In 2009/2010, Lane and I spent Christmas and New Years cruising on the Pacific Princess.
This was our first “big ship” cruise (at 900 passengers, most of our fellow cruisers considered it a small ship) and it was not exactly what we expected. We loved the places we visited, but discovered we really aren’t cruisers.
The following itinerary includes notes and links to posts from some of that cruise.
Itinerary for sailing the South Pacific and beyond
Friday, December 18, 2009 – Tahiti
On Board the Pacific Princess
It was a bit of a scramble to figure out where/how to board the ship, but the ship’s crew was most helpful in getting me sorted out, registered, and on board with all of our luggage while Lane returned the car.
Now I am in our cabin waiting for Lane, busily unpacking absolutely everything in a failed attempt to keep from freaking out. . . A month! I’ll be here a month!
I must have been insane to sign up for this.
Destination Arrival Departure
Papeete (Tahiti) 12/18/09
Papeete 12/19/09 — 12/19/09 4:00 AM
Moorea 12/19/09 8:00 AM — 12/19/09 5:00 PM
Bora Bora 12/20/09 8:00 AM — 12/20/09 5:00 PM
At Sea 12/21/09
At Sea 12/22/09
At Sea 12/23/09
Pitcairn Island 12/24/09 7:00 AM — 12/24/09 11:00 PM
At Sea 12/25/09
At Sea 12/26/09
Easter Island 12/27/09 7:00 AM — 12/27/09 1:00 PM
At Sea 12/28/09
At Sea 12/29/09
At Sea 12/30/09
At Sea 12/31/09
San Martin (Peru) 01/01/10 8:00 AM — 01/01/10 6:00 PM
Lima/Callao 01/02/10 7:00 AM 01/02/10 —
Lima 01/03/10 — 01/03/10 1:00 PM
At Sea 01/04/10
Manta (Ecuador) 01/05/10 9:00 AM — 01/05/10 7:00 PM
At Sea 01/06/10 –
Panama Canal 01/07/10 7:00 AM — 01/07/10 3:30 PM
Cristobal/Colon 01/07/10 4:00 PM — 01/07/10 10:00 PM
San Blas Islands 01/08/10 8:00 AM — 01/08/10 2:00 PM
Limon (Costa Rica) 01/09/10 7:00 AM — 01/09/10 6:00 PM
At Sea 01/10/10
At Sea 01/11/10
At Sea 01/12/10
Ft. Lauderdale 01/13/10 7:00 AM
And so it Begins
We had planned to dine on shore this evening, as we had read that the food stalls that usually assemble near the harbor are a particularly good value and serve very tasty bites.
However, there don’t seem to be any set up this evening (perhaps it is too early), so we decide to dine on the ship.
The ship’s dinning room/restaurant is a large open space at the stern of the ship. Windows wrap around all three sides, providing a view of the city as the sun begins to set. We are greeted in a warmly efficient manner by the dining room staff and seated at a table with three other couples who seem to have been chatting with each other for awhile. They are slightly friendly and equally interesting.
Still visible just beyond the windows, Papeete seems very, very far away.
Saturday, December 19, 2009 – Moorea
Moorea at Daybreak
We wake up – with the first daylight – to a mirage. . . Moorea floating dark above the water beyond our window.
She is beautiful and enticing, becoming increasingly radiant as the sun continues to rise as we move into our anchorage in Opunohu Bay.
It is a place of breathtaking beauty.
It’s so beautiful it’s hard to look away.
Sunday, December 20, 2009 – Bora Bora
I think the long days at work and then traveling here have caught up to me: I am so tired when morning arrives that it is hard to get out of bed – even with Bora Bora beckoning.
Of course I do get up.
Out on deck I watch as we pass through the break in the island’s fringing reef.
It is so beautiful – all spiky mountains and low, palm-covered islands within the fringing reef.
In port in Vaitape
We are brought ashore at the little port town of Vaitape, which consists of a small dock, a visitor’s center, a craft sales area, a church, and a few small stores. On a Sunday, much of it is closed.
