The 2011 Amazon Explorer Cruise, part 7 of 7

The 24-Day Amazon Explorer Cruise 2011, November 26–December 21, 2011, Holland America Prinsendam
Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert

Part Seven

December 11 (Sunday, Day 16, Alter do Chão, Brazil) –

A dip in the Amazon

We woke up and didn’t bother to shower. We enjoyed our Sunday brunch in Lido rather than in Neptune. Snookums made an egg McMuffin and Filbert enjoyed eggs benedict. We took the tender to Alter do Chão which is 12 miles from Santarém and has a population of around 1,400. Alter do Chão is actually considered the “Caribbean of the Amazon” since it has nice white beaches and the people of Santarém flock to it on weekends. We didn’t see any packed beaches and decided that the locals come in the afternoon. We went shopping at the various temporary tables since we still needed to buy the souvenir painting for our travel wall. We haven’t seen any paintings other than very large paintings of parrots and bright tropical flowers and we didn’t want anything like that. We ended up buying a magnet that is made out of half of some kind of seed or pod and it has a painting of the “hill” (the alter, hence the name) that is very visible on the beach on it. The woman wanted 7 real for it and Snookums gave her a 20 real. The woman didn’t have change and saw that Snookums had a 5 real note and took that instead. After the experience with the pedicab driver, we are starting to think that Brazilians don’t seem to really understand the concept of money! We still had 70 real burning a hole in our pockets and also bought two t-shirts that show the map of the Amazon on them and then they are also hand painted on top of the printed map. They were a total of 35 real ($18).

After we shopped we went to the beach and waded into the Rio Tapajós which is the clear water. Well, clear as compared to the Amazon River. When we were submerged up to our shoulders, we could only see our mid-thighs. The water was pretty warm but not as warm as the Rio Negro when we were with the dolphins. We got out and took the tender back to the ship.

When we got back in our suite, Snookums realized that we hadn’t read the information that we brought with us about Alter do Chão so she read it and realized we didn’t even go INTO the town! We shopped at the tables near the dock and went swimming and never bothered to continue walking past the dock to the town. Boy do we feel silly. Now granted, most of the other HAL passengers only looked at the tourist stuff near the dock and then went back on the tender, but we like to think we’re not like most HAL passengers! We dropped the ball on this port, though, that’s for sure. According to the information there isn’t that much to see, but still, we could have walked a little bit more and seen some houses or something. Oh well, maybe we’ll have to come back. On that note, it is interesting to know that Amazon cruises only stop at the ports that we are stopping at and then maybe one more (Belem, a port at the Atlantic Ocean entrance to the Amazon). So, once you’ve done one Amazon cruise, you’ve seen what there is to see.

Today’s port was much less humid than the previous two (Manaus and Parintins). In fact, all of the ports (except for Manaus and Parintins) have been relatively comfortable. Hot, yes, but bearable, especially in the shade or when it is cloudy. Manaus and Parintins, though, were very “thick” which made them more uncomfortable. It was so nice that after lunch we sat on the verandah and watched the world go by. It was so nice that even Filbert didn’t complain about the heat.

Tonight was formal night and Snookums decided last night that she didn’t want to dress up so she told the tablemates that we wouldn’t be there. At least three of the four weren’t going to be there, either. We ordered room service and enjoyed our casual dinner.

Sunset Dec. 11

There was a beautiful full moon over the muddy Amazon River water and Filbert spent 20 minutes on the verandah trying to get a good picture. Although the ship is very steady in the river, there is still some movement which made a lot of the shots blurry. He thinks he got a decent one, though. (And he didn’t get bit by any bugs, either, and we had been told that they come out at night.)

Amazon moonrise

December 12 (Monday, Day 17, Cruising the Amazon River, Crossing the Equator)

A sea day! We spent the entire morning on the Neptune Lounge verandah. After our normal breakfast, we watched Macapá from the port side as we cruised by around 10:30. That was our first port stop one week ago and we wanted to see it on the way out of the Amazon. The ship’s horn sounded three times as the pilot boated away. (We had two Amazon pilots on the ship during the last seven days to assist the captain with the river navigation.) At 12:05, the ship blew its horn one time to indicate that we were crossing the equator. The captain came on the PA system and informed us that we would be in the Amazon until 10 PM or so.

Snookums read the two reviews written by HAL passengers about the Barbados rum tour and had Filbert read them. They were both very bad reviews and Filbert decided to cancel his tour. In the meantime, Snookums read the “Barbados Travel” book in the ship’s library and it said that Barbados had excellent snorkeling so Snookums used some internet time to find an excursion. If HAL won’t offer one, we’ll find our own and we did!

We headed for lunch and then back to the suite for a leisurely day. Filbert spent all of it on the verandah listening to BBC on his shortwave radio and Snookums read a paperback inside. Snookums met with the shore excursion manager at 3 PM regarding the piranha fishing tour and the shore excursion manager offered 20% back on the tour tickets since no cooked piranha was offered. It was more of an ordeal than Snookums expected (1 phone call with an employee, 1 voice mail from the manager and then the meeting with the manager), but she thinks it was finally understood that when tour documentation says “crew will offer you cooked piranha” and that doesn’t happen, it’s a problem!

Snookums went to the gym around 6 PM and then it was time for dinner. The purser and his wife, Jan-Volkert Leeuwenberg and Tammy Lee Fortier, joined our table. They are friends of friends we cruise with (Gary and Charlotte) so we had wanted to meet them. Brazil requires a lot of paperwork so the purser was very busy up until now. Jan called us Sunday to figure out when we could meet and we decided on tonight. Dinner was very enjoyable.

We went on the verandah after dinner to check on the color of the water and it was still muddy. However, around 10:30 PM the ship started rolling a bit from ocean swells so we made it to the Atlantic safe and sound and survived our eight days in the Amazon!

Here are some Amazon facts:

– Source – Lake Lauricocha in Peru
– Length – 4,195 miles (from Peru’s Ucayali River which joins the Maranon [Amazon])
– Tributaries – 15,000 known tributaries and sub-tributaries (4 are over 1,000 miles long)
– Area – The 2,722,00 square-mile Amazon rain forest represents 40% of Brazil
– Volume – 46,000 gallons per second at the river’s mouth (6,000% of the Nile’s volume)
– Width – Varies 1 to 35 miles (excluding flood). Mouth is more than 250 miles wide.
– Depth – Most of the Brazilian section is more than 150 feet deep. Near the mouth depths of 300 feet have been recorded.
– Temperature – 79°F (daytime)
– Geological Age – The rainforest is estimated to be 100,000,000 years old to be the world’s oldest rainforest.

December 13 (Tuesday, Day 18, At sea) –

Snookums woke up and read on the verandah in order to get some sun and to enjoy the green ocean. (Our verandah will be sunny in the mornings from now on.) Then she went to Neptune Lounge for breakfast and Filbert came awhile later. It was back to the room around 11 AM for more book reading. Then Snookums took a 3-hour nap followed by a very late lunch. After that it was a DVD (The Money Train) and time for dinner. Filbert read/write most of the day. Sea days are hard and tiring…..

After dinner we got to watch the last ¾ of the game between the #6 Tennessee LadyVols and #11 Rutgers. The LadyVols got their first road win of the young basketball season. We were hoping that we would get to see it on ESPN2, but on the ship you can never be sure what ESPN feed you’ll get. We end up seeing lots of soccer in Spanish and other sports that don’t come on ESPN2 at home. It was a good day!

December 14 (Wednesday, Day 19, At sea) –

This morning we awoke to a blue ocean. After a full day on the verandah (shady Neptune’s in the morning and then shady 001’s in the afternoon), we reshowered for the pre-dinner show of “Moments to Remember” by the Prinsendam Singers and Dancers. The show was okay and when we showed up for dinner, we saw that our table was set for 8. Our waiter told us that the Chief Engineer and Shore Excursion Manager were joining us. Free wine for the table!

The Chief Engineer, Jaap Wisse, has worked for Holland America for 41 years and when his contract is up in March, 2012, he is going to retire. He said that he’s been to around 450 ports and on this particular contract (November, 2011 – March, 2012) he will add seven new ports to his list. It’s hard to believe that someone that has been cruising for 41 years is STILL going to new ports!

The Shore Excursion Manager, Judy Hu, used to work dockside in Vancouver for HAL and our tablemate, Anne, asked her if she knew someone that used to work in the same place and she did. It is the mother-in-law of Anne’s son! So, Anne was able to tell Judy what Brigitte has been up to for the last two years. Talk about a small world.

Formal night dinner was fun and when we returned to our room we were happy to see that we got to gain an hour, too.

December 15 (Thursday, Day 20, Bridgetown, Barbados; 1 BBD = $0.50; $1 = 2.00 BBD) –

We woke up, had breakfast in Neptune and got ready for our snorkel trip. HAL didn’t offer any snorkeling trips but Snookums found one online that looked good. It even included transportation. For $90 per person, we had a 5.5-hour catamaran snorkel trip on Cool Runnings with two snorkeling stops. Our first stop was with the sea turtles and there were around 8-10 turtles that seemed to be four feet long. The crew member fed the turtles and there was a ray lurking around, too. The turtles were everywhere and were very easy to pet. Snookums’ mask was fogging up so she swam a little bit away from the group and while treading water (without fins on), she defogged her mask. Well, she inadvertently kicked a turtle, too, and her foot hurt. Those shells are tough!!!

After the snorkeling with the turtles it was time to get back on the catamaran to sail to the next stop. Unfortunately, Snookums managed to step on a bee while walking on the catamaran. A crew member used a credit card to scrape the stinger off her foot and she survived. It didn’t actually hurt that much, but was an odd sensation and certainly unexpected!

Petting a turtle
Turtles everywhere
Turtle closeup

The next snorkel stop was at a shipwreck and a reef. The water was kind of murky and there were a lot of fish, but not that many pretty ones. But, there is no such thing as s bad snorkel.

