(69) and I (64) love to cruise! Our favorite cruise line is
Holland America, and we feel most comfortable on the Vista Class ships
(11 Zuiderdams and 3 Noordams). Jim is retired and I run the
family business full time. We used to sail three 7-day cruises a
year, but have settled in to two 10-day cruises. We cruise for
the ship experience alone and enjoy the marvelous personal attention
and attractive, comfortable accommodations. If you're looking for port
information, you won't find it here... this review is actually a blog
created for CruiseCritic.
had a short and uneventful Allegiant flight from Savannah to Ft.
Lauderdale and arrived at La Quinta Hollywood by 1:30. Due to
some inefficient housekeeping scheduling we had to wait 2 hours for our
room to be ready while about 20 other parties were checked in ahead of
us. While the common areas of this hotel have been remodeled, the
rooms are still old with shabby upholstery, mismatched paint on the
walls, mold outside the windows and plumbing louder (yes, I said
LOUDER) than that on our cruise ship. The continental breakfast
was just OK - waffles, cereal, apples and pastries. We waited
only a few minutes and 3 shuttles came to take those waiting to the
Fifteen minutes after we arrived at the pier, we stepped onto our beautiful Noordam and went directly to our cabin. I stopped at the Neptune Lounge to drop off our CruiseCritic Meet 'n' Greet invitations, and off we went to the Mariner lunch in the Vista Dining Room. Iggy was our waiter and Jim recognized the voice of Bermont, our wine steward from our November Noordam cruise. Sadly, he is not working in the area where we have fixed main seating.
By the time we returned from lunch (about 1:45) all our luggage had been delivered. I took some time for some last-minute arrangements for the M&G and returned to help unpack. How come most of the clothes were mine? Jim says it's because I take one size for the beginning of the cruise and another size for the end. Same with shoes, I'm afraid.
After the safety drill I went up to the Seaview Bar for the SailAway, but there were not many people there. The thunder and very slight drizzle had chased many away, and even though I was wearing my ZuiderPrincess crown and had an armful of beads, I couldn't find our group, so I returned to the cabin to watch a movie before dinner.
We attended a lovely suite reception hosted by Captain Scott, and it was great to catch up with my old friend Mark Pells and Shane Michaels. This is going to be a GREAT CRUISE!
Dinner at a nice table for two was quite good, and Iggy was our waiter again! His assistant Felix was very attentive, and we are all going to get along just fine!
The Welcome Aboard Show tonight was hosted by CD Shane, and featured the HAL singers and dancers and 3 passenger-assisted games. I left Jim at the Hold'em table and began this first part of my online daily review. I hope I can keep up this pace - I'm already tired!
Day Two - At Sea
had a wonderful CruiseCritic Meet 'n' Greet this morning in the
Captain's Corner. About 35 of us were joined by the Hottest
HotMan at Sea, Hotel Manager Mark Pells (who also provided the
Mimosas), CD Shane Michaels, Chef Erik, the Events Manager Renee, the
Signature Shops Manager, Guest Relations Manager, Beverage Manager
Walter (who also volunteered to be the CC Name Tag Distributor - what a
great sense of humor!), and the Greenhouse Spa Manager Milica. They all
gave nice presentations and we had a nice time getting to know each
Day Three - At Sea
a beautiful day! Sunshine, calm seas, an umbrella drink - who
could ask for more? We slept late, hit the Neptune for breakfast,
then took a nap. Yes, I know... why would I go on a cruise and
sleep so much? Have you ever tried the BEDS on this ship?
And the PILLOWS? They surround you like a cocoon and it takes all
available willpower to get up! We finally made it to the Lido for
lunch and the spa for treatment reservations.
Spa Manager MILICA is by far the Staff Member of the Day! I told her what was 'wrong' with me and she arranged a combination of three treatments that was restful and luxurious, and my wrinkles disappeared! Danielle, the La Therapie consultant knew just which products to use... it seems I've been getting the wrong facial all along!
We didn't care for the selections in the Vista Dining Room, so went upstairs. We couldn't get into Canaletto, so we ate at the Lido Restaurant, which had almost exactly the same menu as the MDR. Oh well, at least I was able to get a nice plate of Penne with Pesto Alfredo Sauce.
It took me 10 minutes to lose my nightly allowance to the dice table, and I'm writing this post as I wait for the 10:00 show to begin.
I'm looking forward to tomorrow, so I can score a new bag like LAFFNVEGAS did... g'night!
Day Four - Sint Maarten
woke up to a beautiful warm day and went ashore (yes, Jim got off the
ship). We really didn't want to take the water taxi all the way
into town or over to the French side, so we stayed at the dockside
shopping area. Good thing we did, though, because I found the
ring I've been looking for for a year at DI (see Dan for the best
deals). Once back aboard, we dined at the Lido and played Trivia
and Bingo. We both got down to one number (me twice) but no
wins. We had to miss a cocktail party due to a wardrobe
malfunction, had dinner at the MDR, and I was so tired (NOBODY napped
yesterday) I went to bed without posting. I assume Jim haunted the
Hold'em table all evening.
