Middle part of a 31 days Collectors voyage (Ft. Lauderdale -- Rotterdam and Norwegian Fjords after)
Booked FF gty, two weeks prior to saildate cabin assignment
Cabin D2603, Main Deck
Captain Robert-Jan Kan
Cruise director Glenn Koenen
This was our 3rd HAL cruise. Previously we sailed the Oosterdam to Alaska and on the Noordam we sailed the Western Mediterranean.
Living in Amsterdam, our son conveniently drove us to the Port of Rotterdam. Our suitcases were dropped off curbside and picked up immediately by porters, after which we said our goodbyes. There was a long line waiting at noon already. Since this was the second leg of a Collectors Voyage, there was some confusion for the transit passengers who made the crossing from Ft. Lauderdale. Apparently they were handed transit cards on board, to go on and off ship in Rotterdam, without standing in the same check in line, but personnel at Rotterdam was not instructed well it seems. The transit passengers had to wait in the same line as we did, which felt a bit weird. Why would they have to go through customs all over again? Maybe it's just me, but shouldn't there be a separate entrance for the transit passengers?
This cruise we decided we didn't need a balcony, since we tend to spend a lot of time on deck, at the pool or in the Explorer's Lounge. Last cruises taught us we don't spend much time on the balcony and we opted therefore for a FF gty. I kind of find it fun not knowing where HAL will put us, the anticipation of it keeps me going right up to sail date! Although a FF (Dolphin deck, aft 8 cabins or forward 6) wouldn't have bothered us in the least -why else book it?- we were delighted that HAL put us on Main Deck, smack in the middle of the ship. In our view that's quite an upgrade. We found the location of D2603 to be very convenient: right around the corner of the middle elevators and one staircase removed from the wrap around deck of Lower Promenade. And since we encountered at least one day and night with rather rough seas at the Bay of Biscay, we were rather glad we were moved to midship.
4 Times during this cruise we had a rough awakening by an enormous bang, which gave us the feeling we literally 'bumped' into something. The first night it happened we were in bed already, ready to put the lights out... the first thing I did when we heard the bang was looking outside: Whale? Iceberg? Nay, don't laugh! We were very much in distress. So much so, we put on our clothes and actually awaited the alarm signals. Which of course, never arrived. Yeah, you experienced cruisers can laugh now. It was just us being silly, I know, but we didn't imagine that bang! And we weren't the only ones... other pax on Main Deck heard --and felt- the same and they too never found out what was the cause. Talking to one of the engineers later during the cruise, he explained some doors in the engine rooms below us can cause a lot of noise when they bang shut. He was guessing that was what we heard, but he couldn't be sure. We never knew what it was and sure enough when we heard it later on we weren't as alarmed.
The Laundrette was close by, as was a public restroom which came quite in handy a couple of times. Our steward, Ari and his colleague (I forgot his name) were great. Always there with a smile and everything was in a permanent state of neatness. Closet storage was plenty! We only used three of the 6 closets, for 17 days. Clothing hangers were abundant. We brought 2 big suitcases and 1 carry on. And still we had 3 closets left. Both the bedside cabinets had 2 drawers and we never got to use the one little cabinet with two shelves next to the sofa. The two (hardcase) suitcases fitted well under the bed, the carry on went into one of the empty closets. Two times during the 17 days we had trouble flushing the toilet. The first time was solved after a couple of hours without us mentioning it to anyone, after which everyone in our section of the ship received a long written reminder of how to use the toilet and especially of how NOT to use it i.e. not throwing in anything not being bodily fluids or toilet paper. The second week it happened it was solved in half a day and during the remainder of the cruise all was at it should be. The thermostat worked perfectly. No issues at all!
Since the overall age on this cruise was about 76, we were very much in danger of being run over by motorized scooters. I can't believe how fast those darn things go. Many fellow passenger had to jump aside, plate in hand, or else. And most of them weren't of an age to jump anyway so you probably can imagine some of the scenes we encountered. Apparently more than 50% of the pax getting on board in Rotterdam was Dutch, so some US passengers, who made the first leg from Ft. Lauderdale must have felt overwhelmed. I got asked by one American if it was cultural or an age thing the way the Dutch elderly behaved. They showed rude behavior,cutting in line and not looking where they're going and expected everyone else to jump aside for them. On top of that some don't know how to speak ANY English which accounted for some very funny conversations I overheard. My compliments especially to the Lido team, all of them without exception never failed to smile and be of service with an unbelievable patience.
With so many Dutch passengers every announcement was made in English and Dutch. Indeed, some presentations were made in both languages too. Even some of the movies --not all though -- were conveniently subtitled in Dutch. On May 4th, Hollands national remembrance day, every person in Holland will observe a 2 minute silence at 8pm, in remembrance of every one fallen during WWII. I don't know if every vessel in the HAL fleet honoured this silence, but the Rotterdam certainly did. After which the Rotterdam blew her horn. It was a very reverent moment.
