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Zuiderdam Cruise to the Panama Canal
Oct 23, 2009
We flew from Tucson to West Palm Beach with Mom…Tina picked us up at the airport. We went to dinner at the Village Tavern and spent the night at Tina’s.
Oct 24, 2009
We are on our first HAL cruise, having been on close to 40 cruises on pretty much all of the other lines, Princess and RCI mostly, but also Carnival, NCL, and Costa. I’m 54, husband 63, Mom 79, and her roommate Tina is 65.
Tina’s driver picked us up and we were at Pt Everglades by noon. We were on the ship by 12:45.…after some old dockworker lady pushed me when I asked her which way to go. The rooms weren’t ready yet so we were directed to the Lido for the buffet, which was ridiculously full. People everywhere with luggage all over, no tables for 4 of us….so Mom and Tina got a table. Tina and I had previously gone down to the Explorers Lounge to get our dining seating changed….the 4 of us were at different tables even though our reservations had been linked together. (We did have different TAs but they both assured us in writing that they had been linked). I also cross referenced them on the Cruise Documents I filled out online. Later this afternoon we had something in our door that our table had been changed.
Lifeboat drill was excruciating. It was HOT and we were outside, with life jackets on, sweating like I don’t know what, but it was VERY uncomfortable. It took quite a while to get to our stateroom because there are a lot of old people on board and they don’t move very quickly……would have been fine except that it was so HOT!! We are from AZ and we are not used to this humidity. I like the way Princess does lifeboat drills….you meet in public lounges. Just as crowded, but not hot. With all those old people out there with their walkers and canes having to stand up, it is amazing that nobody fell or fainted (or maybe somebody did, just not in our area!!)
The folks in the condos in Ft Lauderdale ring bells and hoot and holler as we leave. The captain of our ship reciprocates by blowing the horn many times.
Our cabin is 1123, a Cat K inside cabin. It is very nice, but warm. We have the AC turned all the way down but will have to ask someone tomorrow to look at it. We are aft just in front of the crew quarters. When you come into the door to the right is a couch that is shaped like an L . The couch fits into the corner and there is a table in front of it, and a chair on the other side. On the wall on the right is a counter and there is a refrigerator and a cabinet underneath. The cabinet has a hairdryer that is attached. I used it tonight and it is very weak…only 1200 watts. My hair was not dry by the time we left for dinner. Next time I’ll bring my own. The fridge was full of soda and stuff for purchase. We took it out and asked our cabin steward if he wanted us to store it in the closet or if he wanted to remove it. He said he would remove it but he forgot because it was still here when we got back from dinner. They are very busy on embarkation day so I’m sure he’ll do it tomorrow. Attached to the table is a closet that is actually 3 separate closets. There is a safe inside and some shelves as well. Needed more hangars which the room steward brought promptly. There is a stool pushed underneath the counter. The bed (2 twins pushed together) is pushed into an alcove to the left, with the obligatory fake curtains above it pretending that they are a window. Night stands on each side. The bathroom is to the left as you enter the stateroom. Typical cruise ship bathroom. So far the negatives we have noticed are that it is very dark in here….there is a mirror above the counter, along with a makeup mirror, but you can’t even see your face in the mirror it is so dark. There is a flat screen TV mounted in the corner above the counter. I tried tonight to turn it so I could watch it from the bed, but it doesn’t move. It is facing the L shaped couch. I’m going to ask the cabin steward tomorrow if it can be moved. (Note, asked the cabin steward and the TV is facing the bed as much as it can, it does not rotate.) There is a DVD player underneath. No info in the cabin regarding TV stations, DVD rental, movies, nothing….I’m thinking maybe the last folks took it with them…but they did leave their Special K cereal, bowl, spoon, sugar packet, and some chopsticks….Our first inside cabin in years, but it is very big and seems like it will be fine.
We bought a pass for the Hydropool and spa. When I called HAL they said it was $350 for the 10 days for the 2 of us. Today it was $200 for the 2 of us. They said they sell 40 passes. We went up there after the lifeboat drill….was so relaxing…the pool is not hot like a Jacuzzi and has lots of jets, fountain things to spray your back, a metal rod thing to lie back on….there are 5 lounge chairs on the side and a bunch of wicker chairs with cushions on the side. We also have passes to the thermal suite that were included but haven’t been there yet.
Did not buy an Internet pass….too expensive. The cheapest package was 55 cents a minute. I brought my laptop so I am typing daily updates on it. Funny thing is, we are way down on Deck 1 and the wifi down here is very strong, but I’m not going to pay that kind of money. You can access HAL website and New York Times for free.
