We spent 2 days in San Diego before our cruise, staying at the Holiday Inn San Diego on the Bay. We love this hotel, which is right across the street from the cruise terminal. Their bus picked us up at the airport and we were at the Holiday Inn in 7 minutes. Our room was nice, with a balcony facing the harbor, and pretty small. We figured this would be good practice for cabin living once onboard. The staff was very nice and helpful. We ate at The Elephant and Castle downstairs and also at Anthony's Fish Grotto across the street. We enjoyed Anthony's so much we ate there again upon our return from the cruise. We especially liked Hazelwood's, the little deli place downstairs and outside. It was convenient for breakfast, lunch, ice cream, pastries and beverages …… we made many visits. Coming from the chilly Midwest, we felt like we were really on vacation sitting at an outdoor umbrella table watching the ships come in.
While in San Diego, we took the OLD TOWN TROLLEY TOUR BUS. You could hop on and off the bus at each sight, staying as long as you wished until you were ready to hop on the bus for the next location. We visited Old Town, the Harbor, Seaport Village, Marriott Hotel and Marina, Horton Plaza Shopping Center, Gaslight Quarter, Coronado Island (the ferry landing and an Irish Pub closer to the Coronado Hotel), San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park. You really could spend an entire day at some of these stops. One surprisingly interesting site was the SAN DIEGO COUNTY SHERIFF'S MUSEUM. It's in the Old Town area and it's free to the public. Very interesting and educational. If you're into photography, there are many photo opportunities there.
The day of the cruise, we walked over to the cruise terminal about 11:30. Within 30" we were eating a delicious lunch in the Lido. Very efficient check in. Our outside cabin on the Dolphin Deck was efficiently laid out with plenty of storage, a personal safe, luggage storage under the bed, 2 additional keyed drawers by the bed, luxurious linens and pillows and a comfort-top mattress. On the desk, we had an ice bucket and glasses. There was a fruit basket but with so much food aboard we discontinued the daily in-room fruit. The bathroom had a corner cabinet that held quite a lot. Even so, I used the over-the-door shoe hanger for additional "stuff". The provided toiletries were up-scale and smelled so good. For those mentioning difficulties getting in and out of the tub…..our tub had two grab bars… And believe me, they came in handy when the ship was rocking and rolling! Our room stewards RiDHO and SYURYADiH magically appeared, presented their card and proceeded To lay out our luggage for unpacking. They asked if they could do anything for us, and complied with all our requests. By the way, I did pack the suggested sticky notes and they came in handy whenever we wanted to communicate with Ridho and Syuryadih.
After unpacking, it was off to the lifeboat drill. It was rather hot and crowded on deck and there were a few elderly people who were unsteady in the crowd. One poor lady fainted and was immediately attended to by the officers and a woman I assumed was a nurse. We saw the fainter recover and walk off. Hope she was OK. Holland is VERY strict regarding lifeboat drills. It didn't appear that anyone was excused. And there were quite a few elderly and/or physically challenged individuals on this cruise. But by golly, they didn't let that stand in the way of their having a good time. I don't know if it was because my DH and I had such a good time on this cruise, but I completely believed the cruise director and several other crew members when they told us that we were an especially fun group. It certainly felt that way. Wherever we went on the ship, people were chatting, laughing, smiling and just generally having a pleasant time. Who wouldn't….living for 15 days in paradise? Probably most people were in their 40's-80's leaning toward an older group. We only saw a few children. Okay, here is a typical day for DH and I. The "coffee man" woke us up at 7 or so. We did our daily 5k around deck 3. Back to cabin to shower then to Lido for breakfast. Then to library for reading or nap. Ballroom dancing mornings in Crow's Nest. At 10 there is usually some enrichment seminar (example: "Hawaii the Kingdom to State" with your travel guide Kainoa ). At 11 perhaps another seminar, culinary demonstration, health and fitness presentation by spa personnel. Once they had an amateur bartender event. It was so funny. Three contestants competing and the judges getting happier and happier as the contest went on. I don't drink but there were lots of drinking events that even I enjoyed. BTW, this always tickled us: In the daily program the schedule for the Friends of Bill W. always just preceded the Happy Hour Announcements. So at 4:00 pm Friends of Bill W meet in King's Room, immediately following that on the schedule: Happy Hour, all drinks are half price! The casino was busy. Poker seemed to be popular. We waited for the craps table to get busy but it never did while we were there. After lunch, things picked up, we had to make the movie, get another nap in, get ready for the show, for dinner, and after dinner music. The evening shows were a head above those we've seen on other ships. The Zandaam's Song and Dance Cast was entertaining and energetic, The Las Vegas Tenors were spectacular…doing a lot of "popera', funny comedians, the Indonesian, Philippine and Hawaiian Culture Shows were great. There was too much entertainment to mention and to attend. But we tried our best. The after dinner music was one of the highlights of this cruise. You could wander throughout the ship from one type of music to another. There were sing-alongs in one lounge, jazz in another, ballroom dancing in the Ocean Lounge, modern dancing in the Crow's Nest, karaoke talent contests. It definitely is the Musical Ship. We never made any of the 11pm -12am late night snacks. We would have loved to but we pooped out and returned to our cabin for a wonderful night's sleep. The bed linens were luxurious and the bed was so comfortable, we just let the sea rock us to sleep like babies.
