dressing. It was good, but some of the cukes were a bit bitter. Otherwise it was a good dish. We sat at a table for four, but the two ladies were speaking in a foreign tongue and were not interested in conversing, so we did not get too far there. I requested a glass of tomato juice but the waiter warned me that they charge for it after breakfast time. Any drinks from the bar do cost extra and are not part of the ticket. Suits us because it keeps ticket prices down and we don't order drinks... usually. LOL. Tea, coffee, lemonade, etc. are always free in any food area.
We moved on down to the Princess Theater and were given a green sticker. We were asked to fill a particular row of seats and sat next to Mas and Dianne, man and wife. They were from south of San Francisco and this was their first cruise. He was carrying a new Nikon camera so we never ran out of things to talk about while we waited over half an hour to be called to get into the tender. When we reached Santa Catalina Island, a song broke out...
Twen-ty Six Miles A-cross The Sea.
San-ta Cata-lina Is The Place For Me.
San-ta Cata-lina... The Island Of
Romance.. Romance... Romance... Romance...
Well, OK, it didn't break out. But it was in my head. LOL.
AVALON, SANTA CATALINA ISLAND, CALIFORNIA
Most Princess-connected tours come across flawlessly but this one started out badly. Someone said "Meet someone at the top of the incline and they will direct you." OK, at the top we kept moving until a young lady stopped us and said wait for her and she disappeared. Then she showed up and she took us down the pier, toward the beach. Then she said to wait and she disappeared again. Others with green tags came by and kept on walking, so I guess they figured they were on their way. Then the girl returned and we told her others had gone on. Then she took us another 100 yards to the street in Avalon, where we waited, and... yep... she disappeared. When she returned she said something about if we were all there, and we told her that the others had gone on. She called someone to meet us. Then... she... well, you know. At that point, the half dozen of us that were left decided that it was time to take over and we walked to the Casino. The whole party was about twenty people.
We were able to visit with Mas and Dianne on the walk. They were a cute, young couple. This is their first cruise so we had a lot of 'advice' to give them. At no cost. LOL
The tour guide was a young lady that was 20 years old, and she had moved to the island ten years before when her parents came. Her mom was teaching school there and her dad was running a crane at the quarry at the southern tip of the island. She had been a guide at the Casino for only three months but she did a very nice job.
Catalina Casino, Built by
William Wrigley Jr in 1929
A little history of the island first... Santa Catalina Island was purchased by a private family in the late 1800's, and in 1919, the Wrigley family, famous for the chewing gum and owner of the Chicago Red Sox Baseball team (Wrigley Field and Stadium in Chicago) bought the island. It is currently owned by a conservancy that was set up by the Wrigley family (and controlled by them) and they require that nearly 90% of the island will always remain in the natural state. The island is part of the State of California and has public services such as Postal service. The town of Avalon is the only town and it is mostly owned by the conservancy. Private individuals live and work here, and there are many private businesses in the town. The town is limited to the area of one square mile.
There is a small airport at the top of the island, and there is a small boat landing where freight can be offloaded. Passenger ships (of which there are many) that stop for a visit use tenders to bring passengers ashore. They must anchor out in the outer bay. The inner bay has many small pleasure craft anchored and occupants use small (usually inflatable) dingys to row ashore. There are a few powered vehicles on the island, but very few roads. Mostly it is golf carts running around everywhere. Many bicycles and motor bikes also. Most of the taxis are four or six passenger golf carts. I would love to have the cart consignment over here. All of the city vehicles that I noticed were gas powered, full sized vehicles... Chevys, Fords and Toyota stuff. There are even some Segways that are available for rental. I saw one at the port in San Francisco that had a sign wrapped around the front of it advertising tour maps and such, with the man standing on it, behind the wrapped sign. It looked like a pipe standing on the sidewalk. He was free-standing, on two wheels. I'm not sure why he was on wheels... maybe to chase you down to get your attention?
The early purchasers of the island intended to turn it into a resort, and Wrigley actually did turn it into a "Hollywood Vacation Location" where the movie stars and those that were 'well-heeled' would come over to play. There was some limited surfing, limited sunbathing on the beaches, and generally "a place away from home"... and only twenty-six miles from the greater Los Angeles area. Wrigley installed two steamships to ferry passengers back and forth. After the airplanes with the pontoons were built they made frequent flights. I have old photographs of my mom and her sister riding on the ferry in the forties, over to Santa Catalina Island. I cannot imagine my mother enjoying that ride... or the island. LOL.
Mr. Wrigley wanted to encourage the arts and musical talent so he had a smaller night club type of building built to attract artists and musicians, and after things got to moving quite well, he tore it down and installed the newer one that stands today. It opened in the late twenties to a resounding approval. It was the first theater in the US to show a movie that was a "talkie".
Casino Ballroom, Above The Theater
The building is over one hundred feet tall, and is basically a three-story building, but the second and third stories are three or four floors in height, so it is as tall as a twelve or more story building. It cost Mr. Wrigley over four million dollars in the late twenties to build. The first level houses a museum and rental space for some businesses. The second floor is a theater, with a large screen, a very ornate four-manual Page pipe organ console, and what I would estimate to be about 900 very comfortable seats. The floor is super-elevated allowing you a good view of the screen anywhere in the room. The ceiling is a half-dome with lights that glitter and look like stars on a clear night. The girl that was guiding us had us sit in the last few rows of seats, thirty rows back from the front row. She stood several rows in front of us and spoke normally as if you were at the table together, with no microphone. We heard her every word. She did not change her volume and facing away from us she walked all the way to the front of the theater and we could still hear every word. The acoustics were absolutely unbelievable. She said that architects visited the theater and took design clues from there to build the Radio City Music Hall.
She walked to the center of the room and talked about the acoustics and she stomped her foot and I personally did not notice anything other than the sound of her stomping her foot. Later, I asked her at an interlude in the tour if there would be an opportunity to photograph the organ console later on and she said that she would see if she could work it out. I told Mas and he was immediately excited. After the tour was over, she did not forget, and she literally smuggled the two of us into the theater and she was busy with other employees asking questions of her (another tour was queued up ready to come in) so we assumed that meant that we had better move on in and get the deed done. We went down to the front and took the pictures and were starting back when she joined us. We thanked her profusely and that was when we learned about her personal life. When talking and we got to the center of the room where she had stomped her foot, we stopped. Not because it was the place where she had done that... it was because the room was totally different. We could simply speak in normal tones and volume and there was an echo that we felt was coming down all of the walls and coming back to us. It was eerie... and magical at the same time.
PAGE ORGAN CONSOLE, CATALINA CASINO
To get to the next level there was a ramp that went up like a staircase, back and forth, which took us up the equivalent of 8 floors to a mezzanine that had some gathering places, a hat/coat-check station, etc. Then up two more ramps to the ballroom floor. Seating all around the round room and thousands of square feet of beautifully hand-fitted hardwood for dancing the night away. All around you are windows and doors with glass that could open on a warm evening to allow you to dance the night away. Famous bands from the Big Band era were constantly in attendance, and movie stars were all there to hear and see. Mr. Wrigley put big money in, but bigger money flocked to the Casino.
