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  1. Prayers to all that are ill, especially those who are fighting this ugly, ugly virus. As I sit mostly at home these days - wrestling with many bouts of deja vu - I decided to review some of my blog posts for October 14 so that I could bathe myself in the truly golden memories of trips past. So ... I am re - posting here my October 14 entry from my 2014 “Slow Boat to China” on the Amsterdam. I hope I do not bore you. Slow Boat to China - Day 22 - October 14 Our second day in Beijing. Awoke to a sunny but rather crisp 48 degrees that warmed into the sixties. Hazes still sit over the port and port city - industrial smog is what we expect it is. Again, nothing too spectacular for us today as we will be in Beijing again on our tour starting on Sunday. I realized that I forgot to mention one tidbit about South Korea. A couple of days before we arrived they celebrated the festival of "Alphabet Day" which commemorates the creation of the Korean alphabet. Before that time some centuries ago they had to use either the Chinese or Japanese alphabets for written communication - the advent of their own alphabet is still celebrated today and I think that is wonderful. Yesterday we took a poll from folks that had ventured out on the ship's shuttle - some saying go do it - others saying it is not worth the trip at all - (and added to that the encouragement of fellow cruise critic members) and decided to venture forth from the ship. Turns out, as we see it, both camps are right. The thirty minute shuttle ride left from our dock in Xingang to a mall in Tianjin. The port itself is a large, modern, industrial port full of container and cargo ships. Between there and here the roads and the landscape are totally, totally flat - we understand that much of this ground is reclaimed from the ocean which brings up the basic question of where all the fill to reclaim such a large area came from? The roads are well paved and wide (three to four lanes each way) but there is not a lot of traffic. I was trying to see what type of cars are driven here and there were not that many cars to look at. Most were Toyota or Lexus, but there were also some Nissan and others that I could not identify mixed in. The streets are surrounded by green belts down the middle and on the sides. Lots of trees beginning to change colors from green to yellow and dark red. The first part of the half hour trip we passed by huge yards full of containers and scrubby flat land including a whole area engineered to be salt flats that were covered in white salt crystals. Farther down the road are many office buildings - electronics and other firms - not heavy industry. New shiny buildings reminiscent of suburban U.S. office parks. The office parks morphed into residential areas that did not have houses, or even small apartment complexes - they had groups of modern looking high rises that tower thirty to forty some stories up (I actually counted to make sure I was right about how tall they are). There may be three or six or eight of these buildings clustered together surrounded by a green belt. The mall itself is located across the road from one such set of buildings. Inside the mall we found high end clothing shops, and restaurants including McDonalds, Subway, KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks as well as many local places to dine. Several of the restaurants were "hot pot" style where each table has a pot of hot boiling broth to which they add meat, vegetables, noodles, etc. then fish out and eat the cooked food. What we found as the star of the show was the other area of the mall, a big box store that included electronics, housewares, clothing, etc and a large supermarket. I enjoyed wandering the aisles (which were labeled in both Chinese and English) looking at the food available for purchase. The produce section has all manner of both familiar and unfamiliar fruits and vegetables. Some exotic ones that I remember from our last trip like dragon fruit as well as many more. One particular fruit came in large melon like spheres but on the outside it had large pointed knobs. One of them had been split open to show shoppers their insides - and then the store had left large padded gloves to use in case you wish to purchase one. The aisles were marked with titles such as "puffed food" and "roll paper" - my personal favorite item - the bottle of cleaning solution with the drawing of a large, muscular Asian man labeled "Mr. Muscle" - the only English on the label. There was also a section of fresh fish consisting of the more common iced dead fish that we are used to as well as the live shellfish and a couple of aquariums full of live fish. The meats were displayed in open coolers in large hunks - unfamiliar cuts - and, maybe, butchered to order? There was one open freezer full of frozen, unwrapped, chicken legs. I found myself wondering - if I had to live in Beijing could I learn how to shop here or would I starve? I was surprised at the amount of English in the labels - but when it came down to it most everything was in Chinese. For instance, the melons would display a number for price and below that was Chinese - so is the price for the melon or per kilogram? I would probably starve. I am reminded of the time when we were in France many years ago (DH and I have no knowledge of French) and I stopped in a market to buy laundry detergent. It was only after completing several loads of family wash that I realized that I had just laundered all of our things in fabric softener. Upon returning to the ship we learned that if you went through the mall to the right place at the rear there was a fascinating flea market. Oh, well - that will have to wait until our next trip to China. In Japan we had to have our passports on our persons the whole trip. Here in China we are required to carry a Xerox copy of our passport I.D. page upon which the authorities have placed a red stamp the means that we were admitted and cleared. Each time on and off the ship that paper is examined. On our last stop in Shanghai these papers will need to be returned to the Chinese. And for those of you who are interested - since Incheon we have begun, again, to receive the standard gold wrapped square chocolates that are the current HAL standard - still getting the Seattle chocolates on formal nights. I have to confess, however, that my preference is for the Hershey's kisses over the HAL chocolates, then the Seattle Chocolates (especially the ones that are dark chocolates) over the Hershey's kisses. Sorry HAL. But, then again, who am I to criticize a free chocolate? I am happy with anything. Tonight we sail towards Qingdao.
