Sunday, November 22, 2015

2015 Nov. 8-15 Western Caribbean Cruise on the Eurodam: Key West; Grand Cayman; Jamaica; HMC

When we "temporarily" moved to South Florida (as my husband likes to put it), I figured this might be a good time to try and get some good deals on last minute cruises.  Don't know how good of a deal we really ended up getting, but I managed to keep from accepting the up sell offer to a suite.  I had already upgraded us for $100@ to a balcony from the $499 OV room I had originally booked.  The first up sell offer arrived about 3 weeks before our trip and was $499 for a signature suite and $699 for a Neptune suite.  About a week later I got another up sell offer for the same super high price.  When we finally got our Verandah guarantee room assignment, I noticed we were in a less desirable room near the front of the ship with metal half walls on the veranda and no tub.  I called and requested a different room.
About 4 days before our cruise, we got an email with a new cabin number---mid ship, tub, and with a super deep veranda with Plexiglas walls and even 2 lounge chairs on the deck as well as the 2 other chairs, ottoman, and little side table.   About a day or 2 before the cruise, I called again because I noticed a couple suites opened up and I wanted to see if I could get an up sell for really cheap, like we did a couple years ago.  This time they quoted me $250 for a signature suite and $350 for the Neptune.  I was tempted, but also curious about the VA room we were reassigned.   Apparently there are 4 of these rooms---1 on either side of the lifeboats, so they're a little deeper then the boats are wide (about 14').  I read a lot of mixed reviews about those rooms.  Some people liked the extra space, others didn't because most of the veranda wasn't covered and, therefore, didn't have privacy.   I wonder if that's how we ended up with it.   I don't know for sure, just that there were no veranda rooms showing available for the last week or so before the cruise.
I'd say the actual covered area of our veranda was about what the regular verandas have.  We were on the sunrise side of the ship most of the time, so only got to watch sunset from our veranda 2 nights.  But I did spend a lot of time out there enjoying just gazing at the water.  
 from the door to the veranda.

And, yes, people will look at you if you wear a towel on your head!  But most of the time we didn't even see people on their verandas.  A couple above us chatted with us a bit, other than that, we hardly saw a sole.
Personally, I didn't mind it at all and I loved having the lounges and a bit more view to one side. The regular verandas didn't have room for 1 lounger, let alone 2.
Our room was considered a VA cabin--4054.  Much higher category then the VH we were originally assigned.  The inside was about the size of the suite we had on the Maasdam.
 Our veranda as seen from a tender boat.  Note the rescue boat below us---it'll come in handy later in the cruise!

Angie dropped us off at the port about noon.  Boarding went rather quickly this time.  Just the line to get our room keys, then we went right onto the boat.  As usual, we dropped by our room for a few minutes then headed to the Lido buffet for our lunch.
 After the mandatory muster drill, we went to our veranda and watched sail away.  A little eerie seeing a machine gun next to you.  Especially this day and age with all the mass shootings.  Glad this was a good guy.  There was even a terrorist attack in Paris while we were on this cruise and 129 people were killed.  Why can't we all just cruise and get along----I digress!
 Heading out of the port.
 by our mid elevators.
 I had to go elsewhere to catch sunset since we were on the wrong side of the ship.  Here I found where the cabana people hang out.
 Finally I ended up at the back of the Lido deck since the observation deck had Plexiglas you had to look through.  It was probably our nicest sunset of the trip.
 Heading down past Miami.
 More of Miami.
 The first Mainstage show was the BBKing group.  They were very good, but we never made it to their club where they performed nightly.
 Leaving the Mainstage.  I didn't take a whole lot of pictures around the ship since this was the 3rd time we were on it.   But I have plenty more here--- Eurodam cruises .
This was my 2nd time on a Western Caribbean cruise.  Our ports were Key West, Grand Cayman, Jamaica (Falmouth), and HAL's private island in the Bahamas---Half Moon Cay.  When I sailed away from Key West on the cruise with my daughter,sister, and sister in law last Dec. on a Carnival cruise, I saw what looked like a promising snorkel beach within walking distance from the port, so I decided that's where we should go this time when we were in Key West.
Monday---Key West: The Eurodam was even docked closer to the beach then when I was on the Carnival cruise.  This time we docked in the Naval base instead of the downtown dock.  There were free shuttles running people to town since no walking around in the base was permitted.  The shuttle left us off just outside the gates to the base and we walked about 15-20 minutes (rather slowly since I was taking pictures) to the beach at Ft. Zachary Park.
 Ken always leaving me in his dust.
 It was a beautiful day!
 The concession guy mentioned the snorkeling probably wouldn't be very good because of the direction of the surf and sand being churned up.  But I had to try it anyway!
 I went to the rocks by the shore on the left and swam very close to the rocks.  There were a lot of fish there, but it wasn't very clear.
 It did start clearing up some as time went on.
 I came out for a bit.
 Then Ken and I both headed back in---he didn't bother earlier.   It was clearing up nicely, so I suggested we swim to the rocky areas away from the beach.
 looking back towards the beach from the outer rocks.
 a fish I've not seen before!
 another one I've not seen before.  i suspect it's related to the one above.

