by CHARLIE SCHULER
You may know that we have cruised our sailboat extensively for many years, but as the Bible says, “There is a time for everything.” And our time has come and gone.
There is a lot to be said for cruising on a commercial cruise line. They have a great safety record, they serve your every need, and they feed you well prepared, delicious food. One of the things I like most is that you don’t have to pack your bags every day. They have fun things to do on board such as a gym, hot tub, pool, games, casino, and they have great entertainment. It’s really a pretty good deal financially. Some may say that we have sailed a lot, but we still decided to do a 28-day cruise.
Twenty eight days is a long time. But it wasn’t the length of the cruise that was important. It was the ports of call where we stopped, and this was a cruise up the AMAZON RIVER, which I wrote about in an earlier article.
The ship we chose was the VOLENDAM from the Holland America Line. They have been in service for 150 years, and the VOLENDAM is the smallest ship in their fleet; one of the requirements for sailing up the AMAZON RIVER. The river is over 4,000 miles long and up to 6 miles wide, but it had shifting sand bars that had to be avoided. We actually had to wait for high tide to enter the Amazon from the ocean. There was a point that the Captain said we had two feet of water under the keel. The ship was 781 feet long, carried 1432 passengers and had a crew of 580. So even though the ship was the smallest in the fleet it was still an ocean going cruiser.
An interesting thing about the VOLENDAM was that it was recently used as emergency housing for Ukraine refugees. They talked about hundreds of kids running around. They thought the kids really liked ping pong, but then they found all the balls in the toilets. They must have thought the toilets were great receptacles for their game.
We actually spent eleven days on the AMAZON River and in places it was a challenge. The River had flooded and washed away many of the docks so we had to “tender” ashore. This was an adventure in itself. The ship had their own tenders, four of them, which held 40 people at a time. Fully enclosed, but we did have 1,400 passengers on board. So it took a while to move everyone. Getting ashore was a lot easier in our other ports.
There is a tradition that sailors have been following for years when you cross the equator for the first time. They continued that tradition on this ship and had a big affair. It involved King Neptune in costume giving a fun speech, and selected candidates being covered in slime and having to kiss the statue of a fish. There were a lot of candidates and everyone had a really fun time. They gave us degrees that showed we had really crossed the equator with date, time, latitude and longitude.
We departed and returned from the port at Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Our itinerary included stops at Philipsburg, Saint Martin, Castries, St. Lucia, Devils Island, French Guiana, Santarem, Alto do Chao, Parintins, Manaus, Boco Da Valeria, and Belem Brazil. We crossed the equator four different times on this part of the journey. Our next stops were In Barbados, Aruba, Jamaica, and the Bahamas.
There is always some type of activity available for you to do. We tend to take a lot of guided tours. There are normally some physical activities as well available.
We feel we are truly blessed. We got to see the Amazon River and some of its features, like Pink Dolphins. Yes, I said PINK dolphins. They are also called “Boto” or pink river dolphins. We were treated like royalty by the crew on the ship, cruised in paradise, and met some wonderful people.
Yes, we will take another cruise.