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Trish Traveler

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  1. Thanks for the kind words. Glad you enjoyed it! And welcome to Cruise Critic as I see you are a new member. It's such a great community and always a wealth of information for cruise planning!
  2. We had a great shore excursion tour in early March with Relax Day Tours. We chose the 4-hour Around Limon Tour with Larry our tour guide and Giovanni the bus driver. It was a nice group size of about 12 on a comfortable small bus. We visited a beautiful church in Limon before heading out to the countryside to a fruit stand, banana plantation, the Tortuguero Canal boat ride and the Playa Bonita Beach. Larry was so interesting with a wealth of knowledge of flora and fauna. Both he and Giovanni were excellent at spotting wildlife along the ride. The boat ride was amazing with all the wildlife viewing of monkeys, sloths, a caiman, and lots of birds. We were glad we chose them and definitely would recommend them. If you are interesting in seeing more of our Relax Day tour with photos, I have included the link below of our Rotterdam review. Puerto Limon, Costa Rica begins on post 63.
  3. We also had a fantastic tour with Dora in early March. There were 8 on our tour that day in a comfortable mini-bus/van with good A/C - it does get hot in CO. We were delighted with how much we saw on this tour considering it was a short port time. It is a beautiful, vibrant city with so much history. Dora, her assistant and bus driver did an excellent job. If you would like to read more and see photos of Cartagena in my full trip review of the Rotterdam, I am giving the link on the HAL board. Cartagena begins on post 27.
  4. On our recent Rotterdam cruise (2/25-3/8) this topic was brought up at the Ask the Captain presentation. A frequent HAL cruiser politely stated how much they missed Lincoln Center and if there were any plans for anything similar to return. The Travel Director politely let him know that this wasn't necessarily an Ask the Captain question (which is more about him and his ship experiences), but she did answer it by saying something to the effect that something like that would be returning to maybe about half the fleet sometime this year (don't remember her exact words) The audience clapped at that news. This was our second HAL cruise, so we had never experienced Lincoln Center, but we definitely missed a quiet venue for strings or background piano like we have experienced on Celebrity and Princess. But we also loved the Music Walk venues when we were interested in livelier music.
  5. Mary Beth thank you for the outstanding review! Your photos were fabulous. We got on the Rotterdam the day you got off. We did the 12 night Panama Canal itinerary and loved most everything about it. The Rotterdam is a beautiful ship. You captured it perfectly. I made myself complete posting my review before I took time to read yours. We did the same thing the first time we ordered the room service breakfast by accidentally ordering double! 😂 Sorry that you missed HMC as it is beautiful and photogenic. We had heard your cruise missed it when we boarded so we were hopeful and felt very lucky to visit the day we did. Glad you had a great cruise and Happy Anniversary to your in-laws!
  6. OP here. We're back from our Rotterdam cruise. We attended the Indonesian Tea on 2/27/24. Here is the info from my review regarding the tea: At 3pm we decided to try the Indonesian Tea in the MDR to see what was special about that. Well it was okay. We shared a table and conversation with a nice man. We had a tower of goodies to share. Some of them looked like they were probably an Indonesian Treat, while others were standard like egg salad sandwiches. There were no choices given for tea, the server just came around and poured a ready-made pot of black tea. So although we enjoyed it, I don’t need to repeat it and I find it a bit wasteful if you don't finish everything on the tower.
