Amsterdam anchored Rangiroa in the South Pacific. Photo by Captain Mercer.
Amsterdam anchored Rangiroa in the South Pacific. Photo by Captain Mercer.

Amsterdam’s 2016 Grand World Voyage set sail from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Jan. 5. on a 115-day adventure with some of our favorite guest bloggers onboard. Jeff Farschman, President’s Club member and World Adventure blogger, is back for his 10th Grand World Voyage, and he’s joined by familiar names like Jan and Dick Yetke and Gary and Jeanne Frink. Captain Mercer also is charting his way around the world on his own blog!

Jeanne boarding.

Jeanne boarding.

The ship will take a western route from the United States to the South Pacific, then on to Indonesia, the Far East, around India, through the Suez Canal and across the Mediterranean before taking a transatlantic journey back to Fort Lauderdale.

Here are just a few of the highlights and ports along the first part of this amazing voyage. If you want to see every port visited to-date and more gorgeous photos, check out Jeff’s blog at World Adventure and Captain Mercer’s blog at www.captainjonathan.com.

PANAMA CANAL
One of the major highlights of the Grand World Voyage is a transit of the Panama Canal. Taking the ship from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean without having to go around the tip of South America, guests are able to experience this man-made wonder with a fantastic view. Journey through the canal with Captain Mercer and Jeff.

What a perfect day for transiting the canal. It was pretty hot, but I like it that way. It was nice to follow another Holland America Line ship, the ms Zuiderdam through the Gatun Locks. It is kind of like traveling with another family member. The transit was one of the better ones, great sights and wonderful weather. — Jeff

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Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

It is not a straight ‘shot’ across, we weave our way through the many islands, many of which have ‘steering’ marks for the ships, these are cut out of the jungle to make them visible at distance. — Captain Mercer

A few of Captain Mercer's photos in the Panama Canal.

A few of Captain Mercer’s photos in the Panama Canal.

SOUTH PACIFIC
The South Pacific is a chain of some of the most picturesque and memorable islands in the world. With brilliant turquoise waters, sun-kissed skies, golden beaches and the scent of vanilla lingering in the air, some of the most talked-about ports of call are in this part of the world. All of the guests went ashore and came back with some stunning images.

Rarotonga

We had one of the best days yet! … We did a full island tour stopping at some very interesting scenic spots, including some hikes up to some fabulous viewpoints and the beautiful Muri Lagoon. We also had some different but very interesting stops like a top notch ukulele maker, a place where they do shell carvings and a place where virgin coconut oil is extracted and made into various products. I bought some virgin coconut oil with hot chilies. Want some? — Jeff

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Jeff had a great day ashore at Rarotonga.

Jeff had a great day ashore at Rarotonga.

Papeete

Captain Mercer had a great day ashore at Papeete.

Captain Mercer had a great day ashore at Papeete.

The gorgeous colors of Papeete were captured by Captain Mercer.

The gorgeous colors of Papeete were captured by Captain Mercer.

Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

Rangiroa

Hearing that it was a divers’ paradise, we signed up for a scuba dive excursion for certified divers, which we are. It was wonderful! The coral on the reef was so pristine, and the reef fish were beautiful and plentiful and colorful! We also saw a few sharks – black tip and a hammerhead. We saw a gorgeous, huge spotted eagle ray swimming along so peacefully! And we saw a couple turtles that we watched and played with for a while. It was a fabulous place for a dive!!! (The underwater photos are from a friend.) — Jan

Jan and Dick went diving at Rangiroa.

Jan and Dick went diving at Rangiroa.

The crystalline waters of Rangiroa. Photo by Jeff.

The crystalline waters of Rangiroa. Photo by Jeff.

Karen Mercer explored the island by bike.

Karen Mercer explored the island by bike.

Moorea

Moorea's coastline is lush and colorful. Photo by Jeff.

Moorea’s coastline is lush and colorful. Photo by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

After the South Pacific the ship began an Australia and New Zealand exploration. The ship had an early-morning arrival at Melbourne, Australia, and Holland America Line fan and frequent guest Noel Bell shot this drone footage as the ship came into port. He remained a safe distance away from the ship while still capturing some fabulous images.

Jeff had a great time ashore:

What a day! A fabulous visit to Melbourne, Australia and the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl. It just couldn’t get much better! I took the tram into town right after clearing Australian Immigration and began my walk about. I pretty much wandered about the city in a haphazard manner for a couple of hours, catching a garden here and some street art there, just finding what I could that seemed interesting as I went … Then I decided to go up the Eureka building to their floor 88 observation deck, a great spot to see the city from above. After that I wandered back to the central part of town and hopped a tram back to the ship. All throughout the day I stayed in touch with the big game and was just ecstatic that Denver prevailed. What a grand day! — Jeff

Jeff enjoying Melbourne.

Jeff enjoying Melbourne.

While at Melbourne, Karen Mercer went to check out wine country.

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The ship’s Environmental Officer Jonathan Bailey captured the wild side of Melbourne.

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The ship currently is continuing to explore Australia, heading on to the Great Barrier Reef. Check back on our blog for the next “lookbook” from the Grand World Voyage, or get even more photos and updates from Cruise Specialists’ blog.

The colors of the South Pacific are as vivid in reality as they are in your dreams.
The colors of the South Pacific are as vivid in reality as they are in your dreams.

The South Pacific islands are the epitome of picture-perfect. This one-of-a-kind region beckons to wanderlust spirits from far and wide, promising a unique combination of rich culture, ideal climate and lush landscapes.

Hawaii and Tahiti are fan favorites, and we offer itineraries departing this April on Westerdam or Zaandam.

The 30-Day Circle Hawaii, Tahiti & Marquesas sails roundtrip from San Diego, California on April 2, 2016 visiting Honolulu, Hilo and Kona, Hawaii; Tabuaeran (Fanning Island), Kiribati; Rarotona, Cook Islands; Raiatea, Bora Bora, Moorea, Papeete and Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia. Cruisers also have the option to disembark at Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada or Seattle, Washington following the final stop at San Diego.

