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Live from the Zaandam, New England to Florida and the Grand South America


WriterOnDeck
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10 hours ago, WriterOnDeck said:

None were provided in the cabin. But I'm guessing that if you asked your room steward, he/she would bring you some. I brought my own because I like the fit of them better than the ones the ship provides. I also brought a box of Covid tests, just in case. So often now it presents as a cold, so sometimes it is good to check first yourself.

TY for your response.  Appreciate it.

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17 hours ago, Curlingwhiz said:

Hello Jo - this is my first time seeing your posts - I will definitely head over to your blog.  I appreciate all the detail you give on ports and the "just walking around" sites.  I am currently looking at booking an East Coast cruise for 2025 and have a quick question.  In checking out our options, it appears that the Zuiderdam and the Zaandam are both doing the route in 2025.  We have sailed on the Zuiderdam in the past and quite like it.  However, we have never sailed on the Zaandam and I would appreciate your take on any major/minor differences that you noticed?  One thing that is having me lean to the Zuiderdam is the amount of verandah cabins versus the Zaandam with it's "lanai" cabins.   

First, a quick check shows me that the Zaandam will be in Alaska for the summer of 2025, and the Volendam (similar ship) will join the Zuiderdam doing Canada and New England. If you have the time, you might explore some of the slightly longer cruises that include more stops. I think there is one round trip out of Montreal that just does Canadian ports, for example.

 

Several others have offered responses regarding the two ships, which I agree with. You might consider spending the night in Boston, if you can get an early non-stop home the next morning. As to the ships, I must say I really like both. After so long earlier this year on the Zuiderdam (200 days), it does feel like home. I am still getting used to the Zaandam, which is much like the Amsterdam (since sold) that I sailed on and loved. If you prefer verandahs, the Zuiderdam might be a better choice. But the Zaandam (and I assume the Volendam) generally have larger cabins with more storage. The Zuiderdam has the Music Walk, which includes more music venues.

 

In other words, there's not an obvious choice of one over the other. No no wrong decision!

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Wow - my brain has definitely had a little vacation.  I definitely meant the Volendam not the Zaandam.  I think I was confused in my typing by the fact that the Zaandam used to do Canada/New England back when we booked...and got canceled...in 2020.

 

We are still looking at the different type of cruises.  If we decided to go with the Zuiderdam, we would spend a few days in Boston prior, a day or two in Quebec City, then 3 hr train to Montreal for a couple of days and then home.  Since we no longer have to be back home on certain days for work, we always add 3 or 4 days at embarkation and disembarkation.  Lessens stress and allows more exploring.        Anyway, thanks for pointing out my ship error - I probably confused a lot of people.

 

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fullsizerender1-compressed-4-1.jpg?resiz

 

[Remember that I only include a couple of photos in these posts -- if you want to see more they are at http://www.WriterOnDeck.com.]

 

Norfolk Delights with Picture Perfect Day Along the Waterfront

 

Day 10, 2023 East Coast Voyage

Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, Norfolk, Virginia, USA

 

What a great cruise port! Norfolk is just the kind of stop I enjoy making. The pier is convenient to town. The area is designed for walking. And our weather was just about perfect – sunny, low humidity, temps in the 70s with a gentle breeze.

 

My only previous experience with Norfolk was boarding a ship here for a cruise to Bermuda. We just parked the car, spent a night in a hotel and boarded the ship. The city sits on the Elizabeth River, which flows into the James River before flowing out the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay into the Atlantic Ocean.

 

I had planned to spend this morning with friends from the 2020 world cruise who live just blocks from the cruise pier. Unfortunately, one of them discovered last night that he had covid, but he sent me a detailed talking tour. It was a great guide for my day ashore.

 

Sitting just across the pier from the Zaandam is the battleship USS Wisconsin, one of the largest and last battleships built by the U.S. Navy. It is permanently berthed on the same pier with the Nauticus maritime-themed science and technology complex sitting in the middle.

 

For a reasonable $15 you can wander throughout the Wisconsin as well as explore exhibitions examining aquatic life and environmental protection and the Hampton Roads Naval Museum.

It reminded me of playing as a kid on the battleship USS Texas, berthed at San Jacinto near Houston. Who needs the Battleship video game when you can use your imagination roaming throughout a huge ship IRL (in real life)?

 

I was immediately drawn to sketching the giant Wisconsin. I sometimes complain that all I seem to be sketching are buildings and gardens, so this provided a challenge. A modern yacht was moored in the way – I sketched what I could and have yet to decide if I will include the yacht or try to fill in the ship.

 

From there I wandered through the Pagoda and Oriental Garden, a small peaceful area with a koi pond where the quiet is only broken by the sound of fountains.

fullsizerender16-compressed-1.jpg?resize  

An archway leads into the Freemason Harbor neighborhood of mostly condos and townhouses, transitioning into residential streets with stately houses and brick streets. Benches line the path along the waterfront and small marina, encouraging a relaxing stop to just enjoy the day.

 

I walked on to the Chrysler Museum of Art, a few blocks away across a walkway spanning “the Hague,” an old creek area.

 

 The museum is named for automotive heir Walter P. Chrysler Jr., whose Norfolk-native wife encouraged him to donate their extensive art collection. I was particularly drawn to its collections of glass and Worcester porcelain.

 

Back on the ship, I joined other passengers outside on Deck 9 to watch our sail-away down the Elizabeth River and past the Navy shipyards. I counted at least four aircraft carriers and number of other ships. Not surprisingly, my Marine Tracker app didn’t identify the individual ships, and most had their sterns tucked into shore.

  fullsizerender4-compressed-1.jpg?resize=  

Later, I was the only person on Deck 6 forward to watch our crossing of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel. The low-level bridge with a mile-long tunnel near each end spans the 17 miles between Hampton Roads to the south and the Delmarva (Delaware/Maryland/Virginia) peninsula to the north.

