There must be some people who read my blog occasionally and probably get fed up with the blizzard of mega ships, water slides and stories of 3,000 plus people having fun all explained in a babble of preposterous superlatives.

Of course it’s not hard to see why this might be so. Cruising used to be about a ship, a Captain and crew, ports of call, a comfy chair to sit in and meet Mr and Mrs. Smith from California. Then it was off to dinner followed by dancing, a walk on deck under the stars and a bollocking from the wife for staring at Mrs. Smith’s bottom.

For those who miss those days and thought that they had gone forever ……….. well …………..I am happy to tell you…………..they haven’t…………..and these values can be found alive and well onboard the Pacific Princess.

This is not a ship that is all loud and shouty with “look at me” features………no………..it doesn’t need to………..this ship is quiet and dignified yet like when a Rolls Royce pulls up outside a hotel lobby you immediately know that the car and the people inside are both very special.

The ship was built in 1999 for Renaissance Cruise Lines in a French shipyard and while I am not going to submit my normal attack on the French I do have to say something about the name they choose……………..the M/S R3. Now, either they had absolutely no imagination or they ran out of paint………….R3…………that’s a cabin on the Holiday and Fantasy Class.

Unfortunately Renaissance built too many ships too quickly and before you could say R2D2……………the company was broke and the R ships were scattered to the four corners of the cruise ship world. Princess took 3 R’swhich became the Tahitian, The Royal and the Pacific.

Today, I traveled to the surely one of the most beautiful spots in the world ………….. Portofino. When God made Belgium he stood back and said “bugger” I messed that one up” and realised he had better make something incomparable ………….he did ………………..Portofino.

I had been collected by that huge Mercedes limo again and this time Maurizio drove me right down to the Picola Harbour. As the huge V12 engine purred down the quayside I once again felt guilty that the tourists armed with Canons and Nikons ready to snap the star of stage and screen stepping out of the car to head to their yacht would be disappointed to discover it was just a fat bloke who needed a pee.

If Portofino is Catherine Zeta Jones then the Pacific Princess sitting in the harbour was the Cartier Diamond Necklace draped round her perfect neck and as the tender which took me nearer to the ship I once again felt like one very lucky chap.

I was met at the tender station by a group of men whose uniforms had obviously just returned from the laundry and the only things that were brighter were their smiles of greeting. I met the Passenger Services Director Peter who has been at sea for 41 years. He was guide and not just around the ship but through a veritable history of the industry which he has seen change so much in his many years of service. He talked about ships I had read about in history books and ones that I have never heard of. He must have many stories to tell and I will therefore in the days ahead be interviewing him and tapping into Peterpedia………the online cruise historian.

However, as I was escorted to the bridge I couldn’t take my eyes off the handsome Italian Captain……………….don’t panic………………just because I listen to Mariah Carey occasionally doesn’t mean ………well…………you know………………I couldn’t take my eyes off him because I felt like I knew him…………..it turns out I didn’t………..but I knew his brother.

In 1987 a young stud from the beautiful island of Progida joined the Carnival Cruise Lines vessel Holiday to work as a Fire Patrol Officer. At the same time an ugly and spotty Brit joined the same ship as a bar waiter………………..the young Italian stud who broke girls hearts just by looking at them was Rocco Lubrano. The young spotty bar waiter who made girls vomit …………was me.

The two became best friends and one is now an ugly Cruise Director and the other is Captain of the Carnival Liberty. When we realised that we had a mutual friend in Captain Vincenzo Lubrano’s brother Rocco any tension on meeting for the first time was broken as we chatted about the old days and Rocco’s love of the air conditioning service room as a young third officer…..and that’s all I am going to say about that.

And so, the tour of the Pacific Princess began.

You may have seen a photo of the ship but you don’t really get a sense of scale from the pictures — and nor do you get an impression of just how beautiful she is. The ship has an extraordinary blend of presence and tradition.

The ship had 600 plus guests onboard ………600…………lets say that one more time………….600………when was the last time I said that about a ship.

These days ships are often referred to as floating hotels………….something by the way that makes me mad. Well, just for the sake of argument let’s continue with that analogy. Hotels these days are mostly the same…………revolving doors………..a bit of tired red carpet to stand on while you wait for the 12-year-old behind the desk to tell you that your room won’t be ready until Friday and when you do finally get there the furniture was bought from Hotels R Us ………….you sit in your room trying to decide if you can afford to pay the $89 they want for a bottle of water from the mini bar before going to the hotel’s restaurant where the 12 year old receptionists sister is ready to serve you something with fries.

The Pacific Princes could not be more different. This is a English Country hotel where Jeeves and Wooster are ready to serve. Deep brown woods, deep luxurious carpets and huge sofas invite you to stop and stay a while you enjoy a cocktail and listen to the music in one of the bars and lounges. The cabaret lounge, the library in fact all the public lounges made me feel like I should kick of my shoes…………..put on a big pair of comfy slippers………….light my pipe and watch the world go by.

The dining room was massively impressive. The seating is assigned and although most of the evenings are smart casual the restaurant gives off an unparalleled sense of tradition. We enjoyed a beautiful lunch prepared by the ship’s Italian Executive Chef. You will be proud of me when I tell you that I ignored the bread, the potatoes, the cheese soufflé and grazed instead on artichoke (I think that’s a vegetable) and beautifully cooked lamb.

The Pacific Princess also has two alternative restaurants. The Grill serving Princess’s famous T-Bone Steak and other carnivorous delights and of course there is the legendary Sabitini’s This is never-ending recapitulating cycle of Italian gourmet delights can be found on all the Princess ships ………..and is to date……………….still my favorite private dining restaurant on any ship………………..there…………..I said it.

We also toured the open decks with loads of space in which to worship the sun, the fully equipped spa and beauty salon and a visit to life below stairs to visit the crew only areas. The crew is International and all had that special comraderie that comes with working on a smaller vessel. Everyone knows everyone and that in turn bares fruit to a unique bonding between all the crew which I am positive is noticed by the crew …………………… Peter the PSD and the Captain called most if not all by their first names as we walked the ship………….that’s not something you see everyday.

And this must be the same for the passengers as well. I experienced this togetherness years ago as Cruise Director of the Carnival…………you saw the same people throughout the voyage and each night on the Pacific Princess I am sure stories of the day are shared and plans for the days to come explored.

I have nothing much else to report. There are no gizmos or gadgets no icons ………… why ………..it doesn’t need one…………..the ship IS the icon……….it’s simply a luxurious way to see places other ships cannot………….it’s what cruising has and should always be about……..the perfect way to meet new friends, see the world and stand on the deck under the stars holding the hand of the one you love and remember how much you love them.

Walking aboard the Pacific Princess is like climbing into your Tuxedo or Ball Gown ……….there is a sense that you’re about to do something very, very special.

Here are a few photos which I hope you enjoy.

 

 

Goodnight
Your friends John and Heidi and the Captain and Crew of the Pacific Princess

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.

css.php