 assortment of fish.
 a spotted chub.
 a parrotfish or wrasse
 The little guy looks like one of the ones a couple pictures up, but this one was acting like a cleaner fish.
 After a couple more hours in the water, Ken and I were chatting above water when I felt a sudden sharp pain all over my left forearm!  I immediately thought jelly fish?---then---am I allergic to them since I'm allergic to bee stings?   Wish I had taken it's picture now, but I was concerned about getting back to shore in case I went into anaphylactic shock.  Immediately my arm welted up.  There happened to be someone else on shore who had also been stung and she was pouring white vinegar on it that she got from the concession stand.  So I went to the concession stand and she fixed me up, too.  Apparently she had 3 other people come to her with stings and right after me they put up the purple flag meaning sea pests were present.  The pain really didn't last too long, but the itching that started by the next morning was pretty intense---for over a week.  But at least I didn't go into anaphylactic shock.
 Since we'd been at the beach for about 4 hours by then, we decided to head back to the shuttle and run into town.
walking along the by the base.
  I had forgotten to bring any contact solution so we figured we'd go to the cvs near the shuttle stop.  I enjoyed the free shuttle and seeing a bit of Key West.  It really is a neat little town. 
Along our walk to CVS.
 There were a series of these signs by a restaurant.  I thought they were really cool signs.
 more along our walk.
 Even a wall of mosaic art.  This is just a small part of the picture.
Back on the ship, I waited for sail away and sunset.
Shortly after sail away we were passing Ft. Zachary beach where we had snorkeled.  Snorkeling by the rock walls was really quite good, despite the  jellyfish encounter.
 back to the sea
 It wasn't long until sunset---with day light savings time ending a week ago it's now dark by a little after 5.
 Right as sun was setting, a pod of dolphins decided to join us for awhile.  They were fun to watch.
 Tuesday was a sea day.   Plenty of time to get out and explore the ship a bit.
The cabanas on Lido next to the family pool.
 At 11am we went to the CruiseCritic Meet and Greet.  If I remember correctly, about 45 people said they were coming.  In the end, about 25 came.  Still a nice turn out and the ship provided a nice spread of cookies and pastries as well as coffees and teas.  This was one of the few times we made it up to the Crow's nest this cruise!  On the Maasdam, we were up there almost every night.
 One of the many real flower arrangements on board.
 We like going to the culinary exhibitions.  This one was highlighting a food from each of the restaurants.
 Canaletto's rigatoni with Italian sausage.  It was very good.
 more elevator areas.
 peering down at the bar by the customer service area.
 another flower arrangement.
 I checked out the Gala dinner menu and decided there wasn't anything worth dressing up for.  So later we ate in the Lido buffet.
 Having been a florist for about 2 years, I enjoy going to the florist exhibition and watching them create their master pieces.  2 guys are responsible for all the flowers on board. 
 I missed our almost daily treks to the Explorers Cafe for our bottle water and flavored drinks on our last Maasdam cruise.  We had complimentary drink cards then and used it for waters and sodas, as well as a variety of drinks.  No drinks this cruise.  Did I mention we're "cheap skates"?
While hanging out on our veranda, Ken even tried a new towel hat!
 And we toasted to another great vacation.  Thanks for the bottle of Moscato, Sue !!!!
I, again, took up my spot at the back of the Lido deck for sunset.  This Carnival ship was our companion most of the way.
 There even happened to be a wedding on board.
 What really surprised me was how empty the deck got from sunset on. 
 That night we went to the Mainstage for the ships singers and dancers.  They had a new show which I really enjoyed.  A lot of more current songs--albeit probably not ones most seniors have heard before.  Having worked around high school kids for the last 19 years, I've heard and actually like a lot of those songs.
After the show, I went out on our veranda to enjoy the sound of the water.  I was surprised to see this----
a spotlight from the bridge following a small light in the water.  (the larger lights are the Carnival ship traveling along with us and another cruise ship).
Turned out to be a small boat of Cuban refugees.  I didn't get a good picture of the boat, but we were told later it was made out of Styrofoam blocks tied together and had a make shift sail.   When it was at it's closest, we were able to see one of the guys waving his arms and yelling for help.
It was at this point that the captain of our ship decided to rescue them, so he sounded the alarm (first time I've ever heard it other than at the muster drill!) and announced what he was doing and for everyone to stay off deck 3.  That was the deck the officers congregated on and the rescue boat was directly under our veranda.
 After a few minutes, they had the boat in the water and were on their way to rescue the Cubans.
 Here's what was on the tv at that time.  It looked to us like they were not trying to head towards the USA, but more likely Grand Cayman.  We didn't hear how long they were out there, but the Captain did say their boat was coming apart.
 Of course a lightening storm and lots of rain was going on then, too.  We stood out at the end of our uncovered balcony, and watched the whole thing.  Here they are bringing back 4 of the Cubans as it poured down rain.
