Tag Archives: Grand World Voyage

Three generations of the Cruz family enjoy seeing Asia's sights, including Mt. Sakurajima.
Three generations of the Cruz family enjoy seeing Asia's sights, including Mt. Sakurajima.

Guest Georgina Cruz currently is onboard her fourth Grand World Voyage and is sharing her experiences with the Holland America Blog.

My husband Humberto and I have had such a wonderful time during our last three World Cruises on Holland America’s Amsterdam that on our fourth and current Grand World Voyage this winter, also on the Amsterdam, we felt we wanted to share our good fortune with our daughter and two teenage grandsons. So, we made our 2017 World Cruise sort of an “All In The Family,” affair, feeling blessed to be able to share with our family one segment, the 18-day Osaka to Hong Kong chapter of this epic circumnavigation of the planet.

And what a Grand Moment it was to have three generations of our family together at sea during the World Cruise! We selected the Osaka to Hong Kong segment because our grandsons had never been to Asia and both of them wanted to see the Great Wall of China (who wouldn’t want to see this wonder, right?) and because our grandson Julian, upon being asked once that if he could go to any country in the world which one would he choose, he answered without hesitation: “Japan!” So with the 2017 World Cruise visiting ports in Japan, we simply couldn’t resist!

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These “the more the merrier” travel occasions (both at sea and on land) can be tricky, but not if you plan carefully. And also keep in mind Mark Twain’s words: “I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” So mindful of his words we took measures to ensure a good time for all.

We booked two cabins so everyone would have some private space: Humberto and I were in one cabin and our daughter Veronica and two grandsons, Julian and Aidan, ages 13 and 16, were in another on the same deck –and so we had two bathrooms at our disposal. Another important consideration during family reunions encompassing three-generational travel is also to give members of the group their space when it comes to having a choice of tours and activities. Being together is great, but giving thought to varying stamina levels and personal interests and tastes is important too.

“Travel is an intensely personal thing,” Barbara Haenni, our location guide on the Amsterdam, often reminds us, “something that someone may love, another person may not like.”

So we conferred with the rest of the family and went sightseeing together in some ports and in two groups in others so everyone could do what they liked in each port. And it was fun to compare notes about our day later each evening at dinner.

We started our get-together on the Amsterdam by showing our family around our beautiful floating home (after four World Cruises we think of it as our second home now!). It was fun seeing our grandsons’ delight at discovering the ice cream station in the Lido (with its various flavors of ice cream, soft serve treats and sherbet as well as multiple delicious toppings – yummy!). Ditto for the pizza and pasta stations and so many other delights in the Lido, as well as the Dive In kiosk with hot dogs (one of our grandson Julian’s favorite foods) plus hamburgers and more, and next to Dive-In, the Mexican station with tacos, tortillas and their fixings which both our daughter Veronica and I love–and all of it convenient to the Lido swimming pool and hot tubs. The Lido pool is heated and sheltered under a retractable glass dome so it can be used no matter what the weather, a feature that is particularly appreciated when it is too cold to use an unsheltered pool. Aidan and Julian also loved the complimentary popcorn (one of their favorite treats) that is featured during movies at the Wajang Theater and they liked their Club HAL youth counselor Geoffrey, who arranged some activities for them including X-Box sessions.

The older generations loved the Greenhouse Spa with its thermal suite and the Culinary Arts Center with its demonstrations and classes, and everyone enjoyed the elegant Atrium with its beautiful Astrolabe and clock that chimes every hour. The first full day for our family onboard we had a special chocolate cake with vanilla frosting and the words “bon voyage” written on it (that elicited more than one “yum!” from the family) delivered to our table by Asep, assistant manager in the La Fontaine Dining Room and we celebrated this wonderful occasion of getting together with our family in Asia. We also posed for the picture of a lifetime to mark this grand moment.

