THE TURNER’S 2017 GRAND PACIFIC & FAR EAST VOYAGE
“A Grand Adventure is about to begin”
-Winnie the Pooh
After deciding to do this cruise of a lifetime, the day to make our way to San Diego had arrived. Pat and I agonized over whether to spend such a chunk of our retirement savings but in the end…the conversation kept returning to this opportunity to see destinations half way around the world we had only read or studied about in our youth. I saw it as a way to celebrate my official retirement (earlier in the year). And I think both of us felt this trip was an investment in future memories. Blessings of a life lived together.
What follows are daily journal entries from Pat and me. There may be some duplication but more likely two different takes on the day to day descriptions.
Saturday, September 30
Dale: It was Pat’s first time to San Diego. The flight was uneventful as was the shuttle to the Wyndham Hotel. Located right on the bay, the hotel was literally across the street from the ship’s terminal! Our agent, Cruise Specialists comp’d our room and fed us dinner with Bon Voyage cocktails. The best value however, was arranging for our luggage to be transported to the ship, directly to our stateroom. When you consider 4 big suitcases for an 80 day cruise, that’s a lot of weight getting from point A to point B.
Pat: The evening in San Diego at the hotel was hosted by the travel agency. It was really fun meeting other passengers on this Grand Asia Pacific Voyage!
Sunday, October 1
“I travel because life is short and the world is huge!”
Pat: Sail Away Day. It was pretty exciting in the morning to be walking the short 2 blocks to the port where we went through normal boarding and security procedures to finally enter our cabin on Holland America’s Amsterdam. The ship ended up being late to depart. Instead of 4pm, it couldn’t leave until almost 7pm. We heard it was because there was so much luggage to be brought onboard. Our bags arrived later than I thought they would but we had plenty of time to get unpacked. I must note here how pleased I am with the configuration of our cabin with its closets and drawers. We had no issue at all with where to put everything. I even have my own special place for my stitching!
After dinner we attended a welcome aboard program in the Queen’s Lounge. The cruise director introduced all crew members who have their own special job assignments keeping guests busy and informed. The ship was a bit rocky because of high winds but I slept surprisingly well.
Dale: Looking from the balcony of our hotel room this morning, we not only saw our ship but noticed the Disney Wonder was also docked for its port call. Finally the day was here for our voyage. It seemed like months of preparation for this moment. Arrangements at home, banking and bill paying issues, getting the RV ready to store, not to mention packing for 80 days! Our longest cruise had been 16 days on a transatlantic to Rome. The check in was painless. We were onboard by Noon but the Sail Away wasn’t until much later. Pat and I were dining around 8pm as we watched the downtown skyline fade from view and our adventure began in earnest. In motion for the next 3 months! The captain announced a slight change in course to Alaska because of high winds and choppy waters. The Amsterdam would hug the California coastline to avoid weather conditions in the Pacific. Good night, hold on tight!
Monday, October 2
“Oh, the places you’ll find if you don’t stay behind.” -Unknown
Dale: 7:30, time to head up to the Lido Market on deck 8 for coffee and breakfast. My plan was to walk a few laps around the outside promenade but it was terribly windy. Plan B was to spend time on the treadmill in the fitness club. At 10am Patty and I hooked up at the Queen’s Lounge for a presentation on all the upcoming excursions. In the early days at sea, the ship is eager to sell more shore tours. At 11:30 I attended a workshop on photo editing sponsored by Microsoft. I’m now equipped with knowledge to crop, adjust and improve all of our photos back home. Plus future pics on this cruise! Time for lunch at “Dive-In” by the pool. Burgers and fries cooked up for casual dining. Afterwards more exploring around the Amsterdam. Library and Internet café on the upper Promenade along with a Sports bar and Casino. A piano bar and various shopping stores. On the lower Promenade near the front desk and Shore Excursions desk, there is a space that doubles as the Movie Theater and Test Kitchen for culinary demonstrations. Plus everywhere you turn bars to serve you cocktails, the Ocean Bar, the Explorer’s Lounge not to mention the premium upscale Pinnacle Grill.
Time for a quick shower before dinner. Oops, no hot water! Had to call housekeeping. Agus, our cabin steward was quick to bring in a technician to help. Pat made a funny later in the evening during dinner that our French onion soup was so hot that it must have affected our bathroom water temp! We had requested open seating for dinner in the main dining room, which meant we could show up anytime from 5:15 to 9pm. Dinner was always a delicious feast. So many entrée selections and too many dessert choices!
After dinner always comes with a main stage show in the Queen’s Lounge.
Pat: After breakfast on the Lido deck, we attended an overview of our grand Voyage. I discovered the knitting and needlework group gathers at 10:30 every morning. I saw a few ladies there but didn’t join in yet. When I feel more acclimated to the cruise, I’ll probably stop by to say hello. I’m having a hard time accepting this change in my routine. There’s nothing I can do about it. I heard it takes a good 4 days to adjust. Thursday will be day 4. Today we met the dance instructor and found out I don’t have appropriate dance shoes with me. Boo Hoo! Didn’t give that a thought. The entertainment Monday night was an acapella quartet that did 50’s and 60’s Doo-Wop songs. I enjoyed them immensely and thought they were terrific! In bed Dale and I watched a movie on the flash drive called “Born in China” about pandas and other animals originating from China. Thanks Jonathan and Nancy Fricke for the movies!
Tuesday, October 3
“The question isn’t WHO is going to let me, it’s WHO is going to STOP me.” -Ayn Rand
Dale: We woke up to an angrier sea than yesterday. It was another rocky sleep. The Captain explained the wind conditions as the culprit and promised a smoother end to the day. Pat could only get down a bagel and coffee. Our waiter in Lido was Abdul Jabar. He is from Jakarta and he said his grandfather was a big fan of the basketball star. I tried to take a walk outside on deck 3 Promenade but only got halfway around because it was so windy, the waves were crashing the starboard side blowing huge sprays of water in my direction. So back to the stateroom to meet Pat and attend another lecture on Japan and China. 11am was a chat time with our hosts John and Jean Peterson of Cruise Specialists. Cookies and coffee and social time with fellow passengers. Time for another meal! We checked out the stir fry station, pizza station and deli sandwich areas of Lido Market plus of course ice-cream for dessert. Patty wanted to sit and stitch awhile in our room. I sat in the Explorer’s Lounge and began reading “The Book of God” on our Nook. It’s the Old Testament written in Layman’s modern English for guys like me to better understand and appreciate the Bible.
3pm, time for a movie. Theater showings of the featured daily movie are 3, 6 and 8pm. And the popcorn is free! (Well, not really) Afterwards, I decided on a quick soak in the Hot Tub but when I got to the pool deck, they had been drained due to the choppy weather. Back to the cabin to change for dinner.
The food is excellent but tonight was the best so far. Realizing we are only on day 3! The guest chef of the day prepared shrimp with a corn salsa as an appetizer, then fresh papaya. Halibut, lightly breaded and served with steak fries and cole slaw. Yum! For dessert we both had the chocolate snickers cake with coffee.
Pat: Feeling a bit nauseous this morning. Attended a lecture and coffee chat before lunch. Afterwards, we saw a movie “Hector and the Search for Happiness.” The motto for today was ‘sit down before you fall down!” The Queen’s Lounge show was Ruben Vilagrand, mime, magician and comedian. He was talented and the evening went quickly. I’m still having issues being on the cruise and out of my home/element. Tomorrow I plan to tackle the internet.
Wednesday, October 4
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” –Mark Twain
Dale: The Sea has calmed down quite a bit. I slept well. We set our clocks back 1 hour as we continue northwest toward Alaska. As I write this, I’m sitting in the Crow’s Nest, a bar at the very top forward deck with floor to ceiling windows. There is nothing on the horizon but the vast Pacific Ocean and I don’t suspect to see anything until Saturday and Dutch Harbor, our first port. I find the sea days relaxing. Quiet, just me and my thoughts, anticipating new sights and experiences ahead. This morning at breakfast we sat with 2 couples, Linda and Lars from Niagara Falls, Canada and Keith and Mark from Scottsdale, Arizona. Later, I mentioned to Patty these 3 random observations:
#1 The coffee in the dining room is so much better than what is provided in the Lido Market.
#2 I’m surprised at the number of gay couples. Not only this cruise ship (men and women) and how affluent most seem to be. Hey, live and let live.
#3 We are by far the LEAST traveled people on this cruise. It seems everyone we’ve spoken to have been on multiple world cruises plus most are veteran cruisers of Holland America. Our only HAL cruise was on this very ship 10 years ago which was the 7 day Alaskan nude cruise! Our fellow passengers are serious world travelers and we are novices compared to them.
I sat through another digital workshop class on organizing photos in Windows 10. Then hooking back up with Pat for lunch-Chicken Korman and caramel sundae.
The evening was our first Gala Night – Captain’s Welcome Dinner. It was dress up time. Pat in a classy black outfit and me in a tuxedo. Before the reception, Patty and I enjoyed a cocktail in what became my favorite bar on the ship-Ocean Bar. It features a trio performing “the American Song Book.” Wonderful way to spend an hour, classic tunes and dancing. At the reception in the Queen’s Lounge, champagne and wine were served along with hors d’oeuvres. Captain Fred Eversen introduced his senior staff and gave us all particulars of the Amsterdam. It turns out we have 960 passengers (capacity 1200), Crew and staff number 630. Quite a staff to guest ratio for this voyage!
Surf and Turf for dinner and fascinating company at our table. Dick and Michelle from Montana and a career military vet and his wife from the New York area. He served in Iraq. Both couples had interesting stories to share and it was an honor to meet them over an excellent meal. By the time dessert and coffee were finished, it was almost 10 and Pat was done for the night.
When we returned to our cabin we had gifts courtesy of Holland America. Amsterdam notecards with pens and 2 duffle type bags with monogrammed logos of our voyage. Nice surprise to end the evening.
Pat: I’ve been apprehensive about everything going on and I’m going to have to get out of that ‘mode’. I’m just one of nearly a thousand passengers here. Hopefully, writing my journal will get easier for me. Dale just loves writing. I don’t. Plus it’s still rocky. I think I fretted over the first Gala Night and I shouldn’t have.