  7. REVIEW W/PHOTOS - Rotterdam Panama Canal 2/25-3/8/24 FINAL THOUGHTS We loved this cruise! We liked coming back on to the Rotterdam and having much more time to explore and enjoy the ship than on our last 7 day cruise. The crew is excellent! Thanks for all your hard work, friendliness and professionalism. We really like this mid-size ship category and don’t really have much interest in a mega-ship with other cruise lines. At this stage of our lives, we like the more varied, longer itineraries. We are not anti-children by any means, but prefer to sail with adults in the majority. This being a longer cruise and just prior to major spring break vacations, we had a small number of children. Personally, I only saw one young girl. The age for longer cruises does seem to lean older for sure, but we saw plenty of younger ages also 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and up. This was a terrific itinerary as we had been wanting to visit the Panama Canal for a while and also added some ports we had never been to. Although, we are a bit hyper and tend to pack our port days on cruises, we definitely enjoy all the sea days on longer cruises. And once home, my vacation adrenaline crashes and I am exhausted for a while! We love the classy décor on the Rotterdam, and all the interesting art! Our cabin suited our needs just fine. Initially, it felt slightly smaller than some of the recent insides we have had on other cruise lines. But the storage was very good. We bring our own magnet hooks for the walls for hats and such. We bring a few light pop up fabric bins to stow other items we want readily available. The outlets and USB ports were plenty for us. And for drying bathing suits there is a clothesline in the shower, besides all the towel racks can be used too. And I must say again, how nice the large shower is, with glass doors and a small footrest for lady leg shaving. You should already know from the “food porn” pictures and descriptions that we really enjoyed the food. Of course, food is subjective, but we found most everything very good to excellent. We love trying new cuisines and have learned to love many new dishes in all our cruising days. And one of the best things about cruise dining is that if you don’t care for something, you can order or choose something else without an additional charge. I think for hygiene reasons it is nice to have the HAL crew serve you in the Lido Market Buffet. And particularly when viruses may be circulating, it is especially prudent. On this cruise our wait times were none to 10 minutes tops for dining in the MDR anywhere from 5pm-7:30pm arrival for a table of two without reservations. We never did get around to eating any breakfasts or brunches in the MDR. And most meals were in our desirable one hour time frame. No big gaps between courses. Both our included HIA specialty meals at Tamarind and Pinnacle were great. We enjoyed having the HIA drink package as it also included water and specialty coffees. We did notice some price increases on a few items since our September cruise which just were awkward because they might be like $11.50 or $12, which is just above the $11 drink limit in the Signature Package. I don’t particularly mind an extra small charge for a drink I really like, it just seems odd. The quality of liquor and wine choices in the Signature package seemed good to us. We found the alcoholic drinks to be a nice variety and most always were made well. When we didn’t care for a drink, then we ordered something different. A few times things were off such as an overly sweet Old Fashioned at Music Walk, but by just letting the excellent server Mae know that and soon a traditional version arrived. In general, during the day I enjoy a tropical drink, but often found them too sweet – so I would just ask for a less-sweet version and the bartender would comply. I don’t think I mentioned earlier that it was nice to have a smaller bar in the Lido Market for specialty coffees, wine and beer with our meals there. Of course, you also have the outside full service bars on deck 9 if needed. And of course the Lido servers will also get your beverage orders. Overall, we really enjoyed the HAL entertainment on the Rotterdam. Our overall favorite this cruise was the Island Magic Steel Pan Group, who performed twice. They were outstanding. They have another Island Magic Band (relatives) on another HAL ship currently, so that’s good news. And just like on our Norway cruise, we really enjoyed the Music Walk venues with the favorite being Rolling Stone Rock Room, which is nicely alternated with sets from the Billboard pianist. You can sit in either venue and hear both, if you don’t want to move every set. BB Kings is also a great band offering jazz and lots of dance music to get the crowd on their feet. Earlier some evenings we saw some recorded ballroom dance music that some dancers were enjoying. As we like a big variety of music, sometimes you just don’t want loud music. As I mentioned before, I do miss not having somewhere to listen to quiet music like strings or background piano (that lonely piano in the hall on deck 2 sat there unused all cruise). I have read about the former Lincoln Center and realize this was a feature of HAL before. However, I see hear on a CC thread that Strings are possibly returning. And during our Ask the Captain, a guest asked about the missing Lincoln Center and the Travel Director Karlijn mentioned that strings may be returning soon on at least half the fleet, if I heard correctly. So that would be really nice. I enjoyed the Dance One Company Shows I have seen, but although the dancers are very talented it lacks a story. And without live singers it just misses something for us. Although, they did