Tag Archives: extended cruise planning

Maasdam Kitchen Tour

Waiting for the kitchen tour to start, I think about all that goes into preparing food for 1280 passengers and 600 crew members. It has to be a continuous operation, especially with 24 hour room service available.

The kitchen is located on deck 7, with access from the Rotterdam Dining Room. I step from an elegantly decorated dining room set with crisply starched napkins, crystal and flowers into the bright but plain stainless steel kitchen.

The galley of the Maasdam is basically shaped like an upside-down U, entering on the right side the kitchen stations or cubicles are all located along the right side with center of the U being the elevators, escalators and offices. This design continues as I make my way through the galley.

Maasdam Cruise                  KitchentourLindaOKeefe_8186 
Pastry Chef rolling dough                                                    Coffee station

In the first small rectangular cubicle I see is a pastry chef in the right corner rolling out long rectangles of dough; I wonder what delight he is preparing. The next cubicle is equally small with the coffee urns along with espresso and cappuccino makers lining one side of the U and all the coffee condiments on the opposite side. Their smell is wonderful as the coffee aromas blend with that of the soups cooking in two huge kettles in a smaller area behind the coffee station.

       Maasdam Cruise                              Maasdam Cruise
                  Stirring the soup                                                                    Makings of a sauce

Located behind the soup station is the galley for the Pinnacle Grill, the fine dining restaurant in the Maasdam. Although the Pinnacle Grill kitchen is situated in the main galley it is a totally separate operation.

Directly to the left is the escalator for carrying meals to the upper level of the dining room and the Executive Chef’s office. The grill area on the right in addition to the prep area for In-Room Dining cooks to prepare meals for delivery.

The hot kitchen is busiest area of all. This is where the stewards pick up hot appetizers, soup and entrée. Each Chef de Partie has his own work station to prepare his specialty, which he makes in small batches to insure perfection in taste and texture.

In what they call the cold kitchen, big stainless steel refrigerators are packed with cold appetizers and salads, making it easy for a dining room steward to open them and pick up the correct dish.

I notice two elevators off to the left, which I’m told go down to the A and B decks where the storerooms, the Butcher shop and Vegetable Preparation Room are all located.

            Maasdam Cruise                     Maasdam Cruise
           Streamlining salads                                            Vegetable station

One of the most interesting things I learn is about the crew galley, located on the B deck near the Mess rooms where the Filipino and Indonesian crew members take their meals. They have their own chefs–2 Indonesians and 1 Filipino—to prepare the kinds of foods they prefer.

          Maasdam Cruise         Maasdam Cruise      Maasdam Cruise
                      One of the Chefs during a photo shoot            Snacks for the hungry

We often read statements aboard ship about how HAL is committed to preserving, protecting and maintaining the environment its ships use. Here on the Maasdam they seem to do a good job when it comes to recycling. For instance, a somat pulper located in the dishwashing area turns food waste into mulch which goes to the recycling waste room. There the mulch is dehydrated so it can be incinerated or discharged at sea according to strict rules.

                  Maasdam Cruise  
                  Dishwasher cleaning up                      

Plastics and other non-burnable wastes are compacted, kept in cold storage, then finally hauled away when we are in port. Glass is crushed, tins and aluminum are compressed into bricks for recycling.

Organization is the key ingredient in the ship’s recipe for having dining operations run smoothly. I guess that’s why the tour is so fast. My group of 20 goes through in just 8 minutes. The kitchen is smaller than I thought it would be but everything has its designated area and the flow of preparation assures our dinners arrives in a timely manner and that a surprising amount of close attention was paid to even the smallest details.

Average weekly consumption list for approx. 1,900 persons
Meat and meat products: 8,500 lbs
Poultry 4,000 lbs
Fish 2,000 lbs
Seafood 2,500 lbs
Butter and Margarine 1,100 lbs
Fresh Vegetables 12,000 lbs
Potatoes 4,500 lbs
Watermelon 1,800 lbs
Eggs 18,000 pcs
Dairy 4,000 qts
Sugar 700 lbs
Ind. Sugar Packages 20,000 pcs
Rice for Crew 2,100 lbs
Caviar 20 lbs
Flour 2,900 lbs
Ice Cream 200 gln

  By Linda O’Keefe

   
   

Half Moon Cay, Final Phase

woman on horseback

Just when it’s starting to feel like our own backyard

Our third and final visit to Half Moon Cay, Holland America’s private island, is also the first stop on our third and final leg of our 35-day voyage. When we left Half Moon Cay on Sunday, it was a warm, beautiful day with winds strong in the morning decreasing throughout the day.

