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Venture with Bill & Mary Ann on the 2013 GW Voyage "Postcards from Paradise" 115 days

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Bon Voyage - I'm so excited for you!!! We've also eaten at Duffy's Diner; it is just the sweetest little place for breakfast. A little walk to get your legs working in the morning, and a real down-home place to visit.

I'm looking forward to your posts as you travel far and wide.

Smooth Sailing! :) :) :)

Gerry

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*snip*

You know what's funny here is that all you see are cars parked everywhere, but nobody walking outside. They are all inside the stores and enjoying the air-conditioning. On the way here, only two fellows on bikes passed by us. Nobody walks.

*snip*

Bill & Mary Ann

 

When my Dad retired from the Marine Corps we moved to New Orleans, and when people would come to visit they'd say "How do you live here? It is so hot and humid!" Mom would say "I go from my air-conditioned house to the air-conditioned car to the air-conditioned store..." And that is the truth. Of course, right now it is winter. ;)

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Hi Mary Anne and Bill,

Here we sit, in an apartment overlooking Monterey Bay for a month, but it's great to have you taking us through sailing and the first segment of the WC. We can hardly wait to join you in Auckland, so keep our seats warm at 311 and try to keep Barbie in line! Bon Voyage.

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Have a great trip. we are friends of Greg and Heo and know they are not on the WC this year. I will see them in March. Looking foward to reading all your reports like last year.

 

Jeffrey and Mary

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WCB

 

Many thanks for undertaking this thread for the World Cruise once again. Much appreciated and hugely anticipated.

 

Will enjoy hearing about the TA dinner and what the Mariner Society Director had to say this year. Especially looking forward to your views on the new 5 star level.

 

Bon Voyage! Have a wonderful time.

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I am so excited, and thankful, that you will be taking us along on your trip. I appreciate you taking time out of your travels to report to us. I was just laid off and a cruise is out of the question right now. I have followed your travels for several years and find them so interesting. I look forward to each one. Besides it sure helps to pass the cold winter days in Northern Illinois!!!

 

Thank you and have a great trip!!!!!!!;)

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Is Jeff's blog public? Where can I find it? I love reading the World Cruise blogs. Thanks.

 

Here is a link to Jeff's Blog Is more great pictures than writing. They sure are nice to look at (Wish I could shoot like that) and he always puts a short note at the bottom.

Edited by trikeman

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Bon Voyage! We saw you sail last night from Pt. Everglades and we're looking forward to reading about your incredible journey.

 

Thank you again for taking the time and spending the money to share your experiences with all of us.

 

Safe trip!

 

DFD1

Chattanooga

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Which one in Jeff's pictures is Mary Ann & Bill ??

 

Mary Ann & Bill saw your smiling faces at Jeff's blog!

ENJOY ...

Jean

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Hi Bill and Mary

 

I think one of those fellows was my Brother. He also cruiseing Not Amsterdam. I have a question If you have much in your baggage how do you get it all home? How much baggage does Holland America let you bring and send home. If you are like me I do pick up a few things. I watch you sail last night and it was exciting. I love the Amsterdam. I will it was day light but seeing her in all her beauty all lit up. I hope you both have a wonderfful and healthy cruise. Looking forward to your posts.

 

Mary

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Thank you for again making the Canadian winter seem less long. I wish you and your fellow travellers fair winds and a following sea. Now back to dreaming of cruising...

 

Blessed Be,

 

Deb

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Report # 5 The Banquet January 4, 2013 Friday

 

After a good night's sleep, we hoofed it to Duffy's once again for a hearty breakfast. The lobby of the hotel was getting really busy with several groups of travelers arriving for a variety of ships, as well as the HAL ships. By the way, along with the Amsterdam, the Eurodam and Prinsendam were going to be leaving tomorrow too. They would have more company with one huge Royal Caribbean and two Princess ships in port.

 

So we slipped out the back door, knowing we may run into people we knew, and then would never make it to breakfast. There would be plenty of time later to visit. And we hate to admit it, but we also found our way to the elevators when we came back. Not that we're anti-social, but we had one more job to do.....................some shopping.

 

Our travel agency hires a local trolley-like transfer to a nearby shopping mall. It includes a Publix and a CVS pharmacy to name a few. We always find what we need between both stores. That is necessary snacks for our room. Once we leave the states, it is hard to come by our favorite chips, nuts, pretzels, and salsas. We also add some diet Pepsis to our stash. This would be our last chance to build up our supply of suntan lotion, which is twice as expensive on the ship compared to the local stores. The next best place to buy supplies will be in Auckland, more than a month away from now.

