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Discover 7 Continents with Bill & Mary Ann as we sail on the 2012 World Cruise

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Report # 4 January 6, 2012 Friday The Journey begins

 

January 4th arrived quickly as we readied the last of the luggage and hand carrys for our long trip. We were still celebrating the last of the Christmas holidays Tuesday evening with our family, realizing that our days of cooking would be suspended for several months. We love cooking and entertaining, but as for the clean-up...............well, we won't miss that part.

 

Wednesday morning began early with a pickup from son, Ken, for a 6am ride to the San Francisco airport. Usually, we leave SFO on a 6am flight, but not so today. If all went according to schedule, our flight from SF to Washington DC would take off around 10am. It is always good to arrive at the airport early, then relax during the wait time with lots of coffee and breakfast.

 

Check-in was a snap, since we flew first class on United. There is seldom a long line to check in our luggage, of which we brought two pieces. The nice thing was that each one could weigh up to 70 pounds with no penalties. The intent was to keep them lighter, but that didn't happen, of course. We could have brought two more pieces each, but you would need six hands each to haul it all.

 

The flight was delayed for about 40 minutes, but the pilot was successful in making up most of the time somehow. The weather was co-operating today, which was a relief, since a cold front had crossed the country in previous days. That is always a worry flying this time of year. Not so much delays from San Francisco, but inclement weather delays from other cities around the country. It is what it is.

 

So, the flight was good, but the food nowadays is not the best. Perhaps flying internationally is a big step up, according to the very attentive stewardess, who couldn't do enough for us. When we asked for champagne, she said it was not available on domestic flights, but she could mix white wine with soda. You gotta give her credit for being so creative. Expecting lunch, we were quite surprised to be served breakfast. Ordering Jack Daniels really did not go that well with eggs, but it did help settle nerves. And the movie, Real Steel, helped pass a couple of hours being entertained.

 

We landed in Washington DC in the dark, around 6pm. We had one hour to get to the next terminal for a shorter flight to Miami. Lucky for us, we had about 100 feet to walk. However, the plane was not there, and would be delayed for 40 minutes. We figured that was OK, since it gave the luggage ample time to be transferred. There is nothing like the feeling of watching for your bags on the turnstyle, and they never show up. Yeah, that did happen to us once in Amsterdam, and it is not a warm and fuzzy feeling. Auch, another thing to worry about........

 

Well, the flight went by quickly as we watched the city lights all the way down the eastern seaboard to Miami. A snack box and beverages were all that was served on this commuter flight, but that would do OK for now. By the time we gathered our luggage, it was about 10:30pm EST, and we were more than ready for our transfer to Ft. Lauderdale. It would have been nice to have flown directly to Ft. Lauderdale, but United does not have a direct flight there from SF anymore. What we did not know, was that our promised HAL rep was nowhere to be seen. OK, another thing to worry about.............

 

They told us to look for the person with the red jacket, which all HAL reps wear at all port cities. Do you know how many people we saw with red vests, sweaters, and jackets? Dozens of them, but not one was a HAL rep. We did have the airport gal page them, but to no avail. They simply were NOT there.

 

That's when we called the HAL emergency phone number for the first time ever. Apparently, the rep was waiting for us in Ft. Lauderdale, not Miami. DUH! The very apologetic HAL rep said to take a taxi, and we would be re-imbursed. They had better re-imburse, because the tab was over $100. So that was what we did. Actually, it was quick and easy. Since it was so late in the evening, there were no taxi ques and very little traffic, which was a good thing. It took about an hour to get to the Westin Hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, with a few uturns made by the taxi driver, who took the wrong turnoff. We have never arrived to the hotel in the dark, so everything looked different to us.

 

Check-in was a snap, and we were in our comfortable room in minutes. Room service was our only option by this time, so we ordered chicken caesar salads with extra dressing. They were soooo good, and who cares if it was after midnight here. After all, we were still on our Pacific time, which was 9pm. Come to think of it, that will be close to our dining time on the ship for the next several months.

 

Sleep did not come easy. Flying half of the day, changing time zones, and sleeping in a very cozy, but strange unfamiliar bed limited our slumber time to about 3 hours or so. Could have used more, but we'll have time for that tomorrow, we hope.

 

January 5 Thursday

 

Today was the day for special gatherings, starting with meetings of many friends in the hotel lobby at 9am. Our travel agency had set up their desk, and by luck, our very special agent was among the friendly welcome group. Yep, like family. More and more acquaintances poured out of the elevators, which gave us the chance to duck out to seek breakfast.

