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  #31 (permalink)  
Old January 16th, 2008, 01:14 PM
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Kukui.
Great read! Keep on telling it like it is!
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Old January 16th, 2008, 03:47 PM
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Kuki
Keep up the great updates.
We will be on that ship in August and look forward to hearing about it.
Have a great voyage.
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Old January 16th, 2008, 10:04 PM
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Default DRY DOCK

Kuki

Could you please find out what they are doing in dry dock?

The worn chairs and folding chairs look terrible.

I am paying over $2500 a person(for an inside cabin) and I don't want to be on a worn ship.

Please ask someone in charge what is being done in dry dock. I don't want to cancel.

I trust you

Thanks
John
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Old January 16th, 2008, 11:35 PM
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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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Old January 16th, 2008, 11:38 PM
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Default Re: DRY DOCK

Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnken
Kuki

Could you please find out what they are doing in dry dock?

The worn chairs and folding chairs look terrible.

I am paying over $2500 a person(for an inside cabin) and I don't want to be on a worn ship.

Please ask someone in charge what is being done in dry dock. I don't want to cancel.

I trust you

Thanks
John
John... I hope that price isn't for a 7 day cruise
From tonight's report, you'll see that I am hoping to have all sorts of "juicy" details in tomorrows report.
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Old January 17th, 2008, 08:08 AM
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Kuki, I just love your posts and your humor.

Thanks for taking the time to update.

Enjoy your day at sea and the rest of your voyage.
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Old January 17th, 2008, 09:27 AM
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Hi Kuki,
In addition to the drawers at the foot of the bed, there are 2 drawers at the front of the sofa bed (same fabric as the sofa so you may not know they are there.) The hassock that is at the desk area also opens at the top for storage. Hope this helps for the remainder of your cruise.

Just want to tell you again that I am reliving my wonderful trip of one week ago on the "Z" thru you. Thanks for the thorough reporting and beautiful pictures.

To Johnken (John): Please do not cancel your trip over a few worn wicker chairs and the use of folding chairs. The staff/crew of the Zuiderdam are fantastic and will make you forget a few minor aesthetics of the ship. But if you do decide to cancel, please let me know. I'll take your place in an instant!!

Donna
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Old January 17th, 2008, 09:49 AM
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Kuki, love your posts!

When we left St. Thomas in December, we left "right on time!" We had just pushed away from the pier when a taxi pulled up with a lady and gentlemen -- in much panic! They were left arguing with the port authority as the ship sailed away. The captain did not delay departure, even 1 minute, waiting for the latecomers.

You mentioned the lack of drawers, what I missed most was any kind of drawer at the dressing table.
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Old January 17th, 2008, 02:22 PM
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Kuki-enjoying your daily posts-very informative and amusing! One question-what's this immigration thing in St. Thomas? Even though I'm a Canuck like you, I realize that St. Thomas is part of the U.S. but we were there 2 years ago and didn't have to do immigration. Is it just for us "foreigners" or for everyone? Enjoy the rest of your cruise-and the upcoming one!
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Old January 17th, 2008, 04:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jacdenv24
Kuki-enjoying your daily posts-very informative and amusing! One question-what's this immigration thing in St. Thomas? Even though I'm a Canuck like you, I realize that St. Thomas is part of the U.S. but we were there 2 years ago and didn't have to do immigration. Is it just for us "foreigners" or for everyone? Enjoy the rest of your cruise-and the upcoming one!
Because the ship went from Tortola BVI, to St. Thomas USVI, everyone has to go through Immigration, not only us Canucks, but even the Americans. This has been something new for them for a couple of years now. Remember when we were the only ones who had to do it.

You probably didn't have to go through Immigration 2 years ago, because the port before you reached St. Thomas was no doubt a US port......am I right? It's only when they go from a non-US port to a US port that Immigration is required. Stupid, I know, but now that everyone has to do it, I doesn't bother us as much as it used to.

