Rome In A Day

Rome

fountain in Rome

They say you can’t see Rome in a day, but if a day is all you have you see what you can. Carnival Vista made a port stop in Civitavecchia, which is as close as a ship gets to Rome – about 47 miles or 75 kilometers away. People who try to see Rome on their own risk getting left behind because lines into pretty much any tourist attraction are sometimes extremely long and traffic between the port and Rome can get very heavy. Trains are an option, but European trains can be unreliable at times. A crew musician on our tour said he went with ship tours after almost getting left behind once when he ventured out on his own to Rome on a previous cruise and the trains suddenly stopped running leaving him scrambling for another way back. Booking a tour whether through the ship or a reliable outside source is the way to go when visiting Rome by cruise ship. Tours have reliable transportation and advance tickets to bypass the lines. Booking through the ship comes with the guarantee that it will wait should your excursion return late, an advantage you don’t get with outside tours.

Roman colosseum

Rome’s colosseum

We took a ship’s tour that went to the colosseum, Vatican museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. We chose that one because out of the tours the ship offered it went inside the most things. Bus numbers were assigned by order of arrival to the meeting lounge so who got the best or worst guides was pretty much luck of the draw. We started out with a female guide in charge of the group who rode from the port and back with us, then stopped at a train station in Rome to pick up a male guide who did the actual talking at the attractions. He was dropped off back at the train station before we returned to the port.

gateway to nothing

old gate near the colosseum

Since the ship had this itinerary open for booking long in advance of the actual cruise one would think they would have the excursion tickets arranged in advance for times that work with the ship’s schedule, but we were given a time to arrive at the colosseum that was earlier than the bus could make it through the traffic, and a time too close to that one for the Vatican for us to make it there on time either. At least that was what our guides said. There is normally a lunch break between the two, but we were told they were unable to get afternoon tickets for us so we had to fit both in early and then have lunch and free time afterword – though they may have just said that because the guide didn’t want us to eat at the Vatican Museum’s café.

in Rome's colosseum

inside the colosseum

Once we got to the colosseum we got just inside the entrance and beyond the crowd of people coming in, but not close enough to see much of anything when the male guide stopped the group while he yakked and yakked. The female guide had gone off with a couple who should never have signed up for a tour listed as mainly walking since they could barely get on and off the bus. One guide or the other had to take them to an accessible area at every stop, leaving the rest of the group with just one guide most of the time. They would have been better off on an accessible tour, which the ship did offer.

lower levels of colosseum

platform for viewing the remains of the inner workings of the colosseum

Other guides led their groups around showing them things while they talked, but when our guide finished his lengthy spiel he just said look around for half an hour and then meet at that spot. Once we finally got inside we could see a large platform with the best close-up view down into the lower area in the whole colosseum. Only groups with guides could go down there so it would have been nice if he’d done his spiel there so we could have seen that as well as having a view of the inside of the colosseum throughout his long talk. We did not have good luck with guides in Europe. First the one in Herculaneum, then this pair. It’s not that there weren’t any good guides in all of Europe. People on different busses on the same excursion from our ship had great guides. We just always ended up with the bad ones.

Roman colosseum

almost in the colosseum

Although it is crowded, as all attractions in Rome are, the Colosseum is impressive and interesting to see. The things ancient people constructed without modern technology are pretty amazing. Arches around the outside on the lowest level were all gates that let 50,000 people enter in 15 minutes time. Far faster than people can enter in modern times through one gate and security scanners.

Vatican Museum

inside the Vatican Museum

Once there was a floor over all the things down at ground level, and underneath that was a staging area for animals, gladiators, or whatever was on show. They had elevators to bring them up to the arena when it was their turn to perform.

Vatican Museum

the Vatican Museum has a seemingly endless corridor of exhibit chambers

Contrary to popular belief, gladiators rarely fought to the death. Their masters had too much time and money invested in their training and upkeep to lose them that often. According to our guide only one Christian was executed there, the rest being killed in other venues. The Colosseum did see its share of bloodshed though with thousands of people (often executions of petty criminals) and animals dying there for the entertainment of others.

vatican museum

painted ceiling in the Vatican Museum

At the entrance to Vatican City we walked quickly past a long line of people likely facing a 3-hour wait to get in and went straight to the door, an advantage of booking an excursion with advance tickets. Once inside we went to an area with pictures of the paintings in the Sistine Chapel, which the guide talked about for awhile as there is not supposed to be any talking once inside the chapel itself. There are also no photos allowed in there, though some people think the rules don’t apply to them and take photos or even videos anyway. There were a lot of phones and tablets held above the crowd snapping away without a care that no photos should be taken there – and the crowd was not quiet either. Photos were allowed in the Vatican museum and in St.Peter’s Bacsilica, though no flash was allowed in the museum.

Vatican Museum

each person is like a drop in a human river flowing through the Vatican Museum

Walking through the Vatican Museum feels something like being part of a human river that flows through from one end to the other. The museum itself is rather like a long hallway, though there is a bit of a dividing doorway between each chamber. It has ornate ceilings and walls. A lot of the exhibits are from ancient Rome. Most photos are taken upward, over the heads of the living river. The first area has statues lined up along the walls, most of which are nude. Once through the statue area there are chambers of tapestries and maps. The row of chambers goes on for quite a long way.

Vatican museum

ceiling of one chamber

The Sistine Chapel is fairly small, especially when compared with the Vatican Museum and Saint Peter’s Basilica. The lower walls were painted first, the ceiling later, and last of all the end wall representing judgment day. Each is a bit different style of art representing early, middle, and late renaissance styles.

near the Sistine Chapel

pictures of the paintings inside the Sistine Chapel

Pictures in the Sistine Chapel show scenes from stories throughout the bible from creation to the final judgement day wall. One wall scene that shows the parting of the red sea has a column in the middle representing the finger of god. When Michel Angelo painted the ceiling he put a picture of the creation of Adam where the finger of god in that painting lines up with the column in the other. He also put the face of a cardinal who judged his work unfavorably onto Minos from Hades, who judges people deciding who ends up in hell.

Vatican

outside wall between buildings

Saint Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world. It’s so big it could hold two football fields inside. It is very ornate with statues and paintings and an enormous wood carving above the high alter which is believed to be directly above St. Peter’s tomb. Every painting, statue, or carving has a story to tell if only they could talk. The current basilica was built between 1506 and 1626, replacing Old Saint Peter’s Basilica which had been built in the 4th century AD. Saint Peter was one of Christ’s apostles and died sometime around AD 64-68, so long before the original basilica was built. Large as the basilica is, and with quite a few different alcoves, an area high on the side of one alcove was pointed out as where women were allowed to sit. Apparently women were not very highly thought of in old Rome.

