I'm back from my farewell voyage aboard the PP. All in all, it was a perfect
week and even Tropical Strom Kyle couldn't dampen our spirits. As much as I
love the amenity laden new ships, sailing a vintage ship such as this is always
a thrill. She's intimate and homey, a bit worn around the edges but not shabby.
And I'd forgotten what a delight it was to constantly have the rumble of the
diesels underfoot, the hum & whir of the machinery in the background and the
way she just moves through the seas is reassuring.
Below is a quick day by day run down followed by misc comments and details of
the shipboard experience.
The Daily Report:
Sunday; Sailing Day: An absolutely PERFECT day for sail-away. Bright, sunny and
warm. We had a wonderful embarkation lunch with the Ch'Eng's wife but then I
suddenly came down with a mysterious malaise. But it was nothing that a bottle
of Champagne at sailaway couldn't cure!
Monday; At Sea: Cloudy and mildly choppy turning to extremely choppy in the
evening. We really got rockin' and rolling but the Pacific Princess handled the
swells with aplomb. Unlike the Nordic Empress which behaves spasmodically in
choppy seas, the PP handles them rather effortlessly with a comfortable yet
predictable pitch and roll. Felt fine all day yet came down with a slightly
more severe malaise at dinner; I didn't make it through my salad.
Tuesday: St Georges: We arrived a bit behind schedule due to the rain, winds
and high seas but were secured alongside by 1 PM. After lunch, Warren and I
decided to TRY and make a beach day of it but it wasn't to be. Fine & healthy!
Wednesday; Hamilton: Bright & Sunny and in the mid to upper 80's. It was a
perfect beach day so we made our way to Horseshoe Bay and camped out in one of
the secluded coves all the way at the end where we laid in the sun and
frolicked in the surf. As it started to get cloudy we headed back to the ship
and I spent the balance of the afternoon sunning on the Riviera Deck. I was
joined later on by Sue and Warren for requisite good conversation and a few
laughs. After dinner, we headed up to the Starlight Lounge to take in
Sammy Goldstein and witnessed the room's magical transformation into the
"Waterfall Bar". After the bar closed down, we headed ashore for some
night-clubbing with several members of the ship's staff & crew.
Thursday; Hamilton/Dockyard: Bright, Sunny and Warm once again...another
perfect day in paradise! A little shopping ashore in the morning and then the
short sail from Hamilton to the Dockyard. We had lunch in the dining room and
were going to head off to the beach when the "malaise" set back in. I decided
to spend the afternoon sunning on the aft deck instead and it turned out to be
the perfect thing to do as I had almost the entire deck to myself. Warren and
Sue joined me later on for an idyllic late afternoon/early evening "veg"
session. Just the slowly setting sun, a gentle breeze and the sound of the
water in Grassy Bay. Before we knew it, wastime to dress for cocktails and dinner. Après dinner, we took in the Island Party on the Lido Deck and then went off to the Frog & Onion as did a few members of the ship's staff. All in all, a quiet but enjoyable evening!
Friday; Dockyard: Rain, TORRENTIAL Rains! Well, no going ashore for last minute
trinket shopping so we spent the morning on deck just talking, laughing and
waiting for our departure from the island. The dome over the pool was half
closed but it was leaking so badly it really didn't do much good. The Lido
Buffet hence became known as the "Rainforest Cafe". After we departed from
Bermuda, the weather cleared slightly so it was possible to spend part of the
afternoon on deck.
We were joined by the ship's Ch'Eng and his lovely wife Linda for dinner and
had a truly enchanting evening! After dinner (no mysterious malaise...YEA!) we
took in the Piano Bar again and then made our way to the Pacific Club for the
Champagne Waterfall party. Truly one of the best parties at sea; lots of music
& dancing and drinking. Merriment, Mirth and Glee was the order of the
Saturday; At Sea: Awwwwwhhhhh...the end is coming near! It turned out to be a
beautiful, sunny day with a few pesky showers. We relaxed, laughed and ate
around the Lido in the morning and headed to the dining room for lunch as we
were feeling "buffet-ed out". I spent yet another idyllic afternoon on the
Riviera taking in the sun and sea....I was in heaven; sheer bliss! There was a
gentle breeze and the PP had just the slightest pitch and roll going in the
long swells; just enough to lull you into an advanced state of relaxation.
The movement of the ship, the "hiss & whoosh" of the sea, a gentle breeze and
the rumble of the engines underneath made for a magical afternoon of sunning
and gazing out to sea.
