My kids used to say our family never took vacations, we took field trips. I always planned out things to see, what books we should read while seeing them, and discussions about where we were going, where we were and where we had been. I love planning trips.
This cruise has been different. I haven’t planned much at all. Part of the reason, I think, is that I did not want to make plans that would die in the bright light of the world situation. I didn’t want to “waste my time.” Our planned 2022 World Cruise was scrubbed by the pandemic and three different attempts to visit the North Polar Ice Cap, before it melts, were thwarted by
- Holland America selling the ship,
- The pandemic, and
- The line deploying the ship to house Ukrainian refugees. (A higher and Better use.)
Plans to take a trip with the kids to the family “old home place” in Ireland were killed by the pandemic as was a plan for a family trip to European Christmas Markets. So, I decided not to get my hopes up, which means not plan.
At times we wondered if Holland America was really planning on making this trip. Instead of the nice faux leather portfolios that held our boarding credentials we got emails, lots of emails with COVID updates, panning instructions, boarding passes and even print your own luggage tags. There was no nifty pre-cruise swag.
There has been plenty of activity adding up to this cruise on the part of the cruisers, largely those of us who had been bounced off the 2020 Cruise in Perth, Australia. Holland America World Cruisers formed Facebook groups, zoom meetings and communicated on a Cruise Critic message board. I followed these, but I didn’t get my hopes up. But here we are, sitting in a hotel near Fort Lauderdale Beach waiting to get on a ship tomorrow to sail around the world.
It has not been an easy journey to get here. It first began to feel real when UPS came to pick up some of our baggage to ship to Fort Lauderdale. I filled one bag with all the travel books I hadn’t yet read to plan the trip. They will greet me in our stateroom (UPS tracking says Holland America has them in Fort Lauderdale.) Holland America actually sent us some “real” luggage tags, that arrived AFTER the UPS arranged pickups. It’s as if they didn’t believe it was going to happen until the last minute. And our hopes began to wane as we watched the utter chaos of the air traffic system over Christmas. And with all the kids and grandkids in the house who was thinking about cruising anyway?
The family left Alaska over three days, Wednesday through Friday and we focused on the possibility that this trip MAY actually pull off. But then, my fat fingers punched the wrong buttons on one of the pre cruise questionnaires and a frightening screen popped up on my computer.
I called the number and they told me that ‘lots of people make that mistake, the ship’s doctor or nurse will have to screen you specially, arrive at the pier early, you’re PROBABLY ok.”
We had to go through a lot of other online antics. Usually, Holland America takes your picture for IDs but this year they want us to send them selfies. They (As well as the Australian and New Zealand visa folks) have specific instructions, no glasses, don’t smile, don’t frown, chin up, eyes wide open. Oh, and we need a white surface to take them against. For us it meant removing all grandkid’s artwork from the fridge and using that. It’s the only plain white surface in our house. Good thing we don’t have avocado colored kitchen appliances. It is not the most flattering photograph. I have gotten a haircut since then.
We left on Sunday, New Year’s Day just ahead of a storm front that moved into Southeast Alaska. Alaska Airlines turned the planes around quickly in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan, leaving early, as soon as everyone who checked in 40 minutes before the flight was on the plane. I heard the pilot say to a flight attendant in Ketchikan, “Let’s get out of here NOW.”
We have Air Tags on some of our luggage that tracks it for us. When we got to Seattle one of Suzi’s bags was tagged as being in the Ocean between Vancouver and Victoria. As we sit in our hotel room the evening before sailing, we are still shy a bag, which Alaska Airlines tells us is on a truck running around Ft. Lauderdale looking for our hotel.
This afternoon, 24 hours before our embarkation, we had to self-test for COVID and take a picture of the COVID test stick with our drivers’ license with a picture and a clock with the date and time and submit it to HAL. Ours were both negative and accepted by the computer.
Tomorrow comes the final test, our interview with the ship’s doctor or nurse which people with more nimble fingers on an app screen will not need to do. This evening we sat over dinner in a café along the water watching several large liners set out for distant places and it began.