To the average viewer the shape of the building makes one think of the famous casino in Monte Carlo where gambling takes place, and of course in our many "casinos" in Tahoe, Vegas, and on our own ship have racks and racks of one-armed bandits lined up between dealers and tables. But there never was any gambling in this casino. Well, none that was noticed to the average visitor anyway. LOL. It was explained to us that the term Casino is what Mr. Wrigley chose for the name because in his native Italy 'casino' meant a friendly gathering place... seriously transcribed.
Beautiful murals were painted inside the theater and lovely tile scenes were done at the entrance over the doors. A lot of ornate tile work is done all over the island. It was discovered early on that there was a nice source of clay here that they have used a lot. Other than the tourist trade, one of the most dominant sources of income for the island is the large quarry at the Southern tip of the island. This is our fifth visit to the island and we have never seen this before. They pull the rock and gravel and load it on barges, and it becomes the new water breaks and land fills in the Los Angeles area.
When Mr. Wrigley was alive he brought the Chicago Red Sox here during their off season for Spring Training and such. Many movie companies came over to film many famous films, especially some of the early westerns where they needed open grazing land. Many Bison were imported to the island for the film and they acclimated well so they stayed. There are natural fox and deer and many birds and small critters, some native to and exclusively on the island.
We walked back through the town of Avalon and checked a couple of stores. Then we made our way back to the pier to board one of the tenders headed back to the Star. That is always a bit of an experience. The tenders are generally life boats off the ship, and they are totally enclosed with two pilots and single or twin screws. The can carry up to 160 passengers or so. The seating when they fill them up is less than comfortable, but when the big boat goes down, it's better than floating and hanging on to a floating stick of wood. It is a ten minute ride out to the ship, and the ship has large doors that literally open out of the side of the ship, with folding platforms and ladders (stairs) that move you quickly on board... unless the seas are high, and that can be a thrill, when each wave (or swell) will take the tender from several feet below where you should step onto the ship to several feet above it. I have seen the men manning those stations move women in wheelchairs over that challenge. Amazing. Those interested in these things might find it interesting to note that at the water's level, you enter deck three on this ship. Two decks are below the waterline, and there is, of course, mechanicals below level one. The lowest passenger cabin that I am aware of is on deck five. There are, however, crew cabins below them. The Infirmary is on deck four, but when you need to go there, you are not worried about your view out your porthole.
Greeting The Tenders Returning From Shore
We again checked the menu outside our Dining Room and there was little that would fit into my regime. One green salad would fit. So we took the lift from deck five to deck 10 to our cabin, worked a while on this computer trying to clean up a mess that I made this morning, and then headed up to the Horizon Court (Lido Deck... 14). Many of the selections were different from yesterday, and I found some interesting combinations that I tried. It is nice to have so many selections from which to choose, and I can sample many things and return for more of the ones that I liked. The specialty restaurants have their own menu selections and all of the "Dining Rooms" have the same selections as each other. The Horizon Court is a buffet and they have some of the selections in the other dining areas, plus their own selections. They will be where you will find the salad bar as you are totally wait-person-served in the Dining Rooms and Specialty Premium restaurants.
They had another 'borderline' soup I tried and it was quite good. I cannot remember all of the things that I tried as they have unfamiliar names, and I am trying names I have heard of but never order from a menu, and certainly never fixed for ourselves at home. I assure you that there were many that I would have loved to try... but I'm trying to be a good boy. :-) And no popcorn tonight. LOL
We dined alone... no fish swam by... so we finished up and walked forward and down to the Princess Theater to catch a comedy act. He has performed on Dave Letterman show, and he had some good... and unusual stuff. One thing that Rosalee and I have noticed... this cruise seems to be a much higher average age of passengers than most. Very few younger people. We may have seen a handful of teens, and maybe a dozen babies to grade school age. Mostly older, overweight and with limited mobility abilities. We are constantly holding back to help ones that are alone and facing questionable footing and such... mostly ashore of course. The ships are very well fixed for handicapped people. They make up a large percentage of those that have time and money to travel. We were thinking earlier if we are seeing that many that are grossly overweight because we are so conscious of our own weight? Or there are just a lot of them on board. The man in front of Rosalee today at noon took three helpings of bacon with large tongs... at least a dozen pieces. There is plenty to eat so that is no problem... they constantly replenish empty stations, but that'sa lotta' hog meat. And I really have to be careful here... no body likes an ex-smoker... they are always telling you how bad it is... so with me on this diet... 'nuff said. LOL. Hopefully, I am only serving to paint the image of what we have seen, so to share with you. Yeah. That's what we are doing. LOL
The comedian was only about a 40 minute program so it was early when we left the theater. We caught the on-staff singers and dancers in the large atrium (mid-ship, and opens up for three decks from 5 through 7... big grand staircases, glass walled lifts and stuff). They were performing some Beetles tunes. Moving on to the Wheelhouse Lounge (deck 7, mid-ship) they were running a trivia-type game to name the show from the theme music they play. We basically retired early to work on this letter and read. We ended up watching "Rio" on TV, then another one that was a bit weird and Rosalee went to sleep. Then another... I fell asleep somewhere along the line, and I did not get this finished. LOL.
We asked Gibson for a couple more pillows (total six now) and he brought those by earlier in the day. That made working while sitting on the bed easier, and I sleep with my upper body elevated 20° so they help with that. Tomorrow is an "At Sea Day"... nothing tough planned. Tough? On a cruise ship? LOLOL.
28 September 2012
A beautiful morning... we are sailing South - Southeast along the western coast of Baja California (Mexico, actually... the West-Coast Florida). Seas have been very gentle so far this whole trip. We do have some gentle rolling for which the large stabilizers in side of the hull are not able to compensate, for some reason, or maybe they are working very well and all that we are feeling is the gentle rolling action.. But with this gentle sea I tend to doubt that.
Well, with all of the cooked dishes that looked relatively OK for my diet that we had last evening for dinner, it seems they did not hurt me too badly with a Glucose reading of 117 this morning. Tonight we will venture into the Dining Room to eat. Tonight is our first "Formal" night, which means that when dining in one of the larger Dining rooms, the mode of dress is not the usual Smart/Casual (dress slacks and button-down shirt and tie for men) but Formal (Tux or Dark Suit & Tie, or Dress slacks & Sport Coat). Shorts are never acceptable for the Dining Rooms at any time of the day, any day. But they are fine in the many other restaurants on the ship.
We miss the interaction with other diners that we get when seated around the tables in the Dining Rooms, so we will venture into the Capri Dinning Room tonight. For lunch we headed up to the Horizon Court. Each trip up there we find different selections, as well as some regular selections. We chose a table for four that already had a couple seated, but they were just finishing so we only had a passing conversation with them. The wait staff are very attentive and they quickly cleared that half of our table and set new service. Since we are "people fishin'" we refer to that as "settin' the bait". After all, people will be reluctant to sit there if no service is there. We notice that we do not pick up our own service when entering the restaurant as it always has been in the past. That not only makes it easier to carry your plate when making your selections, but it prevents other's handling service sets in selecting their own. Cruise ships have had too many outbreaks of bugs such as the Noro virus, and it requires an extensive sanitization process at the end of that tour, as well as a lot of upset passengers. The anti-bacterial hand washing dispenser that has been at the entry of every restaurant as a volunteer device now has a person monitoring its use. It's use is voluntary, ...as long as you use it. LOL. We spoke with the young lady and she called herself "the greeter", which she is, but they do not play up the real purpose of her being there.
