Tag-Archive for » Holland America Oosterdam «

Panama Canal Cruise In The Dark

Maybe we’re missing something here…

Windstar Cruises has a new program for sailing through the Panama Canal, at night. Yes, in the dark, or mostly in the dark. As the cruise line points out, it will give Windstar guests a chance “to experience the sights and sounds of the Panama Canal while enjoying amenities and activities that highlight the Panamanian culture.“


We always thought the idea was to SEE the Panama Canal, especially now with the long-awaited expansion closing in on completion (according to the Panama Canal website everything is between 92 and 100 per cent finished, although there is still no mention of when it will open).

Meanwhile, Windstar guests will “enjoy a cool and breezy nighttime passage through the Panama Canal, during which lights illuminate the inner workings of the waterway” while Panama Canalthey “stroll along the deck and sip on local beverages, beers, and cocktails from a mobile drink cart while listening to local festive music from various regions around the country.”

Except for what would be illuminated, this sounds like it could apply to just about any cruise, just about anywhere.

Our Panama Canal experience is one crossing. We were mesmerized. This weekend, we dined with friends who are not avid cruisers, who recently cruised through the Canal and who will probably never set foot on a cruise ship again — translation: They didn’t have a good time.

The one part of the 16-day journey that mesmerized them was the Panama Canal.

Like us, they went through during the day. Like us, they saw it. Who knows how much of it Windstar’s guests will be able to see? At least they won’t know what they’re missing, right?

In the news…

• Two Celebrity Summit passengers die, 18 are hurt, in Tortola bus crash
• Zuiderdam 7th Holland American ship this year with CDC score of 100
• Regal Princess to star in 6-part ITV documentary ‘The Cruise’ in March
• Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas to get $30-million upgrade in spring

Today at portsandbows.comPrincess plans for Europe in 2017

Holland America Oosterdam
11 night
December 28, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Barbados, Fort-de-France, St. Kitts, St. Thomas, Half Moon Cay
Inside: $1,099
Cost per day: $99

Friday File: Why Wildlife Is A Winner

Have you ever noticed that the best TV commercials, even the ones on Super Bowl Sunday, often feature animals? For whatever reason, any kind of wildlife captures our imaginations, or at least our camera lens, and that’s why among the thousands of pictures we’ve taken while on cruises, so many of them are of a creature who won’t pose, doesn’t consent to having its photo taken and can’t charge photographers for royalties…

Costa Rica-bird

Help us here, people…if we ever knew what kind of bird this was in Costa Rica, we’ve forgotten.


Cruising Alaska this summer? Watch for an Iditarod dog: They’re noisy, scrawny and friendly.

Hawaii-monk seal

Pride of America passengers may see one of these monk seal, protected on the beach at Lihue, Kauai.


This Coxen Hole cat in Roatan, Honduras, gave us this steely glare throughout lunch, then cleaned our plates.

SF-sea lions

Pier 39 in San Francisco always comes with more sea lions than you can imagine, barking and posing, of course.

Today at portsandbows.com: Norwegian backtracks on food to rooms

Holland America Oosterdam
7 nights
July 19, 2015
Vancouver, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Anchorage
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71

Norwegian Grammy Plan Not There Yet

When Norwegian announced that its newest ship, the Getaway, was going to feature Grammy Award-winning entertainment, it sounded like a promising venture.

Alas, at least perceptually, it still has a ways to go.

This week, Norwegian proudly announced "three exciting artists" whom will be performing on the Getaway, sailing 7-day Caribbean cruises from Miami.


Sugar Blue. Carolyn Malachi. Roddie Romero.

Hmm. They are, indeed, either winners of or nominated for Grammy Awards. Sugar Blue is known as the "Jimi Hendrix or Charlie Parker of the harmonica." Carolyn Malachi, in addition to her Grammy-nominated single, is a "philanthropic social activist." Roddie Romero is a "renowned Grammy-nominated Louisiana artist" who has played "many of the world's most prestigious venues and festivals."

Let's me straight about one thing: Nobody questions that these performers are good. They're probably very good. However, to link them as Grammy headliners…

Are they that Grammy good?

The attraction, don't you think, still has a ways to go?

