Georgina Cruz, a seasoned traveler and frequent Holland America Line guest, recently cruised on the Grand Mediterranean and Africa Voyage. Here is the last installment of her Cruise Diary. Read on for a peek into her exotic vacation and then check out our 2019 and 2020 Grand Voyages!
This spring my husband Humberto and I were privileged to enjoy exploring ports in West Africa and fabled locales of the Mediterranean on our 54-day Grand Africa & Mediterranean Voyage. When we finished visiting West African ports and calls in the Med, we steered a course back to the Atlantic Ocean where stops included an overnight in Lisbon with scenic cruising on the Tagus River. We also had the opportunity to see the Portuguese capital’s monuments, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site iconic Belem Tower and other points of interest including the Monument to the Discoveries, celebrating the exploits of Portuguese explorers and the Jeronimos Monastery with explorer Vasco da Gama’s tomb, as well as opportunities to tour Fatima, 88 miles north of Lisbon, one of the most important Catholic shrines where three shepherd children reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary in 1917.
We had enjoyed these highlights on previous voyages so this time we participated in a tour that took us along the beautiful Atlantic coast and then through the Sintra Protected National Forest, an area of narrow, twisted streets on the way to the quaint village of Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995. During free time we explored the royal retreat of Sintra, dominated by the tall, conical chimneys of the National Palace and the Pena Palace.
We admired the many buildings and cafes with ceramic tile adorning the walls and the quiet ambiance of Sintra’s streets. We also visited beautiful Cascais, a fashionable seaside resort.
Other Atlantic ports included three stops in the beautiful Azores – at Ponta Delgada, Terceira and Horta – with opportunities to go for strolls to view quaint towns boasting picturesque Portuguese architecture and natural wonders including volcanoes and volcanic lakes.
Through our entire cruise, our ship was a wonderful base from which to explore. We enjoyed the customary attentive, personalized service, delicious food, varied entertainment and activities including America’s Test Kitchen classes and demonstrations, as well as many enriching itinerary-focused offerings including excellent port lectures and local entertainers such as Gabriela Mendez & the Cape Verdean Group, who performed onboard while in Mindelo, Sao Vicente, Cape Verde Islands; flamenco troupes who entertained in our showroom in Tenerife and Barcelona, and folkloric groups who performed onboard during stops in Sorrento and Lisbon.
Like on all Grand Voyages, the dining room was festively decorated on various special themed nights including a Tropical Night that featured colorfully-attired plush monkey dolls, and gala evenings. And the wealth of choices for dinner that is a hallmark of Holland America is always a pleasure, including some of our favorites: the delicious chilled soups like strawberry and apricot – like delectable smoothies! The Pinnacle Grill served gourmet fare with impeccable, friendly service – who can say “no” to filet mignon, chocolate volcano cakes and raspberry cheesecakes? When our taste buds craved something Italian we headed for Canaletto’s, an alternative restaurant where we cannot resist the cannoli!
With our cruise designated as a “Grand Voyage” we were treated to special events and activities including a Spanish fiesta with paella while in Spain, and commemorative pillow gifts including carry-on luggage, a bag, journals and a lanyard for our key cards.
A glorious evening was the Captain’s Dinner held for the higher categories of Mariners. The captain welcomed us – we are proud 5-Star Mariners – to his quarters decorated with art and antiques and then we proceeded to the Pinnacle Grill for a magnificent dinner with wines. The meal, hosted by officers, was delicious and the company of well-traveled Mariners was delightful!
Another wonderful event was the Indonesian Crew Show (we had also enjoyed a Filipino Crew Show earlier on the voyage) during which members of the crew performed songs and dances of Indonesia. Even Humberto got into the act when our wonderful waiter, Iwul, gave him an angklung (an Indonesian musical instrument) and invited him to join the rest of the band, along with other guest volunteers, in a rendition of “Spanish Eyes.” Priceless!
All too soon, we had begun the crossing back to Fort Lauderdale with a stop in Hamilton, Bermuda, with its multiple attractions including picturesque architecture in pastel tones and the pink sands of Horseshoe Bay Beach, to delightfully break up the string of relaxing sea days.
It had been all we had hoped for: a Grand Voyage on a Grand Ship!