The idea evolved naturally: My parents had given me a European trip when I graduated from college and it was wonderful. We gave our daughter a Mediterranean cruise when she finished high school and gave our grandsons a cruise to Japan and China for a high school graduation present. So, why not give our grandsons a voyage to the Land Down Under for a college graduation gift? The gift would also be a chance for Humberto, my husband, and I to visit with our family during our four-month-long World Cruise.
Our daughter, Veronica, and two grandsons, Aidan and Julian, joined us for a segment during the 2019 Grand World Voyage on Amsterdam. The experience exceeded our expectations from the first exciting moment when we first saw them in Auckland, New Zealand, on board the ship. There is nothing like meeting family in a far away, exotic location. It was simply priceless, and we found we could not wipe the smiles off our faces! Some of our Auckland highlights included the Auckland’s Sky Tower, the tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere at more than 1,000 feet tall, offering fabulous views that make anyone feel as if they are on top of the world!
And that was just the beginning. During the family’s 25-day Auckland-to-Singapore segment of the World Cruise, we did some things together and other things separately to allow for personal interests. Each evening we would discuss our day over dinner together—the conversation recounting our adventures and activities was always lively!
Some other Down Under highlights included admiring the breathtaking arrival and departure from the Sydney Harbor with sights of the beautiful Opera House, and the Amsterdam going under the iconic Sydney Harbor Bridge—what a thrill! Veronica, Aidan and Julian climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge for a rush of adrenaline—something they said they would never forget. In Townsville, Australia, we found we could not resist hobnobbing with some of Australia’s fabulous fauna. We chose the Billabong Sanctuary near the center of Townsville as it is the perfect place to get acquainted with koalas, kangaroos, wombats, dingoes, snakes, emus, and more. We enjoyed the demonstrations, such as the crocodile feeding.
Humberto and I had already snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef on previous voyages, but the younger generations had not enjoyed this natural wonder. From Cairns, Australia, they opted for the Holland America shore excursion to the Great Barrier Reef, while Humberto and I explored the Cairns ZOOM and Wildlife Dome, on our own. There, we saw a variety of animals including crocodiles, wallabies, koalas, snakes, turtles and birds.
Other highlights of our voyage with our family included a visit to Bali, Indonesia, with its magnificent temples—it is estimated there are some 20,000 temples and shrines on the island—and terraced rice paddies. Another memorable stop was in Komodo, Indonesia, home of the famed Jurassic-looking Komodo dragons and in Singapore, with its eye-popping architecture including the Marina Bay Sands Singapore and its three spectacular towers crowned with a ship.
On board the Amsterdam, we shared many other highlights including special events that we attended together like the wacky Crossing of the Equator ceremony on deck. This was the first time our daughter and grandsons crossed that line, with the deck of the Lido Pool decorated with Jolly Rogers, pirate treasure chests and all manner of booty. As the ship’s whistle blew powerfully, a parade of pirates and pollywogs (first-time Equator-crossing crew members), King Neptune with his trident, and the Amsterdam’s master, Captain Jonathan Mercer and his senior officers arrived to sit in judgment of the pollywogs, giving thumbs up or down to indicate if the pollywogs were to be spared or dunked in the pool after they kissed a big “royal fish” and were doused with goo on tables by the pool. There were also festive themed dinners like the Bowlers & Bumbershoots Dinner on the way to Commonwealth countries with the dining room decorated with umbrellas hanging from the ceiling and colorful bowler hats for each guest.
Activities and entertainment our family participated in together included trivia contests, port talks and folkloric shows from local groups in various ports brought aboard through Holland America’s Explorations Central Program. Popular shows included a Maori team who taught guests how to do the famous Haka War Dance.
The gift we set out to provide for our grandsons and our daughter was one they said they will remember forever, and it turned out to be a double present, as my husband and I were gifted a wonderful time seeing the world through our daughter’s and grandsons’ eyes!