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Our Cruise on the Holland America Veendam

Holland America Veendam
Sexy Nerd and I love cruising. Here is a recap and review of our Sea of Cortez cruise on one of our favorite ships, the Holland America Veendam. It was actually two cruise itineraries back-to-back, taking us all the way from northwestern Canada through Mexico. 

Visiting the Sea of Cortez is a bucket list item we've already checked off...but would love to do again!

Holland America Veendam

Holland America Veendam, Day #1 - Seattle

After flying to Seattle from Albuquerque, we took the light rail to the Amtrak station, where we were able to check our luggage. Next, it was time to explore the waterfront. Who can resist having their photo taken with a giant penguin? Not me.

Seattle giant penguin
We walked to the mall. Sexy Nerd found a more manly penguin for his photo.

Metal penguin
Downtown Seattle seemed a bit rough so we made sure to be back at the Amtrak station before dark. The station was undergoing a huge restoration project.

Best train stations
The Amtrak station started with a beautiful, intricate ceiling. Some time during the 60s, someone had the "brilliant" idea to modernize the building - by installing a drop ceiling! I can't believe Amtrak has waited this long to start uncovering the original ceiling.

Amtrak Seattle renovation
We arrived in Vancouver shortly before midnight. It wasn't the best initial impression of Canada. We're old fuddy duddys and on Saturday night, Vancouver is a party town!

Holland America Veendam, Day 2 - Vancouver

We had breakfast at the hotel, walked to Starbucks, and took a stroll through the city.

Preparing to board the Veendam
After the party animals go to sleep, Vancouver is quite nice!

Vancouver fountain near Holland America cruise terminal
This is one of my all-time favorite photos of Sexy Nerd. Perhaps we can move to Canada one day.

These photos were taken near the Canada Place cruise ship terminal.

Best place to drink coffee in Vancouver
Married couple on vacation
"Gimme that camera!"

We walked through Stanley Park. Nothing in Albuquerque can compete with it.

Swan with Rainbow
Canadian geese in Canada
Ooh, Canadian geese in Canada!

While strolling through the park, we came across many raccoons, including this mom & baby:

baby raccoon
We walked back to the cruise ship terminal, checked in, then continued sightseeing.

The steam clock in Gas Town, which could benefit from a name change:
Vancouver steam clock
Next, it was time for some lunch. Holland America Veendam, here we come!

Vancouver cruise terminal
Coolest thing on the ship? Touch-screen game tables in the Mix Lounge.

Electronic chess on the Veendam
Weirdest thing on the ship? Every day, they change the rugs in the elevators so that the passengers will know what day of the week it is.

Day of the week elevator rugs

Holland America Veendam, Day 3 - Victoria

Captions coming soon
(yeah, sure!)

Flowers in Victoria
Canada cruise
Queen Victoria statue
Grand ceiling
Canada government
Houseboats in Victoria
Ooooh, houseboats!
(Okay, just 1 caption)

Blue sky

Holland America Veendam, Day 4 - Astoria, Oregon

The day started out so chilly that we didn't plan to leave the Veendam.

Oregon cruise in September
Cruise ship in bad weather
Luckily, the sun came out and we went ashore.

Bowpicker Fish and Chips
Where we had the best fish and chips ever, made with tuna, at Bowpicker Fish and Chips. One whole order was plenty to share.

Bonus: they gave us 6 pieces instead of 5! Woo hoo!

Bowpicker Astoria menu
Best fish n chips in Oregon
NM license plate
We were surprised to see a New Mexico plate in Oregon. This guy must have really been craving some Bowpicker fish and chips!

towel animal elephant
We returned to our room to find this cute elephant. As this was only our third-ever cruise and our first on Holland America (the other two were on NCL - both cruise lines are tied as our favorite), we were still easily impressed by towel animals.

We're now up to 8 cruises (NCL, HAL, Carnival, Costa, and Royal Caribbean - YUCK to those last 2), and have still never attended a towel animal-folding class. There's always cruise number 9. 

Holland America Veendam, Day 5 - At Sea

Our 1st formal night:

HAL formal night
And, even better, ping pong!

Free things to do on a cruise
No running - this is my kind of sport.

Ping pong on deck

Holland America Veendam, Day 6 - At Sea Again

In the "Sassy Sangrias" cooking demonstration at the HAL Culinary Arts Center, the ship's party planner, Bekka, made a LOT of alcohol. (Not Sangria - just a mixture of lots & lots of liquor.) She actually sent a guest to the kitchen to request more bottles of assorted liquors. 

Culinary Arts Center
How do you become a cruise ship party planner anyway? Is there a way for us to find out which cruises Bekka will be sailing on?

Day at sea
Cruising is exhausting!
Food on the Veendam
You know it's a fancy cruise when they serve unicorn!

After lunch, there was a cute, towel-animal dog waiting for us.

