We arrived at the port at around 3:00 PM to find that the ship was still disembarking passengers from the previous voyage. Word was that the sea was so rough that the ship was several hours late getting in, plus many passengers were ill and had to have special procedures for leaving the ship. We’re not convinced that was really the problem.
Considering that the average age of the people waiting to board was at least 80, they were surprisingly patient. Nobody was complaining or asking questions; just sitting around waiting.
Finally, around 4:30 PM, the first group of people was moved toward the terminal doors. We had to stand in line for another half hour while all the wheel chairs were boarded (at least fifty). We chatted with some people around us, who seemed nice.
Once inside, we had to squeeze through a single metal detector and X-ray machine. We had thought we were at the end of the line, but it had grown to twice as long by the time we were inside the terminal. The busses from the hotel arrived and all those people got to push ahead because they had already been checked in. It would have been better for morale if the new arrivals had been ushered in through a different door where we couldn’t see them.
After the metal detector, we had to wait a few minutes for our group number to be called before we could wait in another line to check in. That part went pretty quickly in spite of the people who hadn’t filled out their papers and didn’t know they needed an I.D. Our cabin assignment was correct, thank God. There was a bit of confusion because we had been upgraded at the last minute to a Deluxe Verandah Stateroom, for which we had been on a waiting list. We only had to pay an additional $100 to upgrade, quite a good deal.
The Steiners salon people had a table set up in the waiting area to solicit appointments, which was kind of tacky. We got the usual boarding picture and went on board. Nobody was there to show us to our cabin. Not that we couldn’t find it ourselves, but it’s a big deal, pointed out in the brochure, that a “white gloved steward will show you to your cabin”. In the rush to get everyone off, they let all of the “niceties” slip through the cracks.
Click for the "Day at a Glance" schedule.
Our luggage was in the cabin already when we arrived. The cabin was huge. Twin beds, two double-door closets with those great adjustable shelves, a full size sofa, chair, adjustable coffee/dining table, 17” TV and VCR, stocked mini-bar with somewhat reasonable prices (identical to the regular bar prices), nine large drawers in the dressing table, and two bedside tables with two drawers each (one with a key lock). The decor is mostly blond inlaid simulated wood paneling and copper-colored metal accents. The verandah is at least twice as big as those on Crystal ships. There’s a full size chaise lounge, table and chair, with plenty of room left over.
The only downside, so far, is the condition of the ship. The cabin isn’t spotless (crumbs on the floor and ashes in the bathroom). The skirts on the bed are frayed through at the corners and the sofa upholstery is stained. The carpeting and drapery throughout the ship looks new, however. We’ll chalk it up to the delayed arrival for the moment. At this point, we haven’t seen a cabin steward or anyone else from the crew.
We were starving, so we went up to the Lido to get a snack at the casual dinner. We just had some nice carrot-cake-like bread, a peanut butter/chocolate/coconut sort of dessert that was very tasty, and some fruit. We had forgotten how spacious this ship is. There is plenty of room to walk between the tables even with the chairs pulled out. Much nicer than Crystal. But the decor is a little dingy and in need of an upgrade and cleaning. The hallways smell vaguely like sewage.
After the snack we walked around to familiarize ourselves with the layout again. This particular ship is quite a bit different than the Maasdam and those that followed in that the rooms are broken up more. It actually makes it a bit more cozy and there are numerous nooks and crannies in which to sit.
The huge bronze fountain in the atrium isn’t as attractive as the glass column on the Maasdam, but it isn’t nearly as ugly as the reviews have made it out to be. In fact, the whole ship looks quite elegant and classy. There are many interesting art objects and nice architectural touches. They have replaced the sitting area across the atrium from the Ocean Bar with a “Gourmet Shop” selling snacks, wine, etc. This must be fairly new since it was not reflected in the deck plans (the new Rotterdam shows a shop there, so it must be the new thing).
We turned in our credit card information at the desk and headed back to the cabin. The steward came by (actually, barged in) to put the “turn down” chocolates on the beds. His name is Eddy and he seems relatively coherent.
Down in the lobby, watching the electronic map, the weather forecast was “near gale”, “very rough”, so we’ll see what happens tonight. Some fanatic anti-smokers were complaining to any crew person they could find because someone was smoking in the hallway outside the dining room. Although it isn’t allowed and is pointed out in the newsletter, none of them did anything about it.
We got our table for two on the starboard side across from the windows. The dining room was about half empty tonight. The clientele seems less demanding than those on Crystal. Most are quite old, but seem pretty well traveled.
Click to view the Bon Voyage Menu. You will need the free Adobe Reader to view menus files.
Our waiter, Farid, and his assistant, Dudi, are OK. So far they aren’t any fun, but no complaints. Farid seems to speak very good English, which is a plus. The food was a pleasant surprise, particularly for the first night. The shrimp cocktail was far from bland (quite spicy, tasty sauce), the chilled apricot soup was too thick and sweet and better suited to breakfast or dessert, but had a nice flavor. Our steaks were very good with a nice pepper sauce. There was quite a lot of fat to cut off, but the rest of the meat was good and the portion was large. They were served with some standard sliced carrots and a baked potato topped with sour cream, bacon and chives. The bread was nice and freshly baked. The mud pie was made with their fabulous ice cream. The hot fudge sundae was equally good. No complaints at all with the dining experience tonight.
The introductory entertainment was adequate, but the obviously pre-recorded singing was embarrassing. The cast’s average age must be eighteen or less, but they are enthusiastic enough. It was sort of like something you’d expect to see at a theme park (not a Disney park, however). The Cruise Director, Ray Carr, was pretty awful. He has a very limited vocabulary, or at the least, can’t think on his feet. He’s not quite as bad as the one we had on the Rotterdam who couldn’t finish a sentence, but he’s a close second.
We didn’t get the newsletter about tomorrow’s schedule until around 11:30 PM. Luckily for us the boat drill isn’t until 11:00 AM, after we pick up the passengers boarding in Ensenada. Other than that, the only thing on the agenda is the Shore Excursion Lecture at 2:00 PM.
Our bathroom is small, but has a compact Jacuzzi tub and the same wonderful shower head as on the Crystal Symphony. We think the sign telling us to throw our towels on the floor if we want new ones is rather tacky and we’re planning to tell the steward to change them daily.
Click for the "Day at a Glance" schedule. Our hopes of sleeping late were dashed when the fire alarm sounded at 9:00 AM, followed by an announcement that “This is NOT a drill! There is a fire in the incinerator room on B Deck, aft. Passengers should prepare to evacuate.” That certainly woke us up! It took us about five minutes to get dressed and out into the hall, but when we did, nothing was happening. Our steward thought we were going to breakfast and pointed us to the Lido saying, “Have a nice breakfast.” Very strange. Since nobody seemed to care, we went back to finish getting dressed properly. Shortly thereafter, the captain announced that the fire was out and they were inspecting the area to be sure it was safe. A few minutes later he announced that everything was fine. The only sign of the fire was a vague smell of wet ashes in the aft stairwell.
We really thought they should have been more clear about what was supposed to be done after the alarm. If a person was out in public it probably would have been more obvious that it wasn’t a big deal (we assume), but from the cabin there was no way to know what to do.
Even though it was the last minute for breakfast, the Lido was pretty full. Everyone else probably did the same as we did figuring “we’re up anyway, so we might as well eat.” The buffet was far better than Crystal’s. Fruit, melon, cold cuts, a big display full of cereal, exceptionally tasty pastries, the usual buffet of hot breakfast dishes plus anything you want cooked to order from the grill. The room was relatively crowded, but it never seemed like it because the tables are so far apart and the acoustics are very good.
We had noticed a man yesterday Bill thought was Patrick McNee, and that is indeed who he turned out to be. He was holding court at a table in the Lido. Later he asked us if we knew where the Front Office was located.
The boat drill was the next thing on the schedule. It went along with no problems. No mention was ever made again about the fire. We felt they should have at least apologized for the inconvenience, just to smooth it over.
Strangely, the breakfast and lunch in the Rotterdam Dining Room had times for 1st and 2nd sittings, so we had to wait until 1:15 PM for our seating. We mentioned it to the waiter in the Crow’s Nest while we were just killing time and he was startled that it wasn’t open seating, as usual.
Although the sea was calm over night, it has been getting more and more windy and rough throughout the day. The sky is clear and the temperature in the mid 70’s. It’s still too chilly to sit outside, but it is pleasant enough in the sunny areas.
Upon arrival at the dining room at the appointed lunch hour, we assumed we were supposed to sit at our regular table. A sign said, “Please Wait to be Seated”, so we attempted to do so, but no one ever came to seat us. The room was relatively empty, so we started toward our regular table. The dirty dishes from the previous seating hadn’t been removed, so they put us at a nearby table (which also still had dirty dishes at one end). Evidently, they didn’t remove any of the dirty dishes from the previous seating. We had our regular waiter, but it really was set up just like an open seating. The food was pretty good, nothing spectacular, but also not “bland” as all the reviews keep indicating. Portions are somewhat small by our standards. The menu selection for lunch in the dining room is somewhat limited.
After lunch we attended the Shore Excursion Lecture in the Van Gogh Lounge. It was basically just a talk about what could easily have been read right off the order form. We were nodding off by the time it ended, so we went back to the cabin to nap until dinner time.
The cabin’s soundproofing is very good. We can’t hear anything from the neighboring rooms. Noise from the hallway is a little bit disruptive in the morning, but all-in-all it is fairly quiet all the time. The housekeeping throughout the ship is quite poor. There are swizzle sticks and crumbs under the tables, fingerprints all over the chrome and brass, dirty windows, etc. The bar glasses and lamp in our room are caked in dust and the floor in the bathroom is still dirty. Credit to the cabin steward though; he removed the disgusting towel that was jammed in the noisy exhaust vent. There is also some mildew on the shower curtain and around the grout at the edge of the tub and sink. This wouldn’t be a complaint except we’ve never seen such a dirty ship and particularly a Holland America ship! There is also quite a bit of rust on the outside areas and the railings need to be re-finished.
It is strange that the carpets and drapes look brand new, but everything else is filthy. Particularly disgusting is the sewer odor in the main corridor between the casino and the dining room. Now that it has been somewhat rough and people are seasick, it smells like vomit, which is even worse. After lunch the urinals in the men’s room outside the dining room overflowed when they automatically flushed themselves. We told a head waiter in the dining room, but he didn’t seem all that interested. He just thanked us for telling him and went about his business.
Tonight was the formal “Welcome Aboard” dinner. The attire was far less formal than Crystal, but there were still quite a number of men in tuxedoes. The majority were in suits, however. Many people were seasick, but the dining room was still more full than we would expect under the circumstances. Lucky us, there was a two year old child at the next table. She was OK, but half her family was sick, so it wasn’t a good indication of how it will go after this.
Our Head Waiter, Manfred, a very attractive blond, came by and chatted with what sounded like a canned speech. He told us a bunch of stuff we already knew and seemed a bit uncomfortable with the whole thing. He said that the two-seating breakfast and lunch was just on the first day because the people boarding can’t figure out that there is an alternative to the dining room until the second day, so they would all show up at once and jam the main dining room. Assigned seatings keep them from over-taxing the room on the first day.