I found out that the Norton virus protection software is so strong I cannot use my laptop. It just won’t work so I’ve set up an account on the ship’s own computers and can check my email and bank account. That’s all I wanted to do anyway. The “loading” takes a while though and it is spending minutes.
The filet and lobster tail was pretty good plus “a little wine”. Interesting talking with other couples, way more traveled than we are for sure. Everyone is friendly as we hear about their homes and past travels.
Thursday, October 5
“Life is not measured by the number of breathes we take…but by the moments that take our breath away.”
Dale: Woke up this morning to gray skies, cool temps and another windy day at sea. Pat was not feeling well. I had to also admit to feeling a bit out of sorts. Not so much from the rough sea but adjusting to the food. Rich sauces and the steady diet of dynamic meals these first few days onboard. Both of our bodies need to find a rhythm to the ongoing availability of cuisine. A great problem to have I suppose.
At breakfast we shared a table with Nate and Susie, an inter-racial couple from New Mexico. Next another lecture on the history of Alaska. Alaska means “Great Land” and is all about glaciers, earthquakes and volcanoes. Lunch was sponsored by Cruise Specialists for first time guests of their agency. We sat with Amy and Ralph from Canada, retired school teachers. After lunch I attended a coupe digital workshop classes as Patty rested up a bit. The late main stage show featured Louie Shelton, a great guitar player who did studio session work for the likes of Neil Diamond, Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Marvin Gaye among others. Considering his age, he was impressive.
Friday, October 6
“Wanderlust: A strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world.” –Anonymous
Last night was a challenge! I bounced around bed like a weightless pillow! This North Pacific Ocean is rough. After breakfast we sat through an overview of what to do and see in Dutch Harbor. 30 minutes late, the Captain announced the port stop was cancelled! Evidently, a very strong weather system was expected through Unalaska which might prevent our safe passage to dock. He apologized and insisted the safety and security of the Amsterdam was his paramount concern. We were disappointed of course. At sea for 6 days, the stop in Alaska albeit brief would’ve been welcome. I felt especially bad for passengers who might never before experienced this beautiful state. Upon further thought, it seemed unlikely anyone had NOT been to Alaska. For many, this was there 3rd or 4th trip around the world. However, some of the entertainers were scheduled to disembark and travel home. Now they would have to stay onboard and continue with us to Japan!
I went for a 1 mile walk around the outside deck 3 promenade. 50 degrees and windy. There were some hearty souls out trying to negotiate the sway and dip of the ship with waves crashing the sides. Lunch followed. We are eating way too much ice-cream! Another class on how to use your digital camera and some down time in the Crow’s Nest reading “The Book of God.”
Dinner in the La Fontaine Room with complimentary champagne from the Captain. Another performance by the Alley Cats and a movie to complete the evening “My All American.” Lights out in cabin 2601
Saturday, October 7
“The real voyage of discovery consist not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” –Marcel Proust
Dale: A smoother night, less toss and tumble. These days at sea seem to run together. Sometimes you have to look at the rug inside the elevator to recall what day of the week it is! The sun is shining on the Pacific as we enjoy coffee and cookies at the daily Cruise Specialists ‘chat time’ on the upper promenade. We met a nice couple, Raina and Patrick from Florida. They saw my baseball hall of fame cap and struck up a conversation about baseball. We talked about sports and traveling and decided to hook up later to discuss a shore outing in Bali. I convinced Patty to take a walk around the ship’s outdoor deck, bundling up to enjoy a brisk test against the wind! Lunch was a delicious salad in the Lido Market. I treated Pat to a massage back in the stateroom. Not as good as her professional massage at Bloom on our anniversary but I think she enjoyed it. Shower and movie, “Baby Driver.” 8pm dinner and a delightful hour at the Piano Bar with Jeff Warren. This has been his gig for 30 years, wow! On the main stage at 10 was Sonia Bellies. From Manchester England, now based in Nashville. Good singer, a bit over the top. Patty loved her vocal performance of a song from Les Miserable.
Sunday, October 8
“Life is a Great Adventure or nothing!” -Helen Keller
Dale: Another peaceful night on the Pacific. After coffee in the cabin, Ian Page took us on a visual teaser of 300 slides of Asia in 40 minutes! Japan, China and Vietnam. We proceeded to a decorated dining room to enjoy the most amazing Brunch. A 3 course sampler. Everything from bacon wrapped shrimp to fruit yogurt, deviled eggs to caviar. Beef tenderloin, pancakes, veggie quiche topped off by Mimosas! 3 desserts including pecan pie, chocolate caramel and baked apple strudel. Never had anything like this. We were informed by the wait staff this would be offered every Sunday that the Amsterdam was at sea!
How do you follow that? With another Microsoft digital workshop class and some football in the sports bar. The movie at 6 was “Keeping Up with the Joneses”. Cute, silly and pure escapism. Dinner at 8. Main stage entertainer was Gabe Abelson. Comedian and Mentalist. He used to write for Jay Leno, good clean fun. Bedtime, setting our time back 2 more hours!
Tuesday, October 10
“Did you ever notice that the first piece of luggage on the carousel never belongs to anyone?” –Erma Bombeck
Dale: Holy crap! What happened to Monday, Oct. 9th? When we woke up it was Tuesday instead of Monday. We lost an entire day crossing the International Dateline. An imaginary line on the earth separating 2 consecutive calendar days. Cruising westward in the Pacific Ocean, we crossed the dateline at 6:20am. Patty and I received our official certificate from the Captain.
Speaking of the Captain, he did a presentation after breakfast on the ship’s bridge, the equipment and history of the Amsterdam. He has a pretty good sense of humor. The ship runs on diesel fuel and can operate for about 20 days before refueling. This explains why we were able to sail from San Diego all the way over to Japan. He said the ship would take on additional fuel in Yokohama.
Pat and I did another digital class on “Word” and then walked a mile around deck 3. Winds were light and the temp was 50. Sandwich in the Lido (with ice-cream of course), another lecture on Japan. Its culture and etiquette along with info on currency and language.
At this point I suppose you’ve gotten used to names and places around the ship. Our cabin is on deck 2, Main Deck. Most of the bars are on deck 5 along with Casino, Library, Game rooms, etc. Queen’s Lounge is on both 4 & 5. Hot tub, pools and “Dive In Burgers” are on 8. Fitness, Spa and Seaview Pool are on 9 along with Crow’s Nest. All of these sea days have given us a chance to acclimate to our little resort on the ocean.
The movie today was “Wonder Woman.” A wonderful dinner and the Main Stage show was “Dance”, featuring the Amsterdam singers and dancers. Always a terrific performance. As we prepared for bed, we set our clocks back yet another hour. Almost forgot to mention we watched Monday Night Football from the Sports Bar live-yet it was already Tuesday afternoon. Wrap your head around that!
Pat: It is Tuesday and last night we set our clocks ahead 22 hours as we crossed the International Dateline! I’m actually feeling better mentally but finding it hard to remember details of the day for this journal. I’ve participated in Arts & Crafts. We’ve talked with very interesting people who have done this cruise before. The entertainment has been pretty good. The guy at the Piano Bar plays better than he sings but still enjoyable. Last night he featured songs by John Denver.
Wednesday, October 11
“I’m a person gone international because I’m more comfortable when outside my comfort zone!” -Unknown
Patty and I have never spent this many consecutive days at sea. Because the stop in Dutch Harbor was cancelled due to bad weather in Alaska, we will be sailing 12 days before arriving in Japan. I opted to stay inside and read my book in the Crow’s Nest. That turned into a nap. One can choose to stay active or just do nothing and watch the Pacific flow by.
The food, oh my Lord! Holland America is second to none with meals. After a dip in the hot tub, Pat and I dressed for another Gala Night-The Black & Gold Ball. At the Oceans Bar we sat with Jean and John Peterson and they invited us to sit with them at dinner and share a bottle of champagne with our Lobster tail. The evening concluded with the Captain’s Dance in the Queen’s Lounge, complete with orchestra and an onslaught of chocolate desserts. We danced the final slow song before calling it a night.
Pat: Room service coffee. I checked email in the Internet/Library. Julie had sent a long one about all the world news not realizing we have Fox News Channel on our stateroom TV plus the daily NY Times headlines. We attended Ian Page’s talk on what to see and do in Kushiro, Japan. Luckily we will be able to just walk around, shop and sightsee right off the ship.
Thursday, October 12
“You lose sight of things…and when you travel, everything balances out.” –Daranna Gidel
Pat: Woke up with an upset stomach and awful headache. Took tums and ibuprofen. We called room service for coffee at 7. Got through another Ian Page talk on what to do and see in Yokohama and Tokyo and watched the Yankees/Indians game in the Sports bar. The game was being played Wednesday live in Cleveland but here it was Thursday! Was still tired so after lunch stayed in the cabin as Dale came and went. He woke me at 7pm to attend the Cruise Specialist cocktail reception before dinner. We met an interesting couple from Connecticut, Maura and Fred. He was doing some sleight of hand tricks. The late show featured a professional dance couple Katia and Zhenya in “Dance Fever”.
Dale: Every time we share a table with passengers we haven’t yet met, we always enjoy the conversation and feel a little more connected to this Grand Voyage. I didn’t bring a watch and my phone is turned off so when the ship announced a sale on watches I bought a cheap one. Now I won’t be bugging Patty 5 or 6 times a day for the time. Is it digital workshop time? Is it happy hour yet? Is it movie time? Dinner at 8 was fabulous! Chicken Scallopini. The majority of guests dine early so by 8 we have the place to ourselves. Continuing to read “The Book of God.” Good night, lights out.
