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81Zoomie

Jan 3-11 Live from the Zuiderdam

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Just got myself updated with all the reading! Love your blog and the pictures. I am happy your having a great time

Denise😊

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Just got caught up with your wonderful reports.

 

Sorry that you missed Cozumel and so many of the crew didn't that much needed time off.

 

Your sting ray pictures are beautiful.

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Day 7 - Costa Maya

 
Day 7 found us starting out much like day 6.  We were approaching Costa Maya with a large ship behind us and another in the distance.  It was windy.  I thought the seas are a little more accommodating than the previous day.  Today, however, there was rain around.  We were the first ship in.  We appeared to be backing in.  Then we stopped.  Then we hovered.  Then it poured.  Off in the distance there was a rainbow.  I felt like it was a good sign!  Finally, after a long hover in place we crept ever so slowly toward the pier. The Captain came on to say it was a very challenging docking at the edge of the ships capabilities and that one ship had already sailed by.  Once the ship was cleared we gathered out items and off we went!
 
If you ask HAL we were in Costa Maya.  This is an artificial name and town much like Amber Cove.  It is a private cruise line built area complete with winding streets, a pool, lots of shops (the usual suspects), a flamingo pen, and bars.  The name of the town in this spot is actually Mahahual.  The local villages are actually quite small and generally self sustaining.
 
We booked a highly rated tour through a third party.  It was a short 4 block walk once we navigated through the Costa Maya maze of shops.  We were going to the ruins at  Cacchoben and then to the Blue Lagoon.  Our group of 16 boarded our air conditioned Mercedes Sprinter van and off it went.  It took approximately 50 minutes to reach the ruins.  Our tour guide pointed out we were the first to arrive.  How great is that? If we hurried, we could get pictures before the crowds appeared. Perfect!  We wandered around each of the Mayan temples before the bus loads of other tours arrived.  At each temple, we were leaving as others arrived.  We learned about the Mayan history, how the ruins are hidden by the jungle after thousands of years, and were able to walk the ancient paths.  The paths were quite flat.  Some of the rock steps were quite tall.
 
Forty minutes later we were back in the bus for a ride to the Blue Lagoon.  We slowed to a near stop and turned off the highway onto a dirt road.  The only marker, a canvas sign that said “Blue Lagoon.”  Our tour guide joked that this was a “road massage.”  The dirt road was narrow, and littered with bumps and holes as we jostled our was through the medium jungle.  To the sides were rows of pineapple plants and banana trees.  We drove for what seemed like 1-2 miles into literally the middle of nowhere.  Suddenly, out popped concrete bungalows and a smooth rocky surface.  We had arrived at the small resort.  Only 2 people beat us there!  We were treated to an authentic lunch of corn tacos, beef, pork, chicken, even vegetarian.  There was salad, beans, rice, and an assortment of spices described as mild, hot, and hotter. Our guide mentioned in his family the each eat a habanero pepper at every meal and jalapeños are like candy!  Margaritas, beer, and soft drinks were included.
 
The water in the Lagoon (2nd largest lake in Mexico) was beautiful shades of aqua.  It was cool but not cold. There were kayaks and tubes you could use which were included.  Rows of beach chairs awaited us and well and small playgrounds for the children.  The bottom had some lime stone, and I would recommend water shoes if you visit.  It was quite relaxing.  After nearly 2 hours, it was time to return to the port.  I slept the 1 hour drive back.  It was a very nice tour and we learned a lot about the local culture.
 
Upon arriving back at the port I had one shopping goal.... a bottle of tequila which I missed buying in Cozumel.  Wouldn’t you know it, I couldn’t find a duty free liquor store.  There was a ”Tequila Museum”, that was quite staged, but no other store. Oh well, I will have to get over my quest for ‘only available in Mexico’ tequila.
 
Once back on the boat I read on the verandah while DH napped.  There was a downpour that caught folks on the long pier as they were returning to the ships.  It came up very quickly.  We were very fortunate with the weather.  The forecast called for 100% chance of rain.  It only rained when we arrived and before we left.  The weather was right about 80 degrees with a generous breeze.  Our tour guide mentioned the temps can climb to 110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer!  I am also happy to report there were no bugs or mosquitos with the exception of a few flies.
 