 

There's a nice old-fashioned restaurant, Duffy's, up the road a piece that still serves the best down home food around here. They still call you honey when you walk in the door. Our buddy Martha joined us, giving us the chance to catch up on family news and ship gossip. Martha, who has gone on many world cruises, filled in the blanks for us as we sipped our 5th cup of coffee.

 

The next job was to update this computer in the hotel lobby. Best to do this here, since the speed is better and so is the price.....free. Even at that, it took almost 2 hours to complete the task. Our computer is old, no ancient, in computer years. Perhaps next year, we need to buy a new, modern one.

 

By 2pm, we took the complimentary shuttle, provided by our travel agency, to a nearby shopping mall. It wasn't large, but it had the necessary stores to pick up last minute supplies. At CVS, we picked up a few things we actually forgot, and at Publix, a local supermarket, we found room snacks. Not that we don't get enough food on the ship, certain things like chips we like are not easily found. We can hand carry these on the ship.

 

We got back to the hotel by 4pm, only to find the cleaning staff in our room. Oh well, better late than never. Good time to visit with the staff in the lobby that we missed in the morning. There was not much time left before the cocktail party began, so we rushed back to the room to get ready.

 

Tonight affair was casual, thank goodness. There had to be over 200 happy people in attendance. Wine flowed freely, while cocktails and finger foods were offered in the smaller banquet room. There were so many familiar faces, so it was a good chance to introduce ourselves to the group. Some folks that were frequent world cruise clients had been invited to this dinner, although they have not sailed with us for several years. Among those, were Shirley and Gene, the "trumpet machine". He always entertains us all with impromtu tunes on his trumpet. You can tell he has been doing a lot of practicing, even though it is not always kindly accepted by all.

 

By 7pm, we were directed to the main banquet hall, where most folks chose their tables. For some unknown reason, we were seated with the vice-president of our travel agency and HAL's Mariner Club rep, Gerald B. We had the opportunity to question Gerald about the existing tier program and the possibility of changes in that program. His response was a definite "yes", there would be some changes announced. He could not tell us specifically, we would have to wait. But that was good enough for us. In addition, we needed to clarify the difference between actual cruise days and earned cruise days. He said the medallion program (including President's Club) is strictly based on cruise days sailed. It has NOTHING to do with "earned" cruise days. Since there has been a lot of chatter on CC sites, we felt this matter needed to be addressed by the source. As for the tier program, an announce of added benefits should be announnced while we are on this cruise, perhaps somewhere after Pago Pago, American Samoa. At that point, Stein Kruse plans to board the Amsterdam for the special events. Stay tuned, and we will update you as soon as we hear some good news.

 

The dinner went went and was delicious as always. It was a wrap by 9pm, as the last of us reluctantly left the room. It was soooo good to hit the sheets, and would have even been better if the trains had not run all night!

 

To be continued.......................

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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I wish you a fabulous Bon Voyage!!! What a great itinerary this year! Can't wait for "our" adventure to begin!!!!! Cherie

Edited by cccole

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Bon Voyage!! I missed the sail away:(. We had company and I thought it might be rude to excuse myself so I could watch it.:rolleyes:

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Thanks for taking the time again to post during your cruise. I've followed the last two and will look forward to reports as they arrive. Someday I hope to take a world cruise but one must retire first - and that's still a-ways away.

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Bill and MaryAnn,

 

I am so excited to be "cruising" with you again this year!!! I have bookmarked this thread and look forward to each installment!! Thanks so much for taking us along!!

 

Bon Voyage!!!

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MaryAnn,

It was good to talk to you yesterday aboard the Amsterdam and be able to give you my wishes for a wonderful trip! You are well on your way by now.......enjoy every minute!

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I've been trying to find this blog and only did just now! I don't know how I missed it, but I've got it on my favorites now. I love your blogs for telling us the whole truth. Thanks for taking the time and sharing with all of us who can't be there. Enjoy the trip! Liz

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MaryAnn,

It was good to talk to you yesterday aboard the Amsterdam and be able to give you my wishes for a wonderful trip! You are well on your way by now.......enjoy every minute!

 

 

Karen, I can't wait for your next adventure either!!! (I know you don't know me, but I am a fan!!)

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Karen, I can't wait for your next adventure either!!! (I know you don't know me, but I am a fan!!)

Gee....thanks!! That's fun!

