The Grand Princess cruise ship’s outdoor theater and pool area is seen during a recent tour for local residents. Photos by Marco Torres.

While thousands of cruise ship passengers visited Ketchikan Wednesday, a small group of Ketchikan residents turned the tables, and visited a cruise ship.

Nearly every summer, at least one cruise ship makes an inaugural port call in Ketchikan, which means some of us get to go on board, drink a mimosa, eat a pastry, meet the captain and take a tour.

The visit to the Grand Princess starts with a strict security check. They took our IDs and kept them while we were on the ship, and took a picture of each of us, so they’d know exactly what we looked like in case we failed to disembark.

Then we walked through scanners, similar to those at airports, a frustrating experience for someone carrying a load of recording equipment.

Once on, though, it was much more relaxing, with kind greetings from all the crew members, including the captain Tony Herriott.

The brief ceremony took place in the Wheelhouse lounge, practically empty at 10 a.m., especially with most of the passengers on shore taking advantage of a nice day. Well, nice for Southeast Alaska, which means not raining.

City Mayor Lew Williams III was on hand for the plaque exchange.

City Mayor Lew Williams III and Grand Princess Captain Tony Herriott talk before the plaque exchange ceremony Wednesday on board the ship.

“In honor of you guys showing up this year, we do have something for you,” he said, adding that tourism is extremely important to Ketchikan’s economy.

The ship captain accepted the framed piece, and then handed over one for the City of Ketchikan.

Drinks and pastries followed, and some interesting factoids were revealed. For example, did you know that every cruise ship has a godmother? The godmother of the Grand Princess is… well, they didn’t know off the top of their heads, so they sent someone to go look. He reported back quickly.

“Olivia DeHavilland,” he said, and the captain added that she’s “A very famous actress.”

Andreas Pitch, the hotel manager, added another tidbit of cruise trivia.

“The largest ship in the world is the Allure of the Seas, and the godmother is Princess Fiona from ‘Shrek,’” he said.

The OneFive club on Deck 15.

Assistant Cruise Director Kelly Miller then herded the visitors out for a tour of the ship. Miller took us to the Vista Lounge, where they offer live shows and screen movies.

“We have a movie theater outside, but in Alaska, we’re not allowed to make noise outside, so we can’t show movies on our big movie screen unless they’re silent content,” she said.

Then, on to the OneFive club, which is a cleverly named bar on deck 15. Get it? One-five? 15?

Anyway, it leads directly outside to a pool area. Down a short flight of stairs is a wedding chapel, where the captain will officiate, and then there’s food.

“I’m going to take you downstairs now to the most popular place on the ship – the buffet,”

The buffet is a popular spot on board any cruise ship.

Miller said, laughing.

The buffet led straight through to the conservatory, which is a warm covered pool area. There’s also a 700–seat theater, a gym, where passengers can burn some of their buffet calories, more restaurants to add the calories back again, and a full-service spa.

“It’s amazing what they do on ships now that they didn’t used to,” Miller said in the spa area. “We have acupuncturists, we have Botox. But then, there’s the popular hot stone massages, as well.”

While some of the crew is able to use the gym, most are not. But there is a crew recreation area in another part of the ship, which sounds like a fun place, at least some of the time.

The Grand Princess piazza, which used to be called the atrium, features shops and activities.

“Last night was Philippines independence day,” Miller said. “It was huge. It was just insanity in the recreation area. I’m looking forward to two months from now, when we have Indian and Indonesian independence days, because then we always have food. It’s a massive buffet of ethnic foods. It’s amazing. I love it.”

It takes about 1,000 people to run the ship, and Miller – who is from British Columbia – said she loves learning about other cultures through her coworkers.

“The executive chef is from Mauritius,” she said. “I didn’t even know where it was until I met him – islands off the coast of Africa. You get people from all over the world on board, which is my favorite part of working on a cruise ship. It used to be the travel, now it’s the people.”

The Grand Princess was inaugurated almost exactly 15 years ago. It has a capacity of 2,600 passengers.

Ketchikan residents take a tour of the Grand Princess Wednesday during the ship’s inaugural visit.

The conservatory features a covered pool, which is a little warmer for swimmers taking an Alaska cruise.

The theater on board the Grand Princess seats about 700.