Panama Canal Collector Cruise 2009

 

We were driven to the Kelowna Airport on Thursday morning, February 5, 2009 by our neighbours, Ulf & Friedl for our flight to San Diego and the beginning of our 28 day Holland America Panama Canal Cruise.  Vernon was cloudy and -1 C when we left home and our Kelowna > Seattle flight left on time.  In our immediate area on the plane were 2 other couples taking the same cruise as us – one couple we spoke with came from Vernon and we continued seeing one another throughout our vacation.  The continuation of our flight from Seattle to San Diego was some 45 minutes late in leaving and we arrived in San Diego to light rain showers but much warmer than what we left behind in Canada.  The airport shuttle took us to our hotel, Holiday Inn – San Diego On The Bay where, after check-in, we had a late [7 p.m.] dinner before retiring.

 

The Web Sites I have provided are to enhance the attractions we enjoyed and provide more background for you … enjoy!

 

Throughout this journal the metric system will be a constant to record temperature, distance and the like.  For those not using our metric system, below is an abbreviated conversion table to the US system of measurement:

 

Temperature                                                   Speed

 

20 C  =  68 F                                                   20 knots  =   23 mph

23 C  =  73 F                                                   90 knots  =  103 mph

25 C  =  77 F

27 C  =  81 F

29 C  =  84 F

30 C  =  86 F

32 C  =  90 F

 

Friday, February 6

 

We awoke and opened the curtains to see our ship, the ms Statendam, in dock just across the road from our hotel – that’s how close our hotel was to the cruise ship terminal.  Enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and at 10:30 a.m. began the wait for our scheduled 1 p.m. check-in to board the ship.  On our 5 minute walk to the cruise ship terminal the skies opened up and soaked us!  Our check-in was easy having only to contend with long slow lines until onboard the vessel.  A late lunch in the Lido Restaurant after which we walked the decks to familiarize ourselves with the ship.  Our stateroom was adequate in size and offered the necessary comforts for our month long stay.

We had requested early dining but had not been approved yet so chose the Open Seating option and for our first dinner sat with 6 others – 2 from Pennsylvania and 4 from Ontario.  Prior to the evening show we sat and enjoyed music in the Piano Bar.  Evening Showtime in the Van Gough Lounge featured the singers and dancers of the Statendam.  The show itself was very short and not all that good.

 

Our ship, the Statendam, 720 feet in length, carries 1,258 passengers plus a crew of 560 and has a maximum speed of 21 knots.  She has ten decks, served by 8 elevators.  Onboard facilities include 2 pools and hot tubs, 7 bars, casino, gymnasium, medical centre, photo gallery and retail stores.  Entertainment is offered nightly in the Van Gough Lounge and the Wajang Theatre offers daily movies.  Onboard dining is in the Rotterdam Dining Room, while buffet meals are provided in the Lido Restaurant.  The Pinnacle Grill offers an elegant, sophisticated dining experience featuring premium Sterling Silver beef, inspired seafood dishes and many select wines.  Food quality was just excellent and, for the most part we followed our Cruise Director’s advice, “If you see it, eat it!”.

 

The staff was fantastic, just excellent!!  Cannot praise them enough as they did everything to make our cruise enjoyable – we did not ‘want’ for anything.

 

Saturday, February 7

 

On our first day at sea and it was cloudy as we ate breakfast.  Spent the better part of the day walking the ship and enjoying quiet time reading in the library.  At lunch time the temperature was 18 C ,  the clouds still remained and the sea remained calm all day.  Many activities are available daily and were outlined in the Daily Program, provided to us each evening.  Mornings we also received the Times Digest, eight pages of headline news from the pages of The New York Times.  By about Day 3 we Canadians on board also began to receive The Canadian, headline news more meaningful to us.  Most activities available to us we had no interest in other than the daily Trivia Challenge and so did not choose to participate.  Our dinner companions were a couple from San Diego, one using a scooter full time and a couple from South Dakota.  Dress code for dining was Formal, the first one and was followed by the Captain’s Champagne Toast during which he introduced his senior officers.  Showtime followed and for the second night featured the singers and dancers of the Statendam in “The Hits of Broadway”.  The show was only some 45 minutes long.  We then adjourned to the Piano Bar to enjoy the music  before retiring to our stateroom.  Clocks go ahead one hour tonight with the promise of warmer weather ahead.

 

Sunday, February 8

 

The sun and warmth did arrive as the partly cloudy skies at breakfast soon gave way to warm sunshine for the rest of the day, Day 2 at sea.  Richard spent the day on the outer decks and enjoyed the sunshine and the start of his tan for the year.  At noon, 24 C was the temperature.  Anita was more cautious and spent the majority of her time in the library.  Today we received word that our wait for early fixed dining was over – we were assigned a table.  Our new table mates were Bert & Kathy from Edmonton.  Comedy ventriloquist, Brad Cummings was this evening’s Showtime offering and his performance was entertaining.  Evening drinks in the Piano Bar brought our day to a close.  Clocks go ahead one hour again tonight.

