Guest Georgina Cruz currently is onboard her fourth Grand World Voyage and is sharing her experiences with the Holland America Blog.
My husband Humberto and I have had such a wonderful time during our last three World Cruises on Holland America’s Amsterdam that on our fourth and current Grand World Voyage this winter, also on the Amsterdam, we felt we wanted to share our good fortune with our daughter and two teenage grandsons. So, we made our 2017 World Cruise sort of an “All In The Family,” affair, feeling blessed to be able to share with our family one segment, the 18-day Osaka to Hong Kong chapter of this epic circumnavigation of the planet.
And what a Grand Moment it was to have three generations of our family together at sea during the World Cruise! We selected the Osaka to Hong Kong segment because our grandsons had never been to Asia and both of them wanted to see the Great Wall of China (who wouldn’t want to see this wonder, right?) and because our grandson Julian, upon being asked once that if he could go to any country in the world which one would he choose, he answered without hesitation: “Japan!” So with the 2017 World Cruise visiting ports in Japan, we simply couldn’t resist!
These “the more the merrier” travel occasions (both at sea and on land) can be tricky, but not if you plan carefully. And also keep in mind Mark Twain’s words: “I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” So mindful of his words we took measures to ensure a good time for all.
We booked two cabins so everyone would have some private space: Humberto and I were in one cabin and our daughter Veronica and two grandsons, Julian and Aidan, ages 13 and 16, were in another on the same deck –and so we had two bathrooms at our disposal. Another important consideration during family reunions encompassing three-generational travel is also to give members of the group their space when it comes to having a choice of tours and activities. Being together is great, but giving thought to varying stamina levels and personal interests and tastes is important too.
“Travel is an intensely personal thing,” Barbara Haenni, our location guide on the Amsterdam, often reminds us, “something that someone may love, another person may not like.”
So we conferred with the rest of the family and went sightseeing together in some ports and in two groups in others so everyone could do what they liked in each port. And it was fun to compare notes about our day later each evening at dinner.
We started our get-together on the Amsterdam by showing our family around our beautiful floating home (after four World Cruises we think of it as our second home now!). It was fun seeing our grandsons’ delight at discovering the ice cream station in the Lido (with its various flavors of ice cream, soft serve treats and sherbet as well as multiple delicious toppings – yummy!). Ditto for the pizza and pasta stations and so many other delights in the Lido, as well as the Dive In kiosk with hot dogs (one of our grandson Julian’s favorite foods) plus hamburgers and more, and next to Dive-In, the Mexican station with tacos, tortillas and their fixings which both our daughter Veronica and I love–and all of it convenient to the Lido swimming pool and hot tubs. The Lido pool is heated and sheltered under a retractable glass dome so it can be used no matter what the weather, a feature that is particularly appreciated when it is too cold to use an unsheltered pool. Aidan and Julian also loved the complimentary popcorn (one of their favorite treats) that is featured during movies at the Wajang Theater and they liked their Club HAL youth counselor Geoffrey, who arranged some activities for them including X-Box sessions.
The older generations loved the Greenhouse Spa with its thermal suite and the Culinary Arts Center with its demonstrations and classes, and everyone enjoyed the elegant Atrium with its beautiful Astrolabe and clock that chimes every hour. The first full day for our family onboard we had a special chocolate cake with vanilla frosting and the words “bon voyage” written on it (that elicited more than one “yum!” from the family) delivered to our table by Asep, assistant manager in the La Fontaine Dining Room and we celebrated this wonderful occasion of getting together with our family in Asia. We also posed for the picture of a lifetime to mark this grand moment.
At each of the Amsterdam’s ports of call, we set out to see the world through our family’s eyes. Our first stop after Osaka was Kagoshima, Japan. Here, since we knew our grandsons had never seen a real-life volcano, but were eager to see one, we booked a Holland America shore excursion for all of us to Mt. Sakurajima, one of Japan’s most active volcanoes. “Wow!” both our grandsons exclaimed at the sight of the volcano which was very impressive, with a triple crater, as we approached the island where Mt. Sakurajima is located, a short ferry ride across from Kagoshima. Humberto and I were torn between watching the volcano and our grandsons’ faces. The volcano was not “smoking” a lot on this occasion, which Julian liked, as he said the least amount of volcanic activity is always best (how true!). We spent time on the tour exploring the lava fields and strolling among the black volcanic stones – one volcanic rock formation was in the shape of a lion! – in the coastal Nagisa Park. “Awesome,” Julian said of the experience. And we thought: indeed, and more so when sharing it with our family!
