Monthly Archives: July 2015

Sunday off the ms Amsterdam and in Seattle July 5

We woke up about 7 to the sound of being at dock. Our luggage was gone, as expected. We both cleaned up and got dressed. At the Lido buffet we got juice, coffee and dry cereal. We brought it back to our room. We felt relaxed, and finally left the room about 8:30 and sat in the library until they called us. We were Yellow 1. The line to get off the ship was very long and only got longer while we waited. Once off the ship it was surprising simple. The luggage was neatly gathered by color and we found our easily. They had spread out the disembarkation very well and there were not big crowds. Once through customs we discussed our next move. There was a place we could leave the suitcases, but the temperature was headed for 95 and we were only on foot. We decided to use Uber and had a pleasant, chatty ride to the Holiday Inn. Breakfast was still going on when we arrived. We had to wait a couple of hours for our room, but the lobby was big and comfortable and we were able to use wi fi.

I was able to get our boarding passes, both “A”s and finally we got a room. Terry is very happy to have a room with wi fi and normal TV. We walked across the street to a festival near Angle Lake. It was a tiny fair with one food booth. And it was hot and there was trash everywhere. So, back to the hotel, and we have ordered a pizza to be delivered from a local pizza place called Pizza Time. Hopefully it will be good, but even mall pizza is better than what they had on the ship.

Our plane leaves tomorrow at 12:25 and we are looking forward to seeing friends, Otis and home.

Are there any cruises in the future? Yes for me, but no for Terry. I will travel with an enthusiastic friend, and Terry will be happy in the garage with his scooters. And, you know, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Saturday on ms Amsterdam July 4

 

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Happy 4th of July and Happy Birthday to my nephew Axel!

We were woken up by a knock on the door, it was breakfast, an hour early, but we had forgotten the clocks were changed. The coffee was great, I should have done that every morning. The food was pretty bad. And the “frosted” flakes turned out to be cornflakes. Sigh.

We are going to a “cook-off” show at 11 and there is a 4th of July bar b que on the lido this afternoon.

The cook off show was very cute, two officers on the ship competed to make a meal with a steak and Idaho potato. The officers were funny, and the judges were fine. The hostess was weak, she couldn’t seem to think of things to say. Still it was fun to watch.

 

After the cook off I went to the Lido deck for the bar b que. I was sitting at a table watching for Terry and he, the brat, was sitting at a table behind me watching me. Finally he said hi, I can’t believe I did not see him. I had a bowl of ice cream and Terry didn’t eat anything. We are both looking forward to our dinner at the Skinny Tater in Victoria and then swigging down some Race Rock on tab.

 

Terry and I sat in the library for a while, I worked on my travel notebook and Terry went through his photos on the ipad. He has taken some amazing photos! When we got back to the room we began packing. We have to put our luggage out before midnight. I guess we will shower tonight.

One thing that apparently most cruises do is advertise a LOT of things for sale. Here is a photo of all the flyers put in our cabin during the cruise. We did not care for this at all.

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Terry hung out in the room and I went to the ships Dancing With The Stars show. This was by far the best show I have seen on this trip. Every day they have offered dancing lessons, and 3 men and 3 women passengers were selected to be in the competition. The stage was set like the show with a judges table and the 3 judges had paddles with scores. The show began with a dance from the ships dance group. Then we saw a brief video with Bruno and Len to introduce the show. We were introduced to all the contestants and then they came out one at a time to dance and be judged. Each passenger on the stage was paired with a professional. They danced one dance each, a Samba, a waltz and a Jive. The first dance was a Samba and the woman passenger was very good, though she almost had a costume problem when her strapless dress threatened to fall down. They were all very good. One lady missed a few steps but they all did a great job with dances they had barely learned. Five of the teams got all 10’s and one team got all nines. Then we all got to cheer for a pair and a winner was declared. I had a favorite but he came in third. This winner will be compared to all the ms Amsterdam winners throughout the season and the best one will compete against the best dancer/passenger from all the HAL ships. This big dance off will be held on a cruise that will include some of the professionals and some of the stars. It was all very cool.

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We will dock in Victoria at about 6pm and we are looking forward to it.

We waited in a long line to get off the ship, and finally we were in a taxi heading toward the Skinny Tater. Once inside, we were recognized by the lady owner. We ordered a deluxe plate for Terry and a vegetarian plate for me. TO start we each had a cup of the wonderful pickle soup. Mmmmm. My plate came with 4 perogis, 2 salads and 3 potato pancakes. Terry had perogis, smoked sausage and stuffed cabbage. The food was not as good as we remembered, it was BETTER! We ate slowly and savored every bite. When we had eaten every bit, we paid and strolled along the street, enjoying our stuffed stomachs.

