It really is a small world!

On every cruise a welcome back luncheon is held for returning Mariners.  The pre-lunch event is when those who have achieved a new status are recognized, ie, one cruise, thirty, seventy-five, two hundred, and five hundred cruise days.  The captain makes a few comments, photos are taken as each recipient comes up front, and you get a free photo with the captain and head of hotel management.  Everyone has a choice of champagne, a mimosa, orange juice, or soft drink and a few appetizers. At this one, we enjoyed chatting with a couple from Arizona.

Following the “awards” the group heads to the main dining room for a special luncheon with more champagne, etc. Seating was completely random as we entered the dining room.  We headed toward the stern for more of a view and were seated at a table of eight . . . two other couples and two women who were traveling together. 

We all struck up a conversation, and I especially enjoyed chatting with the lady to my left.  Whenever possible, I ask if people have done their genealogy.  Either they have or haven’t and I always hope it will encourage them to get started.

She shared that she had French Canadian ancestry on her father’s side, but hadn’t done much on her mother’s side.  She inquired about how far I’d gone back and I shared that I had quite a bit on my ninth great-grandfather’s side which was all the way back to Jamestowne.

That led our conversation to Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), to which I belong.  She shared that her sister-in-law is a new chapter regent in California. So, I asked if her sister-in-law attends Continental Congress, the annual meeting for DAR in Washington, D.C. She said she always attends, so thinking it would be fun to meet up with her there, I presented my business card so she could share it with her and we could connect.

I wish I had a photo of her response which is indelibly imprinted in my mind.    

With a look of incredulity on her face, she stared at the card, and said, “You’re my cousin!”  She then said, “I’m Barbara Beveridge, Addie’s daughter.”

Flabbergasted, I said, “Oh, my God!” 

Hubby (Larry), Jacquie, Barbara

Once the staff was ready for us to leave the dining room, we made plans for dinner the next day.  I look forward to calling Hubby’s cousin, Diana, who has done a LOT of their family genealogy.  

Hubby and Barbara are related via his Dad’s side.  Her dad was my hubby’s Uncle Vern.  Her mom was his wife, Aunt Addie.  Hubby hadn’t seen her in sixty years!  As you can imagine, it was quite a reunion. I had only met her once and that was nearly thirty years ago at her mother’s funeral.  Though she is my hubby’s first cousin, he wasn’t able to attend the funeral due to a work commitment.  So, I had driven his parents from San Diego to the Los Angeles area for the service.  The odds of being on the same cruise was uncanny, since we live in Oregon and she lives in Boise, Idaho and Yuma, Arizona. Randomly sitting next to each other at the same table for the luncheon had to have been divinely inspired . . . we really should have purchased lottery tickets!  It was our lucky day!

Hubby enjoyed a little reading/snoozing time, and I enjoyed some writing time before attending a class on photo editing.  I learned a couple of new techniques that will come in handy! And, did I mention it was free?

We had a few minutes to enjoy Happy Hour, and chat with one of our favorite crew members before we returned to our cabin to get ready for dinner. One of our greatest joys is seeing crew members we’ve met on previous cruises.  On this one we were delighted to reconnect with Joanna, whom we met in 2015, on an Alaska cruise.  It was a gala night, so we were happy we’d already made reservations in the Tamarind Restaurant.

Though there is a bit of a charge for dining in this specialty restaurant, it is well worth it.  We dined here twice on our previous Eurodam cruise, and thoroughly enjoy the Pan-Asian fare.  I won’t entice you with the entire menu, but will say that each of the items has been delicious and artfully presented.

Since the music is too loud for Hubby’s ears for some of the shows, we opted to enjoy a movie in our cabin.

I’m getting used to this early to bed thing!  It might just work when we get home!

