The Rock and Roll Cruise
Major crew members
Mark Rowden – Captain Sarah Koster-Claxton – Cruise Director
Christina - Culinary Director Jake - Show Host
I have taken one cruise on Holland America back in 2004 to ... Read More
The Rock and Roll Cruise
Major crew members
Mark Rowden – Captain Sarah Koster-Claxton – Cruise Director
Christina - Culinary Director Jake - Show Host
I have taken one cruise on Holland America back in 2004 to Alaska on the Old Statendam. This trip to Hawaii will complete a bucket list item - vacationing in all 50 states. A note about me – I am a solo cruiser, retired from teaching and usually a road tripper (not an option for Hawaii as I do not like long plane rides). I love to learn about and see the varied landscapes that can be experienced within the USA. A 16 day cruise with 10 sea days to relax sounded just to my liking, I could read, enjoy the ship, and just relax for 2/3 of the trip with 5 days of port activities. I splurged for a balcony (5063) to enjoy watching the sea go by and see the shorelines as we traveled around the islands.
I stayed in the Pan Pacific hotel in Vancouver the night before embarkation, got upgraded to a one-bedroom suite with a fantastic view. In the morning I looked out the window to see the Westerdam docked below me. The hotel took care of my luggage to the ship. I went to the terminal about 11:00 AM and found hundreds of people waiting. There was a mix-up with immigration, the people who had taken the 1 night trip from Seattle to Vancouver had to leave the ship and be rechecked. This made for a big back log however HAL put out hundreds of chairs and everyone who wanted was able to sit while they worked out the problem. It took about 45 minutes. Once they were able to start the check-in process again HAL was very smart and took the people row by row so there was no long time standing in line and many apologies to the passengers.
My cabin was ready on embarkation and I went to the dining room for the Mariner champagne lunch. After lunch my luggage was in the room. I spent the time before the safety muster unpacking, getting familiar with the cabin, and stewards Rifqi & Ron. I did request my ice bucket be filled every day. I should have asked how the balcony door worked as it took me several tries to get it open. There was a mini-fridge with room for me to store my water. The bathroom was about the same size as the one I have at home so it was a good fit. The muster drill took about 30 minutes. The crew members assigned to lifeboat #5 make the wait enjoyable. I use a cane for stability and was asked several times if I wanted a chair brought out, but I leaned against the wall and things were fine.
Dinner was in the main dining room, I had open seating. I was with two couples, we had a pleasant conversation. I was very pleased that the dietary restrictions I had requested were noted, they had a special dinner ready for my. It was very good and followed my requests. The evening show was a brief overview of the trip with a few numbers by the Westerdam entertainers and Rod Long, a comedian, who was very funny. I will try to catch his show one night in the Queen’s Lounge.
With the time change I was very tired after the show, it was 9:00 PM on the ship but 11:00 PM Alabama time so I was ready for bed. There was a time change at 2:00 AM so an extra hour of sleep was coming. Knowing I usually wake up early I ordered room service breakfast for 6:00 – 6:30 AM delivery.
Monday 10/3/16 1st full Sea Day
This morning I was awakened by the room steward delivering my breakfast at 6:15 AM. Guess tomorrow I need to order for later delivery. The seas are very rough today, lots of pitching and movement back and forth. No sea sickness for me, but keeping my footing has been somewhat difficult. Captain Mark hopes we will be in better water tomorrow. There are a lot of my fellow passengers who appear have been too long in the bar, we are all a little wobbly. Mostly overcast skies with occasional breaks of sunshine.
I attended the 9:00 AM Good Morning Westerdam Show with Cruise Director Sarah. Each sea day morning she will interview a crew member and discuss what is happening on the ship that day. It was a great way to spend an hour, have a cup of coffee, and learn something. Team Trivia was before lunch. I played with a Cruise Critic team, we didn’t win.
