January 14, 2023

Caribbean New Year on the Rotterdam

A difficult time of year was softened by engaging with life and experiencing the beauty of the Caribbean. Dec 28 to Jan 14 on the Holland America MS Rotterdam.

Caribbean New Year on the Rotterdam

I wanted to be on a cruise during the most difficult part of the year for me. Mitzi was 100% supportive and so right after Christmas we embarked on the MS Rotterdam for a 17 day experience.

It was wonderful in every way.

Personal note to Mitzi:

Thank you Mitzi for your love and kindness and companionship and support. I love you deeply and appreciate you.

Thank you for the fun time seeing the beautiful Caribbean, the wonderful food experiences, the listening ear and shoulder to cry on when I needed it. The understanding heart from one wounded soul to another – you brighten my life and I love you deeply for it.

Day 1 Fort Lauderdale

Deck 1 with a window. It felt like a dungeon and was actually really difficult.

Lido deck for dinner.

Not sure about the fruit cake :)

Strolling outside on first night on the upper decks.

Art work near the music venues.

The B.B. King Oldies stage.

Day 2 Half Moon Cay

Lunch on Lido.

Half Moon Cay (we stayed on board).

Lounging on top deck.

Dinner at Sel de Mer.

Enjoying the Crow's Nest.

Day 3 At Sea

Breakfast in the dining room.

It's been so tough being in a room right below the Rolling Stones Rock Band. And without a veranda. I've been feeling grief causing anxiety and a feeling of being trapped. Drums pounding from 8p to midnight.

For the third day I asked Guest Services if I could please move rooms. Jhon said it was a holiday cruise and they just were completely full but he would see what could be done.

After about 30 minutes of him working it hard (THANK YOU JHON)...

We got moved to a veranda cabin! A miracle and suddenly everything became bright. Mitzi captured the elation I felt. Fresh air! Peace and quiet! Heaven!

Lunch on the Lido. Gee I seem so much happier, I wonder why?

Tea time.

Strolling around the deck level 3.

Dinner in Dining Room.

Show time!

Day 4 Ocho Rios Jamaica

Breakfast in the dining room.

Jamaica, Ocho Rios.

Ocean's 11 for Jerk Chicken.

Returning to ship.

Nami Sushi for dinner.

A unexpected gift from room service since our breakfast had been late.

Day 5 George Town Grand Cayman

We had room service bring breakfast and ate it on the veranda. I had Lobster Benedict.

We sat in the Crow's Nest.

Mitzi worked on her Wind in the Willows Mr. Toad project.

The restaurants in the Grand Cayman we wanted to visit were closed. So we decided to stay on the ship and have some pizza and pastrami.

And then I had some lamb shoulder and chicken.

While Mitzi had some delish ham and fish – building up those proteins!

For dinner we ate in the Dining Room.

Day 6 - Quintana Roo Cozumel

Lunch at Ix-Kool.

Back to the ship.

Jeff and Shelby went on a cruise years ago and got a picture in front of two Royal Caribbean ships. Then recently Jacob and Whitney got the same picture in the same place with the same ships!

This isn't identical but they are Royal Caribbean ships so I did what I could to match them, it was fun :)

Day 7 - At Sea

Sailing back to Ft. Lauderdale. Mitzi is working on her Wind in the Willows project in various places. Our room.

The upper deck.

The Crow's Nest.

The Grand Dutch Café.

And we have a Bosche Bol in the Grand Dutch Café.

Capsized little boat. 19 cuban refugees were picked up in it the day before and all were safe.

An hour later our crew spots another refugee boat. This with two Cubans in it. They've been on the sea for 4 days with no provisions or paddles or hats or covering.

We navigate to their side and pick them up.

Dinner at Tamarind - Pan Asian.

Day 8 - Ft. Lauderdale Again

Arrived at Ft. Lauderdale. Quick trip through Customs, changed rooms from 7036 to 8013, then left the port.

Steak dinner in the Lido.

Day 9 - At Sea

Afternoon tea.

Talking to Benson and Sydney in the Crow's Nest.

Dinner in the Dining Room. We sat at a shared table for once. Damon actually enjoyed it.

On this segment of the cruise we purchased access to the Thermal Suite. Huge salt water hot tub with power jets. We went there twice today.

Day 10 - Grand Turk in Turks & Caicos

We dock next to the brand new Carnival Celebration, a huge ship that is just too large and party-like for us to ever cruise on. Made us appreciate the Rotterdam.

Some photos while walking around the port.

Kirkland water at Star Bucks.

Our first excursion, a tour around Grand Turk. The tour bus was a tab bit cramped.

A view out the restaurant window. Car repair shop next door.

Lunch time!

Mitzi isn't so sure about this food.

