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Sail Date: January 2019
This was my 2nd Caribbean cruise and we brought 2 friends who had never cruised before. We wanted a smaller ship and also the likelihood of less young children, hence the choice of Holland America and the Oosterdam. I must say that the ... Read More
This was my 2nd Caribbean cruise and we brought 2 friends who had never cruised before. We wanted a smaller ship and also the likelihood of less young children, hence the choice of Holland America and the Oosterdam. I must say that the staff made the holiday the best, from the room service, sommelier, waiters, barkeeps, most of the folks were friendly, helpful and always willing to please - of course there's always a few exceptions so we just didn't go where we weren't treated the best! Overall we enjoyed the amenities onboard but a few things could be improved upon. The evening show entertainment while very good was VERY SHORT!!! I realize there's 2 shows most nights but each show was less than an hour which fell quite short of a really entertaining event. We also found many of the daily activities somewhat bland - there was no events during the day by the pool, which we had experienced on our other cruise which was very enjoyable and entertaining. As well on the other cruise there were nightly, adult interactive games - like a newly wed game etc etc. which gets everyone involved. I did miss this sort of activity onboard. So if you are looking for a really relaxing, laid back atmosphere, with little excitement, good food, drinks, and lots of rest - you will very much enjoy the Oosterdam. I would likely specifically give a shout out to our room attendants - Astrid and Ali, our wonderful wait staff - Von and Tre, bartenders - Junar (Jose), Paula, Ryan; all lovely to deal with and deserve a big hand! Our cruise director Becca also deserves a shout out as she too certainly went above and beyond the duties of a 'traditional' cruise director!! The signature beverage package was very useful and the Pinnacle Grill dinner was fabulous!! Overall a lovely holiday really - very enjoyable. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2019
We love Tim Timmons & Mercy Me so we went on the Mercy Me at sea cruise it was awesome except for the Holland America cruise line. The service in the main dining room was horrible they were not friendly at all. The menu was bad except ... Read More
We love Tim Timmons & Mercy Me so we went on the Mercy Me at sea cruise it was awesome except for the Holland America cruise line. The service in the main dining room was horrible they were not friendly at all. The menu was bad except for 3 nights out of 7 nights. The buffets are bad because you cannot take what you want you have to wait inline and be served. There is nothing to do on the ship thank goodness we had special events all week. The ports we did not get to go to the ports we were expecting to go because they claim that it was too rough waters. It was not rough except for 1 night but we were at sea that day. The fitness center is very small and the staff is not qualified. I would never go on Holland America if they did not have the Christian Cruises. I like the ships and how they look but they need more activities. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
Hollard America Oosterdam Jan 19-26, 2019 Great Cruise! -Had a beautiful cruise on the Oosterdam and lots of sunny, warm days! Embarkation was the best ever! We arrived shortly after 1:00 with no lines or waiting to board the ... Read More
Hollard America Oosterdam Jan 19-26, 2019 Great Cruise! -Had a beautiful cruise on the Oosterdam and lots of sunny, warm days! Embarkation was the best ever! We arrived shortly after 1:00 with no lines or waiting to board the ship. We went right to our balcony stateroom on deck 4 and were soon greeted by our wonderful cabin steward Yumus who took great care of our room and kept our ice bucket filled. I was thrilled that we had a bathtub, though it showed signs of age. -We joined our 4 friends on the Lido deck for cocktails, then the Muster drill, followed by dancing at our Sail Away party. We had “anytime dining” which worked well with little or not waiting at the main dining room. -Shortly after boarding, we learned that the Christian band Mercy Me was on board to give several prepaid concerts. We heard toward the end of the cruise that staff considered this group of passengers as a whole to be among the most courteous and kind. -We did not see more than 10 children, all of whom were well behaved. Most of the passengers seemed to be our age (early 60’s) and older. -We loved that there was a Happy Hour daily in the Billboard Lounge at 4:00 with buy one drink, get the second for $2. They brought appetizers and had Trivia hosted by our Cruise Director Becca. We had wonderful Whiskey Sours, Chocolate Martinis, Mudslides, and Bourbon and Diet Cokes. All refreshing! -At 