Vancouver Arrival

2023 Vancouver-Hawai’i Cruise

Oct 24, 2023 – Arrival in Vancouver, BC, Canada and onward to home in Victoria

The Koningsdam arrives in Vancouver harbour in the dark before sunrise. I have my usual light breakfast in the Grand Dutch Cafe return to my stateroom and do some last minute packing, leaving around 8AM. Since I’m a 4-star Mariner and I’m pulling my own bag, I can leave the ship whenever I want. I walk down the gangway, clear Canada Customs and Immigration, and walk one block to the Waterfront station to catch the Canada Line Skytrain to the airport. I take the free shuttle bus to the South Terminal, where I check in with Pacific Coastal Airways. Now the long wait begins for my 2:45PM flight back to Victoria.

It’s 8ºC and raining at the airport, so there’s no way I’m going outside to spot planes as I usually do. I have a couple of scrambled eggs, toast and potatoes at the Galiano Cafe before lunch to tide me over until dinner time at home. I manage to while away the hours working on my journal and travel photos on my MacBook Pro until it is finally departure time.

Pilots and instrument panel in cockpit

The flight is delayed for over an hour due to a number of factors: late arrival from Victoria due to weather; and after we are loaded, it is discovered the aircraft is overweight, so the last passenger on the roster has to leave along with her luggage to wait for the next flight. Once we roll off the apron, for some reason the pilot performs a thrust test before we take off into some pretty dreadful conditions all the way back to Victoria. Thankfully, after flying through clouds the whole way, there is enough visibility to land at Victoria. My family has waited for over an hour for my eventual arrival, but I’m finally home!


Kailua-Kona, Big Island of Hawai’i

2023 Vancouver-Hawai’i Cruise

Oct 16, 2023 – a day in Kailua and the Kona Coast on the Big Island of Hawai’i, USA

I am up at 7AM and have my usual light breakfast in the Grand Dutch Cafe: fruit parfait, blueberry muffin and a cappuccino. The ship anchors in the bay, drops some tenders into the water, and is soon ready to transfer passengers to shore after the ship is cleared by the port authorities.

I wait until just after 9AM to go down to Deck 1, where we are immediately loaded onto a tender. I have VIP service with my 4-Star Mariner status, so I don’t have to get a tender ticket or wait around to be called. Once I’m ashore, I walk the short distance to the Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel and wait in the lobby for my friend to pick me up. She is running late, so I hang out in the hotel to stay out of the heat and away from the noise. There are many artifacts on display in the hotel, including the impressive Mahoe, Kai Opua Canoe Club’s 40-foot koa canoe. The Ironman competitors are also leaving the hotel this Monday morning after competing over the weekend, so the people watching is great.

My friend arrives, and we are off to Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park (Place of Refuge). It is great to retreat from the crazy tourist strip, driving through the Captain Cook coffee farms to soak in the good mana at Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau, which is probably my favourite place in the world. In past visits, when I stayed at B&Bs in the Captain Cook area of the Big Island, I would come down here to just hang out for hours. There is a Hawaiian man weaving baskets in the Canoe Hālau A-frame, and there is a beautifully made wooden Kōnane Papamū under the palms for playing kōnane (Hawaiian checkers). A Green Sea turtle (honu) blesses us as it swims in Keonae’ele Cove just before we leave. The bonus today is that admission is waived!

We stop at a mall at Keauhou to have some fish tacos at Tropics Taphouse, which is a sports bar in the mall. My friend drops me off at the hotel, and I walk back to the tender dock, where I board the next tender with no waiting. I’m back in my cool stateroom by 3PM, freshen up and then take my notebook down to the Grand Dutch Cafe to have a cappuccino and big chocolate chip cookie, which revives me nicely.

I watch the crew hoist the tender boats aboard from the Promenade Deck, and then return to my stateroom to dress for dinner in the main dining room. I have corn and crab fritters to start, spaghetti aioli entree, and a banana crisp for dessert. I don’t go for my usual martini nightcap this evening and skip the magician show, preferring to work on my photos and journal stay in my stateroom.

