Holland America Line Reviews

Year Started: 1873
Ships in Fleet: 15
Category: Upscale

Summary: A high quality upper mainstream cruise line with smaller ships and value prices. A cruise line for people who want to step up from mainstream at great value prices.

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Holland America Cruise Ships

20 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, Central America, Transpacific, West Coast, Erope

Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.

12 Reviews

Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Western, Eastern Seaboard, Mediterranean Western

Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.

46 Reviews

Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Eastern Seaboard, South America

Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.

4 Reviews

Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic

Good for: Teens. Seniors. Families.

22 Reviews

Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western

Good for: Value for Money. Teens. Seniors.

42 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, Australia, Oceania, West Coast

Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.

11 Reviews

Regions:Africa, Caribbean Southern, Mediterranean Western, South America, Transatlantic

Good for: Group. Families. Luxury Travelers.

14 Reviews

Regions:Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western, Scandinavia, The Orient

Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.

29 Reviews

Regions:Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic

Good for: Overall Service. Value for Money. Foodies.

21 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, South America, West Coast

Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.

30 Reviews

Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Eastern Seaboard, Hawaii, Mexico, South America

Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.

22 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, Australia, Oceania, The Orient, West Coast

Good for: Teens. Seniors. Families.

25 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, Caribbean Eastern, Central America, Hawaii, West Coast

Good for: Overall Service. Children`s Programs. Seniors.

39 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, Central America, Hawaii, Mexico, South America, West Coast

Good for: Overall Service. Value for Money. Foodies.

65 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Central America, West Coast

Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.

User Ratings

Overall Rating
4.17
from 402 reviews

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User Reviews

402 User Reviews of Holland America Ships
Eastern Caribbean
Publication Date: January 16, 2008

INTRODUCTION Itinerary: NY -- Sea -- Sea -- Grand Turk -- Tortola -- St. Maarteen -- St. Thomas -- San Juan -- Sea -- Sea -- NY

We are in our 50's, definite cruiseaholics having sailed over 50 cruises since 1984. We sail most of the cruiselines but this was our first Holland America cruise.

The Noordam was on Code Red status, indicating a norovirus outbreak on previous cruise. This entails various procedures during sailing such as no self service at buffets. A minor annoyance for passengers but a lot of additional work time for staff.

We had learned that our embarkation would be delayed until 4 p.m. as the vessel would undergo a total scrub down after previous disembarkation. Again a minor annoyance for passengers, major work load for staff.

Being armed with disembark delay information we decided to arrive at what would be our normal time, 12:30 pm and take our chances. We were driving to pier and using Pier long term parking which we have done in years past. Cost for parking was $180, reservations cannot be made but that has never been a problem.

Upon entering we were given a

color coded number tag to be called to proceed through metal detectors into check in area. We had #21 Green or some such but were called almost immediately to join security line. Once passed through security we entered check in. Those that have already completed the online check in (I highly recommend it) were passed into a separate line and we were in front of a desk almost immediately. Check in was completed in about a minute, so much for good news. We then proceeded to take a seat in one of the several hundred chairs set up in the boarding area. It was about 1:15 or so and boarding was indeed scheduled to commence at 4 pm we were told. Boarding would be done again using those color coded numbers to maintain an organized system. Having brought books to read and a laptop computer we were happy to settle in considering the circumstances. HAL was offering free shuttles to Times Square area and back for those that choose to go see some of the city while waiting. I do not believe there was any provision to check hand luggage in for those taking the ride but I could be wrong. We were all advised that we would receive an onboard credit of $15 per person in lieu of missing afternoon buffet. There was a pier snack bar at entrance of pier but that would necessitate re-doing security lines so we stayed put.

Boarding commenced early a little after 3 pm and was orderly. We were onboard before 4 pm. Although cabins were not yet ready we were allowed to proceed to ours and deposited our carry on bags. We then headed up to the FOOD! Although a busy area and slow since we were all being served, it wasn't too much of a problem. There is plenty of seating normally but with everyone arriving at the same time it took some hunting to find a place to park. The Noordam has lots of table seating in pool areas as well and being that the main pool has a retractable roof which was closed, it was also comfortable and available, making that much more room to be found.

All of this was followed later by mandatory muster station drill (they take attendance) which was indeed held outside in the NY cold. Not enjoyable but went fairly quickly considering, and then off we sailed a couple hours late. We were advised that the late sailing time would not interfere with our itinerary stops. (They have the strangest life jackets I have ever seen with some sort or wrap around belt system which takes some head scratching to figure out. Eventually managed to get it on correctly but it would pay to watch the in room channel on how to put it on if you have time. If not instructions were given once up at the muster station, of course we all had them on whatever way by then.) Off to the Crows Nest lounge forward and some cocktails to watch us sail off.

CABIN We booked Suite 6102 SY category. This proved to be perfect for us both in accommodation and location. Located on deck 6 mid-ship towards aft it was a good location for heading either up or down, up for buffets and pools deck 9, or down for dining, shops, casino, lounges or lobby areas, decks 2 and 3.

Suite had a good sized bathroom with Jacuzzi bathtub and shower in addition to a separate 2nd shower stall. Double sinks and cabinets with various Elemis shampoo, body soaps and such provided in nice small containers in a rack between sinks. Plenty of drawer space, two closets with hangars and small safe. Safe is electronic, punch in 4 numbers you select and hit lock. Punch in your four numbers and unlocks. Balcony was very generous space with two cushioned chairs and hassocks, two more chairs and table. Balcony can easily accommodate 4 people comfortably. Solid dividers between balconies and overhead roof make for a fairly private balcony area. There is also a dvd player and nice lcd Tv on a good sized table area. A couch, two chairs, and a table and also a mirror make up table type area. All still allowing adequate room to move about. The bed was a good sized Queen with six pillows of varying degrees hardness and a very comfortable mattress. We were very happy with the suite. The SY suite is one of the three category suites before upgrading to AB's or deluxe suites. We peeked into one of those and it appeared to be somewhat larger but not dramatically so and also had maybe a King bed. The main difference to our thinking was slightly better mid ship location and also access to a private key carded Neptune lounge for cocktails and snacks before meals. Although we have had access to similar lounges and love them, it was not worth the added cost to us since SY afforded great cabin space and decent location anyway.

FOOD and DINING We had decided to book the Noordam after being docked beside her during our October cruise onboard Crown Princess. Because we booked late we were assigned anytime dining, the newest fad at sea and one we do not prefer. The advantage is heading out to dine whenever you want instead of having a fixed seating. The disadvantage to us is not having same staff and dinner mates each evening. We definitely prefer traditional dining. Anytime dining is new on HAL but it was fairly well organized and for most part you were seated near arrival at door. There were two evenings, however, when we found a 30 minute wait and given a beeper to be called for seating. I hate getting Outback type beeper on a claimed luxury cruise but again my opinion. The two gentlemen that handle seating were, I must say, gracious, courteous, and very good at getting people seated. Like all the staff we met on HAL they were exceptional. At times, however, you could tell that dining staff are stressed beyond normal capacity trying to keep up. They too tried very hard to accommodate though so no complaints from us.

Food is another matter. I will try not to over comment since food assortment and quality is very specific to individual tastes. I must say that I was not impressed with the Chefs' skills or the menu items and neither was my wife. We found food to be over cooked and dried out. Soups and many items very over salted. Desserts to be tasteless and merely resemble similar items served us on other ships. There are several items that can be ordered any night such as a steak, that is always a nice feature in case nothing on the menu strikes your fancy. One evening I ordered chicken cordon bleu, for example, and found it to be a very dry, baked and breaded, piece of chicken with a dime sized dab of cheese and ham in the very middle. The filet mignon and lobster tail, well okay having both surf and turf as one item an applauded plus. But actually the filet mignon was but a tiny squared slice of thin meat. Again not impressed! Ordered bananas foster and received some bananas totally surrounded by some type of pureed thick goop that remotely reminded one of the taste this should have.

One evening we decided to dine at the added cost premium restaurant which I admittedly am not too fond of the concept on ships. To my way of thinking the regular included dining should be able to be surpassed without having to pay additional. However we were afforded a $15 per person coupon for lunch by out travel agent which we decided to apply towards the $30 per person fee for dinner. My wife ordered fish and King crab legs served on a plank. This was the first time I ever saw my wife not eat the dinner. The fish looked like it had been boiled and she was not happy. On the plus side her side of asparagus was the best she had ever tasted. I had the rib eye steak which was excellent. The two sides I ordered, creamed spinach and scalloped potatoes were however uneatable. Looked like they took a large spoon of scalloped potatoes, fashioned it into a cylinder shape then baked it into cardboard. The spinach, well I have no idea what they added to that, but it tasted like creamed spinach with cinnamon or something.

Again on the plus side after the entrée we were presented with petit fours which were fantastic. The crème broulet dessert was also exceptional. Service was good, ambiance nice enough but another party did come in their best jeans to impress. Acceptable I guess in specialty high end dining if you are paying. For us definitely not worth even the discounted added fee.

Lest you think all was lost for us. We found the afternoon buffet to be very good. Maybe they want everyone to eat there in future? Pizza and pasta station, Asian station with daily sushi, sandwich station that has already made and made to order options. Nice salad bar, daily carving items and such -- all were very good. Hamburger and hotdog station near door to pool area, hamburgers a bit thin but acceptable. Make your own taco and nacho station poolside was great as well. Still this goes down as the first cruise ever that I returned a pound lighter than when I sailed off. Enough said!

