Number of Cruises: Two
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Island Princess
Sailing Date: March 20th, 2006
We arrived in San Pedro, California on Saturday afternoon, one-day before our cruise departure. Having booked a Holiday Inn “Park & Cruise” package (1-800-248-3188) for $149 per couple plus tax, we received a deluxe room accommodation (King, non-smoking) for one night, continental breakfast, champagne, and free parking for seven days. The additional eight days of parking cost $72. One of the best features - their parking lot was under video surveillance 24/7. In addition, a chauffeured van was available to transport us to the Los Angeles World Cruise Center beginning at 11am the following day. Reserve a spot in the van when you check-in.
Day 1 – Sunday, March 20, 2005 - Embarkation
My wife Judy and I departed for the LA World Cruise Center via the Holiday Inn van around 12:10 pm, Sunday afternoon. Following a trip of about seven minutes, the driver dropped us off at the median, adjacent to the Princess embarkation terminal. After flagging down a member of the staff, a cruise line porter picked up our four suitcases (a nominal tip was given) and brought them to the ship. Arriving five hours prior to our scheduled departure, I figured we would beat the typical passenger “line up” at the pier. Wrong! So began our two and one half hour wait…outdoors! Of course it was unusually toasty that day and we didn’t make it to the shady part of the building for over two hours. No cruise representative offered anyone bottled water, a place to sit, or an explanation as to why it was taking so long to embark. Many folks, approximately 80 years old, were standing in line with us. It didn’t seem right to make them wait out in the hot sun. This was poor customer service in my estimation. Princess Cruise Line representatives should have brought the octogenarians inside to a seated waiting area. After our two and one half hour wait, we were at last within the building confines. I thought to myself, could this be a harbinger of things to come?
Finally inside, a comely attendant directed us to yet another line. For a change, this one moved very swiftly. Almost immediately we walked up to the counter and met the “registration lady.” She issued us our Princess Cruises card – on board means for purchases, re-boarding the ship, room key all in one. This experience was similar to “check-in” at a hotel. Our business was completed in five minutes. Before leaving the counter, I asked “registration lady” to take our picture and she graciously declined…security reasons. I looked around at this empty warehouse with stanchions and ropes, and little else. Perhaps it was a security precaution, or maybe she just didn’t want to be bothered. It was now a little past 3:00pm. After proceeding through the security clearance line…we saw Island Princess up close. She was a huge ship! The next item to address was the obligatory “Welcome Aboard” picture. The two photographers were busy talking to each other as we approached them. I asked them to take our picture…SMILE! With that task completed, we boarded the vessel. Once on the ship a crew member greeted us and directed us to the elevator. He graciously pressed button number 10, and we were off to our mini-suite, stateroom C-207. What a thrill…our second cruise was about to begin!
With a duffel bag on rollers (I learned by reading cruise reviews that it is wise for you to carry all your necessities such as medicine, etc. on board in a separate piece of luggage) and a folded garment bag in hand, we proceeded off the elevator. Next up, our stateroom (mini-suite/AB category) with balcony on the tenth or Caribe deck, starboard side. The cabin door was open when we arrived. The room was larger than I thought it would be and smartly decorated. Mirrors were plentiful and large. Lots of storage space. The clothes closet was sufficient (plenty of hangers) to accommodate both of us. Once emptied, our luggage was easily placed under the bed, and out of the way. We had a couch/sofa bed that was about six feet long and two individual chairs. There is plenty of lighting in the room. The bathroom (with tub) was well-organized, large enough for one person at a time. The shower measured about 76 inches from tub to the ceiling. Of course, I’m 75 inches tall so I had to “duck down” when using that feature. Washing my hair was fun. I had to use the “duck and wash” routine. It was like that on our last cruise also. The balcony, or veranda as some cruise lines like to call it, was spacious. It had a table and four chairs. Yes, I could see Judy and me spending many hours during this trip on the balcony. It was now a little over three hours from the time the van dropped us off, until we entered our stateroom.
We knew from our past cruise that our checked luggage would not arrive until later, so we set off to explore the ship. Having missed lunch, we were a little hungry. This would be the last time we would be hungry on this cruise!
The ship is stunning. It was built in 2003. The overall length is 294 meters (964 feet) while the width is 32.20 meters (105 feet). Normal passenger capacity is 2368 while the normal number of crew is 810 - friendly folks too! We proceeded to level 14 – Lido deck. From there we visited the ship, bow (front) to aft (back), port (left) to starboard (right) and most places in between. I was proud that I actually remembered a little maritime lingo from our last cruise. First suggestion, pick up the handy “Island Princess Pocket Guide” from your room and keep it with you at all times. You will refer to it most days during the cruise. Upon proceeding to the Horizon Court for a late lunch, we consumed a light buffet style meal and tasty dessert. I was soon to become a connoisseur of desserts during this cruise. My new waistline now serves testament to that fact. After lunch, Judy and I decided to return to our stateroom, hoping the luggage had arrived. We used the stairwell to move between the floors. In fact, we used it most days. It was good exercise and faster than the elevators. Besides, the elevators at the ship’s bow only went down to the seventh floor. You then had to get off and walk to the four-deck Atrium (middle of the ship) in order to access the main dining rooms or any other lower floor. Interesting configuration. We got our walking in!
Upon opening the cabin door and peering in, we found no luggage. Consternation was setting in. Our stateroom attendant, Albert from the Philippines, arrived to introduce himself and welcome us aboard. I immediately gave Albert $20 and told him there would be his regular toke plus a little more at the conclusion of the trip if he watched after us. I explained to him this was only our second cruise and we needed all the help we could get. Consider yourself lucky if Albert is ever your stateroom attendant, as he is a real gentleman. When asked if we could have bathrobes delivered to the cabin – he complied within the hour. I asked him about our luggage and he told me he would bring the bags to our stateroom when they arrived on our deck. I informed Albert that we had placed a green and gold ribbon on the handle of each bag so as to differentiate our black bags from all others. This helpful hint resulted from reading a cruise review.
