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November 17th, 2018

Last California Ports

(**DISCLAIMER**: The views expressed in this post do not reflect the views of my employer!)





11/11

Today was a day at sea. We had cabin inspections in the morning. I went to practice afterward; we just got the music for guest entertainer Stephanie Hodgdon, who is doing a rock show!



My morning was fairly free and I didn’t have a whole lot to do. I watched some anime and hung out in the crew bar, and had a nice lunch.

The shows in the evening went well, though I think we would all have liked to have a bigger space so we could really rock out! Still, the two earlier shows were well attended and people seemed to really dig it!

Tomorrow is our last visit to San Francisco.


11/12

In San Fran for the final time! This morning we had a crew drill, and the US Coast Guard was present so we had to really do a full drill, with lifeboats and crocodile lines and the whole shebang. Fortunately we did not have to actually get on the lifeboats! They're safe and all that, but they're very claustrophobic when filled to capacity!



After the drill I got right off the boat to enjoy this city one last time. It was a bit smoky due to the the forest fires burning in various parts of the state :/


I visited a Ross Dress for Less to try and find some camis, had no luck, and found a Trader Joe's instead! I find it amusing that the simplest places--grocery stores and internet cafes--are the most exciting to find when you're on tour. Anyway, I got just a few things to stock my "Emergency Rations and Snack Drawer" in my room: Clif bars, RX bars, some dried fruits, and a jar of honey.

After that I was hungry. In San Fran's Little Italy there are tons of great places to eat. I settled on Brioche Bakery & Cafe. They had some awesome-looking food in the display case!




I got a caprese panini and asked them to add prosciutto as well. Simple yet absolutely delicious. Hit the spot!


Next I spent some time using the free wifi at a cafe (mostly to write this post).
After finishing my internet stuff, I thought a real Italian gelato might be nice!

There were so many gelato places to choose from…some were even right across from each other! I decided on Lush Gelato, because it was on the main drag and they also had non-traditional flavors. But then, how was I supposed to decide between such awesome options?!



Lush makes their gelato in small batches, so they were already out of some of these flavors. That helped me to narrow it down! I chose the banana salted caramel gelato, and the chocolate orange peel sorbet. Both were absolutely delicious! The gelato had a better texture, but the candied orange peel chunks in the chocolate sorbet were right up my alley! I’m glad I tried both!


When my treat was finished I found a thrift store and did some browsing. Didn’t find anything this time, but that’s how thrifting goes! I made my way back down to the tourist area and had one last look around. It’s been wonderful to visit this city once again. Who knows if or when I’ll get to come back? I’m grateful that I could make some sweet memories here. Thank you, San Francisco.

Back on the ship, I put away my things and had dinner at the crew mess, then showered and got changed before reviewing the charts for tonight’s jazz set in the Wheelhouse bar. As you all know I dislike jazz and especially lead sheets. And this entire set was jazz, and lead sheets. Sigh.

The set went pretty well, I think. My solos were not very good…it’s been a while since we’ve done a jazz set, and I was nervous again. I need to keep practicing this style every day so that even if I’m nervous my muscles will remember what to do. But hey, everyone else sounded great!

Tomorrow we are in Monterey, but I have IPM duty.


11/13

I got up at my usual time and had breakfast, enjoying the phone data I was able to receive in the crew mess. Afterward I did laundry, washed my trombone slide (which was an “interesting” experience in the tiny shower), and went to the gym. After a little chill-out time, I went to Café Caribe for their “tea time”, featuring mini scones and fruit and other tasty treats.

Somewhere in there I went out onto the deck and observed a “man overboard” drill taking place. You can see some sea lions milling about in the background.

https://instagram.com/p/BqNniwxAhVL

In the evening we had a dance set in Explorers lounge. Personally I’m not a fan of Explorers as a space, it is rather cramped. But the dance floor is nice and so is the seating and the bar. We had some dancers, and I always love to see people enjoying our music by dancing as we play :)

It was a nice IPM day for me.
Tomorrow we are at sea. I think we will do the rock show again with the guest entertainer.


11/14

Today is Jameson’s birthday!! Sadly he has to work, but I hope he will have a good day anyway! I sent him a present and hopefully there are more on the way from his friends and family!

