I felt strangely profound and strung from one time frame to the next via memory and experience.
The Sapphire Princess stood proud, still bright and slightly worn, berthed at Auckland’s Princes Wharf on Friday. We didn’t know she’d be there; we tore open the curtains and there she was.
Later, on a walk down to Princes Wharf, I stood there, staring up at her, a ship feeling like an acquaintance I knew years ago. Noel was taking pictures of Jacqui and James (who were very lovey-dovey that day, holding hands as we walked from our hotel on Albert Street to Princes Wharf) and Don and Soni were doing something unremarkable. Only a few meters from where I’d posed for a picture years before, my eyes met my old acquaintance and many thoughts flooded through my mind.
How many people walked her decks since we’d last been aboard? Did they have fun? Were her fittings more worn than the last time we were aboard? What interesting and mysterious tales could her crew, past and present, and passengers (ditto) tell? What beautiful and exotic ports had she visited on her journey back here?
Earlier that morning, I’d found a picture of me from 2004, standing inside the security gate at Princes Wharf, the ship’s bow curving towards the city. The words “Sapphire Princess” in a greenish-teal colour curved across the bow, written in italics but appearing, at the angle, to be written in a normal font. Janine from Steiner — world’s largest recruiter of beauty therapists, hairdressers, nail technicians and fitness instructors aboard cruise ships — was off to my right, talking on her cell phone. Noel took the picture.
And here I was, in nearly the same spot, staring at this ship all these years later. Strange coincidence, being two years later, with a slightly different cast and under totally different circumstances. From our balcony at the Quay West — right down the hall from where we stayed in 2004 — the Sapphire Princess sat regally at the Hilton’s side, nearly in the same position and condition she’d left us in in 2004.
Pointing to various areas of the ship, I explained to Jacqui, James, Don and Soni about the Sapphire, how the nightclub extends beyond the ship to over the water in some places. (This excited James and sent shivers down Jacqui’s spine.) The pools on the steep back decks. The blood red show lounge at the front, the stunning indoor areas, the rooms… all the images were crisp in my mind.
On our 2004 visit, an old Pacific Sky crew member, now aboard the Sapphire Princess, remembered me and said hi. What ever happened to her? Another crew member I knew from the Sky served aboard the Sapphire later too but was now gone on to bigger and better things.
We’ve returned home now, and Noel and I have cannibalised our old matching cell phones — one with a good battery but bad keypad and one with a bad battery and a good key pad — and gave it to Jamie to use (it has a camera, which I said was okay for him to have as long as he didn’t take pictures of his rude bits. He just laughed and mimicked taking a picture of his crotch. I digress). Scanning the pictures on the phone, Jamie asked about one of the photos: the Sapphire Princess, taken from the Quay West suite balcony, in 2004. Amazing.
So I ask myself… are these intersections all a coincidence or is some grander scheme emerging, something to do with sapphires or, even more specifically, the Sapphire Princess? And if so, what?