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Friday, 24 December 2010

The Ryndam – Christmas Edition

Hello again! Today, I’ve got some pictures from inside the Ryndam showing off some of the Christmas decorations we have up. Enjoy!

Instead of water, the fountain in the atrium is now full of presents!

Above: The Atrium Fountain

There was a special carol-singing session a few days ago where the entertainers on the ship lined up along the stairways and sang carols. You can see fake snow being thrown in this picture:

Above: Passengers of the Ryndam enjoy the carols

At the foot of the fountain there is a huge Christmas tree, which actually toppled over during rough seas a couple of weeks ago. It’s now been made more secure!

Above: The Christmas tree

Alongside the tree, a whole host of gingerbread houses surround the fountain (which are actually made of plywood but decorated with real sweets).

Above: Gingerbread Houses

I thought I’d finish this post with a picture not strictly related to Christmas but pretty magical all the same. It’s a shot of the Ryndam at night – taken last week in Cozumel, Mexico. The picture is one of my first attempts at ‘HDR’ (High Dynamic Range) photography where multiple shots at different exposures are combined into one photo. I hope you like it!

Above: The Ryndam at Night

Thanks so much for checking out my blog. From the sunny Caribbean, I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. I’ll be back soon with more posts!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Grand Cayman – Cayman Islands

Welcome back! In today’s post I’ll show you around Georgetown, the capital of Grand Cayman.

Above: Georgetown

Grand Cayman is the largest of the three Cayman Islands, the other two being Little Cayman and Cayman Brac which are located 90 miles northeast.

Above: Georgetown street

The island is just 22 miles long and 8 miles wide at its widest point with the highest ‘summit’ 60 feet above sea level. There are mountains in the region, but they are all submerged – the limestone outcrops of Cayman Ridge extend from Cuba’s Sierra Maestra range to the Misteriosa Bank near Belize.

Ships through anchor
Above: Ships through an anchor

Limestone is porous so there are no rivers or streams. This gives coastal waters a deep indigo hue. Living coral reef surrounds all three islands and local conditions are ideal for swimming, snorkelling and fishing.

Above: A local fisherman

When we were last in Grand Cayman, there were five ships offshore which is the most I’ve seen out here. I managed to fit them all into one picture!

Five Ships
Above: Five ships

Because the coastline is too shallow for the big ships to actually dock we have to ‘tender’ – i.e. use smaller boats to reach the land. In Grand Cayman we use some of the lifeboats from the ship which you can see here:

Above: Ryndam lifeboat

I hope you enjoyed this brief tour of Georgetown. Apologies for some of the arty photos – I’m getting to grips with Photoshop at the moment so expect some more in the future! My next blog will be a Christmas special from aboard the ship. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Ocho Rios – Jamaica

Welcome back – sorry it’s been a while. In today’s blog I’ll be showing you around the resort area of Ocho Rios – Jamaica, including an on-ride video of the Jamaican Bobsled attraction!

Above: The view from the Ryndam

A place of rivers and waterfalls, Ocho Rios has long been a favoured retreat with tourists. During the past few decades, Ocho Rios has developed from a small, unassuming town into a bustling modern resort. Coastline was dredged and landscaped to create beachfront property and shopping centres were also added as well as a deepwater pier for cruise ships.

Above: Jetties and beachfront properties

One of the most famous natural attractions is the Dunn’s River Falls, a cascading series of waterfalls that travels from the mountains to the sea. On our first visit here (20th October), a crew trip was organised to the Falls and we scaled the waterfall.

Above: Dunn’s River Falls (main photo not mine)

Other attractions include locations used in the Bond film, ‘Live and Let Die’ as well as dolphin encounters and of course, Bob Marley’s house. A new attraction, created in 2008 is Mystic Mountain, an expansive multi-million-dollar tourism attraction which features a fast Jamaican Bobsled ride through the jungle, a chairlift journey over the treetops, a zip-line course, an island culture and heritage centre, as well as mountaintop dining and shopping venues. During our latest trip to Ocho Rios on 1st December, Tom (Neptune bass player) and I visited Mystic Mountain to ride the bobsled.

