Posted tagged ‘HAL Grand Asia voyage’

Bonine For Breakfast

October 5, 2018


It’s been rough. It’s not that I’m particularly a wuss, but 15 foot swells make it hard to walk around, or even to stand upright. We were sailing perpendicular to the swell all night, heading north, which made for a pretty wild night’s sleep. Here is where being higher up in the ship, which the suites are, is a disadvantage. I’ve been feeling more rocking, rolling, and pitching than my companions on lower floors. But that has also had the happy effect of improving my French vocabulary, as my Québécois friends on board have schooled me in the difference between brassage (being tossed or jumbled around), tangage (being pitched front to back), and a sea that’s roulant (rocking and rolling from side to side).

I felt very lucky to be able to concentrate on a vocabulary lesson and be distracted from the actual events that inspired it. I don’t know how long it takes to get one’s “sea legs” but I sure haven’t gotten them yet.

So far I haven’t felt actually queasy, but then, I don’t want to. The minute my eyes started to feel funny and a little headache nagged at me, I popped a Bonine. It’s kind of a miracle drug, actually, because it prevents mal de mer without making me sleepy. Nobody else I know has admitted to feeling the need to take it, so maybe I am a wuss, but I don’t care in the least.


The sun didn’t rise today until 8:26 a.m., so it looked like this when I awoke. Soon we’ll be heading west into the Bering Sea, threading our way through the Aleutian Islands to Dutch Harbor, on the island of Amaknak. Dutch Harbor has a lot of interesting WWII history associated with it, plus it doesn’t move out from under your feet when you try to stand on it, which seems like a distinct advantage. And also, crab, one of my favorite foods, is what to eat in town. I can’t wait to get there!

Halfway There

October 3, 2018


On a long cruise there are definitely “port people” and “sea day people.” I am 100% a port person. Whereas the sea day people on board are pretty happy right about now, I can’t wait to get to our next port. The sea day people bask by the pool, play trivia and bingo and bridge, and revel in their relaxation. Me, I’m always thinking about ports to come, and how to maximize my time there, not to mention being glued to the news via the New York Times. So far I haven’t left it all behind, and I suspect that I never will.

And we’re just halfway to our next port, having come 1200 nautical miles from Los Angeles, with 1200 more to go to our first stop in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Just to add a few more geeky details, we are traveling at approximately 24 miles per hour, some 30 miles off the west coast of the U.S.,  in water that’s 1435 feet deep. The ambient air temperature is currently 61°, skies are clear, and the water checks in at 64°, which is surprisingly warmer than Puget Sound.

Although that all sounds pretty smooth, morning tai chi class has its hilarious moments. “Step left, heel down, now toe down, and shift your weight forward,” says our instructor. The ship pays no attention and suddenly shifts everyone’s weight sharply to the right, causing a roomful of arms to flap wildly as we all struggle to retain our balance. A few people sit down rather suddenly. Moving around the ship I find that I can’t walk in a straight line, although I usually avoid bouncing off the walls.

That’s speaking literally. Figuratively, I am bouncing lightly off the walls with incipient boredom, and am spending a lot of time in my beautiful room. Want to see? This is what Holland America calls a Neptune Suite, and it’s really quite wonderful.


I have a king-size bed,


a really nice sitting area with a desk, which is where I’m sitting right now.


My room has its own espresso machine


and a nice bar hidden behind the mirrored wall.


There’s also a dressing room and closet space just outside the bathroom, which reveals that I still have one suitcase that is not fully unpacked. That’s my next project, putting away all the miscellaneous toiletries and stuff that still haven’t settled in to their proper storage locations.


And I also have a huge balcony that makes me regret that I’m not a napper. I can even have room service meals on the balcony, although I haven’t done that yet.

Last year on this voyage the weather prevented the ship from getting into Dutch Harbor, and I’m fervently hoping that we’ll have better luck. I’m curious about the place and its history, and already longing to get my feet on terra firma, and very possibly trying out my new pack-in-a-pouch rain poncho.

Tonight’s a dress-up night in the dining room, where everyone will dress in black and gold. I’ll see if I can get a few pictures for you of folks in their finery. And I’m going to try to learn to enjoy sea days, which would be a good survival tactic, considering that we have about 40-45 more of them coming up. If you’re a cruiser and have any tips about that for me, please do share!

Half At Sea

September 21, 2018


Today I’m beginning to slip my bonds. I’m still a land-based operation, but my thoughts are already adrift. I don’t feel mired in the mud, like the boat next door, but I’m definitely in that halfway dream place between here and gone.


My bags are packed and have been transported to who-knows-where. A cheerful blond FedEx guy came and took them away, but he didn’t know where they would live until being put on the ship. All I know is that they are supposed to be waiting for me when I board, which is now just two days away.

I have three cases of wine packed up to take on board with me, but getting them on board is worrying me a bit. I’m fervently hoping that I won’t have to drag them onto the ship all by myself. Just as I’m hoping not to have to drink them all by myself. Nothing would please me more than to find new friends on board with whom to share them.

If you’re planning to follow my trip, you should know that the first part of the itinerary is going to be decidedly peculiar. For about 10 days it will consist of a kind of demented sailing up and down and up again along the west coast, before finally getting serious and heading west. Victoria, Vancouver, Astoria, San Francisco, Los Angeles, then Dutch Harbor, Alaska and Petropavlovsk. Next stop, Japan. Take a look at the map. See what I mean?


I think all that backing and forthing will be most interesting when it comes to the weather. I expect to be bundling up and shedding my warm layers with some regularity during those 10 days, but as a denizen of the Pacific Northwest, such a prospect doesn’t faze me. Besides it’s autumn, notoriously fickle weather is to be expected. And on our first stops I’m going to do wine tours of the Fraser and Cowichan valleys, which strikes me as a particularly auspicious beginning to it all.

The Internet situation on the ship has been improved since the last time I cruised, so I’m hoping that French Letters will have a relatively easy time telling you all about it. See you at sea!