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GoHoward

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About Me

  • Location
    Washington, DC
  • Interests
    Travel, photography, gourmet cooking and cuisine
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Holland America Line
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    Northern Europe

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  1. The captain did mention the earthquake during the morning announcements- we first found out about it from friends and family reaching out to to ask if we were safe (messages that we saw after waking up from a good night’s sleep!).
  2. Entertainment on embarkation day was limited - BB King’s and Billboard Onboard performed in the evening, and there was a 9:00 EXC Mainstage talk on HAL’s history in Alaska that was well produced but just under 30 minutes. You won’t be missing much with a late dinner.
  3. The menus change every day, with quite a few “always available” options that do not change, and entirely different menus for the two gala nights and the one “Culinary Council” evening when each dish is tied to a HAL Council chef. For the normal evenings, you can expect that 2 to 3 appetizers and entrees each change among evenings. Several dishes - Caesar salad, caprese salad, salmon, strip steak - are offered as always available options. I will post all of the menus once the cruise ends; they should remain the same throughout the 2021 Alaska season.
  4. Here are a few photos from the last few days…as I said, magnificent weather and experiences.
  5. Hello again from the Nieuw Amsterdam - we are in Sitka today, and I could swear that beautiful weather is following this inaugural voyage to Alaska. We had partly cloudy skies and mid-sixties for Glacier Bay, a quick misty rain that passed after a few minutes in Icy Strait Point, and now clear sunny skies and upper sixties in Sitka. This continues to be an amazing voyage - Glacier Bay was stunning, and we loved having a few hours in Icy Strait Point to hike and explore. Below are a few more observations and answers to questions received from previous posts. Additional observations for those booked on or considering an Alaska voyage this season: - While QR codes are primarily used in the restaurants, printed menus are available upon request - In-room dining menu is available through the TV, rather than a printed in-room menu. - Beyond burgers, sausages, and “chicken” strips available at Dive In and MDR lunch as a meat free alternative - a very nice (maybe healthier?) addition to the menus. - Culinary Council dinner was delicious - Sel de Mer pop up will be served on night 5 (Ketchikan). - No Mariner Society lunch for this sailing; it may be brought back for later sailings. The captain reportedly hosted a 4 and 5 star Mariner reception on the first sea day. - The EXC and Glacier Bay enrichment talks continue to be excellent, informative, and very well produced. The talks and MusicWalk go a long way towards making up for the cutbacks to main stage entertainment, in my opinion. - Stopping in Icy Strait Point was a wonderful way to end the day in Glacier Bay. Three and a half hours was the perfect amount of time to explore, walk the nature trails, tour the cannery and dine on locally caught crab. - We have the Serenade of the Seas with us in Sitka. The shuttle to town was a bit chaotic at first, with passengers mingled from both ships, but was smooth from mid morning onwards. Some of the Serenade passengers ignored the mask requirement on our shuttle bus, though most complied. - Water and cold towel service next to the gangway appears to have been discontinued. There is still a tent with bench seating set up next to the gangway. And the best news of all: so far there are no COVID cases on board, per a chat with the ship’s medical officer yesterday.
  6. Not yet - no masks required on board, masks strongly recommended / required when in closed areas or transport off the ship. I spoke with the medical officer yesterday, who said we are doing well with no COVID cases on board so far.
  7. Hi all - we are in Juneau, just back from a spectacular whale watching trip where we arched a Humpback breach off of our boat 12+ times. We have had incredible weather- smooth sailing in the Pacific on the way up, and blue skies in Juneau today. Looks like the weather will hold for the next few days; we are very fortunate. It is absolutely great to be back on HAL, and the experience onboard feels very close to a pre-COVID cruise. Passengers do not have to wear masks onboard, but crew are masked and due to the rise of COVID cases in Alaska we are asked to wear our mask when going inside ashore and while on transport/ in enclosed spaces. Embarkation - we received our boarding time (1PM / group D) after completing the health questionnaire three days before the cruise. We arrived at the port at 12:30 expecting to wait 30 minutes, but we’re ushered through boarding and we’re on the ship about 12:55. Here are a few observations from the first three days; note that these are NOT complaints as the crew is working incredibly hard and everyone is excited to be back to sea. After 15+ months suspended, there are a few things that are still being worked out, and the below are intended to help set expectations for future voyagers: Huge positives: Ship looks beautiful, thoroughly cleaned Staff and passengers thrilled to be back on board Onboard experience very similar to pre-COVID Lido quality and variety same as before - numerous stations, types of cuisine. Prices on drinks about the same as before Overall there seems to be less selling, or maybe I am just filtering it out Excellent EXC talks - numerous talks each day, very well produced with photos, video Music Walk is in full swing, and as great as ever A few noticeable changes / cuts: Limited selections in the MDR; only 2 - 3 appetizers and mains change between evenings. Gala dinner selection the same as before, perhaps a bit more limited. Pools not filled for departure, could not swim until day 3. Hot tubs were functioning. This should be fixed / not an issue for future cruises. Significant cuts to main stage entertainment - no show on embarkation, movie one night, two song and dance shows are the same as before COVID (Humanity, etc.) No in room dining menu in stateroom, long hold times to order room service Additional observations: There are far fewer printed fliers / announcements. MDR menu is via QR code, though a printed wine list is on the table. Gala night dinner there was a menu presented. Room service once daily by default, but you can request morning, evening, or twice daily service if you wish.
  8. For those sailing later this season - post any questions you have and I’ll try to answer them when in port. I don’t purchase onboard WiFi as a rule as I try to disconnect while at sea!
  9. What a day for a sail away! Mt Rainer came out to wish us farewell.
  10. Embarkation this morning was fast and smooth, though the facial recognition only worked for two of four family members. From the Uber to the ship took about 20 minutes. Gus Antorcha is aboard welcoming guests, the Lido offerings are as superb as ever, and we have clear blue skies for sail away! The energy and excitement of all the passengers and crew to be sailing again after HAL’s 597 day hiatus is palpable!
  11. But not all balconies are quads, so if you book a triple the third guest will be on the sofa bed, no other options. Bottom line: select your cabin carefully!
  12. Well, no sooner had I read (and chuckled) at your spot-on comments…then I give the ol’ Navigator a quick glance and discover the dinner menu has been updated. This looks more like I would expect, though the ever-lengthening list of items available at an up charge is longer than I would prefer.
  13. @Crew News- it looks like the Dive In menu has been updated as well to add Beyond Burger meatless patties as an option.
  14. If you are interested in craft cocktails, the elite package includes Dale DeGroff's signature cocktails, while the signature does not. Single malt scotches are covered under elite, but mostly excluded under signature. And the elite includes sampling events - beer tastings and mixology classes - that the signature does not.
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