The safety drill is scheduled for 4:00pm at the area designated for your cabin. Ours took place at the Princess Theater on deck 7. Attendance is mandatory. After hearing the muster signal, Judy and I carried our life vests (as instructed) and walked to the designated area three decks below. After the drill, we went back to our room to stow the vests and prepare for departure. Much to my chagrin, only three of the four pieces of luggage had arrived in our room. I immediately paged our stateroom attendant. Upon his arrival, Albert explained that luggage often times is delivered at all hours of the night. He was positive our fourth and final piece would show up later that evening. Judy explained to him that most of her shoes were in that bag and if they didn’t turn up, it was up to him to loan her some of his shoes! She was kidding of course…I think. Albert was true to his word. The bag with the shoes arrived at 11pm that evening with a completely different luggage tag attached. Good thing Judy’s name was embroidered on the bag. In the future, I will include our name on a tag INSIDE all suitcases.
At around 5:30pm the ship’s horn rang out – time to leave the pier, albeit a half-hour late. We walked up to deck 15 to wave farewell to good old San Pedro. Just as pictured in the brochures, nothing but azure sky and cobalt blue water for the next fifteen days...or so I thought. As the ship’s Hawaiian band played “Aloha” tunes, everyone on deck took lots of pictures, smiling and happy to be finally leaving port. I asked a few people to take our picture and all were obliging. Upon clearing the harbor, we were now subject to the vicissitude of the sea. It was time to return to the stateroom, freshen up and go to the Bordeaux Dining Room on deck 5 for dinner. Seems like we just had lunch doesn’t it?
Judy and I arrived at the Bordeaux Dining Room on deck 5 a few minutes before 6pm. The headwaiter extended a friendly greeting and escorted us to a table for two as we requested. Our travel agent convinced us to book the “anytime dining” seating arrangement – Personal Choice Dining restaurant, rather than the fixed more traditional seating in the Provence Dining Room. Having now tried both options on our two cruises, we don’t prefer one over the other. Each has its benefits. You can enjoy Personal Choice Dining anytime between 5:30pm and 10:00pm each evening. This provides lots of time flexibility to your evening. You can also call ahead for a specific reservation time if you wish, or just show up and the head waiter will find you a table after a short wait. On the other hand, fixed seating (5:45pm and 8:00pm) allows you to get to know the wait staff so much better…and them to know you.
The ship offers a daily newsletter, “Princess Patter” to all guests. This is your up to date guide to cruise activities. Your stateroom attendant places in your cabin while you are at dinner. You can find one at the purser’s desk also. This information sheet outlines all activities to take place on the ship the following day. The newsletter also gently reminds you about the day’s dress code, the day and date, sunrise and sunset times. It behooves everyone to read it nightly. If you do not like to partake in onboard activities, this will help identify which areas to avoid!
Upon leaving the dining room around 7:00pm, we noticed that the seas had become rough. Since the rolling seas on our previous cruise didn’t bother me that much, I was ill prepared to withstand what was to come. On the other hand, my darling wife Judy had the foresight to plan for the possibility of a turbulent ocean. That’s one of the many reasons I married her…not only is she beautiful, she’s smart too! Prior to our leaving home, Judy went to the Doctor and received a prescription for a sea sick prevention patch (Transderm) just in case. Well it didn’t take long. Judy placed the “patch” behind her ear by 8:00pm. We tried to go for a walk out on the deck after dinner, but we couldn’t open the door the wind was so strong. After strolling around the shops on decks 6 and 7 for an hour or so, we decided to head back to our cabin. It had been a long day. I tried to go out on our balcony, but couldn’t open the sliding glass door more than a few inches due to the wind. As printed on the TV channel that displays the ship’s information and weather, we were experiencing gale force winds! The ship was rolling, rolling and rolling. Unfortunately for us, our lovely cabin must have been adjacent to one of the main steel beams for the vessel, as we listened to the twisting, cracking and banging (yes, that’s right – banging) of the ship’s frame the entire night. I didn’t sleep very well that night. Nor for several nights to come!
It was now 11:00pm and Judy’s shoes arrived…did I mention that already?
Day 2 – Monday, March 21 - At Sea
The outside light peeked into our cabin despite the drapes being closed. I thought, is it time to eat again? What a night! We didn’t get much sleep last night due to the turbulent sea. Gale force winds…just my luck. This morning I turned the TV on and tuned in to the ship’s channel. The display indicated that the outside winds were 17 mph, waves 4 feet (looked larger) and it was 64 degrees. We have traveled 279 nautical miles from Los Angeles and have 1764 nautical mile to go to Hawaii. I thought, if every night is going to be like last night, perhaps we should have taken an airplane. My wife Judy, being the great humanitarian that she is, gave me one of her sea sick patches last night. It was the only way to get me to fall asleep…and her too! Maybe I offended Neptune by thinking I didn’t need the patch. Sunrise is at 6:14am and sunset is at 6:40pm. We will set our time pieces back one hour tomorrow. The ship’s channel is informative. Tonight is the first formal dinner. Tuxedo (rentals are available) or dark suit for men, cocktail dresses or gowns for women. To reserve a seating time, dial the Dining Hot Line (extension 3463) and tell them your seating time preference. They will do their best to accommodate your request.
This morning, I’m almost feeling human again. After breakfast at the Horizon Court, we strolled in the area of the pool deck. The seas were acting up once more, so there were not many people walking around. In fact, hardly anybody was out and about. They must have felt like I did last night! We tried playing the miniature golf course on the Sun (15) deck, but the ball kept rolling no matter where we hit it. Often times we didn’t even strike the ball and it went rolling. It was now cloudy and cold outside...enough of this! After that harrowing sports experience, we preceded to the indoor (thank goodness) shops. I congratulated my wife on her excellent decision to go looking for bargains, inspecting goods, comparing products, hunting for deals, or what she calls SHOPPING. I haven’t doled out praise for that skill many times before! After two hours of watching her shop, I was famished! We went to the Lido (14) deck and had a few slices of pizza, made fresh daily at Princess Pizza. At the Grill on Deck 15, I tried their version of a veggie burger. Both pizza and the burger were very good! Again, we were the only passengers in the area. Glad to see that I wasn’t the only one who incurred Neptune’s wrath! Time for a nap.
