Ship Life Continues Despite a Missed Port

Day 6, Grand Asia 2017

Friday, Oct. 6, 2017 – At Sea

The disappointing news came at 11 a.m. this morning, when the captain announced we would not stop tomorrow as planned in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, Our window of good weather is closing. Winds at the port in the Aleutians are predicted to hit 50 knots tomorrow, the captain said. So we changed course and slowed down to head for our next port: Kushiro, on the northern-most of Japan’s larger islands.

Of course there are lots of disappointed passengers. Our watercolor class had planned to meet ashore in the afternoon for some sketching. Many people just wanted to be on solid land after five days of a moving ship. One passenger I met was expecting his luggage to show up in Dutch Harbor. The entertainers on board planned to fly home, one for his honeymoon. They will all stay on board another week. I presume replacement entertainers were waiting for the ship in Dutch Harbor.

Our excellent cruise staff will work out those details, and we already have a full day of activities lined up for tomorrow. As a small compensation, the captain provided us with sparkling wine with dessert tonight.

I’ve been on cruises before that have missed ports. Key West was once too windy to dock. We hovered offshore for an hour so people could use their cell phones (before cruise ships had cell signals). On another cruise we missed Nassau in the Bahamas because an engine propulsion problem slowed us enough that we needed the time to get back to Florida. On a sail to Hawaii we missed the port of Hilo because the first day out we had to sail back toward San Diego to be close enough for a medical evacuation by helicopter. You learn to go with the flow. (And be thankful you’re not the passenger waiting on luggage to catch up or being evacuated.)


Speaking of entertainers, the Amsterdam has a nightly show. I seem to catch it about every third night. I’m usually eating during the early show, and sometimes already in my cabin by the late show. Tonight I caught the performance of the Alley Cats, a foursome singing hits from the 50s and 60s. Praise of their show earlier in the cruise had spread, so passengers packed the theater this time.

As you might imagine, people who have 80 days to spend at sea tend to be retired, so there aren’t a lot of passengers who are younger than, say, 60. Tonight at dinner, two “youngsters” joined us. Chris and Brian are the bridge instructors on the cruise. We had lots of connections around the dinner table. Chris and I went to the same high school in Kansas City. She earlier lived in a small Virginia town where another couple owned property. Some of us believe we have been on the same cruises in the past. It was a lively evening and part of what I enjoy most about cruising.

At one time, there were two dinner sittings, and you sat at the same table with the same people throughout the cruise. That option still is available, but I have chosen anytime dining, so I go to the dining room whenever I want. It’s fun to meet so many people that way. Other options include eating at the Lido buffet, at specialty restaurants Pinnacle Grill and Canaletto or through room service.

Mariner Society perks

Every cruise line has a loyalty program. Holland America’s is called the Mariner Society, and you are awarded points based on the number of days you have sailed. When you have sailed once, you become a Star Mariner. As you move up, so do the perks, including booking discounts, small discounts on branded clothing and complementary brunches and receptions. I’m a 4-Star Mariner, having hit the required 200-cruise days level on my last HAL cruise. It will be quite a while before I hit the 5-Star Mariner level, requiring 500 cruise days.

One of the best perks, especially on a long cruise, for 4-Star and above is free laundry. I sent out my first laundry today. Because there are so many 4- and 5-Star Mariners on this ship, the laundry department is kept extremely busy. If you don’t have the laundry perk, you can cram a lot of clothes into a small bag for a relatively good price. The ship also has a self-service laundry.

img_9719-1Today I enjoyed another perk for 4- and 5-Star Mariners – a wine tasting before lunch. I’m going to check out the wine packages for this trip – as a 4-Star I get a 50-percent discount on the package so it’s quite a bargain over buying wine by the glass or bottle.

Otherwise, today was pretty much like the four sea days before it – and probably like the next four sea days. We will be ready for Japan’s seven ports.

img_9733Each night my room steward turns down the bed and leaves the schedule for the next day, a chocolate, towel art and a card wishing a good night. The quote on tonight’s card: “It’s a BIG WORLD out there. GO EXPLORE.”