Back on the catamaran to the third and final stop for swimming in front of “Shady Lane” which is the $1,500/night resort where Tiger Woods got married. A typical Bajan lunch was served on the catamaran, too. It consisted of tossed salad, potato salad with raisins (?), ramen noodles with collard greens, green beans, cabbage and corn, rice pilaf with red beans, chicken in a flavorful tomato sauce and filets of king fish. It was very tasty and Filbert enjoyed lots of the incredibly hot pepper sauce on his fish and washed it all down with a glass of draft Banks beer. Dessert was carrot coconut cake with cream cheese frosting. Filbert enjoyed several glasses of rum punch, too, and Snookums enjoyed her Coke Light.

Snookums found a Barbados penny on the ground while walking to the van. She seems to find foreign currency in every country. We got back to the ship around 2:45 and took quick showers and then headed to the cruise ship terminal for the free internet.

Dinner was a Caribbean BBQ outside on the Lido deck and the cooks manning the paella skillet and jerk chicken grills were having a great time. The food was okay, too, and it was nice to eat dinner outside. Our verandah doesn’t have a light on it or else we would probably eat some of our dinners outside on our verandah. Other HAL ships have lights on the verandahs, but the ms Prinsendam does not. Oh well.


After dinner we chose four of Filbert’s photographs and three of Snookums’ to enter in the ship’s photo contest. The four categories are landscape, wildlife, portrait and miscellaneous. Snookums didn’t even realize that she took photos, but she did and her piranha one is her favorite. (See Dec. 6, Day 11 to see it.)

When we got back to the cabin ESPN was showing NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Semi-Finals so we enjoyed watching some great volleyball. The finals (UCLA vs. Illinois) are on Saturday and we probably won’t see them since we never really know what “channel” of ESPN we’ll get. We seem to get a mix of ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN South America and ESPN Europe. We get a lot of soccer….

Snookums also looked at an old journal entry since she knew that Barbados had been a cruise port before. Sure enough, on December 13, 2009 we were here and snorkeled with the turtles! The amazing thing about it is that when we were doing it today, neither of us remembered ever being this close to turtles and touching them and everything. However, the journal for the prior cruise visit is almost identical to today’s write-up, including Shady Lane and everything. It was still a great day, even if we had done it before!

December 16 (Friday, Day 21, Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines; 1 XCD = $0.37; $1 = 2.70 XCD) –

We woke up and had our normal quick breakfast in Neptune Lounge and got ready for our HAL snorkeling trip. We took the tender to Bequia which is one of the islands of the Grenadines. Its population is 5,000 ha s 30% unemployment. It is a sleepy little island and is 8 miles away from St. Vincent which is the largest island.

On the tender ride to Bequia we saw a passenger we hadn’t noticed before. He looked to be our age and was very overweight (as was his wife). He wore a safari-type hat, a knee brace and carried a cane. And he was obnoxious and couldn’t keep still. Filbert nicknamed him “ADD Guy”. His wife slid into the bench seat in front of us and this man then proceeded to take up the rest of the room on the seat (and he wasn’t that big). He was using his cane to bang the seat and the floor and he was just loud. Another passenger boarded the tender and the obnoxious one gave him about 8” of the seat. Then he gave the passenger a bear hug when he sat down and it didn’t appear that they knew each other! When the tender got to Bequia, he kissed his wife for a really long time and said things like “Hot, hot, hot”, “Sexy babe”, etc., etc. His wife was just sitting there during the entire tender ride and looked like she wanted to just disappear.

We boarded the catamaran along with around 40 other HAL passengers which made it much more crowded than our 19-passenger trip in Barbados! One of the crew talked to us about Bequia, but ADD Guy kept using his hands like drumsticks and his beating on the catamaran’s railing was louder than the crew. When he quit his drumming, he started talking/yelling. We sailed for around an hour and passed some rather unusual homes set in amazing natural rock formations and arches in an area known as Moon Hole. One of the buildings was a hotel built in the 1950s that has gone to ruin. It’s too bad since the area is spectacular. We snorkeled for about 45 minutes and the reef had a lot of sea fans and sponges as well as a large variety of fish. We saw a 5-foot (at least) beige and black diamond backed sea snake on the ocean floor, too, which was neat. Filbert’s camera wasn’t working too well.

After snorkeling the mango rum punch started flowing and Filbert enjoyed it. Snookums enjoyed her water. Then we were dropped off at Princess Margaret Beach. It is called that since the royal patron dipped in at the beach during her island honeymoon. It was a fabulous beach and had lots of shade and sun if you wanted it and the sand was great, too. The waves were very gentle so it was ideal for swimming and just treading water and that kind of stuff. We saw our tablemates at the beach, Anne and Jim, as well as Jan. Gord isn’t a beachcomber and he stayed on the cruise ship. Anne and Jim vacationed at Bequia at least two different times many years ago and they enjoyed seeing the changes. They used to be able to hike a path from the harbor to Princess Margaret Beach but when they tried that today, they found that it was blocked off. They had to take a water taxi instead for $3/per person each way. So much for progress.

Then it was time to get back on the catamaran and the shore excursion was officially over. A woman on the catamaran volunteered to take our snorkel bag back to the ship with her so that we could walk around without lugging that around. She was a lifesaver.

We wandered around the 3-block long main street and saw two different vegetable markets and went in two or three grocery stores. Snookums found a Eastern Caribbean penny on the ground! Filbert purchased three bottles of hot pepper sauce (two reds and one green) made on St. Vincent’s to use when we get home. He also bought two bottles of local rum punch for gifts and two cans of local beer. There were some t-shirt and crafts stands, too. It was very laid back and the people were very friendly.

We took the tender back to the ship, washed our hands and went to lunch. We were hungry. ADD Guy and his wife were at lunch, too, and it took him about 20 minutes to get his food since he had to speak to everyone and anyone. His wife was just quietly sitting at a table eating her lunch the entire time that he kept walking around getting his food. He finally sat down after he got his bowl of ice cream (and his lunch was sitting on his table waiting for him to eat it). We finally left Lido after he sat down since the show was over. Then it was time to sit on the verandah and watch Port Elizabeth. There were a lot of live-in small sailboats moored in the harbor and it looks like a lot of people rent boats for a week or a month or so and live in them. It was very picturesque. We listened to St. Vincent’s radio (107.5 FM) and laughed at the 2:30 news update that came on at 2:50. That’s island time for you!!

We set sail around 5 PM and that meant it was time to shower. Dinner was in Pinnacle Grill (our second free dinner there) and we had reservations to eat with Anne and Henry, the couple we met during our very first lunch on the ship. We had a wonderful dinner and learned that Henry was born in Vienna, Austria (he still has the accent). He had a visa for the US, but the Germans invaded before he could get out. He was in a German-run labor camp from the age of 18 to 21. He lost his parents and at least one sibling to the concentration camps. He said that when the train pulled up to the labor camp, the Germans counted out 300 men and he was number 298. The rest of the men that weren’t in the 300 were then sent to Auschwitz where their destiny was the gas chamber. He also thinks he was the only one of those 300 that lived to be liberated. He had an older brother that went to the US prior to all of this and his brother served in the US Army during WWII. After Henry was liberated (and he says that he has two birthdays – the day he was born and the day he was liberated), he went to Belgium and ultimately the US and now lives in Miami. He and Anne met on a cruise around ten years ago and have been a couple ever since. They are definitely young at heart and live every day to the fullest. They are also the most fashionably dressed passengers on the ship! Hopefully we look and act as young as they do when we are in our mid-80s.

December 17 (Saturday, Day 22, At sea) –

We did our normal thing – shower and eat a light breakfast outside on the Neptune Lounge verandah. Then we went to the 10:45 Mariner Society Pre-Lunch Reception and sat with Anne and Henry. We enjoyed our free drinks while watching various passengers get their 100-day and 300-day medallions. One couple on this cruise has the 700-day medallions and two couples have the 500-day medallions. After this cruise, Filbert will have 190 days and Snookums will have 210 days. (Snookums cruised on HAL prior to marrying Filbert.) Medallions are awarded at the 100, 300, 500 and 700 days levels. After the reception we were supposed to attend the Mariner Lunch in order to get our tile. However, we had Pinnacle Grill scheduled and we never really like the two menu choices offered for the Mariner Lunch so we didn’t go. (Our tiles were delivered yesterday.)

We enjoyed our Pinnacle Grill lunch immensely. We think lunch is actually better than dinner. Our last two Pinnacle Grill lunches (on two different ships) were great whereas the dinners were spotty with service issues and lukewarm food. Lunches are never packed, either, whereas dinner reservations tend to fill up. Our hamburgers and French fries were top notch and Filbert’s antipasto starter was great and Snookums’ grilled shrimp bruschetta with corn relish was fantastic. Dessert was a chocolate brownie decadence that was like a loose vanilla custard with a little bit of chocolate taste with a chocolate cake-like topping. It was different, but very good. We were stuffed.

Snookums took a 3-hour nap after lunch and Filbert listened to BBC on the verandah before some sprinkles sent him inside. It was cloudy and warm most of the day but there really wasn’t much rain. After Snookums woke up she started updating the journal and Filbert decided to take a 1-hour nap prior to dinner.

