A Mediterranean Cruise and Four Days in Ireland
US Airways Business Class (Envoy) Philadelphia to Venice
Two Magical Days in Venice
Boscolo Venezia Hotel in Venice
Holland America Line’s Nieuw Amsterdam: Introduction, Itinerary, and the Pinnacle Suite
Holland America Line’s Nieuw Amsterdam: Katakolon and Athens
Holland America Line’s Nieuw Amsterdam: Istanbul, Mitilini, and Kusadasi
Holland America Line’s Nieuw Amsterdam: Santorini and Argostoli
Holland America Line’s Nieuw Amsterdam: Sailing into Venice
Holland America Line’s Nieuw Amsterdam: Cruise Review
Ryanair Economy Class Venice-Treviso to Dublin
Two Days in Dublin
The Aran Islands and Galway, Ireland
Driving the West Coast of County Clare, the Cliffs of Moher, and Bunratty Meadows B&B
Aer Lingus 757 Business Class Shannon to Boston
We arrived at the Venice port on a rainy afternoon by water taxi from the Boscolo Venezia. There in port was Holland America Line‘s newest ship, the Nieuw Amsterdam. Though I’ve been on dozens of cruises before, I was especially looking forward to this trip because of with whom I was traveling, the incredible itinerary, and the fact that we were booked in the Pinnacle Suite — the largest room on the ship!
As previously mentioned, my girlfriend and I were lucky enough to be invited on this cruise with my Aunt and Uncle. They take a cruise every year and always invite me, but for some reason or another, I haven’t been able to go. This year, the dates worked perfectly for my vacation, the cruise went to all new places for me (other than Istanbul), and it was just too good of an opportunity to pass up — so we took them up on their offer!
This was my 34th cruise overall and fourth on Holland America, while it was my girlfriend’s first cruise of any kind. My Aunt and Uncle have been taking about a cruise per year for the last decade, and it was their second trip with Holland America. The bulk of my previous cruises were to the Caribbean and Bahamas, as this was my first cruise in Europe.
This particular cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam was a 12-night “Mediterranean Empires” itinerary. As it was a very port-intensive cruise, we knew we’d need to savor the relaxation that comes with the at-sea days since other than that, it would be a non-stop parade of one port after another.
This cruise sailed us from Venice to Katakolon, Greece — a port city with access to Olympia, the home of the ancient Olympic Games. The next day the Nieuw Amsterdam took us to Piraeus, Greece — the port city and access point for Athens. The fourth day of the cruise included a morning cruising of the Dardanelles with an afternoon arrival in Istanbul. A unique feature of this cruise was that the ship stayed overnight in Istanbul, and did not leave until the following evening, giving us a full 26 hours in one of my favorite cities. The morning after leaving Istanbul, the Nieuw Amsterdam called at Mitilini on the island of Lesbos, Greece. The following day was in Kusadasi, Turkey — a Turkish beach town and access point to the ancient city of Ephesus. The next two days featured a stop in Fira on the picturesque island of Santorini followed by a call at Argostoli, Cephalonia in the Ionian Greek Isles. Finally, after seven straight ports of call, we had a second and last day at sea before arriving back into Venice where we spent the day and night before disembarking the following morning.
As usual with cruises, most ports featured calls from about 8pm to 5pm, so it provided a good sampler of the Greek Islands and Turkey. The fact that overnights in Istanbul and Venice were included was just icing on the cake for this robust itinerary.
The Nieuw Amsterdam
Built in 2010, the Nieuw Amsterdam is Holland America Line’s newest and largest ship. At around 86,700 gross registered tons, and over 935 feet long, she is a good sized ship, but not anywhere near the size of some of the mega cruise ships at sea today. As such, there aren’t quite as many passengers, which generally results in better service and a higher standard for food onboard. We certainly found this to be the case. Unsurprisingly, the Nieuw Amsterdam had a New York City theme throughout the ship, with beautiful paintings and an impressive art collection spread throughout. I’ve previously cruised the Oosterdam, which has the same basic layout as the Nieuw Amsterdam, so I was familiar with the ship immediately upon boarding, and served as “tour guide” for our party throughout the week. I’ll get more into different aspects of the cruise with the full-fledged cruise review I’ll post at a later time.
The Pinnacle Suite
Though I’ve been on a cruise ship for over four months of my life, I’ve never cruised in such style as I did on this trip. All of my cruises have been in standard inside or ocean view rooms, and on a few special occasions I had a balcony. Our accommodations on this trip would be… just a tad better.
Yup, we were rocking Pinnacle Suite #7031.
The Nieuw Amsterdam features two “Pinnacle Suites” that each measure a whopping 1,357 square feet — almost 7 times the size of a standard balcony cabin – and larger than my apartment back in Virginia. Needless to say, we had plenty of room.
We were escorted onboard by a personal concierge immediately upon arrival at the port in Venice, and this personalized service did not stop for the entire twelve nights. As we initially entered our suite, we walked through our foyer and were greeted by multiple bottles of champagne, a huge fruit plate, and two plates of canapés.
Past the foyer, there is a dining room table for four with a desk and mini bar setup. Located forward of this dining area is the living room area, complete with a sectional sofa, a large throne-like chair, and a full entertainment center with a flat-panel television, DVD player, and Bose sound system. A king bed pulled out of the wooden cabinet beneath the television, and this is where my girlfriend and I slept.
The master bedroom is located on the other side of the dining room, and is separated from the rest of the suite by double doors. Inside the suite, there is a huge king sized bed, plenty of desk space, and a full vanity. The master bath includes a double sink, jacuzzi tub with separate shower, and a very large walk-in closet that had plenty of room for the four of us. A separate half bath is located off the foyer, across from a butler pantry with sink, microwave, and full refrigerator.
The highlight of the room was a massive verandah that was accessed through a pair of sliding glass doors. The verandah featured two padded chaise lounge chairs, a table for al fresco dining with seating for four including a sofa in a carved out, teak wood vestibule, two other chairs, and a hot-tub.
Yes — we had our own private hot-tub on our private verandah.
It was awesome.
The service we received all week was phenomenal due in part to the team of concierges we had for the cruise. We could see these two, and they were happy to fulfill any wish that we had. I can’t say enough about the room. It was truly a special experience, but it may have ruined cruising for me! It’ll certainly be difficult to go back to a “normal” room on a future cruise, but I’m sure I’ll manage. Whatever the case, I can’t express how thankful I am that my Aunt and Uncle included us on their vacation — it truly was an experience of a lifetime.
More on the cruise to follow, including the ports and a full-fledged cruise review…