Wednesday, May 7, 2014

2014 April 11-22 Maasdam Southern Caribbean Cruise: Barbados; St. Maarten; St. Vincent; St. Kitt's; St. Croix; Martinique; Half Moon Cay

Hard to believe it was 1 1/2 years since our last cruise.  At that time, we made the $200 on board deposit for a future cruise to get on board credit on the future cruise.  Shortly after we got off that cruise, we got an email from HAL offering additional obc if we booked another cruise right away.  So I hit the web and checked out the itineraries and decided on this 11 night southern Caribbean cruise.  It went to 4 islands we had already been to (St. Maarten, Martinique, Barbados, and Half Moon Cay); plus it went to 3 new ones (St. Kitt's, St. Vincent, and St. Croix).   By booking a verandah suite, we were able to get $200 obc for the future cruise booking and another $200 for the welcome home booking.  Plus we got $100 obc for being a CCL stock holder.  Then in the Fall, HAL ran a promotion, Explore 4, which included 2 - $50 drink cards and 2 free Pinnacle dinners (their upcharge steak restaurant).  After a couple of calls, I was able to get that added to our reservations.  I had hoped that in 1 1/2 years our fare would go down, but it didn't.  We booked a BB guarantee and hoped for another upsell offer like we got the last 2 cruises.  This time we didn't get one.  Maybe because it was a much smaller ship and near the end of the season, but we did get un upgrade to an A suite on the same floor as all the Neptune suites.  At first I was worried about the location---very last room at the back of the ship on the 10th floor with a bar and smoking area next to our room and it was also below part of the Lido deck, so I anticipated lots of chairs being moved around overhead, but it really wasn't bad.  We heard chairs being moved around for 5 or 10 minutes in the morning.  We also liked that we were right by the elevator and stairs and only one floor down from the Lido Restaurant.  We also liked being so close to the Seaview pool.

We had never been on a ship this small and were a bit worried that lines would be long and spaces would be crowded, but it turned out to be really nice----5 minutes to walk anywhere on the ship, ran across people we met at dinner many times throughout the cruise, liked that there were fewer people, and this ship had the best food and entertainment of any ship we had been on before! Instead of 2000 passengers like on the last 3 HAL cruises we took, there were only 1265.   Instead of 86,700 tonnage, it was 55,800.  The only thing missing on this ship was the extra cabins for more people.

Our cabin was 065.  It was called a verandah suite, but was pretty much like the VD verandah we had on the Eurodam (although our actual verandah on the Maasdam verandah suite was smaller then the verandah on the VD verandah on the Eurodam).  At least we didn't have the verandahs on the Maasdam that opened up onto a shared deck.  I didn't even know they had such a configuration when I made our reservations.  The room was small but adequate.  We liked the coffee table -sturdy and easy to adjust.  The couch was a good size.  Our queen bed was comfy.  We had heard complaints that some people on board had low water pressure, but our water pressure was great.  Our room attendant was very efficient, even left us fruit and towel animals every day.
 The lounger couldn't be straightened because it was up against the verandah wall.  There was also a small round table.

 This was looking to the left from our verandah.  I decided we actually had a good room in that ours and our neighbors' verandahs didn't have the Lido overhang above it.  We had unobstructed views of the beautiful sunsets from our verandah. 
 This is the bar/smoking area to the right of our room.  It looks like there was actually a storage area right next to our room.  We never heard anything from that area and the smoke never made it to our verandah. 
"Our" pool
The Lido restaurant---
 We had read that the pizza kitchen had closed and were afraid we wouldn't be able to get our pizza fix for 11 whole nights, but the Lido had a couple of choices of pizzas most nights--
The desserts on this ship were the best we've ever had on a cruise before, too--
The first couple of days we familiarized ourselves with the ship.  I always enjoy checking out the public areas and decor.
Random hallway--
The library.

I think this was at the bar, Mix.
We discovered that you could even order chicken wings, potatoe skins, and other appetizers (all free) here from about 11am-2pm---but we were never around then.