Friday, October 13
“I travel not to cross countries off a list but to ignite passionate affairs with destinations” –The Cultureur
Dale: This morning we woke up in Japan! 12 days at sea and finally docked at Kushiro. It is known mostly as a fishing port. There is a fresh fish market right next to the Amsterdam. Before we disembark we must participate in a Japanese Immigration inspection. Our passports are handed out as we proceed to the gangway to spend some time on land, yeah! Pat and I ventured out to a vertical mall called MOO. We found a free wi-fi area and Pat texted Julie and Pam back home. We took photos of signs and Japanese products with no idea what anything said. Everyone was friendly. One area offered tourists a chance to try on Kimonos, sing-alongs and one old man with a world map invited us to place a stick pin in the state or country we were from. When I placed my pin in Tennessee, he said “Tennessee Titans! Which surprised me. The weather was pleasant, sunny and in the 50’s. The sail away from Kushiro was held in the Crow’s Nest later in the afternoon. I forgot to mention last night when we returned to our cabin, we had 2 new umbrellas courtesy of the Captain and Holland America. These would come in handy at our next stop and tour of Tokyo. Patty and I took in a documentary “Sour Grapes” before dinner. A variety show on the Main stage plus a few tunes in the Piano Bar before bedtime.
Pat: Did some local sightseeing after passing through immigration. We only have a few hours here in Kushiro. The mall looks like a factory from the outside and vendors don’t have individual stores, they are out in the open, side by side. We returned to the ship for lunch and as we were leaving the dock at 4:30, local school children were dancing and singing in costume as a send-off for us. Dale captured it on video.
Saturday, October 14
“You don’t need magic to disappear. All you need is a destination.”-Unknown
Dale: Belgian waffles, bacon and fresh orange juice for breakfast. Shared a table with Jean and John Peterson plus Carolyn. She was traveling alone and she had been on several Holland America Grand Voyages and World cruises. A terrific dinner of prime rib before checking out the main stage show, Dave Meyer. He played a synthesized xylophone. Very entertaining! Back in the stateroom our cabin steward Agus had fashioned a towel monkey hanging from the ceiling. It made us smile.
Pat: More talks from the land shore tour guides about upcoming ports in Japan. Dale walked laps on deck 3. I went to check email and exchange currency for Japanese yen. I’m feeling better mentally but it’s still a bit of an effort to enjoy and partake every day. I have to get over this so I can savor this experience of a lifetime as it will certainly never be repeated. Watching Fox news but all the talk is Trump and Weinstein. Our movie today was “Last Samurai” starring Tom Cruise. One of his best performances. They are featuring movies to coincide with the countries on the itinerary.
Sunday, October 15
“It’s a BIG WORLD out there. Go. Explore.” –anonymous
Dale: And explore we did. Pat and I were on the excursion “Best of Tokyo” It rained all day so our Holland America umbrellas came in handy plus our Cruise Specialists windbreakers! Our motor coach ride from the terminal to downtown Tokyo was about an hour. As we crossed the Rainbow Bridge, the skyline seemed to go on forever. Tokyo is a city of over 30 million. It seemed to me it dwarfs New York City in sheer volume of people and buildings.
First stop was the Emperor’s Palace. Our guide explained it was a Shogun castle of the Samurai centuries ago. We took photos from a distance in the rain. Quite a stunning setting up on a hill in the middle of skyscrapers around it. A statue of a famous Samurai is in the park next to it. Next was the Ginza Shopping district. We walked into a couple of department stores. The area featured upscale retailers like Apple and Prada. We lunched at the Buto Hotel and enjoyed a Japanese buffet. Back on the bus for a final stop at the Shintu Shrine and Buddha Temple. Our guide, in broken English described a person could rid themselves of greed, anger and pity by paying tribute to the ritual of worshiping here. Walking through the grounds was interesting. Patty went through the process of “purifying” by rinsing her hands at the holy water well. Although I didn’t feel any spirituality from this place I could really appreciate how some of the Japanese people were so respectful of the shrine and temple. There was a serious reverence to these symbols/religion. Visually speaking, the pagoda buildings were beautiful. Ancient looking, something out of a history book. With a bit of free time, Pat was able to shop at an open market next to the temple. Oriental socks and fans for her souvenir collection. Instead of Epcot at Disneyworld, from Tokyo, Japan! I’ve never seen so many people with umbrellas in one place. The Ginza district looked like Times Square with all the neon billboards up and down the streets. There were a lot of western influences like the fast food places. And there were plenty of Halloween decorations. At one department store, Pat and I tested Japanese Green Tea from a very nice, older lady from a sample table display. The locals were friendly and polite. It made me re-think how I need to be in the future to complete strangers that don’t look or speak like me. The Tokyo tour was way overpriced. But not knowing how to get around the area and with the language barrier, it was the most efficient way to get a taste of this magnificent city.
Pat: After dinner the show in Queen’s Lounge was a local Japanese drum performance with a Sake Barrel ceremony. Everyone got a sample taste of the sake. Very impressive.
Monday, October 16
“Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times.” –Asian Proverb
Pat: We got up early, had breakfast and took a walk from the ship into the city of Yokohama just to say we did that. It was chilly, windy and wet and we didn’t go far. Some stores weren’t even open.
Dale: We wanted to get a feel for this seaport city. We discovered their professional baseball field but too rainy for an inside tour. Never made it to Chinatown because the rain and wind never let up. So back to the Amsterdam for lunch. We sat with Marsha from Sacramento. She was traveling alone and was delightful company. Yokohama is a city of historical notoriety. I was told It was here that the United States met with Japanese officials to accept their surrender of WWII at a hotel here in the port with General McArthur.
Pat: We watched Sunday Night Football in the Sports bar even though it was Monday afternoon here! I called Pam and Julie from the Terminal. The movie today was “Sophie and the Rising Sun.” Our after dinner entertainment was Tomono Kawamura, a concert pianist and she was excellent.
Dale: The meals match the region of our travel and tonight we enjoyed Japanese stir fry, outstanding! Plus the desserts and service is top shelf superb! Good night as we head to our next port.
Tuesday, October 17
“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people…you might better stay home.” –James Michener
Dale: Another cloudy, rainy day as we wake up in Shimizu. The calling card for this port and city is described as “the foot of Mt. Fugi ” Unfortunately, we never saw the world famous mountain because of the weather. Nice enough temperatures, around 60 but clouds were so low we had little visibility.
One of the many benefits of this cruise is that for 80 days we never have to make our bed, clean the bathroom or cook our meals. Our only deadline is to be back onboard the ship by 2:30pm. Patty and I headed off the ship and walked into Shimizu. We didn’t buy an excursion, just exploring the town. There was a 4 story mall and entertainment complex nearby. We noticed locals having lunch. Grandparents and their grandkids visiting the arcade and cinema. Everything from sushi to McDonalds. Before the sail away we witnessed one of the coolest sendoffs from the local town folk. First of all, we were entertained in the Queen’s Lounge with a traditional Japanese Geisha Girl show in full costume with musical instruments. Then as we were set to pull away from the dock, school kids performed a drum concert right from the pier. They looked like middle school students. The younger kids in their hats and uniforms began blowing bubbles and fireworks exploded at the end of the pier. Very cool and touching. Such hospitality. Then Pat and I went to the top deck one last time to check for maybe a glimpse of Mt. Fugi but no such luck. But we took pics of where we ‘thought’ Mt. Fugi might be!
A soak in the Hot Tub. A load of laundry before dinner. Tonight is Kimono Night and what a beautiful Geisha Miss Patty makes this evening. Absolutely stunning. Her Kimono was brought home by her father after the war. Duke fought in the South Pacific and came home with this Kimono and a Japanese flag for Pat’s mother. So tonight, 70 years later, she wore this gift from Japan IN Japan on the Amsterdam. She received so many compliments and had her photo taken with the cruise director and her favorite waiter, Aris. Our table mates for dinner included a retired University Professor and his wife, Fred and Helen. Interesting because his political views were not liberal, kind of refreshing! The 10pm show was Vox Futura, a black British quartet singing soul and classical style. A nice musical twist as we ended the night heading to our next port.
Pat: After breakfast we watched Monday Night Football before heading off the ship. The Titans beat the Colts. I recorded the sail away of the school kids drumming and blowing bubbles and waving us goodbye. Sweet.
Wednesday, October 18
“A ship in harbor is safe. But that’s NOT why ships are built.” –John A. Shedd
Dale: By the time we made it up to the Lido Market for breakfast, we were docked in Osaka. I was surprised to see how big a city it was. Second only to Tokyo. The weather was nice and sunny, we chose not to buy an excursion. Some took a train to Kyoto to visit more temples and Buddha shrines. Instead we walked to a nearby neighborhood and did a bit of shopping (Pat bought a pair of Crocs). There was a very big Ferris wheel and we rode it. A cool way to observe Osaka. Back onboard for a late lunch and a movie, “Push.” Some baseball in the sports bar. A glass of wine in the cabin before dinner.
Pat: The Ferris wheel ride gave us a look at this lovely city. The skyline, bridges over the bay and we even spotted Universal Studios. It was a fun, slow adventure. I washed and cut my hair in our room. Dale walked around deck 3 and we sailed away from Osaka at 6pm. The Main stage show featured the Amsterdam singers and dancers. They were amazing. One song was “The Winner Takes All.” Not Michael Ball but quite enjoyable.
Thursday, October 19
“I love the feeling of being anonymous in a city I’ve never been before.” –anonymous
Dale: I never imagined I would ever visit Beppu, Japan. Hell, I had never even known of a city called Beppu! This port was added to the voyage after China nixed South Korea from our itinerary. A very small port with not much of a terminal. This hilly resort town by the sea is known for its hot mineral springs along with area spas and bath houses. I wished I would have experienced this but passed, not wanting to spend too much money so early in the cruise. Regrets.
Pat: After breakfast we shuttled into the train station for some shopping. I found bookmarks and a tote bag. It was a rainy and cool day out. Back to the ship.
The movie was “The Beguiled”, another weird film but as Dale says ‘at least the popcorn is free!’ We ate dinner with Lars and Linda, our new Canadian friends. Attended the late Main stage show which was a young Japanese man by the name of Ouka. A juggler of sorts. His first cruise ship gig and he was a little nervous.