Our first dinner was tonight….table 52 in the upper Vista dining room, traditional late seating at 8:00. Mom and Tina are at our table, plus a very nice family from Maryland, Mom Christie, son Zack, and her parents Irene and Ken, who are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. We had leftover Special K, spoon, sweetener and bowl in our cabin, Christie and her son had leftover women’s underwear in their closet….I think I prefer having the Special K….Dinner was hit and miss. Servers seemed nice…never saw a wine steward until I asked 3 times, then an asst dining mgr came by to take my order and the rest of our table’s wine order…by this time we were waiting on our main course. They forgot my salad and got the rest of the orders mixed up. My prime rib was fine, but not rare as requested…more medium well. We left at 10 because Rog wanted to go to a movie, and I came back down to the room to write my notes.
HAL still gives chocolates (I assume they are chocolate)….when I got back tonight there was a breakfast menu with 2 gold foil wrapped goodies….along with an HAL tote bag. It is still hot in here…..but I am going to go to bed now. More tomorrow…
Oct 25, 2009
Today was Half Moon Cay. Luckily Mom called and woke us up at 9 or we might still be sleeping! I did run up to the Lido to grab a quick breakfast before going ashore. They have made to order waffles and an Eggs Benedict station!! I had one Eggs Benedict with breakfast potatoes…remember those triangle shaped potato cakes at Arby’s? They were good!! Of course there was tons of other stuff, but that’s what stood out for me. One weird thing about the Lido buffet is that there are so many different stations that you have to stand in line at several to get what you want and by the time you do that the rest of your food is cold. Example: if you get a waffle you then have to go someplace else to get bacon or sausage to go with it. So you need to get the stuff that tastes the best cold first, then add the hot stuff to your plate.
Got off the ship at 10, and needed no tender tickets at that time. HAL has the best tenders I have ever seen! Very big, 2 story tenders, fit a LOT of people which helps clear out the ship quickly. When we got to HMC we rented snorkel equipment and a clamshell. The clamshell was great for shade, but it was hot inside, kind of like a tent when you are camping on the hottest weekend of the summer. The snorkeling was worthless (at least from the beach), I do not recommend it. No fish or coral to be seen, just sand. It did give my mom practice for Aruba on Tues. The beach itself was very beautiful white sand, the water was very clear turquoise blue, water was just the right temperature. We ended up spending most of our time in the water. Had lunch at the bbq, got there around 12:35..it was open from 11:30 to 1. It was pretty picked over when we got there, but there was supposed to be ribs, minute steak, hot dogs, some kind of fish, and salad stuff. What we had was good. The desserts were all gone. They had run out of iced tea and drinks and the drink stations did not even have cups to get water in. We went to the bar and the bartender gave us paper cups of water.
There were lots of shady structures with picnic tables underneath to eat in. The plates were glass and there was real silverware.
We were at the more crowded end of the beach, closer to where you catch the tender back to the ship. The clamshells are all lined up in the back of the open chairs. The attendant set it up by just inserting a plastic pipe to hold it up.
Went back to the beach and hung out in the water until the beach pretty much cleared out, and we took the last tender back to the ship….around 2:30.
Went to the Hydropool when we returned and it was lovely….very nice and quiet and relaxing. They have cold water with citrus in it and some fruit in there. I tried the thermal stone loungers and they were nice, they overlook the sea. There are a few saunas in there and showers as well.
Dinner tonight was good….I’m feeling a bit under the weather with my asthma, so started on breathing treatments and increased my meds, so I really wasn’t that hungry. I had asked last night if we could have a couple of cheese plates on the table every night when we got there to share while we waited to order. They weren’t there, but when he looked at us he remembered and went and got us some very nice cheese plates. I had 2 bowls of the onion soup and ordered chicken but I really couldn’t eat the chicken. I left the DR after 9:30, dessert orders had not been given yet, so I came back to the cabin. My husband told me that they brought out an anniversary cake for Irene and Ken which slowed things down even more. He missed the start of the 10:00 show, which was a vocal entertainer named Tony Cherry. He said he was outstanding. The service tonight was better than last night but still very slow with very long lulls (ie over 20 minutes) between courses. They brought everyone’s main course at the same time but not Zack’s. He ordered a very rare steak. When it finally got there (over 20 minutes after we had all received ours, it was medium well (and I’m being generous here). He was sitting next to me and I asked if he was going to send it back but he declined and wolfed that thing down in 2 minutes, then headed for the casino. Our servers are very nice, but the fact that we are at the back of the dining room may account for some of the slow pace. Water glasses get refilled very rarely, I wish they’d just leave the pitcher on the table. I certainly would not mind filling my own glass rather than having to find someone to fill it. The wine steward was very attentive tonight, however.
When I came back to the cabin our towel animal was a stingray. Very cute, they even had little eyes for him. It is still HOT in here, and I went to the front desk earlier today to ask someone to look at it. They called back later in the day and said that it was within normal limits….22. I asked her what that was in Fahrenheit, but she doesn’t know. When she asked if I needed anything else, I should have said a fan. The cabin steward did store the minibar stuff inside the ottoman.
Had a couple of breathing treatments and went to bed…..which is very comfortable by the way. We are sleeping so well…
Oct 26, 2009
Today was a sea day on the way to Aruba. My husband got up at 9 but I managed to sleep till 10:30 because my asthma had me down. We went up to the Promenade Deck and sat in the comfy teak chairs with the cushions on them. We were off the coast of Haiti. Haiti was on the port side and we were sitting on the starboard side. There were folks out in dugout canoes (or very small canoe appearing watercraft) standing and waving and yelling something at us. They were pretty far out…
Went to the Lido for lunch, the usual mish mash. If you had a made to order sandwich and then wanted fries, that was a different line. The food is good….just hard to keep warm. And no mashed potatoes, which I thought was somewhat strange since they were serving meatloaf. All they had were oven roasted. The pasta station is very good…I had it on the first day. They have linguini and penne and you can have them saute onions, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, spinach, mushrooms, whatever, then they add the pasta to that, and then you pick your sauce. Very yummy, I had it the first day. Normally if we eat breakfast we don’t eat lunch, and vice versa, so I’m going to have to decide between Egg Benedict in the morning or pasta at lunch!! I am not a sweets eater, but the only desserts that are out, as far as I can tell, are cookies next to the ice cream. The other desserts are behind a clear glass barrier in the ice cream area. So you have to stand in line in the ice cream area to get a dessert.
I went to the Hydropool after lunch and Rog went to a movie. They have a very nice screening room with very big very comfortable chairs in it. Perhaps 30 chairs. Rog went to the gym after joining me at the Hydropool, I came back to the cabin to do more breathing treatments.
Tonight was formal night. They had 2 champagne toast gatherings to meet the captain and staff, neither of which we could attend because our dinner seating is at 8. The first was at 7:45..Irene and Ken tried to go to that one but when they got there they were told they didn’t have enough time, that they had to go to dinner. The second one was at 9:45 and we had just given our dessert order at that time, so couldn’t make that one either. Our waiter and assistant are sweet as pie, our waiter has even memorized all of our
names and calls us by name even when we switch seats, which we do every night. I’m not quite sure what the problem is, but our service is slow and unorganized. Our dinners keep being offered to the wrong person, meat is consistently overcooked, water glasses don’t get filled….Now, I am not picky. But tonight 4 of us ordered the lamb chops, medium rare. I asked for a small filet from the sea and land plate. Just the filet with the chops, no prawns, no sides, I was sharing with my husband. When they brought our 4 servings of lamb they were all well done with none of the sauce mentioned on the menu. We all sent them back. In the meantime they tried to give me a sea and land plate that I did not order. Well, everything got sent back, so only 2 people at the table had dinner. (My mom was seasick in her cabin ). Poor Zack didn’t get his dinner either….we later determined that it was his rare land and sea dinner that they brought back to the kitchen as well. One of the headwaiters came by and noticed we were all sitting there with no food and he took off for the kitchen. The second plates were better, but Zack’s filet was overcooked again. Mine was OK, but more medium rare than the rare that I ordered. The headwaiter noticed our water glasses were empty and he filled them. I just don’t know what the problem is….the servers are very nice, and we are not demanding, we don’t add stuff to our order after we give it, nothing like that…we just want our food the way we ordered it. We are consistently the last table in the dining room. One bright note----the cheese plates were waiting on the table tonight! Our server did apologize, saying that his assistant just picked up the lamb and didn’t check to see that they were correct.
It was so HOT in the dining room tonight that you couldn’t tell it was formal night. All of the guys had their jackets off, people were fanning themselves with the menus…it was horrible. A problem with the AC, we were told.
