Around the World in 114ish Days

By Phillip Crandall

I've been tasked with writing about a world cruise; to put into words what its like to circumnavigate the globe like a modern-day (and presumably pension-collecting) Magellan. So why is it that as I sit on my private deck before my signature exploration and writing weapons a pair of ship-issued binoculars and my trusty laptop, currently taunting me with a blank Word document my mind cannot get past the numbers.

The most staggering number, of course, is 114 the amount of days between Amsterdam's departure from Fort Lauderdale on January 6 to its final stop in Los Angeles on April 29. Thats 34 more days than Jules Verne gave his characters to get around the world.

Then again, Phileas "80 Day" Fogg wasnt afforded the luxury of soaking up port after beautiful port, including extended, overnight stays in a dozen of the most fascinating cities in South America, Africa, and Asia, not to mention the once-in-a-lifetime experience of cruising through the incomparable Antarctica. With this Grand World Voyage, Holland America clearly is giving precedence to the journey over the finish-line time. And Im here to document the entire thing!

In all jealousy-subsiding actuality, I'm only aboard for the last leg of this voyage, joining in Vancouver just five days and four nights before everyone disembarks in L.A. If one were to compare my distance-traveled aboard Amsterdam to everyone elses, it would be the equivalent of tripping before Mile Marker 1 in the New York City Marathon. My time? Less than two seconds into a New York minute.

Just two days shorter than the entire 2010 NFL regular season. Or, to put it another way, the equivalent of 3.5 William Henry Harrison terms as the ninth U.S. president. Perhaps nobody understands the magnitude of 114 more than Bruce Allen Scudder, the cruise director in charge of activity programming for and this deserves dramatic-pause emphasis 114 days.

"The biggest challenge of a world cruise is making sure we dont repeat our entertainment," says Scudder, the veteran of 15 world cruises. "The 10-day cruises can repeat because the guests change every 10 days, but most of the guests don't change here. Thats a challenge we all embrace."

Part of that entertainment package includes guest speakers, brought aboard for their relevant expertise to a destination (like the ice pilot who provided commentary over the speaker system while cruising through Antarctica) or for their celebrity (like newsman Sam Donaldson, actor Larry Hagman, or Tonight Show bandleader Doc Severinsen). In figuring out the day-to-day performers and activities, Scudder listens to his audiences.

"The first question Ill get when a guest comes aboard is if so-and-so is going to be performing," says Scudder. "With a cruise this long, it's real easy to send a message back home to book them for later in the cruise. Day-to-day activities are easy requests to honor, too. There's a pretty steadfast philosophy in my department that unless its illegal or unsafe, we don't say no."

On its own, an issue of this voyage's Daily Program doesnt look much different from an issue on any other cruise. Theres the headlining performances worked in seamlessly with the bridge-and-Bingo staples of a daily cruising diet. But again, it's this times 114. You wonder if, by Day 113, everyone participating in the daily 1:30 Texas Hold 'Em Tournament already knows each other's tells and who's bound to win. (The dealer I asked sure does!)

"You'd get the people who rise to the top in all the sporting events," Scudder says, "so we would change the way we play to bring the forefront to other skills. For instance, I have a rubber chicken, so you can do chicken bowling. Set up the pins and wing the chicken at them. You may be good at bowling, but you may not be very good at chicken bowling. Quite frankly, after 65 days at sea, people are looking to be a little bit silly and laugh."

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