The 2012 Caribbean Cruise, part 9 of 9

The 2012 14-Day Eastern & Western Caribbean Cruise, Holland America ms Nieuw Amsterdam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Nine

February 10 (Friday, Day 14, At sea) –

Snookums and Pat slept in until 9:15 and then showered. Pat ate a light breakfast of muesli while Snookums read on the verandah. The sun was out and the sea was calm. Then Snookums realized that Mom might get a 100-day medallion at the 11 AM Mariner reception and had to logon to try to verify it. She failed and decided to ask the concierge at Neptune Lounge if Mom was on the list. She was!

Snookums went to Mom’s room at 10:00 AM and opened up the door just a bit to see that it was pitch black and Judy was still sleeping so she didn’t go in. She returned to Mom’s room around 10:30 AM and now everyone was up but still in pajamas. Snookums made sure that Judy knew that Mom was going to get a copper medallion. Everyone said that they were attending so Snookums let them get dressed. Snookums and Pat arrived at the event at 10:45 in order to secure good seats.

Captain van Zaane, Mom with her copper medallion, Hotel Manager Stan Kuppens

The five of us were there and the Cruise Director announced medallion awardees one by one so that the honoree could get a photo with Captain van Zaane and Hotel Manager Stan Kuppens. Soon enough Mom’s name was called (and pronounced correctly) and she went to get her medallion. (Dad is fifteen nights behind Mom in the standings due to a Panama Canal cruise that Mom took with Snookums and other females around 20 years ago.) Free drinks were also offered at this reception and Dad ordered scotch on the rocks even though he hadn’t had breakfast yet. Mom, Judy and Pat each had mimosas while Snookums had a Caffeine Free Diet Coke and then a virgin pina colada. Judy also had a bloody Mary. Mom looked resplendent with her medallion and when the ceremony was over, we went to the Manhattan Dining Room for the Mariner lunch.

After lunch Snookums attended the invitation only “Question and Answer Session” with Stan Kuppens and gave her normal three suggestions about not putting the laundrymark (very sticky tag) ON stitching, posting a copy of the daily 1 PM captain’s announcement and offering a larger internet package (or even an unlimited one). She also enjoyed a virgin strawberry daiquiri.

Snookums worked on the journal and Pat read on the verandah. Around 4 PM, Pat came inside and fell asleep. We both managed to enjoy the last formal dinner. Mom brought their chilled bottle of champagne (compliments of HAL) to dinner and it was emptied before dessert was served! Mom, Dad and Judy went to see Cantaré, featuring HAL’s singers and dancers, again. Because this is a back-to-back cruise most of the production shows were repeated from last week but they have still gone to see some of them again.

Pat and Snookums returned to their cabin and set the clocks back one hour. Since the clocks showed that it was 6:45 PM (!), they even managed to stay awake to watch the movie “Saving Grace” and really enjoyed it. Judy came by with two new dresses for Pat and one of her daughters. Pat then wore her new dress to the chocolate extravaganza that started at 10:30 PM. They said it was weird since most of the desserts were like petit fours and weren’t even chocolate. There was a chocolate fountain but they just ate some fruit without the chocolate. The cotton candy machine was broken. They just said it was a very strange chocolate extravaganza. Snookums told them that she hasn’t been to one of those in at least four years (and many cruises ago).

February 11 (Saturday, Day 15, Half Moon Cay, Bahamas — Canceled) –

We woke up at 8 AM when the captain’s voice came over all of the loudspeakers. Snookums’s first thought was a medical emergency, but it was the captain telling everyone that the port was canceled due to high winds. It seemed fine outside, but some harbors are difficult to tender to when it is windy. Luckily we stopped at this port, HAL’s private island, last week and knew that it was just a beach.

Pat and Snookums went ahead and got up and got ready for the day and went to breakfast. It was actually nice and sunny outside and we enjoyed getting hot while eating muesli (Pat) and sticky buns and sunshine parfait (Snookums). After an hour or so, we went back to our clean cabin. By then it was cloudy and cooler and a little squall came through, too.

We spent time running back and forth between cabins for no apparent reason and soon enough it was time for lunch. We went to Lido and saw that Mom, Dad and Judy were eating there, too, and joined them.

Some of the free jewelry, including the Diamonds International charm bracelet and charms

After lunch we decided to go ahead and pack since it was still cloudy out. Pat’s luggage weighs right at 50 pounds and Snookums’s is around 43 pounds. There shouldn’t be any luggage weight issues tomorrow.

Snookums was still waiting for one blouse to come back from the laundry (it was more than one day late and wasn’t with the rest of the laundry order) and it finally appeared. Our St. Maarten guavaberry liqueur was also delivered so that it could get packed in the suitcases.

Dinner was at Canaletto which is the free Italian restaurant in Lido. Everyone enjoyed it and really liked the antipasti that was presented at the beginning of the meal. The grilled vegetables, mozzarella, salami, artichokes, olives and other tidbits were a great start. The cotton candy that was served before the dessert was a weird concept, but was greatly enjoyed by Judy and Pat. Free champagne was served with dessert due to the canceled port.

February 12 (Sunday, Day 16, Ft. Lauderdale) –

We docked at 7 AM but the midship gangway was broken so the crew couldn’t unload the luggage as planned and had to use the aft gangway instead. This resulted in around a 30-minute delay. It didn’t bother us since we weren’t going to leave until 10 AM or so anyway.

Per the cruise journal, our cruise traveled 4,425 nautical miles (or 5,090 miles) with an average high temperature around 77º.

