South American Cruise 2012 Update #2

Monday, October 22nd; Day 5 of 21 on the trip; Day 3 of 18 on the cruise; Still At Sea.

Today was a nice quiet relaxing day once I got finished sending Update #1 out.  Unfortunately the wireless internet in my stateroom (as they call it) is just weak enough that I need to go to a nearby lobby area to make it work correctly. It “sort of” works from here but it is unreliable, so going down the hall the short distance (maybe 50 feet) is worth it to limit the frustrations that trying to connect reliably from here seem to cause. I suspect that this ship, being a bit older, is likely using older wireless endpoints that do not have the range of newer ones.

I have had some interesting thoughts about this ship. The Veendam is 16 years old. It is 720 feet long and 101 feet wide. The most common thing that I seem to keep noticing is how short this ship seems to be. After all, the last ship I was on in the spring was only a year and a half old at the time and is close to 950 feet long. I keep thinking that there should be four sets of stairs and there are only two (an effect of the shorter length). I also keep thinking deck 6 should be deck 3. This would be right on most new ships but this is an older ship and was numbered in an older fashion. I am quite surprised at just how much these differences and others I see keep jumping out at me as I move around it. They have not done a bad job of maintaining the ship but there are various places where its age shows.

The weather today continued as it was yesterday; mostly sunny with a few clouds here and there. The temperature seems to be rising as every hour passes and the ship moves farther south. It is now quite warm, probably in the high 70’s or low 80’s F and expected to increase further. The sea state on both days has been fairly calm and getting calmer.

Not much more to say about today. I did take a few pictures but most of what you see is water so I will not include any here.

Tomorrow is the first stop on the cruise; Port Canaveral, FL, where I go on a shore excursion to the nearby Kennedy Space Centre. The last time I was there happened some months (or more) after the space shuttle Challenger exploded and occurred during a March school break.  This was the same trip that the big Mickey and Minnie stuffed mice I have at home returned on. This was one of the earliest trips I took and I rented a car in Orlando and drove to the Space Centre and back in one day (which is not any great problem as the drive is just over an hour and a half each way if I remember correctly).

On to tomorrow!!!!

Tuesday, October 23rd; Day 6 of 21 on the trip; Day 4 of 18 on the cruise; Port Canaveral, Florida.

The ship arrived outside the entrance to the port in lots of time (or what seemed like lots of time to me anyway) but was held up because the port was briefly closed due to some military related traffic. Apparently a section of Port Canaveral harbour is a navy base which also includes a submarine base. Nobody seemed exactly sure what this was but it did mean things got delayed by what in the end was close to an hour.

The shore excursion I booked for today was called the Kennedy Space Center Up Close Tour. This is considered the most complete of the tours available of the Kennedy Space Center. It was scheduled to take 8 hours and I believe it did. The tour had to be reorganized slightly to allow for the delayed arrival of the ship but special permission was given by the ship to allow it to return a bit later than scheduled. This was not really a problem as the ship was not scheduled to leave Port Canaveral until 8:00PM and we were back by 4:30 maybe 4:45 I think it was.

The pickup at the cruise terminal was by NASA Kennedy Space Centre buses of which there were two. I think I heard that the number going was 78 or there about on this tour. There were two other buses taking people on a less detailed tour. It took between 30 and 45 minutes to get to the space center from Port Canaveral even though you could see it from the ship. There is some ocean and a river that you need to go around and over to get there. There was a guide, some tickets and some other information that was handed out during the ride.

Once there we entered and had a bit of free time to look around before going on the bus tour that takes you around the site. I will include a few pictures to show some highlights of this once I decide which ones. As those of you reading this are all well aware, I tend to take many, many, many pictures and this was no exception.  In this case I think there is something like 250 to choose from.

The rocket garden at the Kennedy Space Centre

The main visitor area.

The tail and engine cowlings of the Space Shuttle Atlantis in storage in the Vehicle Assemble Building in this heavily edited and enhanced image. It is being moved to its new home at the Kennedy Space Centre’s visitor centre a short distance from here on November 2nd in a big media event.

One of the crawler transporters that were used to transport the Space Shuttle from the Vehicle Assembly Building on the right to the launch pad some 3.5 miles away.

This is the actual launch pad that sat on top the crawler transporter with the shuttle on top.

The best view of the vehicle assembly building with the special road the crawler used in the foreground.

Launch Pad 39B as it was configured for the last space shuttle flights (along with some window reflections). All of the missions that landed on the moon lifted off from here and after reconstruction many space shuttle flights. See the sign in the next picture to see how many shuttle flights actually did take off from here. All of the later and last space shuttle flights were launched from here.

Pad 39B from the ocean side with a sign indicating all the launches that occurred there. The bigger ones on the left are the moon missions and the all others are space shuttle flights.

