Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Goodbye Princess, Hello Yokohama

Dark. Gray. Rain. Wind. Another lovely day onboard the Diamond "Typhoon" Princess. 

Our cruise is almost over. It hasn't been the best trip so far, but no harm has been done to our bodies (hopefully) or our budgets. We can try another cruise, another time. 

We're starting to pack. We must put our suitcases out before 9pm and won't see them until tomorrow on the dock. 

We've heard lots of amusing stories of people showing up on the dock in cruise ship bathrobes because they'd carelessly packed the clothes they'd planned to wear the next day. It won't be us, because Laurie's in charge!

I've got to get ready for my Seiko Factory visits tomorrow and Friday. So I'm studying:

But unfortunately our lunchtime double order of fish, shrimp and chips (and Bass ale) is putting me to sleep!

So we went off for afternoon tea, swearing we'd have nothing but caffeine-laden hot water. But the cakes were too attractive - just like our hostesses. 

Finally, the Inside Scoop

Last day at sea and a good crowd of 250-300 has gathered in the theatre (which seats 754). 

We enjoyed a presentation from our Third Engineering Officer Richard Lloyd. 

His department runs the mechanical systems of the ship (fuel, water, propulsion, etc and its "hotel". 

A second engineering staff cares for all the electrical systems, and a third "deck" crew deals with sailing and navigating. 

They monitor 22,000 data points ( temps, pressures, on/off, etc). Three men on watch around the clock. 

As I said the other day, we have 5 engines. 

Fuel economy varies with the weather, but we estimate our typhoon run may have cost Princess $2 million in fuel, spread over only 1000 passengers ($2,000 each) AND we are getting 100% credit transferable to another trip. 

Cruising is a high-stakes game!

That's a big prop!

Speaking of stakes, the casino has been closed most of the time because we haven't been far enough from shore and we didn't visit a foreign port in Korea as originally planned. 

While I was at the lecture, Lsurie was chatting and doing laundry with some other passengers. This gent was once stationed at the ASW facility 2 miles from our place in San Diego. 

All this hard work, thinking, packing, etc gave us a thirst, so we are off to the pub for fish & shrimp & chips & ale, served by an Indian waiter off the coast of Japan. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Laurie Takes Charge

Things are looking up on the Love Boat, because this cruise is almost over. Yesterday was almost a normal day:

Those of you who know my sweet wife:

 know she also has a very take-charge personality.

This morning we were going down to straighten out our disembarkation schedule.

Besides this wacky cruise, we came to Japan to visit Seiko's finest factories and talk to the folks who actually build the watches I own.

In order to meet Grand Seiko PR people, we need to leave Yokohama early, get the train to Tokyo, drop our bags at the hotel, and hop on a bullet train. By 9:30 am.

The schedule Princess provided had us leaving the boat at 9:15 and heading on a bus to Narita Airport. WHAT? I cried.

So at 8:45 we went down to the desk (opening at 9), prepared to plead our case. We sat in a comfy chair close to the desk. Soon another couple arrived, then another. We eyed each other warily, circled around the desk, glared a bit at other obvious folks looking to edge into the front ... when suddenly Laurie stood up, said TAKE A NUMBER, and started handing out scraps of paper with numbers written on them.

Abashed, the other passengers each meekly took a number and returned to their chairs.

And yes, I was able to change from Beige 4 to Red 7, so we should be disembarking about 7:30-7:45. Whew!

The weather is looking better (we thought) as we walked around the boat this morning. Then it started to rain.

Hardly any clouds in the sky but the water found us on the top deck.

And so we stood in the overhang of the pool cover and watched on the BIG SCREEN as Julie, from the Love Boat show, celebrated her 60th birthday on another Princess liner (yes, she's put on a few pounds, as we all have).

