Mirabeau B. Lamar Senior High SchoolBig Red
Houston, Texas
Grand Princess
  Medicare Cruise
for The Class of 1959
59ers Aboard Grand Princess
59ers Aboard Grand Princess, April 1-8, 2006

At left, gathered between decks 5 and 6, are your classmates on the first (and perhaps only) Mirabeau B. Lamar Medicare Cruise.  Starting at the 12 o'clock position and progressing more or less clockwise, we have:  Arthur Faris; John (Jock) Pace; Danny Tompkins; Elbert Coker; Larry Hitt; Rick McDowell; Gail La Rue Layne; Lou Parks Gorski; Dee Post Bell; Mike Blackledge; Jeremy Wicker; Woody Tompkins; and Ron Brieger.
All made it through this arduous sea journey with relatively the same clothing they packed.  Three parties, four ports of call, and many, many meals did little to dampen their brave and adventurous spirits.  Well done, Class of 1959! 
  Cruise Report:  MS Word    PDF 
This site provides information regarding your Reunion Pleasure Cruise held in the Spring of 2006 for the Class of 1959 from Mirabeau B. Lamar Senior High School, Houston, Texas.  Guests were welcome and were included.  The term "Medicare Cruise" does not imply official affiliation with any government organization or the Social Security Administration.  We think.  Provide your updates, additions, or corrections to the page webmaster:  Mike@Blackledge.com   
Larry Hitt's last summary of information regarding the cruise is found here.  Dining options enjoyed are here.
Provided: two-page info sheet on The Cruise - as MS Word file - or a text/.rtf file -  or as a PDF file.
Available is this map of the itinerary and the final list of your classmates who participated:  Medicare Cruisers
Our group contact was Kathy Holland with CruiseCenter for questions re the Class of 1959 Medicare Cruise,
To see the vessel, visit www.princess.com and click on Ships and then Grand Princess.
This from Larry Hitt (as of 6 February 2006):

Hello cruisers,

Here we are 60 days away from departing Galveston on the Grand Princess; I’m really looking forward to sailing on this great ship.  You may have seen some print ads showing their large outdoor screen that you can watch from the pool - neat!  There is also a funny TV spot about Princess Cruises that Rick sent me last week – I’ll forward it to all of you. 

I’ve been accumulating information on a number of points for the past few months that will be covered in this note.  Thanks for your many e-mails sharing cruise experiences and opinions that will help make the trip enjoyable for all of us.  One of the best resources for information is the website that Mike Blackledge has set up for us.  Go to http://mike.blackledge.com/Lamar59Medicare.htm to see what he has put together.

Dining Options - As far as I know, everyone has already made a choice and advised Kathy Holland, but I wanted to review the options and let you know what others have selected in case you want to change your election based on this information.  Kathy has asked that we finalize our decisions quickly so let’s say that by Thursday, February 9 you will advise her of any changes.  Please copy me on your response also.  A number of you requested that we be seated as a group if possible so this exercise may help in that regard.

For a good description of the options, you can read the attached PDF that Mike forwarded some time ago or go to http://www.princess.com/onboard/dining/dining.html.  You basically have a choice between: Traditional Dining at 6:00 or 8:15, and Anytime Dining (Personal Choice).  The food and attire are the same but different dining rooms are used.  All individuals electing the same option can be seated together by arranging it with the dining room manager; those in Anytime Dining would simply need to make a reservation to do so.  There is also flexibility to opt out of Traditional on a given night by advising the manager 24 hours in advance.  That is one way we could all be seated together at least one night in Anytime Dining or we can all make a reservation in one of the upscale dining rooms for the same evening.