What a shock to arrive the next morning in Ft. Lauderdale where it is 50 degrees at 7 a.m. and winds are strong. Did I hibernate through the winter and wake up on an Alaska cruise? The only time it was ever this cold there was when our ship was next to a glacier.

So it’s nice to be back at Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas, where this morning it’s in the high 70s and winds are the calmest they’ve ever been.

3 half moon bch cover   3 half moon riding sea

More Island Background Info:
Unless there are two ships present and the larger vessel gets priority, the tender boats stationed in the protected Half Moon marina provide easy access for everyone, including those in wheelchairs and strollers. It’s because the upper level of the double-decked tenders are almost level with the gangway, as opposed to a steeper descent down to the Maasdam’s own tenders.

3 half moon fort   3 half moon shell fountain

After docking at the tender pier, you enter through the archway of Fort San Salvador, though technically this island’s name is Little San Salvador. The Bahamas’ real San Salvador is where Columbus may have landed, though the Turks and Caicos Islands claim the same honor.

Once inside the archway, you enter a plaza with an information kiosk, restrooms, a fountain surrounded by conch shells and a handful of shops. There is supposed to be a straw market, but if there is one it must be hidden in the gift shop, which I’ve never visited. From the plaza, you can see the replica of a small Bahamian chapel. The plaza also is where you board the shuttle trucks (with shade canopy) to different activities and to the Island BBQ at the Food Pavilion (served 11:30-1).

As for the BBQ, don’t feel the need to give up your beach time for to attend it. You’ll find the same hamburgers and dogs and bratwurst and fries at the Terrace Grill back on the Maasdam until 6 p.m., but not all the salads and fruits. Since the last tender departs around 2 p.m., just eat a big breakfast and grab some apples from the buffet for a snack.

At the same time, the buffet is not all that crowded when only one ship is anchored. When there are two, it can feel like a feeding frenzy and you may want to flee back to the ship.

Also consider the Lido Restaurant closes at 2 p.m., although the deli—which closes for a brief time and then reopens about 2:15-2:20 after a fresh restocking—stays open until 5.
3 half moon sand castle   3 half moon church   3 boy on slide

Moon also has a mini Aqua Park for youngsters 2-5, but the kids seem to ignore that as much as they do swimming in the Caribbean. From what I’ve witnessed, the kids prefer building sand castles and digging in the sand and turning their holes into wells with sea water they scoop from the sea. The huge (pirate?) ship mentioned in my first Half Moon Cay post is much closer to completion than when we first saw it 24 days ago. It’s now so prominent it’s easily seen from the Maasdam at anchor well offshore. And it dwarfs people on the beach.

3 half moon ship   3 half moon kids running

For those with mobility issues concerned about visiting Half Moon Cay, the busiest areas have three handicapped-accessible areas joined by hard-surfaced pathways. In addition, all the island’s facilities meet and exceed ADA requirements, including beach and jitney trams.

Here’s a summary of all the activities and facilities on Half Moon Cay.
Special Features:

  • Aquasports center with beach gear and watersports equipment
  • Fully-equipped Club HAL children’s playground
  • Free beach chairs
  • Volleyball, shuffleboard and horseshoes
  • Par course trail with exercise stations
  • Network of nature trails with interpretive signs
  • Bridges across dunes for beach access
  • Designated Wild Bird Reserve (you won’t find signs to it)
  • All facilities meet and exceed ADA requirements including beach and jitney trams
  • Hard-surfaced pathways connecting venues

