The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Part 9

Contributed by: filbert Friday, October 16 2015 @ 06:40 AM CST

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Holland America ms Amsterdam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Nine

November 2 (Friday, Day 43, At Sea) –

Indonesian dinner

For the first time since she hurt her neck last Thursday, Snookums went to the gym for Fab Abs. After showering and breakfast, she napped on the verandah for a couple of hours until Filbert came outside announcing that rather than overnighting in Brisbane, the ship was going to drop anchor in Hamilton Island, Australia which means a Great Barrier Reef snorkel trip. (Filbert was coming back from the lecture on “The Pacific: Hotbed of Volcanoes & Earthquakes” and the announcement was in the mailbox.)

The ocean was like glass all day and we saw dolphins once and flying fish several times. Filbert spent a lot of time on the verandah listening to his shortwave and he also attended the “Darwin, Northern Territory and aboriginal Australians” lecture in the afternoon. While he was there, Snookums attended crafts and made a pretty lariat necklace out of various green glass beads that she will actually wear. Snookums also attended Total Body Conditioning at 5 PM.

We attended the $69 Indonesian Dinner in Pinnacle Grill. Snookums wore the blouse she bought in Lombok and the necklace that she just made. We ate with David, Mary and Roberta (all Deluxe Verandah Suite guests, although four of us had never seen Roberta before and that was a standing joke during dinner) and we all had a great time. Tina, one of the Pinnacle Grill waitresses, was the cook for this superb dinner. Her mother actually brought her the various Indonesian spices (like Indonesian basil that she used in the beef rendang) when the ship was docked in Semarang. Tina enjoys cooking and made her mother’s recipes for all of us to enjoy. It was definitely well worth the $69. And, every woman received a handmade 2012 Grand Voyage commemorative angklung (Indonesian musical instrument). Snookums and Filbert both really enjoyed the steamed barramundi fish marinated in lemon grass that was wrapped in a banana leaf and the dish made of sautéed tofu and bean sprouts. All of the items were delicious, but these two were the best.

November 3 (Saturday, Day 44, Darwin, Australia; $1.00 AUD = $1.04, $1 = $0.97 AUD) –

Darwin, Australia

Snookums woke up and went to Total Body Conditioning. We decided to get on the first shuttle to town since the shuttles were going to run every thirty minutes. We stood in line for 15 minutes prior to the ship’s planned docking time and since the ship was thirty minutes late in clearing, it ended up being a 45-minute wait in line on the ship. We DID get on the first shuttle but there were actually around six shuttles waiting for people so we would have been just fine waiting in our cabin. Live and learn!

The weather was very humid since it rained in the morning and the temperature was around 90. Needless to say, it was thick. We got off the shuttle and decided to just walk around Darwin. We talked about walking to Bicentennial Park, too. While walking around, we stopped at a bush outfitter store and Filbert bought a nice pair of shorts. Then we went to the post office and found that mailing postcards from shore ($1.60) was cheaper than on the ship ($1.85) so we mailed our five Komodo Island post cards. Snookums then bought a pair of shorts at a camping supply store. At that point we decided to go to Woolworth’s (a regular grocery store) and then head back to the shuttle. So much for doing a lot of walking! Filbert bought alcoholic ginger beer and regular beer for himself and John (tablemate) and Snookums bought licorice for her mom.

We got back to the ship around 1:45 and headed to Lido for lunch. A lot of the humidity burned off and it was actually much more pleasant after noon than before. We did not time our excursion well at all. Oh well! After lunch Snookums took a nap while Filbert sat on the verandah. While listening to Australian radio, Filbert learned that Prince Charles and Camilla were visiting Papua New Guinea for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. It isn’t safe enough for our ship but is safe enough for British royalty. Go figure. (They’ll visit Australia and New Zealand, too.)

Snookums went to Fab Abs at 5 PM and then got ready for dinner. There was an Aussie Outback Barbie poolside from 5:30 PM – 8 PM, but we didn’t go since all of HAL’s barbeques seem to be the same. They usually serve grilled sausages, hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, fish and various salads. The decorations are different, but the menus are usually the same. In this case, there were directional signs taped up that said Sydney and Perth and things like that and the servers wore bush hats. We went to our regular table (#25) in the dining room instead, and like always, had a very enjoyable dinner with John/Sharie and John/Laura.

Darwin sunset

November 4 (Sunday, Day 45, At Sea) –

Snookums went to Fab Abs and then had her normal low-cal breakfast of blueberries, plain yogurt and Special K. Filbert ordered room service since Neptune Lounge has too many carbs for him. The Faberge eggs were being displayed in the Neptune Lounge so Snookums looked at them. There were only four eggs, though, and she didn’t feel like spending $30,000 on any of them or spending $3,000 on cufflinks. Snookums used the rest of the morning to write the journal and then we went to the suite lunch held in the galley. Eight tables were set up in the galley, with cooks doing their normal line duties, and we ordered from the regular lunch dining room menu. We sat with Roberta (she really does exist, but we still hadn’t seen her since our Indonesian dinner in Pinnacle Grill) and it was loud and chaotic, but was a change of pace.

Suite lunch in the galley

At 2 PM, the clocks were set forward 30 minutes. Snookums attended crafts and made an Australian Aboriginal dreamtime tissue cover and then went to Total Body Conditioning. Then it was time for the Black & Gold formal night followed by the Black & Gold Ball. The restaurant and Queen’s Lounge were both decorated with tons of black and gold decorations and looked very nice. When we returned to our cabin, two Steiff stuffed bears, wearing HAL 2012 Asia/Australia scarves, were on the bed. Snookums would have rather had luggage tags for the new luggage.

November 5 (Monday, Day 46, At Sea) –

Snookums and Filbert slept until 9:00 and then went to “Things to See & Do in Brisbane”. Sharie had complained about the toilet paper in their Deck 1 cabin so Snookums went on a toilet paper quest. The toilet paper in the Deluxe Verandah Suites was the same as in three other public bathrooms which further convinced Snookums that Sharie’s room steward was just getting their toilet paper from a different pallet and it wasn’t because they were in “steerage”. Snookums and Filbert then met John and Sharie at noon for lunch in Pinnacle Grill and Snookums presented Sharie with four rolls of quilted toilet paper. Snookums and Sharie really, really enjoyed their hamburgers and fries. (Snookums and Filbert learned that Canadians eat white vinegar on French fries and even Canadian McDonalds provide packets of white vinegar.)

Snookums and Sharie then went to crafts and were happy to see that four other women saved spots for the two them. And, one of the women gave Semarang, Indonesia bookmarks to the five women that were made out of cow skin (but not leather). Then we got down to business and made tropical wood necklaces and earrings. While Snookums was busy bonding with women, Filbert played his computer game most of the afternoon. Snookums went to Fab Abs at 5:00 and it was a killer workout for the three people that showed up. She even had to take a few breaks during some of the sets and that rarely happens. And, Snookums was very happy to see that she got her trophy on the face of her watch since she met her weekly goal and that happened even though she was on “injured reserve” until Friday!

Scenic commentary occurred throughout the day since a Great Barrier Reef pilot boarded the ship. He pointed out the locations made famous by Captain Cook and Captain Bligh. We saw islands and on the starboard side of the ship, the coast of Australia. In fact, around 2 PM the casino closed until November 8 due to local regulations since the ship is so close to Australia.

At 7:00 Filbert and Snookums went to the Guy Fawkes Bonfire Night celebration in the Crow’s Nest. Once again HAL did a great job with decorations. There were two realistic-looking bonfires, lots of orange balloons, a stuffed Guy Fawkes and Guy Fawkes’ poems on every table. It was happy hour so Filbert enjoyed a double Manhattan for $1 more than a regular Manhattan. John and Laura ate dinner at Canaletto so just like at lunch, John & Sharie and Snookums & Filbert ate dinner together. Sharie said that when she returned to their Deck 1 cabin after crafts, she couldn’t believe her eyes – the toilet paper that the steward left was the quilted kind! Snookums was right. The toilet paper is the same all over the ship, but various shipments come at different ports and are stored in different locations on the ship which is why some of it is different. In any event, Sharie is now happy!


November 6 (Tuesday, Day 47, At Sea) –

Snookums went to Fab Abs (and her watch showed the trophy she got for making last week’s goal) and ran into Filbert while leaving the gym. Even though it was very windy, he was up and about taking photos of Australia. We went to breakfast and lounged around until we finally showered prior to enjoying the lunch curries served poolside.

After lunch Snookums and Filbert went to the Crow’s Nest for the 152nd Melbourne Cup Winner’s Circle Celebration. The Crow’s Nest was decorated in pink and green fabric and tons of matching Mylar strips on the floor. There were two big screens showing the horse race live since this morning the ship completed the negotiations for the rights to show it. The ship couldn’t officially sponsor any betting due to local regulations, but several passengers had various pools going. The Crow’s Nest waiters were passing around various salmon canapés and champagne was being sold at Happy Hour prices (buy one, get one for $1). Filbert enjoyed four Coopers Original Pale Ales since the bartender told him they were also on happy hour pricing, but they weren’t and he was only charged for two. (And Filbert read the label on this Australian beer and found out that it was imported to San Francisco. So much for drinking beer from Australia!)

Prior to the start of the race a woman on TV sang the Australian national anthem and everyone in the Crow’s Nest stood up and all the Aussies sang along. Snookums thinks that most of the Australian passengers were in the Crow’s Nest and most of them were dressed up. Snookums was also dressed up, including wearing a fascinator, but she was probably the only non-Australian to do so. Snookums asked one of the Australians if she was appropriately attired with her fascinator (made by Mom) and was assured that she looked great. And, after seeing the other women with their fascinators, Snookums’s looked every bit as good (and maybe even better!) than theirs. The woman that Snookums talked to actually owns three horses and last year had a horse in the Melbourne Cup so she should know about race day fashion. 24 horses started the race and Green Moon was the winner.

Race day

Snookums left the party prior to the race starting since she had to get to crafts to make her teabag folding art greeting card. Nancy Grace, the crafts teacher, pointed Snookums out to the group by announcing, “We have a fascinator in our midst. Show everyone.” Snookums gladly obliged and walked through the Lido restaurant aisle to show the other 49 crafters her outfit. While Snookums was at crafts class, Filbert got some Australian money in order to pay for our passenger-organized $150 (AUD) snorkeling trip tomorrow.

Snookums went to Total Body Conditioning at 5 PM and then our regular table of six met for dinner at 7 PM at Canaletto, HAL’s Italian (no charge) restaurant. Snookums wore her Melbourne Cup outfit (including fascinator) and everyone loved it and dinner was a nice change of pace. (And the cotton candy machine was working, unlike in July during our Alaska cruise, so we received a plate of cotton candy after dinner.)

November 7 (Wednesday, Day 48, Hamilton Island, Australia; 1 AUD = $1.04, $1 = 0.97 AUD) –

At The Reef

Hamilton Island is the largest inhabited island of the Whitsunday Islands in Queensland, Australia and has a population of 1,400 on 1.9 square miles. On a beautiful sunny day, we met the other 27 snorkelers in the Ocean Bar at 7:45 AM and got on a tender. After filling out several forms and getting equipment (including jellyfish stinger suits), we boarded a fast boat for the snorkel spot on the outer reef. It took about 30 minutes to get there and the boat was going very fast which made it very windy. We had a great snorkel even though Snookums was the second person back to the boat since she was cold. The coral was colorful and the fish were, too. No one got stung and everyone was pretty chilled by the time the boat started back. Unfortunately, since the boat went so fast that made for a very cold ride back to Hamilton Island. We did stop at Henning Island National Park to warm up and for our morning tea (soft drinks and cookies) and that was great. Then we had another ten minutes in the fast, windy boat to get back to the dock.

The Reef (2 pictures)

Filbert and Snookums went to Bob’s Bakery for lunch since everyone said that it was the best, and cheapest, place to eat. Filbert bought a $4.50 beef, bacon and cheese meat pie and Snookums bought a $4.50 chicken pie. Snookums thought hers looked just like a Banquet Pot Pie removed from the foil tin but it tasted much, much better. Filbert returned to the dock and took a tender back to the ship in order to watch the election results. (Obama won.)

Snookums wandered around a bit, looking at the colony of fruit bats and the white cockatoos, and caught the free island shuttle for a trip around the island and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. This island is the nicest island she has seen. The views all over the island were spectacular (and everyone speaks English!). Cars aren’t allowed so people use golf carts or the complementary shuttles.

Fruit bats
Hamilton Island view

Snookums returned to the ship and had some snacks from Neptune Lounge before falling asleep on the verandah. After a shower she watched “Muriel’s Wedding” which was filmed on Hamilton Island.

