Number of Cruises: First Cruise
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Dawn Princess
Sailing Date: n/a
When my mother called me in January on my birthday to ask me if I wanted to go on a cruise to Alaska, I was astounded that there could be any other response than, “YES!” So it was with months of building excitement that her and I and my two sixteen-year-old nephews, Johnny and Thomas got on the plane to fly to Seattle…from there we met the Princess representative at the airport baggage claim and were directed to some thirty feet away as our bags were loaded onto a cart for us by a fellow from the bus company.
The bus took us up to Vancouver where we drove right up to the ship. The view of the Dawn Princess was breathtaking. The massive ship was everything I had imagined in my dreams!
We practically breezed onto the ship! It was like falling off a log. Customs, and the Cruise folks were all so friendly. One picture later, we boarded. We found our cabin on the Baja deck with ease and as I am an awful sailor, I already had my sea-bands on in trepidation of that awful seasickness I always seem to get.
The cabins were a couple of doors away from each other and the boys raced to see the rooms. They actually had Thomas scheduled to be in my room and Johnny in my mother’s, because the Cruise doesn’t allow unchaperoned minors in the rooms by themselves. My sister-in-law travel agent assured us that no one would bother us about the switch and no one really bothered us about rules and regulations while we were on the ship! Well…one lady came up to me as I was in the Jacuzzi on the third day and said, “Excuse me, but I don’t think they allow drinks up there.” I asked her politely if she worked there, and when she said no, I said, “Well, they brought it to me up here and I’ll be very careful.” I could see if there were kids playing up there in the elevated Jacuzzi, but it was myself and an elderly grand dame named Janet who I had just helped into the Jacuzzi. Later, I saw the same woman hassling some other people. Must be a hobby! I digress…the boys took one look at the queen-bed configuration (it was supposed to be twin) and made a beeline for the other room. Later on our cabin steward, Revo introduced himself and asked us if we would like it switched, to which we promptly agreed. He also informed us to place our “Please Make Up Our Stateroom Now” sign whenever we left the room to signal that he could turn down our beds and to leave up the “Do Not Disturb” sign whenever we were in the room. Revo, was a delight, more about the workers I met later…we settled in and unpacked and there was plenty of closet space and nice wooden hangers (not the three you find in most luxury hotels but more like thirty!) I am glad the boys chose the other room because the set-up once the beds were switched was so roomy and the bathroom shower stall was larger, cut on an angle so that I could shave my long legs! Baja 733 was indeed paradise within paradise for the next week! The boys loved their room as well although it was not to my taste. It was lengthy as ours was wide and the shower stall was square. In each room there was a desk and stool, a dresser with six large drawers and a television and remote control on one console across from the beds, which also contained a safe that was easy to operate, (you picked your own combination) and a rather large mini-fridge that Revo filled with fresh ice daily! There were pamphlets and a card to order fresh fruit daily and an entertainment guide and a large mahogany leather-bound room information guide. You could also order breakfast to be brought to you in the morning, which I only did once because we loved the ritual of going to the Horizon Court Buffet every morning. Room service was also available twenty-four hours a day! There was also a mailbox, which contained our first Princess Patter! These guides and that mailbox were so exciting in the days to come, letting us know daily what we could do around the ship. We dashed up the hallway leaving my mother in the room to catch her breath promising to return for her in a bit. My luggage and the boys were delivered shortly after we left, my mother’s a little while later. A few rooms down the hallway led us to our first set of elevators and we went straight to the top. All of the elevators have a large crystal placard stating in bold where you are presently and what amenities are on the other floors. This was extremely helpful as we navigated the many floors and venues. My mother never did try to find her own way about but with us three collecting her and re-depositing her in her cabin, she had no need to!
We ventured onto the teak deck and the smokestacks loomed large with the flowing Princess logo fulfilling my teen-age dream of being on the “Love Boat!” I should probably mention that I am happily married and my husband who is from Ireland took the opportunity while I was cruising to visit his homeland, any fantasies I had about falling in love on the “Love Boat,” were just that! As we looked out over Vancouver (a semi-other-earthly city with tall glass ballooning buildings) it was quite the dream come true!
We made our way forward and around the corner was a sight that would fulfill any cruiser’s idea of the heart of the ship. We found the sunny deck with it’s large pool and small pool and two elevated Jacuzzis and the Riviera Bar, the stairs beside it leading to the Balcony Grill (my mother thought it said Baloney at first) and above that the Windjammer Bar. There was a five-piece band playing and people were everywhere. We made our way to the Riviera Bar where the boys got their sticker on their room card for twenty dollars for unlimited soft drinks and I availed myself of a Corona with lime. I kept asking the boys if they could believe this would be our home-away from home for the next five days and they agreed it was awesome. We went and got my mother for the sail-away and aside from the bellowing ship’s horn that frightened her; we were off to an auspicious beginning!
