Monday, November 4, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013 – Ensenada, Mexico – Mostly Sunny – 75F

Distance Hilo to Ensenada, Mexico: 2193 Nautical Miles

Distance Ensenada to San Francisco: 518 Nautical Miles


Local Information.  Ensenada has a population 414,000 and is located in Baja California.  When the Spaniards arrived in this area in 1539, they thought they had landed on an island inhabited by female warrior led by their Warrior Queen, Calafia.  And so was christened “California”. 

We have covered a lot of territory on our round trip to the Islands.

It is getting warmer as we approach the Baja Coast.  And nary a cloud in the sky.

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Arrival in Ensenada (a Jones Act Port) is scheduled for 4:00 PM but the Captain says we are going to be early and be alongside at 3:00 PM.  That gives everyone another hour in town (all aboard is 7:30 PM).

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Ensenada Sail In

Grand Princess is docked at Ensenada Cruise Port Village, which is a 15 minute walk to the main shopping area along Avenida Lopez Mateos.  We joined a large group of passengers all bound for the same spot – the vendors and shops.  The port looks very new and looking back, I was able to get a nice picture of the Grand Princess docked.  Security at this port does not even come close to what we encountered in Hawaii. 

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Grand Princess docked

Since we were walking with a crowd, there had to be someone who could take our picture – voila – a photo together.

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The walk to town is remarkable for several things – the little children who are selling wares and the parks and monuments. 

One of the monuments is dedicated to the the Battle of Chapultepec – a fortress housing the Mexican Military Academy (during the Mexican-American War).  On September 13, 1847, the American army attached the Academy, where military cadets fought unsuccessfully defending the fortress, which guarded Mexico City.

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Monumento A Los Ninos Heroes

It was warm and clear and the walk was very pleasant.  The shopping area is a combination of old and new shops.  As always, we are on the lookout for some free Wi-Fi but there was none at either the Starbucks or McDonalds on the main street.  Restaurants had Wi-Fi but you needed to buy something to get access.  We noticed a very small restaurant just outside the big movie complex – Ellen did her magic and the owner gave us the Wi-Fi key without having to purchase anything.  We were able to catch up on everything.

We headed back to the ship and, on the suggestion of a fellow passenger, took a picture of the moon over the nearby mountain range. 

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Moon over Ensenada

It was dark before the ship pushed…this gave me the opportunity to shoot a night time shot of Ensenada as well as a picture of Ellen and the city (off the aft end of the ship).  Watching the ship gun its engines for a straight-out departure from the port was really great.  The ship picks up pretty good speed quickly.

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Ensenada at night

Tomorrow, another day at sea.

Eastbound Transpacific Crossing - October 13 – 16, 2013

The Grand Princess is heading back across the Pacific Ocean heading for Ensenada, Mexico, then on to San Francisco.

Day 1 - October 13, 2013 – Sunny – 77F

I am scheduled for 11:15 AM with “Forensics and History: The Search for the Unknown Titanic Child”.  This was the largest crowd of the cruise – more than half the theater was filled – near 400 attendees.  The talk went very well.  This presentation is turning out be a winner.

The early talk gave us the whole afternoon off.  We first went to our quiet spot on Deck 15.  An announcement came over the PA warning that the ship would be passing through showers.  Not a problem for us but other passengers had to flee the brief rainy period.

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It’s raining

We decided to try to forward Adults Only hot tub.  No one but us in the hot tub. 

The sunset off the back deck was beautiful.

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Showtime tonight was the third production show - “Do You Want to Dance”.  It was lively and fun and similar to other shows we have seen in the past.  For example, no show is complete without the Irish Step Dance and these dancers did a great job.

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Do You Want to Dance

The show is the Vista  Lounge featured Guy Bavli, an Israeli Mentalist.  He did some interesting mental stunts with members of the audience – I did see him take an audience member backstage so I am not totally convinced of his ESP.  I am always the skeptic with these kinds of shows.  He was, however, entertaining and isn’t that the point?


Day 2 - October 14, 2013 – Sunny – 76F

The weather continues to be very nice.

I have the morning off so I am reviewing my talk for today.  I haven’t given this one in some time and I need to get all those facts in their proper place in my head.

