Intrepid Aircraft Carrier Museum

Intrepid Museum

Vista through the Growler Sub at the Intrepid Museum

Our back-to-back European and transatlantic cruises on Carnival Vista came to a close after sailing past the statue of Liberty and into New York harbor in the middle of the night.

statue of liberty

sailing past the Statue of Liberty in the middle of the night

We were happy to have a balcony room so we didn’t have to go far to see the statue as the ship passed. It’s all lit up at night, but with just a pocket camera I didn’t get very good pictures.

Vista from the Intrepid

Vista behind the flight deck of the Intrepid

Vista docked on the west side of Manhattan just blocks from all the theaters and right next to the former aircraft carrier Intrepid, now a museum. While the ship stayed there a couple nights, the only passengers allowed to stay on it were those going back to back on the next cruise. We disembarked and stayed at a hotel in Queens for a couple nights, riding the subway into town like real New Yorkers.

concorde at the Intrepid Museum

concorde on the Intrepid

New York has lots to see and do. We quite enjoyed our stay there. One day we practically went back to the Vista since it was still there when we visited the unusual museum in a former aircraft carrier, the World War 2 and Vietnam era Intrepid. It’s definitely worth seeing. The base fare includes the ship and a submarine called Growler. Other exhibits like the space shuttle pavilion and the concorde cost extra. New York has other museums, but this is the only one we went to in our short stay there.

Growler submarine

bunking with torpedoes on the Growler submarine

The submarine Growler was near the entrance and didn’t have much of a line so we went there first. Space on that submarine was so tight that some sailors had to bunk with the torpedoes. Strange bunkmates indeed, but at least they didn’t snore or complain about anything.

sonar room on a submarine

sonar room on the Growler

The captain fared better than most, having a room to himself, but even his quarters were cramped. Of course this submarine is old enough to be a museum and not very big. Larger modern day subs probably have nicer accommodations for the crew.

aircraft carrier mess hall

mess hall display on the Intrepid

Compared to the submarine quarters on the aircraft carrier are spacious. Even the bunks themselves are bigger, though there was a room with 36 of them in about the space of one cruise ship cabin. Officers and enlisted men had separate mess halls and dining areas on the ship.

aircraft carrier bridge

bridge on the Intrepid

old fashioned phone

bridge communications 1940’s style

You know the ship is old when you see rotary phones on the bridge. If the phones went out, communication with the rest of the ship was done through tubes that the captain could yell into.

aircraft carrier museum

planes on the flight deck, and the Vista photobombing

The flight deck has quite a display of aircraft from different times and places. You can find more on the hangar deck. It also has several movie screens on the hangar deck that drop down at showtime to tell the story of the day two kamikazes hit the ship during World War 2. Lights and smoke effects enhance the part of the story where the ship catches fire. It survived that hit and continued service through the war and beyond.

airplane hanger in aircraft carrier

airplane with folding wings in the hanger

The hanger deck also has an exploration area where people can go inside model cockpits from planes, helicopters, and even a submarine. There’s also a few rides there.

space capsule on an aircraft carrier

retrieval of an apollo era space capsule

Besides the flight and hanger decks you get to go into the tower and see the bridge and navigation. From a window there you can see the ship retrieving a model of an old space capsule after splashdown.

Intrepid bunk room

bunk room on the Intrepid

The other deck on display is the third level down which has living quarter and mess hall displays as well as food for sale in a former mess hall.

space shuttle

space shuttle Enterprise

The space shuttle pavilion houses the very first shuttle, named the Enterprise. It was a prototype and test model that never actually went into space. Underneath the Enterprise space shuttle sits a movie prop shuttlecraft from the original Star Trek show’s Enterprise.

Star Trek shuttle craft

shuttlecraft from the Enterprise on the original Star Trek show

The space shuttle pavilion also has several displays with different information about space shuttles and the shuttle program.

space capsule

looking inside a Russian soyuz space capsule

Before space shuttles the Russians had the Soyuz Space Capsule which they still use to this day. Since America no longer uses the shuttles they now have to pay Russia to bring people to and from the space station.

aircraft carrier museum

Intrepid

Overall the Intrepid Museum had quite a lot to see and visiting it made for quite an interesting day. This ship served the nation well in its time, but technology moves on and if the military doesn’t keep up the world leaves it behind so they get new ships and old ones like this that were once the pinnacle of technology become a piece of history.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019
Posted in Carnival, Port Cities, USA, Vista | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Cozumel Cruise Ship Ports

Cozumel cruise ship dock

Veendam at Puerta Maya dock in Cozumel

There are 3 cruise ship docks in Cozumel. Carnival has its own dock called Puerta Maya. Ships from any of Carnival Corporation’s cruise lines can go to the 4 berths there. The nearby International Pier, which is the oldest pier on the island, holds 2 ships and Punta Langosta Pier in downtown San Miguel is also available for other lines so ships not from the Carnival family do have places to go. If there are more ships in town than available dock space they can anchor offshore and tender to Punta Langosta. We’ve never seen it that crowded, but apparently it does happen. Carnival Corp owns a lot of other lines besides Carnival Cruises so their dock will sometimes have ships from other lines, like our ship when we came there on the Holland America Veendam. All the other berths were empty that day, but even though our ship had Puerta Maya to ourselves it docked at the farthest spot from shore.

shops in Puerta Maya

Most of our visits to Cozumel have been at the Puerta Maya dock, though we did dock at the International Pier once when sailing with MSC. We have not been to Punta Langosta, though I have seen Norwegian ships docked there from a distance when sailing into a different pier.

Puerta Maya

more shops in Puerta Maya

At Puerta Maya dock passengers have to walk through the longest duty-free shop ever to get to the entrance to the port area. Sometimes we have been able to bypass part of the shop and walk outside, but other times that area has been marked for crew only.

duty free shop Puerta Maya

long narrow duty free shop on the pier

Once you finally get to the end of the shop you have to pass by fruit-sniffing dogs so don’t bother trying to smuggle any fruit to shore from the ship. Normally when we pass through there the dogs actively sniff everyone, but on our last visit two dogs snoozed lazily while their handlers hand-checked all the bags. It took them a whole lot longer to look in bags than it takes for dogs to sniff them so it pretty well stuffed up the line of people trying to get to shore. We also saw fruit-sniffing dogs the time we were at the International Pier. The ones there were actually hard at work with their noses busily sniffing everything anyone brought to shore though so people pretty much just walked by while they sniffed without them really slowing anyone down unless they had a suspicious smelling bag.

cruise ship port in Cozumel

Three Amigos bar at Puerta Maya cruise ship port

After the bag check in Puerta Maya you come to an open space with signs designating meeting places for ship’s excursions straight ahead, and bars to either side. Either Straight ahead beyond the shore excursion signs or off to the right past Fat Tuesdays leads to a lot more shops, bars, and food, or you can go to the Three Amigos bar on the left – the one with giant chairs out front.

