Age: 40 something
Number of Cruises: 5
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: January 15th, 2005
Itinerary: Eastern/Southern Caribbean
Day minus One - Leave The Artic Cold of Michigan!
My cruise partner (best friend Joan) and I set off for Ft. Lauderdale on Friday, January 14. My ever patient boyfriend Joe (also know as the Melancholy Italian) was enlisted to drive us to the airport. He was also enlisted to stay at my house while I was gone and baby-sit my flock of cats. He may be melancholy, but he knows how to earn those ever elusive boyfriend points. I had been having trouble with my car, so Joan met me at my house and we dropped my car at the dealership on the way. Joe picked us up there as previously arranged, and we loaded enough luggage for 8 people into his car and set off for Detroit Metro Airport in a frenzy of anticipation.
However, when we got to the airport, things started to go downhill. As we pulled up in front of the terminal, I detected a huge flurry of activity in the back seat. Joan was frantically pulling things out of bags and purses and starting to hyperventilate. When I nervously enquired as to what was wrong, she admitted she couldn’t find her cruise documents and passport! The MI, ever patient, pulled to the side and we all tore the back seat apart, looking for the documents. Not there. I began deep yoga breathing, and we got out our cell phones. Joan called the dealership, and had them go search my car – not there. Then she called her brother, and had him go to my house and look in the window of her car to see if he could see the documents. Nothing. Then I called Holland America to find out what our options were. They couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful, and promised to reissue the cruise documents at the pier. All we had to do was get Joan’s birth certificate, and we were still good to go. Joan called her sister-in-law and had her go search her house for the birth certificate. In the mean time, Joe let us off with all our luggage and promised to pick up the birth certificate and Fed-Ex it to us at our hotel in Ft. Lauderdale. As he drove away, he said he would have given a million dollars to have a photo of our faces. NOT an auspicious way to begin such an anticipated trip!
We got checked in with no problems, and went to the gate to wait for our flight. Actually we went to the bar, and each had double gin and tonics to sooth our frazzled nerves. However, as we walked past the gate, we noticed our flight was delayed about an hour. Sigh. Another glitch.
As we sat in the bar sipping our drinks and eating nachos, my phone rang. The Sainted MI had taken Joan’s keys and given her car a good search when he got back to my house. There, hidden under the folded up sunshade, he found the Sacred Missing Documents! When he heard our flight was delayed, he leapt back into his car, and thundered back to the airport, documents in hand! He made it in plenty of time (miraculously without a ticket) and Joan raced out to the front of the terminal to retrieve them. He then drove happily away, very glad to have us off his hands. The trip was saved!!!!
After that, everything went smoothly. We had a nice flight to Ft. Lauderdale, and took a cab to our hotel ($13 with tip). We were at the Marriott Marina, which we won on Priceline for the amazing price of $80/night. We paid much more in the past for hotels not nearly as nice. It was our first Priceline experience, and we were 100% satisfied. Upon arriving, we headed immediately for the restaurant, where we had a great dinner. Then we stumbled exhausted to bed, SO relived to be in the right state with the right paperwork.
Day One – Departure Day!
The next morning, we ordered room service (we deserved it after the previous day) and loaded back up to head to the ship about 10:30 am. To our amazement, the Marriott offered a free shuttle to the pier (we saw no mention of this at the Marriott website), and we caught it to the Volendam with just one other couple, Ken and Bonnie from Boston.
We were at the pier in about 10 minutes, and on board no more than 20 minutes later. I think we waited in line behind just 5 people before we were checked in and issued our room cards. We then walked directly onto the ship – no waiting around in groups by number! Once on board, we headed directly to the Lido for lunch.
That first lunch in the Lido set the tone for all the rest of the meals we enjoyed there – excellent food, great service (always a waiter to carry our tray to a table) and rarely any lines. Joan had a hot entrée for lunch, while I had a delicious grilled sandwich. We both had the broccoli soup, which was outstanding. All the soups we tried, in both the Lido and dining room were amazing. We had only been seated for a moment when a waiter came by to take our drink orders. We clinked glasses and gave a toast to FINALLY being back on a ship!
