MS Patriot Joins the SS Independence Cruising "A Slice of Paradise"
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We were pleased to learn that United States Lines' MS Patriot cruise ship was joining the older SS Independence cruising the Hawaiian Islands. The MS Patriot, formerly Nieuw Amsterdam, was purchased recently from Holland America Line. By today's cruise industry standards, the bloom is off this ship. However, she is still younger than the delightfully unique SS Independence, and many areas have been renovated or enhanced. Click on the map to the right to view a larger map of the MS Patriot's itinerary.
The ship carries 1,212 passengers on seven-night cruises sailing from Honolulu to five ports on four Hawaiian Islands. The specifications state 33,930 gross registered tons, 704 feet in length, and nine passenger decks.
On our overnight pre-inaugural cruise to nowhere, a few glitches occurred. Nothing major, but the galley, plumbing and elevators were not functioning perfectly. According to some passengers on the ensuing inaugural Hawaiian voyage, technical tribulations still marred their cruise experience. We are sure any problems have been solved by now. Cruise lines heed passenger complaints and correct malfunctions as quickly as possible, and brand new ships are known to experience mechanical difficulties at first.
We checked out the 464 square foot Presidential Suite on the top deck. The luxuries included marble bathrooms, shower, Jacuzzi, double sinks, safe, sitting room, wet bar, computer station, TV, VCR, dining table and chairs, powder room, and a walk in closet. Noticeably missing was a balcony, as the ship was constructed long before the millennium balcony craze. Our stateroom, designated as superior ocean view, had a queen-size bed, sitting area, and the luxury of a bathtub in about 219 square feet. The parlor suite has 294 square feet, a king size bed, sofa bed, sitting area, picture window, refrigerator, bathtub and shower. Most of the cabins are typical of vintage ships with interior and exterior staterooms starting at 152 square feet.
Many cruisers scorn glitzy, mega ships and prefer the character and ambiance older ships offer. The inviting Eagles Watch Observation Lounge is done in soft peach and blues. Low wood ceilings, recessed lights, inlaid wood floor, a grand piano, and view windows create an ideal setting to sip a drink and converse with friends or listen to music.
Passengers get pampered and buff in the Kohala Ranch Spa and Fitness Center which features a swimming pool, whirlpool, men's and women's saunas, large spaces with showers and dressing area, and massage rooms. The gym is spacious: the exercise area has four treadmills, four exercycles, stair stepper, free weights, four state of the art hydra fitness exercise machines, two TVs, mats, tummy cruncher, and a loofa room. An outdoor pool and whirlpool spa are surrounded by plastic chaises covered with pads. A self-service laundry is a welcome convenience.
Kaleidoscope Kids Club, is a colorful playroom for ages 5 to 12, offering arts, crafts, a big screen TV, and a huge whale to play in. This age group will be supervised at the pool: four trained youth counselors and a youth director are available. Graffiti is the center for teens 13 to 17. The Internet lab has computers with filters to exclude trash sites, DJ powered touch screens, and a jukebox system with songs suitable for kids. A disco has soda machines, a DVD system, and a VCR system providing wholesome entertainment. A video arcade with seven machines is nearby. Special babysitting services can be arranged at $7.00 per hour per child or $10.00 per hour for two children of the same family.
Destination Learning Center, the cultural center and Kumu study are where the ship's Hawaiian teacher called "kumu" shares the islands' history and lore. Learning to speak some Hawaiian words and perform hula moves, studying island artifacts and taking advantage of resource materials really enhances the Hawaiian Islands' cruise experience. Showing off vacation photos is more fun with expert narration.
Some guests play cards and games, while others piece together puzzles in the rattan-decorated lanai. Passengers browse the Fifth Avenue Shops and Boutiques, and enjoy movies in the comfortable Princess Kaiulani movie theater. Cyber addicts can catch up on e-mails in the library and Internet Lounge that boasts nine computers. A conference/meeting center is a spacious venue for corporate meetings and seminars.