Some of the glass artwork.
The piano bar.
 The balcony of the Showroom at the Sea.
The only time we saw the work out room.
 I would have liked to have tried to play some tennis here!  The other side had a basketball court which was used quite a bit.  We were on the cruise during Spring Break, so there were a fair amount of kids on board.
 more decor---
 Seating for the culinary/movie theatre room.
Deck 7 hallway to nowhere.  Took us a few days to learn to avoid this deadend. I guess the kitchen was back there so we couldn't go from one end of the ship to the other on level 7.  Was a little inconvenient since the main level of the Showroom at Sea was on level 7.
 The Crows nest where we did go from time to time (good happy hour specials).
Casino which we only saw when cutting through it.
 more decor.

April 11, 2014- Embarkation day:
Our daughter dropped us off about noon.  Check in went fairly quickly.  Then we waited for our number to be called and were able to go straight to our room.  We didn't leave port until about 5pm---which we celebrated with some Moscoto our daughter gave us to bring onboard.
Even got a sail-away wave from people in a nearby building.
 Up on the Lido deck, they were set up for a Caribbean Festival---live music and snacks.
Ice sculpture
 Decor by the dessert table
More decor.
 Our Pinnacle dinner happened to be assigned for that night, which was fine with us, so we started off dining in style.

 Dinner was excellent: caesar salad, fillet mignon, mashed potatoes---
 and 3 flavors of creme brulee.  That was the first of many great desserts we had on board.  In the past, we found cruise desserts to be sub par, but they were actually quite good on the Maasdam.
 After dinner, we made it to the Showroom at Sea for the welcome aboard show.
 Back at our room, our first towel animal welcomed us.
April 12, 2014-a sea day:
We had breakfast every day in the Lido restaurant.  It was never crowded and we never had to wait long for our selection.  Most mornings I had cream of wheat.  Later in the cruise someone mentioned the sticky buns and that was added to my breakfast.  Lunch was usually in Lido, too.  
 The first 3 days we were served, then code orange was dismissed and we helped ourselves.  A couple cruises before ours there was an outbreak of Norovirus on the Maasdam.  Fortunately it was gone by the time we got on.
  We made a point of going to many of Elon's concerts.  He was spectacular on the Steel Drums!
 The ship was rocking pretty good today so the pool was closed.
 One of the things we really enjoy on HAL ships are the cooking shows.  This one was with Chef Rajan and host Stefaney as they featured Jerk Chicken with Mango Chutney.  Really, Chef Rajan was there!
 We also went to a couple of the team trivia events hosted by the cruise director Rick in the Crow's Nest.  Met some interesting people there, too.  And I found out they make a mighty tasty mango smoothie!  I like that they give you peanuts here, too.
We chose Anytime dining which worked out really well.  Our usual routine was to watch sunset (from our lanai the first 6 nights), 

then head to dinner where we were usually sat with really interesting couples (only 1 really strange couple)
An example of the menus in the dining room-

- tonight I had the grilled mahi mahi with mango chutney, rice and beans, plus a curry pumpkin warm soup.  Dessert was coconut rum cake.  Ken almost always ordered off the everyday menu : french onion soup, caesar salad, chicken breast and a dessert.

The Showtime presentation tonight was Bob Mackie's Broadway featuring his fancy gowns and such. 

After the show, we headed back to our room and were greeted by---
April 13, Sunday---another sea day:
 Today was the t-shirt sale on the Lido deck.  I saw one there I liked last cruise (for St. Lucia), but I thought I might find one I liked better on the island, so I didn't buy it.  Big mistake---none I liked on the island and they only had the t-shirts during the Lido deck sale.  Today I got the 3 for $20, but they didn't have a great selection.  I guess with it being near the end of the Caribbean cruising season, they were running low.  From there, we headed to another culinary class---this one for black bean soup, rum cake and shrimp/mango relish.
Then we caught the end of the digital class on photo editing.  I've taken the class before, but hardly ever use it since my editing program of choice is Photoshop.  But the Windows program certainly is easy and adequate for simple editing.
Early afternoon we were off to the Crows nest for trivia again---and another mango smoothie.

Finally hit "our" pool in the early evening before enjoying another beautiful sunset from our verandah.