This tour ends at what I think is called the Saturn 5 centre. It is a large (it has to be considering what is in it) building that contains the only remaining Saturn 5 rocket. This is the type of rocket that was used to launch all the missions that went to the moon and was 363 feet tall. This one had been built but the moon landing program was cancelled and they were not able to use it. It had been on display outside the large Vehicle Assembly Building for many years but was starting to rust due to the exposure to the elements. It has been refurbished and looks quite good now.

Below are a couple of pictures showing what you see here. You first attend a multimedia presentation that includes a simulated launch in a simulated control room that uses the original consoles that were used to really launch the Saturn 5. The picture below shows this simulated control room.

When you come out of the simulated control room shown in the picture above you see what is in the picture on the left below which is the business end of the first stage of a Saturn 5 rocket. It is a rather impressive sight especially if you are not expecting it that suddenly.

The second picture shows the top of the rocket (or the other end when laying on its side as it is here) with the Appolo Capsule and escape tower on top. The whole thing was 363 feet high when assembled and standing vertically on launch pad 39B. I first saw this very rocket on my first visit to the Kennedy Space Centre in the early 1980’s when it was outside.

From there a bus took us back to the Visitor Centre and we had a few minutes to look around before seeing a 3D IMAX movie about the building of the International Space Station. It was quite impressive all be it is somewhat dated.

After the 45 minute movie ended we returned to the bus and then back to the ship.

Here is a picture of the major buildings of the Kennedy Space Centre taken from deck 14 of the Veendam at the dock in Port Canaveral with a telephoto lens.

Later the ship sailed heading for Ft Lauderdale only 11 hours or somewhere around 175 nautical miles to the south.

Wednesday, October 24th; Day 7 of 21 on the trip; Day 5 of 18 on the cruise; Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The Captain was hoping to be docked by 8:00AM but did not actually make it until around 9:00 do to what I think were weather related problems this time. Hurricane Sandy was approaching from the south, near Jamaica at this point, and the winds and seas were showing indications of this. Two tugboats were required to get the ship to the dock and it still was a bit of a fight mainly due to the wind conditions. Other than the wind it started out cloudy with a few quickly passing showers but this gave way to mostly sunny with a few clouds by midmorning. The wind stayed fairly consistent. The temperature started in the 70’s F and went up from there peaking around 85F.

I originally had not booked a shore excursion here but one called “Land and Sea” was available which I had not seen on the internet so I booked it here on the ship.  It was a half day excursion; half of which was done by bus with a short 15 minute walk and the other half on a small tour boat.

The tour of Fort Lauderdale showed a long fine sandy beach with many high end ritzy looking hotels just across the road from it. It almost seems that one needs to be rich to live here as well. Some of the photos that follow will make this fairly clear. It has also gained the name of “Venice of North America” because much of the city is built on manmade islands, something that you will also note from the pictures. One other thing you will likely notice is that there are a lot of boats of all sizes but most seem to be rather large yachts. Apparently there are some 41,000 boats of various sizes (it would seem mostly large as you will soon see) and shapes registered in Fort Lauderdale alone.

Here are a few pictures to illustrate the points noted above.

The beach.

The Intercostal Waterway.

For the picture above…
You can park your yacht right at you back door here.

For the picture above…

The New River (that is its name).
Fort Lauderdale was founded along its banks.

One of the original homes here, now a museum.

One of the more expensive homes here around $35,000,000.

This one, which looks a bit like the White House in Washington, is available for something around $15,000,000.

Here is a yacht for sale. It even has a built in garage for your runabout. You can have this for a cool $215,000,000.
(Yes that is correct, and I am not kidding either!!!!)

The Veendam at its dock.

Here is a line up for you.

Most of this is private man made islands with road access on one side and boat access on the other.

Most of the inside shots of the old TV series Mami Vice were filmed in this house thus it is known as the Mami Vice House.

Part of the reason for all the big yachts around was that the annual Fort Lauderdale boat show was opening the next day. This is the site of the show.

The New River as our somewhat more modest boat headed back to its dock.

The more modest boat I was on called the Carrie B.

Downtown Fort Lauderdale from deck 14 of the Veendam.

The excursion returned around 12:30 or there about.,  and I went and had lunch.

