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HAL Maasdam - Jan 4-18 Excursions



 
 
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Old January 25th, 2013, 04:09 PM posted to rec.travel.cruises
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Default HAL Maasdam - Jan 4-18 Excursions

St. Thomas -

We have been to St. Thomas many times and have taken all the
excursions that I would want to take. So we wanted to get a taxi
driver to take us to the places that I had mapped out that I wanted to
go to. After breakfast, we gathered ourselves together
and got off the ship about 9:00. I asked the cruise director if we
could get a taxi, and she said to go out to the man in the
green polo shirt. He called a smaller vehicle to come around to where
we were, as it was a long walk off the dock and I had not
taken my scooter as the footing where we were visiting isn't that
conducive to scootering. The cab was driven by a lady named
Orellia and she wanted $200.00 for four hours. She was very helpful
and even found a place for us to visit that wasn't on my
list. She drove us back to the ship - we were back by 12:30. I was
pretty tired. Then we had to eat in the Lido.

St Barths -

We were late getting in to St. Barths - the water was VERY rough and
the captain moved the boat at least once. He kept telling
us that we shouldn't go ashore that we should stay on the boat. I
don't know what effect this would have had if we had booked an
excursion. The only excursion that I saw that I would have wanted to
do was a taxi tour for $68 per person with no narrative. So I decided
for that money I could rent a car. We were supposed to meet the car
rental person a 8:30. We had breakfast in the buffet just because we
wanted to be ready at 8:30, and we went down to get our tender
tickets. But they kept us waiting for a hour while they took the
tours first. There were not that many of us non-tour people and I
think they could have worked us in. Finally got to shore at 9:30 and
found no car person. I tried to phone and the phone said the number
wasn't valid. So I went over and talked to the guys in the kiosk
including a guy who drove up in a red Chevy Spark (the kind of car we
were to have) from Avis. They phoned the airport office of Turbe
for me and said the lady would be back in 10 minutes. And she was.

We went over the car an located all the dents and then got the car and
started off. The map had very little detail and only some
vague names (no street names). And of course the port map was
completely and utterly useless. We started out for the public
beach which was north of town. Problem. The road to the north turned
into one way south. So we bumbled around in town (very
narrow, crowded and potholed streets) and finally found a road which
was going the direction we wanted, except it went straight
up. We went down the other side and we had gone one beach too far. We
couldn't figure out how to get back to the public beach,
so I attempted to try to go to Lorient. We drove up and down the
mountains, dodging trash trucks and other drivers who knew where
they were going, and coming to a circle and going out in various
directions - deciding we were going the wrong way and then come
back and trying another direction. Bob grumbling all the time.
Finally we took the road past the airport, and drove along the coast.
It was very pretty. Roads were much better on this side.
We found a parking spot. The car lady had given us a parking time
indicator. She said you could park anywhere for an hour for
free. When we were ready to go back to the ship, we first had to find
where to turn in the car. Finally after circling the
airport area twice, I saw a sign that said Rental Car parking, and we
found a place in the Turbe area to park and went into the
airport. There was no one at the booth, but there was a phone lying
there, so I used it and called the number on the counter.
The lady said to leave the car keys there and she would get to it
eventually, but I said we were supposed to have a ride back to
the port. So in about 10 minutes, she came and went over the car and
a man who spoke no English drove us back to the ship. I mustered
enough French to say Merci beaucoup.

We got in the tender, which even at the dock in the harbor was
bouncing around, and pitched and yawed our way back to the boat,
and even successfully disembarked. The dining room was open and we
just made it up there for lunch before it closed.

St. Lucia

We were to meet on the dock for the Island Splendor Tour at
8:15-8:30. The dining room did not open until 8:00. In order to
avoid eating in the Lido so that we would be on time for our tour, we
ordered room service breakfast. Room service came on time,
and was good. But the ship was late getting into Castries St. Lucia.
There was a Silversea ship right in front of us (Silver
Spirit), and an Oceana ship (Riviera) across the way. I was anxious
to get to the tour so we went down in the elevator but it
would only go down to deck 4 instead of deck 3. And on the stairs we
met people coming up and they said they weren't ready for
us down there yet. People kept coming and were standing around
waiting - including a family with a teenager - apparently there
are four of them on this cruise.

