Holland America Line New Years Cruise: The Call of the Sea

Treadmills with a view
Treadmills with a view

ONBOARD MS WESTERDAM – There’s something about the sea that’s always called to me and has soothed whatever ails me throughout my life. As a child growing up in Rio, the ocean was part of our daily ritual and I guess it’s something I’ve carried with me always.

Today is our first day at sea and I’m happy to leave the stress of December behind and indulge in some much needed TLC, courtesy of Holland America. I’m going to dedicate some time to gazing at the ocean, but with so many on board activities available, I know that I’m going to want to do a lot more.

Fortunately, Cruise Director Sarah has a daily broadcast on TV highlighting the selection of activities, and the printed “Today on Location” – delivered nightly – is also a help. I’m surprised however, that only one copy is delivered to each cabin, instead of one per person. I’m rooming with my daughter and it’s going to be a struggle to see who gets to it first!

Lido pool is always a "hot spot."
Lido pool is always a “hot spot.”

A bountiful breakfast at the Lido is always a good way to start the day, as was apparent by the number of fellow passengers I found lining up at the omelet and waffle stations. The offerings feature everything from fresh fruit, tasty pastries, a variety of cheeses, muesli, yogurt, hot and cold cereals, bacon, sausages and bagels with salmon and cream cheese. The only adverse comments I heard – on several occasions – had to do with the scrambled eggs, which for some reason were deemed “inedible.”

I took those comments to heart and opted instead for a made-to-order “loaded” omelet, which was delicious!

Activities and Workshops Galore

On board shopping beckons
On board shopping beckons

After checking in with the family members traveling with me, I figured that I should hit the gym to get a jump on the calories I knew I’d be adding to this extraordinary cruise dining experience.

There are ongoing classes – some for a fee – but you also have the option of working out on your own and there seems to be enough equipment to accommodate everyone. I settled onto one of the treadmills with a view of the ocean, and started to walk my way across the sea.

The Main Dining Room is welcoming.
The Main Dining Room is welcoming.

After peeking in at the body sculpting boot camp, I headed to the Crow’s Nest and Explorations Café to order a sorely-needed cappuccino. Fortunately, we had purchased the Signature Drink Package, so “designer” coffees were included at no extra charge. When I got to the Café, I was dismayed to find a long line along of disgruntled passengers.

Betsy and Brian from Omaha told me that they had been waiting in line for some 15 minutes and that the inexperienced barista hadn’t stocked up on coffee and was out of everything they tried to order. An exasperated Brian finally said to the barista, “Just make me whatever you know how to make, as long as it’s hot.”

The display cases, on the other hand were stocked with delicious-looking pastries, but there was no doubt that the sole barista simply wasn’t enough to accommodate this full ship of designer coffee-loving passengers.

The Crow's Nest is a tranquil place to hang out
The Crow’s Nest is a tranquil place to hang out

I was just in time to catch Line Dance lessons with Saul in the Crow’s Nest before I headed down to the Greenhouse Spa for a “Does Your Hair Style Suit You?” consultation. (It doesn’t, but I wasn’t going to worry about it while on a cruise!)

Gaming lessons, steel pan drum lessons, spa seminars (today’s topic was “detox for health and weight loss); Name that Tune poolside, browsing the shops …. you name it, there’s always something going on.
Behind the Scenes ship tours are popular and pricey – $150 per person – giving you access to the navigation bridge and engine control room, and should be booked early.

The family that boogies together…
The family that boogies together…

Dinner our first night is in the Main Dining Room, where we were offered a delicious array of options from seafood to steak to a vegetarian dish, followed by decadent desserts.

BB King Blues Club in the Queen’s Lounge beckons after dinner and we’re happy to boogey for a bit, before hitting the “tamer” Piano Bar with Jimmy Maddox.

It’s been a busy day and I’m looking forward to our first port-of-call: Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos.

Photos: Michelle da Silva Richmond

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