 

Monday, February 9

 

In port at Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for the day with a scheduled 5p.m. departure.  Sunshine as we walked to breakfast in the Rotterdam Dining Room.  Today’s service at breakfast was very slow with the servers making many mistakes at our table for six.  Once off the ship we scouted the various taxis and tours being offered choosing to engage a cab for 3 hours to drive us around Puerto Vallarta including The Old Town.  We drove by some elaborate homes including ones owned by Elizabeth Taylor and Sylvester Stallone.  We stopped at a tequila distillery, small and family owned, for a tour and tasting afterwards – most interesting.  Back to the ship for a late lunch at the Lido Restaurant.  We found the Rotterdam Dining Room closed as we were in port for the day and could not therefore avail ourselves of the service offered there.  This was only the first of many such closures one that Richard felt deprives guests of paid-for services not being offered at all times.  After lunch Richard again spent time on the outer decks, first waling the Promenade Deck for his daily exercise.  Four laps around equated to one mile.  Temperature was 26 C at 4 p.m. when we changed for dinner and attended at the Ocean Bar for “Happy Hour”, a daily ritual where we enjoyed a pre-dinner drink while visiting with other guests and the bar staff.  Showtime this evening featured a most talented guitarist, Chris Nicholson, although his choice of music, mostly Spanish classical, was not to our liking.  In the Piano Bar after, Name That Tune Trivia was enjoyed before retiring.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto_Vallarta,_Jalisco

 

Chris Nicholson

http://www.chrisnicholsonline.com/

 

Tuesday, February 10

 

Day 5 of the cruise and a day at sea.  We enjoyed calm seas overnight and all this day, 29 C at 1 p.m. being the temperature.  Richard continues to spend quality time on the outer decks and thoroughly enjoys walking the Promenade Deck after breakfast.  Anita now spends some of her afternoons on the outer decks as well.  From the beginning of this cruise Richard has asked consistently for Canadian beer when in the 2 bars we frequented most often, the Ocean and Piano Bars always being told he need wait for this ship to begin the Vancouver>Alaska run in May when Canadian beer would be on hand.  His second choice being Budweiser [American water] but better than nothing and that was what he was served.  Today that all changed when in the Ocean Bar for Happy Hour he was told that Labatt Blue was available!  Why did it take 5 days – who knows?  The evening show, World Beat, again featuring the cast of the Statendam – now 3 times in 5 nights, displayed many fine costumes in the show.  Our nightly visit to the Piano Bar concluded our day.

 

Wednesday, February 11

 

We awoke to find the ship in port at Huatulco, Mexico with sunshine and clear skies.  After breakfast we went ashore and again hired a taxi to tour us around.  We had a 3 hour tour of the 9 surrounding bays, the resort area, shopping district and the beautiful beaches.  Both of us were impressed with the cleanliness and beauty of the area and said we most likely would return for a future stay at one of the resorts.  Returned to the ship for lunch [don’t trust any of the street-side cafes] and to spend the remainder of the afternoon on the outer decks enjoying the fine weather.  Today’s high was 31 C .  Ship officials raised concern in the early afternoon about an outbreak of the Gastrointestinal Virus as a number of passengers had shown signs of same.  These individuals had been placed in isolation.  We believe someone brought this onboard during our time in Puerto Vallarta as there were no signs beforehand.  There always had been numerous hand sanitizers placed throughout the ship and now more emphasis was placed on sound hand washings.  This also meant changes in routine for guests and servers alike:

n     salt & pepper shakers no longer appeared on dining room tables, servers offered us packets of same;

n     baskets of bread and trays of butter no longer appeared on dining room tables; servers offered guests just one bread item and served the butter patties;

n     tea was made and poured by the servers as one no longer received a tea pot;

n     food in the Lido Restaurant was put behind cellophane barriers, not to be touched by guests but served to us by staff;

n     the serving of our nightly chocolates in our stateroom was discontinued … why, I don’t understand, as they were packaged prior to the ship having sailed;

n     in the men’s washrooms the individual rolled towels had been replaced with paper towels;

n     in the Library, books available for loan were locked up behind “cages” … should one want to take out a book the attendant would unlock that section and secure the book requested … passengers could not touch the books directly.