Saint Peter's Basilica

inside Saint Peter’s Basilica

The basilica is very ornate with statues and carvings everywhere. If you enter through the door of forgiveness during a jubilee year the catholics say that all your sins are forgiven – but while we were there they said only if you believe that to be true.

Saint Peter's Basilica

Alter in Saint Peter’s Basilica

After we left the Vatican our guide said she knew of a place where we could get lunch cheap and that all the other places around were very expensive. She also said food inside the Vatican cost a lot and that we would wait for lunch until we came out, not even giving anyone the option to see what was there or what it cost. It turned out that the place she led everyone to was actually the highest priced café around. Food there cost considerably more than other nearby places and it served pre-made food that was mediocre at best. It did not have any prices posted so nobody knew until they went to pay how high the prices were. Other nearby eateries posted much lower prices, but of course she made sure nobody saw that until it was too late.

statue

statue inside Saint Peter’s Basilica

Someone we talked to back on the ship said their group had lunch inside the Vatican before they did the tour and that the food inside didn’t cost much at all. She also said they had just half an hour’s free time left over when they finished their tour, while our group had another two hours left after our late lunch. So much of our tour time was wasted because the guide cared more about taking people to an overpriced café than about the tour she was being paid to lead.

Rome

Saint Peter’s Basilica

It had started raining before we left the Vatican. Not many people wanted to wander around and shop. Much of our group spent most of the time waiting near the meeting area for the guide to come back so they could get on the bus back to the ship, all the while wishing there had been more time to see the attractions we came to tour instead of all that free time at the end with nothing to see but souvenir shops. It just goes to show that the guide makes all the difference in the success of a tour. Rumor had it she got a free lunch for leading people to that particular café. Perhaps a portion of the profit as well since she was very careful to make sure the owner knew exactly which people and how many she brought in. She also first brought us to a gift shop with only two toilets for a bathroom break where everyone had to wait in a very long line when the café had much bigger restrooms, so all in all our group definitely did not get the best pair of guides. The couple who could barely walk were not the fault of the guides, but the rest of the issues were.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2018
Advertisements
Posted in Carnival, Europe, Ports of Call, Shore Excursions, Vista | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Snorkeling in Alaska

Ketchikan cruise ship dock

Trolley by Oosterdam in Ketchikan

Mountain Point Snorkeling Adventure

Snorkeling in Alaska? Brrrr. Way too cold. That’s what a lot of people think. I used to be one of them. If you went straight into the water in just a swimming suit like in tropical areas they’d be right. But you don’t. At snorkelalaska.com snorkelers are provided with 7ml full body wetsuits, boots, hoods, and gloves. We went on a cold and rainy day with weather bad enough that our friend’s flightseeing trip got cancelled. In spite of the cold wet day we stayed warmer in the water than out. It’s actually a good excursion for a rainy day because if you’re going to get wet no matter what you do you might as well get wet intentionally. It rains a lot in Ketchikan so it’s nice to book something you can do on a rainy day. It’s even better if you get to do this excursion on nice day.

getting ready to snorkel in Alaska

passing out the snorkel gear

If you come to Ketchikan by cruise ship you can book this excellent snorkel adventure through your ship. On the Holland America Oosterdam it was called Mountain Point Snorkeling Adventure, same as on the snorkel Alaska website. Wear a swimsuit under your clothes when leaving the ship and remember to pack a towel and underwear so you can dry off and change after snorkeling. There’s an optional outdoor shower and hot chocolate available for everyone at the shop where it starts and ends. There’s also the option to buy souvenir hats and t-shirts.

Norwegian Pearl in Ketchikan

Norweigan Pearl in the fog on a rainy day in Ketchikan

We went with a mixed group of people from the Oosterdam and Norwegian Pearl. Mostly from the Pearl. Snorkel Alaska people picked us up in a van near the cruise ship docks. First we stopped at their shop for instructions and suiting up. They have quite a quantity of supplies and handed out wetsuits according to height and weight and boots according to shoe size. The most difficult part of the whole adventure is getting the wetsuit on. Their most important instruction is to put the zipper in the back. There’s always that one person who didn’t pay attention, puts the zipper in front, and then has to start over. Well in our group there was anyway.

getting ready to snorkel

sitting at the edge of the water putting on fins and masks

Once suited up fins and masks were handed out from a truck. They also had optional weight belts for people who wanted to be able to dive down a bit. Wetsuits are buoyant so weights help you to get underwater when wearing one. Anything not needed last minute stayed at the shop. Phones and non-waterproof cameras could come out to the beach for last-minute photos and then get left with the vans. Waterproof cameras could of course come along for the entire adventure.

kelp and fish

kelp and fish

A short van ride from the shop brought us to Mountain Point, the snorkeling site. A trail led through some trees to the rocky beach and somewhat of a natural stone stairway at the entry point into the water. There the guides helped with masks, fins, and gloves and got everyone into the water. When everyone was ready we all set out following a guide to places where they knew we would find interesting things to see.

sea urchin

sea urchin under the water

Alaska may not have the coral you see when snorkeling in the tropics, but there is plenty to see. There was a lot more color than I expected. Rocky areas had brightly colored starfish and sea urchins. Some of the deeper spots had seagrass where lots of little fish and some crabs found places to hide. Seaweed grows on some of the rocky walls lining the shore. It looks much prettier standing under the water swaying with the current than it does lying flat on the rocks when exposed by the tides.

sea urchin and clams

sea urchin with clams

One urchin had a couple little clams open on top of it. I asked the guide who would be eating who and she said urchins are vegetarians and the clams might have just found a place to sit. There were lots of clam shells at the bottom and a very large clam clinging to the side of a rock.

crab

crab under the sea

I also saw a variety of crabs large and small and a few snails. Some of the sealife is brightly colored and some is not. The starfish and urchins are mostly quite bright, but there were a few white sea stars. The sea urchins came in red and purple and ranged from fairly small to quite large. Starfish too came in many sizes, mainly orange, red, or purple.

sea urchin

snorkeler with a sea urchin

We started out in a sheltered cove with rocks all around and very few waves. After a snorkeling around a bit the guides gathered everyone up and brought up things like sea urchins and starfish to show people above the water.