Kuki - enjoy your day and the festivities on HMC tomorrow.
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Old January 17th, 2008, 07:49 PM
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Okay, so now I feel a little better about packing Dave's dressy clothes for him....
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  #42 (permalink)  
Old January 17th, 2008, 11:19 PM
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Z – A Day at Sea – Jan. 17
One of the great pleasures of a day at sea on a cruise ship is hanging out the Do Not Disturb sign. We did just that, and slept in late into the morning. I was up and out on deck enjoying my coffee by about 9:30 A.M. Mrs. Kuki took some extra time to relax in bed, and joined me an hour later.

A nice treat on Holland America is there is no one waking up at 4 A.M. to stake out their spots on loungers at the pools, and go back to bed. There’s no need to pack 87 different shoes to lay out to stake a claim for your loungers. Even at 11 A.M. there were lots of pool-side loungers to be had in prime sunny spots.

And, if there’s no existing threat that the ship is going to flounder aimlessly for eternity 200 ft. off the shores of Tortola, there doesn’t seem to be any long lines to endure at the various buffet stations. You just have to avoid the 4:30 P.M rush of Floridians, who’ve simply been pre-programmed to show up for the Early Bird Specials. Forgive them. They know not what they do.

Z Story of Z New Z
I wasn’t able to get as much intricate detail about the upcoming changes to the Zuiderdam as I’d hoped to. I guess some things are always going to be kept under wraps, so they have something to unwrap. The basic description given me was that after dry dock the ship will be very similar to the Westerdam.

They will say that there will be 35 cabins added on Decks 7 & 8, aft.
All the public rooms will go through significant upgrades, and changes to most of the lounges on the ship. Explorations Café (the ship’s Internet Café) will be removed from its current location forward on Deck 3. A new Explorations Café will be built to the starboard side of the Crow’s Nest Lounge, on Deck 10. Also on Deck 10, Club HAL, The Loft, and the Video Arcade will be redesigned.

One deck below on Lido Deck, the fitness center, spa, hydro pool, and thermal suites will all be redone, as will the Lido Pool, the Terrace Grill, and the Lido Restaurant. The aft Sea View Pool and Sea View Bar will also see significant changes. They are also going to be installing a dedicated Cinema.

Though we wouldn’t release further details to me, I’m certain the guest cabins will also be upgraded in line with all the work being done through the public rooms.

To a layman like me this sounds like a particularly ambitious to get done in the time frame of a 3 week dry dock. That’s likely the reason there are crews onboard now measuring and planning, and probably in constant discussions with home office and the shipyard to discuss any issues they may see coming.
No doubt it will be very interesting to see the finished product.

This afternoon I went into full vegetation mode, spending most of my day planted. I laid out in the sun this morning for a considerable amount of time, and then laid out in my bed for a considerable amount of time, then laid out on the balcony for a considerable amount of time. Then I realized that tonight is formal night, and I had to relive the memory of packing the wrong suit. I thought… perhaps I’ll leave the zipper in my pants down tonight then people will be so busy they won’t notice that my belt has forced my stomach up into my chest.

The four dining times tonight have been changed to only two. This is done to accommodate the traditional Baked Alaska parade. By having both early and both late diners combined they don’t have to repeat the parade 4 times.

Tonight’s dinner was the first meal we’ve had in the dining room all week that was rather mediocre from starter through entrée. The pasta appetizer was room temperature, the soups were luke warm, and the entrée I chose, the veal chop was fatty and rather tasteless. It was “lobster night? and those who chose the lobster had less than stellar things to say about the quality.

Our service team has been excellent throughout the week, along with a nightly visit from our Head Waiter to make sure all is well.

Here’s a picture of Mrs. Kuki and I tonight at dinner. You can’t see it, but my zipper is open.


After dinner entertainment included a production show in the theater featuring music from the movies. Mrs. Kuki attended and reported the costumes were fabulous, and the talent good. I spent about a half hour in the casino, and called it a night.
The casino designates two nights during the cruise as non-smoking nights in the casino. The first was the evening we were in Tortola. The second is tomorrow evening after Half Moon Cay.

