Posted April 21st, 2005, 10:13 PM
My 2003 Zui cruise was on May 17, and we had a very LARGE group of "Garfield" fans booked. Orange balloons, T-shirts, stuffed Garfields, and TOO many kids! Still had a good time, though.
We (3 of us) stayed at the Comfort Inn on Stirling Road the night of April 8 because of their "free" shuttles from the airport and to Port Everglades. What a joke!! Read my review of this @#$%&* hotel under the Group Cruises Board (Jewel of the Seas 4-22-06).
Got to the pier about 2-2:30 (on purpose), and it took a total of five minutes for the three of us to get checked in. We had booked "steerage" (because I paid for myself, my 31-year old DD, and her very cool boyfriend, who looks just like Edward Norton). We were in Cabin 1067 inside triple, but what a great locatiion!! Can't remember our cabin steward's name, but I tipped him 20.00 right off the bat, and asked him to empty the refrigerator. Well...from that day forward, we received a basket of fresh fruit each day, and three HAL water bottles filled with fresh water in that refrigerator! The Volendam was there, too, and I was jealous because I couldn't go for 10 days!
The "kids" (30 and 31 years old) had never been on a cruise-cruise before, and got totally spoiled....especially after their introduction to room service, which they used nearly every day, as they had excursions to St. John and the Baths at Virgin Gorda, and loved the club sandwiches late at night. (I must admit that I slept through the club sandwiches. ZZZZZ)
We had a table just for the three of us on the second level of the Vista Dining Room, and the first night, I ordered some kind of steak (can't remember..too much fun at Sailaway) that was delicious! Medium rare...just like I ordered. Every dinner just seemed to be nearly perfect....the salads were fantastic, the soups were yummy, I got two helpings of King Crab legs without asking, and two orders of lobster (two tails each), also without asking. I had mentioned to our waiter early on how much I loved seafood...maybe that's why. And the prime rib...heavenly! I honestly can't remember a cruise where the food was that good (maybe Celebrity back in about 1990), and this was my 28th cruise!
We did not eat at the Pinnacle, and had not planned to. Instead, we enjoyed the Windstar Cafe twice a day...well worth it.
The weather was just about perfect, although the water at Half Moon Cay was COLD, though the sky was bright blue and it was hot and sunny. Great buffet (as usual), and I snarfed down a lot of those ribs. The kids went to St. John/Trunk Bay at St. Thomas, and I spent a wad on my long-desired Tanzanite bling. Since we were on Deck 1, we went through the STT Immigration first, and even got dressed for it. Saw a lot of folks in those white HAL bathrobes, though! I tried to get a taxi to Sapphire Beach after my Tanzanite expedition, but NO ONE would take me (tried SIX times), because I was by myself. Man, I tell ya....those St. Thomas taxi drivers get ruder and ruder every time I go there! So...took a taxi back to Crown Bay (the Volendam was there, too), and had a wonderful lunch and took my usual place at the aft pool. One interesting thing was that I don't think this ship was full, because none of us had a problem getting an aft pool chair (which was the case on my first Zui cruise). The weather was wonderful - not too hot - and I also enjoyed the chocolate chip ice cream with chunks of peanut butter (three times). After this, I did NOT look so great in my bathing suit! At Tortola, the "kids" went on the excursion to Virgin Gorda, which they absolutely loved! Their only complaint was that they didn't get to stay long enough. I've been to the Baths several times, and knew they'd love it. I took a taxi to Cane Garden Bay (hanging onto any handle I could during that ride!) and spent a fantastic day at their beach. Beautiful weather, very warm water, met a lot of very nice fellow cruisers (who all expressed how impressed they were with HAL) and got a very decent sunburn. So...bought a bottle of Aloe Vera on the ship. Itch, itch. Scratch, scratch. The "kids" actually won money in the Casino...a whopping 48.00, which they immediately applied to: Windstar Cafe/Sports Bar/Ocean Bar/Crow's Nest...etc...and it didn't begin to cover their charges! Days at sea...both wonderful! Did I say that the weather was just about perfect?? It was really interesting when we came into Nassau at about 11:00 a.m. and the ship turned around and backed in. The old Regal Empress was there, and the Carnival Fantasy. Later came the Navigator of the Seas and the Disney Wonder. The weather was great, but the water at the beach at Paradise Island was.....ROUGH! We went jet skiing (bumpetty bump) which was a hoot! The cruise from Nassau back to FLL was pretty rocky...meaning it rocked us right to sleep, and we awoke to our wonderful (as usual) room service breakfast. We had booked the Everglades tour (they had never been...I did it on my first Zui cruise) and...I am NOT kidding...we found our luggage in ONE MINUTE Love those little purple tags! Great excursion, too!
One thing about this cruise...we never really had to wait in any line. No line for the tender to or from HMC. No line for the dreaded STT Immigration. No line to get off or back on the ship. The longest line I had to wait in was the Deli line. Ahem. I had ordered a really yummy-looking BLT, and as I was leaving, a rather "large" woman bumped into me, and my lemonade spilled all over my sandwich and Caesar salad. Here was my lunch, floating in HAL lemonade. So...back in the line again, and one of the servers recognized me, and I explained what had happened. In no time, I had a duplicate, and he offered to bring my lemonade outside. Wonderful!
It may have just been a case of "good luck", but I must honestly say that this was truly a wonderful, hassle-free cruise for me! Finally being a Mariner now (wearing that blue pin proudly!), and receiving my tile of the "Zuiderdam I" (already have the Zuiderdam II), and just having everything go so smoothly, I can really say that this cruise (out of 28) ranks right near the top. When I got home, the Mariner newsletter was there advertising the Holiday cruises. Oh, so tempting!! But, I'm going on Princess in September (after a 30-year hiatus), and am probably too old to deal with the Holiday "kids" onboard. That's just me.
Anyway, it was a WONDERFUL cruise, and I am seriously thinking about changing that Princess cruise to another HAL cruise, since my roomate can't go. I've just never had a bad experience on HAL, and I've been on a lot of different lines. So...just re-affirming my love of Holland America, and looking into booking AGAIN! (And again, and again...etc)