Early Sunday morning Buck, my manager, and I made our way north from Miami to Port Everglades. Buck wanted to give me a tour of our client Holland America Line’s Westerdam cruise ship, docked for the day at the port, and I wanted to explore this fascinating ship I had heard so much about.

WSDM_Captain van ZaaneFrom Left: Captain Edward G.van Zaane, me, Buck and Janet.

We also had real work to do. We were there to interview Captain Edward G. van Zaane who was recently selected by Holland America Line to serve as master of ms Nieuw Amsterdam, one of the company’s largest ships to date, which is being built in Italy.

After making our way past several security checkpoints, we were whisked away by the port’s security in a golfcart to the entryway of the ship. We would need to go through one last checkpoint before we were escorted, VIP style, by a crew member to the captain’s quarters. After passing what felt like endless rows of rooms and ocean–view suites, we finally reached our destination.

To say that I was nervous is an understatement. I was actually going to meet a real captain who navigates seas all over the world in a 936–foot cruise liner for a living. The captain was tall, handsome, smart, reserved and genuinely nice, just as I had imagined he would be. After formal introductions and a brief chit–chat with him, we decided to tour the ship while he prepared his crew for safety inspections and agreed to meet an hour later for our exclusive interview.

Although I have been on a cruise ship once before, nothing could have prepared me for this. The artwork was stunningly beautiful throughout the ship and the amenities were equally impressive.

Westerdam has everything from an Internet café powered by the New York Times to a culinary arts center for celebrity chefs and passengers, and workshops taught by Microsoft–trained “techsperts” who teach passengers how to “show and tell” their vacation memories through blogging and social–networking sites.

There’s even CLUB HAL, a hangout spot for the toddlers, tweens and teens on board to have fun and socialize with their peers. Not to mention the endless array of lounges, bars and tax–free shops. What more could I ask for?

Although the plush theater and Internet café were nice, they pale in comparison to the super–cool panoramic elevators facing the sea and the retractable Magrodome, by far, the coolest thing I’ve seen in a while. I was dying for someone to hit the switch and close the Magrodome, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. Maybe next time.

My first tour of a Holland America ship was everything I thought it would be, exciting from the moment I stepped aboard until my final wave goodbye. I left with a greater understanding of our clients’ product (extremely important in the public relations industry) and more importantly, great photos, including one with the captain himself.