Mon Nov 23, 2009 at sea Our cabin was the Deluxe Verandah Suite type and one of the perks was free laundry service. We all know there is no such thing as free, but this is how it is billed. At 7am each morning, before I got ready for the day, I put my laundry outside for pickup as it would be ready the next day. Today I went to the Lido Restaurant on Deck 9 for breakfast. Today was meet and greet in the Crow's Nest on deck 9 at 10am for the roll call for cruise critic members although anyone could attend. At 9:58 the only people in attendance were Bob and I and I was concerned that we would be the only ones. Low and behold others arrived and we had over 20 attendees. We even had people show up that did not reply. An area was blocked off in the Crow's Nest for this get together. As far as I was concerned it was very successful. HAL set up 20 cups, regular coffee, decaf coffee, tea, cookies. Some people even brought their own coffee. I had lunch in the Lido Restaurant on deck 9. Then I went to the Future Cruise area on deck 1 to put a $100 deposit on a future cruise. Next I went to the digital workshop for two classes - A New Window To You World at 2:30pm & Show And Tell at 4pm. Tonight was formal night so I went back to the cabin to change into my tux. Then went to dinner in the Lower Vista Dining Rm. One comment about dinner, service is slow. There are normally 2 shows each evening, 7:30pm & 10pm. Seldom do you make the 7:30pm show when you show up to eat at 5:15, for most I left early in order to make the early show. Many people agreed that the service was slow. But then again you are on a cruise. Talking about food, there is too much of it. You can constantly eat. The Lido Restaurant hours are 6:30am - 11am, 11:30am - 5pm, 5:30pm - 8pm, 11-12pm. They serve pizza which I hear from other passengers, is very good. I attended the 10pm show, Captain Edward G. van Zaane had a welcome toast and introduced his officers and as with other HAL ships I've been on, someone came out with a big bottle, I was sitting in the front row and was the recipient a ton of confetti. The performance by the Singers and Dancers was superb.
Tue Nov 24, 2009 Grand Turk Bob & I had a quick breakfast then took the Conch Tour at 9am offered by HAL. This was a very informative tour. Yet although this was interesting, I did not think it worth the price. I was speaking to Chris who runs the Digital Workshop and he said at the ports we go to, you can't go wrong with beach activities. The beach at Grand Turk is at the end of the pier where the ships dock. If you go ashore as early as possible, you will have your pick of beach chairs with shade. Back at the ship, at lunch a couple informed me of an offering the Spa has for a weekly price that includes a heated lounge, use of a sauna, use of a steam bath, whirlpool, and shower message. I told them I was on the cruise for next week also; they said maybe the Spa would cut me a deal. Well they did cut me a deal; $200 for the 2 week period. Deal; there is no such thing as a bargain with HAL. But this would prove advantageous. After a hot, humid day, you end up in the Spa area taking a shower right before supper. It is refreshing and well worth the price. I do not know what the charge is for couples, but it is less expensive than a single. We finished dinner in time to see Joel Mason. He usually does a takeoff on Elton John but the Cruise Director Jason Venner said Joel was not feeling well earlier today and there was talk about cancelling the show so Joel played various guitars as well as the piano. There is one thing I will say about Joel. There are ways to work an audience and Joel knows how to do it. He brought the house down or the house brought him down, Joel was fantastic.
Wed Nov 25, 2009 San Juan Bob & I took the rain forest tour at 9am offered by HAL. We were warned in advance to bring a rain jacket, I ended up purchasing them for $4 at a rest stop prior to entering the rain forest. When they say rain forest, they are not kidding. And the views; the bus went to the top; breathtaking. We made about 4 stops, 15 - 30 minutes each and got back to the ship about 3pm. I went to the Spa, then to supper in the Lower Vista Restaurant on deck 2. Tonight I ate with a couple from Canada; he is retired and used to be a police officer. What pushed him into retirement was the 9/11 World Trade Center. At 7:30pm in the Queen's Lounge on deck 2 there was a Mama Mia movie sing along. Great audience participation. Then I went to the Explorer's Lounge for awhile to listen to Adagio Strings then to the show at 10pm in the Vista Lounge on deck 2 with comic Joe Yannetty who put on a very good show. At 11:15pm in the Vista Lounge there was an Indonesian Crew Show that was very good. I later asked the guitar player where he practices; in the cabin was his reply!
