Hawaiian Cruise out of San Pedro
January 26 thru February 10, 2007
Doug’s Journal

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

     We got up bright and early, took Pepper to the pet hotel and hit the road for San Pedro.  We drove south on Hwy 49 to Oakhurst then west on Hwy 41 to the coast.  We stopped for the night in San Luis Obispo.  The trip was uneventful – weather was good, roads were good, scenery was good, car ran good, wife was good, food was good, motel was good. 

     The drive east from Oakhurst across the valley and through Fresno, however, was horrible.  The air was ugly, brown, smelled bad and tasted bad.  We were sure glad to get through it and into the coastal influence. 

     Linda advanced her ABC town collection by one at Kettleman City – we’re now looking for an “L”.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

     Again, we got up early – it really isn’t that hard.  We ate a sparse continental breakfast and took off down Hwy 1 – we stayed on this highway all the way to San Pedro with a few coastal detours

     The big surprise for me was Malibu.  It is really quite a beautiful place.  One look around, however, soon convinced me that any thought of living in this area is insane.  The houses have to be worth tens of millions – I guess that’s why all the movie stars live in the area – OK, it’s probably the other way around.  I saw several famous motorcycle roads that we’re going to check out on the way home – Mullholland Highway, Decker Canyon Road, Topanga Canyon Road, and Los Virgenes Road. 

     We continued south into the Los Angeles area, smack dab through the middle of LAX (actually right under taxiing plane), down through Palos Verdes and right to San Pedro and our hotel with no incidents – it was almost too easy.  The GPS led us right to the hotel doorway and we checked in.  We left the car at the hotel until our return.  Again everything was good.

     We had a couple of hours before dark, and the hotel was near the harbor, so we walked down to the water and checked things out.  It seemed remarkably quiet – we saw very few people and there seemed to be very little activity at the harbor.  We saw a pretty good sized cruise ship leaving the area.  Thousands of people were lining the decks and balconies – there was no screaming and hollering and nobody waved.

     I do have one disappointment to report.  We dragged a notebook computer along so we could keep in touch with email.  When I attempted to connect to the local wireless connection, at this hotel, I first had to agree to a charge on my credit card; $5/hr or $10 for a day – similar exorbitant rates were available by week or month.  I bit my tongue and bought an hour’s worth.  It’s funny how these ritzy places work.  At our ordinary old Days Inn, and everywhere else I’ve stayed in recent years, Internet access is free.  I guess rich people don’t mind getting dinged every time they turn around.  As you might expect, there was no email in my inbox.

Friday, January 26, 2007

      This was the day I had been dreading.  It’s always fun, checking in a few thousand people and getting them on board.  I figured with the post 911 security it would be a nightmare.  Actually, it wasn’t too bad.

      We slept in, ate a leisurely breakfast, dragged our bags to the hotel lobby and waited.  After about 15 minutes we boarded a hotel shuttle to the dock which took us right to the boarding area.  We handed our bags off to a bell captain, and got in line.  After about 30 minutes of waiting, we got checked in and got into another line.  After about another 30 minutes, we walked through a screening machine and marched onto the ship.  We were quickly directed to our room, which is really quite nice – good size with a balcony. 

     Our luggage hadn’t arrived yet, so we left our room to take a look around the ship.  We quickly located the buffet lunch and sat down to eat – by now it was about getting close to 3:00 P.M. and we were getting hungry.  As we were beginning to eat, another couple approached and asked it they could join us – Ralph and Janet.  We had a nice lunch and found several subjects to discuss.  Strangely enough, this fellow also rides motorcycles.  He has a KLR650, a BMW road bike, and a Triumph Tiger.  He has his eye out for a R1200GS like mine.  We told a few motorcycle war stories and ate too much food.

     By the way, my little harangue about Internet Access is about to be repeated.  On board the ship, it costs $0.50 a minute to connect to their wireless hot spot.  Using one of their Internet Café computers costs the same.  I called Kyle while we were still in cell phone range and told him he wouldn’t be hearing from us until we were back in Los Angeles on February 10.

     We were now waiting to sail.  We had our orientation meeting and instructions on life jackets, fires, and abandoning ship.  Most of the people seem to take it pretty lightly.  Me?  I was paying attention.

     The Island Princess was built in 2003.  It is 964 feet long and 105 feet wide.  It carries 2368 passengers and has a crew of 810.  It carries 3724.4 tons of fuel and 2198.9 tons of water.  It cruises at 22.0 knots (Our GPS says 23.7 mph).