After eating, we snuck down to the 6th floor to see if we could find our cabin. Thanks to our wonderful room steward Yemin (who we had yet to meet), it was ready and immaculate. No dust bunnies, no leftover underwear from other passengers, or dirty glasses for us! We dropped off our carry on bags and headed out to explore the rest of the ship. The Volendam is the smallest ship we have cruised so far. We had cabin 6130, a mini-suite on the Verandah deck and found that by going only two floors up or down we could be wherever we wanted to be on the ship. We loved the layout, and had no problems easily finding our way around.
Because the spa and fitness center are VERY important to our enjoyment of a cruise, we headed there first. Actually, the fitness center is only important to me, since Joan follows a strict “no exercise” policy, but she willingly accompanied me to check it out. It is beautiful, with lots of treadmills and stationary bikes, free weights and weight machines, and a large carpeted area for group classes. They offered Pilates, Yogilates, Yoga, and Fit Ball classes for $11 each, or unlimited for $69 for the whole cruise. They also had some free classes, Stretch and Relax, Stretch, and Trim Tummy. I signed up for the unlimited pass, and noted the time for Yoga on the Beach for our day at Half Moon Cay. Both Joan and I wanted to have massages on the beach then, and I didn’t want to miss yoga (I’m in yoga teacher training and avid student).
That chore completed, we headed back to the spa. We both signed up for Hot Stone Massages for $130 for the following day in Nassau, since we had already decided not to get off the ship. Regular price is $143 for 50 minutes, the $130 price is the port day price. We also selected massages on the beach for Half Moon Cay at $99. Our cabin was located directly beneath the spa, a very fortuitous location indeed!
Next, off to the Pinnacle to confirm our reservations. It is absolutely beautiful, quite elegant and serene. Everything was in order so we headed to check with the Maitre’d to see if we could change our dinner seating. We requested the 8:00 seating, but had been given the 8:30 instead. Since in my normal, non-cruising life I get up at 5:00 am and am normally in bed by 9:00, an 8:30 dinner lacked appeal. After a short wait, we were allowed to seat ourselves in front of this Very Important Gentleman. However, when we expressed our desire to change our seating, he pooh-poohed our request. “Oh no ladies!” he admonished. “I have you seated at the special singles table! Very nice, you do not want to change!” Chastened, we slunk away, feeling very ungrateful.
We then headed for the front desk to turn in our $50 each room credit we received from our travel agent, Best Price Cruises. We also signed up for the unlimited pressing for the whole cruise for $30. They also offered unlimited laundry for the cruise for $70, but as we had enough clothes for at least 3 weeks, we decided to do the $12 bag of laundry as needed instead.
With all our chores complete, we wandered the ship for a while longer, exploring the various lounges and other areas. We ended up a the Crow’s nest, and ordered our second drink of the day from a lovely waitress named Lady. One excellent Long Island Ice Tea later, we heard the announcement that we could (legally) proceed to our staterooms. We headed down, and in the elevator lobby, saw several room stewards starting to deliver luggage. One of them asked us our room number, and then introduced himself as our steward, Yemin. He said he had just delivered 3 of our 4 suitcases to our room, so we headed down the hall to unpack.
