Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Friday, January 4, 2019 – At Sea – Cloudy – 60sF

A smooth night but not a very restful night. Maybe too much sensory input at the Crooners Bar or just one of those things.

Still warm enough to walk on open Deck 7 on my way to Horizon Court. Haven’t seen the Sun for a while.

Not too many folks up at the Horizon Court – same breakfast again – oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins, pancakes, one fried egg, and a biscuit. The server in the annex has learned my coffee needs and he brought me two decaf coffees and another fresh cup without my asking.

I went to hear Gloeta talk about sharks in the Princess Theater in the morning. Then I did a little touch up on the remaining talks for this cruise.

We had lunch with everyone in the Solarium (aka Indoor Pool) (I brought what turned out to be surprisingly disappointing tuna sandwiches from the International CafĂ© - the tuna is usually excellent). A salad and a few fries completed the lunch.

Leo and his friends are competing in some kind of scavenger hunt/puzzle game and I have turned out to be the "go to" source for all of the tough questions. I guess if I answer questions for everyone, then the playing field is still even.

Back on the schedule again with “Forensic Detectives: Identifying American’s Fallen Heroes” in the Vista Lounge at 2:30 PM – immediately following Rowena’s Hula Class. Here's a screenshot of the advert found on the Princess intranet site (they do a nice job of publicizing the talks)

This was my largest turnout of both cruises with the theater essentially full – any open seats were due to obstruction by the huge columns. The audience was very interactive and some intermediate bits of applause and cheers made the presentation very satisfying. I put together a new finish that worked very well. A great session. 

I spoke afterwards with some vets that actually flew C-119 Box Cars and one that lost buddies in the same devastating May 1972 day at An Loc that resulted in the KIA of Michael Blassie. They told me that the correct pronunciation of that plane is not C 1-1-9 but C-1-19 or C-1dollar 19. Always get nice information from passengers.

It’s chilly on the open Decks so we found a spot in the back of the Crooner’s Lounge, which because of the hour was a quiet zone. I got some reading done in between nice visits from the kids.

At 5:00 PM, we changed for dinner (formal night tonight) and attended the Friday Night Service in Hearts and Minds – the service was essentially unattended. We brought seven of the 11 people that were there. As payment for that, I had three glasses of Manischewitz Wine (not driving tonight) and some pretty good Challah.

We ate in the Michelangelo Dining Room – the menu looked good with tomato soup and two kinds of stuffed pasta – as it turned out, the dinner was just OK. We skipped dessert but did order three veggie onion soups for tomorrow.

We got good seats for “Born to Dance” and enjoyed the show once again.

Steven Jaymes went through his usual play list in the Crooners Bar but did include a couple of new songs.

The ship continues to be a floating refrigerator – the Crooners Bar is an oasis of heat.  You can actually feel the ship getting warmer as you approach the Crooner Bar.

Thursday, January 3, 2019 – At Sea – Cloudy – Chance of Rain – high 50s

Another rock and roll night with some new noises and creaks thrown in. 

As the sun rose, the seas seemed to settle down a bit and now the ship’s motion is not as noticeable.

I am not on the schedule today. At breakfast, several passengers asked me why and I told them that I do not know how the schedules are put together and I hope that I will be back tomorrow. On passenger told me they were calling Guest Relations to find out what happened to my talk. Nice to be wanted.

Even though it is a cloudy and breezy day, the couches up on deck 15 were quite comfortable – I spent a lot of time up there reading.  Still reading “Trace” by Casey Hill – the book is becoming more interesting. Some major clues are coming out but it’s not leading me to any suspects.

Time for another view of the seas from the Deck 15 seating area.

Lunch was in Horizon Court – we met up with everyone for that. There were lots of activities planned throughout the day and Ellen and the kids went to some of those.

At lunch, I saw Chef Lily and told her how much I enjoyed the veggie onion soup. I asked her if it would be possible to get some more of the soup and she said it would be available tonight – I was the only person who wanted the soup so I am not sure how Lily is going to do that.

So the plan for dinner was that Ellen and I would go to the Michelangelo Dining Room for the soup and appetizer (eggplant parmigiana) and then meet up with everyone in the buffet. We probably got the best table we’ve ever gotten (ocean view table for four set for two). The onion soup was very good again and VERY HOT (because it was baked). We finished and went upstairs and as luck would have it, there was little to eat– I tried the fish fingers but couldn’t tell what type of fish it was.  The soup and appetizer saved the day.

After dinner, we went to the Crooners Bar to hear Jumari and his guitar. We passed on the show – the saxophonist. Jumari did a very short set and was followed by Steven Jaymes and his very familiar play list.