Puerta Maya cruise port

sign at the entryway to Puerta Maya cruise port

Upon making your way to the far end of the port there’s a taxi stand with a sign saying how much the ride is to Chankanaab Park or a variety of beach bars. A lot people who don’t do ship’s excursions will take a taxi either to Chankannab or one of the many little beach bars scattered along the coast. The price varies slightly depending on how far away each bar is, but it is by distance rather than by person so if you have a few people to split the bill with it hardly costs anything. Just beyond the taxi stand you can leave the pier to walk toward town.

Cozumel, Mexico

in Cozumel near Atlantis Submarine

The International Pier also exits passengers through a shopping area as they leave their ships. The pier entrance may not be downtown like Punta Langosta, but it certainly feels like you are right in the heart of a town there with shops and hotels all around. Carnival’s pier isn’t much farther out so it’s just a short walk from there to all the things along the road near the International Pier.

ferry in Cozumel

ferry to Playa del Carmen

The main ferry dock in town for those wishing to go to Playa del Carmen on their own is near Punta Langosta, but there is always a ferry to Playa del Carmen right next to the cruise ship dock for people with excursions on the mainland. When we came on Holland America Veendam one ferry picked up all of the people with mainland excursions right off the ship before disembarkation started rather than at the nearby dock. A lot of the mainland attractions have a bus ride after the ferry and excursions there run for around 7 or 8 hours so if there is something on the mainland that you really want to see it’s easiest just to book it through the ship – plus if your excursion gets back late the ship will wait when it is their excursion, but not if you go on your own. And the return ferry drops you off right by your cruise pier for their excursions.

rocky coastline

most of the coastline near the cruise port is rocky

To explore Cozumel on your own from either Puerta Maya or the International Pier, going to the left as you exit either of these piers leads into town where there are options for things to do. Although the actual downtown area is about a half hour’s walk or a short taxi ride away, there is quite a bit right there within easy walking distance of the two piers. Scooters and jeeps are readily available for rent and little “information” booths offer rides to beach bars as well as snorkel or island tours. It’s a pretty short walk to Atlantis Subs so anyone who didn’t book through the ship, but decides they’d like to go can find it there. Next to the Atlantis place there’s a little beach with stairways into the sea where people can go to dive or snorkel. It’s free if you have your own gear, and there’s a dive shop on the far side of the beach that can rent gear or even provide snorkel tours or diving lessons. They did recommend taking a float along if snorkeling from there so the boats can see you as that area does get some boat traffic if you get very far from the beach.

beach bar in Cozumel

beach bar near the cruise docks

Most of Cozumel’s beach bars are out the other direction and too far to walk, but easily accessible by taxi. There are a few beach bars along the stretch of town near the piers as well. Most of the beach bars in Cozumel have a cover fee to get in. One fenced off stretch of beach belongs to a hotel across the street, and they will give cruise ship passengers a cheap day-pass that includes a buffet lunch if those passengers want to take the time to see the hotel and its rooms and listen to their spiel about staying there should you ever come to visit the island without the cruise ship. Kind of like going to a timeshare presentation just to get the prize offered for attending.

Puerta Maya cruise ship port

meeting area for ship’s excursions in Puerta Maya

Ship’s Excursions

Cruise ships offer quite a variety of excursions in Cozumel. Some of these excursions stay on the island while others take a ferry to the mainland, landing at Playa del Carmen. The Veendam had mainland tours to several different Mayan ruins as well as one to the Amazing Secret River, which is swimming and walking through an underground cave, and one to Xcaret park. Tours on Cozumel included island tours or San Gervasio archeological site, wine and or chocolate tours, a teqilla tour, atlantis submarine, America’s cup sailboat racing, ATV, zip line, fishing, snorkeling, kayaks, snuba, and diving. Other lines offer some of the same excursions and some different things.

Cozumel, Mexico

shoreline near the cruise docks

More Blogs about Cozumel

Cozumel, Mexico

Atlantis Submarine

Cave Snorkeling

Chankanaab Park

Palancar Reef Snorkel

Playa Mia Beach Bar

Sky Reef Beach Bar

Tulum Mayan Ruins

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019

 

Posted in Caribbean, Holland America, Mexico, Ports of Call, Veendam | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Yokohama Cruise Port

Yokohama Cruise Ship Port

Osanbashi pier, Yokohama, Japan

Westerdam in Yokohama, Japan

Osanbashi Pier in Yokohama, Japan is an attraction in itself with green spaces and a rooftop park with floorboards that mimic rolling waves. Though the architecture resembles a skate park skateboarding is not allowed. The pier is open to the public and visited by people not on cruise ships who come to the port area for the skyline views as well as the nearby shops and restaurants.

Osanbashi Pier

Osanbashi Pier near the cruise terminal entrance

Cruise ship passengers do need ID to get into the secure area leading to the ship. There’s even a small events hall at the pier, though nothing was going on there when our ship was in port. The pier is close to Chinatown and bus and train stations. On our visit they provided a free shuttle to a train station for cruise ship passengers who wanted to take a train into Tokyo or to explore the area near the station. Runners and walkers frequent the pier because the parklike area on top connects to a trail around the bay.

cruise terminal and park all in one

the port terminal building has greenspace and walking areas on top

There is an information booth at the pier with maps of the local area and of Tokyo too. Yokohama has more to see and do within walking distance of the ship than the average cruise ship passenger could experience in one day so it’s a great port for people who like to go out and do things on their own. Japanese ports also often have money exchange available right at the port.

Osanbashie Pier

ship model inside the cruise terminal at Osanbashi Pier

Yokohama is a full service cruise port where ships can embark or disembark passengers at the start or end of a cruise as well just stopping for the day for a port stop. The Holland America Westerdam did both with some passengers leaving, new passengers arriving, and about 700 people carrying on to the next cruise. Passengers not disembarking were given a special in transit pass to enable them to avoid the boarding lines of newly embarking passengers when returning to the ship after spending time on shore.

loading the Westerdam for the next voyage

resupplying the ship in Yokohama

Things to do in Yokohama

From the pier it’s an easy walk by waterfront promenade to the Minato Mirai 21 neighborhood, which translates to Harbor of the Future and contains shopping centers, hotels, a convention center, an amusement park, a relaxation center with natural hot spring baths, museums and access to the Sea Bass boats that provide transportation around the area.

