We just returned from the May 19, 2002 sailing of the Pacific Princess to Bermuda. There does not seem to be much current information on the "Little Princess", so I decided to try to provide some information to those yet to sail.
Why we chose the Pacific Princess
Like so many others, my interest in cruising was sparked by the television series that ran from 1977 until 1986, "The Love Boat". Knowing that this ship has been sold to an Italian Line and will be leaving the Princess fleet after this Bermuda season, we decided to enjoy a bit of cruising history. The Pacific Princess entered service in 1972 as the Sea Venture. She was built specifically for the New York to Bermuda run, and even used the name of the famous ship that in 1609 was on its way to help save the failing Virginia Company in the new world in Jamestown. The Sea Venture ran into a dreadful storm, and shipwrecked near Bermuda. In 1975, she joined the Princess fleet as the Pacific Princess. The ship is 550 feet long, 80 feet wide, and has a 640 passenger capacity. The Pacific Princess is the only ship that docks at three ports in Bermuda: St. George's, Hamilton, and the West End.
Living in Maryland, we were able to take a motor coach transfer directly to the ship in New York. On this particular day, the bus ran late, and we did not have an opportunity to stop anywhere for a bite to eat. We arrived at the pier at 3:00 PM, and boarded quickly, but just in time for the Life Boat Drill and then it was time to sail. Our luggage was in our cabin before we sailed. It was a beautiful, sunny, day, so sailing out of the New York Harbor was beautiful.
We were in cabin 275 on Aloha Deck. It was adequate, but very small. There are twin beds, one of which folds down out of the wall. They cannot be moved together as on newer ships. The bathroom is also very small. We had three pieces of luggage, all of which we stowed under the stationary bed/couch. We hung formal wear, etc. in the closet, and left much of our daytime clothing folded in a suitcase that we simply pulled out each day to select items. Our cabin steward took very good care of our needs and saw to it that the cabin was neat and clean. There is a safe in the cabin. It is a wall safe with a key lock. There is also a television with several stations that feature movies, the view from the bridge, a station for ship offerings (port talk, excursions, etc.), and CNN. There is also a telephone. Our cabin had two windows, others have just port holes, and larger cabins have windows as well.
We were traveling with two other couples and had reserved a table for six for the second seating in the dining room. We had a lovely round table for 6 with a great waiter, Renzo, and assistant-waiter, Walter. They were very helpful in selecting menu items, always had our beverages (we asked for iced-tea the first night) waiting for us when we arrived. The menus are much like they are on most Princess ships. A variety of items are always available (like Caesar Salad, sirloin steak, Love Boat Dream dessert, etc.) in addition to those items that change each day. There is an Italian night, a French night, etc. that feature specific items like escargot, French onion soup, duck, etc. As always, if you try something that is not to your liking, a quick trip to the kitchen brings you something else. We especially enjoyed the lamb and various soufflé desserts. There was never anything that we did not enjoy.
The Coral Dining Room is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day in two seatings. A buffet breakfast and lunch are also available on the Lido Deck around the Crystal Pool area. The buffet luncheon changes on different days, and is quite extensive when they do the Italian, International, and Mexican buffets. Iced tea and coffee are readily available on the Lido deck. Hamburgers and hot dogs are also served when the luncheon buffet ends. Room service is also available. And, tea is served in the dining room each afternoon between 3:30 and 4:30.
The Pacific Princess does not offer the Personal Choice Dining that exists on some of the larger ships.
We were thoroughly delighted with the 3 production shows and guest entertainers that were provided. The singers/dancers are very talented and very hard working. The cruise director, Chris Nichol, is also featured in the shows. He is excellent, fun to talk to, and so eager to see people enjoy themselves. Because the ship is small, you have an opportunity to really talk to the members of the staff. The singers/dancers also serve as the cruise staff. They run many of the daytime activities. We really enjoyed getting to know Ged, Nigel, Tammy, Paula, Victoria, Michael, and Suzanne. Nigel and Paula also teach ballroom dancing. On Saturday afternoon we truly enjoyed the "Back Stage" Tour with this talented troop.
There are also other guest entertainers that perform on the nights when there is not a production show. They are varied and talented and do all they can to provide some fun.