Friday, October 20
“To those who can dream, there is no such place as FAR AWAY.” –anonymous
Dale: We docked this morning in Hososhima. S small there isn’t even a terminal. Plus more rain. We venture out to experience a bit of this town. A couple of observations. In Japan they drive on the opposite side of the road. Most cars are very small compacts or sub-compacts. No pickups. Brands include Nissan, Suzuki, Honda plus some Mitsubishi. Browsing a bookstore, I noticed all Japanese books read right to left, back to front. Normal for them. Quite an adjustment for us tourists. Speaking of which, I had a conversation with Japanese man while Patty was shopping. He spoke decent English, asking me why so many foreigners at the shopping center? I replied from the cruise ship. He was a businessman from Osaka and I mentioned what a nice time we had visiting his home city. He asked where I was from and I said Tennessee and he wanted to know what country that was! He finished his cigarette and moved on. With the language barrier, it was fun finally to have interaction with someone away from the ship. Walking through Japanese stores, they seem to have the same typical consumer goods as we Americans. They are a smaller people than us fat Americans. And there transportation buses are smaller, smaller seats.
Pat: Our movie on the ship was “Home Song Stories” and our late night entertainment was an encore performance by Vox Futura. The last few days I’ve been wanting to stop eating so much and get more rest.
Dale: I want to mention how fresh and delicious the salad ingredients are on this cruise ship. Special kudos on the Mangos, Papaya, Melon, Strawberries, all incredibly tasty. Time to prepare for another Gala Night. That means tuxedo for me and an extraordinary meal. Photos will be taken in the dining room with decorations and champagne.
Saturday, October 21
“So much of what you are is where you’ve been.” – Triprebel
Dale: Our last day in Japan was in Kagoshima, a beautiful little city surrounded by mountains including Mt. Sakurajima. Temps in the 70’s. It would rain but not until we bussed into the city to explore Dolphin Port. Where the Amsterdam was docked was a big park at the waterfront. I took a walk around it and sat with a local man. We tried to carry on a conversation. He kept holding up 6 fingers but I couldn’t figure out what he was trying to communicate. Neither of us knew the others language. So we just sat there on a bench quietly looking at Mt. Sakurajima. Then back to the ship to meet Pat for lunch.
Pat: At 5pm we opened the bottle of champagne we had been given at the start of the cruise and had a small glass. Then went to the movie “War of the Planet of the Apes.” A late dinner in the La Fontaine. I told Dale I was getting tired of all these meals. We decided tomorrow to just order coffee into the cabin. I wasn’t up for the late show so he went without me. It featured 2 female violinists called String Idols. He thought they were pretty good.
Dale: I almost forgot to add as we sailed away from Kagoshima, I spotted a Japanese submarine alongside the ship. I took a dozen shots of it as we moved back out to sea. I guess I thought it was going to change colors or follow us.
Sunday, October 22
“Remember that happiness is a way of travel not a destination.” -Roy M Goodman
Dale: Late last evening we received a notice from Guest Services that the Beir-Garden Festival scheduled for Sunday was cancelled until Monday because of anticipated rough seas and high winds. Folks that was an understatement! Holy crap, I have never experienced a night at sea like this one. The swells of waves were like nothing we’ve encountered on the ocean before. Certainly not from the Atlantic side. The weather crashing around the ship bounced us all over our bed. By 8:30am Pat and I decided to order coffee to the cabin and not venture out until the 10am lecture on what to do and see in Shanghai.
By mid-day the sea had begun to calm but still too windy to be on the outside decks. It turns out a couple of hundred miles south of us a typhoon had developed. We were sailing northwest away from Japan around South Korea and into the Yellow Sea to mainland China.
We attended our first Test Kitchen of the cruise. It was like a food channel TV taping with an Amsterdam staff chef preparing a dish for passengers. Today featuring Andrew Sloley cooking Chinese pork pot stickers and chicken chow mein.
Pat checked her email before we watched the movie of the day “The Big Sick.” Back to the cabin to get dressed for dinner, which included another excellent Asian menu as we headed to China after an amazing visit to Japan.
Pat: Even Ian Page our excursion guide was surprised at the sway of the ship from the weather. Lunch in the Lido Market, movie, internet to check emails. A stop before dinner in the Ocean Bar for a cocktail. The 10pm main stage show was Tim Motley, mind-reading and comedy. Lucky me! Got called up on stage for a trick. Patrick, a fellow passenger took photos and will send to us. Today at sea was so uneasy that even our cabin steward threw up! He said in 15 years he’s never done that. It was memorable.
Monday, October 23
“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” –Lao Tzu
Dale: Patty and I love our days at sea as long as the weather isn’t a liability (like yesterday). Another round of travel trivia with Ian at 10am. Then it was time to change some of our money into Chinese Yuan for our upcoming ports in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. We also mailed a short letter to Mark and brother Jim. Pat has been texting Julie when we are in port along with her friend Trish.
Coffee and cookies with John and Jean and other Cruise Specialist friends. Then Biergarten Festival on Lido deck. Foreign beers and hearty German food to eat for lunch. Sausages and sourakrat. Oompa-pa music to enjoy!
The 3pm movie was “Memoirs of a Geisha.” Perfect film to see on this part of our voyage through the Orient. Special dinner tonight hosted by Cruise Specialist in the Canaletto Restaurant. Premium Italian cuisine. A chance to sit and visit with fellow couples, one from Nevada and one from Cape Cod. The wine was flowing and the sea bass was delicious!
The main stage show featured comedian John Knight. We laughed our ass off! This guy did an hour of stand up mostly poking fun at the old crowd on the cruise ship.
Pat: Been there, done that, seen it now prove it. That was the trivia game in the Queen’s Lounge this morning with Ian. He apparently has a ton of souvenir pins to get rid of since we all won some. We sat with Jean and John for the Octoberfest Biergarten Festival lunch. Patrick and Raina stopped by with costume hats from the staff so we posed for pics with those on.
At dinner we sat with Karen and Walter. Karen reminded me of my friend Janet Shew in a lot of ways. The comedian tonight was hilarious, John Knight. Best funny man so far. Night over.
Tuesday, October 24
“Never stop wondering, never stop wandering!” –anonymous
Pat: I started this day in a quite unpleasant way. I injured my eye with my fingernail while doing makeup at 6:30am getting ready for our long, big day visiting the Great Wall and Summer Palace. My eye filled with blood but it didn’t hurt or hamper my vision or interfere with this most momentous day.
China has strict immigration/visa policies so it was after 9am before we were on our bus outside the terminal with our guide Allen and on our way. The wall is as spectacular as expected. We lucked out with fantastic sunny weather. We did not climb all the way to a guard house as we wanted to spend some time in the lower area. We took some great photos that exhibit the grandeur of this place. A family style lunch on a giant lazy susan was served at a local restaurant. Afterwards we were on to the Emperor’s Summer Palace, a most impressive and beautiful setting. As one fellow passenger said in quoting Mel Brooks, “It’s good to be King!” It was a long bus ride back to Tianjin port and the ship. A truly 12 hour adventure. Our tour guide Allen was just outstanding the whole day. He added immensely to the outing. A young man speaking perfect English, adding a lot of commentary about old and modern China. He even had snacks for the long drive. A late dinner in Lido Market then off to bed.
Dale: As Patty stated, the weather was perfect with sunshine and low levels of pollution, which is an issue here in the urban areas of China. Pat and I sat up close in front of the bus behind our tour guide Allen (not his real name). He was a 39 year old Chinese man who spoke very good English plus he was so interesting. Not just about the sights of our trip but his perspectives and history of China. Our bus ride took us through Tianjin a city of about 12 million and then through Beijing, the capitol city of another 24 million. For miles you could see tall buildings and tollways. The infrastructure was impressive. Trains, subways, condos, business, major traffic. A bit overwhelming. On the other side of Beijing was the Great Wall of China. What a magnificent place to witness in person. The Great wall is a climb not a walk. It is very steep and uneven. We got about 200 steps up toward a guard house and decided to stop and rest and just marvel in the view. Words cannot describe the visual. None of our video or photos do it justice. I chose to just remember the moment, taking it all in. One of the wonders of the world. Trying to imagine the Chinese armies fighting off the Barbarians way back in history. There were openings in the wall where weapons could be fired in the defense of enemies.
It was majestic and I could not believe Pat and I were in this country experiencing this historical spot. Built centuries ago. Taking pics that I once saw in school books. Breath taking is all I can write for sharing this day. It was the highlight of the tour so far. I feel blessed to have had this opportunity.
Everything that followed the Great Wall visit was anti-climatic. However, we did enjoy an authentic Chinese lunch and a beautiful walking tour of the Emperor’s Summer Palace. Special thanks to our guide Allen. I have a new appreciation for the Chinese people because I listened to him explain what it was like to grow up and live under a communist government. He is proud of the booming economy of his country. But he says it comes at a cost. There are little, individual freedoms and human rights. He is glad however, that as a husband and father, he can now have 2 children instead of the one child mandate that was in place for many years.
No one there has a right to weapons. Recently, after a multiple stabbing, China banned knives of a certain length. The news is controlled by a government network. Social media is censored. Pollution is so bad many wear masks when outside. Allen said some cars are not allowed to be driven on certain days as to control the traffic systems. By the way, cars in China are bigger than what we saw in Japan. Lots of BMW’s, Mercedes and Jeeps. Even a few SUV’s.
Many young men have to prove to potential in-laws they can afford a condo/apartment and a car before marrying their fiancé. Education is paid by the Chinese government through the 9th grade. Taxes are now in place to pay retired workers a pension. Increasing their pensions keeps the older generation loyal to the communist party. Fascinating stuff from Allen. He said the western culture definitely influences the Chinese lifestyle. Tons of American made products made in China get freighted over to Walmart’s in the US.
We said our goodbyes to Allen and made it back onboard the Amsterdam for a late dinner. It was a great adventure. As Captain Eversen says “Good night, rest peacefully and sleep well (or as we say in Dutch WELTERUSTEN)!
Wednesday, October 25
“Every hundred feet the world changes.” –Roberto Bolano
Tianjin, Peoples Republic of China
Pat: We were pooped and made no plans to explore off the ship on our own. Plus I had my eye to deal with. Went to the medical doctor onboard. He did a thorough exam. He could see the place of the injury and blood was still slowly collecting. It was in the white spot, my pupil and iris were fine. He gave me antibiotic eye drops to use and a patch to cover for the next couple of days. I spent the rest of the day explaining my eye issue to everyone!
We saw the Jackie Chan movie “Shiptrace”. We watched the World Series game in the sports bar. At 5:30 we did the Crow’s Nest Sail away, then dinner by ourselves so I wouldn’t have to explain my eye to anyone else.