starfish and snorkelers

snorkeler with a starfish

Later people who wanted to went outside along one edge of the rocks where the water had more movement. There a small crab clung to a clump of seaweed bouncing in the waves. Here and there kelp grew tall with long fronds trailing down from the surface. Some schools of small fish swam about while other fish stayed near the safety of the rocks.

starfish

starfish under the sea

When everyone finished snorkeling the vans brought us back to the shop where we were asked to take the boots off before going inside to keep the water in them off the shop floor.  Wetsuits were optional for taking off inside the shop or out, just as the outdoor shower was optional. Clothes and towels sat in the dressing rooms in the exact spots where people left them.

trolley in Ketchikan

trolley at the cruise ship docks in Ketchikan

Once people finished with showering and changing there was time to enjoy free hot chocolate and browse the gift shop. The adventure ended with a trolley ride back to the ship. For anyone visiting Ketchikan, whether by cruise ship or not, this is definitely a fun adventure worth doing while you are there. Whether you have snorkeled before or not, I’d recommend it either way.

white sea star

white sea star

More Blogs About Ketchikan

Dolly’s House

Duck Tour

Trolley Tour

Rainforest Hike

Walking Tour

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2018

 

Posted in Alaska, Holland America, Norwegian, Oosterdam, Pearl, Port Cities, Ports of Call, Shore Excursions, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cruising to Cuba

cruise ship in Havana

Holland America Veendam in Havana

If you are not from the USA and are sailing on a ship leaving from anywhere else in the world then Cuba is probably just another cruise ship port without that much difference from any other. Some ships even embark passengers there. If however you are American or cruising on a ship sailing from the USA, Cuba is far from the standard port stop.

old fort in Havana

fort at the entrance to the port in Havana

For decades Cuba was out of reach as a place where the average American could visit. Obama made travel there easier and cruise ships began to include Cuba in their itineraries. Trump came along and tightened the rules so while cruising to Cuba is still within the realm of possibility for now, it’s not as easy as it once was and only likely to get worse.

Veendam sailing into Havana

view of Havana from the Veendam as it sails into port

Cruising to Cuba comes with a mountain of paperwork and a lot of regulations. Luckily the cruise lines who sail there know what these are. We went with Holland America. They took care of all the necessary paperwork as well as supplying visas to anyone who booked shore excursions through them. Which is pretty much anyone who wants to disembark from the ship in Cuba because if you didn’t book the cruise before June of 2017 you aren’t even allowed to try and fulfill all the regulations independently due to the tightening of the rules. This would happen on any American cruise line as it is an American government thing.

Havana view and Christ statue

View of Havana’s Christ statue on a hill across the water from the ship

Cruise ship tours in Cuba are designed to meet all the regulations and requirements imposed on visitors from America by the American government. The ship books all their tours through independent sources as they are not allowed to use any tour providers supported by the Cuban government. Americans are not allowed to visit Cuba just to be a tourist. There’s a multi-page affidavit with about 12 different categories people can visit under.

pilot boat

pilot boat following the Veendam in front of the Malecon on Havana’s shoreline

One of those is people to people, which is where the cruise ship passengers come in. This means every excursion has to include something involving the Cuban people. It’s often community projects or performance groups. The biggest benefit they get is the tips visitors leave them when they go. Wages are low in Cuba so any of the people who can provide any sort of service they get tourist tips for come out well ahead of those who don’t. Cuban people have free schooling and health care, and subsidies for necessities like food, but they don’t have a lot of material things and even basic products like soap can be hard to get.

cuban organic garden

organic gardens in Cuba often have flowers or other plants that repel insects at the end of each row (internet photo)

Organic farming began there out of necessity following the collapse of Cuba’s sugar cane industry after the breakup of the Soviet Union. It has become increasingly important as a means for Cuba to feed its own population rather than relying totally on imports from other countries. Though the organic farming started out of necessity due to the lack of availability of fertilizers and pesticides and the loss of the market for their sugarcane crops it has now become an example of how sustainable agriculture saved a population from starvation, and proof that crops don’t need to be poisoned with chemicals to thrive. Some of the farms are open to tourists.

apartments in Havana

some of the people in Havana have nice apartments

When ships from America stay in a Cuban port all day 8 hours of people to people is required so that is how long the tours are. Once your tour is complete you are free to roam about for the rest of the day, however if your ship overnights or has a second Cuban port you have to start over again with another 8 hour tour because that is required for each day. Our ship did not dock until 2pm so only 4 hour tours were required since we were just there for half the day. The ship did stay overnight, but with an 8am departure nobody was allowed out that morning, though some did stay out late into the night after finishing their required tours. Some passengers even opted to do an additional late evening tour after their daytime tour ended.

Havana hillside

other people’s homes are not so nice

Passports are required on voyages to Cuba, and the affidavit gets turned in during the boarding process. The visas cost $75 each and if lost it’s another $75 to replace it. Our ship provided the visas, which passengers had to fill out. Getting off the ship in Cuba requires 4 documents – passport, visa, ship card, and tour ticket.

waterfront shacks

shanties and little boats

You have to go through customs when you get off the ship, at which time they collect the required visa, stamp your passport, and take a picture of you in which you are not allowed to smile. You have to go through customs again on the way back, but it’s just the passport then.

Havana view

Havana view seen in passing as the ship came into port

There’s a money exchange at the port, but Cuba has a 10% tax on exchanging American money so it’s better to bring Euros or Canadian dollars. Mexican pesos work too if you happen to have any leftover if your ship stopped in Mexico on the way to Cuba. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything money is needed to tip tour guides and the folks at whatever people to people experience they bring you to. Those people count on the tourist dollars to provide them with a means for a better living, though some people do leave their tips in currencies other than Cuban. Credit or debit cards from banks in the USA are not accepted in Cuba so unless you have one from a different country you will need cash to make any purchases.

old Havana

old Havana view from ship

While the USA has had embargos against Cuba for decades, other countries have not so they aren’t as stuck in the past as some people think. There still are a lot of the old 1950’s American cars Cuba is famous for around Havana, many of which are taxis for the tourists. These are kept running with whatever spare parts from other types of cars the mechanics can modify to make them fit and work. The taxis are brightly colored with nice coats of paint, but there are still a few of the old cars not looking nearly as nice around town that people have for private use. There’s a lot of newer cars built in countries other than the USA, which is what most of the people there drive.

