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The 2010 Mediterranean & Atlantic Explorer Cruise, Part 9

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The 21-Day Mediterranean & Atlantic Explorer Cruise (And more!), October 26-December 1, 2010, Holland America Prinsendam

Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert

Part Nine

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November 22 (Monday, Day 28, At sea) -


Snookums woke up and read in bed while Filbert showered and went to breakfast. Snookums fell back asleep and finally got up for good around 11:30 AM. Snookums loves sea days! While Snookums was being lazy, Filbert went to the “Christopher Columbus: A Man and His Dreams” lecture by historian Dave Levesque. He thought it was pretty good.

The ocean was pretty choppy and there were a lot of white caps and it was cloudy and in the high 60s.

At 5:30 Snookums went to the gym to teach Fran, one of her dinner tablemates, the machines. Snookums and Fran started with 20 minutes on the bike and then hit the weight machines and finished with floor work. Fran is a retired Ph.D. nurse and was a professor prior to retiring. Fran enjoyed it and said it was the first time she had ever sweated. She said that teaching and writing don’t work up a sweat. She wants to work out with Snookums every afternoon.

More after the jump . . .

November 23 (Tuesday, Day 29, At sea) -

Filbert and Snookums ordered a room service breakfast. Filbert ordered his hot water and Snookums ordered a sunshine parfait (micro-diced melon mixed with fruit yogurt layered with Greek yogurt and granola). The ocean was like glass. At 10 AM Snookums watched the movie “SALT” with Angelina Jolie and really liked it. It was very improbable but kept her interested until the end.

The six of us from our dinner table met at Pinnacle Grill for lunch. Filbert and Snookums had enough Pinnacle Grill coupons for six people to have free lunch so we all went. (It normally costs $10 per lunch.) Neither the food nor the service impressed us, but it was free and an experience so no one minded. In fact, we all got free drinks since the waiter screwed up the hamburger order. The hamburger was supposed to come with bacon and the four that ordered it didn’t get it. Oops! And, the water glasses were empty frequently and the rolls were scorched and… (Snookums ordered the bistro steak with bleu cheese and was very impressed with it.) Anyway, it was a good time since Gary brought his computer and showed everyone pictures of his model train room at his house and he also showed us pictures of the Navy cruiser that he drove in the early 70's, the U.S.S. Belknap. (He did NOT drive it into that aircraft carrier.)

After lunch Snookums took advantage of the sunny day and read on the balcony for more than two hours before going to the gym. Filbert went to the 2:30 PM lecture, “American Voyages Before Columbus”. Filbert enjoys Dave Levesque’s lectures.

It was formal night and Snookums and Filbert had already decided not to go to the dining room and went to Lido instead. Snookums had French onion soup and chocolate cake and Filbert made a salad from the salad bar. Neither of us was hungry.

After our light dinner we watched “Iron Man” in our cabin. It’s about a super hero and stars Robert Downey Jr. and even Snookums liked it. We got to turn our clocks back an hour, too.

The last sliver of sunset, Nov. 23

November 24 (Wednesday, Day 30, At sea) -

Snookums woke up and went to breakfast while Filbert lounged around before he went to eat his high protein instant oatmeal. Then he went to the “Art and Science of Navigation” lecture while Snookums read her book. The seas were still glassy (i.e. no whitecaps) but the swells were larger which made walking an uphill and downhill experience.

We met Gary and Charlotte in order to go to the Mariner lunch together. The four of us sat at the same table and wore our medals signifying 100 days on Holland America. Filbert enjoyed his free red wine while the three others ordered soft drinks. We each got a Delft tile, too, which is the normal HAL Mariner “gift”. The tile has King Neptune on it and Snookums said that we already got it on another cruise.

Snookums sat on the balcony, in the sun, for about two hours and read her book before going to the gym. Filbert went to the gym, too. After five minutes on the bike, Fran realized she forgot to take her beta-blocker so she decided that she needed to stop the workout and Snookums definitely agreed! Snookums stayed and got in a full hour workout and her heather gray t-shirt was soaked by the time she was done.

