The Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, part 5

The Grand Asia & Australia Voyage – Holland America Amsterdam, September 19-November 23, 2008

Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert

Part Three

September 23 (Tuesday, Day 8, At sea) –

Snookums woke up early and decided to work out for the first time. She returned totally sweaty after an intense session on the elliptical as well as after doing some floor work and free weights.

We were supposed to cruise through the Aleutian Islands today but since the Russian port was cancelled our course is more diagonal down towards Japan and we were just “at sea” today.

In the middle of the ship, the main atrium contains a big map that shows our cruise progress.

The Big Map in the atrium

There’s also a big . . . thing in the middle of the central stairwell of the main atrium. It’s supposed to be some kind of old-style clock/chronometer thingie. It’s artsy. It’s also almost impossible to photograph, but Filbert had to try. Here are some views of the Big Chronometer in the main atrium of the Amsterdam:

The Atrium Thingie-A Photo Study

Snookums finished a book (her fourth so far) and started watching a movie (“88 Minutes”) but fell asleep. Filbert worked out and returned to the cabin all hot and sweaty.

Snookums’s cold is getting better but now Filbert is worried that he’s coming down with something. The weather for the day was mostly cloudy and very windy but the seas were still calm. The captain thinks we might hit 10-foot waves tomorrow. We’re trying to beat a low-pressure system and so far, so good. Dinner was very nice (Snookums ordered 6 appetizers/soups/salads and no entrée and Filbert ordered crab legs which he doesn’t want to do again – too messy) and we returned to our cabin and promptly fell asleep.

Each night on this cruise we have moved our clock back one hour which means we get back to our cabin around 9 PM (using the “new time”). And each night we promptly go to sleep around 9:30 PM. Tonight we not only had to move our clock back one hour, we needed to move the date forward since we will be crossing the International Date Line some time in the middle of the night. There will be no Wednesday, September 24 for us!

A sunset from the Crow’s Nest lounge

September 25 (Thursday, Day 9, Crossing the International Date Line) –

Snookums woke up bright and early at 7:30, showered and went to the dining room for breakfast and ordered the special of the day, chocolate chip pancakes. The pancakes were loaded with gooey, melted chocolate chips and were delicious. Filbert woke up in time to eat scrambled eggs and sausage from the buffet. Snookums’s cold is gone and she felt “normal” for the first time since boarding the ship and Filbert felt very rested.

The seas are still very calm and we’re hoping that the 10-foot waves don’t materialize. The captain told us that we crossed the International Date Line at 7:36 AM.

We decided to try the dance class to learn to waltz, but after 20 minutes of battling the rocking and shuddering ship, we gave up. Snookums already has two left feet and doesn’t need the added handicap of waves and Filbert’s heel was starting to hurt for the first time since being on the ship. The seasickness bags are strategically placed around the ship and there was definitely motion in the ocean yet the Navigation Channel still listed the seas as “slight – 1 to 4 feet”.

After attempting the dance class we decided to work out. Snookums used the circuit program that our personal trainer developed for her and managed to drench a T-shirt and burn 600 calories and Filbert met his goal of burning 1000 calories a day by biking and lifting.

Snookums was disappointed to see that the only free workout class on the ship would be aerobics. With her two left feet and no sense of rhythm, she doesn’t do aerobics. She was hoping that the free class would change and focus on abs one day, circuit training the next, power bands another time, etc. The fitness instructor (a woman in her 50s) said that since this cruise has elderly people on it, they decided to only offer aerobics. They also offer yoga and Pilates every day but those classes cost $10/each. Yoga was supposed to occur while we were working out but we didn’t see anyone taking it so we think that it was canceled due to lack of participation.

It was formal night and Snookums wore Judy’s gorgeous hand beaded dress from India. Many, many woman commented on how beautiful it was. We went to the Crow’s Nest at 6 PM to see the sunset and managed to see a little bit of one although today was mostly overcast. After the Crow’s Nest we bar-hopped to several other bars before going to dinner. We learned that the bar appetizers change every day and are even listed in the drink menu.

We got back to our room and found sweatshirts with the Grand Voyage logo on our bed. Filbert’s was the right size but Snookums’s was too big and she’s hoping to exchange it for a smaller one.

The seas have picked up and our cabin is very noisy. It sounds like people are climbing stairs or are walking above us, but the noise is just from our cabin. The Neptune Lounge is the same way so it’s not unique to our cabin. Snookums can sleep through the noise, but it has been keeping Filbert awake.

