Monday, December 2, 2019

It was all we had hoped for... and more...

Today, our last dat before we dock at San Francisco tomorrow morning, was probably our busiest day of the two weeks!  I'll do more of a picture tour of the day, and I also realize I haven't really shown what the ship looks like, so I'll try to give you an idea.

9:45 am:  The Head Chef and his Mate gave a cooking lesson and told us a bit about the kitchen and what goes in to the food service and then we were given a tour of one of the galleys.  It was quite an hysterical show with lots of drama.  But here are a few trivia facts:

  • They prepare 12,000 meals a day
  • They make 180 pounds of ice cream in different flavors/day
  • They clean 35,000 plates and 20,000 glasses
  • They bake 16,000 dinner rolls/day
  • They make 75 pounds of tomato sauce/day
  • There are over 500 staff connected with the service of food and drink on board - that's more than half of the entire staff
L:Head Chef from the Philippines
C: Second in Command from England
R:  Kevin our cruise Director from Canada
Fruit & Vegetable Scupltures

More of the galley
Some meringue cakes
The galley is mammoth with different stations all around

At the end of the program, they brought out a large number of the staff and introduced them.  Then they had a special treat.  Hector, who works in the kitchen, wanted to sing us a song.  Everyone was choked up.

10:00:  Free Mimosas for all as the Captain bids us all a farewell

1:00:  Rehersal for the Pop Choir

2:00:  The Grand Princess Pop Choir Concert!  We had a huge audience and the concert was fantastic.  We started out with Here Comes the Sun, then sang Eidelweiss, followed by Blue Bayou, then Somewhere Beyond the Sea and we ended with Under the Boardwalk.  I was in my glory!

After the concert we went back to the room and started to pack.  We had to get out luggage out in the hall by 11:00 pm tonight and we have to be out of our room by 8:00 am tomorrow morning.

4:00:  Dancing in the Piazza with a mariachi band

6:30:  The final concert of the Grand Princess dancers, singers and orchestra.  We have been so impressed with the quality and professionalism of this young people and they didn't disappoint tonight.  The theme was "The British Invasion."

7:30:  Concert with a Country Western/Flamenco Guitarist!  

8:30:  Our last dinner.  Since we are wearing our casual clothes that we will be disembarking with, we went to the Harvest Court buffet instead of to a more formal restaurant.  

10:00:  ... we were going to go down to the Explorer's Bar for more dancing...  but alas, we crashed!!

And now, here's a bit of the ship; I realize I didn't nearly cover the immensity and beauty of The Grand Princess.

The Princess Theater
The roof-top pool on deck 14
The hot tub at the Neptune pool

Enjoying a walk on the deck

Beautiful at Night

We checked with the Captain, and we come under the Golden Gate Bridge tomorrow morning at 5:30, so we have set our alarm for 5:00 and plan to get up and go to the top deck at the front on the ship and experience it all.  

We leave you with this picture which seems to embody our last two weeks:  fun, adventurous, gorgeous, awesome, unpredictable, outstanding.


Sunday, December 1, 2019

December 1st - RABBIT! RABBIT!

Can you believe it's December 1st already?  Our last sea day is tomorrow as we wend our way from Ensenada to San Francisco.  It's been a great two weeks, but both Luke and I are ready to get our feet on terra firma.

Today, after breakfast, we went in search of the fitness center which we hadn't discovered yet.  That got us up to the top deck -16, where we found a cadre of in-the-know people who were sunning themselves on lounge chairs in a protected area.  We decided to join them.  Luke took his shirt off and was basking in the sun.

I took out my Sunday Times Crossword Puzzle book and was engrossed in that, when all of a sudden a loud noise was heard and a navy jet bomber - just like the Blue Angels - roared right by our ship.  We hadn't seen ANYTHING on the big seas for the entire trip, and here were these fighter bombers looking as if they were attacking our ship! It was quite dramatic.  But then the public address system came on and the Captain told us that it was the military doing some practice runs.  We could vaguely see land in the distance and we figured maybe we were somewhere near San Diego where there is a military base.   It was quite the drama for the morning!