And now a few words about hurricane Sandy. On our arrival this morning the Captain had come on and told us about the problems Sandy was going to cause us. Here, in brief, is what he said. At that time Sandy was over or just south of Jamaica and was heading towards eastern Cuba. The normal route the ship would take after leaving Fort Lauderdale would be slightly east of south towards Cuba and then along the north side of Cuba traveling east to the channel that separates Cuba from the island that has Haiti and the Dominican Republic which has a name that I cannot remember at the moment. The ship would then pass through that channel and then follow a straight line to the San Blas islands our next stop which are located just to the east of the entrance to the Panama Canal and are part of Panama. Needless to say that would take us right through the path of Sandy which at this point is a category 2 hurricane. So the decision was made to come out of Fort Lauderdale and go south only go west basically following the curve of the Florida Keys and across the Florida Strait and west along the north side of Cuba and then turning south passing through what I think is the Yucatan Strait on the west end of Cuba between it and Cancun, Mexico and then following a straight line from there to San Blas island. He also wanted to leave an hour earlier than scheduled to try to avoid the worst of the already building seas and increasing winds that were already affecting Fort Lauderdale. The actual weather, other than the wind, was not that bad after the early morning showers and associated clouds blew away during the middle part of the morning.

So the time came to do the lifeboat drill for the 400 additional passengers that boarded here. The ship now has 1280 passengers, a full load for this ship. The Captain tried to sail at 4:00 but a big container ship beat him to it so he had to wait briefly. Sometime around 3:30 if not a bit earlier two tug boats appeared and sat there pushing the ship up against the dock so they could get the lines securing the ship to the dock off and at about 4:15 the departure began. The ship was parked bow (or front) in and the tugs helped back it out and do a just over 180 degree turn to get it into the channel out to the ocean and away we went. When the ship got out through the channel the full force of the wind came to bear (a lot stronger than on the land) and the waves were crashing pretty well along the side of the ship. I think the land was protected from the worst of the winds by the large hotel buildings along much of the beach. Witness the poor pilot boat trying to get to the ship to take the pilot off.

Shortly after this picture was taken the ship turned to protect the pilot boat and the transfer was done without a hitch. The early evening continued with much pitching around that quickly started to settle down as the evening progressed and the ship travelled farther south and west. It did not happen fast enough though and the one and only swimming pool on the ship near the centre of deck 11 (6 decks above me and behind me) overflowed and soaked everything. They quickly had to empty it. Thus concludes this day.

Thursday, October 25th; Day 8 of 21 on the trip; Day 6 of 18 on the cruise; At Sea.

Today dawned mostly sunny with some large fluffy clouds floating around and the ship still sailing down the northwest side of Cuba. The temperature is in the mid 80’s F and the winds are around 20 mph. The sea is relatively calm and with this, just around noon, they have started to refill the swimming pool much to the delight of many of the passengers. As I write this portion of this it is just after 3:00 PM and the ship has just made the turn to pass through the strait that separates Cuba from Cancun, Mexico. The path was very close to Cuba and they just cleared it enough to make the turn.

During his 12:45 PM spiel today the Captain provided some information about Hurricane Sandy and officially declared that we are now too far away from it for it to have any effect on us and it was moving away from us. Based on a piece I saw on CNN around the same time it sounds like it may create some problems up the US east coast over the next few days. It appears that we have been very lucky with this. If we had arrived a day or two later there may have been a whole lot of additional issues and who knows what may have happened.

Most of the rest of this “Sea Day” was spent creating this. I had hoped to have it ready to send by now but it is not completed yet so on to tomorrow and it should be ready. I also have found out that the very expensive shore excursion to Machu Picchu is on and begins on November 1st at 5:30 AM local time. Speaking about local time, clocks go back an hour on the ship tonight to match up with most of the remaining stops on the trip prior to Chile which is different. Today was also formal night number 2 of 4 on this cruise.

Friday, October 26th; Day 9 of 21 on the trip; Day 7 of 18 on the cruise; At Sea again.

Since it has taken me until noon this day to complete this, all be it with a couple of interruptions, here is today’s info as best as is known at the moment. The clocks were turned back an hour at 2:00 this morning so that when it is noon here it is 1:00PM there. The weather is about the same as yesterday, sunny and it seems a bit warmer than yesterday on the Lower Promenade deck just above me. After all, the ship is sailing just a bit to the east of due south at the moment so it should be getting warmer. At this point the ship is roughly half way between Cuba and Panama. If you drew a straight line due south from Brantford to 16 degrees north, this is just about where the ship is now, just 200 or so nautical miles southwest of Jamaica.

I see that the Norwalk virus restrictions have finally been removed in the Lido restaurant. It certainly makes things much easier without them.

The Captain said that the outside temperature at noon was 86F or 30C. Things are expected to be a bit cooler tomorrow.

When I was proof reading this before sending it, I needed some independent verification of some facts in the Kennedy Space Centre section so I called on this guy for some assistance.

He was able to verify that most of my facts were correct. His name is Crew Bear and I thank him for his assistance.

With this update finally completed, on to Saturday, and San Blas Island!

Originally sent as Update #2 by email from the ship: October 26th, 2012
Web Page Created: July 1st & 2nd, 2013
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 7:40 PM