Big Birthday Celebration: Disneyland or Cruise?

It’s really hard to plan vacations when you’re in the throes of a “Relocation Year” or “Repositioning Year” as we like to call it. So, we’re still tossing around ideas for how to celebrate Rich’s special birthday in August, and I think we’ve got it down to either Disneyland or a Mexican Riviera cruise.

But with all of this Galaxy’s Edge hype, we’re leaning toward the cruise. We’re not big Star Wars fans – I mean, it’s okay, but nothing to obsess over – so Galaxy’s Edge holds little appeal for us. And we’re hoping it doesn’t change our Disneyland experience forever. And oh the crowds and expense these days – Yikes!

Also, I’m working on my third novel set on a cruise – this time the Mexican Riviera – binge watching our favorite cruise vloggers such as CruiseTipsTV, SoTweetie, and ScottSingerCruises. So I’m totally engaged in the cruise experience.

As some of you know, my other two cruise novels are Real Women Wear Red (Caribbean cruise) and the sequel Real Women Sing the Blues (Hawaii cruise). Originally, there were plans for a third in that series per my agent’s request, but as it looks now, the third book will be a standalone with new and fun characters. I’m really excited about it.

 

More Moving Fun

Yesterday the inspector arrived. He was scheduled to be here for about an hour to an hour and a half. He was finished in 30 minutes. I said, “Wow, that was fast!” And he said, “Doesn’t take long when you take such good care of your house.” Ah, that was nice to hear. We were wondering how it would go, because we’d never sold a house so “old” – 9 years – lol! Our other two houses were sold at a little over 2 years. And we’ve never sold a house during all of the moving prep! It’s good news but there’s a lot going on.

The next two events are the appraiser – oh joy – and the junk people to take away our garage-full of stuff to be tossed or donated. More fun to be had after that and we are already exhausted!

The exciting news is that a longtime blogging friend is also moving to Orlando about a month after we are. He’s been dreaming of this move ever since we met him online when we were in Florida the first time around when blogging was new. Those were the days. With the popularity of social media, blogging took a big dive – people just don’t participate on blogs like they used to, although I’m noticing a resurgence. Yay! It’s a lot more fun then. Maybe people are getting tired of social media – I know I am. What I want to say can’t be said in 140 characters or in a photo.

We’ve archived our old posts and looking forward to writing about new Disney, Orlando, Florida adventures. I think I’ll probably start with a “Summer of 2017 Resort” theme the way I did with “Hotel California” and other summer themes in Las Vegas. I can’t wait to get started!

 

The Grand Princess

Ricardo y Catalina’s Fantastico Adventure on
The Grand Princess (Dec. 1-8, 2002)
Saturday, November 30, 2002

We got up bright and early at 3:00AM to get ready to make our way to the airport for our 6:00AM Delta flight to Atlanta and then on to Fort Lauderdale. We arrived safely at the Fort Lauderdale airport at 10:00AM. Our fastest trip to Florida yet. One of the benefits of living closer (and in the same time zone).

We took a 15 minute taxi ride to the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort. By 11:00AM, we were ensconced in our oceanfront king room with balcony that overlooked Fort Lauderdale beach. We had a delicious lunch at one of the hotel’s restaurants, Riva. We were seated on an outdoor patio with a splendid view of the beach and ocean.

After lunch, we couldn’t resist strolling along the beach and wading in the water. Quite fantastic, especially after coming from the snow and cold of Ohio. In fact, the word “fantastic” was used innumerable times to describe our beautiful Florida surroundings.

Sunday, December 1, 2002

This was our first Princess cruise. Having sailed the other mainstream cruise lines (Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean), we were anxious to experience Princess and to make our own comparisons. We have included a comparison table at the end of this report. For each category, we have also include a grade. Our cruises vary with what we’re trying to accomplish and this particular one was earmarked for relaxation. After uprooting our lives and moving across the country, this was our first vacation in a year and we really just wanted to unwind. It took a couple of days but after a steady rocking of the ship, we felt ourselves starting to relax.