At each of the Amsterdam’s ports of call, we set out to see the world through our family’s eyes. Our first stop after Osaka was Kagoshima, Japan. Here, since we knew our grandsons had never seen a real-life volcano, but were eager to see one, we booked a Holland America shore excursion for all of us to Mt. Sakurajima, one of Japan’s most active volcanoes. “Wow!” both our grandsons exclaimed at the sight of the volcano which was very impressive, with a triple crater, as we approached the island where Mt. Sakurajima is located, a short ferry ride across from Kagoshima. Humberto and I were torn between watching the volcano and our grandsons’ faces. The volcano was not “smoking” a lot on this occasion, which Julian liked, as he said the least amount of volcanic activity is always best (how true!). We spent time on the tour exploring the lava fields and strolling among the black volcanic stones – one volcanic rock formation was in the shape of a lion! – in the coastal Nagisa Park. “Awesome,” Julian said of the experience. And we thought: indeed, and more so when sharing it with our family!

And, oh, there were many other sightseeing highlights. While in Nagasaki, we visited the Peace Park and Catholic sites including the Oura Church, lovely up on a hill, and the 26 Martyrs Monument and Museum – we had a Volunteer Guide taking us around using public transportation (the Volunteer Guides are a free service listed in the Japan National Tourist Organization web site: a great way to meet locals and see the sights while in Japan. Cost to the traveler is just to pay for the guide’s expenses in transportation and meals if needed as part of the tour).

In China, Humberto and I had already toured Beijing and its attractions on a previous voyage, so we booked two full-day HAL tours for our daughter and two grandsons to visit the Forbidden City, Tiannamen Square, the Temple of Heaven and the biggest “wow” of them all: the Great Wall of China. At dinner each night conversation was lively with our daughter and grandsons excitedly describing the treasures that they had seen.

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We toured together in Shanghai and Hong Kong. In Shanghai we took in the cosmopolitan Bund with its lovely colonial architecture a short walk from the International Cruise Terminal, the Nanjing pedestrian street (one of the world’s busiest, a few blocks from our shuttle stop) and we loved the city’s evening “light show” seeing from the ship’s upper decks the iconic, futuristic-looking Oriental Pearl Tower turning a myriad of colors.

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Since we had two days in the city, we spent the second day in Shanghai Disneyland, Disney’s newest park and the one boasting the biggest Castle – a highlight of the voyage for all ages but especially for our teenagers, was riding the fast coaster Tron, that Julian declared has become his favorite ride of all, and the special-effects-rich “Pirates of the Caribbean” attraction which is different from the one we all love at Walt Disney World in Florida.

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In Hong Kong we toured via the hop-on/hop-off bus that included the tram ride up to Victoria Peak for fabulous views of Hong Kong Harbor, which we enjoyed together and also as a group we snapped photos of the adorable pandas at Ocean Park. We split up into two groups for other sightseeing including a traditional sampan ride, among other sights and activities.

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Onboard the Amsterdam our favorite event was the Shanghai Sunset Party with the red sails of traditional Chinese junks adorning the Lido pool! Fun pursuits included lively trivia sessions with our wonderful Cruise Director Gene Young and delightful Show Host Isolda Rodriguez – both often made us laugh with their own brands of humor. Other pastimes included drawing lessons with Artist In Residence Ben Sack, and also Brain Teaser contests with pianist and multi-instrumentalist Debby Bacon. We also noted that many other guests, some of whom we had not yet met, approached us to compliment us about our family and showed an interest about them – so we made new friends!

And many staff members went out of their way to make our three generations’ get-together more fun and memorable. Our waiters, Heru and Rio, both from Indonesia, were very friendly and attentive – they fixed up a lovely round table for us in La Fontaine and quickly learned all our preferences. Asep relocated us back to our table for two after our family left – efficiently and seamlessly and without us needing to remind him. Other examples of staff going the extra mile for us: Debby held her Disney show at the piano bar until our grandsons and other youngsters boarded in Osaka, and Isolda gave us two extra Holland America Asia pins to give to our grandsons as keepsakes – such thoughtful touches make a difference!

Also in the onboard entertainment department, other of our favorites included cultural performances by local entertainers including spectacular shows put on by a Japanese troupe and by a Chinese cultural group while the ship was in Osaka and Xingang, and an exciting performance by Japanese juggler extraordinaire, Tempei.