     We sailed within 30 minutes of the scheduled departure time and headed across the Pacific.  Naturally, we sat on our balcony to help steer, as we left the harbor.  As we sailed past the breakwater, we noticed a small tug-boat looking boat pulling up to the ship.  As it got closer and closer, we wondered what was going on until we noticed a sign on the boat that said something about a harbor pilot.  Sure enough, the boat pulled right up alongside, and a guy left the cruise ship and boarded the boat.  I guess only local pilots are allowed to drive the ships out of the harbor.

     The ocean was smooth and it was actually hard to tell the boat was moving from our cabin in the middle of the ship.  As we entered the open ocean the motion became more noticeable, but still I found the ride to be remarkably smooth.  I was a little worried about getting seasick since I’ve never been out to sea.  So far, so good.  The weather report listed the seas as “slight”.

     Within an hour it started to get dark and there really wasn’t much to see so we explored the ship a little.  Every where you go there are comfortable little sitting areas, many with views of the ocean.  Everywhere you go there seems to be live music and it is all first-rate.  It seems like a very large ship – lots of stuff – tomorrow we’ll look further.

     We went to dinner about 7:00 P.M. and ate too much – Linda had chicken breast and I had ham …… with dessert.  It was really quite excellent.

     We hung out until about 8:45 and went to see the evening show – a dance number with about 10 shapely young things (I think there were some guys, but I didn’t pay much attention to them) and a ventriloquist act which was very good.  The ventriloquist and the dummy sang together and were actually quite good.  He is actually a lot better singer than a lot of people who are famous for their singing.  The guy’s name is Willie Tyler and his dummy’s is Lester.  He recently appeared on the Letterman show and is making a little splash in the business – that’s the hype anyway.

     As we sat in the theatre, before the show started, Linda pointed out to me that almost everyone in the room of nearly 800 people was Caucasian – I’d estimate better than 90%.  As the crew was introduced, it soon became obvious that there are few if any, Americans working on the ship.  The cruise director staff comes primarily from Australia, Great Britain, South Africa, and the Philippines.  All of the crew wear their native country on their name tags and they come from all over the world – we see none, however, from the United States.

     If there’s any doubt about the passenger demographic, the cruise director gave a little spiel and outlined the on-board activities.  She hollered out: “Let’s hear it for BINGO!” and more than a few people answered with: “ALL RIGHT!” and such.  Similar enthusiastic responses greeted her announcements of such things as LINE DANCING, KAROAKE and CRAFTS.  A quick listen at a piano bar rewards you with songs such as “As Time Goes By” and “Night and Day”.  I think that whenever I start feeling old, I’m going on a cruise.  Of course, I suppose someday I’ll feel right at home – scary.

     On the way back to our room, we passed a lounge area and heard some excellent piano music emanating from within.  We found a nearby sitting area to kick back a little.  As we enjoyed a medley of tunes from “Phantom of the Opera”, I was struck by the beauty of the music and thought of all the discordant modern “music” sounds I’m bombarded with on a daily basis – the boom-chicka-boom bass sounds that emanate from every other vehicle, the frantic background music of every TV show and movie, the lightweight noises of hip hop, and the garbage of rap.  It’s hard to conceive that these attempts even qualify as music – they are certainly not in the same league as the sounds we were listening to.  Maybe I don’t feel so out of place after all.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

      We slept in again – in our westward travel we gained an hour and we still weren’t headed out for breakfast until about 10:00 am.  Linda slept like a log, but the constant motion, little as it was, kept me from falling into a restful sleep.  I felt like I was awake all night.

      It was fairly cloudy and there were squalls visible here and about when we woke up.  As the day went on, the clouds became fewer and fewer and by mid afternoon, it was sunny and clear.  The seas remained “slight” throughout the day.

      We enjoyed an excellent breakfast buffet and continued our exploration of the ship.  We decided that we would take all of our meals in the buffet from here on.  The food is just as good as anywhere else, it’s open 24/7 making it really convenient, and there is no dress code.  I wonder who came up with that nonsense anyway.  Even the most casual dress code “suggestions” for appropriate evening wear state that men are to wear open-collar shirts with slacks (sport jacket optional).  T-shirts are actually prohibited.  I own only one button-up shirt and I wear it only to weddings and funerals.  If the dress code was strictly enforced, I would have to hide out in the cabin.

