Getting Ready to Board the Cruise Ship MS Statendam Friday November 23, 2012

The hotel was unusually busy and by the time we got down the breakfast most items were gone.   

Waiting in the pre boarding area

Not a great way to start the day when I need my food and coffee to get me going.  We eventually took a stale bagel and lukewarm coffee back to the room, as there was no where to sit.   Upon check out I did let them know about the challenges with the internet connectivity and the person on the desk gave me a ten dollar refund on the room rate….I was so shocked I never thought to complain about the breakfast.  Given we were soon to be boarding a cruise ship, I was pretty certain finding food in the near future would not be an issue.

Brian has the foresight to reserve a parking space near the harbour and this turned out to

San Diego Harbour – waiting to set sail

be a very good thing.  They were booked solid so walk ins were left to fend for themselves. They were so busy with returning cruise guests, people catching flights out and many of us wishing to start our cruise.  They staff were literally running to provide service and given this was 1030 a.m. and the ship leaves at five, we were in no hurry and let them know.  We got to the terminal in good time and literally only a handful of people ahead of us.  We were quickly processed and by 1110, were waiting to board.  We were allowed to board and 1130.  Our room was ready so we dropped off the computer case and went walk about and stopped for lunch!  Hello…cruise…food!

Loading supplies

We sat out and enjoyed the harbour scenes and warm weather before returning to our room at 330.  Our luggage ( with one small exception) was in the room, so we quickly unpacked before meeting for the life boat drill at 4 p.m.  It would seem since the Costa Concordia disaster this drill has taken on a heightened importance and it was very serious business.  They warned the last 4 missing passengers, if they failed to show up, they and their luggage would be escorted off the boat.  I rather doubt this, as the missing persons, all had luxury suites and I would think the Cruise Line would be very reluctant to make them angry.

Our first bedtime towel critter

I called the office after the drill and found they had Brian’s small suitcase, so I picked it up and waited until he finished unpacking.  We then head to the dining room…. hello….cruise…..food!  We had great tablemates ( we booked open dining).  We had a mother daughter from San Francisco and and older couple from Monterey.   The mother daughter team were originally from China ad the daughter was an Engineer.  She is a world traveler and regaled us with her stories.

From our first cruise many years ago we certainly notice changes.  The staffing levels have been decreased throughout the ship…everything from front desk, to below deck to the lido ( buffet) and dining room.

Looking forward to Honolulu

The below deck staff have more rooms to clean and the rooms are fine, but not like they used to be.  The dining room staff are so tight that it takes upwards of two hours and the hot food, generally isn’t.  At the the buffet in the lido is hot.  The quality of food is not as good as previously and the portion size smaller, which I like.  The entertainment quality has also been impacted.  The singer and band last night could be found at any karaoke club.  There is one thing they don’t scrimp on and that is the air conditioning….I’m freezing day and night.  Almost everyone on board is sporting long pants, long sleeves and jackets.

The captain has warned us we may have some swells, so I took my Bonine before we left port.  Here’s hoping it works.

Sailing Towards Oahu

Nov 24,25,26 & 27–days at sea aboard the MS Statendam

We’re settling into a routine aboard ship.  The weather outside has been cool and windy, with grey seas and grey skies.  At times it’s hard to know where one ends and the other starts.  Perhaps it’s the rolling action but both of us are sleeping like babies.  I had to take motion sickness tablets for the first day and a half, but I have become accustomed to the movement of the ship.  I get a bit queasy if I get hot, but that is not often I’m afraid.  Some parts of the ship are warm enough but others are like a freezer.  We play trivia daily in the “crowsnest” (the upper most deck) and it is the coldest spot on board.  I’m hoping it helps keep the brain alert, but our trivia scores don’t attest to that.

The first formal dress night of the cruise was this past Saturday Nov 24, which we decided to pass on. 

Luau by the Lido Pool

We plan to attend 4 of the 8 formal nights on this cruise.  I didn’t bring( or own) enough outfits for 8 nights.  We do enjoy dining in the dining room at night as we get seated with other travellers each time and is a great chance to meet interesting people. One couple we have met could be poster children for living well and aging gracefully.  Raul and Pat are in their mid 80s and any 40 year old may have a time keeping up with them.  Raul was a career Marine and you can tell.  He stands so straight and has an air of authority about him. 

