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by smmmarti guide
November 6, 2002
Audience gives thumbs up sign.
"And here come to the two fat ladies, O-88!"
I expected some reaction to this last comment but the only thing I heard was, "Bingo!" from a reticent little fellow in the back.
Bingo is a big deal on many ships with some even hosting special Bingo cruises. Though I’d typically not indulge in such high-stakes gambling, while out at sea it is a ridiculously pleasant sort of endeavor. Jackpots often grow large by the end of the cruise when the black-out game is rolled-over. If you cover your card with the minimum number of calls, you win thousands. Why not try to win back the cost of your cruise and learn the inside lingo of bingo while you are at it?
- By the way, "eleven" represents a pair of legs, hence the whistle, "twenty-two" looks like two little ducks, hence the quack, and you can figure out the "eighty-eight" significance without help, I’m sure.
Liars and Trivia
Perhaps it is the long days at sea that make people crave the mental stimulation brought about by tests of trivia and memory. Whatever the reason, they are immensely popular on cruise ships. The Zaandam offered the Daily Quiz, the Liar’s Club, (where four people offer definitions to obscure words and you have to guess which one is telling the truth), Name That Tune, and Team Trivia.
The Casino is typically a major attraction on cruise ships. International laws allow gambling, of course, in open waters. As most people would need to travel to Monte Carlo, Reno, Vegas or the local reservation to try their hand with lady luck, the casinos onboard are inviting and tempting to non-gamblers and high-stakes players alike.
Some cruise lines offer great incentive and loosen up the machines just enough so that man on the street feels satisfied with a few token winnings. Word is that the Zaandam with its stately, elderly crowd are not really big gamblers. Since it’s a numbers game, and low number of players equals low number of paid winners, consequently my play usually ended in about five minutes. Twenty dollars just doesn’t go that far in this casino!
After the evening's meal and entertainment, crowds pour into the casino looking for stimulation. It is surprising how many people come only to observe. Of course there are always the die-hards, as the little granny posed like a fixture who I’d noticed already on the first night. Well-coiffed but always wearing dark glasses (the glare of those machines can get obnoxious after a few hours), she played as a pro with amazing staying power. As luck would have it, on the last night of the cruise I took a seat at the overcrowded row of slot machine when "granny shades" struck it rich winning $5,000 on a Wheel of Fortune machine. I then understood why she wouldn't leave her station for four days!
From journal Short, Sweet Cruise of the Pacific Northwest
In the midst of this flitting, I respected my duties and accepted an invitation to the Captain’s Luncheon. All suite guests and HAL Cruise Club members were invited to attend and it would be considered rude to decline.
The Crow’s Nest Lounge at the top deck of the ship was the ideal place to gather mid-day with the wide bank of windows offering glorious views of the sound. A greeting from the ship’s officers and Cruise Director was followed by a formal introduction to the Captain. Not typically subject to the embarassment of hero worship, I was nevertheless impressed to meet the supreme commander of our floating city, recognizing the Captain's achievements and the depth of his responsibility and authority.
Champagne and hors d’oeuvres worthy of the esteemed host were passed by white-gloved waiters while the chef put the finishing touches on a buffet spread of delectable cold seafood, caviar, and salads. Beyond the ice sculpture were chafing dishes of Thai cuisine forming the balance of the unique meal.
I was seated with a delightful elderly couple who regaled me with tales of their adventurous life in the military while stationed in the South Pacific while I munched caviar ladden crackers and satay.
If it hadn’t been for the charm of this encounter, I might have felt cheated to have missed the special Northwest Barbeque that was held simultaneously on the Lido deck. Reports were that it was another of the cruise’s tastiest repasts. The scent of fresh Alaskan alderwood smoked salmon drifting into the upper decks verified the claim.
After lunch I tried to check my email at the Internet Café adjacent to the very well-visited library, but found there was no satellite connection in the Straits of Georgia. Instead, I followed the strains of classical music coming from across the deck and the Explorers Lounge. It seemed that no time had passed before afternoon tea was being served. Again, the white-gloved waiters appeared with their trays of snacks and sweets. But as it was my time to spa, not nosh, I moved upstairs to the spa steam and sauna.
Afterward, I relaxed in the chilly autumn air covered with the plaid ship’s blankets while watching for dolphins and Orcas. After sighting a few flippers, I reluctantly left the deck as night fell and prepared for our last dinner onboard.
After another fine meal, I stopped at the Sea View Piano Bar to bid adieu to the high-spirited chanteuse who had urged me earlier to listen to her newest compositions. Would we be at the Crow’s Nest Disco for the party later, she wondered? Not likely. This had been quite a full day, after all.
This seems to be the greatest fear expressed by non-cruisers and the obvious give-away that someone has never experienced cruising. Instead of clinging to an out-dated notion, imagine a day at sea spent doing the things described below. Isn't this just what you dream of doing on your day off? Now add a fabulous view that changes every second...
Water, water everywhere and bubbling hot tubs, too! The Zaandam has two pools; an indoor pool with a retractable roof, and an outdoor pool open to the elements. Though the weather on sea days was decidedly nippy, even the outdoor pool on the aft (back) deck hosted a number of brave souls. As steam surged from the heated waters--it was especially inviting with the beautiful scenery of the Straits of Georgia forming the backdrop.
The indoor pool was also the setting for two sail-away parties which are typically well-attended events. Once everyone has made their way back on board after a day in port, the captain celebrates this feat with a cocktail toast before setting off to the next destination. Sailing away is a major pleasure, watching the port with a new awareness from a different vantage point. As the shoreline drops into the distance, inevitable conversations ensue with other passengers as they share tales of their day and experiences in the port of call. Everyone has something new in common.
On some ships there is fanfare in the way of sea-faring music, the theme from "Christopher Columbus" (very atmospheric) or Time to Say Goodbye by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli (which reduces me to tears for no good reason). Unfortunately, the Zaandam music selection was an out-of-place steel drum combo that must be still rehearsing before the ship’s foray into the Caribbean. That’s okay, sail-away was nevertheless memorable.
Movies and More
Watching the scenery on sea day is a wonderful pasttime, but when the sun sets, or if inclement weather strikes, there’s no better place to catch up on the film you missed than shipboard. The Zaandam has a digital sound large screen movie theater, the Wajang, where movie-style popcorn is available as you enter. Two different recently-released movies are shown twice during the day. Additionally, two movie channels run continuous showings in the staterooms. For suites guests, a DVD selection is also available.
Sports and Fitness
No time for sports and exercise? You’ll need to find a new excuse while cruising. Fitness centers are set on the top decks with open views of the sea and all the accoutrements of the best-equipped health clubs including TVs, headsets, and monitors. Classes in Pilates, Yoga, Aerobics and Mile-Deck-Walks are offered throughout the day. Sporting challenges such as basketball, free-throw competitions, team volleyball, ping-pong tourneys, putting contests, and the ubiquitous (and noisy!) shuffleboard matches are also available. Coveted prizes are offered to winners in many categories. Not everyone gets that unique Zaandam gimme cap, you know.