Westerdam Ocean View Cabins

Westerdam in Japan

Holland America Westerdam in Beppu, Japan

Like any cabin category, ocean view cabins can vary from ship to ship and even among cabins on the same ship. Holland America Westerdam is no exception having lower level ocean view cabins on deck 1, obstructed ocean view cabins behind the lifeboats on deck 4, and even a couple forward facing ocean view cabins on deck 6. The biggest variation among ocean view cabins is in the view, particularly in the deck 4 cabins where some have a full view, some are totally obstructed by tenders in front of the window, and most fall somewhere in between with partial seaviews above life boats and/or between life boats or tenders. (Tenders are the taller life boats used to take people to shore at ports where the ship is at anchor and has to use its own boats to bring people back and forth from the dock.)

ocean view cabin

view of the ocean through the ocean view window

Besides the views, cabin categories for ocean view cabins, as with all cabins, vary according to deck location and location of the cabin on the deck. Just like with real estate, it’s location, location, location, with higher level decks and closer to the center of the ship being the prime real estate in cabin classifications when all else is equal. Of course with ocean view cabins the view is the prime concern which makes deck 1 cabins priced higher than the deck 4 cabins with obstructed views.

stateroom with drop bunk

bunk drops from ceiling in this inside cabin

Since the majority of cruisers travel 2 people per cabin, besides base cabin prices being for double occupancy and going up for solo or down for additional people, many cabins hold just 2 people. Not all of them though. Some cabins have a couch that unfolds out into a bed for an extra person, and some have bunks that drop from the ceiling (or wall in older ships) for additional cabin occupants.

cabin with connecting door

the door on the side wall next to the bulkhead connects to the room next door

For cruisers with more people than the maximum occupancy of one cabin, connecting cabins are an option. These cabins have a connecting door in the wall between two side-by-side cabins. While having a connecting door is an advantage when sailing with the people in the room next door, it is a disadvantage if you are not because you are more likely to hear the people in the room on the other side of the door than you are next door neighbors with a solid wall. Since there are more people who are not together booked in those cabins than those who are, the connecting door usually remains locked keeping the two rooms separate.

Westerdam ocean view cabin

ocean view cabin 1115

Location of the cabin within the ship can also affect the noise level. Cabins at the back often have some engine noise while those near the front may hear the bow of the ship slapping into waves when the sea is rough, especially if they are on lower decks. It’s a good idea to try and find a stateroom not near, under, or over public areas as well since places like the galley, bars, and theater can be noisy at night.

oceanview cabin with 2 beds

a bulkhead prevented one bed from moving to the wall

Most cruise ship cabins are rectangular in shape, but corner cabins and those near bends in the ship’s structure are sometimes oddly shaped. These cabins may be bigger or smaller than those around them. Accessible cabins tend to be the largest cabins within each category. Some ships have cabins with a structural post in the middle of the room somewhere. While we have not ever stayed in one of those, we did come across one with a bulkhead in the wall in cabin 1115 on the Westerdam. When the beds are pushed together as one bed the bulkhead is not that noticeable, but when splitting them apart into twin beds only one bed can go over to the wall leaving less space in the center to get to the window which makes the room seem smaller than if both beds went all the way to the wall.

towel monkey

ocean view cabin with towel monkey in the window

Our deck 1 cabin 1115 was located near the back of the ship, but the engine noise was actually drowned out by the air vent, which had a control to make the air it released warmer or colder, but no off switch. We would have liked to shut it off at night for a quieter room. We were in a dead-end hallway with just a few cabins beyond ours so there was very little traffic in the way of people passing by our door, which can get noisy for cabins located in high traffic areas.

cruise ship cabin

cabin artwork

People often look down on low-deck cabins as undesirable, perhaps stemming from the days of steerage on old-time ocean liners. Since they charge less for them than for comparable cabins on higher decks apparently the cruise lines feel that way as well. These cabins have their advantages though. The lower down you are the less ship movement you feel when the boat rocks. It’s close to the dining room, theater, and some public decks, close to the gangway, and when crowds are leaving an area all at once such as following the safety briefing or at the end of a show you can go down the stairs while the crowd goes up, thus avoiding the crowd. Or leave shows in the theater through the exit on deck 1 and avoid the stairs altogether.

doing laundry on a cruise ship

laundry hanging to dry in the tub

Holland America has tubs in all the rooms that are ocean view or above. Besides the option for taking a bath, having a tub rather than a shower means a longer clothesline as well as more space for stringing extra line, which comes in quite handy for drying hand-washed clothes when taking a long cruise on a ship with no guest laundries – like the Westerdam. Sending laundry out to the for the crew to wash is always an option, but one that costs more than I care to pay and you have to get very high up in Holland America’s loyalty program to get free laundry service.

The room has 3 closets, one with shelves, one with a high hanging bar, and one with a low hanging bar and shelves. Along with a drawer under each bed and in each nightstand this was plenty of storage space for us, though with the amount of luggage we saw some people bring it may not have been enough for them.

cruise ship cabin

cabin 1115

Besides the beds, furniture included a desk with a chair under it, a TV on it and a cupboard containing a hairdryer and extra glassware. The refrigerator under the desk started out full of mini-bar items which the steward emptied on request. If you don’t plan to buy any of them it’s nice to have that space if you have anything like cold drinks you want to put in there instead. The room also had a small couch and table.

cruise ship cabin with magnetic walls

magnetic walls are useful

As with most cruise ships, the Westerdam’s cabin walls are magnetic, which is quite handy for hanging paperwork to keep things organized if you bring along some magnets.

automatic under closet light

light under the closet

This room had a light under the closets that lights up when anyone walks by in the dark. At first we were not sure if this was a new safety feature or a malfunction of the emergency lighting system that kicks in to light the way to the exits out in the hallways when the power goes out. We had not seen this feature previously on any other ship or in other cabins on this ship on prior cruises. At first it seemed a bit annoying, but after we got used to it the light was actually quite useful as it turned itself off after a short time. Near the end of the cruise we received a survey saying this was a new safety feature they were testing in some cabins and they wanted feedback on what the passengers thought of it. It’s nice if you get up for anything while someone else is sleeping because it provides a bit of light without being as bright as turning on any of the overhead lights.

Westerdam now has USB ports

USB ports are becoming more common on cruise ships

While one outlet used to be standard in cruise ship cabins, more of them seem to be adding more options for plugging things in when ships are remodeled. This cabin had 2 outlets over the desk and a USB port next to each bed. We still always bring a power bar, and I have a quite useful travel clock which has 2 USB ports. Cruise ship cabins don’t normally have clocks unless you bring your own.