Our trivia team members, Pat and Raul Brown in Honolulu

When asked where he had been stationed, I think I glazed over after the first 15 he named. They served all over the world and I doubt spent more than a couple of years in any one place.   Pat was born in England and stands over 6 feet.  She was quite an athlete enjoying competitive tennis( she played against the men) and was a runner.  Both remain fit and lean…a testament to what it takes to live a good healthy long life. Pat seems ready to stay put for awhile but her husband is keen to continue traveling extensively as they have been doing for the last 20 years.  I don’t think there are many places they have not visited.

The on board internet connection has been an ongoing headache but I finally managed to connect and send my first on board post.  I haven’t been able to insert photos into the posts and perhaps that may change in the future.  Otherwise check back after Dec 21 when I will insert them. 

decorative bread

On board they have all kinds of computer classes and I have attended a couple.  My computer has Windows photo gallery which I have fooled around with a bit, but after taking instructions on it offered on board, have decided it’s the photo editing system for me.  I have heard recommendations for Photoshop Elements.  The instructor said unless you were going to use it professionally, he suggested sticking to Windows free photo gallery.  I just saved myself $200.  However I’m still on the look out for a new camera.

We’ve booked our shore excursions and they certainly are pricey.  One of our trivia players joined Cruise Critics.  It’s a group of people who cruise a lot and share ideas.   They also network with each other and plan to meet on board various cruises.  The members have been able to develop and secure lower cost excursions in port, so I will follow up once home.  I did hear a Holland America cruise member say there were many benefits to joining this group and admitted  it did hurt their excursion sales.   Perhaps if enough people did this, the cruise lines would become more competitive in their excursion prices.

We are travelling days without a port of call and it can be tough to fill a day despite the many on board activities. 

poolside entertainment – steel drums

I have decided it’s R & R time and spend hours reading, playing cards and just generally loafing about.  It’s a great place to people watch.  Yesterday we sat beside a fellow in his mid 90s.  He’d been a seaman during the war and stayed with the Navy after.  Crusty old man with harsh outlook on life, but reminded both Brian & I of Brian’s step father Fred…even down to the same hand gestures.

When we got on board and were unpacking, Brian realized he forgot to pack his dress sox. 

Every night we get a new towel critter – here is our turkey

Tonight while preparing to attend out first formal dinner, he says he forgot to pack his two brand new ties.  Knowing how he hates to wear a tie, I do wonder if he really forgot.  As we were seated tonight, we noticed one of our table mates was wearing a suit, dress shirt and no tie, so Brian felt right at home and quickly joined our tablemate by undoing the top shirt button.

Tomorrow afternoon we will finally arrive in Hawaii around 2 pm.   We didn’t book anything but hope to grab the local hop on hop off bus for a quick tour around.  The temperature is forecast light winds, 25 C or 76 F. Finally we can switch into summer clothes and enjoy the sunshine.

Islands seen off the port side as we approach Oahu

Land Ahoy November 28,2012

930 a.m.For the first time in days, we can see land off in a distance.  Three islands can be seen off to the starboard side and they are a welcoming sight.  I think most passengers are looking forward to a welcome break to life aboard ship.

Tip of the Island group

  For the first time since setting sail, they have opened the roof about the pool, allowing in a light sea breezes and welcoming sunshine.  I went outside on the navigation deck expecting high winds, but found instead gentle warm breezes and soothing warm sun on my skin.  The sea color has changed from an angry grey blue to a light sapphire blue and the seas are calm.  A great welcome to our first port of call.  We are set to dock at 2 p.m. this afternoon.  We have nothing booked but will go ashore to have a look around.  If we can find a terminal, we

The Aloha Tower – Honolulu – Oahu

may try to get on a hop on bus for a few hours, before dark, although seeing the city at night may be fun as well.  One of our Trivia players is participating in sponsoring a project to assist a school on one of the poorer islands we will visit, so I’m hoping to find a Walgreen or something similar so we can purchase school supplies.  Our clocks turned back again for the second time since leaving San Diego so we are well rested and ready for an adventure here in Hawaii.

