YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Winding Down Off the Coast of Baja

April 06, 1986|Zan Thompson

The dolphins made their entrance right on schedule, making their silken leaps in perfect formation. They were frolicking beside the Island Princess as we cruised off the coast of Baja California. Dolphins always seem to be having so much fun, romping through the water with their gentle grins. It always seems as if the most fun in the world would be to know what is making them smile and chatter so.

Jean Erck, my friend from Houston, had flown out to make the week's cruise with me and a bunch of other sun bums who were heading south away from the gray weather.

When we left on Saturday evening, it was in that biblical rain and when we woke up in the morning it was to a sunrise of scarlet above a purple sea. Jean and I both felt like the ladies in the travel magazines when we went up to the sun deck for breakfast.

The ship flies the British flag and is manned by English officers. The dining room on the Island Princess is Italian and the waiters and busboys are from all over Italy. Our waiter was a tall, blue-eyed young man who took perfect care of our table of 10.

The Island Princess offers all kinds of entertainment from nightclub performances to bingo. I was able to forgo the bingo although a lot of people traipsed off to seek their fortunes every time a game was announced. If you are a veteran of Catholic school bazaars, bingo loses its allure somewhere along about the fourth grade.

There is also a full casino, which Jean and I just looked in on. It's not that I disapprove. It's just that my nonexistent ability to add and subtract places me under more of a handicap than I need. I have noticed when playing blackjack that people clear their throats a lot and tap their fingernails when I add to 21. So rather than annoy these nice people, I save my sugar bowl money as does my friend, Jean. We were Depression children and thus we are basically chintzy; money is for rent, food, tuition and gasoline and not for throwing away.

Meals on the ship were delicious, with an emphasis on superb pasta and desserts to destroy the most iron resolve. There is a midnight buffet which looks like a giant Vermeer painting, fruits and vegetables and meats from all over the world. You will be pleased to know that Jean and I just looked but didn't touch.

The passengers were from California, the Middle West, Canada, all over. On a cruise, you can talk to any number of provocative people or stay in your deck chair and watch the water change from jade to amethyst.

There must be something in the salt air that makes everyone think he or she should write a book. A very funny man named Dick Gold, who was the piano player and comic on the ship, is writing a book about surviving the life of an entertainer afloat. He is an electrical engineer who lives in Colorado and works aboard the Island Princess. No wonder he's doing a book.

Toni Grant, a clinical psychologist and radio talkshow host, was aboard and working late into the night on a book that she hopes to have wrapped up before she starts her new series of radio programs.

A pretty lady named Jean Simpson, who is a numerologist, lectured on the cruise. She's writing a book, too. Hers is already sold as is Toni Grant's. Maybe it's more than the salt air.

I have thought about writing a book but I have never done it. Maybe Pasadena is too far inland.

One of the excitements of the cruise was on the way south when we saw whales sound. They whoosh out a great spray of water and then arch their backs in a, "Hey, look at me," flourish. They were on their way to a number of calving grounds, one of which was the famous Scammons Lagoon. We saw them off Cedros Island, a great tall slice of land that fell away from the continent a few thousand years ago. From the ship it looks green and heavily wooded.

The Island Princess stopped for shore tours at Mazatlan, Acapulco, and Cabo San Lucas. The latter is my favorite. I always feel that from Cabo, if I could see around the earth's curve, I could see the South Pole. Those rocky cliffs and arches are really land's end.

The day before the week's end, all the passengers were collected in two theaters to learn how to tip properly. One of the ship's officers in his pristine whites explained what should be given to the room stewards, the waiters, busboys, dining room captains and wine stewards.

He said, "One lady asked what she should give to the man who comes into her room every night." Everyone laughed but Jean and I. No one came into our room, for heaven's sake.

Los Angeles Times Articles