Thanksgiving 2009 Cruise November 22, 2009 to November 29, 2009
We have cruised 8 times before and this is our 3rd cruise on Holland America. We are Tommy (46 yr old), my darling wife (44 yr old), darling daughter (19 yr old) and son (17 yr old but 6'7 and 300+ lbs).
Sunday - Nov 22 - Embarkation
We came to Tampa last night and stayed at the Country Inn and Suites on Falkenburg Road. Rate was $58 per night and a good clean big room with 2 queen beds. Just a couple of miles from the port and about 10 minutes total so very close and good. We arrived at the port (Terminal 3) about 12:10. Parking in the covered parking across from the terminal is $14 per day (about $100 for a 7 day cruise). A valet told us that we could valet park the car for only $15 more total. The benefit is that the valet parking is right beside the terminal so went you get back, you just tell them you are ready and your car is there beside the terminal ready to load within a minute or 2. We decided to pay the $115. A bus of elderly people unloaded right before we went up to the waiting area so our wait was probably longer than usual. Our wait in line was about 30 minutes then we went through security screening. No need to take things out the carry on baggage except for laptops. Then it was time to fill out health forms that no one has been vomiting and showing signs of stomach flu or head cold type flu. Then there is a cattle type waiting area (ropes and stuff like in a fast food restaurant or Disneyworld). A little more waiting in that and we got photographed and our room keys. We boarded the ship about 1:15 PM and the cabins were to be ready about 1:30 so we headed to the Lido buffet for lunch.
I was very pleasantly surprised at the food in the Lido. Wide assortment and all was very flavorful. The biggest disappointment is that HAL no longer sells unlimited soda cards. Now, for $18 plus gratuity you get a card good for 20 glasses of soda. That works out to about $20.70 per card and thus a little over $1.00 per glass of soda (glass, not can). We drink a LOT of soda and I just could not do $1.00 per glass. We brought 4 12 packs with us in our luggage and had no problem getting it on board. The rest of the time we will just stick to water or iced tea. While we were eating, the general announcement came on that all cabins were ready. We finished and began our introduction to one of the problems others have complained about on the Ryndam - the elevators. Many were out of service (being used to move luggage) and so it was very slow. The cabin was nice and we met our cabin steward (Wahyu) and his assistant (Hans). We had some special requests (change the bed set up, remove the in room sodas ($2.00 each) and requested an extension cord). He was very nice and responsive. A quick tour of the ship then it was settle down to wait for the wonderful life boat drill we always get to enjoy on every cruise. Things were pretty normal and, as usual, some people did not show up for the drill so it made it take longer. Then I was off to my favorite place to watch sail-away - The Crow's Nest. Such great seats and great views. The cabin was awfully hot so I hoped that turning the thermostat down would cool it off but right now (at 11:00), it is still awfully hot.
After that, we went to watch "The Proposal" in the Wajang Theater. All four of us got popcorn so were excited about that and the theater was not very crowded. Enjoyed it and had just enough time to get ready for dinner.
Ate in the Rotterdam dining room for supper. Nice table with just the four of us and next to a window. The waiter is Anata and his assistant is Eka. Neither was very personable or friendly but they got the orders and did their job. We were spoiled by great waiters on the last several cruises and it is early in this trip. The food was pretty good and after the dinner, we went to the first night show. The show was not the usual overview of entertainers so I missed that but it was an ensemble song then several games between a blue team and red team made of fellow cruises. Funny games that were quick and entertaining.
Key West is tomorrow at 11:30 so hope to get a good night of rest.
Monday - Nov 23 - Key West
The cabin never did cool down much so we all slept pretty hot. We woke up late (10:30ish) and began to take our showers. Shower was good and provided freebies (shampoo, soap, conditioner, lotion, etc.) were fine. We went to get some breakfast/brunch as the ship docked. Docked right on time and at 11:30 the announcement came that we could go ashore. We docked at the old Navy Base and apparently there are two docks at Key West (I was not aware of that before). Last time we were here, we docked at the other dock and it was a quick walk right into Old Town. Thankfully, there is a free trolley from the Navy Base dock right into the middle of Old Town (sponsored by the Conch Train tour so they do a little sales pitch on the way and let you out right at their main depot but it was fine and we have done the Conch Tour and it is really good). Since we did the tour last time, we decided to ride around on our own this time. We rented a cart from the vendor located at the Conch Train tour depot. The cart was a 4 person golf cart and it was $90 for 3 hours. I was disappointed it was not the little car things but the golf cart was fine and did its job. I did check with another vendor while we were riding around and found that the car looking carts rented for about the same thing and you can reserve them online at http://www.infokeywest-scooter.com. Many rent jet skis as well as Harleys, scooters and the carts.
