November 10th, 2018

San Fran and San Diego

(**DISCLAIMER**: The viewpoints expressed here are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer!)

Just as a little addendum to last week’s post, Theresa Barlow, my circus boss’s wife, sent me the infamous chocolate chip pumpkin bread!! It was just as amazing as I remembered. Typically any circus person lucky enough to get one of these treasures would hoard it for themselves. But this time—just this once mind you—I sliced it up to share with the band. The first and last time I’ll ever share a Theresa Barlow chocolate chip pumpkin loaf!

In addition to that excitement, Stacey (bass, my roommate) got us a hot water kettle! Neither of us had packed one because it was on the list of Things You Can’t Have, but since then we’ve been told it’s OK as long as it has an auto-off function. Yay!

Why is this so exciting you ask? Let me tell you a little something about the Ruby Princess.
The crew mess (that’s the crew dining room) is located on Deck 4 Aft. Aft means “the rear end of the ship”. My room is located on Deck 7 Forward (“the front end of the ship”.)

This means that if I want coffee, or hot water for tea, I need to go up and down three flights of stairs and walk the entire length of the ship and back. To give you an idea of how far this is, if you were to do 2 ½ laps on the deck of the Ruby Princess, you will have walked one mile. Therefore, walking the length of the ship twice plus going up and down three flights of stairs adds up to approximately ½ mile.

I’ve been walking ½ mile for each cup of tea.
That’s why having a kettle in the room is such a wonderful thing! FEWER STINKIN’ STEPS!!!


The water is very choppy today! After breakfast I practiced in my stairwell. Our guest artist today is a Motown group called Horizon. There’s a lot of music so I was concerned, but after playing through it I feel a lot better about it :)

While packing up I overheard a guest telling someone that they could see whale in the distance. I stopped to look and sure enough, you could see mist every once in a while from a blowhole. It was too far away to see the whale itself, but it was still cool.

I spent the afternoon taking it easy, because from about 3pm-11pm it was non-stop music-making!
First we had the sound check and performance of the Welcome Back/Welcome Aboard Captain's Circle event. After that we went right into a rehearsal with Horizon. Then there was just enough time to eat dinner and get changed before launching into three shows with Horizon. All three shows went well, although we were all pretty tired by the last one! I think the second show at 9:15pm was the best, because we had the biggest and most energetic crowd and the best sound. Here is an audience clip of the show!

The guys in the band were fantastic. We're going to be doing another show with them soon and I'm looking forward to it!

After such a long day, I was quick to get to bed!


Today was special! We were docked in San Francisco for the entire day, from 7am-11pm! Not only that, our bosswoman was able to get us a WHOLE DAY OFF! No playing! Whee!!!

Molly (drums) and I were scheduled to have IPM duty this port, however Stacey (bass, my roommate) was a true champion and took my IPM duty!! I can't thank her enough! She said she wanted some chill time on the ship. No one was available to take Molly's IPM, so I chose to return to the ship early and take over her shift so that we can each enjoy a half-day ashore!

I was so excited that I had trouble sleeping! I woke early in the morning and was off the ship right at 8am! I walked to Boudin Bakery for some breakfast and internet time. And then...


Japantown is only about six blocks, but there’s a lot packed in there. I started off at the most notable landmark, the Peace Plaza pagoda.

I was a bit early as most of the shops didn’t open until 11am or so, but I walked around and just looked at everything. Los Angeles has a Little Tokyo area, and this was like that only much smaller and more residential. But it was interesting to see that many of the houses and apartments even had Japanese architectural elements.

The two things that were open were the Daiso (Japanese dollar store) and a Japanese grocery. I went to both, and though I didn’t really need anything I always enjoy looking around. The grocery especially…I just want to try everything!! I did end up getting some taiyaki bean buns for Molly, because she’d mentioned that she likes sweet red bean filling :) And I got some standard seaweed crackers for myself.

By the time I was finished with that, most of the other stores were open. There was a large mall featuring food stalls, restaurants, a two-level bookstore, tea shops, and any number of retailers selling products from Japan. I really wanted a yukata but unfortunately they are pretty expensive, and I didn’t find any on sale this time.

