Saturday, January 29, 2011

Nieuw Amsterdam Continuing Blog

Friday, January 28th, 2011

We had some sea time this morning on our way to Grand Turk before arriving at 10:30am. I have never been to this little island of Grand Turk in the Caicos so I was looking forward to the visit. Again we chose an excursion that I thought my family would enjoy called the Horseback Riding and Swim Adventure. It almost seemed like the captain was taking the Nieuw Amsterdam right onto the beach, because the pier and the berth was so close to the beach. You could nearly see the whole island from the top decks of the massive Nieuw Amsterdam, in fact the ship was without question the largest man-made land-based structure within about a three hundred mile radius, except for other ships. Throughout this cruise we have been shadowed by another big cruise ship, the Ruby Princess, and she docked again next to us in Grand Turk.

I took care of some video work and sound, then we got ready as a family to leave the ship and go on our horseback riding excursion that departed at 11:30am. It was a perfect day with lots of sunshine and not too hot or humid. We got on a large van that took us to the southern tip of the island where our horses awaited us. After a short training session of how to ride the horses, one-by-one the guides selected various people from our group of eighteen people to saddle-up onto their horse. They made it really easy with a ramp that the horses would walk up to and we simply threw our legs over the top of the saddle and we were mounted to our horse, rather than trying to mount from the ground which could be challenging for some people, particularly if they had never ridden a horse before.

We rode along the sandy beach area in single file with several guides making sure the horses behave themselves. It was fun to watch a couple of the ponies running and playing freely around us. This was the first time my son had ever ridden a horse so it was a thrill for him, and I know he enjoyed it immensely. He will be talking to his friends about his horseback adventure when he gets back to school. After about a twenty-five minute ride we went back to the corral and dismounted from our horses so the guides could change the saddle for phase two of our horseback riding adventure. In smaller groups, the guides took our horses and us onto the beach and into the ocean. The horses ran in the ocean up to our knees. It was so refreshing, and as the horses powered through the water everyone seemed to get caught-up in the thrill. I almost fell off the horse when he was running through the ocean up to my knees. I'm glad I stayed on the horse and it's reassuring to know that if I did fall off and hurt myself, or anyone in my family was injured in some way...we were covered by Access America. Just saying, I did feel a peace of mind, especially when my son was on that horse that we would be taken care of in the event of some unforeseen accident or injury. There were several families with kids and all the kids had a great time, so I would recommend this excursion for families with kids.

It was a very special day in Grand Turk and there were many dignitaries there, but I didn’t find out about these festivities until later in the day. In the sea, not far from Grand Turk Island is where John Glenn the astronaut splashed down in his capsule in 1962. Carnival Corporation hired Mr Art Perper, with Perper Design to create an exhibit honoring the 1962 splash-down of the space capsule. I saw the replica of the capsule and the signage and thought it was well done, and then I just happened to be in the right place at the right time because along with the dignitaries milling around was Winston Scott, an actual astronaut from the shuttle missions. Winston was there to commemorate the launch of this new exhibit. It was an honor to meet him and ask him a few questions.

After a very nice day in Grand Turk, the ship departed around 5:30pm. I also had the privilege to interview Catherine Quinn who was a passenger as a little girl aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam from 1938. What nostalgic opportunity to meet this woman and hear her stories from when she crossed the Atlantic in 1938 aboard the second Nieuw Amsterdam. This evening my wife and I ate in the Canaletto restaurant to enjoy some Italian cuisine. Before our dessert came out they brought us a plate of pink fluffy cotton candy. My wife and I had a relaxing walk around the ship. I did take some photos and video, but we finally went our stateroom and turned in for the rest of the evening. Jacob finally met us in the stateroom after Club Hal finished their activities. We were all in bed by about 11:00pm.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

My favorite days during a cruise is when we are at sea, and today, our last day aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam, we have been at sea all day. Perfect weather and perfect temperatures have blessed us today during our last day of the cruise. Today we had a Q & A with the Captain and some senior staff onboard, and then we enjoyed a very privileged visit to the Bridge. Throughout this entire cruise I have tried to capture the audio of the ship’s whistle but was unable to be in the right place when the whistle was blown. While I was on the bridge I mentioned to the Captain my predicament and he ordered the Quarter Master to schedule a blast of the whistle precisely at 5:30pm. I waited on the highest deck forward just below the giant whistle, with my recorder in-hand, and sure enough, right at 5:30pm the whistle was blown and I captured the sound!

This evening we ate in the Manhattan Dinning Room as a family. I do have a couple observations about this dinning room. Both Terri and I agreed that it was very loud in the dinning room especially when it is full to capacity. I could hardly hear my wife speak across from me. We also feel that the service-level in the Manhattan Dinning Room was good but somewhat robotic and impersonal. We ate in the Manhattan Dinning Room twice and both times we had the same experience. Perhaps it was because we were registered for As You Wish Dinning and therefore didn’t have the same waiter consistently each evening. I think our level of service would have been different had we been in this dinning room each evening.

