Southern Caribbean Cruise Winter 2013

 

We left Vernon at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 bound for the Kelowna Airport for our flight to Fort Lauderdale and the beginning of our Southern Caribbean Seafarer/Wayfarer Cruise with Holland America.  Vernon was -4 C / 25 F with 6 inches of snow on the ground when we left.  Roads were bare and dry as we drove to our friend, Marjorie’s house to leave our vehicle.  She drove us to the Airport where we enjoyed dinner at the White Spot prior to our Air Canada flight to Vancouver.  Our overnight accommodation at the Travelodge was short as by 5:30 a.m. the following morning we were at the Vancouver International Airport for our United Airlines flight scheduled to depart at 7:40 a.m. for Fort Lauderdale.  Upon arrival at the United Airlines check in counter we were shocked to be told by the agent there that our flight was due to depart in 1 hour … an hour earlier than scheduled and we hadn’t been notified of any change!  Check-in takes time as everyone knows and once through security and customs found our departure gate to be almost the last one … far down the road.  We got a ride on one of the many carts or cars there and arrived at our departure gate just as boarding was taking place.  So we at least made our flight and had an extra hour to wait in Houston before arriving in Fort Lauderdale where at 9 p.m. local time 24 C / 75 F was the temperature.  A short taxi ride took us to our Hotel and soon after check in the skies opened up with a hard but warm rain that lasted some 45 minutes before letting up.

 

Thursday, January 17

 

This was a day to ourselves and we had previously arranged to meet with Susan and Peter for an afternoon visit.  This couple we’d first met while on tour in Australia back in 2008 and had remained in contact via email.  They live in London, Ontario during the summer and winter in Florida and drove 2 hours to meet up with us.  During our short time together we drove around visiting then had a delicious lunch before they dropped us off at our Hotel before driving back to their Florida home.

 

Friday, January 18

 

This morning was somewhat cool as we ate our first breakfast outside with our hotel offering free breakfasts during our stay.  We chose to engage a taxi to take us to the cruise ship terminal as the hotel’s free shuttle was congested with guests departing to any 3 ships currently in port.  After the 25 minute taxi ride the embarkation process was fast and by 1:10 p.m. we were in our stateroom giving us ample time to eat lunch, unpack and wander about the ship as this was our first time on the Noordam .  At 3:15 p.m. the mandatory lifeboat drill was held following which we adjourned to the Ocean Bar for pre-dinner drinks. 

 

All Bar Menus onboard ship list Molson Canadian as a beer of choice available for purchase.  Such was not the case when Richard selected this for himself as he was informed Molson’s was not available.  Not the first time as this had been the case on our last 2 cruises with Holland America.  Every few days thereafter Richard would request Molson Canadian only to be told it was not available.

 

With our first drink in hand we toasted our cruise friends, Jim & Pat and Ken & Judy not with us on this voyage and wished Dave & Doreen a great cruise when theirs was set to begin on February 4 .  We had secured fixed dining with early seating at 5:45 p.m. daily and ours was a table of six.  Our table mates included a lady from New York, a lady from Amsterdam in the Netherlands and a mother and daughter:  mother from Oklahoma & daughter from Branson, Mo.  After only 2 days ours became just a table for 4 as the mother had some kind of digestive disorder and chose not to frequent the dining room as did the daughter.  At 9:30 p.m. we attended the first evening show in the Vista Lounge that saw all members of the Noordam Singers and Dancers introduced.

 

Our ship, the Noordam , 935 feet in length, carries 1,924 passengers and a crew of 800 and is considered a mid-size ship.  She has 12 decks and is served by an adequate number of elevators.  Onboard facilities include 2 pools and hot tubs, 6 bars, casino, gymnasium, greenhouse spa, medical centre, photo gallery and retail stores.  Entertainment is offered nightly in the Vista Lounge and movies are shown daily in the Queen’s Lounge,  Onboard dining is in the Vista Dining Room, while buffet meals are provided in the Lido Restaurant.  The Terrace Grill also serves lunch and Canaletto offers Italian at dinner. The Pinnacle Grill offers an elegant, sophisticated dining experience featuring premium Sterling Silver beef, inspired seafood dishes and many select wines.