Yokohama Sea Bass Boat

Sea Bass Boat in Yokohama

The waterfront promenade also extends the opposite direction from the port to nearby Yamashita Park, which also has access to the Sea Bass boats. The park is mostly open green space, but it has some attractions like an old ship turned museum and some fountains and monuments. The park’s admission fee includes the museum.

amphibious waterbus in Yokohama

amphibious waterbus in Yokohama

From the port it’s about a 10 minute bus ride to Sankeien Garden, a traditional Japanese Garden. Other things to do in Yokohama include a zoo, aquarium, ramen and cup noodles museum, beer factory tours, and the historical Yamate area where westerners were originally allowed to live when Japan first opened opened to interactions with foreigners in the 1850’s. Most buildings there were built after 1923 because an earthquake destroyed earlier structures, but the cemetery dates back to the 1850’s.

cupnoodle museum

Cupnoodle Museum in Yokohama, Japan – The yellow line in the sidewalk is for blind people to feel their way with a cane and was common in all the Asian ports on our cruise

The Cupnoodles Museum has an area where people can make their own ramen or cupnoodles as well as exhibits about the history and invention of instant ramen and cupnoodles (which were previously called cup o noodles in the USA, but no longer are.)

Cosmoworld, Yokohama

Cosmoworld Amusement Park is within walking distance of the ship

The wheel at Cosmoworld amusement park is visible from the ship so it’s quite easy to find. At night it is brightly lit with ever-changing colored lights. Cosmoworld has roller coasters and other rides and games as well as the giant Ferris wheel. There’s no admittance fee to get in, but each attraction has a price. The Cupnoodles Museum is right across the street from Cosmoworld making it just as easy to find from the ship since all you have to do is look for the wheel.

old ship museum

old ship turned museum located near the amusement park

Trains into Tokyo include regular and bullet trains, which leave from different stations. When disembarking and traveling with luggage taxis are recommend to the train station. Without luggage the shuttle bus is an option if the port happens to provide one for cruise ship passengers that day and if it is going to the right train station. There are 2 airports so those disembarking and flying out need to know which one they are going to. Passengers can arrange for a luggage service to take their bags to the airport if they prefer to travel by subway or shuttle (if available) since taxis in Japan can get quite expensive.

red brick warehouse shops in Yokohama

red brick warehouse shops

Ship’s Excursions in Yokohama

The Westerdam offered one excursion in Yokohama for people disembarking that day which had a visit to a shrine, temple, and shops in Tokyo with airport transfer. The ship also had optional direct transfers to either Narita or Haneda airports.

how to use a sit toilet

Sit-down Japanese public toilets often have instructions on how to use a sit-down toilet because squat toilets are common there and in China. Some tourists there have never seen a sit toilet before. Some restrooms in Japan had both styles.

For those continuing onto the next cruise the ship had 3 tour options. Best of Tokyo had stops at the Imperial Palace, Senso-ji Temple, and the Ginza district. Temple & Shrines of Kamakura went to Koutokuin Temple to see the great Buddha and Hachimanu Shrine for the god of war. Old Town Tokyo went to a museum, shrine, garden, and market.

Yokohama at night

Yokohama skyline at night taken from our cabin window on the Westerdam

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019
Posted in Holland America, Japan, Port Cities, Ports of Call, Westerdam | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

New Caledonia

Lifou, New Caledonia

Lifou cruise ship port

New Caledonia is a French overseas island territory made up of a group of islands and the world’s largest lagoon. It is located east of Australia in the south pacific. It has a tropical climate with the hotter and wetter season from November to March and the cooler drier season from June to August. The central mountain range of the largest island called Grand Terre creates a variety of micro-climates and land formations allowing for the development of endemic species of plants and animals found nowhere else.

Lifou Beach

beach by the tender dock in Lifou

The human population is made up of a mix of the original inhabitants called the Kanak people and people of European, Asian, and Arabic origin as well as some from other pacific islands. The majority of the population speaks French. Indigenous languages are also spoken and taught in schools. The islands have a thriving economy with nickel mining providing a good percentage of their exports.

map of New Caledonia

New Caledonia

Grand Terre is surrounded by a massive barrier reef, making it a vacation destination for scuba and snorkeling enthusiasts. Beaches, French cities, mountain chalets, hiking, and camping are other tourist pursuits enjoyed in New Caledonia.

tropical island

Maré, New Caledonia

Citizens of the EU can visit visa-free for as long as they like. Citizens from a number of other countries including the USA can stay as long as 90 days without a visa. Cruise ships  visit Noumea (which is on Grand Terre) as well as the islands of Lifou, Maré, and Isle of Pines (Ile des Pins). Our ship stopped at Lifou and Maré. Lifou had more things for tourists to do at and near the port than Maré. Both had good snorkeling within walking distance of the tender pier if you have your own gear.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019
Posted in Explorer of the Seas, Pacific Ocean & Islands, Royal Caribbean | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

James Island State Park

James Island dock

dock on James Island

For cruisers of a small private boat nature, Washington State’s San Juan Islands have much to see. The San Juan Islands vary from tiny rocky outcroppings used only by birds and marine life to islands big enough to hold towns and ferry service, and everything in between. Islands serviced by ferries are easy for anyone to visit from the mainland. One of the bigger islands, coincidently enough called San Juan Island, was home to the Pig War during the 1850’s when ownership of the San Juan Islands was the center of a dispute about where to draw the boundary line between the USA and Canada. Both countries claimed ownership. The only casualty was the pig who’s death by gunshot started the war – hence the name Pig War. Both English Camp and American Camp are now historical parks on San Juan Island.

Anacortes island transporter

island transport from Anacortes (internet photo)

Island hopper boats deliver foot passengers or vehicles to some of the larger small islands not serviced by ferries. These transporters can pull right up to a dock, boat ramp, or even a beach to load or unload people or cars. Some people live on these islands, others have cabins, and some are visitors to vacation rental homes or B&B’s. Decatur is an example of an island of this sort being a private island accessible only by boat or plane, with a handful of year-round inhabitants, lots of vacation homes, and a few rentals.

James Island

map showing location of James Island and a ferry route

There are many state parks throughout the San Juans. Some can be reached by car on the bigger islands with ferry service. Others like James, Doe, and Sucia  are marine state parks on small islands only accessible by boat. James Island sits along Rosario Strait across a small channel from the much larger Decatur Island.

James Island State Park

view of James Island dock from shore

James Island has a dock and some mooring bouys, 13 primitive campsites with picnic tables and fire pits, and a few composting and pit toilets. Much of the 581 acre island is National Forest that is closed to public use, but it does have a mile and a half long hiking trail and a couple public beaches. Island visitors need to bring their own water as there is none provided on the island.

