Sunday, 5 February 2017

2016 Veendam Panama Christmas New Year Cruise

2016 Veendam Panama Christmas New Year Cruise

Tuesday 20 December 2016

I woke up at 4.10 am to go to the bathroom and before going back to bed I checked the time in Oz and found it was early evening so I decided to Viber a few friends. At first the Wifi wasn’t the best and kept dropping out. In the end I was able to have some good conversations and before I knew it the time was 7.30 am.

I then thought better get ready for the day as my friend Vickie was going to drop in to have brekkie with me after she got off her cruise on the Veendam.

Vickie arrived much earlier than so she expected so I had to smarten up my act.

We had brekkie and then did the final packing as I was getting the shuttle to the ship and she was taking the shuttle to the airport. As usual it is always great to catch up with Vickie and have some time with her.

The shuttle transfer and the check-in process went like clockwork and I was on board the Ms Veendam very quickly. I found my Ocean view cabin by dodging the excited kids running around on board for this Holiday cruise.

The welcome back onboard drinks also included the 3 Stars as well as the usual 4 & 5 Stars so it was crowded in the Crows Nest. Some of the excited little vegemites even proudly wore their bronze medallions and their 3 star pins. Well some folk like to feel Important.

Then we had the compulsory boat drill before we sailed which was crowded so I checked in and then went and sat inside with all the old and wheelchair folk.

After I finished the unpacking I went up to the Seaview bar for the sail away from Fort Lauderdale and listened to a young lady playing the steel drums.

 The views of the city skyline were great against the rays of the golden setting sun.

I was met at the dining room by Tom the MaƮtre de and was taken to the Papaku table in the upstairs dining room by the window. The table seats 4 so I have room to invite friends (If I meet some) during the cruise.

The food waiter and the wine waited both know me from a previous world cruise on the Ms Amsterdam so Papaku is getting excellent service.

After dinner I was so tired after the big day would you believe I went straight to my cabin and was in bed by 10 pm without even having a nightcap.

Wednesday 21 December 2016

What a great sleep I had last night as I woke up at 7 am so in my books that was 9 hours sleep.

After getting ready it was off to the dining room for brekkie and I think the rest of the ship was there as it was crowded. I had a table for 2 to myself so I was happy. Fortunately the bulk of the guests was just about finished and was half empty by the time my oatmeal had arrived.

Some of the waiters knew me so there were some strange looks from others when I was called Papaku.

Brekkie was great as they had Vegemite on board.

After brekkie I got ready to go ashore to Half Moon Bay on one of the resorts larger tenders. Boy oh boy there had been some improvements since I was last here 7 years ago.

As I walked into the village I heard my Papaku name being called and it was Chris working behind the bar, so I got a bottle of water from her and had a chat.

 My aim for coming ashore was to wade in the clear waters so I wandered down to the beach and had a paddle in the sea up to my knees.

With the plan being achieved I headed back to the tender for the trip back to the ship.

I had a ‘Papaku Masarap Pizza’ for lunch out on the Retreat deck with a G&T. The pizza was excellent as I had the boys make it to my wishes.

Then it was time for a nanna nap after all this activity and before going to the Crows Nest for Happy Hour.

It was a fun time up at the Crows Nest and the sail away views of half moon bay were brilliant. Chris is a barman and she looked after me very well and introduced me to a few folk.

After getting ready for dinner I called into the Ocean Bar for a pre-dinner drink and was served by an older guy who must have been having a bad hair day (he didn’t have much hair anyway).

I picked up my drink and moved to the Mix Bar where the atmosphere and friendly bar staff were what I have become accustomed to on HAL ships.

Dinner was excellent and the service at the Papaku table was great.

I went up to the Crows Nest for a night cap and was entertained by Erika and the Halcats.

At 11.30pm I called it a night.

Thursday 22 December 2016

Today is first of 2 sea days as we cruise towards Cartagena.
This morning I had a late brekkie and was seated beside an Aussie couple from Sydney that were also on the Prinsendam Amazon cruise. We had a great conversation about our travels and various cruises.

I then went to the talk on the future ports but found it hard to keep awake in the darkened theatre and the accents of the presenters. As usual they are trying scare folk into taking the overpriced HAL shore excursions and not do independent sightseeing.

I went up to the Lido bar where Jeff was working he is such a fun guy and a credit to HAL. I mentioned my disappointment about the service in the OB last night and he said he would speak to the guy as the OB is his bar.

Then we had some unexpected drama as a US Coast Guard had to do a helicopter medic vac of an ill staff member.