Starting tomorrow, we will be docked in Honolulu for two days with an overnight at the dock. I go online to buy a ticket to the Bishop Museum for tomorrow, since it was back in the 1980s when I last saw the museum exhibits.


Astoria to Kaua’i – Day 5 at sea

2023 Vancouver-Hawai’i Cruise

Oct 13, 2023 – My Birthday at sea – Astoria, Oregon to Nawiliwili, Kaua’i

I have poached eggs on avocado toast for breakfast in the Main Dining room this morning. I join two couples from Parksville and Ottawa. The men start complaining about gas prices, so I drop the bombshell that I haven’t bought gas since 2014. They then commence to diss electric vehicles, but I take the high road and tell them about how much fun EVs are to drive, great for road trips, how quiet and reliable they are, and point out the low operating cost.

A chocolate cupcake arrives in my stateroom with best wishes from the Captain on my birthday (see banner above). Ovation of the Seas is visible on the horizon to the south of us at 11AM heading to Honolulu, so I take a photo using my long telephoto lens from my balcony.

Ovation of the Seas is on the horizon beside our ship

I have my first swim in the Sea View pool this morning, since it has warmed up nicely as we approach Hawai’i. It is very crowded on the stern deck on this lovely sunny day, but I find a table and chair in the shade. I have a Cannonball burger made with an Impossible patty, fries and a Heineken beer, which hits the spot for my lunch.

A busy Sea View pool on the first warm day of the cruise

Captain’s Noon report

  • 302 nmi to go before we arrive in Nawiliwili on the island of Kaua’i
  • 2m swells

I have a lazy afternoon in my stateroom and enjoying my balcony, and then go down to the Dutch Cafe later for a cappuccino. I stay to browse the web and work on my journal and photos with my Macbook Pro. Having a Starlink connection has greatly improved the Internet experience aboard ship! There are some Red-footed Booby swooping beside the ship’s bow late this afternoon. They are magnificent birds that feed on the small fish on the ocean surface by swooping down into dives.

Red-footed Booby swooping beside the ship's bow

I thoroughly enjoy my birthday dinner at my favourite specialty restaurant the Tamarind, which is an Asian fusion restaurant that also has a sushi bar and chef. I stick to the main menu this evening and have a couple of martinis to celebrate my 71st birthday:

  • Chinese Five Spice Baby Back Ribs
  • Thai Basil Szechuan Shrimp with Dungeness Crab Fried rice
  • 3 Sorbets: lemon-basil, yuzu, lychee
Chinese Five Spice Baby Back Ribs

After dinner, I go to the Main Stage where pianist Ryan Ahern performs blues, Broadway, movie themes, and Liberace. He has an amazing repertoire, and is based in Las Vegas with his band when he’s not touring solo. When I return to my stateroom, there are more Happy Birthday wishes from the captain and three towel art from my room stewards waiting for me to discover on my bed. What a lovely day at sea!

Happy Birthday wishes from the captain and 3 towel art from my room stewards
Happy Birthday wishes from the captain and 3 towel art from my room stewards

Astoria to Kaua’i – Day 3 at sea

2023 Vancouver-Hawai’i Cruise

Oct 11, 2023 – Day 3 at sea – Astoria, Oregon to Nawiliwili, Kaua’i

Noon Captain’s Report

  • Wind currently 15kts SW force 4 with 2m swells (gentle)
  • Wind was 20kts overnight 1.5m swells

Five wines with cheese, fruit and bread

James Suckling's Regional Wine Tasting in the Main Dining room with a Sommelier.
Aboard Koningsdam, , , North Pacific Ocean
2023-10-11, 1:57:05 PM
James Suckling’s Regional Wine Tasting in the Main Dining room with a Sommelier. Aboard Koningsdam, , , North Pacific Ocean 2023-10-11, 1:57:05 PM

I attend a complimentary Mariners’ James Suckling’s Regional Wine Tasting at 2PM in the Main Dining Room. The sommelier leads us through tasting a sparkling, two whites and two reds, accompanied with some cheese, fruit, bread and chutney. Since I’m not much of a wine drinker, it’s nice that my 4-star Mariner status with Holland America gives me these opportunities to try something different.