At the lighthouse we see two dogs. Not sure what their status is.

There are donkeys roaming around the island. This was the best shot I got, I had about 1 second to get the camera ready as we drove by.

Back on ship waiting for our hamburger patty.

Time to eat!

As we pulled out of the port the sky was beautiful.

At night the view from the rear of the ship, level 9.

Dinner at Nami. So far our favorite restaurant on board. This is our second time.

Tuna Poke.

Hamachi Usuzukuri.

Seared Tuna.


Dragon Roll.

Our favorite desert of the whole trip – Mango Posset.

Portrait of Sushi Chef Dicky.

Day 11 - Amber Cove (Puerta Plata) Dominican Republic

A view from our veranda.

Mitzi finished the little Mr. Toad. Amazing work!

Ox tail for lunch.

Some cabanas as seen from the dock.

We walked around Amber Cove, the port. It was fenced and razor wire across the top so we decided to stay in the dock area and not venture out.

Thermal Suite time! That's Damon not Mitzi under the cold face towel.

Dinner in the Dining Room. Seared duck breast. Flat iron steak. Lamb curry. Lobster tails. Jerk chicken.

This is the drumset that got us out of the room in the dungeon and up to the 7th level veranda. Our first room was directly under this drum set and it was horrible those first two nights. The band plays every night starting about 8p and going till midnight. But now we feel gratitude because it got us a much better room for the rest of the cruise.

Lesson learned. Book a veranda to begin with. And make sure it's not next to any noisy venues. Holland America has taken really good care of us, we are very grateful to them for excellent customer service.

Day 12 - San Juan Puerto Rico

They opened the bow at 8:30a. However we had to wait in the hallway a few minutes. I was teasing her about something.

We sailed into the harbor past Castillo San Felipe del Morro.

Breakfast time.

We walked up to Castillo San Cristobal and walked around. This is the largest Spanish fort built in the New World and is about 600 years old.

About to head to the dungeon.

Walking through the underground tunnels.

These are large cannon balls!

The Rotterdam is on the right in the harbor.

A street in San Juan.

Mitzi likes the blue cobblestone. We've never seen cobblestone this color before.

Perfectly centered.

Time for Bosche Bol, a Dutch pastry. Mitzi wouldn't share with me. The first time in our relationship she has refused to share her food with me haha. I was very happy for her. (she brought me back my own)

Dinner in the Dining Room.

As we walked back to our room the little orchestra was playing. The Cellist reminded me a Maddy so I took this picture from the balcony.

We sailed out of the San Juan harbor at 8p. We passed the Castillo San Felipe del Morro again. Night time with the full moon shining on the water. We watched from our veranda, so beautiful. Too bad they weren't firing cannon balls at us from the fort, that would have been more exciting. But still beautiful :)

Day 13 - At Sea

Not too many pictures today. We are at sea sailing toward Willemstad, Curaçao.

At lunch I got a Perrier for the first time on the cruise.

At dinner we got crab cakes. Sushi of course. Coconut crusted shrimp.

I asked for prime rib, just the meat.

I said to the waiter, "can I get just the meat and nothing else?"

"Just the meat?" he asked.


"With the sauce?" he asked.

"No, just the meat :)"

"Just the meat?" he asked.

"Yes, just the meat :)"

When he brought it to the table and put it in front of me he said, "Is this the way you wanted it?"

"Yes, it's perfect :)"

Mitzi got another lobster. And curry chicken.

She said something teasing to me and I was able to capture her teasing look.

Mitzi has been doing hard workouts and you can see how her arms and shoulders are toned and beautiful.

Ricatta berry tart.

Chocolate puff.

Day 14 - Willemstad Curaçao

Walking through the port in Willemstad.

We stop at Maira's Kitchen for lunch. These macaroons are fake, we found out after we asked for some haha.


Walking through Willemstad.

The Queen Emma bridge built in 1888, a pontoon pedestrian swinging bridge. They swing it open to let ships pass, then swing it back closed so people can walk across.


These figurines reminded Mitzi of the kind her mom's friend would send from places all over the world as she traveled for the military and sent figurines to Susie.

Black licorice!

Real macaroons. On the ship, in the Crow's Nest.

A view of the swinging bridge from the Crow's Nest after a barge and tow boat passed by.

Enjoying the Thermal Suite. We go there everyday.

Late 9p dinner at the Pinnacle Grill.

Honey bacon with lemon and pickle. Actually really great sweet/sour combinations.

A real steak knife. Delmonico 16 oz steak, mmmm.

Steak makes Damon happy.

Dessert makes Mitzi happy!

Day 15 - Oranjestad Aruba

"Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya..."

We had lunch at Bistro de Suikertuin, a little over a mile walk from the cruise port. Mitzi loves buildings made out of stone, this was a relaxing place to have a nice lunch. Great food.