Every waiter and waitress in Victoria has one of these little devices. You can add in a tip and you sign on the screen and out comes the receipt. Very easy to use.

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We went to the Bard & Banker to enjoy a glass of Race Rock beer on tap. This was not nearly as good as remembered, neither of us finished. Oh well. We would rather have the food good and it was. We decided to walk back to the ship and stopped at Starbucks for cookies, molasses and oatmeal rasin. US Starbucks need to carry these cookies.

On the way to the ship we came across the same man who had carved the hummingbird I bought when we visited Seattle last October. I was glad to see him because the picture we had taken was lost. So now I have a picture of this excellent craftsman.

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Back at the ship we finished packing and are relaxing on our last night as cruisers. We arrive in Seattle at 7am tomorrow and are supposed to be off the ship by 9:30. Our flight home is Sunday. This has been an interesting trip, some great days and some so, so.

IMG_0122Goodbye ms Amsterdam

 

 

Friday on ms Amsterdam July 3

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We woke up early and excited. Zip lineing, hooray and OH MY!!!
I wore my fleece lined leggings and a book t shirt and a book sweatshirt, and carried a jacket, but it was an extremely warm day and the sweatshirt proved enough. We did not have breakfast, we had to get up at 6:30 and be on the dock at 7:20.
Our driver of the Grayline bus that picked us up was a nice girl named Kat. She chatted with us, and the two brothers from our ship, who were also going. She stopped at another cruise line and picked up about 12 people who were going on a rainforest hike. When we reached the base camp for zip lining she let us off and continued on her way. Then, we were driven in a big four wheeler called a Unimog to the place where we got all hooked into our gear. Our guides, Taylor and Jeff were great. Young men, they were funny and casual but obviously very professional. I was nervous and they made me feel safe, I could tell they knew what they were doing. We left all our stuff, jackets, purse, etc in a big box and watched a tiny safety film, which was pretty useless.

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We put on red helmets and gloves that are big and silly and they guys began helping us into our harness. As we left the little building we walked out to a small platform and our first line.

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Before we started and often after that, they guys tugged on our gear and checked all the attachments. Tylor explained and demonstrated a little, how to zip line and then it was our turn. The brothers went first and then me. Tylor was at the next platform and Jeff hooked my sling to the cable and told me I could go. I thought about it for a brief moment and then stepped off.

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Wow, it was great. The gear completely holds you so you do not need to use any strength to zip line. As directed, I held my little handels, leaned way back and crossed my ankles. As I neared Tylor he called out to break. I lay one hand on the cable above me and that slowed me down. We had been warned not to grip it. Just as me feet were at the platform Tylor reached out and tugged me in. It was like flying, like going up on a swing when you’re a kid and feeling sure that you can touch the clouds.
Tylor and Jeff always seemed to know whose clip was whose and gave us turns to be first. After we had zipped a few times, we went on the longest one, almost 800 feet. I would have been happy if it had been twice that long!
On one of the platforms, Jeff, the comedian, shouted “oh no, wait” to one of the brothers just as he took off. Not being the victims of this prank we laughed at his horrified face. But he laughed also. I sternly warned Jeff that jokes were not to be played on me.
Next we walked across a suspension bridge. It was more like a narrow wooden curb than a bridge. We were hooked on but about halfway across we all stopped and enjoyed the scenery. We had such beautiful sunny weather, we saw several eagles but no bear. We chatted and joked on the bridge and then finished the walk. The last part was very up hill, I got to a place where there were no knots in the rope and I was almost stuck, I had nothing to keep from sliding back. Finally I got a good grip on the rope rail and pulled hard and got across. There was a second smaller bridge and though I was hooked on and holding the rail ropes, I still slid on the slightly down hill part, I shouted that I was ice skating!
Then we came to the last platform. I was sad, we had been having such a very good time. It was too soon, I wanted to zip all day!

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There was photographers along the way and the last one took some group shots. Once we got out of all our gear we went into the little store for some salmon on crackers, cookies and coffee. Terry bought a water for us. I bought 4 photos, one of each of us, and one group shot and one from the suspension bridge. They were very pricey but had to have them.
We looked at the small blacksmiths shop and visited Sitka, a beautiful bald eagle who lives there. She was hit by a car when she was a year old and lost a back talon and injured her wing. She is not able to go back and has lived there a long time. She is huge, 13 pounds, and very majestic.

