Tag Archives: Cruise Diary

The Great Wall of China is on the bucket list of many travelers. Jeff visited there from Beijing.
The Great Wall of China is on the bucket list of many travelers. Jeff visited there from Beijing.

Each year, Holland America Line carefully crafts Grand Voyages that offer extended journeys to some of the most incredible places in the world. The longer itineraries allow for in-depth explorations and immersive experiences that very few cruise lines offer.

Holland America Line has been sailing Grand Voyages for years, and no other cruise line offers as many or as exceptional options. In 2015, guests can choose from several Grand Voyages, including the 114-day Grand World Voyage, 68-day Grand South America and Antarctica Voyage and the 55-day Grand Mediterranean Voyage, not to mention other extended cruises like the 90-day Passage to the Far East sailing and the 45-day Far East and North Pacific Crossing.

Gerald Bernhoft, our director Mariner Society, recently joined ms Amsterdam October 23 in Hong Kong during the ship’s 78-day South Pacific and Far East Voyage to host several special Mariner events. While onboard, he met up with Jeff Farschman, President’s Club member, “World Adventure” blogger and Holland America Blog contributor. A Grand Voyage can be the best cruise you ever take, and Jeff confirmed this with his thoughts:

“Gerald, this is one of the best Grand Voyages I have ever been on. Every tiny little detail has not gone unnoticed. We are all having a great time.” — Jeff Farschman

Coming from Jeff, who has sailed on 13 Holland America Line Grand Voyages, that is saying a lot! To see what makes a Grand Voyage so special, read on to see more photos from Jeff that capture his journey through beautiful images. Since we last heard from him, he’s visited South Korea, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Jakarta, Bali, Komodo Island and now he’s exploring Australia. It’s true that images often speak louder than words. Enjoy!

In South Korea, the ship called at Jeju where Jeff went to Hallim Park and captured all of the flora and fauna.

Hallim Park at Jeju, South Korea.

Enjoying Hallim Park at Jeju, South Korea.

The ship then called at Incheon, the port for Seoul. On the first day Jeff went to the Naryangjin Fish Market and Jogye Temple before heading off to see other sites like the Insa-dong Street market, Gyeongbokgung Palace and the Blue House, South Korea’s version of the White House in the U.S. On day two he visited a Korean Folk Village in Suwon.

The next location was a biggie! We went to Gyeongbokgung Palace for the changing of the guard and a tour of the Palace. What a magnificent place! I just loved it… The changing of the guard was fantastic, full of tradition. It was a fabulous part of the day! — Jeff

The sites and sounds of Seoul, South Korea.

The sites and sounds of Seoul, South Korea.

China is one of the most popular countries to visit. From bustling cities to quaint villages, it’s the dream destination of a lifetime for many travelers. On Jeff’s journey, he visited Beijing, Quindgao, Shanghai and Hong Kong. This is just a very small selection of his more-than 100 photos, so be sure to visit his blog to see them all.

ChinaAlone

With four ports in China, three of them overnight calls, Jeff had a lot to see and do.

With four ports in China, three of them overnight calls, Jeff had a lot to see and do.

ChinaAlone2

Jeff had this to say about Hong Kong:

We had a wonderful sail into one of the world’s greatest ports this morning. It was … off to Lantau Island to visit the Tai O fishing village and the Po Lin Monastery and the big Buddha. We had a major highlight at the monastery when a huge number of Monks seem to gather while our backs were turned, just magnificent! After that we headed back to Kowloon, did some internet updates and went to the Temple Street Night Market. The evening was capped off with the Hong Kong laser light show. Great day!

Vietnam was a juxtaposition of images, from bustling Ho Chi Minh City to rural Phu My.

Vietnam.

Vietnam.

In Singapore, Jeff snapped 900 photos, Yes, 900! According to Jeff, he was the “first one off the ship and didn’t stop until 12-and-a-half hours later!”

Singapore.

Singapore.

When visiting Komodo Island, most guests go in search of the rare Komodo dragon. Jeff joined in on the adventure.