Embarkation: A+

Princess lived up to their reputation for their quick and easy embarkation process. We were checked in and exploring the ship in no time. The ship is the largest we have sailed on (109,000 GRT with app. 2700 passengers) and we were eager to get started exploring. We have to say that this ship was the most fun for exploration. Each room was well-themed and we were looking forward to experiencing the different rooms throughout the week.

Balcony Cabin: A

The cabin proved to be the most comfortable cabin we have had yet to date. Not the largest but it seemed to work the best. The bed was comfortable and there was plenty of room to move around. The closet, drawers, storage and bathroom were all well-designed. There was a refrigerator and we ordered a soft drink package and a beer package. It was nice to have refreshments in the cabin for when we wanted to just relax on our balcony and have something cool to drink. The only strange thing about the cabin on the Princess Grand Class is that the balconies tier out like a wedding cake. Ours was private but the 2 levels below us stuck out and were in plain site. It made for a strange experience. We felt like we were at group camp, watching everybody below us in their pjs and robes. It made for a noisier balcony experience but everybody was having a fun time.

Cabin Steward: A+

Our cabin steward, Joey, was the best we’ve had. On ships with a more flexible dining schedule, as we found out on the NCL Sky, the cabin steward didn’t know for sure when we would be out of the room. Joey was very friendly and was always on top of things. Our previous cabin stewards ran the gamut of grumpy to indifferent.

Lifeboat Drill: A+

This was the best lifeboat drill we’ve had to date. With Princess, you go to the public room you are assigned to and sit in a comfortable chair and listen to instructions and watch a demonstration on how to put on your lifejacket. On most cruise lines, you have to report outside to your lifeboat station, wearing your life jacket strapped around your neck, stumbling down the stairs you cannot see because your lifejacket is sticking straight out. Then you stand in the heat and line up until attendance has been taken. It’s always painful and you can’t wait to get this part of the cruise over with. You don’t feel like you’ve started the cruise until after. On Princess, we never had to go outside. It was very nice – almost tempting to only sail Princess.

Dining Room: D-

During our ship exploration process, we stumbled into the dining room and ended up sitting with 2 other couples for lunch. We had a very nice lunch, the other couples were fun and the waiter was excellent. The food was a bit disappointing. Kathy didn’t like the sauce on her prime rib. Princess is one of the few lines who serve embarkation lunch in the dining room. Usually you have to hit the buffet. We returned to the dining room for only 2 other meals: dinner on the first formal night and the last night of the cruise. We found that Personal Choice caused long lines. When we arrived at the maitre’ds station, he gave us a beeper and we were not called for 40 minutes. We found that Freestyle on NCL was much more efficient. We rarely had to wait more than 5 minutes. We did not enjoy the food or service in the Princess dining room. It was all disappointing.

Horizon Court: A+

On the other hand, the Horizon Court, the buffet on the Grand Princess, was unusually good. For one thing, instead of long cafeteria lines, there were separate food stations and you can dash in and out and just get what you wanted. Also, there was a nice variety of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, including a variety of seafood. In fact, this buffet was open 24 hours, which made it a little too easy to grab a quick snack.

Painted Desert: B-

Because the dining room was so disappointing, we made reservations in the Southwestern-cuisine alternative restaurant for 2 nights. It had an $8 cover charge, which included a delicious Margarita. While the service and atmosphere was very nice, complete with a country band, most items on the menu were rather inferior and we came close to trying them all over 2 different evenings.. The salsa was delicious, as was the Tequila Shrimp that Kathy had but the fajitas were pretty bad. But the overall experience was definitely better than the dining room.

Sabatini’s: A+

After the crowded first formal night, we chose to make reservations at the Italian eatery for the second formal night. It turned out to be an excellent choice. Not only did we have a reserved table at a set time, but the experience was outstanding. We were seated in a cozy booth for two and the waiter would give us each a sample of the entire tasting menu. The service and food was superb.