November 8 (Thursday, Day 49, At Sea) –

Snookums woke up around 9:15 and sunbathed on the verandah until Filbert woke up around 10:30. We showered and then went to the Commonwealth Brunch in Lido and enjoyed the various Commonwealth foods like a full English breakfast, Scotch eggs, fish and chips, beef and mushroom pies and Australian Lamingtons (chocolate soaked sponge cake rolled in coconut). It was definitely a tough morning!!

Snookums went to crafts and made a tuck-away travel wallet and then did Fab Abs at 5 PM. Somehow she managed to get a cramp in her hamstring while doing the ab exercise of back extensions. Only Snookums can work her legs while she is supposed to be working her abs!

John and Sharie made dinner plans for Pinnacle Grill since they wanted to let the four Americans discuss the election. However, the outcome was known at last night’s dinner and only about ten words were mentioned at that time. But, we four Americans ate in Lido and literally said nothing about the elections! We were NOT impressed with Lido for dinner, either, since three entrees had run out and three of us had to wait for up to five minutes for the next batch. And, no one from the bar staff ever stopped by the table. It just seemed understaffed and lackadaisical for dinner and none of us feel like returning. It was formal night, however, so we did not dress up since Lido doesn’t require it.

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Part 7

Contributed by: filbert Friday, October 16 2015 @ 06:30 AM CST

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Holland America ms Amsterdam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Seven

October 29 (Monday, Day 39, Semarang, Java, Indonesia; 10,000 Rp = $1.04, $1 = 9,610 Rp) –

View from Borobudur

Today was an exciting day since Semarang is very close to where a lot of the Indonesian crewmembers live. Over 800 family members were visiting the ship today to see their loved ones. HAL’s crew contracts are ten months long so the few hours that the family members could spend were very meaningful.

Filbert and Snookums purchased the $249.95 per person 9.5-hour Borobudur by Train shore excursion. John & Laura and John & Sharie were on it, too, so we arranged to be on the same bus. As the bus left the pier, we saw lots of excited family members waiting to enter the restricted port area. They all waved to us and we waved back. We later learned that each family member only had to wait in line around five minutes to get his or her security check processed since so many non-Indonesian crewmembers volunteered their time to help with the check-in process. The 2014 World Cruise will stop in Bali, Indonesia and Manila, Philippines so most of the other crewmembers will get to see their families during those two stops.

The bus convoy had a police escort, with lights and sirens running, for the 56-mile trip to Borobudur and it’s a good thing. Traffic was awful and the police would force vehicles off the road so that the buses could get through at a good clip. In towns with a divided street, the police would switch to the oncoming side and force traffic to stop as we passed through. We saw terraced rice paddies as well as flat ones. The ride was “exciting” and not many people slept.

After about an hour, two of the buses pulled into the Ambarawa Railway Station and everyone boarded one of the three remaining steam locomotives in the world. (Per the guide, the other two are in Switzerland and India.) Although this was only a 25-minute ride, it was neat to be off the road and actually “in” the country. Many people were working in the rice paddies and digging up the sludge from the river that is used as fertilizer. All too soon it was time to get back on the buses for the rest of the journey to Borobudur.


The inspiring Borobudur is unique among Buddhist temples, and its creation, without the use of modern engineering and technology, remains a mystery even today. It was built by the Buddhist kings of the Sailendra Dynasty, possibly to enhance the image of Buddhism when Hinduism was growing in strength across the Indonesian archipelago. For more than 1,000 years, it lay hidden under dense jungle vegetation. Borobudur, the largest single monument in the Southern Hemisphere, was covered by jungle until its rediscovery in 1814 by Sir Stamford Raffles. Over the next century, Borobudur was cleared and the process of restoring the two million pieces of andesite stone began.

At the Foot of Borobudur
Borobudur Expedition Party

Lunch was a tasty Javanese buffet lunch served adjacent to the temple. But, there was no sambal! Snookums asked for it and the servers were surprised that Westerners wanted sambal (very spicy sauce that Indonesians love). Soon a bowl of it was delivered to our table and all six of us enjoyed it. John, Sharie and Filbert also bought bottles of Bintang beer and thoroughly enjoyed it on such a hot day.

After lunch it was time for the 2.5-hour bus ride back to the ship. Halfway there, in order to let us stretch our legs, the two buses stopped at a traditional Javanese handicrafts center for 20 minutes and there were finger bananas, peanut cakes (almost like the inside of a Butterfinger candy bar) and cashews for free. John and Filbert bought Bintang beer, too, but it ended up being kind of “skanky” since it was probably old or had been in the sun. As we pulled out of the rest stop, we rejoined the convoy of six other buses and its police escort. We don’t know how that worked so well as it did, but the timing was perfect.

We all met again at dinner to relive our day and to hear from various crewmembers how their family reunions went.

October 30 (Tuesday, Day 40, At Sea) –

Floral arrangement

Snookums went to her 10 AM acupuncture session for her neck and then the “Australia Overview & Darwin” lecture. For lunch, young coconuts were being served poolside and Snookums and Filbert enjoyed the coconut water and then the empty coconuts were cracked in half and the coconut meat was easily scooped out and enjoyed.

At 1 PM Snookums went to her second $29 flower arranging class. Edy, the florist, had a lot of flowers leftover from the most recent arrangements for the ship since the pumpkin containers were so big and didn’t need as many flowers in them. As a result, we got a lot of stems to use in our bouquets and also got a Vietnamese hat to use for the container. It looked (and smelled) great! At 2 PM the ship’s clocks were moved ahead one hour. Only on Grand Voyages does HAL handle losing an hour in the afternoon. It’s actually much nicer than losing an hour at 2 AM which is what happens on regular cruises. After losing an hour, Snookums went to crafts and made a greeting card. After that, it was time for a nap!

Prior to dinner Snookums and Filbert enjoyed the 4-Star Mariner wine and cheese social.

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Part 5

Contributed by: filbert Friday, October 16 2015 @ 06:20 AM CST

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Holland America ms Amsterdam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Five

October 10 (Wednesday, Day 20, Jeju City, South Korea; 100 KRW = $0.09; $1.00 = 1,111 KRW) –

It’s NOT called Jeju City because . . .

Snookums got up when her alarm went off and although she was pretty tired from yesterday’s activities, she went to the fitness class. She swore off the ship’s desserts as of Sunday, October 7 in order to lose some of the weight that she already gained on the cruise.

Jeju City, with a population of around 300,000, is the capital of Jeju Island, which is a resort island roughly 45 miles by 26 miles. It was partly cloudy with a forecast of a high of 72. We took the free shuttle to the Ramada Plaza Jeju Hotel. We walked around and stopped at E-Mart right away since the travel planning information that Snookums brought on the trip talked about a basement grocery store and a fifth floor food court. It took us several tries to find the various escalators, elevators and moving walkways that were needed to get to each floor, but we did it and scouted out our shopping plan for our return walk back to the Ramada. Then we continued our Jeju City exploring and stopped at the tourist information kiosk and Snookums asked where she could get a postcard and the woman gave her a pack of five. What luck, considering the two souvenir places in E-Mart didn’t have any.

We continued walking and found ourselves at the Chiseongno shopping precinct which was just a bunch of fashion stores and brand-name boutiques along some pedestrian-only alleys. We looked at the map to find out how to get to Dongmun market and proceeded to it.

Dongmun market is an open-air, covered market that has specialized vendors selling raw fish, tangerines (Jeju is known for them), kimchi, produce, smoked fish, and pig parts (Jeju is also known for its black-skinned pigs) to name a few. It was one of the cleaner markets we’ve seen on our travels. There were no ready-to-eat food stands or restaurants, though.

Pig parts

We were tired and decided to return to E-Mart for lunch on our way back to the Ramada. We didn’t have any Korean won so we found one of the fifth floor vendors that took credit cards. It happened to be a Japanese outlet, but that was okay. Filbert had the pork and cheese cutlet and Snookums had the pork and sweet potato cutlet. Both came with kimchi, some slightly sweet sauce, daikon pickles, “coleslaw” and bread and butter pickles. Snookums paid more for udon noodles in broth but didn’t eat them since they were so spongy and not like the delicious freshly made ones we had for lunch in Kobe on Sunday. We each also got a little bottle, the size of a shot glass, that contained a tangerine yogurt drink. It was very good. Our lunches cost a total of $13.50 and Filbert also bought an iced coffee (no beer available!) for $1.80.

Jeju City Lunch

After lunch we went to the basement for our shopping. Snookums bought a package of 12 bean paste cookies for Kate, the Neptune Lounge concierge, since Kate didn’t have time to buy any at the Nagasaki festival. (Filipinos eat sweet bean paste, too, like Japanese, Koreans and Chinese. Later in the day Kate told Snookums that she shared the cookies with the Front Desk staff and they were all gone in five minutes and were very good.) She also bought one very small tangerine ($0.75!) since Jeju is known for them. She hopes the one she bought was grown in Jeju since she couldn’t read any of the signs. But it was the only display of tangerines in the grocery store and other people were buying them. Snookums also splurged and bought a sticky bun for $3.15 that had raisins, pecans and sliced almonds on it. (Snookums has a soft spot for sticky buns and kettle corn.) Snookums bought packaged vinegared red chili sauce for $0.90 to take to dinner since everyone enjoyed the homemade sambal last night. Filbert bought a 6-pack of Max Korean beer ($6.90) that came with a free single-serve size pack of “bread chips” and he also bought two cheap cans of rice wine ($0.90 each) and a bottle of ginseng liquor ($0.90). One of the cans of rice wine will be given to Sharie, our tablemate, since she really enjoys sake. One of the beers will be given to her husband since he likes beer.

We made it back to the Ramada and used the superfast free Internet on our iPhones until the shuttle bus came. The Jeju City tourist board was conducting a survey at the port and Snookums and Filbert each filled one out and were then each given two sets of two harubang replicas. Harubangs, ancient “Rapa nui-like” stone carvings that dot the Jeju countryside, are believed to have offered protection from unseen evil. They kind of look like gnomes. Snookums will give a pair to her mother for her rock garden and the other three sets will be given to our tablemates and our Korean neighbor at home who visited Jeju Island in June. Once on the ship Snookums enjoyed the sticky bun (but it needed to be much stickier) on the verandah.

Before dinner we watched two movies, “MASH” and “In Bruges”. We’ve tried to watch “In Bruges” on our last three or four HAL cruises but the DVD was always lost. On the cruise when we visited Bruges, Belgium, we were told to be sure to see the movie since it was filmed in Bruges and shows a lot of what we saw. Better late than never!

Dinner was fun. Snookums handed out the extra harubangs to our tablemates and they were happy to receive them. Our wine steward got a set, too, since he mentioned that he wanted one for his mother and didn’t get one when he did the survey. Filbert gave Sharie her Korean rice wine and John a can of Japanese Kirin beer. Sharie really enjoyed the rice wine. They gave Filbert two cans of Cass beer that Filbert saw in the grocery store but didn’t buy since it didn’t come with free bread chips. Filbert had noticed, however, that people were buying Cass and not the Max beer that he bought. Everyone enjoyed the red chili sauce, too, and since it’s in a re-sealable container, Snookums will continue to bring it to dinner until it is used up. During dessert everyone had a section of the tangerine, too, and thought it was very tasty. Snookums still didn’t think it was worth $0.75! After dinner we turned our clocks back one hour.

October 11 (Thursday, Day 21, At Sea) –

Snookums woke up early due to the time change and went to the “fab abs” fitness class. Laura, a tablemate, also attended. Filbert woke up and enjoyed his room service breakfast of soft-boiled eggs, bacon and ham. Snookums has been eating a 60-calorie yogurt, 90-calorie package of Special K and fresh blueberries all mixed together. She decided that the yogurt parfait, even with “low fat” granola, was full of calories. The homemade muesli is, too. So, since she cut out desserts, she is also cutting back on her breakfast calories.

Snookums went to the 10 AM “Things to See & Do in Shanghai” followed by the 11:15 AM “The Art of Flower Arranging” with Florist Eddy. She learned that Eddy spent six years in floral school in the Netherlands before being “certified” to handle flowers. He has worked on ships for about eight years. Flower shipments come every five to ten days and each one is budgeted at $5,000. There are 300 arrangements on the ship that he and his co-worker are responsible for. (If you count all of the little arrangements, like the one we have in our Deluxe Verandah Suite, the number is 1,000.) He made five ikebana arrangements (Japanese floral arranging that is very rules based) although he said that he literally only had two 4-hour classes on that type of design during his six years of education. They were all very beautiful and minimalistic. At the end of the demo Snookums put her name on a list to attend one of his flower arranging classes for $29. Sharie attended the first one and made a beautiful arrangement that she got to keep. She estimated the arrangement at $75 or so, plus she learned things.

Filbert and Snookums ate lunch at the “Tapas Bar”. We hadn’t seen this before on any HAL cruise. Where the taco bar is normally set up, next to the outdoor grill, HAL turned it into a tapas bar with many Spanish-themed small bites. Snookums liked it better than Filbert.

