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Mediterranean Odyssey onboard ms Nieuw Amsterdam

Mediterranean Odyssey onboard ms Nieuw Amsterdam

Thank you for the opportunity to tell you something of our wonderful voyage around the Mediterranean this year – it really was the trip of a lifetime.

We were impressed by the professional service your staff offered in the booking process and despite our several ‘silly’ questions everything went very smoothly.

Nieuw Amsterdam - We had travelled before with Holland America (Vancouver to Alaska) on the Zuiderdam and the Nieuw Amsterdam was a similar but larger and more recent ‘dam’ ship which was only about 6 months old! It was great to be among the first of many thousands of tourists who will enjoy their time at sea over the years to come. There is nothing negative to say about the ship or its crew only superlatives and we thoroughly enjoyed our floating hotel for 25 days – so much better than packing, moving and finding a new hotel every night; this is the only way to travel! The stateroom was comfortable, well-appointed and in a convenient location.

Your advice to book shore excursions well head of departure was correct as otherwise we may not have been able to travel to several of the places that we wanted to see if we had waited until on board.

Barcelona, Spain - It was really good to have two nights on board in Barcelona before we sailed.  We used the hop on / hop off bus to get around for two days and this was an excellent way to introduce the city, but we did waste a lot of time waiting in queues at bus stops. We did a lot of walking as this is the best way to appreciate a city and next time we will be brave and use the subway more extensively instead of the on/off bus.

Monte Carlo, Monaco & Nice, Eze, France - An interesting city we only experienced fleetingly as we travelled to Nice along the Cote d’Azur. The highlight of that excursion was the town of Eze an amazing mediaeval village perched on a precipitous mountain overlooking a spectacular view of the Mediterranean hundreds of metres below.

Livorno – Florence & Piza, Italy - We enjoyed the bus journey through Tuscany where the fields, farms and orchards were vividly green from the late winter rains.

Civitaveccia – Rome, Italy - St Peters is one of the highlights of a trip to Italy and we were certainly impressed by the size, scale and the sheer opulence.

Messina Sicily, Italy - We did the Panoramic Slopes of Mt Etna excursion and this gave us an excellent understanding of rural life in Sicily.

Nafplion, Greece - We did not see much of Nafplion as our excursion to Palamidi Castle and Epidaurus was the main objective.

Katacolon, Greece - This could be our favourite small Greek town as we have very fond memories of our taxi driver Andreas Samios - ‘Taxi Katacolon’.

Kerkira, Corfu, Greece - The Nieuw Amsterdam berthed close to the centre of town and we spent the day walking around this very beautiful and very old seaside town which rambles around the foothills of a large central hill on which the New Venetian Fortress is perched.

Dubrovnik, Croatia - What an amazing arrival experience to cruise through the islands and fiords of the Dalmatian coast then berth just over the headland from world heritage listed old Dubrovnik. Not quite within walking distance of the ship, so we found another taxi driver who for 50 Euros took us for a 90 minute tour of new Dubrovnik before dropping us off at the Pile Gate to old Dubrovnik. We can recommend this highly as it is amazing to see how this new town is so skilfully integrated into the spectacular hillsides and mountains surrounding the bays and inlets.

Venice, Italy - Cruising in to Venice in the early morning is a sight that is unmatched by arrival in any other city. Where else can a giant ocean liner travel along seemingly so close that you can almost touch the Doges Palace, St Marks Basilica or the other fabulous buildings that line the Grand Canal? We docked in the main port area only a few minutes’ walk from the top if the Grand Canal where at the busy wharf you can catch a range of Vaporetto (water ferries) to any part of Venice.
In this city of culture you must take the chance to experience the unique opera, theatre or music for which it is renowned.

Split, Croatia - The Nieuw Amsterdam moored several hundred metres off the Split harbour foreshore and we were ferried to shore by the ships tender providing an exciting arrival experience. Although we came to shore adjacent to the World Heritage listed Diocletians Palace we first travelled by bus along the spectacular coastline and countryside to the small town of Omis nestling between the rugged mountains and the mouth of the Cetina River.

Then we boarded a small motor boat to follow the winding path of the Cetina River upstream through cliffs, gorges, wetlands and forests to a mill and trout farm in a beautiful typically Croatian setting. We did not realise that Croatia was so uniquely beautiful

Athens, Greece - The Nieuw Amsterdam berthed in Piraeus, the port for Athens, we decided to use the new subway system to travel downtown and to the Acropolis. Almost to the station we chanced on a Hop on / Hop off bus and as we had found it effective in Barcelona hopped on so we could see Athens from above ground rather than underground. This was a wise decision as we were able to see so much of the city as we meandered around the street system passing many of the major heritage and modern heritage elements of this amazing ancient city.

The Dardanelles, Turkey - One of the highlights of the cruise was the dawn cruise through the Strait of the Dardanelles.

Istanbul, Turkey - Two nights in Istanbul was wonderful – you could spend the entire day ‘lost’ in the Grand Bazaar and wonder where the time went! I recommend you actually ‘get lost’ in the alleyways – and this will not be difficult to do!! The aromas from the Spice Market and sampling Turkish Delight is a never to be forgotten experience.

Haggia Sophia is a huge and magnificent edifice built in the sixth century and for 1,000 years was the largest church in the world formed by five interlinked domes. The Blue Mosque is equally magnificent but crowded, still this does not really detract from the unforgettable spectacle.

Topaki Palace on the Bosporus is another amazing place, again crowded but viewing the architecture and gardens as well as the jewels and treasures on display in the various galleries is worth the queues.

Mykonos, Greece - Our day in Mykonos was clear and sunny, perfect to appreciate the white washed ‘sugar cube’ houses scatted over the rocky hillsides and viewed against the deep blue Mediterranean and cobalt blue skies. We walked from the harbour berth along the foreshore fringing Gialos Beach then explored around the old town randomly enjoying the maze of alleys and lanes.

Kusadasi & Ephesus, Turkey - Ephesus certainly was one of the highlights of the trip – it is not hard to imagine this city in its heyday 2000+ years ago but where its population of 250,000 people lived is another matter. Obviously there are decades of excavation yet to do to uncover the rest of the town. The tour we chose did not go to the Terrace Houses but our friends did and from their descriptions of frescoes, mosaics, bathrooms, toilets, water supply and drainage it should not have been missed.  We enjoyed Kusadasi.  We found the town centre to be an exciting small version of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. 
Santorini, Greece - We sailed into the magnificently huge, almost circular caldera that is the island of Santorini past the smoking core of the volcano were lava still occasionally flows into the sea.

Perhaps the most picturesque of the villages is Oia located high on the rocky northern promontory jutting out into the blue Aegean Sea. 

Thira also known as Fira is the second village perched on the rim of the caldera and from here you have the choice of a cable car, a donkey ride or to walk down more than 1,000 steps to sea level. All are amazing experiences but we were cautioned that it is best to ride the donkeys up the steps.

We sailed back into Venice for the second time at dawn and the silhouettes of its spires and domes seen against the amber sky and highlighted by the red ball sun will forever live in our minds as one of thousands of memories that we will treasure and never forget.

Farewell Nieuw Amsterdam – Bon Voyage!

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