Guest Georgina Cruz currently is onboard her fourth Grand World Voyage and is sharing her experiences with the Holland America Blog.
World Cruises feature a multitude of moments that make them grand: experiencing the thrill of circumnavigating the planet, delighting in gourmet fare in the ship’s dining room and alternative restaurants, being pampered by a friendly and attentive hand-picked staff, and entertained by wonderful artists including headliners and distinguished lecturers. In the three World Cruises that we have been privileged to complete, and the fourth one we are presently sailing on (all four on Holland America’s Amsterdam) my husband Humberto and I have enjoyed all those fabulous moments, but we have yet another favorite aspect of these grand voyages: their wealth of overnight stays in some of the world’s most desirable and exciting destinations – a whopping 10 overnight stays are scheduled during our 2017 World Cruise.
These overnights are to us like big exclamation points along the journey – real marquee (call them, grand) moments of the voyage! Guests, including us, make very good use of this extra time in port to explore beyond its primary highlights.
For example, on our previous World Cruises, in addition to touring the points of interest of French Polynesian islands, we booked overwater bungalows for overnights in the idyllic isles of Bora Bora, Moorea and Tahiti to enjoy the islands to the fullest (all yielded some of the most memorable moments of the Grand World Voyages, including gorgeous island sunsets). We also booked a Holland America Line overland excursion while in India to visit the Taj Mahal and the Pink City of Jaipur with a stay at the Rambaugh Palace Hotel, a former royal residence (another amazing exclamation point of the voyage that we will never forget: from the welcome by uniformed guards on horseback, to the shower of rose petals cascading over our heads as we ascended the stairs to check in, to the local flute player in the courtyard, and to the local gourmet specialties!).
On the 2017 Grand World Voyage we are embarked upon now, we also took advantage of the overnight in Honolulu, Hawaii. Having this wealth of time in this marquee port, we could not only re-visit its world-class sights like Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head Volcano and Pearl Harbor, but shop for the de rigeur fun, colorful Hawaiian shirts at island stores and boutiques. Free shuttles took Amsterdam passengers who wished to shop to Hilo Hattie’s at the fabulous Ala Moana shopping center. The shop offers Hawaiian shirts, muumuus, and such local products as macadamia nuts and coconut oil. The Ala Moana mall is a shoppers’ delight with scores of major stores and boutiques.
But the big highlight of our Honolulu overnight for us was spending a day at Aulani, a lovely resort on Oahu’s beautiful, often less-visited west coast of the island of Oahu. Aulani, a Disney resort and spa, is situated on the wonderful beaches of Ko Olina, on the leeward side of Oahu, next to the Four Seasons and to the site of a future Atlantis resort. Ko Olina means (place of joy) and it was in the old days a sacred area for Hawaiian royalty to relax – it was the same for us now! We were greeted with flower leis and kukui nut necklaces in accordance to the charming Hawaiian island custom, and spent time on the beach and in the pampering Laniwai Spa, with its relaxing hydrotherapy garden with soaking tubs, private vitality pools, sauna and steam rooms and aromatic showers. Other Aulani resort features we enjoyed were the infinity-edge pool, the snorkeling lagoon with neon-colored tropical fish, and the hot tubs with views of the sea and sunsets.
We dined at the seaside ‘AMA’AMA Restaurant (named after a local mullet fish) and resembling a beachside house with thatched roof, mosaics, a fountain and reflecting pool. The restaurant offers modern interpretations of the classic cuisine of Hawaii – the seafood and fish dishes, like the Hawaiian snapper Lau Lau with Maui onion, tamarind, garlic and other ingredients, are outstanding. For lunch, we chose the creamy corn and potato chowder as a starter, followed by the bountiful ‘AMA’AMA salad with delicious avocado and other local ingredients (it can be ordered with the fresh Hawaiian catch of the day or chicken). For our dessert we loved the Tropical Shave Ice Parfait with white chocolate crunch, haupia cream, liliko’i pearls, vanilla ice cream and guava granita. This sinfully delectable dessert comes crowned with a lovely tropical blossom – a visual treat in addition to a delight for the taste buds.
Indeed, the abundance of time ashore on overnights is a delight for foodies who wish to sample local specialties! And for even greater culinary pleasures as well as cultural immersion, Aulani offers the Ka Wa’A Luau featuring the legends of Hawaii with song and dance, as well as a feast featuring authentic island fare including suckling pig, seafood and prime rib.
Another fun, cultural experience at Aulani is strolling the resort’s gardens and grounds in search of the picturesque Menehune statues – according to Hawaiian legends, the Menehune are shy, mischievous people, and it was fun finding the statues and photographing them. All in all, a most memorable –and grand—experience, thanks to our Grand World Voyage’s overnight in Honolulu!
Stay tuned for more from Georgina during her Grand World Voyage.