Dale: We dealt with Patty’s eye injury today and she needed to rest it so I just relaxed in the hot tub, grabbed a burger in the Dive-In restaurant. Dinner tonight was another excellent Asian dish of Shrimp & Rice, yum. Early night for us so Pat could heal up her eye condition.
Thursday, October 26
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”-St. Augustine
Dale: Over night sleep was quiet and comfortable. This was the calmest day so far of the cruise. We are in the Yellow Sea of China. By the time we arrive in Shanghai on Saturday we will be in the East China Sea. We are passing near Korea and we noticed many freighters along our route. After room service breakfast, we treated Pat’s eye and applied a fresh patch, then up to Promenade 5 for “coffee with Hamish”. His guest this morning was fellow passenger Kate (of Kate and Albert) who sings Cabaret Showtunes when she isn’t cruising. She was fabulous. We have met so many people on this voyage at dinners, evening lounges, stage shows, excursions and even in the hot tub! From all walks of life, from all over the world! Most are Americans, many from Canada, a few Australians plus a few from Europe. Interesting folks and as previously mentioned-veteran travelers. We love having them share their stories of various destinations. And they have given us tips on getting around in ports plus their take on Asian cultures.
After Kate performed, we walked to the sports bar to watch game 2 of the World Series. Alot of guests are from California so it was fun to watch the LA Dodger fans groan as they were beaten by the Houston Astros in extra innings!
Lunch in Lido, then a movie called “The Last Word” starring Shirley McClaine, pleasant drama. With temps around 60 and light winds, I took a stroll on the outside Promenade. Trying to walk off some of this food that seems to be available every waking moment of the day!
At dinner with Dick and Michelle. For many years they lived in Hawaii so they offered us some tips when we stop in December. I just bought a bottle of red wine for 85 bucks, yikes! It was good but too rich for our shipboard account.
Pat: At some point in the day I took a nap to rest my eye. After dinner we enjoyed the stage show featuring the Amsterdam singers and dancers. Looking forward to seeing the doctor tomorrow for my follow up and get this patch off my eye.
Friday, October 27
“By plane, by train, by boat. Actually it doesn’t matter as long as I can travel.” -gomio.com
Dale: Slept in and had room service breakfast. I watched Thursday Night Football (we are 14 hours ahead of Nashville) and Patty attended a lecture on Feng Shui and a guide to the statues of Buddha. Most informative according to her.
Pat stopped by the doctor’s office for a follow up. No more patch but continue the antibiotic drops. Coffee Chat before lunch, then a walk on the top sports deck. Best sea day yet weather-wise. Temps near 70.
My lazy afternoon was spent on a lounge chair on the outside deck. Reading from the Nook which only lasted 20 minutes, staring at the sea horizon, an occasional freighter or fishing vessel passing in the distance. The only sound was the gentle waves as the Amsterdam pushes through. The ship was moving at 12 knots. The sun in my eyes woke me from my nap around 4. Time to shower and dress for another Gala Night. A Chinese celebration of Red Lantern Dinner. Asian theme and decorations onboard. Guests were dressed in the best Asian wear. Patty had her Peacock gown. Me in my Tux. Pat had the chateaubriand and I the lobster tail. Glass of wine, lovely meal.
John and Jean joined us in the Piano Bar prior to the main stage show featuring Chinese sensation Birdy.
Pat: At Coffee Chat, Tom passed around the “Chinese Year Signs”. I was born in the year of the Dog and Dale was born in the year of Rabbit. They are compatible so that’s good news! I shopped a bit. The movie was Warren Beatty as Howard Hughes in “Rules Don’t Apply”. The late show was a Chinese singer named “Birdy”.
Saturday, October 28
“Traveling. It leaves you speechless. Then turns you into a storyteller.” –IBN Battuta
Pat: We got up at 6:15am to see the sail-in to Shanghai. It’s on the Hunanjpo River and the sun had just risen and it was beautiful. Breakfast and time to prepare for our afternoon/evening excursion.
Dale: We took the Cruise Specialist tour “Best of Shanghai”. First stop was the Shanghai Museum, a 4 story contemporary building with many historical artifacts on China. Our guide was a young Chinese lady who admitted Kristy wasn’t her real name. She just wanted to make it easy for us tourists. Spoke very good English. She said English is a compulsory language in Chinese schools. She pointed out the French Concession on our way to Chinatown. Shanghai has a population of 14 million. The world’s largest trade port. Often referred to as the Gateway to the East. We also passed by the People’s Square. Inside Chinatown is Old Town Shanghai and Yuyuan Garden. Nothing like we would expect in America. Beautiful urban home in classic Chinese design. 5 acres of winding architecture. By the time we walked our way through the crowds, it almost time for dinner. But first an oriental tea demonstration. Pat’s friend Sally would’ve enjoyed it.
Dinner was staged in Chinatown with large tables and lazy susan homestyle. One of the dishes was squirrel-like fish. Pork dumplings, rice, etc. not to mention Chinese beers.
Back to the bus for the evening Acrobat show. It was a long 9 hour tour. By the time we returned to the ship only time for a quick dessert and to bed for a rest before day 2 in Shanghai.
Pat: Our day was spectacular. We toured Shanghai, had a traditional Chinese dinner-chopsticks too! Then we went to a Chinese Acrobat Show. The arena especially built for this performance. The show (without a net) was the most amazing feats of acrobats I have ever seen. We were told that these young adults go to school and train at early ages for this purpose. They retire at 31 and then train the next generation of performers.
Sunday, October 29
“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine-it’s lethal.” –Paulo Coelho
Pat: I did the ship’s organized tour “Arts and Crafts” of Shanghai. It started at the Jade Buddha Temple and ended at the Arts and Crafts Research Institute that was set up in 1956. I took a few shots of early cross stitch and embroidery. I bought a stick pin as souvenir.
Dale: While Patty did her tour I stayed on board to watch game 4 of the World Series. After lunch, we boarded the shuttle bus over to the Bund District. What a delightful area to walk and people watch. It’s like a pedestrian promenade along the river with views of PaDung Shopping district and all of their contemporary skyscrapers. On the other side of the river is the Financial District. I don’t have enough adjectives to describe how majestic Shanghai is. Thousands of Chinese and tourists gathering at the Bund. We felt safe. There were a lot of local police visible. Quite a bit of western influence in this city. Extremes in terms of old and new architecture. I thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon outing. Walking back to the ship we crossed the Iron Bridge where local wedding couples were staging photos. Chinese women stopped Patty and I to take pics with them. Evidently that is the thing to do, get a photo with an American. The best photo opp of Shanghai was actually from the Amsterdam outside deck. I was on sensory overload taking night time pics. The buildings all lit up until 10pm each night. Kinda reminded me of Las Vegas with an International twist!
Pat: Our 10pm Queens Lounge show featured Annie Gong, a Chinese accordion player. She was charming and very entertaining!
Monday, October 30
“Life is a journey…make the most of it.” –unknown
Dale: We were supposed to depart Shanghai last night. The Captain explained there were storms at sea plus heavy river traffic preventing our leaving until this morning around 10:30. It took 5 hours to navigate the Hungypa and then the Yangtze River out to the East China Sea. But we should arrive on schedule in Hong Kong Wednesday.
Pat: We went to Cruise Specialist Coffee Chat. Dale watched game 5 of the World Series in the Sports Bar. Lunch in Lido Market, then a movie “The Exception” about a Jewish woman spy at Kaiser Wilhelm’s home at the onset of WW2. Dinner tonight was called “Chinese Market”. The photos I took really don’t do the decorations justice. Very exotic and very Chinese with the lanterns, dragons, etc. Chris Powley “the voice” from New Zealand was the entertainer at the Queens Lounge.
Tuesday, October 31 – Day 30
Happy Halloween at Sea
“Keep your eyes on the horizon and your nose to the wind.” –Clint Eastwood
Dale: I’m still taking Sudafed and sucking Hall’s cough drops trying to fight off a head cold. Meanwhile, Patty wakes up and does a load of laundry! God bless her. Coffee in the cabin and then a lecture on what to do and see in Vietnam. I spent most of the afternoon reading on a lounge chair on deck 3 after a mile walk around the promenade. Lying outside watching the South China Sea go by was relaxing as the swells of waves added to the visual. I felt so small knowing we were on this cruise ship halfway around the world. In fact, we have sailed over 8 thousand nautical miles since we left San Diego a month ago. What an adventure so far!
Pat: After Ian’s talk on future ports in Vietnam, we stayed for a behind the scene tour of the Queen’s Lounge with the Amsterdam singers and dancers. The movie today was appropriate for Halloween-Young Frankenstien which we laughed and loved along with popcorn for this classic. The ship was decorated all out for Halloween. After dinner in the dining room we went to the Crow’s Nest on deck 9 for the much hyped “Monster Mash” costume party. I was surprised how many passengers were in costume. We didn’t pack anything special for Halloween. But I wore my peacock leggings with my peacock necklace and earrings. Some people were really decked out.
Dale: I too was simply amazed at the participant level of all who were in costume. Given the age of the guests on this cruise, the dance floor was jammed with pirates and mummies and ghosts and draculas. Very creative getups and very creative! Patty looked dashing in her peacock pants! By the time we called it a night and returned to the cabin it was nearly the witching hour of….11pm!
Wednesday, November 1 – Day 31
“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” –unknown
Hong Kong, People’s Republic of China
Pat: We arrived in Hong Kong at 8am. We had decided to tour on our own via a Hop On/Off Bus. However, we met Tim and Julie from Minnesota on the ship shuttle and they invited us to travel by subway and public bus to Stanley Market area which we had planned to do on day 2. Upon arriving there we split up to shop and meet up for lunch later. Dale and I shopped at little street vendors one after another. We met for lunch at a little café called Sea View. Real Chinese food. I ordered the Asian Sampler and Dale ordered Dim Sum and we shared. Tim and Dale had Chinese beers. It was very delicious. We got back to the ship in time for dessert in Lido Market. Dale attended the late Queen’s Lounge show featuring the Hong Kong Welsh Male Voice Choir. I called it an early evening.