We were delighted with the storage available in our room. There were 2 separate closets for long dresses, and one more with hangers for short items and shelves. There were 9 drawers in the dresser, and two bedside chests with one drawer each. We were able to unpack (our last bag arrived shortly after we got to our room) and stow everything (including enough shoes to open an outlet store) with a minimum of trouble. The bathroom included a tiny but deep Jacuzzi tub, a sink with counter, a mirrored (both sides – useful for seeing the back of your hair) medicine chest with 3 shelves, and a long shelf under the sink for additional storage. There was an old style hair dryer mounted on the wall in the bathroom, and a much nicer one in a drawer in the dresser. The dresser top had a lovely metal ice bucket (filled, of course, with ice), glasses, an awesome make-up mirror, and a rack for holding papers and information booklets. There was a TV with remote, and two curtains, one between the hall into the room and the room itself, and one between the sleeping area and the couch (that folded out into a bed). There was a small round stool for the dresser, and a small table that you could raise and lower in front of the couch. The verandah was a serviceable size, with two chairs, one upright and one lounge, and a small round table. The door swung open onto the verandah, and unlike our balcony door last year on the Zuiderdam, it locked into place when fully open. There was a bowl of fresh fruit (apples, a banana and an orange) and a tiny vase of flowers on the dresser. All in all, a very nice and serviceable sized room; not as large as our SS suite on the Zuiderdam, but much better than the regular veranda room we had 3 years ago on the Celebrity Millennium.
Muster passed uneventfully, and we finally shoved off at about 5:30 instead of 5, due to about 180 late arriving passengers. Our dinner reservations in the Pinnacle were for 7:30, so we tricked up a bit and flounced down to dinner at about 7:25. The meal was fabulous, with excellent service. Joan had the clam chowder, filet and baked potato, while I had the salad with blue cheese, planked halibut with béarnaise sauce and 2 king crab legs and asparagus. For desert, I had the chocolate volcano, and it was perfectly prepared, hot and melty on the inside with some lovely orange infused whipped cream. Joan, feeling rebellious, went against our waitress’s recommendation for the volcano and chose the cherries jubilee. Note to self: listen to the waitress. The jubilee was only fair, and she was sick with jealousy over my volcano. The only glitch in the service was with the wine steward, who was too busy with a full house and never got back around to us to see if we wanted seconds or an after dinner drink. We tipped the wait staff for the excellent service, and waddled back up to bed. We never attend the shows, but the first night’s entertainment was the Music and Comedy of Mike Robinson & the Volendam Singers and Dancers in Dream Vacation. Colin James played piano in the Piano bar, the Moonlight Strings were in the Explorer’s Lounge, and the Tritones were up in the Crow’s nest. There was a Single’s mixer in the Crow’s nest at 11:30, but we figured we would meet the best of the singles at our “special” table at dinner the next night so we went to sleep. The new pillow top beds and luxury sheets were divine, and we slept like babies.
Day Two – Nassau
Seas were a bit high on the trip to Nassau, but thanks to the wonders of Bonine, there were no problems with seasickness in our cabin. We woke up to a cloudy and cool day, similar to the weather we left behind in Florida. Had room service for breakfast, on time and accurate. The eggs could have been better, they were slightly overcooked. Very strong coffee. We adored the bathrobes, they are very soft and warm, nicer than the ones offered in the spa area.
Neither Joan nor I are very impressed with Nassau. I made the obligatory trip to Atlantis last December with the MI, and although it was beautiful, I have no need to go back. Instead, we both indulged in Hot Stone Massages with Kari in the spa. I consider myself a massage expert, and this was without a doubt the best massage of my life. She worked out deep knots in my shoulders (placed there from years of computer work) and gave me the lofty title of “Tightest Shoulders I Have Ever Seen in My Career”. I was so proud. Joan was equally impressed with her massage (she was booked directly after me). We both directed Kari to just work on our upper bodies, and were thrilled with the results. The obligatory product sales pitch wasn’t too bad, and we each purchased one item.
I had my first Yogilates class with one other brave soul. When the teacher asked about our previous yoga experience, I said I practice 6 days a week, and Gary said he was a yoga virgin. No matter, Yvonne gave a nice, basic intro to yoga and Pilates class and we both enjoyed it.
Our room was cleaned perfectly by Yemin. I was on the balcony when he buzzed the buzzer to see if I minded if he cleaned, and of course I didn’t. We went to the Lido for lunch, and enjoyed the wonderful soups again. After lunch, we played Bingo and didn’t win a thing, but did discover an excellent new drink, the Grapefruit Cosmopolitan. Bingo was $20 for 4 sheets of 3 cards each, or $10 for 4 sheets of one card each.