It is gala night tonight, so we went to the dining room for surf and turf.  The lobster was better than the steak.  The Tiramisu was excellent!  DH wanted to stop by the casino so we did.  At 9:15 there was a parade of chocolate on deck 2 music walk. All of a sudden many waiters appeared carrying trays of mini cakes, marshmallow pops, chocolate, and mini lemon meringue cones.  It was awesome.  HAL should do this more frequently!  Now nearing a chocolate coma.... we went to see the Step One dancers.  They are a talented group.  I did tend to lose a bit of interest with the video projection and the repetitive theme.  Or maybe, it was just because I was tired.  It was time for bed.
 
The Captain told us to expect a rough night.  You could feel the rocking begin to pick up.  Off to sleep we went...
 
PS - Quick note about cell service.  Our T-Mobile text when we came out of airplane mode in Costa Maya said “Cruise Ship plan” instead of the usual “welcome to Mexico.” I think the WiFi (port town) was provided by the cruise line.  We never got any other cell service ashore.  Usually in Mexico and Canada we can use our phones just like in the states.  This didn’t happen in Costa Maya or the places we visited today. There was no WiFi or cell service available to us on TMobile.
 

 

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Edited by 81Zoomie

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Enjoyed your readings this am👍
Glad you had a nice excursion even with all the bumps and pot holes to get to your destination!! I bet the food was wonderful.

Nice pictures also. 
Thank you!

Denise😊

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16 hours ago, 3rdGenCunarder said:

Is the dance company on board? One Step, or something like that?

 

The Step One Dance Company is on board.  I have seen 3 men and 2 women during the performances.  It is not clear if they are on for the entire trip or if they rotate to other ships when in port.  There have been no dance lessons as daily activities.  The only exception was a line dance lesson that was inserted into the activities  the day Cozumel was cancelled.  I am not certain who taught the line dancing.

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Day 8 - At Sea

 
Our final day at sea is beautiful even if the wind is blowing at 40 knots.  We slept in and had a leisurely breakfast at the Pinnacle.  The Texas French Toast was great.  We have had the mixed fruit plate every morning.  Berries must be out of season.  The plate has been watermelon, banana, cantaloupe, 1 raspberry, and 1 blackberry every morning.  I have not seen a blueberry, and the only strawberry is a sliced garnish on the French toast.  Same goes for pineapple.  It is missing in action except for a garnish/salsa at the Mexican food bar and grilled with an entree at dinner.
 
We read on the back deck and enjoyed the sound of the wake.  Fortunately, we are sheltered from the wind.  I joked with DH that we could put up video screens on our lanai at home and project the wake!  The lure of our balcony was stronger than the jewelry auction, bingo (3 cards for 4 games $29.99), and the t-shirt sale (2 for $20) at the Lido pool.  I did give into the temptation of Dive In French fries!  We plan to go to the Captains lecture/question and answer at 3pm.  Then....it’s time to pack the dreaded suitcases that appeared on our bed this morning!  At some point we will have the time to do a B2B and experience a turn around day!
 
The Captains question and answer was interesting as always.  First question asked, “Have you ever seen a UFO?”  Another question that drew a chuckle, “Did you really call the ship next to us a monstrosity?”  It is usually an informative and humorous discussion and today was no exception.
 
We accomplished our dreaded packing.  It’s amazing... but it goes so much easier with a glass of champagne in hand :-). We decided to go to dinner early to catch the 7:30 show with the comedian and the awesome magician.  Dinner was packed and it took longer than expected.  The Shrimp Crab Louie appetizer was quite tasty.  I recommend you avoid the Parmesan Crusted Pork Loin.  It was a dry tough piece of pork schnitzel with a few sprinkles of cheese on it.  We had to pass on dessert if we wanted to make the show.  I gave in hoping to snag something sweet later.  The show was very good and once again, the magician was amazing!  Did I get my dessert.... NO 😞.  At 8:20 the Lido was shut down with the exception of pasta and pizza.  The Neptune lounge had zip and they told us to call room service.  I still think it is very strange that a floating resort has no venue where you could get a piece of cake, a cookie, ice cream, etc. to grab and go after 8pm.  I guess we could have tried to get back into the dining room, but that didn’t sound like much fun.
 
The winds continued to blow and it was clear it would be another rough night.  We knew we wouldn’t sleep all that well the last night, so we turned in early.
 
Tomorrow..... we go home....
 