Snookums also attended the crafts class and made “Chinese fabric fortune cookies in an origami sampan”. Only fabric cutting was involved and she finished in less than 30 minutes, a record.

Snookums had her final 4 PM acupuncture appointment. It isn’t helping at all and the acupuncturist is stumped. She’ll get an MRI after January 1 to find out what the problem is.

We packed our roll-aboard suitcase for our overnight in Beijing, went to dinner and called it a night. There was carrot cake for dessert that both Snookums and Filbert enjoyed. (Carrot cake is Filbert’s favorite cake.) Luckily we had 490 CNY ($78) left over from our last trip to China and that will come in very handy since our overnight is starting bright and early tomorrow and there won’t be time to go to an ATM for local currency.

Sunset, October 5 . . . I needed a picture here, I thought

October 12 (Friday, Day 22, Xingang (Beijing), China; 1 CNY = $0.16, $1.00 = 6.3 CNY) –

Filbert woke up at 12:30 AM and Snookums woke up at 1:30 AM since the TV and lights were on. Filbert was having his second gallstone attack in 13 months. He paced the suite, twisted and turned in bed, took the three anti-nausea and pain drugs that he was prescribed 13 months ago, took a shower, violently threw everything up and at 3 AM, we visited the ship’s doctor. The U.S. doctor ordered several drugs, including morphine, via an IV and Filbert continued to twist and turn on the hospital bed. At 4:30 AM he was feeling a little better and since the blood tests looked fine, the doctor agreed that it was “just” gallstones and released Filbert. We had a steward bring a wheelchair for the return trip to the cabin. Snookums also dropped off a cancellation note under the cabin door of the tour organizer. We kind of slept until 7 AM (Snookums slept better than Filbert) when the immigration announcements began. Suite passengers are allowed to go through immigration at any time so we called for a wheelchair and went. The lines weren’t too long.

The port of Xingang is at least a two-hour bus ride from Beijing and is about 50 miles from Tianjin, the closest town with a fast train to Beijing. (Tianjin is the 4th largest city in China with 9,000,000 residents.) Tanggu is a 20-minute free shuttle ride away but is a smaller town. Xingang is just a port area and literally has nothing around or in it. The port terminal is a very, very new incredibly nice facility, but it’s in the middle of nowhere. Several cruises do embark and disembark at this port and that’s when the entire port terminal and its facilities are used. For our 850-passenger immigration needs, it was overkill. But, if 850 passengers are getting on or off a ship with lots of luggage, it would be super.

After immigration, Filbert and Snookums went back to sleep until around noon. Filbert still twisted and turned a lot from his belly pain, but he was getting better. We went to lunch (turkey barley soup for both of us) and then Filbert went back to bed. He alternated among sleeping, watching the rerun of the vice presidential debate and using his computer. Snookums took a shower and wandered the ship. Most people had gone on either overnight tours to Beijing or 12-hour day tours to the Great Wall or the Forbidden City so the ship was pretty empty. Snookums even did the Daily Quiz which was all about Beijing and although she used two China travel books, she still needed to log on to the internet for help with three questions. She better be the winner since she used precious internet minutes!!! Snookums went to the 5 PM fitness class and was the only attendee and had an intense 1-on-1 personal training session. Luckily it was only 30 minutes since she was absolutely drained (and soaked) after it. She returned to the room and Filbert was asleep so she enjoyed a nice, long, whirlpool bubble bath.

Due to pollution and possible sea haze, the visibility was awful and all day long it seemed like we were in a heavy fog. Ships were traveling back and forth pretty close to our ship, but it was difficult to see them. It was around 70°, although it felt much cooler.

We got the doctor bill and were pleasantly surprised it was only $542. The HAL “after hours” charge is only $170. We each had to see the ship’s doctor on our last cruise, which was on Oceania, and each of our bills was around $550 and both visits were during the normal medical center hours. The HAL doctor is from North Carolina, too, and not Hungary like the one Snookums saw on Oceania. Filbert’s emergency was the first after-hours night call the HAL doctor had received since this cruise started on September 21. That’s pretty good considering the age of a lot of passengers on this 75-day cruise.

Although there was a German Oktoberfest themed dinner event happening poolside, we opted to have room service since we’ve attended HAL’s Oktoberfests before and they consist of four kinds of grilled sausages and various salads. Tonight’s dining room menu had a lot of good things on it, including Dutch split pea soup (a HAL classic, since it’s a Dutch cruise line) so it was an easy decision.

October 13 (Saturday, Day 23, Xingang (Beijing), China; 1 CNY = $0.16, $1.00 = 6.3 CNY) –

Snookums woke up in time to attend the Fab Abs class and then she weighed herself and was thrilled that she only gained 1.2 pounds since boarding the ship on September 21. The extra gym sessions and no desserts did the trick! And, today the visibility was much, much better. It was windy and that seemed to blow a lot of the pollution (and sea haze?) away. There is still a haze in the air, but at least you can see all of the shipping traffic.

We went to the doctor to get Filbert’s IV port removed. The doctor was happy that Filbert was now fine and suggested that fatty foods and alcohol be reduced in his diet in order to hopefully prevent future gallstone episodes. Filbert was still tired and Snookums decided to take the free shuttle to the Aeon Mall in Tanggu.

She walked around the mall which had a lot of restaurants, a Jusco (like a Super Wal-Mart) and various other smaller specialty stores. There was a huge exhibition hall nearby that had a clothing sale and a local food products sale. Snookums purchased three pashmina shawls for $1.60 each and then returned to the mall for lunch. She ate at “Cubby Food” and ordered the rice with ground pork. She received a bowl of rice with a couple of tablespoons of tasty ground pork on the top. There was also a very, very dark peeled hardboiled egg on the top and some pickled carrot and radish cubes. This tasty lunch cost $1.90 and was the cheapest thing on the menu. Then she went to Jusco and bought ten cans of Chinese beer for a total of $6.25.

When she got back to the port terminal, she spent an hour using the free WiFi getting caught up with downloads and emails and things while Filbert listened to his shortwave and heard Chinese and Russian radio. Snookums also went to the library and collected her deck of HAL playing cards for winning yesterday’s daily quiz. She could have attended the Fitness Class, but decided that her muscles were still tired and a bit sore from yesterday’s 1-on-1 session and decided to watch the movie, “Little Black Book”, on DVD instead.

October 14 (Sunday, Day 24, At Sea) –

Fishing boat

Snookums went to total body conditioning with five other passengers. We did circuit training and went through it three times and each time each exercise was slightly changed.

Snookums went to the cooking show with celebrity guest chef Kelly Liken. Kelly graduated from Colorado University with a degree in astrophysics, but worked in restaurant kitchens during college for her spending money. (She said she was not waitress material.) She realized right away that she wanted to be a chef so after she graduated from CU, she went to the Culinary Institute of America and graduated at the top of her class. She and her husband, a sommelier, are also celebrating their 8th anniversary on October 16. She talked a little bit about her experiences on “Iron Chef” and “Top Chef D.C.” (She lasted 13 of the 14 weeks on “Top Chef D.C.” which means she got very close to being the $150,000 winner.) After the cooking demonstration she announced that she was going to have a hands on cooking class for $29. Snookums signed up.

Snookums went to Lido for lunch and had two scoops of coconut ice cream followed by another two scoops. That means she’ll have to go to the gym again in the afternoon! At crafts class, Snookums made a fabric fish shaped sunglass case. When she returned to the room, Filbert was still on the verandah, wearing two coats and gloves, listening to shortwave radio. He spent most of the day on the verandah and as the wind let up, it actually wasn’t too cold.

Snookums went to “Fab Abs” at 5:00 and once again was the only person there since most of the ship eats at 5:30. She had a killer ab workout. A nice long bubble bath in the Jacuzzi tub felt great afterwards and then Snookums and Filbert got gussied up for the formal Prom Night & Ball.

When we returned to our cabin after dinner and the ball (and once again the dining room and Queen’s Lounge were decorated with lots of balloons and Mylar and paper decorations), we saw that we each got a 2012 Grand Voyage cruise pin. We were hoping for a nicer gift than that, but it’s better than nothing.

October 15 (Monday, Day 25, At Sea) –

Snookums woke up to a bright, sunny day. It was 66 and windy and there were some large swells in the ocean. The ocean depth is 69 feet and there are still lots and lots of tiny fishing boats all around. She went to Fab Abs and got in another good workout. And, she got a trophy again on her watch since she met her weekly goal.

Filbert and Snookums enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in Neptune Lounge and then Snookums realized it was almost 10 AM and time for her to go to the “Things to See & Do in Hong Kong”. Soon after that finished, it was time for Snookums’s 11:30 AM $29 hands on cooking class with celebrity guest chef Kelly Liken of Vail, Colorado.

There were eleven students and Chef Kelly Liken. The main dish was roasted duck breast on top of pumpkin puree with pickled pumpkin slices. The salad was blanched asparagus in sherry vinaigrette with parmesan sabayon on top. Dessert was Kelly’s grandmother’s apple crisp. (When Kelly was on “Iron Chef” the ingredient was blue cheese. For one of her five courses, she made an Asian pear crisp and used blue cheese in the streusel topping in place of butter. Although she lost the competition by one point, she was proud that her originality score was higher than the “Iron Chef” she competed against. She said that “Iron Chef” notified her five days in advance of three possible ingredients and asked for her shopping list. So, blue cheese had a 33% chance of being the ingredient for her episode.) Rather than participate in making one component of the lunch, Snookums, along with one other student, opted to watch the other nine student cooks make the lunch. Everyone took their plates of delicious food and ate in Pinnacle Grill and Kelly sat opposite Snookums. (Kelly is allergic to poultry [duck] so she didn’t eat her lunch!)

Snookums found out that Kelly had surgery six weeks ago for a torn “pulley” that attaches to the bicep muscle. Her symptoms sound absolutely identical to Snookums’s and Kelly recommended not getting the surgery unless it was absolutely essential. Snookums is going to get an MRI in January, 2013.

Lunch broke up since people had things to do at 2 PM and that included Snookums going to crafts to make a “Tribute to China scissor fob”. (It’s a “cap” to protect the pointed end of the scissors and it attaches to the scissor’s handle.) Filbert stayed inside and used his laptop to create a simulation building a city to help with his book writing.

For dinner our table enjoyed a great special order Indonesian dinner. We started with delicious soup and then each diner was given a large shallow bowl that contained five different Indonesian foods, like chicken satay and beef randang. Everyone enjoyed it a lot.

October 16 (Tuesday, Day 26, Shanghai, China; 1 CNY = $0.16, $1.00 = 6.3 CNY) –


It is our 8th anniversary today and we started it by docking in Shanghai and for once we got the view of the river. That means we’ll get to have our own sail-away party with our tablemates tomorrow night! Snookums got up and went to Total Body Conditioning and then after a quick breakfast, she and Filbert took the free shuttle to Huang Po Park on the Bund. As an anniversary present, Snookums wanted to buy prescription glasses in Shanghai since she read how inexpensive (and good) they were. Her first pair of bifocals cost around $400 so she figured getting a second cheaper pair would be a neat memory and since it was her anniversary present, Filbert went along with the folly. We took the 3 yuan ($0.48) East Nanjing Road metro to the Shanghai Railway Station and walked outside to find the eyeglasses district. After walking around for awhile, we finally found a highrise that was filled with nothing but three floors of store after store of eyeglass vendors. Many of the vendors spoke English and we entered one shop (and Snookums doesn’t know why she entered it and not a different one since they really did all look very similar) and spent about an hour there with the hardworking salesman but ultimately left empty-handed since the glasses were going to cost around $300 and that discount wasn’t worth the possible problems.

While we were walking around Shanghai, we noticed that everyone had iPhones and the Kentucky Fried Chicken family meal was for three people and cost $13.

After our eyeglass expedition we went to a Family Mart for lunch. It is a convenience store chain and we bought microwaveable meals. There were three little tables in Family Mart and one was available so it worked fine. We decided to take a cab to Jade Buddha Temple (14 yuan or $2.25) rather than walking quite a distance along a highway to get there. Jade Buddha Temple is one of the most venerated temples in Shanghai and was first built in 1882 and rebuilt in 1928. It is famous for its pair of white jade Buddhas. To us it was another temple!

Jade Buddha

We walked back to the shuttle via the entire East Nanjing Road (3.4 miles) which is considered one of Shanghai’s main shopping districts. Filbert even managed to find a 5 yean coin ($0.01) and he never finds money. Every trash can had a map on it showing the nearest public toilet and we saw a waste management monument. Shanghai is obviously doing its part to “clean up” China’s image!

Monument to Waste Management. Drainage!