LOUNGES -- ENTERTAINMENT -- CASINO We found the entertainment somewhat subdued but satisfactory. There are many small intimate lounges onboard which most provided some type of musical entertainment. There is a Sports bar off the casino which is small but enjoyable if you are a smoker anyway, which I am. It is one of the three designated smoking areas I found. The others being the cigar room off the Crows Nest lounge and the pool bar and starboard side table at the aft pool area. Most other areas are non-smoking which is fine as long as smokers like myself have someplace to duck into for a fix.

The casino is smoking but few do as it is small and having the Sports bar to go to nearby is enough for most. You have to pass through Sports bar area and casino to get to the main show lounge which might annoy some for a moment bothered by smoke. But should be the only place it will intrude on non-smokers for but a minute.

The main shows were again satisfactory but nothing to rave about. One comedian was exceptional. Lee Bayless is a funny and talented guy and does clean humor and some other things I won't mention as to not spoil it. Another juggler/comedian was a good half hour act stretched out far too long to an hour act. Musical productions of singers and dancers good but standard fare.

INTERNET Both wireless and internet library terminals available. Standard rate is .75 a minute but 50 and 100 minute packages are available at lower rates. I chose the 250 minutes for $100. There is also a activation fee of $3.95. I did that because this is the first ship I have sailed that I could use my wireless IN CABIN. None of the going to a lounge or library. It was a MISTAKE. Easy enough to set up, get instruction sheet from internet café, good wireless connection. Trouble is, like on many ships, the transfer rate is S L O W ! You will need all those 250 minutes to get what you would probably get at home in 50 minutes. And even at .40 a minute, just not worth it. Better to use a download mail program such as Outlook, download and upload at .75 a minute and forget the plan and surfing the net. One good note -- the NY Times apparently sponsors their internet to some degree so NY Times online time is free if you click through to Times on enter screen.

ITINERARY We go more for ships so I never cover ports to any large degree, it would be unfair since I do not take advantage of all that I am sure is available. We like sea days and sailing from NY provides several of those. In January having a covered pool area is a definite plus for Noordam allowing for poolside activity before getting to warmer climate.

Grand Turk, beach or Jimmy Buffet's, most anything else not really worth trying to get to most tell me. Good part is beach, shopping, and Jimmy's immediately adjacent to dock. We elected to go to beach area. Many chairs, no charge, you can rent a two person cover tent thingee for $20. Snorkle equipment and such also readily available but I doubt snorkeling there provided many fish. I would ask. Best price for cigarettes in shop for trip, 5 cartons for $80.

Tortola, little by the pier except straw market, which is a good place for those t-shirts. A couple of new jewelry shops, high end, and way at end the older art and spice shop is nice for spices and such. Having been there before we elected to take a tour around the island which we enjoyed instead of just hanging in shops. We found a gentleman, Ebert Hughes, with a new white air conditioned enclosed van. As we were getting sporadic showers that was the way to go instead of open air. He gave us a nice 3 hour tour and beach stop for $20 a person. Naturally had to wait to get two other couples before we moved off to tour. The way of the islands everywhere.

St. Maarteen, again elected to take a tour, this time a ship's tour of both Dutch and French sides. Enjoyed that as well. It included a small zoo which, though small, was a nice little stop. I think it was $49 a person, nice large air-conditioned bus and informative tour guide, Kathy -- a woman who, after stopping on islands, decided to move to one from Dallas, Texas with her husband after her only child grew up. Wish I had moxy to really do something like that.

St. Thomas, been there, done that. We docked at newer ship berths so cab needed if you want to go to Haversight Mall that most know or to Paradise Point tram ride. Town is $4 person, Mall and tram $5 person. They will definitely squeeze you into those vans and open sided jitneys before they are moving.

(Note:) St. Thomas is the first US port after visiting a foreign port, St Maarteen, and requires reporting to immigration. EVERYONE must PHYSICALLY report to the US officials with passport, etc. in hand at the Queens lounge. Matters not if you are planning to get off ship, you must report and here's the real rub, it starts at 7 am! It was handled very orderly but nonetheless you will get up when called and report to the nice men in uniform and show them your papers!

San Juan, we docked at old San Juan but note you are there but for a few short hours. Walking and shopping old San Juan always nice but we like to go across street to the Sheraton Hotel which also houses a nice casino. We did a quick hour and a half in there and I was lucky enough to come away with three hundred more than I went in with.

DISEMBARKATION In NY was easy and orderly enough. Immigration having been performed on your St. Thomas port call, it is not required upon return to NY.

Disembark is done by calling color coded luggage tags. Your tag color IS checked at disembark and you are turned away if wrong! For those that always feel that they must sneak out early. Not this time. A terminal improvement in NY is that they now have elevator that also goes to parking level. This means you can bring your bags up to parking level (not necessarily all the way to your car, you might have to bring the car to the bags). The elevators are huge but service large crowds and three levels so pandemonium exists. Also note that upon getting your luggage a porter can be obtained only by having someone go up front and get into the line for porters.

One very big positive concerning disembarking procedure for us: HAL allows you to remain in your cabin until called and they also have in-cabin room service in the morning so you can have your coffee and such just like any other day of the cruise.

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Hawaii/South Pacific/Tahiti
Publication Date: January 6, 2008

Since I am working from both my faulty memory and a journal you may notice both present and past tense being used. Please bear with me. This will be sort of long so I try to keep the parts separate. Hope you enjoy.

Saturday, January 5 -- IT NEVER RAINS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA? We drove from Scottsdale to San Diego in a one way Avis rental car. We made unbelieveably good time even though as soon as we crossed the San Bernardino Mountains we hit rain, wind and clouds. With the hour we gained, we hit downtown San Diego at 8:30am. Thank goodness we arranged for early check in.

We settled into our bayview room at 9:00am. The Oosterdam was in port and she looks huge and magnificient in the rain. We ducked across the street to Anthonys Restaurant during a lull in the rain. They serve a pesto butter there for the bread that is divine. The NE Clam Chowder is pretty darn good too.

There are tons of people in the lobby and it turns out the Oosterdam had the norovirus on board and due to specialized cleaning won't allow

any boarding until 4PM. With the rain pouring down that doesn't leave much for the folks who had to check out to do.

Those of our CC group who stayed at the same hotel had a preliminary meet and greet at the Elephant & Castle Pub located in the Holiday Inn. We were there, Cathy and Carol, Elizabeth & Terry, and Janice and Jo showed up. We had a few drinks and got to know each other a little bit. We ladies admired each other's shoes and a good time was had by all.

Sunday, January 6 -- ZOOM, ZOOM, ZOOM We awakened at 4:30AM and watched the Dawn Princess arrive at 6AM. The lovely Ryndam arrived at 6:45. It was still very nasty, rainy and windy. We watched from our window as two crewman climbed up over the Crows Nest area and removed the Christmas tree. Drinking hot drinks and feeling toasty in our room we felt sorry for those two guys out there in the wet and the cold.

Amazingly the weather broke about 10AM enabling us to pull our luggage across the street. We entered the terminal at 10:10 and were in the Lido at 11AM. They checked our luggage for us and we were off to meet old friends. Our rooms were ready by 1:30 and we had the obligatory fire drill at 4:15. Due to the weather there wasn't much of a sail away party going on. The ship was rocking and rolling and the "barf bags" made their first debut by the elevators.

I had early traditional early seating upper at 5:45 at table 303, a table for 10. I explained that I am not there every single night as I sometimes eat with my DH who always eats in the Lido. My tablemates were understanding and gracious.

Monday, January 7 -- LITTLE GREEN MEN Oh my, wonderfully rough, high seas. High winds, rain, cold and fog -- a great first night aboard! The casino here has started something new. The slot machines are open 24 hours a day. If you need assistance with your machine you just fill out a paper, drop it in the box and they deal with it when the cage opens at 9:00AM. It worked very well and gave us something to do at 5AM since it was too cold to go outside.

When we went up to the Lido for breakfast we noticed an awful lot of green people with sea sickness. Having never experienced that particular malady I feel sorry for them without understanding how it can happen.

Our CC meet and greet was a great success. The ship provided coffee, tea, cookies and someone to serve them. 25 of our roll call showed up although a few were down with the "greenies." Our guests from the staff were Carol Lagmay, purser; David Woods, culinary manager; and Michelle Worthley our CD.

We had a little Q&A and all got to know each other. Many of us have booked the same excursions both privately and through the ship. We agreed to hold another get together about half way through the cruise. Thanks to Joe (Clyde3) for the wonderful name tags he made for all of us.

The show was Club Nevada performed beautifully by the very talented cast of the Ryndam. The featured vocalists Christopher Zenner and Beth Purvis. The second leads Joshua Switzer and Jennifer Quail. They are very, very good. The dancers, Katie Wendleton, Calli Freyschlag-Parker, Tiffany Jones, Julianne Wessely, Omar Felix and Chip Nash. A well practiced team that provided excellent entertainment.

The first formal night dinner was excellent with many choices. I choose the surf and turf. Later in the evening I sat with friends on the staff and we were joined by the comedienne Janine Turner and singer Paul Emmannuel. We had a good evening and lots of laughs. They are both very talented people.

There are five sea days between San Diego and Hilo. We had some wonderful lectures by Donna Giesler (The Star Lady), Charlie Urbanowicz (Professor Emeritus in Anthropology at California State University), Dan Ostler (Biophysics University of Waterloo, and married to the lovely Star Lady).

For entertainment we had the funny and lovely Janine Turner, swing clarinetist Larry "Link" Linkin, the comedy and magic of Bruce Block and vocal stylings of Paul Emmanuel. I've seen the first two before and throughly enjoyed seeing all of them. I liked the timing of the shows 6:30 and 8:30 for the most part.

