Or Happy Birthday Bob Cruise. To start off this was a surprise cruise for my wife's (Barbara) cousins (Patty) husbands (Bob) 70th birthday. There were ten in all booked on this trip. Bob the guest of honor and his wife Patty - who suggested this cruise. Their life long friends Linda and Nelson from Tampa. Our friends Bob and Eileen from Michigan. And our group of four. Bob and Patty live in Florida just north of Tampa. Our group of four are all from North Jersey. With Patty picking out the trip to go on we planned this over nine months in advance. Where she asked us all to come on the trip and she would not tell Bob anyone else was going. Surprise building. My TA Deb took care of all the ship bookings for all of use and got us all great deals on the cabins. We had four sharing the suite. My wife Barbara and I with my sister in law Julie and their friend Carole. Bob and Eileen got a slightly smaller suite with a veranda and our Florida travelers opted for inside cabins. All on the same floor. Just a few doors down from us. Linda and Nelson were on the starboard side while Patty and Bob were on the Port side. The wife purchased us both oversize drag bags. The ones that are about three feet tall - two feet wide and just over a foot deep inside. You can also unzip them a bit to expand their size to get more into them. We had to carefully pack and weigh the large bags as they now have scales at all check in sites and will charge you for the excess over 50 pounds per bag. We did not have any problem being sure we were under weight on the way down to the boat. I also took a small drag bag which I packed with my running gear and a case of Guinness's Stout Pub cans. This came in handy for meeting people on the ship, the Guinness's Stout, and for taking home dirty clothes, using the smaller empty drag bag. I had a small carry on for my camera and some party items. With all four people we had only six bags to check. I had booked everyone in our group onto Continental for the flight down and back. This was an Early morning flight out of Newark. I had pressed and packed everything that I was going to use for the cruise. Suits and Tux all fit easily into the bag. And the other cruise clothes were also packed on easily. This will give me some ideas on how and how much I can pack for our next trip in February. Up early to the Airport - 3:30 AM or so to leave about 5 AM for Newark. We're all ready and off we go across town to Julie's house. Carole is to meet us there at 5 AM to leave for the airport. Her husband Jimmy is driving her. And she said she knew how to get to Julie's house. Not a problem as there is usually no traffic on the roads at this time. Well we get to Julie's and load the extra luggage into the Van. But no Carole yet. We go inside and wait. Did I tell you we have Carole's E ticket to get on the plane. So 5:15 comes and goes and we wait. At 5:20 we get to note writing to tell her to meet us at the Continental check in and the flight information. We are walking out the door at 5:25 AM to go... A car comes zooming around the corner and down the block. Better late than never. Lost in town. Carole did not ask for exact directions as she had been here only one time before and got off at the wrong exit. Her husband Jimmy ended up asking a policeman who directed them to the exact street was. "Dear Jimmy - They were going to leave without me." and Dear Jimmy "I remember the exit said Fair Lawn." We get her one suitcase and carry bag into the Van and off we go. Over to Route 80 to the turnpike. Wouldn't you know it they have closed the turnpike entrance to get on and we have to detour around. Did I tell you Carole is Blonde. So after the detour around we get to the Airport about 6:00 AM. There is not much of a line at the E ticket check in at the curb. Out we go and I line the luggage up for everyone. They check id's and ask about the bag weights. No problems here. Off we go into the screening process. Since 9-11 this has gotten a lot tighter. There are no lines here as in the past and we get through relatively quickly. They screen the carry on bags very closely. I have my Camera in one of the bags. I shoot 200 speed film and have not had a problem with it going through the machines yet. We have to walk to the other end of the Continental area as our gate is not close by. So I pick up most of the carry bags and off I go. The ladies behind. Well I go about 100 yards down and they are already 50 behind. Thank goodness I'm 6 foot plus and they can pick me out of a crowd. We get down to the gate area I get four seats close to the gate entrance. They start calling for the first class and business class people about forty minutes before the flight. A little early from what I remember. Well we are on the plane by 7:00 AM. And it's up, up and away. We bank to the left then its time to head the plane south. Great flight. Air is a bit stuffy. But no problems. I have booked the ladies into seats 17A, 17B, 17C. I have a window seat in 18A. So I am pinned in. I just get my complimentary OJ and morning muffin and read. We land in Orlando, a bit bumpy on the hit, about 5 minutes before schedule. We are at the terminal very quickly. It is about 10 AM as we get off the plane and start up to the tramway to get our luggage. Downstairs to the luggage go round. I pick up all the luggage off the belt and leave it to the ladies. We move all the luggage to the pick up arrivals area and sit down for our short wait. We are outside by about 10:20 or so. Dear Jimmy: "They made me move my own luggage." We call Linda on her cell phone. They are about 10 minutes away at this point. I had originally booked an Avis car to rent to take over to the pier. But Linda and Nelson suggested they pick us up in their van. No problem there - I go with their suggestion. The car rental would be about $50.00 for each way. While waiting. I walk over to the other side of the road at the arrival area we are waiting in. Down below this level there are busses galore for all the cruise lines and Disney. They are slowly loading in the carry bags and luggage. Linda and Nelson pull up at about 10:40 AM. We quickly load the luggage in. This is a close fit and we are sitting with some things in our laps for the ride over to the pier. The route has good markings from here as they specify what turns to take to get to the passenger ship terminal. The ride over is about 40 minutes as the speed limit on this road is 70. The other participants - Bob and Eileen had flown in from Michigan the day before. They were over in Disney and coming over by rental car. And knew about what time we would hit the ship. We had already found out that the long term parking for the ship was next to the pier. So after we had dropped all the luggage off to be checked in and the other carry bag - we dropped the car - all of 100 yards away - at the long term parking. The price was $70.00 for the week. Very convenient for all involved. It also looks like they are expanding the parking in a few other areas. Not bad for this close to the ship. You get a coupon for the car and drive in - park and lock. When Nelson and I walked back - there were Eileen and Bob from being dropped off by the Hertz shuttle service. Great timing. So all eight of us were going into the terminal at one time. Linda had heard from Patty that they were about an hour or so behind us and there was no problem with them checking in at the same time. We were walking through the check in process about 11:30 AM. The Suites have their own separate check in area. No one on line when we were walking up. We presented our tickets and such to the people there. This process was a bit slow going for us. As the people here did not seem comfortable checking documents and getting all the needed paper work done. The others had no problem and were done before us. Too bad the line has not invented a plastic see through id holder for you to use. To speed up the process of taking out id showing it with birth certificates and the like. Then adding in a slot for the cruise card. Holland America did not take identity pictures - that we stopped and posed for - like Celebrity has for their cards. They would just have the card to key into the slot to get on and off the ship. Interesting. Well onto the ship we go..... And how lovely it is as we enter onto deck 4. This is the bottom of the three level Atrium. In the middle is a large pipe organ. A bit out of place on a ship for my liking. I was about the ship and cutting through here every day and night. Only heard it played one time. They should have had a nice concert grand piano on one of the upper levels and had someone play it daily. But the pipe organ was right across from the front office. They may have been a noise problem here. One of the things that could have been changed. We were booked into Demi Suite 7031 - Navigation Deck. We keyed the room and the door opened up. This was about noon and we had heard the rooms would not be ready till after 1:00 PM. So we just dropped the luggage and walked the ship for a bit. DeDe was our house keeper for the week. I only saw him randomly and never in our room. Great clean up service. This suite was great for the price we paid. The size was about two and a half times the normal space you would get in a regular cabin. Then add in the Verandah area also. The size is 563 square feet. This includes the verandah. Spacious - yes. A king size bed with the pull out couch to a double. Dear Jimmy "They only gave me one Pillow." The cabin also has a mini bar which we pulled out all the contents and put the Champagne we had brought on board into it. Along with the other wine, beer and other things we picked up along the way that week. There was a complimentary bottle of Champagne chilling when we arrived. The one thing they could do with a suite - if you have a lot of people in it was get more cabinet space. One whole side of the room had cabinets to put things into but they were too small and could have used another level. The storage area for bags was also small as we could only store four of them under the king size bed and the rest had to go into the closets. There was a closet for each of us. Nice wood tones and the like in the dressing room with floor to ceiling mirrors on the closet doors. But there were not a lot of hangers in them. The dressing room had a small sink in it. This proved useful when getting four ready for dinner. There was only one electrical outlet here to plus into. The bathroom was quite large - considering we had never cruised in this size room before. There is a large vanity and sink here with a hair dryer - the ladies got a lot of use out of this. The shower / tub was large and you could have taken a Jacuzzi bath if you had wanted to. No one ever got around to it. The shower had a great temperature adjustment to it. Worked real well. The only thing in the bathroom is they only had two glasses for use. Odd. Back to the room. The Verandah was huge. You could easily fit over 10 people on it with the chairs. And we did do this the first night shifting some chairs from the room to outside. The door opens to a normal size but you can clip open the side part to make it a larger opening. This does not help the room A/C unit. This is a nice place to stop and watch the ship go by and take a relaxing nap on. We used it mostly for our daily room parties. They also leave you with personalized stationary for each person. The seating tickets for the second seating dinner were in the room. Along with an invitation to a suite party and other welcome aboard information. All done quite well and laid out nicely. They also have a pair of binoculars you could use to look at the sights. Once we had all dropped off our luggage and carry bags at about noon we all headed upstairs to the lido to look around. The Lido pool layout was very nice in the middle of the ship with a roof that could be opened and closed. This would work great if you are in Alaska. There are also two hot tubs here. The steel band was playing here. You could get some lunch here in the starboard side front area - this is the terrace grill. This area had a few salads and a place where you could get hot dogs, hamburgers and a few other things. There was also an table with hot lamps that they left fresh pizza on for you to take. The only drinks you could get ice tea and water. We headed for the lido restaurant. To check out what else they had to offer. We ate near the pool and listened to the steel band play. Our group of eight was under a time constraint - in that the surprise was still on for the birthday boy Bob. We knew they would be getting onto the ship about 1:00 pm. And just after that we headed down to our room to hide. Back to the party planning. I had bought some party balloons and I blew them up in the cabin. Looked around to find something to get them to stick to the metal ceiling. Nothing. Went down to the front desk and they gave me a roll of scotch tape. Very nice of them. I returned it later in the day. Worked great - now the balloons and banner letters are hung in the cabin. This with "Happy 70th Birthday" on it. The Champagne is chilling and everyone is assembled. We had Julie call over to Patty and Bob's room. To invite them over, we had told Patty to tell Bob there was someone on the ship she knew from church. But Bob does not like to visit people he does not know. So Julie disguises her voice and calls over to tell her on the phone to come over to the room for a drink. This was all pre arranged. To top it off Patty had been