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Old September 18th, 2008, 03:15 PM
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Default Let's go to Hawaii and the South Pacific on the Statendam!

On Saturday, September 20, I will be boarding HAL's ms Statendam for a glorious 35-day cruise to Hawaii and the South Pacific. You are all welcome to join me via this virtual cruise thread. I'll try to answer any questions about the ship and the itinerary, and just about anything else that may pique your interest.

So get your bags packed and join me for an awesome sailing experience and some neat and exciting ports of call.

Blue skies ...

--rita
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Old September 18th, 2008, 05:12 PM
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I'm looking forward to it, Rita! Take me to Bora Bora!

Where are you going in the South Pacific, anyway?
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Old September 19th, 2008, 03:46 PM
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Have a great trip, Rita! I look forward to reading your reports!
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Old September 19th, 2008, 05:49 PM
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Oh wow Rita~~~~

We took Statendam to Hawaii, but never any further. I will be waiting to hear from you !

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Old September 20th, 2008, 12:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Paul Motter
I'm looking forward to it, Rita! Take me to Bora Bora!

Where are you going in the South Pacific, anyway?
Bora Bora, Raitera, Moorea and Papette, plus Nuka Hiva. Then all the Hawaiian Islands as well, including an overnight in Oahu.

I am at the Pan Pacific in Vancouver right now. Vince and Karen (Vinman) picked me up at the airport, plus we took a wonderful city tour by car this evening. We left by daylight and returned in the dark. We drove over the bridge, all lit up with twinkling lights. Vince also took me through various sections of Vancouver, including some extremely rich areas where homes go for money like $5+ mil. These homes' claim to fame is their views overlooking the harbor and the bridge. To think that there are people who can sit out on their decks in the evening and enjoy these views is enough to make anyone green with envy.

Earlier today we also walked around the cruise pier. There are two ships in -- one a huge Royal Caribbean vessel and also the Celebrity Infinity. Both of these ships are not set to sail until very late this evening, like around midnight. I really don't have a harbor view from this room on the 20th floor of the Pan Pacific, but I am able to just barely see the infinity if I lean waaaayyyy over near the corner of my window.

This room, by the way, has a bathroom that's almost bigger than my entire cabin on the Carnival Paradise cruise I just got off of.

I only wish things had worked out that I could have spent a couple of days precruise here in Vancouver. There's a lot to see and do here, things I was not even aware of. There are floatplane tours one can take, an aquarium one can visit, and even a paddleboat that does a nice sunset cruise. If one can walk good distances, there is plenty to see and do along the sea wall. Unfortunately, I can't walk that much, and that's why Vince and Karen were kind enough to offer me a driving tour.

Another awesome thing about this hotel too is that it is literally a part of the cruise terminal. Around 11:00 in the morning, I will call the bell man and he will come up to get my huge suitcase, and deliver it right to the ship! Now that's a really unique service ... and best of all it's free!

This is a somewhat "pricey" hotel, but for a day or so it's worth the money. It's in a great location -- one needs only bop on down to the cruise ship level at checkout time and be right in line to check in onboard ship.

I don't think I've ever looked forward to a cruise as much as I am looking forward to this one. We'll do a five-day "coastal" first, taking us from Vancouver to Victoria, B.C., and then onward to San Francisco (where more people will embark for the Hawaii/South Pacific voyage, and others only doing a three-day coastal from Vancouver will disembark. Then we head to San Diego, where we'll embark still more people for the Hawaii/South Pacific voyage, and the remainder of the "coastal crowd" will disembark. And then we have my favorite ... four glorious sea days enroute to Hawaii, where we will spend six days before heading onward to the South Pacific.

I'll be providing a running commentary, so I hope you all jump onboard and come along.

For now, I'll sign off. It's been a long day and an ardous flight from LAX (Expedia had the wrong airline listed on my paperwork, so I went to the wrong terminal ... a frantic cab ride to get to the right one, followed by getting to my gate as the flight was getting ready to start boarding left me a frazzled mess. But at least it's all behind me now, and a nice gate agent from United helped me to get my huge suitcase out to the cab stand when it appeared I was about to have a melt down right in front of him.

So, now I'll just get a good night's sleep and dream about the start of this wonderful voyage.

Blue skies ... calm seas!

--rita
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Old September 20th, 2008, 09:53 PM
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Quote:
Vince also took me through various sections of Vancouver, including some extremely rich areas where homes go for money like $5+ mil. These homes' claim to fame is their views overlooking the harbor and the bridge. To think that there are people who can sit out on their decks in the evening and enjoy these views is enough to make anyone green with envy.
A long time ago after one of our Alaska cruises, we visited friends who used to live near us and at the time were living in one of those homes that overlook the harbour and bridge. Oh, what a sight! We had been on the Rotterdam V and watched as it sailed out of the harbour on it's return to Alaska. I sure did envy them having that view every day.

We've stayed at the Pan Pacific a few times as it's so convenient to the terminal and in May were very fortunate to be upgraded to a Suite overlooking the harbour. I had booked the cheapest room they have...........as you said the are pricey, but worth it for one night. When we woke up in the morning we watched the Veendam as she sailed into port.

Have a wonderful time, Rita, and I look forward to your reports.

P.S. Forgot to say our friends did not live in a house worth $5M - maybe now it does.
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Old September 20th, 2008, 10:10 PM
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Rita , you are there already! I know you boarded the ship already and I hope you are getting it ready for us.

