H. T. Maclin
Age: Over 70
Number of Cruises: 21
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: October 19th, 2000
Itinerary: Hawaii from/to San Diego
We have sailed on a variety of ships on oceans, rivers, lakes and canals and continue to enjoy such travel to this day because for us it's the only way to go for relaxation, variety and, best of all, pack and unpack the bags just once! It also affords several opportunities, dependent on the length of the cruise, to ‘dress up' for dinner a few times, meet new and interesting people, hear informative lectures, enjoy many varieties of music and see some energetic stage productions while sitting in a comfortable theater just a few steps or decks away from our cabin. We were hooked for life on travel by sea when we took our first ocean voyage with our then 2 and 3 year old daughters in 1953 on the Holland-America Lines' ship, the Nieuw Amsterdam. when we sailed from New York to Europe for graduate studies abroad. Though we had an inside tourist or 3rd. class cabin without a bathroom, we enjoyed it so much that it remains our vacation of choice to this day.
Our most recent cruise was also on a Holland-American Line ship, the Statendam, 15 days around Hawaii from/to San Diego. It was just what we were looking for. This was our third time aboard this particular vessel and selected it again because of the nearly10 days at sea with five days for stops at as many different ports. Though we have occupied almost every type of accommodation on board a ship from bunk beds to suites, we find we are more comfortable on a lower passenger deck. In addition to it being less expensive it also requires more wlking and stair climbing (shun the elevators if possible) to the dining room and public facilities. The additional exercise is also great to fend off extra calories!
Learning from many experiences on a variety of ships, we requested a cabin on A-deck - the lowest passenger deck - approximately amidships on the port side (it's usually the starboard side that ties up at a dock). This should be the most stable area on the ship if we encountered a rough sea (we did). Identical cabins and furnishings are also located on both the Main and Lower Promenade decks at a somewhat higher cost but we prefer the lower deck for its added quietness and insulation from public decks and lounges either below or above. We also selected a cabin that cannot be used as an adjoining cabin. These often have a sliding door or partition between them and do not usually prevent unwanted sounds from filtering through. As expected the cabin, number 752, was very quiet with a great view of the sea from a large window. The twin beds which can also be made into a queen size for two weren't quite long enough for me as usual. In this cabin I simply pulled the mattress down from the head of the bed, stuffed a rolled up blanket in the space and then had ample room. The furnishings included a comfortable sofa, the usual closet space and bathroom with both shower and tub, the latter being quite short but usable.
It's the days at sea with no port calls that test the overall service and deck activities offered by a ship. On this cruise the staff gets generally high marks in every category. Our cabin steward and dining room waiter and helper were all very good. And on the four formal nights at sea our table of six was expanded to seven to include one of the ship's officers who not only added to lively conversation but also offered, compliments of the ship, both white and red wine for dinner. The cruise director, a seasoned veteran, was one of the best we've seen and heard. He supplied lively banter and information each evening in just the right proportion at the conclusion of the evening entertainment. The ship's colorful theater has a revolving stage, occasional fireworks and a fine 7-piece orchestra which plays for a energetic group of ten 20-something singers and dancers. Among the other acts, we particularly enjoyed the three tenors (called These Three Tenors) who gave two fine concerts and a pianist who had played her instrument of choice in nearly 250 Hollywood movies, a gifted and talented musician. In addition to the theater presentations there were dozens of activities of every sort from very active (deck sports of all kinds) to sitting in a comfortable lounge chair punching out bingo tabs or on a casino stool trying to beat the odds at a huge variety of one-armed/buttoned bandits. One of the ladies at our evening dining table lost quite a pile of money by trip's end. She said the casinos in Atlanta City were much more generous in their pay outs. Since neither of these activities have any appeal to us, we used the large and well lighted library on board, walked at least four times around the promenade deck (a mile) each day or two, enjoyed the lovely blue sea from a comfortable deck lounge chair with fresh lemonade served in the morning/tea in the afternoon, read a good bit about Hawaii from a fine selection of books, listened to live music of all sorts and on more blustery days went up to the Crow's Nest forward lounge on the top deck to enjoy panoramic views of sea.
This time around the overall quality of food service seemed to have improved though with somewhat fewer varieties of salads, soups and entrees (including fish and/or shellfish) for dinner; even so, there were always from three to five of each one with a chef's suggestion for a low cal choice for every course. Going with the chef's selection, one could then splurge on one or more of several tempting desserts including the flambee of the evening and, if you liked, topped with ice cream, a sorbet or a dip of sherbert.
Breakfast and lunch (open seating) was served in the two-level sit-down dining room or cafeteria-style in the Lido with many choices from a do-it-yourself salad bar, sandwiches, hot and cold entrees, hamburger/hot dog offerings and all the trimmings near the main indoor/outdoor swimming pool. There was an ethnic hot bar nearby also, usually with varieties of Philippine or Indonesian food. Especially did we enjoy the spicy peanut hot chop on a mound of steaming rice for lunch.
Having gone to many midnight buffets in the past aboard ship, we tend to skip them all now; in fact, there was only one offering on this 15-day cruise, a dessert fiesta at 11:30 p.m. featuring chocolate in almost every form one could think of. Earlier night snacks were offered at 10:30 p.m. and if one was still hungry, pizza was always available. Though room service is obtainable 24 hours a day, we seldom use it although breakfast trays could be seen here and there atop the hands of stewards in the cabin passageways from 6 to 10 a.m. each morning.