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 – Fresh From the Sea, Culinary Arts Center
11:00 – Bridge Instruction, Half Moon Room
11:30 – Cruise Classics: Paper Tower Challenge, Crow’s Nest
1:00 – Foodie Fight: Culinary Trivia, Explorer’s Lounge
1:30 – Boi Bumba DVD Screening, Showroom at Sea
1:30 – Learn to Dance: Line Dance, Ocean Bar
1:30 – Texas Hold’em Tournament, Casino
1:30 – Duplicate and Party Bridge, Half Moon Room
2:00 – Spa Secrets: Phyto for Healthy, Shiny Hair, Explorer’s Lounge
2:00 – Blue Diamonds Jewelry Raffle with complimentary champagne, Signature Shops
2:30 – Cruise Classics: Triple Wicket Croquet Shoot, Sports Deck
2:30 – On Coronations and Corgis with Travel Guide Frank, Showroom at Sea
3:00 – Afternoon Tea with the Rosario Strings, La Fontaine Dining Room

Around 7 PM we decided that we were still stuffed from lunch and instead went to Neptune Lounge to put together a vegetable tray for dinner. Snookums also went next door to Crow’s Nest to see if Jan and Gord were there enjoying their pre-dinner cocktails. They were so she told them that dinner was being skipped. She chatted with them awhile and also took the two kinds of nuts from their cocktail table for the night’s in-room “dinner”.

December 18 (Sunday, Day 23, Oranjestad, Aruba; 1 AWG = $0.56; $1 = 1.79 AWG) –

We booked our own snorkel excursion so we made sure we were the first people off the ship at 8 AM. (Filbert’s underwater camera was still malfunctioning.) The $1.20 public buses weren’t yet running so we took a $14 taxi to the snorkel office on Malmok Beach. We were then told that the trip was canceled due to the bad weather yesterday. We decided to walk along the beach, in the direction of the ship, and see if we could find any other snorkel trips. We found two more but ultimately decided not to go snorkeling since it was very overcast and if the rain was bad yesterday, the water was probably going to be murky. So, we continued to walk along the beach, in the surf in our bare feet, until we got back to the ship! The beaches were beautiful and were not busy at all, maybe due to the closeness of the Christmas holiday. We walked on Palm Beach which is considered to be one of the top 12 beaches in the world. An area of the beaches between the high rise hotel district and the low rise hotel district was actually dead coral (or volcanic rock?) and looked like what you would find on the moon. It was very sharp (we put our flip flops back on) and had many blow holes that would spurt water when the waves were just right. It took around three hours to get back to the ship and we probably walked five miles. Along the way we stopped at an ice cream shop and Snookums bought a Diet Coke and Filbert bought a 7.5 ounce bottle of Balashi beer.

We decided to order room service for lunch and ate on the verandah. Our side of the ship looked out to the Caribbean Sea and there was a sandbar with a tree on it kind of in the middle of the sea. It was very picturesque and added to our lunch ambiance!

We also had a message from Anne saying that she and Henry wanted to join us for dinner tonight at our table so Snookums called Cahren (Neptune Lounge concierge) and asked her to notify the dining room about setting our table for eight people.

We set sail from Aruba and Filbert decided to use up some of his internet minutes to listen to the last three minutes of the SDSU at Washington men’s basketball game. He was thrilled to hear them beat this PAC-12 school 92-73 and had to continue to listen to the post-game radio show.

Dinner was a fun event with Anne and Henry joining our table. At 9:45 PM the fun broke up and we headed back to our cabin and went to bed.

December 19 (Monday, Day 24, At sea) –

We enjoyed our normal breakfast on the Neptune Lounge verandah and have noticed that it seems like only one other couple (Diane, grew up in St. Louis and a graduate of University of Missouri, and George) really come to Neptune Lounge for breakfast. They eat inside, though, and we have never had anyone else out on the verandah when we’ve been out there. Cahren said that most suite guests eat breakfast in Pinnacle Grill since that is one of the suite perks. Snookums did a few errands, including mailing a bunch of Christmas cards, and also found out that none of our photographs were voted as winners.

The passengers in all 19 suites were invited to an exclusive Indonesian luncheon honoring Holland America’s Indonesian heritage with a special “Rijsttafel” (rice table). We met in Pinnacle Grill at 11:30 but the actual lunch was IN the galley. It was really neat since they made a really long table and we were seated on either side of it (and there were place cards so we had assigned seats). One side of the table looked at a wall and the other side of the table looked at the working galley. We got the “good” side and got to watch the cooks at work. The galley was even decorated for the occasion with Indonesian regalia and the stewards wore their own Indonesian shirts. Filbert was seated directly in the middle of the long table and sat across from Linda Minnikin, the Cruise Director. Snookums sat next to him and was across from Diane, the woman that frequently eats breakfast in Neptune Lounge. Her husband, George, was getting over being seasick (the night was a bit rough) and didn’t come.

The starters that we received were:
– Kerupuk (prawn crackers)
– Bumbu Gado-Gado (steamed assorted vegetables with peanut sauce)
– Soto Ayam (chicken consommé with coconut garnished with vegetables and quail eggs)
Then we were served a plate containing all of the following entrees:
– Nasi Goreng (Javanese fried rice)
– Sambal Udang (shrimp in spicy chili sauce)
– Daging Rendang Sumatra (stewed beef Sumatra style)
– Pisang Goreng (banana fritter)
– Sambal Goreng Buncis (chile spiced green beans)

None of the dishes were spicy (really, they weren’t) and the condiments included Serundeng (roasted peanuts with toasted coconut), Ketjap Manis (sweet soy sauce) and Sambal (spicy chili sauce). We used a lot of the sambal! The maitre ‘d apologized to us for not having any fresh sambal but the ship ran out of fresh chili peppers. The jarred stuff had to do.

Dessert was Pudeng Nasi (rice pudding with brown sugar sauce) and it was an awesome rice pudding with HAL’s huge raisins in it and it was served in a martini glass and the runny brown sugar sauce had been placed on top of it much earlier so that it soaked into the rice pudding. It was absolutely delicious (and rich).

Red and white wines were also free flowing and Snookums ordered a Caffeine Free Diet Coke. Filbert and some of the other guests were sweating during most of the lunch since the galley was hot (and we could see the steam coming from the stoves and steamers as the cooks were working) but it was a lot of fun and a really neat experience. Since the Prinsendam is small and only has 19 Deluxe Verandah Suites, it can offer these more intimate experiences to its suite guests. When we were on the Amsterdam, with its 52 Deluxe Verandah Suites, the suite lunches were in the Crow’s Nest and you had to juggle your plate on your lap. Even Pinnacle Grill isn’t big enough to hold the passengers from 52 suites.

After lunch Snookums met with Tina, the future cruise consultant, to book three more cabins for the ms Amsterdam’s 14-day Alaskan Explorer cruise in 2012. When Hotel Manager Craig Oakes upgraded us to Suite 001 on this cruise he created a suite monster in Filbert and as a result, Filbert requested that Snookums book a Deluxe Verandah Suite for the Alaska cruise! Snookums’ parents will also be in a Deluxe Verandah Suite. Two of her sisters will be in an inside cabin very close to her parents’ Deluxe Verandah Suite and her brother and sister will share a verandah suite (but not a Deluxe one so they won’t have Neptune Lounge access) somewhere on the ship. It should be a fun trip with eight of us going.

ESPN was showing Saturday’s replay of UCLA vs. Illinois Division I Women’s National Championship and Snookums enjoyed watching UCLA win while Filbert was on the verandah.

Later on in the afternoon Snookums went to an “invitation only” event. The invitation stated “As a travel agent, group escort, valued Mariner or business partner, you are invited to this cruise’s question and answer session” and since Snookums had never seen this kind of invitation before, she went. She found out that it was a focus group-type meeting and the Hotel Manager, Cruise Director and Shore Excursion Manager were there to listen to the kudos and complaints from a small group of passengers. There were around ten passengers there. Free sodas were passed out, too!

Snookums’ only comments were that it would have been nice if HAL would have notified the passengers in advance about the possibility of having to conserve water while on the Amazon (and therefore shutting down the public laundry facilities for eight days) since this seems to happen on EVERY Amazon cruise. She also suggested that the Captain’s 1 PM daily announcement either be taped and replayed on TV like the lectures are or even typed up and posted at the Front Desk. If you are eating lunch in Lido and the Captain comes over the PA, you can’t hear him since not everyone shuts up. She also requested that there either be a larger internet package sold or even an unlimited one sold. Right now the largest internet package is 250 minutes for $100. Filbert used two packages on this cruise and Snookums used one. Unlimited internet would be awesome!

Tonight was the sixth and final formal night and we decided yesterday not to attend. We enjoyed room service instead. The steward brought our appetizers (escargot, seafood bisque and salad for Filbert and shrimp cocktail and penne pasta with pancetta for Snookums) and then said he would come back in around 15 minutes with our entrees so that they would be hot. That was a first and much appreciated. He brought Filbert’s surf and turf (lobster and filet mignon) and Snookums’ parmesan crusted veal. Filbert enjoyed his white wine and Snookums ate chocolate decadence cake for dessert. It was a nice evening.

Our stewards (Yekti and Amin) came in and serviced our suite for the second time (they come every morning and evening). When they left we noticed that they left a certificate on the bed that proclaimed that Snookums and Filbert cruised the Amazon while in Cook’s Suite 001 and a picture of Captain James Cook and a little of his bio was on the certificate, too. We assume that only 19 of these were handed out (one per Deluxe Verandah Suite since each Deluxe Verandah Suite is named after someone which is not the case on the ms Amsterdam where they just are numbered). This is just another example of how the Deluxe Verandah Suite passengers on the Prinsendam are treated. It’s nothing big, but it is kind of neat. We’ll post it on our basement wall along with the equator crossing certificates we were given earlier in the cruise.

We turned on TV and saw that Monday Night Football (Steelers at San Francisco) was delayed due to a power outage. That doesn’t happen too often! We also moved our clocks back one hour.

We both woke up around 12:30 AM due to the motion of the ocean. We didn’t feel sick, but the ship was rocking and rolling and listing a lot. We turned TV on in case the football game was still on, but it wasn’t. We listened to the post-game show, though, and found out that San Francisco won.

