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Kaua’i to Vancouver – day 5 at sea

Monday, Oct 16, 2017 – Kaua’i, Hawai’i to Vancouver, BC

Hawai’i Cruise 2017

Crepuscular rays at sunrise over the Pacific Ocean

Crepuscular rays at sunrise over the Pacific Ocean

The ship’s clock is set forward one hour again last night. I’m awake at 5AM and see Crepuscular rays at sunrise over the ocean, so take some photos before going back to bed to sleep in until just after 8AM. I go to the main dining room for my cappuccino and breakfast. I’m seated at a table with a couple from Nanaimo, a woman from Ohio, and a man from the Silicon Valley.

This is our last day aboard the ship before we disembark in Vancouver tomorrow morning. Some lucky passengers are staying on the ship as it transitions to the Caribbean ending in Fort Lauderdale. I have heard some passengers want to extend their cruise, but the ship is fully-booked out of Vancouver. There are many more people aboard in wheelchairs than on my previous voyages with Holland America. I’m thinking this might be because there was only one tender port on this cruise (Lahaina), so these people could disembark at all the other ports-of-call.

While we are having lunch in the main dining room, Captain Scott comes on the PA system to report that we are a bit ahead of schedule, so we will be in Juan de Fuca Strait by 6PM this evening, will pick up the pilot off Victoria at 11PM, and will dock in Vancouver by 5AM tomorrow morning.

Captain George Vancouver

Captain George Vancouver

Lawrence Tartaglino’s Talk: Vancouver: The Man, Island and the City –  George Vancouver was one of Britain’s greatest navigators and cartographers; a man who influenced the world, yet died in almost total obscurity. This is the story of his life and legacy. I learned that George Vancouver settled the details of the Nootka Convention of 1790  between Spain and England with Bodega y Quadra. He circumnavigated the world from England to Africa, Australia, Hawaii, the Pacific Northwest of North America, then around Cape Horn and back the England – some 65,000 miles!

I go over to my friends’s cabin for a sip of wine at 4PM…the last of the white riesling we had last night at the Tamarind. I go for a two circuit 1km walk on the Upper Promenade deck. It is raining and foggy as the ship enters Juan de Fuca Strait to rendezvous with the pilot just off Victoria’s shoreline. I spot the two little Pomeranian dogs that are aboard as part of the magician and illusionist show. We are into some serious rollers coming from a northerly direction…I expect we are now over the continental shelf, and out of deep water.

The farewell march by the kitchen staff through the Eurodam's main dining room

The farewell march by the kitchen staff through the Eurodam’s main dining room

My friends and i change our minds about dining in the Lido and instead decide to go to the main dining room for dinner this evening. The Executive Chefs are featured on the menu, so there are some interesting menu choices! We all select the lamb shank, which is slow-roasted with the bone-in just like I get from my local Greek restaurants. I have potato soup with shrimp to start, and finish with chocolate ginger mouse cake. It is all superb! The farewell march by the kitchen staff through the dining room happens as well, so we all give them a well-deserved round of applause.

When I return to my cabin, I pack everything except what I will need for the morning. I am rolling my own bag off the ship, so I don’t have to put my bag out this evening…a much better option since I can finish packing last minute items tomorrow morning. I have breakfast ordered to be delivered to my room tomorrow morning, so I will stay out of the passageways until it’s time for me to leave the ship at 8:30AM.

I go up to the Crow’s Nest on the north side of the ship and catch an LTE connection from my Canadian cellular carrier from there. Once I catch up on a few online things, I shut down and return to my cabin. It faces south, so I’m picking up AT&T, so I make sure I shut off data roaming before I go to bed at 10PM.

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Kaua’i to Vancouver – day 4 at sea

Sunday, Oct 15, 2017 – Kaua’i, Hawai’i to Vancouver, BC

Hawai’i Cruise 2017

I wake up at 4AM this morning, but manage to get back to sleep until 6:30AM. Setting the ship’s clocks forward almost daily is starting to catch up with me. I meet my friend in the Explorations Cafe for cappuccino and a snack at 7:30AM. I go to the Lido for some scrambled eggs and toast before walking the circuit on Promenade Deck a couple of times for a 1km distance. It is cool outside, so I zip up my fleece jacket, although the seas are much calmer and the wind isn’t a factor today. When I return to my cabin, I catch my cabin stewards and give them an envelope with some US$ for all their cheerful work keeping my cabin clean.

Ginny Stibolt’s final talk: Public Gardens – Traditional public gardens are well-trimmed and orderly, but newer public gardens have emphasized native plants. When I visit New York City, I want to see Highline Park – a natural park on a elevated rail; and when I visit Chicago – Lurie Garden.

A Belgian ship’s officer hosts an Interest Corner session: Classic Sports Cars and Photography. He shows his selection of the top ten classic sports cars for each of America and Europe, and then follows up with some of his photos from his recent helicopter tour of Kauai, including the spectacular Napili coast. (Slide show of my photos of the Napili Coast)

Ginger and garlic wok-seared lobster

Ginger and garlic wok-seared lobster

My friends and I go to the Tamarind restaurant this evening, on Gala Night. We all have Martinis in the beautiful but quiet Tamarind bar before dinner, and then dig into the menu to select some items we didn’t try the first time we were here. I select an Austrian Riesling wine, which goes well with the seafood that dominated the menu.