 

Saturday, January 19

 

It was sunny and warm on our first full cruise day with temperatures near 29 C / 84 F .Tonight’s Dress:  Formal.  The Ocean Bar again offered Happy Hour from 4 to 5 p.m. daily which Anita and Richard attended daily.  Entertainment in the Vista Lounge was “Ballroom Blitz” presented by the Noordam Singers and Dancers.  We attended in the Piano Bar afterwards which is our custom before retiring. 

 

As on previous cruises our onboard ship routine with Richard doing his morning one hour walk on the promenade deck before spending time working on his tan and Anita off to the library to read began.  The afternoons saw Richard spending quality time on the outer decks reading with Anita joining him on occasion.  Lectures and presentations were attended when the topic was of interest.

 

As on previous Holland America cruises, The Canadian, headline news of events in Canada is again available at various locations on the ship as is the American version, Times Digest, eight pages of headline news from the pages of The New York Times, and versions for England, Germany and the Netherlands.  This allowed us to keep abreast of major events and weather.

 

Sunday, January 20

 

Sunny skies and 29 C / 84 F temperatures today!  At noon we arrived at Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos and Richard went ashore after lunch.  We took no excursions as our time here was short with All Aboard at 5:30 p.m.  Richard walked around the ships and such next to the pier and visited Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville where he enjoyed a local beer.  The surrounding area has beautiful white sandy beaches.  Chris Watkins performed in the Vista Lounge that evening and he was very good on the fiddle.  Clocks were advanced one hour tonight.

 

Monday, January 21

 

At anchor off Samana, Dominican Republic at 9:30 a.m. this morning and Richard rode the tender boat ashore after breakfast.  The area near the dock was very rustic and undeveloped and the vendors most aggressive.  He spent only half an hour walking around before returning to the ship.  The day was cloudy but very warm.  Entertainment in the Vista Lounge featured the comedy & magic of Chris Blackmore.

 

Tuesday, January 22

 

A day at sea with morning cloud followed by sunshine, 27 C / 80 F was the high.  Richard obtained the passenger count from the Front Office for this segment of the cruise.  Tonight’s Dress:  Formal.  Jordan Bennett was the feature attraction in the Vista Lounge this evening.

 

Guest Breakdown for Cruise Segment January 18 – 28, 2013:

 

Nationality

Total Count

 

 

Australia

5

Belgium

2

Brazil

7

Canada

433

Switzerland

4

Czech Republic

1

Germany

25

Denmark

3

France

2

United Kingdom

68

Ireland

1

Israel

2

India

1

Japan

1

Netherlands

117

Norway

2

Peru

1

Russian Federation

2

Sweden

2

United States

1,198

South Africa

1

 

 

Total:

1,878

 

Wednesday, January 23

 

In port at Kralendijk, Bonaire and our first time here.  Sunshine and clear skies with 30 C / 85 F temperature.  Both of us enjoyed an excursion today with Anita taking the Glass Bottom Boat to Klein Bonaire and Richard enjoying the warm water during a beach snorkel outing.  In the Vista Lounge tonight, “If Walls Could Rock” featuring the Noordam Singers & Dancers.

 

Thursday, January 24

 

In port at Willemstad, Curacao when we awoke this morning.  Not our first visit here.  The morning was cloudy and a bit cool but with more sun by noon we hit 26 C / 78 F today.  We had not planned any excursions for today.  We opted to see a movie this evening, “Trouble With The Curve” starring Clint Eastwood.

 

Friday, January 25

 

In port at Oranjestad, Aruba with a scheduled departure at 5 p.m. that afternoon.  Aruba is a place we’ve visited on numerous occasions previously.  With sunny skies it didn’t take long to attain 30 C / 86 F temperatures again.  For the first time we were docked alongside a container terminal and free shuttle buses were available to transport guests to the main gates.  Vladimir Zaitsev, pianist, tinkled the ivories for us in the Vista Lounge.

 

Saturday, January 26

 

Our first of two days at sea and morning cloud gave way to sunny skies and 27 C / 80 F by noon.  This morning we attended a disembarkation meeting for continuing guests.  Tonight’s Dress:  Formal and fancy dining in the Pinnacle Grill was tonight’s venue for us utilizing the Christmas gift from our son, Allan and family.  Tonight’s entertainment in the Vista Lounge, “That’s Vegas” presented by the Noordam Singers & Dancers.