Bienvenidos a Mexico! Welcome to Mexico

Cabo San Lucas . . . January 8, 2019

If you haven’t been to Cabo, we do recommend you visit.  We first ventured here in 1979.  Holy cow . . . that was forty years ago!  At that time it was primarily a primo destination for some of the top gamefish in the world.  Population was less than 16,000.  It is now a bustling metropolis complete with a Costco.

The secret of it’s beauty got out and over time it has grown to 81,100.  The airport is in nearby San Jose del Cabo.  Time shares abound and seem to be filled with tourists year round.  An easy two hour and fifteen minute flight from San Diego, it’s become a very popular destination. 

As the ship set anchor, we observed whales cavorting where the Pacific Ocean meets the Gulf of Baja.

The harbor is safely tucked in and now filled with fishing boats and yachts.  The once quiet shore is lined with shops, restaurants, bars, and condos.  As you walk along the malécon (oceanfront boardwalk), or lounge on the playa (beach) you can save a trip to the shops and buy from the entrepreneurs who frequent the area with everything from silver bangles, to t shirts, paraeos (sarongs), watches, etc.  You can pose, for a fee, with a large iguana, or book a time share presentation.

Many people book water excursions that take you around the famous El Arco (Land’s End Arch) and offer snorkeling opportunities.  Others book five hour fishing excursions hoping to land a sailfish or marlin for the record books.  Some go horseback riding, or take an excursion to nearby Todos Santos, on the Pacific coast.

The bay stays busy with the various tour and pongas (fishing boats), paddleboards, kayaks, and the incessant “wah wah wah” of the jet skis.

For the landlubbers drinking establishments abound.  You can visit the famous Giggling Marlin and if you’ve had enough to drink you might pose with the marlin. Please remember you are in a foreign country.  And, it’s important to bring your brain and common sense with you. 

We’ve been to Cabo more times than I can count, both by land and sea.  So, we opted to stay on board.  Since this is a trip to recharge our batteries, it’s also an opportunity to begin a new schedule.  We’ve been a bit lazy for the past year and with more travel on the horizon it’s time to attempt to get in shape. 

After coffee, fruit, and a very small bowl of muesli to start our engines, we headed to the uncrowded gym.  A complete array of professional equipment is available. The treadmills face an expanse of windows toward the bow and it’s fun to observe the activity on the water while walking, or if you’re really fit, running.

This is a “tender” port.  Since there is no cruise ship dock, we anchor in the harbor, and people are loaded onto smaller boats (tenders) to transfer to the port.  Passengers who have shore excursions booked through the cruise line or are four or five star Mariners have priority privileges.  Those who book their own tours or are just going sightseeing on their own have to wait until the announcement that all can disembark . . .  which, in this case was nearly an hour and half.

On port days there are not as many scheduled activities on board, but there is still plenty to do.  We enjoyed the less crowded buffet for lunch and then had leisure time to read in what used to be the library.  There are still a few books available; most are about locations you can cruise to on HAL.  There are a couple of larger, interactive, displays that show the route, and have maps with suggested sights to see.

HAL (Holland America Line) has undergone changes in the last couple of years. One of my least favorite changes is doing away with the libraries.  We’ve spent many an hour appreciating the quiet space, checking out books and cribbage games, picking up the daily trivia questionnaire, and reading magazines. On longer cruises, with more sea days, I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the book club which was facilitated by the librarian.  Reading books, set in the area where we were sailing, made them much more captivating.  The lively discussions were enlightening. 

On our world cruise, Paul Theroux, author of “The Mosquito Coast,” and several other fiction and non-fiction books was onboard for a portion of our trip.  Everyone was given one of his books, “The Happy Isles of Oceania.“  Our book club chose to read it and he even attended one of our meetings to provide further insight and cordially answer questions.

Having learned from our wine steward, Michael, where Joanna was working, we made our way to the casino after dinner.  I spotted her and came up from behind.  She turned and exclaimed, “Mam Jacquie! Sir Larry!” and promptly hugged us both. 

