The ship was pretty damn wonderful as well
This was the inaugural season for The Caribbean Princess. Surely she deserved something better than to be ravaged by 200 dance-crazed Lindy Hoppers?
Apparently not, so it was all aboard for a week of fun and frolics.
Weighing in at a hefty 113 thousand tonnes, the ship is nearly one thousand feet long. That meant it would take a good fifteen minutes to walk from the back to the pointy end. Especially if you had to go up and down between the decks, which could be the case if you had to get from a class in the aerobics studio to Club Fusion.
With its two fixed pitch propellers, six blades and two semi-balanced rudders (yes I kept the ship's log), she tootled along at a steady 21 knots. The voyage was generally smooth, although a storm on the Sunday night did result in a bit of pitching and heaving, both from the ship and some people's stomachs.
The big bar-like thing across the top is the gym with the aerobics studio. So when we had classes there you got a great view of the ocean.
There was so much to do on board. Those not in the XC group had fitness programs, quizzes, golf, giant chess, dancing classes and pottery, amusingly called a "Wheel Throwing Demonstration". There was also video poker, a lotus spa, a library and shops.
Some days there were events called "Fine Art Auctions". This was an opportunity for passengers to buy some hideously ugly prints and posters. Obviously this is a personal view, but jeez, you should have seen some of the trash being peddled as art. And people seemed to be paying good money for it too.
On days before shore trips, there were "shopping talks". I guess this must have been for the men, because in my experience women would need instruction in this area much like a new-born duck needs swimming lessons. To be fair, the talks were about watches and gem stones, and probably covered subjects more complex than "does it tell the time?" and "does it sparkle?"
Anyway, here's a photo of one of the ship's swimming pools, without any ducks in it.
The CP had five swimming pools. The best one was up at the pointy end (nautical term), and had a wave generator in it. You turned on this tin box that looked like an air conditioning unit, and it sent a wave down the pool. You could then try and swim against the 'tide' and get an energetic workout without actually going anywhere. Almost drowning while making no progress at all; some might see this as exercise, others as an allegory for their entire lives.
Some evenings they showed films by the Calypso Pool on deck 15. These Movies Under The Stars nights were brilliant. The sun loungers had long cushions on them, you got a blanket to keep warm and ushers came around with popcorn. We saw the George Clooney-Catherine Zeta-Jones comedy Intolerable Cruelty. It's a lot better if you see it under a Caribbean night sky with the moon, stars and a gentle sea breeze. If my local multiplex had that I'm sure I'd go more often.
Every night there was entertainment in the Princess Theatre, Explorer's Lounge, Crooner's and The Wheelhouse Lounge. You could also just sit and drink in Skywalkers and the Churchill Lounge, which had a cigar and cognac bar. Very civilised.
On the Thursday night we decided to chance it in The Explorer's Lounge. Big mistake. Dancing to the Sounds Of The Princess Orchestra, the ship's own big band was terrific, but then James (The Kid) Michael turned up. Billed as "magic and comedy", this nutter redefined the meaning of entertainment. To James Michael it meant "unfunny and offensive". The show started with a skunk - and even after he made it disappear, the smell didn't improve.
To be fair, most of the audience did find his lesson 1 magic tricks and digs at gay members of boy bands amusing. Even with an exotic turquoise-coloured cocktail gently lapping at my lips, this guy was, in the words of The Rutles, far from home, and far from talented.
To be fair, there were lots of great shows on in the Princess Theatre, and chatting with other passengers indicated they were very good. It is one of the regrets of the cruise that there was so much organised for the Frankie XC party that we didn't get the chance to appreciate all that the ship had to offer.
The food on board was very good. You could eat pretty much 24 hours a day, and by the look of some of the passengers this is what was happening. With the best of intentions I started off with lots of salads and fresh fruit. After three days it was buckets of fried shrimp.
The Horizon Court Buffet on deck 15 was the star performer in the food stakes. Open almost 24 hours a day, it meant that you could retire there after a long dance night and have breakfast. Special mention for the marvellous coffee that came out of beer-type pumps, and certainly kept many flagging dancers on their feet for an extra hour or two.
Well for a start they were all called staterooms, making some sound rather grander than they were. Ours was an inside one on Baja deck 11, strategically-placed four decks below the Horizon Buffet, and four above Club Fusion, home of classes and all evening dances.
The rooms all had satellite TV, so you could watch films and get news. There was a compact but functional bathroom, and loads of space to hang clothes. And every day a fresh beach towel.
Rich people could go for an outside stateroom with a balcony, or maybe a port hole. But with so much going on, all that was needed was somewhere to change and sleep. And every time I got back to the cabin, sorry, stateroom in the afternoon, it was all clean and the bed was made. Wish it worked like that at home.
ã July 2004 Andrew Winton.
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