We have: spicy Thai Chicken and rice soup, Shrimp Tempura Indochine, Ginger and garlic wok-seared lobster with sake-braised oyster and shiitake mushrooms, brown rice, Java mint and coconut rice pudding, Mango Cloud – a light egg white soufflé mango sorbet. It was all excellent! I think the Tamarind is perhaps the best restaurant aboard the ship, although there is a modest premium charge to dine here.

Shrimp Tempura Indochine

Shrimp Tempura Indochine

 

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Kaua’i to Vancouver – day 2 at sea

Friday, Oct 13, 2017 – Kaua’i, Hawai’i to Vancouver, BC

Hawai’i Cruise 2017

It is my 65th birthday today. I go up to the Explorations Cafe for my usual morning cappuccino and pastries. Thanks to having an Internet connection while at sea, I read over 50 birthday wishes waiting for me on Facebook this morning – a great start to the day! After I finish my cappuccino, I go to the Lido and have an custom-made omelet for breakfast. A couple from Salem, Oregon sit down at my table, so we talk about the recent eclipse.

The ship continues to pitch around as it battles against strong winds from the weather trough in the North Pacific. We also experience rain squalls despite there being some blue sky visible as well. The Upper Promenade Deck is closed due to 50 mph winds!

Ginny Stibolt’s Talk this morning: Between the Land and the Sea – The Hawaiian Islands have about 750 miles of coastline. We’ll take a look at how reefs, wetlands, and mangroves protect shorelines and provide important habitat for birds, fish crustaceans, and more.

We hear from a new Guest Speaker this morning: Lawrence Tartaglino. His talk is titled The Four Mutinies of William Bligh – A look at each of the four mutinies in which Captain Bligh was involved, and a review of the issues, people and circumstances surrounding each incident. I learned: he Joined the Royal Navy at 7 years old, sailed with Captain Cook in 1776 (Cook’s final voyage), his wife was a woman of influence that helped his career in the British Navy, and his wife referred to Fletcher Christian as “That charming young man”!

John and Wendy enjoy some bubbly at the Mariner Lunch

John and Wendy enjoy some bubbly at the Mariner Lunch

My friends and I attend the Mariner Lunch, which happens on each Holland America voyage where there are sea days. Our Cruise Director Nick introduces  Marco van Bellegheim, Hotel Director and Captain John Scott. Captain Scott is a very outgoing man, and regales us all before lunch. I have a tasty vegetarian lunch, including Eggplant red curry along with the traditional sparkling wine served at these functions to honour loyal cruisers.

This evening we celebrate my 65th birthday and both of my friends also have nearby birthdays at the Pinnacle Grill. As it turns out, the Executive Chef for Holland America is staging a special dinner this evening called Rudi’s Sel de Mer – a celebration of seafood! We enjoyed ourselves immensely – the food was wonderful.

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Vancouver to Hilo – days 3 & 4 at sea

Oct 4, 2017 – Third day at sea – enroute from Vancouver, BC to Hilo, Hawai’i

Hawai’i Cruise 2017

Ginny Stibolt’s talk this morning: Hawaii: A Timeline of Paradise – The origins of the beautiful Hawaiian Islands, the nature of their plants and animals, and how the natural aspects of this paradise have changed over time. I learn that native species in Hawai’i are rare, and even rarer now that many invasive species of plants and animals have been brought in by settlers.

Anti-crepuscular rays at sunset

Anti-crepuscular rays at sunset

My friends and I go up to the Lido for lunch, but can’t find a table, so we go down to the dining room and have a very nice lunch with a couple from Langley, BC, and a woman from south Florida.

Oct 5, 2017 – Fourth day at sea

As is my habit while aboard ship, I go up to the Explorations Cafe for Continental Breakfast: the essential cappuccino, a blueberry cake and some muesli. I find a chair in the adjacent Crow’s Nest Lounge with a forward-facing view and chat with a woman from Parksville and a man from Seattle. The man from Seattle is folding US Dollar bills into origami figures he invents. One is a dress shirt and a tie – very clever!

I meet my friend in the Explorations Cafe for coffee at 10:30AM, and then sit outside on the Upper Promenade Deck 3 to listen to the first four chapters of my Margaret Atwood Audible book The Handmaid’s Tale. I go down to the main dining room for lunch, and sit at a table with the woman from Richmond and her mother from Sidney again – even on a ship this big, you can bump into people more than once! I have a lovely spinach and mushroom salad with grilled salmon on top and some frozen yogurt for dessert.

Ginny Stibolt’s talk this afternoon: Ancient Farming: Roots of a Civilization – she follows up yesterday’s talk by describing how Polynesian wayfarers brought seeds, cuttings, and root stock of plants they’d need in unknown lands (Hawai’i).