Shared dinner with another group of interesting fellow travelers before going to the Showroom at the Sea show.  Tonight it was a very good vocalist and comedy impressionist (Tricia Kelly) with tunes from Janis Joplin to Julie Andrews and everything in between.  
Back at the room, we were greeted by----

April 14, Monday---St. Maarten  (10am-9:30pm):
 Finally---a day in port!  Ken prefers the sea days, but I prefer port days!  We had been here once before and had gone to Dawn beach to snorkel that time.  Not the best snorkeling, but I've read there isn't great snorkeling on St. Maarten, so we decided to do one of the ship excursions to Orient Beach this time just to chill out and enjoy the beach.  That wasn't until 1:45, so we headed off the ship a little early and looked around.  We found a ferry right at the port that went back and forth to the main town area until 6, so we decided to buy the day pass for $6 or $7/person and ride the ferry over.
The ferry dock.
Near where the ferry docks in town.  Beautiful beach!
 Just off the ferry dock looking left.  Even has a Hard Rock Cafe there.
Just off the ferry dock looking right.
 Just off the ferry dock looking straight ahead.
 I thought we'd wander around for about an hour, but as soon as we got there, Ken was anxious to get back on the ferry so we wouldn't miss our excursion (in about 1.5 hours!).  So back we went.  Another look at the town area from the ferry.
Looking out to sea from the ferry.
 Our ship, the Maasdam, in port.
 Ordinarily, we wouldn't have gone on the ship's excursion to Orient beach.  It would have been very easy and much cheaper to take a taxi, but we were looking to burn some of our obc.  Orient Beach was very pretty and it was nice having cushioned lounge chairs and unlimited fruit punch/rum runners.  We were deposited on the left side of the bay---far away from the area "most" topless women go to. 
We didn't realized this was the ocean side of the island until we got there.  Thus the water was pretty rough.  But we had fun playing in the water.
 We even paid $3 extra and got an umbrella.  There were several venders there, too.  I did buy a cute dress/swimsuit cover up for $15. 
 We took our snorkel gear and I did manage to see a few fish---like these surgeonfish.

 We even took a walk down the beach.  It was definately a well used beach! 
 Someone was having fun building a sand castle.
 There were lots of water toys for rent, too.
 Looking back towards the beach from the surf.
 We only had about 1.5 hours there which was way too short.  We were back at the pier around 4:30.  Since the ferry quit running at 6, we didn't go back to town.  We could have walked back (Dad and I did when he and I were here years ago) or taken a taxi back, but Ken didn't want to---so we ended up back on the ship early.   They were having another Caribbean fare bar b q, this time on the aft Lido deck.  So we got some goodies and enjoyed a pic nic dinner with about 1000 of our fellow cruisers.
   We decided to check out the theater tonight and saw The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  I hadn't seen any of the Hobbit movies before and didn't even know what they were about, so it took the whole movie for me to figure out what was going on.  By the time I did, it was over.  Now I'm anxious to see the sequel. With all aboard being so late, the Showroom at the Sea show didn't start until 11pm (the Filipino Crew show).  I'm sure it would have been interesting, but we were exhausted and headed back to our room after the movie and sat on our lanai while the ship departed St. Maarten.
 Good bye St. Maarten!

April 15, Tuesday---St. Kitt's (8am-4:30pm):