The band in the Ocean Bar Yu4 is wonderful and we have sailed with them before also. The pianist Donald in the Crows Nest was excellent and late at night he would sometimes make up the most hilarious lyrics to commonly known tunes. Darlene and the HalCats performed in various venues throughout the cruise.

Friday, January 11 -- HILO, HAWAII (WHERE IS THE SUN???) We arrived in Hilo and it was still raining. Since we had no tours planned in Hawaii at all we boarded the bus to Walmart with our friend Connie while her DH Rick went to see the volcano. We visited with a friend of ours Leona who owns Lins Lei Shop in the terminal. Later we took the bus to Hilo Hatties and purchased some island wear. One sort of has to you know.

Just as an aside this was our 8th trip to Hawaii and we didn't plan any excursions because we have already done so many and wanted to save it for French Polynesia so to speak. The weather in Hawaii way way too cold for us to go swimming while we were there.

It was Hawaiian night on board and everyone was sporting their island clothing. Very colorful night. It was also the night of the "VIP" party. We had received our invitation so after a very good dinner we attended the party. It was held in the Hudson Room, one of those rooms just past the Wajang Theater.

There were about 40 people there plus the officers. I had a couple of Lemon Drops and DH had some Sprite. We munched a few appetizers but having just had dinner weren't really hungry. There was a nice spread for those who hadn't dined yet. After the party I went up to the CN and hung out with some friends from the cast that I have sailed with before. We had a few cocktails and talked for awhile while Darlene and the HalCats performed.

The sail past Kilauea Volcano was a real bust. It was so cloudy and rainy you could barely make out a dull glow in the distance. It was a real shame for those that have never seen it really pouring out the lava in her full glory. It is a stunning sight when she shows her stuff.

Saturday, January 12 -- KONA, HAWAII (CHEAP IS STILL CHEAP) Today was a very sad day for us. We went to visit a friend of ours who resides in Kona as a working artist and discovered he had been overtaken by a swift and virulent cancer. We spoke on the phone with his widow and didn't stay very long in town at all.

I did go in and talk with the Beverage Manager about arranging some glasses and cheese and crackers or something for our CC get together on Jan 19. We appeared to have worked it all out when the Culinary Manager came into the office and advised me that they would be happy to accommodate me but they would send me a bill. Astounded I said "Excuse me, a bill? For what?" I was advised that they no longer provide food for free for private parties. We're talking 30 or so people, c'mon, some cheese and crackers would kill 'em?? I was not a happy camper when I left the office and am not certain how we will handle the get together now.

Sunday, January 13 -- LAHAINA, MAUI (ARE WE THERE YET??) We got up early and grabbed our snorkel gear. Connie and Rick rented a car and have invited us to join them for a day at the beach. We tendered into shore and soon the rental car agency van showed up. We got the rental car and headed out for a spot a friend of Rick's had told him about. We drove through some of the most beautiful scenery looking for Hanalua Bay. We took the highway until we ran out of road. Then we took the scenic route. We were on the side of a large hill, small mountain, whatever; and could see the shoreline below us. Eventually we found out where the place was. We arrived there and found the rain and wind were so bad that the only folks in the water were the surfers with wet suits. So, we went to Whalers Village where we did some shopping and had a nice lunch. Then we returned to the ship. Later that evening DH and I went back on shore to Bubba Gumps where we had some of the best food. Those HushPups are pretty darn good.

Meantime on the Lido deck they had the BarBQ and the local Hawaiian Dance Troup performing. I really think they should hold these kinds of shows in the main show lounge. Only the very few folks in the very front could see the show because everyone starting standing up to take pictures. We finally gave up on trying to see the show. They showed the movie "The Holiday" in the show lounge. Later in the evening the Indonesian Crew show was held. They are great and work so hard to bring us this entertainment after performing their regular duties all day.

Monday & Tuesday, January 14 & 15 -- HONOLULU, HAWAII (MALLS ARE THE SAME EVERYWHERE) We got the good dock at Aloha Towers. We waited until the crowds were off and then walked off to take a look around. Not much has changed since our last visit. We went over to the kiosk a friend of ours Trin owns and said hello. Then we just walked around through the mall and looked through the windows as not much was open yet.

There are a ton of wonderful things to do in Honolulu. We did none of them this time around. We did hop on the Bus and go to Ala Moana shopping center. DH wanted to go to Reyn's and get a good Aloha shirt. We wandered around there for awhile and then headed back to the ship. The entertainment Monday was the movie Blue Hawaii in the show lounge and the harmonica stylings of Bernie Fields. Not my cup of tea but many thought he was excellent.

Wednesday, January 16 -- NAWILIWILI, KAUAI HAWAII (THE PARTY IS ON! A CHEESE PLATE BY ANY OTHER NAME) After discussing it DH and I decided to just get our own stuff for the CC get together. We went up to Walmart and bought all kinds of good nuts, chips, dips, salsa and etc. We also picked up some invitations to send out. We took the shuttle to Hilo Hatties and got dropped off at Anchor Cove shopping center. We wandered around for a bit and then back to the ship.

We sat at the desks in the promanade deck area and filled out the invitations. We decided since HAL was being so chintzy on the cheese and cracker thing we would ask each cabin to bring a cheese plate from room service. There is more than one way to skin a cat! Then DH and I split up the floors and took off to deliver our invites. Since the management was being stuffy we decided we didn't want any stuffies at our party. So, we invited the entire cast, and some of the event staff that we liked. Our favorite waitress Katherine agreed to come in her spare time and pour, etc. We asked everyone to bring a dollar or two to tip her.

It stayed windy, rainy and chilly throughout our visit to the Hawaiian Islands. They are just as enticing and lovely as always, however this time as we sail away from Paradise, another, more beautiful Paradise is whispering our names. We are heading South, towards adventure, sea, sun and fun in TAHITI!

Up next, French Polynesia!!

FRENCH POLYNESIA -- IS THAT A WHALE? There are five sea days between Hawaii and the first port in French Polynesia. They were filled with many activities and games that I won't bore you with.

We did see a lot of sea life on this cruise. Lots of flying fish, a whale or two and dolphins playing hide and seek in the waves.

The ship is in very good shape. She is elegant, clean and well cared for. With simply tons of lovely antiques and classy decor she reeks of money well spent in her recent dry dock. One point and a personal opinion, I think money could have been spent on better places the the huge spa upgrades, the extension on the spa took a great deal away from the lovely views from the Crows Nest.

The crew abound with energy and graciousness. They are happy with their management on this particular ship and it shows. The service was quick, efficient and obtained with a smile. A genuine smile.

Their were two guest chefs on this cruise Chris Constatino and Lon Symensma. They did demonstations in the culinary arts room (Wajang Theater) and I enjoyed them. There were also demonstrations by the Excutive Chef Andreas Bruenett, and the Pinnacle Chef Ani. There was also a recipe contest for the guests. I covered that quite extensively in the thread "The Great Ryndam Recipe Contest."

Another particular joy on this cruise were the two florists they brought on board in Honolulu to stay on for the balance of the cruise. These two gentlemen were amazingly creative and talented. We took great pleasure in finding the beautiful and cunningly made arrangements throughout the ship. They did indeed greatly increase the pleasure we took in being on this ship.

During our sea days we were entertained by coffee chats with the officers and entertainers. The cast performed "Street Singin'" which was mostly hits of the 50's and 60's. Very well done and I enjoyed it very much.

Also to entertain us we had the vocal stylings of Annie Francis, the comedy of violinist Chris Pendleton, the musical artistry of pianist Paul Pappas, and opera singer John D. Smitherman.

The Master of the Ship was Captain Maurits Groothuis, Hotel Manager was Ceese Tesselaar, and the CD was Michelle Worthley. We travelled a total of 8,979 nautical miles on this cruise.

January 19 -- CROSSING THE EQUATOR (WHERE'S THE &$#&()_ !@ FISH!!!) The day dawned overcast with a moderate breeze. We knew the ship had planned a biggish ceremony to ask the permission of King Neptune for the Ryndam and all the souls upon her to cross into his domain. Early in the day they started setting up chairs around the aft pool on the Navigation deck. As this is where all the smokers go to sit there were a few logistical problems. We found ourselves seats early and held on for dear life. With about 15 minutes to go before the official start of the ceremony there is not a seat to be had. Everyone has moved the chairs that were so carefully placed earlier in the day. Those of us who were up front are no longer up front but somewhere in the back of the bar they set up. Oh well, at least the bar will keep others from moving their chairs there. The stairwells are full of people standing with their drinks in hand awaiting the ceremony.

Suddenly, there he is -- King Neptune in full costume -- escorted to his throne by several lovely mermaids. Now begins the dirge, Dum, dum, dum, dum de dum dum dum dum dum. . . Pirates in full regalia lead prisoners in chains to the caged area set aside for the poor, demented shellbacks. They (persons on the staff and crew who have never crossed the equator before) are led one by one to kneel before Neptune and beg for his mercy. Their first horrid punishment is to kiss the fish. But wait, where is the magnificent fish meant to be kissed and caressed on this momentuous occasion? Well, according to friends in the kitchen some poor nameless cook's helper forgot to purchase it in Honolulu. What to do?? They found the largest fish in the freezer, already beheaded and gutted and used that for the prisoners to kiss. Poor King Neptune, that is certainly why he was in a bad mood and had no mercy to spare for the prisoners. They were drenched with ice water and then doused all over with foul smelling liquids and noxious solid wastes from the bowels of the kitchens. One poor wretch was heard to scream out "Tell my mother I love her. . ." So sad.