Singer Lisa Donovan provided a good evenings entertainment in the Van Gough Lounge performing many of Judy Garland’s hit songs.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Huatulco, Mexico

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huatulco

 

Gastrointestinal Virus

http://www.ncsu.edu/student_health/whatsNew/gastrointestinalVirus.html

 

Lisa Donovan

http://www.lisadonovan.com/index.htm

 

Thursday, February 12

 

Upon awakening we found us to be in port at Puerto Chiapas, Mexico.  The port was built in 1975, providing a shipping terminal for the area’s agricultural produce, and to promote tourism to the Soconusco region.  We went ashore following breakfast but chose not to journey into the town, a 35 minute ride from the port.  Instead, we visited what looked like a combination cultural centre / information and shop structure where we enjoyed dancing and music performed by young men and women in costume.  After that we walked to a nearby restaurant / bar to enjoy a cool drink before returning to the ship for lunch.  Enjoyed the outer decks [and quiet] for the rest of the afternoon before adjourning to the Ocean Bar for our pre-dinner drink.  It was sunny and 27 C today and our great weather continues.  Elliott Maxx, comedian, was the feature entertainer this evening and he was good!  In the Piano Bar, Name That Tune Trivia received our attention before retiring.

 

Friday, February 13

 

Today marks the start of week 2 aboard the Statendam .  Continued calm seas, blue skies, sunshine and 29 C – what more can we ask for?  In port at Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala … our first time ever in Guatemala.  At breakfast in the Rotterdam Dining Room we continue to meet new guests from the many countries represented.  Not often have we been paired with the same people.  As we did on Thursday we went ashore to visit the open market next to the dock.  Anita “negotiated” a purchase with one lucky vendor then we attended an outdoor fashion show featuring both men and women followed by an especially enjoyable music concert put on by seven men on two large xylophones, a cello player and a drummer.  The tunes they played were well-known hits of the recent past.  Back to the ship for lunch in the dining room and random choice seating had us sit at our assigned table for evening dining.  Adjourned to the outer decks for exercise and relaxation until 4 p.m. when we had our pre-dinner drink in the Ocean Bar, part of our daily routine.  During our pre-dinner drink in the Ocean Bar it was custom to serve us hors d'œuvres  -- a treat not to be missed!  Showtime tonight was preceded by the game show, “Battle of the Sexes” featuring three prominent staff members.  The stage tonight was shared by comedian, Elliott Maxx and guitarist, Chris Nicholson.  Both of them presented new material that was greatly enjoyed.  Clocks go ahead one hour tonight.

 

Hereunder is the Guest Manifest Nationality Breakdown for the first half of our cruise.

 

Nationality

Total Count

 

 

Australia

2

Canada

301

Germany

4

United Kingdom

55

Korea

2

Netherlands

36

New Zealand

2

Sweden

2

Taiwan

1

United States

817

 

 

Total :

1,222

 

Saturday, February 14

 

A sea day and Valentine’s Day!  A somewhat windy morning on the outer decks with Richard experiencing wet walking conditions on starboard side from the sea spray.  Despite the winds the sea remained calm and we enjoyed sunshine again with 27 C as today’s high.  The day was spent, for the most part, on the outer decks.  Even with it being Valentine’s Day the onboard activities offered did not interest us.  Tonight’s dress code was Formal for dining.  Once again we enjoyed the beautiful sunset at dinner as we had done on previous evenings.  The comedy and majic of John Ekin, tonight’s Showtime offering was a big disappointment.  Afterwards in the Piano Bar, Name That Tune Trivia was enjoyed prior to retiring.  In our stateroom we found a plate with 4 pieces of chocolate and covered with cellophane and a card wishing us a happy Valentine Day.  Why the chocolates now and think who must have handled them … where are our nightly chocolate offerings that have been discontinued?

 

Sunday, February 15

 

We awoke to clouds that soon gave way to sunshine, 27 C at 1 p.m. with 29 C being the high for today.  At sea today until 5 p.m. when we dropped anchor just off Fuerte Amador, Panama.  During the day we had passed a few freighters – a sign that we were nearing the Panama Canal.  At anchor we could see upwards of 50 ships around us waiting to enter the Canal.  Good thing we had a reservation for transit on Monday morning.  Following dinner we went up to Deck 10 [Navigation Deck] to enjoy the lights of the city and the many ships at anchor around us.  Access to shore was by tender boat for the first time.  It being evening and darkness we chose to stay onboard.  No Showtime entertainment was scheduled this evening so we attended the movie, “Secret Life of Bees” starring Queen Latifah & Dakota Fanning.  Bedtime was earlier as Richard wanted to be up for the start of our passage through the Canal at 8 a.m.

