Guam, FEB 18 2024

After eight days at sea we arrived in Guam on February 18th, my birthday.

The crew went out of the way to make my birthday special, starting with a Happy Birthday sign and a balloon on the outside of our cabin door.

I was surprised, thinking since we hadn’t told them, they wouldn’t know. Throughout the day were nice surprises, after lunch we discovered in our cabin a cupcake from the captain and several little gifts from different departments on the ship.

At dinner, Josephine the dining room hostess greeted me with a big smile and “Happy Birthday”. After dinner the waiters gathered around to sing and presented me with a big slice of cake.

When we returned to our cabin our room stewards had left a birthday cake crafted from towels, along with extra nightly candy. What a nice birthday full of thoughtful surprises.

We passed a protected area where the US Navy has some ships.

We had a Gun Boat Escort

We were surprised to learn Guam only receives five cruise ships a year! The commercial port was used for our docking. The Port Authority made a wall of shipping containers to secure the dock.

Under the Treaty of Paris in 1898, Spain ceded Guam to the United States. In 1941 immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Guam was captured by the Japanese. During this time the Guam people were subjected to forced labor, incarceration, torture and execution. The United States recaptured the island in 1944 which is commemorated as “Liberation Day”. In 1950 Guam became a territory of the United States.

Guam Flag

The indigenous people, called Chamorros, are U.S. citizens, however they cannot vote in national elections. They can caucus and send delegates to the Democratic and Republican national conventions. They can hold elections for a governor and they may elect a delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. However they have limited voting rights and cannot vote on final passage of legislation.

It is said that Guam is “Where America’s Day Begins” because of the International Date Line. It is the westernmost point and territory of the United States. 

The population of Guam is approximately 173,000 with an area of 212 square miles (30 miles by 9 miles). The official languages are Chamorro and English.

Before anyone left the ship we all had to have a face to face meeting with the Guam/US immigration officials and present our passports and a completed declaration form.  Once again Holland America had everything well organized and the process went smoothly. The immigration officials were friendly and said, “Welcome to Guam!” 

When we left the ship we were greeted by lovely ladies from Guam who put shell necklaces around our necks. Over the next several hours off the ship, it was easy to identify fellow passengers since we all had shell beads!

The nearest city to the dock was Piti.

We made the decision not to take an excursion but took the shuttle provided by Holland America into town. It was over a thirty minute ride and gave us a chance to see much of the area. We had thought seriously about renting a car for the day but since it was unfortunately a Sunday, many of the rental companies were closed. In fact, since it was Sunday, many places were closed including museums and the War in the Pacific National Historical Park Visitors Center. Always disappointing when that happens.

The shuttle bus dropped us at a big resort area of the island. It was a beautiful area, but with many expensive stores, not of interest to us. We have read that Guam is a very popular place for Japanese to come and shop since the prices are much cheaper than in Japan. We did see quite a few Japanese people checking out of hotels and wandering the malls with many shopping bags.

We did find the Hard Rock Cafe which had a small inventory and nothing Bill liked in his size. Another disappointment and the first time Bill has left a Hard Rock Cafe empty handed. He did manage to find a Guam shirt at one of the few reasonably priced stores in the area. We spent some time walking through the stores in various malls.  It was very hot with a high humidity level, so we were glad to get back on the shuttle bus and back to the ship. Always so good to see this sign.

Guam security personnel boarded our shuttle bus twice once we reached the port, both times checking our ship identification cards to be sure we were Holland America passengers. 

Usually when docked the Zuiderdam displays their Netherlands flag.

We sailed away before sundown.

Next up: Saipan in the Mariana Islands

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