Day 66-70 - At Sea
|Thursday, December 14, 2023: When Tom went to get breakfast this morning, he saw cartons of Candia and Le Lait milk that we'd watched being loaded aboard in Dakar.
|After our breakfast of muesli for Debbie and an everything bagel for Tom, we went out on the balcony to read and surf while Sugeng and Catur cleaned our room.
|We had requested fresh flowers yesterday, and Catur brought them to us this morning.
|Today's specialty food was stir fry. We bypassed that station since the line was very long and it was moving very slowly, ...
|... and instead went to the Asian station where today's food was Szechuan. Yum.
|We both got a variety of dishes and then added sushi to our bowls, as usual.
|Back in the cabin, we found a tired moth who was taking shelter on our balcony. It was beautiful, and very, very far from home.
|In the main dining room, they were having a Dutch-themed night.
|There were orange napkins on every table.
|For her starter, Debbie ordered the gehaktballen, Dutch meatballs served with peanut sauce, ...
|... and Tom ordered the green pea soup, with bacon, sausage, and vegetables.
|For her main, Debbie ordered the kibbeling, which turned out to be Dutch fish and chips.
|Tom ordered the hodge podge with sausage, which was bratwurst served over pureed cauliflower with broccoli and carrots.
|LEGO Debbie and Tom were ready for tonight's Orange Party, but for those who weren't prepared, there were a bunch of orange accessories available for purchase in the Captain's Collection. We were there buying souvenirs as we tried to spend our way to the 4-star Mariner's club.
|Debbie took this photo of herself in front of the cool mirror in the hallway on deck two to send to our nephew Stewart. He had texted her to wish her happy birthday and they had chatted about being aboard the Zuiderdam in Alaska in 2012.
|We visited the shops on deck three, both looking for other stuff to buy but also as a fact-finding mission about what products they carry in their general store. Good to know for future cruises.
|Debbie took the opportunity to take another photo of the LEGO daily calendar with their display of orange accessories since it was a much better background.
|Here's our haul: one shirt for Debbie, two shirts for Tom, one Zuiderdam Christmas tree ornament, and one waterproof bag that could double as a small backpack. Score!
|At 9:00 PM, we got dressed in our Orange Party clothing and went to the Lido Pool deck, ...
|... where Ian was introducing the band that was playing for tonight's party.
|The queen and king, uh, Chantal and Captain Friso arrived, ...
|... and servers made their way around the pool ...
|... ready to pass out appetizers.
|The pool deck was packed with people in various shades of orange.
|We ran into Ian as he was walking through, and wanted to get a photo of him with Debbie's LEGO display. A nearby passenger wanted to be helpful and insisted on taking a group photo of Debbie, Ian, and the LEGO display with Debbie's phone, so the photo wasn't quite what we were hoping for, but hey, it was a photo of Ian with the LEGO display. Next, Ian asked for a picture with us on his phone and we happily posed.
|We also talked to Hotel Manager Glenn, who came up to us when he saw the LEGO display. We gave him a minifig to give to his daughter, and he said that she'd be happy to get it since she'd just graduated from Duplo to LEGO.
|They had opened the roof over the pool while we were talking to Glenn, and we went upstairs to get a better view of the party and from a cooler and less-crowded vantage point.
|Check out the orange wigs that the bartenders were wearing.
|The band was really good, playing some 70s and 80s classics that everyone aboard would know.
|That's ice in that hot tub! And bottles of wine and beer! How cool is that?!?
|There was a photo booth in the back, and a backdrop with Beefeater logo on it for people to take red carpet-style selfies in front of it.
|When we went back to our cabin, we passed the art studio on deck ten which was empty for the first time that we'd seen. The decorations on the floor and the walls were very fun.
|Tonight was the peak of the Geminid meteor shower, but the constellation was too low on the horizon and with a low haze over the water we didn't manage to see any meteors. It was still a beautiful night, however, and we spent some time just looking at the beautiful night sky before heading back to our cabin.
|Friday, December 15, 2023: This is what we will miss most after this trip is over. Endless ocean.