 Then they went back for the other 3.  Total there were 6 men between the ages of  about 19 - 45 and 1 female about 18 or so.  The Captain announced the next day that they were handed over to Immagrations on the Cayman Islands to "consider their request for asylum".  Never did hear the outcome.
But it made for an interesting, though very wet, end to the day.
Wed. was Grand Cayman day!  Every since I went here with the kids for a land based trip back in 2001, I've been anxious to go back.  The snorkeling was great and I knew there was a great place to snorkel right by where the ships tender into.  I finally got back to Grand Cayman last Dec. on our girls' cruise, but we were unable to tender into Georgetown due to rough seas, so our plans for snorkeling there were foiled.  But not today!  It was a great day!!!
Walking from the tender dock to Paradise cafe (Marine Park).
 Our ship was the one you can barely see the nose of behind the one on the left.
 The cafe and marine park entrance.  There is a little rental area for snorkel gear and such there, too.  We had our own, but did rent a locker for $5 to lock my phone and such in while we were snorkeling.  Ken does have a waterproof "wallet" and used that for our cards and money.  They also had a changing room, but I didn't know that so didn't bring a change of clothes.  We were even able to use their free WI-fi.
 Snorkeling here was not only fantastic, but it is FREE!!!  I was a little surprised when I first got in and saw all the huge (5' long or longer) tarpins hanging around there.  But they were harmless and rather fun to watch. 
 Ken getting ready to enter.
 We were directed to go out past the yellow inflatable deck to the first buoy which was "Devil's Grotto", then continue left to the 2nd buoy "Eden's Rock" and back.
It always amazes me when I see fish with large chunks out of them and seemingly doing ok.
 some of the reef.
 I was really excited to see this guy!  First time I've been able to get a good photograph of a shark, just glad it was a nurse shark. 
 They are such graceful creatures!  Shortly after he/she swam away, a full snorkel excursion pontoon boat showed up.  I would have been ticked off if I paid for an excursion and found it was within walking distance and had free entrance!  I wonder how much they paid to be taken out there?!
 We vacated Eden Rock to the hundred or so new snorkelers and headed back towards Devil's Grotto where we found a very large yellow fin snapper.
 one of the smaller fishies and some nice brain coral.
 a large spotlight parrotfish swimming amongst some nice coral.
 Another parrotfish or wrasse that I've not seen in Hawaii, but did see last April in the Caribbean.
 Another large parrotfish.
 Black triggerfish---just like we see in Hawaii.
 Don't recall ever seeing these purplish guys before, either.
 By now we'd been out there a couple hours and the inside of my mask was beading up with water.  We decided to slowly head in so I could clean out my mask and put more defogger drops in it. 
 Another parrotfish
 a school of blue tangs.
 a flounder.
 Right as I got close to the steps, the guy from the rental booth or restaurant decided to feed the tarpin.  He thought he was doing us a favor by throwing the food towards us snorkelers.  That would create a feeding frenzy right by us.  I was a bit nervous at first because I've been by feeding frenzies in Hawaii and some of those fish nip pretty hard and these guys were much larger.  Turns out they just went for the food and ignored us. 
 Scrawled filefish.
 A very large Permit fish.
 a butterflyfish
 A flamingo dancer snail
 a Sergeant Major in a tough spot.  I even tried to catch him to try and free him from the ring that was cutting into him, but figured I'd probably do him more damage. 
 The tarpin were really remarkable, so one more picture of them as I was heading to the steps to clean my mask out.
 back in the water and heading along shore---a young surgeon fish.
 another parrotfish
 a hogfish
Back out at Devil's Grotto, this guy swam under me---and a kid came thrashing by kicking me with his fins.  Then I noticed another shark and they both swam off before I could get a picture of both of them together.  Later Ken saw another nurse shark.  So we know there were at least 2, but we saw one 4 different times. 
 By now we'd been snorkeling about 4 hours and Ken was ready to head in.  So I reluctantly followed.  That's when I spotted this guy.
 Back on shore---a look at the ladder into the water.
 The little "beach" area by the park. I believe the rental for the chairs was $5 for the day.
 I had one more mission before going back to the ship---finding another pharmacy and getting some calamine lotion for my jelly fish sting (which felt amazing in the water!).  So we walked back past the tender dock, around the Margaritaville to the shops behind it where the guy at the marine park said the pharmacy was and did indeed find some calamine lotion.
 cute stingray statue near Margaritaville.
 Ken joining the hordes of people using the free wi fi in the Margaritaville Mall.
 Back on the ship and saying, "Good Bye" to a wonderful spot for snorkeling.
 Thursday, 11-12-15---Falmouth, Jamaica:
I really wasn't looking forward to this port.  Didn't figure we'd be able to snorkel, so I figured we'd hang out at the Margaritaville pool there.  But when we saw it from the ship, it looked so small.  We're thinking this was the pool there.
So we decided to see if we could get a last minute excursion.  This was a relativly new cruise port and it was nice and clean. 

