Well, HAL outdid herself again. Just when I thought I had experienced the most perfect cruise, I take one that's even better! The ship is beautiful, service outstanding, amenities very comfortable...there were only two little things that bothered me, but I'll get to those later.
Prior to embarkation
We made our own air plans this time. We only saved about $150 over HAL's rate, but we had control of flight times, which is important to us. We have had crazy connections and long layovers before, and would rather do it our way. All flights went very smoothly, and we arrived in Ft. Lauderdale at about 10:30. We had placed our Zaandam tags on our checked luggage when we left home, and they were routed directly to the ship. A 5-minute, $8 cab ride later we were at the pier.
It was too early to start checking in, so we walked around for a half hour (with about 100 others) until the doors opened. We passed security quickly and got in our alphabetical line behind about 5 parties, at which time the line next to us emptied and the lady called us over to check in there (the suites line). I couldn't help asking for an upgrade and she smiled sweetly and said, "Sorry, honey. This sailing has been sold out for many weeks". Nice lady...let me down easy. I also asked about our Mariner Club Priority Boarding, to which she replied that they don't offer that privilege on sold-out sailings. I'll bet about half the passengers were repeats, and we can't all go first! After she checked our docs and handed us our chargecard/roomkey we went into the spacious, comfortable waiting room to...wait. About 1:30 they started boarding the suites and wheelchair-bound, and very quickly got to our number 3. We smiled for the photographer and made our way to the ship.
Our cabin, D-2603, Main Deck, midships, was very generously appointed. It had twin beds (we had the steward put them together) flanked by two nightstands, each with two drawers (one each with key locks). At the head of the beds, under the window, were controls for all the lights and radio/PA system. The beds were very comfortable and there were plenty of pillows and blankets. The sitting area had a loveseat, end table with reading lamp, hassock, coffee table and a comfortable side chair (instead of a desk chair at the dressing counter).
The dresser had 4 big drawers, lots of counter space and a huge wall mirror. The only thing I didn't like about this, was that the light over this mirror was small and dim...not at all adequate enough for applying makeup. On the counter you will find the ice bucket, glasses, bottled water, and a variety of sodas in cans. When opened, the sodas are $1.70 each and the water $3.25. The remote-controlled TV was mounted on the wall. There were 5 closets...yes, FIVE. One had shelves (we put our empty luggage there), two were split for hanging short things and the safe, and two were full-length. There was a full-length mirror inside one closet door (facing the room) and some of the shelves collapsed to allow for more hanging space. Very cleverly done. The safe was operated by credit card. Unfortunately, then you have to take the card with you, or hide it somewhere. The bathroom was nicely outfitted, but still only large enough for one. The bathtub had a shower with an hand-held adjustable head (height and direction) which must be really neat for kids and great for washing hair. It also had a laundry line. The sink counter is narrow so you can get real close to the mirror. In the corner was a cabinet with three large shelves and mirrors on both sides of the doors so you can see the back of your head. There are soapholders and cupholders on the wall, built-in tissue dispenser, hair dryer (careful...the handle gets hot) and a large shelf underneath. Surprisingly, the walls and floors were ceramic tile! I wonder how they keep the grout from cracking with all the ship's movement? The air conditioning in our cabin was perfect, although our friends only a few cabins over complained they were too hot. It was explained that it takes a few months to tweak each individual cabin so they all get enough cool. It should be fine by the time you get there.
Decor: I found the ship to be tastefully decorated; new, of course; interesting art and artifacts (like the King Tut exhibit); and huge urns of gigantic, splashy flower arrangements...some were six feet tall! I would have enjoyed the atrium if it wasn't clogged up with that organ.