It’s an early night for me tonight. Half Moon Cay is our last stop tomorrow, and in my view it’s the very best private island in the cruise industry. We have pre-booked one of the private cabanas, so we’re in for a treat. And the 10th anniversary celebration of HAL’s purchase of the island is sure to make it more enjoyable. Just have to hope when we wake up in the morning, the seas are calm enough for us to drop anchor and tender to the island. If that works out I promise plenty of pictures of the island and the ceremonies tomorrow.
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Old January 18th, 2008, 01:04 AM
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Zuiderdam – review/summary

As this cruise nears its completion it’s probably the time to attempt to reflect and summarize my thoughts about the Zuiderdam. I don’t believe a full review will be forthcoming because it would lose its relevancy once the refit work of the dry dock is completed.

I will say that the onboard experience was a good one. The Filipino and Indonesian crew are the staples of staffing on Holland America ships, and on the Z they represent that tradition very well. They are friendly, and generally do their very best to assure the guests are happy with their service.

At times, and in certain areas, they did seem to be under staffed. For example, we often took our breakfast outdoors to the aft Sea View Pool area. Many mornings breakfast trays could sit on tables for extended periods of time before being picked up and the tables cleaned and cleared. Even bar service on the pool decks seemed to be slow, and it appeared to be a staff shortage issue. After having been in the bar business for over 30 years it’s relatively easy to spot which are personnel problems, and which are lack of personnel problems.

As discussed the ship has some areas where she appears worn and a bit neglected. But she has an excellent layout which results in very good traffic flow. By the nature of the layout, and the size of the ship, you’ll find yourself running into people you’ve met and seen during the cruise quite regularly, without having to arrange meetings. This helps make it quite a social ship.

One area that stands out for its rather ill conceived design is the main showroom. On the lower level there are simply too many poles (support beams) which disturb the site lines for all acts using the stage that aren’t standing in one place. Therefore the best site lines are from the seats above on Deck 3, but then the distance to the stage, on Deck 1 is a bit of hindrance.

There a problem that this ship shares with all the ships I have sailed on the last several years; and that is the amount of junk mail being delivered to the cabins daily. It’s bad enough these days to battle SPAM emails coming into your home computers. But to face the paper equivalent bombarding you in your cabin is truly bothersome. It seems as though we are getting more advertising delivered than we are information. In the confines of a small space of a cruise ship cabin the problem gets more exasperating.

Tomorrow’s report will cover the 10th anniversary celebrations of Half Moon Cay, with HAL CEO Stein Kruse, and the Prime Minister of the Bahamas…. as well a report of the state of the island today.


On Saturday we arrive back in Ft. Lauderdale where this little adventure began, then we’ll transport down to Miami to board the Carnival Freedom.

I’ll be beginning anew on Saturday night posting a daily blog from that cruise. I hope that all of you will come on over to the Carnival message board to cruise along and follow our antics from that cruise. I think even devoted HAL passengers will find some interesting similarities, differences, and comparisons in those reports.

In the meantime do be sure to come back here to hear all about Half Moon Cay tomorrow!!
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Old January 18th, 2008, 09:16 AM
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You
Quote:
probably didn't have to go through Immigration 2 years ago, because the port before you reached St. Thomas was no doubt a US port......am I right? It's only when they go from a non-US port to a US port that Immigration is required. Stupid, I know, but now that everyone has to do it, I doesn't bother us as much as it used to.
Kuki - enjoy your day and the festivities on HMC tomorrow.[/quote]You're right, of course! So I'm delighted that on our Feb. 8th cruise on Constellation, our first port of call will be St. Thomas, which means no immigration. Have fun on the "Fun Ship"!
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Old January 18th, 2008, 02:28 PM
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thanks for the daily reports. Its the next best thing to being there.
I was on her a few years ago, she a great ship. I am looking forward to the day when I can go again and the difference.
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Old January 18th, 2008, 06:06 PM
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Z – Day 7 – Half Moon Cay
Half Moon Cay is Holland America’s private piece of paradise, located 100 miles from Nassau, Commonwealth of the Bahamas. 10 years ago Holland America opened this to passengers sailing on their ships as a private port of call.

