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John and Diane's 125-day Adventure at Sea

Johnny B

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Monday, January 2, 2017

At Sea en route to Half Moon Cay


Boy, have we been rocking and rolling lately! The wind has been up to 7 on the Beaufort Scale and yesterday the outside decks were closed. It was interesting, though. There were signed on both doors leading to the deck and pool on the aft Lido deck, the lounges had been put away, but there were people on both the smoking and non-smoking sides - and - the bar was open. It really was enough to make a person wonder: if the deck is closed, why are there people out there and why on earth would the bar be open? Oh well, we stayed near the midships Lido pool.


John has had his third and last acupuncture session, so now it’s just wait and see. I think he’s going to give it about a week before he decides if it has been beneficial or not. He had the idea that he’d do 10 minutes on the recumbent bicycle and 10 minutes on the elliptical cross-trainer this morning, and I tried to talk him out of it. However, when he came over to hop on the cross-trainer, our friend Susan took one look at him and said, “Do NOT get on this machine!” With a tone like that, he didn’t want to mess with her, so he walked to the “hand bicycle” and used that for a while before doing 10 minutes on the recumbent bicycle. It only seems wise to try a little at a time to see how the knees adjust before increasing machines and intensity. We’ll see how that works.


The ABBAFAB group performed again last evening, this time singing the songs of Billy Joel and Elton John. Terry Davies, the husband and dad of two of the group members, took center stage singing and playing the piano, and if I closed my eyes, I would have been sure it was Elton John singing. Nick, his son, was rocking and rolling (the good kind, this time) on the keyboard, and I’d have to nominate him for “Jerry Lee Lewis candidate of the month.” They get off in Ft. Lauderdale, but Terry said that they may be boarding the WC in Mykonos and staying on until Madeira. One can only hope.


The seas and the wind have become far more friendly today, and with temperatures in the low 80’s, I think the back deck is in our future. It’s such a lovely place to catch up with friends, drink lemonade (courtesy of Manny), and ruin one’s skin. Speaking of beaches, tomorrow is the “private island,” but instead of just our ship there, there will be another HAL ship sharing it with us. The sand is soft, the water is warm, the barbecue lunch is delicious, and I’m really looking forward to it.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Half Moon Cay, Bahamas


I think every cruise that comes within 200 miles of this area should make its last stop at Half Moon Cay. It’s peaceful, relaxing, and puts people in a good mood before disembarking. When I mentioned this to some friends yesterday as a good way to end the world cruise, they commented that the average age of the WC passengers makes it impractical. Heck, I’m old and enjoy it; I think most people would.


Since the last time we’ve been here, they’ve added a place called The Lobster Shack. The only thing they serve, I was told, is a plate with lobster, beans, and salsa. While that sounds pretty good, I really am not willing to pay $20 for it - I’ll just wait for the next formal night and order it off the menu.


We’re here with the Zuiderdam, a ship holding almost twice as many passengers as ours, but the island is large enough to accommodate all of us. Because of its size, the other ship used the oversized tenders that stay at the island while we simply used our usual tenders/lifeboats to get there and back.


One of the really nice things about the Bahamas is the sand on the beach - at least on the beaches I’ve been to. It’s white and powdery and creates a beautiful backdrop to a bright turquoise sea. There were far more lounge chairs than were needed, and the farther we walked from the tender port, the fewer people there were.


About a quarter mile down the beach is a huge “pirate ship” called “Captain Morgan on the Rocks” which serves as the island’s main bar. Coincidentally, that’s John’s favorite rum! That’s where we found several of our friends and Willie, an old friend and beverage manager from previous world cruises. He was responsible for stocking and manning (and womaning) the bar here and making sure it ran smoothly all day. It was great to see him again, but we wish he were still going to be on the Amsterdam. We also encountered one of our other favorite beverage servers, Enrico. He’s now on the

Zuiderdam and it’s nice to see him once again.


A barbecue lunch was served in an area which is set up very efficiently to deal with all 3500 or so of us. There were salads, a choice of mahi mahi, hamburgers, short ribs, hot dogs or jerk chicken - definitely not a vegetarian delight. John opted for the hamburger - as did about 90% of the passengers - and I had the short ribs. The coconut rum cake for dessert was really good.


