ROW, ROW THE BOAT – HOMEWARD!

THE ATLANTIC CROSSING

After a short flight from Dublin to Lisbon, then an interesting Uber ride from the airport to the cruise ship port where the driver couldn’t find entrance, it was time to check into our oceanview stateroom on Holland America’s Veendam for our 12-day voyage back to the States.

View from the Lisbon pier

I had found this repositioning cruise while Googling and for the cost I thought it was a really great way to celebrate the conclusion of our 3-month European adventure.

What you might be asking is what is a repositioning cruise? It’s when the cruise company needs to move it’s ships from one place in the world to another basically because of weather.

Cruising around Europe in the summer is lovely but during winter, not so much. It’s much better cruising the Caribbean and the South Pacific during those months. So the ships need to cross the ocean(s) to get to warmer climes and calmer seas – and they offer a decent discount to passengers who book those cruises.

There are no cutbacks on the services offered or the food or entertainment provided on a repositioning cruise. There were also ‘regular’ passengers who had been on the ship for several weeks joining the cruise in Athens or Rome, prior to our boarding for the last leg in Lisbon.

Here I’m going to take just a few words to describe the majority of our fellow-passengers. The first night we guessed that the average age of our fellow-cruisers was 70 but we soon changed that guess to 75. By the time the cruise ended we had raised it to an average age of 80-85 with the majority of those needing the use of cains, walkers or electric scooters. The thought of trying to get on a lifeboat if the need arose would be total chaos -and probably impossible! We met a man who was recognized for being on his 130th Holland America cruise (He was 90!). One of our nightly diner tablemates had been on over 30 cruises (She was 75!). Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with cruising. It does make it possible for those who are older with mobility issues to enjoy a lovely vacation for a reasonable price. I will just say that as long as my feet are still working, I won’t be taking another cruise for a long, long, long time – unless I win the lottery and can do a round-the-world cruise on a private yacht!

Our ship, once it reached its final destination of Boston, was going spend the the next few months offering Fall Foliage cruises up and down the East coast before heading to the Caribbean for the winter.

We thought the cost of just a bit above $1000 per person for a 12-day, all inclusive (sorta-of) cruise with a nice window looking at the ocean was pretty darn good. Of course, no liquor is included, dining in the specialty dining rooms is not included, no wifi is included and your are charged a pre-set, per-day tipping-fee for your cabin stewards.

Before setting sail, I always search online to book shore excursions offered by local companies in the places where we will be docking. I much prefer a one-on-one or small group experience with a local tour guide instead of an overpriced and over-crowded event arranged by the ship. And if I’m really lucky, I just might have friend in a place we are visiting and we’ll have our very own private guide for the day!

Our ocean-view room.

A smile was put on our face every evening when we returned from dinner to find the latest ‘towel animal’ sitting on the end of our beds. Not only were our cabin stewards extremely hard working and kind, they were talented towel-artists as well!

What I enjoyed most was the Veendam was a designated ‘America’s Test Kitchen‘ ship. Twice-daily cooking classes were presented by one of their entertaining chefs. Recipes of all of the prepared dishes and copies of ‘Cooks Illustrated‘ magazine were part of each class.

Besides the classes, our nightly dinners in the main dining room, prefaced by our nightly cocktails in the lounge, were on-board highlights. There was also large-scale entertainment on the main stage every night, each lounge had its own entertainment, there were games of all kinds you could join in, plus exercise classes, spa treatments, movies, and numerous quiet nooks where you could curl up and read a book from the ship’s extensive library. Really, something for everyone.

It can be a bit disconcerting the first time you see the view from the ship’s bow of an endless sea. But knowing we we’re going to be making stops in never before visited and really interesting places helps you realize there will be land-ho in a day or two – or three or four! Our itinerary included stops in The Azores, Newfoundland, St.Pierre and Miquelon, Nova Scotia, and Bar Harbor, Maine.

Before I write the separate blog post on the wonderful places we docked during our Atlantic crossing, I want to tell you what unfortunately made the cruise, at least the first half, not as wonderful as it could have been.

I think I mentioned earlier that Joyce and I had both picked up colds when we were on the Isle of Man. By the time we got to Dublin we were quite poorly, and when we finally made it to our stateroom on the ship, all we wanted to do was cough, blow our noses and if possible, sleep! We were two really sick chicks!

We should have found a doctor that Sunday in Dublin, but instead we finally took ourselves to the ship’s doctor on our 2nd day out of port. For a grand total of $215.00 each she listened to our chest ($95), put a pulse-ox thingie on our finger ($25), gave us a 5-day Z-pack of older antibiotics ($85) and a bottle of over-the-counter Tussin ($10) and told us we had an upper respiratory infection! We sorta knew that.

NOTE: We had both purchased travel insurance through TravelEx – a Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company. We had only paid $49 for the coverage so were very leary what the result would be when we actually needed to use it. We were thrilled that when were got home and filed claims for $215, we were both promptly paid!

The meds did not work. Sleep finally worked – when we weren’t coughing or sneezing or blowing and keeping each other awake!

We completely missed The Azores. We barely got dressed and just managed to walk off the ship and into the port building, turn on our wifi, get our email, quickly answer anything important and were back in our beds within a hour!

I forced myself, and most of the time Joyce joined me get dressed and make it to the first America’s Test Kitchen class of the day at 11:00am . We would then eat lunch, go to the 1:00pm class and be back in bed by 2:15pm. Certainly not very exciting. We were glad if we could even get up for dinner – several of our early nights on board we just ordered room service. Thankfully, by the time we reached Newfoundland, 7-days into the cruise, we had recovered sufficiently to enjoy exploring the places we really had been looking forward to seeing.

My next – and last post of this grand adventure – will cover the wonderful places we docked.

So until next time…

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