Published: May 27th 2013May 26th 2013
Our pre-paid shuttle showed up early, and besides the Oosterdam, others were headed for The Golden Princess and Norwegian cruises in Alaska. Our driver answered the question of how long the shuttle would take by saying, “On Sundays, with normal traffic, and three cruise ships in port, about eleven hours, but for you I’ll try to break twenty-five minutes.” His estimate wasn’t far off, but mostly because of the heavy port congestion where every few feet another traffic officer was trying to control the chaos, and every one of them seem to have it in for our driver. One cop even ordered our van to stop, while he directed the van behind us to go around and on ahead, while we waited for the cross traffic another two minutes. We finally did get to the drop-off point, but every thirty feet another cop directed us away from the unloading zone, to continue on down until we were at the very end of the unloading area. They must really not like our driver. We had to track down a porter to get our bags taken aboard the ship, and he must have liked his $10 tip for four bags, because they found their way to our stateroom when we got back from lunch.
We might have been a little early, but Sharon maneuvered us to the 4-star check-in, and we got expedited service. There were even chairs for all of us to sit down. They didn’t need pictures for Sharon and me, because they still had our pictures from the Antarctica Cruise, and they said they were just fine. My mother Beth wasn’t happy with her picture, so I guess she’ll have to dye her naturally white hair if she goes cruising with HAL again. That was one of the criteria for taking a new picture, along with hair style, glasses, etc. We also enjoyed the benefit of being in Boarding Group 1. Having a 4-star wife has its perks. We sat for some time in the assembly area before a lady came through calling for Boarding Group 1, so we followed her, and wound up near the front of the line. Unfortunately they were waiting on the photographer. He did show up, but was taking pictures of his crew friends and staff, and it was just a little annoying that they weren’t ready for us after calling for us. I suggested that it was just a clever ploy to get us to give up our seats, which were immediately occupied when we left. After twenty-five minutes, my mother needed to find a seat, which she was able to do. It was another ten minutes before they started the lines going, taking pictures as people went through.
We got to our staterooms at about 11:45, and the Mariner’s Welcome Aboard Lunch was commencing in the Vista Dining Room in just fifteen minutes. We were seated at a table for four by the starboard side window, same side as our cabin. This is my first time on this type of HAL ship; although, I have sailed on the Nieuw Amsterdam for our honeymoon, which my wife tells me is slightly larger. It has the main dining on decks 2 and 3, as is the Showroom, which is slightly reversed from the smaller ships. Our inside cabin was noticeably smaller than our Lanai Cabin on the Veendam. The interior arrangement is also quite interesting, and some might feel borders on claustrophobic. I think it might actually work out quite nicely. I’m sure Sharon’s mother Shirley and my mom were wondering about the single queen size bed in their cabin, but Sharon assured my mom that the bed could be separated.
We got to the dining room just as they were opening up. The menu seems to be the same as I’ve seen on previous cruises for lunch the first day. I had the Reuben Sandwich, starting with the Bay Shrimp Cocktail followed by the Mushroom and Barley Soup. Sharon had the Avocado and Bacon Burger, sans Avocado and Bacon and Anything Else! Sharon’s Mom Shirley had the same thing as Sharon. John’s Mom Beth had the same thing as Shirley, except she relented and accepted the bacon. When the dishes came, they also came sans French Fries. Our server went back to bring a large plate of community Fries. We all enjoyed our meals. This was the first time I’d gotten the Reuben, and I’ll definitely get it again. Sharon steered me clear of the “Fried Chicken” which I had previously ordered. For dessert, Shirley and Beth had the Butterscotch Ice Cream, and Sharon and I had the Chocolate Mousse cake, which was decidedly light, airy and tasty.
We stopped by the front office and requested that the bed in our mother’s cabin be separated. They said it would be taken care of by 6pm, but currently the cabin stewards are busy moving luggage into the proper cabins. Indeed, when we returned to our cabins, all of our luggage was there. Sharon and I started to unload our suitcases, and the mothers did the same. It was approaching 2pm and we decided to go see the talk by the National Park Ranger on our itinerary. It was informative, but somehow lacked the punch or pizzazz of the speakers in Antarctica.
We made our way to one of the bars on the Promenade Deck and ordered a Coke for my mother and I. Sharon had hers with lunch, and she seldom has two back to back like this, though she did borrow a couple of sips of my drink. We were just passing a few minutes until the Life Boat Drill scheduled for 3pm. Our Station is Number 15, and we wound up standing directly in front of an exhaust fan, which might be fine on a hot sunny day, which this was not. And we had to stand there for about fifteen minutes as stragglers dragged in. Sharon blocked the fan breeze for her mother, and I did the same for mine. When the drill was over, we made our way back to the cabin and finished unpacking. The Mom’s beds had been separate though they only moved one of the night stands so there’s a small isle on the right side of each. We each helped our mothers finish unpacking and got their bags under the bed so they had room to move. Sharon and Shirley made their way to the 5pm mass, while my mother napped, and I got caught up on the blog.
