Cruising on the Royal Princess

We were extremely happy to get back on a cruise ship after three years and several false starts. Our 10-day adventure on the Royal Princess marked the first time we have been able to do nothing together since the pandemic/endemic and other disruptions took over the world. It was an important and positive experience.

Our minisuite from the hallway.

Our minisuite home for 10 days.
Click on any picture for a full-size version.

We took a Mexican Riviera trip with portFroyal calls in Manzanillo, Mazatlán,  Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo. We were on board January 6-16, 2023.

We were delighted with the cruise, but we kept running into things that just should have been done a bit better.

Here are some thoughts on our days. Maybe our notes will help others plan. Or, just maybe, someone in the cruise line will stumble across this post and get some ideas on how to make 2023 cruising better!

First, the staff was excellent with several standouts for above and beyond service. We will mention them by name in the Princess survey.

We also appreciated being in Club Class because we avoided long waits which our traveling companions reported in the regular dining rooms. We missed being allowed to have breakfast in Sabatini’s – a Club Class perk on prior cruises, but still found the extra service and care worthwhile.

LGBTQ Group meeting at the Wheelhouse

LGBTQ Group meeting at the Wheelhouse

We also had our best LGBTQ group gatherings of any cruise. Thanks to a savvy, friendly fellow passenger, Terri, the Wheelhouse gathering space welcomed 10-20 people every day. Ten or so of us were regulars, and it was great fun to get to know people over the days.

Thanks, Terri!

Still, service in several bars was off. Several days we’d wait 10+ minutes in Crooners to be recognized and approached for our order. The same happened a couple tries in the Sea View bar. When they saw us, the staff was friendly but they felt overworked and the scene was disorganized.

Problems with Passenger Service

Unfortunately, the Passenger Service service was definitely off. It took us four days for our cabin phone to operate properly. The telephone’s Voicemail button didn’t work. Retrieval of messages was impossible. We tried to call Passenger Service Saturday morning — the first full day on board. We waited on hold for 10 minutes two times before giving up. Someone at the Cruise Critics meeting said we should report problems like the phone via the “Chat” function in the Princess Medallion phone app, and we made that report later Saturday morning during the Cruise Critics meeting. We were told on the app they’d look into it, but nothing happened. On Sunday I wrote a comment about the phone on the Princess form that was was delivered into our cabin soliciting our “First Impressions”.  I took that note down to the Passenger Service desk and handed it to the worker there. Nothing happened. Monday we went to Passenger Service and they sent our cabin steward to check the phone. He confirmed the problem and someone fixed the problem Monday afternoon. The first message we heard was for an occupant of the room on a prior cruise.

Sunrise from our Cabin

Sunrise from our Cabin on January 8th (no need to picture the broken phone.)

In addition to being put off by the four days it took for our phone to work, I am disappointed that my First Impressions comment received no response. I mentioned the phone and some other topics but never received an acknowledgement. Why ask for First Impressions if you’re going to ignore them?

Speaking of being ignored, we asked on Monday and later on Wednesday (Thursday?) about Chef’s Table dining. We were told we were put on the list and would get a letter when things were organized. We saw two seatings of chef’s table gather in the Wheelhouse but we received no letter or even a “we are sorry message.” We were platinum Club Class mini-suite passengers which would seem to call for SOME response. To be honest I wonder if someone didn’t want an LGBTQ couple in the group.

Princess Medallion App

As I mentioned, we used the Princess Medallion App to initially report our phone problem.  That app is heavily plugged by Princess and we are supposed to use it for all sorts of things from dining reservations to downloading photos. It is a good idea,… with lots of room for improvement.

Geoffrey having a cocktail at Crooners

Geoffrey having a cocktail at Crooners — He had to specify “no vermouth” to the waiter.

For example, you are supposed to order drinks on the app. You can, but you cannot customize the drink. There should be a line for comments so we can order a gin martini with “no vermouth” and other simple requests.

The app takes too long to download the events and information, and every time you come back to look at the schedule, the app re-loads the whole schedule. The app should do caching!

Some of the information on the app is not appropriate for phone display. Princess puts PDFs of the old printed port descriptions to tell you about the upcoming stops. The approach doesn’t work well.