Finally they were ready for us and we found our tour section and lined
up behind the lady. She led us to a bus and we got on.
Then we found it was the wrong bus, so we all had to get off and get
on another bus. I tried to sit in the front so I could take
photos out of the front. After the first stop, I asked if I could sit
in the seat beside the driver and he said it was OK. That
was better as otherwise there were too many reflections - for one
thing the driver was wearing a shirt with big broad black and
white stripes and it reflected nicely in the window.

First we went to a house named St. Marks (not a church). The driver
backed UP the steep driveway. Then three other buses came
and parked in front of us. After the tour of the house I used the
bathroom and climbed back on the bus. The other buses had to
move out of the driveway before we could leave.

Our next stop was where they showed us how they did the wood carvings.
Bob went and petted the cats that lived there. . Finally
we went to a fishing village called Anse-le-Ray. I decided I had
enough and did not get out of the bus. I took photos from the
bus of the chickens running around and the various people including a
guy with a boa constrictor that wanted money but I don't
know if it was to hold the snake or what.

We got back in time for lunch in the dining room. There was one seven
hour excursion which had started out in Castries and would
end up in Soufriere and we would be picking them up there. So when we
started to move over to Soufriere, I went out on deck - on
my scooter this time to take photos of the island from the ship. We
would going to be able to see the Pitons from the ship and I
could take pictures. I took lots of pictures.

Barbados -

The excursion today was Harrison's cave. we went to Barbados and
stayed there on land in 1996, but since then when we've been
there the cave has been closed. We went down to the tour about a hour
early. Normally there is a shuttle from where the boats
dock to the port building where we had to take the excursion. But not
this time. Silversea is parked across from us and THEY
have a shuttle, but we don't. Had I known that I could have used the
scooter and they would keep it at the terminal for me while
I went on the tour, it would have made my life a lot easier. We
walked and I had to stop to get my breath about four times -
twice while we were next to the ship as they let us off forward and
the forward end was the farthermost away from the port
building. It also was sprinkling, so when we stopped, we stopped
under the old sugar loading silos. I got up to the port
building and one of the guards there suggested that I ask the HAL
excursion lady for a wheelchair back to the ship after the
excursion. But she said absolutely NOT, that the Maasdam had no
wheelchairs for any such thing.

I asked the girl who was herding the buses (from Barbados) if I could
get in first. And she said yes. A man came up with one of
those walkers that you can sit on - he was complaining because the
front desk had said that there was a shuttle. A guy came
with a scooter and they had a scooter-enabled bus there for him. When
I got on the bus, it was the second bus and I sat in front
but the seat was right over the wheel and there was no foot room
whatever. The man with the walker sat on the other side and he
made his wife sit on the short leg room side. When we were all
loaded, the driver/guide Peter came on with the walker and put it
in front of the door. The bus went very fast so I was glad to take
photos out the front. The guide talked very fast too. When
we got to Harrison's Cave, we had to walk in and wait for our tickets.
Then we went down in an outside glass elevator and we saw
a movie about Barbados. Then we were loaded into a white electric
tram. When we were here in 1996, there were none of the
buildings that there are now and no outside elevator. We had blue
electric train/trams and we had to wear hard hats. No hard
hats this time.

My camera lens and my glasses immediately fogged up. I had to keep
wiping them off. Also the camera had a hard time focusing as
the caves were basically dark. I did get some good photos though. The
caves themselves were much as I remembered. I asked the
driver if he had been there long and he said since 1995. He
remembered the hard hats. When we got back on the bus, Bob took the
seat by the side of the bus leaving me the aisle. The man with the
walker went to sleep -he had the advantage of an 'arm' on the aisle
because there was a jump seat in the aisle. I had a really hard time
staying in my seat as the driver swung the bus around curves and I
think it would have been better if I had put the jump seat
down. But the man was asleep on it and I couldn't put it down without
waking him.

We got back to the ship, and I sat in the shop area while Bob went
back to the ship and got my scooter. As he was coming to get
me with it, the skies opened up and rained. He sheltered under the
sugar silos. Inside the building the rain was deafening -
almost as loud as gunfire - I think they had a tin roof. One of the
shop girls said that she would have gotten me a wheelchair
if I needed one. Everyone was helpful except the HAL excursion lady. I
looked at the Best of Barbados shop for a shirt for Bob
but the only ones they had were flowery.

When he arrived with the scooter, we started back for the ship and
suddenly I saw a man's shop with some batik shirts, so I went
in and bought one. Then we went back to the ship. The ramp was quite
slippery with rain - hard even to walk up. I knew the scooter would
not be able to get me up the ramp, so I walked and one of the HAL guys
brought the scooter up.

Grenada -

Originally I booked a 7 hour tour to see everything on Grenada. But I
changed to the West Grenada Rainforest tour.(They take the
tickets from us so I've gotten into the habit of photographing them)
The excursion man said it would absolutely not be far to
walk to where we got the excursion bus. But when we got off, we still
had a good way to walk to get to the place where the tours
were meeting even though the boat was bow in and we got off at the
bow. It was hot and sunny. We sat on the wall and waited
until they called the tour. The guy with the walker was on this tour
too. This time instead of putting the walker in front of
the door, they put it on a seat. He sat in the single seat and put
his feet up on the console. I sat in front of him next to
the driver. Our driver's name was Albin. The guide in Barbados (whose
name I think was Storm) and Albin had the habit of repeating the last
few words of each sentence. Like "That tree is a cinnamon tree -
cinnamon tree" It is like have closed captions - gives you another
chance to hear what they say. Albin also added "And so on" at the end
of each sentence.

Grenada is a volcanic island as such has very steep hills. There is a
tunnel cut through between the port and the town so people
don't have to climb the hill although there are stairs too. They
drive on the left and Albin admonished us at the beginning of
the tour not to panic unless the driver did. We went past the bus
station - buses are all privately owned. Apparently you can
decide that a bus is needed where you live, buy a van and apply for a
route. We went past the meat market where you could buy
meat on Thurs or Friday, and then went past the fish market and the
vegetable and fruit sellers. We went into the parish of St.
John - it rained and I saw that all down the center of the road there
were spots of rainbows from oil.

We went to a plantation where they raised spices and they explained
about the different ones. We bought some. They told us that
nutmeg oil was good for joint pain but you had to dilute it with
something and I don't remember what. (looked it up later and it
was other kinds of oil) To get to the bathrooms you had to walk over
big stones, and I couldn't do it. We went through a town
dedicated to the man from Grenada who won the 400 in London (Kirani
James) and also by the memorial to the prime minister who was
shot in their stadium in the night by the insurgents. This was the
1983 uprising which Reagan sent troops in to "protect"
Americans who were going to medical school there. There were signs
painted on walls thanking the US troops.

We stopped at Grand Etang National Park. We got a ticket for entrance
(included but would have been $2.00) and a ticket to get a
free drink. I just got fruit juice. Because I couldn't walk that far,
Bob went up to the building which had information about
the park and took pictures there and of the lake in the distance (it
is a volcano crater). Albin told us about Hurricane Ivan
and the one the next year Emily - Ivan's sister - that took out the
other end of the island.

From there we went to the parish of St. George and stopped to let
people walk down to a waterfall. Bob and I didn't go. There
was a man with a monkey for people to have their picture taken with.
Then we went up and down some steep hills and at one point
we rounded a corner and there was another van coming the other
direction on our side of the road. Someone else cried out, and I
squeaked. The driver said again, not to panic unless the driver did.
We went to Fort Matthew and Fort Frederick. Fort Frederick has
Robbie's Bar there and also a new interesting kind of wind vane.

They let us off on the other end of a large mall so that we would have
to walk though it to get back to the ship. So again Bob
went and got my scooter for me to go back on the ship. We got back
just before the Lido closed, but we got pizza at the Terrace Grill
and again the line for ice cream was too long, so we got bread
pudding. I was surprised that the Lido would close when people were
just getting back from tours.

