Finding Our Sea Legs and Places for Everything

Day 2, Grand World Voyage

Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023; Caribbean Sea.

Welcome Home!

That’s how Holland America greets cruisers on its grand voyages, and it is nice to see it hasn’t changed. Embarkation day is always hectic, and this one was no exception. But even so, boarding the Zuiderdam did feel like coming home, and we finally took our turn to join the cruise ships leaving Port Everglades.

Holland America has added a new twist this year – a block party. Late this afternoon, we all were invited to congregate in the hallways outside our cabins to meet our neighbors. Officers and staff from the captain down circulated, pouring champagne and wine and encouraging the festivities. Now when we lean out over our balconies, we’ll have names to put with the faces in the next cabin.

I think we all worried a bit about what would have changed since earlier cruises. This was a good time to remember that change can be good, and I hope the block parties will become part of the Grand World Voyage tradition.

Yesterday as we made the final leg of our journey to the cruise, our travel agency arranged to transport our large luggage from our Fort Lauderdale hotel to the ship, so we simply left it in our rooms and next saw it in our ship staterooms.

Once we arrived at the pier, we snaked our way through a series of check-in stations. After passing through security, we went through several short lines. I wasn’t sure the exact purpose of each stop, but by the end we had shown proof of Covid vaccination, a negative Covid test, yellow fever vaccination, a current passport, a boarding pass and perhaps even more. After a brief wait at the end of the process, we boarded the ship shortly after noon.

As we went to lunch in the Lido, explored the ship and joined the sail away party on the aft deck, I ran into more friends from earlier cruises. In some cases, I could place exactly which cruise we had shared, depending on which of my two sisters the friends had already met.

In all my cruising, my luggage has never gone astray, and this was no different. But yet I’m not comfortable until it all is delivered to my stateroom. I had Apple AirTags in two of my three bags, so I watched them make it from the pier to my cabin. The suitcase I shipped earlier also came, and I wondered why I thought I needed so much.

The Zuiderdam is noticeably larger than the Amsterdam, which was previously used for world cruises. We have about 1,500 passengers (500 of whom are on their first world cruise), compared to about 1,000 on the world cruise in 2020. But generally, the staterooms are noticeably smaller, with many lacking much storage space. This ship is better designed for week-long cruises than long voyages.

Hotel Manager Henk Mensink has known this would be an issue and worked hard to provide solutions. Among them are a four-drawer chest to put in a corner of the cabin and an extra closet rod to hang from ceiling magnets. Being in a room alone, I managed to find a place for everything.

Some cruisers wonder if Holland America provides enough activities to fill our sea days. You won’t find crazy contests around the pools, water slides or bingo twice a day. But at least on this world cruise with 60 sea days, I think we will be plenty busy if our first full day at sea is anything to go by.

The Daily Report had multiple offerings every hour, and it seems everyone wants to try them all out. The watercolor and creative writing classes were standing room only. I’m not sure about arts and crafts, bridge, tai chi, stretching, Mah Jongg, knitting for Project Linus and others. Our instructors seem prepared to adjust as needed.

About 200 people attended our Cruise Critic Meet and Greet earlier today, and Pete Laszcz, blogger at The Inside Cabin, officiated in the Crow’s Nest. We will have four more meet and greets later on the cruise. Our active online rollcall has generated more than 7,000 postings during the long wait leading up to this cruise.

One of my priorities was to book another cruise! Hard to believe, I know. But a few weeks ago, Holland America announced a 28-day Ultimate Alaskan Voyage. The new itinerary looks to be immensely popular, and even this early – 17 months before sailing — some cabin categories are just about sold out. I had been keeping my eye on it, so today I sat down with Neil Reilly, the future cruise consultant on board, to commit.

By booking while on board, I get some extra shipboard credit and only must pay a reduced refundable deposit. I have a year to cancel, but I seldom do. I guess my enthusiasm was contagious, because my sisters booked it as well.

Today as we sail toward Falmouth, Jamaica, we can see Cuba on the horizon. I hear Falmouth has some interesting Georgian architecture, so I will break out a sketchbook.