The 18-Day Circle Hawaii on Zaandam sails roundtrip from Vancouver, Canada departing on April 27, 2016. This itinerary calls at Honolulu, Hilo, Kona, Lahaina and Nawiliwili Kauai, Hawaii; and Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

While Holland America Line offers a number of different itineraries in the South Pacific, the Tales of the South Pacific itinerary on Amsterdam is the most epic. Sailing roundtrip from San Diego, California on Sept. 30, 2016, this amazing cruise offers 23 additional ports of call at Honolulu, Lahaina, Nawiliwili Kona and Hilo, Hawaii; Tabuaeran (Fanning Island), Kiribati; Pago Pago, American Samoa; Apia, Samoa; Savusavu, Suva, Dravuni Island and Lautoka, Fiji; Nuku alofa and Vava u, Tonga; Alofi, Niue; Rarotonga, Cook Islands; Bora Bora, Raiatea, Papeete, Moorea, Rangiroa, Fakarava and Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia. Cruisers also have the option to embark from Seattle, Washington on Sept. 25, 2016 or Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on Sept. 26, 2016, and then stopping at Avalon, California before continuing to San Diego and the rest of the above mentioned South Pacific islands.

The first 10 days of the journey are perfect for getting to know the ship, taking in scenery and preparing for the many adventures that lay ahead. Watch as the azure waters of the Pacific Ocean pass slowly by.

Day 11 is when the real adventure begins with calls throughout Hawaii for the next six days. The shores of Honolulu greet you with aqua-blue waters and a fragrant lei. Watch as surfers glide along Waikiki’s perfect waves. An overnight here passes quickly with a moving visit to Pearl Harbor or a breathtaking hike to the top of Diamond Head crater.

Pearl Harbor is a memorable tour for guests when the ship calls at Honolulu.

Pearl Harbor is a memorable tour for guests when the ship calls at Honolulu.

On Maui, it’s the Iao Valley and its emerald needle. Visit the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon, on the Garden Isle of Kauai. A trip to Hawaii just wouldn’t be complete without visiting another – you guessed it – volcano! On the Big Island it’s Kilauea Volcano, home to the Hawaiian Goddess of Fire, Pele.

President’s Club member and “World Adventure” blogger Jeff Farschman traveled on the South Pacific Tales cruise in 2015.

“What a spectacular day! The beauty and magnificence of Maui just cannot be captured properly with a few photographs. It is truly one of the most magnificent places to visit.”

Photos courtesy of Jeff Farschman, taken at Maui, Hawaii.

Enjoy breathtakingly beautiful sights when you explore Lahaina (Maui).

Things get even more exotic on day 19 as our mid-sized ship makes its way west to spend the next 10 days exploring islands off the beaten path in the South Pacific. You’ll be inordinately pleased to discover that Fanning Island, Dravuni and Savusavu all have one main street — or less!

S. Pacific Small Islands

Small, lesser-known islands in the South Pacific are beaming with natural beauty.

Day 37 greets a more familiar name … Tahiti! And for sheer beauty, it’s hard for another destination to compete. Overnights at both Bora Bora and Papeete, plus full days at Raiatea and Moorea, give guests plenty of time to enjoy the view. In Bora Bora’s lagoon, shades of blue and aqua swirl together seamlessly. Snorkel through Raiatea’s coral garden and enjoy 
a motu beach picnic off Moorea — this really is paradise.

Farshchman’s call at Bora Bora can only be described as dream-like. Lush, misty mountains sit on a bed of bright, green palm trees over a clear-blue ocean. Holland America Line guests can choose to spend the night in one of the iconic overwater bungalows at the Pearl Resort.

“The place is just perfect! It was a relaxing day surrounded by the most beautiful setting imaginable.” – Jeff Farshman

On his second day at Bora Bora he explored what lay beneath the water, and as you can probably guess, the views didn’t disappoint! Colorful fish gracefully weave through the vibrant coral and sea urchins move like dancers in a ballet. Diverse and untouched, it’s safe to say that Bora Bora has some of the best snorkeling in the world.

Farschman Bora Snorkel

Take time to admire Bora Bora’s exotic coral reef and vibrant fish just beyond it’s shoreline.

Cruisers on the 2016 itinerary will make their way to the far-flung Tuamotus on day 42. Rangiroa and Fakarava are among those rare discoveries you’ll want to keep to yourself. The snorkeling and diving at these atolls is world-class, especially at tiny Fakarava, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers, as these islands showcase some of the most beautiful flora on Earth.

Photos courtesy of Jeff Farschman at Rangiroa.

Rangiroa features eye-popping flora, bright-blue lagoons and a refreshingly simple way of life.

“It was very scenic and lovely and when it wasn’t raining, quite nice. I really enjoyed my day exploring Rangiroa.” -Jeff Farschman

At Nuku Hiva, see French Polynesia at its best: pristine, wild and endlessly charming. Then go from one side of the globe to the other in the blink of an eye as you cruise across the equator.

Photos courtesy of Jeff Farschman, taken at Nuku Hiva.

Those who explore Nuku Hiva find beautiful scenery and friendly native people.

“Had a most excellent day on the island of Nuku Hiva today. The island just takes your breath away with its scenic beauty. Along with the island being so beautiful, we found the people very welcoming and friendly.” – Jeff Farschman

After 48 days of unforgettable memories, you’ll enjoy your final few days onboard editing and sharing photos from your journey in the Digital Workshop powered by Windows. This voyage has plenty of sea days crossing to and from the islands, and days at sea are the perfect time to relax in your spacious stateroom and enjoy idyllic views from your private verandah. It’s also a great time to experience some of the many onboard activities offered like a peaceful yoga session or hands-on cooking class at the Culinary Arts Center presented by Food & Wine. Indulge in fine dining at the Pinnacle Grill, then sing along with fellow cruisers at the Piano Bar.

As disembarkation at San Diego draws near, make a reservation with your new travel friends at Canaletto, our family-style Italian dining venue, to toast to savoring your journey in the South Pacific.

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Sea days are the perfect time to explore your ship and enjoy the many offered onboard activities.

Learn how to edit and enhance your vacation photos at the Digital Workshop powered by Windows, pictured above. Then enjoy dinner at Canaletto, our family-style Italian restaurant specializing in small plates.

Learn how to edit and enhance your vacation photos at the Digital Workshop powered by Windows, pictured above. Then enjoy dinner at Canaletto, our family-style Italian restaurant specializing in small plates.

Make 2016 the year that you set sail across the world and explore the wonders of the South Pacific on Amsterdam. With the View & Verandah promotion going on now, there’s no better time to book. We’re offering stateroom upgrades, up to 10 percent off shore excursions and up to 25 percent off Collectors’ Voyages on 2016-2017 sailings when booked by Feb. 29, 2016!

Photos in the body of this blog post showcasing the South Pacific courtesy of Jeff Farschman, President’s Club member and “World Adventure” blogger.