Click to view the Captain's Welcome Dinner menu. Our waiter and assistant waiter are loosening up a bit. We automatically got iced tea at lunch and dinner. Dinner was very good. The soups and appetizers were nice, but the filet mignon was exceptional, far superior to Crystal. The portion of beef was large and extremely tender, with a nice sauce over it. There were a couple of sautéed potatoes with it, some baby asparagus, and a tomato half filled with spinach that was actually tasty. The hazelnut meringue layer cake was quite good also. One major improvement over Crystal is that the rolls, different every night, are very fresh and quite good. We have no complaints about the food at all, so far.
The dining room ambiance is superior also. Besides being very beautiful, the room is quiet, with plenty of space between the tables. We don’t feel as though the next table is sitting right on top of us as we do on Crystal. The service isn’t as polished, but it gets the job done and is very speedy. The presentation on the plate isn’t as artistic, but who cares? The actual edible part of the meal is equal to, or better than Crystal. We certainly didn’t care, but it was noticeable that lobster wasn’t an entree on this first formal night. There was a seafood Newburg instead, which was probably easier to make ahead of time, and tastes better in the long run, as well.
We were finished with dinner at 9:00 PM, so we had an hour to kill before the show. We sat in the dining room for a while, then strolled through the shops. The shop clerks were yelling across the room, right in front of passengers, about how they were all going to get drunk that night. It was very inappropriate and sleazy.
There’s a male shop clerk in the Gourmet Shop who practically breaks his neck whenever we walk by. He actually followed us into another shop, but he didn’t talk to us.
The show “On Broadway” was terrible. Nothing wrong with the cast, but the pre-recorded signing was so obvious that it ruined the whole effect. There were a number of boring lulls, as well. The costumes, although certainly not on the level of Crystal’s, were OK, but there was virtually no scenery. It’s really a shame that the entertainment budget isn’t higher because the stage is beautiful and full-size; something Crystal doesn’t have.
Bill had left a note asking Eddy for some mini-bar bottles of Crown Royal or Seagram’s V.O., plus some extra Kleenex. We got the Kleenex, but he claimed the bar didn’t have any of the liquors “today, maybe tomorrow”.
We received an odd form letter with an attached “Match Bet” token for $5.00 from AAA and Holland America. The problem is, you have to bet $5.00, too, so it isn’t a freebie by any means. There have been a number of somewhat tacky attempts to wring money out of the passengers, but they haven’t tempted us yet. The prices of bar drinks are very reasonable, about $2.75 - $3.95. Soft drinks are a very reasonable $1.50 and they bring you the entire can, not just one small glassful.
Click for the "Day at a Glance" schedule. Neither of us slept very well last night, for no real reason, so we just stayed in bed until around 10:30 AM. It was a bit rough, and still is, but nothing out of the ordinary. A few people are seasick, but neither of us have been bothered by the gentle rocking. We really think it is misleading of the cruise lines to say in the brochures that seasickness nowadays is “very rare”. Every cruise we have ever been on there has been at least one night when 70% of the passengers were seasick and missed dinner. That’s hardly “rare”.
They were serving a brunch in the Lido from 11:00 AM - 2:30 PM, so we went there for breakfast. There was the usual ample buffet line, plus an omelet/scrambled egg station, a pasta station offering four kinds of pasta and various sauces, a huge selection of desserts, and a 16’ table full of hors d’oeuvres and cheese. We have no idea why a “brunch” was held on a Saturday, but whatever the reason, we were happy to take advantage of it.
We each had an entree, soup, fruit and salads. All were very good to exceptional. As usual, the room was full, but it was still quiet and easy to get around. It hasn’t affected us, but it is obvious that they have cut down the number of service people in the Lido. They seem to run out of glasses at the water/iced tea stations much too frequently.
As if by magic, our cabin had been cleaned while we were away. This service hasn’t changed and is still amazing to us. Every time we have left the cabin, no matter what time of day, the cabin steward comes in and tidies up. There is a sign in the bathroom that says the towels won’t be changed unless they are thrown on the floor (to conserve energy, supposedly), but they have been changed twice a day regardless of where we put them, as it should be. Bill got his mini bottles of Crown Royal today.
On the way downstairs, we stopped to check with Shore Excursions to see if we could get an earlier helicopter flight at the volcano (we couldn’t). The woman at the counter recognized us from the Maasdam! She was the Social Hostess on that cruise. She said that the crew talked about us for months after that because our parties had helped boost morale so much. According to her, they still talk about it to this day. We thought it was incredible that she would remember us after almost three years! It took us a while, but we finally remembered her name (Sheri).
We sat around in the Ocean Bar until the music, that repeated every 1½ minutes, drove us insane. We went up to the Lido and sampled the pasta and some desserts, all of which were exceptional. The only negative was that they ran out of plates for the desserts and there were no glasses at the water stations on either side. We have gotten in the habit of inspecting the silverware before using it because it is, all too often, dirty.
There was a port lecture on Hilo at 2:00 PM, so we went to that. Unfortunately, the speaker wasn’t very informative and was pretty boring. We didn’t learn anything we didn’t already know. He was obviously employed by Hilo Hattie’s, but he didn’t overdo the hype for that store. Still, they need to get someone with better qualifications than simply being a resident of Honolulu. A man asked him about whether the volcano would be putting on a show when the ship sailed past and he just said, “Pele is unpredictable.” He showed slides while he whined the ship forced him to show them. Why? They were so dark we could barely tell what they were.
After the lecture we went to the Royal Dutch High Tea in the Rotterdam Dining Room. It was nice, but not as elaborate as the one on the Rotterdam. There was a long table full of fancy pastries, but lacking in anything else. The chocolate-dipped strawberry was rotten. Everything else was excellent. They served pre-brewed hot tea, which was fine, but we only received one cup. We suppose one could attract enough attention to get more, but we didn’t bother. The upper level of the dining room was completely full. The Social Hostess gave a loud, jarring speech about the history of Royal Dutch Teatime and the Rosario Strings played (off key). We finally realized that the music we heard through the floor in our room yesterday while napping were the strings playing in the Explorer’s Lounge below our cabin.
Yesterday the schedule for the Lido Food Corner was reasonable, serving hamburgers and hot dogs until 5:00 PM. Today and tomorrow, there is no food, except tea time, anywhere after 2:30 PM. That means that for second seating passengers there is nothing available from 2:30 PM until 8:15 PM. Of course, one could call room service (the menu is extremely limited), but it would seem a better idea to at least have the hamburgers or ice cream available until a reasonable hour.
We purchased our boarding picture. You have to pick the picture off the wall and take it to a cashier instead of our preferred method of ordering by number for delivery to the cabin as it was before. The quality of the photos is the poorest we have seen on any ship.
Bill spoke to the shop guy, Thomas, who keeps breaking his neck to look at us and made him forget the count of the postcards he was counting.
For some strange reason, the show for the second seating was at 6:45 PM, so we had to get dressed for dinner earlier than usual (informal). We attended the show, a “hilarious, world-renowned” ventriloquist. He was very talented technically, but the material wasn’t particularly funny. Some of it was slightly amusing, but nothing we hadn’t seen before. The room was packed.
After the show we ventured up to the Crow’s Nest, but the music was too loud and unpleasant. There were only about ten people in the whole room. We finally remembered to look outside for the Hale-Bopp comet. It was obvious and easy to spot. On the way in we mentioned it to a couple in the elevator lobby, so they wanted us to show them, too. She was thrilled that we’d reminded her about it. There had been a notice in the program for today that said to meet at 1:15 PM with the cruise staff to view the comet with “Astrologer, Dr. C. Lestial”, which was a joke, of course. They had to make an announcement because it was only supposed have been posted for April’s Fools Day, but was accidentally left in (duh, guess the same person who checks the spelling checks the content!).
Click to view the Dinner Menu. Our meal was very good, again. We both had the same thing. Appetizer, soup and salad were good, but not special. The grilled swordfish was exceptionally tasty, but the portion was very small. Dessert was a very rich, chocolate Orio mousse cake. All of the desserts have been worth eating. We have no idea why people on America Online said that all they serve for dessert is cake, unless they just don’t know what the other choices are or something. There is a different flavor of ice cream sundae every night, plus the “Flambee of the Day”, a sugar free selection, a fruit plate, cheese, and three other options (cake, pie, tart, etc.). Having the flaming dessert option on the menu is a much better approach than the head waiter coming around forcing it on people. This way if anyone wants it they can just order it.
We were annoyed with the photographers tonight, as were many others. A young woman dressed as a pirate was going around grabbing each person around the neck with a big plastic sword while a guy took their picture. We saw at least two couples get mad and shoo them away. Another woman called the Head Waiter over and ranted about it. Even though Dave said, “No thank you” as soon as they walked up, the pirate girl grabbed him around the neck anyway until he said more firmly, “Don’t do that!” Maybe this was what they said we were supposed to mention about “unwanted solicitations” to the Guest Relations desk? Of course, some people loved it, which was fine, but we think they should come up and ask before going ahead with grabbing onto people.
The little kid at the next table was distracting. It must be a drag for the family because they all have to specifically entertain her to keep her quiet, which, for the most part, they do. The distraction is only because they stand up and carry her around while the doorman makes napkin puppets, etc. It is just inappropriate to bring a little kid on a long cruise. The parents couldn’t possibly be enjoying it because they are, amazingly, concerned that the kid will bother the rest of us all the time.
There was a 50’s/60’s party in the Van Gogh Lounge tonight, but we skipped it and went back to the cabin. There were the usual canvas Holland America shopping bags on the bed with a note saying they were from Holland America and AAA. We don’t know if everyone still receives them or just AAA bookings.
Click for the "Day at a Glance" schedule. Again, we tossed and turned most of the night. We finally fell asleep around 8:00 AM, but we got up anyway around 10:00 AM. It was cloudy today, but the temperature was in the mid 70’s. The sea was a bit rough, but smoothed out later in the day. We had some time to kill before lunch was served in the Lido Restaurant at 11:30 AM, so we wandered around, sat in the Crow’s Nest, etc.
When we went to the Lido at 11:30 AM there was a huge line, so we decided to sit around until the line shortened. The Lido pool was filled, but the water was sloshing out, so it still had the safety net over it. All of the tables were full, so we didn’t bother waiting around.
Eventually we got lunch from the Lido, click to view the Lido Luncheon menu. It still amazes us how diverse the selection is each day. All of the entrees, about five, plus the pasta station, are different every day. A nice touch is that they give each person a printed menu with their tray so they know what is being offered (in addition to the menu board at the beginning of the line that nobody looks at, and signs at each item). We both had way too much food. We still have yet to have anything that wasn’t very good to exceptional, even from the buffet. We thought it was somewhat inappropriate that so many of the ship’s officers and crew were taking up tables when passengers couldn’t find anyplace to sit, but that seems fairly typical on every cruise line nowadays.
We wanted to attend the movie, “The Mirror Has Two Faces”, but the theater was already full when we arrived ten minutes before show time. Instead we went to the port talk about Kauai which was about as uninformative as the previous one. At least this time there weren’t any underexposed slides. They slip maps of the islands under the cabin door each day, but they are sadly outdated. Anyone who tries to find the black sand beach on the Big Island will be rather disappointed. It was covered over by lava years ago.
The weather was overcast, but it was warm enough to sit outside for a change. We opted to sit under the overhang at the Navigation Deck pool. Not that they really had anything better to do, but this was the second time that we found the deck stewards playing ping pong instead of serving guests. They stopped if anyone wanted to place an order, but it wasn’t really acceptable in any case. Bill asked for iced tea and the bartender went up to the Lido and got it for him, which was nice. Whether or not you will be served iced tea or coffee by a bar waiter depends entirely on how much they like you. We have seen them simply tell people, “Coffee and tea only in the Lido.”