Pat said that it was very rough during the night but Snookums didn’t notice it at all. Pat didn’t get much sleep. Mom also said it was rough and didn’t get much sleep but she is fighting a cold that she started to notice on Friday. And, she has had a cough for a few days, too.

Pat and Snookums ate a leisurely breakfast inside due to the 51º temperature outside. It is cloudy, too – what else is new??? We all left the ship around 10 AM and easily found our luggage and went through Customs and Immigration. All five of us and our luggage managed to fit in an SUV taxi and we got to the airport in no time at all. Even though Pat was flying Delta and the rest of us were on Southwest, Pat got out when we did since all of the luggage was jumbled together. We said our goodbyes and she walked to her terminal. There was a huge line, about 90 minutes long, at the security checkpoint but Dad’s wheelchair got us to the front of the line. It really did take people 90 minutes to get through TSA for the Southwest terminal at FLL. That is what happens when at least six ships, including a 5,000 passenger one, disembark at the same time.

We got to our gate and Snookums bought coffee, sandwiches and a Sunday paper. After around a 90-minute wait, it was time to board our flight and we arrived in Kansas City on time. Filbert was waiting to pick us up and after we got the luggage and wheelchair in the minivan, we headed off. It was sunny but only 32º and 2 inches of snow are forecast for Monday, naturally!

Note – Mom woke up on Monday with a temperature and went to Urgent Care and was diagnosed with pneumonia and a sinus infection. She had a great time on the cruise, but didn’t need this as a lasting memory!

The 2012 Caribbean Cruise, part 8 of 9

The 2012 14-Day Eastern & Western Caribbean Cruise, Holland America ms Nieuw Amsterdam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Eight

February 9 (Thursday, Day 13, St. Maarten) –

We woke up and it was raining (naturally!). It didn’t stop us, though, from heading out to meet with our private tour guide, Joyce Prince ($375). And the rain had stopped and the sun was shining. The five of us found Joyce and her nice big van and she started by taking us on an island tour. Then she dropped off Pat, Judy and Snookums on Front Street so they could get their two Diamonds International charms (sunglasses and clock charms) and the Effy pendant and took Mom and Dad on more of an island tour for twenty minutes or so. When the five of us met up again, we went to the butterfly farm ($12 per person) and spent a nice hour there. It was supposed to be handicap accessible and for the most part it was, but due to the heavy rain that had occurred earlier in the day, Dad’s wheelchair wheels got stuck a few times in the mud and had to be manhandled out. Snookums found a 10 cent (Euro) coin, too, at the butterfly farm. She was hoping to find a guilder from the Dutch side, but settled for the Euro coin from the French side.

St. Maarten scenic overview
Front Street in Filbertipsburg, St. Maarten (Dutch side)
Goats minding their own business

Butterfly farm photos:

Mating butterflies
A beautiful photo!! – Mom and butterflies

After seeing the butterflies we continued our island tour by going to the French side of the island, or Saint Martin. No passports are needed, but there are two school systems, two phone systems, two sets of currency (the guilder and the Euro – but dollars are taken on both sides as are the guilder and Euro), etc. Two nations have peacefully co-existed on a small island since 1648. We decided it was time for lunch so Joyce stopped in Marigot, a charming seaside resort on the French side, and the six of us enjoyed lunch at an outdoor café. Mom ordered the fried red snapper which was very similar to what she had in Ft. Lauderdale at Pancho’s Backyard the night before the cruise started. She loved it just as much, too. Dad and Snookums ordered the $10 combo special of three curries – goat, shrimp and chicken. It also came with rice and beans, a nice tossed salad, pasta and fried plantains. Pat and Snookums love fried plantains. Pat ordered the oxtail stew and Judy ordered garlic shrimp. (Judy ordered something that she knew wouldn’t have any bones and that she wouldn’t have to use her fingers and she was right!) Joyce enjoyed another special of the day which was crab stuffed mahi mahi with clams. Joyce said that the red snapper, mahi mahi and goat were local. Heineken was the only beer offered (and, yes, we were on the French side of the island and NOT the Dutch side!) and Mom, Dad, Pat and Judy enjoyed that, too.

The French side – Saint Martin
Fort Saint Louis
Lunch in Marigot
Trio of curries – goat, chicken and shrimp (and a plantain!!)

After lunch we saw more of the island when we headed back to the ship. (We didn’t have time for snorkeling.) When we got to the port area, we got more Diamonds International charms and even Mom got in on the act and got a sunglasses charm! We also hit up Effy for more free lemon quartz pendants and Mom got one of those, too. Snookums made Pat taste the guavaberry liqueur, the guavaberry rum and the guavaberry colada (made from the liqueur). Pat thought the liqueur was the best (and really enjoyed the colada, too) so two bottles were purchased – one for each household. The liqueur can also be used in cooking which is what Joyce uses it for. Guavaberry liqueur can only be purchased on St. Maarten and is not exported.

After we got back to the ship, Snookums took her first nap of the entire cruise. (Snookums usually takes a nap every day on cruises, but the 5:30 dinner seems to put a crimp in that!)

We ate at Tamarind and since we ate there last week everyone kind of knew what Asian entrees to order. Snookums and Judy again had the red curry chicken and Pat ordered it, too, and loved it. Dad ordered the crispy duck and Mom had the seafood hot pot. Mom’s bowl was loaded with crab legs, shrimp, clams, mussels and all sorts of other seafood items. In Snookums’s opinion, the desserts are not that wonderful but Pat really enjoyed the wasabi sorbet. Snookums recommended it since Gary, our friend on the 2011 Eurodam cruise, ordered it and just loved it. Pat agreed!