The "bait" seemed to work as we soon had a real Southern lady with a real Southern accent ask if they might join us. We greeted them and we had a lovely lunch. Actually brunch... it was also our breakfast. They were Fred and Mittie, from Benicia, California, there in the SF Bay area. His Southern accent was not as nearly strong as hers. She explained that her name was "Just like Mitt... except add an "ie" on the end". Well, that was a definite clue, and it was not long before we could easily discuss some political situations due to the fact that we saw eye-to-eye on many issues. She was wearing a wide-brimmed sun hat and dark sunglasses. I don't understand the reason to wear a hat on a ship when you are inside, but a lot of it happens. Dark glasses bother me when sitting and talking to someone. I don't like not being able to 'read' a person's eyes. I had those glasses that change from dark to clear with the amount of light in the room (or outside) and they were always a few shades darker than clear. I did not like to wear them because when working with cancer patients or discussing breast health, I want the person I'm talking with to clearly read my eyes and facial expressions. It is a matter of trust, which I believe is important when speaking to someone on an intimate level. But she was cheerful and nice to speak with. She was in a bit of a hurry as she had a massage scheduled at the Spa. She had won a $75 discount. Fred was very open and he stayed after Mittie left for her appointment and we talked for more than an hour. He was two years younger than we are and he worked for a large oil company, so he spent a lot of time in foreign lands. It was very interesting to hear some of his stories, especially about how people in those far-away lands feel about the USA, both as a Nation and as individuals.
He said that everywhere that he went, everyone seemed to look up to and respect Americans. He said that some in the Middle Eastern countries vowed to (and literally demonstrated) that if they befriended you, they would lay down their lives to protect you. He was amazed to hear that many people judge most all Americans from what they see on American TV. The most upsetting part of it was that they get a lot of 'guidance' from the people that appear on the Jerry Springer Show. We Be In Trouble, Folks! We talked about political interaction in those countries and how things that seem so simple to us are so complex to other cultures. He told about a major blunder that was done by then President Jimmy Carter when he sent his wife Rosalynn to represent America at a Middle East high-level meeting and many of the attendees walked out. The prez just did not understand the lack of status for women that other cultures express.
They were a delight to speak with and we discussed many deep feelings. It is amazing the things that people will open up about when talking to total strangers, but then I see that every day when I counsel people on the internet and they do not know me from Adam. Or Eve either for that matter. LOL.
It is 1630 hours as I am typing this and we are off the coast of Baja, almost to Cabo San Lucas. We are close enough to the coast that we can see land... about five miles offshore. It is mountainous with low mountains. We have seen this before, of course, and it amazes me because the early years in school looking at the map on the wall and seeing "Lower California" on the map it always appeared to just be a sand-covered finger. It apparently is a lot more than that. Rosalee has a cousin (Stanley Shifflet) who lives on that finger, somewhere. We have within the last few years learned that. We think that he is more toward the Northern end of Baja, closer to California.
A smaller, orange, two-man chopper on pontoons and no markings other than a single registry number came out to meet us, circled us, flew several times up and down parallel to us... a bit unusual. He stayed a good 300 yards from us at the closest, but he was quite noisy and a bit unusual. As he left, a bell announced the PA system and the captain came on for the first time this cruise, that I recall (I'm sure he was one of those we heard the first day when stuff was all getting in motion). His comment, generally, indicated that the chopper is not that unusual, but he did not know who or what it represented (we are clearly far from a port or shore, and in International water) and it was just a bit closer than his comfort level allows, so he will be reporting the craft to the Coast Guard station in San Diego. I'm not sure what control they would have at the Southern tip of Baja. But it is nice to know that the Captain 'has our back'. Our Back? heck, he has everything else along with it. LOL. You Go, Cap'n!
We dressed for dinner and on "Formal" nights they always have a dozen photographers from the Photo Gallery set up all around the ship to take professional photos. With most people dressed to the 'nines', what a better time to do a formal photo? They taken'em and you check'em out, and only if you like'em do you buy'em. No 'sitting fee' is charged but the cost of the printed pictures are not bargain rates, for sure. We usually walk around and check out the backgrounds that they have hanging behind the subjects. Many are so 'busy' you miss the subjects. We had ours taken in front of a plainly patterned drop and will check them out in the Gallery (deck 5, Aft) tomorrow afternoon. If we don't like them we will try another sitting on the next Formal Night.
Upon entering the Capri Dining Room (deck 5, Aft), we indicated that we were a party of two, and will enjoy sitting with others. They seated us at a table for eight, and five were already seated. I sat next to a heavy gentleman that Rosalee said reminded her of Donald Trump, due to his questionable 'comb-over' ("except), she said, "...it was not orange"). He was wearing a very nice tuxedo and looked very nice. He may have as much financial backing as "The Don" because when we were sharing how many cruises we had experienced, he said that this is his fourth... "this year". When I asked how many total he had done he said "well, I'm not too sure, but I'm an 'Elite'". Elite class is what your status is when you exceed something like sixteen cruises with Princess Cruises. He was dining without a mate and we did not know his status. Next to him was Adam and his wife, Shirley. He was a college Computer Science professor from Brentwood, CA, which is out toward Tracy and Stockton. I had been asked to do an interview in Brentwood as a high school teacher when I was seeking employment as a teacher the first time. It was one of the four that were available and I chose one of them. Brentwood was already filled and I have never felt a loss for missing that one. Talk about out in the 'sticks'... LOL. Shirley was a housewife that worked many years as a school Librarian.
At the other end of the table were two ladies from a couple of cities North of where we live. We had a lively conversation that was pretty much table-wide. Adam and I had some subjects that came very easy to us but with "The Don" between us, he prevented our getting too deep as he was a self-described Nerd, but did not even own a computer or cell phone. So how did he earn HIS money? Hmmm.
I selected from the menu and chose a dish with whole shrimp and cooked vegetables that was quite good, along with a small Caesar Salad. When ordering from the menu anywhere on the ship, in any restaurant (except the few 'elite' restaurants that require a surcharge) there are no prices because anything and everything is included with the price of your passage. That is why it is do difficult to order a salad when for "the same price" you can have lobster or prime rib... when they are offered, which is quite often. On a cruise to Alaska they offered Prime Rib and King Crab on the same menu. I told the waiter that I had a real problem. He was really concerned and wanted to know how he could help me. I said that my two favorites are both on the same night, and I have to choose one over the other. He brought me two complete meals... one Prime Rib and the other was Crab. And I wonder why I have to order a salad now... LOL
My meal was very good, and the table broke up because most of us wanted to make it to the evening show in the Princess Theater. It was a type of a musical review of popular hits from the days when we heard Stardust up into the fifties. It was a good show. We have noticed that the shows seem to be shorter in content and they offer three shows instead of two. We are thinking that it is to handle the 2,400 or so passengers on board.
After the show we walked through the Casino (deck 6, Forward) and donated our $20. We played a 25 cent slot machine and they will even play off your cruise card. It did not take long before we moved on. LOL. We did stop in at the Horizon Court and had a final meal. I had some nice vegetable dishes and greens and Rosalee had some desserts, and then we made it down to the Carribe deck to crawl under the covers.