We liked being able to look at and download the Princess photographers’ pictures of us on the app. However, as soon as you leave the ship, you can no longer download your photos or look at other historical information. We think you should be able to savor your memories when you’re back home.. at least for 30 days or so.

Finally, the app advertises certain higher end cocktails. That’s fine, but on our trip from day one the ship had no Hendricks. The whole ship was out. But, the app kept suggesting that we order Hendricks. They should have pulled the suggestion.

Normal Bitches

We know no cruise is perfect, and here are some items that could have gone wrong on any cruise,.. before or after Covid!

  1. The food was inferior at times. Papaya and melons were rock hard several tries. Lobster tails in the main dining room were way over salted. The special salmon fettucine Alfredo was very rich with some nice salmon bits, but there was no flavor in the sauce. Generally the food was at the low end of normal.
  2. We all thought the band, Supersonics?, was not great. The lead female vocalist didn’t sing very well.

What Was the Designer of the Royal Class Ship Thinking?

This was our first cruise on the huge Royal Princess. It was the first of this larger class of ship, and it holds 3560 passengers. Surprisingly and unfortunately, the larger number of passengers is not matched by larger public areas and facilities.

Overall the floor plan of the Royal is disappointing. There is no real promenade deck to walk around. The only walking space for exercise is on the top deck, and it only covers about 1/3 of the length of the ship.

The walking/running deck on the top deck.

The walking/running deck on the top deck.

The public areas feel smaller even though the ship is larger. The Wheelhouse bar area is cramped and blends into the Crown Grill. That makes the Crown Grill tremendously noisy and less special. There is a general lack of elegance… it feels like Princess is devolving. I hope it doesn’t continue down that path.

Not only does the Promenade deck not let you walk around the ship, it is closed off a lot of the time. Sometimes the deck was closed during arrival/departure moments when the Bridge referred to the view outside. The view was out there, but you couldn’t get to it unless you climbed up to the top of the ship.

The “Vista” lounge was tagged as the meeting spot for the afternoon Elite Cocktail party. It usually had all of the window shades pulled resulting in no “vista”. Further, the room is not conducive to casually meeting people. The set up is more for watching a show instead of socializing or seeing a sea vista. It felt like a waste of a room.  Why be on a ship if you’re going to keep the shades drawn all the time?

Similarly, the shades along the hallways near the Wheelhouse bar and the TV studio were almost always closed. Why? I’d emphasize the sea view!

Dinner at the Crown Grill with Chuck, Lou, Galen, Geoff, and Fred

Dinner at the Crown Grill with the
Wheelhouse Bar atmosphere all around

And, as I said before, the Wheelhouse opens up to the Crown Grill making the fine dining experience a noisy mess. Also, the ship schedules meetings in the Wheelhouse (LGBTQ, chef’s table, etc.) at 6 when the music starts.  Why have people meet when the music starts?  You cannot easily talk over the music.

Our hope is that Princess will stop supersizing the ships and focus on the passenger experience. Our ship wasn’t full, and I suspect that the ship design keeps some people from booking on the Royal class cruises. We hope that smaller, better designed ships will be home ported in San Francisco in the future.  We will happily go back on the Royal, but we would go back more happily to the Grand!

What Do We Really Think?

The cruise was wonderful. We spent time together while others took care of us. We met and enjoyed warm people. We had good weather and saw beautiful and interesting sights.

We recommend Princess and the cruise we took. We hope some of the nits we picked are resolved, and we also will be scouting the schedules for smaller ships that come to San Francisco!

View for our balcony on the morning of disembarkation.

The view from our balcony when we were docked back in San Francisco..

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Paris, March 14, 2006 – September 20, 2022

Ch. Wagsmore’s French Impressions ML

Paris is the most amazing gift we have ever received. Paris was a Champion show girl, and Geoffrey handled SeQueL and competed against Paris in the ring. They competed and flirted while they all looked for a nod from the judge.

Then one afternoon we received a phone call from Mary Louie, Paris’ owner. She asked if we would accept Paris into our pack, explaining she and her husband were splitting up.  I hate to see relationships end, but there was no hesitation that we would love to have Paris.

