Friday, March 6, 2015

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 – San Francisco, CA –Sunny – 65 F

The Star Princess has successfully completed its Transpacific – Hawaiian Island Voyage.  There were no delays in docking this morning as the weather in the Bay Area is beautiful.

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Pre and Post Sunrise – Bay Bridge

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The City by the Bay

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Coit Tower – Clear Visibility

Debarkation Breakfast was in the Horizon Court and the menu was pretty complete – I had some eggs, a waffle, some oatmeal, and, of course, the biscuits.  The HC wasn’t crowded so we had a nice relaxing breakfast.

We are on the Princess Airport Shuttle at 9:15 AM – our wait in the Dining Room was brief and soon we were off the ship and on our way through immigration.  That was also pretty quick and we found our bus easily.  Our bus driver gave us a mini tour on the way to the airport.  There have been some incredible changes to the waterfront area of San Francisco since we lived here and even since we were here last year.

The ride to the airport took about 30 minutes or so.  We had TSA Pre-Check on this flight, as well.  That made our journey through security uneventful.  We are flying United Airlines today so we went to the United Club for some snacks and comfortable seating.  The place was pretty full but we did manage to find a couple of seats.  There are plugs at every seat for charging your electronics.  The food was changing over from breakfast to lunch items but the attendant was kind enough to get us some bagels from the kitchen.  The snacks and coffee are very good as well.  Our flight doesn’t board until 12:15 PM so we have a little over an hour to spend here.

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Lounging in the United Club

Our gate was very close to the United Club and when we got there, our plane was already there.  UA698 – a B737-800 – was scheduled to depart at 1:00 PM and with conditions this good, an on time departure was most likely.

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UA698 Loading Up

One of the last times we were at SFO, I spotted a “throwback” American Airlines jet.  This time, a retro look United Airlines jet taxied by.  I was just barely able to get a picture before the plane moved behind the terminal.

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“Vintage” UAL Jet

The flight took off on time and was pretty smooth all the way.  I had downloaded the United Airlines app so I tried to watch one of their streaming movies.  The service was pretty spotty and I couldn’t any of the movies I wanted.  So I basically used the app to track the flight.  The in-flight movie-app thing needs some work.

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One Hour Into the Flight

The weather in Chicago cooperated and we arrived pretty much on time.  Our bags made it too.

A very nice cruise that got us away during a cold period in Chicago and a very successful lecture series. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 – At Sea – Pacific Ocean – Sunny – mid 60s

Our final day at sea – the ride has smoothed out as we move up the coast of California.

Breakfast consisted of the usual fare – waffles, cottage cheese, sour cream, and preserves.  The biscuits continue to be this fan’s favorite.  I don’t think I mentioned that I also like the fact that you do not have to get your own coffee – the wait staff is very good at making sure you always have coffee (and it is always nice and hot).

Mid morning, I went to the International Café and my favorite seat to get what had to be the tenth latte of the trip.  The picture below sums up how my mornings on the Star Princess were spent.  Again, it was like being at Starbucks at Sea.

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Computer, Latte, and the Pacific Ocean

My final talk, “Identifying the Famous and Infamous”, was scheduled for 1:30 PM.  This was the ninth lecture of this cruise – one on every sea day – and the audience grew from day to day.  Today, I estimated the attendance to be at 90 percent plus full – upwards of 600 people.  This was a good percentage of the English speaking component of the passenger demographic.  I asked how many people had attended all of the talks and about 30 percent indicated they had.  The final talk went well finishing off a successful presentation series.

Ellen had almost finished packing – keeping out what clothes we needed for tonight and tomorrow morning.  This gave us most of the evening to catch entertainment around the ship. 

In the Wheelhouse Lounge, we caught our neighbor, Cesar, strumming his guitar and singing.  His act is very laid back and entertaining – his audience has grown steadily throughout the cruise.  He also did a nice job on “Hallelujah”. 

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Cesar in the Wheelhouse Lounge

The Emmanuel Blanco Group was playing in the Explorers Lounge.  We did not catch this group on this trip because, although the lead singer has a very nice voice, their volume is so amped up that I can’t listen to it comfortably.  I took a picture of the group performing to a non-existent audience.  I don’t know who the guy is with the large scarf but he decided to add his own personal flair to the performance.

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Emmanuel Blanco Group

We are hoping that weather conditions in San Francisco do not delay the arrival of the ship.

Monday, January 26, 2015 – At Sea – Ensenada, Mexico – Partly Cloudy – 68F

The sea was a little smoother as we approached the coast of Mexico…

I have the whole day off today.

The ship is scheduled to be in Ensenada, Mexico from 4 to 8 PM.  The Star Princess was a little late arriving so we will have to make our way around the town pretty quickly.  A lot of people complain about Ensenada and having to stop here – not me, I like the cute little town and I. wish they stopped here a little longer so we could see more of it.  The good thing is that we don’t have to search for WiFi to catch up after all of those days at sea – our phones have free international data and texting. 