I asked what was the most traditional Aruban food. The waitres said Keshi Yena, an Aruban chicken and melted cheese dish. It was so tasty, a great comfort food.

Mitzi got a breakfast platter. The croissant was rustic and warm.

I'm looking off deep in thought about something or other :)

As we headed to the ship Mitzi saw some Morocco shakers she wanted to get for some of the little grandchildren.

The first cruise Mitzi and Brandon ever went on was in 2004. On this exact Explorer of the Seas! It was built in 2000 and refurbished in 2014. As they drove through the port of Miami this was the biggest ship in the port. They were so proud to be on this ship and felt like they had really made it. It's still a huge ship by today's standards – 4,200 passengers and 1,200 crew members. The Rotterdam by comparison is 2,500 passengers.

A view of the Caribbean Sea just as we start to leave the dock.

Dinner time at the Dining Room.

Back to non steak knives (I finally got a real one at the steakhouse last night). This is what they use for steak knives everywhere else.

Walking back to our room we decided to stroll along the outside on deck 3.

In the evening we went to the Thermal Suite and had a nice time in the hot tub and then the warm recliners to relax and read.

A great day in Aruba!

Day 16 - At Sea

Sailing toward Half Moon Cay we spent the day on the ship. Didn't really have a choice other than going overboard. Which we decided not to do. Clearly.

Mitzi worked on her Wind in the Willows project.

Damon just chillin'.

The seas were super calm today. Most calm we've seen on the whole cruise.

The Dutch Cafe had these tiny dutch pancakes.

And a great grilled ham and cheese sandwich.

As we sailed near Haiti these tiny sailboats were on the water.

We've enjoyed the Thermal Suite each day. Today we had it all to ourselves which was surprising since it's a Sea Day.

Mitzi actually took a nap and fell asleep!

Ice cream time!

This couple had fun t-shirts on. The man's says "Best Husband Ever". The woman's says "This Girl Crushes On Her Husband." Mitzi and I were trying to decide if he bought them or if she bought them. It makes a BIG difference!

Genesis helps seat people in the Dining Room. She loves Mitzi's smile. She memorized our names and our room number so each time we go eat in the Dining Room we feel very special.

I did a quick trip to the Lido to grab some pork belly. Amazing.

It was a Gala dinner tonight.

After dinner we went to the Thermal Suite for the second time. What a relaxing and pleasant day.

Day 17 - Half Moon Cay

Last full day of the cruise.

I was getting my breakfast and the ship's captain was right next to me.

Then I had to get a picture of Rechel, she's been making my poached eggs every morning. She remembered me after the first couple days and remembered what I wanted. She's from Indonesia and has 1 month left on her contract and is ready to go home. She said the days are very long and she gets super tired. I see her working in the Lido from morning until it closes at night. That's a long work day!

We got on the tender this time and headed to Half Moon Cay.

While waiting in line to get on the tender we saw Jhon. He works in Guest Services and is the kind soul who went to bat for me on the third day and got us changed to a veranda room. That made a huge difference and we are very appreciative he pulled off that miracle.

On the Island we had prepaid for the Lobster lunch. Only problem is it started raining and the wind started blowing very hard. It was a fun adventure haha.

The lobster meal wasn't fully satisfying so we headed to the BBQ and got more tidbits. Me the meat, Mitzi the treat :)

There are roosters cruising around the eating area. Well fed birds.

Heading back to the tender.

This is a random person in front of me walking up the stairs of the tender to get back on the Rotterdam. Just wanted to capture what feet walking up tender stairs in 2023 looks like :)

As we were about to leave the Island the Nieuw Statendam cruised right across our bow. I captured it from the bow cam I had playing in our room.

Mitzi's amazing skills with her Wind in the Willows project. So cute!

The mirror in our bathroom has a square light around the perimeter. It makes for interesting looking eyes when we are in front of the mirror. A little bit eerie and striking!

For dinner we went back to Nami Sushi for the third time. Definitely our favorite.

And for dessert's dessert, chocolate ice cream at the pool!

Day 18 - Debarkation

One more breakfast. Poached eggs one last time.

Mitzi joined me for breakfast.

We were off the boat and in our car at 8a. We drove all the way home, about 9 hours, and arrived at 5:40p just in time to buy some steak at the 30a Ice Market before they closed at 6p :)

We feel sad for this trip to come to an end. We love hanging out together. We love seeing new places. We love having food experiences together. It was a bonding time. A time of connection. A time of appreciation for life. A healing time.

We feel gratitude to be alive right now. Gratitude for each other. Gratitude for the time and money freedom to live and enjoy life as we do.

This epic trip comes to a close. We look forward to the next one :)