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Old March 5th, 2011, 01:51 AM
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Sapphire Princess - March 4
Last night, after leaving Hilo, I was disappointed the ship did not take the route along the Hilo coast where we may have had a view of the lava from the still active volcano flowing down into the ocean. That has been one of visual highlights of previous Hawaiian Island cruises, but it wasn’t to be this trip.

This morning I made my way up to the Horizon Court, as I do each day, to get my morning coffee. Like all good cruisers I travel with my travel mug, large enough to hold at least 3 cups of coffee, before a reload is necessary.

As I approached the self serve coffee towers, a crew member asked if I would like coffee. I told him I hadn’t emptied the remnants of yesterday’s coffee yet, so would have to empty it first. Without even asking, he took my mug from me, emptied the contents, and rinsed it with hot water several times, to clean it, and heat the mug at the same time, and then proceeded to pour me fresh coffee. Now that is attentive (though unnecessary) service.

While enjoying my coffee on deck this morning, and trying to gain consciousness, I got involved in conversation with a passenger I hadn’t previously met. As our conversation continued, I learned he was traveling with his brother because he’d lost his wife a year ago.

I also learned that he knew about CruiseMates, as it had apparently been recommended by a writer for AARP’s magazine. I wasn’t completely clear if the article recommending CruiseMates for singles info and our “Seeking Cruise Companion” message board was in the AARP Magazine, or on the AARP Web Site. But either way, it’s nice they are recommending us for those services.

This gentleman was also traveling with a group of friends, one of whom is also traveling with a service dog (in her case a seeing eye guide dog), and apparently she has cruised with Princess quite frequently because she loves the way the line takes care of the needs of her aide dog.

So whether your single or recently widowed, or in need of traveling with a service animal, there’s no need to avoid looking at cruise to satisfy your vacation needs.

I used to land vacation on Oahu for many years, and have cruised here several times before, so unlike many passengers tours of the island, or the requisite tour to the Arizona Memorial were not for us.

If it’s your first visit however, the Arizona Memorial and the Polynesian Cultural Center are must dos! On this itinerary, Honolulu is our only long stay into the evening, so the only opportunity for passengers to attend a Luau is here on Oahu tonight. Another beautiful and interesting, though more costly, option for a tour here is a helicopter flight over Molokai.

My original plans for the day were to go spend some time on Waikiki Beach, repeat the old stroll we used to do down Kalekala Ave., and then meet some of the CruiseMates folks around sunset for drinks and dinner at the famous House Without a Key Bar/Restaurant, which sits outdoors on Waikiki Beach. The weather wasn’t particularly cooperative, with clouds and showers moving in and out all day. By afternoon the rain was quite heavy and continued, so we abandoned our plans for dinner.

No doubt there were people onboard who were perhaps on their first or only trip to Hawaii, who were very disappointed to sail all the way to Hawaii to end up with a rainy day. My disappointment was eased because we’ve been fortunate to have spent quite a bit of time here before, and the fact I’ll be returning on another ship near the end of next month.

Mrs. Kuki took good advantage of the mediocre weather, and a very quiet ship this morning to make use of the self serve laundry facilities onboard. For those interested, it was $1 per load in the wash machine, $1 per dryer, and $1 for laundry soap.

This might be a good time to mention there appears to be a contingent of Canadians onboard. We’re all running around saying “EH”, and looking for maple syrup.

With all the Canadian flag paraphernalia on everything from socks to backpacks to sweatshirts, it reminds me of the 70s when everyone traveling in Europe thought it better to be viewed as a Canadian.
I’ve been telling them all not to worry, in Hawaii most everyone speaks English, and U.S. currency is widely accepted. <wink>

Attendance in the dining room was very light tonight, with many doing luau’s or the buffet after long tours. Therefore, we had a lot of time to chat with our waiter and assistant waiter. It’s always a bit “interesting” to hear stories from the wait staff. Our waiter is a veteran of the industry; this being his 16th ten month long contract with Princess. He spoke of when he started with Princess, and they paid him to go to their “school” in the Philippines, compared to now when many crew are paying agencies at home up to $5000 U.S. to get them work with the cruise lines.

We of course also had the mandatory discussion about what long hours the wait staff are required to work. And, indeed they do work very long hours, with split shifts, seven days a week throughout their contracts, with very little time off and very minimal base salaries. But frankly I think those discussions are a bit out of place to have with passengers. It’s a bit too much like : “I work very hard, so tip me extra”.

They do work hard, and I’m happy to tip (and extra if service is superb), but let’s face it, the total income is fairly reasonable, compared to what he could make on land at home, otherwise he wouldn’t be in the midst of his 16th contract with Princess.

When engaged by the passengers the crew should certainly feel comfortable talking about their lives, their families, etc. However, I think talk of salaries should be kept out of it. Everyone (except me) works very hard for whatever money they make, and I don’t think the crew want to hear about all your financial struggles in life to get you to the point that you can afford a cruise.
A harsh position? Perhaps.
 
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