Today’s presentation is scheduled at 1:00 PM - “Forensic Anthropology: The Life and Death of Pharaohs”.  The attendance was about the same as the previous talk – 350 – 400.  The talk is DNA-STR heavy and I often feel that the information is not getting across.  I checked with some passengers after the talk and they said they had no problem following along.  I do plan to introduce more information on the main players in the King Tut world before I give this talk again.

Another busy entertainment schedule.

Our first stop was the Princess Theater to see Lovena B Fox, a  vocalist we had seen before.  Her background is in musical theater and she has been in touring companies of Evita and Ragtime (where she got to sing “Wheels of a Dream”).  Her show did not have any Broadway tunes – she focused on some rock and songs by Tina Turner (she does a very good Tina Turner).  Still, she has a powerful voice and the show was entertaining.

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Lovena B Fox

Following that show, we sprinted to the Vista Lounge to catch Tim Walkoe’s second show of the cruise.  Again, he was very funny.  We chatted with him a bit after the show to let him know we were “neighbors” sort of.


Day 3 - October 15, 2013 – Partly Cloudy – 72F

A cloudy start to a pretty nice day – seas continue to be smooth.

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We are moving from History back to crime today with my next talk at 11:30 AM - “DNA Photofitting: A Genetic Eyewitness” – a good crowd as well (holding steady at 350 plus – this may be my component on this ship).  The audience seemed to like the two cases discussed.

A few days ago, our Hawaiian friends, Kimo and Kikolani asked for requests and, of course, we requested “Hallelujah”.  They almost started to sing in but decided to recheck the chords.  Tonight, they remembered and sang the song and it was absolutely terrific.  They should keep it in their set because the audience loved it.

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Hallelujah for Hallelujah

We had dinner in Alfredo’s Pizzeria and finally documented their fine pizza.

20131015_Pizza at Alfredos (Small) 

After dinner we went to the Princess Theater to catch Guy Bavli again – he did some amazing stunts but, once again, I saw one of the AV guys grab a women from the audience and take her backstage.  Before the show started, Guy was carefully scoping out the audience.  Who knows – that might be just something to confuse us skeptics.

The final show was in the Vista Lounge and featured Uber Rossi – and Italian Acro Comedian.  He combined acrobatics with comedy – I found the comedy to be very funny especially since he picked on audience members.  He was still a hoot.  He even messed with Martyn after his act.


Day 4 - October 16, 2013 – Partly Cloudy – 72F

Still pretty nice outside…

 20131016_At sea




In a discussion with Frenchie earlier in the cruise, I sort of volunteered to do an extra talk.  That talk was scheduled today at 12:30 PM.  “Forensics and History: The Lost Dauphin of France” was put together as a standalone presentation – also in this presentation is my own experience with searching for the Naundorff Grave in Delft, the Netherlands.  People seemed to like the Grave search so I will keep it in for future cruises.  The attendance held steady at 350 plus.

It was a bit cool and windy on the Aft Deck so we found a quiet place on Promenade 7 to hang out at.

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A new quiet reading location

Showtime tonight was the fourth and final production show - “The British Invasion” – starting with “Downtown” and ending with “Pinball Wizard”.  Did anyone really wear these outfits back then or is this Austin Power’s fault?


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This show also contain a mini-Cirque segment involving a trapeze.  Not really high wire but nice nevertheless.

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After the main show, it was back to the Vista Lounge for a new act - “Two on Tap” starring two Broadway veterans, Melissa Giattino and  Ron DeStefano.  Melissa was a member of the Rockettes and Ron is actual performing tenor.  What they did was channel the tap dancing duos of the past, Fred and Ginger, Donald O’Connor and Cyd Charisse, and Mickey and Judy.  Bottom Line: They were absolutely terrific and Ron is a dead ringer for Mathew Morrison (from Glee).

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“Two on Tap”

I finished “Lab Notes”. No Science – No Mystery.  The author writes well but there was no story or at least no one I was interested in.

Tomorrow, land!     

Saturday, October 12, 2013 – Hilo, Hawaii – Cloudy - 77F

Distance Lahaina to Hilo: 126 Nautical Miles

Local Information.  Hilo, located on the “Big Island” of Hawaii, has a population 43,260 and with 127 inches of rain a year, it is the wettest city in the world.