Once everyone was punished properly they were allowed to jump into the aft pool and clean off somewhat. Someone did manage to accidently push the Cruise Director into the pool also, too bad.

Picture opportunities with the poor fish were also available.

In just three more days we arrive in Raiatea, Tahiti.

January 22 -- RAIATEA (L'EXCURSION BELUE) We arrived in Raiatea about 7:30am. There is an amazing phenonmenon in the islands called l'huere belue (pardon the atrocious spelling of the French). It is the hour before dawn and sunset where everything appears colored in shades of blue. The clouds lowering over the mountain tops, the mist in the air, the ocean all varigated shades of blue. It was so still, so beautiful, so perfect. Then as the sun begins to rise, there, off the port side, dolphins escorting our ship into the lovely harbor.

When the sun rises one can see the amazing greeness of the islands. So bright and beautiful it hurts your eyes to look at it too long. Once it is daylight one can see the totally gorgeous shade of blue and green and white and turquoise in the water. There must be 200 shades between dark green and light blue and you can see every one of them here in the islands. I don't believe I have ever seen such sheer beauty as one can see here.

NO ONE SAID IT WAS A NUDE SNORKEL Along with several others in the CC group we prebooked a private tour with Bruno. We were dressed in our suits with our snorkel gear to the ready. We arrived at the boat just a little walk away from the dock at 9am. We all got situated under the awning on the dock to avoid the rain that was coming down quite heavily. Bruno informed us that due to the heavy seas we would be doing our tour in a different order than originally planned. There were 10 of us from the CC group and 4 others from hotels in the area. We met a very nice couple from the Czech republic. The wife spoke perfect English and we got along very well as they told us all about life in the Czech Republic. Apparently they have very few body taboos in their country although I must admit to being just the tiniest bit shocked when they stipped to the buff to put on their suits right there in their seats. I thought DH's eyes would fall right out of his head.

First we went to the pearl farm which was very interesting. We listened to a lengthy explaination of how they seed the oysters and then we were able to watch them do it. Pretty cool stuff. After that we went to the pearl store. The prices were prohibitive and I don't believe anyone bought anything there.

Next we went to a private motu (a motu is a small islet). There were fenced off areas around the shoreline. Inside one were black tipped reef sharks, turtles in another, and yet another filled with poisonous and dangerous fish. Bruno went into the water there and pulled up huge puffer fishes so we could take pix. He also pulled up some giant living conchs and other shellfish. They were beautiful.

The waves were so bad due to the weather that we were unable to swim in the surf and had to content ourselves with snorkeling in the protected cove. We did see a lot of colorful fish and tons of sea cucumbers. After about an hour and a half we were called in for lunch. It was wonderful. There were fresh cooked marlin fish fritters so delicious, poisson cru (the famous local dish), coconut bread, bar bq fish and chicken, rum punch and several types of wine. We had a marvelous time and everyone ate well.

After lunch we left in the boat and went to the drift snorkel in the coral gardens. We had looked forward to this part of the excursion the most. Unfortunately we didn't know that we would have to walk over half a mile against the current in the water. DH is disabled and found this to be too much for him to handle. So, we only walked part of the way and then drifted on back to the boat. It was very pretty there. We had a wonderful time and would highly recommend this excursion to anyone who likes to snorkel.

Later in the day at 4:45 the ship offered the Children of Raiatea, a local cultural show, pier side. I must say here that I wish they would limit the shows to the show lounge. By having this show portside we were unable to see any of it. The pax were lined so thickly along the promenade deck that one couldn't get close to the rails to see anything. The CN was too high to see anything from either. It was very disappointing.

All in all it was a wonderful day in Raiatea.

January 23 -- BORA BORA (AHHHHHH TAHA'A) Bora Bora is part of Taha'a in the Society Islands. As we pull into our anchoring position in the 'Rade de Viatape' we are greeted by such stunning, lucious beauty. The lush green volcanic peaks of Mt. Pahui and Mt Opanumu, and the crystal clear lagoon with sparkling coral peeking from the depths is a saturation of the senses. The sight of the mountains, the taste of the salt air, the sound of the waves breaking on the reef, the touch of a silken breeze caressing the skin, we are truly in paradise.

This is the first of two days we will be here in Bora Bora. We had made plans with our friends Rick and Connie to spend the day at the beach. We let all the tours get off the ship first and then we grabbed our gear and off we went. We took "Le Truck" (which has gone up from $3pp to $5pp one way) after checking with the driver that she could take us to the Bora Bora Beach Resort. We have been there before and it has a magnificent beach with a reef right there for snorkeling. The 'bus' took us to the Intercontinental Hotel and the driver refused to take us further. Needless to say we weren't very happy but there wasn't much we could do about it. So the four of us got off there and went to go through the hotel lobby to the beach. Rick went to find out about things and came back and advised us that they wanted $65 pp to use their beach. Of course, this included lunch and a glass of wine wheather we wanted it or not. Refusing to knuckle under to that ridiculous price we walked across the street to Matira Beach. It is a very nice beach. There is a large covered ramada although there are no tables there for a picnic. The beach is mostly shell and water shoes are a necessity. The water was clear and lovely and warm, however it is not deep. One can walk out at least half a mile and the water is only chest deep. If you do make the effort to walk out you may be rewarded with the sight of lovely sting rays dancing in the water. We were.

SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES There were a few people who tried to cut through private property instead of walking around to the entrance to the beach. One family had two dogs in their backyard who let it be known far and wide they were protecting what was theirs. One elderly man cut through and then started throwing rocks at the dogs for barking. When he finally got near to us I told him he should be ashamed of himself. He asked why and I told him he had no right to attack dogs on private property upon which he was trepassing. He asked me if I owned the property. I answered in the negative and he advised me it wasn't any of my business then, was it? Arrrggghh!!!

It had been threatening to rain all day so when it started we decided to head on back to the ship for lunch.

A PRIVATE DINNER OK, this is mostly hearsay and gossip, Isn't that fun?! The ship arranged an excursion for an exclusive private dinner with a local dance show at $199.00pp We decided not to take advantage of this but had friends who chose to go. Here is what they said. The dinner was on a table out in the open air. When it began to rain, which it did off and on all night, there was no cover of any kind. They did offer lobster and shrimp as advertised but had no sauce or butter to go with them. The food was cold and the entertainment was cut short due to the rain. All in all we were told it was a real dud for the price.

There was dancing under the stars in the Lido with the roof open late tonight. It didn't work very well with all the rain. They gave it a good try though. Jim Colson, a banjoist was the entertainment for the evening.

January 24 -- BORA BORA DAY II (CAN YOU SAY JACK SPARROW?) We have a very early snorkel excursion today with Moana Adventures. It is called Snorkel Safari and it was fantastic. We arrived at the boat with several of our CC buddies in tow. Once onboard we were introduced to our crew and the Captain Jack Sparrow. They had some instruments and played and sang native songs for us. We passed a beautiful motu and Jack said that Eddie Murphy had left the day before. Apparently he rented the entire island for two weeks for a wedding. That was no doubt pricey!

Our first snorkel spot was lovely indeed. Fairly shallow water so those who don't snorkel well can have a good time. There were tons of parrot fish, clown fish, angel fish and more. Wrasses and rays, sea cucumbers and more sea urchins than I've ever seen. We stayed in this spot for about an hour and a half.

IF YOU KNEW SUSHI LIKE I KNEW SUSHI. . . Our second spot of the day was like wow dude, totally amazing. We stopped in deep water and off we went into the water. Fish everywhere. The most interesting thing in this spot were the clams, thousands of them. Many of them were actually imbedded deep in the coral but the edges were visable and still alive. I never knew clams could come in so many distinctive colors. There was blue, lavender, turquoise, white, purple and even some red ones. I had no idea and was throughly intrigued. After swimming here for an hour or so we got out to take a breather. Several of the crew then jumped in the water and went clamming. They brought up a basketful of clams then opened and shared them. A little lemon juice and we are talking some really fresh sushi my friends. Some fresh pineapple made an appearance and we had a little feast before we returned to the ship. It was a great adventure and we would highly recommend it.

We stopped in "town" and I picked up the french perfume I didn't get last time. It sure smells nice. We did a little shopping and then back on the ship.

Tonight's entertainment is the comedy and magic of John Ekin. We choose to go out late with the Star Lady and find the Southern Cross. Her lectures are really interesting and DH was able to pick the cross out for himself the next night. The sailaway party was nice and Darlene and the Halcats play very well.

We will call it a night early as tomorrow we arrive in Papeete, Tahiti and it will be a busy day.

January 25 -- PAPEETE, TAHITI (WHERE'S THE BEACH?!?!) Perhaps the strangest thing about Papeete, the territorial capital of French Polynesia, is that there are no beaches there. Really. Truly lovely beachs can be found on the many motus (islets) that surround Papeete. Pape = water, Ete = bowl or bucket. The name was derived because the water from the surrounding mountains collects in the bowl created by the volcanoes.

THEY LOOK LIKE THEY'RE LAUGHING We docked in Papeete about 7:30 am. We were once again escorted by dolphins. They were so lovely playing tag amongst the waves. Wonderful isn't it, the way they always look as if they are laughing and having a good time? If there is such a thing a reincarnation wouldn't it be the ultimate cool to come back as a dolphin?