This evening, my friends and I have dinner at Tamarind, a Pan-Asian restaurant featuring the cuisine of Southeast Asia, China and Japan. We are all very impressed with the food and service. Our selections:

  • Jewels of the Sea – shrimp-filled wontons with sliced baby bok chop, lemon grass-sesame broth
  • Crisp Fried Soft Shell Crab with Thai dipping sauce
  • Hoisin-Lime Glazed Sea Bass – pan-seared, wok-cooked Asian greens
  • Penang Red Curry Coconut Chicken – spiced chicken, snow peas, eggplant, zucchini, pimientos, opal bail, lemon grass, lime juice, red curry, coconut milk
  • Taiwanese Braised Pork Belly – soy-egg, pickled vegetables, sticky rice, bok choy with oyster sauce
  • Mango Cloud – light egg white soufflé mango sorbet
  • Thai Mini Doughnuts – chocolate, mango & ginger sauces
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Vancouver to Hilo – first day at sea

Oct 2, 2017 – First day at sea – enroute from Vancouver, BC to Hilo, Hawai’i

Hawai’i Cruise 2017

I have breakfast in the main dining room this morning. I am seated at a large table with five other British Columbians from Sidney, Richmond, Nanoose Bay, and Vernon. Obviously this cruise appeals to Canadians, especially those of us from the west coast, since it departs and returns to Vancouver.

Speaker: Ginny Stibolt

Speaker: Ginny Stibolt

My friends and I are very pleased with presenter Ginny Stibolt, a botanist, naturalist and dedicated gardener. She gives wonderful talks about the natural world around us almost every day we are at sea on this cruise. This morning’s presentation is: Oceans: The Real “Lungs” of the World. – “We can thank the oceans’ plants for the oxygen in our atmosphere”.

This afternoon, there is a presentation “Make the Most of Your Visit to Hilo and Honolulu” by the onboard EXC Guide Eve. I’ve visited Hawai’i so many times, I could probably give this presentation, however I attend anyway so I can pick up any updated information about our ports-of-call.

Joe sipping some Prossecco in the main dining room on Gala Night

Joe sipping some Prossecco in the main dining room on Gala Night

It is Gala Night this evening aboard ship, which means most people are dressed in their best. My friends and I go to the main dining room at 5:30PM, and although there is a long line to get in, we are given a window table on the top level normally reserved for fixed seating guests. I order escargots, arugula salad, and beef tenderloin steak with prawns (see photo in the banner image above). We have a bottle of Proscecco sparkling wine, which goes nicely with pretty well everything we order, including Beef tenderloin steak with prawns (banner image above) and a vegetarian entree.

After dinner, we go to the main showroom to join the captain in a toast to a successful voyage, and then stay for the Off The Charts – Billboard Hits Rewind show, which is excellent…performed by the ship’s entertainers. The show is quite a big step up from the ship-board shows I’ve seen on other Holland America ships. I don’t know if HAL is upgrading all their shows, or this is unique to their larger ships like the Eurodam.

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The Louvre & farewell dinner in Paris

September 19, 2014 – Friday – The Louvre, Paris, France

After breakfast in the hotel, we take the Metro to see The Louvre this morning. After connecting with our guide Vincent shortly after 9AM, we walk through the expansive foyer and through security. The place is huge, so Vincent has selected some highlights for us, and has also included some of his personal favourites, since we only have a couple of hours.

The Mona Lisa is not too impressive, and we can’t get close to it since there is such a crush of people in the gallery. We have better luck seeing the Venus de Milo (Aphrodite) statue, although both galleries are known to be frequented by pickpockets. I’m thankful that Vincent is guiding us through the endless galleries, since I’m really not into museums, per se. The crowds are hard to cope with, even at this early hour – many are loud, rude, and pushy. As with the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, I find the display of wealth stolen by Napoleon and the Louis dynasty to be completely over the top. Despite my negative feelings, The Louvre is a place that needs a return visit. I have a feeling that spending a day in the less popular galleries would be more rewarding than our quick visit. After taking a coffee break in the foyer mall, we return to our hotel using the Paris Metro on our own.

Jennifer toasts at our farewell dinner

Jennifer toasts at our farewell dinner

Our group’s farewell dinner is held at La Terrasse du 7ème restaurant, which is only a couple of blocks away from our hotel. The meal is wonderful, and the wine is very nice. We start with Kir, which is a cocktail made with crème de cassis (black current liquor) and white wine, and then we have a three course dinner. We finish our farewell on the rooftop patio with some bubbly…a lovely way to end things and say our goodbyes.

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Rome

September 11, 2014 – Thursday – Florence to Rome

Upon our arrival in Rome, our driver Sylvain has to maneuver through some pretty challenging turns and narrow streets to get us to the drop off point in the city at Repubblica Square. Driving a vehicle that large in Rome is a real challenge! After we schlepp our bags a few blocks to Hotel Nardizzi Americana in sprinkling rain, a bunch of us have lunch on our own at a nearby salad bar deli. I have a delicious prosciutto panino (we say Panini in North America, which is actually the plural form of panino in Italian).

We go on an extensive walking tour of Rome this afternoon from with a local guide. She succeeds in bringing the Colliseum, the Roman Forum, and the Pantheon alive for us all. Several of us are tired after all the walking this afternoon, so we return to the hotel on our own using the Rome subway. Jennifer taught us well earlier in the day when we started our tour by taking the subway, so we have no problem reversing the route.

Three of us have dinner at Ristorante Esperia, which is a trattoria only a couple of blocks away from our hotel. I have Spaghetti Carbonara, which is very rich and tasty. We all enjoy our meals, although the wine is a bit expensive.

September 12, 2014 – Friday – Vatican City

After breakfast at the hotel this morning, we take the subway to the Vatican to take an escorted tour of the Vatican Museum, which includes the Sistine Chapel, the Raphael Rooms, and other amazing displays. I missed the Vatican Museum last time I was in Rome in 2006 due to a screw up with the arrangements, so it is great to finally see this astounding collection of friezes, tapestries, and paintings. Actually, I find the opulence to be obscene. I am fascinated with the painted maps of Italy in one hallway, since they were created so long ago and yet are very detailed.