Dinner was uneventful until the cake was brought out to celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary celebration. Our 6th wedding anniversary was in mid-October, but Snookums’s rule is that if a birthday or anniversary is within one month of the cruise, then it gets celebrated on the ship. Everyone had already eaten dessert and then the anniversary cake was brought out. It was a nice square cake covered in white frosting. Everyone wanted a piece and it was mostly frosting (i.e. whipped cream or mousse-like frosting) with a ¼” thick layer of cake in the middle of the two thick layers of frosting. The thin layer of cake was slathered with peach preserves and it was pretty good. No one minded the waiters singing since the cake was so good. Each birthday and anniversary cake that we’ve been served has been different.

Today’s daily program showed a breakdown by country of origin of the 780 passengers, which is a full load. 72% of them are from the U.S. and 23% are from Canada. Way to go, North America!

Sunset, November 24

November 25 (Thanksgiving, Thursday, Day 31, At sea) -

We enjoyed a room service breakfast and got ready for the 11 AM New World Faire where each department on the ship (housekeeping, dining, casino, shops, photography, shore excursions, bar, etc.) created a game for the passengers to play. At the end of an hour, the top winners would win HAL prizes. Filbert and Snookums went to the shore excursion office and kept playing “Travel Trivia”. Filbert always requested a hard question in order to win three bucks and Snookums went for the easy ones to win two bucks. At the end of the hour Snookums had 27 bucks and Filbert had 16. The top buck winners had 180 and 170! We think they combined bucks from other people since the lines were all very long and the most you could win at any one booth was three bucks. Oh well. We had fun and learned. Snookums was embarrassed by one of the questions she missed: “The Strait of Gibraltar connects the Atlantic Ocean with what sea?” She KNEW she knew it but was stumped. Yep, the answer is “Mediterranean Sea” and that was where we were for the majority of this cruise. Oh well… She did know the date of summer solstice (June 21) and she did know that the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers were in Iraq and she guessed Petra about some Jordan question and was right.

After lunch Filbert attended “The Golden Age of Piracy” lecture while Snookums went to the front desk to get our invoice. She saw that our canceled Naples port caused a refund of $7.90 in port taxes and our canceled Sardinia anchor gave us each another $0.10 in a port tax refund! We would have rather had the ports. After that she read and slept.

The waves started getting worse around 4 PM and the wineglasses on our shelves fell over. We were supposed to be able to watch American football starting around 3:30 PM but the satellite wasn’t getting much of a signal. We did see parts of the Detroit Lions/New England Patriots game but the satellite finally went dead with about 10 minutes in the game. (We haven’t had CNN since Monday.) At that point there was only a 7-point difference in the score. The final margin of victory was around 25 or so, based on the newspaper.

Snookums went to the gym and was the only passenger there. Fran never showed up. A crewmember came in later, but that was it. She rode the bike and hung on since the ship was really rocking and rolling. Even riding a stationary bike is interesting when the ship is bouncing all around.

The dining room was decorated for Thanksgiving. The turkey dinner sounded good, but Snookums ordered the salmon with a crab cake. She has eaten at least ten Thanksgiving dinners on ships and has always been disappointed so this time she decided to not risk it. Filbert decided to go for it. The turkey dinner WAS a winner (and the salmon was excellent, too), but it was interesting that the cranberry-orange relish had kernels of corn in it. The menu even said that, but no one believed it. But, it was homemade cranberry-orange relish that had large chunks of orange in it and kernels of corn. Hmmmm. Filbert had the traditional pumpkin pie for dessert and it was normal, too. (On his first cruise in 2004, he ordered traditional pumpkin pie and it was pumpkin pie with a layer of rhubarb custard on top. It was very tasty, but it was certainly not traditional!) Snookums had the chocolate pecan pie and thought it was heavenly, including the perfect crust. Snookums told the rest of the table that she was going to order another piece from room service as soon as she got back to the room, but she didn’t. She figured that Thanksgiving is the day to stuff yourself and she wasn’t stuffed so that’s why she was going to do it. But, she took a handful of buttermints on the way out of the dining room instead and didn’t call room service. It was a nice Thanksgiving, even with all of the motion on the ocean.