Dale: All the glowing adjectives I used to describe Shanghai as the most magnificent city? All true but Hong Kong takes it to the next level! By the way, I did not realize Hong Kong was a cluster of Islands…Kowloon, Lantam, Hong Kong and others! Our day at Stanley Market was fun. We missed the shuttle bus so the 4 of us grabbed a cab back to the ship. The Amsterdam provided a beautiful view across the harbor to downtown. Time to rest up for day 2 of Hong Kong.
Thursday, November 2 – Day 32
“You can leave Hong Kong…but it will never leave you.” –Nury Vittachi
Dale: Another great day of weather, temps in the 80’s. We bought the ship’s Hop On/Off package. They provided a bus from the terminal to Central Pier that puts you on the double decker “Big Bus”. With ear phones in place off we went on the red line which included a tram ride up to Victoria’s Peak. Once to the top to the observation deck, I could not believe my eyes! You could see most all of the Hong Kong Islands. The skyscrapers, the harbors, the mountains, all from this high point. It was breath taking. I took dozens and dozens of photos. I was mesmerized at the visual in front of me. Unbelievable experience. I didn’t want to leave this spot but we had more to do. We took the green line route to Ocean Park, Repulse Bay and a short Sampan boat ride to see the jumbo floating Chinese restaurant. Back to Central Pier where we took the Star Ferry across to Kowloon Island to find the shuttle bus at the Pennisula Hotel. I fell in love with Hong Kong. Easier to navigate the second day. A bit more westernized than Shanghai. The Sail Away was extraordinary. From the rear of the Amsterdam we watched the city lights fade under a full moon. Breezy and beautiful. Can’t believe Pat and I just spent 2 days in Hong Kong!
Pat: The view from Victoria’s Peak shows how spectacular the islands of Hong Kong really are. Breath taking photo opps, WOW! We got back to the ship as new passengers were boarding (this was a trip segment of the voyage as was Sydney, Australia). Before and after dinner we saw 2 movies, “The Great Wall” with Matt Damon and “Table 19.
Friday, November 3 – Day at Sea
“Traveling. It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” –Ibn Battuta
Dale: A lot of passenger turnover as 50 or so left the ship in Hong Kong and another 140 came onboard for the second leg of the voyage. We began to see new faces as we returned to the South China Sea. The Captain announced there was a tropical cyclone forming on our route to Vietnam with its path over Nha Trang. Therefore that port was cancelled. The plan was to stay at sea an extra day and sail south around the weather. We would still arrive at the 2nd Vietnam port as scheduled, Phu My.
Pat: After lunch today I checked out the Hudson Room to see if Mahjong was going on. Julie told me that there is going to be a need for a player or two. One table let me watch for a while to get caught up a bit on this game. I had played some 23 years ago when I lived in Loveland and really enjoyed it. I was asked to sit in. The man helped me a lot, nice to me and patient with me. At 3pm there was an encore matinee in the Queen’s Lounge featuring Annie Gong. We opted not to see the movie today.
Dale: I sat in on the Test Kitchen for guest chef Paulette Mitchell who conducted stir fry 101 with emphasis on ginger. Ironically, she and her son sat with us at dinner later in the evening, delightful company. While Pat was playing Mahjong, I attended a lecture on Vietnamese history and culture. The late night main stage show was “Midnight Hour” with the Amsterdam singers and dancers.
Saturday, November 4 – at sea – Day 34
“We travel not to escape life but for life to escape us.” –anonymous
Dale: It appears the Captain stayed far enough south to avoid angry, choppy waters. An unexpected extra day at sea. Another lecture on Vietnam. I’m learning a different perspective on this country we will visit tomorrow.
Pat: Breakfast in the main dining room. It just feels more pleasant than the hustle and bustle of Lido Market. 10am was a presentation on what to do and see in Singapore. Coffee and Cookies with Jean and John at 11. I was going to sit through the Test Kitchen on chocolate but just didn’t feel up to it. I spent a few minutes looking at t-shirts in the gift shops. The weather is turning warm and I’m afraid my clothes are too hot. I had planned to attend “Organize Your Photos” in the digital workshop but totally forgot! The movie today was a complete waste of time, “A Ghost Story”. Worst movie I’ve ever seen. After dinner, a fabulous ‘slight of hand’ card magician from the UK named Mark Haslam. Best card tricks I’ve ever seen.
Sunday, November 5 – Day 35
Phu My, Vietnam
Dale: Early breakfast so we could catch the transfer into Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City. About 90 minutes ride passing rice fields, fishing canals, crossing the MeKong River into Saigon. It has been 40 years since the Vietnam War (or as the Vietnamese call it “American War”). It appears Saigon has moved on from the conflict. The current generation has become more capitalistic and westernized. Outside of the urban areas however, it still looks impoverished. And thousands of motorbikes, scooters are everywhere. We saw 4 on a scooter, they dominate the roads. What a sight! Some of the past Saigon is mixed with new buildings. Patty and I joined John and Jean Peterson since we were unfamiliar with the city/country. John has been here from his Navy years in the 70’s and later as world cruisers. Lots of small shops along our walk to Notre Dame Cathedral and the famous post office complex. As the ladies shopped, John and I found an outdoor café to sample a local beer-333. Next more shopping in the Ben Thanh Market. I’ve never witnessed so much merchandise in a concentrated area. By this time everyone was ready for lunch. We found our way to the Rex Hotel. It has a rooftop bar and restaurant with a somewhat historical past. This was the sight of daily war briefings for journalists and TV reporters. Many cocktails were consumed here as war correspondents met with military officials. John said you could see nightly fireworks from the rooftop. Most not so friendly back in the 60’s.
I sometimes feel guilty about the Vietnam War and my emotions about the Vietnamese people. But lately my anger has transferred to our own government. It was a political conflict with so many unnecessary lost lives. I’m trying to come to grips with this country and the war and all my feelings. I regret we didn’t have time to explore the War Museum and the Reunification Center where the US administration operated and where the last of the administration and their families escaped as the North overtook Saigon in the last days of the war.
Patty and I were stopped and interviewed in Saigon by 2 students (probably high schoolers) for a homework assignment. They asked us about our visit to their country and gathered some personal information. Other landmarks in Saigon include the Caravelle Hotel and the BITEXCO Center and Observation Tower. I’m glad pat and I decided to see a little of Vietnam. It’s unlikely we will ever return. It was a ‘connect the dots’ moment for me. Pat brought back some coffee as Vietnam is the #2 coffee growing nation in the world.
Pat: In Saigon we spent a lot of time shopping. I bought 25 embroidered bags for EGA ladies and other typical souvenirs. At the Rex Rooftop Restaurant, Dale and John split the lunch bill. Dale wanted to keep the receipt. It was over 1 million dong! The Vietnamese dollar is the ‘dong’ and one US dollar is 22,000 dong.
Monday, November 6 – At Sea – Day 36
“Travel is more than the seeing of sights. It is a change that goes on, deep and permanent in the ideas of living.”
Pat: Sometimes sea days are hard to recall the details, especially when I wait a couple of days to do journal entries! Time for a load of laundry. Dale and I talked to excursion guide Ian Page on how to get around Singapore. At 2pm we had to move our clocks ahead one hour. We watched the movie “Tommy’s Honor” about the founders of pro golf. It was Gala Night and the Petersons invited us to sit and dine with them. Late show entertainment included another performance by vocalist Chris Powley.
Dale: Cloudy today with temps in the 80’s. An Asian deck sale after breakfast. I sat through half a digital workshop and half a lecture on Cambodia. Time to exchange currency to Singapore dollars. The passengers who came aboard in Hong Kong seemed to be a bit younger and by that I mean 50’s & 60’s and many were mixed-ethnic couples of Asians, Australians and Indonesians. The Gala Night was a celebration of the heydays of Raffles, a colonial hotel in Singapore.
Tuesday, November 7 – Day 37
“Don’t listen to what they say…go see…” –Chinese Proverb
Pat: We started the day at 7am in the Crow’s Nest on deck 9 for the sail-in commentary by Ian as we made our way into the port of Singapore. After breakfast we shuttled into the city to find the hop on/off bus. What a chore that turned into. We were dropped off at a 5 building shopping complex that was confusing as hell! Finally found the ticket office and boarded the red line with sporadic rain. First stop was Chinatown for souvenir shopping and lunch. We were approached by local students surveying us on various Chinatowns we had visited so far on the cruise. No doubt a homework assignment to get a tourist perspective. Lunch in the Michelin food court. Hainanese Chicken and rice. Then to the yellow line and a stop at the Flyer-world’s largest Ferris wheel. Unfortunately it was closed due to lightning in the area. So back to the bus’s green line to return to the ship for dinner and a local Singapore cultural dance show. Tall, costumed guys doing India/Hindu dances and the Chinese lady performing the mask-changing. Very entertaining!
Dale: We drove by but didn’t stop to see the Gardens by the Bay or the Marina Bay Sand Hotel. Disappointed we couldn’t ride the Singapore Flyer. Other observations: we were surprised everything was in English. Singapore is famous for its cleanliness. They are famous for their degrees of fines…smoking, littering, speeding, skateboarding, chewing gum and public speeches. They have strict limits on cars. It cost 5o thousand dollars to buy a ‘certificate of entitlement’ which then allows one to purchase a car-but only for 10 years! They say Singapore is not just a city and country but a corporation.
Our view from the ship was awesome. The evening light show from the Gardens by the Bay was beautiful and we understand they were playing Christmas music (we couldn’t hear it from the ship).
Wednesday, November 8 – Day 38
“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” –Pat Conroy
Dale: Day 2 in Singapore was only half a day. The weather continued to be rainy, foggy so we didn’t venture out. I noticed so many freighter ships anchored in the bay. A major shipping port. They say the busiest in Asia although the same was said of Shanghai. Nonetheless, Singapore is a beautiful, clean city. Lots to do and see. No language barriers, what an experience! We turned our passports and exchanged currency back to US dollars. Pat checked in with Julie back home and with housekeeping details done, we relaxed onboard until sail away from the top deck.
Pat: we slept in. We ate burgers in the Dive-in Restaurant then tried to sit through a movie “Their Finest” before sail away. Drinks with Kate and Albert. We got some beautiful shots of the sunset as we left the dock in Singapore. Clocks go back one hour on our way to Indonesia Islands.