And, oh, there were many other sightseeing highlights. While in Nagasaki, we visited the Peace Park and Catholic sites including the Oura Church, lovely up on a hill, and the 26 Martyrs Monument and Museum – we had a Volunteer Guide taking us around using public transportation (the Volunteer Guides are a free service listed in the Japan National Tourist Organization web site: a great way to meet locals and see the sights while in Japan. Cost to the traveler is just to pay for the guide’s expenses in transportation and meals if needed as part of the tour).
In China, Humberto and I had already toured Beijing and its attractions on a previous voyage, so we booked two full-day HAL tours for our daughter and two grandsons to visit the Forbidden City, Tiannamen Square, the Temple of Heaven and the biggest “wow” of them all: the Great Wall of China. At dinner each night conversation was lively with our daughter and grandsons excitedly describing the treasures that they had seen.
We toured together in Shanghai and Hong Kong. In Shanghai we took in the cosmopolitan Bund with its lovely colonial architecture a short walk from the International Cruise Terminal, the Nanjing pedestrian street (one of the world’s busiest, a few blocks from our shuttle stop) and we loved the city’s evening “light show” seeing from the ship’s upper decks the iconic, futuristic-looking Oriental Pearl Tower turning a myriad of colors.
Since we had two days in the city, we spent the second day in Shanghai Disneyland, Disney’s newest park and the one boasting the biggest Castle – a highlight of the voyage for all ages but especially for our teenagers, was riding the fast coaster Tron, that Julian declared has become his favorite ride of all, and the special-effects-rich “Pirates of the Caribbean” attraction which is different from the one we all love at Walt Disney World in Florida.
In Hong Kong we toured via the hop-on/hop-off bus that included the tram ride up to Victoria Peak for fabulous views of Hong Kong Harbor, which we enjoyed together and also as a group we snapped photos of the adorable pandas at Ocean Park. We split up into two groups for other sightseeing including a traditional sampan ride, among other sights and activities.
Onboard the Amsterdam our favorite event was the Shanghai Sunset Party with the red sails of traditional Chinese junks adorning the Lido pool! Fun pursuits included lively trivia sessions with our wonderful Cruise Director Gene Young and delightful Show Host Isolda Rodriguez – both often made us laugh with their own brands of humor. Other pastimes included drawing lessons with Artist In Residence Ben Sack, and also Brain Teaser contests with pianist and multi-instrumentalist Debby Bacon. We also noted that many other guests, some of whom we had not yet met, approached us to compliment us about our family and showed an interest about them – so we made new friends!
And many staff members went out of their way to make our three generations’ get-together more fun and memorable. Our waiters, Heru and Rio, both from Indonesia, were very friendly and attentive – they fixed up a lovely round table for us in La Fontaine and quickly learned all our preferences. Asep relocated us back to our table for two after our family left – efficiently and seamlessly and without us needing to remind him. Other examples of staff going the extra mile for us: Debby held her Disney show at the piano bar until our grandsons and other youngsters boarded in Osaka, and Isolda gave us two extra Holland America Asia pins to give to our grandsons as keepsakes – such thoughtful touches make a difference!
Also in the onboard entertainment department, other of our favorites included cultural performances by local entertainers including spectacular shows put on by a Japanese troupe and by a Chinese cultural group while the ship was in Osaka and Xingang, and an exciting performance by Japanese juggler extraordinaire, Tempei.
All too soon, it was time for our family to disembark. We celebrated our farewell dinner onboard at the sumptuous Pinnacle Grill – three generations feasting on filet mignon, Alaskan King crab and other delicious dishes including the sinful chocolate lava cake, all served expertly by the staff overseen by Tina, the Pinnacle Grill’s manager. The bottom line for all three generations? We felt we were so blessed to be able to spend this time together – so full of grand moments on the Amsterdam. We agreed this was the best thing we have ever done when it came to family travel, and we couldn’t wait to enjoy something like this together again!