HAVEN'T WE MET BEFORE? Our snorkel tour here is an early one and we are up and off the ship in quick time. We walked over to the dock where we picked up our tour boat for the "Tahiti Lagoon Discovery" tour. Once on the boat we looked around and discovered an old friend. Two years ago when we were here our best excursion was the Motu Picnic on Moorea, and the same man that runs that one, Terry, was also running this excusion in Papeete. Small world.

We informed Terry that we would be on his Motu Picnic and Ray Feeding tour in Moorea the next day also. It was pretty cool. They brought guitars and ukelele's and played music all the way out to our snorkel spot.

IF I JUST HAD A LITTLE MORE GAS. . . The first spot was magnificent. Truly it was so gorgeous there. Once in the water we heard a lady yell "there's an airplane down here!" Of course everyone swam over to that area and sure enough there was a small Cessna type plane down about 12-15 feet under the water. The fish had turned it into a home and were quite happily swimming in and out of the windows and doors. Did I mention that the airport was less than a quarter of a mile from our snorkel spot?

The sheer number and species of fish here are innumerable. There are tons of clams in the most unimaginable colors. Who knew? After an hour and a half or so we had to leave our lovely spot and head over to our second snorkel site in shallow water. This might have been a great spot with all the coral but as it was shallow, as soon as more than five people got in the water it was so churned up and cloudy you couldn't see anything. It didn't matter, the first place was so spectacular.

THIS IS ONE STOP SHOPPING! We got back to the ship and cleaned up and then headed out for Le Bon Marche'. The marketplace. It is huge. It covers one full city block and has two stories. I needed to find a particular pareo (sarong) for a friend and I found it right away. The bottom floor of the marketplace has the straw market, a wonderful florists area where one can buy beautiful arrangements for $15 to $25 USD. Huge bunches of fresh vanilla perfume the air here. The sibilant sound of French and patois drone in an undertone that is exciting. The fish, vegetables and meat are also on the ground floor. It is fascinating to watch the locals take a machete to a huge fish and just fillet it right in front of you. There was an entire table devoted to different types of bananas and yet another table for plaintains. There were fruits and vegetables I have never seen before and some I never did figure out what they were for. Amazing stuff.

Upstairs are the souveniers, the tatoo parlors, the clothes and the pearls. DH found a local selling handmade coconut and brown sugar candies. They were delicious and he bought a package. We also got some fragrant vanilla beans and a carved wooden Tiki god. It was a great afternoon.

We headed back to the ship for lunch. Tonight is a BBQ on deck followed by dancing under the stars on the Lido poolside. At 9pm was a local show "O Tahiti E," a wonderful performance by a local dance troupe. Tomorrow is another early day as we leave for Moorea at about 5am.

January 26 -- MOOREA (THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SPOT IN THE WORLD) In my opinion (which matters a great deal to me) Moorea is the most beautiful place I have ever been. Mo'o = Yellow, Rea = Lizard. Named after a lizard god of the ancients. Moorea is an extinct vocano.

Cook's Bay and Opunohu Bay mark the floor of the ancient crater. A reef encircles the island with a narrow and shallow lagoon. The largely impenetrable interior is covered in dense forests of mape, the gigantic chestnut trees of Polynesia. We dropped anchor about 7:30 am. Once again our snorkel tour is early in the morning.

When we tendered in we went right over to the dock to meet Terry and pick up our boat. This is a hugely popular excursion with close to 200 people on the motu. Apparently the cast and much of the crew were treated to a crew party and luncheon at the same time our tour was there. On the way out our boat lost one of its outboards and we sort of straggled into the motu way behind everyone else. We were very anxious to get to "our" motu. We have been dreaming about doing this again for two years.

ONE FISH TWO FISH, RED FISH BLUE FISH Oh yeah, it is as pristine and gorgeous as we remembered. We splashed off the boat and onto the motu with great anticipation for our upcoming day. We claimed a table in the picnic area, grabbed our snorkel gear and hit the drift area. One walks a block or two up the beach then out into the water. The gentle current sweeps you down over the coral and the fish and back to your starting point. Then you get out and do it all over again. The water here is amazing, body temperature, as is the air outside. The two best things I saw here this trip was a huge school of baby angel fish and a giant moray eel. The eel had his tail between two lumps of coral and his head was leering out, swinging back and forth. It was a scary looking animal. I hung around for awhile until he started coming completely out of his hole and then I booked. No sense taking chances. I fed the sting rays and they climbed up on my lap. It was wonderful.

Later in the afternoon lunch was served. BBQ fish and chicken, rolls, salad, fresh pineapple and coconut that they cut down in front of us, and poisson cru. They had sodas and beer for sale. After a delicious lunch we went back into the water for an hour or two. We talked to the boss about staying an extra hour to make up for arriving late. She called the ship and got permission and about 50 of us chose to stay the extra hour. I boarded the boat back with a broken nail, a sunburn and a few coral scrapes and as happy as I've ever been. It was truly a day in Paradise.

We arrived back at the ship about 4pm. Exhausted, dirty, sand in our hair and our, well you get the picture. The entertainment for the evening was comedian juggler Marcus Raymond. I must admit I walked out of the show totally unimpressed. Of course, I was very tired and that may have colored my judgement. We have two sea days coming up and then our last port (sob) Nuka Hiva!

During the two sea days we had the recipe contest (I covered that in another post), and played some slots.

The black and white ball was held in the show lounge. It was a wonderful dance but I had trouble staying up until 10:15. I stayed for a few dances then left early and went to bed. The officers looked wonderful in their dress whites and the ladies so lovely in their gowns. Our entertainers for the two sea days were Karen Joy Davis, pianist and the Ryndam cast in The Hits of Broadway -- The designs of Bob Mackie. They were both enjoyable.

January 29 -- NUKA HIVA MARQUESAS (NUKA HIVA IS POLYNESIAN FOR "NOTHING HERE") Actually Nuka Hiva is the second largest of the Society Islands and the administrative and economic capital of the Marquesas. As I was still feeling a little off from too much fun in the sun we decided to stay on board in this port. An absolute first for us. And I can't begin to tell you how glad I am that we did.

IS IT CHOREAGRAPHED, DO YOU THINK?? We were just wandering around the promenade deck about 9 in the morning and looking over the sides when we were priveleged to see something so wonderous I still can't believe it.

OK, we're looking off the back of the ship and see something in the water, it comes closer, it is a giant manta ray. We oohed and ahhed and suddenly it is joined by another. They join together in a stately and lovely pas de deux. We admire them and there are four ... wait, no six ... at final count there were eight of them there. They formed a circle and began the most sensuous, graceful, intricate ballet I have ever seen, turning upside down in unison to flash a flirty white belly. They spun, they flipped, they pirouetted in such quiet and graceful beauty we were spellbound. It began to rain and blow but we didn't move. I felt one with nature and the world as I watched the amazing, astounding and lyrical dance of the manta rays.

A'DIEU TO THE ISLANDS OF FRENCH POLYNESIA Because of the rain the sail away party was held in the Crows Nest. It was well attended as everyone gathered to bid a fond farewell to the paradise we had come to love. Now we have 6 sea days back to San Diego. I love sea days.

I PRAY TO DIE AND FEAR I WON'T Well it wasn't the sun that got to me. I caught the nasty cold that has been going around. I wish people would stay in their cabins when they are sick; or at least carry a hankie to cough into. I went to the little gift shop and they were sold out of every remedy they had except aspirin. I spent most of the week in bed. I did drag myself out for the Mariners Brunch which was very nice. That was it. DH attended a dinner party on navigaton deck aft. All the regulars that sit outside every morning decided to have dinner together. After they raided the Lido a few times Antonio broke down and had the food delivered to them. They got tablecloths and candles. The wine flowed, the jokes got ribald. The wind and rain blew but no one cared. They were having too much fun. I know because DH told me all about it when he came back to my sickbed that evening. I hated to miss it but I couldn't be out in the wind and cold as sick as I was.

February 5 -- SAN DIEGO (ALL GOOD THINGS MUST COME TO AN END) We said our sad goodbyes this morning to friends new and old. Exchanged email address and sincere "I'll call you's." We are black two and were called immediately after the express debarkations. We were off the ship and on the freeway in our rental car by 9:30 am. It was truly the cruise of a lifetime and we cannot wait to do this again in September on the Statendam. I hope this little review encourages you to join us.

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Eastern Caribbean
Publication Date: January 5, 2008

Departure of Holland America Lines Noordam from N.Y.C. Lengthy boarding -- unless you did not register on-line! A five star experience for older folks A virus at sea -- trumped by decisive action A problem in the casino. What about those health questionnaires?

Even if not motivated by a desire to look over the ship (I wasn't -- it was to be my second cruise on the Noordam), everyone wants to get off the pier and onto the boat. After all, lunch is waiting. Nevertheless, my wife and I found ourselves corralled with a mass of people who were moving toward the ship at glacial speed (boarding had started about an hour before). Buzzing past us all, however, was a very thin line, which was moving towards the ship at a brisk walk. Wondering if they might all have purchased sky suites, I inquired. The startling explanation was that those on the express line had not registered on-line (those of us in the corral had). It seems that significantly more check-in counters had been apportioned for the unregistered. Apparently, it is counter-productive to register on line.

The mid-size Noordam is my favorite ship.

It is richly appointed in an understated way; the passengers tend to be older, and fewer children can be found on board; there is no reggae band at the pool; chamber music is offered in the evening (in addition to the usual musical fare); bedding is extraordinary; meals are five star; and the vessel sails well -- minimal noise and vibration, good stabilizers; outstanding and well staffed library.