December 20 (Tuesday, Day 25, At sea) –

We woke up around 7 AM and were tired from the bouncy night. We showered and went to Neptune Lounge for our normal breakfast. Maybe tomorrow we’ll eat in Pinnacle Grill for our last breakfast. When we returned to our clean suite Snookums updated the journal and Filbert wrote his Christmas cards.

We went to lunch and Snookums ate her dessert with Anne and Henry and talked for a couple of hours. Snookums learned that Henry gets a pension from both Austria and Germany and also might get some reparations from France since he was captured in France. It’s the least that these countries could do.

Then it was time to pack. It’s always much easier to pack at the end of a cruise than it is at home. At the end of the trip you just have to empty out all of the drawers and closets in the cabin. Easy.

Snookums went next door to Bill and Marykaye’s room and asked if they could email a photo of yesterday’s Indonesian lunch in the galley since Snookums didn’t want to buy one from the ship’s photographer. She was told “Yes”! That photo will go in this journal, with the proper credit given to Marykaye.

December 21 (Wednesday, Day 26, Ft. Lauderdale, FL) –

We woke up and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in Pinnacle Grill. It was nice being served a hot meal for breakfast. We saw two ambulances pull up and waited to see what was going on, but after thirty minutes we decided to call it quits. We did see some passenger luggage being put in one of the ambulances so we know that a passenger was sick, but we gave up and went back to our cabin.

We left the ship at 8:30 AM and got to our airport gate at 9:20AM. That had to be a record of some kind. Snookums also found $1.36 as she was going through airport security. The flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Chicago wasn’t too full and we managed to have an empty seat between us. After a quick bite at O’Hare, we boarded the flight for Kansas City and arrived 20 minutes early. By the time we got our luggage, Snookums’ brother was at the curb ready to pick us up. Nothing like ending the cruise with a no-hassle day of travel!!

We traveled about 1,000 miles of the Amazon (Macapá to Manaus) and that was enough to get a taste of this 4,200-mile long river. It was a great cruise, but from what we can tell, there are only seven ports of call in the Amazon and we traveled to six of them. I don’t think we need to go on another Amazon cruise just to visit the other port, Belém!

Another cruise’s end, another sunset


The 2011 Amazon Explorer Cruise, part 6 of 7

The 24-Day Amazon Explorer Cruise 2011, November 26–December 21, 2011, Holland America Prinsendam
Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert

Part Six

December 9 (Friday, Day 14, Manaus, Brazil) –

Manaus Opera House

We woke up, showered to get ready for a hot and humid day, had a quick breakfast and then headed out for a quick walk around Manaus. We walked to the Catedral da Matriz and continued along Avda Eduardo Ribeiro to the Palace of Justice and the Opera House. It was inaugurated in 1896 and took 15 years to build. The rubber barons were very, very wealthy and almost all of the materials were imported from Europe. The wood used for the chairs and floor were local but even it was shipped to Europe where it was carefully molded before being sent back to the jungle for installation. We had to make this a quick walk since our big event of the day was to go to the Regent Seven Seas Navigator cruise ship after it docked to meet our friend, Bill. We returned to our ship to get our laptops and then left again at 9:45 AM to go to Regent.

Santa on Manaus street

Our visitors’ paperwork was in order, we were given are personalized visitor badges and our admittance onto the Regent ship was easy. Bill and Matt, his partner, came to meet us and we enjoyed spending the morning with them in their suite. Their Amazon cruise is almost identical to ours (round-trip from Ft. Lauderdale) but is one day behind us. Snookums has been sending emails to Bill letting him know about the “must do” things at each port, like bringing bananas to Devil’s Island to feed the monkeys and using the little used path near the bar at Boca da Valeria. Filbert and Snookums have cruised on the Navigator before and remembered its layout. We even recognized the dining room manager at lunch.

Bill and Matt had to leave at 1:15 for their shore excursion but allowed us to stay in their suite to use the free internet on the ship as well as to drink the free beverages. They also gave us their bottle of champagne, white wine, 4 beers and bottled water – basically the beverages in their free minibar that they didn’t drink. Filbert took advantage of the free internet to post the journal that he just finished editing from our HAL ms Eurodam cruise that we took in August/September (

We got back to our ship around 3 PM and noticed that preparations had already begun to cast off. When we got on the ship, Snookums noticed that the “all aboard” sign said 2:30. As we were walking to our cabin we were worried that we were actually late. However, when we got to the cabin we saw that all of the paperwork clearly said 3:30. There was an announcement right then about two passengers and we were able to watch out our balcony to see that there were some ship’s officers nervously pacing around the gangway. The two passengers came back to the ship around 3:20 and then the captain immediately came on and made an announcement about now that everyone was on board, we would leave. The printed disembarkation time was 4:00. At dinner we found out that a noon announcement had been made on the ship that the all aboard time was moved up an hour to 2:30 since the captain hoped to disembark by 3:00. We don’t know why it was moved up but we are confident that HAL wouldn’t have left anyone since the computer that scans people on an off the ship knows the time that people left. We left before the all aboard time was changed so we should have been safe! Even though we were ON the ship, as we were walking to our room we were kind of worried that we were late and we didn’t like that feeling. (Even if the ship was still here, we wouldn’t want to cause HAL to wait for us if we came back later than the printed all aboard time. We try to be good passengers.) Once we found out that we were right, we felt much better!

Amazon river boats at Manaus
Regent Seven Seas Navigator
Waters, meeting, again

December 10 (Saturday, Day 15, Parintins, Brazil) –

Fruit market, Parintins

We woke up, Snookums showered and then we went to breakfast in Neptune Lounge. Snookums’ normal breakfast is a sunshine parfait (minced cantaloupe and honeydew topped with plain yogurt and then sprinkled with raisin granola) dumped on mixed fruit and a raisin bun. Filbert ate his two packages of high protein instant oatmeal and a plate of meats and cheeses. Filbert decided not to shower after breakfast since the trip to Parintins was destined to be hot and sweaty. He put on sunscreen and bug spray, though. Snookums opted to not use any sunscreen and hasn’t used any bug spray on this cruise. Her skin is no darker than before the cruise and she wants some color!

We rode the tender to Parintins which is a town of around 100,000. It is famous for its Boi Bumba festival that is always held the last three days of June. During the festival, second only to Carnaval in Rio, people sing and dance all day long and then flock to the Bumbódromo for the performance of the red vs. blue team (or performers). The Bumbódromo seats 30,000 and is only used during these three days a year.

Red. Blue.

We immediately hired a pedicab for 20 reals to take us on an hour tour of Parintins. The driver didn’t speak English, and we knew he wouldn’t, but it was a lot of fun and much cooler than walking. At the end of the tour Snookums tried to give him 20 reals and he wanted 30. Before we got in his pedicab he said “$10 US” and Snookums said “20 reals” and put up two fingers and a zero and said “reals” and he nodded so we thought we were good. Well, 30 reals is around $15 so we gave him $10 instead. We were hoping to use our Brazilian reals since we got a few too many from the ATM in Macapá, but oh well. We’ll take the better deal any day and keep any leftover Brazilian reals for a future trip. After our restful, and cool, pedicab ride we decided to walk around. We basically retraced some of our pedicab tour but saw a super mercado right before it closed at noon. Filbert bought a can of Coke Zero ($0.90) and Snookums bought a lime popsicle ($0.40) that was made in Parintins. We also went in the local mercado and saw sides of beef hanging in the 92 degree heat. One vendor tried to sell Filbert a bag of powder that was labeled “Viagra” but Filbert passed on that opportunity.

On the way back to the tender we looked at the temporary kiosks selling souvenirs but didn’t find anything. We always like to buy a small painting as a souvenir and in the Amazon we’ve only seen stuffed piranhas, wood carvings, and jewelry made of wood, seeds or feathers. We haven’t even seen any t-shirts!

In Parintins, Santa rides traffic lights

We rode the tender back to the ship and decided to sit in the top level where the driver sits. Unfortunately there is no airflow there and we both sweat more on the tender back to the ship than we did during our time in Parintins. The day was mostly cloudy which helped a lot. It is almost bearable when in the shade or when it is cloudy. When the sun is out, combined with the humidity, it is miserable!

If we had been in Japan, this would probably have been a squid.

After quick showers we went to Lido for a leisurely lunch. While eating we were entertained by several pink dolphins. They don’t jump or spin, but it is kind of neat seeing a pink “blob” every now and then in the muddy water. After lunch Snookums started reading her book but immediately fell asleep for almost 1.5 hours while Filbert went to the library to write.

That night we smelled burning wood. We smelled it several times at night when we were cruising the Amazon. We don’t know if it was cooking fires or what and we could only see jungle on either side of us, but the burning wood smell happened more than once at night on the Amazon.

The 2011 Amazon Explorer Cruise, part 5 of 7

The 24-Day Amazon Explorer Cruise 2011, November 26–December 21, 2011, Holland America Prinsendam
Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert

Part Five

December 8 (Thursday, Day 13, Manaus, Brazil) –

“A Three-Hour Tour . . .”

We woke up around 7 AM and saw that the water was the color of iced coffee, almost a dark black-gold compared to the cafe au lait “muddy” color that it sometimes is. This is because Manaus is on the Rio Negro and the muddy Amazon meets the Rio Negro to the southeast of Manaus. We passed the “Meeting of the Waters” about an hour before docking in Manaus but since we also saw it at Santarém (involving the muddy Amazon and the Rio Tapajós), we didn’t wake up special for it. We got ready for our shore excursion that we booked with others through some posts on for 250 reals per person (or $160 per person). Rodolpho Emanuel A. Leite was the tour guide ( We left the ship at 10 AM and got on a covered speedboat with 10 other HAL passengers. There was another speedboat, too, in our tour. The boats took us 20 miles to Tupé where an indigenous Indian tribe with about 14 or 15 families in it relocated to the Amazon from an area between Peru and Columbia.

