Fort Lauderdale to Grand Turk – sea day

2023 Panama Canal Cruise

April 10, 2023 – Monday – at sea offshore from the Bahamas in the mid-Atlantic

The Nieuw Amsterdam is sailing from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to Grant Turk, Turks & Caicos Islands today, so I have the whole day to myself. It is a beautiful day at sea as the ship sails the warm mid-Atlantic offshore from the Bahamas, arriving in Grand Turk tomorrow morning.

I attend the grand opening of the new Library by the Captain this morning. Over the last few years, Holland America decided to greatly reduce or completely eliminate the libraries previously aboard all their ships. Feedback from their customers obviously caused them to reconsider this decision, so here we are today to celebrate a beautiful new library!

Grand opening of the new Library

This afternoon I observe Caribbean Booby Gulls wheeling beside the ship near the bow, so I put my telephoto lens on my camera and take a few photos (see banner image above). I make an entry in my bird observing log, and note that the last time I observed these distinctive birds was back in 2018 when I was aboard the sv Royal Clipper near Gustavia, Saint-Barts.

I go to Tamarind Asian Fusion restaurant this evening for dinner, since it is my favourite premium restaurant on Holland America ships. I arrive early to have a martini at the Tamarind bar, but since they are hosting the martini hour this afternoon, it takes a half hour to get my drink so I just take it into the restaurant where my table is ready for me.

I have the Lobster and shrimp potstickers to start, Wasabi and soy crusted beef tenderloin with brown rice and sake braised oyster and shiitake mushrooms as my main, and exotic fruits with mandarin sorbet for dessert. The beef is a new dish for me, and tastes great, especially with the spicy sauce and the mushrooms. I give a good review for my server in the Navigator app, since she is so personable and gives me great service.

Wasabi and soy crusted beef tenderloin with brown rice and sake braised oyster and shiitake mushrooms

Day at sea – to Strait of Magellan

March 13, 2020 – day at sea from Falkland Islands to Strait of Magellan

2020 South America cruise

I go for breakfast in the main dining room this morning. I am the last to join the table, but the other four people wait for about an hour for service. One couple is from Sydney, Australia, and are veteran cruisers. The other couple are from Burlington/Toronto area.

Captain’s noon report:

  • He will immediately notify us of any changes caused by coronavirus that will impact our cruise
  • Princess Cruises is suspending operations for two months
  • Our position: 52° 40’S 65° 16’ W
  • Arrive at pilot station at 9:30pm
  • Punta Arenas – 5:00am arrival
  • Lots of currents in the Strait of Magellan, so navigation will be challenging
  • Tomorrow’s weather: cloudy, some showers, cool
Heading from Falkland Islands to Magellan Strait
Heading from Falkland Islands to Magellan Strait

Everyone aboard has filled out a health questionnaire for the Chilean government, so hopefully we are clear to enjoy the numerous ports-of-call in that country. From my perspective, we have been on the ship for a week, and everyone appears to be healthy, so I’m inclined to stay on the ship and complete the cruise. I have confidence that Holland America will take care of everyone as best they can, no matter what situation might develop. Despite being anxious, I refuse to succumb to fear, and I detect the same attitude among most of my fellow passengers, including my travel companion.

As I walk circuits on the Promenade Deck this morning, we are currently sailing through thick fog. The ship’s horn is sounding every couple of minutes, making our voyage feel particularly “nautical”. Later in the afternoon, the skies clear, and we have remarkably calm seas as we approach the Strait of Magellan.

I have a cappuccino and a brownie in the Exploration Lounge just after noon, and find a recliner to sit in. I strike up a conversation with the man sitting beside me about the coronavirus and how it might affect our cruise. Like us, he is sailing all the way to Fort Lauderdale. He is also taking a wait-and-see approach, and trying to remain calm. He lives in Texas, about 800 miles from Ft. Lauderdale, so he isn’t concerned about getting back home, but the uncertainty of our cruise completing as originally planned is obviously on everyones’ mind.

I go to see the live show this evening in Main Stage: the cello-playing Polish duo Celli and an illusionist who starts the show with a few card tricks. Neither act are too terrific compared with their previous performances. I go outside on deck to see the stars under a clear sky.


2 days at sea – sailing to the Falklands

March 10, 2020 – Day 1 at sea – Montevideo, Uruguay to Port Stanley, Falkland Islands

2020 South America cruise

I’m up at 7am, get cleaned up and dressed and go to the Explorations Cafe for a cappuccino and a couple of chocolate croissants. I decide I can’t live without an Internet connection while at sea, so I sign up for a plan that will cover me for the entire voyage. It is pretty expensive, but worth it for me, since I can now shut off my Canadian carrier’s data roaming I was using when ashore. I’m finding the on-board Internet is more reliable and faster than previous voyages, so perhaps Holland America has upgraded their satellite system.

After the main dining room opens at 8am, I join a table for six for breakfast and have another cappuccino along with a frittata. I meet a woman from San Diego who is seated across from me, and is an experienced solo traveller, so we have a lot to talk about.

Ship's position - 2nd day Zaandam sailing from Montevideo to Port Stanley.
Ship’s position – 2nd day Zaandam sailing from Montevideo to Port Stanley.