We rode all around Key West and had a good time. We stopped at a marina looking for soft drinks and there were people gathered at the docks. We walked down and found that one of the marina workers was giving manatees fresh water. What that means is that he was using a hose to hang in the water and the manatees would put their mouths on the hose to get fresh water. We saw about 5 there getting water so it was fun to watch them. All had scars on their backs from being run over so I do question whether or not it is wise to give them fresh water at a marina where boats will be frequently moving. We enjoyed it and especially enjoyed key lime pie and key lime sugar cookies from Kermit's. No problems getting back to the ship. Seeing the Ryndam near a Carnival ship parked at a neighboring dock, I noticed how much smaller the Ryndam was. It does not seem much smaller than the other HAL ships I have been on (Veendam and Zuiderdam) or the other ships so I was surprised to really see that it was smaller.
One difference is that the show for late diners (we are at the 8:00 seating) is at 7:00 so we will have to go to the show dressed for dinner. On other cruises, the show for late diners was earlier so there was more time between dinner and the show. The show itself was about average. The singers were good and the dancers good and skilled but there was nothing really spectacular. It was "Hits of Broadway" and we have seen that show on other cruise lines or ships. Dinner was casual again and not quite as good as last night. Our waiter is not any better yet but the helper is very personable.
There was a problem with my credit card so I had go to the front desk to try to straighten that out. Guest services was not all that pleasant to deal with and I had more trouble than usual understanding their English. I reported the temperature problems in the cabin and they said they would have it checked out. Later that evening, they called and left another message that they forgot to swipe the card through the first time so needed me back down there again. I reported that the room was still hot and the clerk, who spoke better English, promised to send a fan and did so. Tomorrow is a sea day so looking forward to that.
Nov 24 - Tuesday - AT SEA
Room remained hot and even though it was calm seas according to the captain, we could really feel the ship moving. Did not make anyone sick but just could really feel the rolls. Once again I am reminded that the Ryndam is a smaller ship than we are used to being on. Despite the heat, we all slept very late. Had lunch in the Lido buffet again and it was again pretty good. Nice variety (Italian, Asian, salads, sandwiches and Bistro (Swiss steak, fish, pork, etc.). Each type is a small station and the stations duplicate on each side. One minute, there will be a lot of people at a station and then a minute or two later, there is will be no one there so do not let a line dissuade you. Numerous attendants walking around clearing tables and helping so it went well.
Pool games were fun to watch and the girls in our group liked lying in the sun while I enjoyed just sitting in the Crow's Nest listening to my book on CD. We had some light rain in the afternoon so that drove people inside. It was a formal night and the reception to meet the captain was right before the 7:00 show so we got dressed and joined the captain for a toast. The show was a ventriloquist named Mike Robinson. Some stale jokes but overall he was entertaining. Dinner took a long time and our waiter said it was because of long lines in the kitchen. The food was okay but once again not as good as other times and the waiter remains very uninterested.
Overall impressions thus far are that this has not been as good a cruise as prior ones. In part due to the heat seemingly in every room and in part due to the other cruisers. There are far fewer middle aged people, young couples or children on this cruise and far far more older cruisers. I think everyone can and should have a good time on a cruise but in this instance, when I say older cruisers, I really mean very senior citizens with significant mobility issues and other issues. They stop at random in the hallways, cannot hear instructions and it seems we are constantly having to dodge a wheelchair or Rascal scooter. The middle aged and young couple and children are not very friendly so far. The children that are aboard are very boisterous and in the Main Dining Room, most of the children near us are running about while we are trying to eat yet the parents appear completely uninterested in the disturbance they are creating or else the parents are busy shouting across the tables to someone they know from another table. I have heard far too many cruisers (of every age) giving staff a lot of grief about silly things and just behaving in the stereotypes of "ugly Americans". This is also the first cruise in a long time that there was not a Cruise Critic Meet and Greet. Although I put my picture with my messages in the roll call thread, no one else did so I have no way to recognize the other Cruise Critic passengers and so far, I assume none of them have recognized me.
We really want to have a fun cruise so I am hopeful that tomorrow in Belize, things will be better.