Bye Bye, Bora Bora
Monday, December 21, 2009 – At Sea
We woke up to brilliant sunshine, ate breakfast under deep gray clouds, met some fellow passengers at a meet-and-greet while thick fog rolled in, and headed back down to our room as rain washed against the windows. I guess weather changes fast here in the South Pacific.
The other passengers are quite a mix. I finally got to meet Mike (April, my other internet contact, already figured out who I was based on my camera, so we met earlier) and he’s as easy to talk to in person as on the phone, which is nice. Actually, most people seem pretty friendly, I’m just guessing that I don’t have much in common with many of them except a longish list of places visited.
I’m hoping to just relax and get some work done on my photos and blog and such, but I’m thinking I won’t be very productive. While I’m not really nauseous, I don’t feel great either. Maybe it’s from fighting the motion sickness, but I feel physically drained – I just want to curl up in bed and sleep until the ship stops moving!
Tuesday, December 22, 2009 – At Sea
It is lovely and cool this morning, with bright skies, a lovely breeze, and temps that are more likely in the high 70s than the high 80s. Sooooo pleasant!
While I’ve enjoyed the heat and humidity, it is a bit of a shock to get up at 7 in the morning to temperatures in the high 80s. I don’t know why, but I really didn’t believe it would be so warm out on the open ocean – or so still. There is barely a breeze and hardly a ripple on the water.
Whether it will remain still or not remains to be seen, but we’ll be “at sea” a lot on this cruise, so we are trying to figure out how we want to spend those sea days.
Of course, Princess provides a number of options.
Each evening we return from dinner to find a new issue of the “Princess Patter” (or “Princess Prattle” as Lane has tagged it) left on the bed. This provides crucial information for the coming day, such as the time of sunrise and sunset (5:51 a.m. and 8:02 p.m. today), the dress requirements for dinner (tonight is the usual “Smart Casual” – last night was formal because it was the Captain’s dinner), notes from the navigator (today’s explain latitude and longitude), a little write-up about the day’s destination (today’s is titled “About the Pacific Ocean), a note that clocks will need to be moved forward one hour tonight, the day’s weather forecast, opening hours for the medical center, ads and coupons for various ship board businesses (the spa, internet center, photo gallery, future cruise sales, and such), and then a long list of the activities that will be available today.
While Lane again checks out the bridge action (can you call playing bridge “action?”), I head down to the dinning room for a wine tasting. The wines are pretty standard, but lots of information is provided on wines in general – which is interesting, but everyone on my table gets impatient and finishes our wines long before Fritz finishes explaining what we should be looking for in each!
Despite the wine tasting, Lane joins me in a quick – very quick – jaunt to the fitness room. Ours might constitute the shortest workout in the history of athletics, but we’ll be back. Among other equipment, there is a full set of free weights at the back of the room and a line of treadmills with full ocean views (they face a floor-to-ceiling wall of glass). It’s probably the most enticing work-out room imaginable. Next time I’ll just be sure to workout BEFORE my first glass of wine!
Wednesday, December 23, 2009 – At Sea
All is Calm
Another gorgeous day with really pleasant temperatures.
It’s a perfect morning for just sitting outdoors.
The water is almost like glass, with only a few ripples on the surface as far as I can see. It’s hard to believe that such a giant body of water can be so calm!
Lane notes that it would not be fun to be out there in a sail boat when the air is this calm. It’s a long way from anywhere to be dead in the water. However, we cruise along under full power, slicing through the water. It sounds like wind.
I like being surrounded by nothing but ocean. (I just wish I didn’t get sea sick!)
The Noon Report
At noon each day the ship’s whistle (horn?) blares, causing everyone to jump.
That is followed by the Captain or Officer of Watch announcing the time, latitude and longitude, weather and sea conditions, direction of travel and speed, current speed, and probably a few other things before wishing us a good day on the “fabulous” Pacific Princess.
Evening at Sea
The pool bar has closed, but we’ve found a comfy spot in the pool area where there is a lovely cool breeze – I think this might be what one version of heaven is like. There is no one out here except for us, two people in the hot tub, the two deck attendants quietly rearranging the chairs for the coming day, and the ocean all around.
