San Diego to Victoria – sea day 2

April 28, 2023 – Friday – Sailing from San Diego, California to Victoria, British Columbia – day 2 off the Oregon coast

2023 Panama Canal Cruise

We are sailing north offshore from the Oregon coast today. Bird watchers are setup on the Promenade Deck with their spotting scopes, binoculars and some have cameras. Apparently they are spotting seabirds, but I only see a few that are close to the ship.

I go up to the Explorations Cafe just after 7am for cappuccino and relax for awhile in one of the chairs facing forward. It’s quiet up here at this time of day – too early for the trivia or game players. I have breakfast in the Main Dining room, sharing a table with a couple from Surrey, who mainly go to Mexico all-inclusive resorts, but are trying cruising. They are finding Holland America doesn’t offer enough onboard activities, but they are otherwise enjoying their time aboard, especially the Panama Canal transit.

Ship's position off the Oregon coast at 5:30pm
Ship’s position off the Oregon coast at 5:30pm

I drop off my Canada Border Services declaration to the staff who are setup mid-ship on my floor this morning. I declared the Halley Hansen jacket and a Holland America 150th Anniversary 2-mug set. I didn’t buy anything while I was ashore on this trip! I give a gratuity to my room stewards this morning, after getting a couple of envelopes from Customer Service.

I watch a movie this afternoon: A Man Called Otto with Tom Hanks in the lead as a grumpy old man with a heart of gold. I enjoyed it, since he always brings so much subtle emotion to his roles. Mariana Treviño knocks it out of the park as his fiery new neighbour.

It continues to be cold, foggy and some rain is falling today as we sail up the coast of Oregon on our way to Victoria. As can be seen by the ship’s position map, there is lots of shipping traffic along this coast!

I go to the Main Dining Room this evening, and have some Prosecco with my Rack of Lamb. Later, there is a lovely sunset over the ocean, which I watch and photograph from Deck 10. I surprise myself with the good quality photo I take of the 9 day old Waxing Gibbous Moon directly overhead. Canon’s image stabilization works amazingly well, even from the deck of a cruise ship!

Sunset over the ocean

Cabo San Lucas

April 24, 2023 – Monday – Cabo San Lucas and San Jose de Cabo, Mexico

2023 Panama Canal Cruise

We arrive in Cabo early at 6:30am. Nieuw Amsterdam is the only cruise ship anchored in the bay, so we get the nearest slot to the harbour, which means the tender trip to shore doesn’t take too long.

I booked the Cabo Land & Sea excursion a couple of days ago, since I wanted to see more of the area than last time I was here, when I just walked around the marina area. Our group is on the first tender off the ship before 7am, but end up waiting for awhile to fill the large catamaran with perhaps a hundred people on this excursion. We then cruise along the shoreline where the famous beaches are located, and the hole in the rock (Cabo San Lucas Arch or El Arco). We go around the rocky point and a bit further into open water to see the beaches and resorts on this side before returning to the bay. There are included refreshments while on the excursion boat.

After returning from the boat trip, we board a tour bus, driving out of town and around the bay. We stop at a deluxe resort at Cabo Bello with a great view back to Cabo San Lucas, the beaches, resorts and of course our ship anchored in the bay. We only have 15 minutes, since our excursion is about an hour shorter than normal due to our ship leaving at 1pm, but we have time for some refreshment and of course photo ops to take in the spectacular view.

We next head to San Jose de Cabo, seeing hundreds of spectacular resorts along the way. We have a half hour in this lovely town, which I find to be much nicer than Cabo San Lucas. If I return to Cabo, this is the area I would prefer to stay in. I’m astounded at the wealth and development. Of course, this stop is to give people time to shop before we return to Cabo San Lucas for our final stop at a glass factory for a demo of glass blowing. We are then driven back to the marina, taking the tender back to the ship.

I have pasta for lunch in the Lido ahead of the ship leaving, and setup my GoPro action camera on my balcony rail to take a time lapse video of the departure, since I’m facing the shore. There are some great views of the beaches and rocks from our ship as we sail away out into the open Pacific. Speaking of which, when we round the point at El Arco, the ship is hit with very strong headwinds and there are whitecaps on the ocean!

