March 15-31, 2023 The Caribbean

This blog is all about the 2 week cruise we took to the Caribbean on The Holland America Volendam. We stopped at 8 ports along the way. It was absolutely amazing!! This blog is filled with tons of photos and a super long video at the end.

Before the cruise we had a great visit with my Islip friends. I got to play a little Pickleball again. They have Pickleball on the cruise ship so I was glad to get a little practice in before playing on the Cruise.

From there, drove the van to Port St Lucie to our friend Lisa and John’s house. Our van will be snuggled nicely in their backyard next to their RV for the next 2 weeks. It’s so nice to have a worry free spot to leave our van while we go on the cruise.

John drove us to the Mangonia Tri-Rail train station in the morning to hop on the train heading to Port Everglades to where the ship is docked in Fort Lauderdale. The tickets were only 5 dollars.

As you can see from our photos, we packed very light. It’s a 2 week cruise and we managed to get all of our clothes and shoes into a small back pack each and then 1 other small bag. This is minimalism at its finest.

We went to our room right away to put our bags down. The room was bigger than we thought it would be.

Once we dropped our bags, we headed to the dining room for some lunch. We sat with a nice couple. The husband was from Jersey and the wife from England. Quite a combination. Our lunch took FOREVER to arrive. Over an hour for a salad and a sandwich. I think the kitchen must have been backed up because the ship we are on just arrived in port after a 72 day cruise of South America.

After lunch we went back to the room to unpack and to watch our safety video and check out our muster station and lifeboat number 6.

We then headed up top to set sail. We were supposed to sail at 3:30 but again we were late because they were loading the ship up until about 5 o’clock. It didn’t really matter what time we sailed because we were enjoying the beautiful Florida sun. There were 5 other gigantic ships that all sailed before we did. It was fun watching them maneuver the small docking area.

When we did finally sail, we waved to all the people on shore and to the web cam that Greg’s mom was watching. People and boaters actually waved back.

That’s us on the top

From there we toured the boat. The boat is almost identical to the boat we took to Alaska like 10 years ago. It’s a small boat holding 1200 passengers. The elevators are never crowded and they are super fast.

For dinner we decided to have to buffet on the Lido deck. We ate outside by the pool. There were so many choices, it was a little overwhelming but we decided on the beef tenderloin with mixed greens, mashed potatoes for Greg and Salad for me. I forgot to take pictures of the food but will do that when we eat today.

Next day was a bit cloudy and super windy. I took a morning walk on Deck 3 and almost got blown overboard. We played History Trivia and of course ate and ate and ate again. I had lamb for lunch and we went to the afternoon tea which was pretty fun. We have been enjoying the food tremendously but trying so hard to not overdo it.

The entertainment tonight was a harmonizing boy band. They were excellent. We also went to a presentation on sea turtles. It was a little too educational for me.

Day 3 of our last sea day. Still so windy and Ricky. I haven’t gotten seasick which is wonderful but it’s getting harder to walk. Now I know why they have ballet bars all around the ship. You can tell how rough the ocean is by looking at the waves in the pool. Maybe I’ll add video of the waves in the pool when I put together a video of the time onboard.

The sun was out and we spent most of the day just lounging by the back pool. After dinner we went to see the comedian. He was sooo funny. We have been doing a little gambling in the Casino. I’ve been losing and Greg’s been winning. It’s a small casino but still fun.

Today is Tuesday. I can see now why they have mats in the elevators that day the day of the week. Every day seems to just blend into the next. The big difference about today is when I went up to Deck 3 to walk, I could see land!!

We arrived today at St Thomas. I could not believe how mountainous it was. Such a beautiful port with all the yachts and sailboats in the bright blue water with the green of the mountains behind. We took a 24 dollar taxi to Magans Bay Beach. The Taxis here are pickup trucks that they have converted to open air seating in the bed if the truck. Our ride to the beach was up and down curvy roads with about 29 passengers. It was a little scary also because they drive in the left side of the road. We were the first ship in the port so we wanted to get to the beach before the other GIANT ships came in. We brought our backpacking chairs with us and picked out a nice spot on the beach by a palm tree. This beach is rated number 1 in the world. It really was beautiful but I don’t think I would rate it number 1. We enjoyed swimming and snorkeling and sitting in the sun watching 3 pelicans dive bombing for breakfast. The highlight of the day was seeing a sea turtle up close. That was super amazing! He was bobbing his head up above the water to check us out. Maybe like 5 feet away.