As you know we will board in SF. We are at the hotel now and spent the day at Fisherman's Wharf. We've walked our feet off. Went to Giaradelli's for some of the famous hot fudge sundaes they offer. Yum. I couldn't even finish one sundae.

We will see you on Tuesday. I can hardly wait.
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Old September 21st, 2008, 04:18 AM
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Excellent, Cruising' Fool. We will have three people on our virtual cruise report! And you are from Scott'sdale, too!

I would have gone, but I have actually done that itinerary. In fact, it was the route my very first cruise took on Royal Viking line back in 1983!.
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Old September 21st, 2008, 10:47 AM
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Well Paul, where is it writteny you can;t do this more than once.This is our third time on this itinerary.

We are going to have us some good times on the cruise. Yes, indeed.
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Old September 21st, 2008, 05:12 PM
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Actually, I have been to Tahiti 3 times, and to Hawaii three or four times, but only on the same cruise one time.

No problems at all! I love the islands and I think they are more beautiful than the Caribbean Islands, though I think snorkeling is better in the Caribbean because the water is warmer and there are less currents.

But no problems at all!
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Old September 21st, 2008, 06:09 PM
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That's odd. We found the waters in the South Pacific to be much warmer than in the Caribbean.Although, I must agree that I love to snorkel Bonaire, Barbados and Aruba.

Rest assured that your ears will be burning Paul sometime about Tuesday evening. Rita and I will be talking up a storm.
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Old September 21st, 2008, 07:34 PM
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Hi Rita,


I made it over here . You KNOW this cruise is on my list of must do's so I am very excited to follow along with you!


Marie
aka ExaltHim
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Old September 21st, 2008, 08:12 PM
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Hi Marie, good to hear from you over here. It would be great for you to do this cruise. It is suc a wonderful itinerary. Hope to meet you soon

aka Kakalina
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Old September 21st, 2008, 08:21 PM
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Hi Trisha,

I intend to do this cruise and when I do, I hope you and Virgil are on board. I had to choose between this cruise and a 24 day Transatlantic on the Prisendam, Oct. 30. The timing was better for the Prisendam.
Have a fabulous cruise and thanks for your reply.


Marie
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Old September 22nd, 2008, 11:23 PM
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I always laugh at people who rush to get to the pier as early as possible in the morning. Not me. If I am spending a night pre-cruise in the embarkation pier city, I stay at the hotel until the last possible moment – until they are ready to kick me out of my room. Only then do I head over to the pier to embark.
After my “adventures” at LAX on Friday, I didn’t want any problems embarking, and that included no waits of any kind. I was in luck. I called for the bellman at the Pan Pacific at around 11:15 and gave him a very generous tip with the admonishment to please, please, pretty please make sure this bag gets on the right ship. He assured me that it would. Finally, I headed over with my carry-ons at about 12:15. Down to the lobby of the Pan Pacific, over to the parking level elevator, down to the cruise ship level, and then through security … all in a matter of about 15 minutes (I walk slow). Then I got in “line” for a “red coat” agent … in other words, I stepped into the queue and was immediately directed to a window where there was an available agent. Since I filled out the paperwork online and printed my priority boarding pass, she didn’t even need to see my credit card or even my documents. All she needed was my “have you been ill in the last 24 hours?” form, and then she just got my key card and took my boarding photo. Then it was onward to the ship! Even with the stop for the embarkation photo (I’m still waiting to get an embarkation photo where I don’t look like death warmed over. We’ll have to see how this one turns out), it was less than five minutes to get onboard. Now we just will have to pray the luggage appears as well.
Of course, cabins were still not ready, so we were directed to the Lido for lunch. No sooner did I sit down with my cup of java than I struck up my first conversation with people I’ve never met. That’s what I love about cruising. Doing that sort of thing is acceptable on a boat … in my hometown of Philadelphia, people would get up and move if you tried that.
Well, soon cabins were ready and before long my wonderful cabin steward appeared with the suitcase. What a relief! Now I can get unpacked and start enjoying this cruise! When he had a few moments, my cabin steward, Mohammad, knocked on the door and introduced himself. He also came bearing gifts … a brand new ashtray to replace the one I was originally given. This one has a lid and when you finish a smoke, you just push down on the center knob, and the butt disappears inside. This way the cabin doesn’t start smelling like an ashtray after you’ve smoked a few.
Once lifeboat drill was over (I actually considered trying to skip it, but I figured that probably wouldn’t be a good idea … especially after seeing others the next day being made to do a make-up one), it was onward to the Crow’s Nest for Sailaway. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any CruiseMates on this sailing, but we did have a pretty large group from that “other board,” of which I’ve been corresponding with online over the past ten months . It was so wonderful putting faces to screen names, and screen names to real names as well.
On this 35-day voyage, which is actually two voyages threaded together (a five day coastal from Vancouver to San Diego and a 30-day Hawaii/South Pacific sailing that goes round trip from San Diego) there are nine formal nights, at least according to the daily program. So, I’ll be enjoying quite a few dinners in the Lido. In fact, a nice enhancement to the Lido Dining option is that Holland America now runs full dinner service in the Lido from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m., a nice improvement over my past cruises where full service Lido dining cut off at about 7:00 or 7:30, making it an unattractive option for people who like to dine a bit later.
As for the dining room, I have open seating this cruise … a first for me and something I normally would not enjoy, especially since I generally travel solo. I’ll be very interested to see how this works out when I try it on Monday night. I ate in the Lido this evening and will do so on Sunday evening as well, since Sunday is one of our designated formal nights. Yep, we have smart casual and dumb formal on this cruise.
Embarkation day is always hectic, but this one was full of great experiences too. I met a lot of people I’ve only communicated with online. I stayed up until close to 11:00 talking with some of them and only wandered off to bed that early when I realized that I had a shore excursion meet-up time of 8:30 in the morning.
First stop – Victoria, BC. The adventure begins!
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Old September 22nd, 2008, 11:28 PM
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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.
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Old September 23rd, 2008, 05:50 AM
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Hi, Rita.