It was an extraordinarily hot day to go out and track down Komodo Dragons but that is exactly what we did. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t a little bit of excitement during our trek — last time four dragons came after me. They must have lost their taste for my tender flesh. Anyway, we saw dragons so it was a successful day. It is always special when you can find a juvenile up in a tree where they spent their first three years so the adults don’t eat them. Great day capped off with an Indonesian Dinner in the Pinnacle Grill.

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An evening in the Pinnacle Grill wrapped up the day at Komodo.

An evening in the Pinnacle Grill wrapped up the day at Komodo.

The ship then sailed along to Darwin and Port Douglas, Australia. Since Jeff has been to Darwin before, he chose to go to explore the Botanical Gardens this time.

Darwin_alone

DarwinCollage

In the evening, the ship held an “On Location” event that brings local culture, entertainment and experiences onboard. Guests enjoyed an Australian barbecue on deck accompanied by a didgeridoo musician.

"On Location" events bring the local flavor onboard.

“On Location” events bring the local flavor onboard.

“Wonderful evening!!! Now we have three days at sea as we make our way to Port Douglas, Australia. Loving this voyage…” — Jeff

After Darwin, the ship called at Port Douglas where Jeff and his tablemates headed to Mossman Gorge. They hiked down to the Mossman River on elevated walkways and across the Rex Creek Suspension Bridge. After their walk they met a guide and went on an Aboriginal Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk where they learned about the Aboriginal culture and how they lived off the land.

Mossman Gorge at Port Douglas.

Mossman Gorge at Port Douglas.

Next they headed to the Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas where they saw a variety of native animals in a rainbow of colors.

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WildCollage

And now it’s on to Sydney for Amsterdam and Jeff. With an overnight call, he’s sure to take in all of the sights of the city. Stay tuned to the blog for an update on Jeff’s journey as he heads to the South Pacific after leaving Australia.

Which port on Jeff’s journey looks the most interesting to you? Tell us below!

The Great Theatre at Ephesus.
The Great Theatre at Ephesus.

Guest Elizabeth set sail on a Mediterranean cruise aboard Noordam with her family and wrote about her adventure. Step back in time with her to some of the world’s most amazing ancient cities.

The Mediterranean has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. It features incredible beaches with water so blue, any picture is postcard worthy. But it is also home to some of the most important, well-preserved and breathtaking ancient cities and ruins. I recently took the 11-day Mediterranean Dream cruise aboard ms Noordam. If you’re looking for an interesting and exciting history lesson on your next trip, here are the places you must see:

Katakolon, Greece

The first stop on my cruise was Katakolon, Greece. This stop is the gateway to Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games and where the Olympic flame is lit every two years using just a mirror and the sun. I took the Ancient Olympia & the Museum tour. The arch, pictured below, is the entrance to the Olympic Stadium. When it was built it was actually a tunnel but it fell apart during earthquakes. What is shown is a small part that was reconstructed. The marble starting blocks where the Olympians lined up for their races are still intact. Make sure to wear a good pair of Nikes because your guide will invite you to step up to them for a race. You can imagine 40,000 spectators cheering around you for some added motivation!

After walking through the arch to the Olympic Stadium, you can step up to the starting line to run your sprint.

After walking through the arch to the Olympic Stadium, you can step up to the starting line to run your sprint.

Holland America Line lets you couple your tour of Ancient Olympia with a tour of Mercouri’s Vineyards, Olympia village, Zorba, or the Archaeological Museum of Olympia, which is what I chose to do. The newly renovated museum is considered one of the most important in Greece and features sculptures from the Archaic to Roman periods. It also holds the famous 4th century Parian marble statue of Hermes of Praxitelis.

Piraeus (Athens), Greece

Calls at Piraeus are the perfect way to see Athens, one of the oldest cities in the world and the birthplace of democracy. Being my first time in Athens, I took the Scenic Athens & the Plaka on Foot tour. I wanted to take advantage of my short time there and see as much as possible. I couldn’t have made a better choice. During our drive through the city we saw an incredible amount of historical monuments. In Athens, it feels like their is a “sight” on every corner. We drove by Hadrian’s Arch, the statue of Lord Byron, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus and watched the changing of the guards at the Parliament Building at Syntagma Square, the oldest square in the city. We also got off the bus to take in the beautiful all-marble Panathenaic Stadium, which hosted the first modern Olympic games in 1896.

