Archive for the Photography Category

Caribbean Fantasy: Jamaica 2013 Wall Calendar

Posted in Calendar, Photography, Travel with tags , , , , , , , on Saturday, 10 November 2012, by Stan

Caribbean Fantasy: Jamaica 2013 Wall Calendar (c) Stan Thomas/Kanale Creations

Announcing the release of the Caribbean Fantasy: Jamaica 2013 calendar! This 12-month wall calendar features stunning images of Jamaica by photographer Stan Thomas. The calendar is printed on heavy card-stock paper and each one is individually shrink wrapped.

Order one for your home or office, or both!

Ready to order? Go to my Kanale Creations Calendar page and click the Add to Cart button.

Standard calendar: $17.95 each
Personalized calendar: $28.25 each

Domestic shipping: $2.70
International shipping: e-mail for rates

Tax: 8.75% California tax

If you are ordering a personalized calendar:

With the Caribbean Fantasy: Jamaica calendar, you can add your own special dates. Want to add birthdays? Anniversaries? Events? No problem, mon.


February 3 – Joe’s Birthday

June 25 – Our 25th Anniversary

August 5 – Janet’s Baby Shower

October 15 – Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner

You can add as many dates as you wish up to a maximum of 25. You can order as many calendars as you wish. However, due to the ordering process they all must be designed the same way. If you want to create another calendar using different dates, you must place a separate order.

Your order will be shipped to you directly from the printer. Sorry, no refunds on personalized orders.

Caribbean Fantasy: Jamaica sample images. (c) Stan Thomas/Kanale Creations

Access All Areas – Behind the Backstage Pass

Posted in Blog, Photography with tags , , , , , , on Monday, 17 October 2011, by Stan

Media pass

You’ve seen us media types at concerts, speaking engagements, sporting events, red carpets, etc. We run around with more cameras hanging from our necks than we have arms to operate them. Big, burly bouncers, bodyguards, and security personnel part like the Red Sea when we walk backstage. We are permitted to get close enough to dignitaries to take those exclusive photographs that grace the pages of your favorite magazines. All thanks to a laminated card called the media credential.

That’s the glamorous part that most of you see. What you don’t see is what is required to get one of these passes.

When the stars align and everything goes off like it should, your client will have already made arrangements with the media relations team. Your credentials may even have been sent to you in advance. If not, when you arrive on scene, all you have to do is walk up to the media table (or easily locate your contact, whose name was provided to you beforehand), pick up your media pass, and you’re good to go. Simple as that. You get great shots/interviews and your client is happy. I’d love to say that’s how it works all the time, but it doesn’t. There are those days when at least one thing will go wrong. And that goes for apprentices as well as seasoned pros with decades of experience. In fact, the episode I am about to relate to you occurs in one form or another more often than you would think. During these times I use the following principles to get the job done: 1) do your Research, 2) arrive Early, 3) be Patient but Persistent, 4) act Professionally. You can remember it by the mnemonic REPP, as in, create a good REPPutation.


Sometimes your client will just tell you to meet them at a certain place. It is then up to you to get to the location (on your own) and set up access (again, on your own). A little time spent with sage Uncle Google ahead of time can save a ton of frustration down the road. In my most recent experience, all I knew beforehand was the name and location of the venue, and reason for the event. Using the Internet I learned that media credentials would be required, so I applied. Good information to know because I had to drive almost 250 miles to photograph this event and it would not have been cool to get there and not be able to get in.


Arriving early should be a given. Doing so allows time to not only find the site, but to find the best location from which to photograph your client. In my experience here, I also needed the time to find the media station to collect my credentials. That wound up taking well over an hour, mainly because the venue spanned five blocks.


I knew the right questions to ask to get to the media station. But the people I asked did not know the answers.

Me: “Can you tell me where I can find the media table?”

Volunteer: “The what?”

I think I talked to about five people before reaching the right person. Hearing the response over the walkie-talkie, “yes, I remember that name” [see Research above] was like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Ironically, the road meandered through a full circle before ending two doors from where it began…on the same floor of the same hotel.


Also a given. But you’d be surprised how many photographers, reporters, etc., act unprofessionally on location. Bellowing an indignant “Do you know who I am?” to the security person is a good way to get shown the door…and it won’t be the one leading backstage. I’m digressing here but that line gets used a lot. And no, it doesn’t work.