Entertainment: D-

We left the dining room before dessert on the first formal evening in order to make it to the show room for the big show, “Lights, Camera, Action.” We should have stayed for dessert and skipped the show. We arrived at the show room half an hour before showtime and could barely find seats. The Grand Princess showrooms are not large enough for the crowds, especially now that they have flexible dining. After the show, we went to the Horizon Court for dessert and coffee. While Rich was at the coffee station, an older woman asked him what he thought of the show. Wanting to be polite, he said he had seen better. She woman replied, “It was painful!” An accurate assessment. We talked with other Princess repeat passengers and they concurred that Princess entertainment used to be better.

Lounges: C

We have to admit that the Norwegian Sky spoiled us for any other ship’s lounges. We sailed on the Sky twice and fell madly in love with the Windjammer Martini Bar/ Churchill’s Cigar Bar area. Not only was this area extremely inviting in décor and intimacy but every night there was a wonderful performance by a talented pianist. You could make requests and sing along. It reminded Kathy of a fantasy evening in New York that you’ve seen in the movies. A couple of times we had no intention of ordering anything but as soon as we settled into one of those comfy leather wingback chairs or settees, we found ourselves ordering off the Martini menu.

So, naturally, the Grand Princess did not even come close to this experience. Although there was a pianist in the Atrium Lounge, it was not inviting at all. It was too busy and there were usually tables set up in the atrium with merchants trying to sell you something. The next best thing to the Sky was the Wheelhouse Bar. It also had Marine décor with rich, leather chairs and loveseats and on the last night there was a nice older couple who were playing and singing. The problem we had with the entertainment is that raucous rock bands seemed to permeate throughout the ship and kids were all over the dance floor. Sometimes we like that, too, but we really enjoy a nice adult-oriented piano bar when we’re at sea.

Swimming Pools: A

The Grand Princess had a nice variety of swimming pools, open 24 hours, and there were always lounge chairs available, either shaded or out in the sun. Besides 2 main pools midship, there was also a Lap Pool in the Spa area and an adult aft pool, which we really enjoyed. Aft pools are hard to come by and, besides Holland America, this class of ship is the only one that has an aft pool. Having it be adults only also made it nice. Our one complaint, though, are the aggressive bar servers on the GP. They didn’t want to take no for an answer and it got tedious having to turn them down over and over again. They wouldn’t just move on. And when you did order a drink, they would try to talk you out of the small and insist the large was a much better value. And when you said “no, thanks”, they would stand there and pout. Holland America has the best bar servers at sea. They only come by when you call them and they will do anything for you.

Ports

We love the Caribbean side of Mexico. The so-called Mexican Riviera in the Pacific is no comparison. Cozumel is our favorite port. This time we went on an excursion to “Passion Island.” It had a nice beach with lunch and drinks included and very relaxing. Our guide, Rafael, was quite entertaining and we really enjoyed our day. This itinerary took us to 2 Mexico ports. We also stopped at a new port, Costa Maya. It is just starting to be developed. There is a cute little town square with shops, restaurants, a pool and a beach. It was a beautiful, perfect day, 87 degrees. We enjoyed a couple of cold beers, chips and guacamole while listening to a Mexican band after the hot, trip to the Mayan ruins. We had an excellent guide and we enjoyed the trip. The other two ports, Grand Cayman and Princess Cays (Princess’ private island in the Bahamas) did not interest us. We enjoyed staying on the ship while the herds went ashore. We have been to Grand Cayman and those “Bahamian private islands” a few times.

Disembarkation

Disembarkation went rather smoothly, although we didn’t like Princess’ policy of asking for some of your bags before you go to dinner the night before and the rest before you go to bed. When we got off the ship, our bags were located in 2 different areas, which made it difficult to retrieve them and head for the airport. The airport was the usual zoo and we arrived home exhausted. We hope top put off any more cruising until we live in Florida and don’t have to fly home.

