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  1. Report # 136 Seattle, Washington June 3, 2019 Monday Overcast Part # 1 of 1 30 Pictures It’s a good thing we pretty much knew the drill for this morning, because none of us were given any heads up as to when to put our luggage outside the room last night, or when breakfast was being served in the Lido or dining room today. Usually, we are given an amended end of the cruise flyer, outlining this important information, as well as the statistics for the 18 day Panama Cruise. We did have a disembarkation schedule which had the list of colored tags and numbers and approximate times for getting off the ship today. The most stressed thing was telling us not to congregate around the gangway or stairwells waiting your turn to debark. Of course, that is what a whole lot of people did, getting the attention of the Captain, who came across with a strong message to wait comfortably in your stateroom or public areas. And when he speaks….everyone listens. Breakfast in the dining room was 6:30am, and we were about the first ones to arrive. By not advertising a time, we think most folks went to the Lido, assuming this was not opened. Better for us, our food arrived quickly. We took our usual walk around the promenade deck to find it was closed off since the gangway was hooked up here to the terminal. But we did watch the new supplies waiting to be loaded, and also the luggage being taken off. What are the odds that we would see some of our duffels in one of those huge baskets? A good sign that it might be ready for us when we get off. The ship was cleared by 8am, and many of us wondered how the customs, immigrations, and border control would work here. We had not been given the US form to fill out, so it was unclear as to the procedure today. Was it possible that the terrible line we encountered in Vancouver yesterday would be all the clearance we needed? That would be nice. With our President’s Club status, we could get off the ship anytime we chose. However, arriving too soon, the six pieces of luggage might not be there yet. Our color red 2 was called exactly at 8:15am, the promised time for us. The latest the tags were called was 9:15am, but we had to remember that 500 people were getting off with just hand luggage or expedited. That did help. Once in the terminal, we found our stuff easily. And the best news was that we did not have to haul it through customs, as there was none here. We had completed the customs check for the US yesterday, even though we were technically in Canada. No more forms to fill out, at least here as well as in Florida. We did not even need the use of porters, because the officials said to leave it right where it was, and it would be collected for the Fed Ex pick up later in the day. Perfect. Since we had pre-purchased the transfer to the airport, all we had to do was find the right bus, and sit back and relax. There were three types of transfers offered by shore excursions in Seattle. The one we took was an airport transfer only. The other two included a tour, but were for those with flights after 1:30 or 3:30pm. So it was the Best of Seattle for 4 hours, or the Ho-ho bus with luggage service. The four hour tour was $135 and the ho-ho was $59. Ours was $59 for two, whether we had luggage or not. It took the driver about 35 minutes to reach the airport. And since we were flying with Delta, we were able to check in right there in the garage entrance. One good reason to fly Delta. We took our time walking to the terminal, because it was a long haul to find it. You have to take a round- about way to get there, but along the way, we had people giving good directions. They also took care of the new folks coming to board the Amsterdam for her first 2 week trip to Alaska. Although our flight was after 1pm, it was on time. That gave us plenty of time to catch up on photos and reports while we waited. The flight was quick, only about 2 hours, so by the time you got comfortable, you were landing. Again, getting off was easy because we had no luggage to pick up. Having arranged a ride home, we met up with our driver at the baggage carousel, where we walked to the garage to begin our ride home. Of course, it was right in the middle of commute time (4pm), and we knew no matter which way our driver took, we were in for a two hour ride. One thing for sure, the weather was quite warm today. Once we got across the Bay Bridge, the temps began to climb to well over 90 degrees. Summer was here, but we were not complaining. Home by 6pm, it seemed like we had been gone forever in some ways, and in other ways, it’s like we just left. Go figure….. And we had a surprise package waiting for us on the front door step. It turned out to be a gift from HAL, sent by Orlando Ashford. It was a commemorative Delft plate welcoming the newest ship to the fleet – the Nieuw Statendam. That was a “first” receiving a gift like this. Guessing it arrived around April 14th, we were lucky it was still there. Never thought to ask anyone to check the front door, although had we known, we could have alerted our son. All is well that ends well. Our work will be cut out for us for many weeks to come, but it will be nice to go to sleep in our own bed tonight with our comfortable pillows. We will miss the “motion of the ocean” until our next trip. Until then, thanks for following along once again. It’s been a pleasure. Bill & Mary Ann
  2. Report #135 Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada June 2, 2019 Sunday Partly cloudy & 70 degrees Part # 1 of 4 80 Pictures The city of Vancouver was founded in the late 1800’s by the British. It was originally a lumber mill village. A man named Gassy Jack was the first person to see a need for bars to serve the thirsty mill workers. The story goes that Gassy Jack gave a barrel of booze to the men that built him a saloon. His name is now transferred to Gastown, which is an area of boutique shops and restaurants these days. Vancouver’s famous steam clock is also there. Captain George Vancouver sailed on Captain Cook’s expeditions, and later chartered the area for the British. The city was named after him, George Vancouver. There were three tours here, including the highlights for $60 per person (2 ½ hours), or Northwest exploration and Suspension Bridge for $100 (3 ½ hours). The hop-on, hop-off bus for $50 had 29 stops and covered almost all of the city and surrounds. We have done this tour many years ago, and found it fun. And since many passengers would be leaving today, somewhere near 500, a highlight tour with an airport transfer was also offered for $80. The Amsterdam arrived to the port at 7am, with two ships also docked there. One was the HAL Westerdam, while the other was the Celebrity Eclipse, one of the big ones. Breakfast was served early in the dining room, although we did not go until 7:30am. It was not crowded. Leaving the ship was like going into a hornet’s nest, due to so many people debarking those two vessels and ours too. However, had we known what it was going to be like getting back onboard later, we may have changed our minds, and stayed onboard the ship. We had been given “in transit” cards, which we would need later to go through the US Customs and Border Protection in the cruise ship terminal on our way back. The time allowed for this inspection was from 10:30am to 3:45pm. All aboard was at 4pm. The procedure here is very different from everywhere else we have been. Once clear of Canada Place, we took a right turn to walk the seawall along Burrand Inlet. The Vancouver Convention Center is located on this corner, and it was bustling with activity with all of the cafes and shops on the ground level. Walking further, we came across the seaplane terminal, which is reportedly the world’s largest multi-user terminal. A 20 minute flight for sightseeing ran about $138 for 20 minutes. These planes were taking off the entire time we were there. Coal Harbor Quay was next, where some mighty fine small boats to luxury yachts were docked. It is also home to many houseboats, complete with verandas and potted rooftop gardens. Some of these boats were also for sale. The Westin Hotel and other condos and apartment buildings are situated here over-looking Coal Harbor. Turning the bend, we entered Stanley Park, a 1001 acre public park almost entirely surrounded by the waters of the Pacific Ocean. One of the highlights of this park that draws many customers, young and old, are the horse-drawn trolleys. This pleasant ride lasts for one hour and costs $50 for adults, or $46 for seniors. This is all in Canadian dollars by the way. Some of the horses are a rare Grey Shire imported from Yorkshire, England. Other breeds used are Clysdales, Belgiums, and Percherons. Back in the 1800’s, these animals were used to haul logs in the lumber industry. Some of the larger breeds stand 2.4 meters tall, have feet the size of frying pans, and consume 27 kilograms or 60 pounds of feed a day. They can drink 100 liters of water a day as well. The trolleys are aluminum-framed with signal lights and hydraulic brakes. And they run completely on hay and oats! The walk in the park was delightful. We did see one Douglas squirrel, and a Canada goose. What we did not see were raccoons, river otters, beavers, and great blue herons. All reportedly in this huge park. There are a whopping 20,000 bald eagles in all of British Columbia, but we did not see one here. What we did see were the trees, in fact there are ½ million trees in this park, some are over 100 years old. However, in December of 2006, a hurricane-force windstorm destroyed 10,000 trees here. That probably why we spotted many young trees planted in their space. There are 17 miles of trails through this park with towering red cedars, hemlock, and Douglas firs to name only a few. Logging went on here from the 1800’s to the early 1900’s, until it was declared a park. Walking the seawall around the park presents stunning views of downtown, the Lions Gate Bridge, English Bay, and many sandy beaches. Sure would have been nice if we had more time to explore here. But it was time for lunch. Backtracking at this point, we ended up at Steamworks Brewery on the other side of Canada Place. There was still a mess of people coming and going, as the two bigger ships were beginning a new run to Alaska, while we were loading an additional 500 or more folks for a one night cruise to Seattle. Lunch was very good with a shared cheeseburger, fries, and one apple crisp with ice cream for dessert. Beers were the special draft