After endless preparation, and eight months of waiting, the day of the cruise finally arrived!

  Schedule for Day 1
Schedule for Day 1

Embarkation & Exploration

JoCo 2017 sailed on the Holland America ship Westerdam, out of San Diego. Boarding began at 11AM, and proceeded through the day, closing around 2:30PM. While nominal boarding times were printed on the ticket (to encourage people to spread out through the day), you could arrive pretty much whenever you wanted.

As I tend to be an early bird, and usually prefer to arrive early, we were some of the first people to step through security, and also some of the first passengers to step on the boat. The latter was more due to being a Suite guest though.

Suite Life

We were initially set to sail in a Verandah cabin, but the three of us pooled our money and upgraded a few times. In the end, we sailed in the “Neptune Suite” on the Westerdam, which is the second largest cabin on the ship. The cabin was enormous, which was welcome for three tall guys sharing a room, and I don’t think we ever felt like the room wasn’t large enough.

More about the cabin can be found dedicated review post.

Departure & Opening Night

Because we got on the ship so quickly, we had around 5 hours to explore the ship before departure time. While exploring the ship, we ate lunch at the Lido Buffet, attended the “New Monkey Orientation”, and finally found a spot on the aft deck to watch departure from.


For some reason, departure was delayed about an hour, so we could only watch a small portion of it before heading to the first concert. While waiting for the ship to cast off, we were entertained by a send-off speech from Jonathan Coulton, and surprise guest Ellen McLain, speaking in character as GLaDOS. The gist of the speech (from GLaDOS) was that we were all taking part in some kind of testing, for better or worse…

Shortly before stepping into the concert room, I also snapped a few pictures of our escort from San Diego bay.

 The Coast Guard does not mess around
The Coast Guard does not mess around

Opening Night

The opening concert was a pretty random affair, jumping between several of the performers on the ship. It was a nice introduction to the artists I did not know well, and really set the mood for the trip.

Some of the performers who stepped on stage:

Because we arrived somewhat late from the aft deck, we had the worst seats of the trip, view wise. Regardless, it was still a great show!

 Panorama of the concert hall, from the bar seating at the back of the first level
Panorama of the concert hall, from the bar seating at the back of the first level


Like the rest of day one, we had no idea what to expect from dinner on the first night. As part of gold team (boo red team!), we had to wait until the first team completely cleared the hall, then we could enter.

Red & Gold Team

A quick aside: The passengers on the ship were split into two groups, red and gold. Each group had a randomly chosen “leader” who had the honor of wearing a helmet for the rest of the cruise.

More importantly, your group selection (at booking) determined your concert and dinner timing.

  • Gold Team: Concert from 5-7 , dinner from 7:30-9:30
  • Red Team: Dinner from 5-7, concert from 7:30-9:30

We chose Gold Team mostly because we didn’t want anyone to fall asleep during the concert (we were mostly early birds). Overall, I think I preferred Gold Team, as it made dinner a far more relaxed affair, as plans were wide open for the rest of the night.

We were seated at a table right on the stern of the ship, overlooking the propeller wake. The dinner selection was quite broad, although there was somehow a dish that had sold out already (how do you sell out on the first night?).

Like the rest of the nights, we had a choice of table size. As a party of three, we could either take a four-seater, and dine together, or get a larger table (mostly 6-seaters). Not really knowing what to do the first night, we let the stewards lead us to a table, which ended up being a six-seater, and we shared it with another couple.

Wrap Up and Sleep

After dinner, we walked around the promenade deck for a few rounds (each round is a third of a mile). This became a regular thing most nights, and helped to make room for late night ice cream at the Lido (or at least, that was what we told ourselves).

We also visited the incredible board game library, checking out Letter Tycoon, a game I had played, but my family had not. While the game was very fun, I quickly remembered why I didn’t play Scrabble with my dad, as he blew my brother and I out of the water.

Finally, we filled out the room service card for the next morning, and drifted off to sleep.

Pictures of the Day