Westerdam ocean view cabin

ocean view cabin 1115

The bathroom in that particular cabin could use some updating as the tub seemed a bit on the worn-out side and the mirrors showed a bit of wear around the edges, but overall the room was quite nice. Holland America still has the nice extra touches like chocolates and towel animals left in the room each evening. We often choose ocean view cabins because they are usually larger than inside cabins and come with a view at a significantly lower price than balcony cabins.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2018

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Grand Turk Cruise Ship Port

Grand Turk cruise port

ships in Grand Turk

Carnival Magic approached an unknown island a couple hours before our scheduled port time for Grand Turk. “Is that a cruise ship?” Sheri asked, pointing at the island over the deck railing. The object in question certainly looked like one, and as the ship inched closer it became obvious that not only was a cruise ship docked on the nearby island, but a Carnival cruise ship. The cruise director announced that disembarkation would not take place any earlier than noon as it was scheduled for. Meanwhile the ship slowed to the point of barely moving enough to keep from drifting with the current, or so it seemed. Apparently the ship was not going to dock before the scheduled time regardless of when it arrived and that’s the cruiseline’s own dock. I suppose they have their reasons for that, but whatever they are no reasons were shared with the passengers.

snorkeling Grand Turk

full face snorkel mask for people who don’t like the tube in their mouth

People didn’t listen and started lining up to get off the ship long before it even started heading for the dock. At least the Magic’s cruise director had sense enough to say that anyone who did not need to be off the ship right away for scheduled excursions should wait for the crowd to clear before trying to disembark. Much better than the cruise director we had on both the Breeze and the Vista (same person) who kept trying to encourage more people to mob the exits making it impossible for anyone with an excursion meeting on the dock to get there on time.

snorkel Grand Turk

you can snorkel free at Grand Turk if you have your own gear

We avoided the crowd by having lunch first and then leaving once the line cleared up.  Unless you have something booked that you have to get to right away that’s usually a better plan when the ship docks around lunchtime. Using the time you would otherwise spend standing in a nearly endless line either before or after the ship docked to do something more fun or more productive is always a better use of your time.

cruise line beach

watch out for non-cruise line umbrellas – you may get charged to sit there

Grand Turk is a great place to just get off the ship and go to the beach. There’s a beautiful sandy beach at the end of the dock with lots of beach chairs and umbrellas. You just have to make sure to stay on the chairs with the cruise line’s umbrellas (which were green when we were there.) If you sit under the other colors whoever owns them could charge you for the privilege of sitting there. You can rent snorkel gear right on the beach. At the border of the cruise line’s beach and someone else’s there are boats that tow people around on floaty toys like big blow-up bananas or rafts – for a fee of course. They also have cold drinks for sale. If you walk down the beach beyond the cruise line’s part there are little bars who also have beach chairs. These are often free because they want you to stay and buy drinks. There also are often little booths with crafts for sale where locals hope they can get tourists to part with their money.

Grand Turk cruise port

Carnival provides free beach chairs and umbrellas at their private beach on Grand Turk

We found a group of chairs under the cruise line’s green umbrellas for our home base. Mostly just a place to put our things while we went in the water, but we had a pretty big group and people came and went throughout the day. There’s enough sea life to make the beach at Grand Turk cruise port a great place for first-timers to give snorkeling a try, though not enough to impress avid snorklers. Seeing fish gave our 5-year-old grandson the incentive he needed to put his face in the water that he didn’t have in a pool where he failed the beginner swim class he took just before the cruise for refusing to put his face in the water. It didn’t take him long to learn how to use the equipment and start snorkeling all around. Our oldest grandson learned there the previous year and while tentative then, he had no qualms this time. He and I saw a giant ray, the biggest one I’ve ever seen, but unfortunately I have no photos of it because I didn’t have my camera with me at the time.


Daniel snorkeling

Meanwhile our granddaughter, who was the star of her more advanced swim lesson class, had issues keeping the snorkel in her mouth. She’d probably benefit from the easy breathe snorkel that got my husband to start staying in the water for more than 5 minutes, but unfortunately they want a fortune for the full-face mask in children’s sizes. There were some people renting those from locals on the beach, but for twice the price of the regular gear at the cruise line’s snorkel shack.

pool at Grand Turk cruise port

Margaritaville pool

Grand Turk has all the usual cruise port shops and plenty of other shops as well. Margaritaville has a big pool with swim-up bar. There’s also a flowrider near the beach for those who want some surfing action, but it’s not free. On the far side of the dock from the swimming area there’s a display from one of the 1960’s Apollo missions that splashed down there.

rocket replica

The cruise center has a commemorative display for 1962’s splashdown there

You can of course book excursions through the cruise ship or outside sources. For last minute do it yourself tours head to the taxi stand.

More Blogs About Grand Turk

Semi Sub

Power Snorkel

About Grand Turk

Grand Turk Beach

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Décor on Holland America Oosterdam

sunrise over the Pacific Ocean

sometimes nature provides all the décor a cruise ship needs

It’s sometimes hard to put a name to the décor on a cruise ship. For a short description on Holland America Oosterdam, subdued opulence with an old time charm comes to mind.

cruise ship art

wall mural

Hallway paintings frequently depict Dutch old world scenes, often with sailing ships.

cruise ship hallway


cruise ship hallway

hallway decor

The hallways themselves often have their own look.

old style cruise ship

one stairway shows different renditions of Holland America ships throughout the years

stairway art

one stairway has engraved plaques

Each of the stairways has its own style of artwork, which helps in getting around the ship if you recognize whether you are on the aft, mid, or forward stairway by the pictures on the walls between decks. It also helps in knowing when you’ve reached the right deck without looking for the deck number if you use that stairway often enough to know which picture is on the deck you want – like the one where your cabin is located.

elevator mat

floor mat in an elevator

Anyone who loses track of the day of the week need go no farther than the nearest elevator. All the elevators have day of the week mats which are changed daily.

gallery bar

Gallery Bar

cruise ship bar

Ocean Bar

Each space in the ship like bars or restaurants has décor that sets it apart from the others, yet blends with the general appearance of the ship.

wooden elephant

giant wooden elephant

Some places hold hidden surprises like the large wooden elephant hiding under the stairway in the sort of secret hallway leading to the lower level of the theater.

cruise ship decor

tile inlay in a hallway

Even the floor has a fancy tile inlay in one hallway.

ugly cruise ship statues

ugly headless statues

While a lot of the artwork is tasteful and nice, the ship does have some of the ugly statues that seem to be obligatory in cruise ship art since most ships have some pretty ugly statues around somewhere. The Oosterdam has headless statues in some places and some that are just heads elsewhere. A bit grisly actually those decapitated bodies and bodiless heads.

ship model

ship model in a case

Other than the ugly statues and odd bit here and there, overall the décor of the ship is nice.

cruise ship decor

A crystal globe is the centerpiece of the Oosterdam’s atrium. Sometimes the world turns within its golden frame and sometimes it just sits still.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2018
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Product Review – Running Buddy Pouch

running buddy secure pouch

running buddy minis, 6+, and 7 inch sizes

While planning a cruise to Europe, one thing that often comes up in searches of what you’ll find there is pickpockets in the touristy areas. Some places are too crowded to avoid getting close to anyone and unsuspecting tourists have no idea their pocket got picked by simple ordinary pickpockets until they discover the missing item isn’t there. And of course anyone setting something like a cell phone down in easy reach of passersby on a sidewalk table will probably not have that phone for long.

