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Sonora5

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About Sonora5

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    Cool Cruiser

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  • Location
    St Louis Missouri USA
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Holland America
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    Barcelona, Copenhagen

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  1. Well, I need to bring this report to a close. First, I want to again express how great the Assistant Cruise Director Tino was. He is very talented, kind and runs a great trivia. Second, a booking tip: If you are doing a Transatlantic and have a balcony, consider carefully which side you want to be on. East to west in the fall, port side can be very sunny and hot. Starboard side is shady and cool. We were on the port side this trip and have booked starboard for our next one. Thinking back, as friends here have asked me what we liked best, I realized that the tour of Olympia was amazing and one of the best tours we have ever done. Albania was very interesting, with lots of potential. Barcelona wonderful as always and we really enjoyed adding a new country to our list with our Andorra trip. We were glad to finally see Gibraltar. Monaco was a little cold, and our Toulon stop great. Cinque Terre should be on everyone's list. Our cruise ended all too soon. Disembarkation was a little bit of a problem. Those geezers in blazers need to be trained about the ADA. Mr S was wearing his portable oxygen concentrator because it was hot and humid in Fort Lauderdale and we weren't sure how far we would have to walk.We got our bags ok, as usual there weren't enough porters to go around, and a kind person got us into the handicapped line. Then one of those officious oldies with a clipboard stopped us, and told us they were holding up the handicapped line so people from the Global Entry line- who were already using one checkpoint-could get through faster. We asked for a supervisor and she refused to get one for us. This is really unacceptable. Fortunately, the very kind person at the head of the Global Entry line motioned for us to go when it was her turn. When Mrs Clipboard tried to stop us, our fellow passenger pointed out Mr S's oxygen equipment. We thanked here and were through the checkpoint very quickly. Grabbed a cab, on to the airport and uneventful flights home. Now time to start planning the next cruise!
  2. Thanks. More on the Pinnacle: We know that other people had trouble in the Pinnacle, steaks not done right, slow service, etc. We also know that there were people who ate in the Pinnacle quite a bit and had no problems. For our disappointing lunch, we were offered to come back for a free lunch, but declined. We were not crazy about the menu. We ate once or twice at the burger place by the pool and it was fine. We actually hit the Lido more than we usually do, especially in the port intensive part of the cruise. It was fine as well. I liked how clean it was kept, and I especially liked the appetizer station at the aft end of the Lido. We had two meals at Canaletto. One was with friends, the other just us. Both were good. I liked the food, especially the soup and the shrimp dish. I would say overall the food on the Oosterdam exceeded expectations. This may be due to the fact that the previous year on the Pacific Princess the food was not so great so the Oosterdam seems great in comparison.
  3. We also did some specialty dining. The Pinnacle Grill was available to us for breakfast, and we are there fairly often. I have to admit we did like the free mimosas with room service, and on particularly lazy days we just foraged in the Neptune Lounge. One day we decided to try the Pinnacle Grill for lunch. It was a disaster. The service was so slow we missed our trivia game. We never did get dessert, after two hours we finally left. No drink refills, no follow up, etc. For breakfast in the Pinnacle, the food was generally good. The service was not slow, exactly, but pretty disorganized. It seemed like every service had a different server. You want juice? That's not the same person that just brought you the bread tray. we muddled through but there was at least one couple who had a complete meltdown over something involving eggs. We also booked a second Sel de Mer, and the Cellar Master dinner. At the Cellar Master dinner we sat with two other couples, one who we knew and one who were new to us. We were enjoying the evening. I don't think the wine was marvelous but it was ok. Then, as the fifth course was to begin, the young waiter spilled my glass of wine all over me and the table cloth. His error was compounded by the fact that he let the rest of the tray of wine glasses start to tip, and a complete disaster was only narrowly averted. He was clearly mortified, and an older waiter hustled him away, Then we sat. And sat. All six of us. No one came back with fresh wine. No one served us the fifth course. No one checked to see if I was ok, or offered to dry clean my blouse. I was seated in the center seat on the banquette, and I did not want to disturb my companions so I sat there as my blouse dried. We finally were able to flag someone down, and got our wine and our food. I was startled that no one came by to apologize or check on me or anything. Our friends we dined with saw us several times over the rest of the cruise, and they were similarly surprised that no one made any kind of amends. Fortunately we had free dry cleaning, and my blouse, which was somewhat elderly, emerged unscathed. Our second Sel de Mer dinner was fine. It was just the two of us and we enjoyed the meal.
  4. This was our fourth transatlantic cruise, the third one east to west which we prefer. People ask us all the time about these cruises. The two most inquired about topics are the roughness of the seas and what we do for 7 or 8 days during the crossing. This time, the seas were like glass, and the days mostly warm and sunny. The seven day crossing passed extremely quickly. We don't usually do a lot of ship activities, other than trivia, but the time still flies. As suite passengers we had access to the Neptune Lounge, which is a fabulous suite amenity. Two concierges staff the lounge and take of everything for us. There is a wonderful rotation of snacks, changed every couple of hours. There is an honor bar, continental breakfast, and fresh coffee and juices all day. Iced tea and hot tea are also on offer. I liked a mix of iced tea and cranberry juice. We got set with a great trivia team and generally hit all the trivia contests. We got a bar reserved for us and our friends to watch election returns. We particularly enjoyed the Lincoln Center performances. The quintet of young musicians did an excellent job.
  5. Madeira: We love Madeira and we have been all over the island with Daniel Madeira Taxis, which I recommend. Great small group tours, they have several set options or you can customize. This time we chose to go it on our own. Our objective was to ride the cable car at Monte. No sleds for us, just hoho up to the top and then a round trip cable car ride. We took the free cruise ship shuttle into Funchal and hopped on the hoho. The blue line takes you up to the Botanical Gardens, and the cable car is an easy walk from there. The ride was great, spectacular views, and we had beautiful, sunny weather. At the bottom we walked around and got a snack at a cafe, then rode back up. The line is longer at the bottom than the top, because many people ride one way and do the sleds back down. We went back into town and looked around briefly, then back to the ship for seven days at sea. That evening we had our second dinner in the Main Dining Room. This time we chose to dine alone, and had a very nice meal with efficient and pleasant service and no bores. I believe we also played trivia. Next: Water, water everywhere