I went to lunch in the Lido buffet, a salad and roll. The salad bowls would hold about 10 cups of salad if you had them filled up. This lunch produced a very interesting discussion. Two couples and me. One couple was English the other was Dutch now Americans. They had interesting views on our elections and government actions. Why Trump is resounding with so many people and the role third party candidates may play in the eventual outcome. These types of conversations are a main reason I enjoy traveling solo. There is always someone interesting to talk to. You need to keep up with current events to hold your own but that is also part of the fun in meeting new people. The ship is moving so much the waves in the lido pool are making it real splashy, but lots of fun for the few kids on board.
In the afternoon I had two activities planned: a ukulele lesson, learning Little Grass Shack and some history of the Ukulele and an introduction to the Hawaiian language. The onboard location entertainers were very, very good.
At 3:00 PM I enjoyed the movie Independence Day – Resurgence in the Queens Lounge – be sure to bring a sweater to the Queens lounge during the day it is kept very, very cool. It warms up at night when the BB King group is performing.
Tonight was the first of 3 Gala nights. I went earlier than last night as I did not calculate how long it takes from ordering until you actually get food. I was able to pre-order my meal to follow my dietary restrictions. The dining staff somehow made a no salt, low fat meal very tasty. Tonight the main dish was rack of lamb. My dinner companions were three men two were traveling together and one was a solo. There was a retired English teacher and one was a navy technology officer, I did not hear what the third gentlemen did. The retired navy officer had spent some time in Pensacola so we had some things to talk about and the teacher and I enjoyed talking academia.
The evening show was a flute player Viviana Guzman. She did things with a flute I didn’t think you could do. I made it an early night after the show. I did order breakfast for 7:00 AM tomorrow.
The seas were very rough all day 15-20 foot swells. He captain assures us we will be out of the low pressure area late tomorrow. At the dinner announcement the Captain joked saying his wife also complains about his driving. I must say poor Captain Mark did everything he could to give a smooth cruise, but Mother Nature just would not cooperate. I think she was determined to remind the passengers how we used to rock and roll in the 60’s and 70’s.
Tuesday 10/4/16 2nd Sea Day
Seas were rough all night. I was awakened several times. I decided not to take a shower this AM, with the rolling of the ship I am not very steady on my feet. Breakfast was delivered as promised at about 7:10. I went to the 9:00 AM Good Morning Westerdam show with Cruise Director Sarah for the 2nd day. The guest was the culinary host Christina. She was very enjoyable. I talked to the cruise director a bit before the show to make sure I had the time difference correct as I wanted to see the Vice-presidential debate at 9 PM eastern which would be 5 PM ship’s time.
Joined a new Trivia team and did better. Jan was raised in Alabama and moved to Washington State with her husband. We are calling our team- Bama. I am glad they are changing the time for Trivia from 12:00 to 1:00 as I can get to the buffet lunch before it becomes a zoo. Today’s lunch was a mess nowhere to really sit. I did have a salad and a cheese sandwich on half a ciabatta roll. The seas started to calm down after lunch as promised by the Captain. The temperature is still only in the mid-60’s.
In the afternoon I attended a presentation about the history of Lahaina and Nawiliwili (Na-willie-willie) the final two ports of call in Hawaii, it was somewhat interesting. Heather, the On Location Director is more a reader than a presenter. In the afternoon I attended a history of the hula lecture. Not a hula lesson but how hula has changed over the years and the effects of the missionaries and westerners on the hula. Very interesting seeing the contrast between classic hula and modern hula. I did watch the VP debate from 5 – 6:30. Went to the buffet for dinner. I had a small steak, rice, and broccoli, strangely uncrowded. The 8:00 PM show was the first by the Westerdam entertainers a program called Soundstage featuring songs from movies. There was dancing, singing, and scenes from several movies. An average show but maybe that was because I did not know most of the songs. Note to self - next time sit further back in the Vista lounge as it was loud.
Calm seas to rock me to sleep.
