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Around The World In 111 Days
2017 Amsterdam World Cruise

By Georgina Cruz

Friends and neighbors often ask me how come I keep taking World Cruises (my husband Humberto and I just completed our fourth: the 2017 Grand World Voyage of Holland America’s Amsterdam) and invariably they follow it up with, “are you going on a different route?”

The answer to the first question is that a World Cruise, to borrow a phrase from Truman Capote in describing Venice, “is like eating a whole box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.” It is a set of multiple rich, amazing experiences neatly “packaged” in a single voyage! And the answer to the second question is “yes.”

Cruise lines, conscious that many of their World Cruise passengers are repeaters, vary their routes. Our first World Cruise in 2012, for example, went to the Amazon and Antarctica among other destinations; our second one in 2014 gave several opportunities for safaris in Africa; our third one concentrated on Australia and New Zealand and visited the Holy Land last year; our fourth one this winter took in Hawaii, Japan and several ports in China. Our first three World Cruises sailed mostly in the Southern Hemisphere; our latest one took a route in the Northern Hemisphere.

Sure, some aspects of all our four World Cruises are often the same, like a westerly course which is preferable as hours are gained instead of lost while traversing various time zones during the voyage, and some key ports are the same: for instance we have visited Hong Kong and Singapore four times each now, on each of our four World Cruises. But these key ports where cruise lines embark/disembark segment passengers are some of the planet’s most exciting destinations that boast numerous attractions, and guests always find something new to explore and enjoy in them (we could visit them another four times and not get bored!).

Other advantages of revisiting several fabulous places among many new ones include the comfort of familiarity, arriving at a familiar place where you already have your bearings. Familiarity is also something we ourselves have sought in other ways: by booking the same ship and the same cabin for all four World Cruises, so the Amsterdam has become like our “second home.”

Here are some highlights of just some destinations we had not visited on our three previous World Cruises that we did during our latest:

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – A former fishing village, nestled between Banderas Bay and the green Sierra Madre, Puerto Vallarta beckoned us with its picturesque “Viejo Vallarta,” its old town with red-tiled roofs, cobblestoned streets, boutiques, markets and a lovely cathedral dedicated to Mexico’s patroness, Our Lady of Guadalupe. For those who wanted a taste of Mexico’s savory cuisine, the ship offered tours that included a cooking lesson.

Honolulu, Hawaii – The Amsterdam overnighted here so we had two days to enjoy this bit of paradise on earth. Since we had an abundance of time, we spent a day at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Ko’Olina. It is a wonderful seaside oasis with a variety of accommodations including villas equipped with the comforts of home, a superb beach, aquatic park with pools, slides and lazy river, as well as hot tubssome with fantastic views of the sunset, and a variety of restaurants. We feasted on fresh seafood steps from the sand at the resort’s ‘Ama’Ama restaurant, swam and snorkeled, and relaxed in the gardens. Fully refreshed, we spent our second day touring such world-class sights as Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head volcano and the Pearl Harbor Memorial, and the Polynesian Cultural Center. And we took the free shuttle to Hilo Hattie’s to buy de rigueur his-and-hers Hawaiian shirts.

Guam, American Territory – Guam, in the Mariana Islands, was attacked by the Japanese the same day Pearl Harbor was, and in addition to being bombed, was occupied for three years, and the native Chamorro people enslaved. Now the island, one-third of it accessible only to American military personnel, has a mix of American, Spanish and Asian cultures. At Lina’La Beach Culture Park, an eight-acre eco-park, we enjoyed Chamorro cultural presentations including storytelling in an ancient village setting with traditional huts and artifacts and structures made of latte stone – we met the locals, saw exhibits, petted their farm animals and fed bananas to the goats, relaxed on the beach and drank coconut milk right out of the coconuts.

Osaka, Japan – Osaka, a gateway to Kyoto, which we had visited during a Japan and China Crystal Cruises’voyage a decade ago, has multiple attractions including the impressive 16th century Osaka Castle and Museum, and the Osaka Aquarium (Kaiyukan) with its centerpiece tank with 5,400 tons of water and whale sharks, and 15 other tanks holding 11,000 tons of water and a wide variety of marine life. After visiting those attractions, we headed for the city’s observation wheel that lights up in various patterns at night. It is within walking distance of the Tempozan Pier where the Amsterdam was moored for an overnight stay. So after visiting the Aquarium, which is adjacent to the Tempozan Marketplace with wonderful shopping and the ferris wheel, we rode this observation wheel enjoying the panoramic views of the Osaka Bay area and the city’s skyscrapers from a height of 112.5 meters.