James Island mooring buoys

mooring buoys

The mooring buoys are on the opposite side of the island from the dock by sea, but it’s just a short walk by land from the dock to the overlook with a view of the buoys.

James Island

beach at James Island by the dock

The island is a popular stopping point for boaters and kayakers. Fishing and shellfishing require a license and adherence to rules and open seasons. Most of the island is forested. The hiking trail runs along steep bluffs in some sections. Other parts go through the woods. Now and then the trail comes across some of the campsites scattered about the island. There is a stairway to a beach with a view of the dock near one of the campsites.

beach on James Island

beach near the hiking trail

Boaters pay a moorage fee to stay at the dock overnight. Day visits are free.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2019

 

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Royal Princess

Royal Princess

Royal Princess in Seattle

Royal Princess is the first of Princess’ Royal class, which also includes the Regal Princess, Majestic Princess, the soon to launch Sky Princess, and coming in 2020 the Enchanted Princess. Sister line P&O’s Britiannia also has a lot of similarities to this class of Princess ship. Royal Princess launched in 2013, christened by the Duchess of Cambridge (Princess Kate). Regal launched in 2014, followed by Majestic in 2017, and Sky is due to launch in October 2019.

view to the sea and life boats from the sea walk, a unique feature of royal class Princess ships

This is currently Princess’ newest and largest class of cruise ships. Royal Princess holds 3560 guests in 1780 cabins and 1346 crew. The ship is 1083 feet long and 217 feet high topping out at deck 19 with no deck 13. Like floors in hotels, cruise ships often skip 13 when numbering their decks.

outside area of the Lido deck

The Lido deck has a pool and hot tubs in the outside area, and a buffet inside. There are additional hot tubs on the deck above running along the sides of the Lido’s pool area.

balcony cabin A111

Other than the medical center on deck 4, passenger areas are on deck 5 and above with the lower decks reserved for the crew. Unlike most ships, the 3 lowest decks with passenger access are all public areas with no low-deck cabins in an area where oceanview cabins usually reside. There are no cabins on the lifeboat deck either where obstructed view cabins are often found. In fact this ship has no ocean view cabins at all. All of the passenger staterooms either have balconies or are inside cabins. This is the first cruise ship I’ve ever seen that had no oceanview cabins.

view of the sea through the floor of the sea walk

The sea walk featured on decks 16 and 17 curves out beyond the rest of the outer edge of the ship. Glass panels in the floor of the sea walk on deck 16 allow viewing straight down through the floor to the lifeboats and the sea. The lower level is fun to walk on for the floor views, and the upper level is one of the best places on the ship for scenic views.

misty morning wet jogging track

Royal Princess has a basketball court, ping pong, and mini golf on the sports deck. It also has a walking and jogging track, which circles around about half the distance of the ship and has some fitness stations along the way.

one of 4 unconnected deck sections that are all Royal Princess has for an outside promenade deck – it’s not really a promenade deck if you can’t walk around it. The part under the lifeboats is for crew only.

It was a bit disappointing that there are just 4 small sections of the outside promenade deck open to passengers. Promenade decks often circle the entire ship, providing a place to walk or jog. Usually they have some shade and shelter from upper decks while tracks on a top deck are open to wind and weather. Luckily the gym was open 24 hours making treadmills an option even for those who like to work out early or late. It had official open hours when it was staffed, but the equipment was available for use anytime.

view of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge from the sea walk

Royal Princess had some nice unobstructed views off the stern on several decks, but no unobstructed forward views. One of the back decks was the smoking area. Having smoking at the back means the ship sails out of the smoke when underway, and people are unlikely to inadvertently walk through that area on the way to anywhere else. So that’s a good place for it to be.

shops and casino

Indoor smoking was allowed in the cigar lounge, which was fully enclosed and did not leach smoke into other areas of the ship. That’s a nice feature princess ships have. It gives the smokers a place to go without subjecting the rest of the passengers to their smoke. I don’t think smoking was actually allowed in the casino, but it smelled like smoke in there. Perhaps it was allowed in prior years since the smell never goes away without a complete gut job. Possibly people brought the smoke smell into the casino on their clothes, but since we didn’t notice it anywhere else on the ship it’s more likely that the smell was embedded into the room itself. Whatever the reason we tended to walk through the adjacent nightclub rather than the casino when passing through that deck.

cooking demonstration in the theater that was part comedy show, part cooking

We went to a cooking demonstration one day that was sort of a cross between a cooking show and a comedy show. It was pretty entertaining. The chef said he could make 100 different kinds of potatoes. The show was followed by a short galley tour. All along the edges of the counters in the galley there was a long line of plates of potatoes, each with a label of what kind they were, all different. I’ve been on a few galley tours before, but none of the others ever had all those different types of potatoes on display.

photo in a hallway between passenger cabins

Royal Princess is a fairly large ship and even though it is 6 years old everything still looked new. Artwork in the hallways to passenger cabins consisted of pictures donated by passengers on former cruises. Most were idyllic vacation scenes, with a notation of who took the photo and which ship they were sailing on at the time. These attractive pictures were quite nice to look at while walking down the hallways. I thought it would have been nice if they had also included where the photo was taken. When looking at one of the photos and thinking I’d like to go there, it would have been nice to know where there was. A few places were obvious to everyone – like the moai of Easter Island. Some other places were recognizable to people who have been to that spot and remember the view, like the one of a monkey on the Rock of Gibraltar. I recognized it easily, but my sisters did not as they have never been there.

heated waterbed in the Enclave (spa thermal suite)

The ship had a nice thermal suite in the spa, called the Enclave. It had a pool, heated ceramic benches, some little heated waterbed things which I had never seen before, a sauna, steam rooms, and a variety of fancy showers in the enclave area. We always take the spa tour on boarding day to see if the ship’s thermal area is worthy of purchasing the thermal package, which allows you to use that area all through the cruise. We decided this one was indeed worthy, and enjoyed our time there.

self-serve passenger laundry

Though it does cost extra, if the ship has a nice thermal suite it’s one of the best deals at the spa since you can use it every day rather than a one time event like a massage or facial. There were no private dressing areas in the locker room, but the showers there were equipped with rain showers just like the ones at the gym. The gym and spa were on different decks at opposite ends of the ship rather than in the same area with a shared locker room like on most ships. The gym locker room did not have private dressing areas either, though the gym itself was quite nice with plenty of treadmills. In the times I used it there were always treadmills available for anyone who came in wanting one, which is not always the case on some ships. There were self-serve passenger laundries on nearly every deck with guest cabins, so that’s a plus. Princess always has them so if I ever take a long cruise on Princess I won’t have to wash clothes in the bathroom sink like I have done on most of the long cruises we’ve taken on other lines.