  2. I thought Pisco was a type of wine - distilled to make it very strong. Not really my favorite but enjoying it would mean I am in South America which is a reward unto itself.
  3. Prinsendam - outside the Ocean Bar
  4. A huge THANK YOU to all the wonderful CC folks who inhabit the Daily threads. In this absurdly upside down inside out world in which we currently live - when no real cruising is going on - I have had a place to come - to enjoy and relax - as I still come here daily to reflexively seek the joys of what I love so much that is currently unavailable and unattainable. I am one one of many who lurk here. Kazu your picture this morning says it all. Cheers and prayers to all.
  5. Ahhh ... the Amerikanis - the “ cruise bus” experience in the early ‘90’s and one of the most memorable cruises we ever took! The lower decks on that ship evoked ‘das boat’ due to the loud and rhythmical chugging of the engines. We were on one of the higher decks in a cabin in the outside position that had a curtained window (not a port hole) with a solid bulkhead six inches outside of the window. The bathroom was larger than the cabin. I remember the fireplace which they they did not use in the Caribbean. Entertainment was absolutely fantastic. Best night was in heavy seas and one of the entertainers (a former Cirque de Soliel clown) did the whole show by himself on a unicycle.
  6. Yes this is surprisingly sad for us. We have never done a world cruise but have enjoyed many extended, and short cruises on the Amsterdam. Our first such Amsterdam adventure was the 2008 Grand Asia (booked in the afterglow of our 2007 Grand Antarctica cruise on the Prinsendam). To be sure that we would be happy in our chosen cabin for 65 days we booked a seven day Alaska cruise in May that year while there was still time to make a change if necessary! There were Caribbean cruises, the Panama Canal, more Alaska, the Tales of the South Pacific in 2015 and our infamous choice in 2014 to use the Grand Asia cruise as our “Slow Boat to China” (Seattle to Shanghai) to meet a three week ground/riverboat tour of China. Watching the Prinsendam leave the fleet was difficult because of the spectacular experiences we had aboard her, now we watch the Amsterdam leave during this inexplicable topsy turvy version of the world as we know it. When we retired our new vocation became travel, mostly through cruising (in my mind the most comfortable way there is to tour). Recent events make it clear that we will have to find a new retirement vocation (at least for the next couple of years). Our hope is if and when the world finally rights itself that there is still some cruising going on out there - and that the venue is still a recognizable cruise experience. Stay healthy everyone. I still come to this forum every day to read the posts. I really enjoy the virtual company of our fellow travelers. The Amsterdam may be leaving the fleet but nothing will take away the 3D technicolor memories of hundreds of days at sea.
  7. The President of Seabourn is also retiring. Do they have golden parachutes that they are afraid will not cash in if they stay around?
  8. We have many, many days on HAL but have now been an a few Seabourn Cruises (including Antarctica in Jan 2019) ... our HAL loyalty is shifting but we are having to settle for fewer cruises due to cost. We are not not big drinkers - at most one a day - but for us that is not the only perk that creates value for the dollars spent for us on Seabourn (in addition to the delightfully small ship size, the over the top service, no tipping, everything included) - I am lactose intolerant. On HAL I have to order meals the night before and do not always get good choices. On Seabourn they cook to order and the chefs are creative so I can decide what I will eat when I am hungry for my meal and I am always well fed. To me that is a big perk. I understand why HAL does it the way that they do - not only because of cost but because of the much larger numbers of passengers on board. I will always have a warm spot in my heart for HAL and the many wonderful days we have had on board with them - but we do miss many of the things they have scaled back in the past few years and we also miss the smaller ships. We still, however, will occasionally grab a ride with HAL.
  9. Wondering if the lights, in your checked suitcase, might show up as electronic and suspicious when they are x- rayed by the TSA.
  10. We had a cruise critic meeting in Antarctica on the Quest this winter. Champaign and sophisticated nibbles were served. A nice gathering. It was requested by a member of our roll call and arranged in advance.
  11. Did it twice. First time in 2007 and it really was a serious Drake shake. But Antarctica was so special we did it again last January and had the Drake lake. Both cruises were spectacular - more than worth the time and tariff.
  12. Yes they are but read the fine print on the packets. There were two types available on the Ovation last week (one at Seabourn Square, the other in the restaurants) - the ingredients on one of them read like a chemistry experiment, the other packet ingredients sounded edible.
  13. The only water bottles that we were aware of delivered to the suites were the new contentious ones. We, too, are upset about the use of too much plastic but we also wish to have clean, safe water to drink in our suite. There must be a way.
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