 

Sunday, January 27

 

Our second sea day before arriving at Fort Lauderdale, the end of the first segment of this cruise.  We looked out upon cloudy skies as we made our way to breakfast.  Later that afternoon we enjoyed 27 C / 80 F under partly sunny skies.  We chose not to attend the farewell variety show in the Vista Lounge.  Clocks were turned back one hour tonight.

 

We continue to receive small gifts and invitations in our stateroom from Captain and crew in recognition of us doing the full 21 day cruise.

 

Monday, January 28

 

In port at Fort Lauderdale today, the end of the cruise for some guest with new ones taking their place.  It is a requirement for continuing passengers that they must exit the ship and proceed through U.S. Customs before rejoining the ship.  This we did and 45 minutes later were free of further commitments for the day except for the mandatory lifeboat drill prior to sail away.  At dinner this evening, gone are the ladies from New York and Amsterdam, and a couple from Cleveland, Ohio became out new table mates for the rest of the cruise.  Clocks were advanced one hour tonight.

 

The new group of guests joining us today appear to be much younger and livelier that those we sailed with for the first ten days.

 

Shore excursion offerings for this second portion called for early departure times … 8 a.m. or 8:30 a.m. and time spent in the ports was limited with sail away as early as 3 p.m. and so we chose not to book any on this segment.

 

Tuesday, January 29

 

A sea day to be followed by a second on Wednesday.  We enjoyed partly cloudy skies then sunshine and 26 C / 78 F by 10:30 a.m.  Tonight’s Dress:  Formal.  Earlier Richard obtained the passenger count from the Front Office for this second part of the cruise.  We did not attend the entertainment offering in the Vista Lounge as it was a repeat of our first evening onboard, the introduction of the ship’s singers and dancers.

 

Guest Breakdown for Cruise Segment January 2/ – February 8, 2013:

 

Nationality

Total Count

 

 

Austria

2

Australia

7

Bulgaria

1

Brazil

3

Canada

552

Germany

33

Denmark

2

France

2

United Kingdom

73

Ireland

1

Israel

2

Netherlands

53

Norway

4

Peru

1

Portugal

4

Romania

1

Russian Federation

7

Sweden

2

United States

1,136

South Africa

1

 

 

Total:

1,884

 

Wednesday, January 30

 

Seas are calm and have been so throughout the entire cruise to date as we enjoyed our second day at sea.  Mainly sunny skies with 27 C / 80 F temperature.  We enjoyed Irish Comedian, George Casey, in the Vista Lounge then attended at the Piano Bar before retiring tonight.

 

Thursday, January 31

 

By 8:00 a.m. we had arrived in port at Philipsburg, St. Maarten for an abbreviated visit with an All Aboard call for 2:30 p.m.  Skies were partly cloudy as we went ashore following breakfast.  Ours was just 1 of 4 cruise ships docked alongside one another.  This was a busy port today!  For $25 each, Anita and Richard joined 7 others in a van for a 3.5 hour tour of the island.  Our driver/guide provided good photo stops and we visited both the Dutch and French areas of St. Maarten before returning to the ship.  Good weather, sun and 30 C / 86 F made our time onshore most enjoyable.  Alfreda Gerald, singer, performed in the Vista Lounge.  We had seen her on a previous cruise and enjoyed her performance for a second time

 

Being a mid-size ship, the Noordam had no self-serve Laundromats onboard so we had to send our laundry out for washing and drying.  This we did that evening.

 

 

Friday, February 1

 

As we left our stateroom for the morning walk to the Vista Dining Room for breakfast we could see that we were in port at Castries, St. Lucia.  Outside the skies were cloudy and as we enjoyed another fine breakfast noticed some rain falling.  Showers were brief and soon the sun reappeared to provide us with temperatures of 29 C / 84 F .  As we’d been here previously we did not go ashore but enjoyed our time on the outer decks.  By late afternoon our clean laundry had been returned.  An evening of sons from the stage, “Simply Broadway” with the Noordam Singers was on stage tonight.

 

Saturday, February 2

 

Today we’re in port at Bridgetown, Barbados and we awoke to partly cloudy skies.  Our dock location was far from the main gates so not knowing beforehand what to expect spent no time ashore for a second day.  We had reservations for dinner in the Pinnacle Grill this evening and Formal Dress was called for.