I skip lunch today in anticipation of my reservation for dinner in Canaletto, since I want to fully appreciate their amazing Osso Buco (Braised cross-cut veal shanks, mascarpone, saffron arborio risotto, carrots). I start with Burrata, a lovely fresh-tasting salad featuring the cheese with plum tomatoes, pistachio-garlic gremolata and extra virgin olive oil (see above banner image). The Osso Buco is fork tender and oh so richly flavoured! I finish with Affogato for dessert (malaga gelato, espresso, lemon zest). A glass of Chianti goes well with the veal.

Osso Buco – amazing flavour and fork tender!

Braised cross-cut veal shanks, mascarpone, saffron arborio risotto, roasted carrots. My entree for dinner in the Canaletto restaurant.
Aboard Koningsdam, , , North Pacific Ocean
2023-10-11, 6:03:47 PM
Braised cross-cut veal shanks, mascarpone, saffron arborio risotto, roasted carrots. My entree for dinner in the Canaletto restaurant. Aboard Koningsdam, , , North Pacific Ocean 2023-10-11, 6:03:47 PM

Astoria to Kauai – Day 1 at sea

2023 Vancouver-Hawai’i Cruise

Oct 9, 2023 – Day 1 at sea – Astoria, Oregon to Nawiliwili, Kaua’i

We sail into very windy conditions with high seas after the ship leaves Astoria. The ship is slamming into big waves and the wind is howling through the gaps in my balcony door seals as I try to sleep. I’m awake until conditions lessen some time after 1:30AM.

Huge low pressure region west of us, so the ship's course to Hawai'i is skirting the worst of it.
Huge low pressure region west of us, so the ship’s course to Hawai’i is skirting the worst of it.

Captain’s Noon Report – NW wind 20 kts, increasing slightly this evening to 25 kts with 6-8 foot swells. Ship’s time sets back one hour this evening.

Conditions at 9:12PM

  • 35 mph wind from SSW
  • Ship proceeding at 17.5 knots on SW heading 227

We have a huge storm west of us, and it looks like it will take us another day or two to sail clear of it. Outside decks are closed and the ship is lurching quite a bit.

Traditional Canadian Thanksgiving Turkey dinner served in the Main Dining Room

Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated this evening by the large number of Canadians aboard the ship. It is Dressy Night so I put on a dress shirt, tie and jacket and go to the Main Dining Room to have a lovely turkey dinner with my fellow Canadians.

The Birth of Rock and Roll- featuring- The Runaround Kids

World Stage. The RKs are a multi awardwinning vintage band who are here to play the best of 1950’s and 1960’s rock and roll. Join them in the theatre for their spectacular show which charts the greatest music ever written. 
Aboard Koningsdam, , , North Pacific Ocean
2023-10-09, 8:22:22 PM
World Stage. The RKs are a multi awardwinning vintage band who are here to play the best of 1950’s and 1960’s rock and roll. Join them in the theatre for their spectacular show which charts the greatest music ever written. Aboard Koningsdam, , , North Pacific Ocean 2023-10-09, 8:22:22 PM

The Birth of Rock and Roll – featuring The Runaround Kids give an energetic performance this evening on The World Stage.


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


Costa Rica

April 18, 2023 – Tuesday – Puerto Caldera (Puntarenas) on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica

2023 Panama Canal Cruise

I’m awake at 5am as the ship turns into the Gulf of Nicoya enroute to dock at Puerto Caldera near Puntarenas. Once the Explorations Cafe opens, I get a cappuccino to take back to my stateroom to enjoy on my balcony in the early morning sunshine. I have a bagel, lox and cream cheese with a passion fruit parfait for breakfast in my stateroom, since my excursion leaves at 8am this morning from the pier.

As our rather large group boards two buses, I’m happy to see that Swiss Travel are the excursion company today. I have lots of good experiences with this Costa Rican travel company, who provided services to TravelQuest on their Costa Rica astronomy tours in past years.

