Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Fort Lauderdale to Rome Atlantic Crossing Ms Westerdam March 2017

Ms Westerdam Cruise Fort Lauderdale to Rome March 2017

Tuesday 28 March 2017

It was an early 2.30am wake up to get ready to go to the airport to catch my 5.30am flight to Brisbane.

The check in and security went very smoothly and in no time at all I  was enjoying a coffee and brekkie in the Qantas Club.

We were loaded on the aircraft early and were pushing away from the bridge 10 minutes before he scheduled departure time.

Because of Cyclone Debbie affecting the coast south of Cairns I am pleased I decided to fly to Brisbane a day earlier than originally planned.

The flight had to go a long way inland to go around this crazy big lady that was punishing so much of North Queensland.

After arrival in Brisbane I caught the Air Train into the City Roma St Station and my hotel was up above the station.

It is a beautiful sunny day in Brissie and you wouldn’t even suspect what damaged is being caused by Debbie in the northern part of the state.

I have a great room with fantastic views so I’m pleased that tomorrow I only have to go down stairs and catch the Air Train to the airport to catch my flights to LAX and then on to Miami.

Because of the very early start I enjoyed a nanna nap in the arvo and spent much of the time watching the Cyclone news on TV.

It was a great to recharge the batteries and phone a few friends and family members. My sister Bernadette and her husband David also escaped from Mackay by driving to Rockhampton because the Mackay airport had closed and then got the last 2 seats out of that city before the airport closed. They arrived in Brisbane at lunchtime and they fly out to the States on Thursday.
Don’t let too many folk know this but for dinner I went down to the food court and bought McDonalds to have back in the room.
I called it an early night at 10 pm.

Wednesday 29 March 2017

I got up at 4 am and made a cuppa tea and caught up with emails and FB before getting ready to go out to the airport on the AirTrain.
The trip out to the International Airport was so efficient and comfortable without being on crowded trains.

Check in, security and boarder control went very smoothly and the service was very friendly and efficient so within 90 minutes of leaving the Hotel I was in the Qantas Business Lounge having brekkie.
The 12 hour flight was very comfortable in the 747 as I had a bulkhead seat in the small 2 row compartment just behind Business Class, The middle seat was vacant so there was heaps of room to spread and the guy in the other seat was a professor from Queensland University going Vancouver for a conference so he was an interesting bloke to chat with.

I was amazed just how much sleep I got on the flight and arrived surprisingly fresh and ready to meet the US Officials. Well I was totally surprised how efficient and friendly the service was at this ungodly hour of 5.45am in the morning.

After a walk around the terminal I went into the newish Qantas Club in the International Terminal. It was fantastic and very few folk in there not like the crowded American Airline lounges.

I had a hot brekkie and a freshen up and then it was time to connect with the American Airlines 777 flight to Miami.

 This 4hr 30 min flight was full and as usual the American travelling public were trying to squeeze oversized bags in as cabin luggage so we were late in leaving. 

The old Darby and Joan couple beside me were annoyed because I had the aisle seat and he couldn’t sit there. I acted as if I didn't understand English (well the Texan version) as they wanted me to sit in the middle seat so she could still have the window and he the aisle. Who did they think they were dealing with? Naturally without a word I stayed in my allocated seat.

Other than that the flight was uneventful and I was able to get a bit more sleep.

That feeling of relief when your luggage comes out on the carousel is always great at the end of a long journey with connections. Then I was off to catch the shuttle up to Fort Lauderdale. This trip took longer than I expected because of the peak hour traffic and we had to wait for 2 extremely long freight trains to pass.

It was 8.20 pm by the time I arrived at the Hilton Marina Hotel and the check in service was certainly not up to the usual Hilton service. I would only rate this Hotel as a 3 star charging 4.5 to 5 star prices.

It was beaut to catch up with my friends Laurie and Sue by phone as they were ill and not able to meet up with me and didn’t want to give me their viral bug before going on the ship. I also spoke to my good friend Susan Hayes before getting a late snack.

I finally got to bed about 11.30 pm after a very long 28 hour day.

Thursday 29 March 2017

I woke just on 5 am and started the morning with checking emails and tuning into the ABC (Australia )radio to keep up with the Cyclone Debby news and resulting flooding as now also effecting the southern parts of the State.