I’m not looking forward to getting off the ship tomorrow morning, because I feel like this trip was a lot of work and less play and relaxation. I have to apologize to my wife and thank her at the same time for truly being there for me when I needed her to help me with my video shoots. This week went by way too fast. Don’t get me wrong, although it was a lot of work and very busy, I was in my element and enjoyed every minute...I just wish I would have been able to set aside an entire day to do nothing. I am just so determined to produce quality video and content that I pushed myself throughout the entire cruise a little too hard. I do get a huge-level of satisfaction out of the final product when all the video is edited and the photos are posted and I can begin to pull together the multi-media package I have promised my sponsors and Holland America Line. Mission accomplished! My family had a nice time and some great experiences that will resonate in our memory for many years, and that is what counts the most to me.

Access America, Sea-Band, Victorinox Swiss Army, The Cruise Web

Friday, January 28, 2011

Aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

When I woke-up this morning, I looked out from our verandah windows and we were still at sea. I spotted a ship parallel to our position and determined it was the Ruby Princess. What fun it is to see other cruise ships at sea in their element, doing what they were built to do…cruising. Today we arrived into St Maarten. The sun was bright and the weather was clear. The Ruby Princess docked at about the same time the Nieuw Amsterdam was easing up to the dock, so I got some great pictures. Having been to St Maarten many times, as much as I wanted to go somewhere, my family decided they wanted a relaxing day on the ship so we did just that and stayed aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam. I did go ashore to take some pictures and video, but for most of the day I worked on producing some video content and taking pictures. My son wanted to swim in the pool so we went to the midship pool on the Lido Deck and he swam for a couple of hours, while my wife and I enjoyed a relaxing time in the sun on a lounger.

I didn’t mention this but yesterday, Tuesday night my wife and I ate in the Pinnacle Grill. What a treat it is to dine is such an exquisite environment. My wife had the steak and I had the salmon. I like this Pinnacle Grill because it has chandeliers and a very classy décor. Of course for a steak house or grill restaurant, the Pinnacle Grill is comparable to some of the finest restaurants in a metropolitan city. My son would rather eat in the Lido every night if he could, so that’s what we did with him, he had Pizza and then checked into Club Hal while his mother and I had a date in the Pinnacle Grill.

This evening we somewhat repeated our routine from the previous night. My son ate at the Lido then checked into Club for an evening of fun activities, while my wife and I joined a small group of people for the Chef’s Table in the Pinnacle Grill. This was a three-hour plus event with eight different courses and a choice wine to go with each course. It was a set menu that was created by the famous Chef Rudi and prepared by Chef Biplab Mondal. I think everyone particularly enjoyed the Frappe of Lobster and Porcini Bisque…wow what an amazing taste! The Goose Liver, Mache, Avocado, Raspberry Kaffir Vinaigrette was interesting because I wouldn’t normally care for liver, but it didn’t have that liver taste. The liver had a rich and exquisite fatty texture that is considered a delicacy and is very expensive. The main course was veal, or more specifically, Duo of Veal “Maitre Cusinier de France” – Black Truffle, Pearl Onion and Puree Artichokes. We were served a fine wine for each course with an explanation from the head wine steward. The eight-course dinner event ended with super fine chocolates and a choice of coffee or tea. The tea options were brought out in a beautiful wood case that was illuminated from inside displaying the different raw tea flavors. Along with excellent conversation was exquisite dinning that made for a wonderful evening event.

I sat in on some of the big show tonight featuring the Garage Band singers and dancers. This show was pretty typical of what I have seen on just about every major cruise ship. It’s nice to sit and watch these beautiful women sing and dance and the guys of course look like they walked out of a fashion magazine.

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Today we arrive in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and we have elected to go on a special shore excursion to see the rain forest. I have been to San Juan about fifty times, but I have never been to the rain forest so this was a special day. We brought our son on this excursion. My son didn’t want to go to the rain forest tour because he thought it would be boring. I made him go and he loved it. My wife and I enjoyed it too. It was about an hour drive to get to the rain forest and we made several stops, one at a nature center, another stop at a tower where you can get a great view above the trees and then we walked on a trail into the rain forest where the Red Trees were, and finally we made a quick stop to see a water fall. We learned a lot about the rain forest from our guide and even my son enjoyed himself, so this tour was a big success! I didn’t realize there were over 225 species of tress and thousands of species of plant vegetation. Because this is a rain forest, this area gets a lot of rain and produces a lot of water too as a result of the thick vegetation. It’s a complicated eco-system and I have acquired a deepened respect for the rain forest. I was so thrilled that my son enjoyed this tour. The last time we were in San Juan as a family we explored the forts and did a huge amount of walking, so this visit to the rain forest was a great family excursion option.

