Getting away from the winter blahs
Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
First and foremost, you must attend the lifeboat drill. If you refuse to participate, well, you could be left at the dock waving goodbye. The cruise director mentions that over the PA system, and it says so in your contract.
My cruise started on Feb 10th. I've cruised several times but this is my first HAL. I would definitely cruise with them again.
The only complain I had, the two weeks went way too fast! It was hard to leave the ship.
For the first 48 hours of the sailing there was no self-serving even for coffee/tea/water. The staff wants to make sure people were "virus free". Even after the 48 hours, you could self-serve with mostly everything except the hot foods to which the staff will scoop it on your plate.
One thing I liked, they had more "free" stuff to drink different juices, lemonade, and iced tea and of course water. Well, nothing is really "free" since I paid for it but you get the idea.
I went to open dining seating about four More
times in the Manhattan Dining Room. It was good but I much preferred the Lido buffet.
No complaints. I was on Dec 6 inside cabin. Good enough for me. Loved my cabin steward, Budi. Excellent job.
Not to take away from anyone's talents, I find the entertainment the same old same old almost on any ship. I don't watch the main shows much anymore. I tend to take an aisle seat way in the back. If I'm bored, I just discreetly step out.
Julie Barr, a comedian, was very funny. Both her R-rated and the clean show she had me in stitches.
Chris John is a musical impressionist who impersonated Sammy Davis Jr., Ray Charles, Macy Grey, Billy Joel and more. He was very good.
The best main show I've ever seen, Cantare. Four men from the United States are almost like Il Divo. The best show I've ever seen on a cruise. I went to see both show times I couldn't get enough. Was even suckered enough to buy the cd.
The HALCats band was pretty good. They used two different singers, Nicky and Travon. Both pretty good. At the piano bar was Jimmy Maddox. He was pretty good. I'd poke my head in once in a while to listen here and there.
Plenty of stuff to keep people busy. I enjoyed some of the computer workshops such as Creative Photo Editing and Making Movies. There were also workshops about the digital camera.
Played trivia a couple of time including the travel trivia with two others and won a free cruise ................ pin. I tried to get the social director to just say "free cruise". No such luck.
The only disappointment was the first evening of the single and solo travellers meeting, there wasn't a staff hosting it. (Grand Princess did a good job two years ago). So as strangers we don't know who's who. I only met two people the first night and the meet was short lived. Two days later they had a solo traveller's lunch which was easier to meet since they had a table reserved for us.
I was told by one of the social directors that passed solo/single passengers said they didn't want hosted events. Well, on the first night walking into a bar/lounge, how do you know whose solo? Wasn't overly impressed here but hey, met a lot of nice people on the ship. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
Mexico isn't my forte to go anymore but hey. Plenty of things to do at Costa Maya without leaving, including shops, bars to get a drink and a pool, but I took the taxi ride ($2.00 each way) to Mahahual, cute place but you can't miss the contstruction that's happening here. There are plenty of shops. The only Internet place was closed for renovation.
The "main street" runs between the beach and concrete buildings. On the beach you can rent chairs but I didn't get the prices. Plenty of people on the beach offering massages. I decided, why not? Her name is Claudia at Yaya Beach (info I got on a scribbled card). Was worth every penny of the $20.00 plus tip. You won't get that price on the ship. There was a masseuse near the ship, but she wanted $30.00 for half an hour, still cheaper than the ships
The only ships excursion I had on my last day before heading back home was the Land and Sea tour. It was pretty good. We saw Ft. Lauderdale beach, the area where "Where the Boys Are" was filmed with Connie Francis. Our tour guide gave us the history of Ft. Lauderdale.
We boarded the Carrie B. Harbour Tours to see "Venice of America". Lots of several million dollar homes, yachts and went into Port Everglades where the large cruise ships dock. I saw my ship one last time, wishing I could go back ......... or better yet go on anther cruise right at that moment. Ah, guess I'll have to just dream and wait for next year.
The ship anchors near George Town ... plus five others that is so this town's population swelled to ....... well you can do the math.
I only had a twenty on me and couldn't purchase water as store clerk wouldn't have enough change. The bank was closed because it was Ash Wednesday so couldn't get change. The library was also closed, would have used the Internet there.