conversing with Barbara a few days earlier and had let her talk to Bob. Barbara being the resident cruise person with over 150 days at sea. Bob was joking around said how about you coming with us. But when she said yes. I'll be there right away. He back tracked on that. We left the security lock on the door so it was part way open. Then we sat down to wait knowing Patty would have to talk him into coming over. Not knowing what awaited him. Camera at the ready. They walk in and it's "Happy Birthday Bob". I'm sure we got him on this one. Pictures taken and greeting yelled out. What a great way to start the cruise. Pop the Champagne and pour it out. Nelson made a great toast to Bob. Now were cruising. The theme every night for dinner as we sat down or came into the restaurant was "Happy Birthday Bob". Everyone relaxes a bit and they check out the room and the veranda. It's great. More than even I expected. We all agreed to walk about the ship and meet back here when we set sail. Up to the lido restaurant for lunch. Our second now. There were some very tasty treats laid out for everyone to pick what they wanted. I did get some Rum Raisin ice cream later. My favorite flavor. We sat back outside in the pool area. They also have a nice bar area up near the Lido pool. This is the Dolphin bar. Wicker chairs and tables with umbrellas are on their serving area here. Very nice spot to sit out and grab a drink as the ship pulls out of port. I went up and looked about the ship. Into the gym area. This is a great sized area for this ship. There is a big area to have aerobics and other types of group workouts. In front of this is a group of walking machines / treadmills. There are about 15 of them here across the whole width of the ship looking forward. Slightly behind the treadmills to the port side of the ship were the nautilus machines. There are about 15 of these. And an assortment of free weights. Upstairs on the Sports Deck is the Crows Nest lounge. This is at the forward part of the ship. An expansive area for you to sit in an enclosed area and have a great vista view of where the ship is going. This lounge area has a large dance floor on the Starboard side and a bar on the port side. Nice soft wood tones and salmon colored seating on one side. There are two alcove like areas you could go and hide in that had seating for twenty or so. Going back on this deck level to the Aft - rear - of the ship you would walk around the dome cover to the lido pool. There are ring toss and shuffleboard games here on both sides. Then depending on what side of the ship you are on you run into either a volleyball court - Starboard - or a tennis / basketball court - Port. Both are fully net enclosed so as not to lose any equipment or passengers over the side. As you exit the enclosed area you exit onto the back deck area that sits above the outside pool at the Aft - back - of the ship. There are a lot of lounge chairs set up here for all to use. The outside pool area was below on the lido deck. Here is where most passengers were for the sail away party going on. They had a nice setup for getting any type of drink you wanted. They were also giving you a free colorful HAL sail away plastic drink glass, when you bought the sail away drink. There was a spot to get a beer from as they had a lot of choices set up on ice next to the pool. There is also a small ship bar area here. So if you sit outside and it get's too hot. Do a Jump Up and get over there to cool yourself off. Ideally located. At about 4:00 PM we had our life boat drill. I had no problem getting the ladies all set and sent them out to the assemble area. The wife was dithering around the room a bit and I could only find three life jackets. It took me a few minutes to find mine in another closet that was just inside the entry door. Ahhhh.... the adjustments you have to make to a big suite. So it's get the straps right and get downstairs to the lower promenade deck to check in as they call you name. We were late and thought we had missed our call. But they waded through the names and checked everyone. This is mandatory and worth the fifteen minutes or so it takes to do. If you ever remember to take your camera along do it one time for the pictures of you and those traveling with you. When it's over you end up walking back to your room as the elevators are jammed with people - now walking to their cabins. Come on guys this is a long cruise you should walk the steps as much as you can. I'm just about the last off the deck and back into the ship. But I can find Julie, Carole and Barbara by their laughing. They are one deck up by now and when I get to them they are engaged in some conversation about something funny. Dear Jimmy "It would not be hard to find them on the Ship. Listen for the laughter." Well it was time to pull out of port. So it was back to the cabin for most of us. First to drop off the life vests which I stored on the top of each closet. By now our second and third bottle of Champagne were well chilled. And I had called room service to drop off some hors devours for us at 5:00 pm. Just in time for sail away. We all meet back here and I get some great sail away pictures at the rail. Another reason to have the suite. We watch the sun set back over the pier area we just left. The ships proceeds slowly down the channel. Past the other dock areas that have the Casino ships and out into the Atlantic. The Disney Magic is just ahead of us as we leave. Some other notes from walking around the ship and doing things. I had to go down to the library and confirm our dinner reserve so to be sure to be all at one table. When Holland American had replied they had listed some of the group at confirmed second seating and some at first seating. Deb had faxed and emailed them the switch all to second seating but we never got a confirm back from them. They had left ticket stubs in an envelope in the cabin. I found ours and everyone else had told me theirs was the same letter code. O.K. off I went to check. But there is no one there to confirm the seating just in case. So I walk into the Rotterdam dining room on the lower level. I look around for table "F". Only see numbered tables. I ask one of the waiters passing through where that table is located. He points it out and says "That is the Captains Table". I'm impressed. Guess my TA does have some pull with this line. It's in a central location as I quickly look around and depart. I do get over to the library and find them checking over table seating. There are a few people in front of me in line and I sit down to wait. All of them are older gentlemen. The same theme or question is asked. "I asked for first seating Dinner. I got second. I need to eat early.".... The maitre 'd has replied the same thing. "I have a full dining room for the first seating dinner. I have 328 people waiting to get into the dining room on that seating. I can out you on the wait list." The last gentleman thought he must have had him. He presented a note from his Doctor saying he had to eat early. Oh well. It's a dirty job but someone has to do it. But the answer was still no. I can put you on the list. I just confirm the room numbers of those at the table and they match. I run for it. The Suites have priority on what seating dinner they want. So they may just default you in a suite into the first seating. If I had known this I could have sold our first sitting dinner seats for some bucks to someone right there. Well I walk over to the internet area and talk to the lady from the ship. I ask about response time and a few other things then go through the Casino and past the big screen TV they have next to it. This is the Casino bar area. Very convent. If your getting beat in the casino step away to their bar and TV area. Well back to the room. To give you an idea of the layout - even if you bring it up on the display. As you enter there is a closet to the left. Which I ended up using after I found it. The entry area can be separated by pulling a curtain across to make a small area about five feet by five feet. The ladies used this as a changing area when they were getting ready for dinner. As you stepped into the room there is a bar on left that is about eight feet long two levels with a shelf and out Champagne cooler and glasses and other bar items on it. This is at a forty five degree angle. The top is a mirrored area with built in shelves that took me a day to find. This looks extra glasses and some small liquor bottles in case you want to mix you own drink. They have a wide selection here. But if you take it you pay for it. Underneath there is a mini fridge. Inside it is stocked with a large selection of beer, wine, soda. To the left of the fridge is another storage area. The safe is located in here. You have to set down or sit in a chair to get at it. Not the most convenient thing in the room. I did not find the safe till the fifth day of the cruise. As you step into the room there is a master bed - king size on the mirrored wall to the left. The right side of the room has a large couch that could, and did for us, easily seat five adults. There is a small coffee table with two chairs. You have as you enter to the left about ten feet after you step into the room a doorway that is open. This is the entrance to the dressing room and bathroom. The dressing room table has a sink at one end and a small chair you can sit in. There are three closets in the dressing room area. And the bathroom through a separate door. The dressing room can be closed off with a curtain they have there. The bathroom has a close and latch door. So more than one person can be getting ready at a time. The Verandah I already went over above. I will say it is a great place to hang out with the group or by yourself when you like the escape time during the day. I will depart from a step by step description here. If I did not this review would never get done. I will walk through each room on the ship and describe what it is like and the activities they had going on in it. Along with some insights on the things done. As you can see above I have and will add in quotes from Carole to her husband as we go along. I'll start at the top of the ship and work my way down deck by deck. Forward where you can only reach it by waking up the steps forward just as you are walking around the pool dome cover. This is the Sky Deck. There were a few lounge chairs here. The area has a wind shield on it so as not to have you blow off the ship. This could be used for a quiet place to read in the sun or retreat to the shaded side when needed. Crows Nest Lounge. This is on the Sports Deck Forward. The colors are a peach or salmon for the chairs and decor. There is a large sized dance floor here. The seating areas are at the windows looking forward. There is a good bar area also with stools at it. The side areas have a walk around to get to them. could be used for semi private meeting or quiet area. We had many of the trivia games up here with Ana from the cruise staff. Did well here. never won any of the games but had fun. There was a group of seniors that went around to all the trivia and games. This was a group of ten. With the trivia games you played in teams of six. Here is where you can use a music expert and we did meet up with one. But it only helped a little bit. On one of the most attended games there were eleven teams. And a lot of fun was had with getting the answers. The Sports deck also has a tennis court and racquets to use if you wanted. This is a fully net enclosed area on the port side of the ship. They had the basketball hoop here on half of one court. We had a foul shooting contest here on the second day. The wind does have an effect on where the ball goes. About ten or so people lined up to try it out. The winner made 4 of 5 shots. From what I had seen of this area it was not used much. The other side - starboard - had a similar enclosed with a net area for volleyball. This would have to have been the best attended sport on the ship. We had about 25 or so players who were there during the week. We even played with an intrepid group of ten then eight then six the last afternoon of the cruise in the wind. Here I met Mary and her sister and brother in law. The real estate brokers from Tennessee. Mr. Zaandam and his wife and a host of others. We had a great time of it when we played. Thanks everyone. The facility was fine and as long as you did not crash into the wall or each other there were no problems. At the back of the Sports deck was the Sky room. This was for the Club HAL kids on the cruise. There were not many. They did have three MAC computers here to play computer games on. This was not a highly used area on the ship as there were not a lot of children on board this cruise. I only saw about ten to twenty in all. The room was nice and had a great view to the back of the ship. When there are more children aboard this should be a well used area. Outside the sky room are the wings lounging area for the outside pool on the deck below. There were a lot of lounge chairs set up on this level and in use most of the time. On the Lido deck starting forward. This is where the Ocean Spa Gym was located. The Gym takes up the whole front of the boat. There is a small area you can walk out on but no one seemed to be there any time. The equipment in the gym is as follows: The twelve walking machine here facing forward so you can see the ship as it goes places and walk off a few pounds. There is also about fifteen or so Universal machines. Not many for working