Now that I’ve got your attention, Dear Husband and I are on a quick four day cruise from LA to Vancouver. It’s a repositioning cruise for the Discovery Princess, setting up for the summertime cruises of the inner passage. He won this as part of his work as a travel consultant, and it’s our first cruise since 2019,when we did our Australia and New Zealand trip.
Up at 4am to catch a morning flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles, get on board in time for lunch. The USS Iowa (BB-61) is moored just aft of us, a floating museum.
She and the USS New Jersey (BB-62) were the last commissioned battleships in the US Navy, both serving in World War Two, and the Korean Conflict. They were both periodically decommissioned and recommissioned, eventually finally retired in 1990 and 1991, respectively. New Jersey is a floating museum in Camden,New Jersey.
That’s enough history. Discovery Princess is Princess Line’s newest ship, carrying just over 5,000 guests and crew. It’s one of three Medallion class ships, which means that each passenger gets a little medallion, about one and one half inches (~four cm) in diameter, and apparently utilizing RFID technology. It’s your room key, wallet, and ID rolled into one item. Just approaching your room unlocks it, order a drink at one of the many, many bars, and the bartender knows your name and charges your account. Same in the shops on board. You check out and back on board with it. It also allows members of your traveling party to see where you are (you can turn it off if you have a sneaky reason). All touchless!
Burying the techie in me, on to the rest. As I said,we board on time for lunch, which is served in a massive buffet room, with around a dozen of stations, each with different choices, of about three or four cuisines. After lunch, we find our cabin, unpack, and go exploring. And get lost. And lost. It’s the only way to explore a new ship, finding what you will want to come back to later.
There’s a party going on at the main pool, DJ playing very loud music. This seems to be is a constant across Carnival Cruise Corporation, “we’re going to make you party, even if all you want to do is kick back and relax”. Except for Holland America, which schedules nap time. Their demographic runs a bit older. We do find another pool, adults only, called the “Retreat”, which is somewhat isolated from the cacophony until sailing.
Hanging out until dinner, grab a drink each, and attend a reception for all the different travel consultants that were invited on board. DH mixes with them and the four Princess Business Development Managers who are responsible for us being on board for, basically, free. We paid airfare from SFO to LAX, and a nominal amount to upgrade from an ocean view (window) to a balcony cabin.
Dinner is in one of the two main dining rooms, a good menu, and extensive wine list. We take in the later comedy show, which was good, and off to bed.
First Day at Sea
Throughout the night the ship’s horn is sounding due to the thick fog. Even with radar, it’s still used. We wake up to the same for, here’s the view from our room.
After breakfast DH goes to a conference with the rest of the consultants. That’s the real price being paid. I wander. The outside temperature is 56f degrees 13c. Too cold for swimming, see the difference in the pool pictures!
Princess has a tradition going waaaay back of a Champagne Waterfall on the first “formal night”. I put that in quotes because the standard has really dropped. When I first started cruising with my parents, and for some years thereafter, you would see tuxedos and gowns during those evenings. Many of the Scottish would wear their kilts, complete with sheathed dagger in their sock. No more, and I kinda miss those days. But it’s a lot easier to pack today!
This tradition takes place in the Piazza, a large atrium at the center of the ship, and extends three decks up. Most, if not all, cruise ships have this space, however named, a throwback to the transoceanic liners of the 19th and early 20th century and is usually beautifully decorated. The waterfall is built up using champagne glasses, layer by layer, each delicately placed on top of the previous one. Here’s a picture of a partial build.
Here’s a picture of the completed tower at the bottom, and a view of the Piazza as a whole. It takes in excess of 1000 glasses to build the pyramid.
I love the glass sculpture hanging from the ceiling. Phantom of the Opera, anyone?
Off to dinner at the Chop House, and then to the later show of the same comic as last night. These later show are characterized as “adult”, and we have seen some that were pretty raunchy. Not this guy, however. Some of his setups were adult oriented, but he kept it clean and very funny. Very nice for a change, and a lot of comics today would learn a lot from him.
Second Day at Sea
Remember that isolated pool called “The Retreat”? Not all that isolated from the wind. We’re heading mostly north at 19 - 20 knots (22 -23 mph/ 35 -37 kph) with a wind pretty much across the ship of about 15 mph/24 kph which after careful calculation, researched extensively on the internet, comes out to be an apparent wind speed of holy c**p! All the chairs are stacked and tied down! No pool for Frannie, or anyone else today! There are some hearty souls in the hot tubs, but not me. You eventually have to get out!
