The Rhythm of the Animal Kingdom

Kruger National Park, South Africa
Posted by Dean Brown
March 8, 2011
It was a profound shift in perspective to fully realize that here, the animal kingdom has its own dramas, priorities and rhythm of life, and that humans are totally insignificant to the action.
The Rhythm of the Animal Kingdom Dean, right, and his wife, Sue, stand in Kruger National Park with their guides.

Going on safari is a dream for so many travelers, but I have to admit, it wasn’t a dream of mine. Still, I found myself traveling to South Africa’s immense Kruger National Park several years ago and that trip turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

The journey began with a night out at a Boys and Girls Club fundraiser in Seattle. It was the mid 1990s, and my wife, Sue, and I were going as guests of some friends. As we walked into the fundraiser, I remember saying to Sue, “Don’t bid on any travel packages. You know we can go anywhere with Princess.”

Of course, Sue commenced to bid on a five-day trip to Kruger National Park. When another bidder was declared the winner, I was relieved. However, right away the organizers announced, “You know, there were two trips donated by the Kruger tour operator. If you match the winning bid, we can give you the other one.”

I’m still not sure why, but Sue and I decided we were in. Once we took that leap, we immediately set about planning the trip. We discovered that at 7,332 square miles, Kruger is one of the biggest game reserves in Africa. It features the so-called “Big Five” of game—lions, leopards, rhinos, buffalos and elephants—and 253 species of birds live there. We decided to add time before and after our visit to Kruger National Park to explore more of South Africa and venture into neighboring Botswana. Read More

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First Time Around the Horn

Cape Horn, Chile
Posted by Maria Ossa
March 1, 2011
I immediately sensed the excitement and energy throughout the ship from passengers and crew alike as we neared our milestone passage. The overwhelming sense of adventure and exploration seemed to bond everyone together in the experience.
First Time Around the Horn Maria aboard Pacific Princess with Cape Horn in the background.

I set sail on my first “cruise” at the tender age of just 17 months old.  My family booked passage on a cargo ship to relocate from New York, where I was born, to Valparaiso, Chile, our home country.  Except for a short home movie clip transiting the Panama Canal, naturally I don’t remember those first 25 days I spent at sea, but it occurs to me now that I’ve been around ships for a great part of my life.

We later returned to the U.S. and eventually I landed my dream job working in the Princess shore excursion department.  One of my most exciting projects was back in 1995 as we prepared for Princess’ first-ever season of cruises that would sail around Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of the continent, and up the west coast of South America.

Although Princess had previously sailed to Brazil and up the Amazon, we’d never explored this part of the continent.  Pacific Princess (yes, the original “Love Boat”) would be making our maiden voyage around one of the most fabled sea passages in the world, literally rounding the bottom of the world by sailing around Cape Horn.

As this was new territory, we’d been preparing for this voyage from some time.  Advance work included exploring the ports, inspecting facilities and working closely with the local tour operators and shipboard staff to offer our passengers the best possible experience ashore.   Read More

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Standing in the Shadows of the Moai

Easter Island, Chile
February 22, 2011
The first time I stood in front of one of these sculptures, I felt like a tiny, meaningless mosquito…. I had tears in my eyes, silly me, thinking of how little we know of our past, of the culture of people we know nothing or little about.
Standing in the Shadows of the Moai Melania happily posing in front of the Moai on Easter Island.

Ever since childhood, Easter Island had captured my imagination.  I’ve always been an avid reader with a strong interest in history and ancient civilizations, so this mysterious land with its unique stone sentinels called to me.  I longed to see more than just the printed pictures of one of those iconic heads; I wanted to stand in its shadow.

A few years ago I was lucky enough be working aboard the original Royal Princess during its South America season.  My contract ended in Valparaiso, Chile, and instead of heading right home, I flew to my ultimate “bucket list” destination.  On my own.  Everyone thought I had lost my mind.  I simply could not explain to anyone’s satisfaction the meaning this place had for me.  Nonetheless I set off on a solo adventure that became one of my most memorable travel experiences ever.

Easter Island, or Rapa Nui in the local language, is one of the world’s most isolated inhabited islands – its nearest neighbor is Pitcairn Island, which is more than 1,200 miles to the west.  South America is about 2,300 miles away, and is the main gateway for flights to the island (you can also fly from Tahiti).  Getting there is something of a quest and the flights are usually full.  When I checked in for my flight I was offered very generous compensation to give up my seat.  But I turned them down without hesitation — no way was I going to miss out on this experience! Read More

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From Tahiti with Love

Tahiti, French Polynesia
Posted by Gavin MacLeod
February 14, 2011
But most of all, when I think of Tahiti I think of romance. Maybe it’s all those years on a show that focused on love and happy endings.
From Tahiti with Love The beautiful turquoise waters of Moorea.

