Tag Archives: Shore Excursions

Shore excursion @halcruises in Pisa. The famous leaning tower. The guided tour in the cathedral was great! - Lisanne @atg_nl
Shore excursion @halcruises in Pisa. The famous leaning tower. The guided tour in the cathedral was great! - Lisanne @atg_nl

Holland America Line’s Jocelyn Wu, special events coordinator – public relations, just disembarked ms Noordam with a group of journalists. She and many of the writers chronicled their cruise through the Mediterranean on Facebook and Twitter through fabulous photos and fun captions.

Journalist Gail Jennsen was onboard writing a story for Avid Cruiser and she’s tweeting photos of her adventure at @fourthirtyam. Anita Dunham Potter sailed to cover the Noordam cruise for her website, Expert Cruiser. She’s tweeting with @ExpertCruiser. Photos and tweets from Dutch journalist Lisanne Kerstens, who is writing for Around the Globe, can be found at @atg_nl.

Come along on their amazing photo journey and witness the culture, charm and beauty found on a cruise through the Mediterranean.

First stop, Rome, Italy. The ship departs from the port of Civitavecchia, and arriving a few days early enables plenty of time to see all that Rome to offer.

The Pantheon.

Jocelyn admires Rome’s Pantheon.

Welcome aboard!

Welcome @halcruises MS Noordam! #Hollandamerica - Lisanne

Welcome @halcruises MS Noordam! #Hollandamerica – Lisanne

At Naples, Italy, the sun rose over Mt. Vesuvius, and Anita captured the moment beautifully.

Good Morning from @HALcruises #Noordam in Naples it's a lovely day and check out Mt Vesuvius! - Anita

Good Morning from @HALcruises #Noordam in Naples it’s a lovely day and check out Mt Vesuvius! – Anita

The group took a tour that visited the Ruins of Pompeii, perfectly preserved since the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79.

The ruins of Pompeii. Shore excursion with @HALcruises. Beautiful preserved archeological site. - Lisanne

The ruins of Pompeii. Shore excursion with @HALcruises. Beautiful preserved archeological site. – Lisanne

From Naples, the group took a shore excursion that visited the stunning isle of Capri.

Taking the ride up from Anacapri. A great souvenir from Capri is their famous sandal. - Anita

Taking the ride up from Anacapri. A great souvenir from Capri is their famous sandal. – Anita

The next call was at Palermo, Sicily, and some of the group learned how to prepare an authentic Sicilian dish on the A Taste of Sicily: A Cooking Lesson tour.

Sicilian cooking lesson at agritourismo farm Antica Masseria from Baroness Di Salvo. - Anita

Sicilian cooking lesson at agritourismo farm Antica Masseria from Baroness Di Salvo. – Anita

Lisanne took a different tour and visited the Teatro Politeama.

Nice shore excursion @HALcruises in Palermo today. This is Teatro Politeama at the main square. - Lisanne

Nice shore excursion @HALcruises in Palermo today. This is Teatro Politeama at the main square. – Lisanne

Another incredible stop on the cruise was a call at Livorno. From here, guests can take the “Tuscan Landmarks: Florence & Pisa” tour and visit two incredible places. In Florence, a half-day walking tour includes many of the city’s masterpieces. At Pisa, the group explored the Piazza dei Miracoli — site of the Leaning Tower, the cathedral and the baptistery.

After visiting Pisa, top left, Jocelyn went to Florence and went to the Piazza del Duomo.

Before visiting Pisa, top left, Jocelyn went to Florence and explored the Piazza del Duomo.

The ship continued to make its way through the Med with a call at Calvi, Corsica, where Anita captured a gorgeous sunrise and Gail discovered that it’s one of her favorite ports.

Calvi, Corsica, was a favorite call on the cruise. Anita shared this stunning photo on Twitter. @ExpertCruiser

Anita shared this stunning photo on Twitter. @ExpertCruiser

I've fallen deeply in love w Calvi, Corsica. I've only traveled in northern France and I must say, I've missed out. - Gail

I’ve fallen deeply in love with Calvi, Corsica. I’ve only traveled in northern France and I must say, I’ve missed out. – Gail

At Monte Carlo, Gail made her way to out of the city on a tour to Nice and Eze.

Day 8: Nice & Eze introdcued me to Cote D'Azur, Provence, French Riviera. I'm hooked. - Gail

Day 8: Nice & Eze introdcued me to Cote D’Azur, Provence, French Riviera. I’m hooked. – Gail

Anita admired the yachts in the harbor and went to the palace to see the changing of the guard.

Changing of the guard at Monaco palace no Prince or princess sightings. - Anita

Changing of the guard at Monaco palace. No prince or princess sightings. – Anita

Marseille, France, was the next port of call, and Gail and Lisanne enjoyed shopping in the markets and seeing the beautiful architecture. Gail called the region:

“A storybook dreamscape.”

Soap made from honey. Soap made from olive oil. Soap made from lavender. Check. Check. Check. - Gail

Soap made from honey. Soap made from olive oil. Soap made from lavender. Check. Check. Check. – Gail

Marseille was charming and thoroughly enjoyed by Gail.

Marseille was charming and thoroughly enjoyed by Gail.

Lisanne tweeted these photos of Marseille on @atg_nl.

Lisanne tweeted these photos of Marseille at @atg_nl.

Barcelona, Spain, was the last call of the cruise and the port of disembarkation. Barcelona is another city where a spending a few days after (or before) a cruise would provide time to explore all that the city has to offer, and perhaps attend a futbol game!

Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia is a "must see" when visiting Barcelona. Three shots from left: Jocelyn, Gail and Lisanne. Gail wrote on Twitter ... #bucketlist!

Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia is a “must see” when visiting Barcelona. Three perspectives, from left: Jocelyn, Gail and Lisanne. Gail wrote on Twitter … #bucketlist!

The group went to a Futbol game - one of the most popular activities in the city.

The group went to a Futbol game – one of the most popular activities in the city.