Thursday, November 9 – Day 39
“We travel initially to lose ourselves. We travel next to find ourselves.” –Pico Iyer
Dale: At breakfast, looking out the Lido deck we realized we were in the Java Sea. Same body of water just a name change from the South China Sea. Near 90 today with partly sunny skies. Good day for a dip in the outside pool. But first a lecture on what to do and see tomorrow in Semarang. Then a class on ‘Telling Your Story with Photos’ in the digital workshop. At lunch in the dining room we sat with Gary and Lindy from Omaha. At 2 we learned a few words of Bahasa, the language of Indonesia. Time to clean up for the evening. 6pm movie was a documentary “Becoming Warren Buffett”. Dinner at 8 with Fred and Helen. The 10pm show was a vocal performance by Monique DeHaney, a Jamaican now living in Japan. We love how the entertainers reflect the regions of this Grand Voyage. The food continues to be fabulous! So much to choose from. Chicken and rice to chili crusted catfish. Holland America amazes with interesting recipes and delightful dishes at every meal.
Pat: We decided not to buy the ships tour excursion of Borobadour (the largest single monument in the southern hemisphere-the Great Stupa Buddha Temple). 250 dollars per person, just too rich for our budget. Instead we are teaming up with Patrick and Raina for an independent trip in Bali. I enjoyed the outside swimming pool for the first time with Dale before dinner.
Friday, November 10 – Day 40
“As you move through this life…you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life and travel leaves marks on you.” –Anthony Bourdain
Pat: After breakfast we took the shuttle bus into Semarang. It dropped us off in the city center and a vertical shopping mall. Dale got some shoes and a shirt to wear for Indonesian Night Dinner on the ship. I bought a batik printed top for the occasion. There were vendors in the terminal but as usual they were so aggressive that I find it unpleasant to shop. Hopefully better conditions in Bali. We had lunch in Dive-in on deck 8 and then a movie “Alex Cross” before the sail away. The main stage show featured Oli Nez from Wales, a saxophone player who was quite talented. I even bought his CD. At dinner we sat with Gabriel and Pamela from Seattle and Tom and Donna from South Carolina. They had come onboard in Hong Kong for the segment to Sydney, Australia.
Dale: I was fascinated watching from the outside promenade as many of the crew met with their families. Most live here in this country. The wives and children traveled long distances to this port to visit for the day. They brought family members onboard the ship to see where their Mom or Dad or husband or wife/girlfriend worked. It’s a very big deal. Staff for Holland America work 6 to 10 month contracts. So long apart from their loved ones, I cannot imagine! It touched my heart to see the reuniting and re-connecting. Plus stuff we take for granted like a cookie or ice-cream in the Lido Market as such a special treat. Passengers had placed notes on their cabin doors asking the staff not to clean their room and to take time off to be with family.
Parts of Semarang looked bleak. But once we arrived in the central district it appeared to take on a metropolitan feel. I noticed when we got off the bus a downtown tower was broadcasting a Muslim prayer during the lunch hour over loud speakers. It seemed strange to me. When we returned to the ship terminal, there was a band of Indonesian musicians playing country and western music, complete with cowboy hats! Quite the visual.
I remember when we were in Japan complaining about the rain and cool temperatures…someone said wait until Vietnam and points south, you will begging for weather like Japan. Guess what? They were right. The humidity and 90 degree temps in Indonesia was very tropical. The locals were using umbrellas for shade!
Saturday, November 11 – Day 41
“One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” –Andre Gide
Dale: Today is Veteran’s Day. The Amsterdam staged a ceremony in the Queen’s Lounge to honor and remember those military who sacrificed for our freedoms. We were given poppy lapel pins to wear. A lovely service where folks shared names of family and friends who served all over the world. It was the highlight of the day for me. Captain Eversen and Ian Page spoke. Plus 3 ministers offered readings and prayers.
Later in the afternoon, Pat and I attended a lecture on the history and culture of Indonesia. A few things I learned:
It’s the 3rd most populated country on the planet
It is 85% Muslim and a Democracy
It earned independence from the Dutch then from the Japanese after WW2
And part of the country include the Spice Islands
We shared a table for dinner with the charming Albert and Kate plus Joyce and Jo. Always fun and interesting.
Pat: The Sea is amazingly calm today. Breakfast with Keith and Mark from Arizona and Helen. Fred was already at his watercolor paint class. The Veteran’s Day service was lovely. Folks were invited to come up to the microphone to name their veteran to be honored. I guess I was too shy to identify my Dad. Dale offered to do it for me but I just wanted to honor my Dad in my heart.
At Coffee Chat, I visited with Nancy who I had met in San Diego on the first night of our voyage. At 2pm we had to set our clocks forward an hour. We attended Ian’s presentation on upcoming ports of Bali and Komodo Island. Looking forward to Bali tomorrow. WOW! We are going to be on the island of Bali OMG! Good night all.
Sunday, November 12 – Day 42
“Take every chance you get in life because some things only happen once.” – Karen Gibbs
Dale: Raina and Patrick invited us to be a part of their privatley arranged tour of Bali today. Fred and Helen completed our party of 6. Lido Market manager Presti set up for Yuan, his brother-in-law to be our driver and guide. We met him off ship at 7am. He drove us thru Benoa and Kuta to our first stop at Pura Taman Ayun. A former royal temple built in 1634. Famous for its exquisite shrines. Most of Bali worship Hindu while the island of Java worships mostly Islam faith.
Next was the Monkey Forest Ubud. Towering trees are sacred to the Blainese people. Two lady guides helped us navigate the Macaque Monkeys as the roamed the grounds. I was given a stick to prevent the monkeys from trying to grab my glasses. We fed them peanuts right from our hands. We also saw some of the biggest bats I’ve ever witnessed anywhere. Our photos don’t quite convey their wide wing span and their upside down perches in nearby trees right there in the daylight! Before lunch we drove to the Tanah Lot Temple, a magnificent house of worship on a huge rock off the coastline of the Indian Ocean. Perhaps the most photographed temple in all of Bali. Absolutely beautiful as the waves crashed around it. We were not allowed to go inside as it was Sunday and many locals were lined up to attend services. Lunch was next a Bamboo. On our way back we stopped for an hour of shopping at Agung Bali. My God it was hot and humid. And it wasn’t completely sunny, I can only imagine the heat in the middle of their summer season. The roads were narrow and winding. Interesting architecture . The volcano, Mt. Batukaru is active so we weren’t allowed to be near that part of the island.
Pat: The religion in Bali is predominately Hindu and the temples we saw represented that. The monkey forest was a highlight. Just look at my photos to get an idea of how that visit went! Unforgettable! The Tanah Lot Temple on the Indian Ocean was very picturesque. We stopped for lunch at an open air restaurant called Bamboo. I had a fried noodle dish with Satay on skewers that was delicious. Then some shopping where Dale bought a shirt, shoes for me plus fabric for Julie and Pam. And other souvenirs. The motorcycle traffic on the island was unbelievable. We tried to shop at the ship terminal but the local vendors harass so much it was no fun. We retreated to the ship around 4pm for some appetizers as we sailed away from port on our way to the next Indonesian island.
Dale: I sampled the Indonesian beer with appetizers with Patty before the 6pm movie, “In God’s Hands” about surfing in Bali and Hawaii (thumbs down). Dinner at 8 was just the two of us and then the 10pm entertainment of Beven Addinsall, a regional vocalist from Australia.
Monday, November 13 –Day 43
Slawi Bay, Indonesia
“Fill your life with adventures, not things. Stories to tell, not stuff to show.”
Dale: We laughed this morning at breakfast with fellow passengers from Birmingham, Pennsylvania and Southern California. All veteran travelers and cruisers. Our tour of Komodo Island was at 11am. The Amsterdam was anchored in Slawi Bay so we tinder into shore. I think Patty enjoyed the experience more than me. This island is evidently the only place on earth the Komodo dragon inhabits in the wild. Our guide took us through the jungle path in search of the big lizard-like 4 legged reptile. At the end of our 1 hour walk, we came upon 3 Komodo dragons at a watering hole. They didn’t look aggressive to me although each guide carries a long stick to guard everyone (just in case). It was very hot and sticky and then it rained!
Pat: We saw a total of 4 Komodo dragons. One was strolling the beach area which we heard was a bit unusual. The watering hole where we spotted the other dragons was a good phot opp for us. Dale was the skeptic regarding the viewing of these creatures. It started to rain at the end of our tour and we were soaked by the time we made it back to the ship. Once onboard, we took a swim in the aft Seaview pool just to cool off.
Dale: The best part of Komodo Island was the sail away. What a gorgeous view from deck 8 as we left Slawi Bay, passing other small Indonesian islands. The rain stopped and we took a dip in the pool.
Pat: the 6pm movie was “The Dressmaker” starring Kate Winslet. Main dining followed and then a variety encore performance in the Queen’s Lounge.
Dale: We dined alone tonight and I enjoyed the veggie pot stickers and sweet and sour pork dish. Yum. Strawberry crisp with ice-cream and coffee. Sweet dreams.
Tuesday, November 14 – Day 44
“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” –Anais Nin
Pat: From the Indian Ocean to Timor Sea. All passengers had face to face with Australian immigration this morning. We guessed they boarded in Bali as we head to our first port-Darwin. At 10 we attended a lecture with Terry Greenberg on the Spice Islands of Indonesia and its trade history of the British and Dutch control. Dale went to a phot lecture from Paulette Mitchell and I attended Coffee Chat. At 2pm we moved our clocks ahead one hour. The movie was Richard Gere in “Norman, The Moderate Rise And Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer.”
Dale: Dinner was another Gala Night, Indonesian Style. So Pat and I wore our tops/shirts from Bali and Semarang. A lot of folks were dressed in Indonesian wear. We sat with Tom and Dot from Tullahoma, Tennessee whom we met through Cruise Specialist. We enjoyed their company. The 10pm show was a production of “Nations” a journey of European countries through song and dance. Pat said her highlight was the tap/step Irish dancing especially the tall Ukraine man in the cast in his solo routine. Fabulous costumes. Good night all.