 

930 p.m.  By noon we could see islands off to the starboard side of the ship, but we sailed past them, unknowing what they were.  By 1 p.m. Diamondhead was visible as we neared Honolulu.  We docked a bit after 2 p.m. but it took a long time for the passengers is disembark. We decided to wait as we had no plans for the afternoon, so it was after three when we hit terra firma.  We caught the circle tour on the hop on bus. Unfortunately we saw more high rises than landscapes but did get dropped off at Waikiki Beach.

sunsetting on Waikiki Beach

  We walked around the area for awhile and enjoyed watching young boys catch the waves.  It’s wonderful to see the palm trees, the rising mountains, covered in clouds and the sunset from the upper deck of the bus was gorgeous.  We ambled back to the ship for a quiet evening.  Tomorrow we have a full day bus tour, 120 miles around the island.

 

Touring the Island of Oahu November 29,2012

 

 

Photo of “Sandy Beach” Oahu

 

We were up early to catch the tour bus for an all day excursion around the island, about 120 miles. This entry is more about the scenery than what we did, as we just sat on the bus watching the incredible landscape change from one magnificent sight to another.  I do wish I could insert the photos so we could share our day.

Diamond Head taken from Waikiki

From the harbour in Honolulu we head east towards Diamondhead, following the south coastline. Our first stop was Hanauma Bay where many people were snorkeling in the underwater park.  The area was once a crater but the outside portion broke away hundreds or thousands of years ago, leaving a protected bay which is now home to an amazing array of sea life.  Onwards to Halona Blow Hole area.  When I was here in 1981 the

Halona Blow Hole area

sea would come in and indeed cause a great gush of water upwards, but erosion has changed the landscape somewhat so this is now a rare occurrence. Never the less it is a beautiful spot.

We continued to follow the coastline past Sandy Beach and eventually turned inland.  Our next stop was the Byodo-In Temple, situated at the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, established in 1968 to commemorate the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii.  It is very serene and the sounds of the birds and falling water almost put you into a Zen like state.  The temple itself is a beautiful wooden structure

Byodo In Temple Oahu Hawaii

and built entirely without the use of nails.  Inside the temple a wooden Buddha towering at over 18 feet and is an original work of art carved by Japanese sculptor Masuzo Inui. In addition to the temple there is the Bell House containing a 5’ high three ton brass bell cast in Osaka Japan. A soft wooden log is used to strike the bell and provides a haunting tone.

Upon leaving this area, we once again followed the coastline northward, stopping for lunch and entertainment at the Polynesian Cultural Center. 

Taken at the Polynesian Cultual Center Oahu Hawaii

I was here in 1981 and I do notice changes, firstly it is grown in size and the number of exhibits. It now covers more than 42 acres and reminds me of Disneyland, in as much as you roam paths and go from exhibit to exhibit.  They pay tribute to the islands of  Samoa, Tahiti, Hawaii, New Zealand (Aotearoa) Tonga and Fiji ( all contributing cultures to the Islands of Hawaii.) The other change is they now serve tea, coffee and Pepsi products, plus allow smoking in areas of the exhibit.  Definitely changed from 1981.  I remember we had a choice of juices or water at that time. After lunch we toured for awhile before meeting to watch the Canoe Pageant.  The performers dance on floating platforms in the canal.  Each one of the six floating platforms, represents a culture ( as listed before) both in costume and dance.

We once again board the bus and continued our drive, now along the north coast of the island…the part being famous for it’s big surf.  The Van’s surfing competition is on at Sunset Beach, however they didn’t compete today as the surf was not large enough…I think they said they required consistent 20’ waves. 

Polynesian Cultural Center

  In 1981, we were fortunate enough to have those waves and I remember the noise was deafening.   A few miles past Haleiwa Beach Park, we turned south and drove inland past fields of pineapples.  Dole has fields as far as the eye can see and in all stages of growth.  Some fields have just been harvested and the soil was being tilled.  Other fields, the soil prep and plastic was set and the tiny pineapple plants had been hand transplanted.  Some fields looked like the pineapple would be ready in another month or so. 

pineapply plantation

Later down the road we came to large plots where coffee is being grown.  Our driver told us if we buy Kona coffee to ensure we read the label.   Some may be selling Kona coffee with only 10% Kona coffee, so said to look for the bag indicating 100% of the real thing.  The soil is an interesting red and we were told this is because lava rock contains iron and it oxidizes causing the soil to turn to a reddish brown.