I had a huge hot brekkie in the Waterway bistro which was pleasant and seemed to be crowded with folk of all ages and sizes that were going out on cruises today.

It is a perfect sunny and clear day here in Fort Lauderdale and the temp is in the low 20’s at 9.30am.

The morning went very quickly with phone calls to John an Aussie friend that was also in town on the Ms Rotterdam and a catch up talk with Susan.

I went downstairs just after 11 am and was on the shuttle virtually straight away to the ship.

The 5 star speedy check in process was excellent and I was onboard the ship by 11.40 am and in my cabin.

First up I caught up with Mark the Aussie Culinary Operations Manager and Yelena the Pinnacle Grill Manager. Then I heard a call of ‘Papako Papaku’   and saw Jose a friend from many cruises and now the Barman at the Crows Nest.

 Then I went off to have a light lunch in the Dining room and enjoyed an excellent fish meal.

When I got back to the cabin my luggage had arrived so I got the job of unpacking out of the way and my dirty clothes and dry cleaning off to the laundry.

At 3pm I went to the Mariners welcome aboard drinks in the Crows Nest and met Alan and Cathy (Friends of John on the Rotterdam) and we had a great time and we arranged to meet later at the Crows Nest before dinner.

Mark had invited me to a function in the Neptune lounge at 7pm for pre-dinner drinks.

I then met up with Alan and Cathy and the 3 of us went to the dining room together and had a fantastic meal with lots of laughs.

We had a night cap in the Crows Nest and I called it a night just before 11 pm.

Friday 31 March 2017

Wow I slept like a baby and had a great nights sleep and woke up at 7.45 am so it was a quick shower and get ready for brekkie.

Brekkie was most enjoyable and I had my favourite ham and cheese omelette. Pour Yelena broke the sad news to me that there was no Vegemite on board the ship but they hoped to get some at our first port in Spain. That will mean no Vegemite for at least the next 7 days so toughen up Papaku.

The entertainment at brekkie was provided by a table of four very loud Americans that complained just about everything. It was so embarrassing for the rest of us who were enjoying the excellent service and food and a quiet brekkie. I think they were, would be if they could bees. (Like Mrs Bucket.)

On return to my cabin I went back to bed and would you believe I slept until 1.30 pm and was only woken when the boys came to clean the cabin. I think the jet lag must have caught up with me.

The seas are very calm although it is very windy when I went out on the veranda.

I went up to the Crows Nest for Happy Hour which was well attended and the folks were very friendly. Think it has a good core of folk that will become regulars.

After getting ready for the evening I met up with Alan and Cathy and went to the Pinnacle Grill to celebrate Alan’s birthday. The lamb chops were to die for and of course the service was excellent.
After a night cap in the Crows Nest I was off to bed at about 11.30 pm. Tonight we had to put the clocks forward an hour.

Saturday 1 April 2017

I slept in again and woke up at 8.45am so it was a bit of a rush to make brekkie in the Pinnacle Grill.

As I was still feeling tired when I got back to the cabin I went back to bed and slept until 2pm so there was no need to have a nanna nap in the afternoon.

I obtained the breakdown of the nationalities of the 1532 passengers on board and the main nations represented are:-
Yanks         1105
Canadians           239
Poms          34
Sweden     29
The other 26 nations are represented by smaller numbers and there are only 6 Aussies.
The Mariner status breakdown is:-
5 Star         30
4 Star         104
3 Star         275
It is interesting to note there are 599 first time cruisers.

Happy hour was a lively fun experience with the folks getting to know one another. Jose, Marvin and Bailon the 3 Happy Hour Barman run a great bar and are very popular with the regulars.

I went to dinner with Alan and Cathy to the Papaku table in the dining room. I think this going to be my regular table by the window on the starboard side. Tonight was a Galah (Gala) night and I guess about 50% of folk got dressed up.

Alan and I had a few night caps in the Crows Nest to finish off the night. We had to put the clocks forward again tonight.

Sunday 2 April 2017

I was the first to the Pinnacle Grill for brekkie and Mark dropped in to say G’Day but didn’t have time to have a coffee.

After brekkie I went back to the cabin and went back to bed until lunch time.

