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  1. Typed out a long response, and CC decided to delete it just when i hit "post". So typing it out again... bear with me :) To start with, some general comments and then further posts will dive in deeper. As a Deaf passenger with low vision, I wanted to give that perspective as compared to the "regular" perspectives. So feel free to ask questions, share concerns and comments, and I will be glad to address them all. Here we go! First of all - I am Deaf, newly 30, low vision due to Usher Syndrome - combined deafness, vestibular issues, and retinis pigmentosa. American Sign Language (ASL) is my main mode of communication. Ocean liner aficionado, introvert, voracious reader. Writer in the process of penning several projects. I do have bilateral cochlear implants - wore them inside the ship and on shore - but wisely took them off when I went out on deck - I didn't want to risk leaning over the railing and have them accidentally fall off - that'd be $7,000 per sound processor. Yeah... that'd be bad. I do hear everything but I can't always understand what I hear. I hear you all talking, but still need lipreading and / or signs to figure out the context. I do excellently with environmental sounds (ship whistles and alarms, for instance - hear them perfectly and can figure out which code the blasts stands for) and music (Adagio!) Plus I had Bear, my longtime companion who's the same age as I and has been to half of the states in the US and many national parks. So it only made sense to drag him along for the ride - and to get intel for a future book I'm writing. (Visit his Instagram page at www.instagram.com/kaitlynandbear ). Quite a few pictures from our shipboard experience there! "You're a bit young - why HAL?" Ocean liner aficionado here. I prefer ships that still look and act like ships - dark color hull, white superstructure, funnels, a wraparound teak promenade deck - which is required - with traditional deck chairs, afternoon tea, shuffleboard, and fixed dinnertime. I am not one for the "foo-foos" of on-land resorts that carries over to ships making them look and act less like ships (*eyes RC, NCL and Carnival*). I have sailed before on Carnival and found it too "busy" for me (sensitive to light, sound, crowds, and visual distractions). So that left Cunard and HAL as my choices (though I would make an exception for Disney - they do honor the old days with their decor and ship profile). I'm perfectly happy with a old fashioned deck chair on the Promenade Deck with a good book and the occasional game of shuffleboard. Can't afford Cunard at this point, and HAL plus the Panama Canal were on my bucket list - so glad to be able to cross two of them off! Also, this trip was a replacement trip for my cancelled European tour last summer. The trip was set up with a Deaf agency and pulled at the last minute due to low sign-ups. ALL hearing land tours won't provide interpreters (falls outside ADA jurisdiction) and the "disability-friendly" tours generally don't accommodate Deaf well due to communication barriers instead of physical barriers. So that left cruising as an option. The Panama Canal worked well due to the fact that it had 2 US ports, which made it eligible for ADA accommodation - hence the interpreters and in-cabin visual alert system. Did the 16 days Panama Canal crossing on the Nieuw Amsterdam from FLL to San Diego, Apr 9-25. In short, 14 beautiful sunny days and two "North Atlantic" days of overcast and choppy waves. Couldn't ask for better weather! First of all, thanks to HAL for providing an ASL interpreter. However, one interpreter is not enough for such a long cruise - 16 days, and I had to cut back on my requests for interpretation to avoid burnout on the interpreter's part. Also, what happens when the interpreter is incapable of performing his/her duty due to circumstances out of our control? As was the case when the interpreter got food poisoning from the Lido and was out of commission for 36 hours, meaning I had zero access to communication during that time frame. Granted it was on a day where I lucky didn't have any shore excursions planned, but did have the behind-the-scenes ship tour scheduled. (Thankfully the on-board marketing department was able to add another ship tour to accommodate me on a later date when the interpreter recovered, but I still got a shortened tour instead of the full one that I paid for). I would strongly encourage a practice of hiring 2 interpreters instead of one to avoid those issues. Also, I would encourage revisiting the compensation package for the interpreting services, as I had issues finding an interpreter that was willing to work for nothing, especially as competing cruise lines do pay the interpreter for their work (Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Carnival, Disney, etc).I encouraged HAL to reach out to several agencies and see what the current practice is. If HAL keeps up the practice of not paying interpreters, Deaf guests will be turned away and seek other cruise lines. (This is why HAL got a bad rap within the