Freelance travel writer Georgina Cruz and her husband Humberto are currently sailing on Amsterdam’s 112-day Grand World Voyage and will be sending in cruise diaries throughout their time on board. She has logged 174 voyages to all seven continents and visited more than 100 countries. Here is the first entry. Enjoy!
Day 1 – Jan. 6, 2012, embarkation at Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Imagine for a moment that you have the opportunity to experience the world – all seven continents – in one neat package. It is the ultimate voyage, a true circumnavigation of the planet, in our case, onboard Holland America’s flagship, the ms Amsterdam, 112-days circling the globe to and from Fort Lauderdale. My husband, Humberto, and I had dreamed, planned and saved for a World Cruise for years, but had been unable to do so until he retired last year from writing a nationally syndicated, weekly personal finance column. The minute he did, we started planning and found there was only one true circumnavigation of the planet in 2012 (other world cruises ended in Europe) and it was onboard the Amsterdam. So we booked it!
We arrived at Port Everglades before 11:30 a.m. and boarded quickly and early, and our cabin No. 2590 (Category D, with picture window) was ready! After lunch we got all four of our boxes we had sent to the ship two weeks earlier via FedEx and were able to unpack them all and our other three pieces of luggage and two backpacks in time for the sail-away party with complimentary champagne and hors d’oeuvres on Lido Deck on Deck 8 (although there was no sail away per se, the ship did not leave until we were having dinner).
And what a nice dinner we had in the La Fontaine Dining Room – fruit medley and tomato and mozzarella cheese appetizer, chilled berry soup, chicken and avocado salad, salmon and capers. After dinner we went to the piano bar on Deck 5 where the pianist Debby Bacon chatted with the audience and entertained requests, playing our favorites “Stardust” and “On The Street Where You Live” among other “American Songbook’’ classics. From the piano bar we went to the introductory show at the Queen’s Lounge where Bruce, the cruise director, introduced the entertainment and enrichment staff and announced that Melissa Manchester would be performing “in two nights’ time.’’ The audience cheered out loud. It was a super start to our adventure around the world.
Day 2: Jan. 7, 2012 – At Sea
Today was a restful and relaxing at-sea day. After breakfast we met a couple in the elevator. “Isn’t this great?” the man asked, beaming. “Yes,” I told him, “and we still have another 111 days of it!” That is the beauty of a World Cruise: the wealth of time to enjoy everything. We explored the ship, marveling at the stunning Astrolabe in the Atrium, with the ship’s time and time in world cities, and enjoying the many public rooms graced with large fresh flower arrangements. There were many activities on board during the day including a cooking demonstration in the Culinary Arts Center and enrichment lectures about the ports of call. We bought the embarkation photograph that the ship’s photographer took of us – and of Duffy, the Disney bear that we brought to decorate our cabin and make it homey. Duffy sits on our peach-colored leather sofa in our sitting area (where we also have a cocktail table, flat-screen television and DVD player. We have a comfortable queen-size bed, and a tub in our bath too – all the comforts of home!. We signed up for a package of 10 photos at the Photo Shop onboard, both as prints and burned onto a CD. We will also be taking pictures of Duffy in the most iconic ports of call such as the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio and the Opera House in Sydney, and will create a picture book of the “bear that went around the world” for our grandchildren.
We tried the rotisserie chicken for lunch in the Lido on Deck 8, one of Humberto’s favorite dishes. It was very tasty and we will be having more of it for sure throughout the cruise as it’s always available in the Lido. After lunch, we spent some time in the Explorations Café on Deck 5 (library and Internet center). It is an attractive and welcoming space with excellent reading material, coffee and pastries. The first time change of the cruise occurred at 2 p.m. in the middle of the day (we will be entering many different time zones during the voyage!). After 1:59 p.m. it suddenly became 3 p.m. Cruise Director Bruce joked that if we had something that we didn’t want to do today, we should schedule it for 2 p.m. – that way we didn’t have to do it!
We went to mass in the Queen’s Lounge before dinner (there are religious services daily onboard). We wanted to give thanks for this wonderful cruise and all our blessings. We are blessed indeed. Dinner at La Fontaine Dining Room was terrific again, and for dessert I had the Chocolate Avalanche (Yum! Yum!) and Humberto had cherry pie. We went to the piano bar, where Debby Bacon played not only the piano but also the saxophone (and also sang). Then in the main show lounge, the performer, Mark Donoghue, played the violin, guitar, harmonica and piano, and also sang.
