Getting Closer

Getting Closer
Getting Closer

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Jan 22 Off on the Legendary Blues Cruise

Day 1 Blues Cruise I have four kids, and with their partners, their children and their partners, and their children’s children, it’s a good sized family. I often hear of moms who take their entire families on reunion trips and cruises, and it sounds like so very much fun. That would take a lot more dollars than I can manage, so my choice is to take each of my children on a one-time special trip of their choice. One-on-one time with Mom, which is also nice, and usually doesn’t happen during the big family get-togethers. My eldest daughter Deborah chose this Legendary Blues Cruise as her dream destination, one that she probably wouldn’t be able to manage on her own any time in the near future.

0111 Blues Cruise 009Of course, Deb and I wanted to fly together to Miami, and the Portland airport is  big enough to serve as a good jumping off point. The weather cooperated fairly well with my choice to drive to Portland on the Friday of our late evening flight. I left at 7 in the morning from Rocky Point and chose to go the I-5 route, even though it’s a bit longer, it seems a lot safer than icy HWY 97 at this time of year. It was a lovely drive and I was in Portland by 2 in the afternoon, just in time for Deb to arrive home from her short work day. Deb is a financial director for a non-profit in Portland and has a long commute. I guess the price of a good job sometimes is that dang commute. When she got home, she was pretty excited. Deb works hard and doesn’t get much time for vacations so this coming week is pretty special to her.

The skies were gray and chilly, but the traffic was light. I love being a passenger when my daughter drives through Portland traffic because she is really good at it, and knows just when to jump off the freeways and wind her way through downtown back streets to get to the airport.

We chose to park in the economy lot to save some extra dollars, but the shuttle was quick and efficient and without any glitches we were in the terminal, checked in, and through the security line. Since we had a long layover in Seattle before our red-eye flight, we skipped some of the great restaurants at PDX in favor of killing time nicely with dinner in Seattle.

The Alaska flight from Portland to Seattle is less than an hour, with just enough time for the crew to deliver complimentary wine and beer from a local brewery and winery. I guess that makes up for the little planes and the fact that you have to do a gate check of your carry-on if it is much bigger than a purse.

Day 1 Blues Cruise (2)Once in Seattle, we were already inside security with a three hour wait so it was nice that there are some very good restaurants available. We settled on a slow delicious supper at the Alaska Grill with yummy seafood and Juneau’s great brew. Our flight was on time and it didn’t seem very long before we were settled in to our seats for the long overnight flight to Miami.

As we approached Florida, we could see nothing but thick fog blanketing the landscape. As we circled Miami, I felt the ominous lift of a plane circling back higher, and before long the pilot announced that we couldn’t land and would have to return to Orlando for fuel. It didn’t take very long to fuel up again and fly back to Miami, but once there we continued to circle and circle. I heard later that one of the planes coming in couldn’t land anywhere and was running on fumes. Eventually we landed, a couple of hours late, but it didn’t matter because we were scheduled far enough in advance that it wasn’t a problem.

I love that first smell of Florida when I get off the plane in the early morning, walking up the jetway. It’s thick and robust, wet and organic in a way that you don’t often get out in our dry western landscape. The skies were cloudy and the temperatures were in the low 50’s. Once again, Florida was experiencing a colder than normal week and we were in the middle of it. I hope that someday I can get back to Florida when it is full of gorgeous warm velvet air, but this year I haven’t been very lucky in this regard.

0111 Blues Cruise 018We barely had time to pick up our bags when a Holland America representative met us, “Are you Deborah and Sue?” In just a few moments we were whisked off to the curb, our bags were loaded into the shuttle, and we were on our way to Ft. Lauderdale. Once there, before very long we were through security, checked in and received our cruise cards and were on the ship. I have been on only 6 cruises now, but this was the slickest embarkation I have experienced so far.