Wednesday 10/5/16 3rd Sea Day
Woke to blue skies and flat seas this morning. Breakfast was delivered between 6:30 and 7:00 as requested. I have now set my alarm for 15 minutes before delivery time but have been awake before it went off last two days. I am enjoying the shower in the cabin, very comfortable and easy to set the water temp. I have ordered an egg substitute vegetable omelet each morning and they have been good, they include a potato cake and I have resisted eating the whole thing. I also order seasonal melon and have been getting a plate with honeydew, watermelon, cantaloupe and either blueberries or blackberries. This is a good way for me to start the day. Yesterday I dropped my tweezers between the cushion on the couch and the hide-a-bed mechanism. I asked if he could fish it out and when I returned to the room later there were the tweezers on the table.
Today they had Music trivia in the morning. I went but did miserably I was good with the tune names but you also had to name the artist and I am no good at that part. It was 50’s and 60’s music today.
Went to lunch early today as the main dining room was closed for a Mariner’s luncheon. I knew the buffet would be much busier than usual. Glad I did.
Finished my Grisham novel last night and started on Michener’s Hawaii today, I haven’t read it in years. I am trying several areas as the best reading nooks. Right now I am focusing on the Captains area of the Crow’s nest and the Explorer’s Lounge on the lower Promenade. As it warms up in the next day or two I am looking forward to reading outside on the Promenade deck.
Team trivia was after lunch, team Bama scored more points than yesterday but were still about 8 points behind the winners. We lost not knowing pi to 8 decimal places. They play hard ball trivia on this ship.
Went to the Vista lounge for a very enjoyable lecture on the geology and geography of the Hawaiian Islands in the afternoon. I decided to stay in the lounge after the lecture to try Bingo. It was fun but $25.00 for 3 cards and four games is a bit steep. They have unique cards in which you punch a perforated hole for each number called. When a Bingo is called they type in the card number and the program determines if it is a winner. The prizes range from $150 to $275 per game.
Dinner was nice, I was at a table of 10 and enjoyed the company of my table mates. Delicious brisket.
Skipped the show tonight, Bayne Bacon, as the room was full. He was a popular entertainer. Watched a movie I had brought, the DVD player in the cabin stopped playing part way through so I watched the final half on my computer.
Thursday 10/6/16 4th sea day Second Gala Night
Woke to calm seas and better temps this AM, finally back in shorts. After breakfast in my cabin I spent some time outside on the upper observation deck. Walked the circuit on that deck and did fairly well. At 9:00 AM went to the Good morning Westerdam show the guest was show host Jake. One funny thing occurred during the interview Sarah asked Jake about how his show the party continues had been attended. This is an opportunity to listen to music but it starts at 11:30 PM in the Northern Lights bar. Jake calmly said he had no one actually show up for the activity. It became a running joke for the rest of the cruise – How is the Party Continues doing? Most readers will know that the demographic for a long HAL Cruise is 60+, most of us are not out and about at 11:30 PM.
After the show I went out on deck to read, then took a lap on the Promenade deck (1 lap = 1/3 mile).
In the afternoon I attended the 2nd Ukulele lesson and attended a 2nd movie The Descendants. I spent a couple hours before dinner enjoying the breezes on the balcony and reading.
This evening’s show, All for Love by the Westerdam entertainers, was completely full when I went at 8:00 PM. I decided it would be a good early night. I just can’t stay up for the 10:00 PM show and I do not like to sit in the lounge/bar areas, it is too tempting to order a drink. I do wish they would not keep the show rooms and lounges so cool. I usually like cool but I have found myself shivering many times. I really wish I had brought one of my cardigans. If you don’t like cold be sure to bring a sweater or cover for the public rooms.
