This is the end of the African Cruise blogs and since we spent 20 of our 32 day cruise aboard the Amsterdam I thought it was only appropriate that I take you on a tour of the ship, especially while at sea. Before I do that let me tell you a little bit about her. The Amsterdam is a 61,000 ton ship, 780 feet long by 106 feet wide. She holds 1,260 passengers and a crew of 600. She has a maximum speed of 25 knots (28.77 miles) per hour and while on this cruise averaged about 17 knots per hour. From Buenos Aires to Mumbai we traveled about 9,500 miles. As I said, we had 20 days at sea, the longest stretch being the crossing of the Atlantic, which took 8 days. Fortunately the weather was calm almost the entire trip and we had only one day when the Captain said to be careful as we walked about.
OK, let’s take a look at our home away from home (Susy and I have spent 97 days aboard the Amsterdam). Look at the photo album above titled “Cruising on the Amsterdam” and in the first photo we approach this beautiful ocean liner. The second photo shows the gangway with a “Welcome Aboard” sign on the Lower Promenade Deck below the Life Boats. After entering the ship you get in one of the elevators to go to your cabin, and the first thing you notice is the elevator floor mat shows you the day of the week (3rd photo). Believe me it is helpful because you can lose all track of time and day when you’re on these cruises. Getting off the elevator you usually end up in one of these long corridors (4th photo) with cabins on both sides. Our cabin was on the Dolphin Deck (this corridor) up front on the port (left) side. Once you get settled in your cabin you usually like to take a tour of the ship, and on the Amsterdam I suggest we start at the “Atrium” which is in the forward center of the ship, and is a beautiful, gigantic clock, three decks (or stories) high (5th photo). Around this clock the ships life revolves. On the first deck of the Atrium (the Lower Promenade Deck) are cabins, ships offices, and a promenade which circles the entire ship. This promenade is used for walkers and lounging outdoors only. The second deck of the Atrium (the Promenade Deck) has the ships information center near the clock, with the main dining restaurant in the rear, the large theater in the front, and another restaurant, art gallery, and photo center in between. The third deck of the Atrium (the Upper Promenade Deck) has the second floor of the main dining restaurant in the rear, the library, casino, shops, lounges and bars, in between and the second floor of the main theater in front. The sixth photo shows you the third deck of the Atrium around the Atrium, while the seventh photo shows you the large electronic map showing where we are at all times, the weather, time, state of the seas, etc.. As we turn to go along the Upper Promenade Deck the eighth photo shows you one of the magnificent flower displays located throughout the ship. Most of your leisure time (if you can find any) is spent in the Library/Internet Café called the “Explorations Café” (9th & 10th photo). With its comfortable sofas and chairs and full length windows to the sea it is a wonderful place to pass the hours reading, surfing the internet, or just taking a short snooze. On the same deck not too far away are the “shops” (11th and 12th photos). You would think that the ladies would get tired of these shops after the first day or two, but the ship’s shop keepers are very smart. Although most of the items are the same, about every day or two they turn over one third of the merchandise. On top of that they have drawings for prizes and bring on new jewelry collections at every port. In short the ladies (not Susy, of course) have to stop by every day and spent a lot of time snapping up the bargains (ha, ha). Now let’s go up to the deck we probably spent the second most time on (the Upper Promenade being first by far), the Lido Deck. The Lido Deck has the large main pool (13th and 14th photos) with its all weather retractable roof, the main cafeteria (Open 6:30 AM to 9 PM and 11 PM – 12 PM for a late night snack), and the rear outdoor pool. It also has in the front of the ship, the hairdresser, gym, and Spa, not to mention its many bars, snack stations (i.e. hamburgers, ice cream, & pizza), and an Italian specialty restaurant. The only thing you pay for on this ship is your alcohol and soft drinks (of course, water, tea, and coffee are not charged). The last photos were taken from the “Sports Deck” and in the fifteenth photo you see the upper running track on this deck (here you can run). At the back of the ship, on each side of the smoke stacks are a basketball court and a small tennis court. Behind the smoke stacks is a whole area dedicated to kids, from small tots (a nursery) to teens (nickelodeons & lounge) even though this area is empty most of the time (because the passengers are mostly elderly retirees). In the front of the ship on this deck, is a large lounge, bar, and discotheque called the “Crow’s Nest” which stays open till the last person leaves at night and gives you a breath-taking few of the front of the ship and where it’s going.