The food was very good in our opinion. The variety, quality, presentation and service everywhere was excellent. We had the "Anytime Dining" and enjoyed it a lot. We enjoyed the flexibility for time and companions. Some evenings we sat at a romantic table for two. When we felt more social, we opted sharing a table with 6 to 12 people. We always met lovely people and enjoyed learning about them through many interesting conversations. We never had to wait for a table and never made reservations either. We were just lucky that the dining room had what we wanted available. The dining room staff were wonderful. They aimed to please.
Our experience with the cruise director, Lizabeth, was positive. She was funny and extremely energetic. She was everywhere from pool volley ball to leading us in the walk for the cure. She led the trivia contests, was at all shows and events. Lizabeth had one of those soothing, late-night radio voices that made listening to the general announcements pleasant. We even ran into her after the cruise and she was as sweet as could be. I would have liked the temperature lower in our cabin but my DH was comfortable at the lowest setting. I was even comfortable on deck the first couple days at sea. Cool but that's the way I like it. It didn't stop us from our walking regime. Neither did the motion of the ocean or the waves splashing up. It was part of the experience! An improvement IMO would be to stagger the levels of seating in the Movie Theater. Those in back had their view blocked by those in front. There was always competition to get "the best seat" at the movies. We signed up for three excursions: HAWAII TROPICAL BOTANICAL GARDENS in Hilo (my favorite! You found a wide variety of Hawaiian scenery here from flowers to crashing waves. Waterfalls to colorful birds.) PEARL HARBOR in Honolulu…(excellent! I was in Honolulu 30 years ago as a kid J and it was very rough then. They really cleaned it up.) And the GRAND CIRCLE ISLAND excursion. (The Dole Pineapple Pavilion was unexpectedly fun. They had a pineapple maze and lots of fresh fruits. The Japanese Temple was awesome but we couldn't stay long. I think this tour could be improved if it had skipped 2 "souvenir stops". Then we could visit longer at the "real" Hawaiian sites.) We did the other ports on our own and enjoyed ourselves walking around sightseeing. On Kona, I wish I wore my bathing suit ashore because their was a little protected beach area right by the dock. You could see bright colored fish from the shore and it would have been fun to snorkel there. There was a rental booth with beach/snorkel equip. with very reasonable prices. The beach and lagoon looked safe enough even for little kids. The last stop,
Ensenada was cancelled because of dense fog.
All in all a wonderful cruise although Debarkation had it's moments when the line was held up because the "glass bridge" needed to be adjusted. The line couldn't move yet they kept announcing more groups to come down for debarkation. But it wasn't awful except for that guy loaded down with Macadamia Nuts and we finally got off, found our luggage and walked across the street to checked back into the Holiday Inn at 10:30 am. This time they put us in the Priority Club section and our room was larger and more modern than the one before the cruise. We were delighted! Walked over to Seaport Village via The Great Generation Way and had hamburgers at a take-out place and ate them at an umbrella table. Yep, we're still on vacation! Even if only for one more day.