Cruise Report # Thirty-four– Day 65 – Saturday, November 24, 2007

In Port – San Diego, California

Some Final Words from Bruce Allen Scudder, Cruise Director, ms Amsterdam

When the great explorers of the past set out to sea to discover new lands, they did so in vessels not much larger than the size of three of our lifeboats, end to end. Food was scarce, the accommodations spare and the hope of a safe return was only that – a hope, not a guarantee. Unlike those explorers, we set sail in a beautiful ship designed to navigate the 7 seas. The food was plentiful and delicious, the accommodations brimming with exquisite art, antiques, and fragrant flowers. The vessel was manned with a hand-selected and well-trained crew ready to cater to every need and guarantee a safe return after our adventure. The navigators of yore set out with a dream and fervent excitement of exploration and discovery. For some, this dream never became a reality. On the ms Amsterdam, over six hundred and fifty crew members went to work every day with just one goal in mind – to make your dreams come true. The months of intense planning and preparation all came down to these 64 days and the hope that at some point every day, something we offered you, or somewhere we sailed, or someone you met, put a smile on your face. Perhaps the most significant discovery is what we discover inside ourselves as an adventure of this magnitude unfolds. A true discovery should change you. How can we not be changed by the gracious hospitality of fellow citizens of the world in over 20 ports of call, greeting us in their native languages? How can we not be changed by the heartwarming smiles of the world’s children eager to see and be seen with you? How can we not be changed by walking the same path where extraordinary history was made? How can we not be changed by participating in the many enrichment programs offered or by being “On Deck for the Cure”? My hope is that your own personal discoveries will bring you warm and lasting memories of this unique experience. Dreams do come true when we discover a new blessing every day. All we need is the open mind and heart of an explorer to find it. It has been my true pleasure and privilege to be your Cruise Director on this Grand Explorer Voyage. Until we meet again – keep exploring and may all your dreams come true. Bruce Scudder was one of the most accomplished people it has been my pleasure to meet, yet with all his accomplishments he has never put his love for God, Family, and Country on the back burner. JWC

And Now for Some Final Words From Me

After arriving home I was made to realize by several recipients of these reports that I should at least write an ending, since the adventure did knot end when we left Hawaii. Well, hang on as we go back to…..

Day 63 – Thursday, November 22, 2007 – Thanksgiving Day at Sea – halfway to San Diego

Today we are advised that tonight’s dress is Formal: Cocktail dresses or gowns for women and business suits or tuxedos for men. (Great, one last chance to get gravy on my rental tux and white shirt!)

Our “turkey” morning started with breakfast in the Lido (buffet) dining room. All the stewards were wearing funky “plucked turkey” hats. The one who has the rolling coffee cart had a paper turkey on his cart and was pulling funny “turkey” jokes, and attempting to do the “gobble-gobble.”

The afternoon/evening schedule started with our final Cruise Critic Roll Call meeting (I think I explained earlier what our roll call meetings were all about). We had arranged for a private meeting room for this event, and I had asked Anurag, the Beverage Manager, who is in charge of room reservations, if it was okay if we brought some of our box wine to the meeting and he told me that there would be no problem, and “I’ll arrange to have glasses and ice, and would you also like a cheese and fruit tray?” He had been so accommodating to our group.

At the beginning of the meeting I asked each person present to share a most memorable moment and their most favorite person they met during the last 63 days. What followed was a most emotional experience. Here you had close to 40 people who, with the exception of spouses, had been complete strangers two months before. Now they had come together almost like a family, sharing precious memories, eyes were tearing, laughing and regretting that this unique experience would soon end. They spoke of unplanned adventures, and the love they received not only from each other but the local people they met in each port. Then there was the crew; we had all developed close relationships with our dining room and stateroom stewards. Most mentioned a crew member that was their favorite person. A couple of our members were experiencing personal life tragedies and this “family” provided emotional pillars for them to lean on. That was so precious to witness. What a difference they made, especially when you realize that here you are surrounded by over 1900 strangers, yet never a day went by that your life was not touched by several members of this “family”.

After the meeting ended, we all dressed in our best “bib and tucker” and were treated to a traditional Thanksgiving Day Feast! The only thing we missed was the carving of the turkey. The helpings they served were embarrassing, as we could never eat what they piled on our plates, and then they brought out the desert menu!!! The previous evening desert had been “Baked Alaska.” Holland America always makes a BIG deal of serving this treat, near the end of each cruise, by having all the stewards and chefs parade through the dining room carrying a plate of Baked Alaska complete with blazing sparklers. It is quite a show, and one that is looked forward to by all.

Day 64 – Friday, November 23, 2007 – our last night

Tonight’s Dress: Resort Casual, comfortable, relaxed yet elegant clothing is fine for evenings; however T-shirts, jeans or shorts are not allowed in the dining room, Lido Restaurant or public areas.

There was a sitting nook near the elevator/stairs on our deck near our stateroom, this was where I would sit and write reports and edit pictures. It was a neat public area where I could also visit with passersby. This was sort of like having my own front porch. This morning and most of the day, there was a steady stream of folks hauling their luggage up to the eighth deck where they could check its weight on the fitness center scales. You may ask why I spent so much of this particular day on my front porch – Barbara was packing our suitcases/boxes in our stateroom and I did not want to get packed in the process.

At dinner that evening there were more sad farewells as we bid our table mates Roger, Gretchen, Joan, Mary and stewards Erik, Nasser, and Romero goodbye one final time. We had been blessed with great food, outstanding service, and wonderful fellowship. We also had an excellent view of “where we had been” as our vantage point presented us with a view of the ships churning twin wake, and some terrific sunsets; two of which we were able to witness the elusive “green flash”, as the top of the sun disappeared below the horizon.

Day 65 – Saturday, November 24, 2007 – Disembarkation, San Diego

I knew we were due to pick up the San Diego Harbor pilot at around 5:30 am and the sun was scheduled to rise around 7, so I wanted to be topside for our entry into this beautiful harbor. I must have gotten up just as the pilot boarded, because as I walked up onto the sixth deck forward, the pilot boat was heading back into the harbor and as I looked to port I was greeted with a beautiful full moon just a few degrees above the western horizon. Looking shoreward, I could see the outline of Point Loma and as I continued my scan, I could see lights, homes, and marinas where the old Naval Training Center stood. That moment took me back to November 1953 when I had my first look seaward at Navy ships in the harbor, from my vantage point on the training center parade ground. My-o-my, that was a moment! As we came closer to North Island and the Naval Air Station, I could see two of our newest carriers berthed there, they were just silhouettes against the spreading sunrise. I could no longer stand alone with this view so I hurried below to wake up Barbara so she could join me – this experience had to be shared with my loved one. We stayed on that deck until our beautiful ship threw her last line ashore and the City of San Diego stood before us shining in the sunshine, welcoming us home. What a fantastic way to end to a remarkable voyage.

Our cruise director stated “How can we not be changed by walking the same path where extraordinary history was made?” For me that moment came as we were sailing through the Coral Sea on Veterans Day and I listened as Walter Fox told me of his terrifying WW II experience in those very waters.

(To be continued – Next our trip home to Washington)

Jack and Barbara

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