Even with them in hand, or swinging from a lanyard around your neck as is most common these days, media credentials are not always honored. About 15 minutes before show time, I arrived at the location where my client was going to be performing. Then I looked around for some nice background to photograph my client against afterward. That’s when I was stopped by security. (Security was tight for this event). I had just driven almost 250 miles – after driving an additional 120 miles earlier in the day – to get here. Temperatures were still in the mid-90’s, it was an outdoor event, I was badly dehydrated, very hungry, and had just spent nearly two hours trying to secure this media pass. Now it was being questioned. I stayed calm enough to explain to the person who challenged me why I was there, including how I applied for the credentials, while trying to keep in mind that he had a job to do, too. He accepted my explanation and the evening went on. The alternative? Say what was on my mind at the time and most certainly be tossed or detained. Then have to explain to my client why the person they were counting on to get pictures of them performing didn’t get them because he got thrown out before the event even started.

Having that coveted all-access pass certainly makes the job of photography much easier. As with travel, sometimes getting one is half the fun. My hat is off to those photographers and journalists covering stories on a military installation at times other than an open house. My recent experience is a walk in the park compared to what they have to go through to get credentials to get on base.

A Shot at Capturing Shuttle History

Posted in Aviation, Blog, Photography with tags , , , , , , , on Sunday, 14 August 2011, by Stan

Space Shuttle Discovery lands at Edwards Air Force Base. Photo (c) Stan Thomas/Kanale Creations

As you know, America’s Space Shuttle program came to an end when shuttle Atlantis returned to Kennedy Space Center on July 21, 2011. The event coincided with the 42nd anniversary of man’s first landing on the moon. (I remember watching the moon landing on our television from the living room floor in our house).

I’ve always thought NASA should’ve had a program where they built a new shuttle every five years or so. Each new vehicle would be more technologically advanced than the last, possibly even with new propulsion systems by now. But that’s not what I wanted to talk about.

On September 11, 2009, Space Shuttle Discovery, mission STS-128, was diverted to Edwards Air Force Base because of “unfavorable weather conditions” at Kennedy Space Center. It had been waved off a Florida attempt several times before NASA made the decision to try for the secondary landing site at Edwards. I was more than 100 miles away at the time. For the last two days I had been hoping that the shuttle would divert to California. That Friday was the best chance for me to see it. Normally, once NASA makes the decision to have the shuttle come down in California, the announcement is made maybe 2 or 3 hours, if that, before the landing. When I got word, I had to make a decision…fast! Remember, I was over 100 miles from Edwards. I’d be cutting it very close; too close. And I didn’t have my camera with me.

The shuttle has landed at Edwards 54 times out of the 135 shuttle missions. They used to land here after every mission until NASA gained enough experience and confidence to have the vehicle land on the runways in Florida. (Of course, it was much more convenient landing in Florida because then they didn’t have to ferry the shuttle back across country on top of the 747). Looking back, it’s hard to believe that in the 30-year history of the program, I never got to see it come down. Oh, I tried a few times. Twice the shuttle landed before I got anywhere near the base. I heard the sonic boom from the car but that’s hardly any consolation. I’ve heard the booms from home maybe a dozen times or more, but had other commitments so I couldn’t make it out to the base.

Once I made the decision to try to catch the landing, I prayed I wouldn’t run into any traffic. Thankfully, I didn’t. I got home and grabbed my Nikon D200. Let’s talk about that for a moment: Though I’d had the camera about two years by that time, I had never used a teleconverter with it. Fortunately, the camera was wearing a Nikon 80-400mm lens (anyone have a 200-400mm f2.8 they want to donate?) from the last air show I shot. But even that was not going to be enough. I considered taking a chance and bringing the teleconverter but, to me, the risk of using an unfamiliar setup and not getting any shots was too great: Would there be vignetting? Would the autofocus work (even though I recommend using manual focus when shooting aircraft [I guess that goes for spacecraft now, too])? How much light would I lose? Would I still get a sharp shot even with a slower shutter speed at these long focal lengths? All this ran through my mind, all the while knowing that whatever setup I went with, I was only going to get one shot at it.

Leaving the teleconverter behind, I hit the road again with the D200, the 200-400mm and plenty of room on the memory card. Total time at the house was 4 minutes; I timed it.