Friday 10/7/16 5th Sea day
The last sea day on this part of the trip. During the Good Morning Westerdam show Cruise Director Sarah revealed she was anxious for land this is the longest stretch of sea days she has done. In the late morning the On Location Director Heather presented a lecture on Pacific Wayfaring, very interesting. After lunch the crew and passengers had a water volleyball game in the aft Sea View pool. It was fun but for the first time the passengers beat the crew, a rematch is being planned for the return trip. An Aloha concert was scheduled for 3:00 PM. All week the ukulele class and the hula class have been practicing for the concert. After the on location team performed the passengers came on stage. It was fun and part of the cruise experience. There was a Hawaiian language class today and it was very informative. The language is very colorful and has only 16 consonants and 5 vowels. If you can learn the vowels you are say the words. Learning what the words mean and how they are used in a sentence is the hard part. The show tonight was a combined show with the comedian Bayne Bacon and the flutiest. I had heard everyone enjoyed Bayne Bacon but his first full show was full and I didn’t get to see his act. He was funny.
Saturday 10/8 Port day Honolulu
At last land. I went to go to the house where my parents had lived when they were first married. Upon returning to the port I had about an hour until it was time for the Pearl Harbor Tour. The Aloha Market Place at the dock has free Wi-Fi, I did not buy an internet package on the ship and was anxious to check social media, email and make contact with family and friends back home. I saw some passengers using Wi-Fi, they explained the log-on process. It was really easy once you determined which one of the many networks to use. As I was finishing another couple from the ship stopped by and I showed them the steps to get online.
The Pearl Harbor and City Tour Gray Line – Polynesian Adventure Tours (Holland America Excursion) was a 4 hour tour driving around the city and then out to the National Memorial. It includes picture stops at the King Kamehameha I statue and the Iolani Palace. There is a drive through the National Cemetery in the Punchbowl crater. The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument (Arizona Memorial) is very informative. The exhibits Before the War and the Day have very good information, artifacts, and reproductions of the time. The grounds have way stations with informative signs about where ships were and how things happened in 1941. The 20 minute film reviewed the day and is narrated by Stockard Channing. The launch to the memorial is right after the film. It takes about 5 minutes to cross the harbor and you have 15 minutes at the memorial before the launch returns. This is time to contemplate what happened and more of an emotional experience than I expected.
Before dinner there was a hula recital by a local Hawaiian dance studio. The dancers ranged in age from 4 years old to 71. It was a mix of men and women. They were very good and the little ones were cute. At the end the ship Captain, Cruise Director, and some passengers got up on stage doing the hula with them. Tonight’s dinner group was not the most interesting, very little cross talk other than an introduction and where you live. The Evening show singer Elika Santos, did not appeal so I spent some time on the Sea View Deck watching the island lights as we sailed from Oahu
Sunday 10/9 Port Day Hilo
Lori Pele: Goddess of Fire Volcano Exploration Gray Line (excursion through Holland America)
I booked this 4 hour tour of Volcanos National Park through Holland America. Gray Line tours Polynesian adventure tours is the operator. I am glad I selected the small group option as we were in a small bus with about 15 people.
Lori was interesting but you could tell this was close to the end of tourist season and she had done the tour many times. The first stop is the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut factory. Lori did inform us that there was no food service any other place on the tour so we might want to pick up a sandwich etc. here. It was about an hour up to Volcanos National Park. At the Jagger Museum you could look out over the crater and see the lava spewing about 50 feet in the air. There isn’t a current lava flow just the cauldron. The return trip had two main attractions the Thurston Lava Tube and the 1974 lava flow. The Lava Tube required a walk down steep steps and was slippery so I did not go down. Sitting at the top of the steps I enjoyed ease dropping on another tour operator talking about the tube and the local flora and fauna. The day in total was interesting and I did learn a lot about volcanos.
I was very tired upon returning to the ship and decided to enjoy the sail away, a light dinner in the Lido, and listening to Adagio in the Explorer’s Lounge before an early bedtime due to a long excursion tomorrow.
