Sailing, Sailing Over The Bounding Main……..

Sailing, Sailing Over The Bounding Main……..

What could be more fun then cruising in the Caribbean when there’s any sun? If I had wanted gray skies, why leave Chicago where the gray descends in November and doesn't depart until mid February?

So here we are on this lovely Dam ship (all Holland America ships have the word Dam in their names) traveling with good friends but no sun. Like the song said “the sun will come out tomorrow”. It did!

Wifey, ever diligent, asks our engineer traveling companion the reason such a huge vessel doesn't sink?

“What keeps it afloat?”

He attempts to explain how the ship displaces the water etc. Wifey, being Wifey, asks where the water displaced goes. We wipe him off the floor and he just shakes his head. Then he explains how these large ships have wheels on the bottom. You had to be there.

Like all cruises, ours begins in the Lido dining area...why do all ships, no matter the cruise line, call the dining area the Lido? Clearly this is beyond my pay grade.

Not having departed port (5 hours after boarding), Wifey gets a phone call. It's her cousin Sherre from Napa who is joining us on the trip.

“Where are you”?

Where else but in the Lido just like you.

Waves, hugs and kisses abound, something, repeated time and again as others in our party arrive.

Our stateroom is good sized with a nice balcony overlooking the lifeboats. Not obstructing any view, mind you, but reassuring to know they are so close.

Safety is now a serious concern ever since the Costa Concordia took its shortened ride. The Captain makes it clear in announcement after announcement that if you don't show for the safety drill; you won't be sailing on the ship.

Me thinks, if you don't show up and your name isn't checked off a list, how they going to stop you from sailing?

Ponder that for a moment.

Our group is fortunate to have its own personal cruise director in Los Angeles Danny. He made all the arrangements including when to dine, having staterooms adjoining, shore excursions etc.

Our first evening dining experience is in the Pinnacle Room, the extra-cost fine-dining area. (That is if the main dining area and the Lido don’t offer enough excellent food, you can always pay $25-$30 more per person, per meal to have extra special, extra large portions for any meal). Prior to departure Wifey and I determined we would forgo the special dining area, since it was too much rich food. Nice thought wasn’t it?

Danny as our beloved leader made the reservations working with American Express. He negotiated a free bottle of champagne delivered to the rooms of those in our group who booked with American Express. And as an extra special treat, a free fine dining experience in the Pinnacle Grill on the first night of the trip. Who are we to say no? We didn’t and consequently, we enjoy an excellent meal in the added cost dining area along with more free champagne. And that, ladies and gentlemen is why we allow (thank) Danny to organize these trips – our fifth with him and lovely wife Gloria.

The meal is superb: from monster shrimp cocktails, to Wifey's steak, to the delicate lobster tails many enjoy. I opt for the baby lamb chops, made just so. Is your mouth watering yet? It should be since they were that good! In fact, even better!

After dinner - we dallied so long we missed the singing and dancing show- not that I for one care since we know this singing and dancing extravaganza will be repeated at least twice more in different formats.

Off to the casino where almost everyone in our group adds to Holland America's profits. The only winner the first evening is your author who walked away with a $2.50 gain. This was offset by Wifey's loss of in excess of $3. We are big time players! Not to worry we all wind up losers by trips end since the odds on the machines on floating casinos don’t come close to matching in Vegas.

Our first day at sea was full of nothing! Classes on camera usage, music trivia, and just about any subject anyone could desire. From my perspective, there an excellent teak walking track - 3 laps to the mile. I managed a very windy 5 miles...one needs something to keep from gaining weight with all the opportunities to constantly eat. (Everyone gains a pound or two on cruises. Just a statement of fact).
Not being too snobby, we are aware that on Holland America, there are far fewer obese chozzers (excessively fat pigs) then on other cruise ships, fewer tattoos too! Less drinking, less nickel dimming. The cruise line you choose does make a difference. ‘Nough said.

The next evening we all (12 in our group) went to the first of the variety shows. No matter your cruise line, the shows all have the same shtick: singers (the boys all prefer other boys- at least that’s what one of the attractive lady vocalists told us in private), leggy dancers and an Emcee who tries to be funny.

Entertainment also included a top rate comedian proving you can be very funny and not off-color (something I personally was unaware of), as well as a magician who works with his little dog. Tiptop shows every night. Excellent food, beautiful ships, good friends: who wouldn’t want to take such a mini-vacation. On any given day, places like the American Virgin Islands, or San Juan host six or more ships daily during “season”. That means anywhere from 12,000 to 20,000 tourists hitting port each day with dollars to spend. No wonder the cruise industry continues to build new ever-larger ships.

Is it me? Or does every port of call in the Caribbean and on the Mexican west coast seem the same? OK, last year in Belize where the Mayan ruins were superb and worth the long shore excursion (by the way, you may have noticed, the world didn’t end on the 21st did it?)

But other than San Juan, Puerto Rico, there is sameness to these islands. Not that there is anything wrong with beautiful beaches, abject poverty and beautiful scenery… The beaches are all beautiful, white sand, the water warm. There is a reason why the cruise industry continues to build even bigger and more luxurious ships. Two thousand passengers: let’s go bigger. The newest ships hold more than 8,000 passengers and crew (think one crew member for every three cruisers).
Each tries to outdo the other. Upon returning to our final destination, we saw the Oasis Of The Seas in port. Its shear size dwarfed our 2,400-passenger Dam ship. It has seven neighborhoods including Central Park for those who opt away from an ocean view. We are already talking about taking that particular ship next year and don’t really care where it travels to!

As long as the quality of food and entertainment continue at such a high level, this is an industry that can survive a Costa Concordia or even a Titanic and thrive. Since our group keeps growing, and since Danny loves to do the planning, we hope to see many of you on board next year!

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