It had been trying to rain off and on all day. Clouds threatened to mess everything up by obscuring most of the sky. Somehow or other, clouds separated enough to leave behind large patches of sky for Discovery to dart through.

Because the regular shuttle landing viewing site was closed to the public, spectators had to post up on Twenty Mule Team Road off Highway 58 near California City. I picked a spot on the east side of the street just up the rise from the off ramp. I picked that spot because it had a bit of altitude compared to the rest of the area, and no one would be in front of me. Also, when the shuttle passed by overhead, I could watch it make its turn and final approach to the runway.

So there we were, maybe 50 or so of us. There’s always some sort of bond among aviation buffs and conversations struck up immediately. One guy had his laptop turned on. He tracked Discovery’s progress on the map in real time while a few of us looked on over his shoulder. A few minutes after the ‘announcer’ (or whatever you call the person doing commentary on the landing) informed us that Discovery had crossed the California coastline, we heard a sharp “crack-crack”; Discovery had announced her arrival with her signature double sonic boom.

Space Shuttle Discovery lands at Edwards Air Force Base. Photo (c) Stan Thomas/Kanale CreationsAll heads snapped upward, searching for a small white dot coming out of the sky to the west. Then someone with binoculars spotted it. Discovery helped the rest of us out by leaving a contrail in the sky. The crowd went silent as cameras came to life. Everyone watched in awe as Discovery made a steep descent before leveling off. You could see the belly of the shuttle was still white hot from its fiery re-entry into the atmosphere but quickly cooled as it slowed down. She made a big, sweeping right turn and lined up with the runway at Edwards. A minute or so later, the landing gear dropped. We watched as long as we could until Discovery descended below the hill we were watching from. By then all we could see was her tail, rudder still split in airbrake configuration.

I got off about 70 frames during the landing. It’s one thing to witness history, another to capture it on film – or in this case, electrons.
Space Shuttle Discovery lands at Edwards Air Force Base. Photo (c) Stan Thomas/Kanale CreationsIt was a bittersweet moment. I was very glad I finally got to see the shuttle land, right in my backyard (almost). On the other hand, I was disappointed that, because we couldn’t get any closer, I wasn’t able to get the shots I had hoped to get. Good shots or not, my going proved to be an excellent (and historic) decision; turns out that day marked the last time any shuttle would ever land in California.

My Smugmug page has some other Space Shuttle photos I have taken over the years. There’s a nice video of Discovery’s final landing at Edwards AFB where you can see it almost exactly as we witnessed it.

Dropped by Amazon, Kicked by the State

Posted in Blog, Journalism, Photography with tags , , , , , on Monday, 18 July 2011, by Stan





Not long ago I heard about this happening in Connecticut. When I learned California was considering doing something similar, I saw the handwriting on the wall. So on June 29th when the following e-mail showed up in my inbox, I was angry, but not surprised:

Unfortunately, Governor Brown has signed into law the bill that we emailed you about earlier today. As a result of this, contracts with all California residents participating in the Amazon Associates Program are terminated effective today, June 29, 2011.

You may have heard about the ‘Amazon bill’. Governor Jerry Brown and the California Legislature signed a bill that seeks to collect taxes on retail giants like Though Amazon may not actually have a physical building in California, 10,000 of us Amazon affiliates do. Therefore Gov. Brown and company infer that because we as affiliates reside in Cali, by extension has a presence in Cali. Therefore the state thinks they are entitled to collect sales tax from Amazon. This Sacramento Bee article explains it pretty well.

As an affiliate – or as of June 29th an ex-Amazon affiliate – my website and my blog have several links to products on If you visit my site, follow a link to a product, then purchase that product, it becomes a win-win-win situation: Amazon is happy because you bought something from them. You are happy because you (hopefully) got a good price on the item you bought. I’m happy because I got a small percentage as commission for referring you to Amazon. The only one not happy is the state.

The following is a quote from a Contra Costa Times article:

The state says the measure will raise $200 million in new revenue. But Amazon, the largest online retailer, as well as, say they will no longer deal with California-based affiliates and therefore escape having to collect the tax. The Supreme Court, which has already set limits on when out-of-state retailers are required to collect taxes, could take a dim view of the law. Amazon is challenging a similar New York law in court.

