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John and Diane's Amazing Adventure - Part III

Johnny B

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Mary Ann and Bill,


Yes, we are glad you have "corrupted" us, but I'm not sure our bank account is! We are flying from SLO to SF on Jan. 4th so maybe we'll be on the same flight. Hope the weather cooperates, but at any rate we're looking forward to seeing you both in sunny Florida, and we hope the weather is better than it was in 2008 and 2010--we almost froze to death. See you soon.


John and Diane

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It's the dreaded "crunch time." While it is wonderful to have someone come and transport four pieces of luggage directly to one's stateroom (two each), it still means having to have those bags ready to be picked up before being ready to actually go on the cruise. In other words, they're coming for our bags tomorrow and we're not ready! It's much more fun playing with our 5-year-old granddaughter than looking to see how much more we can cram into our very largest suitcases, one of which is even too big for the airlines.


I've tried to pack all the things I won't need between now and January 6, like formal wear and warm-weather things. Yes, we live in California, but it's been cold lately, so I can pack the shorts, capris, and sleeveless tops. However, I will need some clothes to see me through the next week and a half (Yikes! We board a week from Friday!), so I really do need to put pretty much everything into a suitcase - and then try to close it.


As soon as the kids hit the trail tomorrow, the Christmas tree and all the decorations get put away, the bags we're packing for the airplane get started, and the house gets a thorough cleaning for the renters. A week from today we move into a local hotel for two nights, fly out to Ft. Lauderdale on the 4th, and then board on the 6th. Champagne on the back deck as we cast off the ropes and head into the Caribbean. Bliss!

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Fed Ex truck just left about an hour ago, and, with luck, we'll see the four pieces in 8 days! Company gone, house back to normal (almost), champagne in a few minutes, tennis tomorrow (it's low 70's here), and a few odds and ends to tie up. I think we're ready to go!

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Fed Ex truck just left about an hour ago, and, with luck, we'll see the four pieces in 8 days! Company gone, house back to normal (almost), champagne in a few minutes, tennis tomorrow (it's low 70's here), and a few odds and ends to tie up. I think we're ready to go!


Just interested - is the Fed Ex luggage carry part of the cruise package or do you have to pay extra for this? It is a marvellous idea if you are away for a long time and needs lots of clothes

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Yes, the Fed Ex luggage deal is part of a package--we're allowed four bags (no weight limit) at no extra cost. If we wanted a 5th shipped it would have cost quite a bit, so our 5th and 6th bags will accompany us on the flight to Florida--at a much cheaper rate. We booked a veranda four years ago which allowed us unlimited shipping, and, of course, we took too much!

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Yes, the Fed Ex luggage deal is part of a package--we're allowed four bags (no weight limit) at no extra cost. If we wanted a 5th shipped it would have cost quite a bit, so our 5th and 6th bags will accompany us on the flight to Florida--at a much cheaper rate. We booked a veranda four years ago which allowed us unlimited shipping, and, of course, we took too much!


Thanks you so interesting I have not sailed HAL as they are not in Australia much YET but it is good to be knowledgeable of the things different lines offer.:)

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People cruise for a lot of reasons. They like to get away from the snow (that doesn't include us), they like to have someone do everything for them, and they like to see new places. We do love the slow, leisurely life on board ship, and we have seen far more places on two world cruises that we'd ever imagined, but we have two other reasons to enjoy these cruises.


The first is our cruise "family." Beginning in 2007, even before our first world cruise, we met a wonderful group of friends on an Alaska cruise, and it turned out that we were all going on the world cruise in 2008. We all share a dinner table, Susie and I sang in the choir together (even though we can't carry a tune in a bucket) and loooove the cooking classes, Barbie and Eloise and John and I are on the best trivia team ever, etc. etc. The group seems to expand every cruise. When we were waiting to board in 2008, we sat there like shy little cruise virgins and were amazed when people greeted each other with things like, "It's so great to see you again," or "Where were you last year? We missed you!" Now we perfectly understand that feeling and we do the same thing and can't wait to see everyone, first at the Westin in Ft. Lauderdale on the 5th, and then on the ship the next day.


The other reason we love to cruise is to catch up with friends who live in all corners of the globe. On this cruise, while we're in Brazil we'll meet and spend time with Felipe, a former exchange student at John's high school and a member of his tennis team. In Thailand, we'll see Beat, who was a great friend of our exchange students last year. In Mumbai, former student Rikin is a member of the India Corps, a service organization for American young people of Indian descent, spending a year before beginning med school. When we arrive in Naples, we'll be greeted by Giorgia, our Italian exchange student from last year and her mom, who live in Pesaro, directly east of Florence on the Adriatic. We can hardly wait to arrive in Barcelona, because both Giorgia and Francoise, our exchange daughters from Italy and Belgium last year, are coming to spend two days with us. They were the perfect "daughters" and we can't wait to get "the family" back together.