Got back to our cabin, and got the hanging monkey towel animal. He’s probably my favorite
Rog went to check out the 50s/60s party but left. He went to listen to a string quartet that he said was very good. When he came back to the cabin he wanted some ice for his Coke, but the room steward had not filled up our ice bucket. So he went to the front desk (it is on our floor) in search of ice and to tell her that our cabin is HOT!! She told him that they were working on it and to be patient, it should be cooler soon. Well, it’s midnight and I’m still up because it is HOT in here!! If I am not mistaken I read about some problems with the AC on the cruise through the Panama Canal a few weeks back. Seems like they’ve had enough time to get somebody to fix it, because it is miserable. I’d check on that review, but with the Internet being so expensive I’m not going there. I sure am spoiled with my Princess free Internet.
Our tablemates went to the Lido pool today and watched the pool games, they said it was pretty funny. We haven’t been in that pool because they don’t close the cover and it is very sunny in there. There is an aft pool totally out in the sun as well. We really like to have a covered pool, being from AZ we don’t do the sun, plus I had a melanoma so I really have to be careful. The Solariums on the Vision Class ships of RCI are perfect. That being said, we are loving the Hydropool and the peace and quiet. One suggestion--there are only 5 lounge chairs in there and every day there are folks waiting for the chairs. The other chairs, lining 2 other walls, are wicker sit up chairs. Would be nice to have more loungers.
Aruba is tomorrow….we get there at noon. We are doing the Jolly Pirates sail and snorkel that we booked independently. It starts at 3.
Oct 27, 2009
Slept until 9:30 again….these beds are so comfortable, plus the inside cabin is pretty dark, the way I like it for sleeping.
Went up to the Lido to get some breakfast, the buffet was supposed to close at 10:30 and the Continental breakfast at 11. Got there about 10:10...the Eggs Benedict station was already closed, as was that entire side. Rog stood in line for an omelet, only one omelet station open. Again, rather strange that there are no potatoes at the omelet station, you have to go stand in line at a separate spot to get those or toast. Those lines were closed by the time he made it through the omelet line. He tried finding a Danish at 10:50, and the Continental breakfast station was closed then as well. I had a waffle, which was good, but had to stand in a different line to get sausage to go with it.
We have docked in Aruba and will get off at 1:15 to go on our tour.
We booked the Jolly Pirates sail and snorkel independently. We were told by Jolly Pirates that the taxi would be $10 each way. When we got off and asked for a taxi at the pier (to Moomba Beach) they wanted $14. We didn’t pay it, went out to the street and found a nice lady driving a minivan taxi who took us for $10 and told us she’d pick us up at 6:15 after our tour was done, which she did.
We arrived at Jolly Pirates, checked in and had a seat in a bar area on the beach to await the time for our tour (boarding at 2:45). It was a very nice beach area, surrounded by resorts (I think one was the Marriott where the teenager disappeared). There was a lot of shade and lots of picnic tables. The bartender was very nice and let us sit there even though we didn’t buy anything…he even went into the restaurant and brought us a large bread roll to throw to feed the fish, he said it would attract them, and boy did it!
The Jolly Pirates boat had big sails, lots of shade, and unlimited booze (a great attraction for the many 20 and 30somethings aboard). The tour was from 3 to 6 and cost $30. We started at a snorkel sight with a sunken boat and lots of fish and coral. The sea was very rough there however, so my mom did not go in, just my husband. They made everyone wear lifejackets. I could not go in either, which was a disappointment, because they did not have prescription masks and I am blind as a bat. The next stop was in a calmer spot and my mom was able to snorkel there. At 79 she was the oldest snorkeler aboard, and the crew treated her like royalty, calling her MaMa and kissing her on the cheek frequently. You can see she hated the kissing part.
I can see why this is not a ship’s sponsored excursion….perhaps a bit too much booze and not enough safety lesson time, but boy was it fun. We enjoyed a nice relaxing sail back to the harbor and got in right on time at 6. If we had thought about it ahead of time we may have stayed on the beach for happy hour, but our taxi driver was meeting us. Our taxi driver gave us a name of a guide to look for in Curacao tomorrow, Rudolff Alli, so we’ll look for him in the morning.
We were back to the ship in time to spend a bit of time in the Hydropool before dinner. The Hydropool is the best money we spent onboard. Very relaxing and quiet.
Dinner tonight was more of the same…servers who call us by name and are very friendly, a wine steward who doesn’t show up until after 8:30 to take our wine orders, and meals being given to the wrong people, water glasses not being refilled. Tonight we stopped at the lobby bar to get a glass of wine to bring in with us….we’re getting smart! We all bought the wine cards, so maybe that has to do with the inattention, but I’ve been giving him a dollar each time I get a glass of wine, I thought maybe that would make him more available. The other 2 folks at our table who drink wine got smart and got theirs ahead of time as well. The food was fine, they are remembering to bring our appetizer cheeses, and our tablemates are fantastic. The dining room was quite empty tonight because we are in Aruba until late, but our service was still at the same speed, we were done by around 10. I headed to the cabin (asthma kicking my butt), and Rog went to see The Ugly Truth in the Screening Room.