Deaf community for not being accommodating nor paying the interpreters while expecting them to work full days for free). Moving on, the shipboard staff and crew have been fabulous regarding the communication front. I never had an issue onboard when it came to communicating with the staff/crew. My portable whiteboard and marker came in handy, and the staff/crew were more than happy to write back and forth or use gestures to ensure effective communication occurs. Special note for the waitstaff in the dining room - not only did they recognize me by face, but also remembered what I liked/disliked, and learned a few signs such as "coffee?" and made sure to write down anything they said, even before I pulled out my whiteboard and marker. Ditto with the staff working the Front Desk - I was especially glad when one of them turned out to know enough basic sign to ensure barrier-free communication occurred. Carlos in the Showroom went above and beyond to making sure the interpreter had access to the show scripts, schedule, and rehearsals with the cast. Not only that, they never failed to remember to shine a light on the interpreter during a show - I never had to remind them to do so. Also, I got a special treat when they agreed to shine a light on the interpreter during a showing of "Rogue One" on the big screen after hearing that the in-cabin movie network had issues with the closed captioning. (As a fan of Star Wars, I was tickled to see it on the big screen, and even better, with an interpreter instead of captions for once). That reminds me - contacted the tech department and/or the film distributors to check into the software for the in-cabin movie listings as the closed captioning was wonky at best. Half of the movie would caption properly, the other half, the captions would literally blink on/off so fast that it was impossible to read. (I checked with several films, both in my cabin and several neighboring cabins and they all had the same issues, leading me to believe it was a network issue and not a TV issue). I think the captions had timing issues as my iPad copy of "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" captions worked beautifully, and the movie captions didn't match up, especially how long the captions stayed on screen. (Used that movie as I had seen it several times and was very familiar with it - hence a good "control" film to test it with!) I would encourage research and development of a on-board texting app to be used on the ship. I had issues with ordering room service. If my (hearing) companion wasn't in the cabin, I was left with two choices - either walk downstairs to the Ocean Bar (closest public room) and place my order with the bartender who would phone it in (thank you Edgar!), or open my door and hope to catch one of the housekeeping staff working the hall and have them phone it in (thank you to whoever dropped their duty to do that - I regret that I did not catch their name). Having a onboard texting app would have resolved that issue for me and many other guests who can't use the in-cabin phone. It was especially problematic when I became sick one day and could barely dress and drag myself downstairs to Ocean Bar and have them call in tea and soup, and drag myself back upstairs and get back in bed. Also, I would like to thank the shore excursions folks for making it possible for the interpreter to accompany me on those trips - we were especially lucky in Costa Rica (Walk in the Clouds) and Antigua (Past & Present Colonial Antigua) to be blessed with guides that understood the purpose of an ASL interpreter and made sure we were in the front of the bus so the interpreter could hear and replay their spiels and checked in with me to make sure I was getting the info I needed. (Natasha in CR and Erick in Antigua). I do hope HAL continues this practice of sending the interpreter ashore with the Deaf guests at their request. On last thing - I would strongly discourage scheduling three major one-time only events on the same day/time. In doing the make-up ship tour, I missed out on On Deck for a Cause (had the shirt on and was ready) and the second Mariner's lunch. (There were two Mariner's lunches and I was invited to the second one). I was looking forward to doing all three, and unfortunately, the rescheduled ship tour took place at the same time as them. Just a small complaint on my part. (I was able to pick up my tile at a later time). During the trip I filled out at least 15 comment cards with commendations towards particular staff/crew members, expressed several concerns and whatnot. I do hope they were useful, and the staff/crew got their commendations and thank-yous. The ship library had copies of the Harry Potter books - which is VERY GOOD in my books! 50 points to whoever put them on the shelf - no library is complete without a set. (Okay, I confess - I'm still waiting for my belated Hogwarts letter to arrive!) Next post: in-cabin accommodations, embarkation zoo, muster drill, deck life, vestibular issues, mealtimes, excursions, getting sick, riding the elevators for an hour, low-vision issues, etc.