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Report # 5 January 6, 2012 Friday Boarding Day

 

Just as we had anticipated, this day was going to be a looooong one! It sure would have been nice to sleep in later, but with luggage pickup starting at 8:30am, it was a better idea to get up early and get them packed, locked, and ready to go. This really is a nice service provided for us, because we surely would not like to have to schlep this heavy luggage to the bus,then haul it into the cruise terminal ourselves. No, it is all loaded in large UHaul trucks, and we should not see it again until it is brought to our room. We only had our hand carrys to bring on the bus, which had grown with our several purchases. So had the suitcases.......bet they weighed close to 85 pounds each!

 

But before we attacked that job, we needed fortification in the form of the down home country breakfast at Duffys. It sure felt good to walk to the restaurant. The weather today was a bit warmer, but still on the cool side. And hey, we are not complaining one bit. Usually the humidity gets to us before the heat, but not today. And just like yesterday, we were greeted with "Hi, honey. Glad you all came back!" We even spotted two of our tablemates from last night's dinner finishing up their meal near the opposite window. We had mentioned this cafe to them, and they followed our suggestion to try it.

 

Our ride left the hotel about 11:30am, just as we completed the final emails and updates on the computer, once again free. Only this morning, the hotel decided to make things difficult by changing the sign-in process. If we did not ask the front desk gal why we could not log on, we would have given up. It was apparent that others were just as frustrated as they frantically tried to do the same thing we were.

 

We made our way slowly down the bus aisle to the very back seats, thinking we could jam the bags in the last seat, then sit together. Well, that did not work, since every single seat on the bus was needed for passengers. We were not the only ones buried under our stuff!

 

Oh well, the ride was short (about 20 minutes), and we were soon driving up to the pier where the Amsterdam awaited. From the billboard over the pier gate, we noticed that 9 ships were in port. This was nice to see, since the cruising industry supplies many jobs to the city of Ft. Lauderdale, such as the airports, hotels, restaurants, transport, supplies for loading the ships, and the ships themselves. And this goes on day after day, especially this time of year when people are escaping the cold weather to travel to warmer climates.

 

A delay happened when the bus driver asked us to stay in our seats until the larger stored luggage under the bus was off-loaded. That seemed to take forever, because a line of buses in front of us were doing the same thing. We all reminded ourselves that we needed to be patient, and enjoy the chance to sit and relax on the bus. We knew the rest of the day would probably be a hustle and bustle, so we all cooled our heels.

 

By 12:30pm or so, we lined up outside the terminal to go through the security check. It is very similar to the airport security, but far less invasive. At least we did not have to remove our shoes. That is a pain in the butt, since many older and not-so-old folks cannot reach their shoes easily to take them off!

 

The double security lines did move fast. Then the group was separated into the suite, veranda, and President Club members going into one check-in place, and the rest of us, one to four stars Mariners directed into the larger hall. Now you would think that being 4 star would give you priority, but today, it did not. Most all of us are four star, since most of the passengers are repeat world cruisers.

 

A further separation were the foreign passport holders, who were sent ahead of the rest of us. HAL did have rows of chairs where we could sit down with our heavy bags. When the foreign line cleared, we were called to fill the lines. Then things moved much more successfully. The first items they asked for were not the credit card or passports, but the health form we had to fill out. On that form, you had to declare that you were healthy, and not ill, with flu-like symptoms. If you answered "yes" to even one question, you could be denied boarding or quarantined once onboard. This is where you wonder how many people really are honest with their answers. None the less, this is a good precaution to stop the spread of the Noro-virus that is so prevalent on cruise ships.

 

Well, we passed with flying colors, yes, for real, and within 10 minutes they checked our passports for the required visas (Brazil and India for this trip). And if we were going overland in China, which we are not, that would have been necessary. Without these visas, we would also be denied boarding, and with no promise of a refund for your missed trip. Ouch! Live and learn.....yes it has happened to some very disappointed passengers, but hopefully, not today.

 

With our keycards in hand, we boarded the ship after the quick photo stop with the ship's photographers. That has got to be the worst picture we ever take. But hey, if it is your first full voyage, then you buy it. We have several very bad photos from past cruises, so no more for us.

 

Our rooms were ready. That does not always happen, and it sure is nice to stash all those handcarrys in the room, then go off to find food and friends. That's just what we did. Our large group had already congregated by the Lido pool, and were indulging in Lido sandwiches and complimentary cocktails. We joined them gladly for an hour or so, then headed to our room to see if any luggage had arrived. A few of the duffels had, but without the clippers, we could not cut the many tie wraps we used to double lock them. Truthfully, we were kind of glad, because putting off that task of unpacking was more appealing than getting into it.

