Southern / Western Caribbean Cruise with Holland America

 

 

We left Vernon at 8 a.m. on Friday, January 12, 2018 for the Kelowna Airport for our flight to Seattle then Tampa, Florida the next day to begin our 21 Day Southern / Western Caribbean Cruise with Holland America.  Vernon and Kelowna were both -6 C [21 F] with overcast skies.  Waiting in line for Alaska Airlines check-in Richard had an opinion difference with a Security Person and this carried on through to Security check-in where Richard had to have a full body scan and his carry-on bag was searched thoroughly.  Our Seattle bound flight left 1 hour late and with Anita using a wheelchair the Passport Control process was speedy once in the terminal.  Our attendant efficiently whisked us to baggage claim then to the exit where our taxi took us to our Hotel.  It was raining lightly by this time.  Enjoyed a late lunch the Richard did the online check-in for our Saturday flight to Tampa.

 

Saturday, January 13

 

Up early at 4 a.m. for arrival at the airport and our 7:40 a.m. flight to Tampa.  Departed Seattle on time and with a strong tail wind arrived half an hour early in Tampa.  Tampa had turned cold – only 12 C [54 F] with cloudy skies.  Hotel check-in was routine and we had a quiet evening.

 

Sunday, January 14

 

Down for breakfast at 7:30 a.m. and we learned that Tampa’s current temperature was 4 C [38 F] under clear skies.  A high of only 16 C [60 F] was expected.  Certainly not the temperatures Florida is known for and what we expected!  Our late morning check-in at the Cruise Ship Terminal was fast and within 45 minutes we were in our stateroom.  Unpacking was done following our first lunch in the ship’s dining room.  At 3:30 p.m. came the mandatory Fire Drill after which it was off to the Ocean Bar for our first drink.  Most happy to say Canadian Beer was available to Richard and the variety of Australian Wines were to Anita’s liking.  For the first time ever with Holland America our Early Fixed Dining saw us on Deck 4 … on all other previous cruises we dined on Deck 5.  Our table mates included a Canadian couple from near Toronto plus a couple from near Nashville, Tennessee.  There was no live entertainment tonight.

 

Our ship, the Rotterdam, 780 feet in length, carries 1,404 passengers plus a crew of 589 and has a maximum speed of 25 knots.  She has ten decks, served by 12 elevators. 

Onboard facilities include a pool and hot tubs, 6 bars, casino, gymnasium, greenhouse spa, medical center, photo gallery and retail stores.  Entertainment is offered nightly in the Mainstage and the Wajang Theatre offers daily movies.  Onboard dining is in The 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.

 

Since we last sailed on the Rotterdam in 2012 the ship has undergone renovations and appears to be well cared for.

 

The main purpose for us taking this cruise was a brief escape from winter to enjoy the sun and warmth of the Caribbean.  Having been here previously a number of times we chose not to participate in the shore excursions for the most part.

 

Monday, January 15

 

In port at Key West, Florida.  A cloudy and windy morning.  At 10 a.m. Richard went ashore as it was our first time here.  The cold wind made for a short time ashore.  The Ocean Bar again offered Happy Hour from 4 to 5 p.m. daily which Anita and Richard attended daily.  However, Happy Hour no longer offered drinks 2 for 1, instead now its buy 1 drink and receive the next 1 for $2.  On Stage after dinner was ventriloquist, Rob Watkins who was entertaining.  Clocks set ahead 1 hour tonight.

 

Web Sites of Interest …

 

Key West, Florida        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_West,_Florida

 

Tuesday, January 16

 

Our first sea day.  Tonight’s Dress:  Formal.  Cloudy skies again and no sun meaning it was cool on the outer decks.  The ship’s Singers and Dancers performed live tonight.

Wednesday, January 17

A second day at sea and still the skies remained cloudy.  Temperatures got as high as 27 C

 [80 F] somewhat warmer as the afternoon saw the sun out under partly cloudy skies.  For the first time Richard sat outside to read on the Promenade Deck.  From the Front Office Richard obtained the Passenger Count by Nationality and Age Range Numbers for this segment of the cruise.  Pianist, Paul Pappas gave a great performance.  Before retiring we spent time in The Mix listening to the Piano Bar entertainer.

