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Johnny B

John and Diane are at it Again!

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Will you be posting pictures of the ship? I have only been on the Nieuw Amsterdam but would love to try a smaller ship.

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San Diego is what everyone wants in a city: good weather, lots of public conveniences, and a vibrant downtown. Everyone I've ever known who has lived here wants to return. It's a bit too big for me, but for city-loving people (who don't need snowy winters to be happy), it's a perfect place.

 

We spent the morning on a lovely walk away from the ship. It's about a mile from the Amsterdam to the "Gaslight District", Horton Plaza, and the heart of downtown, so that's where we headed. There's a nice ice-skating rink (electrically chilled, of course) and it was nice and sunny enough in the low 60's to enjoy Horton Plaza's open air ambiance.

 

When we returned to the ship around noon, it was to be greeted by hoards of people and tons of luggage waiting to board the ship for the remainder of the Holiday Cruise. We got some lunch and sat out by the Lido pool to enjoy it, so we had the opportunity to watch scads of new passengers wandering around, their big eyes showing how pleased they were to be on board. There were also a LOT more children, but most seemed fairly well-behaved (at least for now). It will be interesting to see the dining room at dinner tonight. It's been like a wasteland during 8:00 seating, something I think is going to change. I know our waiters have enjoyed the slow pace of the first two nights and know it's now at an end.

 

Everyone is required to attend the 4:15 muster drill on Deck 3 (I guess we failed the quiz after the drill in San Francisco), and then sail away is on the aft deck - in sunshine for a change. Then we'll set sail for warmer climes.

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So happy to hear you are having a sunny day in San Diego. I think having the children on board for this cruise will be especially fun. They seem to add a joy to the holidays that adults sometimes forget.

 

I know you don't respond to individual posts once you are on your way because the internet service is so expensive, but I wanted to say that one other thing I'm looking forward to in your posts are rendezvous with previous students.

 

Enjoy a beautiful sail away. Cherie

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Yesterday I wrote about the Lurline leaving Hawaii on 6 December 1941 with my Grandmother on board. The ship had a number of Naval dependent wives and children aboard and the blackout screenings came down when news of Pearl Harbor arrived onboard. She also said that there were a number of "ladies of the night" onboard who were very helpful to the Naval wives in safeguarding and assisting the children during this crossing to San Francisco.

Just a story from the past...

 

Bon Voyage and good health to all of you aboard the good ship Amsterdam!:)

 

 

As a young child I was a dependent being evacuated from Hawaii after Pearl Harbor on the Lurline. My first "cruise"

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Friday, December 21

 

Even though we’ve spent plenty of time on cruise ships, we’ve never spent Christmas on one, so this is a new experience for us. The Amsterdam is all dressed up for Christmas. Emily, the librarian, told us that there are almost 50 beautifully decorated trees scattered around the ship. John is sure that they just put them in a huge closet after the holiday and take them out, fully decorated, next year.

 

Last evening was a lovely ceremony at the bottom of the Atrium on Deck 3. There are probably a dozen beautiful white trees surrounding the huge, multi-story clock and servers were handing out hot chocolate, hot cider and cookies to the assembled multitudes. Christmas carols were sung by passengers on three levels and it just looked so warm and fuzzy. The cruise director then told us that one of the children on board had been chosen to light the trees and the adorable 10-year-old was introduced. He has given a basket of imitation snow and told that when he scattered it on the trees, they would magically light up. He did and they did while everyone ooohed and ahhhed. Then, as the last carol was sung, “snow” began to fall from Deck 5. It was truly a lovely event.

 

One thing that we’ve noticed, as Christmas songs play over every speaker on the ship, is that not one of them is a religious song. They seem to vary from “White Christmas” to “O Christmas Tree” to “We’ll Have an Oklahoma Christmas even though we’re in Tennessee” (yes, really - we heard it this morning at breakfast). It does seem strange to us that there are 1300 passengers on board, most of them here to celebrate Christmas, and there is not a single mention of its significance. Oh well, that’s my rant for the day.

