The season of giving brings many opportunities to help others in need.
A cruise to Europe can be the ideal family vacation. There is something for everyone, from history and culture to sun and fun. And every Holland America Line ship is welcoming to guests of all ages. In fact, the Club HAL program is set up to entertain kids from three through teen. Guest Joost van Driessen took another cruise to Europe on Noordam with his wife and two daughters, Kim and Rhodé. From onboard to ashore, see how Joost enjoyed his 11-day Mediterranean Explorer cruise from Barcelona, Spain, to Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy.
Shortly after noon we boarded Noordam. It was like coming home. We remembered our boarding two years ago. Then, we had to explore the ship to get to know all the restaurants, bars, lounges, etc. No need this time, everything felt familiar again.
Every day and every evening there is an array of activities for all tastes. Some guests choose to participate in team trivia or Culinary Arts Center cooking demonstrations, while others take advantage of the complimentary Dancing with the Stars: at Sea dance classes or the Digital Workshops powered by Windows classes.
Rhodé has discovered Techspert Time. Techspert Krista teaches computer courses, but from time to time the classroom is open to work on your own projects. We use this for backing up our memory cards on an USB stick, just to reduce the chances of losing our photo’s. Rhodé uses the brand new Windows 8 computers to play games like cut-the-rope.
Every evening the ships transform from a relaxed day-time atmosphere to a dazzling evening environment. Lounges bustle with dancing and music, while the main show lounge features Vegas-style performances. Joost and his family took full advantage of the offerings around the ship, from dancing to karaoke.
When it was time to go to the karaoke, we saw Kim and her friends at the Queens Lounge. Rhodé had enlisted to perform ‘Rolling in the Deep’ from Adele. Quite some courage for a 9-year-old whose native language is Dutch. Kim and her friends Nica and Rachel joined in and together they rocked. Afterwards Kim, Nica and Rachel sang ‘Move like Jagger’ and Rhodé helped them with that song. Really great to see the kids have fun.
That evening we danced in the Ocean Bar to the tunes of the HAL Cats. Nice music, very danceable. After dancing we checked out the Piano Bar. The pianoman was Stryker. Wow, that man can play … and he sang really great. He is there every night, so we will definitely return to the Piano Bar later on in the cruise.
The girls took advantage of the Club HAL program. Children ages 3-7 can participate in such activities as pirate treasure hunts, hands-on pizza making, storytelling, “Little Artists” crafts, ice cream sundae parties and a farewell pajama party. Tweens ages 8-12, like Rhodé, take part in Xbox and Wii tournaments, relay races, scavenger hunts, karaoke disco parties and participate in the award-winning National Park Service Jr. Ranger Program in Alaska on Alaska cruises. Teens ages 13-17, like Kim, enjoy mocktail mixology classes, late night sporting competitions, teen yoga and hip hop classes, guys verses girls scavenger hunts, cooking demos, tech classes and teen only night club events. At the beginning of the cruise, during the overnight at Barcelona, Kim and Rhodé took a look at the program.
After dinner the kids went up to Club HAL. Both the Tweens and The Loft had a welcome party to get to know the other kids. Because we have an overnight in Barcelona, a lot of guests will still be ashore. But they did meet other kids and made friends.
Experiencing the many offerings onboard is an adventure, but going ashore in the different ports opens up a whole new world. While many guests opt to take a shore excursion organized by the ship, some guests go explore on their own.
We left the ship at 10 am in Palma de Mallorca. We decided to take the hop-on-hop-off bus. Usually we are more into public buses or taxis and we avoid the double-decker bus. This time the hop-on-hop-off bus had some advantages. It was the only public bus that went up to Castell de Bellver. Since we didn’t know if there were taxi’s available at the Castell, the bus was a good alternative.
Here are more of Joost’s beautiful snapshots from ports along the way.
To read more about Joost’s travels, visit his blog: http://cruisemed.blogspot.nl
Now guests can groove on to the soulful sounds of B.B. King on four more Holland America Line ships. Due to the exceptional popularity of the first B.B. King’s Blues Club on ms Eurodam, the experience will expand to five ships in 2014. The concept that debuted in March 2013 will become an integral part of the nightly entertainment experience on Eurodam, ms Noordam, ms Nieuw Amsterdam, ms Westerdam and ms Zuiderdam.
In addition, “Live from B.B. King’s” headlines one night on the ship’s main stage in the Show Lounge.
Enthralling guests with its musicianship and quality, the B.B. King’s Blues Club band will return to Eurodam for an open-ended run starting on March 23, 2014, following their current run through Dec. 8, 2013. The Club will be onboard Westerdam now through April 5, 2014, and Zuiderdam now through March 17. Noordam and Nieuw Amsterdam begin open-ended runs of B.B. King’s Blues Clubs, with launch dates of Dec. 16 and April 6, respectively.