 

Monday, February 16

 

Today we traversed the Panama Canal!  Arose earlier than has been our custom to have breakfast and by 8:20 a.m. we were taking our positions on the bow of the Promenade Deck.  Sunshine mixed with clouds made it warm for all of us outside.  We attained 31 C as our high today.  Passing through Miraflores Locks, the first of the Canal’s three sets of locks, took 3 hours and we saw evidence of construction of the two new flights of locks being built parallel to, and to be operated in addition to, the old locks: one to the east of the existing Gatún locks, and one south west of Miraflores locks, each supported by approach channels.  The Canal’s three sets of locks, each of which has two lanes, operate as water lifts to elevate ships 26 meters above sea level to the level of Gatun Lake, in their transit of the channel across the Continental Divide, and then lower them back to sea level on the opposite side of the Isthmus.  An impressive process!  Once through this first set of locks we passed numerous freighters passing through the Pedro Miguel Locks into Gatun Lake.  Darkness was upon us as we entered the Gatun Locks taking us into the Caribbean Sea.  Showtime featured the Statendam singers & dancers in On Track, a musical journey through the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s.  Our day ended with a visit to the Piano Bar.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Panama Canal

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panama_Canal#Third_set_of_locks_project

 

Miraflores Locks

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miraflores_(Panama)

 

Pedro Miguel Locks

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panama_Canal_Locks

 

Gatun Lake

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gatun_Lake

 

Gatun Locks

http://sunnyfortuna.com/fortunacam/showcams/panama/gatun.htm

 

Tuesday, February 17

 

The quarantine imposed last Wednesday continues.  At 10 a.m. we arrived in the port of Cartagena, Colombia … another first visit for Richard and Anita.  Coming into port we saw the skyscrapers, impressive in height, comprising the New Cartagena.  We spent the morning aboard ship choosing to go ashore after lunch.  Besides our ship there were two others in port, the Celebrity Mercury and the Coral Princess .  We engaged a taxi for a tour of Old Cartagena and were impressed with the interesting architecture and the very narrow streets.  It was a warm sunny day with 29 C as the high.  For dinner this evening we stepped away from our regular dining and opted for The Pinnacle Grill, touted as Holland America’s premier dining experience.  We dined with Jim & Pat, a couple from Reno, NV whom we had met previously and had shared tables with in the dining room and in the Ocean Bar a number of times.  The menu was entirely different than that in the Rotterdam Dining Room, the food and service provided just excellent!  Of interest, the wine list offered WA wines as well as BC ice wine.  Showtime featured Katzenjammer, a British duo of four hands on one piano.  This was one of the best performances so far on this cruise.  A visit to the Piano Bar ended our day.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Cartagena, Colombia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartagena_de_Indias

 

Katzenjammer

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katzenjammer

 

Wednesday, February 18

 

Partly cloudy skies as we enjoyed breakfast in the dining room.  Windy once more on the Promenade Deck when Richard had his morning walk.  He had to be careful walking on the port side as the floor was wet from sea spray.  This is Day 1 of 2 at sea heading for Fort Lauderdale and the temperature was 26 C at noon.  In the Ocean Bar at Happy Hour one of our servers presented Anita with a coaster upon which he had affixed 2 chairs and a table constructed out of champagne bottle tops.  Also on the coaster he had written our names, cabin number, the names of our 3 bar servers, the dates of our 14 day eastern cruise and, of course, the bar’s name.  He did the same for 2 other ladies, regulars like us.  Dress code for dinner was Formal this evening and featured the traditional “March of the Baked Alaska” during desert time.  Tonight on Deck 8, Upper Promenade, site of the Ocean Bar, Casino and Rotterdam Dining Room, the Photo Staff set up 3 locations for photos that impeded guests from using the normal walkways.  Going to dinner we had to detour into the Casino to make our way there!  This situation would be repeated on all future Formal evenings.  Showtime once again featured the Statendam singers and dancers perform in Hit The Deck.  This was more dancing than singing and the cast gave it their all.  Our day concluded once again with a visit to the Piano Bar.

 

Thursday, February 19

 

Sunshine greeted us once again as we made our way to breakfast.  On Richard’s morning walk he encountered fewer walkers than normal as most were attending the disembarkation meeting that morning.  Our information meeting for the 188 that were booked on the return sailing was extremely well run by staff and we were served champagne and hors d'œuvres.  All guests had been instructed to depart the ship for a minimum of 4 hours on Friday as the ship was scheduled to undergo a “super” sanitization to insure, hopefully, that the virus had run its course.  Our current imposed restrictions were to continue for at least 2 days of our return voyage or until we reach Aruba.  Holland America offered a free bus tour of Fort Lauderdale to those returning guests not booked on a shore excurision for Friday, making sure no one stayed onboard during the cleaning process.  A great guesture on behalf of Holland America!  At 1 p.m. it was 26 C and at Happy Hour we began saying our farewells to the new friends we had made these past 14 days and that trend continued throughout the evening.  Tonight’s farewell variety show featured encore performances from John Ekin and Katzenjammer while afterwards at the Piano Bar we bid farewell to Romeo, the pianist, as this was his last evening onboard – he begins his holidays on Friday.