After dinner we all received invitations to the Captain’s cocktail reception so from 7:30 to 8:15, we enjoyed free beverages. Dad ordered a scotch on the rocks and Snookums ordered a coco-mint blender drink (non-alcoholic, of course) and Judy and Mom settled for champagne. Dad started falling asleep in his scooter which meant it was time for bed. It was a full, full day for all of us.

The 2012 Caribbean Cruise, part 7 of 9

The 2012 14-Day Eastern & Western Caribbean Cruise, Holland America ms Nieuw Amsterdam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Seven

February 8 (Wednesday, Day 12, San Juan, Puerto Rico) –

Snookums woke up around 9:15 and immediately yelled to Pat to wake up since she was going with Dad to the 9:30 AM “Veterans Meeting”. To Snookums’s surprise, Pat was not in the room. Snookums got up and showered and piddled around until 11:00 or so. It was very cool and cloudy and windy and rained a bit, too. Pat came back to the cabin and then Ian, the Travel Guide, announced that a scenic narration would occur as we passed El Morro Fort so we went outside on the bow of the ship on deck 5 to see our approach. It was VERY, VERY windy on the bow but the view was great and the sun was fully out. After we got our pictures, we went to Lido for lunch and ate by the pool. While we were eating, the pool’s retractable roof was opened up the whole way since it was so sunny (finally!). Dad drove by in his scooter and we talked to him for a few minutes before he left for the library and we went back to our cabin to get ready to walk around San Juan.

Dad, Pat and Snookums

Since we are on the 14-day back-to-back cruise, all of us were invited to an international brunch in the dining room but it was a buffet and packed at 11:15 when it opened so Lido was the lunch spot of choice for everyone today.

Judy, Pat and Mom on 7057’s verandah
El Morro Fort as seen from the ship

Judy, Pat and Snookums left the ship around 1:15 and headed for El Morro Fort. First stop, though, was at CVS (Snookums’s favorite store!) where some non-drowsy Dramamine and a postcard for Mom were bought. Then Judy decided to go to the three stores that were giving away free jewelry so we did that and each got a ½ carat amethyst pendant, a frog charm, an anchor charm and a 1 carat loose midnight sapphire (appraised at $100 – yeah, right). We also stopped at a souvenir store where all of the handicrafts were made in Puerto Rico. Snookums bought a $10 pressed tin on wood hanging of the fort and Pat bought a $6 terracotta tile nativity scene. This was all in Old San Juan which is over 465 years old and has streets paved with adoquine stones. They are tinted a beautiful blue from their prior use as furnace slag. The stones arrived as ballast on the early Spanish ships.

Old San Juan

We finally made it to El Morro Fort and rather than pay $5 to go in, we just walked around it. El Morro Fort has six levels and rises 140 feet above the sea and has 18-foot wide walls. The wall fell only once, in 1538, when the Earl of Cumberland led his troops over the barrier. Then we walked to Fort San Cristobál and passed by a nice lighted, outdoor basketball court named for NBA star Carmelo Anthony. We continued walking to the capitol of Puerto Rico and enjoyed looking at the mural on the inside of the dome as well as the other painted ceilings and walls. It had a nice bathroom, too! We continued our walk and decided to get more free jewelry since we had extra coupons. Pat didn’t want to participate and she just stood outside the stores. We ended our walk at the Governor’s mansion before heading back to the ship.

El Morro Fort and cemetery
Pat, Snookums and Judy in front of a sentry tower
Fort San Cristobál
Ponce de Léon mural in capitol rotunda
Capitol rotunda mural
Governor’s mansion

We got back to Judy’s cabin at 5:35 PM and Judy and Pat decided to eat with Mom and Dad in the dining room. They quickly changed out of their shorts and headed back out while Snookums went to her cabin and changed shoes, washed up and took her time and then went to Lido for a “Flavors of the World” special dinner buffet. She started with a fruit cup (from the Caribbean section) and a pretzel (from the German section) and then had a knockwurst and sauerkraut. Then she had a pork enchilada and chips and salsa from the Mexican section. (She didn’t eat from the American section with steak and baked potatoes.) Dessert was a delicious apple fritter-type fried thing from the German section. Snookums brought one back for Pat, and she loved it, too.

Mom spent most of the day on the verandah but wasn’t too thrilled since it was on the shady side AND since Carnival was docked directly across from us and played its open-air movie, with loud sound, the entire day. But, it was warm and not raining so that made it bearable. Dad spent time in the library and then went to the back of the ship on deck 9 to get some sun.

During dinner in the dining room, our waiter, Putu, invited Pat to the Indonesian Crew show at 11 PM so she went and thoroughly enjoyed it. Snookums slept.

The 2012 Caribbean Cruise, part 6 of 9

The 2012 14-Day Eastern & Western Caribbean Cruise, Holland America ms Nieuw Amsterdam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Six

February 7 (Tuesday, Day 11, Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos) –

We woke up at 7:30 AM and waited for our pre-ordered room service breakfast. We had ordered it to be delivered from between 7:30 and 8 AM. The other time it was delivered at the beginning of the time period so we were kind of counting on that since we were going to meet Judy at 8:15 AM. Breakfast finally came at 7:55 AM and the server brought it in and looked at Snookums and said, “You need to write your room number on the order form.” Snookums then pointed to Pat and said, “She filled it out.” Mystery solved! When Pat filled out the room service breakfast form last night she neglected to fill in the room number. She did, however, write down the last name so the kitchen was able to look that up and find us. Whew!