Thu Nov 26, 2009 Philipsburg, St Maarten Bob & I had a small breakfast in the Neptune Lounge. The pier at St. Maarten is long and it is one heck of a walk from ship to where the tour begins. This stop was the highlight of all the islands; perhaps it was the tour we chose. In "ports of call" "Caribbean" St Maarten", Bernard's Tours got rave reviews; so I chose him. We met at 9am and the tour left at 9:30am, there were 10 of us in the van. Our first stop was Orient beach at the point where nudity is on one side, clothing on the other, but there are topless walkers on both sides. I had been there before, but last time was a ship tour and we were at the beginning of the clothing side. This time I took a beach chair for $15 (last of the big spenders) for 1.5 hrs use. After 2 hours, we drove to a beach on the Dutch side where there was water, the beach, the road, then an airplane landing field, and next to this was a restaurant with photographers viewing; we viewed a 747 landing, the strip is that large. The landing wheels of the airplanes are about 30-50 feet above the bathers. Bernard was going to stop at a Dutch mall that sells expensive souvenirs but the vote was no, by all the people on board the van so he continued to an open air market. Most of the van decided against stopping here, but the few ruled so Bernard gave us 15 minutes. We made a stop by the old town, which is near the ship, most of the van got off. We arrived back at the ship about 3pm. Supper tonight was in the Pinnacle Grill on deck 2. This restaurant costs $20, turkey was not on the menu here but was on the menu at the Vista Dining Room. Tonight's show in the Vista Lounge on Deck 2 was Eric Buss, a comic and magician. He was not as good as last nights, the audience expected better and did not get it. However, I was able to make the 7:30 & 10pm shows. Tonight the Dessert Extravaganza in the Lido Restaurant between 10:30 - midnight (chocolate). As I am on a diet, I went to the Lido just to observe.
Fri Nov 27, 2009 at Sea Bob & I went to the Pinnacle Grill for breakfast. This is one of the free perks allowed Deluxe Verandah Suites. I next went to the Hudson room on deck 3 to hear future cruise consultant Vladka talk about Alaska; I have been there and should have gone to the Crow's Nest on 10 where Cruise Director Jason was interviewing Joel Mason. At 10:30am in the Vista Lounge, Cruise Director Jason presented a Disembarkation Briefing & Crew Farewell. I would have gone but have been to these before. Someday I would like to take a 30 day cruise, someday. Bob & I had a lunch for the mariner's society in the Vista Dining Room. Then I went to the Digital Workshop on deck 3 for classes at 1 & 2:30pm. It was near 4pm, so I went to the Spa then back to the cabin to dress for formal night. Tonight I wore my white dinner jacket. If I did not take the tuxes, I could have taken a smaller suitcase. At the table tonight in the Lower Vista Dining Room on deck 2, I spoke to one couple at the table the husband was a lawyer who was thinking about retiring; difficult for lawyers to do. The other couple, he is a mailman that will retire a year from now. Tonight at 7:30 & 10pm Stage & Screen by Westerdam Singers and Dancers; the entertainment was great. After the 10pm show was over I went to the Lido Restaurant on deck 9 for a late night snack.
Sat Nov 28, 2009 Half Moon Cay, Bahamas Bob & I ate at the Pinnacle Grill for breakfast again, then I went to the Digital Workshop on deck 3 for the class on "insert photo here". All the Digital Workshop classes are free. I was going to go ashore but there was a wait. Perhaps I did not want to go ashore bad enough. So I took a lounge chair on deck 9 and read. At noon went to the Lido Restaurant on deck 9 for lunch as the Vista Dining Room on deck 2 was closed. Then at 3pm I went to the Spa. At the Vista Dining Room on deck 2 for supper tonight there was the Master Chef's Dinner where the stewards danced, sang, and juggled as they served the meals. Then at 7pm I went to the Queen's Lounge on deck 2 for the Club HAL Talent Show (about 300+ kids on the 11/22 cruise). One act had 2 adults holding a tube with a child in the center. Various kids came to her asking if she had Hershey Bars, Kit Kat bars, etc. The answer to all was no. Finally one kid came up & asked "what kind of candy bar do you have"? Two suckers on a stick was the reply. Another skit had a boy, and various kids came up asking where he got his shirt, hat, etc. JC Penny was the reply. Next another boy came out wearing a towel wrapped around his waist; he was asked whom he was. JC Penny was the reply. There were other skits; the whole talent show had by HAL personnel. Then the Marriage Show Game again in the Queen's Lounge at 9pm. This is always fun. One couple was married 68 years with 69 a few weeks away. Some questions Cruise Director Jason apologized to the couple. At 10pm in the Vista Lounge on deck 2 for Joel Mason & Friends; a great show as usual.