 

Now that the full complement of passengers is on board, we can really see the difference. Last night at dinner almost every table was full at our 8:00 seating, so we can just imagine what it’s like at the early seating, which is always more crowded. As I sit in the library to write just now, there are people everywhere and the noise level is much higher. John was out by the Lido pool for an hour this morning and said that even though the weather is cool and cloudy, every one of the lounges is taken and the pool is full of (fairly well-behaved) children splashing around playing Marco Polo. One of the reasons we like the Amsterdam is that it only holds about 1300 passengers, but we’re finding that even that number seems like a lot. We can’t imagine sailing on a 5000-passenger ship, although friends who have done so have told us that they are organized so well that there isn’t a feeling of crowds everywhere.

 

Since nothing is as good as Mimosas at 11:45 in the morning, our “Specialist” cruise agents from Seattle hosted the first cocktail party and get-together in the Explorers’ Lounge. Henk and Lucia are wonderful hosts and we met several other of their clients, including a few who are continuing on for the wc from Ft. Lauderdale. Mimosas have a consequence, however, and a nap followed.

 

This afternoon was filled with reading, a workout in the gym, and getting ourselves ready for tonight’s formal event - the first of this cruise. It should be fun, but since we’re at a table for two, the chance of an officer is between none and none - not even slim. We’ll have to wait for the wc when we have a larger table. I’ll fill you in on the details tomorrow.

 

P. S. Yes, I do answer direct questions, but no, we won’t be calling at any ports with any former students this time. In the fall, we enjoyed a seven-week tour of Europe where we visited with several former students and au pairs, everywhere from Munich to Budapest to Milan to Lyon, France. However, we will visit cruise friends like Greg, Heo and Martha in Sydney, so all is not lost.

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Sad to read that even on the ships, Christmas has become so secular. I would love to do a Christmas cruise and hear "O Holy Night", "Silent Night", "O Come all You Faithful"...the list goes on...

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Sad to read that even on the ships, Christmas has become so secular. I would love to do a Christmas cruise and hear "O Holy Night", "Silent Night", "O Come all You Faithful"...the list goes on...

 

Oh I so agree! We seldom hear those carols anymore, unless we go to midnight mass. They used to be played a lot on the radio back home in the UK, but even there it has been stamped out by the PC crowd.

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Sunday, December 22

 

It’s our second full day at sea since San Diego, and it’s just blissful. If you’ve read my blogs before, you know how much I love sea days. You know how at home, when you decide to just take it easy all day, you have all those little thoughts in the back of your mind about what you SHOULD be doing? Well, out at sea, there’s none of that. I don’t have to figure out what to cook for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The laundry was sent out yesterday (it’s wonderful being a 4-Star Mariner and getting free laundry) and will be back sometime today, and the only decisions I have to make is whether to get a tall or grande cappucino and whether to sit by the inside or outside pool. That’s what makes it blissful.

 

Since it was our first Sunday at sea, we got to meet the Protestant minister and his wife, who’s also a minister. The Sunday services used to be in the Wajang Theatre, but in 2012 and 2013 they were moved to the Queen’s Lounge where it was too big and too cold. This year, however, they’re back in the Wajang and very cozy. The new ministers are Canadian, as we could tell from their “oot” pronunciation, and we really enjoyed the pre-Christmas service. I believe they plan to have daily services in the Hudson Room, but they are only on for the duration of the Holiday Cruise. We’ll have to wait and see who replaces them.

 

On world cruises, we’ve always heard that the food is soooo much better than on ordinary cruises, but this Holiday Cruise has disproved that maxim. There are a couple of differences here: the “any time” offerings on the menu don’t include a shrimp cocktail, which is one of my favorite starters, and after-dinner cappucino has a charge. Those are extremely minor, however, when compared to the quality of the food. John is such a lamb snob. When people used to ask him if he ate lamb, he answered, “Only in France.” That was several years ago, however, and the quality of lamb in the US has improved markedly. Last night, as it was a formal night, one of the options was rack of lamb, and John said it was as good as he’s ever had - and that is really a compliment, coming from him. My choice was chickpeas masala, the vegetarian choice, and it was wonderful too. I’m not really a vegetarian, but I do love Indian food, so it was an easy choice.