If the silky white sand beaches weren’t enough to remind everyone fortunate enough to visit that there was indeed a small slice of heaven on earth, over the years the cruise line has added all sorts of optional activities. Aside from snorkeling, and water toys, one now has a broad range of excursions to from, from paddle water bikes, to horse riding on the beach.

Today Holland America commemorated the 10th Anniversary of the opening of Half Moon Cay with a ceremony, and presentations to the Prime Minister, and Minister of Tourism of the Bahamas, by Stein Kruse, the CEO of Holland America, who flew by sea plane especially for the ceremonies.


There were other Bahamian dignitaries present, including the Commodore of the Royal Defense Force of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.

During the ceremony it was noted that over 2 Million cruise ship passengers have been blessed to have visited Half Moon Cay in this 10 year span.

Half Moon Cay is operated 100% by Bahamian employees. The Director of Operations at this time is Kevin Cartwright. The Prime Minister noted in his address that in surveys done by the Bahamian Government, Bahamian citizens employed by Holland America rate their employer an 8.5 out of 10 in job satisfaction. The cruise line just surpassed the 100 person mark for Bahamians employed.



The Prime Minister also noted that Half Moon Cay has generated 23 Million Dollars income in “head taxes? for his country. And that for the past 7 years running Half Moon Cay has been voted the Best Private Island in the industry.

This ceremony was somewhat understated in nature, but the speeches were kept short enough to stay interesting, and rum punch and fruit punch were served to the passengers who gathered at the welcome center to watch as a commemorative flag was raised to mark the occasion.



A lunch for all the dignitaries was held afterwards that we had been invited to attend. However, when I saw how large the entourage accompanying this cruise was, I opted to pass on my regrets, and head back to enjoy the private cabana we’d booked for today.

Not that it wouldn’t have been an honor to lunch with the CEO of the cruise line, and the Prime Minister, but… a day on Half Moon Cay, with the use of a cabana, is one of the most decadent days on the beach one can enjoy anywhere!

More on the Cabanas, the Cabana Boys, and Half Moon Cay, in my final report from the Zuiderdam, which I’ll write and send later tonight.
I have to go watch Mrs. Kuki pack now. Packing at the end of a cruise is normally a dreaded, but relatively easy task because you’re just going home to do laundry.

This time it’s a bit different, as Mrs. Kuki is packing for a cruise. We board the Carnival Freedom tomorrow for the John Heald Blogger’s Cruise. I will be blogging from the blogger’s cruise with daily reports. Hopefully you’ll pop on over to the Carnival message board to continue doing these back to back cruises with us!
Even if you’ve never considered Carnival the right cruise line for you, I suggest you come along. You may feel the same afterwards, or Carnival may have surprises in store for you, and for us.

But...this one isn't over YET! One more installment to come.
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Old January 18th, 2008, 06:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuki
Zuiderdam – review/summary

I’ll be beginning anew on Saturday night posting a daily blog from that cruise. I hope that all of you will come on over to the Carnival message board to cruise along and follow our antics from that cruise. I think even devoted HAL passengers will find some interesting similarities, differences, and comparisons in those reports.
Kuki,
I think I can speak for a few when I say I have enjoyed your reports as a cruiser and not a HAL passenger.
I will also say that quite a few of your comments and observations mirror that of mine on the Ryndam (just a little bit worn, junk mail, great food, great service, etc.)

Maybe you did not see my request before you cruised but can you let me know if they are cleaning the windows in the public areas (i.e. Lido buffet, Explorer's Lounge)?
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Old January 18th, 2008, 07:35 PM
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Yikes! Probably too late for this question but maybe somebody knows.....do Mac computers work on the wi fi?
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Old January 18th, 2008, 07:59 PM
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Kuki, I have thoroughly enjoyed cruising with you, virtually.