“The weather started getting rough”
Into the jungle

We were treated to 45-minutes of native dancing and it seemed very authentic, including the females being topless (and having no tan lines). There was a little boy that looked about 3 years old and he was running around naked and at some point he was hungry and went to his mother and did some breast feeding when she wasn’t dancing. Snookums figured we should give these people some money so she bought a bracelet for 10 reals. They didn’t have any change for her 20 real note so she bought a second one. It was a good use of $10 or so.

The shaman

Song and dance:

Right as we were leaving the Indians, it started pouring rain and lightning. Unfortunately the covered speedboats only had clear plastic sides that could come down but they weren’t that good. Filbert got soaked during the almost 2-hour ride to the next stop, swimming with pink river dolphins in a tributary of the Rio Negro called Ariau. The speedboats couldn’t go their normal speed due to the rain and that made the trip even longer.

“The tiny ship was tossed”

We finally got to the dolphin place and it was still raining. Luckily the Rio Negro is pretty warm and even Snookums was more comfortable IN the water as compared to being out of it. Pink river dolphins can grow to around 9-feet long and they have very strong jaws and sharp teeth. The workers were the ones that fed the fish to the dolphins since we could have gotten bit. After seeing the mouth, that made perfect sense. The dolphins at this location are truly in the wild and there aren’t any nets or fences or anything. At some point there was a research station here and the dolphins just stuck around. There are around a dozen at any given time and there are both pink and grey river dolphins. The pink freshwater dolphin, also known as boto, is endangered and is one of five known freshwater species. It is considered to be the most intelligent and their brains average 40% larger than human brains.

This location also had a pen with pirarucu fish in it that we got to see thrash around. These are the largest freshwater fish in the world and can grow to almost 10-feet long.

Pink dolphin (although this one might be one of the grey ones!)

Now that we were in our wet bathing suits we all got back in the speedboats and headed for lunch. Unfortunately we didn’t get to the floating restaurant until around 4:30. Snookums was in the very front solo seat of the speedboat and her face was pelted with rain. Filbert gave her his hat and she wore it on her face almost like a muzzle and just closed her eyes (which were covered by the hat). The captain also gave her a flannel-backed plastic tablecloth to help keep her dry. It wasn’t a pleasant boat ride at all. Even Filbert was cold and he never gets cold. Oh yeah, the boat conked out, too, but the captain was able to get it going after about 10 minutes or so.

The restaurant, located in Lake January, had a very good buffet ready for us and it included fried pieces of pirarucu that almost looked liked fried ribs. Filbert had one and liked it and the fish bones were huge. No one had ever seen fish bones as thick as these. Pirarucu are huge fish, that’s for sure. After we ate we walked along a bridge through the jungle and saw monkeys in the trees. We also saw a caiman near the giant lily pads.

Caiman (yeah, it’s there . . . )
Lily pads

The tour was supposed to then go to the “meeting of the waters” where the Rio Negro (black water) meets the Amazon (muddy water), but one of the boats opted to head back to the ship. Filbert and Snookums took that boat. An interesting note about the Rio Negro is that its pH level is around 3.5. Because it is so acidic, there are very few insects. (We didn’t notice the acidity when we were actually IN the Rio Negro with the dolphins, but we have noticed a definite lack of insects on this entire trip, black water or muddy water. We brought bug spray and we are taking anti-malaria prescription pills, but really don’t need either preventative measure.) We got back to our cabin around 6:30 PM and Snookums took a quick shower in order to head back outside to see Manaus and the festival of the Immaculate Conception.

Before she could even leave the cabin there was a huge fireworks display over the cathedral that she watched from the cabin. Then she went out and walked the three blocks to the Catedral da Matriz. A stage was set up outside and there were tons of tables and chairs, all filled, as well as a row of church volunteers selling fish dinners, beverages and desserts. Snookums bought a 2 real ticket and exchanged it for a piece of cake with yellow stuff on it. It ended up being lemon cake and she was happy. On the way back to the ship she wandered around a very busy street market and half of the vendors were already closed for the night. People were everywhere, though, and she doesn’t think it had anything to do with the church festival. She stopped at an air conditioned “normal” store and bought a $4 bottle of Brazil wine for Filbert. (Filbert was tired from the day of speedboating and stayed in the suite.)

The 2011 Amazon Explorer Cruise, part 4 of 7

The 24-Day Amazon Explorer Cruise 2011, November 26–December 21, 2011, Holland America Prinsendam
Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert

Part Four

December 6 (Tuesday, Day 11, Santarém, Brazil)-

Meeting of the Waters, Santarém

We woke up and went to the gym for a 45-minute workout. Then we had a light breakfast at Neptune Lounge. We had been told that we would be able to see the “meeting of the waters” starting about one hour before we docked at Santarém so we went to the Crow’s Nest to see it. It is quite impressive to see the muddy water of the Rio Amazonas (Amazon River) flow side by side with the reddish-black water of the Rio Tapajós. The two rivers flow side by side for a few miles before their waters mingle and this phenomenon can be easily seen from Santarém, a city of 200,000. After a quick lunch it was time to meet for our piranha fishing excursion. For our $79 piranha fishing expedition, we got on a covered boat with about 35 other HAL passengers. Before we got on the boat, we walked by two larger boats that contained a bunch of hammocks and people in them and luggage on the floor. We learned that these boats would either take the passengers to Belem (near the Atlantic Ocean) or to Manaus (farther upstream on the Amazon). For $50, a person can book a hammock for the 48-hour trip. For $100 a person can get a cabin. This 48-hour boat journey would only take 45 minutes by air and but would cost around $300.

Our boat took us to Maica Lake which is a natural tributary outlet of the Amazon. Along the way we passed the meeting of the waters. We saw a pink river dolphin and several black river dolphins. Both species are pretty elusive and don’t really seem to travel in pods. A dolphin surfaces and then it goes away. And since the water is so muddy, you can’t see it under the water. You either see it during its short time on the surface, or you don’t.

When we got to Maica Lake, we were given long lengths of fishing line with a hook that had raw beef on it. To fish for piranha you just throw it overboard. Snookums got bored rapidly and quit trying but Filbert kept on fishing. His bait was eaten one time but he didn’t get a fish and had to re-bait. Our boatload of people caught seven or eight apple piranhas and one catfish. The largest piranha was probably six inches long. They weren’t that big, but their jaws seemed very strong and their teeth even stronger. The crew on the boat made sure to take the piranhas off the hooks a certain way so that they didn’t get chewed up. The crew definitely respected the piranhas.


We thought we were going to get to eat cooked piranha, too, but that didn’t happen so Snookums will have to go to the Tour Desk and find out why the tour wasn’t as advertised. During our trip to and from Maica Lake we saw several “shacks” along the banks. We also saw some “ranches” and cattle but they were also just little shacks and some barbed wire fences. It is definitely rustic living!

We got back to the dock at 5:05 PM and a free shuttle was running to town until 6 PM. Snookums hopped on and went to town and walked around. She found three tourist stores but they each wanted $1 or so for a postcard! Santarém was a little bit more of a tourist town as compared to Macapá, but not much. Lots of people were out and about and it was quite pleasant with a breeze and the setting sun. When Snookums returned to the dock she shopped at the tourist stands and found out that postcards were $.50 there. It’s the first time Snookums can remember seeing things cheaper on the dock as compared to town. She didn’t buy any on dock, either.

The daily program stated that the self-service laundry facilities will be closed from today until December 13 in order to save water. We are thankful that we have HAL to do our laundry for free (and, yes, the laundry service will continue to operate). With it being so hot and humid, we are changing clothes at least once a day.

December 7 (Wednesday, Day 12, Boca da Valeria, Brazil) –

Boca de Valeria

Today we anchored and tenders went back and forth to Boca da Valeria. Rio da Valeria is one of the thousands of tributaries that feed into the greater Amazon River and the village of Boca da Valeria (mouth of the Valeria) is at the meeting point with the Amazon. It is a typical Amazon village with around 75 permanent residents. Filbert decided to stay on board but Snookums was up for the adventure. Before she left we saw a couple of pink river dolphins from our verandah.

She got on the tender and a little boy with his sloth was hanging out of a canoe leaning in the other door of the tender. You could take his photo and give him money. The tender got to shore and children immediately rushed up and grabbed for hands since the kids wanted to be tour guides (and earn money). They didn’t speak any English. Snookums kept her hands clasped together and walked along the path that went through the “village”. She saw several huts on stilts, a church, a school, a restaurant (it looked out of business) and a bar. The bar was basically a gazebo and it was at the end of the path and was full of HAL passengers drinking cold beer and sodas. Along the way there were lots of children holding parrots and monkeys and sloths and some of them were dressed in “Indian” garb (feathered headdresses and such). If you took a photo, it was expected that money be given. Snookums only took photos of the overall atmosphere. There were also six or seven kiosks selling various handicrafts (mostly wood carvings) but Snookums didn’t find anything of interest. If you buy any wood object at any of the ports, it will be put in the ship’s freezer for at least 48 hours to kill any bugs in it!

Sloth boy

There was a path to the left of the bar and Snookums walked along that. It went into the forest and she enjoyed the huge trees and tropical flowers. There were three huts at the end of the path and she turned around and retraced her steps to the main street (path) of the village. She was surprised to see a TV satellite dish. While Snookums was at Boca da Valeria, it was cloudy and therefore very pleasant. Villagers were also offering 30-minute canoe rides on the Valeria River for $5 (US) per person, but Snookums only had large Brazilian reals with her and didn’t want to hassle with getting change back so she didn’t participate but would have liked to. If she ever returns here, she will take fresh fruit (but not bananas since they grow wild in the jungle) from the ship and hand it out at the end of her time on shore (so as not to get a hoard of people following her during her time on shore).