The way I see it, not only will California not get that $200 million in new revenue they expect from Amazon, they won’t get any revenue at all from the small companies they just drove out of business. In my case, not a lot of revenue came from Amazon referrals, but losing that source of income doesn’t help matters.

California-based photographer Ken Rockwell runs a very popular photography blog. It’s chock full of useful information about almost anything you need to know about cameras, film, and photography. I found his site right around the time I bought my Nikon D200. (Before the Amazon bill, I would’ve placed a link to the D200 here.) I got so much good info from his blog that I was very happy to help support him by following one of the links on his site when I bought my little Canon PowerShot. Rockwell did a good business from those referrals. Not anymore. Not only will California not get those sales taxes from Ken, they won’t get his property or income tax, either; an L.A. Times article says he’s outta here, he’s leaving the state. Ken says, “It’s a question of where, not if.”

I have a few choice words I’d like to say to Brown and company. Instead, I’ll put it this way: Gov. Brown, I implore you to reconsider the Amazon bill. I understand the state is having a serious budget crisis but this bill is having the opposite effect of what you intended; it is squeezing the little guy who can afford it least. Take note of the many more businesses that are shutting down and/or leaving the state as a direct result of this bill. That’s less sales (and income and property) tax revenue. Yes, we all know it was Amazon, not the state that cancelled our contracts. But they didn’t make that decision in a vacuum. Governor Brown, I urge you to repeal this bill.

On Assignment – Palmdale Christmas Parade 2010

Posted in Blog, Photography with tags , , , on Saturday, 18 December 2010, by Stan

Palmdale Christmas Parade 2010 Palmdale, California (c) Stan Thomas/Kanale Creations

December 11, 2010

Palmdale, California – I got the call on Friday to photograph the Palmdale Christmas Parade. Unfortunately I had another engagement at the same time. I ended up splitting the difference; leaving the parade early and arriving to my initial appointment late.

Officially, the parade is named the William J. “Pete” Knight Christmas Parade and is sponsored by the Palmdale Chamber of Commerce. This year’s parade had the theme “A Celebration of Family”. Usually the parade heads down Palmdale Blvd. so that’s what I was expecting this year…until I looked up the starting time and found the course had been changed. Now it would travel north on 5th St West, running between Avenue Q and Technology Drive. From a traffic standpoint, this was a much better route. 5th Street West is much less travelled than is Palmdale Blvd. There are fewer businesses along the route, and the majority of the ones that are on the route could still be accessed during the parade.

As a photographer I had to plan where I was going to post myself for the best view under the day’s conditions. The main problem was that instead of running east-west, the parade would be running north-south. That meant the late-autumn sun would be a huge factor when shooting southward. And that is the direction the procession would be coming from. The only way to eliminate the sun from my shots would be to stand on the east sidewalk and face southwest.

Arriving early, I staked out a spot with a good patch of sky in the background. The buildings that would be in the frame looked nice and did not create a distraction. Though the route wasn’t long at all, I still wanted to catch the participants early on along the route so they would still be fresh. (Is that really important? Look at the faces of the marching bands and other walking performers at the end of the Rose Parade). The view of the oncoming procession was unobstructed. Unusually warm weather here in the Antelope Valley for this time of year was icing on the cake.

So far so good. But, being December in the High Desert of California, the morning sun was quite bright and reflected off anything even remotely shiny, including the asphalt. Using the spot meter was a quick thought but that would have resulted in blown-out backgrounds in almost every shot. Matrix metering worked better. I only had to touch up a handful of shots and only had one unusable one. That one was of a huge black and chrome vehicle. The chrome reflected the sun so harshly that the lettering on the side was completely obliterated. Combined with the black color of the rest of the vehicle, my poor Nikon didn’t stand a chance of exposing it properly. The black asphalt looked almost white in the photo. But the D200, amazingly, caught the driver behind the windshield even through the glare!

One really good thing about photographing smaller parades – aside from not having people decide to stand in front of you at an inopportune moment – is being able to walk a couple of feet out into the street to get a better angle on the subject. With people facing forward and backward on various floats, being able to move around like that makes it possible to have more faces in the shot.

Being a photographer at events like this does have it benefits. When people see your camera, they’ll turn and look directly at you and give you a smile and a wave. I was surprised to see so many people I knew in the procession. When I called out to them, not only did they turn around, but everyone riding on the float with them turned around. Big smiles at being recognized, big waves, everyone looking right at you, perfect shot!