29 September 2012
Another beautiful morning on the ocean. We can just see some landforms far in the distance through some cloud cover. We are in the shipping lane (yes, they actually have 'lanes' in the ocean, just like freeways) about 8 - 10 miles off Baja California. Each morning I turn on the cabin TV to channel 48 to get the statistics that are in the box to the right (oh, so THAT's where he is getting that... ).
My glucose numbers are still looking good... at 114, which is no longer dropping but with the food I'm being 'forced' to eat on board and still taking 75% of my usual medication, I am very pleased. We have a new commercial juicer waiting for us at home that will allow me to try some new variations on the diet. I will be able to get nearly 100% of the benefits from the veggies and greens but can drink it instead of chewing up three pounds of greens a day. On these types of diets any variation you can find is a blessing.
We make our daily migration up to Horizon Court for our mid-morning feeding, and find new selections along with most of the familiar favorites. They do their usual excellent job keeping a varied faire for us, and this morning it is done equally well. The tables were pretty well populated so we joined two ladies a little to our senior at a table for four. And what a delight these two were. There was Jean from Vancouver, BC and her childhood friend Mary from Newcastle, England. They were both widowed by some years and they decided to do a cruise as their annual get together. Jean was using two canes and Mary was pretty well able to get about. We spent about two hours with them, and learned so many things that are different and that are similar to our own culture. Our dear friend Lissie in Manchester, England has taught us a lot about our European Nation friend. I am always surprised how much similar we are and how much have in common, and then the occasional difference will pop up and surprise us. Mary said something that we caught and we are not sure what it was. She did not even remember. It was how she described a time slot that was from 10:30 to 2:30. Somehow she said something like "Half ten to half two" or something. We will have to ask Lissie. But then... as we understand it... these two girls were "Geordies" and Lissie may not be that. LOL. I asked Mary what a "Geordie" was and she said something about "...those in the industrial areas that followed King George... ONE of them... we had six!" LOL. We should have asked them if they could define a "Pomme", spelling open to judgment. I have not gotten a consensus of an answer. English people seem to define it differently than those from Australia. It has something to do with those that were sent to Australia to serve some type of servitude to the Crown, mostly to populate the 'new land', and may have included those that were offered the choice of going there or staying in prison in the UK. Not sure at all.
With the late lunch (we left the Horizon Court after noon) we made it all the way to dinner time... which was at 5:30... or would that be "half five"? LOL. We went to the Capri Dining Room (deck 5, Aft). It was not a Formal Night, but the Dress Code in the Dining Hall is Smart/Casual as I mentioned before, and it is just nice to 'step up' a little and people act in a direct relationship with the extent of their wardrobe choice. When they put on a tie they are totally different than when in a polo shirt and shorts. No tie is required but slacks and buttoned shirt will be fine. I was complimented on my choice of shirt... by the waiter. I mean Rosalee's selection... and Rosalee bought it... but I was complimented. LOL.
As I mentioned in my e-mail, we were at a table for 8 which included a couple from the area between Tacoma and Seattle, Washington. He has had several surgeries and his voice was very weak. She looked to us like a real pistol when we were in line and Rosalee turned to me and said "I don't want to be at HER table" ... :-) Well, you know the rest of that story. LOL. Rosalee said that she actually turned out to be pretty OK. They had been married for about 8 years, and both had kids from previous marriages. They were frequent cruisers. Another man lived in Oroville CA, just twenty miles from our hometown of Gridley. He owned a business in San Jose CA with his family and was at one time an operatic singer. He was there with his two sisters, Megan and Ronda, who was widowed recently, the second widow that we had dined with in three nights. There seems to be a trend. The two sisters did not look like they were at all related (different weight, height, hair color, ...everything) but they were twins they told us. The singer was in a serious auto accident with multiple broken bones in the past but was doing relatively well, except for occasional problems when walking. Seated next to me was George. He was a consummate Ladies Man and charmer extraordinaire. He is 92, and had lost his 'precious' Helen a decade ago, then found 'an angel' a few years later, only to lose her in an auto accident a few years ago. He himself had a stroke seven years ago, and has a little balance problem now and again (he says), but we did not notice any loss of recall or speech. He was full of stories, and told how he was a machinist and was so offended by the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor that he went down and volunteered for the Army Air Corps, because he wanted to learn to fly.
And fly he did. He flew many types of planes, and spent a lot of his military commitment behind the yoke of B-17s, B-24s, and B-29s. His love was for the seventeen... "Those beauties were tough old birds that could fly all day and take many battle hits and still make it home." For his leisure time he played some brass and some woodwind instruments with a group that played for fun and profit. He and the opera singer had some great stories to share with us and memories to discuss. And could they quote the old favorites... songs, movies, books... you could listen all night.
When "The Big One" was over, he stayed with the Army-Air Corps, and in '47 when they switched it to Air Force, he stayed in for a number of years. He went through college in three years under the GI Bill, studying engineering, and was invited back into the Air Force to help with the looming missile crisis. He moved into McDonnell (I think) and working with Thoical (spelling is way off on that one and I can't check it with the internet) they created the space division and they built the units that made up the Apollo Missions... those were the early manned flights. They made the Command Module that the astronauts rode in. In Apollo 13 it was the Service Module behind the Command Module that had the O2 tank explosion, and they survived by riding mostly in the Landing Module because of the O2 supply in there.
The evening entertainment was pretty sparse. This is probably the least "entertaining" cruise that we have taken with Princess. There are usually two 1 1/2 hour shows at each end with various performances throughout the ship in lounges and general areas. There was a singing/dancing show Forward with the ship's dancers and singers that was covering some of the well-known entertainers in the past. The black Elvis was a challenge. LOL. We went Aft with George to the Vista Lounge (deck 7, Aft) to hear (and see) some of the ship's musicians perform some of the "Big Band Era" favorites. It was fun listening to George's critique (positive and negative) of each of the entertainers. Rosalee retired early with a threatening sore throat, but I stayed until they took a break. George and I parted and I rambled Forward to the Princess Theater just in time to actually catch the black Elvis, and he looked great and performed well. A bald, black, young man in a sparkling white 'Elvis' suit did have a dynamic appearance, I'll give him that. He was good.
The rest of the show did not encourage me to stay so I drifted back toward the Atrium (known on this ship as the Piazza, and is mid-ship, decks 5,6 & 7) where a small compliment of musicians were playing and singing. Just about anywhere that you go if there is some floor space, there will be a few people dancing. With the advanced average age on this cruise, it is amazing to see the excellent quality of dancing that some of these elderly people are able to do. They are fun to watch.
I went back to the cabin 'early' (for me) and retired for the evening. I think that I caught at least part of a movie on the TV.
30 September 2012
We pulled into port in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico this morning and did a 180° spin in the turning basin, and backed into the docking area, nice and slow. The 'water brakes' do not do well stopping a 100,000+ tonnes ship from moving. The captain did an excellent job and by moving her so slowly, she kissed the absorbers along the pier so softly I could not feel it, and I was at the rail watching the progress.
The docking area here in PV is lovely. There are some buildings and a large grass lawn. A good number of Taxis were waiting for the flood of people headed into town. A number of tour busses also were waiting for their 'charges'. A dozen high-rises mark the center of town. The highest may be some 35 floors or so. The town looks quite large. It is a twenty minute taxi ride into some parts of the town we are told. We will be in port only until about 1700 hours (five pm). We are not anxious to go ashore this time and we scheduled no off-ship excursions here, so we will find plenty to do to keep ourselves entertained here on board.
South Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
We understand that it was Princess Cruise Lines that first brought cruise ships to this area, and it was them that coined the phrase "Mexican Riviera". It seems like it was in the sixties when they did that. I mentioned in an earlier Log that it was the Pacific Princess that was used to film all of the "Love Boat" episodes. I believe that they have another Pacific Princess to replace that one now. We find it interesting that they are running the old re-run episodes of that show during the day in the cabins on the TV. Cruising today is not that much different from the way they showed then, except there is no way you will get the six key personnel showing up at your cabin if you have a problem with your love life. LOL. Especially the Captain. He is extremely difficult to find. He does not dine in the Dining Room like they do in the TV shows. The closest they can get to "dining at the Captain's Table" on these larger ships would be the 'receptions' they hold on Formal Nights when they pour a bunch of Champagne down a tier of champagne glasses in the atrium, with a couple hundred other cruisers.
Port of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Looking on the map that is constantly cycling on the TV (channel 48) shows us just about due South from the Texas panhandle. We are in the Central Standard Time zone, so we have had to change our clocks forward twice already, and tomorrow when we start on our return trip we will be turning it back one hour.
North Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
My blood Glucose is holding in there at 117, which shows some climbing but that is certainly to be expected. I am not eating like I should be. We are getting a goodly amount of exercise climbing up and down on the stairs so we are not doing any formal exercise... although it certainly would not hurt us. The breakfast offerings were pretty much the usual faire, although I did pick up some of the regular wonderful scrambled eggs that Princess is so well known for and after getting to the table I saw that Rosalee had scrambled eggs with asparagus which I missed. They usually have plain scrambled eggs and scrambled with something... usually something that is not really Ken-friendly, so I did not look this time and missed the asparagus. They did seem to have more vegan-ish choices this morning. Lots of things to try. Some I will do again... some not. LOL. Not that they are not good, but they are just not THAT good to offset the minor benefits, since they usually have things with them that do not fit 'the diet'.
We stopped in later on for a 'light' fill-in to tide us over to dinner time. They had a very nice selection of Vegan-friendly choices. It was an excellent lunch. Not being TOO hungry at dinner helps me to make better selections from the menu. We went back to the cabin and spent some time logging in to stray wireless signals coming in from surrounding buildings. I tried six of them before it actually allowed me to download e-mail. This way we did not have to use our on-board minutes. Unlike my first experience with the ship's service, I downloaded 15.5 MB of e-mail in maybe five minutes. It was good to catch things from home. I do have to be on deck or on our balcony to get 'out' however, as the steel ship pretty much kills outside lines coming in. But it was pretty hot on that deck. I was catching plenty of rays, but could barely read the screen from the light, what with the white bulkheads (walls) all around and behind me reflecting the sun, and our being on the South side of the ship.
During the day things are happening all around us. I glanced over our balcony to see an object in the bay behind us. Because I have seen similar water craft on other cruises I knew what I was looking at:
Floating Service Station
These special barges are brought up to the ships and their huge tanks in their hull contain the particular fuel that the ship needs to move through the water. Princess ships generally use crude bunker oil for a fuel, and equipment onboard the ship refines it as it is needed, allowing the huge engines to have the proper type of fuel to burn. This keeps the Princess ships' engines safe from poor fuel oil in foreign ports. It is also cheaper for Princess Lines. Safe fuel means less down time for repairs and engine damage.
Floating Fuel Service In Position To Transfer Fuel
Dinner was a surprise. We were seated at a table for 8, and the couple that was already there were in their eighties, at least. He is Chuck and she is Mary Lou, and her father was instrumental in first setting up the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, the large federally-funded research facility that is currently working on many energy and defense projects, including the nuclear fusion project to produce energy much as the sun does. They live in Fremont, CA, where we lived for 8 years and I taught for 35 years, and he taught elementary school in Milpitas, the next town to the South of Fremont. A third couple, Laurel and Leloni Evans joined us and they live in the Niles Canyon section of Fremont, where the old Essanay Movie Studios were located that produced most of Charlie Chaplin's movies and many Civil War movies of the thirties and forties. Their children attended Mission San Jose, the school where I taught. The fourth couple joined us and they were the couple that were at our table on the Formal Night. He was a computer professor at Ohlone College in Fremont and she was the Librarian there. They currently live in Brentwood, CA, just East of where we live. It was an all-Fremont table. What are the odds? Eight people out of some 2,550 souls and we all live or lived in the same town.
We all talked to excess and most tables had cleared and new people had come in and we were still eating. The lady from Niles, Leloni Evens, was heavy and diabetic. She dined on Prime Rib. (sigh) I had a wonderful dish of tempura vegetables, a nice greens salad, something else ?!? LOL, and some sugar-free ice cream. Oops. I usually try their sorbet, but tonight's sorbet was an alcoholic beverage flavor, and it did not entice me. The Professor and his wife, Adam and Shirley, were delightful and we talked a lot. They were thinking about catching the movie in the Princess Theater ("J. Edgar") as were we, but we talked right past the starting time. We agreed to meet with the Professor and his wife at 1730 for dinner in the Capri the following evening.
We went back to our cabin, but we decided we would wait up until 2215 when the second showing was and attend the movie. DiCaprio does an excellent job of acting, but we are not sure we would exuberantly endorse the movie. It was very dark (literally) and one has to wonder just how accurate a portrayal can possibly be of a person that was as reclusive in his personal life as Hoover was. But, I suppose as long as it makes a good 'story', it's cool. :-) It seemed hard to follow with it jumping back and forth through time. Generally, the more the character looked like DiCaprio, the earlier it was in time.
After the movie, it was bedtime.
01 October 2012
When we woke this morning we were nearing our destination of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. It is located right at the Southern tip of Baja California. It is the fastest growing Mexican resort area we were told. We have friends who's relatives have condos down here, and we often speak to people that visit this area on a regular basis. It is a very common stopping-off point for Mexican cruises. This is our third visit to the bay.
We have an off-ship excursion tomorrow, but we will likely not go ashore today.
We did breakfast, and sat with a couple from Alberta, Canada. It was their third cruise and his 60th birthday today. He was a cabinet maker, and other than a friendly conversation about general subjects we did not have much time together. We did not exchange names.
While we were at breakfast, we watched the ship pull into the Bahia San Lucas, the bay where Cabo San Lucas lies. The Island Princess is already here, but she will be leaving about the time we will be enjoying dinner.
New Resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
It is a warm one, and the humidity is 100%, so there will be no balcony time today. Before lunch we went down to the Future Cruises desk where you can purchase a credit toward a future cruise and it basically returns a bonus if you use it. Then we headed up to the Horizon Court to catch lunch. Quite a few Vegan-friendly meal choices were available. It was a good lunch, but we did not catch any 'fish'. Both sides of the Horizon Court were open for service and many had gone ashore, so the restaurant was not at all busy, and most people will not sit with others if they can find an empty table.
Back down to the cabin and catch a little snooze or TV or spend some time on this blog. We have a 'dinner date' to meet Adam and Shirley at the Capri Dining Hall at 1730. We made the connection and while waiting for them to start seating us, Chuck and Marylou showed up so we again sat together at a table for six and enjoyed it immensely. We still have many stories to tell and questions to ask, and the table where we were tonight was out of the way and quieter, and we could talk and all hear each other a lot better, so... tomorrow night we will meet again at 1730 and request the same table. We had good waiters tonight also, so they automatically come with the table.