I make a reservation for dinner in Canaletto for 6pm, since I’m still trying to spend my shipboard credit. I have the Osso Bucco again for my main course since it is the Monday special. The beef is absolutely wonderful, and the minestrone soup for my starter and chocolate torte for dessert are also very good. I’m stuffed by the time I leave to return to my stateroom, so I grab my fleece jacket (since it is quite cool and windy) to walk around the Promenade deck a couple of times to work off my meal.


Puerto Vallarta to Cabo San Lucas – sea day

April 23, 2023 – Sunday – Sailing across the Gulf of California from Puerto Vallarta to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

2023 Panama Canal Cruise

A Brown booby perched on a Sea turtle

The ship slowly sails across the mouth of the Sea of Cortez from Puerto Vallarta to Cabo San Lucas today. I spot a Brown booby perched on a Sea turtle this morning, and manage to take a photo of this unusual sight. A few minutes later the booby flies off after his brief rest.

Chocolate extravaganza in the Lido

The chefs knock it out of the park today with some amazing cakes, confections, desserts and sculptures, all made out of baked goods and sugar, and on display at noon in the Lido! Apparently there will be a chocolate extravaganza parade through the ship this evening, which is a Dressy Night at sea before we arrive in Cabo San Lucas tomorrow.

I have what will probably be my last swim this afternoon in the Sea View pool, since once we leave Cabo San Lucas, the North Pacific will cool the air temperatures on our way to San Diego and northward from there.

Since it is Dressy Night, I make a reservation at Tamarind for this evening, in order to work on spending my onboard balance. I have yet another wonderful meal with great service!

Exotic fruits with mandarin sorbet

Costa Rica to Mexico – Sea Day 1

April 19, 2023 – Wednesday – Costa Rica to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – day 1 at sea

2023 Panama Canal Cruise

I go to the Explorations Cafe in the Crow’s Nest to pick up a cappuccino and a small bottle of Perrier sparkling water this morning, which I take back to my stateroom. Later, I have breakfast in the Main Dining Room sharing a table with all Canadians this morning, who are from: Victoria, Sunshine Coast, and Ontario.

I attend the Ask the Captain event in the Main Stage at 10am this morning hosted by Cruise Director Kimberly. Thankfully, no stupid or embarrassing questions are asked of Captain Jeroen van Donselaar. I always find these sessions interesting, since the Captains almost always reveal little snippets of behind-the-scenes information on how the ship works and the issues they deal with.

Nazca Booby in flight

I see flying fish this morning and Nazca Boobys are swooping down into the water near the bow of the ship catching them. I take more photos, despite already having many of the similar Caribbean Booby Gulls from past sightings on the Atlantic side and Brown Boobys on this coast. There is one mostly white Booby and another with mottled white, brown and black plumage among the rest.

Barramundi Red Curry

I have a Martini in the Tamarind bar this evening before going into the Tamarind restaurant for dinner. I start with lobster and shrimp potstickers served with smoked shoyu and pickled ginger. My main course is Barramundi Red Curry with Crab rice and bok choy – all very tasty. I finish the meal with a selection of House-made Sorbets: lemon-basil, yuzu, and lychee.

People watching – Two young male crew members (South Asian and Eastern European) are seated next to me with two old American biddies. It’s a pretty awkward “date” for the young men, but the two women lap it up and carry the conversation. A young couple in their twenties are seated next to my table on the other side. They really stick out since they don’t fit the demographic for this cruise, and don’t seem to socialize with other passengers. However, they appear to be enjoying themselves, so perhaps it’s an opportunity for them to get away…

Trumpter Nathan Samuelson performing on Main Stage

Trumpeter Nathan Samuelson gives an energetic performance in Main Stage at 9pm this evening, however 45 minutes of solo trumpet playing is a bit much. The house band is backing him up, which improves the experience greatly. He has a very good singing voice in the Michael Buble style, which I would have liked to hear more of. Nathan Samuelson Music



April 13, 2023 – Thursday – Oranjestad, Aruba

2023 Panama Canal Cruise

I ordered room service breakfast for this morning at 6:45am, since I’m signed up for a Sail and Snorkel excursion that leaves at 8am. I enjoy my favourite bagel and lox, along with a continental breakfast and coffee. I’m at the appointed check-in spot outside the cruise terminal by 7:45am, and we walk to the catamaran tied up just down the dock from the Nieuw Amsterdam.

