PC – Day 13 – Disembarkation

Wednesday, November 14, 2018 – Disembarkation

We got up at 7:00 and I went for my last latte. Sad. We went to the Lido for some breakfast at 8:00 and as expected, it was crowded. A more subdued crowd than on the first day.

We were still expected to get into Ft. Lauderdale at 10:00. I started seeing a lot of high rises ahead on the coastline. I assumed it was Miami. Since we have always gotten to Ft. Lauderdale by 7:00, I had never seen the coast coming in like this on the ship.

We got back to the room and started the waiting process. Holland America always lets you stay in the room if you wish instead of having to go to public areas to wait like other cruise lines have asked us. However, they made several announcements about waiting in the public areas and not crowding the hallways or gangway area. They never mentioned being able to stay in the stateroom although it was in the printed material that we received.

We chose to stay in the room until 10:30 and then we went to the Casino to wait as it was near the gangway. We were finally let off the ship at 11:30.

We found our bags and made it through Customs with very little effort. Got a taxi back to the hotel to get our car. We were on the road home at noon.

It was another great trip. Our next planned trip is in June. However, Chuck received a nice casino offer but he has to sail before May 13th to use it. So, who knows? Maybe a quick trip to the Caribbean in April?

Captain: Wouter Van Hoogdalem
Hotel Director: Ron Bontenbal
Cruise Director: Sabine van Leuken

Officers and Crew: 170 and 606
Nationalities of Crew: 41
Average Speed: 17.8 knots
Miles Traveled: 3269 Miles

Good-bye Zuiderdam. Hope to sail you again some day.

PC – Day 12 – Last Sea Day

Tuesday, November 13, 2018 – Fourth Sea Day

Got up at 8:00 again. Could see that today was going to be cloudier than yesterday which was fine with me since I would not be taking the time to soak up the sun. Since we were on no deadline, we had breakfast in the dining room. Then we did our 2 miles around the ship.

We decided to go to the presentation “Ask the Captain.” It is an opportunity for him to talk about life on the bridge and answer guest questions. We knew it would be crowded as people are wanting to know more about the azipod situation. The presentation was very interesting. He showed pictures of the bridge and talked about the roles of the different ship officers. He had his chief engineer talk in-depth about the azipod but the result was still “they are not sure of the root cause of the problem and wouldn’t know until they could take it apart in Ft. Lauderdale.” He also talked about his career and his life in Holland. He said would probably be on the Zuiderdam one more year and then would move to a different HAL ship.

He had a good sense of humor. Most people had general questions about ships and being a Captain. One woman who spoke only Dutch asked him about only having announcements in English even though HAL is a Dutch origin shipping line (we know this because the Captain translated for us). She apparently didn’t like his answer as we could tell she continued to scold him. He finally told her we had to move on with other questions. I noticed that the cruise director (who also spoke Dutch) was talking with her after the presentation.

After having lunch, it was time to start the packing process. We would be placing the 2 large bags out in the hallway before midnight and would keep the two small suitcases to roll off with us tomorrow morning. I watched the movie “Ant Man and the Wasp” while packing the suitcases. Chuck always offers to help but it is usually easier for me just to do it by myself.

I like the fact that I am packing mostly clean clothes to bring home. Today was the last day to get laundry returned and my last load got here this afternoon. I did have a dirty clothes bag for today’s clothes.

We got our new paperwork indicating that our disembarkation time for tomorrow will be approximately 11:15 barring any unforeseen issues. Our original paperwork had us disembarking at 8:15.

Was finished before the movie was over. Afterwards, I read for a while and then got cleaned up for dinner. We had dinner with two women that we have seen most nights at the BB King nightclub. They are mother and daughter from Louisiana. I had the Dover sole and a salad. The sole was okay but it had to be de-boned by the waiter. I prefer the filets. Chuck had beef tips. I should have had that dish too.

We skipped the main entertainment tonight – Dave Burleigh, an impressionist. I have seen him on other ships. He is okay. We could hear people laughing. We spent the evening at the first 2 sets of the BB King show. Chuck played his last time at the Casino.

The Lido and the main dining room will be open for breakfast tomorrow as well as the coffee bar. I assume room service is also available although they did not announce it. I set the alarm for 7:00. No towel animal tonight. The monkey is still hanging on the hangar. The bags are out in the hallway.

PC – Day 11 – Third Sea Day

Monday, November 12, 2018 – Third Sea Day

I woke up around 2:00 a.m. and felt a weird motion of the ship. Felt like riding a train, a back and forth motion, instead of the usual rocking side to side or up and down. Made me a little nauseous but I have taken my Bonine faithfully so I didn’t get sick.

Woke up around 8:00 with the new time change. It was a gorgeous day with bright blue skies and a nice breeze. I knew I would be spending the majority of the day in a deck chair soaking up the sun. But first, latte from the coffee bar, breakfast in the Lido and two miles around the ship. Had a surprise as I was leaving the room, the Canadian couple who are the good dancers have the room right next to us. I was surprised I hadn’t seen them before. I guess are schedules have just been different.

