I did something new in the summer of 2017. I took a Princess Cruise – inside passage, to Alaska and back. I didn’t do this on my own. I sing with the Oakland Symphony Chorus, directed by Dr. Lynne Morrow of Sonoma State University. Dr. Morrow – Lynne – is, among other things, a scholar of African American spirituals, and this cruise was her second effort at a floating seminar on the subject, ending in a single performance on the ship, the last night before we docked in San Francisco. I couldn’t go the first time she did this, a couple of years ago, so when I got an email about it in September 2016, I signed up.
My first issue was a roommate, since my husband said nothing would drag him along on this. (He went hiking in Southern California.) Without a roommate, I’d have to pay extra for a single cabin. I ended up rooming with Alexine, a single friend of Ken, the singer who organized the tour. She frequently travels with Ken and his wife. I knew her casually; she went on the Oakland Symphony Chorus 2015 performance tour as a non-singer tourist. I realized later that Alexine was the only person I could have roomed with – everyone else in our group was either married couples or people traveling with friends or relatives.
I didn’t realize how small a 2 person “obscured view” cabin would be. I have no photos of it because I couldn’t get far enough away from it for a reasonable shot. It had exactly enough room for 2 twin beds, nightstands, and a small desk with 1 chair; plus room for 1 person to walk by the foot of the beds, and a small fridge and sink opposite the desk. Suitcases went in the closet, or under the twin bed. The good news: plenty of hangars in the closet, plus a set of shelves for folded clothing storage. I learned on this trip to function out of my travel kit and not scatter stuff around, and it’s been quite useful. “Obscured view,” by the way, means your cabin has a window looking out on part of a lifeboat or a piece of other machinery. You can still see daylight and ocean.
Cruise ships are huge. The Grand Princess carries 31,000 passengers and 11,000 crew; and it’s considered “medium sized!” [Ed. note: Those numbers should read “3,100” and “1,100.” And I should have checked before posting. It’s still a ridiculous number…] If you want to walk a mile a day for exercise, all it takes is 3 laps round the ship on the outside walkway on deck 7. The day we sailed, I put 2.7 miles on my pedometer, just trying to find things on the damn ship – like the dining room where we were supposed to eat. Apart from the relatively small public area, every corridor on the ship looks identical to every other corridor, from the carpet pattern to the paint colors. You can’t even tell which side of the ship you’re on. It took me probably 3 or 4 of the 10 days to feel comfortable that I understood how to get to a particular spot.
Here’s a photo from above of the “public” area, an open atrium on decks 5, 6, and 7, where they staged some entertainment, and where people gathered to eat, drink, and chat. I took this from deck 7, 2 decks up; our cabin was amidship on 8, so this area was easy to get to.
Our group was assigned second seating in the Botticelli dining room, abaft the ship on deck 6. The 2 dining rooms off the public area, Da Vinci on deck 6 and Michaelangelo on deck 5, were both closer to our cabin, but we had Botticelli. Second seating means dinner around 8:15, and for medical reasons I can’t eat that late; so for most of the trip I ate at 6 in the buffet (Horizon Court) and joined the group at 8:15 for tea or maybe some fruit. This seating requirement is only for dinner; if you’d rather have lunch in Da Vinci (I often did), you just show up and ask to be seated.
The first thing we did, of course, was exit the Golden Gate, and I was up there on the after deck on deck 15 with my camera. There are a whole bunch of photos of the exit in my gallery Sailing Out the Golden Gate, here are some extracts.
Escorted out by the Coast Guard:
Grand Princess moving under the Golden Gate Bridge:
And, looking back at everything (kindly taken by a fellow passenger with my camera). Yes, it was windy as hell on that deck!
We spent the next 2 1/2 days sailing up the coast, passing California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Yes, it takes that long. Ships are a very old technology and even with modern engines, their average speed is around 18-22 knots. 22 knots is slightly over 25 miles per hour. The ship had lots of things you could do, frequently involving eating, drinking, or both. We seminar members, though, had 4 hours per day of lecture and rehearsal while at sea; which was more interesting to me than playing Jeopardy anyway. (Yes, they had an hour of Jeopardy in one of the big bars.) I’ll do another post shortly about those 2 days at sea, and our stop in Ketchikan.