I just registered on this board so that I can participate in this thread. As you may recall, I posted on the "other" cruise board about surprising my wife with a trip for our 30th anniversary in December, and you helped me decide to take the 30-day Hawaii/Tahiti cruise out of San Diego on the Ryndam in January. So I will be anxiously following your cruise report to see what is in store for us in a few months!

Scott
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Old September 23rd, 2008, 08:36 AM
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Good morning Rita. Well girl, you have me drooling. It isn't a pretty picture trust me.

I can't believe we will finally get on that dam ship today and see you. Hooray.

I have so enjoyed catching up with you via your "blog" so well written and ineresting.Keep it up for the whole cruise.There are many just waiting to read about the islands.
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Old September 24th, 2008, 10:19 AM
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Default Bon Voyage to the Statendam voyagers!

Bon Voyage to the Statendam cruisers! Rita, Trish, Virgil, and the whole gang! We are patiently awaiting our sail date for Jan 4, and will cruise right along with you so we will be extra prepared for ours! Thank you so much Rita for doing this virtual cruise! It is going to be so exciting to see all your posts of what you are all doing! Have a fabulous time, I am sure you will!
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Old September 25th, 2008, 12:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crusin' fool
Rest assured that your ears will be burning Paul sometime about Tuesday evening. Rita and I will be talking up a storm.
... yep! I told her all our "dirty little secrets," Paul.

Getting to reconnect with good friends is what makes a cruise like this so special. Trish and Virgil, and I, spent almost non-stop time together after they boared on Tuesday. This is gonna be an awesome cruise!

Blue skies ...

--rita
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Old September 25th, 2008, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by MadManOfBethesda
I just registered on this board so that I can participate in this thread. As you may recall, I posted on the "other" cruise board about surprising my wife with a trip for our 30th anniversary in December, and you helped me decide to take the 30-day Hawaii/Tahiti cruise out of San Diego on the Ryndam in January. So I will be anxiously following your cruise report to see what is in store for us in a few months!
I can absolutely assure you that you will love it. This is my second time doing this itinerary, and Trisha's third. We can well envision ourselves doing this itinerary many more times in the years to come. It is a wonderful collection of ports, with a nice generous portion of sea days to even out the mix. Of course, for folks who don't like sea days, this may not be the best choice in itineraries since it has some 18 of them! But, I personally love sea days, so I have no problem with them.

Blue skies and great to have you along for the ride!

--rita
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Old September 25th, 2008, 12:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kryos
Quote:
Originally Posted by MadManOfBethesda
I just registered on this board so that I can participate in this thread. As you may recall, I posted on the "other" cruise board about surprising my wife with a trip for our 30th anniversary in December, and you helped me decide to take the 30-day Hawaii/Tahiti cruise out of San Diego on the Ryndam in January. So I will be anxiously following your cruise report to see what is in store for us in a few months!
I can absolutely assure you that you will love it. This is my second time doing this itinerary, and Trisha's third. We can well envision ourselves doing this itinerary many more times in the years to come. It is a wonderful collection of ports, with a nice generous portion of sea days to even out the mix. Of course, for folks who don't like sea days, this may not be the best choice in itineraries since it has some 18 of them! But, I personally love sea days, so I have no problem with them.

Blue skies and great to have you along for the ride!

--rita

Rita,

I am so glad to hear that you hope to repeat this itinerary again . Perhaps when that time comes I will be able to join you!


Marie
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Old September 25th, 2008, 10:54 PM
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Theresa from NJ here and I will be living vicariously through you. I can't even imagine 30 days at sea. It would be a dream for me and I think I would cruise the same as you, as laid back as possible. You are well read and your posts have been wonderful so far. I can't wait to see what else you write and your photos. Maybe I can bribe my husband one day to drive to Philly to meet at Dave and Busters or someplace to see your pictures and get a first-hand accounting of your trip. The last time I cruised the Pacific, I was three!! I'm 51 now! How long will it take to save up for a trip of this caliber?

Again, blue skies to you!

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Old September 26th, 2008, 07:54 AM
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This whopping 35-day cruise is actually two cruises strung together. It’s a 5 day coastal going from Vancouver, B.C. to San Diego, and then a 30-day cruise round-trip San Diego heading to Hawaii, and then onward to the South Pacific, before returning to San Diego on October 25. We have now embarked on the “real cruise,” as we sailed from San Diego last evening after embarking some 700 or so new passengers.

Before leaving Vancouver, of course we all had to participate in the “wonderful and exciting” boat drill exercise. Orange is definitely my color and I so love putting on that fashionable life jacket. Standing on deck in the freezing cold, or baking in the hot sun while wearing it, is a joy like none other I have experienced. So imagine my joy when I found out that after doing one at embarkation, I now had to participate in a second one a mere five days later. The reason, as I was told, is that this is technically a new cruise, so all passengers, regardless of embarkation point, have to do a new boat drill. Imagine my further joy when I found out that some of the other passengers who got on in either Vancouver or San Francisco were told a second boat drill wasn’t necessary and thus got out of it. Guess I just talked to the wrong people.

