Friday, July 29, 2016

Voyage of the Vikings Cruise - Cruise Day 1: Embarkation

We received a notice several days ago that we would not be able to board the ship until 2:00 PM (instead of 11:00 as stated previously) due to some inspections that were going on so we slept in a bit.  We both repacked our bags and got everything ready to go.  The latest we could check-out was 12:30 so we read and watched TV until that time and then decided to just go over to the cruise terminal and wait as we had nothing else to do.  We got a taxi and were at the cruise terminal before 1:00 and surprisingly they were checking people in.  We breezed through customs and check-in and were in our room just after 1:00.  Evidently they had finished the inspections early and started embarkation early.  Since most people would be arriving at 2:00, there was hardly anyone there.

Because this cruise was so expensive, we had gotten a verandah stateroom instead of our usual deluxe suite, but a month ago our travel agent called and said they were offering us an upsell to the suite, but it was still too much.  Two weeks ago we received another call with another upgrade offer and this time it was too good to pass up; so here we are in a suite again.  It’s a bit of a luxury, but the added space and perks are enough for us to always try to book one.

Our luggage had not been delivered so we got some snacks from the Neptune Lounge (another handy suite perk) and then decided to explore the ship.  We are on the Holland America SS Rotterdam, which is relatively small with a maximum of around 1,400 passengers.  This is our first time on this ship and it seems very nice.  I believe it has gone through a refurbishing in the last year or two and it really shows.  We returned to the room and our luggage still hadn’t been delivered so we just relaxed for a while.

We had the mandatory muster (lifeboat) at 4:30 and when that was done we returned to the room and still no luggage.  For the first time, we shipped our larger luggage from home to the ship and we were hoping it found its way to the ship.  Finally around 5:30 Val got hers, but mine was still not to be seen and I was getting nervous.  Val told me to relax and it would arrive; easy for her to say, she had hers J.  Finally at 6:30 there was a knock on the door and there was my luggage, thank goodness!  We spent the rest of the time before dinner putting things away and then left for dinner.  On our last cruise we had enjoyed going to the MIX Lounge every night and listen to Chris Bartlett play music that we really liked so we decided to see if there would be someone similar on this cruise.  No such luck, they were having a trivia contest so no pre-dinner music for us.

It was soon 8:00 and time for dinner and we happily received another surprise.  We had requested a table for two, as always, and not only did we receive the table for two, it was in a prime spot right next to the windows at the rear of the ship.  It’s the best table we’ve had on any of our cruises.

After dinner we returned to our room and called it a night.  The ship wasn’t leaving until 11:00 and I wanted to see us sail out of Boston Harbor so I stayed up to watch.  It was really too dark to see much, but the lights of Boston put on a great display as we pulled out of the harbor.  Our cruise is finally underway and we’re settled into what will be our room for the next 35 days.  Tomorrow we’ll be visiting Bar Harbor, Maine.

Note:  This will be my last blog post until we get home.  The time required is just too much as we don't have many sea days on this cruise.  So it'll will be about a month until you hear from me again.

Voyage of the Vikings Cruise - Boston Day 2

We got up much earlier today and were out and about before 10:00.  The first thing we wanted to do today was complete our loop on the hop-on hop-off trolley so we made our way to the nearest stop.  Today was much cooler and less humid than yesterday, which was a very pleasant surprise.

We're back on the trolley for our tour of Boston.
As we looped through the city we saw many of the famous sites around Boston, which we had heard of, but had never seen in person before.  

A Boston icon from the TV show Cheers.
An interesting reflection of the old in the new.

The Boston Commons
Two views of the Charles River.

The current Massachusetts State House
As we completed our loop we decided to get off and visit the Boston Tea Party Museum.  I didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out to be very interesting and very well done.

The Boston Tea Party Museum in the foreground.

After doing the hour interactive tour of the museum, we made our way back to the bus stop and continued on our next stop which was the Faneuil Marketplace, which included the North Market, South Market and Quincy Market. The market is a group of shops and eating places all grouped together in a large area near the waterfront.  The markets are both indoors and outdoors and the indoor portion was packed with people.  After looking around a bit, we found a place to eat and we both had some very good fish and chips for lunch.   