The first chopper to arrive didn’t have the range for the manoeuvre and then the return flight back to its base so a second larger one was sent.

This maneuver is always risky so the front part of the ship was a no go area for safety reasons. Even the Crows Nest was evacuated and the roof closed over the Lido pool deck during the time of the operation.

First a paramedic and a special stretcher were lowered on to the forward deck. The chopper went away and came back when the patient was strapped into the stretcher and then the Medic officer and the patient were winched up into the chopper and then flew away.

When this happened we were off the coast of Haiti and well south of Cuba.

After all this excitement I had a hot dog for lunch and then  a nanna nap.

I went to the OB for the first part of Happy Hour and was looked after very well and even the Bad hair Guy from yesterday must have taken his Happy Pills and was a completely different person and very friendly.

It’s amazing what peer pressure can achieve, so thanks to Jeff.

I went up to the Crows nest for the later part of happy hour and joined by the two guys (Scott and Brandon) I met at the bar yesterday.

Tonight was a Galah (Gala) night so I went to the Pinnacle Grill for dinner so I wore the new white dinner jacket and a black turtle neck shirt.

The meal was excellent and the friendly service was brilliant.

After dinner I went up to the Crows Nest to have a night cap and was joined by the future cruise consultant and her boyfriend and another guy.

I had 2 night caps and called it a night just after 11 pm.

Friday 23 December 2016

The sea gods have livened up the seas and it was a task to climb into the bath to have a shower, and let me tell you the hand rails were a must.

The cross wind has increased to 46 knots and 9 on the Beaufort scale. The temp is 27C.

I had brekkie late in the dining room and then went down to the front office to get the stats for the cruise.

The Guest Nationality Breakdown of the 1366 pax is:-
         Yanks               1054
         Canadians      152
         Poms               33
         Mexicans        21
         Aussies            15
         Dutch              11
         Kiwis                11
The other 20 nationalities are represented by single digit numbers.

The Mariners break down is:-
         Pres Club        2
         5 star               14
         4 star               73
         3 star               356
         First timers    2

Late morning I went up to my Lido Office and held court with Jeff the barman also with Ben and Scott my new bar mates.

I had a Papaku Masarap Chicken Burger for lunch and then it was time for the nanna nap.

The front office gave me a wakeup call at 3.45pm so I would not miss out on Happy Hour. I did the first part HH at the OB with Jeff and my new mates Ben and Scott. Then Scott and I adjourned to the Crows Nest for the latter part of Happy hour.

Dinner was at the Papaku table and the wiener schnitzel was done to perfection.

I slowly made my way up to the Crows Nest because I wanted to miss as much of Karaoke as possible. Shock and horror when I arrived instead of it being half over it was just due to start because of some technical problem. Scott and I put up with it for about half an hour and then went down to the Piano Bar for the singalong which was fun.

By 11pm I decided to call it a night and go to bed.

Saturday 24 December 2016

We arrived at the Port of Cartagena about 6 am and had a bonus welcome with a beaut golden sunrise. After the 2 sea days many folks and families with cabin fever were anxious to get off at 7am.

After brekkie I got the shuttle to the port limits and visited a small zoo and saw a beaut collection of pink Flamingos, black swans and peacocks. It was so hot and humid so after a walk around I got the shuttle back to the ship. I have done tours of Cartagena on previous visits.

When I got back to the dock I got cold water and sat in the chairs before going up the gangway.  There was a great cool breeze in the shadow of the ship and would have been a perfect place to get into a hammock and have a snooze. I held court with a couple of old ladies.

When back on the ship I headed for my Lido Office for a glass of wine and had pizza for lunch. Then it was time to have my nanna nap.

I did the first half of Happy hour at the OB where I caught up with Ben then moved up to the Crows Nest for the remainder of Happy Hour. At the Crows Nest I joined Brandon and Scott for a chat.

Scott joined me at the Papaku table for dinner so we had a fun meal. I had the Pork Belly which was perfect.

After dinner we adjourned to the Crows Nest for a few night caps before going to the Theatre for the Crews Sounds of Christmas Concert. 

What a great show it was and so much talent.

I was too tired to stay up for midnight Mass so I headed off to bed just before midnight.

Sunday 25 December 2016  (Christmas Day)

We were just entering the Panama Canal when I awoke at 7 am. What a great feat of engineering this waterway is. This is the first time I have been through the Canal since the expansion was completed earlier this year.