Grand Turk shoreline
Grand Turk lane
Grand Turk house

Judy came to our room at 8:15 AM and the three of us walked off the ship in order to find a taxi. It was mostly sunny. Grand Turk is an island that is around seven miles long by two miles wide – small! We paid $5 each to take a taxi three miles to Blue Water Divers for our 9 AM snorkel that cost $50 per person for a minimum of four people and a maximum of twelve people. We didn’t end up getting on the snorkel boat until around 10:30 since two other people were supposed to join us from the Westerdam but that ship had a medical emergency and had to drop a woman off at San Salvador. (San Salvador doesn’t have a hospital but it does have an airport which the woman was going to use.) We finally left with just the three of us and our Jamaican dive master.

The first site was in shallower water (depths of less than 10 feet) and we were able to see the reef and marine life up close. It was mostly cloudy by now but every now and then the sun would shine. Snookums saw a turquoise blue and brown spotted triangular fish that she had never seen before and that was neat. Snookums got cold the soonest and headed back to the boat with Pat at her heels. Judy saw those two and got back on the boat, too, but wasn’t cold. Then we went to the second snorkel site which was along the famous Grand Turk “wall”. The wall is actually a coral reef drop-off that begins in depths of 25-30 feet and plunges to depths of over 7,000 feet. It was interesting to see the nothingness when we were snorkeling over the deep water and it was neat to see fish swimming in the middle of the nothingness about eight or ten feet from the surface of the water with nothing else around them. We all got back on the boat after just a few minutes since Pat really couldn’t see anything (she wears glasses) and Snookums was cold again. Our dive master wanted to make sure we were done since we still had 58 minutes of time left, but we assured him we were all good. Then he took us to a site that had a large number of bigger fish that have been trained to feed on sand thrown in the water. (Other dive shops actually throw food in the water but Blue Water Divers doesn’t believe in doing that and the fish think the sand is food and still come towards it.) Snookums and Judy both got in again, minus fins, to just “be” with all the fish. Our dive master told us that sometimes the fish nip at people, but we didn’t experience that.

Turquoise and brown fish
Fan coral and little yellow fish
Among the fish “eating” sand
Pat and Judy snorkeling
The three snorkelers

We took a taxi back to the port and stopped at Effy for the ½ carat topaz pendant and at Diamonds International for the sea horse charm. We dropped off our stuff and then went straight to Lido for a quick lunch.

Snookums returned to the port for the free WiFi outside of “Indigo” and Judy also returned to the port with Dad, in his scooter, joining her. Snookums got both pieces of free jewelry again while Judy only bothered to get the free Diamonds International seahorse charm. We looked at the John Glenn display since he splashed down near Grand Turk and spent a few days at Grand Turk after his mission was completed.

Dad and Judy at the John Glenn exhibit
Judy, Dad and Snookums in front of the two HAL ships

After Snookums returned to the ship she rinsed out all of the snorkel gear and then enjoyed eating a large plate of watermelon. The ship left 30 minutes late but she didn’t care since she was enjoying the sunny verandah since the clouds were no longer around.

Dinner was interesting since Pat’s mahi mahi was “lost” and ended up being served at least ten minutes after everyone else’s entrée. The waiter and his assistant kept apologizing for the lost order as did the assistant maître ‘d. We didn’t care, but couldn’t figure out what happened and in Snookums’s 224 days of cruising with Holland America, she had never seen this before.

After dinner Snookums had a voice mail and letter about the comment card she filled out at the end of the first seven-day cruise. She had commented about the lack of hard ice cream flavors with “things” in them since Lido seems to just serve chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. She also lamented over the fact that other HAL ships have pineapple and mixed berry compotes to put on ice cream but this ship only had runny sauces. The letter from the Hotel Manager said, “… I am also aware that the availability of different ice cream choices has impacted the serenity of your vacation…”. Snookums thought that was pretty funny but was happy to see that mixed berry, raspberry and peach compotes are now being offered in Lido for ice cream toppings. There aren’t always additional hard ice cream flavors, but at least the fruity sauces are there to help with her serenity!

We moved our clocks forward one hour and went to sleep. – The 2012 Caribbean Cruise, part 5 of 9

The 2012 14-Day Eastern & Western Caribbean Cruise, Holland America ms Nieuw Amsterdam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Five

(Remember to click “read more” if you’re looking at this from the main page to get the whole article!)

February 6 (Monday, Day 10, At sea) –

Pat and Snookums had their normal breakfasts of muesli (Pat) and oatmeal with raisins and cinnamon (Snookums) but ate it outside since it was finally a bit sunny. Snookums took pictures around the ship before returning to the room to read on the verandah. Mom, Judy and Pat went to the 11 AM shopping lecture to get the coupons for the upcoming ports.

Seaview (aft) pool
Lido pool with retractable cover closed due to rain
The gym – the only time Snookums saw it!
The private cabana area on Deck 10
The library
Crow’s Nest
Deluxe Verandah Suite 7057
Deluxe Verandah Suite 7057 handicap bathroom

Snookums was in Mom’s room when they returned and Judy and Pat immediately went upstairs to get Mom a hot dog since Mom wanted to watch the “Ides of March” movie with George Clooney on TV at noon. Judy got a hamburger for herself and Pat got a hotdog. However, Mom was on the verandah in her bathing suit when they returned and opted to stay out in the sun rather than watch the movie. Instead Judy kind of watched it.

Dad actually went to the movie “The Help” at 10 AM but it got a late start due to technical difficulties and was a 2-hour movie anyway so he didn’t get back to the room until 12:30 or so and decided to go to Lido for soup so that’s what he did, on his own.