There's a lot of gorgeous scenery on the Voyage of the Vikings cruise, including Prince Christian Sound. Photo by Jan Yetke.
There's a lot of gorgeous scenery on the Voyage of the Vikings cruise, including Prince Christian Sound. Photo by Jan Yetke.

Holland America Line Mariners and frequent cruisers Jan and Dick Yetke set sail July 25 on Veendam’s “Voyage of the Vikings” Collectors’ Voyage that cruises from Boston, Massachusetts, to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and back. Collectors’ Voyages combine back-to-back itineraries into one, longer cruise, and this is one of our most popular.

Come along with Jan and Dick on their grand sojourn as they visit Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, and more! See the beautiful scenery and memorable sights, like this cute seal at Prince Christian Sound.

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CORNER BROOK, NEWFOUNDLAND:
After two wonderful days at sea (calm), we docked in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, Canada. Weather was lovely – comfortable temperature and partly cloudy! We took the shuttle into town, not knowing exactly what we were going to do, and low and behold we discovered a bike rental shop! So, of course, we rented a couple bikes (and they were electric assist) and off we went. We had a lovely ride along the trail out along the waterfront and back. It was a great treat that we did not expect to find.

Biking around Corner Brook.

Biking around Corner Brook.

RED BAY, LABRADOR:
The next day we anchored off Red Bay, Labrador, Canada, at about 8:00 am. This is a very small community now of only about 300 people. Had a very nice walk down the road and then up the hill to the church. Next door was a historical museum which was very interesting. As we were getting ready to go back down the hill and back to the ship, the fog was rolling in and the ship was “sinking” down into the fog! We enjoyed the stop here.

Veendam in the fog.

Veendam in the fog.

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QAQORTOQ, GREENLAND:
This was a beautiful day visiting a small village here on the southwest corner of Greenland – very remote! At just over 3,000 inhabitants Qaqortoq is the largest town in Southern Greenland. We walked past the museum, saw the fountain which was built in 1927 and is the oldest fountain in Greenland, and up the hill to the Church of Our Savior, a beautiful wooden church built in 1832. We really enjoyed all the beautiful Norwegian-influenced colorful homes which dotted the hillsides.

QaqortoqCollage

PRINCE CHRISTIAN SOUND:
What an absolutely glorious, beautiful day we had cruising the Prince Christian Sound and other passages thru lower southeastern Greenland! The weather could not have been more perfect for doing this – sunny, blue skies, just a few clouds, no wind, very calm waters, brisk chill! We just stood outside on a high forward deck (outside the gym) for a couple hours enjoying the beauty and marveling at what a great job they were going making our way thru all the ice!

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At dinner we celebrated our anniversary with a delicious chocolate cake they made and had a huge group of waiters gather around to sing for us! Great fun!

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REYKJAVIK, ICELAND:
We had two glorious days in Reykjavik, Iceland, situated on the western shores of Iceland. We purchased a ticket for the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus and went by the Perlan (where they have five large storage tanks for the hot water that comes up from the ground and is used for heat), the Hallgrimskirkja (main church), National Museum, Whales of Iceland Museum, Harpa (large, glass concert hall and convention center), and several other places. The little white house in the photo is where Pres. Regan and Gorbechev from Russia met for a meeting but nothing was decided. The second day we took the bus back into town and walked up the main street to the Cathedral. It is beautiful inside! This is a Lutheran Parish church and is the largest church in Iceland. Outside is a statue of Leif Erikson, who they say discovered America before Columbus.

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GEIRANGERFJORD, NORWAY:
On the tender, Dick and I got to sit up in the lookout seats by the driver. One of the most famous and beautiful sights are the Seven Sisters Waterfalls, so I got a wonderful photo of them. Upon arrival at the town we took the City Sightseeing Bus, which in most towns is the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus, but here your ticket just allowed you one trip around the circuit, 1 hour and 20 minutes, with two stops at fabulous viewpoints high up on the mountains – Flydalsjuvet (overlooked the city and harbour) and Eagle Road (which overlooked the Seven Sisters Waterfalls and all surrounding mountains).

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After calls at Alesund and Bergen, Norway, the ship ended the first half of the voyage at Amsterdam.

AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS:
We got off the ship and picked up our rental car. Then headed north and east for two-and-a-half-hours to a town called Papenburg, Germany. When Dick saw the announcement a month or so ago by Carnival Corp. about their new mega-ship they were ordering, he saw that it would be built at the Meyer Werft Shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. He went to the shipyard website and found out that they offered tours. We signed up for a 2 p.m. tour that day. The tour was about 2 hours in length and was extremely interesting!

They had two wet/dry dock buildings, but as the ships have gotten bigger, they had to turn one into a totally dry dock where they make parts and pieces of the ship, and the other one where they assemble the parts and pieces. They are bound by a width of 42 metres and they are bound by a height depending on where the ship is going – i.e. bridges it has to get under, and the building it is built in.

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DUBLIN, IRELAND:
Dublin is a great city. We got on the City Sightseeing Hop-On-Hop-Off bus, red route. The River Liffey runs thru the city and there is a Canal circling the perimeter of the city. The bus went out to the zoo, past many beautiful parks, churches, shops, and many different neighborhoods. After riding the whole circuit (about 1 hour 20 minutes), we picked a stop to get off at which was next to St. Stephens Green – another beautiful park. However, this was also an area of restaurants and shops! We walked down Dawson Street and found a nice little restaurant – 37 Dawson.

Dublin Collage

SEYDISFJORDUR, ICELAND:
What a beautiful, peaceful little village this was! This town was way up a fjord so we had some scenic cruising getting in and out. We got off the ship and headed up and to the left to hike up the path along the waterfall. As you see in a photo, I stopped where the path got muddy. Dick kept going. So, how does one communicate with each other when in this situation? Text to each other on your cell phone, of course! I said “Where are you?” He said “Turn around and look up and to the right of the waterfall.” Well, as you can see, I eventually found him looking thru some bushes.

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AKUREYRI, ICELAND:
This was another very nice small town where we just got off the ship and walked into and thru the town main street, up the hill next to the church, continued on up the hill to see the Community Center with pools and work out rooms. In front of the Community Center was a geese refuge since they were contained in this area of two ponds. It was a beautiful day and we had a great walk around town!

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The ship also made two more calls in Iceland and Greenland, as well as explored Prince Christian Sound again. The voyage ends this Saturday following calls at Canada and Maine.

If your not as adventurous as Jan and Dick or simply prefer to take a Holland America Line shore excursion to many of these sights, the shore excursions in these ports can be pre-booked so you to get the tour of your choice.