 

Sunday, February 3

 

Today is Super Bowl Sunday with us in port at Fort de France, Martinique for the day.  Not a special day for us as we don’t follow U.S. football but the hype was huge all day long leading up to the evening game which was televised in the Vista Lounge meaning no evening entertainment was scheduled.  On this sunny day all shops and stores onshore were closed but Richard did go ashore anyway.  He found nothing worthwhile but did take some photos before returning to the ship.  We watched a movie on TV in our stateroom before retiring this evening.

 

Monday, February 4

 

In port as Roseau, Dominica and our first time here.  Weather today was sunny with a few cloudy periods, 31 C / 88 F and warm!  Richard went ashore to take some photos and found little to offer tourists as poverty was front and foremost.  Entertainment in the Visa Lounge this evening was Spanish Guitarist, Dimitris Dekavallas.

 

Tuesday, February 5

 

In port at St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. this morning.  Partly cloudy skies as we made our way to breakfast with the day remaining so but warm.  Ronn Lucas, Ventriloquist, provided us with much laughter this evening in the Vista Lounge.

 

Today while enjoying Happy Hour in the Ocean Bar our Server informed Richard that Molson Canadian beer was available for purchase.  Why now, just 3 days before our cruise was to end?  Richard thanked the Server and switched his choice of beer to Molson Canadian.

 

 

 

Wednesday, February 6

 

A sea day today and tonight’s dress, Formal.  After breakfast Richard attended at the Front Office requesting to speak with the Beverage Manager.  During the brief meeting during which Richard described his frustration over the availability of Canadian beer onboard HA ships all the man could do was apologize and say he’s sorry on behalf of the Company.  Richard had suggested HA remove Molson Canadian from their Bar Menus as a selection especially if it was not offered as a choice.  We’re booked on a second cruise departing Seattle in late September … will Canadian beer be available for purchase then … stay tuned!  Today was spent mainly on the outer decks as it was sunny and warm, 28 C / 82 F, too nice to be indoors.

 

Thursday, February 7

 

We awoke to cloudy skies for the first time on this cruise with this being our last full day onboard ship.  Our arrival at Half Moon Cay, Bahamas found us anchored with the need to use tender boats to go ashore.  It rained while we ate breakfast and this turned out to be the coolest day of our cruise, 24 C / 75 F our daytime high.  We did not go ashore.  After lunch we packed in preparation of leaving the ship the following morning.  Our last Happy Hour in the Ocean Bar saw us saying farewell to the staff and guests we had come to know during the past 3 weeks.  Clocks were turned back one hour tonight.

 

Friday, February 8

 

We enjoyed our last breakfast in the Dining Room then returned to our stateroom to retrieve our luggage moving on to the Queen’s Lounge to await the call advising we could leave the ship one final time.  By coincidence we sat with our table mates, Tom and Carla one last time.

 

We left the ship at 9:15 a.m. and after a short taxi ride were at our Comfort Inn Hotel by 9:30 where we were greeted by our friends, Lonnie and Ellen, who had driven down from near Orlando to spend a couple of days visiting with us.  Our room was not ready at that early hour so we checked our bags with the Hotel then discussed the options available for seeing the sights in Fort Lauderdale.  Richard had heard onboard the ship that a waterway tour was highly recommended.  So, by 12:30 p.m. we were once again on the water, this time for a fun narrated Riverfront Cruise scheduled to last 3.5 hours.  It was a great choice, enjoyed by all 4 of us as we got to see Fort Lauderdale's ever-changing panorama of lush tropical foliage, aquatic creatures, stunning mansions and magnificent mega-yachts on this Venice of America Tour.  Both Lonnie and Richard took advantage of the many photo opportunities snapping picture after picture.  Our cruise took us past the cruise ship terminal where we passed by our cruise ship, Noordam we had vacated just hours before.  She was now preparing to welcome a new set of guests and would be departing again later that afternoon.  At the conclusion of our river cruise we returned to our Hotel to check in, retrieve our luggage and store same in our room.  Lonnie and Ellen had suggested an upscale restaurant featuring fresh fish for dinner and we set out to find this place.  What a shock when the great meal had ended … Richard had to use his Visa to pay as, of course, his onboard ship card was invalid here!  Lonnie drove us back to our Hotel and we arranged to meet at our Hotel the following morning for breakfast.

 

 

Cruise Log:   Friday, January 18, 2013

                        Depart Fort Lauderdale, 4:22 p.m.

