Tuesday, September 29, 2009
This journal documents my activities, observations and thoughts on the Holland America, ms Maasdam, Voyage of the Vikings Cruise, August 11 to 29, 2009. I booked the cruise through Cruise Specialists, Seattle. The focus of the cruise for me was to visit Faroe Island and Iceland.
Overview of the trip route:
• Fly from LAX to AMS via ORD:
• Board the ms Maasdam in Rotterdam, The Netherlands
• Cruise to:
o Dunmore East (Waterford), Ireland
o Liverpool, England
o Greenock (Glasgow), Scotland
o Torshavn, Faroe Islands, Denmark
o Djupivogur, Iceland
o Reykjavik, Iceland
o Qaqortoq, Greenland
o St. Anthony, Newfoundland, Canada
o St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada
o Saint-Pierre, France (scheduled but cancelled)
o Boston, MA
• Overnight Saturday and Sunday at my daughter Robin’s house in Montclair, NJ
• Fly from Newark to Los Angeles
On August 5th I had flown from LAX to AMS and had taken a pre cruise tour of the UK Islands (Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey) returning on August 10th to the Sheraton Hotel at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. The following journal starts the next day.
Aug 11, 2009 (Tuesday) Travel to Rotterdam and board the ms Maasdam
I did not set my alarm and slept until 0800. When I awoke I spent some time on the computer and took my time showering, shaving and packing. Around 1000 I checked out of the hotel and headed for the Holland America desk next to the Hotel Reservations and Events Desk between arrival halls 1 and 2. There were several Holland America “greeters” and one of the ladies escorted me to a bus outside the southwest end of the terminal. She told me that the passengers with prepaid transfers had almost all arrived and that this was the last bus and I was one of the last to be transferred. This contradicted what I had been told the day before when I had arrived in Schiphol from my pre cruise tour. At that time one of the “greeters” had told me they would be running buses to the cruise ship up to the early afternoon.
Anyway I was on my way. The bus had just a few couples on it and I took a seat opposite the rear door. The last couple to arrive sat in back of me and we debated which side of the bus to sit to avoid the sun. Their names were Don and Kay Thor and they were from Solano Beach, CA (near San Diego and Carlsbad). They were prolific travelers and as we compared destinations it turns out that they have traveled with Cathy and Bob Prada, the owners of Advantage Travel and Tours. Advantage Travel and Tours is the agency that I have traveled with to exotic destinations like Iran and Easter Island.
I used my Blackberry to send a short message to the Pradas to inform them that the Thors were on my cruise. Since Bob and Cathy were taking the same route to Faroe Island, Iceland and Greenland at the same time on the Tahitian Princesses out of Dover and we were scheduled to be at several of the same ports at the same time I had discussed the possibility of seeing each other on shore.
It took us almost an hour to arrive at the ship at 1210. Unfortunately were arrived just as the morning excursion tours were returning so we had a long queue to pass through security. The line for registration was short but it took a little time for me to process because I had misplaced my registration paper work and had to fill it out again. Once on board I was directed straight to my cabin (734) on A Deck 4. It was very similar to my cabin on the ms Rotterdam so I knew right where I was going to hang everything and which drawers were going to contain various things. The bathroom was different and a little old fashioned with no medicine cabinet and only one shelf to hold my toilet articles.
After dropping off my laptop and carryon bags I searched out my cabin steward and requested an extension cord for my CPAP machine. My steward was named Made and he told me he would get one for me so I headed to the Lido for lunch (I had forgotten to eat breakfast and it was then after 1300).
I was surprised to learn that the ms Maasdam has a policy to not issue trays in the Lido cafeteria. The official reason was not explained to me. One theory related to me was it reduces wasted food. Someone had studied that with a tray people tend to get more food that they eat. Other people told me that it was to process the line quicker since people with trays felt they had to start at one end and push the tray down the line and wait for the person in front of them to get their food before moving on. Without a tray you are able to just go to the area (salad, hot food, sandwich, etc) of food and queue up 90 degrees to the counter line. Whichever reason I don’t like it as a single passenger since I select some food, take it to a table when my hands full and have to return to get my drink, etc. and then when I go back to get something else the busboys clear my spot. They need some kind of method like they use at buffet restaurants to indicate you are not finished. Since you have no receipt like Home Town Buffet to turn over indicating you are through they need some other method to indicate that you are not finished with your meal and will be returning to the seat.
I had a salad and was disappointed that there were no fresh tomatoes so I had the sandwich maker put some on my salad. After lunch I took a tour of the ship and picked up the internet instructions. My cabin card had a dining reservation on it so I sought out the Matre’d to get it changed to Open Dinning which I had indicated on my ticket. He was set up to change table assignments in one of the lounges and he put a yellow sticker on my card and wrote Open on it.
Back in my cabin my luggage was arriving so I unpacked and set up my laptop. I attended the Dutch Sail away 2 for 1 Happy Hour at 1630 in the Ocean Bar and took my second drink out to the deck to watch us sail past the old Rotterdam which was now a tourist attraction at the mouth of the harbor.
I checked the laundry and discovered all the machines in use so I returned to my cabin and filled a bag of dirty clothes from my pre cruise trip and purchased the “stuff a bag” for $12 to get it washed by the ship crew rather than spend the time waiting for a machine to become available.
At 1730 I proceeded to the dining room and was seated at a table with the 82 year old Catholic Priest. He and I had a ball joking back and forth. He was originally from northern Minnesota but now lives in Arizona where he can experience the heat of hell and convince his parishioners that they don’t want to spend eternity in Arizona summer weather and thus not to sin so they can enjoy the more moderate weather in heaven.
He also told us the story of one of his fellow Priests that left a wedding reception with a glass of red wine. He had not finished drinking it when he was stopped by a cop. The cop asked the priest if he was drinking and driving and the Priest looked at the glass and remarked “he did it again – that was a glass of water when I left the reception”.
They had Spaghetti and Duck on the menu, but no one ordered it at our table. I had wanted to see what it looked like but we didn’t have any adventurous people at the table.
The show was the movie Mama Mia so I decided to skip it. On my way back to my cabin I ran into Ruth and Cynthia, the Chinese mother daughter couple from Upper Montclair who was on my last cruise. What a small world! They remembered that I danced with Ruth on several occasions and talked to them at a Singles/Solo Luncheon on the cruise. Ruth lives next to my grandson Emery’s new school next to Montclair University. The daughter, Cynthia, was a doctor in NYC. They got on in Boston so it was day 18 for them. They told me that there were four dance hosts on this cruise – one named Ed. So I’ll have the opportunity to have someone to eat with in the Lido when I don’t want to eat in the dining room.
Back in my cabin, the Cruise Specialists Cruise Escorts: Lucia & Henk Barnhoorn stopped by to paste a sign on my door (a Dutch flower pot and tulip) to indicate that I was a Cruise Specialist passenger. They told me that 99 passengers are on board from Cruise Specialists. They also told me that Tom Mullen, a Cruise Specialist Escort that I traveled with on the Egypt - West Africa cruise was joining this cruise in Liverpool. That should be some fun – I enjoyed him on the other cruise.
After the Barnhoorns left I finished unpacking and setting up my CPAP machine. I then signed on my laptop and purchased the Internet package, wrote in my journal and sent an email off letting everyone know I had completed the UK Islands tour and was now at sea.
I turned off the lights out at 2300.
Aug 12, 2009 (Wednesday) At Sea, (English Channel)
Since it was a sea day, I didn’t set my alarm but I woke up at 0700 anyway and got up, showered and shaved and proceeded to the Lido for a breakfast of, meat and cheese on an English muffin, a whole orange and a yogurt.
At 0900 I attended the “Good Morning Maasdam” event in the Wajang Theater. The Cruise Director, Moyra Miller, invites a co-host from the ships staff to interview in a Diane Sawyer style one of the other members of the ships staff. This morning the Hotel Manager, Firmin, was the co-host and they interviewed, Christianne Beks, the Guest Relations Manager. I attended because I really didn’t have anything else to do and it gave me the opportunity to get to know the staff I would be interfacing with during the cruise. Firmin was from Belgium and Christianne was from Holland. Moyra was born in Jamaica and grew up in Canada. Her husband was on the ship and they are Grandparents. This was her first cruise as the Cruise Director. My favorite Cruise Director, Susan Wood was on the ship from Boston to Edinburgh, Scotland but had to leave to attend to a family emergency and Moyra was pressed into service to take her place.
The event lasted thirty minutes and when it was finished I walked a couple of miles around the deck. At 1030 I attended the Explorations Speaker Series lecture. The subject was: “The English Channel, Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf Stream” with Guest Lecturer David Smith. Dr. David Smith was an environmental geologist with extensive Arctic field experience. He was educated at Notre Dame and Stanford, served in the US Navy and taught at Dartmouth. I found his lecture very interesting but his presentation a little dry.
At noon I attended a Singles/Solo lunch and was seated with three ladies from California. Two (Karleen and Eileen) were from Grass Valley and the third (Clair) from Alameda. They convinced me to attend the Swing Dance Class in the Crow’s Nest after lunch where I was paired off with a lady from Florida. I love to dance to swing music but I don’t follow the “dance class” steps so I was a little awkward because my partner, Nancy was attempting to dance the steps by the book. Ruth and Cynthia were at the class and they introduced me to two ladies from Vero Beach, FL that they had cruised within the past. The class was conducted by the Cruise Party Planner, Rebekah, assisted by a couple from the Cruise Specialist group, Steve and Wendy. Steve was a retired school teacher who loved to dance and attended dance classes and learned correct steps.
After the dance class I attended the Port Presentation followed by another Explorations Speaker Series lecture. The subject was “The 6th Century voyage of St. Brendan” with Guest Lecturer Michael Millwood. Michael Millwood was an English school teacher that immigrated to the United States in 1997 and settled in Arkansas where he taught at a Hot Springs Community College until he retired in 2006. He had lectured extensively on Holland American cruises. I found his style of presentation to be more humorous than Dr. Smith’s.
It was formal night so I had to spend some time setting up the tux shirt, cuff links and studs. After dinner I stopped in the Ocean Bar before the Captain’s Reception scheduled for 2000. I had a drink and a few dances with the ladies I had met that day at lunch or the dance class. There were eight ladies that liked to dance.
The Captain’s Reception’s differed from the last cruise. The no longer had a formal reception line because the ship’s crew was forbidden to shake hands with any passengers for fear of passing along viruses. We were directed to seats by the waiters and served champagne or wine. Moyra introduced Captain Andre van Schoonhoven to the audience and he then took the microphone and introducted his staff. He came across as a very outgoing man. He was Dutch and came up through the ranks from Cadet Officer on the ms Noordam in 1990 where he met his Pilipino wife. He lives in the Philippines with his wife and three sons.
Following the Reception I attended the Show at 2030. The Maasdam Cast presented “Club Nevada”, with dancing, Las Vegas style costumes and the songs of Sinatra, Elvis and other Las Vegas singers. It was very enjoyable, the cast was talented and the songs were the type that I like to listen to.
After the show I attended the Champagne Dance Request Hour in the Crow’s Nest. The process was to write a song title from a list they provided and your name and place it in a bucket. If they drew your song, you had to dance to it and you received a glass of champagne. The first two songs selected were from two ladies I had helped pick their songs (they didn’t have their glasses and couldn’t see to write the song on the slip) so I had to dance with them, the third song was my selection “In the Mood” so I danced with my swing class dance partner. All told I danced with 12 different ladies had three of my songs picked and drank more glasses of champagne than I should have.
I returned to my cabin after 2300 with a champagne buzz and a soaking wet shirt. Fortunately, we were changing time zones and set the clocks back one hour so I was able to retire at 2300 revised time.
Aug 13, 2009 (Thursday) Dunmore East (Waterford), Ireland
I awoke to my alarm at 0700, showered and shaved. The cabin steward had left a banana, orange and an apple in my cabin the night before so I ate them for breakfast.
It was my first port on the cruise. The ship anchored off of Dunmore East and tendered into port. Since I was here in May and took a tour into the country side at that time. I decided this time to just visit the city of Waterford and the Waterford Crystal Show Room. I was told if I did it on my own that a taxi would cost upwards to 40 Euro each way so I purchased a “Waterford On Your Own” bus ticket from the Holland America Excursion desk. This provided me with a fixed schedule for a tender, a bus into the city and a return bus. I was told that I would still need to hire a taxi to the Waterford Crystal plant.
My scheduled time to board the tender was 0900 so I spent some time on the deck taking my customary pictures of the harbor. The tender took about 30 minutes to load and get to the dock and unload where we boarded a tour bus.
The bus had a tour guide who described the scenery and typical tour guide things on the forty five minute drive to the city. Many of the people on the bus asked him how we could best get to the Crystal factory so he talked to the bus driver and he agreed to drive us to the factory and hang around for an hour before returning to the center of town. About half the passengers on the bus took him up on the offer.