Very crowded inside the markets.
But much less so outside.
There was music and entertainment scattered around the area.
 The next thing we wanted to do was visit the Old North Church so it was back to the trolley. We got off the trolley and asked the driver where the Old North Church was and he said it was just past Paul Revere’s house.  We made our way to Paul Revere’s house and looked around and then looked for the Old North Church.  We couldn’t find it and finally consulted a map and found that the driver had sent us in totally the wrong direction.  At this point we were quite a ways away from it so we decided to just skip it.  It was disappointing, but we were getting tired so we decided to make our back to the hotel.  From where we were it was closer to walk than catch the trolley so we walked.

Paul Revere's house
There are two old cemeteries near our hotel that we visited as we walked back.  The first was King’s Chapel Burial Ground and the second was the more famous Granary Burying Ground where the victims of the Boston Massacre, Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Paul Revere were buried; very interesting.  After that we wanted to get off our feet and it was close to 5:00 so we made our way back to our hotel.

The King's Chapel Burial Ground

Granary Burying Ground

The grave of Sam Adams
Paul Revere's grave.  His parents were also buried here.
John Hancock was buried here.
The grave of the five men killed in the Boston Massacre.
 We hung around the hotel for a while and then went out looking for something to eat.  We weren’t very hungry so we walked around a bit and Val found a place selling falafels which sounded good to her, but I decided not to get anything.  We returned to the hotel and called it a night.  Tomorrow is embarkation day for our Voyage of the Vikings Cruise.

Voyage of the Vikings Cruise - Boston Day 1

We both slept really well last night and didn’t get up until close to 10:00.  By coincidence, our friends, Doug and Ev are also here in Boston for a conference so we had made plans to meet them when they got out of their conference around noon.  Before that we decided to take a tour of Boston on the Old Town Trolley, a hop-on hop-off bus.  We bought tickets online before we left so we made our way to a stop near our hotel to catch the trolley.

The temperature was quite hot and while the humidity was not terrible, it was definitely noticeable.  The first trolley that came by was full, but we did get on one that showed up a few minutes later.  While we were on the bus we received a text from Doug and Ev saying they were out of the conference.  We decided to cut our tour short and got off at a stop in the Theater District to meet them.
Views of Boston from the trolley.

Edgar Allen Poe with the raven coming out of his suitcase.
Edgar Allen Poe Square

A few minutes after we got off the trolley, Doug and Ev walked up and we went to eat lunch in nearby Chinatown.  It was very strange to meet with them so far from home, but very welcome as it’s always more fun to share your travels with good friends.  Ev had read about the Hei La Moon Restaurant, which specialized in dim sum and supposedly the best in Boston so we decided to eat there.  We weren’t disappointed as we had an excellent lunch; very good choice Ev.

Doug, Ev and Dave
The entrance to Boston's Chinatown.

Dave, Val, Ev and Doug
Despite the hot weather, we decided to walk to the Old South Meeting House, which is where the American quest for independence took a step forward when it was decided to show our resolve with the Boston Tea Party. We talked to one of the docents there and she provided interesting details about that meeting, and the determination of Samuel Adams. 

The Old South Meeting House

A docent gave us a lot of interesting details on the events that happened here.
After that we continued our walk to the Old State House, which was near our hotel.  It is fascinating to walk around Boston and see Colonial and Revolutionary War history everywhere you turn, and to be in the actual buildings where such significant events happened.  After touring the Old State House we were all feeling the heat and effects of our walk so we all decided to go to our hotel and rest for a while before dinner.

The Old State House

We were staying at the Omni Parker House, the oldest continuously run hotel in the U.S., and where the original Boston cream pie and Parker House Rolls were created, so we felt we should eat at the hotel and try those out.  We had a good dinner with good conversation and of course we had Parker House rolls with our dinner and Boston cream pie for desert.  For those of you that don’t know, the original Boston cream pie is not a pie, but a kind of sponge cake with a cream filling and chocolate topping.   

The Omni Parker House
Inside the lobby.

The dining room.
The views from our window.

After dinner we went for a short walk and then it was time to say good-bye to Doug and Ev.  It was really great to be able to spend time with them and will be one of the highlights of our trip.  Tomorrow Val and I will be exploring Boston on our own.