Traffic jam

While Snookums was on shore, Filbert stayed on the ship and finished the journal from our August-September Baltic/Northern Explorer HAL ms Eurodam cruise. In Manaus we plan on meeting with our friend, Bill, on his ship, Regent Seven Seas Navigator. He is also on an Amazon cruise and is a day behind us but since we overnight in Manaus, we’ll overlap. Not only do we plan on visiting with him, but now we’ll use his free internet access to post the past-due trip journal to

Snookums went to the gym before dinner and was the only one there for her 45-minute workout. After that it was time for our third formal night dinner. After dinner we noticed a lot of insects on the outside of the windows by the dining room. We could only see the undersides (and had no interest in going outside to see the tops of them), but one of them had a red head, a yellow middle and a blue end and its underbelly was light green. Very pretty! It was bigger than a lightning bug but wasn’t huge or anything like that. These were the first insects we noticed since arriving in the Amazon other than wasps on our piranha fishing trip.

The 2011 Amazon Explorer Cruise, part 3 of 7

The 24-Day Amazon Explorer Cruise 2011, November 26–December 21, 2011, Holland America Prinsendam
Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert

Part Three

December 3 (Saturday, Day 8, Devil’s Island, French Guiana; €1 = $1.32; $1 = €0.76) –

Snookums woke up at 9:55 and decided to run to Neptune Lounge for a sunshine parfait (minced, and NOT diced, cantaloupe topped with yogurt and granola) mixed with fresh berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries). She thought the breakfast items were taken away at 10 AM in Neptune, but she found out it’s served until 10:30. She ate her yogurt mixture on the verandah and read her book. Filbert woke up and visited Neptune Lounge, too, but didn’t know Snookums was on the verandah and he ate his oatmeal inside and then returned to the cabin.

Filbert saw a hammerhead shark from the cabin and another fish that he managed to photograph.


Snookums came back to the cabin around 11 and both Snookums and Filbert saw some foot-long fish (at least they looked around 12 inches from up on deck 12) that might have been baby sharks. The ship slowly passed the three islands of French Guiana on the starboard side which is the side our suite is on. One of the three islands, Île du Diable (Devil’s Island), was considered escapeproof because of the strong currents and sharks. They look like tropical paradise and one would never know that of the 80,000 prisoners that were sent here, only 30,000 lived to tell about it. The ship tendered to 70-acre Île Royale which was also part of the prison and up to 2,000 criminals were interred here at one time.

Devil’s Island
On Île Royale
Tropical paradise
Monkey see, monkey eat

We walked around the island for about 2-1/2 hours and were very happy that there was a stiff breeze to help with the humidity and sunshine. There were no bugs. Along with the ruins of the old barracks, chapel, lighthouse and the former guards’ mess hall that has been restored to a not exactly luxurious hotel with a gift shop (but the postcards were bad), we saw red-rumped agoutis (large tailless, long-legged guinea pig-like rodents), monkeys, chickens, a pheasant (!) and sea turtles. We even managed to see an agouti steal an egg from a chicken and eat the insides. It was a great, albeit sweaty, day. If we manage to come back here, we will wear our swimming suits since there is one place on the island (Anse Legoff) where you can swim and it looked very inviting.

Agouti eating an egg
Sea turtle, eating a jellyfish?

Upon arriving back to the cabin, Filbert immediately took a shower while Snookums went to Neptune Lounge and enjoyed some fresh vegetables while reading her book on the verandah. Filbert joined her. Around 5:30 PM, Snookums left since she was getting chilly. After a nice shower, we enjoyed watching Baylor vs. Texas football on ESPN until it was time for dinner.

Sunset over French Guiana

December 4 (Sunday, Day 9, At sea) –

We woke up around 9:30 AM when the phone rang. No one was there. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast on the Neptune Lounge verandah and Snookums saw a large fish, possibly a shark. She saw a smaller fish, too, that seemed to be about a foot long. After breakfast we read while lounging on our verandah. Then it got sunny and we went back to Neptune and its port-side verandah for a late, light lunch. During all of this verandah-sitting, we noticed that the water went from green to muddy. We aren’t supposed to reach the Amazon until 4 AM, but we are already starting to reach water from it.

When our suite was cleaned, an invoice was left under a new bottle of water for the bottle of water that Filbert drank yesterday. When the Hotel Manager showed us suite 001 on Tuesday, he made a point of noting that the mini-bar had been emptied (since that was one of our minor issues the first two days) and when we moved to 001 we saw that there were two bottles of water and we assumed they were free. Guess not. Snookums wrote a little note to the Hotel Manager and included the $1.91 invoice and requested that someone come and pick up the ship’s two bottles of water since we brought a case of water onboard and had no intention of buying any from HAL.

Since we’re in a Deluxe Verandah Suite, we were invited to a 7:15 PM pre-dinner cocktail party in the Crow’s Nest. We met a couple from Australia who is doing this cruise and then a 7 or 14-day Christmas cruise and then they are doing Holland America’s world cruise and will get off in Sydney since that’s home. That’s a lot of cruising!

December 5 (Monday, Day 10, Macapá, Brazil, Crossing the Equator; 1 real = $0.56; $1 = 1.78 real) –

Welcome to Macapá

We woke up early to get ready for our bus transfer to Macapá. We actually docked at Porto Santana and this is the first port in the Amazon and is where all ships must be cleared by Brazilian officials. Macapá is a 45-minute bus ride away, in a bus without air conditioning! It’s a town of around 300,000 and is split by the equator. It is not a tourist town.

We bought the $24 per person bus transfer to Macapá and walked around the town for 2.5 hours. If we didn’t buy the bus transfer we weren’t going to be able to walk around Porto Santana since it’s an industrial port and therefore we would have had to stay on the ship. When we got to Macapá we stood in line at two different banks to try to use the ATM but our debit cards didn’t work at either bank. We finally found HSBC, which is an international bank, and our card worked and we got our Brazilian reals. For some reason every bank that we passed had lines in it and we remembered seeing this in Rio de Janeiro, too, when we were there last year. And, it was taking some of the people a very long time at the ATM to do their banking so we don’t know what they were doing.

Another goal we had for today was for Snookums to buy Havaianas which are Brazilian flip-flops. When we were in Rio they were everywhere and all of the Filipino and Indonesian crew were buying them for their families for gifts. When Snookums returned back to the U.S., she noticed ads in various magazines for Havaianas and that is when she decided she had to have a pair of these cheapy rubber flip-flops. 23 reals later (or $11.50) and she has a cute pair.

Then we went searching for a store that was mentioned in all of the guidebooks and finally was told that it was “finito”. (We don’t speak Portuguese, but when we showed the name of the store to the construction guy that was at the store’s address, he said “finito” and we realized it was out of business.) After that, we went to the large grocery store and bought 8 cans of Coke Zero ($.70 per can which was cheaper than the price of Classic Coke), a 12-pack of Bohemia beer ($1.10 per can) and a 12-pack of Guaraná Antarctica ($.80 per can) which is a Brazilian soft drink that we were told we needed to try when we visited Rio but never had the chance. Well, we bought a 12-pack of the diet variety and it tastes like a sweet version of ginger ale so it isn’t too bad. Guaraná is the soap nut. (??)

Y. Yamada grocery store (supermercado)

On the way back to the shuttle stop we passed by the grand Fortaleza de São José de Macapá which was built in the mid 18th century. By then it was time for the hourly shuttle back to the ship so we took it. We never even got to a tourist store!! A teenage boy got on the bus to sell postcards and since Snookums didn’t have a chance to see any souvenirs, she managed to get 10 of them for $2 (but used Brazilian money) after he asked for $1 US for two of them. She felt like she got a great deal and even gave one of them to a lady that didn’t have a chance to buy a post card of the fort. On the ride back to the ship we knew we were going to pass the Monumento Marco Zero which straddles the equator and Filbert was ready with his camera and got a great shot from the moving bus.

Fortaleza de São José de Macapá (or the sign thereof, anyway)
The Monumento Marco Zero

Dinner was excellent and we enjoyed choosing from things like vegetable and smoked duck rice paper roll and seafood and artichoke en bouchée for appetizers and soups included famous Italian wedding soup and cream of five onions soup. Entrees included spaghetti carbonara, blackened snapper Oaxaca-style and roast turkey with giblet gravy and cranberries. Snookums and Filbert ordered the turkey and enjoyed it. Desserts included torrone (chocolate nougat studded with candied fruit and pistachios and drizzled with chocolate sauce), Tom Pouce (sweet vanilla pastry cream between layers of puff pastry) and strawberry Romanoff. Snookums ordered the Tom Pouce with fond memories of Bruges, Belgium where there is a restaurant called “Tom Pouce” on the historic city square.

The 2011 Amazon Explorer Cruise, part 2 of 7

The 24-Day Amazon Explorer Cruise 2011, November 26–December 21, 2011, Holland America Prinsendam
Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert

Part Two

December 1 (Thursday, Day 6, Castries, St. Lucia; 1 XCD = $0.37; $1 = 2.70 XCD) –

Filbert set the alarm for 6 AM since we wanted to be off the ship as soon as it docked at 8 AM. Our plan was to snorkel on our own since the ship didn’t offer any snorkeling shore excursions. Neptune Lounge opened at 7 AM and we were ready before that so were enjoying the view from our balcony at the very front of the ship when we saw dolphins. The pod of five or six dolphins finally left and then we went to breakfast.

Police academy, St. Lucia

After waiting for the ship to clear customs, we finally got off around 8:30 AM and found out that a taxi ride to the one snorkeling place would take 90 minutes each way and cost $100 total. We found one boat company that was going to the same place and it was going to leave at 10:30 and return at 3:30 for $100 total (plus lunch on your own) but the boat looked like a little motor boat with very little shade so we decided to pass.