During the day, we found out what was making that weird motion. The Captain made the announcement that the one of the azipods were not functioning at full capacity. The azipod is the thruster which allows the ship to move forward, backward, and side to side. Long story short – the ship has to move slower than predicted so we are not going to get to port at 7:00 on Wednesday. They are now predicting that we will get there at 10:00. If we continue at a fast pace, the azipod might stop completely and then we could be in a mess. The Captain said that Guest Services was prepared to help people make different flight arrangements if needed.

If we had a flight on Wednesday, I would be distressed. However, since we are driving, we just won’t get as far up the road as we had planned. There was definitely a long line at Guest Services for people who were needing help with flight changes or other issues. Glad I didn’t have to be in that line.

Chuck swam in the pool for a while but I did not get in. I enjoyed my book, the sun, and the breeze.

For the evening, it was time to get dressed up for the last gala night. We had dinner with one of the couples that we had met at dinner on a previous night. They were from Detroit and were retired educators. Enjoyed the conversation very much. We all had the filet mignon and lobster tail for the main meal. Chuck and I both had shrimp cocktail as the appetizer. Still skipping dessert. Well, Chuck has always skipped dessert. I have had ice cream a few times.

We enjoyed another night at BB King and the mainstage show. It was a show featuring the Zuiderdam singers and dancers in a production called “Off the Charts.” It featured music and dancing from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. I think it was the best of the three productions during the cruise.

Tomorrow is the last sea day so that will mean packing up our stuff and saying good-bye to the nice people we have met this trip. No need to set the alarm. Tonight’s towel animal is a monkey hanging from a hangar.

PC – Day 10 – Costa Rica

Sunday, November 11, 2018 – Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

I got up at 5:30 to be dressed in case the room service steward was right on time at 6:00. Glad I was because he was 10 minutes early. We were scheduled to be in the main stage area for the only tour we took this trip – Wildlife Rescue Center & La Ceiba Private Reserve. It was to be a long tour – 7 hours but it did include lunch.

I went outside to gauge the weather. Partly cloudy and very humid. What a surprise (sarcasm). We were docked alongside a very large Celebrity ship. I was never sure of its name but it dwarfed our ship.

At 7:40 we joined the line of people getting into the main stage as there were several different tours leaving at 7:45. We got our stickers and waited for our number to be called. There were only about 12 people on our tour so we found our guide and were directed into a large van. There was a tour that was called right before us that involved a train ride and about 100 people got up to join that one.

Once we were on the pier, we located our guide and the van driver. The guide’s name was Roy. He was very informative as he talked about his country on our 50 minute ride to the Rescue Center. The van was air conditioned but we were packed in there. Narrow seats – big Americans – do not mix well. His native language is Spanish but he spoke English well. He said the children are taught both English and Spanish at home and in the schools.

What I learned – Costa Rica means “Rich Coast.” The first Spanish explorers thought that Costa Rica was full of gems and gold since they saw natives with jewelry so that is why they gave it that name. However, they found no gold or jewels after settling. But our guide still considered his country rich. Costa Rica is home to a variety of plants and animals. While the country has only about 0.03% of the world’s landmass, it contains 5% of the world’s biodiversity. Around 25% of the country’s land area is in protected national parks and protected areas, the largest percentage of protected areas in the world.

He talked about coffee, bananas, and cacao as big exports. He showed us a banana plant and a cacao pod. However, as suspected, tourism, and more specifically eco-tourism, is the biggest money-maker for Costa Rica. Birders are especially interested in coming to Costa Rica because over 840 species of birds have been identified here.

The climate is considered tropical. Since we were on the Caribbean side of the country, we had higher humidity than the Pacific side. The temperature was in the 80’s so we could have been in Georgia in the summer. Again, I was glad for the cooling cloths and the bug spray. Costa Rica’s seasons are defined by how much rain falls during a particular period. The year can be split into two periods, the dry season (December to April) and the rainy season (May to November). He told us that this rainy season had been particularly rainy and we should be happy to see the sunshine today.

We passed by a couple of beaches and the waves were high. He talked about how popular surfing is and there are several international tournaments held in Costa Rica. Since it was Sunday, there were a lot of people on the beaches, enjoying the nice day.

As we left Puerto Limon and when we passed through a couple of small towns along the way, I noticed several piles of trash/garbage on the sides of the road. Someone commented on it and he said they would be picked up the next week. I guess they just don’t use garbage cans.

The roads were narrow and at times only cars going in one direction at a time could go over the small bridges. At one point on the road, we had to swerve to miss electrical lines that were down as well as a big tourist bus which was over too far in the road. I was glad to get to the preserve.

The Rescue Center guide was from Spain and she had lived in Costa Rica for several years and loves working with the animals. They try and rehabilitate injured, sick, or abandoned animals so that they can go back to the jungle. If they can’t go back to the wild, they can live out their life at the Center.

We got to see sloths (they get injured from power lines a lot), crocodiles, monkeys, an anteater, ocelots, and a margay. Since this facility was a rehab facility, they don’t let tourists handle the animals. It is a good thing they don’t as I wanted to put a baby sloth in my backpack and bring it home.

