Our day began very early with the alarm going off at 5am. This would give us enough time to get the bags ready for an 8:30am pick up, and still have time for breakfast. Neither of us had taken notice of the opening time at the little café, but did recall hearing one of the waitresses mention 6:30am. However, that was for the weekend, not week days.
Walking swiftly due to the cold, we arrived at the door at 7am, only to see the opening time was 8am. Oh well, that gave us some time to check our lotto ticket at Publix. Darn, we did not win, but then nobody won the big jackpot. May as well buy a couple of more while we were there. You never know…..
So, our other option was to walk back to the hotel to dine there. It would probably be crowded because two large groups would be leaving for the ship. What we did not know was that today’s breakfast was strictly a buffet. We are not big fans of buffets, so we ended up going back to our favorite little café at 8am. If nothing else, the double walk did us good. One of us ordered an omelette, while the other had to try that strawberry French toast. It was more like a strawberry sandwich, with the French toast made with challah bread. If anyone knows what that is, can you tell us? Absolutely delicious, the cream cheese held it together, and the corn flakes kept it crispy. Did we mention that the bread was deep-fried? Will need a triple walk today.
Our special coach was delayed by ½ hour, leaving the hotel by 10:15am. The ride to Port Everglades only took 30 minutes at the most, and the line to check in was getting longer already. Funny thing about grand cruises…..most everyone is 4 or 5 star Mariners, giving you the privilege of a quicker line. No way today, in hind sight, we should have gone over to the 1 to 3 star line where there were only a handful of folks. On every other cruise we have gone on since becoming President’s Club members, there has been a line set up for us. Today, that was missing. A few of our friends complained to someone that listened, and they did get them to establish this line. The rest of us were summoned to follow them. We were processed quickly at this point. We think it is worth mentioning that we did have to sign a statement that we either had a current yellow fever vaccination or the proper waiver. If not, we might run into problems as we attempt to enter some of the countries that require this vaccination. This is the first time we had to do this. And we were not advised that a one-time vaccination was good for lifetime, as had been told to us when calling HAL before we left home.
Then we were escorted up the escalator where we had a photo taken with Orlando, Gerald, Captain Mercer, and the new CD, Hamish Davish. Our new room keys (red, white, and blue striped) worked at the security kiosk, where we were welcomed onboard. Our room was still in the process of being serviced, but we were able to stash our few things away. Our room stewards, Martin and Yusuf introduced themselves and promised to complete our list of requests shortly. These fellows have a massive job on these turn-around days, so we told them to take their time.
There were a few items left in the room already such as a bottle of champagne on ice as well as a handful of notes. One of those messages was from the Hotel Director, Henk, saying that the room amenities for a grand voyage can be so numerous, they would appreciate having at least two days to complete the service. In other words, don’t complain too quickly, as it will be coming, just slower than usual. The only thing we were having trouble with was signing on for the internet. We had a prepaid package waiting for us, but it was impossible to set up the account. It kept rejecting our password. We would need help with this one. Calling someone at the front desk worked well, as the internet guru called back within minutes, and offered to clean up our account. With all of the recent voyages we have done on the Amsterdam, it seems that the memory is still there with too much info. He was able to clean it up, and sign us up.
Usually, the personalized stationary is already printed for us. Now it is only done by request. Better than last year, when it had gone astray, or as most folks thought, it had been eliminated. We turned our request in at the front desk, which had a growing line already. Only a few of the staff are familiar to us, the rest are new. Glancing over at the Shore Excursion desk, we did not know anyone in there. Leslie and Irene have moved on or perhaps, retired.
Wanting to see what upgrades had been accomplished on the wet-dock last September, we went to the public areas of deck five. There we found all new carpeting and upholstery re-do’s. So much nicer. Even better, the dining rooms have replaced carpeting, a long needed fix. The Piano Bar was remodeled with a new look to the grand piano. It has bar seating surrounding it. Finally, up in the Crow’s Nest, we were so pleased to see the model replica of the Amsterdam, a gift from one of our dear friends, who was unable to make the trip this year due to illness. A few years ago, he requisitioned this model to be constructed while in Vietnam, and here it is, under a protective glass case, complete with a commemorative plack with his name on it. What a wonderful and lasting gift for HAL. Aart, you made us all proud.