We returned to the ship to drop off all of our snorkel gear and then took the water taxi ($5 per person, round-trip) from our dock to the city directly across the harbor. It wasn’t that far to walk, but since it was so hot and humid we decided to save our legs for the actual walk in the city rather than the walk to and from the city. We walked by lots of sidewalk vendors selling things to the locals (clothing, soap, sidewalk bars, sidewalk “cafes”, etc.) and wandered in two grocery stores and Filbert bought the local Piton beer (3 bottles for $3.10 which was much cheaper than yesterday). We also found the central plaza/park named for one of the two Nobel prize winners from St. Lucia. We saw a class of police recruits learning how to be a traffic cop, too. In fact, we saw them two different times at two different intersections. Right as it started to pour rain, we went in the craft market which was nothing but rickety stall after stall of locals selling St. Lucia t shirts, spices, rum, paintings and straw items. We found the one fish store and it was selling snook so Filbert had to get a photo of that since he calls Snookums “Snookums”. The women behind the counter laughed and got a whole snook from the freezer for the photo opportunity.

Snook for sale

During our walk Snookums found a 1 cent coin of an Eastern Caribbean dollar and in front of one of the vegetable vendors she found a dollar coin. She gave the dollar coin to the vendor and kept the 1 cent coin for her collection. Snookums still has a knack for finding currency in foreign countries.

The sidewalks in St. Lucia are almost non-existent and it was a tricky at times to dodge traffic while not falling in foot-deep gutters. We got back on the ship around 11:30 and Filbert took a quick shower since he was soaked from sweat and rain, but mostly sweat. Then we weighed ourselves in the gym and found that we are at, or below, the weight we recorded on embarkation day. So far, so good. After that we ate a leisurely lunch inside Lido. It was so humid outside (and still raining) that eating outside wasn’t too appealing.

Snookums enjoyed another 2-hour nap and then decided to check email. She found that the internet manager credited her account with 15 free minutes yesterday. Filbert got them in his online account, too! We don’t even try to get free stuff and we get it.

When we went to dinner, the restaurant manager asked us if we would like to permanently join a table for six so we moved from table 19 to table 300 and met Gordon and Jan and Jim and Ann. Both couples are from Vancouver, but didn’t meet until this cruise. We had a nice dinner and they said we could stay with them the rest of the cruise. Whew, Snookums was worried that we wouldn’t be permitted back at their table. We got back to our room and turned out clocks ahead one hour.

December 2 (Friday, Day 7, At sea) –

We slept in and Filbert had a leisurely light breakfast in Neptune. Snookums skipped breakfast. All suite guests were invited to a back of the house tour at 10:45 AM followed by a gourmet lunch in Pinnacle Grill. The back of the house tour mainly involved the galley and all of its various stations and rooms. When we got to Pinnacle Grill, we were shown to our assigned seats and we were seated at a table for five with two sisters who each have their own deluxe verandah suite and Craig Oakes, the Hotel Manager. The lunch was delicious and we learned from Craig that the Pinnacle Grill chef is a recent addition to Holland America from a 1-star Michelin restaurant in Hamburg, Germany. He recently served a 5-course meal for the officers in the captain’s quarters and Craig said it was delicious.

Prinsendam “Back of the House” tour:

Our fabulous lunch consisted of an appetizer of duck breast on a lentil salad with orange vinaigrette and then a cream of snow pea soup flavored with curry and mint with a lobster fritter on top. The lunch entree was a choice of veal with foie gras on an onion, leek and potato puree or a filet of sea bass with herbs served on a cherry tomato ragout and olive tapenade. Filbert and Snookums both ordered the sea bass and when it was served, Filbert just wanted to sit there and smell it since it smelled so good. It tasted even better. Dessert wasn’t that impressive but we ate the creamy homemade raspberry cheesecake anyway. After lunch the chef came to our table and Snookums told him that the snow pea soup was very good and she could taste the subtle hints of mint and curry and the chef said that he roasts his own curry powder and that he simmered the soup stock for four hours and then did other things to it. It definitely wasn’t Campbell’s soup out of a can! This “perk” for suite guests was a very nice highlight of a sea day.

In the afternoon Snookums decided to get some sun and managed to get a rosy glow after only one hour on the balcony. The balcony doesn’t have chaise lounges so her rosy glow is only on her front side, but it’s better than nothing.

Dinner was our second formal night and we went to Neptune Lounge beforehand and asked Cahren to take our picture.

Formal night, Dec. 2

The 2011 Amazon Explorer Cruise, part 1 of 7

The 24-Day Amazon Explorer Cruise 2011, November 26–December 21, 2011, Holland America Prinsendam

Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert

Part One

November 26 (Saturday, Day 1, Flying to Ft. Lauderdale) –

The cruise itinerary

We left home around 8 AM and it was raining but around 55 degrees which is just about unheard of for Kansas City in late November. We’ve flown out in ice storms before during this time of year. We ended up in Ft. Lauderdale without any hassles. Our Southwest flight was mostly full, but we managed to keep an empty middle seat between us. And, a Southwest pilot and flight attendant and 14 of their family and friends were passengers on the flight in order to go to the wedding of the pilot and flight attendant. It was a happy flight! We stayed at Sleep Inn & Suites Ft. Lauderdale International Airport (our preferred hotel when cruising out of Port Everglades) and bought four 12-packs and four 2-liter bottles of Coke Zero and a case of water at the Walgreen’s next door. (We brought an empty rolling duffle that Holland America gave us on our 2008 65-day Grand Asia and Australia cruise to haul the beverages.) We enjoyed dinner at Pancho’s Backyard, the Spanish and Mexican restaurant across the street. Snookums had the shredded beef and Filbert had the spiced pork, both from the Spanish side of the menu. The restaurant is really good and gives hotel guests a 15% discount.

We turned in early.

November 27 (Sunday, Day 2, Boarding ms Prinsendam) –

We left the hotel at 10 AM and got to the ship quite early. We waited for the US Coast Guard to finish the inspection since the ship had just come to the US from the Mediterranean and had an enjoyable talk with a couple, Bill and Marykaye who have Suite 003. We were literally the first people on the ship and immediately went to the front desk and asked about any upgrade opportunities. We were told that someone would get back to us. (We received an email from Holland America about one month prior to sailing informing us that for $1598 total, we could upgrade to a Verandah Suite. We decided to just wait and see what cabin we were given. One week prior to sailing we found out that we were given a Deluxe Verandah Ocean which is what we paid for. Snookums called Holland America and found out that Verandah Suites were still available so we decided to just wait and see when we got onboard.)

We went to the dining room for our lunch and while sitting at a table for two, the elderly couple next to us started talking and before we knew it, we all decided to eat dinner together in Pinnacle Grill in mid-December. Okay!!!! We’ve only been on the ship for 30 minutes and we’ve already made friends, Anne and Henry.

We went to our cabin (153, midship on deck 9) and found out that a lifeboat was right beneath us. That means that when we look down, we see the lifeboat and not the side of the ship. Oh well. We can still see plenty of ocean, we just can’t see the ocean as it is “splooshing” off the side of the ship. Our Deluxe Verandah Ocean has two lower beds converted to a king-size bed, walk-in closet, bath with tub & shower, sitting area, private verandah, refrigerator and floor-to-ceiling windows. It is approximately 250-sq. ft. including verandah. It is laid out very well for its size and Snookums is happy since the gym is down the hall. The dining room is two floors below us and the front desk/shore excursion desk/shop are one floor below. It is very well located!

Stateroom 153

Snookums went to the shore excursion desk in order to buy our tours, including one that Filbert will go to on his own in Barbados of a rum distillery and a beer factory. Snookums might do a jungle tour while he’s doing that since there aren’t any snorkeling excursions.

In our cabin there were five bottles of champagne from the travel agent, Holland America and others. There was also a card saying chocolate covered strawberries were a gift from our travel agent. Filbert called and asked for those to be delivered right away since Snookums couldn’t wait to eat them. We also had two identical floral arrangements delivered by Holland America. We sent one back and asked for it to be delivered later in the cruise. Our cabin isn’t big enough to hold all of these items!!

The nice thing about a small cabin is that it doesn’t take too long to unpack. We were unpacked by 4 PM when the lifeboat drill took place. After that we went to the 5 PM Sail Away Party by the pool. It was a nice evening in Ft. Lauderdale. When we got back to the cabin we still didn’t have the strawberries so Snookums called and requested they be delivered on Monday around 4:30 PM. She was really looking forward to them, too.

Dinner was at Pinnacle Grill, the additional cost steakhouse. We got it for free if we went on the first night. So, we did. The Pinnacle Grill manager sent over two glasses of champagne, probably because he knew that we are getting another free dinner later in the cruise due to issues with a Pinnacle Grill dinner on a prior cruise (during our November, 2010 Prinsendam, in fact, and the manager is the same man). Snookums ordered the hamburger made out of filet mignon and Filbert ordered the beef skewer. Snookums’ medium hamburger was very red and she sent it back. It was also made up of large pieces of filet and they didn’t hold together well. It ended up looking more like a sloppy Joe without the sauce than a hamburger. Even after it was recooked to make it less red she didn’t eat it but was fine with the various side dishes she ordered. However, the chef came out and explained that the fibers in filet mignon differ from hamburger and that’s why the meat didn’t stick together. Whatever. Snookums was happy with the side dishes so she didn’t mind, but obviously the Pinnacle Grill Manager and other people did!

When we walked back to our room we noticed that the Christmas decorations were up. There is a Christmas tree at the top of the stairs on Deck 9 which is helpful to Snookums since it is on our side of the ship and now she knows what side the cabin is on.