Day Five - St. Lucia
'n' Bagels from the Neptune started my day, followed by an early jaunt
into town looking for goodies. It wasn't real busy, with only 2
ships in port. I walked down what seemed to be a street where
locals shopped, and ended up in one of the large straw markets in
town. They're a little more aggressive here, but I only found one
woman who would meet my price on some trinkets. It got hotter and
stuffier in there, so I made my way back to the ship, found Jim
sleeping again, and went solo up to the Lido.
This is the first time I've attended the St. Lucia sailaway, and I'm really glad I stayed. The Captain opened up the bow so we could enjoy the hour-long scenic trip down the western coast to Soufriere, where we picked up some passengers who had excursions down that way. The Pitons are two 'mountains' about 2400 feet high, and seem to jut straight out of the water. You must see this to appreciate it.
Jim went to the Casino at 4:00 to sign up for the Hold'em tournament, and was the only one there. A few minutes later someone else showed up, but not enough to start a game. There sure aren't many gamblers on this ship!
After dinner in the MDR (spinach & cheese lasagna was superb) we migrated to the Casino where Jim's Hold'em game was already in progress. The Vista Lounge showed a movie (Life as We Know It) which was already over, and nothing else scheduled 'til the Filipino Crew Show at 11:00. Still no action at the dice table.
Day Six - Barbados
awake at 7:00 AM! This is probably the first time ever we
breakfasted at the Lido so early... I rarely get to try the Eggs
Benedict station, and was most pleased with the Scottish (need my
smoked salmon fix every day) accompanied by the usual croissants and
fruit. The waffles made to order were yummy (several toppings
available) and Jim's omelet was exactly the way he built it! You
know we took a nap after, intending to decide later whether to go
ashore or sunbathe. I went ashore to buy some trinkets and met
Jim at the $50,000 Bingo game. No one won the jackpot, but one
lady won twice and there were 5 winners at the end.
Jenny the Pinnacle Manager is the Staff person of the day! She happened to be in the Neptune when I came in begging for a reservation for tonight, and she moved some things around and got us in at 6:30. Jim figured we'd have time to get to the 8:00 show (comedian Mike Robinson) but we all know that's nearly impossible, don't we? We were seated and served right away with Sarah from Djakarta as our waitress. Time between courses was uncomfortably lengthy and Jim grew more and more impatient. Once we got past 8:00 he quit worrying about the time and was once again able to enjoy our meal. He had the lobster (great) and I enjoyed the petit filet mignon, followed by the triple creme brulee. One hour & forty-five minutes for dinner with no wine service.
We did make it to the 10:00 show... I dragged Jim away from the Hold'em table to see Mike Robinson - a comedian/ventriloquist with a very funny routine. When we returned to the Casino, there were actually PEOPLE AT THE DICE TABLE! I played for over 2 hours and had a ball!
Day Seven - Martinique - Behind the Scenes Tour
a shame that we docked at this beautiful island on a Sunday. When
I went ashore I found only a few souvenir shops and one straw market
Manager of the Day - Marketing Manager Marc Thompson! Marc hosted 8 curious passengers on a tour of the inner workings of the Noordam. Beginning with Stage Manager Maria's tour of the stage areas, where we learned how the sets are constructed and stored. In the dressing room area two of the dancers told us about the dancers' daily routines, contract lengths and work schedules, and then we went on to the wardrobe room which was crammed with beautiful costumes and about 100 wigs.
Our next stop was the laundry area where Catalina showed us the tailors' room where all the uniforms are constructed and/or tailored. In the laundry area we learned the progression of both ship and passenger laundry, how it's sorted and handled, the HUGE washing machines (133 pound capacity), dryers, ironing stations and the largest mangle I've ever seen that irons and folds linens all by itself.
On to I-95, the crew corridor that runs roughly from stem to stern. Lining the walls of this hall are ship diagrams of the various fire and other safety information. We also saw the flood doors that close off any area that may become flooded.
In the engine room, we viewed the many charts and dials on the console and all over the wall indicating things I will never understand, but are crucial to the engine and water systems.
In the Waste Management section we "experienced" the various ways our trash is handled. They actually go through each bag of trash, both ship and personal, by hand! Glass and plastics are sorted according to the port to which it will be offloaded. Apparently some islands are pretty picky about how their shredded plastic is bundled. We also saw barrels of discarded food.
"Bosco" then led us through the food storage rooms, and showed us how the items that will be readily consumed are in the middle of the room, leaving the less-used items along the walls. At the Liquor Room we were treated to flutes of Mumm's.