I agree about the junk mail, but I did appreciate that there was a paper holder attached to the trash can, to drop the paper in for recycle. That way it didn't fill the trash can each day!
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Old January 18th, 2008, 09:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuki
Z – Day 4- Jan. 25 – Tortolla
The guests began acting as though they had been told they’d be spending the remaining days left in their lives drifting aimlessly at sea, and that the ship had run out of shrimp. The mood in the buffet lines turned nasty, as passengers amassed at buffet stations apparently in a quest to hoard anything edible in view, in case the engine problems lasted longer than forever. I thought, if this situation goes on too much longer there are going to be people on this ship attempting to survive on Splenda, and once decorative carvings made from lard.
Being from the southern USA [Nashville, TN], I found this paragraph hilarious. Down here, if you say "snow", it sets off panic and hoarding. One of the jokes is that the south lost the civil war because every time the Union soldiers yelled "snow!" all the Confederate soldiers would abandon their positions and head for Kroger.
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  #51 (permalink)  
Old January 18th, 2008, 09:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuki
Z – Day 4- Jan. 25 – Tortolla
Even the most seasoned cruisers amongst us can, at times, still find ways to stumble through the experience. We can become overconfident with our preparation and traveling skills which we’ve so finely tuned over the years.

Mrs. Kuki is the most skilled practitioner of the art of packing that I have ever encountered. This, of course, is the primary reason we’re still married. When clothing is removed from a suitcase she’s packed, they come out already on hangers, looking like they’ve just come from the dry cleaners, with every crease exactly in place, and none where they shouldn’t be.

In the beginning, we’d pack a week or more prior to our departure date, but as our experience has grown, that task is left until the night before. My area of responsibility in this process is to choose my clothing, and lay it out for her to pack, and load the car on day of departure.

For this trip, a two week back to back jaunt, changing ships mid-stream, I made the decision to change with the times, and leave my tuxedo, dress vests, etc. at home, and to go with one suit, with various shirts and ties to match.

After our first formal night of this cruise, having spent the evening in a suit that halfway through the evening I realized was a bit overly snug, it dawned on me I had laid out the wrong suit. Many of us have a closet containing an assortment of sizes that we’ve lived through various stages of our life. And indeed this time the suit I chose for her to pack was from a more svelte stage in the life of my body beautiful.

Upon making this realization I of course blamed Mrs. Kuki for placing an old suit in a prominent position in my closet, knowing full well (because of the inherent psychic ability that women are born with) that this suit would now be a snug fit on the 2008 edition of my body magnificent.

Because of this faux pas, for the next 3 formal nights, I’ll suffer the gross indignity of hiding the somewhat unsightly enlarged girth of my midsection hanging over my belt top, while I store my vanity in the inside suit pocket.

This will be the last time, until next time, that I take my responsibilities of choosing my own clothing so lightly. Using this life experience to learn from, some day in the future, in some unknown city, I may even stop and ask for directions; Either that, or I’ll just go back to taking along my tuxedo.

Chef Rajeev was back in the Show Kitchen, in the Queen’s Lounge, at 9:30 this morning, demonstrating the preparation of Caribbean dishes. However I couldn’t smell or sample any of the items being prepared from my location in bed in my cabin.

At 11 A.M. this morning the ship began sailing through the Sir Francis Drake Channel. The Captain opened up a normally closed area on the bow on Deck 4 for passengers to enjoy his passage, and the public address system was used to supply a verbal narration of the history of the Virgin Islands, and the passage. In some areas the view was similar to parts of the day cruising the inside passage in Alaska.



Upon arriving just off the coast of Tortola, with Road Town in sight, the Captain announced that a problem had developed in the engine room that prevented us from pulling along-side the pier. A quick decision had been made to drop anchor and begin tendering passengers as soon as possible, while looking for and repairing the problem.

About an hour later, after the tendering process had begun, it was announced that the problem was found, and was being dealt with, and we hoped to be headed to the pier sometime in the next hour. The officers and crew seemed to be handling the matter professionally, and keeping the guests well informed.

The guests began acting as though they had been told they’d be spending the remaining days left in their lives drifting aimlessly at sea, and that the ship had run out of shrimp. The mood in the buffet lines turned nasty, as passengers amassed at buffet stations apparently in a quest to hoard anything edible in view, in case the engine problems lasted longer than forever. I thought, if this situation goes on too much longer there are going to be people on this ship attempting to survive on Splenda, and once decorative carvings made from lard.