I went up to the dining room for brekkie just after 8.30am and I guess most of the ship decided to go at that time so I had to wait 20 minutes to be seated. I sat with 2 ladies from Brisbane so it was a fun Christmas Brekkie.

I caught up with the blog and Facebook before going up to my Lido office where Jeff the barman provided the entertainment as the rain came while we were going through the Canal.

I felt sorry for the first timers as the rain cleared them from their deck vantage points. The Crows Nest was crowded and a local bloke gave a commentary as we passed through the 3 sets of locks.

I had a hot dog for lunch with a wine before going for my nap. Thank goodness Jeff gave me a wakeup call or otherwise I would have missed happy hour. As usual I split the HH between the Crows Nest and the OB.

Scott joined me for dinner and the honey glazed ham was fantastic but the serve was far too big for me.

We had night caps up at the Crows Nest and many of the younger officers were having a great time dancing to the very loud disco music. One very young Dutch cadet midshipman was about 7 ft tall with long skinny legs and arms looked like a pray mantis jumping around the dance floor. He was having a great time and he was great to watch enjoying himself.

I left Scott up there and headed down to bed about 11.30 pm.

Monday 26 December 2016

The clocks went back an hour last night so it was beaut to have the extra time in bed. I went up for brekkie and introduced an older yank couple to Vegemite. He didn’t like it but she did.

It’s a nice calm sunny sea day now we are out in the Pacific Ocean as we head Puerto Caldera.

After getting some laundry organised I headed up to my Lido office where I held court and had a chicken burger for lunch.

The well-deserved 2 hour nanna nap charged up the batteries for the evenings activities. The happy hours are getting a good crowd along and a lot of fun.

Tonight I invited Lindsey the future cruise and her partner Brandon to join Scott and I for dinner. At the last moment we were joined by Derrick a Canadian so we had to be placed at another larger table downstairs. The company was great conversation and heaps of laughs were had.

We adjourned to the Crows Nest for a few night caps and then adjourned to the Piano Bar to finish off the night. I called it a night well after 1 am.

Tuesday 27 December 2016

I made today a rest day so after a late brekkie I went back to bed until 1.30 pm and then had a late lunch at the Lido.
I went to the happy Hours and caught up with the gang so that was fun.

Tonight I went to the VIP Cocktail party, no Captain turned up and the Hotel manager (Mr Zero Personality) was there. I had one drink and only chatted with Beverage Management team (at least they are young and alive) but the party had no life and looking around you would think it was drinks before a funeral.

I then met up with Scott and we went to dinner at the Pinnacle Grill and as usual had a great ‘Topmarkotop’ meal with excellent service. This fun filled meal made up for the slack VIP party.

‘Topmarkotop’ in Indonesian means very delicious.

I had a night cap in the OB and was in bed by 10.30 pm.

Wednesday 28 December 2016

After brekkie I watched the arrival at Corinto Nicaragua and the dancers performing on the dock.

It was a very hot day and no shuttle bus to the little settlement so I decided I would stay on the ship.

I had some fried chicken for lunch and then had my nap.

The happy hours were a bit quiet as many of the shore excursions had not returned.

I had dinner in the dining room and then a night cap or two in the OB.

I was in bed by 11.30 pm.

Thursday 29 December 2016

I had a late brekkie and watched the arrival at Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala. We docked in a commercial area so the port provided old school busses to shuttle the folks out of the port limits to the terminal.

At about 10am I went to catch the shuttle but there was a large line on the hot wharf so I went back to my cabin to wait for a while until the lines were not as long. Well I laid down and didn’t wake up until 1.30 pm so after that I has a beaut roast pork sandwich for lunch and watched a couple of episodes of Mrs Browns Boys. 

I only did the one happy hour today at the OB and then went up to the rear lido deck to watch the night-time departure.

I had dinner in the dining room and thought I would top off a very restful day with an early night and was in bed by 9.15 pm.

Friday 30 December 2016

We arrived at Puerto Chiapas Mexico at 7am so I was up early to get some sunrise shots and that of the dock. It is always a pleasure to visit this Mexican port.

I forgot to mention yesterday with the death of Debbie Reynolds she is the Godmother of the Ms Veendam and christened the ship when it was launched.

I headed over to the terminal where there was a local cultural dancing display and I watched it with Ben. Such energy these young folk have then I went to do some shopping in the terminal stores. 

I saw a few things that I wanted to buy and then shock and horror I had left my wallet back on the ship. So then I thought do I really want these things and the non-selfish answer was yes.

So I went back to the ship to get the wallet and then return to make the purchases. I now own a new polo shirt, well it is the only one from Mexico.