bar overlooking the piazza

The ship had lots of bars on various decks, and several eateries around the central piazza area in addition to the main food venues at the lido buffet, dining rooms, and premium restaurants. It had two pizza places with one in the piazza and one on the Lido. Other Piazza areas included a café with desserts, sandwiches, quiche, and specialty coffee and tea, a gelato place, and bars. The café there usually had a couple gluten free desert options and the food was free, but the specialty drinks cost extra so we brought free tea down from the Lido if we wanted to get a snack there. The crew was quite friendly and helpful in all areas of the ship. Being terrible with names and faces myself, I have no idea how the crew on cruise ships remembers all the guests and then learns a whole new batch the next week. It’s not just that they associate you with the cabin you’re in or the table you sit at in the dining room either because your steward or dining room staff will recognize you on sight anywhere on the ship and always have a friendly hello.

medallions replace key cards on the Royal Princess

Royal Princess is one of the first few ships to add medallion class after the initial two ships who introduced it. So far the medallions are unique to Princess. The medallion is a like a wearable waterproof key-card, but so much more. It came in a plastic case on a lanyard, but they do sell optional bracelets and necklaces to put them on. With the simple plastic wristband priced at $12, and metal bracelets or neck chains upwards of $40-$50, not surprisingly most people just stuck with the lanyards. On a warm weather cruise destination with beaches and snorkeling options I’d imagine they would have more sales of the plastic wristbands since they’d be quite useful there, eliminating the usual cruise port dilemma of what to do with the key card (or in this case medallion) while you go into the water.

interactive screen in the elevator bay can give directions, find shipmates, and play games

Besides opening the stateroom door and using the medallion to pay for onboard purchases like the traditional key-card, these could also be used to sign into interactive screens around the ship for things like wayfinding, game playing, or searching for your cabin mates. While useful when you want to find someone, the search feature is also somewhat creepy in that it makes it obvious you are being tracked everywhere you go onboard. The cabin door was supposed to unlock as you approach wearing your medallion, but we all had to touch ours to the screen outside the cabin to make our door unlock. We talked to a guy who said he had to touch his to the screen, but his wife’s would unlock it before she even got close so apparently some medallions worked better at that feature than others.

Alfredo’s pizza in the Royal Princess piazza

The medallions are also quite useful at check-in time. People have the option to be ocean ready before the cruise even starts. They can do their check-in process at home and if they live in the USA and complete it early enough they get the medallion mailed to them so they don’t even have to wait in line for it at the port. Ocean ready people have a separate check-in from the rest, which was promoted as having quicker access to the ship. We did not want to scan our passports and send the info over the internet so we did not do the ocean ready thing. I can’t verify how fast their boarding process actually went, but since that takes a good portion of the people elsewhere the regular check-in was a breeze.

almost all the seats in the Royal Princess theater are good seats

Royal Princess has quite a nice theater. There is no balcony overhanging the lower level seats, which means no view-blocking poles holding up said balcony. The upper seats are raised far enough above the seats in front of them to provide a good view. The lower ones don’t have as much of a rise, but other than the ones way out to the side of the stage, most still have a good view. As is common in so many places, the speakers were turned up a bit too loud, making some sounds a bit hard on the ears. Especially when seated in those not-so-good seats out to the side at the front because they are next to some speakers.

outdoor movie screen for movies under the stars

The ship has an outdoor movie screen with nightly movies under the stars. There’s something playing on that screen throughout the day as well. The entertainment staff provides a variety of activities throughout the day and evening in various places around the ship. The Princess Patter paper placed in cabins each night has a full schedule of the next day’s events and there was always a long list of things to do. These events are also posted on an interactive screen in the elevator bays and can be seen on smart phones for anyone who downloaded the Princess app, which also has a chat feature for contacting your shipmates. We had just 2 sea days on this cruise so there wasn’t a lot of time for onboard activities. Most days were spent visiting ports, but we still found time to participate in a few things besides hanging out in the enclave at the spa which is where we spent most of our spare time onboard.

ship art in a public area

Décor on the Royal Princes was kind of a modern understated subtle elegance. Everything looked nice, but none of the fancy ornate décor found on some older cruise ships. Princess does not have a bunch of ugly statues placed around the ship that seem to be required décor on some lines. Pictures in areas other than hallways to guest rooms tended to look more like paintings than photos, and each stairway had artwork unique of that found on other stairways, which makes it easier to know whether you are near the front, center, or back of the ship when you go up or down the stairs.

life ring on the Royal Princess

Overall Royal Princess is quite a nice ship, and we had an enjoyable cruise. The Piazza area at the center of the ship is a hub of activity with shops, eateries, and bars all around it and a variety of activities happening there all day and throughout the evening. There are all sorts of activities all around the ship so there’s always something to do. The cruise director hosted several fitness classes in a row in the piazza and looked quite energetic and like he was having a good time leading the class any time we walked by there so teaching all those classes must really have kept him fit. He did seem like rather a high-energy outgoing guy whatever he was doing, which is a type of personality that makes a good cruise director.

piazza on the Royal Princess

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Hits and Misses on Carnival Magic

Hits on Carnival Magic

Carnival cruise ship

Magic in Saint Thomas

Hits and misses are the things I liked and didn’t like about the ship. It doesn’t mean everyone who ever sails on it agrees, it’s just my opinion. We really liked Carnival Magic. The décor of the ship gives off a vibe of fun from the moment you step onboard. True to its name, the décor has magic in its theme. The atrium area is mainly decorated with lights, which constantly change colors. Some of the pictures hanging about the ship depict magical scenes, and in some places even the walls sparkle.

dinnertime entertainment

tableside magician

During our voyage the ship had a great crew, friendly and helpful in all areas of the ship. One of our favorites was the tableside magician in the dining room who entertained the grandkids with different tricks every night. They don’t always go to the same table every day, but the kids liked him so much he made a point of coming to ours.

five people in a cruise ship cabin

cruise ship cabin sleeps 5

We took this cruise with a large family group, 3 cabins between us all. It started out with my husband and I and our daughter and her two kids so we all booked a 5-person cabin, which we were quite happy to find on this ship as not all ships have them. The Magic’s 5-person cabins are all deluxe ocean view. They have the usual two beds that can either be twins or put together for one bed, two drop down bunks, and a couch that can be a bed. There is a curtain that can divide the room with 2 beds on one side of the curtain and 3 on the other if people want a little separation at night.

