Vacation Experiences


Repositioning Cruise, Vancouver to Fort Lauderdale, 19 Days, Sep/Oct 2011


HAL's Statendam moored in Huatulco, Mexico



The cabin boys kept us amused with their towel art.

In the 14 years we've cruised with Holland America, they've slipped a little in a number of ways. However, the Indonesians that make up about 1/2 of their crews continue to make a difference; hard working, friendly and eager to please. This performance is no accident. With the cooperation of the Indonesian government, HAL operates a school there where prospective employees learn the routines of their jobs and the realities of life on board. Consequently, few employee leave and some have crewed HAL ships for over 25 years.

At one port, the Norwegian Pearl was moored behind us. A fellow passenger told me their first cruise was to Alaska on the Pearl. The repositioning cruise on HAL was their second. He concluded there was no comparison; HAL was so much better in so many ways from food to service to entertainment and activities.

Several of the entertainers remarked that HAL insisted on clean language in their acts and that always brought a round of audience applause. (Typical joke: My friend said "Wow! You entertain on cruise ships? You're really in the big time.") HAL is also obviously the choice for seniors who don't need climbing walls, water slides, ice rinks or other physically demanding installations.



A gecko glued itself temporarily to Eleanor's bus window as we drove through the Mexican countryside.

We take very few land excursions now when we cruise and almost never book anything that involves more than 4 hours. Many of the ports have good shopping facilities and traditional entertainment on or near the docks. Puerto Chiapus in Mexico and Puntarenus in Costa Rica come to mind. However, excursions from these ports are almost invariably long and expensive.


In Puerto Chiapus, our tour bus became stuck in the mud. It appeared that the one worker needed three supervisors.


When this pilot boat sidled up to the Statendam, I counted 14 people who came aboard. Later I learned that 2 were pilots and 12 were linesmen. 12 lines are let out to six "mules" that guide the 107.5' wide ship as it powers through the 110' locks. The Canal Authorities brochure brags that they employ 9600 people. It's no surprise that, for each 1-way passage, cruise ships are charged US$134 for each occupied berth and US$108 for each unoccupied berth. There's also a US$25,000 reservation fee since cruise ships cannot afford to wait in line and want daylight transit. Only a government monopoly could run such a business, much like BC Ferries. All payments must be made in full in advance.



(Dawn) Approach to the first Mireflores locks from the Pacific. Centennial Bridge cables in the background


Eleanor surveys the "Cut", the deepest part of the excavation for the 80-mile canal.



Container ships are major users of the canal. New ships, however, are too wide for the locks. They must offload on one side, rail the containers across the 80-mile Isthmus, and reload a similar ship on the other side. Wisely, the Canal Authority has made a good start on building a parallel set of larger locks to be completed in 2014. This preempts  mutterings about a new canal in other nearby countries.


The Gatung Locks with the Atlantic on the horizon


HAL's Zuiderdam and a Celebrity ship prepare to leave Cartegena


Cloud formations and reflections over a warm Bahamian sea


This photograph may seem out of place but it came from a dinner conversation while on the cruise. I admitted that I had once been a pilot in the RCAF and had briefly flown CF-100's. Our tablemate immediately went to his cabin and returned with this photo. The Arrow model sits on his property in Chilliwack. A welder with his own business, the builder used pipe covered with sheet metal to create this replica. It's 21 feet long with a wingspan of 14 feet. "KH" are the owner's initials. I was able to tell him that 208 never flew but I believed that it was being fitted for the first new Olympus engines that had been developed by Orenda.