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Maude's Trip on the 'Island Princess' Cruise Ship
Author: Maude Ellen (George) Chittick
- letter to her uncle, Ivan Sanders
Date: 10.06.1979

foreword by Enid Mildred (George) Tripp written to Kyle Chittick at 13

This is another true story for your book. This time your Grandma Chittick wrote it. It is really a copy of a letter she wrote to Uncle Ivan Sanders. She wanted to tell him about her trip on the ocean cruise ship 'Island Princess'. It was a very large ship, carrying 645 passengers and 317 crew members and entertainers. The captain was from England, as were his assistants; the engineer and his crew were East Indian; and the dining room and galley personnel were Italian. Every afternoon and evening there was varied musical entertainment from many parts of the world: Italy, Mexico, Hungary, England, Aruba, New Zealand and the United States. There were also movies, swimming pools, gymnasium, all types of games and interesting classes. Her letter tells about the stops they made at different parts in different countries. You will probably want to find out more about the Panama Canal - how the big ships are lifted and lowered in the water from one level to another to get from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean, or from the Atlantic to the Pacific. What an amazing job of engineering!

Dear Uncle Ivan,

What a beautiful golden day after a dreary week of rain, mist, fog, and wet falling leaves. Usually in the fall, rain or shine, I can get out and trim shrubs, plant bulbs and rake leaves, but it was really a "let down" last week after that trip. Most people thought we would be having a restful, relaxing trip, but it was only if you stayed in your state room, or sat in the lounge with a book or your knitting, as some few did. But there were so many things to see, and to do, and to learn, and Elva and I were afraid we would miss something. It was different from anything I had experienced and a wonderful experience: worth the time, effort, and money, and the sacrifice of rest and sleep.

Four nights and three days from San Pedro, California (where we embarked at 5:30p.m., October 13th) to Acapulco, Mexico. It was during those days when only water and sky were visible that I suddenly realized that we can see that the world is round. It was quite a sensation, after taking for granted all these years that Columbus knew what he was talking about, and that the world is round.

When we had the opportunity to go ashore at Acapulco, I was confused, saddened, and even frightened. I'm not sure that things are as bad for the poor people as it appeared, but I could not long stand walking through the street of beggars and vendors when you know there is nothing you can do. If they are hired to do this by affluent businessmen, then it is sad anyway. We saw the other side too -- estates of affluent Americans, movie stars, beautiful condominiums, tourist hotels, etc. A country of deep contrasts!

We were at sea again until the next Monday and did not get off the ship then, but stayed on deck from 6:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. to experience passing through the Panama Canal. This was the highlight of the trip. It is a masterpiece of engineering and hard to understand, but there was a broadcast of the procedure and history of the building of the canal and the present condition and use by all nations, etc. It was a hot, muggy day, but Elva and I (and most of the passengers) were afraid to seek more pleasant air-conditioned atmosphere for fear of missing something. Very elaborate buffet meals were served on deck for breakfast and lunch. We entered the first lock at 8 p.m. and were through into the Atlantic side at 4:55 a.m.

In the southern part of the Pacific and Caribbean waters the air was from 85 -87 degrees and the water 83 (with some variance). The humidity, of course, was extremely high. I can't ever remember being in a situation where my glasses became fogged going outdoors instead of coming in, but that was the way it was going from air-conditioned lounge out onto the deck.

Each day at noon the Ship's Officer of the Watch posted in one of the foyers a chart stating the mileage from noon the day before, the speed, the air temperature and water temperature. Also there was a Track Chart on which we could note our position on the map. Using different colored pins, our position was shown for each six-hour interval throughout the day: 6 a.m. - noon, 6 p.m. - midnight.

The second day, on Sunday, one of the four diesel engines failed and could not be repaired until the ship could be gotten into dry dock. That meant that our speed was reduced from the normal cruising speed of 19 knots to 16.8 knots for the remainder of the trip, they announced. However, a tail wind increased that speed a couple of times later to 17+ knots, but rescheduling of port calls had to be made and our stop at the French Island of Martinique was canceled. I was disappointed for I thought it would be quite different from the other places.

In Cartengena (pronounced Carta-Laina), Colombia, South America, we disembarked for a tour. The taxi drivers here were dressed in clean white shirts and dark trousers and were polite and courteous when we told them we had tour busses waiting for us. There were no beggars or vendors right near the dock, but when we got off the bus at the El Popa Convent and in the shopping areas, they were everywhere -- some cripples, some young men and women, but cleaner than in Acapulco and I did not see women with tiny babies begging as in Acapulco, nor as many small children. The people all seemed to be happy and waved and shouted from their unkempt yards as we drove through the dilapidated residential areas.

I could understand slightly better our guide here, though his Spanish accent was heavy, but he did not speak quite so fast as our Mexican guide in Acapulco. We had been given a certificate for an emerald gift to be presented in one of the ereald shops, so we were in to present our cards and received some small emeralds, unfinished chips. Colombia is the "Green-Fire" country, and we saw beautiful emerald jewelry priced from $100 to thousands of dollars. They told us that was much cheaper than comparable stones in the U.S.

