Christmas On A Cruise Ship - Aboard the Westerdam, Holland America Line

The Westerdam sitting off of the Mexican Coast during a Christmas cruise.

Many think that boarding a Christmas cruise takes them away from long held traditions and customs.  But on a recent Holland America Line cruise to Mexico, I discovered that isn't always the case.  Sure, cruising an ocean can't duplicate years of holiday memories, but it can create new ones and might be the start of a new tradition.

The Atrium of the Westerdam with Christmas decorations.

At Christmastime on a cruise ship you will definitely see some decorations.  On the Westerdam several of the public spaces were very festive and most of the ship had some kind of holiday adornments.  The central lobby of the ship, known as The Atrium, had a nice tree and poinsettias.  It was often surrounded by groups having photos taken by the ship's photographer.

Stairway leading to the Atrium of Westerdam decorated for Christmas.

The stairs between decks were decorated, as were the railings on the balconies on each level of the atrium.  Since The Atrium of the Westerdam was a central traffic area, it gave plenty of opportunities for viewing these ornaments. 

Decorations around the Lido Market buffet on deck 9.

Holiday flowers, plants, and small Christmas trees were located around the ship, like these in the Lido Restaurant/Buffet.  You can read more about the Westerdam HERE.

A gingerbread village.

On the Westerdam, a portion of one of the lounges was converted into a beautiful gingerbread town depicting landmarks from around the world.  The Holland American Line kitchen staff outdid themselves on this yummy display!

A gingerbread London Bridge with train and lighthouse.

During this Mexico cruise, departing Long Beach California, Christmas Eve was the first evening at sea.  It featured a Vigil Mass, Hanukkah Service, Midnight Mass, and Midnight Interdenominational Services.  In the lounges, the entertainers offered up holiday favorites.  The entertainment staff also spent the evening singing carols in various locations around the ship.  The crew of the Westerdam presented a Christmas Concert featuring traditional songs from their home countries.

Christmas morning in the Atrium of the HAL Westerdam.

December 25th was a day at sea as we headed toward Mexico's Cabo San Lucas.  It had snowed confetti overnight in The Atrium, and everyone was waiting for the arrival of Santa Claus.  The ship's Daily Navigator newsletter said we should expect the arrival of a special visitor that morning in the main theater, the Vista Lounge.

Entertainment staff entertains in the main Vista Lounge stage.

On Christmas Morning, the ship's entertainers took to the Vista Lounge stage and sang carols as passengers awaited the arrival of Santa.  The Captain then made a ship-wide announcement that something unusual was spotted in the water off the port side of the ship.  A boat crew was dispatched to investigate.  Sure enough, they returned with Santa Claus and a few of his helpers.  A video screen in the lounge showed Santa as he moved through the ship, being distracted at every turn.  First it was the buffet, then the casino, then the salon and spa.  His helpers would constantly remind him he had children waiting.  

Santa has arrived at The Main Stage on the Westerdam.

Santa found his way to the Vista Lounge stage and was greeted by shouts of glee from children of all ages.  He took to the stage as the ship's staff passed out cookies to the watching audience.

Santa has gifts for all the children.

A line of excited children quickly formed, and the jolly old man began passing out wrapped packages.  In traditional fashion, most of the kids were excited to meet Santa on Christmas, but others were a bit confused and shy.

Westerdam Atrium lobby after Christmas party.

It was a busy morning on the Westerdam, and someone had a lot of cleaning up to do in The Atrium.  Over the next few days the decorations slowly disappeared, and the ship took on the normal, everyday appearance.  A few other observations of this holiday cruise: As would be expected, lots of families were on-board, and the ship was full.  Wikipedia says the capacity is 1848 passengers; we had 2065.  I'm sure most of this was extra kids staying with parents.  At times the ship felt crowded, but you could almost always find a quiet spot to sit and read or have a drink. 

Mexico as seen from the promenade deck on the Holland America Westerdam.