While making their way through the Mediterranean, the group also took every opportunity to indulge in local cuisine!

Jocelyn, bottom left, enjoyed the variety of local culinary indulgences around the Med.

Jocelyn, bottom left, enjoyed the variety of local culinary indulgences around the Med.

And sweet treats are a must on any cruise to Italy!

"Yum, gelato!" said Anita.

“Yum, gelato!” said Anita.

To read upcoming stories about their cruise, check their websites. Anita can be found at www.expertcruiser.com; Gail is writing for www.avidcruiser.com; and Lisanne’s story will be at www.aroundtheglobe.nl.

When you travel, do you take time to post photos to social media, or do you prefer to wait until you get home to show your friends and family where you’ve been?

Be sure to follow Holland America Line on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see even more fabulous photos that show the true cruise experience.

From left: Half Moon Cay Property Manager Tony Black; Vice President, Caribbean Relations Matt Sams; Holland America Group CEO Stein Kruse and Resort Coordinator Carlos Forbes.
From left: Half Moon Cay Property Manager Tony Black; Vice President, Caribbean Relations Matt Sams; Holland America Group CEO Stein Kruse and Resort Coordinator Carlos Forbes.

Holland America Line’s top-rated port in the Caribbean is Half Moon Cay, the company’s own private island oasis. Nestled in the Bahamas, Half Moon Cay is known for its pristine beaches, diverse shore excursions, exclusive beach cabanas and kid-friendly activities.

Today ms Zuiderdam makes the first Holland America Line call of the season, and guests will be excited to see that some enhancements have been made to the island. During the off-season, Holland America Line was busy at work giving the area a little face-lift, adding new amenities and making it more welcoming, pristine and relaxing than ever before.

Zuiderdam, anchored in the stunning turquoise waters off Half Moon Cay, kicks off the season today.

Zuiderdam, anchored in the stunning turquoise waters off Half Moon Cay, kicks off the season today.

Matt Sams, Holland America Line’s vice president Caribbean relations, says that guests have a lot to look forward to when they visit this season:

Q: What’s new for guests at Half Moon Cay this season?

Matt: We have added a tram tour and a new snorkel tour. Additional capacity has been added to the three island tenders. This has resulted in smoother and faster tender operations.

What else has been done to Half Moon Cay? At the Welcome Center, the garden was replanted, 40 new conch shells were added to the fountain and a music system was added so guests can enjoy the rhythm and sounds of the Caribbean as they arrive at the island.

The beach cabanas and beach villas were also part of the upgrades. Both received new “welcome” signature to the outside facade, and the two-story villas will feature new refrigerators and seat cushions. The cushions in the 15 beach cabanas were freshened we well. Guests can book their day in a private cabana or villa through the shore excursion area.

This was our second time stopping at Half Moon Cay with HAL as well as our second time booking a cabana. The cabana is a great home base, great snacks and snorkel and water toys. — Guest MarkFD

The cabanas, left, come in a rainbow hue of colors, and the two-story villas are an oasis on the beach.

The cabanas, left, come in a rainbow hue of colors, and the two-story villas are an oasis on the beach.

Loved the beach villa!!!! I have been known to frequent the cabanas, but … I will choose the beach villas from now on. My family had the best time. If you have more than three people … this is the way to go. — Guest Racergirl24

Sams was asked about the cabanas and villas, and here’s what he had to say:

Q: What are the perks of reserving a cabana for the day?

Matt: They are in a prime, beach-front location. They are air conditioned and have a shaded area, sun deck, misting station and refrigerator. Guests also get complimentary snorkeling equipment, floating mats, and reserved lounge and dining chairs. Optional butler packages for food and beverage service is available.

Q: The cabanas and beach villas are a special experience – what might guests not realize is included?

Matt: The beach villas and the Grand Cabana all have a private restroom and changing facilities. They also have indoor and outdoor showers, wet bars, refrigerators, dining tables, hot tubes, large outdoor sun decks, lots of shaded air conditioned areas, great ocean front views and island décor that enhances the mood of being in the Caribbean.

The refurbishments go beyond the cabanas and villas. Guests will notice new furniture at the Mermaid Bar, Captain Morgan on the Rocks Bar and the “I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever” bar.

Guests can relax on new furniture and enjoy a cocktail at the bars on Half Moon Cay.

Guests can relax on new furniture and enjoy a cocktail at the bars on Half Moon Cay.

While waiting for a tender, guests will be shaded by a new tent, and guests waiting for a tram can rest in comfort in a new tram station waiting area. Bathrooms located in the Welcome Center, Dune Path and Food Pavilion also were refurbished.

Sun-worshippers will appreciate new chaise lounges, more clam shells and 75 new floating mats.

All of the roads were repaved, making for a smoother ride, and bicycle stands were installed at all designated bicycle roadside shore excursion stops. Guests on the Eco-Bike & Hike tour will notice the new stands.

For the ocean-going tours and rentals, guests can enjoy the new paddleboards, that were featured in a recent blog post, as well as new water bikes, new kayaks and new Sea Doo jet skis.

New water-going equipment was added to Half Moon Cay, including the stand-up paddleboards and water bikes.

New water-going equipment was added to Half Moon Cay, including the stand-up paddleboards and water bikes.

Stingray Park is a main attraction at Half Moon Cay, and on the Stingray Adventure shore excursion guests can swim and interact with these wonderful creatures.

Feeding the stingrays was an absolutely wonderful experience! I was a little hesitant at first because I’m not fond of the water so I was happy to see that there was a deck for me to stand on to watch everyone else if I didn’t go in the water. Happily, I did go in because the water was shallow enough for me to stand up in (I’m very short) and it wasn’t icy cold even though it was early April. You don’t need to snorkel because the water is so clear you can just look down and see everything perfectly. We got to pet the rays as well as feed them. One of them took a liking to me and she kept rubbing against me just like a cat. The young man guiding us explained so much and answered all our questions. He truly loves his water babies! — Guest LizCruise

Stingray

Guests visiting the stingray area or taking a tour will notice that there is fresh paint, new carpet and landscaping. Additional marine life also has been procured, the sand was replenished and a new walking trail on the ridge from Stingray Park to Water Sports Rental Center #3 was added.