Nov 25 - Wednesday, Belize
We were to dock at 7:00 AM (docked meaning anchor offshore since Belize is a tender port). Because the water around Belize City is too shallow for cruise ships, there are many high speed tender companies who provide tender services. These tenders are at no charge to passengers and are pretty large boats. It is about a 15 minute ride into the city. We were here several years ago but things have really changed in the last few years. The port facilities are larger and remain pretty nice. As you would expect, although there is shopping at the port facilities, they are the usual tourist gimmicks and prices but there is no requirement of a prescription to buy the drugs at the pharmacy apparently although the price is still pretty high.
We were booked with Cave-tubing.com and following their instructions was clear and easy. As we excited the port, there was a rep there waiting and holding a sign with our name. He checked us off of a list and called over a guide named Evan to take us for our excursion. We had ordered the ATV and Cave Tubing combo tour. Evan loaded us into a van (Toyota Sienna) and said we would go ahead rather than wait for the bus. He was exceptionally knowledgeable, friendly and fun. Once again, I was impressed with how nice and polite most Belize people are and about their pride in their country. According to Evan, tourism has grown from about 200K when we were first in Belize to about 1.4M projected for this year (the actual numbers will be a little bit lower due to the worldwide recession but not by much).
Our first stop was the ATV site. It is about 5 minutes from the cave tubing location and was about an hour ride from the port. During the ride (which was very comfortable since it was a nice van), Evan told us a lot about Belize, its people and the countryside as we passed. He also discussed that it takes 6 months of school to become a licensed tour guide and how the government is trying to be careful about avoiding any bad reputation for tourists. The ATV site was a large central "hut" type structure that housed a restaurant and gift shop with a large storage shed in the back housing a large number of modern ATVs and a smaller shed in the front where they had several ATVs waiting and running. There were restrooms and changing rooms if desired and they offered helmets if we wanted them. They warned us that we would get muddy. Their suggestion was to wear what we intended to wear while cave tubing and that is very good advice. Definitely wear things you want to get very muddy and be sure to bring a full change of clothes if you do this or cave-tubing. They showed us how to operate an ATV and were very thorough as they stressed that safety was very important.
Evan led us on the ATV trail. It was a constructed trail with lots of muddy places and intended to give riders a good time tiding through the jungle. The ATVs were in second gear the whole time so while speeds were not break neck fast, neither was it putt putt slow. The trial was designed to be muddy most of the time and a key factor is to be aware that the ATV in front of you will throw mud on you if you get too close. The riding is about 25-30 minutes which was long enough to have a good time but not too long that it got monotonous. One of the people at the ATV site took our camera and ran ahead of us to be waiting and take pictures so we got a lot of pictures. They had certain areas where we each went one at a time so he could get a good picture with our camera. Everyone really enjoyed it although of course my teenage son wanted to have gone much faster (even though he was covered with the most mud and struggling to fight a big grin that kept spreading on his face).
We then loaded back into the van and drove to the cave tubing site. Wow, this had really changed. Before, it was a horrible dirt road down to a very primitive area. Now, it is a nicely paved road to a national park checkpoint and large parking lot. The old cement bathhouse was gone and in its place was a very modern and nice restroom facility for men and women (separately) that also included showers and changing rooms. They were a new very large building housing a gift shop and museum display. The walkway path to the river was also changed from a dirt path to a nice "crush and run" type path. The next part was about the same in that it is about a 30 minute walk through the jungle along the river to the part where you get into the river. The path is very smooth and wide so it is no problem if you are able to walk around a mall. The walk is hot and humid and you will be carrying your tube. You should not take anything on the trial that you do not intend to have very wet and float back with you since there is no storage facility when you get away from the parking area. Our guide let us put all of our things in the van and locked it and showed us that park rangers patrolled the parking area. During the walk, Evan pointed out many features of the jungle including plants and survival tips. We even got a chance to eat some termites. At the end of the walk, we got into the river to begin.
Everyone had a tube, a life jacket and a headlamp. Last year a woman died on the trip so the rules changed for tubing. Now, everyone is required to wear a life jacket. In addition, while last time we floated separately and the guide was nearby, now tours are required to stay linked together and there is a maximum number of tourists to guides. Linked together means that each tourist is connected to the tourist in front of him by putting his feet under the arms of the front tourist. The guide then moves from the front or the back to steer the chain or slow us down. It was actually quite comfortable. Last time, there was a lot of paddling and struggling to go where the guide indicated. This time, we did not have to paddle and Evan was able to steer us right where we needed to be. Last time, I bounced my behind on many rocks but this time, there were just a few areas where I felt the bottom and prior to each, Evan gave us the oft-heard "butt's up" warning.