 

Right before she dropped us off, our friendly driver suggested we check out the stores two blocks up the street. To our surprise, we discovered Walmart, a Dollar Store, Steinmart, and many restaurants. Who knew? Since it was warm and muggy, only two other folks joined us walking there. We found a few bargains at the Dollar Store, but picked the wrong line to check out. There was a fellow at the register who was trying to get a cash advance with a $2. purchase and probably a hot debit card. Oh well, our ride would not be back for an hour, so we cooled our heels, and moved to the next line. Of course, just as we left the line, the fellow got his cash and off he went.

 

Between the grocery store and pharmacy, we found everything we needed and more. The trolley pulled up within one minute, and we were on our way back to the hotel within 15 minutes. They continued this service until 3:30pm from the mall. Many other guests from our group bought dozens of cases of soda, water, and wine, all of which are allowed to be brought onboard.

 

The hotel lobby was buzzing with activity when we walked in around 3pm. And not all of it was good. Running into several people we knew, we heard the story repeatedly that their rooms were not ready. There they sat with their carryons and luggage for hours, they said.

We thought it was strange that while we lounged at the pool, under heavy dark clouds, by the way, many folks came outside with suitcases in tow, and camped out on the lounges. Actually, it was more like they crashed after a long day of flying or whatever. Wow, what luck that we thought to come here much earlier than we usually do. We don't know what the underlying problem was with the hotel, but our hosts were able to get some upgrades for some of their unhappiest clients. Truthfully, some of these folks are elderly, and cannot handle the stress of unexpected delays. On the other hand, one lovely couple we know from Tennessee, took advantage of their wait, and enjoyed some food and beverages in the bar, catching up with news from old and new friends. Good to remind us that being positive and learning to roll with the punches is all part of traveling.

 

Every year, our travel agency hosts a cocktail reception and dinner in the hotel's banquet rooms. This year our group was made even larger with the guests who would be sailing on the Prinsendam's South America/Antarctica's Grand Voyage. Every now and then, the ships sail on the same day, and our groups are combined. It was so nice to see so many of the repeat cruisers. We don't always know everyone's names, but in time, we all recognize each other. After sailing for over 100 days, you get that chance to get to know each other even better. And if you are lucky, as we have been, you meet friends you keep forever.

 

Once again this year, we were invited to dine with the vice president of our agency along with their event planner, who is a doll. In conversation, we learn what it takes to make a success out of this affair. We're so glad it is a job we gladly leave to them, the professionals. The meal was delicious, especially the key lime pie. After a few short and sweet speeches, we dispersed to try to get another good night of rest and sleep, because tomorrow would be another marathon day for all. And by now, all of the rooms were ready. Good thing, or there may have been a small revolution.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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Report # 6 Embarkation Day January 5, 2013 Saturday

 

What a change in the weather this morning. Instead of sun and clouds, we had only clouds with rain. Figures, because we planned to walk to Duffys for an early breakfast. Hope the rain stops by 6:30am.

 

It did lighten up, but not completely. By the time we needed to head back to the Westin, it had begun to sprinkle again. We did throw a couple of umbrellas in one suitcase, but failed to remember to bring them with us. A local mentioned to us that it had not rained here for one month, and he was glad to see it. Oh well, a little water never hurt anyone.

 

Getting up to our room became a problem.....one that we recalled from past stays here. The elevators were filling up with luggage carts from guests checking out. You would think the hotel would have another set of elevators for this purpose, but guess not. And to complicate the situation, we needed two Amsterdam luggage tags to add to our bags. We had to go to the 15th floor to get them from one of the agents who left them in her room last night.

 

Once collecting them, there was not one elevator to be seen to go down. The only choice was to use the stairs back down to floor six. Many other folks were doing the same thing, even though the staff said the stairs were for emergency only. Our transfer was set for 10:45am originally, but we got upped to the limo bus which was leaving at 10am. That would work for us, although the 8:30am pick up for our luggage from our room did not happen. You never have a good feeling that it would be done as promised, and we had no choice but to trust them. They have never been left behind in the past.

 

It was still raining when we left the Westin. At least we had two full good days weatherwise. Now we wondered if the sailaway would be rained out? That would be a first for us leaving Ft. Lauderdale in January. It is what it is.