As parades have a tendency to do, the procession occasionally stopped while some of the participants up ahead performed for the judges. Taking advantage of this, I was able to get a few really good images. And I was able to take a few moments to enjoy an event that I was photographing. That doesn’t happen very often. In most cases it’s shoot, shoot, shoot now and enjoy the event later when editing the results.

As I mentioned earlier, I had another appointment and was unable to see the entire parade. Click the link and you can see what I did get at this year’s Palmdale Christmas Parade.

Crippled Carnival Splendor Adrift – A View from Inside and Outside – Part II

Posted in Blog, Journalism, Photography, Travel with tags , , , , , on Thursday, 11 November 2010, by Stan

Carnival Splendor. Long Beach. Photo (c) Stan Thomas/Kanale Creations

November 11, 2010

Dry Land, California – When things beyond Carnival’s control happen to their ships, you would not believe what they have to go through to make the best of the situation while salvaging a vacation for their guests. Most of the time they get no thanks. This is on top of the daily complaints they get. (Check out John Heald’s blog for a look behind the scenes at life on board a cruise ship. Just from his 3 months on the Splendor alone John has had to respond to – and I am not making any of this up – a lady who complained that she saw a spider on a shore excursion in PV (Puerto Vallarta); a man who voluntarily participated in one of the shipboard shows, then verbally abused the staff and John demanding that the entire video of that show be taken down and not shown on the ship’s television; a man who demanded to have use of a lounge so he could give a lecture to passengers warning them that the world was going to end in 2012; a woman who berated the staff for paging her over the ship’s PA system one morning (her young kids had called security because she did not return to her cabin the night before. She answered the page from another guest’s cabin); the numerous people who complain that the food in the steakhouse was the worst they’ve ever tasted and demand a full refund…after, of course, they had eaten every bite and never said a word to the staff in the restaurant that they were unhappy with anything; a woman who yelled at the Camp Carnival staff because they allowed her son (whom she dropped off at Camp Carnival) to watch television. And on it goes).

You’ve most likely faced a travel delay where a plane was diverted to another airport or even taken out of service due to a mechanical problem. You probably know that the airline has to scramble resources to handle a plane that is at a gate where it wasn’t supposed to be, or to find a gate when a plane is at an airport it wasn’t planned to land at. They have to hustle to make sure that all of the passengers’ luggage gets where it was tagged to go. Larger airlines may have a standby plane that can be pressed into service if need be. Cruise lines don’t have that option. They don’t have spare ocean liners sitting at a dock somewhere.

Carnival Splendor. Cabo San Lucas. Photo (c) Stan Thomas/Kanale CreationsOn the other hand, cruise lines are like airlines when it comes to securing an alternate port. Last year when the Splendor diverted from her original schedule, Captain Giorgio Pagano had to make some quick decisions. If the weather doesn’t improve, is there another port within range that could be substituted? Can it accommodate a vessel as large as Splendor? Can the port accommodate 3,300 guests going ashore at the same time? Are there shore excursions available for the guests? Does the port have provisions to re-supply a ship of Splendor’s size? If the itinerary is changed, can Splendor get back to Long Beach by 8:00am Sunday? The decision was made and we sailed to Cabo and Mazatlan in reverse of the planned itinerary, and steamed hard up to Ensenada. Carnival could have easily said, “Sorry. Weather problems are preventing us from completing our schedule.” (By the way, in Ensendada we ended up at a small hole-in-the-wall place that served the best fish tacos we’ve ever tasted. Right across the lot was a shack that made the best churros we’ve ever tasted).

It is fortunate that there were no injuries to the guests or crew. For the most part, passengers understand the situation and have made the best of it. Several reports have the guests praising the staff for how they handled the incident. Of course there are a few passengers who are disgruntled beyond appeasement. Those are probably the ones you’ll see being interviewed when the passengers finally get off the ship.

How is Carnival handling this nightmare? A quote from their website:

Regular announcements apprising guests of the situation began at approximately 6.30 am (Monday). Guests were initially asked to move from their cabins to the ship’s upper open deck areas. At this time, guests have access to their cabins and are able to move about the ship. Bottled water and cold food items are being provided.

You also heard that the Navy is providing assistance:

A U.S. Navy aircraft carrier resupplied the cruise ship Tuesday evening. Sailors stood on the deck of the USS Ronald Reagan in 50-yard lines, handing off boxes of water, frozen bread, sandwich meats, granola bars, paper plates and more for the Splendor.