We finally got back to the ship at 5:15 and we were pooped from all of our walking. Snookums fell asleep on the verandah (with Neptune snacks) while enjoying the river traffic. Dinner was fun since we shared stories with our tablemates and Sharie gave us an anniversary card that she had painted for us in her painting class. However, we didn’t receive either an anniversary cake or the signing of our favorite Indonesian song, Panjang Umurnya, so it really didn’t seem like an anniversary on a HAL ship. After dinner Snookums attended the Shanghai Acrobatic Show but it really wasn’t very good at all.

October 17 (Wednesday, Day 27, Shanghai, China; 1 CNY = $0.16, $1.00 = 6.3 CNY) –

We woke up and again took the ship’s shuttle to Huang Po Park on the Bund. We walked along a fresh market street on our way to the Shanghai Museum and saw a lot of fruits, vegetables, seafood and meats for sale. We were near a hospital, too, since we saw many people in scrubs and whites.

The Shanghai Museum was free and we enjoyed looking at the special Faberge exhibit along with the ancient Chinese pottery and bronze work. The building was built in 1996 and was very modern and not crowded at all. Filbert bought three books at the museum’s store, including one on how to swear in Chinese!

We walked back to catch the shuttle and ate lunch in Lido and then got ready for hosting our sail-away dinner extravaganza on our verandah. That just meant that we went to Neptune Lounge and picked up various hors d’oeuvres for the six of us and made sure the beverages we had collected along the way were getting chilled. Everyone had already chosen items from the dinner menu so dinner was taken care of. This is the easiest way ever to throw a dinner party!

John and Laura and John and Sharie showed up and we had a great time eating while watching the river traffic pass by. The Huangpu River has floating billboards on it as well as lots of party ships. And of course, the view across the river of Pudong with the Pearl TV Tower and the Jinmao Tower is fabulous at night since everything is so lit up. The ship started moving around 9 PM and we stayed on the verandah until probably 10:30 PM or so since by that time the ship was no longer in Shanghai and there wasn’t much left to see. It was a fantastic end to a great port and a super way to celebrate the success of our first third of the cruise!

October 18 (Thursday, Day 28, At Sea) –

Filbert woke up at 12:30 AM and threw up and then had a bout of diarrhea at 1:30 AM. Snookums woke up at 8:30 AM and went to the 10 AM “Things to See & Do in Nha Trang, Vietnam” lecture. She came back to the room and found Filbert asleep but he soon woke up and wanted broth and toast. She ordered that and then went to her $29 flower arranging class. Sharie was there, too.

Eddy, the florist, taught Snookums and the other nine participants how to make a 3-sided arrangement step-by-step. First two types of greens went in the floral foam, then three stalks of purplish flowers (that bloom from the top down) and two ping pong mums (and the smaller mum should be cut to be the taller one). Then some taller greens and stargazer lilies were added. A bird of paradise was put in the middle and then roses, carnations and red berries were grouped for the rest of the arrangement. It took one hour and we each got to keep the arrangement that we made along with the apron that we wore. Sharie and Snookums then immediately went to crafts and made a “Chinese tea time” greeting card. (People commented on the flowers, too, as we were walking through the ship on our way to crafts.)

When Snookums returned to the room around 3:30, Filbert wanted to go to the Medical Center since he still had diarrhea (but hadn’t vomited other than that one time). The nurse immediately pulled out a ziploc bag and handed it to Snookums. It contained Imodium A-D, powdered Gatorade, a letter from the Captain explaining that the patient would be quarantined for 24 hours from the last “episode”, and a form that needed to be filled out for the CDC. The nurse took Filbert’s vitals and his blood pressure was 136/84 (which isn’t too bad since he hadn’t taken his daily blood pressure prescription), his pulse was 112 (and it is usually 62!) and he had a temperature of 101.8°! She gave him Tylenol, too, for his fever. We returned to the cabin and he settled in for the rest of the day. He had strawberry sorbet for dinner and then the special housekeeping crew, wearing gloves and paper masks, came in to “sanitize” the cabin. This meant that the sheets were changed and most surfaces were wiped down. Snookums went to the dining room for her dinner and when she returned, Filbert was asleep.

October 19 (Friday, Day 29, At Sea) –

Snookums got ready for “Fab Abs” and Filbert woke up. He felt better and took a shower. When Snookums returned he wanted two raisin buns and hot tea and he enjoyed both things. He was still using the toilet frequently and Snookums called the Medical Center at 10 AM to ask about the maximum dosage in 24 hours for Imodium A-D. The nurse reminded Snookums that the quarantine would be extended and explained that Filbert should take two more and then no more than four more over the next 24 hours. Filbert got comfortable on the sofa with his computer. Snookums could tell that he was felling better than yesterday since yesterday he just lay in bed all day and didn’t read, didn’t use his computer and barely focused on the TV.

After putting it off for several days, Snookums delivered a letter to the Hotel Director, Henk Mensink, about five issues (the “cobbler of the day” in Lido is raw on top, the Asian lunch entrees are extremely greasy, Channel 44 does not play the announcements, our 8th anniversary was not recognized in the dining room, and Snookums never received a response to her September 25 letter to the Guest Relations Manager, Cristel Mensink).

Snookums went to the “Things to See & Do in Phu My, Vietnam” lecture and then after lunch she went to the Photography raffle. She was a winner of a $5 match play casino certificate. (She gave it to John M. at dinner.) At crafts class she made a cloisonné bracelet. Filbert had another “episode” and Snookums called the nurse at 3 PM and went to the Medical Center to get stronger anti-diarrhea medicine for Filbert. This also meant that his quarantine would be extended until 3 PM on October 20.

Snookums took advantage of the hot temperature and read on the verandah (finally, hot weather!). Then she went to the “Total Body Conditioning” class and once again was the only one there. Towards the end of thirty minutes, Hamish decided that Snookums should do 50 push-ups for her last exercise. Ugh! (And, in the morning’s Fab Abs class, Kristina started the class with push-ups and since a lot of the participants didn’t know how to do them, Snookums was doing them the entire time Kristina was teaching them and when Kristina finally counted to 10, Snookums had completed 42.)

When Snookums returned to the cabin, there was a letter from Henk Mensink, Hotel Director. He wrote that he spoke to the chef and if needed, Lido would be glad to make Snookums special cobbler and Asian entrees each day! He also arranged for the head audio engineer to come to our cabin to see about Channel 44. Of course, when he showed up, the announcement came through loud and clear. However, at dinner, our tablemates verified that they never heard the announcements on Channel 44 so we think that the problem was fixed (due to Snookums’s letter) prior to the audio engineer coming to our cabin. Henk’s letter also apologized for the missing anniversary song in the dining room and it also said that the Guest Relations Manager called Snookums in September in response to Snookums’s prior letter but apologized for not giving Snookums a written response to her September letter. Snookums called Henk and left a voice mail explaining that special food preparation in Lido was not necessary and that she never received a phone call from the Guest Relations Manager and that a phone call response would have been sufficient, but none was ever received.

By 6 PM, Filbert was feeling pretty good but per the nurse’s instructions, he stuck with a clear liquid diet (Jell-O and broth). Unfortunately the toilet was plugged and no one came for more than 90 minutes but no disaster occurred. The Neptune Lounge concierge called twice to verify that the plumber had come, but each time Filbert had to say “Not yet”. Soon after the plumber came, Henk called to follow-up on Snookums’s voice mail. He was puzzled by the Guest Relations Manager’s response since Cristel had told Henk (and she is his wife) that she called Snookums in September. As soon as the call with Henk was done, the phone rang again and it was Cristel, the Guest Relations Manager. Cristel explained that in September she called a woman about the limited crafts supplies and after talking to the woman, the woman even called her back the next day. Cristel thought those two phone calls were with Snookums, but they weren’t and Cristel literally has no idea whom she spoke with. She apologized for not getting back to Snookums and there was laughter on both ends of the phone.

Snookums went to dinner and was immediately pulled aside by an assistant maître d’ (Mr. K). Snookums was worried that she was going to be told she couldn’t wear her thongs (it was the first hot day so she wore them for the first time), but instead he apologized about the anniversary goof. He was going to serve the cake and complimentary champagne tonight until Snookums explained that Filbert was not present. Then he wanted to send the cake to the cabin but Snookums explained that Filbert was on a clear liquid diet. He then decided that our anniversary would be celebrated on the next sea day. He also gave Snookums the words to the peppy Indonesian birthday and anniversary song since Filbert had requested the words several days ago. (The song is very simple. “Panjang umurnya” is sung three times followed by “Serta mulia” three times. It means “long life”.) When Snookums finally got to the dinner table, she explained to everyone about the letter to Henk and the five issues. That is when everyone confirmed that Channel 44 never worked in their cabins, either. Filbert was sound asleep when Snookums returned to the cabin at 9:45 PM.

October 20 (Saturday, Day 30, Hong Kong, China; 1 HKD = $0.13, $1 = 7.75 HKD) –

Snookums woke up and got ready for the gym and went out on the ship’s bow for the sail in. She enjoyed a “Star Ferry” roll (a peach Danish) since they were serving coffee and rolls on the bow. She was the only one at the 7:30 AM “Fab Abs” class and Hamish worked her hard for 20 minutes and then Snookums said, “That’s it”. During class Snookums realized that our side of the ship would face the ugly port building and not beautiful Hong Kong harbor. At least our cabin got the “good” side for Shanghai. We received “real” postal mail, too: anniversary cards from Snookums’s parents and one of her sisters that were sent to the Hong Kong port agent.

Filbert ordered hot tea, broth and Jell-O for breakfast and Snookums ate her normal Special K, fresh blueberries and plain yogurt in Neptune Lounge. Filbert felt just fine and set up shop outside on the verandah. The 21st annual Oktoberfest is directly across from our cabin and is on the top (6th floor) of the Port Terminal building. It is open from 6-11:30 PM and costs $29 which gets each person a beer mug and one serving of beer. It is advertised as the largest and longest running bierfest in Asia. It doesn’t look that big.

Snookums went to the mall for a pedicure ($29) and walked around. She found a 2 HKD coin ($0.25). When she returned, Filbert had already eaten his lunch which was no longer confined to clear liquids. The doctor called him at 3:15 PM and released him and we both went to the mall and its bookstore. We walked outside for a little bit and saw lines of Chinese waiting to enter the Chanel, Hermes and Prada stores since the stores were at maximum capacity. The prices are the same as in the U.S., but the Chinese must have more money than the Americans. We didn’t purchase anything and the ship was beckoning Filbert so he returned while Snookums stayed in the mall and used more of the free WiFi and talked to some other guests.

It should be noted that around 200 passengers embarked today which means that Lido will be a “served” buffet for 48 hours and we’ll have another lifeboat drill tomorrow. To date, we have had 819 guests and 620 crew-members and have traveled 9,975 nautical miles (or 11,470 statute miles).

The cabin was cleaned at 7 PM by the “HazMat” team and will be cleaned tomorrow morning by them for the final time. Some kind of fogger will be used tomorrow, too. Hmmm.

Filbert enjoyed eating in the Dining Room for the first time since October 16 and after dinner Snookums went to the 9:30 PM Hong Kong Cultural Arts Show. There were four acts (man and woman playing Chinese instruments, dragon dance, two female traditional dancers and a masked dancing man) and all of them were very good. The bierfest was in full swing when Snookums returned to the cabin and the band could be heard in our cabin. Luckily the festivities closed at 11:30 PM, but Snookums fell asleep before then.

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Part 4

Contributed by: filbert Friday, October 16 2015 @ 06:15 AM CST

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Holland America ms Amsterdam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Four

October 8 (Monday, Day 18, At Sea) –

Kunchi Festival, Nagasaki

Snookums woke up in time to do 25 minutes on the elliptical prior to going to the fitness class. She got a trophy on her watch, too, for meeting her calories burned goal the prior week. She made it by 1%! It will be hard for her to get a trophy for this week’s efforts since there won’t be any workouts the two Beijing days.

Snookums went to the 11 AM “Things to See & Do in Xingang and Beijing”. We are doing a two-day overnight tour to Beijing so she doesn’t need to learn about Xingang or Beijing (and she’s been to Beijing two other times), but she wants to hear about Xingang in case another cruise stops at this isolated port.

After lunch she went to crafts and made an Asian lantern greeting card. Then she had an acupuncture appointment and then went to the gym for another 30 minutes (and 280 calories) on the elliptical.

Dinner was another formal night to celebrate Canada’s Thanksgiving. Snookums ordered the traditional turkey dinner and it was pretty good except the stuffing literally had the consistency of stiff paste. It tasted better than HAL’s normal stuffing, though, but she didn’t eat it due to the texture. The Dining Room Manager and Head Chef visited each table and Filbert suggested that HAL make savory stuffing without fruit (HAL’s stuffing is always sweet) but the Head Chef didn’t really understand what Filbert was saying. So, we’re guessing that HAL’s stuffing will continue to have raisins or apples or cranberries or all three fruits in it.

