Our first sea day was filled with wonderful activities!
We have been interested in Tai Chi, but never tried it on our previous cruises when it was offered. Today when we saw it was being offered on this Grand World Voyage we decided to head down to the Queens Lounge at 9 AM to give it a try.
About 50 other guests were in the Queens Lounge for the first class – we were all in the lower level – and the instructor introduced us to the concept of Tai Chi and explained how the class would work. There are 24 steps in Tai Chi and eventually we would learn them all. The entire experience was very relaxing and calm and I had to fight a temptation to speed things up – as that would be really missing the point. We enjoyed it and will probably be taking part during most sea days.
One of the many wonderful aspects of a Grand World Voyage is the opportunity to try many new activities or see a variety of live entertainment.
It’s a Small World
As we were leaving Fort Lauderdale a friend texted me that he just learned that another couple they knew were also leaving on the Grand World Voyage. He shared their contact information with me and we spoke briefly on the phone with the other couple and decided to meet for coffee this morning in the Explorations Café. We had a wonderful chat and we will be seeing more of them as the cruise continues.
Coffee with Hamish .
On the schedule at 9:30 was “Coffee with Hamish and EXC Guide Barbara”. I am not sure if this was a one time event or something that will occur every sea day. The Explorers Lounge was packed, but I didn’t have a chance to hang around as I had another commitment at the same time.
Knitting and Stitching
Based on earlier reports from previous HAL cruisers we learned that HAL was no longer as liberal with inserting meeting times for private groups into the “When & Where”. Other folks had mentioned that requests to include a meeting time for a sit and stitch group were specifically denied. Consequently, we posted an announcement on our roll call that we would meet at 10 am in the Crow’s Nest to ‘Sit & Stitch’.
As it turned out, the ship did include an announcement for an unhosted “Sit, Knit, Needlework and More (non hosted)” in the Explorers lounge at 10:30. The 10:30 group turned out to be a meeting of the group sponsoring the “Linus Project” that provides yarn to anyone interested in knitting or crocheting a square to be assembled into blankets that would be donated later to worthwhile charities.
We decided to stick with our 10 AM time in the Crows Nest to avoid conflicting with their efforts as Judy will be leading seminars on various knitting topics as well as giving basic knitting instruction as part of our World Knitting Cruise. We didn’t have time to do much knitting today as the Crows Nest started to fill for our Cruise Critic roll call at 1100.
Cruise Critic Meet and Greet
About 200 people had signed up for the roll call, and after speaking with Kathi, the roll call coordinator, about 150 were present to claim their name tags. She estimated another 50 or so people attended who hadn’t RSVP’d.
Grand World Voyages (GWV) have a large number of people who have made previous GWV’s. Some people go every year, others every few years, and for many this is their first GWV. I would like to knock down a perception that veteran world cruisers are cliquish or not welcoming to new comers. While it may be intimidating to see so many people greeting each other as long lost friends, we have found that 99% of the people we have met are very open and welcoming and it makes no difference if this is your 1st or 15th World Cruise or whether you are going full circle or a segment – our experience had been very positive with a ship full of friendly people.
The best way to get to meet other people is to start attending as many activities as you can and chat up your neighbors – you will quickly make many friends often for years to come.
As we were getting ready to get started we were pleasantly surprised to see Captain Jonathan Mercer arrive greeting everyone as he moved to the center of the room. We didn’t have a sound system, so after we got the room’s attention, Captain Jonathan welcomed us all to the 2018 Grand World Voyage and wished us all a fantastic cruise. He stayed for another 10 minutes or so posing for some pictures and chatting with guests in small groups.
The Meet and Greet proceeded with some announcements from folks arranging the Slot Pull, Mah Jong, morning exercises, or other activities. Everyone thanked Scrapnana (Kathi) for moderating the roll call and making the Meet and Greet Arrangements. We also gave Kathy (LuvsACruise) a special shout out for her creation of a wonderful photo book that was chock full of information along with photos of the roll call participants.
Many people prepare simple business cards to use on cruises with their basic contact information. These are very handy to carry as you will often meet people who you will want to meet up with later and it saves you time searching for a pen and paper to write down their information. Get some before you leave. You can even have them printed with your cabin number – and they are so fast nowadays – even folks with a guarantee cabin could probably get a batch printed after they learned their cabin number.
Lunch in the Lido
We had a light lunch in the Lido and joined a very friendly table of ladies who were from The Villages in Florida. We had heard about The Villages before, but never had the chance to learn more from people who lived there. They are big fans and we enjoyed our conversation and learning more about all aspects of living in this wonderful community.