All too soon, it was time for our family to disembark. We celebrated our farewell dinner onboard at the sumptuous Pinnacle Grill – three generations feasting on filet mignon, Alaskan King crab and other delicious dishes including the sinful chocolate lava cake, all served expertly by the staff overseen by Tina, the Pinnacle Grill’s manager. The bottom line for all three generations? We felt we were so blessed to be able to spend this time together – so full of grand moments on the Amsterdam. We agreed this was the best thing we have ever done when it came to family travel, and we couldn’t wait to enjoy something like this together again!

This beautiful gift was a special surprise for attendees at the “President’s Club” Mariner Dinners.
This beautiful gift was a special surprise for attendees at the “President’s Club” Mariner Dinners.

Gerald Bernhoft, Holland America Line’s director Mariner Society, recently traveled to Asia to join Amsterdam’s Grand World Voyage for the annual President’s Event. He sent in this recap of the event and the surrounding days, including the surprise snow in South Korea!

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The elegant ms Amsterdam was the scene for Holland America Line’s annual “President’s Event” during her 2017 Grand World Voyage. President Orlando Ashford, his wife Samantha, sons Orlando Jr. and Jackson along with Pamela Baade, manager of Holland America Line’s manager of corporate giving and I, boarded the vessel in chilly 20-degree temperatures on February 18 in Incheon, South Korea.

From left: Cruise Director NAME, Captain Mercer, Baade, the Ashfords, me and Mensink.

From left: Cruise Director Gene Young, Captain Mercer, Pamela Baade, the Ashfords, me and Hotel Director Henk Mensink.

Captain Jonathan Mercer, Hotel Director Henk Mensink Cruise Director Gene Young were at the gangway to meet the party. Everyone hit the pavement running the following morning for the first of two top Mariner’s luncheons beautifully created in the Crow’s Nest for guest with 850+ days on Holland America Line. That evening the first of two “President’s Club” Mariner Dinners in the elegant King’s Room took place. The table was stunningly set with Limoges china, a floral arrangement that ran one end to the other and an engraved silver box commissioned specifically for the dinners as a table gift for the attending guests.

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Carnival Corporation President and CEO Arnold Donald joined the cruise for a few days with his wife, Hazel.

Carnival Corporation President and CEO Arnold Donald joined the cruise for a few days with his wife, Hazel.

Upon sailing into Xingang, which is the port of call for Beijing, the ship was greeted with a snow storm! It is highly unusual but was fun for both guests and crew.

Additional events during the week included a special cocktail party in the Rembrandt Lounge followed by a beautiful dinner in the Pinnacle Grill for our Neptune Suite guests. A magical “Red Lantern Dinner” in the La Fontaine Dining Room and Gala cocktail party for both first and main seating guests took place February 24.

To a standing room-only Queen’s Lounge, Orlando presented all that is new with Holland America Line — from the partnership with O, The Oprah Magazine to the America’s Test Kitchen partnership to two new Pinnacle Class vessels in our company’s future. I then showcased our company’s rich 144-year history along with new and exciting longer cruise itineraries. The program wrapped up with a Q&A portion for guests to ask questions to the officers and executive team, which included Orlando, Captain Mercer, Hotel Director Henk, Chief Engineer Piet Westerhuis and myself.

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The week was beautifully capped off with an amazing evening on Lido Deck! Henk and his extraordinary team transformed the mid-ship Lido pool area into a “Shanghai Sunset Fusion” party. Staff donned traditional Chinese costumes, there were lavish Asian food stations throughout the Lido area, we created special cocktails and offered wine paired with the food. A band elevated the excitement of the evening, as did gorgeous decorations — from upside down hanging umbrella’s to Chinese junk sails in the pool flooded in red lights. Two Chinese dragons also swirled around the guests during the party.

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Once again, the Amsterdam team created a magical week for our guests onboard the Grand World Voyage! Hat’s off to Captain Mercer, Hotel Director Henk, Guest Relations Manager Christel Mensink, Cruise Director Gene, Culinary Operations Manager Florin Dragomir, Dining Room Manager Phillip Stolte, Pinnacle Grill Manager Tina Astuti, Cellar Master Jacques Louw, Executive Chef Petr Nozicka, Pinnacle Grill Chef Peter Joseph and Executive Housekeeper Shiv Charan! Day in and day out this team and their entire staff create magic for our guests as they sail around the world!