The Panathenaic Stadium is a multi-purpose stadium, built on the land where the Panathenaic Games were held in ancient times to honor the Goddess Athena.

The Panathenaic Stadium is a multi-purpose stadium, built on the land were the Panathenaic Games where held in ancient times to honor the Goddess Athena.

I only viewed the Acropolis from the bottom, but it is worth mentioning that Holland America offers plenty of tours that will take you to a closer view including the Athens & Acropolis tour and the Athens, Acropolis & Cape Sounion tour.

Of course it is Athens’ most famous sight, but trust me when I say that you can’t miss Areopagus. Located northwest of Acropolis and just steps away from its entrance, Areopagus, also known as Mars’ Hill, was where the council of elders met in pre-classical times. In classical times, it was the sight of the high Court of Appeal and is said to be where Ares was tried by the gods for the murder of Poseidon’s son. A climb up the steps of Areopagus takes you to what has to be one of the most gorgeous panoramic views in all of the Mediterranean. This view of Athens and the Parthenon will take your breath away. I can’t imagine how stunning it is with all of the city lights at night, but I can tell you that seeing it that way has been added to my bucket list!

From the bottom, Areopagus just looks like a big rock, but if you climb up the steps you'll enjoy an incredible view.

From the bottom, Areopagus just looks like a big rock, but if you climb up the steps you’ll enjoy an incredible view.

Afterward, we enjoyed a traditional Greek lunch and had time to walk around the plaka. This old, historical neighborhood features neoclassical architecture, winding roads and plenty of opportunities to pick up local souvenirs.

Kusadasi, Turkey

In the first century B.C., Ephesus was one of the largest cities in the world. Today, it features one of the largest collections of ruins in the eastern Mediterranean, and it is very conveniently located to a stop at Kusadasi, Turkey.

The Odeon Concert Hall and Celsus Library are two of the most popular sights at Ephesus.

The Odeon Concert Hall and Celsus Library are two of the most popular sights at Ephesus.

Walking through the streets of Ephesus, you are surrounded by incredible statues and structures. The Odeon Concert Hall served not only as a concert hall but more importantly as a Bouleuterion for the meetings of the Boulea, or Senate, making it the sight where the most important city matters were discussed. The Celsus Library may have been the most stunning structure at Ephesus. Built in 117 A.D. by Julius Aquila to honor his father Gaius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, it housed more than 12,000 scrolls, making it the third largest library of the time.

EPHGreat Theater

The Great Theater is a marvel in itself and the most impressive structure at Ephesus. It was built in the third century B.C., during the Hellenistic Period, and was enlarged during the Roman period. With a seating capacity of 25,000, it held the most important theater performances and religious and political assemblies of the time. The acoustics are so great that in the 1980′s it even featured concerts by Elton John and Sting.

The Temple of Hadrian (left) was being restored during my visit, the perfect excuse to go back to Ephesus. On the right, the Fountain of Trajan, an Ephesian cat nap and a relief of the goddess Nike.

The Temple of Hadrian, left, was being restored during my visit, the perfect excuse to go back to Ephesus. On the right, the Fountain of Trajan, an Ephesian cat nap and a relief of the goddess Nike.

You can couple your visit to Ephesus with a visit to the Virgin Mary’s house, a Catholic shrine and the house where Jesus’ mother is said to have lived the last years of her life; the Terrace Houses, a recently excavated section of Ephesus that was home to its wealthiest people; or Sirince Village, where Greek style houses are decorated with Turkish interiors and there is plenty of shopping for souvenirs.