When we got back to our cabin we saw two carry-ons for our formal night gift. Four years ago we got one rolling duffel bag that was bigger. This time HAL designed carry-on bags that have wheels and that can also be placed on top of a roll-aboard. They are heavy and don’t hold much, but they are free and we got two of them which we’ll need on the way home to carry the things we accumulate during this cruise.

October 9 (Tuesday, Day 19, Nagasaki, Japan; 100 JPY = $1.28, $1.00 = 78 JPY) –

Building warships at Nagasaki

Nagasaki was celebrating the final day of its annual 3-day Kunchi Festival. It is the autumn festival of Suwa Shrine and every year five to seven groups perform, representing various city districts. However, each city district participates only once every seven years so the performances area always new. Alisa-san, Snookums’s Tokyo co-worker who was flying to Nagasaki to meet us for lunch, told us about the free morning performances. Our tablemates, Sharie and John, went with us to watch them.

We got to the waterfront area around 8:30 and stood and watched a dragon dance, a dance featuring several Geisha girls and performances with floats, including a wooden ship. Around 9:45 AM the performances were over.

Kunchi Festival

During the activities, a man in his mid-20s talked to Snookums about what was going on. She gave him an Amsterdam pin that she got free from the cruise director to hand out and a few minutes later, he presented her with a $10.20 Kunchi souvenir shrine charm that he had just bought. Later, a Japanese man was talking to Snookums and she gave him a U.S. flag pin and he felt bad that he had nothing to give her back. Later when she asked him for directions to the bakery that we needed to meet Alisa-san at, he opened his briefcase and gave her a bag from the Tokyo Pompadour Bakery which also has a store in Nagasaki. He said that if we got lost we could show people the bag! Japanese tend to keep “designer” shopping bags and Pompadour is a famous Japanese bakery.

At least six streets were closed to traffic and were lined on either side with festival food stalls. Unfortunately, we ate breakfast on the ship and weren’t hungry for the bean paste cookies, yakitori or other Japanese treats. There were some large balls wrapped in bacon that looked very intriguing (and they were some of the cheaper offerings), but we never figured out what was in them.

John and Sharie went their own way and we headed for Pompadour Bakery. On the way we stopped at a 100 yen store. While Snookums was shopping, Filbert bought a 500 ml beer for $1.50 at a convenience store and sat in the hall and drank it. Snookums purchased greeting cards for a crewmember’s birthday (Dee Dee, a Pinnacle Grill waitress who also works in Neptune Lounge) and for our ship neighbors’ 63rd anniversary (Filbert and Flory).

We met Alisa-san at 11:50 and she took us to her favorite restaurant in Chinatown. Nagasaki is her favorite city in Japan (she is from Hiroshima) since she thinks it still has that small-town feel. We had champon for lunch as well as fried noodles and an eggroll that was made out of white bread (rather than a wonton wrapper) and filled with something that looked and tasted like sage stuffing. It was good, but definitely not typical Chinese. Champon is a noodle dish that is a regional cuisine of Nagasaki. To Snookums it seemed just like ramen, but there was obviously something different about it to make it special to Nagasaki! We ate everything and enjoyed it all.

The Travelers with Alisa-San

We next visited Dejima which is a tiny island built in 1636 to house Europeans (Portuguese missionaries first followed by Dutch traders) in order to prevent the spread of Christianity. For more than 200 years, Dejima was Japan’s only point on contact with Europe. It was very interesting to see such a small area of land that had such a large impact on Japan. 10 buildings have been reconstructed since 2000 which really made it come to life.

Model of Dejima, in Dejima

After our visit to Dejima, we said goodbye to Alisa-san since she had a plane to catch to Hiroshima to visit for parents and sister. It was so nice of her to spend the night in Nagasaki in order to spend part of the day with us. While saying goodbye she mentioned that it was too bad she couldn’t have cruised with us from Yokohama to Nagasaki and Snookums felt so bad for not even thinking about that since HAL probably would have been happy to sell her a cabin for those several nights. Next time!

We took the tram to Peace Park (Heiwa Koen) and Hypocenter Park. Peace Park is built on the grounds of an old prison that was destroyed due to the August 9, 1945 atomic blast. In the middle is a large statue of a godlike man with one hand held out in an appeal to cease the madness of war while the other hand points heavenward to remind humanity of our place in a larger universe to hopefully contain our destructive urges. In nearby Hypocenter Park, a monument around a black pillar marks the atomic explosion’s epicenter and lists the victims. Nearly a third of city residents were killed in the explosion and another third were seriously injured.

Peace Park

After that sobering visit, we took the tram back to the ship where a high school band was playing near the dock. During the day, Snookums found four coins worth 22 yen. It was a great day, to say the least!

During dinner our waiter surprised us with a small bowl of homemade sambal. Everyone at the table enjoys spicy things, some more than others, and the sambal was really appreciated. There is jarred sambal available in Lido and we had been trying to get our waiter to give us sambal (even jarred) every night, but there seemed to be a communication problem until tonight.


The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Part 3

Contributed by: filbert Friday, October 16 2015 @ 06:10 AM CST

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Holland America ms Amsterdam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Three

October 6 (Saturday, Day 16, Kobe, Japan; 100 JPY = $1.28, $1.00 = 78 JPY) –


Snookums went to the fitness class and then Brooke, a woman traveling alone for the first time, joined us for our trip to Kyoto which is about an hour away via train. Kobe is the sixth largest city in Japan and has a population of about 1.5 million. In 1995 a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Kobe and 6,400 people died and 100,000 hones were destroyed. Kobe made a quick recovery and it is now a modern, industrialized city. Our $15.90 train took us from Kobe to Kyoto via Osaka. The entire hour-long trip was through a city and the Kobe-Osaka-Kyoto boundaries were not obvious. For some reason, Snookums thought that Kyoto was a town, but it’s a large, bustling city just like Yokohama, Kobe, Osaka and Tokyo.

We got off the train and went to the information office in the Kyoto train station. Snookums didn’t do any planning work at home for this Kyoto daytrip and had done limited reading about Kyoto from the ship’s library so we needed a lot more information in order to get to our three chosen sites. The gentleman at the information desk was very helpful and gave us exact bus numbers and suggested that we buy the $6.40 all day bus pass which we did. Then he said that he has a son in Rapid City, South Dakota and has visited there three times so he and Filbert bonded since Filbert was born and raised in South Dakota.

We made our way out of the train station and found the right bus and then rode to Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion, $5.10 entrance fee). This is probably Kyoto’s most famous and certainly most photographed temple garden. The three-story Chinese Zen-influenced Golden Pavilion has delicately curving roofs and the walls and eaves of the second and third stories are covered with gold leaf. The top is topped with a golden phoenix. The Golden Pavilion was beautiful as were the surrounding gardens. The day was a bit cloudy but it was still very impressive. A few of the trees had started to change color, too, which added to the fantastic ambience.

At Kinkakuji

There were vendors at the exit and after sampling several snacks, we bought overpriced (but “well-known in Kyoto” – every Japanese town has food products that they are “famous” for) chili peanuts and wasabi peanuts. Brooke bought a souvenir silk artwork “painting” depicting the Golden Pavilion that she plans on displaying in her living room.

After that it was time for lunch. There weren’t many restaurants near the Golden Pavilion but Snookums remembered seeing one on the corner by the bus stop. We walked around for a few blocks looking for restaurants before going to the one that Snookums saw. It consisted of five stools and a very tiny table. A husband and wife worked behind the counter and probably had 18 inches of width to stand in. The menu had five items on it and Filbert and Snookums had the $8.90 hayashi beef and Brooke had the $8.90 curry rice. The hayashi beef was basically strips of beef in gravy and Brooke’s curry rice was Japanese curry and vegetables (no beef). All the meals were served with a cup of consommé. Filbert ordered a $7.63 beer and got a can of Asahi and an icy cold metallic tumbler that had a picture of Egyptian pyramids and camels on it. He was also given two tiny triangles of white cheese. Other than the one cockroach that we saw, it was a typical tiny Japanese “mom and pop” joint. We are pretty sure that our rice and beef gravy came straight out of packages but it was food and Snookums and Filbert ate all of theirs and then finished Brooke’s, too. (Brooke lost her appetite after seeing the cockroach running around the counter!)

We caught the bus to Nijo Castle ($7.65 entrance fee) which has huge walls, moats and towers. Ninomaru Palace is the main attraction within Nijo Castle and totals 35,500 square feet consisting of 33 rooms with silk paintings covering the walls and over 800 tatami mats. The wooden floors were specially built to squeak like nightingales in order to warn the shogun of intruders. Even after all those years, we could definitely hear the pleasant squeaks! We continued to explore the rest of the grounds within Nijo Castle’s moat, including the gardens and the outside of Honmaru Palace.

Walls and Moat of Nijo Castle
Honmaru Palace
Ninomaru Gardens

By now we were pretty tired and decided to save visiting Heian Shrine for another Kyoto visit. We caught the bus to Kyoto Station and Snookums was lucky enough to get a seat for the 20-minute ride. We bought our tickets back to Kobe and made the express train with a minute to spare. Unfortunately, all the seats were taken and since we didn’t want to wait thirty minutes for the next express train, the three of us stood for the first 25 minutes until the Osaka stop when most of the passengers exited. Our transportation experiences were first-rate and our longest wait for any public transportation was probably two minutes. The “worst” part was the 25-minute standing after a long day of walking.

We got back to the ship and Filbert and Snookums went to Lido for the Teppanyaki BBQ dinner. It was okay and the decoration of red honeycomb balls and red “silk” umbrellas were festive. Holland America tried to make a Japanese theme. The food was so-so although Snookums thoroughly enjoyed the vinegar daikon salad and the mushroom tempura. Snookums really wanted to attend the 9:30 PM taiko drum show but fell asleep around 8 PM and slept until 8 AM. It was a long, but good, day.

October 7 (Sunday, Day 17, Kobe, Japan; 100 JPY = $1.28, $1.00 = 78 JPY) –


We woke up and caught the free 10 AM shuttle to Motomachi (downtown Kobe). We walked through Chinatown and it was pretty quiet since a lot of stores didn’t open until 11 AM and not many Japanese were out and about. Then we walked through some of the covered shopping streets where no cars are allowed. We both remembered Chinatown and the covered shopping streets from our 2008 visit. The same Kobe Music Festival was going on, too, that we remembered from 2008 and various musical performances were taking place. We went in a candy store and bought a Hello Kitty individually wrapped marshmallow for $0.15 for a Christmas gift and was given a single-serving bag of Frito-Lay pasta flavored and shaped chips. That will be part of the Christmas gift, too. The store lost money on that transaction!

Early shopping in Kobe

After walking all over for two or three hours, we finally got hungry and checked the restaurants in Daimaru, a major department store. However, everyone in Kobe had the same idea and there were long lines. We left the department store and hunted for restaurants and decided a Kobe beef one would make sense. We walked in but immediately left since three men at the small counter were smoking cigarettes. We saw a tiny restaurant that had a glass window showing the chef making udon noodles and although there were no pictures of the food (and no plastic food models) we decided to go in. There was a table for four at the front but it was occupied so we sat at the counter with five stools. There was also a Japanese table for six but Filbert’s knees don’t bend well enough to sit on the floor so we sat at the counter. And we were happy we did since we could watch the two chefs do their magic. The waitress came to us and we found out that there were no English menus. She was flustered and got the udon noodle-making chef. He asked “Hot or cold noodles?” and we both said “Hot” and then he asked “Tempura?” and we said “Hai” (yes). We were each given a large bowl of udon noodles (like thick, but spongier, spaghetti noodles) in a delicious broth and the shrimp, shiso leaf and squash tempura were on top. Filbert also ordered a beer and he was given a 500ml (17 oz.) bottle of Kirin. We had no idea what the cost of our lunch would be, but we saw that the most expensive item on the menu was $14 so we weren’t worried. Snookums assumed that since we were gaijan (foreigners), we would be served the most expensive item but when we got the bill it was only $26. And the big beer was only $2.50! Japanese people were coming in, too, but no one ordered the exact entrée that we were given. We were very happy, though, and it was fun watching the udon noodle chef make the noodles while the other chef was preparing the tempura and other dishes.

After lunch we went to a convenience store to buy cans of Japanese beer ($1.75 and $2) and Snookums bought her favorite Japanese ice cream treat ($1.60) that is a vanilla ice cream bar with a hard, thin stick of dark chocolate in the middle and then the entire bar is covered in a regular ice cream cone crispy batter. Then it was back to the ship. We went to the sail-away (our cabin still hasn’t faced the dock, yet, in order for us to host a sail-away party on our verandah) and enjoyed the taiko drumming but were perplexed by the 30 young women all wearing different costumes that appeared to be bikini swimsuits with very ruffly miniskirts (like old fashioned hoop skirts and petticoats) and head pieces. Snookums thought it kind of looked like a Brazilian samba school since the colors were so bright and there was quite a bit of skin showing (especially for Japan). It looked like Miss Kobe was there, too, wearing a light blue knee-length coat, matching hat and white gloves. Maybe the 30+ women were beauty pageant contestants wearing their “swimsuit” outfits. Anyway, the taiko drumming was outstanding (and incredibly loud and we were pretty far away since the drummers were on the balcony of the terminal building and we were on the ship).