From the rescue center, we took a short ride over to the preserve. There is only a small portion of the preserve open to tourists to hike. The rest is left natural and that is where the workers start introducing the animals back to the jungle. We took a short hike so she could tell us about some of the plants. At the end of the hike, we were offered a ginger/mango drink and some pineapple on a skewer. I liked it. Chuck didn’t like the drink. We did see some howler monkeys way at the top of some of the trees, making noise as howler monkeys do. Also saw one of their largest butterflies – a Morpho. It is a bright blue. I could not get a picture but I got a video of it flitting around.

On the drive back, we stopped at an open-air restaurant for lunch. They prepared a traditional Costa Rican lunch of black beans and rice cooked in coconut water, chicken, and fried plantains. We had lemonade or water to drink. Everyone enjoyed the lunch and the nice breeze supplied by the fans.

All aboard was 3:30 and we got back right before 3:00. Gave some of the people time to shop in the gift shops at the port area. Of course, some people had spent money at the gift shop at the rehab facility. Since Chuck had brought me Christmas ornaments from his previous Costa Rica trip with Michael, I didn’t need anything so we headed on back to the ship. We were met at the ship by stewards who were handing out cool washcloths and cups of lemonade. HAL had done this nice touch at Aruba and Curacao also.

It was 3:30 and the Captain had not yet made the announcement about getting underway soon. I went out to the deck and saw 3 large busses pulling in and people piling out of them. They were met by some of the ship personnel, I think to make sure the people kept walking to the ship and didn’t veer off to the souvenir shop. If they wanted to shop, I know they were ticked getting back late. The Captain has to keep a good schedule. We were able to leave a little after 4:00.

After we got cleaned up for the evening, we stopped by the Gallery Bar. As we were sitting there, the cruise director, Sabina, stopped by to ask us how our trip was going and was there anything we needed? The cruise director is very busy from morning to late at night. She and her team do everything from daily announcements, hosting special events (I saw a couple doing a vow renewal), hosting daily Q/A sessions between ship personnel/performers and guests, emceeing the main stage productions, etc. I thought it was nice that she stopped by to chat. We told her we were having a great time. I know she must hold her breath every time she asks guests how they are doing because I know some will do non-stop complaining (I have heard them).

We had dinner with 2 other couples. One couple was from Canada and we see them out on the dance floor at the BB King quite a bit. They are good dancers. The other couple was from Florida. We enjoyed the conversations. The whole table ordered the oysters Rockefeller for the appetizer. I had the eggplant parmesan for the main course. I usually love eggplant parmesan but this one was kind of tough to chew. Chuck enjoyed his steak.

We went to see the late show of the mainstage performance. Tonight was a magician by the name of James Cielen. He was very good. Unfortunately, I was very sleepy and kept nodding off periodically. Thank goodness I didn’t snore.

We called it a night. The next two days are sea days before our arrival in Ft. Lauderdale. We set our clocks Forward one hour tonight. I am all messed up. Glad I don’t have to set an alarm. Tonight’s towel animal is a dinosaur I think.

Each leaf in the pod covered baby bananas.
Our guide and the anteater
Sloth on his jungle gym
Baby sloth I wanted to take home.
Good camouflage
Baby howler monkeys
Baby ocelot
One of many flowers in preserve
Huge almond tree
Entrance to hiking trail
Like the final chocolate products better

PC – More Panama Canal Photos


Lock headquarters
Another passing ship
Hoping for fish to be stirred up
Thought it was a log until the tail started swishing
We take pictures of them. They take pictures of us.
Ships waiting in lake for their turn to go to the canal.

PC – Day 9 – Panama Canal

Saturday – November 10, 2018 – Panama Canal

Today is the day that is the purpose for this whole trip – traversing the Panama Canal. We have received enough paperwork regarding the canal – a FAQ sheet, a color brochure, and an encouragement to watch the hour movie: A Man, A Plan, A Canal. There have also been several informational sessions about the Canal during the past few days. If you don’t know what to do today or anything about the canal, it is your own fault.

What I learned – The first firm effort to build an all-water route through the Panama began with the French in 1880 but financial problems and tropical diseases ruined the initiative. When Panama consolidated its independence in 1903 it agreed with the United States on the construction of the Canal and that the US would help build, operate, and maintain it until December 31, 1999.

The Canal was opened in 1914 and in 2010, the bulk carrier Fortune Plum became ship number one million to pass through the Canal. In 1994, the Canal was named one of the seven wonders of the modern world by the American Society of Civil Engineers. In 1999, as agreed, Panama took on the administration and operation of the Canal. In 2007, construction on the new, larger locks began with the inauguration of the new locks held in 2016.

There are 2 lanes for the ships to pass from either Atlantic to Pacific or Pacific to Atlantic. The system of locks raises the vessels to the level of Gatun Lake, approximately 80 feet above the sea, to allow the crossing by the Central Mountain Range, and then lower the vessels to sea level on the other side of the Isthmus of Panama. The water that is used to raise and lower the ships in each set of locks comes from Gatun Lake by gravity and is poured into the locks through a system of main culverts which extend below the chambers of the locks from the sidewalls and center wall.