|After a breakfast of pancakes and French toast, we went out on the balcony for some sun, oh, and to get out of the way while Sugeng and Catur cleaned our cabin.
|For a change of pace, we went to the main dining room for lunch. Debbie started with a pork and mango skewer, ...
|... and Tom had the cream of asparagus soup, ...
|... followed by a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with potato chips for both of us. It was a nice relaxing lunch.
|When it was over, we went up to the Lido Market to see the Cake Me Away special.
|They had dozens of different cakes and they all looked delicious.
|Debbie selected slices from two of them, and Tom made chips and salsa using Indonesian sambal for salsa. It was spicer than any salsa he's ever had, but it satisfied his craving.
|At 2:00 PM, we were in the Pinnacle Bar for the last mixology class of the cruise. Daren, our host bartender, introduced the first cocktail that we were making, a Manhattan, and then asked for five female volunteers.
|All five women seated around the bar stepped up, and he took them through the process of making the cocktail.
|Debbie was standing next to Vanessa. Do they know each other? At this point, we don't know.
|From left to right the volunteers were Vanessa, Debbie, Theresa, Betsy, and someone we didn't know. We'd met Theresa and Betsy at our previous mixology class and had so much fun that we returned for this one. Daren played "Shake your Booty" by K.C. and the Sunshine Band, and the ladies all shook their cocktails. Shake, shake, shake. Shake, shake, shake. Shake your booty. Shake your booty.
|As we well know by now, mixology class is also a dance class, and the bartenders danced the first round by themselves. Paul, second from the right, choreographed all of their sweet dance moves.
|There was a group toast, followed by clinking. Cheers!
|Clarence set up the first visual logic puzzle where we had to move two sticks to make seven triangles. There were many humorous but wrong guesses, and then Clarence had to show us the solution.
|Since we failed the logic puzzle, Daren asked a trivia question instead. Debbie was first with the correct answer, and she won a full-sized Manhattan which she immediately gave away. It's not her drink.
|For the second cocktail, the volunteers were two of the Zuiderdam's dancers, ...
|... and our friend Christopher who was also at the previous mixology class.
|We had a guest for this round of dancing, a beverage team member named Lance.
|Lance had all of the moves.
|All. Of. Them.
|The song for this round was "Macho Man," ...
|... and the routine included Paul helping Bobby do sit-ups, feeding him a cookie at the top of each one, ...
|... and feeding him a milkshake at the bottom of each push-up.
|The bartenders recruited someone from the class to lead us in a toast for each cocktail. This time it was Betsy's turn.
|The second cocktail was a grapefruit cosmo, and it was yummy!
|The second logic puzzle involved turning the word "mine" into another word by moving two sticks. Before Chester even finished giving the instructions, one of the staff dancers solved the puzzle.
|Tom volunteered to help make the third cocktail, a Cosmo Cubano. He muddled the lime and mint, poured the alcohol, and then it was time to mix.
|Shake, shake, shake!
|Shake, shake, shake!
|Shake your booty! Shake your booooty, yeah!
|There was a dance-off between the bartenders and the staff dancers, which was pretty well tied until one of the dancers got down on the floor and did a worm across the bar. The bartenders conceded immediately.
|That was followed by Daren and Bobby rockin' a slow jam, ...
|... and Betsy trying to tuck some bucks.
|Daren poured, ...
|... and we toasted.
|This round's puzzle was to move three sticks to turn the four boxes into the word for a food. We didn't get this one either, and Chester finally put us out of our misery by spelling "donut."
|The last drink was a De Lijn Mojito and our friend Steve on the right was one of the volunteers. Shake, shake, shake. You know the drill.
|Volunteers were assembled. "Young man, there's no need to feel down..."
|Theresa led the toast, ...
|... and we all clinked for the final drink.
|Don't they look pretty?
|It was time for graduation, which involved bringing us up one at a time, reading off our full names, and giving us a certificate. When Vanessa graduated and they said her full name, Debbie's stared at her intently. Could it really be? As Vanessa walked back toward her seat, Debbie asked her if she had heard of Macalester College. Yes, she had. Debbie asked if she had graduated from Macalester College. Yes, she had. Class of '84? Yes, she was in the same graduating class as Debbie!