We slept with the curtains wide open so we'd wake up bright and early.  This was a new island for us and I didn't want to waste time getting out to explore it.  We were off the ship close to 8am and heading straight to the taxis.  I had read that White House Bay was the best place to snorkel, but the dispatcher said hardly anyone goes there and we'd have to pay more for a taxi to go there.  There happened to be another couple waiting to go snorkeling at Cockelshell Bay which was my 2nd choice, so we decided to share a cab and go there for $7/person.  Our driver even stopped for a couple pictures along the way.  We found out later we could have taken a ferry there, too.
Here we have the Atlantic Ocean on the left and the Caribbean on the right.  
Another bay on the Atlantic side with the Marriott Hotel near the left side of the bay.  I also read that the Marriott sold day passes to their resort for something like $35/person for use of the chairs and pool, but we were looking to go to the Caribbean and snorkel.  
Another view along the way.
   After about a 30 minute drive, we were finally there.  We put our stuff by a pic nic table and took off snorkeling to the left side of the bay.  This may not look that pretty, but for snorkelers, it was just what we were looking for.
 This was towards the right.  Boats were continuously arriving and departing from the dock there.  Had we thought about it, we could have taken a ferry over to Nevis Island from there , which is suppose to have prettier beaches. But we were having too much fun snorkeling.
 Saw lots of marine life and the water was calm and warm (probably about 85 degrees).  We spent about 4 hours snorkeling here.
Snappers and a grouper
sea anemone
 a scorpion fish hiding in some coral
I believe this is a Hawksbill turtle.  I've seen lots of Green turtles around Kauai, but this was the first one of these guys I've seen.
One of the colorful starfish we saw.
 a Trumpetfish disguising itself in coral.
 school of tiny fish
looking back towards the beach from the point.
 one of the 2 Bat Rays we saw.
topagraphy by the point.
another type of damselfish which I've never seen before.
The turtle swimming around by the point.
 One of the 3 Sting Rays I saw.
a squid.
a butterflyfish
Even saw a few of these Flamingo Tongue Snails.  I understand they're becoming scarce because people are picking them thinking their shells will remain that color.  But once they die, their shells become colorless.
a small surgeonfish.
????Young lizard fish??
 We did come in a couple times to reapply sunscreen and get a drink.  There was a covered bar with food and drinks for purchase.  So I had to try the local CArib beer---pretty tasty.
 When I had read up about Cockelshell beach, I assumed it was a party beach with a lot of people there.  That wasn't the case when we were there.
We went back out to the point for another go around.
Some interesting marked goatfish.
A very large puffer.
Not sure what this guy is.  We even saw at least 5 lobsters hiding under rocks.
 The couple we arrived with went to the beach to the right of the dock, so I decided to check that area out, too.
Looking back towards where we had snorkeled.
Looking out to the right of the dock.
 I always wonder why we never see any fish eating another fish when we're snorkeling.  This time I actually happened upon this needle fish trying to eat a damselfish.
 Shortly after this picture, the little fish managed to get free and swim away.
 One more view from above water.
 Our taxi driver had agreed to come back and get us at about 3.  Didn't even charge us for our trip out there to prove to us that he'd be back.  About 2:30 he let a bar owner know he would be late, but was definately coming back for us.  About 3:15 he called again and said he wasn't making it!  Fortunately, the bar tender called someone else and we got back about 4 (30 whole minutes to spare).  I did find it odd, though, when the bar tender said the first taxi driver told her to collect his fare from us.
Gotta mention the monkeys!  We happened to see 4 or 5 while we were driving to and from the beach.  At the beach, they had 3 or 4 in cages.  This guy was cute to watch with his blankie. 
 Back on the ship, we watched another beautiful sunset, then headed to dinner (stuffed cabbages, caesar salad and soup for me---yummm!).  
Time for another sunset.  Now I have to go all the way out our room and about 20 steps to the Seaview pool area.   There was hardly anyone out there!
 With it being clear on the horizon, I even got to see the green flash tonight!  I've seen them a few times in Hawaii.  This one was especially brilliant.
 Then we went to the Showtime 10pm show and saw Paul Pappas perform on the piano.  Another excellent show.  Then back to our room to see what awaited us there this time.

 April 16, Wednesday--St. Vincent (10am-6:30pm):
 Another new port for us.  My research mentioned some snorkeling at a beach on the southernmost point of the island.  So we got off the ship and looked for a taxi dispatcher and asked where we should go for snorkeling.  They, too, mentioned Indian Bay on the southern point---specifically Villa Beach.  So we headed there with another couple.  The beach was beautiful, but there were a lot of young resident adults hanging around.  One even followed us saying he'd watch our stuff so no one would take it.  I was a bit skeptical, but Ken chatted with him for quite awhile and trusted him.   There was also a woman in uniform with something like Visitor Police on it, so she looked out for us, too.  Where we snorkeled first.
Looking towards the left.
Never seen these guys before!  I assume they're some type of wrasse.
another wrasse
I believe this guy is a file fish.
 We became curious about what the snorkeling around those outcroppings would be like, so we took off swimming towards them.
 The topography along the way.
a snake eel at the rocky outcropping.
a flounder
a school of small fish forming a ball.
Another new to me wrasse.
 a pair of butterflyfish.
It was spring break for St. Vincent kids, too.  Lots of families enjoying the beach.
walking along Villa Beach.
 Back at our stuff, we sat and dried in the sun.  Our driver was due back at 3:30 and we didn't want to be soaking wet.  He actually arrived 30 minutes early and we were all ready to leave then.  By the time we got back to the ship, I had quite the headache---too much fun in the sun I guess---or not enough fluids and food, so off to the Lido we went.  Then back to our room for another sunset.  We got lucky with the sunsets this year!

