The Love Boat
Trip Start Apr 30, 2009
17Trip End Jun 05, 2009
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We are sailing... we are saiiiiiiilllling...
Yes, with Rod Stewart (not the real one obviously) crooning in the background, the MS Volendam swishes and swooshes through the ocean. Although the sea is quite swooshy and there's gale forced winds (try walking in a straight line even without a drink!) we're not exactly 'roughing it' on board here.
This is our first voyage with Holland America, although we've been on a few other cruises. We chose this one for the itinerary, because it went to Japan (never been there before) and Alaska (doesn't everyone want to go there?) and then drops us at Vancouver, which is where I need to be in a few weeks. Nice cruiseline, quite posh and all that, but there is one feature that we couldn't avoid noticing... that this ship is like a floating retirement village. We're not particularly age-ist, and retirement is something we both are quite keen on (sooner rather than later actually). So, with so many role models, we thought we'd conduct some sort of study on what floats the retirees' boat, so to speak. You know, dip our spoon into what's to come in our charmed life as we reach an age where we collect wonderful things like superannuation packages. We call it The Love Boat because all the 'olds' look so happy. There are lots of retired couples, but also quite a few 'old single gals' travelling in packs. The ship has special male 'dance hosts' with nice pecs for the ladies to borrow should they feel like a little dance in the evening.
The Volendam is at sea for six days between Japan and Alaska (we do May 11th twice due to crossing the international date line - there's an actual 'yay, we're crossing it RIGHT now ceremony), so there are lots of activities in the daily 'at sea' schedule and if you're not careful one can forget which day it is and slip into a coma. Actually, there's a rug in each elevator with the name of the day of the week, which is slightly strange, but surprisingly handy. Other 'seniors friendly' ship features include plenty of soft food, prune juice, thermal whirlpools and a pacemaker-friendly archway when you go through on-board security screening.
So, at the moment we have plenty of time to compile a list of our favourite cruise ship things (raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens...)
Tez's Top Things to do on The Love Boat whilst swooshing aimlessly at sea:
Read. There's a LOT of reading time. There's daily newspaper printouts from around the world, a proper library with squillions of books and magazines in various languages (hey mum, I read a Grazia magazine in Dutch!) as well as the books I brought from home. If you get sick of reading you can also listen to audio books or borrow a DVD. There's all these cool little nooks and crannies around the boat with deck chairs, those reclining chairs and 'love seats' for the 'olds' to snuggle in. There's even a special café in the library that serves a very acceptable 'extra-hot skim chai latte'.
Go to the Culinary Arts Centre, the Theatre, Shows and Lectures. Yes, there's a movie theatre on board (as you do...) showing complimentary recent release movies, complete with popcorn. In the theatre there's also a demonstration kitchen where you can learn to cook interesting stuff (me? Go to a cupcake class? Ohh ok... if I must...) and compete in competitions (yes, I've entered that awesome prawn and pesto pasta dish we invented when the basil in the vegie patch went ballistic last year...) Today there are such interesting culinary and craft activities as 'Building Better Waffles' and 'Corsage Making', things one obviously does once retired. One also goes to lectures (nerds like me love lectures), with topics such as 'The Joy of Sea Creatures', 'Dali - Madman or Genius?' and 'Managing Arthritis with Acupuncture'. The lectures are quite popular and very few of the olds seem to fall asleep there (surprisingly, considering they're scheduled during the afternoon nap period). Our favourite evening show so far has been Xinpin Xu, who played the Dulcimer (I know! The things you learn!)
Collect 'Dam Dollars'. All the Holland American ships end with 'dam', eg, Volendam, Eurodam, Oosterdam. When you participate in physical or sporty activities around the ship, you can win 'Dam' dollars to go towards something from the merchandise shop at the end of the cruise. It keeps the olds active and helps feed their primal need for free stuff. Apparently, the BIG prize item is the lovely blue jogging suit, although we'd be quite content with a coffee mug or jumper. We've slowed down a bit with our participation of late, as our dam dollar collection is getting a bit out of control. Brad keeps winning games and earning the 'bonus' dollars. So far he's excelled in such events as shuffleboard, bocce, cricket (he accidentally maimed an old chook who didn't want to play after that...), quoits, basketball shooting, volleyball, American football throwing, beanbag tossing, pass the balloon and putt-putt. I, of course, suck at most of them and get a 'participation dollar'. A side-benefit of the activity schedule is that you're on the lido or sports deck when the 'sea creature' alert happens, eg, "dophins, port side!" or "seals on starboard!"
Make friends. Now, this is truly an art form. You know how keen I am on social competence and interaction skills. The trick, I think, is not to make too many friends, but to make a few really good ones. You book in dinner dates, afternoon tea soirees and form a trivia team. Yes, this is how it works in retirement land. The only thing we're missing is pictures of our grandkids (it's ok Kaitlin, no need to hurry there...). Interestingly, when people ask you questions in retirement land, they're not about work. They ask about hobbies, travel, family, politics, life experiences and general interests. It's nice actually.
Get a Blankie. The man finds you on the deck and puts a warm comfy blanket over you... seriously. He'll also bring you a hot chocolate.
Eat. Yes, you'd expect this activity to be one of Brad's favourites (and it is), but I'm quite enjoying the variety of healthy and fresh food. There's been dragonfruit, mango, papaya as well as watermelon and berries everywhere you turn. I give some of the weird shit a miss, like the snails and 'goop in a bowl', but I am becoming quite familiar with the afternoon tea ice-cream man. What do they say about cruiseships? That you come on as a passenger and leave as cargo. Sighhh... I have met the gym and tried it a few times (the instructor's name is Fabio... yes, seriously), but it just seems more fun to walk all the food off at each port and run up and down the stairs every time I want to go somewhere on the ship.
Brad's Brief Best Bits:
Long, hot showers.
Dinner. Lots of steak.
Duty free grog. Two x Litre bottles of Jim Beam for twenty bucks. Bargain!
Morgue tour. Seriously, this ship has apparently got one of the best morgues at sea. Wonder if it's full yet?
So, we continue to sail and sail... see you on the other side of the Pacific!