They were trying to show the football playoff games in a couple of the lounges, but kept loosing the signal. We saw one poor fellow waiting, hoping against hope that the game would come on. There was a nice array of snacks available, but the game refused to materialize. His wife came up and pleaded with him, but he was resolute – he wanted to stick it out. Then the game flashed up on the screen for about 30 seconds before disappearing again, and his wife gave up. She knew that flash of hope would keep him there the rest of the afternoon, and she was right.
We then tried to attend tea in the Explorer’s lounge, but there was not a seat to be had. Obviously the crowd (mostly seniors) enjoyed this event, and there was a bottom in every seat that didn’t budge until the last drop of tea was drained, and the last pastry and tiny sandwich consumed. We huffed back to our room very disappointed.
We decided to detour to the 7th floor and hunt up the famed Neptune Lounge, sacred space of suite occupants. It wasn’t marked on the Volendam map we received, but we soon located it by the aura of wealth and privilege that it exuded down the hall. It looked lovely, very serene and well stocked with comfortable chairs, TV’s, munchies and manned by a sharp-eyed attendant who could tell at a glance that we were interlopers. We sighed, and said “Maybe someday!”
That evening was the first of 2 formal nights. We dressed up in long gowns and dangerously high heels and tottered down to the dining room to meet our fellow singles. That was a bit of a letdown, since the youngest of the bunch wasn’t going to see 60 again, and the oldest was on the far side of 80. However, they were a charming and well-traveled group, and we had a lovely dinner. Dieter, a debonair college professor from Chicago, gave a hilarious account of the singles mixer the previous night. Apparently everyone there except him was either on oxygen or in a wheel chair! The whole cruise was definitely an older crowd; the hallways were lined with folded wheel chairs and the average passenger age had to be 65 at least. We didn’t mind, in our mind seniors are MUCH preferred to children!
They served filet for dinner, which of course Joan the Carnivore devoured. I had the pasta, which was delicious and just the right amount. I had noticed on the boards that some people complained the portion sizes were small, but I thought they were perfect, and you could always order more. I had the chocolate soufflé for dessert which was divine, and Joan had the hot fudge sundae, which was only OK.
We couldn’t find the photographers to have formal pictures taken, so we took pictures of ourselves all over the ship. We then retired to our room to watch videos on our VCR (Friends and Sex and the City). We were glad to have brought them, as the TV reception was still poor due to the weather, and the channels were limited. Still very high seas, but we slept like babies once again.
Day 3 – Sea Day
We rocked and rolled all night, due to the afore mentioned high seas. After breakfast in the Lido, (we found the eggs much better in the Lido than from room service), I headed to the fitness center for my Yogilates on the Ball class. It was fun in rolling around the room on the giant fit balls. It was a beautiful sunny day, so we headed to the aft pool to enjoy it. The main pool was covered and was very hot and humid, besides being quite wet due to all the water sloshing about. Lounge chairs were hard to find at the aft pool, so we ended up at a table with 4 upright chairs. They offer nice towels and good drink service in both pool areas, and you could really notice the ship moving up and down by looking off the aft horizon. Thank heavens for Bonine! We did spot the famous lemonade, but the waiter ran out just before he reached our table, so we didn’t get a chance to see if it was as good as reported.
Lunch in the Lido was just OK, we weren’t overwhelmed with the day’s choices (lamb shanks, tilapia, wiener schnitzel, chipped beef). I stuck with the sandwich counter, and that was fine. They had excellent ice cream offerings every day, all afternoon long, with both regular and waffle cones available. The cookies were also outstanding. We then hurried down for the wine tasting in the Pinnacle, but were very disappointed when only 6 people showed up, and they cancelled the tasting. It was only $7.50, so we couldn’t understand why more folks didn’t show. To console ourselves, we went to high tea in the dining room, and it was fabulous. We asked for a table for 2, and had delicious tea with milk or lemon, pastries and lovely little sandwiches.