|They were stunned. This was the first time that Debbie stumbled onto a classmate out in the world, and here were two graduates of Macalester class of '84 on the same ship ...
|... in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. What are the odds?
|The mini-reunion had to be momentarily postponed while Debbie graduated, ...
|... and while Tom graduated, ...
|... and then Debbie and Vanessa spent some time looking through the Macalester Spotlights that Debbie keeps on her phone and talking about the things and people they remembered from school.
|The entire bar staff thanked us for attending the mixology class and we gave them a well-deserved round of applause as they bowed.
|After the class, we spent some time hanging out with Theresa and Christopher and had another round of drinks.
|When we all had to leave to get ready for dinner, we ran downstairs to take a photo of today's Christmas elves LEGO display in the atrium. Just as we got to deck one, a trio of Christmas elves walked past, and Debbie immediately asked them if they would pose with the display. Of course they would. By now, word had spread of the LEGO Lady and her displays, so the crew wasn't surprised when they saw Debbie taking photos. The elves helpfully suggested posing in front of the Christmas tree.
|After the elves walked away, we got the photo we originally came down to get. LEGO Debbie and Tom were dressed as elves and surrounded by holiday decorations and presents.
|The view from our seats in the dining room was fantastic tonight, and our waiter, Hakim, was one of our favorites that we'd had on this cruise.
|We started off with seafood cakes for Debbie, ...
|... and Tom had some sort of delicious soup. We were foolish and neglected to take a photo of tonight's menu, so the descriptions will be a little vague.
|Debbie ordered the buttermilk fried chicken, ...
|... and Tom had fish of some sort.
|This meringue roulade was one of the best desserts ever. We had no idea that you could make a Swiss roll out of meringue, but now Tom absolutely has to figure out how to make this.
|After dinner, we finally got a chance to look at our mixology certificates, and we noticed that the titles for some of the bartenders were hilarious. Bobby's title was "Dancer" and Clarence's title was "Magician." Ha!
|We celebrated another kill as we continued to try to exterminate all of the crickets that had come aboard in the Gambia. Hopefully that was the last one.
|Saturday, December 16, 2023: Unfortunately, it was not the last cricket. Debbie was up at 5:30 AM trying to hunt down another of the demons that was right outside our window, and Tom tried for a little while after she gave up. We went back to sleep for a few more hours, and then had a nice breakfast of French toast for the both of us.
|We spent the morning processing photos, writing captions, and writing software, and then it was time for lunch. Today's specialty food was Tex-Mex, ...
|... and the crew in the serving line were all wearing sombreros for the occasion. Debbie was immediately disappointed in herself for not packing her LEGO sombrero.
|We got some seafood ceviche and plenty of tacos, and went out to the Lido Pool to devour them. Ah, tacos. We love you so much.
|Look at that. The sea was smooth, the sky was mostly clear, and the wake stretched out to the horizon. Isn't it gorgeous?
|At 1:00 PM, we went back to the Pinnacle Bar for the last beer tasting event of the cruise. The beers today were all international beers that were available on the ship. From left to right: Amstel Light (Netherlands), Heineken (Netherlands), Corona (Mexico), Schooner (Canada), and Guinness (Ireland).
|Here's Daren with the Corona, ...
|... Paul with the Heineken, ...
|... Clarence with the Amstel Light, ...
|... and back to Paul with the Schooner, ...
|... and finally Daren with the Guinness. There were only supposed to be four beers in the tasting, but the Guiness was a bonus. Actually two bonuses, because he brought out a Guinness Draught and a Guinness Foreign Extra so that we could compare them.
|The Draught is on the left, and the Foreign Extra is on the right. The Foreign Extra was darker and had a much higher alcohol content.
|After pouring your Guinness, always let it sit for a couple of minutes, ...
|... so that the nitrogen has a chance to do its job. Oooh, that's a perfect pour right there.
|Here are all the beers we tried. The bartenders were all Filipino, and said that they often add ice to their beer when they are in their home country so that it stays colder longer. Tom had them put ice in his Schooner (third from the right) so that he could try it. It worked!