Oct 28, 2009
Today we were in Willemstad, Curacao. We got off around 9 AM and set off to find Rudollff Alli, who was described to us by our taxi driver as a tall black man dressed all in white. We found him pretty easily. He had a very nice air conditioned van and took us for an island tour for $20 apiece. My mom, Rog and I were joined by 7 or 8 Canadians. They spoke mostly English, but some spoke French, so Rudollff gave the tour in French and English. He took us around the island. We saw the fishing huts where the fishermen go for a week at a time before they return to their families.
We saw some flamingoes out in a bay…
Went to the Curacao “factory ” to watch the bottling procedure. We sampled all the different flavors and I bought two bottles to take home….a blue one and a chocolate. I have no idea how I’m going to get them in the suitcase and on the plane without breaking. Pretty stupid….
We went to several beautiful overlooks of the Spanish Waters and the bays and the city. Went over the Queen Juliana Bridge several times and watched the floating bridge open for boats. Went by the floating market where one of the guys in the stalls handed Rudolff a banana.
Rudolff kept telling us how much some of the homes cost….anywhere from $80,000 US to $850,0000. There is a lot of poverty here, and a lot of dirt. The colors on the homes are beautiful, and the views are something. The wind was like Aruba….strong!! I can’t imagine that hairdressers make any money here. A ponytail or a really short cut would seem to be what you would need.
When we got back to the ship the attendants were outside handing out cool towels and lemonade. Very nice touch….and we could hear folks complaining that they didn’t have water!!!
When we got back we spent a bit of time at the Hydropool once again, then I got to go visit the infirmary because my asthma was getting steadily worse. They were very nice down there, gave me a breathing treatment, some different meds for my nebulizer, a nice big old steroid shot and some cough medicine. I was impressed with the treatment. Then, off to dinner once more!
Dinner was the same….great friendly smiling happy faces, service a bit lacking. Zack was not feeling well tonight, so Zack and Kristie were absent from dinner. We had beef sirloin that was the closest to rare yet….it was medium rare, so we’re making progress. We were done at 10 again, I went to the room to do more breathing treatments and Rog and my mom and everyone else went to the show, which was a steel drum group from Trinidad, Island Magic. Everyone really enjoyed it, I guess they were fabulous. They say there will be another chance to enjoy the music, so I look forward to that.
Oct 29, 2009
Today was a sea day on the way to the Panama Canal. Slept in until 10:30, missing the Eggs Benedict once more. Enjoyed the pasta lunch, and spent the rest of the day in the Hydropool enjoying the peace and relaxation and finishing my book.
Every staff person on this ship has been very friendly. They are always smiling, greet you when they pass you in the hallway…we are on Deck 1 and the front desk folks are always greeting us as we go by. The problem is that the staff are just not very efficient and we are trying to figure out why. Our stateroom was not made up yesterday until well after we returned from Curacao….after 1:00, and we left by 9 AM. Some days it is not made up until 2:00. Only thing I can figure is that they have way too many rooms to take care of because they are always busy. After calling for ice every night after my husband came back to the room after dinner, he finally asked the room attendant why we didn’t get ice with the evening turndown, and it turns out that the ice is on request at night. We don’t have any info in this room about room service menus, TV stations, anything like that. Usually there is some kind of portfolio, but there is not one in this room….not that we’ve seen, anyway. Our dining room servers are sweet as pie, but again, the service is extremely slow and our dirty plates sit in front of us for 20 minutes sometimes. Our water gets refilled on request (which is hard because they are always busy) or when the headwaiter happens by. The 2 servers are taking care of 2 tables of 8 and one of 6, so maybe that is just too heavy a load. My husband asked for iced tea every night, and I think it was there once.
Tonight was formal night, and we got our glasses of wine before entering the dining room so we wouldn’t have to wait for the wine steward. Our tablemates forgot, and it was 8:40 before he happened by to take their order. They were talking about going out to a bar, getting their wine, then coming back, but stuck it out. Zack has the swine flu so is quarantined in his cabin. His mom ordered dinner for him and our servers made sure that room service would bring it down. Tonight I had the prime rib and it was as close to rare yet. The servers forgot all about the cheese until after they served the first course. That’s another thing, we all usually only order one appetizer or salad…at the most 2. Nobody ever gets appetizer, soup, and salad, and yet the service is still way slow. I really wouldn’t mind except that we are consistently close to the last table leaving the dining room and my husband keeps missing the beginning of the shows. We have always loved late traditional dining, because we love meeting our servers and tablemates….but this is getting silly.
