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Cruise Diary: Coming ‘Home’ Again and Cruising Europe

A cruise to Europe can be the ideal family vacation. There is something for everyone, from history and culture to sun and fun. And every Holland America Line ship is welcoming to guests of all ages. In fact, the Club HAL program is set up to entertain kids from three through teen. Guest Joost van Driessen took another cruise to Europe on Noordam with his wife and two daughters, Kim and Rhodé. From onboard to ashore, see how Joost enjoyed his 11-day Mediterranean Explorer cruise from Barcelona, Spain, to Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy.

Shortly after noon we boarded Noordam. It was like coming home. We remembered our boarding two years ago. Then, we had to explore the ship to get to know all the restaurants, bars, lounges, etc. No need this time, everything felt familiar again.

Every day and every evening there is an array of activities for all tastes. Some guests choose to participate in team trivia or Culinary Arts Center cooking demonstrations, while others take advantage of the complimentary Dancing with the Stars: at Sea dance classes or the Digital Workshops powered by Windows classes.

Rhodé has discovered Techspert Time. Techspert Krista teaches computer courses, but from time to time the classroom is open to work on your own projects. We use this for backing up our memory cards on an USB stick, just to reduce the chances of losing our photo’s. Rhodé uses the brand new Windows 8 computers to play games like cut-the-rope.

Every evening the ships transform from a relaxed day-time atmosphere to a dazzling evening environment. Lounges bustle with dancing and music, while the main show lounge features Vegas-style performances. Joost and his family took full advantage of the offerings around the ship, from dancing to karaoke.

When it was time to go to the karaoke, we saw Kim and her friends at the Queens Lounge. Rhodé had enlisted to perform ‘Rolling in the Deep’ from Adele. Quite some courage for a 9-year-old whose native language is Dutch. Kim and her friends Nica and Rachel joined in and together they rocked. Afterwards Kim, Nica and Rachel sang ‘Move like Jagger’ and Rhodé helped them with that song. Really great to see the kids have fun.

That evening we danced in the Ocean Bar to the tunes of the HAL Cats. Nice music, very danceable. After dancing we checked out the Piano Bar. The pianoman was Stryker. Wow, that man can play … and he sang really great. He is there every night, so we will definitely return to the Piano Bar later on in the cruise.

The girls took advantage of the Club HAL program. Children ages 3-7 can participate in such activities as pirate treasure hunts, hands-on pizza making, storytelling, “Little Artists” crafts, ice cream sundae parties and a farewell pajama party. Tweens ages 8-12, like Rhodé, take part in Xbox and Wii tournaments, relay races, scavenger hunts, karaoke disco parties and participate in the award-winning National Park Service Jr. Ranger Program in Alaska on Alaska cruises. Teens ages 13-17, like Kim, enjoy mocktail mixology classes, late night sporting competitions, teen yoga and hip hop classes, guys verses girls scavenger hunts, cooking demos, tech classes and teen only night club events. At the beginning of the cruise, during the overnight at Barcelona, Kim and Rhodé took a look at the program.

After dinner the kids went up to Club HAL. Both the Tweens and The Loft had a welcome party to get to know the other kids. Because we have an overnight in Barcelona, a lot of guests will still be ashore. But they did meet other kids and made friends.

Experiencing the many offerings onboard is an adventure, but going ashore in the different ports opens up a whole new world. While many guests opt to take a shore excursion organized by the ship, some guests go explore on their own.

We left the ship at 10 am in Palma de Mallorca. We decided to take the hop-on-hop-off bus. Usually we are more into public buses or taxis and we avoid the double-decker bus. This time the hop-on-hop-off bus had some advantages. It was the only public bus that went up to Castell de Bellver. Since we didn’t know if there were taxi’s available at the Castell, the bus was a good alternative.

Palacio de l’Almudaina and La Seu at Palma.

Palacio de l’Almudaina and La Seu at Palma.

Family picture at Castell de Bellver at Palma.

Family picture at Castell de Bellver at Palma.

For guests not wanting to explore on their own, tours like the the Highlights tour or a mountain biking adventure are ideal for those looking for something different.

Here are more of Joost’s beautiful snapshots from ports along the way.

The Cathedral at Marseille, France.

The Cathedral at Marseille, France.

Windows in Lucca.

Windows in Lucca, Italy.

The Teatro Massimo. After the theaters of Paris and Vienna, it is the largest theater in the world.

The Teatro Massimo at Palermo, Sicily. After the theaters of Paris and Vienna, it is the largest theater in the world.

Crater of Mount Vesuvius.

Crater of Mount Vesuvius at Naples, Italy.

Pompeii Forum with mighty Vesuvius in the background.

Pompeii Forum with mighty Vesuvius in the background at Naples, Italy.

To read more about Joost’s travels, visit his blog:

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