Thursday, May 9, 2013

Hawaii / Tahiti 30 Day Cruise - Day 30 Sea Day

Sunday Day 30 – At Sea

Anyone reading this is probably tired of hearing about how I’m feeling and I guess I’m pretty tired of writing about it, but it has dominated the landscape for Val and I for the last four or five days.  I haven’t been sick since I retired, and here I have gotten sick twice on a thirty day cruise.  The last thing I will say about being sick is I woke up feeling great!  It’s amazing, the change I felt last night has kept on and I feel pretty much normal.  This is our last day as we will be in San Diego early tomorrow morning and our cruise will be over.

Today we opted to have our last breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill and made it there just before the 9:00 deadline.  After breakfast we attended a briefing on the debarkation process which was also a crew farewell.  All crew members who weren’t doing critical duties were brought in with each department being recognized.  It gave all of us a chance to applaud the great work they all do.  The crew was absolutely great on this cruise, they work long hours of ten or eleven hours a day with no days off for months on end and yet maintain a happy smile and warm greeting when they serve you or pass you in the hall.

This may not look a very big crew, but the stage goes back a ways.
That is Armen, the Cruise Director in the white shirt.
After the crew appreciation it was time for the inevitable, we went back to the room to begin the packing process.  As we started packing we were interrupted by an announcement by the captain, the ship would be slowing so a critically ill passenger could be evacuated by helicopter.  It was very sobering and saddening to hear, but also everyone was very interested as to how the evacuation would be carried out.  They have cameras at the bow and stern of the ship which are shown on the room televisions so we would be able to see the evacuation.  Right after the announcement you could tell the ship was slowing and according to the TV screen, slowed to three knots.  Soon a large plane appeared which we later found out was a tanker as the helicopter would not have enough fuel to get back without refueling.  Soon the helicopter appeared and we alternated watching the plane and helicopter fly by from our balcony to watching the helicopter maneuver near the bow of the ship on the TV.  The ship wasn’t big enough for the helicopter to land on so the first thing that happened was two men and a stretcher were lowered as the helicopter hovered over the bow.  The helicopter flew off to be refueled while the patient was prepared for evacuation.  It was very dramatic to see all this happening and very interesting, but also very sad when you consider what the patient and his family were going through.  Not a very good way to end a vacation, but we hope that he reached medical attention in time and recovered.  The ship has a doctor and fully staffed infirmary, but there are limitations as to what they can do.  Sadly, we saw someone taken off the ship for medical attention at almost every port, even Nuku Hiva.  Not surprising considering the older demographic of Holland America passengers, but very sad and frightening – what if that would have been one of us going to a hospital in a strange and remote country thousands of mile from home?  One final thought on the evacuation, we thought the evacuation would be done by the Coast Guard or US Military, but if you look at the aircraft there are no typical marking and the number on the helicopter actually looks like it was hand painted.  We started speculating that the passenger would be evacuated to Mexico as that is much closer, I guess we’ll never know.

The evacuation helicopter with the tanker in the background.
The helicopter drops a second person, the stretcher and the first person were already down.
The helicopter circles the ship after refueling waiting to pick up the patient.
The stretcher with the patient is raised back into the helicopter.

After that excitement it was lunch time so we went up to the Lido and found it very crowded.  Even though it was close to 1:00, everyone had watched the evacuation so everyone ended up going to lunch late at the same time.  After lunch we went back and finished most of our packing.  Except for carry-on luggage and what we need tomorrow, all luggage has to be outside the room in the hallways where it will be picked up and brought below in anticipation of our arrival in San Diego early tomorrow morning.

Val and I made our last trip to the casino with the last of our money, although I am sorry to say, I had to borrow some money from the trip money as I had run out.  Val also gave we some money so we were able to have some fun in the late afternoon.  I was actually able to win enough to pay the trip money and Val back, but she refused it saying it was a gift.  We both ended up losing all of our gambling money we brought (which we expected), but our time in the casino was a fun diversion, plus Val did win $500 in the slot tournament.  I have to add that our gambling money was budgeted out each day from the amount we brought for that purpose so we were in no danger of loosing our retirement nest egg.

It was down to our last dinner so the trip was really winding down.  Tonight was a bit festive as before the deserts were served, the culinary staff came out and were recognized, as were the wait staff.  There was also music and a song by the staff.  We sadly said goodbye to our dining stewards Pram and Mega and made our way back to the cabin for our final night on the cruise. 

Pram and Mega were really wonderful dining stewards, they were very professional, our service was perfect, plus they were friendly and interesting with their stories from their home in Indonesia.  Val wanted to learn a few words in their language so over the 30 days we saw them for dinner, they managed to teach us how to say "thank you, good evening, how are you, good, and you're welcome" in Bahasa, the national language of Indonesia.  So to Pram and Mega, terima kasih!!

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