Bernini's Baldachino in St. Peter's Basilica

Bernini’s Baldachino in St. Peter’s Basilica

We are then led through a side entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica, where we are on our own for the rest of the day. I think there is more lighting than the last time I was in St. Peter’s in 2006, which makes taking photos easier. I still find the place rather creepy, especially seeing the popes and cardinals who are embalmed and on display in crypts with glass windows in the side so they can be viewed. There are several worship services going on as I walk through the basilica taking photos.

I meet up with several members of my tour group in St. Peter’s Square, and we return to the hotel on our own using the subway ticket Jennifer gave us earlier. I’m completely bagged, so I have a two-hour nap this afternoon. I had great plans to work on my travel journal, but that doesn’t happen!

Nine of us go to the Oratorio Bistrot for dinner this evening, which is in the same block as our hotel. They have a wine bar downstairs and they have an upstairs patio where lunch and dinner is served. It is very nice on the covered patio, and the meals are very tasty. I have rolled veal with bacon as a main, and start with grilled zucchini, which turns out to be more of an omelet. I have an Italian beer with dinner, but the rest of the group order two glasses of wine each, since they don’t seem to have house wines served in jugs like the other restaurants we have eaten at up to now.

September 13, 2014 – Saturday – Rome to Cinque Terre, Italy

We have breakfast in our hotel and then everyone walks a couple of blocks to the bus, which is waiting for us at Repubblica Square with the beautiful fountain and the metro station beneath. We drive by St. Peter’s on our way out of the city, and pass Civitavecchia as we drive up the coast. This is where the cruise ships dock, and then the passengers are transferred by bus to Rome for the day.

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Open Air Museum in Arnhem

September 2, 2014 – Tuesday – Haarlem, Netherlands to Bacharach, Germany

We are delayed departing this morning because a couple are leaving the tour to return home because of a medical condition. We are now down to 24 in the group, since two people didn’t show up to start with. We finally get away from the hotel at 9AM. Sylvain is our driver. Our bus is huge, so anyone who wants his or her own pair of seats can have them. I end up taking 4 seats, so I can slide from side to side to stay on the shady side and take photos of whatever goes by! The bus has a restroom, however we are encouraged to use the facilities at rest stops whenever possible. The bus also is stocked with soft drinks, beer and wine in two fridges – we use a tally sheet on the honour system for our purchases at only €1.50 for each bottle. This is often cheaper than what is available at our rest stops, depending on the country we are in.

We cruise down the Autobahn, stopping once at a typical rest stop you would find along any expressway/freeway anywhere in the world. We pass Dutch farms with traditional barns and houses, and Utrecht, a modern city. It is fascinating to watch the countryside fly by us as we travel eastward.

We make a midday stop at the Open Air Museum at Arnhem, which reminds me very much of the Fort William historic site in Ontario, Canada (photos). We have a couple of hours to wander around this historic park, which showcases the cultural history of the Netherlands, complete with windmills, recreated old towns with historic displays of life in the Netherlands in the old days. We have an authentic Pannenkoeken (pancake) lunch, which is delicious but filling. Three types of Pannenkoeken are served: a multi-cheese pancake, a savoury onion and egg pancake, and an apple dessert pancake. A not-too-sweet apple syrup is available to garnish the dessert pancake, but the first two are normally eaten without further garnish.

I catch up on my journal and annotating photos while we travel along the excellent Autobahns in the Netherlands and Germany. As we travel down the Rhine Valley to our stop in Bacharach, the road narrows into a good two or four lane highway. There are lots of tunnels, and the views of the valley, vineyards on the steep slopes, and little towns along the way all fulfill my expectations of the “Rhineland” area of Germany.

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Cruise: French Polynesia to San Diego

Cruising from Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia to San Diego, USA aboard ms Statendam

“Sea days” are a necessary part of most cruises, where the ship is at sea for a day or two (or longer sometimes) while traveling between ports-of-call. Some passengers pick cruises with the most sea days because they obviously enjoy the isolation and routine that inevitably occurs during these days. I have met passengers on previous voyages that don’t get off the ship, even when it is in port – they enjoy shipboard life so much! Others dread the sea days, and constantly complain they are bored and dwell on the next port-of-call. I am somewhere in the middle…I like sea days, but not too many in a row. This final leg of the voyage from Nuku Hiva to San Diego takes six days, which I know will test my patience after the first couple of days into it. I ensure I have projects I can do during these “sea days”, which keep the boredom at bay, and ensure I accomplish something during this down time.

Of course the ship’s entertainment staff are fully prepared to keep everyone occupied with dozens of activities each day the ship is at sea. The casino goes full out during these days, and I suspect they get customers they otherwise wouldn’t see, simply because passengers are looking for something to do. The staff running the shops aboard ship can also be counted on to put on product presentations, free draws, and serve champagne at their special sales events reserved for these days at sea when they are guaranteed a captive audience. Lots of passengers read books – sitting out on deck for hours at a time. Some passengers get into some serious drinking, especially during the afternoon Happy Hour, when the bars come alive. Others take workshops to learn about computers, digital cameras, food, dancing, playing musical instruments, wine appreciation, making jewelry, keeping fit, playing bridge, and dozens of other activities.