The show tonight was the Zuiderdam singers and dancers, which does not interest my husband, and the movie was the Taking of Pelham 123 so no show for him tonight…we retired to the cabin and I did more breathing treatments! We got to turn the clock back an hour tonight…
We are getting some pretty fantastic towel animals…..I’ve never seen an octopus or a peacock before!!
Oct 30, 2009
Today was the Panama Canal transit. Again I slept in, still not at my full potential. My husband went up to watch the transit (we’d seen it before). They had somebody on the loudspeaker narrating but he couldn’t hear him from where he was standing.
It is really HOT here!! I got up in time for my Eggs Benedict, then went to ask a question of the Digital Workshop instructor. This is a very nice thing they have here, free computer classes at the Digital Workshop powered by Windows. They are showing folks how to post their cruise photos, make videos, share photos via email….edit photos, advanced photo editing, blogging….I have not been to any of the classes, but last night I was having a problem. I am new to this laptop business and have been trying to write and insert pics. I saw that they had Techspert Time, where you could practice your skills, at 11 AM today. So I headed up there with my laptop and Jason helped me out in no time. I’m going to try to head up there the next time he has an open question time, I’m just not very good at sitting through a whole class. They have a bunch of Sony laptops set up and it looks like a nice classroom area.
We hung out at the Hydropool again, then went ashore for a very short time once we got to Cristobal. We got there about 3:30 or so, and needed to be back onboard by 6:30. The pier area is a very large hot warehouse with lots of flea market type booths set up basically selling the same kinds of arts and crafts. There was an Embera Indian booth set up and a few folks dressed up and playing various instruments. It really looked contrived and they all looked as though they were bored to be there with the tourists (I would be too). Then there was an obnoxious guy with a guitar who was haunting the line that we waited in to get back onboard the ship. He would play a couple of bars on his guitar, ask you your name, then shove his tip hat into your face. I heard complaints about him from many folks. I wish I had stayed onboard because once you got off there was a long line to get back onboard and it was hot and miserable waiting.
We had dinner at the Pinnacle Grill this evening. Took my mom and her roommate and it was fabulous. Our TA had given us lunch ($20 for 2 of us), so we applied that to the dinner and treated Mom and Tina. Finally, a rare piece of meat….and a succulent filet at that. The service was great. There were choices of many kinds of meats and sides. I had the French Onion Soup, Caesar salad, filet with scalloped potatoes and chocolate souffle. It was heavenly. Headed to bed now, turning our clocks back an hour again. Tomorrow is Limon, Costa Rica and we are doing a tour with Oscar Brown so need to be up early.
Oct 31, 2009
We had a wonderful tour with Oscar Brown in Limon today. We got off of the ship at 8 and met Oscar and his driver Allan just outside of the gates of the pier. There is some kind of problem going on with the dock workers, union workers, and tour guides. As soon as we got off we were approached by many folks wanting to sell us excursions but once we told them we were with Oscar Brown, they told us where to meet him and pointed us in the right direction. One guy even walked us part way through the shopping area to show us that Oscar was the guy with the white glasses on. Oscar and Allan were so much fun! We had a very nice air conditioned mini van with Allan driving and Oscar commentating. The banter these two had was so funny! They really knew how to joke and to have fun with each other and with us. They were so solicitous of my mom (she uses a cane), and one of them was always helping her in and out of the van and always had a helping hand when we were walking anywhere. First we drove around the city and he showed us some highlights. Then we headed for the country. We stopped at his friend’s house, where there was a male sloth just hanging around the yard. Tina got her first big thrill of the day when she asked to hold him and she picked him up, grinning wildly the whole time. Not for me, thanks, but he was a very interesting animal. Boy did he climb that tree slowly, almost like in slow motion. There was also a setup of native fruits and drinks and Oscar educated us on what each one was, what they are used for, and had us smell and taste (only sometimes!!) some of them.
