I awoke at 5:30 a.m. My wife, Nancy was still asleep. This was the day we’d board the Star Princess. I had lots of questions, including: How will my dog guide do on board the ship? I put Telly’s harness and leash on him and took him outside him to relieve himself. Once outside, Telly sniffed around until he found his spot. It was an easier routine for him today then I expected. Once done, he slipped back into his harness and we walked back to our hotel room. He was fed his morning breakfast. It seemed like the food disappeared as quickly as it was poured into his bowl. Breakfast for us humans was at the International House of Pancakes (IHOP).
After we returned to the Radisson Hotel, we made a final check around the room. We pulled our heavy tightly packed suitcases out the door, along carpeted hallways to the elevator. We checked out at the front desk at about noon. The day was a warm 70 degrees. Nice start to the day.
Our hotel was on Pier 35 and we had to walk six blocks to Pier 39. Folks we talked with along the way could see the area around the pier was blocked off with barriers and warned us about getting through the crowd.
To get to the ship, we walked along the Embarcadero. The street was made of cobblestone and my suitcase bounced as the wheels rolled over them. The gaps between the bricks made the suitcase wheels sound like a smaller version of car wheels repeatedly rolling over highway rumble strips.
Telly guided me on my left side. He performed beautifully. Who’d know this was his first visit to San Francisco?
The cars were getting too close, the tracks were too close. The trolley car about to pass on our right stopped. The conductor got off and asked if we needed help. Beads of sweat trickled down my face. My wrist hurt. My right hand was sore and raw from the cloth handle of my suitcase. I had to readjust my suitcase which often tipped to one side or the other because of an uneven surface. Now I was hot, cranky and testy.
YES, I answered. How far to Pier 39? It was close she said, and it would be safer to use the sidewalk. What sidewalk? Since both of us are blind, we didn’t there was a sidewalk it was behind a three-foot high hill that ran parallel to where we walked along the Embarcadero. We had only to walk over that long island hill that separated the traffic flow and across another cobblestone street to safe passage.
We pulled our suitcases over the hill that seemed higher then three feet. That wasn’t easy. After we got to the smooth surface walkway, we found a bench and sit. What a relief. Once rested, we continued our journey to the ship, only to find out the ship was a few hours late arriving.
The crowd was huge. It was a chaotic mixture of people exiting and preparing to board the ship. We found our way to what we thought was a line to go through immigration. We didn’t know which was a line and which was just a crowd. Irene found us in the crowd, she stayed with us as we went through immigration. An immigration worker took us to the front of the line. He told us we’d have to show our credit cards and to keep our passports open so our pictures could be easily seen. Our answers to questions were copied onto a form, that we both signed. Telly’s health certificate was checked as well. Our suitcases and backpacks were lifted onto a table and searched. We were patted down by Immigration officers.
Once through immigration, Irene carried my backpack and collapsible white cane for me to our next destination. We followed her up a series of ramps. We’d have to wait again for about an hour. She took us to a couple of chairs lined up against a wall inside of a large room. A few minutes later, she brought us some cold bottles of water. Telly pressed his nose into my suitcase that was on the floor next to him, as he smelled his food. I gave him some water. We all relaxed for a moment.
Two men greeted us. Colin and Daniel introduced themselves to us as part of the Star Princess crew. Nice dog, they said. Will he follow us? We were escorted to our stateroom. Telly followed them to the elevator and through the narrow hallways of the ship. Our cabin was on the eleventh deck.
More about the cruise in the next issue of Access Press.