Ship's position - March 10, 2014

Ship’s position – March 10, 2014

March 10, 2014 – Monday – Day 1 Sea Day

I wake up about 4AM and look out the window to see Venus drilling through the clouds, and then go back to sleep. This is our first full sea day of six enroute to San Diego and the end of the cruise. I have a full day planned, with enrichment talks and other activities. I received my Mariner Society Brunch invitation for the 12th, which I plan to attend, mainly so I can see the captain. I have yet to spot him on this long voyage!

  • 11:30AM – Discover SkyDrive Connect to SkyDrive.com – Digital Workshop – “Explore different ways to access, manage, and share your files on SkyDrive.” I use SkyDrive (now called OneDrive) and learned a few tips by attending this tech workshop.
  • 3PM – Hubble”s Greatest Hits – Showroom at Sea – Jonathan Nally – “It’s the most famous telescope in the world … or more accurately, in space! Since its launch in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has produced many of the most amazing images of the cosmos ever taken. Jonathan Nally takes you on a colorful journey through more than 20 years of Hubble’s most incredible discoveries and awe-inspiring images.” This presentation is mostly astronomical eye candy, but it is an enjoyable way to pass an hour.

I am the only person swimming in the Ocean View Pool just before noon. The water in the pool is sloshing around a great deal as the ship is buffeted by strong winds. By this afternoon, we are being hit with 35kt winds as we proceed on our NE course across the Equator. There are whitecaps out on the water as I negotiate the windy Promenade Deck for my usual walk I take each day.

It is formal night this evening, so I get into my dark jacket, pants and tie before going to the Rotterdam dining room for dinner. I have a seafood dinner, starting with cold Lobster with mayonnaise, then Manhattan clam chowder, and Alaska King Crab and drawn butter for an entrée. The lobster and crab were very good, but the chowder was not inspiring. I had a chocolate espresso soufflé with warm raspberry sauce for dessert, which was excellent!

Jonathan Nalley leads a stargazing session from the Sea View Pool stern deck again tonight, and points out the Southern Cross to the crowd of about 50 people. I enjoy looking at M42 the Orion Nebula and Jupiter and its moons.

March 11, 2014 – Tuesday – French Polynesia to San Diego – Day 2 Sea Day

Polywogs kneeling before King Neptune

Polywogs kneeling before King Neptune

I have breakfast this morning with the dialysis doctor and his wife. He has a few dialysis patients aboard, one of which became unstable and had to be taken ashore in Nuku Hiva and onward to the hospital in Papeete. There are some rain showers while we have breakfast and during the day, however the Sun comes out for the King Neptune Ceremony held this morning on the stern deck at the Ocean View Pool. Several pollywogs are duly initiated by the shellbacks. Despite having photos from similar ceremonies on two previous Holland America cruises, I take a few more photos, since this is always a fun event.

The wind is strong at 35kts from the NE, so with us steering a course of 028, we are taking the wind just off the bow. They close the decks, but passengers continue to sit on the loungers and walk the decks, putting up with some sea spray and being blown around a bit. The ship is maintaining a speed of 18 knots as we head north to San Diego.

March 12, 2014 – Wednesday – French Polynesia to San Diego – Day 3 Sea Day

I have breakfast this morning in the Rotterdam dining room, but keep it light since I have the Mariners Brunch to attend at 11AM. The Mariners Brunch is where virtually everyone aboard is recognized for our loyalty to Holland America with a gift of a Delft ceramic tile. The Captain and Hotel Manager are on hand to greet everyone, and the Cruise Director emcees the proceedings. We have a lunch menu to choose from, and we are out of there by noon.

I go to Jonathan Nalley’s presentation on Mars and the missions sent there. I spend a few minutes online this afternoon in order to finish what I was doing yesterday when the connection to the Internet broke. I had to ask for a credit, since I couldn’t log back on to log off properly yesterday. This morning the connection wasn’t solid, so that’s why I waited until this afternoon to complete my posting to facebook, and download some email.

2014 Marcus Terrell and the Serenades

Marcus Terrell and the Serenades

After dinner in the Rotterdam dining room this evening, I go to see the show Marcus Terrell & The Serenades, which is a Motown trio with some soul mixed in. I enjoyed their show a few nights ago, and this one is even better. They mix it up by adding in some pop/opera with “The Promise”, and pretty well nail it. They get a standing ovation and give the appreciative audience an encore. Their Facebook page.

March 13, 2014 – Thursday – French Polynesia to San Diego – Day 4 Sea Day

As expected, the last few days of this cruise are becoming a bit tedious. I don’t really participate in many of the activities that are listed in the newsletter each day. I attend about half the shows in the Showroom, which are generally well done, and sometimes exceptional. I attend all the enrichment lectures, and really appreciate the astronomy speaker Jonathan Nalley. I’m glad I have my MacBook Air notebook computer with me, since I spend about an hour each day working on my travel journal, and extracting material every few days to post on my JoeTourist blog.

Taking photographs is probably my main diversion on this trip. The subsequent task of filling in the metadata for each photo takes considerable time and effort, but at least it keeps me busy while we are at sea, and it makes the job of updating my main JoeTourist.ca website much easier after I return home. I purchase another 100 minutes of Internet time this morning for $55, to give me lots of online time until our arrival in San Diego. There is a bonus 20 minutes offered for this deal for today only. I decide this is better value than purchasing the ship’s DVD videos of the trip at $80 for the set of four. Last cruise I purchased the DVDs, and they just sit on the shelf at home after I watched them once.