I know boat drill is important, but can’t I just watch a video? It’s sort of like those safety briefings on the airlines that I generally sleep through. After all, I know the seat cushions float – as if we’re going over water to begin with – and I certainly know how to fasten a seatbelt.

Luckily, though, the drill was relatively painless and was over in a mercifully short time. Then it was time to start enjoying this cruise starting with a beautiful sailaway out of San Diego. The weather was nice and warm, Darlene and the HALCats were playing some wonderful tunes, and the excitement level was high as we all anticipated the next four days at sea, in route to our first port, Hilo.

We spent a full day in San Diego yesterday, as many passengers disembarked there, while others got on. That’s the interesting thing about this cruise. There is no one embarkation point. The five-day coastal voyage embarked some passengers in Vancouver (such as myself) and others in either San Francisco or San Diego. Some of the passengers were only onboard for the coastal, or maybe tacked it onto the last Alaska sailing that ended in Vancouver before the coastal started. But now that we’ve left San Diego, everyone onboard is now on for the entire 30-day Hawaii/South Pacific sailing, so we can now begin to bond as one big happy family!

In San Diego, several of us Cruise Critics and CruiseMates decided to head over to Anthony’s (located right at the pier) for some good eatin’. They have the best pesto butter I have ever tasted and served with warm bread makes it a heavenly taste treat. I had a bread bowl of New England clam chowder, another specialty they are well known for and combined with generous helpings of the warm bread, I left there literally rolling down the street. To show what a child I am, I happened to glance toward the rear of the restaurant and saw some beautiful white and purple balloons. Presumably they give these to children. Well, guess what? I’m a child at heart, and in minutes I had a beautiful purple helium balloon tied to my chair. It is now in my cabin here on the Statendam, and amazingly it hasn’t begun to lose its helium yet.

We had a group of five of us at the restaurant – my good friends Virgil and Trish (Kakalina) and Joe and Michael. We are all avid participants in the cruise boards and it was great to be able to sit down face-to-face and talk. Computer screens and telephones are nice, but face-to-face is so much better.

Two days ago, we spent in day in San Francisco, where my much-anticipated reunion with Virgil and Trish took place. We initially made each other’s acquaintance on that “other” cruise board several years ago. Then in January of 2006, we did this same cruise, minus the coastal portion, on the Amsterdam. During that cruise, we all really bonded and became fast friends. We swore we would do another sailing together soon, but mainly because of my work commitments, it just never worked out. Finally, after two years, and hundreds of hours of telephone calls, we finally made arrangements to do this one together, so the anticipation of meeting up again after so long was running high. I was so excited that I refused to get off the ship in San Francisco, preferring instead to park myself on the Navigation Deck awaiting their arrival onboard.

Finally, as new passengers began to get onboard, I finally spotted them and we’ve been practically attached at the hip ever since. It’s been a wonderful reunion that is made better by the knowledge that it will go on for another glorious 30 days.

We enjoyed a wonderful sailaway from San Francisco as well, sipping drinks and listening to the HALCats perform those wonderful rock and roll standards. The only problem is that it was cold out there on the Navigation Deck, and being the idiot that I am, I didn’t go back to the cabin to put on something warmer. Now I’ve got a nice cold to get rid of in these four days at sea before Hawaii.

A little about life onboard … there has been some talk on the boards about HAL cutting down on activities. Well, yes, they have apparently cut out most of the games that take place in the lounges on sea days – stuff like Scattergories, and the like. They still have plenty of games available in the Explorations Café that passengers can play in groups on their own. There is also daily team trivia, as well as a full slate of Dam Dollars sports competitions. In fact, they are running something this cruise called the “Big Kahuna,” which actually means big wave or top competitor in Hawaii. This is a fun series of sports competitions that will apparently end up with someone being “crowned” the “Big Kahuna.” I’ll sit back and watch, drink in hand. I’m not one for “physical” pursuits and the only time you’ll see me running is when a meal is being served.

There is also an Explorations Speakers series being run on this cruise, and right now we have Joe Daly onboard. He is a former Navy man who is enlightening us on subjects related to the sea, such as famous sea captains and how the Polynesian explorers came to the Hawaiian Islands and settled there. Today, he will be talking about the Old Days of Hawaii, but I will miss that for a more important event, our Cruise Critics and Cruise Mates Meet and Greet in the Crow’s Nest at 2:30. And that’s another thing. There’s been lots of mention on the boards lately about HAL cutting out a lot of former amenities. I just don’t see much of that on this cruise so far. Trisha and I went to finalize the arrangements for the Meet and Greet yesterday, and Peter – the Beverage Manager – was very forthcoming in agreeing to supply appetizers for the event. He also left open the possibility that we could even have a second event perhaps mid-way into the cruise. We also hopefully will have some of the staff joining us for the festivities.

Another thing that’s received a lot of mention on cruise message boards lately is the fact that Holland America was switching around the show times, making the show for late seating passengers before dinner. That hasn’t been the case so far on this cruise. The shows have run at 8:00 and 10:00 p.m., unless there is only one show that evening. Then the one show is sort of sandwiched in between those times.

The Statendam is fully equipped for wireless internet now. In years past, the ships only had wireless “hot spots” in certain areas, such as the Explorations Café. So, if you wanted to get onto the internet via your laptop, you had to trudge down there, even if that meant in robe and pajamas to make a connection. Well, right now as I write this, it is about 2:30 a.m. I am sitting in my cabin, way down on the Main deck. My computer shows that I have a “very good” signal, so when I finish I can just connect to the internet and transmit this entry – all from the comfort of my cabin. Can’t beat that.

