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Arriving in Barbados

Dec 15, 2018 – Bridgetown, Barbados

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

I wake up at 6:30AM as the Royal Clipper enters Bridgetown harbour and docks. It takes until 8:30AM for the ship to be cleared by customs and immigration. I don’t have to rush, since my airport transfer is scheduled between 9:30AM and 10AM. I go to the dining room and have an omelette and coffee with my friends, and say my goodbyes to them. I then leave the ship for the last time, retrieve my big bag in the cruise ship terminal, and clear customs and immigration.

There are three big cruise ships in port in addition to our tiny ship: P&O Azura, Seaborn Odyssey and Norwegian Escape, so there are lots of people in the terminal, and it’s a bit chaotic. That said, the Barbadians are well-organized, and keep people moving onto their tour buses. I have pre-booked a van transfer direct to the airport, so I can pick up my rental car for the next few days I’m spending on Barbados. Once everyone checks in for the van, we are away from the crowds and down the new highways that have been built since I was last here in the mid-1980s.

I’m dropped off at the end of the airport terminal where Stoute’s Car Rentals is located, and sign for my rental car – a Mazda 3, which is considered a full-sized car in Barbados! I drive to the Lantern’s Mall on the main road in Hastings to hang out for a couple of hours, since I’m too early to check into my vacation rental. There is a Royal Bank ATM in the mall so I withdraw some Barbados Dollars, have a small pizza for lunch, and also have a cappuccino later on while I catch up on social media using the coffee shop Wi-fi. I also purchase a few snacks and some beverages at a convenience store to take with me.

I drive the short distance to the vacation rental using Google Maps navigation on my iPhone, but it still takes me a couple of tries to find the place. Street number addresses are not often used in Barbados, but I eventually find the 10 Springcourt vacation rental after asking a man walking the New Rockley Road for directions. I meet the rental representative there, and pay for the 4-nights. After I unpack and get settled, I have a beer and some chips while I run some clothes through the in-suite washing machine. It’s a nicely-configured studio suite that meets my needs perfectly.

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St. Vincent & Bequia

Dec 14, 2018 – Kingstown, St. Vincent & Admiralty Bay, Bequia, the Grenadines

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

The 5,000-passenger MSC Preziosa docks before we anchor, so their passengers are crowding the dock area and the downtown. Some of us walk the few blocks to the town, where there are festivals and busy open air markets. I soon return to the ship to escape the heat and chaos.

An excursion is late returning passengers to the ship, so we depart Kingstown at 2:00PM instead of 12:30PM. I’m concerned, since I have an excursion scheduled for a 2:15PM departure from Bequia, the next island. The Cruise Director assures us the excursion will run, since it is a short trip to Bequia.

I try some roast suckling pig for lunch. The crackly skin is pretty tough and the meat is dry, so I use some gravy to make it edible. There is a 30 knot wind in the harbour by lunch time, and the crossing to Bequia is exceedingly rough, with the ship rolling wildly – passengers are struggling to not crash into things and each other. Welcome to the Windward Islands!

Our Magical Coast of Bequia excursion this afternoon is delayed but still leaves from Port Elizabeth as promised. It isn’t pleasant because of the high winds and being on a speed boat means we are pitching and banging wildly. The crew are constantly asking us to move to a drier part of the boat as they struggle to put up tarps to keep us from getting completely soaked. Nobody can hear the narration describing the sights we are passing because of the roar of the engines and the strong wind.

Moon Hole is one location where the waves and wind subside, so we can actually take some photos and hear the fascinating story behind the place. Nearby is an old whaling station at Sempler’s Cay. Apparently residents of Bequia still have the right to take a whale or two each year, but it hasn’t happened for awhile.

We also go around West Cay to see the airport (unimpressive) before retracing our route. The last stop before we return to the ship is to swim and snorkel at Princess Margaret Beach. Due to the late start, it is almost sunset by the time we arrive, so it is pointless for me (and others) to go in the water, since we won’t see anything and we only have 20 minutes. Some go in for a swim anyway, while the rest of us stay aboard and enjoy the rum punch.

Map showing the points-of-interest for our speedboat tour of Bequia
Map showing the points-of-interest for our speedboat tour of Bequia

The ship’s servers and kitchen staff all parade through the dining room at dinner this evening, and sing “We Are The World” waving flags as the rest of us wave our napkins. Tomorrow the cruise is over – we dock in Bridgetown, Barbados. After returning to my cabin, I pack everything in my big travel bag, and put it out for the porters to take ashore tomorrow morning. I’m feeling a bit nauseous due to the extreme pitching of the ship as she takes the strong winds on the nose. Once I finish packing and go to bed I am fine, and sleep well.