Surely there are many more upgrades to be seen, so we will post them when we discover more.
Needing to hunt down our buddies, we knew we might find them in the Lido pool area, where champagne and wine were being served. We did find the merry group, as well as some surprises. Visiting for the afternoon were former tablemates and friends, Greg and Heo, and Martha’s husband, Bob. How nice to see them looking just as great as the last time we were all together. Like family. Another thing that took us by surprise were the number of folks that recognized us from the blog, and came over to introduce themselves. This began happening at the cocktail party last night, and continued all day. It sure is heart-warming to know that some of our little travel hints have helped them along the way. We’ll try to keep it up.
After a few glasses of champagne (or probably sparkling wine), we were in need of some food. There was a full service sandwich bar still opened, so we both had sour dough rolls with either ham or sliced beef. Perfect. And here came another surprise. Fun tablemates we had two years ago, Paul and Bonnie, showed up at our table, saying that they had booked this cruise recently, and were here for the whole thing. We told them we may have room at our table, so they said they would check out where they were assigned, and might be back. Much to our delight, they were.
One more job was going to the Pinnacle Grill to turn in our list of possible dinner reservations for our complimentary meals in there. Tina, the manager, was happy to work on it, as she added our list to her growing pile. Normally, we book these dates as we go, but end up waiting too long, and lose some of them. In addition, we requested to be seated with the purser and our buddies at the Captain’s Dinner. She was happy to oblige.
Back at our room, we discovered that a platter of assorted fresh fruit and a tray of chocolates had been delivered. This will keep us in sweets until it is time for dinner. Heaven forbid, we might get hungry.
Our duffels and suitcases began to arrive one at a time, so we thought we had better start putting some of it away. We never got to the clothes, but did unbag many of the toiletries. Doubling bagging everything, it takes time to stash it all. The rest can wait until tomorrow, or longer. We piled the duffels on the couch, and every other corner left in the room. As long as we had a way to get into the bed, we were fine for the night.
Promptly at 4:15pm, we all had to attend the mandatory muster drill. It was more of home-coming than a drill. So many people are repeat passengers, and this is a good place to meet them. The new method of logging us in works so much better. Scanning our room card, there is no more vocal roll call, unless you happen to arrive late. At least some of the modern technology is catching up on these older vessels. Speaking of modern, our wish for new bigger flat screen TV’s never did get installed in the cabins. Maybe on decks six and seven. We shall investigate tomorrow.
Dinner time arrived, and at 8pm, we hauled ourselves to the dining room, deck four. Although we are not open-seating guests, we are assigned to table 311 at 8pm every day. A single red rose was handed to each and every lady that entered the room. Regulars Barb and Martha were there, as well as former friends Bonnie and Paul. Newbies were Brenda from North Carolina and Ken from Michigan. By the end of the evening, they both seemed to be a good fit for our little group, and thanked us for letting them join us. So one of the worries most of us have, is “who is coming to dinner”? Once it is established, and it’s working, we’re all happy about it. And by the way, the food was delicious….hot and tasty, served by our waiter from last year, Slamet. Another nice surprise, Phillip, the wonderful dining room manager, assigned Slam to our table, knowing how well he took care of us last year.
There was a sail away celebration happening at the Lido pool area from 7:30 to 8:30pm, but dinner took priority. Because of the weather-related delays at many airports, we were taken by surprise to see the ship leaving the drizzly port around 8:10pm. The ship apparently waited for no one.
Taking note on the way back to our room, we did not see the usual door decorations from the different travel agencies. Rumor had it that none were going to be allowed this year. Other than a photo and three balloons, there weren’t any. In our opinion, the balloons are far worse obstruction than a small stick-on figure.
Going to bed never felt so welcomed, as it had been one heck of a long day. We needed a good night’s rest to tackle the unpacking tomorrow.
Bill & Mary Ann