Tag Archives: ms Amsterdam

Amsterdam anchored in the gorgeous harbor of Nuku Hiva. Photo courtesy of Jeff Farschman.
Amsterdam anchored in the gorgeous harbor of Nuku Hiva. Photo courtesy of Jeff Farschman.

The South Pacific is paradise on earth. Images of lush landscapes, crystalline waters and beautiful skies come to mind when thinking of the island jewels that make up this part of the world. For many, it’s the dream of a lifetime to journey to the South Pacific on a Holland America Line ship. Some travelers take a cruise that is solely bound for the South Pacific, while others take it as part of a longer itinerary such as the Grand World Voyage.

Currently, three of our regular Holland America Blog guest contributors on are the Grand World Voyage traveling westbound around the globe on Amsterdam: Jeff Farschman, President’s Club member and “World Adventure” blogger; Mariners Jan and Dick Yetke; and Mariners Gary and Jeanne Frink. In fact, Jan, Dick, Gary and Jeanne are dinner companions!

The ship recently spent 10 days island-hopping to some of the most beautiful ports around the South Pacific. All of the bloggers chose to explore in their own way, and there’s a unique way to get to know each destination for every type of traveler.

Come along and see why a trip to the South Pacific is a dream come true for so many.

Taoihae, Nuku Hiva
The first call was at Nuku Hiva, the second-largest island in French Polynesia. Jeff found the sail into anchorage to be so beautiful, he shared more photos of this sail-in than any other port!

Photos courtesy of Jeff Farschman.

Photos courtesy of Jeff Farschman.

Nuka Hive is lush, green and magnificent … just beautiful. We spent 5 or 6 hours ashore before heading back to the ship, We covered, I believe, all the highlights of the city including all the carved stone structures which originated a long time ago in Easter Island. So today, I offer up a lot of photos of one very beautiful island. — Jeff

Photos courtesy of Jeff Farschman.

Photos courtesy of Jeff Farschman.

Papeete, Tahiti
The next port to explore in the South Pacific was Papeete, Tahiti, and this was an overnight call. Despite the gloomy weather, our bloggers got out and about, and Jeff even said “It was best day I have ever had on Tahiti and I have been here many times.”

For the Yetkes, today was a day for exploring on two wheels. Jan’s bike even has some extra assistance for those tough hills!

Rode along the waterfront thru the park as far as we could and then you go out onto the main road, but there is a designated bike lane which is nice … I have to report that my bike was awesome! I did use it normally for the huge majority of the trip since it has about 10 different gear levels. But when getting to a hill, I could push the button for the battery and get a boost while pedaling. Really did not need much so then turned it off again. Amazing how nice it was! — Jan

Jan and Dick getting ready to go out and about on their bikes.

Jan and Dick getting ready to go out and about on their bikes.

As for Jeff, he and his friends went on tour to get the most out of their day.

Brad, Cathy, Ann & I had no real plans, just were going to walk around but did a major course correction and decided to take a Tahiti Paradise Tour for a half day into the Papeno’o Valley. Before leaving on our tour we did a quick tour of the Marche, you know how I love markets. Once back we were off and running. What a perfect day it turned out to be, all the rain and thunderstorms forecast held off so we could see some really dramatic, beautiful scenery. Our guide, Fara, described it as her own Jurassic Park and I can see why. The mountains, valleys and countless waterfalls certainly had a Jurassic Park feel to it. — Gary

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Bora Bora

Often called the most romantic island in the world, Bora Bora is also known as one of the most beautiful. From the emerald and sapphire hues of the sparkling water to the lush tropical slopes and valleys that blossom with hibiscus, Bora Bora is a shutterbug’s dream.

The Frinks decided to take the local shuttle to explore the island, and even saw the Yetkes along the way!

While sipping a late-morning beer and Diet Coke in a small, open air, faux-French cafe on the main drag of Bora Bora, dinner companions Jan and Dick rode by on their bicycles; I shouted out to Jan, peddling behind her husband … We settled on a shuttle “bus” (an old Mercedes Benz truck pulling what appeared to be a one-of-a-kind wooden carriage, with padded seats on the sides and a wooden bench in the middle.) The first stop was the “famous” Bloody Mary’s, a thatched-roof restaurant and saloon. One extravagance we could not resist was a $25 T-shirt proclaiming front and back: “Bloody Mary’s, Bora Bora.” As we rode the tender back to the Amsterdam, Jeanne said: “I’ll be the only girl in my neighborhood to have a Bloody Mary’s, Bora Bora T shirt.” — Gary

Jeanne making a local purchase, and the shuttle that took the Frinks around the island.

Jeanne making a local purchase, and the shuttle that took the Frinks around the island.

As for Jeff, he spent the day exploring the pristine waters or Bora Bora. The photos speak for themselves.

The vibrant underworld, photographed by Jeff Farschman.

The vibrant underworld, photographed by Jeff Farschman.

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Nuku’alofa, Tonga
Amsterdam then made way to Tonga where it would spend two nights, arriving on Saturday evening and departing Monday afternoon. On Sundays, the island mostly shuts down for religious observance. Both the Frinks and Yetkes found themselves at a church where the king and queen of Tonga were worshiping.

Gary notes:

As we walked uphill, the simple, unadorned white Methodist Church caught our attention. When we reached the church portico, an usher met us: “Oh, you just missed the choir,” he said. (Tongan church choirs are renowned.) “But the King is here. Would like to see him?” “Yes, of course,” I answered. “Follow me,” and we proceeded at an athlete’s pace up concrete back stairs that ended in a very high balcony. The King and Queen of Tonga sat alone in a theater-like box to the left side of the alter. I took photos with my iphone which, because of the height and distance, produced poorly-focused and ephemeral images; nonetheless, I possess self-taken snapshots of the King and Queen of Tonga. Later, Jeanne and I watched as the Royal “limousine” (a small Toyota SUV) passed by, followed by a security detail in a nondescript, green military vehicle; a royal flag fluttered from each front fender.

When Jeanne and I returned to the church portico, I met Bill who, in answer to my question, explained the meaning of the Tongan Taovala, worn by men and women over normal garments. “I’m a surgeon,” he told me. It was clear that Bill was leaving church early. “I have a patient in the hospital. I have to look in on her,” he said as we walked toward his car. Jeanne and I enjoyed Tonga so much, I joked about moving there, “and I already have my doctor,” I added. — Gary

Inside the Methodist Church, Gary and Jeanne with Dr. Bill, and the King and Queen leaving church. Courtesy of Jan Yetke.

Inside the Methodist Church, Gary and Jeanne with Dr. Bill, and the King and Queen leaving church. Courtesy of Jan Yetke.

Jeff also happened by the church, and many locals on their way.

Photos courtesy of Jeff Farschman.

Photos courtesy of Jeff Farschman.

With two nights in port, there was plenty of time to go out and see the island and all that it has to offer.

Courtesy of Jeff Farschman.

Courtesy of Jeff Farschman.

Courtesy of Jeff Farschman.

Courtesy of Jeff Farschman.

Are you ready to travel to the South Pacific? Which island do you want to visit?