Mexico is a beautiful country, and the Western coast is a great cruise destination.  During this seven day cruise, we visited Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan.  We traveled 2169 NM with an average speed of appx. 16 knots.  You can listen to a podcast about this Christmas Cruise HERE.

 

(NOTE: Four months after this cruise, the Westerdam entered dry-dock for routine maintenance and some upgrades.  It was nice to see that Holland America Line is keeping this already beautiful ship in tip-top shape.)


My Travelpro Crew 11 Expandable 21" Spinner: On The Road Review/Test

Travelpro Crew 11 Expandable 21" Spinner Carry-On in Vancouver

My sample of the new Travelpro Crew 11 Expandable 21" Spinner Carry-On arrived just in time to test it out on a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia.  I have reviewed Travelpro bags in the past so I had high hopes for this new carry-on spinner.   It easily met all of my expectations.  In general it is well made, properly designed.  This bag is a good "middle of the road" bag from the extensive Travelpro line of bags.  This is a quality carry-on bag at a reasonable price. 

Using the USB power bank port on Travelpro Crew 11.

When on the road it is important to have plenty of power for your various gear.  This Crew 11 carry-on has a dedicated pocket that holds a power bank.  Wiring installed in the luggage brings the power up to a USB outlet just below the handle.  More on this feature later in this review.

Travelpro Crew 11 22"

The bag is made of a high quality ballistic nylon fabric with a Duraguard coating.  Duraguard protects the fabric by stopping liquid or stains from penetrate the fibers making it much easier to clean.  Heavy duty zippers feel solid and durable.  Leather carry handles on top and side.

Bottom MagnaTrac spinner wheels on Travelpro Crew 11

This is one of my favorite Travelpro features:  MagnaTrac wells!  These may look like regular spinner wheels, but these are something special.  This patented design has small self-aligning magnets in the dual spinner wheels.

Here you can see MagnaTrac spinner wheels in action.  The magnets keep the bag on a straight track when pushed.  They release and allow for turns with the slightest push, then return to a straight line orientation.  The video above is of another Travepro bag I reviewed.  Warning:  When on a slightly slanted surface hold onto the handle!  It rolls so easily, it can get away from you.

Top / Side of Travelpro Crew 11 Carry-on

The top zipper opens up the main compartment of the case.  The zippers can be locked, but I would never trust any zippered luggage to be secure.  See this Video for the reason why.  The second zipper below the main one expands the bag 2 inches at the bottom and none at the top.  This tapered expansion limits the increase in storage, but it keeps the bag from becoming top heavy.  I've seen many bags that when expanded, can easily tip over.  This bag's basic dimensions are slightly thinner at the top than at the bottom.  A great design feature that limits storage but makes it much easier to roll.Front pocket access on Travelpro Crew 11 Carry-On

The lid of this bag has a deep 11 x 16 inch pocket with side gussets that keep items from falling out when fully open.  Another thin 10 x 7 inch pocket along the top is handy for small items you may need during your trip.  This bag weight's in at just over 7 pounds empty.  Lighter bags are available, but I've always found weight and durability go hand in hand.  This Crew 11 from Travelpro is a good balance.

Zippered compartment for USB Power Bank on Travelpro Crew 11

Along the upper side of the bag is a dedicated power bank / battery backup pocket.  Having a battery with you when traveling is almost a requirement nowadays.  I like that fact that Travelpro did not build a battery into the case.  They let you select a battery that you can replace when it degrades.  

  Inside the Travelpro Crew 11 power bank pocket.

The pocket has a USB plug that transfers the power to an outlet on the outside of the case.  See gray USB outlet cover in photo below.  A note about power bank batteries: many require you to press a button on the battery to turn it on.  Others like my Anker Powercore 13000 Power Bank come on when a load is placed on the USB outlet.  This allows you to plug in and go, rather than having to open the side pocket and turn on the battery.  This side pocket is also large enough to hold a USB charger and an extra cord.