|LEGO Debbie and Tom were all dressed up for tonight's big event: Hollywood Night.
|It was also the last formal night on the cruise, so we got all dressed up in our finery and headed down to the main dining room. They had turned the entryway into a Walk of Fame.
|Tonight, Holland America was celebrating their 150th anniversary with an Anniversary Gala dinner.
|Debbie started off with the orange duckling chaudfroid, served with jellied orange chutney.
|Tom had the crab and artichoke dip, topped with cheddar cheese and served with two breadsticks.
|For her main, Debbie had the lobster tail served with asparagus, broccoli, and mashed potatoes. It was listed on the menu as two lobster tails, but our server explained that it was actually going to be one huge South African lobster tail weighing in at more than 12 ounces.
|Tom had the beef tenderloin served with ricotto sweet potato puree, onion jam, aspargus, and parsnips.
|During dinner, Vanessa and her husband Randy came over to say hello. They were seated at a table near us, and we realized that we'd had dinner not more than fifteen feet away from them on at least three occasions over the course of the cruise. We did our best to convince them to come to the next Macalester reunion.
|When we got back to the cabin, there were more gifts waiting for us. This time it was commemorative plates printed with the Africa Grand Voyage 2023 logo.
|There was also a towel turtle resting near the pillows on our bed.
|We went up to the Lido to fetch dessert, and brought it back down to our room. Tonight, it was tiramisu, and it was delicious.
|At 8:15 PM, we went to deck two for the Hollywood Night party where we found more Walk of Fame stars, ...
|... and a Hollywood sign! The entrance to the Rolling Stone lounge was set up like a red carpet, complete with a backdrop and the ship's photographers pretending to be paparazzi but we forgot to take a picture of it.
|We were thrilled to run into Hotel Manager Glenn, and spent some time chatting with him. He had sought us out to say thank you for giving his daughter a minifig the other night, and told us how much she likes it. He was delighted when we asked him if he would pose with today's LEGO display, and he spent some time looking it over and asking about all of the pieces that Debbie had brought with her. He said that the crew knew all about it, and enjoyed seeing what each new display would be. We had a nice chat with him before heading back upstairs.
|Sunday, December 17, 2023: Sunrise showed some cloudy weather behind us, ...
|... but there was a chance of blue skies ahead. We had been feeling sad that the trip was coming to an end, but today it was really sinking in that the trip would be over soon. We had a relaxing breakfast in the cabin of muesli and congee, and debated when we should start packing. After some discussion, we decided that we should put it off until after our stop in Puerto Rico. We would have two days at sea between then and Fort Lauderdale. That would be plenty of time.
|There was a stiff breeze blowing from the starboard side today, and Debbie took a few minutes to revel in it. This should be some band's cover art for their next album. Look at that perfect hair.
|We'd heard crickets again last night, and confirmed that they were hiding under the section of broken rubber deck on our balcony. Tom placed a deck chair's leg on top of the cavity and then put all of his weight on it. There was a very satisfying squishing noise. Unfortunately, when he moved the chair away, he caught the leg on the flap of deck and it finally tore all the way off. The good news was that there was a dead cricket under there, along with a bunch of debris. We cleaned it all up and tucked the flap under the remaining deck so that it wouldn't blow away. When we told our cabin steward about it, they said that there was already a maintenance request filed and that they would get to it at some point in the future.
|Today's LEGO display was a tribute to all of the specialty food events that they've had on this trip. LEGO Debbie is dressed as a baker for today's Pies, Pies, Pies event, and LEGO Tom represents the Tex-Mex event from yesterday.
|Speaking of Pies, Pies, Pies, we expected it to just be dessert pies, but we were so very wrong. They had both sweet and savory ones. That's Dingle Pie on the left, and chicken mushroom pot pie on the right, otherwise known as the most delicious pot pie ever created infinity plus one whatever you say.
|There was a large pan with Fisherman's Pie, ...
|... and of course Shepherd's Pie, and then there was a steak pie and a chicken pie in the back.