out the tummy with mostly leg and arm work. There are some free weights also here on the port side of the boat. The Spa has classes they charge for in the gym. These run twice a day and you can get a discount by buying all the classes up front. There is a large workout floor in the middle for aerobics. I think that's what the classes were about. But I was never around here when this may have taken place. I used the weights and did my daily set of sit-ups in the gym area here. They have a large supply of the small towels here to keep you and the equipment dry. Right next to the gym forward on the Lido deck is the Beauty Salon. This was a great location as in the early AM when I was finished running I would cut through here to get to the gym. They always had an aroma therapy bowl out in the hall. The beauty salon is on the port side of the ship and the massage area is on the starboard side. The ladies on the trip used both areas. The massage they had there was to die for. Or so they tell me. Carole got her nails done while on board. Dear Jimmy - "You paid for that to be done on a ship?" When she could have done them at home? The Spa / Gym / Beauty salon people were always around to greet you or answer all your questions. The Lido pool area is amid ship. This included a pool only about thirty feet long. Not great for trying to swim a few laps in the am. Too many turns. The pool water ran from about three feet deep to about six foot deep. The water was cool the first day but was warmer as the week went on. This is a fresh water pool. To the front of this area are a men's and ladies room along with two shower areas. There are two hot tubs here just next to the pool. But boy the one I was in was way too hot for me. The other one was a bit cooler. There were always a few people here using the hot tubs. Very convenient as the terrace grill was tucked into the corner of the ship here. They served some great lunch treats and had a small buffet and pizza area here. The ship steel band played in here in the afternoon and at sail away. At the end of this area was the Dolphin bar. So if you want to relax this is the place. Good food some music and a hot tub and bar. What more could you want. They had some pool games here - like pitching a plastic golf ball into the tube for prizes on one of our sea days. They also had some pool games here the last day of the cruise but I was up playing Volleyball. This entire pool area has a sliding cover to keep out the elements. It was open most times I was there. When the rain came one day they closed it. The ping pong games were also played here during the week. I got killed the first tourney they had and did not show back for the others. There were a lot of good players on the boat this week. As you move to the Aft section of the ship on this deck you come through the sliding glass doors to the Lido restaurant. This was a nice area that had specialty areas for making omelets in the AM and your macaroni specialty in the lunch time. They also have a sandwich area - which I had never seen on any other ship before this. They always were greeting you with a smile and helping you find a seat. This was most crowded at lunch time. The restaurant has glass windows so you can look out and watch the ship slip through the waves while at sea or see what action is going on near the ship while in port. Just beyond this area to the very back (aft) of the ship was the outside pool area. There were plenty of chairs here for your use. There is also a small bar area tucked in under the deck overhang from above. This was mostly where any of the children were when near a pool on this ship. The younger crowd used this pool area extensively. The sun was nice to catch out here as this area is not shaded at all. Skipping down past the Navigation and the Verandah Decks - these are passenger decks with staterooms only. We'll come to the Upper Promenade Deck level 5. At the forward part of the ship is the upper level to the Mondriaan lounge balcony. This is the theatre area where the production shows are put on. The seating was great up top you could see everything. If you wanted to catch a nap before bed this was the place. The chairs are way too comfortable to sit in for that not to happen when the lights go down. As you exit the balcony and start walking to the back of the ship. As you exit to your left is the Ocean bar. This is a nice cozy place to meet before dinner for a drink. They played music here at night. It was also used for playing some of the games like Pictionary or Outburst. The Senior citizens jitney seemed to have this place pegged as a place to stop. The group of ten that were together were here most days. There was a nice sized dance floor and a lot of seating for groups large and small that wanted to use this area. Directly across from here were some of the gift shops. The clothes, souvenirs, liquor, snacks and cigarettes at a discount. Here is where Holland America differs from most lines. They will let you keep your bottle of liquor you buy in their shop for a small surcharge. You can take it to consume in your room. But if you wish to purchase it without the discount you can have them deliver it to your room when you are ready to depart. They did not have an extensive selection in that regard. But the prices were very good. The other areas here did not have anything that caught my eye. As I have been on a lot of cruises and know what to pack for myself and try not to have to buy on the ship. The other part of the shopping arcade area was to the left as you walked to the back of the ship. This area had their more expensive gifts. Watches, perfume, gold.... ouch. A nice selection of things to buy on board here. They had some sales on watches and gold during the cruise. But not knowing what I'm buying keeps me from it. Dear Jimmy "There are a lot of old people on this ship." To the middle of the ship as you exit the shopping area is the Casino bar. They have a wide screen TV set up here. They get ESPN in off the satellite. But it's a foreign feed from the islands. This is a nice area to sit and watch people go by and to take a break from the casino. They also have some TV's in the bar itself to watch. There is seating for about fifteen at the bar and twenty or so in the lounge area to watch the TV. They had my team playing on Sunday night ESPN game so it was real nice. The Cowboys lost the game. But it was nice to see it. This was a slightly dark area on the ship as it was shielded from outside light on both sides. The wall where the giant TV was separated this area from the Casino. The Casino is located on the port side of the ship. If you entered through the front of the bar area you would find two coin pusher games. These had a variation on just winning the coins that fell down. There was also a slot machine there to give you a second chance to win some coins. It was great because one of the machines talked and played a nautical theme while you dropped the coins in the slot. This one took me for a few dollars. But it was fun to play it. As you enter the Casino from this front area the playing tables are there for you. I think there was one dice table and one roulette table. There were a lot more black jack tables and a Caribbean stud poker table also. My three Dutch friends from Volleyball were playing on a table by themselves on the last night of the cruise and winning a little. This is a major feat seeing that they now have automatic card shufflers and this cuts your odds down a bit. The casino also had a big supply of various slot machines. I would have to say there were over 100 in this area. From the Video Poker types to the $5.00 big hit machines. They also ran a Slot and Black Jack tournaments during the week. This was a well run casino and well attended during the cruise. The wife made her usual trip donation on the video poker machines. Dear Jimmy: "Contrary to what others may say... I did not win anything while in the casino." Around the corner from the Casino bar walking on the starboard side of the ship, just around the corner is the Sea view lounge. This was the piano bar area on the ship. There was someone in here playing most nights. They had some of the trivia games here. And some other meetings of groups. Just as you exit the Sea view Lounge and are walking past the middle bank of stairs and elevators you will end up in the Explorers lounges. This is a green lounge colored area. This was used to host some of the suite get together parties. They also held their afternoon informal tea in this lounge. They were great in this area. As my wife is a coffee drinker and they brought her a cappuccino to substitute for tea for her. They also used this area as a get acquainted party for the suite passengers the day we left Mexico. The bar personnel were top notch and had a big selection of beer and drinks that night for the passengers. Nice open lounge area. Across to the opposite side of ship from the lounge areas on this level were the meeting rooms. This is on the Port side of the ship. Just beyond the Casino. There are the Hudson room for small meetings and religious services. After that there is the larger Half Moon Room which we used as our daily card room on the ship. They has a few games you could use here. There was also a large supply of card tables and chairs for use if you wanted. We used it to play our daily game of 500 rummy. We do this on most every trip. Mostly between the Wife and me. But this time we had five of our travel group playing every day. A fun time. I think Bob bested us all this trip. The next room down this chain of rooms was the Inter net web site cafe. They have about twelve terminals here you can use. If you think you are going to use the internet room more than one time - buy the minute package they offer. And you have to do it before you start up on-line. You can't try to do it after like I did after I got killed keying in a responses on the cruise critic board. Twenty dollars for a short time on-line. Ouch....!!!! But a nice room to have it in. There is also someone manning their help desk most of the day. The last room in this line was the Erasmus Library. Again like most ship libraries at sea. You could check out books and return them when finished. There were also some nice reading chairs you could sneak off into. Dear Jimmy "Barbara had us playing with a deck of 51 the last day." The last room's) to cover as we work our way back id the Rotterdam Dining room. This was the formal dining room for dinner and if you wanted to go and sit down for breakfast or lunch. This was set up differently from most other large two tier dining rooms of ships. As there is only a circular hole in the dining area and a true two tier complete dining area. As you enter on this level this would have been the upper level of the dining area. Off to each side of this upper level are two areas that they could use for overflow dining or private parties. They also had a piano and area for the house musicians to play each night - which they did. They even struck up "Happy Birthday" when we sang for Bob on the day we had his cake at the table. Our table was table "F". This was the Captains table in the middle of the cut out area in the dining room and viewable from the area on the second tier. We would let Bob and Patty get to the dining room before us each night then come into the upper level and shout out "Happy Birthday Bob!!!". By the end of the cruise we had a lot of people joining in on this. The back of the ship had tables at it on both levels. Not the open view and two levels of glass everyone in the dining room could look out. This was a very nice dining room. The ceiling had a twinkling star display in it that would light during the night time dining hours. There were two sweeping stairways from the top to the lower level. We were served by Hendra and Merta was our bus boy. Although they may have blurred the lines here and Merta also worked serving other tables. Great service by their staff. Dear Jimmy: "Any pictures we got from Tom may have been altered. I did not hug the guy at the exit every night." Working now from the front of the Promenade deck level 4. This was the lower level of the Mondriaan lounge theater. Like I stated in the previous description nice views and soft seats. But there was no place to put your drink if you got one. There were no small tables like I have seen on other ships. As you exit the theater from the port or left side of the ship you would run into the Photo Gallery. I think we cut through here a few times. We did not pose for any of the pictures they took. As a side note the ship photographers were not around all that much at dinner. They did get a few people to pose at the gangway as we entered each port. But they did have a lot of people lined up for the formal picture night. I did see some of these set shot pictures and they were very good. After you exited the photo gallery you would be in the Atrium. Across from here was the Front office. Boy were they busy during this trip. Lots of change to make, collecting and checking cabin bills. Giving ship information and so on. I had stopped by here a few times to purchase a deck of cards and to make bill payments. Borrow some tape for decorating our room. Every time greeted cheerfully and I got an answer. Next to this office was the shore excursion office. They were not open when I stopped by to get on a tour. But they responded to my request to go on the Swim with the Sting Ray's and put me in the first group. My friends Bob and