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Old March 8th, 2011, 11:57 AM
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Sapphire Princess - March 7
Today, being the first sea day after the 4 consecutive days in the Hawaiian Islands, was a morning to sleep in, and catch up. At 11 A.M. we had our first CruiseMates get-together (other than dinners) since the third day of the cruise.

Those in the group got to socialize, and catch up to others in the group who they may not have seen since early in the cruise. We also had my own version of a team CruiseMates Treasure Hunt; setting up four person teams of people who are not dining together, nor spouses. Then, teams are given a list of hints to decipher to figure out what items they are in search of, and they then set out to find, and report in with their items in a 45 minute time frame.

It’s just meant to be a fun mixer, with bad prizes for the winning team.
Some teams were very creative in how they got the items they needed, and others were very creative in returning with the wrong items. It was all fun, and made more fun by some of the interpretations of the hints. The percentage of the group that showed up to participate was pretty good, because it was a lovely sunny morning, and we were running head to head against morning bingo.

Today was also the birthday for one of our group, so while we had everyone together, I presented Ron with a birthday gift, and the group sang a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday (or the ship’s version- Hoppy Brisday Two Shoe”.

The afternoon was left for eating, sun tanning, eating, relaxing, napping, and getting prepared for Formal Night.

I can’t write a Virtual Cruise without discussing my favorite topic, and least desirable thing about being on a cruise; Ship Spam.
I’m not talking about the SPAM they almost ended up eating when their was the engine room fire on Carnival Splendor a few months ago. I’m talking about the JUNK mail the cruise lines fill your cabins with during a voyage.

The hypocrisy of the cruise lines when discussing their “environmental programs” is clearly demonstrated by their use of forests full of trees to send daily volumes worth of advertising to the passenger cabins; the thousands of pictures photographers print, but don’t sell. If they want to “save the planet” and “save the oceans” they need to be much more consistent than asking me to use my towels for two days.

Even if the paper is recycled, it’s takes energy to print out all the JUNK; it takes ink to print it; and it takes manpower to deliver it each day. I think I may start a new business selling cabin door stickers online, stating “ to help with my environmental program we DO NOT accept JUNK mail”.

I don’t like to see SPAM in my email at home and I certainly don’t want to see unsolicited mail on my mailbox when I’m on vacation! And I’m sure my cabin stewards don’t appreciate having to haul out garbage cans of it full each night…even if it does mean it helps the ship sell another print at the art auction, or a massage at the Spa.

Dinner service this evening was back to being awkward, which is too bad considering the comparison I drew last night to the restaurant in Maui. Yet, today, during our gathering I spoke to many of our CruiseMates group about their service during the cruise, and the majority raved about it, and some went so far as to say they had the best servers ever.

Tonight, with dessert I ordered a Hot Chocolate. Surprisingly they charge for Hot Chocolate in the dining room. But, not only was I paying for it, it arrived after we all finished dessert, and the staff were busy changing out all the surrounding tableware for the next dinner seating. That was annoying.

I thought perhaps our assistant waiter had to go a long way to get it, so out of curiosity I asked him where he had to go to get the Hot Chocolate. He said he had to get it at the bar. Which bar I asked; he pointed; “in the galley over there”. I asked him if he had to take a bus, or tender over.

My tablemates have not been nearly as critical of the service as I have. A part of that I think is due to the fact we are having a very a great time socializing. However, my 30 years experience in the hospitality industry forces me to look at these things with a more critical eye I suppose. I must say, though the timing of the service may be disjointed and awkward on a few too many nights, I’ve found the taste of the dining room cuisine to be mostly above satisfactory.

After dinner comedian Carlos Oscar was performing in the Explorer’s Lounge, and we chose this show over a vocalist in the Princess Theater. The act began slowly, but did pick up the pace in humor appealing to me as his 45 minute act went on.

Tonight was the third night during the cruise that the casino has been designated a non-smoking area… though it has been allowed during the day, until 6 P.M. each time.

With such a large contingency of elderly people onboard, as well as many with mobility problems, both Mrs. Kuki and I have avoided using the elevators, to allow faster and easier access for those who require them.
Particularly at dinner times the waits for elevators can be very long. We’ve heard stories of people riding the elevators up, just to remain on them to come down.

If you face a similar situation onboard when you cruise, I highly recommend those fit enough to use the stairways do so. It’s a small thing to do, and no one will thank you for it, but they will appreciate it.
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