Sunday, May 5, 2013

May 5,A daily blog and a virtual cruise through the Panama Canal! At sea!

Neither Vicki nor I had a good night last night!  So, I had already made up my mind that after went to coffee I was going to go home and take a nap!

We got up earlier today so that we could be over at our favorite Starbucks by 9:00 to meet Joshua, Mark and Tami.  Tami was on her way to the airport as she will be spending the week in Colorado Springs and will be back on Friday!  We will see them on Mothers Day and then we leave the next day for New Orleans!  Yea!  It is going to be so much fun!

Anyway it was fun seeing the three of them.  I said to Joshua.....guess what I got....he said, a new computer....I said, yes, but I also got a Twitter account!  I am following Bill and Chelsea Clinton,  Joy Behr and Elisabeth Hasselback!  Well, I actually did not get much past the Bill Clinton and telling them that he is my boyfriend before they all were laughing at me!  Vicki always laughs and just shakes her head!  lol!  Mark and Tami came over yesterday while we were not at home and trimmed our cactus and put our courtyard in really looks nice!  Thank you two!    Both Joshua and Aaron have final exams this week and may go go to a Dbacks game  on Thursday night!

Isn't she so so cute?  Now I know who taught Davin how to do that!  lol!

Joshua is really looking  good, I think he is winning the weight contest and doesn't know it!  lol!

The owner of this dog walked up to the door at Starbucks, dropped his leash on the ground and there sits the dog waiting for his Starbucks.  When his owner came out, the dog went crazy!  lol!  

Today the Amsterdam is at sea!

Postcards from Paradise, Update!
Oranjestad, Aruba May 4, 2013 Saturday
The Dutch island of Aruba and the city of Oranjestad was the port of call for this fine hot and humid day. Together with Bonaire and Curacao, these three islands form the ABC islands of the Leeward Antilles. Once belonging to Spain in 1499, two hundred years later, the Dutch captured the islands. The language spoken here is a mixture from the Dutch, Spanish, and the Portuguese. It is called Papiamento. Today, Aruba is a tourist's playground with sandy beaches, golf courses, casinos, duty-free shops, and many dive sites.

We have been here twice, and enjoyed it both times. Many years ago, we took a catamaran snorkel tour, but never saw the island. Last year, we walked to the town, and went out to lunch. That is exactly what we plan to do today as well.

There was barely a breeze when we left the ship around 10am. First, we had breakfast in the dining room, and just as we had expected, it was not crowded in there. Undoubtedly, many guests took tours, and since there were so many different choices, but we never did see any large groups leaving the ship.

We took our time walking through the terminal building, then down the main drag where all the big jewelry shops were located. Those were not our destination, but the Hard Rock Cafe was. Actually, only the store part of HRC was on the strip, with the restaurant a 6 mile ride to the big hotel area on the north part of the island. So much for our lunch plans there. It would not be a problem, however, because last year we had located a great place for pizza, and you know how much we love that.

Anyway, we quickly found the city t-shirt at this store, then continued on towards the Marketplace near the Renaissance Hotel. On the way, we passed numerous high-end jewelry stores with people trying to lure us inside. A "no thanks" took care of them politely. A row of stands full of souveniers were next to stroll by. They carried the "cookie-cutter" stuff you see in every port. We are sure that these vendors sell lots of stuff to the other cruise line folks, actually the folks with the kids. So far, we have counted a total of three little girls onboard. No teenagers either.

At the Marketplace, also a Renaissance property, there are several eateries, as well as boutiques, shops, nightclubs, and a cinema complex. One of the Italian restaurants is Casa Tua. That is where we had margherita pizza and the local beer, Balashi. It was ice cold and went down real easy. Originally, we ordered one wood-fired pizza to share, but it was soooo good, we ordered another. The crust was paper-thin and crispy, the way we love it, and not really big, so we did not pig out, so to speak. Sitting outside under a huge fan helped cool us down, while shooting the breeze for an hour.