While it’s a good idea to stay far enough away from other people so nobody can touch you to avoid getting your pockets picked or purses stolen, in some areas the crowds are just too thick to avoid everyone. Some of the thieves have far more creative ways to part tourists from their valuables than simply sneaking up and taking things. We have encountered the rosemary ladies both in Malaga, Spain and Viña del Mar, Chile. Obviously Chile is not in Europe, but the concept is the same.

magnetic pouch

slip pouch over your waistband and the magnets inside each flap hold it there securely

These ladies offer passersby a sprig of rosemary and if anyone should take it either they demand money or by getting close enough to them to take the rosemary you have gotten in range for them to pick your pocket. We saw them in places without crowds so refusing the rosemary and staying out of touching range was pretty easy for us, but in a crowded place where you can’t avoid getting near others just the distraction of the offer of the rosemary might be enough for one of them to slip a hand into your pocket while you’re busy saying no to someone else.

Other things thieves do include riding past on a bicycle and cutting straps to things like purses which they then grab and ride off with or throwing a baby at someone who instinctively catches it, keeping their hands busy, mind occupied and pockets unguarded. Often they work in pairs. One may spill soda on you while another seemingly unconnected to the first offers to help you clean up, only they clean you out of a lot more than spilled soda. And definitely don’t be stupid enough to fall for “we have a deal just for you” from street vendors who want to lead you away from the crowd to rob you.

mini running buddy

The mini has plenty of room for your ship card, credit card, and a few extras. Notice the credit card is in an RFID blocking sleeve. You can get RFID blocking sleeves for passports too.

So the question comes, when visiting crowded touristy areas of Europe, how do you keep your valuables safe? On a cruise ship port stop all passengers at the minimum will have their ship card and photo ID because they need those things to get back onboard. Likely most will have money or credit cards as well. When your pockets, backpacks, and purses aren’t safe places to put the things you really can’t afford to lose, what do you do? People traveling around Europe by bus or train are likely to have money belts hidden under their clothing, but those may not be practical for a port stop when you are carrying things you need to be able to get to. Nobody wants to have to strip down to their underwear to get their ship card out so they can get back on the boat.

6 inch running buddy magnetic carry pouch

the 6 inch pouch holds a small cellphone, passport, and comb

I pondered this question quite a lot. One day while online I came across the Running Buddy. While these were designed for runners to have a place to keep things while on the run in outfits that often don’t have pockets, a semi-concealed pouch that stays with you hands free through whatever sort of activity you have planned could certainly come in handy for the cruise ship passenger on shore excursion as well. When I got mine their website was just marketing them to runners, but now they are marketing to travelers as well. Whether it is to put valuables somewhere safer or just to have a place to put things while involved in activities such as zip lining where backpacks and purses aren’t options and anything in a pocket could easily fall out, or you just want a way to carry your things hands free, a magnetic pouch could just as easily be a cruiser’s buddy as a runner’s.

These little pouches slip over your waistband. Magnets on each side come together holding the pouch in place. To hide the pouch from possible thieves wear a shirt long enough to hang over the pouch and loose enough to conceal the little bulge. It’s a bit easier to conceal in colder weather by wearing a jacket. Besides being secured to your waistband by magnets, the pouch is something the thieves aren’t as likely to look for. It is harder to get into than a pocket and not on straps they can cut like a purse or backpack, but if they did find it they could pull the whole thing off so it is not entirely safe. While it can go anywhere on your waistband, in pickpocket prone areas wear it on the front where you are more aware of your proximity to strangers and they are less likely to find it. Or if you want it really secure you could hook it to your underwear, but then it wouldn’t be any easier for you to get things out of it than a regular waist wallet.

7 inch running buddy pouch

when actually using the pouch things stay down in the pockets with the flap closed over them

Running Buddy standard pouches come in a 6-inch size which is good for keys, money, passport, cards, and a small camera, glasses case, or phone. The 3 1/2 inch mini holds keys, cards, and has room for little things like chapstick. There’s also an XL 6 3/4 inch pouch and XXL which is 7 inches long for bigger phones. Of course these larger pouches can carry keys and cards as well. All but the mini have 2 pockets within the pouch to keep cards separate from the phone. Some also have a side zipper headphone port.

out for a walk

Piper on a trail

I tried the mini and 6 inch pouch out on dog walks. They come in handy when you don’t want to carry a purse, but also don’t want to leave your keys and driver’s license in the car when you drive to a park or trail – and you don’t want to worry about things falling out of your pocket, or your outfit has no pockets. I hardly notice the mini and it stays in place quite well. The 6-inch I’ve used if I want to bring my cell phone or camera (my camera is also a small one. I like small things for their portability.) The pouch needs to be placed where it can stay straight because while the pouch itself can bend around a body curve on its own, once you put a straight solid object like a phone or camera in it one corner will tend to come undone if it sits on a bend. I’ve also found it stays magneted to itself better when putting the pouch on first and making sure it is solidly fastened before adding the phone or camera then it does if put it on with the phone or camera already inside. I definitely prefer the mini, which is great if I don’t need it to hold much. I’m always aware of the larger one when wearing it, but if I was out in the pick-pocket prone areas of Europe I’d find that more comforting than annoying.

I brought a coat that hangs down just past the top of my legs to Europe intending to wear that over the Running Buddy pouch so it would be inaccessible to any lurking pickpockets, but the weather was unseasonably warm for fall when we were there and no coats were ever needed so I ended up borrowing a waist wallet worn under the pants for extra security instead the day we took an excursion into a crowded pick-pocket prone area.

decorated running buddy

it’s easy to sew an applique onto the running buddy if you want to personalize it or just be able to tell yours apart from someone else in the family who has the same color

Rather than pick-pocket prone areas it makes a better cruise buddy for active excursions where your things could fall out of a pocket or to use on board if you have no pockets, don’t like lanyards, and need somewhere to keep your ship card. Or the bigger one when wearing an outfit with no pockets and you want an easy place to keep your phone or a small camera handy. Even if you do have pockets cameras and phones can fall out of them, but not out of the Running Buddy so it can definitely come in handy onboard.

I gave my daughter, who is a runner, one for Christmas once and she loves it. Besides using it for its intended purpose to hold things while running, she also used it at Disney World to carry her GoPro camera. She used it in the runDisney marathon there as well. I wear a hydration belt when running so I can easily carry a water bottle and it has a pocket built into it. If I need more than just the one pocket I can add a Running Buddy onto the belt. It works just as well there as it does on a waistband. In fact they have actually added a belt to their product line for people who want to wear multiple pouches or who don’t want to put them on their waistband.

