Day 2 – Victoria, B.C.
I’m sitting here this evening at around 7:00 p.m. writing these entries because it seems like a great way to spend a formal night decked out in my jogging pants and tee-shirt. I’m sorry – I’ll deal with formal nights, but not this early in the cruise. Tonight I plan to forego dinner entirely, and then head up to the Lido for the late night buffet (theme: New England). Those grilled ham and cheese sandwiches sound absolutely heavenly!
Today I took a tour of Butchart Gardens, which also included a “short” city tour. The reason I put short in quotes is because due to traffic and a bicycle race that was going on, there were numerous detours along with the traffic congestion. Our tour was the last one to get back to the ship, and this is why I always prefer to book tours through the cruise line. If this had been a tour I booked on my own, I’d have been sitting on pins and needles worrying about missing the ship. As it was, I had no worries. It was Holland America’s problem, not mine. If they sailed without us, they’d have a double-decker busload full of passengers to fly to San Francisco, not to mention a lot of hotel rooms to pay for since the ship won’t arrive there for two days, so I knew the ship would be sitting there waiting for us even if we were an hour late.
Since we were only scheduled to be in Victoria for a short day, with an “all aboard” by 1:00 p.m. (yeah, right), this was a short tour. We boarded a double decker bus and our driver pointed out all the highlights of the city as we made our way to the Gardens, about a 45 minute drive from the pier. The Empress Hotel in particular was stunning, though I passed on an excursion for “afternoon tea” there. It’s overpriced, especially when you consider that Holland America offers their own version of this event every day, and I enjoyed what I would have paid close to $75 bucks for at the Empress, onboard the ship for zip. Okay, call me cheap.
When we arrived at Butchart Gardens, we were given two hours for a self-guided tour. I will attempt to get a smattering of photos online in the next couple of days, so please be patient as internet speeds on all cruise ships make a snail look like the Roadrunner, so I have to economize on my internet minutes a bit here.
Suffice to say the Gardens were breathtakingly beautiful with every sort of bloom you can imagine. I walked through many of them and the perfusion of colors was amazing. You can scarcely take it all in, not in two hours. I’ve heard that people spend entire days here without seeing everything the Gardens have to offer. This is a year-round attraction, and from what I was told, Christmas is a particularly wonderful time of year to tour them, as they blanket the trees with all manner of twinkling colorful lights, and the time to come out is in the evening when the Gardens are particularly stunning. They also add an ice skating rink for a bit of added ambience.
All too soon it was time to get back on the bus for a return to the ship and onward to our next port. But our captain Jack van Coevorden … also known as Captain Jack, had yet another surprise for us. The Canadian Royal Airforce’s aerobatics team, the Snowbirds, were putting on a show this afternoon, and he held the ship a bit later in port so that the passengers could enjoy the festivities from the deck. For those of you who know me, you know that I am a bit “nuts.” I’ve always enjoyed doing “extreme” things like skydiving and bungee jumping … and I’ve also done a couple of aerobatic flights with Warbird Adventures in Kissemee, Florida. So for me, this was a special treat to behold. Sitting with a Tropical Cable Car in hand (my favorite Holland America “Signature Cocktail”), I sat in the Ocean Bar viewing some of the most amazing formation aerobatic maneuvers I’ve ever seen. Groups of six, eight, and even ten planes flying loops, rolls and other “fun” maneuvers, all the while spewing forth plumbs of smoke to mark their path. At some times the planes seemed to be touching wings … they were flying that close to each other … and I found myself holding my breath and praying they wouldn’t collide, which – of course – they did not. These pilots were clearly at the top of their game.
It was only as the show wound down that the good captain slowly guided our ship onward to San Francisco, over an hour later than our projected sailing time.
I guess I should say a few words about the ship. The Statendam is a lovely ship. It’s my first time sailing on her and at first I was concerned that she might be showing her age. Not so. She is a beautiful vessel and all the public rooms are truly elegant. I’ve already spent considerable time in both the Crow’s Nest and the Ocean Bar (because those venues offer a smoking section ). There is entertainment in the evenings in both venues and on this sailing we do have a stable of “dance hosts” always asking unescorted ladies to dance. They also are great conversationalists as I spent a while talking with one of them in the Crow’s Nest last night. These guys might seem to have a “cushy” job, but believe me they don’t. They have to show up for dance classes each day, then have to be available for pre-dinner and after-dinner dancing in the lounges, and then even have to go up to the Crow’s Nest for a bit late in the evening to dance with the ladies at the DJ’s party. Sometimes it is very hard for them to coax the ladies onto the dance floor because they get turned down a lot for various reasons … “I haven’t danced in ten years, I have bad legs (my reason), and a variety of others. However, even if a lady doesn’t wish to dance, they also are well traveled and can lots of great conversation as well.
I am in an outside cabin on the Main Deck with wonderful views of the wide open sea right from my bedside. Of course, the cabin is smallish, but the space is wisely-utilized so it doesn’t feel small. I couldn’t believe how much closet space I had. All of my clothes fit with room to “grow” as this voyage progresses.
I have a long desk area with plenty of countertop space (something that’s important to me especially since I need a bunch of it for this laptop and other gear I’ve brought along). I also have a nice couch which is great for sitting and watching television when waking up at 3:00 in the morning with nothing much to do.
The bathroom is nicely appointed with plenty of countertop and shelf space for all my “junk. I have a deep tub in this cabin and I can envision a night or two of relaxing baths … something I don’t have the luxury of time for at home.
For those concerned about pre-ordering things at home before a voyage, worry not. All of my pre-ordered shore excursion tickets were waiting for me in my cabin, as well as various “hooch” cards and other amenities I pre-ordered before the cruise. Not a snafu at all. I personally prefer to pre-order as many things as possible in order to keep the onboard bill under control. Nothing is worse than adding to disembarkation depression with a huge onboard bill to worry about. Unfortunately, those bills come due at some point.
Yes, this is going to be an amazing voyage … and a luxurious one as well. So sit back and enjoy. I know I will.