Eileen had booked on-line before we even got on the ship and asked me to go along. More on this in the bottom of the review. As you circled the Atrium you would next run into the Java Cafe. This is a coffee and Tea bar. Tucked into the side of the ship. You can sit and sip and relax here. Nice place to watch the other cruise passengers go by with you favorite coffee or flavor of tea. Across from the Java Cafe is the Wajang Theatre. They played some first run movies in here. There was also a popcorn popping machine so you could really get into the movie experience at sea. We used this to muster for one of the trips we took off the boat. This was a theatre that could hold about two hundred people. The chairs were really comfortable. More so than any normal movie house I have been in. The movies were played about three times a day at various times. The last big area on this deck is the Marco Polo Restaurant. This is the upscale restaurant. We went in here one night. There is a cover charge to enter. And if you are in a suite you can get priority reserve on it. We only booked once we came on the ship. The night we were there the restaurant was just about full. The decorations and atmosphere were nice. The portions were a bit larger than in the normal dining room. The wife got a Manhattan steak and did not finish it because it was too big. For me it was O.K.. I ordered a seafood medley which was fine. The service was not as good as the regular dining room. But this was this groups first week on the ship. They brought in a completely new serving group onto the ship the week we got on. The ship did host a small lunch party in here for those in the suites later in the week. We just walked in and they seated us. This was a well attended event with our door greeter dressed up in native costume dancing to the Indonesian music playing. We ate with one of the ships nurses. They contract out this job and she was telling us that she was only on for two weeks at a time. Nice break to get out of the cold. Cruise and have lite work duty. The only other room left to tell about is the Video Arcade. This was only a room about twenty feet by twenty feet. There were about fifteen arcade games in here. Nothing caught my eye enough to play them. And from all the times I went by this room there were not many people in there. The last place on the ship to talk about is the Lower Promenade Deck. This is where I met pilot Gary and his wife. He originally was walking fast in the other direction while I walking a bit slower, drinking a Guinness's Stout, with the wife in the other. In the later afternoon. When he stopped he was asking where on the ship I had gotten the beer. No where. They did not sell dark beers on this ship. I ended up talking to him for awhile and sharing some of my excess during the trip. This deck is a completely wrap around the ship deck. I was up here every morning running. This deck is about thirty feet wide. They do have a lot of deck chairs that you could use to sit out in the fresh air and read or catch some shaded sun during the day. The line also puts out padded lounge coders as these chairs are all wood. The mileage marked said three and a half laps were equal to a mile. I think this was a bit short. About three and a half laps plus about 150 yards may be more accurate. But a great place to get in you walking and watch the ocean go by. They also had two water fountains on this deck. Great to get a drink of water if you needed it. Nelson and Bob were out here really early each morning walking about ten laps or so. They moved at a real quick pace. Well that about closes the review of the ship as to what it was and what you could do and where. The cruise staff of four were great. At all the games I attended they had a fun time with us. But where did they get all those senior citizens from. Did the Florida old folks homes dump a few extra on the ship??? Joking here. Ana was from Australia and was a very nice 23 year old. She hosted many of the Trivia and other games. Scott handled the outdoor activities. Both were great. They also doubled up working at the ports where we tendered in. I also met Erica who was the assistant bar manager for the ship. A lovely young lady from Holland staffed on the ship. We ran into her at about every ship function. Great to talk to. I had the pleasure of also talking to the Captain Olav Vander Waard at one of the suite parties. Well traveled for the line. He is one of the youngest looking captains I had ever seen. Or am I getting older. Naaahhhhh. Some of the things that I remember are the food in the lido restaurant did not change much for the whole week we were on board. Same selections for breakfast and lunch. Even in the paste and omelet areas. The food was not quite up to the level I have had on Celebrity. Maybe it's the sauces they serve on Celebrity that is the difference. The service was just as good wherever I have sailed. I will say that the suite was spectacular. All ten of so enjoyed the cruise immensely. I also attended a short slot lecture given by the casino staff while we at sea on day. They opened up a machine and explained the inner workings and how the wheels were automatically set to roll and pay off. The more you bet, max coins, the more you could win or lose. Depending on how lucky you are. We did go on the Sting Ray City swim tour in Grand Cayman. This was a fun trip with Eileen and Bob. Off the boat to the tender. Then collect everyone from the tour group. This does not work well if the tour guide is four foot nothing and has a sign to hold up to collect everyone. I took it off her and made sure everyone walked through the crowd on the street to the bus departure point. It was a twenty minute trip over to the boat in the first bus we were on. The second bus showed up a little later. But we all go on the boat. Applied some sun tan lotion for the time we would be out there. Donned our life vests and headed out to see the sting rays. After a bit of instructions about feeding and touching the Sting Rays we were there. Pick up a mask and fins and into the water you go. The feeding area is located on a sand bar about a fifteen minute ride from the boat dock. There were about twenty boats anchored about the sand bar area, which was about as large as a football field. The water depth varied from two feet to the slope where it dropped off to twenty to thirty feet deep. Most everyone stayed close to the boat. The guides were the only people who should handle the fish. It's spectacular to see them there swimming about. The guide was saying that this has been going on for twenty years or so. When they swim by and brush you it feels like wet velvet. I swam all around the sand bar area and into other groups that were there. A lot of people were on the sand bar in a lot of tours. Large and small. We stayed here about forty minutes or more. Then back to the boat for the trip back. We got back onto the bus and we were greeted with the Cayman Islands only singing bus driver. Please let's not get stuck in traffic. After about ten songs we were back and off the bus. A trip worth taking at least on time. The last stop on the Trip was the out island - Half Moon Cay. A Holland America Island. You tendered in here and had to get tickets for this. Bob and Patty along with Linda and Nelson got off the ship early and hit the beach. The rest of us did not get off till about 11:00 AM. The private island was quite large and could have held about twice the number of people that were on our ship. They had some nicely shaded areas and a lot of beach chairs. I swam out about a third of the way to the ship but the beach patrol boat came out and asked I swim back. But the wife bet me I could not get to the ship. Darn. The beach was about a mile to the far point if you wanted to walk. I played beach volleyball here with about twelve other passengers and Scott from the Cruise staff. Nice facilities here. Well worth the tender in to use them. They also served a buffet lunch in the middle of the island. The shows on the ship were fine along with the Comedy shows. I do not go to a lot of shows and entertainment. But what I did see of it was good by cruise standards. The last thing to cover here is the departure. The first day we filled out a form to say if we were traveling with others in the group. We were as Linda and Nelson were driving us back to the airport. Bob and Patty were also taking some of the extra luggage and their cousins. So we filled out the forms and sent them in. Bob and Patty did not get the correct luggage tags as ours and I went to the front office and exchanged them no problem. The last thing to do was re-pack for the trip home. Minus all the beer I carted down this should be a breeze. I put a lot of the heavier items into the small bags. Packed our large bags. Tagged all of them and along with Carols bag and Julies suitcase. She was still working on packing it. I left the tag next to it and told he to tag it when finished. Dear Jimmy - "Tom packed his own suitcase and he took care of all the luggage for me. You never do that." Well we get our departure numbers and in the am about eight or so they start calling numbers to get off. Anyone want to by a number 8. We go through the document check to get back into the United States. This is a bit more since 9 / 11. You have to have proper id to get back in. Wouldn't you know it the wife and Julie get stuck for a short time. They only have their town issued pool cards for their picture id. After this delay it's down to pick up the luggage. Well I find everything but.... Julies garment bag. When I ask her did you tag the bag. She says "Tag?? what tag". Now I feel like Al Bundy. Why me!!! I go find someone from the port area and ask them where the lost / untagged luggage would be. They lead me over to three pieces. There it is. Insert roll eyes here. Well we get the luggage together and we get out into the sunshine. I know where Nelson parked his car so I make two trips and get everything over to his van to pack into it. We say our goodbyes to Bob and Eileen. And we walk over and pack the vans for the trip to the airport. The drive to Orlando airport in not a problem. We get out and drop all the luggage at the curb. The attendant weighs the two large bags and they are a few pounds over. He lets us go on this. I think he was distracted. Dear Jimmy "It pays to wear a tight shirt slightly un buttoned when traveling." Well we walk into the airport and sit down. Just opposite where we are is a pet gift and souvenir shop. The wife has to buy our dog a gift. Dear Jimmy "Barbara bought the dog a gift but Tom nothing." Well after this we get into the line to go down to the gate area. The line was really long. But it moved very quickly. Not much of a problem. Got down to the gate and got the ladies seated. Then went back to get them a Cinnibon and a drink. No problems for the flight back. We got into Newark about 4 pm and found our ride home. My brother in law came and got us. All the luggage into the van and off to home. Jimmy came later and picked Carole up. Dear Jimmy " I had a great time. Laughed a lot. But missed you." Thanks to everyone on the trip. Deb my TA for setting everything up. Patty for suggesting and getting Linda and Nelson to go. Bob and Eileen for coming in from Michigan. Julie, Carole and the wife Barbara for having a good time and laughing it up. And our guest of honor Bob for being a good sport the whole week. Till next time - February 14 day cruise to the South. Tom Treimel

Zaandam - Western Caribbean

Zaandam Cruise Review by Tom Treimel - Longboysfan

Trip Details
Or Happy Birthday Bob Cruise. To start off this was a surprise cruise for my wife's (Barbara) cousins (Patty) husbands (Bob) 70th birthday. There were ten in all booked on this trip. Bob the guest of honor and his wife Patty - who suggested this cruise. Their life long friends Linda and Nelson from Tampa. Our friends Bob and Eileen from Michigan. And our group of four. Bob and Patty live in Florida just north of Tampa. Our group of four are all from North Jersey. With Patty picking out the trip to go on we planned this over nine months in advance. Where she asked us all to come on the trip and she would not tell Bob anyone else was going. Surprise building. My TA Deb took care of all the ship bookings for all of use and got us all great deals on the cabins. We had four sharing the suite. My wife Barbara and I with my sister in law Julie and their friend Carole. Bob and Eileen got a slightly smaller suite with a veranda and our Florida travelers opted for inside cabins. All on the same floor. Just a few doors down from us. Linda and Nelson were on the starboard side while Patty and Bob were on the Port side. The wife purchased us both oversize drag bags. The ones that are about three feet tall - two feet wide and just over a foot deep inside. You can also unzip them a bit to expand their size to get more into them. We had to carefully pack and weigh the large bags as they now have scales at all check in sites and will charge you for the excess over 50 pounds per bag. We did not have any problem being sure we were under weight on the way down to the boat. I also took a small drag bag which I packed with my running gear and a case of Guinness's Stout Pub cans. This came in handy for meeting people on the ship, the Guinness's Stout, and for taking home dirty clothes, using the smaller empty drag bag. I had a small carry on for my camera and some party items. With all four people we had only six bags to check.