The show room at the factory had spectacular crystal on display. Replicas of many famous crystal sports trophies were on display. They had a video of the manufacturing process including the fabrication of molds, glass blowing, design cutting and etching. In addition to the crystal there was also a Wedgwood and jewelry show rooms. I took a lot of pictures of the crystal on display and purchased some jewelry.
Back in the city I walked around, visited a museum and had a fish and chips lunch in a Pub. A couple from North Andover was at the table next to me. The waiter had recognized their Boston accent and told them he had just returned from spending a vacation in Florida and Boston.
The town really didn’t have much to see. I discovered that my Google maps had stopped appearing on my cell phone and I stopped in a Mobile Phone store that sold Blackberry Storms for assistance. They weren’t much help and later I got it to work on my own.
The weather was great and on the way back to the port we passed a beautiful beach that was very crowded for a weekday afternoon.
Back in my cabin I wrote in my journal until 1600 when I attended a local Irish Dance show.
At dinner I sat at a table for eight. There were three couples and at the other end was Clair, a single lady from Alameda, CA that I had sat next to the day before at the Single/Solo Luncheon. It was the birthday of one of the gentleman at the table so we each had a piece of his cake.
After dinner I attended the “Majority Rules” game. The audience was divided into groups of four and given a pad of slips with the group number on each page. My teammates were a couple from Quebec that spoke very little English. Just as the game was about to start Clair entered the room and I invited her to fill out our team. The objective of the game was to write an answer to a general question like “Name a car manufacturer” and if your answer agrees with the majority you get a point. On that question we wrote Toyota but the majority wrote Ford. We ended up with three points and the winning team had nine.
Following the game was the evening show. And what a show it was! Judy Garland’s daughter Lorna Luft performed. She has a fantastic voice and has great arrangements (her husband played the piano) singing show tunes, some of her mother’s tunes and several songs she arranged herself. One was a medley of well known songs from movies that didn’t win an Oscar. It was very clever and she was great transitioning from one song to the next. I have to say that it was one of the best performances I have seen on a cruise ship.
After the show I returned to my cabin, wrote in my journal and retired at 2300.
Aug 14, 2009 (Friday) Liverpool, England
I awoke to my alarm at 0700, showered, shaved and got dressed to go on tour. I read my email on my Blackberry and headed to the Lido for breakfast. I was a little miffed that the steward didn’t leave me any fresh fruit in my cabin. At the Lido I had to ask the people producing the fresh orange juice for a whole orange. After a simple breakfast of a slice of ham and cheese, an English muffin and yogurt, I returned to my cabin and packed the bag that Cruise Specialists had given me. There was a predicted 50% chance of rain so I packed an umbrella and rain jacket along with a spare battery for the camera.
The tour I was scheduled to take was sponsored by Cruise Specialists and was scheduled to depart from the Ocean Bar at 0900. I arrived at 0850 and most of the people were already there. One more person arrived and Lucia Barnhoorn, the Cruise Specialists Escort cleared us to depart for the bus. She was not going with us because she was going to meet Tom Mullen, a Cruise Specialists Escort who lives in England at the train station. Her husband, Henk, met us at the end of the ramp from the dock to the street.
Liverpool has a unique Cruise Terminal arrangement where the ships tie up to a pier that raises and falls with the tide. The entrance and exit between the ship and the pier was easy but depending on the tide the ramps from the pier to the street can be very steep. In addition the buses have to park a block away from the street ramp.
This was my first Cruise Specialists interaction with the other Cruise Specialists customers. Although there are 99 customers on board, only 28 were on this tour and I think I was one of the youngest. Many were complaining about the walk up the ramp and to the buses. Only a few had canes and one woman had her foot in a walking cast. I sat by myself in the second row and across the aisle was one of the Single/Solo ladies named Currie Fuss. Currie used to live in Woodland Hills.
The tour started with a drive around the city. The first stop was at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King Liverpool. The Cathedral built in the 1960’s was a famous Liverpool landmark, and one of the most architecturally striking modern symbols of Catholicism in the world. It has problems with the original construction and undertook a restoration in the mid 1990’s and was completed in 2003. The basic design was a large circle with the alter in the center and eight small chapels around the side. Sixteen concrete ribs support an enormous stained glass lantern that gives height and light to the alter below. The lantern was topped by pinnacles, appropriately reminiscent of a crown.
My son-in-law, Dan would love it for several reasons. Starting with the unique design and then the fact that the original construction did not age well and the roof and windows leaked and a massive project was required to modernize and weather proof the windows, roof and building. It was quite a project to determine exactly what was wrong and then to determine and design and construct the fixes required to hopefully not have the problems reappear in the future. Dan has a degree in Architecture and has worked as a Project Manager on the remodeling of a church in Montclair, NJ.
The structure was at one end of Hope Street. Our next stop was at the other end of Hope Street where the Anglican Liverpool Cathedral stands on a hill. The Cathedral was Britain’s largest cathedral, the largest Anglican cathedral in Europe and was considered one of the great buildings of the world. Designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott it took over 70 years to build from 1904 to 1978. The massive Vestry Tower stands 331ft high. The cavernous interior has no fixed pews and can be configured for large dinners. The building contains a large book store and restaurant. Whereas the Catholic cathedral was construed of steel and concrete the Anglican cathedral was build of red stone in a traditional gothic church design.
It was a marvelous experience to visit these two contrasting designs and we followed that with a tour of the Beatles. Our guide grew up living across the street from Ringo Starr and attended school and knew all the Beatles personally and stays in touch with them to this day. She provided some very interesting side notes and was able to point out houses and places they practiced and wrote music that other tour guides would not probably know. We stopped for a photo op at Penny Lane, Strawberry Field, and John Lennon’s home, drove by the church were Paul sang in the church choir, past Sgt. Pepper’s, Matthew Street and on to: “The Beatles Story Exhibition”.
We toured the Exhibition which was the basement of an old waterfront warehouse. Several of the ladies felt they could not walk down the steps to the entrance so I got an Exhibition employee to activate the wheelchair lift. One of the ladies was Currie. Later as I was walking around the exhibit I saw Currie dancing by herself to a Beatles tune. She had a funny step but had a wide smile and I think her eyes were closed at some point. She was obviously enjoying herself and could move so I thought it odd that she couldn’t walk down the steps.
At the end of the exhibit halls (actually more like tunnels in the warehouse basement) was a gift shop and Starbucks Coffee shop. As I was about to climb the stairs I saw one of the little old ladies from our group that had used the lift to get down to the entrance, attempting to open the fire exit door. I stopped her and she looked confused and was trying to find a way out without having to climb the stairs at the end of the room. I noticed there was a wheelchair life alongside the stairs so I got a clerk to activate it for the ladies.
Once I was topside I left the group and walked back to the ship along Albert Dock which had been restored to contain many restaurants, shops and museums. Back on the ship I learned that Tom Mullen missed his train and would not be joining our cruise
After lunch on the ship with a couple from Salam, MA, I attended an interview of Lorna Luft. It was interesting to hear her talk of her mother and growing up in Beverly Hills and in hotels around the world when her mother went on tour. She told us how she got into show business and how she trained. She has some similar mannerisms to her mother and in some of her songs you hear a little bit of her mother but she doesn’t notice it herself.
The evening show was the comic performance of Al Katz. He was very entertaining and involved the audience in his act. The night was topped off with a Singles/Solo Mixer in the Crow’s Nest which was good for a free drink and an opportunity to meet some of the other single or solo travelers. One of the gentlemen was Jim from San Antonio. He was a retired Army widower but travels a lot on Holland America with one of the older ladies to save the single supplement fee. I discovered that Rebekah was also from Texas. She grew up in Lubbock and graduated from Texas Tech.
Rebekah had instituted a little game to encourage people to mix. She gave one of the Single/Solos a Holland America pin and a phrase. if you saw the person wearing the pin you were to ask them for it and they would recite the phrase. At the end of the cruise the person with the pin would get a prize and tell Rebekah the phrase to see how it had been modified being passed from one person to another.
After I finished my free drink and talking about Texas I returned to my cabin and retired at 2300.
Aug 15, 2009 (Saturday) Greenock (Glasgow), Scotland
I awoke to my alarm at 0700, showered and shaved. The cabin steward had left a banana and an apple so I went to the Lido for breakfast to get my whole orange.
At 0800 the ship docked at Greenock, Scotland, the port downstream from the city of Glasgow, Scotland on the Clyde River. I had signed up for another Cruise Specialists tour titled “Glasgow Gems & Kelvingrove Gallery”. We assembled in the Ocean Lounge and departed for the bus at 0900. It was raining on and off. The Princess Tahiti was also in port docked just in front of us. We were greeted in the terminal building by men in kilts and Scottish head gear and bag pipes.
We had a larger group on the bus than the day before and I shared a seat with Currie. Britain has a seatbelt law on tour buses and with my Blackberry on my belt I had trouble getting it fasten. In addition I had my rain jacket on and a bag with an umbrella, my “Tilley” hat and other miscellaneous things on my lap. Needless to say I appeared to be stuffed in my seat in the eyes of this slim little old lady next to me. The drive to the city took an hour and after we left the quaint little town of Greenock we were on a “M” four lane highway so I dozed off a little until we arrived in Glasgow.
We drove around the city seeing the various buildings, parks, monuments and statues until we arrived at the Kelvingrove Gallery and Museum. It was a marvelous museum free for all ages. It had areas for kids to experience science, stuffed animals, Scottish history, fine paintings and sculptures. A good experience and gave us an appreciation of the history of Scotland. We had an hour to explore the exhibits. When we reloaded the bus, my seat companion had moved. She said I appeared so uncomfortable on the drive to the city that she took pity on me and moved so I would have two seats by myself. I guess I need to skip some of the cruise food. I really hadn’t been that uncomfortable but with the bulk of the rain jacket and bag in my lap I probably did look like I was. On the return drive it rained very hard.
Back on the ship I went to the Lido and had lunch. I sat with Ruth and Cynthia as they were finishing their lunch. Cynthia was a Doctor and we talked about why she didn’t apply to work the cruise ships but she said it would cut into her dancing. They select only cruise lines and cruises that have dance hosts. They left before I finished and one of the Cruise Specialists ladies joined me. She was another one that I help obtain a lift in the Beatles Story Exhibit. She also only selects cruises with dance hosts and started telling me all the gossip about the other single ladies in the Cruise Specialist s group. I thinking I am becoming the Father Confessor on this cruise. There are over 300 passengers on this ship that have cruised with Holland America for over 100 days. Almost all the ladies in the Cruise Specialists group have taken more than one World Cruise and they all know each other and are not necessarily good friends.
I retired to my cabin and wrote up the Liverpool journal and sent it out as an email. At the “Sail Away” 2 for 1 I went up to the Crow’s Nest to partake in the festivities. Nancy, my dance class partner and her roommate Sandy, were at the bar and invited me to join them. Sandy was from Madison, CT and has played tennis at the Weston Tennis Club within sight of my boyhood home. (It’s a small world) At 1730 I went to dinner and was seated at a table with a couple and three ladies. Claire, from my table the night before was one of them.
After dinner I attended the “Call My Bluff” game. The ship’s Captain, Second Officer and Al Katz the comedian, sat on the stage and the cruise director asked them to define an obscure word. Each of them would go into a long rambling definition of the word and the audience clapped to indicate which one they thought had defined the word correctly. One of the words was selcouth and another peccavi. I cheated and looked up the definitions on my Blackberry and I shared my finding with Claire who was sitting a few seats away. On selcouth we were the only two in the audience to support Al Katz’s definition and that was fun. He thanked Claire profusely when he got up as having the correct definition.
The show was a performance by a Hanna Starosta, a violinist.
At 2230 I attended the Singles/Solos Mixer in the Crow’s Nest. Rebekah, the Party Planner, has this program where one of the Singles wears a Holland America pin and if you see that person you are supposed to ask them for the pin a the secret phrase and tell them what movie it was from. Well tonight I noticed the pin on one of the woman and so I now have to wear the pin and remember to pass on the secret phase which was “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine” from the movie Casablanca. The last person to be wearing the pin when we dock in Boston gets a Holland America prize.
After we finished our free drinks most of the group left so I returned to my cabin to update my journal and retired at 2300.
Aug 16, 2009 (Sunday) At Sea, (North Sea)
It was Sunday and a sea day so I didn’t set an alarm and slept until after 0800. The activity schedule for the day had a lot of choices. At 0900 I attended the start of Michael Millwood’s lecture on: “The Norse (Viking) Invasion of Iceland” but I left at 0930 to attend Moyra’s “Good Morning Maasdam” where she interviewed the Captain. He was one of the most outgoing Captains I have had on a cruise ship. He has a keen dry humor and I can tell that he genuinely likes to talk (although he has a Dutch accent) and interface with the passengers. He appears to get along very well with Moyra.
