Flying from DAY to FCO 3 days before the cruise departure allowed for some sightseeing time in Rome. I was the only pre-cruise guest arriving at that time and with the help of a Princess Cruise representative in Baggage Claim area, I was ... Read More
Flying from DAY to FCO 3 days before the cruise departure allowed for some sightseeing time in Rome. I was the only pre-cruise guest arriving at that time and with the help of a Princess Cruise representative in Baggage Claim area, I was able to locate my driver for the transfer to the hotel, the Visconti Palace. The hotel is a modern facility, well located for walking visits to many sites, including the Vatican. Many restaurants are in the area, but be advised that they do not open for dinner until 7:00 P. M. or later. I spent the first afternoon visiting the Castel Sant' Angelo, which I would recommend, and the second day thoroughly visiting the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's.
Late morning the next day, I checked out of the hotel and along with a couple awaited the transfer to the port. We were the only passengers in a good sized van and got to the Amsterdam in about 105 minutes. Luggage was quickly taken by the crew and as the three of us were led aboard the ship by an officer, there were several crew members lining the gangway, each welcoming us aboard. A most pleasant beginning. Check-in formalities were handled at the Front Office, quickly. And, a steward was summoned to lead us to our staterooms. Within 25 minutes after arriving shipside, I was in my stateroom, meeting my cabin steward, with the luggage already on the bed.
Inasmuch as this cruise was the final segment of the 2007 Grand World Cruise, Dream of Discovery, I was expecting the cruise experience to be a notch or two above the usual. I was not disappointed! Starting with the warm welcome, I will attempt to describe the differences that I noted on this cruise aboard the Amsterdam.
In the stateroom, I found two large umbrellas in the closet, 3 different floral offerings were delivered during the 17 days, many gifts were received(i.e. luggage tags, straps, tiles), and personalized logo stationary was delivered twice during the cruise.
Our only tendering port was Monte Carlo. The refreshment table set up there for waiting passengers included a bouquet of flowers.
There seems to be more crew aboard than on a non-Grand voyage; service was excellent, very attentive and pleasant; lots of smiles; had time to talk with the guests. The only exception to this was my Wine Steward in the dining room. He seemed to have too many guests to serve.
Dining Room meals were all excellent. The quality of the food served was the best I have ever had, anywhere. Each dining room menu was different and separate for that day. One could tell that it was not part of a "menu cycle". Some items were repeated--like lobster tails(3x) and Dover Sole(2x). Each evening saw the offering of some type of beef dish--porterhouse steak, New York sirloin, Prime Rib. And, dinner salads also were on the menu and looked good. Usually, there would be a pasta appetizer that could also be ordered as an entree. And, at dessert time, a dessert tray was displayed by our Steward and there was always a flambe item available along with a cheese and fruit platter that contained many unusual cheeses. During dinner each evening, the table's Head Steward made at least two visits to inquire about our satisfaction with our dinners and the service. Even breakfast, in the dining room or by Room Service, was different. Each morning in the dining room, there would be 4 special items offered, not one or two as in the past, and Room Service offered an expanded breakfast menu. When the Room Service tray arrived, a glass of water and usually a small vase of flowers was included. Fresh squeezed Orange Juice, usually only available in the Lido, was also served in the dining room as well as by Room Service. During Happy Hour, hot hors d'oeuvres as well as cold canapes were served by a steward in each of the lounges.
Tea service seemed to be a bit more elegant than usual. Tea selections(in bags) were offered, with many herbal tea choices. Open faced mini-sandwiches, scones with cream and jam, and at several types of pastries were served by white gloved stewards with the Explorer's Lounge string trio playing in the background.
For those active cruisers, participating in various events allowed one to earn Dam Dollars that could be redeemed for prizes, if one had enough.
The photographers were on board, of course. But, during my 17 days aboard,they made only one attempt to get a picture during dinner.
At the Disembarkation Talk and the Crew Farewell Show, Orange Juice and Champagne were served. Many, who had been on for such a long time, had tears in their eyes after the singing of "Love In Any Language".
Upon our arrival in Fort Lauderdale, the final event for the Grand World Cruise was an overfly of the ship by a small plane, pulling a banner that read "Welcome Home Amsterdam World Cruisers". The ports for this cruise were Livorno, Monte Carlo, Malaga, Funchal, and Ponta Delgado. We were supposed to visit Casablanca after Malaga. But, there were threats being made towards cruise ships after an explosion of a bomb near the American Embassy at Casablanca. So, we were informed we would go to Gibraltar instead. Arriving off the pier at Gibraltar, the wind and swells were quite strong, causing the Captain to decide that it was unsafe to dock. The pilot left the ship and we headed out to sea. Bound for where? The next morning, we found we were headed for Funchal, arriving a day earlier than expected and we would then make a port visit to Ponta Delgado in the Azores. From there, it was a pleasant trans-Atlantic crossing to New York where some of our passengers disembarked and some embarked for the positioning cruise to Seattle. Then, two days to Fort Lauderdale, arriving there the night before we were due to arrive inasmuch as the Navy was arriving on the morning we were due for Fleet Week. (The port was closed to commercial traffic due to Navy ships arriving.)
For me, the highlight of the cruise was being able to travel with 8 wonderful friends with whom I first met on a Cruise Critic Roll Call prior to the 2002 Asia Pacific Cruise aboard the Volendam. Over the years, we have kept in touch and sharing another journey with them was truly magnificent! Plus, I made some new friends, some I expect to sail with again in the near future.
This cruise was a grand, Grand Voyage! Read Less