Friday, October 28, 2011

Hawaii Cruise - Day 1

Well, the day finally arrived. He had flown into San Diego on Friday, and spent the night at the Holiday Inn San Diego on The Bay. This hotel is quite literally directly across the street from the cruise ship terminal. At about 6:30 on Saturday morning, we looked out of our balcony window and saw the Oosterdam heading directly for us. It finally docked directly out of our window, and we could hear all of the announcements from the ships speakers.

We ended up in the south tower (the closest to the ship) on the 7th floor in a balcony room with the bay view. This is the way to go. Although they offered a shuttle service to the terminal, apparently one had to bid on a time, and then be in the lobby to catch the shuttle at your appointed time. Since the ship terminal was probably closer to the south tower than was the lobby, the shuttle didn't make any sense at all.

Around 11:00, Rachel and I schlepped our bags across the street and checked them in - amazingly painless. We then went back to the hotel for Mama and Aunt Merna. We checked their bags while they went to get a wheel chair for Merna. At this point, the check in process went very smoothly for us, although it turns out that they didn't have enough wheel chairs available, and Mama and Aunt Merna had to sit around waiting for about an hour. After we got checked in at the terminal, there was about a 10-15 minute wait until they called our boarding group to get on the ship. Fortunately, one of the wine stewards was there and we signed up for all 3 wine tasting sessions on the cruise. Time well spent!

When they finally called our number, it seemed like 2/3 of those in the waiting room got up to board. We got on at about 11:50, and went straight to the front office. There we got signed up for one of the hands-on cooking classes. We then went to the dining room representatives in the Explorer's Lounge and put in a request for the early dinner seating. It had been full when we booked the cruise, and we ended up with "open seating" which means that one either needs to make reservations each night, or take your chance and wait for a table. We then headed up to the spa where Rachel got signed up for Body Sculpting Boot Camp. I hope she doesn't over do it with that, and Zumba and water aerobics, and ...

Just as we were finished at the spa, Mama called from the Lido Restaurant saying that there were aboard. Since we were there too, we quickly found them and headed down to the Mariner's lunch in the dinning room. The food was surprisingly good. Last cruise we had been slightly disappointed at first because we had our expectations set too high. This time we seem to have set our expectations perfectly, and were not disappointed.

After lunch we went to our cabin and watched the longshoremen loading food, luggage, and carpet rolls. Apparently Holland America does listen to its customers: Rachel left feedback on the last cruise that the carpets were somewhat worn, and in fact we'd found a note in our cabin today saying that on our last cruise we had pointed out areas for improvements, and that they hoped they would do better this time. Wow, talk about service! Apparently the forklift drivers where having some sort of competition, because we saw a dropped, split watermelon that they were passing around to eat. Then, they balanced 3 watermelons on top of boxes on a palate, and the guy lifted the whole thing up, drove to the ship, and inserted the palate into the ship without the watermelons rolling off. Very impressive!

Our luggage arrived shortly after we got into the cabin, so we had a very relaxed unpacking (unlike last cruise where the luggage arrived just before dinner time!). We then explored the ship, taking the stairs everywhere. I'm either going to be in great shape or a complete wreck before the end of the cruise.

At 4:15 we did the lifeboat drill, although it's much less exciting now that they don't let you wear your life vests anymore. Our lifeboat is on the opposite side of the ship, and it appeared that it would be hard to get to. However, there is a crew-only door through the galley that we're supposed to use during an emergency, so it looks like we'll get to our lifeboat after all.

Rachel and I then went topside to watch us cast off and depart. Of course the Dutch are known for their punctuality, but not this time. There seemed to be some delay, and they were finally casting off the ropes by the time we had to head down for dinner. We had made reservations for 5:30 after lunch, and were quickly seated (I hate waiting!). Mama and Aunt Merna joined us shortly. The food was again quite good. I had a fishcake and shrimp appetizer which had a nice kick to it, and Rachel had a scallop ceviche that was also good, but with a bit too much creamy sauce. I then had a "tres frijoles" bean soup and Rachel had a pear gaspacho - both very nice. Mama and Aunt Merna both had salads. For the main course, Mama and I had a tasty veal chop over polenta with sautéed chard, Rachel had a delightful fish filet (can't remember what it was), and Aunt Merna had a good looking eggplant parmesan. We all had desert, including a wonderful cheese plate. For the wine, we had a 2010 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir (whole cluster). It was light and slightly spritzy - perfect for our food.

After dinner we played a round of culinary trivia. On our last cruise, Rachel was the grand champ, but sadly this time, our team could do no better than 2nd place. Licking our wounds, we next headed up to the Crow's Nest to listen to Chris, the guitar player. He was very good and played a variety of styles including Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor, Mark Knopfler, and others. He quit at 9:00, and we headed down to the Queen's Lounge to hear Vivienne and the Halcats. They were good, but not excellent, playing dance tunes from the 70s on up. After about 10 minutes, it was time to go to the Vista Lounge for the welcome-aboard show - a sampler of the singers and dancers, and a chance to meet the cruise director and his staff. J Neal also came out and did about 10 minutes of his magic routine. He was excellent, and we'll be watching for his show later in the cruise. He's also going to give a lecture on magic too. Double excellent! Finally, we went back to hear a bit more of Vivienne and the Halcats before returning to our room just before 11:00. A nice full first night!

Tomorrow, we look forward to the first wine tasting and culinary demo. And of course more food!

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