USB power outlet on Travelpro Crew 11 Spinner

The grip on the handle is very comfortable.  It is patented and specifically designed by Travelpro to help you guide a bag with spinner wheels.  The bag also has skid protectors on the back, protecting the fabric from abrasion when you go up and down stairs. 

Pull up handle on the Travelpro Crew 11 Expandable Spinner Carry-On

The Powerscope telescoping handles are another patented feature of this bag.  The shape of the extruded aluminum handle is designed to reduce wobble and opens to 38”, 40” and 42.5”.  Interior of Travelpro Crew 11 Expandable Spinner Carry-On Suitcase

This bag meets most airline carry-on size limits, 14 x 9 x 22 inches.  The bag is promoted as a 21" carry-on, but it is actually 22" tall.  Though within most US airline requirements, it might not go over well with international carriers.  I like the gray interior fabric color which makes it easier to see items in the bottom of the bag.  It has two compression straps that can help keep your items in place during transit. Note: I never use them.  I always seem to stuff my bags just enough that things don't shift.  The inside of the lid has a full size zippered mesh pocket.  The mesh allows it to breath and makes it easy to see what is inside the pocket.

Zippered wet pocket inside the Travelpro Crew 11 Carry-On

The Travelpro Crew 11 Expandable 22" Spinner Carry-On has two interior 10 x 7 inch pockets.  One is plastic lined to keep wet items away from your clothes.  You could use this for toiletries that might accidentally open and spill.

Zippered mesh storage pocket inside the Travelpro Crew 11 21" expandable spinner Carry-On

On the side opposite the wet pocket is a mesh pocket of the same size.  Both zippers worked smoothly.  In the photo above you will see the bottom of this bag.  You can see the structure of the collapsible extension handle that stores inside the bag.   Some bags have this hardware on the outside/back of the suitcase.  Here it is on the inside, taking up some of the usable space.  I don't like having the handle mounted to the exterior; it is very vulnerable to damage. 

Suit bag for the Travelpro Crew 11 Expandable Spinner

Travelpro provides a suit cover with your Crew 11 carry-on.  I found it a bit small for me.  If you are over 6ft,  I suspect your suits won't fit into this thing.  It is well made with ventilation and is designed to fold perfectly into the bag.  I haven't used it.  On short trips, which this bag is perfect for, I wear my suit while in transit. 

Travelpro Crew 11 21" Expandable Spinner Carry-On overlooking the Las Vegas Strip.

What's better than a quick trip to Las Vegas to check out the usefulness of a suitcase?  It carried enough for a quick weekend trip with no problem.  I suspect that 4-5 days on the road would max out this bag.

I love the solid construction, easy to steer MagnaTrac wheels, and the sturdy handle.  It would be nice if the small gadget pocket at the top of the lid was lined with a soft material.  This bag is a good value and is available for sale at Amazon.com (ad)



Wedgewood Hotel & Spa, Tour/Review of Suite #505, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Exterior, Wedgewood Hotel & Spa, Vancouver BC Canada

This review is of a suite at the Wedgewood Hotel and Spa located in beautiful downtown Vancouver, British Columbia.  It was great to return to the Wedgewood after an almost 10 year absence.  My memories were of an elegant hotel on a lovely, tree-lined street.  The hotel was then surrounded by great restaurants and shopping.  Well...  Very happy to report that things haven't changed all that much.

Lobby, Wedgewood Hotel & Spa Vancouver

If anything, the hotel and surrounding area are even nicer than before.  Located across the street from Robson Square Park and the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Wedgewood mirrors the elegance and sophistication of the nearby art museum.  The intimate lobby is warmed by a fireplace and brightened with lovely flowers.  My check-in was quick and accurate.  If needed, the staff will help you with your luggage due to a few stairs found between the main lobby and guestroom elevators.