A few pics of the Dive In fries, the Lido at lunch (entrees, Mexican, dessert), and the dreaded suitcases
 

 

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Edited by 81Zoomie

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Day 9 - Disembarking and Looking Back

 
We were both up before 6am.  Through the crack in the curtains I could see the lit silhouette of a ship behind us.  We were still moving, but slowly.  The Zuiderdam slid along the dock shortly after 6am.  We went in head first, which is opposite of how the ship was docked when we departed.  DH and I popped down for one last Pinnacle breakfast.  I had mixed fruit and an omelet.  I figured this would be breakfast and lunch!
 
We have always self disembarked in order to get to the airport early.  Since we were driving this time, we sent our bags out last night.  We were in Group 1, 8:15.  The groups were called a bit early and we walked off at 7:45.  We found our suitcases, maneuvered to the Global Entry line, and were out the door.  It is a little bit of a walk to the parking garage.  If you have lots of luggage, I would recommend having someone wait at the curb and the other person bring the car around.  We were bags loaded, out of the garage, and a full tank of gas on Federal Highway by 8:15am!  I must say, it was a very different feeling for us leaving the ship today knowing we were driving home instead of flying.  We were so much calmer.  And for a late lunch on the road... an “unwich” from Jimmy Johns. A lettuce wrap, let the diet begin!
 
Looking back we had a nice cruise.  The goal for us was total relaxation and we booked this HAL cruise and our cabin with that in mind.  We wanted total relaxation.  This cruise was 100% on the mark with this goal in mind.  We loved our cabin!  The crew worked very hard and was so eager to please.  Everything is subjective.  I will reflect giving my opinions.  Your thoughts may be different, and that is OK.
 
Things HAL/Zuiderdam does well:
 
- Friendly helpful crew. Our stateroom was immaculate!
- The Zuidy was in excellent condition.  Interior was well coordinated and had a more contemporary vibe.  Everything was in excellent shape and worked well.
- Things feel classy, not trendy
- In general, the food and service was very good.  Menu was well marked with gluten free and vegetarian options.
- Fresh squeezed OJ
- Generous sized cabins, balconies, and plenty of storage.
- Good availability of lounge chairs during the day.
- Wide promenade deck you can walk around with old school teak chairs on this ship.
- Flowers, especially orchids were lovely.  (They are not as plentiful as before.)
- The Dive In French fries and Mexican buffet bar by the Lido pool
- Classical music at the Lincoln Stage
- BB King band is great, but size of the venue is limiting.
- No more smoking in the casino!
- Well qualified crew who put safety first even if it meant missing a port.
 
Things HAL could improve:
 
- It appears staffing has been It to the bone. As examples: We saw no asst stateroom attendants, no buss boys, and a limited number of drink servers.  Cruise director staff consisted of a cruise director, entertainment director, and 3 HAL club personnel.
- Entertainment.  The magician was great.  The comedian was funny.  The Step One Dancers were very talented, but their performances became repetitive.  There is no live music during the day.  No broadway or cirque du soleal type shows in the theatre.  No musicians or vocalists in the theatre.
- Daily ‘What and Where’ agenda was very repetitive. Foot print analysis, Microsoft classes (6 one day), meet for pickle ball, meet for tennis, port shopping, jewelry lectures, etc...  
- No cooking demos.  No chefs table or wine dinner.  No liquor tasting seminars with the exception of wine.
- No escargot.  No more bread sticks.  Only 3 basic flavors of ice cream each day, with a 4th rotating (dairy free available upon request). No gelato, sorbet, or sherbet in the Lido.  There Is no dessert available after dinner (8pm) with the exception of room service or if you are eating late in the dining room.
- Bar hours were not listed in the daily program.  Some bars were closed in the late afternoon/early evening.  Happy hour is no longer available shortly before dinner.  It is now at noon, 3 pm, and 9pm.  Regular well cocktails and their prices were not printed in the bar menus.  Several of the bars were near empty after dinner.
 
The one thing that was apparent, everywhere, is that the atmosphere lacked energy, lacked fun.  What’s fun you ask?  Learning to play a steel drum.  Singing along with a vibrant pianist.  Watching a flight of 7 martinis being poured.  Taking a tango lesson.  Some type of passenger crew competition.  A bar with a vocalist or band before dinner.  A put put golf challenge.  A Bourbon tasting.  Expand on the Orange party concept to an Orange day (Orange Julius drinks, orange sherbet, orange pancakes, orange mashed potatoes, orange cookies, crew in orange shirts) that culminates in an Orange Party. Everyone’s idea of fun is different, these are simply my thoughts, everyone’s idea of fun is different.
 
