Alaska Begins – BIG Ship Cruise Life

posted in: Alaska | 6

Evidently, there are a LOT of people who go on a LOT of cruises. We only met two other couples who were first timers like us; most of the other people onboard had been on 5 – 40 cruises, many on 20 or more. Since this was a first time for us, it was all new and different so this first blog post is going to cover our observations of the unique or the curious, to us.

May 7

First, you have to get onboard which is called “embarkation.” As boaters, we embark quite often – “the act of passengers and crew getting onboard a ship.” But, oh my, this was quite different. 

This was not a positive beginning. It took three hours to get through the lines. As soon as we managed to reach the end of one line we were shuffled into another large space with more lines. Three people collapsed while in the lines!  Veteran cruisers said this was the worst they had ever experienced and rumors abounded about the why’s.

What can I write? This doesn’t even look as bad as it really was.

And then, after a day of travel that began at 5:00 am, we were on the Nieuw Amsterdam at 3:30 pm. 

Canada Place Cruise Ship Terminal against the skyline of Vancouver
Mountains overlooking Vancouver.
Al watched the shore recede. Now it’s starting to get exciting. We are on our Alaskan adventure!

Why is the ship named Nieuw Amsterdam? Remember that the ship is a Holland America ship.The Dutch colony of New Netherland was established in 1614.  New Amsterdam at the lower tip of what we now know as Manhattan became the capital city several years later.  It was Holland’s largest city by Dutch settlers in 1624. In 1664, the English organized a takeover and the colony was peacefully surrendered. The British renamed the city New York after the Duke of York who had organized the takeover.  Throughout the ship, the art, and historical artifacts document New York’s Native American history and Dutch influences.

This long mural is a mixed media collage of the 17th Century New York City skyline by Dutch artist Harald Vlugt. 
Just a small sample of the New York inspired art pieces throughout the ship. Everywhere.
This chandelier hanging in the atrium was my favorite. Husband and wife Italian artists Gilbert LeBigre and Corinne Roger designed the crystal LED-equipped chandelier to honor New York City’s iconic skyline. The skyline is both right-side up and upside down. The light continually changes through a spectrum of colors.
The elevator lobby on each deck was quite grand.

Cruise ships are also quirky. There are some pretty funny aspects. First, they want to make sure you know when and where you are.

EVERY day the rugs in the elevator were changed. How did they know that we aren’t often sure what day of the week it is now that we are retired?
And every elevator has a poster that not only shows you where you are on the ship, but also which direction is forward and which is aft.
The little booklet on the right was included in the stateroom to illustrate ship directions. There were floor mats in each stateroom corridor to inform you of the direction and side of the ship (FORWARD STARBOARD). Although we are quite familiar with port/starboard and fore/aft, on this huge ship we needed help, too!

It’s also important to know what is happening onboard each day. Apps on phones are the way to go now, but paper was still provided (there were some folks who did not have cell phones…….😳)

We downloaded the recommended and strongly encouraged Holland America Navigator app on our phones which kept us informed of everything. Just in case, there was always a paper pamphlet delivered for the next day, too.

Food is a major part of a cruise, right? We discovered on the first day that there were lines (oh no, more lines!!!) at the Lido Market on Deck 9, described as a “modern marketplace includes a curated selection of delicious options that you can grab on the go or have made to order” but when you got your food it was usually impossible to find a table. We decided that the Main Dining Room was a better option for our dinners if we went at 6 pm or later after the “older” crowd had eaten first. We had chosen the “As You Wish” dining plan which meant we could go whenever we wanted between 5:15 – 9:00 pm, instead of the traditional dining of either a 5:45 or an 8:00 pm seating at the same table with the same people each evening. The food was good with enough choices. We liked that the portions were smaller than restaurants so we didn’t ever feel stuffed.

Starters and entrees, always plated attractively. No small feat when serving thousands of people.
Desserts were always good and small. I like that. Less guilt.
On sea days we ate breakfast in the Main Dining Room. On excursion days, we ordered room service (upper left.)
By the pool on the Lido Deck there was a little spot called the Dive-In where they served really good burgers and hot dogs. Good for lunch on sea days.
Al enjoyed a waffle cone ice cream ….. was it every day? I think it was.
Even bar stools can be works of art.
One evening, our waiter showed off his secret talents. He balanced a beer can on a plate and built a balancing fork sculpture on a wine bottle. The woman at that back table was quite impressed. 😉
Take note that the flatware has the little Holland America logo engraved in it. I wonder if I should do something like that for Kindred Spirit?

In my preparation research for this cruise I learned about “cruise ducks“. Hmmmm? Evidently there is a tradition of bringing a rubber duck and hiding it around the ship for others to find, Usually with a tag or note. It sounded cute. I’ll play that game so I brought a small duck along with us and tucked it in a corner behind a section in a stair well. An hour later I realized I had not taken a photo of my little duck so we went back to do that. GONE! Already. But here’s the thing – I never, not once, ever saw any other rubber duck anywhere on that ship. So is it an urban/cruise ship legend and I fell for it?

A “cruise duck”

As boaters, we want to have information at our fingertips. On Deck 11, the Observation Deck, there were screens with live information about the sea state, weather conditions, and the ship’s speed and rpms.

Top – Current time, arrival time at next port, sunrise, sunrise.
Middle – Temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, sea depth.
Bottom – The ship’s propellers are actually two rotating pods. The screen shows the rpms of each and their angle as well as the ship’s speed in mph, knots, and kilometers per hour.
The tv in our stateroom had several informative channels. We could check the ship’s location and track at any time.
Our cabin stewards, Adit and Rikan. Friendly and attentive to every need.
Yes, there were “towel sculptures” on three days. And chocolates!
I never took any photos of our stateroom, but Al did. He didn’t wait for a moment when it was neat and clean. 😩😬 One good suggestion that we followed was to bring heavy duty metal hooks. The walls of the staterooms are metal and that gave us more places to hang items.
This is an online photo of a similar stateroom. It was really roomy with plenty of storage, and a bathtub, too.
We liked having a verandah of our own, even when it was chilly. Neither of us thought we could survive two weeks on a ship with no outside access from our room.

Let’s move on and see Alaska!

6 Responses

  1. Susie Marshall

    We saw little ducks on our cruise to Bermuda. I think it is fun. I paint and hide kindness rocks…I leave them everywhere we go. I’m enjoying your post. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Robert J. Lentz

    It does look like fun. Anita has cruised, I have not. I’m waiting for the pictures of Al at the helm at sea and Michelle at the helm docking.

    Have fun,

    • watsons

      I’ll stick with docking our 39 feet. 936 feet is just a little bit over my docking skills. 😉 But Al could probably handle it!

  3. Ellen Margel Seltzer

    Wow…waaay too many people for me! Glad you enjoyed your trip and learned a lot. Loved the pics and art on the ship. Thanks so much for sharing.

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