Holland America Line announces exciting new European itineraries for ms Koningsdam.
Holland America Line announces exciting new European itineraries for ms Koningsdam.

In summer 2016, Holland America Line’s newest ship, ms Koningsdam, will sail out of the port of Amsterdam, marking the first time the company will have three ships sailing out of three Dutch ports: Koningsdam out of Amsterdam, Rotterdam out of Rotterdam and Prinsendam out of Ijmuiden.

The ports of Amsterdam, top, and Rotterdam hosted press events today to announce Koningsdam's new itineraries. In the center photo are Mark Kammerer, vice president, international marketing and sales; Rene Kouwenberg, director of the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam; and Nico Bleichrodt, managing director, sales and marketing — North and Central Europe.

The ports of Amsterdam, top, and Rotterdam hosted press events today to announce Koningsdam’s new itineraries. Pictured are, from left, Mark Kammerer, vice president, international marketing and sales; Rene Kouwenberg, director of the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam; and Nico Bleichrodt, managing director, sales and marketing — North and Central Europe.

Koningsdam will debut a series of northern Europe and Baltic cruises as part of the premium line’s robust Europe season that features seven ships sailing throughout the region. Koningsdam’s summer itineraries — and all of Holland America Line’s 2016 summer Europe sailings — will be available for booking in early February.

Following a series of previously announced seven- and 12-day Premiere Sailings from Feb. 20 through April in the Mediterranean, the ship will reposition from Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy, to its summer homeport of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Koningsdam will then go on to sail roundtrip Amsterdam itineraries to Norway, the Baltic and Iceland, where breathtaking vistas and grand fjords await. Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line said,

“For the first summer sailing season of our beautiful new ship ms Koningsdam, we’ve crafted some incredible itineraries to Europe’s most beautiful ports. We recommend booking early because response to Koningsdam’s Premiere Voyages was overwhelmingly positive.”

Koningsdam’s 13-day repositioning cruise from the Med departs May 9 and explores 10 ports in Spain, Gibraltar, Portugal, France, Belgium and the Netherlands before ending with an overnight at Amsterdam.

Kongingsdam Showcases Norway in Summer 2016

Once at Amsterdam, the ship will begin exciting seven- and 14-day cruises to Norway that showcase the country’s majestic scenery and quaint landscapes. A seven-day itinerary in May, July and August calls at Flam, Stavanger, Kristiansand and Oslo, with scenic cruising in Sognefjord and Oslofjord. Another seven-day itinerary in June and July calls at Eidfjord, Ålesund, Geiranger and Bergen, with scenic cruising in Hardangerfjord and Geirangerfjord. A seven-day voyage in August calls at Bergen, Hellesylt, Geiranger, Ålesund and Eidfjord, with Hardangerfjord and Geirangerfjord scenic cruising.

A highlight of the Norway cruises is the call at Geiranger at the heart of Geirangerfjord.

A highlight of the Norway cruises is the call at Geiranger at the heart of Geirangerfjord.

A longer 14-day Norwegian exploration departs May 29 and July 17, and crosses the Arctic Circle while calling at eight ports in Norway. Guests also will enjoy memorable scenic cruising in Hardangerfjord, Geirangerfjord, Trondheimsfjord, the North Cape and Sognefjord.

British Isles and Baltic Round Out Koningsdam Europe Highlights

Travelers looking to visit the British Isles and Iceland can embark Koningsdam Aug. 14 for a cruise to Newcastle upon Tyne, England; South Queensferry (Edinburgh) and Invergordon (Inverness), Scotland; Reykjavik (overnight), Isafjordur and Akuruyri, Iceland; and Ålesund and Bergen, Norway.

Edinburgh, Scotland, left, and Reykjavik, Iceland, are two of the calls on the Northern Isles cruise. Photos courtesy of Jaap Wisse, left, and Jan Yetke.

Edinburgh, Scotland, left, and Reykjavik, Iceland, are two of the calls on the Northern Isles cruise. Photos courtesy of Jaap Wisse, left, and Jan Yetke.

The Baltic awaits Koningsdam’s guests on two 14-day itineraries in June and September, also sailing roundtrip from Amsterdam. The ship calls at the most sought-after ports in the region, with visits to Copenhagen, Denmark; Warnemunde (Berlin) and Kiel (Hamburg), Germany; Tallinn, Estonia; St. Petersburg (overnight), Russia; Helsinki, Finland; and Stockholm and Gothenburg, Sweden.

Calls at St. Petersburg, Stockholm and Copenhagen are featured on the Baltic cruises. Guests can explore each port on tours like An Evening at Tivoli Gardens on Your Own and Edinburgh Highlights & Castle.

Calls at St. Petersburg, Stockholm and Copenhagen are featured on the Baltic cruises. Guests can explore each port on tours like An Evening at Tivoli Gardens on Your Own and Edinburgh Highlights & Castle.

At the end on the season, Koningsdam sails from Amsterdam to Civitavecchia on a 12-day journey that visits England, Gibraltar, Portugal and four ports in Spain. On Oct. 24 the ship repositions to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on a 14-day voyage that crosses the Atlantic following calls at Alicante, Malaga (Granada) and Huelva (Seville), Spain; and Funchal, Madeira.

Koningsdam’s Premiere Voyage and Sailings

As previously announced, Koningsdam’s seven-day Premier Voyage sails roundtrip from Civitavecchia departing Feb. 20 to Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kérkira (Corfu) and Katakolon (Olympia), Greece; and Naples, Italy. The 12-day Premiere Sailings that follow are two alternating itineraries roundtrip from Civitavecchia. The “Greek & Turkish Treasures” itinerary calls at Katakolon, Piraeus (Athens), Rhodes and Crete, Greece; Istanbul (overnight) and Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey; and Naples, Italy. This itinerary also will be offered Sept. 30, in addition to the Premiere spring departures.

The “Mediterranean Mosaic” itinerary spends 12 days visiting Naples, Italy; Palermo, Sicily; Cagliari, Sardinia; Gibraltar, British Territory; and Cádiz, Málaga, Cartagena and Barcelona (overnight), Spain, sailing roundtrip from Civitavecchia. In addition to the Premiere spring departures, this itinerary also will depart Oct 12.

About ms Koningsdam

Koningsdam represents a new Pinnacle Class of ship for Holland America Line. The vessel will debut several innovative concepts and new public spaces and venues, while still featuring popular amenities guests associate with Holland America Line.

To bring a fresh vision to ms Koningsdam, Holland America Line tapped Adam D. Tihany, one of the world’s pre-eminent hospitality designers. Tihany joins distinguished maritime designer and architect Bjørn Storbraaten who worked with Holland America Line on ms Eurodam and ms Nieuw Amsterdam. The two firms will create an interior that blends a fresh, contemporary styling in perfect harmony with the line’s renowned classic elegance.

The line recently unveiled the first series of interior renderings for ms Koningsdam on their website, and additional details will continue to be revealed over the coming months, including plans for the ship’s official christening.

Are you looking forward to ms Koningsdam’s summer 2016 itineraries? Let us know which cruise you want to book in the comments!

