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RetiredMustang

Live from Noordam Feb. 13 - March 5, 2010

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After a day or so of getting settled, I've decided to start a "live from" blog and record some observations, experiences, and sometimes wildly biased opinions on our 20-day Collector's cruise on Noordam.

 

 

Pre-cruise:

 

We were two of the many refugees from the Northeast blizzards and snowstorms. Several members of our CC roll call also had to escape the weather, and I hope they all made it. We live in the Washington, D.C. area and had originally planned to travel by Amtrak on Thursday night to arrive in Ft. Lauderdale on Friday, according to our policy of arriving at least the day before the cruise. With impending uncertain weather forecasts, we cancelled Amtrak the first week of Feb., and decided to drive, leaving Thursday morning to arrive Friday in Ft. Lauderdale.

 

But, on Saturday Feb. 6, two feet of snow hit D.C., with some suburbs nearing three feet. On Monday, we watched as the forecasts said another foot of snow was expected in the next day or so. We threw in the towel, threw into our car all our stuff and went slip-sliding away down the freeway, fleeing towards Florida. Once we cleared the D.C. area, the freeways weren't bad. Another foot of snow did indeed hit D.C; we had escaped during the lull between the storms.

 

We spent a couple of nights in Jacksonville, and were able to visit a good friend, and hit the stores to get the stuff we forgot to throw into the trunk as we dashed out of our home.

 

The drive into Ft. Lauderdale was easy on Friday, and we stayed at a Courtyard hotel in Plantation, near the Broward Mall, about 8 miles from the port on a straight shot down I-595. The weather was chilly in Ft. Lauderdale, and we watched the Weather Channel talking about snow in Dallas, Alabama and Atlanta. What a totally freaky start to a cruise!

 

 

Embarkation day, Saturday, Feb. 13

 

We had an easy drive to the port, arriving just as they opened the gates to incoming traffic. Noordam was berthed at pier 29, which meant a drive around a container storage area to the ship. I dropped DW and the bags, and then drove to the mid-port parking area, across from pier 26. Pier 26 was reserved for Eurodam, which had had problems at HMC and was delayed arriving in port. She arrived shortly after noon.

 

The parking arrangements were efficient, as all I had to do was go to the curb by the parking garage and board a shuttle bus clearly marked "Noordam". I think DW was surprised to see me so soon -- I had not been gone much longer than 15 minutes.

 

We went through security, and then went upstairs to check in. It was a simple and efficient check-in, and in only a few minutes we were boarding the ship. On our health questionnaires, we each truthfully reported having a cough. The ground crew called the ship's nurse, who quickly checked us out and took our temperatures and when we did not have fevers, cleared us to board -- a chest cold that was almost over with was not a show-stopper or even a reason to quarantine us to our cabin for awhile; the nurse did say that a fever would have concerned her much more, as it may have indicated the flu.

 

We decided we would rather go to the Lido instead of the Mariner luncheon, which was a good thing, since there was no Mariner lunch. We had a nice lunch, and then went to the Ocan bar to get to know the bartenders. The rooms were opened about 1:30 or so, and we got all our bags before 3:00.

 

The lifeboat drill was the first one we have been to since HAL stopped having us wear our lifejackets to the drill. I have to admit it was easier to get to the drill (from the Ocean Bar) and back, but I wonder if people will know how to wear their lifejackets if it ever comes to it.

 

Captain Hans Mateboer greeted us all on the announcement system and said we would be a few minutes delayed in our departure, as there were some passengers expected. Shortly after 5, a vehicle pulled up, some people dashed out and up the crew gangway, and bags were thrown aboard. About two minutes later, we cast off and were underway.

 

We had asked for a table to two for fixed early dining, and got what we asked for. In fact, we have what I think is one of the best in the joint -- it's at the back, on the rail in exact centerline of the dining room. There is a post on the centerline, and we have room between it and the rail, and lots of room on all sides. It's table 303; on richwmn's charts, it's labeled "C". Dinner was prime rib, and we were both able to get a rare piece that really was rare. Our dinner stewards and wine stewards are great as usual.

 

There were several empty tables at the fixed seating, which makes me wonder if several people did not get their flights out of Atlanta or wherever on time. It was our understanding that the ship was pretty much booked, and it's unusual to have empty seats at fixed dining, since so many people prefer that.

 

After dinner, we wandered about some more, revisiting favorite spots -- this is our third time on the Vista Noordam, and it is our favorite of the fleet. We hit the slots for a bit, and I got real lucky -- I left with the same amount of money I started with!

 

I'll get this bit posted, and then catch up on more later.