All this running around was thirsty work so I headed over to the bar and restaurant complex to have a beer. There I met up with Scott and Derrick who got out of the pool and joined me for a beer.

I had a roast beef roll with gravy and 2 fried chicken drumsticks back on the ship for lunch before having a 2 hour nanna nap.

I did the OB Happy hour and held court with Ben and a Scottish American couple who are heaps of fun. They tell me they have lived in the States for 40 years but to hear them talk you would have they just got off the boat from Scotland last week.

I caught up with the other boys in the Crows Nest for pre-dinner drinks and watched a fantastic sunset and yes, we witnessed the green flash.

 I was joined at the dinner table by Derrick and a lady he has become friends with so that was a lot of fun.

Tonight was the Filipino Crew show so just before it started Papaku was escorted down to the theatre and seated in the centre mid front row.

What a great show it was filled with National pride and natural talent of the singers and dancers. The seas had become lively so it was a feat doing the Tinikling (bamboo dance) on a moving stage.

Anna May sang ‘Ikaw’ (You) and dedicated it to Papaku.

After this fantastic show I headed off to the cabin and was in bed by midnight.

Saturday 31 December 2016

Today is a sea day and New Year’s Eve.

At 7 am this morning I was watching BBC and they showed the New Year’s Eve fireworks on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and in Auckland. Wow this time zone here is so far behind the Downunder countries.

I had a light brekkie as I have the Mariner’s Brunch and reception to go to today.

At the Reception I was called out to get a photo with the Captain and the Hotel Manager as I was a senior Platinum Mariner. 

Would you believe after the Presidents Club couple I came in about 3 down the line. Anyone would think some of these folk have nothing better to do than go cruising.

I was seated at the hosted table with the Pres Club couple and some other Platinum 5 Star folk so I was on my best behaviour.

After the nanna nap I went up to the OB to hold court with Ben, Judy and Paul during Happy Hour. 

Then I joined Scott and Brandon in the Crows Nest and witnessed a brilliant sunset but no green flash.

Dinner was with the festive party hats and was a great meal. I just went to the OB for the New Year because it was nice and quiet as everyone had gone to the ball room or the Crows Nest. I enjoy celebrating with just the bar staff and a few other guests. (Papaku you must be getting old.)

I called it a night just before 1 am.

Sunday 1 January 2017

Happy New Year

I slept in and had a late brekkie on this calm warm sea day as we cruise up along the Mexican coast towards Cabo San Lucas Mexico.

I had a full English Breakfast less the baked beans so that was very filling.

I had an easy morning in the cabin before going up to my Lido office to hold court. I made a roast lamb sandwich for lunch and had a glass of Rose.

My wakeup call was well and truly needed to wake me from my nanna nap to make it to the OB Happy Hour. There were folk sitting in my chair when I arrived late but they kindly moved along so I was back in my command position again. 

The group of us that meet at the OB for happy hour refer to it as our safety meeting.

I then went up to the Crows Nest to join Scott and Brandon before going down to get ready for dinner.

After dinner I decided I would go down to the cabin and have an early night. I watched an episode of Downton Abbey and was in bed by 10.30 pm.

Monday 2 January 2017

We arrived off shore at Cabo San Lucas just at daybreak about 6.30 am and the tender transfers began just after 7 am.

I went to brekkie at 8 am and then went over on the tender to the town just after 9 am. What a beaut ride on the calm water and perfect weather conditions to this modern resort looking city.

 For a while I walked around and most of the cafes or bars did not have Wi-Fi or it was not working so I did some shopping and after doing some shopping I got the tender back to the ship and was onboard before 11am. Today is only a short visit as we sail at 2pm.

After my nap I did the 2 happy hours in the OB then the Crows Nest and held court with the two lots of friends.

Brandon and Lindsay joined me for dinner at the Papaku table in the dining room for dinner so that was a fun meal. Lindsay is the future cruise consultant on the ship.

We adjourned to the OB for a night cap after dinner and I had another early night and was in bed before 11 pm. We had to put the clocks back an hour so with the amended time I was in bed before 10 pm.

Tuesday 3 January 2017

Today is the last day of the cruise and a sea day as we cruise up the Mexican west coast towards San Diego. The temp has dropped also and the expected max today will only get up to 17C.

I did brekkie and for the first time over the last 7 weeks put on a jacket as I was feeling the cold.

Packing then was the priority for the rest of the morning and with the bulk of that task finished I was able to go up to the Lido office and hold court with Scott and Ben.