The Grand World Voyage features exceptional experiences, like visiting the mystical city of Petra in Jordan.
The Grand World Voyage features exceptional experiences, like visiting the mystical city of Petra in Jordan.

Imagine circling the globe, literally, in pampered comfort for more than three months. In 2017, Amsterdam sets off on its exciting Grand World Voyage that takes guests on the most memorable adventure possible.

During the 111-day journey, 36 ports of call in 23 countries on five continents await, introducing a rainbow of cultures and customs to our guests. An astounding 10 magical overnight stays allow more time in port so nightlife has a chance to show itself and overland tours abound. For guests who have less time on their hands, 10 segments ranging in length from 17 to 56 days are available from departure ports along the route.

The 2017 Grand World Voyage route starts and ends in Fort Lauderdale.

The 2017 Grand World Voyage route starts and ends in Fort Lauderdale.

Following Amsterdam’s departure from Fort Lauderdale, the ship will take a westerly course from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean via a daylight transit of the Panama Canal. After an overnight call in Hawaii, the ship makes calls at at the unique islands of Guam and Saipon, Northern Marina Islands.

Holland America Line offers a change in route each year, and in 2017 Amsterdam sets a course for an extensive Far East exploration on the Grand World Voyage. The ship first makes calls throughout Japan, including an overnight at Osaka where the world’s largest Buddha resides. Two calls in South Korea pave the way for three overnights in China at Xingang (Beijing), Shanghai and Hong Kong.

China's Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai highlight the Grand World Voyage.

China’s Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai highlight the Grand World Voyage.

An unforgettable visit to Nha Trang and Phu My in Vietnam leaving a lasting impression of the country, not to mention the option to visit Angkor Wat, the largest temple in the world.

The glorious Angkor Wat awaits from the port of

The glorious Angkor Wat awaits from the port of Phu My

As the ship continues its westerly route, guest enjoy an overnight at Singapore and a day in Port Kelang, the gateway to the “Garden City” of Kuala Lumpur. Rich with UNESCO World Heritage Sites and resembling a sublime pearl hanging just south of the Indian Subcontinent, Sri Lanka’s attractions include ancient cultures, enchanting natural parks, welcoming people and must-see wildlife.

The Grand World Voyage opens the door to incredible experiences, like a visit to an elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka.

A visit to an elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka tops the bucket list of many travelers.

The overwhelming abundance of rich culture continues as the ship makes way to Mumbai (Bombay) in India for an overnight call, then on to Muscat, Oman, and Aqaba, Jordan, where a visit to Petra is a must.

The calls in Oman and India feature some of the most impressive monuments in the world.

The calls in Oman and India feature some of the most impressive monuments in the world.

Following a transit of the Suez Canal, Amsterdam guests are treated to nine calls in Greece, Turkey, Malta, Spain, Morocco and Portugal, including an overnight at Barcelona.

Guests then enjoy seven leisurely days at sea to take advantage of all of the amenities of the ship before ending at Fort Lauderdale. If you want to read more about a Grand World Voyage experience, take a look the World Adventures blog by Jeff Farschman, President’s Club member avid Holland America Line cruiser.

Are you interested in booking the 2017 Grand World Voyage? Tell us which ports most excite you!

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

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

Jeanne boarding.

Jeanne boarding.

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

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

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

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

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Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

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

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

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

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

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

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Jeff had a great day ashore at Rarotonga.

Jeff had a great day ashore at Rarotonga.

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Captain Mercer had a great day ashore at Papeete.

Captain Mercer had a great day ashore at Papeete.

The gorgeous colors of Papeete were captured by Captain Mercer.

The gorgeous colors of Papeete were captured by Captain Mercer.

Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

Rangiroa

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

Jan and Dick went diving at Rangiroa.

Jan and Dick went diving at Rangiroa.

The crystalline waters of Rangiroa. Photo by Jeff.

The crystalline waters of Rangiroa. Photo by Jeff.

Karen Mercer explored the island by bike.

Karen Mercer explored the island by bike.

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

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

Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

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

Jeff had a great time ashore:

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

Jeff enjoying Melbourne.

Jeff enjoying Melbourne.