 

One difference we noted was the concept of “formal” on this cruise. While probably 70% of the passengers were dressed up in some way, with many gentlemen in tuxes or dark suits, too many people seemed to believe that clean jeans complied with the program request to dress “formally” in public rooms. When two men came into the Queen’s Lounge for the show in old jeans and tee-shirts, we heard someone (not us) say, “Shouldn’t they at least wear CLEAN tee-shirts on a formal night?” We did notice that HAL now says that “denim pants” are appropriate in the dining room, but I don’t think they meant on formal nights. We really don’t want to be the dress code police, so I guess we’re just getting old.

 

We do notice the weather getting better every day. Today is almost cloudless, and if it weren’t for the wind at the aft pool, we’d be out there already. As it is, we have hopes for shorts and light shirts tomorrow in Puerto Vallarta. Since the surfers in Southern California say, “Pray for surf,” we’ll just hope for warm weather.

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Great post love reading all about the journey. Have a great Christmas and new year onboard

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Oh I so agree! We seldom hear those carols anymore, unless we go to midnight mass. They used to be played a lot on the radio back home in the UK, but even there it has been stamped out by the PC crowd.

 

VERY SAD!! after all no matter how PC one wants you to be, we all know that

Jesus is the reason for the season!! there, I said it, and I don't care if it is PC or Not!!!:):)

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I love reading about your cruise adventure. Thank you very much for posting daily.

 

One question, being a Canadian, what exactly were you referring to regarding the "oot" pronunciation? I got lost there.:)

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I am lost too.;)

Looking forward to reading your posts.:)

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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I love reading about your cruise adventure. Thank you very much for posting daily.

 

One question, being a Canadian, what exactly were you referring to regarding the "oot" pronunciation? I got lost there.:)

 

To Americans some Canadians have almost a Scottish accent, most pronounced when using words like "about". We say "abowt", some Canadians say "aboot". Same with "out" - we say "owt", Canadians say "oot".

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I this area of Canada we pronounce our words the same as you do.

We say abowt and owt. Now my family in Michigan say daal(doll) and other such things, which gives us lots to imitate when we go visit.:)

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We say owt and abowt too!

 

We're really enjoying your posts, thank you!

 

Have a great trip!

 

 

Sent using the Cruise Critic forums app

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We say owt and abowt too!

 

We're really enjoying your posts, thank you!

 

Have a great trip!

 

 

Sent using the Cruise Critic forums app

 

 

Us too. Our Scot-Canadian friends say oot and aboot.:D

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Monday, December 23 - Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

 

It’s late December and it’s in the 80’s - what a wonderful idea! We sailed into Puerto Vallarta this morning for a 10:00 disembarkation. It’s a great time to get off; we can sleep until a decent hour, exercise, have breakfast and shower and still have to wait a few minutes to get off the ship.

 

PV is a beautiful colonial city with a healthy dose of high rise condos and hotels. The nice old downtown area is about a 10-minute taxi drive from the ship, so we piled into a van with several other fellow passengers and headed there. Once we got there, we just walked and walked, both along the beachside pedestrian boardwalk and along back streets. It’s a very popular tourist destination, especially for Americans and Canadians, and especially during our cold winter months from November through March, so we heard a mix of English and Spanish as we walked. With temperatures in the mid-80’s, the beaches were full and people were everywhere. An added benefit is that there were very few American fast food outlets, and almost all the shops were locally owned.

 

As we walked across the bridge which spans Isla Cuale, we looked up into the trees and saw two iguanas sunning themselves. John insists they are fake ones, but he said the same thing about the three pelicans nearby until they began to stretch their wings. So who knows?

 

After a visit to the beautiful cathedral, we walked along the boardwalk (again) until we came to La Palapa, a beachside restaurant recommended by friends, where we spent the next couple of hours with fish tacos, fajitas, guacamole and margaritas. What could be better? John would eat Mexican food two or three times a day, given a choice, so this stop was perfect for him. We even met Noel and Lolita from Cruise Critic - quite accidentally. We’ll be on a tour of Leon, Nicaragua with them in a few days.

There were lots of local vendors selling everything from hammocks to silver jewelry, but all we had to say was “No, gracias,” and they kept walking. Oh, did I mention the silver vendor? He did have a particularly beautiful pair of hammered silver earrings which I bargained and bargained for and finally got for a very nice “discount” (probably more than I would have paid at home, but I do like them).