So, what to do? Well, I don’t gamble, so the casino is out, never mind it’s one of the few places smokers can indulge, and there’s nothing worse than a reformed smoker, which I am. I also won’t do the massive line dancing aerobics in the Piazza. So while DH is in the seminar, I find a quiet corner in one of the lounges and update this blog.
After he gets out, we go to lunch at the Pizzeria. Some may know about my gripes about getting good pizza in NorCal, and that we’re making our own. Still experimenting, I swear I’ll get that sauce right one of these days! In any case, the pizza is pretty good. Not quite up to New York standards, but way better than what I’m finding local to home.
After lunch, we are treated to a tour of the main showroom’s backstage. While DH was all about the technology, I was about the dressing room and costumes! Here’s a number I’d love to wear on the Palace’s stage and during auction.
Know how the cleaners have those rolling chains? Think two stories of 15 feet (4½ meters) each. Rolling chains on steroids!
We also learned that while some of the costumes are washable, most are not, and those that are, are never put in a dryer. The rest are all spot cleaned, by the performers themselves! They’re also responsible for mending. And rehearsal, and Safety Of Lives At Sea (SOLAS, yes its an international agreement) training, and physical training in the gym. It’s a grueling schedule.
Oh, and the stage sets themselves, which are pretty amazing, are flat packed, like IKEA, and are changed at least twice each cruise, sometimes more. The stage crews don’t seem to stop. Here’s the stage for the show we saw tonight.
Day Four (no, I didn’t miscount, the First Day at Sea was Day 2)
Our first and only port of call, Victoria on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. A very nice port city but that’s not where we are going to tour. Butchart Gardens, about 45 minutes north of the port, is a beautiful area of about 5 ¼ hectares ( 13 acres). It was conceived by Jennie Butchart, the wife of a manufacturer of Portland Cement, Ross Butchart.
It contains five separate areas, including Italian, Rose, and Japanese themed gardens, fountains and what is called “The Sunken Garden”. The last was the first garden planned and planted, when the quarry containing limestone, necessary for the production of Portland Cement, ran out. Jenny, who lived elsewhere on the property, decided that she would turn the eyesore into something beautiful.
The Ross Fountain inspired the displays of the Hotel Bellagio in Las Vegas
There are Cherry Trees all around, and in bloom here. And as you might expect, flowers everywhere!
This time of year, late April in south west Canada, the bulbs, daisies, and spring perennials are in full bloom, but the gardens encompass all four seasons, and are fully decorated for the Christmas season in December.
Aside from flowers, there are fountains, Totem poles, even a carousel!
I learned something somewhat profound while on this trip. You know the saying “low man on the totem pole” and how the low man is at the bottom of the hierarchy? According to the First Nations, all the positions on the pole are equal. After all, nobody could be at the top if there is no base!
After our visit to the gardens, we return to the ship. Remember that “view from our room” earlier? Today is much clearer, and we can see all across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the snow covered Cascade mountains in Washington State, United States. The San Juan Islands are in the foreground.
Sailing in the early afternoon, we arrive in Vancouver (the real one, not Virtual!) close to midnight. The next morning DH and I get tickets for the Hop-on Hop-off bus. If you are in a city for the first time and have about an hour or so to ride the bus, I heartily recommend this. You can get a feel for the geography, and decide where you want to follow up. The bus has 13 stops in Vancouver, so you are pretty much within walking distance of any sights you want to see.
So of course, we head off to Granville Island! A combination of gastronomic, visual, and musical arts. Restaurants everywhere, little shops with so much art, and buskers on most corners. Not enough time to explore the whole place, but we had a wonderful, if somewhat late lunch there!
Later on, we stop at the Steam Clock in Gastown. It’s one of three clocks in the world powered by steam, and has steam pipes that play Big Ben’s tunes, but with steam, not bells. Gastown is the oldest section of Vancouver, and was the original name of the settlement. But the RailRoad barons did not want to have conductors calling “Gastown! End of the line! All off in Gastown!”. I kind of agree, it sounds like a stomach problem!. So they picked Vancouver, after the British Captain George Vancouver, who explored and mapped much of the North American Pacific Northwest. We had dinner there, and I forgo my Vodka Gimlets for a very local IPA that went so well with my seafood Jambalaya.
Next morning, it’s all over. Catch a cab to Vancouver Airport for our flight back to San Francisco.