Snookums was enjoying the sun on the verandah and ordered a club sandwich from room service. She had to reorder it since the first version wasn’t on toast and didn’t contain any bacon. The second version was what she ordered and she happily ate it while reading on the verandah. Later on Snookums went to Neptune Lounge and got a plate of cookies and chocolates for her and Pat. Pat took one chocolate and Snookums ate the rest (three cookies and six chocolates and the cookies weren’t even that good!).

Before our formal night dinner we took another photo in Neptune Lounge and then went to the dining room and everyone enjoyed dinner.

Formal family photo

The 2012 Caribbean Cruise, part 4 of 9

The 2012 14-Day Eastern & Western Caribbean Cruise, Holland America ms Nieuw Amsterdam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Four

(February 3 (Friday, Day 7, Costa Maya Mexico) –

Pat woke Snookums up by saying, “Wake up. It is 8:17 AM and we are meeting Judy at 8:30.” However, Snookums could tell that the ship hadn’t docked yet and since it was scheduled to dock at 8 AM, she told Pat to re-check the time. Sure enough, Pat had looked at the wrong time on her watch that shows dual times. It didn’t matter since room service breakfast had been ordered for 7:30 AM which would have woken Snookums up anyway. And, it was pouring rain.

The plan was for Snookums, Pat and Judy to leave the ship at 8:30 AM to catch a taxi to Maya Palms Resort in order to do a snorkel/beach day for $65 each (plus $40 total for the round-trip taxi). Since it was raining we weren’t in too much of a hurry to get to the cabs so instead we hit the jade store for its free gift (a worry doll from Guatemala), the silver store for its nice free silver charm of the Mayan calendar and Diamonds International for its tacky free charm. We finally waded through the puddles and found the taxi stand. We had been given explicit instructions to take a yellow taxi for $40 total and to pay when we were dropped off back at the ship in the afternoon. We told that to the driver and he was fine with it. We got in the little cab which had almost zero visibility due to the condensation on the inside of the windows and were in for an interesting ride.

A view of the sea grapes and trash at the shoreline of Maya Palms

Costa Maya was created as a port in the early 1990s and really just contains a bunch of souvenir stores and some bars. The real village, Majahual, was about a ten-minute ride away. The resort was six miles from Majahual. However, the dirt road was full of potholes and very flooded in many places from the torrential downpour so it took about 20 minutes to drive those six miles. Snookums thought that the water was going to enter the car at some of the really flooded areas, but it never did. And, we passed lots of shacks and concrete “bunkers” that were for sale. However, when we entered the gates of Maya Palms Resort, we were in for a pleasant surprise. It was still raining so we really just wanted to get inside, but what little we saw of the resort grounds, including the freshwater pool, looked very nice. Snookums and Judy booted up their laptops to use the free WiFi and Snookums also called her husband in South Dakota for free using the magicJack WiFi application on her iPhone.

Judy and Snookums decided to go snorkeling and Ken, the dive master, provided Judy with a wetsuit. (Pat decided to stay inside where it was dry.) The three of us (Snookums, Judy, Ken) got in the outboard boat and he took us to the reef just off the beach. It was still raining. We snorkeled for around 40 minutes and really didn’t see many fish. However, there were tons of sea grapes on the surface of the water and they formed large patches of “weeds” that would “attack” you. They were kind of like plastic holly stems all stuck together. They didn’t hurt, but when a patch of them was all around you, it was kind of weird. There also seemed to be a lot of trash, mostly remnants of plastic items, about two feet under the water as well as mixed up in the patches of sea grapes. After the first snorkel spot we climbed back into the boat and Ken took us to another part of the reef. This was only about 8 feet deep and actually had more fish. However, Snookums was cold so she cut this snorkel short and Ken took us back to the shore.

Judy entering the sea grape-covered ocean
Snorkel photo from Maya Palms – few fish and ugly coral

We got out of our wetsuits (Snookums owns a shorty) and it was time for lunch. Mark, the other resort employee, made quesadillas, enchiladas, black beans and rice and we ate inside rather than under the cabana since it was still cloudy and windy. We also had chips, salsa and guacamole. All three of us were hungry and cleaned our plates. The taxi arrived at 1 PM, as ordered, and the rain had finally stopped. There were still plenty of puddles, though, but we got back to the ship much faster since some of the water had drained away and since the cab driver could see out of his windshield.

Judy and Snookums in front of two ships (ms Nieuw Amsterdam is even farther away and not shown!)

After we got dropped off, we walked about a mile back to the ship (the shopping area of the port was kind of spread out and the piers were very long) and it was very windy, cold and a little rainy. Once we got on the ship, though, we went to Lido for ice cream. That seemed to make everything better! It would have been a much better day if it was sunny, but we made the best of it. The Maya Palms Resort only has around ten rooms and while we were there we learned that only two people had been staying there for a ten-day dive trip. Otherwise, it was empty (except for Ken, Mark and two dogs). Talk about private!

Formal night in the Manhattan Dining Room

February 4 (Saturday, Day 8, At sea) –

Pat and Snookums woke up pretty much after breakfast hours. Snookums showered and ran errands (mail postcards, swap paperbacks, get change, deal with “to dos” at the Front Desk, etc.) and then went to the Mariner Reception. The “Building of the ms Nieuw Amsterdam” video was shown and this ship is Carnival Group’s 50th ship. One gentleman has cruised around 950 days with Holland America and his partner has cruised around 600. They met seven years ago on the ms Amsterdam in the Ocean Bar and came on this cruise for their anniversary and celebrated it in the Ocean Bar! Snookums enjoyed her free Caffeine Free Diet Coke.