Sun Nov 29, 2009 Ft Lauderdale The end of the 11/22/09 cruise and beginning of 11/29 cruise for us as we are doing back to back. Bob & I had breakfast in the Vista Dining Room. Then I went back to the cabin to sort the numerous papers given us for week one, most of which I threw out. The back to back passengers were told to meet in the Vista Lounge. Our baggage was left on the ship. From The Vista Lounge we were escorted off the ship, made our way to Customs (a zero count is required for Customs purposes), then back on the ship. The whole procedure takes about 1 hour. Also leaving the ship were the Cruise Director Jason, the Captain, the entertainment team remained as well as Joel Mason but the others left being replaced by comedian Julie Barr. Lunch in the Vista Dining Room was Indonesian. For an entrEe we were served soup which I found to be very spicy; I noticed one lady putting cold water in it. I noticed this too late, as mine had already been returned. The lunch itself was not bad. Then to the Lido Restaurant on deck 9 for a snack and the Lido Pool area to read. At 3pm I went to the Spa; supper in the Vista Dining Room. At the Crow's Nest on deck 10 at 7pm there was a Welcome Party for the Deluxe Verandah Suite passengers. It was here I met Michelle who is going to host the 11/29 meet and greet. Her cabin is 7046, a Penthouse Suite; mine 7048. Next the Game Show at 8:30 with Cruise Director Keith Fox in the Queen's Lounge followed by the Welcome aboard Show at 9:30pm in the Vista Lounge with Cruise Director Keith Cox and comedian Julie Barr.
Mon Nov 30, 2009 Half Moon Cay Bob & I had breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill then we took the tender ashore for HAL's Glass Bottom Boat Ride of 1 hour duration. I view it as a lazy man's way of snorkeling. There is a barbeque on Half Moon Cay but I returned to have lunch in the Lido Restaurant on deck 9, Lido Bar area to read, Trivia in the Crow's nest at 3pm. I went to my daily Spa at 3:30. Dinner tonight in the Vista Dining Room on deck 2 then saw juggler Thien Fu at 7:30 & 10pm. HAL could have done better.
Tue Dec 1, 2009 Grand Turk Bob & I had breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill, and then I went down to the future cruise consultant to make another back to back and cancel the one I had made. I met a man a few days ago who said that sometimes he takes a cruise then extends it 1 week while on board, he said that cruise lines will give him a cabin if one is available, they would rather sell a cabin than have it go empty. So that is what I am thinking; take a back to back for 2 weeks, bring medication for a month, then see if I can extend the cruise a week while I still onboard. I'll look into cruises when I return, but as I usually cruise solo, I will pick a ship based on single supplement. I went ashore to see what the shops had to offer then returned to the ship for lunch in the Lido Restaurant on deck 9; then the Spa about 3. Tonight was formal night and I did not wear the tux, just another jacket I packed, slacks, and tie; supper in the Vista Dining Room on deck 2. Tonight was the Grand Tour and Captain's Welcome Toast. What I liked about Captain Peter Harris is that when he introduced the ships Officer's, he gave a breakdown of each is responsible for. But tonight, unlike last week, the large Champaign did not bombard me with confetti. There entertainment by the Singers and Dancers of the Westerdam was very similar to last week. I did not notice that much of a difference between the Captain this week versus the Captain last week. But the Cruise Director this week had more experience than the Cruise Director last week.
Wed Dec 2. 2009 at sea Bob & I had breakfast in the Pinnacle Grille on deck 2. Then I went to the future cruise consultant on deck 1 to see how crowded cruises are in Jan. Next I went to deck 3 and walked the perimeter of the ship. The Captain invited Bob & I to the Pinnacle Grill for lunch. I left early to attend the Windows 7 Workshop in the Crow's Nest on deck 10 and left early to go to the Spa and hurried with that as I had the 4pm Meet & Greet with Michelle in 7046. Michelle did all the work though, I just attended. Captain Peter Harris, Cruise Director Keith Cox, and other crew members were also there. I have to agree with another review that the Captain and Cruise Director were personable and would always say hello. Supper tonight was in the Vista Dining Room but I left early to attend the 7:30pm show with Joel Mason in the Vista Lounge on deck 2. Joel uses audience participation to his advantage; his show tonight was a tribute to Elton John and was good as usual. Then the Marriage Game in the Queen's Lounge on deck 2 and Cruise Director Keith Cox ran it a bit different. He took a newlywed couple, a couple that had been married about 25 years, and a couple that had been married about 55 years. Next was the Joel Mason show at 10 in the Vista Lounge. After that Julie Barr for Late Night Adult Comedy in the Vista Lounge. She was funny and again audience participation, some of it not planned. Some of the remarks by the audience were so funny you could not make it up!