 

The muster drill was held at 4pm on the lower promenade deck. This is a must do, and believe us, they know if you are not there. Each drill station has a crew member who takes a rollcall. It really is important to attend and listen to the instructions in case of an emergency. Thoughts of the "Titanic" come to mind, as you imagine the worst case scenario. Since this is our 45th cruise, we have the instructions down pat. One nice thing, is that we can leave the lifevests in our cabins. We used to have to wear them, then try to navigate our way back to the room, going up or down stairs with straps dangerously dragging on the floor. We figured there have been some nasty accidents, so the drill folks and the port security teams got smart and made it easy on us.

 

Now we were free to rejoin our group and get ready for the sailaway party on the Lido deck. The scheduled time for leaving was 5pm. Yeah, sure. That never happens, and it was no different today. So much stuff was left on the pier to load, that we did not pull away until near 7pm. The drinks flowed and all of the tasty treats were consumed well before we left. And once that sun went down, it got cool. The outside decks cleared and early sitting people had left for dinner. All the other ships, except one, had left ahead of us. But of course, that gave us the pretty site of watching them head south in a line on the horizon. Pretty cool.

 

We had about an hour to grab a cool drink in the Crow's Nest with friends before we headed for our first dinner in the dining room. This year, we are at the largest table in the whole place (10 to 12 guests). And we all know each other. Right now, we have nine, with space for guests or officers on formal nights. The rest of our close buddies are at a table for 8 very close by. Once we get situated, we are sure all with interchange tables occassionally.

 

Our nice waiters were very attentive, and dinner service was excellent. Despite the fact that there were so many of us, our tasty meal was finished by 9:45pm. Pretty good for the first night. You know what? We never did get all of the luggage, so we had to go to dinner in the same clothes we wore all day. Many others did the same thing, and it did not matter. Wearing jeans now is not forbidden, as in the past. We never do that any other time, so it's OK. From the looks of it, lots of passengers must have eaten in the Lido, and called it a night. Like we said, it was one looooong day! And with that, we were off to bed, with not one bag unpacked, even though they had all arrived by 10pm. We had all day tomorrow to do that, right? And once the ship started rolling a bit, it put us to sleep instantly, thank goodness!

 

Adios until tomorrow......

 

Mary Ann & Bill.

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I love reading your posts! I love that you tell it like it is, the good, the bad, and the ugly:) Thanks for "taking us with you"! In case they don't read the posts , does anyone know what room type they are in?

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Oh it's going to be a great winter now that we can tag along with you two:)

 

Good for you for leaving the bags and tackle them later :D I'm sure you will have time on your sea day :)

 

Looking forward to more

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Enjoying reading about your journey. Thank you for taking the time to take us along with you on this magnificient voyage.

 

Diane.

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I was just thinking it was time for your next adventure, so I checked and here it is! I was so excited! Looking forward to reading about your travels. I am going to have my fifth grader follow along and find all these wonderful ports on the globe!

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Bon Voyage! I'm almost excited about you being on board as you are! As in the past, I'm looking forward to your posts.

 

Smooth Sailing! :) :) :)

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Thank you again for allowing us to travel with you again. I'm so glad that your journey has begun. We watched you sail out and pass our building in Bal Harbour about 7:30 ish last night. Enjoy your trip!

Edited by dorie10295

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Report # 3 Friday December 30, 2011 Where in the world are we going???

 

Now that the luggage is gone, we can relax a bit before the journey begins. However, all is not exactly correct, since three of the duffels are on their way to Florida, and the fourth one is lagging behind somewhere along the way. We do have Fed Ex tracking numbers, so we shall moniter their progress, and hope for the best.

 

Our journey begins in Ft. Lauderdale on Friday January 6th, where the Amsterdam is scheduled to leave the port around 5pm. That usually does not happen for many reasons. It doesn't matter a whole lot, since we have two sea days before we reach Roseau, Dominica, a new port for us. The only other Caribbean port will be Barbados, an island we know quite well.

 

This cruise has several stops in Brazil.....Belem, Recife, and 2 days in Rio De Janeiro. We're planning on attending a samba dinner in Rio, another first for us.

 

We have two days in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with the highlite being a tango show one evening. Don't know how they can top the Tango show with the horses we saw on the 2010 SoAmerica/Antarctica cruise. It was a fantastic.

 

Montevideo, Uruguay, will be our last South American port for several days, since we will be heading for Port Stanley, Falkland Islands. At least that is the plan right now. Rumor has it there have been some uprisings with the political tensions between England and Argentina over these islands. Hope we make it there.