Cuban taxis

1950’s American cars in Havana, Cuba

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2018

 

Posted in Caribbean, Holland America, Ports of Call, Veendam | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Cruising to Honolulu

Honolulu cruise ship port

Explorer of the Seas in Honolulu

Our transpacific cruise on Royal Caribbean‘s Explorer of the Seas made its first port stop in Honolulu. The cruise ship docked near the Aloha Tower a couple miles from the tourist area of Waikiki. They did have shuttles to the touristy part of town available. There was somebody offering van tours of the island that would last 6 or 7 hours and cost $50. That and the shuttles was all that we saw right off the ship for anyone who had not set up something to do in advance either through the ship or on their own. We didn’t have any plans for this port, but didn’t want to go to town. If the island tour was 3 or 4 hours long we might have tried it, but neither of us wanted to sit in a van for most of 6-7 hours so we passed on that and figured we’d just walk around a bit and look for a good vantage point to take some photos of the ship.

Honolulu

view from the ship – Aloha Tower, old maritime museum, and point of land from a nearby park

When we reached the main road we had a choice of turning right towards Waikiki or left towards the Aloha Tower. Left looked more promising for ship views so that’s the way we went. About halfway to the Aloha Tower we found a small park with a great view of the ship.

ships in Honolulu

sailing ship passing the cruise ship on its way into the harbor

We stopped there to take some photos and a tall sailing ship approached, sailing past our cruise ship. As it came closer we noticed the masts were full of people standing along the beams that hold the sails. The ship passed us and continued over to a waiting crowd on a nearby dock by the Aloha Tower, broadcasting music in Spanish as it went by.

sailboat in Honolulu

Cuauhtémoc arriving in Honolulu with people on the masts

The ship looked a lot like one I had seen previously in Seattle. If it was the same Mexican Navy ship I thought we might be able to tour it, as they had tours available when it was docked in Seattle. It was already there then so we had no way of knowing how long it would take before they would open it up for tours if indeed it was the same ship and they planned to do so in Honolulu. The Aloha Tower wasn’t far and we had nothing better to do so we headed on over there.

derelict museum

closed maritime museum with derelict ships

We passed a maritime museum on the way there. It looked like something that might have been interesting to see had it been open. It had derelict ships tied to docks on either side of it and a closed sign on the door. As in permanently closed rather than just not open at that particular time.

welcoming committee

welcoming the Cuauhtemoc to Honolulu

Info on the internet said the Aloha Tower was a major shopping mall, but it turned out that portions of it are part of the University of Hawaii and there’s not a lot of shops there. Maybe there used to be. Portions of the building were empty with for lease signs on them so it has the potential for more shops in the future. When we were there it just had a few bars and restaurants, a convenience store and a store for the school.

ship maintenance

painting when the ship docks – just like a cruise ship

A small crowd of people greeted the arriving ship with song and dance. About half an hour or so after the sailing ship docked they had the gangway out to welcome visitors aboard. It was indeed the Cuauhtémoc, the very same ship I had seen once before in Seattle. Touring the ship is free if you happen to be somewhere where it docks. People are allowed to wander around some of the decks on their own. This time they offered to assign a guide to take people around who wish to see a bit more. Some of them speak English, but not all. In Seattle we had only been allowed to wander the top decks so it was nice to see a bit of the inside as well.

learning at sea

one of the sailing ship’s two classrooms

Our guide was a young girl who is a cadet in training for the Mexican navy. The ship is used for training. New sailors like her learn as they sail around the world, getting sailing experience as well as classroom learning. The ship has 2 classrooms off the cadets’ mess hall.

touring a sailboat

people wandering about the deck

We also met someone from the US Navy onboard. Besides its Mexican crew and students he said the ship also had representatives from a number of other countries, mostly from north and south America. He was a fairly recent naval academy graduate from Texas on his first assignment. Before this stop the ship had been at sea 32 days sailing from Japan. Coming into port it was under engine power along with a tugboat, but out to sea they use the sails most of the time saving the engines for times when there is no wind or the need to escape from a hurricane (too much wind.)

sailboat galley

galley staff on the Cuauhtemoc were busy preparing lunch

It’s a beautiful ship and kept up so well it looks new. There’s a plaque where you first come on board that shows the god of wind blowing the ship from Spain where it was built to Mexico. The wind god is also on the ship’s masthead. This was its second to last stop for this particular journey, which lasted over 200 days and visited many countries.

Honolulu bus tour

Hop On Hop Off bus in Honolulu

Things to do in Honolulu

Besides taking the shuttle to town to go shopping or go to the beach, the ship did offer a number of excursions for people who booked them in advance. They had several island tours to choose from, a luau, hop on hop off bus, some cultural tours, and transportation to Pearl Harbor where people could go to the visitor’s center on their own, or for a higher price visit the USS Missouri as well. They also offered a helicopter tour and a hiking tour at Diamond Head Crater. Our ship did not have any snorkel excursions this port stop, but on a land stay in Waikiki once we went snorkeling at Diamond Head.

old style life boat

lifeboat on the Cuauhtemoc

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2018

 

Posted in Explorer of the Seas, Pacific Ocean & Islands, Port Cities, Ports of Call, Royal Caribbean, USA | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

In Search of Cats in Old San Juan

San Juan cruise port

Carnival Magic in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Nearly every time we travel to Puerto Rico we seem to end up at the historic forts in old San Juan. Our visit on the Carnival Magic was no exception. At least that was the intention anyway. Some of the group we traveled with had not been there before so everything was new to them. Our 5-year-old Australian grandson loves cats so we planned to look for them on the walk to El Morro, then either take the free tram or walk to San Cristobal on the way back to the ship.

path in San Juan

pathway near a playground and statues

From the ship we headed through town to the Paseo de la Princesa, which at some point changes to Paseo del Morro. This seaside pathway runs along the shore line from near the cruise ship docks to Castillo San Felipe del Morro, otherwise known as El Morro.

fountain in Puerto Rico

Raices Fountain

It passes by several of old town’s attractions including the Raices Fountain and the Red Gate. The Red Gate is the last remaining gate in what’s left of the historical wall that once encircled the entire city, which has long since outgrown that boundry. There’s a lot of ancient walled cities and forts around the world that are tourist attractions now. Even the Great Wall of China is currently a tourist attraction. There’s a sign in one of the displays at El Morro that says people stopped walling themselves in when the technology of the times made walls obsolete as a means of protection. I don’t remember the date on that, but it was over a century ago and long before the invention of airplanes.

