The last 11 days we were aboard the Holland America Zuiderdam that left out of Ft. Lauderdale. The captain Jeroen Van Donselaar from Holland and the cruise director was Simon from England. We were in cabin 10012 on the Observation deck and our cabin stewards were Razi and Wito. The internet cost me $250 for 1000 minutes).
3/7/16 Day 1 Embarkation:
We arrived around 11am and boarded the ship by noon. After lunch (of course I had to have my pasta custom made and it was so good!) we went to the Mariner’s reception. We met 4 nice ladies from NY (Nancy, Kathy, Marie, and Lorraine). Then we explored the ship before going to the lifeboat drill. Right after the drill we went to the movie theater to see the movie The Big Short starring Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt. I didn’t like it because it was all about stocks and was way over my head. After the movie we unpacked our suitcases and prepared for dinner. Dinner was nice but we were seated in the middle of the room and it was quite noisy. After dinner we went to the Welcome aboard show.
3/8/16 Day 2 Half Moon Cay:
We had a nice day at Half Moon Cay yesterday but we never got off the ship. It was too windy and cool for us to go swimming so we stayed on the ship. We walked our 3 miles, went to see the movie Creed (which was really good!), went to a craft group where we made pompoms, learned about all the shore excursions available, and then Don took a nap before dinner while I knit. After dinner we went to the show which featured a really funny comedian, Tony Daro. Don laughed more than I’ve ever seen him laugh at a comedian before.
3/9/16 Day 3 At Sea:
We had a nice day at sea yesterday. After breakfast we went to a Q&A with the cruise director. Simon James and his assistant Alice. It was a great time to ask questions. Simon used to be a professional drummer and professional clown before working on cruise ships. We really enjoyed this session and look forward to future ones this week. Then we sat on the outside deck and read until lunch time. After lunch we went to see documentary on the Panama Canal which was really good. We had happy hour at the Crow’s nest and I drank more than I was used to so after that we took a nap until dinner. At dinner we sat with 2 other couples and really enjoyed the conversations. After dinner we were too tired to go to the show.
3/10/16 Day 4 Aruba:
We had a really nice day in Aruba! Since we didn’t get off the ship until the afternoon I went to a session on flower arranging before lunch. The wind was really blowing hard so we decided not to go snorkeling. We got off the ship at 1pm and went to the bus station where we bought a day pass for $10 each which gave us unlimited use for the day (bus fare is $2 one way). I’m sure glad we stopped to use the rest room before we got on the bus! We rode the bus to San Nicolas which was an hour away and then stayed on and rode it an hour back to Oranjestad. It was interesting to see how the every-day person lives. A lot of school kids rode the bus too. When we got back, we rode the bus towards the Marriott and all the beaches which took about 30 minutes. Then we rode the bus back. We saw Eagle Beach and the next time we may go there but we would still buy the all day bus pass. Then we returned to the ship and had dinner. We met another couple who paid $80 each for a tour of the island. They said they went to the same places we did and they weren’t able to go snorkeling because the water was too rough and murky. After dinner we went to the pub trivia game in the Crow’s nest when the ship’s power went out for a few minutes. After that we borrowed the movie Annapolis for the evening.
3/11/16 Day 5 Curacao:
We arrived in Curacao around 8am and we walked around town for most of the morning. The weather was absolutely beautiful! We took a break and had a mocha Frappuccino at Starbucks before continuing our walk. We ended up walking over 7 miles before we stopped at the Gifford Bar and had a few Coronas (2 for $7). We got back to the ship around 2pm for lunch. At 4pm we went to see the movie Burnt which was cute. We decided to have an early dinner and then went to the early show which featured a fabulous pianist, Tian Jiang. After the show we borrowed the movie Murder by the Numbers with Sandra Bullock.
3/12/16 Day 6 At Sea:
We had a lovely day at sea. After breakfast we walked on the walking deck and I was able to see more flying fish. In the morning we heard the cruise director, Simon give an awesome presentation about the Panama Canal. He said he wasn’t a professional lecturer but he gave just the right amount of humor with it to keep it from being boring. In the afternoon we went to a Q&A with the Captain who also was fascinating. This captain was s personable! He answered all of the questions with such diplomacy and humor! My two favorite comments of the captain’s were this:
· The difference between boats and ships: There are no lifeships on boats but there are lifeboats on ships.
· When asked why we didn’t go into under the bridge in Curacao to turn around instead of backing out of the harbor: We could have done that but we would have left behind the Crow’s Nest and the funnels because the ship is too tall to go under the bridge.
After happy hour we went to have an early dinner and then the show Avalon featuring the ship’s singers and dancers.
3/13/16 Day 7 Cartagena, Colombia:
We had an absolutely wonderful day in Cartagena yesterday. I was a little anxious about going into this port after reading and hearing about the drug cartel and American kidnapping but now I’m so glad we went there. We got into the port around 7am and we were so surprised to see all the high rise buildings! In fact, it looked like we were in NY city! When we got off the ship, we haggled with the taxi drivers (in blue shirts because the white shirts don’t haggle) for awhile. We finally found another couple who also wanted to go to the Old City so we all got the cab ride for $15 a person round trip. We were told not to pay them until we get back to the ship. Arnold, the cab driver took us there and then wrote his name and cab number on a card for us. Then he showed us where he was parked and that he would wait for us so we told him we would be back in 3 hours at 11am. We walked around the town and the architecture was beautiful. Not a lot of places were open that early or because it was Sunday. I couldn’t believe how hot it was that early in the morning! We were finished around 10:45 so Arnold took us back to the port but on the way he drove us through the Club De Pesca yacht club. It was interesting.