 

Friday, February 20

 

Arrived in Fort Lauderdale just prior to breakfast and we were ashore and through US customs by 8:30 a.m.  First time here for us – first time in Florida ever.  Sunshine was the order of the day as we participated in the shore excursion, “Everglades Airboat Ride” at Sawgrass Recreation Park about a 30 minute bus ride from the cruise ship terminal.  We had a brief ride on an airboat into the everglades.  Being early in the day it was still too cold to site any alligators.  Afterwards we toured the grounds to view the reptile exhibits and tropical birds.  By 12:30 p.m. we were back at the Statendam and being “in transit” guests had no line-ups to deal with when reboarding.  At dinner that evening we met our new table mates, John & Susan, a retired couple from Pennsylvania.  Showtime was a repeat of what we saw when we boarded in San Diego so did not attend.  Instead we spent time in the Piano Bar enjoying the playing of the new man, Lee Staubeck.  We were amused all afternoon and evening by the confusion shown by many of the new guests onboard – not knowing where things were or how to get there.  That must have been us two weeks ago!  Back in our stateroom for the evening we were surprised to find chocolates waiting for us on the bed!  A sign that the quarantine would soon be lifted?

 

Cruise Log:   Friday, February 6, 2009 – San Diego to

                        Friday, February 20, 2009 – Fort Lauderdale

 

Total Mileage This Voyage

 

Ports

Mileage

Average

Speed

 

 

 

San Diego – Puerto Vallarta

1,030

17.3

Puerto Vallarta -- Huatulco

   688

18.1

Huatulco – Puerto Chiapas

   226

16.1

Puerto Chiapas – Puerto Quetzal

   121

13.8

Puerto Quetzal – Fuerte Amador

   890

18.1

Fuerte Amador – Cartagena

   266

16.4

Cartagena – Ft. Lauderdale

1,131

19.2

 

 

 

Total Distance

4,421

 

 

1 Nautical Mile = 1.155 Statute miles = 1.85 Kilometer

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Lauderdale,_Florida

 

Sawgrass Recreation Park

http://www.evergladestours.com/

 

 

Saturday, February 21

 

After breakfast we did laundry which took up the better part of the morning.  Being the start of the second half of our cruise we felt there would be no waits for machines as most passengers had just began their cruise.  And we were right.  There was only time left for Richard’s morning walk before the dining room opened for lunch.  This was Day 1 of 2 sea days having left Fort Lauderdale at 5 p.m. Friday we are headed for Aruba.  The day was partly cloudy and 24 C the temperature at noon.  We are most pleased with all the staff who serve us.  Having been on the first 14 days of this cruise they all address us by name, say “hello” when passing and just make us feel that extra bit special.  Dress code for dining was Formal followed by the Captain’s Champagne Toast during which he introduced his senior officers.  This evening’s entertainment, “The Hits of Broadway”, featured the Statendam singers and dancers.  Prior to retiring we visited the Piano Bar.

 

Sunday, February 22

 

Partly cloudy skies today with 28 C at noon.  The sea had some swells overnight and during the morning.  Nothing so serious as to make walking difficult as the ship passed over the swells going up and down with no appreciable movement from side to side.  We heard comments from passengers that 2 days at sea in a row is too long.  The guests on this part of the cruise to San Diego are much older than those we had on the first leg to Fort Lauderdale.  There also appears to be more scooters and manual wheel chairs this time as well.  The sea swells continued into the evening.  At 2:30 p.m. Richard was in the library reading when all the “gates” securing the books on loan were lifted … the quarantine was over!  In the Ocean Bar drink menus appeared once again on the tables.  At dinner, salt & pepper shakers were on the table, we were served a basket of bread again and we could choose our own butter patties from a tray!  Today’s sea swells and resulting ship motion claimed a few guests as a number were absent from dinner … one being Susan, our table mate.  Showtime this evening featured the comedy of Benji Hill – a performance we all enjoyed.  Clocks go ahead one hour tonight.

 

Hereunder is the Guest Manifest Nationality Breakdown for the second half of our cruise.