Final Thoughts

We accomplished what we set out to do on this cruise – relax. After cruising all of the mainstream cruise lines, we’ve come to realize that it’s difficult these days to distinguish one cruise line from another. Each has their pluses and minuses. We have noticed with the enormous amount of berths to fill these days and post 9/11, quality has definitely slipped. There are bargain prices to be found but some of the experience is altered as the cruise lines’ main goal on the cruise is to separate you from your money. Photographers are a case in point. You can’t do anything without somebody sticking a camera in your face. This is bad enough when you have a mouth full of food but even when you pose for them, the pictures are overlit so that you look 20 years older and 20 pounds heavier. The only photo we purchased was the one taken on Passion Island. The islanders, not affiliated with Princess, did a good job. There will probably be another cruise ship in our future, but for now, we are concentrating on our March trip to Central Florida.

Thanksgiving/Anniversary Cruise on the Westerdam

Cruise Line: Holland America Line’s MS Westerdam
Where:
Eastern Caribbean Cruise
When: November 20-27, 1999
Who: Rich, Kathy, Rich’s parents

Introduction

My parents celebrated their 25th anniversary on a cruise to Bermuda, so when we invited them to celebrate their 50th anniversary on an Eastern Caribbean cruise, they couldn’t refuse.

(Note from Kathy: We were a bit hesitant to sail on the old Westerdam because it was an older ship without balconies (except for suites), and with a single level dining room on the bottom of the ship. This was when 2-story dining rooms were coming into style at the same time as the Carnival Destiny with so many balconies. It felt like we were going backwards, but as it turned out, we loved the ship! We really think we should cruise the newer Westerdam just because this one was so spectacular.)

Day 1 — Friday, November 19: San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale

Because we live on the west coast, Holland America arranged for us to fly in a day before the cruise with overnight accommodations at a Fort Lauderdale hotel. Mother and Dad would fly in the day of the cruise.

Day 2 — Saturday, November 20: Embark

At 1:30 p.m., we boarded the bus to the pier. This was very exciting. The transfer went smoothly, and we were soon checked in and given our embarkation number, and waited to board the Westerdam. At check-in, we found out that the parents had already boarded. After a bit of a wait, our number was called, and we were soon walking on the gangway, complete with picture stop. A white-gloved steward greeted us and escorted us to our cabin — #146 on the Lower Promenade Deck, close to the stairs which turned out to be an excellent location. The parents were next door in cabin #148.

After checking out our cabin, we knocked on their door but they were nowhere to be found. We went up 2 decks to the Lido deck to grab a quick bite before they stopped serving lunch. That was where we found the parents. After lunch, we went to check out the dining room to see what table we were assigned. At 4:15 p.m., we attended the lifeboat drill, on time as always. The Dutch are very precise and it went rather well.

We were scheduled to set sail at 5 p.m. but were delayed by half an hour due to the Ryndam (docked in front of us) waiting for late passengers arriving from the airport. At last, the ship’s horn was blowing, sailaway drinks were being served, and the tugboat was soon escorting us out to sea as the sun was setting. The condominium owners were blinking their lights on and off wishing us a bon voyage. It is one of the magical moments in cruising — no matter how many times you have done it.

We returned to our cabins for a short rest before it was time to dress for dinner for the second seating at 8:15 p.m.

We took this time to read over the schedule for the evening. We noticed that there was a Welcome Aboard show introducing the cruise staff after dinner. At dinner, we met our waiter Widi, assistant waiter Wibowo, and head waiter Agus. The service was wonderful. Just ask Mother — they served her cappuccino this night and every night without her having to ask for it. We also met another couple who was assigned to sit with us. We had requested a table for 4 at first seating but first seating was already full so we were assigned a table for 6 at second seating. We actually prefer second seating so that you don’t have to rush to get dressed for dinner after watching the sunset on sailaway day or any day at sea.

It didn’t take long to see that this couple was not going to be a good match for us — especially since the 4 of us were family members travelling together, celebrating the parents’ 50th anniversary. We were not surprised when they asked to be seated at another table — a common practice in cruising. In fact, we noticed that they changed tables several times.

After dinner, we attended the show, “Opening Night Magic.” Not that great of a show since most of it was introducing the cruise staff and their responsibilities.