The sun deck(s) are located on the Lido Deck (8). There are plenty of lounge chairs and tables in both the sun and shade at both pools. The Lido Pool (amidships) is protected by windows and a retractable roof that allows for activities, rain or shine. Here you'll find most of the pool games, music and horseracing. Here you can swim, sunbathe, relax in one of the whirlpools, enjoy the cocktail-of-the-day at the Dolphin Bar or grab a quick snack at the Terrace Grill. The outside pool (aft) is my favorite place to broil, although the extreme heat made it somewhat uncomfortable. It's all open to the sky and ocean, the lounge chairs going right up to the rail so you can hear the ocean. You can retreat to a table in the shade for relief. There's a bar out there, too, but there are plenty of waiters out there to serve you. These pools are separated by the Lido Restaurant, so you can take an appropriate swimsuit cover and scoot next door for lunch, and if you've been eating too much, the Ocean Spa Gym is at the other end.
Rotterdam Dining Room:
This beautiful room is located on the Promenade and Upper Promenade (4 and 5) decks and features a beautiful staircase and tables for 2-10 which are comfortably spaced and beautifully set. The service areas are, thankfully, away from the traffic areas. We had a lovely table for 6 on the balcony near the aft windows. First seating diners will enjoy the ocean view from all sides from these walls of windows.
Here you will find the traditional buffet-style service; two lines for the main entrees, a sandwich bar, salad bar, specialty-of-the-day bar, ice cream bar and dessert bar. Rather than the boring, institutional service counter, you'll see very nicely arranged and decorated free-form counters and islands, wonderful food served by the smiling HAL servers. The beverage islands have 24-hour coffee urns, unsweetened iced tea on tap, a variety of specialty tea and hot chocolate bags.
The larger lounges (Ocean Bar, Seaview Lounge, Explorer's Lounge) are where you'll find some of the group game activities. There are several lounges...beautifully furnished with great views; some quiet,offering harp sounds and brandy some with a combo, piano or disco. The Crow's Nest on the Sports Deck (9) offers a panoramic view off the bow, great entertainment and hot hors d'oeuvres at cocktail hour.
This is the main showroom; a massive main floor theater with a generous balcony and unobstructed views everywhere. There are rows of comfortable loveseats and chairs with cocktail tables. The stage is large enough for impressive Broadway-style productions and seats the orchestra behind the dancers. We didn't attend every show, but even though we took our sweet time at second seating, there was always an excellent selection of seats for the main show.
Several tax- and duty-free shops are located on the Upper Prom, offering jewelry and fine collectibles, clothing and "ship stuff", perfumes, Fossil leather goods and designer items, and liquor (OK for in-cabin consumption), cigarettes (from $16.50 per carton) and sundries. Throughout the cruise there will be daily table sales of gold-by-the-inch, cocktail rings, watches (Seiko, Citizen, Bulova & more only $69.95), hand-crafted Caribbean souveniers, and on the last two days, last-minute gift items. HAL guarantees their prices are equal or lower than you can find on the islands. If you find the identical item anywhere while in port, bring an exact description on a business card or a printed flyer with the price and HAL will match it.
Conveniently located on the Upper Prom, the Casino (and its bar) sit off to the side, so the area is not used for a thoroughfare. 108 state-of-the-art video reel, video poker, touch scrren multi-game slots ($5, dollar, quarter and dime), Roulette, Blackjack, Caribbean Draw and Stud Poker and Craps are offered, and for those who would like to learn, they have a gaming workshop on the first sea day.
"Megacash Slots" is a $1 progressive slot tournament; the machines are linked across the HAL fleet, and at the time we sailed, the jackpot was over $145,000.
In the "Megacash Bash", you can buy in for $20; $5 goes into the pot, and you play $15 for the "Megacash". You keep everything you win, and the player winning the most from their $15 wins the pot. If you hve a credit card imprint at the front office, you can draw up to $500 per person per day for gambling purposes only in the Casino. Photo ID, your yellow credit card copy and your Guest ID card must be presented.
In the Caribbean Draw Poker Tournament, for $10 you get $2,000 in tournament chips and six hands to win as much as possible. First prize is $250.
Lotto tickets are available (possible prize of up to $1,000), which also qualify for the Second Chance Draw.