  2. Looking to see if anyone has had Aft cabin 7055 on the Amsterdam. Would love to see photos of the inside of the cabin as well as one looking out to see how much is obstructed by the stairway. I would be very interested in experiences and opinions of this cabin. I will be doing the 14 day Alaska roundtrip out of Seattle in July. Thanks in advance!!
  3. Back home now about a week, not all unpacked yet (but hey, it took more than a week to get packed, right?) and getting around to considering my reflections on this special itinerary of 48 nights R/T San Diego. I’ll try to add a bit more every day or so, that is if you’re up for it. First: Why this cruise? We wanted something easy, a real vacation. Last few years we have done complex and energetic touring - long trips, 9 to 16 weeks to far-away places… all grand but all exhausting. R/T San Diego to beautiful Hawaii, equatorial and south Pacific islands… hmmmm sounds magical! Second: Who are we? Retired (DH early 70s and me early 60s) but active, sometimes too active…. We live in the rural mountains of northern NM; work hard continuing to construct and remodel a fire-resistant log home and new addition in the forest (it’s 4 miles down a dirt road to our mailbox, almost 1000’ lower in elevation that the house at 8700’)… and we work hard volunteering with our local fire department as EMTs, Search and Rescuers and, hopefully not very often, firefighters… plus all the trainings and administrivia that go along with it. It all takes a toll physically and emotionally, so a real vacation was our agenda this year. We are closer to value cruisers than luxury cruisers but booked a window room (yea! luxury for us) on Dolphin deck (most stable) near the aft elevator (closest route to the food – gotta get the priorities right). We turned 4 star Mariners on this cruise and they actually contacted us to give us our pins, have our ship-cards changed to show are new star and even left a new laundry form in our room that day! Quite the surprise for this to happen mid-cruise….. I should add that we’re platinum on Princess and gold or purple or Mars or something like that on Carnival, Celebrity and NCL… we book for the right timing and prices. My cruise motto: It’s hard to have a bad on a cruise ship! Booking: Called our HAL PCC in April and got a decent booking set up, yikes! 48 nights, wow. Later I found a big price difference from a big box store TA. Called PCC who said, “I can match the price but not the OBC”. So he re-fared the price, added the insurance that I requested (hey, the S. Pacific is a very long way from everywhere!), maintained his OBC and Pinnacle Grill dinner to us and helped me transfer the whole deal to the TA saying to me, “No problem, we want to do whatever gets you your best deal!” Really…. And it all happened. Pre-Cruise: Easy non-stop flight to SAN airport; SuperShuttle already vouchered by the Urban Boutique Hotel included in their $90/night price that we got from booking.com several months in advance - and we’re there! Great location with a 5 minute walk to Little Italy for supper (and 2 bottles of wine); excellent continental breakfast included at hotel. Rooms were fine… think European style and size, but all we needed and comfortable including bottled water, refrigerator, free WiFi, big flat scree HD TV… come to think of it, all the things we wouldn’t have on the ship! Worked great for us. (BTW, with IRL_Joanie’s recommendation I tried to get a room at the Best Western Bayside but they were all sold out when I was booking… much later on they opened up some rooms but at $200, so we stayed with what we had, no regrets.) Embarkation: San Diego is known for difficult embarkations, but we had no issues. We walked/rolled our way to the terminal from the hotel at about 11:00, the “10 minute” walk took longer for us rolling slowly so we got there about 11:30, dropped our luggage with the terminal porters (more on that later) and checked which doors and lines to use so we didn’t wind up on the NCL Sun (nice ship, we’ve been on her but they weren’t going to the south Pacific). It took about an hour to get all checked-in and to our room, all standing in lines or slogging along, no sitting around. We carried 2 bottles of wine that nobody seemed to care about. At check-in our passports were taken in exchange for a receipt – I said a little prayer for the angels to watch over them… same as for our luggage when I let go of it… Room: The OV on Amsterdam is a good size for us. I really like having the full size couch… wish the OVs on Lower Promenade deck had a full couch