We made it to the Ft Lauderdale Hilton on the Inter Coastal Waterway in time for a delicious Asian dinner on the waterfront and to the ship—the Holland America Zuiderdam—by noon the next day where we experienced surprisingly little hassle boarding.
Now I must state from the outset what may be suspected by all who know me: as a sailor I have been known to have a low opinion of cruise ships and cruise ship passengers. I have seen these behemoths countless times in Road Town in the BVIs when heading out on my annual charter sailing cruises. Why would anyone want to be on a big, ugly ship like this when they could be sailing? What would they do all day? How could they escape boredom? It somehow seemed inauthentic in contrast to the experience of being on a sailing yacht which involves skill, a sense of adventure and a much closer relationship to the waves and the wind and the spiritual experience of being on a very small object in a vast open sea.
After years of resisting, we did eventually give in a few years ago and have taken two cruises—the first on a small ship, the Corinthian II, a 65 passenger vessel that took us and Embry’s brother and sister–in-law on a UNC-sponsored, “Journeys of Paul” cruise in the Mediterranean and the second, a three day Disney Cruise with our son Andrew’s family, from Miami to the Bahamas and back. The Disney ship accommodated 2,500 passengers and over 1,ooo crew. Both experiences were enjoying—good food, excellent service and a mix of all types of people relaxing, trying to have fun and mostly succeeding.
So we pretty much knew what these cruises were like, and the experience aboard the Zuiderdam is so far pretty much what we expected.
The Zuiderdam is a “mid size” cruise ship accommodating 1,900 passengers and 800 crew. (Most of the “full size” ships now take around 5,000 passengers.) As I write this I am sitting on the top deck eleven stories high. I am looking out on a sparkling blue sea with winds of around five knots (not so great if we were on a sailboat). A library and internet café are behind me and the deck chairs are pretty much all taken , with people soaking up warm sunshine in 80 degree weather. We enjoyed a great prime rib dinner last night and a delicious breakfast this morning where we were seated with three other couples , all retired and a little younger than us and from all over the US. They all are very experienced cruisers with dozens of cruises under their belt. One guy, a retired commercial pilot, was on his 31st. From talking to these folks I gather that these cruises can be addictive.
There is one big problem, however, and this one is really serious: food. It is too good and there is too much of it—everywhere you look, and it is all free for the taking–as much of it as you want. Embry tells me that the she read a report that the average passenger gains a pound a day on these cruises ;and I can see how—stuffing yourself three times a day with snacks in between and bars and lounges around every nook and corner offering your favorite beverage.
We are going to be on this ship for 15 days. We still have almost 3,000 more miles to go. Fifteen pounds heavier by the first of April? Disaster.
As one who is known for loving good food and lacking any sense of self discipline , I am in serious trouble. My strategy for now is to exercise as much as I can (two mile walk around the “promenade” deck, six laps, before breakfast and an hour in the fitness center in the afternoons) and to try, really try, to eat in moderation.
Pray for me.