After my Pop Chorus rehearsal, I met Luke in the Princess Theater for the finals of The Voice.  It was a kick-  They had the chairs that turned;  they had the music;  and the emcee, who was the cruise director of entertainment, was hysterical.  There was some very funny banter going on and the talent was pretty good.  There were sic finalists who each sang a song ad then picked a judge.  Then each judge had to select one of their two to go on to the finals.  Then the audience, who.was given an electronic voting remote, voted for the winner.  Ralph won and he was awesome-  He sang Don't Stop Believing and had everyone in the theater clapping for him.  It was very cool.

We pulled in to Ensenada, Mexico around 4:00 pm and will be leaving this port at 7:00.  This is a necessary stop because of some U.S. rule that says any ship, not made in the USA, must stop at an international port if they want to stop at an American port.  

We didn't even get off, because Ensenada really isn't a very interesting place.  Most of the passengers who got off, and there were quite a few, went shopping!!!  There was a Carnival ship in port when we arrived.  An ambulance was waiting for some passenger- we have no details about that, and there was a very large truck that we presume might be a gas truck filling up our tanks!

As we get closer to the end of our voyage, we feel a need to take advantage of as much as we can.  Before dinner, we went to the Wheelhouse Bar and danced to an excellent trio.  The singer was from Mexico and had a beautiful voice.  There were a number of couples on the dance floor, and I just couldn't resist taking a picture of the 5" heels that a lady in her eighties was wearing.  How do these ladies do that?

After a lovely dinner, we went to the theater to hear a very good vocalist.  He opened with "I Will Always Love You" which I associate with Whitney Houston, but it was actually written by Dolly Parton!  And he closed with a beautiful Josh Groban song.

But the night was still young.  It was only 10:00, so we went to the Crooner's Bar to hear a wonderful singer/piano player who has quite a following.  Thenwe went to the Explorer's Bar to dance some more to the Brilliantes - another great trio with an exceptional singer from Australia.  They stopped at 11:30 and we called it a night!

 I went out on the balcony tonight and I could see lights, so I guess we're staying fairly near shore- although the Casino was buzzing tonight, so we must be out far enough to be in international waters.

Tomorrow is our last day-  it's been all I had hoped for and more...

Another Wonderful Day

Another wonderful day.  The pace has changed a bit since we first started.  I'm not sure why, but there are fewer things on the "Daily Patter" that we must do, so our days seem a bit more leisurely.  Then again, we're staying up later and partying more at night.

We had a late breakfast, then went to the pool deck to play a few rounds of Bananagrams.

Later, I went to my Pop chorus rehearsal.  We're doing so well with the songs that Jonny is adding some choreography to some of our songs which is quite fun.  We give our concert tomorrow!

Then Luke and I went to the Princess theater to hear a talk by the Captain, John Smith and his first Engineer.  It was interesting and we learned many things about the ship.  "She's not a boat," the Captain reminded us.  "A ship carries boats; a boat doesn't carry ships."

Do you know that they have desalination plants on board.  It would be impossible to carry enough water for 3,000 passengers for 4 days at sea, so they make their own water!  One time, they pulled in to a port that had been severely damaged by a storm and was without water, and the whole time they were at the port, they made water that was then carried off the ship by trucks and taken to the people on the island.

Another question posed to the chief engineer was about all the sewage and where did it go?  Well they have tanks filled with sewage-eating microbes that eat the sewage and excrete water.  They then filter this water and it is so pure you could drink it- but they don't, they put it back in to the ocean.

Someone asked about the gas mileage of this ship.  Well, she actually goes 55 feet/gallon!!!  BUT, the officer reminded us that she is carrying 3,000 people and 900 crew so when you calculate how many people she's transporting, it comes to 40 mpg!

Captain John Smith in the middle with his Chief Engineering Officer

The Ukulele Players
The Hula Dancers
After our meeting with the captain, we went to the Vista Lounge to the hula dance and ukulele program.  There have been Hulu dance and ukulele classes throughout the trip.  Luke went to two hula dance lessons, but didn't stay with it long enough to join in the concert.  But there was quite a crowd up on stage and they were quite good.  A good part of the ukulele had never played the instrument before and it was really fun seeing them up there performing.