San Juan's red gate

red gate from the paseo into the city

Before reaching the sea we found a playground next to the path where the kids had a great time until a policeman came along and said they couldn’t play there while the ground was wet from an earlier rain. None of the playground equipment was wet and they weren’t playing on the ground, but I suppose he has rules to enforce. Probably afraid of a lawsuit. Puerto Rico is a territory of the USA after all even though the government did seem to want to forget that when it came to hurricane relief and repairs.

playground in San Juan

playground on the Paseo de la Princesa

The paseo is home to many of San Juan’s feral cats. The cats have probably been there since the first ships landed on Puerto Rico’s shores, or at least sometime early in its history after contact by people from Europe. The cats have lots of rocks and vegetation to hide in. Once there were so many some people wanted to exterminate them, but Save A Gato stepped in with their trap/neuter/release program. They adopt out any cats that they can. They have feeding stations along the pathway for the unadoptable ones they release so we knew we would see plenty of cats if we took that walkway to the fort. We were there before hurricane Maria. Wondering if the cats survived the storm, I looked it up and found that Save A Gato brought as many as they could to shelter. Former pets left behind as their owners fled the storm joined the ranks of cats for Save A Gato to care for or re-home in the hurricane’s aftermath.

San Juan cat

Daniel with the first cat we saw that day

We saw the first cat of the day before even arriving at the entrance to the Paseo de la Princesa. Some of the feral cats will wander through town, and some of the people there have pet cats too. Daniel just loves cats, but does not have one for a pet at home so he was thrilled to have a chance to see some.

hermit crab

hermit crab along the paseo

On our last visit we saw diving pelicans from that walkway, but this time we just saw a couple of them sitting on the city wall and neither made any effort to fly off the wall, let alone dive. We did find a little hermit crab on the path though and moved it to a safer place off the walkway. And of course we saw plenty of cats.

San Juan cat

calico cat on the rocks

We found cats sunning themselves on the walkway, cats hiding in the bushes, cats at the feeding station, and even one that followed us for awhile. It was kind of like hide and seek with the cats hiding and us seeking them in the rocks and bushes along the pathway.

San Fiillipe del Morro

The paseo goes all the way to El Morro fort

Last time the path only went partway to El Morro before coming to an area closed for restoration. This time though scaffolding could still be seen along the pathway in some places, the walkway was open all the way to the fort. Part of it may even have been new. We stopped off to view the graveyard where Ponce de Leon is buried before going toward the entrance to the fort.

iguana

iguana by El Morro

We saw some small lizards and some iguanas on the way to the fort, but right out there in front of it we found the biggest iguana of all. This one had a big ruff under his chin that he liked to puff out before shaking his head about. He climbed up the wall with ease and chased away the lesser iguanas.

cemetary

looking over the graveyard from El Morro

After touring El Morro we were all hot and tired and nobody felt like walking to San Cristobol. The free shuttle wasn’t running that day. The city was in the process of setting up for some sort of major event and a lot of the streets that weren’t closed were pretty well clogged with traffic.

blue brick road in Puerto Ricl

one of the blue brick roads of old San Juan

We walked back through town where the colorful buildings with fancy doors are always interesting to see, as are the blue brick roads.

cat in Puerto Rico

cat at a feeding station

On the way back our older grandson, Justin, discovered how much closer San Cristobol is  to the cruise ship dock. He wondered why we didn’t just go there, but we’d have missed the cat walk if we had and to Daniel the cats were the highlight of the port.

cat

one of Puerto Rico’s feral cats

Other Blogs About San Juan:

The Cats of Old San Juan

Staying in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

Bicycling in Old San Juan

Paseo de la Princesa and Diving Pelicans

 

Posted in Caribbean, Magic, Port Cities, Ports of Call | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Obstructed View Cabins on Holland America Oosterdam

ocean view cabin

The Oosterdam’s obstructed view cabins behind the lifeboats have nearly a full outside wall of window

When choosing your cruise ship cabin, some ships offer rooms with obstructed views. These come at a lower price than standard ocean view cabins, but what (if anything) can you see? The answer to that varies greatly. Obstructed view cabins are often located behind lifeboats, which is where you find them on Holland America’s Oosterdam. Some ships have no obstructed view cabins at all. Others have them in places like behind a bulkhead or along the promenade deck with a wall blocking all or part of the sea view.

obstructed view room

Cabin 4118 is designated as fully obstructed and has a tender boat blocking the window

If you just want some natural light in the room a fully obstructed window works, but if you actually want to see something choose your room carefully. Some cabins are designated fully obstructed while others are designated partially obstructed and (of course) have a bit higher price tag for the partial views.

obstructed view cabin

Cabin 4120 is the last one in the row of obstructed view cabins. It’s designated as fully obstructed, but has a better sea view than some partial view cabins – and a view of a neighboring cabin’s balcony

Some rooms marked as fully obstructed really are, but others actually have a better view than some of the ones with the partial obstruction designation. You might even see a bit through the windows of a tender from a fully obstructed cabin.

obstructed view cabin

Cabin 4112 is located between tenders and designated as partial view

On the Oosterdam the outer wall of the obstructed view cabins is almost all window, meaning that if there is anywhere at all that is not blocked by a lifeboat or the structures surrounding them you can see out from that spot. This is a great benefit since some ships just have a small window in the middle of a solid wall providing far less chance of getting any sort of a view.

view under a lifeboat to the deck below

looking down under the lifeboat to the promenade deck from cabin 4086

With the Oosterdam’s floor to ceiling window you can at least look under the lifeboat down to the promenade deck even if the rest of your view is blocked.

Oosterdam deck plan for deck 4

When choosing an obstructed view cabin use the ship’s deck plans as your guide. Most cruise lines have them available on their website. On the Oosterdam for example, using the deck plan as your guide you can see which rooms are located fully behind lifeboats or tenders and which are at least partially in between them.

window behind a lifeboat

Cabin 4086 is designated as fully obstructed, but you can see over the top of the lifeboat

They also draw the tenders differently than the ones that are just lifeboats, which is good to know because the tenders are taller. On most ships you can see something over the top of the shorter lifeboats, but not the tenders. With rooms completely behind a tender the best you can hope for is a peek-a-boo view through the tender’s windows – if it happens to have windows placed where you can see through them and out to the other side.

obstructed view cruise ship cabin

Cabin 4110 is between tenders. Though designated fully obstructed, it has a partial view.

ocean view obstructed cruise ship cabins

Cabin 4102 is also between tenders, but is designated as having a partial view.

