Seeing the inside of a cruise ship

Posted: Sunday, May 28, 2000

Ben Grammel was among the 41 Auke Bay Elementary fifth graders touring the cruise ship Sun Princess on Friday morning. When he reached the kids' entertainment area, he had one response.

``Can I live here?'' he asked.

The ship's Fun Zone contains its own ball pit, puppet theater, playhouse and computer stations. Next door is the teen club, with video games, big-screen TV and a wall of video screens swirling with abstract designs.

``There are so many cool things to do; you would never get bored,'' Ben said.

The tour of the 850-foot ship was escorted by Paulette Simpson, education coordinator for the Juneau Visitors Association. She said she will coordinate tours of big ships for nearly 600 Juneau fifth graders in 2000.

All the cruise lines participate in these tours, Simpson said, ``but because Holland America and Princess have the biggest presence here, tours occur on their ships three times each.''

Each tour is unique, said Liz White, manager of passenger services for Princess Tours. So far this year, students have watched a rehearsal of a glitzy stage show and viewed the engine room to see how video cameras monitor smoke emissions.

This particular tour began in the 400-seat theater where Juneau resident Keith Giles tuned the piano on stage. The kids seemed more interested in the wooden writing surfaces that slid out of the armrests than in what Michelle Howard, teen activity director for the Sun Princess, had to say.

After the tufted brocade seats of the theater, it was on to the green leather easy chairs and model ships of the Whale's Lounge. In the four-level atrium, they gazed wide-eyed at the stained glass skylight, the duty-free shops, the live palm trees and the glittering bullet-like elevators. The Regency Dining Room showed off its faux-Pompeii murals and etched glass dividers.

On deck, Howard pointed out the lifeboats hanging overhead.

``If you were interested in the movie `Titanic,' '' she said, ``the problem was there weren't enough life boats. Here we have extras and we have a whole team that, in the event of an emergency, would bring passengers onto the boats -- but only as a last resort. We always try to fix what's wrong first.''

Ultimately each student received a T-shirt with the logo of the Princess Pelicans. The kids asked questions and Howard answered them:

``Are infants free?''

Babies must be at least six months old to be passengers and they pay full fare, Howard said.

``How many people fit on the boat?''

The ship can hold 1,950 passengers and 900 crew, she said.

After climbing up and down the steps of six of the 15 decks and running their hands over miles of highly polished woodwork, the students were duly impressed.

``I think it's really cool,'' said Lindsey Hanna. ``My favorite part was the swimming pools.''

``The ship's really big. My favorite thing was probably the artwork and the glass dividers,'' said Alice Miller.

``I like the disco room and all the marble floors,'' said Zakary Kirkpatrick.

``It's nice to see what it looks like inside because you always see them docking here,'' said Auke Bay teacher Michelle Lyver as a white-jacketed waiter with an Italian accent took lunch orders in the pizzeria. ``I think the kids enjoy it.''

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