After another half hour on the beach, we headed back to the tender and thence back to the ship. It was a great, do-nothing, relaxing day and the perfect end to a 14-day holiday cruise. Now it’s onward to Ft. Lauderdale and the beginning of our 111-day world cruise tomorrow. The only downside is that we’re moving two doors down the hall, but as you know, a move is a move, so we’ve got everything back in suitcases and the room stewards will transfer everything to our new room tomorrow. We have to be off the ship at 10:00 on a transit card, and maybe sometime this evening we’ll decide what we’re going to do with ourselves for the day.

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Happy to hear that you enjoyed your day at HMC. Such a beautiful spot. I think I posed the question on The Inside Cabin's blog last year as to why HMC was not at the beginning or end of a WC, but he was unable to get an answer. It would be nice on either end. Wishing you a good day in Ft. Lauderdale tomorrow and a bon voyage. Looking forward to "our" adventures. Cherie

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017 - Day 1

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida


There really is nothing like the sailaway day of a world cruise. Even though we had to move everything from one cabin to another, we were finished before 10:00, and because we were in transit and had no plans in Ft. Lauderdale, we were escorted off the ship, went through a really brief immigration check, and then were escorted right back on the ship. The rules require a “zero count,” which means that at some point, everyone must be off the ship. Those of us who were in transit and didn’t want to spend the day shopping (like our friends Cathy and Ann) were told to report to the front desk at 10:00. At about 10:30, the last passengers had cleared the ship (finally!) so we had our little guided round trip into the terminal and back.


There are two really good things about sailaway day. First is the excitement in the air. Everyone knows that there are 111 days of cruising coming up and we are all really looking forward to our adventures. Second, however, is the greeting of old friends. In 2008, on our first world cruise, we sat quietly before check-in, watching people hug and catch up on each other’s lives. By 2010, our second WC, we were doing the same thing. By now, it really is the highlight of the day and we see old friends, talk about plans for the cruise, and just really enjoy each others’ company.


We had lunch from the Mexican buffet at the Dive In, and then started spending time with friends. At 1:30, there was a one-hour welcome reception on the midships Lido deck, with complimentary drinks and hors d’oeuvres. While we took advantage (I do love mimosas), different groups of friends came and went at our table. At 2:30, when the bar went back to payment required, the crowd thinned out significantly - what a surprise.


One of the highlights of the day was meeting Orlando Ashford, the president of HAL, who wandered around the ship meeting and greeting from about 10:00 until he had to leave at 5:00 for his flight. He’s a really nice guy and everyone who met him was pretty impressed. He’ll be back on the cruise with his wife and two sons in Jeju City, Korea, and that’s the occasion for the big party that is held on every WC.


Woody and Susie Woodworth, long time cruise friends, sat with us and then went down to meet Gene and Shirley Pontrelli, friends from the 2008 WC who live in Ft. Lauderdale. If you happened to be on in 2008, or on any other cruise with Gene, you might remember him as “Trumpet Man,” who played his horn whenever he had an opportunity. All of that socializing pretty much took up the afternoon, and soon it was time to head back to our (new) cabin to get ready for the Crow’s Nest and more socializing.


The party this afternoon really was just a reception; the real sailaway party is at 9:30 (all aboard time), also around the midships Lido pool with food, drinks, and all kinds of fun.


And so it begins. I’m glad that you can “sail” along with us.

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Thursday, January 5, 2017 - Day 2

At Sea en route to Santa Marta, Columbia


Boy, did they ever have a sailaway party last evening. Because of intermittent rain during the day, it was set up at 9:30 PM around the midships pool, with seven (yes, seven) open bars in cute little huts, waiters with really delicious hors d’oeuvres (didn’t we just eat dinner?), and a really rocking band playing. As with any activity which includes free alcoholic beverages, let alone seven bars, the place was packed. I was told that there are 900 full world cruisers along with folks who have signed up for one or more segments. HAL was selling the San Diego to San Diego 28-day portion as one cruise, and we found out last evening that there are 60 “Road Scholars” (formerly Elderhostel) on board, most for the full world cruise. Apparently there are only a handful of empty cabins, but at least they are able to find a couple in which to store everyone’s huge suitcases - including ours.