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Our van arrived to take us back to town. We chatted about our adventure and the driver pointed out interesting sights. Back in town our plan was to wander around and see the sights. We only had about 2 hours until our ship was leaving. Suddenly we realized Terry did not have his messanger bag. We did a quick cabin check and then panicked a bit. A nice crossing guard (live signals) gave us the number for a cab and we were soon on our way back. The driver was a nice guy and chatted with us about fishing and his life in Alaska. When we got to the store, he waited while we jumped out, Terry ran to his last spot and I went in the store where they were just looking at the bag and trying to decide what to do. Whew! It was a $70 mistake, but that’s life. Back in town, our time was very short, so we walked a tiny bit and then used the rest of the time to take advantage of having some internet.

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I had some lunch while Terry finished loading pictures to our laptop and ipads. I had chicken and mashed potatoes again, safe and easy, tastes best to me. They were having a beerfest on the pool deck and though I skipped the beer, I did take some of the bratwurst to Terry. Along with 2 very large pretzel breads. For dessert, Angie scooped strawberry and chocolate with nuts and chocolate syrup for me.
I was able to make 6:30 dinner reservations for tonight at the Pinacle Grill. Hopefully the food will be better, since it is $29 apiece but anything will beat ship food.
We went to the Pinacle Grill with high hopes. We were seated in a nice booth, and the hostess laid a jacket across on of our chairs to imply Terry had a jacket, pretty funny. We were served an appetizer that was escargot in a cream sauce, it was wonderful and we had a good feeling. I ordered a baked potato and a medium rare, bone in rib eye. Terry got the same and we also ordered grilled asparagus. For starters Terry had crabcakes and I had lobster bisque. The potato was good of course, and I though my steak was delicious. I did not care for the asparagus or the soup, but Terry found them to be ok. He though his steak was too fatty. I only wished I had smuggled in a baggy, because I must have left over half my steak and they wouldn’t wrap it to go. I had coffee and sherbet for dessert and Terry had fresh berries. The best part of dinner was how peaceful it was in the restaurant instead of the chaos of the Lido deck.

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After dinner I went to the lounge to watch another singing/dancing show and Terry headed for the room. He had to take his key to the front desk because it stopped opening the door, but they fixed it. When the show was over I went back to the cabin and we spent the rest of the evening watching movies. It was very relaxing.
I filled out the breakfast order form and hopefully the food will be decent.
I have been doing most of my writing in the ships library, it is fairly peaceful here and the table / chair height ratio is perfect for me.
Tomorrow we will get to Victoria about 6pm. A long ride ahead of us.

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Thursday on the ms Amsterdam July 3

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Today got off to a wild start, at about 1am almost everyone on the ship (some slept) experienced a lot of turbulence. It was crazy, it was enough to toss you off your bed. Terry and I looked out the window, it was not a storm, it was just very rough sea. Though it was impossible to fall back to sleep for a while I was pleased to not feel ill. I guess my seasickness wrist bands are working, so that is good to know. Eventually we fell asleep, I’m sure most people did.

 

Morning came to a calm sea, we were now close to Sitka, our second stop. We took our time getting up and showering and then went to the Lido Buffet for some breakfast. The lines are so long, so disorganized and the food is only mediocre, what a pain! I much prefer the river cruise style of breakfast, with the cold food out and hot food is ordered and brought to you. Of course there are only 200 people on the river cruise and almost 2000 on this ship.

 

When we were all ready, we went, as directed, to the Wajang theatre to get a number which would allow us to be “tendered” to shore. In large, covered boats they took about 50 of us at a time. It was a quick, easy ride to the nearby dock.

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Sitka is a tiny, charming little town. We headed toward the B___________ Castle. It was such a nice stroll, with so many pretty plants and flowers along the way. Once up the hill, we found only a small, round park overlooking the sea. The “castle” which had only been a mansion, had burned down long ago and the land was dedicated as a park to honor the sale of Alaska to the USA from Russia. There were some informative signs, most interesting to me was the one about the actual transfer of land ceremony. There were a bunch of American soldiers and a few Russian soldiers, there were the representatives from each country to make the change and a planned ceremony of lowering the Russian Flag and raising the American Flag. Unfortunately the Russian Flag was stuck and after two climbing attempts to free it had failed, they tried another tactic. The soldier got the flag free, but to the horror of onlookers, he dropped it to the ground. Amid this embarrassing situation, the American Flag was quickly raised, hands shaken and they quickly departed.

