We’ve been on the ship two weeks. Most cruises will have ended by now. We’ve just started, still establishing the rhythm of a long cruise, shedding the tensions of packing, air travel and the holidays. We are ending our first long sea interlude, eight sea days without a port. We will have three long interludes, crossing the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. We’ll have many shorter sea interludes.
We spent much of our first interlude getting to know a new (for us, it just celebrated its 20th birthday) ship. Zuiderdam is 150 feet longer than Amsterdam and carries more people. Its capacity is 1900 but when the third births and pull-out couches are full of kids (as happened over the holiday cruise just before we got on) the ship can carry 2200 plus. We have just under 1400 now. The loss of 800 people after the New Year holiday was a great relief to the staff. Zuiderdam’s décor is more pleasing to my tastes than Amsterdam. But there are certain areas of the ship I am learning to avoid, like “The Shops.”
“The Shops” are laid out like every other duty-free complex set down in a medium sized international air terminal. You MUST walk through them to get to where you want to go. In this case I run the shopping gauntlet between the main stage theater and the library and dining room. Like every other duty-free complex, it has the sticky sweet smell of the perfume they’re trying to sell. Every time I enter this section, I feel like I want to break into a run because my brain tells me I’m on a tight connection between flights and my arriving flight was late. Then I start sneezing.
I mentioned the library. Folks who know me know I do not like libraries. Really it is the librarians who frighten me after some childhood experiences involving a librarian who was my mom’s “best friend,” my naturally loud voice, her reporting me to mom and discipline. But Holland American cruisers love libraries. When the company cut them out of some ships the clients cried loudly.
The library’s grand opening was a big deal. They turned the movie theater into a library during early December drydocking. The books were delivered when we got on board. Staff needed time to catalogue and shelve the books. The line is cutting costs so there is no librarian. That works for me because I live in terror of librarians and without one, I feel more comfortable in the library. Plus, the library feels like a bookstore, and I love bookstores. But having no librarian has drawbacks. Checkout is on the honor system, two books at a time, and you are not supposed to take reference books. Yesterday we heard an announcement over the PA, “whoever took the big atlas from the reference stand please return it. That is NOT a book you can check out.” It was back a day later.
There are some complaints about the library. For one thing there are no Dutch language books and some of the Dutch cruisers (after all it IS Holland America) feel excluded. The selections are largely pop literature (you know, summer reads.) One guest said it was more like the book selection in a 7/11. I don’t think it’s that bad. Within hours almost all the books in the “Mystery, Thriller” section were out
I sleep with the drapes open because I like waking to natural light. This last week our heading was West Southwest (Thanks Kevin and Shannon for the navigator app.) The sun is rising to the east and a tad to the south. Sometimes the sunrise wakes me to a glorious display, and I roll over, sometimes I get up to take its picture, sometimes I nudge Suzi so she can enjoy it. Near the equator sunrises and sunsets are supposed to be quick. I was initially surprised that they seemed longer than equatorial sunrise was supposed to be. Then I realized that we are running away from the sunrise, extending its time by about 19 knots. While it elongates sunrise it makes sunsets disappear in a flash (but so far not a green one.)
We are settling into a sea day routine. After breakfast Suzi does Tai Chi and I walk laps on the Prominade Deck. (I have a separate post about that.) Even extending days by adding hours because we’re headed West there’s not enough time for reading, writing, sorting pics and attending lectures. This first extended sea interlude has Andy Fletcher lecturing on Quantum Physics, Chaos Theory, Fractals, and Complexity. Andy lectured in 2020, I bought his books, had him lecture via Zoom to our Unitarian fellowship. I’m still trying to grasp what he is saying. It’s opening up a whole new set of possibilities to stimulate this old brain.
Michael West. a retired navy officer is lecturing on ships and Holland America’s has pre-prepared multimedia presentations on topics including whales in Alaska, the early history of Radio (too much Marconi, not enough to Tesla) and a history of games played on ships. There are also port lectures. The lectures often pack the main theatre more than the music presentations. I have described the “Music Walk” in another post.
Our long sea interlude is ending and we’re getting ready to dive into exploration. Lecturers and entertainers are packing up. We will get a new crop in Tahiti in a few days. We are told our wayward luggage will be there waiting for us. We’ve heard that tune before. Stay tuned.