Today after our rain forest tour my wife and son boarded the Nieuw Amsterdam while I walked over to see the Club Med 2 which is the world’s largest sailing vessel. The “Bounty” was also in port today. This old vessel is a re-creation of the original Bounty used for movies like Mutiny on the Bounty and Pirates of the Caribbean.

The rest of the afternoon my son played in the pool and my wife enjoyed some lounging in the sun time. I have a tough time just sitting while I’m on a cruise like this because for me, this is a working trip and I have so much to do with interviews and capturing video and taking pictures, that it is really challenging for me to just sit and relax. As much as I’d like to just lay in the sun and do nothing, my brain is telling me to get this picture or that video or that audio clip. Don’t get me wrong, I am completely enjoying this cruise and it is particularly rewarding for me to get the video and pictures.

During our tour of the Rain Forest my son found a friend to play with so we went to dinner with this little boy and his parents. A cruise is also a great way to meet nice people and make new friends. So our kids can eat together we all decided to dine in the more casual environment of the Lido Café. After dinner we went to the show together. The show tonight was Andy James, a comedy magician. Having worked on the ships as a magician myself, it’s always fun to watch another magician perform. I happen to usually watch with a critical eye, however; I enjoyed the performance.

Access America, Sea-Band, Victorinox Swiss Army, The Cruise Web

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

At Sea aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

I can’t believe it’s already Tuesday, time sure does fly by. Let me update you on my video camera battery situation. I met a passenger who uses the same kind of camera and battery who has graciously agreed to let me charge my battery in his charger. Wow! Hopefully I won’t have any further issues. Oh, one more “issue” somehow the battery in my electric shaver is completely dead….I’m assuming it got turned on in the suit case at some point, because I have never seen this battery that dead. Oh well, I’ll have to figure out alternative ways to shave.

We are cruising from Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas to St Maarten, so we will be at sea all day today. I love “sea days” because this is when the ship truly comes alive and is in it’s element. At this very moment it’s rainy and foggy, and there’s a slight chop in the sea, so the ship is movin around a bit. My wife Terri, put on the Sea-Bands and tried some of the ginger gum we got from Sea-Band. Not that she really needs it, she is just trying it out for preventative measures. I enjoy the movement of the ship and it’s fun to see other passengers cope with the movement. We are taking it easy today while our son plays in the pool. I am walking around the ship filming short video clips and taking pictures. There is a lot going through my head as far as what interviews and what clips I’ll need. I do have it written down, but my head still spins as I try and determine locations for video shooting.

The ship is still in “lock-down” mode because there must have been some illness from passengers on the previous voyage. Hopefully this lock-down will be lifted soon. Well, I better get back to work producing video and audio content.

I had a great interview today with maritime historian, cruise industry specialist and journalist, Peter Knego. It’s so fun to talk face-to-face with others who are “into” cruise ships and ocean liners as I am. It’s a unique and rare passion, and before the internet I had no idea there were other cruise ship fanatics like me out there, and Peter is one of those who are passionate about the ships. Mr. Knego has actually made a living visiting the scrap yards on the beaches of India’s Alang. He goes aboard the old classic passenger ships that are ready for scrapping and he rescues bits and pieces of artwork, furniture, blue prints and navigational equipment before the ship is scrapped and lost forever.

This evening we ate in the fancy Pinnacle Grill, a special upscale restaurant extra special attention to fine dinning. Both my wife and I enjoyed the cuisine. My wife had the steak and I had the salmon.

Ok, another note to self….before I set off on another cruise like this, I must make a check list, because tonight I realized I forgot to pack a tie and black socks. What a nightmare. It was formal night and I had a nice suit, but no tie. I went to the purser’s desk to ask advice to see if I could rent or buy a tie somewhere and I saw the cruise director so I talked to him about my situation. I felt like an idiot, but I was also very fortunate because the Cruise Director loaned me a nice tie for the rest of the cruise. Us Cruise Directors and former Cruise Directors must stick together I guess. I ended the evening by walking through the ship to collect some sound for my show and now here I am about to go to bed.

Access America, Sea-Band, Victorinox Swiss Army, The Cruise Web

Monday, January 24, 2011

Nieuw Amsterdam Cruise to Eastern Caribbean

Nieuw Amsterdam Blog

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Embarkation day is often very busy with lots of scrambling, walking and waiting but oh so nice with the realization that the vacation is about to begin. Note to self (as a media person) make a check list of important items NOT to forget before going out the door. I’m kicking myself, because I forgot my video camera battery charger and spare battery plugged into the wall at home…Disaster! You should have seen my face when I realized I left it plugged in at home…the terror! You see, my job is producing video footage during the cruise and then I edit it all together when I get home. I use two video cameras, however; one is also my still photo camera (a Nikon D90) which also happens to take video. I schedule many interviews during these cruises and often do “two-camera” shooting so now I may be limited to using only my Nikon for photos and video. My first line of business was to check with the video guy onboard the ship to see if he has any equipment that might be compatible with mine, and I there is a possibility that my battery might work in his charger, so stay tuned as I will check with him later this evening. If my battery will fit in his charger then I might be lucky, but if it doesn’t fit, I’ll have to work something out with him to share equipment during specific shoots.