We set our clocks back an hour before we went to bed so even though I set the alarm for 5:30, I got that extra hour. I was up and dressed with camera and binoculars by 6:00. It was a cloudy day and I could see that it had rained heavily some time during the night. They did call for rain today so I put on my swimsuit with coverup so if it started raining, I was ready. Chuck was looking forward to seeing the Canal but did not feel he needed to be out on the bow as early as me.

All services were starting at 6:00 today instead of the usual 6:30 so I stopped to get my Latte. The Crow’s Nest was already filled with people. I did not want to see the canal from the inside so I got my Latte, went first to the sea view pool area to watch the sunrise over Panama, and then I went back to the front and joined the people in line to go out on the bow. There were several ships around us waiting for their turn to line up to head for the Canal.

I did not get a spot at the very front of the bow but I did get a good spot near it. I thought of it as a Black Friday shopping experience, get there early and stake a claim or snooze and lose. The ship also opened up the crew doors to the 5th, 6th, and 7th floors for people to stand. The crew was serving coffee and their Panama rolls – soft puff pastry with cream inside.

The narrator came on the speaker at about 6:45 as we were entering passing the breakwater and heading for the new expansion bridge (newly constructed and not yet named) and the Gatun Locks. Since this trip was a partial transit, we would only be going through the Gatun Locks, anchor a while in Gatun Lake, and then back out the same locks.

We watched as the ship in front of us entered the locks and it raised up to get it ready to go to the middle set of locks. Once it entered the middle set and the gates closed behind it, it was time for us to enter the locks. While we waited, I watched a couple of gators swimming around paying no heed to the large ship.

Each ship is charged to use the locks. Our narrator said that our ship was charged $300,000 for this trip. Every cruise has port fees added on to the cruise price. Makes sense why these port fees were some of the more expensive that we have paid ($380 pp). The passengers get to pick up part of the costs of this crossing.

When our turn came, the guiding lines were brought out to the ship from the locks by two men in a rowboat. A rowboat, seriously? The narrator explained that they had tried several other ways to get the ropes over but they proved either dangerous or too costly so rowboat it is. The lines were attached to vehicles on either side of the locks that looked like train engines that ran on a track. The narrator called them “mules.” They pulled the ship along through the canal. We watched as we slowly rose with the water level.

It was also interesting to watch other ships coming from the other direction. As we took pictures of them, the crew from those ships (mostly cargo ships) were taking pictures of us.

Once we made it through both sets of locks (Chuck did make it outside before we finished), we anchored in the Lake and they started calling for people who were on tours to start making their way to the tender area. They would be using most of the ship tenders to get people to shore. Guess they figured the rest of us could swim to shore if the ship started to go down in the Lake. (If you could get past the gators).

It was now 10:00 and the Lido would be open for another 30 minutes and the Panama roll was gone. I got some juice and cereal.

We could see the entrance to the new locks from where we anchored. I watched some larger tankers get towed into the new locks. Several other ships were anchored near us. One by one they made their way to either the old locks or the new locks.

At 1:00 it was our turn to go back through the locks. It had started raining hard so I went to the Crow’s Nest to see if I could find a chair. With so many people having left on excursions, I found a nice lounger in the front. It was interesting to see the process from higher up (10th floor vs the 4th floor of the morning). I watched until 3:00.

The shops on the ship were having a sale on Panama Canal souvenirs. I was able to find a keychain that I can repurpose into an ornament. The tag said “it has been handcrafted especially for you by friendly hands inside the Panama Canal Rain Forest.” I was also told there was no free WIFI at the port so there is no reason to get off the ship when we port at Colon which is good because it is still raining.

We didn’t dock at Colon until 5:00. There were several tours that were already back so there were a lot of people getting back on the ship. There were some people getting off to explore. The all aboard time is still 7:30.

With so many people off the ship, the main dining room seemed almost empty. We had our first table for 2 of this cruise. Service is always fast when there are just 2 people. I had the apple/cucumber salad and the vegetarian pasta. Chuck had the gumbo soup and beef brisket.

We finished so early that we went to the 8:00 show of Planet Earth II in Concert instead of the 10:00 show. This show is a movie produced by the BBC and the score is performed by a live band on the ship. I have seen these performances on other ships and have enjoyed them. From the preview show, I thought this one was going to be one set in frozen areas (Antarctica, Artic, etc.); however, it was one that we had seen before on the Alaska cruise. It was still good.

We went to BB King but we didn’t stay long since we have an early excursion in Costa Rica tomorrow. They had a note in our mailbox that said due to the number of early excursions tomorrow, please be aware that room service would be very busy and that the Lido and main dining room would open early for breakfast for everyone’s convenience. We put out the room service menu anyway (yes, we are those people). We asked for delivery between 6:00 – 6:30. We’ll still be OK if it is later.

I also got the disembarkation paperwork turned in. I chose the early time since we will start driving on the day we disembark although I know we will not get all the way home.

The towel animal tonight is an elephant. Wait, wasn’t that the same animal as last night? Guess they didn’t think we would remember.

We are to set the clock back another hour tonight. Weird.