Since there is no food served after 2:30 PM, we went to get our “tide over” ice cream at 4:30 PM. The ice cream steward was very attentive to everyone. There were four ice cream selections, two soft frozen yogurts, and a sherbet. There may have been a sugar free selection as well, but wouldn’t take bets on it. There was also a reasonable selection of self-serve toppings and a tray of chocolate-chocolate chip cookies. Both the ice cream and cookies were homemade, but nothing extraordinary. The ice cream service hours are much too limited in our opinion: Noon - 2:30 PM, 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM, and during the hour of the midnight buffet.
We went to the cabin and got ready for dinner (informal again). Bill had left a note for Eddy to leave some beach towels for the verandah, which he did.
We made it downstairs during the cocktail hour and sat in the Ocean Bar. They served hot appetizers, a selection of about five things, all of which were pretty tasty. The service was attentive. One of the waiters was one of the ultra-friendly types who tells his name, asks yours, and then remembers it for the rest of the cruise. He is the first one to do that so far, although we have no complaints about any of the service.
The dance band trio is very good, as are the rest of the musical options. There is a band with a singer in the Crow’s Nest that is too loud, but otherwise fine. A pianist/singer in the Piano Bar sounds pretty good what little we have heard of her so far. The only downside is the Rosario Strings who have been very good on other Holland America ships. These are almost unbearable because the violinist is always off key. We noticed that some of the bar supervisors are now Filipino women, something unheard of just two years ago and an appropriate adjustment. The Ocean Bar supervisor was going around offering Dutch cheese (it is Dutch night), and making sure everyone was happy.
Bill had to get some laundry out of the washer, so we went upstairs where we encountered the doorman walking the halls playing the dinner chimes. We never realized he went up and down all the hallways announcing dinner, too. The laundry is kind of limited with only two washer/dryers. The washer is $1.50 with free soap automatically dispensed into the machine (a good idea) and free dryer. The laundry rooms close at 10:00 PM so nearby cabins aren’t bothered by the noise, a thoughtful touch.
We ran into Sheri in the hallway and asked if her sister was still “charismatically challenged” which floored her. She was beside herself that we remembered that. She explained about how the booking process works. Big travel agencies block out space to sell at whatever price they choose. As the space doesn’t sell, they give it back to Holland America. There is a deadline where they have to pay for it even if it isn’t sold, so that’s why we got the upgrade at the last minute. She said it all depends on how desperate they get what the price is (as we had already surmised). She was appalled that Holland America’s price was so much higher than Crystal’s for last summer’s European season. We also told her about how bad the food had become and a couple of other problems they have now. She said if we wanted any of the “freebie” stuff she’d be happy to get anything we want.
Click to view the Dutch Dinner menu. The usual Dutch hats were on the tables, but very few people were wearing them. They also had some other decorations on the tables and the waiter, but not the assistant, had a Dutch costume. The Indonesian entree was tasty and spicy enough to make our nose run. The trout was very good, also. Everything had a nice flavor, as usual. Again we remarked that we can’t understand why anyone would call this food bland. Also, the selection of desserts certainly was not limited to “boring cakes” as we had heard. There was a cake, cherry pie, a flambé, an ice cream sundae, a lemon tart, a sugar free selection, a cream puff covered with caramel sauce, fresh fruit, a cheese platter and more. What more could anyone ask for? Every dessert we have had so far has been fresh, and either very good or exceptional. Another notable is that the bread has been different every night with an entire basket on the table. Much better than Crystal’s offering of stale, rock-hard rolls that never change.
The little kid at the next table wasn’t as distracting as usual, which was nice. Unfortunately, it was much too warm in the dining room so we’ll have to complain if it’s that way tomorrow. It was also too warm in the show lounge, so somebody must have whined about it being too cold (which it wasn’t). We noticed that a large number of men are ignoring the dress code. On the informal nights it says “jacket required”, but at least 20% of the men don’t wear jackets or ties. Even on the formal evenings, there are several men and women who don’t follow the suggestions in the slightest.
We were somewhat wary about attending the show because the credentials of the “Harrington Brothers” was mostly country music, but we were very pleasantly surprised. The best way to describe them would be as male Lennon Sisters. Their rapport was reasonable and the selections varied enough to suit most people. They had excellent voices and their harmony was perfect. We didn’t stay for the Filipino Crew Show, but watched part of it on the cabin TV.
Click for the "Day at a Glance" schedule. Our day started off with lunch in the Lido again, click to view the Lido Luncheon menu. So far the selection of entrees has been completely different everyday. The beef teriyaki was particularly good, but it was odd that rice wasn’t one of the starches to go along with it. We have been loading up on the fruit salad and melon slices because they are absolutely outstanding. The honeydew melon is the best we’ve ever tasted. Slightly crispy, but very sweet and juicy.
There really wasn’t anything on the schedule that was of interest to us today, so we just sort of wandered around. We went to check with Sheri to see whether see had realized we wanted to order the House and Garden tour in Honolulu. She hadn’t, so she put us on an interest list for an afternoon tour they might add.
After we left, we remembered we needed to ask Sheri about rental cars at the dock so we went back down to the desk. The port lecturer, Gary Goo, was standing there and made some comment about “here comes trouble”. He was joking and said Sheri had already gushed about how easy-going we are. We didn’t attend his lecture today because he hasn’t said anything the past two times we didn’t already know. Sheri told us “because we’re part of the family now” that she wasn’t sure the prices for the cars they had arranged were very good, but she gave us the forms anyway. The ship isn’t arranging the rentals, just handing out the paperwork in advance and the rental agent will be available at dockside. The prices were outrageous for Budget. The price we were quoted from National in Hilo was $29.00 for a mid-size. Budget price was $41.99 on the “Preferred Customer” price list.
Our plan was to watch the “whale races” by the Lido pool, but all of the chairs were occupied, so we sat around by the Navigation Deck pool until time to get a hamburger/hotdog or something by the 2:30 PM deadline. The weather is quite nice now. Probably mid seventies and partly cloudy.
We got our burgers from the pool snack corner. Good, but nothing special and a rather skimpy array of condiments. Finally something Crystal does better! They do have a different theme everyday in addition to the standard burger fare such as a taco bar, stir fry, satay, etc. There was also a nice display of sliced watermelon, whole bananas, and other fruit.
Out Bridge Tour was scheduled for 3:00 PM, so we went up to meet in the Crow’s Nest. There were only six people, including us, on the tour, which was nice. It was an informative tour with one of the officers taking us to each piece of equipment and showing us how it works. This is a much better approach than just opening the bridge to everyone at once. He was happy to answer questions, as well. We still can’t figure out how, with all this equipment, the Noordam had such a severe collision a few years ago. We were going to ask, but there wasn’t an appropriate moment to do so.
We went back down to sit around in the lobby for a while before getting dressed for dinner (formal). There is a different “dump table” set up every day in front of the shops. Today it was Givenchy watches for $69.99, about half the marked price, but not cheap enough to interest us. There is a good variety of merchandise in the large shops and the prices are reasonable. There is a sign in the display window saying that the prices are guaranteed to be lower than shops in port.
There was a letter in the cabin from the Guest Relations Hostess apologizing profusely for the inconvenience and long delay in boarding. It went on and on about how Holland America wants everyone to have a perfect vacation and this was no way to start, etc. We hadn’t complained and heard no one else do so, so they must have just anticipated it and sent out an apology. We thought it was a really nice gesture for such a minor problem. We haven’t heard anyone complain about anything so far. In fact, everyone seems completely content to just go with the flow. Considering the elevated age of the passengers, this has been a pleasant surprise. People don’t seem nearly as stupid as they have previously. But, we haven’t reached a port yet, so we’ll have to see how that goes.
The Ocean Bar was already pretty much full when we got downstairs so we sat at the tables around the railing in the Atrium overlooking the fountain. They always serve drinks out there, too, so it really didn’t matter. Sheri came by and said she had stolen some Holland America mugs from the entertainment department and would send some up to our cabin. We told her that wasn’t necessary, but she said half the fun of stealing it was giving it away to people she likes. [For the record, we never received the mugs.]
It was a formal night, but the attire is much less “formal” than in the past and certainly no comparison to Crystal. Tuxedos are a rarity (we didn’t bring ours either) and there are a few men who don’t even wear ties on the formal nights. The program says “Jacket and Tie REQUIRED Throughout the Evening”, but obviously this is not enforced in any way. We overheard several guests grumbling about the lack of compliance with the dress code from some of the inappropriately dressed passengers. There was one really strange guest who was in very casual attire, Holland America name tag and all. That really started the tongues wagging! He had a little entourage of extremely casually dressed old men tagging along behind him which didn’t do much to muffle the complaints.
Click to view the French Dinner menu. Dinner was a French theme, with the waiters appropriately costumed. It is such a pleasure to find the same wide variety of menu selections on formal evenings as on any other night. Actually, the appetizer offerings were nearly double the usual number, about eight.
The shrimp cocktail was accompanied by a very tasty sauce, the fruit cup was excellent as always, the onion soup was OK but skimpy on the cheese and too generous with the bread slice. Our entree was Fettucini Alfredo that was good, but not exceptional.
As we had experienced on previous Holland America cruises, ordering two appetizers causes problems with the sequence of service. We each ordered four courses, but Dave had two appetizers and no salad. Instead of adjusting the courses so we each had something all the time, Dave’s second appetizer came while Bill had nothing. Bill’s salad came while Dave had nothing. We don’t care about this, but it becomes obvious that the kitchen isn’t set up to serve anything out of the ordinary sequence. We’re sure the lack of real knowledge among the waiters is part of the problem, too. Later, when we asked for more bread, the waiter almost had a stroke. He had to ask our head waiter, Manfred, if he could steal the bread off of an empty table (which is what he did).
Manfred chatted with us for a while. We told him about the time the Symphony was dead in the water during the storm off the China coast and he couldn’t imagine it. He said he sleeps with the light on because he gets scared if he wakes up and it is totally dark. Basically, he’s afraid of the dark! He’ll have a rude awakening one of these days.
Tonight’s entertainment was an Asian (American) juggler/comedian/musician who was fairly entertaining. He made a gay joke that wasn’t politically correct, but it wasn’t offensive enough to complain about. So far the headline entertainers have been far superior to those on Crystal. There seems to be no indication that anything will repeat over the course of the sixteen day cruise. Some people who started in Ft. Lauderdale said nothing had repeated except the Broadway production show. Two of the Harrington Brothers stare at us all the time, but nobody has gotten the nerve to speak to us yet. They probably think we’re entertainers, too, since it appears that the only passengers under 70 are employed by Holland America in some capacity.
We received a letter offering us 5% off any Holland America logo items in the shops as a gift from Holland America and AAA travel agencies.
Click for the "Day at a Glance" schedule. This is the final sea day before the five Hawaiian ports, so we took advantage of it and did absolutely nothing all day, except eat, of course. We were up early enough for breakfast in the Lido because we were paranoid about the fire alarm going off at 9:30 AM for a crew fire drill. We never heard the alarms, but we were up anyway.
The Lido breakfast is much more elaborate than Crystal’s and everything tastes much better, too. Even though the French toast is sitting in a steam table, it doesn’t taste like it. Everything that is supposed to be hot, is hot. Things that are supposed to be cold, are cold. There is some sort of special item each day as well, but we haven’t noticed what they are yet.