On the 2010 cruise, our guide for Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo and Yokahama was Yuya, a young Japanese student we met while visiting our daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter in Davis. Actually, 4-year-old Jessica tried to grab his knees, and we began a conversation that ended with an invitation to come visit us in San Luis Obispo and has continued in Japan and again in California, followed by a visit from his mom just this Thanksgiving. We're hoping to see even more of him while he attends graduate school in the U. S.


Having international friends is such a wonderful advantage of traveling, and seeing them again is even sweeter.

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Three of our friends/table mates are on the Amsterdam's New Year's Eve cruise, which will end in Ft. Lauderdale and then become the World Cruise. Susie, who has become a good friend, posts a personal blog in which we read this today:


Yesterday they wanted to see proof of our Yellow Fever Vaccinations. I remember clearly that we were told that we did NOT need any vaccinations for this cruise. Both Jan and I told (warned) Cynthia that there might be a problem at “check-in”. According to Jan, HAL is going to set up a “vaccination station” at the pier. We both assume that you will have to “pay through the nose” – but that is only our very educated guess! So if you don’t have your vaccination there is still time. Thankfully ours are still good.


As we read it, we both looked at each other and said, almost together, "They told us we needed NO vaccinations on this cruise" (just like Susie said). If this is indeed the case, we're OK, because we had yellow fever shots for the 2010 cruise and John was smart enough to bring along the certificates this time. However, there are going to be a LOT of angry passengers if they get this information at check in - especially if HAL does have a vaccination station and they charge folks for it. As I recall, the yellow fever shot was the most expensive of our vaccinations and I'd hate to have to pay for it again.


Now there's another reason we can't wait to board - we want to see if it's true or not!

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The closer it gets, the more exciting it becomes - even with the drama involved. Best wishes for a wonderful cruise - will be following your journey along with many others on this board.


Smooth Sailing! :) :) :)

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January 7 – At Sea


What a few days! On Monday the second, our renters moved in and we moved out – to the Embassy Suites in San Luis Obispo. We have always found it convenient to stay there the night before a departure, because they have a lovely shuttle that makes it easy for us to leave our car at home (not to mention a wonderful breakfast and a great cocktail hour – or two). It is such a treat to stay in a hotel in one’s own town, and so infrequently done. We know where everything is, where we want to eat, and all the phone calls are local. It was great fun.


Wednesday, however, was not quite so much fun. We were up at 3:45 (AM – yikes!) and on the 4:45 shuttle to the airport. Check-in and security were quick and easy, and we were really glad to be headed to San Francisco when they cancelled the Los Angeles flight (which John had originally wanted to book). Something about a missing crew – just like Lost, I guess. Then the adventure began: San Luis Obispo to San Francisco with a 36-minute layover to grab our bags and run to the adjoining terminal to get on our flight to Houston. We made it! Once we arrived in Houston, we of course had three hours to entertain ourselves before our final flight to Ft. Lauderdale. We were met by the HAL representative and shuttled to the Westin Hotel for two nights. We always allow an extra night just because of things like that cancelled Los Angeles flight.


Thursday began very nicely, when we met our previous cruise friends Gene and Shirley who were staying in Ft. Lauderdale for 5 months. We went to lunch, watched huge fish swim under the restaurant and then headed to Total Wine, where we made the last of our “necessary” purchases. Unfortunately, it all went downhill from there. John had a strong reaction to an antibiotic and spent almost the rest of the day in bed. That night was our cruise agent’s Gala Dinner, and while John came down to meet old friends, he then headed up to the room instead of to dinner - for a cup of tea and early to bed.


Friday, of course, was boarding day, and it was quite a lot of fun as well as a lot of work. We were shuttled to the port and when we walked into the check-in area (which looked like a barn), we were shocked to see hundreds of people seated in many rows along the back wall. It looked for all the world like Ellis Island, with all the immigrants waiting to be interviewed for admittance to the U. S. It took us about 30 minutes, but then we were on board and ready for lunch with all our old cruise buddies. It really is like a family reunion – but here everyone likes everyone. Then the work began. We had our seven bags delivered to our cabin and it was time to put too many things in too few spaces. We worked and worked until sailaway – one of our favorite times on board. Most passengers gather on the back of the Lido deck to watch Ft. Lauderdale fade into the sunset. Of course the free drinks until 5:30 didn’t hurt with getting folks to assemble.