Located on the Lido Deck (8) are the Ocean Spa Gym, Massage Room and Beauty Salon. The Steiner Hair, Beauty and Fitness Tream will invite you to take a tour of the spa on the first sea day, when they will offer their "Traveller's Tension" special; a 15-minute foot massage or neck and shoulder massage for just $25. Appointments fill up early, so if you will need services for formal nights, or a massage after a particularly strenuous excursion, make your reservations as early as possible. On one sea day, the special was "Choose any 3 for $45; Mini-facial, Re-polish, Hand Spa, Scalp Massage, Comb-out or Braid." Seminars are also offered, such as "The Art of Reflexology" and "The Hair Dare" (models required).
In the French Hand & Foot Spa, exfoliation of the hands and feet is followed by a nourishing mask and relaxing massage both for $25.
The Photo Gallery is on the Promenade Deck (4). Here you'll find all the photos taken at dinners, *barkations, excursions and other activities. Please discard the photos you know you will not purchase to free up room for future displays...you'll see what I mean. They now offer different gift formats you can have your photos packaged in. You can even have your own film developed.
Saturday: Embarkation Day: Spa, Beauty & Gym Orientation and Tour; Lifeboat Drill; Sailaway Party; Casino Tour; Cocktails; Art Auction Preview; Club HAL Juniors Meeting; Dancing; Showtime; Cigars Under the Stars; Club HAL Teen Meeting; Pizza Bash; Raffle
Sunday: At Sea: Walk-a-Mile; Aerobics; Shore Excursion Talk; Crazy Golf Putting; Fondue Demo; Jewelry Talk; Euro Skin Care; Gaming Lessons; Snowball Bingo; Napkin Folding Demo; Shipbuilding; Solo Travelers Get-together; Slot Clinic; Horseracing; Dance Class; Ice Carving Demo; Cozumel Shopping Talk; Bridge; Art Auction; Basket/Volleyball; Shuffleboard; Crafts; More Snowball Bingo; Team Trivia; Captain's Reception, Showtime; Baby Boomers' Night
Monday: Cozumel: Aerobics; Card Games; Shuffleboard; Ping Pong; Veterans Get-together; Dance Class; Grand Cayman & Jamaica Shopping Talk; Draw Poker Tournament; Wet & Wild Pool Games; Art Auction; Half Moon Cay Slide Presentation; Shopping Expert Talk; Team Trivia; Golf Chipping; Scarf Tying; Snowball Jackpot Bingo; Volleyball; The Match Game; Showtime; Cigars Under the Stars; Filipino Crew Show
Tuesday: Grand Cayman: Workout; Scrabble; Ping Pong; Shuffleboard; Bridge; Scatterbories Madness; Basket/Volleyball; Trivia Challenge; Sail-Away party; Snowball Jackpot Bingo; Stretching; Volleyall; Liars' Club; Showtime; Cigars Under the Stars; Fabulous 50's & 60's Sock Hop; Dessert Extravaganza; DJ Dancing
Wednesday: Ocho Rios: Body Conditioning; Bridge; Ping Pong; Paddle Tennis; Golf; Pictionary Madness; Walk-a-Mile; Trivia Challenge; Snowball Jackpot Bingo; SailAway Party; Generation XX Volleyball, Silent Art Auction; Showtime; Cigars; Newlywed/Not So Newlywed Game; Country Club Jamboree; Casino Drawing
Thursday: At Sea: Fitness; Shuffleboard; Flawless Skin Demo; Bingo; Sea Quest; Kitchen Tour; Desert Survival; Mariner's Society Reception; Ping Pong; Horse Racing; Blackjack Tournament; Shipbuilding Sea Trials; Aromatherapy; Vegetable Carving; Bridge; Joke Corner; Art Auction; Battle of the Sexes Trivia; Volleyball; Snowball Jackpot Cash Prize Bingo; Showtime; Cigars; BlackJack Tournament; Sing-Along; Late Night Comedy Show
Friday: Half Moon Cay: Low Impact Aerobics; Ping Pong; Sports Quiz; Shuffleboard; Basketball; Bridge; Backgammon; Taboo; Art Auction; Team Trivia; Backstage Tour; Volleyball; What's My Line?; Snowball Bingo; Farewell Showtime; Cigars; Slot Minute Madness; Karaoke Time; Final Snowball Bingo; Disco 70's Night
Saturday: Disembarkation (see below)
This is a nice, comfortable theater on the Promenade Deck, offering free popcorn and sells soft drinks. Features this week were: Bi-Centennial Man; Galaxy Quest; Hanging Up; Music of the Heart; Talented Mr. Ripley.
Six channels provide CNN, TNT, 2 movie channels, a ship channel and a port channel. Movies shown this week were: Three Kings; The Interrupted Girl; Random Hearts; Thomas Crown Affair; Angela's Ashes; Double Jeopardy; Mickey Blue Eyes; The Sixth Sense; Three to Tango; For Love of the Game; The Story of Us; The World is Not Enough; Notting Hill; Mumford; The Love Letter; Runaway Bride; The Insider; The Red Violin; Mansfield Park; Tea with Mussolini; Messenger: Joan of Ark.
The Cruise Director, Susan Wood, was a very classy and knowledgeable lady...accessible and personable, and a real asset to the staff.
Our cabin steward was efficient, not outstanding. No Undie-Animals.
Our waiter Dwi, assistant waiter Didit, headwaiter Romli and wine steward were all personable and efficient. Dwi never hesitated to accept my order of 2 or 3 appetizers and desserts, and Romli expertly boned my Dover Sole.
Demographics are a hard call when there is so much room on the ship you don't really see everyone. I'd say the average age was 45-55, and I know there were children aboard, but they must have been very well behaved, 'cause except for the little guys at the pool, I didn't really notice them.
I know this will sound funny, but there was very little motion, and I really missed it. I like a little rocking...enough so you know you're at sea. Except for the dining room (a little vibration over the engines) and one brief moment on a sea day, it was like walking around in a fancy hotel! There was just enough motion to make me fall asleep quickly and completely.
HAL has this perfected. We got up, had a bite to eat, checked in with Customs, went to the Mondriann Lounge to wait for our debarkation color to be called. During this brief waiting time I checked out at Customs and went up to the Verandah Deck to check out those cabins. Our luggage was easy to find, the porter carted them to the cab stand, got us a cab and we had a short ride to the airport. Almost no waiting.
Day One--Departing Ft. Lauderdale:
After we "smiled pretty" for the photographer (notice the HAL Alumni badges? Worthless), we boarded the ship and were escorted to our cabin by a lovely, smiling Indonesian steward, we were pleased with the wide companionways and large elevator banks (lots of elevators). Not surprisingly, our cabin was very much like other outside cabins we've had on HAL and RCI, only seemed a bit roomier and, of course, newer! The bathroom had a much more efficient layout and a bathtub, which, for us, meant a larger shower. We investigated the cabin a bit and headed up to the Lido for lunch.
The buffet was much more cleverly laid out than others, still with a "cafeteria line", but not in a straight line... there seemed to be an island for each course. Nearly every table had a nice view, and were away from traffic patterns. At the head of the line was another smiling steward who handed us each a tray with a linen napkin and beautiful flatware. We got a great table by the window and enjoyed a wonderful salmon luncheon (the first of many salmon dishes to be enjoyed that week!) A traveling friend found us, and when he sat down he knocked a fork off the table. The dining room steward almost caught it before it hit the floor. That's the kind of service I like! Our third couple found us and after visiting for awhile, we all returned to our cabins to retrieve our life-vests and prepare for the lifeboat drill. This was very well organized, taking only about 15 or 20 minutes (good thing, 'cause it was hot out there).
We filled out the Excursion Order Forms and dropped them in the box so we'd get what we wanted before the rush.