After breakfast, Bill went out to sit in the sun on one of the aft decks. Dave stayed in the shade on our verandah. We only varied from this to have lunch in the Lido at 1:30 PM. By then Bill was already bright red from too much sun.
There is also a different theme for the Lido buffet each day. Today’s theme is Oriental, click to view the Oriental Luncheon menu. There were some unusual and interesting cold salads we’d never had before, all of which were quite flavorful. The entrees were good, also, but nothing unusual. The selection was particularly interesting because it wasn’t just Sweet and Sour Pork and other basics, but exotic Oriental dishes you wouldn’t see ordinarily. The beef with soy marinated onions was exceptionally good. We have gotten into the habit of skipping the desserts and having the melon instead because it is so tasty.
After lunch it was back to the deck or verandah until dinner time. We got all of our stuff together to venture ashore tomorrow. They still don’t really know if the volcano is active or not, but they’re supposed to make some sort of announcement tomorrow morning. The ship is going to sail up close to the volcano after dinner tomorrow, so if it is active at all it should be spectacular, as before. Someone told us that they now get the ship much closer to shore for a better view. It was outstanding when they stayed a distance out to sea, so it must be something to see up close!
We sat at the tables in the lobby area before dinner and a really weird “crew member” we’ve seen around came up to talk. Evidently he is deaf, but he seems to communicate all right most of the time. He’s gay and his gesture for “no women” was amusing. He was wearing a Holland America name tag that said “Host Entertainer”, but we kind of think he’s just a ship board weirdo because we can’t imagine what he could do to entertain. We’ll see. He’s also annoying because he walks around the halls smoking (which theoretically isn’t allowed) and he is never even close to being dressed properly for the evening. His attire wouldn’t even qualify as “Elegantly Casual”.
Click to view the Caribbean Dinner menu. The Caribbean Dinner was boring, but still OK. The corn chowder was too pasty and didn’t have much flavor and the stuffed avocado had no flavor at all. The prime rib was good, but the accompanying stuffed potato was dry and tasteless. Still, it wasn’t terrible, just boring. Manfred is still daunted by the fact that we go on so many cruises, so he has to talk about it all the time. It is sort of like he’s asking questions to try to catch us lying about where we’ve been. In reality he’s just naïve and wants to hear about the places we’ve been. He always covers his ears when we mention Crystal, which is amusing.
Tonight’s entertainment was a short production number with the Statendam Cast. They are relatively talented and extremely enthusiastic, but the low budget really shows. The costumes are cheap and the attempt at “Las Vegas” style by dragging out the straggly feathers at the finale is really pathetic. When they are singing live, the shows are pretty good, but unfortunately almost 90% of the singing and music is obviously pre-recorded. It looks a little like they are short a couple of men. There are only four men and six women, so it always looks off balance.
The second half of the show was the Harrington Brothers singers with a different set of numbers. They are very entertaining and exceptionally talented. It does appear that Holland America spends more on the “headliners” than it does on the production shows.
The housekeeping around the ship seems to have improved. They have been polishing the brass again and constantly vacuuming. We have no idea why they had let it go so badly before we boarded, but the odors in the halls are gone and everything is as clean as can be expected. We still wouldn’t call it “spotless”, but it is acceptable now. The cabin bathroom still needs a serious scrubbing and there is some mildew in the shower, but the floor isn’t disgusting anymore. In general, the cabin steward is far superior to the stewardesses we have had on Crystal. He always comes in and cleans the room even if we step out for just a few minutes. And, it doesn’t seem to make any difference what time of day it is. No matter when we finally get out of the cabin, it is made up when we return to it.
Click for the "Day at a Glance" schedule. There was a full-fledged crew fire drill this morning at 9:30 AM, but we were up anyway. We have never seen a drill carried out in such realistic detail before. It started out with a general alarm (the same as for the real fire in Ensenada), then a call for all passengers to return to their cabins immediately and crew to assemble at their emergency stations. This progressed through several stages over about 30 minutes to the point of evacuating the passengers and crew and lowering the lifeboats. It was mentioned with each announcement that this was a drill only, but Bill saw some people coming back to their cabin with the lifejackets. This was all the more stupid because we were tied up at the pier.
We went to breakfast in the Lido, as usual. We stopped to tell one of the Harrington Brothers that we enjoyed their show and he was relatively chatty.
The plan to call National Car Rental with our cell phone from the ship worked, except for the fact that they had given me the Kauai office instead of Hilo. So, we waited about 45 minutes and called again. This time the person asked which port and informed us they were in Kauai (and had sent a van to the port already).
Once we got that straightened out it was fairly speedy for the Hilo office to come get us. The same “eyebrow woman” was there as the last two times and recognized us again. She acted like we were old buddies. We’re not sure if it had anything to do with it, but she gave us a car with only eleven miles on it. Obviously, our reservation had been made for Kauai also even though the reservation agent (who was busy laughing and giggling the whole time) had repeated the city when I made the reservation.
We had asked the Visitor Information person at the dock whether there was much activity going on at the volcano, but she just kept saying she couldn’t guarantee we’d see anything. Instead of visiting the volcano this trip we decided to go in the opposite direction. Along the way we stopped a Akaka Falls/Kahalo Falls which were both worth the effort. The foliage along the trail was worth the visit. Akaka Falls plummets something like 470 feet down a sheer lava cliff.
We turned off at a couple of Scenic Points, only one of which was really anything special. Another one was a park where 60 school kids and teachers were swept away by a tsunami in the 1960’s. Our thought was what were they doing on this low point sticking out into the ocean when a tidal wave was coming (the wave part wasn’t a surprise)? Everyone else in town calls it the big tragedy; go figure.
We took a 4-mile scenic road along the coast through some lush jungles. There was a botanical garden around a beautiful cove, but we weren’t in the mood to pay and be shuttled down to the coast, so we just drove by.
From there we continued along the coastal road to the Waipio Valley Lookout. This is as far as one can travel along the coast. The valley is rural farmland now, but was once heavily populated until it was wiped out by a tsunami. Now there are some taro fields and a black sand beach. Evidently there are a lot of mosquitoes, too, because the guide books say to take along plenty of repellent when hiking down to the valley floor. You can also hire a tour van to go to the bottom, but we didn’t have time.
There were a couple of cute little old towns along the way, but we didn’t really have the extra time to stop and look in any shops. In any case, they looked pretty much standard tourist fare. We arrived back at the ship just at the time we had planned, tired and hungry.
They were going to have an early, casual deck dinner, but we decided to have some hot dogs to tide us over to our regular dinner. The hot dogs were kind of squishy and tasteless from sitting around in hot water too long, so we probably won’t have them again. The strawberry ice cream was great though.
We watched the sail away from Hilo from the Promenade Deck, then went up to hurry and get showered before we reached the volcano viewing at 7:00 PM (changed from 9:00 PM). Our verandah turned out to be the perfect place to watch the volcano.
As we rounded the point below Hilo, the glowing summit came into view. It wasn’t quite dark yet, but we could see the ridge of the mountain and the sputtering lava. Once we got closer, we noticed that the Hale-Bopp comet was aligned directly over the glowing clouds.
Just as before, the experience of seeing the active volcano at night was unforgettable. It wasn’t as spectacular as the last time because the lava is still just bubbling in the crater at the top of the mountain and hasn’t started flowing over the crest of the ridge yet. Nonetheless, it was a breathtaking sight. Every now and then a small fountain of bright lava would spray up just long enough to attract our attention. The light from the red-hot lava was lighting up the clouds and vapors from the volcano directly over the crater with the comet immediately above that. It was all quite a surreal sight and obviously a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Click to view the Dinner Menu. The dining room was less than half full and our waiter was surprised to see us. We were a bit surprised that they still had the regular two seatings since Crystal always falls back to open seating when there is a deck dinner. This was really the right way to do it so that people who don’t like the deck party thing can still have their regular table and time.
A couple barged in and implied that they had received permission to switch from first to second seating tonight. They took over the table for six behind us that now only has a mother and her daughter alone (guess why?). This caused quite a stir among the waiters who had only set the table for the usual two people. Luckily they added two more settings because the regular people showed up, too. It served the table crashers right though because the woman and her mother are pretty loud and awful. It turned out that they hadn’t asked permission and really had crashed the table.
Manfred asked what we had done today and wanted information on what to do on the other islands since he hasn’t been here before. He didn’t really catch everything we said, so now he thinks you can ride a bus around Kauai for $1.00 when it’s actually on Oahu (Kauai has no public transportation, but that never registered with him for some reason).
Dinner was pretty tasty again. Bill liked the Mahi Mahi and the crispy dried banana strips on top. The “Spa Selection” pan roasted chicken breast with apple gravy was quite good, as well.
We had a lengthy chat, about nothing in particular, with a tall blond shop girl in the Boutique. She seems pretty coherent and was fun to talk to. Thomas, the shop clerk we seem to scare/intrigue, kept walking through, but he didn’t barge into our conversation.
Tonight’s entertainer was Glenn Hirsch, a comedian we have seen before on “Full Frontal Comedy”. Obviously, he had to change his usually frantic, obscenity-laden act. Unfortunately, it didn’t play very well with this crowd. He kept making fun of the first seating guests, so they must have been even less responsive. He made fun of old people, basically the kind of people who are on the ship…not a wise choice. We thought some of it was pretty funny, but the majority of it was just barely amusing. It was obvious he was out of his element. We wouldn’t be surprised if some of the guests complain about him.
Click for the "Day at a Glance" schedule. The ship arrived at Nawiliwili right on time, sailing directly into the harbor and maneuvering through the narrow opening in the breakwater. It is amazing that such a huge ship is so controllable.
Lunch started earlier than usual, 11:00 AM, so we were right on time. Click to view the Lido Luncheon menu. There was a line at the side of the Lido that was open early and the second the other side opened all the old ladies rushed hysterically, dragging their bewildered husbands behind them. You’d think this was the first food they had had in a week! We heard two couples complaining about the embarkation problem and saying they were going to write and give them a piece of their mind. One man said that anyone could write a letter of apology (referring to the letter we got the other day) and that it was meaningless. We’re not quite sure what else he expects them to do about it, besides the fact that it was over a week ago and things have gone smoothly since.
The lunch buffet was completely different again, but the selections were rather boring. Everything tasted OK, but nothing was very interesting or unusual this time. The bread and fruit continue to be fantastic, as are the desserts.
After lunch we went up to the Crow’s Nest to watch the ship complete it’s arrival in port. Two old ladies, traveling companions, nagged one another about where to sit, arranging picture-taking in great detail which had no possibility of turning out properly, then leaning over and complaining to strangers about what a dip the other one was. There was only one seat left in the very front row, so one of them ended up there, of course. The other sat a bit farther back, but the one in front kept asking if she wanted to switch. The lady in the front promptly fell asleep and missed the entire thing, which the other lady and a couple of strangers had to point out after she woke up.
Once the crowd let up, we meandered down to the gangway. We decided to just walk over to the Kauai Marriott (formerly the Westin) which was closer than we had remembered. The port police made everyone take the long way around, but it was still a short enough walk. There was a little shopping area on the way, but we didn’t find any of the shops interesting.
Marriott ripped out most of the ridiculously opulent Grecian decor from the property during the reconstruction after the hurricane. They replaced some big, white marble fountains with Hawaiian-style gardens and removed some of the huge, white marble statues from the center of the pool. It is relatively nice now, but still too overpowering for Kauai. The resort is fronted by a deserted, but stunningly beautiful stretch of beach. This looks like it would be a nice place to stay.
