Events At Sea

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In the early 1970’s we decided to take an Alaska cruise. The ship chosen for this sightseeing rest was Pacific Far East Line’s Mariposa. The ship was a very comfortable, 365-passenger vessel that had earlier belonged to the fabled Matson Line and it and its twin sister, the Monterey sailed on a regular schedule of 42 day cruises from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Hawaii and the South Pacific. Their usual itinerary included Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia.

Business changed in the late 60s and 70s with jet air travel taking over Pacific routes and PFEL and other long-haul passenger ship lines were forced to take their ships on alternate pleasure cruises. PFEL sent their Mariposa and Monterey on cruises to Mexico, the Mediterranean, Panama Canal, Caribbean and Alaska from the U.S west coast as well as continuing with some voyages to the South Pacific.

I had traveled on both the Mariposa and Monterey several times prior to this Alaska cruise and found the ships to be very club-like and having very fine service, cuisine, comfortable and roomy staterooms and best of all, they were American registered with all American crews. American passenger ships were a dying breed even in the early 1960s because of the high costs of union crews who commanded high wages. But, it was such a pleasure to have Americans serving you. They treated the passengers as though they were very special, and they were. The passengers were their living! And, there were no communications problems.

So, with a bit of excitement and anticipation we were driven from our home in Los Angeles to the passenger terminal in San Pedro, the port of Los Angeles, to board the Mariposa. The checking in process at the pier was simple and easy and then we climbed the gangway into Mariposa. Once onboard, we were met by a steward who escorted us to our assigned stateroom. Soon after arriving in the room the luggage appeared and we began unpacking and moving into our space for the two-week cruise. One thing nice about a cruise, you move into your room only once for the entire vacation and then just relax.

Later that afternoon we got re-acquainted with this good and comfortable ship. The interior was done in a Polynesian theme which was fitting since its original itinerary was in the South Pacific. The public rooms were spacious for its length of 563 feet.

At 4:30 p.m. the ship’s whistle blew, followed by an announcement from the bridge saying that all guests on board who were not sailing with the ship should go ashore. In those days guests could come aboard for small private send-off parties before sailing. At 5 p.m. the gangway was lifted to the dock and a band began playing some pleasant music as the Mariposa slowly sailed down the waterway and into the blue Pacific. The sun was setting and as the ship headed north to Alaska, we returned to our stateroom to get ready for dinner.

The dinner was very enjoyable and following that we felt like a movie in the ship’s theatre. The Mariposa had taken on the feeling of being at sea with its gentle roll which tends to make one very sleepy. So, it was then to our stateroom and time for bed. The movement of a ship at sea is like sleeping in a rocking crib. You get into a very deep sleep.

The next morning it was the usual getting ready and I discovered I’d forgotten to open the curtains of our room’s portholes. Up on the promenade deck to take a short walk outside before going to the dining room for breakfast I was almost went into shock as I stepped out to discover that we were not almost at the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, our first stop, but back at the dock in Los Angeles harbor, tied up.

I walked over to the railing looking down at police and other official looking people surrounding our ship. What was going on? I quickly went to the purser’s office to find that the ship had received a phoned-in bomb threat and the Captain had decided, along with authorities, that the Mariposa should return to Los Angeles for investigation.

Walking through one of the lounges someone had turned on a TV with a morning show that was being aired and they were discussing our ship and giving more information about the bomb threat and that our ship had returned to Los Angeles.

So, there was much excitement in the air as we walked into the dining room where passengers were having breakfast and discussing the happenings onboard and ashore. As we were finishing our eggs, security people entered the dining room and began looking under tables, counters, and cupboards.

We were beginning to wonder if they were going to evacuate the ship.

Soon, we left the dining room and went back to the outside promenade deck to once again look over the railing at activities on the dock. It seemed that the same amount of police and security people were milling about.

Then it was back to the lounge area to watch more reports on TV about what was happening to our ship. In fact, we were getting more information from TV news than from officers onboard.

At about 11 a.m. the Captain announced that our ship had been cleared by the security people and that after a complete search in all quarters no bomb had been found and that we would soon begin sailing again.

Most of the passengers began hanging around promenade deck to observe happenings and once again the gangway was lifted and Mariposa untied its lines to shore and we began moving out to the sea.

I can’t remember if we had to cancel one of our port calls to make up for the extra time spent in Los Angeles but I do remember that it was another fine cruise. What I still don’t understand is why the ship was not evacuated when it returned to the dock in Los Angeles. In the 1970s we were not as frightened as we would be today after the 9-ll event. It was later revealed that the bomb threat had been phoned in by some young college student on a dare from his friends. Imagine what that prank cost the cruise line and the security people.

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