Guests have time to see more of ports around the world with overnight calls on the 114-Day Grand World Voyage.
Guests have time to see more of ports around the world with overnight calls on the 114-Day Grand World Voyage.

Today, Jan. 5, 2015, ms Amsterdam departs on the Grand World Voyage — the experience of a lifetime! The cruise goes around the world in 114 days, transiting the Panama Canal, making its way to the South Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, India, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan. From Jordan it’s a comfortable journey through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean. Guests then spend a full two weeks in the Mediterranean before a transatlantic crossing that ultimately disembarks where it all began, at Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Along the way there are 11 overnight calls that offer guests extended time to explore some of the most exciting destinations in the world. Whether you’re already onboard, joining the cruise later, or an armchair traveler, take a look at these outstanding overnight ports — and get an idea of what to do ashore on the 2015 Grand World Voyage!

For those looking to take a last-minute adventure, there’s still space on segments of the 2015 Grand World Voyage like from Auckland, New Zealand, to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, via the Far East. Guests can get a taste of some of these overnights on the remaining segments.

And if a Grand Voyage is on your bucket list for next year, the 2016 Grands — that also feature several overnights — are open for booking. Check out the 115-day Grand World Voyage, the 67-day Grand South America and Antarctica Voyage and the 55-day Grand Mediterranean Voyage.

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OVERNIGHT CALLS ON THE 2015 GRAND WORLD VOYAGE:

Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia

Relax and sail by catamaran at Tahiti.

Relax and sail by catamaran at Tahiti.

After a trip to and through South America then a Panama Canal transit, the ship heads to the South Pacific where guests can go out and about on an overnight call at Papeete, Tahiti, the capital of French Polynesia. The colors that Paul Gauguin brought to canvas could have been lifted from the markets, beaches and buildings of today’s Papeete. Shop for black pearls, visit tropical gardens or check out Tahiti Sail by Catamaran, then walk the park along the waterfront.

Meanwhile, the rest of the island is waiting. Stop by the romantic Vaipahi Garden and the fern-lined sea caves of the Mara’a Grotto, then do anything on, beside, or under the island’s elysian lagoon. With two days at port there’s time to stroll and enjoy! The overnight makes it possible to take the Dinner & Show, a Night Out at Papeete tour. In addition to a colorful and delicious buffet at the Intercontinental Hotel, guests enjoy an evening show that is a stunning dance show that highlights Tahiti and its way of life — La Soirée Merveilleuse in the colors of Gauguin.

Auckland, New Zealand

Take in the views at Auckland, New Zealand.

Take in the views at Auckland, New Zealand.

Auckland has been called one of the loveliest and most livable cities in the world. Just imagine: a short drive from the cosmopolitan city and you can find the mountains, the countryside or at an isolated beach. The diverse landscape is truly incredible. Two days means you could experience America’s Cup and take in the landscape that inspired Lord of the Rings. A Stroll through Tamaki Hikoi is a fabulous experience if you want to experience Maori culture. Guides from the Ngati Whatua tribe re-tell ancient stories on a tour through Auckland. Along the way guests learn about the history of Auckland and visit the summit of Mount Eden for panoramic views.

Sydney, Australia

From the iconic opera house to the Blue Mountains -- see it all at Sydney!

From the iconic opera house to the Blue Mountains — see it all at Sydney!

Sydney, Australia, was recently rated the number one “bucket list” port by Holland America Line Facebook fans. And there’s no wonder why! Culture, adventure, beach and beauty come together at this coveted city. Visit iconic sights like Bondi Beach, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. Or Discover the Blue Mountains — an UNESCO World Heritage site that features an awesome Grand Canyon-like rock formation among deep valleys and cascading waterfalls.

The overnight call allows guests to visit the iconic Sydney Opera House for an evening performance, an experience that can only happen with more time in port.

Adelaide, South Australia

Australia produces some of the world's finest wines, which can be enjoyed on tour.

Australia produces some of the world’s finest wines, which can be enjoyed on tour.

Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, is a cosmopolitan city of wide boulevards, fertile gardens and diverse architecture. Discover the Anglican Holy Trinity Church and the Parliament House. Explore the collection of Aboriginal, colonial, and Melanesian art at the South Australian Museum. Stroll the historic Adelaide Central Market, or simply relax beneath a fig tree canopy in the Botanic Gardens.

With extra time, a longer tour is possible. Australia is known to produce some of the finest wines in the world, and the Wine Tasting in the Barossa Valley tour shows just why they are so excellent. A scenic 90-minute drive through the rugged Adelaide Hills will bring guests to the Barossa Valley — Australia’s foremost wine-producing region. With more than 150 years of viticultural involvement, the Barossa Valley is home to around 50 wineries. Tours, tastings and an opportunity to purchase the wines you have enjoyed are the highlights of the day.

Fremantle (Perth), Australia

Kangaroos and Namburg Park too! Don't miss a beat at Perth!

Kangaroos and Namburg Park too! Don’t miss a beat at Perth!

Perth’s climate is Mediterranean and its beaches are abundant and uncrowded. History here starts 40,000 years ago when the first Aboriginal people arrived. Modern history starts 39,800 years after that with the arrival of the first Europeans. The natural history is timeless and enduring. Cruise visitors would do well to spend some time at Scarborough or Cottlesloe beaches. Take a trip out to the Swan Valley wine region, then catch the koalas and kangaroos at the Perth Zoo or at Caversham Wildlife Park & River Cruise.

With the overnight call, guests can enjoy the City of Lights Dinner Cruise and Perth’s city skyline after sunset. Guests admire the waterfront and city views from the dinner table while cruising along the Swan River under the stars.

Benoa, Bali, Indonesia

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The small village of Benoa is located on the southeastern coast of Bali, and while the town has developed over the past 20 years into a popular cruise destination for visitors, it retains its charming identity as a local fishing village. The calm waters and the beautiful white-sand beaches have made Benoa one of Bali’s most appealing water-sport destinations. For a great all-in-one view check out the East Bali Heritage tour. Guest Vito enjoyed it immensely saying,

“… the sites the history and views were truly wonderful. It’s a beautiful country. The final stop was at Besakih, the Mother Temple of Bali, a sprawling complex of some 20+ individual temples. Worth the trip!”

Singapore

Catch the sunset at Singapore.

Catch the sunset at Singapore.

The sights and sounds of Singapore make it an incredible stop on the Grand World Voyage. Learn about Feng Shui, the ancient art of balance and harmony during the Mysteries of the Orient Tour, or visit the Exotic Jurong Bird Paradise. Set in 50 beautiful acres of landscaped ground, Jurong Bird Park has amassed more than 8,000 exotic birds and 600 species from all over the world. Even as you enter, talkative and brilliantly colored macaws chatter and fuss. There’s opportunity to take in the natural beauty, the cosmopolitan side and the ancient roots of Singapore on a two-day stay.

With the overnight, a trip to the the world-famous Night Safari is a must. It’s the world’s first wildlife park purpose-built to be viewed at night. Set in 98 acres of dense secondary forest, the Night Safari offers visitors the unique experience of observing wildlife in a tropical jungle at night. Through the use of subtle lighting techniques, guests are able to view the 1,000 nocturnal animals of 100 different species in vast natural habitats.