      In the afternoon we took in a pretty good movie – The Sentinel.  After the movie, we located the library, checked out a couple of books, and spent the rest of daylight reading our books, sitting in a lounge looking out on the ocean.  When it got dark we headed back to our room and continued our reading until dinner time.

      After another great dinner, we went back to our rooms and continued our reading until the evening show time.  When the hour came, however, Linda was so engrossed in her book that she wanted to finish it – I went to the show on my own and was treated to a great comic.  I don’t often laugh out loud, but on this night, laugh, I did.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

      This morning we could finally tell we were getting closer to Hawaii.  Although still not warm, the chill was off the air and it felt balmy.  The skies were mostly overcast and it looked like rain here and there.  As the day wore on, the clouds became fewer again.  The seas remained “slight”.

      We slept in, ate too much, read a lot, relaxed a lot, went to a movie, watched a fine musical show ------ did I say, we ate too much?

Monday, January 29, 2007

      Another overcast morning.  We awakened a little earlier and found a little crowd for breakfast.  At first it looked like we might have a problem finding a table, but as luck would have it, a couple finished their breakfast and stood up just as we approached their very desirable table.  I felt as lucky as Bob Brown.

      After breakfast the sun came out and we sunbathed a little on our deck before Linda noticed that my chest was turning red.  We retreated indoors.  Later in the afternoon the skies again became cloudy and the seas picked up quite a bit.  I’m not sure what comes after “slight” but things got considerably rougher. 

      About 4:30 P.M. the captain announced that the weather forecast “don’t look so good”.  He said the seas would get rougher and we should avoid open decks and use the handrails at all times. 

      Linda was too queasy to eat dinner.  I toughed it out and ate too much again.  To top it off I brought a bunch of cookies back to our room and ate myself sick a little later on in the evening.

      The captain was right.  The weather wasn’t good.  All evening and through the night the ship tossed and turned, the wind howled, and it rained off and on.  In the early morning we were treated to quite a lightning show.  Neither of us slept much.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

      When we woke up, the storm was over, but the skies were overcast and the seas remained high.  Linda felt better and was feeling quite hungry since she missed dinner the evening before.  That turned out to be a mistake – after breakfast she started feeling ill and wound up going to the ship’s doctor.  She was given a shot, some pills to take, and instructions to eat light, bland food and keep her eyes off the horizon.  The shot made her sleepy and she went back to our cabin and slept the rest of the day.  She revived for a couple hours around dinnertime, ate some chicken and rice, and went back to bed for the duration – still not feeling up to par.

      I amused myself by wandering around the ship with my library book and camping out at various little seating places to read.  I continued to eat too much and by the end of the day vowed to clean up my act – I was getting tired of feeling stuffed to the gills.

      I went to bed early so I could get up early and enjoy the first site of land – we were scheduled to land in Kauai at 11:00 am.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

     Another day at sea ………..  The captain announced about 8:30 A.M. that the weather prevented us from landing in Kauai.  Apparently, the Nawiliwili harbor entrance is very narrow and requires the ship make a very sharp turn.  When the winds are greater than 12 knots, it is unsafe for this ship to attempt an entrance.  It has been very windy for several days and one weather report Tuesday said the winds were 43 knots.

      Additionally, there was some kind of medical emergency and someone had to be removed from the ship.  We detoured to Honolulu where a boat came alongside and picked up the sick person.  People lined the rails to watch the operation, us included.

      Linda felt better today.  The fact that we just floated around most of the day didn’t hurt anything.  When our ship initially stopped to transfer the sick person, we were just offshore Pearl Harbor.  The transfer boat was alongside our ship for 30 minutes or so – everyone was wondering what could be going on.  By the time the transfer was complete, we had drifted to just offshore Diamond Head.  As the afternoon wore on, we continued to drift in that direction until Oahu disappeared from view to the rear off the port side.  The weather wasn’t too bad – warm and sunny with lots of clouds.  I decided to try to brown up some more, but I think I just got red.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

     We awakened around 7:30 am, just as the ship was pulling up offshore of Lahaina.  After missing our port of call in Kauai, everyone was more than ready for a little shore time in Maui.  There isn’t a large enough port in Lahaina, and the plan was to have us taken to shore in tenders.  The first boat was scheduled to leave at 8:30 am.  Linda and I planned to avoid the rush, and eat a leisurely breakfast before heading ashore about 10:00 am.  Since we weren’t scheduled to sail until 5:30 pm, we figured we had plenty of time to look around – maybe rent a Harley and cruise around.