 

At my second complementary Pinnacle meal tonight, I splurged (calorie-wise) on the clothesline bacon (just two slices please). It was much better than earlier in the summer on the Zuiderdam, where I think the provisioned bacon wasn’t up to par. The halibut was perfect, and the key lime pie is always my dessert choice.

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4 hours ago, WriterOnDeck said:
fullsizerender1-compressed-4-1.jpg?resiz

 

[Remember that I only include a couple of photos in these posts -- if you want to see more they are at http://www.WriterOnDeck.com.]

 

Norfolk Delights with Picture Perfect Day Along the Waterfront

 

Day 10, 2023 East Coast Voyage

Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, Norfolk, Virginia, USA

 

What a great cruise port! Norfolk is just the kind of stop I enjoy making. The pier is convenient to town. The area is designed for walking. And our weather was just about perfect – sunny, low humidity, temps in the 70s with a gentle breeze.

 

My only previous experience with Norfolk was boarding a ship here for a cruise to Bermuda. We just parked the car, spent a night in a hotel and boarded the ship. The city sits on the Elizabeth River, which flows into the James River before flowing out the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay into the Atlantic Ocean.

 

I had planned to spend this morning with friends from the 2020 world cruise who live just blocks from the cruise pier. Unfortunately, one of them discovered last night that he had covid, but he sent me a detailed talking tour. It was a great guide for my day ashore.

 

Sitting just across the pier from the Zaandam is the battleship USS Wisconsin, one of the largest and last battleships built by the U.S. Navy. It is permanently berthed on the same pier with the Nauticus maritime-themed science and technology complex sitting in the middle.

 

For a reasonable $15 you can wander throughout the Wisconsin as well as explore exhibitions examining aquatic life and environmental protection and the Hampton Roads Naval Museum.

It reminded me of playing as a kid on the battleship USS Texas, berthed at San Jacinto near Houston. Who needs the Battleship video game when you can use your imagination roaming throughout a huge ship IRL (in real life)?

 

I was immediately drawn to sketching the giant Wisconsin. I sometimes complain that all I seem to be sketching are buildings and gardens, so this provided a challenge. A modern yacht was moored in the way – I sketched what I could and have yet to decide if I will include the yacht or try to fill in the ship.

 

From there I wandered through the Pagoda and Oriental Garden, a small peaceful area with a koi pond where the quiet is only broken by the sound of fountains.

fullsizerender16-compressed-1.jpg?resize  

An archway leads into the Freemason Harbor neighborhood of mostly condos and townhouses, transitioning into residential streets with stately houses and brick streets. Benches line the path along the waterfront and small marina, encouraging a relaxing stop to just enjoy the day.

 

I walked on to the Chrysler Museum of Art, a few blocks away across a walkway spanning “the Hague,” an old creek area.

 

 The museum is named for automotive heir Walter P. Chrysler Jr., whose Norfolk-native wife encouraged him to donate their extensive art collection. I was particularly drawn to its collections of glass and Worcester porcelain.

 

Back on the ship, I joined other passengers outside on Deck 9 to watch our sail-away down the Elizabeth River and past the Navy shipyards. I counted at least four aircraft carriers and number of other ships. Not surprisingly, my Marine Tracker app didn’t identify the individual ships, and most had their sterns tucked into shore.

  fullsizerender4-compressed-1.jpg?resize=  

Later, I was the only person on Deck 6 forward to watch our crossing of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel. The low-level bridge with a mile-long tunnel near each end spans the 17 miles between Hampton Roads to the south and the Delmarva (Delaware/Maryland/Virginia) peninsula to the north.

 

At my second complementary Pinnacle meal tonight, I splurged (calorie-wise) on the clothesline bacon (just two slices please). It was much better than earlier in the summer on the Zuiderdam, where I think the provisioned bacon wasn’t up to par. The halibut was perfect, and the key lime pie is always my dessert choice.

The carrier #77 is the George Bush. If you can see the large numbers on the bridge/tower, then Google search them. I don't think any US warship has their name on the stern. The identifier from long distance is usually the large number, like the "64" on the Wisconsin. Closer up, there is usually a name on the bridge/tower on both sides, but in smaller letters.

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Good Friends in Mount Dora Make for the Best Port Call

 

Days 12-13, 2023 East Coast Voyage

Thursday and Friday, Oct. 5-6, 2023, Port Canaveral, Fla., USA

 

As much as I have enjoyed all the fantastic ports on this 13-day journey from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale, my favorite stop isn’t because of its location, but the friends I visited here.

fullsizerender6-compressed-1-1.jpg?resiz

 

I became friends with Laurie and Ed on the world cruise earlier this year, and when they heard we would dock in Port Canaveral – and stay two days – they insisted on fetching me for an overnight visit with them in Mount Dora. This charming town is a bit north of Orlando, about 90 minutes from the cruise port.

 

No, it is not on a “mountain,” even by Florida standards, but it does have a gentle rise to the town from the shore of Lake Dora. Moss drapes off stately oak trees.

 

Laurie recently served on the town council and is a big fan of all things Mount Dora. They gave me the grand tour. It’s a nice combination of tourist town – with charming shops on several blocks of the downtown – and community.

 

They thought I hadn’t had enough of being on the water, so we spent the afternoon on a barge trip across the lake, lined with beautiful homes. We even caught site of a bald eagle watching as we passed by.

 

The scenery changed as we entered the Dora Canal. Some of these canals are natural waterways and other sections have been dug, but you could eventually journey up to the St. Johns River, Jacksonville and the Atlantic Ocean.

 

More homes – these mostly smaller lake cabins – lined the first part of the canal. Then development fell away and we were traveled through natural habitats, only interrupted when we passed under a road or by the occasional fishermen.

