Cruise from Cape Town to Fort Lauderdale
It started out with a price I could not turn down. It was an outside cabin on the lower promenade deck on a 22-day cruise from Capt Town, South Africa to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for less than ... Read More
Cruise from Cape Town to Fort Lauderdale
It started out with a price I could not turn down. It was an outside cabin on the lower promenade deck on a 22-day cruise from Capt Town, South Africa to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for less than $60 a day per person. Florida was still relatively cool and dry. That means that the daytime high is below 90 degrees and the humidity is around 80 per cent. I usually wait until the first of June before leaving Florida for most of the summer. That is why we had the time available for this "last minute" cruise.
Looking for more justification, I perused the ports of call. There were nine ports of call that would be new. In fact, the only place that I had been before was Fort Lauderdale. To be perfectly truthful, however, the only place that was really on my "to do" was Cape Town, South Africa. Most of the rest I had never even heard of.
Another motivation was that my last cruise four months ago on the Holland America, Veendam had been less than sterling. Don't get me wrong! It was a very good cruise but just a little to "Carnivalized" for my liking. I wanted to see if the Rotterdam was still in the tradition of the Holland America I had come to adore.
With all those sea days scheduled, I thought my wife and I needed another couple for cards etc. so I asked my brother and his wife to join us. They jumped at the chance so the decision was made to join the Rotterdam in Cape Town for the 22-day cruise to Fort Lauderdale, a leg of the Holland America 2009 World cruise.
We decided to schedule the flight to Cape Town a few days early to see some of the South African sights before embarking upon the cruise. There was so much that we wanted to do that the few days turned into five. We stayed at the Clarendon in Bantry Bay and the guesthouse was fabulous. The people were great. The breakfasts and tea times were not to be missed and the view from the guest rooms was to die for. The five days were jammed packed with day trips to the wine country, Robben's Island, the Cape of Good Hope, table rock mountain, the Victoria and Alfred shopping malls and a one day photo safari to the Aquila animal preserve. We were so exhausted that by the time we boarded the Rotterdam, we were looking forward to that first sea day.
Embarkation was a dream. Since the cruise was part of a World Cruise, there were only about 300 people embarking in Cape Town. Twenty minutes after we got to the dock we were in our cabin unpacking our hand luggage before hitting the buffet line on the Lido deck. There, we had the preview of the quality and variety of great food we were going to receive for the entire voyage. This was our 38th cruise and by far we had the best dining experience ever as far as variety, quality and service is concerned. In fact, my advice to HAL is "you got it right, don't change".
We quickly got into our routine. We had early seating for dinner so we would go to the show lounge after dinner that was about one hour before the show started. This usually assured us of a good seat down front. My wife, Velma, would read and I would work my Sudoku while waiting for the show to begin. The first evening the routine went off like clockwork.
The next morning I got to the Lido deck for coffee at my usual six o'clock and went out to the pool deck to work Sudoku and people watch. My wife joined me at about seven o'clock and Dick and Mary (brother and sister-in-law) joined us about half passed seven. We met a few people that had been on the cruise since the beginning. This was day 93 of their cruise. Needless-to-say, we had a lot of questions about such a long cruise.
On sea days, after breakfast Velma would do her water aerobics and I would lounge around and before you knew it, it was time for lunch. On days that we were in port we would take shore tours or go ashore on our own in the morning getting back in time to get a snack and rest before dinner. On sea days the afternoons were spent taking in the many activities on board or playing cards with Dick and Mary. One of our favorites activities was the afternoon movie. For the most part the movies were good considering the number of movies needed for such a long cruise and the differing tastes people had. There was so much to do that I could not see how anyone could not find something to his or her liking.
It was the third day on board that the routine was interrupted. When we got to the show lounge at our usual time "our seats" were taken. There were only two people in the theater and they chose to sit in our usual place. No problem, we just sat a row back. The next night when we arrived at our usual time we found four people in the theater and the other two were sitting where we sat the night before. No problem, we found seats in the same spot but on the other side of the theater. Evidently, these seats were not worth the effort for those world cruisers who embarked before we did to get to the lounge early enough to get them. From then on we watched the seating drama that took place each evening. Some times it was even more fun than Sudoku.
We soon found out that there was a difference between the "newbies" and the veteran world cruisers. Many of them had over ninety days to form their cliques. However, most of the passengers accepted us and some even liked the new blood on board.
We had our favorite cabin on Holland America. It was 3388 near the center of the lower promenade deck and just ten steps from the lifeboat station and about the same distance to the elevators and staircase. This minimized our walking and swaying and I thought that we would get enough exercise walking from the dining room to the theater anyway.