After tea, we wandered to the casino to loose a little money. I left Joan at the Roulette table and headed to the Internet café to send a couple of e-mails to friends and the MI. Then Joan and I met back up and headed to the Ocean bar for $4.75 martinis. We had the excellent service we experienced everywhere on the ship, and watched the sun set into the Atlantic (and saw the green flash – NOT from the martinis!).
After that busy day, we ordered room service for dinner. We called down to housekeeping and our beloved Yemin came early to turn down our beds and change our towels. Room service was great and served in two courses, appetizers and soups first, and entrees and desert later. We ordered off the dining room menu, and had another great meal. Then to bed for another good night’s sleep.
Day 4 – St. Thomas
This was Immigration morning, and it was the smoothest we’ve ever been through. NO long lines, and we didn’t have to report until almost 8:30. We had breakfast in the Lido, then headed back to our room to prepare for our day ashore.
We were anchored in the harbor, as 3 huge ships were hogging the docks (Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival). We planned to take the ferry to St. John’s and luckily our ship tender docked right next to the Charlotte Amalie ferry, so we got to skip the cab ride to Red Hook. The 45 minute ferry ride cost $7. Once there, we took a cab to Trunk Bay for $4.
Trunk Bay is beautiful, but IMHO, not really any nicer than Maegan’s bay on St. Thomas, and was a lot more trouble to get to. They did have a nice little changing/rest room area, and a place to get snacks. We grabbed a little lunch (hot dogs $3.50, $1.25 pop, $2.00 bottled water, $1.00 chips) and headed down to the beach. It was crowded but clean. By this time, we had only about an hour and a half before we needed to head back, so we tried to soak up as much sun as possible. I walked up and down the beach, about a mile in each direction.
When we were ready to go, we easily found a cab back to the ferry. Lucky for us, we caught the 2:15 ferry back, because the next one to Charlotte Amalie wasn’t until 3:45, and the last tender to the ship was at 4:30. We got back onboard the Volendam about 3:30, and just caught the tail end of afternoon tea in the Explorer’s Lounge. Due to so many people going ashore, we were able to get a seat this time, and it was just what we needed after a tough day of sunning and ferrying around.
The ship left St. Thomas a little late due to late passengers tendering back. We went to the Lido for dinner, and ran into Beverly and Mike from the Cruise Critic boards! She guessed it was us from the description I gave on the boards, and was lovely and personable. The dinner menu was the same as in the dining room, double baked potato and black bean soup, red snapper (dry), and Thai spring rolls (v. good). The sea had settled down, now that we were in the Caribbean, and we slept the sleep of the innocent (almost).
Day 5 – Dominica
I woke up early to see the north part of Dominica (Dom-in-EEK-ah) sliding past our veranda. Such a beautiful island, very mountainous and completely covered with lush green foliage. We docked at Roseau at about 8:00, and went to the Lido for breakfast, and one of us went to the gym for aerobics.
We had signed up for a the Rain Forest and Emerald Pool tour, so we met in the Fran Haus Theater to get our marching orders. We met a Chuck and Marie from Connecticut who were very nice and lots of fun, and made sure we got on the same van for our tour. Our group was fairly large, and we had about 6 vans of 10 people each in our caravan.
Dominica is the most beautiful island I’ve seen yet. It was so green and so beautiful, and not spoiled by huge hotels and t-shirt shops. Our guide, Andrea, was fabulous, and very proud of her beautiful homeland.
The tour itself was fantastic. We drove up into the mountains (gorgeous views) and into the rainforest to see the Emerald Pool. It was about a 10 minute walk over a slightly rocky and uneven path; it could have been slippery if the path was wet. Luckily for us we had a rare, perfectly sunny and dry day. The rain forest gets up to 400 inches of rain a year, so a dry day is a treat. We saw lots of glorious foliage, wild orchids, and beautiful rivers and waterfalls. But the waterfall into the Emerald Pool was the best, and the pool itself was huge and very beautiful. You could clamber over the rocks into the icy cold water if you wanted, Joan waded in to her knees, and Chuck plunged in like a dolphin.