Another topic of interest on the boards has been the new “As You Wish” dining. I had major objections to this format, until I figured out how to make it work for me. Technically, you are not supposed to be able to switch around between fixed and open seating, but we figured out a way to do it. Since Trisha has a much-coveted spot in early seating traditional, along with her husband who almost never ventures into the dining room, when we want to eat there, she just brings me to fill his chair. When we want flexible, I either bring her to As You Wish, or we just eat in the Lido. And that’s another point. Lido full dinner service hours have been extended to 8:00 p.m., which now makes that a very viable alternative for those nights when we don’t care to bother with the dining room. In my case that means most formal nights. Service in the Lido is very brisk and eating there is a great option for those nights when there is something you want to do, and are afraid you won’t finish in time if you eat in the dining room. If I’m eating alone on one particular night, I can always dine in the flexible dining room if I don’t care to go to the Lido. So, I’ve truly made “As you wish” “as I wish!”

I should also say that service in the Lido at dinnertime is definitely still available. You go through the buffet line only for your sides and whatnot. You then come to a podium where you give your entrée order to a staff member. You are then shown to your table and when your entrée is ready, it is brought to you. There is also tableside beverage service available, and a steward will even come around to refill your iced tea, water or coffee.

Our table in the traditional dining room is a table for ten, but at least the one night that we ate there, there were only about seven people assigned there. So, we had two of the “social hosts” join us for the meal. Apparently, this is a “hosted” table on formal nights, which means we’ll have an officer joining us, and presumably springing for the wine.

And, a word about dress codes since that too has been a subject of much discussion on cruising message boards. In a brochure included with everyone’s embarkation documents, called “The Voyage Begins,” the subject is covered quite thoroughly. Yes, there are both formal and “Smart Casual” dress codes. It provides SUGGESTED dress codes for each type of night, and then notes “This dress is required for access to the Rotterdam Dining Room, and the Pinnacle Grill. Shorts, tank tops, swimwear and workout attire are not permitted in the dining room or the Pinnacle Grill at any time, or in the Van Gogh show lounge after 6:00 p.m. On formal evenings, jackets are always required for men IN THESE VENUES (emphasis mine).” No mention whatsoever of formal dress being required for enjoying other areas of the ship on formal nights, which puts to rest the argument that if one wishes to remain on public decks on a formal night, they must remain dressed in their formal wear. While that was certainly the rule at one time, apparently HAL has changed it.

There is live entertainment available in the Crow’s Nest each night. This entertainment runs until the wee hours of the morning, and for those who say HAL ships are dead, I just don’t understand it. The night we left San Francisco, they had karaoke up there, followed by a dee jay spinning tunes. I left at around 11:30 or so, and the party was still going strong. I would imagine it probably ran until about 1:00 or so, by which time most people would have left anyway.

There is also a full slate of daytime activities, especially on the sea days. Aside from the aforementioned Big Kahuna and Explorations Speakers Series events, there is bridge instruction, dance classes, casino events, spa events, shore excursion and shopping talks, the art auctions (I’ve discovered that some people clearly have more money than brains), cooking demonstrations and classes, mixology and gemstone classes, and even daily “church” services. Lemonade and iced tea are served on the outside decks each afternoon as well. If someone chooses to stay busy while onboard, there is no reason they can’t. There’s plenty going on. For example, my plans for today are to attend an interdenominational worship service and bible study at 9:00, then head over to the Culinary Arts Center to find out what events are upcoming for this cruise. Then I may attend a cooking demonstration at 11:00, followed by lunch. On tap for this afternoon is our Cruise Critic and Cruise Mates Meet and Greet. Some people will also play trivia before that. Then I may attend an “Art of Flower Arranging” seminar at 4:00. By then it will be close to dinnertime and tonight is a formal night. I should also note that most of the activities are free of charge, with the exception of some of the private classes, such as a mixology one being offered today that incurs a $15 surcharge.

For the evening entertainment, there is music and dancing in most of the lounges. For the single ladies, there are four “social hosts” onboard (they don’t call them dance hosts anymore) who are great not just for dancing, but also for some good conversation. There is also a show each night, and sometimes this will be a production show with the Statendam Cast, and on other nights a guest entertainer. There is also a piano bar with singalongs hosted each evening. Late nights most of the activity moves up to the Crow’s Nest. There are also some “game show” style events hosted in the show lounge, as was one last evening where couples were being solicited at sailaway to participate.

The only downside so far of this cruise has been a Godawful sewage smell that we had to deal with for several days. Supposedly it was due to a broken sewage line that was undergoing repairs, but others said it was the result of mixing two chemicals that were used to break down some of the waste, and not any sort of “leak” at all. Regardless of what caused it, thankfully it is gone now. But for a couple of days it was really bad, especially at the aft elevator area – as luck would have it right in the area where my cabin is located.

I had an interesting experience yesterday. Apparently, I had agreed several months ago to participate in a “banner wave” via another cruise board. Several other online cruisers had agreed to participate as well. Well, sadly, we all forgot about it, though I had apparently given the woman who coordinates them my cell phone number. As I was heading back to my cabin for a nap yesterday afternoon, my cell phone rings. “Where is everyone for the wave?” Oops! Lisa (LafinVegas) from Cruise Critic then talked me through getting out onto the bow of the ship (you go through a “restricted access” door in the show lounge) and getting positioned where the web cam mounted on a nearby building could pick me up. She then zoomed in on me and took some freeze frames of me waving to all of the online cruisers who weren’t lucky enough to be on this cruise.