  6. A sea day! We had so many ports on this cruise, with few sea days in the first three weeks. After a rainy day in Lisbon that was a little disappointing, we were looking forward to kicking back. I did not take pics of any menus or food. I know those are popular and I will try to do better next time. We ate in the Lido on a lot of port days. The food there was good! There was rarely a line for anything. We liked the variety and the consistency. The aft end of the Lido had a special buffet of appetizers and small salad items. There were also nicely prepared seafood dishes quite often. We also got room service a lot. Sometimes we were very lazy and we had one of the concierges order for us. Mr S would get himself a generous pour at the lounge honor bar and we would settle in to our room. We got room service for breakfast a number of times also. They actually made a nice omelet on this ship, which does not always happen. Trivia was usually played twice daily. The early trivia was hosted by cruise director Kelly, who really seemed unhappy to be there. The afternoon trivia was hosted by assistant cruise director Tino who was great. Entertaining, funny, personable, and great trivia questions. He also hosted 2 or 3 music trivias and we begged for more. If you are lucky enough to have Tino on your cruise you will have a good time. After a relaxing sea day we were ready for Madeira, our last port before our seven day Atlantic crossing.
  7. Thanks kazu. This is fun to do, it was a great cruise.
  8. This is really fun to read. Thanks. I agree with those who yearn for a book trading shelf. To make book trading fun, check out bookcrossing.com On our recent cruise on the Oosterdam there were bookshelves in the Crow's Nest that people were using to trade books and magazines. The magazines I left were scooped up right away. Daniel Madeira taxis is the bomb. Love them.
  9. Don, I think you are mistaken as to much of what you have said. We were not late. The disembarkation was late. We did not exit at the wrong end of the building. 8 of us in the group met on board and walked off together. There may have been two people who were late but they weren't us. The guide was nowhere to be found. When we did find her-8 of us-she had no useful information about how long we would have to wait for the bus or anything. I was rarely off taking pictures. The rain was bad luck but not the fault of Spain Day Tours. Leaving us out in the rain because their bus was late was. I am glad you had a good time, but I request that withdraw your comments about what I was doing because they are not accurate. I think you are thinking of a different couple. We toured Gibraltar in the rain and it was a great tour.
  10. I decided I would share this info if asked. It was Spain Day Tours. I had never used them before, but I know they are a popular company with a lot of good reviews. There were at least two other couples on the tour who were pretty unhappy. I think the owner of Spain Day Tours got wind that this tour was not all it should be, because he emailed me three times asking me how the tour went. I waited until I got home to respond. We had a little bit of email correspondence. He offered me a free tour which was nice, but he also claimed that everyone else was happy with the tour, which I know was not true. He offered another couple who complained two free tours. I doubt I will accept the offered free tour. I appreciate the gesture, and his willingness to try to make it right. However, I am a little unhappy that he lied and said everyone else was happy. My conclusion is that I would not use them again. I like smaller tours on vans, 6-10 people, where we can all get to know the guide and driver, and where plans can be amended if we all agree, and where we can ask questions and are not dependent on those listening devices you wear around your neck. That kind of shenanigans is best left for ship tours.
  11. Our next stop was Lisbon. The sail in to port through the Tagus estuary was lovely. We enjoyed it on our balcony for several hours despite the off and on rain. When we finally got to port we were delayed in disembarking for about an hour. I think this was due to the rain and the water levels. Unfortunately, even though we were an hour late getting off, our tour provider was nowhere to be found at first. We searched up and down the row of buses in the rain and finally the guide turned up. She appeared to be jittery and disorganized. Our "van" was not there yet. We milled around until it showed up. The guide was not helpful. Our first stop was the Cathedral. Our group was larger than we anticipated, 16-18 rather than the 8-10 I thought we were getting. We had to wear annoying little hearing devices around our necks. Her commentary was not great anyway, and she did not make herself available for questions. We will never know who Senhor Dos Passos is, or why he was entombed in great style in the Cathedral. On to Cascais, where she directed us to a restaurant that was full. We gulped down a small meal elsewhere, bought a couple of things and back on the bus. On to the Pena Palace where again lack of communication was the order of the day. There was no info available from the guide about what to expect getting up to the Palace. Two gentlemen stayed behind and the guide expressed no concern or interest about this. The Palace was interesting but the outside was an ugly orange/yellow. There is a large house near where we live that is the same color, we laughed about that.The grounds are nice and there is a tram that hauls you up almost to the palace. We were not told about the elevator until the tour was over, and I know there were people in our party who would have preferred to use it. The interior of the Palace contains lots of nice things arranged in a scattershot fashion. The grounds are very nice. Back down to the bus in the tram and off to Sintro, where the guide took off up a hill. We enjoyed a nice snack at a little cafe and then went back to wait for the bus. We were then driven back to Lisbon and offered a tour (dark, rainy) of the City Center. Only one couple chose to do this, and the rest of us waited on the bus for them. Dreary day, dreary night, when we are back in Lisbon in two years I will book a different tour. Next: Finally, a sea day!
  12. Gibraltar We had always wanted to call in Gibraltar. We have sailed by it many times at night and could only see the outline of the large rock. So we were really pleased to have this port this time. We did a 3.5 hour tour with Inside Out Gibraltar tours that we booked with three other couples. Our guide, Dennis, was wonderful. He met us promptly at the pier, which was a relief because it was a cold and windy tour, raining off and on. We got a great overview of the island with Dennis. He was very knowledgeable and fun, and promised not to let the monkeys jump on me. We saw the cave-big and spooky, and you can go down I don't know how far. Light up with blue and green lighting. There is a souvenir shop just outside. We also visited where the macaques are fed, and then went on to the tunnel. This had the option of going in pretty far. We didn't go too far. There is a great place with an expansive view just outside the tunnel, and we got some cute pictures of a mother and baby monkey. We also visited the moorish castle, interesting, and some big gun-100 ton? We went down by the sea, and then drove across the runway. Dennis offered us the option of being dropped off in town but we all decided just to go back to the ship. For a rainy, windy day I think we did rather well. Of course, since we were in a small van rather than a giant bus, we were able to drive right up to all the attractions. Next: LIsbon
  13. Sonora5