     All those plans were dashed when at 8:20 A.M., the captain announced that our day in Lahaina had also been cancelled because of weather concerns.  Although it looked pretty good, a weather front was bearing down on Maui with winds of 55 knots – way too much for the small boats that would be taking us ashore.  Disappointment didn’t begin to describe everyone’s mood.  We began calling our ship “Island Prison”.

     The plan now was to wander over to the “Big Island”.  We arrived about 8:00 P.M. offshore the volcano and hung around for a few hours before heading for Hilo, our next port of call.

     As we drifted out of the vicinity of Molokai, Maui, Lanai, and Kahoolawa we saw many whales.  They were several hundred yards from the ship and all we were able to see were some spouts and a hint of their backs.  Later in the day, we spotted another whale about 100 yards from the boat but we weren’t able to see much more than before.

     When we boarded the ship, we were warned in a letter about the possibility of Norovirus – the dreaded disease of ships and institutions like nursing homes.  After the first day, crew members were stationed outside the lunch buffet to force people to wash their hands before entering by dropping a little alcohol gel into each person’s hand.  A couple of days later, we were given another letter which stated that there were more cases than expected and a higher standard of sanitation was being put into place.  After that, all food was placed on our plates by attendants – we weren’t allowed to serve ourselves any more.  Linda overheard some people talking about it and the rumors are that about 100 people have diagnosed with the illness and are quarantined in their cabins.  There is no official word out, however – I guess the “authorities” think we’re all too stupid to handle the information.  It’s a mystery to me why the “authorities”, whether it’s management, the government, or a ship’s captain, think they have to keep things like this secret.  Is the general public really that incompetent? 

     Linda and I both immersed ourselves in our books and read the day away with a few breaks to get a little sun, enjoy some live music performances, take in a lecture, eat some food, and kick back.  At 8:00 P.M. sharp, we reached the Big Island and pulled up offshore where the lava runs into the ocean.  We seemed to be very close to the shore, and we could see the lava glowing and see steam coming up where it ran into the ocean.  The lava seemed to be spread across about a ¼ mile front, although it was too dark to really tell.  Although we could see the glowing lava quite well, our digital cameras couldn’t seem to capture anything but red dots. 

Friday, February 2, 2007

      We finally got off the ship.  We awakened to find the ship docked at Hilo and it was a great feeling to know we were soon going to be walking on solid land.

      Our plan for the day was to go on a tour of Mauna Kea, the highest mountain in Hawaii at 13,796.  We met the tour bus, a 15 passenger van about 8:30 A.M. and headed up the road.  We had a really good guide, a fellow in his 60s, and he pointed out all the local color as we drove along – very interesting.

      I must say, however, that the tour was unremarkable.  We drove a winding road through some interesting countryside – starting with the lush, green Hilo area, proceeding up into some pretty barren lava.  At the 9300 foot level, we stopped at the visitor center to acclimate to the cold and high altitude for about an hour.  Just beyond the visitor center it looked like the road was closed, but our guide said in an hour it may be open again.  We hung around for about 45 minutes in 30 degree temperatures and some pretty brisk winds.  It was cloudy and we really couldn’t see anything despite the elevation.  The road was indeed closed.  The road was icy and winds were 80 mph at the summit.  A 4-wheel drive pickup with chains on all four wheels was parked at the road block.

      Mauna Kea had snow on it 365 days a year up until about 100 years ago.  Now, although it snows every year, it usually melts off in the summer time.  Our guide told us that it’s not uncommon to see 7 or 8 feet of snow up there.

      On to plan B.  Our guide took us to the Imiloa Astronomy Center at the University of Hilo.  It was kind of an interesting place – it weaved Hawaiian myths and science into a very interesting cloth.  We were given a tour of the place and sat in on several very interesting movie presentations, one in 3D and another presented on a 180 degree ceiling. 

      We then ate lunch in a very light rain at a local park and proceeded to the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut factory where we ate ice cream and nuts.  We then were driven back to the ship in time to sail at 5:30 pm.