The sailaway party was next...I was kind of disappointed because there weren't any condo-dwellers to wave to. They usually blow horns and wave banners and such...oh well. Caribbean Magic played on the Lido Deck aft while we enjoyed our first drink special and started off on a most relaxing and enjoyable week at sea.
by about 5:00 our luggage was delivered (Jim was taking the first of many naps while I unpacked). You will love the closets! There was so much room, we actually stored all the luggage in one closet. We toured the ship some and met our friends for a casual dinner in the Rotterdam Dining Room.
Our table for six was on the balcony floor near the aft windows. Can't see too much at second seating, but it'd be nice for first. Actually, we were all too busy catching up to look. Our waitstaff introduced themselves, very reserved and professional, and I began teaching our waiter how I'd order two or three of most things all week.
"Opening Night" (a taste of the week's entertainment) was performed by the Zaandam Cast, the magician, Zoltan, and the cruise staff, introduced by the beautiful cruise director, Susan Wood (who knew...a British girl with a great sense of humor!) We really like this girl. She set the scene for a fabulous week of entertainment. We arrived just a minute or so before showtime, and there were plenty of seats available. We took a peak at the Casino and retired for the night.
Day Two--At Sea:
At night, you can order coffee or a whole breakfast for the following morning, and as a result, exactly at the appointed time, our croissants, danish, juice and coffee were delivered by a discreet steward who averted his eyes while placing our tray on the coffee table. Hunger abated, we dressed for breakfast in the Lido (Candy's traditional lox and bagels, bananas and cream) which we found surprisingly varied and delicious.
The Men's Crazy Golf Putting contest was held in the Ocean Bar, snaking up and down ramps, under furniture and around chairs. It was really great fun, but a shame that this was the first year Jim didn't win. We'll just have to book another cruise and try again.
The girls went shopping (different specials every day) and the guys bet on the horses at the Lido Pool. It's not as much fun to bet on the horses as it is when you own one. Guess HAL doesn't do that.
After lunch we tried Team Trivia in the Ocean Bar. The questions were too hard (we had a Mensa member on our team, too) and would have been more fun if there were at least a few easy ones. Lesa nearly fell asleep, which signaled Naptime for the Brocks...and we missed the Captain's Reception.
We found a short line for formal portraits and joined our friends in the dining room. Dinner, as usual, was elaborate and delicious. Two appetizers and desserts for me...I love being waited on.
"Dancin' Fool" was performed by the Zaandam Cast. The performances were good, I just didn't like the music.
Jim slept-in while I had breakfast and roamed the ship. With only 5 hours in port (a gross injustice, and the worst thing about this particular cruise) I had a feeling I was not going to enjoy this day. Jim was not feeling well, and I wandered out to the duty-free shops on the pier. I found a little of everything (liquor, perfumes, onyx and other gift items), but knew I'd be able to get better prices ashore...I'll never know for sure. Back at the cabin, Jim was relaxing on the couch, enjoying a cigarette and feeling good enough for lunch in the Lido. I pointed to the little blue building next to the little yellow building where were going to get some real bargains. Some friends joined us at our table, Jim kept talking...yadda yadda yadda...All Aboard! So much for Cozumel...try again next year.
This might have been the day we played Bingo or the day we sat out in the furnace...I forget. There was a nap in there somewhere.
Dinner was Elegantly Casual, and the show afterwards wasThe Hill Brothers. Great show. This one brother is a champion juggler and is truly an amazing performer.
Day Four--Grand Cayman:
I had actually been looking forward to this day for three years...the last time around we could not anchor due to inclement weather, and I really wanted to swim with the sting rays. Sting Ray City is one of the BEST excursions in the Caribbean, believe me! You tender into George Town, and after a short boat ride out to the sand bar, you don the snorkeling stuff (provided), grab your underwater camera (not provided), and wade out to the shallowest part and a tour guide shows you how to handle and feed the rays (squid is provided in a floating bucket). Don't be shy, 'cause there's only one bucket of ray food. Don't be timid...they are so gentle...just don't step on one. It's a really exciting experience that I would definitely try again.
