Chat with Deb—All Aboard!

Getting on board the Nieuw Amsterdam for points north

Previously, on Deb & Jack’s Alaska Vacation:

DEB: (calling into the shower) JACKSTER! IT’S COMING IN!

This was a little after 6AM local time; we had both woken up early. By this point I had just jumped in the shower, Deb was getting dressed, but keeping an eye on Vancouver Harbour because we did not know for sure when our ship, the Holland America Line (HAL) Nieuw Amsterdam would be pulling in.

Well, now we knew.

I finished my shower, we got dressed (warmly, it was in the 50s °F) and headed down to Canada Place.

The HAL Nieuw Amsterdam turning about before coming in stern first. Deb at right. (all photos by author unless otherwise stated)

ME: Okay, she’s backing in. Hey, that means we’ll be able to see our verandah!

We knew our cabin number, and we had a deck plan, so we knew we were starboard side a few staterooms forward of the midships elevator.

The stern, coming in. The Nieuw Amsterdam, like other HAL ships, has azipods—think of big honkin’ outboard motors that can point in any direction, so the ship can dock without relying on tugs. If you look at the water, see the wash (where the foam is)? That’s where the starboard azipod is, pulling the ship into the dock. There’s an icon just above the waterline to assist dockworkers in knowing where to expect wash and turbulence.

DEB: Doesn’t it look wonderful?

ME: She really does!

The line-handlers on the ship throw over a light line to the line-handlers on shore, who use that to haul over the heavy lines that will actually tie up the ship. Basically the same methods used when I was in the US Navy in the 1970s.

DEB: So! We eat breakfast, we pack up, we put our bags out in the hall, we head for the embarkation point, we have somebody stick a swab up our nose, we test negative, we’ll be in our room in time for lunch! Sound like a plan? Are we ready, are we set, are we psyched?!¹

ME: You betcha, Debster!

Breakfast at the hotel, with a view of our ship. And an unhappy local, who wants inside.

One of the many things about our cruise line that impressed us was HAL’s attention to detail about COVID precautions.² We had, oddly enough, gotten a foretaste of this in 2010, on our 10th Anniversary cruise to the Caribbean. There had been an outbreak of rotavirus on another ship in Fort Lauderdale just before we departed. Although it was not even another HAL ship, for the first few days at sea there was no self-serve in the buffet lines, certain services were shut down, and the entrance to every dining room had a crewmember who STRONGLY urged us to use the hand sanitizers. So when HAL alerted us beforehand to bring our vaccination cards and be ready to get COVID tested, we were not surprised.

We came equipped with masks, of course. And the test results were quick.

Deb (left) and me, in our matching floral masks, waiting to get our COVID test results; our COVID test results (we passed!)

After that it was just a matter of waiting for the rest of the first group to get tested and cleared and checked in, and we went up a very long ramp (but at a very gentle slope, speaking as someone who pushed my late mother-in-law’s wheelchair when we took Mom on trips and I learned to appreciate long, easy ramps) where we got our paperwork checked over one more time and welcomed aboard at the midships access door.

DEB: So we’re in room 7045—

ME: Cabin 7045.

DEB: So we’re in 7045, so that’s the seventh… (glares at me) deck, on the… starboard side. So we want this elevator! (points at the port elevator midships)

ME: Um, yes. That will work, honey!

(I should mention here that, for someone as directionally challenged as my wife, she got very good at finding her way around the ship, before the end of the cruise. I was very proud of her.)

(Not proud enough to let her go wandering around the ship unaccompanied, mind you.)

We get in the elevator, went to deck 7, found a very nice deck diagram that showed where our cabin was, worked our way to said cabin, and went inside.

DEB & ME: Wow!

DEB: Get photos now, Jackster, before the bags arrive and we settle in. It won’t ever look this nice again while we’re in it.

Our cabin, from just inside the door from the passageway. Wow.
Our cabin, from the door to the verandah (balcony). Yes, that’s a bottle of sparkling wine in the ice bucket, compliments of the captain (actually, probably just someone with HAL who handles that kind of thing, we did not actually know the captain).

We stashed our jackets and carry-on bags, then stepped onto our verandah.

My pretty lady and a view of Canada Place from our verandah. The white structure below is the ramp for boarding.

There were packets and instructions and information on our bed, nicely organized and laid out. IMPORTANT: tune to the safety video on the room TV, then head down to our muster station on the lifeboat deck. The video instructed us (among other things) to practice putting on our life jackets. Okay.

Deb practicing her life jacket. I thought, seriously, it’s a life jacket, what, they’ve improved the design in the last twelve years? Surprise! The new design was easier to don, had touches like more reflectors, and was generally more comfortable than the older designs. Huh!

We had lunch on the Lido deck, which was normally a gigantic buffet but which had been converted to staff serving us on request. Food was great, of course.

We explored the ship.

ME: Okay, this is similar enough to the Eurodam [HAL ship we’d been on in 2010] that I feel like I know my way around already.

DEB: (looking at me like I had exhibited some strange superpower) Sure, honey.

We hear the long blast on the ship’s whistle to indicate we were getting underway, so we headed topside.

DEB: So long, Vancouver! You were wonderful! Thanks for the great weather!

View from topside as we depart Vancouver. The woodsy part is Stanley Park, where we’d visited the day before. Vancouver skyline in the background.

We enjoyed the views as we pulled out of the channel and headed north up the inland passage. Then we headed to the main dining room. We had requested a table for two, and (probably thanks to a 5PM seating) we got one.

Number 88, our private table in the main dining room We also had the same waiter each time, Jayanih.

DEB: Can we go up and see the sunset, honey?

ME: Why would we not?

Sunset. First of many.

DEB: Okay, time to unpack, nest, and wash masks.

Deb nests. It’s what she does. Clothes and stuff go into drawers, hanging stuff gets hung. And, in addition, masks from the last few days get hand washed and hung to dry.

Anybody else feel like these are just a couple knots away from being a string bikini top?

And sparkling wine before we go to bed.

DEB: (snuggling into bed next to me) Thank you, honey! So far I’m having a wonderful time!

ME: Me too, honey! Happy dreams! Love you LOTS!

¹”Are we ready, are we set, are we psyched?” One of my catch phrases. Be very, very careful of the catch phrases you use around your spouse, because you may eventually hear them echoed back to you. Possibly from a grandniece who spends time with said spouse.

²Later this would come back to bite us when we were turned over to HAL’s shore-based affiliate, HAP.

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Jack Herlocker

Jack Herlocker

Husband & retiree. Developer, tech writer, & IT geek. I fill what’s empty, empty what’s full, and scratch where it itches. Occasionally do weird & goofy things.