SAN FRANCISCO – The largest cruise ship in the world when it was launched in 1998, Princess Cruises’ Grand Princess carries 2,600 passengers and a crew of 1,150, making it a standard-size ship compared to today’s megaships with passenger capacities nearing seven thousand.
Partially refurbished this past March, details for which I will explore in the coming days, Grand Princess will take five days to reach the first of the four Hawaiian Islands to be visited. The return to San Francisco will then take seven days, including a required one-day stopover at Ensenada, Mexico. (Yes, we packed our passports.)
My only prior trip to Hawai’i – Maui and Kauai — was by air a couple of decades ago. My wife, Jialin, is making her second visit to Honolulu and Maui.
My purpose in returning to Hawai’i is two-fold, to complete an assignment for All Things Cruise, and to photograph one of the final subjects that will complete a book I’ve been working on for several years, Cruising the World, From Gondolas to Megaships.
Our arrival in San Francisco was a day early allowing time to photograph around Fisherman’s Wharf near our hotel. Unexpectedly, the weather was beautiful with an absence of fog. Nevertheless, I was reminded that when I think of San Francisco — a city I visited often in the past on stopovers going-to and coming-from China — I think of a poem by its most famous resident poet, Lawrence Ferlinghetti:
“The changing light / at San Francisco / is none of your East Coast light / none of your / pearly light of Paris / The light of San Francisco / is a sea light / an island light / And the light of fog / blanketing the hills / drifting in at night / through the Golden Gate / to lie on the city at dawn.”
Boarding the Grand Princess went efficiently, except for an elderly gentleman, apparently in charge of the only stapler at the terminal entrance, who reluctantly stapled our pre-printed tags onto our bags in a most surly manner.
By the time we accomplished having our bags tagged, the porters at the terminal entrance had inexplicably disappeared. That left it for us to roll our luggage up several flights onto the ship. As the staterooms were not ready to be occupied upon boarding, we dragged the bags with us to the buffet at the Horizon Court on the Lido deck. A leisurely lunch by one of the pools was some consolation for our effort as the food was tasty and plentiful, particularly the ample choice of desserts.
Our scheduled departure at 4 PM in the afternoon had most passengers on deck waiting in anticipation of passing under the Golden Gate Bridge, considered to be one of the most beautiful bridges in the world, the fifth most photographed landmark in the USA, and consequently, one of the most recognizable.
As the light of the setting sun disappeared over the horizon, the ship remained at the dock, delayed by passengers who failed to attend the required muster, or perhaps another vague reason, such as waiting for late passengers or medical supplies being delivered to the ship that were slow to arrive. The explanation wasn’t made clear.
Consequently, as daylight had vanished after 5PM, only photos of the bridge in silhouette from a very long distance were possible.
Not until sometime after 7 PM — while we sat in the Princess Theater enjoying the rapid humorous patter of Carlos Oscar, a comedian from “an island full of Puerto Ricans, Manhattan” — did it become evident that the ship was finally moving.
After the show a fellow passenger reported that we had passed through the Golden Gate and the bridge was now well out of sight.
All Things Cruise: Official Photographer, and Writer
Photos by ©Dennis Cox/WorldViews