After another elegantly casual dinner, we passed up the Sock Hop for singer-impressionist Paul Tanner. I don't know if we were bored, tired, stuffed or all of the above, but we had no energy to even take pictures of the Dessert Extravaganza...whatta shame!
Day Five--Ocho Rios:
Another gorgeous Caribbean day found us excitedly preparing for an invigorating climb up Dunn's River Falls. This is an excursion you must do at least once in your life, keeping in mind that you should have ample energy, and both knees must be in good working order. The little ferry boat leaves from the pier, just steps from the Zaandam. After a short ride, during which the ground rules are discussed and water shoes are offered for rent (some are pretty sorry-lookin', so you might want to buy your own at Wal-Mart) we arrived at the Falls, stood in a 5-minute line, and started up. If you take the ship's tour you can leave your stuff on the boat. If you go on your own, there are lockers available at the top (then you walk down the bridges and take the falls up). This is a really exciting experience! There are lots of carved-out places to step on or hold onto, but you really must hold your neighbors' hands for balance. The water rushes very fast and WILL knock you down in some places. There are plateaux here and there for a rest, and you can enjoy the absolutely beautiful rainforest. As soon as you think you've reached the top, the falls turn left and there's MORE! You can get off almost anyplace and observe from the bridge, so don't think you need to complete the climb if it's more strenuous than you thought. Besides, someone has to hold the good camera.We also took a disposable underwater camera and got some excellent shots from inside the falls. There are guides with still and video cameras in the falls, and don't be surprised if your portrait is waiting for you at the end! The Zaandam photo crew is also there, and it will be part of the ship's video. We really should have signed up for a WaveRunner at the pier (same tour company), but we were exhausted and, you guessed it, took a nap. After lunch we went shopping...Jim bought the kids the obligatory T-shirts, cigars for the local Magistrate, and Lesa and I went browsing. I had been looking for a tanzanite ring for four years, and found exactly the right one in Grand Cayman. I could have gotten it cheaper in Cozumel, but (insert primal scream here) that's not MY fault ;-)
A barbeque dinner was offered at the Lido pool, but we opted for the Main DR again. Our elegantly casual dinner was just that, and superb, as usual. Zoltan's magic show was entertaining, but not great.
Day Six--At Sea:
Our second day at sea (we really needed the rest) was relaxing and fun! We joined SeaQuest in the Mondriaan Lounge. This is a really fun game where the audience is split up into teams, and each team leader has to collect unusual items from the players and be the first to hand them up on stage to win the round. I can't understand, though, why my husband refused to take a photo of me waving my WonderBra in the air! Geez...it's only a game, and it's not like I was hangin' out there...
We may have played Bingo, I don't remember. Lately we've been waiting for the BIG game on the last night. It's just too expensive to play once or twice a day. We took our usual naps and prepared for the second formal night, which was actually more formal than the Captain's Formal Night. Tell me why, please, that after a couple stands in a formal portrait line for 20 minutes, a whole group of people can be next, because it was so much trouble to get them all together, they don't want to lose any of them! The nerve! And the photographer didn't even try to ask them to wait! And they took a long time!
The dining room looked a little more elegant...the chairs were covered with slips and the tables looked more formal. Dinner was delicious, service was extraordinary.
The Monte Carlo show, a Las Vegas-style spectacular with a French twist, was OK. As before, the performances were good, I just didn't care for the theme. Give me disco, and I'm there! The late night show by Gary DeLena was much better.
Day Seven--Half Moon Cay:
What a gorgeous beach! We had beautiful weather...82°, a calm sea (crystal clear at the shore), almost no wind, mostly sunny...and had the whole beach to ourselves (no other tourists, like at public ports). You tender over to this paradise place, wander a short way to the beach...rafts, snorkel equipment, sailboards, etc. are all right there. We're not nature trail people.... we got two rafts and walked out 'til the water was waist-deep, and just laid there. Nothin' else, just laid there. Turned over once, and laid there s'more. Incredible. Peaceful. Uncrowded. We took a tram ride up the hill and had a marvelous Bar-B-Que, browsed the little (and I mean little) market area (no pushy locals here), then back to the beach for a banana boat ride. The old man rode on this one, the others must have thought we were crazy. This is another port I could spend 12 hours in...it's just the most relaxing place I've ever been to. We reluctantly boarded the tender for the return trip, sadly knowing that we had an hour of packing ahead of us on this last day.