Formal dinner in the Bordeaux Dining Room was wonderful. And to top it off, Judy looked beautiful. She wore a black ruffled top with a long back and white sequined skirt. I wore a dark blue suit, light blue shirt and tie. Come to think of it, I didn’t look so bad myself. Everyone in the dining room was dressed nattily. All that and the meal was tasty too! After we enjoyed a Caesar’s salad, my entrée was bow tie pasta with red sauce while Judy had broiled salmon. Dessert was lemon meringue pie. Aah…decadent to say the least. The service, provided by Sam our waiter, was very professional. When we entered the dining room we asked the Maitre’D for table #36. We liked this table and waiter so much that we managed to reserve this spot at 6:00pm for the entire cruise. The Maitre’D only gave it away one evening. Of course we were 30 minutes late! Just about every table in that restaurant is a good one.
After leaving the dining room, we literally bumped into the Captain of the Island Princess, Andrea Poggi. Judy asked if he would pose for a picture with her and he agreed. Shortly thereafter, Captain Poggi held a welcome reception in the Atrium, a beautiful four-story open air plaza, decorated with marble, brass and some minor water treatments. During the reception the Captain took the opportunity to introduce his mostly Italian Officers and Director level staff. That lasted only ten minutes. We spent the balance of the evening just strolling the Promenade (7) deck, and the Fiesta (6) deck. This is where you will find the Universe Lounge, the Princess Theater, The Bayou Café and Sabatini’s (alternative dining for an extra fee), the Art Gallery, Explorer’s Lounge, Photo Gallery, Casino and Jewelry Shop. We tried to go for a walk outside but the wind was so strong, we gave up. So much for our romantic moonlit walk. Upon returning back to our room, Albert (stateroom attendant) asked if we wanted fresh fruit delivered to our room daily. We enthusiastically said yes. Judy and I loved this perk.
First run movies are offered on the in-room TV each evening of the cruise. The film is shown three or four times during the night. These are usually movies that have left the theater and have yet to arrive at the video store. A few of the movie presentations were Being Julia, Finding Neverland, I Robot, National Treasure, Ray, Shall We Dance and Sideways. A varied selection to say the least.
The good news this evening was that the seas were calm. It was much easier to sleep tonight. No twisting, cracking and banging this evening.
Day 3 – Tuesday, March 22 - At Sea
We slept well last night…thank goodness. I set the clocks back one hour as requested. It is now 7:30am and we are off to breakfast. I noticed that the gale force winds have subsided. The waves are still over 7 feet tall but the ship isn’t rocking that much. Plus, the sun is starting to peek out from behind the clouds. Halleluiah!
After breakfast, we took a walk across Deck 14, past the Lido pool, past the Lotus pool and into the Gym. The exercise equipment on display was impressive. There were many strength machines, free weights and cardio treadmills. I almost worked up a sweat just walking past all that equipment. Phew…I had a difficult time resisting the urge to “work out” that very moment, yet, I was successful in impeding that visual provocation. It is time for lunch yet?
Wanting to purchase some additional sea sick patches soon, we descended to the Gala (4) deck to visit the Medical center. Upon entering and asking about obtaining some “patches,” we were told that the staff does not prescribe to that method of sickness prevention. They give shots instead. We passed on that for the time being. Judy and I then went up to the gift shop to purchase a pair of ”Sea Bands.” My darling wife graciously volunteered to wear the band so that I could utilize the “patches” we had remaining. Isn’t that what love is all about.
What’s that growling noise? It’s time for lunch isn’t it? Off to the Horizon Court again. Can’t remember what we ate, but the deserts were incredible! After lunch, we proceeded to the Champagne Art Auction, in the Explorers Lounge on Deck 6. Tricia was the auctioneer and she did an entertaining job. The auction folks offered an eclectic group of paintings up for bid. It was a nice way to spend an hour or two. No, we didn’t have any Champagne nor did we purchase any art. I tied Judy’s hands behind her back so she couldn’t bid! One gentleman in the crowd bought over $40,000 worth of Chagall original art. Well, it is duty free after all! Hope he got some of the good Champagne. Could he possibly be a shill?
Upon leaving the Art auction, we proceeded to the Princess Grapevine wine tasting which began at 3pm in the Provence Dining Room on Deck 6. For only $7.50 per person, we got to sip five different wines while receiving a brief introduction to wine making. During the tasting, all attendees were tasked to analyze the key attributes that define a wine – then again, some of us just drank the stuff. It was a fun time as our tablemates were most enjoyable. More wine garcon!
Dinner this evening was eventful. After we sat down at our table, Judy noticed a man, two tables over, that looked familiar. She kept whispering to me, “I think we know that guy.” Now to truly appreciate this story, you must know that I often accuse my wife of acknowledging people she thinks she knows, only to realize, after the fact, that she had no idea with whom she had been speaking! Be that as it may, on this occasion Judy insisted that we knew this man. Being the loyal and devoted husband that I am, I decided to take action. I asked the wonderful people situated at the table next to us (Frankie and Ray from San Diego) to get this man’s attention. I leaned forward, raised my voice, and bellowed in his direction, “You sure look familiar…don’t we know you?” He looked at us and said, “where you folks from?” We replied that we were from Las Vegas. So was he, was his response. Now I must admit that he was starting to look familiar to me. I just couldn’t place the face. “Perhaps we have worked together in the casino industry?” He responded, “No, since moving to Las Vegas, I have always been a building inspector.” Then it finally dawned on us…this was the man that purchased our former house, over fifteen years ago. We had only met him once, and only for an hour or so. I thought, WHAT A SMALL WORLD, running into this guy in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Moral of the story – no matter where you go, you are liable to run into some you know…or who knows you! Always be on your best behavior! Oh…and do speak to people you think you may or may not know. You may end up with a new friend.
After that dining experience, we proceeded to Deck 7, the Princess Theater. We were entertained by Duncan Tuck, a singer and comedian. His show was good. About a half hour after the performance ended, they turned the cabaret theater into a movie theater. Finding Neverland was the film of the evening. The projection TV they were using needed color adjustment, but we sat through the movie and enjoyed it anyway. It finished around midnight. We then went back to our cabin. Day three was eventful.
