2009 World Cruise – I began writing my travel blog when we drove across Canada in 2014. But that was not the beginning of our travel adventures. I had never heard of a blog at that time and had no idea how to share one. Times have changed; I have learned.
I have decided a fun project would be, whenever I have the time and the notion to write up a blog about our other holidays. They won’t be done daily. Perhaps not even weekly. There will probably be large gaps between posts, but I thought it might be fun to reminisce. So…. here we go.
John and I retired in the spring of 2007. We wanted to go somewhere warm for a month or so of the winter in early 2008 so, in the fall of 2007, we went to see a travel agent at BCAA Travel in Vernon. We were directed to the desk of Lindy Frazao, a very friendly, professional and competent lady. While Lindy was scrolling through her computer to see what she could offer us she said, in an off-hand comment to herself, “Oh, they are doing another World Cruise.” My ears immediately perked up. I had never heard of such a thing. “A World Cruise,” I said. “Who does that?”
Lindy explained that Holland America Cruise Line does a series of ‘Grand Voyages,’ the longest of which is a cruise around the world lasting 110-115 days. “Well.” I said, “If they plan one for 2009 please let us know.” They did; and she did. So there we were.
We had never sailed on a Holland America ship (We cruised a few times with my dad who liked Royal Caribbean. We had also done a cruise with friends on Norwegian) and we had never been on a cruise longer than two weeks. We booked it anyway. And – we didn’t just book the 114- day World Cruise, we added on another two weeks at the beginning. This is entirely due to my obsessive, compulsive issues. That year the world cruise began in Los Angeles, CA and ended in either Ft. Lauderdale, FL, or three days later, New York, NY. My brain did not compute a cruise around the world that began on one side of a continent and ended on the other – you would miss a big bit. Fortunately for me, the MS Rotterdam was doing a regular weekly cruise in the Caribbean and needed to get to LA to begin the round-the-world voyage. Therefore, there was available a regular 14-day cruise through the Panama Canal from Ft. Lauderdale to Los Angeles. We booked that too.
We also decided that if we were going to be on a ship for over four months we wanted some personal space and reserved a balcony suite. This cabin option came with perks: unlimited luggage picked-up and returned to our door by courier, First Class flights to Ft. Lauderdale and back, and limousine service from the airport to the hotel on arrival in Florida.
The unlimited luggage was a fabulous perk. How could you pack for over four months into one 50-lb bag? You couldn’t which would mean extra fees at the airport. The goodie did have a down side we discovered. In order to ensure sufficient time for our bags to arrive at the Ft. Lauderdale Cruise Terminal the courier would come and pick them up on December 3. The ship sailed January 5. I usually pack the night before I leave. Packing a month early was a killer. Downside number two: Since we live in Canada and our un-accompanied luggage was being sent to the USA we need to itemize and value every item in our bags – in triplicate. We wanted to have a variety of clothes for each of us in each bag in case one of them went missing so we made piles all over the living-room and wrote out the manifests as we loaded the bags (2 big bags each). This took all afternoon! When I complained to my sister Irene, she, very kindly and sympathetically said, “My heart bleeds for you; you will not have to cook, or do the dishes, or make your bed, or clean the house for four months.” Nice.
We left home on January 3 in order to have an extra day in the event of flight delays. (The flight from Kelowna to Toronto was an hour late leaving and the Toronto to Ft. Lauderdale flight was over three hours late.) Flying business class is a whole new world. We had real food! On real plates! With real cutlery! Lots of leg room and 2 flight attendants to take care of 16 passengers. Oh, if only I could fly that way all the time.
A Holland America representative met us at the airport in Florida and told us where to wait outside for our ride to our hotel. There was another couple standing beside us who were also going on the cruise and who also had booked a balcony suite. Down the drive comes this long, black stretch limo. The driver gets out, asks our name, opens the door and directs us inside. “These folks are going to the same hotel,” I said. “Their car will be along shortly,” he said. Sure enough, driving up the road I could see another stretch limo. My practical side thought that was a bit silly. There was room for 10 people in each of those cars. I wouldn’t have been offended if I ‘didn’t get my own limo.” I do admit that it was a fun experience.
We spent the night in a lovely hotel and were taken by limo again from the hotel to the cruise terminal at 10 am the next day. We boarded the ship at noon and set sale at 5. We sailed two days before our first port-of-call: Cartegena, Colombia.