I waited, relaxing on my balcony, a bit apprehensive as to whether the telephone would ring, with the call, asking for my assistance. I sat, with my tool kit in hand (my knife and fork), ready to serve (or eat) should that call come.

Shortly after 4 P.M. whatever issues had occurred were rectified and the Z was tied up at the pier in Tortolla. Mrs. Kuki and I had waited, and we disembarked the vessel to have a stroll around the area. As we did so, it became very obvious who had suffered the most from the ship’s few lost hours in port.


I felt just terrible for the lines of safari style taxi drivers waiting at the pier, by now almost begging passengers to go somewhere with them, if even only for an hour. Via the tendering process the ship was able to get guests on the ship’s tours off earlier, so those tour operators were not affected. The ship is scheduled to remain in port until 10 P.M., but few passengers are likely to be wandering the town after dark.

As we left the security area we passed a fellow yelling to people that he had jeeps and scooters available to rent. He was telling everyone walking towards the center of town... Don't go there, there's nothing there! He's right.. sort of.

We’ve visited Tortolla before, while on other cruises, and there are several magnificently beautiful beaches to visit; the most popular, with excellent facilities is Cane Garden Bay Beach. For those who are more interested in avoiding the crowds, look to Josiah’s Bay.

Prior to the cruise we had pre-booked dinner tonight in the Pinnacle Restaurant ($30 pp surcharge). We chose tonight’s date based solely on the fact it was mid cruise. The ship stayed in port late this evening, though I’m not entirely sure why, as it didn’t appear to me to hold much attraction to passengers for late evening activities. The ship planned a barbeque deck party for this evening, beginning at 5 P.M and continuing through until past 8 P.M., but our reservation at the Pinnacle was for 7 P.M, so we didn’t attend.



The Pinnacle is a beautifully decorated restaurant, using the finest flatware, and tableware. We found the menu format slightly confusing, but the selections seemed broad. Three of us chose the U.S.A. Sterling Beef, Filet Mignon for an entrée, while the other ordered the Boarded Monk Fish with Crabs Legs. The quality of the beef was outstanding, but our friend didn’t care for the fish, and reported the Crabs Legs were tasteless.

No one of the group of 4 of us was particularly impressed with the taste of any of our appetizer, soup, or salad choices. And though the presentation of the desserts made them appear to be delicious, the expectations were not met when we tasted them.

The same could be said of the service; on the surface it appeared good, but the expectations weren’t met. Though the staff went through the motions, the attentiveness seemed feigned. After finishing our entrees, and ordering desserts and coffees, it took some time to get coffee, and then a considerable amount of lag time before the desserts were served. Coffee refills were never offered, and when I did get someone’s attention to request a refill it took quite some time, and another effort on my part to get their attention once more before getting a second cup.

Frankly, and sadly, the Pinnacle experience did not offer full value for the additional cost. Our service team in the dining room has to this point outperformed the service we received tonight in the Pinnacle.

This evening’s entertainment schedule was the Newly Wed/Not So Newly Wed passenger participation game, Karaoke, Oscar music trivia in the Piano Bar, and the Indonesian Crew Show. We spent some time in the Piano Bar, which was full tonight, and people seemed to be enjoying themselves. However, we did miss the crew show that I normally do like to see.

Tomorrow morning the ship arrives in St. Thomas, and everyone must clear U.S. Immigration before the ship is cleared. My male friend and I have booked the ship’s golf excursion to Mahogany Run Golf Club, while our wives our planning on spending time together looking around (read shopping). Because our tour leaves early, we have to report to immigration early, and have decided to turn in early. (though it’s almost midnight as I type).
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  #52 (permalink)  
Old January 18th, 2008, 11:30 PM
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Z End.
Picking up where I left off… We pre-booked online months in advance, and got the Taupe Cabana for our time on Half Moon Cay. The cost of the Cabanas is $299 for 1 -4 people. Included in that cost you have the use of the private cabana, with your choice of sodas and bottled water, and the services of a Cabana Boy. Also included are float mats, and snorkel gear. Those who’ve booked cabanas also receive priority tender tickets. Our Cabana Boy today was responsible for 4 other cabanas as well.


