Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Alaska Cruise - Day 3

Sunday, August 10

Our first full day at sea started nice and easy. Waking up to calm seas, no land in sight and pretty well rested partly due to very nice beds, partly because our body clocks are still on Eastern Time (slowly getting there…). We realized it was Sunday and on the Holland America ships that means the Interdenominational Service at 8am. With it being about 7.35am we had to hustle a bit, but we made it with some time to spare… the leader did not, so it became a self-led service with singing from the Hymn book and some inspirational stories from one of the attendees. It was a good sign to see that we actually had to gather some additional seating since we had more people than seats. The actual leader did eventually arrive, but he graciously just attended the service already in progress. We found out later that this shy guy was actually the very outgoing lead singer of the ship’s entertainment crew. Maybe he did just oversleep!

After feeding the soul we went to feed our body at the Vista Lounge on the 2nd deck on the aft-end of the ship. We got seated at a table with 6 others and had a good breakfast. Niels had a All-American breakfast of eggs, sausage, bacon and bread. And a raisin bun, and tea, and orange juice. Jen was the adventurous one and tried the special mango pancakes. Mmmm! Of course, one breakfast wasn’t enough to fill Niels’ bottomless stomach, so we took the elevator to the 9nd deck to have a 2nd breakfast at the buffet-style Lido restaurant, where Niels had two more raisin buns, yogurt, two more glasses of OJ and teas and we saw our first whale. Unfortunately we couldn’t take a picture of the whale (didn’t have the camera with us…) but hopefully there are more to come. With Niels on his 2nd breakfast we though second trimester was supposed to give JEN the big appetite. Of course, we’re happy she’s eating anything and the cruise is saving Niels from runs to the grocery store to satisfy any craving she does have. We played two rounds of Gin 13 and that, combined with the human digestive forces was enough for Jen to take a nap and Niels decided to do the same. We watched a bit of TV, fell asleep, watched some more TV and slept some more.

At about 1.30pm we got up and got ready for our 2pm reception organized by a few members of the message board On our way we quickly stopped at the observation deck to view the Queen Charlotte Islands. We met 4 other couples, mostly older, but all with a similar mind set. We exchanged some tips and suggestions for this and future cruise (destinations) and Holland America was nice enough to provide some refreshments and visits by both the cruise director and Hotel manager.

Our next agenda item was a team trivia contest of 20 questions. You were allowed a team of 6 so with 2 people (one of them with a brain injury) we came in tied for second place… Not too shabby, eh?

In addition to our every handy cards for Gin 13, we also brought along our other gaming indulgence—Catan!,--we decided it was time to whip out our Island of Catan and took upon the role of Settlers for about 2 hours. I was 1 roll way from winning, but Jen JUST beat me 13-12, so better luck next time.

Today was also the first of the formal dining nights so we went back to our room, showered, and got dressed up. Niels wore his European 3-piece pinstripe suit and Jen wore her old faithful black expandable dress to show off her best feature, baby DJ! It’s very nice to see most people all dressed-up. Photographers were everywhere and we hope our pictures turned out! We got seated with 2 other couples from California (which seems to be the state of most people on board this cruise). Much to our surprise we saw Dutch Dad… well, from his profile it could have been. Between dinner (a nice juicy steak) and dessert, Niels walked over to an elderly couple close to us since they had a very confused look on their face when some of the crew was singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to them--not the version most Americans sing, but a Dutch version which consists of different words and a different melody. The crew actually sang it with Indonesian words since that is the major country of origin of the crew on Holland America. After explaining the song they sang it lifted some of the confusion, but since it was neither the man nor woman’s birthday nobody had any idea why they sang Happy Birthday to them. I talked a bit more with them since they visited Holland and Belgium a few years ago and talked about traffic management (the job of the elderly gentleman) before returning to the table for our lovely dessert.

Dessert was finished quickly and we walked over to the shops where we found a good gift for our housesitter and found lots of “dam” clothes, which we may indulge in before we disembark. There were also several jewelry shops, which we like to browse, if only to ensure Jen that she likes her ring best. (Niels lucked out that Jen isn’t a big jewelry person. One rock is enough for her!)