9:30AM – To Pluto and Beyond – Jonathan Nally “details three space missions currently underway-one that’s heading for a landing on a comet. another that will investigate the giant planet Jupiter, and one that will give us our first close-up pictures of the dwarf planet Pluto and other icy worlds beyond. All three spacecraft have been zooming through space for years now, and excitement is mounting as they begin to close in on their destinations.” I enjoy this lecture very much, despite knowing a fair bit about all three missions previously.

Entrance to the Rotterdam dining room with Indonesian & Fillipino decorations

Entrance to the Rotterdam dining room with Indonesian & Fillipino decorations

There is a great deal of hacking and coughing on the ship right now. I’m hoping to not catch a cold before I board my flight home, otherwise flying will be a painful experience. I give my two Indonesian cabin stewards a tip this morning, since they have worked so well to keep my cabin neat and tidy. Dinner in the Rotterdam dining room this evening has a Filipino and Indonesian theme. The waiters are in costume, the room is decorated, and the menu has both ethnic foods featured, making things very festive.

After dinner, I decide to skip the show and do laundry one more time, since I want to wear clean blue jeans on my flight home. The washer only takes 25 cents before starting, so that saves me from the usual $2 charge – bonus!

March 14, 2014 – Friday – French Polynesia to San Diego – Day 5 Sea Day

I check on my flights home on the United Airlines website and find they are on schedule. I always check in at the counter when I arrive at the airport, since I have to check my big bag and get seat assignments. It is too complicated and time-consuming to do this online while aboard ship, although many passengers will do this, no doubt.

I attend two talks put on by ship’s officers today.

  • 10AM – Virtual Engine Room Tour with Chief Engineer Silbert Whyte, the Chief Engineer talks about the engines, power, and other infrastructure systems in the ship, gives the first presentation.
  • 2PM Virtual Bridge Tour with Statendam’s Navigational and Safety Officer who is also the First Officer talks about the bridge, navigation and other bridge functions. Both are informative, and there are lots of questions from the audience.

We have our last formal night this evening, and it is also the Black and White Ball later this evening, so the Rotterdam dining room is decorated once again. The tenor and the soprano from the ship’s troupe sing classic songs this evening in the Showroom, and an orchestra is assembled from the various musicians aboard the ship to back them up. It was well done, and I enjoyed it.

Ship's position - one day out of San Diego

Ship’s position – one day out of San Diego

March 15, 2014 – Saturday – French Polynesia to San Diego – Day 6 Sea Day

Today is a strange and melancholy day for me. I went to a couple of events this morning, but I’m restless and anxious to leave the ship to return home. The entertainment staff is doing their best to keep us all busy with lots of events scheduled, but I just don’t have the patience for it. I’m not even interested in working on my journal or photos today.

I try to watch a movie this afternoon, but I just can’t stand the slow pace of the story, so I walk out. I catch the end of the Hula & Ukulele rehearsal by the passengers who have been learning how to dance and play during the cruise. They did very well! I actually came to the Showroom to hear the Third Officer Mikko talk about Icebreakers in his native Finland, which I find closer to my interest. Obviously I’m a techie guy at heart!

There is a parade of serving staff  in the Rotterdam dining room this evening. It is truly amazing to see the hundreds of serving staff who make the passengers life aboard ship so wonderful. They get a well-deserved ovation, as they are recognized for all their dedication and hard work. Some may say this is simply a pitch for tips, however I can see the pride in the faces of the men and women as they parade through the room.

Parade of serving staff in the Rotterdam dining room

Parade of serving staff in the Rotterdam dining room

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Cruise: San Diego to Hawaii

Cruising from San Diego, California, USA to Hawaii aboard ms Statendam

February 15, 2014 – Saturday – Enroute San Diego to Hawaii – Sea day 1

I wake up too early at 7AM and need my morning coffee, so I go to the Explorers Café for a cappuccino. After sitting in the leather recliner looking out at the calm Pacific Ocean from the quiet library, I am feeling much better, and then go for breakfast in the Rotterdam Dining Room, which opens at 8AM. I have a cup of tea and a frittata as I chat with my fellow passengers.

Since this is a day at sea, the entertainment staff have a full slate of activities scheduled. All is revealed in the daily newsletter published each morning. I’m big on enrichment talks, so I go to all of them:

11AM Showroom – Pacific People: How the Islanders Arrived – Charlie Urbanowicz explains how the original inhabitants of the islands crossed the Pacific Ocean and where they came from. I learn that human migrations used cloud tops over the island groups for navigation. I already knew they used wave patterns, the Sun and stars to navigate.

3PM Showroom – The Wildlife of Remote Pacific Islands – Hawaii and Tahiti – Clive Catchpole presents some of the fascinating and unusual creatures that inhabit these isolated islands. Clive points out that the Pacific Islands we will be visiting have very few endemic species. Most species were imported. He points out that the Humpback whale migration is in full swing right now, and we will likely see them in Maui. He also talks about the big seabirds, such as Albatross (offshore), Boobies, Gannets and Frigate birds found near shore.

