A Travellerspoint blog

Day 11 - Sea Day

When & Where

sunny 80 °F

Another quiet day at sea. Not much to really report on.

It was pretty funny walking around and seeing everyone very happy for Valentine's Day. (It's always Valentine's Day for me... - namesake) Running into a few new friends, it was nice that one of them gave me a little gift bag to celebrate.

We did pass another ship, couldn't really see who it was, but fun again to see them in the open water.

This was the day for the Military Meetup for all veterans and active Military Personnel. It was nice to run into a few people and hear some stories of the folks in their time in the military. Pretty much all ranks were represented from enlisted and officer, as well as all branches.

Love was definitely in the air, everywhere you looked from the hallways, to people walking around, doors were decorated, bars were decorated, and people seemed to dress up a little more.

It did feel a little lonely seeing everyone enjoy anothers' company....but the new friends I made I felt great.

In the afternoon, I enjoyed afternoon tea, and just sat back to watch everyone wearing their Gala attire for dining, whether it be at the Main Dining Room, Pinnacle Grill, or the Canaletto. It just seems that everyone is on better behavior when people dress up. It's just nice to see.

Until Next Time,
Sluggo

Posted by Sluggoaafa 19:27 Archived in USA Tagged vacation america holland rotterdam carribean hal Comments (0)

Day 10 - Sea Day

When & Where

sunny 80 °F

After an exhilarating day of diving, I was happy to have a quiet day at sea. This allowed me to just sit back and relax a little, and get up a little later than normal.

Since we were starting our trek east, we were told to be sure to move any clocks forward an hour to align with local time zones, and the weather was a beautiful 80 °F, partly cloudy.

Once I did venture out and about, with some breakfast and locating a quiet spot, we passed another Holland America ship, the Eurodam. They must have been on their way back to either Tampa, or Fort Lauderdale, but it was fun to see them out at sea.

I spent a lot of time walking around the main deck, trying to get my steps in, as well as learn a few things about "Everything Salmon" in America's Test Kitchen. We learned how to buy, store, prepare, and cook salmon, and also learned some recipes for poached and oven roasted salmon.

After a nice peaceful day, I did enjoy another excellent dinner in the Pinnacle Grill. Since I didn't finish my Bordeaux the night before, I continued with that along with another amuse bouche, beef tar-tare (which was big enough for three people), Beef filet, potato, mushrooms, and finish with simple vanilla ice cream.

That was enough for that quiet day,

Until Next Time,
Sluggo

Posted by Sluggoaafa 19:14 Archived in USA Tagged vacation america holland rotterdam carribean hal Comments (0)

Day 9 - Key West, FL

Where & When

sunny 80 °F

Back to Key West we go. Instead of docking up to the Naval pier, we're actually at the regular pier. It's another beautiful day of , with partly cloudy skies.

The U.S. government acquired Key West from Spain int he early 1800s. During those days, because the island was only accessible by boat, most of the islanders made their living as wreckers and pirates. By mid-century, the economy turned to shrimping, fishing, sponging and cigar-making. However by the early 1930s the majority of businesses had moved north and Key West became recognized as a resort town.

Today, the number one business is tourism and visitors of all ages enjoy a laid back party atmosphere. With its balmy weather and crystal blue skies, the island is famous for its diving, fishing, watersports and shopping. Points of interests include the Southernmost Point, the Truman Annex, the Hemingway House and of course the heartbeat of it all, Duval Street, full of bars, restaurants, museums, and unique shopping experience. Only in Key West does the sun shine the brightest when it sets. The cruise ships set sail so visitors can celebrate the sinking sun at the colorful daily Sunset celebration on the Mallory Dock. Visitors discover that modern Key West is a warmhearted place where all are welcome.

Since I didn't get off on the last Key West stop, I decided to venture out and see what this quaint little town has to offer. As soon as you get past the shops, there is the Key West Museum of Art & History at the Custom House, which is next door to the U.S. Coast Guard building. As I was walking, I past the Audubon House.

Captain John H. Geiger, skilled pilot and mast wrecker, built this house in 1830. It is typical of the era when, in 1832, the famed naturalist John James Audubon, visited Key West to study and sketch the birds of the Florida Keys. On March 18, 1960, Mitchell Wolfson, native son of Key West, and Mrs. Wolfson, also a native Floridian, dedicated the house as a public museum to be named 'Audubon House', commemorating the artist's visit to Key West. Furnished with antiques of the period, the museum proudly exhibits numerous original Audubon engravings. This restoration sparked the preservation and restoration movement of Key West.

As I was continuing my walk, I was pleasantly surprised to run into the Birthplace of Pan American World Airways. The building was it's first office, on October 28, 1927, Pan American Flight Number 1 taxied down a runway in Key West Bound for Havana. This was the first United States International Air Service in scheduled operation. (It's now a restaurant with great artifacts)

I walked past Ernest Hemingways home, which would have been fun to visit, but being on a tight budget, I just didn't want to spend. I then walked around the Naval Air Station Truman Annex, where the first Marines arrived in Key West with Commodore David-Hunting Fleet in 1822, and the Lighthouse & Keepers Quarters. In 1823, the U.S. Navy established a base in Key West and the need for a lighthouse became evident. Erecting a warning beacon was essential to reduce shipwrecks on the treacherous shoals surrounding the island. By the mid-1800s there was an average of a wreck per week. The first lighthouse was constructed in 1825 and was washed out to sea by the 1846 Hurricane. Shortly after in 1848, another lighthouse was erected a half a mile inland with the Keeper's Quarters.

