From the comfort of my office, I reflect back on this Holland America cruise, which we had taken just months before the arrival of COVID-19 and the subsequent demise of our travel industry.
“Do you think you’ll have this ship figured out by the time we’re back to Rome?” my husband had joked, as I took the wrong staircase again.
We were on day two of 12, cruising our way around the Mediterranean, with friends.
I was still confused as to which deck hosted what, even though I had linked my cell phone to the ship’s navigator, the number of areas and offerings were mind-boggling.
A musical theme flowed throughout the classy Koningsdam and an array of venues provided us with live entertainment.
We jived to pop in the Rolling Stones, sung along with pianists at the Billboard Onboard, grooved to Memphis tunes at B.B. King’s Blues Club and strolled beyond the casino to the World Stage where two nightly shows were performed.
Daily activities ranged from trivia and boardgame Scattegories, to chess and bridge games.
The Greenhouse Spa & Salon was a nurturing haven where we relaxed and restored — the ocean-viewing fitness centre boosted our heart rates. With two swimming pools, ping pong, basketball and pickle ball — there was never a shortage of action.
As we all know, cuisine is a big part of cruising life.
We joined the Fishers daily at the Lido Market and selected from yummy themed stations: baked goods from Breadboard, humungous salad bowls from Wild Harvest, ethnic delights from Distant Lands and decadent desserts from the Sweet Spot.
Just beyond the Lido Market was the Dive-In that dished up awesome burgers and crispy French fries. Stairs from this grill led to the New York Deli, where we could build our own pizza.
The Grand Dutch Cafe was a casual eatery that honoured the ship’s heritage with specialties like veal ragout and split pea soup.
Explorations on the top floor Crow’s Nest had a selection of sweets and sandwiches topped off with a sensational panoramic view. A gorgeous two-storey dining room satisfied our palates on most evenings.
Edison, our knowledgeable wine sommelier, provided perfect pairing recommendations, while Yudha and Asep catered to every gastronomic desire: alluring appetizers like French onion soup, New York strip loin coupled with portabella mushrooms and regionally-inspired Provencale Minestrone.
The main dishes continued to amaze us, from a line-up available at each sitting to specialties of day — St. Peters fish, doused in olives and onions, Veal piccatta baked in mozzarella and eggplant cannelloni for vegetarian fans.
When it came to desserts, none of us were able to get up from the table without sampling at least one.
Although the main dining room certainly satisfied, we also made reservations at the reasonably-priced specialty restaurants.
Rudi’s Sel de Mer was an intimate ala carte brasserie that featured French cuisine, the Canaletto dished up tasty Italian fare, the Pinnacle Grill lured meat lovers and the Tamarind boasted specialties from Thailand, China and Vietnam.
We could easily have chilled out on this luxurious floating hotel for the entire cruise, but fortunately, over the 12 days, there were nine intriguing ports where we could burn off some calories.
In Dubrovnik, Croatia’s top tourist haunt, we sauntered around the enchanting old city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with medieval walls that dated back to the 12th century.
The following day was Montenegro’s storybook hamlet of Kotor where we took a speed boat tour and explored historical landmarks along the Adriatic shoreline.
The next stop was Croatia’s sweet city of Split where we climbed the bell tower of Cathedral of Saint Domnius and hiked up Marjan Hill.
A dance session in Koper, a beach day in Corfu, a step back in time to the Neolithic era in Malta and lastly, we were mesmerized by Pompeii in Naples.
It was a very full and amazing port show. And similar to our lavish home on the sea, this Mediterranean itinerary is one that I’ll clearly remember, until we can one day cruise again.
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