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.
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.
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.
I think this was at the bar, Mix.
Some of the glass artwork.
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.
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.
We made a point of going to many of Elon's concerts. He was spectacular on the Steel Drums!
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),
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.
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.
Looking out to sea from the ferry.
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 took our snorkel gear and I did manage to see a few fish---like these surgeonfish.
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.
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.
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
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.
Some interesting marked goatfish.
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.
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.
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.
Another new to me wrasse.
It was spring break for St. Vincent kids, too. Lots of families enjoying the 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!
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.
Near Folkestone was a historic old church
There are suppose to be sunken ships off shore a ways. I assume that's where those other boats were anchored by.
Snorkeling was fun, too. Note how crowded it was!
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
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.
April 18, Good Friday-Martinique (7-1:30):
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-
Palms along the way.
On the other side of the rain forest, we came to a distillery.
Looking back at the town of St. Pierre. Mt. Pelee was covered by clouds, so I never did see it.
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.
A pan of Martinique as we sailed down the coast.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!