When we returned to the room we realized that we didn’t receive any new laundry bags and we didn’t have any ice. Snookums called the Front Desk and was told that ice delivery needed to be scheduled for a certain time each day. Snookums kept asking why the ice bucket couldn’t just be filled during the twice-daily servicing of the room and finally Snookums asked to speak to the supervisor. The supervisor came on the phone and assured Snookums that ice would be put in the ice bucket twice a day, just like on all Holland America ships. Laundry bags were delivered, too. We also asked, again, for the mini-bar to be emptied of the beverages that cost money since we brought our own. We set our clocks forward one hour and went to sleep.

November 28 (Monday, Day 3, At sea) –

We slept in and went to lunch around noon. It was great eating outside since we didn’t have that opportunity on our last cruise since it was a colder weather cruise (the Baltic, Iceland and Greenland).

Snookums realized a wrong tour ticket had been delivered and called and got that straightened out. Filbert called for the fourth time about having the mini-bar items removed from the room. Snookums started putting away the clean laundry that had been delivered and saw that her newly cleaned polo shirt had been spilled on between the laundry and the cabin. She called and a crew member came to pick it up for re-do.

The chocolate covered strawberries were delivered around 4:30, but they were frozen solid! Snookums called the front desk and informed them of this and was told that the kitchen couldn’t make any more today. Snookums was fine with that and scheduled them for Tuesday afternoon. However, 10 minutes later chocolate covered strawberries WERE delivered and they were yummy. Snookums’ not sure why she was told they couldn’t be delivered today and then they were, but whatever.

We were just sitting in our cabin reading our books around 5 PM when all of a sudden our door was opened a crack and a lady from the front desk stuck her face in. Since we had “privacy” on the door (in the key hole so it had to be removed in order to put in a master key!), we were completely mystified by this. Snookums jumped up and rudely yelled at the woman about our privacy sign and the woman said that she would report herself to the front desk. Well, Snookums did too. We had issues 2 ½ months ago while on Holland America’s ms Eurodam when crew members were on our balcony twice, unannounced, and wrote to Holland America about privacy and was assured that the Prinsendam would be informed and things like this wouldn’t happen. Well…. Needless to say, the Front Desk supervisor was apologetic.

We went to dinner and found out that the other four people that were assigned to our table for six didn’t show up last night and they also didn’t show up tonight. Snookums ordered the angel hair pasta with tomato sauce, spinach, pine nuts and goat cheese but sent it back when it ended up just being angel hair pasta with tomato sauce. Filbert ordered a medium steak and sent it back when it was leaving a large pool of blood on his plate. We were NOT trying to be difficult, we just wanted what we ordered!

Sunset, Nov. 28

November 28 (Monday, Day 3, At sea) –

Cook Suite

Snookums woke up and went to the 7:30 Fitball class. It was held in the Ocean Bar rather than in the gym. In fact, all of the fitness classes are either held in the Ocean Bar (with a wooden dance floor) or in the 4th floor atrium. The last time we were on the Prinsendam all the fitness classes were in the gym, but the Ocean Bar does seem to be larger. Then she enjoyed her oatmeal with humongous raisins in it outside. Eating outside is soooo nice!

Filbert was showered and just coming to breakfast as Snookums was leaving so she sat with him. The Prinsendam has 750 passengers on it and we haven’t run into any line or seating problems during the buffet breakfasts or lunches.

We went back to our room and there was a bottle of wine and a very large flower arrangement along with a note of apology from the Front Desk supervisor. We also had two voice mails from the Front Desk manager. Snookums called her and the manager also apologized. Snookums asked her when the upgrade request question from Sunday’s embarkation would be answered and she promised to get back with an answer. We went to lunch and upon returning to our room we had two more messages from the Front Desk manager asking if we would be willing to meet with the Hotel Manager. Filbert called and said “yes”.

The Front Desk manager came to our Verandah Cabin around 2 PM and took us to the Neptune Lounge (the lounge is only for Deluxe Verandah Suite guests) to meet with the Hotel Manager, Craig Oakes. He apologized for everything that had happened and said that the staff had been briefed about our Eurodam experiences 2 ½ months ago when crew members showed up unannounced two different times on our balcony. He even mentioned the issues at last night’s dinner with the two items being not as ordered. That surprised us since we didn’t make a big deal about dinner. He said that every time something is sent back to the kitchen it is noted and he gets the list every day. After a few minutes of asking us for the details of the various issues we had (the minibar, the strawberries, dirty laundry, etc.), he offered to give us a complimentary upgrade to a Deluxe Verandah Suite, Cook Suite #1, for the remaining 22 days. He took us to it and pointed out that the minibar had already been emptied for us. We also saw that our personalized stationery was there along with the standard welcome letter. The Hotel Manager obviously planned this as soon as he heard about the issues we had.

We said “yes” and immediately returned to our 250-square foot cabin and packed up our loose odds and ends and let the crew get the rest. Suite #1 is 522-square feet and has two televisions, two sinks, two desks and two sofas. Its verandah is larger, too, and has two comfy chairs with footstools, a side table, and a large table with two chairs. And, it comes with Neptune Lounge access, free laundry (which we already get due to our frequent cruising status), free dry cleaning and lots of parties, cocktail hours and other special events for the guests of the 19 Deluxe Verandah Suites. The answer to our question on Sunday about upgrade opportunities was a resounding “yes”! And, our neighbors are the couple in Suite 003 we met on embarkation day, Bill and Marykaye.

More of the Cook Suite

Dinner was still with just the two of us and the dining room manager told us that the other four guests had switched to the 5:30 seating. He asked if we wanted to join another table of six and we said “yes” so we’ll see what happens tomorrow night. We were getting a lot of attention at dinner and after our first bite of every course, someone would come over to ask how it was. All of it was very delicious except for the brownie but Snookums feigned being full rather than ordering a different dessert. We decided we didn’t need to ruffle any feathers. We feel like we are under a microscope as it is!

November 30 (Wednesday, Day 5, Gustavia, St. Barts, France; €1 = $1.32; $1 = €0.76) –

In Gustavia, at the top of the steep hill

We woke up when our phone rang at 7 AM. Neither of us knew where it was (it’s on Filbert’s nightstand) and never managed to answer it. Oh well, our day began an hour earlier than expected. We showered and then enjoyed a nice, leisurely, quiet breakfast in Neptune Lounge. Snookums had a yogurt parfait dumped on top of a bowl of fresh strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. She also had one of Holland America’s world famous raisin buns. Filbert made his high protein, low cal instant oatmeal that he brought with him and made a coffee drink that consisted of serving of coffee, cappuccino and espresso. (The Neptune Lounge has a high-end single serving coffee maker that makes those types of coffee drinks and he put them all in his travel mug. He said it wasn’t that good of a combination.) We ate outside on the Neptune Lounges verandah and had the place to ourselves.

We boarded a tender and started walking around St. Barts around 9:15. We decided to hike up the steep road leading to Fort Oscar. That road was the steepest one we had ever walked. We found out that Fort Oscar is now the police station and is closed to the public but that didn’t stop us from going back downhill only to walk up a bunch of steps to Fort Karl. There were some old stones left, but that was it. But, it was a great overlook and Filbert took “THE” photo of the Prinsendam in the distance framed by tropical flowers in the foreground.

THE photo. Better in concept than in execution.
A secluded cove
St. Barts Critter

We were both drenched in sweat by then and decided we had seen enough (and we had basically seen all of Gustavia). We hit the supermarket on the way back to the tender and Filbert bought three kinds of beer ($16.50 for 12) and a 12-pack of Coke Zero ($11.85).

The nice thing about St. Barts is that there are NO chain stores or restaurants of any kind. We didn’t see a McDonald’s or a Diamonds International. There weren’t any shanties or stray dogs, either, that are frequently seen on other Caribbean islands. It is supposed to be where the rich and famous come and we did see a couple of very large yachts.

St. Barts harbor; big yachts in center

When we got back to the ship, Filbert immediately took a shower and then we went to lunch. After lunch, Filbert sat on the verandah while Snookums took a nap. Then when Snookums got up, Filbert decided to take a nap. The great thing about the suite is that the king size bed has a heavy curtain that can be drawn around it so naps can be very quiet, if needed! Filbert used the curtain but Snookums didn’t since she can sleep through anything.

While Snookums was napping Filbert went to the sail away and had two glasses of Holland America’s sangria. There is a little story about HAL’s sangria. In early November while Filbert was surfing, he found a recipe for HAL’s sangria. He wasn’t even aware that HAL served sangria, but he sent the recipe to Snookums’ sister with instructions for her to make the HAL version for our Thanksgiving get-together. She did and everyone really enjoyed it. Then when it was listed as a sail away drink, he knew he had to go try it. He said it was very tasty.

HAL sangria off St. Barts

While Filbert was napping Snookums logged on the internet. That normally wouldn’t be a problem except that the night before Thanksgiving (and 3 nights before we left home) her PC died and so now she is using Filbert’s Mac. She couldn’t figure out if she had logged out or not and had to call the ship’s internet manager. Snookums called the Neptune Lounge concierge and simply asked Cahren to tell the internet manager to make sure she was logged off and that no return call was needed. Problem solved.

We went to dinner and two other couples were also placed at our table. Snookums and Dave live in Wales and Pat and John live in Phoenix. We had an enjoyable dinner and we’re not sure whether they are permanent table 19 seatmates or not.

Captain Halle Thon Gundersen and his officer on the flying bridge

The 2011 Amazon Explorer Cruise

The 24-Day Amazon Explorer Cruise 2011, Holland America Prinsendam

November 26–December 21, 2011

Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert


The 24-Day Amazon Explorer Cruise 2011 (from Holland America)
The Amazon (from Holland America)

This is the table of contents for the online version of our trip journal. Here are the chapters:

Part One – To St. Bart’s

Part Two – St. Lucia

Part Three – Devil’s Island, Macapá

Part Four – Santarém, Boca da Valeria

Part Five – Manaus

Part Six – Manaus, Parintins

Part Seven – Alter do Chão, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Aruba