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

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

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

Both Jeff and Diane rank the port of Bagan and their hot air balloon ride over the temples among their Top 10.
Both Jeff and Diane rank the port of Bagan and their hot air balloon ride over the temples among their Top 10.

During the 2015 Grand World Voyage we closely followed the epic adventures of Jeff Farschman, President’s Club member and “World Adventure” blogger, as well as Cruise Critic members John and Diane. All three had extraordinary experiences, many of them together, while circling the globe, visiting more than 25 ports in 45 countries across six continents.

At the end of the journey, both Jeff and Diane compiled their lists of their Top 10 Favorite Ports. Interestingly, they share six out of 10 top picks. Enjoy the list and see if their top 10 make it on yours as well. All of the accompanying photos were taken by Jeff.

TOP 6 PORTS SHARED BY JEFF AND DIANE

Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar … just magical! The thousands of temples and pagodas are breathtaking. It also helps if you get a chance to do a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the Valley filled with thousands of temples in the early morning mist. — Jeff

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I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many pagodas and temples in my life. All 3,000 of them seem to just sprout out of the ground in a terra cotta color, inviting the visitor to see as many as possible, which we did on our Balloons over Bagan ride. — Diane

Bali, Indonesia

Our four days at The Mulia Hotel in Bali to celebrate John’s birthday were four days of incredible indulgence … The Balinese people are warm and welcoming and the natural surroundings of the island are as lovely as the greenest tropics. — Diane

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Bali [is] a perennial favorite for me with it’s magical temples, rice terraces and beautiful people. — Jeff

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Bora Bora is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful places on the planet. The undersea world is simply amazing as well. — Jeff

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We spent a day in paradise. The water is a shade of turquoise seldom seen and a temperature that simply invites you to swim. We saw dozens of different colors of coral, more tropical fish than any aquarium, and swam with sharks and manta rays. Even the nasty sunburn on my back (from snorkeling) didn’t ruin my wonderful day. — Diane

Inle Lake, Myanmar

Inle Lake, with the one legged rowers … Another place that just captures the imagination with the scenic beauty and wonderful people. — Jeff

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I’ve never spent time in an area where the only transportation is by longboat and where fisherman pole their boats through the shallow water by wrapping one leg around the pole so that both their arms can be used for the nets. Hotels are built on stilts and getting to the local market means that you must first listen to boat motors beginning at about 3:00 in the morning and then take your own longboat to a market where we were the only westerners for the first couple of hours. — Diane

Petra, Jordan

Carved out of solid rock, the high-walled walkways and colorful buildings draw thousands of people each day. You can get into the heart of Petra by taking a carriage or a mule along the mile-long entry canyon, but walking showed us all the small and large details and led us quite gradually to the first “A-Ha” moment when you see The Treasury. — Diane

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Petra, the Rose City and Wadi Rum…. You cannot visit the city of Petra or the desert of Wadi Rum and not come away in awe, simply amazing! — Jeff

Varanasi, India

Above all the unique places we visited, this one wins the prize for “unlike anything I’ve ever seen or thought about.” When I was in junior high or high school, I saw a photo of Varanasi in a textbook and thought, “that place really can’t be that unusual.” Boy, was I wrong. I have all kinds of feelings about Varanasi: fascination, repugnance, amazement, sympathy, etc. More than any place I’ve ever visited, it’s the one that amazed me the most, educated me the most, and the one I’m not sure I would return to. That sounds contradictory, but it’s all true. Every first world citizen should visit Varanasi. — Diane

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Varanasi, India … An obvious choice for me personally, I have previously visited here and find it one of the most amazing places to visit. The oldest living city in India is very spiritual, colorful and chaotic. I love it! — Jeff

JEFF’S REMAINING TOP 4 PORTS:

Monasteries of Meteora in Greece

Next, is a place I have visited three times and each time I find it magnificent, the Monasteries of Meteora in Greece. I was on an overland provided by Holland America Line and it was a fabulous stop.

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Delphi, Greece

On the same overland trip in Greece we visited Delphi, another site of magnificence….. I never tire of visiting this World Heritage site.

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Amalfi Coast

My next selection comes in Europe, a visit to Naples isn’t quite complete without a visit to the Amalfi coast. Such magnificent beauty!