Dinner was just like a family reunion, with Susie, Woody, Sky, Eloise, Greg, Heo, John and I sitting down to a smaller table than 2010 but lovely none-the-less. We drank to the new cruise, to our friends Bill and Joan who taught bridge for many years on world cruises, and to departed friends. It was a lovely ending to a very long two days, but well worth the result. We finally knew that it would really be a Bon Voyage.

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So, was there a Yellow Fever shots vaccination station, or was your info correct about no shots being needed?


Thank you for all the wonderful details you're giving. It's almost as good as going with your in person.

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Thanks for taking us along on your cruise, I find everyone's postings so fascinating (and unfortunately they make the procrastination from marking far too easy!). Hope you have a great trip.


I would love to hear how big your cabin is and how you make it "feel like home" for 4 months.

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January 9 – Day 4



Do you remember Melissa Manchester? If you’re too young to answer “yes,” then you may skip this part. Miss Manchester was the entertainer last night and I’m here to tell you that she’s as good now as she was in the 70’s. She sang several of her old hits, some new songs that she’s written, and a duet (via video) with Barry Manilow, with whom she’s been good friends for many years. She’s on board with her husband and two children, one of whom, a daughter, joined Mom in a duet. It was a great show.


Last night was a formal night, and as we like to dress up, we think they’re great fun.

It’s also the night that officers come to sit at the larger tables, and ours was the ship’s engineer, who told us far more than we could understand about the running of this wonderful ship. We do like getting to know the officers, but an important part of having an officer is that they buy the wine that night! Talk about a win-win situation.


We’ve had two absolutely great days at sea, and if you continue with reading this blog, you’ll see that sea days are always mentioned lovingly. Basically, there’s nothing to do, if you don’t want to do anything. However, we do choose to do things, so here’s a run-down on the last couple of days.


Sea days always begin the same way: we get up about 7:00 and head to the gym for about a 45-minute workout. Then it’s over to the Lido for breakfast, usually sitting by the indoor pool. Because yesterday was Sunday, it was church time, conducted by Reverend Jack, the same Protestant chaplain who’s been on the ship since 2008. On previous cruises, the services have been in the Wajang (pronounced Wa – Yang) theatre at 9:00 AM. However, because Bruce, the cruise director, now does “Good Morning Amsterdam” from there at 9:30, we have had two changes: it’s now at 8:00 and in the Queen’s Lounge. That has three drawbacks: it’s too big, too cold, and the chairs are the most uncomfortable on the whole ship. Oh well, that’s not why we attend, so I’ll quit griping.


Yesterday was our first Cruise Critic “Meet and Greet” and it was really crowded. Part of the Crow’s Nest had been reserved, and not only did they have tea, coffee, cookies and pastry, but this year they also had mimosas and just plain Champagne. It was early to start, but what the heck! We met a lot of the people who’d been on the WC thread, and when Sondra (Legally Blonde) wasn’t there, we found out she was having her nails done, so when the group broke up, we headed to the spa to introduce ourselves.


Noon on sea days is Trivia, and we have an enthusiastic group of six: Barbie, Eloise, Sky, Heo, John and I. Bruce, our cruise director, runs the game, and we do have a good time. On Saturday we came in 3rd, but yesterday we won! In 2010, our team won the end-of-cruise championship – but who’s counting?


After lunch it was nap time and then it was time to dress for dinner. Because it was the first formal night, it was the Captain’s cocktail party in the Queen’s Lounge. Who doesn’t like free drinks and hors d’oeuvres? (Do you see a theme here?) Our happy little group has a favorite place for Queen’s Lounge cocktail parties in the back corner, so we gathered there and welcomed old and new friends, including Sondra, whose nails looked great!


The evening ended with dancing in the Crow’s Nest to DJ Brett’s rock and roll selections. He even played “Old Time Rock and Roll,” which I believe to be the world’s best dancing song. We sat with our friends Alan and Sandra (Alsas) and danced until 1:00. Life on the ship is definitely not like life at home. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

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Hi John and Diana. Nice to see you back in action. Have a great voyage and say a special BIG hello to the lovely Alan and Sandra. We missed you a couple of years ago when we opted to the Prinsendam's South America and Antarctica Grand Voyage instead of the World but we do feel we know you have read so many of your blogs.


Have a great voyage.



