It is hard to believe that it will be 20 years in May of 2013 since our Honeymoon cruise on the Holland America Rotterdam – the Grande Old Dame version circa 1958 (went out of service in 2000)! Over the last several days, I have been scanning and retouching our 35mm photos from that cruise and I am reminded what a perfect way that cruise was for us to start our lives together. I also have to wonder at times, “Who are those skinny young people in these pictures”? I have posted all the pictures in our Gallery pages.
Before we even got engaged, my husband was talking about his dream honeymoon trip being a cruise to Alaska just like he had watched in the old Love Boat TV show as a teenager. It sounded really good to me, so when he proposed, we actually planned our wedding date around available Alaskan cruises. We even decided to get married on a Friday night so that we could fly to Vancouver on Saturday and be in the port city the day before the cruise.
I had been on 5 previous cruises, but this was to be Steve’s first cruise. We both agreed that we wanted to cruise on Holland America, despite the fact that we knew the average age on board would be about 75. We knew that they offered extremely high levels of service and quality. I had experienced these nice touches during my 1980 cruise on the Stattendam. Word of mouth from other frequent cruisers had convinced my husband that this line would be a good fit for our honeymoon, even despite the age difference between us and most other passenger. We mostly wanted to relax, enjoy good conversation and good food, and get to experience Alaska for the first time for both of us together.
We were never disappointed in what this ship and its crew had to offer. The old Rotterdam was a grand old lady built originally for Atlantic crossings and we loved that she paid homage to days of less hurried travel. Most of the rooms in this older ship still had twin beds, but my husband booked us early enough that he was able to get us one of the few rooms with a Queen size bed and two port holes. Though it was small, it made our trip all the more romantic. Alaska did not disappoint either. We loved taking in all the sights from the upper decks or promenade deck of the ship. The Alaskan itinerary usually had us arriving in port mid morning rather than first thing in the morning. Those arrival times afforded us the opportunity to sleep in and then take in the beautiful surroundings as we approached our port. The long days meant that even after dinner we could still take in sunset views from an upper deck or even out our little port hole. We spent many a day just looking out over the water and spotting wild life like seals, puffins, whales, eagles and even a bear. Experiencing all of this beauty together for the first time really created a special bond between us. To this day, we still talk about the Orcas we saw in Sitka or the majesty and awesome power of the glaciers.
The ship’s low key nightlife even worked out perfectly for us. My husband is not a big dancer, so disco or ballroom dancing wasn’t something that he would enjoy spending many hours doing. However, he does love to listen to music and enjoy a drink or two. The Rotterdam had a terrific sing along piano bar, much like the one that my family had enjoyed on the Stattendam 13 years earlier. The gentleman that played there was a virtuoso when it came to show tunes and standards. I had just finished playing Bonnie in a community theater production of Anything Goes, the famous Cole Porter musical set on a cruise ship. Cole Porter tunes, along with other show tunes and standards, were firmly planted in my head too. When he (the piano guy, not Steve) and I got together the first night of the cruise, it was like we had been destined to perform together all our lives. He would play and sing and then he’d play a song for me to sing with him. After the first night, the other piano loungers told us that we had to come and sing there every night. All they had to do to convince my new husband to come along was to buy him a few drinks and add in a little good conversation.
The formal dining room experience also provided a highlight for us. The ship had a few casual nights, but most nights were either semi-formal or formal. My husband packed a tuxedo and suit for those nights and I had plenty of dresses to make each evening special. The head waiter suggested a table for two for us on embarkation day and that worked perfectly for us as young honeymooners. Our waiter, Dipa, though a little lacking in his English language skills, made up for that deficit in enthusiasm and personality. This was one of our first times to dine out together for so many nights in a row and to order a variety of wines. By the end of the cruise, we had definitely found a few favorites varietals.
The excursions also provided a great bonding opportunity. To this day, the only time my husband and I have ever ridden in a helicopter was our Mendenhall Glacier Flight Tour in Juneau. I suppose it is also the only time we have ever walked on a glacier. Touching and viewing the majestic power of that glacier provided us with an experience that will last us a lifetime. We also enjoyed the Sitka Russian Folk Dancers and white water rafting in Valdez. Both of those experiences are ones we often reference when attending other art performances and outdoor experiences.
It is hard to quantify exactly what made this particular cruise the perfect honeymoon cruise for us 20 years ago. Perhaps it was that it provided a new experience for both of us, or that it wasn’t a constant on-the-go party, or that the service levels allowed us to just relax and enjoy each other, but whatever it was, it certainly provided us with a sound foundation on which we could build our marriage. We thank God that nearly 20 years and two children later, we are still as in love as we were for our honeymoon. As I look back on that cruise, I can’t think of a better way to start.