After wishing Jameson a happy birthday, I had a nice breakfast and took advantage of the ship’s internet to send a few more texts to family. My sister is preparing for a trip to Italy, and I wanted to wish her well. I also needed my brother and sister’s addresses so I can send Christmas presents later.

For breakfast in the crew mess I always have oatmeal, eggs, yogurt, and fruit. The oatmeal is pretty runny, so I’ll add a scoop of muesli to give it a little texture. Then I add my own honey, spices, and dried fruits that I’ve brought along. With the eggs, I’ll get two or three hard boiled eggs and eat the whites along with ketchup or a piece of bacon. The yogurt is just your standard fat free stuff, and then I’ll have a slice of pineapple or cantaloupe as well, and a cup of coffee. I try to eat healthy.

I didn’t feel much like practicing this morning. Instead I went out on the deck to stretch (I was sore from the gym) and to read a little while enjoying the fresh ocean air. As I was reading, guests were walking by for exercise or for pleasure. A few saw my “musician” name tag and stopped to say they enjoyed our recent performances, or to ask when our next one was. One lady suggested that I move to Canada and teach there. “We have health care!” she exclaimed proudly, “and not enough lady musicians!” Selling points, indeed!

In the afternoon we had the Voice rehearsal, lots of talented singers this time! Then later in the evening we had a rehearsal and two shows with Stephanie Hodgdon. Stephanie has been working for Princess for quite a long time, but this is her first time as a guest entertainer and only her second performance as one. Her show was well received, and hopefully she’ll be able to continue entertaining on other Princess ships!

After the show Stephanie insisted on a group photo. Ain't we a lovely bunch? One very cool thing about working here has been the ability to interact with artists of many different genres, and to see how each artist rehearses and performs. It was a pleasure to be a part of Stephanie's performances!



Back in my cabin, I was a bit bummed to find that I’d been scheduled for training at 10am tomorrow. We will be in San Diego, and I was hoping to get off the boat early because there’s a Marine Evacuation System drill between 9am-11am during which no one can get on or off the boat. But it looks like I’ll have to wait until the drill is over. Oh well…I have to appreciate any time off the ship, because remember, it’s never guaranteed.


11/15

Well, training was not so bad, and neither was the MES drill! Both took place at about the same time, and did not take nearly as long as I expected. I should learn to be more optimistic :P

I was able to get off the ship around 11am. Yay!



It was a beautiful day. I hadn't really planned anything...I considered the zoo, but Jameson and I have already been, and it's a bit expensive. Working here has been more about saving money. But I still do want to have SOME fun! So I decided on a nice brunch at Cafe 222!

Cafe 222 has been around for over a decade, which is saying something. The owner is a woman who sold a screenplay and used the money to finance the cafe. Although there are many awesome dishes on the menu, Cafe 222 is known for its peanut butter & banana stuffed French toast, which was featured on Food Network's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" (CLICK HERE to watch a clip from the episode). Apparently Bobby Flay is a big fan. Of course I had to try it!



Oh my goodness. First off, the peanut butter and bananas inside were pretty basic. Let's get that out of the way. But the TOAST. Just, WOW. Whatever seasonings they're putting in there, coupled with a perfect griddling, make it amazing. Next time (if I get a next time) I would just get the French toast alone. It was that good. There's something special in the batter. No part of it was soggy...it was light and fluffy and crispy caramelized on the outside. The pb and bananas were nice, but the actual French toast is where it's at!

There are tons of amazing things on the menu, and I wish I could have tried them all! If you ever go to Cafe 222, be sure to try something from the griddle, whether it's French toast or pancakes or waffles. Very much worth it!! I only wish Jameson could have been with me so we could enjoy it together!

After that, I decided to walk to some thrift stores. This took me through some pretty rough neighborhoods, but oh well. There's no rougher neighborhood than a train yard, and I've been in plenty of those. I had fun looking through the clothes, but once again didn't find anything.

I decided to give myself one more affordable treat while in San Diego. I took an Uber to a Japanese shopping plaza! There's no Japantown per se here in San Diego, but there is this little block with three or four Japanese groceries and shops huddled together (along with a used book store, Starbucks, and Target, sooooo...). I certainly don't NEED anything from these stores, but I love to look!

I mean come on.



Come ON.


I looked at everything, and bought a very few things ;)
I went to the bookstore and browsed.
I went to the Starbucks and typed while savoring a black pumpkin spice coffee.
It was nice.

