Loving My First Christmas at Sea with the Family

Day 3, 2023 Holiday Panama Canal Sunfarer

Monday, Dec. 25, 2023; Christmas Day in the Caribbean Sea

Merry Christmas!

It’s early Christmas morning and I’m in my happy place – the Crow’s Nest – enjoying a morning latte before too many passengers get up. (Yes, I do have multiple happy places….)

What a treat to see Camille, one of the baristas from earlier this year, again at the coffee bar. Sadly (for me), she will be leaving before the world cruise, but Angelica will join us, and Katrine is here for the duration. They probably won’t be making coffee drinks, but serving from some of the bars around the ship. Camille and Katrine are just two of many familiar crew members on board – many of them return for the world cruise year after year. It truly does feel like coming home.

Camille and Jo

I had intended to take a break from blogging on this holiday cruise, yet here I am. It’s just natural to want to report on what is happening, I guess.

The Zuiderdam is about full with 2,014 guests. And apparently full with toilet paper, as I observed before we left port.

The ship has a very different vibe for this 12-day cruise during the holiday school break than on my typical longer cruises. Of course, there are lots of kids – just what I expected. I couldn’t imagine a Christmas cruise without them. All the ones I have seen are well behaved.

I am not used to seeing every deck chair and Lido pool-side table taken for much of the day. Or lines waiting to be seated for dinner in the main dining room. But again – not a surprise. Anticipating crowds, I booked a Retreat cabana for the entire cruise. They are on a private area on deck 12 above the mid-ship pool area.

Elaine in cabana, with Colton, Zan and Jo behind

We have a cabana steward who keeps us supplied with drinks and even chocolate-dipped strawberries midafternoon. And we’ve booked a regular table for dinner so we can skip the lines. It’s at 5:15 p.m. – much earlier than I prefer to eat – but the preference of my sisters and nephews.

Boarding in Fort Lauderdale was a breeze. Two Ubers (lots of luggage as my sisters and I will be on board until mid May) to the cruise terminal. With 4 and 5 Mariner stars, we qualified for the express line and were on the ship in about 20 minutes. As it was just after 11 a.m., our cabins weren’t ready so we headed to the Lido poolside to wait. It was a good choice, as many of the crew passed through and those we know stopped to chat.

By early afternoon we were in our cabins and started unpacking. Eloise and I are sharing an obstructed (by a tender) ocean view on deck 4, and the corners are full of suitcases we won’t unpack until we move to our balcony cabins for the world cruise, which starts on Jan. 3.

On Saturday the Zuiderdam joined the Rotterdam at Half Moon Cay, Holland America’s private island in the Bahamas.

I was first there on the Zuiderdam in 2003 (below left) and last on the Maasdam in 2009. By 2023 It has changed a lot (below right)..

New cabanas, bars and other structures. But still powder-fine sand and one of the prettiest beaches I’ve seen. Yes, it was crowded with two ships there, but not unreasonably.

I’m enjoying these two sea days before we arrive in Curacao tomorrow. The daily program is full of lots of activities — sports, art classes, lectures. I’ve spent hours setting up my new iPhone and consolidating photos. And I’m still waiting on that darn Brazilian visa – nothing new in the past week. I guess it is not coming for Christmas.