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Saphire

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  1. We booked our very first 14 day cruise, a Eurodam BTB next March! Yes I am hopeful and choose to remain so. I still continue to think about the wonderful staff we met on our Koningsdam cruise nine weeks ago, and hope they have finally made their way home. Trusting we all return to the sea!
  2. We loved the Westerdam too, and their signature suites are wonderful. Here are a few pics of the Koningsdam, a lovely ship indeed.
  3. Thanks for the nice comments! Day 5: Our next stop was Martinique. We booked an excursion for a tour of a rum distillery, then on to a Caribbean Creole cooking class with a local woman who has a popular blog. The drive out to the distillery was pleasant over well paved roads, and a tour guide shared info about the island and their history. The distillery was interesting enough but I felt bad that we had people with mobility challenges, and this place was not at all easy to navigate. I am not sure if the description on HAL mentioned this, but if not, it should have. After the tour we boarded the bus and headed back to an area near our ship with a pretty view of the water, and it was there we had our class under a canopy. Prisca cooked us a tasty meal with recipes passed down from her grandmother. The cod fritters were our favorite! Very authentic, local cuisine and Prisca made the entire meal fun and informative. I bought some fragrant bay leaves from her little shop and have already used them in several stews and soups. The following morning in Barbados we booked a more low key excursion to the beach where we spent a few hours. It was HOT. So, we were in the water most of the time which was delightful. They handed out rum punches as we walked in (at 9:00 in the morning? no thanks) and told us where our 'section' was. This was the least appealing of our excursions as we felt like a 'herd', but out in the water, we didn't care. St. Lucia was our next stop, what a beautiful place! We went on a catamaran/plantation excursion. The catamaran was spacious and we enjoyed a gorgeous, scenic cruise past the pitons while a sweet guide gave us lots of info about the history of the island. We then docked in Soufriere Bay and were loaded into mini-vans, and drove the winding roads to the plantation. I didn't like this part, but it didn't take very long. We were then given a tour of how life used to be on the island, it was really interesting. Then back in the vans to make our way down the mountainous roads (hoping this old van still had good brakes!) Ahhh, back on that airy catamaran and we had an awesome time punching through choppy waters and getting sprayed (we love to stand at the front!) and then stopped near a cove so we could swim. SO FUN! Now, after all that walking then swimming, and being 2:00 in the afternoon, THIS would be a good time for a rum punch or two! They played island music and everyone was well behaved and chatting and it was just a delightful ride back. I love HAL cruisers. We found out that St. Kitts and Nevis, our next stop, did not want to permit us to dock, despite having a healthy ship. The captain said he made arrangements to go to St. John's, Antigua instead, and they would accept us. So on we sailed. We changed our excursion to something else as HAL offered us options for St. John's quickly. We thought we were all set. The next morning, with all of us waiting to disembark, the plan changed, they no longer wanted us. So it became a sea day and a lovely one at that. We used the spa most afternoons of this cruise and often had time for a luxurious nap before late seating, which I think I am now sold on. It is always worth checking out how many ships will be in port before your cruise. I have read that Magan's Bay in St. Thomas is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. But St. Thomas almost always has four or more ships in port, so the few times we have stopped here we did other things. When planning, I saw that the Koningsdam would be the ONLY ship in port this day. I knew our chance had come! We booked the Magen's Beach excursion. We were so relieved that morning we were able to dock, and quickly boarded an open air vehicle to take us to the beach. The roads were not congested and the air was balmy, the scenery amazing. Our guide stopped a few times so we could take pictures at elevated look-outs. The beach did not disappoint. It was so pretty and picturesque, and it was quiet. We spent most of our time in the clear water, and saw sea turtles! I am so glad we finally got to experience this pretty place in such a quiet atmosphere. On our ride back, our driver played his own CD of steel drum music, all hymns. My husband and I hummed along as we knew all of them, how awesome to hear "our" music with steel drums and a Caribbean vibe, driving through the streets of this tropical place. I think of him now, as I think of so may others that made this trip special. We used room service for breakfast three times before our early excursions. It arrived (as usual) a few minutes before the scheduled time and everything is laid out so nicely. They always follow up with a call to make sure everything was right (it was). The Lido worked out well for other breakfasts, there is just so much to choose from and I can't fathom how anyone could get bored! We also enjoyed pizza at the NY Deli (try the barbecue chicken!) and of course the Dive-In (decadent!). We went to the Pinnacle Grill for dinner once. We both had the filet mignon and all other choices were delicious. The service and timing were also excellent. We went to the Canaletto once. The view is magnificent with a window table as we shared chicken parmesan. The service here is always special. We went to our favorite Tamarind later in the cruise, and were so pleased to see our lovely servers from last year on the NS, Nila and Ara. We chatted about their future plans and realized that things were becoming volatile. By now it was March 12th, and we were beginning to hear more on the news. For the first time, I felt afraid. After another luxurious sea day, our final stop was Half Moon Cay. Once again the weather was beautiful