After a few minutes of frolicking, we headed back up the path, (more difficult on the return. Folks with limited mobility might want to reconsider this particular tour). We hopped back into the vans and headed to an old hotel where we had some VERY strong rum punch and watched some native dancing. Then we headed back up the mountains for a stop at a scenic view overlooking Roseau and the beautiful Volendam docked below. A few vendors had set up some stands at the stop, and we got some amazing buys on Dominican pure vanilla essence ($4.00 for a bottle that would cost at least 8 times that at home, since it was essence and not extract) and Dominican soap (3 bars for $3.00). They also had Dominican hot sauce ($2.00 a bottle), hand made baskets for $5, and some other trinkets. We made one more stop to see the two kinds of Dominican parrots (found nowhere else in the world) then headed back down the mountain and returned to the ship. We strongly recommend taking a tour of Dominica, it’s an amazing island, and the people are friendly and welcome tourism. Currently only Carnival and HAL stop there, so go before it gets overrun and crowded like the other cruise ports.
When we got back on the ship, we checked the menu for dinner, and were not impressed. We stopped at the Pinnacle to see if we could get reservations, and were lucky enough to find an opening at 8:00. I had the shrimp scampi this time, and Joan growled her way through another filet. We BOTH had the volcano cake, and it was perfect once again. We ordered Sambuca for an after dinner drink, but it arrived without the customary 3 coffee beans floating in it. When we mentioned this to our waiter, he disappeared and was back in a moment with 3 beans for each of us, which he carefully floated on the surface. As the MI is Sicilian, I knew that any true Italian would consider it the worst of luck to drink Sambuca without the coffee beans, so this gesture was greatly appreciated. It was just another example of why dinner in the Pinnacle is worth every penny of the $20 fee!
Day 6 – Barbados
I woke up in time to watch us dock in Bridgetown, Barbados at about 8:00 the next morning. There were 3 other ships already there, but the port is large, so we didn’t have to tender. We had another tour booked, this time the Plantation Great Houses and Orchid Farm. There was a shuttle from the ship to the tour bus, this time a huge Greyhound type, very comfortable and air-conditioned.
Barbados couldn’t be more different from Dominica. It’s much flatter, and MUCH more settled and affluent. We saw huge homes, expensive shops, and even more expensive vehicles as we headed inland for our tour. The plantation houses were lovely; the first was occupied by the great great grandson of the original owner, and allowed tours through the first floor only, as they still lived in the home. The floors, paneling and ceilings were made of Brazilian mahogany, and all the rooms had wonderful two tiered shutters to let in the cool breezes. The grounds were spectacular, and the owner himself conducted the tour. We had another glass of strong rum punch and got back on the bus for the Orchid Farm.
We have never seen, or even knew existed, so many kinds of beautiful orchids. Some grew in the ground, some in pots, and the most amazing grew in the air alone, strung up on wires above the ground. We had a brief warm shower, obviously a common occurrence, as the farm had a rack of umbrellas for you to borrow. They had a nice, if a little pricey, gift shop and snack bar available. I can’t recommend this stop enough – it was fantastic!
Then back on the bus for one more plantation house, this one unoccupied, but fully furnished with exquisite antiques and examples of clothing from the 18th century. The walls were 2 feet thick to protect it from the hurricanes, and also had the lovely 2 part shutters. After yet another glass of punch, we got back on the bus and some of us asked to be let off in town to do a little shopping. The prices were reasonable ($1 US = $2 Bajan), but the shops were nothing special. We did find some whole nutmeg in the cruise terminal after a short cab ride back from downtown ($5 US).