We wonder where everyone goes when they are not at dinner, as the ship (fully booked) feels empty most of the time. (A good thing, but unexpected.) I am quite sure I run into more staff than passengers over the course of a day. My theory is that everyone who has a balcony (at least ¾ of the ship) spends all their time there. Why leave to sit some place else? I wouldn’t if I had a balcony.
We were a little more ambitious today – dance classes with our table mates Wendy and John, a lecture on Pitcairn Island (me), more bridge (Lane), and a workout in the fitness center. For the first time on this trip I haven’t felt so exhausted that all I want to do is sleep!
We saw a few more islands (in the far distance) today that mark the end of French Polynesia – well, not really the end, as Pitcairn is considered geographically part of Polynesia too, but it is sort of the end of the line.
Lane says I would hate being out here if I were I on a smaller boat, but it seems pretty idyllic at the moment.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Pitcairn Island comes to visit (At Sea)
Friday, December 25, 2009 – At Sea
Saturday, December 26, 2009 – At Sea
Sunday, December 27, 2009 – Rapa Nui (Easter Island)
I think we enter the harbor somewhere behind that big wave. . .
Monday, December 28, 2009 – At Sea
Looking Back at Where We’ve Been
Tuesday, December 29, 2009 – At Sea
Apparently someone on the ship has been on line doing research and determined that there isn’t another ship within at least 300 miles of here. There are no shipping lanes in this part of the Pacific, no real reason for anyone to be here (the usual route between Easter Island and the mainland would run to the south of us, connecting to Santiago) . We really are in the middle of nowhere!
I’m not sure whether humans settle into routines because we crave the comfort of familiarity or simply because it is easy and requires little thought, for example: “I sat here yesterday and nothing bad happened, so I’ll sit there again today.”
The ship operates on a schedule that generally only varies in content from day to day – a range of activities is held every day, although the topic or time for the activity may change. Occasionally they will flip things around and cause a conflict, like scheduling dance lessons and bridge at the same time.
So around this we have come to develop a routine of our own. Lately we’ve been losing an hour each day (although now we should be done with that for quite some time), so we wake up late (by the new time); have breakfast on the fantail (sometimes alone, sometimes with friends); play with photos and/or read until ballroom dance lessons at 10:30 or 11:00 (the instructors are also our table mates and very nice); more photo editing and/or reading while listening to the trivia contest underway across the room; buffet lunch on the fantail (sometimes alone, sometimes with friends); photo editing and/or reading; maybe the afternoon lecture (me) while Lane is playing bridge; photo editing/reading/napping; a work-out in the fitness center; a late dinner in the main dining room with our assigned (but very nice) table mates; and then if we have any energy left we will do star gazing, I’ll use the net, or we’ll go dancing. Usually we just go to bed! (We haven’t gone to any of the shows for more than three minutes. It just isn’t our thing.)
While we are assigned to a specific table at the late seating for dinner, we could eat dinner elsewhere at any time that pleases us. We haven’t though, in large part because I’ve come to enjoy socializing with our table mates (six of us share a table, with Lazlo and Pelton as our waiters) and observing the buzz of the dining room. Lane and I keep moving into different spots at our table (I swear everyone else in the room sits in the exact same chair every night), which keeps our wait staff on their toes. (Our small attempt to break up the daily routine.) We have already reached the point where we take turns buying and sharing the wine at dinner and are usually among the last table to leave.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 – At Sea
Thursday, December 31, 2009 – At Sea
Worrying About My Nazca Tour
We are running behind.
Between the late departure from Easter Island and unexpectedly strong winds (the apparent wind on deck the other day was 45 mph) Captain Fabio (yes, really) has been unable to keep to our schedule. The announcement of the delay in reaching Pisco was funny – you could tell something was wrong long before they got to the WHAT was wrong part.
I’ve worried that it would screw up my Nazca overflight (Mike has been checking in regularly to ensure everything was still on track), but a quick call now yielded a confirmation from Lee Ann that we are still on, just at a later time. “Be the first off the ship and don’t dilly dally.” As long as we are starting off as early as we can, we should be in good shape. . . besides, this is Peru, it’s unlikely everything would have gone as scheduled even if we had arrived in port on time.