If you’re interested in other itineraries that include these incredible ports, check out the 32-Day Fjords, Highlands & Vikings Collectors’ Voyage aboard Rotterdam departing June 18, 2016; the shorter 14-day Fjords & Highlands segment also departing June 18; Zuiderdam’s 12-Day Northern Isles departing July 16; and Prinsendam’s 34-day North Cape & Celtic Explorer Collectors’ Voyage departing Aug. 3.

Even more exciting is that some of Koningsdam’s maiden season itineraries include several of these ports, so you can visit them on our newest ship! Come aboard the 21-Day Norse Legends & Northern Isles Collectors’ Voyage departing Aug. 7, 2016, or the 12-Day Norse Legends cruise departing Aug. 14.

December 2015 UPDATE: Take Advantage of View & Verandah
We want to make your dream cruise even dreamier with our new View & Verandah promotion. We’re offering stateroom upgrades, up to 10 percent off shore excursions and up to 25 percent off Collectors’ Voyages on 2016-2017 sailings when booked by Feb. 29, 2016. Check out the offer to see if your dream cruise is included and book now!

A group from Fanning Island's Latta Moreaai Kindergarten School pose with HR Manager Christopher Houghton and HR Clerk Hempry Hartono.
A group from Fanning Island's Latta Moreaai Kindergarten School pose with HR Manager Christopher Houghton and HR Clerk Hempry Hartono.

Holland America Line ships sail to all seven continents and explore the world’s oceans. During our global adventures we visit hundreds of ports and our guests are warmly welcomed into those communities. So it is with great pride that whenever necessary we help those communities when in need.

Holland America Line recently participated in some great acts of giving around the world, providing supplies and monetary relief to communities in need.

Aid Delivered to the Island of Vanuatu

In April during a scheduled call at Port Villa, Vanuatu, in the South Pacific, Oosterdam delivered much-needed supplies to the island, which was ravaged by Cyclone Pam in March.

Not only did Oosterdam collect donations and supplies from guests and crew, it also carried essential goods on behalf of Save the Pacific Foundation. The organization had supplies to be delivered and needed a way to get them to Vanuatu from Sydney, so they coordinated the relief effort with Carnival Australia and Holland America Line. Oosterdam was making a scheduled call — the only ship calling at Vanuatu departing from Sydney in the next two months — and agreed to carry the supplies to the island.

Oosterdam delivered several palates to aid the people of Vanuatu.

Oosterdam delivered several palates to aid the people of Vanuatu.

Included in the eight pallets from Save the Pacific Foundation were medical supplies, clothing, bed linens, shelter tarps and tents, gumboots, work tools for rebuilding and food such as whole milk powder, rice and cans of basic items.

The ship also collected monetary donations and goods from guests and crew who wanted to help, and delivered additional pallets that included canned goods, insect repellent and personal hygiene items.

Earthquake Relief Efforts in Nepal

Last month Carnival Corporation teamed with several of its global cruise brands to pledge $200,000 to relief efforts in Nepal in the wake of April’s devastating earthquake. Carnival Corporation worked through Mercy Corps, the Disaster Emergency Committee and Save the Children to support on the ground teams distributing emergency supplies and aiding rebuilding efforts targeting the most affected families in Kathmandu and surrounding areas.

Carnival Corporation’s support will help the three organizations provide access to shelter supplies, food, water and hygiene supplies, support the operations of the Nepal Red Cross and ultimately assist families in rebuilding their lives after initial life-saving needs are met.

P & O Cruises UK and Cunard Line provided a significant portion of the donation out of the companies’ offices in the United Kingdom. Likewise, Carnival Cruise Line, Seabourn and Holland America Line combined to donate the majority of the funds in North America in coordination with Carnival Foundation, the company’s philanthropic organization.

Amsterdam Raises Money for Children in Myanmar

During Amsterdam’s 2015 Grand World Voyage, guests participated in a silent auction to raise money for the Smile Education and Development Foundation (SEDF) in Myanmar. SEDF benefits many organizations to help children at risk.

Organized by Culinary Arts Center Host Samantha Seyfert, the silent auction featured donated items from all departments, including a Grand World Voyage navigational map hand-signed by Captain Jonathan Mercer and the ship’s officers. The auction also featured dozens of hand-knit items donated by guests participating in the Sit & Knit gatherings, watercolor paintings donated by guests in the watercolor class, and items from the arts and crafts class.

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Children at the Rattana Metta Foundation performed during one of SEDF’s workshops while ms Amsterdam was in port March 11.

March 10 Amsterdam called at Yangon (formerly Rangoon) for two nights and SEDF representatives came on board for lunch and a tour of the ship. Samantha presented SEDF Director Virginia Henderson with $7,000 raised from the auction. Children at the Rattana Metta Foundation performed during one of SEDF’s workshops while ms Amsterdam was still alongside March 11.

Statendam Makes a Big Donation to the Kids of Fanning Island

On April 25, ms Statendam called at remote Fanning Island in the South Pacific Republic of Kiribati. Crew members delivered 45 boxes of school supplies, clothes and sporting equipment to the Fanning Island school committee. Over the past 18 months, Statendam has visited the island several times to bring a total of 200 boxes of much-needed supplies donated by guests and crew.

Kindergarten School Teacher Owati Kettrii oversees the children while Human Resources Manager Christopher Houghton gives them each a Statendam blow-up toy.

Kindergarten School Teacher Owati Kettrii oversees the children while Human Resources Manager Christopher Houghton gives them each a Statendam blow-up toy.

As the needs arise, Holland America Line will continue to help our global friends whenever possible.

Ephesus was a beautiful setting for the Grand World Voyage dinner. Photo by Jeff.
Ephesus was a beautiful setting for the Grand World Voyage dinner. Photo by Jeff.

On Thursday, April 30, the 2015 Grand World Voyage came to end at Fort Lauderdale, Fla. After spending 114 days onboard, traveling the globe and making life-long friends, it will be hard for guests to go back to making their own beds and cooking dinner!

Along the journey, we followed the adventures of Jeff Farschman, President’s Club member and “World Adventure” blogger; Mariners Gary and Jeanne Frink, Mariners Jan and Dick Yetke, Cruise Critic members John and Diane, and the ship’s Captain Mercer.

In this last look at the 2015 Grand World Voyage, we travel through the Suez Canal and Europe before crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Enjoy some highlights of the final leg of the journey, and perhaps we’ll see you onboard for the 2016 Grand World Voyage.