After the show, we returned to our cabin, with the bed turned down, the lights turned low, and a chocolate on each pillow. The parents came in and sat on the couch as we looked at the next day’s schedule to plan our day. Sunday we would be in Nassau, Bahamas for most of the morning. We went to bed and let the ocean rock us to sleep. There’s nothing like it.

Day 3 — Sunday, November 21: Nassau, Bahamas

Having been to Nassau before, we love the approach through the channel to the dock. The many changing colors of water from deep blue to turquoise is unbelievably gorgeous! The Westerdam was scheduled to dock at 7 a.m.; a little early for this crowd but Kathy got up to peek out the window to watch. Premier’s Oceanic (The Big Red Boat — which Kathy sailed on in 1987) was already docked. So was Carnival’s Ecstasy, and Holland America’s Noordam.

This is when it would be great to have a balcony cabin — definitely on the next cruise. We finally got up and had breakfast out on the Lido deck. We saw the parents out there having coffee. This seemed to be Mother’s favorite hangout, relaxing outside sipping her coffee on the aft of the ship by the pool. After viewing the sights of Nassau from the ship, Mother suggested that we go into town. Just as we disembarked from the ship, it started to rain. We took shelter and waited out the downpour. The skies cleared and we walked around Nassau. It turned out to be a beautiful day in Nassau.

We arrived back on the ship in time for lunch before setting sail at 1 p.m. As we were pulling out of our dock, the brand-new Holland America ship, the Volendam, passed us as it was just arriving in Nassau. It is a beautiful ship, one that we hope to sail on some day. We had more time to view the channel as we sailed away from Nassau. We spent the afternoon strolling on the deck, sitting on comfy deck chairs, and watching the ocean go by.

Tonight was the Captain’s Welcome Cocktail Party. This means we dressed up in formal attire, got in line to shake hands with the captain, got our picture taken, and were introduced to the captain. We then proceeded into the Queen’s Lounge where complimentary hors’doeuvres and cocktails were served. One note about hors’doeuvres on Holland America. They are served complimentary in all of the lounges before dinner each evening. It is a wonderful way to begin an evening. Following the Captain’s Cocktail party, we went into the dining room for a very special dinner.

This is the night they bring out the really good stuff — filet mignon, duck, chocolate tulips, etc. One thing we must mention: Hurricane Lenny left behind very large ocean swells that night and the ship was really rocking and rolling. Some people got sick, although none of us did. You really had to hang on to anything you could to get around the ship. We still don’t know how the performers put on their show that night. It was really amazing! The show was called “Dance to the Movies.”

We found that the best place to be with the ship moving like that was in bed. We were really rocked to sleep that night.

Day 4 — Monday, November 22: At Sea

The seas seemed to have calmed and sometime that day the captain announced that because the ship had to slow down during the rough seas, that we might arrive in San Juan, Puerto Rico a bit late tomorrow.

We took advantage of the sea day and explored the layout of the ship. We also enjoyed strolling on the teak wrap-around Promenade deck. On some ships, you can only walk on one side, go inside and then walk on the other side. It was nice to be able to walk completely around the ship on the outside. Five times around made a mile. With the delicious food on this cruise, that became very important. This is also a lovely place to sit and relax in a wooden deck chair and just enjoy the view and the scent of the sea.

Tonight was the first night of many that we would have pre-dinner drinks and hors’doeuvres in the Ocean Bar and listen to the Las Vegas Trio. Kathy loved the shrimp and puupus they served. This is where we met our incredible Filipino server, Armando (think Armand Assante, as he said). After introducing himself, he asked for each of our names and remembered them from that point on. He definitely earned a tip when he served Mother and Kathy Diet Cokes and said that they were drinking them because “the ladies wanted to stay sexy.” Then he drew us each little pictures on napkins with our names on them. Never before had we had such attentive service on any cruise.

Tonight was casual night at dinner. After dinner, we attended the Paul Tanner show. He was an excellent singer/impressionist. Our favorite impression was Tom Jones, although he also did a great Neil Diamond. After the show, we started another tradition: going to the Explorer’s Lounge for after-dinner coffee, cordials & chocolates, and listened to the Champagne Strings. The white chocolate covered strawberries were to die for!