   It was a formal night, so we dressed up and headed to the restaurant for prime rib---yummy.
 After dinner we decided to check out the Karaoke which was accompanied by the HAL cats.   We were surprised to find a lot of  staff there taking turns singing--including the digital class guy and several of the Showroom singers.  Seems they couldn't get anyone else to sing. At 10 we went to the Showroom to see the female ventriloquist-comedian Norma McKnight.  She was a very good ventriloquist, but we didn't care too much for her material.
 Then it was off to our room and our newest towel pet.
April 17, Barbados (8:30-4:30) :
 This is a port we've been to before, but that time I didn't think there was snorkling from the shore so I went on a photography tour.  Although the port is nothing to look at, I was very impressed with Barbados---especially the scenery on the East coast.  This time, I read there was good snorkeling from the shore at Folkestone Marine Park.  So we walked off the ship about 8:30 and were on our way to the taxi line when one of them came up to us.  RT to Folkestone (about 30 minutes north) was about $27@.  He offered a tour for $100 including dropping us off and picking us back up later from Folkestone.  We didn't have $100 cash, so offereed him $80.  He accepted and we were off on our private tour.  It was a nice but short tour.  I had hoped to see the Scottish area again and Bathsheba, but he stayed strictly on the northwest side.  Guess I can't blame him for the price we paid the the cost of gas (I think it was about $2.50/liter).  We still saw some pretty sights!  Like this beach, I think it's Payne's beach.
More of Payne's beach.
He also took us into a neighborhood of celebrities. 
 And quaint little villages.
I recognized this form of house from my photography tour last time---Chattel house.
 Or is this Payne's beach?!
Near Folkestone was a historic old church
front of the church
 It was about 10 when we got to Folkestone Marine Park.  We asked him to come back for us about 2.  They had recently renovated the area around the park---new lockers, store, rock wall by the beach and a new concrete walkway along the beach.    Hardly anyone there, lifeguard, lots of shade, beautiful water!---it was fantastic!
There are suppose to be sunken ships off shore a ways.  I assume that's where those other boats were anchored by.  
Looking out at the reef.
The gift shop and lockers building on the right.  I'm not sure what the building to the left is.   There was even a large restroom and outdoor shower to the left of this picture.
Snorkeling was fun, too.  Note how crowded it was!
 heading in!
 looking back towards the new rock barrier.
a parrot fish
a wrasse and a parrot fish
the parrot fish, surgeonfish and another damselfish
a school of blue tang

 another species of parrotfish.  There were a lot of parrotfish here.
some sore of jack?
a hogfish 
 sergeant fish
After a couple hours, we got out.  I would have gone back in, but didn't want to be soaked when the taxi driver came back.  So I took a walk along the new walkway.
To the right
 Back towards the lifeguard station
 to the left
another view of the new walkway and rock retaining wall looking back towards Folkestone.
A short ways to the left was this cute beachfront Italian restaurant.
I can't believe there weren't more people at Folkestone Park and surrounding area!  It's a definite Gem!  When I got back from my walk, our driver was there.  We went straight back to the ship.  AFter a quick shower and snack, it was time for another sailaway and sunset.