There are two $30 Texas Hold’em tournaments every sea day as opposed to a single $60 tournament that I was used to seeing on other cruises. The lower entry fee should encourage more participation and with 2 tournaments daily we will have many opportunities to play.
I missed the morning game but played in the afternoon game. If you have any interest in learning to play Texas Hold’em – playing on a cruise ship is the best place to get some experience – the games are more friendly then the ones you will find in shore side casinos. The $30 tournaments are also a good place to start as you can get familiar with the basics and your losses are limited to $30 per session (about 1 hour). And you may even win your first tournament like I did in 2016.
I got knocked out about half way thru my first tournament. I raised pre-flop with pocket Kings with one other player remaining for the flop – which included a pair of deuces – (which gave my opponent a set (three of a kind) unbeknownst to me at the time) – and he put me all-in. The turn and the river were no help and I was out of my first tournament.
The Photo Gallery is offering an amazing price for an “All Inclusive” photo package. For $319 you will get a print of every photo taken of you during the entire cruise. This includes candids, gangways and formal shots. For an extra $60 you can get digital versions of all the prints as well. Or you can forgo the hard copy prints and get only the digitals for $319. This is about ½ the price from my previous world cruise and is a real bargain. But don’t you already have thousands of pictures and don’t need any more? We keep the digital versions on our computer and use them as screen savers so we see them on rotation when we are at home. There are also inexpensive, high resolution photo frames available – nixplay for one, where you can load all your cruise photos and enjoy them year-round. It’s fun to see one of your old pictures pop up and it stimulates very fond memories of your past cruises.
We had signed up for a Dolphin Swim and Stingray Tour thru HAL but we were informed this afternoon that this tour was canceled due to low participation. We looked at other options, but decided to make tomorrow a day to sleep in and go ashore later in the day for some exploration on foot.
I stopped by the Queens Lounge to see if they had a quorum for a Bingo Game – on other cruises, getting to the minimum number was a challenge, but not today. There were at least 40 people looking to win the big jackpot. We will probably play a few times during the cruise, but not today.
We heard from others that the first day of Crafts had a huge turnout – over 50 people – and that the Watercolor Class was almost Standing Room Only.
I won’t list every activity here, but check out the daily When and Where on my blog. You will see the amazing number of choices, with many now being offered only on Grand Voyages.
The Grand Dollars that were used on earlier cruises, have been replaced by something called Grand Activities. I posted the announcement we received on the blog. The bottom line: Grand Dollars have been replaced by Vouchers that can be exchanged for Amazon Gift Cards. More to come as I learn about the value of each voucher. Sounds like the ship wanted to get out of the business of distributing and tracking the Grand Dollars used on previous cruises.
Door Decorations – RIP
There was a note in our room this afternoon informing us that any door decoration was going to be removed and placed in our cabin. This is being enforced as you don’t see any doors with any decorations. There may be a few here and there, but I suspect they will be corrected soon as we progress.
Tonight, we enjoyed the Veal Parmigiana and Five Onion Soup. All quite delicious. Menus are always available on the blog and I won’t repeat all the choices here.
We are at table 303, late seating, on the upper level and the dining room is probably 75% full. Not sure how things look on the first level or at first seating.
The Queens Lounge
We didn’t have a show the first night due to the late departure, so tonight was opening night in the Queens Room. Cruise Director, Hamish, opened the show by introducing some of the special instructors; Crafts, Watercolors, Bridge, Rabbi and Minister, Drawing (haven’t seen this class yet). Next up he introduced the rest of his full time team – the assistant cruise directors Mario and Amanda, American Test Kitchen Host Amanda, EXC Guide Barbara and Librarian (missed her name)
ABBA FAB – Abba Fabulous!
Our favorite show was the first show – Abba Fab – with Terry, Anne, Kat and Nick – Terry and Anne’s son. If you like Abba – you will love Abba Fab – easily the best tribute band performance on the high seas. We have seen them many times before and they never disappoint. They put on a high energy show, that plays all the great Abba hits and you will be dancing in the aisles before the show is over. In addition to being great performers they are all really nice people and they love to chat with guests afterwards and pose for pictures.
Our First Pillow Gifts
Another feature of Grand World Voyages are the “pillow gifts”. Every couple of weeks or so, we will return to our cabin and find a nice surprise – Tonight were two lovely Messenger Bags. Photos of the pillow gifts will be listed on the blog under 2018 Grand World Voyage Reference.
Say it ain’t so
As a final note we heard that as many as 100 people may have missed the ship due to the bad weather across the northeast. This number seems high, and I will try and confirm from other sources.This entry was posted in Uncategorized