There was an elevator at the end of the beach up to the Kauai Lagoons area that was originally part of the Westin property, but was sold off when they started having financial troubles. After the hurricane it barely survived and much of the formerly grandiose gardens and decorations are either ruined or have been abandoned. The only part they seem to have restored completely is the golf course. One section of the gardens along the cliff has been sold off as private residential lots, some with huge mansions, a few small duplexes, and a small condominium. There doesn’t seem to be any restriction on the type of residence that can be built, which is unfortunate.
We walked along the residential street to the end where we continued along the paved golf cart road even though it said pedestrians not permitted on the golf course. There wasn’t anyone playing golf, so we figured no one would care. At the very tip of the cliff was a once-exclusive restaurant called the “Inn on the Cliff” that was wrecked during the hurricane and abandoned. It is still a mess, but it looked like they had tried to at least remove some of the clinging vines that had overgrown the building.
The landscaping around the lagoons on which the restaurant fronts has been restored, but the gondola landings are unused. The lagoons were lined with hundreds of tiki torches that must have been stunning at night, but they were all mangled and obviously abandoned. What we thought was a condo complex near the restaurant turned out to be an abandoned shopping village that had been propped up after the storm and left empty. It also had a boat landing on the lagoon that was left to decay.
The extensive lagoons once housed exotic birds and animals on large landscaped islands, but the animals are all gone now. We saw one lonely swan and some geese, but everything else has been removed. There were a couple of ornate bridges with enormous white marble statues of horses at each end that must have been lovely when they weren’t filthy and poorly maintained. A somewhat interesting marble sculpture of a sea monster in the lakes would have been nice if the fountains were still working.
It was really pathetic to see what this all must have been and how far it has deteriorated. We really couldn’t imagine how the shopping area or restaurant could have survived anyway because the only way to reach either of them was by boat from the main parking area quite a distance away. That area still has a couple of restaurants and a few boats that will take guests around the lagoons. Why, we don’t know. There is also a huge, very elegant golf center and tennis complex that is still in operation. The golf course appeared to be in very good condition.
We finally found our way back to the hotel. The place is enormous and still fairly grandiose, but pleasant and now Hawaiian enough. We didn’t check the prices, however. We stopped for a drink and lunch at a bar/restaurant right on the beach. The food and drinks were very good and reasonably priced for the location ($30.00 for food and two exotic drinks). Bill asked the waitress if she knew where they got the gas tiki torches and she was quite willing to find out. She asked the manager and was flabbergasted that nobody knew. She couldn’t understand why these fixtures at every hotel and restaurant in the islands seems to be such a mystery as to who makes or installs them. Nobody has any idea. Her best guess was to call the Marriott’s maintenance department and ask them. We examined some of the broken ones at Kauai Lagoons and at least know what the components are, so we shouldn’t have any trouble coming up with a reasonable facsimile.
The weather was perfect, about 75 and clear. We stopped in a store that looked interesting from the outside, but was no more than a collection of junk once inside. The shop keeper wanted to talk though, so we chatted for a couple of minutes. She lived in California until she and her husband retired and moved here with their son. The waitress was also from California, as everyone seems to be who isn’t a native.
Back aboard, we took our time showering to be out on the verandah in time for the sailing. They had pointed out that there would be “scenic cruising” along the shore after we sailed, but that proved to be pointless. Besides the fact that it was getting dark, we only made it about two miles down the coast before they abruptly turned away from the island and sailed toward Oahu. We’re going so slowly, it’s only 95 miles, that the ship is barely stirring up a wake.
We skipped the show because it was scheduled at 6:45 PM, before dinner, which we hate. It is the same story for tomorrow night. The excuse tonight is that the big jackpot for bingo will be given away (about $7500). We’re still amazed that all these people don’t realize that they never give away the jackpot until the last night. Why not save your money and just play on the final day?
We sat around the lobby until dinner time. For some reason they were keeping all of the first seating guests out of the show lounge, so they were all milling around, too.
The dinner theme is Italian. Click to view the Italian Dinner menu. The soup we both had was like chicken noodle except the noodles were replaced with egg white swirled in like a Chinese version. The cheese ravioli appetizer was tasty and the foccacia bread was exceptional. We both had one of the Italian entrees, both of which were very tasty, but not exceptional. The little kid at the next table was a nuisance, but they dragged her out when she started wandering up to other tables, including ours. They really do a good job of shutting her up, but she doesn’t belong in a fancy dining room, especially at second seating.
Since there wasn’t a show tonight after dinner, we just walked around the outer deck to see if there was anything to look at. The lights of Oahu were just coming into view, so we don’t have much farther to go into Honolulu. No tickets were sent for the garden tour in Honolulu, so we figure we’re off the hook for going on tour tomorrow.
Click for the "Day at a Glance" schedule. The disembarkation announcements started early, so we were out of bed sooner than we would have liked. Even so, we had to make do with the left over continental breakfast in the Lido because they had ended the regular breakfast service at 9:30 AM instead of 10:30 AM. We assume because they were having another full-fledged crew fire drill where they end up abandoning the ship in the lifeboats. At least the pastries were good!
While we were sitting in the Lido there was the usual announcement trying to find two couples who hadn’t disembarked. Shortly after the announcements one of the front desk women came around calling out the names and asking people individually. She was accompanied by two armed local police, so we figured maybe the people had skipped out on their shipboard account or something. They keep track of who leaves the ship by collecting the Guest Identification Cards as people leave. After breakfast we went out on deck and watched the crew lowering the lifeboats and sailing out into the harbor. They went so far as to inflate the crew raft.
Eventually we strolled off the ship and started to look around the Aloha Tower Marketplace shops. We had a short list of sundries we wanted, so we walked into downtown Honolulu where we knew from our previous visit that there was a Woolworth’s. We found what we needed and Bill bought out the last remaining donuts from their bakery. It didn’t dawn on him until later that these were Woolworth’s donuts, but they look OK (we’ll find out tomorrow morning for sure).
Just up the street was a large office complex where the city’s “restaurant row” is located. We thought we’d check and see if there was anyplace interesting for dinner tonight, so we walked up. It was mostly tacky nightclubs geared toward Japanese tourists and fast food places, so we figured we’d be better off on the ship.
We decided to have lunch in the Aloha Tower Marketplace at one of the restaurants where we automatically get 20% off by charging it to Diners Club. It was one of those brewery restaurants where they make their own beer. Bill had some and said it wasn’t anything special. The food was relatively good; pizza was very good, Chinese chicken salad was bland.
They did a nice job restoring the Aloha Tower and adding the new two story, upscale shopping mall around it. The architecture is interesting and appropriate for the tower and surrounding area. We found a number of things to buy, mostly Aloha shirts for gifts and a couple of other items. Dave wanted to try the Hawaiian Shave Ice, so he got one of those and Bill had a smoothie. The shave ice is like a giant snow cone, but the ice is shaved off a huge chunk of ice so it is the consistency of snow. They put a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the bottom of the cone, then top it with the ice and your choice of up to three flavors of syrup. It sounds odd, but was really very good. To be truly authentic, the ice cream would have to be sweetened bean paste, but that’s going a bit too far!
By now we were worn out and it was time to get back on board and showered for dinner time. The time today seemed to fly by. Four new passengers were trying to board and were so dippy that the officer at the gangway finally gave up trying to get their tickets and just let them on. They didn’t understand that someone would come to show them to their cabin, so they went bumbling off on their own. Come to think of it, nobody ever came to show us to a cabin either.
Someone was attempting to tune the piano in the Explorer’s Lounge below our cabin which was driving us insane. Later when we were sitting in the lobby before dinner, he was tuning that piano. A great combination with the piano tuner and the combo from the bar competing for highest noise level. We noticed that a few more children had boarded in Honolulu, but they aren’t young enough to be a nuisance.
On the way down to dinner our cabin steward wanted to chat. We thought he spoke better English than he actually does, but he got his point across. He must have been with Holland America for quite a while because he has been on almost all of the ships. He said this ship has the best crew accommodations. Someone must have complained in their survey about the condition of their cabin because he was very concerned that we might be unhappy in some way. We were going to complain about the mildew in the bathroom, but now we’re going to just say it was like that when we boarded and not that it continued to be there. It might just be that it is stained because the bathroom smells strongly of bleach every couple of days, so we know he’s cleaning properly.
Some people are completely oblivious to the dress codes. Tonight there was one newly arrived, older couple dressed formally. Obviously they hadn’t bothered to read the newsletter telling us the dress code was “elegantly casual” tonight! In the dining room, a group of six was claiming our table number and insisting that was the number they were given. Yeah, right, they're going to cram six guests at a table for two?
Click to view the Dinner Menu. There were several interesting items on the menu tonight that had a Mexican theme. The chicken soup was very spicy, but good. There was also a very interesting watermelon salad that consisted of watermelon slices dressed with thickened orange juice. It was a very refreshing combination of flavors. We both liked our entrees, too. The bread tonight, so far a different variety every evening, was exceptional.
The entertainment for the second sitting was early again tonight, 6:45 PM, so we skipped it to teach them a lesson. Actually, we really weren’t interested anyway because it was just a local hula show we figured would be the usual tourist drivel. They had a sail away party by the Navigation Deck Pool that started at 10:30 PM. There was a band playing on the pier, in the marketplace, we could see and hear very clearly from the ship, so we sat one deck below and listened to them instead of the ghastly Statendam orchestra.
The ship set sail promptly at 11:00 PM and we stood at the rail and watched the beautiful lights of Honolulu recede as we left the port. It is a stunning sight to sail into or out of these island ports at night because the water reflects the lights so beautifully. Also, the contrast of the pitch black water makes the coastal lights even more brilliant.
Click for the "Day at a Glance" schedule. We didn’t bother rushing ashore because there was a ticketed tendering system in effect until most passengers got ashore. We checked with the car rental place by calling with our cellular phone to see if they had a shuttle to the airport; they didn’t. The Woolworth’s donuts were our breakfast (not bad).
It took over 45 minutes to get ashore by tender because Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas was also tendering and there was only one space at the dock. While we were waiting, we heard over the radio that a crew member from the Statendam needed to be taken to the hospital. First they wanted to know if there was a decent hospital (there was) and how to get there (they had a car that could take him). When they started asking details, name, age, etc., we thought they said it was Ray Carr, the cruise director. He didn’t make any of the announcements this morning, so it was plausible. A couple of women started complaining and demanding to know why we weren’t docked yet. It was quite obvious that we were waiting in line and even more obvious when one of the Legend’s tenders butted ahead of us.
We caught a cab at the dock to get to the airport, about ten minutes away. It cost more to take the taxi round trip to the airport ($40.00) than to rent the car for the whole day ($29.00). We drove to Waikoloa to check out the hotel we stayed at when we were here the first time. The restaurant in the center atrium that had been the all-day coffee shop was still there, but obviously never used anymore. The formerly “fancy” dinner restaurant is now the casual, everyday eatery. There is now no upscale restaurant at all.
When we stayed here the hotel was a Sheraton, but now it’s an Outrigger hotel and is quite a bit less luxurious. The beach and fishpond area were the same, but there was a big luau area added at one end that looked rather tacky and mass-market. At that time, it was the only hotel in the development, but now there is the swanky mega-resort, the Hilton Waikoloa Village (formerly the Hyatt Regency until it went bankrupt).