The Star Princess will remain at anchor in the bay near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico through the night, and tomorrow as well. We will leave the harbor tomorrow evening. We have two days in Cabo because the political unrest in Mazatlan is bad enough that the company decided that they would skip that port. We were told that some time before the cruise started so it is no surprise.
Early rise in the morning to leave the ship and take a two-hour boat ride up the Sea of Cortez a short distance. This will be on a small catamaran.
02 October 2012
We awoke this a.m. at Oh Dark Hundred to be able to catch a breakfast on the Horizon Court and get back down to the Princess Theater by 0815 hours to queue up for our ride on the tender into Cabo San Lucas where we will board a catamaran... a "Party Boat" that will take us out into the Pacific Ocean and up the coast a couple of miles. Then we will sail across the bay where the ship is anchored to the other side and the entrance to the Sea of Cortez, out into the Pacific and North up the coast a short distance, and then back to the dock for a tender ride back to the ship.
I did take my glucose reading this morning and it was 123, which pleases me immensely. The evening meals are likely the worst offender of my numbers, but as long as they are holding at that level even with my continuing on 75% of my medication, I will continue to enjoy the companionship of our Dining Room Friends. The more we speak with them the more we learn about them. I suppose that is true of most people that you meet.
It is very hot today, and with the humidity just this side of rain it is extremely uncomfortable for all, and certainly for many of those that are elderly or obese. The crew on the boat were very attentive. They were serving free alcoholic drinks and soft beverages as well, and also water. The ride was quite pleasant. The boat is two decks, with the upper deck literally a covered dance floor with tables and chairs. The sea is calm so it was very pleasant. We went out around the rocks that contain the 'famous' arch and along the coast to see all of the beautiful homes literally clinging to the sides of the rocks. The guide mentioned several movie stars that owned homes in the area. Carol Burnett owned/owns one. I swear everywhere we go, someone says "Carol Burnett owns one of those... she supposedly owns/owned a ranch on Maui, Hawai'i, down in the Hana area, next door to Jim Neighbors (Gomer Pyle).
We did meet a lovely lady from Portland, Oregon, but neither of us can remember her name. We only exchanged names as we were getting off the catamaran. Her sister lives in Pleasanton, but was not on the cruise. She is an accountant in P-town but Rosalee did not recognize her name or the name of the firm that she works for.
I read on a brochure that Cabo San Lucas was the fastest growing resort city in all of Mexico. Our guide today indicated that you could not drive to it until the fifties or fly into it until the seventies. and that was when it started to expand. It is just a little too warm for our taste, to be running through Cabo. We will leave that to the young and adventurous.
We are back to our cabin by 1130 hours, or as our British friend Mary said "by eleven and a half". We saw her and her friend Jean and another of their friends in the lift yesterday. Mary recognized me before I figured out who she was.
We went up to lunch in the Horizon Court and when we walked in we recognized Laurel and Leloni Evans of Niles District, Fremont, from dinner on Day Four. We chatted with them and realized that sitting at the table next to them were Chuck and MaryLou, also from Fremont and Day Four. We picked up our meal and sat with them. The Evans' left shortly after and we talked with Chuck and MaryLou for nearly an hour. She is in a wheel chair but when I asked her the reason she said that Chuck had encouraged her to use it since getting about is a bit tough for her, especially with the ship's movement so it is easier for her to move around. They are originally from Pennsylvania and we learned quite a bit about their lives. I think that they said they have been married for sixty two years. They are both very soft-spoken and difficult to hear so we have to work a little at the conversation but it was a lovely time.
When returning to our cabin we walked past the Trident Grill (deck 14, Forward), next to Neptune's Reef and Pool (one of the fresh-water pools topside), and Rosalee noticed that they offer a Veggie-burger. I may check that out for lunch one day.
It is another quite warm day, so we spent very little time on the balcony. Another ship, one of the Carnival ships with the red whale's tail sticking up joined us in the bay. She is about the same size as we are. By counting the lifeboats on the side you have a pretty good idea of the number of passengers aboard. The bay is filled with Waverunners (water jet-skis) and small craft transporting people to various destinations, as well as those pulling the half-dozen Para-gliders. Rosalee is still fighting that congestion in her head and throat. We will try to grab some cough meds before dinner time in the Piazza (Atrium) in the shops. On deck six is a store that has some.
Family Fun In Cabo
We met Adam and Shirley in the line into the Capri Dining Hall, but Chuck and MaryLou had not shown up yet. We requested table 18 that we had the night before as it was quieter and we could all hear better. Eighteen was spoken for but we got table 8 instead and it was about as nice. We were seated and Adam went back out to catch Chuck and MaryLou when they came to direct them to the right table. They came fairly quickly.
I could not tell you what I had, but it was all very nice. Very tasty. Basically, they were all selections from the menu that were preceded with a (V), indicating that they were vegetarian selections. Well, they may fit the classification of Vegan meals but they do not qualify as a "Cousens" Vegan Raw Rainbow Diet selection. But, we can only do so much. As long as my numbers... blah, blah...
Shirley had asked for fresh asparagus on the side and got them several nights ago. We asked last night and it worked again. So... we tried again tonight and got them. They are very nice. No sauces or anything and cooked El Dente', very nice. I have passed on the sorbet the last two nights because of their being alcohol flavored and selected as the last choice sugar-free ice cream. I don't think that is going to work out for me.
Again we talked well past the first Show-time and tonight was a musical presentation of Mo-Town and we wanted to see it. Adam and Shirley also wanted to see it. We met in front of the Vista Lounge (deck 7, Aft) but the line was already quite long. We let Adam choose a seat and he took us to the front row... ten feet from the stage. The stage actually was only one foot high and is a section of the wood dance floor that lifts for special functions. Of course, you do know what happens to people sitting in the front row... If it is a Gallagher night you get watermelon splashed onto you. If it is a ventriloquist you end up being his dummy, or an hypnotist will choose you to be his victim. Well, they grabbed Shirley for a short little ditty where she sat on the chair and the male singer sang her a song. She played the part very well.
It was a good show, and it was only the second worthy show of the cruise. They just are not putting the shows on that we are used to seeing. Perhaps there was a budget cut... better there than in the food service I suppose. LOL.
Back to the cabin for the night. Nothing was interesting on TV so we both hit the sack.
03 October 2012
We traveled through the night and the seas have been very calm. I had to look outside the sliding glass doors to see if we were moving. The sea is so calm I had to look down to see our moving wake before I could see anything being left behind. Rosalee is coughing a lot heavier this morning and her congestion is not getting much better. I had a bit of a tickle in my throat, which is what her's started out with. I am convinced it has a lot to do with the air that is pumped into the cabin. We will try to leave the door open as much as we can for fresh air. Toto, we are no longer in Mexico... it is cooler outside and there is a little breeze that makes the balcony less than attractive this morning. Later it should be ok.
My glucose is starting to climb... to 132 this morning. Methinks my diet is doing me wrong. I will have to see if I can modify it a little more. I do want to avoid going back to my 'standard' Metformin level. I cannot wait to get home to get back on the more strict diet. I can't believe that I said that. Must be the Mexican sun on my brain caused that... was that out loud?