Sams was asked a few more question to get an insider’s perspective on Half Moon Cay, and his answers were fun and informative:

Q: Why do you think Half Moon Cay consistently gets rated the #1 Caribbean port by Holland America Line guests?

Matt: It is what guests have pictured in their mind the Caribbean should look like. The experience ashore matches their high expectations as well. And, we have the best staff in the industry.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on Half Moon Cay?

Matt: Walk on the beach at the water’s edge.

Q: Swimming with the stingrays, glass-bottom boat or riding a horse through the surf?

Matt: For me, horses for sure!

The horseback riding tour is a highlight for Sams.

The horseback riding tour is a highlight for Sams.

Q: What’s the most fun thing to do at Half Moon Lagoon?

Matt: View the reef ball trail that is in shallow water and is perfect for the novice swimmer or snorkeler.

And finally…

Q: If you could stay on Half Moon Cay for a week, what three things would you need with you?

Matt: A fishing pole, matches and a good book.

Have you visited Half Moon Cay? What’s your favorite thing to do there, and what refurbishments are you most looking forward to seeing? Tell us below!

If you’re taking a Caribbean cruise that visits Half Moon Cay, the shore excursions, including beach cabanas and villas, can be pre-booked so you get the tour and retreat of your choice.

The stunning views of the South Pacific are romantic in themselves. Enjoy some romance of your own with one of these great tours.
The stunning views of the South Pacific are romantic in themselves. Enjoy some romance of your own with one of these great tours.

The South Pacific is one of the world’s most stunning destinations, and guests can enjoy a variety of its famous gems on a Holland America Line cruise. When you bring your love to the South Pacific, you’ll quickly see why it’s a favorite among honeymooners and romantics.

From an overnight stay at an overwater bungalow to picking out a popular anniversary gift, here are the top five shore excursions to celebrate your honeymoon beyond your cruise, help you enhance the honeymoon you never had, relive the one you did or just enjoy life in this stunning slice of paradise.

1. Stay Overwater Overnight
Bora Bora’s ancestral name means “created by the gods,” and a stay at the French Polynesian island’s stunning Pearl Resort on an overnight call will quickly show you how that name came to be! These famous overwater bungalows feature luxurious accommodations in an idyllic setting surrounded by amazing crystal waters. Spend the day taking advantage of the resorts’ amenities including the pool, beach and non-motorized water toys and finish your night with a romantic dinner. The following morning a canoe breakfast will be served and you’ll be able to enjoy the morning and early afternoon at leisure before returning to the ship.

Enjoy a swim with the locals from your bungalow at Bora Bora.

Enjoy a swim with the locals from your bungalow at Bora Bora.

The Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa tour provides the perfect place to spend the night between calls at Papeete and Moorea, French Polynesia. The resort is set against a stunning mountain backdrop and surrounded by a beautiful clear lagoon. The bungalows feature a contemporary Polynesian design and the waters have tropical fish of all types and colors. You will be able to enjoy your day at Papeete before heading to Moorea, just a short 30-minute ferry ride away. You will be welcomed by the a cocktail and enjoy the hotel’s facilities including the pool and beach until the following day. All meals are included.

Photo credit: Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa

Photo credit: Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa

2. Pick A Pearl, Any Pearl
Traditionally, pearls are the proper gift for 30th anniversaries, but all women love and enjoy them any time. This perfect, romantic gift awaits you at Anapa Pearl Farm in Raiatea, French Polynesia, where guests can enjoy a fascinating look at one of nature’s most unique and beautiful gifts: the black pearl. On this tour, a short drive will bring you to a pier to board your boat to Raiatea’s reef. The pearl station is built over a lagoon, surrounded by waves crashing against the reef and spectacular scenery. Your guide will share all the secrets of the black pearl with you and you will learn how the oysters are seeded and the pearls are extracted. You will also have the opportunity to snorkel Raiatea’s stunning reef, featuring a coral garden filled with a large variety of tropical fish and get an underwater view of the rare pearl oysters in their underwater slumber.

The Anapa Pearl Farm is the perfect place to learn about black pearls and enjoy some snorkeling in the South Pacific.

The Anapa Pearl Farm is the perfect place to learn about black pearls and enjoy some snorkeling in the South Pacific.

Past guest Stargazer gave this tour five stars on the Holland America Line website.

I loved this excursion. The water was clear and beautiful and the pearls are beautiful. We rode to the pearl farm in a boat and went snorkeling … The shop was beautiful and the demonstration was interesting and fun. If you enjoy pearls, snorkeling and something different, you will enjoy this. It is very limited with only 16 people for each excursion, so book before you go.

The Pearl Farm at Rangiroa, French Polynesia, also gives guests the opportunity to learn about the mysterious black pearl. Transfer from the pier by bus along Rangiroa’s main road. Once you arrive at the farm, the staff will provide an introduction to pearl farming, explaining how black pearls are produced. You’ll learn how the oysters are selected, grown and grafted. The guide will show you the criteria used for grading pearls for quality so if you’re interested, you’ll be able to pick out the perfect one for yourself!

3. Make a Date
Enjoy spending the day together at Noumea with the Scenic Drive and Cheese & Wine Tasting at New Caledonia’s capital. You will walk around Le Meridien Resort, an exclusive five-star hotel on the northern tip of Anse Vata Beach, and enjoy the sights of the local market, Port Moselle Marina and many landmarks along the way. The Mount Ouen Toro Lookout will give you a fantastic view of the world’s largest lagoon. You will then arrive at a local restaurant to taste French wines with cheeses that compliment them perfectly. You will also have the chance to do some shopping at beautiful Coconut Square.