At 1100 I was invited to a Mariner’s Club Reception for the members that have traveled over 100 days on Holland America cruises. There were 1258 passengers on the cruise and over 900 were Mariner’s Club members and of those over 300 are in the over 100 day category. Consequently, there was no individual recognition, as I had experienced on other cruises, just free champagne or wine and one lady was awarded the 100 medallion.
After the reception I attended the Single/Solo Luncheon and sat with one of the Dance Hosts, Jim and a lady (Inga) from Germany traveling with a lady from New Zealand. Inga noticed the Singles/Solo pin and I gave her the phrase and asked her if she knew what movie it was from. She didn’t know so I told her and she replied that she had never seen the movie. Come to think of it since it was originally shown during WWI and didn’t put the Germans in a good light, a native German would not have had much of an opportunity to see it.
Rebekah had purchase wine for each of us at the luncheon and then encouraged us to all attend her Cha Cha dance class at 1400 in the Crow’s Nest. I attended and was paired off with Karleen. She knew the step and I was very rusty having not danced it in years but I muddled through.
At 1500 I attended another lecture by Dr. David Smith on: “Iceland’s Volcanoes, Icecaps and Catastrophic Floods”. After the lecture I returned to my cabin, checked my email and got dressed in my formal.
I skipped eating in the dining room and instead I ate in the Lido so I could attend the first show at 1800. I sat with Jim. He doesn’t bring a tux on cruises and for the most part doesn’t eat in the dining room. He prefers the flexibility to eat what he wants in the Lido and it takes much less time.
Since they scheduled the show to start early, the late dining crowd was in the audience so I sat with people that I don’t normally see at the shows. The show was titled “Unforgettable” and performed by the Maasdam Cast singers. It was again my type of music as you would imagine from the title, a little Nate “King” Cole, Frank Sinatra, Parry Como, Dean Martin, etc.
At 2200 I attended the 50’s & 60’s Prom Night in the Crow’s Nest. I danced almost every dance with a different lady and at one point I stopped to get a drink of water at the bar when Rebekah announced that the next number would be a special dance. Karleen was also getting a drink at the bar so I asked her to dance the number with men and during the dance Rebekah gave me a Holland America key fob. At the end of the number she asked the couples with the key fob to stay on the floor and they would participate in a 50’s-60’s dance contest.
We could name our tune to dance to. The first couple danced the twist. I have seen much better twist dancers. The second couple danced a swing with some fancy chorographic steps – very good show. Next we were up and I requested “In the Mood” and we danced my usual ad hoc style. The forth couple declined to dance. The crowd was then asked to vote by applause to pick the winner. The first couple got a polite applause, the second a loud applause, and with the support of the Singles/Solos crowd in attendance we got a loud applause so Rebekah declared it a tie and gave each of us a Holland America Picture Frame.
I again returned to my cabin with a soaking wet shirt and retired at mid-night.
Aug 17, 2009 (Monday) Tórshavn, Faroe Islands
A new destination for me was the Faroe Islands. They call themselves a country but are not members of the EU or UN. They are an autonomous, self –governing region within the Kingdom of Denmark. The islands are located in the heart of the North Atlantic, midway between Iceland and Norway and northwest of Scotland. The archipelago consists of 18 islands, 17 of which are inhabited. The islands are narrow mountains divided by narrow sounds.
Despite their northern latitude location they are in the flow of the Gulf Stream and have a mild climate. Temperatures rarely dip below freezing and rarely rise above 60° F. It rains on at least one of the islands 300 days per year.
The population was around 48,000 with 20,000 in the capital city of Tórshavn. They have only about 5% unemployed with fishing being the major industry. Fish products account for 97% of the country’s exports. Oil has been discovered but has not been developed but was expected to become a lucrative industry in the future.
I awoke to my alarm at 0700, showered and dressed warmly to go ashore. We docked at the Tórshavn container port at 0800. The Tahitian Princess had to anchor in the harbor. I had a quick breakfast and proceeded to the Ocean Bar to meet the Cruise Specialists tour group. This was the largest group so far with two busses scheduled. I was assigned to Bus 2 and again sat across from Hubert and Roberta from Salam, Mass. This time Currie had her own seat and Esther was assigned to bus 1 so I had the seat to myself.
The bus left at 0830 heading out of town to the northwest past beautiful landscape along the fjords, small villages, waterfalls and a lot of sheep. The islands have 20,000 sheep and enough cows to provide the inhabitants with milk and butter. There are no chicken or pigs on the islands. The sheep population was limited by the grazing area available. We drove through a 3km tunnel and forty minutes out we crossed the Atlantic Ocean to the island of Eysturoy. Our guide, Sam, told us that the bridge was the only bridge in the world that spans the Atlantic Ocean. After a drive along the western edge of Eysturoy we stopped at a view point overlooking the northern most point on the island and the village of Eiðil. Off the point was a rock formation sticking out of the ocean adjacent to a cliff with a large crack. The story goes that a troll tied a rope around the end of the island in an attempt to tow the island to Iceland but after the crack developed the troll was turned to stone.
From that point we drove another 10 minutes to a point overlooking the village of Gjógv for a photo op and then we drove into the village and stopped at a small hotel and an opportunity to walk around the village which was very picturesque with a little church and seaport. In addition to the hotel there was only one retail store in town, a café which sold woolens. We spent around thirty minutes exploring the village and then back on the bus we drove back towards Tórshavn. We had another photo op stop overlooking at the top of a peak overlooking the villages and seaport below. Just before the bridge we had a rest stop at a Gas Station and Country Store. Unfortunately, the café and the Country store would not accept US dollars, Euros or Pounds. Some of the people that wanted to use their credit cards did not know their pins which were required by the credit card machines in Europe so they were not able to buy the snacks they wanted to purchase.
After crossing the bridge and driving through the tunnel we drove up the mountain and 50 minutes later we stopped at the top of the mountain for a photo op and a clear picture of the islands of Koltur and Hestur. At the parking spot was a pile of rocks which we had seen similar piles during our tour. Our guide told us that they are markers between villages before they were roads. He pointed out another pile in the distance in the direction of Tórshavn. The distance between the markers was such that if you could not see the next pile because of weather conditions, you were not supposed to proceed to prevent your getting lost. Fifteen minutes later we stopped again overlooking Tórshavn. The city has several fine soccer fields, a large indoor swimming pool, bowling alley and one shopping center with 28 stores. It was the first day of school and as we drove through the city to the ship we saw a lot of teenagers (it was lunch time).
We returned to the ship at 1330. I ate in the Lido and returned to my cabin to write up the day.
At 1630 I attended the “Sail A-Way” 2 for 1 in the Crow’s Nest. Nancy was there complaining about the lady behind her talking her arm off and inviting herself to join Nancy and Sandy for dinner.
I left at 1730 for dinner. I was seated with a couple from Port Huron, MI and a couple from Albuquerque, NM. The latter couple retired from working for Cal-Berkley at the Los Alamos Labs. They were traveling with a Cal-Berkley tour group.
After dinner I attended the “Fifteen Minutes of Fame” at 1930. Cruise Director, Moyra, introduced us to Steven Nasser, whom I ate with Saturday night. It turns out that he was a Hungarian Jew that was the only member of his family of 21 that survived the war. He told us how he witnessed the murder of his aunt and cousin and that he and his brother were separated from the rest of his family to never see them again and that his brother died in his arms. He also smuggled a pen knife into the camp by sticking it up his rectum and then used it to whittle figures that he traded to the guards for pencils so he could write a diary of his experience. He published a book titled “My Brother’s Keeper” and gives free lectures to schools on his experiences and the need for family cohesion. His talk finished just before the 2000 show and Moyra allowed one question from the audience. The person she selected did not ask a question but stated that he grew up in Amsterdam and saw the Jews marching by his house. Steven was not hostile but instead stated he had a right to his opinion and then asked all the military veterans in the audience to stand and thanked us for providing the freedom to enable people of differing opinions to express their opinions. As Steven left the room with his wife who had been sitting in the front row the Dutchman got up and followed him out the room. He soon returned and sat in the seat that Steven’s wife had vacated and turned to explain himself to the woman next to him who just turned away from him and ignored him.
The performance that night was Marty Hill a wind instrument musician from Australia. He started with the flute and then played some Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman pieces. Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed the performance so much that when he performed again at 2200 I attended again to hear the clarinet pieces.
The clocks were set back one hour so I wrote some more entries in my journal and retired at 2230 revised time.
Aug 18, 2009 (Tuesday) Djύpivogur, Iceland
Try to pronounce the name of Djúpivogur, Iceland
We anchored off Djúpivogur, Iceland, the 111th country I have visited. We are having great fun with the name of this port. The Captain could not pronounce it correctly when he made the announcement on the time we would arrive. Since we crossed a time zone and gained an hour I was able to get a good eight hours sleep. This put me in a good mood so at breakfast in the Lido I walked around with the roll of silverware in a napkin as if it was a microphone and I would approach my friends and stick the “mic” in their faces and tell them that I was from the Jay Leno Show and asked them if they could tell me where they were. Only Sandy from Connecticut came close with the correct pronunciation. It was a lot of fun and I even embarrassed Rebekah the Party Planner. Moyra, the Cruise Director was the only one that pronounced it correctly.
At 0945 I boarded a tender for a 15 minute cruise to the village. We were greeted at the dock by two young boys handing out a map and welcome brochure that described the village. They describe themselves as an East Iceland fishing village. They are proud of their bird project which was described at ww.birds.is. The aim of the project was to make their area one of the best bird watching areas in Iceland.
Djupivogur was situated on the peninsula between Hamarsfjörður and Berufjörður fjords. The island of Papey was just off the shore. Papey was the island that Irish Monks and hermits lived on centuries ago. The village was an important trading post 400 years ago. Today fishing is the main industry. The village was named for a female troll that legend tells was buried just outside of the village beneath a small rocky mound.
It didn’t take me long to walk around the village. Just up the slope from the dock was a long red building with a coffee shop and a museum. Further up the hill were the Police station and the Post Office across the street which was not open. I walked past these buildings down the road to a small church. I took some photos and headed back to what I think was considered the center of the village past a bust to I guess was some famous person. Down a slope a large tent had been erected selling wool and leather skin garments. I ducked in for a look and was overcome by the smell of damp wool. The wool garments were very coarse. A vendor told me the hand bags were made of deer skin and cod skin.
Exiting the tent I strolled past the only hotel in town and up a hill past the hospital on the road to what I think was the school. A few houses along the road I came upon a house with a highly decorated yard with trolls and Disney characters. The woman of the house spoke no English but I think I got out of her that she was the artist that created the figures and character cutouts and painted them. She even had Donald Duck painted on the side of her trash can. She invited me to walk around the other side of her house and to her back yard where she had more troll figures. On an old brightly painted what appeared to be a seed spreader she had a row of small troll figures.
I complimented her on her work and walked next door where the owner had set up a handcraft retail display in his garage. He also had decorated the front of his house including small statues of Laurel and Hardy. I took some pictures and headed back to the center of the village and visited the General Store. All the meat was frozen but they had fresh fruits and vegetables plus a variety of cereals and canned goods plus milk and soda.
As I walked around the village I continued to play my Jay Leno man on the street interviews asking people where they were – I had great fun and the people I stopped to ask had as much fun. I wish I had someone following me with a video recording the answers that I received. Most people dodged the question or tried unsuccessfully to pronounce the name even though they were all carrying the brochure with the name on it. When I told them that they could not return on the tender without correctly pronouncing the village name I received some very funny responses.
The rain started again so I headed back to the tender and returned to the ship. Esther was on my tender and she was very disappointed in the shore visit.
I had only spent two hours ashore and by the time I hung up my warm weather clothes it was noon so I ate lunch in the Lido and returned to my cabin to write up the adventure.
At 1630 I attended the “Sail-Away” 2 for 1 event in the Crow’s Nest and heard stories about the others that went ashore. The one place I missed was a tour of the hotel. It reportedly had an interesting bar in the basement. I went to dinner and sat with a couple from Annapolis, MD on their honeymoon. Very interesting, he works for the FAA as an expert in aircraft maintenance policy.
The show was a variety act performed by the last three performers: Hanna Starosta, the violinist; Al Katz, the comic; and Marty Hill, playing wind instruments. Al was very funny and I want to share one of his jokes with you. With the high price of postage stamps he puts the name and address of the person or organization he was mailing a letter in the sender section and mails the letter to his own address with no stamp on it. What does the Post Office do with letters without stamps? – They return it to the sender.
