Wrapping up One Cruise; Prepping for Another

Between Cruises

Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023; Fort Lauderdale, Florida

I hadn’t planned another blog post about my 73-day Grand South America & Antarctica cruise, but several friends on board urged me on. Who knew so many people who are on the cruise with me are reading a blog about this cruise? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised – I frequently follow the blogs of fellow cruisers. Each of our journeys is different, even on the same ship and itinerary.

Our last two sea days have been busy with activities. Ben Sack, the artist in residence who joined the cruise in Buenos Aires, unveiled his approximately 5-foot by 6-foot drawing of the cruise itinerary. I’m always tempted to order a smaller print, but it would just sit in storage.

The towel animal menagerie took over the Lido deck once again – this time with notes from the housekeeping staff. I found several made by Andri and Dwi, my great cabin stewards.

My travel agent arranged a rare bridge tour while the ship was underway. It’s nice to see some women working there.

A highlight of long cruises is the Crew Talent Show, and they have evolved and improved over the years. This year brought eight acts ranging from traditional Indonesian and Filipino songs and dances to contemporary pop and rock performances. It’s easy to forget that the wonderful crew we see in “corporate” uniforms around the ship are mostly just young people who follow the current music trends.

“Ask the Captain” is always a popular event, and this was one of the best sessions I’ve attended. Passengers asked interesting questions, and Capt. Ane Smit gave candid answers.

Had we been scheduled to sail up the Amazon River just two days earlier, the voyage would have been canceled. Just enough rain fell upriver to allow us passage. At times we had just one meter of water beneath our hull.

The odds of being able to tender in the Falkland Islands? He estimated them at 90 percent. I guess I’ve just been unlucky to have missed that port the two times I’ve cruised there.

What he might have done if he hadn’t had a career on the sea? “I think I might have been a farmer.”

We sailed an alternate route skirting Cuba on our way back to Florida from Puerto Rico due to a storm last weekend on the East Coast. After seeing very few other ships – and cruise ships in particular – on our cruise around the continent of South America, we passed a whole raft of them yesterday heading out for Caribbean cruises.

It took me most of yesterday to pack, mainly because I was trying to pack things for my three days in Florida in one bag, things for my 12-day holiday cruise in another and everything else for the world cruise in the last two, as I will be changing cabins for it.

When I finally got the luggage outside my cabin last night, I was somewhat embarrassed about how much there was and tempted to put a couple of the bags outside another door. I do remind myself that this is what I have to live with for eight months.

After dropping the bags at my hotel, I spent today shopping for a few things I need, getting some Christmas decorations for the cabin door, and upgrading my iPhone. I had planned to wait until next summer, but after a few passengers were robbed of their phones in South America, I decided I wanted to have a backup. I’m excited to see my sisters and nephews, who will arrive tomorrow.

In a few days Holland America will send me an extensive survey about the cruise, but here are a few thoughts. The Zaandam is in great shape, and I love the smaller size. The captain and hotel manager have worked together for years and it shows – this was perhaps the smoothest operation overall of any cruise I’ve taken. I loved my “vista suite” cabin with its nine desk drawers and full-length sofa. Newer ships have much smaller cabins.

I would say an area where Holland America falls a bit short is entertainment, and that is determined by headquarters. I thought the piano bar musician shouted more than sang, and apparently many others agreed, as there was seldom more than a half-dozen people during his sets. That deprived me of one of my favorite evening venues. On the World Stage, the comedians got mixed reviews. I think most of them cannot maintain a show for 45 minutes. There’s a reason late-night talk show hosts only do a short opening monologue.

Good news on the ongoing Brazilian visa issue. I still don’t have mine, but the visa contractor has finally sent it to Brazil for review. Even better, Holland America said no one will be denied boarding if the visa logjam doesn’t break. Instead, we will go somewhere else. Of course, many people are looking forward to the Amazon, so we all have our fingers crossed.

I’m planning to take a short break from regular blogging during the holiday cruise (although don’t be surprised if I sneak one post in).