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Day at sea – out of Jamaica

Dec 6, 2018 – Port Antonio, Jamaica to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic aboard the Royal Clipper

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

Map of a day at sea between Port Antonio, Jamaica and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
A day at sea between Port Antonio, Jamaica and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

I sleep in until 8:30AM this morning since this is a sea day, and go to the Piano Bar for pastries and a cappuccino. It’s much quieter in this area than the main dining room, where the feeding frenzy is well underway.

I decide to climb the rigging to the crows nest this morning, so I get my GoPro action cam ready with a head strap, leave all my other stuff in the cabin except my room card, and head forward. The sports crew are there to put on a harness, clip you onto the safety line, and give instructions. Getting to the passengers’ crows nest involves climbing a rope ladder to the mid-point of the second forward mast, where there is another sports crew person up there to help unclip and for safety. Two or three passengers at a time are in the crows nest, since it is quite a big platform.

After climbing down, I’m thirsty, so I go to the nearby bar on deck for a couple of good-tasting German Flensburger draught beers. I have a chat with the German guy who was ahead of me in the climb, and a couple of Brits. I also go forward and spend some time on the bow net watching the bow wave dancing in the sun glint (see banner image above).

At lunch I sit with a couple from Thunder Bay (Ontario, Canada). We talk about our travels in southern Africa, and South Africa in particular. The food aboard the ship is very good, and they offer lots of variety, including vegetarian. Drinks are reasonably priced – 3.50€ for a glass of Flensburger draught beer, which is about CAD$4.25 Smoking is allowed in designated spots outside only, which is fine with me. Close to half the passengers are German, but the English-speaking Americans, Canadians, and Brits are the biggest combined group, with French-speakers being a small third group.

Sunset over the Caribbean framed by the stern wheel

I go to the top deck forward near the bridge to observe the sunset, and see the Green Flash. What I observed might be better described as a green glow, since there was some cloud on the horizon partially obscuring the Sun. I captured it on video with my iPhone.

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Boarding the Royal Clipper

Dec 4, 2018 – Boarding the Royal Clipper & departing Montego Bay, Jamaica

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

I sleep in until about 8AM, meet my friends downstairs for breakfast, and then it’s time to return to my room to pack. We check out at 12PM, check our bags with the hotel and go across the street to the Starbucks at Doctor’s Cave Beach for coffee, snacks, and to hang out for awhile. We return to the hotel lobby and leave for the ship a bit after 3PM for a 4PM check-in.

We have to clear Jamaican customs and immigration before we embark the ship. They shake us down for a Departure Fee of US$35 each, applicable to anyone who stays in Jamaica for more than 24 hours! Once aboard, the usual cruise ship check-in takes place, where they take passports, preauthorize a credit card to pay the shipboard account, photograph everyone, and issue a passenger ID card to run the accounts on and for leaving/returning the ship at the various ports-of-call (in place of a passport).

Unfurling one of the four stay sails as the ship departs Montego Bay

After everyone is aboard, there is a lifeboat drill, which is conducted in English, German and French, so it takes quite awhile! I go to dinner with my friends, where we are seated with an American and two Brits. The meal is lovely – I have escargot and a salad to start, sea bass for my main course, and three almond cookies with strawberry sauce for dessert. I finish with a cappuccino, which costs 2.50 Euros (CD$3.75).

The crew set two of the four staysails during the evening departure of the Royal Clipper from Montego Bay. They play Conquest of Paradise every time they raise sails on the trip, which gets a bit tedious after awhile!

Champagne is served on deck as we depart the port. It is a lovely evening with warm tropical breezes in my face. Despite not having stabilizers, the ship rides surprisingly well as we pull offshore for the overnight passage to Port Antonio – a small town further along the coast of Jamaica.

Overnight route of Royal Clipper from Montego Bay to Port Antonio, Jamaica
Overnight route of Royal Clipper
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Eurodam arrives in Vancouver

Tuesday, Oct 17, 2017 – Eurodam arrives in Vancouver, BC, and my return home to Victoria

Hawai’i Cruise 2017

Vancouver at night as Eurodam docks at Canada Place cruise ship terminal

Vancouver at night as Eurodam docks at Canada Place cruise ship terminal

I wake up at 4:15AM, just after the ship sails under Lion’s Gate Bridge. I get my dSLR out and take some photos of the bridge, Stanley Park, and the downtown, all lit at night. I capture some excellent photos, especially as the ship turns and docks at Canada Place. Since it is 5AM, there is no coffee available anywhere on board. I go up to the Explorations Cafe on the off chance they are open at 6:30AM (their usual opening time), but no luck! My continental breakfast arrives right on time at 7:30AM in my cabin, so I have a cup of tea, a scone and pastry, yogurt, and cranberry juice.

