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Saturday, 24 December 2011

Inside the Zuiderdam

Welcome back and a Merry Christmas to you all! I've been back in England for a week now but I've still got a few blog posts to share with you from my last cruise. Today I'll show you around parts of the Zuiderdam including a look at the Christmas decs and my cabin! Not a lot to read, just some pictures to take in. Enjoy!

Above: The Neptunes. From left to right: Johnny, Peter and Nick.

Above: The Ocean Bar, where we played. Not as pretty as the Ryndam's Ocean Bar!

Above: The Vista Lounge where the main shows take place. This is a big theatre!

Above: A shot of the atrium with the Waterford Crystal seahorse taking prominence. The Ocean Bar is to the right on the top deck of this picture.

Above: These are all the plaques that the ship has received every time it visits a new port of call.

Above: Many of the elevators (sorry, 'lifts') had these intricate designs - very snazzy!

Above: The Explorations Cafe on the top deck is a popular place for guests to read a book or surf the web (but mostly fall asleep).

Above: Looking down from the walk-around top deck to the Lido Pool in the mid-ship area.

Above: A quick behind the scenes snap of one of the store rooms. There were loads of these rooms - a huge amount of food and drink!

Above: My cabin! Bigger than my previous cabin on the Ryndam but with a smaller ensuite (to the right of this picture).

Above: Saved the best to last! The atrium decked out with Christmas decorations just before I flew home last week.

Thanks for following my blog this year! I'll be back soon with a few more posts from the Zuiderdam before telling you about my exciting plans for 2012 which include Europe and Australasia!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Costa Rica

Welcome back! Today it's Costa Rica - lots of wildlife including howler monkeys, sloths and birds. Read on!

Above: The rainforest I visited on an aerial tram tour.

Costa Rica, which means "Rich Coast", is a multicultural country in Central America. It is the only Latin American country included in the list of the world's 22 older democracies (it abolished its army in 1949) and has consistently been among the top Latin American countries in the Human Development Index.

Above: Flat vines, which taken on extraordinary shapes!

Costa Rica is home to a rich variety of plants and animals. While the country has only about 0.25% of the world's landmass, it contains 5% of the world's biodiversity. Around 25% of the country's land area is in protected national parks and protected areas, the largest percentage of protected areas in the world. Costa Rica has successfully managed to diminish deforestation from some of the worst rates in the world from 1973 to 1989, to almost zero by 2005.

Above: The foliage is very dense in the rainforest.

One of the shore excursions I went on was the rainforest aerial tram tour (the pictures above and below were taken on this tour). We boarded open cable cars for a 70 minute trip through the rainforest.

Above: Our cable car or 'gondola' - needless to say, it was raining!

Above: We spotted a toucan on our tour as well as an anteater (sadly no picture of him!)

Above: Giant spiders abounded.

After the trip, we had a walk through the forest where our guide showed us snakes, caterpillars, termite mounds, sloths and more! For all of the pictures, visit my Flickr page (just click on a photo).

Above: The air was very humid in the rainforest!

Puerto Limón - where our ship docks - commonly known as Limón (Spanish for "lemon"), has a population of about 60,000 and is home to a thriving Afro-Caribbean community.

Above: A panorama of Puerto Limón

The area contains two port terminals, Limón and Moín, which permit the shipment of Costa Rican exports (primarily banana) as well as the anchoring of cruise ships.
Above: I visited a banana plantation with other crew members.

The workers on the plantation use suspended rails to travel quickly around and transport the bananas. Watch the YouTube video below!

The companies like Del Monte pay the workers low wages, but provide housing and education on site free of charge. In this way, they have a guaranteed future workforce, as children watch their parents working on the plantation even whilst studying at the school.

En route to the banana plantation, we spotted some howler monkeys hanging out in the trees by the roadside:

Above: Howler monkeys

I had seen these monkeys before in Mexico, but never this close. They can make a noise which travels for miles around. We also spotted some fire ants carrying leaves on the ground:

Above: The leaves for the ants are equivalent to us carrying a small car!
Our crew tour stopped at a fruit stall, where we sampled some fresh fruit and saw some exotic plants.

Above: The inside of a cocoa plant!