Thilawa, Rangoon, Myanmar

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After more several calls, including the lovely Phuket, Thailand, the ship goes on to spend three days at the port of Thilawa, the gateway to Yangon. There you’ll find stunning pagodas, sunset cruises, traditional Myanmar dances and countless other forms of entertainment and enrichment.

Guests can take take advantage of the extra time and take the Best of Bagan Temples Overnight Tour. After the flight to Bagan, guests visit the Shwezigon Pagoda, the amazing Ananda Temple and Gubyaukgyi Temple (Wetkyi-Inn). Bagan is not only famous for the profusion of pagodas but also for its artistic handicrafts, where the process of making each piece can be seen at a local lacquerware workshop.

Mumbai, India

The Taj Mahal is on many a bucket list!

The Taj Mahal is on many a bucket list!

Another city of contradictions, Mumbai presents itself in two parts. Discover a bustling modern commerce center and bask in the ancient religious iconography. The prolonged stay affords the opportunity to visit the astounding Taj Mahal on a Taj Mahal Overland Adventure that explores the region over four days. Don’t forget to check this one off your bucket list!

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai is unforgettable.

Dubai is unforgettable.

Dubai is an iconic modern marvel to explore. The architecture of the city is like no other. Explore the palm shaped islands, luxurious mansions and astounding skyscrapers and more of Dubai’s Architectural Marvels. Guests Mike and Pat from New Jersey visited and said,

“These folks know how to build a city. You hit all the biggies. The trip to the top of the tallest building is not to be missed. Truly architectural marvels. Some of the most beautiful buildings you will ever see. As cosmopolitan as it gets.”

With the overnight call, guests can take the Arabian Nights: An Evening Safari & Camel Ride tour. Cross the desert of Dubai with photo stops during an exciting dune drive en route to a camel farm. Continue across the desert, stopping to watch the beautiful sunset before reaching a desert campsite. Make the most of this opportunity to ride a camel and try sand boarding. Guests may also want to try out a henna design on their hands or feet. After working up an appetite, enjoy a delicious barbecue dinner and a sheesha (Arabian water pipe). Before returning to the port, watch a belly dancer performing around the campfire by starlight.

Piraeus (Athens), Greece

Athens is the last - certainly not the least - overnight call on the 2015 Grand World Voyage.

Athens is the last – certainly not the least – overnight call on the 2015 Grand World Voyage.

Last but certainly not least of the overnight calls on the Grand World Voyage is the port of Piraeus – gateway to Athens. Milton wrote that Athens was “the eye of Greece, mother of arts and eloquence.” Visit the Parthenon, walk the winding path towards the Acropolis, pass through the Propylaea, and see the Erechtheum temple and the Porch of the Caryatids in the distance. Reinforced by the hand of man, the natural fortress of the Acropolis stands 230 feet above the city. You cannot help but be in awe of the view below.

Venture away from Athens during the overnight on the Delphi & Greek Easter Overnight Tour. Visit the Shrine of Apollo at Delphi, located nearly 2,000 feet up the slopes of Mount Parnassus. Delphi was considered by the ancients to be the physical and spiritual center of the earth. In the Delphi Museum examine such treasures as the Omphalos, which marked the center of the world, and the magnificent bronze Charioteer—one of the finest pieces surviving from the fifth century B.C.

On Day 2, head to Antirio and the village of Ancient Olympia to join in the Greek Easter festivity at the Touris venue. See the preparation of the various roasts (lamb on spit, Kokoretsi & Kontosouvli) and participate in Greek dancing, celebrating the resurrection of Christ. Guests get to experience a traditional Greek Easter feast.

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Don’t forget that between these overnight calls the Grand World Voyage will visit plenty of other exciting destinations. This is a once in a lifetime experience. If you’re unable to join then follow along here on the blog where we’ll share updates from around the world!

Remember that once you book your cruise you can pre-book your shore excursions, dining reservations and make your spa appointments for the Greenhouse Spa & Salon. You can also call the shore excursion call center at 888-425-9376.

On the island of Samoa, Jeff explored the gorgeous landscapes.
On the island of Samoa, Jeff explored the gorgeous landscapes.

These past three months the blog has been following Jeff, President’s Club member, “World Adventure” blogger and Holland America Blog contributor, as he cruises around the Far East on Amsterdam’s 2014 Grand Pacific and Far East Voyage. That voyage concluded Dec. 8 at San Diego, but the journey is not over for Jeff! Following a 14-day Panama Canal cruise and a 14-day southern Caribbean cruise, he begins a journey around the world on the ship’s 114-day Grand World Adventure.

Since we last read about Jeff’s epic adventures, he’s been all over the South Pacific and around Hawaii. Come along as Jeff concludes the 2014 Grand Pacific and Far East Voyage.

THE SOUTH PACIFIC

First the ship called at the gorgeous islands of New Caledonia, Iles des Pins, Fiji and Samoa in the South Pacific. Known for their lush landscapes and vivid scenery, Jeff captured the personality of each island through his photos.

Noumea, New Caledonia
At Noumea, New Caledonia, Jeff headed to the local markets, walked through the town and made way to Parc Forestier, a botanical garden containing both flora and fauna. Jeff noted that he had never seen so many peacocks in his life and called it a “magnificent day!”

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Iles des Pins
Next was a call at Iles des Pins, which Jeff called:

“One of the most beautiful islands in the South Pacific.”

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Latouka, Fiji
Although Jeff has been to Latouka, Fiji, several times, this visit was the first time he really spent time exploring the city of Lautoka.

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Suva, Fiji
The ship also called at Suva, Fiji. Jeff said:

Once again, the Fijian people proved themselves to be extraordinarily friendly.

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Apia, Samoa
At Apia, Samoa, Jeff toured the island and made several stops, including Falefa Falls, Fuipisa Falls, Sopo’aga Falls, the Togitogiga Waterfall, the Sinalei resort, Lupesina Treesort where rooms are built up in trees, the Papapapai-tai Water Falls, Robert Louis Stevenson’s house at Vailima and more!

Samoa

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THE HAWAIIAN ISLANDS

On the final leg of the 2014 Grand Pacific and Far East Voyage Amsterdam made its way around the Hawaiian Islands with calls at Maui, Hilo and Honolulu.

Hilo
At Hilo, despite the gloomy weather Jeff took a helicopter ride and captured some beautiful photos. He then went to Akaka Falls, taking in the scenic views along the way on the four-mile Pepe’ekeo Scenic drive, and he hiked down the Donkey Trail.

Hlei

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Honolulu
At Honolulu, Jeff set out in a rental car and headed to Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head State Park and much more!

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Kauai
The ship had an overnight call at Honolulu, so on the second day Jeff flew to Kauai for the day to explore the island.

Kauai

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Lahaina, Maui
The final call in Hawaii was at Lahaina, Maui. Jeff and friends got a rental car and headed north toward Nakalele Point and the blowholes. They then drove through the Kahakuloa Village and went to Ioa Needle State Park before heading back north to Lahaina.