6:00 daily in the Gallery lounge, they featured three $4 drinks which varied from day to day. They had Lemon Drop Martinis, Manhattans, Blue Margaritas, Appletinis, Classic Martinis, and Brandy Alexanders. They brought olives, bread stick crackers, potato chips and nuts. There were comfortable couches, wing back chairs and warm lighting where we felt like we were in our own family rooms with delightful servers to attend always with a smile. -The Lido buffet dining area was lovely with perfect lighting including lamps, nice upholstered chairs, and cloth napkins. Loved the made to order pasta bar and made to order salad bar. Pizza was also available. Food was served by the servers on request as you went through the line. There was a dessert and scooped ice cream area with toppings available. I was disappointed that they were out of waffle cones the three times I went there. At breakfast, there was a made to order crepes and waffle area. I loved the blueberry crepes. By the pool, there was a taco and hamburger bar. -Many mornings, we ordered room service including omelets, fruit, coffee, cereal, and rolls. Service was prompt and courteous. We were given a form to fill out nightly if we wished room service and place on our door knobs. -I was glad that I’d read the reviews and the Holland America policy ahead of time and knew we could carry on a carton of soft drinks, bottled water, and 1 bottle of wine per person. -The dining room was nice. I found the food okay, though a couple in our group loved it especially the onion soup, noodles and beef, and Weiner schnitzel. We liked that a cheese plate was available each evening for dessert. Dessert varied each evening. I especially loved the chocolate lava cake and key lime pie. -The public restrooms were all warmly lit, and I LOVED the rolled-up wash cloth to use to dry hands. So luxurious! -We heard the comedian Tim Kaminsky several times. He was clean and very good. One night there was to be a dancing show early evening but it was cancelled due to accident a performer had, so Tim was asked last minute to do another performance. He did a fine job. -We were to stop in the Bahamas our first day on Sunday, but had to cancel due to not being able to dock safely. We attended Mass at 5:00 pm. We were pleased a Mass was available but would have preferred a morning time. It was well attended with no extra seats available. -One morning, my husband and I attended a cooking demonstration at America’s Test Kitchen, but were disappointed to discover there were no samples available. Blueberry pancakes and artichoke and salmon omelets were featured, so it seems basic enough to provide small samples. I’ve attended shows on other ships and always had delicious samples. -We were to stop in Turks and Caicos, but due to weather stopped in Samana, Dominican Republic. We did not book excursions through the ship. We met a man who offered to take us on a motorcycle pulling a four person cart on a tour to a waterfall and a beach for $25 each. It was a bumpy ride seeing many small houses, some with dirt floors, and all with bars on the windows. We arrived at the path to the waterfall with locals telling us of the “5 minute walk” to the waterfall. It was really 20 minutes with many rocks and hills. Most of us were in flip flops crossing rock streams. Locals were along the path selling jewelry, paintings, and drinks along the way. One fellow climbed a tree yelling, “Monkey Man” and quickly descended the tree as we walked past with his hat out looking for tips. When we got to the falls, 3 young men were jumping off the falls as a guy counted to three, then passed the hat for more tips. We hiked back to where our motorcycle had dropped us off and rode to a small beach. We stayed about an hour anxious to return to the ship. It was an interesting adventure. -Our second stop, which was not scheduled due to weather was in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We went to a restaurant, did some shopping, and the guys walked around the fort. We found some wonderful Michael Kors purses at a good price. -Our final stop was in the Dominican Republic. We went to a large pool and had a wonderful day of swimming, water sliding, and hanging out at the pool. -My husband liked the casino and found the Craps Table attendants friendly. -We went to the BB King lounge a couple of times and the band was terrific! The sets were somewhat short. Overall, we found limited opportunities to dance. -Loved that liquor purchased in the onboard store was delivered to our room the morning of our last day at sea. -We would have liked an aerobics class and exercises in the pool. We’ve cruised Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian and were a bit disappointed that the Oosterdam didn’t feature gleaming brass staircases and a tiered balcony atrium with entertainment. I missed the entertainment crew led dancing opportunities, the hairy man contest, and Newly Wed Game. -Overall, the cruise was great! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2019