If your window is between boats you get something of a view. How much or little depends on both how much of each boat is in front of your window and how much structure there is between the boats. There is always some because something has to hold them in place.

almost obstructed view

fully obstructed room 4114 is behind the bow of a tender with just a hint of open space

If you look at the deck plans to the Oosterdam you might notice it has a few rooms marked as fully obstructed that are not completely behind lifeboats. These will be the best bargains since you are paying for fully obstructed yet will be able to at least see something.

views vary widely on obstructed view cabins

cabin 4090 between a lifeboat and glass elevator has a pretty good view for a fully obstructed cabin

Besides the end of the row of lifeboats being a good place to look for better views from obstructed view cabins, anywhere with a break in the structure will have more view as well. The Oosterdam has glass elevators going up the outside of the ship near the center.

lifeboat and sea view

Cabin 4092 is on the other side of the elevator from 4090 and listed as having a partial view

This adds some space between the lifeboats and tenders and makes for a pretty good view if you don’t mind being next to a glass elevator. The two by the glass elevators next to the lifeboats are designated as fully obstructed while the ones on the side by the tenders are listed as partially obstructed though the better view is actually on the lifeboat side.

when your obstructed view is fully obstructed

from cabin 4118 you get a great view of the inside of a tender

Of course some of the cabins listed as fully obstructed actually are, which is why it is important to choose carefully when booking an obstructed view cabin.

lifeboat view

partial view cabin 4088 sits between lifeboats offering view both above and between the boats

When looking to save money on your cabin while at least getting some natural light and maybe even a bit of a view the obstructed view cabins are a great way to go. The real views are better than those shown here since they don’t have all the room reflections the camera picked up in these photos. Ocean view cabins are generally bigger than inside cabins so even if you don’t get much of a view you at least have a bit more space.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2018
Posted in Holland America, Oosterdam | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Spaces and Places on Carnival Vista

Carnival Vista

Vista in Naples, Italy

Some places are standard on all major cruise ships. Besides passenger cabins they all have bars, a variety of places to eat, pools, hot tubs, outdoor decks, shops, a gym, a casino, and a spa. Most cruise lines have more similarities between their own ships than you find from one cruise line to the next, but even within a cruise line some things vary from ship to ship.

cruise ship waterslide

Vista’s kaleid-o-slide tube slide

The Vista, which was Carnival’s newest ship until the recent launch of Vista’s sister ship Horizon, has some things that were a first for Carnival, and some things never seen on any previous cruise ship. New to Carnival is a tube slide at the waterworks alongside the popular twister slide. Their digital photo display is also new. Instead of placing out racks of photos for sale that all end up in the garbage if not sold, Vista displays theirs digitally. Passengers can find their own with a touch on the wall.

new photo technology

Vista’s Pixels Photo Gallery displays photos digitally

New to the sea is Vista’s IMAX theater. Showing both IMAX and feature films, this 3-deck high movie theater doesn’t have a bad seat in the house. The two-theater complex also includes the thrill theater, a motion theater with moving seats and other affects on film shorts first seen on their previous ship the Breeze. Both theaters have a surcharge.

fun on a cruise ship

skyride on the Vista

Another first at sea is their skyride. The ride cars hang from twin tracks high above the outside decks. They move under pedal power similar to riding a bike. There is no extra charge for this ride, but it sometimes has a line so it’s best to go at unpopular times.

Carnival Vista

Havana pool and hot tubs

Often ships have exclusive areas where only certain people are allowed to go, usually those who have paid the big bucks for the fanciest suites. Not so with Carnival, whose main consumer base is average people. Before the Vista they kept that in mind with all public spaces available for all the passengers. They have always had some areas for just adults or just kids, but none designated only for those in certain cabins. That ended with the Vista which has two areas only for people in specific cabins. One is a lounge for the family harbor cabins, which has food, games, computers, movies, and concierge service. The other is a pool area open only to those staying in the Havana cabins during daytime hours. Staying in these areas of course costs more than similar cabins elsewhere on the ship.

outdoor seating areas on a ship

promenade deck spaces for Cherry On Top, Library Bar, Red Frog Pub, and Bonsai Sushi

The promenade deck is full of little seating areas, each themed to whatever is adjacent to them inside. Everything from the candy shop to the library bar has its own outside space. It also has some lounging areas. There’s a smoking area too so you have to be careful where you walk if you don’t want to walk through it. What the promenade deck lacks is space for people to walk around the entire ship because the Havana pool area takes up the whole stern, and access for the Havana Cabana cabins blocks off sections on both sides near the back.

first brewery at sea

brewery in the Red Frog Pub

The highest usage of promenade deck space goes to the Red Frog Pub, which holds bean bag toss games in their outside area. The Red Frog Pub also has its own first at sea – a genuine fully-functional brewery that makes specialty beers to serve in the pub.

Vista's atrium pole

Vista atrium

Vista has a unique feature in the atrium with ever-changing video displays on a central pole. They’ve also combined the theater and nightclub into one room instead of separate places, the resulting space not ideal for either. Like Carnival’s other ships it has an additional smaller theater called the Punchliner for comedy shows and sometimes other activities. It’s a bit bigger than the punchliner on other ships. It’s a lot easier to see the stage from pretty much anywhere in the punchliner theater than it is from almost all of the seats in the main theater.

fun on the Vista

Sport Square with mini golf and ropes course

The very colorful area of fun on a top deck called Sports Square includes mini-golf, a ropes course, pool tables, multiplayer foosball, and other games. There’s also a jogging track on an upper outside deck, and some outdoor exercise equipment.

Vista dining room

Horizon’s Restaurant – one of two main dining rooms on the Vista

The highest outside deck of all is Serenity, an adults-only retreat. Although all Carnival’s ships have a Serenity area, this one introduced something new – a salad bar. It serves made-to-order salads at lunchtime on sea days, with quite a variety of options to choose from.

spa pool and heated ceramic chairs

thermal suite at the spa (everything at the spa costs extra)

Like any large cruise ship, passengers on the Vista have quite a choice of places to hang out whenever they leave their cabin. There’s always somewhere to go and something to do on a cruise ship.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2018

 

 

Posted in Carnival, Vista | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lamingtons

lamingtons

lamingtons from the café on Explorer of the Seas

Australians have it right with this tasty treat. Cake bites dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut? Awesome. I actually discovered lamingtons in Fiji, and found them again in New Zealand. So it’s not just Australians enjoying them. In both of those places the lammingtons we were served had chocolate cake. Crossing the Pacific from Seattle to Sydney on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas, some days they served Lamingtons in the little café in the Royal Promenade. In my opinion this was the best dessert to be found anywhere on the ship. The first few days they had them they were easy to get. Only about a fourth of the passengers were Australian and most of the rest had not yet discovered the deliciousness of a lamington. The other people we sat with at dinner had never heard of them. It didn’t take long before more people tried them and the café ran out of lamingtons earlier and earlier on days they served them. One day I got a plateful as soon as the lunch stuff came out and brought them to dinner to share since nobody else had managed to find them yet. They all loved them once they got the chance to try them. Unlike the ones I’d tried in other countries, these lamingtons had white cake rather than chocolate. Later looking them up later online I found out that the white cake is the traditional one, though there are recipes out there for the ones with chocolate cake, and also ones with raspberry frosting instead of chocolate and some with jelly inside the cake.

