Georgina Cruz, a seasoned traveler and frequent Holland America Line guest who takes many of our Grand Voyages, is currently on the Grand World Voyage aboard Amsterdam. Wondering if our Grand Voyages are your dream getaway or ideal for a family adventure? Read below for the second installment that provides a peek into her exotic vacation!
Marcel Proust once observed that the real voyage of discovery consists “in having new eyes.” During the 2017 Grand World Voyage aboard Amsterdam, my husband Humberto and I experienced the joy of seeing parts of Asia through new eyes: those of our daughter and grandchildren. We found that there are few pleasures in life that equal the delight one experiences in sharing the world with children and grandchildren. It was oh so wonderful that we wanted to do it again, and we invited our family to join us for a segment of the 2019 World Cruise too – this time visiting ports Down Under and in Indonesia and Singapore. It would be a graduation present in advance for our grandsons, and not only would it be enriching and enjoyable for our family to see those exotic parts of the world for the first time, but Humberto and I would also have the pleasure to visit with our family while we were away for a four-month-long cruise.
Our daughter Veronica and two grandsons, Aidan and Julian, joined us and the experience exceeded our expectations from the first exciting moment when we saw them in Auckland, New Zealand on board the ship. There is nothing like meeting family in a far away, exotic location! We couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces! Highlights in New Zealand included a visit to Auckland’s SkyTower — the tallest man-made structure in the Southern Hemisphere at more than 1,000 feet high. From the tower’s observation deck vast panoramas are obtained that make visitors think they are on top of the world. Oh, and the daring can bungee jump from the top of the tower!
And that was just the beginning. During the family’s 25-day Auckland to Singapore segment of the World Cruise, we participated in activities together and separately to allow for personal interests, as experts on group travel recommend people do, and each evening we would discuss our day over dinner together – the conversation, recounting our adventures was always lively!
These were some Down Under highlights of our three generational Grand World Voyage segment…
We watched the breathtaking entrance to, and exit from, Sydney Harbor, admiring landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Tower Eye and the Sydney Harbor Bridge, dubbed the “Coat Hanger” by locals. Veronica, Aidan and Julian went on to climb this spectacular bridge for a rush of adrenaline — an awesome experience they said they would remember the rest of their lives!
Who can resist Australia’s fabulous fauna? A visit to the Billabong Sanctuary here allows all generations to spend the day getting acquainted with koalas, wombats, snakes, kangaroos, emus and other critters, and enjoying shows including the crocodile feeding – with a big croc torpedoing out of the water to catch a chicken hanging from a trainer’s pole — an amazing moment! And, of course, we did not pass up the opportunity to cuddle a koala!
The Great Barrier Reef
Humberto and I had snorkeled in this natural wonder twice, but Veronica, Aidan and Julian had not so they took the opportunity to do so via a HAL tour. We all enjoyed the scenic cruising on the Great Barrier Reef and the beautiful Torres Strait, with its atolls, islands and waters in various shades of blue.
In addition to these Down Under delights, our family’s segment featured various ports in Indonesia, including Bali with its magnificent temples and terraced rice paddies, and Komodo — home of the famed Komodo dragons, those amazing, Jurassic-looking lizards. And last but not least, the segment featured an overnight in Singapore — the city-state with eye-popping architecture including the Marina Bay Sands building with three spectacular towers crowned with a ship. Its fabulous Observation Deck has panoramic views of Singapore.
On board the Amsterdam there were many other highlights, including special events like the wacky Crossing of the Equator ceremony up on deck. This was the first time our grandsons and daughter had crossed that fabled line on a ship), experiencing the Lido all decked out with Jolly Rogers, pirate treasure chests and all manner of booty. As the ship’s whistle blows powerfully, a parade of pirates and pollywogs (first-time Equator-crossing crew members), King Neptune with his trident, and the Amsterdam’s master, Capt. Jonathan Mercer and his senior officers arrive to sit in “judgment” of the pollywogs, giving thumbs up or down to indicate if the pollywogs are to be spared or dunked in the pool. After they kiss a big “royal fish” and are doused with goo on tables by the pool.
There were also festive dinners like the “Rainbow Dinner,” with the dining room all decked out with pretty rainbow-colored lanterns and special lighting, and our wonderful dining room steward, Slam, sporting a colorful vest and bow tie. We also enjoyed the “Bowlers & Bumpershoots Dinner” ahead of our arrival in Commonwealth Nations, with the dining room decorated with umbrellas hanging from the ceiling and festive bowler hats in various colors awaiting us at our table. All that plus delicious menus with regional specialties that made us all feel very special.
And among other activities and entertainment we participated in together! Onboard the ship there were trivia contests, port talks and folkloric shows from local groups in various ports brought on board through Holland America’s Explorations Central Program. These included a Maori team who taught guests to do the famous Haka dance.
What did we all think of the experience? The graduation gift we set out to provide for our grandsons and our daughter was one they said they will never forget, and it turned out to be a double present, as my husband and I were gifted a wonderful time seeing the world through our grandsons’ and our daughter’s eyes!