|At the end of the counter were dessert pies: apple pie, chocolate cream pie, and Banoffee pie.
|We both selected several savory pies, and the mumbled sounds of "so good" spoken around a mouthful of food were frequently heard as we ate.
|We caught Food and Beverage Manager Jonathan, the namesake behind the Big Jonathan burger, as he was walking through the Lido and asked him to pose with today's LEGO display. He told us that we do a great job with these displays and Debbie asked if he knew about them already. He replied, "Yes, we share photos of these internally." Then he asked if he could get a picture of himself and the display on his phone as well.
|On the Facebook group for the cruise, a passenger asked if anyone had an extra decorative plate they could have, so we gave her one of ours, ...
|... then Debbie posted this picture to give away her Grand Africa t-shirt, knowing that that she would never wear it again, and one of our Grand Africa laptop bags and tote bags, since we didn't need two. All three items went to separate passengers on the ship.
|Another passenger asked if anyone was willing to trade for an extra power bank, so we gave her our. We have so many of these, and most of the stuff we gave away was going to people who had boarded in Cape Town and hadn't had a chance to get any of the early swag.
|We got burgers from the Dive-In, and we were just sitting down to eat them when our cabin stewards arrived to clean the room, ...
|... so we took our food out on the balcony for a picnic. Debbie took this oh so flattering photo of Tom enjoying his burger without him knowing about it. So much trust lost.
|We stayed out on the balcony for a while enjoying the clear skies, ocean noises, and the faint orange glow of the impending sunset.
|How much LEGO did Debbie bring on this trip for her displays? This much. It was a surprisingly small volume for the huge amount of diversity that she's been able to show in her daily creations. And of course it is all organized and stored in labeled bags. We wouldn't have it any other way.
|Monday, December 18, 2023: Ah, sunrise. Why do you peek into my windows so early? Celestial mechanics? Oh. Okay.
|Over a breakfast of muesli, congee, and ice cold Coke Zero, ...
|... we decided NOT to attend today's Mariner Brunch. It might have been interesting, but we weren't in the mood to meet new people today.
|Today's specialty lunch food was ...
|... crepes! They had ready-made savory crepes and sweet ones, and two stations to make custom ones.
|The make-your-own station was taking a long time, so we got ready-made ones. Debbie got the spinach and bechamel savory crepe and a banana and pecan sweet one with Nutella on the side. Tom got a chili con carne, a mushroom and tarragon, and a spinach and bechamel. We supplemented the crepes with a few pieces of sushi, and found seats out by the pool.
|A storm petrel flew by, effortlessly soaring through the air alongside the ship.
|This drawing blew onto our balcony yesterday, and Debbie had rushed upstairs to the Sea View Pool to see if anyone had lost it. When no one claimed it, she messaged the portrait's subject through the Holland America Navigator app and through Facebook to say that we'd found it and how to get in touch with us to get it back. After not hearing from anyone for 24 hours, ...
|... we took the drawing to Guest Services. Twenty minutes after getting back to our room, the drawing's owner contacted Debbie through Navigator. She was very grateful that we had recovered it, and thanked us for taking it to Guest Services.
|While we on deck one, we stopped by the Future Cruises desk to get a photo of Chantal with today's LEGO display. Unfortunately, she was very busy, but we did get the official display photo. LEGO Debbie and Tom were very busy planning their next trip, with LEGO Debbie looking through future cruise itineraries and LEGO Tom looking for interesting places on the globe.
|Later in the afternoon, Debbie delivered an absolute beating to Tom in Five Crowns, crushing him 142 to 3.
|Around 4:00 PM, we went down to the Future Cruises desk again, but Chantal was still busy.
|We tried one last time just before 5:00 PM, but no luck. We watched as a group of kids played among the Christmas decorations, including the two children of the hotel general manager. They were so adorable, and several passengers walking through stopped to take photos.
|We love taking the glass elevators.
|For dinner, we got salads from the Lido. Debbie questioned whether Tom understood how to make a salad, since his had three slices of pizza on it.
|Here's Debbie's submission for artistic shot of the day, titled, "We're really gonna miss this."
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy