Regions:Alaska, Central America, Transpacific, West Coast, Erope
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Western, Eastern Seaboard, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Eastern Seaboard, South America
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Value for Money. Teens. Seniors.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Oceania, West Coast
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:Africa, Caribbean Southern, Mediterranean Western, South America, Transatlantic
Good for: Group. Families. Luxury Travelers.
Regions:Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western, Scandinavia, The Orient
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Overall Service. Value for Money. Foodies.
Regions:Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, South America, West Coast
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Eastern Seaboard, Hawaii, Mexico, South America
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Oceania, The Orient, West Coast
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Caribbean Eastern, Central America, Hawaii, West Coast
Good for: Overall Service. Children`s Programs. Seniors.
Regions:Alaska, Central America, Hawaii, Mexico, South America, West Coast
Good for: Teens. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Central America, West Coast
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
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.
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 lunchesand 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.
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 forthe 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.
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 wasvery 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!
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.
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.
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. Muchemphasis 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.
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.
Becauseof 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.
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.
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
Okey dokey. Here it is for what it is worth.
Embarkation Was one of the easiest and quickest we've had in awhile. We have always like embarking in San Diego and true to form it was simple and easy. There were three ships in port on the 21st and I did not care for the way they handled the baggage. We had to take it to the space between the two ships and just leave it there. I was concerned it might end up on the wrong ship but no worries. We were through the line and the first ones on the ship in about 20 minutes. We arrived at the terminal about 10:30 am.
Overall Condition of the Ryndam She had just recently come out of drydock and she was freshly painted on the outside and looked beautiful in the San Diego sun. The interior had a few worn spots on furniture and carpet but overall she is still quite lovely. As usual the crew keep her spotlessly clean and shining.
The public rooms are more than comfortable and we were not bothered by smoke in any of thepublic lounges. There was a bit of a lingering smoke smell in the Crows Nest in the early am but nothing we couldn't deal with.
Staff and Crew As always the hotel staff and ships compliment are wonderul, efficient and highly motivated to provide the best of service and comfort for us.
Captain and Master of the Ship: Pieter Jan Van Maurik
Hotel Manager: Ceese Tesselaar
Cruise Director: Drew Murdock
I thank them all for providing a wonderful cruise for us.
Dining and Food OK, here is where it gets just a little bit sticky folks. We booked at the last minute and were given As You Wish Dining. To be perfectly honest it wasn't as bad as I had expected. Others have done a good job of explaining how it works so I won't go into that. Suffice it to say I never saw anyone waiting longer than 5 minutes for a table and those I spoke with were quite happy with the arrangements. For the solo traveler it may be different. My DH isn't normally fond of the main DR and chooses to eat most nights in the Lido. He was impressed that we were able to be seated, order and finish dining in about 45 minutes. However, when I went alone to the DR I was invariably seated with two other couples. They do ask if one wished to be seated with others and it worked out fine for me.
Now, the food. It was extremely disappointing. I don't care for the new menu format at all. It is set out in such a way that you have to read the entire menu. For example there may be two soups listed on page one, but another soup may be listed under the chef's recommendations and yet another listed in the always available section. I found it annoying and just not logical in its format.
The food was blah. It was not bad and not good. It was indifferent, which is worse. I had no trouble finding something I like to eat every night, believe me. It was just that there was rarely anything that jumped out and said Yum. There seem to be fewer appetizers available for the evenings. I used to sometimes make a meal of the appetizers and some soup. For some reason all the desserts tasted the same! It may be I am getting jaded and used to the food, however I was disappointed.
The service in the DR was wonderful as always and the lower DR Host Rachmat was absolutely the best.
The dining in the Lido was quite good and offered more of the same selections as in the main DR than on other cruises. It would seem they are trying to even out so that everything is available everywhere. On the last formal night surf and turf was available in the Lido. DH was very happy The Lido manager Antonio was accomadating and the service was efficient, pleasant and swift.
Entertainment I love the production shows. We had "On Broadway," "Club Nevada" and "Street Singin.' " The cast is a new one and although they haven't quite pulled it together yet, they were good. I do have to say that the production show "Street Singin' " reminded me a lot of the acts that they did in the passenger show called both "Golden Rolldies" and later the "Great Pretenders." Many of the songs and costumes appeared to be the same. Especially shining out was one of the lead male singers Christopher, and two very enthusiastic dancers Chip and Callie. I enjoyed them and look forward to seeing them again in Jan. I know they will be really great together by then.
We also had Bryson Long, comedy/juggler; Janine Gardner, late night comedy (she was a hoot); Jeff Peterson, comedy magician; and Donnie Abraham, Sinatra Martin type impersonator. They were all entertaining and I enjoyed them. The CD Drew put a lot into getting good entertainment and it shows. There were no lecturers or enlightment talks as there used to be. I did miss them. We did have lovely local dancers come aboard in Topolobampo and they were very good.
I am not covering any kind of ports or shore excursions. We have done this trip many times and therefore did not partake of any excursions. In some ports we barely got off the ship. I am pleased to say that there were only two "art" auctions in the ten days we were on and they were poorly attended.
The "night action" in the Crows Nest was great mostly due to Kelly who is an excellent DJ and one of the best activity staffers I have met.
The pianist in the Ocean bar, Alexsander Courtney, was excellent if a bit of a drama queen. The group Meryll and the Halcats left a lot to be desired. Meryll has a wonderful strong operatic voice, not at all suited to the type of music for lounge singing. She should be in the production shows. The regular band U-4 was great. We have sailed with them before and they keep getting better. The HAL orchestra led by Larry was wonderful.
This has gotten longer than I anticipated. We had a wonderful time and fully look forward to spending 30 days on her in January. If I can answer any questions please let me know.
This was our ninth cruise, second with Holland America. We were disappointed with the Maasdam. We had no hot water for most of the cruise, and rusty water after they attempted to fix the problem. Many cabins were without air conditioning. We were very surprised at the condition of the ship as it is rated 4.5 stars. Although the interior design on the ship is good and comfortable, the plumbing and air conditioning are in need of replacement.
On the bright side, the food was good and the service was excellent. The buffets were better than Princess. Due to the condition of the ship, we will not cruise on the Maasdam again.