The music on board was outstanding. From 4:30pm until dinner, the Station Band played dance music in the Ocean Bar while the Peacefulls played in the Crow's Nest. They were both very good. However, we had to choose since they played at the same time before dinner. We finally settled on the Station Band simply because they were closer to our cabin and the dining room. However, we did get to listen to the Peacefulls during lunch on the Lido deck. After the show it was up to the Explorer's Lounge to listen to the Rosario Strings. The group were outstanding musicians and could play just about any song you requested. Here again we had to choose between the Rosario Strings and the piano bar and the strings won out.
Our ports of call in Namibia were Luderitz and Walvis Bay. They were quiet laid back towns and we enjoyed just walking around the towns for a few hours and getting back on the ship to enjoy the on-board activities. Many of the passengers took tours and had nothing by good reports but we preferred our favorite pastime, relaxing in the lounge chairs on deck or the easy chairs in the library when the weather got warm.
After Namibia, we island hopped all the way to Fort Lauderdale. St Helena was noted for the place where Napoleon spent the last six years of his life in exile. We also found it to be the home of Jacob's ladder, 699 stair steps from the town to the top of the nearby mountain. I climbed the first five steps, took some pictures and called it quits. We walked up the main street to the post office for some stamps, rested awhile in chairs on the porch of the local hotel and chatted with some locals before retracing our steps back to the dock to tender back to the ship. It was hard to believe that people lived on such a small island 1200 miles from the nearest land but they seemed to enjoy it.
Two days later we anchored off the coast of Ascension island. The sea was a little rough so we decided not to try getting on the tenders for the ride to shore. Their main claim to fame was their postage stamps and the fact that they were once a down range tracking station for NASA in the 1960's. On-board activities were going strong. "Yes Man" was showing at the theater and it was Dutch night in the dining room. We all donned our Dutch hats and had a ball. It was the birthday of Queen Juliana, the mother of the current Queen Beatrix and is called "Koninginnedag".
After four sea days we arrived at Devil's Island. We had not been able to visit Devil's Island last year on a repositioning cruise to Rome because of high seas so we were looking forward to this visit. After all we had paid dearly for those yellow fever shots last years and wanted to get use out of those shot records that nobody even asked about or looked at. The island was a pleasant surprise. It was beautiful with lots of flowers, greenery and animals the likes of which I had never seen. No matter what they call them, they still looked like giant rats. After about an hour of walking around the island it was back to the ship and on to Trinidad.
There was a light rain in Trinidad, the only bad weather we encountered the entire cruise. We took a tour of the city, the botanical gardens and took in a show at the local playhouse. The city of port of Spain was much larger than I had expected and had the usual traffic jams of all large cities we had visited all over the world. The government was renovating much of the city but the going was slow and the money scarce. When the older buildings are restored and the new convention center is complete, it would be nice to go back and visit the city again.
Barbados was the next island we visited and it was like most Caribbean islands but showed more affluence. We enjoyed a walk through Bridgetown where we bought some souvenirs before taking a taxi back to the dock.
Our final island stop was in St. Barts and it was a surprise. It is the most affluent island that we had visited in the Caribbean. The harbor was full of million dollar yachts and the town was full of up-scale shops. St Barts is a collectivity of France and the currency is the Euro. When we walked around the harbor, I stopped to read the menu at an outdoor restaurant and a hamburger with fries went for 18 Euros or about $25. It was time to return to the ship where dining was good and free.
Two days later we disembarked in Ft Lauderdale in time for my brother and sister-in-law to make a 10:00 am flight to Atlanta. It was tight but he made it. Disembarkation was quick without any problems. I love those small ships.
In addition to comfortable cabins and common areas, outstanding service, exceptional food and great music, the entertainment was as good as we have seen, especially on a long cruise. From production shows that were fabulous to Folkloric shows that were both entertaining and educational the shows covered just about every aspect of the entertainment spectrum. There was something for everyone and I liked it all. Steel drums and flaming limbo dancers, singing and dancing with costumes by Mackie backed by a band that could play anything was a joy to behold. There was a ventriloquist, violinist, mind reader, pianist, classical guitar player and male and female comedians, male and female vocalists and several singing groups.
Chita Rivera showed that she could still sing and dance on the stage of a swaying cruise ship in high-heeled shoes at an age approaching that of the Holland America passengers. It was hard to believe that it had been 50 years since I had seen the "West Side Story".
However, my favorite show was the singing group, The Unexpected Boys. They were four exceptionally talented young men with energy to spare that put on two great shows plus a cameo appearance that brought down the house even though we had heard the songs before. They could do it all. Whether it was songs from Les Miserable or solos from Jekyll and Hyde, barbershop or modern, they did it with a flare.
If you want to cruise, I suggest you start with the best, Holland America, and the best of Holland America is their world cruises. If you are like me and are not ready for a 100+ days on a cruise select a leg of the world cruise you like and go for it. You will not be disappointed. Read Less