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.


Holland America Cruise Ships

20 Reviews

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

Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.

15 Reviews

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

Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.

48 Reviews

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

Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.

5 Reviews

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

Good for: Seniors. Overall Service. Teens.

23 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.

12 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.

31 Reviews

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

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

22 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.

23 Reviews

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

Good for: Seniors. Overall Service. Teens.

27 Reviews

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

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

41 Reviews

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

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

66 Reviews

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

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

User Ratings

Overall Rating
from 419 reviews


Service Level

Value for Money

Ship Décor

Public Rooms


Kid's Programs

Daytime Activities


Shore Tours


Alternative Dining

User Reviews

419 User Reviews of Holland America Ships
Publication Date: April 11, 2008

We have sailed on numerous cruise lines, including Celebrity, Princess, Disney, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL).

We have ranked Holland America at the bottom of the list, along with Norwegian Cruise Line, due to poor service, dismal entertainment, and poor food quality.

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Publication Date: April 3, 2008

Holland America Line Zaandam by sassyredhat Hawaii April 3, 2008

We are 61 and 59 years old. This was our 7th cruise, 5 with HAL, and our 2nd cruise to Hawaii.

Embarkation port was San Diego. We arrived at 12:30, which is when we usually get to the terminal. We knew, from reading cruise boards, that the ship had sailed Code Red on the previous cruise. HAL offered a full refund if we wanted to cancel. Some did, but we chose to stay.

Zaandam is a beautiful ship, well maintained (I only saw some minor wear and tear), and very easy to navigate. We were on deck 6, Verandah, near the aft elevators. We loved the location! Very quiet.

Verandah suites are very spacious, have a lot of storage, whirlpool tubs, Elemis bathroom products in small bottles, hairdryer in the drawer, stocked mini bar, flat screen TV w/DVD player. Balcony has a lounger, a chair, and a small table. Petitions are metal and go to the floor on one side, almost to the floor on the other side, clear plexiglass on front side.

As usual, service was absolutely outstanding. Dining room food was very, very

good, as well as was food in Lido. We had early, traditional seating. We ate most of our breakfasts and lunches in Lido, and dinners in the dining room. We thought breakfast and lunch was just ok in the dining room, however, dinners were great.

There was live music throughout the ship, and numerous huge floral arrangements.

HAL ships have a movie theater (Wajang), which we love for all those sea days. Movies were fairly current.

Our favorite place is Explorations Cafe. The library is fairly extensive, comfortable computer areas, ample seating, and good game area.

Entertainment was actually pretty good. The Indonesian and Filipino crew shows were held late, but they were good also.

A "must see" is the chocolate extravaganza ! See the carved fruits, chocolates, cakes, breads, ice carvings -- everything was really something.

There were no announcements in the cabins at all, and no photograpers except on formal nights. There were 4 formal nights -- days 3, 5, 11, 14.

We had been to Hawaii before and seen all the main attractions, so we opted for smaller tours. In Hilo, we did the Waves and Waterfalls tour, which included the Tsunami Museum. It was an interesting tour, the falls were beautiful.

Honolulu was the Little Circle Island tour. The tide was out when we arrived at Halona Blow Hole, so we didn't get to see the geyser, but it was a nice tour.

Kauai we took the Wailua River cruise, mostly because of my walking limitations. It also was a nice tour. The Fern Grotto is just now getting back to normal after Hurricane Iniki decimated most of the foilage.

Maui was Ulelena Theater. This is the reason we went back to Hawaii. I didn't see it last time, and DH wanted me to see it. It's hard to describe this experience. It is so much more than a Cirque de Soliel adaptation, and was worth the effort to see it.

Kona we saw the Seahorse Farm, and what a fun treat. This is a "bare bones" facility, but so educational and fun. We got to hold a seahorse! This is a good tour for anyone.

The weather in Kona was cloudy, due to the volcano eruptions. The locals call it "VOG" -- volcano fog.

This was our favorite cruise, although we sometimes didn't have enough to do. We aren't pool people, and what activities were scheduled sometimes overlapped. We played Trivia everyday, and met some nice people.

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Southern Caribbean
Publication Date: March 25, 2008

Easy and fast check-in and boarding. This ship is elegant and spacious.

The service is exquisite. There was no part of the cruise that did not rate as excellent.