The original recipe I found was a traditional Australian recipe, but for an 8×12 pan, which I don’t have so I had to adjust the quantities for a 13×9. After baking it and dipping it into the chocolate I discovered they came out better when cutting each cake square in half so the pieces were more the height of a brownie rather than the height of a piece of cake. Which turned into double the amount of lamingtons so unless you want a whole lot it’s better to go with an 8×8 pan instead, which is what this recipe is for.

The recipe calls for desiccated coconut, something that is readily available in Australia, but not so much in the USA. At least not where I live. Instead I got unsweetened organic flaked coconut and put it in the blender for a few seconds. I used a vitamix, which has a special blade intended for grinding dry ingredients, but since you just need to make the coconut into smaller pieces a regular blender or food processer should work too.

lamingtons

lamingtons

Lamington Recipe

Ingredients

Cake

5 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 cup flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/3 cup milk

Frosting

2 cups powdered sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup milk

Topping

2-2 1/2 cups desiccated coconut (if you can’t find desiccated coconut get unsweetened flaked or shredded coconut and put it in the blender to chop it into smaller bits.)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180C). Line 8×8 inch square pan with parchment paper with overhanging paper on all sides for easy removal.

Beat butter, sugar, and vanilla with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until the batter is smooth. Put flour and baking powder into a flour sifter and sift half into batter. Mix in and add half the milk. Repeat with other half of flour and milk, mixing thoroughly after final addition.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until center springs back when touched or toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes. Take cake out of pan and let it cool overnight on a wire rack covered with a clean dish towel because it needs time to firm up before dipping or it will be too crumbly. Cut cake into 9 pieces and then cut each piece in half so it is brownie height rather than cake height.

Set heat-proof bowl or double boiler over pan of hot water. Blend all frosting ingredients. Leave frosting over hot water while dipping lamingtons so the chocolate stays warm and thin enough for dipping. Just the water needs to be hot, the pan does not need to be on a burner or being heated while dipping the lamingtons. Two forks work pretty well for dipping. Hold the lamington between them, do not stab the fork through it. Then use the forks to roll it around in the chocolate and gently pick it up when done. Let excess chocolate drip off before transferring lamington into the coconut.

Put a small amount of the coconut in a small bowl. It’s best not to use all of it at once so it doesn’t all get full of chocolate. Roll each lamington in coconut as soon as you take it out of the chocolate dip, then set it on a plate to dry. Repeat the process with each lamington.

Once the lamingtons are dry they can be stored in a Tupperware type container. If you stack them on top of each other put a sheet of waxed paper between the layers so they don’t stick to each other.

lamingtons

lots of lamingtons

If you make too many and want to save some for later they do freeze well.

Posted in recipes | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Penrith, Australia

Circular Quay

Arcadia at Circular Quay in Sydney

When embarking or disembarking a cruise in Sydney, if you have a few days to stay it’s nice to see some of the surrounding area. We took advantage of disembarking the P&O Arcadia there to visit with our daughter who lives in Australia. About an hour west of Sydney by train lies the much maligned town of Penrith. When we took the Legend cruise out of Sydney one of the Australian comics included Penrith jokes in his routine. Sort of like the Arkansas of New South Wales, if not all of Australia. If you actually go to Penrith you will find there are fun things to do there, though some of the people actually are bogans (an Australian term meaning people others look down on). Park restrooms are locked at night to keep drug abusers and people who like to trash things out. Some people in the area also seem to have a penchant for throwing trash everywhere. Then again litter is one of the constants you find nearly anywhere in the world. Other bogan behavior includes riding motorbikes and quads through parks clearly posted with no motor vehicles allowed signs, or even driving a car into the park. I’m not sure about the Aussies, but the people who trash and deface things, litter, or think the rules don’t apply to them are the ones I’d consider bogans, and that behavior certainly isn’t limited to Penrith or even to Australia.

food on the water

Bennett’s on the River – restaurant on a boat

Good points about the Penrith area besides Australia’s train system include numerous parks with lots of greenspace and trails. The Great River walk stretches along the Nepean River with access from both the Penrith and Emu Plains sides and parking at Tench Reserve, Weir Reserve or Regatta Park. Along the river there are trails, playgrounds, and a boat launch. A paddle wheeler called Nepean Belle does short river cruises from the dock by the Tench Reserve parking area. They serve meals on the boat during the river cruise and it can also be reserved for weddings or other events. There used to be a permanently moored boat there used as a restaurant called Bennetts on the River, but it closed and the boat was gone last time we went there.

cables wake park

playground with jumping pillow at Cables wake park

We at there once when it was still there. They served good food in large portions. People at the nearby launch ramp provided lunchtime entertainment. We saw quite a few of them struggling to get their boats or jet skis in or out of the water, and a couple who seemed to have it down pat. One drove too far and the trailer wheels dropped off the ramp so people had to lift the trailer as they pulled forward to get it out. Another forgot to take the tiedowns off the back and may have pulled their entire rig into the water when they drove the boat off if one of our party hadn’t ran out and warned them so they sheepishly pulled out of the water to remove them.

wakeboarding

Cables wake park

Penrith has a park called Cables where you don’t need a boat to go waterskiing or wakeboarding. The lake there has a mechanism that drags people around the water boat-free. There’s jumps they can use if they want. Some do all sorts of fancy tricks, others struggle to stay on their feet. Some fall. They swim to shore to try again while the empty cable skims across the water until it gets to the home line at the starting point. Those activities cost money, but you can come in for free and watch or let small kids use the playground which includes a giant jumping pillow. Penrith also has lots of shops and restaurants and a multi-story mall. One of the strip malls near Penrith has a Lindt factory outlet store with more flavors of the Lindor truffles than I ever knew existed.