It was formal night again.  We semi dressed up and decided to eat outside behind the Lido restaurant and have a pic nic.  It was really nice and quiet!  We were the only ones out there.
Then we decided to go to another movie.  This time we saw "Hours" with recently deceased Paul Walker.  It was an interesting fictional movie about a father who struggles to keep his infant daughter alive in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  We even enjoyed free popcorn with our movie.
We had 30 minutes to kill after the movie and before the Showtime presentation, so we went to the Crows Nest again and ordered more Happy hour drinks. 
 At 10, we went to the showtime presentation "Goode Company"-a fun sit-com with music from the 60's, 70's, and 80's by the cast of the Maasdam Showroom at sea.   this was probably my favorite show.
Then it was time to call it a day.

April 18, Good Friday-Martinique (7-1:30):

Our ship docked in Fort-De-France
Why does planning things for Martinique turn out so difficult?!  I had planned to take the ferry to the other side of the bay and hit a beach, but Ken was paranoid we'd miss the ferry back.  I had read that the ferry dock was only about 5 minutes from the cruise port and was confused since when we were here on the Noordam we had to walk 1.4 miles to the ferry dock.  This time we were docked right by the ferry.  Now I know there are at least 2 cruise ship ports!  Anyway, we decided with such a short stop, we would try to go on a taxi tour.  We knew it would be expensive (about 60 Euro/hour), but decided to do it anyway.  The hard part was finding 2 more couples that wanted to do the same tour we did and having a taxi large enough for all of us.  After about 45 minutes of waiting around while people haggled about prices and length of tours, we finally got in a group of 6 in a mini van for a reduced rate of $30/person---which was an excellent fare.  
artwork along our route-
First stop was at the replica Sacre Couer  church like the one just outside of Paris.  It was a beautiful church and full today---Good Friday.

 Then we headed further north.  I found this bull along the road interesting.
The rain forest was lush and beautiful.
Palms along the way.
Found these signs amusing.

On the other side of the rain forest, we came to a distillery.

 Seems like many of the islands of the Caribbean have distilleries. 
The grounds of this one were beautiful
I believe this is the residence of the distillery owner.
Soon we were back on our way.  More interesting signs.
On any tour to the north you should end up in St. Pierre.  This is the town that was destroyed by the volcano eruption of Mt. Pelee in 1902.  They claim the only survivor was a man in prison there.  I've since read that another man just on the outskirts of town also lived, as did a young girl who jumped in a small boat and rowed it into a cave.  
 View of the bay from above.
At any rate, the whole town was destroyed.  It had been the largest town on the island.

Driving through the town today.

Looking back at the town of St. Pierre.  Mt. Pelee was covered by clouds, so I never did see it.
 Modern sculpture by St Pierre.

After about 3 hours, we were back at the ship.  This is a view from our lanai looking towards St. Louis fort.  Last time we were docked on the other side of the fort.
From our room looking down towards the ferry dock.   
Another view towards Fort-de-France from our verandah-
 Views of the countryside as we sailed along the coast.
 More views from our lanai.
A pan of Martinique as we sailed down the coast. 

Now we were on the wrong side of the ship for sunset, so I went to observation deck to watch it.

 Then off to dinner.  It was too late for the movie after dinner and too early for the Showtime show, so we just headed back to the room.  With 5 ports in a row and getting up at 6 or 7 every morning, we were ready to call it a day early for a change.

April 19, Saturday-St. Croix (8-2:30):
 Woke up well rested.  This was another new port for us and I was especially excited to check out another US Virgin Islands (have been to St. Thomas and St. Johns a few times---once even for a 10 day land trip).  With it being another short stop, we used more of our obc for an excursion here---the Buck Island snorkel excursion for $99@.  Turned out to be a great excursion and we got to see more of St. Croix as we were shuttled to the other side of the island for our boat ride to Buck island.  In Christiansted we boarded a motor boat and road another 30 minutes or so to Buck Island.
Hotel on the Cay, just off Christiansted --- I've seen this on RCI for exchange!  Perhaps a land trip to St. Croix is in our future!
 along our way to Buck Island.
The boat was really motoring.
Looking at Buck Island from where we anchored.   Buck Island Reef National Monument became a US National Monument in 1961.  Most of the Monument area ( including a 4,554-acre reef) is underwater.