I had booked everyone in our group onto Continental for the flight down and back. This was an Early morning flight out of Newark. I had pressed and packed everything that I was going to use for the cruise. Suits and Tux all fit easily into the bag. And the other cruise clothes were also packed on easily. This will give me some ideas on how and how much I can pack for our next trip in February.
Up early to the Airport - 3:30 AM or so to leave about 5 AM for Newark. We're all ready and off we go across town to Julie's house. Carole is to meet us there at 5 AM to leave for the airport. Her husband Jimmy is driving her. And she said she knew how to get to Julie's house. Not a problem as there is usually no traffic on the roads at this time. Well we get to Julie's and load the extra luggage into the Van. But no Carole yet. We go inside and wait. Did I tell you we have Carole's E ticket to get on the plane. So 5:15 comes and goes and we wait. At 5:20 we get to note writing to tell her to meet us at the Continental check in and the flight information. We are walking out the door at 5:25 AM to go... A car comes zooming around the corner and down the block. Better late than never. Lost in town. Carole did not ask for exact directions as she had been here only one time before and got off at the wrong exit. Her husband Jimmy ended up asking a policeman who directed them to the exact street was. "Dear Jimmy - They were going to leave without me." and Dear Jimmy "I remember the exit said Fair Lawn." We get her one suitcase and carry bag into the Van and off we go. Over to Route 80 to the turnpike. Wouldn't you know it they have closed the turnpike entrance to get on and we have to detour around. Did I tell you Carole is Blonde. So after the detour around we get to the Airport about 6:00 AM. There is not much of a line at the E ticket check in at the curb. Out we go and I line the luggage up for everyone. They check id's and ask about the bag weights. No problems here. Off we go into the screening process. Since 9-11 this has gotten a lot tighter. There are no lines here as in the past and we get through relatively quickly. They screen the carry on bags very closely. I have my Camera in one of the bags. I shoot 200 speed film and have not had a problem with it going through the machines yet. We have to walk to the other end of the Continental area as our gate is not close by. So I pick up most of the carry bags and off I go. The ladies behind. Well I go about 100 yards down and they are already 50 behind. Thank goodness I'm 6 foot plus and they can pick me out of a crowd. We get down to the gate area I get four seats close to the gate entrance. They start calling for the first class and business class people about forty minutes before the flight. A little early from what I remember. Well we are on the plane by 7:00 AM. And it's up, up and away. We bank to the left then its time to head the plane south. Great flight. Air is a bit stuffy. But no problems. I have booked the ladies into seats 17A, 17B, 17C. I have a window seat in 18A. So I am pinned in. I just get my complimentary OJ and morning muffin and read. We land in Orlando, a bit bumpy on the hit, about 5 minutes before schedule. We are at the terminal very quickly. It is about 10 AM as we get off the plane and start up to the tramway to get our luggage. Downstairs to the luggage go round. I pick up all the luggage off the belt and leave it to the ladies. We move all the luggage to the pick up arrivals area and sit down for our short wait. We are outside by about 10:20 or so. Dear Jimmy: "They made me move my own luggage." We call Linda on her cell phone. They are about 10 minutes away at this point. I had originally booked an Avis car to rent to take over to the pier. But Linda and Nelson suggested they pick us up in their van. No problem there - I go with their suggestion. The car rental would be about $50.00 for each way. While waiting. I walk over to the other side of the road at the arrival area we are waiting in. Down below this level there are busses galore for all the cruise lines and Disney. They are slowly loading in the carry bags and luggage. Linda and Nelson pull up at about 10:40 AM. We quickly load the luggage in. This is a close fit and we are sitting with some things in our laps for the ride over to the pier. The route has good markings from here as they specify what turns to take to get to the passenger ship terminal. The ride over is about 40 minutes as the speed limit on this road is 70. The other participants - Bob and Eileen had flown in from Michigan the day before. They were over in Disney and coming over by rental car. And knew about what time we would hit the ship. We had already found out that the long term parking for the ship was next to the pier. So after we had dropped all the luggage off to be checked in and the other carry bag - we dropped the car - all of 100 yards away - at the long term parking. The price was $70.00 for the week. Very convenient for all involved. It also looks like they are expanding the parking in a few other areas. Not bad for this close to the ship. You get a coupon for the car and drive in - park and lock. When Nelson and I walked back - there were Eileen and Bob from being dropped off by the Hertz shuttle service. Great timing.
So all eight of us were going into the terminal at one time. Linda had heard from Patty that they were about an hour or so behind us and there was no problem with them checking in at the same time. We were walking through the check in process about 11:30 AM. The Suites have their own separate check in area. No one on line when we were walking up. We presented our tickets and such to the people there. This process was a bit slow going for us. As the people here did not seem comfortable checking documents and getting all the needed paper work done. The others had no problem and were done before us.
Too bad the line has not invented a plastic see through id holder for you to use. To speed up the process of taking out id showing it with birth certificates and the like. Then adding in a slot for the cruise card. Holland America did not take identity pictures - that we stopped and posed for - like Celebrity has for their cards. They would just have the card to key into the slot to get on and off the ship. Interesting. Well onto the ship we go..... And how lovely it is as we enter onto deck 4. This is the bottom of the three level Atrium. In the middle is a large pipe organ. A bit out of place on a ship for my liking. I was about the ship and cutting through here every day and night. Only heard it played one time. They should have had a nice concert grand piano on one of the upper levels and had someone play it daily. But the pipe organ was right across from the front office. They may have been a noise problem here. One of the things that could have been changed.
We were booked into Demi Suite 7031 - Navigation Deck. We keyed the room and the door opened up. This was about noon and we had heard the rooms would not be ready till after 1:00 PM. So we just dropped the luggage and walked the ship for a bit. DeDe was our house keeper for the week. I only saw him randomly and never in our room. Great clean up service. This suite was great for the price we paid. The size was about two and a half times the normal space you would get in a regular cabin. Then add in the Verandah area also. The size is 563 square feet. This includes the verandah. Spacious - yes. A king size bed with the pull out couch to a double. Dear Jimmy "They only gave me one Pillow." The cabin also has a mini bar which we pulled out all the contents and put the Champagne we had brought on board into it. Along with the other wine, beer and other things we picked up along the way that week. There was a complimentary bottle of Champagne chilling when we arrived. The one thing they could do with a suite - if you have a lot of people in it was get more cabinet space. One whole side of the room had cabinets to put things into but they were too small and could have used another level. The storage area for bags was also small as we could only store four of them under the king size bed and the rest had to go into the closets. There was a closet for each of us. Nice wood tones and the like in the dressing room with floor to ceiling mirrors on the closet doors. But there were not a lot of hangers in them. The dressing room had a small sink in it. This proved useful when getting four ready for dinner. There was only one electrical outlet here to plus into. The bathroom was quite large - considering we had never cruised in this size room before. There is a large vanity and sink here with a hair dryer - the ladies got a lot of use out of this. The shower / tub was large and you could have taken a Jacuzzi bath if you had wanted to. No one ever got around to it. The shower had a great temperature adjustment to it. Worked real well. The only thing in the bathroom is they only had two glasses for use. Odd.
Back to the room. The Verandah was huge. You could easily fit over 10 people on it with the chairs. And we did do this the first night shifting some chairs from the room to outside. The door opens to a normal size but you can clip open the side part to make it a larger opening. This does not help the room A/C unit. This is a nice place to stop and watch the ship go by and take a relaxing nap on. We used it mostly for our daily room parties. They also leave you with personalized stationary for each person. The seating tickets for the second seating dinner were in the room. Along with an invitation to a suite party and other welcome aboard information. All done quite well and laid out nicely. They also have a pair of binoculars you could use to look at the sights.
Once we had all dropped off our luggage and carry bags at about noon we all headed upstairs to the lido to look around. The Lido pool layout was very nice in the middle of the ship with a roof that could be opened and closed. This would work great if you are in Alaska. There are also two hot tubs here. The steel band was playing here. You could get some lunch here in the starboard side front area - this is the terrace grill. This area had a few salads and a place where you could get hot dogs, hamburgers and a few other things. There was also an table with hot lamps that they left fresh pizza on for you to take. The only drinks you could get ice tea and water. We headed for the lido restaurant. To check out what else they had to offer. We ate near the pool and listened to the steel band play. Our group of eight was under a time constraint - in that the surprise was still on for the birthday boy Bob. We knew they would be getting onto the ship about 1:00 pm. And just after that we headed down to our room to hide.