 

A 15-minute taxi ride took us back to the ship for a well-deserved nap and now we’re headed back onshore where internet is $1.00 for a hour - such a deal! I think there’s nothing that excites cruise passengers more than free or very cheap internet. We’ll post this and John’s Facebook entry, and then at 5:30 there will be a poolside Mexican barbecue (we saw them loading the briquets this morning) and a Mariachi band. Later, we’ve been invited to a reception with the Captain and Hotel Manager, and I guess when we get there we’ll find out why we’re invited.

 

We don’t sail until 9:00, so I guess it will be stars and hotel lights that wave us goodbye from Puerto Vallarta.

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Thank you for another entry... I can only dream, that some day I, too, will go on a world cruise!

 

Looking forward to your next post!:)

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Tuesday, December 24 - at sea on Christmas Eve

 

I spent so much time complaining about being too cold: in San Luis Obispo (where it got down to 50 F), San Francisco, and even San Diego, and then at sea when the wind made it impossible to spend time on the aft deck. Well, be careful what you ask for. This morning we opened the door to our verandah and found not only heat, but humidity, something we don’t get in California. The estimated temperature today is to be in the high 80’s and the humidity is something we’ll just have to get used to. At least I finally get to dress in shorts and a sleeveless shirt and put away my fuzzy HAL sweatshirt. I really do love warm weather, and am looking forward to more of it as we sail through the tropics.

 

Our sailaway yesterday wasn’t until 9:00, and it was followed by dancing to the HALcats on the aft deck. Great fun! Because of our wonderful beachside lunch in PV, we didn’t join in the Lido Deck barbecue, but waited until our regular seating at 8:00. Toward the end of dinner (which always goes more quickly at a table for 2), we noticed that the ship was moving out of the harbor. After dinner, when we went upstairs to join the dancing, we saw that there were fireworks being shot off on the shore. Some parts of cruising are just magical.

 

There are a lot of reasons that people like HAL cruises, but one that is repeated over and over is the crew. There is approximately one crew member for every two passengers, and a friendlier group I have yet to see, especially with some of the difficulties we see them encounter. Last evening during dinner I was reminded yet again of the value of our crew. The assistant waiters carry trays with up to 10 or 12 covered entrees, and the main waiters have to please some people who are very difficult to please. The area officers occasionally are even seen clearing plates, and the wine stewards haul many bottles of vino around. Although our waiter had the day off until dinner yesterday, he said that he only got as far as “pillow island,” to catch up on all the sleep that he’s been missing.

 

The room stewards are having to work extremely hard on this cruise, since we have more than 1375 passengers. One of our two room stewards said that the two of them have 30(!) rooms to take care of until the end of the Holiday Cruise. Since there are fewer than 1000 passengers on the world cruise, they should get a bit of a break then.

 

About two-thirds of the crew is Indonesian, with the balance being Filipino. Most of the officers are Dutch or English, and somehow everyone just gets along beautifully. We have long-lasting relationships with several crew members we’ve met on previous cruises, and we see photos of their families and new babies on Facebook.

 

As you can see from the date, tomorrow is Christmas, with not a flake of (real) snow in sight. We’ve learned from a few officers that the bridge will begin following Santa on radar this evening, and we also heard that the 80 children on board will be seeing the man himself tomorrow morning. This evening at 11:00 there is a crew Christmas choir performing in the Queen’s Lounge, followed at midnight by mass in the Queen’s Lounge and the Protestant service in the Wajang Theatre. There’s even a 9:00 movie and Chinese buffet in the Wajang Theatre for those wishing to participate.

 

So, an early Merry Christmas to you and yours, and we’re (just a little bit) jealous of those of you who actually have a white one.

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Hi from the east coast of Scotland.

Loving your posts, looking forward to my 1st HAL cruise in Feb so learning lots from you! Sadly we don't have any snow (yet) but gales and 4C so I know which I prefer! Happy Christmas.

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I'm really enjoying reading about your trip. If you would like to send me some of that heat and humidity, I'll send you some of our 17 degree F weather in exchange and I'll even throw in some snow. :D

 

Merry Christmas!

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