I will be honest. So far this cruise I have been extraordinarily lazy. I’ve passed most of my days at sea just lounging around, parked with friends in the Ocean Bar’s smoking area or up in the Crow’s Nest. Before this sailing, I was on a four-day Carnival Paradise cruise to attend and cover a Battlestar Galactica 30th Anniversary Fan’s Convention. I was running almost non-stop there, so have become very lazy and laid back here. But that’s the nice thing about a cruise. You can do as much or as little as you want. Works great for me!

Today (our first sea day enroute to Hawaii) will probably be busy, but that’s only because there are a lot of activities I wish to participate in. Tonight we have the “Captain’s Champagne Toast” in the Van Gogh Lounge prior to each of the shows, so I will probably put myself through the ordeal of “playing dress up” so that I can attend. We have Captain Jack at the helm on this cruise (more formally known as Jack van Coevorden) and I’ve heard he’s really fun to sail with. Our Hotel Manager is Theo Haanen, and Guest Relations Manager is Hanna Kielczewska, who is extraordinarily helpful as I’ve discovered after having some dealings with her over the past couple of days. I’ll provide the names of additional onboard staff over the next couple of days. We’re making our rounds and getting to know most of them anyway.

Well, while the captain steams this ship toward Hawaii, I’m gonna get back into this extraordinarily comfortable bed and get some more shuteye. Beats getting all sweaty with an early morning workout at the gym any day!
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Old September 26th, 2008, 08:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cruisecouple
How long will it take to save up for a trip of this caliber?
Took me about a year, but I made it a priority. The cruise cost me about 10 grand with shore excursions. Not that bad a price for 35 days if you think about it.

Blue skies ...

--rita
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Old September 26th, 2008, 12:07 PM
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Rita: Thanks for taking the time to post all this information on the cruise! I have a few questions:

We have AYW dining on the Jan 4 cruise. Can we be seated just the 2 of us, or can we be seated at a larger table? I would prefer to be seated at a larger table so we can get to know our fellow cruisers.

Regarding the dance classes, what type of there offered? I assume these are free classes?

The "Art of Flower Arranging" class, is there a fee for this?

Can you let me know if at the gym, do they have classes each morning like aerobics, stretch, that are free? What time are they? We like to get up on sea days, and visit the gym for a little exercise before we get started on our day on the ship.

Thanks so much for your help. Sounds like you have settled in just fine! Looking forward to your next posting on todays activities. Enjoy the captains party!
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Old September 28th, 2008, 01:52 AM
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Just keep writing. I love the novelette. An old navy guy eh....I'm the daughter of a deceased career Marine. As I said previously, the last time I cruised the Pacific I was 3!! When you get to Hawaii, if you get a chance or are in the right location, take a picture of Easter Island. I'll try to find a link for the history and post it here for you. Picture a toddler on the beach with Easter Island in the background. I cringe every time I think that my parents thought it best that we come back east when my dad retired! Especially now that I've been to Cabo, my "heaven on earth" place so to speak. History of Hawaii... how far back does that Navy guy go.... If I can find the book, I'll try to put something here from a story book of mine from years ago. I know I don't know you but by the time you get back you should learn the old songs Take Me Back to My Little Grass Shack (my mom still loves that song), the Hawaiian Christmas song, be able to pass hula dancing 101, be able to tell me that you met a descendant of King Kamehameha (sp???), that you now know every song from the play South Pacific, especially Happy Talk! Just kidding but these are some of my favorites! My granddaughter who will be cruising for the first time in 2 weeks 5 days is going to look just like the young girl Jim Hutton was in love with some day! She's an all-American!

Here's the link for Easter Island if you're bored: http://www.mysteriousplaces.com/Easter_Island/

Keep writing!

PS. $10k huh.... food for thought - thanks Rita!!

Theresa
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Old September 28th, 2008, 02:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by debshomespun
Rita: Thanks for taking the time to post all this information on the cruise! I have a few questions:

We have AYW dining on the Jan 4 cruise. Can we be seated just the 2 of us, or can we be seated at a larger table? I would prefer to be seated at a larger table so we can get to know our fellow cruisers.

Regarding the dance classes, what type of there offered? I assume these are free classes?

The "Art of Flower Arranging" class, is there a fee for this?

Can you let me know if at the gym, do they have classes each morning like aerobics, stretch, that are free? What time are they? We like to get up on sea days, and visit the gym for a little exercise before we get started on our day on the ship.

Thanks so much for your help. Sounds like you have settled in just fine! Looking forward to your next posting on todays activities. Enjoy the captains party!
Okay, let’s see if I can answer most of your questions:

The gym. Yes, there are a couple of classes each day … even on port days. Some of them, such as Stretch and Relax, are free. Others such as Yoga and Spinning, have an $11 fee. I believe there is also a gym pass type thing you can buy which gets you into all of the classes offered on the cruise at one set price.

Dance Classes. Just about every sea day on the cruise. No charge at all. There are different types of dancing, such as Jive, Tango and Foxtrot, and the social hosts also attend for those people who need partners.

AYWD. You can call each day for reservations if you prefer and yes, you can certainly reserve a table for two. If you are eating at a very popular time, and don’t have reservations, yes, you may wait for a bit for a table, but if you eat at an off time you can probably walk right in and be seated immediately. Trisha and I have decided to eat at the Lido and in AYWD exclusively now, and since early fixed seating is so in demand, Trisha gave up her two seats there so that someone else can have them.

