We welcomed our first day at sea. It was time to explore the ship. Our verandah staterooms were on the seventh deck. With the pool, fitness center, spa and buffet on deck nine it was perfect, letting us take the stairs instead of the elevators to where most of the action takes place.
During the ten day trip we never ate breakfast or lunch in the dining room. The buffet breakfast (French toast, omelets and eggs to order, cereals, muffins, fruit, yogurt and on and on) was great, as was the buffet lunch (Chinese, pizza, hamburgers, wraps, Panini, ice cream and a slew of delicious desserts). Besides having disinfectant all over the ship, Holland America, to further safeguard against a Norovirus outbreak, doesn’t allow self-service at the buffet or even at the coffee bar, for 48 hours. Since no one got sick, it seemed to work.
Hot temperatures, amazing blue skies and azure seas, had us and our fellow cruisers heading to one of the two pools. Our kids lounged in the sun by the adult pool. We found lounges in the shade. Although there were 2,000 people onboard, we had no trouble finding lounges.
Knowing that spa appointments fill up quickly, especially on days at sea, we made an appointment for a couples’ massage, (a gift from the kids) as soon as we got on the ship. The massage was fabulous. Though we were disappointed that having a spa treatment didn’t include use of the spa for the full treatment day.
Formal night has changed a lot. We saw only about 10% of the men wearing tuxes, a big change from ten years ago. Scott and Matt wore suits, my husband wore a sports jacket. We loved that the dress is more relaxed. I don’t need to schlepp and wear a formal gown, though if you want you can.
We chose “open seating” and were pleasantly surprised that we didn’t have too much trouble getting seats. If you come at least 15 minutes before one of the set times, there should be no problem.
The ship lets you bring your own wine in the dining room but charges you a corking fee. We avoided it by having wine from one of the ports-of-call in our room before going to dinner. The kids did take advantage of the happy-hour drink specials buy the second for a $1.
I am happy to report that the food was very good with plenty of choices. It was well prepared and did not at all remind you of large banquet food. Since the five of us usually sat at a table for six, Matt and Scott created an imaginary sixth, “Fred.” Fred was inclined to order a full meal that Matt and Scott gladly split, in addition to their regular orders. There were authentic Greek, Italian and Turkish dishes as well as even surf and turf. One night we ate at the specialty restaurant, Pinnacle Grill. The service and food were well worth the $20 a person fee. Thank goodness midnight buffets have disappeared. However, on one night there was a “Dessert Extravaganza” – so many treats it was held in the atrium and on four floors. We tried a few luscious ones. And it was certainly a photo op.
While there were activities going on during the day, the art of towel folding, art of flower arranging, bridge, dancing and more, Paul was the only one that partook. He attended a couple of digital workshop providing tips and techniques for Windows 7, digital photography and videography. They were provided free, and professionally run, being underwritten by Microsoft and were worth the one hour time investment if you are new to Windows 7 and Windows Live. Amanda, our competitive one, would have liked a few more games around the pool.