Above: Dragon fruits.

Above: A shack across the road.

Above: Vivid plant life abounds everywhere in Costa Rica.

Above: The group at the fruit stall.

We then travelled on for a boat ride along some natural canals, in search of more wildlife.

Above: A very rusty bridge which we crossed!

Above: The boat that took us on a tour of the canals.

Above: We spotted plenty of birdlife. As well as a...

Above: ...sloth!

An interesting fact about the country is that in 2007, the Costa Rican government announced plans for Costa Rica to become the first carbon-neutral country by 2021. According to the New Economics Foundation, Costa Rica ranks first in the Happy Planet Index and is the "greenest" country in the world.

Above: We made a final stop at 'Paradise Beach' before returning to the ship.

I hope you enjoyed my photos from Costa Rica. Next time, I'll show you around Half Moon Cay - Holland America's private island in the Bahamas!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011


Welcome back! Today I'm kicking off our Caribbean ports of call with Curaçao, an island in the southern Caribbean Sea, off the Venezuelan coast. Lots of photos to enjoy!

Above: Panorama of the capital city Willemstad, divided into two neighbourhoods (Otrobanda on the right and Punda on the left) by the canal.

The Country of Curaçao which includes the main island plus the small, uninhabited island of Klein Curaçao, is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Curaçao is the largest and most populous of the three ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao) of the Lesser Antilles. It has a land area of 171 square miles and a population of about 140,000.

Above: The view of the Zuiderdam docked on the Otrobanda side of Willemstad with the Queen Juliana Bridge in the background.

Dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles was effected on 10 October 2010 and Curaçao is now a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with the Kingdom retaining responsibility for defence and foreign policy.

Above: Dutch architecture along Willemstad's Punda side.

The first Europeans to see Curaçao were members of a Spanish expedition in 1499 who enslaved most of the indigenous population. The island was occupied by the Dutch in 1634. The slave trade made the island affluent, and led to the construction of impressive colonial buildings:



Curaçao features architecture that blends Dutch and Spanish colonial styles. The wide range of historic buildings in and around Willemstad earned the capital a place on UNESCO's world heritage list.

Above: The Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge is a pedestrian swing bridge which rests on 16 pontoons and is known as the 'Swinging Old Lady'.

Above: A shot of the Queen Emma Bridge opening as we prepared to leave Willemstad.

Other attractions in Willemstad include the three forts - Rif Fort, Waterfort and Fort Amsterdam which still houses the Governor's Palace, the Floating Market and the oldest Synagogue in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere.

Above: Fort Church located in Fort Amsterdam.

Above: Local boats tie up alongside those from South America and other West Indian islands at the Floating Market.

Landhouses (former plantation estates) and West African style "kas di pal'i maishi" (former slave dwellings) are scattered all over the island and I visited one on a passenger shore excursion. Whilst there, we took a 4x4 ride around the surrounding countryside.

Above: The 4x4 ride with the plantation estate in the background.

Above: A sperm whale carcass at the ranch!

Whilst in Curaçao I also visited an Ostrich farm, where Ostriches are farmed for their meat and eggs!


Above: Me feeding the ostriches.

Above: A rear view of an ostrich. Those holes are their ears!

Above: Baby ostriches

On the same trip as the Ostrich farm, we visited an Aloe plantation nearby where Aloe Vera products are produced.

Above: Aloe plants at the aloe farm.

Above: Our guide sliced up an aloe leaf and gave us a piece each.

Above: Sorting the aloe plants at the factory.

Curaçao has a semiarid climate with a dry season from January to September and a wet season from October to December - all the times I have visited so far, it has rained very hard for short periods. However, the temperatures are relatively constant (i.e. hot) with small differences throughout the year.

Above: Windmills like these were used to get drinking water before processing plants were created.

My last trip in Curaçao was one to the caves! These caves are located above ground, and so are very hot - not cool! And there were plenty of bats in there too.



An interesting fact about the languages spoken: Local children speak the native Papiamentu at home, are taught at school in Dutch and later learn English and Spanish. By 11 years old, many children can speak four languages!

I hope you enjoyed this lengthy look at Curaçao. I'll be back soon with more Caribbean ports!