Another sunset from the Crow’s Nest

Whose fault is it?

Do you want to know who’s responsible for today’s financial crisis?

Victor Davis Hanson
[*1] :

We created the cultural climate for this shared madness. Television shows advised how to “flip” a house after putting in cosmetic improvements. Real-estate seminars and popular videos convinced us that homes were not places to live in and raise a family but rather no different from piles of chips on a Vegas table.

We created the phony populist creed that everyone deserved to own a house. So lawmakers got the message to relax lending standards in service to “fairness.” But Americans forgot that historically nearly four in 10 of us aren’t ever ready, or able, to sacrifice for a down payment, monthly mortgage bills, home maintenance and yearly taxes — and so should stick to renting.

Do you really want to know who’s responsible?

Go look in a mirror.

And then quit using so much G-Damned credit, and stop wanting something for nothing (or even worse, wanting “the government” to pay for stuff you can’t afford on your own–like housing or medical coverage).  “Oh, it’s not for me, it’s for those poor souls over there,” you exclaim, thinking it gives you the moral high ground, and somehow makes it right and proper.

It doesn’t.  If you think that way you’re simply a thief, waiting for an opportunity to strike.

Go look in a mirror.  All of us.  This is our crisis.  Unless we all admit it–to ourselves, to everyone, it will just get worse.  And the pinheads in Washington can only make things worse, not better.  This is the warning bell.  If you elect pinheads in November, this will be like a sunny day in the park.  You have been warned.

The Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, part 4

The Grand Asia & Australia Voyage – Holland America Amsterdam, September 19-November 23, 2008

Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert

Part Three

September 21 (Sunday, Day 6, At sea) –

Filbert’s fancy watch was dead and needed a new battery so today we went to the store to see if they had a battery. When the guy returned the working watch and didn’t ask for our cabin number, we asked “How much?” and the man said there was no charge since he took a battery out of a watch that was broken (probably one of the $10 watches). What service!!! We haven’t had a single complaint so far and don’t plan on having any.

The Watch

We decided to try the taco bar for lunch since we had been eating at the Lido buffet (which was very good both times). The taco bar is near the grill (huge hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, etc.) which is also by the pool with the retractable cover (it was closed). We helped ourselves to chicken and beef fajita mix, spiced hamburger, refried beans and all the other fixings that you need for tacos. They even had soft flour tortillas, hard corn tortillas and excellent chips. Filbert had a taco salad with no shell or chips and Snookums had a soft flour tortilla that she overstuffed and had to eat with a fork.

Getting the watch battery replaced and trying out the taco bar was our excitement for the day. Snookums managed to finish two books and took several naps and Filbert posted Parts 2 and 3 of our journal to

Snookums really enjoys the free laundry service. Before getting on the ship she was planning on letting the ship do most of the laundry (and had prepaid for the total laundry service) except she was going to wash her unmentionables but after the laundry soap leaked all over and after realizing that her unmentionables really don’t cost that much, she is letting the ship launder everything and it’s a real treat!

Snookums brought along two plants in ceramic eggs (Easter gifts from Walgreen’s for $1.99 each) and she “planted” them. It says they will start growing in 7-10 days so we’ll see if the pansy and impatiens grow or not.

And Janet doesn’t even like Eggplant . . .

We got dressed up for formal night and looked spiffy. We opted not to wear our corsages, though, which are a perk of being upgraded to the Deluxe Verandah. One of the couples at our table said that they wouldn’t be at any formal nights since he doesn’t want to get dressed up but the other couples were there. In fact, we lost one of our couples after the first dinner and they were replaced with another couple last night. No one knows why the original couple decided to change tables, but everyone was happy last night so we should continue to have fun with our tablemates.

Phil & Janet’s formalwear

We got back to our room after dinner to find more gifts. (Oh yeah – we’ve received several gifts already. We got a canvas embroidered tote bag from the meet and greet that was given by an anonymous donor and then when we returned to our room on Saturday night we had one very nice red leather journal with an embossed cover with empty pages.) We each received an embossed grey tote bag with an expedition shoulder bag that included an umbrella, kleenex pack, toilet seat covers, hand sanitizer, a bottle of water and a NutriGrain bar. We’ll have to ask our tablemates if they received these gifts or if they are only for suite guests.

