Day 1, South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand Cruise
Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA
As an act of faith, I set off Friday for Seattle to board the MS Westerdam. After more than two years on land, the disappointment of eight canceled back-to-back cruises this summer and the uncertainties of cruising at all these days, I don’t think I actually believed that I would set sail. And yet here I am!
I debated about what to pack (always too much), but my biggest worry was testing for Covid. Holland America has dropped the testing requirement for many cruises, but not for this sail to Australia and New Zealand. If a passenger tests positive, Holland America cancels the entire 51-day cruise for that person.
I had a choice of taking a PCR test within 72 hours of boarding or a rapid antigen test within 48 hours. I scheduled both – a PCR test at Walgreens the day before I left home and an antigen test on Friday night monitored over Zoom from my Seattle hotel.
One of the benefits of flying out of Fort Smith, Ark., (where I was staying with my sister Eloise) is its small size and the quick check in. Just don’t get there too early – TSA only opens about an hour before each of the three or four daily flights. You do want to arrive in time to use the restroom – they have been voted the best in the country.
During my flight connection at DFW airport, my PCR test came back negative. I canceled the second test and breathed a huge sigh of relief.
There were no porters or luggage carts available at the Seattle airport, so I wrangled my three wheeled suitcases (!) to the taxi line, and then up to my hotel room and fell into bed.
I had decided that my rule to fly into port a day early wasn’t enough given recent travel delays, so I came two days early. My uptown hotel – the Mediterranean Inn – was just quirky enough to avoid that chain hotel feel. The room was an odd shape and there was no free breakfast, but the Starbucks connected to the lobby was a plus.
Saturday proved to be a beautiful sunny day, perfect for a 30-minute walk to Pike Place, where I checked out the market, joined the crowd to watch the fish toss and wandered over to a French café to join friends for lunch. Jerica and Sergio moved here several years ago from Dallas, where we met through the local MINI Cooper club. I had lunch with her and their daughter Ari (age 5), followed by a stop at the nearby Starbucks Reserve Roastery – one of about six around the world. I earlier visited the Chicago and Shanghai locations.
It was early to bed after a quiet dinner in a nearby Vietnamese restaurant. Of course, I woke up at 4 a.m. – too excited to fall back into a good sleep. I used the time to download maps into my phone Pocket Earth app, upload some maps into my blog media library for future use, and download the latest software and app updates on my iPhone, iPad and laptop. I’ve learned to take advantage of fast WIFI when available.
Back downstairs with all the luggage, I was off to the nearby port for my assigned noon check-in. And there she was – the beautiful Westerdam with Holland America’s classic dark hull. The line seemed long but it moved along well, and I was able to skip large portions by having completed the required VeriFLY and health documentation apps. In 30 minutes I was in my cabin. Finally.