This was our second cruise with Holland America and we were impressed with the Oosterdam. The embarkation was the best we have ever experienced. After processing our boarding passes and receiving our room card we waited in a large area ... Read More
This was our second cruise with Holland America and we were impressed with the Oosterdam. The embarkation was the best we have ever experienced. After processing our boarding passes and receiving our room card we waited in a large area with a card number. When our number was called we walked on the ship and went straight to our cabin where we left our carry on stuff and headed for lunch in the Lido Market. The decor in our cabin was new, pleasant and well done. Our attendant Mardi did a great job checking on us and keeping the ice container filled. The Lido Market also is decorated beautifully. When we saw it at night it really was quite upscale looking and gave me a new appreciation for its attractiveness during the day. Food was simply outstanding in the Lido Market. Servers behind the buffet served us. We usually ate breakfast and lunch there and their coffee was the best. Our evening meal was 5:30 in the Main Dining Room 3. We were seated right on time at a table for 8 and had pleasant dining companions. We were able to enjoy several gorgeous sunsets while we were there for dinner. The Christian band Mercy Me had about 900 guests on this cruise so the overall age appeared more diverse. The band brought their families for a time of R&R and the actor in the movie "I Can Only Imagine" , J. Michael Finley was on this cruise with his family. The pool area had plenty of lounges and most of the time there were empty ones in the shade. The Lido pool was a good size and I was able to do my lap swim one of the days we were in port. Some things are out of our control and the weather in the Caribbean that week was one of them. We could not stop at Half Moon Cay for our picnic because the high winds made tendering dangerous. The next day was At Sea. Both days were sunny and pleasant. We also were able to see most of the lunar eclipse of the Blood Moon. Right at the last minute a cloud cover moved in and poof - it disappeared. On Tuesday we were diverted to Samana, Dominican Republic because of high winds and tendering issues at Cap Cana. The ship offered a few excursions but we enjoyed a walk around this port. Samana is where the whales spend time during the months of January through March although we didn't see any. Wednesday was spent in San Juan, Puerto Rico rather than Grand Turks due to high winds. I was disappointed about this because I enjoy the beach that is near the port where the ship docks. On Thursday we did dock at Amber Cove. This is a great place to play. We enjoyed the water slide and the pool area. This area has been developed nicely for the cruise ships. There is really a lot to do on this ship. BBC Earth Experience shared several good shows about nature in diverse parts of the world. The area called Billboard Onboard has two piano players that presented music and songs from Great Standards, On request (excellent) The 1970s etc. We stopped at their 7:30 shows after dinner. Mainstage performers were Tim Kaminski and Derek Floyd. Our cabin was 5136 with a balcony. There were no rooms across the hall from us and it was very quiet and pleasant. There is plenty of storage room. The beds, sheets and pillows were comfortable and clean.We were disappointed there was no night light in the bathroom. We enjoyed seeing Fox News on the TV in our cabin. One thing we really liked was the Navigator for our mobile device. We were able to check our phones for information on the ship, view our onboard statement, etc . We were invited to the Captain's lunch during one of our days at sea. It was very nice, well attended and Captain Rens van Eerten and the entire crew did a fabulous job to make our cruise safe and interesting. We chose to carry our luggage off the ship ourselves at the end of the cruise. This was so easy and well organized. Our shuttle to the Park and Cruise was waiting for us when we walked out. And just like that we were home! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2019
This was our very first time on HAL and we loved it. It’s truly a laid back and relaxing atmosphere. We rented a Retreat Cabana for the week and we absolutely loved it. It was well worth the money. Our cabin Butler, Carlo, was great. He ... Read More