We drove up the way to the Hilton and had some trouble figuring out where to park. There was a guard at the entrance to keep everyone except the hotel’s guests from using the parking lot, so we had to park in the beach access parking lot and walk in. The hotel is completely sealed off from the rest of the resort area.
We could see immediately why the place had gone bankrupt! The hotel consists of four huge buildings, all different, spread out around a cove and covering probably two miles. Each building is a self-contained resort, with it’s own pools, etc. There is a “museum walk” that is basically a long covered corridor, open on one side to the pools and landscaping, that connects all of the buildings and is lined with antiques and art collected from around the world. Connecting everything is a monorail, or you could take a boat through interconnected canals to each building.
There were probably six fancy restaurants, each with a different theme and appropriate landscaping. The pools were all different; some had water slides, caves, grotto bars, walk-behind waterfalls, you name it. There was also a dolphin pool where guests can swim with the animals, but we felt this was cruel and unacceptable.
No matter where in the resort, from the farthest reaches of the parking lot down to the beach, the railings were polished brass, the paving was always flagstone (no concrete walks anywhere), there were orchids among the landscaping, enormous marble statues, bronze figurines, etc. The lobby and all the public areas are overpowering both in size and opulence. Custom oriental-style carpets line the corridors, even outdoors!
After our little foray into the good life, we decided to drive up to the housing tract area and check that out. Basically it was the type of neighborhood where you’d find big, fat guys out front mowing the lawn while working on cars in the driveway that haven’t run in twenty years. Not for us! There was a nice shopping area, but ¾ of the stores were out of business.
By this time, around 3:00 PM, we were starving. There wasn’t anyplace to eat in the shopping center, so we went back to Waikoloa to the resort shopping area. It had a nice selection of upscale shops, but none of the restaurants served lunch after 2:00 PM, so we were out of luck.
On the way to the car, we spotted a stunning crystal prismatic bowl in a gallery window. Needless to say, we had to have it. It’s being shipped to arrive after we get home. The sales woman was from California, so my theory about every transplant to Hawaii being from California still holds. Her husband is the Marketing Director at the Hilton, so that’s the only reason they are living here. She said the area is just too remote and there is nothing to do, so they definitely won’t be spending the rest of their life here.
We decided to take the car back and call it a day because we were just too tired, hot, and hungry to care about looking at any more hotels. Turning the car in was easy, and we finally located a cab with a nice female driver. The town was taken by surprise by the two ships. She said they usually know ahead of time when ships are coming, but they didn’t know about either of these. We had heard the same thing from some shop keepers earlier.
When we arrived back in Kona we went straight to the Mexican restaurant across from the dock where we had been a couple of years ago. It was still good and we ate way too much! We had a nice second-floor view of all the people walking around. With two huge ships in port, it was like Laguna Beach in the middle of the summer. The line for the tenders to the Legend of the Seas was probably 100 feet long because their tours all arrived back at the same time. The line for the Statendam had about three people in it. Although Holland America really didn’t have anything to do with it, we could just imagine the people in the Royal Caribbean line whining that Holland America must be handling things better because there is no line.
After lunch we walked up towards the shopping area, but didn’t find anything interesting and just walked back to the tender dock. The trip back was fast, but way too hot and humid.
Although we were stuffed from lunch we figured we had better get ready for dinner because we would end up hungry later if we didn’t eat. It was kind of a rush to get showered and ready, but we made it on time.
Click to view the American Dinner menu. The people who barged in with the table behind us had their two little kids with them tonight. One of them was fine, but the little one keep whining and carrying on. They kept offering him things that weren’t on the menu (cheeseburgers) and finally got him to shut up. When they ordered the cheeseburger (and something else odd we can’t remember), the waiter didn’t say anything, but immediately went searching for the head waiter.
The special order commotion continued for quite a while with everyone trying to find someone who could get it worked out. It was so rude of those people not to ask first if it was a problem. Of course, as soon as they finally took care of it the kid promptly fell asleep and they canceled the order!
The other table with the little kid arrived twenty minutes late, as usual. Their kid was pretty good until she had a very brief screaming fit which drew dirty looks from the new group at the table behind us. Heads turned to stare all the way from the center of the room.
About this time, after everyone was finished eating, the new little kid woke up and the parents asked the waiter to go bring his cheeseburger after all. And these are people who work for Holland America doing their advertising (we think). Jerks.
There was no regular entertainment tonight because there was another deck party around the Lido Pool. They had a BBQ set up that was belching really smelly fish smoke all over the place. Besides the fact that it was too hot, the music was much too loud, so we went up on the sports deck and just looked down on the whole thing. Several other people had the same idea. We stayed up there and watched the people making fools of themselves playing stupid games. This deteriorated into everyone doing the Macarena and then a Conga line around the pool. What some people find “fun” still amazes us.
Ray wasn’t at the pool party, so we guess he may have been the one who went to the hospital. We could have sworn we saw him walking down the street in town, but maybe not.
The flowers in the cabin were changed to two different color sprays of orchids, the same as the dining room, and there are stunning arrangements of unusual tropical flowers literally everywhere in the public areas (including the rest rooms).
We stayed out on deck until the ship raised anchor and sailed for Lahaina. There was a form in the room to tell them what arrangements we have for disembarking in Los Angeles. It seems a bit early to be doing disembarkation things. There is another annoying crew boat drill for tomorrow at 9:30 AM, so we won’t be sleeping in, again!
Click for the "Day at a Glance" schedule. We were awake by 9:30 AM due to the announcement not to be alarmed by the alarms. How many boat drills does the crew need anyway? We weren’t in any hurry to get ashore, so we finished off the Woolworth’s donuts and waited until they announced that we didn’t need tickets to board the tender. This time, the tender ride went smoothly and quickly, although the ship was anchored quite a distance from the dock for some reason. The weather continued to be beautiful and clear, but a little too hot.
There was supposed to be a shuttle to the Ka’anapali Resort area, so we started walking down Front Street to find the stop. We only got about halfway down before we saw Dave's nephew, Mike, in his car when he flagged us down. He asked where we were going and when we told him he said, “OK, let’s go”, and off we went. He was thrilled he found us. He had taken Front Street only in the hopes of running into us.
We ended up at Whaler’s Village, an upscale shopping area in the center of Ka’anapali. It used to house local shops, but now it is Gucci, Tiffany, etc. Mike took us to lunch at Hula’s, which was right on the beachfront. It has the same owners as the place we ate in Kauai, but the menu was entirely different. The food was OK, but nothing exciting.
We walked up to the renovated, actually almost totally new, Sheraton Maui that just re-opened a few months ago. It’s very nice, but huge. It seemed fairly uncrowded, probably due to the fact that people aren’t aware it is open again. While we were walking around, Mike ran into about six employees that he knew (neighbors, friends, etc.).
Mike drove us up to a residential development above Ka’anapali that had houses similar to ours in Laguna Niguel. The houses were nice, but the lots weren’t much larger than what we have now, so they wouldn’t be quite what we have in mind for that reason alone. There was an “agricultural” development next door with acreage (you have to pretend you are growing something to get a permit to build a house, but everyone is in on the deception), but the neighborhood wasn’t upscale enough to suit us even though the houses were huge.
Mike dropped us off at the end of Front Street so we could browse in the galleries on the way back to the ship. We went into the galleries we remembered from previous visits that we had enjoyed. We bought a whimsical ceramic fish sculpture titled “Smooch Group” by a local artist. That’s all we were really interested in and it was getting way too hot, so we went back to the ship around 4:00 PM.
We went up for ice cream to cool off and rest. Bill asked the lead singer, who always seems like he wants to talk to us, a question and he pulled up a chair and sat down like we were old pals. He seems nice enough, but wasn’t all that forthcoming with information. He thought we looked familiar, but we hadn’t been on any of the ships he mentioned.
Bill watched the sailing from our verandah while Dave showered and got dressed for dinner. The coast was perfectly stunning with the setting sun enhancing the effect. The sea got a little rougher than it has been, but nothing terrible.
Click to view the Polynesian Dinner menu. We were actually starving by the time dinner rolled around, so we ordered all of the courses. It was Polynesian night, but the selections were more Asian than Polynesian. We both had a double serving of the vegetarian eggrolls, but they were only average. The chilled pineapple soup wasn’t inedible as it was on the Rotterdam, but it was rather strange and a stretch of the imagination to be called “soup”. The shrimp and chicken stir fry was tasty. Our waiter was beside himself because we always order the "exotic" entrees and actually eat them. The dessert, Jack Daniels Chocolate Cheesecake was outrageously rich, but very good.
Tonight’s show was the best of the production shows so far. It was called “Remote Control” with the premise being that you could change the era by use of a special TV remote. Basically it was an excuse to sing songs from different eras. The premise was good, but as usual it was carried out awkwardly. Fortunately, the cast was energetic, although the second leads were very weak singers. In general, it was quite entertaining. The production itself was poorly put together, but the dance numbers were pretty good and the lead singers reasonably talented. It was obvious though that Holland America has a low entertainment budget which is a shame because they have such an elaborate venue for production shows.
Todd, the assistant cruise director, has been making all of the announcements today, so we figured Ray, the cruise director must be gone. It turned out that he was checked out at the hospital in Kona, but came back to the ship. He finally ended up having to have his appendix removed in Maui this afternoon. So, he has to stay there at least overnight for observation. Todd is actually a much better speaker and far more funny than Ray, so this should be an improvement.
Click for the "Day at a Glance" schedule. Nothing special happened today as it was just another lazy day at sea. We started off with the usual Lido lunch that featured another completely different selection of entrees. Click to view the Lido Luncheon menu. The melons are still so good that they alone are enough to fill us up. The freshly-baked breads and pastries continue to be exceptional, as well.
There wasn’t much of interest on the schedule, so we killed time until the lecture at 2:00 PM by the woman who developed the concept of the “Love Boat” series. She was the first female cruise director ever and we figured she might be fairly amusing. WRONG! Boring, boring, boring!! How this woman could have been a successful cruise director is beyond us. She was a terrible speaker to start with, constantly asking her husband in the audience when she couldn’t get names or facts straight. We thought maybe this was her first time speaking, but later she said all she does now is lecture on cruise ships (and collect royalties).
Her stories could have been hilarious if she’d gotten to the point faster, if at all. Basically, she faked her way into being a model for twenty years, then a hostess on upscale ships, then to being a cruise director on what she called “off Broadway, Leaking Lena” ships. She has a book out, and hopefully that will be more coherent than she is in person.
The boring lecture sucked the life out of us, so Dave went and napped while Bill sat around on deck and various places.
It was Black & White Officers’ Ball formal night, so the Rotterdam dining room and the Van Gogh lounge were decked out in black and white balloons and other decorations. The dining room had black tablecloths, the waiters in black outfits, and huge art deco style banners of revelers in black and white silhouette.
Click to view the Black & White Dinner menu. The selection of menu items was eclectic, but there was plenty to choose from. The onion soup was the only disappointment, but it was still edible. The beef, whatever form it takes, continues to amaze us with the high quality and excellent preparation. Crystal doesn’t even come close in the meat department!
Manfred told the people with the little kid that they could take the balloons if they wanted to when they left. They only took theirs and those from an empty table next to them, but the table behind us gave them theirs, as did we. The kid’s mother came over and apologized for the disruptions the kid has caused. The child should NOT be there, no doubt about it, but they whisk her out of the room the minute she gets noisy, so it’s more their annoyance than ours. We actually find their daily arrival in the dining room at least twenty minutes after all of the other orders have been taken the most annoying.
