Monday, September 21, 2009

The Ghost of the Royal Princess


Our first voyage with Princess Cruise Lines was many, many years ago on the old Royal Princess. Back then there were stories about a ghost that inhabited the ship 11 months of the year and in the 12th month disappeared. It was rumored to be an old woman who walked those hallways, and while from time to time, we thought we caught a glimpse of this ethereal and mysterious figure, we never actually saw the ghost. Even, a crew member seemed reluctant to discuss this issue, and so it remained a mystery and a curiosity, until now that is.

That particular ship was retired from Princess several years ago and a newer ship was placed into service and also called the Royal Princess. It is this newer ship on which we are now cruising.

At first, it was little things that got our attention once again concerning this “ghost.” Every morning just outside the main dining room a small table would have a “reserved” sign on it. Beside it the curtains would be pulled shut making a nice little dark nest. On the coffee table sat an upturned coffee cup and a covered glass of water, as if awaiting the arrival of some royal personage. On the top of the nearby counter two muffins sat carefully and lovingly wrapped in cellophane. However, no one appeared to claim their rightful place.

As time passed, other things caught my eye. There were in fact several little “nests” located around the ship. Areas in which the curtains had been pulled closed, and things arranged “just so” protected with a “reserved” sign. In several locations, small throw pillows were carefully arranged bearing the name “Lorraine” embroidered onto them.

Whenever I would ask a crew member about these little “nests” the answer I received was mumbled, hurried and the crewmember immediately rushed off so as to have no more need to discuss the matter. Lisa and I both thought this strange indeed.

One afternoon, while sitting on the upper deck enjoying lunch, we saw an elderly woman who was surrounded by members of the crew. She was being assisted as she slowly made her way forward. Two things struck me--first, there must have been at least seven crewmembers, including several officers, who in essence constituted her entourage, the second thing that caught my eye was the woman herself, she was elderly ”yes,” but she had enough makeup to be a show person appearing on stage. Lipstick was in prominent display, long earrings, and very colorful flashy clothes. In her hand, she carried a large and very vibrant handbag of many colors. All in all, a stunning and unforgettable demeanor, as she once again disappeared as if she had never been there. When I inquired as to who this “personage” was, I got some clipped answer about her being the God Mother of the Royal Princess.

What does it mean to be the “Godmother” of the Royal Princess? You got me on that! So the mystery continued, until this morning.

The little nest just outside the dining room was occupied by none other than our mysterious little old lady. Lisa and I stopped after breakfast to enjoy an espresso, and while we were seated a steady stream of crewmembers and officers came quietly by to pay their respects to the ship’s “Godmother.” She was all abeam, and clearly excited to be the object of so much attention. Once again, she had on way too much makeup and lipstick and her clothes can only be called colorful in the extreme.

Generally on a Princess Ship they will have a photograph in a place of honor naming the Patron of the vessel. The old Royal had a photograph of the Queen, who was present at the ship’s christening. Walking down the corridor I came across the photograph and shrine for this vessel, and there was a superb color photograph of our mysterious lady; her name is Lorraine Arzt, and she is shown as the “Godmother of the Royal Princess.”

After a little time on Google, I found that Lorraine and her husband, Joe, were professional dancers, who ran a dance school among other things. They then made money in real estate. After his death, Lorraine took up residence on cruise ships and is today considered the most travelled cruise passenger in the World, having travelled on over 4,100 cruises. For many years she resided on the old Sea Princess, but now she lives on board the Royal Princess for 10 to 11 months each year, and then returns to her home in Beverly Hills.

Because of her unique status, she was indeed given the honor of christening the Royal Princess, and in so doing was formally named the ship’s Godmother.

Having solved one mystery however, we still do not know about the ghost on the old Royal Princess. Perhaps, it was just a story after all.

Ain’t it amazing what you learn . . .


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