Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The beautiful Swarovski crystal globe hanging over the atrium, as seen from the Pinnacle Grill

My steak (had to cook it a bit more because juiciness and blood scare me, but it was good)

Baked Alaska for dinner. We all 4 shared one serving. It had Cherry Garcia ice cream in the middle.

A towel swan awaited us in our room when we got back
Oh yeah--since we were all dressed up, we got formal pictures taken, and paid several arms, legs and a torso to bring them home. I will have to get Kim's versions and scan them as well. I totally forgot to post pictures from the previous night. We had formal pics taken then, also. And, now that I think of it--Monday wasn't a formal night. It was a fancy restaurant, and *that* is why we dressed up. And Kim's birthday and all that. Anyway. Pictures.

Nevermind. Formal pictures scanned so big, they are freezing up my computer. I will fix and try again. Here are pics of our dinner and the restaurant.

Ethan's seafood appetizer

French Onion soup for me. Not as good as the same soup in the main dining room, but still delicious.

Seafood amuse-bouche that I gave to Ethan. Apparantly it was delicious.

The beautiful china and chairs of the Pinnacle Grill

Since this was Kim's birthday, and one of the two formal nights on board, Kim and I decided to have our hair done. I got a fancy updo with crystals and 54 bobby pins (I counted as I took them out....), and Kim got curls for the evening

They weren't quite ready for us when we got to the Pinnacle Grill, so we headed to the nearby Pinnacle Bar for some pre-dinner cocktails while we awaited our table.

After our wanders, we headed up to the aft pool for some more lazing around. Scored a table right next to the pool which was convenient. Another warm, sunny day with a slight breeze to keep you from overheating.

You can just see Ethan and Justin on the back right corner of the pool in this pic. Random guest Steve in his purple shirt is just walking away from them (odd, odd guy who wanders around and gets very chatty with other passengers--we thought he worked for the cruise line, since he has on a shirt and tie. But he was a bit drunk, so I guess that should have been my first clue)

Cruise: Monday (at sea and scenic cruising)

Monday was our second sea day. It was also Kim's birthday. A little note: We seem to all (Ethan and I included) know that Kim likes the occasional glass of champagne. I think she had 5 or 6 total bottles of champagne gifted to her throughout this cruise. We need to branch out a bit =)

This morning, we got up bright and early (I think it was 8am), and headed up to the Crow's nest to see the scenic cruising of Bahia Magdelena. We were looking for whales and other sea life. As you can see by this photo, it was extremely foggy. I don't think the blaring foghorn on the ship was helpful in attracting wildlife, but we did manage to see a few whales in the bay, and the coastline was beautiful as the fog lifted a bit.

After our hour of scenic cruising, we moseyed back to our room, putzed a bit then headed down to the promenade deck to walk around a bit. We found this interesting patch of grass tucked away for the guide and service dogs on board. Never thought about it before....but they have to go somewhere!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Oosterdam, Day 1 (Saturday)

We just recently returned home from our cruise on the Holland America Line's Oosterdam (rhymes with toasterdam). I guess I
should preface these remarks by saying that we cruised on Holland America Cruiselines, and we got a screaming deal through our friend Kim, who works for the company in the Seattle office.

Our cruise left from San Diego, and travelled to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo san Lucas before returning to San Diego. We had a total of three days at sea as well. Maybe three and a half. We left San Diego Saturday afternoon, stayed at sea on Sunday, did some scenic cruising along a bay on Monday (but did not stop anywhere), then to PV on Tuesday, Mazatlan Wednesday, Cabo on Thursday, at sea on Friday and back to San Diego early Saturday morning.

Cruising is a lot of fun. Tons of things to see and do on the ship, and if you are blessed with a balcony (as we were), you can sit back and relax there and listen to the sounds of the ocean as the ship steams along.

Here is the Oosterdam at dock in San Diego. Picture taken from our room at the W Hotel where we stayed the night before the cruise.

After a leisurely morning, we gathered aaaaaaaall of our bags and took a taxi the 7 or 8 blocks to the ship. We breezed through the check-in process, and were able to head straight to our rooms. Ethan and I were impressed. Last cruise we took, we stayed in a shoebox with a porthole. Not so much, here.

View of the bed from the doorway to our balcony

Our bathroom--double sinks, a full tub and a walk-in shower so tiny I seriously got claustrophobic the one time I used it, despite the solid glass walls.

You can just see the couch and the door to the balcony here.