TRANSITING THE SUEZ CANAL

Photo by Captain Mercer.

Photo by Captain Mercer.

Our original scheduled date for the transit of the Canal was the 4th April, the day on which I now write. The Canal Authority are involved in a vast dredging and widening project; digging new channels and widening existing ones. The aim is to be able to take larger vessels and also to avoid the one-way system presently in use.

Prior to the project, northbound and southbound convoys, (usually of 30 ships or so), would pass each other in the Bitter Lakes. Now however, the Bitter lakes themselves are being dredged and having new channels cut. The result? South and north bound convoys can no longer pass each other and either convoy has to complete its entire transit before the next one can commence. This has led to delays, one is never quite sure when one can transit and the convoy times vary from day-to-day.

This was the dilemma I found myself in and, after numerous emails with our agents in Suez and endless calculations, I decided that waiting for the 4th was not an option I cared for, there being no guarantee I would transit and the result would be too appalling to contemplate, missing ports in the Mediterranean. Read the rest of the entry by clicking HERE. — Captain Mercer

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Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

ASHDOD, ISRAEL:

First we headed to the Mount of Olives for a great view of Jereusalem and then went down to the Garden of Gethsemane. Then we headed to the old city where we visited the various quarters: Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Arab. We visited the church of the Holy Sepulcher which was near impossible on Easter Sunday. We paid a nice visit to the Western Wall before heading off to the Dead Sea. — Jeff

Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

HAIFA, ISRAEL:

We began with a panoramic tour of the beautiful Baha’i Gardens in Haifa and then headed to Nazarath to see the Church of the Annunciation which was magnificent! Then we went off to the River Jordan Baptismal site, taking in the sights along the way. We then headed off to the Sea of Galilee where we had lunch at the Ein-gev Kibbutz. After lunch we visited Capernaum, the house of Peter and then on to the Mount of Beatitudes. — Jeff

Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

GRAND WORLD VOYAGE DINNER: AN EVENING AT EPHESUS

Tonight we had a very special invitation to an evening at Ephesus … They had a cocktail party at the Library in Ephesus which was spectacular … The evening culminated by a special performance by the Aegean Chamber Orchestra. What a fabulous evening!!!! — Jeff

Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

Unique, peerless, unmatchable, unimaginable, pick your adjective. For Jeanne and Gary Frink, the Holland America “thank you” evening at Ephesus was a dream­like, once-­in­-a-­lifetime party. — Gary Frink

Holland America Line's President Orlando Ashford spent time mingling with Amsterdam's officers at the dinner. Photo by Jeff.

Holland America Line’s President Orlando Ashford spent time mingling with Amsterdam’s officers at the dinner. Photo by Jeff.

PIRAEUS, GREECE:

I had a special treat, Samantha, Anthony, Olly and Emily joined us for a week, Gramps is a happy man! They are with us for a week and leave in Cartagena, Spain. — Captain Mercer

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CIVITAVECCHIA (ROME), ITALY:

Photo by Jeff.

Photo by Jeff.

Photo by Jeff.

Photo by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

Sam and Antony and Karen, have all been to Rome before; I have never done so, it’s too far away for my ‘within 2-hours of the ship’ rule and besides, the audit was ongoing, I stayed on board while the family strolled the town … Karen took the photographs for this jaunt ashore. — Captain Mercer

Photos by Karen.

Photos by Karen.

CARTAGENA, SPAIN:

The reason we couldn’t see the Museo del Theatre from the entry was that the museum follows a subterranean path under even more buildings, until one finally exits three blocks later, about midway up the side of an enormous amphitheatre. It must have held thousands of spectators, as it extended at least fifty rows up the hill and spread over several acres. We hiked up to the top row (probably the “cheap seats”) and then down to the orchestra area as well as the stage. It is amazing that this beautiful structure could have lain underground and undiscovered for almost 1500 years. — John and Diane

Photo by Jeff.

Photo by Jeff.

MALAGA, SPAIN

My love affair with Nerja, the Mediterranean village 40 miles east of Malaga up the coastal road (or by freeway), began on Easter weekend 1973. It has held me in its grip to this day. On this Malaga port Saturday, Jeanne and I would not be denied. We arrived at the top of Nerja, as it begins to slope through the town streets, ending in the Mediterranean. We walked on very narrow sidewalks heading down to the center of Town. Our first objective was 32 Calle Carabeo, a street that springs out from the town plaza and the Catholic Church that dominates it. In November and December 1983 we lived in a late friend’s restored home, high over the sea, while she was resident in Washington D.C.

Our next objective was Meson Antonio, a tapas bar on the street passing to the right of the church. I hoped Antonio was still alive and running his joint, for he was the last person in Nerja I would know … When he entered Antonio recognized me immediately, though at least 20 years have passed since I last sat at his bar. — Gary Frink

The Frinks visiting their favorite places in Nerja.

The Frinks visiting their favorite places in Nerja.

PONTA DELGADA, PORTUGAL:

Photo by Jeff.

Photo by Jeff.

As we left the city, we realized how very green this island is. We could have been in Ireland with the colorful hills and valleys. Olivia, our guide, told us that the Azores are subtropical, and that the weather is mixed almost every day. If it’s sunny, you’d better take advantage of it, because it might be raining in 30 minutes. Even though today is cold and windy, there’s plenty of both rain and sun because of the gulf stream, resulting in such crops as bananas, pineapples, tomatoes, and many others that you wouldn’t expect on a rocky outcropping in the Atlantic. — John and Diane

Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

Photo by Jeff.

Photo by Jeff.

SO LONG, FAREWELL:

Today is our final day, certainly a day filled with sorrow for leaving such great friends and “family” but also a day filled with joy as we remember all the great adventures we have had on this Grand World Voyage … We have seen magnificent places, met wonderful people along the way of so many cultures and enjoyed the company of our fellow guests and beloved crew. It has been an awesome adventure.— Jeff

Farewell from Jeff and his friends.

Farewell from Jeff and his friends.

Last evening all of our new and old friends gathered in the Crow’s Nest for a last hurrah, and we had a wonderful time. Our friend Ginny had painted the ship in perfect form, sitting in a blue sea, and then made copies of it, so we all now have a “signed and numbered Ginny lithograph.” It really is beautiful. Those of us who hadn’t exchanged cards did so, and we’re hoping to get together with some of our friends between cruises … So, it’s been a wonderful 4-1/2 months since the Caribbean pre-cruise and continuing on to our amazing world cruise. We’ve loved every moment of it and hope that all of you get this experience at least once. — John and Diane

One-year-old Isabelle waves goodbye to her Uncle Vincent who is staff captain on Prinsendam.
One-year-old Isabelle waves goodbye to her Uncle Vincent who is staff captain on Prinsendam.