Back to the party planning. I had bought some party balloons and I blew them up in the cabin. Looked around to find something to get them to stick to the metal ceiling. Nothing. Went down to the front desk and they gave me a roll of scotch tape. Very nice of them. I returned it later in the day. Worked great - now the balloons and banner letters are hung in the cabin. This with "Happy 70th Birthday" on it. The Champagne is chilling and everyone is assembled. We had Julie call over to Patty and Bob's room. To invite them over, we had told Patty to tell Bob there was someone on the ship she knew from church. But Bob does not like to visit people he does not know. So Julie disguises her voice and calls over to tell her on the phone to come over to the room for a drink. This was all pre arranged. To top it off Patty had been conversing with Barbara a few days earlier and had let her talk to Bob. Barbara being the resident cruise person with over 150 days at sea. Bob was joking around said how about you coming with us. But when she said yes. I'll be there right away. He back tracked on that. We left the security lock on the door so it was part way open. Then we sat down to wait knowing Patty would have to talk him into coming over. Not knowing what awaited him. Camera at the ready.
They walk in and it's "Happy Birthday Bob". I'm sure we got him on this one. Pictures taken and greeting yelled out. What a great way to start the cruise. Pop the Champagne and pour it out. Nelson made a great toast to Bob. Now were cruising. The theme every night for dinner as we sat down or came into the restaurant was "Happy Birthday Bob". Everyone relaxes a bit and they check out the room and the veranda. It's great. More than even I expected. We all agreed to walk about the ship and meet back here when we set sail.
Up to the lido restaurant for lunch. Our second now. There were some very tasty treats laid out for everyone to pick what they wanted. I did get some Rum Raisin ice cream later. My favorite flavor. We sat back outside in the pool area. They also have a nice bar area up near the Lido pool. This is the Dolphin bar. Wicker chairs and tables with umbrellas are on their serving area here. Very nice spot to sit out and grab a drink as the ship pulls out of port. I went up and looked about the ship. Into the gym area. This is a great sized area for this ship. There is a big area to have aerobics and other types of group workouts. In front of this is a group of walking machines / treadmills. There are about 15 of them here across the whole width of the ship looking forward. Slightly behind the treadmills to the port side of the ship were the nautilus machines. There are about 15 of these. And an assortment of free weights.
Upstairs on the Sports Deck is the Crows Nest lounge. This is at the forward part of the ship. An expansive area for you to sit in an enclosed area and have a great vista view of where the ship is going. This lounge area has a large dance floor on the Starboard side and a bar on the port side. Nice soft wood tones and salmon colored seating on one side. There are two alcove like areas you could go and hide in that had seating for twenty or so. Going back on this deck level to the Aft - rear - of the ship you would walk around the dome cover to the lido pool. There are ring toss and shuffleboard games here on both sides. Then depending on what side of the ship you are on you run into either a volleyball court - Starboard - or a tennis / basketball court - Port. Both are fully net enclosed so as not to lose any equipment or passengers over the side. As you exit the enclosed area you exit onto the back deck area that sits above the outside pool at the Aft - back - of the ship. There are a lot of lounge chairs set up here for all to use. The outside pool area was below on the lido deck. Here is where most passengers were for the sail away party going on. They had a nice setup for getting any type of drink you wanted. They were also giving you a free colorful HAL sail away plastic drink glass, when you bought the sail away drink. There was a spot to get a beer from as they had a lot of choices set up on ice next to the pool. There is also a small ship bar area here. So if you sit outside and it get's too hot. Do a Jump Up and get over there to cool yourself off. Ideally located.
At about 4:00 PM we had our life boat drill. I had no problem getting the ladies all set and sent them out to the assemble area. The wife was dithering around the room a bit and I could only find three life jackets. It took me a few minutes to find mine in another closet that was just inside the entry door. Ahhhh.... the adjustments you have to make to a big suite. So it's get the straps right and get downstairs to the lower promenade deck to check in as they call you name. We were late and thought we had missed our call. But they waded through the names and checked everyone. This is mandatory and worth the fifteen minutes or so it takes to do. If you ever remember to take your camera along do it one time for the pictures of you and those traveling with you. When it's over you end up walking back to your room as the elevators are jammed with people - now walking to their cabins. Come on guys this is a long cruise you should walk the steps as much as you can. I'm just about the last off the deck and back into the ship. But I can find Julie, Carole and Barbara by their laughing. They are one deck up by now and when I get to them they are engaged in some conversation about something funny. Dear Jimmy "It would not be hard to find them on the Ship. Listen for the laughter."
Well it was time to pull out of port. So it was back to the cabin for most of us. First to drop off the life vests which I stored on the top of each closet. By now our second and third bottle of Champagne were well chilled. And I had called room service to drop off some hors devours for us at 5:00 pm. Just in time for sail away. We all meet back here and I get some great sail away pictures at the rail. Another reason to have the suite. We watch the sun set back over the pier area we just left. The ships proceeds slowly down the channel. Past the other dock areas that have the Casino ships and out into the Atlantic. The Disney Magic is just ahead of us as we leave.
Some other notes from walking around the ship and doing things. I had to go down to the library and confirm our dinner reserve so to be sure to be all at one table. When Holland American had replied they had listed some of the group at confirmed second seating and some at first seating. Deb had faxed and emailed them the switch all to second seating but we never got a confirm back from them. They had left ticket stubs in an envelope in the cabin. I found ours and everyone else had told me theirs was the same letter code. O.K. off I went to check. But there is no one there to confirm the seating just in case. So I walk into the Rotterdam dining room on the lower level. I look around for table "F". Only see numbered tables. I ask one of the waiters passing through where that table is located. He points it out and says "That is the Captains Table". I'm impressed. Guess my TA does have some pull with this line. It's in a central location as I quickly look around and depart. I do get over to the library and find them checking over table seating. There are a few people in front of me in line and I sit down to wait. All of them are older gentlemen. The same theme or question is asked. "I asked for first seating Dinner. I got second. I need to eat early.".... The maitre 'd has replied the same thing. "I have a full dining room for the first seating dinner. I have 328 people waiting to get into the dining room on that seating. I can out you on the wait list." The last gentleman thought he must have had him. He presented a note from his Doctor saying he had to eat early. Oh well. It's a dirty job but someone has to do it. But the answer was still no. I can put you on the list. I just confirm the room numbers of those at the table and they match. I run for it. The Suites have priority on what seating dinner they want. So they may just default you in a suite into the first seating. If I had known this I could have sold our first sitting dinner seats for some bucks to someone right there. Well I walk over to the internet area and talk to the lady from the ship. I ask about response time and a few other things then go through the Casino and past the big screen TV they have next to it. This is the Casino bar area. Very convent. If your getting beat in the casino step away to their bar and TV area.
Well back to the room. To give you an idea of the layout - even if you bring it up on the display. As you enter there is a closet to the left. Which I ended up using after I found it. The entry area can be separated by pulling a curtain across to make a small area about five feet by five feet. The ladies used this as a changing area when they were getting ready for dinner. As you stepped into the room there is a bar on left that is about eight feet long two levels with a shelf and out Champagne cooler and glasses and other bar items on it. This is at a forty five degree angle. The top is a mirrored area with built in shelves that took me a day to find. This looks extra glasses and some small liquor bottles in case you want to mix you own drink. They have a wide selection here. But if you take it you pay for it. Underneath there is a mini fridge. Inside it is stocked with a large selection of beer, wine, soda. To the left of the fridge is another storage area. The safe is located in here. You have to set down or sit in a chair to get at it. Not the most convenient thing in the room. I did not find the safe till the fifth day of the cruise. As you step into the room there is a master bed - king size on the mirrored wall to the left. The right side of the room has a large couch that could, and did for us, easily seat five adults. There is a small coffee table with two chairs. You have as you enter to the left about ten feet after you step into the room a doorway that is open. This is the entrance to the dressing room and bathroom. The dressing room table has a sink at one end and a small chair you can sit in. There are three closets in the dressing room area. And the bathroom through a separate door. The dressing room can be closed off with a curtain they have there. The bathroom has a close and latch door. So more than one person can be getting ready at a time. The Verandah I already went over above. I will say it is a great place to hang out with the group or by yourself when you like the escape time during the day.
I will depart from a step by step description here. If I did not this review would never get done. I will walk through each room on the ship and describe what it is like and the activities they had going on in it. Along with some insights on the things done. As you can see above I have and will add in quotes from Carole to her husband as we go along.
I'll start at the top of the ship and work my way down deck by deck.
Forward where you can only reach it by waking up the steps forward just as you are walking around the pool dome cover. This is the Sky Deck. There were a few lounge chairs here. The area has a wind shield on it so as not to have you blow off the ship. This could be used for a quiet place to read in the sun or retreat to the shaded side when needed.
Crows Nest Lounge. This is on the Sports Deck Forward. The colors are a peach or salmon for the chairs and decor. There is a large sized dance floor here. The seating areas are at the windows looking forward. There is a good bar area also with stools at it. The side areas have a walk around to get to them. could be used for semi private meeting or quiet area. We had many of the trivia games up here with Ana from the cruise staff. Did well here. never won any of the games but had fun. There was a group of seniors that went around to all the trivia and games. This was a group of ten. With the trivia games you played in teams of six. Here is where you can use a music expert and we did meet up with one. But it only helped a little bit. On one of the most attended games there were eleven teams. And a lot of fun was had with getting the answers.
The Sports deck also has a tennis court and racquets to use if you wanted. This is a fully net enclosed area on the port side of the ship. They had the basketball hoop here on half of one court. We had a foul shooting contest here on the second day. The wind does have an effect on where the ball goes. About ten or so people lined up to try it out. The winner made 4 of 5 shots. From what I had seen of this area it was not used much. The other side - starboard - had a similar enclosed with a net area for volleyball. This would have to have been the best attended sport on the ship. We had about 25 or so players who were there during the week. We even played with an intrepid group of ten then eight then six the last afternoon of the cruise in the wind. Here I met Mary and her sister and brother in law. The real estate brokers from Tennessee. Mr. Zaandam and his wife and a host of others. We had a great time of it when we played. Thanks everyone. The facility was fine and as long as you did not crash into the wall or each other there were no problems.