The day was filled with natural wonders and beauty. It was an amazing four days that we experienced in the Hawaiian Islands … So Beautiful! — Jeff

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After five days at sea, the ship concluded the voyage at San Diego.

The morning was kind of sad, seeing my friends off and coming to the realization that our wonderful Grand Pacific & Far East Voyage was indeed over. I decided to go out for the day and get a bit of exercise and take a bunch of photos. The perfect place was the San Diego Zoo! I took a taxi there and was one of the first people through the gates. It was a beautiful day and the San Diego Zoo never disappoints.

It was fun hiking around the zoo seeing all the animals and taking a photo here and there. When I was done, I walked back to the ship through Balboa Park down Prado to the water. Once aboard the ship everything was different, new friends and crew onboard and it seemed almost like I was on a new ship. It is nice to see old friends again but I do miss those that went home but … Some will be back in 28 days! At sailaway there was a beautiful sunset. Nice way to start a new voyage. — Jeff

A gorgeous sunset was the perfect way to begin a new voyage, said Jeff.

A gorgeous sunset was the perfect way to begin a new voyage, said Jeff.

Now it’s on to the holiday sailings and then the Grand World Voyage. Stay tuned to the Holland America Blog as we continue to follow Jeff on his adventures around the world in 2015.

And if you’re looking to explore the Far East on a spectacular voyage, the 91-day Passage to the Far East cruise on ms Rotterdam departing Jan. 7, 2016, is the ideal way to see the whole region!

To-date, the line's "On Deck" programs have raised $4 million for cancer support.
To-date, the line's "On Deck" programs have raised $4 million for cancer support.

In honor of #GivingTuesday today, Holland America Line is announcing that its “On Deck for a Cause” shipboard giving program has raised $600,000 since its inception in 2013. The funds benefit six international cancer organizations located in the United States, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Germany and United Kingdom.

To date, Holland America Line has raised a total of $4 million through the combined efforts of On Deck for a Cause and the previous On Deck for a Cure shipboard giving program that raised funds for Susan G. Komen for the Cure from April 2006 through February 2013.

On Deck for a Cause invites guests to participate in a noncompetitive 5k fundraising walk on every sailing aboard each of the line’s 15 ships, with proceeds distributed among the American Cancer Society, Canadian Cancer Society, Cancer Council Australia, Cancer Research UK, Deutsche Krebshilfe (German Cancer Aid) and KWF Kankerbestrijding (Dutch Cancer Society).

Guests of all ages are invited to donate $20 to the Holland America Line Foundation, with a minimum of 80 percent ($16) distributed to the organizations. The remaining 20 percent covers program and administrative expenses. On a day at sea, participants join in a 5k walk around the ship’s decks. Guests may walk less or not at all, as they prefer. Participants also receive an On Deck for a Cause T-shirt, wristband and a reception following the walk. Depending on the ship, the distance to reach 5k ranges from nine to 12 laps.

By the end of 2014, nearly 500 On Deck for a Cause events will have been held across the Holland America Line fleet, with walks taking place on cruises globally on cruises to the Mediterranean, Caribbean, South Pacific, Alaska’s Inside Passage, Mexico, Asia, the Baltic, Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and South America.

In addition to On Deck for a Cause, Holland America Line shoreside staff and shipboard officers, staff and crew participate in giving events throughout the year.

Fundraising for Cancer Information and Support Centre in Jakarta
By Hotel Director Henk Mensink

CancerCollage

While ms Amsterdam called at Tanjung Priok (Jakarta) this Grand Voyage, we collaborated with Wielly Wahyudin to welcome him and CISC onboard.

Wielly Wahyudin is one of the members of CISC, as well as our former Amsterdam shipboard colleague and our previous Crew Officer, who was forced to retire due to a sudden onset of cancer. Wielly now is a proud survivor and brought with him several other survivors to display and sell hand-made batik merchandise, also made by fellow cancer survivors. The proceeds of all sales totaled $1,500 and will benefit a CISC halfway house for cancer patients.

Westerdam Crew Helps Repair School Hit by Hurricane Odile
By Hotel Director Mark Pells

WEDMCollage

In September, Hurricane Odile devastated the Mexican port city of Cabo San Lucas – a popular call on Holland America Line’s Mexican Riviera cruises. True to their resilient nature, residents in the area started rebuilding right away to be able to welcome back tourists and cruise ship guests.

Cruise lines were asked to donate what they could. However, officers and crew aboard ms Westerdam decided to take things one step further and use their manpower and resources to make a difference right away. They contacted the local tour operators from Tropical Tours and, together with the port agent, made plans to identify and help out those in need when Westerdam called at Cabo in October.

It was decided that the Amelia Wilkes Primary School, which also caters to special needs students, was the best fit. In a true example of “Team Together, Team Apart,” the Deck Department provided painting supplies and a private tender, the Technical Department collected money to replace lost courtyard awnings and the Hotel Department organized more than 60 volunteers to handle all of the labor. Onboard, support teams packed up sandwiches and refreshments to feed those who would be working in the 100-degree-plus weather.

Buses were arranged for the trip to the school, where the group found that several classrooms had been at least partially exposed to the elements. Everything, even the courtyard, was given a fresh coat of paint – with a few special touches from the Westerdam crew in the form of painted handprints: a creative way to show how honored crew were to lend a hand to the boys and girls from Cabo San Lucas.

Nieuw Amsterdam Crew Members Aid Refugees in Greece
By Hotel Director Marco van Belleghem

Hotel Director Marco van Belleghem, far left, and Assistant Housekeeper Savio DSilva, third from right, with a rescue worker and refugees in Mytilene.

Hotel Director Marco van Belleghem, far left, and Assistant Housekeeper Savio DSilva, third from right, with a rescue worker and refugees in Mytilene.

Crew members from ms Nieuw Amsterdam encountered hundreds of international refugees in the island city of Mytilene, Lesbos, off the coast of Greece when the ship docked there Oct. 9. Naturally they wanted to help, and so they organized a delivery of food and personal items to the island. Crew aboard Nieuw Amsterdam quickly rallied to provide sandwiches, fruit, drinks, blankets and towels for as many people as they could.

“The rescue worker was so appreciative, and we were glad we could do something for these people, who literally have nothing,” said Hotel Director Marco van Belleghem. “We see the situation in these countries on TV every day. But to witness it in real life and see these people who have fled their countries out of fear for their lives hits you hard and makes you realize we have a very good life.”

Holland America Line is honored to be a part of so many giving efforts and to celebrate #GivingTuesday.

At dusk Shangahi's skyline comes alive.  Photo from Holland America.
At dusk Shangahi's skyline comes alive. Photo from Holland America.

Many accomplished writers are also cruisers who love to share their stories on the Holland America Blog through cruise diaries. Wendy London, who has blogged for us before, is one of them. She recently joined Amsterdam’s 2014 Grand Pacific and Far East Voyage, and she’s volunteered to write a cruse diary that will share her experiences on this very unique Grand Voyage. Follow along as Wendy writes about her journey in her own journalistic style.

If you are interested in sharing a cruise diary about a cruise you have taken or are going to take, let us know! Email info@hollandamericablog.com.