Taking a cruise vacation is a social event full of memory-making moments both onboard and ashore. From mingling with guests around the ship to taking a fabulous shore excursion and visiting all of the fantastic destinations around the world, there are plenty of opportunities to capture the special moments and share them with friends, family and fellow fans of Holland America Line.

If you want to be social before you cruise, check out “Roll Call” on Facebook, Holland America Line’s way of connecting fellow cruisers before departure. Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and the Holland America Blog are other outlets that provide a great way for guests to get cruise tips from fellow guests or share vacation stories and photos.

If you want to be part of the sharing, submit your fun photos and stories through social media channels, by clicking “Share Your Story” on the blog or emailing info@hollandamericablog.com. And if you’re out there cruising and tweeting while you sail, hashtag us at #HALcruises or #HollandAmerica, or tag us at @HALcruises. You can even hashtag your ship, like #Eurodam!

The photos and notes in this blog post are just some wonderful examples that show the dedication, fondness and love that our guests and crew have for Holland America Line.

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Well Wishes from Shore to Ship

The beautiful photo above came through email with this sweet note:

My uncle Vincent works as a staff captain on the ms Prinsendam. Every time when the beautiful ms Prinsendam visits the Netherlands (Amsterdam or IJmuiden), I go by bike, together with my mom and dad to the beach/pier to wave my Uncle Vincent goodbye. We always wish him and all of the crew and passengers a safe and secure journey. My mom took a picture of us the last time. — Isabelle Engel (1 year)

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Noordam Carries Historic Tote Bag on Transatlantic Crossing

From left: Captain Jeroen van Donselaar, Nancy and Francis Stiles, and Hotel Director Simon Tanner display the historic tote bag.

From left: Captain Jeroen van Donselaar, Nancy and Francis Stiles, and Hotel Director Simon Tanner display the historic tote bag.

Guests Francis and Nancy Stiles of Pennsylvania brought an unusual piece of history on board a Noordam transatlantic cruise: a tote bag that has been in the Stiles family since 1890 and carried on many sailings. The tote bag traveled on Holland America Line ships including the Rijndam and Statendam in 1929 and made its first transatlantic crossing in 1930 aboard White Star Line’s R.M.S. Homeric.

On this transatlantic cruise 84 years later, Captain Jeroen van Donselaar and Hotel Director Simon Tanner held a commemoration ceremony on the bridge, inscribing the ship’s itinerary on the bag.

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Getting Creative with Tiles

While some guests create tables and kitchen backsplashes with their Holland America Line Delft tiles, guest Ton Rijppaert has found another way to get creative with these favorite give-aways. A former HAL cabin steward from 1964 to 1972, Ton now cruises regularly so he’s amassed quite a collection of tiles and pins.

Ton Rijppaert from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, displays his tiles and pins in a photobook.

Ton Rijppaert from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, displays his tiles and pins in a photobook.

I collect HAL tiles (not plates) and pins … At this moment my collection consists of 290 tiles and 80 pins. I have them processed in a photobook. It is a loose-leaf album, so I can effortlessly handle additions. The tiles are shown at actual size. I always take the album with me on our cruises. That is the way I am “creative” with my tiles. During our voyage with the ms Rotterdam from our hometown Rotterdam to Singapore last January I had the opportunity to exhibit my tiles on board the ship (2 times). — Ton Rijppaert

Ton at home with his collection and the wonderful display onboard.

Ton at home with his collection, a new tile and the wonderful display onboard.

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Friends for Life

Crew members who work onboard become like family. Cruising is a 24/7 operation, and there’s a lot of time spent together. Special bonds are formed and lifelong friendships develop. Former Cruise Director Lizabeth Knight can attest to this in her story:

Teresa, left, and Liz onboard Nieuw Amsterdam.

Teresa, left, and Liz onboard Nieuw Amsterdam.

I’m a former HAL Cruise Director and Teresa Papp is a former HAL Event Manager. We were partnered together on the Statendam from 2009 through 2010. It was a tremendous partnership, and we were fortunate to work with a fabulous “family” on the Statendam. Even though we’ve both been officially gone from the company since 2010 we’ve remained close friends, and decided to take a “Family Reunion” cruise this year.

Since the Statendam does voyages that are longer than we can manage in our current lives, we chose a Caribbean cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam. We were thrilled to find many of our Statendam family members onboard, making it truly a family reunion to remember! Thank you, Holland America Line, for the magical memories – from both the Statendam and the Nieuw Amsterdam! — Lizabeth Knight

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Warm Feelings in Cold Weather

The Shore Excursion department on Zaandam recently received new uniforms for their South America explorations. They were very appreciative of the cold-weather wear.

Judy from Zaandam's Shore Excursion team shows off the new uniforms.

Judy from Zaandam’s Shore Excursion team shows off the new uniforms.

Just a little appreciation for our new uniform! — Judy

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Is that an Original Holland America Line Design?

Chuck and Deborah Humbert.

Chuck and Deborah Humbert.

Chuck Humbert and his wife Deborah were wondering what to do with all of the vintage, complimentary tote bags that Holland America Line gives out. They got creative, and we think the result is fabulous!

Because of the superb quality of the design and fabric, they were recycled by my wife Deborah and her mother into a jacket and vest to be worn at the Mariners Luncheons. Needless to say they do attract attention. Careful attention was paid to the patterns when piecing together the final project lending to a memorable taste of our past cruises.

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A Presidential Dinner

President’s Club Mariners Mark Goldberg and Christopher Smith have made the ms Zaandam their winter home sailing around South America for nearly 100 days.

To honor them and their loyalty to Holland America Line Hotel Director Simon Tanner orchestrated a remarkable dinner in the Neptune Lounge just a few steps from their suite. This was most definitely a memorable evening for these VIP guests!

Left to Right: Christopher Smith, presidents club member; Clarissa Zwart, guest relations manager;  Marc Spijkerboer, culinary operations manager; Mark Goldberg, presidents club member; Anita Szilagyi, shore excursions; Simon Tanner, hotel director, pose with HAL crew members.

Clockwise around the table from bottom left: guest Christopher Smith; Clarissa Zwart, guest relations manager; Marc Spijkerboer, culinary operations manager; guest Mark Goldberg; Anita Szilagyi, shore excursions; and Simon Tanner, hotel director, pose with HAL crew members.