Thu Dec 3, 2009 Grand Cayman Bob and I had breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill on deck 2. I then went to deck 3 and took a walk outside in the heat & humidity. As usual there were people jogging or walking fast. I went with Bob to the Pinnacle Grill, got the meal free for signing for a future cruise. I did not go ashore, read instead near the Lido Pool on deck 9. To the Spa on deck 9, then to the cabin to change for supper. I wore boat shoes, no socks, and long pants that zipper to short pants. As I got down to the Pinnacle Bar I noticed people in formal dress. I asked and was told that tonight was formal night. Well I was not about to return to the cabin and change, instead Bob & I were going to the Pinnacle Grill. The steward told us that it was formal night, jackets were required, and proceeded to give us jackets. Now this is interesting; my brother asked for 2 lobster tails and was told the extra entrEe would cost $20. However in the Vista Dining Room there is no limit & no cost. Tonight was the last performance by the Singers and Dancers as they were leaving the ship Sunday. Last night Joel Mason told us that this would be great. It turned out to be roughly the same as last week with the addition of Joel Mason who was with the group when they first performed. Joel Mason was in the audience, front row, and I saw next to him.
Fri Dec 4, 2009 Costa Maya Bob & I had breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill; I got there early as the clocks were set back, and ended up reading to kill time. I met a man from Florida who has his own business repairing air conditioners and has not taken a vacation in years. This is the first cruise he has taken and he likes HAL because he was upgraded cabin wise, says the cruise cost him about $50/day. Last night at formal night in the Vista Dining Room, he and his wife had 3 lobster tails each. He said back home this would cost him about $200. I had a Spa appointment at 9:15, it cost $99. Earlier this week I asked them about the $99; they knew nothing about it. Last week they had the special so I figured they would have it again this week. For $99 I got a back rub, facial, head rub, feet rub. They put certain good smelly cream on you but I ruined it by taking a shower. From where the boat docks to land is about 1/8 mile walk. There is transportation but we were in port with another HAL ship. Besides the walk did me good; I browsed around the various shops looking for a deal, did not see one, so returned to the ship. Lunch in the Lido Restaurant on deck 9. Went for my daily Spa at 3pm then supper in the Vista Dining Rm. Tonight for entertainment there was the Mamma Mia Movie Sing Along in the Vista Lounge at 5:45 & 8pm, the Game Show at 10 pm in the Queen's Lounge and the Filipino Crew Show at 11:15pm. Tonight was also the Dessert Extravaganza in the Vista Dining Room, chocolate this and chocolate that, I had to say no as I was still on a diet?
Sat Dec 5, 2009 at sea Bob & I ate at the Pinnacle Grill on deck 2 for breakfast; then back to the cabin to pack and I managed to pack most of my stuff. Then I attended one of the classes in the Digital Workshop as I wanted to ask Chris the email address. There was the Disembarkation Briefing & Crew Farewell in the Vista Lounge on deck 2, I caught a few minutes of it but went to the Lido Restaurant for a bite to eat, however they were closed, setting up for lunch. So I went down to the Vista Dining Room for lunch, then back to the cabin to change to my bathing suit, next to the Lido Pool on deck on 9 to read. At 3pm I headed to the Spa for my daily workout, then to the cabin to change for supper. Now I don't know how I did this. Bob wanted to meet me in the Lower Vista Lounge on deck 2, but somehow I managed to sit in the Upper Vista Lounge on 3. The steward eventually came to me and said I belonged in Open Seating on deck 2, but the table insisted I stay. After dinner I went to the cabin to do more packing then attended the Family Karaoke Fun at 8pm in the Queen's Lounge. At 10pm there was the Farewell Variety Show with Joel Mason & Friends. This was not to be missed. Back at the cabin I put my #1 suitcase out for pickup. My carryon will be packed tomorrow.
Sun Dec 6, 2009 Ft Lauderdale Bob & I were going to eat in the Pinnacle Grill for breakfast, but we got there early. We were told yesterday that they would open at 6am but they were to open at 6:30am. Disembarkation was a breeze mainly because when Bob flies or with cruising embarks or disembarks he uses a wheelchair and crutches. We stayed in Ft Lauderdale Sunday night.
Observations: There was talk that the Casino lacked payouts The food was excellent; plenty of it. Something was going on all the time; as a matter of fact, too much. Sometimes they overlap. The Digital Workshops I mention are all free. Chris is there from about 9am to 8pm. There is hand sanitizer throughout the ship. A tux is not necessary, just a jacket and slacks and tie. I would not consider wearing anything less, but this is me. Laundry is available; it is free to those staying in Suites, but for others the cost is $45 for unlimited laundry for 7 days, unlimited pressing $30 for 7 days. Yes there is internet service $100 for 250 minutes.