Taiko Drummers
Kobe Says Goodbye

Deluxe Verandah Suite passengers were invited to cocktails in the Officer’s Bar located on A-Deck and consists of two small rooms. It was packed with the guests and a lot of the officers. Snookums and Filbert sat on wobbly bar stools and enjoyed talking with other people, although it was very loud due to the number of people in such a small place. When it came time to leave for dinner, Snookums steadied the bar stool for the woman sitting next to her and then when it was time for Snookums to get down from the bar stool, she managed to tip it backwards and fell down with it! Other than her pride, Snookums was not hurt at all and luckily no one was standing behind her since the bar stool was very, very heavy and it would have definitely hurt. Officers and crew rushed over to make sure Snookums was okay and all she wanted to do was pick up the chair and go to dinner. She managed to do both and the rest of the night was uneventful. Filbert said that the reason Snookums fell was because she didn’t drink and that the wobbly bar stools were easier to maneuver when a bit tipsy. We went to dinner and enjoyed a festive dinner with our tablemates whom we didn’t see last night. It was a good day.

Only known photo of a wild party in the Officer’s Bar

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Part 2

Contributed by: filbert Friday, October 16 2015 @ 06:05 AM CST

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Holland America ms Amsterdam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Two

October 3 (Wednesday, Day 13, At Sea) –

Snookums went to the fitness class and then Snookums and Filbert ate breakfast in Neptune. It was rainy but around 68° outside. After that Filbert and Snookums went to the “Things to See & Do in Jeju” travel lecture and then stayed for “The Aleutian Islands” lecture. Then Snookums picked up her prize of a deck of Holland America playing cards for winning Monday’s daily quiz. It’s the same prize every time so she won’t bother with the daily quiz again.

Snookums went to the crafts class and made a beaded keycard lanyard although she doesn’t have a need for a lanyard. Later on she went to the “Fab Abs” class.

Tonight was formal “Kimono Night” and Snookums looked elegant in her men’s kimono that she bought at a thrift store when she worked in Tokyo and Filbert looked dashing in his Indian outfit that he purchased to wear at a wedding in India. We went to the Ocean Bar before dinner and saw the five gentlemen hosts onboard dancing with single women. We also noticed that not many men wore any kind of ethnic attire. Filbert was unique, and comfortable, in his!

Kimono Night

At dinner we saw that Sharie wore a beautiful Korean kimono – solid black heavy damask with a starched white collar and a bow tied off to one side under her chest. She bought hers at a Vancouver thrift store for $20 and definitely got her money’s worth. There were three Japanese dinner selections – yakitori chicken appetizer, sukiyaki soup and tempura entrée – and all were enjoyed although the tempura was rather greasy and heavy. Even the dessert menu had two Japanese choices – green tea ice cream and green tea cheesecake with adzuki bean sauce. Filbert was the only brave person at the table to order them. He didn’t care for the cheesecake and said the bright green ice cream did taste a little bit like green tea.

October 4 (Thursday, Day 14, Yokohama, Japan; 100 JPY = $1.28, $1.00 = 78 JPY) –

Buddha, Hachimangu Shrine, Kamakura

Filbert and Snookums went to the 7 AM “Early Morning Stretch” class followed by the 7:30 AM fitness class. Yesterday Snookums asked Filbert to attend so that there would be enough people for the class to be held and he said “yes”. There were actually six people so he didn’t need to attend, but he stayed.

At 10:20 we met Snookums’s co-worker from when Snookums worked in Tokyo. Alisa-san looked the same and it was a great reunion. We took the train to Kamakura which was the Japanese capital from 1185 to 1333 and still retains more than 70 historic temples and shrines. We enjoyed Japanese curries for lunch ($11 and $12) and Filbert enjoyed a glass of Kamakura beer ($7) that he said was “beer”. We walked along Komachi Street and tasted various Japanese pickles at one store, including a very crisp one made from burdock root. We also saw soap made out of konnyaku which is a traditional Japanese jelly-like health food. Konnyaku is full of fiber and has zero calories and is made from a kind of potato and it has been eaten for almost 1,500 years in Japan. Alisa-san never saw it used in soap before. We also learned why some sake shops have a very large ball hanging in front of the store that looks like a huge moss ball. The ball is made from cedar leaves and when the sake is new, the ball is green and when the sake is aged, the ball becomes brown. It was very nice to have a private tour guide/translator and the day was a partly cloudy one.

Then we walked to Hachimangu Shrine, which is considered Kamakura’s most important shrine. It was established in 1063 and enlarged and moved to its current site in 1180. We walked up all of its steps and enjoyed the architecture and the gardens. Filbert spent 100 yen for his fortune which was written in poor English, and tied it to a rope for the gods to bless it. We also saw a 5-year old girl dressed in a kimono getting her blessing since it is customary for girls to go to a shrine on their third and fifth birthdays for blessings. Then we walked back to Kamakura Station and caught a bus to see the Big Buddha. The 37-foot bronze figure was cast in 1292 and we paid the extra 20-yen per person to walk in its belly.

The way to Hachimangu Shrine
At Hachimangu Shrine

After that we took the train back to Yokohama Station and enjoyed browsing the food hall in the basement of Sogo Department Store with Alisa-san. For part of her and her husband’s dinner, she bought some shrimp and avocado soy rolls that looked like off-white spring rolls but they were wrapped with soy wrappers. She also bought a soy gratin for tomorrow’s dinner that looked like mashed potatoes with a few mushrooms in it. After she made her purchases, we said goodbye. We’ll see her again in Nagasaki since she is going to fly there to see us!

We got back to the ship using the free shuttle service and one of the Japanese volunteer helpers was wearing a Sturgis, SD t-shirt and we found out that she spent her senior year of high school as an exchange student in Sturgis. She enjoyed it a lot since Sturgis was so completely different from Yokohama and recently went back for her 50th high school reunion. After we got back to the ship we decided to order room service and eat dinner on our verandah. Our side of the ship faced Yokohama Bay and the other side of the ship faced Yokohama, its skyscrapers and its colorful ferris wheel.

At 8 PM, the Presidential Debate replayed on CNN and Filbert watched it while Snookums dozed on the verandah and then updated the journal. It was a great day.

October 5 (Friday, Day 15, Yokohama, Japan; 100 JPY = $1.28, $1.00 = 78 JPY) –


Snookums woke up and attended the fitness class. We left the ship around 9:15 AM in order to walk around Yokohama, the second largest city in Japan, by population, after Tokyo. We saw Landmark Tower, the 70-story hotel and office building that is Japan’s tallest building. It is also one of the two Accenture locations in Tokyo. (The other one is in Tokyo near the American Embassy.) When Snookums worked in Tokyo in 2000, there were 2,000 Accenture employees. Now there are 5,000!

We also saw the Yokohama Oktoberfest. It closes every night at 9 PM and German beer costs $16.50 for a normal size glass and $29 for 33 ounces (1000 ml). And, there was an admission cost. It hadn’t opened yet so even if he wanted to, Filbert couldn’t go in!

Yokohama Oktoberfest

We walked through Chinatown, one of the world’s largest, and it draws 18 million visitors a year. We tried a roasted chestnut that a vendor was nice enough to give free. A very small bag, holding 10 or 15 roasted chestnuts, cost $13.50. Snookums also managed to find two 10-yen coins during the Chinatown walk. We stopped at a grocery store and bought a can of ice beer and sour preserved plums (a traditional Japanese beer snack) for a Christmas gift.

Yokohama Chinatown

On our way back to the ship we saw some kind of formal gathering in Yamashita Park that involved speeches and five men in full dress uniforms, like military or police. There was a banner that appeared to say something about 25 years so it was probably some kind of anniversary event. There was a red carpet, too. We made it back to the ship at 11:25 with five minutes to spare before the “all aboard” time.

Ceremony in Yamashita Park

Snookums went to the sail-away but the shore-side entertainment was a loud jazz band. She didn’t stay too long since she would have rather seen some kind of Japanese entertainment. As our ship pulled away at noon, we were given a lengthy water salute by a fireboat.

Around 1:45 PM we noticed 15+ Japanese warships, including four submarines, returning to their base after apparently performing amphibious assault exercises in Guam with U.S. forces based in Yokosuka and Sasebo, possibly as a prelude for Japan’s land disputes with China and South Korea. Snookums was up on Lido when she first noticed them and invited John and Laura (tablemates) to our verandah since their room is on the other side of the ship. It was pretty neat seeing the ships and subs. Snookums quit watching the naval display and went to crafts class and made a charm that looked like a good fortune book. She’ll probably use it as a Christmas tree ornament.

JSDF returning to port (5 pics)

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Part 1

The 2012 Grand Asia & Australia Voyage, Holland America ms Amsterdam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part One

September 20, 2012 (Thursday, Day 1, Flying to Seattle) –

The Itinerary

Our Alaska Airlines non-stop flight to Seattle left five minutes early and landed 30 minutes early. The trip got off to a great start. We took the $2.75 Link Light Rail to the Hyatt at Olive 8 and were upgraded to a corner room suite and were also given a bottle of red wine and a 7.5 oz. bag of chocolate covered dried cherries for our anniversary. The trip is off to a really great start and it’s only 8 PM! After waiting 90 minutes for our Hyatt Diamond amenity to be delivered and making two phone calls, the bottle of wine and cheese and crackers were finally delivered. A slice of chocolate cake was also delivered as an apology.

September 21, 2012 (Friday, Day 2, Boarding ms Amsterdam, Seattle) –

MS Amsterdam

We enjoyed our free breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Snookums had the $14 goat cheese scramble and Filbert had a $16 ham/cheese/bacon omelet. We were ready to go to the ship and left the hotel around 10:30 AM. We immediately checked in and got our ship key cards, but had to wait 15 minutes or so until boarding started. The port terminal was decorated with all sorts of flags and passport stamps. These decorations were not up for our Alaska cruise from the same port two months ago.

Around 11:30 AM we boarded the ship and went to our Deluxe Verandah Suite (7028). We originally booked a verandah cabin and received an offer to pay for an upgrade to a Deluxe Verandah Suite. We initially said “no” and after a week we finally received our cabin assignment and when we saw that it wasn’t for a Deluxe Verandah Suite (we were hoping for a free upgrade like we received in 2008), we went ahead and paid a lot of money to upgrade to a Deluxe Verandah Suite (7028). Our suite was ready and we dropped off our roll-aboard, freshened up and went to lunch in the dining room. We met six other people, two of whom are down the hall from us (Phil and Barbara).

When we got back to our room after lunch, some of our bags had been delivered. We shipped seven suitcases/duffel bags via Fed Ex for free (an early booking perk) and four of these were in the room. We started unpacking and found that one can of Diet Sprite (clear and sugar-free) leaked. We sent out five bags of laundry since those clothing items were wet from the Diet Sprite. Nothing was ruined, though.

While waiting for our other four pieces of luggage we stopped by Neptune Lounge and said “hi” to Kate, the front desk employee assigned to the Neptune Lounge for the duration of this 75-day cruise. She also worked Neptune Lounge in July during our 14-day Alaska cruise and remembered us and asked about Snookums’s parents. We met Dee Dee who is the Pinnacle Grill server assigned to taking care of the food in the Neptune Lounge. We went to the gym, too, and weighed ourselves.

Our final four pieces of luggage were delivered and we unpacked until it was time for the lifeboat drill. The day was cloudy and cool, but it wasn’t too bad outside. We unpacked some more and then we went to the sail-away party where there was free alcohol which was a perk of being on a Grand Voyage. (Holland America does special things for Grand Voyages [cruises longer than 40 days] like giving guests gifts throughout the cruise, having more cocktail receptions, and hosting more special events like themed lunch buffets. Our ship even has a huge 2012 Asia/Australia Grand Voyage logo decal on the front of it.) We met Linda and Muriel, widows from California, at the sail-away.

Before we left for dinner we ended up with five bottles of champagne. We’re not quite sure where the fifth one came from but we’ll take it. (When we entered our suite for the first time there were all sorts of envelopes with cards in them saying things like “Compliments of your travel agent”, “From the Captain”, etc. It took us awhile just to open up all of the envelopes with our “gifts”, most of which were things we purchased prior to the cruise [like internet time, distilled water, a shore excursion, etc.].)

It was time for our 8:00 PM late dinner seating that we selected (compared to a 5:30 PM dinner seating). We were assigned to a table for six but we were the only ones that showed up so dinner was pretty quick. Neither of us had dessert, either. Let’s hope that lasts!! Every woman was given a beautiful long stem rose which was another little thing that differentiated a Grand Voyage from a normal HAL cruise.

