Excellent Southern Caribbean cruise
Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
Pre-cruise:We flew in 2 days before the cruise. Instead of a hotel stay, we went the couch surfing route and stayed at a new friend's home.
Embarkation was impressively smooth, well-organized, and easy. Finding our way around was made easier because of having been on Noordam's sister ship, the Westerdam.
We went to the Mariners' Lunch, settled into our cabin, then enjoyed an informal Sailaway party with some of our fellow Cruise Critic members.
Cabin: We thoroughly enjoyed our verandah for 5142. It was somehow smaller than I remembered but it was in fact very comfortable with more than enough room. Our room stewards, Danang and Gede, were great. They were unfailingly cheerful and efficient.
entertainment: We enjoyed most of the shows we attended. The only exception was a so-called comedian my husband and I walked out on. The best show was Brett Cave, an entertainer of the best kind.
Team Trivia with some of our fellow Cruise Critic More
members was a huge amount of fun. My team even won a couple of times. The library was excellent.
Internet speed was not bad this cruise.
We tried the casino but did not stay long because of the smoke,
Dining: we had 1st seating, at what turned out to be a table for 8, though had requested a table for 6. Perhaps if had to do with booking fairly late. Thanks to pleasant table companions and wonderful Febi and Daniel, we enjoyed each meal in the MDR, except for the time we celebrated my birthday in the Pinnacle Grill. Virtually all the food was very good.
Ports: We really enjoyed each of the ports. Each had something to recommend it. We also enjoyed finding geocaches at each port, which added another dimension, We took ship shore excursions in the Dominican Republic, and on Aruba. We also did our own thing and did one private tour, on Bonaire.
The Port review section does not include Samana in the Dominican Republic, so I will describe it here. We would recommend the Cultural Highlights of Samana tour.. The best parts were the small but quality whale museum, and the Taino Park. The hour-long tour at the recreated Indian village uses personal ipods and quality headphones. As soon as we got back from that tour, we hired a local taxi using a motorcycle pulling an open cart to take us to the bridge to Cayo Vigio. The taxi driver walked with us to and from the island, which s a beautiful walk, and then took us to La Churcha. It was an easy walk back to the pier.
We were disappointed, of course, that it was not safe to dock at Grand Turk
The Noordam is a wonderful. Ship, and this is a great itinerary. Would we recommend it? Oh,yes!
Post cruise: disembarkation was a breeze, very well organized.
We couch surfed for 2 days, and this time enjoyed the exhilaration of air boat rides in the Everglades. Less
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Cabin review: Noordam Deluxe Verandah Oceanview Verandah 5142
Cabin: We thoroughly enjoyed our verandah for 5142. The cabin proper somehow smaller than I remembered but it was in fact very comfortable with more than enough room. Our room stewards, Danang and Gede, were great. They were unfailingly cheerful and efficient, We loved going out on the balcony with its clear plexiglass, comfortable chairs and table/footrest. The cabin had a great location, we thought, because It was close to the dining room, yet not a long way to anywhere on the ship.
Port and Shore Excursions
Ship shore excursion:"Sea and See" (Ship shore excursion)
Quick review: excellent tour guide named Gwen who spoke very clearly, informatively and was entertaining too; a so-so ride on a semi-submersible boat, very fair, equitable way of off-loading the bus (alternate sides getting off first at stops), and good stops. Naturally the stops could have been longer. Too much time for the boat part.
The tour began with a visit to the California lighthouse.
We were readily able to fulfill the requirements of the virtual cache there by taking a picture of me with GPS in hand, and the lighthouse in the background.
Then came the drive to the Palm Beach resort for the first of two boat rides, one to take us to the semi-submersible boat, and of course the ride on the
semi-submersible boat. We were there over an hour. About half that would have been fine, I think. To our surprise, the water was kind of murky, there were not all that many fish. The story about the ship was kind of interesting, it had been brought from Germany with the captain choosing to stay in Aruba rather than go back for the war.
Next came the drive to the Casibari Rocks. Here we were able to "find" the Casibari - Hooiberg earth cache.
We only had 20 minutes here. People were given the option of climbing the stairs to the top of the rocks, or not. Of course Jerry and I did it. Parts of the trail and steps up were uneven, and at one point involved bending and fitting through a short tunnel. It was pretty neat, actually. On top there are fantastic views all around. The way down was definitely down. Long, steep steps, but again really great.
Last stop on the tour was the Natural Bridge. This is where the largest stone arch had collapsed in 2005, and now there is still what they call the Baby Natural Bridge.
We found the location and took a picture of me with GPS in hand, and the bridge in the background.
At both the California Lighthouse and here there had also been caches with containers, but there definitely was not enough time to search for them while on the bus tour.
We got to see in the distance an abandoned gold smelter: the Bushiribana ruins. The tour did not stop there, which was too bad.
Back at the ship, Jerry and I had a late lunch, then eventfully did a little shopping in the souvenir shop. We walked int town a little. We agreed it was too late to go look for a cache.
I know Bonaire is most noted for its snorkeling and diving, but we chose to go on a land tour. In the morning, we went on a truly excellent tour with Bonaire Vista Tours, owned by locals Barbel and Brian. we saw the Salt Flats, the Slave Huts, Kralendijk, Gotomeer Lake/Flamingo Sanctuary,
Rincon, Mangazina di Rei, the second oldest stone building on Bonaire, and the view from Seru Largu. We also learned something about life on the island.
After the tour we enjoyed strolling around Kralendijk. We also looked for a geocaches.
We mostly did our own thing. We used geocaching to help show us points of interests we would not have seen otherwise. We ate lunch at a local restaurant, walked over to the Maritime Museum, and then went on a local tour with a company called Casper. It was an excellent tour. We saw some of the city, saw the "wedding cake" house, saw one of the cemeteries, toured a rum maker cum museum, had a great viewpoint on the eastern side of the island, and briefly visited a beach.
We agreed beaches do not get any better than on Half Moon Cay. We did our own thing. We explored the island on the nature trails, saw the old ruins, Bonefish Lagoon, the views from the Shipwreck Bar, swimming, walking the smoothest, silkiest sand beach ever with amazingly clear blue water. And did I mention the geocaches we found?