With one of our favorites . . . Joanna

We met almost four years ago on a two week Alaska cruise when she was working in the Crow’s Nest.  She was such a delight that we (I) enjoyed staying in touch with her over the years.  I’d seen that she was on the Eurodam, via Facebook.  It was a joyous reunion and we loved catching up.

We enjoyed watching the city transition to evening, as the sun set, just before we sailed out of the harbor to our next port.

Meet and greet . . . wine and dine . . . January 7, 2019

I’ve mentioned the benefits of logging into Cruise Critic several times.  Today is one example of why we do.  Soon after booking this cruise, I joined the “Roll Call.”  There is one for every cruise, no matter the cruise line.  It’s a free website with a LOT of valuable information on ships, ports, excursions, etc.   And, by joining the Roll Call, you have a chance to get acquainted with others who will be on the cruise before you embark.  We’ve found it valuable for joining small group or booking private shore excursions. 

After enjoying breakfast delivered by Room Service, we headed to the Meet and Greet.  This one wasn’t as organized as others we’ve attended, but we did meet and nice couple from Colorado, Tom and Judy, and Joanie, from Southern California (La Costa) who was the organizer. 

Often these are opportunities to learn plan group excursions or activities.  The main thing attempted today was group dinner in the Tamarind specialty restaurant.  Since we’d booked a dinner there before we embarked we weren’t interested in another one at this point. 

I talked Hubby into attending the America’s Test Kitchen cooking demo on salmon, but it was standing room only.  Christina, the Cruise Director, said she’d drop extra copies of the recipes at Guest Services.

Though there are many choices, we often enjoy a bit of sushi for lunch.  The Asian fare on board is pretty darn good and on longer cruises the Indonesian soup has been excellent!   Today we found a table in the Lido and “swam upstream” to get some food.  Sea days can be pretty crowded!

I have a short rant about people who leave their brains on the dock.  It’s not just the younger generation that tries to get on the elevator before passengers get off; block an entrance while conversing in a group; block a narrow path in front of the buffet area while chatting; or cut into line to retrieve one item while others wait patiently. Some of the younger ones do let their children run wild while seeming to think that everyone finds them cute.  On a ship this can be very dangerous for all concerned, especially if people are mobility impaired or the ship is moving. 

Following lunch, we had time to read a bit and chat with Joanie (whom we met earlier) before heading off to the wine tasting.  Four and five star Mariners receive a complimentary invitation.  Other’s paid $19.95 each to taste four wines and learn about them from the sommelier.

Another perk of being at least four star Mariner is the fifty percent discount on wine packages.  We enjoy a nice wine with dinner.  My Hubby especially enjoys a bit of bleu cheese with a nice merlot.  It’s like dessert for him.  Unfortunately on this trip there was a glitch with the wine delivery.  So, the sommelier hoped to have an accurate list available by tonight for those wishing to purchase a wine package.  Can you even imagine how many bottles of wine they ordinarily bring on board?  I hope she’ll share a number with me! 

Since this was a sea day, it was also a “gala night.” In our early years of cruising we had fun dressing up.  Hubby even took two tuxedos on our first couple of cruises and they were only a week each!  As veteran cruisers, we don’t go to the effort for short cruises, which for us is two weeks or less.  On longer cruises we do bring some dress up attire. 

A few years ago I was able to convince Hubby to get a new tux. This was after a twenty-four day cruise to Australia on which we became friends with Geoff and Jillian who wanted us to join them for dinner on a gala night.  Geoff happened to have two dinner jackets, one white, and one black.  He and Hubby were close enough in size so that all that was necessary was a dress shirt and tie.  We happened to dock in Honolulu for the day where we able to go to K Mart.  Hubby found a white dress shirt and black tie on clearance for four dollars.  He was a happy cruiser, and we thoroughly enjoyed several dress-up dinners with our new friends.

