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Koningsdam - Southern Caribbean Wayfarer - 4-15 March 2020 - a review


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I wasn’t originally planning on doing a review for our cruise, but with all that is happening in the world, I thought it might come as a welcome distraction. I have certainly enjoyed the reviews I have read recently. I don’t have any notes from our trip, so it will all be from memory and the daily planners which I kept. Do feel free to ask any questions and I’ll do my best to answer.

 

First, I’ll introduce us. I’m Alice and my husband is Pierre. I’m British/ Belgian and Pierre is French. We live in Belgium and have been married for two years. Before I knew Pierre, I had cruised 11 times with various friends, mainly in the Caribbean. Last year, I took Pierre on his first cruise - a 7-day cruise on Rotterdam from Rotterdam to the Fjords. Like many people, he had been sceptical about cruising, but he had a great time, which is how we ended up booking this cruise. Little did we imagine everything that would happen afterwards.

 

Pre-cruise:

We flew Brussels-Dublin-Miami, taking advantage of US pre-clearance in Dublin. We arrived in Miami on the Sunday evening and stayed in Miami Beach. On the Monday morning, we had booked a tour in French of the Everglades. It was a small group and we greatly enjoyed the tour. We were back in time for lunch, which we had at Alma Mexicana, after which we enjoyed Miami Beach until around 4pm. We then relocated to Fort Lauderdale. We spent the Tuesday walking around Fort Lauderdale, taking a trip on the Carrie B and having lunch at Boathouse at the Riverside, followed by the beach and a visit to Total Wine. On the Wednesday morning, before heading to the ship, we stocked up on a few things at Walgreens.

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Wednesday 4 March - Embarkation day:

We took a taxi to the ship and arrived at the port at around 11:30. Our bags were immediately dealt with by the porters. We had to show our boarding pass to enter the terminal building, after which we joined the line for security. They scanned our bags, noticed we were carrying wine and sent us to the desk to sort out corkage. Very easy (the wine waiter placed stickers on our bottles and wrote us out a slip to sign). Next, we filled out the medical questionnaire (special Coronavirus version, with a warning that making a false declaration could lead to legal action) and headed to check-in. It was very quick, I think there was only one party in front of us by the time we had made our way to the desks. The ID photo and other formalities were dealt with promptly and in a friendly manner, with the check-in lady even speaking French to my husband. We were then given a group number and told to wait in the lounge until our group was called. I don’t think we were in the lounge more than about 10 minutes before our boarding group was called. Total duration from hotel to being on board was one hour. Not bad at all! We headed straight to lunch in the main dining room.

 

After lunch, knowing our cabin was ready, we headed there to unpack our bag. We were met by our stateroom attendant Catur and his assistant Sarif. We had selected and inside cabin (GTY) and had been assigned 11012, forward on deck 11. We didn’t really know what to make of this location, but it turned out that we really loved it.

 

We explored the ship for a while, after which muster drill started. We first had to go to our cabins to watch a safety video (we had no TV remote, a problem solved in seconds by Sarif), and then head to our muster point on deck 3. It took a long time to get down all those stairs. Certain people really don’t seem to grasp that they are practicing for a potential real emergency and that they should focus on what they and others are doing.

 

After that, it was onto the open decks for a drink and sail-away. We talked to a Canadian couple and one from the UK, who asked us to take a picture and who we kept bumping into throughout the cruise.

 

We ate in the main dining room (open seating) at around 7:30 and then wandered round the ship some more. There was some very loud music in the B.B. King’s Blues Club, which actually drove us away. The volume situation seemed to improve later in the cruise, but on this occasion it was very unpleasant (not something I thought I would ever write about a HAL ship).

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Thursday 5 March - at sea:

 

Pierre’s birthday, so I had booked Tamarind for the evening and arranged a Halfmoon Cay beverage package as little treats (more on both of those later).

 

We ate breakfast in the dining room (our only time of the trip). We enjoyed it but we do tend to find it rather time-consuming. I think they probably don’t assign enough staff in the morning.

