Caribbean - 2002
We flew to Florida with Kent, Linda and the boys, where we picked up a van and drove north a couple of hours to a hotel that would be our home for several days while we visited Disney World. It was the first time any of us had been there. The boys had a lot of fun, and we had a lot of fun trying to keep within shouting distance of them. Each 'Land' (Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Main Street U.S.A., etc.) are totally individual parks, separated by miles of open Florida land. There was good parking at each location. The weather was beautiful... except when we were deluged by a rainstorm that forced everyone to take cover. Twenty minutes and all was clear again.
Grandma and Grandpa relived
their days in the fifties when they visited Disneyland in
Ken and the boys took a ride in the Magic Tea Cup Ride. Ken and his brother Cody spent a great time in the original ride back in '58 with their cousins Janette and Karen. The cups spin freely, and the riders spin it by turning the small round table in the center of the cup. The faster it turns, of course, the harder it is to hold your head upright. The large, round table all the cups are riding on is also spinning, like the old Tilt-A-Wheel ride. We had great fun. At least grandpa did and the boys put up with him.
We stopped for lunch in a cute Fifty's-style restaurant that was on the grounds. The ladies were dressed in gingham and they had old fashioned items on the menu. Logan's meal came with green beans, and the waitress made him eat them... after she made him remove his cap at the table. You can see that he is excited about eating his beans. And he did. The food was extra good. The levity was also great.
Mickey, Mickey, Mickey
We drove back down to Ft. Lauderdale to where we boarded our ship. This is our second Princess cruise, and we are booked on the Grand Princess. She is one huge ship. That bar across the back give the ship and her three sister ships a distinct profile. The captain said that other captains chide him and refer to his beautiful ship as "a grocery cart". She is 946 feet long, carries 2,600 passengers and a crew of 1,150. She has 1,301 cabins on 17 decks. Four swimming pools and a splash pool keep the water-set happy, with 8 whirlpool spa/hot tubs spaced around the pools. There are 8 dining areas, multiple bars, an adult Sanctuary, Skywalker Lounge, Spa and Fitness Center, Atrium with shopping, Wedding Chapel, Casino, Teen center, Kid's center, Internet Cafe, Art Gallery, Photo/Video Gallery, Golf Putting Course, Sports Court, and Medical Center. Literally a floating city with it's own converter for sea water to fresh water and Waste Containment systems. There are 24 lifeboat/tenders, and many inflatable life rafts. The larger boats hold almost 200 people.
We stepped up on this cruise. Last cruise we had an
ocean-view or outside cabin with a large window, but this time we moved
up one notch to a balcony cabin. This gives us a small balcony from
which we can experience the sea air and sun, as well as any other
elements at the time. Kent and Linda and the boys had a similar cabin
two doors over.
That's our ship on the horizon. We are visiting Costa Maya, a little tourist trap on the southern coast of Cuba. There was no town here that we could see, but apparently the sole source of income is the tourist trade.
We walked along the sea shore before
we walked out the wharf to return to our ship. Kent took this image of Linda
while she was checking out the surf. It is our favorite image of the trip.
This is the aft end of our beast. She stands pretty tall in the water. The deck that has the windows in line with the "Hamilton" is deck six, and is the back of the Vista Lounge where they have lectures and classes during the day and entertainment in the evenings. The open deck above it (above the "Grand Princess" lettering) is deck seven, of course, and is the Promenade Deck. You can walk that deck completely around the ship. It is open almost all the way around. The next four decks are all suites with balconies. Where the people are standing behind the rail at the top is a pool for adults, and several patios for the Horizon Court where we enjoy breakfast and lunch most days. That bridge going across the top... the 'handle' of the 'shopping cart', is a Bar/Club called "Skywalker's Lounge". It is at deck 17 level.
The boys are ready for dinner. We had several 'formal' evenings where you dress up with suits, ties, or if you wish, formal attire. They boys looked nice. Grandpa ordered a second serving of escargot so they could have their first experience of them, but they could not be enticed to try them. :-) More for Grandpa.