Although I saw many things that would be fun to have (bento boxes, wall hangings, sake sets, etc), there was nothing that I actually needed. It was about lunch time, so I settled on Udon Mugizo inside the mall. I've never had udon before and wanted to give it a try!

This is niku bukkake udon, served cold with scallions, shredded nori, seasoned thin-sliced beef, and a lemon wedge. There was also a small pouring container full of dashi sauce, which you’re supposed to either dip the noodles in or pour over them. My goodness, it was delicious! Kind of like a cross between ramen and pho. The seasoning on the beef was fantastic! I ate too much but it was so dang good!

After that big meal I needed to walk it off! I revisited some shops and walked around outside for a bit as well. I went down to a nearby Safeway to get Stacey some chamomile tea. When I felt like there was a little more room in my stomach, I went back to the mall for dessert!

This is a taiyaki ice cream from Uji Time Dessert. Taiyaki is a popular snack item in Japan, named after (and shaped like) a fish. The fish is just waffle batter that’s been poured into a mold and then filled with something tasty, usually sweet red bean paste or custard or something. In this case they were using it as a cone for ice cream! The flavor choices included matcha tea, black sesame, or seasonal maple peach. I had intended to get maple peach but got distracted by the black sesame! You could also choose a filling for the fish, either red bean paste or Nutella, but I was still pretty full from lunch and didn’t want to overdo it so opted out of the filling. Both the ice cream and the taiyaki were delicious :)

After that I was feeling pretty tired (food coma?) so got myself back to the ship to relieve Molly of her IPM duty and give her her taiyaki. I took a short nap, then went to the gym. Around that time we got tomorrow’s schedule, and it looks like I won’t be able to go ashore this time. But I’m happy that I’ll still be in California and will still have data!

I was very happy to enjoy this lovely day in San Francisco. Yes, I ran off and did this stuff by myself. But remember that in a cruise ship environment, privacy is virtually nonexistent. Look back at the pictures of my cabin and think about sharing it with another person, who needs to eat and shower and study and fart just like you do! It’s not terrible by any means, and Stacey is the best roommate I could possibly ask for! But when the opportunity presents to be alone for several hours, I’m going to take it! It was very refreshing. I only wish Jameson could have been there.

We’ve been in touch pretty frequently actually. He’s been busy with gigs and work, and looking after my houseplants (thanks my dear!). I like to find out what he’s up to, and I’ll be excited when we’re sharing space again :)


I woke up and did my routine, or what seems to have become my routine. Breakfast at 9am, practice sometime between 10-11:30am. Depending on how practice goes, maybe a little reading or computer time left over. Lunch around 1pm.

Then usually my “work day” begins with some kind of training, or a rehearsal or sound check, or maybe an afternoon performance in the piazza. And then there’s usually a few hours for a trip to the gym or more practice or relaxation, followed by dinner, followed by the evening performances…usually jazz sets, or dance sets, or a production show, or a show with a guest entertainer. Wash, rinse repeat.

Today I had training at 2pm and a set at 8:30pm. I had intended to go to the gym, but was feeling physically very tired and decided to call it off in favor of some time enjoying the fresh air on the deck. I don’t have time to go ashore in Monterey before we leave, but it was still nice to watch the ships coming and going and enjoy some clean air (many of the larger ports are rather…smoggy.)

Training was fine, the evening set was fine. As the sun was setting I managed to catch this little pod of sea lions heading out to sea.


Today we are at sea all day on the way to San Diego. Our band has a rehearsal for Voices of the Ocean (or VOTO as we call it), followed by some more shows with the Horizon Motown band. Once again I skipped the gym...I have actually been trying to go about four times per week, and I think my body hasn't adjusted yet because I feel extra tired :/ So I'm going to scale it back just a little this week, and try again next week!

The rehearsals and the Horizon Motown shows went well. Here is the main Ruby Princess Theatre stage, where we were preparing to rehearse for the Motown show.


Today we are very lucky! Well, the horn section is haha. The only show scheduled for our band is the production show Magic to Do, which only the rhythm section has to play. So the horns have an entire day off in San Diego, and shore leave from 8am to 7:30pm!!

San Diego is another circus-nostalgia city for me. Lots of great circus memories here from 2013 and 2015.

I stepped off the ship and took this picture from the prow.