At 2230 I attended the Singles/Solos Mixer in the Crow’s Nest. It was a small group. Rebekah introduced me to James and Kathy Taylor, a dance team that will be performing later on the cruise. They used to live in Canoga Park and at one point I danced with Kathy and she complemented me on my dancing, which was quite a thrill for an old man to be complimented on his dancing by a professional. James and Kathy also danced and put on quite a show. I was looking forward to seeing their performance later on during the cruise.
The clocks were adjusted one hour so I was able to go to bed at 2300 revised time.
Aug 19, 2009 (Wednesday) Reykjavík, Iceland
The day started slow. We were not scheduled to dock in Reykjavik until 1430 so I slept until 0800 and had breakfast at 0900. Moyra, the Cruise Director was interviewing Al Katz at 0930 in the Wajang Theatre and I wanted to attend. As I was leaving the Lido to get a seat before the interview someone engaged me in a conversation and I was a little late arriving and the only seat open was on the first row. Al was discussing the fact that despite the laughter he received in the first show the night before the audience was dead during the second show with the same material. I had to come down the aisle in front of him to get to the seat and he stopped talking and got up from his chair and came over and shook my hand and thanked me from coming. Major egg on my face! He continued to be funny in the interview and afterwards I apologized for interrupting him and he told me it was fun.
At 1100 I attended the Cast Chat and Backstage Tour. They have ten singers and dancers in the troupe and what surprised me was one just graduated from High School in June and another was just a year out of high school. Two attended the same college in Pittsburg at different times. The oldest was only 27.
After the backstage tour I attended the Singles/Solo Luncheon hoping to pass on the pin but they only one that noticed it didn’t want to wear it, so I still have it. After lunch we were nearing the port and they had “Sail-In Commentary” on the outside decks by the Travel Guide. I returned to my cabin and donned my warm jacket and gathered my bag to go ashore and went out to the Promenade deck and watched as we entered the port. The Cruise Terminal was on the northeast side of the city and we approached from the southwest so we passed by the city before we docked and were able to see the major land marks.
When we docked I checked in for my Cruise Specialist shore excursion and waited until we were cleared to go ashore. There were 48 people taking the Cruise Specialist excursion. When I boarded the bus and took a seat in about the fourth row I found the room to be cramped for my knee so I had to sit sideways. Across the aisle was a single man and soon another couple came on board and instead of taking an empty seat in the back the man sat next to me and the woman across the aisle. I could not sit without my knee hitting the seat in front of me and I knew that that would not work so I excused myself and moved to the back of the bus and sat in the back row with no seat in from of me.
At 1500 we started the tour with a drive from the dock area through the east side of the city past the sports complex, Botanical Gardens, the Zoo, and on to the east bound highway until we reached the Árbær Outdoor Museum. The drive took about 20 minutes. The museum was situated on an old farm that was a “pit stop” on the road to Reykjavik for travelers from the interior of the country. The original farm house and root cellars are still on the farm but in addition about a dozen historic buildings have been moved to the farm to form the museum and show how the people historically lived. There was an old sod roofed church, a former church that was converted to a gymnasium, an old hospital building and even horses, cows, chickens and a 1966 Chrysler Newport.
When we exited the bus it was raining. I had my Tilley hat and a rain jacket so it didn’t bother me but some of the group stayed on the bus. It was interesting to see the old houses and their furnishings and the church. We were there about 40 minutes.
The next stop was Perlan (The Pearl), a silver six story dome over five geothermal hot water storage tanks. Hot water naturally flows from the earth in this area (and to a large extent throughout the country) and was captured and stored in these tanks and distributed to all the buildings in the city. As I was walking from the bus to the entrance of the building, Esther, the little 80 year old Jewish lady that I have had fun with since the Beatles tour, was exiting with a Holland America tour group. She raised her hands and ran up to me and gave me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek as if we were long separated lovers. She told me later that after I entered the building one of the women from the Cruise Specialist group scolded her and told her that I was married and she should be careful. She got a big kick out of that since we have had several long discussions about my travels with and without Judy and I have shown her pictures of Judy. She didn’t tell me which women scolded her but some people don’t want others to have fun.
Anyway the Perlan (The Pearl) dome was interesting. It has an outside platform on the sixth floor that provides panorama views of the city and surrounding areas. It had stopped raining when we got to the platform and the sun broke out so it was a nice view. There were observation points over each tank and steam was venting at those points. In side they had a manmade geyser that erupted every five minutes with a three story high plume of water.
Our next stop was the National Museum which was just closing as we arrived so we could not go in. After some calls by the guide to her office they decided to drive us around the city to the Cathedral. It was a very plain concrete structure designed to resemble a mountain of basaltic lava. It was 75m tall and the inside was without the ornate designs typically found in churches. The plain high walls and windows without stain glass make it an imposing structure. It was undergoing reinforcement of the concrete to withstand a 7.0 earthquake. The one break in the plain design was a massive set of organ pipes. During our tour of the building an organ recital was being played. In front of the church stands a large statue of Leif Ericson.
Once we boarded the bus from the Cathedral we rode around the city through the shopping area, around the marina and past the house that President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev held a meeting in 1986. It was after 1800 when we returned to the ship and after dumping my jacket and bag in my cabin I proceeded to the Lido for dinner. I had a nice salad and a small piece of Prime Rib. I ate with a three ladies one of which sat next to me in the back row of the bus.
At 1930 I attended “The Battle of the Sexes” game show where three men and three women sit on the stage and write answers to questions to a pad of paper. If two of the three write the same answer the team receives five points, if all three write the same answer the team gets 10 points. They asked for volunteers to participate. Clair and Nan from the Singles/Solo group volunteered and no men volunteered so Clair asked me to volunteer. We were beat badly by the girls. I generally answered the same way as one of the other men. We bombed on the question of what laundry shop was used in your house. The woman all answered “Tide”, while we men gave three different answers (I answered Kirkland which got a good laugh because the cruise staff didn’t know what it meant). Anyway I won a “dam mug” with a large “M” on one side and dam on the other which will complement my “P” dam mugs. (Too bad I wasn’t in the Military Police).
At 2000 I attended the “Iceland Folkloric Show”.
Now, tell me what you would expect when you see that title in your program?
When the curtain rose there was a handsome man and three women (a chunky blond (the lead), a brunette, and a thin blond) in Icelandic sweaters and two couples in traditional Icelandic dress siting on the edge of the stage. The lead blond started the program by telling us that the program would consist of Icelandic traditional songs followed by a performance of five traditional dances. The music was prerecorded and the singers started by humming notes to get in perfect harmony and then sang an Icelandic song demonstrating that they all had terrific voices and sang in perfect harmony. The audience appreciated the talent and after the second song was starting to settle in for a sophisticated evening of well sung local numbers.
The lead blond then told us she was going to sing a song that mothers sing to their children. She told us she has two boys and she sings this song to them every night. The song tells the story of a women outlaw that was on the run from the authorities and when she was about to be captured she threw her daughter into a waterfall rather than have it growing up with her mother in prison. She added that it tells a lot about Icelandic mothers that they sing that type of song to their children today. As she sang the song the other blond started to cry while the brunette played the piano. The group then started another Icelandic song and all of a sudden broke into a rap song in English.
When they finished the song the audience was sensing that this was not the classical folk singing we were expecting. The singers removed their sweaters and flung them across the floor towards the back of the stage and started dancing around the stage breaking into a series of show tunes. The thin blond acted like Carol Burnett goofing around the stage. When the male singer started to sing “Maria” he went into the audience and serenaded one of the women, then the brunette came off the stage and started serenading me and the song switched to “these boots are meant for walking and she looked down in disgust at my running shoes and then noticed the guy sitting next to me was wearing alligator cowboy boots. She had a grand time lifting my neighbor’s leg to show the boots to the rest of the audience. The singing was outstanding and the performers danced around the stage and ran around the audience even the upper deck serenading individuals, sitting in laps, dancing with passengers in the aisle.
They took a break and we were treated to five perfectly executed different dances by the two couples in traditional costumes. When the dancing was complete the male singer appeared dressed in a silver sequence jump suit with a guitar and started to sing a traditional song about horses when from backstage each of the women appeared in gold sequence outfits acting like ponies running around the stage, leaping off the stage running through the audience. In another set they performed the women were dressed in white sequence dresses singing a melody of Motown hits. They finished the act with disco including the song “YMCA”. They got a rousing standing ovation and as I left I heard more than one person say that it was the best show they had ever seen on a cruise ship.
I returned to my cabin and started to write up the day’s experience. As it got close to 2200 and the second show I left my cabin and debated attending the show again something I have rarely done on any cruise. I ran into Esther and told her to not miss the show. She insisted that I attend again and sit with her. The second show was also terrific. At one point the lead blond serenaded Esther and I and jumped on my lap. During the finishing disco number the two couples joined in scrimpy disco costumes.
When the show completed the cast posted for pictures. Again I overheard people remaking as they left that it was the best show they have ever seen on a cruise ship.
I tried to write it up and send it out Wednesday night but I didn’t finish and crashed at mid-night. My cabin was mid ship and the gangway on deck 5 was right over my cabin so the aluminum stairway was outside my window and when the people that went out on the town were returning they were waking me up as they clunked up the aluminum ramp. I heard sounds as late as 0200. Some crew or passengers had a good time! It most likely was crew since this was the first overnight port the ship has had in six months.
Aug 20, 2009 (Thursday) Reykjavík, Iceland
The first over night of the cruise was over and the tide has risen enough that they no longer used the ramp over my head and they come and go via A deck 3 below (I am on B deck 4). It was a short night since I had scheduled an 0800 shore excursion with the Cruise Specialist group. I had less than 6 hours sleep since it took me so long to describe the previous day’s entertainment. I still had not finished writing it up and retired at 0030.
I arose at 0600 and showered and shaved, read my email and went to breakfast in the Lido. People were still talking about how great the previous night’s show was. After my usual breakfast of a whole orange, yogurt, ham and cheese on an English muffin, I returned to the cabin to brush my teeth and get my warm jacket and bag to go ashore. I met the Cruise Specialists group and departed from the Ocean Bar. It was a roomier bus than the day before but the same guide. She was a journalist and her husband was a TV producer. When they were first married they lived in LA while he attended TV production training.
I again sat in the back row so I could stretch out my knee. Nancy, Sandy, Esther and Currie were all on the tour. We drove around the outside of the city for an hour past a lake to the geothermal fields where we stopped to walk along a path with bubbling mud poodles and steaming water on both sides. I walked with Sandy and we took each other’s pictures with the various backgrounds. We were there about 45 minutes. It was a desolate area with a long unpaved road to the spot and onward.
About ten minutes after we left the area we came upon the area that Clint Eastwood filmed parts of his movie “Flags of Our Fathers”. The Japanese government would not allow his to film on Iwo Jima and there were no people on the island to perform as extras in the movie anyway, so he selected this area of Iceland since it had similar volcanic rocky terrain and black sand beaches. We passed the hill that he used to simulate the raising of the flag, past black sand beaches to the famous Blue Lagoon.
The Blue Lagoon was a lake formed from the water used by the power plant. It was reported to contain special powers and was similar to the Red Sea. It was a major tourist attraction and there were many buses and vans in the parking lot. We did not have the time to swim but there were tours from the ship that included swimming and the entertainment cast had gone swimming there the previous day.
We had a table reserved in the dining room overlooking the swimming lagoon and were served coffee and pastries. We had 45 minutes to walk around, take pictures and visit the gift shop. I purchased some items and special shampoo that was supposed to help cure the problems I have on my scalp.
Leaving the Blue Lagoon we drove 20 minutes through a fishing village to a museum near Keflavik Airport. Keflavik was a former USAF and NATO base and serves as the International Airport. The military left in 2006 but I could recognize the barracks miles away. They are now used for student housing.
The museum contained the ship that was a replica of a Viking ship and in 1999 sailed across the Atlantic to Canada and the US to validate that it could be done. The rooms next to the ship displayed descriptions of the building of the ship, the voyage, and Viking exploits in general. We then drove an hour back to the city and the cruise ship. At the Cruise Terminal I was able to get a refund on the tax paid for my goodies.
I ate lunch in the Lido with the couple from Salem, MA and Clair joined us. We talked about the Red Sox score and how nice it was to learn that Ortiz was hitting home runs again.
After lunch I returned to my cabin to complete the journal for the day before. I found it difficult to describe the performance to explain how unique and entertaining it was. All afternoon as I was writing the gangway was creaking outside my window. At 1630 they removed the gangway and I finished my journal entry and attempted to email it out. After 10 minutes of connect time it would not send so I signed out and headed for the Crow’s Nest and the “Sail-Away” 2 for 1 Happy Hour. I had a couple of Manhattans with Nancy and Sandy and left for dinner. I was seated at a table with Karleen and Eleen, the couple from Oregon and a couple from Ottawa. He was the first person from Canada that I have met on the cruise that knew of my former employer: SHL Systemhouse, and that was because he used to work for Oracle.
