January 20th 2018


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Southern Caribbean Southern Caribbean Southern Caribbean


Continent: North America. Country: Caribbean. City: Half Moon Cay.

Southern Caribbean

By Alison Woodrow, Addison Travel

I sailed on Holland America Line’s “Maasdam” for the 4th time from the 21st December till the 4th January 2013.  This was a 14 night Southern Caribbean holiday cruise.  Having cruised the Caribbean on a number of occasions I was really looking forward to this cruise as I had only visited Aruba & Curacao once before and not done Bonaire at all.

On boarding the ship and having taken my hand luggage to my cabin, I went off to the pool deck to the bar for a cool drink.  It was great to be met with a hug by Carlo one of the bar staff I had cruised with on a previous cruise on the “Maasdam”.  It wasn’t long before I saw some other members of staff that remembered we’d cruised together.  This great atmosphere always helps make a memorable cruise.  By the end of the cruise I’d made friends and had some good laughs with several more of the staff and hope I will cruise with them again one day.

The Caribbean is a wonderful place as no two islands are exactly the same.  With several different cultures to the islands, British, American, Dutch, French and a complete contrast in scenery and sights to see.

We started off visiting Half Moon Cay which is Holland America Lines private beach in the Bahamas.  This is a tender port and at first the Captain said we may not be able to go ashore due to the winds.  Eventually having been able to take some shelter from the wind behind the “Nieuw Amsterdam” which was in port with us, we were able to start to tender approximately one hour late.  Some excursions had to be cancelled due to the strong winds.  However a nice relaxing day was had by all.  It was then a relaxing day at sea before arriving in St. Thomas.  Now this is the best port of call if you are looking for camera’s, jewellery etc.  I’ve always got excellent deals on camera’s there over the years, but you need to know the UK prices for the model you wish to obtain prior to going out there, this is so you can make sure you are getting a good deal and get a price you wish to pay.  Another day at sea before arriving at St. Lucia.  Unfortunately because of the number of ships that were to be in port today we drew the short straw and had to anchor out at sea and tender in.  I decided to stay onboard which was my original plan as if we’d docked we would have been in full view of the downtown airport, as an aviation enthusiast great for me for taking pictures and logging the aircraft from the deck.  Having toured St. Lucia before there was no real need to get off the ship especially as we were tendering.

Grenada was our next port of call.  I decided to take the train trolley trip that takes you from the port up to the fort and around the town, you can get off at the fort and take the tour of it which is well worth it.  The view from up there gives you a good sight of the island.

After another relaxing day at sea our next port of call was Bonaire.  Today was extremely hot and humid and my tour unfortunately due to lack of numbers cancelled.  I was offered another one which I went on but it really wasn’t as good as the one I’d booked on.  The humidity really did affect me and I spent the rest of the day and evening in my cabin in the cool and fell asleep, by the time I woke up I’d missed dinner but felt 100% better.

Today was New Years Eve and we were in Curacao and wouldn’t be departing till after the New Years Celebrations.  This is a magnificent port of call with all the Dutch style buildings and a short walk over the bridge into town.  With plenty to see and do and walking is easy being on the flat you can go and come from the ship as often as you wish.  The firework show put on by Curacao in the evening was wonderful.  I then went into the Crows nest to bring in the New Year with the many bar staff I’d made friends with there.

New Years day and we were in Aruba and I went on a morning tour of the Island to parts I’d not done the previous time.  Again the weather was hot but thankfully not as humid as in Bonaire.  When the tour finished I took a pleasant walk around the town and the street market which with initially 3 ships in and when one departed around lunchtime another coming in the majority of the shops were open for business.  This was our last port of call before two days at sea which meant the packing could be done leisurely rather than in a rush.  On the first day at sea I decided to do as much of the packing as possible and then the following day I could spend as much time relaxing and talking to friends as possible.  It really was sad saying goodbye to good friends that you make.  In fact I’m staying in touch with a couple I made friends with from Vero Beach in Florida and two other couples that were friends of their’s who always asked me to join them when they came to the crows nest for a drink.

The “Maasdam” is a wonderful size ship which I much prefer to the mega ships that now hold over 3000 people.  The staff are so friendly and I like the fact that all the bar staff are Philipino and the Dining and catering staff Indonesian.  They become their own families and for some of the younger ones on their first contracts, they were saying that really helps as when they are away from their own families for the first time it helps to have so many people that speak your language and know your own cultures.  If you go to one of the bars regularly its nice when the bar staff know what you drink and I always noticed that if someone had two preferences of drink the staff still remembered and asked which of the two it was they wanted ie would you like a Budweiser or do you want a glass of wine.

Sadly this two week cruise was at an end as we were back in Fort Lauderdale.  No matter how long you are on a ship for it always seems like it was only yesterday when you joined her.  They are always over far far too quickly.

Alison Woodrow

Addison Travel

0800 389 6155