Day 4 – Wednesday, March 23 - At Sea
We slept well last night. Looking out through the sliding glass door, it appeared we were in for another cloudy day. It will be nice if we ever see the sun for any length of time! Upon our return from breakfast, we found that Albert delivered fresh fruit to our room. That was appreciated. I then telephoned to make a dinner reservation at Sabatini’s Trattoria for this evening. Sabatini’s was one of the ships two alternative restaurants…alternative meaning that there was an additional cover charge - $20 per person for Sabatini’s and $15 for the Bayou Café. We didn’t mind paying a little bit extra for a unique dining experience. While strolling past these restaurants on previous evenings, we noticed attendance was sparse. Evidently most folks did mind paying extra for alternative dining.
Judy thought it would be fun to attend the Fruit Carving Demonstration at 9:45am on Deck 5. The Food & Beverage team did a fine job of entertaining all who attended. Their creative flair with fruit was fascinating. Humm, I might be getting hungry again! It was now time to go to the Princess Theater and attend a seminar entitled How to Manage the Changes in Your Life with James Brown. This hour seemed like three. At the conclusion of the session, we went up to Deck 14 and sat by the pool. The sun was out from behind the clouds so the pool area was very busy. We then decided to go back to our room. Finally, I got to go out on our balcony and enjoy the warm air. That was great! Calm waters, no whitecaps, smooth sailing so far today.
We spent the afternoon reading our chosen “trip book” while lounging on our balcony. Soon it was time to get ready for dinner. Arriving at Sabatini’s we were greeted by a smiling waiter and ushered to our cozy table. The décor was charming although the atmosphere could have been enhanced by dimming the lights a little. Service was A+ during the entire time we spent in the restaurant as there were many, many waiters. This is truly a dining event. I would estimate that this was at least a fourteen course feast. It took us over two hours to complete the meal. In fact there was so much food we couldn’t even finish our entree. We passed on dessert as well. Now you know how full we were! Was dining at Sabatini’s worth the extra money…we say YES.
A note was left in our room stating that we were again to set our clocks back one hour this evening. We would then be on Hawaii Time. Today was a good day.
Day 5 – Thursday, March 24 – At Sea
This is Holy Week. In the Princess Theater, passengers were offered Roman Catholic Mass at 8:30am every day this week. We attended most days. Protestant services are also available during the cruise. After today’s service we went for a stroll on Deck 14. The sun was shining and the breeze was warm. This was a nice change from previous days. Judy noticed that my “patch” had fallen off…probably during my shower. We’ll see how I do if and when the seas get rough again.
Judy thought it might be nice to go to lunch at the Bordeaux Room on Deck 5 for a change. I agreed. We ordered off a menu rather than the usual buffet style fare offered at the Horizon Court. I had a penne pasta dish while Judy had some sort of Whitefish. Having a sit-down lunch was a nice variation from our regular routine. I guess being from Las Vegas, we are just partial to buffets!
Tomorrow, Friday, we reach land – hurray! Good old terra firma. Hilo is our first port of call. Written in today’s Princess Patter is an article reminding all passengers about The Jones Act. In short, no passenger can disembark the vessel in any Hawaiian port of call due to this U.S. Immigration law. This act forbids anyone to disembark from any vessel that originated its voyage in the U.S.A. in another American port without first visiting a foreign country. Now we picked someone up in Honolulu and they disembarked in Ensenada, so I guess that is OK. Or briefly put…whatever!
I’m out on the balcony right now enjoying the warm tropical air. I think I’ll measure this space. The balcony is about 8 feet deep and 12 feet wide. Think I’m bored with sea life?
The captain has slowed the ship down to about 15 knot per hour. What else can I measure? The couch is about nine feet long. It looks like you can pull it out to make an extra bed. The room is approximately 37 feet long (stepping it off) and 12 feet wide. The hot water works most of the time. The safe is a great feature. The TV channels are CNN, ESPN, Discovery, TNT, and Cartoon Network just to name a few. Plus, they continually show films featuring many of the shore excursions the cruise line offers for sale. The “Ship’s” channel is my favorite.
After dinner this evening we attended the production show in the Princess Theater entitled, “Let’s Rock.” There was a lot of energy from the cast which is always appreciated by the crowd. The singing and dancing was above average. Good performance. At the conclusion of the show, Judy and I went for an inside walk around deck seven. It wasn’t long before I got tired and wanted to go back to our cabin. Seems like the longer we cruise, the more tired I get. Perhaps I’m just relaxed.
Day 6 - Friday, March 25 – Hilo
It is 7am and the ship is slowing. We are due to arrive in Hilo (the fourth largest city in the state) at 11am. It is cloudy again today. The temperature is in the mid 70’s (thank goodness) and I’m enjoying sitting on the balcony. I see the Big Island in the distance. We are going off to breakfast and then to Good Friday communion service at the Princess Theater.
We signed up (in advance) with the cruise line for the tour, “The Best of Hilo.” We are looking forward to this outing and the fact that we will be stepping on dry land. The three scheduled stops are the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut factory, Nani Mau Gardens and Akaka Falls. The tour departs at 1pm and returns at 5pm. It should be fun. We reported, as instructed, to the Princess Theater around 12:45pm. Our group was then escorted down to the tour bus at the pier. Passengers were greeted by Roe, short for Rowena, our bus driver. She was charismatic. We sat in the first seats near Roe so we could enjoy the view afforded by the large front window.