So the guests do have more to eat than the Spam (Spam Musubi, anyone?), crabmeat and Pop-Tarts® the media has led us to believe is all that is available. Carnival further announced that all drinks are free. They are warm drinks but at least guests would not have to pay for them.

Since Splendor is effectively disabled, the captain cannot substitute another port. So for this cruise,

Guests on the current voyage will be receiving a full refund along with reimbursement for transportation costs. Additionally, they will receive a complimentary future cruise equal to the amount paid for this voyage.

Apparently it’s going to take a while for repairs to be completed and the ship made, um, ship-shape again:

Carnival has also cancelled the Nov. 14 seven-day cruise from Long Beach. Guests scheduled to sail on this voyage will receive a full refund of their cruise fare and air transportation costs, along with a 25 percent discount on a future cruise.

Splendor is 952 feet long. She weighs in at over 113,000 tons. This massive floating hotel is transporting one shy of 3,300 guests with a crew compliment of 1,167 on this sailing. This is what the tugs are contending with…slowly.

Splendor is being towed back the US – San Diego to be exact – at the breath-taking speed of 4 knots. She is capable is cruising at 21 knots. To get an idea of the difference in speed, imagine you are driving from LA to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Before you reach Kingman, Arizona, a fan belt breaks. You and you car now have to continue the trip being towed by someone riding a mountain bike (must be a very strong person) at 12 miles per hour, with no air conditioning in the car.

Once Splendor reaches San Diego, there is still the issue of getting the guests back to Long Beach. Carnival has stepped up once again:

A large Carnival team continues to work on hotel, flight and transportation arrangements for the guests and will be on the ground in San Diego when the ship arrives.

Carnival says they have over 100 people dedicated to that effort.

By the time you read this post, the crippled Splendor will have made it to San Diego and safely docked. The passengers will have happily disembarked, no doubt thankful to be back on dry land with real food and functioning toilets. The engineers and crew of the Splendor will have begun the tedious task of repairing her. All things considered, it’s a good thing Splendor is on a Mexican Riviera itinerary that keeps her relatively close to shore. Imagine if this had happened mid-way through a trans-Atlantic voyage.

Writers note: If any guests who were on board Splendor’s ill-fated trip are reading this and do not want to use their complimentary free cruise voucher, I am shamelessly suggesting you donate it to this very appreciative writer.

Photo credit © Stan Thomas/Kanale Creations

Update – November 15, 2010: John Heald, Carnival’s senior cruise director, is able to post updates to his blog again. He has posted a candid report of his (and Splendor’s) experience which he called “Smoke on the Water”. Here are Part 4, Part 5 , and The Final Chapter.

Crippled Carnival Splendor Adrift – A View from Inside and Outside – Part I

Posted in Blog, Journalism, Photography, Travel with tags , , , on Thursday, 11 November 2010, by Stan

Carnival Splendor. Cabo San Lucas. Photo (c) Stan Thomas/Kanale Creations

November 11, 2010

Dry Land, California – Be careful what you wish for. Carnival Cruise Lines’ senior cruise director John Heald posted the following on his Facebook page at 5:40 Sunday evening just after the Carnival Splendor had set sail:

John Heald so after a long long day we finally set sail. I am hoping for an incident free cruise but……..since being here I cant remember one where something or nsomeone strange hasnt happened. Lets see what this cruise brings. Hope you will join me here and on the blog for another brilliant cruise

Let me say right off the bat that I was not aboard the Carnival Splendor when she experienced an engine fire that left her dead in the water on Monday. But I was on that ship three months ago.

This past August marked my second voyage on Carnival’s 2-year-old cruise ship Splendor. And since I’ve sailed on Splendor twice now, I feel a certain amount of attachment towards her. (On this last trip I was very upset to see where some knucklehead had scratched “F***” into the door of one of the ship’s elevators.I felt like they had done that to my house). I was blessed that we were able to make it to all of our scheduled ports with no detours. Out of six cruises, I’ve been diverted four times. So I can empathize a little bit with passengers on those trips when something forces the ship to change plans.

