Posted by: Brad Nixon | January 18, 2019

Down to the Sea in Ships; Big Ones

I must go down to the seas again, to the lovely life aboard,
And all I ask is a tall ship with a sumptuous smorgasbord.

My apologies to John Masefield.

It was a wild call and a clear call that could not be denied.

As the sun set, I stood at the windswept edge of the continent as the ship set forth. It had rained in southern California earlier that day. As the weather cleared, the setting sun shone through the tattered remnants of clouds scudding across the Port of Los Angeles.

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Ah, is there anything so stirring as a rainbow glowing above a 46,000-ton battleship and its 16-inch guns?

I was there with a specific objective. I’d never photographed one of the large cruise ships passing through the channel. I was waiting for that big, white shape behind BB-61 — Battleship Iowa — to back out of the cruise ship terminal at about 4 p.m.

As she reversed out of her berth, Ruby Princess loomed larger than Iowa.

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At 951 feet, she’s 80 feet longer than Iowa, with 3,000 passengers and 1,200 crew aboard. 195 feet high, the Princess and most other cruisers don’t fit beneath the Vincent Thomas suspension bridge, so the cruise ship terminal’s located on the ocean side of the bridge.

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Ships are measured not by length, height or number of passengers, but weight. At 113,000 gross tons, the Princess doesn’t appear in the list of the world’s largest cruise ships, which are just about twice her weight and carry twice as many passengers.

None the less, that is a big ship.

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According to the Princess Cruises website, there are all sorts of amenities packed into the ship’s 19 decks, including swimming pools, casino, 9-hole miniature golf course and, apparently, a number of places to eat and drink.

The passengers lined the decks and balconies, watching San Pedro slide past them.

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San Pedro, where the cruise ship terminal’s located, has about 86,000 residents. There, in a single mass, afloat, was the equivalent of four per cent of the town’s population.

The next time you bump into the police chief at the supermarket, ask her, “Hey, Chief, would you notice it if more than 4,000 people passed through town?

She’d give you that look. The harbor police notice, too. Before the Princess backed into the channel, two harbor police launches motored out from their station at Berth 84, not far from the cruise ship terminal and positioned themselves in the channel. They escorted the ship. You can see one of the escorts in the foreground of this photo.

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What are they watching? Everything. Including me, taking pictures, just to make certain that’s all I’m doing. I’m probably just another local photog, no worries. Nor is anyone onboard likely to do anything silly like stand on a railing and pull a Leonardo DiCaprio “I’m the king of the world” stunt — are they? That’s a lot of people, and something can always go wrong.

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There she goes. Ruby Princess bound up the California coast for Monterey and San Francisco, then back, seven nights at sea.

Note that the Princess navigates the channel under her own power, without an assist from tugboats. Despite her immense size, she’s more agile than the container ships, which are engineered for driving forward, not maneuvering, like the Kota Cantik, outbound in precisely the same spot in the channel.

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Just another day in the port. Bon voyage.

Have you cruised? What was your experience? I’m curious about what it would be like aboard one of those floating palaces. Or, have you worked aboard a commercial ship like the Kota Cantik? Please leave a comment.

Licensable, high resolution versions of many photographs in this post, and select images from other Under Western Skies posts are available on Click on the linked photos, or CLICK HERE to view the Underawesternsky photo portfolio.

© Brad Nixon 2019


  1. Great photos Brad. I’ve so far never had the urge to cruise. The nearest I’ve got is taking the Silja Line overnight ferry numerous times between Helsinki and Stockholm. Although these are ferries, they are fitted out extremely well with good facilities.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Those big ferries are fascinating. We’re not cruisers, either, but it’s certainly an immensely popular travel option. I’m gratified you like the photos. Mother nature smiled on me with a dramatic sky

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great photos, Brad. I’ve never been on the cruise ship. The longest trip I’ve ever made was when I traveled to small islands to bring some good aids for local population post disaster in Indonesia. It was more like logistic ship, and we sailed for 48 hours in total. Since I was the only woman on the ship, I got the privilege to have nice bedroom for myself. I wish I could have the real cruise in the future. Thanks for sharing with us.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That sounds like quite an adventure, as well as good works you can be proud of. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great photos!

    No, I’ve never cruised (although I would love to). With a winter storm quickly approaching, I can’t help but dream of being on a cruise ship in some warm body of water.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Being able to photograph a rainbow at the port would have made the day memorable even without the ships. Those are beautiful images. What a sky!

    Carnival, Disney, and Royal Caribbean all have ships that call at Galveston. For a time, there were hopes that a cruise terminal could be developed farther up the ship channel, but it proved unworkable for a variety of reasons, so Galveston it is. The great advantage there is that the open Gulf is immediately accessible.

    Although some contend they’re apocryphal, there are reports that Dante included a tenth circle of hell in his writings: a vast ocean plied by cruise ships filled with rejects from his other nine circles. True or not, it’s a fact that when I look at those ships, all I can think is, “That’s a floating prison.” I know some love the experience, and they’re welcome to it.

    I was interested in the name of the container ship. I have a customer whose sailboat is named Wanita Cantik, or Beautiful Woman. When I saw Kota Cantik, and Singapore, I thought the name might be related. Sure enough, Kota Cantik translates from Indonesian as Beautiful City.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’ve abashed me; I should’ve looked that name up. Thank you. I didn’t think of what Kota Cantik might signify, and I’m happy to know it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A neighbor who was a travel agent got us a fabulous deal on a five-day cruise, so we decided to try it. We hated the line but enjoyed the experience.
    It is certainly not to everyone’s taste, and the experience differs considerably not only according to the size of ship, the cruise line, but even to the captain’s influence on the attitude of the crew. Since that first time, ships have taken us many places we otherwise were unlikely to visit, but they are rarely in port long enough to give you more than a limited experience. We book by where they are going but prefer the smaller ships. Once, however, I wrote a blog post or two about the Harmony of the Seas, the largest ship at the time with over 6500 passengers. We took it just to find out what it would be like and were surprised at how much we enjoyed it. [We are not to be trusted – we enjoy everything.] They were so efficient, even with a wheel chair, we disembarked and were by the curb in less than a half hour.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I value your reply, because I did not picture you as cruisers from what I’ve seen of your blog (obviously missed the cruises.).
      Man, 6,500 passengers (and, what, maybe 2,200 crew or more?).
      I do realize there is a significant difference between the mega-ships and the wide variety of smaller ones, as well.
      I’m delighted you found your cruises to be worthwhile. Thanks for the comment. Happy travels … at all times.


  6. Amazing! Cruise ships now dwarf battleships.

    I’ve been on a cruise, albeit many years ago before the onslaught of the Jupiter ships of today, and it’s not for me. First, I’m not a boat or seafaring person. Second, when I travel, I like open ended options, freedom of space, and the right to choose where and with whom I converse or dine. A cruise ship takes all of these away from you. The regimentation of cruising in a confined space with 3,000 strangers on a set schedule of events is not my idea of a dream vacation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, and it may be that the largest cruisers at least rival the size of aircraft carriers, although perhaps not quite!
      While I understand the appeal of cruising, especially when the trip includes interesting ports of call, I’m of your opinion.
      But! I’ve never tried it.


      • I’m a pretty picky traveler, and know what I like and don’t like. Heck, at age 68, I better know by now! That said, I do respect the easy going attitude and admire the humor of your commenter RalieTravels who said, “We are not to be trusted – we enjoy everything.” That’s funny, and cool.

        Liked by 1 person

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