Monday 10/10 Port Day Lahaina
Lahaina is the only tender port on this cruise. Due to the shore excursion, I had purchased through HAL, I was ticketed for the first tender of the morning. The excursion was Adventure to Hana. This is a 10 hour tour that takes you around the east side of Maui. About 40 miles of the route is the Road to Hana a very curvy (620 curves) with many (59) one lane bridges and road sections that are really one lane but you may need to squeeze by other vehicles. Our mini-bus hugged the mountainside many times. The scenery is tropical rain forest passing several beautiful waterfalls, scenic views, and cattle ranches. There is a short stop at the Waianapanapa State park and black sand beach. I was fortunate to have Bruce as the driver/guide for the day. Bruce a transplanted Texan made it an enjoyable day and took into consideration the needs of his 15 not so young passengers. At the end of 10 hours we all felt we had a great time and made new friends. There are sufficient breaks and opportunities to get out, stretch your legs, and use bathroom facilities. The stops allow enough time to view the area but you don’t feel rushed. The stop at Palapala Congressional Church the location of Charles Lindbergh’s grave was very interesting as well as the Kipahulu National Park location of the 7 sacred pools. It is about a half mile walk down to the pools. The visitor/ranger station had some very interesting history of early Hawaiian life. Along the highway are homes of several famous people - Oprah, one of the Beach Boys, Willie Nelson and others. There is a stop at Travaasa Experiential Resort for lunch which was just OK, but I am a bit jaded after many days of superb cruise ship dining. A word of warning, they caution people with back backs and pregnant women to avoid this trip – pay attention to this warning the road has many miles of unpaved and poorly paved roads. The curves take skill and knowledge of driving on narrow roads. I think it is best left to the professionals and locals rather than trying to drive it yourself. It was late when we returned to the ship, the driver added some things to the tour as the ships departure time had been moved back. The sail away was delayed several hours allowing passengers to attend an evening Luau in Lahaina, which was arranged after we had left Vancouver. It is nice that HAL can make changes on the go.
Tuesday 10/11 Port Day Nawiliwili
This was my big splurge on a splurge trip - a helicopter tour of Kauai. Here is the Trip Advisor Review I posted of the experience.
Great Experience on Kauai
I don’t give a lot of five star ratings, but Safari Helicopter on Kauai, Hawaii deserves five plus stars. From my first phone call they were caring, business like, and more than willing to answer questions from a first time helicopter flyer. I say this because I was treated rudely by two other companies while asking questions about weight restrictions before booking. If you are around 250 pounds they will work with you to get you on a flight with no surcharge, if they can, not true with some other companies I contacted. The pick up from the dock was on time, when arriving in the office we were given safety information, be prepared to be entertained if Sherrill (sic) is your driver, he is funny. Julia, the pilot was friendly and well informed about the places we were flying by. You fly through Waimea Canyon, along the Napali Coast. Hanalea bay, and the wettest place on earth. There are many water falls and greens that look painted rather than the natural beauty that is Kauai. The actual flight time is about 45 minutes but it takes about 1.5 hours from dock to dock. The price is pretty much in the middle of the options available. I would suggest Safari Helicopters for a wonderful experience of a beautiful island. The office is across the street from Hilo Hattie’s and there is a free shuttle from HH to the ship.
Tonight there is a sail away cookout on the Sea View deck with grilled pu-pu. This was supposed to be appetizers but I made it a meal.
Spent the evening in the cabin editing and organizing pictures from the last few days. Now five sea days to relax going home.
Wednesday 10/12 Sea Day
At 10:00 AM there was a special sail away party on the Sea View deck with a farewell to Hawaii ceremony. Throwing your lei over as you sail away ensures your return to the islands. Fresh Mahi Mahi was purchased on the islands and was grilled for lunch on the lido deck, it was delicious. This is a recovery day from the four active days in port. Mostly reading and relaxing.
The evening show was Patrick McMahon. He is great and had the entire Vista lounge singing along to songs we all enjoyed in the 60’s and 70’s.
The ships clocks will be set forward one hour tonight.