When we returned to our room after dinner, we had a ~$75 collection of full-size Molton Brown London toiletries on our bed with a note saying it was for Deluxe Verandah Suite guests. It’s a good thing we have free luggage shipping back to our house in December! We turned our clocks back and went to bed. It had been a very full day and we felt very good about being 98% unpacked/settled in.

September 22, 2012 (Saturday, Day 3, At Sea) –

Snookums went to the free 7:30 fitness class. Every day it is called “Total Body Conditioning” but the instructor said it would be different each day. Today was a class using light weights. Snookums and Filbert ate breakfast in Neptune Lounge (a yogurt parfait for Snookums and cheese and “deli” meats for Filbert) and then attended the Meet & Greet to put faces to people that had been posting things about this cruise. Snookums also used this time to collect money from the 32 people on the Komodo Island dragon trek and snorkel tour that she organized. Then she returned to the cabin and finished the little things that needed to be done to really get settled in and totally unpacked.

Filbert attended John Palmisano’s “Oceanography & Biotic Interactions” lecture in the morning and Warren Salinger’s “World Affair: Globalization One” lecture in the afternoon. Snookums went to the standing room only movie “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” but was disappointed since the popcorn was gone five minutes before the movie started. (She brought a chair into the theatre and was very comfortable.) Next time she’ll have to get there earlier in order to get a seat and popcorn.

We received our November U.S. election ballots via email and printed those off, voted, put them in envelopes and gave them to Kate to mail from Japan. We thought we would receive the ballot via mail while we were docked in Yokohama, but email is much simpler. The man at the Jackson County Election Board told us that we didn’t qualify for email but that Missouri was working on changing the rules and he would try to get the ballots to us via email. Talk about easy! We don’t know if our ballots will really be counted or not, but we’ve done all we can do.

Prior to dinner we went to the suite cocktail party hosted by Captain Fred Eversen and Hotel Director Henk J. Mensink. Captain Eversen remembered us from the July Alaska cruise. Paul, the Food & Beverage Manager, told us that there were 820 guests on board and we would max out at 850 during the entire cruise. That is great since the ms Amsterdam can hold 1,300 passengers.

Bird on a wire, outside the cocktail party

We went to dinner and our tablemates still didn’t show up. We were asked if we wanted to move and we said “yes” and were seated at a table with two other couples – John and Laura from near Washington, DC and John and Sharie from a Vancouver suburb. We all got along and it seems to be a great table.

After dinner we returned to our room and our five sets of laundry were back and only one thing needed to be re-washed due to dirt that the laundry managed to get on it. No problem. We set our clocks back again and went to sleep. Captain Eversen is navigating the ship way north to avoid a storm but the ship was still rocking quite a bit.

September 23 (Sunday, Day 4, At Sea) –

Snookums went to the fitness class but since the ship was rocking so much, it was mostly floor work. Two people left half way through since they were starting to feel sick. After class Snookums rode one of the stationary bikes but quit after five minutes since she had been looking at the ocean too much and was starting to feel seasick. Filbert took some Dramamine and Snookums was going to take some but never got around to it and ended up feeling fine. After a leisurely breakfast in Neptune Lounge while chatting with Mary and David, passengers from Florida, Snookums and Filbert attended Travel Guide Barbara Haenni’s Kushiro lecture.

After a lunch of make your own taco salad (one of the many things we like about HAL is the daily taco bar), it was time for naps! It was rainy, yucky and cold outside and the ship was rocking and rolling so naps were definitely a good idea.

Due to our VIP status (HAL gave us a VIP package (?) since Snookums wrote a letter after one of our cruises with some constructive criticism) we were invited to a Merabella jewelry event and since it fit nicely with our formal night schedule, we went. Filbert passed on the free champagne and Snookums looked at the four Fabergé eggs and talked to the manager about them. She was told that more will be coming for a three-week period during the cruise and was also told that during the Baltic cruise season, he averaged selling $150,000 of Fabergé eggs during each 12-day Baltic cruise!

After the jewelry event, we attended the formal Captain’s Welcome Champagne Reception. Most of the passengers are eating during the 5:30 PM seating which meant that very few people attended the 7 PM Captain’s Welcome. There was plenty of free alcohol for everyone. Captain Eversen told the crowd that along with the 820 guests on board, there are 600 crewmembers. That’s almost a 1:1 ratio! The other night Snookums asked Paul, Food & Beverage Manager, if all of the crew were working and getting paid and was told that their contracts have a minimum amount of money they are guaranteed and that they know to expect to earn less on Grand Voyages but it is a different type of work environment and they get to see different ports. When we got to dinner, Laura and John weren’t there since Laura was seasick but John and Sharie were there and we had a nice dinner. The dining room was decorated with flags from all nations and huge globes were hanging from the ceiling. Filbert wanted one of the globes but realized that it wouldn’t physically fit in our house.

When we got back to our cabin, we were surprised to see two leather journals embossed with the 2012 logo and two matching leather key card cases. And instead of getting the gold foil wrapped cheap milk chocolates that we get every night, we each got a red foil covered Leonidas chocolate. We turned our clocks back and went to bed.

September 24 (Monday, Day 5, At Sea) –

Snookums went to the fitness class and Filbert and Snookums ate breakfast in Neptune Lounge. We attended the Hakodate lecture and then Filbert stayed for the “Marine Reptiles” lecture. We managed to take naps again, and Snookums actually took two. She took a 45-minute one before lunch and a 2-hour one after lunch! The weather was cold and rainy again. Snookums went to her 4 PM free acupuncture consultation for her left shoulder and was surprised to actually get a full treatment. She ended up buying five more treatments for $600 (“reduced” from $750 since she bought the package!). She’s been going to the chiropractor twice a week for three months (at $40 each) and hasn’t noticed any improvement so she figured she didn’t have anything to lose (other than money). And, she had already resigned herself to seeing the orthopedic surgeon at the beginning of 2013 when her $5,000 deductible resets. Here’s hoping for some shoulder pain relief.

After dinner we returned to our cabin and enjoyed watching the rest of Monday Night Football, including the replacement ref’s blown last call that enabled the Seahawks to win. We turned our clocks back and Snookums fell asleep around 10:30 and Filbert went to sleep around 12:30.

September 25 (Tuesday, Day 6, At Sea) –

There was lots of rocking throughout the night and we both woke up around 6:30 AM. (Turning the clock back every night for four nights in a row might be the cause!) We both went to the gym and after showers and breakfast, it was only 9:30 but felt like it should be around 1 PM.

During the Captain’s 12:45 PM update from the bridge daily announcement, he said that the winds would pick up tonight and get to gale force 8 or 9. (Gale force 10 is a hurricane.) It should be fun tonight!!

Filbert attended the “Amazing Lives of Sea Birds” lecture at 2 PM and learned that some albatross will be at sea for three years before returning to land to nest. That’s a lot of time spent just flying around and never landing! Snookums went to Arts & Crafts at 2:30 PM to make a Japanese kimono card. She got there at 2:25 PM and the instructor was already well into her spiel about temples and shrines. At 2:27 PM the instructor said that the kits were all gone and that not everyone would get one. Snookums didn’t get one so she left and wrote a letter to Christel Mensink, Guest Relations Manager, asking that if events are going to start early that should be clarified in the daily Explorer and that if there is a limit on the number of participants, that should also be clarified. Snookums is waiting to see if there is a response. Since she couldn’t do her craft project, she wrote the journal and watched hour-long dramas on TNT. (The two ESPN channels are now off the air due to loss of satellite.) Snookums had thought about going to the Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol movie at 2 PM, but decided to do crafts instead. She should have gone to the movie…

Next year Laura and John are thinking of doing the identical 35-day Oceania cruise that we did in April and May in order to complete their own “around the world” cruise by segments (which is why we did that cruise) so Snookums is going to give them a copy of the journal at dinner. They should learn a lot about Oceania and the ports from reading it. It will be interesting to hear their comments about Oceania. Snookums reread the journal and it reminded her of the things that she disliked about Oceania and made her appreciate Holland America that much more.

The Dining Room Manager spoke to our table for at least five minutes last night and made sure to know that whatever we wanted, we could have it with 24 hours notice since we’re on a Grand Voyage. We learned that most of the cooks are from the Philippines so our table is going to request a Filipino dinner one night. It should be good!

September 27 (Thursday, Day 7, Cross International Date Line, At Sea) –

Long, arduous days at sea

There was some rocking and rolling early in the night, but it wasn’t too bad. Last night’s 10 PM show, featuring the singers and dancers, was cancelled since the ship’s movement was too great. And, we skipped Wednesday altogether since we crossed the International Date Line (which had nothing to do with the rocking and rolling!).

We both woke up around 6 AM since we turned our clocks back another hour last night. Snookums went to the gym and rode the bike for 20 minutes, worked up a good sweat during the 30-minute fitness class and then did the stair climber for 15 minutes. We lost a day so she is thinking she needs to make up for that. And, she has been enjoying chocolates from the Neptune Lounge so the extra work shouldn’t hurt.

While Snookums was in the gym Filbert went up to Lido and was going to have some eggs but saw sticky buns first and got two of them for Snookums (and none for himself) and forgot about his eggs. Since we crossed the International Date Line, free Borderline drinks (aka Mimosas) were passed out at breakfast but Filbert didn’t want any so we ate in Neptune Lounge. Snookums greatly enjoyed the sticky buns. They were outstanding and some of the best she’s tasted. It’s a good thing they are in Lido and not Neptune Lounge! After Filbert ate his Neptune Lounge breakfast of cheeses and meats, he helped Tessie with accessing her email. Tessie and Bert are an elderly couple that live in Honolulu and Tessie hadn’t been able to get her email since embarkation day. She picked the absolute slowest time to try since the satellite isn’t working the best. We’ve lost several TV channels since we are so far north, but she was able to get to her email thanks to Filbert’s help.

Snookums attended the 11 AM raffle of leftover Alaska items but didn’t win any of the four prizes. A few Alaska things were for sale at 75% off, but although she had just been on an Alaskan cruise in July, there was nothing of interest. While Snookums was not winning anything at the Alaska raffle, Filbert was wasting his time at the “Japan” lecture. Per Filbert, Warren Salinger is not a good speaker and Filbert will not be attending any other of his lectures.

At 11:40 AM, there was a 6.4 earthquake 18 miles SSW of Tanaga Volcano, Alaska which was about 50 miles away from the ship. The ship shuddered for three seconds or so. When the ship hits a wave just right (or wrong, as the case may be), it shudders for one second. This shudder, though, lasted much longer. Snookums was sitting in Neptune Lounge while it happened and was trying to figure out if the engines were directly under her (and she knew they weren’t). During the Captain’s daily announcement, he said that it was an earthquake and that no tsunami warning had been given and that it was the first time he had experienced an earthquake at sea and he could now cross that off his bucket list. Cool!

After lunch, Snookums attended the crafts class and made an “elegant daffodil pouch”. It involved hand sewing three inches of fabric and threading some ribbon through the casing. After 45 minutes, a woman approached Snookums and asked her if she wanted her to finish it. Snookums readily accepted her help and the woman was done in 10 minutes. Snookums’s problem was that she was stitching about 50 stitches per half inch and that was taking too long. Anyway, the finished product is rather cute, looks “Japanesey” and is big enough to hold a bracelet.

Then it was off to Snookums’s 4 PM second acupuncture session. She got nine needles this time as compared to the three she got during the first session. Then she went to the “Fab Abs” class at 5 PM. There was only one other participant, the lead male singer who is from Jefferson City, MO and has lived in Kansas City for the past four years. The first dinner seating is at 5:30 PM and most of the cruise passengers are eating during the early seating which means that very few people are available for the 5 PM class. The only people in the gym were the singers and dancers. It was a killer class!

For the first time ever on a cruise, Snookums took advantage of the whirlpool tub in the suite and soaked in warm, bubbly water for 20 minutes. It was decadent. While Snookums was making a craft, getting poked, doing crunches and bathing, Filbert was busy on his computer enjoying a day at sea.

During dinner we ordered a special meal for the entire table for Friday night of Filipino dishes. We don’t know what we’ll get, but it should be good. We turned our clocks back and went to sleep.

September 28 (Friday, Day 8, At Sea) –

Snookums woke up a little after 7 AM and turned off her alarm and slept in. The day was sunny and the seas calm. After showering, we got to Neptune around 8:30, our normal time, and had breakfast. Filbert left at 11 to go to the “Coral Reef Fishes of the North Pacific Ocean” lecture. Snookums continued sitting in Neptune talking to Geanne (pronounced “Jan”) until Filbert came back around noon. That’s a record for Snookums to sit in Neptune Lounge – 3 1/2 hours of talking!! Geanne is traveling with her elderly mother.

