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Old January 17th, 2008, 12:35 AM
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Z – Jan. 16 – St Thomas
Throughout this cruise I keep hearing bells ringing. I think it has something to do with the fact our cabin is immediately adjacent to the aft elevators.

Some time ago Mrs. Kuki and I swore to only use the stairs when we’re on a ship, to help assist us in limiting our weight gain. But if I had ever used the elevators on this ship I’d have to tell you how old and worn the interiors look. Of course, that wouldn’t matter the least to me because we always only use the stairs.

For those other fitness buffs like me , who only use the stairs, I have discovered a bit of a problem. There’s no signage anywhere on the landings telling you what deck you are coming to. And that’s true whether you’re going upstairs or downstairs – Note: funny joke!

But it is true. When you think you’re may be approaching the deck you’re looking for, you have to look to the sides to take note of the numbers on the cabin door in the hallway. I think that may be why I always have the feeling my cabin is being watched. It’s just people looking to see which floor they are on.

With the new bow to stern Wi-Fi internet availability on the ship, it’s made sending in these daily reports so much easier than having to write, then run out to a public room to send them in. I’ve also been very impressed with the speed of the service. Though I do eat up a fair number of minutes, it’s been fast enough to enable me to upload the pictures to the photo galleries… which can be quite time consuming even at home using cable modems. Time packages are available, and are the same price whether using your own laptop or the ship’s Internet Café. You can purchase 100 minutes for $55, or 250 minutes for $100 (purchase it the first day of the cruise and you get 270 minutes for the $100). The Internet Café onboard is enormous. I didn’t count the number of stations, but it appears to be the largest I’ve seen on a ship.

Frankly it’s been a bit difficult to write, giving a lot details about a ship which we know is scheduled for a major dry dock in a short time. There’s much I could talk about and describe during this cruise that simply will no longer be applicable in a few short months.

Is that a very clever means of suggesting I come back onboard after the dry dock to give a complete report on the finished product?

I can tell you that in regard to our cabin… with the exception of the balcony furnishings, I posted pictures of earlier, and a rather old looking sofa/love seat in the sitting area, the cabin looks to be in great shape. The bed is comfortable, and the linens fresh. Though I am certainly hoping nice fluffy duvets will be replacing the sheets and blankets currently used. The towels for the bathroom are in excellent condition, and I love that they are extra large bath size towels.

One key design flaw is the lack of any real drawer space in the cabin. Space for hanging clothing in the closets is adequate, and closet shelf space is adequate, but the only drawers in the cabin are in the bedside night stands, and a couple of drawers at the foot of bed, under the bed. Those under the bed I believe were designed more for storage areas for the cabin stewards, than for use by the guests. It’s surprised me just how much I miss having a few drawers.

There is a short stool at the desk/vanity mirror, rather than a desk chair. Some people wouldn’t care at all, but for my purposes, when I am working at the desk, a desk chair would be so much more comfortable. I solve the problem by using the arm chair from the sitting area, but am moving the stool out of the way on a daily basis.

The washroom has a bathtub/shower combination. Good thing I’m not a bath kind of guy, because with the size of the tub about the only thing that would fit in the tub sitting down is the thing I sit on. Using it as a shower however is very good, because there are no worries about flooding the bathroom floor, or clinging shower curtains.

We have friends who are in the cabin next door. On day one we had the cabin attendant open the divider between balconies, and combining them has made the balcony feel so much larger. The balconies on this ship are a bit wider than those on other lines, and with the open divider there’s plenty of comfortable space for the four of us.

Holland America offers an unlimited laundry package for a cost of $45 for the cruise. This has to be the best bargain at sea. We’ve sent laundry out every day, and it’s back ironed and on hangars the next day... though they state 48 hr turn around.

This morning the entire ship was stirred to consciousness at 7 A.M. with ship wide announcements for everyone to report to U.S. Immigration. They paged guests by deck number to let them when to appear. The process seemed quite orderly, and I was back in my cabin having coffee by 7:30.

We were docked at Crown Bay today, not Havensight; my first time using this pier facility. I had booked a golf excursion for the day, so Mrs. Kuki and a friend were going shopping. They found a taxi to downtown from Crown Bay is $4 per person. A taxi from downtown to Havensight Mall/pier is also $4 per person, and a taxi from Havensight back to Crown Bay is $5 per person. There’s an odd anomaly there somewhere.

Golf at Mahogany Run, through the ship was $199, not including club rental, golf shoe rentals, golf club, or balls. Rather expensive, but since Mrs. Kuki bought nothing today, combined it may have been the least expensive day we’ve ever spent in St. Thomas.

The ship left St. Thomas a bit late today. About a half hour later there were announcements on the ship wide public address system, including inside the cabins (which means they want everyone to hear) looking for the “Moss family?. I’m not certain, but it is possible the Moss family may now be doing the breast stroke on their way to our next stop at Half Moon Cay. The fact is if this family was touring on their own, independently, and they missed the ship, they would be forced to find their way to Ft. Lauderdale, and at their own expense. I’m actually a big advocate for exploring ports of call independent of ship’s shore excursions. But in doing so, you also have to accept the responsibility of returning to the ship before its scheduled departure.

I have a pet peeve I thought I’d share; that’s pre-dinner shows for late seating diners. The majority of shows on this ship, for those dining at both 8:00 P.M. and 8:30 P.M., begin at 6:45 P.M. One of the most significant reasons for choosing the later dining times is so one is not rushed to prepare for dinner after busy days, or to enjoy lounging on deck enjoying quiet times in the hot tubs, or watching the sunset. If I’ve chosen late seating, do I really want to see a show at 6:45? Not me! But it is a problem, because I really would be interested in seeing some of these shows. Oddly it’s the shows I personally don’t care for so much (the large production song and dance numbers) that are normally held after dinner.
This issue will change again in the near future as HAL begins to offer the alternate of allowing guests to choose when to dine, along with traditional dining times, fleet-wide in the coming months.

Tonight’s schedule was an illusionist in the theater at 6:45, a cocktail party at 7:30, dinner at 8:00, the chocolate extravaganza at 10:30, then the adult comedy show in the theater at 11:15. That busy schedule might have been OK for the octogenarians, but we baby boomers need more time to rest.

For the entire cruise we’ve noticed a group onboard carrying around plans, and measuring tapes, assumingly working on preparations for those changes. Tomorrow is a day at sea, and I’m hopefully going to have the opportunity to meet with Hotel Manager Mark Pells to get the scoop on all the plans for the upgrades and changes planned during the Zuiderdam’s spring dry dock.

If there's any specific questions anyone has about that please post them ASAP.
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