Maasdam (in rear) anchored off Grand Cayman
This must be becoming an annual thing. We went on the Veendam. last year for our third wedding anniversary. We decided around Thanksgiving to look for a 7 day cruise around mid-Jan. Our 4th anniversary was Jan 18th. We considered other lines like Princess, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean, whom we have yet to cruise. We ultimately decided on HAL's Maasdam because of the great time we had on the Veendam last year. The ships are basically clones. We ended up cruising a little later because it was already booked for the month of January. February is a boring month anyway, the Super Bowl is over, and no Bobby Knight a'ranting and a'raving on the basketball court!
This is the first cruise where we let the cruise line book our airline and pre-cruise hotel. It turned out well, but a little strange. We flew from Evansville/Cincinnati/ft. Lauderdale via Delta and from Miami/Chicago/Evansville via American on our return. We actually left in good weather, but our initial flight to Cincy was delayed for some unknown reason. By the time we took the airport shuttle to our gate for our connecting flight, our Lauderdale flight was starting to board. We did not have time to grab a sandwich, or have our Bloody Mary at Cheers. The only thing we had to eat was pretzels on Delta. What happened to their peanuts? At Lauderdale we were met by a HAL Rep, and after securing our luggage, we boarded our bus to the Hyatt Pier 66. We had to drag our luggage about a block to get on the bus. If I had known this, I would have rented a cart. I don't like to work when I'm on vacation!
After we checked in to the Hyatt, we discarded our sweatshirts and jeans for 80 deg weather attire, and headed to the outdoor bar for our Bloody Marys and food! It felt nice to see people swimming outdoors and enjoying the nice sunny day. A far cry from the 15 deg weather we left! We really liked the hotel. After our sandwich and drink(s), we walked the entire grounds. It reminded us of a resort more than a hotel. Although a bit pricy, I would rate the hotel *****, or something like that. HAL had a table set up near the lobby Saturday evening. They gave us our bus boarding pass for the next day. Ours was blue, the 2nd out of 3 total. Our time was 12:45 p.m. to leave for Port Everglades. We were advised to set our luggage outside our room by 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning. That is another story, our luggage!
Our cruise begins! Well after a slight problem. We slept in until about 8:00 a.m. Our plans were to pack up everything and set our luggage out by 10:00 and go to breakfast. Rita decided she needed something out of our large over-stuffed suitcase. Well, after she unzipped it, I tried to close it and the zipper came apart. OOPS, what to do now. I got out my trusty Swiss Army combo keyring tool (pliers, screw drivers, punch, weed eater, etc.) and found the zipper was broken. I headed up to the bell stand to see if they had duct tape. All they had was scotch tape. Did he really offer me that? Anyway, I took a taxi to a 24 hour Walgreen drugstore looking for duct tape. The clerk, who couldn't understand me, nor could I her, just shook her head. I found it myself, next to the feminine hygiene department. I settled for the basic gray model tape, as the designer colors where not available.
After I duct-taped our luggage, we went to breakfast, shopped, and took another long walk around the pier. We boarded our bus around 12:45 p.m., was at Port Everglades around 1:00. We got in line for check-in, and after receiving our check-in number, we waited about 30 minutes or so before our boarding number was called. Once aboard ship, which was about 2:00-2:15, we were escorted to our cabin, number 531, main deck, starboard side, near the front. Our cabin door was loaded with balloons, and the roses I ordered plus flowers sent from our TA were in our cabin.
We met our Cabin Steward, Toni. He wished us a happy anniversary. I told Toni - only one problem with our cabin, you need to put the beds together, remember - anniversary? He got a kick out of that. Two pieces of luggage where in our room, so we started the unpacking process. Before we finished, Rita's cosmetic bag and our duct-taped bag was delivered. Now we had all our stuff. As soon as we finished unduct-taping and unpacking, we headed for our tour of the ship and to the Ocean Bar for our first round of the drink of the day. It felt like we were home. This ship is laid out exactly the same as the Veendam.
After our buffet lunch in the Lido and lifeboat drill, we headed to the Sail-Away Festivities, Navigation Deck aft, Deck 10. They already announced the sailing time was going to be an hour or so late due to some late arriving passengers. The steel drum band Pandemonium was playing some great Caribbean music.
As we were getting another round of the drink of the day, the Cruise Director Eric Dowlis, Bingo Pete, Shaun, and Amanda talked Rita into volunteering our talent, or lack of, in the Rockin' Rolldies 50s Night program. They wanted her to wear a towel, shower cap, and a smile and dance around "Bobby Darin" in his bathtub singing 'Splish-Splash'. My task was simple - they wanted me to be Elvis! Must have been my long wavy black hair and sideburns, or maybe just my beergut.
