Sea Days Turn Into Busy Days

Day 79, Grand Asia 2018

Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, At Sea:

I thought these last five sea days would be leisurely, but they seem to be packed with activities.

Of course, “packed” may be the operative word. There is that packing to do, with fingers crossed it will all fit in. I hate to start too soon, because there isn’t much room for the suitcases, which have been under my bed for the past 79 days.

Meanwhile, I would like to finish my travel sketch journal. I have a few sketches from Hawaii to paint and a couple of blank pages to finish up. If I don’t do it on the ship, I fear it would take weeks at home to get around to it. I’ve made some progress, but still have a bit to go.

Yesterday we lost an hour in the afternoon (and have one more change to get back to Pacific Standard Time). Our Cruise Critic roll call group had our final happy hour, and then the highlight of the day – the Christmas Tree lighting in the Atrium. We sang some holiday songs, sipped Kir Royale and sampled iced gingerbread cookies. Hotel Manager Henk Mensink delighted in controlling the village train with the remote, surprising people by tooting the horn. And then Maddy, our youngest passenger at 11 and a veteran cruiser, lit the tree while paper snow fell from the top balcony.

We are enjoying the new Amsterdam Christmas decorations. One tree in the Explorer’s Lounge has blue and white Delft China churches, houses, cups and saucers. Other decorations are more simple, such as two reindeer on the Guest Services counter.

Today was even busier than yesterday. After a morning of watercolor, stitching and America’s Test Kitchen, I joined the book club in a private viewing of Crazy Rich Asians, the movie from the book we read earlier on the cruise. Afterward we talked about the differences in the two and guessed at how they will resolve those differences in the second film.

Virtually every passenger was invited to one of two receptions to honor our accumulated days sailing on Holland America. The cruise line has two different programs.

Better know is the Mariner Society and its star program. You get one star after your first cruise, and additional ones as you hit 30, 75, 200 and 500 cruise day credits. In this program you get “bonus days” for booking a suite and for your onboard spending (one day for every $300). Each level carries benefits; many believe the best benefit is the free laundry that comes with four stars. Not surprisingly, most people on this cruise are four- or five-star Mariners.

The medallion program is different. It only counts true cruise days. The medallions recognize 100 (bronze), 300 (silver), 500 (gold) and 700 (platinum) days. The top program is President’s Club, for those with 1,400 true cruise days on Holland America. At the earlier reception, which I attended, two new people were named to the President’s Club and another half-dozen already at that level were honored. Those who earned new medallions on this cruise received them and had photos taken with the captain and hotel manager. I received my silver medallion.

It is our last gala night, and I saw a number of tuxedos and fancy dresses. Gala nights are not as dressy as formal nights were, so we generally don’t see as much finery. When I returned to my cabin, I found my last gala gift, the traditional decorative plate memorizing our journey.

The next three days will be busy, as well. We have the Indonesian and Filipino crew shows, a Mariner’s Lunch and Chef Farewell Dinner. I’ve booked a haircut and a lunch in the Pinnacle Grill to celebrate a friend’s October birthday – we’ve kept putting it off. And then there is all that packing.

On my next cruise, I need to find a way to be less busy….