New Year’s Eve
Friday, January 1, 2010 – San Martin, Peru
Nazca Lines Tour
Saturday, January 2, 2010 – Lima, Peru
Along the Coast in Lima
Shopping at the Craft Market
Too Many People!
Sunday, January 3, 2010 – Lima, Peru
San Francisco Church and Monastery
The Cloisters at Santo Domingo
The Park of Love
Casa Garcia Alvarado
Rather Random Thoughts on Urban Form in Lima
Back Out to Sea
We glide out of the harbor, past the fishing boats large and (very) small, container ships, and – finally – the coast itself.
I love all the color!
At mid-afternoon the bridge announces that whales are visible off the port side, but all we see are (very large) spouts far in the distance.
Later there is another announcement: Dolphins!
Sure enough, there is a large pod along the starboard side. Some seem to be challenging the ship, racing through the water very near our bow with incredible speed, others leaping toward us farther out in the water. There are so many of them, leaping as if for the sheer joy of it.
Monday, January 4, 2010 – At Sea
Tuesday, January 5, 2010 – Manta, Ecuador
We are in another industrial port, but this is a fishing port and birds swirl around us.
We are particularly partial to the frigate birds, although I do wonder if the peregrine that hitched a ride with us from Lima will decide to depart here.
Panama (Ecuador) Hats!
The Nut Factory
At the Boat Yard
Around Manta (and at the Mall)
In a Tuna Port
Wednesday, January 6, 2010 – At Sea
Rougher (but not very rough) Seas
Report from the Bridge
Every day we get reports from the bridge telling us our latitude and longitude, wind speed, speed, barometer reading, weather, and course. These are not things that generally interest me, but it is cool to hear them announcing we are at zero-something degrees latitude.
Thursday, January, 7, 2010 – The Panama Canal
Pedro Miguel Lock
Friday, January 8, 2010 – Kuna Yala, Panama
Saturday, January 9, 2010 – Costa Rica
Sunday, January 10, 2010 – At Sea
Until Lane mentioned it when we were still off the coast of Ecuador, it never occurred to me that the tiny-seeming Caribbean could be rougher than open Pacific.
But here we are, plowing through large swells that literally bang against the ship as we lurch forward through them.
I guess it all depends on the weather and the direction we are traveling versus the direction of the wind and swells. Of course, I knew that, but I really hadn’t thought about what it means.
Lane, of course, is enjoying watching the water splash past our window as we bounce through the water.
Meanwhile, I’ve put on a new sea sickness patch and am hoping for the best.
The View from Deck 5
I can’t stop staring at the water.
The swells have been building all afternoon and, according to the officer of the watch, they will likely continue to do so due to the storms pushing south from the US.
It’s obvious from almost anywhere on the ship when we plow directly into one the larger swells, as it makes a tremendous thud against the bow and the whole ship sort of shudders.
Down on Deck 4 where we are, now we can sometimes see the water rolling past our window, not just the spray. While it is mesmerizing to watch, it is too dark to photograph it right now. (Maybe tomorrow.)
This is so cool. I just hope my patches keep working!
Monday, January 11, 2010 – At Sea
No Access to Deck 5
Although the seas have settled down a lot compared to last night, the wind is – apparently – ferocious and all the outside decks are closed. The pool area, sheltered behind windows, is open, but the pool has been drained.
This morning the spray from the bow was hitting the windows (hard) up in the lounge on Deck 10, which was pretty impressive.
There is a beautiful sunset tonight, but no clear windows from which to view it. . .
Ok. I’m more than ready for calm seas now. This is getting old.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Almost time to head home
At lunch today (a lovely risotto for me), it occurs to me that perhaps cruising like this is really some type of pleasant purgatory or limbo – it’s almost a suspended state of being. It feels disconnected from everything, including the sea.
I’m not saying it’s bad – it certainly is pleasant (and mindless) enough, but it seems rather unreal..
I guess I’m ready to go home and plunge back into a far less predictable (and more stressful) world. . . although it will be strange to dine at home, just the two of us, without Franz there to welcome us or Laszlo and the other waiters buzzing about in their well-rehearsed dance or our tablemates to share their take on the day.
It feels as if one could float along like this forever.
We did arrive in Florida – but (obviously) it was pretty anticlimactic!