Waiting to enter – Container ship in front of us
Hooked to the Mule to help us move through canal
Inside the Lock
Here comes a ship
View from bottom
Rose with the water
Midpoint to Lake
Another passing ship

PC – Day 8 – Second Sea Day

Friday, November 9, 2018 – Second Sea Day

It was almost 9:00 before we got up this morning. I got us coffee but we decided to skip breakfast as the Mariner’s Brunch would be starting at 11:00. The Mariner’s Brunch is a nice brunch served in the main dining room for those guests who have gone on at least one Carnival Corporation cruise (Holland America, Princess, Carnival, etc). As we were walking down the hall toward the dining room, there was the medallion ceremony being held in one of the conference rooms. We got our bronze medallion for 100 sea days on the 2018 Alaska cruise. The next medallion is the silver medallion for 300 days. Not sure that we will ever make 300 days. I am really envious of the people who have 500 sea days or more.

The menu has been pared down from previous years. You now have a choice between one soup and one salad and then a choice of 3 main dishes – beef, fish, or vegetarian. Your choice of dessert is either take what they serve or skip it. I had the gumbo, the vegetarian pasta dish, and the coconut cream pie. Chuck had the gumbo, the beef dish, and pie.

After the meal was over, Chuck and I went to the informational talk on the next two ports – Colon and Costa Rica. Of course, the talk centered a lot on what to expect at the Panama Canal tomorrow. The biggest take away for tomorrow is “be flexible.” They will have a schedule of “when” things are to happen – “when” we enter the locks, “when” we tender the excursions, “when” we get to Colon to pick people up from their excursions. However, since everything is controlled by the Panama Canal Authority – our “when” might not coincide with their “when” and since they control everything that happens with the locks – be flexible.

We had already decided not to take an excursion off the ship. Maybe we are not flexible. I just want to experience going through the locks. I don’t need to see the new locks, or float down a canal to possibly see some monkeys or alligators, etc. The location director kept saying that if we wanted to get off at Colon after we arrive, we needed to use our “discretion” about leaving the port area. All aboard would be 7:30 but we the arrival time is supposed to be 4:00 but “be flexible.” Ship personnel always warn you about being aware of your surroundings while in port but this warning seemed a little more ominous.

I already have Christmas ornaments from all the other ports but I wanted one for the Panama Canal and I wanted to see if they had free WIFI. I told Chuck I was getting off at Colon but I wouldn’t leave the shop area at the port. He said he was going with me.

We walked the ship promenade and then I got my book and found a spot in the shade to read until it was time to get ready for dinner while Chuck spent some time in the casino.

We sat with two very nice couples though I can’t remember where they were from, probably Florida. Chuck and I both had the salad and the coconut curry chicken.

Listened to the first set of the BB King band and then went to the show. Tonight, the show featured just the Zuiderdam dancers in a show called “Musicology.” Interesting concept. Each song represented a musical instrument and the performers interpreted the instrument through dance. I enjoyed the show but still liked the first one better.

Since tomorrow is a very early day as I want to get a spot on the bow for the sail in to the locks, I decided to call it a night. Chuck decided to call it a night also. We set our clocks back an hour which was nice. The towel animal for tonight is an elephant.

PC – Day 7 – Curacao

Thursday, November 8, 2018 – Curacao

The port time today is 8:00 – 4:00. By the time I got up at 7:00 and went outside, we had already docked. It was cloudier today than the previous days on the cruise. Still very humid. I like the buildings in Curacao as they are all painted in bright colors. Locals say that it was the 19th-Century Governor-General Albert Kikkert who is responsible for the colors. They say he suffered from migraines that he thought were caused by the harsh reflection of the sun on the white buildings so he decreed that they could be painted any color other than white. They chose the bright Caribbean colors of blue, green, yellow, and reds. The architecture has earned a designation as a UNESCO Heritage Site.

They allowed people to start getting off of the ship at 7:45.

After finishing our coffee, we ate breakfast in the Lido this morning. It wasn’t as crowded as I expected. It was also raining pretty hard so we were debating about whether to get off or not. Once we finished breakfast the sun was back out, we got our backpack together, got a bottle of water and left the ship around 9:30. Stopped at the visitor center and got a map. Again, we ran the gamut of vendors. We walked along the paved trail by the ocean. It was considered the historical trail and every now and then there would be a sign describing some aspect of Curacao. They were very informative.

Curacao is the “C” in the ABC islands. It is named for the Portuguese word “heart” when it was discovered in 1499. Curacao is 38 miles long and is about 7-8 miles at its widest points. Like Aruba, Curacao has a multi-cultural population, speaking Dutch, Papiamentu, English, and Spanish. The currency is the Florin, like Aruba. The cuisine is a mix of Caribbean, Dutch and Latin American flavors. Traditional dishes include kadushi (cactus soup) and Keshi Yena (baked gouda cheese stuffed with meat, raisins and olives). We tried neither of them.

An important role was played by Curacao during WWII. It was a vital conduit for Allied oil from Venezuela, and there was a large oil refinery here (as well as one on Aruba), which became a target of German U-boats and bombers. At various times during the war, 43 to 100 percent of the oil required by Allied forces came from the refinery on Curacao.