I went up to the Lido for a Rose and a Papaku Masarap Chicken burger for lunch. I caught up with a few more of the crew that I didn’t know were on the ship. So I held court up at the lido until it was time to go to Happy Hour in the Crows Nest.

It was lovely and sunny up on the Lido deck and the roof was open. It was a bit cool for me as the max temp didn’t get up to 20C. But that didn’t deter some oversized folk out sunning their lily white bodies.

Happy hour was a great reunion of the regulars and the bar guys keep the fun going. I arranged with Alan and Cathy to join me at the Papaku table and I also invited Nathan and Ashley a young couple (new to cruising) to join us as it was their first time to the dining room. We had a very enjoyable meal with great company.

After dinner I went up to the Crows Nest for a night cap with Mark.
I called it a night at 11pm and headed off to bed. We had to put the clocks forward again tonight.

Monday 3 April 2017

I woke fairly early so I completer the travel update, downloaded the photos and sent the email before brekkie,

 Because of the Mariners Brunch I only had a light brekkie in the PG and even Mark called in to have a coffee with me.

At 10 am I attended the cooking class and learnt to make pies. The new providers of this activity are America’s Test Kitchen who has a completely different process for providing the class. At first I was not so keen however the young presenter bloke knew what he was talking about and ran a good show.

It was fun rolling out the dough and then getting it into the pie dish and for me a huge challenge. I was better at making the smaller Fried Peach Pies that were more like a pasty.

Then I had to leave just before the class finished to make it to the Mariners reception and then Brunch.

After all this activity I decided to have a nanna nap before going up to the Happy hour at the Crows Nest.

What a lively time was had at the Happy Hour as the regular mob are all relaxing and having a good time with one another.

Dinner was also a fun time at the Papaku table in the dining room as I was joined by Alan, Ashley and Nathan. Cathy decided she would have a quiet night and not go to dinner. We were the last table to leave the dining room.

I adjourned to the Crows Nest for a night cap with the gang they decided after a while to go to the Northern Lights to party on for the rest of the evening.

 I called it an early night and was in bed by 11.30 pm and thank God we didn’t have the clock forward tonight.

Tuesday 4 April 2017

I am amazed how calm the crossing has been even though we have not seen much sun at all so my balcony is only used so go out on to check how cold and windy it is and certainly not for getting any sun.

As daylight dawns about 8 am it seems strange going to brekkie in the dark. I seem to be the first to arrive at the PG for brekkie so this gives me to have a chat to Yelena and the staff before the other guests arrive.
I have got into the habit of having a ham and cheese omelette for brekkie.

When I got back to the cabin I did my update and then thought I would have a little rest in bed as it was cold and rainy outside and to my surprise I slept to 2.30 pm so I just had time to go and have a light lunch before getting ready for Happy Hour.

Happy Hour was a little quieter today however it was for us regulars a good time. The boys behind the bar were in their usual fine form and very entertaining. At different time two older males (losers with zero personalities) came up to me and wanted to tell me all about Australia even though they have never been there and told me it was too far to travel there. OMG empty vessels make most noise so I had to move away from them.
Before dinner I met up with Cathy and Alan for a pre-dinner drink and then we went to the dining room. It was an enjoyable meal and I enjoyed the Vienna Schnitzel followed with Pavlova and Hot chocolate.

Alan and I went up to the Crows Nest for a night cap and then I thought I would check out the Piano Bar before going to bed.  It seemed to be very popular with the oldies and Damian the Piano player/Singer thumped the cords on the piano and yelled out the songs. He crucified my favourite song, “Send in the Clowns” so Debby B and Wayne D you have no competition from this guy.

As we had to put the clocks forward again tonight I headed off to bed just before midnight.

Wednesday 5 April 2017

Today is another sea day and It looks like the sun is finally going to shine and the seas are calm.

I enjoyed brekkie in the PG and had Eggs Benedict for a change.

Then I had time in the cabin checking emails and Facebook as well as getting this newsletter up to date.

I spent a few hours in my Lido office holding court with the crew and a few guests before having a Papaku Masarap Chicken Burger and a glass of Rose for lunch.