We could swear it got hotter as we walked back towards the pier, so we ducked into the other Renaissance properties at the Marina Hotel, the Casino, and the 2 story mall. It was worth it for the air-conditioning and the very clean restrooms. There is a bridge over a narrow canal that leads to this marina hotel. A water taxi brings hotel guests from the Ocean Suites Hotel to here, saving them the walk in the heat or the rain. Great idea.

Part of the downtown area is under construction, making it more people friendly. A new form of transportation will be added with an open-air energy-efficient tram that will run on rechargable batteries. It will be free and connect the new malls, green spaces, attractions, parks, and plazas still being developed. Right now, there is a traffic problem on the main street. According to the info in the local tourist booklet, a diversion of car traffic and improved underground parking structures will make foot and bike traffic more pleasant. Too bad this port is not on the itinerary next year on this re-positioning cruise, since it's fun to chart the progress.

All aboard time was 4:30pm, although we did not leave until 5:45pm. It could not have come soon enough, because today there was no expected afternoon trade winds that normally cool the island down. We felt bad for the guitarist, David Cain, who played at the sailaway party in the hot glaring sun for one hour. We was melting, and there was no move made to give him shade. We really enjoyed his music, however.....a huge improvement over the typical 1920's tunes that we heard over and over on every sailaway on the grand voyage. 

By the way, there were no hors d'oeuvres served, and there will not be for anytime too soon. Remember we mentioned that there was the GI bug on the Veendam in Ft. Lauderdale? Well, it appears that it has blossomed on the Amsterdam. We do not know the numbers of people effected, but it has to be significant to generate the announcement from Captain Fred at the sailaway today. We are now in code "red". All the precautions have gone into effect, such as full service food distribution in all dining rooms. Surfaces are being disinfected constantly, and we are certain that the hallways will be bombed tonight. Good thing, since this is not a malady we wish to experience. We would be quarantined until we were symptom free, which could take several days.

While chatting with some other fellow world cruisers who have stayed on, we all realize that none of the back-to-back amenities have occurred for some of us. Wonder why? So we went to ask someone who might know at the front desk, to find out that something has slipped through the cracks for an unknown reason. So is it cutbacks, or a mistake? We cannot seem to get a straight answer. Either way, we just want to know. We did receive an invite to a special cocktail party with the Captain and Hotel Manager, Henk Hoekstra, at 7:15pm in the Crow's Nest tonight. Perhaps we can fish for some info at the party. 

What we did learn was something else all together. Talking with Tom G., the dining room manager, he informed us that starting on next year's Grand World Voyage, there will be no more wine stewards. His reasoning is that land-based restaurants do not always have extra wine stewards, and the waiters handle it all with no problem. That explains why there has been a partial transition with the duties of our waiters and the wine guys. The main change will be that the waiters and their assistants will have fewer tables to handle, due to the extra work. But in the long run, they will earn more of the 15% gratuity that was once tied to the wine steward service.

We did have the opportunity to speak to other buddies, and discovered no one got any amenities with this back-to-back voyage. They have all agreed to check into the situation tomorrow, especially the absence of the complimentary Pinnacle Grill dinner. If they wait much longer to rectify the oversight, we will have no chance to book that dinner if all the reservations are taken.

Captain Fred and his girlfriend Brooke visited with us and some other GWV friends at the end of the party. We assumed this cocktail reception was for the world cruisers, but it was not just us, but other guests, we suspect from either the verandas or high day people. Hopefully, they will have more of these parties to accommodate all of the guests that traveled onward wth us. We did find an HAL tote bag on our bed this evening, but not the usual canvas bag. This is a blue grocery-style bag, even made smaller than the ones they gifted last year. Wonder what happened to the very nice 4 star Mariner blue and white canvas bags we got the last two years in a row? 

Dinner was good, although we arrived a little later than usual. Hey, it did not matter, because we were not holding up our group anymore. 

Looking forward to a lazy day at sea tomorrow on our way to transit the Panama Canal once again.

Bill & Mary Ann

Be careful out there!

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