 We made it to where the excursions were leaving from and signed up for the city and Greenwood Great House tour.  Then they took us to a bus that was over filled.  Apparently there was a 2nd bus that had just left and had empty seats, so we sat in jump seats until we caught up with the other bus.  Made for a little awkwardness, but ended up being fine.  Our "city" tour was basically just stopping at a church, then driving out of town as fast as they could.  Couldn't really blame them, the town was very impoverished.

 Soon we were riding up into the hills where the houses were really nice.
The guide said they were owned by foreigners who rented them out.
 Even the goats lived up in the better parts.
 Finally we reached Greenwood Great House.
 It is over 200 years old and was formerly owned by the family of Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, the famous English poet.   Greenwood is one of the best preserved great houses on the island.  They said the new owners actually live there and have tours during the day to help pay for maintenance on it.  It was a fascination old plantation house/museum. 
 leather bucket
 one of the pieces of antique furniture.
 ornate chair
 view from a window.

 one of the disks that played music when used in one of their 3 or 4 self player instruments.
 ornate door hardware
 heading up stairs
 one of the many bedrooms.
 more door hardware
 another diningroom
 one of the chandeliers
 being English they must like their tea!  There were lots of tea pots throughout the house.

 another bedroom
 view from front porch.
 the huge porch.  I told Ken I want one like this.
 back down stairs.

 interesting artwork.
 one of the old flyers from the plantation days.
 the back lawn where croquette was set up.
 We were even given something to drink in the old kitchen which is now also a bar/restaurant.

 another view of the back of the house
 the front of the house with the huge patio on the 2nd level.
 back on the bus, Ken noticed a free wi fi sign, so we checked email and put a couple pictures on facebook.
 Next stop was a bay which was suppose to have bioluminescent critters in it that light up when the water is disturbed, but it was daylight so it wasn't visible. 
 BAck to the port.  Our guide was very good.  We don't usually do ship excursions because they are so expensive, but we were happy with this one.
 Heading back through the port shops to the ship.
 sunset that day---another one where the sun just dropped down into the clouds and that was it.
 They had some sort of Caribbean party that night.  There were hors doerves, guys doing juggling, not sure what else---we didn't spend much time there.
 We headed to the back of the Lido and had a piece of pizza.  While we were there, a bar crawl showed up.
 11-13-15 another sea day:
Just hanging around the ship.  We did go to the Future Cruise desk and signed up for another cruise to get the reduced deposit and OBC.
 grand stairway in the atrium