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Because of it’s native and Russian beginnings the town has a strong Russian influence. We visited several shops with the Russian nesting dolls and Faberge Eggs. I bought a few souvenirs, it’s hard because I do not want to get stuff made in China, neither do I want to spend a huge amount of money for native made items. I would have loved to buy my mom a set of nesting dolls, she used to love them so much.

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The flowers were simply beautiful, it’s nice to visit places that are not in drought! We also so wild raspberries growing in many places. Terry took way too many pictures to post but here are some favorites.

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We saw a building that was a senior residence, it was a very old building that had gone through several changes until finally refurbished. They had a tiny gift shop with handmade items from the residents, as well as some other items. I bought a few things, glad that my money was going to such a nice place.

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We then headed for the other side of the harbor to see the famous totem poles and their special park and museum. The totems were fine, but the forest walk was great. The foliage was beautiful and some of the plants had HUGE leaves! We also saw and heard a mated pair of bald eagles. I wondered if they knew Liberty and Spirit, a pair of eagles who live in Northern California. The walk was through a forest, but also along the shore. We wished we could bring some of the beautiful driftwood home, but settled for pictures.

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LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THIS LEAF!

 

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Having seen everything we were interested in, we headed back to the dock. As we passed a shack selling Clam Chowder, Terry suggested we try it. The chowder was wonderful! We were both reminded of the amazing lobster bisque we had from a tiny shack on Martha’s Vineyard. You just never know for sure where the good food will be.

The last tender was to be at 3:30, but we returned about 1:00.

I was very tired, having had little sleep last night, so I took a long nap while Terry watched TV. There is always a movie on which is good and bad. Good cause the movies are current and bad because Terry will start watching in the middle and just as I find myself involved in the story and an exciting part comes along, he stands us and suggests we go out. I have never, and will never, understand how he does that.

We went to the buffet for dinner and sat by the pool. There was a very good jazz band playing. The ship was moving a lot and the swimming pool was swishing the swimmers back and forth, they were shrieking with delight and mock terror. Finally the crew had to close the pool so no one could get hurt. For dinner I had steak, chicken and potatoes. It sounds like a lot but I barely made a dent. Between the ship motion and the not great food, neither of us are eating a lot. However, my favorite server, Angie, always has great food, because she scoops ice cream. We are on a first name basis.

 

The disnitigration of manners and the unawareness of appropriate behavior is apparent on the ship. A older man who was extremely sweaty from his workout came to a table by the pool, and lay on the floor to do sit ups. It was not a very nice sight. A lady took a diapered baby into the Jacuzzi, yuck. And a very large man was leaning back in the Jacuzzi entertaining his friends with the sight of his huge belly. He looked like a beached whale. Terry looked over and said “you never have a harpoon when you need one”. Lol.

 

We took our dessert back to the room to find another nice surprise! Terry immediately found Million Dollar Baby to watch on TV and I went to the ships library to do some writing.

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Tomorrow we will be in Ketchikan and go ziplining in the morning. I am excited about that.

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Wednesday on the ms Amsterdam July 1

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We woke up at 7 to see we had arrived at the dock in Junea during the night. We are both looking forward to todays adventure. Once dressed, we looked at breakfast but did not eat. I wore my plush lined leggings and sneakers, we both brought our warm coats and beanies. A row of busses were parked at the dock and many people walked around holding signs with the name of the tours. I bounced around excitedly while Terry stood to one side watching the action. There was also a row of booths with people selling a variety of tours.

We boarded our bus with 7 other people.

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The ride to the heliport was about 20 minutes. Once there we watched a short safety film and the guides helped us get our glacier boots on.

We were divided into groups, mostly by weight (lol). Terry and I were with a man and his mom, she seemed very brave to me. The lady and I had to sit in the front, which I would not have chosen. I was tense as the helicopter took off, but I began to enjoy it. The feeling was more like an amusement park ride than anything else. The ride was about 12 minutes and then we landed on the glacier. Wow.

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There were guides who stay on the glacier, they have a hut to keep warm in. We were greeted by Bre, our guide, and she walked us all around. Bre showed us pools of water and explained how those pools formed. For many, the rocks that happen to be on the glacier get warm in the sun and then melt their way down, making a pool of clear, very blue, glacier water.

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Following a suggestion I decided to try the glacier water. I lay flat on my stomach and dipped my mouth down and took a drink. It was cold and fresh and tasted just like water. (I really am laying down!!!)

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Bre pulled out some ice for us to hold and look at. We each bit off a piece, so much fun.