Bonaire -

I was determined to at least snorkel on Bonaire, but Bob couldn't go
because he just had a melanoma removed from his shoulder and
the wound was still weeping. So I had booked an excursion with
Woodwind, a non-ship excursion. I also wanted to see some of
Bonaire, so I had booked a ship excursion for the afternoon, but when
I switched the Grenada tour, I also turned those tickets
in. I had a hard time sleeping wondering if I would still be able to
snorkel - have enough breath, be able to get back on the
boat and whether the scooter would get me to the boat and back. It
was supposed to be a 10 minute walk, but I don't know how
that translates into scooter distance. I was so nervous about getting
to snorkeling that I was up and anxious at 7. By 7:20 our
breakfast had not come and I was dressed and ready to go. So I
called. They said that I put down 8:00 to 8:30 as the time. I'm
sure if I did, I didn't mean to. So he said he would see if he could
send it early. We actually got the breakfast at 7:35. I
left in such a hurry that I forgot my hat. Bob accompanied me to the
gangway and I got off with the scooter. I tried to go out
one of the gates but the guard said it was only for cars to exit.

At the other gate, the guy from the snorkeling company said I was the
first one there and directed me to go down the road to the
Casino sign. I tried to go on the road, but the scooter hung up on a
speed bump. A man who was jogging helped me over. I went
down to the first dock, but that was not it. I went a little father -
no that was not it. The girl I was asking finally said
"Go to the end of the road". I parked the scooter under the entrance
and walked out on the dock. They brought me a chair and
offered water or juice. We got on the boat (a trimaran) and put on my
dive skin and they found me a hat. We went out to Klein
Bonaire and some people saw turtles. We were going to snorkel at two
places and they divided us up in three groups. I was in the
group with all the old ladies and the least experienced. So after we
did the first snorkeling session they said I could go up
to the middle group if I wanted, and I said whatever worked. They
took very good care of us, explained everything, showed us the
fish and animals, gave us water, juice and snacks.

I was afraid that my snorkeling camera battery would go dead because I
have not found the charger, or at least I've not recognized it. So I
took photos until I got the low battery symbol and then I stopped and
got out. I did get some reasonable photos. They had a professional
photographer with us and he took a photo of each of us. I asked him
to take a photo of the lighthouse that I saw and he refused because he
said he had a wide angle lens on the camera. I took one with the
snorkeling camera but it wasn't too good. I bought his CD of photos,
but found it disappointing and not worth the money

On the way back to the ship, the scooter shed a part and I could see
that one of the little wheels was also gone. Somebody
coming in at the same time as I was helped me figure out where the
part would go back on. When I got back to the ship, I found
that Bob had already had lunch. It was too much effort to try to go
to the Lido by myself. So I worked with the photos and
waited to eat until dinner.

Curacao-

We arrived early but we couldn't go up to have breakfast in the dining
room until 8. We are docked in town rather than out at the
'new' dock where we were in 2006. Much better place to be. A German
ship (a former Celebrity ship) was out at the 'new dock.
We talked to the guy who was dispatching taxis and he said it would be
$80 each way to see the one lighthouse that we could get to by road,
and $40 an hour while we stayed there. He brought us a driver, but I
don't really think the taxi driver ever quite understood what we were
doing. We decided to skip the lighthouse and were just out and about
going to locations that I had mapped that I wanted to go to and he
charged us $150 total. When we came back to the ship, I was a little
bit sunburned judging by the white part of my nose under where my
glasses We had lunch in the Lido and for the first time I had one of
the ship people help me get lunch. I had Kung Pao chicken
but it had no peanuts in it.

We had a night tour that started at 5:30. We drove around down and
then went to the Naval Museum which was very interesting.
Then there was what was called a brass band concert, but it was all
percussion - no other instruments at all. The 'band' all
wore t-shirts with a lime green logo on it. They started with just a
few players and the various types of drums arrived as the
concert went along. We got back after 8 pm. There was an internet
Happy Hour which was to be from 7 to 9 with half your minutes
re credited, so I went and logged on and Bob went up to the Lido to
eat but the Lido was closed so he went to the dining room
which was still open. Apparently the computer time is still Florida
time because it said I logged on at 7:15 instead of 8:15


Half Moon Cay -

We did not get off the ship as the beach does not interest us, and
I've already done parasailing here.
 




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