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? Read below for the third installment that provides a glimpse into her exotic vacation!
Whenever I close my eyes and conjure up memories of my five World Cruises on Amsterdam with my husband Humberto, I invariably think of far-flung, exotic locales we have been privileged to visit. That is one of the delights of World Cruises and other grand voyages — the opportunity to visit in one trip some of “those faraway places with strange sounding names, far away over the sea…” as the classic Bing Crosby song, “Far Away Places,” mentions in its lyrics.
During our previous World Cruises we have visited such tantalizing locales as Antarctica, with its icebergs in shades of blue and green, and shapes — in some cases — reminiscent of castles; and the Taj Mahal in Agra, India – though a mausoleum, a sort of glorious “ice castle” itself, with white marble so pure and luminous it seems to float over the ground. Though we visited the Taj Mahal and Antarctica during our first World Cruise in 2012, their images are still oh so vivid in my mind!
Far away, off-the-beaten path locales…they never disappoint, often making for a most memorable visit. During Amsterdam’s current 2019 Grand World Voyage, we have already had our share of exotic locations to visit. Among some of them, the San Blas Islands of Panama, where the Cuna Indian locals create the precious, colorful craft of “molas” — several layers of reverse-applique cloths with designs depicting lizards, fish, turtles and other local fauna, as well as abstract designs.
Another off-the-beaten path destination for us was Chile’s Atacama Desert — the driest in the planet — having given the world its oldest mummies, and adorned near Arica with thought-provoking statues. Here, on this marvelous setting, a tour group from Amsterdam was treated to a folkloric show right on the desert sands.
In nearby Peru, a stop in Salaverry allowed for a visit via complimentary shuttle to the pretty colonial town of Trujillo — one of those places we had never even heard of, but turned out to be thoroughly charming.
More exotic locations have included scenic sailing at Pitcairn Island, where Fletcher Christian and other Bounty mutineers settled; and a stop at mystical Rapa Nui/Easter Island where mysterious Polynesian-style moai are an irresistible lure to travelers; and Bali, where the magnificent Hindu Pura Lempuyan Temple — just one of an estimated 20,000 temples and shrines on the island — beckons on impressive Mount Lempuyan.
Another faraway, exotic case in point was Muscat, Oman, which Amsterdam visited in early April.
Muscat, the capital of the Sultanate of Oman, has a privileged position and sheltered port in the Arabian Sea, relative to the Strait of Hormuz. Its de rigueur sights include its 16th century Portuguese ports of Al Jalali and Mirani overlooking the harbor; the Al Alam Palace — the ceremonial palace of Sultan Qaboos in Old Muscat, and the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque — marble clad, with a 165-foot-high dome, four flanking minarets, and an interior adorned with a gold chandelier and a prodigious prayer carpet. This mosque can accommodate 20,000 people.
After taking in these sights, enjoying local color at Muscat’s Muttrah Corniche and Market is the perfect activity for a day in the Omani capital. We, along with many other passengers, enjoyed a stroll on the Muttrah Corniche — a seaside promenade adorned with sculptures — and ventured into the souk which has the interest of a typical Arab market. The souk is a labyrinth with lots of Omani and Indian goods, silver, textiles, spices, antiques, jewelry, perfumed oils, frankincense, and other merchandise including lamps that looked like they could harbor a genie! Haggling is expected.
For those who wish to borrow a page from Scheherazade — the legendary Persian queen storyteller of “One Thousand And One Nights” — and live out an Arabian dream, an option is a visit to the Al Bustan Palace, A Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Located between the Gulf of Oman and the Al Hajar Mountains, Al Bustan Palace was a former royal residence, and is nestled within 200 acres of landscaped, palm-filled gardens on Quran Beach, and has opulent appointments accented with a crystal chandelier, hand-carved wood panels, Islamist fretwork adorning the walls, and sumptuous décor in gold, cream, maroon and bronze. The hotel offers a Day Pass and its Afternoon Tea with local specialties is offered as an optional tour on Amsterdam.
Having enjoyed these exotic locales, we felt we could not wait until the next faraway place on our itinerary!
Stay tuned for the last part of this diary — World Cruise Delights: European Ports.