Tonight was another formal evening, so the sparkly jacket was donned and once again, Luke was the Beau  of the ball.  He had people asking if they could take his picture, and everywhere we went passengers and staff alike would ooh and ahh and make the thumbs up sign.  It was really fun.  Chet and Alice, who are Platinum Princess members, had an invitation to the Captain's Circle but they didn't want to go, so they offered it to us.  We went through a receiving line and even Captain John Smith was awed by Luke's jacket.  The elite passengers were recognized for their loyalty to Princess. There was a woman in a wheel chair that was celebrating her 102 birthday so we all sang Happy Birthday to her.  She was amazing.  The passengers with the most miles at sea were given a plaque and brought up in front.  They had clocked 786 miles.  It was interesting to hear that of the 3,000 passengers on board, over 1,000 of them were in the Captain's Circle.  We're not sure what constitutes an Elite or Platinum or Gold member, but that's a lot of people who have done a lot of cruising.  We have had a blast, but we're not sure we want to plan two or three cruises a year!!  We met a man yesterday who took this Hawaiian cruise because he wanted to check out this time-shares on Kauai and Maui that he and his wife will be staying at for 7 weeks...  and they're leaving for their time-shares in two weeks!  So you take a 15 day Hawaiian cruise to go and check out your time shares that you'll be staying in in two weeks?  Does that make sense?

We went Dancing in the Wheelhouse Bar where the Princess orchestra played Big Band Era songs, then went to dinner.

After dinner we went to the most amazing show called Born to Dance.  It was so much fun and such high quality, we could have been watching a Broadway presentation.  The singers and dancers were terrific, the music was wonderful as they traced the history of dance and the different choreographers over the years, and the costumes were fantastic.  I was in heaven.

Then we went down to the Piazza where we closed out the disco dance band.  What is so amazing to me is to see so many older people kicking up their heels.  If you were to pass them on the street you would think their lives were pretty dull and boring.  But to see them on the dance floor is a whole other experience.

Tomorrow we arrive at the Port of Ensenada.  It turns out we are only there for three hours- from 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm.  We're not planning on getting off the ship because we don't want to buy anything, and Ensenada is kind of a nothing place.  Hopefully it will warm up and maybe we can go for a swim in the pool!

Adios for now.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Luke's a Winner!

Happy Thanksgiving!  The ship tried to be festive with decorations, but Thanksgiving on the Grand Princess just wasn't the same as sharing it with family and friends and smelling the turkey roasting in the kitchen.  Don't get me wrong, we had one of our best days at sea- but it didn't feel much like Thanksgiving.  There was a big turkey, cornucopia display in the Piazza, and turkey with gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce was on the menu for dinner, but...  just not the same!

Line dancing in the Vista Lounge
But there was plenty to do.  I went to another line dance class which I really like.  After seeing all those young people up in the disco lounge last night doing line dance moves all together, I'm thinking I might like to try to find a line dance class back in SF when I return. 
Then I had my Pop Chorus rehearsal.  We're singing a whole new repertoire of songs:  Blue Bayou, Under the Boardwalk, Edelweiss, Somewhere Across the Sea, and a Beatles song.  We will have another concert on Monday evening- our last day at sea.
Then Luke and I went to a Cha Cha class which was really fun.  We learned a routine with 6 different ChaCha steps in it.  I wrote them down so we could practice!

We had dinner with two other couples, one of whom was from Iowa, so Luke had fun talking to them.  They were from a small town wet of Davenport where they had 200 acres which they farmed with corn and soy beans.  The farm is small and not self-sustaining so they had jobs in town.  He worked in a manufacturing plant and she was an elementary school principal.  They retired at 55 and have been on over 20 cruises!!  Carolyn told an interesting story about her retirement.  The school district was offering early retirement to the principals.  Carolyn didn't know what to do so she prayed heavily.  In the morning, she decided that if one other principal retired, she would also;  she didn't want to be the only one.  So she went off to school and a principal, whom she knew only slightly, met her in the hall and said, "I have something to tell you.  I am going to retire."  She went home and that afternoon her mother called and said, "I have been having a strong feeling all day that I needed to call you.  What's happening?"  Carolyn told her mother that she was thinking of retiring and her mother said, "You should definitely retire!" ... and she did!.