Many people associate Curacao with the liqueur of the same name. It is flavored with the dried peel of the Lahara citrus fruit which is grown on the island. It is orange-flavored, with varying degrees of bitterness, and when it is made, it is colorless but many times it is colored blue or orange before bottling. The Blue Hawaiian and the Blue Margarita are popular drinks made with Curacao. I’m not really a fan.

The trail we took led to the Rif Fort which has been incorporated into the Renaissance resort and casino mall area on the Otrobanda side (residential side) of Willemstad. People could still walk up the steps and walk on top of what remains of the fort which gave us a nice view of the entire area. It started raining again but very briefly and not very hard. Actually helped to cool us though we did bring our cooling cloths again.

We then kept walking to the pedestrian Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge, the only wooden pontoon bridge in the world. Sixteen pontoons float as the bridge swings open. She is nicknamed “The Swinging Old Lady.” From the ship, earlier that morning, I saw it swing open to allow some boats to come into the harbor area. However, while we were over there, no boats wanted to pass so the bridge remained intact. You could also take the free ferry from one side to the other.

We walked over to the other side of Willemstad – the Punda side (commercial area). We entered the Governor’s Palace courtyard and looked at Fort Amsterdam. Looked a lot like the Rif Fort. Both forts guarded the entrance of the harbor with large cannons so it must have been well protected in its day. Chuck asked the security guard at the entrance to the Palace if she thought the Prime Minister would see us since we had made a special trip. She took us seriously and told him no. Didn’t crack a smile. Probably gets that joke a hundred times a day. Stupid tourists.

Had my picture taken by a Chichi sculpture. The word chichi means ‘big sister’ in Papiamentu, the eldest daughter of the family, who binds the family in a caring and loving way together. Chichi is represented in Caribbean artwork as a sensual well-rounded figure, representing the responsible, dynamic and vibrant older sister. I thought it was an appropriate option for my picture.

It seemed to be getting hotter by the second so we decided to head back to the ship. I did find some free WIFI outside near the Pizza Hut so I was able to check emails and Facebook while sitting in the shade. Got the all good message from our cat sitter but since she responded on Sunday and today is Thursday, I just have to hope all is still good.

We did a brief walk through of the casino. Saw slot machines that I recognized but they appeared to payout in Florins. We didn’t play.

Once we were back on the ship, we changed into bathing suits and cover-ups. Ate a light lunch at the Lido. Was the least crowded of this entire trip. Found a table easily. After eating, spent some time in the hot tub and in the sea view pool. For a long time, we were the only ones in the pool which is always nice but then more people starting returning back to the ship and the pool was a popular option.

After spending some time in the sun, drying off and reading, came back to the nice cool room and took a nap. Wasn’t long before we heard the announcement that we would be setting sail.

Tonight was our Pinnacle Grill reservation for dinner so we planned to dress up for dinner. Chuck got finished dressing first so he went to the casino while I finished up.

Our reservations were at 7:00 and we were seated promptly even though the restaurant was very crowded. Again, the service and the food was outstanding as it has been on previous HAL cruises. I had the shrimp cocktail and the king crab legs while Chuck had the crab cakes and the cedar-plank halibut. We split a cheese plate for dessert. I had some of the coffee which is always good but very strong. I had a hard time sleeping this night.

We went to the BB King show and then went to the main stage show – Island Magic. It was a quartet of people from Trinidad who played the steel drums. I was expecting a reggae and calypso show but they played show tunes and classical musical on the steel drums. Very entertaining. We listened to several tunes from Andrew Lloyd Webber including the one from Phantom of the Opera. Also played Ave Maria.

Tomorrow is a sea day so after the show we went back to BB King and ended up a very late night. Tonight’s towel animal is a stingray.

Seaside historical trail and bright buildings.
Not much left of the Fort
Two chichi’s

PC – Day 6 – Aruba

Wednesday, November 7, 2018 – Aruba

Time in port today is 1:00 – 11:00 so there was no rush to get up and out. I still woke up at 7:00 and we were both ready for coffee. From the looks of this morning, it was going to be a beautiful day. We had no excursion planned as we have taken both the island tour and done some snorkeling before.

Aruba, part of the ABC islands, is located just off the coast of South America and is 19.6 miles in length and 6 miles across at its widest point. Aruba is a former Dutch colony though it is now its own country. However, Aruba is still part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is considered outside of the hurricane belt. The average temperature is 82 degrees. Aruba’s slogan is “One Happy Island.”

Languages spoken are Papiamento, Dutch, English, and Spanish. The origin of Papiamento is still a bit of a mystery. However, Arubans say that it was developed from Portuguese-African pidgin which was used as the language for communication between slaves and slave traders.

Though the US dollar is widely accepted, the currency is the Aruban Florin which is worth about 0.56 US Dollars.

Aruba has a national park – Arikok National Park which houses the natural pool and the Fontein Cave which are famous for the decorative brownish-red Arawak pictographs etched by the Amerindians. There are over 20 miles of hiking trails. It is home to a rare species of the burrowing owl. It lives in burrows in the ground hidden by cacti. It is one of Aruba’s national symbols and appears on postage stamps. There are numerous Divi Divi trees all over the island and they all lean the same way because of the winds.