Then it was time for my Nanna nap before going up to Happy Hour. I got up there 5 minutes late and the Papaku stool was taken so I went around the other side of the bar and luckily got the last seat. Actually it worked out well as I chatted with a lovely couple I met at the suite party at the beginning of the cruise. I caught up with Alan, he also arrived late so we organised what we were doing for dinner as it was Galah night and the young couple wanted to join us in the dining room.
On our way to dinner from the Crows Nest we witnessed our first sunset of the cruise and it was at 815 pm. It was a bit cold and windy out on the top deck.

The dinner was fantastic and the crab claws were very popular with the gang and they were given extra serves, I enjoyed the steak that was cooked to perfection.
As usual we were the last table to leave the dining room after an excellent meal and great company.
I finished the night with the usual night cap in the Crows Nest and called it a night about 11.30 pm and for the last time of the crossing the clocks have to go forward an hour again tonight.

Thursday 6 April 2017

I woke to discover the internet was down so that through a spanner into my schedule. As all the computer system was dead we could not get the papers to read at brekkie. It was all fixed up by 4.00 pm so all ended well.

Brekkie was the usual fun time in the PG and it was a bit quieter than other days.

I watched the movie Lion before going up to my Lido office and it was a bit to cold and windy for me so I took my lunch up to the Crows Nest to be warm again and hold court with the boys.

The seas were calm again but the temp has dropped a bit and the wind increased and I think everyone is looking forward to going ashore tomorrow in Funchal Portugal.

I had my nanna nap and the barman gave me a wakeup call so I wouldn’t be late again for Happy Hour. I sat with a former master mariner and his experiences at sea. He surprised me when he told me he was 84 as I would have guessed he was in his mid 70’s. He was very familiar with many Aussie and NZ ports as he commanded coastal cargo ships in the 1950’s and 60’s. He was an interesting bloke and the time went very quickly.

I had a private function for 5 Star and suite guests before dinner and I had a long chat with Mark the Hotel Director. He is a popular guy with Guests and crew and a good bloke to chat with.

Alan and Cathy joined me for dinner in the PG and we had a great meal and beaut company.

We had one night cap at the Crows Nest and I headed off to bed just before midnight. Thank goodness there were no time changes tonight.

Friday 7 April 2017

As our arrival in Funchal was not until midday I had a leisurely brekkie in the PG and then caught up with work on the computer like banking, FB and emails.

The approach to Funchal was very scenic with the buildings from the water’s edge and up the mountain side.

At 12.15 Alan, Cathy and I set off to explore this beautiful city in perfect weather. From the terminal we took a taxi into the city mall to find an ATM to get some Euros. Taxis and the local tours at the terminal would only take euro and no credit cards or Yankee Dollars, which was a bit of an inconvenience. Luckily I had 15 euro still from my last time in Europe.

After getting our euro we set off to catch the Hop on Hop off bus to do the red route through coastal and out laying parts of the city including many lookouts with great views. I will let the photos do the talking.

After the red route we found a beaut Beerhouse on the harbour side overlooking the water to have a late lunch of calamari and chips as well as a local beer.

Then we were off to get the Blue bus to Monte (very high up above the city) and we had fantastic views of the city and the outlying islands. When we got to the top we then walked up to the church, OMG this climb nearly killed me however it was well worthwhile. The old church of Our Lady of Peace was well worth the visit.

We originally intended going down the mountain in the cable car but then we saw the wicker toboggans and they looked so much fun. They got us one for 3 and we slid down the mountain and it was the ride of my life.

 The ride was 2km and took about 10 minutes with 2 big blokes controlling it standing at the back. I couldn’t get over how smooth the ride was and I would recommend it to anyone visiting the island.

After all this excitement and the adrenal rush we got a cab back to the ship as by now it was after 6 pm.

I went straight to the Crows Nest for a quick drink before getting ready for dinner.

Cathy and Alan joined me for dinner in the dining room and the pork chop was done to perfection. After dinner I went straight up to the cabin for an early night (well about 11pm). Tonight was another put the clock forward an hour night.

Saturday 8 April 2017

Today is a Sea day as we head towards Cadiz Spain so I enjoyed a rest day by having a full English Brekkie (without the Baked Beans of course).

I held court in my Lido office and I made a Taco for lunch with a glass of Rose.

After all this relaxed activity a 2 hour nanna nap was enjoyed before Happy Hour.

Happy Hour was the usual fun time and the interaction of the regulars is great.