      The rest of the evening was spent in the usual fashion – eating, listening to live music, and reading.  Tomorrow – Honolulu.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

      Linda and I both woke up about 5:30 A.M. as the ship was pulling into Honolulu Harbor.  We didn’t have any trouble falling asleep again and the next time we woke up we were already tied up to Pier 2.  Since the ship wasn’t scheduled to pull out until 11:00 pm, we took our time getting ready so we would miss the rush to get off the boat.  We were getting tired of the ship’s food and ready for a classic bacon & eggs breakfast so saved breakfast until we hit land again.

      We caught a shuttle to a nearby shopping center, the Aloha Tower, and found a breakfast place.  We ate our breakfast right on the water as we watched a tugboat maneuver a barge full of containers – the weather was perfect, about 65 degrees with sunny skies.

      Our plan was to rent a car for the day and wander up to Punaluu, where we have previously visited several times.  We happened to hit Alamo at exactly the right time to pick up a brand new, bright red Mustang convertible.  The price was outrageous, but what the hell.  We put the top down and headed up through Waikiki, past Diamond Head, and on up the coast to Punaluu.  My head got fried – I forgot to bring a hat and wound up having to buy a new one to save what few brain cells I have left.  I believe I now have 37 baseball caps; maybe it’s 137 caps.

      This Mustang was really a nice car.  It was brand new, it was real pretty, it had a throaty V8 engine with lots of power, and I saw several guys looking it over at our various stops.  Our drive was very enjoyable.  Linda and I both enjoy driving around and the perfect weather in the perfect setting really made for a perfect day.  We were so engrossed with savoring the experience that we forgot all about taking photos.

      Just like every other time we’ve been in Hawaii, we started talking about how wonderful it would be to live here.  After we took the rental car back, we were wandering around Waikiki and spotted an “Open House” sign at one of the condo buildings – we took a look.  There were two units for sale in this 40 year old building.  They were about 800 square foot units and the prices were $490,000 for one on the 12th floor and $500,000 for one on the 17th floor.  There are no other buildings between this building and the ocean – the views were worth a million dollars alone.  800 square feet, however, is very, very small.  Anyway ………… neither of us thinks condo living is for us.  We did, however, make contact with a real estate agent – who knows what the future brings.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

      It was a Great Day at Kona.  We anchored off shore and were taken to the local pier by tender.  We ate breakfast on the ship then rode ashore about 11:30 pm.  We had a snorkel tour scheduled for 1:20 P.M. so we had a couple of hours to kill.  We walked the streets, checking out the local shops – Linda bought a pair of CROCS sandals/shoes.  We stopped in a restaurant for iced tea and relaxed in an outside patio environment as we watched activities in the harbor.

      We wandered over to the pier and waited for our tour to get underway.  Several years ago, we went on a snorkel tour with the Body Glove, a catamaran which could carry 50 or so people.  We spotted the Body Glove anchored off shore between the Island Princess and the pier.  About 12:30 pm, just as we figured we better start making our way to the pier, the Body Glove pulled anchor, headed towards the pier, and tied up.  We figured we’d be on it for our tour.

      We were surprised to find out we were going on something called Captain Zodiac’s Tour.  We had started talking to another couple who overheard us talk about snorkeling and asked us which tour we were taking – they said they were going on the Body Glove and their tickets were different from ours.

      When the time came, the Captain Zodiac person came around, gathering up her next crew.  When we were all assembled and had signed our waivers, we were led to the back side of the pier.  As we stood there, a small rubber raft looking vessel pulled up – it said Captain Zodiac on the side.  My first thought was: “What the hell is this?”  But I decided to go along with the program – Linda and I seemed to be the only ones that were surprised.  It turns out that this boat that I had mistaken for a rubber raft is actually a Zodiac – the watercraft used by Navy SEALS for their operations.

      Once we were aboard – there were 12 passengers, a young captain, and a nice crew member who reminded us of Nicole – we kind of drifted out into the bay, and our gear was stowed in some containers in the center as we drifted.  The captain gave us the mandatory safety briefing – location of life jackets, etc.  He also pointed out the exits – simply fall over backward – our seats were the edge of the boat.  We were instructed to keep one foot under a rope on the floor to keep us from falling out and to take off our hats. 

