Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mexico Cruise Day 1 - Boarding and Departure

None of us slept very well that night - a combination of excitement about the cruise, Josh and Tim sharing a tiny double bed and bopping each other in their sleep, and the banging around from the floor above us. At 6:30 I woke up again just in time to look outside and see our ship heading in to dock. The Oosterdam is a big ship (for Holland America) holding just over 1900 passengers. It was interesting to see the contrast between the Carnival Elation which must have had only about 30 cabins with verandahs on one deck, whereas the Oosterdam had several hundred verandah cabins on 5 decks! Since the Oosterdam always docks on the starboard side, it came into the dock on the opposite side of the cruise terminal from where the Elation had been, so it was even closer to the hotel room. When the boyz finally woke up and looked out the window, there it was!

We spent some time on our balcony watching the disembarkation process and cleaning crew through the binoculars until everyone was up and ready for breakfast. We ate again at the pub, which everyone enjoyed, and then Rachel and I walked across the street to see the ship up close. It was a VERY short walk (just across the street and down about half a block) so we knew that there'd be no trouble getting all the luggage to the pier. We returned to the room and everyone just relaxed until checkout time at noon. We then lugged all 6 bags (3 big suitcases and 3 garment bags) from the room, across the street and down to the cruise terminal. As good as Holland America is at most things, their San Diego shore services are pretty bad. There were no obvious signs or helpful people to tell us where to drop off our bags. I finally left the bags with the rest of the family and wandered around until I found the drop area. Once that was taken care of, all went pretty smoothly. We entered the terminal, filled out a short medical questionnaire, checked in, and passed through security. After that, we climbed a short set of stairs and were on board!

We knew our rooms wouldn't be ready yet, so we figured that we'd just wander the ship a little and have lunch on the Lido deck. Instead, we were directed aft to the main dining room for a very nice sit-down lunch. Tim and Josh were shocked that someone would take their napkins and put them in their laps! Tim looked at me and said "I don't think I fit in here." I reminded him that he knew how to act in a fancy restaurant, and that this was no different. After a very nice lunch, we went to see if our rooms were ready, and they were! We had a very nice verandah cabin and the boyz had an inside cabin right across the hall.Our luggage hadn't arrived yet, so we set off to explore the ship.

The Oosterdam has 11 decks that are accessible to the public - 6 stateroom decks and 5 public space decks. The main dining room is on 2 levels in the rear (aft) of the ship, and there are numerous bars along with a library, several restaurants, a movie theater, 2 pools, and a large 3-level auditorium. There's also ample outdoor deck space for watching for whales or getting a tan. After looking around the ship for a while, we ended up on the Lido deck and found my parents finishing their lunch at the Lido restaurant. They had gotten on the ship a little after we had, but too late, apparently, for lunch in the main dining room. Just outside the Lido restaurant, there was a sign up for wine tasting. Hmm, should we do this? Yes! We signed up for both wine tastings over the next couple of days.

At 4:30 the ship held the mandatory lifeboat drill. On all of our previous cruises, the passengers had to put on their life vests and report to their lifeboat stations. Sadly, these days you just need to report to the lifeboat stations without life jackets. Too bad - it was always fun to see all those people in orange vests. After the lifeboat drill, Rachel and I found a good vantage point on deck to watch us pull away from the pier and head out of the bay. It was getting dark by this time, and we needed to get changed for dinner, so we didn't stay on deck all the way out of the bay.

There are many dining options on the cruise, but we had chosen a fixed-time dinner seating at a large table with the entire family. We arrived on time (although the boyz had arrived earlier and claimed that we were late!), and met our dining room steward. He was an ebullient man from Indonesia named Yaya. He then told us that his friend (code for dining room assistant) was called Nono. OK, I get it - Yaya and Nono. We didn't quite believe him, and in fact his assistant was named Rono, but Yaya insisted on calling him Nono. The rest of the family made their way down to the dining room and we had a very nice dinner. I didn't take detailed notes on the food at the time, so I don't remember exactly what we ate, but all was pretty good, but not spectacular. Our wine steward, Mydel, took good care of us, and we ordered a bottle of 2006 Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon. Interestingly, the wine selection was not nearly as high end as I suspected, with prices running from around $20 up to $80. All decent wines, but nothing close to high end. The boyz got to have Coke with their dinner.

After dinner, the boyz holed up in their room (where they stayed during most of the cruise) and we went off to check out the musical groups. We walked through the piano bar, but didn't really get sucked in by the piano player/singer, so we kept going and ended up in the Queen's Lounge where Jan and the Halcats were playing. This was a big group - Jan (the singer) plus 2 keyboard players, bass, guitar, drums, percussion, and a sax player (Andrew!!). They were playing pop/rock from our generation, so we settled in to listen. They were good, and Andrew blew a hot horn. However, after a few songs it was break time, so we got up to look for more. We ended up in the Explorer's Lounge (not to be confused with the Exploration Café) and listened to a very nice string quartet play some popular classical pieces. It was getting close to 10:00 and they were showing Julie and Julia in the ship's theater, so we thought we'd go. Sadly, the theater only holds about 30 people and it was full. Hmpt! One of the disadvantages of being on a larger ship - too many people. Turns out we were pretty tired anyway, so off to bed.

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