Lunch was special today since there was a Mongolian BBQ by the pool. It was nice to pick your own vegetables, meat and spices and have it cooked on a wok just for you. Snookums’s was spicy (and just right) but Filbert’s was bland so he had to spice it up with some wasabi dissolved in soy sauce. After lunch Filbert sat on the verandah with just a fleece jacket on while listening to his short wave radio. Snookums went outside for just a second and saw a pod of small whales (or dolphins, but she thinks they were whales due to the spouts) and chastised Filbert for not doing a better job of sealife spotting!

For those of you wondering what there is to do during a day at sea, the following activities happened between 11:00 and 2:30 today:
– 11:00 – Explorations Speaker Series, Queen’s Lounge, 4 & 5
– 11:00 – Onboard Games, Ocean Bar, 5
– 11:00 – Spa Seminar: Eat More to Weigh Less, Greenhouse Spa, 8
– 11:15 – Cooking Show: Flavors from Pinnacle Grill, Culinary Arts Center, 4
– 11:15 – Beginner’s Bridge Instruction, Hudson Room, 5
– 11:30 – Cruise Classics: Football Toss, Sports Court, 9
– 11:30-2:00 – Mongolian Cookout, Lido Poolside, 8
– 12:30 – Complimentary Gaming Lessons, Casino, 5
– 1:00 – Lifestyle Show: For the Love of Chocolate, Culinary Arts Center, 4
– 1:00 – Watercolors Class, Club HAL, 9
– 1:00 – Introductory Photo Editing II, Digital Workshop, 5
– 1:30 – Cruise Classics: Wii Challenge, Crow’s Nest, 9
– 1:30 – Texas Hold’em Tournament, Casino, 5
– 1:30 – Game Players Meet, La Fontaine Dining Room, 5
– 1:45 – Duplicate Bridge Play, Kings Room, 5
– 2:00 – Explorations Speaker Series, Queen’s Lounge, 4 & 5
– 2:00 – Ask Your Travel Guide Barbara, Upper Promenade, 5
– 2:00 – Qi Gong, Hudson Room, 5
– 2:30 – Techspert Time, Digital Workshop, 5
– 2:30 – Arts & Crafts: Water Bottle Leash, Lido Restaurant, 8

Snookums attended crafts again and made a water bottle leash. It took Snookums one hour and 20 minutes to complete the project and most of the other crafters were done in around 20 minutes max! The instructor was still there since she was leading an optional crafts class so there wasn’t any pressure on Snookums to get it done fast. Her red thread hand stitching lined up with the thin red line on the grosgrain ribbon perfectly so that the stitches couldn’t be seen. The final product looked professional but unfortunately the rubber “O” ring is too large and doesn’t snugly hold the neck of a water bottle so the water bottle leash craft is useless!

Snookums went to the gym and did her own hard workout and was finished at 5 PM. She was dripping wet, very red and out of breath due to her intense bike session, but stayed for the “Fab Abs” class since the instructor encouraged her to stay. That was probably a mistake since she was so beat to begin with, but oh well. She ended up soaking in the suite’s whirlpool tub for at least 30 minutes and felt like a new woman afterwards!

While Snookums was in the gym, Filbert power walked around Deck 3 for an hour and saw two whale spouts.

Our dinner was an authentic Filipino meal that we had specially ordered the night before. (Most of the cooks on the ship are Filipino.) Our table was given two large bowls of rice, some shrimp soup that was very vinegary, sour and absolutely delicious, chicken adobo and a noodle dish with chicken on the top. The noodle dish reminded Snookums of ramen noodles. She and Filbert really enjoyed the shrimp soup the best, but it was all great. Everyone ate everything and we only had empty serving bowls to send back to the kitchen. We’re going to order an Indonesian dinner next week! After turning our clocks back yet again, we went to sleep.

September 29 (Saturday, Day 9, At Sea) –

Snookums woke up at 4:30 AM. (We have one more night of turning our clocks back.) She ultimately went to the 7:30 AM fitness class. Then she attended the 10 AM “Things to See & Do in Kobe, Osaka & Kyoto” travel lecture and decided that she and Filbert would take the bullet train to Kyoto when the ship docks in Kobe. Kobe was a port on our 2008 Grand Voyage cruise so we’ve already explored it.

Filbert tried to write but after around 30 minutes he gave it up and instead played his computer game, Civilization 4. Then he went to the “Sea Otters – Pillars of the Nearshore Environment” lecture and learned how the sea’s smallest mammals alter communities by eating sea urchins that harm the kelp. He followed that with a 50 minute power walk around Deck 3.

Snookums went to crafts and made the eco-friendly fabric coin purse and then she went to the gym and rode the bike for 45 minutes since she is still eating a lot of chocolates from Neptune Lounge! On her way out of the gym she spoke to Hamish, one of the two fitness instructors, and asked if he would do a circuit class tomorrow morning since that is the best workout (in her opinion). Dripping sweat, she then went to her second of five acupuncture appointments. She isn’t noticing any improvement in her shoulder, but is giving it time. Christopher, the acupuncturist, wants to see her next on October 8 since he wants to give it time, too.

Dinner was the formal Black and Silver Dinner followed by the Black and Silver Ball. The dining room looked amazing with black and silver Mylar decorations hanging all over the place and the Queen’s Lounge was equally decked out. Both the dining room and the Queen’s Lounge looked the most spectacular Snookums has ever seen on a cruise ship. The entertainment staff started decorating the Queen’s Lounge at 5 PM for the 9:30 PM ball. There were lots of helium-filled black and silver balloon centerpieces on each cocktail table, too, in the Queen’s Lounge as well as glitter and flat little black plastic top hats and silver stars strewn all over the carpet which added to the bling. The vacuuming process will NOT be easy! We forgot to bring a camera…

When we got back to our room at 11 PM (our latest night so far!), we saw the gift of the logoed green messenger bag and first aid kit that each of us received. They are very nice, but we probably won’t use them since we have our own favorite bags to use while walking around port. The battered women’s shelter at home that Snookums donates items to will get great use from them, though. We got out of our formal clothes, turned our clocks back and went to sleep.

September 30 (Sunday, Day 10, At Sea) –

Snookums went to the fitness class and enjoyed Hamish’s circuit class while sweating a lot and breathing hard. We were eating breakfast in Neptune Lounge when the Captain came on and made an announcement stating that Typhoon Jelawat will be hitting Kushiro on Monday with 60+ knots wind gusts and that is unsafe so the port is cancelled. Free wine and soft drinks will be served at Monday’s dinner instead. Another day at sea…

Snookums attended the 10 AM Nagasaki lecture and Filbert attended the 11 AM “The Salmon Problem” lecture and learned that wild Pacific salmon were on the decline but now they are coming back and no one really knows why.

We ate lunch with one set of our neighbors, Phil and Flory (suite 7026). They are in their late 80s and Flory has very bad osteoporosis and uses a wheelchair a lot of the time since she is doubled over. We met in Lido for lunch, but her special type of wheelchair didn’t fit under any of the tables so then we went to the dining room and had a very nice lunch there. They were both born in Amsterdam and immigrated to the U.S. a long time ago. Flory was an anesthesiologist and Phil was an ophthalmologist. Flory said that in her Amsterdam medical school, 25% of the students were women but when she came to the U.S., there were very, very few. Phil now writes “The Discerning Traveler” column for International Travel News which is a monthly travel magazine that Snookums has a lifetime subscription to! We introduced them to Mary and David and since Mary was also born in the Netherlands, she immediately started speaking Dutch and the three of them went to town in Dutch. They decided to meet for lunch another day but Snookums saw them in Neptune on Monday, October 1 during breakfast and the three of them were in deep discussion in Dutch. (David was conversing in English with another passenger.)

Snookums went to crafts class and learned the Japanese art of furoshiki fabric wrapping. Only a square piece of fabric is needed – no needle, scissors or glue. Snookums walked away with a set of directions and a pink bandanna. It was definitely a crafts class she could handle! While at crafts, some women started pointing out the windows and Snookums figured there were dolphins outside. Nope, just land. But, since land had not been seen in nine days, it was a big deal. And, the two cloud shrouded “mountains” were quite pretty. People were taking pictures and everything. Back in our suite, Filbert also took photos of them and determined that it was Russia.

Snookums then read her book which led to a three-hour nap before dinner. Upon returning to our room after dinner, for the first time on the cruise we did NOT have to turn our clocks back an hour.

October 1 (Monday, Day 11, Kushiro, Japan – cancelled due to Typhoon Jelawat) –

Our tenth day in a row at sea! Filbert and Snookums woke up around 6:30 AM and decided to have breakfast in Lido (for the first time on this cruise) rather than Neptune. Snookums ate three outstanding sticky buns along with her oatmeal. After quick showers, we left the cabin and hung out in the library (aka Explorations Café). Snookums submitted her answers to the “Daily Quiz” which was focused on Kushiro. She checked out two Japan travel guides, but only one of them had any information on Kushiro and that was only three paragraphs.

Filbert attended the “Killer Whales & Humpbacks” lecture and Snookums went to crafts and made a postcard using “zentangle” technique. It’s black and white drawing using a fine point marker and filling in an outline (in this case, a sun with rays) with patterns. Then Snookums went to the gym for a 45-minute workout. It wasn’t her hardest workout, but she went and did it and that’s what counts.

Snookums was very happy that her Polar heart rate monitor achieved the trophy this morning. The watch face gets a trophy on Mondays when the prior week’s goal of calories burned was met. Snookums knew her ship workouts aren’t as rigorous as her three times a week ones at home so that is why she made sure to go to the gym every day. And she got her trophy so it worked. Her goal for the cruise is to get the trophy every Monday.

Each of our shipboard accounts was credited $11.04 in port taxes since Kushiro was canceled.

October 2 (Tuesday, Day 12, Hakodate, Japan; 100 JPY = $1.28, $1.00 = 78 JPY) –

Moon over Hakodate

We woke up to sunshine and a temperature forecast in the mid-70s. Snookums went to the 7:30 AM fitness class but was the only one there so it wasn’t held. She did a lame 20-minute workout instead. She also weighed herself and she gained 2.6 pounds since September 21. Yikes!

While walking through the library to go through Japanese immigration, we saw that Snookums was the winner of yesterday’s quiz because she got 5.5 out of 15 correct! She’ll have to pick up her prize later. Then we caught the free shuttle to Hakodate Station. We went to the ATM in the train station for our Japanese yen and then went to the Morning Market which is the largest public fish market in Hokkaido. (Hokkaido is Japan’s second largest island and makes up 20% of Japan’s land mass.) Hakodate is known for its squid and crab and we saw plenty of each and in all forms – live, cooked, pickled and even squid ice cream.

Morning Market: Really Big Crab
Morning Market: Squid on the hoof

We kept walking and managed to see the 1916 Eastern Orthodox church, the 1924 Catholic church, the Episcopal church, some Shinto shrines and a Buddhist temple. Filbert bought a small can of iced black coffee for $1.67 and a package of Hokkaido ramen (for a Christmas gift) with really absurd English on the package. We kept walking and came upon Hakodate Park which was a very nice park and had children’s amusement rides and a very small (free) zoo with some ponies, various birds, goats and deer. Then we walked the two miles back to the train station but first had to find Japan’s oldest concrete utility pole which was built in 1923. (It was actually highlighted on the map and since it was so absurd, we had to find it.) We found it and then realized that we literally had walked right by it two hours earlier and had even talked about it before then!

Hakodate Park
The First Concrete Pole in Japan

When we got to the train station, after walking for about four hours, we decided to have lunch and ordered the $10.90 pork cutlet, brown gravy and white rice meal. When it was delivered to us we were surprised to see that we also got a bowl of broth (not miso soup), a small portion of potato salad and about seven or eight French fries. A fried green pepper was placed on top of the pork cutlet and the plate did look quite nice. We were starving and ate everything.

After standing in line for 25 minutes, we took the free shuttle back to the ship. We had walked for four straight hours before sitting down for lunch! Filbert immediately took a shower since the day had been so nice and sunny. Snookums read her book on the verandah and then we went to the sail-away party on Deck 3 since our side of the ship was NOT facing the dock. There were a bunch of kindergartners in a long line that did several dances and there were also older adults (like grandparents?) that did the same dance with them. Even the people in the audience (like the parents), knew the dance as did the high school girls that were the hostesses for our visit. Ika Odori is a dance that Hakodate citizens learn at an early age and then do at festivals. The whole thing was kind of weird, but in a good way.

Ika Odori dance

Filbert was groaning and moaning about how tired and sore he was and Snookums suggested going to the hot tub and that felt very good. At dinner everyone at our table was tired from the long day at port and we adjourned around 15 minutes earlier than normal. Snookums immediately fell asleep while Filbert watched the 2012 International Cricket Competition between Pakistan and Australia. ESPN has been showing this cricket tournament for the last three days or so and we’ve been watching a fair amount of it. We still don’t understand most of cricket’s rules, but it’s making a little more sense.