Holland America Veendam Oceanview Room
But the room steward forgot to refill our fruit bowl. We needed a way to get his attention so he wouldn't forget again.

Cruise lines with a fruit bowl in your stateroom
We really like fruit.

Holland America Veendam, Day 7 - San Diego

The San Diego stop was sad. It marked the end of the 1st portion of our repositioning cruise - all the polite, classy Canadians left and all the loud, vulgar Americans arrived. The atmosphere on board went downhill quickly after that. Still, we tried to enjoy San Diego.

San Diego waterfront
Happy couple on a romantic cruise
We love our Starbucks!

The Gaslamp quarter seemed promising, but it was too touristy for us.

San Diego Gaslamp
We had planned to visit the USS Midway Museum, but the price scared us away.
$17.00 each? No thank you.

USS Midway Museum admission
San Diego cruise terminalCruising past Cabo San Lucas, which we would be returning to in a few days:
Beautiful cruising
famous arch
Watching the sunset

Holland America Veendam, Day 8 - Mazatlan

Views from the HAL Veendam
Mexico cruises
Vista Tours Mazatlan
Holland America shore excursion
Best view in Mazatlan
Mazatlan divers
Public gazebos
Walking in Mazatlan
Mazatlan architecture
Churches in Mazatlan
beer in mexico
Una mas cerveza, por favor?

Holland America Veendam, Day 9 - Topolobampo & Los Mochis

Holland America tried to get everyone to sign up for their Copper Canyon excursion. It was described as a 16-18 hour train ride that left at 5 am. The cost? $400 per person. Our entire 2 week cruise was only about $600 per person and we rode on a train to get there. Needless to say, the Copper Canyon tour didn't appeal to us at all. 

But there was nothing to do in the industrial town of Topolobampo. Luckily, the city of Los Mochis provided a free shuttle to take cruise ship passengers to their city.
Holland America Sea of Cortez itinerary
Transportation from Topolobampo to Los Mochis
When traveling, I like to try to blend in with the locals as much as possible. To me, this seems like a safe move against thieves who target tourists. It also makes for a more authentic way to experience a different culture. 

As for Sexy Nerd, he insisted on bringing the CamelBak backpack instead of water bottles.

Staying hydrated on vacation
And, of course, his safari hat.

Los Mochis Home Depot
Since blending in with the locals had gone out the window, Starbucks seemed like as good a dining option as any in Los Mochis.

Starbucks Frappuccino
The city has a lovely botanical garden with free admission. It's known as the Jardín Botánico Benjamin Francis Johnston botanic gardens or the Sinaloa Gardens.

gators on a log
Tree hugger
I'm a proud tree hugger.

Carved owl in a tree
Best food in Los Mochis
The highlight of our trip was a bakery near the bus stop. Everything was $0.50. We bought 2 pastries that were shaped like ice cream cones, filled with custard, and topped with cherries. They were so good that we went back for 4 more pastries! Our original plan was to bring them back to our room on the ship to enjoy later, but we ended up eating them all on the bus ride back.

I've seriously considered planning another trip to Los Mochis specifically so we can eat at this bakery again. It was just this hole-in-the-wall, run down place, just like so many businesses in Los Mochis, and neither of us remembers the name. Walking near the bus station, we'd probably stumble upon it again, right?

Topolobampo cruise terminal
As for this photo, you are looking at Topolobampo at 1 am. The $400, 16-18 hour train ride returned to the Veendam about 3 hours behind schedule. It turns out that Holland America omitted the little detail about the train derailing whenever there is a flood, which is often.

So glad we skipped the Copper Canyon excursion!

Holland America Veendam, Day 10 - Loreto

This was our favorite destination on our Sea of Cortez cruise.

Welcome to Mexico
It's funny how different things can seem when you get home and look at your vacation photos. When we were in Loreto, I could have sworn that the L was there!

Flowers in Loreto
decorative concrete
Loreto is the way Santa Fe thinks they are.

Is it safe to visit Sea of Cortez?
mexican dancing
colorful architecture
I would love to paint our house just like this. It's probably a good thing we have a homeowner's association.

mexican fountain
horse rides in mexico
There was a cage with 2 birds at one of the shops. I insisted to Sexy Nerd that 1 of the birds was out to get me. He thought I was being ridiculous, but I have the photo to prove it!

Aggressive birds
On a side note, I thought the flash was turned off. It wasn't. Sorry, little murderous bird.

Sea of Cortez cruise
 Of all the beaches we saw on our Holland America Veendam cruise, this one was the ugliest.

Loreto beaches
It was also the only one we stopped at. Funny enough, the beach was actually much nicer than it looked, especially because its appearance kept other tourists away. We had it entirely to ourselves.

turtle trash can
Here is one of the nicer-looking beaches. Forget the sun and sand - we loved the trash cans!

footprints in the sand
Let's end this recap of our Sea of Cortez cruise with our footprints in the sand photo. 
Taking this photo is a non-negotiable requirement for all beach vacations.