Our Eastern Caribbean cruise started out with a Cruise Critic Roll Call party at the Seaview Bar on embarkation day. Edwin had nametags for all of us. (Thanks, Jo) IT was so fun to put together faces and names with screen-names that I had been conversing with for months. It seems that James Deering, the Hotel Manager of the Zuiderdam had been following our Roll Call Board and showed up at our get together. He had printed out all of our postings. WOW! Makes me feel that my opinion counts or at least that I am being heard. That's a good feeling.
From there it just kept getting better. The first day, the spa sold a limited number of unlimited hydrotherapy tickets. So I used the hydrotherapy pool in the spa every chance I got. It was so relaxing to look out onto the pool through the one-way window (or not) and not hear the excited splashing of everyone in and around that pool. Just the sounds of bubbling waters. The adults only hydrotherapy pool was just the thing to escape into for a while. Also, I found it relaxing to shower and dress in the Spa changing area when my room seemed overcrowded by two daughters also getting prepared for dinner. Funny how that relaxing hydrotherapy pool called to me just before dressing for dinner... (not really that funny)
Our 6:15 seating table for four in the Vista Dining room was great. We could look out the window onto the marine blue ocean. Our waiter was professional and precise with our orders. He had no time to chit chat but delivered our delicious meals quickly and made sure we had everything we needed every night. If an “extra” order of an appetizer was taken it was delivered quickly and in the correct order to make our dining experience ideal. There was much care taken with the place settings and a full service of sterling silverware was set each night. Plates were set onto the linens so that the logo of the china was at the top and the presentation of the meal was correct.
Half Moon Cay was the highlight of our trip. We rented a clamshell for the day and we were lucky enough to have fellow CC’ers near us who shared their cabana with us. We snorkeled with the Rays and that was quite an experience. It was low key and not too crowded in a nice area away from the beach and food areas. Actually, nothing was really crowded. The only time we stood in line the entire trip was at the Food pavilion on Half Moon Cay. And it wasn’t that bad.
We had an excellent experience everywhere we went. We took the Virgin Island Sailaway and were very pleased with the catamaran and the crew. We sailed to Norman Island (Treasure Island) and snorkeled in the clearest warm waters I have ever been in (and let me say that Hawaii is quite an experience). That day was so beautiful. But so were the ones before and after it. Our Trunk Bay, St John tour was cancelled and we quickly scheduled a tour to replace it. As it turned out, this sail to Secret Harbor was wonderful. Even though we missed the bus, they sent us on our own bus and we were lucky to not miss the boat. (Our other excursion was for 12:15 in St Thomas and the new one left only minutes after booking it 8:30 am, so gathering the kids and stuff and running for the boat was an adventure in itself.)
I loved the on-deck (Sail Away) party at St Thomas! Fun (new) friends and lots of dancing and entertainment to watch across the deck.
My DH and I renewed our vows on the ship. The renewal of vows package was very nice. We received flowers in our room, a special gathering (with our new CC friends -- thank you all SO much for making our special evening even more SPECIAL) the Captain and also James Deering the Hotel Manager. Captain John Scott said some lovely words and each renewing couple had the opportunity to speak their vows to each other. The Captain then congratulated all of the newlyweds on the ship and then we shared cake and bubbly. This package also included photos with the Captain and James that were placed in a large Holland America embossed album that included pages of short love poems and room for our photos. I must say here that prior to this loving experience I wondered if a renewal at sea would be corny. IT WAS NOT. It was really quite moving for the two or us, and our daughters.
We also enjoyed the Pinnacle Grill as a part of our package. We were lucky enough to enjoy it twice. Both times were amazing. We were given the best table in the place and the best server as well. Second time we were lucky enough to have wonderful dining partners that were interesting and truly added to our experience. As a meat lover, my DH had the 20 oz. porterhouse both times and he ate every delicious bite (I had the fillet both visits). His comment was that it was the BEST steak he had ever had (and this guy has steak EVERYWHERE). I must say that I had never had a steak as good as the one (and the second) I had in the Pinnacle. And the second night, just and GREAT as the first. I had the volcano cake for dessert and LOVED it.
Our two daughters (ages 12 & 17) found plenty of kids to befriend. They found "secret" places on the ship to hang out in (secret to them but the staff in the Lido always knows where to find "lost" 17 year olds after midnight). They enjoyed the dining room (to our surprise) while we enjoyed the Pinnacle Grill. They also enjoyed the Lido and Hunky Dorey always greeted them by name asking where their Mother or Father or friend or sister were (all by name, mind you). He would sing to Holly the name song that he made for her. And his counterpart Burt Reynolds was right on his tail with remembering hundreds of names of passengers as well. The food (of course) was fab. Always something good to eat. The Ice Cream bar was the 12 year old’s favorite! She also attended many of the Club Hal offerings. I must say that this trip was a little less Club Hal intensive for her. Being the top age of an age group is a hard place to be. Some activities were a little young for her. And I think that the Teen club would have been too old. That’s what Tweens are I guess, she picked and chose the activities that fit her style. 17 was “too cool” for some Club Hal activities. She found a group of friends (through Club Hal) and they hung out around the ship together. The teen club starts at 10pm, and this is good for the older kids. They had fun in the Disco doing the trivia games, movies twice a day, swimming, sunbathing, they both attended (separately from each other and us) the Chocolate dessert extravaganza. We all LOVED it! I was proud to see each daughter eating in the Vista dinging room with friends for lunch. Showing the new friends the dining room experience for lunch rather than sticking with the Lido all week.
Our Verandah room was a little cramped when the four of us were all bustling around but we managed well and enjoyed and used the balcony every time we went into our room. Our room steward was great at the turndown part of the day and he got that egg crate foam right away for the firm bed. Plus those extra pillows came in handy.
We ordered room service a couple of times and the food was good and the order correct. I wish there were waffles/pancakes and hash browns on that breakfast menu. DH and I also ate breakfast and lunch in the dining room. I love to be waited on with all that linen and silverware. All of the servers make sure the silver is correctly positioned for every course. Brushing the crumbs away before dessert is always nice as well.
Details, details that is where HAL really makes it RIGHT. Fresh flowers and real art pieces around every corner. I just love to walk up the staircase to see what art lives there.
I'd better run -- this is too long as it is. Thanks to ALL for making our trip a once in a lifetime experience!