Tonight’s entertainment was a “world famous” pianist who had trained with Liberace (in more ways than one would be our guess). His skills as a pianist were probably about the same, but Liberace never seemed to take himself too seriously and had fun with the act. This guy thought he was God’s gift to the piano, so it kind of spoiled it. His costumes were certainly flashy enough, but he’s obviously just trying to capitalize on what Liberace created rather than coming up with his own style. It was way too warm in the lounge, which only made us more antsy to get out of there.
We were hoping that the notice for another mandatory life boat drill tomorrow morning was a printing error, but Todd announced it after the show saying it was required by law. If that’s the case, why doesn’t Crystal do it? There was a boat drill just three days ago for the people who boarded in Honolulu. It would have made more sense to make that one apply to all the passengers than to stage another one three days before the end of the cruise. At least it’s being held at 10:30 AM and not at the crack of dawn as they usually are.
Click for the "Day at a Glance" schedule. The boat drill was held promptly at 10:30 AM. It looked like everyone showed up. Obviously, many passengers had complained because every announcement pointed out that they are required by law to have a boat drill every seven days. What seems to escape them is that there was a boat drill in Honolulu just three days ago. Oh well…
After the drill it was too late to catch the Continental breakfast, so we waited around until 11:30 PM when lunch was served in the Lido. Click to view the Lido Luncheon menu. In addition to the usual buffet there was an omelet station, so we were able to get ham and cheese omelets to at least simulate breakfast for a change. The omelet chef was missing at first and when he did show up he wasn’t in the best mood. It is odd that none of the satellite food areas have plates. At the omelet station, pasta bar, and the poolside grill you have to hand them a plate or they just stand there holding your food on a spatula while looking impatient.
We sat around in the Lido until it got full, then we went up to the Crow’s Nest to wait until time for the pool games (to watch). As usual, they had music blaring up there that would have been fine as background music, but was turned up loud enough to be distracting to anyone trying to read, which several people were.
At 1:30 PM we were going to watch the pool games from the Sports Deck, but the roof over the pool was closed. All of the chairs and tables were occupied, as usual, by the pool (we have never been successful at getting a place to sit around the Lido pool no matter what time of day). We went and got some reading material and went back up to the Crow’s Nest. We overheard one of the staff telling some people that he only found out about this job four days before the cruise. He worked with little kids before this, so evidently it isn’t too difficult to get a job on a ship. It certainly doesn’t take any previous experience.
The weather is already getting cooler, probably in the mid 70’s, and it was mostly cloudy all day. They had mentioned it might rain, but it never did. There were some strange areas of fog that we quickly passed through. The sea has somewhat of a swell to it, but it is calmer than it was coming over.
We boycotted the show for second sitting because we don’t like having the time reversed (6:45 instead of 10:00 PM). Magicians aren’t really of interest to us anyway. Everyone else seemed to be in the show, so we were able to get an out of the way table in the Ocean Bar for before dinner drinks. The Virgin Banana Daiquiri was ghastly. Tonight’s “Drink of the Day”, a Strawberry Margarita was only $2.95 and the non-alcoholic alternative, the daiquiri, was $2.50. The regular prices are only slightly higher with the non-alcoholic “exotic” drinks a particular bargain at $2.75, soft drinks $1.50 (they give you the entire can), and wine by the glass at $2.75. Almost half the price Crystal charges, which we have always considered to be reasonable.
Click to view the German Dinner menu. Dinner had a German theme with the item names all in German. Whenever dinner has a theme, which they generally do, they always have appropriate music playing for the first few minutes as the guests arrive. Later the music always changed to a pianist or the Rosario Strings playing from the balcony above. Just a note, the Rosario Strings, whom we have enjoyed on previous cruises, were ghastly beyond description on this cruise. One of the string players was always off-key and they were absolutely unbearable to listen to. We’re surprised anyone can stand it, but some people still show up in the Explorer’s Lounge after dinner to listen to them.
All of the food was exceptional tonight. Farid amused himself by guessing in advance (correctly) that we would order the stuffed sausage appetizer. Seconds after we ordered it he put it in front of us. The woman at the next table even commented on it.
The woman behind us still thinks she’s got a chance with Manfred, so she’s beginning to get all giggly with him. Keep in mind that this is the woman, along with her mother, who has chased away three groups of people from their table for six. She and her mother have been alone at the table for most of the cruise. The whole spectacle is amusing because Manfred doesn’t have a clue. The people with the kid made him wheel the “flambee” cart over to their table for a personal show (the cart usually stays out of the way and the waiters get the servings from it). He was very accommodating and seemed to enjoy it, but we’re sure they have no intention of tipping him later, as they should.
There was an Indonesian crew show tonight and the doorman, “chime boy” to us, went table to table handing out programs and making people promise to come. He always comes around and chats, but never really has anything to say. For some reason he seems to like us.
Since the “real” show was earlier, there wasn’t anything interesting to do tonight after dinner. We chatted for a while with Thomas, one of the shop guys. According to him, things like the fire on the first day happen all the time on this ship more than the others. He said to keep in mind what happened to the first four Statendams (they caught fire and sank). He agreed with us that ships always seem to catch fire and sink right before they are retired. In addition, he pointed out that they also mysteriously seem to catch fire in the shipyard when they are behind schedule for completion.
Thomas said that Holland America had asked for another shop to be added, so that’s why the Gourmet Shop replaced the lounge area by the fountain. The new Rotterdam already has a shop in that spot, but it is being added to every S-class ship as they rotate into dry dock. Their concession got kicked off of Carnival ships for some reason, so we’re surprised they’re still on Holland America. The shops are actually quite nice and have a reasonably wide selection of merchandise at fair prices. There are signs saying that the ship board prices are guaranteed to be lower than shops on shore. The only negative we observed is that that clerks in the Amsterdam Sauer section talk loudly amongst themselves even when there are customers around.
Clocks go forward again tonight, so we’ll lose another hour of sleep. There will probably be another crew fire drill at 9:30 AM on top of it!
Click for the "Day at a Glance" schedule. This morning we didn’t wake up until Annika’s Coffee Chat with Todd started in the Explorer’s Lounge below our room. It sort of sounds like when the teacher talks in the Peanuts cartoons, but it was enough to rouse us. In any case, we didn’t make it out of the room until around lunch time.
The theme for the Lido lunch was Indonesian, click to view the Indonesian Luncheon menu. One of the entrees was the same Beef Rendang that Dave had made for Easter. It was brown instead of greenish, but it tasted and smelled the same. However, it was extremely spicy hot. Not quite the best thing to be the first to hit your stomach in the morning. We’re happy with the bread and fruit anyway.
As the cruise winds down, we generally sit around and force ourselves to read all the magazines we brought and haven’t gotten around to. Up in the Crow’s Nest, we sat and read, vaguely watched all the old ladies trying to learn line dancing and the Macarena, then read some more.
We stayed in the Crow’s Nest until some old lady barged in and wanted to claim our group of chairs for the trivia game. Dave said, “So in other words, you’re asking us to move?” She claimed we didn’t have to move, but it was getting so crowded that it was unpleasant anyway.
Our move downstairs wasn’t as lasting. The Ocean Bar was full of a cheese fondue demonstration, so we went to the Explorer’s Lounge. That lasted about a half hour until they started setting up for afternoon tea. This was our cue to head up to the Lido for ice cream.
Before dinner we sat in the Ocean Bar and had drinks and the hot hors d’oeuvres they serve during cocktail hour. The trio that plays for dancing there is entertaining, too. We think the cocktail waiter is in love with Bill.
Click to view the Mexican Dinner menu. The dinner theme tonight was Mexican, so we were kind of looking forward to it simply to see how accurate their interpretation would be. All in all, it wasn't too bad. They had chips and salsa on the table (the chips were nacho cheese Doritos, but it was a nice try). The hot appetizer was a quesadilla that was quite spicy and actually pretty good. The “tostado” appetizer was a miss, however, consisting of a tiny scoop of guacamole, sour cream, and refried beans on top of some shredded lettuce, surrounded by three tortilla chips. Let’s face it, it just doesn’t pay to try to make Mexican food fancy.
Both the soups were OK, but not great. The gazpacho was a strange pureed consistency and the tortilla soup had too much lime juice in it. Bill’s salad was way spicy and had chic peas, lettuce, onions, and black olives with the pits still in them.
The chicken fajita entree was good, but not assembled properly. The description said, “chicken fajitas surrounded by tortillas, refried beans, guacamole, and accompaniments.” Well, they obviously didn’t know what the tortilla was for because it was folded into a compact triangle and topped with a scoop of sour cream and guacamole. Other than that it was good. It was a closer approximation than Crystal ever came up with. Desserts were satisfactory, but we didn’t feel compelled to order their version of flan.
Tonight’s entertainment was supposed to be a “world renowned” (aren’t they all?) concert singer. For some unexplained reason, the magician who did the show last night that we purposely missed, did an opening act. Embarrassing would be an understatement. It was so awful that when he tried to get someone to help him from the audience, the first guy just yelled out, “NO!”, and a second man simply ignored him. When he said, “Don’t make me come out there and hurt you”, there was dead silence. Only about ten people even applauded at the end.
When the singer finally made it to the stage, he had a good voice, but his melodramatic “acting” and forced patter ruined it. It was bearable because he had a great voice, but when he came out in full “Phantom of the Opera” drag, it was simply too much. Several people left early, about half of the remaining people were somewhat entertained and the rest gave him a standing ovation (what a surprise).
Todd, the replacement cruise director, is very amusing. He actually makes those annoying, twice daily, Bingo announcements funny. He’s a far better speaker than Ray Carr. During the instructions for the life boat drill yesterday, he was explaining how to put on a life jacket and ended the explanation with, “and do the Hokey Pokey”. We’d guess he got in trouble for that because they take the safety stuff pretty seriously around here, but it really was hilarious (you had to be there).
It was so hot in the lounge tonight that we had to take our coats off and we were still dripping. On the way out, the “greeter” at the door said, “Yeah, it’s really hot, huh?”. No kidding, so why isn’t something done about it?
Click for the "Day at a Glance" schedule. It was brunch as usual in the Lido again, click to view the Lido Luncheon menu. They had a cart set up to cook omelets, that we ordered, but only one burner was working. It probably took twenty minutes to get two omelets cooked. The restaurant was almost full, but we found a table of our own. Unfortunately, the woman who sat down at the next table was determined to talk to us, so we were forced to be congenial for once.
The wind was blowing hard all day and whipping up whitecaps. The sea didn’t start to get really rough until around dinner time though. We sat reading in the Crow’s Next, which was quiet for a change, until time to meet for the backstage tour in the Van Gogh Lounge at 3:00 PM. When we first arrived, the God-awful lecturer from a couple of days ago was still yammering on about numerology or something equally ridiculous. She doesn’t speak any better about her “avocations” than she did about her stint as a cruise director. We had to admit, she looks very good for her age.
The entire lower level of the lounge was full of people for the tour, so they didn’t bother taking us backstage. We did get to go up on the stage where Tim and Mary answered questions (the same one over and over and over…) Three people asked what the smoke was made of (mineral oil was the answer, but that’s not correct), four people bitched about the band being louder than the singers (the motor for the bandstand is broken and they can’t control the sound without moving them around, so get used to it), and why is it so hot/cold in the lounge (they can’t please everyone, so they make it hot one day and cold the next, or basically get used to it).