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A Golden Anniversary

Even regular blog contributors and current Grand World Voyage cruisers Jan and Dick Yetke got in on the fun.

We celebrated our 50th Anniversary onboard. Started out with a wake up call in the morning from Guest Relations Manager Christel and her whole front office staff, including Neptune staff, singing a Happy Anniversary song to us!!!! What a wonderful surprise and great way to start the day!!!

A little while later we were out of the cabin attending the Good Morning Amsterdam show and when we returned our door had been decorated with 3 gold balloons and a sign saying Happy 50th Anniversary, Jan and Dick!! It was from the Neptune staff and our cabin stewards. Wow, that was really nice!

Cards arrived all day long from friends on board!!! We received our first large flower bouquet from Captain Jonathan Mercer; Henk and Christel Mensink, hotel manager and guest relations manager; ship officers, staff, and crew!! So beautiful and so much appreciated by us! We felt very special.

Celebrations continued throughout the day with flower deliveries, a cocktail party, fabulous dinner and dessert.

When it was time for dessert, all the dining room staff gathered around the table and they brought the cake and they all sang their Indonesian song which means Happy Life to us!! Another, Wow, for us – so many singers.

The Yetke's 50th Anniversary celebration included balloons, cake and Captain Mercer.

The Yetke’s 50th Anniversary celebration included balloons, cake and Captain Mercer.

Content is king and social media is the new water cooler. We want to hear what you’re doing! If you have fun photos or a great story that you’d like to share with Holland America Line’s social media team, send to info@hollandamericablog.com or hit the icon on the home page that says “Share Your Story.”

Happy cruising — we hope to hear from you soon!

A hot air balloon ride over the temples of Bagan was a highlight of the visit to Myanmar for Jeff, John and Diane.
A hot air balloon ride over the temples of Bagan was a highlight of the visit to Myanmar for Jeff, John and Diane.

On the 2015 Grand World Voyage, Amsterdam is taking a northerly route up to the Far East following an Australia exploration. Full of mysteries, wonders, ancient traditions and grand beauty, the ports in this part of the world offer an exceptional amount of magical experiences for our guests. From visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites to seeing some of the most impressive architecture, Asia certainly is a feast for the eyes.

As previously showcased on the Holland America Blog, two of our regular guest contributors are on the Grand World Voyage traveling around the globe and sending in updates: Jeff Farschman, President’s Club member and “World Adventure” blogger, and Mariners Gary and Jeanne Frink. Cruise Critic members John and Diane are along for the cruise, and the ship’s Captain Mercer also is taking us on the journey through his own blog.

Here is a look into their Asian adventures. Perhaps they will entice you to book the 2016 Grand World Voyage or a Far East itinerary on one of our ships!

BENOA, BALI
The first call following Australia was Benoa, Bali, in Indonesia, and it was an overnight visit. Known as a lush, beautiful island, and many call it paradise on Earth. Jeff, who has been to Bali before, said:

“It simply was the best single day I have spent in Bali…”

Through his photos, you can see why is was so spectacular. Jeff toured the island and visited Gitgit Falls, the Monkey Forest, Jitiluwih (where the largest rice terraces in Bali are located), and several temples including Pura Ulun Danu on Beratan Lake, Pura Taman Ayun temple complex, Pura Batuan and Pura Dalem Agung.

Sights of Bali from Jeff Farschman.

Sights of Bali from Jeff Farschman.

Captain Mercer also enjoyed time ashore, spending a quiet beach day in Sanur, a town a few miles south of Benoa.

Captain Mercer and his wife Karen enjoyed a beautiful day at the beach.

Captain Mercer and his wife Karen enjoyed a beautiful day at the beach.

It has lovely beaches, shopping and hotels. It was the Puri Santrian hotel that we stayed at for the day. — Captain Mercer

SEMARANG, JAVA:

From Semarang, the most popular activity for guests is to make the trek to UNESCO World Heritage Site Borobudur. The world’s largest Buddhist temple, Borobudur consists of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. Built in the 9th century, it remains a mystery to this day as to how it was created without modern technology. Jeff explored Borobudur and captured it beautifully in his photos.

Borobudur stands tall and majestic among the trees. Photo by Jeff.

Borobudur stands tall and majestic among the trees. Photo by Jeff.

Scenes around Borobudur by Jeff.

Scenes around Borobudur by Jeff.

Guests John and Diane also are onboard, and posted this about Borobudur on Cruise Critic:

Since we’re fans of UNESCO World Heritage, this was our chance to add another to our list that we’ve wanted to see for some time. … The view from the top kept us up there for quite some time, as it is surrounded by several volcanoes and lush green agricultural fields. Our other activity at the top, in addition to gawking at the beautiful natural surroundings, was walking around the Great Stupa three times, silently, and then at the end making a wish. Of course I can’t tell you what I wished, or it wouldn’t come true.

SINGAPORE:

Singapore is such a robust city that an overnight call is a must. From the famous Raffles hotel to the impressive and unique night safari, there’s so much to see and do. Everyone got out and about on different adventures, from visiting the famed gardens to China Town. Enjoy two days in Singapore with our guest bloggers!

We decided to take the MRT to the Singapore Flyer, the world’s tallest Ferris Wheel, and take it for an early morning spin. The views were fabulous! Next we went off and did some shopping before heading off to our next stop, the Gardens by the Bay, next to the Marina Bay Sands. We walked through the Gardens by the Bay and decided to go to the Cloud Forest first, leaving the Flower Dome for later in the day. — Jeff

Singapore from the top of the ferris wheel and the gorgeous gardens.

Singapore from the top of the ferris wheel and the gorgeous gardens. All by Jeff.

Captain Mercer captured the famed laser light show that happens twice a night.

Here is the famous Singapore ‘Merlion’ and the surrounding area of the Bay is a mass of colour. — Captain Mercer

Captain Mercer captured the light show in the harbor.

Captain Mercer captured the light show in the harbor.

SINGAPORE DAY 2:

Jeff and his group visited China Town on the second day of Singapore.

Singapore boasts a wealth of colorful attractions. Photos by Jeff.

Singapore boasts a wealth of colorful attractions. Photos by Jeff.

The Frinks toured around Singapore on a hop-on, hop-off bus, also visiting China Town.

The iconic Raffles Hotel (Sir Stamford Raffles founded Singapore) was the only the only landmark I recognized from my solo foray into a much simpler Singapore in the 1990s; now the city is a booming, growing Asian financial center, squeezing out funky old neighborhoods. Jeanne and I disembarked from the top of the double-decker HOHO in Chinatown; there, drinks awaited in Chinatown Food Street.

The Frinks passed by Raffles and stopped at Chinatown.

The Frinks passed by Raffles and stopped at Chinatown.

Cruise Critic posters John and Diane visited Sentosa Island:

This morning we decided to do something different: travel to Sentosa Island, just across the bay from our ship. The entire island is a huge amusement park, but like the rest of Singapore, there isn’t a bit of trash – not a gum wrapper (gum is illegal in Singapore), not a bit of anything – I’m amazed that the trees have the nerve to drop leaves on the ground! Sentosa Island contains all kinds of attractions: the only Universal Studios in Asia, a large casino, three pristine beaches, a couple of hotels, all kinds of eateries, from McDonalds to Guy Savoy and Joel Robuchon (each with two Michelin stars), a massive aquarium, a maritime museum, and tropical landscaping that is out of this world. We loved our visit.

PORT KLANG (KUALA LUMPUR), MALAYSIA:

Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia’s capital and the main attraction from the port of Port Klang. Despite it’s locale about 1/5 hours from the port, most guests make their way in to explore its many attractions. It’s a city of juxtaposition, with mosques and temples living harmoniously alongside the steel-clad skyscrapers. The most famous of these are the Petronas Towers, the tallest twin towers in the world at 1,483 feet and 88 stories.

Beneath the Petronas Towers by Jeff.

Beneath the Petronas Towers by Jeff.

The Batu Caves were an amazing place, aside from the 272 steps that you have to climb to get into the caves. There are giant statues of Hindu deities. Just amazing! We spent a lot of time there checking out all the temples, the ceremonies and yes, even the monkeys. It was simply magnificent! This was the highlight of the day for me. — Jeff

The impressive Batu Caves by Jeff.

The impressive Batu Caves by Jeff.

Jeff also went to the Royal Palace, and it is a most impressive structure.

The Royal Palace, photographed by Jeff.

The Royal Palace, photographed by Jeff.

RANGOON, MYANMAR:

Following calls at Penang, Malaysia, and Phuket, Thailand, the ship called at Rangoon, Myanmar, for two nights. Jeff, John and Diane, went overland to explore Myanmar and India. Here is a glimpse into their time in Myanmar.

It was time for the highlight of the day, the Shwedagon Pagoda, the #1 attraction in Yangon and a 2,600-year-old series of structures that just take your breath away. The enormous stupa in the middle is covered with gold leaf and is crowned by a 76-carat diamond at the top. It’s surrounded by dozens and dozens of intricately decorated buildings, smaller pagodas, and statues. The shrine covers over 35 acres, and it was crowded with people from all over the world as well as many people from Myanmar. There were also dozens of Buddhist monks and nuns, some as young as 5, since every good Buddhist is supposed to serve at least a short period in this service. Moe, our guide, spent 2-1/2 months as a monk in his early 20’s, and his 7-year-old son has already done a three-day stint – which he loved. The Pagoda area itself was just amazing – it was almost like a Buddhist Disneyland, with all kinds of buildings, lots of gold, people-worshipping and/or sightseeing, and it just blew me away. I think it’s on my top 10 list of places I’ve ever visited. — John and Dianne

The Shwedagon Pagoda was like a Buddhist Disneyland, said John and Diane. Photos by Jeff.

The Shwedagon Pagoda was like a Buddhist Disneyland, said John and Diane. Photos by Jeff.

Captain Mercer also had time ashore to enjoy the sites.

First, off to the Sule Pagoda and then a walk around the Bogyoke Market and surrounding streets, then, after lunch, to Karaweik, a beautiful lake area with tended plants and shrubs and then finally, to the Shwedagon Pagoda, the grandest of them all. — Captain Mercer

Photos at the Shwegadon Pagoda by Captain Mercer.

Photos at the Shwedagon Pagoda by Captain Mercer.

After Yangon, Jeff and his group traveled to Bagan where they planned a hot air balloon ride over the temples on day two of their visit. However, day one came with some surprises.

Bagan has 1000’s of temples and I did my darndest to photograph them all. Our first formal visit was to Shwezigan Temple, considered the prototype for all later Myanmar temples. We climbed to the top and my trip was complete right then. The panoramic view of temples across the landscape was unbelievable. If we never got to take our balloon flight on the second day, I still would have been fulfilled on my visit to Bagan. — Jeff

The incredible view of the temples, by Jeff.

The incredible view of the temples, by Jeff.

The next day, they set off on their hot air balloon ride. The breathtaking photos speak for themselves.

Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

The ship heads to India and then through the Suez Canal before traveling around the Mediterranean. Before too long, the Grand World Voyage will come to an end. But until then, stay tuned to the blog for an update on the adventures of our world cruisers.

December 2015 UPDATE: Take Advantage of View & Verandah
We want to make your dream cruise even dreamier with our new View & Verandah promotion. We’re offering stateroom upgrades, up to 10 percent off shore excursions and up to 25 percent off Collectors’ Voyages on 2016-2017 sailings when booked by Feb. 29, 2016. Check out the offer to see if your dream cruise is included and book now!

OODM

Holland America Line topped the list in 2014 for the World’s Leading Weather Observing Cruise Ship Companies who submitted weather information to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Holland America Line fleet of 15 ships sent in a combined total of 22,281 observations during the year, landing them at number one. Holland America Line also was at the top of the list in 2008 and 2006, and individual ships excelled in past years — as featured on the blog.

Among individual cruise ships that sent in information, ms Oosterdam lead the Holland America Line fleet with 2,858 observations. Amsterdam, ms Volendam, ms Zaandam and ms Zuiderdam also were listed among the top 10 of all individual cruise ship observations.

Clockwise from top left: Zaandam, Volendam, Zuiderdam and Amsterdam also were listed among the top 10 weather observing ships.

Clockwise from top left: Zaandam, Volendam, Zuiderdam and Amsterdam also were listed among the top 10 weather observing ships.

“Our ships travel oceans all over the world through all types of weather, and it’s an honor to help support a process that affects hundreds of millions of people globally,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “With our ships face to face with the weather patterns and conditions that can help meteorologists predict global forecasts, we feel that it’s our duty to report our findings.”

Despite the presence of weather satellites and many ground stations, regular weather reports from ships are still of great value to meteorological and hydrological services around the world preparing daily weather predictions. These weather reports also provide important climatological data to the World Weather Information Service of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Congrats to everyone onboard who contributed to this honor.

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