From the Crooners Bar to the room – tired and throat is starting to act up.

Clocks move forward tonight – the last time change for this cruise.

Seas are finally smooth.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019 – At Sea – Pacific Ocean – Sunny Warm – mid 70s


The seas are a little choppy on this first day of 2019.

Had the first breakfast of the new year up in the buffet. The crowd was sparse perhaps due to too much partying. Combined with a bright sunrise and no piped in music made for the most peaceful breakfast of the back to back cruises.

The Enrichment Lectures restarted after the four island stops. I went to Gloeta’s talk in the Princess Theater on Crustaceans – I got the feeling that this was not the talk she had planned for but that happens. She had some passengers up on the stage portraying lobsters to demonstrate the exoskeleton and mating process – a first for me for sure.

In what had to be a huge change of pace, I followed her at 11:00 AM with “Forensics and History: The Search for the Unknown Titanic Child”

I had a good crowd – more than half the theater or about 400 people. On this cruise, that is a good crowd for speakers. The talk went a minute or two long and my computer did not freeze up (even though I did nothing different this time).  I had a nice chat with passengers after the talk (with Macie at my side).

At 3:00 PM, Macie and I entered the paper plane competition in the Piazza hosted by CD Steven. We designed our plane for distance but we didn’t know that this was an accuracy competition – flying the plane from Deck 6 through a hoop in the Piazza. Macie was the first competitor or more than 50 and had no problem telling Steve her name and her city. 

The plane flew a long way – all the way to the pastry stand but missed the hoop. Still, it was fun. There were three winners – all received blue covered journals.

At 4:15 PM, Leo, Danny and I teamed up for trivia in the Explorers Lounge. We answered some tough questions but overthought others for a total score of 18 out of 20. The winning team answered some bonus questions and got 21. We still have more opportunities to win the trivia contests.

In the late afternoon, the seas became smooth and I watched the sunset from the open deck.

The headliner tonight is saxophonist, Tommy Proulx. We decided to pass on the show so after dinner in the buffet, we established a FIRST. We went to the Deck 14 outdoor pool area to watch the Movie Under the Stars – “Jumanji –Welcome to the Jungle”. We wrapped up in blankets. Although, I got spritzed by water from the pool, the movie was enjoyable. Talk about perfect timing - when the credits started to roll, the rain started and everyone scampered for shelter. It wasn’t warm but it was fun.

Clocks move forward tonight.

Monday, December 31, 2018 – Nawiliwili, Kauai, Hawaii – Sunny – 75F

A beautiful day on the "Garden Island" of Kauai, in my opinion the most picturesque island in the Hawaiian Island chain.

We are on a short but early tour today -“Waialua River Cruise and Fern Grotto”.  This tour is a perfect choice as some of us tired and not totally well.  Had to get breakfast when Horizon Court opened and eat quickly. The tour had a meeting time of 8:15 AM in the Princess Theater. When we saw that there were no designated spot in the theater for our tour, we bypassed the theater and headed to the pier. We got to the meeting spot in the terminal and waited there awhile for someone to show up.

The kids were on their phones

and we were entertained by some local hula girls.

Eventually, our tour folk arrived and we boarded our bus. We drove past the towns of Nawiliwili and the main city of Lihui and the malls located in those areas.

Waialua River State Park

was pretty close to the pier. We found our assigned boat and found seats in the middle to avoid the strong sun.

The boat had entertainment - a couple of singers and hula girls.

The River was beautiful and I was able to get some nice pictures as we wound our way along lush vegetation bordering the river,

Our destination was the Fern Grotto which is about two miles down the river (the river is actually 20 plus miles long). There were many kayakers or paddle boaters on the  river but very few other motorized boats. We docked and walked a few hundred yards to the Grotto.  The walk was like a trek through a rain forest (which is probably was).  Trees, bushes, all kinds of tropical plants.

The Grotto is spectacular with a thick blanket of tropical flowers and plants.

And us.

There was a short program at the Grotto – the band sang “The Hawaiian Wedding Song” and the two hula dancers danced along with the music.

After the performance, the boat took us back to the pier and our bus.

Our final stop was at the Opekaka Falls for photos (we couldn't get real close to the falls)

before heading back to Nawiliwili.  The highlight of this tour was clearly the Grotto.

After lunch in the buffet, we took the free shuttle to the shopping center about two minutes from the pier. Ellen bought some trinkets. We also noticed a very nice beach next to the shopping mall. 

All beaches in Hawaii are public so maybe next time, we might give this beach a try.