The sunny fall day brought out other boaters, some on personal watercraft powered by seemingly large outboard motors. Most were in pontoon boats like ours, although much nicer than the “party barge” my dad built when we lived on a lake in Hot Springs, Ark.

 

We moved slowly as Capt. Jonathan identified the various birds and plants along the way. He knew where the alligators like to hang out and even spotted a rare spider lily bloom. I wished I had brought my better camera with a great zoom, as the iPhone didn’t produce sharp pictures of anything very far away.

 

fullsizerender4-compressed-1-1.jpg?resiz

 

After dinner at the Lakeside Inn (the oldest continuously operating hotel in Florida) and a fun evening catching up on what we’ve done since the end of the world cruise, on Friday we drove to New Smyrna Beach on the Atlantic Coast. This is where Laurie and Ed “retreat” in the summer. The temperatures aren’t much different than in Mount Dora, but the ocean breezes make life bearable.

 

I had failed to double check our all-aboard time on Friday afternoon before I left the ship, but Facebook came to the rescue, as I posted my query and had an answer from someone on the ship in minutes, confirming my assumption.

 

What we hadn’t realized was that a rocket launch at the Kennedy Space Center was scheduled for early Friday afternoon. We surely could have seen it as we drove down the coast, but didn’t know to look. Those on the ship had a good view.

 

Our reason for the overnight stop in Port Canaveral was for the replacement of one of the stern thrusters (propellers that push the ship sideways for maneuvering in ports). The job reportedly takes about 30 hours, and the underwater repair crew was just packing up as I returned to the ship.

fullsizerender-compressed-7-2.jpg?resize

 

A couple of days ago I scheduled a photo shoot with one of the ship’s photographers. I was long overdue for a new photo for my blog. We visited several locations around the aft deck.

 

Tomorrow morning almost everyone will leave the ship in Fort Lauderdale, and a new contingent will board for the 73-day Grand South America and Antarctica cruise. I am changing staterooms, so finished packing my loose items before bed. My stewards will move the suitcases and the hanging clothes to the new cabin, just down the hall.

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Hello Writer on Deck,

 

I hope you are enjoying your cruise on Zaandam. I am looking forward to possibly planning a cruise on Zaandam for March. Can you tell me what kind of cabin you are in if it is inside or oceanview, it looks like it's upgraded and doesn't have that old looking carpet. 

 

Thanks,

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21 hours ago, JGCRUISE0507 said:

Hello Writer on Deck,

 

I hope you are enjoying your cruise on Zaandam. I am looking forward to possibly planning a cruise on Zaandam for March. Can you tell me what kind of cabin you are in if it is inside or oceanview, it looks like it's upgraded and doesn't have that old looking carpet. 

 

Thanks,

I was in an inside and now am in a balcony. Both cabins are in good shape and both bathrooms are upgraded with great lighting, etc. You will enjoy it! If you want to look for a specific cabin, go to www.halfacts.com, which crowd-sources pictures of cabins on the various ships.

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[All the photos are on my blog site, https://www.writerondeck.com/2023/10/07/good-friends-in-mount-dora-make-for-the-best-port-call/.]

 

Serendipity Brings a New Friend as New Adventure Begins

 

Day 1, 2023 Grand South America and Artarctica

Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., USA

 

There are many wonderful people in the world, and I enjoyed a pleasurable couple of hours with one this morning. She started out as a stranger, but we quickly became friends.

 

Jean discovered this blog through a friend about a year ago and shares with me a love of sailing and cruising. Earlier last week she invited me to be her guest for lunch during our Fort Lauderdale turnover day between cruises. That was a first for me, but one can never have too many friends. We settled on mid-morning for a late breakfast, as I had to get off the ship at 9:30 so it could go to zero count (some customs requirement) before we start the Grand South America/Antarctica voyage.

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We could have spent the entire day chatting about our similar backgrounds and interests, if only I didn’t need to get back on board to relocate to a new stateroom. We did make time to browse the giant Dollar Tree to see if there were any last-minute items I needed.

 

In all of our visiting, we totally forgot to take a photo of the two of us.

 

 

Back on the ship, I discovered my bags and hanging clothes were already in my new cabin. It will be home for the next 73 days, so I wanted to get settled. This cabin is a Vista Suite, a category that I believe is only on the smaller R-class Holland America ships. It is similar to the verandah I had on the world cruise, but slightly longer and with significantly more drawers for storage and a full-length sofa.

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There are so many drawers that I was tempted to use Post-It notes to remind me what I put where. However, hanging space isn’t as generous, with one of the closet bars going front to back instead of side to side. Impossible to use in my opinion. Oh well, as I don’t have to share, it will be fine.

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I was glad to discover magnetic walls (something the Zuiderdam didn’t have in my staterooms), so I’ve put up the new South America map I bought for this trip. I’ll use magnetic tacks to track our progress once we have passed through the Panama Canal.

 

Earlier this summer in Akureyri, Iceland, I bought a foldable cardboard globe to use as an alternative, and this cabin is big enough to use both. Instead of map pins, I’m using removeable sticky dots – blue for my previous East Coast Voyage and red for this cruise.

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I’m already noticing a few changes as we transition from a regular 13-day cruise to a grand voyage. For one thing, I’ve seen several friends I’ve sailed with before. Also, there is a celebratory atmosphere as we know we have a long trip ahead.

 

There was no line for dinner seating, and I ate with two nice couples, one of whom also were on the world cruise earlier this year, but we hadn’t met then. We had special menus featuring Port to Table specialties tied to the region. It will be interesting to see if that continues.

 

I skipped the Origin Story in the showroom, which gives a nice history of Holland America. But once you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it.

 

Back in the room, I had a nice brochure outlining the evening activities for the next two weeks. It also contains bios for the guest lecturers and instructors, including a watercolor professional. I’m looking forward to her class tomorrow morning.