 

We headed back to our cabin to find a birthday message and a cake had been delivered, courtesy of the ship. A nice touch. What hadn’t been delivered though, was the beverage package. I headed down to guest services and was told there was nothing to be delivered (strange, as I had been asked to give a delivery date) and that it would just be uploaded onto our cards. I headed back to the cabin and told Pierre he had the package (HMC was the last port on this cruise).

 

Our sea days tend to be fairly similar to each other, with coffee, reading, sunbathing, taking photographs, browsing the shops, etc. Nothing particular to report. We always seek out the quieter spots. You’ll never find us down by the pool. That’s not our idea of relaxation.

 

In the evening, we headed to Tamarind, taking one of our bottles of wine with us. The service there was nothing special and the wine service was atrocious. I thought Pierre would have a heart attack at the way our wine was poured. It’s a good job it didn’t have any sediment. The food, however, was outstanding and we had a very enjoyable meal, followed by another cake! We wouldn’t hesitate to book Tamarind again, even though we aren’t normally speciality restaurant people.

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Friday 6 March – at sea:

 

Nothing special to report for this day, just more of what we did on the previous day. In the evening, there was the Captain’s Welcome Toast with the officers at 7pm, Lido Poolside. It was also gala night. We had dressed up so we went and had some photographs taken.

 

I realise that I have mislaid our invitation to the Mariners’ lunch. I think it must have taken place on the first sea day, but I’m not 100% certain on that.

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Oh how disappointing!  I got to this part and you haven’t posted another day!  Hurry, these are so much fun.  
 

We are booked for the 10-day So Caribbean 12/9-12/19, 2020 on the Eurodam...can’t wait, so your posts will give us ideas for port days.  Thank you.

 

And as someone else said, it is wonderful to be able to read this, a positive thread.  I’ve been so sad looking at Cruise Critic with so many unhappy posts, I stopped for a bit.  And then I found you.   Okay, I’ll stop blabbing now! 😀

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Saturday 7 March – St Maarten

 

We arrived late in port due to a medical evacuation overnight, so we were told that we would stay a little later. It was raining, but knowing that rain rarely lasts long on the islands we headed over to the water taxi. Once we got to Front Street, we had a coffee, checked out the Guavaberry shop and visited a jewellery store which some friends had recommended. We bought a ring to be collected later that afternoon.

 

We asked the shop owner for instructions on getting to Marigot, the French capital, and he escorted us to Back Street, giving us instructions on which bus to get. The process of getting the bus is St Maarten is so easy. All we had to do was wave at the driver (you can do this anywhere along the route). People were getting on and off all the way along the route. Cost was $2 per person. It wouldn’t have been any faster in a taxi.

 

We didn’t find very much to do in Marigot, other than walk up to the fort. We never found the tourist information office. We did have a very nice lunch though. Conch stew and barbecue chicken, both very tasty and both served with rice and beans. The food was being cooked right on the street and it was the beautiful smell that enticed us in.

 

After another short walk where we bought a coconut, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg and cocoa, we headed back to the bus stop for the return trip to Philipsburg. We picked up our Guavaberry Rum and the ring and headed to Philipsburg beach for a little while. Then we took the water taxi back to the ship.

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Sunday 8 March – Martinique

 

Martinique is a French island and many people are surprised by the French-ness of it. But it really is part of France and the EU, so that is to be expected. The other thing that took many people by surprise was that, since it was a Sunday, most shops, etc were closed. Martinique is a highly religious island (80% Roman Catholic, most of them practising), so it seemed most people were attending church.

 

We had done our research and knew that this would be the case, so had arranged a tour after doing some research. We chose Karambole, run by the lovely Christelle. She met us in the area right outside the gates. There were supposed to be 8 of us on the trip, but 2 people didn’t show up so there were just 6 of us. Christelle took us on a great tour, talking and driving all the way. Every time we made a stop, she would pull out something local to eat and/or drink. She had made all the food herself and it was a treat to try real local specialities. We saw towns, waterfalls, a rum distillery, beaches and the top of Mont Pelée, which is very rare and which Christelle told us meant we would be back in Martinique one day.