Geoffrey holds a newly arrived Paris in our backyard

Geoffrey holds a newly arrived Paris in our backyard.
(click on any photo in this post for a full-size version)

Paris always had her own classy style, and she loved being a surrogate mother and willing playmate. She was devilish while looking regal.

Paris "Gardening" in the Backyard

Paris studiously NOT jumping in the flower box

Paris in Apex and Zenith's whelping box along with SeQueL

Paris in Apex and Zenith’s whelping box along with SeQueL

Paris also had two unique, strong, spectacular abilities.

Most important, she let people relax and feel their emotions when holding her. Her support and love let an impressive number of adult men break down and cry.

We’d leave a visitor in the backyard with Paris while we fetched snacks, and we would return to see Paris being hugged while she licked the tears from their face. This happened a weirdly high number of times.

Firooz and Paris Snuggle

Firooz and Paris Happily Snuggle – No tears here!

This special bonding talent was strong when she was in the prime of her life, and it also continued into her maturity. Just last year our 30ish neighbors came over and met the pack. Ever since that visit they ask how Paris is doing as if the other girls were in the backup chorus.

Thank you, Paris, for being such a warm dog.

Now her other special talent is just as strong but not quite as charming.
Paris had the instinctive ability to be underfoot.
Her whole life she has suddenly shown up under me while I am chopping food for dinner. Or, I’ll turn around and on an unplanned impulse I will head for the refrigerator, only to have my leg bang into Paris’ side.

It’s not just me. She can predict where Geoff, our guests, anyone is about to walk and beat them there.

More amazing is that despite her recent blindness there has been no lessening of the ESP that gets her in front of me, even when I had no idea I was going in that direction.

Very fun… in retrospect. But, how did she do it so well so consistently?

For 16 1/2 years and one week, she blessed this side of the rainbow bridge. Thank you, Paris. We will miss you greatly.

Enjoy her memorial video at https://bit.ly/WagsmoresFrenchImpressions or visit her photo gallery at https://ozdachs.smugmug.com/Dachshunds/Paris-2006-2022/

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Recall Chesa Boudin — Yes on H

San Francisco voters should recall District Attorney Chesa Boudin June 7th.

My disillusion with Chesa’s performance stems from his failure to live up to his progressive promises while at the same time failing to develop reasonable and effective standards for the implementation of his laudable goals.Yes on Recall PosterI have personal experience about his failure to prevent unnecessary aggressive prosecution of a Black man.

Chesa’s office would not divert or work with the public defender when one of our church’s gay refugee Guardian Group clients was arrested in a roommate dispute. I was not there as a witness but I understand that our guy froze up when the police arrived because he has PTSD from being beaten by cops in Africa. So the police heard only the roommate’s description of what happened and arrested our guy. Our guy is thin, not muscular, and really not physically threatening. Our guy had no criminal record. It was a “he said, he said” situation. Regardless, Cheasa’s staff would not drop the charges or work with the public defender to come to any resolution. The DA’s office — Chesa’s office — were going for a felony charge and over a period of weeks they would not budge.

Given the facts of the case and the refusal of Chea’s staff to be reasonable, the judge stepped in, ordered our guy to go to anger management, and then completely dismissed the charges and wiped the record.

Now if Chesa was really looking to help Black and other people who have been abused by the system, his people should have never even filed the charge. Society would NOT have been better off if our guy had been convicted of anything.

At the same time as he allowed an unreasonable prosecution Chesa has picked some truly awful and dangerous people to be lenient with. People who have caused death from violence and drug dealing have be set free.  It’s not just one or two mistakes, I ran across a page full of video stories of families of victims.

I like what I know about Chesa’s philosophy and his desire to give fairer justice and to prosecute wrong doing wherever it comes from. Divert the poor who got caught stealing food; throw the book at dirty cops.

The problem, and why I support recall, is that Chesa has no apparent consistent, effective standards that guide him or his staff. My mild, scared PTSD refugee was prosecuted while unrepentant crooks have been set free.