After the Mariner Reception, Snookums went to Lido (and skipped the Mariner Lunch in the dining room) and thoroughly enjoyed the Indonesian foods from the “Around the World” area of the buffet while reading her book. The food on this cruise has been outstanding and when a food is labeled spicy, it really is. That is very nice since on so many cruises the chefs seem to be leery of using any kind of spice and make most foods bland. Snookums’s lips have tingled several times on the cruise from the spicy foods, in a good way. Snookums sat by the pool, in the warm, humid air, and read her book. It was rainy, cloudy, windy and around 75º outside so the retractable roof was closed which made the inside pool area nice and warm.

Pat ate a salad in Lido and then hurried back to the room to watch the movie “Moneyball” on TV. “Moneyball” was just about over by the time Snookums returned to the cabin and Snookums and Pat then watched “Soul Surfer” which was the movie about Bethany Hamilton and how she lost her left arm to a shark but continued on to become a professional surfer. Snookums fell asleep for a brief nap after the movie and Pat went to mass.

Dinner was the “Master Chef’s Dinner” but on some HAL ships the crew dances and the menu is very limited. This menu was larger but the parade of baked Alaska still occurred at 7 PM. Mom wasn’t feeling quite like herself so she enjoyed her dinner of lobster bisque, oxtail soup and lamb chops in the cabin.

Snookums has been looking forward to watching #4 University of Missouri vs. #8 University of Kansas basketball on ESPN at 9 PM but isn’t sure if the ship’s ESPN channels will cooperate or not. It’s always a crapshoot as to whether you’ll get US ESPN or whether you will end up having to watch European soccer, Indian cricket or rugby instead. She’s hoping for NCAA basketball but who knows. Good news. The MU/KU game was shown and both Snookums and Pat stayed up until 11 PM to watch the entire game. KU missed a last-second shot to tie the game and MU won. It was a great game and the last time in the 104 year-old rivalry that the two would play in Columbia, MO due to MU moving to the SEC next season.

February 5 (Sunday, Day 9, Ft. Lauderdale) –

Snookums and Pat woke up when the announcement was made about the priority disembarkation group. After a breakfast of oatmeal with raisins and cinnamon (for Snookums) and muesli with added fruit (for Pat) outside by the Seaview pool it was time to leave the ship to go through Customs. 1,000 passengers (of the ~2,100) were staying on for the next seven days which meant that all of them had to show passports to Customs before we were all allowed to return to the ship. We didn’t know how long it would take or what the seating situation would be so we made Mom use Dad’s wheelchair and Dad used his rented scooter. It only took about thirty minutes total and Snookums ended up staying in the port building to use the free WiFi.

Back-to-back cruisers waiting to be let back on the ship
Waiting in Port Everglades to return to the ship

Mom, Dad, Judy and Pat ate in Lido as soon as they returned to the ship and Snookums did, too, but didn’t see anyone. Snookums really enjoyed today’s “Flavors of the World – Thai” and its spiciness. Snookums even managed to catch some sun for about 45 minutes before the clouds returned. It has been cloudy and cool (and some rain!) since mid-Wednesday. We want sun!!

Pat being surprised on the verandah

Mom, Dad and Judy received another bottle of champagne and another bottle of Voss water since they are in a deluxe verandah suite and a “new” cruise is starting.

View of Ft. Lauderdale from our cabin – still cloudy

The Super Bowl was being shown in the Showroom at Sea (with spinach dip and hot dogs) and 36 people had the opportunity to pay $100 to watch it in the Screening Room while eating and drinking all they wanted. We were under the impression that it would NOT be on the cabin TVs, but it was so Pat and Snookums watched it and enjoyed Madonna’s half-time show. And, just like last night’s MU victory over KU, tonight we got to see the New England Patriots try to win in the last second and fail so that the New York Giants won.

The 2012 Caribbean Cruise, part 3 of 9

The 2012 14-Day Eastern & Western Caribbean Cruise, Holland America ms Nieuw Amsterdam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Three

February 2 (Thursday, Day 6, Mahogany Bay, Honduras) –

It was pouring rain when we woke up at 8 AM. The ship was scheduled to dock at 10 AM but was delayed 15 minutes due to a squall and heavy winds. Pat and Snookums ate breakfast inside by the pool and watched the docking process and then got ready for the private guided tour that Snookums arranged with Theris Dixon for $25 per person for the day.

Shipwreck at Mahogany Bay

The five of us left the ship and walked through Mahogany Bay which is a man-made port and very touristy. (The older port is called Coxen Hole and both ports are located on the island of Roatán.) There are tons of stores like Diamonds International, a few bars, lots of landscaping, huge concrete walkways and a man-made beach. We finally got “out” of the port and headed for our van. Snookums and Mom took a taxi for $2 per person since there was a large hill to walk up and then down before getting to the tour vehicles. Judy and Pat pushed Dad in his wheelchair. Well, Pat pushed Dad up the hill and then was contemplating how to safely get Dad down the steep hill when a landscaper offered to take over and she gladly let him.

The five of us piled into a large van that other than the driver and passenger seats, had three rows of seats. We had plenty of room! We had a list of things that we thought might be good to do, but with the rain we let our driver (Ken) figure out the plan. We really wanted to go to the iguana farm, but iguanas like sun and if it is shady (or rainy) they hide. So, that was off the list. Ken started by taking us on a driving tour all over Roatán and we saw the former mayor’s house (and Ken liked this mayor that was in office for three years). We saw a shrimp boat that Ken goes out to sea in for 90 days at a time when he tires of dealing with tourists. We also drove by the clothing store Carrion that his wife was just promoted to manage. We stopped at Eldon’s Supermarket in French Harbour to get several things but ended up only buying two gallons of purified water for Mom at $0.98 each. When Pat and Snookums left the store, it was pouring rain! They ran across the parking lot and managed not to get too wet.

