Friday, June 7, 2013

The End of the Line

And here's where I'm putting all the odds and ends that didn't fit elsewhere.

The ship we were on was Holland America's Noordam, the same ship Barry and I cruised on with our friends Rich and Pat when it was brand new.  I was a little worried that it would have been run down after several years of hard use, but it still looked spotless.  Everywhere we went, crew members were cleaning, painting, or revarnishing something.

Because we took so many shore excursions and didn't know when they would finish, we opted for open seating at dinner.  That worked well; we met many more people than we would have otherwise, and weren't stuck for the entire trip with those we were glad to eat with only once.

This time we sprang for an indulgence I hadn't considered before - the spa package that gave us pretty much unlimited access to the no-kids-allowed indoor hydropool, the heated thermal beds, and the lime and eucalyptus steam rooms.  (Fortunately for Sue, who doesn't own a swimsuit, I had packed two.)  We spent a lot of time clambering over rough terrain on the shore excursions, and it was fabulous to come back to the spa.  The thermal beds, in particular, felt great on our lower backs and knotted calf muscles, and when Sue developed a bad sinus infection near the end of the trip, the eucalyptus room probably kept her alive.

As always on a Holland America cruise, we had a wonderful cabin steward who left a new towel animal in our cabin every day.  Holland America now sells a book on how to fold them yourself, but I didn't buy it - I prefer not to dispel the mystery.  We also think that potential employees must have to pass a memory test in order to be hired;  we stopped at one of the lower level lounges for a gin and tonic after one grueling shore excursion, and the next time we came back, over a week later, the bartender remembered our names and what we had been drinking (and no, it wasn't because we were memorably obnoxious the first time).  Pretty amazing.

After we returned to Rome we spent the night at an airport hotel after having a wonderful seafood dinner with Rich and Pat's daughter Wendy, who was working in Rome for the World Food Organization at the time (she's since been reposted).

Sue had never been on a large cruise ship prior to last year - just a couple of very small river cruise boats - and wasn't thrilled with some of the aspects of large ship life, but I notice the vacation she's proposing for this year is aboard a Holland America ship, and also involves the spa package.

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