                        Friday, February 8, 2013

                        Arrive Fort Lauderdale, 7:03 a.m.

 

Ports

Mileage

Average

Speed

 

 

 

Fort Lauderdale to Half Moon Cay

273

19.5

Half Moon Cay to Grand Turk

336

18.9

Grand Turk to Samana

216

15.7

Samana to Kralendijk

469

12.4

Kralendijk to Willemstad

101

7.1

Willemstad to Oranjestad

80

11.4

Oranjestad to Fort Lauderdale

1,098

18.0

Fort Lauderdale to Phillipsburg

1,075.0

17.62

Phillipsburg to Castries

267.5

16.72

Castries to Bridgetown

114.5

7.92

Bridgetown to Fort de France

127.0

9.07

Fort de France to Roseau

50.0

4.17

Roseau to Charlotte Amaliie

273.4

17.09

Charlotte Amaliie to Half Moon Cay

729.0

19.70

Half Moon Cay to Fort Lauderdale

273

19.85

 

 

 

Total Distance

5,482

 

 

1 Nautical Mile = 1.155 Statute miles = 1.85 Kilometer

 

Saturday, February 9

 

Having breakfast outside at our Hotel was again a treat, especially when joined by Lonnie and Ellen … great food and interesting conversation.  We talked about what to do again today and the decision was made to drive out to the Everglades with hopes of securing an airboat ride while there  Our drive to the Miccosukee Indian Village was most enjoyable and the scenery so much different than what we encounter at home.  The airboat ride was not to be as apparently weekend activities at the Village were different than weekdays and not as advertised on the brochure.  Returning to Hollywood, the suburb of Fort Lauderdale where our Hotel is situated we stopped at a Casino on the Reserve where $9.99 Surf & Turf was the luncheon special.  Back in the suburbs we drove around sight seeing and ended up walking on Hollywood Beach and Hollywood Beach Boardwalk.  All this was made more enjoyable with sunny skies and the warm temperatures we have come to expect while in Florida.  Back again at our Hotel we ordered pizza to be delivered, relaxing around the pool as evening came on.

 

Sunday and Monday, February 10, 11

 

We enjoyed breakfast outdoors at our Hotel once again with Lonnie and Ellen after which they departed for home.  That left Richard and Anita with the balance of Sunday and all of Monday on their own before their scheduled flight home on Tuesday.  Both of us enjoy “people watching” and that was what we did as the Hotel had numerous quests  going to or coming from cruises.  People are most interesting.  Reading at pool side also helped pass the time.

 

Tuesday, February 12

 

One last time to wake up early, 4:30 a.m. for showers and last minute packing to be at the airport by 6:30 p.m. … 2 hours in advance of our 8:20 a.m. flight.  Gone were the shorts and sandals … with the jacket at the ready for the colder climate we’d be going to.  Our flights were without incident with us having some 4 hours to relax in Los Angeles before our final flight back to Kelowna.  We arrived in Chicago where it was -3 C / 26 F and both of us surprised that there was no snow following the weekend snowstorm in the area.  Los Angeles was 16 C / 61 F upon arrival.  We touched down at the Kelowna airport at 10:30 p.m. local time to 2 C / 35 F and no snow.  Going through Customs was a breeze then we had to wait some 45 minutes for our luggage before we could leave.  The delay was because the cargo doors on our airplane could not be opened to free our luggage and help had to be called in order to open said doors … this we later learned from our friend, Marjorie who was there to meet our flight.  Those in the waiting area had been informed of the delay … while we passengers waiting for our luggage were told nothing!  Back at Marjorie’s house we picked up our car and drove home as roads were bare and dry, arriving in Vernon at 1 a.m. Wednesday morning … a very long day.  With time changes accounted for we’d been up just a half hour shy of 24 hours!

 

Conclusions

 

This was our fourth Holland America cruise and our first on a mid-sized ship in their fleet.  Both Anita and I felt comfortable on this somewhat larger vessel, were most pleased with our stateroom, its location mid-ship, enjoyed our daily visits to the Ocean Bar for “Happy Hour” and all the other services provided onboard.  Our cruise was without incident, we enjoyed great weather with 24 C / 75 F being our coldest day.  During the month away Richard, using an eReader for the first time, read 4 books.  We enjoy what Holland America offers and look forward to September 29, 2013 when we next sail with them on the Oosterdam out of Seattle, WA.