On the third day, we went to the breakfast buffet to discover that buffet self-service had been discontinued. Staff would serve you instead -- even coffee. It was shortly announced that the culprit was an intestinal virus -- capable of communicating by touch. Some thirty-five passengers and crew had been placed in isolation.

Dyspeptic passengers aren't having any fun -- not good for business. But a partially incapacitated crew is a significant safety issue; moreover, being in closer quarters, the crew is at greater risk of infection. Clearly, this was not lost on the Captain. People were continually advised to keep their hands well washed; hand shaking was discouraged; tissues were placed at the elevators so that people didn't have to touch the buttons; at our first port of call an additional doctor, together with supplementary cleaning staff, came on board; hand sanitizing lotions were ubiquitous, anything people could touch was being constantly cleaned; social directors and hairdressers were pressed into service to serve coffee and other beverages. Slowly, the morbidity rate fell. If my understanding is accurate, there were only a handful of sick people by the end of the voyage. The immediate and all-out initiative was both effective and impressive.

As neither my wife nor I got sick, the only sour note was in the casino. To be fair, it was a product of the exigent circumstance of the virus situation: When a slot machine allows for three quarters, my wife always plays three (significantly improves your odds). In fact, if you don't want to play three, you should find a slot that allows single quarter play -- you'll be better off odds wise. Well, she had sufficient credit and she pressed the "bet max" button (the "max" was three), thus winning a significant payoff (reserved solely for those who had played three coins) -- and the machine did not pay off. It seems the machine registered single quarter play instead of three coin play. It was politely explained that all the cleaning solution being applied to the machine (due to the virus containment initiative) was causing buttons to jam and/or not register -- in this case, the "bet max" button. I suggested that should be taken as a problem with their equipment; in turn, I was invited to understand that my wife should have checked the lights on the machine before she went ahead. Of course, the stand-off went to the casino.

To return to the virus: The speculation was that someone who had the virus boarded the boat in NYC. That had me thinking about the little "are you sick?" questionnaire that passengers are routinely presented with before boarding. It's all good, but it doesn't say much about the consequences of being sick. If they don't let you board is your fare refunded? Do you just get a credit? What if you've paid to kennel the dog, flown in from northwest Canada the night before, spent last night in a NYC hotel, and just took a taxi to the pier? Are you to be reimbursed for all that? What are the consequences of focusing attention upon yourself by simply presenting a question? It doesn't offer too much incentive to report sick, does it? Presumably, some people would risk collapsing on the pier before they'd say anything. After all, there's a mini-hospital on board.

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Mexico
Publication Date: December 23, 2007

We sailed with the Ryndam to Mexico on a seven-day cruise over Christmas 2007. The cruise departed from San Diego. We are first-time cruisers, and we are a gay couple in our 40s. Overall, we had a very pleasant experience.

The ship exceeded our expectations; it was clean and well maintained. Our verandah stateroom on deck 9 turned out to be much nicer than the room we stayed in while in San Diego at the Westin. We were very impressed.

The white-glove style service aboard was impeccable, and both crew and staff were friendly and attentive. The cruise director, Michelle, was high energy and charming, and made an effort to remember your name.

The food in the Lido cafeteria was good, but tasted and smelled like cafeteria food. I disliked the self-service aspect of the cafeteria, as many people chose not to sanitize their hands prior to handling the serving-ware. The taco bar next to the pool was a bit odd -- who puts chopped dill pickles on a taco?

The food in the main dining room was varied and of exceptional quality. About halfway through the cruise, we decided to eat all lunches

and dinners in the main dining room because the quality of the food seemed so much better, and because the ambience of the main dining room was so much more pleasant than the Lido.

We chose the open dining option, and dined with others most nights. We found open dining to be pleasant overall, even though the thought of dining with a different set of strangers each night was initially uninviting. We had an exceptional dining companion the last night, and meeting and talking with her turned out to be a highlight of our cruise.

David Deebles, a juggler and comedian, was the highlight of the professional entertainment aboard our cruise. He was funny, and his show was the most consistent on board. Bruce Block, magician and comedian, was amusing, although some of his act was a bit uninspired. His rabbit is hilarious and very funny. Janine Gardner gave a brief and awkward comedy show the first night and never reappeared. Although a few members of the cast seemed to have some talent, overall, the cast of the Ryndam was awful -- their material was cheesy and they performed much of it off-key and with a lack of grace. The "Club Nevada" show was a collection of random songs crammed together in a medley -- a Barbra Streisand lookalike rendition of "People" only made me wish they would ban that song. The four-person Filipino band in the Ocean Bar was excellent as long as only one singer sang. When they sang harmony, though, it was anything but harmonious. Their renditions of Willie Nelson songs were amazing, as they get even the accent perfect. They were the best band onboard. The Indonesian crew show was another highlight. It included a very well-done traditional costumed dance, and some fun group performances by the male crew. The group performances were not professional caliber, but were very enjoyable all the same because of how much fun the crew seemed to be having. The MC of the show was hilarious! Highly recommended and appreciated.

Having little experience of Mexico, our first port of call (Puerto Vallarta) was a shock. When I opened the verandah door as we docked, I was greeted by a very thick smog of car fumes and wood smoke. While the Malecon was pleasant to walk along, the town itself felt decrepit, noisy, and dirty.

Mazatlan was the second port, and proved a little more interesting. Although it was equally dirty and decrepit, we walked from the port to the historic center through the neighborhoods without any problem, something most passengers avoid. We toured the center, the market, and the cathedral pretty quickly as that is about all there is of interest, and then we fled to the Zona Dorada in a taxi. The Zona Dorada was as nice as many older American beach resorts. We did wander inland a few blocks and toured through a middle-class neighborhood that was nice and pleasant, and distinctly Mexican.

The only thing of interest in Los Cabos, our third port, was the beach. If you don't plan on going ashore to lay on the beach, you should book a shore excursion of some sort.

Ours was a Christmas cruise. There seemed to be lots of retirees with multiple cruises under their belts, lots of family groups (three generations) with small children, and lots of dutiful adult children taking their elderly parents on a cruise. The average age seemed very high.

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Eastern Caribbean
Publication Date: December 9, 2007

This was my first HAL sailing and I chose it because of the itinerary. Check in was very painless and we were onboard by noon. The ship was very clean and the land-based crew very polite. Trying to get through the detectors was a bit difficult, it was then I realized we would be sailing with an older-than-expected crowd. We headed to lunch then to our VA mostly aft cabin -- nice size bath with tub and the much needed balcony.

Unfortunately we got caught in Tropical Storm Olga's path and this ship rocked and rolled, more than I've experienced on other ships of this size. Captain got us close to Grank Turk, then decided that the winds were too high and took us back to sea. So much for our new island experience. We did get reimbursed the port charges and offered a glass of champagne.

Dinners were pleasant, food mostly good but the fish dishes were the best I've had on any cruise ship. The headwaiter made sure my husband had his roasted chicken every night, a simple request our first night, and it was taken care of for

the remainder of our cruise. Service was excellent and our waiter, Puto, was superb (we were a group of 11).

The shows were mediocre, comedian Phil was good. The illusionist was better at humor than illusion, fun to watch. Cruise Director Shane Einspahr was the hardest-working CD I've ever met. He had a very small staff (2) to help with all of the activities.

Disembarkation was smooth, waited at one of the lounges. We used the Signature Express Baggage service, worked out great and all breakables arrived safely to JFK.

HAL's service was very good, my room steward was very late in making our bed every day but had a great attitude. Tips are automatically added to your shipboard account. Everyone onboard works really hard to make your cruise adventure a pleasant one.

Not to be missed -- HAL's Half Moon Cay Grand Oasis Cabana: Our group rented the Grand Oasis Cabana and it was the highlight of our trip, and a wonderful place to spend the day. For $1200 for up to 12, the cabana comes equipped with bar, bartender, butler, personal chef and food choices of steak, mahimahi, ribs, chicken, burgers, and hot dogs, along with salads and fruit. Brownies, cookies, snacks and dips are also provided. It did take us an hour to locate some mint for our mojitos, but worth every minute. The cabana has 2 bathrooms, full shower, 8 person hottub which we so loved! Also, snorkel gear and floaties, and lastly a great slide.

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Mexico
Publication Date: November 17, 2007

Overview My husband and I (who are in our late 20s) as well as my mother and grandmother, took this 7 day cruise to the Mexican Riviera for Thanksgiving. This was the first time we had sailed Holland America after sailing on almost all the other cruise lines, and we used to work as Cruise Staff on Carnival. We drove to San Diego from L.A. The drive was not bad and we parked in the lot across the street from the ship. Parking was easy but costs $15 per day.

Embarkation We arrived at the terminal around 11:30am-12:00pm. Embarkation was smooth and we were on the ship in no time.

Stateroom We were very impressed with Holland America. The service was excellent! The ship was beautiful! We had an outside stateroom category HH with an obstructed view. I was surprised to find that while we did have a lifeboat blocking our view, the natural sunlight poured in during the days. It was wonderful! The room was a nice size with a small sitting area including a couch, table and chair. The rooms have flat screen TVs and DVD Players. The bathroom was

very nice and the shower was extremely clean. Our cabin steward was excellent as well. The bed was very comfortable and the sheets and pillows were of good quality.

Public Areas/Lounges All of the public areas of this ship were beautiful. The casino was medium sized but I never found it crowded. The gift shop had more jewelry than anything else. The Crow's Nest which is the lounge on deck 10 forward, is really nice for looking out at the ports and ocean. It has a great view.