3 half moon bch bottom

Caribbean Cruise – What To Pack

Consider These The Bare Essentials
 
 Which clothes to pack for a Caribbean cruise is simpler than you think. Your two most important considerations are comfort and practicality.
     Before deciding what to pack, do your homework first to narrow your focus and eliminate the urge to throw things in the suitcase at the last minute for “just in case.”
     Make a list of every day’s port of call and the activities you plan to participate in at each.
      How many days do you spend at sea? That requires almost no wardrobe. You can spend the entire day in a bathing suit if you wish.  
     Now that you know your itinerary, get down to serious business.  Remember, most people don’t dress or look like the models in cruise advertisements. There’s no need to break the bank on clothing for a cruise.  Save your money for fun things to do at the different ports you’ll be visiting.  
     Most things you need are in your closet.
     The usual basics are best for both men and women.  
     For men: Slacks and a polo-style shirt are appropriate attire for a man at dinner and the shirt can be worn the next day with shorts.  The only night men need a coat and tie is the formal evening.
     For women: Don’t limit yourself to dresses and heels–you may regret it. Dinner wear is actually fairly simple. For daytime, bring a pair of light slacks and a pair of black slacks with blouses or tanks.   Formal night is whatever you want it to be but slacks with a dressy blouse are fine
      Footwear: A must have item are black walking/tennis shoes.  Both for men and women. Yes, even on formal nights.  Ladies, trust me, in rough seas walking can be tough and you don’t want to be in heels. Who’s going to look at your feet anyway?  
      Why such casual footwear? Your cruise ship’s main dining rooms may not be located on the same floor as your stateroom. So, you may have to climb stairs and walk from one end of the ship to the other—in rough seas. Be comfortable. You’re on vacation.
     Sweater: Even though it’s warm and humid in the Caribbean, air conditioning can make dining chilly.  A good investment for a woman is a nice light-weight black sweater.  It can be stuffed into a carry-on bag and pulled out at a moment’s notice to dress you up while wearing casual slacks.
     Two bathing suits are all you need to carry on board.  One to wear while the other one dries.
     Cover ups are important to remember but towels are furnished poolside and for beach trips in port.
     Snorkel equipment is usually included with shore excursions. But if you have your own gear, bring it. Then you’ll know your mask won’t leak and the fins won’t blister your feet.
     Lightweight rain jacket just in case liquid sunshine decides to dump on you. Some rain jackets fold into themselves to make packing easier.
  Small rain umbrella when combined with lightweight rain jacket is as much good luck as you can possibly pack to stave off rain. Cruising during the Caribbean’s usual January-April dry season is the most powerful rain deterrent

A 35-Day Cruise – Forget Driving & Parking

 

Although the following nuts and bolts relate to my extended 35-day cruise, the situation applies to everyone wanting to slash both their travel costs and port parking charges.   

My 35-day Caribbean cruise aboard the ms Maasdam departing Nov. 12 from Fort Lauderdale comes with a few problems. Most important is determining the most efficient (cheapest) way to travel from the Orlando area. Driving my own vehicle is out of the question with Port Everglades charging $20 a day for parking. That will come to $700 or about 25percent of the actual cruise cost. Forget that.

Going by air is not feasible. Although the distance between Orlando and Fort Lauderdale is only about 215 miles, flying is an unreasonable and expensive proposition. Except for Spirit Airlines, whose direct flight with a very good schedule is only $120 per person roundtrip. Unfortunately, based on flying Spirit, I will never ever fly Spirit again. The airline doesn’t know what a schedule means. Further, luggage and a glass of water or anything (besides toilet paper?) on Spirit will be an extra charge.

Southwest Airlines with two free bags per person is a more attractive alternative but the roundtrip fare still is about $200 per person.  AirTran, a favorite that does not fly directly to Fort Lauderdale, is $373. The best Priceline comes up with is $688 with multiple stops on Continental. Ridiculous since I can fly Continental from Orlando to San Diego for about $300.

My best option is a rental car. Using my discount as a member of BJ’s Wholesale Club, Budget Rent-A-Car rents me an intermediate vehicle from Orlando to the Fort Lauderdale International Airport with drop off there for about $100. The cost for the return is the same. I like that.

The Fort Lauderdale airport happens to be so close to the Port Everglades cruise terminal that rental car companies provide a free shuttle to the ships.  Now, that’s a deal!

Perhaps most importantly, the amount of luggage is irrelevant. It does take a lot of luggage for a 35-day cruise. More importantly, there is the matter of souvenirs. Cruise lines don’t care how much you buy as long as it all fits it in your stateroom and can  leave the ship with the rest of the baggage.

So I also will be bringing some extra suitcases, empty when I depart but packed solid when I return. And have no concern about their weight. The varieties of Caribbean hot sauces will weigh at least 20 pounds, if not more. And if I see another 35-pound carved wooden mask to add to my collection, so what?  Or a painting that I can hand-carry off the ship and not worry about being crushed in airline luggage.

Point of all this: Consider your best option for traveling to the port regardless of cruise length.

But with 35 days at sea, there still is more to consider. As you will see in tomorrow’s blog