We’ve almost completed our circuit of the earth at the stately speed of 19 knots. Holland America has done most things right on this cruise but I think they overplayed the ending. In the last days we wanted to have some time to pack, reflect, and most of all spend long dinners with new friends. But not wanting the cruise to lag at the end the staff picked up the pace action. Yesterday, there was a crew show at 3 PM, a solo show by one of the singers in the ensemble at 7:15 and a grand finale two hour party at 9:30 PM. Between that were special shows in the Piano and Ocean Bars. We had planned a nice dinner with new friends, gathering at 5:30 but it was cut short a little before 7 because many of us wanted to get seats for the solo show. (David Shipman is new to the Amsterdam entertainment ensemble. Until this fall he was ringmaster for one of the traveling Ringling Brothers Barnham and Baily Circuses, he had lived on a circus train for 5 years and when the big top folded he ended up on a cruise ship. I’ve had interesting conversations with him, he has been with us for four months, and I wanted to see him solo. He has presence. I mean if he can command a big top he can command a cruise ship theater.) So we put off packing until today, which right now feels like a mistake. Suzi just came back from the Holland America shop with another bag. Even though we didn’t buy that much, the stuff we got from Holland as pillow gifts (World Cruise monopoly sets, Waterford crystal sugar bowls, serving platters, tulip vases, trivets and Panama hats) taxed our carrying capacity.
If you want free stuff this is the day to get it. People are walking around with half-finished bottles of wine, tulip vases, serving platters, trivets and Holland America World Cruise Monopoly games trying to give them away. One couple was sitting on the platform that holds the Roman bust on our deck in tears. I think they were momentarily overwhelmed. They had just dragged their bags to the scale and were seriously overweight. They didn’t know what to toss. They loved it all. The woman looked up at me and smiled weakly, “Well, at least we just go to Long Island, You have to schlep all this stuff to Alaska.”
Today at 3 PM we had the “closing campfire.” I think we did everything but sing Kumbaya. The Cruise Director showed us videos of highlights of life on board and the Location Guide showed us slides of where had been. The Captain gave a nice speech, “I have sailed on unhappy ships and I have sailed on happy ships. This is a happy ship.” Retiring staff were recognized and then representatives of the crew on stage to a standing ovation from the officers and the rest of us. Then there was a receiving line at the end where we shook hands with members of the crew, not the officers. I like that. And of course, like any closing campfire there is the pitch to come again next year, (although next year is already sold out.) More than anything this was a marketing event.
So the ship is getting ready for drydock. The deckchairs and tables on the aft lido are stacked, they have taken down the light stanchions. The shop shelves are mostly empty. The railings on our promenade deck are wrapped in padding so the teak is not damaged during work, staff from the ship builders came on in San Juan and stuff was lifted onto the decks to enable work to start as soon as Amsterdam pulls away from the dock an noon tomorrow heading for the dry dock in Freeport, Bahamas. The ship is really past due for a refit, and it will get all new navigational and electronics as well as upgraded internet and stateroom refurbishments. I understand their need to make the most of limited dry dock time and getting the jump on it but I want to scream. “It’s still our vacation, we aren’t even off yet, give us our last day on a whole ship!”
We had a leisurely dinner with some friends, deciding to blow off tonight’s show. It’s a better closure than the “Campfire.” Early in the dinner we heard the attention chime. Except for scheduled announcements at 9:20 and at noon this is not usually a good thing. But the Captain came on to tell us to look to our starboard, there were waterspouts. This cruise truly did end in a whirlwind.
We’re back in the room after dinner and a little listening to the trio in the Ocean Bar. Every night on our bed there are two chocolates, the schedule for the next day and a card with a saying about travel. The card numbered 113 reads “I do believe it’s time for another adventure.”
This afternoon the Captain said that a trip like this changes one forever. I suppose that’s right but I’m still trying to figure out how it has changed Suzi and me. Fortunately I have kept good notes, in the form of this blog, which I will read over before writing my coda trying to make sense of this voyage. Stay tuned.