Thursday 10/13 Sea Day
Good morning Westerdam has returned for the trip back to Vancouver. Enjoyed hearing about the library and resources available. Sarah also explained the time changes coming up and why they are doing it the way they are.
Rather than losing an hour each night, which is very hard on the crew, the clocks will be set forward ½ hour at 2 in the afternoon. Since we are at sea no need for exact time and this way you still get a full night’s sleep and no jet lag. Sounds strange but it worked very well and it was almost unnoticeable except for the Captan’s announcement of the change each day at 2 PM.
Today also started the dance classes late morning in the Crow’s Nest, each of the sea days will present a different dance. I don’t dance but I went to watch and hold a place for the Trivia team to re-organize after the port days. They did have Trivia on port days but the time did not work for me. In the Afternoon Stryker from the piano bar held a talent show organized from the passengers he had encountered in the piano bar events. It was fun and the passengers were very good, for the most part. I did join a friend for Bingo in the afternoon and won a regular game (with 4 others) and the cover-all (with 3 others). Prize is enough to cover my gratuities bill, not bad.
The evening show was the Bornsteins, a mentalist act. Unfortunately it was fairly mediocre.
Friday 10/14 Sea Day
Today Captain Mark held a very informative Ask the Captain Q&A. I did play Trivia today, but somehow I just didn’t feel like doing a lot.
At dinner I was seated with two couples who did not know each other but came to find out both had taught and lived in rural Yukon for many years. Just listening to their stories of living and teaching in that area of Canada made for an enjoyable evening.
The evening entertainer was Lilly-Jane Young a singer who was very entertaining. She sang all types of songs from show tunes to classical opera.
Saturday 10/15 Sea Day
Today is not a good day, a fellow passenger decided to share their cold with me. This may account for feeling out of it yesterday. I do have a few cold tablets but will need to buy more. I decided to spend most of the day in the cabin as the cold pills make me drowsy. I ordered breakfast and lunch in, but the soup was so salty I could not eat it. The ship is still rocking and rolling a lot. Unfortunately in the early afternoon a stabilizer went out and the ship developed quite a roll in addition to the pitch from rough seas. The Captain warned everyone to take great care when moving about the ship. The movement was so bad there were comfort bags hanging from the railings by all the elevators. The motion has not bothered me but I could really tell the difference as I went higher in the ship. The stabalizers were fixed after about 2 hours of rocking and rolling. I decided I did need to get out of the cabin so went up to the Lido for a light dinner. I took in the Variety show featuring the Bornsteins and Patrick McMahon.
Sunday 10/16 Sea Day
This is the last full sea day. My cold is better but I don’t have a lot of energy. I spent most of the day reading in the Explorer’s Lounge, having a quick bite in the Lido for lunch, dinner in the MDR and an early night.
Monday 10/17 Port - Victoria
Captain Mark moved across the Pacific at a higher than usual speed to avoid bad weather in the Pacific North West. Due to the speed docking in Victoria was several hours ahead of scheduled. I was feeling somewhat better but since I had been to Victoria several time I decided it would be a good time to just enjoy the ship. I was able to walk around and spend time looking at the art and enjoying some peace and quite while many passengers were off the ship.
Tuesday 10/18 Disembarkation – Vancouver
Getting off the ship was fairly easy. I did have some trouble finding a cart in the luggage area on the pier but finally received some assistance from workers in the area. The line to board the transport bus to the airport was fairly long but time was only about 35-40 minutes in line. I had plenty of time until my flight so this did not worry me.
Overall, this cruise was a wonderful experience. I met several very interesting people and had a very good time. Traveling solo opens you up to new experiences and new friendships. A caveat is if you do not like sea days this is not the cruise for you. If on the other hand you enjoy the relaxation of sea days this is a wonderful way to get a taste of Hawaii and be pampered at the same time. As I wrote this review I received an offer for another HAL cruise and will be sailing to the Panama Canal on HAL in December 2016. Read Less