      He then brought the boat up to speed – I thought – and we headed out of the harbor.  Once clear of all the local traffic in the bay, the Zodiac lurched forward like it had been shot out of a cannon and we headed straight out into the ocean.  It seemed like we were going 60 mph.  We were jumping out of the swells and falling 6 or 8 feet to the bottom between swells, only to climb the next one and repeat.  I was sitting near the front and when I looked back, all I could see was white knuckles and eyeballs.  After a couple of minutes, the captain stopped the boat and asked everyone if they were all right – by then we were about a mile offshore.  Everyone said “Yes” and he explained that we would be traveling about 14 miles south and if everyone was OK with his test run, that would be the pace – which turned out to be about 25 knots. I don’t know about everyone else, but I would have rather gone slower, but I wasn’t about to admit I was chicken.

      We took off and after a while it seemed better.  Once you got the rhythm it was actually quite fun.  After about 15 minutes the captain stopped to give us a little break and to chat a little – he told us to be on the lookout for such things as dolphins and whales which were quite common - then we were off again.  About 15 minutes later, I spotted 4 or 5 fins off the port side (sailor talk) and the captain headed over to where I pointed.  It turns out they were tiger sharks – they looked to be about 8 feet long.  Everyone made a lot of shark jokes, but I have to say it didn’t make me very happy.  Then it was off again, speeding down the coast, up one swell and crashing back down – what a blast.

      Eventually, we headed to shore and pulled into a little cove right at the monument marking Captain Cook’s grave site.  We would be snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay, a state park and nature preserve.  Other than a couple of people standing on the shore, we had the whole bay to ourselves.  Once you got about 50 yards from shore, the depth quickly got greater and there wasn’t much to see – the captain said it was probably a couple of hundred feet deep.  We spent nearly all of our time fairly close to the shore.  I tried to keep in at least six feet of water because we were cautioned to not touch any of the coral.  It is very fragile and touching it kills it.

      The coral is very young, geologically speaking, and is therefore very colorful and bright appearing.  On previous snorkeling adventures, most of the bottom looked pretty ordinary and a colorful coral display warranted a picture.  Here, however, the entire bottom was a colorful panorama that all looked spectacular – I just pointed the camera and took a couple of shots.  There were lots of fish – most of them less than 18” long – and they didn’t seem concerned with humans at all.  Several small schools swam right toward me and didn’t change course a bit because of me – they just kept coming and when a fish got within a foot of me, it changed course just enough to miss me.  I could see the look in their eyes.  I saw mostly three varieties of fish, little yellow fish, small black/white stripped fish, and larger dark colored fish which may have been a couple of feet long.  It was hard to tell with the darker fish.  They traveled alone or in pairs and stayed further away than the rest of the fish.

      We snorkeled around for about an hour and then we boarded the boat, dried off, ate some pineapple, oranges, cookies and Maui potato chips, and started talking about what we’d seen.  We were all very hungry and talkative.  The captain said we’d take a little more time getting back and we’d stop along the way to check out some features on the shoreline.

      As he was talking, he spotted some dolphins just south of us and headed over to where they were.  As we approached the site, we could see several of them just barely breaking water.  All of a sudden, they started popping out of the water, traveling from left to right across our path, maybe 100 yards away.  There seemed to be dozens of them.  The captain said something must have spooked them.  The captain got to where we last saw them and started moving around in about a 100 foot circle.  He said that the dolphins like to play in the boat’s wake and he was creating one.  Pretty soon we actually saw a couple that appeared to be surfing – that didn’t last long, though.  We spent quite some time playing with them.  They did all kinds of things – going under, around, pacing us, leading us.  It was something.  There were several times that I could have reached out and touched one.  The most spectacular moment was when about 20 of them got out in front and along side us in kind of a “V” formation and led us along, leaping out of the water every few seconds.  They kind of cycled their formation.  The leaders would leap out of the water, then fall behind after they hit.  The ones along side would accelerate under water, very close to the boat, and then spin around just as they went past the bow.  They would continue to accelerate until they leaped out of the water and the cycle repeated until they were tired I guess.  After tired of the leaping, they continued to pace us, just breaking water to take in a breath now and then.  It was really a treat being so close to these great animals.  Unfortunately, I shot up all my film while snorkeling, and Linda’s camera was stowed away, so we were unable to get any photos of the dolphins.