Snookums had to sleep on her stomach or back, and not on her side, since the ship was listing so much from side to side. When she tried to lie on her side, she would roll with the motion of the ship. She slept fine throughout the night other than when the deodorant fell over and woke her up.

November 26 (Friday, Day 32, At sea) -

We survived the rough night and woke up when the captain made a special announcement at 8:30 AM. He said that the waves and swells were at their worst around 3 AM when they were 18 feet and that things were going to slowly get better as the day went on. The storm in Cape Hatteras came south as expected and even though the captain tried to go farther south, he could only go so far south without going through the Panama Canal. And, we do need to dock in Ft. Lauderdale on Monday!

We got up and had breakfast in Lido. Snookums saw some flying fish and that has been the extent of the sea life we’ve seen on this cruise. We weren’t surprised, though, since we hadn’t seen anything on our two prior Atlantic crossings.

Snookums went to the 10 AM galley tour. She’s been to the galley tours on every ship she has sailed and it still amazes her how small the kitchens are in order to churn out enough meals for 780 passengers. She noticed that the computer printout for tonight’s dinner estimated the following entrées from the nightly specials: 165 pot roast, 150 red snapper, 140 pork chops, 70 pheasant, 25 asparagus risotto and 20 manicotti. Then there were the estimates of the entrées that are always available (rib eye, salmon, chicken). The chef knows from prior cruises what entrées are the most popular and more of them are prepared.

76 food/beverage service staff (restaurant managers, waiters, wine stewards, etc.) serves the 780 passengers the food that is produced by 68 galley persons (chefs, bakers, cooks, dishwashers, etc.). These galley persons also produce the food for the 464 crewmembers. 120 gallons of ice cream are eaten each week and Snookums made sure to eat her fair share. She was especially fond of getting a scoop of vanilla ice cream and then putting a ladle of tart triple berry sauce on it.

After the galley tour Snookums decided to read her book in bed. That was at 11 AM. She woke at 1 PM when the captain made his daily announcement but fell back asleep until 2 PM. She missed lunch so she called room service for French onion soup and a grilled chicken sandwich and continued to read. Filbert played his computer game, Civilization IV, all day. Snookums went to the gym around 5:30. (Fran was a no-show.) It was a very relaxing day, albeit rocky and rolling!

Around 3 PM we started getting live television for the first time since Tuesday morning. We watched the Louisville/Rutgers football game followed by the #24 Tennessee (Snookums’s alma mater) vs. #7 Villanova basketball game. (Tennessee upset Villanova by 10 points!)

The water started smoothing out around 4 PM and we were thankful for that. Neither of us got sick during the rough seas, but as Filbert stated, “Calm sea days are more fun than rough sea days,” and that is definitely true. It is “interesting” to walk up steps and really have to work on lifting your leg high enough to get to the next step while the ship is rolling or listing at the same time causing you to walk uphill.

The highlight of Phil’s day was that he spotted a freighter around 4 PM. This was the first ship we had seen since Monday or so. We are NOT alone on the Atlantic!

Beer of the trip: Franziskaner Weissbier--a Munich beer the Spanish seemed to be fond of. Filbert really liked it, too.
At dinner we found out that everyone spent a slow, relaxing day and it wasn’t just us. Even Gary didn’t attend any lectures and he usually goes to all of them. It was a day for reading and napping. And, our table ordered two of the pot roasts, two of the pork chops, one ribeye and one grilled chicken breast so we didn’t fit the historical numbers that well.

