Saturday, December 16, 2006

December 2006, Golden Princess Cruise -- Day 1

Saturday, New Orleans

On a Friday afternoon about a week before Christmas we drove to New Orleans to spend the night at the Hilton Garden Inn, in Kenner, before our cruise to the Caribbean aboard the Golden Princess. This was the first time Princess Cruises had sailed out of New Orleans. We expected a bit of chaos -- finding the parking garage, taking the shuttle to the dock and going through all the steps of getting on the ship. We were wrong, the whole process could not have gone more smoothly.

We thought the ship would be near the other cruise ships, a short distance up river from the Convention Center. But the the van from the parking garage, Machu Picchu Travel Services, took us the other way, through the narrow streets of the French Quarter and over to an old (unused for many years) dock down river. The port authority plans to put up a building there some day but for now there are huge white tents, big enough for the Greatest Show on Earth.

Soon after we arrived at the Poland Terrace Dock we were on the ship and in our cabin. On the starboard side of Baja Deck, eleven stories above the Mississippi River. Our cabin had a balcony and we had a great view of the New Orleans skyline, the French Quarter and the Crescent City Connection Bridge.

New Orleans Sundown from the Golden PrincessGetting the baggage on board, for 2600 passengers, was slower than expected. Probably because this was the first time for the crew at this location. So we were over an hour late setting sail. But no problem, we managed by opening an icy bottle of Mo√ęt et Chandon and watched the sun go down on New Orleans from our balcony.

As we started down the river it was getting dark but it was very interesting to see what we could of the mighty Mississippi. Although on a map it looks like New Orleans is practically on the Gulf of Mexico the distance by river as the Mississippi meanders through the delta is over 100 miles. The seven-hour trip to the end of the delta is a slow one and requires two different pilots. At 1:30 A.M. Sunday we were in the Gulf and heading for Montego Bay.

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