Around 12, the passengers from the other ships started to arrive so we headed back. We had some lunch onboard the ship and then went to the shopping area which was walking distance if the ship. It was your basic duty free stuff. Jewelry, handbags, liquor, cigarettes and then little souvenirs t shirts shops as well. I’m sure it will be the same type if ships in all the ports we arrive at. Fun to look but we really don’t need any of that stuff.

When we arrived in St Thomas my phone binged that I had used up all the data on my international plan with Verizon and that they were gonna charge me another 20 dollars basically each day that I was at sea. So I spent the morning on the phone with them cancelling the international plan. So for the next 10 days, the phone is useless to me except for the camera and the navigation app that the ship uses to tell you about the days activities and menus and stuff. It’s so weird not having a phone, but we are adjusting to it.

This morning we are arriving at St Kitts and Nevis. This is where Alexander Hamilton was born. We don’t have any plans for the day. Originally we were thinking of doing a 3 hour train ride around the Island but then decided against it for a few different reasons. It’s currently 6:30 am. Greg is still sound asleep and I’m enjoying my room service coffee and then I’ll head upstairs to deck 3 for my morning walk. We have an interior room so we have no idea if the sun is out or what the weather is. The tv has a channel called The Bow Camera which I just turned on so I know what to expect when I get up there.

Well we had a nice breakfast as we watched a giant ship pull along side of us in the pier. After breakfast we packed our bags with the days beach essentials and headed towards the plank to leave the ship. At that exact moment the skies opened up and it started raining sideways so back inside we came. We turned in our tv and watched the camera waiting for the storm to pass which eventually it did. When we got off the pier we were bombarded with people wanting to sell you a tour of their island it a taxi ride to different locations. No thank you, no thank you, no thank you, over and over and over again. We went inside some of the shops browsing around. It seems to be the same in each of the ports. Then we went to a coffee shop to use their free WiFi and check email and other things. From there we walked to this beautiful stone church with a ton of history that we read about and then a cute town square where I got a banana snow cone.

On the way back to the ship we were harassed again by these tour guides and taxi drivers. This time, however we haggled with one to get a ride to the beach. He took us to a beach about 25 minutes away on the Caribbean Sea side of the island. We had a nice time. Not nearly as crowded as the last beach we went to. We swam and snorkeled and sunbathed for a couple of hours and then our taxi driver came back to pick us up.

Our ship was late leaving the pier as 4 passengers never made it back to the ship. We watched the pier from Deck 3 wondering and imagining what May have happened to them.

Today, March 23, we are headed to St. Lucia. According to the weather forecast, it is raining there and from the looks of the Bow Camera, it looks pretty dark and cloudy over the island. We arrive there in about 90 minutes. Hoping it will clear up.

Well it didn’t rain which is always a bonus. We took the $6 ferry to the downtown area and went to the marketplace to walk around a bit. I have a bunch of friends that absolutely love St Lucia and think it’s gorgeous. We clearly were on the wrong side of the island because what we saw was poverty and filth. I didn’t see much beauty at all. Even the people were pretty somber and not very welcoming. We went back to the ship for lunch and then went to the port shopping mall to sit where the free WiFi was and check emails and stuff. No beach for us today.

Next day we headed to our favorite island of Barbados. Talk about beautiful. The beaches are powdery white sand with crystal blue waters. Spectacular scenery, plants and trees. We spent most of the day at the Carlyle beach and then did some browsing around the downtown area. The water was the perfect temperature. We loved every minute. We were planning on having some flying fish for lunch but so was every other cruise ship passenger and the wait was over an hour so we headed back to the ship for lunch instead. Then back out we went to the port mall and browsed the shops and checked email again. Tomorrow we head to Grenada to see the rain forest

Our excursion tour in Grenada started at 8:45 with a pretty big line of people waiting to get on several buses to drive us around the Island. The roads in Grenada are BEYOND TREACHEROUS!!! They are extremely narrow and as luck might have it we came upon an accident and had to detour in some even narrower and dangerous roads. I could not believe how close these other cars and trucks were coming to us. Less than an inch in several cases. ;see video at end of blog) It was so crazy. The locals did their best to try and get people to move over so that cars could squeeze by. It really was quite an experience. We basically spent the entire day on a bus because our driver continued on with the tour even after the major traffic. Note to self…… never ever take another excursion. Even after the 2 hour dangerous traffic stop, our driver continued on with the tour of a spice farm, and a fort.

