TR: Veendam Caribbean Cruise 2016: Pt. 5 – Guatemala (3/17/16)

In the lead up to the cruise, I discussed my trip with several friends. With some of these being somewhat obscure ports, this wasn’t a bad idea given that I’m blessed to have friends who’ve been to some obscure places. In particular, this came in handy with our day in Santo Tomas De Castilla, Guatemala. My good friend David had been to the region prior, and was very forthright with his response: You need to go up the Rio Dulce, and you need to go to the town of Livingston. Digging a bit, I was able to locate a tour provider doing both at a fraction of the official cruise ship price for tours. This is a pretty good life when these things happen. Continue reading

2016 Veendam Cruise Trip Report Series

I’m very late in doing these, but here’s the Veendam Cruise Trip Report Series from our trip way back in March. I’ll update this as I go.

Pt. 1: Preface/Travel Day

Pt. 2: Ship Review

Pt. 3: Departure from Tampa and Key West

Pt. 4: At Sea 1/Trujillo/Banana Coast, Honduras

Pt. 5: Santo Tomas De Castilla, Guatemala

Pt. 6: Costa Maya/Mahahual, Mexico/At Sea 2

Pt. 7: Return to Tampa, Florida Aquarium

TR: Veendam Caribbean Cruise 2016: Pt. 4 – At Sea/Honduras (3/15-3/16/16)

How did we spend our first full sea day on the Veendam? Eating. Sleeping. Reading. Eating again. And then eating again. Is this worthy of a play-by-play? Probably not. Our most significant activity of the day would have had to been attending the America’s Test Kitchen presentation that reviewed how to make creme brulee. Yes: samples were provided, and yes, they were tasty. This is why people take cruises: in between the stops in outrageously exotic locales, you chill out and have a good time. We even got a chance to enjoy formal night, which we bothered to participate in this time. I feel like we looked good? Continue reading

TR: Veendam Caribbean Cruise 2016: Pt. 3 – Departure & Key West (3/13-14/16)

Having boarded the vessel, we took to exploring the ship. Being under 60,000 tons, that reduces the number of venues that one has to walk through, but if I have to be honest, it doesn’t do so to that great a degree. Yes: there is no climbing wall, no water slide complex, no parades. And that’s perfectly OK sometimes. Actually, a lot of times. We sat down to an early dinner in the main dining room, and were able to consume dessert and run out to the promenade as we went under the Sunshine Bridge. Having noted the kinda lousy sight lines in the theater when we walked around earlier, we made the obscenely wise choice to skip the Sail Away variety show. Random lounge performers seemed more our speed now that we had the drink package and free alcohol (a bonus thrown in with our fare). Continue reading

TR: Veendam Caribbean Cruise 2016: Pt. 2 – MS Veendam Ship Review

The MS Veendam is a ship from Holland America line, and is by far the oldest vessel I’ve ever been on. In service now for 20 years, Veendam is also the smallest ship I’ve ever taken at a measly 57,000 tons. Now, at the time it was constructed, that was a whole lot of ship. Honestly, it still is. But these days, the Oasis class ships displace roughly 4 times as much in the ocean as little ‘ol Veendam. 57,000 tons is a “midsize” ship, not a megaboat, and that means it lacks some amenities like water slides or interactive video characters. This could be problematic for you if those are things that make or break your vacation experience. Us: not so much. Continue reading

TR: Sylvan Beach, NY State Fair, and Geauga (9/3-9/5/16)

9/3: Conneaut Lake has nothing on the present version of Sylvan Beach. While the arcades seem to be healthy and clean, the dry rides are a shambles. Being there with my wife, mother, and stepfather, it was remarked that this was probably a really great place once long ago, but had passed its prime. While there’s a number of kiddie and adults flat rides, of most interest are the coaster and the dark ride. Galaxi (A#778/M#479) is a fairly standard portable model coaster which had a prior life on the Seattle World’s Fairgrounds when it was Fun Forest. For the last 20+ years, it has been here in Sylvan Beach, and over many of them, I imagine maintenance has been deferred. There was one train of two cars running the rusty track, and the entrance ramp up felt as if it could give way at any moment. The ride itself was entirely OK, though most interesting was the lap bar being what felt like at neck level. Next to the Fascination (.25 a game!) is Laffland, a classic Pretzel dark ride that has probably seen better days. Our car struggled to complete the circuit – no big scares located within, but not an awful ride either. Continue reading

TR: Conneaut/Knoebels/Hershey/Cedar Point 8/26-29/16

Did a long weekend road trip to a bunch of parks, and a few notes on each:

8/26, Conneaut Lake: Hit this for 90 minutes on the route East, meeting up with old friend Kyle Mackey and his wife. Compared to our last visit a couple of years back, there’s been a lot of progress overall in beautifying this place. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the park is any great shakes, but it does have a dark ride, a classic carousel, a wood coaster with single lap bars, flying scooters, and a Tumble Bug. That’s enough of a lineup for me to care. Beyond that, Hotel Conneaut has seen some heavy work to make it look better, there was a car show going on in front of it, and most of the burned out hulks have been torn down, with stuff like a Nanobrewery having been set up on site and a bunch of empty ride pads just being there. Continue reading