Holland America Line New Years Cruise: Welcoming the New Year on HAL’s MS Westerdam

A double rainbow started our day
A double rainbow started our day

ABOARD MS WESTERDAM – Even as a teenager, New Year’s Eve has always been difficult for me to deal with. When I was with Pan Am I always made sure that I was flying that night so that I wouldn’t feel the transition from one year to the next. Since then, I’ve made it a point of hunkering down and staying home to avoid the “event.”

So, this year when I had the opportunity to sail on board Holland America’s MS Westerdam with my family on a New Year’s cruise, I decided that this could promise a painless “transition.” I’m happy to report that I was right!

"Chillaxing" around the pool
“Chillaxing” around the pool

If you have never been on a cruise ship for New Year’s Eve, you don’t know what you’re missing. It really is a magical experience.

New Year’s Eve happened to be a sea day and despite the fact that the shipboard staff was busy preparing for a slew of “out with the old, in with the new” evening activities, they never missed a beat with the ongoing selection of activities for their passengers during the course of the day.

Top on my “to do” list today is a tour of the bridge with the captain. I had promised this to my 12-year-old grandson Mateo before we boarded and we’re both looking forward to it. No stranger to cruising – this is his seventh – Mateo always asks for the bridge tour, and it’s become “our special thing.”

Also on my agenda is to take one of the wonderful free Microsoft workshops offered on HAL cruises.

Illusionist Leon Ettiene spins his magic
Illusionist Leon Ettiene spins his magic

These informative sessions are given several times a day throughout the cruise and are very well attended. Today’s topics are “Safe and sound with Windows 10,” “Organize your photos with Windows 10,” and “Make movies with Windows 10.”

There’s also a special event with the amazing illusionist Leon Etienne, who’s planning to “reveal” secrets to some of the magic secrets he performed last night.

Once again, the Greenhouse Spa is full of useful tips today ranging from detoxing for health and weight loss, to relieving back pain and anti-aging “miracles.”

A packed audience accompanied the Piano Man
A packed audience accompanied the Piano Man

Note to self: Be sure to attend. After all, forearmed is forewarned!

I’m truly amazed at everything that’s offered on board the ship. On days when you’re in port you don’t really pay attention to the myriad offerings – although they are detailed in “Today, on Location,” which is delivered nightly to our state-room.

Trivia challenges, backstage tours, pool games, champagne tastings, art auctions, sidewalk sales – you name it, there’s something for everyone….all the time.

The countdown begins….
The excitement for today however, is New Year’s Eve, which I’m finally ready to embrace for the first time in many years.

Midnight madness at the buffet
Midnight madness at the buffet

Vista Dining Room is appropriately decked out for the end of year celebration with a special New Year’s Eve menu and suitable decorations, including festive tiaras and hats for passengers.

As you would expect from a cruise line with so many options for entertainment, tonight’s parties were scattered throughout the ship.

The Queen’s Lounge is featuring Piano Man Jimmy Maddox from 10:30 p.m. – 1 a.m. In the Crow’s Nest, Adagio is playing from 10:30 p.m. – 12:30 a.m. and passengers are invited to boogey into the wee hours, starting at 11 p.m. in Northern Lights.

Happy New Year!
Happy New Year!

The real “bash,” however, is on the Lido deck, where the B.B. King All Star Band are scheduled to rock from 10: 30 p.m. – 12:30 a.m., followed by a midnight buffet.

Passengers of all ages, crew and wait staff were dancing around the pool and were on hand to welcome in the New Year. A digital clock was set up for the countdown and at stroke of midnight, the ship’s horn blasted into the darkness to signal the start of 2016.

It was a moment I’ll never forget!

Photos: Michelle da Silva Richmond

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