Arrived back at the ship to an elephant towel.

Next day we headed to Martinique which is a French speaking island. It was Sunday so we headed to church. A beautiful cathedral type church. We went to the 10 am mass which was in French so that was weird but the music was absolutely beautiful and the place was packed. It was a 2 hour long service. Greg had downloaded Google Translate so that we could understand the homily and readings and stuff but for some reason, it would not work in the church. That was kind of a bummer but still a beautiful service. After Mass we walked back to the ship for lunch then headed to the beach to relax and take in the sun and the views. I bought a new hat which I absolutely love.

Next stop was St Martin. Absolutely beautiful beaches ….. again!! The water was crystal clear and bluer than blue. We took a ferry taxi over to the downtown. Walked all around the downtown area and also walked the boardwalk. We went into a casino and both won a little money. I won $20 and Greg won $60. Plus there was free WiFi so that was a bonus. Then off to the beach we went. We were the only ship in port this time so basically had the whole beach to ourselves. It was a truly marvelous day. This is my second favorite island after Barbados. The people were super friendly, island is clean and the beaches are gorgeous. If I ever come back to the Caribbean, this would be a place I would love to revisit. I bought a cute orange sundress here to match my cute hat from yesterday. Tomorrow night is the Orange Party onboard the ship. Should be a super fun time

Today is a Sea Day. I kind of like Seadays because I get to participate in all the fun activities that have planned onboard the ship. With all these islands that we have been visiting, there’s really no time to do any of the activities on board besides the shows at night and of course the eating!!

I’m hoping to finally play a little Pickleball today and maybe Bingo and Ping Pong. We’ll see what the day brings.

The Sea Day was fun. We did Trivia and Greg was 2 numbers away from winning a cruise at Bingo. Mostly we sat by the pool and soaked in the sun.

Next day we arrived at Grand Turk which is a small island in Turks and Caicos. The beach is right there at the end of the pier as well as all the shops and restaurants. What a great island and hardly any hawkers trying to sell you stuff. But the most amazing thing about this island was the snorkeling. It was like swimming in an aquarium. All colors and shapes and sizes of fish and they were everywhere right off the shore it was so amazing. We snorkeled the day away then went back to the boat for some lunch. The sun was super hot today. And the orange party was at night. It’s a Holland America Dutch party where everyone wears orange to dinner and then there’s a big party in the main theater. The band plays, people dance and they serve snacks from Holland. We went for a bit and had a great was a sea of orange everywhere you looked.

We had another day at sea and I finally got to play Pickleball. They had been playing every day at 20 but either it’s been really windy or We have already been off the boat and enjoying our day. I was happy to get to play. I played a total of 5 games. Won 3 and lost 2. Some really good players. It was a lot of fun. We also played some name that tune music trivia. That was fun and we knew every song. We decided not to do the evenings Carol King entertainment and instead watched the movie that won all those Oscars. (Everything Everywhere All At Once) we are half way through it, will finish it later.

Today is our last Port before heading back to Fort Lauderdale . It went to fast. Holland America owns there own island in the Bahamas. The island was absolutely beautiful. White sands and blue water, who could ask for anything more. We walked all around the island, saw some sting rays. Had lunch on the island then sat on the beach for most of the day. It was a perfect last day.

Our last night at sea was the toughest of all. Very strong winds and big waves. Difficult to walk around. I did fine with no sea sickness. I think once you have a bad case of Vertigo, every other form of dizziness seems mild. Greg was more bothered by the rocking and couldn’t eat dinner.

We arrived in Fort Lauderdale just in time for the sunrise. There’s a bunch of ships in port. I really don’t want to get off. We had the best time. Once we get off, we will hop on a Uber to the train station and take that to West Palm Beach where our friend John will pick us up and take us back home to our van.

Getting off the boat was pretty chaotic. But once off we were able to get a taxi to the train and all was well.

Below is the video of some of our time on the ship. It’s a long video, 20 minutes, that’s long for us. Mostly it’s just a bunch of short clips put together.

Tomorrow we head back to Vanlife. We really missed the van while we were gone.

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