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Friday, 29 April 2011

Ryndam Part 2 - My final post of this Cruise!

Welcome back! You won't be hearing from me for some time now but I'll be back in September as I set sail on the Zuiderdam for Alaska and the Panama Canal. But for now, enjoy some pictures of life on the Ryndam (part 2) and watch The Neptunes perform a tune for your delectation!

We'll start with some shots of the outside of the Ryndam, before moving inside.

Above: The Ryndam, docked at Key West's Mallory Square. This photo was taken from the top of the Key West Shipwreck Museum.

Above: The front face of the Ryndam, taken from the Bow on Deck 7 in Honduras.

Above: A life raft (which can hold 25 crew members) dangles from Deck 7. You can see a lifeboat (for passengers) in the background. Shot taken in Jamaica.

Above: The Lido Pool area on Deck 11 (taken in Jamaica).

Above: The tennis court on Deck 11. Basketball court was situated on the other side of the funnel.

Above: Deck chairs line the Lower Promenade Deck (Deck 6).

Moving inside now, there are many more spaces on the Ryndam which I haven't shown you. Here are a few:

Above: The Lido restaurant - the self-service buffet restaurant on Deck 10. Other Restaurants included the Rotterdam Dining Room (table service), Canaletto (Italian) and Pinnacle Grill (very posh).

Above: A shot of the Showroom at Sea, the Ryndam's main theatre.

Above: An atmospheric shot of the Showroom at Sea during the New Year's Eve celebrations.

We'll take a dive down to Deck 3 now to show you a few more photos from crew areas.

Above: The main corridor which runs the entire length of Deck 3. The elevators in the foreground are for passengers when the ship is docked (as the gangway is located on Deck 3).

Above: The corridor which my cabin was situated on (second on the right). The narrowness shocked me when I first arrived but you soon get used to it. These corridors run at right angles off the main Deck 3 corridor, one on each side, spanning the entire width of the ship.

Let's head back up to passenger areas now, specifically Deck 8 where most of the entertainment took place.

Above: Barry from Boston, entertains the crowds in the Piano Bar.

Above: The Adagio Strings serenade passengers.

Above: Gregg, the Solo Guitarist performing.

Above: The HALCats performing at the New Year's Eve party.

Above: The Neptunes (us!) with Arran, the HALCats Band Leader, who sat in with us regularly.

Many of the musicians on the ships were on shorter contracts than my 6 months, so I saw many come and go including 4 solo pianist, 3 string quartets, 2 solo guitarists and MANY HALCats players!

I'll leave you with a short video of the Neptunes performing Vera Lynn's 'We'll Meet Again'. More video content will be posted on Facebook and YouTube. Thank you for reading my blog and I'll be in touch in September. Stay tuned!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Costa Maya - Mexico

Costa Maya is a small tourist region in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico, the only state with Caribbean Sea. The area is generally undeveloped but has been growing quickly after construction of a large pier to accommodate cruise ships. Costa Maya includes two small villages − Mahahual and Xcalak and extends physically from Xcalak in the south to the southern border of the Sian Ka'an in the north, a distance of approximately 100 km.

Above: Costa Maya Plaza with ships in the background.

The Costa Maya terminal complex is another self-enclosed area, complete with swimming pools, bars and shopping.

Above: Costa Maya fountain and replica tower.

Above: The many air conditioning units that entice passengers into the cool shops.

Mahahual is a five minute taxi ride away and contains a long strip of beautiful beach which is divided up into different areas, owned by different bars and shops across the pathway.

Above: Ships from Mahahual beach.

Above: The beach pathway at Mahahual.

As well as the Kohunlich Mayan excursion which I've already blogged about, I also went power snorkelling in Costa Maya. We boarded an open-air transport for the short trip to the beach.

Above: Power snorkel transport.

It was very windy (and therefore rough) on the day we did the power snorkelling so people were getting bumped into very spiky coral. The underwater scooters were fun though:

Above: The underwater scooter and beach which we snorkelled from.

I'll leave you with a picture of a Dolphin show at the Costa Maya complex, with the Ryndam and the Nieuw Amsterdam in the background. I'll be back with the final few blogs (including video of the Neptunes) soon!