Executive Chef Thomas Schuman took us through the various kitchen areas on deck 2 (there is another smaller kitchen on deck 3) and we saw how the chilled and steam tables are organized and some of the preparation. The chocolate covered strawberries were yummy! He also explained the electronic food management system which tracks which menu items have already been served. Lining the walls of the prep areas are photos of the various dishes to show how the dish should LOOK before it leaves the kitchen.
The last stop was The Bridge. Hotel Manager Mark Pells met us in the elevator lobby and escorted us to the bridge where we experienced a vista no passenger is able to see. The Captain can see forwards, sideways, rearways and even downways when maneuvering the ship while docking. We spotted a small ship on the radar that was only barely seen on the horizon. Captain John Scott joined us for a little Q&A and the ship photographer took a group photo.
In The Crow's Nest we were treated to a cocktail and hors d'oeuvres and were given two books - one of HAL's culinary treats from the Chef and one about towel animals from Housekeeping. I absolutely loved this tour. It was 3 hours with lots of stair-climbing, but at $150 pp I think it is well worth it.
Jim bowed out of the ship tour and won the Hold'em Tournament. We enjoyed formal night in the MDR (Land and Sea was great), and I retired after a strenuous day WITH NO NAP, while Jim held reign over the Hold'em table.
Day Eight - St. Thomas
were docked at Crown Bay, and I visited the little shopping area right
by the pier, but there was nothing out of the ordinary to buy. We
had a lovely lunch in the MDR and we caught some rays by the midships
Staff Member of the Day - Shane Michaels! This young man has SO much energy and seems to be everywhere! We especially enjoyed his trivia games. Today, however, we had NO luck with the trivia game, and did NOT win the $70,000 Bingo game (although DJ Jazzy is a great Bingo caller, and we had much fun). After dinner in the MDR, I caught the Livewire show... a husband/wife team who played Celtic music on the electric guitar and violin (or is it a fiddle?). I did not enjoy this act as much as I hoped I would.
Day Nine - At Sea
of the Day - Hotel Manager Mark Pells! At the Mariners' Reception
he and Captain John Scott individually awarded Copper and Silver
Medallions to those who had achieved those levels. We were
awarded our 4-star pins as we entered the Queen's Lounge, and a group
photo was taken at the end. Following this beautiful reception
(complete with champagne and other libations) we were escorted to the
Vista Dining Room and were seated in a special section for
honorees. Jim and I were seated at Mark Pells' table where we
enjoyed some personal time with he and his beautiful Milica. The
menu was superb and it was our most enjoyable luncheon ever!
Day Ten - Half Moon Cay
|In the past few cruises we
have not been able to visit HMC due to weather conditions, so I was
THRILLED that the sun was shining and seas were calm. I had
reserved a clam shell and two floaty-thingys, but canceled the floats
because the water was a little cold (for us). It was in the low
80s and the sun was blistering, so the clamshell gave us a little
respite from time to time. We were the only ship at the island
today, so there were plenty of loungers and no lines for food.
The tenders hold 300 pax, so there was virtually no line either
way. As usual, when we arrived at the tender to return to the
ship, we were met with cold cloths and lemonade... I love HAL for the
We made it back in time for the $100,000 Bingo game, and nobody won. Unfortunately we didn't win anything else, either. Maybe tonight when I go to the casino to clear my room card I can throw a few hands of dice...
Because we have experienced the Master Chef's Dinner a number of times, we dined at Canaletto tonight. I'm sorry to say I was disappointed with all but the Triple Tiramisu (traditional, lemon and my fave almond). The shrimp in the linguine dish was undercooked (for my taste) and the veal was chewy. The service, on the other hand, was wonderful! Several times Alessandro, the Canaletto Manager, stopped by to see how we were doing, and explained that there will be menu changes later in the year.
After dinner we made out our tip envelopes and I started packing while Jim went to the casino for one more game. I really must invent some strategy for packing, 'cause I miss all the fun on the last night. The Casino Cashier called us twice to clear our room cards of gaming winnings. Be very careful to clear BOTH your slots AND PokerPro accounts. Jim had to go back one more time for the last $15, and when we got home, there was a check from HAL for the Poker winnings from LAST CRUISE IN NOVEMBER for over $800! We made the rounds handing out tips and saying goodbye to our vacation 'family'.
|Thank goodness they changed
back to the number/color system for debarkation! HAL tried the
honor system for a couple of years - you were sent a letter with a time
to debark, and simply show up on the Main Deck at the appointed
time. The trouble is, there is no 'honor' on debarkation
day. Everyone wants to get off first. Many times when the
elevator arrived at Deck 1, there were so many line-jumpers there we
couldn't even get off! Now pax wait in public areas until their
number/color is called, and there are shore personnel at the gangway
telling people to leave if they don't belong there.
It took an extra 15 minutes to clear the ship. We were called for 8:15 and left at 8:30, went directly to pick up our bags, through customs and in a cab by 8:45. As DJ Jazzy would say, "YAY".
© 2011 Candy Brock