Our first stop, the Mauna Loa Nut factory…or I should say the gift shop at the nut factory. Being Good Friday it looked like most working people had the day off. Judy loaded up a bag with plenty of chocolate covered Macadamia nuts...gifts of course. I just sampled everything in sight! Next we went to the botanical gardens. Off the bus, we were seated on trams for our ride through the beautiful Nani Mau Gardens. There were many beautiful ferns, gingers, colorful displays of heliconia, orchards and other tropical flowers. The air was so clean and fragrant. Next stop – Akaka Falls. Upon arriving at this beautiful State Park, interested parties were given a choice of two paths to take so as to view the Akaka Falls. Fortunately, Judy and I are in good shape, otherwise it would have been a very challenging walk. Arriving at the falls (about a one mile walk in very steep and rocky terrain), we did partake in the mandatory ritual all tourists participate in – picture taking. After posing for the requisite shots, we noticed a man about 80+ years old beginning to ascend the rocky path back to the bus. I struck up a conversation. He told me he took this tour while his wife stayed behind at the ship. Being concerned about his safety, Judy and I decided to follow the man…stopping when he stopped, resting when he rested. Thank goodness there was no rain that day as the path was treacherous enough in its current condition. We all made it back to the top, amen. It was now time to head back to the ship. As a special treat, Roe provided us with an unscheduled stop at the Liliuokalani Gardens in downtown Hilo. On display was a beautiful Japanese Garden with a stone bridge, lanterns and a tea house. It was a lovely park…most peaceful. After spending about twenty minutes there, we boarded the bus and headed back to the ship.
Upon our return to the dock, we stood in line about 45 minutes to board the ship. Another line…another wait. With Princess, you better get accustom to it. Finally in our cabin about 6:20, we showered quickly and hurried to the dining room. Dinner was very good…as usual. Judy had the Lobster while I enjoyed vegetable lasagna. And of course dessert…an Apricot custard tort. YUMMY!!
We enjoyed an unusual sight later this evening on the way to our next destination, Kona. Around 9:50pm, on the starboard side (our side) of the ship, the molten lava flowing from the Kilauea volcano was visible. What an amazing spectacle. The neon looking, red and orange colored magma spewing forth from the side of the mountain was incredible. The steam created from hot lava flowing into the cool ocean water bore witness to the strength and security of the fire goddess Pele who rules this beautiful island. Moments like this remind us that the universe is a spectacular place and we should be thankful for every precious moment we get to spend within its ethereal boundaries.
Day 7 - Saturday, March 26 – Kona
It is 7:30am and the ship just dropped anchor. Outside it is partly sunny with a warm breeze. I scheduled our next shore excursion via the Internet. “Captain Dan McSweeney’s Whale Watching Adventure” was mentioned on a cruise review and sounded fascinating. His web-site pointed out his varied background and many trips studying whales. Sounded like a winner to me. We were to be at Honokohau Harbor by 11am. About a fifteen minute cab ride from the Kailua pier in downtown Kona. Not a problem as the ship arrived in the bay at 8am. Lots of time.
Ships are unable to tie up at the pier in Kona, therefore, they anchor in Kailua Bay and tender passengers ashore. Tenders are small (relative term) motorized boats which hold approximately 100 passengers. We were told that when ready to go ashore, proceed to the Explorers Lounge, Deck 6 and obtain a tender ticket. The Cruise Director’s staff will then escort groups to the tenders from the lounge on a first – come – first – served basis. A little after 10am we were on our tender heading towards Kona. Once on the pier we found a cab. Mike was an independent cab owner/driver who hailed from Chicago. He was very thankful that he moved to Hawaii over ten years ago. Couldn’t stand the Chicago winters any longer. We arrived at Honokohau Harbor in fifteen minutes, just like Captain Dan’s web-site stated.
It is now cloudy (again) and there is a pretty stiff wind blowing. When looking out to the ocean, we observed white caps as far as the eye could see. Not a good sign. Soon the Lady Ann (Captain Dan’s boat) came into the harbor, about 30 minutes early. Definitely not a good sign. After watching the crew gas up the boat, we proceeded down to the boarding area. Captain Dan introduced himself and announced that because of the strong winds, he would be canceling this afternoon’s Whale Watching Adventure. Unquestionably not a good sign. Much to our disappointment this highly anticipated portion of our trip was abandoned. We called Mike the cab owner/driver to pick us up.
Mike arrived and drove us to the Royal Kona Hotel (formally the Kona Hilton I was told). This is a lovely spot overlooking the bay. Judy suggested we enjoy lunch in their Windjammer Lounge. I agreed. Our seats afforded us a view of our ship and the city. The restaurant food was OK and the service was adequate. It was a nice place to linger and enjoy the sights. I suggested to Judy that after lunch we would walk back to the Pier (maybe 1 to 2 miles) and enjoy the many shops along the way. The word shopping, a wonderful salve, made her forget all the disappointment of missing out on Captain Dan’s Adventure. I must admit to enjoying it myself.
After two plus hours of walking and shopping we arrived back at the pier. Following a brief wait, we boarded the tender and arrived back on board around 3pm. I would have liked to sit out by the pool or on our balcony and enjoy the sunshine, but that was not to be. No sun again today. We will rest for a while then get ready for dinner.
It wasn’t long after we departed Kona for the Island of Kauai that the gale force winds returned. The seas were really rough. On the Ship’s channel they are indicating 30 to 40 mph winds and 14 foot waves. Ugh! Where’s that patch!
Day 8 – Sunday, March 27 - Kauai
It is 6:30am Easter Sunday morning. Right now the waves are over 14 feet high and the winds are still gale force. These are the choppiest seas I have ever encountered. We are about 11 miles outside of Nawiliwili Harbor, in the city of Lihue, Island of Kauai. The good news is that the clouds are gone and the sun is shining. Judy suggests we go to breakfast at the Horizon Court, probably to take my mind off the rough waters. Food!
After breakfast, on the way back to our mini-suite, we heard the Captain announce over the loudspeaker that the port of Nawiliwili had been closed. It is now 7:30am. The ship will cruise back and forth several miles in front of the port in case the winds diminish. Our guess – it doesn’t look good. When we honeymooned in Hawaii 35 years ago, our favorite stop was Kauai. I have a rental car (convertible) reserved for this day and our first stop is to be the Fern Grotto for a river cruise…just like 35 years ago. After that “walk/cruise down memory lane” we plan to drive to Poipu Beach for some R & R before returning to the ship. Unfortunately, our hopes for a memorable and enjoyable Easter Sunday are fading.