The weather in Ensenada is perfect and the sail in was beautiful.

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Approaching Ensenada

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Star Princess Docked in Ensenada

We usually go down the Main Drag when we visit here but today, Ellen suggested we go a street beyond and see what was there.  This street, I think it was Calle 2A, just one block further back from and parallel to the port, is a world apart from the main avenue – there are better restaurants, spas, upscale jewelry stores, and fine shops.  We even ran into an old friend,

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Ellen and Thrifty Ice Cream

a place that sold Thrifty Ice Cream cones.  When we lived in Southern California, we loved Thrifty Ice Cream and we would always take our kids to the Thrifty Drug Store for their cones.  For about 15 cents or so, you could get a very tasty cone, albeit in only three flavors.  If this wasn’t Mexico, I would have tried the ice cream.  Still, a blast from the past in old Mexico.

We didn’t want to stay out too much after dark, so after reaching the cross street leading to the cruise terminal, we headed back to the ship.  The area seemed pretty safe – there were plenty of cruise folk still wandering about.  It was now dark and the ship was all lit up making for a very nice photo.

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The Star Princess at Night in Ensenada

Because many of the passengers were still off ship, we were able to secure a nice table in the Capri Dining Room.  Tonight, we had the Orange Roughy and Gnocchi.  Both were very good.

At 8:30 PM, we attended Lovena B. Fox’s second show.

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It is difficult to get a picture of her because she uses a lot of bright lighting, which washes out any images.  In the two shows on the Star Princess, she has toned down some of her brassiness and delivered a more mellow and light performance.  Case in point, her cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”, I thought, was just as good if not better than the iconic original. 

After the main show, we hustled down to the Vista Lounge to see Steven Moris – Comedian/Singer/ex Beach Boy.  His brand of humor is pretty much off center but he plays guitar and sings very well.  His show is entertaining and I’m surprised that we haven’t run into him prior to this cruise.

Tomorrow, our last day at sea…

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sunday, January 25, 2015 – At Sea – Pacific Ocean – Mostly Sunny – 70F

Sunny day at sea…

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This morning, I had a made to order veggie and cheese omelet in the Horizon Court (very good).

Again, because of the conditions outside we spent time in either the Solarium or in the Skywalker Night Club. 

Lunch and Dinner today were in the Horizon Court.

My 1:00 PM presentation – an updated and expanded version of “The Whitechapel Murders” was well attended.  The theater was about 90 plus percent full – that works out to over 600 attendees.  It looks as if the series will be able to sustain interest for the full voyage.  The new material I added worked very well but there are some things that still need to be shored up in this talk.

I went down to the Wheelhouse Bar and ordered two “Dirty Bananas” during their afternoon 2fer promotion.  A “Dirty Banana” is a coffee liqueur infused banana daiquiri.  They were great.

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Dirty Bananas for two

We literally stayed up on the 18 deck until the sun went down – why not when it is comfortable, quiet, and warm up there.  We caught the sunset behind the ship as she sped eastward toward Mexico.

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Sunset in the Pacific

We passed on Princess Showtime – “British Invasion” (we’ve seen it before) and the Headliner, Ben Seidman – Comedy Magician.

Instead, we caught music in the lounges and read away the evening.

Saturday, January 24, 2015 – At Sea – Pacific Ocean – Partly Cloudy – 70F

Another bumpy and boomy night…Where are the following seas?

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Looks Calm but…

An early breakfast in the Horizon Court.  Today’s choices were a tangy Spanish Omelet, a small portion of Oatmeal, and biscuits.  The omelet, though premade, was very good.

I have the morning off so I spent it in the International Café with a latte.  I have found the perfect spot – in the back corner by a window and an outlet.  Like Panera at Sea.

We had lunch in the Horizon Court.  The menu was unfriendly today so I had a salad and Mac and Cheese.  That was fine because I was on the program at 1:00 PM.

The “Life and Death of Pharaohs” drew a very good crowd – maybe 80 percent of capacity (approximately 500-600 passengers).  Feedback on this presentation was very positive even though I feel it’s the most difficult one to give. 

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“Life and Death of Pharaohs”

I came across a new word in my readings and I thought, since it had a forensic component, I would share it with the audience.  One passenger knew what it meant and said it came from the Latin for “henpecked”.  That turned out not to be the case – “Uxor” is Latin for wife.  At any rate, it was a fun moment.

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Word of the Day

After the talk, we went up to Deck 18 – “Skywalker Night Club” because that area is designated a “Quiet” zone. 

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Even though it’s on the highest deck, its aft location makes it a bit smoother than forward lounges.  It is a great place for reading – comfortable seats, an ocean view, and you can put your feet up.