Hawaiian has 12 letters including the standard vowels: a, e,i, o, u, d h, k, l, m, n, p, w.

There are five volcanoes on the island of Hawaii – the home to Volcanoes National Park.  Mauna Loa – 14,000 feet – is the largest volcano (and active) on Earth even though it is about 200 ft shorter than neighboring Mauna KeaKilauea – the most active volcano on Earth – has added hundreds of acres of new land to the island. 

Because of the cloud cover today, the volcanoes are not visible from the ship and because of the government shutdown, no one is able to visit Volcanoes National Park. 

We are just going to take the free shuttles to The Farmer’s Market and then walk around the town.  To get back to the ship, we will take the city bus.

On our way to the Market, we passed a municipal golf course.  It was pretty nice except that, instead of sand, the bunkers were filled with volcanic debris – I see scuffed clubs and sore wrists.

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Don’t get in the bunkers

The town had some interesting stores and some catered to tourists.  Otherwise, the major streets were lined with restaurants and other eateries.

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Beautiful Downtown Hilo

The Farmer’s Market was not all that great – just the same touristic stuff vendors sell at all ports.

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The Hilo Market (Flea Market)

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More Banyan Trees

The city bus ($1.00 per person) took us on a little tour of the city including the campus of the University of Hawaii, Hilo.  Eventually, it let us out about a block from the pier.  We again passed through some serious security to get back on the ship.  

Back on the ship, I was hoping the cloud cover would lift and we would get a look at the volcanoes.  No such luck.

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No Volcanoes Today

The headliner in the Princess Theater was comedian, Tim Walkoe.  Tim is from the Midwest and grew up in Skokie.  He was pretty funny and he will be on later in the cruise.

Hilo and the Big Island will be the last land we will see in several days.  Hoping for a smooth trip back.

Friday, October 11, 2013 – Lahaina, Maui – Sunny – 85F

Distance Honolulu to Lahaina: 108 Nautical Miles

The warmest day of the cruise…not a cloud in the sky.  The only clouds are those covering the tops of the volcanoes on the islands.  Why is that?

Local Information. Maui – the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands - was formed by two massive volcanoes separated by a huge valley.  Maui is known as the “Valley Isle”.  The worlds largest inactive volcano – Haleakala – stands 10,032 ft above sea level. 


Maui is a tender port and we are not on an excursion today so we get our tender tickets in the Michelangelo Dining Room.  The wait is very short and soon we are on our way to the tiny town of Lahaina, Maui.

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On the tender

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On our way to Lahaina

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Grand Princess from Lahaina Beach

Three other Hawaiian islands can be seen from Lahaina.

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Molokai (way in the distance)

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Lahaina is an interesting little town.  It is a mixture of nice restaurants, tourist restaurants, fancy art galleries (really fancy and pricey), and tourist shops.  One of the galleries was featuring art from the “Three Tony’s” – Tony Curtis, Tony Hopkins, and Tony Quinn.  The artworks by the Tony’s was top notch but sometimes odd.  The town is only a few blocks long and even fewer blocks wide. 

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Beautiful downtown Lahaina

While Ellen was shopping, I tried to get a picture of the hillsides just beyond the town.  Even though I ventured a block or two away from the main street, I still couldn’t get a clear shot.

One of the restaurants, the Pioneer Grill, had a sailor with a lei.  Couldn’t pass up a picture with the old salt.

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Ellen at the Pioneer Grill

Another restaurant was straight out of “Forrest Gump”

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Near the edge of town, there was a public park, complete with green space, cannons, and the ever present, banyan trees.

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Another park with Banyan Trees

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Me and Lanai

On the way back to the ship, we got a good look at the surfers and why they come to Lahaina.

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Before docking, a great view of Grand Princess and Lanai.

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Once back on the ship, we could get great views of Maui.

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Showtime tonight featured Bobby Brooks Wilson, Vocalist and “Lost Son” of icon, Jackie Wilson.  Ironically, Bobby found out he was Jackie’s son by comparing his DNA to one of Jackie’s known sons.  He put on a nice performance and it was clear that he closely resembled his father – not only physically but musically.  He was all decked out – sharkskin suit and bouffant hairdo (which I found out later was a great wig – it also helped him become unrecognizable on ship).

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Bobby Brooks Wilson