I booked my CME (Continuing Medical Education) with Continuing Education, Inc. on Holland America's Veendam. As a physician I could complete my needed yearly credits and take my spouse along, as well.
The itinerary was great: We left Tampa, had a day in Key West, then spent a day at sea, then had a day each at Belize City, Belize, Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala, and Costa Maya, Mexico, before another day at sea before disembarking in Tampa.
The sea days were the days in class, and there was a pulmonologist who spoke about pulmonary medicine. I learned more than I thought I would, with this also being a vacation. I felt that Continuing Education, Inc. did a wonderful job. We had two cocktail receptions as well as evening networking. We also booked two of the tours they set up exclusively for us, so the groups were small. The first was Belize Ruins of Altun Ha & Belize City. Our guide, Elvis Usher, was informative, fun, and gave us first-class service. Elvis is starting his own company, Belize Cave Tubing Experience, which I highly recommend. If you want to set up a really great tour, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. As he says, "You have to experience it to Belize it." He also does tours of Alton Ha, Lamanai and the Belize zoo. The second tour was Costa Maya, the Mayan Ruins of Chachobben with Manuel, which was also very good.
We booked a tour with Holland American in Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala called Ak-Tenamit People, Cultural Exhange and Eco-Adventure. It was the best way to experience the people of Ak-Tenamit who live along the river Rio Dulce. We took a speed boat along the shore to the town of Livingston, walked around with our tour guide Marlon Hernandez and ate local homemade candy, then boarded the boat to the Rio Dulce to the Ak-Tenamit grounds. We went into a classroom where the children were in school, we went into an outside kitchen where locals were making homemade tortillas (yummy!), then to an upstairs, thatched-roof dining area where we were served the local river fish, palomita, along with other homemade goodies. We were served delicious lemonade and were offered cokes and beer. We saw locals making beautiful bowls, palm nut necklaces and adorable little "worry dolls" with tiny clothes and limbs covered with thread.
The service on the Holland America Veendam was second to none. There were even servers who carried my spouse's meal tray to a table in the Lido buffet. Our cabin steward Budi Susilo and his assistant Sigit always made us a towel animal every evening, they turned the bed down and put little chocolates along with the next day's activities/ports of call. There was a newspaper daily with all the current events of the world. We ate every dinner in the Rotterdam Dining room and our waiter Gunawan Putra and his assistant Hendro always made us feel special. Benificio always had my bottle of wine and my spouse's gingerale ready and waiting on the table.
The shows in the evening were great... there is a blonde male singer/dancer with the voice of an angel that brought tears to my eyes during many of his songs. The other shows with magician and comedian were also great. My spouse did most of the Culinary Shows in the Culinary Arts Center, where they have a huge kitchen just for demonstrations. The head chef was there many times preparing guest's favorite dishes and desserts.
All in all, this was a great "working" vacation for me and my spouse. We were so impressed with Holland America that we booked a 15-night Hawaii cruise in April on Zaandam.