We left at 1930 to attend the “What’s My Line” game show. The first participant was a physiological profiler and stumped the panel. The second participant was a dumpy little woman that once had been a trapeze artist. The panel was able to guess it just as time ran out.
The featured performer was scheduled to be Jim Curry who performs John Denver songs. I had seen him perform on previous cruises. Unfortunately he had a flight cancel and he missed the flight to Iceland so they substituted a comedian named Jeff Nease. He had some good and some bad routines but overall it was entertaining.
After the show I returned to my cabin to write my journal. The sea was rough and there was an adverse wind so the ship was rocking and rolling. Fortunately we set the clock back one hour so I can gain the sleep I lost the night before.
Aug 21, 2009 (Friday) At Sea, (North Atlantic)
Another day at sea - I slept until 0800 and had a late breakfast in the Lido.
This cruise has been without CNN, ESPN or BBC TV reception since it left Newfoundland in July. For some reason this ship and Holland America Corporate (HAL) has not been able to get the authorization codes from the Television Network Provider to decode the satellite reception. What is hard to believe is that the situation has existed for weeks! There is some suspicion that maybe HAL has not paid their bill. As a result there was no discussion on the ship about Hurricane Bill until breakfast that morning. We still got the New York Times Digest every day but it had not had an article about the hurricane. Wendy had forwarded several CNN emails about it and Marc has inquired if the Captain had mentioned plans to alter course.
At 0930 I attended Moyra’s “Good Morning Maasdam” where she interviewed Hotel Manager Firmin. He talked a lot about his Flemish background and what it is like to be a Belgium in a crew of Dutch. He is very outgoing and has a good sense of humor.
At 1000 I attend the Explorations Speaker Series presentation. It was supposed to be about “Greenland’s Ice Sheet” but the speaker was under the weather so Michael Millwood presented the talk he had scheduled for 1400 on “Eric the Red and the Colonization of Greenland circa 985”.
That was followed by the Mariner’s Club luncheon. I sat with a couple from Bellevue, WA. He was in the flooring business and had found it slow enough to be able to take a 32 day cruise in the summer. I had two glasses of wine with my lunch and that was a mistake. I returned to my cabin to check email and ended up taking a nap and missed the afternoon lecture and several other events I had planned to attend.
At 1700 I dressed in my tux and went to dinner at 1730. I sat with the couple from Oregon (he is sight impaired) that I have sat with on numerous occasions, an ex-IBM Service Tech who used to service Alaska, and Gerry the Catholic Priest. Gerry was just as funny as he was the first night. He did put a damper on my enthusiastic support of the Icelandic Folklore show I was so impressed by the other night. He expected to see a genuine performance of Icelandic dancing and native songs and was greatly disappointed in what he called a Las Vegas Lounge Act. (Hey, don’t people enjoy the lounge acts in Las Vegas?)
After dinner I attended the show featuring Jeff Bradley, a variety comic with juggling, stupid cards tricks and average jokes. (A three on a scale of ten) I was in the front row and when he missed one of the blocks he was juggling it flew off the stage in front of me. I picked it up and threw it back on stage where he kicked it back to me. I threw it back, this time higher and he caught it and continued his routine. He asked me what my name was and I yelled out Ed and replied thank you “Ben”.
After the show I was on my way to the Ocean Bar when I encountered Sandy sitting my herself. Remembering it was her birthday I stopped and wished her happy birthday. She then proceeded to tell me how Nancy had ordered a cake for the table that was so large that she not only had a good size piece for the eight people at her table but offered it up to the large table next to her. I decided to buy her a drink and we sat in the Ocean Bar until the Black and White Ball started at 2230. Sandy doesn’t dance and Nancy was sitting at the bar with a guy from their dining table who was buying her drinks. Sandy was going to wait for Nancy so I attended the Ball.
The dancing had started as I entered the room and Rebekah asked me to dance. I didn’t win any prizes but I was asked to dance by one of the Entertainment staff and I was able to dance with Karleen (who I won the swing dance with) and several other single and married dancers. (They played a lot of switch partner’s numbers).
At one point I was soaking wet so I sat down next to Esther. We got into a long conversation and she told me she collects old cars and likes to drive fast. She loved it when I told her about my MG. Her second husband was the founder of Fredrick’s of Hollywood, and that she lived for a number of years in Israel and has a Hospital Wing named after her in a Tel Viv, hospital. Next thing we knew the Ball was over and everyone was leaving the room. As we approached the doorway, Jeff Bradley and Jeff Nease were talking and stopped to talk to Esther. Jeff recognized me from the show and I re told him that my name was “Ed” and not “Ben”. He is from Myrtle Beach, SC, and Esther remarked that she skated in the Sonja Henie Ice Show there one time. She is a character – on the surface a little old white hair lady not much taller than 5’2”, and just as friendly as can be.
The Captain finally mentioned the hurricane in his 1300 brief and when I returned to my cabin there was a letter in each cabin informing us that he was in contact with the corporate office to make arrangements if they have to revise the itinerary but they plan to dock in Boston on schedule.
We set the clocks back an hour and I retired at mid-night revised time.
Aug 22, 2009 (Saturday) Prince Christian Sound, Greenland
I slept late and ate a late breakfast in the Lido, and finished just in time to attend a presentation on “Navigation in Ice” by the Ice Pilot that was now on the ship. It was very interesting and informative.
I did a wash during his presentation and then walked the deck for 45 minutes during the drying cycle. It was sunny but was windy and cold as we had not yet entered the Sound where we expected to be somewhat sheltered from the wind.
At one point I stopped by the Cruise Specialist morning chat session. One of the Canadian passengers had printed out a map from the Canadian authorities that predicted that the hurricane would pass Cape Cod on Saturday, hit Halifax on Sunday and southern Newfoundland on Sunday night. Since our first port in Newfoundland is St. Anthony on the northern side of the island it should have passed south of our track by the time we swing around to St. John’s, next Wednesday and Saint Pierre next Thursday.
On the noon Captains report he speculated that the only impact on our itinerary could be sea conditions when we have to tender into our next two ports.
At noon we entered the Sound and I went to the Lido to eat lunch. Sandy and Nancy joined my table and soon the Ice Pilot started a running commentary on the sights. Sandy and I walked out on the deck aft of the Lido and I was surprised to discover it was warm in the sun and I was comfortable in just a long sleeve shirt. Sandy took some pictures of me with glaciers in the background.
At 1300 I joined the Singles/Solo Social Club meeting in the Ocean Bar. The windows were not clean enough to take good pictures so we adjourned to the promenade deck for photos. Since the deck was in the shade it was a little chilly for me without a jacket so I returned to the Lido deck for a warmer spot.
At 1438 we passed the only village on the Sound with 150 inhabits. I know the exact time because my Blackberry picked up 40 messages with that time stamp on them and before I realized it we were out of range and I could not send any messages out.
The talk at the dinner table was about how beautiful the day was. Apparently on the cruise east the ship had been scheduled to cruise the Sound and it was fogged in, so the people were really happy to get the opportunity to see it on such a clear sunny day. The other talk concerned Hurricane Bill and the lack of CNN. One of the gentlemen at my table was in the cable TV business at one time and he speculated that the ship needed a chip with the code on it to decode the signals. That the problem was not just entering a code in the receiver and if they didn’t have the chip sent to one of the ports they couldn’t un-scramble the signals.
The show that evening was titled “Gold” performed by the Maasdam Cast. They performed the songs that had won Academy Awards and some that were very popular hits that did not win. There was a lot of costume changes and dancing. They did a good job.
I returned to my cabin after the show and wrote in my journal and received my emails since my BlackBerry was no longer getting reception. I retired at midnight.
Aug 23, 2009 (Sunday) Qaqortoq, Greenland
Greenland in daylight! The first and only time that I had visited Greenland before was in January 1958 on my navigation check flight from Dow AFB to Sondrestrom AB which was located just north of the Arctic Circle where the sun never raises during the winter. We were scheduled to drop anchor at 0730 and start tender service ashore. The Tahitian Princess was also visiting Qaqortoq and would be sending tenders to the same dock.
Since I had not retired until midnight I set my alarm for 0800 and was awaken by the Cruise Director’s announcement that the ship had not been cleared to send people ashore at 0730 and to please not crowd the Ocean Bar for tender tickets until the ship had been cleared. I continued to sleep until the alarm woke me just as the announcement was made that the ship had been cleared. I showered and shaved and dressed warmly. The temperature was 40° F outside and the sky was overcast.
When I left my cabin to proceed to the Lido for breakfast I encountered a backup of people waiting to board the tenders. When I got to the Lido I was amazed to see that between our ship and the Tahitian Princess was a large iceberg. What I beautiful scene for photos. I had a quick breakfast by myself and returned to my cabin for my warm coat.
At the Ocean Bar, Jackie from the Crew Entertainment that had danced with me the other night was dispensing the tender tickets. She gave me a big hello and I told me the crowd had dispersed and I could go down without a wait. When I got to the tender ramp, Moyra was just getting ready to announce that tender tickets were no longer required. We didn’t even fill our tender and when I go ashore the streets were crowded with the combination of Holland America and Princesses Cruise Line passengers. I asked at a table setup advertising the town’s activities where I could get a map and was told the tourist shop. The shop was wall–to-wall people and after waiting in line at one desk to get a map I was told that I needed to go to another desk where the line was even longer so I left to explore the town on my own without a map.
Qaqortoq has 3,500 inhabitants and was set on the side of the hill. Every house and apartment building was built with a view of the city except the few buildings on the waterfront that house the Police, Supermarket, a museum, the tourist shop and a small church. The town’s claim to fame was a number of sculptures carved in rock around the town. I set out to find the carvings and found a statue of a nude Intuit girl in a pose similar to the mermaid in Copenhagen. I took some photos angling to get a good background and light. Off in the distance was a small red church so I next attempted to find a good location to take a picture of the church. The best spot seemed to be on a bridge across a stream. I took the picture and turned towards the end of the bridge to see Bob and Cathy Prada walking toward me. I knew they were sailing on the Tahitian Princess but in all the ports we were in at the same time I had not crossed paths with them.
We chatted for a while and took pictures of each other. I asked them if they had heard from the Iraq travel authority about any changes in our itinerary. Cathy said so far they are confident that we will be safe from the danger area. She then jokingly said they had cancelled the public bus ride to the Baghdad police headquarters.
They pointed out some of the rock sculptures that I should see and we departed in different directions. I found the sculptures with one dating back to 1933. After walking around the other side of the town I saw a bar (The Arctic Café) that had a VW Golf cut in half fastened to the side of the building to give the impression that it was driving out of the second story of the building. Next door was a blue house with murals of Intuit scenes painted on its walls. I returned to the Tourist Shop and it was even more crowded than before so I decided I would return to the ship, have lunch and return to the village in the afternoon.
I went to lunch at noon but was soon joined by Esther and a couple of her friends. They started to tell stories about their trip ashore. Apparently there was a ladies clothing store with seal skin clothes and pocketbooks that impressed them but they felt the prices were high and nobody bought anything. They also had the same experience that I had at the Tourist Store and returned to the ship without purchasing anything.
My fancy Casio G-Shock watch does not have a time zone for Greenland so I either had to set it on Newfoundland time which was 30 minutes off or Halifax time which was one hour off. I had tried both settings and at lunch had it on Halifax time. The ladies’ stories took up over an hour so I didn’t return to my cabin to get my jacket to go ashore until 1330. I checked the daily schedule and saw that there was a presentation on “Greenland’s Ice Sheet” at 1400 so I skipped going ashore again and attended the presentation. I found the details on the ice and the flow of the chunks that break off and form icebergs very interesting.
At 1600 I attended “The Marriage Game” which I always find was fun to watch. Shelly and Gary, the newlyweds from Annapolis, MD were one of the couples. Two couples have been married over 40 years and one couple 66 years. Following the game they showed a documentary titled: “Journey of the Sea of Ice”. The film had pictures of some spectacular ice burgs but I found out later that while we were in the dark lounge watching the film the ship passed some spectacular ice bergs which I missed.
The film last over an hour and one half. I returned to my cabin to change for dinner when I got a message from Judy telling me that Robin needed to confirm my schedule. I was getting good Blackberry connection so I sent Robin a short message which with my fat fingers takes some time on my Blackberry Storm. By the time I had changed my clothes I decided that going to the dining room would take to long and I would miss the 2000 show so I ate in the Lido at a table with Bob and Sharon, the ex-IBM’er that I had eaten with a couple of nights earlier.
The show turned out to be another “Call My Bluff” with the Captain and the First Officer and the comic Jeff Nease. The first word was ‘gardyloo ‘and the Captain gave the correct definition. I had looked it up on my Blackberry, but the audience appeared to know it. The second word was ‘snollygoster’ and my dictionary didn’t have it or maybe I am not spelling it correctly, anyway the audience was divided on who had the correct answer. The last word was hoosegow and everyone in the audience knew the correct definition but it was new to the Captain, the First Officer and Moyra. Jeff told us that he had told them before the show that the audience would easily guess it.