 

Nationality

Total Count

 

 

Belgium

       2

Canada

   324

France

       1

Germany

     10

Isle of Man

       1

Netherlands

     67

United Kingdom

     34

United States

   789

 

 

Total :

1,228

 

Monday, February 23

 

Shortly after waking this morning we docked at the port of Oranjestad, Aruba.  We had an earlier morning seeing that we were booked on a shore excursion, “Catamaran Snorkel & Beach Getaway”.  On the water we enjoyed 29 C and sunshine.  This was the first chance to snorkel for Richard and he found the allotted time of 45 minutes far too short!  The water was clear and warm and he found the fish not as colourful as those in Fiji a year earlier.  There also was an opportunity for a swim, again only 45 minutes, at a white sandy beach.  Back on the ship everyone we talked with said they thoroughly enjoyed Aruba.  Earlier mention has been made about the older age of the guests on this segment of the cruise.  Both of us had noticed and commented on the “Hat Lady” onboard, wearing different hats and outfits each day.  It turns out she will turn 90 on this cruise and her husband is 100 years young!  We enjoyed calm seas as we departed Aruba and they continued into the evening hours.  All those who had previously suffered from the moderate swells on Sunday appeared fully recovered.  Female vocalist, Jeri Sager, a veteran of Broadway, was tonight’s entertainment.  We found the Piano Bar busier than usual when we stopped by for a nightcap prior to retiring.  Clocks were turned back one hour tonight.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Oranjestad, Aruba

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oranjestad,_Aruba

 

Jeri Sager

http://www.jerisager.com/

 

Tuesday, February 24

 

Just another great day to be on the water as morning greeted us with clear skies and sunshine.  Calm seas overnight provided a good sleep.  A sea day as we headed for the Panama Canal and light winds greeted Richard as he enjoyed his morning walk on the Promenade Deck.  At noon, 28 C and both of us spent the afternoon reading and relaxing outside on the Promenade Deck.  Following dinner and prior to attending the evening entertainment we ventured up to the Crow’s Nest on Deck 12 to have a drink and visit with Albert, a bar server whom we had met in the Piano Bar on the first leg of our cruise.  Showtime presented the Statendam singers & dancers in On Track, a musical journey through the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s.  Our day concluded with a visit to the Piano Bar.

 

Wednesday, February 25

 

Today we had our second transit through the Panama Canal and it was as exciting and enjoyable as the first time!  We had to be up early for our scheduled entry into the Gatun Locks at 7:30 a.m.  We utilized Room Service for the first time ever on a cruise to enjoy breakfast as the dining room was not open that early.  During our progression through this first set of locks we had sustained rain showers and many on the outside decks chose to go inside allowing us who remained to secure better vantage points.  Richard crouched under the outer rail during the heaviest periods of rain and so only his backside got wet.  Nothing serious as it was warm and a change of clothes afterwards and he was “good to go” when it turned sunny and hot for the remainder of the day.  The standing for most of the day took a toll on Richard’s legs but he felt it was worth the effort to experience the entire event with hopes that his pictures all turn out.  Today’s Happy Hour was one where the beer went down extremely well!  We had noticed a service dog onboard this time – the first we’ve ever seen but could not determine what shortcoming the dog’s owner had.  Showtime this evening in the Van Gough Lounge featured Chilean-born, multi-instrumentalist, Vivana Guzman on the flute.  She demonstrated and played flutes made in a number of countries and she was just tremendous!  She’s due to perform again Thursday evening.  Afterwards at the Piano Bar we enjoyed Lee’s playing before retiring.  Clocks were turned back one hour tonight.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Panama Canal

http://www.pancanal.com/eng/index.html

 

Vivana Guzman

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viviana_Guzm%C3%A1n

 

Thursday, February 26

 

A warm day at sea, 29 C and since exiting the Panama taking us back to the Pacific Ocean late Wednesday afternoon we’ve enjoyed calm seas with little or no wind.  This morning at 11 a.m. from the Navigation Deck Richard saw a school of dolphins on the starboard side.  Our journey today brought us the closest every to the Equator on this cruise – 425 nautical miles distant.  By mid afternoon we were cruising along the Golfo Dulce in Costa Rica.  Another Formal Dress Code this evening for dinner.  Showtime featured flutist, Vivana Guzman and female vocalist, Jeri Sager.  We spent time after the show in the Piano Bar enjoying the live piano music.  It’s now come to this … only one week remains on our cruise!