      After the dolphins left us, we took off, heading back to the pier.  This time we were going with the swells instead of against them and things were considerably smoother – it was, however, still exciting and great fun.  On the way back, we stayed considerably closer to the shore.  From time to time, we moved in very close to shore to check out some feature; a lava tube, a geological site, a historic site – I can’t remember them all.  These Zodiacs are really something.  We pulled into some areas just outside of where the waves were crashing into the rocks – and I mean just out side.  At one location, a point of rock protruded a couple of hundred feet into the waves.  We were actually inside this rock for a time and kind of slid around it on the way out back to sea.  Very exciting.  One of the women was really enjoying it – she had an infectious laugh and she was often laughing out loud.  It had the effect of making everyone else realize what fun we were having and many of us laughed out loud with her.

      At one point, I’m not sure of the sequence, the captain spotted a whale about 100 feet ahead of us on the port side and headed over there.  I just caught a glimpse of it as it took in a breath and submerged – we were on an intercept course.  It passed right below me.  Its huge dark shape made me feel really strange (awe might be a better word) as it passed under the boat.  I would estimate that it was somewhat larger than the Zodiac – maybe 25% to 50% bigger.

      Eventually, it started getting late and we picked up speed again and moved further offshore for the remainder of our return voyage.  We soon saw a big cruise ship sitting offshore a pretty long way off.  We were going very fast, but we didn’t seem to be closing on the ship at all.  I’m not sure what was going on there; if we were very far away, if it was an optical illusion, or if we were making some kind of circular course.  Eventually, though, we were able to see that it was the Island Princess and we slowly appeared to get closer and finally pulled up pretty close to it for photo opportunities – little good that did us, however.

      We then pulled up alongside the pier, and everyone made a beeline for the restrooms. 

      When we got back on the ship, we were ravenously hungry.  We headed for the buffet and filled up.  We then retired to the library for a couple of hours of reading and talking before going back to our cabin.  We both slept like babies – it turns out that Zodiac riding and snorkeling are a lot of work.

      A GREAT DAY - THE HILITE OF MY TRIP – LINDA LIKED IT TOO.

Monday, February 5, 2007

      We both woke up stiff and sore – Zodiac riding IS a lot of work.

      It feels like our trip is over – four more days at sea to Ensenada.  The stop at Ensenada is to fulfill a legal technicality.  It seems there is something called the “Jones Act” that makes it illegal for a ship leaving an American port to let a passenger disembark in another American port unless it has first put into a foreign port.  I guess the airlines don’t want Americans to travel domestically by boat.  I’m going to research this apparently stupid law – it’s sure hard to imagine how these things get to be.

     We are scheduled to arrive at 5:00 P.M. and we must be back on board by 7:30 P.M. ----- whoop de do.  I wonder how long it would take to evacuate the ship and then get everyone back on board.  We have more than 3,000 people on board and many of them don’t move very quickly – 2 ½ hours seems a little short.

     We’re both getting tired of being on the ship.  Our activities have narrowed to eating, reading, taking in a movie or show if it looks interesting, and going for a walk up on deck a couple of times a day.  I must say I’m anxious to get home and see Kyle, see Pepper, take a motorcycle ride, check my email, start processing our photos, hit the Internet to begin researching some of the things we’ve seen, catch up on the news, watch a decent TV show, get back on my food program and head for the dojo for a workout – in roughly that order.

     I now have permanent heartburn and I must have gained 10 pounds by now.  It should be possible to eat sensibly on the ship.  All the necessary ingredients are here; fruit, salad, chicken, fish, vegetables, yogurt and the like.  I’m just too weak.  There must be some underlying personal problem in my background – a serious character flaw.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

     Just another crummy day at sea.  Sleeping as late as we want, eating all we want, relaxing all we want, first run movie (Superman), reading all we want.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

      Three more days to go ………………

Thursday, February 8, 2007

     Two more days to go ………………

Friday, February 9, 2007

     One more day to go ………………

Saturday, February 10, 2007

      When we woke up at 5:30 A.M., the ship was already tied to the pier at San Pedro.  We were scheduled to disembark at 7:00 A.M. and we didn’t want to be late.  Everything went smoothly – we cleared immigration, retrieved our luggage and quickly exited the ship.  We elected to handle our own luggage which put us first in line to get off and it all went without a hitch.  Linda called the hotel and they sent over a shuttle to take us back to our car.  Again, it all went without a hitch and before 9:00 A.M. we were heading home in our Toyota.

      We originally planned to do a little exploration of the Malibu area, but we were both ready to be home.  No back roads this time – we headed straight for the freeway and by 3:30 P.M. we were back home.

SUMMARY

      It was a good trip – but 12 days is waaaaaaaaaaaaay to long to be in a boat.