 

Cheers,

Dave

 

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Great job, Dave! Looking forward to more! Enjoy Noordam and Valentine's dinner tonite with the Mrs!!:)

Edited by Copper10-8

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I am very anxious to hear everything about your trip. We will be boarding when you return. Enjoy your trip and please keep up the reports if you can.

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I got off Noordam just before you boarded. I guess that is my seat you took at the Ocean Bar. DH and I loved our 4:00 Happy Hour there . . . although our favorite waiter, Roldan, has another assignment for your cruise.

 

Enjoy everyday of your terrific cruise. If you like to snorkel, I hope you can link up with Blue Water Divers in Bonaire. They operate right out of the Divi Flamingo Resort dock (near your pier) and provided a wonderful excursion!

 

Happy Sailing!

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Sunday, Feb. 14, Half Moon Cay

We did some rocking the first night out of Ft. Lauderdale. There is always a bit of movement in the Gulf Stream just after sailaway, but this continued through much of the night, as the cold front that brought snow to Atlanta and Dallas was blowing in south Florida and the Bahamas.

 

We awoke to a clear day, even though it was a bit breezy. We watched Eleuthra Island passing as we ate breakfast in the Lido, and then we returned to our cabin to prepare for going ashore.

 

For those who have never been, Half Moon Cay is HAL's private island in the Bahamas. It's "real" name is Little San Salvador Island, and it lies between the two long narrow islands of Eleuthra and (I think) Cat Island. You can find it on Bing maps, and actually get a pretty good aerial view. Those who have been there know that it is paradise, with a long sweeping white sand beach, water sports, stingrays, horseback riding, etc. The island is uninhabited except for cruise passengers and Bahamians who boat over from the larger islands to work. We have pictures of HMC at home; whenever we get stressed, we look at the pictures and go to the happy place of HMC.

 

Tendering began shortly after 8 a.m., using the large tenders that HAL charters from a Bahamian company. They are fast and efficient, and as a result there was no "go to the Queen's Lounge and get a tender number and wait" thing. Cruise Director Rick announced that the tendering was now available and we could go when we were ready. DW and I went on the first tender, and were ashore a little after 8:30.

 

We walked the entire length of the beach, around past the horse corrals to the point that the way is blocked by rocks. We had done this before, and it is always a thrill to get around to the far end early, before others, and pretend that the whole beach and island was ours alone. It was sunny, but there was still a bit of a breeze and it was a little chilly by Bahamas standards, but much warmer than D.C., of course. The water was also a bit choppy, so we did not go snorkeling as we usually do. Later in the day, it warmed up a bit more, the wind dropped and it was a quite fine day in Paradise!

 

DW and I tried to figure out how many times we had been on HMC. We finally decided that this was our ninth visit. We first visited on Statendam in early 1998, and I learned later that we must have been there in the first month or so after it opened. There have certainly been many changes and additions over the years, each one of them adding to the experience. I also understand from various CC threads, and the notices in the itineraries of course, that visiting HAL is weather-dependent. We have had cloudy times, and a couple of windy and cool times, but we've always been lucky enough to make it in. And, I understand we have really been fortunate in not sharing the island with another ship (or two) -- it's always just been our ship.

 

We stayed on HMC until about 11. We had always enjoyed the island BBQ lunch with cheeseburgers, chicken and ribs, but wondered what lunch on board was like. So, we went back and had lunch in the Lido. I went "window-shopping" which means I checked out all the stations before deciding what I wanted. I ended up with a nice slice of sirloin and some vegetables from the carvery on the main line, and a bit of salad. There was also pizzas, Asian food, taco bar, deli sandwiches -- in short, a pretty usual Lido lunch. We thought they might have a scaled-down version since so many staff were ashore, but this looked like the full lunch. Lunch was not available in the dining room, however.

 

We spent most of the afternoon on our balcony, watching the island and the boats, and the intrepid souls (our pet nickname for them was "lunatics") that were parasailing. Then it was time to get into the formal clothes for our first seating dinner. I usually rent a tux, and did so this cruise as well. In expectation that Feb. 14 was going to be a formal night, we bought me a bright cherry red bow tie and cummerbund. There were a lot of variations on the red tie or cummerbund theme. Most people at the early sitting were in formal clothing, either tuxes or dark suits for the men, gowns or cocktail dresses or dress trousers outfits for the ladies.

 

At dinner, all the ladies were offered a long-stem red rose. DW said it was nice, but you can't eat a rose, and a small to medium box of dark chocolate truffles would have worked for her instead of the rose.

I had the "land and sea" combo of tenderloin and prawns, and DW had the tournedos rossini. There was also shellfish fettucini and quails. I had read a thread a while ago on CC discussing whether quail is ever offered these days. It was on the menu for Valentine's Day, but came stuffed with spinach and goat cheese, so I decided on something else.

