Georgina Cruz, a seasoned traveler and frequent Holland America Line guest who takes many of our Grand Voyages, recently wrapped up the Grand World Voyage aboard Amsterdam. Wondering if our Grand Voyages are your dream getaway? Read below for her last installment that provides a glimpse into her unforgettable vacation!
After enjoying a Polynesian sojourn, a three-generational get-together Down Under during the Amsterdam’s 2019 Grand World Voyage as well as calls at many exotic faraway places in South America, Asia and Arabia, the ship, like a magic carpet, transported us to Europe. A bit more so than in previous years, the Amsterdam’s 2019 Grand World Voyage focused on this continent: my husband Humberto and I were delighted to enjoy, in addition to the often-visited Naples and Iberian ports, several locales in the British Isles and Northern Europe including some off-the-beaten path spots. During our five World Cruises on Amsterdam I had always thought of the European ports as the “dessert” of the Grand Voyage “banquet” of destinations, as Europe comes at the end of the circumnavigation. Well, this time, the “dessert” was a veritable “buffet” of delights featuring a magnificent 15 European ports.
Here are just some of our favorites:
- Naples – I’ve always felt that any – any – stop in Italy during a voyage is a major highlight. Naples is no exception. Its treasures include the view of majestic Mt. Vesuvius, the only volcano in the European mainland to have been active in this century; the Castel Nuovo, which though called “New” Castle, dates from the 13th century; and the San Carlo Opera, oldest continuously operating opera house in the world. Not to mention, of course, delectable pizza – particularly the pizza Margherita, scrumptious with mozzarella, tomato sauce and basil (sporting the white, red and green colors of the Italian flag).
Within walking distance of the cruise pier is the Galleria Umberto, a beautiful, glass-domed shopping gallery, ideal for souvenir shopping.
- Cadiz – A White City in the Costa de la Luz (the Coast of Light) in the Andalusia region of Spain, Cadiz was founded 3,000 years ago by the Phoenicias and has much to offer travelers including excellent examples of Spanish architecture from other eras, good beaches and delicious regional cuisine. An easy walk from the cruise pier is the city’s Roman Catholic Cathedral with an impressive dome that can be seen from ships’ outer decks as vessels approach the port. Baroque and Neoclassical in style with an egg-yolk-like dome and yellow tiles, the Cathedral houses in its crypt the tomb of distinguished Cadiz-born composer Manuel de Falla (who gave the world the “Ritual Fire Dance”). Nearby are the partly excavated ruins of a Roman theater that dates from circa 70 B.C. and the “old cathedral” or Santa Cruz Church (consecrated as the city’s cathedral in 1263, and now a Roman Catholic Church). Other highlights include the City Hall, a beautiful Neo-classical building that dates from the 18th century; the Central Market, a huge covered place in the Plaza de la Libertad, with all manner of meats, fish, fruits and local produce; beaches like La Victoria, Santa Maria, La Cortadura and La Caleta; and the Tavira Tower, a good place for views of Cadiz.
- Barcelona – One of Spain’s most charming cities and Catalunya’s capital, Barcelona is a major port with 2.71 million cruise passengers in 2017.
Its popularity comes from its many attributes: seven beaches that span five kilometers along the shoreline; one of Spain’s most famous pedestrian streets, Las Ramblas, tree-lined with lots of cafes, souvenir booths and “living statues;” delicious cuisine and wines; and striking architecture, particularly the works of her modernist Antoni Gaudi, a late 19th century/early 20th century architect, whose most famous work is La Sagrada Familia Basilica, begun in 1882 and still unfinished.
- Lisbon – The Portuguese capital starts mesmerizing cruise passengers even before they arrive with scenic cruising on the Tagus River. Points of interest include monuments such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site iconic Belem Tower, the Monument to the Discoveries, and the Jeronimos Monastery with explorer Vasco da Gama’s tomb. Touring opportunities include tours to 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, and excursions that in addition to Lisbon highlights take in the royal retreat of Sintra and seaside Cascais. Within walking distance of the cruise terminal is Lisbon’s colorful Alfama district, the city’s oldest, with shops, restaurants and Fado bars featuring Portugal’s melancholy music.
