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Old October 11th, 2002, 10:59 AM
Tim Rubacky
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Default Pacific Princess---My farewell voyage redux

Hi All,

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
evening.

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
"Rainforest Cafe".

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.

--Tim

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  #2 (permalink)  
Old October 11th, 2002, 11:11 AM
Carole Dunham
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Default Re: Pacific Princess---My farewell voyage redux

Tim, I have so many wonderful memories of the old girl. I sailed her for the first time over 25 years ago when Pacific and Island Princess were the only two Princess ships in Alaska. If you wanted to do a cruise/tour, you disembarked in Skagway, did your thing in Alaska, then flew back to Skagway and joined one of the two sisters. I last sailed PP a couple of years ago on a Scandanavia/Baltic cruise. She was just as wonderful as I remembered. I'm sorry to see her go, but as long as Princess keeps acquiring small ships like Tahitian Princess and continues to maintain Royal Princess as beautifully as it does, I will be a happy camper. If it were up to me, nothing bigger than 50,000 tons would ever be built.

Carole
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Old October 11th, 2002, 05:01 PM
susancruzs
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Default Re: Pacific Princess---My farewell voyage redux

Really enjoyed reading your comments, Tim! There is still something about the older smaller ships that I really like! I sailed on the Island Princess and loved the size of the ship! In their day, the sisters were really something! Thanks for the memories! Sue
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Old October 12th, 2002, 11:57 AM
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Default Re: Pacific Princess---My farewell voyage redux

Tim.. thanks so much for the GREAT read! I haven't sailed her, but you certainly gave me a wonderful feel for the ship. Hope one day we get to enjoy your company at sea!

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Old October 12th, 2002, 01:25 PM
DavidPR
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Default Re: Pacific Princess---My farewell voyage redux

Tim,

I just read, with great interest, your post about your recent trip to Bermuda aboard the Pacific Princess.

As I have posted here recently, we are taking the trans-Atlantic 16-day final voyage, departing NYC on 10/26. My partner and I have been anticipating a decent vacation for years, and have also have had passage booked on this trip now for about eight months. Before making the decision to sail aboard the Pacific Princess we did our homework quite carefully, and our final decision was not taken lightly, as our entire vacation, including 5 more nights in Rome, airfare, and incidental expenses, is costing in excess of $11,000.00 for the 23 day trip.

I cannot help but be a bit concerned after reading your post. Granted I don’t expect a grand class Princess ship, I also wasn't prepared for continuous, seemingly endless malfunctions of every imaginable type, as you describe. I doubt that A/C will be an issue, since the weather during our trip will include temperatures between the mid 40’s and about 65 degrees. At the same time, however, I also imagine that spending one week putting up with some of the inconveniences that you describe would be one thing, but more than two could get a bit excessive. It seems as if it’s possible that the allure to factors of charm and grace could wear thin at a point, and the negative things you describe take over as the impression in one’s mind.

I took particular note of your comment in regard to the crew that “many are concerned about the rather long 16 day Transatlantic…” If you don’t mind, I’m curious to know exactly what they are concerned about, and why? I found this comment strange, considering everything that I have previously read about the crew.

The additional comments about stripping down the ship in Barcelona, however, are of greatest concern to me at this point. As I read your words, I started to imagine ourselves waking up on day 13 of what is supposed to be a dream vacation, to find countless crew members carrying away anything that isn’t welded to the ship, and having to spend 3 more days (nearly half of a week-long trip) feeling as if Princess really wishes we weren’t there, but is forced to put up with us just a bit longer. This is the kind of behavior that would cause me to seek financial remuneration, at the very least. I feel that we are paying for a 16 day trip, with the same ship for 16 days—come bad or good—and that the ship should remain in tact until we disembark in Civitavecchia (Rome). If you don’t mind, I’m curious to know who told you this information, and a bit more about what they said.

One other final issue that is of personal concern that I wanted to ask you about is the noise from the ships engines that you describe. Unfortunately, I am not as fond of this sound and sensation as you apparently are. We are currently booked in Aloha 418. At this time, A259 and A387 are both available. I’m wondering if the engine noise won’t be an issue on the entire Aloha deck, or rather, if we might be better to switch to one of the other available cabins? Additionally, I’m wondering if the motion factor may be less in one of these other cabins, as well? Your thoughts and insight would be much appreciated. In case you’re wondering, the reason that I did not request the switch when the others came available is because I tend to prefer a cabin that is out of the way, and also wanted to be on that side of the ship, since most land masses will be viewed from that side. Your thoughts in this regard would be appreciated.

On the flip side, you have re-iterated what I have heard, and had hoped was true regarding the crew, their great personalities and the wonderful service that they provide. In my opinion, this is the most important aspect of a cruise, and can make—or break—the experience, no matter how glitzy and glamorous a ship may be.

Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed summary of your trip and experience aboard the Pacific Princess. In any event, I intend on contacting my TA in regard to my concerns about the Barcelona de-storing issue, and possibly the executives at Princess, as well. My brochures and tickets don’t say anything about arriving in Rome on the remains of the Pacific Princess, and should this be the case, the execs at P&O may regret their decision in the end.

Thanks & Regards,

David

PS Following the composition of the above--prior to posting--I decided to call Princess myself about the de-storing issue. I spoke with an agent and calmly expressed my concern that the ship I boarded be the exact same one that I disembarked. She left the phone for about five minutes, and returned vehemently denying that any such thing is planned, nor would ever take place, and assured me that the ship would remain in tact until every passenger disembarked in Civitavecchia (Rome). Again, I'm curious to know who told you this information, since what I was told is so contradictory. Thanks.
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Old October 18th, 2002, 10:33 AM
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Default Re: Pacific Princess---My farewell voyage redux

Hi Tim,

Your posting brought back wonderful memories of my voyage on the PP last summer. I sailed on the QE2 this summer and I found myself comparing the two ships ---and surprisingly, the LB kept coming out ahead of the QE2! Hands-down, the PP has the best crew at sea! Warm & friendly. I am sorry to hear about the deterioration of the physical aspects of the ship but she has served well in all her years. You mentioned that many of the current crew members will be going over to the Tahitian. Do you know where Chris Nichol will be going? He's absolutely the best Cruise Director!

Thanks for sharing!

MabesNY
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Old October 18th, 2002, 04:13 PM
DavidPR
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Default End of the de-storing rumor

Just received a phone call from the secretary to the Vice President of Princess cruises. I was told that Mr. Phil Kleweno investigated this situation, upon my written request, and that there will be no such de-storing of the Pacific Princess on day 13 (Barcelona) of our trip, as mentioned in Mr. Rubacky's original post herewith.

Regards,

David
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