Although I forget to bring the floating handle for my GoPro, I manage to hang onto it, not dropping it to the bottom as I snorkel today! I take 4k video underwater of the fish at the first snorkel stop at Boca Cathalina, and of the ship wreck at the second stop. The Antilla shipwreck site is a challenge, since the wind is up so the water is rougher, there are crowds of people swarming all over, and some of the excursion boats are literally right over the wreck! Despite all these odds, I manage to shoot some video and survive the experience, however I’m glad to be back safely onboard the excursion boat. There is unlimited Rum punch and other beverages on the return to town.

I had thought I would wander around Oranjestad town, but it is already too hot for me, so I return to the ship. After dropping my snorkel stuff in my stateroom, I first grab a table in the shade beside the Lido pool and have a beer, a Dive In Impossible burger and some fries for a late lunch. I then return to my stateroom to get cleaned up and relax while transferring my photos and video to my MacBook Pro.

My dinner this evening is in the Main Dining Room at the same big table as two nights ago, where I join a mix of Americans and Canadians. We enjoy back and forth banter, recollections of past travels, and even some more serious subjects. I have shrimp crostini as a starter, and roast chicken with stuffing for my main – both very tasty with a glass of Pinot Grigio wine. I finish with a chocolate torte for dessert and a cappuccino. After dinner, I go to the B.B. King’s Blues Club to enjoy some great performances by the troupe of musicians and singers.


Grand Turk to Aruba – sea day

April 12, 2023 – Wednesday – sailing from Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos Islands to Oranjestad, Aruba

2023 Panama Canal Cruise

About a dozen Brown Boobys fly beside the ship this morning, so I take some photographs of them from my balcony. It is hard to identify the Brown Booby from the Caribbean Bobby Gull, since their markings vary so much. I also notice lots of Caribbean Sargassum seaweed (see banner image above) in Mona Passage as we sail south between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, bound for Aruba tomorrow.

Brown Booby flying beside the ship

I go to a Cocktails with Kimberly event featuring pianist John Bressler this afternoon. He shares that it is his 69th birthday today, and happily answers lots of questions from the audience as well as from Kimberly.

I have dinner this evening in the Main Dining Room, where I walk in with three couples as we are seated at a big table. I have the curried lamb, which is very tasty. Two of my dinner companions from Kelowna recommend the Galapagos Legend ship to explore the Galapagos Islands – less expensive than other excursion ships, and just as good.

Vocalist Maria Campos is the Main Stage performer this evening, singing Broadway songs that became Hollywood movie classics in film. She has a powerful voice, and performs an impressive one-woman show.


Grand Turk

April 11, 2023 – Monday – Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos Islands

2023 Panama Canal Cruise

Our ship arrives at Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos Islands this morning on time, tying up at the pier by 8am. Since I don’t have an excursion booked and have no plans, I take my time getting ready. I prepare a bag of laundry for my room stewards to take away, which is free for me since I’m a 4-Star Mariner. I go to the Main Dining Room to have a leisurely breakfast, joining a couple from Maple Ridge. They are returning home aboard the ship after staying the winter in Florida, where they have a modular home. They sailed to Florida from Vancouver last Fall as well, so they usually avoid travelling by air completely.

I put on sunscreen and take my Canon R5 camera, leaving the ship around 9:30am for a stroll along the lovely beaches and to explore the tourist village – all very handy right at the end of the cruise ship pier. There’s really nothing here that interests me, but I take a few photos and then return to the ship after about an hour, since the Carnival Sunrise arrives, which means they have to close the quite narrow pier until she is safely tied up.

I go up to the Sea View pool to sit in the shade and sip on a beer to rehydrate after my time ashore in the heat. After freshening up in my stateroom, I have a lovely lunch in the Lido: baked short rib lasagna. The Carnival Sunrise is playing loud music from the ship’s decks, and they also take the party ashore by staging a very loud beach party all afternoon.

Green Flash on the setting Sun over the ocean & through clouds

After our departure, the ship heads south, so my stateroom is facing west as the Sun sets. A few clouds have formed on the horizon, which means there is a chance to see the Green Flash at the forecast 7pm sunset, I have my Canon R5 at the ready with the 100-500mm telephoto lens, and capture my first photographs of a Green Flash – very exciting!

