Holland America 12-Night Mediterranean Tapestry Cruise
Getting Hooked on the Mediterranean
Article & Photography by Jasmine Morcos & Alejandro Barbosa
As first-time cruisers, we were delighted that our stay on Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam surpassed all of our expectations.
Our ocean-view stateroom had a wonderful big bed, lots of storage space and a large window overlooking the sea. My boyfriend and I loved the huge selection of food and the variety of dining options – including great vegetarian meals as well as tasty meat and fish.
The service was impeccable and cheerful, making our visit extra special from the moment we boarded in Barcelona, Spain until we reluctantly disembarked when our cruise ended in Venice, Italy.
You will find plenty to do on the ship, which is only five years old. It offers great entertainment, plenty of activities like pools, shows, music and clubs, a gym overlooking the water, and $3 million worth of art to admire. Scattered around the ship are sculptures and artwork by such famous artists as Andy Warhol, Richard Estes and Roy Lichtenstein. You can take a free self-guided iPod® tour of the art and feel as if you have your very own museum at sea.
The ship has all the great buffet offerings we expected, plus lots more. The Tamarind Restaurant serves excellent pan-Asian food and the Silk Den Lounge has spectacular vistas, making it ideal for relaxation. We especially liked the B.B. King Blues Club for its high-energy music and very reasonably priced drinks.
And one of the nicest benefits of all: The Nieuw Amsterdam is so well organized that we seldom encountered any waiting lines even though the ship holds more than 2,100 passengers spread over 900-plus rooms. Talk about “smooth sailing!”
While the ship was an awesome home away from home for 14 days, the ports were great highlights, too.
It was just the right pace: 14 days, 11 ports and seven countries, with two days at sea to enjoy the ship, play tennis and board games, sample still more food and recharge our batteries.
All the ports offered unusual shopping, interesting historic sites and a wide variety of restaurants serving local and international foods.
Here are five of our favorite stops:
Exotic flowers and chirping birds added to our stroll through Old Town, which is full of history, extremely expensive automobiles and eye-catching scenic views.
Have lunch at the Exotic Garden if you can, and walk through the casino, the setting for many glamorous events over the years, including James Bond movies.
The jewelry stores are a must-see; they have something for every price range.
The Duomo, the fourth largest cathedral in the world, rises over Florence. It’s a huge structure with a Renaissance dome, and admission is free! The size and beauty were breathtaking; we couldn’t imagine a trip to Florence without a visit to this beautiful cathedral with such wonderful mosaics.
We got to feel and appreciate history as we visited some of the many monuments in this fabulous city. The Roman Coliseum made us feel like we were walking in an ancient museum.
Rome has wonderful piazzas and open-air markets, the Trevi Fountain and much, much more. As the tour guide says, “Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it can’t be seen in a day.”
We took a ferry here from Naples and were truly amazed by the magnificent mountains surrounding Sorrento, a city on the Amalfi coast. It’s atop a cliff overlooking the Bay of Naples, so bring a camera to capture the views. For a taste treat, try Limoncello, a popular Italian liqueur.
We spent our final night aboard the ship in Venice, where a waterbus is a great way to see the amazing architecture and the canals buzzing with gondolas and numerous other boats.
Venice, one of the most popular tourist spots in the world, is made up of 118 islands connected by canals and bridges. Tour the Grand Canal, which passes more than 170 buildings, some dating as far back as the 1200s and 1300s.
Great food, great staff
On the ship, we were amazed by the staff’s constant attentiveness. They were quick to answer our questions and our requests, always making us feel pampered and welcome.
This atmosphere is a great selling point for the Nieuw Amsterdam, which is named for New York City. (New York was called Nieuw Amsterdam when Dutch explorers were active there centuries ago.)
The ship keeps the New York vibe going, with a Manhattan restaurant and an abstract sculpture of the inverted New York skyline made from clear translucent blocks that hang upside-down.
This ship is Nieuw Amsterdam IV, following a rich tradition started in 1906 by the original Nieuw Amsterdam, which used both sails and engines. Obviously, cruising has come a long way from those days.
Food, food, food
The wonderful buffets were full of fresh food, which stoked us full of energy for fun on land and sea. Every morning we tried something different, tasting as much of the menu as we could, and never being disappointed.
The ship also has specialty restaurants, and they are extremely good. One night we went to Canaletto, where the menu is designed around authentic Italian food. The dishes were made to be shared with friends and family. We split the Canaletto salad and the ricotta raviolis, one of the best pasta dishes I have ever had. It was tasty and perfectly spiced, making it a real delight. As our main course, we tried the grilled white bass with roasted potatoes and a delicious salad. Once again, we were very happy with our choice. The sea bass was very lean, with a delicate flavor of lemon and thyme, bringing a light, fresh touch to the plate.
For dessert, we asked the waiter for a recommendation, and he did: tiramisu and a mouthwatering pistachio gelato. (When in doubt, ask the servers. They always picked top-notch menu items.)
Another night we tried Tamarind, known for food evoking rich culinary traditions of Southeast Asia, China, and Japan. The food was spectacular and the ambiance wonderful, plus we had amazing service and great company.
Our waitress kindly guided us through the menu and helped us make our choices, as everything looked delicious. Main courses were separated into four categories: water (fish and seafood), earth (vegetarian options), wood (beef, scallops, and duck) and fire (shrimp, chicken, and lamb). We concluded with a mix of desserts suggested by the waitress: tempura ice cream, chocolate almond fortune cookie, a trio of sorbets, and tamarind chocolate shell.
For our final night on the ship, we visited the luxurious Pinnacle Grill restaurant. The environment was elegant, with a very chic décor and beautiful table decorations.
The menu had a great selection of starters, main courses and side dishes. But that’s not all. The dessert selection was incredible — and the presentation was even better.
We shared the amazing Grand Marnier chocolate volcano cake and the delicious creamy, homemade raspberry cheesecake. After supper, we treated ourselves to a refreshing therapeutic massage at the spa.
This may have been our first cruise, but it definitely won’t be our last. We’re already looking at itineraries for more trips aboard Nieuw Amsterdam.
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