This video shows the band in action. It’s hard not to dance in your chair, isn’t it?
Journalist Doug Parker of CruiseRadio recently sailed on Eurodam and wrote about his B.B. King’s Blues Club experience:
One not to miss event on the Eurodam is the B.B. King’s Blues Club. Based on the legendary blues singer B.B. King, the club takes place for about 2.5-hours in the Queens Lounge aboard the ship and is rocking non-stop. You’ll will hear music across the board, so it’s not all just rhythm and blues. They did a cover of Purple Rain and they rocked the house. It’s really interactive too because guests are up dancing and having a good time.
The music and excitement that comes direct from Beale Street in Memphis, Tenn., thrills guests five nights a week when world-class musicians from the B.B. King Blues Club Band create a dynamic sound to get the crowd energized. The eight-piece band features two vocalists backed by a drummer, bassist, guitarist, sax player, trumpeter and organist.
Each ships’ Queen’s Lounge will be trimmed with portraits of the Memphis Blues legend, illuminating the prominence of Memphis blues and its influence on everyone from Sam & Dave and Otis Redding to The Rolling Stones and Neil Diamond. A special stage will be crafted to resemble a Memphis nightclub with hanging guitars as a backdrop. Exclusive specialty cocktails from the land-based clubs also will be served, featuring the tasty, rum-based Lucille and Rock Me Baby concoctions mixed with different fruit liqueurs and juices.
Journalists Jim and Barbara Fox also sailed on Eurodam and wrote about the B.B. King’s Blues Club on their blog, Out to Sea:
“The club’s All Star Band had showgoers at two performances in the Mainstage theatre on their feet, grooving with the Memphis sounds by such artists as B.B., Sam and Dave and Otis Redding … Band leader Primo even has a legendary Hammond B-3 organ heard so often in the blues classics while Tony, who along with vocals, recreates the guitar playing of the late Jimi Hendrix.”
If you haven’t gotten enough, here’s a longer jam session in Eurodam’s B.B. King’s Blues Club:
Created and named after the reigning king of the blues and recording artist for more than four decades, the land-based B.B. King’s Blues Club is a supper club–style restaurant. B.B. King’s offers a perfect blend of some of the finest live music and a variety of the South’s most delicious comfort foods influenced by flavors from New Orleans all the way to the Mississippi Delta. For more information or to make a reservation, please visit www.bbkingclubs.com.
Napoleon lived here and Christopher Columbus was born here. Mind you, there were a few centuries between these two events but I was impressed. Corsica is one of the largest islands in the Mediterranean and now belongs to France. Calvi is a very picturesque town on the coast and provided a lovely day ashore.
The old town is to the right of where we landed and looks quite imposing with its fortress and walls high above the coast. The area is still residential although the fortress is not open to the public since the military offices are in there. There are churches, cafes and shops dotting the streets but the main souvenir places are down at sea level in the new town. You can do a self guided audio tour for 4 euros and it is certainly worth it. Two hours later I found myself finally leaving the old town and heading down to the beach area.
The waterfront cafes were beautiful and the shopping streets provided a grand variety of options. The beach stretched out for a very long way and looked very inviting. Next time there, I’m thinking that a towel and book will accompany me off the ship so I can take advantage of a last Mediterranean dip in the sea.
Iraklion (Crete), Greece:
Crete is the largest Greek island and has a steady stream of tourists arriving all season via cruise ships and chartered planes. I decided to get out of town and see some of the island with a tour to Lassithi Plateau and the Kera Monastery. The island is quite mountainous, like much of Greece, and agriculture consists of olives and grapes plus fruit trees for the most part. We had a most delightful lunch of Cretan specialties and wine in a small village. Windmills are still operating and are historic from the days of the Venetians. The village provided some photos of the locals which are always fun.
The Kera Monastery is perched in the hills and has a very small church covered in murals and icons. Photos are not allowed and policed thoroughly by a local lady. A few of the guests had to be reminded by her about not taking photos. There are other lovely pieces from the past that you could photograph in a separate building which satisfied most people with cameras. It’s always nice to see the geography of the places we visit as well as visit the smaller towns and villages to get a real flavor the place.
One one cruise we had a change in itinerary and got to call at Bodrum, Turkey, as one of the new ports. Amazing town, we should do this one more often!
Holland America Line’s ships might be leaving Europe for the season, but if a cruise vacation to Italy, Spain, France, Greece, Turkey, the Baltic or northern Europe is on your mind for next year, it’s never too early to begin planning for summer 2014. And with several homeports to depart from, there’s an exciting adventure waiting with your name on it.
One of Holland America Line’s most beautiful and iconic homeports is Venice, Italy. Next year ms Noordam, ms Amsterdam, ms Ryndam and ms Nieuw Amsterdam all offer cruises from Venice, ranging in length from seven to 24 days.