Small farms on the side of the highway

We drive for about an hour and a half along the Pan-American Highway (Carretera Interamericana Norte) inland from Puntarenas, passing small farms in the hills until we are almost at San Ramon. The Cloud Forest we visit today is in a private reserve – San Luis Adventure Park – San Luis Canopy Tour. We split up into groups and walk along the trails, and over four suspension bridges which offer elevated vantage points to view the cloud forest below. Each of these bridges stretche between 30 and 78 metres (95 and 253 feet) and are suspended up to 38 metres (126 feet) above the ground.

Our guide stops along the way to tell us about the flora and fauna found in the cloud forest. Our first stop is an open hummingbird garden, where I photograph Amazilia hummingbirds perched on the bushes in the area. Many people miss them, since they are busy talking and moving about. I keep still and move away from the crowds in order to get some good sightings.

Other than the hummingbirds, we don’t spot other birds, butterflies or small mammals. Our guide talks about the plants, such as orchids, heliconias, ferns, bromeliads and other species of aerial plants that are part of this habitat.

After we slowly hike up the hill back to the main office, we enjoy a traditional Costa Rican lunch of beans, rice, vegetables and a choice of chicken or fish. I have the fish, which is very good. There are also some fruit drinks available from a self-serve fountain that is included with the lunch.

On our way back to the ship we stop at El Jardín, which has a massive souvenir shop, a display garden and decorated ox carts in the back, along with a screened area containing some butterflies. I take video of the butterflies with my iPhone, since I know from past experience it is hopeless to take photos of butterflies as they constantly flit about our heads.

The excursion returns at about 3:15pm, just beating the All Aboard time of 3:30pm. The ship doesn’t pull away from the dock until 4:45pm, 45 minutes late due to excursions returning a bit late. We have three days at sea until we reach Puerto Vallarta, so being a bit late leaving port isn’t an issue.


Departing Fort Lauderdale

April 9, 2023 – Sunday – boarding the Nieuw Amsterdam in Port Everglades and our departure

2023 Panama Canal Cruise

I have a wonderful sleep, waking up just before 9am to a cloudy but warm day outside. I have lots of time before I need to leave the hotel to board the ship at Noon, so go downstairs for breakfast. Bistro 17 is open but they are offering a full breakfast which I’m not wanting, especially since they only have regular brewed coffee. I’m happy with a cappuccino and a muffin in the R Lounge before going back to my room to pack and get ready.

I planned to ask the valet to call me a taxi, but I meet an English couple riding the elevator down to the lobby with Nieuw Amsterdam tags on their bags, and find out they have a transfer booked for about the same time I need to leave for the cruise terminal. They are happy to share, and as it turns out, there are several people in a shuttle all boarding ships, so we each pay US$8 plus a $2 tip for the short ride over to the cruise terminal. That was easy, and cheap!

I decide to roll my big bag onboard with me, so I don’t drop it with the valets at the entrance to the cruise terminal. It only takes about 15 minutes to clear security, check-in using facial recognition, and walk up the gangway, making the boarding process so simple and low stress! It paid off for me to upload my ID photo ahead of time using Holland America’s Navigator app, and my COVID-19 vaccination certificate using the VeriFLY app. My stateroom is easy to find, since I was on this same ship last year on my Alaska cruise, and as on previous HAL cruises, my room keycard is tucked into my stateroom mailbox.

I order an Impossible Gainer burger with fries at the Dive In burger bar, and enjoy an IPA beer while sitting beside the Lido pool. It’s so nice to have warm, shirt sleeve weather already! Returning to my stateroom, I unpack my big bag and get cleaned up before exploring the ship while the rest of the passengers board. I check into my muster station and watch the safety video in my stateroom, which every passenger must do before the ship leaves port. There is lots of activity to watch shoreside, as the last of the supplies are loaded onto the ship.

The last of the supplies being loaded onto the ship

The Celebrity Reflection is docked beside us and Holland America’s Eurodam is also docked nearby. We leave port about a half hour late due to weather and “other factors” according to the captain. I’m always amazed at how these big cruise ships maneuver through the narrow navigation passage out into the open Atlantic Ocean at Port Everglades. There is a tropical downpour as we push away from the dock and head out into open ocean.