great for extra people

extra bathroom in the deluxe ocean view cabins

The room also has an extra partial bathroom with a sink and tub. With 5 people in a cabin this is a great feature. Most of the ocean view rooms on the ship are the deluxe ones. Just a small number of them hold 5 people. Others hold anywhere from 2-4 depending on the cabin. While that extra bathroom is a great feature when you have extra people in the room and definitely belongs in the hits for 4 or 5 person rooms, since more cabins have 2 people in them than any other amount it seems like there ought to be a larger percentage of the regular ocean view cabins. When sailing with just 2 people having the space taken up by the second bathroom as extra floorspace in the main cabin area as well as the lower price of not being a deluxe room is preferable so I would put having considerably more deluxe than regular ocean view rooms in the miss category.

cruise ship kid's club entry

Camp Ocean lobby

The younger kids loved Camp Ocean. Other hits for this trip included the water slides and dive-in movies on the Lido deck in the evenings. Some of our group had a spa cabin which comes with use of the thermal suite so that was definitely a hit for them.

Misses on Carnival Magic

deck plans

Carnival Magic deck 5

The biggest miss on the Magic is the same on any Carnival ship and that is the smoky casino. The Magic’s casino sits in the center of a public deck with other public spaces on both ends of that deck and no way to get from one end to the other without either going outside, to another deck, or gagging your way through the smoke-filled casino. The casino is not fully enclosed which also means smoke escapes into other areas on both ends including a stairway. Smoking there is not limited to active players so it gets a lot of use just as a smoking lounge, which greatly increases the amount of smoke permeating other public areas of the ship. Carnival used to be our go-to line, but we rarely sail with them anymore due to their smoking policy as many other lines are now smoke-free inside.

Another fleetwide miss is no longer having complimentary flavored teas available, not even at their afternoon tea. Cutting the flavored teas in hopes people will buy their premium teas was a bad move for customer satisfaction and not likely to either save or make them much money. Other lines still have flavored teas available free.

fun and games on the top deck

Sports Square

Also a miss is promoting the ropes course as fun for all. What they really mean is fun for those who are at least as tall as their 48 inch minimum height limit, but there is no mention of it having a height limit until you get on board unless you happen to find it buried several clicks deep in the website’s obscure FAQ section – something I only know exists because of a comment by a facebook troll in reply to my daughter’s post about her daughter’s sad experience. We had a very disappointed little girl who has done ropes courses in other places and greatly looked forward to the one on the ship. She left the sky course area in tears after finding out she couldn’t use it so it was definitely not fun for her.

Carnival has a fairly new HUB app that should be a hit, but so far has been a miss – for us anyway. The free part of this app has the Fun Times daily newsletter which is also delivered as a paper copy to each stateroom. This lists all the daily activities for the ship. For $5 per person you can also add messaging. This would be a great way to keep in contact with the people you are sailing with if it worked. Therein lies the problem – it rarely ever works. Out of the 9 people we sailed with some phones worked better than others. On the worst one not even the free part worked and messages were almost never delivered or received. Even the best of them didn’t always send or receive messages, and some messages did not go through until hours later or even the next day. This was the third cruise where we tried this app and it did not fully work on any of them, though it did work somewhat better on other ships. Great concept though if they work the bugs out of the system so it actually does what it is supposed to.

Carnival Magic

Carnival Magic in Amber Cove

Disembarkation was a miss on this ship mainly due to crew people standing at an elevator letting everyone getting off the elevator cut into a long line of people who had waited for ages to get to that point. Before the crew people came new arrivals proceeded to the end of the line in an orderly fashion so that miss is totally on the two crew members messing up the line.

Overall we liked the Magic and had an enjoyable cruise. We also learned by accident due to the amount of luggage my daughter had that using a porter speeds you through the customs line. With a porter you bypass the regular line and go straight to the booth reserved for wheelchairs and porters. There was not much of a line there, while the regular one snaked through dividers for quite a distance and was packed with people. Port Canaveral is not the most efficient port. They had about twice as many customs agents for the fairly short non-Americans line as they did for the extremely long Americans only line so we were quite happy to bypass it as it moved very slowly. Of course Carnival has no control over the port authorities so that is a miss on the port itself, not the cruise line.

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New York City

Carnival Vista in New York

Vista in New York – photo taken on the Intrepid

We definitely made the right choice upgrading to a balcony on the port side for our Carnival Vista Europe and Transatlantic cruise. We had originally booked an inside room on deck 1, but a couple months before sailing the upgrade fairy called with a sale on balcony rooms. They wanted to put us in a starboard side cabin, but since the promenade deck outside public smoking area is on the starboard side I insisted on port if we were to make the move.

flowers in Central Park

flowers in New York’s Central Park

We had a starboard side balcony on the Breeze transatlantic and could never use it due to the smoke from people’s cigars on the public deck. The starboard one would have been near the center of the ship and the upgrade fairy seemed to think the only port side one available for both the Europe and Transatlantic cruises would not be as good, but what is the point of a balcony if you can’t use it? Anyway bow or stern are fine to us. We are rarely near the middle because those cabins usually cost more.

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty taken from the ship as it passed by in the middle of the night

As it turned out, besides the sun being on the port side for most of the crossing, we also passed by the Statue of Liberty on that side at around 3:30am coming in to New York at the end of the cruise so we were able to see it from our own balcony rather than trying to find a view from a public deck in the middle of the night. Someone we ran into who had a starboard side balcony said theirs was cold and windy most of the cruise and they rarely used it whereas we used ours quite a lot. Shady deck chairs with a view are hard to come by in the public areas and never available because some selfish person will stake them out all day whether they are actually using them or not.

Carnival Vista sailing into New York

Vista sailing into New York

We were on deck 9 and deck 10 overhangs a bit so we always had shade to sit in as well as shelter when it rained. The room wasn’t perfect though. We were under the seating area to the 24-hour pizza place so people tended to scrape chairs overhead during the night and someone somewhere in the vicinity – we think the cabin below us – often smoked in their room even though it is a fire hazard and against the rules, which often made our cabin smell like an ashtray.

New York at night

helicopter buzzing around at night

A helicopter buzzed around the ship while it cruised into New York. My husband figured Carnival probably hired it to film the Vista arriving. At one point it hovered in the sky and then appeared to fly backwards. I suppose it was probably an optical illusion, but it certainly looked as if it were flying backward for a few minutes, then it went forward again.

