You CAN Go Home Again, But It May Be Different

Day 1, Grand Asia 2018

Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018, Los Angeles:

Returning to Holland America’s Grand Asia cruise feels strangely different than embarking on the same cruise last year. Not better, not worse, just different.

In 2017 the ship banner that said “Welcome Home” seemed a bit out of place, as I hadn’t been on the MS Amsterdam in seven years. But it was a nice thought. Today my feelings upon boarding are more like that of returning home – to a home where I don’t have to cook or clean and where I get to visit exciting locations. I know which bank of elevators will be fastest and exactly where to find my cabin. I didn’t explore the ship much today because I know where everything is.

One big difference this year is that a hundred or so passengers boarded a week ago in Seattle. Last year no one embarked early, so almost 1,000 excited people boarded at the same time in San Diego.

By noon we had boarded and were eating lunch in the Lido. I ran into friends from last year’s cruise and took the time to catch up. I had the whole afternoon to relax and unpack, interspersed with some sail away parties. Two of my suitcases were delivered by 2 p.m., and the third not too long afterward.

My balcony cabin is a real treat. It is slightly bigger than my inside cabin last year, but with the sitting area just inside the balcony. As I wrote earlier, I had paid for an upgrade a few weeks ago to an Ocean View (window) cabin from a guaranteed inside, and then turned down one to a yet-to-be determined balcony cabin. A week later my travel agent said the balcony upgrade was still available, this time with a specific cabin number. I liked it and took it. She said 82 days in a balcony cabin might ruin me for future cruising. I’ll see.

It didn’t take long to unpack. I know I bring too many things – little organizing cubes, an over-the-door shoe bag for toiletries, lots of charging cables, paper and binder clips, notebooks, extra art supplies, etc. I always bring the laundry bag my mother made that I took to Girl Scout camp, with my name embroidered on it. This year I even threw in a small stool I may use while sketching ashore.

We departed the San Pedro port at 5 p.m., right on time. When I got to the back of the ship on the Lido deck to watch us leave, I realized I had left my smartphone with its camera in the cabin. But I did have a sketchpad and pen, so I quickly tried to capture the busy commercial port encircled by cranes. My perspective was off as the ship changed heading in the channel. But as usual, adding a bit of watercolor later improved the attempt.