At the back of the Sports deck was the Sky room. This was for the Club HAL kids on the cruise. There were not many. They did have three MAC computers here to play computer games on. This was not a highly used area on the ship as there were not a lot of children on board this cruise. I only saw about ten to twenty in all. The room was nice and had a great view to the back of the ship. When there are more children aboard this should be a well used area.
Outside the sky room are the wings lounging area for the outside pool on the deck below. There were a lot of lounge chairs set up on this level and in use most of the time.
On the Lido deck starting forward. This is where the Ocean Spa Gym was located. The Gym takes up the whole front of the boat. There is a small area you can walk out on but no one seemed to be there any time. The equipment in the gym is as follows: The twelve walking machine here facing forward so you can see the ship as it goes places and walk off a few pounds. There is also about fifteen or so Universal machines. Not many for working out the tummy with mostly leg and arm work. There are some free weights also here on the port side of the boat. The Spa has classes they charge for in the gym. These run twice a day and you can get a discount by buying all the classes up front. There is a large workout floor in the middle for aerobics. I think that's what the classes were about. But I was never around here when this may have taken place. I used the weights and did my daily set of sit-ups in the gym area here. They have a large supply of the small towels here to keep you and the equipment dry.
Right next to the gym forward on the Lido deck is the Beauty Salon. This was a great location as in the early AM when I was finished running I would cut through here to get to the gym. They always had an aroma therapy bowl out in the hall. The beauty salon is on the port side of the ship and the massage area is on the starboard side. The ladies on the trip used both areas. The massage they had there was to die for. Or so they tell me. Carole got her nails done while on board. Dear Jimmy - "You paid for that to be done on a ship?" When she could have done them at home? The Spa / Gym / Beauty salon people were always around to greet you or answer all your questions.
The Lido pool area is amid ship. This included a pool only about thirty feet long. Not great for trying to swim a few laps in the am. Too many turns. The pool water ran from about three feet deep to about six foot deep. The water was cool the first day but was warmer as the week went on. This is a fresh water pool. To the front of this area are a men's and ladies room along with two shower areas. There are two hot tubs here just next to the pool. But boy the one I was in was way too hot for me. The other one was a bit cooler. There were always a few people here using the hot tubs. Very convenient as the terrace grill was tucked into the corner of the ship here. They served some great lunch treats and had a small buffet and pizza area here. The ship steel band played in here in the afternoon and at sail away. At the end of this area was the Dolphin bar. So if you want to relax this is the place. Good food some music and a hot tub and bar. What more could you want. They had some pool games here - like pitching a plastic golf ball into the tube for prizes on one of our sea days. They also had some pool games here the last day of the cruise but I was up playing Volleyball. This entire pool area has a sliding cover to keep out the elements. It was open most times I was there. When the rain came one day they closed it. The ping pong games were also played here during the week. I got killed the first tourney they had and did not show back for the others. There were a lot of good players on the boat this week.
As you move to the Aft section of the ship on this deck you come through the sliding glass doors to the Lido restaurant. This was a nice area that had specialty areas for making omelets in the AM and your macaroni specialty in the lunch time. They also have a sandwich area - which I had never seen on any other ship before this. They always were greeting you with a smile and helping you find a seat. This was most crowded at lunch time. The restaurant has glass windows so you can look out and watch the ship slip through the waves while at sea or see what action is going on near the ship while in port. Just beyond this area to the very back (aft) of the ship was the outside pool area. There were plenty of chairs here for your use. There is also a small bar area tucked in under the deck overhang from above. This was mostly where any of the children were when near a pool on this ship. The younger crowd used this pool area extensively. The sun was nice to catch out here as this area is not shaded at all.
Skipping down past the Navigation and the Verandah Decks - these are passenger decks with staterooms only.
We'll come to the Upper Promenade Deck level 5. At the forward part of the ship is the upper level to the Mondriaan lounge balcony. This is the theatre area where the production shows are put on. The seating was great up top you could see everything. If you wanted to catch a nap before bed this was the place. The chairs are way too comfortable to sit in for that not to happen when the lights go down.
As you exit the balcony and start walking to the back of the ship. As you exit to your left is the Ocean bar. This is a nice cozy place to meet before dinner for a drink. They played music here at night. It was also used for playing some of the games like Pictionary or Outburst. The Senior citizens jitney seemed to have this place pegged as a place to stop. The group of ten that were together were here most days. There was a nice sized dance floor and a lot of seating for groups large and small that wanted to use this area. Directly across from here were some of the gift shops. The clothes, souvenirs, liquor, snacks and cigarettes at a discount. Here is where Holland America differs from most lines. They will let you keep your bottle of liquor you buy in their shop for a small surcharge. You can take it to consume in your room. But if you wish to purchase it without the discount you can have them deliver it to your room when you are ready to depart. They did not have an extensive selection in that regard. But the prices were very good. The other areas here did not have anything that caught my eye. As I have been on a lot of cruises and know what to pack for myself and try not to have to buy on the ship. The other part of the shopping arcade area was to the left as you walked to the back of the ship. This area had their more expensive gifts. Watches, perfume, gold.... ouch. A nice selection of things to buy on board here. They had some sales on watches and gold during the cruise. But not knowing what I'm buying keeps me from it. Dear Jimmy "There are a lot of old people on this ship."
To the middle of the ship as you exit the shopping area is the Casino bar. They have a wide screen TV set up here. They get ESPN in off the satellite. But it's a foreign feed from the islands. This is a nice area to sit and watch people go by and to take a break from the casino. They also have some TV's in the bar itself to watch. There is seating for about fifteen at the bar and twenty or so in the lounge area to watch the TV. They had my team playing on Sunday night ESPN game so it was real nice. The Cowboys lost the game. But it was nice to see it. This was a slightly dark area on the ship as it was shielded from outside light on both sides. The wall where the giant TV was separated this area from the Casino.
The Casino is located on the port side of the ship. If you entered through the front of the bar area you would find two coin pusher games. These had a variation on just winning the coins that fell down. There was also a slot machine there to give you a second chance to win some coins. It was great because one of the machines talked and played a nautical theme while you dropped the coins in the slot. This one took me for a few dollars. But it was fun to play it. As you enter the Casino from this front area the playing tables are there for you. I think there was one dice table and one roulette table. There were a lot more black jack tables and a Caribbean stud poker table also. My three Dutch friends from Volleyball were playing on a table by themselves on the last night of the cruise and winning a little. This is a major feat seeing that they now have automatic card shufflers and this cuts your odds down a bit. The casino also had a big supply of various slot machines. I would have to say there were over 100 in this area. From the Video Poker types to the $5.00 big hit machines. They also ran a Slot and Black Jack tournaments during the week. This was a well run casino and well attended during the cruise. The wife made her usual trip donation on the video poker machines. Dear Jimmy: "Contrary to what others may say... I did not win anything while in the casino."
Around the corner from the Casino bar walking on the starboard side of the ship, just around the corner is the Sea view lounge. This was the piano bar area on the ship. There was someone in here playing most nights. They had some of the trivia games here. And some other meetings of groups.
Just as you exit the Sea view Lounge and are walking past the middle bank of stairs and elevators you will end up in the Explorers lounges. This is a green lounge colored area. This was used to host some of the suite get together parties. They also held their afternoon informal tea in this lounge. They were great in this area. As my wife is a coffee drinker and they brought her a cappuccino to substitute for tea for her. They also used this area as a get acquainted party for the suite passengers the day we left Mexico. The bar personnel were top notch and had a big selection of beer and drinks that night for the passengers. Nice open lounge area.
Across to the opposite side of ship from the lounge areas on this level were the meeting rooms. This is on the Port side of the ship. Just beyond the Casino. There are the Hudson room for small meetings and religious services. After that there is the larger Half Moon Room which we used as our daily card room on the ship. They has a few games you could use here. There was also a large supply of card tables and chairs for use if you wanted. We used it to play our daily game of 500 rummy. We do this on most every trip. Mostly between the Wife and me. But this time we had five of our travel group playing every day. A fun time. I think Bob bested us all this trip. The next room down this chain of rooms was the Inter net web site cafe. They have about twelve terminals here you can use. If you think you are going to use the internet room more than one time - buy the minute package they offer. And you have to do it before you start up on-line. You can't try to do it after like I did after I got killed keying in a responses on the cruise critic board. Twenty dollars for a short time on-line. Ouch....!!!! But a nice room to have it in. There is also someone manning their help desk most of the day. The last room in this line was the Erasmus Library. Again like most ship libraries at sea. You could check out books and return them when finished. There were also some nice reading chairs you could sneak off into. Dear Jimmy "Barbara had us playing with a deck of 51 the last day."
The last room's) to cover as we work our way back id the Rotterdam Dining room. This was the formal dining room for dinner and if you wanted to go and sit down for breakfast or lunch. This was set up differently from most other large two tier dining rooms of ships. As there is only a circular hole in the dining area and a true two tier complete dining area. As you enter on this level this would have been the upper level of the dining area. Off to each side of this upper level are two areas that they could use for overflow dining or private parties. They also had a piano and area for the house musicians to play each night - which they did. They even struck up "Happy Birthday" when we sang for Bob on the day we had his cake at the table. Our table was table "F". This was the Captains table in the middle of the cut out area in the dining room and viewable from the area on the second tier. We would let Bob and Patty get to the dining room before us each night then come into the upper level and shout out "Happy Birthday Bob!!!". By the end of the cruise we had a lot of people joining in on this. The back of the ship had tables at it on both levels. Not the open view and two levels of glass everyone in the dining room could look out. This was a very nice dining room. The ceiling had a twinkling star display in it that would light during the night time dining hours. There were two sweeping stairways from the top to the lower level. We were served by Hendra and Merta was our bus boy. Although they may have blurred the lines here and Merta also worked serving other tables. Great service by their staff. Dear Jimmy: "Any pictures we got from Tom may have been altered. I did not hug the guy at the exit every night."
Working now from the front of the Promenade deck level 4. This was the lower level of the Mondriaan lounge theater. Like I stated in the previous description nice views and soft seats. But there was no place to put your drink if you got one. There were no small tables like I have seen on other ships.