Her Mexican Riviera itinerary has Splendor departing from Long Beach Sunday afternoon and arriving in Puerto Vallarta on Wednesday morning, cruising for two days to get there. Leaving PV, she calls on Mazatlan on Thursday, and then over to Cabo San Lucas on Friday. The return home takes a little over a day and a half.

I truly enjoy cruising. But after the second day at sea, my camera and I start to get antsy. Not that there aren’t a ton of things to do on board. There are. Between all the meals and shows and food and movies and food and contests and food and classes and… there is something to keep you occupied from the time you wake up until the wee hours of the morning. It’s just that my Nikon and I are ready to get off the ship and see more than the 13-deck ocean liner we’ve been sailing on for the last two days. Don’t get me wrong; I thank God I am able to take cruises like this, and Splendor really is a magnificent ship. Carnival Splendor. Mazatlan. Photo (c) Stan Thomas/Kanale Creations

My first cruise was a weekender to Ensenada, Baja California. This was way back in 1984. High winds damaged the only tug boat they had in the harbor so our ship, the Azure Seas, could not be brought to the dock. Needless to say we could not get off the ship. I was disappointed because the day before we left, a well-traveled businessman had given me a list of restaurants he recommended. And I absolutely had to visit Hussong’s. As a consolation, the captain announced that drinks would be on the ship, er, on the house for that day. What did the ship do instead of anchoring off a port we couldn’t go in to? We sailed back toward San Pedro, slowly zig-zagging our way up the coast.

Churning somewhere nearby in the Atlantic during a very active 1995 hurricane season, Hurricane Opal disrupted my third cruise. Carnival Festivale was supposed to call on St. Thomas and four other southern Caribbean islands. Almost the entire schedule was changed. Instead of St. Thomas, we stopped at St. Croix. Because of the storm, power was out on the island but we made port there anyway. I guess because of the power outage, store owners had some down time and we were able to enjoy some nice conversation with a few idle Crucians. Instead of St. Maarten, we docked in St. Lucia. Ah, St. Lucia. Another island I’d like to spend more time on. Soufriere. The Pitons. But I digress.

When I sailed on the Splendor last year, we were racing a storm that was powerful enough to warrant a detour; we lost PV and were instead given Ensenada. Initially I was upset; I had been to Ensenada already (yes, the Azure Seas made it there on my ’86 trip) so I was in a been-there-done-that frame of mind. I hadn’t been to PV before nor had I been that far south in Mexico. But I did understand that on the seas you are at the mercy of the seas. Sometimes the weather is fair, sometimes it rains. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.

Carnival calls themselves the “Fun Ships”. Obviously not many people are having fun now. You have heard the reports; engine room fire takes the engines out, stuck in foreign waters, no power, no elevators, no hot water, no refrigeration, no air conditioning, no hot food, and, until recently, no flushing toilets. Some people freak out when power goes out in their own homes for a couple of hours. Can you imagine what it must be like to be cooped up in a house without power or hot water or refrigeration with 3,000 of your (now very close) friends? Oh, and since Splendor has no power other than emergency power, she can’t control her stabilizers, which help minimize the ship’s rolling motion at sea. So a lot of passengers are getting seasick. There are reports (erroneous, it turns out) of numerous barf bags in the corridors. Which, obviously, smell.

And don’t forget; the crew is facing the same conditions as the guests. Only most of them have smaller cabins than the guests.

Let’s break it down a bit more: You save for a year or more to take this cruise. You get your vacation time approved by the boss. If you are travelling with family and/or friends, you finally find a time when all of you can make the trip. And, you may be celebrating a special event like a honeymoon or a birthday. Now you make travel arrangements to get to Long Beach, which may include air and/or car and/or hotel. The stars have aligned and you arrive on board to begin your highly anticipated, fun-filled seven-day excursion. Fourteen hours into your voyage, a fire breaks out in the engine room and, just like the Splendor itself, your vacation comes to a halt.

What do you do? If you are like most of us, you can’t re-do this trip again as soon as Splendor is repaired. You might have to wait a year or more – if you can ever make this trip again at all. Your whole week is lost. Your whole vacation, at least the shipboard part, is ruined. You won’t have another 25th anniversary or 50th birthday. This special time is something you can’t get back.

Update – November 15, 2010: John Heald, Carnival’s senior cruise director, is able to post updates to his blog again. He has posted a candid report of his (and Splendor’s) experience which he called “Smoke on the Water”. Here are Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.