The sky clouded up as if to portend what's in store for the day. It is now 8:20am and the Captain announced that this port of call is cancelled. He said we would be heading to Honolulu and should arrive there at approximately 10pm, a full 10 hours ahead of schedule. Judy and I were very disappointed. We were also concerned that we wouldn’t get to talk to our family on Easter. I pulled my cell phone out and turned it on. To my amazement I had decent reception. I knew we were close to the island…must be that great Motorola phone! Anyway, I called Alamo to cancel the vehicle we had reserved for the day. Had a few reception problems with that call. We went up to Deck 14 so that I might have an unobstructed view of the island and improve my phone reception. Judy and I called my 83 year old Mom and wished her a Happy Easter. The wind was a bit disturbing but the connection to Reno, Nevada was pretty good. We then called our daughter Desiree in Las Vegas and wished her and her husband Tony a Happy Easter. I dialed our son Dennis’s telephone number, but he was not at home. We felt fortunate that we were able to speak with most of our loved ones on this very special day.
Judy recommended that we take a walk to the Atrium to view the chocolate covered Easter Eggs on display. Wow, they were remarkable. A few of them were 4 to 5 feet tall! They are works of art to say the least. Judy stopped one of the Pastry Chef’s and asked, “How long does it take to make one of these creations?” He stated his crew works for several weeks preparing the display. Impressive culinary exhibition!
David Cole, our Cruise Director, and his staff did yeoman’s work putting together a hurry up activities list for the passengers. Kudos to the excellent crew. The updated version was circulated within two hours after the announced port cancellation. Following lunch at the Horizon Court we strolled around the shops and casino. We overheard many passengers grumbling about not being able to visit Kauai. I believe the “new” activities list helped ameliorate the situation. On our way back to the cabin, Judy asked one of the crew members if, during the previous cruise, any ports were skipped due to inclement weather. He stated yes, Lahaina was bypassed due to rough seas. Interesting.
Three different Easter services were offered on this day. An Interdenominational Sunrise service was scheduled at 6:20am, a Protestant service at 4:30pm and a Roman Catholic Mass was to be conducted at 5pm at the Princess Theater. We attended the 5pm service. After Mass we went to dinner at 6pm and returned back to the Princess Theater at 7pm for Magical Showtime starring Richard Griffin and Hayley Jane. The show was well done.
It is now 9:30pm and we are arriving at Honolulu Harbor. We would have been here long ago except the berth where we tie up was occupied by another cruise ship. I saw her sailing away just moments before we entered the harbor. The seas are very calm over here, a pleasant difference. During the ship’s entrance to the docking area, there is a welcome reception for us at the Aloha Tower’s Shopping Center, adjacent to the pier. Several musicians are playing Hawaiian music while dancers are doing the hula, bedecked in their grass skirts. Over the microphone one of the singers yells. “ALOHA ISLAND PRINCESS.” How nice. We are at Pier 11, adjacent to the clock tower. It is now 10pm and we decide to stay onboard and get a good night sleep…for a change.
Day 9 - Monday, March 28 - Honolulu
What a great night’s sleep…thank goodness! It is 6:30am and a sunny 70 degrees outside with an 18 mph trade wind. Time to go to breakfast. I scheduled the “Arizona Memorial/City Tour” for this morning. We depart the pier at 8am and return around 1:30pm. At least that was the plan. Most everyone who was taking a tour this morning (several different tours) assembled in the Princess Theater prior to 8am. After being divided up according to the particular tour, we were led down to the pier and onto a Roberts Hawaii Tour bus. Our driver’s name was Sunshine, probably a pseudo name….ya think? What a personable guy. He kept everyone informed, entertained and interested. Kudos to Sunshine! After a short drive, we arrived at the Arizona Memorial Visitor Center. Knowing the drill, Sunshine went over and found out that we had a 3 hour wait before we would board the launch out to the Memorial. We then waited in line to pick up our ticket number. After everyone obtained their ticket, we went back to the bus. Upon re-boarding the bus, Sunshine drove us past Aloha Stadium, home of the Pro Bowl, Pali Lookout, Punchbowl, home to the National Cemetery honoring the fallen heroes of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. We then proceeded downtown to Chinatown, the Iolani Palace and the City Hall. In fact, Sunshine parked the bus along side the Court House so we could use the rest room facilities. It was funny…everyone who walked into the building had to pass through a metal detector prior to entering. One thing to remember, these tour busses do not have bathrooms so prepare accordingly!
Back on the bus we again headed toward Pearl Harbor. Subsequent to arriving at the Arizona Memorial Visitor Center, we walked up and waited for our group number to be called. Upon hearing your number called, you file into a theater to view a short film on the surprise attack of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Over 1,100 men on this ship lost their lives that day…more than 2,400 overall died during the attack. At the conclusion of the movie, everyone boards a Navy launch to the memorial, a 184-foot shrine which floats above the shattered hull of the USS Arizona. Our group spent about ten minutes on the memorial before we were escorted back to the launch returning to the Visitor Center. Most everyone who walked along the memorial was moved by the solemnity of this hallowed site. Quite an experience. Arriving back at the Visitor Center, we boarded the bus. Soon after we were heading back to the pier. One additional stop was offered…Hilo Hattie’s. Judy and I got off there as we wouldn’t want to miss a shopping opportunity.
There are many Hilo Hattie’s stores in Honolulu. Come to think of it, we have seen them at every port. Ubiquitous is the word that comes to mind. Anyway, we did some shopping then decided to get on the store’s mini-bus for a free ride back to the ship. After boarding Island Princess, Judy and I went to our cabin and changed into bathing suits and outerwear. Then we went back down to the pier and flagged down a cab. Next stop…Downtown Honolulu!
Our cab arrived at the Outrigger Hotel about 15 minutes after we left the pier. Wow, has Waikiki built up since the last time we were here! Whereas the hotels and most of the shops were built away from Kalakaua Avenue 35 years ago, now all buildings bump up against this main drag. Looks similar to the Las Vegas Strip! Judy and I cut through the hotel and made it to the beach. My goodness was it crowded! I forgot…spring break. The beach wasn’t as deep as I remember. The water was just about 20 yards from the hotel. Perhaps my memory isn’t as good as I thought it once was. We sauntered on the beach for a half hour then washed our feet off at one of those beach showers, slipped on our sandals and walked off down the sidewalk. I suggested to Judy that we cross the street and visit the International Marketplace. Off we went.