For those of you wondering what there is to do during a day at sea, the following activities happened between 11:00 and 3:00 today:

11:00 – Spice of Life with Pinnacle Grill Chef, Culinary Arts Center
11:00 – Bridge Instruction (First Time Players), Half Moon Room
11:30 – Team Trivia Challenge, Ocean Bar
12:00 – Single & Solo’s Meet for Lunch, La Fontaine Dining Room
1:30 – A New Window to Your World, Digital Workshop
1:30 – Country Line Dance Class, Showroom at Sea
1:30 – $20 Blackjack Tournament, Casino
2:00 – Duplicate & Party Bridge, Half Moon Room
2:00 – Spa Secrets: Younger Looking Skin, Greenhouse Spa
2:30 – The Exploration & Settlement of La Florida lecture, Showroom at Sea
2:30 – The Art of Towel Folding, Culinary Arts Center
2:30 – It’s All Geek to Me, Digital Workshop
2:30 – Wii Sports Challenge, Stuyvesant Room
3:00 – Afternoon Tea, La Fontaine Dining Room

November 27 (Saturday, Day 33, At sea) -

Filbert ordered room service hot water for his high protein instant oatmeal and Snookums went to La Fontaine for the corned beef hash. (Snookums loves corned beef hash.) It was homemade, but was served on top of marinara sauce. And although it was mostly corned beef and not many potatoes or onions or green peppers, the corned beef was kind of tasteless. So, it was a good effort on HAL’s part, but if the corned beef doesn’t have much flavor, neither will corned beef hash.

Filbert went to the lecture on the evolution of ships while Snookums updated the journal. The seas were glassy and smooth and the temperature was around 75. There were flying fish, too.

We ate lunch outside since it was so nice. After lunch Filbert went to the lecture given by Captain Schoonderbeek on the history of Holland America Line. He is HAL’s company historian and has written several books about HAL and has over 15,000 photos on passenger ships. Some of these photos are now adorning the corridors of several HAL ships, including the newest one, ms Nieuw Amsterdam. While Filbert was learning the history of HAL, Snookums enjoyed reading in the sun. Unfortunately, she now has a farmer’s tan since she was wearing a polo shirt.

Snookums went to the gym, too, and came back completely drenched. The seas were so calm that she used the Stairmaster and really worked up a sweat.

We dressed for formal night and wore our Mariner medals since Gary wanted everyone to. Fran forgot to wear hers but we let her eat with us anyway. Both Filbert and Snookums ordered the surf ‘n turf (lobster thermidor and a filet mignon). The traditional parade of baked Alaska occurred at the end. But, glow sticks just aren’t the same as flames!

The dinner table
We didn’t attend the chocolate buffet at 10:30 PM. Instead Filbert used some of his remaining pricey Internet minutes and listened to his SDSU Jackrabbits convincingly beat Eastern Illinois University while Snookums read her book. The television was on, too, and we watched OU beat OSU in football. And we got to turn our clock back one more time.

Taking pictures of sunsets

Sunset, November 27

November 28 (Sunday, Day 34, At sea) -

We woke up around 6 AM and Snookums stayed in bed while Filbert got up and went to breakfast. Snookums fell back asleep and woke up to her sunrise parfait and donut. Filbert attended the Champagne Crew Farewell (i.e. the “mandatory” disembarkation lecture) in order to have some champagne and then stuck around for the 11 AM lecture on The West Indies and the American Revolution. Snookums read her book.

After lunch we went ahead and packed and sorted our clothes for one night in Ft. Lauderdale as well as one night in Manhattan, KS. The weather forecasts are polar opposites for these two locations. Filbert also sporadically checked on the SDSU women’s basketball game at Middle Tennessee State while Snookums filled out the cruise surveys and other end-of-cruise paperwork. (SDSU women lost convincingly.)

Filbert read his Kindle and Snookums enjoyed the steamy balcony and evened out her mild burn from yesterday. Since she was already sweaty, she went to the gym for one last sweatfest. Then she did the only load of wash on this vacation since her wet clothing probably wouldn’t have dried by Monday morning. We were able to watch two live football games, too, which was nice.

Prior to dinner we used up Phil’s three final cocktail card punches by getting a double Manhattan and a virgin strawberry daiquiri. As of this cruise, HAL has gone away from the punch cards and implemented a debit card for discounted beverages. So, Phil’s card that he bought on a prior HAL cruise needed to be used this cruise or it would have no longer been honored. No problem.

We said goodbye to Fran and MaryEllen at dinner. They were good tablemates.