The scenery at Noumea is stunning at all times of day and a wine and cheese date is a great way to enjoy a local restaurant.

The scenery at Noumea is stunning at all times of day and a wine and cheese date is a great way to enjoy a local restaurant.

4. Enjoy a Spa Day
You also can also enjoy some relaxation time on a cruise to the South Pacific when your ship calls at Lautoka, Fiji, with the Nature Mud Spa excursion. After a scenic drive past villages and sugarcane plantations you will arrive at the foot of the Sabeto Mountains. Here lies a collection of natural thermal mud pools. Local villagers will welcome you with fresh flower leis, music and a kava ceremony with the village chief. The Fijian people have used these pools for their therapeutic properties for generations and now it is your turn! After thermal mud is rubbed into your skin you can finish up with a dip in the hot springs, removing the mud and leaving your skin exfoliated and smooth.

5. Cruise Through Paradise
There is a reason Ile des Pins, New Caledonia, is also know as “l’île la plus proche du paradis,” or the closest island to paradise, and a lagoon cruise tour around the stunning setting is the perfect way to see it. You will board a boat at Kanumera Bay to enjoy the nearby bays and islets. You will stop at Saint Maurice Bay to see some points of interest and visit Turtle Bay, scouting the area for loggerhead and green turtles. At Brush Island you might spot sting rays, manta rays, sharks and dolphins. You’ll also step ashore here to enjoy free time, take a swim, stroll or relax. Guests can also snorkel if you have your own gear.

It's easy to see where Île des Pins or Isle of Pines gets its name.

It’s easy to see where Île des Pins or Isle of Pines gets its name.

Guest Bigtes rated the tour on the Holland America Line website and said it was an exciting and exhilarating five-star experience.

Our tour guide found a wild but friendly Loggerhead turtle and invited us to jump off the boat and swim with it. It was magic to see it’s face with such knowing eyes … The swim and free time on the beach afterwards was highlighted with a close up view of a local sea snake found by our boat driver. We had lots of photo opportunities here. The commentary throughout the tour was very interesting and given with a great sense of humour. Our best tour of the trip and I would do it again.

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

Have you cruised to the South Pacific yet? Share some shore excursion suggestions with fellow blog readers in the comments below.

Puuhonua-O-Honaunau, or "The Place of Refuge," played a very special part in the lives of ancient Hawaiians
Puuhonua-O-Honaunau, or "The Place of Refuge," played a very special part in the lives of ancient Hawaiians

Cruises to Hawaii are well known for beautiful beaches, lush vegetation and incredible volcanic topography. Lesser known, however, is the rich history and culture of the 50th state. From Hilo to Honolulu, step back in time and gain some knowledge of the area with Holland America Line’s shore excursions. These tours provide a unique glimpse of the history and culture off the Aloha State, while also showing of the stunning scenery and memorable landscapes.

According to anthropologists, Hawaii was originally established around 300-500 AD by Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands. A second wave of settlement followed during the 9th and 10th centuries from Tahiti, radically changing the islands and the culture. Chiefs and ali’i (royalty) governed the isolated islands. The culture is deeply rooted in mythology and nature. As such, the society worked to appease goddesses like Pele, the goddess of fire believed to live in the volcanoes on the Big Island.

Hawaiian history was informed by the islands' astounding natural environment and isolation.

Hawaiian history was formed by the islands’ astounding natural environment and isolation.

British navigator Captain James Cook arrived at the island of Kauai in 1778 forever changing the islands. Years later came the arrival of missionaries that affected the islands in a number of ways. As modern ships and airplanes made the world feel smaller, Hawaii became less isolated. The U.S. military established bases there, and eventually on Aug. 21, 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state.

Today Hawaii is making waves in education and research, with particular advances in astronomy, alternative energy and ocean research. While tourism is responsible for a large portion of the islands’ revenue, and outside influences have shaped modern-day Hawaii, those of Hawaiian descent work hard to preserve and share the history and culture of this paradise.

Akaka Falls is the longest unbroken waterfall in the state.

Akaka Falls.

At Hilo, experience a diverse and well-rounded view of Hawaii on Historical Hilo & Akaka Falls. The tour begins at the Lyman Museum & Mission House, a beautiful missionary home with a fabulous collection of historic Hawaiian relics. There you’ll be greeted with a lei and have the opportunity to browse the artifacts of old Hawaii. The tour then continues on to Akaka Falls, the longest unbroken waterfall in the state.

For a historic look at Kona, check out the Kona See & Sea tour. See some of Kona’s most popular attractions by land and sea. The tour begins with a sample of Hawaii’s world famous gourmet coffee at Royal Kona Coffee. With a little extra energy head to Puuhonua-O-Honaunau, or “The Place of Refuge.” This beautifully maintained National Historic Park played a very special part in the lives of ancient Hawaiians. It was a haven where absolution would be granted for law breakers and vanquished warriors if they were fortunate enough to get here ahead of their pursuers. Today, the park features attractive grounds and interesting displays of Hawaiian history. From there you will visit the Painted Church — a small roadside place of worship known for its dramatic murals. Your motor coach will return you to the pier for a lunch cruise along the Kona coastline. The 65-foot catamaran offers a virtual step back in time as the on-board historian points out Kona’s landmarks and shares legends and local history. Unwind as you travel along the coast to Captain Cook’s Monument in Kealakekua Bay — accessible only by sea. Enjoy live Hawaiian-style music and keep an eye out for your maritime neighbors — spinner dolphins and green sea turtles.

In historic Lahaina, enjoy a world-class performance of Ulalena: Maui Theatre. Staged in historic Lahaina but equipped with modern lighting, sound, and multi-media technologies, Ulalena is a unique theater experience with original music, song, authentic Polynesian dance and acrobatics choreographed by the producers of Cirque de Soleil. The show brings Hawaiian mythology and history to life in a mesmerizing display performed by a stunning international cast.

Experience the culture of Hawaii with historical shore excursions!