This time down the river was so much better than last time that I really cannot describe it well. It was relaxing, beautiful and completely fun. I do not think I could say enough good things about the excursion (ATV and cave tubing) and about how nice and entertaining Evan was. We saw several tour groups from ship tours and saw how their guides rushed them along and really ignored a few safety matters. The guides were clearly trying to hurry and get done so they could get another group. Our trip was nothing like that and I cannot recommend enough that people consider using a private operator since we got more time, more attention and all for much less money.
After we got back to the parking lot, I was amazed at how full it was and how many big buses were there. Then the skies opened up and we had a lot of rain for a bit. We changed and headed back to the ATV site so we could buy some lunch if we wished. It was $5.00 per person for some great stewed chicken, cole slaw and vegetable rice. Drinks were $1 and T-shirts were $10. The food was very good and we were all very glad we got a chance to eat some. We got back to the port and my wife and daughter headed back to the ship. Although it began to rain again, my son and I decided we would leave the port area on foot to walk around a bit. We quickly learned that was a bad idea since the people outside the port were like a pack of wolves eyeing a couple of sheep. They were nice enough and not scary or anything but we saw that between offers to sell us all types of legal and illegal substances as well as offers to take us all types of places, and the rain, we decided we were better off back in the port and headed back to the ship. That's were things went bad. While waiting for the next tender, I stepped on some very slick tiles and took a nasty fall. I tried to catch myself with my left hand but was unable to stop the fall and crashed into the cement on my right ribs. In addition to the humiliation of such a lovely fall in front of many people I managed to really hurt my left wrist and right ribs pretty badly but I did not want to admit it. Back on the ship, my wife made me go to Medical to get checked and they were very nice in the medical office. They did some x-rays and the doctor told me that I would just be very sore for the next few days and gave me some powerful pain relievers. (update, upon arriving home still in pain, I had X-rays done and learned I have 2 broken ribs - so that adds to the fun I suppose)
I was in a good bit of pain and the menu for the main dining room did not appeal to any of us so we ate in the Lido buffet for dinner. I was really surprised there was no show at all other than a "Call my Bluff" game and then a very late night comedy show. No singing or other show around dinner time. Since there was no show, we went to the movie which was "The Hangover". Great movie that we loved but it was especially funny to watch all the people who had no idea what they were getting into end up leaving as they realized the movie was NOT kid friendly and greatly offended some of the senior citizens. Everyone else seemed to really like it just like we did.
Tomorrow is Santo Tomas. Since the fellow cruise critic cruiser did not finalize the plans to get us a private tour with one of his suppliers, we figured we were on our own.
Nov 26 - Thursday - Thanksgiving - Santo Tomas de Castillo
We could not get a clear idea of the available options for Santo Tomas. A fellow member of cruise critics mentioned in the roll call that he had a connection in Santo Tomas who was going to arrange us a private tour but the member never announced any final details and, as I mentioned before, I have not met any of the actual cruise critic members who responded in the roll call. So, we went ashore to see what we could arrange or figure out.
This is a docking port and we were the only ship currently docked. Very close to the dock was a large building. Other than the large building, there were only warehouses. In the large building, there were 3 main areas. It was all open but in the first area, there were booths along the walls. The booths were selling tours and although the operators called to us, they were also very polite and friendly. There was a large sign showing the price for tours but the operators each promised us a lower fee so although the advertized price is one thing, don't be surprised if you get a lower one. The middle portion was a food court where there were native people dancing. There was also a booth where they would stamp your passport for free or give other information. The back third was composed of several rows of merchants selling locally made goods or goods claimed to be locally made. There were also taxies and busses waiting outside the area and offering to take you to various places if you wished. We did not see anything that really interested us so we decided to just go back aboard the ship.
Lunch was in the Lido buffet and again I saw the staff servers behind the counters behaving rather uncaring and almost rudely to many passengers. I experienced it directly too by getting some shrimp off of the salad bar and asked the person there for some cocktail sauce. He looked at me then went back to doing something else. After getting his attention again and asking again for some cocktail sauce, he sighed and walked away. I stood there amazed and after a few minutes standing there, someone else walked up behind the counter to do something. I asked this person for some cocktail sauce and at least he responded and said that it was down in a storage room below so he would try to get some in a few minutes. I went to my table (which was in view of the salad area) to eat the other things and wait. I saw him doing other things and obviously making no move to go below to get the cocktail sauce. I never saw the first person again. After a while, a cook walked by and asked if there was anything we needed and I told him I was waiting to get some cocktail sauce and he said he would check on it. Still nothing. Finally, a waiter came by and asked and I told him the same thing and he politely told me that he would need to go and get some from storage but would be right back. Sure enough, a few minutes later, he was back with the sauce for me and I thanked him profusely and promised I would mention his name on my comment card. So thanks Juli, it is sad that so many others did not care but I am thankful that you did and that you helped out.
