2009 North to Alaska – Day 7

VANCOUVER to WAY UP NORTH – the rush is on

Of course today has dawned wet and miserable!  Our wake up call comes early early and after looking at the weather we feel ever so slightly deflated!  This is supposed to be a great day with good weather so that we can sail out of Vancouver and head for Gold Rush Territory.

Adding to the disappointment, our ship has docked on the other side of Canada Bay (refer tourist idiot sign). We get excited when we wake to this vision (see photo below) but soon realise it is not our Volendam.  After adding the finishing touches to our packing nice and early, making sure not to leave anything behind, our bags are collected on time by the Consierge who wishes us well but inside secretly thinks to himself that we must deserve his pity for going on a cruise in this weather.

I must admit that it is nice to stay here inside where it is lovely and snuggly and look outside at the rain falling down but then shock, horror realising that we will soon be in it.  Nevertheless we are full of optimism and just know that the weather will clear – maybe not to be a glorious sunny day but the rain will stop for us – or letters will be written!

We head downstairs for brekkie and some good strong cups of Tim’s before checking out.  We have to pay CAD30.00 for valet parking and then we get in our poor little beast of burden and head to Cruisepark.  It is pouring!

We arrive, get our stuff together and then get out of the car being careful not to trip in the mud and rain. Taking a backward glance at our little friend and hoping that she will still be here when we get back we hightail it into the little office where, because we are early, we wait until it is our turn to get on the shuttle and head for the dock.

Our driver is really nice and loads our luggage without complaining.  He tells us stories on our short trip and arriving in good humour, we survey the utter chaos around us.  Luckily we are under cover here and it is not long before the driver is busy loading the bus with the incoming passengers luggage and heading back out into the weather and Cruisepark.

Following other people heading to the dock we amble along dodging traffic, other people and traffic control officers.  There are about 3 ships of people all disembarking at the same time so what with all of them going and all of us coming it is bedlam. Of course we are early so we stand at the head of the line with our cabin baggage hoping our suitcases made it here.  So many people coming back and we are astonished at how they are all laden down with armfuls of shopping bags. How much shopping can you do?  Little did we know that these people would resemble us in 7 days time!

We wait for about 45 minutes before the wagons start to roll and then we go through security and customs.  Kylie & I go through the ‘Other citizens’ line and Tyler through ‘US citizens’.  He has been warned not to start coughing!  All is well and we meet up at the waiting area before boarding.  We are in the first group to board – how exciting here we go!

We are told to have our passports and tickets out and then our photos are taken and we are given a card which links to our personal credit cards – it also doubles as the key card to our cabin.

It can be used every time we buy something on board and as we also have a credit of $50 on each card we feel that a little bit of shopping on board will be a good thing! Already thinking of spending and we haven’t got on the ship!

As we get to the top of the boarding walkway there is an archway and a photographer to take the necessary ‘Welcome Aboard’ photo. Very cheesey, very touristy but there you go – it is us to a T.  Hello Holland America Volendam!  We are also given shopping guides.

We head into the ship and are told our rooms are not ready yet but we can have something to eat and drink on the Lido deck.  This turns out to be a buffet lunch and the food looks scrumptious. BUT awaiting us are the tourist terrors – those oldies who will kill to get a free feed.

Kylie aptly names them ‘Fakers’ because the mere mention of ‘food’s on’ sends them racing to the buffet faster than Carl Lewis.  Even those who we have spied limping along with canes and frames take off at a trot!  Talk about a miracle – hallelujah!  We start off with a nice table semi-outside but decide that we will move inside under proper cover as the rain is still coming down albeit in patches.

Making our way to the buffet Kylie’s eyes have hit saucer size as she spies salmon.  She loves salmon – and by the time this cruise is finished it’s a wonder she has not grown gills.  My first meal on board consists of strip beef salad with olives; Alaskan salmon; potatoes; rice with almond slivers; bread roll and iced tea.  Lovely!!!! This is the start of many, many salmon meals for me as well.

Dessert is mango sponge; NY cheesecake; fruit tartlet and pecan toffee ice cream.  There is an ice cream parlour with every flavour you could imagine.  I tell you, if this is what it is going to be like for every meal then I can understand why the fakers don’t want to miss out.  There are so many of them on board and I remind Kylie that this is a First Class Cruise with older travellers, not ‘Down memory lane with P&O’ as Kylie retells her stories of youthful travelling on the Fairstar.  After pigging out we move back under cover outside near the pool and collapse into the chairs.

We are stuffed to the gills and I am in no hurry to move but Kylie is impatient and wants to get to the cabin so she goes in search of information.  Our cabin is one floor down from the Lido deck (where we are eating).

I tell her that we will be told by an announcement when the cabins are ready but she heads off regardless.  About 10 minutes later she comes back all smiles and says our cabin is ready.  Grabbing our bags and gear we venture forth and arrive at Cabin 7063 – see photo.

Whilst on our way down the stairs the announcement is made that the cabins are ready and just as well we had a head start or we would have been trampled by fakers.  What are they going to miss out on?  Surely the cabins are not going anywhere and the cabin they have reserved will not be claimed by the first person there?  Who knows.  I look at Kylie with eyes that say – okay you were right – let’s get inside quick smart!

It is a lovely cabin – a great big bed for K&T and my bed is at the back of the cabin near our very own verandah.  That’s OK until I discover that the pull-out is a flip over and the mattress is about 2 inches thick and it is smaller than a single bed! Not impressed!

As Kylie says ‘we have paid a lot of money for this 5 star cruise and my mother is not sleeping on that’.