After 10 seasons portraying Captain Stubing on “The Love Boat,” actor Gavin MacLeod became an iconic symbol of cruising and romance.  Since the show ended in 1986 Gavin has also been our ambassador at events around the world.  We consider him part of the Princess family.  So for the week of Valentine’s Day we’ve asked him to share his own essential experience … and could you guess it’s a travel adventure filled with romance?

The deep blue waters of Tahiti are a long way from the world I knew as a child.  I had a modest upbringing in upstate New York, and then cruises were a luxury I couldn’t even dream of.   It wasn’t until years later that I set foot on my very first cruise ship – and amusingly, I was instantly the captain!  I’m pretty sure I’m the only “captain” who can say that.

I was lucky.  I spent 10 memorable years playing “Captain Stubing” on “The Love Boat” – what a dream job!   Every week I got to act in stories about love and romance … and I had the chance to meet some incredible guest stars.   I couldn’t believe I was actually working alongside these amazing actors I had admired since my childhood – like Lana Turner and Ginger Rogers.   Read More

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A Lesson in Courage and Sacrifice

Normandy, France
Posted by Bruce Krumrine
February 8, 2011
With our backs to the sea and the cliffs looming in front of us we could only begin to imagine the chilling and heroic realities of the invasion day – soldiers arriving on rough seas in landing craft met by a hail of fire from the hill-top gun emplacements.
A Lesson in Courage and Sacrifice Bruce with his sons, Duncan (left) and Griffin, and his mother-in-law, Elaine, on the beach at Normandy.

With both parents in the cruise industry our teenage kids know all too well the pleasures and occasional “hardships” (“Dad, not another cathedral!”) of the family vacation. As long-time Princess employees, my wife, Julie, and I have over the years set sail, our boys in tow, to some incredible destinations. And trying to be good parents, along the way we’ve visited our share of museums, monuments and historic sites; and learned about kings, queens, emperors, popes, and just about everyone else.

As much as we enjoyed the moment, we now look back on our cruises together as something even more special. Because traveling and learning to appreciate the world is also a great way to appreciate each other. And just like when viewing a great piece of art, you sometimes need to take a couple of steps backwards to garner the best perspective. I think the same can be said about vacations, and certainly this is true for our family’s inspiring trip to visit the D-Day landing beaches on the Normandy coast.

It was the summer of 2006 and we were on a Golden Princess cruise visiting ports in Western Europe. Our sons were then 13 and 8 years old. Julie’s mom was with us as well. On this same cruise we had already visited some of Europe’s must-see cities including Dublin, Bergen, Edinburgh, and Bruges. When we pulled into Le Havre, we chose to begin our day with freshly baked croissants in the ship’s patisserie (where else, we were in France?) before going ashore to meet our tour guide. Read More

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In the Midst of a Holy Pilgrimage

Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Posted by Nick Carlton
February 1, 2011
My visit, while not exactly a pilgrimage, was one where I felt a strong connection to two important people in my life – my maternal grandfather and my son – both named James.
In the Midst of a Holy Pilgrimage As the final resting place of St. James, the Cathedral of Santiago de Campostela attracts thousands of pilgrims every year.

As a ship’s captain who has spent more than 40 years at sea, it’s not surprising that I’m often asked about my favorite place to visit.

But where do I start when so many wonderful experiences come to my mind?  My favourites include the Scottish highlands and islands, the beautiful Norwegian Fjords and Hawaiian island of Maui.  Other places have a family connection such as Venice, where I’ve stood in St. Mark’s square and thought of my father victory-rolling his Spitfire Mk 9 over the campanile in 1945. Or the Crimea, where I gazed out at the fields which were the scene of the Charge of the Light Brigade, where an ancestor died in the great siege of Sebastopol in 1855. The Mediterranean island of Malta, my home during my teen years, also has a special place in my heart.

However, throughout the world one of the places that means the most to me is both historic and inspirational.    It’s Santiago de Compostela, one of the most sacred places in the Christian world after Rome and Jerusalem.

Perhaps for me, this Spanish city resonates because it’s believed to be the final resting place of St. James – one of the 12 apostles of Jesus.  As such it’s become a site of an incredible pilgrimage, with more than 100,000 people making their way there each year. Read More

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