This is where we met more incredible Filipino staff: Miguel and Mary. They introduced themselves, asked for our names, and called us “Sir Rich, Ma’am Kathy, and Mother Mary. (Dad had turned in early this night — they would meet him another night.) They would also greet us by name from then on. It was a wonderful way to end each evening. We were too full to even eat the chocolate left on our pillow when we arrived back in our cabin. We were rocked to sleep another night.

Day 5 — Tuesday, November 23: San Juan, Puerto Rico

Most cruise ships arrived in San Juan quite late in the afternoon and stay for the evening. That’s what we did when we were on Celebrity’s Century. That allowed us time to do an Old San Juan tour, including the famous San Cristobal fort. This time we arrived at noon so we were able to tour the El Yunque Rainforest. We had an excellent guide who pointed out the Puerto Rican sights as we drove the 45-minutes to El Yunque.

The rainforest was quite lush. We stopped at a couple of waterfalls and saw many different kinds of plants, including some orchids. We were hoping to spot a parrot or two but they were too shy. Of course, the sudden downpour didn’t help, but this is a tropical rain forest, right?

We stopped at the usual tourist shops and were able to purchase some of that delicious Puerto Rican coffee. There are 3 truly wonderful coffees in the world (so they say): Puerto Rican, Jamaican, and pure Kona coffee.

We arrived back at the ship in time for lunch and then our usual afternoon nap. That night was casual night in the dining room. After dinner, we all strolled along the promenade deck and looked at the lights of San Juan. We could hear salsa music in one of the local nearby clubs.

Day 6 — Wednesday, November 24: St. John, USVI

This was to be a highlight of our trip. On our previous cruise on the Century, we had booked the tour to St. John but had to cancel due to Kathy being sick. The Century docked in St. Thomas and then you had to ferry over to St. John. On the Westerdam, we were actually dropped off at St. John and tendered over to the mainland where we boarded open-air Jeep Safari buses. This tour started early — 6:30 a.m. The good news is that we arrived at Trunk Bay before any other cruise ship passengers.

We loved St. John. It’s one of the islands we would like to return to for a land vacation. 70% of the island is a National Park and it is just beautiful. The Virgin Islands in general are quite lovely. This would be a great place to take a sailing trip. It was great getting there before anybody else.

We had most of the beach to ourselves. The water was delightfully warm and our tour allowed us to have 3 hours to play in the water.

Our safari bus dropped us off at the ferry and we ferried over to St. Thomas where the Westerdam was docked and waiting for us. This ferry ride was longer than the tender earlier that morning but within half an hour we were back on board the ship. Princess’ Grand Princess and Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas were also docked. We grabbed a quick lunch and returned to our cabins for a much-needed nap. Sometime that afternoon, Mother snuck out to do some shopping at nearby Havensight Mall.

We woke up in time to enjoy the sailaway party at the Lido pool area, aft on the ship. It was a beautiful sailaway as the sun set and we watched the other ships all cruise off to destinations unknown.

We returned to our cabins to get ready for dinner and agreed to meet for drinks and hors’doeuvres in the Ocean Bar.

That night was casual night in the dining room and it was also Dutch night. The menu had many Dutch specialities and we were all given Dutch hats to wear during dinner. After dinner the parents wanted to see the Matador of Magic: Devlin in the Admiral’s Lounge show room. We returned to the Explorer’s Lounge for an after dinner cordial and chocolates. Miguel and Mary were as gracious as ever and told us about the Filipino Crew Show the next night that Mary would be performing in. We promised to attend.

That night was the Dessert Extravaganza. We had heard that Holland America normally puts on a Chocolate Extravaganza for the late night buffet and that’s what we were expecting. We took a quick look at the desserts, had a small taste, and then went to bed.

