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Old October 20th, 2008, 07:10 PM
kryos kryos is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2005
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Default On the Way Home -- Is this Cruise Really Ending?

It's hard to believe that this wonderful cruise is really coming to an end.

We are currently enjoying our first full day at sea heading back to San Diego from Nuku Hiva. We will have a total of six. It appears each one is going to contain something special, though, and the fun is just beginning. Maybe these little “treats” we have in store will somewhat dull the pain of knowing that we will be getting off this ship in a mere six days. Where on Earth did the time go? This was a 35-day sailing – my longest yet!

Trisha and Virgil of CruiseCritic, as well as myself, received an invitation today. We’ve been invited to enjoy dinner this evening at the Pinnacle Grill, as well as pre-dinner cocktails in the Ocean Bar, with the Hotel Manager, Theodorus Haanen and his wife, Helen; and well as the Culinary Operations Manager, Martin Groenendijk and his wife, Maggie.

We all met up at about 7:30 or so in the Ocean Bar to get acquainted. Helen and I hit it off almost immediately as we are both writers and had a lot in common. Maggie is a really fun person too, and she is clearly excited at the prospect of having her husband to herself for a while, as he will be disembarking the Statendam in San Diego for his vacation. Maggie doesn’t travel full-time with Martin, as Helen does with Theo, so the prospect of a vacation with her husband is particularly appealing to her.

Dinner at the Pinnacle was a wonderful affair. We were seated in the rear portion of the restaurant, spread out comfortably at a large table. A wait staff of five practically fawned over us, taking care of our every need long before we could even articulate it. Take a sip of your water, and the glass was almost immediately topped off. Bottles of red and white wine instantly appeared and our glasses were always kept full.

The meal itself was to die for, as all Pinnacle meals are. My fillet was cooked to perfection, a nice warm pink center – just the way I like it. We were all stuffed by the end of this elaborate meal, and I was one of the few people at the table to order dessert. I can’t bypass my sorbet – tonight a very refreshing watermelon flavor. And before anyone criticizes me for not indulging in the decadent Chocolate Volcano Cake – I can’t. I’m allergic to chocolate.

As a little side note, a hot tip: The entire Pinnacle menu is being expanded and the new menu will be rolled out on the Statendam beginning with the 16-day Panama Canal cruise that kicks off right after we disembark on Saturday, October 25th. They are adding several new items, including a rib eye steak entrée, as well as some other beef dishes. Lobster will be making an appearance on the Pinnacle menu as well. Martin told me that it will clearly be a greatly expanded menu of offerings for this deluxe dining venue.

After dinner, it was up to the Crow’s Nest for the Sailor’s Ball, where it was another round of drinks, some great music by SeaBreeze, and more stimulating conversation. The atmosphere was gala, with white helium balloons strung up all over the room and colorful “disco” lighting on the dance floor. Just about all of the ship’s officers and staff who weren’t on duty attended and, from what I understand, the party continued until well after midnight. Alas, for us “early birds,” the hour just got a bit too late and we had to bid our kind hosts goodnight at around the Midnight hour.

I really enjoyed this intimate get-together because it gave me a chance to learn a bit more about what it is like to have the luxury of travel on an almost full-time basis. I am always fascinated to learn about people’s lives at sea. Theo’s wife, Helen, travels with Theo on his assignments and she spends a lot of her time writing. I was fascinated to hear about the series of children’s books she is working on – a first attempt for her at book writing. She has constructed an elaborate set of characters that came about when she found a child’s teddy bear onboard one of the ships years ago. No one ever claimed the poor teddy, so she adopted him and moved him into her and Theo’s cabin. There she built an elaborate history for him, and set about creating for him a host of other companions – some of them other teddies, along with a variety of other creatures, including frogs. In fact, her stories became so elaborate that she began sharing them with her mother back home. She even got her involved in making a variety of hand-sewn costumes for her various creatures. Theo even got into the act and wore one of Helen’s teddies on his ephlet at a shipboard New Year’s Eve party.

The food, the drink, and mostly the conversation was absolutely wonderful on this first of six glorious evenings at sea we have before we have to disembark the Statendam in San Diego on Saturday. This evening will go down as one of the best I have ever spent on this or any other Holland America ship. It was that much fun – and for a formal night too!
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