but, alas, we’ll use the stairs and burn some calories. We had the small adjustable table which was adequate (juggled many lunches on it plus a few suppers), a largish and comfortable chair at the desk instead of a stool - nice, 3 drawers in the desk piece, and 5 closets! No refrigerator, which would have been nice but I didn’t want to give up the space under the desk and there’s really no other place for it except if it could be plugged into one of the 5 closets… think they could? I didn’t try. The TV is antiquated, IMO… which I’m going to stop adding to the text because all this of this is my opinion… the TVs are old flat-screen models sitting kitty-corner on an elevated shelf over the desk. They not only are not high definition but they have very poor resolution, you can barely read the text on the navigation page, especially the white lettering on the blue-grey background, very poor… and I just had my fire-fighter physical and my eyes are 20/15, well with glasses. The remotes don’t hit the sensor well because of the shelf but I will say that Ruth C’s tip to bounce the signal off the ceiling helped a lot… genius Ruth! The TV selections are not interactive but they did have 3 news channels, a couple of movies including yesterday’s showing in the Wajang Theater, and the replays of the many enrichment speakers’ talks, so great to have that because it isn’t always possible to get to the presentations live. Oh yes, the CD’s Good Morning Amsterdam was shown everyday along with 48 days of the shore excursion CD, jewelry shopping channel, 48 days of the same Future Cruise presentation on its dedicated channel, and 3 HAL music channels. Bow-Cam channel is handy to hear the announcements on the PA from the CD and the Captain…. also the many times the Officer of the Watch went through the crew fire and safety drill routines…. nice to know they were drills at least. The temperature in our room (1932) stayed at 72 degrees +/- 1 degree the whole trip, well after we spent a day or so getting it adjusted to our liking, as measured on my travel clock on my nightstand. I think this is first for us - DH always referred to the thermostat as a useless wall decoration; it seemed to work this time, or something did. I still used the pre-cruise-requested fan every night to blow a soft breeze on my side of the bed, what a blessing! And after the first night of “hard” sleep we requested a mattress pad and slept much better for it. I used to think the HAL beds were so comfortable, is it that I’m getting old? Maybe Amsterdam beds are getting old. DH has a feather allergy and we made sure there was nothing in the bedding with feathers. But he reacted to the room as if there were, although mildly, and made good use of his allergy meds… I really do think it came through the HVAC system. Oh well, the ship is shared space… refer back to cruise motto, above. Lighting by the safe is terrible, but I don’t want to nit-pick too much so I’ll add a smile and say that I love having real hangers, hangers that we can take off the rod, and the steward gladly brought me a few more the first day as I unpacked. We arranged the fold-up/flop-down shelves to augment our 3 drawers and settled in, ahhhh, welcome aboard! m-- Next time ... How to enjoy 5 sea days to Hawaii....
  4. We just returned from May 7-14, 2016 Alaska cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam. We decided to book a fully obstructed cabin, knowing we just need to see some daylight in our room and would be on other decks of the ship a lot. We were pleasantly surprised with our view in HH 4127: This is at the back of a lifeboat. Note that there are three taller tenders on each side of the ship that would obstruct your view further. The window is floor to ceiling but does not open. Hope that helps a future cruiser in this type of cabin. Cheers! klvn8r
  5. I finally got my cabin assignment, and this cabin is located near the forward elevators, with a handicapped VD on one side and an oceanview on the other. When I looked at the deck plan, the cabin itself looks like it's set a little farther back than some others and the balcony looks to be a bit deeper than the corresponding VDs on that deck. Is this correct? Has anyone ever stayed in either this cabin or the corresponding one on the starboard side? I assume the configuration is the same on the Eurodam, so if anyone has experience with these cabins on either ship, I'd love some feedback. Two pluses -- I'll be close to the elevators both near the piano bar and the Crow's Nest!
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