We enjoyed Mike Rorah who played piano and sang in the Starlight Lounge. There is also a DJ in the Pirate's Cove Club and Karaoke takes place there as well. There is also another group playing in the Pacific Lounge. There is also a casino on board.
There are also a wide variety of daytime activities that include games, golf putting, bingo, shuffleboard, line dancing, scarf tying, first run movies, etc. etc. A library and game room are also available.
On our particular sailing, we experienced a lot of rough seas and rain. The first day out was rough and required some form of motion sickness medication. The rain hampered our enjoyment to some degree, but the staff went into high gear putting on extra activities, etc. to do whatever they could to make the cruise fun. We simply broke out the long pants, sweaters, and umbrellas when needed, and enjoyed ourselves anyway. As others have said, you are sailing the Atlantic Ocean, and as such, you need to be prepared for some motion. That being said, there are times when the ocean is perfectly smooth, much as it was on our return to New York.
We arrived in St. George's on Tuesday afternoon. It is fascinating to watch the ship makes its way through the channel cut to enter the port. It was cloudy, but dry until evening, so we had a chance to explore the town on foot. We even walked out to Fort St. Catherine and toured inside ($5.00 fee), which we thoroughly enjoyed. Around 5:00 P.M. it began to rain, so we did not venture off the ship in the evening.
There is a live web cam in St. George's, so you can see the ship when she is docked there on Tuesday afternoons until 7:00 AM Wednesday morning. The address is http://www.rccbermuda.bm/webcam%20main.htm
Keep in mind that Bermuda time is one hour ahead of east coast time. We did not book any excursions in St. George's so I cannot comment on those. It is easy enough to get around town to enjoy the history of the port. Be sure to write to the Bermuda Department of Tourism, 205 East 42nd Street, 16th floor, New York, NY 10017 for a nice map and brochures on what to see on the island. There are also tourist offices at the ports that are very helpful.
Hamilton is the second port of call. Since the forecast was for rain, we decided to book a tour. Originally we had planned to get a bus/ferry pass and do our touring on our own. We took the Bermuda Attractions Bus Tour that drove through Hamilton, through the Botanical Gardens, to the Crystal Caves, and the Aquarium and Natural History Museum and Zoo. It was a nice way to get an overview of this portion of the island. Our driver/guide was excellent. He shared much information but did not overwhelm us. The topics he covered shared how life on an island really is. The afternoon had "sun breaks", so we could explore the shops on Front Street. The Street Fair held in Hamilton on Wednesday nights was moved into the parking garage right next to the spot where the ship docks because of the heavy rains. This was the first time for that to take place there. The Heritage Night that used to take place in St. George's on Tuesday Nights is no longer held.
On Thursday morning, we explored Hamilton further and had thought we might take the bus to the west end instead of traveling with the ship. Some people did that and were able to stop at a beach or hotel, but the rains hampered beach time. We sailed with the ship, and it was a wonderful way to see the island. One couple with us did take the bus and were at the gates when the ship docked.
The west end is full of places to explore. We had lunch at the Frog and Onion Pub, and then enjoyed the various craft shops. Since it poured heavily on Thursday evening, we did not venture off the ship. However, on Friday morning, the sun was shining brightly, so we went to the Maritime Museum and Dolphin Quest before the ship sailed at noon. The Maritime Museum is excellent, and watching people in the water with the dolphins was unique.
Returning to New York
Sailing back to New York was fairly smooth - didn't even need any motion medication. We did get up early (5:00AM) on Sunday morning as the ship sailed back into New York. It was, unfortunately, cloudy, so we didn't see the sunrise, but it was a unique experience to sail past the Statue of Liberty, ground zero, and Manhattan. We docked shortly after 6:00AM, enjoyed breakfast on the Lido Deck, and then got cleaned up/dressed, and, sadly, ready to disembark the Little Princess. We waited in the Lounge for our baggage code to be called. We were off the ship and on the bus transfer by 10:00 AM.
We shall always remember our bit of sailing history on the Little Princess. The staff and crew are all very proud of her place in history, and work very hard to help passengers enjoy their voyage. And yes, we did get to sing cruising's national anthem, "The Love Boat"!