We caught a culinary demonstration and a tour through the main kitchen. They cook for most of the dining facilities in this one facility. We felt like we had died and gone to Stainless Steel Heaven. Acres of SS, no matter where you look. They had a skeleton crew at work, mostly for show perhaps, but there are many people in here during the meal hours. We found that in the main dining rooms, even though there are at least ten entree's, they can pretty much meet your special needs.
When we were in port at Cozumel, we took an excursion where we visited some ancient Mayan ruins. The better part of taking an excursion like this is that you get to drive through the city and out into the countryside and you can see how the locals REALLY live.
It looks like they have done some restoration on the structures, but it was interesting to see the stonework and it was remarkable how well the stones fit together.
This little lady and an equally sized Neptune graced the Mermaid's Grill, next to one of the larger pools. They served hamburgers and hotdogs and drinks and shakes and stuff you would expect to find at a 'grill'. I included her here because I was rather amazed to see that she was created in the 'older' style, before someone decided that any respectable mermaid would not be seen in public without her pair of clamshells on her chest. I'm quite sure the "politically correct" people will have this lady removed before too long. Perhaps we will sail on the Grand again and we will find out. Note, dated 11/15: She is gone. We are sailing a 7-day down the California Coast and I noticed her absence. O'l Neptune is gone as well.
On the cruise you seldom hear from the Captain. He usually greets you before casting off, and perhaps he might speak on the intercom the night they have the Captain's Circle champagne party, and that is about it. We were still a day and a half out of Ft. Lauderdale, coming around the Western end of Cuba, when the Captain came on the intercom and had quite a bit to say. He told us that a lady passenger had taken ill, and was below in our Medical Center. It is a quite nicely outfitted center with real doctors and nurses and all, and a pretty complete pharmacy to back it up. He did not describe her ailment but he said that she was in serious condition and they were not able to care for her on board. Waiting another 28 hours until we arrive at Ft. Lauderdale was not an option.
He said that a chopper had been dispatched from an airbase in Florida and it would be arriving in about three hours. It would take the lady to shore and a hospital. The Captain asked that everyone with a cabin on the top three decks, in the center one/third of the ship, to vacate their cabins and accumulate in the larger public areas at either end of the ship. Anyone lower than that was asked to generally stay in their cabins until the transfer was done.
The Captain indicated that to hasten the connection he had altered the ship's course five degrees and brought on "the other two engines". He said that brought out speed up to 22 knots. We usually cruise around 19 knots.
I had pretty much been all over the ship, and I did not recall ever seeing a heli-pad anywhere. The Captain told us that the Bridge Cam has been turned around to view midship and it was available on our cabin TVs. We have a front-row view of the whole operation. Kent, of course, decided he had to stay topside to see all the action. He said they moved every lounge chair and loose item from midship and stowed them. Every light pole and vertical item wasl lowered down. They literally cleared the decks.
We saw the chopper show up as our speed was slowing, and it pulled up over the center of the ship and lowered a person on a cable to the deck, then pulled off to the side of the ship and just lazily circled around the ship. After about 20 minutes, the chopper came back over the ship and lifted a gurney from the deck. It contained a person sitting in one end and luggage in the other. They lowered the gurney and lifted the chopper person up. Then it lifted the gurney with a prone person... most likely the stricken lady. As soon as she was inside the airship, they were on their way to Florida.
Everything was restored on the ship and everyone went back to their business, but there was definitely a softened mood on the ship. About three hours later, the Captain came on the intercom and said that the lady had reached the hospital and she was medically out of trouble and her prognosis was good. You could feel the mood of the entire ship lift. Everyone was happy and joyful. An amazing experience. We talked to waiters and staff and none of them said they had ever seen anything like it before.
I cannot help but wonder how much that ambulance bill could be. Hopefully the US Coast Guard can write it off as a training mission.
Disembarkation was straightforward and we returned home without incident. We had a great time with our kids, and on the cruise. We could easily do that again.