We headed for the rain forest, where we took a short walk, after Oscar offering all of us fresh fruit to take along. Oscar and Allan once again educated us on all of the different plants. Oscar picked a lot of leaves that he uses for tea…he also picked a bunch of hot peppers (like jalapenos) to take home to his wife (and his 7 children). Oscar has 14 sisters…he is the only boy and the youngest. He said that he was told that when he was born his father partied for months!! Oscar and Allan also picked some different types of fruits to take home. They told us that anything you can pick is free. We saw several different types of birds, but no snakes or anything scary. Oscar noticed that my mom was getting fatigued and we were hot, and he asked Allan to go get the van and come get us. Another nice touch, we never complained and would never have asked him to do that, he did it on his own. Oscar cracked coconuts in half and we got to taste coconut juice.
We went to the Del Monte banana plantation where we watched them process bananas for shipping. It is quite the operation. Allan took us through the working area, explaining the different tasks and what everyone was doing. He took us out to where the banana trees are and explained about mama and dada and grandbaby trees and longevity and how they get the bananas to the processing plant. Trust me, they don’t just pick them.
We went for a drive through the countryside, Oscar showing us Brahma bulls in many fields….some right along with horses. He also showed us some “rich” areas…..”that guy lives in California”, “that guy works on cruise ships”, “that guy is from Florida”….many of them had 5 acres or so immaculately taken care of. The contrast between those homes and the locals was amazing.
We went on a Tortuguero Canal boat ride. Oscar and Allan turned us over to Fernando and his son, who had a small covered boat with 3 rows of seats. Again, it was just my mom and Tina and Rog and I. We headed down the river in search of wildlife. Didn’t see a lot of wildlife….we did see egrets and blue herons and other types of birds. We went by a fisherman who said the fishing was very good that day, he had a boatload full of blue crabs. He had just caught one and he rowed over to us to show it to us. At that time we saw that the bottom of his boat was full of blue crabs that he had already caught. We continued down the river and saw a few homes on the sides, and a Coast Guard Station!! Looked like a bunch of shacks but it was an honest to goodness Coast Guard Station. We had seen them earlier patrolling. Fernando told us that the Colombian drug trade is a big problem here. When we were at the Coast Guard Station he pointed out a big boat that had been caught…the owners are in prison. There were a couple of children out on a dock a bit farther down. They had a rowboat in front of them…the boy was showing us the alligator in the rowboat!! It was a couple of years old I think they said, and Tina got her second big highlight when she got to hold the alligator. There was also a very large turtle. I guess the alligator has been hanging out with them since it was born. We went by what looked like a restaurant that had 4 very large very fancy boats with hard plastic covers on them and fancy painting on the sides. Turns out that those are the boats used for the ship’s shore excursion. All of the passengers were piling on, I’d say at least 60 of them per boat. And here we were in our little boat with our own private tour guide and his son. I have to say that we felt quite superior, even more so when we found out that the ship people paid almost $70 apiece just for the boat ride!! We had so much more and paid so much less!! Their guide had a microphone (trust me, we heard it) and they were all fighting for the outside seats. Our seats were all outside!!
We headed for an Animal Preserve. It is actually a family’s home, and they take in animals that are hurt and rehab them. There was a female sloth that had been hit by a car a week ago. She was pregnant and she had the baby 4 days ago. The mama and baby were doing fine and were so cute! They had them in cages, and I managed a pic of the mom and baby. There were macaws and other types of exotic birds. Tina got another big thrill when she got to hold a couple of birds and have her picture taken with them. There was a peacock running around, lots of wild ducks, and the next door neighbor’s child who was a very cute young man who loved to play with the animals.
We headed for Oscar’s “surprise stop”, which is a beautiful overlook. You can see the ship from there as well as the mountains and the city. There used to be a restaurant that Oscar said he used to take his tours to, but it was sold and has not reopened yet.
I was again having problems with my asthma all day. Oscar had told us at the beginning of the day that he had a cure for asthma that worked for his children. Well, before dropping us off at the ship he had Allan stop at a store where he bought me a bottle of his cure. He kept calling it kyosena. Anyway, he told me to burn it overnight in a lamp. The next day I needed to take a spoon of sugar and 5 drops of it and take it like medicine. He said to do it 4 times a day. We accepted the bottle, and said our fond goodbyes after giving them a generous tip. Once onboard the ship, I told Rog that it sure sounded like he was saying that his cure was “kerosene”. When we got back to the cabin and smelled it, sure enough, it smelled like kerosene or gasoline. Whoa!! Rog took it to the front desk to explain what happened (it went through security), and they said they would take care of disposal for us.
I would highly recommend Oscar. He did a great job and we had a wonderful day. The way he treated all of us was fabulous.