Above: Ocho Rios resort area, as seen from the Mystic Mountain.

To reach the Mystic Mountain resort, you have to take a 15 minute chair lift ride up the mountain. With only a bar keeping you on the chair, it’s not for those who are scared of heights!

Above: The chair lift station at the top of the Mystic Mountain resort

The bobsled ride itself was pretty fun. You control the speed of the descent with a brake but the staff tell you not to brake until the very end (so I didn’t).

Above: Me on the Bobsled Car (apologies for the slightly blurred shot)

I thought I’d have a go at capturing some video footage of the ride which turned out quite well. The recording is quite bumpy which couldn’t really be helped, and sadly I couldn’t upload the file in HD with my slow internet connection. But I hope you enjoy it anyway!

Stay tuned for my next blog entry which will be exploring Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Week One Locations

Welcome back! Today I’ll show you two of the locations we visited in the first week of my cruise – the Bahamas and Grand Turk (we were diverted from our normal route that week to avoid a hurricane). Unfortunately, I was unable to get off at the other location we visited that week – Half Moon Cay (Holland America’s private island) – as I was on IPM (In Port Manning) that day.

The first location we visited was Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas which is located on the island of New Providence. The island is 21 miles long and seven miles wide with an area of about 80 square miles.

Above: One of the main squares in the city of Nassau

Below, you can see the Ryndam, docked behind a Carnival cruise ship. In the background is the Atlantis Hotel, located on Paradise Island. This photo was taken just east of the famous Fish Fry village.

Above: Cruise ships docked

The second location we visited was Grand Turk, part of the Turks and Caicos Islands. The first photo I posted from the Caribbean was taken from the beach here. This island is a good example of the way in which many of the ports (such as Mahagony Bay and Costa Maya) are set up: there is an enclosed tourist area which you walk into from the ship, containing shops, restaurants and pools. Many cruise passengers never leave this area but beyond it, locations tend to be rougher and reveal a more authentic view of local life.

Above: The cruise ship entrance to Grand Turk

Below is another shot of the tourist area. You can see how clean and well-kept everything is.

Above: Grand Turk tourist area

In my next blog post, we’ll be travelling to the Jamaican port of Ocho Rios where I’ll be posting some video footage of a ‘bobsled’ ride and a look at the famous Dunns River Falls. Speak soon!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Inside the Ryndam: Part 1

Welcome back! Today, as promised, I’ll be giving you a glimpse inside the Ryndam including a look at my cabin. The post today is largely comprised of photos rather than text – I hope you enjoy it!

We’ll start in the Ocean Bar, the place where my trio - the ‘Neptunes’ - perform every evening between 6.30pm and 11.30pm. It’s located near the front of the ship on deck 8 and is a cosy area to hang out or dance to our music!

Ocean Bar
Above: The Ocean Bar

In the photo below, the ‘Neptunes’ are (from left to right) – myself on piano, Tom Crail (from Texas) on upright electric bass, and Marino Dolcetti (from Italy) on drum kit.

Neptune Trio
Above: The ‘Neptunes’

The Ocean Bar is one of several areas which surround the main atrium and fountain in an open-plan design. This photo of the fountain and atrium was taken from deck 8 near to the ocean bar.

Above: The Atrium fountain

The fountain spans three floors and the following picture was taken from deck 6 which is the ‘walkaround’ deck (where you can walk right the way around the outside of the ship) and the place where all the lifeboats and rafts are located.

Above: The Atrium

The final guest areas I’ll be showing you today are the Casino (fairly self-explanatory) and the ‘Mix’ – a bar featuring the solo guitarist and pianist each night. Both can be seen in the photo below which was taken on deck 8, again from the atrium area.

Above: The Casino and the Mix

Finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: a look inside my cabin! It’s fairly small but I’m very fortunate to have it all to myself (my two band mates are sharing a cabin which is even smaller next door). The photo below was taken from the main door and the light that you see hitting the back wall above my bed is from the en suite to the right of this photo.