I'm thinking the local buses didn't run as well. I was going to take one two Seven-Mile Beach. I could have taken the taxi but by the time I did this and that, time slipped away. Our ship's time in the port was a bit too short.
It seems to me I'll have to bite the bullet and get my own mobile device. It's getting harder and harder to find places with computers to use the Internet. I did find one at the Thompson Building on Main St. Used it for about half an hour to send an email that I'm alive and well. Plus bought a bottle of water there.
After walking around, taking some pictures of some historic buildings I headed over to Breezes for a cold Heineken. You can sit upstairs overlooking the ocean and the mega ships anchored.
Again loads of things to do near the ship plus a beach is right there. Took the taxi ride to Cockburn ($5.00 each way). I walked around the town. Cute but not much to see but shopping stalls. I don't like shopping. I found their Victoria Public Library and used the Internet for $5.00 an hr.
I thought to spend a bit more time on the beach by the ship, but my migraine had other plans for me. Next time.
HAL's private island in the Bahamas with white sand, turquoise water which has facilities, bars, entertainment plus shops. Can purchase water sports. They had a barbecue but I went back on board instead. I heard later the bbq was pretty busy. There a lots of lounge chairs. On the first week of the cruise, my ship was the only one. On the second week, we shared the beach with Westerdam. I'm glad on the first week I spent the time here. The second week, I went for about 20 minutes then headed back to my ship, the beach was pretty packed.
I did my homework and decided to book a tour with Island Marketing. Granted, you take your chances rather than going with the ships excursion but admit it, the ships tours are getting overpriced and sometimes not worth the money.
As I expected more people to join, I was surprised I got the taxi to myself. Her name is Nora. Actually I was to join another group but I decided instead she could take me around, show the island. Then at the end she dropped me off at a Bananarama Beach. The beach was packed. I couldn't get any space to myself so I decided to nurse a cold Heineken at the bar, people watch, listen to some three piece band then 45 minutes later told Nora I wanted to go back to my ship. $30.00 for about four hour tour.
Ah! Has to be one of my favourite ports of calls. I never tire of this cobbled Old San Juan. I had a map with me but didn't follow directions and just walked around anywhere. You really can't get lost here. I'm sure you'll somehow spot the big cruise ship.
I walked up to El Morro but didn't go inside this time. I've been before. I did walk along the grounds getting a fantastic view of the ocean. It was a hot day (our ship docked @ 1:00)
For those who don't have a mobile device, Seafarer on O'Donnell St. charges .12 cents a minute. Not bad. I used it quite quickly and only paid less than $1.00.
There are a lot of historic buildings here such as Casa Blanca (home to Ponce de Leon although he never got to live here), Cathedral San Juan, El Morro (short for Castillo San Felipe del Morro) was built to protect the city.
Before heading to the ship, I stopped at Old Harbor Brewery for a beer. A couple from my ship was sitting at a table with their Notebook. This place has free wireless. Good beer although I don't know what I ordered. I told the waiter pointing to a glass the husband had "I'll have what he's having but smaller"
Our ship sailed away past 7:30 pm. Do go out and enjoy this part. San Juan is pretty in the evening with the lights as the ship makes its way past El Morro. This is not my first sailing leaving San Juan at night. I don't tire of that neither.
I have seen this island a few times before. In fact back in the 90's stayed the week. Very nice island. Both Dutch and French flare.
From where the ship docks you can take the water taxi for $7.00 return into Philipsburg but if you are in relative good shape, you can walk it in about 20 minutes.
There are a few places in Philipsburg you can find the Internet. I used Cyber Surf on Front Street. It's $5.00 an hour. I saw one facing the beach called Call @ Home. She said it would cost $5.00 for half hour.
There are a few historic places to see in town. The Methodist Church (1851), The Courthouse (1793), St. Martin's of Tours Roman Catholic Church. Also there are shopping, and loads of places to stop for refreshment. I stopped at Oualichi to soak in the turquoise water, white sand and people watching as I sipped on my cold Heineken knowing that this time next week, back to reality of winter. Sigh.