Today at portsandbows.com: Disney's venturing off traditional course

Holland America Oosterdam
7 nights
May 18, 2014
AnchorageGlacier Bay National ParkHainesJuneauKetchikanVancouver 
Inside: $409
Cost per day: $58

Barcelona And The Woman Who Knows It Best

Maria NadinaOf all the tour guides we have encountered over years of cruising — and all have been varying degrees of good at their craft — no one was better than Maria Nadina.

For us, she is the First Lady of Barcelona.

It's not just because she speaks six languages, all of them (as near as we could tell) with clarity and eloquence. It's not just because she seems to have time to answer every question about every part of her adopted home. It's not just because her smile and her personality put a good face on Barcelona.

It's for all of those reasons.

It goes without saying that Maria is delighted at the growth of cruising her city has experienced (in case you hadn't heard, Norwegian's 4,100-passenger ship the Epic is the latest to make Barcelona home). It's good for her business.

She lives in one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and anybody who has been there surely knows why. We were smitten on our first visit, before we ever met Maria Nadina.

Yet she knows better than anyone that a city needs balance, and sometimes Barcelona can seem too touristy.

"Sometimes," she worries, "it's not so good for the locals, as all the industry seems to be oriented to tourism. And local services are somehow abandoned."

Abandoned never applies to her clients, of course. She will show them La Sagrada Familia, the church that may never be completed. She'll enlighten you with the La Sagrada Familiachanges to Barcelona, starting with the biggest modern-era one that came with the 1992 Olympic Games. She'll tell you about where to go in Las Ramblas, the legendary shopping and eating core of the city. She'll educate you about the legacies of Picasso, and of Antonio Gaudi, who designed the church that nobody can finish and who lies under it. She'll tell you the good and the bad, just like she does about the impact of tourism.

It was the Olympics that brought Maria to Barcelona from Belgrade, although she also enhanced her credentials by conducting cruise tours in Brazil, Alaska, the Caribbean, Mexico and Argentina. When she settled in Barcelona to stay, Maria built her business — Barcelona Code — to the point where she offers cruise passengers at least half a dozen varied tours, inside and outside the city.

And at the end of it all, she still finds that in her beautiful city "every daily walk is enough dose of inspiration for the next work of art in my glass and mosaics workshop."

As you can see, there's nothing shallow about this First Lady of Barcelona.

Today at portsandbows.com: The best of Bordeaux

Holland America Oosterdam
7 nights
June 1, 2014
AnchorageGlacier BayHainesJuneauKetchikanVancouver
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85

Breast Cancer Survivors Make 'Pink' Headlines Again with Holland America


Almost exactly a year ago, we wrote a blog about Holland America and breast cancer. About how breast cancer survivors were invited on board when the Oosterdam was in port in Seattle, where Holland America's head office is located. About how this cruise line has raised millions to help those who think pink in trying to defeat the disease. Because there are other cruise lines with fundraising causes, it hadn't been our intention to make's cause an annual event here, and then…

And then breast cancer became more personal.

This summer, our niece was diagnosed with breast cancer. The fact that she is our niece, or anyone's niece, means she is too young. Too young to face this challenge. Too young to find out you have cancer. And yet, cancer never checks out your birth certificate, does it?

So that makes it appropriate to re-visit Holland America. On every sailing on every ship, there is a 5-kilometer walk to raise funds for breast cancer. Entry is $20 and $16 of it goes to cancer organizations around the cruise line's world. Royal Caribbean does the same type of thing for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

This month, the Oosterdam was in Seattle for its now-annual invitation to breast cancer survivors. This is the sixth year they've been invited for lunch. And to celebrate. The captain, Arjen Van der Loo, told a writer who was among the invitees that every week on the Oosterdam there are four to six breast cancer survivors among the passengers.

The cruise line doesn't make a big deal of this. There is no press release, at least none that we saw. The only fanfare and publicity seems to be generated by the survivors. Yet it's worthy of mentioning, and supporting, time and again.

It can never happen too often. Ask any family.

Celebrity Summit
7 nights
December 21, 2013
San Juan (return): St. CroixSt. Kitts, Roseau, TortolaSt. Thomas
Inside: $799
Cost per day: $114

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