We had an Art of Flower Arranging demonstration in the Culinary Arts Center the day before Yesterday (Friday the 26th). It was hosted by Linda, the Party Planner, and featured the Statendam’s Resident Florist. It was a free event. However, I recall another such event on the Veendam in April 2007 that had something like an $80 charge. I think the difference between these two events is that the one held on Friday was a demonstration of floral arranging, while the event on the Veendam was a class with attendance limited. Also, with the class, people made their own floral arrangements and got to take them back to their cabins. The charge was probably for the cost of materials.

Hope this helps with your questions.

Blue skies,
--rita
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Old September 28th, 2008, 02:11 PM
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Default First Sea Day out of San Diego

Today we are on the first of four glorious days at sea enroute to the Islands of Hawaii. Of course, being a sea day, there were a lot of things taking place onboard the ship, but the big event was our Cruise Critics and Cruise Mates Meet and Greet which was held in the Crow’s Nest at 2:30 this afternoon. We had an almost 100% turnout rate from the roll call boards, which is very unusual since there are always some who don’t bother showing up for the meet and greet, despite having been active on the roll call threads for months. Our get-together was fun and we had close to 50 people in attendance. While I’ve met and spoken with many fellow internet cruisers up to this point, there are always a bunch you haven’t yet met, and that’s what makes these Meet and Greets so much fun. There were several I met for the first time yesterday. We also used the occasion to plan some group tours and whatnot, and people of like interests were able to meet for such things as forming trivia teams and whatnot.

HAL provided a nice spread for our event – cold appetizers, coffee, tea, cookies – things of that nature. We were also joined by the Purser, the onboard “party planner,” and Mike Connachan, our cruise director.

HAL has made some significant changes in their onboard enrichment program, and while there has been much talk on the boards about them cutting back, at least on this cruise the opposite seems true. What I see is that there are no longer “ACD’s” – or Assistant Cruise Directors. Instead, there are people who report to the cruise director, such as the party planner, the disc jockey, and others, and each has their area of specialization. The deejay, of course, spins tunes … but he also hosts various events such as karaoke. The party planner actually doesn’t plan parties at all. Rather she is more attached to the Culinary Arts Center, and she hosts various demonstrations that take place there – like cooking classes and demonstrations, as well as other things like flower arranging. There are also onboard lecturers who present talks on sea days, most of which pertain to our itinerary, clergy who host daily services for various faiths, and a variety of other entertainers.

Another interesting feature of this cruise will be a series of “coffee chats” with various guest entertainers that our cruise director will host on some sea day mornings. These should prove interesting, and I plan to attend the first one today – a chat with the onboard executive chef, Franz. I’m hoping he’s fat – because I never did trust a skinny chef.

We had dinner in the traditional dining room again last night. Service for some reason was a bit sluggish, though not awfully slow. I guess our problem was that we were in a hurry. We had 5:45 seating, but the Captain’s Welcome Aboard Toast was taking place at 7:45 – right before the production show. Of course, if you don’t get to the theater extra early, you’ll never get a decent seat, so we wanted service to be brisk. We hadn’t yet received our entrees by 7:00 p.m. Of course, that’s not an unreasonably long period of time to wait on a “normal” evening, but when there is a special event taking place in the theater, the wait and kitchen staff should be cognizant of that fact and keep the pace quick. That did not happen last night, and thus we had to skip dessert and coffee and run off to the show lounge at 7:15 or so – but we did get a front row seat for the festivities, after which we enjoyed the cast show, “The Hits of Broadway, the Designs of Mackie.” I’ve seen that show a couple of times before on other Holland America ships, but I particularly enjoy it if for no other reason than for the extra elaborate costumes used in the production.

We are now getting some “motion to our ocean” (which I love). The ship is rolling a bit and I won’t be surprised if I see the barf bags appearing at the elevators. I personally love it when the ship is on “active” seas. After all, why cruise if you don’t like some motion? You’d be better off just taking a land vacation, right? But as I lay down to sleep, I knew it would be a nice restful night with the waves gently rocking me like a baby in a cradle. Can’t get that feature on land.

Saturday will be a busy day onboard the Statendam. I will be having chats with several staff members about their lives and jobs onboard. Should be interesting, and I’ll be back online in the coming days to write about them. Then, when we hit Hawaii, we’ll have all the excitement of the ports to report, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy our travels to Kona, Hilo, Honolulu, Maui and Kauai. We’ve got some interesting shore excursions planned as well that I’m sure you’ll enjoy.

For now, though, I’m going to crawl back into this warm bed and get a couple more hours of shuteye before I go to the Lido and stuff my face. God, I love cruising!
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Old September 28th, 2008, 02:15 PM
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Default Second Sea Day In Route to Hawaii

We’ve been having fits and starts here with the internet. It was down most of the day yesterday, and when trying to get on this morning (Sunday) I got kicked back off in less than five minutes. So please forgive the lateness of getting some of this stuff posted. I’m staying on top of writing the entries up, but having a very difficult time getting them posted. I would have expected this once we crossed the equator, but am surprised to be having these problems before even reaching Hawaii.

Last evening our little band of troublemakers (Trisha, Virgil and myself) had dinner in the Pinnacle Grill. We had a great time, though I think Trisha would had had an even better time if she wasn’t feeling so poorly. She is coming down with a cold, though she’s trying to deny it, claiming her throat is only sore because she’s been smoking too much. It was only towards the end of our dinner that she finally admitted to herself that she is catching a cold, and probably got it from me, who caught one on the day we left San Francisco (because I was freezing at the sailaway party on the aft deck, and was too lazy to run back to the cabin for a jacket).