I finished “Blue Labyrinth” by Preston and Childs and now await installment 15 in the Pendergast Series.

We had dinner in the Capri Dining Room.  I had the minestrone soup and Mahi Mahi, which were both very good.  I also had some Penne Arrabiata (made on the spot).  The Dining Room was especially quiet this evening making for a very relaxing dinner.

At 9:00 PM we went to the Explorer’s Lounge to get good seats for the “Ye Olde Pub Night”.  This evening hosted by Deputy CD John Loney, consisted of songs and dances by the production cast but also and audience sing-alongs (song books provided).  It also involved a series of games involving passengers (we lucked out and were not “volunteered”) because some of the games were crazy.  It was a fun night and something we had never seen previously on a Princess Cruise.

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“Ye Olde Pub Night”

After dinner, we listened to Magdalena Lachowicz in the Piazza. 

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Friday, January 23, 2015 – At Sea – Pacific Ocean – Partly Cloudy – 70F

Clocks moved forward one hour last night…

Losing that hour of sleep was academic since the ship was very rocky and noisy night – the wave slapping banging continued in the morning.  A nap in the Solarium might be called for later in the day.

Breakfast was in the Horizon Court.  This morning I had scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese, waffles with the usual, and biscuits.  It sounds like a lot to eat but the portions were small and there was a lot of protein involved.  I did have my post breakfast latte in the International Café and went through my talk.

Today’s presentation is at 11:30 AM and I am always concerned about competing with lunch.  However, “The Lost Dauphin of France” had a good turnout (500 plus attendees) and no one left early.

We had lunch in the Horizon Court.  Today’s menu featured two kinds of fish in Asian type sauces – they were both good.  The Veggie Asian fried rice was also very good.  A salad started the whole thing off as it does at every lunch.

The afternoon was spent in the Solarium reading and relaxing.  With the cooler and windy weather conditions, the Solarium is our location of choice.

We had an early dinner in the Capri Dining Room because Gazpacho was on the menu.  The Gazpacho was not an chunky (the way I like it) as last time but the Pan Fried Tilapia and baked potato made for a good meal.  The menu had a special chocolate cheese cake available tonight.

Princess Showtime featured singer Lovena B. Fox, a Canadian artist, who boasts “Ragtime” on her resume (we have seen her before).  Her CDs played in the background before the show so we basically knew her playlist beforehand.  The show was great even though some of the rock songs went too long and were too loud.  I also wanted her to sing something from Ragtime.  The highlight of the evening was the Bonnie Raitt classic, “I Can’t Make You Love Me, if You Won’t”.  Lovena said it was considered one of the best songs ever written – I don’t know if that’s true but it is one of my all time favorite songs and this was the first time I had ever heard it sung by anyone other than Bonnie Raitt.

Sea, be still…

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Thursday, January 22, 2015 – At Sea – Pacific Ocean – Mostly Sunny – 73F

The Star Princess is on her Eastbound Transpacific leg…

The seas are a little rocky – a weather front did indeed come through the islands.  On the plus side, it is still sunny and warm outside.

I had another nice breakfast in the Horizon Court – an omelet (cheese, tomatoes, and onions) plus some oatmeal and biscuits.

Later in the morning, I, of course, had my iced mocha decaf latte as I worked on my next presentation.  The sunlight pouring into the International Café was very nice.

Lunch was also in the Horizon Court and at 1:30 PM, I presented the “Mysteries of the Titanic” in the Princess Theater.  The attendance today was 500 plus – I was pleased at the turnout after the four days in the islands.

The presentation, however, had an unfortunate occurrence.  About half-way through the talk, I heard a loud groan from somewhere in the audience.  Then I noticed a lot of scurrying in the back right portion of the theater, where a passenger had apparently passed out.  The ship’s doctor, who had been a regular member of my audience, ran back to attend to the man.  I told the audience to let everyone do their job and turned off my microphone. 

After a few minutes, the man was revived and taken away by the doctor and some crew members.  The doctor gave me a “thumbs up” from the rear of the theater and I coaxed the audience into giving the passenger a round of applause.  On the humorous side, the AV tech came to me after this was all over and asked me if my mic was OK since he didn’t hear speaking.  The AV tech also told me to hurry things along but I explained the situation to him and I was able to finish the talk about 5 minutes late.  I wonder if the whole thing was caught on the tape of my talk.

We spent the afternoon reading in the Solarium (warm and toasty in there) and I finished “Taboo” (Reilly Steel Novel), which I really liked and started “Blue Labyrinth”, the latest (14th) Agent Pendergast Novel. 

We had dinner in the Horizon Court (tonight, there were ice sculptures in the buffet line).  I really liked the Coke bottle and glass one below.