About this time the boat was rocking a lot and the Captain left as soon as the game ended and announced that we were passing through a front that had not been predicted on the noon weather charts. He expected that after midnight the sea would be calmer. I returned to my cabin to write in my journal until 2130 when I returned to the Rembrandt Lounge for “Fun Fest - an interactive evening of fun and festivities”. The plan was to have dancing and singing with the ships cast. I danced a few dances and went to the Men’s Room during a break in music and saw I passenger throwing up in the hall. I ducked in the Men’s Room and as I was at the urinal the guy came in and threw up repeatedly in the sink. It damped my enthusiasm to continue the “Fun Fest” so I retired to my cabin, write my journal and went to bed early.
Aug 24, 2009 (Monday) At Sea, (North Atlantic)
I awoke before my alarm and decided to get up and shower and shave before the full day of activities. At 0815 I went to the Lido for breakfast. Surprisingly, for a sea day the place was packed. I found an empty seat by a woman that I had seen sketching in a notebook during the voyage. Her name was Liz Whitney Quisgard and she has a studio in New York City, Chinatown. She was scheduled to be interviewed by Moyra at 0900 so she left and I finished breakfast talking to a couple from Key West, FL.
At 0900 I attended Moyra’s interview of Liz. It included pictures of her work. Her sketches are amazingly accurate but she made her living doing murals in various mediums. She was eighty years old and had a terrific sense of humor. She has a degree in painting and a Master’s Degree in Sculpture and a degree in Architecture. She taught art and never got her architect license but she told us that it helps to have had the training when she designs the murals for corporation headquarters and university buildings.
I emailed Robin to find out if she had ever heard of her – she replied that she hadn’t.
At 0930 I attended the presentation on:”Greenland’s Inuit Peoples and the Wildlife They Hunt “by David Smith. It was an informative and somewhat interesting presentation. David Smith was not a very entertaining speaker. His talk finished at 1030 and I took a mile walk around the deck. The wind was very strong on one side and it was difficult to keep my hat on and to walk a straight line but I completed the mile.
After the walk I stopped by the Digital Workshop to see if there was anything new I could learn about blogging, but the instructor was teaching very basic stuff like how to delete pictures you don’t want to keep so I left.
When I left the Digital Workshop room near the dining room I saw a large crowd. On the program there was a scheduled 1200 Show Buffet and the people were already lining up. The show was for the chefs to display all their food in fancy trays and have ice sculptures and fancy cakes, etc. I had my camera with me so I joined the crowd to take pictures. Once inside I took some pictures and a waiter handed me a plate so I filled it with different items. At one point there was a tray of lobster and a server put one on my plate but a supervisor came over and told him they were for display only and there was lobster meat on a tray next to the lobsters so they took it back and replaced it with bits of lobster meat. Later I saw a guy walk by with a whole lobster – not my day!
It was Singles/Solo lunch day so I sat with Esther and Rebekah. Rebekah reminded us that she was teaching the basic Tango steps at 1300 in the Crow’s Nest. The seas were still high and the ship was rocking and rolling. Esther passed on going to the lesson because she already dances the Tango and had not been happy when she supported Rebekah with the introduction to the rumba the other day. She was paired off with a guy that treated her like a five year old and counted out the rumba steps which she found insulting. I accompanied Rebekah to the Crow’s Nest but initially didn’t participate in the lessons.
Nancy arrived and Rebekah paired us off. The ship was rolling so it was difficult and Steve, one of the Cruise Specialist passengers who assisted Rebekah with the dance steps took over teaching Nancy the steps while I held on to a pole
At 1400 I attended the talk on “Early Irish Settlements in the North Atlantic” by Michael Millwood. He was a better speaker than David Smith and interjects some humor into his presentations. Until this cruise I was not aware of the early Irish settlements. He told us earlier about the Irish Monks feuding over how to cut their hair. A sect of Monks cut their hair in a Mohawk style and when a new order tried to make them change their style they left the country rather than change hair styles and settled in Faroe Island, Iceland and Greenland. Some think they even settled in North America but Millwood doubts that.
At 1530, I attended a talk on the history of the Holland America Line by the Captain and Hotel Manager. It was interesting and the Captain has a dry humor and pokes fun at the Hotel Manager because he was from Belgium while the Hotel Manger pokes fun at the Dutch in general. I learned some trivia and was entertained by the presentation and banter.
It was formal night and the Cruise Specialist Party. I went to diner right at 1730 and walked in to be assigned a seat at the same time as Shelly and Gary, the newlyweds from Annapolis, MD and Clair. We asked to sit together since we knew each other and had sat together in the past but the Head Waiter sat us at different tables. I was once again seated with Jerry the Catholic Priest, Barbara and Marge and a couple of singles I had not sat with before, Paul and Ruth. Ruth had a bottle of wine from her cruise agent that she shared with us. It turns out that she was a USAF Civil Servant in the Pentagon during some of the same period I was there. She now lives in a retirement community outside Hot Springs, Arkansas. Jerry was as funny as ever and I had an enjoyable diner of surf and turf.
I excused myself before dessert to attend the Cruise Specialist Party. They asked us to wear the name tags they provided but many of the people whose names I would like to have learned since I had had a lot of interaction with didn’t wear them. They were a lot of World Cruise veterans in the crowd. I sat with Steve, the dancer and his wife Wendy and a couple from Braintree, MA and talked about the Red Sox. Then I moved around to other groups attempting to learn names without success. Henk was taking pictures. The drinks were flowing freely. I was one of the only people to have eaten before the function so I left at 2000 to attend the Show.
The show performance was by The Unexpected Boys. Four young men that sing in close harmony Frankie Valli and The Four Season’s style songs - entertaining if you liked that music. During the show I read on my Blackberry that Michael Jackson’s death had been declared a homicide.
After the show I returned to my cabin and wrote in my Journal and retired at 2300.
Aug 25, 2009 (Tuesday) St. Anthony, Newfoundland, Canada
I awoke to the dropping of a tender outside my window. It was 0730 and we had dropped anchor in the bay outside of St. Anthony, Newfoundland. St. Anthony was located on the Great Northern Peninsula and was the northernmost town on the island of Newfoundland. It was a fishing community with a population of 3,100. It contains the only authenticated Viking site in North America, L’Anse aux Meadows, which was a UNESCO World Heritage site.
I opened my curtains to see a bright sunny sky. The ships program forecast 61° F, an absolutely gorgeous day to go ashore and look around. I showered and shaved and proceeded to the Lido for breakfast. It was crowded but the first wave of shore excursions were just departing. Barbara and Marge joined my table. They told me they had stayed up last night on the hope of seeing the Northern Lights but they never materialized. After a quick breakfast I walked down to the Ocean Bar where Jackie was handing out tender tickets. The ship’s map of St. Anthony showed no roads just a layout of the L’Anse aux Meadows, so I told Jackie I would meet her for lunch at the corner of Main and State Street if she could find the intersection. She laughed and gave me a tender ticket and I stopped by my cabin on the way down to deck three and picked up my jacket and hat. The tender was just about to leave when I arrived at 0900 and I took a seat near the opening so I could take some pictures on the way to the dock. A couple from Oklahoma City was sitting next to me. He was retired Army and their son was a targets officer in the USAF Reserve flying in the back end of the AWACS aircraft. As we approached the dock we noticed all the fishing boats appeared to be in port. When we docked at the port in was the first time in 20 days that I was back in North America.
At the port was a table with local maps and there are a number of paved roads in the town, I don’t know why the ship’s handout didn’t show them. A few yards from the building at the end of the dock was the Grefell Historic Building. Sir Wilfred Grenfell was a doctor that lived in the town for many years and conducted studies of the health of the local fisherman and their families. Inside the house was a tourist shop and a museum. I asked the young lady at the counter why all the fishing boats were in the harbor. She said they came in to avoid hurricane Bill. Up on the hill across the road from the Grefell building was a large hospital. One of the clerks told a fellow passenger that it currently contains 49 beds but it had 150 windows and three stories so something else must go on in the building. Since it also conducts nurse’s training, I thought that is what the additional rooms were used for.
I speculated to the clerk that with the unexpected return to port for all the fishing boats, that nine months from now the maternity ward in the hospital would be very active. She laughed and with a twinkle in her eye agreed with me. (She probably had a better time the night before than I did)
I walked to the southeast from the dock to the Post Office and The St. Anthony United Church. There was road construction on the road to the former USAF Radar Site so I turned around and walked past the Hospital to the Mall. Next door to the hospital was a two story home for seniors. IT had about 40 windows. Along the way I passed several hotels, a small barber shop, a Chevrolet Dealer, the Municipal Building and Public Library, a Loran C station, the Scotiabank, a Chinese Restaurant (Judy and I used to love to eat diner in a Newfoundland Chinese Restaurant – I wonder if this one was as good), an Irving Gas Station and finally arrived at the mall. On the edge of the mall was a Tim Hortons donut and coffee shop. I ducked in to use the Men’s Room and noticed a lot of people from the ship having coffee and donuts. I thought they must be Canadians and glad to get back to a Tim Hortons. From there I wandered into the super market and past a row of restaurants and a computer store that constitutes the mall.
On my return walk to the ship I stopped in the Irving Gas Station to see if they sold bottles of ice tea, but they didn’t. By now the side walk from the dock to the mall was crowded with almost a steady line of ship passengers walking in both directions. When I got back to the dock a group from the ship was lined up to take a Whale Watching excursion. I had taken my jacket off on the walk back and forth to the mall. There was not a single cloud in the sky. I asked a passenger to take some pictures of me under the Welcome to St. Antony sign. One picture I had him take with my Blackberry so I could upload it to Facebook.
The couple from Oklahoma City sat next to me on the tender ride back to the ship. We had been a shore about two hours and had walked the town from one end to the other and spent time in the tourist shops – not a big place to visit.
I ate by myself in the Lido and returned to my cabin to start my journal for the day. At 1230 I climbed the stairs to the Sports Deck to attend Rebekah’s dance class on the Waltz. Clair asked me to be her partner and we danced a couple of numbers and then Clair asked Rebekah for the Dam Dollars we could receive for attending the class. As soon as Rebekah passed out the Dam Dollars most of the folks left to attend the Bocce Ball event in the Atrium where they could get more Dam Dollars. I gave Clair my Dam Dollar and returned to my cabin to start continue to write my journal.
At 1430 we raised the anchor to set course for St. John’s. At the same time I attended David Smith’s talk on Newfoundland and Labrador. He initially talked about the terrain, then about a tsunami that wiped out a number of southern coastal villages in the aftermath of an earthquake along the continental shelf in November 1929. He had pictures of the destruction and facts and figures such as 28 people killed, 10,000 left homeless and 29 transatlantic cables broken. He finished his talk with a discussion on a history of the fishing industry with an emphasis on cod, and how the modern large fishing ships and their nets destroyed the ecology on the bottom of the sea and as a result the cod fish have almost completely disappeared.
After the talk I visited the Vienesse Coffee Court set up in the dining room to see what it was all about. They had a display of pastries and at one end Hotel Manager Firmin Van Walle had a Chef’s hat on and was cooking a Belgium pastry at the other end they were cooking Crepe Suzettes. I was going to just look and leave but Moyra encouraged me to try the Crepes and join her as she ate some of Firmin’s pastries. We talked about our families. Her husband was on board and they have three grand children. I had finished my crape and a waiter had removed my plate but I hadn’t finished my tea when Firmin sat at our table and asked me why I wasn’t eating his creation so I had to get a plate of his pastry. Also at the table was the Event Manager, Debbie Meador, who turned out to be from Thousand Oaks. Firmin was Flemish and loves to make fun of the Dutch. The other couple at the table was from Rotterdam and I had a good time as they kidded with Firmin.
At 1600 Moyra had to leave to conduct a Trivia game so I returned to my cabin to dress for diner. At 1630 I went to the Crow’s Nest for 2 for 1 Happy Hour. They had the HAL Cats playing music but the single ladies were not there. I talked to Dance Hosts, Ed and Bill for awhile since they had no one to dance with. At 1700 I went down to the Ocean Bar and had a drink with Nancy and heard about her shore excursion to the L’Anse aux Meadows. Apparently it was very windy out there but the young kids they had conducting the tour were very enthusiastic and made the trip worthwhile.
