January 08, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 2 - 4

Day 2 is our first day at sea. As our course turned west to take us between Cuba and the Florida Keys, the seas became more calm and ship motion was not perceptible to most passengers. Temperatures have risen to near 80, but the skies remain mostly cloudy with occasional showers. Occasionally the sun peaks thru for a few minutes.

The first activity of the day is the meet and mingle gathering of the cruise critic members. HAL provided cookies, and the future sales host is the only person from the ships staff in attendance. At the conclusion of all the announcements I go to listen about the first several ports we will be visiting. The talks are part informational and educational and part soft sell of the various shore excursions available.

I was a little surprised to learn how limited the capacity is for some tours and the fact there were several that are already sold out. A potential problem I circumvented by making my excursion purchases weeks ago.

Soon it is lunch time. Historically I skip the dining room for lunch, but today there is a special luncheon for single and/or solo passengers. Unfortunately I think the dining room was totally unprepared for the turnout, as staff was in short supply, and service suffered as a result. It is very apparent that the solo passenger has become an important part of Holland America's business. No other cruise I have ever been on has recognized the solo passenger as much as HAL has so far on this cruise, and we still have 113 days to go.

After lunch I attended a lecture on the early discovery of the Americas. Not much that I had never heard before, but as our ship moves to different parts of the globe that will change. A number of guest speakers will be brought on board throughout the cruise to speak on topics relevant to the area we will be visiting. I don't know how often we will have these presentations, but I expect probably on each sea day.

I have made my first attempt at the internet. Signal strength in my room is good, but the internet speed is slow, slow, and slower. Connections keep timing out. On the fourth attempt I think I am finally able to send an email to post to the blog. If this continues to be what I have to live with, there will be no pictures until I return home. I also will apologize to anyone that tries to post a comment to the blog as I will not be able to respond as doing so requires that I open the blog, a task that at this point appears impossible. For those of you that don't know, I am posting blind. I send data to the blog but have no feedback what it looks like or whether or not it even gets posted.

Look at the bright side, anything I can post is more than would have even been possible a few years ago.

Tonight we have our first production show with the Holland America Singers and Dancers. The show was produced in London, and the cast is very talented. Definitely a step up from what I usually see on Caribbean cruises. The small theater is nearly full, but not overcrowded. The greatest pleasure is that I did not need ear plugs! The music and singing was not over amplified as often is the case.

After the show I catch a little of Debbie Bacon at the piano in a version of musical trivia. She plays a little of each song encouraging the audience to name the song and artist, but I don't see where anyone is writing down answers.

Tonight for the first of 24 times I need to move my clock back one hour. A process I never considered when I bought a new alarm clock several years ago that has to be advanced 23 hours to turn it back 1.

Day 3 finds the sea about as flat as you will ever see. There are high wispy clouds in the otherwise blue sky, and temperatures are expected to rise to about 80. I go to the Lido buffet for breakfast about 9. Seating is plentiful and the selection of foods widely varied. I resist many temptations and have my usual single bowl of special K.

After breakfast I attend a talk by Barbara our "Location Guide". She has worked for HAL for 25 years, and has done 15 World cruises. She knows all the ports and the answers to all those detailed questions like how much should a taxi cost. HAL does not endorse any specific shopping locations like most cruise lines do in the Caribbean, so there is no shopping sales pitch. I was pleased to hear her say what I have come to believe, that not using local currency is disrespectful to the areas we are visiting. Her guarded answer about currency exchange was that some may be available on ship, and banks and ATM's are available near most ports.

After Barbara's presentation I take a walk around the ship, just to see what people are doing. Many people are laying in the sun on the sea view deck on the aft of the ship, a behavior I no longer understand. On the horizon there is another ship behind us, but it is too far away to even tell what type of ship not to mention which line.

The Lido pool roof is retracted and guests are engaged in numerous activities. A few are in pool, some in the hot tub, and other playings cards, ping pong, or floor chess with giant chess pieces. Seating is adequate, and there is no evidence of people hoarding empty chairs with a towel or carefully placed book. The Crow's Nest is mostly empty, but is being prepared for afternoon tea.