of the day….pale ale – ice cold. Sure was nice to relax for over an hour. In hindsight, we should have lingered longer. Finally, we made our way back to the cruise terminal with at least one million other passengers from three ships doing the same thing. Our “in transit” cards meant nothing. What we found was a long line where all of us were funneled into a row of chairs. Each row had about 100 seats, and there were six rows. Every 15 minutes, a row of guests was released to line up for the customs check. We guess we waited for about I hour in total before getting to the kiosks. These are self-explanatory passport scanning and questionnaires for the US clearance. As long as you followed the directions, it was simple and quick. Then we lined up to see a live agent, who took our receipt, checked our photo page, and finally we were free to go back to the proper ship. Last time we did this, the Eurodam was the only ship in port, so the line was short and it moved really fast. Later on in the day, we talked to Sue, who also has sailed on this Panama cruise after the grand voyage, and when she saw the process of getting back onboard, she changed her mind and went back on the ship. Probably a good choice. As we said, all aboard was at 4pm, when a mandatory muster drill was held for only the newly boarded guests. At least that was a good thing. Around 4:30pm, we went up to deck nine to find it was still warm outside, although the skies had become totally overcast. Around that same time, the Celebrity Eclipse began their sail out of the harbor. They were barely on their way, when the Westerdam pulled away from the pier, turned around, and followed them. We were last to leave around 5:30pm, doing 12.8 knots after we went under the Lions Gate Bridge, and headed out to sea. We would have 178 nautical miles to sail to Seattle, according to the cruise log. Speaking of the cruise log, during this 18 day trip from Ft. Lauderdale to Seattle, we will have sailed 5807 miles, using 227,186 gallons of fuel. Once again, the egg consumption was high at 46,570. Our last dinner was with our favorite waiters. We had soup, salad, and one pork chop and one pasta dish with sliced chicken. Dessert was one date pudding and one rocky road ice cream. Naturally, Slam snuck us some biscotti cookies, and Marco found some ginger. It was hard saying goodbye, but we hope to see them again soon. Saying goodbye to Ellen and Aart was harder, but they will be back on the 2020 world cruise, which is only months away. By the way, we had a most beautiful sunset this evening, as the ship wove in between the dozens of islands of the coast. There was entertainment this evening. Part of it started during dinner ,when we watched with amusement the diners down on deck four. They were part of the party-hardy one-nighters here to have fun. And fun they were having. Later, the show was a performance of the singers and dancers doing Crossroads, one of which we did see on the world cruise. Hauling our luggage outside the room was fun (NOT). At least we will not have to carry any of it home, as we are shipping all six of them. The final goodnight saying for this trip is: No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old familiar pillow. - Lin Yutang - Bill & Mary Ann
  3. Report #134 Victoria, British Columbia, Canada June 1, 2019 Saturday Partly cloudy & 65 degrees Part # 1 of 4 80 Pictures Today’s port was quite a lovely one…..the city of Victoria, situated on the southeastern end of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. It overlooks the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Victoria was the original trading post for the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1843. The gold rush hit here in the 1860’s, and this company was the main supplier of the equipment needed to find it. Now the city is the provincial capital for British Columbia. Today Victoria is a thriving haven for tourists and the retirement community, mostly due to the mild climate. There is much to see and do here, especially the Victorian-style Parliament buildings and the Empress Hotel – all within walking distance of the pier. Shore excursions offered nine tours today. Sightseeing of the city either by walking, a horse-drawn carriage ride, or by bus took up four of them. The hours ran from 1 to 2 ½ hours for $40 to $75. Food-based tours were royal tea time or craft beer tasting for $75 to $129. Whale-watching for orcas was 3 hours for $130, and two tours went to Butchart Gardens, the 55 acres of spring blooming plants and trees. They ran $95 to $105 for 5 hours. Originally, we were supposed to be docking here at 1pm and leaving at 11pm. But last week, that had changed to an arrival time of 10am, leaving at 6pm. And that was fine with us as it gave us time to enjoy the city during the daylight hours. The Amsterdam was docked at Ogden Point by 10am, and we were off by 10:30am. Even though the forecast said 65 degrees, we think it was much warmer than that once we reached the city center. There was a shuttle service which would depart from the pier to downtown and back for $16, but it was such a beautiful day, walking was by far the better choice. And besides it was fun watching the helicopter and float planes taking off for commuting or sightseeing. Following the signs, we made our way to town passing some Victorian tea houses and hotels along the way. This area has many condos and apartments over-looking the bay as well. We walked past Fisherman’s Wharf, a small version of the one in SF, but full of good views and good eats. Staying on the main drive, we came across Coho Ferry and the Steamship Terminal where you can catch ferries to Port Angeles, Seattle and Vancouver. Also a good place to book whale-watching tours. We began to see the horse-drawn carriages that offered rides for 15 to 90 minutes for $60 to $295. These carriages hold six people and the price is for the carriage for up to six. These rides were right next to the Provincial Legislature and the Parliament, probably the most impressive Victorian buildings in the city. Then adjacent to this, was the Empress Hotel, now owned by Fairmont. It faces the Inner Harbor, that has a life of its own. Besides the ferries, there are fishing boats and yachts to watch from the Harbor Walkway down below the street level. There are eateries and vendors that line this walkway that are most entertaining. There were street artists today, one dressed totally in pink, like a mime, and one balloon-making fellow. Arts and crafts of the area were the most common souvenirs to buy here. Our destination was lunch…anywhere there was pizza and beer. This time we were able to research local pizzerias online. Now with the new internet system on the ship, we have the freedom to research anything we like. That was not always possible when using the “by the minute” plan. Anyway, we located a possible restaurant on Johnson Street, close to Chinatown. Taking our time walking, we easily found it, and it was perfect. And we were lucky it was not too crowded yet, since today was a Saturday, and a very busy weekend. We ordered a Margherita pizza (like that is a surprise?), with side Caesar salads. The beer was a local pale ale on draft. Dessert was a Nutella pizza calzone, something totally new for us to try. And of course, we liked it. We had a window seat with a view of the Esquimalt Road Bridge, and were surprised at the amount of traffic coming into town. Taking our time walking back, we window-shopped, picking up one novelty t-shirt. This shop did not accept the credit card we were using, so we paid cash in US dollars. Guess they can adjust the rate, since they quoted $1.10 Canadian to $1 USD. We were told it was $1.35 to the dollar, however, they take the fee for using US into account. Using a credit card really does get you the better rate, but then the store has to accept it. And, of course, no other store sold this special t-shirt. It will be treasured. We usually walk around the waterside of the road back, but there was a renewal project taking place there, so we went back the way we came. Getting back to the ship by 4pm, we had time to catch up on photo-sorting, before going to the sailing out of the harbor. While we were doing this, another ship pulled in across from us….the Oosterdam, another HAL vessel. Up to now, we had been the only cruise ship here. But soon to follow was the Star Princess, and even bigger, the NCL Bliss. With those huge ships, the town will be inundated. Good for business. By now, the wind had come up, and it was really cold on the aft deck. Going down to deck seven aft was a little better, but still cold. We lasted outside, getting all the photos we needed, then went back inside to warm up by 6:30pm. We know we were close to Vancouver, our next port, but checking the TV, we found we only had about 85 nautical miles to get there. No wonder we were going at 6 to 8 knots, because our arrival time in Vancouver is 7am. If we have as nice as a day as today, we will be most lucky. Dinner for us was in the Pinnacle Grill, ordering the wedge salad, lamb chops, and a steak. Fries, rice, and carrots were the sides, as well as one order of the delicious bacon. Who knew you could mix smoked peppered bacon with maple syrup, lemon juice and a slice of pickle, and it would be so tasty? Dessert was small servings of sorbet and ice cream. Bill & Mary Ann