Decided to eat in the main dining room this morning. I like eating there when I have no need to be anywhere specific. But the service can be slow, so I avoid it when I am in a hurry. We were seated at a table for eight. There was a couple from North Carolina and two couples from Florida (one originally from West Virginia, the other I don’t remember). I finished my breakfast before the others because I ordered fruit and oatmeal and they brought them both out as starters. I don’t know who could eat a big bowl of oatmeal and then eat more, but oatmeal is not considered the main meal. I chatted with people and read the flyer on upcoming cruises while they finished. Chuck had the western omelet. He ordered turkey sausage to go with it but they forgot to bring it.

After breakfast, we went to the gym. We were supposed to be going every day but this is the first day we have made it. It is small but well-equipped – bicycles, steppers, treadmills, free weights, weight machines, etc. There was a yoga class being conducted in the corner. Chuck got on the bike while I went to the treadmill. Since the gym is at the very front of the ship, I could feel the motion. I don’t normally have to hang on to the handrails of a treadmill but I did this one. As I was finishing the treadmill, Chuck was finishing with the rowing machine. He didn’t like it as much as he does the one at the rehab place.

We decided to finish our walk outside so we headed for the promenade deck and walked six laps around the ship which was 2 miles. Very breezy. Did feel good to get in some real exercise.

The location director was going to start her narration into Aruba around 11:45 so we got showers and I went out on Deck 10 to watch us sail in. I could have gone to the bow but I knew it would be crowded. As I was watching the sail in, the pilot boat was beside us and there were 3 dolphins swimming just right in front of it. One veered off but the other 2 were staying just in front. The little boat was gaining on them and I got so caught up in telling them to swim faster or veer off that I forgot to get a picture. The boat finally went over the top of them. I have to hope that they had dived down or veered off as I didn’t seem them again in all the froth made by the boat.

They made the announcement exactly at 1:00 that people could get off. We were eating lunch by the Lido pool of grilled chicken sandwiches from the Dive In Burger spot on deck. We finished, got the backpack, and some water and walked off about 2:00.

Of course there were a lot of vendors on the street offering rides to the beaches or tours of the island. I looked for the free trolley but didn’t see one. We walked along the main road toward Fort Zoutman/William III Tower which now serves as the Historical Museum of Aruba. It is one of the oldest building on the island. We passed a number of high-end shops, casinos, and craft markets as well as sculptures. The fort/museum was small (at its heyday It only housed 25 people) but we enjoyed listening to the docent and looking at the artifacts. We climbed 4 flights to get to the top of the bell tower. And it was a climb as there were no regular steps, just ladders. But the view was great.

Walked back along a different street toward the ship and looked at the different artwork that had been built. Even turned some solar panels into a work of art. Before leaving home, I ordered from Amazon two “cooling cloths.” You are supposed to wet them with cold water, wring them out, and then “snap” them. The snap activates the cloth into getting cold. When the coolness starts to wear off, you snap them again and they are cold again. I specifically bought them for our tour in Costa Rica but we decided to try them in Aruba. I thought it worked pretty well. We had them wrapped around our neck and snapped them a couple of times during our walk to help stay cool because it was sweltering. It had to be higher than the average 82 degrees.

Once we got back, we needed another shower. Got cleaned up for the evening. It was casual night so we both just wore jeans. Went to the Crow’s Nest and talked to some people about their tours that day in Aruba. At dinner, we sat with one of the couples we had had dinner with on a previous night. They were from Florida and we really enjoyed their company. I had the carne asada – thin slices of steak on top of black beans and rice, with a side of guacamole and salsa. Chuck had the regular NY strip steak. I had ice cream for dessert. Chuck skipped dessert.

Since we would be in port until 11:00 tonight, there was not a lot happening on the ship. BB King band had the night off and there was no main stage production. They were going to show Mama Mia 2 on the big screen but neither Chuck nor I cared to see it. All the shops and the casino were closed. We did watch the one hour presentation on the history of the Panama Canal. There was a DJ playing some dance music in the lounge so we hung out there for a while.

Decided to call it a night about 11:00 and came on back to the room. Laundry was there, ready to be put away. Towel animal, I assume, was a flying fish. Tomorrow is Curacao. Again, no specific plans for the day.

No bull, just hanging out.


Fort Zoutman
Steep climb to the Top!
One example of beautiful city artwork

PC – Day 5 – First Sea Day

Tuesday, November 6, 2018 – Sea Day

I woke up at 7:00 this morning (stupid time change). Walked out to the deck and the sun was already bright in the sky. Walked over the other side and I am going to assume that the island I saw was Cuba. It was large but that is all I can say for sure. Also saw another ship in the distance. Probably a cruise ship. Later today we are supposed to enter a channel that the Captain called the “sea highway.” It is very regulated and once you enter it, you have to be going in the same direction as the other ships on your side of the highway. Not sure how it is regulated. I have not seen any ships that have the bumper sticker “How’s My Driving? Call 1-800-BIG-BOAT”

I finished my Latte and got the clean laundry put away. With Chuck still asleep, I decided to go on for some breakfast and get some sun. Still talking about rain showers in the afternoon so I wanted to take advantage of the pretty day. Left Chuck a note and went to the Lido. As usual, it was crowded but I was able to find a seat. Had a bagel, some yogurt, and juice. I found a nice spot on the Sea View deck away from the smoking area and settled in with my book. A while later, Chuck came out and I went inside with him and had some fruit while he ate breakfast.