Meet Wendy London

Formal day. The day when all the formalities of cruising are completed, and you’re wearing your very best creased, comfortable-looking travel clothes (a far cry from the party clothes you’ll wear in a day or two), the day when your shoulder is tired from doubling as the holder for your shoulder bag or back-pack, when you exhale a palpable sigh of relief that all your bags made it the same time you did … when you see that magnificent vessel as you come over the bridge, waiting, waiting for you. Even though I’m one of those cruise addict types, my brain kicks into a different sphere when I see the ship, much the same feeling I got when I was a kid (a million years ago), standing on the pier at 54th Street, marveling at that big building-type thing that wasn’t really attached to the land, but would be floating … floating to new places I hadn’t even yet heard about.

Before I tell you about Formal Day, let me first tell you a little about me, after all, I hope that you will share this magnificent journey with me over the next 27 days. Born in the USA, but I have lived on two other continents and an island for the past 34-ish years. Amsterdam, London, Melbourne (Australia – not FL), and now – for the past 20 years – on the North Island of New Zealand, where I am married to me best cruisin’ mate, my totally awesome Kiwi husband, Terry.

I’m a Holland America groupie, having sailed to some of the most exotic places on HAL’s elegant ships. But – besides loving to cruise for fun, it is also my professional and academic life. I was once a lawyer, but there is just something about cruising, so I decided to re-tool, and do post-graduate studies in cruise tourism. I’m now doing a PhD on how social networks in communities band together to either promote or reject the construction of cruise terminals. And I love to write and share my experiences. Most of all, though, I am most honoured to have you come on this fabulous journey with us, as we continue to uncover the richness of a part of the world that is very very special to me.

Embarkation Day, Shanghai

No, we didn’t start this magnificent Grand Voyage in Seattle, but how I wished we had. We decided instead to do Shanghai to Sydney, partly because of time constraints, and partly because we had already booked our next cruise on the Oosterdam, to do our annual Christmas cruise around Australia and New Zealand – to see as many family and friends as we can cram in over that two week cruise. So, we boarded in Shanghai, along with perhaps another 15 to 20 passengers.

Scenes around ms Amsterdam, Wendy's home-away-from-home for the next 27 days.

Scenes around ms Amsterdam, Wendy’s home-away-from-home for the next 27 days. Photos from Holland America.

Two HAL porters joined us, and took our suitcases up the ramp, hoisted them on the security scanner belt and then disappeared with them to our room. Rocking up to check-in and disposing of our luggage happened even before we realised what had happened. Next stop – the Front Desk, got our cruise cards, a punched hole in each and a Very Big Welcome Home. We were back on the Amsterdam.

Back on the Amsterdam after a ten-year hiatus. Ten years after my most favouritest cruise ever – to Antarctica and the Falklands. Yep – this ship holds very special adventure memories for us, very special indeed! And guess what! Last night (our second and last night docked in Shanghai), I found a cluster of other passengers who had also been on that cruise with us. There’s just something special about the Amsterdam! (But then again, I say that about all of HAL’s ships.)

We got to our cabin, a verandah suite (I think that’s what they call them now), with our suitcases already positioned on the bed. I started unpacking, parking Terry on the sofa with strict instructions not to move. I noticed that I sort of went into auto-pilot – I found myself unpacking the way I always unpack into our cabin. Tech stuff – chargers, cameras, iPad in the top left-hand drawer of the desk; papers – receipts, maps, notes, and soon – the saved daily programmes port notes, invitations and other collectables – shoved into the drawer on the right. Our knickers in the top drawer of our respective bed-side drawers, Terry’s hanging stuff in one wardrobe, mine in another (two), shirts and other foldables on the fold-down shelves in the end wardrobe. Umbrellas, folding spare bags and other odd bits on the shelf above the safe. A look at the ottoman seat at the desk … ask the cabin boy for a comfortable chair (and he produced the best!); more wire hangers. Fill in the card for the fruit basket, head to the guest laundry to get rid of the land-travel dirt, tell Terry he can get up now.

What’s your unpacking ritual?

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Oh no! I have to change my…

… map. (Phew – and you thought it was something else!) Well no. As you will have above, we boarded ms Amsterdam on Saturday (18 October), our ship to be our Shanghai hotel for the next two nights. Two luxurious days exploring a city that is always new, always exciting, always romantic, always full of history, always someplace very very special. And here I sit, in our cabin on Deck 6, mesmerised by the gleaming towers that represent today’s Shanghai. But what’s this about a map? Oh yes – when we were here 8 years ago, Shanghai was a paltry 18 million. Today – 8 years on, it is 24 million. When we last here in 2006, we were told that once we left the city, we should throw away our maps, that they wouldn’t be good anymore. How right our guide was! It is a city which I began to recognise as we got closer to the centre from the airport, although sites like the Pudong Tower – the Pearl Tower – are now dwarfed by ever-taller, ever-quirkier, ever-more fascinating towers.

Pearl Tower, left and top, and part of the street roundabout at Pudong.

Pearl Tower, left and top, and part of the street roundabout at Pudong.

Sunday morning we set off early-ish, into a sunny, warm, un-humid, blue-skied Shanghai, a rare site in this congested and normally heavily polluted city. Still to get our cruise traction, we had nothing planned, just taking each minute as it came – just re-learning how to be on holiday with no plans, schedules or reminders. We’ve done the standard tour thing in Shanghai, so the city was now ours to wander.

The ship had a great shuttle from the gangway to the monument at the start of the Bund promenade, and that got our orienteering skills back in gear as we approached more familiar territory. Yes, there was a chap in the jade jewellery shop with a single map to show passengers where things are, but no individual copies, and no place nearby to get any further information. So, we set out on foot (passing our first Subway within the first 3 or 4 minutes of our walk), on this glorious day, eventually coming to the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel. From one bank of the Huangpu River to the other, the tunnel is a wonderland of light, sound and fantasy, experienced by transiting the tunnel in a cable car pod, traveling along tracks. Eerie English-language commentary marks each phase of the light show. Rings of light, projected light, strobe lights.

The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel puts on a fantastic light show.

The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel puts on a fantastic light show.

Passing through the ends of the tunnel to return to street level, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Disneyland, the Boardwalk along the New Jersey shore, or even Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium in Auckland. Games of manual dexterity and chance and escalator ceilings painted in brightly coloured seascapes were accompanied by vendors selling souvenirs, food and other wares.

We didn’t linger long because I had one other “attraction” I wanted to see, desperately wanted to see. We were on our way to the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition which must be one of the most extraordinary exhibitions I have seen anywhere. In a modern building adjacent to the Peoples’ Square full of its whimsical and colourful public art, the exhibition takes a look at Shanghai past and present but the most remarkable part of the exhibition can be found on Level 3 and on almost the whole expanse of Level 3. A slightly raised walkway surrounds a 1:500 scale model, occupying 600 square meters of floor space, depicting the 110 square kilometer area of Shanghai found within the city’s inner ring road. Incredible detail, a Lilliputian land, showing the inner city as it now looks. Many public buildings illuminated, the buildings along the Bund distinguished by a slightly different colour tone. Schools, stadia, apartment buildings, the few low-built housing units left, the river. Fantasy, wonderment – and reality. The sheer amazement of the architectural modelling talent that went into building this model.

The Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition.

The Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition.

I could have stayed for hours, conjuring up stories of the people who live in those apartments, who work in that financial centre, who drive the barges down the winding river, who play sports in the curved stadium, who represent old money in the Bund, who shop in Nanjing Road, who trade in the markets, who tend the artefacts in the museum. Fortunately, the book shop sells a fabulous large format book entitled Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre – a special addition to my bookshelf! In an adjacent room was a round theatre, a virtual theatre, showing a flythrough of how Shanghai is evolving as a world class city, including the airport, the Maglev train and the financial centre. Another fantastic experience.

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Shanghai’s Greatest Artery

Shanghai’s river, the Huang Po, will always be Shanghai’s greatest artery, despite the city’s ultramodern international airport, world-record Maglev train and the many flyovers, bridges and roads that have been constructed or are planned. It is – predominantly – a major thoroughfare, for all sorts of river transport.

Over a relatively short 20 minutes or so, we counted something like 39 banged up and bruised barges traveling upstream, carrying stuff like coal, sand, rock, timber, but curiously, there didn’t seem to be an equivalent number of similar vessels coming downstream. A continuous flotilla of scruffy river vessels, making it, well, interesting for cruise ships like ours which tower over them.

As darkness falls, though, the rag-tag squadron of barges recedes into obscurity, overshadowed by a succession of brightly lit party boats – boats of every size, shape and colour scheme. Some obviously popular, but others looking like brightly-lit ghost ships cutting through the murky water. Even a square-rigger, or at least a modern version of one!

Wendy lights Collage

The real star of the night river, though, is the skyline, on both sides of the river, with its hypnotic light show. Dancing lights, changing lights, strobe lights, lasers – a light feast which captivates its observers during the evening hours. For a brief couple of hours, though, the river became ours, with three tugboats to guide our passage back out to the sea. Last time we did that trip, it took about four hours to get to the mouth of the river after leaving the city limits. This time, we found the mouth of the river noticeably closer to the edge of a much bigger Shanghai. Always sorry to leave this intriguing city, this city of light, this city of depth, of heritage and of the future.

——

Stay tuned to the blog for more of Wendy’s adventures!

What’s your favorite part about embarking on a new cruise? Is it getting to the ship and seeing old friends or discovering new cities along the way?

Wendy London

By:

Wendy London is a HAL Mariner, columnist, PhD student, corporate affairs manager/founder of CruiseBubble.com and self-proclaimed Holland America Line groupie who lives on the North Island of New Zealand.


Jeff's photo shows how picturesque the gardens are at Kushiro, Japan.
Jeff's photo shows how picturesque the gardens are at Kushiro, Japan.

President’s Club member and “World Adventure” blogger Jeff set sail on the 2014 Grand Pacific and Far East Voyage in September aboard ms Amsterdam. Jeff has more than 1,600 cruise day with Holland America Line and calls the ship his home away from home. Directly following this grand adventure, Jeff will stay onboard for the 2015 Grand World Voyage.

Throughout his voyages, we’ll be featuring Jeff’s fabulous photos that tell the story of his time onboard. From Asia to Australia, Singapore to Spain – and everywhere in between – experience Jeff’s cruising adventure through his incredible photo diary.

Jeff will be onboard for a while, so enjoy this Q&A that lets you get to know Jeff better … since we’ll be spending a lot of time together with him on the blog! Keep reading to see Jeff’s first couple of weeks onboard in photos.

When did you get bitten by the travel bug?
Jeff: I really got the travel bug back in 1972 when I moved to Europe for work. I spent the next two years traveling all over western Europe.

How long have you cruised with Holland America Line?
Jeff: I had my first cruise on November 19, 1988, on the ms Noordam, cruising the eastern Caribbean.

How many Holland America Line cruises have you been on?
Jeff: I am currently on my 35th Holland America Line cruise with over 1,600 cruise days.

What keeps you coming back?
Jeff: I have a passion for exploring the world and the Holland America Line staff are like family.

What’s your favorite Holland America Line ship and why?
Jeff: My favorite Holland America ship is the ms Amsterdam since it has become my second home. I have done the vast majority of my Holland America Line cruising aboard the ms Amsterdam, including seven Grand World Voyages and five Grand Asia-Pacific voyages.

What’s your favorite part of the world?
Jeff: I find Asia fascinating. There is so much to see and learn about Asian ports, cultures and the amazing people.

What are your top three ports?
Jeff: That is a very difficult question to answer since I have been blessed to explore so many fascinating locations around the world. A few that come to mind would be Mumbai, Bora Bora and any port that I get to visit for the very first time.

What’s been your most memorable moment on a Holland America Line cruise?
Jeff: My two most treasured memories are experiencing my first world voyage in 2007 and being inducted into the President’s Club during the 2013 World Voyage.

What do you like to do onboard?
Jeff: I like to relax pool-side enjoying the sunshine, visiting with friends and reading.

If you could move anywhere you’ve been on a Holland America Line cruise, where would it be?
Jeff: The Caribbean.

What destination is still on your “bucket list” of places to visit?
Jeff: The Baltic.

Your photos are stunning. What’s your inspiration?
Jeff: I try to show and share an accurate picture of the places I visit and the people I encounter. There are people around the world that for a variety of reasons are unable to travel as extensively I have been fortunate enough to do. The blog enables them to travel vicariously and to create their own personal bucket list. It’s the feedback I continuously receive from these people that is the real inspiration for my photography.

JEFF’S PHOTO DIARY

Embarkation:

The long awaited day finally arrived and I was home once again, aboard the ms Amsterdam. I had a very nice welcome by Stein Kruse, CEO of Holland America Line, along with Captain Fred Eversen; Hotel Director Henk Mensink; Gerald Bernhoft, Director of the Mariner Program; and our Cruise Director Gene Young. It was great boarding the ship with my friends Allan, Sandra, Brad and Gloria. Once aboard, it was very exciting seeing so many friends, both crew members as well as fellow guests. This is always one of the best parts of a Grand Voyage, getting reacquainted with old friends. Of course, the more you do these the more old friends you end up running into.

It was a wonderful day, aside from the arduous task of unpacking. After boat drill, there was a fabulous sail away party. As we sailed out of the harbor it soon became time to get serious about unpacking again. Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about packing again for 7 months. This will be a fantastic voyage … we have 3 days at sea now heading for Kodiak, Alaska. In Kodiak I will be heading out with my friends Harry, Margo and Brad on a float plane in search of Kodiak Bears … Pretty exciting stuff!

Jeff was welcomed onboard by top executives and officers, top right, and enjoyed seeing friends.

Jeff was welcomed onboard by top executives and officers, top right, and enjoyed seeing friends.

Alaska:
The grand voyage called at Alaska ports after departing Seattle. Jeff’s photos are from visits to Kodiak and Dutch Harbor.

Alaska

AlaskaCollage

Japan:
Next up on the voyage was the country of Japan. Jeff snapped some gorgeous shots at Kushiro, Kanazawa and Fukuoka.