As the pro-recall campaign notes, “Almost half of San Francisco’s prosecutors have resigned from the District Attorney’s office in protest over Chesa Boudin’s mismanagement, threats to withhold evidence, decisions to hand down lenient sentences or not press charges, and release violent criminals early. Until we recall Chesa Boudin, more and more prosecutors will continue to leave. He can’t even do the job.”

Stop the Republican Recall poster
Unfortunately, those opposing recall are engaging in name calling to divert attention from the issue of Chesa’s performance. They’re saying it’s a “Republican recall.” I am no Republican. I will talk to recall opponents respectfully and we can exchange reasons for our positions. But, let’s talk and not call names.

Moreover, the numbers say that this recall effort is supported mainly by people other than Republicans. From the Yes on Recall campaign: “83% of our donors are Dem or NPP with over 80% of donations coming from local San Franciscans. Lifelong Democrats are leading this effort.”

No on H PosterNo on Recall door hanger

Opponents of recall also say that I should look at the police statistics for 2019 to 2020 for certain violent crimes that prove Chesa is combatting crime. I am truly glad that the number of recorded rapes, robberies and assaults declined year over year. But, carefully selected specific offense statistics culled from a pandemic year do not counterbalance what I see with my own eyes: car window glass littering streets, abandoned Walgreens, and too frequent news stories of maham caused by individuals Chesa has refused to prosecute and released. Moreover, according to the New York Post other crimes have increased “significantly in the city Boudin works for, with burglaries up 40% from pre-pandemic levels and homicides up almost 37%.” So, no. Crime statistics don’t support Chesa staying in office.

The final argument against recall is that recall itself is extreme and either should not be allowed ever or in Chesa’s case we should just wait for the next election. Well, I think there are times when recall is needed to correct an election outcome that was manipulated by campaign statements that were later found to be untrue. The law already provides for the removal of public officials convicted of a crime, but I believe citizens also need recourse when they vote for someone whose actions in office don’t match what they promised in a campaign or they otherwise endanger the community.

Someone suggested in Facebook comment that Chesa should not be removed mid term because of “buyer’s remorse”. That is not it at all.

I believe Chesa’s actual performance is office does not match the compassionate and equal justice outlook he promised. He has rhetoric but no clear, consistent, predictable path of intelligent action. He has disrupted the criminal justice system in San Francisco but he has not installed an effective, reliable set of alternative procedures. The result of his ideological approach to prosecution has resulted in deaths,  stores closing, and a high level of citizen anguish as their cars and other property have been stolen by organized crooks.

Every day Chesa stays in office increases the losses to San Franciscans.

Based on my personal experience of his failure to stop a senseless prosecution of a PTSD victim and my observations of the closing of stores because of unprosecuted theft, the stories of released people causing death, the disbanding of many task forces in the DA’s office, his failure to appropriate charge enhancements, and, and, and…
I am voting YES on H.

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“Once on This Island” at OSF

Once on This Island

Book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens Music by Stephen Flaherty Based Upon the Novel My Love, My Love by Rosa Guy Directed by Lili-Anne Brown

Ashland, OR at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Once on This Island (2022): Chuckie Benson, Camille Robinson, Michael Wordly, and Phyre Hawkins. Photo by Jenny Graham.

Chuckie Benson, Camille Robinson, Michael Wordly, and Phyre Hawkins.
Photo by Jenny Graham, OSF.

It was good to be back in the Bowmer Theater to for a fun evening that is full of energy, good singing, lively movement, and entertaining and meaningful music.

The story is a Caribbean-set retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, and virtually all plot development in Once is delivered in song. The different moods, the different sounds, and the characters all work delightfully. 

J. D. Webster, Sasha Jewel Weymouth, and Patricia Jewel. Photo by Jenny Graham. OSF.

J. D. Webster, Sasha Jewel Weymouth, and Patricia Jewel. Photo by Jenny Graham, OSF

All the cast members were above competent with careful expressive motions and voice. I am seriously impressed by the young actress who played Little Ti Moune (either Sasha Jewel Weymouth or Ayvah Johnson, I didn’t see in the playbill which we were seeing that night). The young actor was a dynamo, controlled, and on pitch.

We also enjoyed seeing a larger group of actors fill up the stage. What fun!