The Manhattan Dining Room offers an intimate dining experience. An example of attention to detail is the use of seldom seen shrimp cocktail forks. The dinner menu included choices of shrimp cocktail, lobster bisque, spinach or Caesar salad, fat free dressings, rack of lamb, filet mignon, snapper covered with shrimp, pasta, excellent rolls, and rich desserts. Sugar free desserts and a spa menu were also available. Service was attentive and on one night, the wait staff marched in clapping to strains of "Stars and Stripes Forever," continuing with "Yankee Doodle," and finishing with a rousing rendition of "The Saints go Marching In." The only thing missing was the flaming Baked Alaska. The refurbishment included new china, silver, tablecloths, and chairs. The menu, described as American and Pacific Rim, offers a different theme each night: The Aloha, Blue Riband, White Orchid, Big Apple, American Heritage, Pacific Paradise, and Stars and Stripes are the stated themes.
Limited 24-hour room service is available. The Outrigger Cafe for informal dining offers hot breakfasts with made-to-order eggs, pastries, cereals and fruits. Themed lunches with pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers are served. An ice cream parlor provides extra calories throughout the day. A volcano-themed gala buffet is served as the ship passes Mt. Kilauea. Sitting on the deck at night marveling at the magnificent sight of this volcano erupting is well worth the cruise fare alone.
This ship provides many areas to relax, drink, dance, be entertained, or take part in art auctions. The Waikiki Beachboys Club, No. 1 Broadway Lounge, Digby's Bar, and The Founders Lounge are very popular. The MS Patriot does not have a gambling casino.
The main showroom, Stars and Stripes, is decorated in black and gold. Even the ceiling is imbedded with gold sparkles. Comfortable armchairs and small, round cocktail tables are typical of showrooms of another era. Two levels seat 423 guests at a performance. The talented entertainers played to an appreciative audience.
Prior to boarding, passengers are greeted with a lei and rum punch, the island atmosphere is established, and the trip to paradise begins. Helicopter tours of Garden Island Kauai's Waimea Canyon; Maui's authentic Polynesian Luau, Haleakala, the inspirational, lavish Maui Myths and Magic stage show, Warren & Annabelle's chic dining, drinking, and magic venue; Hilo's Volcanoes National Park, Haleakala; Oahu's historic Pearl Harbor & Arizona Memorial, and the Polynesian Cultural Center; and Kona's Zodiac Raft & Snorkel Adventure await. There are many other tours, and opportunities to whale watch, hike, bike, laze on beaches, scuba dive, shop, and enjoy the sunsets in paradise.
As on the SS Independence, weddings and vow renewal ceremonies can be conducted by the Captain by prior arrangement. Romance and paradise are well paired on these ships.
Several theme cruises, such as the "big band cruise" are scheduled throughout the year on the MS Patriot. Check with your travel cruise specialist for information on future themes.
The Hawaiian Islands cruise is becoming increasingly popular. To accommodate the need for cabins, United States Lines is constructing several new 1900-passenger vessels. They will be built in the States, creating 5,000 jobs for U.S. workers.
The first-time visitor to the Hawaiian Islands will happily find the MS Patriot and the SS Independence cruises to be a relaxing way to taste this slice of paradise. The nuisance of packing and unpacking and transportation problems are avoided. Loyal repeat passengers flock to the SS Independence, as they surely will to the MS Patriot. Both will have their fans.
To the strains of "Lovely Hula Hands," we wistfully bid Aloha to the islands and the MS Patriot.
Photos courtesy of United States Lines & American Classic Voyages.
Jack and Toni White of Rancho Mirage, California have, for many years, been freelance travel writers specializing in cruise travel. Their articles have appeared in newspapers throughout the United States and Canada, including the Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and Vancouver Sun. Prestigious Palm Springs Life magazine published their article on filming the movie Out to Sea on the Holland America Line Westerdam. They also write regularly for Mature Living and Plus, formerly Senior Life.
Jack graduated from USC as an architect. His background in architecture allows him to review, write, and produce photographs from a unique perspective. Toni attended UCLA after graduating from Hollywood High School where she had been the Feature Editor of the Hollywood High School News, where one of the writers was comedienne Carole Burnett. Toni lived abroad for many years in South America and in the UK and has a familiarity with different cultures that influences her writing. The Whites love to travel and especially want to share their passion for cruising with you.
Toni & Jack White may be reached at: JACNTONI@aol.com.
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