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[All the photos are on my blog site, https://www.writerondeck.com/.]

 

Welcome Sea Days and Port Call at Grand Cayman

 

Days 2-4, 2023 South America & Antarctica Grand Voyage

Sunday-Tuesday, Oct. 8-10, 2023, Georgetown, Grand Cayman and sea days

 

While I love visiting exotic and exciting ports, sea days may be my favorite, especially at the beginning of a long cruise. They give me a chance to unpack, learn my way around the ship and settle into a daily routine.

 

When I started out two weeks ago in Montreal, we had five quick port days, so it threw off my pace. Now we are alternating sea and port days. I’m still trying to settle in.

 

But first, a report on Monday’s port call in Grand Cayman. I’ve been here several times, mostly in the 1990s and early 2000s, so I had no plan for tours. I’m really not a Caribbean girl, I guess. The heat and humidity seemed even more intense after my recent cruising through Canada and New England. I decided on a quick walk around the port city of Georgetown just to stretch my legs.

 

Instead of using the ship’s tenders for the short distance to the dock, we boarded local boats that held many more people. Probably more important for those who are mobility challenged, the boats’ decks were level with the Deck A portal, so no need to navigate the exterior stairs to the water level.

 

None of the souvenir, jewelry or liquor shops held any interest. It was too hot under the relentless sun to sketch, so I took pictures for later reference. My only purchase was a small (4 ounce) Tortuga rum cake, which cost an outrageous $10. I remember when multiple stores offered sample bites, which probably would have satisfied my taste for the sweet cake. No samples today.

 

The last time I visited Grand Cayman a friend and I thought it would be a hoot to open a (small) bank account on the island known for its banking secrecy, just to say we had an account in the Cayman Islands. We quickly found out it wasn’t an easy thing to do if you didn’t have huge funds. I recall seeing banks everywhere 15 years ago, but since then banking laws have tightened so they were not as prominent today.

 

Fortunately, I was back on the ship when a brief but heavy rainstorm struck. I tore into the cake, and then later indulged in peanuts at happy hour. No surprise that I wasn’t hungry enough for the dining room. A few large shrimps and a small slice of (Canadian Thanksgiving) turkey from the Lido buffet filled the bill.

 

On Sunday, we spent the first full day of the cruise sailing around the west end of Cuba. About 50 people attended our Cruise Critic meet and greet. Cruise Critic is a website with a popular roll call section where people chat before a cruise. It was fun to put faces to some people who have been planning this cruise for a year and to see friends from past cruises.

 

Today, my travel agency hosted a reception for its clients. We will have two more, as well as a dinner in the Canaletto restaurant and a couple of complementary shore excursions. Hotel Manager Florin Dragomir attended and clued us in on some features of this grand voyage. We can expect three guest chefs who will have cooking demonstrations and offer special dinners in the Pinnacle Grill. On our overnight stops, local entertainers will perform for two shows each night. These shows are always popular, and with two shows everyone will be able to attend.

 

I stopped by guest services for the report on the demographics of the passengers. There are only 964 guests aboard (capacity is 1,432), and 630 are Americans, followed by 117 Canadians, 53 Australians, 23 Dutch and 16 British. There are slightly more women than men.

 

I hadn’t seen an age breakdown before, but on this cruise one person is between 8 and 12, 15 are 22-35, 21 are 36-50, 30 are 51-65, 382 are 66-74 and 367 are 75 or older. Another 48 are listed with “unknown” ages, which is interesting as the staff has our passports.

 

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When I returned to my stateroom after our first dressy night, I was delighted to find an array of gifts spread across the bed, all adorned with a logo for the cruise. They included a messenger bag as well as a canvas tote bag with handy pockets inside. We also received a portable charger for our smartphones and other electronics, a wallet for identification and a safari hat. They all will come in handy during this cruise.

 

I’ve finished the last of my unpacking, so now everything has its place. My challenge will be to return things there. But meanwhile, I had another sunrise to enjoy from my verandah, as we’ve turned our clocks back twice and I’m waking up early.

 
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[All the photos are on my blog site, https://www.writerondeck.com/.]

 

This Tropical Paradise Comes with Heat, Humidity and Color

 

Day 5, 2023 Grand South America and Antarctica

Wednesday, Oct.11, 2023, Puerto Limón, Costa Rica

 

When most people think of Costa Rica, they think of the beautiful Pacific Ocean coast and mountainous area bordering it. Puerto Limón is on the eastern coast – the Caribbean side. This is the only part of Costa Rica I have visited, and while it’s not the most popular, it shows a different side of the Central American country. And it is convenient when heading for the Panama Canal.

 

On a January port call in Puerto Limón, I visited a sloth sanctuary and a banana plantation. This time I stayed closer to the pier – two blocks from it, to be exact. The day started out hot and humid and just got worse. I layered on the sun block, donned my hat and headed out. The terminal building was full of vendors selling everything from coffee beans to straw fans.

 

Dancers performed on the pier despite the heat. I guess they are used to it.

 

As soon as I crossed the street and entered the city park, a helpful local rushed up to point out a male sloth tucked into one of the tall trees. I already knew these animals were difficult to spot. But when the sloth stretched and turned a bit, I saw his face. It only took a few minutes of sitting on a convenient park bench to sketch the sloth’s outline. I certainly didn’t worry about him rushing away before I finished. Sloths are known for their incredibly slow movements.

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Having achieved today’s goal of sketching (low bar, I know), I took another 30 minutes to walk around the park with its colorful painted benches, statues and stately trees.

 

I’ve started a new practice on this voyage – posting a small flag outside my cabin for each country we visit. I ordered a set of 200 6×8-inch flags from Amazon, not realizing they would arrive unidentified. So I spent several hours before the cruise identifying each one and sorted out those for the countries I’ll visit between now and May 2024.