My tablemates and I all went on a tour together exploring the Kushiro area. We first stopped at the Kishiro Shitsugen National Park. We found lovely scenery and lots of Red Crested Cranes along the way … We then headed to Lake Akan and the Ainu Kotan … We loved watching them perform their native dances … Our final stop was at a private Japanese garden which was beautiful … It was a wonderful day exploring with a great group of friends!

Kushiro, Japan.

Kushiro, Japan.

Loved our visit to Kanazawa! Our first stop was at the Omi-cho Market which has been in existence for 270 years. We spent a fair amount of time there and then headed out on the loop bus for the Hashiba-cho area to see the Geisha houses. We enjoyed walking the street and checking out the tea houses, and then headed for the Kenrokuen Gardens, one of the top 3 gardens in all of Japan … Next we walked to the Kanazawa Castle Park to check out the castle and its gardens, just magnificent! To finish up the day we went to the Nomachi area to look at some Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.

Kanazawa, Japan.

Kanazawa, Japan.

Kanazawa, Japan.

Kanazawa, Japan.

I was pretty excited since this was a first time visit [to Fukuoka]. We had a fabulous day! We walked over 10 miles, took a lot of subways and buses and covered Fukuoka pretty well. We first headed to the Nishi Park area checking out the park, shrines and temples. Next we went to the Fukuoka Tower for some magnificent views. Then we headed to the Ohori Park for some real scenic beauty along with the Fukuoka Castle ruins and a major highlight the Gokoku Shrine. Then it was off to the Gion area where we visited three places of worship which were highlighted by the Tochoji Temple and the Shofukuji Temple.

Scenes from Fukuoka, Japan.

Scenes from Fukuoka, Japan.

Next up on the Grand Pacific and Far East Voyage is another call in Japan, then on to South Korea and China. Stay tuned to the blog for more of Jeff’s photos. And if you want to read Jeff’s blog, click HERE.

All photos in this blog post were taken by Jeff.

The Caribbean boasts some of the finest snorkeling opportunities in the world.
The Caribbean boasts some of the finest snorkeling opportunities in the world.

It’s all about sun, sand and surf as Holland America Line gets ready to sail into the 2014-15 Caribbean season this fall and winter. After spending time in Alaska and Europe, nine ships in the fleet are preparing to make their repositioning cruises to the turquoise waters of the tropical Caribbean where powdery beaches, balmy breezes and the award-winning private island of Half Moon Cay await.

From October 2014 through April 2015, ms Eurodam, ms Maasdam, ms Nieuw Amsterdam, ms Noordam, ms Ryndam, ms Westerdam and ms Zuiderdam sail regular Caribbean voyages, while ms Amsterdam and ms Prinsendam each sail one December holiday cruise in the region. The ships feature more than 10 different seven-, 10-, 11- and 14-day itineraries that can be combined into longer Collectors’ Voyages ranging from 14 to 25 days.

On all cruises sailing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, guests will get to visit Half Moon Cay, the line’s private Bahamian island. While Holland America Line is committed to keeping 96 percent of its pristine private island wild, Half Moon Cay offers everything you need for a day of play. Park yourself in an air-conditioned cabana along a two-mile crescent of gorgeous white beach. Visit Stingray Cove to feed and learn more about the gentle creatures. Ride a horse to a deserted beach and into the surf. Or, take the kids to Half Moon Lagoon, the island’s aqua park and children’s playground.

All roundtrip Fort Lauderdale itineraries include a call at Half Moon Cay (top), the line's private island. Other calls may include St. Thomas, bottom right, and Grand Cayman.

All roundtrip Fort Lauderdale itineraries include a call at Half Moon Cay (top), the line’s private island. Other calls may include St. Thomas, bottom right, and Grand Cayman.

Roundtrip Fort Lauderdale Itineraries
During the season, Eurodam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Noordam, Westerdam and Zuiderdam will sail a series of seven-day eastern and western Caribbean itineraries that can be combined to form a 14-day Collectors’ Voyage spanning both regions. Maasdam sails seven- and 10-day eastern routes, as well as longer 11- and 14-day southern itineraries. Noordam also features 10- and 11-day southern Caribbean cruises ideal for guests looking for a longer vacation.

Are you ready to sink your toes into the warm golden sand?

Are you ready to sink your toes into the warm golden sand?

In addition to the 14-day Collectors’ Voyages, the itineraries can be combined to form a diverse range of options, including an 18-day southern and western cruise on Noordam, a 21-day southern and eastern option on Maasdam and a 25-day nonrepeating double-southern route on Maasdam.

New for 2015, Noordam, Eurodam and Ryndam have added more dates to their already-robust schedules, giving guests expanded options to choose from.

Grand Turk is known to have some of the clearest waters in the world.

Grand Turk is known to have some of the clearest waters in the world.

Roundtrip Tampa Itineraries
Ryndam spends the Caribbean season cruising roundtrip from Tampa on seven-day western and 14-day southern itineraries. The two options can be combined to form a 21-day western/southern Caribbean Collectors’ Voyage. The ship makes a maiden call at Banana Coast, Honduras, and also visits Puerto Rico, Antigua, St. Lucia, Aruba, Curaçao, Guatemala, Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Key West, Fla.

Tampa itineraries visit ports in (from left) Aruba, Guatemala and Curacao.

Tampa itineraries visit ports in (from left) Aruba, Guatemala and Curacao.

Celebrate the Season with a Festive Holiday Cruise
For travelers who like to get away from the hustle, stress and chill of December, the holiday season is a special time onboard. A total of 15 holiday sailings will ply the warm waters of the Caribbean on itineraries ranging from seven to 25 days. Several non-repeating itineraries can be combined to form a grand Holiday Collectors’ Voyage.

Guests looking to explore the Caribbean on Prinsendam and Amsterdam during the holidays can embark on their only Caribbean sailings of the season. Prinsendam leaves Dec. 18 on a roundtrip Fort Lauderdale cruise to the southern Caribbean. The 16-day itinerary includes 10 ports and stretches from Half Moon Cay to Tobago. Departing Dec. 22, Amsterdam sails a roundtrip Fort Lauderdale cruise on a 14-day southern Caribbean cruise.

During the holiday cruises, guests can take part in a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, enjoy traditional holiday meals with all of the trimmings and indulge in a special Royal Dutch High Tea with fanciful holiday cookies and pastries. The ships’ international crew chorus performs a magical holiday show, while caroling and sing-alongs take place around the ship. Kids will delight in a visit from Santa Clause and holiday-themed crafts.

holiday

The New Year’s Eve sailings are the ideal setting to ring in a new year, featuring a festive holiday ball with a champagne toast. Prior to the ball, book a special evening at the Pinnacle Grill to celebrate all of the good things to come over a meal of caviar and filet mignon. You can pre-book your Pinnacle Grill dinner by clicking HERE.

So whether you’re looking to get away for the holidays, or just get away, the laid-back vibe, warm weather and beautiful beaches of the Caribbean are the ideal escape this winter.

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Have you taken a Caribbean cruise? What did you like best about the destination? Tell us in the comments below!

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