November 29 (Monday, Day 35, Ft. Lauderdale) -

Our towel menagerie
We woke up and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before leaving the ship around 9:30 AM. We collected our luggage, along with Gary and Charlotte, and called for the hotel shuttle and it came in about 20 minutes. We checked into our rooms early for $10 more, but it was worth it. Filbert immediately logged on to the free Internet and also turned on his radio while Snookums unpacked for the night and rearranged some things in the suitcases. Around noon we left to explore the Walgreen’s next door and the Publix grocery store across the street. We ended up buying lunch at Publix’s deli. Filbert had a sub sandwich and Snookums ordered a rotisserie chicken dinner and we took them back to our hotel room. Gary and Charlotte ate in the fast food Chinese place next to the Publix.

Around 2:00, Snookums went back across the street to the nail place for a $20 pedicure (versus $45 on the ship). It’s a rough life…

Gary used his computer and watched FC Barcelona defeat previously unbeaten Real Madrid 5-0. When we were in Barcelona he toured the FC Barcelona stadium and had a photo taken with Messi, FC Barcelona’s star player, so this was extra special for him to watch it.

The four of us went to dinner across the street at Pancho’s, a Mexican and Cuban restaurant. Filbert ordered the palomilla, a very thin marinated top sirloin. Snookums ordered the ropa vieja, shredded beef cooked with peppers, tomatoes, onions and spices. Both of us got fried plantains and black beans, too. Gary ordered an appetizer of guacamole and then had the seafood enchiladas. Charlotte had the fish tacos. Both of their dishes featured local fish. We all really enjoyed the food and when we have another cruise leaving from Ft. Lauderdale, we’ll be sure to stay at the Sleep Inn in Dania Beach since it’s across the street from this great restaurant (and also very convenient to a Walgreen’s and a Publix for cruise beverage needs).

After setting our alarm for 4 AM, we went to bed.

November 30 (Tuesday, Day 36, Flying to Kansas City, MO and driving to Manhattan, KS) -

We woke up at 4 AM and caught the hotel shuttle to the airport. We easily made our 6:35 AM flight to Tampa. We had a 40-minute layover in Tampa and Snookums bought a carton of milk and enjoyed the boxes of Raisin Bran she brought with her from the ship. Our flight to Kansas City landed 15 minutes early and it was snowing!!! Okay, so they were just flurries and didn’t accumulate, but snow is snow. We got our luggage and jumped on the rental car shuttle to pick up our Avis car.

After getting our $43 Town Car, we headed for Manhattan, Kansas. Two and ½ hours later we checked in to the Fairfield Inn Manhattan and did a quick online lunch search. We decided to go to the Little Apple Brewing Company and we were very happy we did. Filbert enjoyed a flight of six of their beers and a bleu cheese burger and Snookums loved her pulled pork sandwich and German potato salad. The German potato salad, though, was more like skin-on mashed potatoes, but it was still very, very tasty. After lunch we drove by Bramlage Coliseum and found a liquor store to buy some Tallgrass Brewing Company cans of beer. (The Little Apple Brewing Company only sells its beer in kegs and ½ gallon growlers.) We made it back to our hotel and had time for a much-needed nap.

We got to Bramlage Coliseum at 6:45 and our name was on the pass list so we got in for free. We found our front row seats, on the court, but decided to sit with the other South Dakota State University fans a few rows back. The Jackrabbits took a six-point lead into halftime but ultimately lost by five in front of 2,700 mostly purple fans. The women led until 2:18 to go, but somehow Kansas State came back and won.

December 1 (Wednesday, Day 37, Driving home from Manhattan, KS) -

We decided to wake up early and hit the road in order to get the Town Car back to the Independence Avis office by 10:45 AM to make our 24-hour limit. We got home around 9:30 AM, unloaded, turned on the water, plugged things in and then returned the car. After flying to Zurich and then to Stuttgart and then to Athens and then cruising to Ft. Lauderdale and then flying to KC to drive to Manhattan and then finally driving home, we were definitely glad to be back!!