 It was rather choppy out there.  They divided us up into 2 groups--experienced snorkelers and all the rest.  Us experienced snorkelers went in first and were taken by group around the underwater trail.   It is one of only three underwater trails in the United States.  Then we were left to go on our own for the rest of the time (about an hour).  It was quite crowded out there, but fun.  Although with how rough the surf was I'm surprised non of the inexperienced snorkelers drowned!
One of the markers

Two thirds of the island is surrounded by an elkhorn coral barrier reef, providing an ecosystem for over 250 fish species.
First 3 barracuda I saw there.
 Another baracuda
 Another trumpet fish disguising itself in some coral.
One of the many parrot fish.
Another guy I hadn't seen before.  I've seen a lot of them that are all blue with a yellow tail and florescent blue spots in the blue, but these guys with the yellow heads were new to me.
 I believe this is another type of parrot fish.
A lone squid 
Then the dark clouds moved in and it started raining.  A lot of people got back in the boat then.  I stayed in the water as long as we could---it was warmer in the water then on the boat. 
 We were poured on the whole way back to Christiansted, but they gave us plenty of rum punch to warm us up.  
On our boat ride back we got a good view of Christiansted National Historic Site. Looked like it would be a great place to tour on a future visit to the island.
 It was an enjoyable ride back to Frederiksted.  This is the walkway right outside the port area.
We heard this was a local high school band playing steel drums in the port area.  I thought that was a nice welcome to the island.  Plus they sounded very good.
Frederiksted also has a fort-Frederiksfort, constructed to protect the town from pirate raids and attacks from rival imperialist nations.  I understand there are a couple beaches just to the left of the fort (from this view from the ship) that are good for hanging around at, too.  
Back on the ship it was time for lunch in the Lido.
 At sail away, be broke out the other bottle of Moscoto.

 No good sunset tonight---too cloudy!  Dinner was great again.  Then we hustled to the movie theater to see Last Vegas with Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and Robert De Niro.  It was great having a different movie featured every day and most of them were very good.  This one was hilarious---3 sixty-something friends take a break from their day to day lives to throw a bachelor party in Las Vegas for their last remaining single pal.  It ended earlier enough that we went to the Crow's Nest and listened to the HAL Cats for awhile before heading to the Showtime show---Comedian Buzz Sutherland and his good clean humor.  After that we even went to the Lido for a late night snack.  Then off to bed.   
April 20-Easter Sunday-sea day:
After 6 port days in a row, I don't mind the sea day.  Thought we'd sleep in, but were still up and off to breakfast by 9am.  They had colored hard boiled eggs out, as well as lots of foil wrapped chocolate eggs.  That's about all we saw of Easter.  They did offer sunrise service and 2 other masses, but we didn't make it to any of them.  
 We did take the cribbage board to the Explorer's Lounge and played a few games.  Then I went to another culinary exhibition.  This time the culinary gal and her boss were hilarious.  They kept making mistakes and had a ball working together.  I hated to have to leave, but we had a 1pm Mariners' lunch to go to.  Here we're being toasted by our cruise director.
 Lunch was very good.
 After lunch, I went to the Showroom at Sea to listen to the Legend of Ernest Hemmingway as recounted by cruise Director Rick.  It was very interesting.  
 Then I spent some time in the pool--- I think Ken loves sea days so he can sit in the room and watch TV.  About 6 we headed to formal dinner.  This was the only dinner we had with a really weird couple.  But there was another couple that was interesting, so dinner visiting was enjoyable---as was my dinner: lobster tails, fillet mignon, pear soup, mixed fruit, and rhubarb crisp.  From there we hustled over to another movie, "Phillameda" which was about a woman who had a baby in a convent in Ireland 50 years ago and watned to find him.  Another good movie.  Followed by the Showroom at Sea show "Encore" featuring their tenor and soprano accompanied by the Maasdam Orchestra---not the best show, but better then most we've seen on other ships.  Only 1 day left!