Wednesday, November 15 – Day 45
“I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met.” – Melody Truong
Dale: I cannot believe we are now in Australia! The North Territory of this continent is the warmer part since it is closer to the equator. Southern provinces are cooler. So our introduction to this coastal city of Darwin was sunny and hot-in the 90’s. After breakfast we took the shuttle into central Darwin. Time for some souvenir shopping (of course). Boomerang for the grandson, magnets and other such nonsense. At Noon we stopped at a café to sample an Australian beer. Back to the ship for lunch. Pat and I then walked over to the Stokes Hill Wharf to visit the Royal Flying Doctor Museum.
The sail away was 6pm and back on the ship, Pat and I took a dip in the pool, watched a movie “Bootmen” filmed outside Sydney. Dinner at 8. Veal chops, wine and dessert. I’ve run out of superlatives to describe the food service on the Amsterdam! The late show featured comedian Paul Adams. Good night mates!
Pat: At 2am we had to set our clocks forward 30 minutes. How weird is that? Later it was explained we needed to sync up with the local Darwin time.
Inside the Royal Flying Doctor Museum we saw a virtual reality program on the Japanese attack on Darwin of February, 1942 (right after Pearl Harbor). A halogram presentation of the attack and how and why the Flying Doctor was formed in the 1920’s. I missed the late night comedian. Too tired from the hot, muggy day. Dale went to the Queen’s Lounge solo.
Thursday, November 16 – Day 46 – At Sea
“I need Vitamin SEA.” –anonymous
Pat: Breakfast with Nate and Susan from Albuquerque. Older than us and more traveled than us too! Dale relaxed and read from the outside deck while I went to Coffee Chat. Lunch in Lido Market featured Chow Mein noodles and sweet and sour chicken. I had a lemon sherbet waffle cone (the ice cream guy remembered me and when it was my turn already had the waffle cone before I gave my order!). The afternoon movie was “Sapphires” about 4 young Aboriginal girl singers from Australia performing in Vietnam during the war. Finally got our hot water issues repaired in the cabin and sat with Fred and Helen for dinner. The 10om main stage show was “Forever Everly”. Two older Britain men billed as reliving the looks and soaring harmonies of the Everly Brothers. Well-NOT! Although they sang those songs, their act didn’t live up to their billing.
Friday, November 17 – Day 47
“Certainly travel is more than the seeing of sights. It is a change that goes on, deep and permanent in the ideas of living.” -Mary Ritter Beard
Dale: Another day at sea as we made our way around the coastline of Australia. I read most of the day away from an outside promenade lounge chair. Finally finished “The Book of God” about the Old Testament. Except for watching Thursday night Football (live, on Friday!) as the Titans lost to the Steelers. The 6pm movie was “The Hero” starring Sam Elliot, a drama about reconnecting with his daughter. At dinner both Patty and I selected the Australian crab cakes and for dessert, peanut butter cheesecake. Yum. The 10pm show featured Pete Neighbour on clarinet performing swing era jazz with the Amsterdam trio.
Pat: we had to move our clocks up 30 minutes to be on the same time as this part of Australia. Interesting fellow passengers to visit with at breakfast…Pam, Keith, Mark and Albert. I brought some of my stitching to Coffee Chat to show Dot and Jean. I talked a bit to Barbara from Alaska before lunch. Ran into Nancy, she is leaving the cruise in Sydney in a few days.
Saturday, November 18 – Day 48
“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” – Mary Anne Radmacher
Dale: One more day at sea before we dock in Cairns for our catamaran trip to the Great Barrier Reef. We could see patches of the coastline as the ship navigated around and through the reef area. I didn’t realize how big and long a space it was in this Coral Sea. The Amsterdam has an Australian pilot to help maneuver the waters. Small rocks and islands dot the coast. The weather was tropical, sunny and breezy. Time to exchange currency again, this time to Australian dollars for upcoming ports. The movie was “Maudie” and dinner included Asian chickem dishes. Main stage show was Michael Storrs. Pat is a sucker for those big, baritone vocalists singing showtunes! Good night all.
Sunday, November 19 – Day 49
“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty and charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”
Dale & Pat: Today was special. It took me 66 years and honestly, I never considered the possibility I would snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. But Patty and I did just that. By 8:30am we were on the Magic Reef Catamaran for the 90 minute, 35 mile ride out into the Coral Sea where we anchored for our day’s adventure. We along with about 75 other shipmates squeezed into wet suits and life vests, donned our snorkel gear and into the water. Pat was my guide for 2 reasons: She’s a better swimmer and I wasn’t wearing my glasses. But surprisingly, I could enjoy what I saw with the goggled mask. And what we saw was one of the wonders of the world. Various coral, fish and the colors, oh my! I noticed one stingray but no turtles or sharks. We spent an hour behind the boat, about 50 yards out. Then came in for lunch. Afterwards, we went for a blass bottom boat ride to see more of this amazing underwater area. The guide pointed out some fish indigenous to these waters at the Great Barrier Reef. With an hour remaining, we grabbed our snorkel and mask and returned to the sea. We saw more fish including red bass, parrott fish, butterfly fish, striped fish and lots of “Nemo’s”. What a fabulous, life-bucket experience!
Ice cream on the way back to Cairns and an opportunity to take pics of the Rainforest Mountains surrounding this small harbor city. The weather was partly clear and warm and we made it back to shore by 4:30. All aboard wasn’t until 9:30 so Patty and I walked over to the Wildlife Dome. We wanted to see a Koala Bear since we were in Australia. Not only Koalas but a really huge crocodile, tropical birds and various snakes. Pat shopped for her obligatory sounvenirs and we called it a day in Cairns.
Once back on board the Amsterdam, it was Aussie Outback Cook-in on the Lido Deck. Prime Rib with all the fixins. Fresh coconut water and Australian beers. The wait staff were decked out like Outback cowgirls and cowboys. Cute. The movie was “Open Water and Cage Dive”. Cairns was charming and memorable but we crashed before the sail away. One thing we missed was all of the bats, by the hundreds that line the streets from the trees. Yikes.
Monday, November 20 – Day 50 – at Sea
“We need the possibility of escape just as surely as we need hope.” – anonymous
Dale: Life is good. Waking up in our cabin, flipping on the TV for some NFL RedZone Sunday live football (on Monday over here) plus with Pat in my arms and like every other day-we don’t have to make our bed or cook our meals and the option to nothing all day! Today and tomorrow at sea before we make Brisbane our next port of call.
Tuesday, November 21 – Day 51 –at Sea
“As much as you can. As far as you can. As long as you can. Life’s not meant to be lived in one place.” – The things we say
Dale: Well, I’ve certainly lived this quote! The morning walk for Pat and me was a blustery one. Breakfast with Sandy and Mike from San Francisco. You only get to know a small bit about fellow passengers over a meal. But I find them all very interesting. Patty attended Coffee Chat and I watched Monday Night Footballin the Sports Bar. I know, it was Tuesday but we saw it live. The afternoon movie was “Secret Scripture” starring Rooney Mara and Eric Bann.
Pat: It’s another Gala Night. An evening to salute the upcoming Commonwealth Nations. At dinner staff were decked out in top hats and colorful vests. Fred showed us his watercolor sketches he did during our Bali tour together. I showed him and Helen plus Lars and Linda photos from my book. A lovely Gala evening.
When we returned to our stateroom for the night, Holland America had left us yet another nice gift- a power bank for each of us which will come in handy for charging our phones and other electronic devices.
Wednesday, November 22 – Day 52
“I would rather own little and see the world than own the world and see little of it.” – Alexander Sattler
Pat: We got up early and went to the Crow’s Nest to watch our sail in to Brisbane and have coffee. At 9 we boarded our bus for the 90 minute ride to the Gold Coast, an area famous for its beach and ocean surfing. The area was tagged as “Surfer’s Paradise”. We had our swim suits under our clothes and brought HAL beach towels to sit on. Watching and video-taping people trying to negotiate these huge waves was fun. We sat next to Charlie and Diane from the ship and they suggested lunch at O’Malley’s Irish Pub, right across from the beach. Dale and I split fish and chips and I had a cold draft of Guiness. Students were on a school break and they were everywhere, referred to as “schoolies”. Some souvenir shopping and people watching before the bus ride back to the ship.
Dale: Weather was outstanding for a day at the Gold Coast, south of Brisbane. Sunny and blue with temps near 80. On the ride back our bus driver stopped for some photo opps at the harbor and its waterfront downtown. The views were beautiful. You could tell the driver was proud of his homeland here in this Queensland province. When you think of Australia, Sydney and Melbourne come to mind however, I have a new favorite spot on my map of memories for Brisbane.
Dinner in La Fontaine Room with Jerry and Mary from Ft. Myers and Art and Maggie from Wisconsin. After dessert we stopped by the piano bar for Glenn Askew’s Australian sing-a-long. To wrap up the day we enjoyed a local performance by the City of Brisbane Pipe Band. Founded in 1950, It belongs to the military tradition of Bagpipe and Drum Bands first formed for the British Army Scottish regiments in the 19th century. Plus we watched young kilt dancers that were incredibly talented. Good night mates!
Thursday, November 23 – Day 53
Happy Thanksgiving at Sea
Pat: We arranged to meet Kate and Albert for one last breakfast as they were leaving the ship in Sydney tomorrow. Dale promised to send a copy of his book and Albert promised to send a copy of his playwright script. I worked some crossword puzzles on deck 3 promenade as Dale walked his daily mile. Coffee and cookies with our Cruise Specialist friends and lunch with Bill and Margaret from New York. At 2pm we moved our clocks ahead one hour and watched a movie “Wind River”.
Dale: I had an interesting conversation with a crew member who was working in the gift shop. I wished her a happy Thanksgiving and then stopped to say this is probably not a holiday for her. She was sweet and explained she was from Tiawan. She then asked me to explain what Thanksgiving means in America. It took me a moment because nobody had ever recently asked that question. I replied it was a celebration of the early pilgrims settling in our country and a feast of food and blessings were proclaimed for a year of gratitude. She offered that Christmas was recognized in her country although their faith is not Christian but rather an end of year holiday celebration. By the way, our dinner included turkey and all the fixings!