We went up for our first meal and had to try to decide if it was breakfast or lunch since it was 1000 hours. We decided to eat lightly and then grab a small lunch. After all, it is the time in the dining areas that we get to meet new people. As we walked in past some of the tables I was scanning to see if any of our new friends were in residence and Rosalee was behind me when she touched my arm. She had noticed Jean, our British friend from Vancouver at a table next to the walking area. A gentleman was at the table and Mary was making another run through the Buffet. We filled our plates... lightly of course... and re-joined them. The gentleman was a widower from Berkeley, CA, and his name was Charles Clark. It was a table for six so we joined them for a lovely conversation. Charles excused himself after not too long. He said that he had to go and get ready for lunch. LOL. We learned much more information about our friends Jean and Mary, as well as their countries. Mary shared how her husband had taken ill in Florida when they were on holiday (as she puts it) and he was in the hospital for ten days. Her daughter and family were travelling with them so she stayed with Mary and her family went back home to their work. The hospital accepted her travel insurance but required a $1,000 deposit, and after diagnosing him they wanted to do a heart bypass. She said that she would have to 'ring' her insurance company about that expense and they told her to hold off on that and they sent a doctor over from Britain to escort them home. The English doctors determined that he did not need the bypass (they felt that the American doctors were more inclined to do the bypass due to the expenses involved), and Mary said that she nursed him through seven more years of life. To be fair to both sides, one has to admit that some medical decisions that we see made in the US do seem to favor the income generated to the medical services, but one also cannot help but wonder how different his life would have been had he undergone the bypass surgery, whether his seven years would have been shorter, the same, or longer, and if his quality of life would have been better or worse. The continual question of our health systems. Our friend Lissie in England tells us that when she travels to the US she has to pay several times her regular insurance premium to be covered while in the US.
The two ladies have dinner each evening with a German couple from Roseville, CA that have some difficulties with English, and enjoy practicing their English skills with the ladies. And Mary enjoys speaking to them in German, one of her other languages. When we met them in the lift the other day, they were actually on their way down to the infirmary to check out the male from that couple's congestion and breathing. I had to ask how they were treated and what they did for him. Considering that my experience a few cruises back was a very nice English doctor telling me that "...you Yanks love those anti-biotics but I would tell a Brit to go back to their cabin and eat an apple" I asked what they did to take care of the German gentleman. Mary said that they gave him an anti-biotic shot in the arm. Oh yeah... I forgot... they live in the US now. LOL.
We met Chuck & MaryLou and Adam & Shirley for dinner and tonight had a lot of the real special meals. Tonight was the first night with Lobster and Prawns, and there was no way I was going to pass those up. Hey, I had the tomato soup... that counts a little, right? And a green salad. And I chose sorbet for dessert. Hey! Cut me a little slack here. LOL
The evening show was decent. It was called the "British Invasion" and started out with Aker Bilk's recording that was so popular and I did not know what he had to do with Britain. It appears that "Strangers On The Shore" was equally popular in the sixties on both shores. I still will hear it periodically on the radio. I had to "Google" his name to find out the answer to my question and found that he originally was from Britain, and I was amazed to learn that his beautiful music was not from a saxophone at all, as I have always assumed. It is a very mellow Clarinet.
They did numbers from the Beetles, the Who, and various other English-generated musical groups that "invaded" the US in the sixties.
We were told that two of the cast members were down and out from the flu symptoms, just like the ones that Rosalee and I both have at the moment. But the musical numbers went off well. We were told by the Theater staff on a tour of that facility on a previous ship/cruise (when we did a Theater Tour) that the full staff are recorded for all numbers for just these situations. By quickly rearranging the positions on the stage to look right, that missing voice is still there, due to the recording. Sort of takes some of the mystique out, doesn't it? The drummer was out also and they stuck in a "ringer" as the Cruise Director called him, but I could notice that his sticks were not exactly in the right position when a series of drum notes were played... but the lead singers did seem to be 'live' as we were in the third row (Adam and Shirley's favorite position) and we could see them very well. Literally less than five meters away from us.
We returned to the cabin and after a quick movie on the screen in our cabin we were sawing logs as we have an early waking time to make it to the tour on time.
04 October 2012
We were up early and at breakfast at 0800 hours. We are scheduled for an Old Town Trolley tour through San Diego that uses a buss that is re-constructed to look like a San Francisco cable car. It took us from the ship to the Coronado Bridge and over to Coronado. It took us through the various areas of that town and then back over the bridge to Balboa Park and "Little Italy" and "Old Town" San Diego.
But it was not quite that simple. The ride was the best part, as it should be, but getting off the ship was a bit of a drag. We had to queue up in the Princess Theater and were called when the tour buss (trolley) was available. But first we had to wait in a line about two blocks long to go through Customs. Once at the agent it was just a matter of showing our Passport and we were through. Then we waited for the next trolley. Larry was our guide and driver today, and he had a well laid out program. He was interesting and entertaining and had the help of an audio system that allowed him to interject songs into his delivery. He would speak of the brave Naval personnel and he would play "Anchors Aweigh". He spoke of the Marines and he would play "The Battle Hymn of the Republic". When we went over the Coronado Bridge and we reached the highest point he played the Carpenter's "I'm On The Top Of The World...".
San Diego -- Coronado Bridge, Looking North
He had a little sea-faring ditty when we passed the Maritime museum, and an Italian favorite when we drove through Little Italy. His talk was very informative and we learned a lot of history of the City of San Diego. The rear dozen passengers had roll-up isinglass windows so it was rather airy, and he warned them when we were headed across the bridge that they were about to receive a special hair treatment, compliments of the Old Town Trolley. He was very informative and attentive to those on board. Basically we felt that the trip was very much worth the time and expense.
If we heard him right, there is more than 37 million dollars coming into the coffers of San Diego from the large Military occupation here each year. It is nice to know that some of our tax dollars are actually being turned back into our country instead of it all going up in smoke somewhere. There were two aircraft carriers in the bay today, not counting the USS Midway which was two births over from us. It is now a floating museum. It was placed into service during WWII and served up and through the nineties. They talk about carriers having a fifty-year life expectancy and that is about right. I think that we have some atomic-powered jobs out there that are over the half-century mark.
Now, getting back on board... that was a different story. We hope to learn more, but we basically were standing and walking in line for more than an hour to re-board. We did notice that they were stacking a massive amount of mattresses on the docks that were coming off this ship. We have never seen that done before and don't know if it is an SOP or there was a problem such as a bug that had to be taken care of. When walking through the terminal building we did notice a number of individuals seated that had not gone off into the town. It appears they had everyone get off the ship. That does happen now and again, and it really complicates re-boarding because it is happening all at once instead of being spread out over several hours. We hope to learn the rest of the story from Chuck and MaryLou tonight at dinner. They were two of those waiting in the chairs in the building.
We were next to a couple in line getting back on that were from Walnut Creek, CA, just up the road a piece from us in Pleasanton. He had once worked for PG&E, our gas and electric supplier. He did make a minor comment that clued us that they were of the same flavor of political convictions as us so it was easy for us to converse about such matters. We did not get their names.
