Princess Cruise Ship Rescues Canadian Yachtsmen Off New Zealand Coast

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The Tasman Sea had thrown, thrashed, and rattled them for eight long days. There was nothing on the horizon but heaving swells of wind-strewn ocean. The nearest landfall was two hundred miles away, and the five hapless souls on the 40-foot “Lagoon” were sick and dehydrated – and no one knew where they were.

Our story unfolds

Sapphire Princess

We were aboard the Sapphire Princess and making our way to New Zealand — across the Tasman Sea from our last port of call in Hobart, Tasmania. The Sapphire Princess is a cruise liner that is almost 50% larger than the original Queen Mary, and at 116,000 tons rides over rough seas with nary a roll.

During our second day at sea, we had an after breakfast appointment to interview the ship’s captain for our story.

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Captain Nick Bates was waiting for us when our escort led us to the bridge. After a few minutes of introductions and casual conversation, the captain started to show us around his “office at sea.”

Thirty-five minutes later, we were winding up our interview and bridge tour when a staff officer approached with news of a mayday alert. A 12-meter catamaran had just sent a distress signal and soon after, communications failed. The boat was not able to give its exact location and the Sapphire could only capture limited information before the communication blackout.

A serious situation

Ships at sea must respond to a mayday call, and Captain Bates went into immediate action. A search grid was established based on the information provided by the distressed vessel. The Sapphire was ordered to increase speed and the ship began to comb the vast sea in a defined pattern.

The Captain made an intercom announcement to the entire ship’s company and passengers. He explained that he was interrupting our itinerary to search for a small craft in distress.

The passengers were eager to help

Hundreds of passengers armed with cameras and binoculars crowded the deck rails in hopes of being the first to spot the struggling sailboat. One hour past – then two. Finally, there was a sighting and the intercom screeched the point of reference for the onlookers.

We watched anxiously as the Sapphire approached the waiting catamaran. We came to a stop about 500 yards from her position. She looked in good order with her sails and equipment neatly stowed. If it were not for the pitching in heavy seas, the sailboat would not look like it was in any trouble at all.

Princess to the rescue

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The Captain dispatched a trained rescue crew on a special craft that was alongside the sailboat within minutes.

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It took a few additional minutes to load the catamaran’s crew onto the rescue vessel and return to the Sapphire. The sea-weary sailors were rushed to the Medical Center where the ship’s doctor and staff were waiting to assist.

Forty-eight hours after we took the ailing yachtsmen aboard, each passenger cabin received a group letter of thanks from those who were rescued.

The letter described their harrowing 8-day journey from Tasmania to New Zealand. The last two days of which were spent attached to a sea anchor while 45-knot winds washed large breaking waves over the entire vessel. On the 8th day, one of the sailboat’s seasick crew members became unresponsive and incoherent, and that was when they decided to issue the mayday alert.

We have been on many cruises, but this was our first rescue at sea. It was handled with professional precision and an efficiency that is a credit to Princess Cruise Lines, Captain Bates, and the entire crew of the Sapphire Princess.

The rescue made for a very Happy New Year for some grateful Canadian sailors!

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

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The Best Suites for Two Aboard the Golden Princess

Our goal in taking a month-long cruise around Hawaii and Tahiti on the Golden Princess was to experience – and then write about – how a major cruise line like Princess caters to its suite passengers. It was one of our most enjoyable projects.

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Suites for two

Over the past ten years, we have photographed and written about suites in B&Bs, hotels, resorts, and on cruise ships. It is our writing practice to always consider our subjects from a “couples” perspective. In that light, we have found many suites to be overly expensive or disproportionately large for two people. However, on the Golden Princess, we found a group of full-size suites that were not only luxurious, but the perfect size for two people on a cruise of any duration.

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After boarding the Golden Princess, an elevator whisked us up eight levels to the Sun Deck where we were escorted along an elegant wood-toned hallway to the Palermo Suite – our home for the next 28 days.

A suite life

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The Palermo Suite, was one of ten new suites added to the Sun Deck of the Princess during a 2009 revitalization.

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There are two entry doors to the Palermo Suite, with a small barrier foyer between. The second door acts as a noise and privacy baffle. Upon entering the living room we were immediately impressed by the polished marble floors and shinning granite counter surfaces.

The walls and ceilings in the Palermo are a mixture of delicately textured golden earth-tone material and light natural woods. Light fixtures and other suite features are of brushed stainless, and the suites well-chosen art is framed in a soft muted gold – perfect for the elegant and airy setting.

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The living area can be separated from the sleeping room by floor to ceiling privacy drapes, and there are large flat panel TVs in both chambers. The living area TV also has a DVD player. Guests can select from a library of recently released or vintage movies, and they are delivered right to your door.

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The bedroom has an ever-so-comfortable Queen sized bed, which can be made into two twins, and the wooden ceiling vault houses a handsome alabaster dome that illuminates the room in a warm and subtle glow.

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Bathrooms on cruise ships are not noted for their spaciousness. However, this style of suite on the Golden Princess offers a sink and toilet room, and another room for a large marble shower and a separate full size soaking tub.

A spacious walk-in closet and an electronic safe are also nice amenities for a long cruise.

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Most couples are not working on computers while on a cruise, but we particularly liked having two granite-topped work spaces for the purpose.