The food in the restaurant was wonderful, and our dining steward was just as great. He knew what we liked and made us feel special every evening.

The ship is immaculate. The crew all spoke to us whether we were in a hallway, elevator, etc. The captain had a lovely Mariner's brunch.

My husband and I were impressed with everything about this cruise.

We most definitely will book another cruise aboard this ship. Holland America is the best line and the Maasdam exemplifies the elegance, service, and cuisine that makes this cruise line stand above the rest.

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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: March 9, 2008

Here is a copy of a letter we sent to Holland America about the horrible experience we had in March 2008 on the Veendam. This letter only discusses the ship. It does not discuss the horrible experience we had in Cozumel. We asked that we be compensated for at least half of the $1,784.76 we paid in advance and in good faith. We did hear back from Holland America and they offered us an upgrade if we buy another trip. How gracious! Not!

When we embarked on our cruise on March 9, we were shocked to find our room filthy and in a state of total disrepair. When we booked our cruise in January, we initially wanted to be on a higher deck but were told that none of the rooms were available. We agreed to a room on the lowest level because the Holland America agent assured us it would be just as nice as any other, and we would be able to have a double bed, and that the room would be located in the middle of the ship. Based upon the company's reputation and the website, we

believed we had little to be concerned about.

We entered the room, which was located at the farthest end of the ship (the second room from the end) to discover two single beds, sticky goo on the nightstand and dresser surfaces, dirty walls, a sticky/dirty temperature control knob, stained and dirty carpet, and a dirty bathroom counter, mirror, and medicine cabinet. It took two different trips and a telephone call to the front desk for the room to be properly cleaned and the beds put together. We resigned ourselves to the room's location.

We sent Holland America photographs, which showed the condition of the furniture -— it was so bad it would not be accepted for donation by a charitable organization. It is inexcusable to ask your guests to spend a week in a room with chipped furniture, scratched walls with holes in them, and stained carpets. The temperature in the room was hard to control and fluctuated from being too hot to being too cold.

With the exception of our hard-working and attentive cabin steward, none of the ship's executive staff bothered to follow up and assure that our grievances had been resolved.

Nowhere in the literature we reviewed about the cruise line or on the website did it say we would have to endure such a nightmare. Your promotional materials assure quite the opposite. Holland America honored none of the promises made by the agent who sold us the trip, the promotional materials, or the contract.

The condition of our room made what should have been a relaxing and enjoyable holiday a very stressful experience that we would have done anything to avoid. Like so many others, we had a choice of which cruise line to sail and based upon positive comments at some of the travel websites we chose Holland America.

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Publication Date: March 1, 2008

The Ship We had a cabin with a veranda on deck 8 which was comfortable, not spacious, but with good closet and drawer space. The beds were comfortable, our cabin steward was excellent, the food was generally very good with a wide selection for dinner, the dining service was very good, and we enjoyed most of the entertainment. The ship has two pools, which at some of the peak times were insufficient to handle all of the interested passengers. But most of time, there were enough chairs. I suggest that ship excursions be booked before hand online, as the ship's desk had a long line the first couple of days. Also, bring something warm as the air conditioning in the public areas was on high, and it was uncomfortably cold in the hallways, lounges, dining areas, etc. Each cabin has a thermostat, so it was not a problem there.

Grand Turk We spent several hours at the complex by the ship. A very nice beach, lots of lounge chairs, and shade if desired. There is also a huge pool behind Margaritaville which was very nice. An added plus was there was

a good band at the pool. We did not go into town, but the couple that we were traveling with did. Their comment was it was not much. We did not snorkel or dive, but heard that it is quite good there. Our friends had sticker shock when they got the bill for two margaritas at Margaritaville, so be prepared if you order a drink.

Tortola We were tendered in as there were 4 ships in port when we arrived. This process took about an hour, but was handled efficiently by the staff. We opted for a local tour of the island in an open air bus, of which there were many waiting, for $20 per person. We had some very good views of the island and the tour lasted about 2 hours. The roads are narrow, bumpy, and with lots of curves. We returned in late afternoon, during which time the ship had docked. That evening, there was a Caribbean BBQ buffet on the pool deck, which was very good.