Future Cruise Consultant Joanne recently visited Venice again, and in addition to a couple of fabulous photos she had some wise words to say about traveling to places she’s already visited before.
Where I always thought I want new ports, places I haven’t visited, I’ve decided that I actually like repeating ports. There is opportunity to do different things on each visit, thus really accumulating more in depth knowledge of the area. You discover what your favorite restaurant is, the supermarket location, fastest WiFi and how to negotiate the local transportation and even a little bit of the language.
I just finished reading The Inferno by Dan Brown and it’s set in Florence, Venice and Istanbul. As I was listening to the book, I was able to visualize all the places he mentioned in both cities because I have been there often and taken in all the sights right down to the cistern in Istanbul. I know exactly where Medusa’s head is located. It was so vivid in my mind, I found myself smiling and nodding.
I think what I want to get across is that when you are choosing a vacation, don’t write some place off just because you spent one day there on a cruise. Revisit and see something different this time or if you feel like you have seen what you need to see, then act like a local and sit in a cafe, talk to the locals and just enjoy the flavor of the place.
Mariners Jan and Dick Yetke recently cruised on ms Eurodam out of homeport Rotterdam, the Netherlands. As the birthplace of the company, Holland America Line’s roots are spread widely across this vibrant city. In 2014, ms Rotterdam will sail a European season of exciting voyages, with round-trip cruises up to 29 days.
Having cruised on Holland America Line so much, we have always heard a lot about the city of Rotterdam since it was where the cruise line started. So, we wanted to see the original Holland America Line building and the ship ss Rotterdam which is now permanently docked there and used as a hotel, conference center, etc.
We found the original building. It is at the end of a dock area and is where many ships left from a long time ago. Now there is a beautiful new cruise terminal nearby and the original building, which still says Holland America Line on top, is used as a hotel, the Hotel New York. It is really neat inside also — it has a cruise ship interior decor for the restaurant, lobby, etc.
We walked around there and then headed over to see the ss Rotterdam. She is looking beautiful!!! We parked and walked onboard the ship to see what it looked like back then. It was really fun to see!!! — Jan Yetke
Another homeport favorite is Barcelona, Spain. It is a growing cruise hub in the Mediterranean, and in 2014 several Holland America Line ships will spend 32 days there, including 14 overnights.
Recently it was announced that the Port of Barcelona will be ready to welcome visitors with a new look in 2016. The officers and staff of ms Noordam hosted a luncheon there last month for executives from Carnival Corporation & plc, executives from other Carnival Corporation brands, high-ranking Spanish politicians and dignitaries, local port officials and members of the media to celebrate Carnival Corp.’s announcement that it will build a new cruise terminal at the Port of Barcelona.
That announcement came during an earlier meeting at the Palau de la Generalitat, the seat of Catalonia’s regional government. The new terminal – Terminal E – will cover an area of approximately 10,000 square meters and will be able to accommodate Post-Panamax cruise ships in turnaround operations.
What is your favorite European homeport?
Holland America Line ships are making their way to the Caribbean. To celebrate this return, we asked Facebook fans to share their favorite photos from this beautiful and tropical island region. It looks like guest Tom took a diving tour in Bonaire, while fan J.R. went on the Whale and Dolphin Safari tour at Dominica. Don’t these photos make you want to sink your toes into the sand and spend the day lounging under the warm sun while sipping a cool cocktail? Thanks to all of the fans who shared their memories.
On a recent Noordam cruise, Chef Kelly English entertained guests in the Culinary Arts Center with cooking demonstrations of three of his signature dishes: Harissa “Café Au Lait,” Grilled Peach Crème Brûlée and Spicy and Sweet Peach “Situation.” The recipes are below so you can make them at home.
If you like to cook like a chef or simply enjoy watching these professionals at work, there’s still time this year to sail with a culinary expert. Several of the Caribbean itineraries this winter will feature an exceptional guests chef who will demonstrate their knowledge as part of the Culinary Arts Center program. Here are the chefs scheduled to appear, but if you’d like view the entire schedule online visit the Holland America Line website.
Giuliano Hazan will be on Zuiderdam Oct. 18 for a 10-day Panama Canal Sunfarer cruise. Hazan is an author, teacher, entrepreneur, and one of the foremost authorities on Italian cooking. He is author of the 1993 international bestseller The Classic Pasta Cookbook and received the Cooking Teacher of the Year Award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals in 2007.
Colby and Megan Garrelts, executive chef and pastry chef at bluestem in Kansas City, Mo., will be on Eurodam’s Oct. 27 seven-day western Caribbean cruise. Megan Schultz graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1998, then was hired at TRU in Chicago, where she met her future husband, Colby Garrelts, a 2005 Food & Wine Top New Chef. In 2003 they opened bluestem, which showcases Colby’s progressive American cuisine and Megan’s new American desserts. The “Wall Street Journal” called it “the most sophisticated place to eat between Chicago and Aspen.”