Occupation:Retired Fire Officer
Number of Cruises: 12
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: March 23rd, 2002
Itinerary: San Diego to Hawaii
Our flight from NY arrived in San Diego the morning of the cruise and HAL personnel at the airport directed us to their shuttle to the pier. We arrived at about noon and boarding began at about 1PM and we were boarding #6 and got aboard before 2PM. We went to our cabin 118 on Verandah deck where we found our early seating dining assignment. I immediately initiated my usual boarding routine, going to the front desk to register my credit card and then going to the dining where a large chart of the table arrangements was provided and I could confirm we had been assigned to the table for two near the musicians which we had requested. I then joined my wife for an excellent buffet at the Lido restaurant. When we returned to our cabin, our luggage had already arrived and we unpacked until the mandatory lifeboat drill. As the shipped sailed at 5PM to the music of the Station Band, we went to the Crow's Nest where we met a couple from Canada whom we had met on the internet previously and exchanged views about this cruise.
At 6PM we entered the dining room and were taken to our table on the upper level. We were delighted with the location on the railing with an excellent view of the lower dining room. We were served throughout the cruise by an excellent Indonesian staff consisting of our waiter Ningrat, his assistant Hermawan and their supervisor Ketut. They anticipated our every request and combined with the high quality of the food, we were to enjoy the best dining experience of all our cruises. We were serenaded nightly by the superb dinner music of the Champagne Strings. When the Maitre D’ Arie Nieuwdorp stopped by our table, we thanked him profusely for our excellent table location. Among the highlights of our dining experience were superb pasta appetizers and an excellent variety of entrees with many seafood delights we always enjoy. The desserts were exceptionally varied and delicious. After dinner we went to our favorite dance lounge- the Ocean Bar where a trio called City Lights performed nightly. This very talented group featuring Rebecca on piano, Edgar on guitar and Billy on drums were not only fine musicians but good vocalists as well. We asked them if they knew our song, "Love Letters" and they performed it nightly in a unique bolero tempo whenever they saw us on the dance floor. Needless to say, we danced there nightly to a dazzling variety of old favorites appreciated by many passengers. Another Filipino group was performing in the Crow's Nest nightly- the Station Band quartet. We couldn't believe that we would be doubly blessed by two fine dance bands. Our favorite was their rarely heard vocal rendition Glenn Miller's immortal "Moonlight Serenade." We spent many evenings dancing in those two lounges. The Champagne Strings performing nightly in the Explorer Lounge completed our feast of riches and confirmed that one of the main reasons we keep returning to HAL is the quality of their musicians.
We had been alerted to the possibility of rough seas on the four day cruise to Hawaii and the five cruise back to San Diego. There were some choppy seas during the first day at sea causing some pitching of the ship and confirming the announcement of our Captain upon sailing that, "The ocean is always in motion." Some passengers were ill the first day but the seas calmed on the second day and we were blessed with smooth sailing for the rest of the cruise with surprisingly calm seas the entire return cruise to San Diego. We especially appreciated our verandah cabin as we slept nightly while at sea with the door wide open and enjoying the cool sea air and the sounds of the wake just below our cabin.
The sea days were full of many activities provided be an excellent staff. My wife is an aerobic instructor and she attended every class given by Helen of South Africa. She was the best instructor my wife had ever had on any cruise with a variety of classes including yoga, boxing, strength training, step, low impact etc. Her classes were very popular and well attended as was the twice daily walk a mile around the lower promenade deck. I swam every morning at 7AM in the Lido pool prior to breakfast and the pool attendant always had everything in readiness for me each morning. I also spent much time biking in the spa in front of the convenient TV. We managed to rake up quite a few stamps in our Passport to Fitness. We hope that HAL does not terminate this very popular program as is widely rumored. We also enjoyed the almost daily social dance sessions supervised by Ray and June, dance instructors extraordinaire. We were happy to see Mark again conducting the daily team trivia contests and numerous other activities as well as demonstrating his expertise on the dance floor.
We had enjoyed Mark on a previous HAL cruise. The excellent staff assured the nine sea days were never boring.
Upon arrival in Hilo we were greeted with flower leis and Hawaiian dancers. We took the excursion to the colorful Botanical Gardens. In Honolulu we took the city, Punchbowl and moving Arizona Memorial tour. We had long lines due to many children being out of school for Easter. We enjoyed entertaining and informative bus drivers on these tours. On Kauai, we went on our own to the fine beach in front of the Marriott Hotel. The ship provided a free shuttle to the beach. On Maui, I took the catamaran snorkeling excursion which is run by the Pacific Whale Foundation. We snorkeled off the coast of neighboring Lanai under ideal conditions with many fish and turtles. We had breakfast going over and barbecue lunch returning while we observed as many as fifty whales. A great excursion. My wife enjoyed shopping along the main street of Lahaina. That night we went to the Old Lahaina Luau which we had previously booked on the internet. We enjoyed the beautiful sunset on the beach and the Hawaiian buffet and entertainment. This is probably Hawaii's most popular Luau. At our final port of Kona, we took the Kona Highlights bus tour which was overlong and featured a bus driver who never stopped talking. We enjoyed the ports and scenery of Hawaii and cruising past the Na Pali coast of Kauai. Spectacular views from our verandah.
I must comment on the improvements I noted in the Lido buffet restaurant. Since our last HAL cruise, they have added a luncheon sandwich bar where you order any ingredients on any bread and have it grilled. They have also added a variety of pizzas available throughout the afternoon that would rival those on any other cruise line. We had breakfast and lunch daily at the Lido and were well pleased. A large variety of desserts at lunch and at the final lunch, a table of cold jumbo shrimps, Alaska king crab legs savored by many. A great Lido luncheon finale.
We enjoyed the shows in the Van Gogh theatre especially the full cast performance titled "Sentimental Journey" and a hilarious ventriloquist.
We found our 7th HAL cruise to be our most enjoyable. We always appreciate the little things that HAL does so well- the free post cards, those nice ceramic tiles and when the truck bringing the HAL canvas bags was late and arrived after we sailed from San Diego, the staff distributed them to the passengers as they left the ship at the end of the cruise. The icing on the cake was being invited to the Chief Officer's table on the final formal night. We were so pleased that while aboard, we booked a future cruise on HAL's new Zuiderdam with the cruise consultant on board. A delightful cruise.