We booked this cruise in January of 2000. At that time the HAL brochure said all we needed was a certified copy of the birth certificate and a photo ID, the same that we had used on our other 7 cruises. When the tickets came, there was a note saying we would not get on the ship without proper documentation. I called our travel agent and, sure enough, we needed passports for this cruise. There was a great rush, but we got our passports in time.
We left Tucson on Monday, December 18, the day before the cruise. We flew to Miami where we spent the night at the Miami Airport Hilton. Before we left the airport we checked in our luggage with the airline we were to use the next day. The airline was Miami Air but the plane was one from Planet Air.
The next morning we got up and went to the airport and boarded the Planet Air plane. They served breakfast during the two and one half hour flight. We arrived in Liberia, Costa Rica, and got on a bus for the two and one half hour trip to the ship. The bus was not very comfortable. The seats were too close together so there was no room for my knees.
It was a very long and tiring two days of travel for us. We were lucky we were not delayed by weather as many of the other passengers were. We spent a lot of time in the "hurry up and wait" mode. I do not know how HAL could have done better as they had so many passengers to deal with. We were glad we did the difficult portion of the traveling before the cruise as we had the cruise to look forward to. We knew we could recover on board.
The ship was a welcome sight. She is beautiful and classy. The port, Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, is nothing but a dock and a warehouse. It reminded me of the port in Seward, Alaska.
When our luggage arrived in our stateroom we noticed that two of the padlocks were missing. When we opened up the suitcases we knew someone had gone through them. They had opened up a carton of cigarettes and taken two packs. They put a big greasy hand print on one of my white tops. I haven't been able to get it out yet. We had brought eight little boxes of chocolate for Christmas gifts. They unwrapped one of them and left it.
Although this was an annoyance I was glad we heeded the warning to carry your medicine and your jewelry with you. At least one lady was not as lucky. She was filling out a claim form at the front office for jewelry that was stolen.
We left about two hours later than scheduled as we had to wait for some passengers who were late. We picked up more passengers over the next two days. Many passengers had been delayed by winter storms. On day two, while we were cruising Golfo Dulce, a tender went to shore to pick up 19 passengers. We were wondering how they got out to where the ship could pick them up. Costa Rica does not have a lot of highways or public transportation that would get them to us.
The first day of the cruise we were in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Several tours were offered but each one required a one and one half hour bus ride to get to the place that is featured. After the long bus ride the day before, I was glad I did not take one of these tours.
We were in Cabin 6173 on the Verandah Deck. The cabin was the same as on the Ryndam except the panel under the railing on the verandah is made of Plexiglas. You can see out while sitting in your chair. There is more space between the rail and the divider so you can more easily talk to the people next to you when you are both hanging over the rail. You can take out the back half of the barrier that is between the cabins. This would be great if you have a friend in the next cabin and want to talk or go between cabins without going out into the hall.
The elevators on the ship have lots of mirrors. The first few days I would step back so the person in the elevator could get out. Then I realized that I was just seeing a reflection of myself in the mirrors. Once I got confident and walked right in I would run into someone coming out. Thank goodness they were not crowded very often.
Others have written reviews about the look of the ship so I will not go into that. If you do not take a tour of the ship you want to stop by each of the pieces of art and read the plaque. That will give you some idea of its importance. Also, be sure to look for the little bear playing with the stick in the area of the Lido pool.
We got up early to see the Panama Canal. They were serving "Panama rolls," coffee, and juice on the outside decks. They opened up the "crew only" area on the Promenade Deck. There was plenty of room for everyone to see the Canal. The Canal was as impressive as I thought it would be.
There were lots of families on board. The children dominated the pools and the Jacuzzis. There were 168 children during this Christmas cruise and only 8 children the week before. Overall the children were well behaved. Santa came Christmas morning. He did not seem to like children, but the children liked the presents he brought for them.
The Christmas dinner was good. I had the biggest lobster tail I have seen on any ship. My husband had the turkey dinner. He was disappointed as it did not taste like the traditional turkey, dressing, and gravy we get at home. We had dinner at the Odyssey Restaurant one night. We thought the food was better in the dining room. I had seen pictures of intimate tables for two nestled into a nook in the restaurant. The nook ended up being windows onto the inside hall. If you get one of those tables you also get everyone going by the restaurant stopping and checking out what you are eating.
There were very few lines. If there was a line, as in the Lido during meals, they moved fast. They have the food arranged so you can enter the line at several places depending on what you want to eat.
Our last stop was the private island, Half Moon Cay. It was beautiful. The water was too cold for us wimps from Tucson, but many people were swimming. We went on the Glass Bottom Boat tour and enjoyed it. They have some permanent buildings on the island such as a church, a bar, stores for souvenirs, Ben and Jerry Ice Cream, and a few others.
The only problem was that the Volendam was there the same time we were. The island is perfect for one ship but was very crowded with two. We went to get some lunch and the line was so long, we didn't even try to get anything. All the chairs on the beach were occupied. I feel that HAL should re-think having two ships there at the same time.
Overall, it was a wonderful cruise. I would highly recommend the itinerary and the ship.