and we were among the first to get off, walk down the beach to claim our spot in paradise for five hours. We got floats and spent most of our time out there in those perfect waters. We tried to relish these final hours and enjoy these moments, and we did. Most nights we spent our time at BB King. We saw the same sax player from last year on the NS, and he and the band were very good. We went to a few martini tastings up at the Panorama Bar, Chang made it fun. We played trivia a few times. I have heard complaints that the ship is boring with nothing to do. We had a great time and didn't take advantage of 80% of what they offered. It is just a matter of expectations and our personal preferences. We have found this cruise line to be the right fit for us, and apparently many others do too. Disembarkation went well, we got to the airport quickly as we started to receive texts about our work and how there would be a 14 day stay at home requirement since we had been on a cruise. We have been healthy, but we haven't been back to work since. Koningsdam set sail for South America, with only crew on board. Nobody could have even imagined. We urgently hope we will all be back to our lives soon, be it work or school or planning another wonderful cruise. Take care everyone and thanks for following along!
  4. Our Caribbean cruise on the Koningsdam turned out to be the last one of the season. We knew there were things going on out there, whispers of a virus in far off places like China and only one case in California. When we boarded, the only pressing question asked was if we had traveled to China in the last two weeks. That was on March 4th. The day we returned on March 15th, we came home to a changed world. I didn't feel up to doing this review considering all that has unfolded, but a fellow traveler on our cruise encouraged me to do so, so I am finally sitting down to recall the wonderful time we had on this Southern Wayfarer Cruise. We take a yearly winter/spring break from our otherwise hectic life, and this was our 12th cruise on HAL and our longest cruise ever at 11 glorious days. We flew in from Boston to FLL the day before, and this time stayed at Riverside Hotel. We have tried a handful of hotels in FLL, all have been nice and had their own charm. This hotel is old but it was very well kept, we stayed in the tower and the room was quite lovely, despite older touches like brass in the bathroom and a small TV. The room was super clean and the staff very friendly. We had an early dinner in their outside restaurant by the river, 'The Boatyard'. The food was so delicious especially after my winter diet, how many times did I dream of this? I had a wonderful fish sandwich and a cosmopolitan as we watched the boats drift back and forth. Embarkation day was finally here, and it was quite seamless. As we walked up the gangway my husband and I gave each other that promised gangway kiss, so grateful to be able to share another cruise together! We accepted an upsell two days previous to a Signature Suite, so quickly went to our room to check it out. Last year we had sailed on Nieuw Statendam in a Signature Suite and had been crazy about it. On Koningsdam, there is a tub and very small shower vs. the very large shower and no tub on Nieuw Statendam. We much prefer the layout of the NS, as the shower was just so tiny on Koningdam. Aside from this, the room was spacious and identical in every great feature of her sister ship. We met our cabin steward Eli, and he and his assistant Martin were typical of the great HAL service we have always received. We didn't have one complaint and were pampered with a spotless cabin for the entire cruise. It was so nice to have two sea days to start with. We are early risers and sun/water lovers, so we were the among the first to be at the pool those first two mornings. We left our chairs to get breakfast at the Lido and bring it back to the nice tables by the Lido pool. There is nothing like having coffee and a wonderful omelette while looking out to sea! After a few more hours at the pool (and being the first ones in the water!) it was time to move on. We often try and "zig" while others "zag", a favorite phrase from Steve Birnbaum on how to navigate Disney. It works during a cruise, too, and we often try and be at places at off hours to minimize crowds. This cruise was pretty chill however, and didn't get ramped up at the pools until mid day/afternoon. We had excellent weather the entire cruise, except for our first stop: St. Maarten. We had booked a Golden Eagle Catamaran cruise (had done it 3 times before so knew it was a good one) and met outside in our designated spot when it started to rain. We walked to our destination in very gloomy conditions, lost about 25% of the people along the way as it was pretty depressing, but we pressed on, as we knew the weather in this place changes very quickly. So glad we did, about 15 minutes after we boarded the skies cleared and it was the most wonderful, beautiful day as we swam in those clear waters. Later that evening we met people that took bus tours, and that was hard to hear how they sat in buses while damp from the rain. It is always a risk, taking excursions, you just never know with the weather. After today, we had beautiful calm seas and gorgeous days. MDR service and food was outstanding. We had fixed late seating and had wonderful service from Gunawan and Marvin. We tried new things each night, it was presented so beautifully and the timing was perfect. Dawn, our wine stewardess, was just so sweet and proficient. This cruise had a different vibe from years past when things seemed rushed in the MDR.. Not sure if changes have been made, or because we were late fixed, or because there is a great manager, but it was noticeable. In my review to HAL I called it a "happy cruise". Looking back now, it makes me sad to think how everything has abruptly stopped. We had more days of pampering and adventure, I will continue the review later if there is an interest. For now, our thoughts are buzzing with concern for our families and our country and the world. And of course for all the wonderful HAL staff that have made cruising such an extraordinary pleasure to us! Thank You!!!