So while not necessarily the best choice for pick-pocket proofing, the Running Buddy is a great product for its intended purpose to hold things safely while running or doing any other activities where you either have no pockets or things might fall out of your pockets. They have greatly expanded their product line from just the few sizes of pouches they had a couple years ago when I got mine to having all sorts of things available now, including travel products like RFID lined pouches to prevent electronic pick-pocketing.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2018
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Holland America Westerdam

Holland America Westerdam

Westerdam in Hakodate, Japan

Somehow when sailing with Holland America we always end up on one of the same 3 ships – either the Oosterdam, Westerdam, or Veendam, even though none of the cruises have been repeats of a previous cruise and the starting points have varied from San Diego, Fort Lauderdale, Seattle, Boston, and Vancouver. Oosterdam (which we have sailed on twice)and Westerdam are similar both being in the same class of ships (along with P&O’s Arcadia which we also cruised on once.) Veendam (which we have also been on twice) is an older, smaller ship, different from the other two. Veendam has passenger laundries, the other two do not. Our first cruise on the Westerdam was a one week round trip from Fort Lauderdale going to the Caribbean, the second a round trip from Seattle for a week to Alaska. The third one being 28 days from Vancouver, Canada to Shanghai, China. A self-serve passenger laundry would really have been nice for a long cruise like that one.

About the Ship

glass elevator on the Westerdam

if you forget what day it is on the Westerdam just go into an elevator

Holland America Westerdam is a Vista class ship directionally named for the west. Sister ships include the Oosterdam (east) Noordam (north) and Zuiderdam (south.) Westerdam is the third ship of this class launched in 2004. Coincidentally it is also the line’s third ship to bear the name Westerdam. The Westerdam is 936 feet long, just over 105 feet wide, and has 11 passenger decks. It holds just over 1900 passengers and about 800 crew. The fifth sister ship in this class sails for P&O under the name Arcadia.

Ship History

art museum on a cruise ship

paintings from famous historic artists in the Westerdam’s little museum

The current Westerdam began service in 2004 and was refurbished recently with an update to much of the décor in public areas. The second ship bearing the name Westerdam was purchased from another cruiseline in 1988 and lengthened by 130 feet before joining Holland America’s fleet as the Westerdam. It went on to become the Costa Europa in 2002 and currently sails with Thomson Cruises as MS Thomson Dream.

cruise ship art

stairway art on the Westerdam

Holland America’s first ship bearing the name Westerdam sailed from 1946 to 1965 carrying cargo as well as passengers. Like other Holland America ships, one of the stairways of the Westerdam has paintings of the current ship on some stairway landings, with older renditions of ships bearing that name on other landings of the same staircase on lower decks. Westerdam has a couple older still paintings of ships with similar names, the Westerdyk and Westernland. The suffix dyk means cargo ship while dam means passenger vessel. Holland America had cargo ships back then and eventually also owned the Westernland, though it originally sailed for another line.


cruise ships sell art

art display on the Westerdam

Décor on the ship still includes a collection of artwork depicting Dutch heritage in the new world with paintings of things like historic Dutch ships and flowers, traditional on Holland America’s ships. The lowest level of the atrium on deck 1 is now a small museum with a few paintings by famous artists on the walls surrounding the area and an ever-changing video display of artworks on one wall inside the atrium. Guest Services is still nearby, but the shore excursions desk has moved into the Crow’s Nest Lounge on deck 10. Space for passengers to put puzzles together is now on the deck 1 level of the atrium on the opposite side from Guest Services. For anyone into coloring there is a display of colored pencils at the center of the atrium, and color-book style outlines of paintings in wall racks near the puzzles for people to take if they want something to color.

old and new centerpieces to the Westerdam's atrium

Westerdam’s old and new atrium centerpeices

Though some ornate statues remain along with the paintings, much of the décor on the ship has been changed from its prior elegance to more of a modern minimalist style, far more plain than the previous décor. The theater is fairly plain now with very uncomfortable seating and the new furniture about the ship is of a plainer style than what I’ve seen on Holland America in the past. The atrium used to have a beautiful gold and crystal sailing ship as the centerpiece hanging from its 3-deck high ceiling. Now there is just some sort of swirly thing partway down which in my opinion is nowhere near as nice as the ship they had hanging there before. Like much of the ship’s décor it has gone from old-world elegance to plain and uninteresting. The swirly thing is easier to photograph than the boat was, but not much to look at when you are there, where the boat had lots of details that don’t really show up in the picture.


cruise ship dinner

dinner from the Westerdam’s dining room

The Westerdam has all of Holland America’s usual eateries with the Lido buffet and main dining room as the main eateries, and also complimentary Dive In burgers place and taco bar on the Lido’s central pool deck. For an extra fee it offers the upscale Pinnacle Grill and at dinnertime Canaletto for Italian food on the Lido. Gluten free buffet options are available at the pasta bar, which is the waffle and crepe station at breakfast time. They have gluten free items available at breakfast as well, and can also make gluten free pancakes. Dining room menus usually have some items marked as gluten or dairy free or vegetarian, but anyone needing to adhere to a strict diet would be best off to arrange with their waiter to order dinners the night before so menu selections can be altered to suit their needs. You can ask on the spot in the dining room for things like a gluten free bun on a burger at lunchtime or gluten free cookies for dessert at dinner without making prior arrangements, but some things can’t be altered without asking in advance.

cruise ship dining room

dining room

The dining room is normally open at breakfast, dinner, and afternoon tea, and on most sea days also for lunch. The Lido buffet serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a late night buffet daily. Hours vary often with earlier breakfast start times on port days and sometimes extended lunch or dinner hours on port days as well depending on the hours the ship spends in port. The pasta station and Dive In grill are open throughout the afternoon and the pasta station through the evening as well so there is food available even when it is not the dining room or main buffet hours. Room service is also available 24 hours a day.

Smoking Policy

Westerdam back deck

smoking shelter on the back deck

After being on the Oosterdam where smoking was only allowed on one section of the back deck we were quite impressed with Holland America’s updated policies, only to be very disappointed a few months later on the Veendam where people could still smoke inside the ship in the casino. According to information I looked up on their website before sailing on the Westerdam their smoking policy varies from ship to ship. That info said it is just the Oosterdam and Eurodam that are completely smoke-free inside, and other ships still allow active slot players to smoke in designated areas – but of course the smoke does not stay within those areas or even within the casino. In actuality the Westerdam’s rules turned out to be the same as for the Oosterdam – at least on this voyage – with no smoking anywhere except the smoking shelter on the back deck of the Lido, making it quite easy to avoid. I’m allergic to tobacco smoke so the easier it is to avoid it the more pleasant the cruise is for me.

Dress Code

According to Holland America’s dress code casual attire is appropriate most evenings. No pool or beachwear, distressed jeans or men’s tank tops in the dining room or fine dining restaurants. No shorts at dinnertime. Jeans without holes, tears, or embroidery are allowed on casual nights. Collard shirts are required for men on all nights. On Gala nights dressy attire is appropriate – dresses, skirts, and slacks are all acceptable. While jackets and ties are the preferred gala night attire for men they are not required. Jeans are not allowed in the dining room or fine dining restaurants on Gala nights, but they are always allowed in the buffet.

ship's shops

shops on the ship

In actual fact on casual nights people tended to come to dinner in whatever is comfortable for them, which is jeans for some and business casual to church type clothes for others. Some men wore shirts without collars and did not get turned away. They did send people in shorts at dinner away to change. Sometimes people skated in with beachy looking sandals or flip flops, but not always. I also saw people who tried to come to the dining room in sweats on gala night get sent away to either change clothes or eat at the Lido buffet.

Westerdam atrium

atrium on the Westerdam

On formal nights people dressed nicer for them than on casual nights, which as in other nights meant some dressed up more than others. The ones who usually come in jeans often wore business or church type clothes on gala nights, and the ones who tended to dress that way on casual evenings were more likely to come in suits and ties or evening dresses. Anything that sparkles is always popular among the women on gala nights.


bar on the Westerdam

Art Gallery Bar

The Westerdam has a variety of bars, music venues, and places to eat. Each evening brings music at the Ocean Bar and later in the “music walk” area at Billboard on Board and Lincoln Stage Center. The ship has nightly shows in the theater with an early show at 8pm and late show at 10pm most nights. Shows may be production numbers with the Westerdam’s singers and dancers, or guest performances by musicians or comedians. Our cruise even included a couple local shows by performers from the port area exhibiting their traditional dances, one in Japan and one in China when the ship was docked in ports there.

cruise ship view

view from the Crow’s Nest Lounge

Lectures are popular and available throughout the day. Some of the lectures are by guest speakers on a variety of topics, often related to the ship’s itinerary. Others are from the shore excursion staff, of which they have people who talk about excursions from the ship and different people who give insights on each of the ports for people who prefer to explore on their own. Daytime entertainment also incluces classes, test kitchen demonstrations, trivia games, or self-entertainment from puzzles or games around the ship or use of the ship’s hot tubs or pools.  Some people prefer to relax by the pool or watch the scenery go by with a bow view from the Crow’s Nest or side view from the Explorer’s Lounge or other areas with scenic windows. Sometimes there are afternoon movies in the theater, and there’s always a selection of movies and shows available for the in-cabin TV. There’s also an assortment of shops.

Things To Do

theater on the Westerdam

lecture on the main stage

Besides things to watch like lectures, shows, cooking demonstrations, or TV, there are also games like trivia or bingo (for a price) and classes where passengers can be active participants like exercise classes, computer classes, or dance lessons. Most are free, though some of the exercise classes like yoga, Pilates and indoor cycling have a fee. Sometimes there are times on the schedule for people to meet for games like bridge, poker, or basketball. Of course there is also a casino.

cruise ship spa pool

spa pool in the thermal suite

The ship has a spa with massages, acupuncture and other treatments, and a hair salon. Of course all of those things come with a price. The spa also has a thermal suite where passengers can get a full cruise package or a one day pass. The thermal suite has an indoor heated pool with a variety of features like a rack that sits over jets, a high-jet area in a circle, hot tub style jets along the walls, and a couple intense shower type sprayers. Also included in the thermal suite are a couple steam rooms, a sauna, and nearly everyone’s favorite heated ceramic chairs. Although it’s not cheap, we purchased the full cruise thermal package and that area was our favorite hang-out on the ship.

Crow's Nest Lounge on the Westerdam

Crow’s Nest Lounge

There are often times scheduled during the day where people can go to the Crow’s Nest Lounge and meet with the independent shore advisors over an interactive map for individual advice on where to go and what to do in upcoming ports. The Crow’s Nest also has a coffee bar, screens with navigation information, and a great view. For other things to do there’s always the atrium area’s museum, puzzles and coloring. There’s no longer a library on the ship, but people tend to bring their own books, and since most people read electronic books on their tablets or phones these days anyway finding a place to sit near a window and read is also a popular pastime.

promenade deck on the Westerdam

promenade deck with a view of Juneau, Alaska

The outside promenade deck goes all the way around the ship and is a popular place for people to walk or run every day except when outside decks are closed due to stormy seas or windy weather. It has 3 drinking fountains spaced out around the deck, which comes in handy for long walks or runs. One sea day they had an organized 5K walk for a cause on the outside promenade to raise money for cancer research.

cruise ship pool

the main pool area has a sliding dome so it can be indoor or outdoor

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2018
Posted in Holland America, Shipboard Life, Westerdam | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bermuda Triangle Snorkel


Carnival Vista from the snorkel boat

After crossing the Atlantic Ocean from a cruise starting in Barcelona, Carnival Vista stopped in Bermuda overnight before continuing on to the final destination of the cruise in New York. Cruises from mainland USA to Bermuda tend to stay a bit longer.

Bermuda triangle is a lot bigger than Bermuda

Bermuda Triangle

For the first day at this port stop we booked a snorkel tour in the Bermuda Triangle. The Bermuda Triangle is not just a triangle around Bermuda as the name would indicate. Bermuda is actually just one tip of a giant triangle with sides that extend to Puerto Rico and Florida covering an area of the Atlantic Ocean far larger than the tiny bit of space taken up by Bermuda.

We took off for our snorkel trip in a glass-bottomed boat captained by a local 5th generation Bermudian who provided a wealth of information about Bermudian life and history on the way to the site of the two shipwrecks in the Bermuda Triangle where we would stop for snorkeling. One was the Civil War era Montana which sank in 1863 and other the World War 2 Constellation that hit the same reef in 1943. Not much of the wooden Constellation still survives other than some cargo. The metal side-wheel steamer fared somewhat better, though not intact with ship parts and the paddle wheel scattered about and grown over with coral.

Bermuda snorkel boat

snorkel boat captain and tour guide

Bermuda has a land mass of just under 21 square miles, but the reefs encircling the land mass cover a much larger area. Large ships have to wind their way carefully through a channel of deeper water between tall reefs when entering or leaving Bermuda. Bermuda has no high ground and is over 600 miles from any other land so they have to be self-sufficient in surviving hurricanes. The closest land is Cape Hatteras in North Carolina’s outer banks.

buildings in Bermuda

resort in Bermuda

Houses in Bermuda are very sturdy made from stone or cement and the roofs very heavy because their houses are the safest place they have to ride out a storm. 3 people died during one hurricane when one tried to cross a bridge and two cops went out to rescue him. The bridge went down taking all three people with it. They use their roofs to collect rainwater because Bermuda has no fresh water lakes or rivers and wells dug into its limestone ground would only find saltwater. Every home is built with a water tank.


shipwrecks make good structure for coral and other sealife

While coral reefs worldwide are dying off at alarming rates due to rising ocean temperatures and acidity, destructive fishing practices, pesticides, and other chemicals, and a number of other issues, Bermuda protects their reefs better than most. In some parts of the world overfishing strips the reef of fish that eat algae that suffocate corals when given a chance to grow, and fertilizer runoff feeds the algae helping it to grow faster than normal.

sunken ship in Bermuda

part of a sunken ship

Hurricanes are another threat to the world’s coral reefs. Pollution also harms coral, as does the chemicals and oils in the sunscreen washing off thousands of people swimming in the ocean wearing ordinary sunscreen instead of one that is coral safe. If your sunscreen doesn’t say biodegradable or reef safe on the package then it’s not.

fish in Bermuda

fish near the snorkel boat

You can find coral safe sunscreens online or at the sort of stores that sell herbal supplements and remedies. An amount of sunscreen equivalent to one drop in an Olympic-sized swimming pool is all it takes to harm coral. Many tons of sunscreen wash off people each year. You don’t need to swim in the ocean for chemicals from your sunscreen to end up there either as they can pass through the sewer system. Mineral based sunscreens protect people better from skin cancer so while saving the coral you can also better protect yourself.

Bermuda Bridge

Bermuda is a series of islands connected by bridges

According to our guide on the snorkel trip, Bermuda has lost about 11% of their reefs over the last couple decades. Horrendous as that is, it is much better than some areas in the Caribbean that are up to an 80% loss. Bermuda’s coral is tougher than most as it has to withstand large temperature swings between winter and summer since Bermuda is not in the tropics. That’s not the only reason it has a better survival rate though. Bermuda has all sorts of protections in place for both the coral and the fish that clean algae from the reefs. Bermuda’s signature pink sand comes from dead shells of a tiny short-lived creature that lives on the underside of the reefs.


snorkel boat at the reef

When we got to the site of the wrecks the crew tied the boat to a bouy which both marks the location of one of the wrecks and serves as an anchor bouy so boats have somewhere to tie up to and don’t have to drop anchor and risk damaging anything. The sea was flat calm, which isn’t the norm for that spot as the guide said it usually has a current. Flotation devices were required, with the option of noodles or snorkel vests. Not wanting to wrestle a noodle or have to keep track of it, I went with the vest (with no air in it) as the slightly less annoying way of fulfilling that requirement. Warm salt water is very buoyant. It’s actually much easier to float on the surface than it is to dive under it even without the hindrance of floatation devices, but they have their requirements (probably for insurance purposes) and people have to follow them.

Bermuda fish

reef fish

One wreck was just off the bow of the boat, the other off to one side. Coral reefs surrounded the boat and fish swam nearby. The largest concentration of fish were at the ship’s stern due to the fact that they threw food out for them there. In other areas the fish stayed mostly down near the coral, which was far enough under the surface in that area that nobody would accidentally touch it because touching it is against their protective rules.

cargo from a shipwreck

shipwrecked cargo – undersea bags of concrete

These wrecks have been under the sea for quite some time. Where the wooden ship sank the bags of concrete it carried have spread out looking like a large shelf of undersea pillows. The iron ship is scattered across the sea bottom in pieces.

old shipwreck near Bermuda

part of the Montana covered in sealife

On the way back to the dock we took a detour in the shallows where turtles sometimes hang out. Some of the reefs there come nearly to the surface so it takes careful navigation between them to avoid hitting any. We didn’t see any turtles that day, but if we had our guide said they would all be young turtles that breed elsewhere. Bermuda once had a breeding population of turtles, but back in the 1600’s in an attempt at conservation they ended up killing them off. They passed laws protecting the small turtles not realizing they were visitors form elsewhere and not local babies who would grow up to breed. The local turtles left for 25 years after hatching and came back to breed when they were large turtles of the size people were allowed to hunt and eat. They tried getting eggs from Costa Rica to re-establish their own breeding population, but even though those carefully tagged turtles hatched in Bermuda they went to Costa Rica when time came to breed – and they were all male because sand temperature around the egg determines a turtle’s sex. Males develop in colder sand, females in warmer sand and Bermuda is not as warm as Costa Rica. With rising ocean temperatures there are places currently having the opposite problem hatching almost nothing but female green sea turtles, which does not bode well for the species once the older generation of males die off since they need both sexes to reproduce.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2018
Posted in Atlantic Ocean & Islands, Carnival, Ports of Call, Shore Excursions, Vista | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Costa Maya Cruise Ship Port

Costa Maya cruise port

Veendam in Costa Maya

Costa Maya is an engineered cruise ship port, meaning it is not a dock in a pre-existing town, but rather a port area built specifically for cruise ships and their passengers. It has quite an extensive shopping area with lots of stores, bars, and restaurants. A lot of them have signs saying they don’t take cash. You need to bring a credit or debit card if you want much choice in where to shop, eat, or drink there.

Costa Maya cruise port

there’s lots of little bars and restaurants at the port

The port has at least a couple sets of bathrooms, and numerous last-minute tour booths. Someone from one of those tried to interest us in a tour as we walked by and he said they charge it to the ship’s card. There were 3 ships at the dock all from different cruise lines so it must not matter who you sail with because he didn’t ask. We didn’t book anything so they may ask later, but he didn’t seem to care on the sales pitch. We were on the Holland America Veendam which was the third of the three ships to arrive and got the closest berth to shore. Not by a lot, but we were alongside the dock everyone has to walk down while the other two were on an offshoot dock at the end.

Costa Maya

Mayan Pole

You don’t get very far into the port before coming across a small courtyard with a tall pole. We got there just as a performance started in which people dressed in traditional Mayan costumes hang upside down from ropes that spin their way down the pole while people on it play various instruments. They all righted themselves and landed on their feet as the ropes neared the ground.

Costa Maya pool

part of the pool at Costa Maya cruise port

The port area has a swimming pool with swim-up bar. It also has dolphin swims and dolphin encounters available right at the port. The pools for those were quite small. Hopefully the dolphins live in larger quarters elsewhere.

bird at costa maya

bird in the aviary

Overhead walkways around the port area and bridges above the pool and dolphins are an aviary experience that they said cost $12 each when we asked about it. There are birds at the junctions where the walkways connect. If you look up you can see birds there from the ground.

costa maya

swing chairs

We found one second story restaurant with a view of the pool from tables that had swings for seats. We also saw signs for a chocolate factory tour, but didn’t go in so I can’t say if it was any good. Near the port exit people handed out little free samples of the factory’s chocolate, which is pretty expensive to buy.

spray paint artist

talent with spray paint

One booth had a guy making quite nice artwork from spray paint. He has pictures for sale, and makes them while people watch. His pictures cost just $25 each and look nicer than a lot of more expensive art. He also had a tip jar as he is quite entertaining to watch and that gives him a way to make a bit from the people who don’t buy his paintings. He allows people to photo and video him while he works.

costa maya walkway

walkway at Costa Maya cruise port

Besides taking tours, last minute or otherwise, you can leave the port area on your own. There are taxis just outside the port that will take people to town for $2 or to Mayan ruins for $100 for two people. The security guard just outside the port said town is about an hour’s walk, but someone at a tour booth just past the pyramid fountain said it is about a 25 minute walk, and that it is safe and a nice walk. Outside the port area people will take cash, and are quite happy with American dollars. In fact the taxi drivers quoted their prices in America dollars.

pyramid fountain in Costa Maya

pyramid fountain about a block or two outside the cruise port

Just outside the port area there are lots of buildings that look to have once been a pretty good sized shopping center, but now most are empty. Probably that shopping center shut down when the cruise port shopping area was built since it likely took away a good portion of their business. Perhaps over time the empty shops will fill up with things aimed more towards locals or land dwelling tourists and open again. There was a hotel along that road as well. A fountain in a pyramid that probably wasn’t as old as it looked sat in center of the road a short distance from the gate into the port area. It was probably a centerpiece when the shopping area there was in use.

Mahahual, Mexico

sign near the lighthouse in Mahahual

The nearby town is called Mahahual. It has about 3000 residents whom our taxi driver said mostly live in another area a bit away from the tourist section. Which explains why the tourist bit of town near the beach looks much too small to hold that many people.

walkway between Mahahual and lighthouse

Malecon (seaside walkway) in Mahahual

In town there are several hotels that look solidly built, and shops of all sorts. Some of the shops appear to be cobbled together with whatever materials people could find while others look more like actual buildings. There’s a nice beach running along the edge of town, with a walkway to a lighthouse. There are also plenty of cabs available to take people back to the port, also for $2.

cruise port sign

there are lots of signposts with many signs around the cruise port at Costa Maya

The tourist bit of the town is small with just a road that loops around making 2 streets for cars, one going each way, plus the seaside walkway for people which our cabdriver referred to as the third road. He might have called it something else if he spoke more English or if we spoke more than a few words of Spanish. He did pretty well with English considering he said what he knew he had learned from various tourists riding in his cab.

dolphin encounter

dolphin at Costa Maya

Ship’s Excursions in Costa Maya

Excursions offered by our ship at this port included Kohunlich Mayan Ruins, which are 2 ½ hours away and not the same ruins the local taxis take people to. It also had a Jaguar, bus, bike, cenote, paddle and beach BBQ excursion that had people riding through the jungle on a tandem bike, swimming in a cenote, riding on a Jaguar truck, and a stop on a white sand beach with options for paddle boarding, boogie boarding or inner tubing. Other excursions included beach breaks, bike and kayak, segway, ATV, dolphin swim or encounter (which is right at the port), diving, and snorkeling.

cruise ship dock at Costa Maya

view of Costa Maya cruise port from the dock

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2018
Posted in Caribbean, Holland America, Mexico, Ports of Call, Veendam | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gluten Free Chocolate Orange Cookies

chocolate orange cookie recipe

gluten free chocolate orange cookies

Gluten Free Chocolate Orange Cookies

Makes about 20 cookies



6 Tablespoons butter or butter substitute, room temp
¼ cup honey
2 eggs,
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 Tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
orange zest
1/3 cup cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon baking powder
1 1/3 cups mixed gluten free flours (I used ½ cup oat flour, 1/3 cup sorghum flour, 3 T white rice flour, 3 T tapioca flour, 2 T potato starch, but you can use your own preferred blend or an all-purpose gluten free flour blend)


1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed orange juice
orange zest
¾ cup powdered sugar



Zest one orange and squeeze out the juice


Heat oven to 350º F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Beat butter until creamy. Add honey and blend together with electric mixer until smooth. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Blend in 4 Tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice and half of the zest. Add cocoa powder, flours, and baking powder and beat until thoroughly mixed. Drop dough by spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake 7-9 minutes


Beat 1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed orange juice with powdered sugar and remaining zest. Add more juice or powdered sugar as needed to achieve desired consistency. For glazed cookies make the icing a bit thinner and ice hot cookies as soon as they come out of the oven. For frosted cookies make thicker icing and let cookies cool before adding frosting. For bright orange Halloween cookies add a bit of orange food coloring to the frosting.

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Lautoka, Fiji Island Tour

cruise ship in Fiji

Explorer at the dock in Lautoka, Fiji

We had no plans for our port stop in Lautoka, Fiji on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas. When the ship pulled into port we could see a row of little booths offering tours from the locals. We like local tours. Besides supporting the people who live there, they are also usually considerably cheaper than tours booked on cruise ships.

Lautoka, Fiji cruise ship port

we could see the little booths from the ship so we knew there would be things to do

We booked what was said to be a 3-hour tour through one of the booths after having gone down the line to see where we could get the best deal. The asking rate per person adjusted from Australian to American dollars ran from $30-$35 at all the booths, but we found one willing to bargain and paid $25. We were told to come back at 9:15. They brought all the people waiting there to the bus around that time, but the bus didn’t go anywhere. The next group came in expecting a 9:30 departure, but it didn’t actually leave until they scrounged up a few more people closer to 10am. Island people are often on island time, which means they aren’t exactly prompt. Considering the ship had a 6:30pm all-aboard time they had no reason to feel the need to rush.

not really cannibals

the bus stopped by this store with “cannibals” outside

Our first stop was in Lautoka, Fiji’s sugar city. Called that because of the proximity of a sugar mill and the fact that sugarcane was once (as our guide put it) the backbone of Fiji’s economy. Which he said is now tourism, though they do still raise sugarcane there.
Going through Lautoka it looked like other than shopping there isn’t a lot to do. We stopped near a gift shop with a couple Fijians dressed as cannibals outside. They were cannibals in their not extremely distant past, but the native Fijians are mostly Catholics now. The “cannibals” posed for photos with or without tourists. Unlike in some countries they did not demand tips in exchange for the pictures, though they were quite happy to accept any that were offered.

sugartrain tracks

Narrow gage tracks used for bringing sugarcane to the mill at harvest time ran through Lautoka and alongside a lot of the roads. Some areas had rickety-looking train cars lined up near the tracks.

Apparently the people on our bus were on island time too because when given 15 minutes some waited longer to return to the bus. This was consistent at every stop, with some going double the given time. They added more people to the tour at that stop. Whether cruisers who had taken the shuttle to town or just other tourists I’m not sure, but they dropped them back at that stop before returning to the ship at the end. Speaking of the ship, the tour guide told anyone with their ship card hanging around their neck on a lanyard to put it away somewhere out of sight. Always a good plan in any port.

tropical flower

flower at the Garden of the Sleeping Giant

Along the way the tour guide said Fiji is multi-ethnic, but there’s only two races – the human race and the animal race. Although animals come in a multitude of species and humans don’t, the world would be a far better place with a lot less violence if everyone looked at things that way. No us and them, people are just people.

sleeping giant

the sleeping giant is a rock formation at the top of a small mountain

Our next stop was the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, up a long steep dirt road into the hills. The sleeping giant is a rock formation on top of the mountains. From certain views it looks as if it must be a lady giant. Up close you don’t really see it, but from our next stop on lower ground the giant in the rocks became far more obvious.

garden walkway

a wooden boardwalk trail ran through the Garden of the Sleeping Giant

People were given the option of paying a bit extra ($10) to go inside the garden or just sit in a covered area. They had a guided tour, but we were near the back. We tend to doddle around taking pictures. Other people cut in and we lost the guide. We ended up following the path until about 5 minutes until time to be back at the bus and then going back.

garden pond

the pond in the Garden of the Sleeping Giant had fish in it

We would have liked for them to give us more time at that stop so we could go farther down the trail. The garden had lots of pretty flowers and other interesting plants. It even had a pond. We got back on time and were told to rest about 10 minutes before leaving. The guide came around and served everyone fresh tropical fruit juice made from several fruits they grow there. I don’t know what was in it, but it tasted good.

garden in Fiji

there were all sorts of different plants at the Garden of the Sleeping Giant

Fijians must not consider bathroom upkeep as much of a priority. The ladies room in the one at the garden had 3 stalls – 2 usable and the third full of ants. Everyone avoided the toilet that was akin to sitting on an anthill. People would rather wait in line than end up with ants in their pants. At a later stop (Smuggler’s Cove) with just one stall the bathroom needed cleaning and the toilet was clogged.

mud pool

this guy got out of the mud pool just before we got there

Not far from the Garden of the Sleeping Giant we stopped at Fiji’s Tifajek Natural Spa. From there the sleeping giant on top of the mountain definitely looked like a lady giant. Natural hot springs provide the hot water for mud baths, thermal pools, and a sauna. This stop also had a small fee ($5) to go in – more for anyone wanting to try the pools or have a massage. We ran into some people we knew from the ship who had gone there on a ship’s excursion. We were supposed to stay for 20 minutes, but actually spent 40 there. Most of that with everyone sitting on the bus waiting to leave except a couple people who decided at the last minute to get a massage instead of going back to the bus when it was time to leave.

massage hut

the natural spa had massage huts with floor mats as well as massage tables outside

We would have been happy if the tour ended at that point and took us back to the ship, but they still had a couple more stops on their itinerary. Next we went to Nadi, which our Fijian guide pronounced Nandi as if it had an N in the middle of the word. That’s where the airport is if you fly into Fiji. Mostly we just drove through the city. They did take a 15 minute stop at a gift shop, though about half the people didn’t bother to get off the bus. All these tours stop at specific shops where they must have some sort of business arrangement with the owners. You get the same thing on cruise ship tours, though not necessarily the same stores. 15 minutes of course stretched to about 25 before the guide managed to round up all the stragglers and herd them back to the bus. There always seems to be at least one inconsiderate person who never comes back on time on every tour. When time is short sometimes stops get missed because of them, and it’s never the shops that they skip.

Hindu Temple

Hindu Temple

We stopped briefly for photos at a Hindu temple which would have been pretty impressive if most of it hadn’t been draped under tarps for construction. Fiji has a lot of people who came from India. They own a lot of the shops.

Smuggler's Cove hotel

Outside seating at Smuggler’s Cove

Our last stop was a hotel called Smuggler’s Cove. It was on the beach on the windward side of the island. Drier, but not as calm of water. The hotel had a café and bar where some people had food or drinks. Just outside the door there was a small pool, which we never saw anybody go in. Beyond their outdoor seating was a sandy beach. A few people were out in the water, but not many. We were to be there for half an hour. During that time we saw a guy ride down the beach on a horse and come back riding that one and leading another. Later a car drove by on the beach. That stop stretched to about 45 minutes before they got everyone back to the bus.

Smuggler's Cove beach

beach at Smuggler’s Cove

This tour definitely ran on island time. The 3 hours we were told the tour would last ended up as 5-6 depending on whether you count time spent waiting for the bus to leave initially or time from when it actually left. Which could of course be looked at as getting more than our money’s worth since we were back well before all-aboard time or as running quite slow since a good percentage of that time was spent sitting on the bus waiting for people who couldn’t be bothered to come back when they were told to.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2018
Posted in Explorer of the Seas, Pacific Ocean & Islands, Port Cities, Ports of Call, Royal Caribbean | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Inside Upper Lower Accessible Cabin

Carnival Magic

Carnival Magic

Cruise ships have a variety not just of passenger cabins, but of accessible passenger cabins, and Carnival Magic is no exception. Whether accessible or not, rooms run the range from inside cabins to suites, and everything in between.

inside cabin sleeps 4

regular inside cabin with bunks has 2 lower beds that can go together for a queen

Prices vary among the same type of cabin depending on its location both in deck level and whether it is near the middle or out toward one of the ship’s ends. The very cheapest of the cheap, or lowest category of inside room is the ones designated as upper lower. By upper/lower they mean one actual single bed and one either bunk or couch bed. The traditional upper/lower has a drop-down bunk, but some ships have rooms with a couch that converts to a bed and one regular bed and these are also in that classification. These rooms are great for bargain hunters and solo cruisers. Usually they are fairly small rooms, but as with any category accessible rooms are normally larger than others in that category.

inside upper lower cabin

inside upper lower cabin 1340

When booking last minute for the Magic, my sister had a choice of inside room or suite. With suite well out of her budget that left inside room, of which her choices were accessible or not in the upper/lower category. Her travel agent said they would sell just one of the two available inside rooms as ships can’t exceed their lifeboat capacity and this one was nearly full. Depending on how many rooms have more than two guests booked some other rooms may go unsold and remain empty even when the ship is at full passenger capacity. Since they make more money on suites they’d rather an inside room was left open. Her travel agent advised picking the accessible room since it would be more spacious than the regular one.

cruise ship hallway

hallway in the cabin area on Carnival Magic

This room was located on the Lido deck and was of the traditional style with one bed and a drop-down bunk, which stays folded up fairly unobtrusively in the ceiling when not in use. The upper bunks have come a long way over time. Some older ships still have wall mounted bunks that stick out into the room even when folded up, while newer ones have ceiling bunks that fold completely into the ceiling leaving it just as flat as a room without bunks. On the magic the bunk folded up against the ceiling, but not into it. The room had lots of floor space since as a fully accessible room sometimes people have to maneuver a wheelchair around in there. Closet space was limited as the closet was smaller than average to fit in the space between the wall and the oversized bathroom door. The desk ended with space between it and the bathroom for wheelchair parking, making it smaller than average as well. So she got lots of floorspace and not so much storage.

cruise ship accessible cabin

shower in the accessible cabin

Floorspace wasn’t the only thing bigger than average though. While cruise ship bathrooms are usually pretty small, in the accessible rooms they are quite spacious. Instead of a lip around the shower it has drains for a roll-in shower, which is about double the size of those in regular cabins. There is also lots of floor space by the sink. The shower has a drop-down seat, and since it is oversized the clothesline is longer than normal.

accessible sink

sink in the accessible cabin bathroom

For one person this is a great room. Two would have space enough to move around, but might find the limited storage space a bit of a challenge if they brought much stuff, though if they had no wheelchair suitcases could sit in that space rather than getting stuffed under the bed making it easy to keep some things there. The bathroom would be no problem for two with more than the usual amount of counter space.

inside upper lower cabin

inside upper lower accessible room 11268

Overall she liked the room, except for lack of a chair until the steward brought her one of the sort normally found on balconies. The other drawback was that while proximity to the Lido made grabbing a snack or something to drink easy, it also meant hearing any late night deck parties making sleep impossible before the party ended. While the nightly movies seemed loud out on deck, she did not hear those in the room. These rooms can also be found on other decks.

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