House of the former mayor

Ken then continued the driving tour in the pouring rain. We drove by a 17,000-square foot house, with only seven bedrooms, that is on the market for $5.7 million and Ken’s sister happened to be working in it as a maid. He was surprised to see her in it. It seemed like he knew everyone on the island and was related to most of them, too!!! We wanted to buy postcards so he took us to Tiki HOT Island Shop since Snookums had read good reviews about it but it was closed and for sale. He stopped at another souvenir shop and Snookums and Pat ran in and only bought two postcards since they were $0.50 each and the ship sold them for $0.40!

Roatán houses
Roatán street

By now it was time for lunch so Ken drove us to a local restaurant that was kind of handicap accessible. This meant that next to the three concrete steps was a muddy path that Dad’s wheelchair could kind of use with a lot of manhandling. But, we made it. We asked Ken to join us for lunch and the six of us enjoyed the $20 per person local buffet of oxtail, fish, conch stew, chicken, pork, beef ribs, beans and rice and a mixture of plantains, carrots and potato-like things. Snookums drank the Caffeine Free Diet Coke that she brought while Mom, Dad, Judy and Pat each enjoyed a different kind of Honduras beer. It was a nice stop and pretty good food, too, even though some of the main dishes were coarsely chopped — bones, gristle, fat and all – and stewed. Pat really enjoyed the oxtail while Snookums liked the pork.

Buffet lunch (Ken, Mom, Judy, Pat)
Enjoying lunch

After lunch we decided that since the rain had stopped we should try to get to Half Moon Bay for some snorkeling while Mom and Dad watched. Ken drove us to West End (ocean front) but couldn’t get us to Half Moon Bay since the dirt road was so full of potholes, ruts and standing water. Mom was nervous during parts of the dirt road ride since passing vehicles got within a whisker of our van.

West End dirt road
Building on the ocean

We decided to go to the Stone Castle Cameo Factory where they carve cameos on shells. It was neat but we didn’t buy anything. Dad stayed in the van. Then we drove through Coxen Hole, the capitol, and saw the street market that catered to the tourists. On the way, we stopped at Coxen Hole Port so that Snookums, Judy and Pat could run into Diamonds International and get the tacky free charm. By now everyone was tired at it was around 3 PM so we told Ken to take us back to the port.

Carved conch shell
Judy, Pat and Mom outside Stone Castle Cameo Factory
The intrepid travelers with our driver, Ken

Mom and Dad got settled back on the ship and Snookums, Judy and Pat dropped off various things and then went back out to Mahogany Bay to do some shopping. We went to Del Sol so that Pat could buy more hair clips. And, for every $10 spent at this Del Sol, you could get a free tote bag with the coupon. Pat managed to get two free color-changing tote bags. We also went to Effy to get our free ½ carat blue topaz pendants and went to the Mahogany Bay Diamonds International to get more free tacky charms just like we got at Coxen Hole. (Judy plans on keeping one complete charm bracelet and then donating the other jewelry to “Prom Boutique” that provides free prom dresses and accessories to high school girls.) Then we “hiked” the 750-foot nature trail over to the beach. By now it was just about all-aboard time so we went back to the ship after our full day of fun.

Judy and Pat at Mahogany Beach, Roatán

The 2012 Caribbean Cruise, part 2 of 9

The 2012 14-Day Eastern & Western Caribbean Cruise, Holland America ms Nieuw Amsterdam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Two

(Remember to click “read more” if you’re looking at this from the main page to get the whole article!)

January 31 (Tuesday, Day 4, At sea) –

Pat and Snookums slept in and ordered room service breakfast. While cruising within 14 nautical miles of Guantanamo Bay, Pat ate her oatmeal and Snookums had her bowl of mixed berries and a sunshine parfait (berries, plain yogurt, granola). It was around 80º, slightly cloudy and kind of windy but pretty nice on the verandah.

Then it was time for the 11 AM Caribbean Shopping Ashore Presentation. Judy is bound and determined to collect all five free Diamond International charms and now that we know the password (“I love crown of light”), we should be able to make that happen. During the 45-minute sales pitch there were various raffles as well as audience participation giveaways. At one point Gary, the shopping guide, asked if people wanted to win a Del Sol t-shirt. Snookums yelled and jumped up and was the winner. It is the size that Pat’s husband wears so he will get a Del Sol souvenir Cayman Islands t-shirt that changes to a colorful picture on the front when it is exposed to sun. Otherwise, we didn’t win any of the other raffles.

Snookums getting her free t-shirt as shown on the cabin TV

After that the three of us went to lunch and enjoyed our salad bar salads while sitting by the Seaview Pool (aft) in the shade/sun. The guitarist, Brad Brock, was playing nice music, too. While we were doing all of this, Mom was attending the 10 AM movie, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” (2 hours in length) and Dad attended the 1 PM “Meet Your Fellow Veterans”.

Snookums, Pat and Judy also attended the 3 PM Diamonds & Exotic Gemstones Seminar in order to actually get the free ship’s charm. A blind woman won the pretty (and not gaudy) $500 Tanzanite International necklace door prize.

It was formal night and the dining room looked very elegant with its candles and white covered chairs. We all skipped Captain Edward van Zaane’s welcome toast but really enjoyed dinner. Mom, Dad and Pat had the rack of lamb and Snookums had pheasant with walnut sage cream on a bed of braised cabbage. It was absolutely delicious and she had never had pheasant before. Pat had a bite and thought it was really good, too. A towel elephant was on Pat’s bed when we returned to our cabin. A different towel animal is created during every evening’s cleaning by Putu or Herman (our room stewards) for our enjoyment.