Once aboard I did a breathing treatment and we went to the Lido for lunch. We got there a few minutes before 2. Just after us all of the ship’s tour people arrived….5 busloads of them….for lunch. Only problem…they closed down ALL of the serving stations except for the pizza, pasta, and one ice cream station. The lines were unbelievable. I counted 15 people waiting for pasta orders. The only alternatives were for them to go outside to the grill. Very poor planning on HAL’s part. If you know you have tour groups returning why would you close down lunch? Even the sandwich making station was closed. We got there just ahead of them, so we were fine, but there was a lot of grumbling going on!
Headed to the Hydropool to relax once again, then up for dinner. By now we know and we stop at the Atrium bar for our wine on the way up. Dinner was fine, the great thing is the company at our table, but once again the orders were mixed up, service slow and confused, no water refilled, same old…..Our servers are great personality wise!
I headed back to the cabin for breathing treatments, Rog to the movie.
Nov 1, 2009
A day at sea..
I spent 3 hours in the infirmary this morning getting breathing treatments, IV treatments, lots of steroids….I’m feeling much better now. I still have the hep lock in because I need to go back tomorrow AM…..they wanted to keep the IV in just in case I needed more IV treatments. They are great down there, I can’t say enough good. They have given me great treatment and seem truly concerned. I have so many steroids in me now that my bad knee doesn’t hurt! I’ve been banned from the Hydrotherapy pool…..it is probably the humidity in the Caribbean and Florida that has exacerbated my asthma so badly, and the Hydropool doesn’t help. So today I hung out in the Crow’s Nest reading looking out over the sea.
The Susan Komen foundation walk for the Cure was today. I was impressed with the way HAL handles it. They had quite a large turnout. You give a $15 donation, and Tshirts were handed out, they had music, water, lemonade, the CD and a couple of other staff members were holding up lap numbers, there were people cheering…a great job. I couldn’t walk and technically I wasn’t supposed to be outside, the doctor told me to stay inside in the AC but I couldn’t resist cheering on a bit. Rog walked and I got some pics as well as a T shirt since I donated but couldn’t walk.
Dinner was the same….fine, orders all mixed up again. We sit with very experienced cruisers and I don’t think any of us are going to give anything extra to our staff (we kept the autotips in place of course). They are nice as pie, but tonight Kristi never got salad dressing for her salad, all but 3 of us ordered the surf and turf and they never came to get the shells off, also never came with butter for the lobster, Kristi’s dad ordered a meal salad and he didn’t get salad dressing, I ordered filet NOT lobster and they brought me the filet and lobster which I did send back…..so just more of the same. No water refills, Kristi and Rog have given up on their iced tea which was supposed to be a standing order every night. Now, even when they order it at the beginning they don’t get it. Maybe these guys are just overworked. Too bad, because they are very nice, but not efficient.
Well, done with the breathing treatment for the night, actually started some packing since the steroids make it hard to sleep…..but I think I will try now.
Nov 2, 2009
Another day at sea. Very nice calm seas, we sat in the Crow’s Nest reading for most of the day since I was banned from the Hydropool. Went back to the infirmary and had another IV…they are really very nice and efficient down there.
Now my mom’s roommate Tina has the swine flu. She has been quarantined to her cabin. Zack is better, he is back at dinner, but haven’t seen Tina since yesterday when she started feeling sick. This AM the doctor told me not to worry about my mom, since she is 79 she shouldn’t get it…we thought about moving her to our cabin tonight for the last night but the doc said it would not be effective.
Tonight for dinner they had a “special” dinner master chef or something like that….since we are at fixed seating anyhow it didn’t really matter, we eat at 8 no matter what. But the folks in the “anytime” had to eat at 5:30 or 8 only. There were no “alternative” dishes, only what was on the menu, and they did a little song and dance and juggling. We were actually done eating by 9:30, earliest by far, even with the song and dance. I ordered my meat really rare, as usual, and it came well done. I politely turned it down, and the waiter told me that that was the only way it was available. I said OK, no problem, I had salad and I was full. Less than 5 minutes later, along came another plate with rare beef on it. Just another example of our dining service….nice guys but not efficient.
Went back to the room to finish packing…luggage had to be out by 1 AM.
They tell you what time you are to get off and you show up, no announcements made, which is nice. Plenty of cabs to FLL…cost us $14 for the 3 of us and all of our luggage and we were there in about 15 minutes (if not less)
This is just a draft of my notes....I am still a bit jet lagged and worked all day today, as well as the next 5 days in a row. I will try to answer questions but I am working a lot so will get back with you all when I can!!