As tonight is a ‘Galah’ night I went down to get spruced up and wore the white dinner jacket with a black turtle neck shirt and black trousers (My Bond look).

Ashley and Nathan joined us for dinner so the Papaku table for 5 was right at the rear of the ship so we got a great view of the sunset. It was a fun time and a most enjoyable meal.

I went up to the Crows Nest for a night cap and arrange the trip tomorrow with the bar staff in Cadiz Spain.

For me it was another early night as I was in bed by 11.30pm.

Sunday 9 April 2017

After brekkie in the PG I went up to my cabin and got organised for the day in Cadiz. As I had been here before I arranged with Jose to go ashore after their beverage team meeting.

Just after 10.30 am we left the ship and into a very sunny but cold windy day outside. The gusty lazy wind by the dockside would not go around you but straight through you. OMG the bloke from the tropics felt it and thank God I had worn my ever faithful weatherproof jacket.

After walking into the town and exploring the narrow streets we found a very Spanish coffee shop. The noise levels were very high with excited locals having animated conversations and there were only about 15 customers inside.

Jose then took me through to the big square outside the old Cathedral and boy oh boy was it busy as it was Palm Sunday. Many folk were walking around carrying palm fronds.

 We found a beaut outdoor restaurant and ordered a Rose and a seafood platter. Our table was in a perfect position for people watching and we were slightly out of the gusty wind.

As Jose had to start work at 2pm about 1.30pm we headed back to the ship.

I had a short nanna nap before going up to Happy Hour in the Crows Nest. I got a surprise when Mark the Hotel Director escorted Orlando Ashford the ‘Big Chief ‘of Holland America into the Crows Nest on an inspection tour. 

Orlando came over to say hello to me as we had met last year on the Ms Koningsdam Christening cruise. I understand he will be with us for a few days.

Tonight Cathy and Alan joined me at the Canaletto for an Italian dinner. It was a great meal and the service was excellent.

I went up to the Crows Nest for a night cap and caught up with my good mate Aussie Mark the COM for a short time. Mark has been extremely busy with planning the logistics for the dry dock fit out after we arrive in Rome so his schedule has not allowed him to spend as much time with me as he would have liked to.

By now we were out at sea and heading south to the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. The wind had come up and the decks were closed and also the seas made the ride a bit bumpy.

I had the one nightcap and headed off to bed at 11.30pm.

Monday 10 April 2017

We arrived Malaga at 8.00 am on a beaut sunny day but a little cool with the golden rays of the sun turning the white buildings a great yellowish colour. I am amazed that the sun is lazy here and only rises just before 8 am.

I had brekkie and Mark called in to say a quick hello while I was in the PG.

As I had been to Malaga before I decided I would just take the shuttle from the ship into the town to have a walk around. I was pleasantly surprised by the redevelopment that had taken since my last visit about 5 years ago. The improvements are a credit to the city planners.

I met Verity the Cruise Director ashore and walked around with her for a while before returning to the Cruise Terminal on the shuttle. The new modern terminal had many shops with goods at very reasonable prices. Verity and I did some last moment shopping before getting back on the ship.

I bought a great soft leather shoulder bag for my Tablet/PC and it will be great for day excursions to carry many items like water, camera and phone.

Back on the ship I had a Rose with a hamburger for lunch in my lido office before going up to the Crows Nest for Happy Hour.

There is this loud mouth boring yank bloke that now comes up to the Crows Nest and always has 2 empty seats each side of him because no one wants to sit beside him and listen to his rubbish and drunken flights of fancy.

 At least he gives everyone something to talk and laugh about after he leaves. It is so funny to see folk that don’t know him come up and sit beside him, quickly have pained expressions on their faces and then quickly move away. 

The sail away views from the Crows Nest were fantastic as we departed from the port and out to sea.

I met up later with Alan and Cathy to catch up on their day and then go to the Papaku dining room table for dinner. We had a great meal and lots of fun with our friendly waiters.

After dinner I went up to the Crows Nest for a night cap. We seem to have a fun group that meet up after dinner for a night cap or 2 every night.

I went down to bed about 11.30 pm.

Tuesday 11 April 2017

After brekkie I met up with Alan and Cathy to go ashore. 

 We decided we would walk through this beautiful city of Cartagena and make our way to the ‘Irish’ pub named the Yellow Submarine.