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The walls of the Zaandam are magnetic (unlike the Zuiderdam’s walls), so I can hang the flags by my cabin door. I’m sure people walking by wonder, as many do not know the Costa Rican flag. After a few ports they probably will get the idea. And I can identify my cabin from far down the hall.

 

As much as I love my Vista Suite stateroom, I am disappointed to find that the ship’s WIFI signal there is weak. It was better on the last cruise in an inside cabin down the hall. It all depends on where the routers are located in relation to your location on the ship, and all those metal walls don’t help things. It takes about 10 minutes to reconnect when I return to the cabin, and then I seldom get the photos on Facebook or Threads.

 

I can, and do, go to one of the public areas on the ship for internet-intensive work, but it’s a shame I can’t do that on the spacious desk in my room.

 

Early this evening I escaped to a back corner of the Crow’s Nest to join a book club – via Zoom. Needless to say, the initial trial in my stateroom was a bust. But with a strong signal and by wearing AirPods I could quietly participate, at least until a extremely loud trivia session started near the end of our zoom call.

 

By the way, we read Wendell Berry’s novel “Hannah Coulter,” about a woman who lived her whole life in very rural Kentucky during the last two-thirds of the 20th century. It’s hard to imagine a life more different than my nomadic life, yet I found her observations intriguing.

 

“You think you will never forget any of this, you will remember it always just the way it was. But you can’t remember it the way it was… When you remember the past, you are not remembering it as it was. You are remembering it as it is.”

 

So even from the coast of Costa Rica, I had a special evening with friends I have known for more than 50 years, who are a dear part of my past. They bless me by being part of my present, too.

 
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On 10/7/2023 at 9:27 AM, WriterOnDeck said:
 
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Good Friends in Mount Dora Make for the Best Port Call

 

Days 12-13, 2023 East Coast Voyage

Thursday and Friday, Oct. 5-6, 2023, Port Canaveral, Fla., USA

 

As much as I have enjoyed all the fantastic ports on this 13-day journey from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale, my favorite stop isn’t because of its location, but the friends I visited here.

fullsizerender6-compressed-1-1.jpg?resiz

 

I became friends with Laurie and Ed on the world cruise earlier this year, and when they heard we would dock in Port Canaveral – and stay two days – they insisted on fetching me for an overnight visit with them in Mount Dora. This charming town is a bit north of Orlando, about 90 minutes from the cruise port.

 

No, it is not on a “mountain,” even by Florida standards, but it does have a gentle rise to the town from the shore of Lake Dora. Moss drapes off stately oak trees.

 

Laurie recently served on the town council and is a big fan of all things Mount Dora. They gave me the grand tour. It’s a nice combination of tourist town – with charming shops on several blocks of the downtown – and community.

 

They thought I hadn’t had enough of being on the water, so we spent the afternoon on a barge trip across the lake, lined with beautiful homes. We even caught site of a bald eagle watching as we passed by.

 

The scenery changed as we entered the Dora Canal. Some of these canals are natural waterways and other sections have been dug, but you could eventually journey up to the St. Johns River, Jacksonville and the Atlantic Ocean.

 

More homes – these mostly smaller lake cabins – lined the first part of the canal. Then development fell away and we were traveled through natural habitats, only interrupted when we passed under a road or by the occasional fishermen.

The sunny fall day brought out other boaters, some on personal watercraft powered by seemingly large outboard motors. Most were in pontoon boats like ours, although much nicer than the “party barge” my dad built when we lived on a lake in Hot Springs, Ark.

 

We moved slowly as Capt. Jonathan identified the various birds and plants along the way. He knew where the alligators like to hang out and even spotted a rare spider lily bloom. I wished I had brought my better camera with a great zoom, as the iPhone didn’t produce sharp pictures of anything very far away.

 

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After dinner at the Lakeside Inn (the oldest continuously operating hotel in Florida) and a fun evening catching up on what we’ve done since the end of the world cruise, on Friday we drove to New Smyrna Beach on the Atlantic Coast. This is where Laurie and Ed “retreat” in the summer. The temperatures aren’t much different than in Mount Dora, but the ocean breezes make life bearable.

 

I had failed to double check our all-aboard time on Friday afternoon before I left the ship, but Facebook came to the rescue, as I posted my query and had an answer from someone on the ship in minutes, confirming my assumption.

 

What we hadn’t realized was that a rocket launch at the Kennedy Space Center was scheduled for early Friday afternoon. We surely could have seen it as we drove down the coast, but didn’t know to look. Those on the ship had a good view.

 

Our reason for the overnight stop in Port Canaveral was for the replacement of one of the stern thrusters (propellers that push the ship sideways for maneuvering in ports). The job reportedly takes about 30 hours, and the underwater repair crew was just packing up as I returned to the ship.

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A couple of days ago I scheduled a photo shoot with one of the ship’s photographers. I was long overdue for a new photo for my blog. We visited several locations around the aft deck.

 

Tomorrow morning almost everyone will leave the ship in Fort Lauderdale, and a new contingent will board for the 73-day Grand South America and Antarctica cruise. I am changing staterooms, so finished packing my loose items before bed. My stewards will move the suitcases and the hanging clothes to the new cabin, just down the hall.

Greetings from Mount Dora!

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[All the photos are on my blog site, https://www.writerondeck.com/.]

 

Transiting the Path Between the Seas Never Grows Old

 

Days 6-7, 2023 Grand South America and Antarctica

Thursday and Friday, Oct.12-13, 2023, Panama Canal Transit and Sea Day

 

Holland American ships have been transiting the Panama Canal since 1916, with its first passenger ship crossing a few years later. My first transit was nine months ago. What took me so long?

 

A few years ago I listened to an unabridged recording of David McCullough’s “The Path Between the Seas,” the popular history of the canal. I loved my first experience, and now it was time for a repeat journey.