A wonderful and slightly raucous last evening was spent at the Pacific Club for
pre-dinner cocktails followed by dinner and a final appearance at the Piano
Bar. But as all good things must come to an end, it was soon time to descend
below and pack our bags for arrival this morning. After packing, Warren and
myself took one last spin around the decks and public rooms. The wind was
howling through her rigging, the diesels rumbling underfoot as she made her way
through a hissing, boiling sea. It was all somewhat haunting,
much the same feeling one gets when taking one last look 'round an abandoned
hotel. It felt as though I had the entire ship to myself for a good hour as
Warren and I were probably the only ones about in the abandoned public rooms
and deserted decks. I don't normally wax nostalgic about old ships, but as
saddened as I am to see her go, she's going for good reason. (see below).
The Ship & Misc Details:
Food ranged from Good to Excellent with most of it falling into the "very good"
category (IMO) and service was universally excellent.
Sadly, the PP has fallen into a sorry state. There were leaks and burst pipes
along with several curious mechanical failures during the voyage. The AC is
still very spotty throughout the ship, the electrical system is a constant nag,
the overheads are twisted and cracked from stress and thoroughly stained from
all the leaks. The Starlight Lounge, as mentioned above; is especially
problematic and was dubbed the "Waterfall Bar" on this voyage. The Magradome is
just as bad; it will now only close 1/2 way, they can only sail with it fully
retracted and it leaks so badly, the buffet area has been nicknamed the
She has a great crew though and I just find this ship extremely comfortable and
positively charming. I thought she felt very much like the Canberra did in her
last season; all the quirks, breakdowns and surprises lurking around every
corner just made her even more endearing. It's also very sad that there will be
no more "small ship" service to Bermuda for the foreseeable future; their won't
be anything smaller than 1350 pax next year.
As quite a large complement of her crew is transferring en bloc to Tahitian
after the handover in Rome, they do seem to be getting a little anxious and
many are concerned about the rather long 16 day Transatlantic. Plus, PCLA has
decided that the majority of the de-storing will be done in Barcelona and not
Rome, so they run the risk of wreaking havoc from a Passenger Service aspect
with very little being left aboard the ship in the way of provisions for the
last few days. I'm sure she'll also feel like a 1/2 finished home with all the
artwork being removed before the voyage has ended.
Surprisingly, the level of cosmetic maintenance is still very high; the crew is
continually scraping, polishing and painting; carpeting and upholstery were
being replaced or spruced up as needed with the exception being the dining
room. I must give Princess high marks for that as many other lines would not be
"sprucing" a ship that they will only have in service for another four weeks.
Sammy Goldstein was on the piano in the Starlight and he was a REAL hoot! Great
repertoire, very witty, outgoing and personable with just the right amount of
caustic humor to stir things up but never offensive. Chris Nichols was the CD
and he runs a great staff; all very young, enthusiastic, talented and high
energy minus the all too prevalent and annoying "cheerleading squad" persona.
(Not too mention they're all GORGEOUS!)
And my vote for the most personable bartender at sea goes to Petros
Nicolopoulos in the Pacific Club. He'll be joining the Golden in late
January, so if anyone is aboard her this winter/spring, be sure to seek him
out. He's an absolute riot and mixes a mean drink!
All in all, she's a real "happy ship"; the crew and passengers seem to bond so
very well and the ambiance on board is one of congeniality and relaxation
rather than "elegance and pretense". Passengers don't just sit around "looking
elegant" and admiring the fine furnishings and plush carpeting; they mingle and
interact with one another and the crew. They laugh, they have fun, they enjoy
themselves. Where as the "Greeks" (Celebrity) might be a Prada Loafer; all
shiny, pretty and "chic", the PP is more like a comfortable old
docksider or sneaker. She fits like a well worn glove; she just feels right and
you just cant help but enjoy yourself. The atmosphere is contagious.
Whereas everyone I spoke to on the PP was having a great time and enjoyed all
the wide variety of excellent entertainment on board, the Horizon passengers I
encountered in Hamilton and several couples onboard the PP who sailed the
Greeks last year all complained that they're "dead ships" in the evening.
It's so very sad to see an era come to an end, but I'm delighted to have had
the opportunity to sail her one last time and to have shared the experience
with two of the best shipmates one could ever dream of. This voyage was one of
laughter, merriment and good cheer from start to finish and was only made more
magical having shared it with Warren and Sue!
As I slip back into reality and my tan begins to fade, the memories will remain
vivid; overflowing with big smiles, hearty laughter, jokes, the caress of the
warm sun & gentle breezes and the azure blue wake that fades to the horizon.