  4. Report # 133 Day at Sea May 31, 2019 Friday No forecast Our forecast ……very cloudy, also very cold, windy, and slightly rough seas. Not exactly the way we wanted to spend our final day at sea, but for most of this extended cruise, we have had fairly good weather. Our day was simple. Eat, pack, get a haircut, and eat some more. Since it was not a fitting day to be outside for any length of time, we needed to continue with the majority of the packing. It’s the little odds and ends that take time. The best part of the day was lunch in the dining room, where we shared our table with guests…..Ellen and Aart. We had so much catching up to do, it would take months, let alone days. The perfect meeting spot would have been at the aft pool deck, but with this weather, no one has gone out there that we know of. The wind would have been a factor today for sure. At least we could linger over a fine lunch in comfort, with the expert help from our waiters. That worked out perfectly time-wise, because we wanted to watch the movie “The Kid”, yesterday’s Wajang feature. It was a western based on the times of Billy the Kid, but had a different twist to the story. Glamorized, it was not. Made you happy you did not live in those times of the wild, wild west. It was also a good time to catch up on yesterday’s photos and report. When finally reading the When & Where paper, we noticed there was a sale on some of the 2019 world cruise logo wear. Whatever was left was 50% off. This morning, we asked Slam if these t-shirts and sweatshirts ever went on sale for the crew. The answer was yes, and they did get it at 75% off. Whatever does not sell at that time, is possibly donated. Funny thing was we were riding in an elevator with a lady that just purchased a world cruise sweatshirt. She said it was a good idea, since she needed something warmer, and no one will ever know that she did not actually sail on that cruise. Always a good reason to buy these items. Tonight’s suggested dress was gala attire, the final one of this 18 day trip. The late seating at 8pm had many fewer guests, but the open seating on deck four had even less. Despite that, the wait for the surf and turf entrée was long, as most folks ordered that. The rack of veal was equally as good. Usually we try to pass by the desserts, but we did have one flourless chocolate cake and one orange-glazed cheesecake. This will be a hard habit to break once we go home. And that is coming up soon. Around 9:30pm, we noticed some waiters coming into the dining room dressed in white vests. Turns out they were going to be passing around chocolate treats throughout deck five. This is something that also occurred on the grand voyage too. Sure looked like a big hit, because people were indulging in the lounges, bars, and the casino as we made our way to the forward elevators. We’re guessing most all of them had dined much earlier. And for about 500 guests, this will be about the end of their trip as they will be debarking in Vancouver. The good news is that we will be arriving early to Victoria tomorrow at 10am instead of 1pm. It’s such a beautiful city that we appreciate the extra time to explore and enjoy. The saying for today is a very good one to ponder: Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. - Mark Twain – We did, and intend to continue..... Bill & Mary Ann
  5. Report #132 San Francisco, California May 30, 2019 Thursday Partly cloudy & 63 degrees Part # 1 of 4 80 Pictures Founded in the 1700’s by the Spanish, San Francisco continued to flourish from the California Gold Rush in the 1800’s. In 1906, a devastating earthquake hit, causing massive damage. And the quakes have not stopped since then. As native-born San Franciscans, we have lived through many of those earthquakes over the years, yet we have continued to live in the Bay Area despite that. Today, we came into the city via the Amsterdam, going under the famous and most photographed bridge in the world – the Golden Gate Bridge. The bad news was that it was pretty foggy, so it was difficult to see a lot of it. Much was the same story with passing by Alcatraz Island, named for the pelicans that nest there. During the Civil War, the US Army used this island as a prison. It became a maximum security penitentiary in 1934, earning it the name of “The Rock”. Although there is no recorded history of anyone surviving an escape, this prison closed down in 1964, as it became too expensive to run. These days it is a really popular tourist destination. We passed by all of the places we would walk to later in the day, then docked at Pier 27, the newest Cruise Terminal. Once we were alongside, we had to attend a mandatory immigration inspection shoreside. We had been given notices with a group letter on it, and an estimated time we would be called. Even though we would be called sometime between 8:45 to 9am, we decided to go to breakfast as usual, then go off closer to 9:30am. This would be a zero count, and no one would be allowed back onboard until 11:30am. So we planned on continuing with our outing for the day, and come back later in the afternoon. Many other guests used this time to take advantage of the free wifi in the cruise terminal. We lined up to see the agent, and when he scanned our passports thoroughly, he looked up and said welcome home. Sure is a good feeling to be greeted this way, as these officials usually are not that friendly. We were free to go and make our way to Pier 35. There was an hour before we were to meet our youngest son for lunch at the Hard Rock Café, so we toured Pier 39. The best fun there is watching the massive sea lions perched on the floating platforms at the back end. They will sometimes fight with each other, sleep, or slither off the side to hunt fish. One thing for sure….they all stink. We checked out all of the shops, especially the salt water taffy candy store, and the Ghirardelli Store. The clothing shops really had some good deals on t-shirts and souvenirs. But we had to chuckle when we spotted the very same round purse we bought in Bali, selling for $50. We saw a similar one in Cabo for $97. Bought in Bali? Try $10. Can’t blame them for trying It was wonderful seeing our son, and spending some quality time together. Would have been great for our oldest son to join us, but he works quite a long distance from here, it would have been impossible. With traffic in and around the city, nothing is easy these days. Our time was short, but it was soon time to say goodbye. We were on our way to Fisherman’s Wharf, and Ghirardelli Square, taking in the scenery along the way. For a Thursday afternoon, it was really busy, especially the restaurants along the wharf, where they were serving lobster, crab, and shrimp sandwiches. Round loaves of French bread were made into bowls for clam chowder. All types of fish and shellfish were on the menus, which the city is famous for. Highly allergic for one of us, we had stuck with the burgers instead. Dungeness crabs were being cooked in big steaming cauldrons, while the lobsters waited their turn in the pot. The fishing fleet docks were next, where we were treated to a display of a very hungry sea lion ripping into the carcass of a halibut, tossed to him by the fisherman who just fileted it. The seagulls also fought for bits of the chewed up pile of bones, head and tail. Nothing is wasted. There were several boats available to take folks on ½ or full day fishing trips for salmon, squid, abalone, sand dabs, sole, bass, ling, rock cod, maceral, and halibut. Pier 45 houses up to 300 commercial fishing boats, which is the largest concentration of commercial fish processing and distributors of the West Coast. Also located here are the ships, USS Pampanito, a WWII restored submarine, and the SS Jeremiah O’Brien, a D-Day Liberty ship, both available to tour. The main street, Jefferson St, has shop after shop of souvenirs, and some really good buys. One happened to be a reversible water-resistant lined jacket for $25. Having already packed our arctic jackets (who knows where?), buying one of these was a great idea, even if it will have to be worn home on the plane. Coming out at Hyde Street Pier, we saw more ships from the past….namely, an 1888 square-rigged sailing ship, an 1895 lumber schooner, a 1907 steam tug Hercules, and an 1890 walking beam ferryboat, Eureka. Ranger-guided tours were available as this is the only floating National Park in America. So intriguing to visualize living in those centuries and actually sailing on one of these historic ships. Can’t imagine it was pleasant….. From here, we made our way through Victorian Park, but not before seeing the Powel-Hyde Street Cable Car Turnaround. And no visit is complete without taking a ride on one of these icons. Actually, these cable cars have no engines. They are pulled by a steel cable embedded in the street. And that cable is always moving at 9.5 miles exactly. There are three Cable Car lines, which we recall riding frequently when we were kids, and even adults. More of a form of transportation in those days, now they are filled to capacity mainly with tourists. And with the risk of sounding “dated”, we paid 10 cents or used a transfer from a bus to ride them. It’s quite a bit more now we heard. On the hillside, we went to Ghirardelli Square, full of specialty shops as well as the famous chocolate candy store. It was here that we found another bargain of the day…..pumpkin pie spice chocolates for 75% off. Yes, the date was soon to expire, but they will not last that long. Down at the water’s edge, was the South End Rowing and Dolphin Clubs, another icon of the city. There were swimmers in the sheltered Aquatic Park, as cold as that water must be, they were having a race. Also here is the Maritime Museum, where the admission was free. A great place to explore if you have more time. A kids, we also recalled going out on Municipal Pier and fishing. One of us remembered buying hot French fries on the way to fish, a good way to stay warm on this windy long pier. Time to head back, we took our time watching the busy shops and restaurants with all of the people enjoying the variety of food offered here. One such place was Boudin Bakery, where we watched an experienced baker creating loaves of French bread….specifically, sourdough bread. We did not know this, but the French baker, Isadore Boudin, created a tart and tasty loaf of bread that had that special crust with a chewy soft heart. His creation has stuck around ever since then. The secret? It was replacing the yeast with the bacteria from yogurt that made the sourdough rise. So all of the bakers save some of the “mother dough” to use the next day, and so the story goes. Just thinking about eating this bread, makes our mouths water. With one stop at a local CVS for some supplies, we got back to the ship by 3:30pm, an hour before the all onboard time. That left a little time to work on photos before we went out to watch the sailing out of the scenic harbor. If we had more time, we would have made our way to the Ferry Building, but that was another long walk, so maybe next time. Heading up to deck nine, we found many guests that were going to the Crow’s Nest instead of going outside. Even though the sun had peeked out briefly, it was still cold and the wind was picking up. By the time the lines were dropped, we weathered the sail out under the Golden Gate Bridge, glad we had bundled up, and one of us very happy to have bought the new SF jacket. The only disappointment was that Captain Eversen did not go around the backside of Alcatraz Island this time. On past cruises, it gave us a closer look at the prison that once stood there. Although it was still overcast, most of the bridge was visible as we sailed under it. This time we did not see any whales, like we did last year. The views of Ocean Beach, Seal Rock, the Cliffhouse, and the coastline of Marin county kept our interest until the ice cold winds and rough seas drove us back inside the ship. Now we are headed towards Canada for the final two ports of this journey. The next time we will see San Francisco will be when we land at the airport on Monday. Bill & Mary Ann