So, now he does take a tux, a dress shirt or two, at least one bow tie and cummerbund and a couple of polo shirts as well as a pair of dress slacks.  I like to take a black dress, black dress pants, and several tops to change them up.  It helps minimize packing.  I’ve never been a “fashionista.” I’ve seen women, especially on our world cruise, with many different outfits with shoes and hats to match. One even admitted to bringing twelve suitcases! That just seems like too much work.  

We enjoyed dinner in the Lido and headed to the Mainstage.  Before the show began, Cruise Director, Christine, introduced our Captain who welcomed everyone and shared a bit about the cruise.  Hearing him speak made us wish we were sailing longer!  He interjected humor and information: such as there are eight hundred forty crew members on board representing forty countries.  With tongue in cheek, he shared that in 2018 Holland America Line celebrated one hundred forty-five years and created this great commemorative napkin.  Everyone was provided with champagne or sparkling cider for the Captain’s toast to fair seas and following winds.   

Commemorative napkin

The Eurodam Singers and Dancers then took the stage to present “1,000 Steps,” on the Mainstage. Six dancers and three vocalists gave one of the absolutely best shows we’ve seen done by the crew.  Their precise, expertly-choreographed routine, accompanied by extremely talented singers, was better than the best “Dancing with the Stars” and “The Voice” combined. Thank goodness Hubby can turn his hearing aids off when it’s too loud. 

With our senses satiated it was time to turn in. The clocks were turned back one hour as we continued south.

Embarkation day- Sunday, January 6, 2019

My sweet husband got up early enough to pick up the complimentary breakfast provided by the hotel.  Since we had a kitchenette, it worked great to heat it up when I was ready.
Once we were showered and re-packed, it was less than a five minute walk, across Harbor Drive, wheeling our luggage, to the B Street Cruise Terminal.  The slowest part of embarkation is going through security.  But we’d much rather have it as safe as possible. 

Plenty of Holland America Line employees were on hand to direct us to one of the numerous check-in agents.  Within minutes we were on the ship, after the obligatory embarkation photo. 

Obligatory embarkation photo

It had been a little more than four years since we spent a month on this ship, but once we wandered around it started looking familiar.  We get nostalgic every time we board. Memories of past cruises are triggered, and we keep expecting to see familiar faces.  Several times we’ve been delighted to see crew members from other sailings.  Thanks to Facebook we’ve stayed connected with a few.  It’s a delight to follow their significant life events such as marriage or having a baby. 

On our last cruise we were thoroughly surprised, delighted, and honored to have a crew member (we didn’t know) show up with a gift for us from one we’d met on a previous cruise! Ivy, who sent the gift, was on the Westerdam which was in Alaska.  We were on the Zaandam, also in Alaska.  Unfortunately our ports didn’t coincide for us to actually see each other.   After selfie photos were taken with the crew member, showing us with our gift, were shared with Ivy we hoped she had a good feeling knowing how blessed we felt. 

Especially on the longer cruises the staff becomes more like family.  Sweet Angelina, from our World Cruise, still calls us Mommy and Daddy and messages us Mother’s Day and Father’s Day greetings.

Since this was a short cruise, we booked a balcony.  On longer cruises we don’t always splurge because it can get MUCH more costly.  About a month before this one was to leave, we learned there had been a price drop.  So, my Hubby promptly called Costco to ask about additional perks.  For the same price we’d originally paid, we were upgraded to a Panorama Deck (tenth floor) Spa Veranda cabin on the port (left) side.

Besides being on a higher deck, the main perks of this were the extra credit toward spa services, yoga mats, a bigger screen tv, three complimentary vitamin waters,  Bose speaker (that connected with my iPod,) and amazing view. This verandah was a bit smaller than others we’ve had, but was perfect for us.  The unobstructed view was incredible.

After unpacking our carry-on bags, we had plenty of time to grab a small bite of lunch and explore the ship before the mandatory safety drill.  The luggage that we checked with the porters was delivered early enough before dinner that we were soon settled in and ready to shift into vacation mode.

