I will try to keep this blog post to a reasonable length, but I have a lot to catch you all up on since we left Ohio on September 23rd. After 3 separate plane rides (and a couple of in-flight movies) we made it to Vancouver, BC. We stayed at a cozy little hotel called The Grouse Inn located in North Vancouver. This metropolis is a lot bigger than we anticipated, and its nickname “The Glass City” comes from the multitude of high-rise condominiums that dominate the skyline. Despite its population of almost 2.5 million people, it is also super expensive to live there. So we won’t be building our dream home here anytime soon.
Even though we only spent a short time here we were treated to an amazing day tour by our friends Jeremiah and Dana and their two boys. They were the best tour guides and we’re so happy we have them as new friends! Without them, we would not have seen much of this beautiful city, mainly because it is so huge!
Our tour of Vancouver included walking the Capilano Suspension Bridge, driving across the Lions Gate Bridge through Stanley Park, seeing the Inukshuk monument, cruising through downtown Vancouver, and grabbing lunch at The White Spot. (Travel Tip: If you happen to be in a Canadian restaurant, you must try poutine. Fries + Cheese curd + brown gravy = Delicious!) A real treat was walking in the canopy of lush Red Cedars, Douglas Firs, and Bigleaf Maples along the catwalks that were set up near the Capilano Suspension Bridge.
The next day we took a taxi down to the cruise terminal and successfully made it through all the different check-in lines. It was a little crazy due to the fact that there were 3 cruise ships loading up at the same time. But we made it onto the correct boat!
Since this is our very first cruise, we are impressed by nearly everything. The service, the food, the fitness center, the amenities, and literally the best pillows I’ve ever slept on. Before this trip, we had talked with some friends who were frequent cruisers on what to expect, but there have still been pleasant surprises. For example, the ship has an incredibly extensive movie rental collection. That came in handy during the 5 loooooong sea days between San Diego and Honolulu. Time seems to really drag when you are on a boat. During those 5 sea days we enjoyed a guest lecture series by a Marine Zoologist. Now a lecture may sound boring, but this guy was extremely entertaining and we loved attending each one covering a different topic about ocean life.
Michael and I also signed up for the “Olympics” on board during the sea days. Each sea day there is an “event” at 2pm. The events so far have included a ping-pong serve challenge, putt-putt golf, and basketball free throw. I will try to get some pictures of us participating when I post more about the ship (Maas Noordam, Holland America Line). Anyways, depending on how well you do at each event you accumulate points. At the end of the cruise you can win prizes based on your points. This has been a really fun way to get to know some of the others on board and getting out of our room! In case some of you might be wondering, we are NOT the youngest people on the boat, but we are greatly out-numbered by the older generations. We have seen a few kids here and there, but they are mostly kept up on deck 10 in prison…I mean, Club HAL.
Since this ship stops in Sydney, and eventually in Auckland, we have bumped into a lot of Aussies and New Zealanders heading back home. This has been a real treat to get to know some of them. One older couple in particular, John and Carol, are from New Zealand but now live outside of Brisbane in Australia. John is an excellent chess player and I have yet to beat him in a game, but I’m getting better. Apart from playing chess in the library, there is a casino on board, multiple bars, shopping, a performance hall, an art gallery, 2 pools, Spa and fitness center, multiple places to eat way too much food, a basketball court, and an onboard culinary show. I will try to cover all of that in a separate post in the future about what we learned on our first cruise.
Wednesday night we were able to attend the mid-week Bible study at a congregation here in Central Honolulu. We will admit, it has been a little weird not having an actual Kingdom Hall to attend while we are sailing around on a boat, but we have done our best to keep to our normal schedule of study, reading, and family worship. Plenty of down time when you are in the middle of the ocean!
At the time of this post we are in Honolulu, Hawaii. We will be here in the islands until Saturday – with cell signal – and then headed south to American Samoa – with no cell signal. I will try to catch up on emails and Facebook while we have a connection to civilization. I’m also planning on posting a San Diego Zoo Picture Gallery before we leave Hawaii, so stay tuned for that one if you love animals!