This was our very first time on HAL and we loved it. It’s truly a laid back and relaxing atmosphere. We rented a Retreat Cabana for the week and we absolutely loved it. It was well worth the money. Our cabin Butler, Carlo, was great. He was very attentive. We had some issues with high winds and had to skip our first port. So we had an extra day at sea which made the cabana even more worthwhile. We enjoyed dinner at Pinnacle Grill twice and Canaletto once. Our cabin was 7038 and in a great spot. One thing we did discover is they changed the explorations cafe. It’s not like the pictures. It’s much smaller and part of the crows nest bar now. So if you’re expecting a “coffee shop” it’s not. But the coffee was great. Definitely will sail on HAL again. We have already booked for next year. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2019
We tookk the cruise as we got a fabulous rate for our suite for three. We had drink pack for 2. paid taxes and grats for 2 and 1 nite dinner at specialty.we padi tax and grats and din for son. The cruise had a more diverse age group ... Read More
We tookk the cruise as we got a fabulous rate for our suite for three. We had drink pack for 2. paid taxes and grats for 2 and 1 nite dinner at specialty.we padi tax and grats and din for son. The cruise had a more diverse age group than usual. Te cruise line attracts seniors but this date had more folk younger. The activity choices were AWFUL. If you like Bingo and Mahjong you were in paradise. Limited ne class for exercise and a handful of day activiies which included shore excursion lectures etc. Very discouraging. The food choices were POOR but the prep averaged a "C". The sommeliers encouraged drink pack holders to get bottles of wine NOT included on package(I knew that) and purchasing 15 dollar glasses of wine. It would be O but it was unrelentless no matter whether MD anytime dinign etc.Discouraging! Not once. twice but three times our beverage bill was charged for a drink at Billboard lounge their addition nest to casino.It was corrected bu once should have been enough.we played trivia theer daily as ONE thing we could do when NOT in a port. Billboard dueling pian disappointing. Talented pianists but their voices less than average. The BB King lounge FAB> Many empty seats at ALl shows .Troupe there was Hopping and Popping and WOW. The quartet in the lincoln lounge was extraordinary.Kudos to each musician and their professional talents and presentations. Yuo were a gleaming beam on the ship. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2019
I was so disappointed with this cruise on the Oosterdam. Have been on many Holland America cruises, but this was the worst. We had a signature suite (8091). The toilet did not flush for 5 days. Called for a plumber 6 times and had to ... Read More
I was so disappointed with this cruise on the Oosterdam. Have been on many Holland America cruises, but this was the worst. We had a signature suite (8091). The toilet did not flush for 5 days. Called for a plumber 6 times and had to wait on many occasions. Passenger service desk would place the call on hold for minutes at a time when water was coming over the top of toilet and we never put anything in it. we used bags for our paper and placed it in the wastebasket. The shower had mold. The carpets in cabins were old and dirty. The food was mediocre at best. Pinnacle grill was another upsetting evening. food was served cold and the crab legs were few to be had. The desert tasted old and like refrigeration. such a disappointment. the sea view pool was out of commission for 10 of our 14 days due to a malfunctioning pump. The ship needs another dry dock and bad. such a disappointment. not sure I can cruise Holland again. Have been on Carnival and Princess recently and I must say that they are way above Holland. The staff were friendly for the most part ,but passenger services just did not care about any issues that we had. Holland has a long way to come to make this right. Our cabin stewards were excellent, but the two of them had 29 cabins. unreal!! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2019
Embarkation went well, we were aboard at 11:30. Dining and cabin was excellent. MDR food was terrific PG was ok nice venue not sure it's worth the surcharge Had a retreat cabana booked which was great but windy. ... Read More
Embarkation went well, we were aboard at 11:30. Dining and cabin was excellent. MDR food was terrific PG was ok nice venue not sure it's worth the surcharge Had a retreat cabana booked which was great but windy. Ship needs maintenance we got stuck in the elevator going to cabanas on embarkation day ...stuck for about 1o minutes and working on and off for balance of our cruise. This made it difficult for staff to provide all perks. Aft pool was closed majority of our 14 day cruise. As stated the weather was very windy so did not get to Halfmoon Cay, Grand Turk and Cap Cana...we instead went to Samana DR, and San Juan again. Would be nice if they changed locations of happy hour, same time and places every day. We have been to these ports before and mostly disappointed about missing HMC and Grand Turk Just nice to get away. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2019