It started to sprinkle as the Maasdam finally set sail at nightfall. We took cover and I video taped some of the ships as we sailed past them. Like the Westerdam, the Millennium, and the Grand Princess. It was a great feeling to be with someone special as we sailed into the night.
Later that evening we went to the Ocean Bar for Cocktail Hour prior to our late seating in the Rotterdam dining room. The staff in the Ocean Bar, were very attentive. Marife, Roel, and Romeo served us very well all week. They called us by name the rest of the cruise, and knew we liked raw veggies for appetizers, and would bring us the dinner menu to look at. They presented us another painted Dutch hat to add to our collection later on that week. We did some pre-dining dancing to the music of Nevada Quartet, a Hungarian group. They did music from Elvis to Louie Armstrong. We enjoyed them all week. We even bought a cassette of their music. We enjoy listening to the slight accent of some of our favorite songs.
After hearing the dinner chimes we headed to our table for two, in the Rotterdam lower level, deck seven. Although we love to be around and meet new people, we wanted a romantic setting and sitting. Our waiter Aak, his Assistant Made, our Wine Steward Jess, and our Maitre' D Parmono, made our dining each evening very special. Hey, the food wasn't bad either. In fact, it was outstanding!
After attending the 10:15 p.m. Welcome Aboard Showtime in the Rembrandt Lounge, we went to the Piano Bar and listened to Simon Casciano. He was very good, as was the bartender who also sung a couple songs.
Navigation Deck Aft Pool
A full day at sea! We actually got up fairly early and had breakfast in the Rotterdam. We walked a couple miles around the outside of the ship on the Lower Promenade deck. We like this design of the ship with the deck going all the way around. It also has wooden lounges, and is a great place to go just to relax, feel the ocean breeze, read a good book, and maybe even to take a nap. We then hung out at the aft pool for 2-3 hours. Our Wine Steward Jess was our server, and helped make it a nice place to relax, swim a little, and have an umbrellaless drink. That's right, they did not use the standard every day issue drink umbrellas! Later that afternoon, we played bingo for our one and only time on this cruise. We also entered the slot tournament, however we did not make the finals. No surprise.
That evening was our first formal night, and the staff in the Rotterdam sang to us the standard "Happy Anniversary" song. Later on that evening, Simon in the Piano Bar did a song in our honor.
We docked in Cozumel Mexico along side of the Carnival Victory. A very large ship! Our last trip to Cozumel was on the Mercury, SeaLetter Cruise Bash 3, Oct 99 when Rita and I took a Jeep Safari. Actually it was a "Jeepless" safari. They provide us with a GEO Tracker instead of a Wrangler. What a POS! Rita's fond memory of the island is a gigantic bruise on the side of her butt! We even skipped Carlos & Charlies. Not this trip. We just took a taxi to downtown, found our seven Granddaughters beaded T-shirts, and a plain one for our only Grandson. Then we went to C & C's and we each had a Yard Margarita. Rita also wanted some nachos, but regretted that later in the evening.
We set sail at 2:00 p.m., and from the Lower Promenade outside deck, watched people running to the gangway right at sailing time. After they raised the gangway, we saw another lone gentleman running, yelling, and frantically waving with one hand (he was carrying a beer in his other hand). They had to lower the gangway again. Reminded me of the 'Bama gang on CB2.
Later that afternoon after we sailed, we went to our one and only rehearsal for the Rockin Rolldies. Bingo Pete reassured me he would have enough alcohol on hand for our show Wednesday evening. After the rehearsal, Rita's stomach was starting to get queasy. I reminded her, actually rubbed it in, when I told her 'do not eat the nachos'.
Well to make a long story longer, we missed dinner for the first time on any of our previous cruises. I ordered room service, and they suggested a meal for passengers who were experiencing seasickness. They didn't have one for Señor Runs! In sympathy for Rita's plight, I had the same bland meal. Yuk! She only ate a couple bites of the soup. After she went to sleep, I headed to the Casino. We missed Paul Tanner in The Rembrandt Lounge. He is a singer-impressionist. We were told by fellow passengers, his show was outstanding! Oh well, maybe the next time.
Welcome to Georgetown, Grand Cayman. We docked at 9:00 a.m., but we did not tender off the ship until around 10:30. Rita woke up starving and no worse for the wear. She felt fine, and even better after she ate. After our breakfast in the Lido, we had to go to the Rembrandt Lounge to get our tender tickets, and wait there until they called our number. The process took about 20 minutes. We did Stingray City on our Mercury cruise, so once again we went shopping. We were not interested in the turtle farm, nor did we want to go to Hell. We ended up at the Hard Rock Café for lunch and Cuban beers. We re-boarded the ship about 3:00, and headed for the aft pool. The ship set sail for Jamaica mon about 5:00, no problem.