Dick, her husband, was a man of few words, but even though they are both retired, they still work the farm and love it.  They have two children both of whom would like to keep the farm, but neither of the spouses are interested in farming.  So they have put the land in trust and stipulated that they can do nothing with the land until three years after their death. That way they will have to think about it.  The land is worth about $7,000-$8,000 an acre, so with 200 acres it's quite valuable.  Once again here is this average couple from the Heartland who have been on 20 cruises.  They do about two a year.  They've been to Tahiti, Tasmania, Alaska- they've seen the world and intend to continue exploring!  (Only in America!)

The other couple didn't talk much so I didn't get any thing interesting from them!!

After dinner we went to the Vista Lounge to see a Motown concert with the Princess singers, dancers and orchestra.  They were really good with fancy lighting, amazing costume changes and a very talented routine.

Then, at 9:30, we went to the Explorer's Lounge for a Rock and Roll Party with a different band and the entertainment staff.  It was a lot of fun as we knew all the old songs and there are some very good dancers on this trip.  Some of the old people really know how to rock it!  When the band took a break, they had a Hula hoop competition.  Luke was picked out of the crowd to go up.  He had three tries to keep the hula hoop off the ground.  After the hoop dropped to the ground the third time, you were supposed to stop and strike a certain pose. It was so funny to watch, and HE WON!!  He had no idea he had won, but I think the reason was that we took much longer to pick his hoop up off the floor each time, so he was the slowest and therefore the last to strike the pose at the end!  They interviewed him and presented him with a bottle of champagne!!  I was laughing hysterically!

We stayed in the Explorer's Lounge until the band stopped playing around 11:00.  It was a very fun day.  I wonder what tomorrow will bring!!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Heading Home

Tuesday Night - November 26th

Before I write about today, I have to share our conversation with our last night's dinner guests.  We were joined by Nikita and Victor.  Victor only spoke Russian, but Nikita's English was quite good.  They live in San Francisco having come from their homeland of Ukraine eight years ago.  Their son lives with them in San Francisco, but their daughter lives in Ukraine.  It is very hard for their daughter and 21 year old grand son,  "Ukraine is a hard country."  They are very anti-Putin and Nikita says he is trying to grab all of Ukraine back.  I asked her if she liked the new president and she said no- he is a terrible man.  Her daughter teaches Latin and Greek and her grandson is a baritone in the opera and is in the Netherlands touring with Aida right now and then will go to Spain.  Her eyes lit up when she mentioned her grandson.  We asked if her daughter might be able to come to San Francisco and she said no.  "Everyone wants to come to America, but it is impossible."  Then I asked "what about Trump?"  and I sensed fear cross Nikita's eyes as if she didn't want to say anything about him.
We asked if they liked San Francisco and they said, "Oh yes.  America is the best country in the world."  We also asked them if this was their first cruise.  "Oh no, this is our 5th.  We have been to Alaska, Mexico, The California coast and Hawaii two times."

It's fascinating to think Ukranian immigrants have lived in this country for 8 years and gone on 5 cruises!!

After dinner we went to hear an Elton John concert performed by an Irishman who was very good.  Then we watched the beginning of the Voice of the Ocean auditions.  There was a line of twenty or more people who are auditioning tonight and then the finals will move to the theater where they will have actual chairs that will turn around just like on the real Voice.  It's really fun seeing older people enjoying themselves.  The place was packed for the auditions!  Stay tuned for the finals- apparently they even have judges in the swivel chairs!

Wednesday- November 27:

OMG! IT'S THE PEOPLE STUPID! - Are you ready? . . . There was no free table for breakfast, so we asked if we could join a couple at a table by the window.  They were from Bayshore, NY on Long Island - originally from Colombia.  They both had thick Spanish accents, and but Blanco spoke better English than her husband.  We asked how long they had lived in Bayshore and the husband, (I can't recall his name) launched in to an emotional story about how he got his house.  They had originally lived in Queens, but they could never find a parking place in Queens and there is no restricted parking in Long Island, so the real estate agent brought them to this house.  "My wife looked at this house and said, 'No! Oh No!'"  It was falling apart and had been owned by an old lady who did nothing to fix it up.  But when he opened the front door and saw the huge living room, he knew he had to have it.  There were two dining rooms, and it was "beautiful" -even though there were leaks and paint peeling and it needed a lot of work.  This was in 2002 and the price of the house was $380,000.  He knew it would need about $100,000 to fix up, so he told the agent he wanted the house but could only pay $300,000 for it.  The owner would not negotiate so they forgot about it.  Then months later he gets a call from his agent, "Are you still interested in the house?"