Our free-stuff haul so far
A nice but cool day at sea

September 22 (Monday, Day 7, At sea) –

We ate breakfast in the dining room. Suite guests get to eat on the starboard side. They asked for our room number and then put us on that side. The menu was the same but it was less crowded so we guess that’s the perk. We also received USA Today International which is another perk of being in a suite. It can be purchased for $3.50, but we get it for free.

After a nice dining room breakfast (Snookums had granola crusted French toast, fresh squeezed orange juice and a bowl of mixed berries and Filbert had homemade corned beef hash and a ham, cheese and mushroom omelet) we decided to check out the Lido buffet for future reference. We were pleasantly surprised by its choices which included an Eggs Benedict bar that had at least six variations (crab meat, salmon, an Italian version with marinara sauce, some kind of Mexican version, etc.).

After breakfast we wandered to the Future Cruise Consultant desk to get information on the 2010 Grand Voyages. We also checked our onboard account to verify that our large amount of shipboard credit was correct (it was).

The day was overcast, windy and 55° and we were both kind of pooped so we did a lot of lounging around.

The dinner menu is always delivered to our suite by early afternoon. Tonight’s appetizers included: Pineapple boat filled with berries, Salmon gravlax, Capocollo and bresaola, Shrimp and crab cocktail, Chicken tenders, Meat lasagna. Soups & Salads included: Tomato soup, Chicken consommé, Apple vichyssoise, Bibb lettuce with tuna, Pear and blue cheese salad. Entrées included: Chicken fajita salad, Roasted monkfish in pancetta, Beef sirloin, Turkey, Noisette of pork, Seafood Newburg, Baked salmon with dried cherry-thyme crust, Vegetarian cutlet with Thai green curry sauce. Desserts included: Butterscotch sundae, Vanilla or coffee ice cream, Passion fruit sorbet, Frozen strawberry yogurt, No sugar added fudge tracks ice cream, Chocolate pot au crème, Key lime pie, Pecan torte, No sugar added apricot crumble, Sliced fresh fruit, Bananas foster flambé, Full-flavored cheeses. The food (and service) has exceeded our expectations.

Sunset from our stateroom

Disparate impact

Yes, the self-imposed ban on political posts does, kinda, still hold.

But criminitdilly (pron. crim-in-it-dilly, meaning roughly “Jesus Christ on an f’ing popsicle stick” but without the scatalogical or blasphemous overtones and hence preferable for use in more polite company) . . .

Criminitdilly, people, it’s utterly obvious that the reason we collectively drove our economy into the ditch is that we somehow got the idea, in the late 1990’s, that it was a good idea to give mortgage loans to people who had no way to pay them back.

This is world-class stupid. Lots of people need to lose their jobs over this. Lots of those people are currently in Congress. Lots of those people are Democrats. And yeah, the Republicans who went along with this madness need to have their asses tossed out onto the street, too.

And, it’s world-class stupid to send good money after bad (well, tax money after bad, but you get my meaning) and tie that to some ridiculous assertion that the Executive Branch knows best and can’t be hauled up in court if they f*** it up further. Now, granted, Congress does a pretty good job of f***ing up things without Executive help, but nobody, NOBODY with an ounce of sense thinks giving the Secretary of the Treasury and the President a blank check to do whatever the hell they want to do is a good idea. Do they?

Eric, at Classical Values[*1] posts more rationally and less emotionally than I do on the topic. Go. Read. Learn. And try not to advocate really stupid things (like socialism) in the future. OK?

The Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, part 3

The Grand Asia & Australia Voyage – Holland America Amsterdam, September 19-November 23, 2008

Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert

Part Three

September 20 (Saturday, Day 5, At sea) –

Snookums’ cold is in full force but she did manage to attend the 10 AM get-together.[*1] is a website and it has a place for people that are going to be on the same cruise to trade information. Anyway, a get-together for the ~60 people was arranged so we went. Filbert purchased a polo shirt since Snookums felt sorry for the guy that organized the shirt purchase since he had several extras to sell.

At the Meet-&-Greet

At noon an announcement was made saying that we had a medical emergency and we would be turning back towards Canada for a Canadian Coast Guard helicopter rescue from Comox Air Base. We heard that a woman had a stroke and lost feeling on one side. We had a bird’s eye view of the rescue from our balcony. The helicopter was the biggest one weíve seen for a medical evacuation (this is our 4th!) and there was a DeHaviland Buffalo airplane flying around, too. The helicopter only took the sick passenger which meant that her traveling companion/luggage has to wait until the first stop (September 29) to get off. If she is traveling with someone it will be a LONG wait for that person.