Pianist, singer, entertainer John Bressler performs on Main Stage

I go to the Main Dining Room for dinner, having two glasses of Pinot Grigio with a seafood devilled egg starter, fresh cod diablo main course, and a chocolate and whiskey torte for dessert. I’m seated with two American couples this evening, excusing myself a bit early to attend John Bressler’s performance in the Main Stage. He is an old rock-and-roller, piano player and singer, who uses some great comedic banter to entertain the audience. As it turns out, his performance is the best on this voyage in my opinion! John Bressler | Facebook


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

Kauai to Vancouver – day 5 at sea

Oct 23, 2022 – Day 5 at sea aboard Koningsdam

2022 Hawai’i Cruise

I wake up to a dreary, wet morning, although the sunrise over the ocean is a beautiful study in blue (see banner photo above). We are obviously approaching Vancouver and sailing into the weather I took this cruise to escape!

Captain’s Report

  • 210 miles to Victoria pilot station
  • 2,145 nm from Nawiliwili
  • 18.9 kts average speed from Kaua’i
  • Arrivals
    • 8:15PM – Cape Flattery
    • 6:30AM sailing under Lion’s Gate Bridge
    • 7:15AM dock at Canada Place

HAL Your (wildlife) Shot – Naturalist Natalie shows passengers’ photos of wildlife they have taken while on this cruise. I tell her about finding the White-chinned Petrel resting on the Promenade deck on Oct 19th. If she had known, she would have picked the bird up using a towel, and thrown it overboard, where it would have had the best chance of survival. I wish I had known…instead of telling Customer Service about the bird.

Salmon filets with rice in the Lido
Salmon filets with rice in the Lido

I meet a friend in the Crow’s Nest Lounge for an afternoon drink while it pours rain outside. Even though it is a repeat performance, I listen to the Lincoln Center Stage ensemble one last time, and give them a positive review in the Navigator app. I go for dinner in the Lido, having my favourite salmon fillets with vegetables and jasmine rice. By the time I finish my meal, the server comes around to offer me water! Service in the Lido continues to be very spotty.

I pack all my non-essential stuff late this afternoon, pull out all the valuables from the safe, and empty all the drawers and closets so I don’t leave anything behind when I disembark tomorrow. I finish by 7PM, so I go up to the Crow’s Nest for one last drink, but the new server up there never comes by, so I go to the Dutch Cafe and have a brown ale while I sit working on my photos on my notebook computer. I verify with the barista Kaye that they will be open tomorrow morning, so I can go down there for my cappuccino and breakfast before I disembark.


Kauai to Vancouver – day 4 at sea

Oct 22, 2022 – Day 4 at sea aboard Koningsdam

2022 Hawai’i cruise

I’m up in the middle of the night and look out the verandah window to see the stars of Orion shining brightly in a clear sky, and the brighter ones are even reflecting off the calm sea. So I try taking some night photos using my Canon R5 and manage to handhold a decent shot using high ISO.

I sleep in until just after 8AM, get dressed and go down to the Grand Dutch Cafe for my breakfast of cappuccino, bran muffin and yogurt, cereal and fruit parfait. My cabin steward thanks me for the cash I gave him yesterday to share with his partner for their good service.

EXC Talk: Catching Waves – The Story of Surfing – Cruise Director Jayme

Captain’s Report

  • 19.1 kts average speed
  • 631 nm to Victoria
  • 25 kt wind from NNW 
  • 4m waves
Triple Berry Pannenkoek
Triple Berry Pannenkoek

I go down to the Grand Dutch Cafe for a late lunch of Dutch Pea soup with buttered pumpernickel bread and speck ham, and finish with a Triple Berry Pannenkoek.

On Music Walk: The British Isles – interesting arrangements of Danny Boy for piano, Beatles for string, and they finish with Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen). Performed by the chamber music quartet at Lincoln Center Stage.

Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail and sparkling rose French wine - Pinnacle Grill
Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail and sparkling rose French wine – Pinnacle Grill

My last included premium restaurant with the Have It All package happens this evening at the Pinnacle Grill (see banner photo above). I start with the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail with brandy-horseradish cocktail sauce and accompanied by a sparkling rose French wine. My main course is the rather large Boneless 12 oz ribeye steak with Bernaise sauce, onion rings, sautéed mushrooms and a loaded baked potato. Dessert is the Jacques Torres Chocolate souffle. I’m a bit uncomfortable by this point – too much rich food! The service is uninspiring, however the food is very good, although I played safe ordering the steak since I know Holland America is having supply issues with the seafood side of the menu.