Ulalena, right, is a memorable performance.

“First class performance! After a short walk over flat paved terrain, we arrived at a small theatre with ample seating and good viewing areas. The multi-media production was very entertaining and included works choreographed by Cirque du Soleil. What an interesting look at Hawaiian history. — Guest BJ”

The state capital, Honolulu, also has a story to tell. A Tale of Two Palaces: Hawaii’s Royal History takes you on a journey through time as you visit the historic highlights of the 1,500-year-old Kingdom of Hawaii. You’ll even have the opportunity to view the crown jewels! Traveling into the lush Nuuanu Valley, you’ll stop at Queen Emma’s Summer Palace. Queen Emma was the wife of King Kamehameha IV. Born in 1836, she was descended from Hawaiian cheiftains and John Young, an Englishman who became a friend and advisor to King Kamehameha I. There you’ll find an eclectic mixture of Victorian and Hawaiian treasures, rare artifacts and personal memorabilia.

Queen Emma's Summer Palace contains an eclectic mix of Victorian and historic Hawaiian elements.

Queen Emma’s Summer Palace contains an eclectic mix of Victorian and historic Hawaiian elements.

Remembered as “A day that will live in infamy,” the attack on Pearl Harbor is a more recent piece of Hawaiian history. Guests visit the site to pay respects to the men and women that lost their lives, and the event that led the United States into World War II. Pearl Harbor History & Honolulu takes you to the site. First visit the Arizona Memorial, where 1,000 servicemen still lie entombed in the sunken USS Arizona. It’s an incredibly moving experience. Holland America Line team members and guests recently visited the memorial and shared the below photos. Guests echo that the experience is informative, educational, emotionally moving and altogether respectful.

A visit to Pearl Harbor is an important and moving experience. Clockwise from top left: A Holland America Line team member poses at the site of the USS Arizona; A photo of the memorial by guests Petrus and Sylvia Huijgen; A group tour listens to a history lesson and the site.

A visit to Pearl Harbor is an important and moving experience. Clockwise from top left: a Holland America Line team member poses at the site of the USS Arizona; a photo of the memorial by guests Petrus and Sylvia Huijgen; the memorial attracts more than a million visitors each year.

“During our cruise, this excursion was one of my ‘must see’ trips. The tour starts with a very well-done movie appropriate for all ages and ethnic groups. Then, the tour of the Arizona Memorial that is such a special place. This was such a moving experience, one that should be experienced by all Americans! — Guest Powhatan”

After Pearl Harbor the tour continues to metropolitan Honolulu where you’ll visit Iolani Palace, the Hawaii State Capitol, the governor’s mansion and the quaint homes of the early missionaries.

Whether you’re a history buff or just looking for an interesting view of the destination, historic tours in Hawaii are a fabulous way to get to know the islands.

Have you taken a historic or cultural tour in Hawaii? Let us know in the comments!

If you’re taking a cruise to Hawaii and want to add a shore excursion, they can be pre-booked so you get the tour of your choice.

Pre- and post-cruise tours can take you to iconic Ayers Rock, deep in the "red centre" of Australia.
Pre- and post-cruise tours can take you to iconic Ayers Rock, deep in the "red centre" of Australia.

Cruises to Australia and New Zealand are increasingly popular. The region is extraordinary in its blend of rugged terrain, unique wildlife and urban beach communities. As you cruise into Sydney Harbor you’re immediately met with iconic sights like Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. However, other major landmarks require a bit of travel inland. The world-famous Ayers Rock, for instance, is right in the middle of the island continent. To experience the best that Australia and New Zealand have to offer, take advantage of a pre- or post-cruise tour package. Holland America Line arranges all the details on these overland tours, giving you the peace of mind and time to relax and explore.

Many of our guests are traveling a long way to get to Australia, so why not take advantage of seeing the rest of the country while you’re there? The Great Barrier Reef and the Outback are must-sees. And we can make it easy for our guests to see it. We maintain the same standards on our overland tours as we do onboard, so our guests know they’re in for a fabulous adventure! — Danielle Rosenow, Holland America Line’s manager, hotel procurement and tour inventory.

These tours are available as pre- or post-cruise packages. Whether they start your vacation on the right foot or cap it off with depth and color, they are a wonderful way to enjoy some time down under!
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Featherdale Wildlife Park, The Rocks historic district, wold-famous Bondi Beach and The Sydney Opera House are some of the sights you'll see on a pre- or post-cruise package.

Featherdale Wildlife Park, The Rocks historic district, wold-famous Bondi Beach and The Sydney Opera House are some of the sights you’ll see on a pre- or post-cruise package.

AUSTRALIA PRE- AND POST-CRUISE PACKAGES

3-Night Pre- or Post-Cruise Tour: Sydney & Blue Mountains

Immerse yourself in Sydney’s cosmopolitan sights, take a walk down the historic district, “The Rocks”, then travel west to the Blue Mountains National Park, home to an abundance of rare flora and fauna.

Day 1 – Arrive in Sydney: Enjoy an afternoon city tour to the historical Rocks area and Milsons or Blues Point for splendid views of the harbor. Continue on past Kings Cross and Double Bay through Watson’s Bay and world-famous Bondi Beach. Then head back to the Wentworth Sofitel, your home base during the stay in Sydney. There you’ll find the same quality that you expect onboard.

Day 2 – Sydney: Following breakfast, set out on a guided tour of the Sydney Opera House with its distinctive sail-like roof. Learn about its history, design and current role in the world-class city. After your tour take in the sights and enjoy a luncheon cruise on Sydney Harbor. The night is free to stroll Sydney independently.

Day 3 – The Blue Mountains: Kangaroos, koalas and Tasmanian devils greet you at the Featherdale Wildlife Park! Enjoy some time with wildlife then it’s off to explore the Blue Mountains National Park, with the famed “Three Sisters” rock formation and panoramic views of valleys and waterfalls. A ride on the steepest railway in the world takes you to an ancient rain forest. Afterward you’ll head back to Sydney for the evening.

