Pacific Princess
Safari Cruisetour to East Africa
March 2000

In March 2000 we took a Princess Safari Cruise Tour to East Africa. The safari portion is covered in a separate review. This review will cover the 11 day cruise on Pacific Princess from Mombasa, Kenya to Capetown, South Africa. This was our fourteenth cruise, our third on Princess, but our first "exotic" cruise.

Pacific Princess is the grand old lady of the Princess fleet, being the original "Love Boat" of the TV series. By today's standards it is a very small ship, only about 600 passengers. The ship is in great repair and all the public rooms are nicely furnished and in good shape.

On Embarkation Day we drove from Tsavo National Park, where our safari ended, to the port in Mombasa. The embarkation process was very efficient and prompt (although we were very grateful that there were coolers of cold water waiting for us). It was nice to get on the ship and get settled in our cabin ... and get a shower and get some of the safari dust off of us! Our cabin was a Category E, outside on the Fiesta deck. The cabin has twin beds, one of which makes into a couch during the day and the other of which folds up into the wall. This gives the impression of quite a bit of space available in the cabin during the day time. With the beds folded out in their night time configuration it is a typical sized ship's cabin. The bathroom wasn't quite of the "soap up the walls and slither around in the shower" size... there was enough room to move around. All in all we were quite pleased with the cabin. We settled into shipboard life very quickly.

We had second seating for dinner. The food was in every way up to the usual Princess standards ... i.e. the very best food afloat! I had lots of shrimp, crab, and fish, and on lobster night I had FOUR lobster tails and the waiter kept coming around asking me if I wanted more! Renée, the red meat fan, had lots of bloody steaks and veal and one night, rabbit. There were wonderful soups, great salads (how do they keep the greens that fresh with no decent ports to renew them in?), enticing appetizers. The only area that was not too exciting was the desserts. Although one night I had a lovely Passion Fruit Souffle, most of the desserts were just routine. Many nights I just opted for the sherbert. The dining room staff did a wonderful job and were very attentive!

The next morning we got up and went to the breakfast buffet. This was very good the whole trip. They always had sausage, bacon, oatmeal, scrambled eggs, pastries, fruit in abundance. They had an eggs-to-order/omellette bar and a waffle bar. The only complaint I had about the buffet was that their glasses for juice and ice water/ice tea were not big enough.

After breakfast we got to Zanzibar. We were scheduled for the Walking Tour of the City, but as soon as we got ashore it started raining buckets so they put us on busses instead ... but there were still parts of the city the busses couldn't get to so we had to walk in the rain a lot! It was a warm day and a warm rain so it wasn't too bad. We saw the Sultan's palace and the museum and the Slave Chambers where they kept the slaves while they were waiting for a ship. Then we toured the countryside by bus and saw wonderful banyan trees. Our guide also collected a nutmeg for us, and cut it open so we could see the seed inside. The red covering of the seed is also a spice,known as mace.

This day, due to coming back to the ship sorta bedraggled, we went up for the buffet lunch. While it was OK, it was not as impressive as the breakfast buffet. They usually had some sort of stew, a pasta dish, fish of some kind, cold cuts, lots of salad and fruit, and always hamburgers and hot dogs. This day I just had a hamburger and fries and it was very good. Due to the small size of the ship, there is never a line at the buffet and it is always easy to find a table.

Other days we lunched in the dining room and I preferred that. They always had a big salad such as a Salade Nicoise, a good sandwich, and several hot dishes as well as a vegetarian lunch. Renée liked the buffet for lunch, I liked the dining room so we sort of alternated.

Then we had a day at sea. Those are my favorite days, with nothing much to do. The ship was very nice and had a lot of public rooms you could sit around in. We had the buffet breakfast on deck, and played the trivia game. Renée got a little sun while I took a nap. Then we enjoyed the "Gala Lunchtime Buffet," and didn't do much except try our luck in the Casino until it was time for afternoon tea! This trip I was the one who hit enough on the slot machines to pay for several days gambling (we usually invest a big $20 a day in gambling!) Then we went to the lounge and had a drink before dinner. It was a good day for eating.

Every night there was a show, of course. There were four big production shows which were really nice. The theater is small enough to be described as "intimate" and all the seats are good. Since the Pacific Princess is such a small ship there is never a crowd and good seats were always available. There were also several guest entertainers, such as a comedy magician, a classical pianist, two vocalists and a multi-instrumentalist. All of the entertainment was very enjoyable and typical of cruise ship entertainment. We had previously seen "Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance" on the Sun Princess and enjoyed it much more in the close up Pacific Princess theater than on the big stage of Sun Princess!

The next day was the island of Mayotte in the Comoro Islands. Renée went ashore and took the tour of the island, but I was suffering from the traveler's bane (from the safari, I think) so I stayed on the ship. Renée said the island was very interesting.

Then we went to Nosy Be, Madagascar. They had a whole fleet of little boats ... I think almost every motor boat on the island. We got on them from the ship, and they took us to Nosy Komba, the isle of lemurs. We got off the boats and waded ashore.

Then we walked through the native Malagasay village ... an appalling experience. The huts are wood or sheet metal, and the people are very poor. They all are trying to make some money off the tourists somehow. I got my picture taken with a beautiful bright green chameleon which some enterprising youngster had on a stick. We got to the lemur park and saw lots of lemurs in the trees, but they were pretty shy and only a few would come down if offered bananas.
Then we climbed a steep hill to a missionary hut with a lovely view of the bay. Renée did some shopping in the native village, and we went back to the ship. That afternoon I took a nap while Renée went ashore to shop ... she found some boys with tame lemurs and got her picture taken holding two lemurs.

Then we sailed and had three days in a row at sea. We had a lovely time ... some mornings I slept past breakfast, and just went to the pastry bar and had juice and pastry for breakfast. Other mornings we ate at the buffet. They did a real good breakfast. We tried the trivia contest almost every day but we never could win it ... somebody always had a point or two more than we did!

Then we stopped in Durban, South Africa. We visited a Zulu village, which was set up for the tourists. Here is the Zulu chief in all his splendor. Can you spot the Coke bottle among his possessions?

In the afternoon we had the spice tour and saw lots of spices growing, including nutmeg, cinnamon, sesame, coffee and some others I don't remember. We visited the spice market and saw all the spices on sale. The sign on the hot spice reads "Mother-In-Law Exterminator!"

The next day was East London SA. The most exciting thing here, at least in my opinion, was the museum that has the first coelecanth ever discovered. That is a big type of fish that was thought to be extinct 60 million years ago, but they found it off the coast of South Africa. Since then several more have been found, and National Geographic had a picture spread on it not long ago. It was real interesting.

Then one more day at sea, and we got to Capetown. Since our plane didn't leave til late afternoon, we had time for a tour of the city. We visited the marvelous botanical garden, went up on Signal Hill for the view, and could see Table Mountain in the morning, until the fog came in. Princess took care of getting our bags to the airport, and had a hospitality room and shuttle busses downtown after the tour. We had lunch on the waterfront and then transferred to the airport. It was all very smooth. It was a 12 hour flight overnight to Amsterdam, and then we had a six hour wait in Amsterdam Airport. But Renée shopped and we had a nice lunch so it didn't seem so long. Then it was an 11 hour flight to San Francisco ... we left Amsterdam at noon and got in SF at 2 PM since there is a 9 hour time difference! So we picked up the car and drove home, got home about 7:30 and were exhausted!

This was a wonderful cruise, and accompanied by the safari before hand it was a trip of a lifetime. Princess remains our very favorite cruise line. For those experienced cruisers looking for something more exotic, I heartily recommend an African Safari Cruisetour!

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