That night was barbeque night on the Lido, where we had great ribs, steak, chicken, sausages, and all you could drink pina coladas in real coconut shells. Sides were baked potatoes, cold slaw, baked beans and Caesar salad, and a Caribbean band played while we ate. Awesome!
Day 7 – Sea Day
We slept in, and then headed for the Lido for breakfast. I had a Pilates on the ball class in the gym, then headed back to the room to watch one of the 2 movies that were shown on the TV each day (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban that morning). We went to the dining room for lunch and enjoyed it, although it was packed and the service was very slow. I got the wrong entrée, but they corrected it without a fuss, and the desert was awesome. Our veranda had sun, so we tanned a bit, even sacrificing high tea.
I checked my e-mail, and came back full of news. The MI had a kitty escape, but luckily the slippery one came back after scaring him half to death. He said he was about to call me on the ship – what did he think I would have done?
It was the second formal night, so we rejoined our tablemates at the singles table. We headed down early determined to find the photographers, and we did, taking several shots with different backgrounds (we do love pictures of ourselves). Joan and I both had just 2 lobster tails instead of surf and turf, which was no problem at all. We enjoyed visiting with our tablemates since we had all done different things over the past couple of days. Then back upstairs to bed for us – while our “senior” companions drifted off to other activities. Joan informed me that I will make a great senior, but I told her I was too dull, the real seniors were much more active!
Day 8 – Sea Day
I had booked a second hot stone massage for 8:00 that morning, since I enjoyed the first one so much. Because it was the first appointment of the day, I got the port day price of $130 instead of $143. Kari didn’t try and sell me a thing, and the massage was as good as the first one. We had breakfast in the Lido, and I was already feeling sad about returning home to instant oatmeal and no one to cut my grapefruit into perfect little sections for me.
We got dressed up a bit and headed down for the Mariner’s reception – 900 of the 1400 people on board were Mariners! That really does say something for HAL. They were serving white wine, champagne, Bloody Mary’s and juice; along with great hot snacks and mixed nuts. Dottie, the cruise director and the Captain made speeches, and awards were given to members. 2 people on the ship had more than 700 days on HAL, and Joan and I felt very small with only 16.
We had a nice lunch in the Lido, with HUGE portions of pasta – too much for me. The waiter was worried I didn’t like it, but it was enough for at least 3 people. We enjoyed more of the wonderful ice cream and great cookies for desert – I knew I hadn’t done nearly enough yoga to counteract their effects.
We waddled back to our balcony for some sun. At 3:30, famished, we went to the dining room for high tea, and at 4 I headed to the gym for Yoga, while Joan headed to the casino for roulette. We rejoined our single friends for dinner – crab legs that night, beautifully cracked and served with drawn butter. Then back to our room and another restful night.
Day 9 – Half Moon Cay (NOT!!)
I woke up to watch the beautiful island of Half Moon Cay coming into sight off our balcony. We both raced up to the Lido for breakfast, and ran into both Beverly and Mike and Chuck and Marie doing the same. It was a beautiful sunny day, and the white sands of HMC were gleaming at us out the window. The first tenders, containing the photographers, massage girls, and other workers were lowered to the sea. We could see that the seas were very rough, as the tenders bobbed around like corks and the waves were crashing off the rocks near the pier. Our Captain seemed to be having a bit of trouble finding a spot to anchor, as we kept swinging around and maneuvering into different positions. We were starting to get a little nervous, so we headed back to our room to start the upsetting task of packing up as a distraction. The Captain made periodic announcements about his concerns about anchoring, and finally, about 10:00, he admitted that we would not be able to anchor safely, and our stop was cancelled. We were SO disappointed, especially since we could still see those beautiful beaches gleaming in the sun from our balcony. However, Joan quickly sprang into action and changed her massage on the beach back to the spa. We do believe in making lemonade from lemons whenever possible.