As you exit the theater from the port or left side of the ship you would run into the Photo Gallery. I think we cut through here a few times. We did not pose for any of the pictures they took. As a side note the ship photographers were not around all that much at dinner. They did get a few people to pose at the gangway as we entered each port. But they did have a lot of people lined up for the formal picture night. I did see some of these set shot pictures and they were very good.
After you exited the photo gallery you would be in the Atrium. Across from here was the Front office. Boy were they busy during this trip. Lots of change to make, collecting and checking cabin bills. Giving ship information and so on. I had stopped by here a few times to purchase a deck of cards and to make bill payments. Borrow some tape for decorating our room. Every time greeted cheerfully and I got an answer. Next to this office was the shore excursion office. They were not open when I stopped by to get on a tour. But they responded to my request to go on the Swim with the Sting Ray's and put me in the first group. My friends Bob and Eileen had booked on-line before we even got on the ship and asked me to go along. More on this in the bottom of the review.
As you circled the Atrium you would next run into the Java Cafe. This is a coffee and Tea bar. Tucked into the side of the ship. You can sit and sip and relax here. Nice place to watch the other cruise passengers go by with you favorite coffee or flavor of tea.
Across from the Java Cafe is the Wajang Theatre. They played some first run movies in here. There was also a popcorn popping machine so you could really get into the movie experience at sea. We used this to muster for one of the trips we took off the boat. This was a theatre that could hold about two hundred people. The chairs were really comfortable. More so than any normal movie house I have been in. The movies were played about three times a day at various times.
The last big area on this deck is the Marco Polo Restaurant. This is the upscale restaurant. We went in here one night. There is a cover charge to enter. And if you are in a suite you can get priority reserve on it. We only booked once we came on the ship. The night we were there the restaurant was just about full. The decorations and atmosphere were nice. The portions were a bit larger than in the normal dining room. The wife got a Manhattan steak and did not finish it because it was too big. For me it was O.K.. I ordered a seafood medley which was fine. The service was not as good as the regular dining room. But this was this groups first week on the ship. They brought in a completely new serving group onto the ship the week we got on. The ship did host a small lunch party in here for those in the suites later in the week. We just walked in and they seated us. This was a well attended event with our door greeter dressed up in native costume dancing to the Indonesian music playing. We ate with one of the ships nurses. They contract out this job and she was telling us that she was only on for two weeks at a time. Nice break to get out of the cold. Cruise and have lite work duty.
The only other room left to tell about is the Video Arcade. This was only a room about twenty feet by twenty feet. There were about fifteen arcade games in here. Nothing caught my eye enough to play them. And from all the times I went by this room there were not many people in there.
The last place on the ship to talk about is the Lower Promenade Deck. This is where I met pilot Gary and his wife. He originally was walking fast in the other direction while I walking a bit slower, drinking a Guinness's Stout, with the wife in the other. In the later afternoon. When he stopped he was asking where on the ship I had gotten the beer. No where. They did not sell dark beers on this ship. I ended up talking to him for awhile and sharing some of my excess during the trip. This deck is a completely wrap around the ship deck. I was up here every morning running. This deck is about thirty feet wide. They do have a lot of deck chairs that you could use to sit out in the fresh air and read or catch some shaded sun during the day. The line also puts out padded lounge coders as these chairs are all wood. The mileage marked said three and a half laps were equal to a mile. I think this was a bit short. About three and a half laps plus about 150 yards may be more accurate. But a great place to get in you walking and watch the ocean go by. They also had two water fountains on this deck. Great to get a drink of water if you needed it. Nelson and Bob were out here really early each morning walking about ten laps or so. They moved at a real quick pace.
Well that about closes the review of the ship as to what it was and what you could do and where.
The cruise staff of four were great. At all the games I attended they had a fun time with us. But where did they get all those senior citizens from. Did the Florida old folks homes dump a few extra on the ship??? Joking here. Ana was from Australia and was a very nice 23 year old. She hosted many of the Trivia and other games. Scott handled the outdoor activities. Both were great. They also doubled up working at the ports where we tendered in. I also met Erica who was the assistant bar manager for the ship. A lovely young lady from Holland staffed on the ship. We ran into her at about every ship function. Great to talk to. I had the pleasure of also talking to the Captain Olav Vander Waard at one of the suite parties. Well traveled for the line. He is one of the youngest looking captains I had ever seen. Or am I getting older. Naaahhhhh. Some of the things that I remember are the food in the lido restaurant did not change much for the whole week we were on board. Same selections for breakfast and lunch. Even in the paste and omelet areas. The food was not quite up to the level I have had on Celebrity. Maybe it's the sauces they serve on Celebrity that is the difference. The service was just as good wherever I have sailed. I will say that the suite was spectacular. All ten of so enjoyed the cruise immensely. I also attended a short slot lecture given by the casino staff while we at sea on day. They opened up a machine and explained the inner workings and how the wheels were automatically set to roll and pay off. The more you bet, max coins, the more you could win or lose. Depending on how lucky you are.
We did go on the Sting Ray City swim tour in Grand Cayman. This was a fun trip with Eileen and Bob. Off the boat to the tender. Then collect everyone from the tour group. This does not work well if the tour guide is four foot nothing and has a sign to hold up to collect everyone. I took it off her and made sure everyone walked through the crowd on the street to the bus departure point. It was a twenty minute trip over to the boat in the first bus we were on. The second bus showed up a little later. But we all go on the boat. Applied some sun tan lotion for the time we would be out there. Donned our life vests and headed out to see the sting rays. After a bit of instructions about feeding and touching the Sting Rays we were there. Pick up a mask and fins and into the water you go. The feeding area is located on a sand bar about a fifteen minute ride from the boat dock. There were about twenty boats anchored about the sand bar area, which was about as large as a football field. The water depth varied from two feet to the slope where it dropped off to twenty to thirty feet deep. Most everyone stayed close to the boat. The guides were the only people who should handle the fish. It's spectacular to see them there swimming about. The guide was saying that this has been going on for twenty years or so. When they swim by and brush you it feels like wet velvet. I swam all around the sand bar area and into other groups that were there. A lot of people were on the sand bar in a lot of tours. Large and small. We stayed here about forty minutes or more. Then back to the boat for the trip back. We got back onto the bus and we were greeted with the Cayman Islands only singing bus driver. Please let's not get stuck in traffic. After about ten songs we were back and off the bus. A trip worth taking at least on time.
The last stop on the Trip was the out island - Half Moon Cay. A Holland America Island. You tendered in here and had to get tickets for this. Bob and Patty along with Linda and Nelson got off the ship early and hit the beach. The rest of us did not get off till about 11:00 AM. The private island was quite large and could have held about twice the number of people that were on our ship. They had some nicely shaded areas and a lot of beach chairs. I swam out about a third of the way to the ship but the beach patrol boat came out and asked I swim back. But the wife bet me I could not get to the ship. Darn. The beach was about a mile to the far point if you wanted to walk. I played beach volleyball here with about twelve other passengers and Scott from the Cruise staff. Nice facilities here. Well worth the tender in to use them. They also served a buffet lunch in the middle of the island.
The shows on the ship were fine along with the Comedy shows. I do not go to a lot of shows and entertainment. But what I did see of it was good by cruise standards.
The last thing to cover here is the departure. The first day we filled out a form to say if we were traveling with others in the group. We were as Linda and Nelson were driving us back to the airport. Bob and Patty were also taking some of the extra luggage and their cousins. So we filled out the forms and sent them in. Bob and Patty did not get the correct luggage tags as ours and I went to the front office and exchanged them no problem. The last thing to do was re-pack for the trip home. Minus all the beer I carted down this should be a breeze. I put a lot of the heavier items into the small bags. Packed our large bags. Tagged all of them and along with Carols bag and Julies suitcase. She was still working on packing it. I left the tag next to it and told he to tag it when finished. Dear Jimmy - "Tom packed his own suitcase and he took care of all the luggage for me. You never do that." Well we get our departure numbers and in the am about eight or so they start calling numbers to get off. Anyone want to by a number 8. We go through the document check to get back into the United States. This is a bit more since 9 / 11. You have to have proper id to get back in. Wouldn't you know it the wife and Julie get stuck for a short time. They only have their town issued pool cards for their picture id. After this delay it's down to pick up the luggage. Well I find everything but.... Julies garment bag. When I ask her did you tag the bag. She says "Tag?? what tag". Now I feel like Al Bundy. Why me!!! I go find someone from the port area and ask them where the lost / untagged luggage would be. They lead me over to three pieces. There it is. Insert roll eyes here. Well we get the luggage together and we get out into the sunshine. I know where Nelson parked his car so I make two trips and get everything over to his van to pack into it. We say our goodbyes to Bob and Eileen. And we walk over and pack the vans for the trip to the airport.
The drive to Orlando airport in not a problem. We get out and drop all the luggage at the curb. The attendant weighs the two large bags and they are a few pounds over. He lets us go on this. I think he was distracted. Dear Jimmy "It pays to wear a tight shirt slightly un buttoned when traveling." Well we walk into the airport and sit down. Just opposite where we are is a pet gift and souvenir shop. The wife has to buy our dog a gift. Dear Jimmy "Barbara bought the dog a gift but Tom nothing." Well after this we get into the line to go down to the gate area. The line was really long. But it moved very quickly. Not much of a problem. Got down to the gate and got the ladies seated. Then went back to get them a Cinnibon and a drink. No problems for the flight back. We got into Newark about 4 pm and found our ride home. My brother in law came and got us. All the luggage into the van and off to home. Jimmy came later and picked Carole up. Dear Jimmy " I had a great time. Laughed a lot. But missed you."
Thanks to everyone on the trip. Deb my TA for setting everything up. Patty for suggesting and getting Linda and Nelson to go. Bob and Eileen for coming in from Michigan. Julie, Carole and the wife Barbara for having a good time and laughing it up. And our guest of honor Bob for being a good sport the whole week.
Till next time - February 14 day cruise to the South. Tom Treimel
Tom Treimel - Longboysfan’s Full Rating Summary
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