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Mike Lafferty

Age: 62


Number of Cruises: 6

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Zuiderdam

Sailing Date: December 22nd, 2005

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

My wife and I are in our middle aged and retired we have traveled 5 times prior to this cruise. All of our cruise experience has been with Holland America and we have been well satisfied with each and every cruise.

This cruise was a Holland American Christmas Cruise, departing from Ft. Lauderdale on December 22 and returning on December 30. The ship was the Zuiderdam. This ship is one of the new vista class ships it is a 85, 000 ton ship and was larger than the 55,000 to 60,000 ton Hal Ships we normally cruise.

This cruise was an Eastern Caribbean cruise. The ports of call were Half Moon Cay, La Romana, Dominican Republic, Philipsburg St. Maarten, Tortola, BVI, and Nassau.

We arrived at port around 11:30 and checking in went smoothly. We were pleasantly surprised when we reached the ticket counter and discovered that we had been upgraded from an L class inside room to a D class outside room.

Our shore excursions were previously booked on line and this is truly the way to go.

After throwing a few things in our room which was very clean. One good thing was the air conditioning worked very well and the beds were wonderful with plenty of storage underneath the beds. We then went to lunch at the Lido of course I treated myself to a bowl of bread pudding with their special sauce. It was wonderful. That evening in the main dining room we enjoyed a delicious prime rib with baked potato and sour cream. All of our meals in the dining room were very good. I did however notice that since they are serving probably close to a third more people the service between courses is perhaps a little slower than it is on the smaller ships. You can sit there and gripe about it or you can take the time to relate to your dinner mates. The choice is yours.

On night two we ate at the pinnacle grill. The meal did have a $20.00 per person add on fee but the service and the quality of the meal was absolutely superb. It was well worth the extra few bucks for something special.

We found all the entertainment on the cruise very enjoyable. I really enjoyed the young dance kids. They did an outstanding show. I have to say however one of the highlights of the cruise for me was the international crew Christmas Carol Choir. They were broken up between the English Speaking Choir who consisted of mainly ship officers, The Pilipino Choir and the Indonesian Choir. While many of the selections were of a non religious nature, most selections celebrated the birth and life of Christ. Prior to the performance the Capitan of the Ship gave a wonderful reading in the spirit of Christmas. I was so proud of the event it brought tears to my eyes. After the choir service there was a midnight Mass for Catholics and a midnight service for Protestants.

The Excursions:
On Friday we spent the day on Half Moon Cay, this is always a highlight of a Caribbean Cruise for us as it is a day of rest and of playing in the crystal clear water. I love to snorkel near the rocks for many beautiful fish can be found there. The Hal also provides a very nice lunch for us on the beach.

On Christmas day we docked in La Romana. Because of the Holliday there wasn’t much going on. The excursion schedule was limited which was understandable. I do think that La Romana needs to upgrade its facilities if it ever expects to be a port of favor.

On Monday the Ship Docked at St. Maarten. I chose to do the golden eagle catamaran
This was extremely fun the drinks flowed freely and the music was great. It was as absolutely wonderful experience.

On Tuesday I went to the Gorda Baths. This is perhaps one of the most wonderful beach /snorkel sites I have ever seen. One thing different though is Holland America excursion contractor does not provide the snorkel equipment as they normally do. You have to rent the stuff at the beach and the line is long and the deposits and fees are high. You could spend most of your snorkel time standing in line. It’s a bad deal and a better arrangement could be made. It would be better if the excursion charged for the mask snorkel and fins as an add on to the cost of the excursion. I will never go on another Hal snorkel expedition where equipment is not provided and has to be rented.

Wednesday was a sea day.

Thursday was in Nassau. Here I went on the Seahorse Catamaran the boat was similar in size to the Golden Eagle but that is where all similarity stopped. The boat was understaffed, the crew was not friendly, the music sucked and the drinks certainly were not as good as on the Golden Eagle. they made no effort to take us to a snorkeling site which was some what out of the wind.

In Summary, we really enjoy our Cruise. The food was wonderful, the ship was clean and the staff did there very best to make it a wonderful experience. What more could you ask for.

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