We took naps and I have been surprised at how seldom we have seen our cabin steward or seen him do anything in the room. We have repeatedly had to ask other stewards for ice and towels and that is very surprising. It is also very disappointing.
The show was "impressionalist vocals" by Tony Pace. Basically, he imitated a few singers such as Louie Armstrong, Tom Jones and Willie Nelson and talked a great deal. I did not enjoy it at all. My wife and daughter however thought it was pretty good. Dinner was good and included traditional Thanksgiving fare. This was our second formal night. Up was the movie playing but we managed to miss every showing although we wanted to see it. I can safely confirm that the ship's doctor knew what he was talking about as today, I am indeed much sorer. Worst of all, I have almost no use of my left arm due to the pain and nerve twitches in the forearm (so if I pick something up, it will randomly fire off an intense pain that makes me drop it) while the bruised ribs make it hard to breathe or use my right side. I need to keep in mind that there is no appeal from the law of gravity.
Tomorrow is Costa Maya and we are looking forward to that. I hope I will feel better and be able to go.
Nov 27 - Friday - Costa Maya and Majahual
We avoided the rush to get off the ship and waited until about 10:00 AM (docked at 8:30) to go ashore. Costa Maya has not changed a great deal since the last time we were here and it was a very clean nice place. We rented a golf cart for $45 for 3 hours and headed to Majahual (the nearby fishing village). Wow had it changed!
Every time we have been to Costa Maya, we have brought school supplies for the little school in Majahual. This time, we had a rolling backpack that we loaded with good school supplies and planned to give it to the school along with the backpack. We have always found taking supplies to a local school to be one of the highlights of our trips and it is so nice to see the kids faces and smiles. It is not all that expensive but it is usually things they rarely have otherwise. Paper, lined and unlined, pencils, pens, colored pencils, colored markers (no crayons since those melt), calculators, rulers, maps, etc. are all useful and we try to include some treats such as the little toys you get at any store for a kid's party. The time we were in Majahual, it was a one room school house and last time we were here, school was not in session so we had to leave the things with the teacher. This time, the school had changed tremendously (as had Majahual as I will mention) and now it has several buildings. It is behind a nice fence and we saw at least 4 teachers. Very nice and clean. As hot as it was, we were stunned to see many of the teachers and students wearing sweaters or jackets! They were on a brief break when we arrived and all of the kids were looking out the doors/windows to see what was up as we walked in the gate to check in with the teachers. The teachers said that it would be okay to stick our heads in the door and speak to the kids and it was just terrific to see their smiles and return their greetings. We did not get to pass out the supplies this time because there were so many kids, the teachers asked that we let them handle passing stuff out later and we gladly complied. The higher grade students were studying some familiar math and were very nice. We liked looking at the pictures posted outside the lower grade's classroom and some essay/poems they had written. Later, we saw several of the same kids as we stayed in Majahual and they were out of school and it is so good to see smiling children's faces.
I mentioned that Majahual changed and I cannot really explain it enough. The first time we were here, Costa Maya was a pretty new port and the fishing village was still mostly a fishing village. Dirt paths served as roads, there were few if any shops other than local things and the people could be seen going about their regular fishing stuff. Last time we were here, it had changed and there was no fishing stuff going on but the roads were still dirt roads and the touristy things were mainly tables in front of buildings and some places renting jet skis or serving drinks. Now, it is almost like a seaside walk in any US beach community. Instead of a dirt road, there is a nicely paved and colorful walkway. On the second row is a road going away from the port and the third row back is a road heading back to the port. There is only foot traffic allowed on the road closest to the ocean. There are tons of little shops selling trinkets and tons of people trying to get you to come into their bar/grill for drinks or food. On the beach side of the road, there are lots of places renting jet skis, scuba, snorkeling and other tours. There are also lots of people on the beach and on the second floor of the cantinas selling massages for $20 for an hour or $10 for 30 minutes. I really wanted to do that but unfortunately my painful ribs would not have allowed me to lie on a hard surface and I really and truly hate that. It would have been like a dream to get a massage on the beach for that low price. I guess I will have to find a way to come back.