We also checked out the Harbor Mall across the highway, where the big draw is the shaved ice store (Dova and squad went there to try the Hawaiian treat). Not finding much, we grabbed the shuttle and went back to the ship.

The rest of the afternoon was spent on the couches on Deck 15 Aft.  The views from the deck are terrific.

It’s New Year's Eve / formal night and we all went to the Michelangelo Dining Room for dinner. The New Year's Eve decorations graced the room.

We pre-ordered Veggie Spring Rolls and we wound up with two plates with about 9-10 Spring rolls per plate. They were, again, very good and all but one was eaten. I had a pasta dish that I didn’t care for and another pasta was brought to the table by our personal Maitre D. The second pasta – Oglio with veggies – was much better.

We went to see Steven Ragatz in the Vista Lounge (which was subzero temperature). He is an ex Circus juggler – very low key. We only stayed for a little while (I am not a juggler person).

We went up to the buffet to check out the “New Year’s Eve Buffet” and wound up having coffee and tea.

We opted again not to go to the Production Show – “British Invasion”. Sorry Petula.

We told the kids that we would not make it until midnight and went to the room.

HAPPY 2019.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Wednesday, January 2, 2019 – At Sea – Sunny, Warm, and Breezy – high 60s

A beautiful but cool day at sea.

I spent a good deal of the morning in the Piazza nursing a IDMLS ("Iced Decaf Mocha Latte") w WC ("whipped cream") and going over my talk in an effort to shorten in a bit.

At lunch in the Horizon Court, we were visited by Sous Chef, Lilly, who is in charge of the Michelangelo Dining Room. During our discussion about vegetarian items, I asked her if it was possible to get vegetarian onion soup. To my surprise, she said yes and took down cabin numbers and said it would be available tomorrow. She came back and said she could make it for tonight and we should just check with our server. Wow.

I was back in the Vista Lounge at 2:30 PM with “Forensics and History: The Lost Dauphin of France”

The venue was about 90 plus full or about 400 people again. My computer froze two minutes before showtime but the reboot was quick and effective. I finished right on time – important because the Bingo crowd came in early.  A good session.

After the talk, we dressed warmly and did some reading up on Deck 15.

I finished “Hot Spot”, the second Sarah Stone novel. I was somewhat disappointed in the book – seemed pretty lightweight compared to the first in the series and why doesn’t Sarah just see a plastic surgeon to fix the battle scars on her face. It’s annoying but those scars are mentioned every other page. An easy fix and the author can concentrate on the story and characters and not her scars. Also, the novels are short – one third the size of standard novels. More words, more descriptive passages, please. 

I started Casey Hill’s “Trace” – a CSI Reilly Steel Novel.

We also joined everyone for some Arts and Crafts - looks like they are making Leis.

Dinner was in the Michelangelo Dining Room at six. The onion soup was there as promised and I thought it was fantastic – rich and tasty with tons of onions and cheese topped croutons. Right up there with the gazpacho and a front runner for the soup of the cruise. I would like to get it again but we will see. I had the salmon along with Pad Thai (which was OK). We ate quickly because we wanted to catch the show.

We got to the theater about 25 minutes early and still got nice seats near the front. Tonight’s Headliner is Ventriloquist Rob Watkins. We have never seen him before but he put on a great show with Libby the Sheep and Eucalyptus the Mind Reading Holiday Elf. He also did some neat stuff without any dummies. Probably the best Ventriloquist we’ve seen on ships and the audience loved him. A step above the usual.

After some coffee upstairs in a very shaky aft area, we went back to the room.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Sunday, December 30, 2018 – Maui, Hawaii – Sunny, Warm – 80s

Distance from Honolulu to Lahaina, Maui, HI 96 Nautical Miles – Speed 14.2 Knots

Just a short hop to our next port.

A tender port today.

No tour today but Dova has put together a beach getaway.

I got out of the room for breakfast before the thrusters engaged and the anchor
deployed.  I wanted to avoid the crunch caused by the passengers headed out for their tours.

The tender process was delayed due to swells so the tour folks got underway late and the rest of us waited in the Michelangelo Dining Room for our ticket numbers to be called.

We got underway around 11:00 AM and while it was tricky to get on the tender, the ride itself was pretty smooth. The trip to Lahaina was only about 10 minutes. 

Once there, we hired a taxi to take us to a snorkel shop near Kaanapali Beach (our ultimate destination). The ride costs about $20 including the tip. We rented chairs, umbrellas, beach gear. From the shop, we made the walk to the beach about 15 minutes.  The walk was tough because of the gear and the heat. We finally got to the beach behind the Kaanapali Beach Hotel and found some nice spots near the water. The beach was very nice with views of both nearby islands – Molokai to the right and Lanai to the left.



