Tag Archives: Sapphire Princess

Cruising the West Coast — Last Stop, Ensenada


Today I present the last stop on our most recent West Coast cruise.  We’ve seen San Francisco, the Golden Gate, Alcatraz, Muir Woods, Sausalito, Santa Barbara, Santa Catalina Island, the USS Midway in San Diego, and today we’ll close with the last stop before heading back to home — Ensenada, Mexico.  Because of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (aka, The Jones Act), all foreign-operated cruise lines (which except for NCL America, which operates a cruise ship in Hawaii, is all of them) must put into their itinerary at least one port of call outside U.S. waters.  For this trip, that port was Ensenada.

Neither Ursula nor I had ever been to Ensenada prior to this trip aboard Princess Cruises‘ recently refurbished Sapphire Princess.  I must say that I was pleasantly surprised, as Ensenada is a very charming example of a typical Mexican tourist area — across between the hustle and bustle of a border town (think: Juarez or Tijuana) and the flashy retail section of a resort town (such as Mazatlán or Cancún).  But with that charm come the ever-present, high-pressure hawkers standing outside their stores desperately coaxing you inside, or the never-take-no-for-an-answer beggers and street tykes hawking Chiclets in an interminable gauntlet lining the sidewalks.

On the upside are the street food vendors.  You’ll see in today’s pictures just such an example, where Ursula and I partook of some fish tacos and orange Fanta.  Also fun are the brightly colored buildings that range from obnoxious Barbie pink to lemon chiffon and even lime sherbet chartreuse.

And here are the photographic results:

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Cruising the West Coast — USS Midway


I love it when a great warship is preserved rather than scrapped, used for target practice, or sunk as an artificial reef.  Such ships (and more importantly, their crew) should be honored, not discarded.

We arrived into San Diego on the Sapphire Princess the day after our Catalina Island excursion, and it was with great delight that I found we were within easy walking distance of the great USS Midway, which served in the United States Navy from just eight days after the formal surrender of Japan aboard the USS Missouri until its decommissioning nearly 47 years later, in April of 1992.  During that time, USS Midway operated in the Korean and Vietnam theaters of conflict and participated in the First Gulf War.  Indeed, it was the USS Midway that served as the backdrop for the now famous photos of Huey helicopters being shoved over the side of the ship to allow South Vietnamese Major Buang-Ly, his wife, and their five children to land in his two-seat Cessna O-1 Bird Dog during the final rout of South Vietnam.

USS Midway’s final major deployment was in support of Operation Fiery Vigil.  Operation Fiery Vigil was 20,000 Americans evacuated from Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Station in the aftermath of the devastating eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines.

Now, about the ship itself.  First of all, this thing is huge.  And what’s really amazing is the realization — as you’re standing on the massive four-acre flight deck or wandering through the cavernous hangar deck below — that is ship is far smaller than the modern supercarrier, and was deemed too small a ship for F-14 Tomcat operations.

But, then, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here they are:

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Cruising the West Coast — Santa Catalina Island Part 3


With the sun breaking out in the later afternoon, photographic opportunities returned to Avalon.  The bright colors opened up, and examples of Avalon tile adorning various buildings truly came into their own.

Pictured below you will see lines of golf cart “autoettes” awaiting their owners.  Boldly painted buildings made the landscape pop in color.

And all this occurred just before it was time to tender back onto the Sapphire Princess.

Timing is everything.

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