Australian park

bushwalking in a park

Though Penrith is one of the larger towns found between Sydney and the Blue Mountains, it’s fairly typical of the region in having parks and open space. Some parks in the nearby areas even have enough wooded trails for a bushwalk. Penrith is nearly the last stop for city trains headed up toward the Blue Mountains, but it is also a stop for the Blue Mountain Line, which is a faster train out from Sydney since it stops at less towns along the way.

kangaroos

wild grey kangaroos at the uni

Western Sydney University has a campus with lots of open space which is home to wild grey kangaroos. It’s a great place to go to see kangaroos in the wild.

A lot of Australians are into running, and there are several locations in or near Penrith that have 5K parkruns each weekend, including one along the Nepean River.

Posted in Australia, Port City Side Trips | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Suite Life

Cruising In A Suite

cruise ship in Cuba

Veendam in Havana

I’ve cruised with Holland America a number of times, but somehow in spite of starting out from quite a variety of ports, and seeing many of their other ships in port here and there, I always end up on one of the same ships I’ve been on before. This was the case with a recent Caribbean cruise on the Veendam out of Fort Lauderdale, on which I previously sailed for a New England cruise out of Boston.

towel animal

towel animal and chocolates

Cruise ship cabins come in a variety of sizes and amenities to suit any budget, as do cruise ships themselves. Holland America doesn’t have mega giant ships like some lines, but even for them Veendam is one of their smaller ships, though not the smallest. While we haven’t ever gone with the super high-priced luxury cruise lines, we have sailed with a number of standard lines. We’ve also gone with different room choices among inside, ocean view, and balcony staterooms. Being mostly budget cruisers, we’d never stepped up a level and ventured into the territory of suites.

cruise ship cabin

artwork in the room consisted of maps in a foreign language

Wanting to see Cuba while travel there is still an option for Americans, we booked a one week Caribbean cruise that included a port stop in Havana on the Veendam through our most used source of cheap cruises, vacationstogo.com. Our initial booking was category guarantee, ocean view or above. For the most part we’ve gotten pretty good rooms going through category guarantee rather than choosing a specific room. As well as a better price there’s always the possibility of getting assigned a room above the category booked at no extra charge. There’s also a higher likelihood of receiving a call from the upgrade fairy. Which isn’t usually a free upgrade, but an upgrade at a lower cost than the offered room would be if booked directly.

Veendam Vista Suite

Vista Suite on the Veendam

While I would have stuck with what we originally booked and taken our chances on whatever room we got assigned had I answered the phone when the upgrade fairy called, John took the bait when they offered an upgrade to a suite. As I mentioned before we’ve never stayed in a suite so he thought it would be fun to give it a go, and it was. Even though there was a charge for the upgrade we figured we might never see a suite offered at that price again since it was considerably lower than the advertised price and actually less than it often costs for a week’s cruise in a balcony cabin.

big balcony on a cruise ship

Vista Suite balcony on the Veendam is more than double the size of a standard cruise ship balcony

It was of course at the bottom level of the types of suites available on the Veendam. On a lot of ships they’re called mini suites, but on the Veendam they are Vista Suites. They’re nothing like the Pinnacle Suite, which is somewhat like an apartment and bigger than our house. Not even the Neptune Suite, which is significantly larger than regular cruise ship cabins. Mini, or in this case, Vista, suites are more like a larger than average balcony cabin. They do come with some of the perks of larger suites though. Not the priority check in or free laundry, but this one did come with concierge service, though we never used it. Besides being a bit larger of a room, the balcony is more than double the standard size and included a lounger as well as two chairs and a small table. Apparently some of the people who stay in larger suites snub the vista suites though. I overheard one passenger talking to a vista suite steward in the hallway by those rooms. He recognized the steward from a previous cruise and was telling him he deserved a promotion up to the suite floor one deck above. Not even acknowledging that the steward already worked on a suite deck.

cruise ship bathtub

jetted tub in the Vista Suite

The bathroom includes not just a bathtub (which is standard on Holland America in anything other than inside cabins), but a jetted tub. It’s also a shower so they could have designed it a bit better by putting the rather large washcloth rack at the end of the tub away from the shower rather than at the middle where it sticks out in the way of anyone standing there. It’s very nice to have a jetted tub though. I could get used to that even if it didn’t feel very spacious and I’m a small person. The one problem with having a tub/shower combo is that they put the dispenser for shampoo, conditioner, and body wash up high where it is convenient for showering, but you have to stand up to get any when taking a bath – unless you have your own products which you can then set on the small shelf in one corner of the tub at a much more convenient height.

vista suite on the Veendam

Veendam Vista Suite

The room had a small refrigerator, also standard on Holland America. Of course it comes full of mini-bar items they want you to buy, but you can have those removed or just work around them if there are other things you want to put in there instead. This room came with the most storage space we’ve ever had in a cruise ship cabin. Which makes sense because it was bigger than the average cruise ship cabin. It has 4 little closets. 2 with a hanging bar and full space to hang things with just top and bottom shelves, and 2 that have more shelves and less hanging space. One also contains the safe.

cruise ship cabin

pillow collection on the bed

Nightstands on either side of the bed have 2 drawers each, as well as drawers at the foot end of the bed – which itself seemed bigger than usual. The bed was piled with a variety of pillows of varying sizes and softness so people can pick whichever one is most comfortable for them to sleep on at night and have the whole pile to lean on if they sit on the bed during the day. The desk area also had 3 sets of 3 drawers each. The room had enough storage space available that we didn’t even use it all. There were also a couple shelves above the TV. One had a few glasses on it, but the other was just open and available for storage.

keep cruise documents handy with magnets

magnets keep paperwork organized on a cruise ship

It also had a full sized couch, a little table with a chair, and a stool under the desk. The hallway to the bathroom and closet area had a curtain to close it off from the main part of the room if desired. Veendam is an old enough ship that the walls are not magnetic. Even on older ships the bathroom and cabin doors are magnetic so there’s still somewhere to hang paperwork if you bring magnets. Hanging stuff keeps it organized and out of the way. I print out the itinerary before we go and hang that up along with any excursion tickets we might have and anything else deemed important, like the daily newsletter with its schedule of available activities for the day.

cruise ship balcony view

view from the balcony while sailing out of Havana

For suite guests the steward came by the first day with slippers and a Holland America beach bag. He filled the ice bucket twice a day and left chocolates and a towel animal each night, which they also do for cabins that are not suites. The biggest advantage of this room for us was the oversized balcony, which was a great place to sit and read or watch the ocean go by.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2018
Posted in Holland America, Shipboard Life, Veendam | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment