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Old May 9th, 2010, 11:28 PM
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Travel Day, Overnight, and Night One
Normally when I fly, especially without Mrs. Kuki accompanying me, I have a bit of a bit of a habit of running into some “unusual situations”. This trip, was atypical, as my flight left relatively close to “on time”, and I was even on it when it left.
Now, the actual airplane we flew on was not typical either. My seat was both an aisle seat and a window seat. That caught my attention! No I wasn’t flying this baby. It’s just an odd configuration. The overhead bin was just large enough to hold a ball-cap, if I‘d be wearing one.
The flight however was thankfully eventful, except for the circling we did in tough winds, attempting to land at Newark. One of our turns was so tight I could have just slipped out the window, and landed on deck of whatever RCI ship was docked at Bayonne, N.J.
But land we did, and to my disbelief my checked back was the third case to show up on the carousel. The Holland rep. was there to greet me, and another couple transferring to the same hotel, and off we went, to the Grand Hyatt, located immediately next to (and connected to) Grand Central Station.
Grand, in the name doesn’t refer to the hotel, but to it’s location… which is very good; a short walk to Time Square. Saturday night in NY, just walking is grand, so I was happy, and enjoyed a bit of a deli pig out at Carnegie Deli.
I awoke this morning to jump in the shower, and found the showerhead in the bathroom just hanging down, limp against the wall. When I turned it on, the water ran weakly down the wall. I guess I had more of a sponge bath, than I did a shower, then happily placed my Holland America luggage tag on my bag, and checked out.
In the lobby, I quickly found the Holland America representatives, and the other journalists on the trip, and we boarded a bus for the quick trip to the Manhattan Pier. I had completed my online check in, and HAL had expedited our check in process at the pier. I had my photo taken for embedding in my “sail and spend card”, received the card, filled in a form stating I had no evidence of The Plague, or Noro-Virus before boarding, and was off to cross the gangway. Other than a bridal party, I think I was actually the first passenger on the ship. Well… sort of on the ship. When they entered my card in their machine at the gangway, there was no me! No doubt the security officer working embarkation thought: “Not the way to start my day!”. Rather than hold up the line building behind me, he made note of my cabin # and sent me on my way, instructing me to check at the guest relations desk later to get the situation remedied.
I purchased a drink on Lido Deck later, and the system said I was still not me, but the bartender handwrote a receipt, and I was on my way. So, after my drink, my next step was to guest relations. After some time “behind the scenes” I was told somehow my entire reservation had disappeared, wiped from the system, between the time I checked in, and the time I boarded. I waited patiently, telling them there was no way I was going to back to the Grand Hyatt to spend a week. Guest relations staff were friendly, helpful and apologetic, and after about 15 minutes there was officially a “me”, and I was on my way, with a “sail and spend” card that we thought would work. I was set to begin the cruise.
Cabins were not going to be ready for occupancy until 1:30 P.M. so I proceeded to Lido deck to mil around with the other 1350 passengers.
I last sailed the Veendam in 1998. In the spring of 2009 was her most recent refit, where she was upgraded to the standard of Holland America’s “Signature of Excellence”, so we toured her to see the changes (much more on those as the cruise progresses).
I’m a smoker. I know I’m ugly, I stink… just shoot me! Now that we’ve got that out of the way. Here’s the facts…
The only places I’ve so far determined where one can smoke is an area in the Crow’s Nest Lounge, an area on the aft deck, starboard side by a bar, in the casino at specified times and days, in cabins and on balconies.
But, today, during embarkation one couldn’t smoke outdoors because we were “bunkering” (taking on fuel), the Crow’s Nest was closed for a private party, the casino was closed because we were in port, and the cabins weren’t available for occupancy. Unbelievably, I survived! (Sorry!)
The point is… I think non smokers will probably be quite pleased with Holland America’s restricted smoking policies in the public rooms; not so happy that it forces smokers to their cabins and balconies. We evil smokers will either adapt, or quit.
Smoking is a “hot button” issue for many. At the moment I think something like only 20% of the North American population smokes. I would actually like to see a cruise line set up “smoking sections” within the cabins onboard, even as an experiment. All of these cabins should be towards the aft of the ship, so even on balconies, smoke would be blowing back while the ship is underway.
At any rate, on to other less lethal topics…
At 4:15 the horn sounded for the life boat drill. New to Holland America, you aren’t required to take you life jacket with you to the drill. This is apparently to avoid injuries from people tripping on the long straps, as they literally dragged them along. Of NOTE… they cabin steward does knock on the cabin door to make you aware you should go to the drill, and once there, they did take attendance. I was there to yell “Aye”, but they didn’t ask me to show my sail and spend card to see if I was still me, or if I’d been deleted again.
It was quite a chilly and very windy day in New York today. With regard to weather, I’ve actually had little luck with sailing out of New York. This is my third time sailing out of New York, and each time we’ve sailed past the Statue of Liberty (which I LOVE doing), I’ve been dressed in clothes more appropriate for Alaska, and still shivering.
We’ve just pulled away from the pier. Time to head up out on deck and check out the sail-away party, as we pass next to Lady Liberty. Some thing new, since I last sailed Holland America, is a pool-side barbeque during sail-a-way. It apparently works very well, because there was a surprisingly large turnout. Of course there’s no way to tell if they were there for the food or the band, but the voice in my head was telling me the food must take a lot of credit for the resultant festivities.
Though the temperature was hovering close to 45-50 degrees outside, I made my way to the aft outdoor (and uncovered) “Retreat” area to get a better view, when I came across a few other hearty souls, most wrapped in heavy sweatshirts and even blankets to try and stay warm. But I also came across a young honeymoon couple, enjoying each other’s company in the hot tub.
This brought to mind just how many younger people I’d already seen on this cruise. For some reason it’s still not something many of think about when thinking Holland America. Some may think it’s just because I’ve grown old, having recently turned 60, so everyone just looks younger to me. But, though the “older folks” are most certainly still well represented, there seem to be substantially more young people at least test “driving dad’s Cadillac”.
Once again, I attempted to purchase a drink at a bar, and once again the ship’s computer system didn’t want to recognize my existence. Back to Guest Relations I went, and they checked and said I was A OK on their screen.
I wasn’t too concerned as my card opened my cabin door so I carried on. A short time later an invitation to a cocktail party arrived in my cabin mail slot, addressed to Lillian, with my last name. I couldn’t decide if Mrs. Kuki had arrived to surprise me, but changed her name before coming, or if I should be looking for a dress to wear to cocktails and dinner.
This cruise marks the first time I’ve been on a ship in over a year after a voluntary hiatus from cruising. Let me be clear… I am very happy to be at sea again. But I got reminded of two things very quickly; television service is pretty crappy, and internet service can be very spotty… which is why today’s report hasn’t been posted earlier, and you’ll also have to wait for the picture of the honeymoon couple in the hot tub as we left New York.
I told you, there’s always a bit of misadventure when I travel without Mrs. Kuki to manage me. BTW.. Happy Mother’s Day Dear!!
- A View From the Kuki Side of Cruising-
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