I just loved dressing up for dinner! I would usually take two showers, one after breakfast or before and one leading up to the building excitement of the evening (my mother thought me so decadent) and I adore getting ready at a leisurely pace. We chose the Personal Choice Dining, which was fantastic as it allowed us to make our reservation daily according to our mood. That evening, Johnny asked if I had the other pair of seabands we had brought along. I told him no, but I was overly concerned so I gave him mine, hoping I would not get sick. It was amazing, but I never ever did get sick after that! Our first dinner in the Florentine, we were mesmerized by our Romanian waiter who introduced himself as Dragos and his partner who was also Romanian as Michaela. He said they were the “Romanian Dream Team!” Dragos was completely gorgeous and charming and had all of us eating out of the palm of his hand. He suggested his favorites for the night and smiled his way into all of our hearts. Michaela was a raven-haired beauty also with a gorgeous smile and a vibrant personality.
Our second dinner was a tiny bit disappointing. We entered with everyone it seemed at 6 P.M. since we were at sea; I suppose everyone decided to eat early! In short, our Romanian Dream Team was slammed. They tried their best, but unfortunately I got Thomas’ well done beef and he got my medium. When I had barely eaten it, Michaela asked what was wrong. I told her we got each other’s order and she said, “You must tell us this!” Unfortunately, they had no time to inquire about our satisfaction in our entrees. I told them it was all right, it did not affect me in the least. I could really stand to miss all those lovely calories! Then I had to face Dragos when he asked what was wrong, he was mortified he had switched the plates. I tell you; I would much rather have the wrong meat and someone who cares about your satisfaction then someone who could care less. These two were really special. He offered to bring me another, but I declined-focusing on dessert! The dessert menu was offered up with a flourish nightly and the different choices and surprises made it fun.
The third night we made a dreadful mistake. We decided to see what the dinner buffet was and were somewhat disappointed by the lack of choices. Perhaps we were early and so we decided to try La Scala, the pizzeria, which we had heard fabulous things about their Calzones. When it was not on the menu, the head man told us it would not be a problem to make us one. I felt so special! It was fabulous. So the Calzones were not the mistake, we found we missed Dragos and Michaela tremendously!
The next evening we requested them but found we could not get them as their section was in demand. Short wonder, we were later seated with a family who loved them too! We ended up close to them but with Luis and a funny waiter (sorry, did not catch his name) who proceeded to tell us every libation available. It was quite amusing to me but only disturbed my mother. The boys were playfully furious with me, demanding that I tell Dragos we had requested them so he wouldn’t feel we had somehow been disappointed by my tournedos of beef snafu the previous two evenings. I am sure Dragos and Michaela really weren’t that put out, but it was nice to think we mattered so much to them! Thomas even joked that I should go retrieve Dragos’ recommendations! Luis was a very professional, wonderful waiter and the service was impeccable, but we had already bonded with the two lovely Romanians! When Luis asked if we would like to come back, I painfully explained our dilemma, thankfully he called Michaela over and we explained what had happened. She was delighted that we would return to them the following evening and promised to inform Dragos. I couldn’t believe how taken the boys were with Dragos, comparing everything he did to poor Luis! They were simply fascinated by him and in all honesty, my mother and I were too. To compare, dining with Luis was a pleasure, dining with D & M was an event!
We returned to them on Friday and it was an awesome homecoming. Dragos had a way of pushing in your chair that made one feel he was completely in charge, he also had a gentle humor and a real commanding presence. Whenever we could not decide on a dessert, he would tell us not to worry, he would bring out both! My mother tried to decline dessert by telling him, “Nothing, thanks,” when he took her order. He said, “We do not have that! I will bring you the Apple Strudel, if you do not like it, no worries.” He was quite amusing that way. The boys admired his machismo and coolness, it was a hoot! Thomas even told us he had aspirations to follow in his footsteps!