Catch A Wave group

Catch A Wave group

After dinner, I enjoy a Benedictine liqueur while listening to Catch A Wave, a Beach Boys tribute band this evening in the Showroom. The tunes are very well done, with a near-perfect 5-part harmony, and they are dressed in the early striped shirts and white pants the Beach Boys originally performed in. However they just stand there – no movement or dancing around during their performance.

After the show, I go to the office to check that they know about my departure from the ship in Hilo, and re-boarding in the following day in Kailua-Kona. The young woman tells me my plans are contrary to the US Merchant Marine Act (successor to the Jones Act), and I will be subject to a $300 charge by the US government for contravening this maritime law. She points out that the cruise line has no problem with me leaving and rejoining the ship on the Big Island of Hawaii, but the US government does.

This means I have to cancel my plans to see Mauna Kea at night, so I send an email to the Old Hawaiian B&B to cancel my night’s stay in Hilo. I will also have to contact Harper’s Car Rentals to change my arrangements to a one-day rental with no drop off in Kona, but I can wait until we arrive in Honolulu so I don’t have to pay the expensive per minute rates while aboard ship.

This is very disappointing, since I was looking forward to seeing the night sky from Mauna Kea. Perhaps I’ll drive up there during the day, since my rental car is a proper 4×4 Ford Explorer truck. I will have to decide very soon how best to use my day in Hilo, and the following day in Kona.

February 16, 2014 – Sunday – Enroute San Diego to Hawaii – Sea day 2

I wake up at 8AM this morning, which is a bit late for me, so at least I’m starting to get into “holiday mode”. I go to the Rotterdam dining room for breakfast and have a cappuccino, and Eggs Royal (2 poached eggs on an English muffin with smoked salmon and some home fries), hold the Hollandaise sauce.

I am starting to know the layout of the ship. The Statendam is the oldest ship in this series, and it is showing its age a bit, however as with other Holland America ships, it is kept up-to-date and spotlessly clean, and has a rich-looking décor without being “over the top”. My cabin is mid-ships on Main Deck. Since my cabins on my two previous Holland America cruises were near the bow, I have to learn the most efficient way to get to the places I most want to go to: the Showroom At Sea, the Explorers Lounge, the Rotterdam dining room, the Lido buffet, and the Sea View pool.

It is formal wear tonight so I dress in my blue blazer jacket, dark grey dress pants and white shirt and tie. The Maître ‘d seats me at a large 8 seat oval table in the middle of the dining room. I order Rack of Lamb and have a glass of white wine…a very nice dinner indeed.

Bob Mackie costume

Bob Mackie costume

I go to the Showroom tonight to see Bob Mackie’s Broadway, which is a song and dance show well performed by the ship’s resident troupe of entertainers. The Bob Mackie costumes look great, and I always enjoy the singing and dancing of the resident entertainment troupe.

February 17, 2014 – Monday – Enroute San Diego to Hawaii – Sea day 3

This is another day at sea, so I take in more enrichment speakers. Kainoa is a Hawaiian man aboard the ship as the Location Guide. Strictly speaking, he works for the Excursions Department, and his job is to sell passengers the ship’s excursions. Kainoa takes it up a notch, and gives very interesting talks on the ports, and is more like another enrichment speaker in my books.

Charles Darwin portrait

Charles Darwin

9AM Showroom – Location Guide Kainoa Present: Honolulu & Oahu – Kainoa recommends going to the Ala Moana Beach & Magic Island, which are between the cruise ship dock and Waikiki, about 2 miles from the cruise dock. This sounds like a good plan for me, since I’m going on a North Shore tour one day, but I have the second day we’re in port to myself. He also mentions the Foster Botanical Gardens. Apparently they are both 2 miles from cruise dock.

2PM Showroom – Amazing Voyage of Charles Darwin – Clive Catchpole – Darwin’s work as a naturalist aboard the Beagle was nothing short of amazing. Keep in mind; Darwin was trained in both theology (which he hated) and botany (which he loved). The ship discovered Beagle Passage, an easier alternative to going ‘around the Horn’ of South America. Darwin noticed that mockingbirds and finches differed from island to island in the Galapagos Islands. Darwin predicted the decline of the Aboriginals in Australia, and waited 20 years to publish his famous work On the Origin of Species in 1859. Clive is an outstanding speaker, with a dry sense of British humour.

3PM Showroom – Location Guide Kainoa Present: Kingdom to State – Kainoa describes how the US annexed Hawaii, over the objections of the Hawaiian monarchy. Business interests drove this annexation. Now there is a “Nation within a nation” – Hawaiian sovereignty movement.

I saw an old guy in the casino yesterday with a t-shirt slogan that simply said “I’ve been there…”. When Kainoa recently asked people in one of his talks who were first time cruisers, nobody raised their hands! That speaks volumes about the demographic on this cruise. Arman the Cruise Director mentioned in a previous session in the Showroom At Sea that one passenger has spent something like 10,000 days on board Holland America ships…more than 27 years, which exceeds Arman’s age!

February 18, 2014 – Tuesday – Enroute San Diego to Hawaii – Sea day 4

I go to the Rotterdam dining room for breakfast and have a Southwest Omelet and a cappuccino. One couple is from Connecticut and another couple is from Toronto, so they both have storm stories to tell – ice and hurricanes. The Toronto couple were aboard the Prinsindam when she sailed around South America and further south near Antarctica. Apparently the ship nearly capsized when it was hit with a double wave. According to them she was heeled over 60 degrees, they lost 80% of the crockery, and there were several injuries among crew and passengers. I may reconsider my plans to do that cruise!

