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Cruise Diary: Flicks and Fresh Popcorn at Sea

Day 74, March 20:

Being away from home for nearly four months for a world cruise takes a lot of preparation – and adjustment. Among the last things Humberto and I did before boarding the Amsterdam on Jan. 6 was cancel our subscriptions to the Netflix and Blockbuster DVD rental services, since we wouldn’t be able to get and watch their movies while on the ship – something we figured we might miss. But we certainly haven’t! As part of the great variety of entertainment onboard, every single day of this cruise we have had at least one movie – from Oscar winners to recent releases to all-time classics – shown at least twice a day (and since early March, four times a day) on a big screen, the usual venue being the Wajang Theater on Deck 4.

Some days, two different movies are shown – one in the theater and another in the even bigger Queen’s Lounge. A couple of times during the cruise so far, the Queen’s Lounge also has rolled out the red carpet for the Amsterdam Independent Film Festival, a series of four short films each time pegged to a specific theme, such as love or fantastical films. No matter where the movie is shown, stewards bring or pass out free popcorn for every screening, a delicious and distinctive Holland America treat. If we can’t bear to do without the fresh popcorn – maybe while we watch in our cabin one of the complimentary rental movies from a list of more than 1,000 that we can check out from the Front Deck – we can always take a couple of bags from the theater to keep in our cabins.

Popcorn at the Wajang Theater before a movie.

Popcorn at the Wajang Theater before a movie.

We can also watch the Wajang Theater movie one day later on our stateroom television. Other stations on the TV also show movies daily. To our amazement, a different movie has been shown each day so far in the Wajang Theater, without any repetition. Movies are often shown to coincide with a port or call or cruise theme – for example, “The Joy Luck Club” while in Hong Kong, China; “Evita” just before arriving in Buenos Aires; “March of the Penguins” before the Antarctica Experience; the timeless Jules Verne-inspired classic “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” as we headed toward The Great Barrier Reef, and the 1998 release “Shakespeare In Love” on Valentine’s Day, a witty romantic comedy we had missed when it first came out and thoroughly enjoyed before heading for the Hearts & Flowers Ball in the Amsterdam Queen’s Lounge that evening.

There also have been a multitude of new releases – nearly all used to be in our Netflix and Blockbuster queues – including “The Artist,’’ an engaging black-and-white, nearly “silent” film about the silent-film era starring Jean Dujardin, Missi Pyle and John Goodman that won the 2012 Oscar for best motion picture. (As a treat to movie lovers, the entire Academy Awards ceremony was shown live in the Queen’s Lounge a week earlier). Won’t tell you more about the film in case you haven’t seen it, since I don’t want to spoil the ending, but either love or despair will win out in the end. Besides “The Artist,’’ here is a partial list of other recent releases we have enjoyed:

“New Year’s Eve” (Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Biel, Ashton Kutcher). Tales of love – different kinds of love – intersect during a hectic New Year’s Eve in New York City.

“Midnight in Paris” (Owen Wilson, Rachael McAdams, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody). An Oscar-nominated delightful romantic comedy/fantasy set in Paris that explores dreams, passions and relationships.

“Water For Elephants” (Reese Witherspoon, Robert Patterson, Christopher Waltz, Paul Schneider). Heart-felt drama about the growing romance between a circus vet and the boss’s wife.

“Moneyball” (Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Phillip Seymour Hoffman) shown in the Queen’s Lounge initially. Another Oscar nominee for best picture, a true-story sports drama about the success of the low-spending Oakland Athletics in a baseball world dominated by big-market teams and big spenders.

“I Don’t Know How She Does It” (Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan, Kelsey Grammer). A romantic comedy about balancing family life, love and work.

“One Day” (Anna Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Patricia Clarkson). A romantic drama tracing the ups and downs of a couple’s relationship by focusing on the same day of each year – July 15 — for 20 years.

“Dolphin Tale” (Morgan Freeman, Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd). A heart-warming drama adapted from the true story of Winter, a young dolphin that lost her tail in a crab trap and, after several unsuccessful attempts, was fitted with a unique prosthetic tail that allowed her to swim and survive.

“Bobby Fischer Against the World.” A critically acclaimed HBO documentary about the late – and troubled – American world chess champion, of particular interest to Humberto, a chess fan who took up tournament play after being inspired by Fischer’s ascent to the world title in 1972.

“The Big Year” (Steve Martin, Jack Black, Owen Wilson). A witty comedy/drama about a birders’ competition – who can spot the most species of birds in a year – and of who the real winners are in the end.

“Tower Heist” (Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Adan Alda). A comedy caper about working stiffs at a luxury Central Park condominium seeking revenge on a Bernie-Madoff type Wall Street swindler.

“J. Edgar” (Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts). A biopic of the late and controversial FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, the face of law enforcement in the United States for almost 50 years.

What can I say? A movie lover’s delight and fresh popcorn too!

Freelance travel writer Georgina Cruz and her husband Humberto are currently sailing on Amsterdam’s 112-day Grand World Voyage and will be sending in cruise diaries throughout their time on board. She has logged 174 voyages to all seven continents and visited more than 100 countries.

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