Smooth waters and good weather for the rescue
A Canadian Buffalo rescue plane circled the ship
Watching the evac from the Crow’s Nest
The helicopter hovered close to the ship while the Buffalo circled
REALLY close to the ship
An EVEN CLOSER close flyby while the stricken passenger was readied for the evac

After that excitement Filbert went to the gym to work out while Janet slept off her cold. We then got ready for the Captain’s party for all suite guests. It was interesting that the invitation had a footnote that said something about not shaking hands in order to not spread germs but when we attended the party, all of the officers were shaking hands. Old habits are hard to break.

The gym on the Amsterdam
Smooth waters–so far

The Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, part 2

The Grand Asia & Australia Voyage – Holland America Amsterdam, September 19-November 23, 2008

Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert

Part Two

September 19 (Friday, Day 4, Boarding ms Amsterdam, Seattle, WA) –

We woke up at 6 AM in order to see our ship come into port at 7 AM. But, it came in early so we got up for nothing. Oh well. Another excuse to be tired and grumpy later.

We walked to Pike Place Market for breakfast with a view of the waterfront and on the way back to the hotel. Snookums stopped to get a pedicure. The day was cool and overcast, like yesterday, but we didn’t care since we would be getting on our ship today.

Filbert suggested that we take the public bus to the ship and Snookums readily agreed. This meant that we walked about 1/2 mile to get the bus and then about 1 mile after getting off with our two rolling suitcases. It cost a total of $3 and we’re sure that we were the only people that took public transportation to the 65-day cruise!

We walked from the nearer stadium (the darker arches) to the near end of the Terminal building in the foreground.
The Amsterdam in port at Seattle
Snookums on the trek to the ship (Filbert’s behind the camera)

We got to the check-in terminal and got into the registration line, which moved quickly. The woman handed us our keys and stuff and that’s when we realized that we had been upgraded. We started doing a happy dance right then and there. We told the woman that we had called Holland America less than 48 hours earlier and had been told that our cabin number was the one that we booked 2.5 years earlier. Someone must have cancelled at the last minute which was our good fortune.

Our new suite number is 7040 and it is 556 sq. ft. with veranda compared to 292 sq. ft. with veranda for the one that we paid for. (According to the price list, suite 7040 costs 80% more–which is why we did NOT buy the bigger suite to begin with!). We also get free laundry ($250 value), free dry cleaning ($275 value) and free pressing ($100 value) and access to the Neptune Lounge. The Neptune Lounge is a quiet oasis in the middle of Deck 7 that is reserved for suite guests. There are 45 suites so the Neptune Lounge is never very crowded. It has snacks, newspapers, magazines and WiFi connectivity (for a fee) as well as a full-time concierge.

The suite has a huge leather sofa in it, a bar, a desk, one flat panel swivel tv and a king-size bed. (The cabin we paid for had a queen-size bed in it.) The veranda has a round dining table, 4 chairs, 2 chaise lounges and a side table and still has plenty of room to maneuver around.

Our new home for a couple of months
It was pretty big
The bar was well-stocked
The deck was nearly as large as the one at our house

Our 8 pieces of Fed Ex luggage/boxes that were picked up from our house were delivered to our suite and we spent the afternoon unpacking. One of the boxes was split open towards the bottom and was wet so we were very apprehensive. Snookums gingerly unpacked it and finally found the 50 oz. bottle of liquid laundry soap that was leaking. All of the cans of diet soda immediately went into the whirlpool bathtub for rinsing off and the ziploc bag with the leaking laundry soap went in the trash. It was kind of a pain to rinse off 75 cans of soda, but not that big of deal. We were very thankful that our luggage arrived in one piece (well, basically in one piece).

The Lido Pool
The Seaview Pool

We went to dinner and met our tablemates. Two of the couples are on the cruise for the entire 65-day period and one couple is getting off in Singapore after 35 days. It appears we got a good table.

After dinner we returned to our suite, turned our clocks back one hour and went to sleep with the fog horn blowing every few minutes. The sea has been very calm and we’re hoping it stays that way.

In A Yugo . . .

It’s Snookums Sunday here at

Snookums really wanted to buy a Yugo. Her brother talked her out of it.

Photo from Amazon’s Car Lust blog[*1] .

In retrospect, probably a good thing, but who knows what might have been?

Post title is of course a reference to Paul Shanklin’s parody[*2] of Elvis Presley’s In The Ghetto, made (in)famous by Rush Limbaugh.