At 1730 I left the Ocean Bar and went to dinner. This time when I got to the table they had seated Clair at the same table. I had eaten with the couple to my right from Winnipeg and across from me a couple from Salt Lake City. They were elderly and she appeared to have dementia but was an artist and quickly sketched the woman from Winnipeg and later Sandy who was sitting at the next table. She spoke softly and so it was difficult to engage her in a conversation so most of the table talk was with the Canadian couple and Clair. At another table we noticed a woman with a flower wreath on her head and around her neck. After we finished our main course the waiter’s sang Happy Birthday to the woman. She then came over to our table with a plate of very rich chocolate fudge cake pieces left over from her birthday cake and told us it was her eightieth birthday. I had a piece and skipped the regular dessert.
After diner I stopped in the Ocean Bar and had a dance with Esther before she went to dinner and then proceeded to the show to see the Taylors perform. I was seated near Currie, who had once lived in Woodland Hills, so I told her that I had met the Taylors’ the other night and that they had once lived in Canoga Park.
The show started with an exhibition of ballroom dancing with James wearing a tux with tails and Kathy in an elegant gown. The routine include some lifts of Kathy by James and then one maneuver in which Kathy flips James over her head and he appears to fall hard on the stage. She then runs to the edge of the stage with a crazy look on her face and crossed eyes. The fun had begun! They continued to do the fancy ballroom dancing but bumped in to each other dropped each other and at one point his pants split showing white underwear. They danced through the audience; he fell off the stage and generally had the audience in stitches.
Kathy left the stage and James talked to us and sang some songs, one of which was a sort of poem about a young girl who had studied to be a ballerina and finally got an audition and was told she was too heavy and as a result gave up attempting to be a ballerina and instead became James wife and they have been dancing ever since. At the end of the song Kathy reappeared in a ballet costume and did some a ballet routine in which James lifts her over his head several times. When her routine was over she left the stage and James told some jokes and sang some more songs and then called for her and she didn’t appear. He then left the stage to look for her and she came out dressed in an Indian costume and he reappeared dressed as a Mountie and they mimicked the old songs from the musical. Kathy clowned around and danced through the audience. When they finished that act Kathy disappeared again and James took over back in his tux. He showed us a clip of a show where they performed with Regis and Regis attempted to lift Kathy over his head. It was a number of years before because James was slimmer and Kathy Lee Gifford was Regis co-host in the clip. Kathy reappeared in a Ginger Rogers type short tux and the two of them finished the show with some great tap dance numbers.
I returned to the Ocean Bar danced a few numbers and was awarded a prize as the best swing dancer on one of the numbers. I then decided to attend the second show and ran into the two “Jeff” comedians in the hall and had some fun conversation. I don’t think Jeff Nease can conduct a serious conversation if his life depended on it.
As I waited for the second show to start Jaiha asked me to sit near her to save the couch for her husband and friends that had not arrived. They don’t want you to save seats for the shows so I was a “seat in” until her husband arrived. I then sat with Jim, Marge and Esther. It was Jim’s birthday. The second show was as good as the first and they received a standing ovation at the end.
I returned to my cabin to finish my journal and stayed up after midnight to finish it and email it out when I discovered the internet was down.
Aug 26, 2009 (Wednesday) St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
I awoke before my alarm and signed on my laptop and sent out my daily message from the night before. My Blackberry had no emails waiting which I found strange so I tried different connection settings and all of sudden they started to come through. I guess I was no longer in Global roaming and was now in North America coverage.
I showered and shaved and went to the Lido for breakfast. Currie was in line in front of me and when I ask her if she was planning on going ashore she replied that she needed to go to a pharmacy. I told her the location of the one I visited in May when I was here on the ms Rotterdam. She thanked me and waited for her omelet. I found a table with a view of the waterfront and Esther joined my table. She also was planning to go ashore to find a pharmacy. My eyes were itching back in May, an allergy to the pine tree pollen in Newfoundland and both ladies were suffering the same ailment and that was why I visited the pharmacy back then. I still had the pills and took one before breakfast because they were starting to itch when I awoke.
I bid Esther good bye and as I walked past the Lido pool and saw Currie with her big smile dancing in the water – her form of daily exercise. On the way down to my cabin I stopped at the reception area where the local tourist bureau had set up a table for information. I asked one of the girls at the desk if she could recommend a restaurant that offered fried clams. The last time I was here I had a lobster for lunch and it was one of the worst I had ever eaten. She replied that the area does not have native clams and their best was shrimp, cod, salmon and scallops. I thanked her, picked up a map and returned to my cabin to get my jacket and walked ashore. On the dock were the traditional Newfoundland dogs and Labrador Retrievers to greet the passengers. I stopped and took pictures and listen to a group of young girls playing traditional songs on the violin.
I walked up to Water Street where I chatted with a retired teacher that wears a red jacket with “Ask me about our City” button. From there I walked the steps next to the Province Supreme Court House to Duckworth Street and then walked down the hill. I was looking for the sculpture of musicians I had admired on the last trip. They are at the bottom of steps off Duckworth on George Street. As I was walking along I saw down on Water Street a large fire truck so I walked down to see what was going on. The street was closed and there was a van from the TV station. When I got to the corner and looked up Water Street I saw that there had been a fire and they had a mechanical scoop pulling down the debris and dumping it in a truck. I asked the man at the TV van what had happen and he told me that the restaurant on the first floor was remodeling the second floor and there was an apartment on the third floor of the three story building between two five story buildings. The fire broke out at dusk the night before either in the apartment or the second story and the building was very old and the roof had multiple layers from remodeling over the years that it was difficult to put out the fire and there were real fears that it would spread to the adjoining buildings which were old wooden structures with new brick facades. I watched the action for a while and took some pictures and then continued to find the street with the sculpture. When I found the sculpture Esther came by with a gentleman from the ship whose name I have forgotten but remembered that he just moved from Canoga Park to Ventura. We talked for a bit and he told me that he loves the cooler weather in Ventura and then I told him that I read in the LA Times on line that this was the coolest August for LA in a long time. Esther had found a pharmacy and was off to purchase a cap with Newfoundland on it for a neighbor in her Florida community that collects ball caps. I walked up to the sculpture and took the pictures I had come to take and then walked back to the ship stopping along the way as I met various people from the ship.
Once aboard the ship I dumped my jacket in my cabin and proceeded to the Lido. For some reason I felt like a cheeseburger. Every time I go from my cabin to the Lido I pass the grill and never order anything from it. This time I did and I ate by myself at a table next to the pool overlooking the dock. When I finished I went in the Lido to get a cookie and Jim, Marge and Karleen invited me to join them. We discussed what everyone had done in town that morning and they told me that they had returned early to earn some dam dollars at the Backwards Ring Toss and the Football Challenge. They soon left to go to the Ball Toss to earn some more dam dollars.
I returned to my cabin to read the New York Times and lay down and fell asleep. I was awakened by the first cell phone call I had received since I left home on the 5th. It was my broker informing me that my investments have been gaining. He asked me where I was and when I told him St. John’s, Newfoundland he was a little surprised but the call would cost me any more than if I were in New Jersey.
I got up from my unplanned nap and started to write in my journal when the phone rang again and it was I consultant that I had worked with at SAIC in 2007 telling me about a job opportunity. I then fully realized that I was truly back in North America. I topped it off by calling Judy.
At 1630 we started to leave the harbor. I walked up to the Crow’s Nest for “Sail-a-way” 2 for 1 Happy Hour. St. John’s was an interesting harbor because it has a narrow inlet with the high Signal Hill on the north side and Cape Spear and its light house on the south side. Both make excellent pictures. The Crow’s Nest was crowded and I went outside to take pictures from both sides of the ship.
At 1730 I went down to dinner. It was Indonesian night and the restaurant was decorated and several of the staff was dressed in native costumes. I was again seated at a large table with a woman from Halifax and a gentleman from Toronto. I remarked that large tables take a long time to finish dinner. They remarked that they had been at the table since 1715 and it was now 1735. Jerry, the Catholic Chaplain was soon seated at the table and then a couple from Las Vegas. It was her birthday and they had been Pub hopping in town and she was feeling no pain. Her husband didn’t have much to say during the meal as she entertained us with stories. She grew up as a Southern Baptist in Dallas and Irving Texas. I didn’t dare ask what years since she had told us this was her 39th 39th birthday. But she kept us entertained. At the end of the main course the waiters brought out a birthday cake and sang happy birthday in Indonesian as was the custom on the Holland America ships. She then asked one of the waiters if he could sing Happy Birthday backwards and he cleverly said yes and started singing and walked backwards. We all cracked up at his cleverness.
The headwaiter then made an announcement that they would sing an Indonesian song and needed volunteers to play a wooden instrument that had a string or strings plus a bamboo tube. They were numbered and a large banner was hanging from the ceiling with numbers on it and I guess you plunked your string and/or tapped your tube when your number was displayed. Anyway it was great fun.
I left after eating my piece of birthday cake as did the birthday girl and her husband. On my way to the show I stopped at the Ocean Bar and had one dance with Esther and told Jim and Marge of the activities so they could bring a camera to dinner. I then went into the Lounge and found a full house playing a guessing game with Moyra, her husband and Cole one of the cast members. I had a tough time finding a seat and finally ended up in the section the Ship Dancers and Singers sit in. They were having a great time ribbing Cole.
After the game a few people left for dinner and I gave my seat up for Cole and got a seat behind the birthday girl who was still flying a few feet off the ground. I wondered if she will make it to her 40th 39th birthday.
The show was the Unexpected Boys II, with songs from Broadway none of which I recognized. The have great voices and harmony but I would not buy their CD. The audience gave them loud applause but not a standing ovation.
After the show I retired to my cabin to write my journal.
Aug 27, 2009 (Thursday) St.-Pierre, St.-Pierre & Miquelon, France
I didn’t set an alarm and had planned to sleep late since I had just visited St. Pierre in May. At 0800 I was awakened by an announcement that due to fog we were not going to stop at St. Pierre. We had had heavy fog in May and had still docked in St. Pierre but this time the Harbor Pilot’s boat was out of commission and the Pilot didn’t want to attempt to find our ship in his Zodiac without radar. In addition to the high tide, the type of dock and the type of mooring coupled with no tug boats available, Holland America Headquarters, had determined that it was best to skip the port.
A revised daily schedule was posted at my door. The first activity was scheduled for 0930, so I got up, showered and shaved and ate in the Lido. There was some grumbling amongst the passengers but most didn’t appear to care. One woman at the table next to me was unhappy because this was the only port on the cruise that would have been new for her.
At 0930 I attended Moyra’s “Good Morning Maasdam “where she interviewed James and Kathy Taylor. James told us he had started out as a music major at Chico State and had taken Ballet as an elective. He was so awkward in a class with girls that had been dancing ballet for years that he practiced so much that by the end of the semester he was considered one of the best in the class. This led to his becoming a member of the San Francisco Ballet and eventually to a position in the Reno MGM Grand Hotel chorus line. Kathy studied dance most of her life but was rejected by the Joffrey Ballet for being too heavy (she was 5’ 8” and weighed 115 lbs.!). She turned to chorus line dancing and met James at the MGM Grand. She is double jointed and they formed an act that includes ballet, ballroom dancing, acrobatic routines and comedy with many overhead lifts by James. After over two years of developing and perfecting an act they left Reno for Acapulco Princess in Mexico. They were on the first “Star Search” show in 1983-84 and made it to the finals. For a period of time they lived in Canoga Park but now live in Texas to aid Kathy’s mother. After the interview they passed out autographed pictures.
At 1030 I thought I would take the Galley Tour that was offered in the revised schedule. It was interesting but very similar to other ship galley’s I have seen.
At noon I ate lunch in the Lido and then attended the Waltz dance class in the Crow’s Nest.
At 1400 I attended the “Mind Stunts & Memory Technique” show by Jeff Bradley. It was amazing! He ripped up the pages of a current Time Magazine and passed them out to the audience. He then asked people to call out a page number and he would tell us what was on the page. He had memorized the whole magazine. Not one person was able to stump him. He then described his technique which is based on the numbers 1 to 100. He has memorized an association for each number like Ted Williams for number 9. When he needs to memorized the contents on page nine he relates them to Ted Williams in some way. His other technique is to pay attention. He challenged us to order our dinner that evening by reading the menu, making the selection and telling the waiter your selection without looking at the menu.
I then returned to my cabin and prepared for my last formal. The Captain’s Farewell Reception was scheduled for 1645 and 1900 with the shows scheduled for 2000 and 2200. I decided that I would attempt to attend both Receptions and the 2000 show. In order to do that I would skip the formal dinner and eat in the Lido after the 1645 reception.
I attended the 1645 reception and discovered that I could order a mix drink instead of having either a glass of wine or champagne. The Captain did a great job as a Master of Ceremony for his own reception. After the reception I ate in the Lido with the Dance Hosts and then attended the 1900 reception and then the 2000 show.
The show was titled “World Beat” performed by the Maasdam Cast. It was very glitzy with a lot of costume changes, set changes and dancing in addition to the singing.
We set the clock back an hour and I went to bed at 2300.