The island of Aruba, 16 miles off the coast of Venezuela, has been a Dutch possession since 1634. It is only 19 miles by 6 miles in size and the population is 63,000. The school children must learn four languages; Dutch, Spanish, English, and French or German. Only 20 inches of rainfall there only in November and December. Their water supply is from the ocean water distillery, and is very expensive. They do no raise cattle because grass will not grow in sufficient amounts. They raise sheep and goats, but only for meat, for the goats do not get enough grass to produce milk for drinking. All milk is imported from Holland or Venezuela.

The north eastern part of the island is mostly volcanic rock and barren. Off of this coast in the Caribbean waters, there are man-eating sharks. Every week the government provides the means to bring the refuse from the slaughter houses to feed them in order to keep them in those waters. For on the southwest side of the island there are beautiful bathing beaches. The sand is as white as salt. Beautiful! Palm trees have been imported and planted here, but are not lush, and the government provides water for them every day.

The town of Oranjestad, capital of Aruba, is clean and houses and shops show Dutch influence. We did not arrive at Aruba until 3 p.m. and a tour was scheduled for 3:30. It lasted for 2 hours, so Elva and I got off the bus at the end of the tour and shopped until closing time. Then we walked back to the boat. We felt quite secure here. Here I would have enjoyed a stay for a day longer.

St. Thomas, one of the Virgin Islands, was another interesting place, Charlotte Amalia Harbor is named for the Queen of Denmark, as is the Capitol City. The dock here was exceptionally clean in contrast to the first two we saw, with white fence and vines growing to separate the dock from the warehouses, loading trucks, etc. The cars travel on the left side of the street, very narrow streets, but cars are made as ours. Traffic rules opposite to ours: stop on red, then free left turn. Elva and I took a taxi (75 cents each) into town in the a.m. and shopped until noon. A very busy place, as tourism is one of their main industries.

Industries that aid the tourist trade are the making of perfume, linen, lace, embroidery, clocks and watch factories, leather goods, coral jewelry from the coral reefs off these islands. After lunch the tour busses were waiting and we were shown places of historical interest: Blackbeard's Castle, now a hotel and restaurant, Government House, Legislative Building, Frederick Lutheran Church -- all red roofs, which is very striking. The Flamboyant Trees are abundant and their brilliant color is splashed everywhere. Water is rationed here also, and some brought in from Puerto Rico.

We drove up a very narrow winding, steep road called Skyline Drive to 875 feet where we could look out over the city and the coconut groves, and the sister islands of St. Croix and St. John and many smaller ones. We stopped for a few minutes of St. Peters Mt. the highest hill on the island accessible by car, 1550 feet. On this drive was one point where a cement bench had been placed, supposed to be the point from which Sir Francis Drake viewed his troops who were anchored in Megan's Bay. This is an especially beautiful bay, emerald green and shaped like a heart.

We left St. Thomas about midnight and arrived in San Juan at 7 a.m., Saturday, October 27th. We were able to get through customs that morning in time for a tour of San Juan before our plane left for Miami, Florida. This was an interesting tour as we saw the Old San Juan with its continual coastal fortification wall each way from El Morro Fort, and drove through the narrow, narrow streets of traditional Spanish houses with balconies and grilled windows, and shops and historical monuments. Then into New San Juan of affluent Puerto Ricans and Americans, expensive condominiums, residential hotels, big modern commercial buildings and beautiful beaches.

The ginger trees and hibiscus were blooming and more of the bougenville and flamboyant trees. All tropical fruits were abundant here. There was some evidence of damage from the 5-day rain and Hurricane David but not extensive where we were. The temperature was 90 degrees, down from 92/93 of the two previous days, and the humidity must have been near that.

We left San Juan at 3 p.m. (one hour behind schedule) then had to rush for our plane in Miami which they were holding for us. It was not yet dark so we could see some of Miami Beach and the location of President Nixon's retreat as we flew out. We were disappointed not to see St. Louis by daylight, but it was a clear night and the miles and miles of lights or what appeared to be perfectly flat land was beautiful to see.

We had an hour and 45 minutes in St. Louis, then the last lap of our trip to Seattle. Had changed time so it was 9:05 when we left there, but a 4-hour trip left. However, our time was 11 p.m. when we arrived in Seattle. The temperature was 47 degrees and it was raining. Quite a change from the 90 degrees of that morning in San Juan. Our luggage was on time and the shuttle bus came immediately from the hotel. We were tired, but still excited about it, and even now it seems like an adventurous dream. Elva's plane left for Lewiston the next morning at 11:45, and Arden, Nina and the children came for me soon after that. So many things to talk about and reminisce about now for a long time. We saw so much and learned so much in 14 days and experienced so much that now we have to have some time to sort it all out and put it in perspective with our lives here.

Love, Maude

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