In a flash she is off to the main desk only to return and tell us that she is not the only one complaining about the beds. Apparently there was another person also complaining about the beds and was told that there is nothing they can do!  This poor person storms away.

Not our Kylie – with a smile that would melt ice she asks to see the Duty Manager please.  When asked ‘why do you want to see the DM?’ she says ‘I’ll discuss that with them thank you’.  With a look of ‘don’t even try to sort this out because it is not worth your life’ the DM arrives and they both come back to the room.

The DM looks at the so-called mattress (and I use the term lightly) which is dirty, the cushions are torn and the bed is not made up and says ‘ this is not good enough’.  She agrees that it is not a fit place to sleep and if there is a spare cabin after we sail she will move us.

In the mean time she has contacted the bed making crew and now we have not only the DM but the Housekeeper and the Head of Housekeepers plus two stewards in our cabin.  All together counting us there are 8 persons surveying the scene deciding how to solve my sleeping problem.

It is like a scene out of the Marx Brothers movie ‘A Night at the Opera’ where someone opens the door to a shipboard cabin and everyone falls into the hallway.  It is a rather serious occasion but I cannot help but smile as I think of that movie.

We are told that the top cushion is not part of the bed and they take it off leaving a 1 inch mattress underneath.  With a look of utter astonishment I tell them that if I have to sleep on that then I will be in a wheelchair by the end of the cruise and I will have the cushion on top of the ‘mattress’ plus they better bring another one as well!

The procession of people leave but not long after, two return and the original mattress is replaced, the cushion is on top and another thick mattress arrives, these are all tied together and the bed is made up to a thickness and width that is acceptable.  Nice sheets are put on, blankets, pillows and I am happy.  We still have people apologising profusely.

When they leave, we are happy and Tyler even offers to swap beds but I am happy with my new 12 inch thick mattress.

Kylie and I have dissolved into gales of laughter and we all agree that our holidays are always a challenge but we manage to have fun along the way!  Not long after, our bags arrive – just as well they didn’t arrive when everyone was in the room – and I break out in snuffles of laughter.  We unpack our things, especially our Collector’s Item Quilts by Kylie and it is not long before the Captain announces that before we leave dock there will be a compulsory life boat drill.  Memories of the movie Titanic rush into my head.  Not even on the cruise down the Nile did we get a lifeboat drill although they played the theme from Titanic over and over and over again.  But I digress.

Our Captain’s voice is very distinguished and Kylie gives him the nickname of ‘Oh Captain, my Captain’.  We get our lifejackets on and head upstairs – Kylie does not want to go and says she didn’t go on the Fairstar but I insist!

It is not one of our better fashionista moments but we find our place and we are in Lifeboat 13 – oh great!  We are told what we have to do in an emergency and are even corrected on how to tie our jacket securely – as you can see I did mine incorrectly. Just as well we were not given marks for this test as I would have failed and died a miserable death in the freezing cold water!

Back to the cabin and off with the vests, Kylie & Tyler decide to have a wander around and get themselves accustomed to what’s on offer. An announcement that we are about to leave sees them return and we gather our cameras and head to the back of the ship (aft) and prepare for a goodbye to Vancouver – and lots of Kodak moments.   The rain has stopped but it is still a bit cold.

The hooters sound, the ship starts to move and we are on our way.  Out into the bay and underneath the Lion’s Gate Bridge.  We say farewell to Vancouver as we pass Stanley Park and realise that this ship is now our home for 7 days.

As we stand on deck the stewards bring around Bon Voyage drinks. Of course you have to pay but you get to keep the glass! Tyler doesn’t drink but Kylie & I avail ourselves of the margaritas at $11 a pop but as we have a credit already on our account it doesn’t matter and we toast each other and wish the three of us Bon Voyage.  We pass into the Georgia Straits and it’s a shame that the weather is not better but at least the rain is staying away.

 It is now time for Dinner so it is back to the Lido Restaurant.  Bread roll, salad, flank of beef, salmon and grilled veggies, jelly & fruit salad and coffee.  At this rate I will need help to get off the ship when it returns. Coming back to the cabin, the staff have left an itinerary for tonight and tomorrow and also a newspaper from Australia (that’s a good idea) so that we can catch up on what is happening back home.  Inside our cabin there is also a bottle of red wine with some chocolates and a nice note from the Duty Manager apologising for the inconvenience and hoping we enjoy our cruise.  A very nice lady.

Something of interest in the elevators.  You may have noticed the Wednesday sign at the beginning of this post.  These are the mats in the elevators and of course they change every day so that everyone knows what day it is.  That is great because I always have trouble remembering the days when I am on holidays.  I will post a new mat for every day of the cruise.  Excited?  Bet you are!

Kylie & I have a look at the itinerary and we see that there is a Microsoft Digital Photo Gallery Class starting soon.  We both head off leaving Tyler to his own devices.  The photography class is run by Anthony, a very nice chap.  He shows us how to use Microsoft Digital and it is very interesting.  He holds these classes regularly so we will have to keep an eye out for them.

We return to the cabin and Kylie and Tyler decide to go to Bingo while I relax and have a shower.  Oh Captain comes over the intercom and advises that we could be in for some rough sailing but we should be through it during the night  and early tomorrow morning about 5am – we will be sailing through waters where it is common to see whales and particularly Orcas.  How exciting!  When Kylie and Tyler come back we are all excited at seeing the whales and decide to get up early.

We call room service and order some tea, which because we have a Verandah Suite is complimentary and it is great to sit on the verandah at night enjoying hot tea – listening to our ship cut through the water, pitch black all around with the only light being the moon shining over an icy sea.

I know that we are going to have a wonderful night’s sleep.

Highlight of the day: being in our very own Marx Brother’s movie!




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