Day 7 — Thursday, November 25: Thanksgiving at Sea

This was our last full day at sea. Mother just wouldn’t be able to live with herself if she didn’t get in the ship’s pool sometime today. At the sailaway from St. Thomas, we all sat by the pool with our feet in the water but that didn’t count.

We found Mother having her coffee out by the Lido pool and we grabbed some breakfast and coffee and 4 lounge chairs. We spent most of the morning sunbathing until we finally got our nerve up to splash around in the pool. Pools onboard ships are a bit different. Today, for some reason, it was especially cold! We finally braved the water, though, and let the motion of the ship move us around. At 10:30 a.m., Dad ran off for the kitchen tour.

We decided to have lunch out by the Verandah pool so that we could be there for the ice carving demonstration.

After so much good Holland America food, we decided that we needed to seriously do some laps around the promenade deck. Mother and Dad decided this would be a good place to relax and Dad even got in his nap. We also took this time to walk around the deck, videotaping the ship.

Tonight would be a big night — Thanksgiving and the second formal night. We took our usual afternoon nap in the cabin and awoke in time to get ready to meet in the Ocean Bar for our usual drinks and hors’doeuvres. Armando presented us each with artistically decorated dutch hats with our names and the date of our cruise included.

The dining room was festively decorated for Thanksgiving and included the ice carvings that we had seen that afternoon. Turkey and all the trimmings were offered, as well as lobster, and Beef Wellington. The only disappointment a Thanksgiving traditionalist might have would be that instead of pumpkin pie, this was the night of the Baked Alaska parade. It was delicious; no disappointment here.

The entertainment in the main showroom looked too tempting so we skipped our evening in the Explorer’s Lounge. The show was “Sounds of America” followed by the Filipino Crew Show.

Day 8 — Friday, November 26: Half Moon Cay

This was our last full day of the cruise. This morning we would be tendering to Holland America’s private island in the Bahamas, Half Moon Cay. After breakfast, we gathered in the Queen’s Lounge to get a tender number. Our number was 21 so we would have a bit of a wait before tendering to the island. Time went by rather quickly and before we knew it we were on the island. It truly is a beautiful island.

We spent most of the day either in the water or sunbathing on beach chairs. There was a barbecue lunch provided. There were also a couple of small shops to buy souvenirs. Mother loved the water (Dad did OK too).

The tender line back to the ship looked long but it moved rather quickly. We were soon back in our cabins for a rest and the dreaded packing. Always such a sad time.

Tonight was casual night in the dining room. But since it was Mother and Dad’s 50th anniversary, we decided to dress up. Tonight was the last night of the cruise which is the usual night that tips are handed out to the staff. Although most mainstream cruise lines have definite tipping guidelines about how much you should tip your particular staff members, Holland America leaves this up to you. They have a “tipping not required” policy but tipping is certainly appreciated and well-deserved in our opinion.

We met in the Ocean Bar for our usual drinks and hors’doeuvres. Then we proceeded to the dining room. Think we could get used to this routine.

Each night there seemed to be a special celebration in the dining room. The Holland America staff would bring a cake and sing whatever was appropriate for the occasion and tonight was no exception.

The parents opened up their anniversary card from us and the staff brought them a yummy chocolate cake and we all sang “Happy Anniversary to You.”

Unfortunately, it was the last night of the cruise so we really couldn’t enjoy the leftover cake. After our usual evening sojourn to the Explorer’s Lounge for one last time, we said good-bye to Mary and Miguel and there were hugs all around. We felt like we were leaving long-time friends. Perhaps we will see them again on another Holland America cruise.

Day 9 — Saturday, November 27: Fort Lauderdale Disembarkation

Our luggage had been put outside to be collected the night before. We were given color-coded luggage tags and a disembarkation number. After a quick breakfast, we sat with the parents in the Queen’s Lounge as we waited for our number to be called. Their number was called first so we hugged and said our good-byes. They were flying out of Miami. It had been a wonderful week together and a great way to celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary. Not long after, our number was called and we boarded the bus to the airport.

It was a wonderful cruise and we look forward to going on our next one. But not until the cats have forgotten this one.