A note about the timing of our cruise. Earlier this year, after the second miscarriage, Jen was a little down. The due date for our second angel was August 11 and Jen said to Niels, “I don’t care where we go, but I want to be away from home on August 11.” So our vacation discussion began. Originally, we had wanted to go to China for the Olympics, but since getting pregnant wasn’t the problem, and Jen’s OB laughed at the idea of her high-risk, advanced maternal age, recurrent miscarrying patient going out of the country while pregnant, we looked for more exotic local destinations. We think we can up with a pretty good solution. Niels has talked a LOT about his previous travel to Alaska and wanted to share that with Jen. Jen has talked a LOT about her previous cruise and wanted to share that experience with Niels. So an Alaskan cruise it was! When it came to cruise line, Holland American seemed the logical choice to reflect our international family. Some good friends told us about the site, which offers greatly reduced fares, so all we had to do was look up the week we wanted. Voila! An Alaskan diversion cruise for August 9-16 on Holland America.

Jen remembered a website she found before we cruised with her dad, On the message board, she found a site that allowed you to see what groups might be on your particular cruise. Jen discovered that there was a Christian music group on their cruise with one of her favorite artists: Bebo Norman. Other artists include Matthew West (another songwriter featured at our wedding), Aaron Shust, Wayne Watson and Phil Joel.

Unfortunately, Jen’s strings in the music industry don’t pull as hard as they did back in the day, so we weren’t able to join the group. But since we paid about one-third of what the group paid, we can’t really complain. And between the pregnancy and head injury, we weren’t sure exactly how much activity Jen would be up for so we made peace with the missed concerts.
All that background to say that as we were browsing the shops, we ran into Phil Joel and his lovely wife, Heather, and their two kids. They struck up a conversation with Jen as she was lamenting to Niels that there were no maternity clothes on board (shocking, we know!). So we talked about due dates and Jen reminded Phil that he had interviewed him several years ago when his first solo album came out. They were surprised we weren’t part of their group and actually invited us to sneak in to their performances. We’ll see how that works out!
As we were slowly adjusting to “ship time,” we didn’t feel the overwhelming pull of the bed quite yet, so we headed to the Vista Lounge for the Captain’s Welcome Toast & Showtime: Rockin’ Road. The Captain, as Dutch as come, is Arjen van der Loo, which doesn’t mean he comes from the toilet, but rather, from the Royal Domains. He did a great job introducing his senior staff and Niels’ family has given Jen great practice understanding his heavy Dutch accent. Two other crew members were Dutch, the engineer and the environmental officer, from Berrgen and Groningen, respectively.

After the introductions and toast, we enjoyed a montage of rock and country songs performed by the Oosterdam singers and dancers. That’s when we recognized our quiet would-be worship leader from the morning service. The female lead was especially impressive and a good time was had by all.

We were feeling like quite the party animals, still awake at 9:30, so we headed to the Queen’s Lounge to watch the “Oosterdam Idol” karaoke competition. Talent spanned from embarrassing to quite entertaining. The highlight was “Al from Juneau.” When the host interviewed him, he said he was going to do some laundry on our port day tomorrow. Actually, “Al” was Wayne Watson, one of the artists in the Christian music group. Many of the group recognized him and gave him rousing support as he sang Foreigner’s “I Wanna Know What Love Is,” trying in vain to mask his real vocal talent and appear as schleppy tourist. Wouldn’t you know, he made the finals?! Jen has also interviewed Wayne and was able to introduce him to Niels and share with the songwriter of “Somewhere in the World” (PUT IN LINK TO LYRICS) that we are expecting a little boy.

At this point, Jen was tired, Niels was hungry and DJ was on his own repositioning cruise to Jen’s sciatic nerve so off to our cabin we went. We tried out the room service, where Niels had a hamburger and chips, and Jen had an appel taart that would make Dutch mom proud.
We watched a little bit of ESPN and CNN to see the current Olympic medal count—USA:11, China: 9, before quickly dozing to another night at sea. Next up: Juneau and our first port day!

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