New York skyline

New York view from water taxi

Our cruise started in Athens, Greece and ended in New York. Not having ever been to New York before, we booked a hotel for a couple nights so we could see a few things prior to flying home. Our hotel was out in Queens, which is more affordable than Manhattan and closer to the airport. We had a subway station nearby. It was far enough from the heart of the city that the trains were above ground rather than below. As in way above on raised platforms.

New York's Chrysler Building

Chrysler Building in New York

The taxi ride out of town through the traffic took a lot longer than the subway ride back in. Cost a lot more too. The taxi line was the worst I’ve ever seen at any port. It was on a public street rather than at the port itself. People and taxis were lined up all the way down the block, but the guy running the show at the head of the line did not want to let anyone in anything but the one taxi at the very front of the line. Loading just one car at a time meant the people and taxis all had a very long wait. Especially since even though it would take that taxi several minutes to get out of line and into the traffic he would make everyone wait until it left and the next one moved up rather than moving on down the line and loading the next car while that one waited to leave.

New York view

New York from the water taxi

Eventually one of the drivers got tired of sitting there wasting time. He got out, opened the door, and let the people next to his car in. The rest of the line followed suit so we got the car that happened to be next to us at the time. There were plenty more taxis lined up on the next block waiting their turn so that whole line was full again in minutes for anyone who did not get a car. It did not increase the wait time one bit for whoever had finally made it to the front of the line, but it did slightly shorten the line of people waiting, and definitely shortened the wait considerably for those of us lucky enough to get a car.

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge taken from the water taxi

If we ever disembark in New York again I’d call an uber. Subways are cheaper, but besides being a bit too crowded for luggage they also don’t take you to the door of the hotel which would require finding it yourself. After checking in and getting settled though subways are great. We rode them all around town like real New Yorkers and never took a cab again until time to go to the airport.

water taxi

water taxi by the Brooklyn Bridge

We’d always heard New Yorkers were unfriendly, but did not find that to be so. If we pulled out the subway map anyone nearby was always ready to offer up advice. People on the subway were friendly too, no matter how packed in we all were. Even when we were just looking in the window of a shop one day a local passing by said there was a similar store a couple blocks down that had better stuff cheaper. There were of course people trying to sell expensive tours to anyone they pegged as a tourist, but they moved on when told no.

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

We hadn’t realized you had to book in advance to take the ferry to Liberty Island and go inside the statue so we ended up with a water taxi tour that just puttered around the island instead. Apparently you have to book a couple weeks in advance to get on the ferry, and months in advance if you want to go all the way up to the top inside the statue.

Statue of Liberty

closer view of the Statue of Liberty

We’ve done hop on hop off busses in other places, but they wanted a lot of money for them in New York. The water taxi was sort of like a hop on hop off bus only on the water – and a lot less money than what they wanted for the hop on hop off bus (which must also have boats because we saw some painted up just like the busses). We also saw another brand of double decker tour bus, but don’t know if the price is any better. Riding the water taxi also meant we could ride their shuttles, which are busses that take people from a ferry dock where the water taxis stop out to the places where tourists like to go and where locals commuting by ferry need to go. The ferry dock isn’t just for the water taxis. There were also a lot of walk-on ferries to New Jersey, mostly for locals commuting to and from work.

in New York's Central Park

Central Park

We got off at the ferry dock so we could go to Central Park. This involved riding a shuttle bus out to a stop a couple blocks from the park and then walking the rest of the way there. The busses say ferries and stop at public bus stops along their route. People who are headed to or from the public ferries ride them too. They are supposed to come every 20 minutes, but we waited 35 when we were ready to return. There was another ferry bus just behind ours so they must get off their schedule at times.

Central Park

boat pond at Central Park

Central Park was not what I expected. I guess I just imagined a big woods with dirt trails, but it has paved paths, a zoo, lots of grassy areas, gardens with flowers, a pond with RC sailboats, and more. It is 2 miles long and just 3 blocks wide.

city at the edge of the parl

buildings near Central Park

The water taxi people said at one stop it would be an hour for the next boat, but at the one we got off they said every 20 minutes. They lied. They also said the boats ran until 9:30pm, but the one we caught at 5:30pm was the last one of the night so we are lucky we did not try to catch a later one.

Times Square

Times Square

On our second day in New York we took the subway into Manhattan again, this time to visit Times Square. Of course taking the subway in itself is a very New York thing to do – and a cheap and efficient means of travel. I expected something more than a little paved space between buildings covered in neon signs for something as famous as Times Square. It didn’t seem big enough for the sort of crowds it attracts at times like New Year’s Eve.

New York street performers

street performer at Times Square

The most interesting thing we saw there was some acrobatic street performers whose show was pretty good until they started hustling people for more money than they wanted to donate. After checking out Times Square we walked down to the waterfront and saw the Intrepid Museum. The Intrepid is an aircraft carrier from World War 2 and the Vietnam War that has been converted into a museum. It was docked right next to the Vista, which stayed in New York a couple days after our cruise and photobomed all our photos of planes on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier.

Empire State Building

Empire State Building

We finished our tour of New York with a visit to the outside of the Empire State Building (which is better viewed from enough distance to see the top if you aren’t going inside.) We had dinner in the Korean section and took a walk through Penn Station to catch the subway back to the hotel. Unlike most of the subway stops, Penn Station is huge. It’s got a whole shopping center inside and platforms for regular trains as well as subway trains.

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Exploring Hakodate

harbor tour past the cruise ship

Westerdam from the harbor tour boat in Hakodate

Holland America Westerdam slowly glided into port in Hakodate, Japan escorted not only by the usual tugs, but also by a boat with Welcome to Hakodate painted in large bold letters easily readable from neighboring ships on its side. This small escort boat sprayed water high into the air similar to that seen from a fireboat, except the spray from this boat came in ever-changing colors reminiscent of fireworks. Red, blue, yellow, and green alternately brightened the sky above the boat, especially scenic as it passed the lighthouse sentinel of the harbor.

welcome to Hakodate

Hakodate welcoming boat

As the first Japanese port on our cruise from Vancouver, Canada to Shanghai, China, everyone on the ship had to go through customs before disembarking. Once the ship docked customs officials came on board and everyone went through according to pre-assigned color and number groups with paperwork already filled out having received it in our cabins prior to reaching port. The process went a bit slower than expected as they didn’t call our group until an hour past the scheduled time. First to get processed were of course those with ship tours. Since the ship stayed in port from 8am to 11pm even the people processed last and any crew with some time off still had plenty of time to get off the ship and find something to do.

red brick warehouse in Hakodate

red brick warehouse markets from the harbor tour boat

We would have liked to take the ropeway up Mount Hakodate, but it was closed while we were there and since the point for us would have been more to ride the cable car up the mountain than merely getting to the top we weren’t interested in taking a bus instead so we just took the free shuttle into town. From the shuttle stop people can take a bus or train to other attractions, but we just went places we could walk to.

