I am writing the beginning of my blog sitting in the mess on the 23rd around lunchtime. All around me, people are talking, laughing and watching movies. The atmosphere is relaxed and cheerful given that our midterm exams are behind us and parent port is right in front of us! It really feels like the last day before Spring Break. It is safe to say that we are all imagining our upcoming reunion with our loved ones. The past seven weeks have passed unbelievably fast and part of me still does not fully realize that it is the coast of Cuba that I am seeing through the porthole.
The next morning at around 1000, 14 lucky people started their ascension to the yards and ten people went out on the bowsprit. I was sitting on the bowsprit’s net, the breeze in my hair, beautiful Havana to my right, listening to the rhythm of the song ‘Havana’ played riskily by Alexandrine’s iPhone. Behind me was the impressive sight of our reds in the yards and in front of me were Mya, Emily and Max standing proudly next to the flying jib. What a view! We were all trying to discern our parents onshore, some having better eyes and luck than others. Levi was even screaming “Mom” from aloft hoping for an answer!
At around 14oo, the first tender arrived to transport us to the cruise terminal. Behind a big white door, were our parents waiting patiently for us. When we crossed the door, parents applauded and hugged their dear Floatie. We were all so happy and emotional to see our family and to have help to carry our many heavy bags!
Havana is very unique: the old colourful American taxis, the lively buildings, the Cuban food and the absence of wifi! I really felt like I was taking a trip back in the 60s.
The first location I went to after a laundry mat was Parque Central. The Gran Teatro de La Habana and El Capitolio are architectural masterpieces. Afterwards, my parents and I fully assumed our tourist status and embarked on a city tour on an American Taxi deliberately chosen. It was a unique and excellent way to see more of the city like the grandiose and full of history Plaza de la Revolution, one of the four embassies of North Korea in the world, the botanical garden and the Malecón.
Colourful American Taxis lined up in front of the Capitolio and the Gran Theater waiting for eager tourists like us to take on a unique city tour. It is one of my favourite memories of this port!
Because of the complexity of the tender rides and the Gulden Leeuw being at anchor, we got the chance to stay with our parents. It allowed us to spend more time with our dear ones and we all know how precious it is, to sleep in and not to worry about curfew. We all seemed more relaxed and a little cleaner when we met for the organized barbecue in the fortress. We walked around, visited the fortress, enjoyed the beautiful view of Havana, played soccer, ate a Cuban meal and talked. We do not often get the chance to spend time all together outside of the ship, so it was a pleasant afternoon.
As we all know too well by now, time passes fast on Class Afloat and in a blink of an eye it was already time to say our farewells and receive our fair winds. We met at the cruise terminal at around 0830 on the 28th to wait for the tender rides that would bring us back on board. Because there was a cruise ship, the tender rides got delayed, so most of us gradually made our way to cafés. We appreciated the few more hours we got and some delicious and numerous Churros brought by Max’s father. Goodbyes are always hard, but we are a little more experienced at it now. It is with mixed feelings that we said ‘See you in Amsterdam’ to our loved ones. Some of us started to fully realize that the next time we will see our parents, it will be the end of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
As we slowly gathered into the mess, excitement and nervousness started to build up as we are about to cross the North Atlantic Ocean for 26 days. It is the moment that we all have been talking about for the past few months and many of us see it as our last major challenge. Do not worry, dear ones, after 200 days on board the Gulden Leeuw, we are skillful sailors ready for this sail - or we would like to believe that we are - we are without a doubt in experienced hands and most important of all our snack bags and Ship Shop are full!
Written by: Véronique Milot