insert a BB King singer in the show I saw one night and he was good. And since they have been the same shows for several years, I see why some HAL regulars would like some more variety. Which again, I see here on CC a thread that some new shows may be in production. It was nice to have the variety of the Mentalist, Comedian and individual singers added for this longer cruise. We definitely like a variety to choose from. In the BB King room they offered a lot of different Game Shows many nights, which we really didn’t attend, but some seemed pretty popular. We don’t use the casino, so no opinion there. We do really like that outdoor movies were offered at the Lido Pool, a nice relaxing evening option. The daytime entertainment offered a nice variety. We really like the enrichment type talks in the World Stage, which are well done, as long as it would be a different variety each time we cruised with HAL. We really felt they did a great job with all the Panama Canal info including presentation prior and narration during the transit. We also enjoy the Trivia which was very popular. We just wished it was offered more in the morning, not just later. There was a good variety of daily activities offered including dance, sports, crafts etc. Once we relax on sea days we mostly like to walk, sea-gaze and read in the shade. The few times we needed Guest Services they were great answering questions. Once, we had an error on our cabin safe at night and within 20 minutes a gal was there to clear it for us. Twice, we had a problem with our TV freezing and the room steward and guest services cleared it remotely and it didn’t happen again. Overall, the HAL app was useful for checking menus, shore excursion tickets and daily info as well as checking our statement. I forgot to mention in my disembarkation post that you should always check your statement before you leave the ship. I checked it about every other day and then on the last day. Ours was always correct, but sometimes guests have charges that they didn’t make and you always want to clear that up before disembarking. You can check it in the APP on your phone or on the TV in the cabin. The Shore Excursions desk was always helpful when I visited them. We take a mixture of independent and cruiseline shore excursions when cruising. We wanted to make sure we used our HIA shore excursion credit and we were happy with all the HAL tours we chose. Prior to cruising, we found the HAL website was okay, no real problems. But the couple of times I needed to call HAL customer service were not good. Agents that seemed not well versed in the HAL product and procedures. It was a bit painful. I know many cruise lines are out-sourcing these jobs as there are many threads on this so I won’t discuss it further. Just glad it is so much better once you step on the ship. We were thankful that we didn’t get sick on the cruise for sure. We always want to thank the community here at CC for all the helpful advice when cruise planning. I know our experiences are definitely enhanced by my research here. We met so many nice passengers on this cruise. And we thank God that we are blessed with health and the means to be able to cruise and enjoy the world! We will definitely consider HAL again for future cruises. Thanks to the HAL crew for a wonderful cruise! The End …for those who made it to the end, thanks for sticking with me. Hope you found it helpful!
  8. Con't. DISEMBARKATION Saturday 3/8 7:00AM The second part is an alligator show put on by one of the guys from Gator Boys. This is an animal rescue for mostly injured alligators, including Stumpy who lost most of his tail. He explained their care and did some daring stunts (don’t try these at home folks), which the animals are trained to “perform” with the promise of a chunk of steak at the end of the show. Back on the bus for the final leg to the airport. We were really glad we took this tour making our last day feel like we were still on vacation, while using up more of the time we would have been sitting at FLL before flight check in. Alligator gets a steak treat after his performance: Farewell Ft. Lauderdale, until next time...
  9. DISEMBARKATION Saturday 3/8 7:00AM Arrival Good Morning Port Everglades. As we had a later flight out of FLL, we booked a HAL tour using our OBC. The tour was the Everglades Airboat ride and transfer to Fort Lauderdale Airport with a departure time of 8:30am. We received a tour info debarkation packet a couple of days ago giving us specific luggage tags corresponding to our tour departure time. I think we were called between 7:45-8am to disembark and claim our luggage. Face recognition was used in the terminal and we were directed to our tour bus where they put your luggage in the storage hold until you arrive at the airport. We had a wonderful tour guide who was full of interesting Ft. Lauderdale facts to entertain us on the ride to the Everglades Holiday Park. While lining up for our boat ride, they have a photographer that takes a FREE picture of you, which the tour guide passes out later. The boat ride was about an hour long through the pretty everglade canals with lots of foliage including trees, lily pads and grasses. Most of the time the boat travels slowly, but occasionally speeds up on the open areas, when it gets loud (I brought along ear plugs along for this). There were many birds to see including Cormorants, Blue Herons, Starlings and the cool blue Gallinule. Then the captain spotted an alligator near the bank and brought us closer to see, rotating the boat so both sides had a view. Later, one more alligator was spotted swimming in front of our boat. Really enjoyed the boat ride. Cormorants: Gallinule Birds 1st Alligator spotted: 2nd Alligator sighting:
  10. Glad you enjoyed it! Panama Canal had been on our list for a while also, so we were glad we finally sailed there.
  11. Con't. SEA DAY Thursday 3/7 One last beautiful sunset for this cruise, while we enjoyed another alfresco Lido Market dinner sitting aft. Our last music walk variety of music offerings before putting out our packed luggage. Be sure to keep clothes and shoes for the next day, all your important documents including passports, and medications & toiletries. Jerk Lamb Shank DH loved this dish: Chicken Parmesan: Shrimp fingers? They were tasty! Perfect dinner spot in nice weather: Billboard Piano Player was very good - crowded most nights:
  12. SEA DAY Thursday 3/7 Our day began with a relaxing hot tub soak before breakfast. We enjoyed sampling that smoked trout at breakfast (good, just too salty for us as most smoked meats are). I really enjoyed the City On the Sea presentation this morning in the World Stage, which explains so many interesting details about the behind the scenes operations on the ship. It was another beautiful sea day with very calm seas. I spent various chunks of time packing while enjoying the ship in between. My luggage was feeling a bit heavy for airline restrictions, so we decided to weigh it at the HAL provided scales at the midships elevators on passenger floors, that are out on this last day of the cruise. I forgot to mention that we had received two more HAL 150 Anniversary Coasters as a gift, so we now have a set of four! Smoked Trout top left & Smoked Salmon top right: Smoked Salmon: City on the Sea Presentation: I took a few more pictures at buffet lunch. I definitely did not cover all the buffet foods on any day of the cruise with my pics and I didn't always snap every menu board at each station. So there was definitely even more variety than is shown here. Plus, I see I didn't have much in the way of pics of all the many carved meats: Rotisserie Chicken (seemed it was available daily), Pork Roasts, Whole Pig, Various Beef Roasts, BBQ Meats, Steaks, Brisket, Ham and more. Today at lunch there was a special Cake Event in the Lido, which was quite popular. I snapped my photo before the crowds. I'm not much of a cake eater so can't comment on taste, but they looked good!
  13. GEORGE TOWN, GRAND CAYMAN Wednesday 3/6 TENDER PORT 7AM-4PM Our last island sailaway for this cruise was nice. It was another Dressy Night, with a menu of special items we really like. Enjoyed the Shrimp Cocktail, French Onion Soup, Cracked Pepper Tenderloin with Grilled Shrimp, and shared a Cauliflower Steak (which is a Veg Entrée). Below are the first two pages from the MDR wine list: I enjoyed the Step One Dance Company performance of In Tandem in the World Stage tonight. Later we popped up to the Lido to catch a bit of Mamma Mia on the big screen. A beautiful night to enjoy being outside. The NY Deli offers some special movie snacks. I really wanted to try the pretzel, but was very disappointed when it was the same pretzel bread roll they serve in the buffet, and their popcorn is too salty – so those snacks were a miss for us. Not that we were hungry anyway LOL. We also perused the musical offerings on Music Walk, while enjoying some chocolate snacks being served at 9:45pm as the Chocolate Surprise! A towel elephant and chocolate greeted us back in the cabin.
  14. GEORGE TOWN, GRAND CAYMAN Wednesday 3/6 TENDER PORT 7AM-4PM Back on the boat to go a short distance for snorkeling at the reef known as Coral Gardens. There was a nice variety of fish here including Sargeant Majors, Parrotfish, Blue Tangs, Doctorfish and others. There was also some interesting coral and purple sea fans. Note: In my GoPro 10 water photos it looks like two different backgrounds - the lighter colored (the last 5 in this post) are actually screen shots I captured from videos I took. It was a good snorkel, just a bit tiring without fins. Boat ride back to the dock and bus to arrive for the last tender to the ship, which was waiting for our tour to return (no worries about being slightly late as this was a HAL tour). I really enjoyed this tour. Last tender to the Rotterdam for today: That's the Marella Explorer 2 smiling at us:
  15. GEORGE TOWN, GRAND CAYMAN Wednesday 3/6 TENDER PORT 7AM-4PM Later when we returned to the port area it was bustling with people. I checked in with HAL and they have you wait under a covered tent area out of the sun. We then boarded a bus for a short 10 minute ride to the dock where we would board a boat to head first to Stingray City. You may already know, that Stingray City is a big attraction on GC, although we’ve never been here. It is basically a shallow sandbar out in the ocean, where the deep water stingrays gather for the tours who feed them. It’s about a 35 minute boat ride to get out there. The tour guide came around and talked to smaller groups at a time (so we could hear) and explained about the stingrays and what would occur when we arrived. There were about 40ish people on our one level covered boat. Once we approached you could see lots of boats and people in the water. It was shallow and clear so you could easily see the stingrays. You exit the boat by ladders and you are not allowed to wear any shoes including water shoes, so as to not injure the stingrays. Channel leading to the open ocean: You can see how flat the island of Grand Cayman is: Once our group was in the water, they have you form a circle to feed the stingrays a piece of fish, holding it a specific safe way. Just like on HMC, you can feel the sucking swoosh as they consume the piece of fish you are holding. The tour company takes photos of all the activities, which they offer for sale digitally on the boat ride back. I bring my own snorkel gear, but it wasn’t really needed for this portion as the water was clear and besides the stingrays, there weren’t many fish to see at this sandbar. Then with the assistance of the tour guides you can hold and even kiss the stingray if you choose. I’m not sure how I feel about all the handling of the stingrays – however, the handlers do seem knowledgeable in the handling. And these are in the open ocean, so they probably wouldn’t return if it was too stressful to them, even though it is an easy meal. It seems to have been an attraction for many years, so hopefully if there were detrimental effects, it probably would have been made known by now.