 

In January on the Zuiderdam, we followed Holland America’s Volendam into the Gatún locks, and then traveled side-by-side through the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks. In Panama City the two ships split up, the Volendam heading south for her Grand South America journey and the Zuiderdam west toward the South Pacific and her world journey circumnavigation. There was a festive atmosphere of hooting and hollering and blowing of the ships’ horns as we sailed together.

 

This time the Zaandam traveled alone – and I don’t just mean without a Holland America sister ship. We never passed another ship through the locks, and only passed a couple during the hours we cruised through Gatún Lake. The canal authority has limited the number of ships allowed to pass each day due to low rainfall levels, leaving less water to operate the locks.

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[As an aside, this situation leaves me with very mixed feelings about my current cruising lifestyle. It’s not exactly environmentally friendly, and knowing that our transit required approximately 50 million gallons of water gives me pause. I hate to be part of the reason that some children won’t get their Christmas wishes granted because of this slowdown in the global supply chain. I wish I had an easy solution….]

 

I moved between the Crow’s Nest and my balcony as we passed through the locks. Cruise and travel director Jeremy gave a running commentary of our progress. The traditional Panama buns appeared around the ship, but I passed them by (and forgot to take a photograph). They are suspiciously like Sydney buns, and Hong Kong buns, and buns that appear whenever ships approach famous ports.

 

As we neared the end of the canal, we could see the skyscrapers of Panama City on the horizon. Once we arrived in the Pacific Ocean, the sea conditions lived up to its peaceful name. Fingers crossed that this great weather continues.

 

Technically Thursday was a sea day, as we never stopped in port as we transited the canal. Several of our regular sea day activities continued, such as watercolor class, and we had another class on Friday, as it, too, is a sea day as we sail toward Ecuador.

 

On this grand cruise, we have special lecturers as well as special classes. In addition to watercolor, there is bridge instruction and creative writing.

 

Our water color instructor, Lucia Machado, is new for me. So far it seems to be a more casual approach than in the past. She has three identical 45-minute sessions on sea days, and so far we have mainly just experimented with our colors. Finally, today we painted something other than a worksheet – a donut!

 

The class accommodates beginners, but even though I have painted before (and learned in a cruise ship class), I like instruction from different teachers, as they use different approaches and teaching styles. But I also get frustrated that I am not working on my own sketchbook paintings, because as usual I am falling behind. On the world cruise I used the first month to finish the sketchbook from an earlier cruise. This time I left my half-finished Northern European cruise sketchbook behind. And yet I’m still trying to finish the sketches of Canadian ports from late September.

 

I don’t know why some people complain they are bored on cruise ships. I always have too much to do, even if it is a lot of “doing nothing.” I’ve been that way my whole life and doubt I will change now.

Friday’s sea day ended with our first formal, or gala, night. The highlight was the Zaandam Ball in the World Stage theater. This venue on the R-class ships can transform into a dance floor, unlike on the larger and newer ships. It was nice to see so many passengers on this grand cruise dress up.

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Earlier in the day, the Crow’s Nest dance floor was put to its original use, although with recorded, not live, music.

 

Tomorrow will bring a new country for me – Ecuador. I guess I will need to find time to go to the cultural and history lectures for these new ports.

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[All the photos are on my blog site, https://www.writerondeck.com/.]

 

Ecuador: South American Home of Tuna, Hats and Buttons

 

Day 8, 2023 Grand South America and Antarctica

Saturday, Oct.14, 2023, Manta, Ecuador

 

I would not have known that we crossed the equator this morning had a fellow cruiser not risen early to get a picture of the latitude on her smartphone app. Apparently the cruise director mentioned it, but if you are not in the World Stage theater for the beginning of the nightly show, you miss these announcements.

 

Toward the end of this cruise, we will bounce back and forth over the equator as we enter the Amazon River, and surely there will a King Neptune party initiating pollywogs (those crew members who have not yet crossed) amid much silliness. It’s a great excuse for a party.

 

I have no idea how many times I have sailed across the equator, but the most memorable was earlier this year as we sailed past the fictional Null Island — 0 degrees latitude, 0 degrees longitude. The intersection of the equator and the prime meridian.

 

If the name hadn’t given it away, Ecuador sits on the equator. But I hadn’t known that today’s port, Manta, is the tuna capital of the world, I did after dinner tonight. My entrée was fresh yellow fin tuna, the spoils of a friendly visit by our chefs to the tuna boat moored next to us on the pier. It was the best dinner so far on this cruise.

 

I joined a ship’s excursion today to see the “best of Manta,” although we quickly left the city for the surrounding country, traveling from the dry coastal area to the wetter jungle. On the way, we passed by the shoreline drydock where shipbuilders repair traditional wooden boats made of mahogany.

 

We first stopped to see the processing of tagua nuts into buttons, jewelry and decorative items. These are the fruits of the tagua palm tree that also are known as vegetable ivory. Before plastic became common, buttons were made from tagua nuts. Now the practice is once again gaining popularity as natural and organic products are in demand.

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On my last cruise I bought some tagua earrings but didn’t realize what they were until I saw them today.

 

Next on our itinerary was Montecristi, the home of the Panama hat. Yes, they are made in Ecuador, not Panama. During the construction of the Panama Canal, the lightweight straw hats with wide brims were popular among the workers. When President Theodore Roosevelt was photographed wearing one while visiting the canal, the misnomer took hold.

 

Outside Montecristi we passed a giant statue of a woman making a hat, resting her breasts on a wood block over the work in progress. It really is the stance that women and men use while weaving the straw, just not quite as suggestive as the statue.