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After dinner, we took in the Production Show, “Stardust” in the Princess Theater.  We have seen this show before with a totally different cast.  The show was still very good.

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Our post show entertainment consisted of listening to Magdalena playing the piano and singing in the Wheelhouse Lounge.

Hoping for smooth seas…

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 – Lahaina, Maui – Mostly Sunny – 77F

Background Information.  Lahaina is what is known as a CDP (Census Designated Place), which is neither a city, town, or other population center and has no local government.  Lahaina has a population of about 12,000 residents, who enjoy the many galleries, eateries, and specialty stores lining the main street.

Our terrific weather continues on the Island of Maui…

The ship is docked about 10 minutes from the small town of Lahaina.

The tender loading and dispatching process is very smooth on the Star Princess (as it usually is).  Ellen and I are on the same tender.

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Tendering to Lahaina, Maui

We are both on tour today - “Maui Gold Pineapple Plantation Plant Tour”.  The tour involves a tour of the pineapple fields and the packing plant and then lunch at a local restaurant.  When we got to Lahaina, our bus was not quite ready so we waited in the shade in  the pier area. 

From the pier, I captured the Star Princess out in the Bay.

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In a few minutes, we boarded our van – it was not a standard bus but a small van.  It turned out to be very comfortable for the 12 passengers on board.  Our guide was “Captain Ron” (I think) and he was very much an Island Guy. 

The route took us out of Lahaina and along the Pacific Ocean.

There were scenic mountains on the left side of the van but they were difficult to shoot while moving.  I did get a picture of Kahoʻolawe, an uninhabited island about seven miles off the coast.  The island gained notoriety because, during WWII, the US Armed Forces used the island for bombing practice.  This activity stopped in the early 1990s and now the island can only be used for Hawaiian ceremonial activities.  I bet there’s a lot of unexploded ordinance still on the island.  Kahoʻolawe is still known as the “Target Island”.

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The “Target Island” of Kahoʻolawe

We were told that we would need to change transports for our tour of the Maui Gold Pineapple Plantation.  This took place at an Educational Facility not far from the plantation.  The facility had a number of school building and fantastic grounds and we also saw several students wandering around.  We spent a little time at the gift shop and, in the end, picked up some souvenirs.

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School Grounds

We rendezvoused with our plantation guide, Bret, and boarded what looked like a reclaimed school bus for our tour.  We took us through the fields and pointed out the various stages of pineapple maturation (first and second generation pineapples).  Pineapples take several years to mature (something to think about the next time you eat only part of your pineapple). 

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Second Generation Pineapple Field

Bret cut up some pineapples for us to taste – they were good but I didn’t think they were a lot different from the pineapples I’ve tried back home.  Still nice and juicy – there wasn’t a strong pineapple taste, as well. 

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Bret Cutting Up Some Snacks

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In the Fields

The pineapple fields were very flat so from our vantage point, we could see the volcano, Haleakala.  We toured the summit last time we were here.

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Mt. Haleakala

The tour of the plant was OK – Wednesday is not a packing day so there were few workers around.  We also saw a small chemistry lab, which is used to test the sugar and acidity content of the fruit.  Crude but workable. 

Our next stop – and the one I was looking forward to – was lunch. 

The lunch venue was the Hali‘imaile General Store.  The restaurant was once a general store for the folks that worked in the plantation.  Today, the restaurant is run by the Gannons with Bev Gannon as the chef.  Bev Gannon is an award winning chef with other fine restaurants on her resume.  The General Store is one of the best restaurants on the island of Maui. 

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We were somewhat disappointed when we could not find anything on the small menu (probably used only for tour groups) that we could eat.  Ellen had a discussion with the manager and was told that there were no options (e.g. subbing Salmon in for the meat) possible.  Just when it looked like we would be having salads, the waitress told us they could whip up something with tofu.  With that in mind, I had the Asian Salad with Blackened Tofu (below) and Ellen had grilled tofu on her salad.  The salads were delicious and what I would expect from a fine restaurant.

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Lunch was a little rushed – we were told that our transportation was waiting.  We still were able to finish our meal and boarded the bus for the return trip to Lahaina.

The bus ride home took us past the West Maui mountain range.

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West Maui Mountains

From the road, we could also see a line of wind turbines providing electricity for island residents.

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Wind Turbines

Soon, we were hugging the coast line and within a few minutes, the Star Princess came into view.

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Pacific Coast and Star Princess

We still had plenty of time before the last tender, so we decided to walk through the cute town on Lahaina.  There seemed to be more people on the streets compared to the last few times we were here.

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Star Princess and the Island of Lanai 

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Ellen and the Star Princess

The tender ride back was much rougher (there was a weather front moving in) and it took a while for the boat to be able to pull alongside the ship.  Everyone survived the bouncy conditions.

A very nice day in Maui.

Tomorrow, we start our return trip…