When you arrive at your cabana, it’s already stored with the sodas and water that you pre-select. And there’s a large fruit plate and a vegetable tray, as well as nachos and sauces. The open deck portion of the cabana has two sun loungers with misters, as well as a shower. The covered portion has a large table and 4 arm chairs, with a fan overhead, a small air conditioning unit, and a small refrigerator. When the island’s staff are setting up the loungers and clamshells on the beach they avoid setting them out on the sand directly in front of the cabanas, so access to the water from the Cabanas is easy.

I don’t do many ship’s excursions in most Caribbean ports of call anymore, but to my mind, living the high life in a cabana on Half Moon Cay is one that is a special treat.

There’s a barbeque buffet lunch served on the island, beginning at 11:30 A.M. We simply asked Pepito, our cabana boy, if he’d mind bringing us a sampling of lunch items. He returned a short while later with a barbeque feast, with plates of burgers, shrimp, chicken, ribs and desserts. The cabana boy will also get any drinks you’d like to order from the bar.

These kids work very hard because all of the set up first has to be brought ashore from the ship, and then they spend the entire day looking after the cabana guests. If you book a cabana, be sure to tip the cabana boys generously. They earn it! We wore ours plum out!!


Now it may seem that I’ve ignored all the other activities available on Half Moon Cay, of which there are many. But, with our visit to the island being the last day of our cruise, I think that a day doing little other than relaxing in the luxury of a cabana is a near perfect way to end a cruise.

While relaxing on the deck of our cabana today watching as people passed on the beach nearby all day, I confirmed my observation from early in the cruise; there was indeed a wide cross section of age groups on this sailing. It skewed somewhat to the senior’s crowd, but certainly not enough to allow me to use all my old stereotypical blue hair jokes.





To my own tastes, tonight’s dinner menu offerings may have been one of the best of the entire cruise, and each course was delicious.

As many other cruise lines do, dinner ended this evening with the dining room staff singing a farewell song. What was different tonight on the Zuiderdam was the music is not taped or “canned?. Here, the staff were singing live and loud, and actually seemed to be enjoying themselves. There was no one begging for excellent ratings on their comment cards, just what felt like quite a sincere thank you to us for allowing them to serve us.

The best line I’ve heard on the cruise was when one of the waiters was introducing the song. He said... If you know this song, sing along. If not, sing any song you know. That’s “Kuki humor?, and a wonderful way to leave the dining room for the last time.

After dinner I stopped in at the casino to cash in a few remaining chips, remnants of my once vast fortune, and say goodbye to some of the staff whom I’ve enjoyed gambling with, and chatting to. A very hospitable crew, from management to dealers!


Yet another nice treat awaited us when getting back to the cabin to put our luggage out in the hall for pick up. Even though it’s the last night of the cruise, there was a towel animal waiting for us on the bed, along with a room service breakfast menu to fill out if we wanted breakfast in the cabin for the morning. It was so pleasant that tonight was still just another night of the cruise, unlike on many cruise lines, where you get back to the cabin the last night, and everything is locked tight, and made to feel like they’re leaving you a note saying thanks for going.

Because we’re boarding the Carnival Freedom tomorrow for another cruise, it will be much easier for them to get me off the ship than if I were headed home. I hope you’ve enjoyed taking this trip with me, and I DO ENCOURAGE you to sail along with us for another week. You don’t have to pack, and you don’t have to endure flying. You only have to slip on over to the CruiseMates Carnival message board.

And a note to “Rinker? --- I actually didn’t eat inside the Lido Restaurant once, but I checked the windows twice, and both times they looked clean. I’m betting at times with sea spray, rain, or whatever, they occasionally get dirty, but I mostly ate my food from Lido Al Fresco on the aft deck where the windows were always clean.
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  #53 (permalink)  
Old January 18th, 2008, 11:46 PM
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Thanks Kuki!
That was great.
I look forward to each day of "our" next cruise.
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Old January 19th, 2008, 12:38 AM
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Dear Kuki:

I have enjoyed your Z blog immensely. I felt like we were on the cruise with you. The photos added so much, too.