Having learned on past sailings that the Main Dining Room is a bit of a zoo on departure day evening, I go to the Canaletto Italian premium restaurant for dinner, since it is mostly empty. I have Beef carpaccio for a starter, Chicken parmigiano as a main course, and finish off with an Afogato for desert. An older couple from California is seated at the table next to mine. They are obviously both quite drunk, as they argue about complete nonsense throughout their meal, peppering the server with questions that make little sense. Ultimately, they leave to find their stateroom…I’m sure the staff are glad they are gone.

After settling into my stateroom for awhile after dinner, I go up to the Crow’s Nest Lounge to have my first Martini nightcap just before they close. The room doesn’t close, but the Explorations bar and coffee staff are off duty at 10PM once they clean up. I’m in a good mood as I head back to my stateroom to go to bed.

Joe enjoying his first Martini nightcap in the Crow's Nest lounge

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.


Kauai to Vancouver – day 3 at sea

Oct 21, 2022 – Day 3 at sea aboard Koningsdam

2022 Hawai’i cruise

Sunrise over the ocean with the Crescent Moon high in the sky
Sunrise over the ocean with the Crescent Moon high in the sky

The ship’s clocks advanced an hour last night as we sail east. The sunrise this morning is beautiful, which I can see from my verandah since I’m on the southeast-facing side of the ship. The Crescent Moon is high in the sky, above the impressive clouds to our south at sunrise. As usual, I go to the Grand Dutch Cafe for breakfast: cappuccino, blueberry muffin, fruit & yogurt parfait. I spend some time in the Crow’s Nest Lounge this morning, chatting with my fellow passengers and working on my photos. The man I talked with yesterday who’s wife has COVID-19 and is in isolation, has tested negative for the second time, so he will stay in their original stateroom while she remains in quarantine.

I attend the Stanley Park: Vancouver’s Crown Jewel presentation by our new naturalist at 1PM, but leave after she gets a couple of facts wrong about the park. I go for lunch in the Lido, having two lovely grilled fillets of Salmon with some rice. It is a beautiful day outside with smooth seas (see banner photo above), so I spend some time on my verandah enjoying the 20ºC calm weather, although its no longer warm enough to stay out there too long.

Ask the Captain is presented by Captain Henk Draper at 3PM in Main Stage, with an intro before and questions after from the Cruise Director Jayme. The captain has a dry sense of humour, sharing that his wife is aboard with him, and he has plans to retire within the next year after having worked for Holland America as a bridge officer since 1994. He reveals they kept 92 crew on board the ship during the pandemic shutdown. He wryly observes that it would be nice to have faster Internet on the ship from SpaceX’s Starlink, considering Holland America’s current satellite Internet is down fleet-wide today. The ship is currently running at just over 20 knots to try to outrun a weather system that promises to bring much bigger seas and winds than we are currently experiencing unless we can get ahead of it. 

Yunita (waiter) and Himli (chef) at Nami Sushi, Tamaraind restaurant
Yunita (waiter) and Himli (chef) at Nami Sushi, Tamaraind restaurant

Since it is dressy night, I make a reservation to have dinner at Nami Sushi at 6PM this evening – my favourite specialty restaurant (along with Tamarind) aboard Koningsdam. I go early to have a martini in the bar before dinner, and then have the yummy Hamachi, Salmon and Scallop ceviche again – so good! My main course is the Thai Basil Szechuan Shrimp – giant-sized shrimp and such a lovely spicy dish. I have amazing service from my server Tunita, chef Hilmi, and the sushi chef. Such superb food, and the bartender was great too…sadly, only two days left. US$29.50 for the a la cart items, a saving of $10 over the US$38 standard charge for Tamarind. It’s a 3-martini night, but I only have to find my stateroom, so who cares?

I finish the evening in the Crow’s Nest, where it is quiet. I give my Jethro Mobile prepaid SIM to the barista in the Explorations Cafe, so she can call home when the ship is in USA ports. It has unlimited calling to most countries, and there is still 1.2Gb of data on it, even after me using it while in Hawai’i.