April 21, Monday-Half Moon Cay, Bahamas (8am-2:30pm):
 This is our 4th time to Half Moon Cay.  It has been beautiful every time we've been here---even the 3 times we were here in the FAll.  I've read about cruises not being able to tender in here during rough seas and I'm thankful that's never happened to us.  It is a gorgeous beach and so stress free with not having to worry about finding local excursions and possibly missing the ship.   
 Threatening clouds to start the day.
Heading into the water.
 The surf was a bit rough so it wasn't extremely clear, but the little snorkel area by the kids area was clearer then the first 2 times we were on the island.
 Caribbean grouper
school of flagtails?
sergeant and a damselfish
grouper and yellow fin surgeonfish
even a large squirrel fish.
 Over by the rock wall
feather duster worm
 the surgeon fish again
Lots of schooling fish by the wall
 Fortunately the threatening clouds left without even a drop of rain.
After snorkeling for awhile, we headed to the dining area.
There is a shuttle, but we chose to walk
 Where the shuttle drops people off
a beautiful double hybiscus
One of the lines for lunch.
a couple cute birds looking for a crumb.

beautiful bougainvillea 
 After lunch, I decided to take the nature walk while Ken went back to the loungers.
enjoying nature
one of the Cabanas
the Maasdam from the beach
Looking out to the beautiful water.
One of the new 2 story Cabanas.  Looked like there were a lot of empty Cabanas this time.
 Back to walking inland---loved the use of kayaks as planters.
 Jet ski rentals in Bonefish Lagoon.
 Kayak rentals in Bonefish Lagoon.
 the small Stingray area in Bonefish Lagoon.

 Walking along the road back to the beach.

After my walk, I was ready to hit the water again and cool off.  Went in search of more fishies, like this Ballyhoo.
And this tiger striped fish

 Too soon it was time to say good bye to the beach
I guess Ken was afraid they would leave us on the island, so we headed back about 2.
 on the tender on our way back to the ship

 Again no sunset.  Which was probably good.  It was time to get packing again.  Got most of it done before heading to dinner.  Then we went to another movie.  This one was "Lone Survivor"---a film based on truth about Marcus Luttrell and his team who set out to capture or kill Taliban leader Ahmad Shah, in late June 2005.  Marcus and his team are left to fight for their lives in one of th emost valiant efforts of modern warfare.  Another excellent movie and another one I hadn't heard about.  Nervous Ken went back to the room after the movie and continued to pack.  I went to the Showroom at Sea to see the Dancing with the Stars at Sea Finale.  It certainly wasn't like the tv series, but the judges made the show with their impromptu humor.  It reminded me of when they use to have a singing competition and the judges poked fun of the contestants.  After that it was time to finish getting my stuff packed so we could get our 3 suitcases out to the hallway.  
Our last towel pet for awhile!

April 22, Monday-Debarkation Day :(
Even with the smaller ship debarkation seemed to take quite awhile.  I called Angie when we were in the customs line with our luggage.  Coming from Coral Springs, we still beat her to the pick up area.  But I'm not going to complain about our free pick up and drop off service! 
At least our vacation wasn't over yet---we spent another wonderful week with our daughter and son-in-law.  They even treated us to a gondola ride, dinner at the food trucks in a nearby park, and a couple trips to the beach.  They even took us to the airport on the 30th for our short flight back to STL.  
What a rude awakening we got back home!  AFter 3 weeks of beautiful sunny 80 degrees weather, we returned to temps in the low 50s for a high!  At least that only lasted 3 days, then we were back to temps in the 80s.  Good 'ole St. Louis---no Spring or Fall, just Winter and Summer!


  1. Thank you so much for posting your pictures.

  2. Thank you for sharing! We're looking to sail on her (and first time on HAL) in July from Boston to Montreal. Can't wait!

  3. Thanks for all this hard work and sharing! Beautiful!

  4. AMAZING photos -- the kind I enjoy taking (without people) -- I loved every one of them. Thank you so much for spending the time to document and share your vacation with us -- very enjoyable!

  5. Great pics! I love that you managed to see so many different fish in all those ports.

  6. Great pics and a wonderful review.

  7. Thank you for offering your detailed presentation of the cruise! It was awesome! We are going in January!

  8. What a wonderful cruise review! And your underwater photos are amazing. Mine never come out that clear. Would you mind sharing your camera/technique? Thank you for such a lovely and exciting blog.

  9. I used an Olympus TG-830 on this cruise. I've had other P&S underwater cameras, too, and have been happy with them also. But I do a little photoshopping to most of them to "brighten" them up a bit.