The direction and lighting were flawless. The story’s message of racism was obvious and the director’s notes that she was glad to have been able to produce the show from a Black perspective puzzled me. Do some productions make it okay that Ti Moune gets dumped by her prince because of her skin color?  Ick.

Some technical areas kept me from pure happiness. The major flaw for me was the costumes. They were overdone and cheap looking straight out of a high school production. I don’t know the budget, but it apparently wasn’t enough. 

The sound was also iffy at times. Sometimes the words in songs disappeared in the music. The worst of this was at the end when there’s singing telling the future of Ti Moune and succeeding generations. I missed the future of her as a tree completely.

And, I agree with a friend’s criticism that in a musical there should be some magic that shows up sometime on the set. Once‘s scenic design was unchanging despite the different locations of the scenes. This again was perhaps a budget issue, but the effect was to damp down the specialness of the evening.

Overall the show was a lot of fun with meaning and emotion. I give it:
Play Rating: 4 out of 5 Syntaxes

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“unseen” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

unseen

written by Mona Mansour
directed by Evren Odcikin

Ashland, OR
at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Masthead for :"unseen" at OSF

unseen has given us hours of discussion on how we could fix it to make it a good play. We try so hard because the storyline resonates so loudly in our times of war, horror, loss, and helplessness. And we can spend hours on fixes because there are so many issues.

The title unseen itself illustrates one of the play’s problems. The e. e. cummings capitalization style is obviously supposed to mean something. So much of unseen is supposed to mean something that I didn’t quite grasp. From the title capitalization to parts of the set to passages of dialog to almost everything presented to the audience, the show is endlessly metaphorically symbolic and reminiscent of… things I should understand. 

But, there’s too much I don’t understand without taking the PhD class in symbolism.

Perhaps I would spend more time trying to grok the finer points presented to us, except that the main character, Mia (played by Helen Sadler), is unlikable. Her coldness is another point of endless debate — is the character written poorly or is the problem with the actor and director in this production. Whatever the reason, we don’t wind up caring about what has happened or is happening to her.  

Because we don’t bond with Mia, the string of events in her life feel random. I know what she’s lived through is PTSD provoking. But, she wasn’t warm and friendly in the earlier, pre-passing-out stressed flashback moment. So did we miss some earlier damaging scene? And, speaking of time disorientation, scenes usually started out with their time being displayed in lights on a beam on the stage, e..g, “3 months ago”. But, I think that the scenes were shown in chronological order. Weren’t they? So why display the dates?

unseen (2022): Helen Sadler and Nora el Samahy. Photo by Jenny Graham.

Helen Sadler and Nora el Samahy. Photo by Jenny Graham, OSF

I am fan of the rule that if you show me a gun in Act I you need to shoot it before the play is over. In unseen I never understood why Mia is a lesbian. Was it because her ex girlfriend (Derya, played by Nora el Samahy) was not out and therefore was “unseen” by much of Derya’s birth family? I don’t know. And, there were just too many loose ends for me to care about any of them.

The highlights of the short 100-minute-ish performance was the acting by el Samahy and Carolyn Shaffer who played Jane, Marian, and Nancy. These two women gave nuanced, emotional, and approachable performances. They quality of their acting was one of the reasons there was so much discussion on fixing the play… we wanted it to be worthy of their skill.

However, there’s even more to fix.

The stage design was weird with 1/3 seemingly reserved for a tree branch. There was too much movement from one side to the other making people feel like there were watching a tennis match in the aisle configuration. 

Then there were the words flashed on the set telling us the time period of some of the scenes. That was okay because if you missed the date in its out-of-the-way location you generally got was going on by context. However, at the end of the play there is a prayer/song/something sung in Turkish (Arabic?) and the English translation was apparently splashed on a wall. About one in six people I talked to saw the translation, the rest of us missed the meaning of the closing words. That was a loss.

unseen has too many themes, too many possibilities, and too many symbols to be either fun or worthwhile. It’s a well-meaning piece with two fine actors, and you will discuss your ideas about how to improve it. But, overall, it’s only:

Ozdachs Rating:  2 Syntaxes out of 5

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