While I wait for this next set of picture to upload, here is a little bit about my thoughts on cruising....

Cruising can be spendy. Yes, your meals are all included in you fare.....but that is about it. Drinks (alcoholic, carbonated and juices) are not included. All those fancy pictures they take of you when you get off the ship?? Not included (but you don't have to pay to have the picture taken--just if you want to take it home when you see it later). The fancy steak restaurant on board?? Costs extra. They also try to entice you with art auctions and a casino.

There are exceptions to the charges above. At breakfast, you can get as much juice as you like for no charge. They had tons of different kinds of fruit juices in the main Lido buffet, and we also had several choices for room service. Room service is also free. They put a big card in your room at night with a list of breakfast choices, and you check the ones that you want, and pick what time you want your breakfast to be delivered. Ethan and I had Eggbeater ham and cheese omelets and OJ and bagels and cream cheese and English muffins and sausage and potatoes. Not all in the same breakfast, of course. Throughout our stay. Good food, delivered at a time
convenient to us.

If you drink alcohol, you can save some money in a few ways. HAL allows you to bring aboard as much wine or champagne as you want. If you drink it in your room (they provide wineglasses), there is no charge. If you want to bring a bottle to dinner, there is an $18 corkage fee. A few times on our trip, the corkage fee was changed to
a 'purchase' of some Holland America shot glasses, so we essentially were not charged.

Another money saving idea for alcohol is to pre-purchase a bottle of alcohol on board. We bought a bottle of Vodka for I think $27 for a 1L bottle-not a bad deal! We purchased a 50% discounted soda card (paid $25 for $50 worth of beverages), and bought sodas along the trip as mixers.

Probably the best money saving idea is not to drink alcohol at all. That is my plan for the next trip. I have offically stopped drinking alcohol. Forever. For a wide variety of reasons. It will definitely make vacationing cheaper.

One of the drawbacks (in my opinion) of cruising is the dress code. On a 7 night cruise, there are two formal nights. To eat in the main dining room, men must have on a jacket of some sorts. Many have tuxes and go all out. Women wear formal dresses. Well, most women. Ethan and I winged it as best we could. I really don't like the idea of being forced into fancy clothes. We don't own fancy clothes. We have to buy fancy clothes. And that gets spendy. Yes, you can get
around it by eating at the buffet instead, but I would much rather have the clothing relaxed. I am OK with the 'smart casual' nights (every night that is not formal), where men must wear long pants, and women are just forbidden from shorts. I have capris galore, and Ethan has a wide variety of short sleeved silk button down shirts (I love shopping at Coscto!!)

Ahh...the pictures are ready.

Justin and Kim and a bucket of Coronas as we leave San Diego. The waiters get your name that first day, and they will remember your name AND your preferred beverages the entire trip. They also come around and open the beers for you as you need them. Excellent service.

Ethan and I as we leave San Diego

A skywriter plane was writing a message as we left. I think it ended up as 'we love you XXX Love XXX'. I don't remember the exact names. It was cool to watch the plane, though!

The Lido pool midships (kiddie pool). We used the aft pool (adult pool) instead...

Ethan and I with beverages in hand....

Sunset, day one....

Probably the best sunset of the trip

Sunday--Sea Day

For our first full day on the ship, we lazed around a bit. Slept in, then meandered over to the aft pool for some more lazing outside. Found a table and a few lounge chairs, and I got a book from the ship's library (yes, they have a library!! Lots of books to choose from--probably over 1000 all together, with new releases, classics, nonfiction, etc. I got Rounding with Oscar, about a nursing home cat who seemed to know the day a patient was going to die, and how that affected the staff and family members). Anyway. Book. Got terribly overheated, so we got into the pool and relaxed there, too. This was the night we were heading to the Italian restaurant for dinner. Good food, excellent service, as always.

A fruit and cheese plate with champagne on our adjoining balconies before dinner

Another sunset

First towel creature of the cruise--a lobster

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

It's a hard knock life....

Yes, it's a tough life.....but someone's gotta do it...

Having a wonderful time in Mexico. Only slightly sunburned, and no Norwalk for any of us. Did not mention the date we were leaving on Facebook because some of y'all are not trustworthy and we want all of our valuables to be intact when we come home. Special thanks to Jobie for looking after our kitties. They are our babies and we have thought of them often. I found a white kitty in Yelapa yesterday who was loving and gave me a bit of a cat fix to tide me over.

Off to Cabo tonight, and a whale watching tour tomorrow. Oh, it is the rough life!!!