Activities There were a bunch of activities to participate in, more on sea days, but it still seemed like there should have been more. The trivia's were too hard and the same people would play and win every time. Bingo was fun and was pretty well priced at $10 for a single card and $20 for a triple card, and most sessions were 4 games. The cooking demonstration was very nice and my grandmother enjoyed that more than I did as I don't cook.

Dining Because the ship was over capacity at 2,100 guests, we had late sitting dinner at 8:30pm. The Oosterdam still has fixed traditional dinner sittings. No mention of the anytime dining yet. The food was excellent! Everything we had tasted great. We all ate too much! We had turkey and pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. All the dining room servers were great.

The Lido buffet was also great. The ice cream bar with waffle cones is especially nice. They also have a tasty taco/fajita bar by the pool as well as a burger bar. All of it was great!

Entertainment The entertainment on the ship was very good. The singers and dancers in the production/Las Vegas style shows were only ok. Carnival has much better production shows. We left half way through the first production show and didn't even see the second show. The dancing was good but the singing was not very good. And the sound was really bad. It sounded like someone was playing a tape recorder.

All of the other shows were excellent. The comedian Julie Barr was hysterical. And Joel Mason doing the Elton John show was great! My favorite was Lance Ringnald, the Olympic Gold Medalist. He performed a gymnastics/comedy show. Don't miss this show! And the last show of the night had Julie Barr, Joel Mason and Lance Ringnald. That was the funniest show and definitely not to be missed.

Ports of Call We visited Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. While we had been to these ports a few times before, it was still nice to visit again. We did not book any ship excursions but hired a taxi to take us around to see the sights. They are all nice and pretty much offer the same things -- shopping and beaches. Beware in Mazatlan, as right off the ship are many vendors offering free tours and rides but in exchange you have to go to the Golden Zone and listen to a time share presentation. It was quite annoying after being approached by 10 people within 10 minutes. Just say no thank you and look for a taxi driver with a sign that says no time shares.

Other Important Things The ship offers movies to check out and watch on your DVD player in your stateroom. They keep a list of these movies at the front desk. They are free to rent but you have to put down a $30 deposit on your shipboard account. It is refunded back to your account when you return the movie. I really enjoyed this feature, although most of the movies I wanted to see had already been checked out. But you are only allowed to keep a movie for 2 days so check back if you really want to see a particular movie.

The library has a lot of games and puzzles to play with. I wanted to purchase a deck of cards so I went to the gift shop. The only set they had was 2 decks for about $7.00. I passed and later found out that I could purchase a deck of cards in the casino for $1. They are cards that have previously been used in the casino but are in great condition. A great deal!

Every day there is a different special -- the drink of the day. This is a good deal at $5.25. Most drinks are about $7.50. If you purchase your drink of the day from the casino bar, you get a $5 casino card to play on either blackjack, roulette or craps. Another good deal.

Tea time is fun and relaxing. Servers come around with various teas and desserts and appetizers. All are tasty.

Disembarkation Disembarkation was smooth as well. We chose expedited service and carried our own luggage off the ship. We were among the first off the ship around 8:15am-8:30am. All we had to do was show our ship card to be logged off and then hand in our customs form -- and we were on our way home!

Summary My family and I had a great time on the Oosterdam. We were very impressed with Holland America in all aspects. The rooms were very nice, the food delicious, the service excellent, the entertainment great and overall everything was wonderful. I will definitely sail on Holland America again. I am interested in seeing the differences between the newer, bigger Holland America ships and the smaller, older ones. For anyone wanting to book a cruise on this ship, don't hesitate. It is wonderful!

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Panama Canal
Publication Date: November 13, 2007

Great ship with the best crew on board, however it seems that it's already in need of a facelift. The food needs improvement and also the entertainment.

But the great Indonesian crew makes up for everything else that is not up to par.

The Panama Canal is just that -- a way to move from the Atlantic to the Pacific thru the use of locks.

Very intersting on how it is done.

The city of Colon was not that impressive of a port to visit.

The ten days on the ship was just right with mostly elderly passengers on board.

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Southern Caribbean
Publication Date: November 9, 2007

This was my 29th cruise and the first one on Holland America. I would like to say that this was my best cruise ever.

Holland America's service is excellent.

The Maasdam is an older ship but you can not tell. It was the cleanest ship at sea.

The food was great.

Cabins are large and the beds are very comfortable.

It is very easy to get around the ship.

I would recommend the Maasdam to everyone.

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Southern Caribbean
Publication Date: November 4, 2007

Our third Southern Caribbean cruise with Holland America. The first was in '05 on Veendam (see review '05), second on Ryndam in '06 and this cruise again on Veendam. Tampa departure, S category cabin -- same as other cruises. Veendam is showing her age now. Little things: carpeting needs replacing, rust showing through the hundreds of coats of paint here and there, bright work not so bright, etc.

On our first cruise on Veendam a complimentary private cocktail party along with a sit-down formal dinner for S & P category guests. This time a buffet luncheon. The Captain did personally greet the S & P guests but everyone had to line up in the hallway. Rather strange.

Terrible odors (sewage, fuel?) occasionally in the cabin and hallways. Totally unacceptable!

Rotterdam dining room food good, but not outstanding. Pinnacle Grill was superior, and all service was excellent as usual.

Renewal of Vows package handled very well with a very nice souvenir album included, but the photographs were sub-par.

Arrived in San Juan late (engine problem?). Could not launch tenders at Grand Cayman, rough waters. Good decision by Captain, but disappointment for passengers.

No sickness on board. Much

emphasis was placed on hand washing and using sanitizers placed about the ship.

HAL is obviously still the seniors' choice for cruising. You will not find rock climbing, ice skating, etc. here.

It appears HAL is dumbing down its dress code. Now just two categories, smart casual and formal, with one less formal night than usual. So much for cruising elegance.

We will still continue to cruise with HAL unless things really deteriorate. We'll see.

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Zuiderdam
Publication Date: November 3, 2007

This was a back-to-back, with friends who did the first half; these were my 13th and 14th cruises, my 2nd and 3rd on the Zuiderdam.

The flight down from Ottawa, Canada to Atlanta, then Atlanta to Ft. Lauderdale was uneventful except for flying down the 'wrong' side of Florida (the Gulf side), in the wake of tropical storm Noel. Embarkation in Fort Lauderdale was very short, largely because one of the friends I was with, had filled in all of the on-line forms prior to departure, meaning far less paperwork than any time previously. (We did carry print duplicates in case of computer crashes, etc.) Being temporarily off the ship as an 'in transit' passenger at Ft. Lauderdale on the 10th was also very quick, as was the final disembarkation on the 17th,, whence I proceeded straight to the airport on leaving the ship.

Since the itinerary was the same with both trips, I have covered each port of call only once. One advantage is that there are lots of things to do in each port of call, so one can do things the second time around that one missed the first.

Because

of Tropical Storm Noel (which later became a hurricane North of Florida in the Atlantic), the seas were rough during the first week until we hit Tortola.

The Ports

Grand Turk Cruise Terminal, south of Cockburn Town, Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos, British West Indies -- We traveled overnight and full day at sea, before docking the next morning at the new Grand Turk Cruise terminal, built by Carnival a couple of years ago. Grand Turk has been under colonial administration since the late 1760s, passing between various maritime powers, mostly Britain; at present most of its internal affairs are run by an elected Legislative Assembly but it remains a British colony. It is more laid back than the Bahamas, illustrated by the fact that although independence was agreed to in 1976(?) for "sometime in 1982", this was never followed up after a change in the locally elected government! Grand Turk is the most easterly of the islands of the Turks & Caicos group and is both southerly and easterly of the Bahamas and North of the western end of the Dominican Republic. It is only seven miles long, and has a large number of thorny miniature Acacia trees. These islands have not been often frequented by large cruise ships, since there were no sizeable port facilities, but have long been used by the yachting community.

Cockburn Town has old houses dating from the 18th and 19th century, close to the architecture found in Bermuda rather than resembling that of the Bahamas. I do not recommend bothering with the old 19th century prison in the town, used until very recently, however you should not miss the National Museum on Front Street: The reefs around many of the islands comprising the Turks and Caicos group and especially Grand Turk resulted in many ships being lost and a lot of artifacts have been brought up and are on display, such as the Molasses Reef Wreck dating from the early 1500s. Like most Caribbean islands, Grand Turk also has its supposed Columbus landing site, with the obligatory plaque, and elsewhere there is a plaque marking where US astronaut John Glenn first set foot on land after his sea landing in 1962! In the North of the island is a protected ecological park where there sits a still functioning lighthouse (now electrified) which was built when the U.S. threatened to cancel all trade because of the dangerous reefs; the lighthouse was landed on the beach in 1852, in segments and re-assembled as a typical example of Victorian enterprise (the original lenses and light system are on display at the National Museum). It is beside a former US Naval station which played a role during the Cuban missile crisis; there are also the remains of a satellite tracking station on the island, necessary in NASA's early days before technology made earth to satellite trackers obsolete.

For those interested in expeditions, there are beaches, and from December until the spring, there is whale watching. There are several reefs for scuba diving trips, and catch and release fishing is available. Most of HAL's expeditions involve water sports, but there are also buses which drive around the island from which one can get on and off. Grand Turk lacks a lot of infrastructure (except for the airfield), and Cockburn Town is quite untidy, but has its charm. Salt ponds are still everywhere on the island, since salt production used to be one of the important industries here, primarily run out of Bermuda in the earliest days. The local beer (brewed in nearby Providenciales) is Turks Head; the local punch is good. For a bar, try the Sandbar on Duke Street, downtown Cockburn Town, frequented by Yachtees. I do not recommend the Margaritaville built in the Cruise Terminal; there are 3 to 5 employees per customer who have nothing to do and the drinks are watered down and are really over-priced; there is a swimming pool there which is huge and clean, but I am not sure what ecological sacrifices have been made to create it, since Grand Turk does not have much fresh water.

Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands, British West Indies -- The next stop was at Tortola, British Virgin Islands, also a British colony. Here there are tours sponsored by the ship, but if you are scheduled to be in port for the whole day you can make local arrangements just beside the pier for a lower price. Tortola is famous for its beaches and scuba diving. There are several land tours however, and most of them do lead up into the mountains (Sage Mountain), providing spectacular views over the BVI. The 3 of us went to sample the "Pusser's Painkiller" at Pusser's Landing (I recommend this place for eating as well as rum, it is on the waterfront). They sell souvenir mugs which are interesting. One of the ladies behind the bar has worked there for over 30 years! Clothing and such are expensive in the big stores, but the flea market just outside the cruise terminal has some good deals, particularly if you buy more than one thing. Do not miss the Sunny Caribbee Herb and Spice Co. and the Sunny Caribbee Art Gallery which sell local crafts, soaps, a very large variety of spices and chutneys, and teas (all of which can be brought back to North America with no customs problems); samples are often available, particularly of the chutneys and mango teas.

The old "Main Street" just off the waterfront is crammed into the side of the hill; the small lanes leading into it are very narrow but give some indication of the older Road Town, with its mixture of architectural styles from Bermuda villas to West Indian. The J.R. O'Neal Botanical Gardens are close to downtown on the Main Street extension, and are worth seeing; there is a miniature tropical rain forest, with orchids, tropical birds, and several red-legged tortoises not found elsewhere. If the cruise ship is there all day, you can take a day excursion to Virgin Gorda (1 hr to 1.5 hrs each way by ferry) or Jost van Dyke (45 minutes each way by ferry), two small islands nearby. There are ship-provided expeditions to both places, but they book up early.

Charlotte-Amalie, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands -- The next morning we stopped at nearby Charlotte-Amalie, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. On the first round, we were docked at a former US submarine base away from the main port at Crown Bay, where the shuttle buses are $3.00 each way (reasonable) and run all day. On the second round, the ship was closer to the downtown in the main docking area since the Carnival Victory was late into port owing to a medical emergency, and not only had to give up its spot, but also was anchored completely outside of the port (our ship provided some tenders to speed up the Victory's getting people ashore. The advantage of the main pier is that everything is in walking distance. The Green House, on the waterfront close to where all ship tenders drop people off from cruise ships stationed in the bay itself, is in the centre of the shopping district and is a good place for lunch and for margaritas. I obtained a gold tie-pin at Diamonds International which would have been at least 3 times more expensive at home. I suggest riding up the funicular, which is above the main dock; on top there is a restaurant, a look-out, and a few shops. There are several maps posted identifying the visible islands, the largest being St. Croix to the South, and on a very clear day you can see as far as Saba, one of 3 small islands of the Netherlands Antilles 'North' (the other 3 are near Venezuela). It is possible to get a one-way funicular ticket and to then walk down back to the main part of the town (or right back to the ship).

Other things to see are Fort Christian V whose construction began in 1660s (right by the shore not far from the main pier, it is the largest building in Charlotte-Amalie, having had many uses including as the local jail), it now houses a museum. There is also the Legislative Building near the main port area, the "99" steps up to Government Hill and 'Blackbeard's Castle' (which houses a small hotel).

Half-Moon Cay, Bahamas -- The last port of call after a day at sea was Half-Moon Cay, leased from the Bahamanian government by Holland America, but occasionally visited by Carnival ships. Situated between two slender elongated islands in the Bahamas, it is about 100+ miles southeast of Nassau. Its real name on the nautical charts and elsewhere is Little San–Salvador. I went to the ship's BBQ on both occasions, crowded but good. The second round I walked up to the western tip of the island a way beyond where the horseback riding takes place. On a clear day, both nearby islands are visible, the southern tip of Eleuthera to the West, and, from a higher vantage point, to the East, the northern end of Cat Island. We were fortunate in only having our own ship at Half-Moon Cay, since it can get too filled with people when any more HAL ships are anchored off the facilities. If the opportunity presents itself, you should go ashore; HAL/Carnival has provided extra-size tenders which remain based on the island, rather than using the ship's tenders, which means that even on a larger ship, the tendering process is fast. If the seas are too rough, you miss the call there, as I have done on at least one previous occasion. Drinks are the same price as on the ship, unlike some cruise islands which charge you more. Aside from water sports, there is horse-back riding. Bring insect repellent, water and sunscreen.

The Ship

I write about one or two features on any given ship

The Pinnacle Grill and a new way to open a Champagne bottle -- The Pinnacle Grill was excellent. We went once, for dinner. Steaks. Filet minion. Mmm.

This is also where the gourmet wine tastings are situated. The wine tasting included a good variety of wines as well as the opening of Champagne (1) using a sabre-cut or sabrage decapitation, and (2) by similarly executing it using a wine glass to hit the same precise spot. It is not advisable to do this at home, you should watch the pros do it. Champagne bottles are under considerable pressure, the bottles have to be specially made, with a seam connecting the two halves lengthwise and another below the lower annulus (the lower lip of the cork-mount). The secret of Champagne bottle beheading (with a "sabre" or a heavy cooking knife, or glass) is to chill the bottle entirely, including the neck, so do not use an ice-bucket. The muselet, or wire basket over the cork, the foil, and the metal caplet over the top of the cork, are removed gently. Find one of the two seams along the side of the bottle moving up the neck nearest to the lower annulus using the fingers; there should also be a seam there; clear the foil along the seam along the neck for a smoother slide. Drape the bottle with a towel for safety reasons, hold it as you would carry a small Dachshund, neck UP, about 40 degrees off the horizontal and not aiming in the direction of anyone or anything like a window or mirror. Lay the sabre or knife flat along the seam and slide it firmly against the protruding lip at its joint with the bottle; you may use the sharp edge of a sabre or knife or the blunt one. No passengers or crew were injured, sprayed with Champagne, or showered with glass during this exercise. Opening a Champagne bottle with a wineglass is a similar process, only the Assistant somelier went through 3 glasses to do it (they are too light-weight to do this properly and then you have to get rid of the broken glassware).

Vista Dining Room -- I was at the late seating at a table for 4 for the 3 of us on the first trip, lower level. The food is good but sometimes lacking in variety. For the second trip, I was at a table for 6, second-last seating, upper level, the people with whom I was seated were interesting and I discovered that one of them is going in May on the same cruise as friends and I.

The Lido, Lido Grill -- The Lido for Breakfast and Lunch is difficult to navigate if with more than 2 people, since someone has to guard the seats. On the smaller HAL ships this is not a problem. I frequently had breakfast and lunch in the Lido when alone. The Lido has a lot of variety, for breakfast and lunch, the dining room less so. For less formal things (i.e. before a shore expedition or after one), the Pool Grill (near the Lido bar -- often called the Dolphin bar on HAL ships because of the chairs being molded dolphin tails) has been expanded a little to go beyond hamburgers & hotdogs. It should not be ignored since there were Mexican and other things available with more variety than in the past.

General Comments About the Ship -- The ship was built in 2002, and has had several upgrades, such as improvements to the linens, and the beds are very comfortable. The TVs are hard to work and, unfortunately, are of the old type, hung from the wall. I gather these will all be changed for flat screens with a simpler operating system fairly soon, the sooner the better. Since rugs in high-frequency areas are changed frequently, there is little sign of wear and tear for a ship which, over 255 voyages, has carried over 471,250 passengers.

The acknowledgement of HAL alumni (Mariners' Society) was done differently. Instead of having everyone in the Vista Lounge, where a few drinks are served to too many people, and a lot of names are read out for many, many who do not show up at these things, there were two separate parties (depending on dinner seating times) for those with under 100 days, followed by the Captain's party for the relatively few of us with 100 days or more or for those who were to receive the 100 day medallion (or more). This was followed by advance-seating by those with 100 days, at an early lunch which included all of the alumni, with complimentary wine and the gift of a ceramic tile. This is a much better way to do it.

The daily quiz is still available, but was not advertised in the daily program, a mistake, and the events for which one wins 'Dam dollars' which are redeemable at the end of the cruise were not as numerous as they used to be.

I had the same cabin to myself for both trips, close to amidships, starboard side, upper promenade deck (4103), while for the first leg, the friends I was with had a deluxe verandah on the Rotterdam deck (7087), also starboard and slightly more aft. My cabin was spacious, but if shared, there is something of a lack of drawer and storage space. The friends I was with chose a cabin which was odd shaped, at a bend of the ship where that particular deck narrows, meaning the suite was larger albeit oddly shaped, and had much more than average the verandah space.

It should be noted that after April 2008, there will be some changes on several decks, since the deck plans on HAL's website give plans for before and after that time.

My Past Cruises

1st-(Old) Noordam, 1998 (retired Nov. 2004); 2nd-Statendam, 1999; 3rd-Zaandam, 2000; 4th–Statendam, 2001; 5th/6th-Ryndam, 2002 (same ship); 7th-Zuiderdam, 2003+; 8th-Veendam, 2003; 9th -Volendam, 2004; 10th/11th-Westerdam, 2006-01; 12th-Amsterdam, 2006-11; 13th/14th-Zuiderdam, 2007

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