Three times during this cruise we made a reservation at the Canaletto on the Lido Deck. This was our first cruise to do so and we were glad we did. The Chicken Massala was wonderful and indeed the tiramisu was to die for. Of course the service was, as everywhere on the ship impeccable. I couldn't decide one night which to choose: chicken massala or Vodka Penne. So, Deny suggested I'd take both, it was our last night after all. They'd made two small portions of each... now if that isn't called service?
I don't know why, but without an alarm clock set I still woke up every morning around 6am. Right on time to take a shower, grab a cup of coffee on deck, enjoy the calm of the ship still asleep, admire the sunrise and run to the gym for the morning stretch at 7am. My compliments to Fitness coordinators Jeffrey and Isaiah --both from South Africa- who without fail, rocking boat or not, helped a steady group of approx 10 pax to wake up properly. At 7:30 am we topped it off with abdominal exercises. What a wonderful way to wake up! It must have been the extreme age on this particular cruise, but the gym was never crowded. The machines were in good condition, and whenever I wanted to add some cardio workout there was a machine free. The perks of cruising during a senior cruise perhaps? The Tai Chi classes though, given by life stylist Tiemen were more popular it seemed. At the end of the cruise I counted over 20 pax in the Tai Chi class! Wow! To make good use of the sea days (7 in all) I learned to play Mah Jongg, the American way... I joined a couple of ladies who were willing (and patient enough) to teach me. Every sea day at 2pm tables were set up for the Mah Jongg players. As I understood it during the first leg there were constant 4 tables playing, but now there was just our one table. This game is so addicting I desperately need me to find some players here in Amsterdam ?
In our cabin we found a booklet with Cruise information about every port we were going to visit. Including maps of the towns with the highlights. I don't know if this is knew, but we never before received one of those. It was a great reference guide during the weeks and we made good use of it!
All in all it was a great cruise, we loved the Rotterdam, although she did feel crowded some times. There were never enough loungers around and yes... chair hogs were living aboard this ship too. I mean, I was up mostly at 6am and I could witness some of that chair hog action. It's a good thing I'm not one for sun bathing or I would have been in serious trouble fighting over one of those empty chairs. If you don't mind the shade, there are more loungers on the afts of deck 2 and 3 available. And indeed, if I've been complaining about the population on this cruise, let me put something straight right now: we've met some wonderful people and made some great new friends too. We opted for free dining, on deck 4 and we were never disappointed with our table mates. All in all... a great cruise.
MON 07MAY12 Cartagena, Murcia, Spain 10:00am 6:00pm not in list
What a lovely town! What a history! Walking of the ship you immediately enter Plaza the Ayuntamiento. Here you'll find City Hall and right across it, the entrance to the museum and the Roman Theatre. The towns main shopping street starts here. Sadly City Hall is closed for visitors on Monday, but what a beautiful building. Indeed it seemed as if the whole of Cartagena was renovated or in the process of being renovated. Everything was clean and well... very well taken care off. I simply walked around the town, following the outer walls of the Roman Theatre and had some wonderful views on the theatre. Walking around the Roman Theatre ( I never did visit the museum, which is the only way to visit the Roman Theatre on the inside) you get the feeling of how immense it is. I noticed the lights in the steps everywhere, this city must be even more beautiful by night. Right behind the Roman Theatre you'll find Castillo de la Concepcion, situated in the Molinete Parque.This park, wrapped around the 13th century castle, is truly beautiful with the most amazing views. The entry to the park is free, but to enter the castle itself I had to pay 3,5 euro. I couldn't quite grasp how they keep the grounds for that amount? I walked the grounds, all the way to the top, but there actually is an Elevator that will take you the bottom level of the Castle, where you'll find another elevator that will take you to the top of the castle. All the way around the park you'll find stairs and walkways for wheelchairs. This city stole my heart!
TUE 08MAY12 Valencia, Spain 8:00am 5:00pm not in list
Valencia port is about 4 km/2,5 miles from the old center. Shuttle busses were available at the port, leaving to and fro every half hour. A return ticket costs $12. I purchased one at the front desk before leaving ship, but I do believe you could purchase one on the bus too. The shuttle bus dropped us at the Plaza porta de la mar, at the edge of the old city centre. If you go to the right here, in the direction of the Puente la Exposicion you'll find the Jardin del Turia. Severe flooding by the River Turia in 1960 caused the town to divert the River. They reformed the river bed to a wonderful recreational area. Besides gardens, you'll find soccer fields and tennis lawns, skating parks, and people jogging under the arches of the bridges. It's a beautiful place to just stroll.To the left of Plaza Porta de la Mar, in the direction of Plaza Alfonso el Magnanimo, you're entering the historical center. Lot of it is only for pedestrians. On Calle de la Paz I found my First Starbucks during this trip. I couldn't resist and made good use of my free 45 minutes wifi. If you can't find the Starbucks, no worries... the map the tourist information centre provides, shows the free wifi points in the city. Most of them are outside the historical center though. Valencia has some wonderful biking facilities, special biking routes are easy to find and every where you'll find bike rentals. At that Plaza del ayuntamiente I found a bookstore selling all kinds of International papers. Even the Dutch ones.