 

Now that I have seen the process, I can see the difference between an inexpensive straw hat and the tightly woven fine hats that can sell for hundreds and even thousands of dollars. As tempting as it was in the moment to buy one, none fit my smaller than average head. Which is a good thing, because I have plenty of cheap straw hats that flatten for traveling.

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Our last stop was at a small lodge in the jungle. We learned about the plantain, a relative of the banana that is popular in Ecuador, and learned to mash it to make a plantain ball. Fortunately, the snack we were served was prepared by the lodge staff.

 

Upon our return to the ship, I noticed the “Welcome Home” banner has returned. It is posted for the grand voyages – I guess because we are on the ship long enough that it becomes our home. I noticed last spring that it disappeared as soon as the world voyage ended.

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Tonight in the World Stage was the second and final performance of Lincoln Center Presents. This quintet consists of a pianist, violinist, cellist, horn player (saxophone, clarinet, oboe) and guitar player. I enjoyed their selection of seasonal pieces, including two by Vivaldi, Cole Porter’s “Summertime” and a half-dozen others.

 

For a number of years Holland America had a partnership with Lincoln Stage, which provided classical musicians who played nightly in the Explorer’s Lounge. Many have lamented the recent end of that run, but in its place the cruise line has a traveling group of musicians who play a couple of times on many cruises. Unfortunately, these may be their only performances during this 73-day cruise. But we do have a pair of classical musicians who entertain most nights in the smaller Explorer’s Lounge.

 
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Still following your blog and really enjoying it. I really appreciate that you address the environmental effects of cruising. This is something that I also struggle with. We try to do everything we can at home to minimize our environmental impact, and having worked hard to enjoy more cruises in retirement it’s hard to think of giving it up.

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[All the photos are on my blog site, https://www.writerondeck.com/.]

 

Delicious Ecuadorian Epicurean Tour with a Side of Security

 

Days 9-10, 2023 Grand South America and Antarctica

Sunday and Monday, Oct.15-16, 2023, Guayaquil, Ecuador

 

“Is it safe to walk around town on your own?”

 

This is a question we all ask at some time or another on a long cruise. We are visiting unfamiliar places and don’t know what to expect. Some of the most popular tourist cities (Barcelona, I’m looking at you, among others) are beset by pickpockets. The standard precautions are usually enough – don’t wear jewelry or flash cash, make it a “frontpack” instead of a backpack, only take ashore what currency and cards you really need, and always be aware of what’s going on around you.

 

During the summer the U.S. State Department reissued its travel advisory for Ecuador, suggesting Americans reconsider travel to several provinces, including that of Manta, and most of Guayaquil due to increased crime. In addition, it advised “do not travel to” the southern part of Guayaquil, where the port is located.

 

Of course, this resulted in some chatter on our cruise social media sites about whether we would still visit these two Ecuadorian ports. But we didn’t hear anything more, and I forgot about it. At least, until a few days ago when the captain announced that while we would arrive at the Guayaquil port as scheduled at 4 p.m. on Sunday, no one could go ashore until the next day.

 

Sunday was national election day in Ecuador, and in addition to the general crime situation, there were concerns that unrest could develop after the election. But Sunday night the losing candidate graciously conceded, and as far as I know things remained calm.

 

I’m not sure what passengers would have done Sunday evening anyway. The industrial port is a good 30-minute drive from town, and I doubt there were many activities on a Sunday night. On board many passengers enjoyed the special Octoberfest celebration in the Lido and around the pool. I enjoyed a nice dinner in the Canaletto specialty restaurant with other clients of our travel agency.

 

This morning I joined a Holland America “foodie” tour, meaning it was offered in partnership with Food & Wine Magazine. These tours usually have fewer participants and are more expensive, but I enjoy them and have booked several on this cruise.

 

We first visited the Sauces IX market, which was large, clean and relatively cool under its cover. A few of our group purchased some of the colorful fruit. As many local people may not have refrigeration, and certainly not the large units found in most American homes, they shop frequently in small amounts. We moved from the produce to grocery staples such as cinnamon and rice, through household goods to fish, poultry and finally flowers.

 

I’ve been to similar markets from Fiji to Japan, but what set this one apart had nothing to do with the merchandise or the vendors. It was the “paparazzi” that we soon realized was following us as we wandered the aisles. Not only did a cameraman tape us almost every moment that we shopped, but a half dozen other people with digital cameras and smartphones were constantly taking our pictures. One in our group agreed to an interview.

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It turns out that the Zaandam is the first cruise ship to visit Guayaquil this season, and our tour will make the local news. I had a small taste of what it is like for a celebrity to try to act normal while cameras are all around.

 

We also were shadowed by our police escorts. Two officers dressed head-to-toe in black rode a motorcycle alongside our bus and walked with us through the market. Other passengers reported similar escorts, and those who took the free shuttle to a square in the city said there were police everywhere. I felt totally safe the whole day, but I don’t know if that was because of the security around us or not.

 

After the market we went to the beautiful Wyndham Hotel in the city center, where executive chef Rafael Hernández led us through making ceviche.

 

The delicious shrimp appetizer served as our starter, leading to a delicious lunch and dessert.

 

Before dinner I joined the singles and solos reception, where about 25 passengers mingled. It’s a nice change to get to know fellow travelers and perhaps even make plans for dinner or exploring future ports.

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On 10/9/2023 at 4:58 PM, WriterOnDeck said:

[All the photos are on my blog site, https://www.writerondeck.com/2023/10/07/good-friends-in-mount-dora-make-for-the-best-port-call/.]

 

Serendipity Brings a New Friend as New Adventure Begins

 

Day 1, 2023 Grand South America and Artarctica

Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., USA

 

There are many wonderful people in the world, and I enjoyed a pleasurable couple of hours with one this morning. She started out as a stranger, but we quickly became friends.