As in past cruises, the older folks are about evenly split between reading paperbacks and using various brands of electronic readers. I’m using my iPad for occasions when I feel like reading. I have a 650 page book I’m working on, and I also loaded a couple of year’s worth of magazines on it, so I have lots of reading material. My music is on my iPhone, and my documents are on my MacBook Air, so I’m well equipped to entertain myself with my high-tech gear.

There is only one enrichment talk today:

10AM Showroom – The evolution of life on planet Earth – Clive Catchpole – Clive has turned out to be a real treasure on this cruise. He is witty, has a dry sense of English humour, and presents the most interesting lectures. I always take lots of notes at his presentations.

There are no presentations this afternoon that appeal to me, and I have nothing planned. Several passengers and Clive have mentioned there is a Lysan Albatross flying with the ship, so I grab my camera and circle the outside decks looking for this bird to no avail. As usual, I skip lunch in favor of having a cappuccino and a couple of cookies in the early afternoon around 2PM. I take my iPad and read my book for an hour while I have my coffee.

The ship has been lurching a bit in large 8’ swells, which are apparently coming from a couple of storms north of the Hawaiian Islands, where the captain tells us the swells are 20’. Weather reports are apparently good for when we arrive in Hawaii, but at the moment they have overcast skies and rain. We also have had overcast skies but no rain since we left sunny San Diego. The outside temperature is a mild 21°C during the day…not exactly time for swimming in the outside pool, but pleasant enough.

I go to dinner this evening at 6PM, my usual time. I am seated with two couples that are both from Burnaby, so our table isn’t just Canadian…it’s British Columbian! One couple booked the cruise three weeks before departure date, and paid half fare. Obviously they didn’t get their choice of cabins, but they were upgraded from an inside cabin to an outside cabin, so they did pretty well. His luggage was lost by Air Canada/United in Denver, so he only has one pair of pants to wear, and had to rent a tuxedo for formal night, as well as buy spare socks and underwear in the shop. Apparently United will be paying them $300 for the inconvenience, and will ship his bag to Honolulu.

February 19, 2014 – Wednesday – Enroute San Diego to Hawaii – Sea day 5

I wake up at 6:30AM, which is too early, but setting the clocks back an hour last night has screwed me up. I head up to the Explorations Café for a cappuccino at 7AM. Yesterday the captain reported we were moving clear of the big swells and would experience confused seas, and that’s exactly what I see out the windows this morning. We still have overcast skies, and the sea is grey just like at home during the winter months. The ship is making 17.7 knots this morning, and we are within a day’s sail of Hawaii, so I’m sure the captain is pleased to be on schedule (as am I).

I’m looking forward to the end of these days at sea. At day 5, I’m finding it a bit tedious, although I am certainly catching up on my rest! Breakfast in the Rotterdam dining room this morning was very pleasant. I was seated at a table for six: 2 Brits (SE England), 2 Americans (S central WA), and a Canadian woman (Calgary). We discuss the XL oil pipeline proposal. Of course the Americans are all in favour of the pipeline, and hate Obama. The English complain about the long tags on their clothing and other goods, which now have to accommodate all the languages in the EU.

I decide it is time to do laundry this morning since I’m not interested in any of the morning presentations, and we are experiencing a tropical downpour outside. It costs $2 to wash (including detergent), and $1 for the dryer. I buy a roll of quarters from the front desk, so I’m set for the trip. While I wait for my laundry, there is a balloon toss game being played in the Atrium. It’s called “keep the guests busy” on their fifth day at sea!

By Noon the Sun is out and the clouds are mostly cleared in favour of blue sky. People are out on deck sunning themselves almost immediately! I decide to have some lunch in the Lido and eat out on the Lido pool deck where the HAL-cat band is playing. Now this is the typical cruise ship experience…all I need is a beer! It’s formal night tonight, so perhaps I’ll have a glass of wine with dinner.

1PM Showroom – The social life of animals – Clive Catchpole – Clive talks about Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins, who defends Darwin’s views about individual selection theories, but proposes that Evolution is all about genes being passed on, and believes that genes are immortal, unlike human bodies, Dawkins Book: The Selfish Gene 1978. This was another first-rate talk by Clive! He won’t be back until we leave Hawaii.

Sea View pool and blue skies, lots of sunbathers

Sea View pool and blue skies, lots of sunbathers

I was going to listen to Kainoa’s talk on the History of the Hula after Clive’s presentation, but decide to skip it in favour of going for a swim in the Sea View Pool. The water is cool, but it is great to swim a bit – a refreshing break from all my inactivity so far on the cruise.

I dress for dinner and am seated with the couple from Atlanta, and the couple from Burnaby I previously met, and one other woman. After dinner, I go to the Showroom to see a magician and comedian act, but he is less than entertaining, so I leave mid-way through the performance.

Since it is clear outside, I go up to Deck 14, the Sky Deck to measure the sky darkness with my Sky Quality Meter and to observe the stars. The lights are on up there, but I get an exceedingly dark reading. I also see the Orion (the Warrior) constellation on his side and Cygnus (the Swan) constellation, which is also flying on her side.

Tomorrow morning we land in Honolulu, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. I think it’s safe to say everyone aboard is looking forward to it. I know I am!