Sometimes the nicest thing is just existing in a space. Not necessarily spending money, or rushing between points of interest. Just being in a place, in a moment. Thank you, San Diego.

Anyway. When I was finished I made my way back to the ship for a relaxing evening. Tomorrow we sail to Ensenada. In the morning the whole band is supposed to have a group interview for the onboard tv program, called Wake!


11/16

This morning we all had to be up early for an interview up on Deck 19 in the photography studio. The interview is for the Wake show, which is onboard programming showcasing all things Princess, from the shops to the people to the inner workings of the ship.

We wore our black show clothes and spoke with Natalie, the Princess hostess with the mostess. She asked us some questions about our time on the ship, what it’s like to be a musician here, what it’s like to be part of an all-female group. We were trying to decide how to verbalize that last one, and having trouble. Stacey (bass) nailed it:

“When men join a band, they have an instant fraternity. And when we joined this group, we found an instant sorority.”

She’s right, and that’s the perfect way to describe it. Men don’t have to think about integration on that level, because any group they join is pretty much guaranteed to be made up of men. There is already an existing camaraderie. But as a woman, I can tell you that I’ve almost always been the only female in any band I’ve joined. One just does not feel naturally accepted entering a room full of men. All of the women in this band agree that this has been our experience as musicians.

For most of us, this is the first time we’ve ever been in an all-female ensemble. Some of our members have been musicians for decades. Think about that. An entire career as a musician without ever playing in a band made up of women. Always being the only chick in the male ensemble. It was really fascinating to think about.

As a trombonist, I always just took it as a matter of course that if I wanted to play the trombone, I’d have to be “one of the guys” at all times, because there just aren’t women involved. I wonder how things might have been different if there were more women in music. In a classical setting there were of course other women in the orchestra…but never in the trombone section. It was always me + the boys.

Anyway, this was just an interview, but it led to some interesting thoughts. We had fun and hopefully passengers will enjoy learning a little bit about our ensemble!

After the interview was over Stacey (bass) Molly (drums) and I had a nice breakfast at the guest buffet. Molly had unusual trouble opening her banana, and finally managed to rip the top clean off. It looked like a little samurai helmet and we couldn’t stop laughing!



The afternoon was pretty much free. I have no interest in Ensenada, so just took a few pictures of the port from the deck.



I decided to give my body a break and skip the gym. I read a little bit, and wrote, and had a nice lunch. I practiced of course. We had a rehearsal and performance of Voice of the Ocean. All of the candidates were very good this time around! Usually it’s easy to pick out 1-2 strong singers with a good chance of winning, but this time it seemed everyone had a pretty even shot. Great job everyone!

Later on we had an evening dance set in Explorers lounge. There weren’t a whole lot of people there, and it took a lot of coaxing to get even a few couples to dance. Bummer, but that’s how it is sometimes. Other times the dance floor has been full…it varies every time.

Tomorrow we are back in LA (or more specifically, San Pedro). This is now our only American port, so I’m going to be really gunning to get off the ship each time we visit!


11/17

We had a crew drill this morning, only this time the US Coast Guard was there to inspect us as we completed it! Very interesting. Mostly it was a normal drill that just took longer than usual. Stacey and I checked in at our department muster station, then we went to our stairwell where in a real emergency we'd direct passengers. After over an hour of waiting, some Coast Guard personnel came through and questioned us on our ship safety knowledge. I was only asked one question--"Where are the children's life jackets?"--to which I replied, "Deck 7 and on the lifeboats themselves." Easy. But poor Stacey really got interrogated! "Where is lifeboat No. 13?" and "Where is Muster Station X?" and "Which side of the ship has the even-numbered rooms?" My goodness!

After that we were sent to our regular muster stations, and then we were released around 11am. We were all excited to get off the ship, but for some reason shore leave had not been granted yet :( probably due to the drill. We were not able to leave the ship until almost noon. I booked it to Hojas Tea House for the latest i-device updates, and to post this blog, and to enjoy some matcha tea and a bagel sandwich!



After this I'm going to visit a guitar shop to pick something up for Stacey, then it's back to the ship for the passenger drill. The Disco Deck Party has been moved back to our day in Cabo San Lucas, so I actually have the rest of the day off! I'll probably hit the gym, and maybe treat myself to the guest buffet :)

We have nine cruises left, all of them in Mexico.