[Sharon] – We had a good group of about 40 for mass and the priest was very interesting but I don’t remember his name. He’s originally from Ireland but spent most his time in the San Francisco area after some mission time in the Alabama/Mississippi area during the 60’s which he said was not a good time for Catholics in that area. He’s now retired and is happy not to have to do the administration so he just says mass and prays and goes on cruises when he gets a chance. He gave a nice sermon on the Trinity and found a related hymn since it was Trinity Sunday. He also didn’t say anything about not shaking hands for the sign of peace which they normally do on the ship. I know RuthC remembers the Peace Elbows from January J
[Back to John]
We got to dinner about a quarter to six, and I saw something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before at the dining room… there was a line. In fact, there were two lines. The first had no one in it and was for “Reservations”. The second line was for “Walk-Ins”, and it wrapped around the side back towards the elevators. But it moved, and we were quickly seated at a table for ten. We took advantage of Sharon’s 4-Star status to buy 3 bottles of wine for a 50% discount, choosing a Pinot Noir from France. My mother likes to drink a glass before bed, and most of this was for her, but Shirley and I also plan to have some for dinner from time to time as we did tonight. Sharon, who doesn’t drink, confused me by ordering a glass for herself, thinking it would be for my mom. But it threw her for a loop when they poured a small amount in the glass for her to approve; but, she quickly deferred to me. Despite Sharon being there with her 83 year-old mother, and me with my 82 year-old mother, another diner at our table had us beat who was joined by her 90 year-old mother on her first cruise. Sharon asked her, “What took you so long.” She just shrugged and answered, “I don’t know.” As it turned out, she and her husband had been booked on a cruise many years ago, but on the cruise preceding theirs, the ship floundered, and their cruise go cancelled. After that, she expressed no urgency to go through that again.
I chose the Chef’s Recommended Mango Scallops for my appetizer, while my mom had the fruit cocktail, Sharon the Steak Soup and Shirley a salad. My mom and I both had the baked potato soup for our second course. And it was Prime Rib well-done for Shirley, medium for Sharon, medium-rare for me and my mother fooled us all by getting the roast chicken with stuffing. The beef served with a baked potato was delicious, and I was able to get a quite strong horse radish sauce for mine, so I was pleased. If Ron was there, I know he would have complained that the women got the biggest pieces of meat (their hunks of meat easily weighed 20 ounces each; while, mine came in at a quite respectable 14 ounces). Our potatoes were done nicely as well, as were our side vegetables of string beans and carrots. It was a bit tougher to pick a dessert, there being no clear chocolate choice. I settled for the Banana Crisp with a scoop of vanilla ice cream that came off as a dead ringer for Banana’s Foster. I would definitely get this dish again! Sharon ordered the Ice Cream Sundae, but forgot to order it without nuts. We all knew my mom would go for the Viennese Apple Strudel, which she ordered with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Shirley also had the hot fudge Sundae and her hot tea (which is about all she drinks). She was very pleased that they have her favorite plain Lipton Tea. The woman sitting on the other side of her was also a tea drinker so they enjoyed talking about tea while they drank it. I also got the daily cordial Mocha Mint consisting of Kahlua, Crème de Mint (green) and Crème de Cacao (white).
John and his mother decided to turn in for the night. I was a bit tired but knew my mother wanted to go to the show so we headed up to the down to the Vista lounge. They had a free $250 Bingo game before the show. The “Show Host” Alex (they seem to have lots of new titles on this ship) discussed the rules and etiquette for Bingo. I’m pretty sure he’s “DJ” Alex from our South America/Antarctica Cruise on the Veendam last Jan. We really enjoyed him on that cruise and if they do the game where they give definitions for odd words we’ll definitely have to go (we still laugh over the ones he did with pantyhose and whale sounds but you had to be there). We didn’t do too well with Bingo which was an X game. At one point he asked those who still didn’t have a number to wave their cards and I was one of about 40 while my mother had at least 1 number. Quite a while later when he made a comment about anyone not having any numbers I was the only one left and there were already people standing for be being one number away. The first person who called Bingo from the Balcony area had a Bongo (only 1 line) after he long hike down to get it checked. So the game continued and I managed to get 5 out of the last 7 numbers. Oh well maybe we’ll win tomorrow.
The show was called Listen to the Music. Someone mentioned it was the first time they were doing it but it was the same one we saw on the Veendam in January. We all had to learn our part (2 claps and 5 points) though this time it was done with a video of people in all parts of the ship doing it. In Jan Alex had taught us. The show then introduced all of the entertainers on board who each did a song or two. There are some very good singers in the group and the Piano Bar player Ben looks like he should be lots of fun. They didn’t do the YMCA part that Alex got everyone up on in Jan. My mother really enjoyed the show and even got her claps and points down pretty well. By now it was after 10 so we headed back down for some sleep. We are looking forward to our first relaxing sea day tomorrow, after a hectic day of hurry up and wait.