Saturday’s formal dinner with D & M was touched by a big disappointment. It was rocky that evening on the open sea. The boys who had earlier told us they refused to dress up again checked the menu and found that lobster tails were too hard to resist. They had never tried them. I do believe it was the prospect of missing one evening with Dragos that impelled them in actuality! If you recall, Johnny had the seabands and when Thomas asked him for them, I knew Thomas was ill. The choppiness made him turn a pale green and the seabands didn’t help. They do say to wear them BEFORE you experience seasickness. He said he would go out for some air. After a bit, I went to look for him. I came back and then Johnny went in search. Then I had to use the ladies, so I left my poor mother alone at an eight-top table (the only one available in Dragos section) feeling a bit like a wallflower at a dance! Dragos and Michaela were so concerned! After Thomas returned to tell his Nana that he had to go to his room, Dragos informed us that he would be giving us a care package for Thom, consisting of a chopped apple, crackers and one can of ginger ale. As he could see we were sad about our dinner comrade’s absence, he then did an impromptu magic act for us to cheer us up. We got this on tape for Thom, as he would’ve hated missing anything Dragos did! He even sent Michaela back to the kitchen because she had brought out a glass of soda instead of the can, which he informed us, would be better for the bubbles! He wrapped up Thom’s goodies in a decorative foil basket and sent us on our way. We made out a comment card on going the extra mile for him and tipped both our Romanian Dream Team very well on our last night.
SOME OTHER STANDOUTS
I met four workers from the Philippines on board. They were always in good humor, I found this amazing because most of the workers had wives and children at home and they worked long stretches (10 months)at a time.
Revo, our angelic cabin steward, who anticipated our every need and then some, even ordering fresh fruit for us we didn’t even realize we wanted! He was such a gem, and always so happy to see us. We tipped him rather well also, over and above the automatic gratuity being charged to us.
Elmer, who was the bartender at the Riviera and also at the Vista Lounge, and who was extremely good and always happy to see me.
Jun, who was also very pleasant and always remembered me. His poor wife would deliver their first in January and he would not be home until March!
Domingo, the bartender in the Wheelhouse bar was the consummate professional and always was a font of delightful conversation.
Luis, from Romania (I think! He told me twice but it has since slipped my memory) my Riviera bartender when Elmer was off, was an absolute doll. He was so professional and courteous and completely sweet.
Dennis, from Jammer’s Disco and Magnum’s Martini Bar, was the absolute best! He was devilishly good-looking and would dance up a storm behind the bar. We immediately hit it off because he saw me in my Red Wings (Detroit Hockey Team) jacket and he adored them! In fact, I became known as “The Red Wings Lady” because I wore two jerseys during the daytime and sported the jacket and necklace at times. The workers would always give me a high-five and the other passengers would comment as well.
As you can tell, while my mother was in the beautifully-appointed library reading one of the three books she was able to finish, I was usually at the bar, chatting with the bartenders who were all extremely gallant to the lonely damsel I had become at times.
There was also, Michelle, from Italy, an officer who tended the business center and the Casino cage who never even corrected me when I pronounced his name MEE-chelle, thinking I was so clever. It in fact was pronounced like Mikala! As I wandered up there to check out the Internet Center, he greeted me warmly and asked if I would like to check my email. After that he would always smile warmly at me and say hello. I also ran into him at Jammer’s where he was so polite as to listen to my ramblings.
Cathy, who gave me my facial, (A MUST, ladies!) was a genteel South African lady whose tender ablutions promptly put me to sleep! I have never felt so good, nor has my skin! She was a darling.
Jenafer and Paul in the Patisserie were always engaging and Paul even astounded my eyes with his magic tricks!
Paul Burns, the hysterically funny Cruise Director and Gene Hackman look-alike, and his staff were all superb. I told him I was going to suggest they run an all-day viewing of his morning talks! He had me in stitches any time I talked to him.
Joe Sackenheim, the main performer, was completely mesmerizing and his stage presence was commanding. His off-stage personality was warm and I felt like he was an old friend! I asked him if he was sick of being ‘fawned over’ at the disco and he told me, he could never get enough of that! He was a lot of fun and spoke very highly of his leading lady when I inquired about her. A true gentleman!
As you can tell, the trip was simply amazing. All of Princess’ employees were there catering to your every need and making you feel like a movie star.
Sorry this diatribe was so long, but it felt really good to write it out even if you all fell asleep an hour ago! I know there are scads of people I left out and I will kick myself later, but they all conspired to make this lady feel at home and happy. I laughed so hard at some of the comedy it was good for the soul!
I am also sorry I did not cover the ports, okay, here Ketchikan – adorable, Juneau – nice, Skagway, my favorite.
I am already looking into taking this exact same ship to the Caribbean for my fortieth (shudder) birthday in January.
I am addicted.