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Rome and the Vatican

Another obvious choice for me was Rome and the Vatican. The centuries of history and the magnificence of the architecture are worth visiting.

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DIANE’S REMAINING TOP 4 PORTS:

Jerusalem, Israel

Whether you’re a Christian, Jew or Muslim, Jerusalem is a must-see place. I have attended Sunday School and/or church my whole life, and to see these sites was almost an out-of-body experience. I’m a bit cynical about whether the “approved locations” are really where things took place, but some places, like The Garden of Gethsemane, are exactly where the gospels say it is.

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Mumbai, India

We’ve been to Mumbai several times, and every time is different and just plain fascinating. When I was in my 20’s, the concept of India made me very uncomfortable; the people were too poor and there were too many of them. Now that I’m (a lot) older, I just love every visit to every port in India, especially this one. It’s a delight for the senses – all of them. I can’t recommend it enough.

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The Sea of Galilee

Our second day in Israel was centered on sites around the Sea of Galilee, including the village where Peter lived, the Jordan River, and a small fishing village that probably looked like what it did 2,000 years ago. This is another area I’d like to spend time when we return to Israel next year.

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Champagne Under the Stars in Sydney, Australia

What could be better than sitting on the top deck of our beautiful ship with the Sydney Opera House on one side and the Sydney Harbour Bridge on the other. We had white linens and sparkling silver and enjoyed Veuve Cliquot Champagne while listening to Debby Bacon play the piano under the stars. It was an amazing experience.

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Have you been to any of these places? Do they rank among your top 10 as well? If you would like to go to these amazing ports, check out the 2016 Grand World Voyage!

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

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

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

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

TRANSITING THE SUEZ CANAL

Photo by Captain Mercer.

Photo by Captain Mercer.

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

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

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

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Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

ASHDOD, ISRAEL:

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

Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

HAIFA, ISRAEL:

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

Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

GRAND WORLD VOYAGE DINNER: AN EVENING AT EPHESUS

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

Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

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

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

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

PIRAEUS, GREECE:

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

MercerfamilyCollage

CIVITAVECCHIA (ROME), ITALY:

Photo by Jeff.

Photo by Jeff.

Photo by Jeff.

Photo by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

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

Photos by Karen.

Photos by Karen.

CARTAGENA, SPAIN:

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

Photo by Jeff.

Photo by Jeff.

MALAGA, SPAIN

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

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

The Frinks visiting their favorite places in Nerja.

The Frinks visiting their favorite places in Nerja.

PONTA DELGADA, PORTUGAL:

Photo by Jeff.

Photo by Jeff.

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

Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

Photo by Jeff.

Photo by Jeff.

SO LONG, FAREWELL:

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

Farewell from Jeff and his friends.

Farewell from Jeff and his friends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sights of Bali from Jeff Farschman.

Sights of Bali from Jeff Farschman.

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

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

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

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

SEMARANG, JAVA:

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

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

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

Scenes around Borobudur by Jeff.

Scenes around Borobudur by Jeff.

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

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

SINGAPORE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Captain Mercer captured the light show in the harbor.

Captain Mercer captured the light show in the harbor.

SINGAPORE DAY 2:

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

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

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

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

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

The Frinks passed by Raffles and stopped at Chinatown.

The Frinks passed by Raffles and stopped at Chinatown.

Cruise Critic posters John and Diane visited Sentosa Island:

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

PORT KLANG (KUALA LUMPUR), MALAYSIA:

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

Beneath the Petronas Towers by Jeff.

Beneath the Petronas Towers by Jeff.

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

The impressive Batu Caves by Jeff.

The impressive Batu Caves by Jeff.

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

The Royal Palace, photographed by Jeff.

The Royal Palace, photographed by Jeff.

RANGOON, MYANMAR:

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

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

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

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

Captain Mercer also had time ashore to enjoy the sites.

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

Photos at the Shwegadon Pagoda by Captain Mercer.

Photos at the Shwedagon Pagoda by Captain Mercer.

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

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

The incredible view of the temples, by Jeff.

The incredible view of the temples, by Jeff.

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

Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

Photos by Jeff.

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

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

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

PapeeteCollage

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.

BOraBoraCollage

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?

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