So far I have spotted a limited number of people under 35. There is about a 6 year old girl and her 1 or 2 year old sister with their parents and grandparents. I heard there is another couple traveling with their young sons, but I haven't seen them since boarding.

I did meet a young man at dinner last night, I think Mike, from Seattle. He looks to be about 30. This is the second cruise he has ever taken, the first being an 8 day cruise several years ago. He is kinda between jobs having built up and successfully sold 2 software firms that developed point of sale software. He says he is currently doing consulting work and taking a little time off before pursuing his next venture which he obviously didn't want to talk about. About every 5 or 10 minutes throughout dinner he would check his smart phone. I didn't have the opportunity to ask him what type of service he was using. I'm sure I will see him again in the months ahead. I give him credit for guts, taking a 115 day cruise after having been on a cruise ship only once before in his life.

Today there is another party. The Captain's Champagne reception before dinner. I will attend but probably pass on the Champagne, and definitely pass on having my picture taken with the Captain.

The dining room is decorated for the first gala event of the cruise. White chair covers have been placed over all the chairs, unfortunately they are all way too small. Either ordered wrong, or more likely have shrunk 20% in multiple washings.

I only mention this because it is a pet peeve of mine. They have placed a very large center piece on each table. Nice to look at from a distance, but very obtrusive to guests trying to converse during dinner. Being seated at a round table, there was no corner to hide it.

The menu is very short, and since everyone hit the dining room right after the Captain's reception, the staff was initially overwhelmed.

Tonight's show was "An Evening with The Finkels". Emmy award winner Fyvush Finkel, Xylophonist Ian Finkel, and Concert Pianist Elliot Finkel. The show was excellent, and I must mention Fyvush is 93. May we all be as sharp as he is at 93.

I experienced another first while cruising. Kris sat next to me in the theater, the first homeless person I have ever encountered on a cruise. She moved out of her home in California, has taken a leave of absence from her job, and has no idea where she will live when she returns from the cruise. Maybe not exactly the circumstances that we think of when we hear that someone is "homeless", but technically fits the definition.

Day 4 - another beautiful day as we continue on our way to Puerto Limon tomorrow. The sky is again mostly blue with a few scattered white clouds. Temperatures are expected in the low 80's. Seas are calm.

Breakfast was my usual bowl of cereal. I doubt if I will deviate much from this pattern the entire cruise. Not that there are not many temptations, there are. Sausage, ham, bacon, lox, turkey and more just in the meat category. Abundant fruits, probably 8 juice choices, and of course eggs cooked to order as well as various flavors of pancakes and waffles. All buffet items are served, and beverages brought to our table.

After breakfast I go to the promenade deck to walk around the ship a few times. I discover where all the passengers are. I would guess that over 100 passengers are doing the same thing. Unlike my experience on the Vision of the Seas, I can't keep up with this group, but I just keep to the right and let them pass me by. The walk is the goal, it's not a race.

I take a few minutes to review my shore excursion tickets. We meet in the theater for every excursion. No finding your way to dockside and looking for the right bus. We are led as a group right from the ship. Sounds like a very good system, I'll update you in a few months if it works as well as it sounds it should.

I stop at the excursion desk and ask them how they handle my fish and seafood allergies. No problem, they forward the information to the needed tour operators and I just identify myself to the bus driver when I board. I'm assured this will be taken care of for any excursion where food is provided. If you receive a message from HAL that I died from an allergic reaction to sea food, you can conclude that the process didn't work, I'm not concerned.

Tonight's show is Bobby Eakes, an accomplished actress and singer with several platinum recordings. She does an excellent show, and most of the songs I know. At one point she has the captain sing a few verses with her. He probably shouldn't consider changing careers. As often is done, the photo used in promotion shows her about 25 years younger.

Tonight is an early night, and I will set an alarm for arrival at our first port.