That evening we went to the 6:45 show for second seating at the Rembrandt. It was the magic of Greg Frewin. His show is great. We saw Lance Burton at the Monte Carlo in Vegas a few years ago, and this show was almost as good!
Now for our show. Well any way, everyone seemed to enjoy it. I certainly would have enjoyed watching my fellow passengers making a fool out of themselves, had I not been one of the fools! But what the heck, no one will see us again. The 'plenty of alcohol' promised by Bingo Pete, turned out to be one glass of champagne. I am glad I doubled up on my scotch and waters at dinner!
Ocho Rios, Jamaica, somewhere we haven't been, somewhere I could care less if we go to again. At least we docked, no tenders. We had to walk the gauntlet of taxis, drug dealers, hot jewelry salesmen, and just plain old panhandlers to get across the street to a shopping center. We wanted to buy a souvenir from Jamaica and another dress for our youngest granddaughter, who was having her first birthday on Valentine's Day. What ever you do, bargain with them, you will get dramatically lower prices. It seemed like all the shop owners were either from India or Pakistan. After we found what we wanted, we took a taxi to Dunn's River Falls. I negotiated a fare with 'Slow Eddie', who had an air-conditioned minivan. I told him if he did not try and talk us into any side trips, I would give him a good tip. He was a very good driver, and had a great personality. Also, he did drive slow, but very safe. The trip to the Falls only took 10 minutes. Rita and I walked down to the beach, stopping along the way for photos. We did not walk the Falls. It probably would have been easier walking back. There are a lot of steps! We stayed about 2 hours while 'Slow Eddie' waited and had him return us to the shopping center. Rita had a few more shops she wanted to visit.
We set sail at 5:00. That evening after dinner we went to the Rembrandt for the comedy of Don Sherman, who looks like the hairless guy on Little Orphan Annie. I believe his name is Daddy Warbucks or something like that. He was very funny. We also attended the Filipino Crew show. That was also very good.
A day at sea while we continued our sail to Half Moon Cay. We spent the day doing our usual activities, walking after having breakfast in the Lido, hanging out at the aft pool, etc. We also attended the Society of Mariners [Ed: HAL Alumni] get together in the Rembrandt, and were introduced to our new ship Captain. It seems our old Captain flew to Ft Lauderdale from Ocho Rios the previous day to attend a conference.
The show in the Rembrandt that evening was 'Up On The Roof' starring the Maasdam Cast. It was all right, but nothing to write home about. After the show we continued our usual nightly entertainment, dancing in the Ocean Bar, and listening to Simon in The Piano Bar.
Half Moon Cay, what a beautiful island and beach. I had been trying to talk Rita into Parasailing all week, but to no avail. We just walked the beach, swam a little and relaxed. We enjoyed the barbecue cookout and took a lot of video and photos. We chatted with some folks from Indy who where playing cards at a table by the outdoor bar. Man, we Hoosiers know how to have some fun!
That evening we handed out our tips to our Cabin Steward, Waiter, and Assistant Waiter. For the first time on all of our now six cruises, we tipped our Maitre'D. We also went to the casino and got cash to tip some of the servers and bartenders who served us well, including our Wine Steward. Rita even tipped the one who rang the dinner chimes and served us mints. We missed most of the Variety Farewell Showtime in the Rembrandt that evening, but did manage to slip in late to see Paul Tanner do a Neal Diamond and Garth Brookes song/impression. He was as good as people said.
We met a lot of nice people on this cruise, Rick and Joyce from Dayton, Ed and Cheryl from Cincinnati, Ed and Darlene from Pennsylvania, Ray and Claire from Florida, Joe and Ruby from Nova Scotia, Neal and his wife from Montreal, and on, and on, and on. Sorry I can't remember all the names.
Rita filled out the survey and gave 9's for just about everything. She said she would have given 10's if they were allowed. I agreed with her 100%. It was a great cruise, great ship, and even greater staff.
The dreaded disembarkation. The cruise ship draws names for prizes for passengers filling out their surveys before this process. Some would probably want to change their opinion after this process. Not us, it went very well. HAL did an awful job on our first cruise with them on the Westerdam. The Veendam last year went very smooth, this one was even better. They did a great job getting us off the ship and busing us to Miami for our return flight back to reality.
PHOTOS courtesy of Keith Smith & Holland America Line.
SeaLetter Cruise Bashers Keith & Rita Smith are true cruise addicts! They would love to hear your comments and answer any questions you might have about "cruise bashing" or any of their cruises and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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