HAL does not leave tip envelopes in the cabin; you must bring your own or request them from the Front Office. We had made a point to write down the correct spelling of our staff's names, and wrote them on each envelope.
The Farewell Show (before dinner for 2nd seating guests) was a finale by the Zaandam Cast, Zoltan and Paul Tanner.
The dinner was casual, and we were not bombarded with pleas for a good rating, in fact, we had to chase down the waiter to give him his envelope! We don't like to just leave it on the table... we like to thank them personally so they will know we are truly pleased by their wonderful service. They each got a wonderful review.
Final Snowball Bingo...the one where they give away the big money...this time only $2,100...and NOT to me! After we lost...again... we took one more trip to the Lido for The Last Dessert Buffet (Dutch Late Night Snack). Somehow on the last night you feel you must do this, because it's included. We piled up our plates and gave it our best, but Jim finally had to push away.
This is the day the depression starts to set in. We're not early risers, so we took our time leaving the cabin and missed breakfast. We gathered together our meager belongings and headed to the Mondriaan Lounge, checked in with the airlines, and had sweet rolls and coffee during our wait. I sneaked up to the Customs area to pay the duty on that ring I could have gotten for less in Cozumel (that was a direct hit to Jim), and tried to take a picture of the ladies that took my last ten dollars, but they said it was against the rules. I wandered around the Veranda Deck to look at the pricier cabins. They looked a little bigger than ours, and had a small verandah that looked so closed-in on the sides, I don't know how comfortable they'd be. I didn't get to see the cabins on the upper decks 'cause I was afraid I'd miss my color call for debarkation. After a short wait, we left the ship, claimed our luggage (easy to find with HAL's color coding system), had a redcap load us up to the cab stand and it was, sadly, over. The next 12 hours were a nightmare. We were there in plenty of time for our 12:30 flight, checked in, got a bite to eat and headed to the gate. There was an announcement that our flight would be delayed, but no explanation. They kept putting off the departure time by another 30 minutes until it was so late we would have missed our connection in Atlanta. We were assigned another connecting flight, then after more delays, found out that the flight was delayed due to faulty equipment (not a good thing) and they were flying in another plane to replace ours, and it would be ready in about an hour. We then were so late that we would miss the second assigned connection. The replacement plane arrived at the same time a horrendous tropical storm did. Now that we finally had a plane, they closed the airport. Exhausted, freezing, and generally feeling miserable, all we wanted to do was get some rest. Ft. Lauderdale's airport is still being renovated and is way too small for the number of people who travel through there. When flights are cancelled, there is no place to relax. There are some nice couches, but all were taken. If you remember anything, remember this...this airport is freezing cold, and you will need warm clothes and a pillow. This is the second time we have been stranded in this airport and suffered the frigid air (particularly bad if you have a sunburn). It may be different in the winter, but I will be prepared next time!
With only a few reservations, this cruise was outstanding! I would have made the stop at Cozumel much longer. I would like a better selection of affordable T-shirts and children's gift items in the Oceaan stores. I would have put the Organ in a stairwell instead of taking up the whole Atrium (of course, that's not something they're likely to change). HAL lived up to its reputation of excellent service and food; the ship was beautiful; the weather was almost perfect; Half Moon Cay was a wonderful retreat; I found plenty of deck chairs by the aft pool; I got what I expected...and some things were even better! I would take this cruise again, even the same itinerary (maybe I'll actually get past the pier in Cozumel next time!)
If you're planning a cruise on the Zaandam, I'm certain you will have a wonderful time.