We wound our way up the gangways and started exploring the Holland America MS Eurodam a bit, and within just a few minutes it was announced that our staterooms were ready. That was fast! By 11 we were in our room unpacking, checking out the large closets, the nice veranda, and the very comfy beds. The skies were still overcast and breezy and the views of Fort Lauderdale were a bit dingy. We spent the rest of the afternoon checking out the ship, trying to find where all the venues were located, and enjoying a great lunch buffet at the Lido, the main area for casual dining on the 9th deck.

Day 1 Blues Cruise (20)The mandatory safety muster was easy, with no requirement to wear our life jackets, but we had to be there on the Promenade Deck 3 below our designated lifeboat to check in. It’s surprising to me how differently this is handled among different cruise lines, with some doing the entire thing in one of the bars. The sail away was a bit confusing because I have this “thing” about wanting to be at the high point on the ship as we leave. However, the Eurodam is designed in a way that makes it hard to find the highest point very easily, with convoluted access to some of the decks, and stairways that stop in the middle of a restaurant and don’t go anywhere. As a result, Deb missed the waving crowd along the Fort Lauderdale beach while I led her around in circles trying to get to the top of something. Silly me.

Day 1 Blues Cruise (29) It was pretty cold and windy out on the aft deck, but the music was good and the atmosphere was energizing while everyone danced and drank and laughed and started up what was to be a seven day party. Deb and I had the cruise drink of the day, something called the “Bluesarita” that was a tasty treat at around 5 bucks, plus tips and taxes of course. The “Sail-Away”party was in full swing by 4:45 with a rear deck southern bbq with ribs and all the fixings, but we didn’t eat because we wanted to enjoy our first full dinner on the ship in the main dining room. Rick Estrin and the Nightcats set the pace with some rousing blues and everyone was having a great time out on deck.  They even closed down the aft deck swimming pool for this cruise and converted it to a dance floor. Deb and I found the stairs to the 10th deck above all the party people for a better view and more room to dance. The banners on the ship above the party deck were certainly not your ordinary cruise logos!

0111 Blues Cruise 025When we purchased our tickets, we scheduled early dining at 5:45 so that it wouldn’t interfere with the music of the night during the cruise. We thought the seating was for a table of six with Deb’s friends, but when we arrived at the dining room, it seemed that it was open seating. This turned out to be the case throughout the cruise, with our choice of table changing each night and our seat mates coming and going at will. We didn’t get to know our servers in the way that you do with assigned seating and I missed that a bit.

Day 1 Blues Cruise (35) Dinner was lovely, and our choice of table by a big rear window was great, with views of the coast fading in the distance as the sun set through the dim gray skies. The excellent dinner was typical of the rest of our dining experience on the Eurodam. I liked the food on this ship. While not of Celebrity quality, it was still very good most of the time, flavorful and well prepared, and served with a bit of flair. Much better than our recent Princess cruise, but again, nothing like what Mo and I experienced last year on the Solstice when we went through the Panama Canal. An example would be the Bananas Foster dessert, on Celebrity it was flamed directly in view of our table, and on the Eurodam  there wasn’t a flame in sight.

Day 1 Blues Cruise (45) In the blur of activity, I have no idea what we did that first night after dinner. I am sure that music was involved, and I am sure Deb was dancing at one point or another. I have lots of blurry photos of people dancing and Deborah laughing and hugging her friends from Portland that had been on this cruise in the past and were really excited to be doing it again.

I spent the obligatory hundred dollar bill to ensure internet access throughout the cruise, making good use of my great little wifi booster that I bought back in Desert Hot Springs. I had an excellent connection in my stateroom and never had to go wandering off to a ship café to get good internet. However, “good” is relative with the ship’s satellite connection and it was never as fast as I needed to really peruse for any length of time.

It had certainly been a long time since I left Klamath, and a long day since we landed in Miami, so I was definitely ready for my comfy bed with the down comforters and the high end pure white cotton hotel style sheets that awaited me.

If you care to see the rest of the photos, with pictures from around the ship, and including those blurry dance photos, the link is here.