The Captain announces that we are sailing south to the Falkland Islands in uncharacteristically calm seas and winds due to a high pressure system over us. He expects it to break down a bit over the next day and a half, but he isn’t expecting any weather problems, even by the time we arrive in Stanley.

I attend two presentations today. Kevin Saslavchik, the Cruise and Travel Director talks about what we should expect in Port Stanley, and Guido talks about Buenos Aires, describing and showing us the things you may have missed and the history of some of the places you did see. As it turns out, Kevin and Guido are both young Argentinians. Kevin is particularly cute, and has a dry sense of humour. Guido jokes around a bit, especially when describing the foibles of Argentina’s various regimes.

Joe dressed for Gala Night with the Moon rise over the southern Atlantic Ocean
Joe dressed for Gala Night with the Moon rise over the southern Atlantic Ocean

We get dressed up and go for Gala Night dinner in the main dining room. My friend has breast of duck and Rack of Lamb, and I just have the lamb, which is excellent. We both have escargot to start, wine with dinner, and I have a Chocolate Soufflé for dessert.

Since the skies are clear we go up to the Sports Deck (9) to observe the gorgeous Full Moon and then climb up to Deck 10 forward to observe the Southern Cross and an upside-down Orion in the northern sky. There are no lights on Deck 10, making it quite dark. I help a fellow passenger find the Southern Cross, which she is thrilled to see for the first time.

March 11, 2020 – Day 2 at sea

I sleep in until 8:45am this morning, but get cappuccino and pastry at the Explorations Cafe before attending a presentation in the Crow’s Nest Lounge by Seth Wayne on his activities as HAL Ambassador. He is a former Seattle weatherman and news broadcaster, and is responsible for Holland America’s online social media presence. He is a long-time cruiser, and gets to go on 2-week segments of cruises on a regular basis. I then go to the Lido to have a lox omelette for brunch before returning to the Explorations Lounge to work on my notebook computer and catch up with online news and email.

Uruguayan Chef Amandine Bondoux on the right
Uruguayan Chef Amandine Bondoux on the right

The Port to Table cooking show, hosted by Uruguayan Chef Amandine Bondoux appeals to me this afternoon. She makes two dishes: Pejerrey in Escabeche (a type of ceviche) salty appetizer and Dulce de Leche Rogel – a layered thin cookie with chocolate leche stuffing and Italian meringue on top. The ceviche is made with sautéed vegetables, water, vinegar, oil, and the tuna is cooked in the hot liquid with the vegetables, but the fish is still slightly raw in the centre. This dish can be kept refrigerated for several weeks due to the acidic vinegar, and the flavour improves over time. She makes everything from scratch.

The entertainment in the Main Stage this evening is Celli, two Polish cellists who perform a wide variety of music, from classical, to a Michael Jackson medley, and loud and powerful semi-rock tunes with a 4-piece band backing them up. I enjoy their performance!


Victoria to Tripoli

2006 Total Solar Eclipse – Libya

March 22, 2006 – Wednesday – Victoria to Toronto

Air Canada did a good job today. I have avoided flying Air Canada since 1967, so I have to say this is a pleasant surprise. My bags arrive as promised and undamaged; the flights are all on-time, and the in-flight service is quite good. I stay overnight at a hotel near the Toronto airport.

Route map - Victoria to Toronto to Milan to Tripoli
Route map – Victoria to Toronto to Milan to Tripoli

March 23, 2006 – Thursday – Toronto to Tripoli

Solar Eclipse t-shirt design
Solar Eclipse t-shirt design

I had a good night’s sleep last night. I return to Pearson Airport, where I meet our leader Ralph Chou and the RASC Eclipse group. I have made t-shirts for everyone who wanted them (see logo to right), and give them out while we wait for our Alitalia flight to depart for Milan and onward to Tripoli. It is a long day – about 12 hours flight time and 15 hours elapsed time between Toronto and Tripoli, with a stop in Milan to change aircraft.

March 24, 2006 – Friday – Tripoli, Libya

The Tripoli airport is quite large, however as we expect, the entry process with the Visas is painfully slow. Once the official realizes we are all listed on a single Visa form, he finally checks us all off and we are on our way. Both Mahmood from Bestway Tours & Safaris and the representative from Numidia Travel (Bestway’s partner in Libya) are there, along with a very nice air conditioned bus. The warm Sun and 23°C temperature feel good after all the cold, damp weather we’ve endured on our travels from Canada. As we drive through the outskirts of Tripoli, we notice lots of families having picnics, one family under the shade of each tree. It is Friday, and until sundown, it is the Muslim day of rest.

After our arrival at the hotel, Ralph quickly assigns a roommate for those of us in the group who are traveling solo, and then we all disappear to our rooms to get some well-deserved rest after our long journey.

Tripoli is an interesting city: very large, very Arabic, and very well developed. The city and the rest of the country are interesting, mainly because so many cultures have historically occupied this area. Oea was the Roman name for Tripoli, and the Phoenicians were here before the Romans. The Ottoman Turks were also here for over two hundred years, however eventually the Arabs took the place over once they ousted those terrible Italian armies and colonizers! King Idris was ushered into power by the United Nations after WWII, and then 27 year old Mu’ammar Gaddafi seized power on September 1, 1969 without even stepping foot in the country. By the way, “The Man” is not talked about in polite company by Libyans.