By: Regina Lynch-Hudson
According to Travel Leaders Group, cruises are most favored among elite travelers, as a top luxury travel trend for 2014. Whether it’s a group of old friends uniting for a vacation, a family reunion, a corporate meeting, or a girl’s retreat no other mode of travel beats cruising.
From my luxury Verandah suite onboard Holland America’s (www.hollandamerica.com) newest ship, ms Nieuw Am- sterdam, I savored a high-end Mediterranean adventure that forever hooked me on cruise trips. Envision monogramed robes, flat-panel TVs and break- fast in bed (a plush Euro-top Mariner’s Dream Bed), round- the-clock fine dining, luxuriating spa services, and blissbehaving on a va-va-va voom vessel on
a whirlwind passage to paradise.
Selecting a cruise line is every bit as important as pinpointing a cruise destination. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to cruise brands. From Disney cruises, aimed at families with children, to the upscale Holland America excursions, your cruise experience depends on which cruise line you choose.
Holland America Line repeat- edly earns top honors in leading cruise line publications, and recently snared eight 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards from Porthole Cruise Magazine. The honors included Best Alaska, Canada/New England and Central America Itineraries, Best Shore Excursions, Best Medical Facilities, Best Facilities for Physically Challenged Pas- sengers, Best Private Island for Half Moon Cay and Best Private Island Cabana for Half Moon Cay, the line’s exclusive island in the Bahamas. And, one award that should have been added to the list was Best Pamper Cruise for a Frazzled, Overworked Diva.
Madames of the Waterways:
Holland America Line ushered in its 2014 cruise season with 15 ships: ms Amsterdam, ms Eurodam, ms Maasdam, ms Nieuw Amsterdam, ms Noordam, ms Oosterdam, ms Prinsendam, ms Ryndam, ms Statendam, ms Veendam, ms Volendam, ms Westerdam, ms Zaandam and ms Zuiderdam. The buoyant grand dames offer more than 500 cruises to 415 ports in 98 countries. Itineraries ranging from a single day cruise to a 110-day odyssey span all seven continents, including Antarctica, South America, Australia/New Zealand and Asia voyages; four annual Grand Voyages; and popular sailings to ports throughout the Caribbe- an, Alaska, Mexico, Canada/New England, Europe and Panama Canal.
Drifting Right Along:
Onboard activities for shipboard guests far exceed meditating on the deck with wind blowing through your hair. I felt that I was held willingly captive in my own self-contained private universe, as I lazed from one exquisite experience to the next. A typical ‘day at sea’ commenced with room service, sipping freshly squeezed juices, and nibbling yogurt and fruit while watching the sun come up along the far-flung Adriatic, Ionian and Aegean Seas, the Dardanelles Straits and Sea of Marmara. Breakfast was followed up with Yoga, Aquarobics or Pilates — performed with a 360-degree vista of the ocean within reach. Following a panoramic workout, I explored the eco- chic ship purchased art from the ship’s fine art gallery, shopped in the signature boutiques onboard, and participated in demonstrations and classes that included digital workshops. After lunch in one of Holland America’s 4 restaurants (or main dining room), I indulged in spa servic- es in the Greenhouse Spa and Salon and later marinated on the edge of the ship’s infinity pool that practically touches the seams of the sea. Before dinner, I returned to my suite the ultimate lair, complete with my own personal wait staff. Dusk comes too soon at sea, and the lure of private verandahs frequently lures one back to the room for an open- air cat-nap. Nighttime activities abound onboard Holland America ships — from Dancing with the Stars at Sea to highly rated performances by world-class musicians. At day’s end, you’ll discover fine chocolates on your pillow, and the best sleep you’ve ever had.
Dining at Sea:
Porthole Cruise Magazine has repeatedly named Hol- land America’s culinary consultant Master Chef Rudi Sodamin as the industry’s Best Cruise Line Chef. Sodamin is the author of Holland America’s ‘Signature of Excellence’ cookbook series that’s sold on board. But, honestly, who really dreams of opening a cookbook again and slaving away in a kitchen after having dined in Holland America’s restaurants for weeks or months on end? Holland America’s preferred dine “As You Wish®” program allows you to choose between the refined and luscious Pinnacle Grill , the authentically Italian Canaletto Restaurant, the fare of Southeast Asian, China and Japan in Tamarind Restaurant, the more relaxed Lido Restaurant, and the two-level Main Dining Room. During at least one evening per voyage, the Pinnacle Grill is transformed to offer an authentic Le Cirque experience. An Evening at Le Cirque is reminiscent of a visit to the legendary Le Cirque restau- rant from the china to the fabulously distinguished menu.
Pack for Pleasure:
Don’t forget to pack at least three of your most fabulous evening gowns for “formal nights” that promise to intrigue! To separate what you are wearing by day, a cruise must-have is a set a leopard print travel cases by DayMakers of Santa Barbara. www.daymakers.com