Hakodate Morning Market

stall at the morning market

John really wanted to see the Morning Market so we went there first. It was just a short walk from the shuttle stop. We were told it’s called a morning market because things normally close at noon, but much of it stayed open later the day we were there, probably because of the cruise ship passengers. Things like whole fish and crabs that people need to take home and cook are of course there for locals only, but the numerous restaurants and shops selling clothing or packaged items that might appeal to tourists had reason not to close with a ship full of potential customers roaming through. One ice cream shop had some unusual flavors like squid ink ice cream.

squid fishing boats

commercial squid fishing boats strung with lights for attracting squid keep the market well supplied

Catching your own squid was a popular thing there, with a squid fishing tank in the main morning market as well tanks at several little restaurants and booths around the market area. Even so they were not nearly as abundant as stall after stall of fish and crabs. Corn and cantaloupe seemed to be the most plentiful non-seafood options. We did come across the occasional stall selling something completely different like clothing.

shop with squid decor

squid décor at the red brick warehouse shops

Squid and cantaloupe are big in Hokkaido Prefecture, which is a division of the country something like a state or county and where Hakodate is located. Even places not selling actual squid often had squid décor. Besides fresh cantaloupe, they also had cantaloupe wine which was mostly available only in that prefecture, though we did find it in one shop in a port later on at a store selling food products from around the world.

Hakodate, Japan

seemingly abandoned sidewalk with a view

After wandering around the Morning Market for a bit we headed down toward the waterfront and found a winding pathway up to an overpass that seemed little used, but made a nice viewpoint.

Hakodate Carnival

street fair under tents on a plaza by the waterfront in Hakodate

From there we wandered through a place with a bunch of little canvas-topped outdoor booths set up that seemed to be some sort of carnival or street fair. It had one booth with carnival style games some small children were playing Another booth had a Halloween theme selling orange cotton candy among other things. Food cooking in some of the booths there smelled a lot better than anything at the fish market – cooked or uncooked.

directional help

the sign points the way

We found a signpost pointing out the way to several things including the Red Brick Warehouse, a touristy shopping area. Outside the shops in the old warehouse we saw a number of rickshaws, something I would have more expected to see in China than Japan, but there they were. We saw a couple people get in one. The guy pulling it started off at a jog, but only went a block or so before stopping. He seemed to be telling them something about the place he stopped by so we pondered over the possibility of it being some sort of rickshaw tour, which would definitely make something unique and different to do.

rickshaw rides

rickshaw in Hakodate

Shops selling sweets or ice cream inside the warehouse were nearly as numerous as fish stalls in the Morning Market. Others sold jewelry or souvenirs. We found a little cat cup that made both of us think of our cat-obsessed grandson so we got it for him to save as a gift for the next Christmas.

fancy Japanese puddings

fancy puddings in a shop in the red brick warehouses

We were quite amused by some of the sweet options. Things we’d never heard of like corn candy, or would ever have even considered like squid cookies. Besides cookies and candy there were also quite a lot of packaged cakey things. There was also colorful gelato and cases of fancy puddings.

Hakodate Harbor cruise

tour boat for Harbor cruises

After looking through some shops we wandered down a stone path and came across a booth selling tickets for a harbor cruise. It was $15 for a fifteen minute cruise on a speedboat. It made a loop through the harbor that passed by our ship so we decided to go. Short, but fun, scenic, and not that much money. There’s often random fun things to do that you had no idea were there when you get off a cruise ship without any specific plans.

Hakodate Harbor Tour

leaving the harbor on the harbor tour boat

We saw other interesting things around the area near the red brick warehouses including a row of matching bikes that were probably rentals and boats strung with many lights that they use for squid fishing.

Japanese school girls

girls at the shuttle stop

The shuttle stop was at some sort of bus terminal so we initially thought all the Japanese girls wearing school uniforms on the platform when we got there for our return to the ship were just waiting for a bus to take them somewhere, but it turned out they were actually there to greet the cruise ship passengers. They came from a girl’s high school and had a chance to practice their English with the cruise ship passengers there. They spoke English quite well. The girls made little origami swans which they handed out to people. We thought one of them said they would be coming to the ship that evening to perform in a locals show, but the performers turned out all to be men other than a couple girls who introduced the two different dances the men did and explained what they were about. Perhaps she meant they got to visit the ship with the performers rather than that she and the other girls would actually be in the show, which was a bit of a disappointment since we went to the show mainly to watch the girls we’d met dance.

cat statue in Hakodate

random cat statue near the red brick markets

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Mariner Lunch

Holland America Veendam

Holland America Veendam in Sydney, Nova Scotia

Holland America honors all past guests by inducting them into the Mariner Society, which is what they call their loyalty program. For every subsequent cruise Mariners earn more points. Enough points increases the ranking to earn more privileges. Just one prior cruise is enough to earn some bonuses with Holland America. One is embarkation day lunch in the dining room, and another is the Mariner Lunch.

mariner lunch salad

salad from a Mariner lunch

At some point in the cruise, prior guests on Holland America receive an invitation to a special lunch in the dining room for Mariners only. So first you get to feel special when you find that invitation in the mailbox outside your cabin. Then there’s the lunch.

fish on the Veendam

fish entrée option

Though the options are more limited than regular dining room lunches, the Mariner lunch often has fancier food. Seating is done randomly in order of entry, usually at tables with other cruise fans.

ship tiles

tiles from several Mariner lunches

At some point during the lunch there’s usually some announcements honoring specific guests. The captain or another high-ranking officer often gives some sort of speech. Each attendee also gets a collectible tile picturing the ship they are on to take home.

flatbread

vegetarian option

The food has been different each time I have attended the Mariner lunch. There’s normally a choice of several appetizers and entrees, and then a special dessert served only at that lunch. Actually all the food options there are served only at the Mariner lunch.

cookies

cookie plate at the Mariner lunch

On our last Veendam cruise they also provided a plate of cookies for everyone at the table in addition to the main dessert – and on that particular cruise we’d been seated at a table for two rather than one of the larger tables with other guests so we took the cookies back to our cabin for later.

dessert at the Mariner lunch

fancy panna cotta dessert

Of course getting the invitation doesn’t mean you are required to go. When sailing with people new to Holland America I tend to skip the Mariner lunch since they would be left out, but it’s fun to go to when sailing with people who have been on Holland America previously.

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