Perfect Christmas Vacatation
Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
I was worried about choosing the Maasdam, because it is the 2nd oldest and 2nd smallest of HAL's fleet. Let me tell you, for cruises, SMALLER is BETTER! The personal attention we received was amazing, and only once did we have to wait in line for anything!
Typically, on ships with 2,000-3,000 passengers, it can be a chore trying to get to the showroom early to find a good seat, or even find a lounge chair on the deck on sea days. Not on the Maasdam! I never had to look far for an open chair, the showroom was over half empty every night (and not because the entertainment wasn't good), and only once did we have to wait for dinner. It was Christmas Eve, and a formal night, on a port day. Typically, ships do not do a formal night on a port day, but they did in this case because of Christmas Eve. They also pushed the entertainment up one hour (to 7:00 & 9:00 shows, instead of 8:00 & 10:00) in order to fit in a Christmas show at 11. Well, no one showed up to anytime dining More
at 6:00, but everyone showed up at 7:30 or 8:00, which means half of us had to wait over an hour to be seated after 9:00.
Aside from that, everything was walk-right up, and there were no lines anywhere. I will now always look for the smaller ships whenever possible. The only ammenity I missed from a slightly larger ship was a larger thermal suite area. Oh, well. I was worried a little bit about rough sees tossing such a small ship, and we did have 2 rough days out of 14, but I survived. I will definitely do a smaller ship in the Caribbean. Don't know yet if I'm willing to try a smaller ship on the Pafific! Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
We took a bus ride around the island, which dropped us off at the beach at the end, and then took public transportation back to the ship. Being from Las Vegas, I live in the desert. Therefore, Aruba was not appealing to me, because it was too desert-like with not enough tropical plants. The beaches were OK.
Best beaches! Warm clear blue water, soft warm sand, and not busy but not overly crowded. The "Boat House" is kind of a gimmick, where you pay $15 per person to enter the public beach, but at least for that price you get a wrist band which lets you use their restrooms, you get one free drink at the bar, and your taxi ride back to the ship is included.
Huge new year's fireworks' celebration. The cave tours were good. The fireworks made the New Year holiday one of the best ever!
We found a local guide outside of the cruise terminal, and he gave us a walking tour of the small city and nearby fort, followed by a trip to the waterfall, then a stand where they sell spiced rum (with lots of free samples!). The guide took us on public buses. The fort was $2 each, the buses were $1 each (each way), and then we paid the guide $30 each. Of course he tried to haggle us for more, but we felt both parties left satisifed. It's a nice island, but since you aren't suppose to take most spices off the ship with you back in the US when you go through customs, I really don't have a desire to purposefully go back. I would, however, be sure to drink spice rum the next time I'm there!
The weather was a bit cool and windy when we were there, but the island was fantastic! Rent a "clam shell" for shade in advance. Free lunch buffet offered on the island. Definitely worth the tender ride to the island.
We took a 4-hour bus tour from one end of the island to the other, including the volcano. The island is pretty, and I'm glad I did the tour, but once is enough. The next time (I am going on a cruise that visits this island next year) I visit St Lucia, I will stay on the ship as our ship sailes to the south part of the island in the afternoon to pick-up the bus tour, and you can see the "Petons" from there.
Ate at "Jen's Cafe". 5084 Norregade. Food was excellent (we had the lobster quesadillia and philly cheesesteak sandwhich), service was friendly, and we felt a very good value. It is pretty close to the Lutheran church. Some friends of mine have told me there is an unnoffical gay beach called "Little Meagan's Beach" (it is next to Meagan's Beach) which you can get to by taxi.