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   Cruise Travel - Millenium Cruise

Day 5 - Sunday, January 2, Playa Del Carmen/Cozumel Mexico

by Joe Koshuta, TravelPage.com

January 2, 2000 - Greetings from Mexico, here's what happened today:

Early this morning we stopped, or at least slowed down a whole lot, near Playa Del Carmen to drop people off for tours of the Mayan ruins. We then headed to Cozumel, Mexico. Cozumel has seen a lot of people come and go over the years including the Mayans, who used the island as a shrine to the moon goddess, Ixchel. Cortes also "stopped" by briefly on his way to the Mexican mainland and Henry Morgan, the English Buccaneer used the island as a base for piracy. The island was pretty much abandoned for the next 300 years until World War II when it was used as a training area for U.S troops given its similarities to the islands of the Pacific.

We opted for a catamaran snorkel/sailing tour this morning. The rain held off long enough for us to get in some interesting snorkeling with the kids and a nice beach party about 35 minutes away by boat. We tied up this morning right alongside Airtours Carousel - RCL's former Nordic Prince. She is all decked out in Airtours bright colors all the way down to her deck chairs.

The snorkeling area was only 5 minutes from the ship and after 45 minutes we all climbed aboard and headed down the coast to our beach party. The price of the tour included drinks and the crew did a very nice job of making sure you didn't go without - only problem was it was 10:00 in the morning which in my book is a bit early for beer. Bloody Mary maybe but beer... Anyway, the beach we went to was empty and we had the use of kayaks and floats. Hamburgers were also available at $5.00 US each. After about an hour on the beach we headed back to the ship attempting to dodge rain showers along the way but we still got caught a couple of times.

We don't leave until 11:00 PM tonight and there is a barbecue under the stars on the Lido deck. Not sure if we will go there, the dining room or try to make it back into town for some local flavor.

As I promised earlier in the week, I am going to touch on particular aspects of the cruise during the remaining reports. Today I'd like to give you my impressions of the food and service on board. Overall, I would give the crew a 3.5 rating (out of 5 for service) and a 4.5 rating for food.

The issue with the service is that it's inconsistent. In some areas the service is great in other you seem to wait forever and then get something other than what you asked for. The JAVA bar and Lido Restaurant stand out as there is always someone there to help you and they even remember who you are and your preferences. This is to be expected in the dining room where you see the same limited number people each day, but not in these places where the entire ship may wander through in the course of the day. Bar service has been really hit-and-miss. While we have had some good experiences, more often than not we have had to wait and wait to place an order and then again to get our drinks. This was especially bad in the Crows Nest Lounge and the Rotterdam dining room until we began placing our wine orders at lunch and the wine was waiting for us when we arrived. Note: If you place you order early you also get a 10% discount.

To be fair, this is only the ship's 10th voyage and the crew is the typical combination of new and experienced HAL staff. I expect that things will improve over time. But the bottom line is we are still paying the same rates as for the other ships where the level of service is probably a touch higher. There are other very positive things about this ship that offset the service glitches so if you are booked on the Volendam I wouldn't worry about changing your plans.

One of those positive things, it the quality of the food. Of the three HAL cruises I've been on over the past few years the quality of the food on board the Volendam is clearly the best. At dinner everyone is raving about the soups and the beef has been prepared perfectly every night. The seafood is fresh and cooked just right.

The food during the day at the Lido and the Grill near the pool is also very good. The grill starts around 11:00 AM and burgers, hot dogs, sausages, and the occasional taco bar are served throughout the afternoon. Around 4:00 PM the start making pizza for about an hour. The Lido restaurant opens again for Staff and Crew at 5:30 PM. But if you are traveling with small children you can take them up and feed them dinner from the same menu if you want an alternative to the room service or the dining room. Since we have 9 children in our group this had been very convenient and the staff serving more than willing to go out of there way to make sure that there is something for the kids to enjoy. Oh yeah, even room service seems to be better on this ship. It is always delivered exactly on time and they are very accommodating with special requests.

All this writing about food has made me hungry so I am going to take a break now and head upstairs to see what kinds of goodies await. More tomorrow.

Check back later for updates or click here to learn more about Mexico.

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