Aug 28, 2009 (Friday) At Sea,(Off Nova Scotia)
I awoke to my alarm at 0700, showered and shaved and headed up to the main dining room to attend a breakfast for military veterans. It was the first time and last time they scheduled a gathering of veterans on this cruise. Usually they have several. Anyway I sat next to a Korean War era pilot that transferred to the Coast Guard. Across the table was a retired Colonel that had served in the Pentagon Plans and Programs in the 1950’s. He retired to Las Vegas in 1968 so we had some overlap in some of the interesting stories about General Lemay and SAC. I had my first eggs for breakfast on this cruise.
After breakfast I went to the Rembrandt Lounge for the revealing of Mr. & Mrs. Maasdam. I didn’t know either one nor did I know the people that asked them. The little ceremony was followed by the Disembarkation Talk & Crew Farewell. The Cruise Director gave us the procedures to follow in the morning to meet with the US Customs and Immigration officials. She warned us not to pack our pass ports and all our clothes. Her talk was followed by a parade of the ship’s staff and a farewell song by the Singers and Dancers.
I still was not receiving email on my Blackberry so I returned to my cabin to log on my laptop and check email. My bill was on the door sign so I checked it against my receipts and before I finished the Cabin Stewards came to make up the cabin. I asked them to put out the rubber mats so I could put my suit cases on the bed and I left to let them do their work.
At noon I attended the Singles & Solos Farewell Lunch & Award Ceremony. I sat with the lady from Australia and her roommate from Germany. Ed the Dance Host sat next to me and a woman from Concord, NH sat across from me. The lady from Australia was taking a Post Cruise tour through New England and the Canadian Maritime area up to Prince Edward Island starting when we docked in Boston. The NH woman gave her a lot of advice and then I talked with her about being stationed a Pease. The ladies then started asking Ed about the Dance Host business. The cruise lines are cutting back and only use them on cruises over 30 days.
At 1300 the table disbanded as none of us had finished packing. I returned to my cabin and didn’t see my departure folder so I went up to the Customer Service desk to find out what the holdup was and what time I was scheduled to depart. They called my steward who told them he had put it on my bed whereas the other cabins had them on the door. I returned to my cabin with egg on my face and found the folder. But when I opened it there were no luggage tags. I was scheduled for Expedited Departure and was expected to handle my own bags. I returned to the front desk and they changed my instructions to early departure. I returned to the cabin and did some more packing. One of the things I needed to do was figure out what I had bought and how much they cost in US dollars for the Customs form.
It was now 1400 and I returned to the Rembrandt Lounge to attend the Guest Talent Show. The show started with an opera aria, beautifully sung by what turned out to be a member of the Reno Opera Company. Next we had a gentleman recite poems. He was excellent and the one he wrote about getting old was hilarious. Following him was a Piano player who was not very good until we learned that he only started taking lessons a year ago. That act was followed by another poetry reading with a clever poem about shipboard romance. The next act was a man with Parkinson’s disease who performed a minding reading trick. He was very funny and clever. We had another singer performing “Some Enchanted Evening” in a beautiful voice. Apparently he sang every night in the Piano Bar which I never visited on this trip. The show finished with another piano player who was elderly and told us he had been playing since he was five. He muffed his piece several times. I had heard better impromptu performances on the ship by others.
At 1500 Moyra conducted a Celebrity Chat with the Unexpected Boys. There were four of them and we learned that actually the group which is based in New York City has sixteen members in the company and they perform other gigs. The four that performed on this cruise had never worked together as a team until the cruise although they had worked with each other in different mixes before. In addition to their telling us their background they spend a lot of time explaining the audition procedures and experiences they have had in New York. The leader of the group was from Marion, Ohio and attended Ohio State. Only one of the four went right to New York from high school. They finished the Chat with a song.
I returned to my cabin to continue to pack and fill out paper work. At 1800 I went to the Lido to get a quick bite. I ended up sitting with Ed and Mark, the dance hosts and Marge and Barbara. Mark went into great detail on his experiences on other cruise lines and I learned some things I didn’t know. One, the Shore Excursion Office is a concession like the Photo Gallery and Spa. Holland America changed vendors in June and the new vendor will not use Dance Hosts or Singers and Dancers as escorts anymore. Two, the Dance Host cannot dance with the same lady two songs in a row. On some cruise lines they can’t sit with the ladies or even drink a glass of water and not all cruise lines pay air fare to and from the ship. It was an informative last diner on the ship.
We left the Lido to go to the Ocean Bar where the live music was starting. I danced a few numbers and at 1930 attended a “Truth is Stranger than Fiction” event which was a weird experience. A woman on the stage was interviewed by Moyra about her experiences with the Rolling Stones. Apparently her father was once engaged to Mick Jagger’s mother and she had Keith Richards in a college class. She worked in Sweden and assisted Mick translate some information when the Rolling Stones performed in Sweden. It was a time killer before the Farewell Varity Show.
The Farewell Varity Show had performances by Jeff Nease, The Taylors and Jeff Bradley. All three were good and after the show I ran into them in the hall and praised their performance and Kathy gave me a hug and said she was sorry we didn’t get to dance another night.
With that I returned to my cabin to write in my journal, hoped to send out some emails and finish packing. I was able to pack my bags so the two large ones were equal in weight and under 50 lbs. My carryon was packed with what I needed for the last night on the ship and for two nights at Robin’s.
Aug 29, 2009 (Saturday) Disembark in Boston, MA, and drive to Montclair, NJ
I awoke to my alarm at 0600 and looked out the cabin window to see that we had docked in Boston and that it was raining. I took my last shipboard shower, shaved and packed up my toilet kit, my CPAP machine and all my electrical accessories except the laptop. I signed on to the internet one last time and cleaned up my email box and sent out a message informing everyone that I had safely arrived back in the USA.
Next, I went up to the Lido for breakfast and to bid farewell to as many acquaintances as I could find. After breakfast I returned to my cabin to wait for my color to be called to process through US Immigration which was set up in one of the lounges. When I got to my cabin the final bill was posted and I checked it over and filled out a questionnaire to be deposited at the reception desk. When I had returned from the Lido earlier I had seen that there was a long line for the Immigrations check, but this time when I got to reception the line was much shorter so I joined in. Jeff Bradly was in the line with me and I asked him if he had developed his memory technique before going to college. He told me he had good grades but had not developed the technique until after he had been in show business for a number of years. Before I actually entered the room with the Immigration Officials my color was called so I didn’t feel too guilty.
Once I was processed by Immigration I was handed a card that signified that I was cleared to leave the ship when my color was called. I returned to my cabin, packed up my laptop put on my rain coat and pulling my carryon bag and my laptop back pack I headed up to the main deck 5 and joined the line to exit the ship. Again I was in luck as just as they were about to process me out my color was called so I never did technically buck the line.
Since I was one of the first from my color group to reach the baggage area I had no trouble finding a baggage handler and my bags. Within 5 minutes I was in a cab on my way to the Hertz office in central Boston.
President Obama was in the city to attend Ted Kennedy’s funeral and some of the streets were blocked but my taxi driver had already driven in the area of the Hertz office and knew which streets to take. I arrived at the Park Plaza Hertz Office at 0900 and was issued a Ford Focus with Sirius radio but no Fast Path which meant that I would have to pay cash at all the numerous toll booths between Boston and Montclair. It was a short drive to get on to the Mass Turnpike and in the rain I was on my way. Every couple of miles along the turnpike were signs Thanking Ted Kennedy from the People of Massachusetts.
Near noon I was in Southern Connecticut near where Wendy and Christine were visiting. I called Wendy and she insisted that I stop by her friend, Michelle’s for lunch. I exited the Merritt Parkway at the first Easton exit which I don’t think I had ever driven. It was fun to venture up a Connecticut road that I had never driven on until I came to the center of Easton and was once again on familiar roads.
The rain was intermittent by the time I reached Michelle’s and I received a big hug from Christine when I entered the door and then as rapidly as she had greeted me she was off playing with Michelle’s kids and nephew.
After a tour of the remodeled areas of the house which I had last visited just one year ago, Wendy, Michelle and I sat in the kitchen as she prepared food for the afternoon party that was expecting over 70 people. I ate a few shrimp and bid farewell and drove down the road to my boyhood home in Weston.
Along the way I noticed that the Saugatuck Reservoir was at a higher level than last year. The rain had stopped by the time I drove up the Weston Woods driveway to the old house and found a Cable TV truck in the yard and rolls of coaxial cable. I surmised that someone was now living in the house (last year it was not occupied and they were getting cable installed. I turned around and drove to the Weston Center. I stopped at the Lunch Box which had been expanded since the year before and had a sandwich. I sat by the window where I could observe Peter’s Market which is where I worked the summer of 1952.
It was now larger than when I worked there. Originally the Market was flanked by a liquor store to the north and a Dry Cleaner on the south side. The Market had now expanded into both areas. The liquor store was now next to the Hardware Store in another building. What is amazing is that in sixty years that has been very little expansion in the town. Since the late 1940’s when the shopping center was built, only the Bank and the Post Office buildings have been added. The school, Town Hall, Fire Station and the church had expanded but not much at the shopping center.
After my sandwich, I drove slowly back to the Merritt Parkway and arrived in Montclair around 1500. The boys had just awakened from their naps. Em was wearing his Red Sox cap and gave me a big hello. Rex was more reserved and eventually he took my Red Sox cap and was running around with it flopping over his ears. Dad was cooking BBQ ribs outside and I played baseball with a plastic bat and ball with both boys. Emery was doing a good job catching the ball. They had a T Ball set up but the boys had not mastered their swings. Emery did better than Rex and hit the ball to me or over my head a number of times. Rex swung in an axe motion no matter how we would coach him. Fortunately the “T” was very flexible because he kept chopping it down.
The meal was delicious and I had several beers and we retired early.
Aug 30, 2009 (Sunday) Montclair, New Jersey
I slept about nine hours. Dan was still in bed when I arose but Robin told me the boys had been up for several hours. At 1030 Wendy called to inform us she was leaving Michelle’s and would be in Montclair by lunch time. When she and Christine arrived the house went into bedlam with the cousins playing with every toy. Christine had been there in March for my niece’s wedding and she knew what toys she liked that the boys had.
I gave the kids my gifts from the trip. Among them were small medieval knights with swords about 3 inches high. One was a masked woman that I gave to Christine. Out came a castle from the closet and the gifts were just the right size and they had a great time playing and putting on mock sword fights.
After lunch we played croquet in the back yard before Rex had to take a nap.
The big event of the day was to attend the Saint Sebastian Church fair set up near the train station four blocks from the house. The fair was scheduled to open at 1730 and Rex couldn’t wait. Robin had put him down for a nap but he kept waking up and asking if it was time to attend the fair.
When the time came we walked to the fair. The rides were expensive so the kids didn’t take too many. The boys went on a small train, Christine and I on a ride that was shaped like a train but rose up in the air in a elliptical motion. Emery and Christine rode a large slide on burlap sacks.
We then entered the food court setup on the baseball field all the tables were occupied so we sat on the grass. The kids had a great time running wild around the outfield grass. The two older ones would chase Rex and fall on top of him. He would get up and run away and they would run after him. It was fun to watch. We bought some pizza and a form of a grilled cheese sandwich and ate them on the grass.
The kids had wound down and were getting tired so we walked home before 2000. Robin and Wendy put the kids to bed while Dan and I watched the sport recaps on TV. At 2200 we all watched an episode of “Mad Men” and retired at 2300.
Aug 31, 2009 (Monday) Fly Newark to Los Angeles
I awoke at 0700, showered and packed. Dan was late going to work and taking the boys to Day Care so I was able to see them to say good bye.
I bid farewell to everybody and drove to the airport about 1000. By the time I had turned in my rental car and gotten to the check in counter it was 1100. Even though I had weighed my bags on the ship and made sure they were under 50 lbs, one of them checked in at 53 lbs and I was charged for the extra weight. When I unpacked at home I discovered that I had slipped a briefcase of reading material that I had planned on reading on the flight in the bag and I forgotten to remove it.
The security line was long and of course I had to take off my shoes and belt and empty all my pockets and then stand in a cage waiting for a male TSA agent to “pat” me down. The US procedures are so much more time consuming than in the UK and Europe and the funny thing is there have been more actual threats caught in those countries since 9-11 than in the US.
Oh, well I have to put up with it. I ate a sandwich for lunch and boarded the plane on time. It was a smooth flight back to LA. Sitting next to me was a couple on a vacation from Germany. They had toured New York City and were on their way to tour LA in a rental car. When we were on our approach to LAX we could see the fires north and northeast of LA.
A driver met me and I had a smooth ride home. Judy and Griffy were glad to see me as I was glad to see them. When I got ready to get in my side of the bed that night Griffy was lying there and was not happy that I had moved him.
The experience was over!