 

As we neared the port area, the rain let up, and so did everyone's spirits. We were treated to the sight of many cruise ships docked in the harbor. As we mentioned before, three HAL ships were there, a Royal Caribbean monster, and two Princess ships. Can you imagine the number of people disembarking and boarding today? Not to mention the deliveries of luggage, food, fuel and supplies to each vessel? Then you multiply that by seven days a week for 52 weeks a year, and you can see why this must be one of the busiest ports in the world.

 

And for a pleasant change, the cruise terminal was highly decorated for this occasion of both ships starting their Grand Voyages here today. Balloons and brightly-colored flags lined the pillars and ceiling. Some waiters were serving lemonade and cookies to the anxious guests, who were beginning to line up to be checked in. Last year, we arrived later to a mob scene, and had to sit and wait to be called to the line. Not so this morning. But that would only hold true for us, the early arrivers. We shuffled over to the new 5 star and suite sign, where we quickly were summoned for check-in. We got a nice lady who seemed to be new at this, or she did not have her wake-up coffee yet. Guess we have been through this drill so many times, we could check ourselves in. As long as we had previously filled out the immigration form online, we were logged in very fast. She did not have to swipe our credit card, because we had already registered it online.

 

Good to go, we had our room keys in hand and set for the 130 day trip. The very first person we spotted was Captain Mercer, who was greeting most folks as they filtered inside the terminal. He was our captain last year, and he seemed to recall the repeat guests. In a few minutes, we began to see our friends, also on the lookout for familiar faces. It was like joining "summer camp" once again. Some of our gang had significant changes happen in their lives since we last left the Amsterdam, so it was going to be fun catching up on news. It's always welcome when it is good news, and there was lots of that.

 

Another great plus was that our rooms were ready. The first thing we like to do is drop off our carryons, then go in search of buddies, food, and champagne. Didn't take us long to find all three. The champagne flowed like water at the aft deck, although there was no offer of cocktails as we have seen on past cruises. And we knew we would be in the 48 hour shutdown of self-serve food, so it came as a surprise when hot treats were served poolside. It was then that we began to hear negative tales about embarkation. The later it got, the longer the lines got. Some folks had to wait over 2 hours to check in. Sure glad we were chosen to be bussed over early.

 

At 4:15pm, the first of many muster drills was held on the lower promenade deck. This is not one of our favorite activities, but it is mandatory and our group for lifeboat six was all present. The Captain was speedy with his talk, and let us all go within 10 minutes. On our last trip on the Zaandam, the Captain chastised the guests because they were talking too much during the drill. Hey, you never know when a drill turns into the real thing. Then you would wish you had payed attention. Hope we never see that day................

 

Some of our luggage was delivered to our room. Secretly, we hoped none of it was there, so we could have an excuse to go to the dining room in shorts. The daily newsletter stated that no shorts, tank tops, or jeans would be allowed in the main dining room. It was obvious that they relaxed this for today only, because we saw many short-clad people. Not us, however. Our 2 bags from the hotel arrived last, and we had no excuse. Deciding that tomorrow would be soon enough to unpack, we dressed in the same clothes we wore last evening. Believe us, no one notices or cares, since everyone was either tired or perhaps a bit drunk on the bubbly.

 

The sailaway on the back deck did not happen at 5pm. We never sail on time.....never. It was nice to enjoy the sunset anyway, watching the other ships leave. What a sight to see those huge monsters on the horizon. The most activity we had was watching the last of the luggage being loaded. Long trip? Lot and lots of luggage for all. As it turned out, we pushed away from the pier by 6:30pm, sailing in the dark past the towers of apartments near the beach. Horns blasted from numerous balconies as we sailed on by.

 

By 8pm, we made our way to table 311, the same one we had last year. It seats 12, but there were only four of us tonight. The two couples we had requested never showed up. Sometimes that could be a good thing, because we believe things happen for a reason. It turned out that the two couples never received the message to come to our table.......not from the original request through our travel agency or from the maitre'd here. Guess we'll work on filling the table tomorrow. People always switch around the following day if they do not like their tablemates or whatever.

 

We headed to bed shortly after a delicious meal. Every evening the ship begins a new cruise, they serve prime rib. And on this trip, they will serve it often. We love it, but the lure of chicken cordon-bleu sounded even better. Great choice......the sauce was particulary tasty and the serving portions were right on. Not too much and not too little. This was a good start of many more meals to come, we are sure.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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