Mary claimed that the shows cost over $1 million to produce. If that’s true, then they certainly aren’t getting their money’s worth because that’s about what Crystal invests and their shows are MUCH more elaborate than these. The production shows we have seen are acceptable, but the costumes are somewhat chintzy and there is no scenery to speak of. The lighting is state of the art, so maybe that’s included in her cost estimate. She also said the beaded curtain cost $30,000 (for sure) and they guessed that half of it weighed more than 400 pounds because it takes four men to lift it.
We wasted time in the Ocean Bar chatting with Ilde about nothing in particular. He always has lots of questions and is always grabbing at us, but his English isn’t the best so it’s a little difficult to get any complicated points across. It’s weird how there is always just one waiter per Holland America cruise who claims us as his or her own and remembers everything about us. They always seem sincere about it, but maybe they do it in the hopes that you’ll tip them at the end of the cruise or something. We have never had any of them make any effort to get a tip on the last day though.
At 4:30 PM we went up to the ice cream parlor to get our sustenance to last us until dinner time. For once, there wasn’t anyone sitting out by the Lido pool, so we sat and watched the water slosh out. We were impressed by how well designed the pool is because the water, although sloshing violently, almost never made it out of the pool itself. A few times it blew straight up over the dolphin statue and hit the glass ceiling, but it didn’t get the floor wet. The only water that sloshed onto the floor was from the Jacuzzi. Eventually an engineer came out and lowered the water level which made the sloshing even more exciting. Three little girls desperately wanted to jump in the water, which would have been disastrous, but their oblivious mother finally noticed and ordered them away from the edge.
By dinner time, the sea was very rough, as usual for the position along the coast. Dave contemplated getting seasick, but managed to evade it this time. Surprisingly, so did everyone else. No one was missing from the dining room that we could see, in spite of having to weave down the hallways to get there.
Click to view the Farewell Dinner menu. Our entrees were exceptional again. The beef has been outstanding every time. The finest meat we have ever had. So tender it can be cut with a fork. Bill had two entrees, the pork and chicken. The portions are usually small, but that makes it easier to have all the courses and not get too full. The dessert was the baked Alaska farewell parade thing. The amazing part was that the baked Alaska was actually good! They served it with cherries jubilee spooned over it.
Manfred went around to every table and asked if anyone wanted to place a special order for the last dinner. He chased us down when we left because he hadn’t talked to us yet. Basically, the point is that you can have again whatever your favorite item was from the whole cruise. We thought this was a really nice touch, considering what a hassle special orders are for them.
This is Manfred’s second cruise, which explains why he has so much energy. We mentioned to him that he seemed a little less energetic the past few days and he said that he just isn’t used to the seven days a week schedule yet. He’s really nice, but he’s kind of a dip. He can certainly get by on his looks, if nothing else.
Everyone was slipping and sliding by the time dinner was over, but the production show “Magic To Do” went on as scheduled. The sick part was that the magic the regular cast members did during the show as part of the production was better than the “professionals” we saw the other night. If they’d tighten up the production a bit more, it would be very good. The performers are relatively talented and very enthusiastic (and very, very young). The big finale with the showgirl feather outfits is just too pathetic in comparison to Crystal to even be in the competition. It’s kind of odd that with all the money Holland America spent on the facility that they wouldn’t spring for a more elaborate show. Mary said they completely update the lighting equipment every two years and pay for her to go to New York for training on the new stuff.
During the show there were several frantic announcements that we couldn’t understand. We could see Tim trying to decide whether to stop the show, but it went right on. Manfred came rushing in searching for someone all over the room. As soon as the show ended they asked for the ship’s doctor to go to the infirmary at once. The cruise director glossed over it when he came out, as they always do, so we don’t really know yet what happened. Bill asked Tim if he wanted the Variety magazines and others we brought, which he did.
Click for the "Day at a Glance" schedule. It was rough and very windy all night and it was difficult to sleep while trying to stay in the bed at the same time. By morning our verandah and windows were covered with salt spray, but it had calmed down considerably.
The disembarkation talk was held at 11:00 AM, but we watched it on the television instead of making an effort to be presentable by that time. Since people are disembarking tonight in Ensenada also, they also had the sentimental farewell mini-show after the instructions. It wasn’t bad all things considered. At least they didn’t make everyone link arms and sing.
We had the usual brunch in the Lido, tasty as always. For some reason, the restaurant was entirely full, but since people don’t usually ask to sit with us, it’s no big deal for us. Bill went to leave a note for Tim to give him our cabin number so he could come and get the pile of magazines and snack foods we don’t want to carry home.
There wasn’t much of anything to do, so we went to the cabin to finish packing. It’s easy when it is such a short cruise. It only took a few minutes and we were done. When we opened the door to go to the passenger talent show, Tim was standing there just getting ready to knock. He was thrilled to get the magazines and probably even more excited to get a huge bag of peanut butter M&M’s.
The cruise lines should dump the talent show idea. They didn’t even ask anyone to sign up for it until this afternoon and the show was at 4:00 PM today. Under the circumstances, it was fairly well attended, but if they are serious about it they should have had it in the evening and certainly not on the last day when everyone was busy packing.
There were only six acts. The first, a big, old lady, danced to “New York, New York” wearing a silver muumuu and silver sequin hat. Surprisingly enough, she didn’t embarrass herself, so it was OK. In a way you have to admire someone who has fun doing whatever she wants to regardless of what the rest of us think. The sick part was she had to have planned this to have the whole ensemble with her. Of course, she wore it and carried the hat around all night.
The second act was an old guy dressed in a sort of fur Yukon hat with a hand puppet of a dog. He did an unfunny bit with the assistant cruise director. What the puppet had to do with it, we’ll never know. All he did was hold it up and flap it’s mouth. He never attempted to be a ventriloquist or anything.
Next, an old lady (getting the trend?) read some “inspirational” poems, poorly. Then an old guy came out and told some somewhat funny jokes that would have been a lot funnier had he not fumbled them. After that a man sang “The Impossible Dream” relatively well. For the finale, an English woman read three humorous short stories. She was very entertaining and spoke quite well.
From the show, we went up to get our “tide over” ice cream from the Lido, which we ate while sitting out by the covered pool (now drained due to the weather). The Lido pool area is very attractive and comfortable. It has been so crowded this cruise that we hadn’t had the chance to sit and enjoy it until now. There seems to be a shortage of lounge chairs and tables. The area is large, but there is a lot of empty space. There are no lounges or chairs at all on the open Sports Deck above. During a Caribbean cruise it must be quite difficult to find a place to lay in the sun or to even sit outside in the shade. The deck chairs along the Promenade Deck are also occupied for most of the day.
We sat around until 5:30 PM, then went down to get ready for dinner and finish up the last bit of packing. They are being quite lenient with the disembarkation. Our luggage doesn’t have to be in the hallway until after dinner (before 2:00 AM) and we don’t have to be out of the cabin until 9:00 AM.
The customary end of cruise survey was so abbreviated that it was pointless. It seems like there must be certain areas in which they simply don’t want our opinion because they were never mentioned. The only way to get specific things brought to their attention would be to write it in on the blank page provided at the end. There was no way to rate a specific performer, staff member, or lecturer, so they must not base their decision to re-hire someone on the guests’ ratings.
The Ocean Bar was already full by the time we made it downstairs (an hour before dinner), so we sat at one of the tables around the atrium railing. Eventually, the bar supervisor came over and took our order, which she gave to a waitress, who brought them in no apparent rush. Although we didn’t ask, she said someone would be right over with some nuts and the hot appetizers. Well, “right over” meant thirty minutes, but we did finally get some tasty tempura shrimp.
We almost always enter the dining room from the Upper Promenade level, which means we go down the sweeping staircase inside to get to our lower level table. After we were seated, Manfred came over all surprised to see us because he had been purposely waiting at the door to greet each of his guests on the final night. We told him that we had to come down the grand staircase, but not to ask us why. He said, “I already have a picture in my mind.” He came by a little later to say his “goodbyes” and said all the usual niceties, but seemed sincere. Since this is only his second cruise, he probably does really mean it. He said that he knows he’ll recognize us if he ever sees us again, so we really do stand out from the crowd!
Dinner was OK, but not exciting. It still wasn’t a let down, just not outstanding. They had all the “favorite” items on the menu: prime rib, veal, etc. It is really nice that they don’t cut down on the variety even on the first and last night. Click to view the Dessert Menu. The carrot cake was very good. All of the waiters lined up on the stairway to sing a farewell song in Indonesian.
The gross woman at the next table, who thinks everything she says is hilarious, gushed all over Manfred again. He was excited because she gave him a picture she took of him (he really was happy with it, not just pretending). She also gave the door man a picture she took of him, but he reacted as you would expect (couldn’t care less).
Surprisingly enough, the people with the kid dragged it out when it started making a fuss. We figured that they had gotten comfortable with annoying everyone by now, but they took it out even though the mother wanted dessert. The waiter got them a dessert she wanted so they could take it to the room. We were shocked that they knew enough to tip everyone since they seem so out of sync with the cruise etiquette. Even more shocking was when they said this was their fourth Holland America cruise! And they still don’t know enough not to bring a toddler on a cruise, let alone to the second seating? If we had known right away that there would be empty tables, we would have asked to move, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
The show was the pianist and the singer taking turns doing their thing and then a small part together. They are both quite talented, but the drama queen acting ruins it. The piano player is a younger, toned down version of Liberace, so he’s tolerable. The singer is so over the top that you keep waiting for the punch line, although he has a very good voice. It was annoying that they expected us to believe it was a coincidence they were both scheduled to be on the ship at the same time. Well, for a happenstance meeting it was a little strange that they had a pre-recorded introduction and soundtrack as well as matching outfits. Of course, there was a line at the shop selling their CD’s with people waiting to get their copy autographed. It was mostly old ladies swooning over these two gay guys!
Our packing is all done and the luggage has been picked up, so all we have to do now is pretend to sleep until the announcements start at 7:15 AM tomorrow.
Click for the "Day at a Glance" disembarkation page. We pretended to sleep until the alarm went off at 7:00 AM. The ship had been sitting outside the harbor since early this morning, so it was nice and quiet for a change. People started milling around the halls at about 6:30 AM though.
Breakfast in the Lido was good. We assume it has been all along. It was the usual extensive selection of everything anyone could possibly want.
At 10:00 AM, the ship still hadn’t been cleared by customs, so people started the usual whining about missing flights, etc. People generally haven’t been nearly as annoying as they usually are. There has been minimal complaining that we have heard, although we heard that at least one man was going to complain on America Online about the embarkation snafu. Get over it already!
We sat around the Lido pool area until called to disembark. The roof was open and it’s a beautiful day, so it was very pleasant and relaxing. The toilet in the men’s room was clogged and overflowing, as usual.
We were finally called to disembark at around 11:30 AM. At the gangway we turned in our Guest Identification Card and disembarkation number and went ashore. It was a long walk for all of the older passengers and it would have been better if there had been someone around to help them.
The frantic search for the luggage wasn’t too bad, but we ended up hauling our luggage to the curb ourselves rather than trying to tackle a porter. We called the van company to tell them we were ready and they said to tell the dispatcher the van number. Bill tried to find the dispatcher, but he was purposely avoiding contact. They had radioed the driver anyway and he was driving around in circles looking for us and trying to find a place to stop at the curb. Someone needs to come up with a less obnoxious method of disembarking passengers.
The drive home took only about 45 minutes and was uneventful.
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