 

Then comes the Antartica Experience portion of the trip, where we will view the Antarctic Sound, the South Shetland Islands, and the Wilhelm Archipelago. We're really keeping our fingers crossed for this one, because weather can be a major factor in the success of sailing here. On our last visit, the Drake Passage was calm and smooth, which is rarely the case.

 

We will cruise around Cape Horn, once again hoping the weather gods will be on our side, then we have two stops, one in Ushuaia and Punta Arenas. The final viewing will be of the Chilean Fjords in Chile. From here we will head west.

 

Things should warm up by the time we hit Easter Island, also belonging to Chile. It really is a mystical place to explore. Two days from Easter Island, we should be bringing some folks from Pitcairn Island onboard to sell their wares. Can you imagine being able to talk to descendants from Fletcher Christian and the Bounty crew? Quite exciting.

 

We only have one stop in French Polynesia, and that is Papeete, Tahiti. Two days from there is an island similar, but very different. That is Pago Pago, American Samoa.

 

This is the time we cross the International Dateline. Even though everything feels and looks the same, we lose one whole day crossing this imaginary line. We gain this day back one hour at a time, as we sail west as we put the clocks back one hour every couple of days.

 

The following day finds us in Easo, Lifou, New Caledonia. There must be little to do here, because HAL does not sell any tours for this stop. It is also a new port for us to explore on our own, which can be fun.

 

Two days later, we will be spending a couple of days in Sydney, walking our legs off, hopefully. And finding good places to enjoy lunch out. Cairns will be a one day stop, mostly for the folks that want to go to the Great Barrier Reef. That is another place that the weather can make or break your experience. On the 2011 world cruise, it flooded there badly.

 

A fairly new concept, they have added a Great Barrier Reef Experience to the itinerary. We expect this will be scenic cruising around the several small islands in that reef.

 

From Australia, we head for Indonesia, and the ports of Komodo and Lembar, Lombok. Dragons shoiuld be seen on our tour in Komodo, and small horse-drawn carts and rice paddies will be part of what we see in Lombok.

 

After four restful days at sea, we arrive to the fabulous city of Hong Kong, and stay for two full days. We can never see all of Hong Kong, no matter how long we stay. It is vibrant and thrilling, especially if they get sudden thunder and lightening storms.

 

There are two stops in Vietnam, Nha Trang and Phu My. Nha Trang is very picturesque and rural, while Phu My is basically a spot on the river where we tie up the boat. We're taking a short tour to see other things here.

 

Singapore is next on the list, with a two day stay. Like Hong Kong, it is one of the safest and wonderful cities to explore. It is also one of the most civilized and friendly spots in the world....a good place to walk any time of day.

 

Our final Asian stop will be in Phuket, Thailand. It is one of the prettiest spots, we think, for scenery. We intend to take a speedboat to Phi Phi Island where a famous movie, the Beach, was shot a few years back.

 

Then we will be on our way to Sri Lanka, Colombo to be exact. This will be our third time there, but the first time to explore Colombo itself. We always went to see the elephants and Kandi, their holy spot.

 

India offers three ports......Mangalore and Marmagao, both new to us. Mumbai will be a two day visit, with lots of shopping and walking to do.

 

After six sea days, we will be in Egypt with stops in two ports. One is Safaga, and is not really a port at all. It is the dropoff point for tours to Luxor. And we plan to visit Luxor and the Valley of the Kings this time. Because of the violence and overturning of the government, we opted out of that tour this year. Sure hope things remain OK for our short time there.

 

Sharm El Sheikh is the last Egyptian port before we transit the famous Suez Canal. It is such a contrast to transiting the Panama Canal that we stay outside most all day to watch it. Settlements line the banks and you get a glimpse of what life is like living here in this ancient country.

 

There are many stops in Europe starting with Athens (2 days) and Katakolon in Greece. Messina, Sicily, is a new port for us, but Naples is not new. The number one job there is to find the best pizza restaurant.

 

Corsica is also going to be new to us. We have booked a tour to see it, since we are not familiar with the area.

 

Spain offers two ports.......Barcelona (2 days) and Cadiz. We know these cities well, but still plan on taking some tours.

 

Finally, our last port..........Funchal, Madeira, and a farewell lunch with our hosts and fellow guests.

 

Seven days at sea, mostly packing days for the passengers, will bring us full circle to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. But wait, we're not getting off! Yep, we will be sailing through the Panama Canal to San Diego for a cruise with a whole different flavor. We will end our trip in San Diego on Mother's Day, May 13th.

 

Hope we can provide some interesting stories along the way!