I had a BLT sandwich for lunch before going to have my last nanna nap. Thank goodness Jeff the barman gave me a wakeup call as I would have slept right through Happy hour.
It’s always sad saying goodbye to all the new friends made on the cruise.

Scott joined me in the Pinnacle Grill for the last dinner so that was heaps of fun and the food and the service was excellent.

I had one night cap in the OB to say goodbye to the troops there before heading off to bed before 10 pm.

Wednesday 4 January 2017

I woke early and got ready for the last brekkie in the dining room. After going back to the cabin to clean my teeth and get ready I left the ship to a fanfare of goodbyes and the chant of Papaku! Papaku!

As we had done a face to face passport inspection with the US Officials before I went to brekkie there was no official process to go through in the terminal.

I claimed my luggage and a porter put it on a trolley and took it to the port limits gate where my friend Vickie was waiting to pick me up to drive me up to Los Angeles.

It was a 3 and a half hour drive and I was pleased to see how green the countryside was after the recent rains.

We had a quick hamburger lunch a some sleazy takeaway that didn’t even have free Wi-Fi.

Then we headed off to the Observatory but it was all blocked off as some film crew were working up there and it would have meant walking for miles in the drizzling rain to get there.

So we headed off to the president Ronald Reagan Museum and library. Well what an Interesting place that was and the interactive displays told the former Presidents life story.

We were able to walk through his Air Force One (Boeing 707) and his Marine One (Helicopter) as well some of the Presidential vehicles were on display.

We finished the tour in the memorial garden where the President and his wife Nancy are buried.

I was surprised how early it got dark as it was dark by 5 pm and it was still raining.

We met Vickie’s parents at a Mexican restaurant for early dinner. It was an enjoyable meal and her parents were great conservationist.

It was great to have an early night after a hectic day of travel and sightseeing.

I think I was in bed by 9pm.

Thursday 5 January 2017

Vickie was already up and about by the time I woke up and was already getting a hot brekkie ready.

After brekkie and I got ready and packed up. Tour Leader Vickie had us on the road again for the LA sights by 9 am.

Hollywood was the first stop with visits to the footpath Stars and the Foot and hand prints made by some of the Movie Stars.

Then we visited the new Catholic Cathedral in the Downtown area. Wow what a large modern place it was like a theatre in the round. There is a large Crypt in the basement and I guess for a price any ‘good’ person can be buried there. The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angles was well worth the visit.

Then we were off to tour the Walt Disney Concert Hall which was a real eye opener. It was brilliant and I’m so pleased Vickie included it on our itinerary. I will let the photos do the talking.

We finished off the day with a meal out at a marina before going to the airport. We choose Tony P’s Dockside Grill Marina Del Rey and it was a great venue to watch the setting sun and enjoy a late lunch.

Then it was off to LAX airport and after our sad goodbyes I went through the check-in process and immigration process which went all very smoothly and within an hour of leaving Vickie I was having a shower in the Qantas Club.

Mr Qantas in his wisdom had taken me off the big A380 flight to Sydney and put me on a 747 to Brisbane because they were concerned about the short connection time in Sydney. So now I had 5 hours to fill in in the lounge and then my flight was delayed by 3 hours and we finally boarded at 1.30am.

By now not only did I feel like the walking dead I must have looked like the walking dead as the attendant guy made me some hot chocolate and told me not to worry about falling asleep as we were the last flight from his lounge so he would wake me if I fell asleep.

On the plane at last I was happy with my isle seat in the little 2 row compartment just behind Business class. The middle seat was empty well up to 10 seconds before the aircraft door closed.

It was taken by a big guy that looked like a Sumo wrestler. Somehow this guy squeezed into the middle seat and his body mass overflowed under and over the armrest well into my seat area. OMG I was going to have 14 and half hours of this lack of comfort.

Fortunately I was so tired I did manage to get some sleep on the flight.

As we arrived late in Brisbane my connecting flight to Cairns had already taken off so this meant another 5 hours in Brissie for the next connection. Thank God for the Qantas Lounge.

Finally I was in 4D and nobody was seated in 4E on the aircraft for Cairns. 

I was so tired I closed my eyes and promptly fell asleep and missed the take off and woke about an hour later as refreshments were being served so I had a cup of tea and then promptly went back to sleep and woke after we had landed in Cairns.

John my brother was at the airport to take me home where my sister Monica and her Trevor had been minding my house for the past 8 weeks.

Mon and Trev had given my yard a fantastic make over while I was away. 

The place looked great and a perfect venue to have a holiday until my next Dam ship.

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