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This is the information provided in your "Before You Go" booklet and online from HAL:


International travelers can take a number of simple steps to avoid potential health problems before and during travel:



•Contact your local physician ideally 4-6 weeks prior to departure.

•It is important to receive current health information on the countries you plan to visit.

•Obtain all necessary vaccinations and preventative medications. It is important to address any special needs.

•Immunizations may be recommended or required for countries visited on your cruise itinerary. If you are traveling to (or transiting through) Africa or South America, for example, you may require a certificate of vaccination against yellow fever. This vaccination can be administered only by a state approved clinic.




It is also a good idea to bring along a record of your immunizations as requirements for immunizations may change.



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January 10 – Day 5



The tropics are a wonderful place. Yesterday we called at Dominica (Dom-en-EEK-uh), a beautiful island with waterfalls and rainforests that, unfortunately is very poor. We didn’t dock until noon, so the morning was fairly typical, with exercise and breakfast and visiting with friends (tough life, huh?). Because the ship docked out of town, there was a free shuttle which, within 10 minutes, had us in the middle of town, only to see the Noordam in the main docking space in town. I guess it had to do with the fact that our ship is so much smaller than the other, so we didn’t complain too much.


When we got off the shuttle, we were welcomed by a taxi driver with a photo spread of everything we’d see if we booked with him for the afternoon. It included everything in which we were interested, and three other folks wanted to go along too, so we decided that his $20 each was a good deal, hopped into the van, and off we went. Our main stop was at Trafalgar Falls (a bit of English influence, no?), where we hiked for about ten minutes to the platform, which gave us a view of both waterfalls, a glorious sight. There was a group of young people who had just hiked up from the pools below the falls, and I was very jealous. All I could think about was that the next day we’d be in Barbados all day and I would get to go swimming.


We drove around the island to see more of the rainforest (and it WAS raining), and then we stopped at a little trail that took us to the middle of a steaming, odoriferous stream. This particular part of the island has sulphur springs, and you can smell them from hundreds of feet away. The water steamed down the hill and gathered into a small pond, where more hot water could be seen bubbling up from below. The fellows in charge of the stream tried to sell us what was basically sulphur mud as an aid to facial skin, but I figured it was way too late for that idea, so I turned them down.


We were supposed to sail at 6:00, but a female passenger tripped and fell while walking up the gangplank, and she had to be taken to the hospital for treatment, along with the head nurse. She returned to the ship, and we only sailed ten minutes late. Unfortunately, whatever her injury was became worse today, and she and her husband had to disembark to see further medical attention.


Today was Barbados, and even though we were docking at 8:00, we agreed to meet Greg and Heo at 9:30 to give everyone enough time to get up, get breakfast, and get ready. Today followed yesterday as far as finding a taxi/tour guide, but since Barbados is more affluent than Dominica, today’s rate was $30, still a bargain.


While Dominica has thousands of acres of rain forests, Barbados reminded us very much of the Hawaiian island of Kauai. It is much more affluent, without yesterday’s obvious poverty. As we drove halfway around the island and up into the mountains, we saw absolutely gorgeous tropical plants and flowers. After driving past the private estate where Tiger Woods was married (as well as THAT turned out), we visited St. James, the oldest Anglican church on the island, which is surrounded by an incredibly peaceful churchyard cemetery. Instead of crypts that looked like little buildings, as I’ve seen before, these crypts were dug down into the earth with stone structures above them and stone stairs leading down to them.


Our next vantage point was at the top of the island, giving us a view of the Atlantic as well as of the Caribbean. The breeze cooled us off from the 84-degree weather, and as I looked around, I realized that I could probably live there – at least part of the year.


Arthur, our guide, then drove us into Bridgetown, the capital. We asked him to take us to a restaurant where only locals ate, and that he did. We dined on flying fish and kingfish, with two of us having beans and rice on the side, and the other two having cou cou, a combination of cornmeal and okra. It sounded good, but it really didn’t have much taste. I had ordered the beans and rice, and they were quite delicious.


We were dropped off at the beach by Arthur, and left to make our own way back to the ship. An hour at the beach wasn’t nearly enough, with sand like powdered sugar and water warm enough to jump right into. My dermatologist will hate me for it, but I got some really nice sun.


Then it was back to the ship and up on deck for sailaway. It turned out that two women were leaving the ship for medical reasons, one with her husband. That was really sad, but health reasons are the main cause for folks having to disembark unexpectedly. The ship’s infirmary does a wonderful job, but a real hospital is sometimes necessary.


Now we will have two sea days, and we are really ready for them. I know, I know – it’s a dirty job wandering around these ports, but someone has to do it.

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