The kids swam and we sat and relaxed in the shade for about 2-3 hours. The return trip was different. We took the free green trolley to the snorkel shop and returned the gear.  We never could have walked back to the shop.  I got some nice pictures from the trolley of the golf course across the road from hotel.

We hired a taxi to take us back to Lahaina, where we got in line for the tender. Soon, we were back on the ship.

We had dinner in the Michelangelo Dining Room because they had my favorite soup, gazpacho, on the menu tonight. We also have a wonderful server, Beatriz, from Peru, who is both cheerful and efficient. I had two bowls of gazpacho (still wonderful) along with a green salad and an order of fish fingers from the kid’s menu.

After dinner, we caught Todd Alanson’s show in the Princess Theater. It was exactly the same show that we saw on the Mexico Cruise earlier. He seemed not as sharp today but it could have been the mic or sound systems.

Still not feeling all that good so I went to the room early.

December 29, 2018 – Honolulu, Hawaii – Sunny, Warm – 75F

Distance from Hilo HI to Honolulu HI 205 Nautical Miles – Speed 16.7 Knots

The ship is docked at Aloha Tower, a more convenient location with access to downtown and Chinatown.

Grand Princess is joined here today by NCL Pride of America, one of the few remaining US Flagged ships.  It is an one off design and is outfitted with patriotic livery.  The Pride of America is the only US flagged ship in the world.

We are all touring today – “Oahu North Shore and Pali Lookout”. It is not an early tour so we can get some sleep and I can get a decent breakfast. 

We met the bus just outside the terminal area and we started heading through the city.  The tour took us through the touristic area of Honolulu, Waikiki Beach and past Diamond Head Crater. 

We passed by the Hawaii Kai neighborhood (named for the Kaiser of Kaiser Permanente Insurance Company) and extinct Volcano Koko.  V. Koko was hard to capture from the bus but I managed to get the picture below.

We also got a view of Punchbowl Crater, an extinct volcano, and home to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.  

This cemetery honors the men and women of the US Armed Forces who gave their lives in the defense of the country.

Making our way up the coast, we stopped at Haumana Bay, a incredibly scenic bay and beach. 

There are a lot of chickens roaming the island and some of them can climb trees. 

There are also still phone booths on Oahu.

From the Bay, we headed to Halona Blowhole and today, the blowhole was performing rerouting waves and turning them into mist. 

We tried to spot some whales offshore with no luck. Next to the blowhole are two famous locations – the first in the rocky beach where Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr rolled around the surf and sand in “From Here to Eternity”. 

On the other northern side, there is dangerous “Sandy Beach”, home of nasty rip tides.

Our next stop was a shopping stop at a small strip mall – more of a bathroom stop for me. A lot of folks went to Mike’s Ice Cream Store to overpay for a cone($3.85 for a single scoop). We were really looking for a snack so I bought chips at the trinket store for a $1.30 and passed on a Coke for $2.99 (we bought those at Mikes for $1.00).

The Pali Lookout is the spot where King Kamehameha forced his enemies to jump to their death back in the day. 

The last time we were here it was a perfect day – today it is cloudy and very windy so the stay is a lot shorter. A couple of days ago, Oahu has torrential rains and the road to the Lookout was closed – the place was still pretty wet. The pictures weren’t as pretty but it is still an impressive vista.

We got back in time to get lunch in the Horizon Court before heading back out to check out the Chinatown Area. Two factors limited out time there – the first was the heat and the second was the fact that the neighborhood seemed a little creepier this time  around. We walked back to the ship stopping at the Walmart to pick up some meds and a thermometer. This Walmart seemed more claustrophobic than ours and the layout was very different. We got our stuff and headed back to the ship.

After dinner, I was the only one who went to the Halau Hula Olana folkloric Show – we’ve see the girls from this Hula School many times before but I like the hula dancing and the Hawaiian songs.  The cast changes all the time because the girls "age" out of the group and are replaced by younger students.

We passed on the Alley Cats – I didn’t feel up to it.

It’s a late sail away tonight (10:30 PM) so we couldn’t really sleep until the thrusters died down. We decided it would take too long so we stuff those earplugs in tight and called in a day. I was awakened by a nasty hum at 1:45 AM – I couldn’t tell what time it was at first because my watch and phone went wacky and indicated that it was 11:45 AM. I called Guest Relations and they said they would send someone by – as soon as the agent knocked on our door, it stopped but I’m sure she heard it out in the hallway. We have heard that same noise as part of the thruster system but this didn’t make sense since the thrusters had been shut down hours ago. 

Let’s hope it doesn’t return.