September 12, 2001
The atmosphere onboard a cruise ship -- in this case Holland America's Amsterdam, which is sailing a New England/Canada itinerary -- was quite subdued in light of yesterday's tragedies. Ship officers spent much of the day in meetings to reconfigure the schedule of events. A Protestant religious ceremony was added. The daily Catholic mass was held as usual.
Passengers who had booked afternoon shore excursions were told they could cancel without penalty and on some all-day tours, where news filtered through via Canadians who'd heard it on the radio, passengers were offered the option to return to the ship.
Amsterdam, like all Holland America ships (and Windstar's Wind Surf), offered free Internet access for the rest of the day so passengers could contact friends and relatives. The usually deserted center was packed with lines stretching through the lobby.
Other changes? The evening, a scheduled "formal" night, was now a casual night (a few people, not having heard the announcements, showed up for dinner in full formal regalia). The main theater performance was canceled. The day's scheduled flicks (to be shown in the Wajang Theater) were re-arranged; "Enemy of the Gates," a World War II battle film, and "The Tailor of Panama," an espionage movie, were deemed inappropriate.
Onboard, even though all passengers have in-cabin access to CNN, groups gathered around bigger screens in the Wajang Theater and the Casino, where the ship was broadcasting the channel. Comfort in numbers. As everywhere, people walked around with stunned faces; some passengers were crying. One woman wandered the promenade deck with a relieved smile and a computer print-out in hand; the paper, a return email missive, said her son, a United pilot, had not flown yesterday.
Today, it appears that life is back to almost back to normal on Amsterdam. The casino's big screen TV is once again tuned to ESPN and passengers, though somewhat daunted by an 8-page NY Times-by-fax (many reading it over breakfast) are spilling off the ship at Sydney, Nova Scotia, for a day in port.
Still there is one big change. Captain Edward van Zaane wrote a letter to all passengers saying that "although we have no reason to believe we are at risk we have increased our security measures to Level III, our highest level." Specifically, we now are required to show photo ID along with our passenger card when getting on or off the ship, have bags, purses, and parcels x-rayed and visitors, who had been allowed on in ports, are now prohibited. The new restrictions feel more comforting than scary to many of the passengers.