On our first visit to the International Marketplace, 35 years ago, we found it open and airy with plenty of space between vendors. Now all the stores rub up against each other plus there are two floors of retail, never mind the kiosks! Ugh…progress. Anyway, we had a late lunch at an outdoor restaurant (risky) in the Marketplace and afterwards continued our leisurely stroll down the main street. It was now late in the afternoon so we decided to hail a cab and return to the pier to complete our shopping. The Aloha Tower shops offer a myriad of products from t-shirts to beautiful and expensive pieces of art. We purchased a few of the former…none of the latter. It is now after 7pm and we are boarding the ship. It was a full day today, a most memorable time. Off to our next stop, Maui.
Day 10 – Tuesday, March 29 – Lahaina, Maui
We arrived in Lahaina Harbor around 7:30am. I didn’t sleep very well last night. Must have been those rolling seas again or possibly that outdoor (risky) lunch we had yesterday. It is cloudy (what a surprise) and the temperature is 72 degrees with 80 percent humidity, ugh! Here is the unusual thing…no wind! Not even the slightest breeze. Coming from a city that has about 10 percent humidity (Las Vegas) and often breezy, I find it difficult to breathe. It feels like a Sauna. I hope that feeling doesn’t last long. Time for breakfast at the Horizon Court. By the way, so far the ship has traveled 2,694 nautical miles. There will be a test at the conclusion of this cruise review!
I booked a tour through Princess for this morning. It is entitled “A Walking Tour Through Lahaina’s Past.” It begins at 9:30am and concludes at 11:30am. After that I hope we can travel to Kaanapali (the home to many resort hotels) for some beach time. Much like Kona, passengers must tender in to the pier from the ship. We have to be back on the ship by 6pm as the Island Princess departs for Ensenada at that time.
After breakfast, we returned to our cabin. I stepped out on our balcony to enjoy the view of Lahaina when it began raining. Well, we’ve had just about every other weather condition, it might as well rain. After about 15 minutes of precipitation, a beautiful rainbow appeared. It was as if Mother Nature was smiling at me. What a lovely sight. Judy reminded me that it was now time to go ashore. As with previous tours, we will be going to the Princess Theater to join our group of “Walking” participants, then off to board the tender.
Just a few steps from the landing pier, the “Walking Tour Through Lahaina’s Past” group assembled. We were greeted by a gentleman who began the tour by walking us over to a Hauola birthing stone, a “place of creation and healing.” This was about ten steps from where we began the tour. Our guide spoke for what seemed like an eternity on a subject which should have been covered in about five minutes. Then we walked about twenty steps to a place that once housed Hawaii’s first permanent building, Kamehameha’s Brick Palace. He again spoke for what seemed like forever. We took another ten steps and he stopped and spoke about a taro patch. So for the first 45 minutes of the tour, we took about 40 steps. In this heat and humidity, I wasn’t sure I could take this very long. By the time we crossed the road and entered the Baldwin House, I gave up. I told Judy that I wasn’t feeling well and could we please leave the tour. It was fine with her. We walked over and purchased some water thinking maybe I was dehydrated. In retrospect, I’m not sure what hit me. Perhaps I was suffering from the infamous Norovirus. Maybe not. Anyway, we sat under the huge Banyan Tree in the center of town hoping my ill health would pass. It didn’t. After about 30 minutes we headed back to the tender pier. Our return to the ship was welcomed by my stomach. Upon entering our cabin, I laid down on our bed. That is where I would spend most of my time during the next 24 hours. In fact, I don’t even remember what we did that evening.
Day 11 – Wednesday, March 30 – At Sea
Are we home yet? Although discombobulated, I managed to go and eat this morning. In fact I don’t think I missed any meals the entire trip. I couldn’t have been that sick! Whatever I contacted beat me up pretty good the past 24 hours. I’m beginning to feel a little better. The sea is relatively calm this morning – thank goodness. Tonight is our second Formal Dress night. I will spend the day in bed trying to be ready for this evening.
Two things I could count on every evening…dinner being tasty and Judy looking lovely as always. After enjoying our meal we attended the Comedy Showtime in the Universe Lounge starring Jeff Wayne. It was entertaining. After that we watched the movie Sideways in the Princess Theater. At the conclusion of the movie, it was time to go back to the cabin and turn in for the night.
Day 12 – Thursday, March 31 – At Sea
I’m feeling a little better today. Its 7am and time we took off for breakfast at our hangout, the Horizon Court. I think I saw sunshine for a brief moment during our stroll around the deck after we ate. It was such a rare occasion to see the sun during this trip, we decided to sit down on a deck chair and enjoy these rare moments. Our happiness didn’t last long…the clouds are back. And of course it started to rain. Judy wisely ran for cover. I sat in the rain looking skyward, taking in the precipitation like a little boy being baptized by the Lord of the Sky - Zeus…probably a friend of Neptune. I knew he would make me a relative before this trip was over!
Now back in the cabin, I turned on the television. The ship’s channel indicated that the temperature had dropped into the low 50’s. This will be a wonderful book reading and movie day. We spent most of the afternoon indoor. I still wasn’t feeling all that great.
We went to dinner at our usual time. After that we walked up to the Princess Theater and enjoyed Comedy Showtime with Kevin Hughes…a funny guy. After that it was time to go back to our cabin and watch the movie, “Shall We Dance” starring Richard Gere.
The ship’s clocks will be set forward one hour on Friday morning, April 1, at 2am.
Day 13 – Friday, April 1 – At Sea
We are getting a little melancholy today as the trip is winding down. Time to eat! After breakfast we took our usual stroll around the deck enjoying the fresh air. Something is different today….oh, that’s the sun! Judy and I celebrated the emergence of that gaseous orb by lying out on a lounge chair for a few hours. It felt good to soak in some of those rays. I’m still not feeling all that well. Time to go back to the room. Nurse Judy is taking good care of me.