Monday, October 13, 2014

One Big Ship

We are aboard the Diamond Princess, owned by Princess Cruises. She's 10 years old - middle-aged in cruise ship terms. Her vital statistics are:

length 940 feet
width 120 feet
height 180 feet
weight 250 million pounds 
speed 23.5 mph 
gas turbine 1 as on Boeing 747
diesels 2 x 8-cylinder & 2 x 9-cylinder
fuel 1 gallon for 6 feet traveled
cost 500 million U.S. dollars
passengers 2600
crew & staff 1200

I'm sure you can learn more by searching yourself. I'd do that for you, but I'm running low on satellite Internet minutes ($25-50/hr). We're not close enough to shore to turn on my cell phone and I don't want it to grab the ship's marine cell service ($300/hr). 

Last summer on our Jason trip, I read about a yacht owner who invited his grandkids for a long weekend cruise. They got bored and stayed in their cabin most of the time, playing video games on their phones. Grandpa got a $6000 bill for their satellite data usage!

It's 7 am, I can see both land and the sun. Things are looking up!

The two pools on deck 14 have been refilled. I decided to test the water. But not to go in. 

For exercise this morning I went to every stairwell, and took pictures of the art hung there. Here's an example (I'll save you the trouble of viewing the other 54 pictures & the agony of 55 flights of steps). 

Here's our hallway - about 850 feet long!

If you are lucky, you can click on this link and see the view from our bridge camera

Otherwise, you can only see me ... and a few scattered clouds, and Japan, and the ocean, and a ship, and (is this starting to sound like a sketch from Monty Python?)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Heavy Seas and High Winds

We have wind-whipped seas of 3-5 feet and gale winds at a steady 45-50 knots with gusts to 63.
And that's just on the pool deck!

I talked to one of the officers who said we are listing to starboard a few degrees due to the lateral wind forces, and we're being forced onto a course heading less favorable than they would like, due to those winds. At least the seas are relatively flat.

We're coming around the left side of the map into the Yellow Sea and hoping we will be sheltered a bit by islands at the bottom of Korea.


More later - it's 3 hours later and here's what we see outside:

The pools have safety netting and were drained dry

Winds are still strong but the seas aren't too bad and the sky is clearing a bit. The coat hangers aren't knocking on the closet wall, and the balcony door has stopped moaning.

A few waves are breaking and splashing up on our balcony (and we are 5 decks up from water level) but otherwise conditions are improving. Yay!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Hiding near Hiroshima

We are experiencing the strongest tropical storm ON THE PLANET (this year). From a cruise ship. In Japan. By mistake.

Storm chasing was not our intention - we are not "hurricane hunters" - but here we are, inadvertently on the scene, being chased by Typhoon VongFong.

Last night the Diamond Princess was hiding in a bay or cove at the Southeastern end of Japan. Here's another view:

As you can see from this forecast, the typhoon will pass over us in a few hours. Even though we are on the edge, we have nowhere else to go with our 120 x 950-foot vessel. 

I'm going to put this online while I have a signal, and update it if I can, as things develop. 

Things are quite nice right now as it's 6:30 am, it's about 75 degrees F, and I'm out on the balcony in my Princess waffle-weave robe. 

We are not alone out here. I just counted 28 other vessels in the same bay, just from my side of the ship. It doesn't feel too bad right now, but if we were in a 50-foot vessel like the yacht Jason 
we'd be getting our arse kicked in these "washing machine" seas. 

The wind is wailing and whipping our huge flag. 

It's now 4 hours later. We've passed through a very narrow strait at lowest tide with a 61m high bridge. BTW, we are 56m high - darn close! We're the largest ship ever to pass through here (and NOT on a planned itinerary). Here we go:

Safely through, we are doing better than 20 knots heading for south Korea and out of the path of the storm. We have whitecaps on each side as far as we can see.  Winds are steady around 37 knots and gusting to 50 knots. 

We can hardly open the ships doors, and some of the decks are closed for safety. 

Heard onboard: "... Zoomba and line dancing classes will continue on schedule. Take care not to lunge against the movement of the ship as we don't want you to fall and get hurt. Try to go with the swaying ..."

BTW, X marks the spot of our cabin in the middle of the ship. You may click the image and it might enlarge, depending on your browser.