 

Age Range

Number

 

 

0 – 2

0

3 – 7

0

8 – 12

0

13 – 17

0

18 – 21

3

22 – 35

16

36 – 50

40

51 – 65

263

66 – 74

574

Over 75

422

 

 

Total

1,318

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nationality

Total Count

 

 

Argentina

1

Austria

2

Australia

1

Bangladesh

1

Belgium

3

Canada

302

China

1

Germany

5

United Kingdom

39

Croatia

1

Mexico

6

Netherlands

18

Norway

1

Peru

1

Poland

3

Portugal

1

Romania

19

Ukraine

1

United States

912

 

 

Total

1,318

 

Thursday, January 18

In port at San Juan, Puerto Rico and our first ever visit here.  We’ve booked a shore excursion, “San Juan Highlights”.  Our first sunny day of our cruise, 29 C [84 F] the predicted high later in the day.  Our ship is docked next to Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Of The Seas, their largest cruise ship.  Our hope was that on our shore excursion we’d see some of the devastation caused by the recent hurricane that hit the island last November and were disappointed when our tour avoided all such areas.  Speaking to locals we did learn that at the time of our visit power had been restored to 60 % of the island and water to 40 % of the island population.  The remaining areas still affected were in the mountains and hills.  The evening live show was a joint performance with Rob Watkins and Paul Pappas, both who had performed solo previously.

Web Sites of Interest …

 

San Juan, Puerto Rico https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Juan,_Puerto_Rico

 

Oasis Of The Seas                https://www.royalcaribbean.com/cruise-ships/oasis-of-the-seas

 

Friday, January 19

 

In pot at St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands and no on shore trips are planned.  The morning first brought partly cloudy skies followed by a brief rainfall following breakfast.  Richard did go ashore briefly.  We did see many damaged roofs from the storm still awaiting repair.  “The Rave Ons” performed live with a tribute to Buddy Holly and the Crickets.

 

Mornings we have available to us the Times Digest, eight pages of headline news from the pages of The New York Times and The Canadian, headline news more meaningful to us.   Richard arranged to have The Canadian delivered to the stateroom daily.

 

Web Sites of Interest …

 

St. Thomas                              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Thomas,_U.S._Virgin_Islands

 

Saturday, January 20

 

In port at St. John’s, Antigua.  A warm and sunny day.  Seas remain calm and have been so since we first departed Tampa.  No one ventured ashore today.  The comedy & variety of Goronwy Thom entertained us after dinner and prior to retiring.

 

Web Sites of Interest …

 

St. John’s                    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._John%27s,_Antigua_and_Barbuda

 

Sunday, January 21

 

In port at Castries, Saint Lucia this morning.  We’re now one week into our cruise.  A perfect day with sun and partly cloudy skies, 29 C [84 F] the predicted high later in the day.  “Frozen Planet Live” tonight’s show combined live music with breath taking footage from the landmark BBC Earth television series, Frozen Planet.

 

Web Sites of Interest …

 

Castries, Saint Lucia               https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castries

 

Monday, January 22

 

A sea day and dress code is Formal tonight.  Weather was a mixture of sun and cloud making it pleasant to enjoy the outer decks.  “The Rave Ons” were back for a second time presenting rock and roll memory tunes.

 

Tuesday, January 23

 

In port at Willemstad, Curacao.  Did not venture off the ship today.  Another fine day weather-wise with more sun and cloud.  The Movie, “Murder On The Orient Express” played tonight but we chose not to attend.  Spent time in The Mix listening to Don, The Piano Bar Entertainer.

 

Web Sites of Interest …

 

Willemstad, Curacao               https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willemstad

 

Wednesday, January 24

 

In port at Oranjestad, Aruba.  The fine weather continues for us with more sun under partly cloudy skies.  British Comedian, Jeff Stevenson. Was tonight’s live entertainment.

 

 

Web Sites of Interest …

 

Oranjestad, Aruba                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oranjestad,_Aruba

 

Thursday, January 25

 

A day at sea and the continuation of fine weather and calm seas.  Formal Dress Code for dinner tonight.  Originally from Scotland, the Macdonald Brothers performed with their unique vocal harmonies and multi-instrumental talents.  A good show.

 

Friday, January 26

 

At anchor off George Town, Cayman Islands.  This was our first Tender Port of the cruise and ours was just one of three cruise ships at anchor, one Italian and Norweigan the other.  A bit cooler today but still nice with more sun and cloud.  The ship’s singers and dancers provided our evening entertainment live with “Variations”.

 

Web Sites of Interest …          

 

George Town, Cayman Islands

 

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Town,_Cayman_Islands

 

Saturday, January 27

 

A sea day as we headed back to Tampa.  It was a windy day with overcast skies and the outer decks were closed due to the wind and wet decks.  There was noticeable movement of the ship and “barf” bags appeared outside the elevators on all decks.  The evening live show was scheduled for 9:30 p.m. which was late for us so we did not attend.