I loved the ship and the staff. Shore excursions was another thing. Terrible and scary drivers (not in the Dominican Republic.] Very rude staff at Magen's Beach. We felt rushed everywhere we went except for Dom. Rep. Next time I will ... Read More
I loved the ship and the staff. Shore excursions was another thing. Terrible and scary drivers (not in the Dominican Republic.] Very rude staff at Magen's Beach. We felt rushed everywhere we went except for Dom. Rep. Next time I will read reviews of other options rather than an overpriced excursion. The wait staff on the ship were the nicest and most polite people I have ever met.I felt like a queen in the dining room. It was disappointing that the outside pool stayed closed due to filtering problems. The cabin was nice, albeit quite narrow in places. I slept better than I do at home, possibly from the gentle swaying of the ship. The food was very nice and tasted good but it is an international cuisine. Many of us had to ask what food was called and what was in it! Omelet and crepe stations were great with no long lines.( We did not eat at:normal times.) I am so used to a predominance of Italian food where I live (Rochester, New York) that I had to adjust to none onboard. What? No garlic bread? I also do not eat red meat, lamb, veal and fish so sometimes my choices were limited. The Dutch desserts were wonderful, not too sweet. I absolutely loved this ship and would go back in a heartbeat. Classy, elegant decor and geared to the older crowd. Also, this was a 7 day cruise. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We sailed on the Nieuw Statendam 1/6-20/29 for a 14-day collectors cruise to the Western (week one) and Eastern (week two) Caribbean. Mitzi caught a head cold on the flight from MSP and did not feel great for a couple of days in week one. ... Read More
We sailed on the Nieuw Statendam 1/6-20/29 for a 14-day collectors cruise to the Western (week one) and Eastern (week two) Caribbean. Mitzi caught a head cold on the flight from MSP and did not feel great for a couple of days in week one. I caught something on board and felt icky for part of week two. There was definitely something going around the ship, even our assistant table steward missed a few days due to illness. We had a very nice cruise, but we are growing a bit tired of this itinerary. Here are some of our observations about the ship and ports. I didn't really notice any major problems related to this being an early cruise in the life of a new ship. Embarkation- HAL sent instructions saying to arrive 1:30 (deck 8 & 11 boarding). But we were at the mercy of the Ramada Inn shuttle schedule which left at 11:45 am. We arrived a little after noon. The right side of the wickets had a fairly long line, the left side line, where we were supposed to go, was very short (even number decks I think). We were whisked around to the empty 4-5*/Neptune line and got our key cards very quickly. We were on board and to our room before 1:00. Our luggage arrived within an hour or two. We were unpacked long before muster drill time and set out exploring the ship and taking pictures. Muster drill was by the front desk for our group and was mostly painless. The Ship- It really did have a “new car smell” when we first boarded. It is very much like the Koningsdam in colors, layout, and artwork (quite modern, traditionalists might not be impressed). The big change is the creation of the Rolling Stone Rock Room and moving the Lincoln Center Stage to the “Queen’s Lounge” area which they now share with BB King. They also moved the appetizer bar in the Billboard bar into a corner from its original location in the middle of the room on the K. This worked much better IMO and allowed for a small dance floor area in the Billboard bar. The Crows Nest bar has changed and now incorporates the coffee bar. The old Explorations Café coffee bar area has been taken over by the EXC excursion desk. This seemed to work OK IMO. The Crows Nest still has lots of comfy seating, puzzle tables, and a reasonable number of books (cannot comment on the quality, we brought our own reading material). It remains a nice quiet spot to sit during the day. I do not know if it was used much in the evenings. I did not head up there for drinks since they did not have a Crow’s Nest happy hour. The room on the port side of the Crow’s Nest (I had heard it referred to as the Captain’s Corner) now has rows of upholstered chairs facing a flat panel display. It was used for some EXC presentations but it seemed empty most of the times I wandered by. The ship can handle about 2700 passengers and I believe we were pretty full for week one. It never felt crowded anywhere on the ship. The MDR- The room was bright and pleasant IMO and very much like the K. We had late (8:00 pm) fixed dining (nice table for two by a window, but it was dark and you could not see anything). The dining room did not seem overly noisy to me. The first week seemed to have more tables occupied than the second week. There