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After about 30 minutes our helicopter came back for us. Of course I was an expert now and did not squeak or flinch once on the way back. It was a lot of money for a short experience but we are glad we did it. Glaciers are such a special part of our world, I wish everyone could see them in person. And I will say that the guides truly appreciate the glacier, it is more than just a job to them. They realize that the world has a changing climate and no one knows how long these things will last.

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We returned to the ship to change and clean up and then we went on a stroll through Juneau.

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And another new friend in our room!

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Tuesday on the ms Amsterdam June 30

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We went to see a show last night. There was dancing and singing. The young performers were hard working and talented enough for the 35 minute show.

We had a surprise when we returned to our room!

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Slept in and woke up rested ready for another day. We had breakfast on the lido deck and eventually made our way to the upper rear deck where we grabbed some chairs to enjoy our progress thru the Tracy Arm. I am excited to see a fiord in person. We have seen several small whales and Terry go a good tail picture.

The food is turning out to be mediocre, but I don’t care and Terry is managing.

We saw a boat pull up to our ship and a man got on our ship from it. He is the pilot from the National Forrest service to guide us thru the fiord and make sure we don’t bother the wildlife.

 

Barbara, the ship guide, began a talk about the fiord and will point out interesting sights and explaining what we are seeing. We had comfortable seats for viewing.

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And we saw several whales!

 

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Terry spotted a tiny iceberg, our first!

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And then icebergs were everywhere and one was so dark blue it did not seem real. It was a very rare type, even the crew were excited to see it.

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We saw seals resting on the icebergs.

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We finally reached the end of the Tracy Arm and right in front of us was a huge glacier. The ship stayed still for a long while so we could get all the pictures we wanted.

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I wrote some Haikus as we moved through the Tracy Arm.

I am a glacier

Slowly reaching toward the sea

The past behind me

 

 

I finally broke free

I am iceberg on my own

Melting now goodbye.

 

See me blue like sky

See me white like a snowcone

See me drift along

 

At 3pm they will serve split pea soup, they say it’s a HAL (Holland America Line) tradition. We are outside on deck 3 now watching as we go through the Tracy Arm. The scenery is breathtaking. They brought us bowls of split pea soup and it was actually the best food we’ve had so far.

Once the Tracy Arm was completed we had some dinner and then went to the comedy show in the Queen’s Lounge. It was funny when the woman, Maria, did her own material, but when she tried to do ship jokes and clean up her act for the kids in the audience, then not so funny.

We went to bed early because we had an early wake up for our helicopter flight and glacier walk in Juneau. Today was a much better day for both of us. I do not think the sea days are our thing, on the River cruises you get off the ship pretty much every single day and that makes time zoom by. An at sea day is slow.

Monday on the ms Amsterdam June 29

 

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We both had trouble falling asleep but not much waking up. I got up at 6:30, wrapped in a blanket and coat, I sat on the balcony for a while, it was great!

We both were up about 8:30. I went up for breakfast and had cereal and a grapefruit. Terry was not ready to eat.

We have made a discovery, we are looking forward to our off shore time, but find the ship rather confining. There is a lot of children swimming in both pools and the jacuzzis, bleh,  and even more drinking. People seem to start very early, I saw a lady having a martini with her breakfast! And there are so many “commercials” for things to buy on and off ship. We were not expecting that at all. I went to the shopping seminar and gosh, it was such a long commercial about diamonds, blah, blah, blah.

Since we are not swimming, not drinking and not getting internet, we are sort of wandering. We like our room and balcony very much, our room is narrow but otherwise spacious. There is so much closet space, and so many drawers that storage is not a problem at all.

I had lunch and sat with a nice couple, Kristen and Bryan. Terry joined us later. I had chicken and some fruit. Even though I feel ok, my stomach is a little uneasy, so I am eating gentle food. It could be the boat, but it is more likely just my fussy stomach.

We have met some nice people, including some from near us in Mission Veijo, but the majority of people are in their own groups. Everyone is happy and smiling and that is lovely.

Tonight there is a show in the main theatre at both 8 and 10. We plan to go to the 8:00 show. The captain gave a champagne toast to the passengers and the cruise.

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We are both glad that we did not take a specific meal time. We have enjoyed the Lido Buffet and the Dive Bar and there is ice cream! We have found the buffet to be tasty enough for us, and that is really all we ask.

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Right now we are watching a movie in the room, McFarland USA and Terry is eating Rocky Road and cookies.

The sunsets are amazing!

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I must admit that in spite of earlier bragging about knowing the ship, I keep getting sort of lost. I am always on the correct floor, I have that down, but I wander a lot looking for the exact room I want. Well, I am getting exercise for sure.