This was my husbands 2nd cruise and my 8th (I think) cruise. This was my 2nd Holland America cruise, my husband's first. I thought the laid back clientele and more unique activities, such as cooking classes and computer classes, not to mention the food, would be something he would enjoy. That it left out of Ft. Lauderdale was also a plus. So on the day before the cruise, we hopped on a non-stop flight and eventually headed off to Ft. Lauderdale.
I say eventually because there was a problem with our plane being overweight. So they grounded us for about 45 minutes while they pleaded for 3 people to delay their trips. 1 couple did finally agree to, but noone else on the plane was budging. I guess we were all heading to a cruise. Finally the gate attendant threatened us in a harsh voice that since noone else would get off the plane, then 4 pieces of luggage were being removed and they wouldn't tell us whose. Soon the flight attendants took over the intercom and apologized profusely and guaranteed us that no ones luggage was going to be left behind. Over weight and all, we did make it to Fort Lauderdale safely.
We spent that night overlooking the ocean at one of our Wyndham properties in Pompono Beach. We rented a car for the day and enjoyed our short, but sweet, stay there.
Next morning our adventure continued. We dropped the rental car off at the Budget dealer closest to the port since it offered complimentary shuttle service to the cruise port.
Soon we were waiting in line at the port to board the ship. But only for a short time. The scanners quit working and we were all told to sit down. Passengers just arriving walked up and got in line and before they were made to sit down, the scanners would start working and we would be at the back of the line again, work our way up to the front, then the scanners would quit and we were made to sit again. This happened 3 times before we finally were able to board.
Once on board, we headed to the lido buffet and had a very good lunch. The food on HAL has been my favorite so far. Shortly after 1, our stateroom was ready so we eagerly went to check it out. This was our 1st balcony cabin and it was really nice. We were in the back of the ship in cabin VD4148, and only 2 cabins away from the elevators. This area of the ship had slightly larger balconies then the other balcony cabins and the cabin was a really nice size. We were able to catch a couple really beautiful sunsets and a morning rainbow from our balcony. When we weren't enjoying our room or eating, we enjoyed other parts of the ship. I attended 3 computer classes. We attended most of the nightly shows. Turns out the same headline performers that were on my last HAL cruise (on the western coast on the Oosterdam) were now on this ship now. I was actually happy to find that out. They were fantastic! The main entertainer, Joel Mason, played an Elton John tribute. The comedian was Derrick and had very good clean humor. The illusionist, Ceilan (sp), was traveling with his acrobatic wife and their children and dogs (who were part of the show). The HAL singers and dancers were entertaining. The Superstar's show was as hilarious as it was on the Oosterdam. The lounges were really nice. Should have spent more time in the Crow's nest with the wrap around observation deck and free game rentals, but we always seemed to be busy doing something. I also did the scrapbooking meet and we did the CruiseCritic Meet & Greet which turned out really nice. Got to meet the captain, hotel manager and the activities director. All were very personable and we managed to spend a couple hours there visiting with other cruisecritic members and enjoying complimentary mimosas or Bloody Marys. We met a lot of really great people. We had dinner in the restaurant 4 nights (3 with other passengers, all really personable and we'ld talk with throughout the cruise), 1 night at a table for 2. We got a free Pinnacle dinner from Sam's Club (who I booked the cruise through. They also gave us 2 $50 soda cards which we didn't use and got $50 obc, plus we also got another $75 obc as a booking incentive. So with our base rate being $869@ and another $139 in port taxes and fees, I felt we got a pretty good deal. Dinner at the Pinnacle was fantastic. We probably wouldn't have tried it if we had to pay the supliment ourselves, so I'm glad Sam's threw it in. We also ate at the lido every morning and a couple of evenings and found it to be very good. I would have liked to have gotten a spa pass again, but didn't figure we'd get enough use out of it, so we just hit the adult pool a couple of times. It was never crowded and they actually kept kids out. We also lounged on the decks a couple of times and even borrowed a cribbage board and played a game in rememberance of Dad. We enjoyed wandering around the ship. It was very tastefully decorated and I loved seeing all the real floral arrangements. As with every cruise, I (we) usually end up finding at least one crew member to be especially fascinating. This time one of them actually happened to be the pizza man, Arman. Ken even enjoyed the cruise enough that he decided we should do the onboard deposit for a future cruise and get the obc and reduced deposit rate incentive. Can't wait to start planning our next Dam cruise!
As soon as we were able to disembark, we headed out in search of a cheap city tour. We quickly found a bus tour for $20@, and were off to see the new city as well as the old city. San Juan is the second oldest European-established city in the Americas and is the 42nd largest city under the jurisdiction of the United States. We felt perfectly safe there among all the Starbucks, McDonald's, KFC's, ... . After a tour of the new city, we made a short stop at the Federal Courthouse. It was quite impressive with it's marble construction and domed center.
After completing the bus tour, we headed off to catch the free trolley and headed up to Fort San Felipe del Morro, or Morro Castle, which was built back in the 16th century. In 1893, Puerto Rico became US territory by terms of the Treaty of Paris which ended the Spanish-Amirican War. In 1942, concrete artillery observation posts and underground bunker were added to El Morro to defend against possible German attacks. In 1949 it became San Juan National Historic Site. In 1961 the US Army moved out of the fort and it became the jurisdiction of the US National Park Service. In 1983, the fort was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations. We easliy spent over 2 hours there. Didn't make it to the other fort, this time. But we did do a little shopping in the old city.
When early evening rolled around, so did torrential rains.
San Juan is definately a place we wouldn't mind returning to.