Naples, Italy

I was really looking forward to our call at Naples, Italy, knowing that I would get to see Pompeii. This sight is visited by millions of people ever year and I was excited to see why. We know much of what we know about how the ancient Romans lived thanks to Pompeii. When Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D., it buried the town in ash. The town stayed buried for about 1,500 years until it was rediscovered. It is preserved in such incredible detail, that walking through is like a first-hand experience of Roman life.

I took the Ruins of Pompeii tour, which gave great insight into ancient life. Our guide took us through the maze of streets, pointing out the chariot wheel marks in the stone. He also pointed out the cat’s eyes — small tiles in the stone that reflected the light of the moon at night allowing people to see where they were walking. We went to the Forum, which served as the center of the town and was surrounded by many important government buildings. It was once two stories high and you can still see the foundation of the second story. We also went to the market where meats and vegetables were sold. In the center you could buy fish, which we know because of the amount of fish bones found in the area during the excavations. The painting fragment on the walls of the market is an original and has never been restored. The detail and use of perspective is incredible.

Hundreds of artifacts were found at Pompeii. Also pictured, clockwise, a mural at the market, myself in the Forum, a statue of the Goddess Artemis, and an oven.

Hundreds of artifacts were found at Pompeii. Also pictured, clockwise, a mural at the market, myself in the Forum, a statue of the Goddess Artemis, and an oven.

We also entered the spa which still has a roof above it. It featured three bathing rooms including a sauna, marble floors and exquisite details.

Though the entrance is small, the spa was actually very spacious and featured many different rooms.

Though the entrance is small, the spa was actually very spacious and featured many different rooms.

My Mediterranean Dream cruise was just that — a dream. It felt like I had stepped back in time to some of the most beautiful eras in world history. But it was also just the tip of the iceberg. From the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, to Knossos and Delphi in Greece and Perge in Turkey, there are still plenty of other Mediterranean ruins to be explored.

If you’re taking a Mediterranean cruise that visits these ports, the shore excursions can be pre-booked so you get the tour of your choice.

Have you visited any of these Mediterranean ruins? Which was your favorite? Which is at the top of your list to see next?

Prince Edward Island is home to many lighthouses, including this one that has a house attached for the lighthouse keeper.
Prince Edward Island is home to many lighthouses, including this one that has a house attached for the lighthouse keeper.

Journalist Debbra Dunning Brouillette set sail on a Canada and New England cruise aboard Veendam and wrote an article about her adventure for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
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The South Pacific is made up of lush paradisiacal islands and clear blue water, like the Blue Lagoon on Vanuatu.
The South Pacific is made up of lush paradisiacal islands and clear blue water, like the Blue Lagoon on Vanuatu.

Imagine calling at lush, tropical islands, isolated beaches and bustling fruit markets as you cruise across the Pacific Ocean. Bloggers Adam Hammond Marta Balcewicz of the website Portsie recently cruised from Sydney, Australia, to Vancouver, Canada, and chronicled their journey.
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Portsie was created by self proclaimed "tea-drinking book-worm adventurers who are convinced there is something decidedly romantic and great about traveling to places (or nowhere in particular) by sea. They have read turn-of-the-century novels featuring trans-Atlantic crossings and are jealous of their protagonists."


Chile's gorgeous Amalia Glacier on the edge of the Sarmiento Channel.
Chile's gorgeous Amalia Glacier on the edge of the Sarmiento Channel.

In addition to wonderful ports of call on a cruise vacation, another special part of taking a cruise is the ability to reach parts of the world that would otherwise be nearly impossible, if not totally impossible, to reach by car, plane or on foot.

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Natalie enjoyed the whale-watching tour in Juneau. Photo courtesy of HAL.
Natalie enjoyed the whale-watching tour in Juneau. Photo courtesy of HAL.

Alaska is scenic, full of history, offers plenty of nature adventures and once-in-a-lifetime experiences … making it the perfect cruise destination for a family vacation.
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Maasdam transits the Panama Canal.
Maasdam transits the Panama Canal.

Guest Sharon Johnson is on Prinsendam’s Grand South America & Antarctica Voyage, and guest Jan Yetke is on Amsterdam’s Grand World Voyage.
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