We did note that for some reason, they were hauling away a whole dumpster full of mattresses from the ship. That made us wonder if possibly they were having a problem with some type of infection or other problem on the ship and this was a cleansing program. That might explain why everyone was off the ship. However, we spoke to a couple at the beginning of the cruise that came down from Vancouver on the ship and were continuing on the cruise... but they had to disembark at San Francisco, and their cabin was even changed, and they were told they all had to leave the ship for an immigration procedure. The cabin change was likely a booking complication between one cruise and the next cruise. Some will stay on this ship in San Francisco and go on over to Hawai'i. We spoke to a couple from Europe that was continuing on. They had been in Canada, various parts of the US, then this cruse, and then next to Hawai'i, and it will be two months before they return to their home.
We stopped by our cabins and went on up to the Horizon Court for lunch as it was past noon. The selections were varied and seemingly more Vegan-friendly than earlier. They offered a dish with Couscous for the first time that I have seen on this trip. I have had it only once when Rosalee's sister Roberta and Rosalee's niece Andi and I had dinner in Pittsburgh, CA with a family where Roberta was going to be employed as a live-in nanny. I liked it. Lissie in England speaks about it being good for meeting my dietetic needs so I took some. It was delicious.
Speaking of diets, I measured the damage from last night's meal and it was not bad at all. It was 134, up two points. Clearly I am "off the path" but not going over the cliff yet. I expect the numbers to drop a few days from now after we are home and have access to the right kinds of foods.
We met our dining partners at 1730 at the Capri Dining Room and the menu did not have one single selection under the Main Courses that was marked with a (V) for Vegan. I did select an artichoke bisque and a green salad, and there was an orange sorbet offered before the Main Courses that I selected. I thought my least-bad selection was Orange Roughy fish with vegetables, and some Lime Sorbet for Desert. It was all lovely. Rosalee bowed to pressure and ordered the Cre'me Broule' and could not finish it. I did take a bite... ok... guilty... I took two bites... but mostly the custard, not the sugar crust on top. Oh, my! LOL
Adam and I were deep in conversation about a patio cover at their home that needs some attention. He noticed he is getting some rotting and it is constructed of twelve foot long 4 X 6's, spaced two feet apart that support nothing but themselves and some 2 X 2 inch wood stringers. That is built strong enough to park a car up there. We talked about 'saving' what he has rather than replacing the beams which can be very difficult. I suggested the use of the Abatron Inc's LiquidWood and WoodEPox. He is going to e-mail me some images of the work. It may be simpler to drive out to take a look. Perhaps that may come later after the initial thoughts and decisions.
A comedian is scheduled for the evening. We sat in the third row as we did the night before for the musical show, and I am glad that we did. He was much more effective, I feel, when we were up close enough to be able to more easily 'read' his facial expressions. He was unbelievable. Rosalee said that she did not remember ever seeing a comedian that made her laugh that much. I was even "puppy-dogging"... the Livermore Smiths know what that is... I could hardly get my breath. His subjects? Just simple, everyday things that happen in life aboard ship. Strictly 'location' jokes... you know... "you-had-to-be-there-to-understand" jokes. The show was much too short, for sure.
We have been pleasantly surprised by the Cruise Director. He is genuinely funny, has a great delivery, excellent timing, a strong English accent but annunciates clearly. Some CD's can be rather overwhelming and a bit annoying. He does not have a simple job. He is basically the Master of Ceremonies of most every entertainment-related function throughout the ship. He must have a secret passage from the bow to the stern to get to both theaters which are at opposite ends of the ship, and the human traffic is so difficult to work with. Everyone stands abreast of each other and takes up the entire passageway. Add to it that many are elderly and have difficulties getting about physically.
Possibly because of the three shorter shows at each theater rather than the two longer ones, there is not as much rush traffic heading from fore to aft (and vice versa) between shows. That plus with excellent dining company like we have, we are always at the table long after starting time for the first shows, and many on this cruise will not stay up late enough to see the second show. We have cruised this class (size) of ship before (Star and Grand are the same class) and it was much more difficult to get around. There are a lot of souls on board to herd from point A to point B... and point C... and... and...
After the comedian show the ladies retired and Adam and I sat for a while and talked more about his project and the subject of clocks and watches. He has a deep fondness for nice watches... especially if they have complex faces. I tend to feel the same, but would prefer them to be clocks rather than watches.
05 October 2012
Our last day at sea. Packing day. Luggage is to be outside our cabin doors as we leave for dinner tonight. We will hold back tomorrow's walk-off clothes and just our essentials to make it through the night and to make ourselves presentable for in the morning.
We went up for breakfast and we dined at a table for two. It was a bit busy in the Horizon Court this morning. The seas have picked up from what we have been used to all week. We were seated in the aft seating area of the Court, and were literally 100 feet from the stern of the ship. We had quite a bit of port - starboard shifting. Not so much a rolling but a side-slipping action. It was slightly unpleasant but to be expected in rougher waters at the aft of the ship.
We noticed a change in the procedures... along with the hand disinfectant they want you to use before going through the buffet line, the employee that monitors the use of the hand wash was handing you your plate and your napkin which contained your table service. Usually that is set at the table when you go there. Obviously they are trying to tighten up sanitation. One cannot help but wonder if that ties into the removal of the mattresses yesterday.
When seated we noticed that there were no salt or pepper shakers on any of the tables. The staff were still coming to each table asking if they could bring any drinks or any other service. We did ask about the salt and pepper and the brought a bowl with tiny, postage stamp sized packets of salt and pepper. Another sanitation step. So, instead of touching a salt dispenser that a hundred others touched, you reach into a bowl touching a half dozen packets, set them on the table, tear one open, drop it onto your food, pick it out of your food, set it onto the table until you find that you did not get enough the first try so you repeat all of above... I lost track of the number of times there was contact between my food and the other shipmates. Some measures just have to be ideas presented by some exec stuck ashore in an office that may never have been aboard a ship.
We asked a head waiter from India (42 countries are represented on the staff... only 35 are represented in the passengers) what was going on with the sanitation changes and in his very heavy accent that was difficult to hear with his soft voice and the music in the background, he said that it was all standard procedure... they change procedures every so often. I asked about the mattresses being taken ashore and he said that happens all the time. Kind of a standard rotation. I think what we heard was a 'standard reply' that was intended for the passengers. No sense in causing any alarm, right? LOL. I asked if the mattresses were cleaned or refurbished and he said that he does not know anything about that stuff. LOL.
There is a scheduled Navigation At Sea presentation at 1300 in the Vista Lounge (deck 7, Aft) today with a "Virtual Bridge Tour" that I think that I might try to attend. It should prove interesting.
Disembarkation Day 06 October 2012
We came under the Golden Gate Bridge at 0600 hours this morning. Many were hoping to be able to be up on deck to see it but as we suspected, the only thing that you could see was a row of lights along the handrails. The fog was so thick, you could see nothing of the bridge structure.
From about 2200 hours last night, the ship was sounding it's fog horn (a little quieter and a different tone than the main horn). It did not keep us from sleeping at all. Better she warn others of her approaching than not. We have radar, of course, but some smaller craft do not have a visible profile on the radar and can be missed.
Yerba Buena Island -- Oakland - San Francisco Bay Bridge
We were in our berth by 0700, and they were preparing the Star Princess for her 1800 sailing to Hawai'i. Some on board will continue on, but the majority will leave the ship in San Francisco.