I pack my last minute items and get ready for departure, double and triple checking the closets, drawers and bathroom to ensure I don’t forget anything. My friends call me at 8AM saying they are ready to disembark. Although it is a bit early for our time slot, I am ready to go as well, so we meet in the hallway outside their cabin. The passengers who have Expedited Departures are ahead of us, and they are still clogging the elevators, but we manage to get to the gangway deck and scan our ship security cards for the last time and leave the ship. Canada Customs and Immigration are waiting for us in the passageways to the main cruise ship terminal. They take our forms and wave us through, not even wanting to see our passports – welcome to Canada!

We are in the terminal an hour early, but find the waiting area for the bus to Victoria. Unfortunately, there are no chairs to sit on, so we stand, waiting in line until the two buses board everyone. We are on our way at 9:15AM, right on schedule, and our bus goes straight to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal. We are one of several buses on the 11AM sailing aboard the Coastal Celebration ferry, so it is a crush to get up the stairs. However, once we enter the Seawest Lounge, we leave the mayhem behind for serenity and quiet.

A two-masted schooner sailing along the Pender Island coastline

A two-masted schooner sailing along the Pender Island coastline

The Seawest Lounge has a choice of two Starbuck’s roasts of brewed coffee, so I finally enjoy some good coffee and a bit of quiet time. I go back for some snacks: sliced cheese and muffins, and a second cup of coffee, so I’m finally ready to greet the day properly! As usual, the onboard Internet service offered by BC Ferries is totally swamped, so I use my own cellular LTE hotspot to catch up with online happenings as we sail to Swartz Bay. There is a two-masted schooner sailing along the Pender Island coastline – very pretty on such a gorgeous day.

Once the bus rolls off the ferry, it makes several stops along the way to drop people off. I am dropped off a few blocks away from where I live, and since it’s a nice day, I roll my bags to home.


Sailing out of Vancouver slide show (2010 aboard the Volendam and 2017 aboard the Eurodam)

Vancouver photo gallery

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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 3 at sea

Saturday, Oct 14, 2017 – Kaua’i, Hawai’i to Vancouver, BC

Hawai’i Cruise 2017

I’m feeling a bit down this morning, probably because the cruise is coming to an end in a few days Reviewing my bill, they are showing a Hotel Service Charge Promotion which means the gratuity that is normally charged every day is credited.

Captain Cook, 1770

Captain Cook, 1770

Lawrence Tartaglino’s talk this morning: Captain James Cook – Four men on a beach: how a great navigator and cartographer influenced the development of the Hawaiian Islands and the world beyond. What I learned:

  • Sailed from the Arctic to Antarctic
  • Mapped the Gulf of St. Lawrence – helped Britain win the 7 Year War with the USA
  • His Great Voyages
    • Transit of Venus in Tahiti
    • Around the world from England to Cape Horn, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, Cape of Good Hope – 1,074 days, mappied Terra Australis; tested the Harrison Chronometer to accurately determine longitude for the first time. His Tahitian translator Omai is taken back to England, and eventually returned to Tahiti
    • Discovered the Northwest Passage, which was a secret mission
    • England to Cape of Good Hope, Tahiti, Hawaii, west coast of Canada, Cape Horn, and returned to England
      • Landed at Kealakekua Bay and is taken as the Hawaiians’ god Ono. Cook decides to kidnap the Hawaiian King, where he is clubbed to death. Both William Bligh and George Vancouver on board.

Captain Scott gives the always-popular talk Ask the Captain – Learn about what it’s like to captain Eurodam in this virtual bridge and engine room tour. He started his passenger ship career with the Cunard Princess, the same ship I cruised on in the 1980s from Vancouver to San Juan, Puerto Rico. He then commanded the Queen Elizabeth II before being recruited by Holland America Lines (HAL). He has been involved in the procurement of the new HAL ships at the Italian shipyard in Venice, but has also been master of the Eurodam for the last three years.

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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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Kaua’i to Vancouver – day 1 at sea

Thursday, Oct 12, 2017 – Kaua’i, HI to Vancouver, BC

Hawai’i Cruise 2017

Coffee fruit

Coffee fruit

The ship’s clocks are set forward an hour last night, so I’m up a bit early this morning. I go up to the Explorations Cafe for my cappuccino and pastries, since I can’t wait for the main dining room to open up at 8AM, and the Lido’s coffee is dreadful. The ship is tossing around a fair bit as we head into a weather trough in the North Pacific on our way back to Vancouver. There are also lots of clouds, a fair bit of rain, and thunder and lightning in the afternoon, despite it being 25ºC outside.

Ginny Stibolt’s Talk this afternoon: Wake Up and Smell the Coffee – what I learnt:

  • Hawaii is the only coffee producer in the United States
  • There were 2,800 acres of coffee cultivated in 1980; 10,000 acres today
  • The 800 Kona coffee farms average less than 5 acres each
  • Typica Arabica is grown in Hawaii
  • Caffeine is part of: coffee, black tea, cacao, yopan & mate (made from holly)