was no sign of the Yum Yum Man or his cart of goodies; hopefully it will show up eventually. The food was of the same high quality (IMO) that we have come to expect. My biggest complaint was that the menu for week two seemed identical to week one. I do not recall so much repetition from our previous 14-day collector’s cruises. Also, there were no chilled soups! The Lido- We only had occasional breakfast and lunch bites in the Lido. It was laid out much like the K but had sinks for hand washing instead of the whirligigs you stick your hands into. The food was fine and it did not seem too crowded, but maybe my timing was just fortunate. It did not seem that hard to find tables, but many people went out by either pool with their food. There were sushi (rolls) and sashimi at lunch, but not a huge selection. We did not try any of the late-night offerings. And I did not see any bathrobes in the Lido! The Tamarind- We ate there once and it lived up to its billing as our favorite HAL restaurant. The room seemed bigger and they do use some outdoor seating (at least when in port). The deck plans for the K and NS seem to show they have identical square footage, so the apparent size difference may be due to the different layout for Nami Sushi and the Tamarind bar (we did not try either). The Pinnacle, Canaletto, and Sel De Mer- We skipped these this cruise. I have avoided Sel de Mer because the idea of an a la carte restaurant on a cruise ship bugs me. However, a new acquaintance on this cruise (Sir Robert) went and said his bill (including 5* discounts) was only about $20. I might have to give it a try! The Dive-In- Same menu as on other ships and the burgers, dogs, & fries are delicious as always. But now they have milkshakes! We did not try them since we were already eating too much. I think they were around $5. The New York Deli- Again, same good quality as on other ships. We had pizza a couple of times but did not get any deli sandwiches this cruise. We also did not get around to trying the late-night snacks (too much food, groan!) although they sounded good. I found the NY Deli to be a great “secret” breakfast spot. They were never that busy when I stopped by, there were plenty of tables available, and pitchers of orange juice and coffee carafes that were self-serve. They have a good bagel selection, including a breakfast bagel with egg, cheese, and ham. The new treat was Breakfast Pizza! They had about 4 different choices. I tried one with cheese, bacon, and two sunny side up eggs which was very good. It was really enough for two people. The Dutch Café- This is a very pleasant spot for a snack. We only stopped once after a shore excursion and had pea soup, grilled ham & cheese sandwich, and fries – pretty good stuff. I kept meaning to stop for bitterballen, but never quite made it. Something to try on the next cruise! The Happy hours- The main Happy Hour was in the Billboard and Rock Room bars from 4-5 pm. Standard buy one get one for $2. It could get quite busy, but cleared out by 5:30. The self-serve appetizers (hot and cold) in the Billboard were usually pretty good and, for the most part, they kept appetizer bar stocked. We developed a small group of 3-7 people that would get together during happy hour for conversation. There was some kind of happy hour at the Blend at 9:00 pm. I never stopped by. It seemed like it was wine only and we always had enough wine with dinner. Club Orange- My travels around the ship did not take me by Club Orange very often. The few times I went by at breakfast or dinner, it did not seem very active. They did seem like they were using the kitchen area, but I could not tell if it was for food prep or plating-up. I actually like the room as a restaurant venue – I am not sure Club Orange is the best use for the space. America’s Test Kitchen- They had new recipes and the presentations were nicely done. The problem, IMO, was that the World Stage was not a good venue for it. You were far from the cooking area and they did not have good enough camera angles and close-up to allow you to see the details of the food preparation. Billboard Onboard- The piano duo of Debby and Nate (or was it Nat?) were very good, probably the best I have seen on HAL. The pianos were real! With strings!! They played very enthusiastically (and skillfully) and their singing was quite good. They usually drew a big crowd. As soon as their 45-minute set was done the Rolling Stone rockers started up. They switched on and off throughout the evening (three sets each). Rolling Stone Rock Room- This is a brand-new idea and probably needs some work to hit its stride. There were five guys (no fries) – two guitars, one bass, drummer, and keyboards. I enjoyed them but Mitzi was unimpressed – she did not like their versions of rock classics. Musically, I thought they were fine and talented. The vocals seemed like the weakness (not bad, just could stand improvement). I am not sure