Of course before we could go to the party we had to have dinner, and it seems that we have a delightful table of eight - that was set up in 2015! There is a wonderful cast of characters. Susie and Woody Woodworth are friends whom we first met on an Alaska cruise in 2007 and got to know even better on the 2008 WC, our first. They’re originally from Traverse City, Michigan, but now live in a suburb of Atlanta. Susie was single-handedly responsible for introducing us to dozens of long-time world cruisers and she even managed to get us invited to some great parties. Woody is quieter than most, but when he talks he has something important to say.


Rich and Ginny Lyle are Texans, both retired from the airline business. Rich was a Delta pilot for many years and Ginny began as a flight attendant but moved up through the ranks to training and representing flight attendants. We spent a great number of Crow’s Nest evenings with them in 2015 and really enjoy their company. Ginny is also an accomplished artist. She paints with a two-hair brush and the detail in her paintings is absolutely amazing.


Bill and Jane Hotze are such fun! One of the highlights of the 2015 cruise was going to the 60’s disco ball in the Pinnacle (complete with disco ball in the ceiling). We ate, drank, and danced the night away. Bill and Jane won the dance contest, winning a bottle of Cristal Champagne - which they kindly shared with us a few evenings later.

They live in North Carolina and Jane has been the “team leader” for the 2017 WC roll call.


So those are the folks you’ll be reading about from time to time. Conversation never stopped during last evening’s dinner and went in several different directions, always a good sign of a good table. We’re looking forward to our next 110 days with all of them.


This morning was the first Cruise Critic meet and greet in the Crow’s Nest, and it was packed! According to HAL, it’s the largest Cruise Critic group in history, and HAL was nice enough to provide coffee, tea, and cookies for our eating and drinking pleasure. In the “old days,” they also provided mimosas, but I think those days are gone forever. The meet and greets are a good way to meet new people, especially if it’s your first WC, and the only difficult part of the meeting was getting people to stop talking so a welcome and announcements could be made.


Now I’m sitting in the Ocean Bar, protecting “our territory” for the first sea day’s trivia game. We have a fairly new team this year, including Marianne, Cathy, Barbara and Marty the two of us. We’re really looking forward to it - as well as the rest of the cruise.

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January 6, 2017 - Day 3

At Sea en route to Santa Marta, Columbia


Here I am again, sitting in the Ocean Bar, awaiting the rest of my team and protecting our territory. It’s strange how many people are so funny about Trivia. There’s the team that was caught cheating when the total number of points they gave themselves for the segment was higher than the total possible. There are the teams that break up because they take themselves so seriously and castigate each other for not being “smart” enough. Then there are the teams like us. We have two goals in playing: first, to get the right answer, and if that’s not possible then to come up with the funniest answer we can. All six of us know the definitions of two words: “game” and “trivia.” We consider that because we are experts in trivia we are extremely trivial people. This is a game; that means that we are supposed to have fun.


Yesterday we came in second, but the team that won was two points ahead of us. It was a trial game, so it doesn’t count in the segment total, but it was great fun nonetheless.


Some time at “the beach” helped ruin my skin even further, but it was an absolutely perfect day to lie in the sun and pop into the pool to cool off from time to time. It’s also a great time to catch up with friends, and a lot of that went on too.


Last evening was the first “Happy Hour” from 6:30 to 7:30 for those of us who are in “main seating” at 8:00. It usually just takes someone to sit down with Henk, the Hotel Manager, to set up things to make everyone happy. Dinner was again great fun - we all seem to get along “swimmingly” and talk and laughter are the events around the table.


This evening is our first “Gala” (formerly formal) night, and will begin with a Captain’s Reception in the Queen’s Lounge (free wine). I did hear some chat that they don’t do these receptions on regular cruises any more, and now that I think about it, I realize that they didn’t have one on the holiday cruise. I guess we also get a glass of Champagne at dinner or something like that. It’s just nice to see everyone dressed up this early in the cruise.


Now to the really exciting part: the orange squeezing machine has arrived! Apparently it is reserved only for the world cruise - a cruel reality for all other cruises. Now that my first world problem has been solved, I am truly a happy cruiser!


P. S. Our trivia team won today!

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Saturday, January 7, 2017 - Day 4

Santa Marta, Colombia


A week ago, when we spoke to our daughter from Cartagena, Colombia, the first thing she asked was, “Are you bringing home cocaine?” Unfortunately, that’s a common view of this beautiful country and it really is unfortunate. We were very happy to call at a different port today, one that we had visited a couple of years ago. It claims to be the oldest city in Colombia, established in the 1500’s, and the center of town certainly shows its age - in a very charming way.