Here are the current elections:

Traditional Dining – 6PM - Bell, Blide, Brieger, Faris, Layne/Gorski, VanSaun, Woods, McDowell, Blackledge, Wicker/Hitt
Traditional Dining –
8:15 PM - None

Anytime Dining - Pace, Tompkins, Tompkins, Coker

On a related topic, did you know that you can bring your own supply of wine on board?  I learned this from Arlen Ferguson who has cruised on this ship before.  I don’t know if you can take it into the dining room or not – Kathy, please advise us on this.  Unfortunately the Ferguson’s had to cancel this trip due to Gayle’s health problems.  She is home from the hospital now and facing about a five week recovery.

Shore Excursions – I noticed on the Princess website that shore excursions should be arranged six weeks in advance so you might want to consider those options soon.

Shirts – Dee Bell went on a cruise in December and saw a group that had matching shirts – let me know if you are interested in having some made for our group and I’ll look into it.

Bios – Our group is a mix of Lamar grads, relatives and friends.  Since we don’t all know each other, would it be worthwhile to have each person provide a short bio and photo that Mike could post on the website?  Just a thought – let me know what you think.

Transportation from Houston to Galveston – For those coming from out of town, it doesn’t make sense to rent a car and leave it in Galveston for a week.  Kathy is sending a letter in a few days that includes an option to take a shuttle directly from the airport to Galveston for $66 per person round trip.  For those who live in Houston, or may be arriving before the 1st, we are looking into hiring a minibus that will leave from a central Houston location; more information on this soon.

Send a note if you have any comments or suggestions.  We can still take on more cruisers so get in touch with other classmates ASAP!


Larry Hitt


Frequently Asked Questions (and a few answers) regarding the Class of 1959 Medicare Cruise:

Q:  So whose idea was this anyhow?
A:  D
uring the 45th Reunion several folks within the Class of '59 started talking about this cruise idea.  For examples of some of the preliminary discussions that went on in the planning, see below on this page.

Q:  Cruise Center has reserved 15 inside cabins, plus 20 outside with balconies - what if we oversubscribe?
A:  We blocked out cabins based on our initial estimates of how many classmates/spouses would participate.  More cabins are available if needed.

Q:  The great rates make me want to invite a couple of non-Lamar friends to join us - is this allowed?
A:  The more the merrier!  A few of us even have spouses than are non-Lamarites, so go for it!

Q:  The Grand Princess has three primary dining rooms:  Botticelli (traditional assigned time dining), Da Vinci (anytime dining),  Michelangelo (anytime dining).  Do they all have the same food?  What's the down side of assigned time seating?
A:  It appears they all offer the same menu.  More on dining options is found here.   No real downside to having an assigned time (and area) for seating, as if one decides to eat in another venue, you can - no penalty for not showing up at your assigned time in the main dining room. 

Q:  What's the story on the $70 tip requirement - are there other tips involved in the cruise?
A:  Tipping is $20 per cabin per day (total of $140 for 2-person cabin for the trip) - that covers EVERYONE, no more tipping required. 

Q:  Any other costs associated with the cruise?
A:  Any other payments or charges are voluntary on your part.  For example:  If you want to participate in (organized) Shore Excursions, they are each charged separately.  More on this below.

Q:  Will I need a passport?
A:  Yes, everyone will need a passport.  Our cruise timeframe will be part of the first phase of the government's new travel initiative.  Not only must your passport be current, but it must be valid for a period of six months after our cruise returns, i.e, valid until 8 Oct 2006 (this is actually an old rule, but one which not everyone knows).

Q:  What's the story on my "booking" or "confirmation" number?
Once you make your deposit, Kathy will send you a receipt with a booking number.  The booking number is listed as the Confirmation No. in the upper right hand corner of the Cruise Reservation section of Kathy's receipt.  It will be six characters, something like:  GPXX9Q  -  With that booking number, you will fill out an immigration form on www.princess.com - this is important to prevent any delay for you at the ship.  Also, the "booking" (confirmation) number will be necessary later if you wish to sign up for any of the shore excursions you may want to experience. 