how extensive the playlist is, but I did not hear any duplications (but I was not there 14 nights straight!). It is loud, so I would not sit too close to the front. I definitely enjoyed it, but then I like hearing covers of songs that do not sound identical to the originals. Lincoln Center Stage- The five ladies were excellent musicians. I did not go too often, but was impressed when I did. The “Queen’s Lounge” area is a much better spot for them than where they were on the K (now the RSRR). Their performances were usually well attended. BB King- This iteration of BB King had a really nice sound. I did not recognize any of them from prior cruises. I also did not go often enough to tell if they suffered from the same problem I have seen with other BB Kings. That being a too small play list so that they seemed to be playing the same stuff over and over. They did play some of the same songs I have heard on other cruises, but they sounded great doing it! The Shops- The selection seemed minimal, but the quality seemed improved. Some prices seemed awfully high. I did buy a NS inaugural season Christmas ornament for next year’s tree for $7.99. Wine list/packages- The same basic Cellar 1, 2, and 3 wine packages were available and the wines offered were essentially identical to last year. Mariner discounts were applied. The regular wine list looked to be brand new with lots of more expensive choices. I wanted to get photos, but kept forgetting my camera or phone. I will try again this March. There were still some $35-45 per bottle choices, but they seemed scarcer. The Ports- Half Moon Cay – We did our usual clamshell and laid about on the beach and swam to cool off. The Island BBQ was the same as always - OK, not great. But laying out in the sun wears you down and one needs to refuel! We shared the island with the Zuiderdam. Montego Bay, Jamaica – None of the tours appealed to us and we were docked too far away from town to walk. So, we stayed on board to explore the new ship. Georgetown, Cayman Islands – There were at least six ships in port so we thought the town would be very crowded. The last tender from the island was around 3:30. It did not seem worth the tender ride in for a short, crowded visit to the various shops. Cozumel, Mexico – Mitzi was not feeling well so we abandoned our plans to stroll through town. Nassau, Bahamas – We went to the Ardastra Gardens after a small bus tour through town. It was a zoo getting off the ship and to the buses as there were 4-5 ships in port. The gardens were OK and the marching flamingos were amusing. I am glad we went once, but I will not be in a hurry to return. We had a picture taking stop at Fort Charlotte on the way back to the pier. There was not enough time to go into the fort and the entry fee ($5-6) was not included in the tour. San Juan, Puerto Rico – It was Calle San Sebastian festival day when we were in port (along with a Carnival ship). Even though the festival did not start until around 7:00 pm, the preparations had everything in a state of chaos. Our tour was to go to the two forts followed by shopping in Plaza Colon. The police would not let our bus drive to El Morro (the fort guarding the harbor) so we went to San Cristobal (the fort guarding the land-side of the city) first while our tour company tried to sort things out. San Cristobal is well worth seeing (2nd time for me) and was enjoyable again. When we got back to the bus, our guide said his boss talked with the police chief and we now had permission to head to El Morro (I am sure no money changed hands). The bus got as close as possible, but it was still a fair walk to the fort. The setting is beautiful, but there were a lot of festival preparations going on. The fort is older than San Cristobal and rather different in construction and purpose. It was well worth the visit and long walk. After the forts we did walk around Plaza Colon for a few minutes, but we were hungry for a Dive-In burger so we headed back to the ship. St. Thomas, USVI – We were docked in Havensight along with a Viking cruise ship. We did the St. Thomas Island Drive which took us to Mountain Top. There are impressive views once you get through the huge gift shop (in their defense, the prices and selection were OK). We were then supposed to go to Drake’s Seat, but the Viking guys had the parking area filled up. So, we went to the “Valdemar A. Hill, Sr. Drive Scenic Overlook” instead. There were impressive views of the Havensight pier, downtown, and Crowns Bay. You could also see Saint Croix in the distance. There was the option of being dropped off in town, but no one was interested. I did wander about the Havensight Mall before going back to the ship. Half Moon Cay – Another clamshell day. I also tried to lay in the sun to try to bake away my head cold (while trying to avoid sunburn). We shared the Island with the Volendam. Read Less
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