  16. GEORGE TOWN, GRAND CAYMAN Wednesday 3/6 TENDER PORT 7AM-4PM Enjoyed one more room service breakfast this morning. Even though nice weather was forecasted today, you just never know with tender ports if you will actually visit the port depending on wind/wave conditions. We’ve been here several times and always enjoy our visits. I had the HAL 3 hour Reef & Rays Excursion booked for 11:30am today. Since it is a later excursion, HAL has you meet shoreside, so it is up to you to tender over before the 11:15am meeting time. The ship was cleared for tenders to begin. Yay! We love to walk around in ports before the crowds descend, as their would be 4 ships in port today! So we headed down to BB Kings to check in for a tender with no wait this early. The tender ride is pretty short. There is a nice small port area here. After exiting, we enjoyed the solitude of walking and taking photos. Fish Market: I was lucky to find a small heart shaped sea glass piece!
  17. Con’t. SEA DAY Tuesday 3/5 ORANGE PARTY TONIGHT MDR dinner choices were Baby Beet, Frisee and Orange Salad, Jamaican Garlic Shrimps and the Jamaican Bread Pudding for dessert. Loved it all. Also had the Dutch 150 cocktail which I knew I liked from the last cruise. We made sure to be in the World Stage early tonight as Island Magic Steelband would be performing their second concert tonight. We stopped for drinks and arrived 45 minutes prior to showtime at 7:30. It was a full house by showtime. They were dressed more casually tonight and played music to match. It was another fantastic performance and included goosebump inducing selections of Amazing Grace and Hallelujah. We wore our orange tops tonight for the Orange Party in the BB Kings Club which spills into the hallway as well. The band did a terrific job of getting the group on the dance floor and keeping the atmosphere festive. They sell special orange drinks, but I chose an Aperol Spritz instead because I know I like that. Servers circulate with some Dutch treats, but we were too full to partake. It was a fun way to end the night for us. Orange party accessories for sale:
  18. SEA DAY Tuesday 3/5 ORANGE PARTY TONIGHT Glad we could sleep in because time jumped forward one hour. I attended the Ask the Captain World Stage Presentation in the morning which was really interesting. Relaxing day with some trivia, deck walks and a little packing thrown in. I had time so I took a few extra photos at the lunch buffet. Smooth seas today: These coffees were from the Dutch Cafe: I always knew when I was at the correct stairwell for my cabin when I saw this whimsical aquarium. Which is appropriate as I love to snorkel!
  19. Con’t. PUERTO LIMON, COSTA RICA Monday 3/4 7:30AM-4:30PM Onboard for lunch and poolside lounging. And although it clouded up at sail away, we had some cool views of sunrays shining on CR. Before dinner we went to the Tamarind Bar because I really wanted to try their Cucumber Mojita, which was delicious and my new favorite drink on HAL. We did a casual buffet dinner where I was thrilled to see my favorite Butter Chicken offered, and enjoyed the World Stage show with Vocal Impressionist Tricia Kelly who sang great and was really funny! It has been a very busy 3 days in a row so really looking forward to tomorrow as a sea day.
  20. Con’t. PUERTO LIMON, COSTA RICA Monday 3/4 7:30AM-4:30PM Back across the street through security and into the tourist market to shop for colorful, reasonably priced souvenirs. Heading toward the ship were several photo ops and a nice local band playing some tropical tunes. And an iguana to bid us Adios! Pura Vida Costa Rica. Really enjoyed our day here.
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