Life is pretty busy at home, at least for me, so flipping the “chill” switch doesn’t happen immediately.  One thing I have learned, gradually, is that in spite of expectations, we just can’t see and do it all.  When I was younger I always tried to bite off more than I could chew.  Instead of adding things to our itinerary, I had to cross off a few.  It’s still an adjustment. 

As I see others using various methods of mobility assistance, I’m even more thankful that we are blessed to travel as we do. Mentally we still think we’re in our late twenties or early thirties, instead of late sixties, and early eighties. One of the reasons we most enjoy cruising with Holland America is the passengers tend to be a bit more mature.  Though, on this cruise there are a LOT of kids and younger parents.  Thankfully there are plenty of activities to keep them all happy too.

On our first few cruises dining was assigned seating at a set time.  One of the best changes, at least for us, was the “open dining” option.  If we choose to go to the main dining room it’s an opportunity to meet new people. If we hit it off . . . great!  If we don’t, at least we won’t have to spend time with them the rest of the cruise.  That was a lesson we learned a few years ago when we were seated with Mrs. Obnoxious and Mr. Henpecked.  Even if we’d known them for years neither of us would have complained the way she did about her husband to complete strangers.

Occasionally we go to the main dining room, but most often we go to the Lido buffet and usually at least once per cruise, depending on the length, we go to a specialty restaurant. Tonight we enjoyed dinner in the Lido and were ready to relax afterward. 

The new, bigger screen televisions have some great On Demand options.  Instead of checking out DVD’s from the Front Office, movies are available right from the TV. Other choices include live news and sports, tv series, two cooking shows, travel, Blue Planet, and several other travel options.

We’re attempting to change our schedule and turn in earlier and get up earlier.  We’ll see how that goes!

Post-holiday battery recharge . . . January 5, 2019

Using the holiday hustle as an excuse to recharge our batteries, we booked a cruise.  We did have an ulterior motive, however.  We’re just a week away from achieving Five Star Mariner Status.  Now that might not seem like a big deal, but there are perks to the higher levels of Mariner Status.  We’ve been at Four Star level since we acquired two hundred cruise day credits.  Getting an additional three hundred days has been grueling  . . . LOL. 

Since we have two more cruises booked for this year, we’ll suffer through a mere week-long voyage . . . or what I usually call, “a good start.” Following this trip, in addition to the four star perks, we’ll have a complimentary day pass to the Greenhouse Spa and Salon Thermal Suite, two complimentary dinners in the Pinnacle Grill, and a complimentary hands-on cooking workshop.  These benefits, in addition to those we already receive are worth it . . . at least to me. 

We flew out of Eugene, Oregon on a flight that left about an hour late due to fog.  First stop was Portland, Oregon, for a shorter layover than originally scheduled.  We had plenty of time for a bite to eat and wait at the gate for another slightly delayed flight. 

In the gate waiting area, we struck up a conversation with people sitting across from us, who as it turned out were going on the same cruise!  Then, a woman sitting behind us joined in that she was going too!  It’s a small world!

The flight to San Diego was uneventful, and we were met by our dear friends, Sandi and Fred.  Not only did they pick us up to deliver us to our hotel, they brought wine for the four of us to enjoy before taking them to dinner.  The also brought a couple of bottles of wine for us to enjoy on the ship.  Each passenger, over the age of twenty-one, is allowed to bring one bottle on board to enjoy in their cabin. 

We had accommodations at the Marriott Residence Inn, conveniently located across the street from the cruise terminal . . . and, happily used points to cover the cost.  The kitchenette, small living room, and separate bedroom were very comfortable. .  . the panoramic view from the fifteenth floor was icing on the cake.

After a fun evening of catching up, our friends headed home and we turned in after having been up much too early with a fitful night of sleep.  We drifted off to dreamland with visions of cruise ships in our heads.