We (pheelgood and I) haven't cruised with HAL yet but we have been to Half Moon Cay and we agree that it is the perfect "out island". The only thing that could make it better is a dock so tendering isn't necessary.

I will follow you over to the Carnival section so that I can continue cruising for another week since our cruise is three weeks from tomorrow.

Thank you for writing.

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Old January 19th, 2008, 06:18 PM
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Now we've gotta try HAL and I want a cabana!
Angela Z.
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Old January 19th, 2008, 06:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Angela Z.
Now we've gotta try HAL and I want a cabana!
Angela Z.
You nailed it!!
Showed this to my wife and this is next.
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  #57 (permalink)  
Old January 20th, 2008, 11:59 PM
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My wife and I were on the Zuiderdam last week along with Kuki and his group. It was our first cruise, and I wasn't sure what to expect, but we had a great time.

Now that I'm back home and have had a chance to read Kuki's journal, I'm amazed at how closely our opinions match up. I think Kuki's observations of the ship and service are right on target. It's clear that some areas of the ship are ready for some service, but nothing was to the point that it created any problems whatsoever. The level of personal service from the staff was wonderful.

Half Moon Cay was definitely our favorite beach location -- what a beautiful spot. (If you look in Kuki's 4th picture, that is us clear in the back right corner of the pic).

Kuki -- I'm disappointed that we didn't get a chance to talk longer. I'm amazed at how often I would repeatedly run into some people, but never saw you other than the one time (even though our cabins were right around the corner from each other).

I have to say hello to our newest friends Joel and Dawn -- Thanks for all the laughs. We were definitely lucky to have such great table mates.
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Old January 21st, 2008, 02:36 PM
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Glad you enjoy your cruise. Thanks for the daily reviews,I t
was the next b est thing to being there. I will be reading your next blog
for the freedom. HAPPY SAILING !!!
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  #59 (permalink)  
Old February 14th, 2008, 06:38 AM
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Kuki, i noticed you made a couple of slight wording errors i your post regarding your visit to GRAND TURK.

Quote:
The hot spot in town seems to be the Hookie Pookie Pizza Palace.
the place is called "mookie pookie" and pritty much 80% of the residents here dont concider it a "hot spot"

Quote:
I was only half kidding when I asked the people selling the hop on hope off bus tickets if there was more than 1 stop.
There is in fact 4 stops on that tour. 2 in the town area, one at the lighthouse and one at the salt salinas.

Quote:
There is a hop on, hop off bus available at the cruise ship center, for a cost of $40 per person. I thought the price was exorbitant
don't forget the islands gas price is pritty much $5.70 per gallon, thus the price is well inline with general island prices. and don't forget the 30% duty paid on any items imported to the island (buses inclused) plus that tour price incluses admitance to the historic jail in town, and enterence to the lighthouse park area.

Quote:
Interestingly the government of the Turk & Caicos has been in talks with the government of Canada to encourage making these islands a part of Canada;
from an islanders point of view. its the canadians who are in talk with the TCI government. and the TCI government don't really want to have canada take over the place. if thats the right wording to your post.

Quote:
he place was very busy, and no one seemed to be trying to sneak their own liquor into the bar, even though prices are quite outrageous.
its ilegial to take any liquor out of the duty free store on the island and use for consumption. and again, 30% duty is charged on "any" item brought to the island. thus food and drink prices are all relevent to the cost and marks up required to meet company expectations.
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Old February 14th, 2008, 06:59 AM
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kuki,

i see an error from your day in grand turk. actually living here i feel inclines to correct it.

Quote:
The hot spot in town seems to be the Hookie Pookie Pizza Palace.
its actually called "mookie pookie" and it really isnt a hot spot. its barely open. and when it is there only half the menu available. but on a brighter side. it is the ONLY take away food place on the island. [/quote]
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