They all asked the same question.
"Where's the prince?" teen-age girls bright with pastel cotton and eyeshadow called up to the deck of HMS Brazen docked in the Baltimore Harbor.
The prince was Prince Andrew of Britain. The answer was a broad but uninformative smile from any one of the many sailors leaning against the rail of the largest frigate in the British fleet.
"Oh my! Oh my! Oh my!" whispered Shawn Costello, 18, staring at the gangplank at midday. A second passed. "No, it's not him."
Costello had just finished explaining, "I'm not here for the prince, just anybody with an English accent." This comment was punctuated with a giggle in which her three friends joined. Giggling was very popular at Harborplace today, as were references to Koo Stark (Andrew's former close close friend); descriptions of the sailors as "cute" (this usually followed with another round of giggles); and beer (the sailors, not the pasteled girls, were drinking it).
"Let's be realistic," said Costello, a student at Towson State. "We come down here a lot, but I made a special trip for this. I don't get into celebrities. I met Van Halen here -- it wasn't the thrill of my life. But people who are fourth in line for the British throne . . . "
There are celebrities, it seems, and there are celebrities. An hour after Costello and her friends arrived at the ship, they were still there. No luck.
They watched as members of the crew in blue shorts, shirts and caps carted flowering plants up the gangplank. "For the cocktail party tonight," one sailor said. No, he wouldn't be there. "Just the upper decks -- the upper, upper deck," he added, with the deadpan expression of an enlisted man that only hints at "what do you expect?"
The social as well as naval upper, upper deck arrived later to dress-white uniforms, whistles and trumpets. British Ambassador Oliver Wright and other guests looked quite comfortable with it all.
But even then, still no prince.
Anyone looking for more British color had to be satisfied with a group of sailors decorated with ink scars and eye patches. "Shiver me timbers," one of the sailors shouted a little tentatively.
"It's a chance to revert," said petty officer Dan McArdle. "I'm Dan, Dan, the pirate man. Chief pirate.
"I've been doing this for 16 years in the Royal Navy."
Complete with T-shirt that did indeed say, "Dan, Dan, the pirate man," stocking cap and stuffed parrot attached to his shoulder, McArdle was preparing for a dip in the Baltimore Harbor.
"I did it in Norway in November," he said. "If you can do it in November, you can do it anywhere."
Then a gaggle of tiny children from a local day-care center appeared and Dan, Dan, the pirate man and his fellow pirates were off to entertain the kids. Two hours later, he was in the water.
Still no prince.
The crew had been prepared for the questions about their best-known compatriot. "I'm sorry, I can't talk about that," they responded with weary, wary looks.
They were more willing to hand out HMS Brazen buttons and stickers. A lucky few received stickers showing the ship's Lynx helicopter named The Hussy, which Andrew flies. The Hussy sticker was, like the others, in red, white and blue, but with an added extra: a silhouette of a well-endowed naked woman superimposed on the helicopter.
The Hussy was named "long before I joined," Andrew explained in a news conference on board Wednesday. This is the kind of question princes have to answer.
People had already begun collecting Andrew lore. There had been sightings. He was there for a beer the night before, a waitress at Phillips restaurant insisted.
"Maybe that's him," another waitress said as a helicopter churred by overhead. Her customers then heard the whole story -- when he arrived, how many people went out to see him Wednesday (500), how cute he was, that sort of thing.
On Wednesday, Andrew said he suspected "it's probably inevitable" that he would meet American women during his stay here, but added, "I shan't be out looking. Why should I be?"
And today he wasn't out looking. He wasn't out much at all.
They sat there waiting anyway, patiently staring at the great gray hull of the ship. Some were there just for the breeze off the water, some were waiting on restaurant reservations, and some were regulars. They come whenever a ship docks, patrolman Joseph Mantegna said, prince or no prince.
"It's no big deal," Mantegna said from his station at the bottom of the gangplank. "Most people come here to watch the ship. People come and stare. They come to stare at each other."
And no one, it seemed, really expected to see anything more than a big ship and a bunch of guys in blue shirts and shorts. The gawking, the questions -- just something to do on a sunny day, something to giggle about.
"We're here for the sailors," said Monica Cole, 14, from Bowie, testing the sound of the statement and then laughing nervously.
"We heard about his reputation," said her friend Debbie Lincoln, 13, her braces flashing in the sun, her gum crackling. She laughed too. What to say next?
"The shops are fun, but we didn't get to see Prince Andrew," said Rachel Chamberlain, 13. Lincoln popped a lime green whistle between her lips, let off a wild whirring buzz in the direction of the sailors on board, then looked away quickly and laughed. She and her friends blinked, laughed some more, looked back at the men, looked away again and were off. Their mothers were waiting to take them home and they were late.
Then, at 5:15, he was there. By 5:16, he was gone. The tan limbs and blue-and-yellow striped shirt bounded out of a big white Cadillac, raced up the plank and disappeared. Behind him, a man bearing the royal tennis racquet followed. The policeman with the radio in his ear, who was guarding the gangplank and had been looking a little bored, perked up.
Eyes opened wide. For a second people stared. Then they smiled and walked on. Time for dinner.