"Yeah, I'm still interested in the house, but not in the price!"  Well the owner will take his offer!  He wsa so excited,  but there he was with a house he couldn't move in to because he put $80,000 down for the downpayment to keep his payments lower and he didn't have any money to fix up the house.

But a friend told him that there was a bank that when you got a credit card, they would give you free interest for six months.  Free interest for six months - why that's a miracle.  I can borrow $20,000 and fix up the bedroom and move in, and that's just what he did.

Then a neighbor saw him fixing up the stairs and asked what he was doing.  He told him he didn't have the money to fix up things so he was trying to do some of it himself.  Why don't you just go down to the bank- they are giving loans- it's easy.  When he went to the bank and the banker asked him how much money he wanted, he didn't want to screthe guy off so he said, $20,000.

"$20,000!!  Why waste our time with $20,000.  We make money when we loan to you, but you need to ask for more."

Well, what do you suggest, he asked?  When the banker said, $100,000 he choked.  $100,000- you will give me $100,000?  Okay, Okay!  So he took the $100,000 and paid off the free interest credit card that had come due, and used the rest to fix up his house!

He ended his story by saying, "Only in America!  This is the greatest country on earth!"

Blanco and her husband have gone on a lot of cruises, but they don't go in the winter time because they have to stay home to shovel their walk when it snows.  If they don't, they get fined.  They have a young boy do it, but he does a lousy job, so they need to stay home from cruises in the winter to shovel their walk!  (Only in America!)

After they left, we were joined by a couple from Southern California.  She had been a librarian, So we got to talking about books and the changes technology had brought.  He said, well I know the power of words and reading.  He had gotten a $450.00 ticket for going through a red-light.  He went to the library and looked up everything he could and discovered that the Town of San Mateo had not asked for the proper permit to install the cameras, and they had not notified the public when they installed them.  So he told this to the judge and got his ticket erased.  When he told this to a friend of his, his friend told him that he had used the 7th amendment to got out of a ticket.  The 7th amendment states that if a fine is over $20.00, we have the right to a trial by jury.  So this friend insisted on a jury trial, and his case was thrown out.

So who our breakfast mate got a second ticket for going through a red light, he used his 7th amendment rights and asked for a trial by jury.  He was denied twice, but this guy persisted and resubmitted his claim for a jury saying he was being denied his constitutional rights and his case was thrown out.  When I said maybe he should just stop when the light turns yellow next time, he laughed, but he was clearly proud of avoiding paying his first two tickets - and it was only because he could read and research that allowed him to do so.

Loren went off to a lecture about Picasso after breakfast, and I sat out on the deck and watched a movie.  We met at the Crown Grill for an English Pub lunch where we had beer and fish and chips.  We were joined by a Chinese couple who were from San Mateo, CA.  They had been on cruises with their family, but this was the first they have taken by themselves.  They don't like to fly, so they only take cruises that they can drive to- so they have been on this Hawaiian cruise four times!  The British luncheon was very popular and we had to wait in line for about 15 minutes before we found a table.  This couple said they don't usually share because they like to sample a lot fo the food and they need room on the table.  She went on to order fish and chips and shrimp and chips.  Since the food is "free" you are allowed to order whatever you want.  I wonder how many other people take two or three appetizers, entrees or desserts just to try them.  Seems incredibly wasteful, but...

We had dinner at the little pizzeria, then went to hear a new singer in the theater who was very good.  Since we had been crashing around 10:00 or so every evening, Luke wanted to stay awake to see what the night life was like on the ship.  We wandered the ship from fore to aft.  There was Karioke just finishing up in the Vista lounge;  The Crooners Bar was quite full as people sat in their lunge chairs and listened to a kind of Tom Jones look alike.

As we passed through the mid-ship, a few hearty souls were watching the Lion King under the stars in the outdoor pool area.  A live band with a singer played in the Wheelhouse Bar and there were lots of couples on the dance floor.  We talked with a couple who used to live in San Francisco - on Telegraph Hill.  He owned a corner grocery store, but when he retired, they had to move because it was too expensive.  They now lie in Fremont, but here again is an immigrant couple who ran a little corner store for their whole lives who are now on The Grand Princess on a 15 day Hawaiian cruise.  (Only in America!).