Several places offered free shots of tequila so we stopped a few times. We had some drinks (margaritas) and even ate lunch at one place that served tacos and other things you would expect. It was excellent and sitting there on the beach with a cool beverage and good food made this a very relaxing and happy stop like it tends to always be. The biggest problem with sitting on the beach drinking or eating is that you become a stationary target for the people trying to sell jewelry and other trinkets so you have a lot of people coming up to you. They were determined but also polite enough so you just kind of learn to shrug it off. We were the only ship in port so that also made us bigger targets. I know some people suggest taking a taxi but I prefer renting a golf cart so we have more freedom. This time though, there were so many taxis anxious for taking you places, it might have been cheaper but I know from past experience that if there are several ships in port and you seek a taxi to or from the village, it can be more of a wait.
After we got back on board and got ready for our evening, we went to the 7:00 show. This was the Club Nevada show from the Ryndam singers and dancers. I was disappointed again and so was the rest of my family. The singers and dancers (and the band) were very talented but by and large the selection of songs was pretty poor. I would like to have seen them do a selection of songs more in keeping with other shows we have seen on other cruises. Most of the tunes were things from Tom Jones, Jimmy Durante, Ann Margaret, etc. Perhaps they catered to the vast majority of the people on this cruise for whom those songs would be much more familiar. It was odd though that it was referred to as the "grand finale" show and even in the dining room, the menus referred to it as our "farewell dinner" . We still had another whole day but our waiter mentioned that normally this night would have been the second formal night but that was altered due to Thanksgiving. Still, it was odd. Dinner included the surf and turf and many other things and it was quite good.
Tomorrow is our 2nd day at sea and the final full day of the cruise.
Nov 28, Saturday - 2nd day at sea
We had to set our clocks ahead an hour to return us to EST. It was good this was a sea day to help absorb that. The boat continued rocking a good bit but it was not as rough as prior Thanksgiving cruises have been. On the biggest ships, I do not feel the ocean as much most of the time but when you start to feel it, you feel it A LOT. On this ship, the rolling is almost always present but it is not unpleasant to me nor to my family (one member of whom has a history of getting a bit seasick when the waves get too rough but had no problems so far on this cruise). Very little is different from prior days on board the ship. It is still uncomfortably hot in most places and the serving staff in the Lido continues to sometimes be friendly while most of the time being either very aloof or bordering on rude. We are not having any great problems with them but just watching their interactions with the other passengers surprises me. Holland America has long been my favorite line in large part because of how nice, helpful and friendly the crew were. On the Ryndam, that is absolutely not the case. Even our worst prior cruise (on Carnival, which was still pretty nice) pales in comparison to what I have observed here and been personally exposed to.
I have no doubt some readers will say I am being unduly harsh for some reason or want to counter things with stories of their own from another cruise but I remind everyone that I have nothing but good prior things to say about HAL and I have continued to hope on this cruise that things would change but they have not. This is absolutely and for certain the worst cruise ship experience we have had. We have had problems with the cabin steward not serving the room, with having to go in search of towels or ice, with having a cabin that is way too hot, with lackluster entertainment shows, with a dining room staff that is slow with service and with a Lido buffet serving staff who border on being deliberately rude. Any cruise is a good time but this one pushes that theory. The ports of call have been good but rather than looking forward to another sea day, I am looking more forward to docking and getting off this ship. I am pretty certain I will never willingly go on the Ryndam again although I may still try Holland America again because of so many good prior experiences.
Nov 29 - Sunday - Tampa
Debarkation went very smoothly from a HAL point of view. We got up, ate in the Lido and then went down at our pre-announced time to exit the ship. There was a big line and backlog of people waiting to get through customs and that was slow as usual but that is not within HAL's control and even the customs service can only go so fast. We found our luggage quickly and easily and a porter took it to the valet stand while a valet went and got the car. The porter and valet loaded the luggage and indeed we were on the road within 10 minutes of getting our bags. I would definitely pay the extra $15 to valet park (plus the tips of course).
Coming back home meant going up I-95 and it was amazing how many parts of I-95 became a parking lot. Whether it was accidents, road constructions or just the mysterious 10 mile back up, we ended up having to use secondary routes to avoid log jams far more than I have ever had to do before. If you are travelling I-95, be prepared for delays and be prepared to exit and go to a secondary road. Read Less