Day 4 – Sydney: Depending on whether it’s a pre-or post-cruise package, head to the airport or to your ship.

From The Great Barrier Reef to the outback, experience Australia.

From The Great Barrier Reef to the outback, experience Australia on a tour package.

6-Night Pre-Cruise Tour: Explore Australia
(This tour operates as a five-night post-cruise package)

This tour gives ample time to get a true snapshot of Australia’s greatest attractions. From Ayers Rock glowing in the sunrise to the incredible undersea life of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia is at your fingertips.

Day 1 – Arrive Sydney: For guests arriving before 10:30 a.m., enjoy an afternoon city tour including visits to the historical The Rocks area and Milsons or Blues Point for splendid views of the harbor. Continue on past Kings Cross and Double Bay through Watson’s Bay and world-famous Bondi Beach. The evening is at your leisure. Overnight in Sydney.

Day 2 – Sydney/Cairns: This morning fly to Cairns. Travel to Caravonica at the base of the Kuranda Range where you will board the Skyrail, an enclosed cable car, which takes you skimming across the rainforest canopy. Enjoy breathtaking views of the Coral Sea and Barron Falls. You will then arrive at the unique mountain village of Kuranda. Afterward, transfer to your hotel and join your Tour Escort for hosted pre-dinner drinks by the swimming pool. Overnight at Cairns.

Day 3 – Great Barrier Reef: Board a high-speed catamaran for a full-day cruise of the Great Barrier Reef. Morning tea and a buffet lunch are included on board the catamaran. An astonishing variety of brilliant coral, tropical fish and marine creatures await. Snorkel from the reef platform, visit the underwater observatory or ride a semi-submersible to view this underwater paradise up close. Return to your hotel in the late afternoon. Enjoy an overnight at Cairns.

Day 4 – Cairns/Ayers Rock: This morning fly to Ayers Rock, located in the “Red Centre” of Australia. After settling into your hotel, you will visit Ayers Rock. Your tour will take you to the major attractions of this remote area including more than 30 rounded red domes that make up The Olgas (Kata Tjuta). Witness the changing colors of the Rock as the sun sets while sipping on a glass of sparkling wine. Afterward, return to your hotel and enjoy the evening at leisure. You’ll stay overnight at Ayers Rock.

One little tip … if you go to the Outback, you laugh about how silly the fly masks look, but buy one. There are a lot of flies and you’ll be glad you have it. But there is nothing like watching the sunrise or sunset over Uluru (Ayers Rock). The colors change in the sunlight. It’s beautiful. — Danielle Rosenow

Day 5 – Ayers Rock/Bush Walk/Alice Springs: Watch the sun rise over Ayers Rock then enjoy breakfast in the Uluru Cultural Centre. Join your Aboriginal guide on an interpretive walk of discovery to Uluru. You will learn about ancient Aboriginal Law and watch demonstrations of traditional bush skills such as building a fire without a match. Afterward, travel across the Simpson Desert to Alice Springs. Enjoy views of Mount Connor and stop at a camel farm.

Day 6 – Alice Springs/Sydney: Take in the sights, sounds and heritage of this iconic outback town. You will visit the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Afterward, enjoy panoramic views from the Anzac Hill lookout and spend some free time in the town center. This afternoon, fly to Sydney and transfer to your hotel for the six-night tour. The five-night tour takes you to the airport or your ship.

Day 7 – Sydney: Bon Voyage! Following a morning at leisure, transfer from your hotel to the ship or flight home.

*Please note that some tours operate in reverse depending on the flight schedule.

Auckland, New Zealand is a diverse and exciting city.

Auckland, New Zealand is a diverse and exciting city.

PRE- AND POST-CRUISE TOUR PACKAGES IN NEW ZEALAND

Experience Auckland’s diverse climates and natural wonders, as well as its boutique wineries and quaint villages.

3-Night Pre- or Post-Cruise Tour: Auckland Coast to Coast & Waiheke Island

Day 1 – Arrive Auckland: Transfer to your hotel, then enjoy a city sightseeing tour. Highlights include the tree-lined suburb of Parnell, spectacular east coast bays and a visit to the Auckland War Memorial Museum, housing Maori and Pacific Island artifacts and treasures. Your vacation package includes a ticket to the Sky Tower, to be used anytime during your stay, located adjacent to your hotel and the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand. You’ll have the evening to enjoy Auckland.

Day 2 – Auckland: Isthmus Breakfast, then head out over the Auckland Harbor Bridge to the stunning north shore to visit quaint seaside villages, black-sand beaches and a rare mainland colony of gannets. Stop for lunch and a wine tasting at a third-generation family-run winery. Then continue on to the subtropical rain forest of the Waitakere Ranges, known for their beautiful and dramatic landscapes, magical waterfalls, streams and an abundance of wildlife. On your return, pass through the suburb of Titirangi, popular with artists and nature lovers.

Blissful beaches, gastronomical treasures and small wineries make Waiheke Island, New Zealand, an incredible destination.

Blissful beaches, gastronomical treasures and small wineries make Waiheke Island an incredible destination.

Day 3 – Waiheke Island: After breakfast, board a ferry and glide past the volcanic island of Rangitoto on your way to Waiheke Island, one of New Zealand’s hidden treasures. Boasting a micro-climate a few degrees warmer than Auckland, the island is known for its peaceful and relaxed pace of life. Travel through Oneroa Village, then pass the enchanting bays and picturesque beaches of the northern coast to arrive at stunning Onetangi Beach. A morning tea stop overlooking the sea is followed by visits to two local boutique wineries for wine tasting. Return to Auckland by ferry. From there it’s back to Auckland for the evening.

Day 4 – Auckland: Bon Voyage! Wake up and enjoy a leisurely breakfast before heading on your way.

Whether you decide to add one of these tour packages pre- or post-cruise, the day-to-day itinerary is the same. Some guests prefer to extend their vacation with an overland option, while other travelers like to start with a package that builds up to the cruise.