Q:  How do I complete my registration after I receive my "booking number"?
A:  Visit the Princess website home page ( www.princess.com ), and click on "Cruise Preferences" at the top. A Login page appears.  Fill in name and booking number and click enter.  A "Booking Summary" page appears.  Click on "Passenger Immigration" and fill out.   (Note: The form asks for information on a credit card that doesn't expire until after the cruise ends. If yours expires before then, it won't let you even partially fill out the form, so you may have to wait until your card renews.)
You should also fill out the "Cruise Preferences" section. (Note: Even if you fill this out completely, the Booking Summary Page will state that it is "Incomplete." It will still save your indicated preferences, but your cabin mate must also fill out this section for the "Incomplete" to go away.
Don't try to fill out the "Shore Excursions" section now. This won't be available until 120 - 60 days prior to the sail date.
Finally, in the upper right corner of the Princess home page you'll see "Sign In."  Ignore this, as this is for former Princess Cruisers - eventually you will be one, but not today! 

Q:  How do I obtain a passport?
A:  You can download the form and application at www.usps.com/passport.
  You can also list the ten closest (full service post office) locations to your zip code where you can go to get your passport photo and turn in your application. 

Q:  Are there events planned on the cruise?
A:  Grand Princess has many events and shore excursions planned.  At each of the four stops, passengers have their choice of several planned excursions (which will involve additional payments per person) or they can explore on their own.  The 2006 shore excursions will be listed for you to sign up for about 120 days before our cruise.  You can get an example of shore excursions descriptions and costs from the 2005 information currently listed: www.princess.com 
Planning:  1 May 2005 thoughts from Jeremy Wicker to Larry Hitt:
Subject:  Cruise Ship Choices
Since you are waiting for your agent to see what Royal Caribbean (RC) has

out of Galveston in May 2006, please ask him to also inform you on two other

lines that sail out of Galveston and are rated as high as RC (4 ½) or higher
(5). The Grand Princess (5 rating) (Princess Cruises) sails from Galveston
(e.g., 4/1/2006). It has much better food than the RC ships and several
excellent specialty restaurants. It tends to attract more couples and people
our age. RC tends to attract young families (which means kids all over the
ship). Been there, done that. I think you have a great idea in planning a
cruise out of Galveston, since it avoids the time and expense of flying to
and from a distant port. But I strongly feel that at our age and social
preferences, we should choose a cruise line that is more upscale than RC.
(I've been on RC cruises; they cater to families and very young first-time
cruisers.) I would also like to consider the Princess Galaxy (Celebrity
Cruises) w
hich also sails from Galveston (e.g., 4/1/2006). While it has the
same 4
½ star rating as RC, it has more sophisticated passengers.
2 May 2005 Response back from Larry:
Thanks for your enlightening note regarding Princess Cruises' Grand Princess.  I was aware of their upscale amenities and reputation for better food and but did not include them in the search because of the date range we were focusing on.  We did not want to sail in a week in which college kids would be on spring break so we considered only cruises starting mid April and later.  That effectively eliminated Princess options since they reposition to Europe after the April 8, 2006, sailing.  However, because of your note, I've looked more closely at spring break schedules today and found that most of them are over by April 1!  Please see this South Padre Island website for the 2005 schedule: http://www.spibreak.com/news/schedule.html.
In looking at Princess vs. RC pricing by cabin category, Princess is $150 more for both Inside and Ocean View, the same for Balcony, and $50 less for a Suite.  I don't think $150 is enough to deter someone from considering the trip.
The itinerary for the two ships is somewhat different: while both go to Cozumel and Grand Cayman, RC stops in Key West (or Jamaica), Princess goes to Belize and Costa Maya on the Yucatan coast.
So, all things considered, I think we should now strongly consider the Grand Princess sailing dates of either April 1 or April 8, 2006.  I'll pass this on to our travel agent contact and ask them for an alternate proposal.  I'm also copying some interested Lunch Bunch classmates for their feedback.

Return to:
Class of 1959 Directory
the real ship    Medicare Cruise page last updated  16 April 2006