Upon our arrival in Ft. Lauderdale, we found a taxi and then anxiously watched out the window for our first glimpse of this beauty. Passing the other ships that I had sailed on previously brought back memories of all the fun and excitement cruising brings to me still, and then there she was. We grabbed our luggage, handed it off to the porter, and almost ran to the checkin area to get this experience started.
Our check in was quick and organized and soon we were walking up the ramp towards our home for the next 4 days. We were ready to start exploring and finding our favorite places onboard. The staff was very welcoming and eager to see us. I'm always impressed on Day 1 that the ship provides an "elevator man" dressed in his finest red uniform with the cute little hat, who makes sure we find the deck and direct us to our stateroom.
We found our stateroom - a balcony, which is the only way to go anymore. I love the fresh air and the opportunity to sit in privacy and relax, rest, and even do some work on the laptop. The room was very comfortable with 2 twin beds, a decent size bathroom, nice shower, and plenty of closet and storage space. In fact, we kept finding drawers and shelves we hadn't noticed at first.
We received our luggage rather quickly, unpacked and did our cruise guest duty - attending the mandatory safety drill in which we learned what to do and where to go in an emergency, as well as ways to stay safe and healthy during our vacation. Once that was done, we set off to explore the ship. And although we saw it all, we knew we wouldn't fully appreciate it all until we had experienced in action. We vowed to see it all, do it all, and take nothing for granted.
In my opinion, the food on Holland America cruise ships is some of the best out there. The beautiful atmosphere of the dining room only compliments the amazing meals served. We thoroughly enjoyed each restaurant and meal we had. The dining room food was fabulous, as well as the specialty restaurants we visited - Pinnacle Grill and Tamarind. We also loved the Dive In poolside hamburger joint, and the fabulous New York Deli & Pizza where we could special order our pizza. The breakfasts are also so yummy - with the waffle station and omelet station being our favorites.
Our first night we enjoyed the late night comedian, Rondell Sheridan, best known for his role as the father on the TV series, "That's So Raven". He did not disappoint. He had us rolling in laughter as he not only did his routine, but also used audience participation to its fullest. Even my daughter got pulled in as she was probably one of the youngest on the ship, and he sure got after her regarding her age, living at home, going on this vacation because it was free for her. She, as always, left an impression on those in the audience, most of whom knew her fairly well by the end of the cruise.
We thoroughly enjoyed the casino as well onboard, spending time playing slots, roulette, a little blackjack and even some Craps. Of course, the amazing weather called us outdoors most days, so we found our favorite spots at both the midship pool, as well as the aft pool where the sun was brighter, hotter and the bar staff was close by, making sure we were always well taken care of. We even enjoyed the Poolside movie one night, complete with pizza and soda.
Because of the nature of my business, there were a few meetings I attended where we met the President of Holland America, Orlando Ashford. He was so personal and down to earth, it was like meeting your next door neighbor. I also got to know some of the reps for the cruise line better and of course, the CFO of Holland America, David Franco - who became our dance partner every night at BB Kings. He and my daughter hit it off, and he took time to talk to her about her future career plans and gave her some great advice.
Speaking of BB Kings, what a great venue! It is in what Holland America calls Music Hall. It's a great location just outside the casino, with a lounge upstairs to listen, and a dance floor downstairs. In the early evening, BB Kings features a live band with classic songs. In the late evening, it becomes a disco with a DJ. We had a great time there each night - most nights shutting it down at 2 or 3 in the morning (yes, I'm a night owl). My daughter even entertained us with her lip-syncing talents.
Finally, let's talk about Ports of Call and what we did there. I had been to these ports numerous times, so no need to do any tours (although I've done them and can tell what your best options are).
Nassau was our first stop - we slept in, had a late breakfast and then headed off the ship. We wandered through the little grocery store for some snacks, hit the Straw Market for some cute little souvenirs for the young ones at home, and then had a great lunch at Senor Frogs - best quesadillas I think I've ever had. We were entertained by those playing musical chairs and the music, as well as the great view from the deck of the restaurant overlooking the harbor. While making our way back to the ship, Rachel and I worked out a bargain to get her hair braided. It was super cute and the obvious tourist thing to do.
Our next stop was at Holland America's private island, Half Moon Cay. This is by far my favorite private island in the Bahamas and apparently I'm not alone, as this has been voted Best Private Island by many. The amazing soft white sand, calm and clear waters, fun atmosphere and more makes it the place I can return to over and over again. We snorkeled, sunbathed, ate and drank, and had a great relaxing day.
It was time to head home and we were sad that this cruise had come to an end, but happy for all the fun memories we had made and people we had met. Since our flight was a bit late in the day, we rented a car and did a little history tour - visiting the neighborhoods we had lived in here many years ago, the hospital my daughter (and one son) were born in, and then enjoyed an afternoon at the Everglades Holiday Park, complete with alligator wrestling and an airboat ride.
When you are ready to start planning your next adventure, let me know how I can help!
Travel Adventures by Michelle