I’m reading today’s Princess Patter (cruise news) and here is a quote from the Navigator: Island Princess will remain on an east north easterly course throughout the day. During this cruise since departing Los Angeles, we have experienced considerable amounts of tidal current. This tidal current is the periodic horizontal movement of the water’s surface caused by meteorological, oceanographic or topological effects on the Earth. Another words, the ocean has been rough, we have had gale force winds so you may have become sea sick during this cruise. English is such a wonderful language.
So what do we do next? Oh well, let’s go to dinner. The desserts always make me feel better. After a delightful meal we walked to the Universe Lounge for Variety Showtime starring Jeff Wayne. Jeff was funny but his jokes took so long to develop that your mind wandered off before he delivered the punch line. We left after about 20 minutes. Judy and I walked over to the Princess Theater to watch Willie Tyler & Lester show. Willie is the ventriloquist and Lester is the dummy…or is it vice versa? That show was flat. We had enough. Back to the cabin.
Day 14 – Saturday, April 2 – At Sea
It is 8am Saturday morning. The sky is mostly cloudy while the temperature is a warm 60 degrees and the seas are a little choppy – 7 to 12 foot waves. Albert, our stateroom attendant, dropped off our disembarkation papers last night. It’s everything you always wanted to know about leaving the ship and didn’t want to ask. We were selected to depart with the silver group on Monday morning from Deck 10, Caribe, at approximately 9:45am. I’m sure it will be an hour after that! We will have to meet with the U.S. Immigration Service representatives at 7:15am, with appropriate paperwork in hand, prior to departure.
We decided to hang around the cabin most of the day. The last Formal Dress in the dining room was scheduled for this evening. I asked Judy if we could pass on the formal attire and just go to the buffet up at the Horizon Court. She most graciously acquiesced. When we arrived at the Court there were several people dressed in formal garb, much to my surprise. Judy and I were dressed casually. For some reason I just assumed that were I dressed formally, I would have gone to eat in the main dining room, not at a informal dining area. But, that’s me.
We returned to the cabin following dinner. After an hour or so had passed, I started feeling better. Judy suggested we attend the production show in the Princess Theater entitled “Piano Man” starring many talented singers and dancers. Well the show was great…the best we had seen the entire cruise. Kudos to the cast and crew!
After the show we returned to our cabin to watch the movie, “The Notebook.” Such a touching, poignant film with a sobering look at Alzheimer’s disease. Makes you appreciate each wonderful day, while embracing the special moments we are blessed with during our life.
We were reminded to set our clocks ahead one hour on Sunday morning at 2am. Goodnight.
Day 15 – Sunday, April 3 – Ensenada
The ship should arrive in Ensenada around 4pm this afternoon. Departure for Los Angeles is scheduled for 8pm. It is cloudy this morning…so what’s new? Time for breakfast and then church service. After that we will attend the disembarkation meeting in the Universe Lounge on decks 6 and 7 aft.
At the Los Angeles Disembarkation Talk David Cole, our Cruise Director, explained all landing details, including Customs, Immigration, Baggage handling and on-going transportation. He instructed us on how to fill out the various forms the cruise line and U.S. Immigration Service requires. I think it is now time for an early lunch. After that we will begin packing our clothes.
It is now 2:40pm and we can see the coastline of Mexico. The ship is slowing down. Judy says we are just about all packed. The sea is calm enough for us to sit out on the balcony and enjoy the view. That didn’t happen very many times during this trip. It has become a beautiful day as the sun finally peeked through the clouds.
The ship has docked in Ensenada and it’s now 4pm. Passengers are allowed to leave the ship to go anywhere they want to as long as they are onboard by 8pm, the time Island Princess departs for Los Angeles. Judy and I decided to visit the stores on the pier. After window shopping at “knock off” city, we returned to the ship and enjoyed the sunshine on our balcony.
It is now 8:20pm and we have placed our luggage out in the hallway as requested by the cruise line. If you want Princess to take your luggage off the ship, you must have the bags outside your stateroom by 9pm on the night before you disembark. Judy did a great job of organizing the packing. Dinner this evening was enjoyable. We bid adieu to Frankie and Ray…our nearby table mates. They are delightful people and Judy and I hope to meet up with them again some day. We exchanged addresses and phone numbers. Also, we gave Sam (our waiter) and his assistant a cash envelope for exemplary service above and beyond. They very much appreciated the gesture. After our meal, I walked over to the Passenger Service Desk (formally called the Pursers Desk) and turned in our signed shipboard statement and gratuity form. The additional charges for the trip were correct. We also agreed to the recommended daily gratuity of $10 per day, per person.
Judy and I spent the next hour or so just sitting on the balcony enjoying the lights along the Mexican and California coastline. The ship never sailed very far away from land tonight. It was a nice way to end the evening and the cruise.
Day 16 – Monday, April 4 – Los Angeles
It is 5:25am and the ship is docking at pier 91/92, at the World Cruise Center, Los Angeles. It is fascinating how busy the port folks are, preparing to load supplies on the ship. Trucks backing up, fork lifts scooting all around…its almost dizzying. Predominately displayed on the TV was the fact that the ship has now sailed 5,184 nautical miles. Must be time for breakfast!
Our last meal in the Horizon Court was good as always. It is now 7am and we are awaiting the call for us to go and meet with the U.S. Immigration Service representative on board. I’m sure we will be spending lots of time in that long line.
Here we are walking off the ship at 10:45am, that wasn’t so bad. Out the gangway, down the escalator to the baggage claim. We picked up our bags and brought them to the median where we used our cell phone to call the Holiday Inn and request pick-up. The van arrived within 15 minutes.
After getting into the van, I looked back at her…the prodigious Island Princess, one more time. I was thankful we had arrived safely back in LA, while at the same time secretly wishing we were getting ready to board again.
It’s the journey that makes life worthwhile.
The food was excellent, the staff performed their duties in a professional and friendly manner, other passengers were sociable and the entire experience…well, what an adventure! With the exception of the lousy weather (which can’t be helped) and a few service “barnacles”, Island Princess represents Princess Cruise Lines in a commendable manner.
Doug and Judy DuCharme