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10s Of The 2016 Amsterdam World Cruise
By Georgina Cruz
Scheherazade, who had 1,001 Arabian Nights stories to tell, I could
go on and on about the 2016 Amsterdam World Cruise. An amazing
voyage circumnavigating the planet during 115 days on the
62,735-ton, 1,380-guest Amsterdam from Holland America Line, it
transited two legendary canals (Panama and Suez) and stopped at more
than 40 ports (including a three-day stay in Hong Kong and several
overnights). It was filled with adventures. Here are the top 10
experiences that my husband Humberto and I were privileged to enjoy,
and the top 10 things we learned.
Top 10 Experiences We Enjoyed
Moorea, French Polynesia: This was our
third visit to Moorea, the heart-shaped idyll in French Polynesia
that inspired James Michener’s Bali Hai, and we had admired its
lofty green peaks and sparkling bays from the Belvedere Lookout and
visited other points on the island on a ship’s tour. So we just
wanted to be footloose and fancy-free this time around, relaxing in
a lovely resort. We chose the Moorea InterContinental Resort & Spa
with 144 bungalows and rooms.
This property, with its deluxe thatched roof over-water bungalows
and rooms, is nestled on 27 acres of gardens on a tropical lagoon
with a beautiful mountain backdrop. In addition to the expected
amenities of an infinity pool with swim-up bar, a spa, watersports
and white sandy beach, we found some unexpected ones: a turtle
sanctuary and clinic where injured sea turtles are rehabilitated and
returned to the wild, and an opportunity to swim with dolphins.
Other options include lagoon catamaran cruises and transfers to a
nearby reef islet for encounters with rays–and, what we chose most
of the time, luxuriating in its turquoise lagoon.
Auckland, New Zealand: On a tour organized by our travel agency,
Cruise Specialists, we took in the highlights of Auckland including
its Harbor Bridge, Sky Tower, modern skyscrapers and Victorian
buildings, and enjoyed a Maori cultural performance of music and
dances including the famous “Haka," a traditional ancestral dance,
war cry and challenge, vigorously performed.
Sydney, Australia: Everyone is on deck early for the entrance to
Sydney Harbor, one of the world’s most scenic, with such sights as
the Sydney Opera House with its sail-like roofs and the Harbor
Bridge, nicknamed the “Coat Hanger” by locals. With an overnight in
Sydney, we explored the sights via Captain Cook’s Hop-on/Hop-off
boat, good for 24-hours, and we used our tickets the afternoon of
our first day and the morning of the next making stops at Taronga
Zoo with its iconic kangaroos, koalas and Tasmanian devils and vast
collection of animals from Australia and other parts of the world.
While sailing in Australian waters, we had a "Beach Party"
onboard the Amsterdam, by the Lido pool amidships, with real sand,
beach toys including gigantic beach balls, three authentic
lifeguards from Bondi Beach(!), an Australian band and complimentary
drinks and food including such Aussie favorites as prawns, emu,
crocodile, and oh, no: kangaroo!
Hong Kong, China: In this, one of the world’s top three scenic
ports, we were up early to watch our entrance. We explored via the
convenient hop-on/hop-off Big Bus, for this was our fourth visit.
We always find something we have not seen: this time it was the new
Hong Kong Observation Wheel that debuted in December of 2014
offering breathtaking views of the city’s skyscrapers, Victoria
Harbour and Victoria Peak. Other highlights included a visit to
Sky100, an indoor observation deck on the 100th floor of the
International Commerce Centre, a traditional sampan ride, the
Symphony of Lights nightly show in the harbor, a concert under the
stars by the ship's wonderful pianist, Debby Bacon, and a
performance by a Chinese cultural group including the Dragon Dance
and a "changing faces" master, also presented onboard.
Singapore: Highlights of this spectacular city-state include the
iconic Merlion (half lion, half fish), a symbol of Singapore; its
eye-popping architecture including the Marina Bay Sands (three
towers topped by a ship) with its observation deck 650 feet over the
city; the Singapore Flyer observation wheel; the 250-acre Garden by
the Bay with 250,000 plants housed in domed conservatories, and the
Raffles Hotel with its world-famous Long Bar, where the Singapore
Sling (yum!) was invented. Since we had two days, we also enjoyed
the Singapore Cable Car ride to the top of Mt. Faber and the Sentosa
Express monorail to the world-class “playground” of Sentosa Island
with some 30 attractions including Universal Studios Singapore; the
S.E.A. Aquarium with more than 100,000 marine animals representing
800 species; a replica of the Merlion, and the Tiger Sky Tower,
Singapore's highest observation tower, 131 meters above sea level–amazing!
Dubai: This was our first visit to Dubai, so we signed up for a
Cruise Specialists’ highlights tour to the Jumeirah Mosque with its
symphony of domes and minarets, the Al Burj Hotel on a manmade
island, the Souk Al Bahar Arabesque market, and a visit at the top
of the Burj Khalifa Tower, at 2,716 feet high, the tallest building
in the world, with an observation tower on the 124th floor. Awesome–though not for those who suffer from vertigo!
Jerusalem, Israel: For our second visit to Jerusalem we chose an
8-1/2 hour program called Jerusalem Old & New, from Cruise
Specialists. The highlight was a 2-1/2-hour walking tour of the Old
City where the air itself seems thick with prayers. We took in such
sights as the Mount of Olives with panoramic views of the Old City
with the golden Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount; walked along
part of the Via Dolorosa, believed to be the way Jesus took to the
crucifixion, and visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher,
Christianity’s most sacred shrine believed to be the site of Jesus'
crucifixion, burial and resurrection, and the Western Wall, the
remnants of the Holy Temple and holiest site in the Jewish world.
