Our last full day on the ship, and a sea day heading back to Galveston and the real world. We grabbed some breakfast at the buffet, finally figuring out that if you go to Cafe Caribe instead of the main buffet, you get open tables and a more logical layout on the food line. After that we went down to the International Cafe and picked up some coffee before heading over to the Princess Theater for a cooking demonstration featuring the ship’s executive chef Giuseppe De Gennaro and maitre d’ Francesco Ciorfito. They did a full meal, including appetizer, entree, drinks, and dessert while we watched, spiced with some really funny humor. After the cooking demonstration was done we got a tour of one of the galleys. That was really cool, getting to see how well the workspaces are laid out and where our food came from. At the end of the tour we picked up a copy of the ship’s cookbook, and got it signed by Chef De Gennaro.
After we got done with the tour, we went down to the photo gallery and found our pictures from the various dinners and other things. We pared them down to a pair of formal portraits of the two of us and one each of us individually. We’ve got a serious lack of good pictures of ourselves, so it was nice to finally have some good ones to hang up. Those got dropped off at the cabin before we went to grab some lunch.
After lunch we went back to the Princess Theater to meet up with the group for the ship’s tour. There were nine of us in the group, plus Jorge, our guide, and a photographer. Our first stop was the theater, where we got to get up on stage, see how the lighting and sound systems worked, as well as meet a couple of the dancers and see the dressing rooms. From there we went over to the forward anchor room where we met the second officer and learned a little about the mooring systems the ship uses. The anchors are huge, and the chain is pretty massive as well. In addition there were the forward mooring lines and their electric winches. After that we went over to one of the galleys for a more in depth tour of it than we had after the cooking demonstration. Chef De Gennaro was there, talking to us about kitchen operations and answering questions, as well as serving us some fruit drinks and delicious chocolates. We learned that everything served is made from scratch, they do not have any pre-made food, including the bread. Watching them make the rolls for tonight’s dinner was fascinating. Next on the tour was to head down the M1, the long open passage the crew uses to move fore and aft, to check out food storage areas, the print shop, and the photo lab. Next we went a little further down, to check out the ship’s laundry. That was pretty incredible, there’s an amazing amount of automation, especially machines to fold towels, napkins, and sheets. We were treated to one of the crew modeling the bathrobe that we’d each be getting as one of the tour perks. He was really hamming it up, which made all of us laugh quite a bit. After that we went to check out the main engineering control room and met the chief engineer. Getting to hear about the power output, and consumption, of the ship was neat. It makes enough power to light a decent sized town, with most of that being used to move the ship. We got to see the control systems screens, with the status of everything on the ship, down to individual valves. We also got to visit the medical center and talk to the doctor on staff. He was a really interesting guy, from England, who has been working for Princess for a few years now. They’re capable of handling most medical issues, up to very minor surgery, and can stabilize patients until they can be evacuated to a hospital on land. I’m glad we got to visit it under these circumstances instead of as a customer. Our next stop was, for me, the highlight of the tour: the bridge. The view from there is fantastic, it’s got to be the best view on the ship, especially from the wings on either side. There are no obstructions, and if I could have stayed there for a few hours, I would have been really happy. We got an introduction into the ship’s controls, how it’s steered, the radars, digital charts, and more, plus got to meet the staff captain because the captain was busy elsewhere. After the bridge tour was done, the second officer took us up to the ship’s funnels, where we got a final group shot before heading back down to one of the lounges for some champagne. We all hung out for a few, enjoying a few glasses and talking about the tour before taking our leave. It was neat getting outside of the passenger areas of the ship and in to the working sections. I’m not sure we’ll do this again, but it’s definitely something that you should consider doing at least once. It definitely puts things in perspective and gives you a lot of insight into what’s going on behind the scenes while you’re enjoying the resort-like atmosphere in the rest of the ship.
When we got back to our cabin, we had a pair of bathrobes and aprons waiting for us. The robes are super fluffy, and will be much appreciated for lounging around the house. The aprons are really nice as well, and were a pleasant surprise, because we thought that we’d be getting chefs jackets based on the on-line discussions. These are going to be much more useful than chefs jackets, so we’re not disappointed. We set about packing the stuff in our suitcases, and managed to get it all to fit. And then the other shoe dropped when Antonio showed up with our photos and two large boxed photo frames. We knew there were photos coming, but the frames were totally unexpected, and really messed up our packing. We spent some time moving things around so that we could get them in Heather’s big suitcase, but it’s going to be tight, and now we’re going to have to hit a UPS Store when we get back to Galveston.
Our last dinner on board was excellent, and we stayed a little later talking with the other couples at our table before heading back to the room and crashing out a little early so that we’d be up and moving in time to get off the ship in the morning.