Another problem is that many of the public rooms onboard this ship are so cold. The Crow’s Nest is like a freezer most days, and even the Ocean Bar is far from warm. Because it is cold outside, we are spending a lot of time in these venues. Fortunately, we are just wrapping up our second sailing day in route to Hawaii, so things should improve temperature-wise by tomorrow and we should be able to start enjoying the outside decks more.

The price for dining at the Pinnacle has once again dropped back down to the original $20 per person (it’s $10 for lunch). I haven’t yet found out why, but presumably it is because people hesitated to spend $30 per person when there are so many other places onboard where they could eat perfectly good meals without the surcharge.

The menu at the Pinnacle certainly had more than enough of a selection, including a huge Porterhouse steak, lamp chops, several seafood items, and – of course – filet mignon in both regular and petite cut. I enjoyed my filet mignon, while Trish had her favorite, the lamb. The restaurant was fairly crowded last night, and most of the tables around us were occupied.

Service was very good, and we were finished dining by around 8:30. We were seated at around 6:00. Service was very attentive, despite reading reports on these boards about a decline in same. Someone was regularly checking on us, and anything that we requested was promptly brought to us. I asked for some butter and sour cream for my potato, and it was brought to me in a matter of minutes. Trish and and Virgil left before desert, as Trish was feeling worse and worse as dinner progressed. But arrangements were made to have their desserts delivered to their cabin within the hour. I enjoyed mine at the restaurant, though – the three flavor cream brulee. You can only get this in the Pinnacle, and it is absolutely heavenly. It comes on a special plate, with separate sections for the chocolate, vanilla and coffee-flavored cream brulee. Absolutely heavenly!

We also spent time yesterday doing some staff interviews for this blog, and the first one – with the Pinnacle’s Executive Chef, is being posted today (internet access permitting). Darlene, the vocalist who performs with the HALCats and Osagie, a dancer with the Statendam cast, made for very interesting interviews as well, and these will be posted over the next couple of days.

I have to say right here that Guest Relations Manager Hanna Kielczewska and Cruise Director, Mike Connachan, have been of tremendous help in facilitating this blog and these interviews. We’ll be sitting down with them later on in the cruise as well, to get some insight into what their jobs are like. I’ll write these interview entries up just as quickly as my fat fingers can type on this piece of junk laptop I’m stuck with. I swear, next long cruise, I’m gonna bring a full sized keyboard along. My fingers are entirely too big for this laptop and I’m spending more time backspacing to correct than I’m spending actually typing.

We got a notice in our cabins the other day about some of the events that are being planned for this cruise. We will have a Statendam Superstar competition – one for the crew and one for the passengers. There will also be a guest talent show later on in the cruise. There will be some theme nights, such as the Black and White Ball (oh, good! I can get some more helium balloons for my cabin!) and something called a Sailor’s Ball (where everyone wear’s something white). There will be a “craziest costume party” and a “crazy hat night” in the Crow’s Nest. Of course, because we are crossing the equator on this sailing, we will have the traditional King Neptune Ceremony. This is the event where I always offer up a prayer of thanks that I am a passenger and not a member of the crew. That’s because they have to “kiss the fish” while I’d sooner kiss the devil himself before getting within a foot of that stinking Monk Fish they have roasting out there in the hot sun for half the afternoon. The crew members who have never crossed the equator before not only have to kiss it, but they also have the pleasure of being smeared by all manner of gook and cooking leftovers before being allowed (hopefully) to jump into the aft pool and clean off. Of course, after the ceremony, the aft pool is closed down for a thorough cleaning, but you’ll notice that it gets very little use for several days afterwards. People just wrinkle up their noses at the memory when walking past. 

We’re also going to be treated to some afternoon concerts on this sailing, as well as some local shows that will take place while we are in Hilo, Lahaina and Tahiti. The nice thing about these local shows is that picture taking and video recording is not only permitted, but encouraged. This is not the case with the regular entertainment offerings in the show lounge.

We’re also going to have some local music on deck during the deck barbeque in Lahaina and we’ll also be able to take advantage of Hula Lessons that will be offered by a group of Hawaiian ladies who will come onboard in Hilo.

As I was telling Trisha last night, I think we are in a bit of a slump at this point in the cruise because we are anxiously awaiting our arrival in Hawaii. There is a lot of stuff going on each day at sea, but many of those things do not necessarily appeal to us. We’re like two little kids in the back seat of the car – “Are we there yet?” We were both Polynesians in a former life, and we are dying to get home, so to speak. So the days seem to be dragging by. The weather, too, is still not very good. With the exception of our day in San Diego, it’s been downright chilly and windy. While some diehard joggers are out there using the Sports Deck, you can see the wind flapping their running jackets and they don’t look very comfortable. Lots of people are coughing, and Trish laughingly remarked that between the two of us, we sounded like a TB ward. But by tomorrow it should start warming up, and that will allow for sitting outdoors being warmed by that heavenly sunshine.

Let’s see. What have I got on tap for today? Well, there’s a cooking demonstration at 10:00, but since I’m only interested in eating, not preparing the food, guess I’ll head to the Lido. Then, oh, bestill my beating heart – it’s time for LAUNDRY! It doesn’t get much better than that!

Blue skies …

--rita
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