On my way to the Southern Most point, I came across 'The Cable Hut' which the concrete structure was built on the mainland and transported by Flagler's railroad to its current location in 1917. It's purpose was to protect the connection between the land line and the 125 mile long underwater telegraph cable lines linking Key West and Havana, Cuba. The first International phone call was made through similar cables in Key West on Christmas Day, 1900. John W. Atkins called Cuba and after a long silence, Cuba answered quite simply "I don't understand you."

The most iconic site is "The Conch Republic" witch shows you are at the Southernmost Point in the Continental U.S.A., being only 90 miles to Cuba. There is also the Harry S. Truman Little White House...otherwise known as the Truman Annex.

I did have a quick bite to eat at Pan American's restaurant, however, I didn't want to spoil my dinner in the evening at the Pinnacle Grill. It was sad that I wasn't able to enjoy the dining experience with anyone (since I was alone) however, with a Wine Package I had gotten (another story), I was able to enjoy a Mouton Cadet Bordeaux, a little amuse bouche, fried scallops, shrimp and grilled white fish, along with a decadent chocolate dessert.

Until Next Time,
Sluggo

Posted by Sluggoaafa 14:18 Archived in USA Tagged vacation west america holland rotterdam key carribean hal Comments (0)

Day 8 - Disembarking/Embarking Tampa, FL

When & Where

semi-overcast 74 °F

Bright and early we arrived back to Tampa. For those people who were staying on the ship for the next two weeks, we were able to leave all of our belongings in our rooms, take our passports and any other documents we needed and reboard the ship.

Along with the previous nights 'When & Where' pamphlet, if you're continuing on the ship, you'll get an "Important Notice" about clearance process for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

For those of us staying, we were told to meet in the theater around 9:30am, and a staff member will escort everyone for in-transit guests. Again, they remind you to have Stateroom key, passport, and an In-transit card to show you're not going into town, and just want back on the ship. They do inform you that the procedure is dictated by the CBP officials and is outside the control of Holland American Line, and it should take around an hour. When you re-board, you just present the in-transit card to the staff and terminal security to identify you as a returning guest. The notice also says that any guest who are sailing for periods in excess of one month to attend at a minimum, one passenger safety emergency drill each month while on board. (it's just good to go to them all so they're not looking for you)

Included is a schedule for breakfast in the main dining room, as well as the Lido Market.

This did seem like a cluster as the Customs and Border Patrol didn't open until a certain time, and of course, they only work when they want to. Dealing with the CBP, it was more different than dealing with them at the airport. However, I knew that they were going to be minimum staffed, and working at a snails pace, so I went in with that mind set.

Only problem was, there were some older people who couldn't stand for long(er) periods of time and where we had to wait there were no chairs to sit down. Some of the older crowd were quite upset at that, and once they started to get really upset, it was time to clear Customs, and get back on the ship.

This wasn't anything Holland could do, as the CBP is the United States Government. So watching all the older folks yell and complain to the Holland staff, made me more aware that it wasn't their fault, it was the Tampa Port for not having enough places to sit for older people.

Got back on board, and of course did our mandatory Passenger Emergency Muster Drill. I really liked that Holland America has given their crews devices to check you in. So when you get to your station, they simply scan your card and it tells the ship that you're present and accounted for. We did have one guy who apparently booked a spa day, and so he came down in his robe and was very upset that he had to go through the drill. Just like with the airlines, it doesn't matter if you've flown one time or a million times, it's always good to pay attention and watch/listen to the crew during drills. You just never know when there's going to be an emergency, and no matter what you think....just listen and pay attention.

Once the Muster was over, I was able to go grab a departure beverage and get some snacks on the deck, then found a spot to watch us sail away, and under the Sunshine Skyway bridge. Once that was done, back to my favorite bar for some drinks, then watch all the 'new' folks trying to find their way around the ship.

The Rotterdam isn't that big of a ship, but if you aren't familiar with how cruises are, no matter how big or small they are, they can be confusing. Meeting some of the new folks around the bar waiting for their meal time, and getting to know our neighbors for the next two weeks.

Until Next Time,
Sluggo

Posted by Sluggoaafa 13:23 Archived in USA Tagged vacation america holland rotterdam tampa carribean hal Comments (0)

Day 7 - Sea Day

When & Where

semi-overcast 80 °F

Another sea day where the weather was and partly cloudy. Not much was going on, however enjoying a little bit of sun on the Lido deck and walking around the promenade is always a good thing to to.

I saw that there was a On Deck For a Cause walking event in the morning. Holland does have a great non-competitive fundraiser of 5K walking around the deck to help fight against cancer. Through February 2017, HAL has raised over $5M to help fight the cause!!!

By this time, I had found my favorite bar to hang out at. The two bar tenders knew my drink, and if I would walk up, they would already have my drink poured and ready for me...along with some nuts, or what ever snacks they had for the day.

I was able to meet up for the "Behind the Scenes at the Mainstage", which was pretty fascinating seeing how small the area was for the performers to quickly change their outfits during their shows.

I actually went to the evenings performance which was going to be a Comedian. He just wasn't any comedian, he was a ventriloquist. Mike Robinson did an outstanding job keeping everyone on their toes, and if you were in the front row, you had better watch out as you were now subject to his jokes.

With that, it's hard to believe that week 1 is in the books!

Until Next Time,
Sluggo

Posted by Sluggoaafa 13:02 Archived in USA Tagged vacation america holland rotterdam carribean hal Comments (0)

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