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Cruise Diary: Near The Half-Way Point, Some Superlatives Of Our World Cruise

Days 52-53 Feb. 27-28:

“We’re half way through the cruise already – time to start panicking: we’ll have to get off soon!” a guest told her traveling companion in one of the Amsterdam’s elevator wells. She was anticipating a bit – we still have three days to go before the halfway point. But I knew exactly what she meant – it will be very hard to leave what has become our home at sea. I’ll worry about that later, and in the meantime, here are some superlatives of the first half of the voyage.

First a disclaimer – this is admittedly a subjective list. Other passengers may have their own selections. In most cases, it was very difficult to decide which one among many good things was the best. That said, here is my list:

BEST SHOW: The Melissa Manchester Concert on our first formal night. The singing star delighted us with a mix of old favorites and new tunes and, through the magic of technology, sang a “duet’’ with Barry Manilow, his part being pre-recorded.

BEST LUNCH: The Mongolian Cookout in the Lido with stewards in traditional dress and a bountiful selection of vegetables, noodles, meats and seafood that cooks stir-fry in woks with our selection of sauces.

Most recent Mongolian cookout on the Lido deck.

Most recent Mongolian cookout on the Lido deck.

BEST DINNER: Our gourmet feast at the Pinnacle Grill including flambé skewers and Grand Marnier Volcano Chocolate Cake. We have made reservations for two other dinners there in the second half of the voyage on two themed nights: an evening at Le Cirque and a Murder Mystery Night.

BEST OUTDOOR FACILITIES: The wrap-around Promenade Deck that enables us walkers to go all around the ship without having to stop and turn back, and the Lido Pool with its magrodome that made it possible for us to use the pool and hot tubs rain or shine, hot or cold weather – including while sailing in Antarctica.

Georgina and Humberto on Deck 9 during a balmy day in Antactica.

Me and Humberto on Deck 9 during a balmy day in Antactica.

BEST INDOOR FEATURES: The gracious floral arrangements. “On a dreary day, the flowers just bring the sunshine in,” as a fellow passenger put it, and on any day, greet you with fresh fragrance as you pass by.

Florist Eddy shows off flower arrangement by entrance of Ocean Bar.

Florist Eddy shows off flower arrangement by the entrance of the Ocean Bar.

BEST THEMED BALL: The Valentine’s Day Hearts & Flowers Ball – a most romantic occasion with glowing red lights, decorations, music and heart confetti in the Queen’s Lounge.

BEST EVENT: The Mariner Appreciation Days, through which the line thanked past passengers with a series of events including a presentation and Q&A session with Stein Kruse, president and CEO of Holland America Line, a cocktail party, a gala dinner with complimentary wines, pillow gifts from Tiffany’s and a Mardi Gras bash complete with New Orleans’ style decorations, a parade, jazz band and open bar (Duffy, “our bear that went around the world” got to wear his Mardi Gras beads and looked awfully cute!). It was very nice to be appreciated at such a fabulous event!

Mariner Appreciation pillow gifts.

Mariner Appreciation pillow gifts.

BEST ENRICHMENT CLASSES: Varied, fast-paced, information-packed and, unlike most other ships, free and highly practical (stuff you can really use) classes on computing and digital photography, including how to make a DVD movie of our cruise. The instructor, “techspert’’ Chris Jackson, supplements the classes with one-hour sessions – usually after each class — where you can ask questions about any computer topic. Tip: Get to class early or you may not find a seat.

WORST MOMENT: When Captain Jonathan Mercer announced that there was a massive storm in the South Pacific and we would have some itinerary changes. We all held our breath, hoping we would not miss Easter Island, our next scheduled port of call, but we didn’t.

MOST EXOTIC PORT: Easter Island, with its enigmatic “moais.”

Me, Humberto and Duffy with “moai” in Easter Island.

Me, Humberto and Duffy with the moais in Easter Island.

BEST VIEWS: The view of Rio de Janeiro from the amazing Christ the Redeemer Statue and the entrance to Sydney Harbor with its iconic Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge.

MOST ARDUOUS SHORE EXCURSION: The four-wheel-drive tour to Volunteer Point in the Falklands with more than an hour over terrain filled with ditches and other bumpy conditions. The reward was the view of King, Gentoo and Magellanic Penguins on a beach and grassy areas.

BEST OVERALL EXPERIENCE: Sailing in Antarctica waters, past blue-ice icebergs and with views of snow-covered peaks with an ice pilot and other members of our Antarctica team who talked about the marine life, the ice and other aspects of the White Continent. And having a team of scientists from the United States’ Palmer Station come onboard and talk to us about their research and life in Antarctica.

We are very grateful for the privilege of experiencing the first half of this Grand World Voyage and plan to attend religious services onboard to thank God for this special blessing. We look forward now to the second half of the cruise with such breathtaking moments and activities in store as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef; an elephant trek in Phuket, Thailand; the view of the Taj Mahal in India; a camel caravan in the Sinai Desert; the Acropolis in Athens; Mt. Etna in Sicily; The Sagrada Familia and other Gaudi masterworks in Barcelona and so much more. Our cup runneth over!

Freelance travel writer Georgina Cruz and her husband Humberto are currently sailing on Amsterdam’s 112-day Grand World Voyage and will be sending in cruise diaries throughout their time on board. She has logged 174 voyages to all seven continents and visited more than 100 countries.

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