 

After dinner, we tried out luck in the casino again (not much luck was discovered), and turned in early. There was the captain's welcome toast and a revue show in the Vista Lounge, but we usually don't do the toast, and really don't care for revue shows, so we passed on that. Monday night is a comedian, and we likely will make that one. There was also a Valentine's Sweetheart Dance in the Crow's Nest from 9 to about midnight, but we are rhythmically challenged early risers, so we turned in.

 

More later,

Dave

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Thanks for checking in.

Looking forward to your Live report.

Hmmmmmm -- we were on the Noordam last year for Valentine's day -- no roses given to the ladies at dinner.

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Thanks for taking us along Dave. This is the first "live" report that I have read where I actually know the person doing the report so that makes it more alive for me. I will anxiously await your futher postings.

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I have yet to sail the NOORDAM but did enjoy your post. Keep us advised. It is very cold here in the Midwest, I hope it is warm where you are now.

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Thanks for all the info!

 

I'll be on the Noordam in April and I was wondering if I can get sweet Vermouth at the bars. :D

 

Judy

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We will be on the Noordam in May and can't wait. Thank you for doing the live from, love to hear about the ship and some of the places we will be going to.:)

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Love the daily reports! Thank you. If it's not too much trouble, could you find out if they have The Cef's Table dinner on the Noordam? Thank you.

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All,

 

Sorry for not posting for a while; it has not been for lack of trying. I am encountering an issue with the CC site, which keeps timing me out and kicking me off the internet. I've had the onboard techspert check out my settings, and it's not my laptop or the small pipe the ship has to the net. Other sites I visit have a little latency, but it seems mainly to affect CC.

Instead of one long post wrapping up a day, I will try to post several smaller bits and see if that helps the latency. In any case, I am maintaining a daily log and possibly can get caught up in a net cafe in the ABCs.

 

Dave

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Dave, someone else on board now reported the same CC trouble. Hope it gets fixed. ANxious to hear about Samana.

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:cool: We really enjoy your helpful daily updates. We will be boarding on 3/15. Looking forward to more island reviews and ship insights. You picked the right time to get out of the Capitol.

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Dave, keep up the detailed observations and reports. You're giving us a vicarious thrill by including CC on your voyage.

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Dave, someone else on board now reported the same CC trouble. Hope it gets fixed. ANxious to hear about Samana.

 

Yeah me too Dave, thanks for perseverance! Could you also tell me how many formal nights and when they are? Thanks! :)

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Thanks Dave for the reports. We'll be there in April - looking forward to your observations. Very interesting!

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Great report on HMC. We missed it in Nov. on the Westerdam, 40 ft seas and 40 MPH winds. Looking forward to getting back in April on the Noordam. It is a beautiful island. Love the sand.

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All,

 

I am now at the wif-fi hotspot in the Aruba cruise terminal, and will attempt to upload the log I have been keeping. The problem with CC has continued for the last few days -- it allows me to open the "post a reply" section and enter text, but does not show the options to turn off signature, etc. And, when I hit "submit", it freezes and after about 30 seconds or so of latency, I get kicked off the internet on board ship.

 

I will make several posts, in the order I wrote them. It'll more like a "kinda sorta live" thread, but you might enjoy reading what I wrote.

 

We are due in Curacao tomorrow and if the CC problems persists on board, I may be able again to find a wi-fi spot ashore to post.

 

Here goes; if this goes through, I'll start uploading my mundane thoughts and wild surmises.

 

Dave

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Well, that orked, so here goes:

 

 

A last bit about Half Moon Cay

 

I wanted to tell about something I saw on Half Moon Cay and forgot to mention. As we were waiting for a tender to return to the ship from the island, one of the deep-sea fishing excursions returned and tied up next to the tender landing. One passenger and some crew got out, and a crewmember dipped a bucket into the water and wetted down the pier. He then opened a large cooler in the boat's well and pulled out a fine-looking four-foot dolphin fish (mahi mahi) that the passenger obviously had caught. He put it on the wet pier, and pulled out about a half dozen more fine three to four foot mahi mahi and laid them on the pier. The passenger then took several photographs. Then, the fishing boat crew picked up all the fish and put them back into the cooler!

 

My question may be one that may occur to you -- what happens to the fish? Does the fishing boat crew and their families have a good dinner? Does HAL freeze them for the passenger, and he picks them up in Ft. Lauderdale? Do the airlines take frozen fish? Was the mahi mahi on the menu fresh or frozen? Does the crew sell them in the market back in their home port? Enquiring minds want to know! I went by the shore excursions desk to ask -- the answer: the Bahamian crew that stays on the island eats well that night! The fish are left behind.

 

Dave

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