    Medallion Events on Board

    We wore ours to the lunch immediately following the event where we received them. Not sure what to do with them now, but I do not think we will pack them and wear them again. By the way the ceremony was way more fun then I thought it would be, I was glad I went.
  14. We love you too, get on board the Rotterdam with us!
  15. We got in to Cartagena at about 8 am and it was a beautiful, sunny day. Much better than the gray skies of Barcelona and Mallorca. We had booked a segway tour with Anne and Eugene. We are experienced segway riders but it was their first time. We met the segway guide right at the pier, and we proceeded to do our "training" right there on a wide, flat plaza. I went first to show Anne that even a klutz could master a segway, and soon all four of us were swooping around with ease. I think our guide's name was Sergio, and there was also a second person from Cartagena segway to help. Cartagena has a lot of history as a port that changed hands many times, and also was (and is) a center for shipbuilding. Early submarines were built there in the 1880s. We swooped by the Maritime Museum (closed on Mondays) and learned about the ship names in the sidewalk bricks. We went to the Calle Major-lovely, filled with shops and cafes, and with a very photogenic City Hall. Then down the malecon to another interesting site, and up the small mountain to a scenic overlook. There was a castle, and we were also treated to a sweeping view of Cartagena, including Roman ruins and a soccer stadium. All too soon we were returning our segways. Mr S and I decided to revisit the Calle Major on foot. We wondered around, bought some lottery tickets and magnets, and stopped at a cafe to have a snack. The croquettes were so-so, but the pour on the gin and tonic was very generous. We tipped accordingly and headed back to the ship. Trivia and Happy Hour. Next: Gibraltar
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