Rome, Italy: It had been years since we had been able to visit the
interior of St. Peter’s Basilica–the crowds waiting to enter had
been monumental on our last visit to Rome two years ago. So we
booked an all-day Holland America excursion that, in addition of
offering a panoramic tour of the Eternal City’s sights including the Colosseum, made a visit to St. Peter’s Basilica for personal
devotions and to admire the art treasures inside including
Michelangelo’s Pieta (the only piece he ever signed). We also saw
the preserved bodies of Pope John XXIII and Pope Pius X at the bases
of two altars. Other huge highlights of the tour were visits to the
Papal Summer Residence in Castel Gandolfo, opened to the public by
Pope Francis, and visits to the Vatican Museum and the Sistine
Chapel with Michelangelo's breathtaking frescoes.
Monte Carlo, Monaco: We have visited this super-chic Riviera
enclave a half-dozen times, but never tire of its fairy-tale-like
ambiance and glamour. We took the hop-on/hop-off bus to get around
easily, making stops on this trip at the Prince’s Palace for the
daily Changing of the Guard ceremony at 11:55 a.m.; the Cathedral
where Prince Rainier and Hollywood actress Grace Kelly were married
and are buried, and the Oceanographic Museum, where Jacques Cousteau
was once a director.
Barcelona, Spain: We have visited Barcelona, the capital of Catalunya, several times and always fall for its many charms: seven
beaches that span five kilometers along the shoreline, art and
architecture–from the Gothic to modern and contemporary styles,
plus delicious cuisine and wines. We headed for the major points of
interest via the hop-on/hop-off bus. One of them, Las Ramblas, is
arguably, Spain’s most famous street, with flower vendors and street
entertainment including living statues. And we revisited the Antonio
Gaudi landmarks, the city’s most famous architect, including La
Sagrada Familia, a Neo-Gothic basilica begun in 1882 and still
unfinished, and Parc Guell a UNESCO World Heritage site with works
by Gaudi including whimsical structures like a mosaic roof supported
by Doric columns and a long, serpentine, snake-like bench. Yet
another Gaudi highlight is the Batllo House, in an “organic” style–the locals call it the “house of bones” as it seems to depict
skeletons and bones. Experts have called it, and I agree, “an
Top 10 Things We Learned
Preparing Well, Not Worrying – We started preparing three months
before sail date: getting a check-up and inoculations, negotiating
visas, making lists of needed items and getting them, setting up
automatic payment of bills, arranging for someone to look after our
house and get our mail. Since Wi-Fi on the Amsterdam is slow, we
warned relatives we would not be able to communicate as frequently
as when we are at home and took care of many details regarding our
finances in advance. Then we boarded the Amsterdam and left worries
about home or anything else behind on the pier as discarded bundles,
surrendering to the care and pampering of a hand-picked staff.
Setting The Right Speed – There is so much to see and do on a World
Cruise, we made a conscious effort to pace ourselves:
alternating a full-day excursion in one port with a hop-on/hop-off
bus tour where one can pick where one gets off to explore and see
the rest of the sights comfortably from the bus.
Packing Appropriately – A World Cruise guest once told me she’d
brought 23 suitcases… and needed another, connecting cabin to keep
all her stuff. We decided we’d bring enough for a two-week cruise.
There are self-service launderettes onboard.
Being Sensible About Culinary Delights – Chocolate Avalanche Cakes,
Beef Wellingtons, Lobster with cheese sauce and more for 115 days
can wreak havoc with your waistline. We adopted a sensible
strategy: breakfast and lunch like we normally have at home, and
some splurges on dinners. To burn the extra calories we took the
stairs and went on active shore tours that included walking and
Avoiding Homesickness – Experts recommend bringing something from
home. We brought one of our Mickey Mouse souvenirs and put it on our
cabin’s desk where we could see it every day. And we booked the same
cabin on the Amsterdam on three World Cruises–so from the moment we
board we feel at home!
Establishing An Onboard Routine – To make the most of our days,
particularly those spent at sea crossing oceans, we established a
routine that included port lectures and team trivia in the mornings,
and enrichment lectures, including a Q&A session with author Paul
Theroux in the afternoon. This was not etched in stone, but served
as a framework for our sea days.
Keeping A Journal – Such a voyage deserves recording. Writing about
our daily activities and sightseeing was a relaxing pursuit. We are
sure we will re-read about our adventures many times in the future
and leave the journal for our children and grandchildren to read as
Sharing Your Good Fortune – Many ships offer opportunities to
contribute to charitable causes. During the World Cruise guests had
the chance to participate in a silent auction to benefit the charity
A Helping Hand Sri Lanka and a box benefiting UNICEF was available
where we could donate any leftover currency from our 40-plus ports.
Selecting Meaningful Shore Excursions – We like to select shore
excursions that benefit communities in undeveloped countries or
ecological programs like one we took to the Great Barrier Reef in
Australia that contributed funds for the preservation of the reef.
Keeping The Dream Alive – When we started dreaming of a World Cruise
several years ago, we viewed it as a once-in-a-lifetime event. But
we soon learned otherwise. Now, three World Cruises later, we are
still dreaming and doing something about it: we have booked the
2017 Grand World Voyage of the Amsterdam!
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