Incheon, South Korea – Incheon is an hour away from South Korea’s capital of Seoul, but for those who like us opted to stay in Incheon, there is plenty to see and do. Cruise ships dock near Incheon’s downtown, where many hotels operate pools and public bath facilities that allow visitors to luxuriate in the city’s famous hot springs. The city is also known for its fish market and its pottery, with the Incheon Ceramics Village being a lovely spot not just to buy pottery but also see craftsmen at work.

Shanghai, China – Often called the Paris of the East, Shanghai welcomes visitors with all manner of attractions from its cosmopolitan Bund to the Jade Buddha Temple to the Oriental Pearl Television Tower. We explored via the hop-on/hop-off bus that features three routes and free entry to the observation deck on the 58th floor of the Jin Mao Tower for panoramic views of the city. Since we had two days in the city, we devoted our second day to Shanghai Disneyland, Disney’s newest park inaugurated last summer, and boasting the biggest Castle of all the Disney Parks and including attractions within it. Also unique to Shanghai Disneyland is a thrill ride based on the popular Tron movieideal for the intrepid!

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – We booked a highlights tour of Kuala Lumpur from Port Kelang, taking in the King’s Palace, the stately mansion and gardens of the King of Malaysia; the National Mosque with a striking 240-foot-high minaret that dominates its umbrella-like roof; the National Monument in the Lake Gardens, dedicated to the fallen in defense of the country, and the magnificent Petronas Towers, at one point the tallest building in the world.

Mykonos, Greece – We strolled to our hearts’ content on Mykonos Town’s winding alleyways and among its whitewashed houses, picturesque boutiques, shops and restaurants. And we posed for photos in front of its “Little Venice,” an area famous for its colorful buildings with hanging balconies, and in front of its iconic windmills.

Palma de Mallorca, Spain – The largest of Spain’s Balearic Islands, Mallorca has lured luminaries like Polish composer Frederic Chopin and French writer George Sand through the yearsthe latter documented their stay on the island at picturesque Valldemossa in her book, “A Winter in Majorca.” A tour took us to Bellver Castle, an unusual circle-shaped castle dating from the 14th century; to the impressive 13th century Cathedral, and the Almudaina Palace, once the residence of Mallorca’s kings.

And in addition to a variety of new ports, each World Cruise typically offers new experiences related to the calendar. For example, one year we got to Funchal, in the Portuguese island of Madeira, during the Madeira Flower Festival with its treasures of blossoms and gardens. On this latest World Cruise, we called on Cadiz, Spain, during Holy Week. Cadiz, like many Andalusian cities, puts on impressive processions with bands and religious floats and other special events leading up to Easter, and we were able to see a magnificent procession with two bands, two floats and hundreds of marchers in traditional costumes.

Taking us to these and other new destinations and experiences as well as some “old” World Cruise ones was the Amsterdam. A mid-size ship launched in 2000, she has interiors graced by art, antiques and flower arrangements created by two Dutch florists. She does show her age in occasional plumbing issues. She was built for grand voyages and this is evident in her wonderful stabilityso vital when crossing oceansand such amenities as two pools, one under a retractable glass dome so it can be used every day, rain or shine.

Her Filipino and Indonesian staff is attentive and friendly and makes the Amsterdam feel like home. Sea days, which are plentiful on world cruises, are filled with enrichment lectures, activities and entertainmenteverything from water color classes and drawing workshops to culinary classes and demonstrations. Headliners and personalities included Vegas entertainer Clint Holmes and Olympic Gold Medalist Lance Ringnald. Cultural shows included folkloric groups from Japan, China, Singapore, India, Jordan and Spain who performed in the ship’s Queen’s Lounge. We found the ship’s Wi-Fi was much more reliable and faster than in previous yearsperhaps due to this year’s course in the Northern Hemisphere as opposed to previous years’ routes covering more remote places like Antarctica.


IF YOU GO: For more information, visit hollandamerica.com.

Join Georgina and Humberto on their other World Voyages:

Amsterdam World Cruise 2016

Amsterdam World Cruise 2014

Amsterdam World Cruise 2012


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