- Cherbourg – This charming French port, famous from the film “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and for being one of the last stops of the Titanic, is a gateway to the historic Normandy Beaches during the Allied liberation of France in World War II. We headed for the lovely Val de Saire, a beautiful valley with picturesque villages and medieval towns like Barfleur. Our HAL tour also visited an apple farm and cider house where various ciders and Calvados brandy are produced for a delicious taste (yum!) of this part of France. In Cherbourg itself, Amsterdam was docked near the historic gangways used for the Titanic when she called on the city four days before she sank in April of 1912.
- Amsterdam – Here the Grand World Voyage had a most memorable and delightful experience available to us: the cruise coincided with the annual Keukenhof Tulip Festival held at Keukenhof Gardens in the town of Lisse, about an hour south of Amsterdam. We booked the ship’s tour to this world-class festival which is a feast for the senses with an abundance of colors with gorgeous tulips, daffodils and hyacinths, fresh and fragrant, spreading out as far as the eye can see – seven million bulbs are planted annually in the gardens spanning nearly 80 acres. Oh, so, so lovely!
Also, the World Cruise had a marvelous gift for guests: a complimentary evening visit including transportation to the world-famous Rijksmuseum with its treasure trove of Rembrandts (including “The Night Watch” and other masterpieces like Vermeer’s “The Milkmaid”). The Rijksmuseum, in a stately building dating from the 19th century, recently underwent a 10-year renovation and re-opened in 2013. It was simply marvelous and being able to enjoy a private after-hours visit to the museum, exclusive to our ship’s guests, made it super-special. We were treated to complimentary beverages and desserts. And there was enrichment, including a lecture on the museum’s collection highlights, art tours and “Ask Me Guides” and art experts. Our host, Holland America Line President Orlando Ashford, shared the experience with us and posed for photos with guests. And as if all of this were not enough, when we returned home to Amsterdam in Amsterdam we found a pillow gift: a commemorative Tiffany box engraved with a drawing of the Rijksmuseum and “Grand World Voyage 2019” –a wonderful keepsake!
- Oslo – The Norwegian capital never disappoints! Points of interest include the Opera House – with futuristic architecture and superb acoustics. “Its architectural style has been compared to a glacier in the Oslo fjord,” our guide commented, and visitors are invited to climb its whiter-than-white sloping roof for great views of the city. Other must-sees include the Royal Palace dating from the 19th century, at the top of the city’s main thoroughfare, Karl Johansgate, and the Parliament building on Karl Johansgate 22, seat of Norway’s legislative body since 1866; Akershus Castle, on the port, dating from the 13th century and renovated in renaissance style in the 17th century; and Vigeland Sculpture Park on Entre Kirkevn with more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and iron by Gustav Vigeland. The Nobel Prize Peace Center, B. Bullspl 1, is another Oslo must, where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded each year.
- Belfast – We opted for a ship’s Belfast highlights tour introducing the main sights of Northern Ireland’s largest city like the City Hall, Grand Opera House and the Albert Memorial Clock and taking in the Titanic Experience. Housed in an iconic, hull-like, six-story building devoted to what is arguably the most famous ship in the world that was built in Belfast.
Highlights include numerous exhibits with china and other objects from the ship and recreations of the Titanic’s accommodations including the luxurious First Class cabin.
- Copenhagen – The charming capital of Denmark beckoned us with its famous Little Mermaid sculpture, an icon of Copenhagen (the beloved Hans Christian Andersen character sculpture sits on a small rock by the sea), its imposing Christianborg and Amalienborg palaces, and the picturesque Nyhavn, a colorful 17th century waterfront, canal and entertainment district. We also headed for Tivoli Gardens, for a whimsical afternoon of rides and games in the amusement park that is said to have inspired Walt Disney to create Disneyland in California. One ride caught our eye – the vehicles were hot-air balloon gondolas, very appropriate for our round the world voyage!
If you’re looking to take a Grand World Voyage, the 2021 is now available for booking!