  6. Report # 131 Day at Sea May 29, 2019 Wednesday No forecast Part #1 Of 1 16 Pictures There could be a reason for the lack of the forecast in the When & Where program. That is probably because it has turned really cold, overcast, and windy. Not exactly what you would expect cruise weather should be. However, this is normal for the coast of California this time of year. We understand the Bay Area in the San Francisco region has been unseasonably cool, and rain has remained in their forecast. And it is almost June. On the upside, there have been no crowds on the promenade deck, so walking during the day has been quite easy. The seas have turned a bit rough, although, so keeping the walks short has worked much better for us. The biggest event today took place in the Mainstage at 10:15am, when we were invited to another Mariner Reception for this Panama Cruise. Entering on the port side, we were greeted by Captain Eversen, Norbert, the hotel director, and Bruce, the cruise director. All good guys we might add. Today, there was a grand total of five President’s Club members. A space had been reserved for us in the center front section of the lounge. We are not sure what level of days were needed to be invited to this assembly, but only the lower section of this show lounge was occupied. Considering that this cruise has over 1300 passengers onboard, this group was relatively small. Bruce began the awards program as always, by announcing the highest level of guests here today, which is President’s Club (1400 pure sea days). The two of us happened to be the first introduced, but when we got up to have our photo taken with the Captain and Norbert, someone else popped up, stepped in front of us, and took our spot. That would be Dolly, who may or may not have heard our names mentioned. Didn’t matter, she was determined to be first. Standing aside, we gladly let her have her glory, although her mistake drew a lot of chuckles from the crowd. Then about 20 medals from bronze to gold were handed out to the new awardees. While we watched and clapped for everyone, we sipped drinks of our choice, and tasted the special appetizers left for us. Too bad Barb was not here, because they had some generous servings of the good caviar. Then those who were already holders of the four levels of Mariners were asked to stand for applause. Short and sweet, we were then escorted to the dining room for the 11am brunch. A table in the center of the lower dining room had been reserved for six of us. After the toast by Captain Eversen, Norbert and Maria, the Guest Relations Manager, joined us as hosts. The menu was simple with starters of smoked trout, mackerel, and salmon, or amber beer cheddar soup. The soup won out, and in this case, was the best. The mains were beef pot roast, European plaice fish, or asparagus red rice cakes. The beef dish was just fine. The meal was served with white or red wines, and the finale dessert was a meringue berry tart. The conversation flowed with the easy going hotel director and equally as nice, Maria, who we just met today. This meal would be repeated again at 1pm for the remainder of the guests. By the time we returned to our room, our last delivery of our PC perks arrived as well. We will have to work up quite a thirst to finish off 17 Coke Zeros in four days. The pretty bouquet of flowers will not have time to wilt before we leave, so that’s good. They will help brighten up our room, which is beginning to look pretty naked now. Now that there are few sea days left before this trip ends in Seattle, shop sales were the biggest activity today. In fact, we learned that almost 500 passengers will be debarking in Vancouver. Of course, there will be a one night cruise for that many new people that will board that afternoon. It is called the “party cruise”, since most of these folks will be eating, drinking, dancing, and probably gambling throughout the evening. Our laundry was returned with a cute note attached: Your laundry was neatly folded today by Arjang. That is the first time ever we have had a message left for us. Take that back….one time someone wrote: Welcome back. We wrote back saying “Thanks”. This part of the hard-working crew, we seldom see out and about, but we sure do appreciate the work they have done for several months. Once again, dinner was in the Pinnacle Grill, where we discovered the trick of getting the food really hot, is to ask for it hot. Duh….On the grand voyage, we never had to ask for hot food, since it always came that way. Different managers, can mean a different type of service. Most times, the guests would not notice, unless, for instance, your food arrives cool to warm and not hot. Easily remedied. Tonight’s show was a combination of the mentalist, Alan Chamo, and the singer, Tony Pace. It’s a good thing the singers and dancers were not on stage tonight, because it became pretty rough, with the ship rocking and rolling enough to notice. When we feel the motion on the Dolphin deck, you better believe, it is much more pronounced the higher you go. Many people mentioned to us that they were turning in early in order to be on time for tomorrow’s mandatory immigration inspection in San Francisco. Tonight’s saying: Maybe the best moment of your life will be on your next big adventure. - Siya Zarrabi - This seems to be the idea for the daily reminder to book a future cruise while onboard. Bill & Mary Ann
  7. Report # 130 Day at Sea May 28, 2019 Tuesday No forecast If we did not know better, we would not expect that we are still sailing along the coast of Baja California, which is Mexico, of course. Yesterday’s temps were warm and sunny, but today, we went from mostly sunny, to partly cloudy, then entirely cloudy and very cool. No rain, but it sure looks like it could. Taking our morning walk, we still counted about 20 quite large flying fish as the ship cut through the oncoming waves. At least we think that means that the water temps are still on the warmer side. We highly doubt that will last much longer as we head towards California. Morning activities included another session with the Captain giving a virtual bridge and engine room tour of the Amsterdam. Actually the last one we saw was given by Captain Mercer. And at both lectures, the Captain was open to all questions that he was able to answer. It is a good substitute for the real tour we went on back in 2009 on the Rotterdam. What was missing were the steep stairways to the bottom decks, the tight spaces, the incredible heat, and the never-ending noise. And with the next port of San Francisco coming up, a talk was given about what to see and do there. While that was happening, a $39 premium wine tasting was taking place in the Pinnacle Grill. Later in the day, another $5 sip and savor group was testing the cornflake crusted shrimp with mayo and mango. This new activity must be a hit, because they are using the Explorer’s Lounge instead of the Crystal Terrace. We have to laugh with the eat more to weigh less, followed by yoga, cycling, pilates (these three for $12), then dine at the special Seafood Lunch in the dining room at noon. We did the lunch thing, but ordered a plain salad, a bowl of soup, and one shrimp and one veggie ravioli main. A slice of pumpkin pie was shared by the both of us. And we had quite a surprise to recognize two people that were tablemates on a South Pacific cruise a few years ago. A few of days ago, we spotted this couple for a nano second outside the elevator. The doors closed, and we both said at the same time, was that the nice couple we used to know? Highly unlikely, we figured it was not. Anyway, they did remember us, and also said they will be back on the Tales of the South Pacific in the fall. What a coincidence to do a repeat cruise like that. We promised to keep in touch until then. Another unusual activity was an Introduction to Self-Hypnosis with mentalist Alan Chamo. If it wasn’t for a really good TV movie at the same time, we might have peeked into the Wajang just to see what that was about. It promised to help with losing weight, eliminating fears, relaxing, and getting rid of bad habits. Afraid the movie won out……The Upside, a semi-comedy, but a really good story. Now that we are down to less than a week left, we packed away things we do not need. With two ports in Canada before we arrive to Seattle, we don’t want to be stuck doing a lot of last minute chores. And our time to sit in our favorite spot across from the Ocean Bar at 4:30pm is also limited to a few more days. One good reason for relaxing here is two-fold. We like to listen to the live band, but also talk to many of the officers and staff members we have come to know. But we get the biggest kick out of seeing the cutest housekeeping gal, who will stop what she is doing, and wave to us every time she spots us. Even if it is three decks down in the atrium. Dinner for us was in the Pinnacle Grill, where we both ordered the wedge salad, steak, fries, and a quarter baked potato. We forgot to mention to our waiter that we preferred our dinner very hot, so perhaps next time, we will ask for hot plates. Usually the main course has been served with plates hot enough for the servers to use pads, but not since this Panama cruise has begun. Dessert was the baked Alaska, which we really ordered for just the Cherry Garcia ice cream. For the final time on this trip, the clocks went back one hour tonight. So since January 22, we gained back every hour, one by one, sometimes ½ by ½ ,giving us back the day we lost when crossing the International Dateline. Finally, we are back to Pacific time, the correct one for us. And this evening’s goodnight message is one to think about – Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer. - Anonymous – Bill & Mary Ann