Day 3, Jan. 8 – At Sea
Another fabulous day at sea with fair winds and calm seas. I had peach and walnut pancakes for breakfast and went to an “Introduction to Water Colors Class” while Humberto read in the Explorer’s Lounge where each evening we stop for delicious handmade chocolates after dinner. We dressed up Duffy for the Captain’s champagne reception before dinner but unfortunately there was no photo with the captain (staff said there would be an opportunity later on in the cruise). However, Duffy also attended the Captain’s Grand Voyage Welcome Dinner and we had our photo taken with him. On the menu: filet mignon, lobster tail, rack of lamb and other delights – we will have to pace ourselves so as not to disembark as cargo! After dinner we were off to the Melissa Manchester concert, featuring such classics as “Midnight Blue” and of course “Don’t Cry Out Loud” (we had third row, center seats!). With the magic of technology and portions pre-recorded by Barry Malinow, Melissa sang a “duet’’ with Barry, “You’ve Got A Friend.”
Day 4, Jan. 9 – Roseau, Dominica
When we boarded, Captain Jonathan Mercer welcomed everyone telling us this incredible voyage would take us “from palms to penguins –and everything else in between.” Dominica was the start of the palms, bamboo, banana and coconut trees, and more! We had a car and driver in Roseau, the capital of off-the-beaten path Dominica as this was our first visit and we wanted to see all the sights. Dominica has a great rainforest, lush and green that covers most of the island and where many exotic birds live and a fine geothermal region. We took in the picturesque Jaco Falls and the Emerald Pool (with caution the latter one as there are many steps leading to the Emerald Pool and they were damp from a rain shower –it is after all, a rainforest!). We also took in the Botanical Gardens with beautiful trees and flowers including Royal Poinciana, hibiscus, bougainvillea and more. A highlight was the view from Morne Bruce of Roseau with its brightly-colored houses and buildings (a legacy of Dominica’s African culture, our driver-guide Kurnell told us).
Dominica used to belong to Great Britain, but won independence in 1978. Most of the attractive structures in Roseau, the capital, date from the 19th century – earlier construction was lost and the entire town had to be rebuilt after a fire in 1805. When visiting Roseau, a word of caution: There is no designated walking area or sidewalks in the pier area and there are typically many tour vans. Back on the ship, dinner at La Fontaine Dining Room was light and terrific, including a Pacific Rim salad with chicken breast for the entrée. The show was a Back to Broadway production with the ship’s group of singers and dancers. Excellent!
Day 5, Jan. 10 – Barbados
We arrived in Bridgetown, Barbados, about 8 a.m. After breakfast parfaits with fresh strawberries and blueberries in the Lido, we headed for the Barbados Wildlife Reserve via a taxi. We had visited the highlights of Barbados, including Harrison’s Cave with myriad stalactites and stalagmites, underground chambers, lakes and waterfalls, on previous trips, but had never been to the Wildlife Reserve which is home to the “green monkeys,” so called because their fur looks greenish in certain lights. They looked grayish-tan to me, but they were awfully cute! We also saw tortoises and peacocks and other birds and there are snakes and caimans as well. As we were leaving the reserve we saw a tortoise who was “upside down’’ on the path, and we were able to set it up right.
Day 6, Jan. 11 – At Sea
We continued sailing on towards Brazil and are scheduled to cross the equator tomorrow. Today, I took a watercolors class and Humberto stayed in the Explorations Lounge where a lovely wooden chess set beckons lovers of the Royal Game. (Humberto, who holds a master title in international correspondence chess, signed up to teach a chess class later in the cruise as part of a “Public Forum” onboard in which passengers share their knowledge and interests).
There was a good movie in the cinema, “The Help,” but we couldn’t fit it into our schedule this time. We went to see the show at the Queen’s Lounge instead, “Stardust Lounge’’ by the singers and dancers, and it was outstanding, with stirring renditions of memorable songs such as “Over The Rainbow” and “Que Sera Sera.” All the shows have received standing ovations so far! Today we signed up for a murder mystery dinner at the Pinnacle Grill alternative restaurant on April 23. We also signed up for the Otway Sound and Penguin Reserve tour in Punta Arenas, Chile, completing our tour reservations (We booked 26 ship’s tours in all).
This afternoon, a minute after 1:59 p.m., for the second time in this cruise, the ship’s clocks turned to 3 p.m. as we entered a different time zone. In these short days time passes quickly and there is quite a bit of the ship we have not seen yet.