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

PS While we are in Ft. Lauderdale on January 5th, we will be attending a banquet given by our travel agency. At that dinner, we may have the chance to visit with one of the Mariner Society gurus, Gerald, representing Holland America. He had promised some changes in the Mariner tier program by the time the 2012 world cruise begins, so we will surely find out the details. Hope we have something good to report!

 

To be continued from Ft. Lauderdale.................

 

G'day Bill & Mary Ann,

 

I will be 'glued' to your fantastic reports as on previous cruises.

 

On our Volendam South Pacific cruise we visited Lifou. It is atender port & the locals put on a great dance for Pax & crew. If you can walk a few hundred yards up the road to the right, there is a lovely church & local village.

In Komodo, they will not let anyone off the ship that has not booked a tour or allow women at 'that time of the month' as the dragons can be dangerous. After warnings, we saw one passenger happily walking along the beach with a dragon just a few yards away. (Volendam SE Asia cruise) Corsica is a wonderful island Ajaccio is the port with some great cafes, pastry shops and markets. (Rotterdam Spanish Charms 2011 Cruise)

Enjoy & happy sailing

Noel & Pat

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Report # 6 January 7, 2012 Saturday Day at Sea

 

Finally, we have a day at sea, which should be relaxing, but not for us. We had work to do arranging our little household for the next 4 1/2 months. But first, breakfast was necessary.

 

From 8 to 9:30am, the dining room serves the best breakfast at sea, in our humble opinion. It is never crowded, and we are seldom, if ever, rushed. In no time, the waiters learn our likes and dislikes (there is not much we don't like). The service was excellent this morning, and we were pleased to find that the serving portions were smaller. Even the fresh baked pastries were petite. That is a good thing.

 

The weather is still cloudy and overcast, but the humidity and temperatures have risen quite a bit since leaving Florida. We got our exercise walking the lower promenade deck for over an hour, then decided to hit those waiting suitcases and duffels.

 

Believe it or not, this took us from noon until 7pm, with a short walking break at 5pm. The storing of the clothes was not the problem. It was the multitude of toiletries, etc. that had been double ziplock-bagged. It did take a few months to pack it, so a few hours here was really expected. Setting up the desk with 3 plug strips and several extension cords left it complete with the computer, the projection clock, camera battery hook-ups, a small desk lamp, and a new item......a small coffee maker. Little did we know that we would run into trouble with the last one. When we recently sailed on Regent's Navigator, they announced that the staterooms would be furnished with small coffeemakers. What a great idea. That way you could set the timer to brew a few cups early in the morning, or whenever, and save the room service folks a trip. And you don't have to worry about opening your door with bedhead or worse!

 

Prior to arriving to the ship, we had requested a few items to be here when we boarded. We just needed three things......a refrigerator (for a small rental fee), a portable tower fan, and the champagne on ice. This beverage is supposed to be a "welcome aboard" perk, which you are meant to enjoy at sailaway. For the last three years, the bubbly has not been ready for us, even though the HAL staff promised it would be. Well, we could live without that, but not the other two.

 

To be fair, the refrigerator was under the desk. However, it was a mini-fridge, half the size we expected. So we stopped by the front desk to inquire about replacing it with the correct one, and they said it would be done right away. And the fan was coming too. The refrigerator did arrive later in the day, and it was almost new. OK, things are looking up. But it took a visit to the Hotel Manager, Henk, to really expedite the rest. Actually, we just wanted to stop by and say "Hi", but Henk always asks if we need anything. So we mentioned this matter, saying we were in no hurry for it. But by the time we got back to the room, the fan arrived, as did many little things we had put on a short list for our room steward.

 

Among the small stuff, were 36 wire hangars. Henk added 50 more to be delivered. Guess what? we used them all, including most of the wooden ones already hanging in the closet. The wire ones allow you to put double the clothes in the closets. And we use the heavy hooks on the walls to hang even more daily shirts and blouses. And here we thought we had brought a lot less this year! Guess not.

 

It seemed like Christmas, when we had knocks on our door about every half hour, with the fellows supplying everything on our little list. We were pretty set now to finish the job, and get on with the fun.

 

There were several activities happening today on the ship. The shore excursion manager, Irene, and Barbara Haenni, the travel guide gave talks on the upcoming ports of Dominica through the Falkland Islands. We did miss the talk, but are certain it will be televised to run and rerun for days to come.

 

The Exploration speaker, Tommie Sue Montgomery, spoke about the politics of the Caribbean Islands and their tie to the Europeans who battled over their islands centuries ago.