We could see how rough it really was, though, as the crew worked for at least an hour trying to get the tenders back onto the ship. In fact, a crewmember fell overboard trying to reboard, but was safely rescued. In spite of the fact that the Captain promised to refund our port charges for the day and open some champagne for dinner, we were desolate. All day, we stared sadly out the window at other beautiful beaches of the out islands sliding past our veranda. We slowly did most of our packing, and then gloomily went to the Lido for lunch, then to the photo shop to purchase a few photos of ourselves. One of the photographers was still seasick from her jaunt on the tender, so we realized the Captain really had made the right decision.
We had a final high tea in the dining room, and revisited a few of our favorite places on the ship. We had reservations at the Pinnacle for dinner, so we dressed and headed down at 7. It was another lovely meal, although tinged with sadness since we knew it was the last one (at least on this trip). We then headed back to our room to finish packing and get our VERY heavy suitcases in the hall for disembarking the next day.
Day 10 – Disembark (v. sad)
We woke up about 7:30, and sadly took our last showers and finished our last little bit of packing. Then we headed up to the Lido for breakfast, and were devastated to find out that it closed at 8:00 that morning! (it was then about 8:15). We were able to get a little coffee, which we sipped in the pool area. We headed back to our room to wait until our number was called – a really nice feature. By turning on the radio to station 5, we could hear all the announcements while relaxing just a bit more in our lovely room. When we were called, we headed down to the gangplank, quickly found our luggage, and were through customs in about 10 minutes. Then we caught a cab with absolutely no trouble, and were soon at the airport. Ft. Lauderdale airport was MOBBED, and we saw lots of frantic people who were going to miss their flights due to the long lines to check in. We were on Spirit, and the check in was very strange. You waited in a LONG line outside for your boarding pass, then waited in another LONG line inside to drop off your luggage, then in ANOTHER long line to clear security. Also strange was the fact that there are almost no restaurants or shops inside the security gate at the Spirit terminal. Our only choice for food was a Nathan’s Hot Dog stand, which entailed yet another long line. We sadly ate our hotdogs while waiting for our flight, glad we had sensibly booked a 12:30 pm flight so were in no danger of missing it. We boarded right on time, and uneventfully made our way home, where the MI was patiently waiting to ferry us back.
It was a WONDERFUL trip on the Volendam, and we couldn’t recommend it more highly to anyone considering this ship!
Odds and Ends
Tipping: In spite of the $10/day added to your shipboard account, we usually tipped wherever we went. We gave drink waiters $1-2 per order, tipped at the Pinnacle, and gave our wonderful room steward an extra $20 halfway through the cruise, and another $20 at the end. He was worth every penny, as was everyone else we tipped.
The Pinnacle: I think it is also worth every penny of the extra $20 charge (only $10 if you go the first night). I do wish the menu changed during the cruise, but we still managed to eat there 3 times and loved it.
The Staff: We didn’t feel the staff was less friendly than we had noticed in the past. Everywhere we went we were greeted with smiles and hellos. They were all busy, but always polite and seemed to be happy to be there. We had excellent service in every single area of the ship. I could even hear our wonderful room steward Yemin singing as he cleaned our neighbor’s balcony one day.
The Volendam itself: Still a beautiful ship. We noticed a few tiny signs of wear and tear (a rip on our sofa that was sewn up, a crack in the frame of the TV) but nothing that detracted from her beauty. She was clean, clean, clean, and someone was always working to make her even cleaner. There were hand sanitizers available in all restaurants, and as you left and re-entered the ship. The restrooms were always clean and well maintained. We noticed no foul odors, and never had any problems with our toilets flushing or with our water pressure. Our veranda was washed clean of salt every day, and we never lacked for anything.
That’s our story, and we’re sticking to it. I kept all the daily newsletters and flyers we received, so if anyone has any specific questions, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me. I know this is very long, but I gained so much great info reading other reviews that I wanted to give as much information as I could back to other cruisers.
To quote our cruise gurus, Tom and Mary Milano:
May your next cruise be your best!
Cathy and Joan