My day began with a nice lox bagel from Spill the Beans. It was kind of overpriced if I'm being honest, but they do make their own bagels and cure their own salmon and make their own cream maybe not. Stop on by but be prepared for long lines of hipsters!

There was nowhere to sit in Spill the Beans, so after finishing my meal I moved on and found another coffee shop to type up this blog and do some work. Pretty soon I'm going to have to start applying for jobs again, and I also have another project in the works that requires a lot of computer time (I'll share what it is if it actually works out!).

Once done with that...I had to do it.
I went to the train yard.

It was a long walk. The closer I got to the train yard, the more homeless folks I saw camping out, the more dirty it got, the less attractive. But that's what life with the circus was all about. All of the glamour was in the shows. All of the grit was on the rails. When I have the opportunity to visit the places where we used to stay, or perform, or enjoy each others' company, I will do so. I was glad to stand here today and see how much has changed, and to look back on what it was like.

After my little nostalgia trip I walked over to the public library for a little more wifi time. Although the wifi was good, it was difficult to find a seat because there were a LOT of homeless folks in there, using the internet to look for work, eating lunch behind the bookshelves, or brushing their teeth in the bathroom. This was not annoying, it was just saddening. Thank God for public libraries, probably one of few places where people can look for work or clean up for a few minutes without being asked to move along.

I did what I needed to do, then walked through the Gaslamp District and found a pizza place for a slice. For old time’s sake I stopped in the Ghirardelli store and got some dark chocolate. Then I began the trek back to the ship. It was a two mile walk and I had plenty of time, so I took it slow and just enjoyed the day and the fact that I was getting to enjoy this city again.

I was still hungry after a while, so when I found a Panera I stopped there for a small salad and stayed for a while to text with friends and family. When it got dark I decided to continue walking back. Along the way I ran into other crew members returning. It reminded me of how we all used to converge on the circus train after a day in each city. The ship looked beautiful; it’s the first time I’ve seen it from the outside at night.

Back on board I put away my things and had a light dinner in the guest buffet, then since it was payday I decided to splurge on an ice cream sandwich from the café on Deck 16! This is the Cookie Colada: two ginger coconut sugar cookies with pina colada ice cream! It was pretty good!

Tomorrow we are in Ensenada, and I do not expect to have time to get off the ship.


We arrived in Ensenada this morning. After breakfast I went to an all hands meeting, which was really an awards ceremony for people who have been Princess employees for years and for those who have provided exceptional service to guests. We also received a few updates on things happening in the company.

After the meeting I did a little organizing on my music tablet and my ipad, then practiced a bit, had lunch, went to the gym. The usual stuff.

Around 4pm there was a rehearsal for Voice of the Ocean, which went nice and quickly. We wrapped it up just as the ship was pulling away from Ensenada. I had a nice lunch of fish, rice, and broccoli in the crew mess, and then we performed Voice of the Ocean. To be honest the audience was kind of dead, not a whole lot of energy this cruise. I guess that happens sometimes. All of the singers did a great job. Were they great? No. But they had the courage to get up there and sing in front of a theater full of strangers. That’s something even I, a supposed “musician”, will not do. One elderly woman was shaking the entire time, and it turns out she was singing for her husband and they were celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary! How amazing is that? I was very happy for her!

Anyway, that was all the house band had to do today. Stacey (bass) and I went up to the guest buffet for some light snacks with members of the party band, and then we met up with Molly (drums), Paula (sax) and Rebeca (guitar) in the piazza to see the Mariachi band play for the Day of the Dead celebration!

Once again the guests did not seem to be in an interactive mood! We tried to liven things up by joining the party! Here is a clip of everyone dancing together :)

If people do not want to dance, at least they can enjoy watching others dance! I’m not much of a dancer myself :)


It's turnaround day in LA! I decided to try a new coffee shop today, but their wifi was having issues so I found a tea shop instead. Sitting here now typing this. It's kinda busy so I may go explore around the block and come back to see if the line has gone down.

It's been an eventful week and this was a long post! Next week is our last one hitting the California ports, so I'm going to explore as much as I can and enjoy the wifi. Because after that I'll only have Saturdays in LA and the Walmart in Vallarta for my internet time!