If you’re taking an Australia/New Zealand cruise and want to add a pre- or post-cruise tour package, they can be pre-booked so you get the tour of your choice.

The paddleboard tour in Key West explores the beautiful mangroves. Photo courtesy of Lazy Dog tour operator.
The paddleboard tour in Key West explores the beautiful mangroves. Photo courtesy of Lazy Dog tour operator.

Have you ever wanted to walk on water? Holland America Line can’t quite make that dream come true, but with a stand-up paddleboard “SUP” shore excursion you can get pretty close! Though paddleboarding, in one form or another, has been around since the late 1700s, it’s recently gained popularity among athletes, hobbyists and those who are just looking to explore their surroundings in a uniquely special way. You can try stand-up paddleboarding on your next Holland America Line Caribbean cruise that calls at Key West, Fla.; Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos; and Half Moon Cay.

Key West
In Key West, the Paddleboard Adventure tour takes guests to the other side of the island along the beautiful Atlantic, with the sightseeing along the way. At the marina the guide will give a full SUP lesson before leaving the dock, and paddlers of all levels will enjoy this tour.

The stand-up paddleboard tour in Key West explores the area's stunning landscapes. Photos courtesy of Lazy Dog tour operators.

The stand-up paddleboard tour in Key West explores the area’s stunning landscapes. Photos courtesy of Lazy Dog tour operator.

Sue Cooper, owner of tour operator Lazy Dog, says guests will pick up the technique faster than they may expect.

“I think people are starting to realize that paddleboarding is much easier than they think. Anyone can do it as long as your instructors provide you the right equipment for your body and skill level. We have all shapes and sizes of boards and we make sure our customers are matched properly with the board for their skill level.” — Sue Cooper

Once you’re ready, you’ll hop on your SUP and paddle through the calm, protected waters of the Florida Keys, which make it an ideal location for trying out this fun activity. When participants look down while out exploring, they will be able to see the grassy beds of this beautiful mangrove habitat. There will be chances to stop and rest along the way as the guide points out wildlife and talks about the ecosystem. Watch for colorful fish, rays, conchs, sponges and the occasional manatee or dolphin.

“The water around the Keys is flat, calm and clear, which provides a great playground for paddle boarding whether your a beginner or experienced paddler.” — Sue Cooper

Grand Turk
The waters of Grand Turk are some of the clearest and bluest in the world, making the ideal setting for the Stand-Up Paddleboarding, Snorkel & Beach tour. In fact, the stand-up paddleboards might be the best way to enjoy the turquoise waters and coastline of Grand Turk, mixing fun, fitness and relaxation.

The azure waters of Grand Turk are ideal for paddleboarding.

The azure waters of Grand Turk are ideal for paddleboarding.

Participants of all levels begin at a beautiful white-sand beach on the Grand Turk coast. Here, the guides will provide safety and snorkel gear. Guests also receive instructions on how to control the board. During the excursion guests learn about proper stand-up paddleboard stance and paddle usage, and how to maneuver the board. Once technique is perfected, guests will paddle and glide along the coast for a unique point of view of the spectacular scenery of Grand Turk. Guides will talk about the nature along the way and give you the rich history of the island’s coastal buildings. During the trip participants will also have a beach break that allows for the opportunity to snorkel and spot the beautiful wildlife that calls this island home.

Half Moon Cay
With the rise in popularity of stand-up paddleboarding, Holland America Line has brought the activity to Half Moon Cay, the line’s private island oasis in the Bahamas. In anticipation of the upcoming Caribbean season, new SUP are ready for guests to rent on the beach.

In addition to paddleboards, Half Moon Cay has a variety of rentals available.

In addition to paddleboards, Half Moon Cay has a variety of rentals available.

The new stand-up paddleboards are ready for cruise guests when they call at Half Moon Cay.

The new stand-up paddleboards are ready for cruise guests when they call at Half Moon Cay.

For guests who want to take advantage of the beautiful beaches and try out another watersport activity, there are plenty of rentals available on Half Moon Cay beyond paddleboards. Guests can rent kayaks, snorkel gear and aqua bikes with huge wheels to ride on water. Guest even can rent a helmet camera to record a bike adventure!

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

Are you looking forward to trying paddleboarding? Tell us what you think about the new tours below!

The ruins at Chichen-Itza are among the most impressive Mayan sites.
The ruins at Chichen-Itza are among the most impressive Mayan sites.

When it comes to ancient ruins, there’s more to explore than just Europe and South America. Mexico boasts some of the most incredible and significant ruins in the world. The Mayan civilization spanned more than 2500 years, and hundreds of ruins in Mexico have been documented. In fact, there are so many sites that it’s believed that more than 4,000 undocumented sites exist.

On western Caribbean cruises that call at Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico, guests have the opportunity to take a shore excursion that steps back in time and walks the footsteps of those who lived in the Mayan era. If you’re taking a western Caribbean cruise that visits Mexico, the shore excursions can be pre-booked so you get the tour of your choice.

Some of the most famous ruins can be visited from Cozumel. Probably the most well-known, guests can explore one of the new Seven Wonders of the World — the Mayan ruins of Chichen-Itza. Chichen-Itza is one of the most important and exciting archeological sites on the American continent — the home of one of the great Mayan empires — and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. These awe-inspiring monuments were left as a reminder of the incredible Mayan culture. The guide will escort guests through this legendary city, which extends over six square miles and contains hundreds of structures throughout the area. You will visit the Pyramid of Kulkulcan, the largest and best preserved Mayan ball court, the mystical Cenote where human sacrifices were performed, the Temple of the Warriors and the Observatory, where Mayan priests accurately calculated celestial events from over a million year span. This is the premier site for Mayan culture and certainly is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Admittedly this is very long excursion but it is well worth it. Everything was very well organized overall and I would highly recommend this trip … Once we arrived we were each given a bottle of ice water as well as a choice of which guide to go with. We went with Carlos for a slower paced tour of the site. He was superb and I feel I learned so much more from him than we did on our first trip there. After he was finished we were left to wander about Chicen Itza for an hour. This site is very large and you may not have time to see it all but you can always take another cruise to see what you have missed! — Guest Nancy1006

Chichen-Itza is a must-see for guests looking to explore Mayan ruins.