  5. We will be sailing on Koningsdam this Wednesday, so it is too late to order flowers. I was wondering if they have them on sale once on board? Thank you.
  6. We are cruising on our very first 11 day cruise! (Southern Caribbean Wayfarer). Day 2 and 3 are sea days. Can anyone tell me which is Gala night? Thanks, just working on dinner plans. 🙂
  7. Pictures online don't show a shower curtain or shower head in the Koningsdam SA bathrooms. However, the written description says there is a shower in the tub as well as a separate stall. What about the SS suites, do they just have a shower or the shower/tub combo? Thanks!
  8. My soul is full of longingfor the secret of the sea,and the heart of the great oceansends a thrilling pulse through me.― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow For us, it all about the sea. How the water looks against the changing skies. The vastness of the ocean. We love HAL because the ships are built with sea-lovers in mind. Our lives are super busy and it so nice to escape for a brief time. We love the relaxation of the ship, and find time to truly rest. 8 more weeks. 🙂
  9. We are looking forward to staying at the Riverside Hotel on our upcoming cruise. Are there any nearby places for coffee and continental type breakfast items? It does not appear the hotel offers a quick breakfast option. Thank you.
  10. I have sailed both and loved both. For me, the benefits of Nieuw Amsterdam are: wiser spa layout and nicer hydrotherapy pool, smaller more intimate ship, beautiful wide promenade deck, glass elevators in the center (we always used these), Silk Den next to Tamarind (quiet, peaceful place for a drink), less cramped feeling around sea view pool. Things I liked better on the Nieuw Statendam: additional venues like the Grand Dutch Cafe and NY Deli, more music choices with better seating and stage area, beautiful layout of the Signature Suite including awesome shower, new ship so everything felt fresh. Both ships are great, have fun deciding!
  11. Enjoying your review, we were on the same cruise. Wasn't the weather perfect? You have a lovely family!
  12. We discovered this martini last month, it was SO good! Especially sitting in the ocean bar by the window watching the ocean swells roll by. Enjoy. 🙂
  13. Here are some pictures of the beautiful Signature Suite of Nieuw Stantendam.
  14. This a tough subject. My husband and I are early to the pool and find a spot in the first row by 8 a.m. There are often chairs 'saved' by that time, people come by and drop a few items, then leave. The problem is, often they are gone for hours! Signage says they may be saved for only 30 minutes. I found it frustrating watching people come by early looking for a chair, knowing 'saved' chairs had been vacant much longer than 30 minutes. By the time we leave around 11:00 a.m., we would always find someone in search of a spot and our places were scooped up quickly. I know the 'chair hogs' don't admit who they are, but I find it so impolite and selfish to drop a book and a towel first thing in the morning and not return for hours. And, where are you? Did you go back to bed? Rude!
  15. Hi kaiiak, The walk to Governor's beach is easy, about 15 minutes from the pier. It is to the left of the ship one you disembark. You can either walk down the beach and cut through to the main road, or walk to the main road from the pier, either way it is direct to the beach and once there you can see your ship. There are no facilities except for one bathroom. But the beach is quiet, pristine and peaceful. This year there were a few more people there, we chatted with them along the road and learned they had read about it on Cruise Critic. Other years, we have been the only ones. If you like a more secluded experience vs. the pandemonium of Margaritaville, this is for you. I did not see a day pass offered on our cruise as I have other years, but I suspect it depends on the sales of the weekly pass. I did see a few offers for "Lady's Day/Night Out" which included a pass for the afternoon/evening, bundled with a few other services. If you decide on the weekly pass, there are few tile loungers against a wall with a reading light attached, and I determined these were the best as they were up against a wall, therefore blocking some of the noise from the other rooms. Have fun and enjoy your cruise!!!
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