Roatán - Honduras

Roatán is an island located off the north coast of Honduras and home to pristine beaches, jungle-covered hills and a unique reef system. The most populous town of the island is Coxen Hole, capital of Roatán municipality, located in the southwest. Other important towns include French Harbour, West End, and Oak Ridge, the capital of Jose Santos Guardiola municipality.

When visiting Roatán the Ryndam docked at the Mahogany Bay Cruise Centre, a $62 million complex, created by Carnival Corporation and Roatán businessman Jerry Hynds. The centre encompasses 20 acres of waterfront property and includes a two-berth cruise terminal.

Above: The sign welcoming you to the Cruise Centre

Above: Mahogany Bay Cruise Centre from the top of the complex

Above: Mahogany Bay Cruise Centre in HDR!

Above: The Ryndam behind the central fountain at the complex

Above: The Ryndam parked at Mahogany Bay

There is a chairlift at the complex entitled Magical Flying Beach Chairs which takes passengers to Mahogany Beach - another part of the cruise centre.

Above: The view back at the complex from the chairlift.

Above: Mahogany Bay Beach

But once again, to discover the authentic Roatán, one must venture beyond the confines of this artificial complex. I did this on several occasions, including on a tour to the other side of the island.

Above: The lush hills of Roatán

Above: We were treated to an authentic dance at a resort on the tour

Above: The beach at the resort on our tour

I'll leave you with a video of the 'Magical Flying Beach Chairs' at Mahogany Bay. Coming up next: Costa Maya!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Tampa and Busch Gardens

Welcome back! Sorry it's been a while; my laptop died five weeks out from returning to the UK, but now that I am home, I can finally bring you the remaining blog posts. Today I'll show you around Tampa, and one of its most famous attractions, Busch Gardens.

Tampa is one of America's most popular departure ports for western Caribbean cruises. Three cruise lines sail from the port which has three cruise terminals.

Above: The Ryndam docked at Tampa (you can see the passengers' luggage going on the ship)

Above: The view of Tampa from the ship

Above: Parked cars just by the Ryndam (my first attempt at 'Tilt-shift photography'!)

Above: The terminal building (you can just see the ship behind it)

On the ship we were able to hire bikes for free and Tampa was a great city to bike around. There is a large bay area which you can walk or cycle round and the houses in this area are very posh (and unlike the rest of Tampa).

Above: The Tampa cityscape from across the bay

Above: Some of the posh houses in the bay area

Tampa University is also an interesting place to visit with Tampa Plant Hall - the university's main building - heavily steeped in Moorish influence (fascination with all things oriental).

Above: Tampa University

Above: Downtown Tampa from the banks of the University

Attractions within walking distance of the ship terminals include the Florida Aquarium, American Victory Ship and the Channelside District complete with IMAX cinema.

Above: Channelside Plaza located right next to the Carnival Ship

Above: Channelside Cinema located on the first floor of the plaza - one of my favourite places in Tampa!

Tampa is also home to Busch Gardens, an African based theme park and a popular destination with Orlando tourists. I visited Busch Gardens a total of four times, as I was able to purchase a ticket which allowed you to come back again for free! It was about an hour's bike ride away, along one very straight road called Nebraska Avenue.

Above: There are traffic lights for pedestrians across six lane roads - America is crazy!

Above: Nebraska Avenue intersects with Busch Boulevard - the location of Busch Gardens

Above: I normally managed to arrive early in the morning, when the park was fairly empty!

Above: The entrance area of Busch Gardens

Above: Kumba, at the back of the park (I was the only person on this ride one morning)

Above : A dive coaster called Sheikra, my favourite rollercoaster (and Florida's tallest)

Above: The latest rollercoaster at Busch Gardens called Cheetah Hunt which sadly was about a month from opening when I last visited

There were also a lot of animals at Busch Gardens! Here are some of my favourite shots:








Finally, I'll share a little video I shot cycling back to the downtown Tampa area from Busch Gardens. I'll be back with the final few blog posts from my first cruise very soon.