Thursday, May 9, 2013

Every Mile A Memory ( Part 1 ) Boarding the MS Noordam

My friend, Lulu and I have been wanting to go on a cruise together... we started planning this trip since last summer while I was in the States... This was my first time to experience going on a cruise!! Just the thought of going on a cruise made me so excited. I decided to write a diary on my daily activities on this fantastic voyage. Let me share it with all of you.

By late December -- Lulu found a tour which we will both was an Adriatic cruise. Our destination was Italy, Croatia and Greece. It was a 14-day cruise aboard MS Noordam of the Holland America Lines. Lulu got a deluxe verandah Ocean-view stateroom with a balcony -- what a great idea!!!.. Another friend, Estelita was going to join us in our trip. I tried to get more information about the ship and found out that it was a MID SIZE ship which had a capacity of 1,924 guests. According to the brochure that was sent to me -- we had to bring 4 formal wear.... there are daily movies on board the ship, a Digital workshop room, daily masses said at the Hudson Room, A spa complete with a beauty salon and barber shop, 4 other dining areas ( which you have to reserve in advance and pay a fee )-- Terrence Grill ( the steakhouse ), Le Cirque ( fine dining ), Canaletto ( Italian cuisine ) and 2 bars, the Ocean View and the Pinnacle. They had 2 swimming pools ( an indoor and outdoor ), 2 jacuzzi pools on each pool,  a huge theater for their shows, culinary courses which you can join and wine tasting on certain days. This ship is so huge !!!! There is never a dull moment on board the Noordam!!!

Lulu and I started to research on which shore excursions we would like to join on this cruise. We both agreed on Cinque Terre, Verona and Santorini. After reading about the other excursions that were being offered by the ship we ended up adding more shore excursions to our list. We ended up with 9 shore excursions. We decided to go in Spring -- the weather would be just right for both of us and not many tourists travel that month... I was wrong!! We tried to synchronize the time of our arrival ( she was coming from the States and I was flying in from Manila ) --- we were lucky to be 45 minutes apart from our arrival at the Fumicino Airport in Rome. We were met by the land transfer guy who would drive us to Civitavecchia... ( about 1 1/2 hour ride ) to where we will board our ship. 

( courtesy of Holland America Lines )

( this map shows where we sailed )

We were the first ones to arrive at the port. The check in started at 11:00am. We were given a card which we will keep with us while we are on the ship. This card will act us our room key, an Identification card which will be scanned every time we disembark/embark on every port whenever we go on our excursions. Every time we would leave the ship, we were advised to carry a form of government ID such as drivers license or a photocopy of your passport ( for US citizens ) or your passport -- if you are issued a schengen visa ( if you are not an American citizen). All purchases done aboard the ship are in US DOLLARS and will be charged to your credit card at the end of the travel. We were not allowed to pay in cash. 

( this is the photo of our stateroom )

As soon as we got to our stateroom, we had an invitation to have lunch at the Vista Lounge Dining Room by the Mariner Society Embarkation luncheon... it is a " welcome back to all the Mariners Society Guests " who have been on board the Holland America Lines in the past. This is what we had:

( courtesy of Estelita Granda )

After our lunch we had the mandatory Passenger FIRE & Emergency DRILL wherein all the guests are required to attend. Guests who refuse to participate in this drill will not be permitted to sail with the vessel. At Holland America LIne -- they seem to take their safety drills very seriously. As soon as our fire drill was over -- the ship set sail for Livorno, Italy.

At the Vista Dining room -- the dress code is smart casual except for formal evenings. There are 2 seatings ( 5:45pm and 8:00pm). Lulu and I  opted for early dining ( 5:45pm ) for the "reserved seating " at the Vista Dining Room. We were ushered to our table on our first day. This will be our permanent table for the entire journey. We were seated with 2 couples and 3 other ladies who were all Canadians. For those who have not experienced what it feels like when you go on a cruise -- it is good to know that soda and wines are not included on the menu -- if you order these -- you will have to give your card to the wine steward and he will charge it to your account.

The menu was given to each of us -- after deciding what to order --- here was what I had:

Italian prosciutto with melon

Baby Spinach and mushrooms with blue cheese dressing

Penne fresca with roasted garlic  and sweet Roma tomato and fresh basil

Apple-cider brined porkchop with cherry-raisin chutney.

We were not able to go watch any of their shows on our first day --- we decided to go back to our stateroom and rest in order to get rid of our jet lag and be ready for our first shore excursion the next day which is Cinque Terre. Every evening you will get the next day's activities on your mail box right outside your door. According to the letter which was sent to us -- we are docking at Livorno, Italy at 7:00am.

As we entered our stateroom, this little creature ( they call it towel art folding ) sat on our bed. Every evening we get a different animal with chocolates on our bed. Isn't that wonderful???

Buona Notte everyone!!

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