We took the shuttle into the middle of town and wandered along the malecon, or beachfront walk. While the day’s program had forecast the high temperature as 74 degrees, it was over 90 if it was a degree! As our friend Rich said, “Yeah, but it had high humidity, too.”


We headed into the old town and, since it was Saturday, we saw families on outings and sitting around cafes with coffees. We walked by the Juan Valdez Coffee Shop, which we had done when we were here last. However, our first stop was at a little cafe across from the beach where we had large “lemonade frappes,” which in the heat was a little bit of heaven. They also had internet (of course), so we were a couple of happy travelers. Our friends Marianne, Marcel, and John joined us, and when it was time to leave, the total bill for the two of us was $4.00 US. Such a deal.


We wandered into a plaza which was the location of the city’s main church, which has occasionally been named a cathedral, but is not now. There was a mass going on, so my view of the church was only from the door, from which I appreciated the beautiful art work inside. In the past, we’ve visited the Gold Museum which shows the history of the precious metal as well as information about Simon Bolivar, the Liberator.


At about 1:00 we had to decide whether to have lunch in town or back on the ship, and unfortunately, the heat and humidity drove us back to the ship. Once back here, we selected our lunch at the Lido and then what did we do? Headed back outside to eat.


Sailaway was from 5:30 until 6:00, just as the sun set, and it was truly beautiful. We joined friends, enjoyed margaritas, and watched as the city lighted up. It was a really nice day here in Santa Marta.

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Sunday, January 8, 2017 - Day 5

At Sea en route to the Panama Canal


If there is one thing that receives (and deserves) more gripes and groans than any other on this ship, it’s the internet. It’s overpriced, slow, and sometimes unavailable. We’ve always just pretty much gone along, understanding that at sea is not the same as on land and booking (and using) a large number of minutes for these long cruises. Now, however, I shall add my voices to those complaining about the internet. Yesterday, when I tried to post my day’s blog, it came up with a lovely page, in full color, that said “Something’s Wrong.” Indeed it was. I decided it must have something to do with our cabin change between the holiday cruise and the WC, but no, that wasn’t it.


I fiddled with it throughout the day without any luck, but since it was a port day and we had free internet at our mid-morning cafe, I didn’t worry about it too much. Finally, last evening after dinner, I cornered Courtney, the librarian, and asked her what I could do. She took the laptop, tried three or four different things, and then announced that what usually works wasn’t working and she’d have to email the head tech person for HAL to find out what to do. Since that office was closed by then, she’d get back to me today.

So far, no news. I’ll check back with her this afternoon. I guess if all else fails, we will just have to re-register, have her put our remaining minutes into the new account, and go from there. I just hope I’ll be able to post both of these entries yet today.


Last evening was another fun-filled dinnertime, with everyone talking over each other, exchanging stories, and just laughing a lot. The swordfish was excellent, and it was topped by a tomato/avocado salsa that was as spicy as anything I’ve ever had on board the Amsterdam. It used to be that no matter what the spicy international dish served, it was never spicy. However, our new-ish executive chef, Peter, believes that if it’s supposed to be spicy, it will be. It was delicious! Since we all sit wherever we please each evening, I was next to our friend Rich last night, and because he doesn’t believe what our parents always taught us, that we must clean our plates, we decided we’d share the peach crisp for dessert. It was great!


At church this morning we met the new Protestant pastor, Al from British Columbia. He’s more Baptist-leaning than these two Methodists, but he seems very nice and preaches a meaningful sermon.


The weather today is very different. We are completely clouded in, although the temperature is in the low 80’s. That combination keeps me inside, but John’s out on the verandah finishing his book. I’m in the Ocean Bar again, guarding our Trivia spot, and chatting with friends who wander past.


Again, I hope that I’ll be able to connect with the internet sometime today. If so, you’ll see two posts, and then, hopefully, one a day. You can never tell with technology, can you?

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Monday, January 9, 2017 - Day 6

Panama Canal


Here we are again, in beautiful, tropical, jungly Panama, with bright green extending on both sides of the ship as far as one can see. No matter how many times one has done this transit, it never fails to be fascinating, with the greenery, the workers waving at us, the mechanical “mules” pulling us through the locks and, of course, the Panama rolls.