Towel elephant

For those of you wondering what there is to do during a day at sea, the following activities happened between 11:00 and 1:30 today:

11:00 – Three Chefs Demo, Culinary Arts Center, 2
11:00 – Plan Your Day Ashore with Ian, Atrium, 1
11:00 – Acupuncture: A Life Changing Introduction, Explorer’s Lounge, 2
11:00 – Caribbean Shopping shore Presentation, Showroom at Sea, 2
11:00 – Spa Seminar: Detox for Health & Weight Loss, Greenhouse Spa, 9
11:00 – Gem Quiz, Merabella Luxury Boutique, 3
11:30 – Basketball Free Throw Shootout, Sports Court, 11 aft
11:30 – Gaming Lessons, Casino, 2
11:30 – Introductory Photo Editing, Digital Workshop, 2 aft
12:00 – Brad Brock on Guitar, Seaview Pool, 9 aft
1:00 – Back Deck Beats, Seaview Pool, 9 aft
1:00 – Caribbean Heat Jerk Pork and Sofrito Mashed Potatoes, Culinary Arts Center, 2
1:00 – Slot Tournament Qualifying Rounds, Casino, 2
1:00 – Meet Your Fellow Veterans, Piano Bar, 2
1:00 – International Beer Tasting $15, Silk Den, 11 midship
1:00 – Team Trivia Challenge, Crow’s Nest, 11
1:30 – Name That Tune, Seaview Pool, 9 aft
1:30 – Live Champagne Art Auction, Ocean Bar, 3
1:30 – Texas Hold’em Tournament, Casino, 2
1:30 – Creative Photo Editing, Digital Workshop, 2 aft
1:30 – Dance Class: Learn to Waltz, Northern Lights, 2

February 1 (Wednesday, Day 5, George Town, Cayman Islands) –

Snookums woke up when room service was delivered at 7:30 AM. Pat woke up around 7 AM. We enjoyed our oatmeal, mixed berries, sunshine parfait and muesli on the verandah. Then it was time to get ready for our port day. Judy wanted to get all of the free Diamond International charms and free Effy pendants and had our shopping spots identified. Snookums had the Eden Rock snorkeling spot identified. We took advantage of our status (4-star Mariner for Snookums/Pat and Deluxe Verandah Suite for Judy) and jumped to the front of the tender line without waiting for numbered tickets.

Grand Cayman shoreline
Grand Cayman street scene

We got to shore around 9:30 AM and hit the shops. It was partly cloudy and 80º or so – very pleasant. We got our free charms, went to the Tortuga rum cake store before 11 AM in order to save 11% and also went to Del Sol so Pat could buy nail polish that changes color in the sun for presents for her teenage daughters. Snookums also found out that the t-shirt she won was worth $25 (which was way overpriced in her opinion!). Then we finally made it to the Eden Rock snorkel spot. We rented a locker for $5 and used the ladders to access the water. We saw some fish and a 2-foot stingray. After twenty minutes, Pat’s mask started to leak and she headed back to the rocky shore. Snookums and Judy continued to snorkel until they both got chilled.

Snorkel photos from Grand Cayman:

We kept our stuff in the locker and continued our shopping for more free charms. Snookums also managed to steal a free WiFi signal and checked email and called Filbert using the free magicJack application. She could hear him just fine but he said that she was cutting out. Snookums is interested in how it will work on Friday at the resort that has free WiFi. Filbert said it was sunny and 62º at home in Kansas City which is unheard of in February! At least it was nicer in George Town!!


The three of us headed back on the 1:30 tender and immediately ate lunch since we were ravenous. After catching up with Mom and Dad, Snookums and Pat returned to their cabin for showers and their own “sail away”. There were a total of five ships anchored at Grand Cayman today which made for a bit of a ship traffic jam. After a little bit of relaxation, it was time for showering and dinner.

Ship traffic at Grand Cayman

Dinner was at Tamarind which is HAL’s $15 per person Asian-inspired restaurant (but only $7.50 for 4-star Mariners which Snookums is). Snookums really enjoyed it on the ms Eurodam in August/September 2011 and wanted to share that experience on this cruise. Everyone really enjoyed the soups, appetizers, entrees, side dishes and desserts that they chose and are looking forward to returning on February 9 when HAL is giving it to us for free since we booked a back-to-back cruise (two 7-day cruises as one 14-day cruise).

After dinner Snookums and Pat were invited to the Captain’s cocktail party and for 45 minutes enjoyed free drinks after going through the receiving line. Snookums realized that Captain van Zaane was the captain on the ms Eurodam in August/September 2011 for the Baltic/Greenland cruise. Snookums ordered a sugar free raspberry lime fizz and was shocked when it came with rum in it since it was on the non-alcoholic menu. After Pat finished her red wine that the waiters were passing around, she enjoyed Snookums’s alcoholic fizz. Snookums then was given a non-alcoholic one and wasn’t too impressed with it, but drank it. It was sweet and had a lot of ice cubes in it. Then Snookums ordered a choco-mint drink from the non-alcoholic menu and that one was much better – almost like a chocolate shake! It doesn’t take much for HAL to keep Snookums happy – just a free $3.95 drink.

4-star Mariner reception

After the cocktail party Snookums and Pat stopped in to see Mom, Dad and Judy. Judy was just finishing mending Snookums’s wetsuit and snorkel bag and Mom and Dad were already in bed. We turned all the clocks back one hour and enjoyed talking a bit before finally saying good night at 8 PM! Tomorrow is a big day – a private tour for the five of us of Roatán, Honduras.