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica

http://www.travelcostarica.com/golfo_dulce.htm

 

Friday, February 27

 

By breakfast we were in port at Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica.  This was our first visit to Costa Rica.  We had opted for the shore excursion, “Tropical Train Ride & Exotic Mangrove Tour” and were greatly disappointed in the train ride portion of the outing.  The train was old, diesel powered but the passenger cars very primitive – wooden walls and window sills, metal seats that were very narrow and a metal floor.  We rode through small rural towns with poor neighbourhoods as the homes were, for the most part, constructed out of sheets of corrugated metal.  We did see some evidence of farming [melons, cantaloupe, etc.] and some beef cattle grazing.  Driving to the Tarcoles River to explore the estuary we passed through a tropical dry rain forest.  We were treated to drinks and tropical fruits before the cruise.  The cruise was rewarding in that we saw a number of baby crocodiles, one mid-size one, and a number of blue heron.  As well we sighted numerous birds natural to this region and ones we don’t ever see in Canada.  We enjoyed 30 C temperature and sunshine on our brief stay in Costa Rica.  That evening we had only movies to choose from for our entertainment.  We chose “Flash of Genius” based upon a true story where developing a device for windshield wipers created a long battle with the US automobile industry … a good choice! 

 

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica

http://www.govisitcostarica.com/region/city.asp?cID=304

 

Tarcoles River, Costa Rica

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_T%C3%A1rcoles

 

Saturday, February 28

 

At our breakfast table this morning was a couple from Texas celebrating their 50 th wedding anniversary today.  A sea day and today, like all others on this cruise, no one need have trouble remembering what day it was … all elevators had floor mats with the day of the week in large letters and these were changed daily.  The day was warm, 30 C and plenty of sunshine allowing us to spend many enjoyable hours on the outer decks.  Dress code for dinner was Formal.  We really don’t know about our table mates on this leg of the cruise … they did not appear for dinner this evening, now the third time they’ve been absent out of nine days to date.  Showtime presented the cast of the Statendam in World Beat.  After our nightly visit to the Piano Bar we called it a day.

 

Sunday, March 1

 

In the early morning hours we experienced some active seas that later would be described as 90 knot winds and 20 foot high seas making for a somewhat rocky ride which lasted until 9 a.m. and some two hours from Huatulco, Mexico.  We were in port there at 11 a.m. to enjoy a sunny and hot day and 32 C.  This being our second time here this cruise we only visited the local market and stores adjacent to the cruise ship terminal.  Here we did what we do a lot of while on vacation … people watch.  Our afternoon was spent on the outer deck, in the shade, reading.  We did notice the “Hat Lady” and her hubby walking the outer decks on Deck 6.  She also continues to amaze us, dancing nightly at the Ocean Bar … she being 90, remember!  Doug Mattocks, playing the 5-string banjo, was the entertainment this evening as he brought America’s Musical past to life in an informative and entertaining narrative.  He also performed some Broadway tunes on the banjo.  For a change we had completed dinner in time to catch the early [7 p.m.] show.  Showtime times were set for 7 and 9 each evening … ill-timed for the early fixed dining crowd as they normally had 1.5 hours between the end of dinner and the start of the evening show.  Following the show we visited the Crow’s Nest and the Piano Bar before retiring.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Doug Mattocks

http://www.rhythmbrothers.com/doug.html

 

 

 

 

Monday, March 2

 

At 8 a.m. we were in port at Acapulco, Mexico and after breakfast went ashore.  Teamed up with 2 other couples and engaged a van for 4 hours of touring.  The other couples, also Canadians, came from Saskatoon and Winnipeg, the ladies being sisters.  We toured the city, rich and poor, old city and new city, providing us with a good overview of Acapulco.  We made ample stops for photos.  One place of interest to be mentioned … John Wayne House and Tarzan House.  Our last stop before returning to the ship was the see the famous and daring cliff divers perform.  It was another warm day, about 30 – 32 C with clear skies.  We enjoyed dining that evening at The Pinnacle Grill, our second such visit there and were joined once again by Jim & Pat, our friends from Reno, NV.  Again we experienced excellent service, fine food and drink and a great atmosphere.  Tonight the game show, Celebrity Heads, preceded Showtime with comedian Milt Abel, a stand-up comedian, who provided a good show.  Afterwards, our nightly visit to the Piano Bar brought our day to a close.  Clocks were turned back one hour tonight.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

La Quebrada Cliff Divers

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Quebrada_Cliff_Divers

 

Pinnacle Grill

http://web3.signaturetravelnetwork.com/documents/pinnacleGrill.html

 

Tuesday, March 3

 

Since leaving Acapulco at 5 p.m. on Monday we enjoyed calm seas through to this morning which was yet another sunny day.  A day at sea with 26 C at noon.  We continue to spend many enjoyable hours on the outer decks knowing that soon this cruise will come to an end.  At dinner we were again missing our table mates as John was in bed nursing a cold.  George Solomon, variety singer, was our entertainer this evening and he was good!  We listened to Lee play piano in the Piano Bar before retiring.