Our final stop was at Pali Lookout, some 1186’ above sea level and provides stunning

Pali Lookout Oahu

views of the Waimanal Bay and surrounding area.  It was much cooler than at sea level and lush with vegetation. Our tour guide today is a very proud Hawaiian.  He is 50% Hawaiian and eager to pass along his language and culture.  I think I now can read and pronounce the names like a local. 

We returned to the ship shortly before 6 pm so it was a long day and almost sensory overload.  On board ship tonight, they had a luau at poolside with BBQ suckling pig.  I love that crackling and blew the calories at dinner.  I love bread and they make the best fresh bread and buns daily.  They however make the worst coffee ever, so I’ve become a tea drinker.  Tomorrow ( well rather tonight) we are heading to Maui.  We have a beach day booked and I am hoping the clouds of today will move on.

Maui Nov 30,2012

 

Today we had to take the tenders into port.  We arrived early and were serenaded by the local seniors. 

A seniors sing along

That was quite a treat. We booked ourselves into a Beach Break at the Ka’anapali Beach Resort.  I think we were a group of 20 as we boarded the bus for a quick 15 minutes to the resort.  The driver didn’t introduce himself, other than to say he was new.  He dropped us off at the resort and advised us someone would come on board and explain where we were going and would give us coupons for a drink and lunch.  Instead a young man came on, said he would take us to the beach and off we went at a fast clip.  This tour was the easiest physically, so many in our group have mobility issues and keeping up was a challagne.  Once arriving at the beach, we were given old chairs and when placed on the beach, sank, so the bottom of the chair hit the sand.

At the beach

  Try and get out of those chairs if you can!  The fellow walked off without giving us any directions in regards to facilities, where to eat or get our “free” drink.

After a while sitting in the lovely warm sun..we got thirsty.  By now I was a little more than ticked…and those who know me, know what that means.  I finally went to resort guest services and let them know we had been abandoned by our tour company and also their personnel.  Well the man couldn’t have been nicer and let us over to the outdoor cafe and got a waitress for us.  On the way, he explained that the resort was not busy and encouraged us to make use of the resorts facilities including the well padded beach chairs, pool area etc. 

Our waitress was so pleasant and we soon had our “free” drink.  When our lunch arrived, Brian found his calamari too tough to chew, so he ate the other half of my $16 turkey wrap.

Kids jumping off the rocks. We were warned away from the area and someone did experience a close call.

  Our good waitress noticed his untouched lunch and quickly took it off the bill.  We were to receive  a second entree at half price ( by paying full price for the first one).  When we checked our bill, no charge for Brian’s entree but mine was billed at half price.  Our waitress apologized for our problems with the resort and even gave us a free dessert. Certainly we could not have asked for a better resolution from the resort people.

We spent a couple of hours soaking up the sun before being returned to the pier by our non communicative bus driver.  Brian returned to the boat while I did some shopping.  We will be in Vancouver for Christmas but in talking to Californians on his cruise, they tell us we are crazy for trying to make so many miles our first day out and tell us we must shorten our drive.  This means instead of getting into Vancouver Dec 23 we won’t arrive until Dec 24….and I have two grandchildren there to shop for…so I went Christmas shopping.  I walked as far away from the dock area as I could, and hid all signs of being from the cruise in hopes of finding something at a decent price.  I did find what I was looking for and the sales lady and I got chatting.  She gave me coupons for freebies and discount dinners.  Our ship is leaving so during my walk back to the dock, I gave them away to others.

Upon returning to the ship, we started talking to a couple we have chatted with before.  They do a great deal of travelling and have given us some great tips and trip ideas to consider in the future.  In talking to them, we learned the ride to the resort today was available for FREE….so our round trip and one FREE drink cost us $60 each.  They encouraged us to complain, so Holland America has a nice letter at their front desk.  We’ll see if anything comes it.

Tonight the entertainment was Polynesian drummers and dancers.  The group were from ages 4 to 40 would be my guess and were delightful.  They are from the Island of Maui and it is great to see them keep their culture alive in song and dance. I have heard so many great things from people who have visited Maui and we are sorry we did not get a real chance to see the area.

We’re off to the Big Island of Hawaii  and given the ship is starting to rock….I think we have pulled anchor and have set sail.