Thursday, November 3, 2011

Penguin's Cruise to Bermuda

Penguin cruises to Bermuda by Penguin Scott

The trip hadn’t started off as I had hoped, yet as I emerged from the underground tunnel of the East River into Manhattan, I smiled and knew things would be fine. It was a beautiful fall day in New York and Stevie Nicks was on the radio; this was a good sign. The buildings looked down on me and people moved about seemingly at a slower pace than normal for the city. It was still early in the morning on a Sunday and I was so very tired. Maybe everyone was.

Penguin on the Veendam sails down the Hudson

I’d flown in on the redeye from San Francisco and had been expecting to be in first class. The flight loads had been looking good for this to happen until an hour before the flight, when all of a sudden there were more people clamoring for seats than were open on the flight. So instead of a nice lie-flat seat where I could get a decent nap on the 6 hour flight, I had to ride in the one and only open flight attendant jump seat. As a flight attendant, I fly for free if there are open seats, which includes the jump seat. Open jump seats have saved my trips more times than I’d like to admit.

Another wonderful benefit of my job is access to inexpensive cruise vacations. Cruise lines do not like empty rooms on a cruise ship for some reason, so they often dump open rooms for really cheap on a few web sites I have access to. The prices are so attractive, they are often very difficult to refuse. And this time, I had the time off from work due to an injury and my travel account had money in it to cover the costs. All I needed was a travel companion.

When cruising, I never care where the ship goes; I cruise for the experience of being on a ship and not for the destination. I like the pampering and how rich I feel on a cruise. I like dressing up for 5-course dinners and taking in a show afterwards. I love meeting people at high tea and enjoy a glass of bubbly at the art auctions. Yes, cruising is a great way to pamper one’s self and for me, it’s quite affordable.

Of course, when trying to find a companion, everyone wants to know where it’s going. This one was to Bermuda. I’d never been, so that was alluring for me. I love putting another pin in the map of places I’ve gone. But I wasn’t overly excited about Bermuda; I’ve done islands so many times. No, this vacation was simply about being on a boat, clear and simple.

My problem with cruise deals, which are often very last minute, is that my friends can never seem to get the time from work. Or if they can, they don’t have the money. And even though my friends can’t fly for free, which makes the vacation a little more expensive for them, it’s still a deal that’s hard to pass up. But even as attractive as these cruise deals were, there were not enough and the ship sailed without me.

The following week, the web site again had the same deal for the same ship to the same destination. I tried again to find a companion. After a few more days, the deal was still there and I decided, screw it, I’d go by myself! I called on a Wednesday and booked it and started getting ready right away, I’d be leaving in only 3 days. I’d have to pay double for going alone, and that plus the taxes was still a good deal. So Saturday night, I was off to the airport for my little vacation.

And what a rocky start it was. Had that jump seat not been available, it would have been very hard to get to the boat in time, as the next flight in the morning wouldn’t allow me time enough to get to the pier. I could have flown overnight to Chicago or Boston, but those flights were also oversold. As upset as I was to be missing out on enjoying champagne in first class, I was just happy to be on the flight and headed for New York.

Everything else worked out great. The weather was wonderful; clear, blue skies, very comfortable temperatures, slight breeze. My plan was to take the subway, but the flight attendant advised me of a bus that, for just a few extra dollars, would be so much better. It was. It deposited me about a mile from the pier. I was going to take a taxi, but it was just so beautiful, I decided to walk; after all, my bags rolled just fine. And what a wonderful walk it was, taking me through part of Hell’s Kitchen.

I was one of the first to arrive at the port and was rewarded with a number one card for boarding. I checked in easily and after a slight wait for the ship to be ready, boarded Holland America’s MS Veendam, the smallest ship I’d been on yet. She was decked out in flags fluttering in the breeze and seemed even smaller against the wall of towering buildings from Manhattan.

After boarding, I first went to my stateroom and immediately met the two men who would be servicing it all week. They called me by name and I was quite impressed! After a quick look around the boat, I found my way to the Lido for lunch and took some photos on my phone so I could impress my friends back home with the fact that I was on a wonderful cruise vacation. Maybe next time I could drag a few with me!

Sailing down the Hudson River alongside the tall buildings of Manhattan was quite impressive. Sailing past the Statue of Liberty was a thrill. Going under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was neat. And I even liked the high-rolling seas on our first night. I’m an odd bird; love turbulence in the air and feeling the boat move on the seas if fine with me. My room was at the very rear of the boat, so I feeling the seas would be certain!

I liked this ship. It was smaller than most these days, but very quaint and elegant. The show room had tables like an old cabaret might. There was only one pool which could be covered in inclement weather. And, fortunately for me, it was easy to meet people, as one was constantly running into the same people. It’s easy to get to know people on a smaller boat and I really liked that, especially since I was sailing solo.

On the very first day I started meeting others. By the second day I’d met more and by the third day I had found a group of friends to do things with. We had happy hour every night and there was never a worry for whom to dine with at dinner (I had been assigned open dining, which meant I didn’t have an assigned table with the same table mates all week). In port, I usually did my own thing, and actually, I never even left the boat at our first port stop in Bermuda. Days were always full with activities, lectures, shows, lessons and such. Of course, most days, I found a need to squeeze in a nap to keep up with my nocturnal activities. These included the after-dinner show in the theater and usually ended up with music and dancing in the Crow’s Nest, the club at the top and front of the vessel.

My new friends were really fun; mostly other flight attendants. They got to know some of the actors from the show, and before I knew it, we were having them dine with us at dinner. It was fun getting to hear about their time spent on the ship and how they rehearsed for the shows. I also enjoyed the attention from others, eyeing us as they recognized the performers.

Dinner with new friends and a few of the actors.

I had a wonderful week and found this to be the best cruise vacation I’ve had so far. The food was fantastic, best of the three ships I’ve been on. I gained about 7 pounds during the week, and that was even after avoiding the midnight buffets! I got to speak with the captain while he made pizza and went on a tour the main kitchen. I enjoyed exploring Bermuda and taking photos. The best part of the cruise was making so many new friends; from Ruth, who was celebrating her 100th birthday, to a group of American Airlines retirees I met at tea. And if I thought I was hooked on cruising before, well, I’m hopeless now. Let’s go!

This link takes you to highlight photos from my trip:

If you want to see more, see the videos or were on my cruise and want to see photos I may have taken of you, the rest of my photos are found at this link:

1 comment:

  1. My first solo cruise was to Bermuda, and I loved it. It's a great place to be solo, and solo cruising is the best. Happily, I'm returning to Bermuda this Sunday; sadly, it will not be solo.

    I can only hope my non-solo trip doesn't go as poorly as your last non-solo trip! I found this blog through your post on Cruise Critic and have read the entire post about your recent experience. My condolences on the camera--I pray that never happens to me, though with the frequency I travel, I'm sure the odds are not with me!

    Happy travels!