 

When we returned to Fort de France, we had a short walk around the town to look at the cathedral and the library, but it was very hot and everything was closed, so we headed back to the ship. There was a medical evacuation before we left the port.

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The morning we arrived in Barbados, we headed to the Lido for breakfast. We were talking about our previous cruise on the Rotterdam where a waitress called Magdalena had taken such good care of us. I walked up to the buffet and who should I bump into but Magdalena herself? I couldn’t believe it. Some of you may already have seen my post on this subject (in a recent Cruise Critic topic), but I’m copying it here for those who haven’t:

 

"We had a lovely waitress called Magdalena in the Lido in June on [Holland America's] Rotterdam. We would deliberately sit in her section every morning. She was so bubbly and full of energy and very kind to those in our party who needed extra help... On our Koningsdam cruise a few weeks back, my husband and I were sitting at breakfast talking about her. I walked up to get a bagel and guess who I found? Magdalena! We were really thrilled to find her again... In the evenings, she worked in Canaletto. Seeing this, we popped our heads in to say hello, except that there were two Magdalenas!!! Well OK, not two Magdalenas but Magdalena and her twin, Herlina. It was their first time working on a ship together and they were thrilled... Magdalena and Herlina would always make a point of greeting us warmly whenever they saw us. Herlina convinced us to book a meal at Canaletto, where we were treated like royalty! Two delightful young women who are a tribute to the company. I would gladly sail on any ship they are on!"

 

So here is a photo of Magdalena and me, just after we bumped into her.

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Monday 9 March – Barbados:

 

We were docked at the furthest dock from the terminal, which is either a long walk or a ride on a little train. We chose to walk to the terminal for our excursion. The shops weren’t open, although Pierre managed to pop his head into one to check out the prices on Rum.

 

We headed to the meeting point for our excursion and waited to be called. For Barbados, we had chosen to do a Catamaran excursion with Calabaza Sailing Cruises. I had done this excursion several times before and couldn’t wait to take Pierre. Gina, the owner, is a lovely person and I had contacted her in advance for help with tagging on a visit to the Mount Gay distillery.

 

We took a short ride to the catamaran and set sail. You get food and drinks as soon as you board and throughout the trip. No Gina today, but her son Danny was at the helm and there were two other, very attentive and fun, crew members. Our first stop was to a snorkel spot where we saw turtles and stingrays. The turtles are really not shy at all and came really close to us. The stingrays stayed on the bottom. Then onto another site where there were several wrecks. There were lots of fish here. After that, we set sail along the coast for a while. The feeling you get when sailing along sitting on the nets with a drink in hand is just the best! We anchored for lunch and some more time in the water before sailing back along the coast for the end of our excursion.

 

Gina had arranged for her shuttle driver to drop us at Mount Gay on the way back to the ship. Another passenger decided to join us. The driver said he would come back and pick us up once our visit was over, which was great as it meant we didn’t have to make arrangements for a taxi. We enjoyed the tour and tasting and headed to our van, joined by two more people who were heading to the cruise port.

 

There had been several passengers from a Celebrity ship on this excursion. They were due to be in St Kitts with us again 2 days later, but had already been informed that St Kitts wouldn’t accept their ship and that they would be going to Dominica instead. We had heard nothing about a change of port. However, when we got back to the ship, we received information that our scheduled stop in St Kitts would be replaced by Antigua.

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Really enjoying your review and the wonderful pictures.

 

Looking forward to the next instalment.

 

Thanks for taking the time to share with us.  It is uplifting to read a review in these times.

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We were on the Koningsdam in December and on out last evening we chose to eat at the Canaletto.  Our server was Magdalena, who also introduced us to her twin, Herlina.  They are fantastic young ladies who made our dining experience most memorable!

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