It was great sitting out in the sun enjoying a few Guinness and people watching in the main city square. Alan set his hone alarm tm I was up in the Seao warn us when it was time to make our way back to the ship.

We had an early departure so we had to be back on the ship by 2.30 pm. At 3 pm I was up in the Seaview bar for the sail away party. Mark the Hotel Director sat with me and gave me a commentary about the submarine tunnels into the mountain from WW2.

Then I was off to the Crows Nest for happy hour which was a stimulating time. ‘Micky the Mouth’ was up there and being his normal obnoxious self, trying to talk anyone that would listen.
Micky the Mouth

Cathy, Alan and I went to the Pinnacle Grill for dinner and had a beaut meal with excellent service.

I came straight up to bed after dinner and was asleep by 11 pm.

Wednesday 12 April 2017

Today is a sea day and the last day of the cruise as we head towards Civitavecchia.

After my brekkie I spent some of the morning packing which wasn’t a big problem as most of my clothes has come back from the laundry folded.

I went up to the Lido Office to hold court and have a Taco for a light lunch.

Then it was down for a nana nap which turned out to be a 3 hour sleep. As a result I was 15 minutes late for Happy Hour. We had a great time at the last Happy Hour for the cruise.

Ashley, Nathan, Cathy and Alan joined me at the Papaku table for the last supper. What a great time we had and as usual we were the last table to leave the dining room.

I finished the packing  and then went up to the Crows Nest for a Night Cap about 11 pm but as folks were having an early night the bar had closed so I headed back down to my cabin to also get an early night, well about 11.30ish.

Thursday 13 April 2017

I got up about 5.30 to catch up on emails and FB before getting ready for my last Brekkie in the PG.
 I left the ship at 8.30 am and the disembarkation process went very smoothly and I was sitting on the transfer to the airport coach by 8.45am.

We arrived at the airport about 10.20am so I headed over to the Hilton Rome Airport Hotel to kill the 7 hours before I can check in for the flight.

The hotel staff were very friendly and helpful and clocked my luggage and I set up my office in the lounge bar. They gave me free wifi and I enjoyed a light lunch.

I was pleasantly surprised when Larry and Cathy walked into the lounge to fill in time before their flight. It was like Crows Nest farewell drinks. We fortunately managed Micky the Mouth when he came in and luckily he found other Yanks from the ship.

The time seemed to go very quickly and at 4 pm I got changed for the flight and headed over to check-in for the flight.

With Emirates I understood you can only check in 5 hours before the flight. The flight takes off at 10.10 pm for Dubai. When I got to the airport I discovered the rules had changed and I had to wait an hour as check in was now four hours before the flight.

The check in and official and security procedures went very smoothly and in no time I was in the Alitalia Lounge.  The new Emirates lounge is still not ready. The lounge was comfortable and heaps better than any American Airline Lounges.
I had a shower and had a light supper so felt very comfortable before the flight from Rome to Dubai.

Fri 14 April 2017

On arrival in Dubai after the 5 hour crowded Emirates flight it was great to relax in the Emirates Business Lounge and have some brekkie, clean the teeth and have a shave before joining the Qantas A380 flight to Sydney.

I was so lucky to get a bulkhead isle seat in the exclusive upstairs section and had an added bonus of having a spare seat beside me. This was a very comfortable flight with excellent service and I got in heaps of sleep and also watched a few movies.

Saturday 15 April 2017

We were so lucky to be the first international flight to arrive in Sydney at 5 am after the curfew was lifted so the immigration and customs procedures were very efficient and I was soon on the shuttle to the Domestic terminal.

In the Qantas Club I enjoyed as shower, shave and change of clothes before having a light brekkie. Another bonus was I was able to have VEGEMITE for the first time in 17 days. ( The ship had run out of Vegemite before I boarded the ship and as there was only 6 Aussies on board it was not an issue and it is impossible to find in in the port cities we visited.) Yes I survived without it.

I slept most of the 3 hour flight from Sydney to Cairns an the very full flight.

My good friend Graham was at the airport to meet me and drive me home via the supermarket to get some basic supplies.

It is always beaut to be home again but I miss my anakku from the ship as I have to become chief cook, bottle wash and barman again.

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