 

A guest chef, Darin Leonardson did his magic with sushi, while photo and camera classes took place in their workshops. The internet area would be busy today with passengers trying to log in to retrieve their precruise packages. We also needed to do that, but decided to wait until after dinner to see if the speed was better.

 

Team trivia is very popular on the world cruise. So it is held twice a day, once at noon, and an express game at 3pm. This game is most serious with the folks, and sometimes makes for hard feelings. We have played in the past, but prefer to be outside in the fresh sea air that time of day. We do look forward to hearing the drama shared with us by our tablemates at dinner time, however. Some pretty funny stories have come from that game.

 

The casino did not appear to be too busy yet, but we remember that last year, the start of the cruise was most lucrative for some of our friends. One fellow won several hundreds of dollars on the penny machines, no less. We advised him to quit while he was ahead, but doubt he could resist those slots for four months.

 

We never made it to the Crows Nest, but enjoyed a quick drink in our room before we went to dinner. Actually, the bar was closed to everyone due to a deck 7 suite party. The ship always invites the high rollers first off, and they deserve it, since they pay a pretty price for those suites. The Ocean Bar and the Piano Bar were opened, of course, and once again, they offered "Happy Hour"....buy one drink and get one for $1.00, one hour before each dinner seating. That really is a pretty good deal, and we hope they continue this practice for the duration of the trip.

 

Dinner went by fine once again, except we are all noticing that the entrees were not served quite hot enough. With a large table as ours, the waiters line up to get the covered plates, but leave them on the serving table for 20 or more minutes before serving them. There has got to be a better way. We'll surely figure something out before the cruise is over........

 

The entertainment this evening was delivered by Mark Donoghue, who probably sang a spectacular musical journey, according to the daily newsletter's description. The cruise director, Bruce, gets pretty creative in describing the featured entertainers. He gives one a hint of what to expect, but leaves a lot to the imagination. That way, you have to go to find out what the show is about. Good technique.

 

As we had hoped, the internet speed was pretty good around 10:30pm. It went almost too fast, leaving us to think maybe it did not go at all. But then, we are accustomed to dial-up, which is snail pace at home. Anything faster than that is good for us.

 

One more day at sea, and we will be in our first port of Dominica in the Caribbean. Sure hope the weather improves somewhat, although it is still comfortable, but not exactly swimming temperatures.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

PS At 2pm, the clocks went ahead one hour. That was a bit easier to handle, since we don't feel like we were cheated of one hour of sleep. Unfortunately, it is the staff that gets deprived of their afternoon break. Once we leave Antarctica, we should be adding those hours, and that's the way we all like it.

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Report # 7 January 8, 2012 Sunday Day at Sea- First Formal Night

 

Gosh, we slept good last night. There is nothing better than being slightly rocked throughout the evening, as long as you are in that bed. Almost like going full circle from the cradle to the ship, which is better than the alternative (grave)!

 

And we woke up to the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee right at 7am. Little did we know it would be our last. Later in the morning, we came back to find a letter from Christel, the guest relations manager, that due to safety reasons, we could not use the coffeemaker in our room. Darn! We complied by drying it out, packing it up, and putting it in the closet. Hopefully, it won't be confiscated because it would more than likely be damaged in the next four months. Anyway, it was a good idea, but it did not work. Upon relating this story to tablemate Leslie, she said someone had brought a hairdryer from home on her last cruise, and every morning, a short in that dryer shut down the power on one whole block on their ship. They isolated the culprit, and confiscated it until the voyage was over. Guess these things happen all the time.

 

Our day started with the usual breakfast in the dining room, followed by a brisk walk on the lower promenade deck. Many other passengers had the same idea. A small negative is the fact that the workers also use these sea days to work on that deck. So you have to contend with sanding, drilling, and worst of all......painting. The fumes can knock over an elephant. That's just the way it is on all cruise ships. They are a "work in progress" in order to keep them shipshape, of course.

 

The final unpacking was completed by this afternoon. Thank goodness. We successfully hung two shoe bags and one large jewelry pouch. The shoe bag behind the bathroom door is used to hold small items such as cards, pens, tape, superglue, nail polishes, knitting needles, crochet hook, sewing items, etc. The other shoe bag holds necklaces, watches, and bracelets. The smaller jewelry pouch works for earrings. At least everything is in plain view, easily located.

 

And the person that invented those command hooks was brilliant. Large hooks hold our fleece sweaters, lite rainjackets, and wind breaker jackets. Did we mention we got new black windbreaker jackets from our travel agency while at the party in the Westin? These match the new black totes they give us every world or grand voyage.

