Friday, January 4, 2019

80-Day Grand South America and Antarctica Voyage Begins

So here we are. January 4 2019. Day 1 of this grand voyage to the bottom of the world.

I flew to Florida from home in California on the 2nd, arriving quite late at night. I checked in to the Embassy Suites for the next two nights. Tired from a long day of delayed flights, I sank into bed and relished the ability to stretch my legs and just relax. I slept well and woke the next morning feeling refreshed and ready for a day of errands and connecting with friends with whom I would be cruising.

I met up with Patty, a new friend who currently lives in Dublin, Ireland. She is retiring soon from a career in government service. Patty was staying at the same hotel and we had made plans to do our shopping together. We first walked the three blocks to Walgreens, where we picked up cold medicines, aspirin, and other health-related items that would cover most medical ailments and mishaps.

I was also on the hunt for a foam egg crate to put on my mattress on the ship. I’ve sailed on the Prinsendam before and I find their beds to be quite firm. I like a soft bed. So the egg crate helps. After checking a few stores I finally found a similar item at TJ Maxx. We were pretty limited in available stores without hiring a car to take us somewhere else.

Errands and shopping done, we went to a burger place and had a nice lunch out on the patio, before walking back to the hotel. We planned to meet up at the end of the day to walk to the Boatyard, a restaurant nearby where we were to meet up with 15 other roll call members for a nice dinner. We ended up with 14, a nice turnout.

Then this morning we checked out of the hotel and grabbed a Lyft to the port. Between the two of us we had about 7 pieces of luggage - 3 of which were large pieces. We managed to fit everything into the driver’s Honda Civic!!

Checking in was quick and painless. No lines. We waited about 30 minutes before we were allowed to board, and we had a nice surprise - Orlando Ashford, the head of Holland America, was there along with the corporate head of hotel operations. They posed for pictures with each of us as we got ready to walk into the ship. For a Grand Voyage I thought this was a very nice touch. He’s been very transparent and has visited a lot of the ships over the past couple of years, taking time to give talks about HAL’s direction and talking to passengers one on one. Just last month, while I was on the inaugural voyage of the Nieuw Statendam, I talked to him for close to ten minutes. He’s a great listener and answered my questions and appreciated my positive comments about the organization. Can’t ask for much more than that.

It took awhile to get my luggage delivered to my room but finally, after dinner, all the pieces had arrived so I got busy with unpacking and setting up my room. It took a couple of hours but it’s done!   I can go to sleep now.

We have two days at sea before we reach Santa Marta, Columbia, on Monday.

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