  8. Report #129 Cabo San Lucas, Mexico May 27, 2019 Monday Partly cloudy & 77 degrees Part #1 of 4 81 Pictures Cabo San Lucas is on the southernmost tip of Baja California. Once a haven for pirates, it became a fishing village. Back in the 1970’s, we visited Cabo to find a small community with a couple of hotels, unpaved streets, and a few stalls with vendors selling wood carvings, woven blankets, and some silver jewelry. We tendered to shore, getting off, not too easily, on a boat ramp landing. We have watched this area transform into a whole different scene over the following years. Today, we will tender into a very nice marina, full of yachts and fancy fishing boats. The only familiar sights are the rocky outcroppings and Los Arcos, the famous “hole’ in the rocks. Timeshares, condos, apartments, and huge resort hotels line the harbor, beaches, and hillsides. And of course, restaurants, bars, and night clubs abound for the party-hardy. Mostly notably – the Spring Breakers. There are a whopping 21 tours available through shore excursions, which is over-kill, since our time here is limited from 7am to 2pm. Anyway, 5 tours are sightseeing, while adventure and water activities take up 11 more. Finally five tours are for scuba diving, snuba, and dolphin experiences. Prices range from $40 to $220. The most expensive is for deep sea fishing…catch and release. Since we have been here a gazillion times, and taken most all of the tours, our mission was to take our usual hike, and eventully find a place for lunch, if there was time. The last tender was 1:30, and we know from experience not to wait until the last boat. Although we had priority tendering, we decided to wait until most of the tour groups went off to shore. So after breakfast, we went off the ship around 9am. The weather was better than perfect. Not too hot or humid, we would enjoy a cloudless day with gentle breezes. By the way, the Amsterdam was the only cruise ship in the bay today. Sometimes , there can be as many as three. For that reason, we would have been happy if we had a longer stay here, but it was not in the planning. One thing nice about being the only ship here was the fact nothing was really crowded. And the folks that were vacationing here in the myriad of accommodations were not out and about yet. And for that reason, few of the hawkers and vendors were present yet. And those that were there, were pretty low-key. Our first stop was at Cabo Wabo, but not for the food and beers, but for t-shirts. Then it was back to the main street and a walk through town to the major shopping mall at Puerto Paraiso. We were surprised to find that the entire front of the mall was being re-designed, and another hotel complex was going up on the property. It is staggering what already exists here, and the need for more vacation rentals is unbelievable. This is the area of high end shopping, so the restaurants are also on the nicer side, in our opinion. After walking through the mall and the upscale Luxury Avenue, we decided to see if the restaurant we liked the best was opened yet. Good thing we did, because the doors were opened at 11am, instead of noon, as advertised. Inside, there was a table full of young ladies, who we found out were from California. How did we know? One of the gals came over and asked if we had visited San Francisco, since one of us was wearing a Hard Rock SF t-shirt. Not only did we visit, there, we lived there as young kids. Some of the ladies were from Petaluma, in the north bay, so it was like meeting neighbors. They confirmed that the beer was great here, as they already had been enjoying it for a while already. So we ordered our pizza and blonde craft beer, as this was a brewery restaurant. Good as always, we stayed until noontime, and also enjoyed a shared carrot cake. Time to go, we walked slowly back to the ship, picking up a long sleeve Cabo t-shirt to wear while in cooler Canada in a few days. Most all of our cold weather clothes are packed already. Going back on a local tender boat was much better, since the driver slowed down so we could see the huge sea lions perched on the back platforms of fishing boats, begging for scraps of bait. They are so big, they practically tipped the smaller fishing boats backwards. Then the driver took us slowly along the outcroppings past Los Arcos, before he headed for the ship. Then it wasn’t so easy getting back onboard, since other boats were waiting their turn. We were third in line, but riding in this boat was nice, since we were on the top deck with the driver, and in the open air. The seas were calm, so no one complained. Guess we boarded by 1:30pm, but we were not the last. We always like this sail away, mostly for the scenery, but also for the sudden change in temperatures and winds. But we would have over an hour before we would leave, due to an emergency medical debark. It was more like 3pm when the ship made the exit past Los Arcos, and made that turn towards the north. As the Captain had warned, the cool wind picked up and blew a lot of people’s things without warning. Some of it went overboard. Within a few minutes, the back decked cleared. We followed shortly after getting enough photos of the rocks and the hole from both sides. That left the afternoon to work on photos before heading for a nice and relaxed dining room dinner. Two good choices tonight were the minestrone soup and the honey mustard breaded chicken breast. With a couple of small desserts, we were good to go. A different type of show was performed tonight by an award-winning mentalist by the name of Alan Chamo. However, we wanted to catch a movie, The Accountant, which was on TV. Glad we did, since it was a good one. Now we have two days at sea as we head towards San Francisco, a very favorite place for us. Bill & Mary Ann
  9. Report # 128 Day at Sea May 26, 2019 Sunday Partly cloudy & 80 degrees Another day at sea, and one more closer to Cabo San Lucas. Sometime later in the day, we began to start across the Sea of Cortez, leaving the mainland of Mexico, and heading towards the tip of Baja California. There was a definite change with the temperature and humidity as soon as we walked outside after breakfast. Although still warm, it was much more comfortable. We estimate we will have at least one more day of possible pool weather, but after leaving Cabo, all bets are off. We had a couple of jobs today. One was filling out the airline info for Seattle, and making sure we have plenty of time to gather our luggage to be shipped to the right area in the terminal. We intend to use the ship’s transfer to the airport, which will be charged to our shipboard account. Then we had to get serious with using the remainder of shipboard credit before most everything was sold out. Disappointed that we did not buy two of the HAL collapsible stainless steel straws in a plastic keyring case, we lucked out when upon asking, there were two left. And they were under the counter in the shop. We’re still working on the rest of the credit. And our gifted beverage cards will only work in a few areas, such as the Explorers Café, any bar or lounge, and the dining room. After lunch, we continued packing while watching another movie about a dog who finds her way home after two years. More for kids, we think, it was it nice change from the shoot ‘em up flicks. We did spend a little time at the aft pool, but it almost got chilly by 4pm. So we headed inside to listen to the Ocean Trio until 6pm. There are a few couples who have obviously gone to dance studios at home, and love showing off their moves. Not much different from those on the grand voyage. At 5pm, there was a sip and savor session, but it was held in the Explorers Lounge, where they can attract a much larger crowd. With roasted pumpkin panna cotta, crispy onions, and green yogurt, along with one glass of wine for $5, we are sure they drew in a lot of people. The Pinnacle Grill hosted the one and only cellar master dinner for this Panama cruise for $95 a person. It consisted of five delectable courses, paired with wines selected by the cellar master, who is not Jacques, since he was sent home on a medical leave before the grand voyage ended. Dinner was good tonight, although both dining rooms seemed to be half full. Slam figured that was due to tomorrow’s port time of 7am that had something to do with it. People ate early, and probably turned in earlier. And with a very high amount of tours offered in Cabo, most will be leaving early to take the first tenders to shore. Speaking of tenders, we received a note saying we will get priority tender service. We assume this also extends to those with 4 and 5 star status, and possibly the guests from deck seven. We ordered one starter, then had cordon bleu and meatballs and spaghetti for our entrees. One scoop of vanilla and strawberry yogurt finished the meal, along with 4 biscotti cookies and a taste of ginger. Too early for the show, we did not see Tony Pace, the Vegas Headliner….a singer we presume. Rolling with some strong swells, we will sleep good tonight. Bill & Mary Ann
  10. Report # 127 Day at Sea May 25, 2019 Saturday No weather report Today turned out to be a good one for two different types of activities. One was turtle-watching and the other was for packing. Turtle-watching was by far, much more fun. You had to be patient to see them, but one by one, they floated by the sides of the ship. Guess we counted around 30 of them within 15 minutes. Eventually we quit at 35. The only other sighting was one lone brown booby as it flew around the front of the ship. Hoping to see dolphins, we never did, since we seem to be too far off of the coastline. The weather was still warm and humid, although a bit less than yesterday. Sometime around mid-day, we passed the area of Acapulco, which used to be a stop on every Mexican Riviera cruise. Not so anymore. Even on this trip, we will not make a stop at Puerto Vallarta, another fun place, but dangerous these days. Too bad. Life onboard has continued much the same as on the grand voyage. Group games continue throughout the day, including team trivia. The only difference is that it has been held in the Crow’s Nest at 1pm. Bet that ruins the quiet for the dedicated readers up there. The same game happens again at 7pm, also interrupting what used to be Happy Hour for some on the grand world cruise. For those who need to know, Happy Hour is only at 4pm in the Ocean Bar and Crow’s Nest, although there is no music in the Crow’s Nest until 10pm. Only then, the drinks are buy one get one for $2 at that late hour. The pitch for sales is going big and strong in every shop onboard. The biggest pitch is for rare colored gemstones, watches, and all jewelry. Ever popular is the movie in the Wajang, but mostly for the bags of popcorn. Today’s movie was “A Dog’s Way Home”, which we will watch tomorrow. Lunch followed our continued job of packing. It still amazes us how much we brought that has been stashed away here there and everywhere. We think we are more than halfway done…perhaps. We missed going to the dining room for lunch, but made a trip to the Dive In Grill for food to go. Our burger and hot dog were completely wrapped, while the whole tray was covered with a napkin. It never fails, because riding down in the elevator, someone always tries to figure out what smells so good. Watching a Keanu Reeves movie while eating lunch was relaxing, especially now that the custom sandwich maker is no longer an option in the Lido. We had to laugh when we noticed a box on the table across from the front desk. It is a comment box for the hotel director, Norbert. What a great idea. He even has slips of paper to leave messages for him. We may put a few suggestions in that box before the trip is over. Speaking of the front desk, we had to make a visit there today due to some questionable charges on our shipboard account. It appeared that our complimentary dinners in the Pinnacle Grill have come through with ½ off charges. And using a gift card for buying sodas, it was double billed to our account. Always a good idea to check the account online, because if we had not caught this, we would have been out over $75. Anyway, they promised to fix it all, and apply the credit by tomorrow. This evening was “gala”, or was it? Judging by the most casually-dressed people we noticed sitting on deck four, it could have been a regular night. Not that there is anything wrong with that, since most anything goes these days. At the very least, the fellows had on collared shirts, which is all that is asked of the gala dress code. Jackets and ties are optional. Tuxes and sparkling gowns are the exception. Times are a changing, as the saying goes. We had been asked if we would like a guest host to join us for dinner tonight. It would have been the hotel director, however, we still are nursing the ever-nagging colds, and felt to best to decline. As it was, we ordered only a few courses, and were done shortly after 9pm. Shared desserts of a soufflé, chocolate cheesecake, and special delivery chocolate biscotti cookies were the best. The entertainer this evening was a pianist and composer, Jason Lyle Black, with a show of music blended with comedy. However, waiting until 10pm was not in the cards tonight. Another goodnight quote: “I haven’t been everywhere, but it is on my list”. – Susan Sontag – Bill & Mary Ann
  11. Report #126 Huatulco, Mexico May 24, 2019 Friday Cloudy & 88 degrees Sail-In Part # 1 of 3 80 Pictures Over-sleeping a bit later than usual, we got to breakfast well after 8am. Just by coincidence, Ellen and Aart arrived at the same time, so we dined together. It was sure nice to be able to visit with them for more than a few minutes at a time. We’ve been careful not to share our colds with anyone, and hope we are well past the contagious stage. Well before we arrived to the port of Huatulco, Mexico, we made an attempt to access deck six forward to watch for wildlife. That was somewhere in the neighborhood of 11:30am. This coastline has an enormous number of large fish such as blue marlin, swordfish, yellow fin tuna, dorado, and mahi-mahi. And of course, there are numerous dolphins if you are in the right place, at the right time. Flying fish are a given here too. When we went to go outside the double doors, there was a very small sign posted saying deck painting. Never having seen this before, we opened the door to see narrow strips of masking tape covering the “fake” tar lines between the “fake” teak decking. Guess they were ready to repair the flooring, but why today? This is a popular spot for scenic sailing, which today was one of them. So we headed down to the lower promenade deck, just in time to see pods of dolphins playing in the ship’s waves. On top of that, we spotted many sea turtles, probably green turtles, as they floated past the ship. They were about the size of a large 18 inch pizza. (Pizza must be on our minds.) We figured that if we had been up front, we may have missed them. That’s when we had a really big surprise…..we spotted the blow of a whale, actually seeing it skim the surface as they do when feeding. It blew at least four more times, before it dove, never to be seen again. Good thing the camera caught it, or else we might have thought we were dreaming. The closer we got to shore (about an hour away), we began seeing many small fishing boats. Even from a distance, we could tell that one of them had a big game fish on a line, as we could see the splash as it jumped and fought. Some boats were chasing dolphins, knowing that other game fish could be close by. In time, we saw the pilot boat arrive, and also a larger Mexican coast guard boat, which appeared to be escorting us to the port. Huatulco was once a thriving port for the Spanish, however, today, it is a thriving resort and tourist destination. It has a much different feel about it than Acapulco, Mazatlan, or Puerto Vallarta in that it has remained more of an authentic Mexican town without the frills. There are nine bays for fun in the sun, as well as one perfect beach, which is a short walk away from the ship. Cancun…it is not, but it appeals to folks that prefer scenic areas for sailing and swimming over the hardy-party group. Shore excursions were many here – 15 of them in fact. The longest ones were 5 hours of sight-seeing, history, and culture. Five excursions offered adventure and water activities such as snorkeling from a beach or boat, a river float trip, or sailing on a catamaran or sailboat. How about a chance to go deep sea fishing for the big ones? It was a catch and release trip priced at $190, with the option of tagging along for only $75. We could not believe the number of small boats that were offering this service in the boat harbor. As for the boat rides, we have done several types, and all of them were fun. Short and sweet. There was one lunch tour which included chocolate, mole, cheese, and even grasshoppers. We’ll pass on that one. But freshly made tortillas, tomales, or a cactus salad would do just fine. We took a tour years ago, and actually liked the cactus salad. Bird watching could be fun if you happen to be here during the right time of year. This is another excursion we took, but saw few of the promised sightings of 227 species. We did have a very long and hot walk in some of the driest of terrain we had ever seen. As we got closer to shore, we began to see some birds like the high-flying frigates. There were a few ominous vultures flying with them. These were joined by some gulls, terns, boobys, and some pelicans resting on the rocks. Pulling into the pier, we were docked across from a smaller vessel, which turned out to be a US Coast Guard boat. By 2pm, the ship was cleared by the officials, and the “sticky” tour folks filed off for the 15 different tours. One thing for sure, it was already a most hot and humid day, just like we remembered it to be. Going off to shore, we planned on finding a good place for beers and some Mexican food, which we love. The hidden marina is not massive here, but there were more fishing boats than water. And it was another day of a fishing tournament, just like last time we were here. The main square in the center of town was full of locals coming in with their catch. Some of the fish were still in the water (quite dead), while some were down on the ground being measured. One large marlin was hanging from a scale marked with 131 kilos, although it looked heavier than that. A band stand nearby had a video being shown with some of the loudest music we have heard. It raised the dust right off of the road. This would continue into the evening, making this Friday night a very festive one. We strolled in and out of the souvenir market, but found nothing we needed. It was so warm out, there were few people buying anything yet. Maybe when the tours got back, they would have many customers. We were more amused with the black grackles that were fighting over some fresh water used to wet the lawn. Making our way towards the beach, we passed by many restaurants offering tables with drink specials. Each outdoor restaurant had fellows enticing folks to their place with the best seafood in town. Actually, we always go for the chicken and beef dishes. So we ended up where we always go… a waterside restaurant called Ve El Mar. It really has the best location, with breezes from the beach. Good food too. Of course, we ordered two local beers, Victoria, and then added a combo quesadilla plate with grilled chicken and beef. Expecting an appetizer-size portion, we were shocked when it came with a huge serving for two. We had seen one of the chefs grilling meat, onions, and chicken, but had no idea it was for us. Sure was good with plenty of refried beans, guacamole, and extra cheese. It also came with a side of salsa and over-sized tortilla chips and crackers. Filled to the brim, we headed back to the ship without being tempted to purchase any of the things being hawked tableside by drifting vendors. It was still blistering hot by the time we got back at 5pm. Cooling off in our room while working on photos was perfect. We sort of forgot we had reservations at the Pinnacle Grill tonight. Good thing it was at 8pm, and not earlier. Not really famished, we both ordered the wedge salad, without gorgonzola, and would have been happy with just that. And the hot cheesy rolls too. But we kept the meal simple by having just lamb chops and a chicken entrée without sides. OK, one side, a shared order of French fries. Dessert was one scoop of vanilla and mango sorbet. Walking the deck outside, we found it was still as hot as ever, and the music in town was going full blast. Looking out over the ocean, we could see lightning once again. Must be a normal occurrence in this part of the world. By the time we remembered there was a folkloric dance, a local show, it was about over, as it began at 9:30pm. We did see a performance last year, and we assume this was the same act. Always fun. The ship left before 11pm. But the better news was that we gained back the hour we lost last night. Now we will have one more hour to go back to be on Pacific Daylight Savings time. Since we only have a few days left, we will add one saying a night from the goodnight card. “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page” -St. Agustine- Bill & Mary Ann PS Mike and Nancy – good to hear from you…look forward to seeing you both next year. Mrs. Marples - No, we do not know which ships will use the new locks at Panama.
  12. Report # 125 Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala May 23, 2019 Thursday Rain & 90 degrees Part # 1 of 3 80 Pictures Ever heard of the “Land of the Eternal Spring”? Well, that is Guatemala, with temperatures averaging in the mid 70’s, it seldom gets cooler than that. Although the rainy season is now…May through October, the dry season is November through April. The capital of the country is Guatemala City and the population is over 15 million primarily Spanish-speaking people. The country consists of two mountain ranges, rivers, lakes, forests, and tropical jungles. It is the heart of the Mayan world, and has 33 volcanoes, 3 of which are still active. Two things we found interesting are that the beaches on the Caribbean side of Guatemala have white sand, while those on the Pacific side are black, due to millions of years of volcanic activity. And second, the most prolific breeding grounds for sailfish are in these waters, considered the best in the world. There are two main ports for the country….one is on the Caribbean side, and the other is here, in Puerto Quetzal. Strictly a jumping off point for excursions to Antigua, Puerto Quetzal is a commercial port with a small marina, a few acres of enclosed shopping, and a couple of bars and one restaurant. There is also a working conveyer system to offload ships carrying large amounts of carbon, which is coal. There are mountains of the stuff near the marina. Ten shore excursions left from here, most headed for the colonial capital of Antigua, located 4500 feet above sea level. It is a 90 minute bus ride each way. There can be a big difference in climate as it is much cooler and it might rain more there. We have gone on a tour that included Antigua, but our coach arrived late, and most of the city was shut down for the day. We did enjoy a tour of a coffee plantation and the traditional lunch served there. Once again, these tours came with a caution, advising those with wheelchairs that the streets are cobbled with no ramps. And no large buses are allowed in the city, so a transfer to smaller coaches is necessary. One 9 hour tour was a flight to Tikal with Mayan ruins, also a UNESCO Word Heritage Site. The cost was $650, and we do know a couple that took this tour a few years ago. They were delayed over an hour, but the Captain waited for their return, because it was an HAL excursion. The Amsterdam arrived by 7am to a very, very hot and humid day. Rain was in the forecast, but we never saw any. One thing that was missing in the When & Where paper was the information of a shuttle, since we were docked in the commercial port area. This has been the case for the last two times we have stopped here. The reason we understand, is due to some damage caused to the floating pier near the marina. As it would be impossible to walk anywhere in this busy dock area, without a shuttle, we would be stuck. So after breakfast, we went outside to see what was happening, and discovered there were at least four free buses to take guests to the passenger dock with the palapa and fenced shopping area. We waited until 11am, so we would not be too early for lunch this time. We were surprised how many folks did not choose to go to Antigua today, because the buses filled one after the other. As the crow flies, we were located about ½ mile from the old pier. However, the bus had to go all the way around the to get to the other side. Big rigs were lined up to access this loading area, so it took longer for us to go through the security gate. The huge palapa was still there, filled with a double marimba band, and duel counters…one for tourist info, and the other for booking day trips to Antigua. The souvenir stands were still set up, with the exception of a few. Only one beer place was closed, but the restaurant, Pez Vela, was opened for business. Strolling past the vendors is always a challenge, as they don’t take “no thanks, we are just looking” for a good answer. We did purchase a few items like a water bottle holder that is the most practical. Beaded jewelry, and a trio of giraffes found a home with us. We asked one of the local ladies if any more cruise ships would be stopping here, and she said they would come until July. We have always been told that we were at the end of the season, and their prices would never be cheaper. There were a few free gifts handed to us by the locals. A woven bracelet, and two tiny pouches of worry dolls were ours to keep. According to Guatemalan legend, whenever you have a problem, take a worry doll, tell her your worries, and put it underneath the pillow. By the next morning, your worries will be gone. Life smiles at you again. Nice thought. Time for lunch at Pez Vela. It’s right next to the shopping area, and the food and beer are the best. Not a fancy place, they serve an excellent platter of cheese nachos with grilled steak and chicken. The local brew is Gallo, and when it is ice cold, it sure tastes good. After lunch, we walked around the boat harbor watching the iguanas sunning themselves on the rocks. These were the smaller ones today, but we have seen the larger variety. In fact, the waiters at the restaurant sometimes feed them bread for the tourists to watch. It was so hot, we decided to make our way back to the ship, getting there around 2pm. All onboard was 4:30pm, and we went to the Seaview Pool to watch the ship leave the harbor after 5pm. By now, the skies were completely cloudy and the breeze had picked up. Sure looked and felt like rain, but that never happened. Once we were clear of the harbor, we hit some deep swells, which continued through the night. That is when something unexpected occurred – a bee sting, happening so fast, it was like hit and run. The stinger remained in Bill’s hand, causing instant pain, and eventually swelling. Despite taking an antihistamine, and treating the sting with ice, the swelling increased slightly. For some unknown reason, his sensitivity to these stings seem to have increased over the recent years, although given time, the side effects disappear. We hoped for the same this time. After dinner, we walked outside to see quite a lightning display in every direction we looked. This kept up all night. By the way, the clocks went forward one hour, since Mexico is not on the same time zone as Central America. Our next port is Huatulco, but we don’t arrive until 2pm. Bill & Mary Ann
  13. Report #124 Corinto, Nicaragua May 22, 2019 Wednesday Rain & 87 degrees Part 1 of 3 80 Pictures Located in the province of Chinandega, Corinto is a sleepy village, a bedroom community for the largest port of Nicaragua. It is the least “touristy” town we have visited, with the exception of some souvenir stands set up in the center of town. These vendors set up tables street-side with the flow of cruise ships when they dock here. There were 13 shore excursions here, with most taking guests to outlying areas, mostly to see colonial Leon, an ancient city in Nicaragua, and also the old capital. It takes over 80 minutes to drive there, and as much or more to drive back to Corinto. According to the description in the tour book, it is not recommended for folks with mobility problems, a the narrow streets are full of cobblestones and uneven surfaces. However, if you wish to visit museums, a cathedral, a botanic garden, or see a folkloric show, you will find it all here. There’s even a shore excursion where you can see bubbling mud pots. Closer to Corinto, is El Viejo and Chinandega, small towns with more modern shopping. Or you can visit a rum distillery, or go to banana plantation, or see a horse show. We have done these tours on past visits, mostly due to the fact they were only 4 hours long. The Amsterdam arrived to the port right on time at 8am. It was going to be a very hot and humid day, since the temperature at 8am was already 80 degrees and rising. Before we went to breakfast, we went to check out the dock, and glad we did. There was a welcome group the likes we never saw on the entire world cruise. Many locals turned out to put on a show with colorfully-costumed dancing young ladies and boys, drummers, older dancing teens, a marimba band, and some trumpeters. This entire group played from 8am to 9:30am nonstop. No need to pay for a folkloric performance on a tour, since the best was here. The last time we stopped here was in 2017, and we did notice some changes. There used to be a conveyer system for loading ships with grain, we suspect. It has since been removed. Also there were double the storage buildings across from the ship. These were removed, making more room for containers. There was a large tent set up with many tables of souvenirs, convenient for the people that would have problems walking out of the gate to town. We made sure that all of the buses were gone, and most of the band groups were taking a break before we left the ship. The main reason for that was we did not want to get caught up with some guests being pulled into the groups that were dancing. The gangway was currently set up on A deck, but during the course of the day, the tides caused the gangway to change two more times. There is a mode of transportation that we have only seen in this town…they are bikes that can seat up to four passengers under a covered roof. Even before we got to the gate, we were propositioned over and over to take a one hour ride for $5 each. That’s probably enough time to ride down every street twice, because it is that compact. When a ship comes to town, the locals close some of the streets for car traffic, making it easier to drive many bikes up and down the main roads. It was not uncommon to see local ladies with little kids using these bikes to be driven from place to place, then back home. Kind of like Ubers. As for us, we walked slowly, checking out the craft tables along the way. Across from the main square, produce vendors were selling their fruit and veggies. Our waiter, Slam, had mentioned this morning that one of his friends had gotten really sick eating fresh fruit here last December. So he did not recommend eating anything here. We would keep this in mind today. Should we, or shouldn’t we? Well, we’ll see….. Actually, it was surprising to see so many vendors set up in town, since we are at the end of the season for ships to stop here. Rainy season is soon to start, and believe us, today would have been a good one to rain. It may have cooled things off, as it was what we call oppressive heat. You could not walk a block without being soaked through and through. Making it from one end of town to the other, we headed towards the only restaurant that was recommended on the port guide map. It was called Costa Azul, and was located near the water down an alleyway. The only problem was we had left the ship too early, and it was not even noontime yet. Even too early for beer, so we just took some photos, and continued back to town to do some shopping. On past trips, we have purchased a few nice wooden products such as trivets, salad bowls, and even a tiered earring holder. So today, we purchased a wooden sunflower to match a small one we have at home. Also bought a small patchwork leather purse, suitable to use for dinner on the ship. We were back to the ship by noontime. And liking the air conditioning too. This would be the perfect day to finally enjoy a burger and a hotdog from the Dive In grill. Actually the first ones of the whole cruise. And besides, the dining room was closed for lunch today. Getting to the grill before some of tours got back was the best idea. Placing the order, the food was wrapped to go within 10 minutes. Then we dined in our room, where it was nice and cool. All aboard was 4:30pm, and even though it was not advertised as a sail away, we went to the Seaview Pool to watch the lines dropped after 5pm. We were headed out of the harbor, and on our way towards Guatemala. Watching the skyline, we were treated to a lightning storm for an hour, then we had a sunset, which turned the upper and opposite clouds a crimson color, even though the actual sunset was blocked by solid clouds. Ended up staying out back for two hours, while the majority of people headed inside to eat dinner. Speaking of dinner, we had reservations once again in the Pinnacle Grill. With some specialty dinners coming up, we wanted to go there while it was a regular menu. So it had to be back-to-back. This gave us a chance to try a few new items like the wedge salad (no gorgonzola). Really liked it. The new rolls are so good, it is difficult to limit one per person. They told us the cheese in the center is seasoned mozzarella, which is melted into the rolls in the oven. One of us tried the new short rib entrée, which was good, but still cannot compare to the filet or the lamb chops. Dessert was one scoop of strawberry ice cream and one crème brulee. We had not finished the chocolate candies, so our waiter kindly wrapped them up for us to take home. Just in case we get hungry later. Finished by 9:30pm, we were too early to see the show The Runaround Kids, who have been on the ship for a month now. Bet we already saw this act on the world cruise. We will be in Puerto Quetzal tomorrow around 7am. Bill & Mary Ann
  14. We would like to extend our thanks to everyone who has been reading our story, and for all of the replies. We do try to keep up with questions, but sometimes it is difficult to include all of them. Linda, the alternate selections on the dinner menu in the dining room have all come back, one by one. So far, we have learned to ask for anything that was always there, and the waiters will find it. The sunflowers of our window garden began to go to seed, so they had to be removed. We are trying to do the clean-up a little at a time, so we don't have a big mess for our room stewards at the end. Bill & Mary Ann
  15. Report # 123 Day at Sea May 21, 2019 Tuesday Weather? Not listed Whether or not the weather was listed, it would be whatever was coming. And that was a warm, partly cloudy morning with a nice breeze. Blue skies were showing, finally giving the water a pale blue color that almost matched the sky. Now, it sure would have been nice if it had lasted. Good thing we had taken a long walk after breakfast this morning, because later in the day, we began to see scattered showers on the horizon. Eventually these showers became heavy, dousing the decks pretty good. And that included the freshly-painted varnish on the promenade railings. EXC guide Ian gave his talk on the upcoming ports of Corinto, Puerto Quetzal, and Huatulco. As we have stopped in each of these ports many times, we could probably give the talk about them. As there are numerous tours in each port, this is a good time to sell them to the crowd. With the exception of Huatulco, there is little to see and do in Corinto and Puerto Quetzal, although we do tend to amuse ourselves despite that. We have never heard of the gemstone called zultanite until last night, when we had a flyer advertising the sale of them today. In fact, everyone had a ticket for a special drawing at 1pm in the Ocean Bar. Zultanite was discovered in southwestern Turkey mountains, and the only mine in the world is located 4000 feet above sea level. The stones are extremely rare, and are only available on 12 cruise ships worldwide. Interesting. It’s surprising that this collection did not show up on the grand voyage. We had a second invitation to wines of the world tasting ($25pp) at 2pm in the lower dining room. In fact, we have attended several of these tastings over the years, but so far, we still have not developed a taste for it. Aquaman was the action/adventure movie shown in the Wajang today. So far, every movie has been a repeat of what was shown on the world cruise. We have missed seeing half of them, so some will be new to us. Lunch for us was in the dining room, and really light with Grandma’s chicken noodle soup and half a sandwich. Since we are still fighting the cold bug, we did not do much today, except walk and get as much fresh air as we could. Watching an afternoon movie while working on the computer was a good choice, since the rain was falling down in buckets outside off and on until dark. The Happy Hour at 4pm has worked a miracle in the Ocean Bar. By 4:30pm, every seat inside and outside the bar were taken. That included our favorite armchairs. The only thumbs down would have been the camera/curtain set-up for photos again. Once we saw that, we would have not stayed anyway. For some reason unknown to us, one of the new photographers sets one or two of the lights to auto-flash, causing the folks to temporarily go “blind” while sitting around the atrium. Dinner for us was in the Pinnacle Grill again, with hopes of a normal meal. This time was much better, more like when the regular staff was here. Ordering the Caesar salad with the dining room dressing did the trick, as we did not care for the new dressing. The bread basket was different tonight. We did not have the thin cracker lavage, small rolls, or the one piece of pumpernickel bread. Instead, there were two sourdough rolls with a garlic-flavored grilled cheese in the center. Really good. One of us ordered the tomato/cheese appetizer, and it was different from the slices normally served. One shared order of the clothesline bacon with pickle slices and lemon was sinfully tasty. The grilled lamb chops were as good as ever, and the 7 ounce steak was cooked perfectly. Thought we did not have room for dessert, but we each had a sliver of Key lime pie. Good thing we kept lunch light, and that was at noontime. The evening show was a combo of John Wing, a comedian, and Shirley Dominguez at the harp. There were many more passengers at this second show compared to the late show time on the grand cruise. These folks want to squeeze in everything they can before the cruises ends. Tomorrow we will be stopping at Corinto, Nicaragua. Captain Eversen mentioned showers and thunder and lightning. Should be interesting….. Bill & Mary Ann
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