At the 115 Lounge on the top deck at the stern of the ship  there was a crowd of young people who were all doing a kind of line dancing to the various DJ songs.  It had disco style lighting, and they all seemed to know the different steps to each song and it was fun to watch.

It was about 11:30 when I gave out, but there were definitely party revelers who had more in the tank!  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  I wonder what they'll do for that!  Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Maui - our last Hawaiian Island

I got up around 5:00 this morning and went out on the balcony and say an island with some lights.  It turns out we were just going by Molokoi on our way to Maui.  When we arrived in Maui around 7:00 we saw a very brown arid hillside.  It runs out that each Hawaiian Island has a wet side and a dry side.  It was explained to us- something about the hot air brining the moisture up and then the winds blowing westward sends the rain over to one side.

We anchored off the coast of Lahaina which doesn't have any piers, so we were shuttled to shore by launch boats.  It is quite a procedure.  We watched as the boats were lowered from the boat.  We were told to go to a certain deck to receive a number and when our number was called we were to proceed down to deck 4 either fore, middle or aft deck to catch out launch.  There was a notice we received which said, "Please note that with 3000 guests, water shuttles can only hold 50-100 persons at a time, so it will take about 4-5 hours to put the entire ship ashore.  We suggest gibing yourself plenty of lead time for any plans you may have.  The last water shuttle from shore is 5:00 pm.

We had planned to take an hop-on-hop-off bus around Kauai yesterday but got waylaid in the museum with Jim Jung, so we decided we would take one of these buses around the island of Maui today.  We got on this bus with two young guys who seemed a bit disorganized.  We paid $20.00 each and they told us they were going to four stops: The outlet, Black Rock, Whaler's Watch, and The Harbor.  The full tour took an hour but we could get on and off anywhere we wanted.  Sounded good so off we went.  Well the first stop was literally at an outlet mall so we stayed on the bus.  The second stop was at a Sheraton hotel where  they told us there was a beautiful beach and we could watch the divers jumping off of black rock.  We got out, walked through the lobby of the Sheraton, and went out back to see the beach.  It was quite magnificent with the Sheraton hotel looming over it.  The divers were jumping off black rock in the distance.   About 10 minutes later we had taken it all in, and the bus didn't come back for us for an hour, so we took a local shuttle to the next stop which was Whale's watch.  Well, that turned out to be another shopping center- with just rows and rows of stores.  So we discovered that another city bus could take us back to the Harbor and we ended up leisurely walking along Front Street where there were more shops, but at least it was quaint.  We had lunch at Bubba Gump's Shrimp Company.  Luke found himself another museum to prowl around in while I sat in a beautiful Banyan Tree grove and read my Hawaii book.  So we spent $40.00 to ride 1/2 mile on a bus that seemed to only go to shopping malls.  Oh well- maybe that means we'll just have to come back to Maui someday.

We took the launch back to the boat, got a refreshing mojito, and retired to our balcony to read.

I am getting a bit of a feel for the Hawaiian experience.  I know we made some missteps along the way, and haven't really gotten a good feel for each island, but a large part of the culture here for tourists is sunbathing, eating, drinking and SHOPPING!!!  In Hilo and Honolulu, there were shuttles that took you to Walmart, and they were filled with people.  Walmart?  Why would you come to Hawaii and go to Walmart?  I asked some people and one said they had great, cheap Hawaiian material;  most people just said, "Cheap."  Then at each stop there were free shuttle services to the local malls.  It just seemed very weird to me to take a cruise ship to Hawaii and go shopping.  But by the number of bags brought on board the launch this afternoon, it is clear that the materialistic world is alive and well.

I must say that I am very happy our land excursions are over and I can just stay on board the ship and have a good time.  We leave this afternoon and will be at sea for four days before arriving at Ensenada, Mexico.  There is some regulation that a non-American ship (This one is from Hamilton, Bermuda) has to go to at least one international port in order to stop in the USA, thus Ensenada.  But Ensenada is a tourist trap so we aren't planning to get off the ship for that stop.

Not sure what we'll do tonight-  The entertainment is a comedian which doesn't really interest me.  Maybe well do a little dancing after dinner.  Aloha.