 

Sunday, January 28

 

In port at Tampa, Florida and the conclusion of this segment of the cruise.  As continuing guests we attended the procedure for in-transit guests that saw us exit the ship, visit Passport Control people, then exit and enter the Terminal building before joining the ship once more.  The weather provided cloudy skies with much more pleasant temperatures than 2 weeks ago when we first arrived in Tampa.  We did not have to participate in the mandatory Fire Drill this time around – a welcome change to procedure.  We did notice a large staff turnover … new Captain, Cruise Director and many wait and bar staff.  New dinner arrangements had us dining on Deck 5 once again.  Our new table mates included couples from Iowa and Georgia.

 

Web Sites of Interest …          

 

Tampa, Florida             https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tampa,_Florida

 

Monday, January 29

 

In port at Key West, Florida for our second time.  Again we’re one of three ships in port and so not the best location as we had experienced on previous stops this cruise.  For once, a free shuttle was provided to transport guests to and from town.  It was a return to sunshine and warmer temperatures today.  Craig Richard on the sax and piano performed on stage. 

From the Front Office Richard obtained the Passenger Count by Nationality and Age Range Numbers for this segment of the cruise.

 

Nationality

Total Count

 

 

Canada

196

Cuba

1

Germany

2

France

1

United Kingdom

11

Hungary

1

Israel

1

Mexico

1

Netherlands

3

Philippines

1

Poland

1

United States

1,132

South Africa

1

 

 

Total

1,352

 

 

Age Range

Number

 

 

0 – 2

1

3 - 7

6

8 – 12

2

13 – 17

2

18 – 21

1

22 – 35

39

36 – 50

65

51 – 65

332

66  - 74

550

Over 75

354

 

 

Total

1,352

 

Tuesday, January 30

 

A day at sea and dress code is Formal tonight.  A mixture of sun and cloud but not too cool for one to sit and read on the outer decks.  The live entertainment starts to repeat from our first cruise segment so our attendance will be limited.  We listened to the fine sounds of Adagio after dinner.  Clocks were set back 1 hour tonight.

 

Wednesday, January 31

 

In port at Mahogany Bay, Honduras.  Mainly cloudy skies but warm enough to sit and enjoy the outer decks.  Did not venture off the ship.

 

Thursday, February 1

 

In port at Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala.  A few days ago Anita experienced ear problems, losing hearing in one ear.  Problems persisted so she visited the Doctor after dinner and now can hear again.  Hilby, the German Juggle Boy performed to the delight of all attending.  Clocks set ahead 1 hour tonight.

 

Web Sites of Interest …

 

Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala

 

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santo_Tom%C3%A1s_de_Castilla

 

Friday, February 2

 

In port at Costa Maya, Mexico.  Formal Dress Code for dinner tonight.  Enjoyed a mixture of sun and cloud today.  Listened to the music of Adagio prior to retiring.

 

Web Sites of Interest …

 

Costa Maya, Mexico                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Costa_Maya

 

Saturday, February 3

 

Our last day of the cruise and a final day at sea returning to Tampa.  A cloudy day with no sun.  Packing day for Sunday’s departure.  Listened to the fine sounds of Adagio one last time before retiring.

 

Sunday, February 4

 

We exited the ship at 8:10 a.m. and by 8:30 a.m. were done with Passport Control.  Off to the airport arriving at 9 a.m. and a long wait for our flight to Seattle with a scheduled 5 p.m. departure.  Around 2 p.m. at check-in with Alaska Airlines a light rain was falling outside.  Our flight was some 1.5 hours late in departing due to heavy rain at the time and there being only 1 runway in operation at the Tampa airport.  Flight was not a smooth one.  Upon arrival in Seattle, retrieving our luggage and a short taxi ride we arrived at our Hotel at 10 p.m. local time for check-in.

 

Monday, February 5

 

Our home bound flight to Kelowna was late departing again and we also encountered a last minute gate change prior to departure.  Kelowna was overcast with a temperature of 0 C [32 F]

and snow on the ground.  Roads were bare for our drive back to Vernon.

 

Conclusions

 

We were extremely pleased with our ship, the ms Rotterdam and all that was available to us during our 21 day cruise.  While we found some short comings with service in the dining room compared to previous cruises, this, by no means caused the two of us any major concerns.  Food on board was excellent!   The crew on board were polite and most accommodating to our needs. We do enjoy the benefits afforded us cruising as 4 star marinerson Holland America ships.  We were not pleased that about 90 % of the ports we visited were situated in or near the container docks, not close to the attractions of the cities or towns and did not offer free shuttle service to and from our ship’s location.