Hallway, Wedgewood Hotel Vancouver

Throughout the property, it feels like you have entered a private home decorated with furniture and items collected over many years.  The original developer used her personal collection of antiques and artwork to decorate the Wedgewood Hotel. 

Door of Room 505, Wedgewood Hotel

Room #505 is a one bedroom suite with a balcony overlooking the street and park.  My three night visit was in June of 2016 while attending a cruise ship industry event.  This hotel is located several blocks from the Vancouver cruise ship terminal, but it is still an excellent choice if you are in town for the start or end of an Alaska cruise. 

Living Room of Suite at Wedgewood Hotel

The main living room is spacious and well appointed.  Lighting is good.  The very comfortable sofa folds out for additional sleeping space.  The suite's heating and air conditioning was very quiet and easily controlled. Nice big HDTV with a good selection of cable sources. 

Bar in Living Room of Suite.

A bar area includes a well stocked Mini-Bar and coffee/tea service.  Just behind the bar is a handy coat closet with umbrellas, safe, and iron & ironing board.  

Desk in Living Room of Suite #505

There was a nice desk with comfortable chair, lamp, and phone for getting a little work done.  It includes a handy PowerQube power strip on the desktop providing three USB outlets and two standard 120v outlets.  Plenty of power to easily charge your gear.

Hallway to Bath & Bedroom in Wedgewood Hotel

A passageway connects the living area to the bedroom and bath.   

Bedroom of Suite at Wedgewood Hotel Vancouver

The bedroom was large and offered plenty of storage.  The very comfortable bed included bedside lamps that provided great reading light.  A large HDTV was mounted high in the corner. 

Bedroom of Suite

One of my favorite features in the bedroom was the luggage shelf.  The low platform over the drawers offered a great space if you prefer to live directly out of your unpacked luggage.  The light directly above the suitcase area is perfectly placed. 

Closet of One Bedroom Suite

There was plenty of room in the bedroom closet for two guests.  The Wedgewood provides slippers and a bathrobe.   Note that another robe was located in the bathroom.

Bathroom of Suite at Wedgewood Hotel Vancouver

The elegant bathroom provided plenty of counter space and splendid L'Occitane amenities, hairdryer and a good supply of fine towels. 

Bathroom of Suite at Wedgewood Hotel

I always love choices...  Especially when it is between a large shower and an equally large and luxurious bathtub.  After a day on my feet, the tub wins every time. 

View from Balcony of suite #505

The balcony off of the living room looked out over a park and provided a beautiful view of Vancouver's skyline.  Also very little street noise made it into this 5th floor room.

Elevator Lobby of Wedgewood Hotel Vancouver

Public spaces are decorated in an classic elegance.  This is the elevator lobby on the Wedgewood Hotels main floor. NOTE: I was an invited guest of the hotel. My review and photos are accurate representations of the property during my visit. 

Bacchus Lounge area in Wedgewood Hotel Vancouver BC

The Bacchus Lounge found just off the main lobby is a delightful spot for a meal or drinks with friends.  Large windows open up on the the sidewalk offering an airy atmosphere.

Bacchus Restaurant in Wedgewood Hotel

Also on the main floor of the Wedgewood Hotel is the Bacchus Restaurant, decorated with warm woods, flowers and comfortable seating.  This is a fine dining restaurant and offers modern French cuisine featuring fresh, West Coast ingredients. Private dining spaces are offered.   The hotel also offers several small meeting / special events rooms. You can find the latest menus and hotel info on the Hotel Website.

Gym at Wedgewood Hotel Vancouver

Guests of the hotel have access to a small but well equipped gym. Unlike some city hotels the Wedgewood gym offers windows with a view. 

Lobby fireplace in Wedgewood Hotel Vancouver

I would recommend the Wedgewood to anyone visiting Vancouver and looking for a centrally located, upscale, classically styled boutique hotel.  If you are in Vancouver before or after a cruise, this hotel is perfect.  This elegant, award winning luxury hotel is uniquely decorated, well maintained, and offers excellent service.