My chair was occupied when I got back but there were plenty of others. If it had been a Carnival ship, all the loungers would have been taken. I settled in with my book again but it wasn’t long before a lady one lounger away commented that she liked my ballet-type swim shoes. I thanked her and told her why I liked these instead of my heavier ones. For the next couple of hours, I found out about her travel interests and her health issues. I never got back to my book. Did watch a very tiny green bird (finch size) hopping around the deck. Woman said she thought it had been on since Ft. Lauderdale. Later I saw a dead one on a ledge near our cabin. I think it flew into a window. Also watched a hawk-like bird staying right with the ship. Never did see it dive for any fish.

We passed the island of Haiti. The sea was very calm. There were several long canoes with people in them sailing near the coast. I think I would be worried that the wake of the ship would capsize my canoe but it didn’t appear to worry any of them. The mountains were beautiful.

At noon, I decided I had had enough sun for the day and needed a shower. Wasn’t ready to get cleaned up for Gala evening but I didn’t want to walk around with all the sweat and sunscreen for the rest of the day either. Got my shower but just put on clean shorts and a t-shirt and a ballcap on my head. Met up with Chuck and went for some lunch in the Lido. Shared a table with another couple.

You just have to sit at an open seat in the Lido if you want to sit. Rarely are you going to find a private table. If you don’t go on and sit at an open seat, you will be circling the Lido until your food gets cold. Most people are fine with your sitting there.

Killed some time at the main pool area (in the shade) until it was time to go to the presentation regarding Aruba and Curacao. I used to avoid these presentations because I thought they were going to be hard sells on ship excursions. Went to one of them in Alaska and found out that they are really just informational. Since we don’t have anything planned for the next 2 ports, I wanted to see what was available. Believe we are going to take the free trolley ride around Oranjestad in Aruba and do some walking in Curacao. I would like to find places with free WIFI also if possible.

Before we left, the doctor had adjusted one of Chuck’s medication because his heart rate was too slow. But doing so, his blood pressure had started going back up. The doctor said to monitor it for a few days and if it remained high, to start taking his blood pressure medicine twice a day. The medical center opened at 3:00 so he went to get it checked. The nurse said that if she checked it and it was too high or too low, he would need to see the doctor and be charged for the visit. Since Chuck knew what needed to be done if it was still too high, she let him check his own without her presence. It was still high so he has started to take an extra BP pill at night.

While he was doing checking on his blood pressure, I was reading in the shade. Once he was finished, he went to the casino. I told him I would be getting ready for the evening around 5:00. I started getting sleepy so I went to the room for a nap. Set the alarm for 5:00 but Chuck got there about 4:45.

It was Gala night so Chuck put on his sport coat and I got out my blue/black dress. We had a drink in the Crow’s Nest. The comedian from the night before was at the bar. We talked with him a while. He is getting off of the ship in Curacao. Will be home for a while and then getting back on the Prinsendam to do a show. The dinner was very good. Chuck had the cracked peppercorn beef with shrimp. I had the yellowtail sole. We both had the shrimp cocktail. We skipped dessert.

We sat with a couple from Florida, a couple from Detroit (he was a speech pathology professor at University of Michigan), and a priest. Holland America offers Mass every morning and he was the priest who was hired to conduct the services on this cruise. He is retired from Pennsylvania and now lives in Florida and offers his services to cruise ships part-time. We had a nice evening. However, there was an announcement for a medical emergency at the Sea View deck. The priest said he hoped he would not be called. It has happened to him before. There was no more announcements.

Went to the first set of the BB King band. Only played one song that was suitable to dance – Midnight Train to Georgia. We enjoyed listening to the other songs. They have a wide selection. After that set, we went to the main stage area for the show – Zuiderdam Singers and Dancers performed “One World.” Had some interesting special effects and even had one dancer perform on the ropes like they do in Cirque du Soleil. I have found the shows performed by the ship singers and dancers to be a hit or miss (seen better high school musicals). This one was definitely a hit- very professional. I look forward to the other ones.

I called it an evening while Chuck went back to the casino. Instead of hitting the 10 button on the elevator, I pressed the 9. I don’t think I meant to hit the 9 but maybe my stomach was controlling my mind because I thought, well, as long as I am here, I might as well get a dessert to take to the room. I got some ice cream and a cookie. Once I got in bed, I tried to read but only got through a couple of pages before I fell asleep. Not sure what time Chuck got back to the room. Tonight’s towel animal is a question. I thought it was a frog. Chuck thought it might be a dog.

Tomorrow is Aruba. Approximately around noon, the location host is going to narrate as we sail into the Aruba port. The bow will be open but I think I will just be on the 10th deck near our room.

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