 

On the opposite wall, we hung a large world map and two calendars that contain port names, times, and tours we booked. Formal evenings are listed as well as our cocktail parties given by our travel agency. There will be numerous theme nights as well, which are printed on one calendar. So there is no excuse to miss anything this year.

 

Today we finally had a chance to enjoy a ham and cheese sandwich at the sandwich bar in the Lido, although we were let down to find our trusty sandwich maker from last year was not here. In fact, in scanning the Lido and dining room, we have not recognized too many faces. Tom G., the dining room manager, said they try to rotate the crew to give younger ones a chance to do this long voyage.

 

One of us has had a hankering for a little taste of pizza. Spotting a fresh pizza at the station in the Lido pool area, but thought we needed to test a slice out. We had just spent about an hour relaxing in the stiff breezes at the aft pool, so we had to re-energize ourselves! Yeah, right...... Anyway, it was delicious, which is bad. This may be a downfall with our attempt to keep out the extra calories. Honestly, the pizza was a pretty close second to that in Naples.

 

Pauline and Mike, Cruise Critic members, asked to join us, and of course, we said, please do. They have been readers of our blog in the past, we think, so it was nice to get to know them a bit better. We love talking to others who have traveled to different areas of the world and can share certain insights. We shared some stories and warnings regarding visiting the Taj Mahal, which they are doing while on this voyage for the first time.

 

Before we knew it, the time had flown by and it was getting close to our dinnertime. And tonight was the first formal evening as we said before. At 7pm, we attended the Captain's Champagne Welcome Reception in the Queen's Lounge. We have a new world cruise captain, Jonathon Mercer. A British captain, he was delightful and witty as he welcomed us and introduced his staff. For a change, we knew just about every one of the officers that he called up on the stage. One of our favorite persons is Bernie Rius, the head chef. He keeps us very happy with his excellent cuisine. We're hoping he will be able to remove some of the calories this year as well!

 

We have two special seats in the showlounge that we always occupy if they are available. Even though Susie invited us to join our circle of friends, we chose to sit tight. This puts us on the pathway for special cocktails and hors d'oeuvres that are passed around. The waiters served breaded prawns, bitterballen, cheese quiche, creamcheese on toast, chicken sate, and cold shrimp with red sauce. Well, there goes the appetizers we planned on ordering. It was nice to see the passengers dressed for this formal occasion. We would hate to see this tradition go by the wayside. And really, we don't mind doing this once a week.

 

The party ended about 7:45pm, so the lounge could be cleaned and set up for the first crowd to hear entertainer, Melissa Manchester, perform this evening. So off we went to dinner. Bart, the food and beverage manager, joined our table tonight. Since the Captain hosts the rest of the formal evenings for select guests in the Pinnacle Grill restaurant, these top officers will not be available to join the main population. So we lucked out, since Bart is very nice young guy and we all know him well.

 

Now, as for the dinner service.......it was stressed this evening. Of all times for things to move at a snail's pace, tonight was not the night, especially with Bart at our table. When our entrees finally arrived, it was after 9:30pm. And the plates and food were barely warm. Most of us had wanted to go to the show at 10pm, but at this rate, we would never make it on time. People have a bad habit of going early to the showlounge to save seats for a special performance. If you are late, then you lose. And for that reason, several of our tablemates skipped the dessert, and excused themselves. Bart stayed, and so did six of us. It was more fun catching up with cruise news with Tom M., our host, who we have not seen since last year.

 

As it turned out, we listened to 5 minutes of the end of Melissa's show, and came to the conclusion we did not miss too much. We'll check it out with our friends tomorrow to see how they liked her show.

 

We had surprises when we reached our room. Gifts...not just one for each of us, but two bagfulls. The brown-mustard colored tote bags contained a smaller pouch filled with bandaids, Pepto Bismo, breath mints, and lipbalm. Also included were keycard holders and a diary. What was new, was the commissioned watercolor art card that came with the gifts. It read, "Designed in response to guests' past observations, our hope is that you will start to notice the QUALITY of our gifts will improve over QUANTITY." Simply put, we will receive fewer presents, but those that we do get will be of a better quality. We think this was a wise choice. Now we don't have to worry about trying to squeeze the extra things into our shipped luggage at the end of the trip. That can be a problem, especially when your luggage is limited to four pieces.

 

Tomorrow, we will reach our first port of call.......Roseau, Dominica. A new stop for us, we have a tour to take at noon.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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Thanks for your report. I think the gifts make sense:) enjoy dominica:)

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