 

Wednesday, March 4

 

We awoke to find the Statendam at anchor just off the shores of Cabo San Lucas and requiring the use of tender boats for the second time to go ashore.  We did not as Anita has difficulty moving from ship to tender boat and so on plus we had previously vacationed here in Cabo.  Richard took photos of the changed Cabo San Lucas and we then enjoyed a quiet day on the outer decks with sunny skies and 31 C .  Our departure, scheduled for 3 p.m. was delayed 1.5 hours as the motor used to retract the anchor stopped functioning and had to be replaced.  We did watch the tender boats be hoisted out of the water.  Early in our departure from Cabo San Lucas we were fortunate to sight dolphins alongside our ship.  Dress code for evening dining was Formal.  The Statendam singers & dancers performed in “Hit The Deck” in the Van Gough Lounge.  As is our custom, our evening concluded with a visit to the Piano Bar.  Clocks were turned back one hour tonight.

 

 

 

Thursday, March 5

 

This was the last day of the cruise!  At 10 a.m. we had our disembarkation meeting to learn what we were required to do to leave the ship once in San Diego.  All of us believed that overnight we would make up most of the time we lost in leaving Cabo on Wednesday.  Apparently not as we were informed we most likely would arrive late in San Diego.  Weather was partly cloudy and somewhat cooler, 23 C at noon today – a reality check for our cruise ending!  We completed the onboard survey and received notification of our time to vacation the ship come Friday morning – this all done in the early afternoon.  We packed after our morning meeting and were all done by lunch time.  Our last Happy Hour saw us saying farewell to the bar staff in the Ocean Bar and to newly made friends.  The dining room staff put on a special menu and concluded with the “March of the Baked Alaska”.  The final Showtime presentation was a farewell variety show … Doug Mattocks, banjo player and George Solomon, variety singer.  The “Hat Lady” and her husband were seen on the dance floor in the Ocean Bar.  He is 100 year young, she is 90 and they’ve been married for 67 years.  One final visit to the Piano Bar to see the staff and listen to Lee one last time brought our day and cruise to an end.

 

Friday, March 6

 

We were scheduled to depart the ship by 9 a.m. so chose not to have an early breakfast hoping to eat later at our San Diego Hotel.  It turned out that our actual time off the ship was 11:15 a.m.  We had passed through US Customs as required, no problem.  However, some others apparently did not see the need to visit Customs thus having all 1,200 plus guests stand and wait for some 2 hours until the ship received clearance to allow us off.  Some 12 guests were singled out for not visiting Customs, one being near us as we waited in the hallway.  We walked from the ship to the Holiday Inn in sunshine, 19 C and had an enjoyable lunch after check-in.  Our room at the Holiday Inn was on the 14 th floor and gave us a great view of the harbour and the Statendam until she left port at 5 p.m.

 

Cruise Log:   Friday, February 20, 2009 – Fort Lauderdale

                        Friday, March 6, 2009 – San Diego

 

Total Mileage This Voyage

 

Ports

Mileage

Average

Speed

 

 

 

Ft. Lauderdale -- Oranjestad

1,112

18.2

Oranjestad – Puerto Caldera

   644

16.3

Puerto Caldera – Huatulco

   775

19.0

Huatulco – Acapulco

   242

17.7

Acapulco – Cabo San Lucas

   691

18.3

Cabo San Lucas – San Diego

   733

19.0

 

 

 

Total Distance

4,341

 

 

1 Nautical Mile = 1.155 Statute miles = 1.85 Kilometer

 

Saturday, March 7

 

We awoke to find another Holland America ship, the Zaandam berthed in the cruise ship terminal.  We later learned it had just arrived from Hawaii and had endured rough seas in crossing.  Checked out of our Hotel after enjoying a leisurely breakfast and sat in the lobby people watching until it was time to take the shuttle to the airport.  It was 19 C and sunny when we left San Diego.  Our flight home was without incident.  We arrived in Seattle to cloudy skies and 3 C and had to walk outside where a cool wind was blowing to board our connecting flight.  Being that we only had summer clothes both of us ended up with colds as a result.  Kelowna was no warmer, -2 C with snow still on the ground!  Ulf & Friedl were there to meet us and drive us back to Vernon.  They, together with our neighbour, Alice and Anita and I had dinner at the Blue Heron Pub before we retired to our own bed.

 

Conclusions

 

This was our first cruise with Holland America and we were extremely pleased with the services provided to us.  We completed a “back to back” cruise, San Diego to Fort Lauderdale and return, and are of the opinion that one enjoys their time more than just cruising from point A to point B.  We cannot say enough about the staff of our ship, the Statendam … they did everything to make our cruise enjoyable – we did not “want” for anything.  Would we take another cruise on one of these Dam Ships … most definitely!  Last, but not least, for any of you who have not been through the Panama Canal, you just don’t know what you’re missing!