Tag Archives: ms Amsterdam

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!”

NoumeaCollage

JF_white

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

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

JF_iles

IlesCollage

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.

FijiCollage

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

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

SuvaCollage

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

SamoaCollage

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

HiloCollage

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

HonoluluCollage

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

KauaiCollage

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

MauiCollage

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?

——-

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.

—–

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!

Guests on the 2015 Grand World Voyage will have an overnight call at Bali to explore the country's beautiful temples like Ulundanu.
Guests on the 2015 Grand World Voyage will have an overnight call at Bali to explore the country's beautiful temples like Ulundanu.

When ms Amsterdam departs Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Jan. 5, 2015, the cruise will span 114 days and call at 45 ports in 25 countries on six continents.
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Today the Panama Canal celebrates its 100th Anniversary. Photo courtesy www.100yearspanamacanal.com.
Today the Panama Canal celebrates its 100th Anniversary. Photo courtesy www.100yearspanamacanal.com.

Today marks a huge milestone for the Panama Canal — the centennial anniversary of its opening. Construction began in 1904, and the passageway opened 10 years later on Aug. 15, 1914, as the first ship came through.
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