 

Jean discovered this blog through a friend about a year ago and shares with me a love of sailing and cruising. Earlier last week she invited me to be her guest for lunch during our Fort Lauderdale turnover day between cruises. That was a first for me, but one can never have too many friends. We settled on mid-morning for a late breakfast, as I had to get off the ship at 9:30 so it could go to zero count (some customs requirement) before we start the Grand South America/Antarctica voyage.

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We could have spent the entire day chatting about our similar backgrounds and interests, if only I didn’t need to get back on board to relocate to a new stateroom. We did make time to browse the giant Dollar Tree to see if there were any last-minute items I needed.

 

In all of our visiting, we totally forgot to take a photo of the two of us.

 

 

Back on the ship, I discovered my bags and hanging clothes were already in my new cabin. It will be home for the next 73 days, so I wanted to get settled. This cabin is a Vista Suite, a category that I believe is only on the smaller R-class Holland America ships. It is similar to the verandah I had on the world cruise, but slightly longer and with significantly more drawers for storage and a full-length sofa.

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There are so many drawers that I was tempted to use Post-It notes to remind me what I put where. However, hanging space isn’t as generous, with one of the closet bars going front to back instead of side to side. Impossible to use in my opinion. Oh well, as I don’t have to share, it will be fine.

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I was glad to discover magnetic walls (something the Zuiderdam didn’t have in my staterooms), so I’ve put up the new South America map I bought for this trip. I’ll use magnetic tacks to track our progress once we have passed through the Panama Canal.

 

Earlier this summer in Akureyri, Iceland, I bought a foldable cardboard globe to use as an alternative, and this cabin is big enough to use both. Instead of map pins, I’m using removeable sticky dots – blue for my previous East Coast Voyage and red for this cruise.

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I’m already noticing a few changes as we transition from a regular 13-day cruise to a grand voyage. For one thing, I’ve seen several friends I’ve sailed with before. Also, there is a celebratory atmosphere as we know we have a long trip ahead.

 

There was no line for dinner seating, and I ate with two nice couples, one of whom also were on the world cruise earlier this year, but we hadn’t met then. We had special menus featuring Port to Table specialties tied to the region. It will be interesting to see if that continues.

 

I skipped the Origin Story in the showroom, which gives a nice history of Holland America. But once you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it.

 

Back in the room, I had a nice brochure outlining the evening activities for the next two weeks. It also contains bios for the guest lecturers and instructors, including a watercolor professional. I’m looking forward to her class tomorrow morning.

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Thanks for sharing your adventures. 

As to the Origin Story , I have seen several times and always pick up some new facts. Sure would have loved Bill Miller's talks on the Rotterdams 150th anniversary crossing. 

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[All the photos are on my blog site, https://www.writerondeck.com/.]

 

A Step Back in Time to Peru’s Chan Chan Temples

 

Day 12, 2023 Grand South America and Antarctica

Wednesday, Oct.18, 2023, Trujillo, Peru

 

We’ve all heard of the Incans and the Mayans, but there were many, many other civilizations spread across North, Central and South America for centuries. (And to think that we were taught that Columbus discovered this world that already had millions of inhabitants. For a deep dive, read the award-winning non-fiction book “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus” by Charles C. Mann.)

 

Today we docked in Salaverry, the port for the nearby Trujillo (the second largest city in Peru). We explored the history and remains of pre-Incan societies living in what is now Peru. Our main focus was Chan Chan, the capital of the Chimú kingdom. The Chimú lived in this part of northern Peru from the mid ninth century until they were conquered by the Incans in 1470.

 

One of the ten temples in the city is open for tours. The thick adobe temple walls now are only about half of the original 30-foot height, due to erosion from centuries of rain. We wandered through the ceremonial sector, to the vast set of rooms used for collecting taxes and storing the payments, which were made in crops, livestock, fish, metals and jewels. A large reservoir collected water from the Andes (and proved to be the downfall for the Chimú, when the Incans realized dams could deprive the city of fresh water).

 

All that remains here today are the walls and carvings. Horizontal lines represent the waves from the nearby Pacific Ocean. More distinct waves carry fish, and sea birds line the coast. The moon was their first god.

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I was thankful that I wore sneakers for the mile-long loose gravel walk through the ruins and that there was a steady breeze. And I was surprised that this close to the equator the temperature only rose into the mid 70s. Clouds made it seem a bit cooler, but I expect that had I not used sunblock I would have been suffering later.

 

In a nearby museum, we saw many relics from this and the previous Moche era. The large floor map illustrated just how big Chan Chan was with its 10 palaces.

 

A few miles away is Huanchaco, a popular beach town best known for its reed boats. Local fishermen can make them in just a couple of hours, once the reeds are dry. Their paddle is split bamboo, and they ride the reed like a horse through the surf to deeper water. When they return, they surf back to the shore, with their catch in the hold in the back.

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Today I almost tried to do the impossible – be in two different places at the same time. I had booked myself on two tours, one with Holland America and another with an independent group. I discovered my double booking when the organizer of the independent tour mentioned a couple of days ago that I still needed to pay him. Fortunately, he found someone to fill my private tour spot, as it was too late to cancel my ship excursion.

 

My mistake was in failing to put the private tour on my planning spreadsheet, so a week ago I booked a ship excursion of the same sites. To be honest, I’m surprised I haven’t done this more often. It has been a crazy year as I am spending time on sea days researching, planning and booking tours for as many as eight future cruises at a time. Later this afternoon on the ship, I worked with my sisters back home to book a grizzly-bear tour for our Alaska cruise next June. This popular private tour just opened for booking and we needed to jump on it.

 

The roll calls on the Cruise Critic website are a great tool for meeting others on your specific cruise and planning independent tours. For longer cruises, usually someone volunteers to create a group spreadsheet listing the participants on each private tour. You can bet that I spent some time while we were at sea yesterday scouring the spreadsheet for this cruise to make sure I haven’t missed another booking.

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