Now that we have taken a quick, brief tour of the ship let’s look at the daily activities. The question I get most from people after a cruise is “Don’t you get bored on the days at sea?” My answer is always the same; “are you kidding, just look at the daily program (16th photo)”. If you want to get up at 7:30 AM after partying all night you can do exercises in the main theater sitting down or wait until 8 AM and walk a mile with everyone brave enough to get up at that time. Then throughout the morning you can take bridge lessons, watercolor classes, or easy sports like paddle tennis. If that all sounds to exhausting, you can settle for lectures, liquor tasting (for those who need to start early), or computer workshops. Sometime before 11 AM you have had breakfast and after one of these activities (or just lying around the pool) it becomes lunch time and the start of the afternoon activities (more of the same). If you want to try and save your waistline you can follow me to the gym (17th photo) with its great view forward from the treadmills (18th photo). After we run three miles and work off a part of the food we have consumed from last night and today, we have to hit the weights (19th photo) in order to lift our forks and knives tonight. After our complete workout we head back to the cabin, take our shower, dress and get ready for the evenings activities. First sitting down at the evening’s dinner table we are presented with “tonight’s menu” (20th photo). The menus are different every night and include four courses (starter, soup or salad, entrée, and desert). If you don’t like what’s on the menu you just order the standbys, fish, chicken, or steak. Our waiter tells us what is good on this evening’s menu and our sommelier brings us our unfinished wine bottle from last night. Susy and I have a tradition of taking each other’s photo each night at the dinner table so we can see the effect the cruise has on us as we go along. In the twenty-first photo you see Susy on Feb. 8th when we started the cruise. In the twenty-second photo you see her on Mar. 8th one month later. See any difference? In the twenty-third photo you see yours truly on Feb. 8th and in the twenty-fourth photo you see me on Mar. 8th. With me you don’t see much difference because I’m always happy when I’m aboard the ship. After dinner it’s show time, so we head to the “Queen’s Lounge” (the large live theater) for the evening show. These shows are different every night, featuring performers from the New York stage, the West End, Las Vegas, Hollywood, etc. At least every other week there is a full Broadway Musical production by the ships singers and dancers (25th photo). The show usually gets over about eleven o’clock and just time for a little blackjack in the casino (26th photo) before bed time. Depending on whether Susy and I lose or win (we always set a fixed amount to lose), sometime after midnight we go back to the cabin and are greeted by the little towel animals (27th photo) the cabin stewards place on our beds along with the next day’s program and a delicious chocolate. By the way, if you just want to stay in your cabin, you have television (with CNN and ESPN when you’re near land, and at least 5 movie channels) plus a DVD player (you can get first run movies from the library). You can order food and drinks in your cabin 24 hours and a small version of the New York Times is delivered daily.
Are you exhausted, I am just explaining the day, but it’s really not, just the opposite, it’s very relaxing if you take it slow and don’t try to do everything available on the ship. The point in all this is you won’t be bored. Apart from all these daily activities the ship’s crew plans special theme days. For example the day before we got to Africa they had a “Safari night”. The large main pool and surrounding area were closed for the day and they moved in desert vehicles (28th photo), camp fires (29th photo), and camp tents (30th photo). The whole evening dinner was served from the camp fires by our waiters who were dressed as Safari guides (31st photo). It was incredible how they duplicated a safari camp. As we approached the Indian Ocean we had a “Pirates Night”, and you guessed it, the waiters were dressed as pirates (32nd photo). The whole dining room was decorated like a pirate ship (33rd photo). On Royal Night (a formal night) the waiters dressed in royal costumes (34th photo). Here I want to insert a photo of our Latin Group (35th photo), which Susy and I hosted at our table the second to the last night of our cruise, Royal Night. You have seen them many times throughout my blogs on this cruise (Jorge, Sergio, Trish, Diana, Susy, JoAnne, Leo, and yours truly), and the reason I insert them here is that cruising, apart from the activities, ship, etc. is the opportunity to meet new friends and know wonderful people. Susy and I were blessed to meet these three couples apart from many other people and as we parted we said we’d probably see each other next while cruising. That evening there was a Royal Ball in the Queen’s Lounge (36th and 37th photos). This was the night Susy and I didn’t win most romantic couple on the ship, and Susy told the Cruise Director (a friend of ours from the Pacific Cruise) that she wouldn’t cruise with Holland American any more unless he came across with the “titles” (which includes a bottle of Champaign). I couldn’t describe the onboard activities without including the time around the Lido rear deck pool (38th photo). At each port as we pulled away, you have to head for the rear deck pool to enjoy the “Sail Away Party” (39th and 40th photos). Drinks, live music, and a very festive spirit marks every sail away, including the Captain blowing the ship’s fog horn to salute the port he was leaving.
Well, that’s it; I hope you have enjoyed the tour. The Amsterdam (41st photo) is a wonderful home for 10 days or 100 days. Each time we walked off the gangway (42nd photo), we really were happy to get back because it was like a second home for us. Nothing, of course, can take the place of our home, our family, and our land friends, but for a little while, once in a while, it’s great to call home one of these ocean vessels (43rd photo) and be spoiled by its crew and its life.
Until the next cruise (God willing),
I Love You All,
Gary (alias Gagu)