December 7th, 2010

Tripwander: Cruise Wrapup

Carol Jeff Formal Night-500W.jpg

Prior to our cruise, I hadn't had a drink in a couple of months, mostly because alcohol and Tylenol don't mix, and I was scarfing those to keep myself sane until the shingles rash on my back went away. So this trip I rediscovered the delights of a good pina colada, which really depends on two things: 1) ice crushed fine enough in the blender, and 2) enough but not too much booze. Holland America does a lot of things well, and one of them is the festive and yet humble pina colada. First rate.

The food, as on most cruise lines, was excellent, and I noticed something else: The portions were smaller. I'm more than fine with that, since I'd rather have a smaller quantity of really good food and not bring it home on my waistline.

dicapac-front-500W.jpg

Way back in the summer, when we still thought we were going to Hawaii in October for our anniversary, I bought a clever thingie on eBay called a Dicapac WP-110. It sounds like an over-the-counter nausea remedy (nausea remedies were much on my mind last week) but it is in fact a heavy duty resealable plastic bag sized for various digital cameras. Sounds dicey, but for something so much cheaper than an underwater hard case ($25 vs. $175) it worked pretty well. There are many models, all the way up to the big 'un for SLRs. Make sure you check which model fits which cameras.

dicapac-test-pool-350W.jpgTesting it was a challenge. We had hoped to bring home pictures of fish and coral and such, but as I'd mentioned earlier, both of our snorkel trips were canceled due to rough water and high winds. Our last day at sea, I put my beat-to-hell spare Kodak V530 in the bag and dunked it in the midships pool. Fish were scarce, but I did get a good shot of Carol's ankles, and, more to the point, no water got into the bag with the camera.

Framing the shot was hard because of reflective effects; you have to be looking square at the LCD display or optical weirdness will occur. Pushing the camera buttons is a challenge, and early practice (both above water and in something easy like a pool) will be a great help. I guess the really big issue is to make sure the seal is sealed. It's a ziplock plastic bag, after all, and if you "cross-thread" the meshing plastic tracks, you'll flood the bag and probably lose the camera.

collarextender.jpgPerhaps because of its older demographic, Holland America is not as informal as other lines like Carnival. On 7-day cruises there are still two nights where dinner is formal, and to avoid packing a suit I rented a tux from the ship. The cost was not outrageous, and apart from a little tightness in the shirt collar (fixed with a cheap plastic collar extender, of which I always keep a few in my travel bag) the tux fit perfectly.

In summary, we had a great time not doing much (well, ok, I read three books) and escaping a winter that is descending far too quickly. We hadn't gotten out on the open seas like this since 2004, and (seasickness notwithstanding) it was long past time.