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Handily, one space was also a well-lighted vanity with multiple mirrors – such a help when preparing for an evening of exquisite dining and entertainment aboard the Golden Princess.

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Two sets of floor to ceiling sliding doors provide extraordinary changing views of the islands, and two finished teak deck lounges make for excellent conversation, private reading, and contemplation at sea. 

Other in-room distinctions

The first mini-bar setup is complimentary, and the premium upgrades include fresh flowers, delicious canapés, and special bath amenities. Also, one small, big thing – electrical outlets. Plugs for your electric devices are as rare as Indian Head Pennies aboard cruise ships. Being able to plug in only two devices in a stateroom is normal. In the Palermo suite we had eight outlets. Electric Valhalla!

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The Palermo Suite, along with its nine siblings (Corsica, Florence, Grenada, Malta, Pisa, Provence, Sardinia, Seville, and Tuscany) are not the largest suites on the Golden Princess, but we found them to be a perfect accommodation of size, layout, and comfortable décor for a vacationing party of two.

All in all, the full-size Palermo Suite has about 600 square feet of living space, including the balcony. As a comparison, a mini-suite aboard the Golden has approximately 323 sq. ft., and a balcony stateroom about 250.

Suite privileges

Those that occupy the luxurious full-size suites on Princess ships enjoy amenities and privileges not afforded other passengers. After completely reading this article, you may decide that the roominess of a suite along with the following additional niceties, are sufficient reasons to consider reserving the best accommodations your budget will allow.

Breakfast at Sabatini’s

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One of our favorite Princess full-suite perks is the exclusive and private dining breakfast at the Sabatini’s restaurant.

Every morning, the Sabatini is transformed from an elegant Italian dinner eatery into an exclusive breakfast retreat for the passengers that occupy the 30+ full-suites aboard the Golden Princess.

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However, not all suite guests take advantage of the Sabatini’s privilege; some prefer the ultimate personal option of suite room service, while still others choose one of the conventional dining forums like the Horizon Court Buffet above.

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The limited number of tables in the Sabatini’s provides an intimate setting for a quiet breakfast.

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An exemplary staff of four waiters is orchestrated by a congenial Head Waiter who greets and seats each arriving guest. Food is prepared by three cooks supervised by a Chef de Cuisine.

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The Sabatini’s Breakfast Menu includes everything imaginable for the morning meal, carefully prepared and skillfully presented.

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The artistic presentation may change with the muse of the chef – but is always to the highest culinary standards.

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We generally started out with a wake-me-up Mimosa and freshly squeezed orange juice.

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That was usually followed by a delicious decaf Cappuccino and a warm-to-the-touch baked mini-pastry and a chilled stemmed glass of hand selected berries.

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For our main course we picked from a unique assortment of waffles and French toasts, and the usual varieties of fresh eggs, such as Benedict, omelets, scrambles, etc.

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Even simple cereals are brilliantly presented in Sabatini’s. 

Sabatini’s by night 

Found only on Princess ships, the Sabatini’s restaurant is a specialty Italian restaurant that is open every night to all passengers. There is an additional charge for dinner dining in the stylish and intimate Sabatini’s, but well worth it to celebrate a special occasion – or simply to enjoy truly outstanding Italian cuisine.

More Suite Privileges

VIP boarding

In many ways, Preferred Boarding can be equated to waiting for an airline flight in a private lounge instead of the communal terminal. Preferred boarding means you are the first passengers to board the ship at embarkation, therefore among the first guests to be settled into their stateroom and afforded early access to the delicious buffet that awaits oncoming passengers. There’s always plenty of food for all, but it is a comfort to be at the front of a line, is it not? 

Priority ship to shore tender passes

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Three of the nine ports we visited on our cruise required being tendered to shore. For those not familiar, this is a procedure where the cruise ship does not dock, but rather anchors offshore, or remains stationery away from the land.

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Passengers wishing to go ashore are shuttled by means of motorized launches called “tenders.” The process is called “tendering.”

The act of tendering is very organized, and within a short time a few thousand people can be transferred to the shore with relative ease.

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While general passengers are issued group numbers on a first come first served basis, and comfortably wait for their group to be called to “tender,” suite passengers are afforded a privilege that allows them to board the next available tender, therefore getting them to shore a bit earlier to enjoy the port.

Complimentary laundry and dry cleaning

Although laundry and dry cleaning services are available to all passengers for a reasonable charge, full-suite guests are provided the service as part of their complementary privileges. Should it be your preference, there are also self-service laundry facilities throughout the ship for all passengers.

Internet Café

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For those suite customers who want to keep in contact with the world while at sea, there is a suite internet program for use either in the Internet Café or from any part of the ship when a personal wireless device is used.

Our recommendation

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During our month long cruise on Princess we noted a consistent level of excellent service for every category of passenger aboard. But, the additional perks afforded suite occupants, made a most pleasant journey that much more elegant and enjoyable. Our recommendation – do it if you can. You only live once, and how suite it is!

Happy travels!

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More stories about our 28-day cruise to the South Pacific on the Golden Princess will be forthcoming. For more information about the Golden Princess check out the PDF file *here* For additional information about booking a cruise on Princess look at their website at www.princess.com or call your favorite travel agent.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

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Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/