Chichen-Itza is a must-see for guests looking to explore Mayan ruins.

From Cozumel, guests also can visit the Coba Mayan Ruins. Coba is one of the Yucatan Peninsula’s most picturesque and popular archeological ruins. The site is around 30 square miles in size and is swathed in jungle. A tender ride to Playa del Carmen is followed by a motor coach ride to the ruins. The guide will share the secrets of this mystical place and you’ll explore newly restored structures that have only recently been opened to the public. Make your way on foot along a pathway flanked by jungle to the first excavated ruins, which consist of a large pyramid, Grupo Coba and a ball court. See the second-tallest temple in the Mayan world, Nohoc Mul, which is around 136 feet tall with 120 steps to the top. Stop along the way to admire La Iglesia — the small but lovely ruin of church that resembles a beehive.

Coba is one of the Yucatan Peninsula’s most picturesque and popular archeological ruins.

Coba is one of the Yucatan Peninsula’s most picturesque and archeological ruins.

The city of Tulum is a popular site to visit from Cozumel. The walled city of Tulum is the only Mayan city built right on the coast, overlooking the Caribbean Sea. The adventure begins with a 45-minute ferry transfer to Playa del Carmen. The guide will lead you on a scenic and informative one-hour drive to Tulum. Once there, your guide will escort you through the ruins, offering a complete narration along the way. See more than 60 restored temples and some of the mysterious hieroglyphic writings still visible today. Visit the Temple of the Frescos, famous for the detailed carved figures and original paints. And perched on the edge of the Caribbean and rising high above all of the other ruins is El Castillo, with its breathtaking view of the aqua-colored water below.

Well run tour, professional driver and tour guide. Chance to view/buy local artifacts is possible. Tulum is a post card perfect site for pictures of Mayan ruins, the Caribbean surf & beach, and a good historical review of Mayan culture and the Tulum site. — Guest FlyOverCountry

Tulum is the only Mayan city built right on the coast.

Tulum is the only Mayan city built right on the coast.

For a shore excursion that combines history, nature discovery and beachside relaxation, the San Gervasio Archaeological Site & Beach tour is ideal. Head into Cozumel’s jungle interior where you’ll explore the site of an ancient Mayan settlement. Immerse yourself in the mystical feeling that pervades the San Gervasio archaeological site as you walk limestone roads through the vestiges of Mayan construction with native trees and plants all around you. Keep your eyes open for butterflies, birds, iguanas, and other local residents. Once the island’s center of culture and religion, this is the only protected Mayan site on Cozumel and the natural setting offers a real sense of the Mayan life. Your guide will share fascinating stories about the incredible civilization that thrived here 1200 years ago, when Cozumel was a trade stop and center of worship for the goddess of fertility. Next, travel to a beautiful beach club where you’ll have free time to relax on the white-sand beach, swim in the sea, and enjoy the tropical surroundings.

The tour at San Gervasio combines sunshine and history.

The tour at San Gervasio combines sunshine and history.

We did this tour on our recent Nieuw Amsterdam cruise. We really enjoyed it. The tour is very well organized and our tour guide, Mimi, did an extraordinary job explaining the background and details of the Mayan ruins. After the stop at the ruins, the goes to a nice little beach with a restaurant – where you can get a full meal or you can simply relax and have a cold Mexican beer. — Guest Richard1s

The ruins of Chacchoben.

The ruins of Chacchoben.

At Costa Maya, the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins tour visits Chacchoben — the Place of Red Corn. In the company of experts in Mayan history, guests explore the ancient ruins and learn about the temples and other structures only recently partly uncovered in the rain forest. Guests have time to climb the Gran Basamento taking them above tree level. Here archaeologists found ceremonial offerings dating to around 1000 BC. The guide will explain about the wildlife and medicinal plants that are used by the modern-day descendants of the ancient Mayan people.

Our guide Daniel (a full-blooded Mayan; he proudly told us so) was superb. Unlike some guides, he gave interesting information on the way back to port — not just going to and on the tour. We viewed numerous fascinating ruins and gained an understanding of the marvelously accurate Mayan calendar — more accurate than the one we use routinely! — Guest ew2103

Guests at Costa Maya also can visit the Kohunlich Mayan Ruins. Situated in a secluded jungle setting near the border of Belize, guests view detailed Mayan temples combined with the lush green manicured gardens. See the Temple of the Large Masks, the Plaza of the Acropolis, the Plaza of the Estelas, Plaza Hundida and Plaza Merwin. Kohunlich may have been one of the most important sites in the lower Peten region. In today’s world, Kohunlich’s broad range of architecture, natural beauty and expansive, uncrowded seclusion sets it apart from the more widely visited sites.

This day-long excursion to a Mayan archeological site was enhanced by our wonderful tour guide Manuel. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that he was a retired history teacher with a wealth of knowledge on Meso American history. As we strolled along the site his colorful detail made the tour come alive for us. We returned by bus to a wonderful local restaurant where the entire group enjoyed fajitas and cool beverages on an inland lake. A very beautiful setting indeed. We would highly recommend this excursion to any interested in ancient Mayan culture. — Guest ddhodnik

The Kohunlich ruins are nestled in the jungle.

The Kohunlich ruins are nestled in the jungle.

To write a review on a shore excursion, visit the shore excursion page on the Holland America Line website and click on the “review” tab. To read more reviews, visit the individual tours to see what your fellow travelers think about the experience.

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Have you visited the Mayan ruins. Tell us about it below or send your photos to info@hollandamericablog.com and you might be featured on social media.

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?

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