Ok, enough of the sob story. Have I mentioned how much I enjoy departing out of Ft Lauderdale on a cruise ship? Today in port were seven giant cruise ships including the Nieuw Amsterdam. After boat drill, which was at about 4:15, it wasn’t long before the lines were dropped and the Nieuw Amsterdam began to move away from the dock. The captain blew the ship’s whistle as we passed the condominiums and the residents of those apartments tooted their horns in return. This tradition was apparently started about 20 years ago and it makes our exit from Port Everglades that much more festive.

Holland America Line is truly a class-act, and it is such a wonderful feeling boarding the ship for the first time. The crew and staff are all so gracious and the ship’s interior design of course is very warm and classy with artwork everywhere. It’s like being enveloped into a utopian society where everyone is friendly and welcoming. So from a vacationer’s point of view, you can’t get much better than this. The latest CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) statistics for 2010 have indicated that the number of cruise vacationers is increasing and the projections for 2011 show even more increase during these challenging economic times. I have read that the cruise vacation industry is actually doing better than the hotel and resort industry and it won’t be long before the cruise industry will overtake the hotel and resort industry when it comes to numbers. A cruise is simply the best vacation value and more and more vacationers are discovering this.

Right now as I am writing this, I’m watching my son Jacob, playing in the pool on Deck 9 midship. The glass dome has been closed so it’s not as cool as the open air. My son is having a blast playing with the fountain and swimming in the pool. I thought I’d let him burn-off some energy before dinner. He had to put up with a lot of my video and picture taking today, and he has been bugging me since we boarded the ship to go swimming. When we left Minnesota yesterday, Saturday morning, it was fifteen below zero, so this is very nice to be able to stand out on deck without a coat and soak in the Florida sunshine. It was a little cooler today in Ft Lauderdale, however; at about 68 degrees. I’m a little achy right now because of all the walking today, so it’s nice to sit for a little bit and relax. Our home for the week aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam is stateroom 6036 on Deck six forward. I’ve always loved the beds on the Holland America Line ships, they are so comfortable and soft. I think I’m going to sleep well tonight.

Well that’s all I have for today. We’re onboard and ready to enjoy a week of bliss in the Caribbean aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam. Tomorrow we will be at Holland America’s private island beach area, and having been there before I can tell you that it is a slice of heaven on earth with powder-white sandy beaches.

Monday, January 24, 2011

We ate in Tamarind last night which is an Asian Fusion type of cuisine. The experience was excellent! Only the Eurodam and the Nieuw Amsterdam share this fine restaurant within the Holland America Line fleet. There were some unique tastes and flavors combined that offered a truly exquisite fine-dinning experience. My nine-year-old son even enjoyed the food, and it was funny to see him try sushi and caviar for the first time. At 9:30pm was the introductory show hosted by the Cruise Director. All of the performers gave us a sample of what to expect from them during the cruise, including a quartet of men called Cantare that made a very positive impression on the audience. I’ve heard good reviews already of these singers, so I had high expectations, and without question Cantare was excellent. My wife says she wants to go to that show for sure tonight. I was surprised to see my son dance, clap and enjoy the show last night.

Today we arrived at Half Moon Cay and were off the ship at 8:30am. It was cloudy and not as warm as we would have preferred in the morning, but we grabbed our clam shell and got settled on the beach. At 9:30am we had an appointment to participate in the stingray adventure, a shore excursion offered by Holland America Line. This is a fun excursion to do as a family if only it wasn’t so cold. We gutted it out and enjoyed feeding squid to the stingrays, then went back to our clam shell base camp on the beach. I took a little detour and stopped at Captain Morgan’s Bar, a new bar shaped like an old pirate ship. This was very cool! If you climb up to the top deck, you can get a fantastic view of the whole island from up there. At around noon the sun came out and we had a nice time on the beach. My son played at one of the play areas with more pirate ships to climb on. For families, there are great facilities where the kids can play, including a water park with a fountain and floaty things in the water. I have been to this beach about ten years ago when the Zaandam first came out and I was excited to bring my wife and son this time. I’ve been to a number of cruise line-owned beaches and Half Moon Cay is my favorite because of the powder-white sand and the incredible beach.

Access America, Sea-Band, Victorinox Swiss Army, The Cruise Web