3/14/16 Day 8 Panama Canal:
We were on the bow of the ship at 6am and watched the sun rise as we entered the canal. Then it took 3 ½ hours for us to get through the 3 locks which was fascinating! We barely made it to breakfast before they closed. We anchored in Gatun Lake for people to go on shore excursions but we stayed on the ship. At 11:30, we reentered the locks again and headed to Colon, Panama where we would pick up the people that left for the shore excursions. We got there by 4pm and walked around a little before coming back to the ship for dinner. After dinner we went to the show which featured the illusionist, James Cielen. When we went to bed, we had to turn our clocks back another hour so we are 2 hours behind Eastern time. This changing the clocks every couple of days is driving my body clock crazy!
3/15/16 Day 9 Costa Rica:
We had a nice day in Costa Rica. It was very hot so we got off the ship around 7:30 and walked around town but almost everything was still closed. After a couple of hours, we went back to the ship to use the bathroom and have something to drink. Then we went back out and walked around town some more. By lunch time we had walked about 8 miles so we returned to the ship. We went to see the movie Joy with Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert DeNiro but it stunk! After happy hour at 4pm, we went to dinner and then the show featuring Synergy which were two identical twins performing as electric rock violinists (like dueling fiddles) and they were very good. Before we went to bed, we turned the clocks forward one hour.
3/16/16 Day 10 At Sea:
We were at sea yesterday but it was a busy day! At 11am, we attended a ceremony where 26 of us were awarded a bronze medal for sailing more than 100 days with Holland America. Then we were escorted to a luncheon. After lunch we walked on the deck for about 40 minutes before going to see The Art of Towel Folding. Then we saw the magician’s show. By then it was happy hour, dinner, and the evening show! Of course we moved our clocks forward another hour so we are on regular time now.
3/17/16 Day 11 At Sea:
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We had a busy day at sea! In the morning we went to a presentation about Behind the Scenes in the Crews Quarters by Simon and it was fascinating! I loved seeing all the pictures about where the crew lived. Then we went back and packed one suitcase. After lunch we went back and packed up the rest of our stuff. In the afternoon, Simon did another presentation about the navigation and technical side of the ship which was interesting. I’m so glad he shared pictures of what a ship looks like out of water and showed the azipods and bow thrusters which move the ship as needed. At happy hour we were joined by Kenny and then Marv and Cindy from Houston. Marv and Cindy invited us to have dinner with them and we had a great time. The evening show was a variety show featured James Cielun (the magician), Tian Jiang the pianist, and Synergy – the twin violinists. I really enjoyed this show.
3/18/16 Day 12 Debarkation:
We got off the ship around 9:30 and docked at a different terminal than when we arrived. We got to our car in the parking garage easily and the cost for parking was $165 for 11 days.
(My apologies beforehand because I’m breaking my rule of “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”) We saw a lady on the first day that I will call “Scooter Lady.” She was obnoxious and very rude. I heard many stories from different people about her and even saw her rudeness first hand. She was an extremely unhappy woman every time I saw her and she made others miserable whenever they had an interaction with her. When she came into the showroom late to a show, she would continually ramp the seats with her school intentionally. Then she would back up her scooter so the back up beep disrupted the show. On the last few days we hadn’t seen her and we wondered what happened to her. On the last night of the cruise I met some people who were talking about Scooter Lady and they said they saw her leaving the ship in Costa Rica with all of her luggage. I don’t know if she left on her own or if she was booted off but it seemed like the attitudes of the guests around the ship were much lighter and happier.
Things I Learned:
1. I’m glad we left early because it took us almost 2 hours to get to the port due to accidents on I-95 and Dixie Hwy.
2. They took the couches out of the cabins.
3. I like the lower decks better than the higher ones for our cabins because it is easier to get to without fighting for the elevators after the show and getting back on the ship.
4. The dining room was very unorganized and the lines to get into dinner were really long, even if you had a reservation.
5. This ship had a lot of creaks and noises!
6. Simon James was the youngest cruise director for Royal Caribbean at 25 years old (this was about 14 years ago).
7. Dancers have to audition for the production company RWS.
8. Cast members can’t gain or lose 8 lbs. (because of the costumes).
9. There is only one florist on the ship.
10. One-day pass for the bus in Aruba is only $10 per person.
11. When the blue flag is out on the floating bridge in Curacao, it will be open for over an hour.
12. Our ship pays $350,000 to go through the Panama Canal.
13. There is only 2 feet clearance of each side of the ship when we go through the locks.
14. In Cartagena’s Old City, there seemed to be police on every corner watching out for the tourists’ safety.
15. When traveling through the Panama Canal, ships fly different kinds of flags: one is the Panama flag out of courtesy; a red and white one to show there is a pilot on board; flags signifying numbers that tell what number transit you were that day through the canal; if the numbers are below the pilot flag, you are going south and above if you are going north; odd numbers go south and even numbers go north.
Thanks for taking time to read about our trip!
Original Photo by Pat Hensley