This particular cruise from October 18 to November 3 was largely made up of mature passengers with a sprinkling of honeymooners. I saw no more than 4 or 5 school-age children out of the nearly 1,250 passengers. A number of people in wheel chairs or using crutches or walkers were aboard. Knowing the ship has only 6 wheel chair-accessible cabins, I asked the Purser how they arranged the accommodation for so many. He replied that most of them could actually walk a few steps and could get in and out of their cabins and bathrooms without too much difficulty. I thought of a cruise we had been on in recent years during a school holiday period when physically challenged passengers might have found it quite difficult with scads of running and happy youngsters racing up and down the passageways, elevators and monopolizing the swimming pools and hot tubs. While we at one time sailed with our own children and enjoyed every moment of it, our feeling these days is that we've been there, done that - and prefer leaving it behind now. If you feel somewhat the same, select a sailing date that avoids such hilarity; on the other hand should you have children and want them to be almost totally occupied during every waking moment in shipboard activities for and with other kids - then have at it. No need to worry about them at all - they can't be any more than a few hundred yards away any time of the day or night on a ship. Usually, the longer the cruise, even during school holidays, the fewer the children, especially those of ten days or more.
We usually do not purchase the land tours offered by the ship at ports of call, preferring to arrange our own, sometimes with a small rented car or a taxi, sometimes with another couple we have met on the ship. This is frequently both cheaper and much more convenient, enabling us to stay as long or brief a period of time at any given stop along the way, avoiding usually much slower 50-passenger tour buses, loading/off loading procedures and, sometimes most aggravating, waiting for the inevitable one or two persons who seem to lose all track of time and cause unnecessary delays. For this particular cruise, however, we used the ship's tours, mainly because the rental of a car or use of a taxi seemed expensive by initial comparison. In hindsight, had we had the information we have now, we could have done it ourselves without much difficulty, but Hawaii's taxis are not cheap.
We had five ports of call, three alongside a dock and two from anchorage by lighter - several of the ship's large seaworthy, all-weather lifeboats. The helicopter tour over the lava flows and smoke-spouting volcanos near Hilo were our favorite. The ship's charge of $199 per person included transportation to the Hilo airport and return - could have arranged a similar flight on our own for about half that amount plus taxi.
Being a Navy vet from the Pacific area (aircraft carrier), I especially wanted to see the USS Arizona Memorial at Oahu where two of my neighborhood friends (brothers) died that tragic day in 1941. Since January, 1999, the USS Missouri has been moored at Ford Island nearby and is slowly being turned into a most interesting museum. So here one can see both where the war in the Pacific began and where it ended on the deck of this famous battleship. It was a very moving experience for me, especially as I read the names of my friends on the white marble wall on the USS Arizona memorial.
Three more port calls were made at Nawiliwili, Kuai; Lahaina, Maui; and Kona, Hawaii. At Nawiliwili, we traveled to see the Grand Canyon of the Pacific - a great sight - and the Spouting Horn Park where crashing waves on the coral shore spouts a large geyser of water into the air through a blowhole. And range chickens under shaded hedges nearby really know how to work the tourists for crumbs.
The tour on Maui from the ship was not only reasonably priced but, for us, an outstanding event. We went to the local theater to see the production of ‘Myths and Legends of Hawaii.' The music (mainly drums of various types) and staging of this drama of the origins of the islands and its people was an exceptional treat. Don't miss it should you be in Maui. At Kona, our final port of call, we selected a bus tour to an old ranch, the largest one in the world we were told, miles away from the port. This tour was an almost all day experience which was really much too long for what we saw. Of course, at every port of call one could find a Hilo Hatties for virtually any combination of colors for shirts, skirts and souvenirs.
Sometimes embarkation/debarkation procedures can be frustrating. We almost always arrange our own travel to/from the port of the ship. By so doing we both flew for just a bit more than the cost of one person on the inclusive rate. To get such a good price, however, we had to change planes once both ways - fine with us for it gave us a chance to stretch our legs a bit as well as get a meal in an airport, a meal which these days is often much superior to the usual dry turkey slices on a bun and maybe a small apple on the plane. We also know that although boarding time is often posted from 2 to 5 p.m., those who arrive earlier can usually board from about 12:30. Many who have arranged their own travel arrive at the port city the night before to avoid the rush. The advantage of boarding shortly after midday is to find a very good lunch waiting for you on deck with an opportunity to check out your table reservation in the dining room. We always ask for the first sitting, usually at 6 p.m., not wanting to wait until 8:30 in the evening for dinner. As sometimes happens (and it did this sailing also) we were on the second seating though we had been confirmed on the earlier one. Arriving when we did I was able to change it and get seats at a table for six on the upper level of the dining room.
We are already looking forward to our next cruise in the spring which will again be from the west coast but this time travel to the Mexican Rivera and through the Panama Canal to Fort Lauderdale, another two week experience. In the meantime, we've arranged a mini-cruise from Florida over the Thanksgiving holidays for our entire family (19 at the moment) to introduce several of them to cruising and to have our first Thanksgiving in most of their memories where none of us will be cooking or washing dishes!