Above: My Cabin!

I hope you enjoyed this photo tour of some of the ship’s areas. I’ll be covering other rooms in later posts and will also be showing you around the outside of the ship soon. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Key West, Florida

Welcome back! In this blog post I’ll take a brief look at our first port of call on every cruise, Key West, Florida.

The m/s Ryndam arrives in Key West every Monday after we depart from Tampa on Sunday evening. As the southernmost city in the continental United States, Key West is strategically located in the Florida Straits and for centuries, treasure ships and merchant vessels alike fell victim to treacherous reefs and hurricanes. Even more deadly were the pirates who stalked their prey with abandon until the arrival of the U.S. Navy in 1823.

Mallory Square
Above: Mallory Square (Key West’s undeclared ‘town centre’ viewed from the ship).

The island was once the largest city in Florida, the wealthiest city per capita in the U.S., and the largest producer of cigars and natural sponges in the country. In 1912, Henry Flagler created a railroad which linked Key West to the mainland, and changed the island city forever, allowing tourism to become one of the leading industries.

Above: The m/s Ryndam viewed from Mallory Square

Today, tourism is the only large industry remaining, with attractions ranging from the southernmost point in the USA to Harry Truman’s Little White House, and the houses of famous author Ernest Hemingway and ornithologist John James Audubon as well as a whole host of water sport activities. All of these make the port a popular one with the crew who visit every week.

Shipwreck Museum
Above: Shipwreck Treasurer’s Museum

I hope you enjoyed this brief introduction to Key West. I’ll be returning to this port in a later post with more photos to share, but my next blog post will explore life inside the ship.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

It's been a while!

Hi everyone.

Sorry it’s taken me so long to get this blog going. I’m now into the fourth week of my six month cruise and am having a great time onboard Holland America Line’s msRyndam.

So far I’ve visited countries such as the Bahamas, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Mexico, Belize and Honduras. I’ll be covering each of these destinations in future blogs, complete with photos. In the meantime, here’s a picture I took at Grand Turk, during the first week of our cruise.

Grand Turk

Working on the ship is pretty fun. I’m the band leader of a trio, called the ‘Neptunes’ (the same trio appears on all Holland America Line – HAL – ships). My other band mates are a drummer called Marino from Italy and a bass player called Thomas from Texas. We play from 6.30pm to 11.30pm every night (yes, EVERY night) in the Ocean Bar, an open-plan area on the eighth deck of the ship complete with dance floor.

Our mandate is to play ‘dance music’ so we do a lot of ballroom / strict tempo pieces. HAL provide music books for us to play from (about 400 tunes spread over four volumes) which are pretty comprehensive. We’ve also brought our own Real Books which we dip into when nobody's looking!

In the coming weeks, as well as covering destinations, I’ll also show you around the ship, including some video of the Neptunes performing and a look at my cabin! I’ll hopefully be updating this blog more frequently now so be sure to check back soon.

Thanks for reading!


Friday, 1 October 2010


Hello and welcome to my new blog which will be all about my cruise to the Caribbean!

I'm playing piano in a trio called the 'Neptunes' on the ms Ryndam, a Holland America Line ship (more details here)

During my cruise I'll be visiting Tampa, Florida, US; Key West, Florida, US; Belize City, Belize; Mahogany Bay, Honduras; Costa Maya, Mexico; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Georgetown, Cayman Islands and Cozumel, Mexico.

I'll be taking two cameras with me: my Nikon D40 and my newly acquired Panasonic Lumix TZ10 as well as my laptop! Whilst internet might be patchy at times (and guaranteed to be very slow onboard) I'll hopefully find an internet cafe where I will be able to upload pictures and videos to here.

Don't expect grand essays on my trip (unless I suddenly feel inspired) but hopefully you'll enjoy following my adventures through the photos and videos I post here.

I fly out to Tampa on 9th October 2010 and return to the UK on 10th April 2011.

Enjoy the blog!