St. Thomas It is necessary to get a green card and immigration ID. This was required of every passenger on board, regardless if you were getting off the ship or not. This was done by decks, and the first announcement over the loud speaker was at 7 AM. Once our deck was called, it was a very fast process. We left the ship mid morning and took a taxi ($4 per person) to town as the ship docked away from the downtown area. In addition to the hundreds of shops, there was an open air market, mostly clothing and costume jewelry. Since there were 5 or 6 ships in port, the downtown was very busy and crowded. There were a lot of open air tour taxies, and we took a tour of the island for $25 per person. Again, lots of nice views of the island, and much smoother roads. We stopped at Coki beach for a break. Typical clear blue water, nice beach but not too large, and very crowded. The van took us back to the ship, so we did not need a taxi on return. There were also tours that included beach time as well.

Half Moon Cay It was as nice as many other reviews said it would be. We were the only ship in port and were tendered in and out. The beach and water are great, with plenty of lounge chairs. We had prearranged to rent a clam shell, and got another when we got to the beach, after being told aboard ship that they were all sold out. Additionally, there is some shade available and a few hammocks. Good swimming, shallow water. Did not snorkel, but it looked like there was not much to see in the snorkel area. They handled the BBQ lunch very well, and there were sufficient facilities for the large crowd. The food was good; hamburgers, hot dogs, steak sandwiches, ribs, chicken, salads and soft drinks.

Overall, we were pleased with our trip. The Zuiderdam is supposed to be retrofit within the next few weeks, and we heard that they were going to add about 100 rooms.

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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: February 10, 2008

If you like the smell and use of cigarettes you are going to LOVE this ship.

Smoking in the cabins. Smoking in the bars. Smoking in the Casino. Hallways and common areas permeated with SECOND HAND smoke.

Smoke in the photography shop from the adjacent bar. Smoke in any hallway that has smokers in their cabins. Complaints at purser's desk result in a reading that smoking is allowed from their brochure. "If you feel ill from cigarette smoke go to the infirmary", staff says. Hotel manager was conveniently never available for smoking-related complaints.

First time on this seagoing second hand smoking machine and it will be my LAST.

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Publication Date: January 19, 2008

We took our trip just last week. I will make this brief and to the point. All opinions our mine and only mine. My husband and I have taken 9 other cruises on various lines and we had never taken Holland-America, so we thought "why not?"

Embarkation This was fairly easy and very quick. It was well orchestrated by the employees who work for HAL. Good job.

Once onboard (at 12:30 pm) we went to our cabin hoping it would be ready. It wasn't until 1:30 pm. So we went to the Lido Buffet to get lunch. The first time we saw it we were impressed with so many stations. The salad line of course was the longest, however, there is a Deli area, Chinese, Italian and the Bistro which serves everything else. The food was good but as the cruise went on we found it to be just so-so. Wish we would've eaten in the Dining Room because the food there was a step above (not much though).

Cabin The bed is the "Best" -- better than all the other ships we've sailed on. I especially enjoyed the bathtub.

I actually took a couple of bubble baths. Although not a full bathtub (I'm 5' 3") it worked. Toilet needed fixing a couple of times, however, the maintenance person came in a timely manner.

Entertainment EXCELLENT! -- Especially Joel Mason who impersonated Elton John.

Vista Theatre Poor design and it didn't hold that many people, especially on the first floor. On the second floor there were columns that blocked your view of the show.

Drinks Very expensive. My husband had 4 martinis at $8.00 each.

The Ship I felt that the design was poor. There were bars and dancing areas hidden. The outside pool was aft and it wasn't a very large area for all the "fun activities" that happened during the day. There was also an inside pool which was larger, but it should've been outside! The hallway floor to our room was very "lumpy." The padding needs to be replaced. The colors of the ship were pink, orange, blue and turquoise. I didn't quite figure out what the theme was.

Summary My husband and I probably won't take another Holland-America cruise because of the "age" of the passengers. The average seemed to be in their mid to late 70's. They would cut into buffet lines, take over all the window tables in the Lido and "stay" there for hours, and they also would congregate themselves in the middle of the hallways. I also found out that Carnival owns HAL and that was a turn off to us because we had taken one Carnival cruise a few years ago and vowed never to do so again.

I hope this helps you understand "my" view of this ship. Any questions you can email me.

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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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