Northern lights club.
 culinary exhibition.
 Q and A with the Captain of the ship.  Lots of questions about the refugee rescue.
More of Cuba
 and more of Cuba
 a little better then previous nights.
 But still not spectacular.
  11-14-15 Half Moon Cay:
After not being able to tender into the beach last time we were at Half Moon Cay and ending up with another day at sea, I was anxious to see if we would get to the beach this time.  We did and we (at least I) had a great time!
 The surf was down and the water was clear.
 Didn't take long for us to make our way into the water.
 Soon we were heading towards the snorkel area by the kids play area.
 We even saw a couple turtles there this time.
 and lots of fish.  The snorkel area seems to be getting better and better since the first time we were there.
 Instead of just having juvenile fish, there were even some larger fish like these surgeon fish and snapper.
 Even saw a couple flounders
 a Jack hanging out with some yellowtail snappers.
another type of parrotfish
I think this is another type of Jack.
the 2nd turtle.

a feather worm
bally hos
some of the artificial reef.

a shell
a blue head wrasse
 The Eurodam in the distance

 Christmas Tree worms
 Looking back towards the beach
 After a couple hours it was time to head to the bar b q on the beach.
 along the way
 Ken leaving me in his dust again.
 part of the buffet.
 more of the buffet.  Along with the salads and fruits, they grilled burgers, hotdogs, and mahi mahi.  I had mahi mahi which was very good.  Ken enjoyed the burgers and hot dogs.  We also ate LOTS of watermelon!  Why---because the water to the island was out so we couldn't get anything to drink unless we wanted to pay for a can of beer or soda.  So we had watermelon.  Clever way for HAL to make more money!  I understand they ran out of cans of soda on the island.  It wouldn't have been so bad if they had let people know before leaving the ship that the water was out, then we could have brought some water with us.
 Didn't see any of the yellow bellied birds from before, but did see this hungry guy.
 Then I took a walk along the beach while Ken went back to our loungers.
walking along the beach.
heading back towards the loungers.

Back by our loungers, I went back in to snorkel.  Here I saw some more worms
another new guy to me
 looking back towards shore
 I love how colorful the sea feather worms get.

 a couple different kinds of small wrasses.
a type of gobie, I presume
 a view of a feather worm showing it's "stalk".
 some of the tiny residents of the bay
 Ken standing with fist on his hips willing me to come in so he can head back to the ship---an hour early!  I would stay until the last shuttle if it were up to me.  He's paranoid of being left behind!
 When it was time to shove off, it was announced that a passenger was very ill and we would be staying here for a couple hours while we wait for a Coast Guard helicopter to get there for a medivac.   The helicopter arrived near sunset and the passenger was loaded onto the shuttle and taken back to the island where they met the helicopter.  Seems we always encounter a medivac of some sort while on a cruise.
 A pretty nice sunset---right from our veranda.

Next morning we did self debarkation and were literally off the ship and out of customs in less then 20 minutes!  We've never made it anywhere near that quickly before!   It was another great vacation---minus the jelly fish sting!  So what does it look like a week later?  Still itches, but getting better.


  1. Thank you so much for another fabulous blog. I read your earlier cruise and island reviews to get ready for our last So Caribbean Oosterdam cruise. In fact I was inspired to buy my own snorkel gear and found so much more sea life in the rocks and waters than I ever did in a larger organized tour. I was able to identify many of the fish based on your photos and descriptions. I would love to know what camera you used this time. Thanks so much! Susan

    1. Thanks, Susan. For my underwater pics I'm currently using a Nikon Coolpix AW120 that I got in St. Thomas last April when my Olympus died. I wasn't really happy with it at first. The pics out of the camera come out pretty dull, but by correcting the levels in photoshop, they're much better. Seems the Olympus and Canons did better right out of the camera. It seems to do well above water, though. In fact my Canon 60D DSLR didn't leave the ship at any of the ports.

  2. Wonderful pictures! I was also on this cruise and I'm producing an episode about it for my podcast. Would you be interested in being a guest?

    1. Just listened to your podcast part 1---hilarius! You remind me of my husband!!! Let me know if you get around to part 2.

    2. Thanks for listening! Working on part 2. Looking for a guest to be on the show to talk about the rescue. Would you or someone you know be interested? Just click my name to email me. Thanks again.

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