Our next cruise will be in March on the Celebrity Equinox.  We do not often cruise in such close proximity.  The March cruise is a family event with my brother and his DW and we had to negotiate on the timing, price, and ship. Sitting over lunch DH and I were trying to do rough math to see how the all inclusive Celebrity pricing (drinks, grats, internet, and OBC; Veterans Day sale) compares to our HAL cruise with just a little OBC.  It will require a pad and pencil.  We are looking forward to comparing the two products since we will be in a suite on Celebrity for the first time.  It will be an apples to apples comparison.  The one thing I can say for certain, is that our aft verandah on The Zuidy was priceless!!!
 
Another cruise is in the books with one on the horizon.  We hope wherever and whenever you sail, you find smooth seas and happy sailing!  Bon Voyage!

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1 hour ago, 81Zoomie said:

The one thing that was apparent, everywhere, is that the atmosphere lacked energy, lacked fun.  What’s fun you ask?  Learning to play a steel drum.  Singing along with a vibrant pianist.  Watching a flight of 7 martinis being poured.  Taking a tango lesson.  Some type of passenger crew competition.  A bar with a vocalist or band before dinner.  A put put golf challenge.  A Bourbon tasting.  Expand on the Orange party concept to an Orange day (Orange Julius drinks, orange sherbet, orange pancakes, orange mashed potatoes, orange cookies, crew in orange shirts) that culminates in an Orange Party. Everyone’s idea of fun is different, these are simply my thoughts, everyone’s idea of fun is different.

 

I completely agree!  We sailed the Celebrity Edge in the Western Caribbean this past December after canceling a similar cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam.  Lots of energy and fun on Celebrity if you wanted it, and if you didn't lots of quiet places too!  Yes, the Edge cruise was more expensive (its a new ship) but IMO well worth it.  We have one more cruise scheduled with HAL because of its a very unique itinerary - Norway, Iceland and northern Scotland on the Zuiderdam - and we are managing our expectations when we're not off the ship.  But its safe to say we won't sail on HAL in the Caribbean anymore.  

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11 minutes ago, baggal said:

 

I completely agree!  We sailed the Celebrity Edge in the Western Caribbean this past December after canceling a similar cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam.  Lots of energy and fun on Celebrity if you wanted it, and if you didn't lots of quiet places too!  Yes, the Edge cruise was more expensive (its a new ship) but IMO well worth it.  We have one more cruise scheduled with HAL because of its a very unique itinerary - Norway, Iceland and northern Scotland on the Zuiderdam - and we are managing our expectations when we're not off the ship.  But its safe to say we won't sail on HAL in the Caribbean anymore.  

 

Are you on the August 21 st trip ?

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Just got caught up with your reports and the concluding thoughts of your cruise.

 

Glad you enjoyed your Neptune Suite.

 

Hope you write a comparison of your Celebrity cruise to this one.

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52 minutes ago, scubacruiserx2 said:

 

Are you on the August 21 st trip ?

 

No.  July 2, 2020.  HAL definitely has much more varied itineraries that the other mass market lines and we chose that particular cruise because of the timing (July instead of August which works better for us) as well as more ports in Norway.  

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21 minutes ago, baggal said:

 

No.  July 2, 2020.  HAL definitely has much more varied itineraries that the other mass market lines and we chose that particular cruise because of the timing (July instead of August which works better for us) as well as more ports in Norway.  

 

We did that cruise last June and did a photo travelogue that you might find helpful 

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, 81Zoomie said:

No chefs table or wine dinner.

 

Thanks for a very interesting report and observations 😄 

 

FYI, I’ve been told that a cruise needs to be at least 10 - 11 days to do the Cellar Master Dinner.  Same for the Master Chef Table although I believe that is no longer being offered. 😞 

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2 hours ago, scubacruiserx2 said:

 

We did that cruise last June and did a photo travelogue that you might find helpful 

 

 

 

Thank you!  I know I looked at your review a few months ago, but now that I'm in the serious planning stages I'm going to take a better look at it.  Thanks again!

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