While I was in a full elevator today, one lady said (in a slightly snooty voice), “Are all of you going through the canal for the first time?” Some people nodded, I remained silent, and she replied to her own question with, “This is our 17th time.” We really did need to know that, Madam.


We did have something happen today that’s new for us during the transit. The Captain came over the intercom and told us that there is a LPG tanker coming through and we may not pass in a narrow area, so we have simply anchored for about 2-1/2 hours to wait for the tanker to pass. I guess that means that the last locks will be transited much later than expected, but we’ll no doubt get through to the Pacific eventually, to begin our return trip up the coast of North America.


Yesterday’s weather was not a sun-bather’s delight. It was heavily overcast with occasional showers and slightly over 80 degrees. I guess that’s what it’s like to live in some parts of the United States in the summer. It didn’t bother our friend Jeff, because he took a tumble on the front deck of 6 and he has more bruises than he’s had in a long time. I know he’ll be OK, but that sort of thing can really hurt.


Today’s going to be pretty quiet, I expect, but of course these are the sorts of days that make this cruise wonderful to me. Our only fixed appointment is with Team Trivia at 11:45 (we’ve won two days in a row - hooray!), and the rest of the day (except for meals) is visiting with friends, reading, or napping. It really is a very good life and we are very grateful to be able to enjoy it.


P. S. I read the question about room service, but I’m a very bad person to ask, since in six world cruises we’ve only had room service once. I know the menu has changed this time, but I’m not really sure what’s different. I do know that it’s possible to order a Dive-In burger to your room, but it costs $4.95. Sorry I can’t be more help.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - Day 7

At Sea en route to Puntarenas, Costa Rica


I guess karma really exists. I wrote yesterday about winning twice in a row, and in return, we not only came in only third, but the team which won had a perfect paper. Oh well, it really is only a game and we do have a good time and laugh a lot. The amazing thing about Team Trivia, however, is that some people take it sooooo seriously. When we spent a lot of time with Gene’s wife Jody during the holiday cruise, she said that he gets more grief from Trivia than from any other part of his job.


An example: the team that sits next to us would NOT give up on their complaints after the game yesterday. Apparently they believed that, because we were all given “Dam Dollars” after the first two games they should get them after every game. I should also mention the bonus question here. It was, “what sport has more spectators in the world than any other?” Since everyone immediately thinks “soccer,” Gene said, “By the way, it’s NOT soccer.” After that, we figured the only answer possible was cricket, which was correct. What answer to that question did the complaining team write? Well “soccer” of course. Listening doesn’t seem to be their forte. Gene finally ended the argument by saying, “There are 20 teams playing and all of them understand the rules except one.” My goodness, it really is just a game!


The Panama Canal transit was really nice to watch (from time to time) yesterday, and we saw one of the best sunsets ever. A bit of interesting trivia here is that the Canal doesn’t go east to west (or west to east) but north to south (or vice versa). We finally left the last locks, Miraflores, at about 5:30, and now we’re in the Pacific, looking forward to Puntarenas, Costa Rica, tomorrow.


Last night’s entertainment had way too many choices. In the Wajang Theatre, the national football championship game was on, and I understand it was standing room only, especially with lots of football snacks available. It was also on the stateroom TV’s, and we watched until the end of the first half, but after finding out this morning how it ended, we wished we had left it on until the end.


Once in a while an entertainer is so popular that passengers want another performance, but if it’s not scheduled, it’s just not possible. Clint Holmes, who performed to such acclaim the other night, wanted to do a nice thing, so he performed in the Ocean Bar to an SRO crowd from 7:00 until 8:00. Every chair was taken, so we had to sit at the bar - oh darn!


Because of these options, the headline entertainer, flautist Viviana Guzman, did not have the audience she would have had otherwise, but we really enjoyed her show. She is truly a flute virtuoso, and exhibited her talent on a number of instruments, including the pan pipes that we always see in South America. An additional plus in her department is that she lives in Half Moon Bay, California, about three hours from our home. It’s also the coastal town to which my folks would drive us from our home in Redwood City when it was too hot.


Costa Rica should be wonderful tomorrow; we have a 7-hour (private) tour set up and we’ll see the jungle and one of the rivers. We’ll try not to fall in.

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